Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prom Night, Revisited

We had "law school prom" (aka, Barrister's Ball) this weekend! Lots of fun--every girl loves a chance to get all dressed up once in awhile!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When Profit Becomes Loss

Today is the first day of Lent, that time of year when we approach the celebration of Easter and consider what Christ's resurrection means for our lives. This devotional is one I actually wrote for Lent two years ago, but I think it's worth revisiting.

In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul writes these words: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
When I read these words, at first it seems easy to just skim over them and not really think about what Paul was actually saying in this passage. We generally don’t like to ponder on what it might mean to consider our profits to be “loss” since our culture is so saturated with ideals of winning, success, and gain. But when I really think about what Paul was actually saying in these few verses, I am overwhelmed by the worship and devotion in his words, and I also find myself wanting to know Christ the way he did that would prompt him to declare his feelings about Christ in these incredibly passionate terms. In the previous verses, Paul has spoken with pride about his supremely Jewish heritage, his zealous devotion to the law, and his “faultless” legalistic righteousness as a Pharisee—characteristics that he obviously greatly valued, some of which he had poured out years of effort to obtain. Nevertheless, in the next few verses he declares that all of those things—no matter what a great profit they might otherwise be—are actually a total loss compared to the amazing wonder of knowing Christ. Paul declares without hesitation that all those things which once had defined him were nothing more than rubbish—a word which, in the original Greek, was actually a vulgar expression implying worthless filth. When I read this, I am amazed that Paul was so willing to equate his supreme heritage and perfectly “righteous” life literally with garbage—because of knowing Jesus and being found in Him, a gain which was surpassingly great.
These verses prompt me to some questions about my relationship with Jesus and my life in general, and I hope they might do the same for you. Would I ever talk about Jesus in these terms? Or about anyone? Who would you or I readily lose all things for, but still consider knowledge of that person to be a life-sustaining profit? Does a saving knowledge of the risen Christ prompt us to gather all the best successes and credits and profits of our lives, worshipfully lay them at the foot of the cross, and still consider ourselves rich? And perhaps most importantly . . . do you and I know Christ, more and more, in such a way that we can increasingly say with Paul that everything else we value pales in comparison to knowing Him? Do we experience the peace, joy, and righteousness of Christ profoundly? So much so that everything which we consider to be to our profit—our jobs and grades and titles and degrees and reputations and money and whatever else—is simply loss in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing and loving Jesus our Savior?

Paul had the privilege of knowing Christ in this intensely intimate way, and so do we! Through the miracle of the resurrection, each one of us has the privilege of gaining Christ and being found in and by Him. I find myself inspired by Paul’s words to want to know Christ and the daily accessible power of His resurrection in my life—a relationship that is so wonderful that it can make us see everything the world calls “valuable” in a whole new light. This is one of the messages that is on my heart as we approach the Lent and Easter season. As it was for Paul, so may it become for each of us. Jesus is worth it all.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


At the moment, I am trying to juggle preparing for a closing argument competition, writing an article for my school's news website which is due next week, doing my reading and outlining for all my classes, doing a big legal research and writing assignment on the Americans with Disabilities Act, looking for a summer job and submitting lots of applications, preparing for a legal research exam, attending a bunch of meetings and career workshops, and trying to still maintain a social life and have some time for myself. Like to sleep. Or do pleasure reading. Or go to the gym. Next week, to add to the fun, the spring Moot Court competition for 1L's will start (not the competition itself, but signups begin and I'll think we'll be receiving the problem then).
It is a very busy time of year, and there's always so much to do and a plethora of things to keep track of. People often say that when they are busiest, they find that they actually do better in school, in keeping up with friends, etc. This may seem counterintuitive, but I have a theory that I think explains it, at least for me. I feel like if I drop the ball in one area, it then becomes really easy to kind of give up and start being lazy and slacking off on everything. But, the reverse is also true: if I am really keeping up with my responsibilities in one area of my life, that tends to spill over into every other area of my life. It's kind of like the observation that when you have it together in something, you tend to kind of have it together in everything. I call this theory the "anti-compartmentalization of motivation," which really makes it sound more complicated than it is. The idea is that you can't compartmentalize motivation. It's very hard to get incredibly motivated in one area of your life without finding that motivation spilling over into a lot of other areas of your life. Have you ever wondered why, for example, going to the gym very consistently makes you want to also get all your school responsibilities under control too? It's because that motivation from having one area of your life--exercise and taking care of yourself--under control makes you want to take responsibility for other areas of your life too.
I try to take advantage of this theory during incredibly busy times like right now. By necessity, I've had to be incredibly motivated to prepare for the closing argument competition, because we just got the problem and the information on Monday and we have one week to prepare and basically memorize 10-minute arguments for both sides. There has been no time to waste, so every day this week I've been going to the library after class and preparing for that competition. That in turn has made me be really motivated to get on top of my classes, and so forth, so in spite of the busyness of this week, I've actually been meeting deadlines better and feeling more on top of things than I have in awhile. Maybe I need more crazy-busy weeks to help me get things done!
And now I need to stop blogging for the moment . . . and go read contracts . . . and meet with my career counselor to go over my resume . . . etc.!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bucket List

I hope everyone is having a great Wednesday! During a slightly boring constitutional law class today (hey, it happens), I got inspired to start revising my life goals list/ bucket list.

Here are a few highlights from my list, at least ones I'm willing to share! I hope they might prove to be inspirational for somebody else:
  • Graduate summa cum laude from law school and pass the bar exam on my first try
  • Participate in or coordinate a research project or lecture series on issues of neuroscience and the law
  • Write and publish a bestselling book
  • Become a certified Spanish interpreter for civil court proceedings
  • Be completely debt-free by December 31, 2016 (yes, that includes student loan debt--this is 2 1/2 years after I will graduate from law school)
  • Buy my own home and write a check at the closing to pay for the entire thing (no loans, no mortgage, no debt)
  • Eventually, get to a point where I live on 10% of my income and give away the other 90%
  • Visit every state in the US
  • Go to Italy, South Korea, and the Holy Land
  • Watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon
  • Read the New Testament in the original Greek
  • Learn how to play the violin
  • Read at least 100 "classic" or "award-winning" books
  • Learn how to speak Korean
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Go snowboarding
  • Complete the Tough Mudder race
  • Bench press my body weight
  • Ride a roller coaster
  • See a play on Broadway
  • Read the Bible through every year for the rest of my life
  • Do something incredibly heroic and selfless for someone who could never repay me (like donating my bone marrow, etc.)
  • Get a standing ovation
Even though there are a LOT more goals on the list left to be completed than ones I've already achieved, here are some goals on the list I've been able to check off:
  • Graduate from Washington and Lee University with honors
  • Spend a day exploring ancient Corinth
  • Sponsor children through World Vision
  • Study abroad in Costa Rica
  • Assist in research for a Bible commentary
  • Learn how to read ancient Greek
  • Go to the midnight showing of a movie
  • Drive a horse and buggy in Amish country
  • Go surfing
  • Spend a night outside under the stars
. . . . What goals are on your bucket list?
And here's a song that has really been speaking to me lately . . . "Always Enough" by Casting Crowns.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lord, Teach Me to Do Your Will

Psalm 143:8-10 says, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground."

In my Bible, I have the letters "BPE" next to this prayer of David: a.k.a., one of the best prayers ever. There are a lot of wonderful prayers in Scripture that I think are intended to serve as models for our own prayer lives, and this is certainly one of them. What really strikes me the most about verse 10 is what David doesn't say: "Teach me to know Your will" or "Reveal your will to me." There is a bit of a disconnect between most of my prayers and this one; in most of my prayers in which I am asking the Lord about His will, I am asking Him to reveal it to me--not to teach me how to do it! David prayed, "Lord, teach me to DO your will." In other words, sometimes a commitment to obedience must come first! Someone once wrote, "God reveals His will to those who are fully committed to doing it." Instead of always praying that I would know what God's will for my life is, I should pray that I will have learned how to obey completely and how to follow God's will wholeheartedly whenever He does reveal it to me. I think that God probably more readily offers glimpses of His will and plan to people whose hearts are open to following Him wherever He leads.

The model prayer is not, "Lord, show me what to do and what your life plan for me is." No, it is, "Lord, give me an obedient heart above all else. Teach me surrender. Teach me to do Your will--no matter what it is."

The psalmist also offers a rationale behind his devoted commitment to doing God's will: "Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God." You are my God. We pray for God to teach us obedience, because he is our God! He is our God, and no matter how dark our night is, the morning will eventually come, bringing us word of His unfailing love. I have found this to be true in my life. We may wait an incredibly long time for that morning, that revelation of God's love for us, but it will come. And until it does, may we embrace a complete surrender and obedience to the God who holds our hand in the darkness. He is always enough.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoughts on Singleness

I am single. I mean, genuinely single, not the "I'm in a serious relationship but not yet engaged/ married" kind of single. I am not dating anyone. I don't even anticipate dating for awhile yet. If the right person comes along, that's great . . . and if not, that's fine too.

Our culture has 2 key expectations of single people, and honestly, I think they're really troubling. First, as a general observation, single people are expected to enter into relationships as soon as possible. Secondly, if you are single, you are not expected to like it. Or to phrase that perhaps more accurately, you ARE expected NOT to like it. We don't really have any notions in our society of finding a time of singleness deeply satisfying and enjoyable, or being a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. Singleness is typically considered to be an inferior condition that any sensible person would want to remedy just as soon as possible. Sometimes I think people forget that it takes two people to get married or to form a relationship. That sounds so obvious, but think about what that really means. I can't just wake up one morning and write in my planner, "Find a man and start a relationship today." I can't do it because it doesn't just depend on me! There is always going to be another person involved. If I am supposed to be in a relationship with someone, they have to be open to being in that relationship with me and our lives have to cross paths in such a way that we meet and get to know each other. I can't make a "goal" to not be single anymore because that's not something I can accomplish myself. It always requires another person, and the right timing.

I sometimes get asked variations on this question: "Why are you still single?" On the surface, it may seem like a fairly innocuous inquiry, and granted, most of the people who ask the question really do mean well and care about me (and I don't make these comments to tear them down, but rather to shed some light on how these questions actually feel to people who are single). Most of the people who ask this question are either in committed relationships of their own or married. I have some married friends who I love and whose friendships I really value, and I would never turn to them or to any other married person and ask them, "Why are you still married?" I bet you wouldn't even think of asking that, either. To me, the "why are you still single?" question is incredibly analogous. We single people struggle to come up with a socially acceptable response to that question, and I often end up saying something like, "Well, I'm just too busy with school/ work/ etc. to be in a relationship right now." What I really want to say is either "God has not brought the right person into my life yet, and I won't settle for less than His best just because I'm expected to "cure" my singleness as if it were something wrong with me" or, more simply, "I'm single because right now, I want to be and I enjoy it." It's true--right now, God has called me to be single. I am very satisfied with where I am in my life, and I'm not rushing out to try to change my relationship status on Facebook. This is the first time in my life I have ever lived fully on my own, without family or roommates, and I have learned so much about myself and about my relationship with God as a result. I don't want to be rushing into relationships just because I feel pressured to do so.

As a woman, I react strongly to the idea that I cannot reach my full potential without a man. To the idea that I am "incomplete" without a relationship with a guy. That idea throbs through our culture, and every single woman is acutely aware of it. People say things like, "It won't be long now before you're bringing a guy home to meet your parents." I would like to say, but what if it is? Or what if that never happens? Will I have somehow disappointed you? I understand that this is rarely the intention behind the words, but as a woman, what I hear when people continually ask me if I've met a guy yet is, "You are not good enough on your own. You must rely on a man to do what God wants you to do. You need a man to give you a voice, because as a woman, you don't really have one just on your own."

If you enter a relationship with the expectation that the other person will magically "complete" you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. People can complement each other, push each other to be better, challenge each other, love each other . . . but they can't complete each other.

I am already complete. I am whole. I am not a fractional part just sitting around waiting for my better half to come along. I will not wait to start my life, pursue my dreams, or achieve my ambitions until I am in a relationship. I will not waste my singleness in passivity and discontentment. Instead, I will enjoy and value it for what it is worth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being a Professional . . .

It's that time of year again . . . interview season is upon us at the law school. Every day my classmates are showing up in suits, skirts, and heels because they have on-campus interviews (which are called "OCIs") with various employers for summer associate positions. I am just now in the process of applying to some jobs, so I haven't had any OCIs yet, but I hope that I will have some in the next few weeks. I and my classmates have also been working to get our resumes absolutely perfect so we can apply for all these jobs.

Tomorrow night there is a networking/ social event with some local attorneys and members of the Georgia bar. So tonight, I pulled all the clothes out of my closet that look even remotely "professional" and tried to plan some outfits for all the networking and interviews coming up. (In times like these, I feel a little jealous of the way guys just have to put on a suit and tie and they KNOW it's professional...for women, the rules are not quite so clear-cut). I decided my bright turquoise nail polish had to go in favor of a more conservative shade (read: a more boring color). Being in law school has made me continually be thinking about what is or is not considered professional, especially when I buy new clothes or accessories. For example, the other day I was at Target, planning to buy, of all things, a new umbrella. I'm a fan of bright colors, and there was this great umbrella with turquoise and lime polka dots all over it, and I really wanted it. Then I had this thought: would I be embarrassed to be carrying THAT umbrella in the rain with my colleagues as we walked to a business luncheon, or a courthouse, or some other work event? With that thought, I really considered just buying the basic black umbrella and being done with it. But I just couldn't leave that beautiful umbrella on the shelf and get a plain one, so I decided that either a) I can get another one for work-related events, or b) my colleagues and potential employers will just have to be impressed with my professionalism in other ways! So, I got the bright polka-dotted umbrella, and I don't regret it.

One of my concerns with entering a very conservative, professional, and ambitious career path is that I will feel the need to squelch aspects of my personality just to succeed . . . I know that others have felt this way too about going into law, or medicine, or other similarly driven careers that are full of unwritten expectations. But for now, as I go into various interviews, I am going to do my best to show off MY personality and my skills, and not just to tell people what I think they want to hear. So I'm just going to polish my resume, find some good interview clothes, practice selling my skills . . . and remember to bring my polka-dotted umbrella in case it rains.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Young Adults and Church

This is another one of my old blog posts . . . but again, I think it's still an important issue now even though I first wrote this a year and a half ago. Also, if this topic interests you, check out David Kinnaman's book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . And Rethinking Faith. These are intense issues, and it's not always easy to write or talk about, but I think we as Christians need to have an honest and genuine dialogue opening up about the 21st century church:
I've had several Christian adults ask me lately, "What is going on with young people and the church? Why don't they want to be in church? Why are they so disillusioned . . . and how can we get them to come back?"

Important question, and most definitely worth an answer. I don't claim to know all the factors involved in why so many people my age and in my generation are leaving the church, leaving the faith of their parents and their families, and looking elsewhere for even an ephemeral sense of fulfillment and meaning in their lives. And for people who have asked me about this, I think they were looking for the perspective of someone within this young generation who may know, basically, what the deal is with young people and church/ faith in general. Without seeking to offend people, I do have some ideas on this issue. As a young Christian who has at times felt frustrated with church, I believe that there are several factors that contribute to people in my generation abandoning the church in large numbers . . . even many who still profess Christianity and many who honestly desire to obey God with their lives.

I think many young people are tired of the tendency within many churches to water down the Gospel to the point where it loses its effectiveness. They're tired of looking at the difficulties and challenges of their lives and then coming to church and hearing well-worn, carefully picked phrases that are said with such regularity that they begin to believe they're a tape recording. Tired of going to services which adhere so closely to a bulletin or a schedule that there is no room for the Spirit to move in profound ways. They're tired of spending their time trying to figure out what to do with their lives, deciding whether or whom to marry, figuring out how to pay the bills, and debating how to share Jesus Christ with their friends, including the drug-addicted, tattooed ones . . . and then coming to church and hearing a sermon that in many cases sounds more like a secular motivational speech than the inspired word of God (or worse, one that barely uses the Bible at all). "Be charitable . . . be at peace . . . God wants you to prosper . . . treat others well . . . you are loved." My peers are desperately seeking real truth and real answers for their lives, and for the lives of their friends who may be everything ranging from atheists to drug addicts to bartenders. Young people are desperate for true encounters with Christ that they don't seem to be finding in many churches today. Young people who are abandoning church aren't doing so because they want less truth in their lives. They're doing it because they want more. This fact alone should make us seriously hesitate.

A lot of us who have been raised in the church are, in all honesty, tired of looking around our churches and asking ourselves, "Why is everyone here white and middle class? Didn't God tell us to take the Gospel to ALL nations, so that EVERY tribe and tongue and nation can declare that Jesus Christ is Lord?" A lot of young adults would not feel comfortable bringing their friends of other races and other socioeconomic backgrounds to their churches. They would hardly dare to bring their tattoo-covered Goth friend with the 15 piercings and ripped jeans to church for fear of what others would say, or simply for fear of their looks of disapproval.

People my age want to hear the real Gospel message and understand its real implications for our lives, especially at this time when many of us are trying to make serious decisions about where our lives are taking us and what kind of contribution we want to make to the world. We want real hardcore truth, not cliches or vague inspirational sayings, and we can take it. We want people who can take our own questions and even our doubts. We want people in our churches who will grapple with us on real issues and ask us important questions, like, "How is your relationship with God? How has God been working in and through your life?" NOT just "How was your weekend?" I'm not saying there's anything wrong with some small talk and getting to know the basics of people's lives...but my peers and I want more. We want deeper relationships with fellow Christians of all ages, and with the Lord. We want people who will be truly honest with us and speak truth in our lives even when we don't want to hear it. We want fellowship with other believers...and not just the kind that, supposedly, happens around a table eating and chatting about mundane things. Many people operate with what I believe is a mistaken notion, that fellowship and friendship are the exact same thing. They think it counts as "fellowship" to watch movies with a group of friends, or go shopping together, or sit at the same table with others during the church potluck dinner. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities, and sharing activities together like this is a common marker of friendship. Yet true, God-honoring fellowship is SO much more than just friendship, even though it encompasses the best characteristics of friendship too. Check out Acts 2:42-47 for a description of what REAL fellowship looks like! It is sharing hearts, minds, and resources...meeting together continually to worship the Lord...and doing the work of the Lord together. That's the kind of fellowship I and my peers crave desperately.

We want people who we can laugh with, cry with, and share our hearts with. People who will encourage us to pursue our God-given passions and to sacrifice the world's value system in order to pursue the values and the wealth of the kingdom of God. We want churches where "let's take prayer requests" is not code for "let's gossip about so-and-so's issues." I believe that God is raising up a generation with intense passion for Him . . . this generation needs people who will support them in passionate pursuit of God, even if that pursuit takes young people with a Ph.D. to do long-term missions overseas when the world would only say, "What a waste of your career potential."

I think there are some other causes for young adults' disillusionment with the American church. Although we have often been labeled as an extremely materialistic generation who always selfishly wants more to spend on ourselves, I don't think I'm the only person my age who feels like something is fundamentally wrong when I walk into a church where the plates used to serve Communion cost more than a family in a Third World country would make in a month. We want to be a part of something GREATER than ourselves and greater than our own satisfaction. Greater than our own comfort, even. A lot of young adults would love to give at least 10% of their income to the church, but they're afraid--with good reason--that their money is only going to go to something that comes back to US and OUR "needs," like repainting church walls or replacing a perfectly good carpet. Don't say our generation doesn't think beyond ourselves...though I don't think it's necessary to embrace undue asceticism on Sunday mornings, I can't help but think about how a persecuted brother or sister in Christ in North Korea might think if they stepped into one of our church buildings. Would they think that we have denied ourselves, taken up our crosses, and followed the same Lord and Savior they're suffering and dying for?

I believe that young people are also frustrated by the tendency of many churches to cling to and broadcast their denominational roots with a passion they wish were only reserved for Christ Himself. With respect for the heritage of our churches and those who have gone before us, frankly, many of us don't see ourselves as good Baptists, good Methodists, exemplary Lutherans, etc. We want nothing more--and nothing less--than to be devoted followers of Christ alone. We wish we were not pushed so much to attach a denominational label to everything we do within the church. I know from conversations with my unsaved peers that those who do not know Christ often are very confused by denominational categories and they perceive them as pointing to divisions among Christians, whether or not this is truly the case. At this point in my walk with the Lord, for these very reasons, I've chosen not to affiliate myself with any particular denomination. Yet these extra "labels" are so prevalent that I often get confused looks when people ask me about my faith and I say that I am a Christian...nothing more, nothing less, no other labels.

I also believe that young adults are frustrated when traditional, highly conservative church structures and church leadership try to stop them from using their God-given gifts in creative, innovative ways to honor him and to make HIS name known among all nations. Wanting to do things "the way we've always done them" can be perfectly fine...but if we're not careful, it can be used to quench the Spirit of God. It can be used to lock people in to life paths that God did not design for them to follow. And that is a tragedy! For example, young women who God has gifted with the abilities of leadership and teaching are tired of being told that they need to go somewhere other than the church to use those gifts . . . merely on the basis of the (virtually) unchangeable fact of their biological sex. They're tired of the church basically implying that God made a mistake in making them female AND leaders on the basis of a few passages which have been stripped of their cultural context and have been used to (do I dare say this?) make it look as if God himself has a sexist agenda. I am by no means saying that all churches have the problems I've been mentioning, but the ones that do are pushing young adults away because they don't want a part in churches which are strongholds of patriarchy, wealth, hierarchy, sexism, and white privilege. They want a part in the CHURCH as the living, breathing organism of God's people doing God's work in ALL parts of the world. They're passionate about the Jesus of the Gospels who pursued people of every race, sex, and creed. Especially "sinners." They are unwilling to use the name of Jesus to justify injustices and worldly systems and anything that they can't use their brains and their hearts to endorse. If they can't find Christ as Scripture presents Him in our churches, they WILL look elsewhere.

I don't write this to tear down the church, nor did I have any one church in mind when I gave these examples. Yet because older Christians have been asking me why I think young adults are leaving the church, I felt compelled to be honest about why I think it's happening. No church is perfect and no Christian is perfect, but I believe these are some "blind spots" affecting the 21st century American church. For what it's worth...I hope I may have given you food for thought as we work together as Christians to glorify the name of Jesus in our world.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Free Internet

Interested in the whole SOPA/ PIPA/ "free Internet" controversies in Congress recently? If these proposals had been passed, it would certainly affect my blog . . . and everyone else's.

This is an article I wrote outlining some of those issues . . .
Online piracy, a widespread problem in recent years, is estimated to cost the entertainment industry billions of dollars annually. Affected companies argue that if intellectual property does not receive better protection, creativity within the industry could be squelched; worse yet, some of these companies could go out of business. Online piracy, in the form of illegal copying, downloading, and distributing music, movies, and other content, is on the rise among young adults aged 18 to 29. Recently, a Columbia University study found that 70% of those in this age range admitted to engaging in piracy of copyrighted material.
In 2011, Congress introduced two separate anti-piracy bills to combat this problem: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House of Representatives and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in the Senate. Essentially, these laws would allow the U.S. Justice Department to completely shut down websites (including search engines) that provide links to pirated content or that otherwise facilitate copyright infringement. The bills are largely targeted toward controlling links to foreign websites containing pirated material. If passed, the legislation would also permit corporations and other copyright holders to play a role in shutting down certain sites deemed to be infringing. This could have a dramatic impact on thousands of websites you use every day, ranging from Google to your personal blog.
In mid-January, SOPA and PIPA failed to pass in Congress, postponing further consideration of the proposed legislation to a later date. The bills received significant bi-partisan backlash, likely contributing to this decision. For example, a number of popular websites sponsored temporary “blackouts” while Congress voted on the measures. These sites shut down their regular content, instead directing site visitors to messages supporting an open Internet. Notable sites which either participated in the blackout or joined the protest in other ways included Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Protesters argue that the effects of these bills would be too far-reaching. Many argued that SOPA and PIPA would impact both the free exchange of ideas and open access to the Internet and would still fail to effectively safeguard against piracy. Concerns sparked by the proposals are also economic—many of the sites most affected by the legislation, like Twitter, ad services, and sites for small business owners, would lose revenue and jobs if they were shut down. Opponents also maintain that the bills present an overly aggressive approach which fails to actually reach its intended targets. Further, detractors point out that those who engage in online piracy can still find a number of loopholes by which to circumvent the proposed policies. For example, although the legislation targets domain names for sites, people can still gain access to pirated material by using IP addresses instead.

Some critics of SOPA and PIPA have supported an alternative bill known as the OPEN (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade) Act. The latter bill would allow the International Trade Commission, rather than the Justice Department, to manage links to “rogue” foreign websites trafficking in pirated material. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), who introduced the bill, indicated that the provisions of OPEN would not be as broad and potentially destructive to free Internet, while still offering enhanced protection for American intellectual property.
Many critics of SOPA and PIPA have suggested that online piracy itself may not be the real problem. Instead, they indicate that increased innovation in sales models is needed within industries most affected by piracy in order to keep up with changing consumer demands. Many young adults are proponents of this side of the debate, urging that copyrighted material should be more readily available both in terms of price and overall accessibility. One of the most frequently discussed motivators for illegally downloading material is that the content is overpriced, with recent price increases for popular entertainment services such as Netflix and iTunes contributing to this view. Another common complaint is that certain content cannot be legally copied for use on all electronic devices (including iPods, smart phones and other similar personal devices), meaning that people often have to pay for that favorite song or movie more than once in order to access the same material in different formats. One proposed solution is to create licensing agreements for online services, which would allow them to distribute content to subscribing consumers after paying fees. Whether or not new legislation combating online piracy is successfully passed, the landscape of intellectual property and copyright is changing rapidly and effective policies must reflect these changes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Today's Inspiration

This was just one of those all-around great days. Today I had the privilege of listening to two fantastic speakers at my law school, and they got me really motivated and excited. I had to go listen to the first speaker for part of my legal profession class. She works in the public sector at Georgia Legal Services, and everything she was saying about what she does--and about really, truly loving her job--really struck a chord with me. She talked about some of the stresses of the work, like when she gets a call at 2 in the afternoon from someone who says, "I have court at 9 tomorrow morning. How can you help me?" She explained that in this particular office, they have 5 attorneys covering 23 Georgia counties. That means that they often get calls from clients who need legal help, but they simply are too understaffed to be able to help everyone. The speaker talked about how most of her cases have to do with family law issues, like helping women get custody of their children or restraining orders against abusive husbands. She said she has also done a lot of cases to help low-income families be able to stay in public housing when facing eviction, often for the pettiest of reasons. I really connected with the things she was saying. I've never given a lot of thought to working in the public sector because the vast majority of information we as law students receive about it is from the perspective of doing pro bono criminal defense. Although I am deeply interested in the law and using it to help clients, I do not feel led at all to practice criminal defense work. This is the first time I've heard from someone who helps clients with women's and family issues who can't afford to pay for a lawyer, and it REALLY inspired me. All day I have been thinking, that is exactly what I want to do with my law degree. I decided then and there to apply for fellowships to work in public interest for the summer. Of course, I'm not totally sure yet that I'll do that for this summer (it's only February), but I do feel that I should at least submit some applications to places that do similar work as Georgia Legal Services.

Then, I went to another great speaker who graduated from my school, served as a trial lawyer for 30 years, and now writes novels full time. I found this second talk equally inspiring because everyone who knows me well knows that I love to write. Sometimes I think that if I could do anything in the world, I would sit on the porch of a beach house somewhere and write novel after novel while watching the waves crash on the beach and the sun rise and set over the ocean each day. Even being in law school now, I know that I want to write as well as practice law, whether that be scholarly articles, blogs, or full-fledged books like this speaker. He explained that for each novel he writes, he literally reads through it almost 75 times, writing and editing and rewriting. I was so impressed with the commitment and work ethic that I am sure that requires. All in all, this speaker made me really motivated to keep writing all through law school and to see where it may take me. I would love it if I could make writing a really consistent part of my life and career even when practicing law.

Then, I went out for dinner tonight with some friends for my friend Alex's birthday, and had such a great time. When I'm with this particular group of friends, we are pretty much laughing nonstop--there's never a dull moment. Now, I'm back home and getting ready to curl up on my couch with some hot chocolate and my Jodi Picoult book--it doesn't get much better than that!