Law in Contemporary Society
So by now, many of you have probably heard of Mr. Chuck. Mr. Chuck is a 3L at NYU Law School. He has been referred to as “Rosencrantz” on Mr. Chuck was also supposed to be working and as far as I know, still is working at Mayer Brown as a first year associate upon graduation whenever the deferral period is over.

I have met Mr. Chuck. He’s a nice guy. We’re facebook friends. We have mutual friends. But his story represents why a lot of us probably don’t try to organize and protest the status quo. For the full story, go here: For the follow-up and some youtube videos made my Mr. Chuck titled – “Overeducated and Unemployed: Waking Up from the American Dream during a Recession”, go here:

Here’s a brief synopsis. From what I can gather, Mayer Brown hasn't sent those who received offers from their Summer Class of 2009 any information about what would be happening with their jobs: start dates, deferrals, salaries, etc. In order to try to obtain information, Mr. Chuck and one of his colleagues sent out an email to everyone in Mayer Brown’s 2009 summer class (including people who had not received offers - mistake #1). The email basically made 3 points: 1) “Mayer Brown has kept us…in the dark about our futures” unjustly because they have failed to announce anything about their class, 2) this is a call to action, 3) the action? “We urge that each Mayer Brown 2009 Summer Associate ask their Law School’s Office of Career Services to call Mayer Brown and request the immediate formal announcement of the terms of our offers.” Some of the most significant language of the email comes when Mr. Chuck and his colleague state : “We stress that if we all act together, the likelihood for our efforts to achieve our desired result — formal announcement regarding our futures, with a competitive package — is significantly higher.” Simple enough? Not crazy radical?


The result of the email is obvious from the fact that it has made it on 3Ls everywhere who had received offers at Mayer Brown started freaking out, sending emails back to Mr. Chuck and his colleagues, contacting others, calling Mr. Chuck stating they wanted to make sure it was clear to Mayer Brown that all opinions and thoughts made were on the behalf of the individuals who made them and not expressions of the masses, and well…contacting In one email in response to the frenzy, Mr. Chuck even says “FEAR NOT” and then goes on to state, he will be a “Public Relations Disaster “if the result is not favorable.(mistake #2?) While there were some tactical errors made, the point is still the same. People are afraid. It’s hard to organize when people have been “beaten” into submission and are now so afraid to act or have their name attached to something for fear of ruining their fragile, not-even-begun careers.

Even the comments under the article crucify Mr. Chuck (and his colleague). I guess that was to be expected.

Rebelling and rioting is effective but only if you convince enough soldiers that it’s worth it. And in this day in age, convincing soldiers means you will likely be blast across the world of facebook, youtube, and twitter as a "fool" before any real work can be done. It’s not that Mr. Chuck’s three points were ineffective. It’s that far too many people are comfortable playing inside the status quo. The box we’ve been placed in is comfortable. All he and his colleague were trying to do was encourage people to press their schools and subsequently Mayer Brown for information. Not even attempting to change the system, all they wanted was a shot to play within it or at least some information about how long they’d have to wait before it was their turn on the swing/slide. (pick your favorite playground activity). Seemingly non- radical, yet the fall out has made a reputation for Mr. Chuck that yes, he’ll be able to recover from…hopefully, but now he’s started his career as the firebrand, the impatient one, the one who has a repugnant sense of entitlement – even if the feeling is just a sense of entitlement to information and not being forced to wait in a state of abyss about one’s future. People were afraid to make demands about having some sense of control about their own futures.

Yes, technology (especially youtube) is great. But it can also work against one’s cause. For a mere suggestion in an email, Mr. Chuck is making a name for himself that I’m sure he wished he hadn’t. The documentary that he made, partially in response to the abovethelaw media storm, has to do with being overeducated and underemployed. While it’s great and worth the watch, who is going to listen now that he has pulled a Plaxico Burress and shot himself in the foot? If you kill your only solider (his colleague has remained silent as far as I can tell – except for one initial email sent to quiet people’s anxiety), you’re less…well, not at all…effective.

I guess my point/question is this: how do we organize when there are so many people willing to jump ship AND turn you in to the “authorities” ? John Brown, nor Martin Luther King Jr. were competing with technology that makes every single shot the shot heard around the world in less than 15 seconds. Yes, I am a product of a people who organized, stayed steadfast, and were willing to accept whatever negativity they received because change was (and still is) necessary. I am a product of protest, sacrifice, and challenges to the status quo. But for the most part, law school students are wimps. We have forgotten the power of collective action. Admittedly, there are very few things right now I will get up in arms about. (i.e. the reason I don't speak in class, because right now I don't need to argue with Moglen, I need to figure out what it is I'm going to do with my life if my goal is to change someone else's reality and be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle without a daily serving of misery attached. For me, it's less important to argue, more important to listen, and then to begin strategizing so I can fight the things that do cause me to get up in arms.) I am biding my time and trying to be as strategic as possible in my approach. Many of us want to get in, finish these three years without drowning, and then we’d like to begin a career (wherever that may be). The old age- “this is how it has been, and this is how it will be” argument rings through our brains every morning we wake up and work our “full-time jobs" in misery (still scratching my head on how to make this a part-time gig). Maybe law school isn't the thing we want to challenge so we play by the rules...for now. Many want that firm job and are scared and anxious when anyone even pushes them to “demand” information. Those in power seem quite strong and us? Weak and tired law students. I don’t know, maybe NYU is different from Columbia. Maybe we are the strong and rebellious type, but (looks to the left, looks to the right) I’m not optimistic. I’m sure those of us who want to organize and feel change is necessary, feel the best way to go about that is to obtain our license, become dangerous, and have the courage to act once we’ve had the opportunity to decide what it is we're willing to die for and build a career around that (hopefully swift enough to dodge bullets). Maybe all we need to be is better tacticians than Mr. Chuck but for now Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Maybe with a little respect and dignity or maybe not, because 2 3L students taking on a big firm seems to the world to be a big joke.

Ideally, three points and silence will work but who's willing to be the first to send an email, pass out a leaflet, or be the first to take a risk only to end up on Mr. Chuck should use this momentum to truly make a fuss. Maybe he will. He also has to be willing to lose the "opportunity" he spent 3 years working hard for. I believe it will make space for other opportunities or maybe he will have been his own public relations disaster. He doesn't have much else to lose. He's found his voice, chosen to speak and if law students weren't so willing to crucify their own, they would see this as an opportunity to use the "Comment" section and actually express the anxieties and fears that linger in their everyday lives. They would start a network of people willing to at least use their God-given voice and call attention to the fact that being a pawn is not okay, and we're (some of us) sick of it. But they won't. They will continue to laugh, email this story out to their friends, call Mr. Chuck and his colleagues "douchebags" and argue that the problem is the sense of entitlement and not what the system is doing to us and our humanity.

The status quo is easy. After all, "They are not near my conscience; their defeat does by their own insinuation grow". Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Not many more are willing to end up like them.

-- KrystalCommons - 11 Mar 2010

Aside from the various miscalculations, I think one lesson learned is that organizing works best person to person. Email blasts and leafletting are often not effective at connecting to people, and are easy to take out of context and become blog post fodder. I think Mr. Chuck would have done better if he got together with a lot more than one colleague, and spent time, in person, figuring out a plan everyone was committed to.

-- DevinMcDougall - 11 Mar 2010

I don't think the Internet or law blogs have really changed the dynamic (maybe they've just sped up the inevitable conclusion). In every oppressed group throughout history, there were always a few ready to actively support the oppressor, a small group of radicals resisting or pushing for change, and a giant mass of people in the middle who agreed the situation was less than optimal but were waiting to see where the chips fell because they feared ending up like Mr. Chuck, who is now basically a pariah who embarrassed his firm before starting work. Sometimes, external circumstances change and the people being blasted for being radicals end up as heroes (see John Brown) because more of the middle group is pushed into joining the radicals. The Nazis and Russian Socialists both had failed revolutions before their ultimately successful ones- the difference was that the successful movements followed depression and world war.

I'm sure that most of the deferred associates are also scared, worried and a little pissed off at their situation. Had this complaint been handled with some more tact (like Krystal suggested), they might have joined up with Mr. Chuck. There are probably also another group of deferreds who are the kind of people who will bill 2200 hours because everybody else is billing 2000 and they welcome the opportunity to disassociate from Mr. Chuck. Once these people responded, the folks in the middle followed or clammed up. This happened at Texas Law this week, and is unfortunately what I think will happen to a lot of the proposals being floated over on the StudentAction thread if they are ever put into action.

Re the ATL comments section: On law blogs, there is always a lot of racism, misogyny, and tough talk from anonymous posters. I wouldn't take this as anything more than the ranting of some individuals who feel very marginalized in law school and the legal community in general.

-- JonathanWaisnor - 11 Mar 2010

Krystal - I really appreciate you bringing this up, and specifically this article. One of the things that the story really highlighted for me was that everything has a cost. There are good ways and bad ways to protest. This might not have been the way to take a stand on the issue. Perhaps Mr. Chuck could have used a different method and reduced the cost to himself. But regardless, it does highlight that every protest is costly in one way or another. Before deciding to speak up on an issue, it is imperative that one do a cost/benefit analysis. To use a cliche, it is important to "pick your battles".

Let's say that our class decided to launch a protest at Columbia Law School. We think tuition is too high. There are a few ways we could do this: (1) We could storm the dean's office, break down the door, and surround him and yell at the top of our lungs, (2) We could use the three bullet points on a piece of paper approach, or (3) We could all create hotmail accounts and send "anonymous" emails. There are certainly more options, but these are three potential ones. Note that these are only hypotheticals - I do not advocate choosing any of these options.

Each would lead to different consequences, and would potentially lead to different results. If we decided to use Option (1), there is a good chance that the police would be called and we would be arrested. It would make front page news, would spur conversation and might lead to change more rapidly. The cost to us, however, would be quite high. A night in jail, legal fees, and having to explain this to countless people would be costly. As for (2), the cost would be lower. We might have to miss class, and might annoy some of our more conservative professors. We might elicit a response, and we might not. It would certainly generate buzz, but likely much less than violently breaking down the door and surrounding the dean. As for (3), the cost would likely be lowest, but it would also be least likely to elicit a response and actually have an effect.

The reason that I bring this up is that these options (imperfectly) demonstrate the cost/benefit analysis that we must consider when deciding whether to protest and how we should go about doing it. A lot of people aren't willing to pay the costs required for protesting. I certainly don't want to be arrested. Figuring out how to minimize costs is very important. I actually really like Eben's idea in that it seems like a good balance between (1) and (3). No one needs to set themselves on fire to make a point, but at the same time, it will likely at least elicit some response. I'd love to hear what other people have to think about this. I think we all have different amounts we're willing to "pay", and some probably have higher tolerances than others.

-- DavidGoldin - 11 Mar 2010


Webs Webs

r6 - 17 Apr 2010 - 14:42:48 - NonaFarahnik
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM