Longhorn Law

a student-run ut law blog

Archive for December, 2008

My Justification for Education

Posted by dmjstephens on December 8, 2008

It’s two days before my first semester finals as a 1L start, and I just figured out why I’m in law school.  This issue should probably have been resolved before I committed myself to bearing the crushing weight of a six figure debt for a few years, but I guess it’s better late than never.  While I have long been confident that I belong in law school, my reasons were flawed.  I thought because my particular skills seem well suited to the profession that I should pursue it.  I even thought it might be fun, but I actually had (and largely still have) no idea of what its like to be an attorney.  The average salary figures and relative prestige of the profession were what most influenced me in this direction.  I never considered a non-traditional route success that would probably start with a few or many years of living in meager means.  I went the safe route.

I made a huge mistake, but fortunately I think I may have lucked out.  My time spent preparing for law school and studying this semester have changed my views on the world and made me smarter.  My analytical abilities have increased dramatically in the last year, which has given me a new perspective on nearly my entire life.  Interests and opportunities that would have never occurred to me previously are now piquing my interests and holding my attention.  I’m still way behind in these abilities compared to an incredible number of people, but now I can start playing catch up.  This little mini-renaissance made me realize that there is a ton of really incredible ways to succeed in this world, not just in terms of money but contributions to society.  

I’m going to law school to learn how to see and take advantage of those angles that the next thinking man will jump on.  The smarter you get, the more you can understand the systems of the world and see opportunities to become a part of those systems in exciting and profitable ways.  In addition to that, the two additional letters after my name I’ll have after I graduate are going to give me and my ideas some credibility in the eyes of most people.    I feel like at some point in the next few years I could enter the non-legal sectors of several fields: music, writing, web technology, business, government, or dozens of others very naturally and organically.  I’m not even counting the many interesting and rewarding jobs in the legal sector.  I’m not seeing many closed doors.

I realize this all sounds very optimistic, probably even elitist and arrogant, but don’t worry; I’m only aspiring to be an arrogant elitist, I’m not there yet.  There is a great deal that I need to read, learn, and experience before I will be able to choose the terms of my work.  I know I’ll likely have to put in my time as a firm drone, and possibly never be able to break those chains out on my own.  Just seeing the possibility, this image of a successful life achieved through nothing but brains and savvy is invigorating.  Having my mind trained in this way by a truly fine faculty is absolutely worth every penny of debt I take on here.  I just hope my raw abilities are sufficient for me to eventually think on their level through instruction.  

Few of my friends would share my sentiments right now, but man I’m excited to be a 1L.

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Why aren’t we doing this?

Posted by rdebelak on December 7, 2008

I’m obsessed with my RSS feeder. And I’m obsessed with this TED talk. At the end of the presentation he talks about his project to make data more accessible to the internet. Dealing with the data conversion is one issue, but I am wondering if we can make the digitized versions of academic journals available through RSS. Academics could just subscribe to the journals they want. Or better yet, when we digitize them we tag each article out like a del.icio.us bookmark.

So now a political science researcher gets every new article tagged in “polling data,” or “John Rawls,” or “game theory” delivered to him as soon as it’s accepted for publication and uploaded. Research assistants could skip the endless ICPSR searches and skip straight to the endless reading and number running.

What about going cross-field? As modern academics catches up with itself, researchers are diving across diverse areas of study, using biology to explain psychology, psychology to explain Camus, and The Stranger to explain existentialism (and existentialism to explain nothing). Now the econ people are getting everything relevant from game theory to mathematics to history delivered because it hit a tag they follow.

Who has time to become an expert on everything? The paradox is that as cross-field research becomes more and more necessary to explain new phenomena, science becomes more specialized. It’s growing deeper and broader at the same time. We’re going to have to figure out how to get faster and more relevant in our acquisition of this knowledge. There’s a lot of technology already in place to help us do this. We just need to combine a few things and iron out the kinks.

There is always the money to think about.

The journals could still charge subscription fees like they always have to sustain themselves, but online delivery eliminates printing costs and overhead. Plus, how many more subscribers could you get for no additional cost? The garage-based amateur political analyst might pay $10 a month, or pay-per-article, to run the numbers himself.

And now this interested rookie with a day job is faster at making connections between things because he’s not teaching a 4/4 course load. Or he might catch something everyone else missed because he’s got different tags and he’s reading different things.

There is money to be made here too, I think, and it could be used to sponsor more research. Use it as a prize for subscribers in some sort of research contest. Or take submissions and buy freelance work. A huge user base would pick this up, so why not make the service one-stop shopping for displaying work and results to encourage more users? Put a forum on the site for subscribers to interact. Or make the whole thing non-profit and redistribute the wealth in lower prices.

This should be easy. So why aren’t we doing it?

Or are we doing it? If so where can I sign up? What’s it look like? And why aren’t we teaching it in freshman Research Methods courses?

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