March 8, 2012: This Blog is [Redacted]
(or, My [Redacted] is really [Redacted] a [Redacted].)
Hello again! The second semester’s off to a crazy start, and I’d love to tell you all about it. I can’t, though. Stupid non-disclosure agreements. Well, uh...bye! See you next time!
...Don’t worry. I can tell you SOME stuff. Quite a bit, actually.
So, first, my Practicum. I’m working for Capitol Broadcasting Company’s New Media Group. This division is focused on harnessing the power of social networking in order to take advantage of the changing nature of the marketplace.
Now that I’ve given you the brochure answer, here’s what we’re really doing. Have you noticed how fast things happen online? (Even with a crappy connection...thanks, Time Warner Cable!) From serious issues like Twitter reporting the protests in Iran to...uh...less serious things like the latest Kardashian wedding, it isn’t news to say that news travels faster than ever. But the interesting thing about the speed at which information travels is that it doesn’t just travel in one direction. Think about how quickly SOPA and PIPA were turned around and defeated, largely because the internet banded together and made its voice heard. Musicians have begun circumventing the studio system by offering their albums online for whatever their fans want to pay...and they are making bank because their fans are happy to contribute, especially since they know that the band is actually getting the money. Basically, it’s all about how the consumer finally has direct power.
I went to a convention where the keynote speaker told a story about a customer who bought from the speaker’s online business. A quick Googling of this customer produced the gentleman’s Facebook page. His profile picture was of a Chicago Bears player. So, with the order that the business sent the customer, they included, free of charge, a Chicago Bears jersey.
You can imagine what happened next. The business’s Twitter account got a grateful tweet from the gentleman: “OH MY GOD! THIS IS AWESOME! You guys have a customer for life!
“...How’d you guys know I’m a Bears fan, anyway?”
And since he did it through Twitter, all of his friends know how awesome this company is, and so on, and so on...definitely a viral happening. But it had to start with a decidedly unorthodox step from the business. The New Media Group is trying to discover more things like that, ways of interacting with customers that target them for a conversation, rather than a hard sell.
It’s a fascinating process.
I’m also working for the Durham Bulls. Sadly, I can’t tell you much about that at the moment. (Spoiler: I’m their new second baseman!)
(No. I’m not.)
(OR AM I???)
(No. I’m really not.) But hopefully soon I can tell you all about that, or at least SOME about that. ...Okay, I can tell you ONE thing about it. The work I’m doing for the Bulls is legal work. And I don’t mean that in the sense that my work for the New Media Group is, say, money laundering. I mean that my work for the New Media Group is more business-related. With the Bulls, however, I’m using my finely-honed legal mind on legal issues. (Quick shout-out: thank you, Abraham Wickelgren, wherever you are.)
Again, I’m sorry I can’t tell you more right now. Just know that I’m more excited by the program than ever, that I love my practicum as well as my classes, and that the bloom is most definitely NOT off the rose.
Until next time!
December 20, 2011: Happy Holidays!
(or, A Look Back, a Look Forward, and My Grand Plan to Sleep for a Week)
Well, here we are, at the glorious end of a great semester. Always interesting, sometimes frustrating, lately grueling, this semester seemed like law school in many ways. The LLMLEs were in classes with JD students. There were exams and papers and seemingly scant hours to prepare for both. The end of the semester seemed to be weighted more heavily than the weeks before it. But in more ways, this semester felt very, very different from any of the preceding ones. There were weekly graded assignments. (Yes, I’m aware that in the real world, assignments come even more frequently.) There was a significant upswing in content dealing in some way with math (an upswing from, let’s face it, zero).
But the biggest change was this: no legal cases to read. Oh, sure, one of my classes had cases in the textbook, and some were included in our reading. But they didn’t matter. As in, you could read them without thinking about them in a legal way, without IRAC or FIRAC or any of those other shudder-inducing acronyms. You read them, got the point (which was veeeeeeeeery rarely a strictly legal point) and moved on to the 90% of the reading which was not in case form.
And probably math.
For all practical purposes, I read no legal cases this semester. (Choirs of angels are singing in the background as I type this.) In their place we read statutes (have to understand the law to advise people about the law, no?) and studied Harvard Business School cases (the sheer efficiency of Wal-Mart’s distribution policies stunned me, as did the culture at 3M--think Google before Google). I...studied...income statements, cash flows, and balance sheets. (I can’t say I learned them. Let me get my grade back in that class before saying anything that outlandish.) I discovered that you could analyze a situation not just through reason and nuances of words, but through game theory, decision trees, and regressions.
It was exhausting.
But it was also exhilarating.
Next semester will look as different from the one just finished as that one did from a regular semester in law school. For the first half of the semester, I will only have one substantive class. (3Ls, you jealous?) But I will be learning every day in the Practicum, my externship which will be with Capitol Broadcasting, a media corporation here in North Carolina. I’ll have the chance to see the workings of a business which encompasses television, radio, real estate, social networking tools, and even minor league baseball--Go Bulls!--and more. I’m so excited to get started. I’m excited to tell you as much about the experience as I can. I’m excited to watch Duke basketball with Vinny. I’m even excited to see if I can finagle an inning or two as the Durham Bulls’ second baseman.
Okay, probably not that last one. But hope springs eternal, right?
That’s as good a place as any to end the last blog posting of 2011. I hope everyone reading this has a happy, healthy, warm, and safe holiday season filled with family and friends. May the gifts of your choice end up under your tree or beside your menorah. If you need me, I’ll be sleeping in, eating my mom’s cooking, and getting ready for what promises to be an amazing start to 2012.
Until next time!
Oct. 27, 2011: Keep Your Hat On! (or, Hat’s What She Said!)
Hi everyone! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not that I forgot. It’s not that I didn’t want to reach out. It’s not even that I wanted desperately to reach out but was trapped under something heavy. I just got busy. You know, being in law school and stuff.
I’m still busy, naturally, but as the semester has gone on, things have settled into the rhythm that every school year seems to. Enough is different, however, to warrant a new post.
Short version: Classes are still good. Still doesn’t feel like a regular law school curriculum. Still loving the program.
Longer version: One of the centerpieces of the LLMLE is the spring semester’s Practicum. Kind of an uber-externship, students are placed with companies of varying sizes and in various stages of development, and they...do work. Legal work? Often. Business work? Sometimes. One of the things that has been stressed most frequently is how many different hats one must wear when working for a startup. You’re not going to be “the lawyer” – at least, not JUST the lawyer. I’m certainly not going to complain if I learn things that I wouldn’t if I were in a law firm setting. I promise that I will discuss my Practicum as soon as I’m able, but I can’t do it yet, as it hasn’t been finalized. Also, as discussed in a previous posting, I won’t discuss my classmates...except for Vinny. I’m always in the mood to discuss Vinny.
(Vinny may or may not have asked me for another shout-out. I reveal nothing.)
However, our skill sets are advancing even before we get into the Practicum – we’re not just waiting for next semester to start getting real-world experience. This is one of the great things about this program being situated at an institution like Duke. If you want to learn about business or get in touch with engineers of any variety, make contact and network with these or any number of other people who might end up impacting your education and career, you don’t even have to leave campus. Just next door to the law school is Fuqua, Duke’s business school. The cross-registration possibilities are numerous, but I’m going to focus on two courses that, if you’re already reading this blog, you might be interested in.
One glitch: I’m not actually IN either of these courses. But that’s okay! I can just interview my classmates. Again, though, I’m protecting their privacy.
...but not Vinny’s! Here’s what I did. I interviewed my classmates, but I’m going to pretend the interviews are with Vinny. (Like me, he’s also not in either of these two classes.) Just go with me on this. To represent that it’s not actually Vinny I’m talking to, I shall put his name in parentheses.
A: Hey (Vinny)! How are you enjoying the two classes over at Fuqua?
(V): Hello, Andy. I’m liking them quite a bit. I definitely enjoy both P4E and ITA.
A: Whoa there, (Vinny). I have no idea what those two classes are. A little help?
(V): Certainly. P4E stands for Program for Entrepreneurs. It’s a fascinating breakdown of the entrepreneurial process, broken up into 3 distinct courses – NV1, NV2, and NV3. “NV” stands for New Venture, and the three courses track the “lifespan,” if you will, of a company that’s just starting out. NV1 deals with evaluating the entrepreneurial idea, NV2 helps students outline a business strategy for the new company, and NV3 brings everything together as the group takes their idea, implements their business strategy, and fleshes out an operating plan as the business gets closer to the market.
(V): It’s great. You get to be dropped into the process at different points, so if the beginning is what interests you, you can help with that; if the end, closer to financing the venture, floats your boat, you can do that. Regardless, the teams involved in P4E need legal advice, but they also need so much more – advice, research, strategy – you aren’t just sitting there acting as a lawyer while the business school students have the “fun.”
A: Cool. And ITA?
(V): It’s very good. It’s not too dissimilar from P4E, except in the subject matter of the entrepreneurial ventures. ITA focuses specifically on scientific ventures, life science, medical stuff...again, you can wear many hats. Basically, if you’ve got the desire to help people, you’ll be needed, and you’ll get leads that will help you close deals in the future. These leads? They’re for closers.
A: Thanks, (Vinny). You’ve been really helpful.
(V): My pleasure. Let’s Go Duke!
And with that, I send (Vinny) on his way.
P4E and ITA are just two of the opportunities in this program that differentiate it from the regular law school experience. But as I’ve said before, I’m only taking regularly offered law school classes, and it still feels different thanks to the networking opportunities, the chance to explore interests at workshops, conventions, and festivals...we’ll talk about all of this stuff. Soon. We might also talk about everyone’s obsession with “wearing hats.” (Y’all got that these are metaphorical hats, right? Although come to think of it, maybe I’ll do my Practicum in a haberdashery.) For now, though, Happy Halloween! Be safe, have fun, and don’t eat too much candy corn. That stuff’s nasty.
Until next time!
Sept. 16, 2011: This is not your father’s law school.
(Okay, to be fair, I don’t know that. But it sure it isn’t MY father’s law school.)
We’re a few weeks into the semester now, and I won’t lie ... the work is piling up. What’s more, it’s doing so in a very un-law-school-like way. This isn’t “well, I’ve got time to catch up if I fall behind, because the final exam is 100% of my grade.” I’ve got assignments due in the middle of the semester, I’m working in groups, I’m talking to classmates about projects which have absolutely no value in terms of my GPA or credit load -- but these projects could turn into jobs if we get a good enough idea far enough off the ground.
Yeeeeeeeeah. 4L, this is not.
I’m taking five classes this semester, although one is a fast-track class that hasn’t started yet. Of the four that have started, two don’t even have exams or papers at the end of the semester. (I KNOW.) Of the five total, three are a mixture of LLMLEs and JD students. Those are nice, and they don’t seem like “regular” law school classes -- I’ve analyzed the business strategy of Wal-Mart and learned the basics of accounting, among other things. (Okay ... I’ve attempted to learn the basics of accounting. We’ll see if any of that actually sticks. ... I swear I used to be really good at math. I have witnesses and everything.)
There are two classes where it’s just us LLMLEs, and it’s in these that the program is really shining. The cohesiveness that started during orientation has held up and (I think) gotten stronger. The discussions are livelier than most law school classes, and there’s no fear in the comments -- either of saying something stupid (a feat I’ve managed several times already) or of disagreement. Not only does it bode well for the future of the program when people can strongly disagree without making it personal, it bodes well for the future of the students, too.
Looking forward, the next few weeks are shaping up nicely. We’ve got workshops and panels galore for job interviews outside of the legal job market -- necessary, because it’s been so long since I’ve had a job interview which didn’t conform to the structure of OCI, I’m not certain I’d know how to prepare for one. Also, we’ll be meeting with several entrepreneurs in the area and hearing their stories. I can’t think of another forum where we’d get such complete access to these people, asking them questions and (in some cases) even critiquing their ideas and business plans. Seems presumptuous. Whether it is or not, it will definitely be useful.
We’ve also got Graduate Student Campout for Duke Basketball tickets coming up this weekend. That will be insane, because Campout is always insane. I mean, some JDs are roasting a whole pig, for crying out loud! For charity. THEY ARE ROASTING A PIG FOR CHARITY. (I don’t know what charity. Probably not a vegan charity.)
I should stop here. I could go on and on about how much I’m loving the program, and I will in future posts. I just can’t top a charity pig roast.
Until next time!
Aug. 22, 2011: Orientations, New Friends, My Last First Day... and Fingerpainting.
I'm sitting in the library after my one and only Monday class. So much has happened since last orientation began last Wednesday that my head feels like it's spinning. I'll try to recap, but I don't know how I could do this experience justice.
Wednesday was by far the most "traditional" orientation day. Since I did my JD here at Duke, I didn't need things like the tour of the law school...but that's not really ever the true value of orientation, is it? It's meeting the people you'll be spending all of your time with--in this case, the 16 other LLMLE students in the class of 2012. Although I might give general impressions of the group's opinion from time to time, if it's readily apparent, I won't be describing my classmates in any personal detail in this blog--I'm going to try to keep this limited to my own perspective, and I wouldn't presume to know theirs. (So if it comes up, I suppose I'll disguise their identities. I'm telling you now I don't go to school with, say, Inspector Clouseau, Rambo, Eeyore, or Hermione Granger.)
I can say this about the group--there are 17 of us, and I feel like there are 17 wildly different stories. Getting to know these people is going to be the chief pleasure of this school year. Our backgrounds, our educational and professional experiences, and our personalities are so diverse, I'm certain that this group will come up with endless solutions to any problem, project, or situation we come across. I'm very excited.
Okay. Back to orientation. Thursday and Friday, we were in the back room of the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh. We went through an intensive program run by the Innovation Institute, and it was a rough two days--at least in one way. In other ways, it was completely exhilarating. Basically, on Thursday we deconstructed the creative process itself by doing exercises that built on each other. We got a cardboard box and 15 minutes to do...something...with it. Then we were formed into groups of 5 or so and combined our efforts to make something new.
(Somehow, during this stage I was dressed up like an "office-working robot who doesn't like his cubicle, so he rampages through a city." I don't really have anything to say about that.)
Later, there was much painting. Like, several paintings' worth. Each one came with a new goal or purpose, and while not all of our paintings would end up in the Louvre, I think we definitely got into the spirit of the day. And that, I think, was the point. Every orientation has camaraderie-building exercises. But the problem is that there's always somebody who holds back, out of fear or embarrassment or feeling too "cool" to fully engage. And that lessens the experience for everybody.
That didn't happen here. All 16 of us took part, and no one judged anyone else's contributions. It made for a very safe atmosphere and really helped all of us explore our own creativity. This was important because Thursday's theme was more introspective. Bluntly, it was about looking within and discovering those things which keep each of us, individually and universally, from reaching our potential. Pretty strong emotions came up for all of us, and at times it wasn't the most comfortable experience. But it was always useful. And then, after deconstructing the creative process, and ourselves, we finished up orientation by rebuilding. One exercise had us telling a partner our life story; then, we had to paint an abstract portrait of our partner's life story. My partner, Vinny (yes, his real name; I cleared it with him, as no pseudonym could do him justice anyway) produced a painting which is so beautiful that I cannot wait to frame it, and it will have a place on the wall of every office I call my own for my entire career.
As I said, a glorious and exhilarating orientation. It would be tough to keep the energy level up once classes started, but I think that we actually surpassed it today. Even though there were JD students with us in the class we had today, the LLMLEs definitely felt like a cohesive group in the classroom. There was a noticeable energy as we began to get down to the real business of learning, and I can't wait to see where we get to go next.
Aug. 18, 2011: An Introduction
Over the course of the year, I'm going to be writing periodically about my experience in the LLMLE program. It seems logical that I'd start by telling you a little bit about myself first, so you know the perspective from which I'm writing.
My name is Andy Roth, and I'm from Houston, Texas. I graduated from Tufts University in 2001 with a B.A. in Drama. I then spent several years in New York City acting professionally. (Yes, this means I waited on a lot of tables. I even managed a restaurant for a time.) I came to law school at Duke in the fall of 2008, and I loved my experience. But I felt that something was missing--what I wanted to do was help people, and while law school gave me the tools to do that, I wanted...different tools, I guess. The idea of advising people and helping them start a business was really attractive to me, and so I think that interest dovetails nicely with the goals of the LLMLE program.
That's it for now, I suppose. I'm excited about this year and this program, but I'm not really sure what to expect. I do expect, however, that I'll be stopping by here to share my thoughts every two weeks or so. In the interim, if you have any specific questions for me personally, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!