Bruce Springsteen SXSW Keynote from 2012

Sometimes it is easier to unearth a hidden gem from an obscure website than to write a full post. As a fan of Bruce Springsteen I found this keynote address to be a fun listen.

The Decline of Journalism?

I am a news junkie. My main sources of information are the New York Times (I subscribe), Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Hartford Courant, and CT News Junkie. I supplement that with news from my twitter and Facebook feeds. Among these sources the only one I pay for is the New York Times and I have a subscription to Wired magazine. The rest of these are free online. As a consumer this makes me happy because it saves me money and I get to enjoy these products without cost. Yet I think it may be destroying journalism.

Collecting the news and posting it online is not free. I pay a yearly fee to host this blog on a service that is reliable and does not serve advertisements. The underlying content system is free since it is open source. I suppose I could choose to host it on the Wordpress.com website and save money but I enjoy having the ability to use the web server for other purposes and to learn the underlying technologies. It also takes time and effort to write the posts. In a professional news organization where they spend time and effort conducting research and interviews it is easy to see how these free websites get expensive for the creators.

Today there seems to be two ways to pay for news: advertising and subscriptions. The New York Times is demonstrating that subscriptions are just as important as advertising in the web age. I am inclined to agree. I think making people pony up some money for their news increases their commitment to the organization. Their model of providing some free content and then charging for extra seems to be effective. I also think there is some merit to charging micro-payments for access to old articles. My prediction is that most of the free news sites will eventually shut down or convert to the paid model.

What happens if they do not? We already have seen the size of physical newspapers like the Hartford Courant shrink. News staffs are shrinking across the country and the quality of the news at many operations is in a decline. Large organizations like New Yorker and New York Times are bucking this trend. The non-profit CT Mirror is also doing good work. The Hartford Courant website is terrible but they put up some good blogs and many of their journalists are interesting to follow on twitter. As the news consuming demographic switches to digital first consumption the newspapers will have to move with them. If they move and they are able to show that they provide high quality product then they will get subscribers and be able to compete with the New York Times and other operations like it. Otherwise we will eventually lose them.

Job Hunting

There are few things stranger in this world than job hunting. The problem with job hunting is that no two people end up in the same place in the same manner. Almost all my jobs from my computer consulting days in high school through my current job at the University of Connecticut have been primarily the result of people asking me to work for them because I had a skill they desired. In college my job search process for summer internships largely involved sitting at my desk and deciding which of the multiple offers to take. Unfortunately things are not quite that easy post law school.

The focus of many online websites and consultations with career services is a resume. I’m not entirely sure why. I have a resume and I am proud of it but even at two pages it is rather brief. I’m not completely sure how someone pulls a full story from it. In fact I do not believe I have ever seen a resume that I would deem useful. On a resume you can look for certain benchmarks like whether people have experience doing certain types of things and if their grades are decent but that is not going to tell you if the person is enjoyable to be around, a good team player, or has the ability to quickly learn new skills. Some people will try to fill these gaps by writing that they are a team player on their resume. I am not sure how helpful that is considering I have never seen a resume where someone says they are a bad team player. Suffice to say that if I was hiring someone I do not think resume searching would seem like an efficient method to find a good employee. That’s why I try not to blame employers for not getting back to me after I cold send them my resume from a job site.

From the perspective of a job searcher it is also difficult to ascertain whether a job or internship will be good. I have had both extremely promising internships turn into duds and seemingly boring internships turn into the most valuable experiences of my professional career. Some things are simple like you can see if the job falls into your field of interest or is the type of role you might enjoy. However you cannot tell whether the people at the workplace are good to work with, whether the employer treats the employees with respect, or how much opportunity you might have to grow there. If you want to learn these things you have to conduct rather extensive background research. Even then the people you talk to might be biased or interact in the environment differently than you. Law firms solved this problem by bringing on associates the summer of their second year to take them for a test drive. Then the economy collapsed and this model sort of died. I think it would be a good idea to have more of this, not less.

Another problem is that now all companies want are people with experience. This is code for not wanting to train the employee so they will basically only hire someone who is currently doing the same thing for their competitors. This means that if you have a job you have a lot of leverage because if you have a valuable skill there are people trying to poach you on a daily basis. This is most famously rampant in Silicon Valley but I have also heard stories of it in the legal field as well. When I search for legal job postings there are plenty of jobs for people with 2-5 years of experience but not for fresh graduates. I think eventually companies and law firms will realize that it is cheaper to train new employees than paying higher and higher salaries for employees they poach from competitors. Until then new graduates are at a huge disadvantage.

This is why job searching is all about networking and who you know. It is much easier to have someone vouch for a person and trust they will work out then to do the cold job hunting thing. This means that the networkers are at a huge advantage and it is difficult to get jobs entirely based on your skill. Sometimes career services offices try to teach networking or hold networking events, but I only know of one person who has gotten a job from them. Real networking is usually accomplished through your internships or when a parent or uncle knows someone who knows someone who has an opening. Yet in law school they don’t teach us how to effectively leverage that.

So far my takeaways from job searching post-law school are the following: be open to new experiences, first impressions can be wrong, do not be afraid to talk to people about your job search, and never give-up hope. If I was career services I would probably spend less time focusing on resume editing and more time helping students connect with groups and organizations in their area of interest so they can get more of the valuable type of networking. I would also encourage them to develop a portfolio of work or projects they can use in their applications or interviews. One of my cold interviews was with the State Elections Enforcement Commission and one reason I was able to successfully interview was that my senior project at WPI was on the efficacy of the Citizens’ Election Program. These not so small things make a huge difference.

Underrated Products

Today I forgot my Bose earbuds and had to bring the stock Apple ear buds that came with my iPhone to the gym. I had never used these and was surprised how terrible the quality is. Much of the detail of the song disappeared when I was using the Apple ear buds. It’s no wonder that Apple was able to sell lower quality 128kbps AAC files for so long. Once you get used to speakers or ear buds with quality it is difficult to go back. If you want to get good quality audio for cheap then I recommend the Sennheiser HD 201 headphones. I also think that it is worth scouring eBay for deals. I got some Harmon Kardon Soundsticks for about $60 there. With less than a $100 investment you can finally start enjoying your music the way it was meant to be heard.

If you own an automobile you should check out Adam’s Polishes. I discovered them when I was looking for a way to buff out scratches on the used car I purchased a little over a year ago. In addition to selling polishing kits they also have car wash kits and all sorts of cleaners to tackle any part of your car that might be dirty or old. They also have all great instructional videos on how to properly use the products. By investing a little bit of money you can improve the appearance of your car and remove marks or dirt that otherwise has been stuck on there for years.

What underrated products would you recommend?

My Advice to New Law Students

I found out that tonight starts the orientation for the new class at UConn Law. The Internet is full of advice for new law students, but I figured that my recent experience might help people that are still getting their bearings. Below are ten pieces of advice that I think might help. Good luck!

  1. Don’t be afraid to quit. Law school should not be prison. It’s tough work but you should not be miserable. You can blow just as much money being happy as hell. I have a couple of friends who bailed on law school after a semester. They lived and are doing well.

  2. Lock-in your Kaplan or BarBri rate. Kaplan is just as good as BarBri. You’ll thank yourself three years from now. Even better if you sign-up to be a BarBri or Kaplan rep to get a free course.

  3. Check the Co-Op, half.com, and Amazon for textbooks. Be a savvy shopper. If you are buying a new edition the UConn Co-Op is often competitive with the online outlets. If you are buying used then half.com and amazon are your best bets. You can check out the book form the library in the meantime.

  4. Brief your cases. Law school is a mental endurance sport. You only get better through practice. Many classmates will buy and use commercial outlines. You don’t need those. If you need a case brief or additional information it’s all free on the Internet or WestLaw. If you still really need a hornbook or something to explain the subject then it’s free at the law library. BarBri also has free materials and lectures available as well.

  5. Learn how to format properly using Microsoft Word. It’ll save you headaches later. This document has some advice on making a table of authorities. Use the styles and headings at the top of Microsoft Word to mark your sections and make a table of contents. Buy a copy of Typography for Lawyers.

  6. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is still applicable. You should buy a copy if you do not own it already.

  7. Downtime and sleep should not be neglected. Friday and Saturday nights you should relax. Try and get some walking or other exercise in. You do not want to burn out.

  8. Attend as many events as you can. Your student fee pays for them, the food is usually free, and you meet interesting people and learn new things.

  9. Do the write-on next summer. Join a law journal. It’s worth it, if only to have a place to go on campus and built-in group of people to lean on.

  10. Force yourself to do some things you are not comfortable with. If you do moot court or mock trials it will help you understand other things later. Not everyone gets on moot court board but you will not be worse off by participating in these competitions.

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