Q&A With Student Newspaper

I did an email interview with The Advocate, our law students’ newspaper. I tried to have some fun with it. The Q&A:

1. What is your favorite summer memory to date?

The summer when I got my first real six-string. I bought it at the five-and-dime and played it ‘til my fingers bled.

[UPDATE: My wife said students wouldn’t get this joke because it’s too dated a reference, and I already had one student confirm that.]

2. What was your favorite course from law school and why?

My most memorable graduate school course was taught by investment banker Michael Milken. Milken earned $550M in 1987, so my peers and I aspired to be just like him—until he went to jail. After Milken was released from prison, in Fall 1993 he taught a UCLA Business School course called “Corporate Finance, Financial Institutions and Investments.” The course sparked nationwide controversy and was repeatedly lampooned in the Doonesbury comic strip.

The class had kickoff and closing dinners just like investment bankers do when they are working on important deals. At the closing dinner, all of the students got commemorative Lucite plaques reprinting 12 pearls of wisdom that Milken wanted us to remember. For example, Concept #6 says: “The 1980’s was a time of giving.”

I still have the Lucite plaque in my office. Drop by and check it out.

3. Which character(s) from literature and/or film do you most identify with?

I’ve always aspired to be the “Joe Cool” version of Snoopy, but I’m actually more like Woodstock. I also identify with Mr. Spock from Star Trek TOS. He’s logical, loyal, acerbic, dedicated to his job, a vegetarian, and played by a Jewish man.

4. What is your favorite source, (news / journal / legal blog / other) for keeping current with the law?               

For legal news, I rely heavily on TMZ and The Onion. I also read The Advocate and my own blog.

5. What would you do with a time machine?

I would patent it! But I’m not sure I would actually use it. In the movies, time machines always seem dangerously finicky.

6. What was your favorite summer job that you had while in law school and how did you get it?

During my 1L summer (1991), the legal market was in a recession—not as severe as now, but still bad. I applied to over 100 firms in the major metro areas throughout the western United States and generated a giant stack of rejection letters.

As summer drew nearer, I needed to change search strategies. I tried to find markets where I could be more competitive—such as markets where smart people wouldn’t want to go. In retrospect, the solution was obvious: smart students don’t want to spend their summers in the desert, where it’s hotter than heck.

Armed with this insight, I sent out three resumes to law firms in Palm Springs. I immediately got three interviews.

I got hired at a small tax and litigation firm in Palm Springs. I got paid less than I was making before I went to law school. The temperature repeatedly topped 120. I lived 1/3 of a mile from the office, but I still arrived at the office sweaty and gross. I didn’t really love the legal work.

On the plus side, eventually I married the boss’ daughter, so the job turned out great.

7. What is your favorite concert that you’ve attended?

I’m not much of a concert-goer. I even avoid going to my kids’ school performances.

8. If you could sit down for dinner with any Supreme Court Justice, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

If I had a time machine per Q5, I wouldn’t be limited to just one! But if I had to pick only one, I would enjoy having dinner with Justice Evelina Qirjako of the Albania Supreme Court. I believe she has written some interesting opinions (although I’m not sure because I can’t read Albanian).

9. What do you consider to be the most important development in your field over the last 5 years?

The collapse of student demand for legal education is pretty significant. I’ll also note the changing demands of legal employers, who used to prize smart generalists who lacked well-defined career plans but now prefer hyper-focused specialists.

10. How do you unwind?

My family situation doesn’t leave me with much downtime any more. However, in my limited free time, I like to think about ways to make my final exams harder for my students. I find my stress level reduces as I come up with innovative ways to ratchet up the stress for students. It’s like a principle of stress conservation.


See the full interview in context (page 4).