Law School in the United States

A lawyer, also called an attorney, is a person that has completed an undergraduate Bachelors degree in any subject, a Juris Doctor degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association, passed a state’s bar exam, and filled out some paperwork with the state bar (officially called “getting licensed”).  That’s it.  That’s all a lawyer is.  In some states, like California, a college degree isn’t required to become a lawyer.  Many people in the United States are intimidated by lawyers.  And indeed a great many lawyers use their perceived position of authority to attempt to intimidate and even threaten non-attorneys.  But really nobody should ever be afraid or intimidated by an attorney.  I can officially say that having attended three law schools and graduated from law school.  While doing that, I saw people that could barely speak English that were able to graduate and pass the Texas bar exam.  This post about law school is one of two posts I intend to write about the legal system in the United States.  The other will be about the U.S. legal system in general.  My goal with this blog post is to eliminate the mystique and misunderstanding about how attorneys come to be in the United States: what law school is, where law school isn’t required, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), applying to law schools (the Law School Admission Council), what happens in law school (including between first year and second year), the required never-mentioned Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), bar prep programs, and details about the infamous (and not all that difficult) “bar exam”. Continue reading

Back In The Day #2: Early ’90s Internet

We didn’t have wifi.  We didn’t even have broadband.  We just had dial-up.  And even that required hoping that an Internet Service Provider had a local dial-up phone number.  Otherwise, it was a long-distance call using your landline.  Even America Online, the most popular online service at the time, didn’t have Internet access.  Because how could they?  The web browser had just been invented.  And other than the web browser, there wasn’t really any great reason to access the Internet.  Except maybe e-mail.  But since nobody had Internet, that meant nobody had an Internet email address.  In the beginning, we didn’t really have any Internet apps, just protocols for hypothetical apps.  I remember discovering the Internet when it was “new”, back in the early 1990’s.  Yeah, the Internet itself existed for decades before then.  But lets just agree that the modern Internet, when it became popular for mainstream use, was “new” in the early 90’s.  Here’s what I remember about my first dial-up internet account and Internet apps we used twenty-five years ago.  Trumpet Winsock.  NCSA Mosaic.  Eudora Email.  Usenet.  IRC.  FTP.  This is what the Internet was like back in the day. Continue reading

Theranos Itself Was Not A Fraud

Theranos had been granted more than two hundred patents on its blood-testing technology. The Edison/miniLab device had gone through four major revisions across ten years before the product was tested in the real world.  When the Theranos blood-testing device was utilized in the real-world, it was at just one location in Palo Alto and forty locations in one region of Arizona.  Getting permission to do those blood tests even required special approval from the Arizona state government.  If Elizabeth Holmes wanted to organize an elaborate fraud on investors, there would’ve been much better ways to do it than devoting ten years of her life to full-time work, hiring hundreds of skilled employees, and co-inventing two hundred patents worth of technology.  I have one, almost two, law degrees: a Juris Doctor, which included a program specifically in corporate transactional law, and I’m currently finishing up a post-doctorate Master of Laws in Corporate Governance, Compliance, & Regulations.  That’s in addition to having a Bachelors of Business Administration.  All that said, after even more research, you still cannot convince me beyond a reasonable doubt that Elizabeth Holmes personally herself committed each and every element of a criminal fraud.  Ramesh Balwani is another matter.  The investors and advisors are likely the real perpetrators of any fraud involving Theranos.  However, I could easily accept that Ms. Holmes was a willing participant in a conspiracy to commit fraud.  Business failure is not the same as fraud.  I feel obligated to defend Theranos, and Elizabeth Holmes, only because much of what I’ve read recently, aside from being hearsay and inaccurate, sends the wrong message to would-be innovators. Continue reading

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Elizabeth Holmes was simply in over her head.  She was just nineteen years old when she started Theranos.  I don’t think it’s fair, or even reasonable, to believe that this nineteen-year-old girl masterminded a multi-billion dollar fraud.  And I learn from watching The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley that Theranos wasn’t even entirely a fraud.  There was very real medical research behind what the company was doing.  However, all of the business people around her, mostly men it seems, were much older, much more experienced, and brainwashed Ms. Holmes into believing that this was all a normal way of running a company.  Theranos is distinct from the subjects of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, where all of the executives had decades of experience and knew in great detail what that company was up to.  Founders are increasingly just pawns in the startup game.  This documentary is not so much an exposé of a startup as it is an important cautionary tale for young founders. Continue reading

Scientology Is Alright

Narconon, a Church of Scientology organization, was one of my consulting firm’s biggest clients in 2003 and 2004.  I personally sold Narconon all of its new computers, monitors, and networking equipment, for their Arrowhead and Chilocco campuses.  I remember those were the years because Houston hosted the Super Bowl in 2004.  I invited my contact at Narconon to attend a Super Bowl party.  He did not visit for the Super Bowl because he was too busy running Narconon’s IT department in Oklahoma.  However, I did see him the previous December when he came over to my house while visiting his family for the holidays.  He was the healthiest and happiest he had ever been since I met him in the mid-1990’s.  He had also started a new relationship, which would eventually become a marriage.  Hating on Scientology seems to be the cool new thing for some people.  I know Scientology can’t be all that bad based on my own personal observations of my friend at Narconon and details he told me about his experiences there.  I am not a Scientologist and have not done business with Narconon in more than ten years.  Based on my own independent research and life experience, there are Scientology concepts that I know to be true.  As a non-Scientologist, here’s what I think I understand about some concepts in Scientology, and at Narconon, that are useful and applicable even if you do not formally practice Scientology. Continue reading

Back In The Day #1: My First Computer

93.  11.  Time.  Cyberpunk.  About to turn 12.  Computers were still computers.  Not “devices”.  That’s when I first got into computers.  The three sexy technologies were V.R., A.I., and LISP.  “Online” meant America Online.  Or CompuServe or Prodigy.  “The Internet” hadn’t happened yet because the graphical web browser was just invented.  WIRED had just published its very first, bimonthly, issue.  That was all twenty-five years ago.  WIRED recently acknowledged twenty-five years of WIRED.  Google celebrated twenty years of Google.  That got me thinking about my own origin story.  Writing about what I remember about all these things helps me understand how we got here and where we’re going.  I got plenty of other “back in the day” stories.  But I promised myself the first one would be about the first personal computer that I actually owned, a Packard Bell 486 SX/33 with 4 megabytes of memory and 340 megabyte hard drive. Continue reading

Act Like Adults

Human sexuality is a psychology course I took in college.  One important concept you learn is that children say and do things they don’t know are “dirty”.  Adults can do more harm than good by interfering when children say and do those things.  You’re just supposed to let it go and not acknowledge it.  By commenting or disciplining the child, you plant the seeds of guilt and shame about bodies and normal natural behavior.  Children carry those ideas with them their whole lives.  And that manifests later in life in all kinds of unhealthy psychological and social disorders.  So what does all that mean?  It means that many of you, grown men, and grown women, act worse than children.  And you behave worse around each other than you behave around little kids. Continue reading

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is possibly the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back.  Only “possibly” because I don’t think its a fair comparison of Original Trilogy to any of the subsequent movies.  This post is not so much a review as it is some of my random observations, with spoilers.  I like the way this new trilogy doesn’t just mirror and invert the other movies, but also learned from the history they created a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. Continue reading

Billion Dollar Buyer

Billion Dollar Buyer is a show on CNBC where a billionaire entrepreneur from Houston meets with small business owners on their own turf to negotiate a purchase that will both improve the billionaire’s customer experience and help that business grow.  Every episode features the billion dollar buyer, two businesses soliciting an offer, and the process they all go through to ultimately walk away or close a deal.  Sounds simple enough, right?  And yet you’d be surprised the mistakes these business owners make that results in missing their single biggest sales opportunity.  Each episode of this show is two useful business case studies. Continue reading