Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One more point in defense of emerging adulthood

Although I have mixed feelings about emerging adulthood as a life stage, one more point in defense of it: calling it a life stage would probably steer upper-middle-class kids from going to law school simply because they feel like a soft landing into the entry level market isn't possible.

I've seen this dynamic play out several times something like this: college senior in college is uncertain about what to do with his life. He finds the entry-level job market complicated and confusing. Unless he's an engineer or able to get a fancy consulting or i-banking job, he probably can't make much money in an entry-level job either. This seems dispiriting. Having to work in an unpaid or barely paying internship for a few months after graduation would be even more appalling. So, even though many of these people could *eventually* hit pretty decent incomes working in non-profits or Hill jobs or art galleries, they panic and feel like they have to run off to law school or medical school.

I've also observed plenty of upper-middle-class parents who have weird attitudes about helping kids out financially in these situations. Helping out with law school tuition, no problem. Helping out with rent for three months while Junior establishes himself in an entry level job... that's off bounds, because Junior is supposed to be an adult now and responsible for all such expenses. This even though the latter would be much cheaper for the parents in the short and possibly also long run.

Some of these kids wind up loving the law. But too many of them don't and wind up merely irking their fellow students and colleagues. Too many of them wash out of the law altogether a few years in. Giving these people a few years of socially approved "emerging adulthood" to think through their choices to go to law school would be advisable. And to some extent, this already happens -- plenty of big firms bring on paralegals for two years who are doing just this. But I've encountered at least a few parents and prospective pre-laws who still seem skeptical of the wisdom of doing this. Seeing more acceptance at the margin for these options would be great.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Czar system continues ridiculousness

All hail the Asian carp czar.

For actual substantive discussion of the limitations of the czar system, see see here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Against naming dresses after women

Is there some nice economic reason for why so many items of women's clothing have to bear female first names? E.g. naming a dress the "Amy" or the "Alexandra." At best, it's annoyingly cutesy. At worst, it makes me less likely to buy something that I otherwise would. I'll love the Amy dress, for example, but know and detest a person named Amy in real life and so not want to buy it. Or the Alexandra will look entirely wrong on an Alexandra I know in real life. There must be some reason that dress retailers have figured out, though, or else they wouldn't risk losing money on this...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to defriend someone on Facebook

Here. I recommend also this polka dot shirt, which is awesome, but which may or may not lead to the phenomenon described in the article.

Student loan debt ruins an engagement

Obviously I can't prove it, but I bet this relationship was already on the rocks anyway for other reasons, and the debt was just an excuse for the guy to break it off.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Forty more years of sonorous phrasings about responsibility, expectations, institutional racism, 'getting on board' and baggy pants?"

Every time I see one of these marches or forums covered as significant, what occurs to me is that there is one thing we should all be focused on instead. It is, of all things, the War on Drugs. The most meaningfully pro-black policy today would be a white-hot commitment to ending its idiocy.

-- John McWhorter, in a provocative and essay calling for an end to the War on Drugs.

Not a heroine, part 27

Conor Friedersdorf continues rounding up reactions to his anti-lawyer post. This one is just weird:

What you completely left out of your rant about “elites” is their grades and the difficulty of those programs. Firms that wine and dine summer associates don’t just hire any schmuck who gets into Harvard and skates by with Cs because his dad is a senator. They’re wining and dining the top tier of honor students in some of the most difficult and renowned programs in the world. People who can get a 4.0 at Ivy League grad schools are people who can work seven days a week, twelve hours a day, for months on end, and not complain about it. Doing what these people do is so brutal that movies have been made about it. If you resent those elites, if you really can’t grasp why people will spend so much to have them on board, it’s because you don’t know what it’s like to work that hard nor do you know what those people are really capable of.

There are a few large law firms that only hire people at the very top of the class from the very top schools. But there are many that are considerably less selective and willing to wine and dine people considerably lower down. Finally, I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who did quite well at Ivy League law schools. I'm sure there are some who worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for three years of law school. But most had much more moderate study schedules.

For more on why the "but they deserve it" line is not a good libertarian defense of businesses' lavish compensation of meritocrats, see various blog posts under the meritocracy tag.

Should I stay or should I go?

Stay. True, there's what Lat said, but let me add:

1. I went to a school that's a little worse than his (usually ranked in the low 20s in U.S. News) pre-crash. Post-crash, the two may be roughly comparable. That is, we were high up enough that lots of people got Biglaw jobs, but lots of people also didn't. The people in the less favored half of the class usually found something without much trouble. In lots of cases, it was criminal law, after multiple stints in clinics or externships. Fed. govt. jobs at somewhere not-that-sexy, not-DOJ may also be an option, especially if he can manage to land an internship at one of these agencies this summer.

2. We're not told anything about the person's undergrad background or pre-law-school work experience, so we don't know what marketable skills this person may or may not have. But... like... pretty much every other sector of the economy is also suffering. Leaving a graduate program after one year does not really send an attractive signal to most employers. I can hear the questions from a mile away: "Why did you leave law school? Well, why did you go in the first place if you really weren't sure you wanted to practice law? Did you do any research in advance? Yeah? Well, why should I think that you did research on why you want to work in my field? How do I know you're not going to want to run off and do something different in a year?" The alternative -- a one year gap on the resume -- is no more attractive.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Status Income Disequilibrium Baby Anthem

Wise words from Megan McArdle:

If you have a job more interesting than doing ten years of document discovery, or proofreading pitch books, and you can afford all the health care and calories your heart could want, then it seems to me that you're way ahead of the game. It's downright greedy to think that you ought to have the great job, and the great salary (or that you shouldn't have to compete for things like nice houses with people who do pull in serious cash, which is really another way of saying the same thing.

(Headline reference here.)

I am apparently neither interesting nor happy

....or perhaps suspiciously both. My score is zero on the nose. I would've predicted interesting rather than happy, but who knows.

Though some of the questions are confusing. What if I have some fat friends and some thin ones, and most somewhere in between? I said yes anyway, but I'm not sure if that's right. Also, I'm not sure how harsh I'm supposed to be in judging people fat... is the boundary line something like 25 BMI, the government sanctioned boundary for overweight, even if many people at that weight look average-ish rather than fat? Or should it be something like 30?

Also: I have several close friends who are Jews. I have a few Facebook acquaintances who are Muslims and born-again Christians, but no close friends. Do the latter count? I didn't count them.

I went to a therapist precisely once at Dartmouth. I gave up because it didn't seem helpful...

Are there $70 eyebrows to be had anywhere in D.C.? Most of the nice salons that I'm aware of price waxes in the $25 to $30 range.

I have never tried on $200 jeans, but that's because I don't care about jeans that much. Expensive dresses or shoes, however, are a whole other story.

ETA: I'm also not sure that "interesting" and "maximizer in all facets of one's life" line up as neatly as Trunk seems to imply. I've never found people who are interested in maximizing their physical appearances -- the trait which the eyebrows, fat friends, and jeans questions seem to be getting at -- to be especially interesting. The girl who tells you within five minutes of meeting you at a law school happy hour that she only drinks rum and Diet Cokes because this is the mixed drink with the fewest calories is usually not going to be the most interesting person in your section. The time that it takes to accumulate facts like that is time spent away from accumulating the more esoteric knowledge that I, at least, find more interesting.

It's possible that there are people who are such strong maximizers that they can achieve perfect eyebrows and bodies AND also have time to become fantastically well-read about everything under the sun, Tyler Cowen fashion. I just haven't met too many of them. Opportunity costs matter for even the most hard core maximizers. Most of the really interesting maximizer types I know are more... focused.