I spent a lot of time reading Edna St. Vincent Millay during my romance-addled teen years. The random thoughts in my head this morning made me think of her figs—so below, without St. Vincent Millay's rhyming or elegance, a few figs:
First FigWhen a résumé has a section for "interests," I always get a little excited—it's like a tiny little piece of chocolate at the end of the meal. But if you're going to list your interests, for crying out loud, make them interesting. The "interests" section has a dual purpose: one, let the reader know a little something extracurricular about you, and give them some basis for a connection. You can serve the former purpose with the barest-bones of descriptions, but not the latter. "Reading, sports, and travel" might tell me something I didn't otherwise know about your predilections, but it doesn't make you stand out, nor does it give me a basis for starting a conversation. "Nineteenth-century English literature, Tigers baseball, and hiking the Appalachian trail"? Much grabbier, and now I know what I'm dealing with. Specific is good. Tell me pinochle, not card-playing; badminton, not sports; amateur auto mechanic, not cars.
Second FigAs we sometimes do, assistant dean Susan Guindi and I chatted yesterday with Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency, asking him a few stray questions about data collection and best practices and so forth. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that only 33% of law schools have adopted what was LST's signature cause when the group was founded: the posting of NALP reports online. In some ways, this cause has taken on less prominence as the ABA has expanded its reporting requirements and, in turn, required schools to post the results. But still. Posting the NALP report is a tiny little baby step—the smallest of voluntary gestures toward a commitment to transparency. Having now done it for almost two years, I can attest that the roof did not cave in as a result. Sure, it did lead us down a path to thinking about how far we could push the envelope: what information we could share without making incursions on privacy. But schools don't have to go so far as to declare such specifics to the world as having a sheep farmer and a professional poker player in their graduating class to make some salubrious steps toward being a bit more forthcoming.
Third FigWe're doing it again: Twitterpaloozafest redux. Sure, last time, our foray into the diminutive rage in social networking coincided with Hurricane Sandy—but gripping tightly to the thought that mid-December does not appear to be prime-time for extreme weather events, we are, with some trepidation, going to try again.I am, frankly, nervous even writing that, lest the weather gods are paying attention.
Fourth FigAll law schools ask questions about previous incidents of misconduct. Specifics vary—arrests, or just convictions? Criminal, or civil infractions too?—but the basic point of the inquiry is the same: Are you someone to be trusted in a professional setting where there is a lot of latitude for doing harm to vulnerable clients? (And, in most cases to a much lesser degree, are you going to have any trouble becoming a member of the state bar somewhere?) To that end, all schools ask that a "yes" answer be followed up with "details." What we mean is—what did you do? We want the story, the narrative—not a citation to the section of the state code you violated. I mean, you're welcome to provide that too, but if that's all you provide, you're missing the point, and you end up sounding defensive and evasive. Tell me, "In my first year of college, on the second day of orientation, I went to a fraternity party with everyone on my floor. They served beer, and I drank it. When I left the fraternity house, I walked straight into the arms of the local police, who were waiting for naïfs like myself. In retrospect, attending that party was monumentally poor decisionmaking on my part. I pleaded guilty, did yada yada yada in the way of punishment, and learned several important lessons." Telling me, "On August 25, 2009, I was charged with violation of Section 436.170 under the Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998, Purchase, consumption, or possession of alcoholic liquor by minor. I pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to blah blah blah as punishment, and have had no prior criminal convictions since that time," is not telling me anything particularly illuminating.
Last FigYesterday, the legendary J.J. White taught his last class. Our tradition is that faculty, administrators, and staff file into the classroom for the last ten minutes or so, and then clap the professor out of the room at the conclusion. Because I am a completely sentimental sap, I started nearly hyper-ventilating just upon entering the room, and it was very hard not to cry. OK, I did cry. (Lindsey Stetson '05, assistant director in Admissions, has similar sappy tendencies, and she made sure not to stand near me, for fear that we would set each other off into actual howling.) It was an absolute inspiration to contemplate how much of an impact this one individual has had on the lives of so many students—and colleagues, for that matter. What is it about J.J. White that allows him to call me "a pushy broad" with the result that I feel even more affection for him? Mysterious.