: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Have Cognitive Enhancing Drugs Arrived at Law School?

A few months ago I posted Future of the Law: Cognitive-Enhancing Nootropic Drugs with the quaint notion that someday law students would have to worry about the effects of cognitive-enhancing drugs on law school performance. That someday is now.

I’ve since realized in talking with some of my classmates that I had underestimated my naivete. At UVA recently, an ode to adderall was the showstopper of the Sweet Addie in the Virginia Law Libel Show.

Even creepier is that one of the sponsors of the show is “Wendy Painter, M.D., M.P.H., Pharmaceutical Consulting” – here’s to hoping that’s just, um, libelous.

Margaret Talbot plumbed the depths of the practice in Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs in this week’s New Yorker, following a poster child named Alex who used adderall extensively at Harvard:

College campuses have become laboratories for experimentation with neuroenhancement, and Alex was an ingenious experimenter. His brother had received a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., and in his freshman year Alex obtained an Adderall prescription for himself by describing to a doctor symptoms that he knew were typical of the disorder. During his college years, Alex took fifteen milligrams of Adderall most evenings, usually after dinner, guaranteeing that he would maintain intense focus while losing “any ability to sleep for approximately eight to ten hours.” In his sophomore year, he persuaded the doctor to add a thirty-milligram “extended release” capsule to his daily regimen.

Consider one of Talbot’s other cognitively-enhanced poster children, Paul Phillips:

Phillips soon felt that he had mastered the strategic aspects of poker. The key variable was execution. At tournaments, he needed to be able to stay focussed for fourteen hours at a stretch, often for several days, but he found it difficult to do so. In 2003, a doctor gave him a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., and he began taking Adderall. Within six months, he had won $1.6 million at poker events—far more than he’d won in the previous four years. Adderall not only helped him concentrate; it also helped him resist the impulse to keep playing losing hands out of boredom. In 2004, Phillips asked his doctor to give him a prescription for Provigil, which he added to his Adderall regimen. He took between two hundred and three hundred milligrams of Provigil a day, which, he felt, helped him settle into an even more serene and objective state of mindfulness; as he put it, he felt “less like a participant than an observer—and a very effective one.” Though Phillips sees neuroenhancers as essentially steroids for the brain, they haven’t yet been banned from poker competitions.

While Talbot mines the most evident ethical issues of unfair advantage or the dangers of side effects, the most frightening implication is the financial incentive to make a drug large classes of people don’t feel they can afford NOT to take.

It must be time for finals…

Oh yeah, I remember this feeling

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Law School Rankings Game: One Step Forward, Four Steps Back?

After becoming a poster child for the pitfalls of not playing along with the law school rankings, the University of Houston Law Center made a rapid climb back up the rankings from a low of 70 to 55 last year. This year we ‘slipped’ to 59. or did we?

In comparing the leaked numbers to the 2009 numbers I wondered what the difference was. UHLC was tied with a host of folks at No. 55 last year with a raw score of 49. The school actually improved for this years ranking, increasing the raw score to 50, but was vaulted by other schools such as Case Western, Pepperdine and Kentucky. Moral of the story: just as good or even just a little bit better, is no longer good enough.

To the pre-L’s: I’ll leave the larger discussion of the efficacy of deciding where to go for law school on the basis of ranking for another day. On the one hand, it’s a rough proxy for the collective wisdom of other prospective law students – it’s always a fairly safe bet to move with the herd. On the other hand, that ranking number, as objective as it may seem to the uninitiated, is a fairly arbitrary measure when comparing schools within 20 or so spots of each other, and those numbers are going to move, sometimes a lot. There are lots of other (valid) reasons to decide where to go to law school (cost, location, subject area of interest, being admitted, etc) – if you haven’t decided where you’re going and why, it’s not too late.

Resource Guide to Moot Court and Oral Advocacy

Ever since my own first hamfisted attempt at a moot court argument during my 1L year, I’ve been meaning to post a list of resources for other law students. As useful as many of the articles and books can be, there’s no better way to learn than by watching. I’m pleased to see that many competitions are posting video of their final rounds on YouTube.

If you’re just starting out with oral advocacy I recommend that you seek out and watch as many rounds as you can. YouTube is great. In person is better. Just watch and listen to as many oral arguments as you can – you learn equally from the good and the bad.

U.S. News Rankings in the Wild, UHLC 59 and 19

The newest round of U.S. News and World Report law school rankings are slowly trickling out in advance of their official release date on April 23rd. For those interested, the University of Houston Law Center is at 59 and debuts at 19 on the new part-time program rankings.

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