26 August 2009

"Downturn Dims Prospects Even at Top Law Schools" - so low as (GASP!) Public Interest!

Newest in a spat of NYTimes articles on the sorrows of would-be top law firm associates not making the thinner and thinner cut adds a taste of insult for public interest attorneys. No only are top law school grads considering working at "lesser" firms outside of LA or NYC ... "many students say that for the first time, they are considering and seeking work [horror of horrors] with government and public-interest groups.

I'm happy for my many friends at firms who are happy and living for dreams and with their principles ... and I know every one of them doesn't look down on public interest work, in fact, many of them give so much financial and personal support that many public interest organizations couldn't exist without them. But this NYTimes article paints them in the wrong light.

But students who miss the brief window of opportunity to land an offer this fall may struggle to break into firms once next year’s class rises. When Julia Figurelli, a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania, decided to enter law school a year ago, she expected to find a lucrative law firm job in three years — if not collecting the $160,000-a-year associate salaries at one of the uppermost partnerships. By the time she obtains her J.D., she says, she will have around $200,000 in debt.

“Had I seen where the market was going, I would’ve gone to a lower-ranked but less expensive public school,” she said. “I’m questioning whether law school was the right choice at all.”

Once aiming to work in Philadelphia, Ms. Figurelli is now hunting for jobs in lower-paying markets, like Pittsburgh and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I’m looking anywhere my competition isn’t looking,” she added.

School officials are pushing students to look beyond the white-shoe firms, to delve deep into alumni networks and to start mass letter-writing campaigns to potential employers. Like Ms. Figurelli, many students say that for the first time, they are considering and seeking work with government and public-interest groups.

This is so very wrong ... wrong about the value of these positions and wrong about many, if not most of the people who graduate from law school (at least mine). They respect public interest attorneys and their work rather than see it as a last resort to make a living.

Many students begin law school intending to work for the public interest; to fight for people rather than profits. Too many are drawn into working for massive firms because of their massive debt load or simply the opportunity to make $160,000/year + bonuses and raises and the prestige that can be found in comparing your check with a classmate's, a colleague's. Some need the income to support families, too often because of medical problems that are not covered or insured.

But those who do seek out and struggle for public interest positions are not falling back on them, they're fighting for them. And once they get those jobs, they are fighting to keep them against lay offs and budgets which leave out the least well off. That fight for public interest jobs results in top attorneys working in outstanding offices working for the people and principles they went to law school to protect. Let the failed corporate wanna-bes who see these jobs as second rate come to public interest offices and offer to take these "meager public interest jobs" ... they'll be surprised to find that it's not a job, it's a commitment. This work holds lawyers up to and brings to life the ideals in the Constitution. That's not a fall back position, it's the front line.

20 August 2009

Breaking the News: "News stories" missing 3 of 4 important components

Matt at Newsless posted this outstanding analysis of the deficits of today's news industry.
As he explains, using Health Care reform coverage as an example:
  1. WHAT WE GET: What just happened
  2. WHAT WE MISS (1): The longstanding facts
  3. WHAT WE MISS (2): How journalists know what they know
  4. WHAT WE MISS (3): The things we don’t know
His solution to the "latest-news-only approach":
  • Enlarging the market for journalism by making it easier for more people to understand the longstanding facts behind each story.
  • Increasing the appeal of journalism by letting folks in on the details of our quest to uncover the truth.
  • Expanding the appetite for journalism by explaining what we don’t know, and what we’re working to find out.

As news consumers, we should be demanding these things as well. After all, right now we’re only getting the lamest part of the story.

02 August 2009

More than a mere hunch

For whatever reason my shoulders are a little rounded and it may be the cause of some of my shoulder/neck/back ish. Working at a desk most of the day? Backpacks too heavy for too long? Bad posture for decades? Who knows.

First, many people recommend you go to a physical therapist. They might recommend massage, exercises, a chiropractor, or any number of things. IANAPT but thought you might be curious about what I'm trying to help with my shoulder problems.

Here's an explanation of rounded shoulders or "protracted shoulder girdle"

Protracted Shoulder Girdle

The shoulders are pulled forward. The chest muscles may be overpowering the back and shoulder muscles. A protracted shoulder girdle may be accompanied by a winged scapula condition. The trapezius and rhomboids may be weak

Those with this posture deficiency, avoid stretches that protract the shoulder If lying on one's side, position upper arm under head (with or without pillow in between) since lying on one's side with one's arm down or in front (protracting shoulder girdle) may act as a continuous stretch throughout the night exacerbating this condition.

I went to a physical therapist who gave me useful stretches and exercises, but I stopped going and eventually stopped the exercises ... because, well, I'm lazy
and stupid. She explained that this is commonly seen as "a muscular imbalance between the chest and the upper back muscles. The chest may be too tight and the upper back may be weak."

Now I'm starting again and thought others might want to know what a few of the exercises are like:

(1) Reverse shoulder flys
Or seated

(2)(a) Hitchhicker

No equipment is needed for this exercise, but as you get stronger, you can use some very light weights. You can make your own weights by filling two small water bottles with sand. These should weigh less than 2 pounds, even for the strongest swimmers.

The Movement: The Hitch Hiker exercise strengthens the muscles that control your shoulder blades as well as your rotator cuff muscles. You can exercise both sides of body at the same time, or choose to do one arm at a time.

Lay on your stomach on the floor. Relax your head and keep it in line with your spine. Put your arms straight out to your sides with your thumbs pointing to the ceiling (It looks like you are hitch-hiking).

While squeezing your shoulder blades together, lift your hands up off the floor and move them slightly towards your head. Use both arms at the same time. You should end up in a position that looks like a “Y” at the end of the exercise. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and then relax to the starting position. Repeat.

Try to perform this exercise for 2 minutes. If you cannot continue the exercise for 2 minutes, that’s okay. When you become fatigued and can no longer maintain your form, rest for 30 seconds. Perform your second and third sets the same way.

If you reach the point where you can complete 3 sets of 2 minutes, perform the exercise while holding some small weights (less than 2 pounds) in your hands. Remember, you can make your own weights by filling small water bottles with sand, and you can also perform this exercise with one arm at a time.

There are plenty of other great shoulder exercises at the same site which provided this explaination:


Stand with perfect posture (SBD) with hand placed on your thighs and your thumbs pointed upward. While gliding your shoulder blades back and down toward your waist raise your arms up at a 45 degree angle. Raise your arms to shoulder height only and keep your elbows straight. Hold this position for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Begin this exercise with no resistance and gradually progress to 1-5lb dumbbells. Do not use weights heavier than 5lb. The smaller muscles of the rotator cuff are difficult to isolate using heavy weight.

(3) Shoulder dislocations a.k.a. broomstick rotational stretch:
You need s broomstick or band to do these, but they are among the most commonly recommended and referenced for this type of shoulder problem. Here is a more detailed description.

(4) Shoulder exercises / stretches to do at your desk

(5) Foam roller -
Foam rollers are good for self massage and pre-exercise stretches, but they can also be used to build core and back muscles. I cannot find a link to the exercises my PT gave me, but I'll update when available.

Useful links:

Sleep position can have an impact also:
Sufficiently supportive bed? Too old? Too soft/hard? Consider Latex mattresses.
The sites above suggest sleeping on your back. If you must sleep on your side, have your arm under your head rather than under your side.