Update: This post gets A LOT of traffic and is by far the most visited post on this blog. Most of it seems to be linked to my HBX CORe info/rant. If you are here for that, welcome! However, keep in mind that I was only the second cohort to go through the program, and the first law student cohort to ever go through it. So a lot of what I speak about below might be irrelevant or outdated now. Of course, it’s also a whiny blog post (even for me!) so keep in mind that I wrote this to be a bit tongue in cheek.
[Warning: This post gets a bit ranty in the second portion (this is what happens when I write post while on Tramadol), so if you aren’t in the mood for a soapbox, I’d pass on this post for now. But if you want to learn something, read on.]
Part One: Business School
Last night (8/25, so last night as of my writing this, not when it is posted) I finished my business school classes, courtesy of a 3 hour long exam. To be technically correct it was three, one hour long exams with 10 seconds of “break” in between them. There were no actual breaks, which meant if you needed to go to the restroom the clock kept ticking. Additionally, you could have no food or water. It was pretty awesome. Even the freaking LSAT lets you have a bottle of water.
So anyways, I don’t know if I ever actually explained my classes. Maybe I did, but if I did I’ve definitely slept since then so it doesn’t exist to me. So what were the classes I was (stupidly, more on that in a moment) taking this summer? Well, they were through the Harvard Business School, specifically from their “HBX Program.”
What is an HBX Program you might ask? Well, it literally just means “Harvard Business Online.” HBX is just the “online classroom” extension of the Harvard Business School. Traditionally HBS had no online classes as business schools were, ironically, slow to offer such things. HBX meant to rectify that, but it actually ended up expanding well beyond just a few rudimentary classes, in fact it turned into its own program. Eventually, HBX created the “CORe” platform (don’t ask why the “e” is lower case, I have no idea). HBX CORe might best be described as a “Baby MBA,” or as some have described it, all the difficult parts of an MBA program without all the fluff and cocktail parties. CORe consists of three courses: Financial Accounting, Business Analytics, and Economics for Managers. Each class is composed of “Modules,” which might best be described as “Chapters” and within each Module are sections, such as sections within a chapter. At the end of each module is a quiz. In addition to the Modules, there is an overarching “Weekly Assignment” which pulls from all three subjects (whereas the modules of each subject focus primarily on that subject, rather than broader topics). Then at the end of it all, you take the three exams.
You move through this 11-week long process with a “Cohort.” Apparently this is a thing for some Master’s programs, but I’d never heard of it prior to HBX. The Cohort is like your class. In my case, we had the largest cohort in HBX’s short history, I can’t remember how many there were exactly, but it was like 900 people. Since the Cohort is so large, they further divide you into Sections (kind of like law school). My section was “Mellon.” They were a bit opaque on just how large the sections were, but given the nature of the platform it doesn’t matter too much. The way a section mattered was that “Participation” was very much a part of CORe (arguably a huge part, since it heavily effects your grade). This meant that you had to answer cold calls, interact with people, respond to comments, engage in group projects and discussions (much to my massive dismay). So your section (for me Mellon), mattered in that they are the people you moved through the course with, and they are the people you will be graded against, rather than the Cohort as a whole.
So yeah, about that, CORe is curved, but unlike the hell-on-earth “hard” curves of law school, CORe uses the soft curves of a business school, which are much more similar to what you imagine when you think of a curve (in that the highest grade only sets the curve, it doesn’t set a hard failure floor with a set number of grades).
As mentioned, these classes are entirely online (except for the exam, which has to be taken at a Pearson center), which is why I was able to take them while in Denver. What this means is that you don’t interact with your professors in the same manner that you do your section-mates. Rather, you mainly just watch videos of your professors that are interlaced throughout the case studies you work through. That said, the professors are still the backbone of each course, even if you don’t ever actually speak to them, or email them, or have a chance to go to their office hours, or really prove to yourself that they aren’t robots, you get the drift. So who are the professors?
There are much better photos of them, but I like this one precisely because it’s not super staged. On the left, is Professor Bharat Anand. He teaches Economics for Managers (EM) which was my favorite class, and he was by far my favorite professor. In the middle is Professor Jan Hammond. She teaches Business Analytics (BA) which started off as my favorite class, but ended up being a freaking nightmare. I was not a fan of her voice. On the right is Professor VG Narayana. He teaches Financial Accounting (FA). Financial Accounting was just the middle ground between EM and BA, as was Professor Narayana between Anand and Hammond. But those are the people I stared at for 11 weeks.
Well, to be fair, I stared at data and information a lot more than them, as well as just the platform in general. When you first log in you go to the “Map” screen, which shows you who is logged in and from where, as well as any announcements or notifications you have.
From there, you progress to the “Course Dashboard” which is where your pick a class, start your modules, do the weekly assignment, etc.
As you can see, approximately 15% of my section failed to even finish the class, let alone those who finished but had dismal scores.
Beyond that screen, are the actual module screens, but I signed a thing saying that I wouldn’t distribute CORe material, so you don’t get to see where the magic actually happens, but trust me, unless you are interested in things like “Exploring Attribute Differentiation: A Multiple Regression Model” then you aren’t missing much (and yes, that is an actual module title).
So last night (8/25) I got to go to a lovely Pearson Center in central Boston, complete with more security than an airport. I have to have more IDs to take a test than you do to fly. Plus I have to do lots of little things, like getting my photo taken, getting my hand scanned, proving my phone is off, the list goes on and on. Its kind of comical really. If we cared as much about more pressing issues in our society as we do about people cheating on a stupid test then maybe things wouldn’t be so bad. But anyways, I digress. The biggest issue was 3 hours of no water, and also the room was freezing. But I got everything taken care of and passed my security trials and gathered Smitty Werben Man Jensen’s spatula and was able to start my back-to-back-to-back exams. I ended up finishing them all, with literally seconds to spare on each. But, I really don’t know how well I did.
It could be up to 60 days, from September 19th (the last day you can register for the exam) before I have my scores. I got zero feedback on the exam itself. So I could have got every single question wrong and I might not know it for nearly 3 months. I didn’t feel the best about the exams, but that didn’t surprise me because I didn’t have much time to study. I had banked a lot of time on studying before this past weekend (Lexington and Concord trip), but then, due to a massive bitchfest by the last-minute-lazies and a technical problem, they extended the course deadline by 24 hours (despite the site only being down 2 hours) which pushed back my ability to access the exam case study by 24 hours, effectively killing 50% of my study time, and since I had registered for the first day the exam was available, I was kind of screwed (oh and you of course can’t reschedule your exam unless you die). So I did not go into that exam as prepared as I would have liked and it showed, especially during Business Analytics. Across the three topics I had to guess, a lot. So, at this point I just have to hope that the curve is good to me and my fairly decent performance in the modules and in participation can carry me.
I actually don’t care what my grades are, so long as I pass by .01% I am good. If I don’t pass, I have to pay the full 1,800$ for the course. Yeap. The law school subsidized the cost down to 250$, but if I fail, I have to pay the full price. Fun times.
But it is done. And I would never, ever, do that again. To be fair, the largest issue was my HORRIBLE internet in Denver (GOD MY RAGE BUILDS JUST THINKING OF IT). But really, 12 credit hours of MBA-level materials, coupled with a 40 hour workweek, ~6 hours of commuting a week, living with strangers, and trying to explore a new city was just too much. Life lesson learned. It was a bad idea. And if I end up failing, it was also a bad idea that cost me 1800$. I’m glad I had something to keep me busy on most nights, but 3 credits would have accomplished the same thing, or you know, joining a club or something. Point is, don’t work 40 hours a week and take 12 credits from one of Harvard’s Professional Schools, just don’t do it. I’m not saying you can’t do it, I’m just saying its not good life management.
I’ll be sure to blog when I find out if I passed or failed. If I fail you’ll know because it will be a massive post of emu-darkness and seething, putrid rage. So kind of like a Deviant Art post, but just with no artwork. [Update: I passed everything, but one of my exam scores was LOL-bad, I’m talking 30th percentile bad].
Either way, HBX CORe is over, the exam is burnt and behind me.
Part Two: Law School
So what about those burning bridges I also mentioned in the title?
Well, EIP has come and gone here at Harvard Law School. As a reminder, EIP stands for “Early Interview Program” and it’s HLS’ version of OCI (On-Campus Interviews). It’s called an “Early” program because it tends to be a bit earlier than other law schools because lots of employers (and by employers I mean firms) are eager to come here. In fact, EIP is the largest OCI of any law school in the world. Yep. Firms come from all over the world (mainly the US, but international firms are still plentiful) to interview HLS students. In fact, they pay to come interview students. Yes, imagine a situation in which an employer pays for you to just interview with them. Sure you don’t get the money, Harvard does, but it’s the point.
Let me describe EIP at Harvard Law for you, so that you have a better idea of what the process is. EIP at Harvard is practically a guaranteed summer job at a firm for your 2L summer. What that means is that before you even start your second year of law school, you have a job your second summer. Not only that, in most markets you’re going to make about 33,000$ for a summer’s worth of work. But it gets even better. Assuming you have a pulse and are a good drone, that 2L summer job will turn into a real job after you graduate. Yes, do well your 2L summer and you get an offer to come back, for realsies. Oh, and you’ll make 160,000$ with yearly raises of 10,000$ or more (up to 20-30 thousand per year at some firms) and annual bonuses.
So, to bring this home for you. EIP is a practically guaranteed ticket to a job where you will start at 160k and be well on your way to 300k or above by mid career, and if you make partner at a good firm, then high six-figures (or above) are not out of the question. All you have to do is send in your resume to Harvard, bid on firms, have an interview, then go on call backs. Now call backs are great, so much so that I have to explain them. A “Call Back” is basically when a firm wants to date you, but they need you to meet their parents first. So a firm gives you an all-expenses (and I do mean all expenses) paid trip to come to their location, be it LA, New York, Dallas, London, Hong Kong, Hell, you name it, they will take your there. Once there, you have an interview with even more important people than those who came to Cambridge to interview you the first time, then you go out to lunch and laugh at poor people, then they fly you home. If they like you, they then call you a few days later and congratulate you on selling your soul to Lucifer and welcome you into their loving arms. I’m clearly not biased.
But bias aside, that is pretty much the process, and, at three schools (HYS) you pretty much have the firm jobs to lose. Its unfair in some ways, but the jobs that students at lower ranked schools have to practically kill themselves to even have a 10% chance at, are the baseline for HYS students. So, for good reason, pretty much everyone and their mother does EIP.
I mean if someone came to you tomorrow and said, I want to employ you. I will come to you, I will pay for you to visit me, and oh yeah here is 33,000$ as a hint of all the money you will make. Would you say no?
I can almost feel the confusion across time, space, and the interwebs.
Because here is the thing. Firms aren’t stupid. Do you really think they’d be paying newly graduated students, many of whom are silver-spoon babies with no experience whatsoever, 160,000$ a year to start and then giving them yearly raises above a lot of people’s entire salary if there wasn’t a catch? Well you guessed it. There is one HELL of a catch.
As much as it pains me to link to a Yale page, given that we are bloodsworn to kill each other on site, you should really go read this to understand what firm life is like.
I know you probably don’t read half the stuff I link, but really, you have to read that page if you want to have a better understanding of what could possibly be wrong with getting 160,000$ fresh out of the gate.
So, not only do you not really have a life, let’s be real, your existence has been reduced to making the rich, richer. Now, in fairness. There are “Public Interest Firms” out there who don’t solely make the rich richer, but these firms pay NO WHERE near 160,000$ and they are still more business-oriented than a true public interest group. Either way, most firms aren’t there to save the world, they are there to make money. Bottom line. It’s about money. If you want nothing than to have money at the expense of everything else, then a firm is the life for you.
Now I know someone out there, likely a baby boomer or their spawn, is thinking “Well, my friend is a partner at a law firm and their life is nothing like what you describe.”
Yeah, Eat. Shit.
You and your friend are so woefully disconnected from what law is like for new lawyers right now, that you can honestly contribute nothing to the conversation unless said friend started their career in the past 7 years. The legal profession literally died and was reborn as a shell of its former self for new attorneys. So the old lawyer’s (and by old, I mean even if you graduated 8 years ago you are clueless) bootstrap tale of wisdom and triumph is a about as useful to a new graduate as a pile of shit.
If I sound angry, it’s because I am. The fact is, unless YOU are a NEW lawyer, working in THIS market, which is where you STARTED, and unless YOU are working for a LEGAL-SERVICES EMPLOYER, then you really, truly, need to shut the hell up with the boomer-stories. That kind of bullshit is what leads so many people to go to law schools where they will never find a job.
The truth, and I daresay I am in a position to know this, considering I’m at, you know, the most powerful law school in existence, is that it is hard as holy hell, to make that 160,000$ a year, and you will mostly likely, hate your job and your life, while you are doing it. Precisely because your entire existence as a lemming in a giant pyramid scheme will be to ensure the status quo is maintained and to make old powerful rich people even more powerful and rich, at the expense of your life and health, until one day you find yourself old, powerful, and rich – but have devoted your life to furthering all the problems we have. Don’t believe me? Just read up on how satisfied with their lives all those lawyers are, despite making 300,000$+ a year.
All of this ranting was mainly to say, if you were confused as to why I would ever turn down a practical guarantee of so much money, it’s because of the reasons I just mentioned. So please, if you know me in real life, and if you want to accuse me of making a “mistake” by refusing to jump on the firm boat, prepare yourself for an argument.
I am, going to school to learn how to argue after all. 🙂
RANT OVER (Mostly)
So, with my huge self-righteous deluge out of the way. What does this mean?
Does it mean ole’ Taco will never have a job and has wasted three years of his life? Well, maybe, but that is unlikely. You see, while burning the EIP bridges makes you look sleezy to firms, it makes you look like King Arthur to public interest organizations, because it proves that you actually care about PI, to the point that you turned down a career lined with massive amounts of money.
Even though it looks good to PI people, I’ve still burnt a bridge, and a major bridge at that. You see, if you “Firmly Refuse” (as we PI people call it) to participate in EIP, then you are seriously taking a gamble. By essentially flipping the bird to the best firms, you are saying “I am PI, hear me roar.” Subsequently you are moving from a “Practically Guaranteed” job, to an “OMG I MUST APPLY TO ALL THE PLACES AND PRAY TO THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER” kind of job. Yes, here is the scary part. Of those few people who don’t get jobs at HYS, most of them were those who were trying to do Public Interest.
Because here is the secret. It’s easier to get a Firm job, because your life will suck. It’s incredibly difficult to get a public interest job, because they have no money. Yes, if there is one thing the good ole’ US of A does well, it’s put money in all the wrong places. The same is true for our legal system. Ever heard of public defenders? Yeah, those extremely important people who are essentially the backbone of legal defense for most of the United States. Yeah, those guys & gals who are required to not only be lawyers, but social workers, therapists, friends, and shoulders to cry on (if they want to be good PD’s anyway). Guess what? They make about 30,000$ on average. Yes, even the ones who live in places in LA and New York. But if you want to go merge some corrupt corporations, enjoy your 160,000$ + massive bonus (I’m talking up to 100% of your salary massive) + yearly raises of a minimum of 10,000$.
Get my drift?
The rich can pay new lawyers a lot of money, because no one would do their mind-numbing, no weekend, 12 hour a-day, every day work if they didn’t make a ton of money. Public Interest organizations on the other hand, which are the only area where lawyers report higher than average life satisfactions, are woefully underfunded, to the point that most of the time they can’t hire anyone, at any salary.
See where this is going? It’s harder to do good in the world. Funny how that works.
But I want to do good, namely I want to do good for the trees and the friends, because it’s entirely our fault that they suffer as they do. Call me a tree-hugger (I’m not), call me a liberal animal activist (I’m not, at least not in the same way that PETA is – I hate PETA, fyi), heck, call me misguided (I’m not), but it’s what I know I want to do. But its not an easy field to get into. So, I will have to work harder to make a comparatively pathetic amount of money compared to my classmates.
Its entirely likely, heck, its probable, that I will be in the solid bottom 1% of incomes for people coming out of Harvard. But that is ok. Because I’ll hopefully be doing what I want to do. Not what was easy to do and paid a lot.
Moving forward. I still have to find a job for next summer. See, unlike firms, there is no huge interview program where I can just roll out of bed and get employed. Nope, I have to apply the old fashioned way, and any expenses incurred will be mine to bear. I’ll also make about 1/7th of what my firm-bound classmates make in a summer. So us PI people not only have no interview program to the scale of EIP, we don’t even get to start trying to get jobs until after all the firm people are bragging about their employment. It’s pretty cool.
But, to Harvard’s credit, they have the first and largest career office devoted to public service (OPIA – Office of Public Interest Advising) of any law school. Plus, my advisor, Catherine Pattanayak, is freaking AMAZING and one of my most favorite people at the law school and she gives me candy, but not in the “come into my van” kind of way.
I’ll be sure to write more about the job search once it gets more underway. So far I’ve only applied to one place and my number one choice doesn’t even start take applications until October.
Anyways, this post turned into a bit of a rant, which I wasn’t anticipating. I just wanted to talk about my CORe exam and not doing EIP, but what can I say, I have feelings on the subject (Tramadol fueled feelings, but feelings nonetheless). So, in closing, I’ve burnt one heck of a bridge, but I haven’t regretted it for a moment.
May the bridges I burn light the way.
Until next time,