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Messages - Burning Sands, Esq.

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Current Law Students / Re: Citizens United Case Debate?
« on: June 14, 2014, 10:09:46 AM »
I was recently over hearing a bunch of people arguing about this case at a coffee shop and I know in law school we discussed this briefly, but I wanted to refresh my recollection and that it would make for an interesting thread.

My understanding of the case is as follows:

A conservative group Citizens United wanted to air a documentary bashing Hilary Clinton before the Democratic Primary election. There was a Federal Statute that stood in the way of airing the documentary.

Citizen United filed suit alleging the statute violated their free speech and the documentary should be allowed. The court then decided by a 5-4 funding the documentary was free speech and allowed, which in essence allowed corporations to provide more money to campaigns to protect freedom of speech.

First I was wondering if my understanding is even correct and what people think.

My two cents if my understanding is correct is that groups, corporations, people, etc should be able to say what they want to say, but I understand the argument that is creates an unfair playing field.

Overhearing that conversation made me think of this board and I wanted to see if anyone had additional insight.

Your understanding is pretty close but there was a little bit more to this case which made it so controversial.

As you mentioned earlier, this all started back in 2008 when Citizens United, a conservative non-profit corporation, created a 90-minute documentary right before the '08 Democratic Primary urging voters not to vote for Hillary Clinton. It wanted to distribute this movie through cable TV's video-on-demand feature. However, there are Federal Laws in place (at least there were before this ruling) that regulate corportions from spending money when it comes to political elections. One such law was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain–Feingold Act, named after the two senators that proposed it, John McCain (R-AZ) and Russell Feingold (D-WI). In a nut shell, the Act prohibited corporations and unions from using their money to (1) make direct contributions to political candidates, or (2) advocate the election or defeat of a political candidate through any form of media. The Act also required corporations or unions to place disclaimers on whatever political ads they made. Citizens United argued that it should be able to show the Hillary movie on-demand (complete without disclaimers) because it has a right to free speech. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) argued that its enforcement of these regulations against corportions and unions was constitutional because, unlike people, neither corporations or unions have a 1st Amendment right to free speech.

The FEC won below and Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled 5-4 down ideological lines that corporations have a 1st Amendment right to free speech AND that right includes the right to spend as much money as they wish in political elections. 

Mind you, the opinion did not say that only American corporations have a 1st Amendment right to spend as much as they want in our elections, it said any corporation. So the holding quite literally allows for foreign interests to influence US elections if they are so inclined.

In addition to that controversy, the opinion also overturned an old precedent Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990).  Austin was a Supreme Court case written by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall that specifically ruled that corporations do NOT have a First Amendment right to free speech because, as Thurgood put it, "[c]orporate wealth can unfairly influence elections." 494 U.S. at 660.  Which I'm sure most people would consider to be common sense. 

In my opinion, the Court got this one wrong. Instead of taking this case as an opportunity to overturn Austin, they should have limited themselves to the problem that was squarely before them which was whether or not McCain-Feingold allowed corporations to put election videos on-demand.  Instead of carving out that narrow restriction, they instead broadened their ruling so as to allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited money in elections under the pretext of "free speech."  By my view, we should be trying to get money OUT of our elections, not coming up with ways to put even more money into them.

My 2 cents for what it's worth.


Pursuing an LLM / Re: we should replace the JD with an LLM.
« on: June 10, 2014, 05:03:16 PM »
Oh forgedaboudit! Law School is the biggest racket ever created.  Think about how much money is increasingly made every year off of rising student tuition costs while schools with the same classrooms in the same building with the same professors continue to give the same lectures.  Very few industries are able to pull off a similar hustle.

Pursuing an LLM / Re: we should replace the JD with an LLM.
« on: June 10, 2014, 04:49:09 AM »
I've long thought that there needs to be a change in legal education.  At a minimum, I think most agree that the 3rd year of law school should require students to take on an apprenticeship with an attorney actually learning the practice of law. 

The problem with education reform today is that not many schools are willing to part ways with the tuition dollars provided by 3Ls.

$70K sounds like a nice number. That's a home in most neighborhoods.
Yeah well it's a lot better than the $150k+ most law students are getting themselves into nowadays.
I may have misread, I thought you said that was the amount you were , thus the wording of my response as such
Lol it's all good. I think I'm getting a solid bargain for $70k is what I was trying to say.

Hey, $70k is a frigging STEAL for a JD in 2014!

Incoming 1Ls / Re: ANXIETY!!!!!
« on: June 08, 2014, 09:09:19 AM »
Yeah there are definitely exceptions to every rule. 2 of my fraternity brothers immediately come to mind as examples of guys who made out well with a bachelor's degree; both are making well over $100k. In fact one of them broke the $100k mark 5 years after graduating from college. 

But those are just 2 random guys.

The majority of bachelor's degree holders are not clocking 6-figures within 5 years of graduation. 

Similarly, you may find some attorneys in the public sector or in solo practice or in small firms who are making in excess of $100k 5 years (or even 10 years) after graduation but they will be the exception to the rule, not the rule.

ETA: one exception that comes to mind, federal prosecutors.  The Assistant US Attorneys in NY and NJ do start between $110k to $130k depending on experience. 

Incoming 1Ls / Re: ANXIETY!!!!!
« on: June 07, 2014, 03:43:59 PM »
I should probably also add that the $200k figure that they cited did not include interest, which effectively turns a $200k loan paid over a 30 year term into about $450,000 even at favorable interest rates.

California sounds like a nice legal market b/c the public attorneys in New York and New Jersey are making nowhere near 6-figures. Public defenders and state prosecutors start at around $40k here.  After 10 years they're making about $70k, which, by the way,  could have been earned with just a bachelor's degree without incurring 6-figure debt.

Only a small minority of lawyers make 6-figures at graduation, and of the majority that don't,  most do not get there within 10 years after graduation (indeed, a good number never get there at all).  The "average" income stats of our profession are skewed higher than other professions because the minority of attorneys who are big income earners make 6 and 7 figures and beyond.  But I know way too many attorneys who are 5 or 10+ years into the practice who don't make $100k.  Accordingly, I can't accept the proposition that "most" attorneys earn significantly more money than bachelor's degree holders - especially when debt is factored in.

Definitely did not grow up wanting to be a lawyer.  I came to this realization late in the game after a career in engineering. Engineering was cool but not my passion.  Law suited me better in terms of intellectual stimulation.  Plus when I researched careers in law I saw that they provided substantially more compensation than my engineering gig was capable of, which was definitely a motivating factor.  In retrospect, as a 0L I didn't realize how friggin' RARE it was to actually obtain said compensation (that's a whole other story).

Incoming 1Ls / Re: ANXIETY!!!!!
« on: June 07, 2014, 06:32:57 AM »
Is it common to have this anxiety and not be sure that Law School is the right decision?


Common to have anxiety? Yes.  Common to not be sure about law school?  Not so much.  I'm surprised more people haven't commented on this last point.

If you're nervous about starting law school that's one thing, but not sure that law is for you could be a red flag.  If you're getting a free ride or a considerable financial package then it's not such a problem, but barring that then I would advise you to give some serious thought as to whether you have a genuine interest in the law that would justify the 6-figure student loan debt that you're about to incur.

Unfortunately, the reality of legal education today is that the average law student graduates with over $100,000 in student loan debt.

"Law school debt essentially means a lawyer must make $200,000 or more above what the holder of a bachelor’s degree will make over a lifetime, to have the investment break even." -

Don't get me wrong, if you have a genuine interest in the law and actually want to practice law, then you should definitely go to law school provided you can afford it.  Learning how to "think like a lawyer" is an invaluable problem solving skill set that can help you in all aspects of life, whether you're trying to figure out if a cop has the right to look in your glove box after pulling you over or whether you're planning to start your own business.  However, if you (figuratively speaking, not "you" personally) majored in basket weaving during college and just need something to do for 3 years, then law school is probably not a wise investment for you.  Either way, I wish you good luck.

I'm in NY but I think there are a couple of regular posters here from SoCal who can probably speak better to your options.

Studying for the LSAT / Re: how to win in court
« on: June 07, 2014, 05:47:52 AM »
Please share some case-winning tactics which helps in wining for all kinds of cases. Your tips and tactics will help lots of law students.

For any given motion legal briefs are usually presented to the court in advance by both parties.  The key is to go through your opponent's brief and pick apart their arguments, which is a skill that you learn (allegedly) during law school when they teach you to "argue both sides." The theory being that if you can understand the argument that your opponent is trying to make and the elements that they need to prove in order to win, then you know where their case is the weakest based on how the law applies to the facts of your case.

This is essentially what you will do during 1L during classroom discussions as well as your final exams.  Professors will expect you to be able to argue effectively from the perspective of the plaintiff as well as the defendant.

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