Law in Contemporary Society

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JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 10 - 22 Jan 2009 - Main.IanSullivan
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JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 9 - 23 May 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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 I didn't put much stock in the actual words he spoke; I doubt they were conveying what he actually meant. I was listening beyond the facial value of the words, and what I heard was a man who had sat around thinking about the message he needed to send, calculating what someone in my position would want to hear. I noticed that he was too comfortable in his delivery, speaking with an easy rhythm telling me he'd given this speech before. He was also confident in his delivery. He must’ve thought it was working.
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The partner needed to deny me for this job but keep me interested should his needs change for next year. To accomplish his goal (and not mine), he rehashed a story where it wasn’t my fault nor was it the firm’s fault that I wasn’t being hired. Numbers were to blame, which was convenient for him because it shifted blame to an intangible object. He acted as though his firm was the hero, trying everything they could to bring me aboard. There was just “nothing he could do”. The message fit well with what I had heard during the round of interviewing. One partner had told me that getting a job first year depended on luck, and I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t work out this year. Another had told me that his firm was one of the few that took a real interest in 1L hiring. Again, they were telling me it wasn’t anyone’s fault if I wasn’t hired, and that their firm was doing everything it could to help me out. It was the classic it's not you, it's me;, with the only difference being that the firm wouldn’t accept the “it’s me” part.
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The partner needed to deny me for this job but keep me interested should his needs change for next year. To accomplish his goal (and not mine), he rehashed a story where it wasn’t my fault nor was it the firm’s fault that I wasn’t being hired. Numbers were to blame, which was convenient for him because it shifted blame to an intangible object. He acted as though his firm was the hero, trying everything they could to bring me aboard. There was just “nothing he could do”. The message fit well with what I had heard during the round of interviewing. One partner had told me that getting a job first year depended on luck, and I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t work out this year. Another had told me that his firm was one of the few that took a real interest in 1L hiring. Again, they were telling me it wasn’t anyone’s fault if I wasn’t hired, and that their firm was doing everything it could to help me out. It was the classic it's not you, it's me. Except I was pretty sure that I wasn't getting this job because of some flaw they found in me.
 
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Ordinarily I’d take this message at face value. I’d feel good about myself since it wasn’t my fault, and I’d trust that he wouldn’t lie to me because that’s not the right thing to do. I admit that I can be too na´ve and too trusting. But having talked to a few lawyers I’ve decided to approach firms with skepticism, and by now I should know better than to think they’d care about my interests unless it suited them. I didn’t believe this story, and I was curious to find out what was really going on, so I turned to the Facebook and found that the firm’s 2008 summer associate class had a group of 28 students. All of these students were in their second year. I checked back periodically because I remained curious, and as of writing this the group has grown to 31 members. Still only second year students.
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Ordinarily I’d take this message at face value. I’d feel good about myself since it wasn’t my fault, and I’d trust that he wouldn’t lie to me because that’s not the right thing to do. I admit that I can be too na´ve and too trusting. But having talked to a few friends who have worked for such firms, I’ve decided to approach firms with skepticism. I didn’t believe this story, and I was curious to find out what was really going on, so I turned to the Facebook and found that the firm’s 2008 summer associate class had a group of 28 students. All of these students were in their second year. I checked back periodically because I remained curious, and as of writing this the group has grown to 31 members. Still only second year students.
 Of course, it’s entirely possible that the 1Ls they’ve hired haven’t joined the Facebook group. I went to the NALP’s directory to compare my unscientific data with their more accurate numbers, and found they had hired 27 summer associates last year. It’s unlikely they’ve significantly increased their class from 2007 to 2008, especially since the economy has worsened. I would expect to find few summer associates beyond the 31 listed on the Facebook, if there are any at all.

JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 8 - 22 May 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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This paper is not yet ready for re-reading. I think my first idea was really about assessing risk more accurately by seeing past the impessive facade firms put up, so that's what I tried to get at here.
 
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Two weeks after a callback interview with a New York firm, the hiring partner called to tell me they could not extend me an offer for the summer. Everyone had liked me, he explained, it was just a numbers game because space for first year students was limited. The explanation seemed reasonable and I understood that most firms didn’t do much 1L hiring. But I was also fairly certain he was feeding me bullshit a lie.
 
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I didn't put much stock in the actual words he spoke; I doubt they were conveying what he actually meant. I was listening beyond the facial value of the words, and what I heard was a man who had sat around thinking about the message he needed to send, calculating what someone in my position would want to hear. I noticed that he was too comfortable in his delivery, speaking with an easy rhythm telling me he'd given this speech before. He was also confident in his delivery. He must’ve thought it was working.
 
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The partner needed to deny me for this job but keep me interested should his needs change for next year. To accomplish his goal (and not mine), he rehashed a story where it wasn’t my fault nor was it the firm’s fault that I wasn’t being hired. Numbers were to blame, which was convenient for him because it shifted blame to an intangible object. He acted as though his firm was the hero, trying everything they could to bring me aboard. There was just “nothing he could do”. The message fit well with what I had heard during the round of interviewing. One partner had told me that getting a job first year depended on luck, and I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t work out this year. Another had told me that his firm was one of the few that took a real interest in 1L hiring. Again, they were telling me it wasn’t anyone’s fault if I wasn’t hired, and that their firm was doing everything it could to help me out. It was the classic it's not you, it's me;, with the only difference being that the firm wouldn’t accept the “it’s me” part.
 
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Two weeks after a callback interview with a New York firm, the hiring partner called to tell me they could not extend me an offer for the summer. Everyone had liked me, he explained, it was just a numbers game because space for first year students was limited. The explanation seemed reasonable and I understood that most firms didn’t do much 1L hiring. But I also knew that he was feeding me bullshit a lie.
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Ordinarily I’d take this message at face value. I’d feel good about myself since it wasn’t my fault, and I’d trust that he wouldn’t lie to me because that’s not the right thing to do. I admit that I can be too na´ve and too trusting. But having talked to a few lawyers I’ve decided to approach firms with skepticism, and by now I should know better than to think they’d care about my interests unless it suited them. I didn’t believe this story, and I was curious to find out what was really going on, so I turned to the Facebook and found that the firm’s 2008 summer associate class had a group of 28 students. All of these students were in their second year. I checked back periodically because I remained curious, and as of writing this the group has grown to 31 members. Still only second year students.
 
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Since his speech was a lie, the words he used were not designed to convey what they actually meant. I was listening beyond the facial value of the words, and what I heard was a man who had sat around thinking about the message he needed to send, calculating what someone in my position would want to hear. He gave himself away in his delivery. I noticed that he was too comfortable with this speech. He had obviously given it before. He was also confident in his delivery; he must’ve thought it was working.

He needed to deny me for this job but keep me interested should his needs change for next year. To accomplish his goal (and not mine), he devised a story where it wasn’t my fault nor was it the firm’s fault that I wasn’t being hired. Numbers were to blame, which is convenient for him because I can’t actually blame an intangible object. He acted as though his firm was the hero, trying everything they could to bring me aboard. There was just “nothing he could do”. The message fit well with what I had heard during my round of interviewing. One partner had told me that getting a job first year depended on luck, and I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t work out this year. Another had told me that his firm was one of the few that took a real interest in 1L hiring. Again, they were telling me it wasn’t anyone’s fault if I wasn’t hired, and that their firm was doing everything it could to help me out. It was the classic “it’s not you, it’s me”, with the only difference being that the firm wouldn’t accept the “it’s me” part. http://youtube.com/watch?v=U8TnhNxKNlU

Ordinarily I’d take this message at face value. I’d feel good about myself since it wasn’t my fault, and I’d trust that he wouldn’t lie to me because that’s not the right thing to do. I’m the guy who folds to a big bet at the poker table, because I think the bettor must have a good hand rather than a bluff. I admit that I can be too na´ve and too trusting. But having talked to a few lawyers I’ve decided to approach firms with skepticism, and by now I should know better than to think they’d care about my interests unless it suited them.

I didn’t believe this story, and I was curious to find out what was really going on. I was also looking for a productive use of my time that didn’t involve Constitutional law. I turned to the Facebook and found that the firm’s 2008 summer associate class had a group of 28 students. All of these students were in their second year. I checked back periodically because I remained curious and I still didn’t want to study Constitutional law. The group has since grown to 31 members, still only second year students.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the 1Ls they’ve hired haven’t joined the Facebook group. I went to the NALP’s directory to compare my unscientific data with their more accurate numbers, and found they had hired 27 summer associates last year. It’s unlikely they’ve significantly increased their class from 2007 to 2008, especially since the economy has worsened. I would expect to find few summer associates beyond the 31 listed on the Facebook, if any exist at all.

My skepticism was supported by further research into the firm. I found that the firm had laid off 10% of its partners within the past two years. They had done so because their $1 million profit per partner was inadequate compared with other firms, and they had slipped in the AmLaw? rankings. My guess is that a firm laying off partners is not looking to hire first year students; we’re more of a drain on profits than a good investment. Looking at the limited evidence available to me, I’m led to believe they had little if any interest in hiring 1Ls. Most likely the firm’s 1L interviews were designed to get its name out to students to boost its 2L hiring. The data from last year’s EIP shows that under 25% of their call-back invitations were accepted, a number lower than many other firms which certainly leaves room for improvement.

Admittedly, I can’t prove what the firm was doing, and I may be misinterpreting their honesty. But the fact is there’s a lot of smoke, and if I wait to find the fire I’ll have already wasted several years of my career. The hiring partner concluded his speech by assuring me that as it stands they do like me, and he doesn’t see anything changing between now and August when they begin hiring for the 2009 summer. In the same sentence in which he guaranteed me a job, he reserved an out for himself. A guarantee without a guarantee; again, he was keeping me interested so that they could decide later whether or not they wanted me. I thanked him for the consideration and told him I looked forward to joining them soon. If the partner was listening closely, he knew I was lying. The receptions, the lavish offices, the fancy clothes… they all send a powerful message to a young, insecure law student. But his outer positive message actually sent out negative information, and that was all I needed to know.

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Of course, it’s entirely possible that the 1Ls they’ve hired haven’t joined the Facebook group. I went to the NALP’s directory to compare my unscientific data with their more accurate numbers, and found they had hired 27 summer associates last year. It’s unlikely they’ve significantly increased their class from 2007 to 2008, especially since the economy has worsened. I would expect to find few summer associates beyond the 31 listed on the Facebook, if there are any at all.
 
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My skepticism was supported by further research into the firm. I found that the firm had laid off 10% of its partners within the past two years. They had done so because their $1 million profit per partner was inadequate compared with other firms, and they had slipped in the AmLaw? rankings. My guess is that a firm laying off partners is not looking to hire first year students; for a firm looking to boost profits per partner in the short-term, hiring 1st year students is not a good investment. Looking at the limited evidence available to me, I’m led to believe they had little if any interest in hiring 1Ls. Most likely the firm’s 1L interviews were designed to get its name out to students to boost its 2L hiring. The data from last year’s EIP shows that under 25% of their call-back invitations were accepted, a decent number but still lower than many other firms in New York.
 
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The hiring partner concluded his speech by assuring me that as it stands they do like me, and he doesn’t see anything changing between now and August when they begin hiring for the 2009 summer. In the same sentence in which he guaranteed me a job, he reserved an out for himself. A guarantee without a guarantee; again, he was keeping me interested so that they could decide later whether or not they wanted me. I thanked him for the consideration and told him I looked forward to joining them soon. If the partner was listening closely, he knew I was lying. Admittedly, I can’t prove what the firm was doing, and I may be misinterpreting their honest recruitment. But the fact is there’s a lot of smoke, and I don't intend to spend several years of my career investigating whether there's actually fire. The receptions, the lavish offices, the fancy clothes… they all sent a powerful message to me as a young, insecure law student. But reflecting on the experience I can't help but think the positive treatment was just covering up a negative experience.
 
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I think my first idea was really about understanding what firm's are up to more accurately by seeing past the impessive facade firms put up. So, that's what I'm trying to get at here. I think the paper could use some more work but I left the country a few days after finals and I've had limited internet time to fix it.
 
 
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JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 7 - 18 May 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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This paper is not yet ready for re-reading. I think my first idea was really about assessing risk more accurately by seeing past the impessive facade firms put up, so that's what I tried to get at here.
 
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Introduction

 
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Gamblers at casinos face unfavorable odds of winning, just as students joining big firms face unfavorable odds of career fulfillment. Understanding the casino scheme sheds insight on why some students decide to gamble their careers at such firms. Both casinos and firms induce participation in their cons by building an identity for their marks, convincing the marks they are special and they will stand out from the losing masses.
 
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Bleeding Marks Slowly

 
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Casino games are designed to bleed money from individuals. Blackjack, played properly, gives the house about a 51-49 advantage. Slot machines, giving the worst odds, return about 9/10ths of the wagers. At these odds, some individuals walk away winners and every player experiences at least some winning. These short-term wins are necessary to the con: casinos must show there’s something in it for their marks, like Sean Mekas sending a claim document to Spiros Tzourous. Short-term wins are also essential to forming an identity conducive to generating long-term losses. They allow the mark to overstate his contribution to wins, thinking he is a skilled gambler. He can deflect losses as bad luck, beyond his control. Letting a gambler consistently win hides his overall losses, and reinforces his belief that he is special and can win.
 
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Firms similarly run their con slowly. An associate job isn’t a blatantly losing proposition; firms provide legitimate benefits to convince the mark he can win. Students can quickly pay off loans, earn money, and gain prestige. Students can avoid the con by seeing these short-term wins as cloaking the long-term losses bled from students who pawn their licenses.
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Two weeks after a callback interview with a New York firm, the hiring partner called to tell me they could not extend me an offer for the summer. Everyone had liked me, he explained, it was just a numbers game because space for first year students was limited. The explanation seemed reasonable and I understood that most firms didn’t do much 1L hiring. But I also knew that he was feeding me bullshit a lie.
 
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Since his speech was a lie, the words he used were not designed to convey what they actually meant. I was listening beyond the facial value of the words, and what I heard was a man who had sat around thinking about the message he needed to send, calculating what someone in my position would want to hear. He gave himself away in his delivery. I noticed that he was too comfortable with this speech. He had obviously given it before. He was also confident in his delivery; he must’ve thought it was working.
 
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Special Treatment

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He needed to deny me for this job but keep me interested should his needs change for next year. To accomplish his goal (and not mine), he devised a story where it wasn’t my fault nor was it the firm’s fault that I wasn’t being hired. Numbers were to blame, which is convenient for him because I can’t actually blame an intangible object. He acted as though his firm was the hero, trying everything they could to bring me aboard. There was just “nothing he could do”. The message fit well with what I had heard during my round of interviewing. One partner had told me that getting a job first year depended on luck, and I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t work out this year. Another had told me that his firm was one of the few that took a real interest in 1L hiring. Again, they were telling me it wasn’t anyone’s fault if I wasn’t hired, and that their firm was doing everything it could to help me out. It was the classic “it’s not you, it’s me”, with the only difference being that the firm wouldn’t accept the “it’s me” part. http://youtube.com/watch?v=U8TnhNxKNlU
 
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Casinos make sure their marks feel special as they play, providing luxurious settings, complimentary drinks, and scantily-clad waitresses. Firms treat students similarly: firm receptions, fancy offices, high salaries, and inflated prestige. This treatment stands out from how the mark is accustomed to being treated by businesses or employers. Not all gamblers or students are affected by such treatment, but for many it is easy to buy into the identity this pampering feeds the mark. He is special. Not everyone can succeed at this game or this firm, but he can.
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Ordinarily I’d take this message at face value. I’d feel good about myself since it wasn’t my fault, and I’d trust that he wouldn’t lie to me because that’s not the right thing to do. I’m the guy who folds to a big bet at the poker table, because I think the bettor must have a good hand rather than a bluff. I admit that I can be too na´ve and too trusting. But having talked to a few lawyers I’ve decided to approach firms with skepticism, and by now I should know better than to think they’d care about my interests unless it suited them.
 
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The Layout: Exterior Waste Covers Interior Traps

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I didn’t believe this story, and I was curious to find out what was really going on. I was also looking for a productive use of my time that didn’t involve Constitutional law. I turned to the Facebook and found that the firm’s 2008 summer associate class had a group of 28 students. All of these students were in their second year. I checked back periodically because I remained curious and I still didn’t want to study Constitutional law. The group has since grown to 31 members, still only second year students.
 
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Why do Vegas hotels depict tacky caricatures of Egypt, Greece, and pirate ships? One function is to display waste. By consenting to lose money playing games, gamblers contribute to this waste and thereby gain the identity created by conspicuous consumption. Not everyone can afford waste, so once again the message is “you are special”. While outlandish exteriors suggest waste, casino are actually meticulously designed to extract money. All traffic is routed through the casino. Time is obscured, with no clocks or windows. Exits are not easily accessible. Slot machines, the most efficient moneymaker, are near all entrances and take up the most floor space. Casinos are designed to trap; if they can just get you in the casino, they can get you to spend money.
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Of course, it’s entirely possible that the 1Ls they’ve hired haven’t joined the Facebook group. I went to the NALP’s directory to compare my unscientific data with their more accurate numbers, and found they had hired 27 summer associates last year. It’s unlikely they’ve significantly increased their class from 2007 to 2008, especially since the economy has worsened. I would expect to find few summer associates beyond the 31 listed on the Facebook, if any exist at all.
 
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Firms similarly display waste to send a message that the firm and its members are prestigious. While outwardly catering to students, firms are structured to generate profits. Students are made to feel special, but associates spend 2200 hours per year solving others’ legal problems. A firm’s recruiting message is that you are special and it needs your talent; meanwhile, associate work is anything but special or personally meaningful. Like casinos, firms similarly hope to trap students. They promote the idea that many career paths necessarily go through big firms. This strategy is effective; many students plan on using big firms as springboards to other careers, but find leaving difficult.

Just Break Even

A typical gambler begins with dreams of conquering the odds. When he finds himself losing money, the goal changes to just breaking even. This proves difficult because casinos have the opposite goal, and they have structured the game to suit their needs. As gamblers find themselves further behind they need to make larger leaps forward; a gambler trying to make up losses must either increase their bets or play longer. Occasionally luck intervenes and the gambler can break even, but usually numbers dominate and larger bets simply lose more money. (Casinos set maximum bets, otherwise this strategy could work).

A typical student begins with dreams of solving meaningful legal problems. However, the firm’s goal is not to help associates fulfill their dreams, but rather to boost profits. Since firms are in control, they are structured to use associates for their own goals. At this realization an associate should discontinue participating in a scheme structured against him. But like a gambler trying to break even, associates are prone to staying a little longer, hoping things will turn around and the J.D. will not be a losing investment.

As associates become unhappy, firms return to the “you are special” message. Firms tell associates that once they make partner they’ll be special again, and life will improve. More likely, unsatisfied associates just become unsatisfied partners. On the surface partners receive greater benefits than associates, but they are still losing to the same con. Just as betting more money on a blackjack hand won’t change the odds of winning, investing more of your career at a firm you dislike won’t change the odds of career fulfillment. The rate at which associates revive their careers by making partner is only slightly higher than the rate at which alchemists succeed in turning base metals into gold.

Conclusion

Casinos tell gamblers they’re special to convince marks they can win at games favoring the house. Big firms are a similarly structured con, telling students they are special to convince them career fulfillment exists in a job designed for the firm’s benefit. If we look beyond the message firms send and the identity they offer us, we can recognize the underlying parts of their con as a game of chance with the odds against our favor. None of us would wager our licenses on a roulette spin, as we could not afford to lose. Likewise, we should stop wagering our licenses on the unlikely chance we will enjoy a big firm career.

-- JaredBaumgart - 31 Mar 2008

  • I don't understand the appeal of the essay devoted to a single extended metaphor. I've watched people write them for years, but I've never understood what they hoped to get by them. This metaphor doesn't make analyzing the behavior of leveraged law firms easier or more accurate. It doesn't shed any light on how young lawyers should make career choices. It doesn't even correctly model, in my view, the thought processes they currently use. It's an extended parallel arranged by taking the features that are similar in two situations while ignoring all dissimilarities. What is it worth?

  • From my point of view, the route to the essay's improvement is to drop the metaphor, and figure out what you really have to say about the non-casino part of the comparison. If you have a thesis that isn't a figure of speech, that's what the essay's about. If not, start fresh.
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My skepticism was supported by further research into the firm. I found that the firm had laid off 10% of its partners within the past two years. They had done so because their $1 million profit per partner was inadequate compared with other firms, and they had slipped in the AmLaw? rankings. My guess is that a firm laying off partners is not looking to hire first year students; we’re more of a drain on profits than a good investment. Looking at the limited evidence available to me, I’m led to believe they had little if any interest in hiring 1Ls. Most likely the firm’s 1L interviews were designed to get its name out to students to boost its 2L hiring. The data from last year’s EIP shows that under 25% of their call-back invitations were accepted, a number lower than many other firms which certainly leaves room for improvement.
 
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Admittedly, I can’t prove what the firm was doing, and I may be misinterpreting their honesty. But the fact is there’s a lot of smoke, and if I wait to find the fire I’ll have already wasted several years of my career. The hiring partner concluded his speech by assuring me that as it stands they do like me, and he doesn’t see anything changing between now and August when they begin hiring for the 2009 summer. In the same sentence in which he guaranteed me a job, he reserved an out for himself. A guarantee without a guarantee; again, he was keeping me interested so that they could decide later whether or not they wanted me. I thanked him for the consideration and told him I looked forward to joining them soon. If the partner was listening closely, he knew I was lying. The receptions, the lavish offices, the fancy clothes… they all send a powerful message to a young, insecure law student. But his outer positive message actually sent out negative information, and that was all I needed to know.
 

JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 6 - 04 May 2008 - Main.EbenMoglen
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 -- JaredBaumgart - 31 Mar 2008
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  • I don't understand the appeal of the essay devoted to a single extended metaphor. I've watched people write them for years, but I've never understood what they hoped to get by them. This metaphor doesn't make analyzing the behavior of leveraged law firms easier or more accurate. It doesn't shed any light on how young lawyers should make career choices. It doesn't even correctly model, in my view, the thought processes they currently use. It's an extended parallel arranged by taking the features that are similar in two situations while ignoring all dissimilarities. What is it worth?

  • From my point of view, the route to the essay's improvement is to drop the metaphor, and figure out what you really have to say about the non-casino part of the comparison. If you have a thesis that isn't a figure of speech, that's what the essay's about. If not, start fresh.
 
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WOW that's an awesome pair of sentences. I don't agree with the argument, but the analogy is beautiful.
 
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-- AndrewGradman - 31 Mar 2008
 
 
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JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 5 - 08 Apr 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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Eben, I apologize, but I don't think this is ready quite yet. I still need to tighten up the argument and cut out some words, I hope to have that done by tomorrow evening.

Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For many of the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.

 

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Law students continually pine for big firm jobs despite evidence that such jobs are characterized by unhappiness and attrition. Nearly forty million people per year travel to Las Vegas despite evidence they're likely to lose money. Each scenario is an identity-building activity, with the student and gambler volunteering to play the mark and subject himself to a con. On the first day, Eben estimated 15-20% of big firm lawyers he knows are happy. My response was to shrug it off and assume I’d be one of the happy ones. But the odds suggest I’m wrong, and it’s becoming apparent that taking those odds at such high stakes is an enormous gamble. Understanding the casino scheme can shed insight on why some students gamble their careers at big law firms.
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Gamblers at casinos face unfavorable odds of winning, just as students joining big firms face unfavorable odds of career fulfillment. Understanding the casino scheme sheds insight on why some students decide to gamble their careers at such firms. Both casinos and firms induce participation in their cons by building an identity for their marks, convincing the marks they are special and they will stand out from the losing masses.
 
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Bleeding Marks Slowly

 
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The Con: Wealth Creation

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Casino games are designed to bleed money from individuals. Blackjack, played properly, gives the house about a 51-49 advantage. Slot machines, giving the worst odds, return about 9/10ths of the wagers. At these odds, some individuals walk away winners and every player experiences at least some winning. These short-term wins are necessary to the con: casinos must show there’s something in it for their marks, like Sean Mekas sending a claim document to Spiros Tzourous. Short-term wins are also essential to forming an identity conducive to generating long-term losses. They allow the mark to overstate his contribution to wins, thinking he is a skilled gambler. He can deflect losses as bad luck, beyond his control. Letting a gambler consistently win hides his overall losses, and reinforces his belief that he is special and can win.
 
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Wealth creation for casinos is simple mathematics; they only offer games where the house wins. The hard part of the con is to convince people to gamble anyway. Casinos do so by sending various messages. The relevant message for this paper is: “You are lucky. While the group of gamblers must lose, you can be the individual that wins.” One way firms create wealth is by projecting a heightened air of importance. They can afford fancy offices, lavish parties, and six-figure starting salaries because their attorneys are so much better than other available lawyers. As Tharaud demonstrates, this is just a front. Still, the firm’s message is convincing: “We have the best lawyers from the best law schools, and joining us makes you part of that group”. The Lucky Individual
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Firms similarly run their con slowly. An associate job isn’t a blatantly losing proposition; firms provide legitimate benefits to convince the mark he can win. Students can quickly pay off loans, earn money, and gain prestige. Students can avoid the con by seeing these short-term wins as cloaking the long-term losses bled from students who pawn their licenses.
 
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Since gambling is an identity-forming play, casinos need to make the actor feel special. Once the actor feels special, he may begin acting as though he can win (even if he doesn’t actually believe it). Casino games are designed to bleed money from an individual rather than wipe him out quickly. Blackjack, when played properly, gives the House less than a 51-49 advantage. Slot machines, generally giving the worst odds, allow players to keep about 9/10ths of his wager. At these odds, individuals can walk away winners and every player will at least experience the thrill of winning. These short-term wins are necessary to the Casino’s long-term con: the casino must show its marks there’s something in it for him. A winning hand is Sean Mekas sending a claim document to Spiros Tzourous. This con is particularly effective because gamblers rarely track their wins and losses accurately. Reinforcing a mark’s belief that he can win at a game of skill cloaks the math which invariably holds true: anyone gambling in a casino long enough inevitably loses. The mark, experiencing wins and seeing others win, starts feeling he is special and starts believing in his luck. He overvalues his contribution. These are purely chance games, but casinos convince him that he affects the outcome (through lucky superstitions or strategies). Wins are attributed to skill, and the mark forms his identity around his ability to produce such wins. Some people think they’re good at blackjack; at best, gamblers can play by the book and lose as slowly as possible. Losses are attributed to bad luck; and since luck is outside of the mark’s control, he is blameless when he loses. The ability to deflect your shortcomings is a phenomenal feeling. Casinos are a safe place to form an identity.
 
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Casinos and firms make sure their marks feel special along the way. Casinos provide high-class services, luxurious settings, complimentary drinks, and scantily-clad waitresses. Students are treated similarly: firm receptions, fancy offices, high salaries, and inflated prestige. The mark, gambler or law student, receives such service and buys into the identity being fed to him. He is special. Therefore, he can stand out from the group. The group will lose, its money or its license, but he will not. The analogy extends further. High-stakes gamblers play at exclusive tables separated from the general floor. They receive higher luxury and personal service. These gamblers are like partners. On the surface they are above the masses of marks, but they are losing to the exact same con.
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Special Treatment

 
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Casinos make sure their marks feel special as they play, providing luxurious settings, complimentary drinks, and scantily-clad waitresses. Firms treat students similarly: firm receptions, fancy offices, high salaries, and inflated prestige. This treatment stands out from how the mark is accustomed to being treated by businesses or employers. Not all gamblers or students are affected by such treatment, but for many it is easy to buy into the identity this pampering feeds the mark. He is special. Not everyone can succeed at this game or this firm, but he can.
 
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Why the Split?

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The Layout: Exterior Waste Covers Interior Traps

 
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A typical gambler begins with dreams of conquering a game, despite the odds. When he finds himself losing money, the goal changes to just breaking even. This proves difficult because the casino has the opposite goal, and the casino controls the game. As gamblers find themselves further behind they need to make larger leaps forward, leading some to the flawed strategy of increasing their bets. Occasionally luck intervenes and the gambler can break even, but usually numbers dominate and larger bets simply lose more money. (Casinos set maximum bets, otherwise this strategy could work).
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Why do Vegas hotels depict tacky caricatures of Egypt, Greece, and pirate ships? One function is to display waste. By consenting to lose money playing games, gamblers contribute to this waste and thereby gain the identity created by conspicuous consumption. Not everyone can afford waste, so once again the message is “you are special”. While outlandish exteriors suggest waste, casino are actually meticulously designed to extract money. All traffic is routed through the casino. Time is obscured, with no clocks or windows. Exits are not easily accessible. Slot machines, the most efficient moneymaker, are near all entrances and take up the most floor space. Casinos are designed to trap; if they can just get you in the casino, they can get you to spend money.
 
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Students enter firms with various goals, including making money, enjoying prestige, and paying off loans. Firms can provide these small victories, proving there’s something in it for us like casinos giving their gamblers periodic wins. But if your goals conflict with the firms’ goals, they control the game, and they can put up obstacles in your path. As an associate becomes less content with his job and his life (the gambler falling behind), the reasons he entered law school subside. The associate begins looking to just get back to even. To make law school worth the investment. Often, this means trying to make partner. The thinking is that while associate life is miserable, partner life offers something different. Of course an associate seeking a promotion at a job he dislikes, because he thinks he’ll find happiness at the next tier, is stupid. Just as betting more money on a blackjack hand won’t change the odds of success, investing more time at a job you hate won’t change the odds of career fulfillment.
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Firms similarly display waste to send a message that the firm and its members are prestigious. While outwardly catering to students, firms are structured to generate profits. Students are made to feel special, but associates spend 2200 hours per year solving others’ legal problems. A firm’s recruiting message is that you are special and it needs your talent; meanwhile, associate work is anything but special or personally meaningful. Like casinos, firms similarly hope to trap students. They promote the idea that many career paths necessarily go through big firms. This strategy is effective; many students plan on using big firms as springboards to other careers, but find leaving difficult.
 
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The Layout

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Just Break Even

A typical gambler begins with dreams of conquering the odds. When he finds himself losing money, the goal changes to just breaking even. This proves difficult because casinos have the opposite goal, and they have structured the game to suit their needs. As gamblers find themselves further behind they need to make larger leaps forward; a gambler trying to make up losses must either increase their bets or play longer. Occasionally luck intervenes and the gambler can break even, but usually numbers dominate and larger bets simply lose more money. (Casinos set maximum bets, otherwise this strategy could work).
 
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Why do tacky hotels depict Ancient Egypt, Greece, and pirates? These superfluous caricatures create a sense of waste. Everything is unnecessarily over-the-top. Since nothing in Vegas can be taken seriously, visitors stop taking themselves seriously and buy into the wasteful environment. Then, investing money into games you will eventually lose becomes natural. While outlandish exteriors encourage waste, the underlying structure in casinos is meticulously designed to extract money most efficiently. Their interiors are remarkably similar. Guests must walk through the casino to get anywhere. Time is obscured, with no clocks or windows. Exits are not easily accessible. Slot machines, casinos’ most efficient moneymaker, are placed near the entrances and account for more floor space than any other game. Casinos are designed to trap the casual passerby; if they can just get him in the casino, they can get him to spend money. Firms similarly hope to trap students. They insist that becoming a top lawyer requires first joining their office. This strategy is effective; when firms get students to become associates, they can often alter the associates’ career plans. Many students plan on working at firms only until they pay off their loans. Many gamblers plan on playing for just a little while, incurring just a little loss. Both may be conned into staying, and therefore losing, for a long time. Just as casinos obscure time, firms obscure time by requiring ridiculous work hours.
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A typical student begins with dreams of solving meaningful legal problems. However, the firm’s goal is not to help associates fulfill their dreams, but rather to boost profits. Since firms are in control, they are structured to use associates for their own goals. At this realization an associate should discontinue participating in a scheme structured against him. But like a gambler trying to break even, associates are prone to staying a little longer, hoping things will turn around and the J.D. will not be a losing investment.
 
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As associates become unhappy, firms return to the “you are special” message. Firms tell associates that once they make partner they’ll be special again, and life will improve. More likely, unsatisfied associates just become unsatisfied partners. On the surface partners receive greater benefits than associates, but they are still losing to the same con. Just as betting more money on a blackjack hand won’t change the odds of winning, investing more of your career at a firm you dislike won’t change the odds of career fulfillment. The rate at which associates revive their careers by making partner is only slightly higher than the rate at which alchemists succeed in turning base metals into gold.
 
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Conclusion

 
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Putting money into a slot machine is no less tangible than handing your license to a firm. In both instances you wager a valuable commodity which was earned through prior work and which has the potential to bring future rewards. But one can always make more money; one cannot always salvage a lost career. When lawyers wager something they cannot afford to lose on a game of chance they are mathematically likely to lose, the wager is a poor one.
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Conclusion

 
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Casinos tell gamblers they’re special to convince marks they can win at games favoring the house. Big firms are a similarly structured con, telling students they are special to convince them career fulfillment exists in a job designed for the firm’s benefit. If we look beyond the message firms send and the identity they offer us, we can recognize the underlying parts of their con as a game of chance with the odds against our favor. None of us would wager our licenses on a roulette spin, as we could not afford to lose. Likewise, we should stop wagering our licenses on the unlikely chance we will enjoy a big firm career.
 

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Eben, I apologize, but I don't think this is ready quite yet. I still need to tighten up the argument and cut out some words, I hope to have that done by tomorrow evening.
 Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For many of the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.
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The Con

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Introduction

Law students continually pine for big firm jobs despite evidence that such jobs are characterized by unhappiness and attrition. Nearly forty million people per year travel to Las Vegas despite evidence they're likely to lose money. Each scenario is an identity-building activity, with the student and gambler volunteering to play the mark and subject himself to a con. On the first day, Eben estimated 15-20% of big firm lawyers he knows are happy. My response was to shrug it off and assume I’d be one of the happy ones. But the odds suggest I’m wrong, and it’s becoming apparent that taking those odds at such high stakes is an enormous gamble. Understanding the casino scheme can shed insight on why some students gamble their careers at big law firms.

The Con: Wealth Creation

Wealth creation for casinos is simple mathematics; they only offer games where the house wins. The hard part of the con is to convince people to gamble anyway. Casinos do so by sending various messages. The relevant message for this paper is: “You are lucky. While the group of gamblers must lose, you can be the individual that wins.” One way firms create wealth is by projecting a heightened air of importance. They can afford fancy offices, lavish parties, and six-figure starting salaries because their attorneys are so much better than other available lawyers. As Tharaud demonstrates, this is just a front. Still, the firm’s message is convincing: “We have the best lawyers from the best law schools, and joining us makes you part of that group”. The Lucky Individual

Since gambling is an identity-forming play, casinos need to make the actor feel special. Once the actor feels special, he may begin acting as though he can win (even if he doesn’t actually believe it). Casino games are designed to bleed money from an individual rather than wipe him out quickly. Blackjack, when played properly, gives the House less than a 51-49 advantage. Slot machines, generally giving the worst odds, allow players to keep about 9/10ths of his wager. At these odds, individuals can walk away winners and every player will at least experience the thrill of winning. These short-term wins are necessary to the Casino’s long-term con: the casino must show its marks there’s something in it for him. A winning hand is Sean Mekas sending a claim document to Spiros Tzourous. This con is particularly effective because gamblers rarely track their wins and losses accurately. Reinforcing a mark’s belief that he can win at a game of skill cloaks the math which invariably holds true: anyone gambling in a casino long enough inevitably loses. The mark, experiencing wins and seeing others win, starts feeling he is special and starts believing in his luck. He overvalues his contribution. These are purely chance games, but casinos convince him that he affects the outcome (through lucky superstitions or strategies). Wins are attributed to skill, and the mark forms his identity around his ability to produce such wins. Some people think they’re good at blackjack; at best, gamblers can play by the book and lose as slowly as possible. Losses are attributed to bad luck; and since luck is outside of the mark’s control, he is blameless when he loses. The ability to deflect your shortcomings is a phenomenal feeling. Casinos are a safe place to form an identity.

Casinos and firms make sure their marks feel special along the way. Casinos provide high-class services, luxurious settings, complimentary drinks, and scantily-clad waitresses. Students are treated similarly: firm receptions, fancy offices, high salaries, and inflated prestige. The mark, gambler or law student, receives such service and buys into the identity being fed to him. He is special. Therefore, he can stand out from the group. The group will lose, its money or its license, but he will not. The analogy extends further. High-stakes gamblers play at exclusive tables separated from the general floor. They receive higher luxury and personal service. These gamblers are like partners. On the surface they are above the masses of marks, but they are losing to the exact same con.

Why the Split?

A typical gambler begins with dreams of conquering a game, despite the odds. When he finds himself losing money, the goal changes to just breaking even. This proves difficult because the casino has the opposite goal, and the casino controls the game. As gamblers find themselves further behind they need to make larger leaps forward, leading some to the flawed strategy of increasing their bets. Occasionally luck intervenes and the gambler can break even, but usually numbers dominate and larger bets simply lose more money. (Casinos set maximum bets, otherwise this strategy could work).

Students enter firms with various goals, including making money, enjoying prestige, and paying off loans. Firms can provide these small victories, proving there’s something in it for us like casinos giving their gamblers periodic wins. But if your goals conflict with the firms’ goals, they control the game, and they can put up obstacles in your path. As an associate becomes less content with his job and his life (the gambler falling behind), the reasons he entered law school subside. The associate begins looking to just get back to even. To make law school worth the investment. Often, this means trying to make partner. The thinking is that while associate life is miserable, partner life offers something different. Of course an associate seeking a promotion at a job he dislikes, because he thinks he’ll find happiness at the next tier, is stupid. Just as betting more money on a blackjack hand won’t change the odds of success, investing more time at a job you hate won’t change the odds of career fulfillment.

The Layout

 
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The Deal

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Why do tacky hotels depict Ancient Egypt, Greece, and pirates? These superfluous caricatures create a sense of waste. Everything is unnecessarily over-the-top. Since nothing in Vegas can be taken seriously, visitors stop taking themselves seriously and buy into the wasteful environment. Then, investing money into games you will eventually lose becomes natural. While outlandish exteriors encourage waste, the underlying structure in casinos is meticulously designed to extract money most efficiently. Their interiors are remarkably similar. Guests must walk through the casino to get anywhere. Time is obscured, with no clocks or windows. Exits are not easily accessible. Slot machines, casinos’ most efficient moneymaker, are placed near the entrances and account for more floor space than any other game. Casinos are designed to trap the casual passerby; if they can just get him in the casino, they can get him to spend money. Firms similarly hope to trap students. They insist that becoming a top lawyer requires first joining their office. This strategy is effective; when firms get students to become associates, they can often alter the associates’ career plans. Many students plan on working at firms only until they pay off their loans. Many gamblers plan on playing for just a little while, incurring just a little loss. Both may be conned into staying, and therefore losing, for a long time. Just as casinos obscure time, firms obscure time by requiring ridiculous work hours.
 
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Wealth Creation

 
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Why the Split?

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Conclusion

 
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Putting money into a slot machine is no less tangible than handing your license to a firm. In both instances you wager a valuable commodity which was earned through prior work and which has the potential to bring future rewards. But one can always make more money; one cannot always salvage a lost career. When lawyers wager something they cannot afford to lose on a game of chance they are mathematically likely to lose, the wager is a poor one.
 

JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 3 - 31 Mar 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.
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Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For many of the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.
 

The Con


JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 2 - 31 Mar 2008 - Main.AndrewGradman
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Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.
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 -- JaredBaumgart - 31 Mar 2008
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WOW that's an awesome pair of sentences. I don't agree with the argument, but the analogy is beautiful.

-- AndrewGradman - 31 Mar 2008

 
 
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JaredBaumgart-SecondPaper 1 - 31 Mar 2008 - Main.JaredBaumgart
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Why do law school students continually go to big firms when they know they're likely to be unhappy? For the same reasons that people go to Las Vegas to gamble when they know they're likely to lose money.

The Con

The Deal

Wealth Creation

Why the Split?

-- JaredBaumgart - 31 Mar 2008

 
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Revision 10r10 - 22 Jan 2009 - 01:18:14 - IanSullivan
Revision 9r9 - 23 May 2008 - 12:30:42 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 8r8 - 22 May 2008 - 23:01:38 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 7r7 - 18 May 2008 - 13:00:32 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 6r6 - 04 May 2008 - 18:47:44 - EbenMoglen
Revision 5r5 - 08 Apr 2008 - 18:11:54 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 4r4 - 04 Apr 2008 - 22:44:56 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 3r3 - 31 Mar 2008 - 18:47:52 - JaredBaumgart
Revision 2r2 - 31 Mar 2008 - 15:52:08 - AndrewGradman
Revision 1r1 - 31 Mar 2008 - 05:31:37 - JaredBaumgart
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