Archive for April, 2005

Next season on "The Apprentice"…and the season after that…and the season after that…

Monday, April 25th, 2005

A longtime fan of BTQ (how long? He’s been with us since the beginning. The fact that this is a law-related post should be a clue to his identity. Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.) emailed these thoughts to me over the weekend:

Over at Crescat, Raffi Melkonian was talking favorably about apprenticeships for tailors and said this in passing: “If I was opening a restaurant, I’d go apprentice for five or six years in a classical French restaurant. A good lawyer ought to cut his or her teeth on the work of better lawyers for at least that amount of time.” Hold the phone. Maybe I’m not entirely clear on what kind of apprenticeship Raffi has in mind, but I don’t think I agree with this. Maybe — I repeat maybe — I could go along if he means engaging in an apprenticeship instead of going to law school. (A few states will still let you do that, but I’m pretty sure not even they require that long a training period.) But if he means in addition to law school, he’s talking about eight or nine years’ worth of education before one would be able to do whatever the legal equivalent of opening a restaurant is.

By the way, what is that equivalent? Hanging out a shingle or starting one’s own firm? I’m not familiar with the French restaurant training system, but I would assume that sometime before the six years are up, the head chef at least lets his or her underlings toss salad or bake bread or something. In the same fashion, perhaps Raffi sees the mentor attorney letting the hireling take a few depositions or conduct a few cross-examinations or draw up a few simple wills. But I would imagine that Raffi’s definition of leave-the-nest independence would include finding one’s own clients and handling all their legal affairs without oversight from anyone. And note that if Raffi means five or six years after law school, how far back would that push the seven- or eight-year partner track at many of the nation’s biggest law firms?

There are two real problems with this model. First, there just isn’t that much law to learn. While every case or client would certainly bring some new education, it wouldn’t take that long to get the basics down. An armed robbery trial isn’t all that different from a trial for aggravated assault. And once you’ve done those, a murder trial brings higher stakes but isn’t a difference in kind — it’s not as different as soup is from souffle. I’m not as familiar with the civil side of things, but to take one example, all contracts, from a store’s order of a manufacturer’s widgets to a complex bank merger, are based on the same set of generally agreed-upon rules. Even the rare lawyer who aims to be a generalist (from soup to nuts, to stretch the food analogy even further) won’t have to study eight or nine years before having enough know-how to go it alone. While no one is able to learn all of the law, those so inclined are able to learn how to practice law in something less than a decade’s time.

But more importantly, the law shouldn’t be so difficult to learn that it takes eight or nine years of study and an apprenticeship to feel comfortable practicing it. We ought to have a legal system in which the reasonably intelligent lay person can handle the bulk of his or her own legal affairs. I’m thinking of things like taxes, wills, divorces, home sales, etc., for people of average means. Instead, we’ve built a system so protectionist and complicated that it’s not laughable to suggest it should take five or six (or eight or nine) years of training before one enters it. And it wasn’t that long ago that the basic law degree required only a two-year course of study! There’s something wrong with this picture! Now, I’m not an anti-lawyer lawyer (a self-hating lawyer? well, maybe for other reasons), and I don’t think we ought to close the law schools and issue everyone a set of the Nolo books. Education and training (and mentorships) are wonderful things, both in their own right and for what they do for one’s practice. And sure, not everyone who passes the bar is as competent as the system presumes them to be. But I know people a year or less out of law school who are putting people in jail as assistant district attorneys, or keeping people out of jail as public defenders, or bringing in their own clients for small firms, or trying cases against major corporations. They were ready, and they didn’t need that much hand-holding, and they served their clients well. Any system that would require them to still be using training wheels would be a waste.

Set your phasers on stunning

Monday, April 18th, 2005

A friend of mine is obsessed with William Shatner. She’s been in love with him since junior high. Frankly, I don’t understand why, but who am I to judge other people’s predilections and peccadilloes? He’s a handsome man, I suppose. He’s entertaining, if over the top, and unlike many people in Hollywood he can laugh at himself. But an obsession with W.S. seems a bit bizarre. Especially now that he’s well past his prime [directive].

Speaking of William Shatner and bizarre, those of you who have not seen Trekkies 2 are really missing out on some choice people-watching. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking up a copy. The movie features extended interviews with and concert footage of the Sacramento-based sci-fi rock band Warp 11. They have truly taken the W.S. obsession to the limits of the known universe with their song Everything I Do, I Do With William Shatner (you can download the song from this link). The opening stanza of “Everything I Do” goes something like this:

Everything I do, I do with William Shatner
Losing all my hair while my belly’s growing fat-ner
And when I drink too much
He holds my hair in his hands
And while I’m blowing chunks
He treats me like the captain

It gets worse from there (or better, depending on your perspective). The band will be performing in Davis, California on April 30. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Make our destination Ticket Master.

Oh, you like that, MULE. Mules are..GOOD!

Monday, April 11th, 2005

I watched the movie “Maria Full of Grace” this weekend. It’s an independent film by writer/director Joshua Marston, about a seventeen year old Colombian girl who, to escape her floral plantation job and the expectations imposed on her by her family, becomes a drug mule.

The movie is incredibly sad. It places you right in the shoes of desperate women, women so desperate they are willing to risk their health, their safety, their freedom, and in many cases their lives in the faint hope of making enough money to change the life that fate has handed them.

The movie goes into detail about the process of becoming a mule, how the women are recruited, how they train themselves to swallow large quantities of drugs, and how they are left on their own should illness, imprisonment, or death occur. It shows the desperation the women feel, trapped in low-paying jobs with no hope of change or advancement, and just how much the $5000 payment for one trip of smuggling drugs could buy them.

There is a scene on the airplane from Colombia to New York, where four women (the drug dealers have the mules travel in groups to increase the likelihood that if one of them is caught, the rest will still make it through) struggle to keep the small drug-filled, latex packets in their bodies with varying degrees of success. The claustrophobia inherent in airplane flight is magnified to an uncomfortable degree as you watch the girls’ physical and mental anguish as they try to keep it all inside (sorry).

The soundtrack is lovely, and the cinematography is simple and fits the tone of the story. The film was apparently made on a low budget, but the simplicity allows the quiet and heart-wrenching performances of the actors to take center stage. The performance of Catalina Sandrino Moreno, who plays Maria, is convincing and sad, especially for an inexperienced actress.

I have no Pepsi cans to rate this movie because Fitz won’t share them (I guess I haven’t earned my Pepsi cans yet), so I will have to give this movie four out of five bikinis. Or four out of five fur hats. I apologize for the lack of a graphic to accompany my rating, but pictures of tiny bikinis and tiny fur hats are hard to find.

My quick and belated answers to the Friday Five:

  1. James Bond or Austin Powers? Always and forever James Bond, the epitome of cool. He has better teeth, and hopefully less hair than Austin.
  2. Most romantic thing I’ve done? This was my awful question, so you would think I would at least have a decent answer to this. I don’t. I think doing laundry is pretty romantic, and I’ve done some love laundry in my time.
  3. Rachel’s real favorite movie – I’m so late on this one, I won’t bother answering, but let’s just say I love the movie Weekend at Bernie’s.
  4. Perfect rock and roll song? Does not exist, but anything with Jimi Hendrix comes close.
  5. What really happened to Milbarge? I can’t help but feel this question was somehow directed towards me, as I know some of you probably blame me for his disappearance. It’s true, I now have him working as my drug mule. His ability to swallow large quantities is unparalleled. Look for the movie “Milbarge Full of Grace” to hit theaters this summer.

Did you know that Blogger spell check tries to correct “Milbarge” to “mulberries?” Just thought I would share.

We’ve lost the fat man and we’re running lean!

Monday, April 4th, 2005

In the preceding post, Milbarge announced that he would be on sabbatical for an as-yet undetermined length of time. No, it was not an April Fool’s joke. He is gone. It is sad to lose him, but the show must go on. I wish him well, I suppose, though his absence will compel me to pick up the slack around here.

During Milbarge’s absence there will be some changes. First of all, there will be no more daily King of the Hill quotes. I don’t have the time for daily quotes, but I’ll shoot for something weekly. Second, no more law-related posts. Not only is the law one of my least favorite discussion topics, but the all-inclusive nature of my job pretty much means that any legal topic is off limits for me. Law school? Yes. The Law? No. Somehow I doubt that anyone will complain. Third, I will continue the Friday Spies questions. I’m working on a group email list today so that no one is left out of the fun.

Finally, I want your input. Although Milbarge was the heart and soul of this project, BTQ is not going dark in his absence. Having said that, I’m not sure how much time I will be able to devote to writing. I would like to take maximum advantage of the time I do spend writing. Part of that, of course, is writing about things that interest me, or at least writing about things that don’t require me to spend much time getting acquainted with the topics (for a more complex expression of this idea see Prof. Volokh’s post re: the Schiavo mess). The other part of that is writing about topics that interest (or in a style that entertains) the readers. This is where you come in. I’m asking for your feedback. Let me know what works for you and what doesn’t work. Tell me what you want to read about and what you don’t want to read. Do you want to me to look for new talent? Do you think you could be that talent? Let me know. More than ever before, this site will depend on the readers to keep it alive. I am up for the challenge if you are.