We begin with a message to our readers. Consider yourselves on notice: we regard almost anything you place on the internet, even if just for a brief hot second, to be fair game for coverage. It doesn’t matter to us if you later try to “recall” your mass email or delete your public blog. Once you’ve put something out there, thereby forfeiting any reasonable expectation of privacy, then it’s gone, baby, gone. [FN1]
And honestly, in the internet age, what privacy expectations are reasonable in the first place? Emails can be forwarded; images can be downloaded or photographed themselves, then re-posted. If it’s not already dead, privacy is rapidly dying. You might as well start living in public now, and make life easier for yourself. Just let it all hang out, and then you’ll never be embarrassed about anything getting leaked. (This is my philosophy on Twitter, where my feed is often TMI.)
Living in public: that’s the premise behind a charming new law student blog by a 1L with ambition. Like a fair number of bloggers — Brian Stelter and his Twitter diet come to mind — law student Tammy Hsu seeks to harness public exposure for her own benefit. Hsu, a first-year student at Wake Forest University School of Law, writes a blog built around her goal of transferring into Yale Law School. It’s right there in the title of her site: “Confessions of an (Aspiring) Yalie.”
By putting her ambition out in the open, Hsu is motivating herself to succeed, because failure would be so public. She is lighting the proverbial fire under her own arse, turning her classmates and the internet into one big Tiger Mother. If she’s not at 127 Wall Street this time next year, people will look down upon her — so now she has every incentive to excel in her 1L year at Wake Forest.
Sounds like a great idea, right?
Here’s what Tammy Hsu writes in the “About Me” section of her site:
Tammy is a 1L juris doctor candidate at Wake Forest School of Law and unabashedly aspiring to complete her law degree at Yale Law School, a lifelong dream. This blog is a tongue-in-cheek effort to make that fact known to the Yale Law Admissions Office (and to entertain herself during CivPro).
And here’s what she writes in her introductory post:
I found the sudden “genius” inspiration today of blogging my 1L confessions in an effort to be noticed by the Yale Law Admissions Office. Whether they (you) are reading this because this blog has become a sudden internet sensation or whether they (you) are reading this because the URL is listed on my transfer application, I hope that this blog finds a place in your life today as a candid, honest look at law school by an over-achiever with a habitually belated sense of purpose. Trust me, if my sense of purpose weren’t always 3 months behind schedule, I wouldn’t be blogging to be noticed for a transfer seat.
What happened? We’re guessing some people didn’t like Hsu’s idea as much as we did. We understand she has been the subject of critical commentary in threads on Top Law Schools and AutoAdmit. Perhaps she decided to restrict blog access after these online discussions of her work.
Some of the readers who emailed Above the Law about Tammy’s blog also weren’t fans:
“Someone needs to provide her a dose of xfer reality.”
“[A] friend is attending Wake Law and ran across this. Apparently she references many things that are being discussed in the closed Facebook group for their Class of 2014. She’s also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/tammytweetsnow [Ed. note: It seems that the Twitter account has been deleted. #tammynolongertweets.]
“Everything about it appears very legit and very… obnoxious.”
“She is not discreet about her intentions. It IS hilarious.”
One reader encouraged us to write about the blog, noting that “if it makes Above the Law it’ll be more likely to get noticed by the Yale Law Admissions Office, which is what she wants.”
We’re happy to help in this regard. Tammy, if you get a request to access your blog from Asha Rangappa — dean of admissions at YLS, and the winner of our law school dean hotties contest — you should obviously accept.
(Hopefully Dean Rangappa has a Google Alert for her name. Hopefully the alert will take her to this post on ATL, which will hopefully take her to Tammy Hsu and Hsu’s blog.)
To be sure, there are some downsides to a blog like Confessions of an (Aspiring) Yalie. Some people harbor anti-transfer-student views — both at the schools that transfer students leave, and the schools they transfer into. By transforming herself into the poster girl for “transferism,” Hsu could be setting herself up for harsh treatment.
In order to get into Yale Law, Hsu will have to excel at Wake Forest. Yale gets about 200 transfer applications a year, and it accepts only 10 to 15 transfers. The transfers I knew at Yale had blown the roofs off the schools where they spent their 1L years (and some of them had been at top 10 schools).
But by indicating that she wants to transfer out, she’s making it less likely that people at Wake Forest will want to help her succeed. Professors and upperclassmen might be less enthusiastic about helping Hsu advance; they might not invest themselves in her career as much as they otherwise would. Why? Because she’s made it clear that she wants out — which is something of a slap in the face to Wake, as well as an indication that she, like Lebron James, wants to take her talents elsewhere.
This “brain drain” problem associated with transfer students is why schools often don’t like it when their students transfer out. Schools don’t like it when their superstars — the students with the highest grades, the law review spots, and the best shots at top firm jobs and clerkships — leave after a year. Some schools even try to make things tough on transfers, through tactics like withholding on-campus interviewing privileges from students with pending transfer apps.
The other possible problematic aspect of Hsu’s blog is that it is, well, very un-Yale. Declaring your raw naked ambition so openly is much more… Harvard Law. Perhaps Hsu should focus on transferring to HLS, where she’d probably fit in better. Think “Legally Brunette: The Asian Invasion.”
The need to conceal ambition was, to be honest, one of the things that annoyed me most about YLS. Why don’t we just all admit that we’re gunners and would (literally) stab each other in the back for a D.C. Circuit clerkship interview? Pretending to be all warm and fuzzy with each other while secretly plotting how to snag the #1 recommendation from Bruce Ackerman struck me as disingenuous, not to mention a huge waste of time and energy. (On the other hand, it probably wasn’t bad training for lawyer office politics.)
Readers, what do you think of Tammy Hsu’s blog?
[FN1] What do we regard as not fair game for coverage? Well, we would not use illegal methods — e.g., wiretapping or phone hacking — to obtain information for reporting. But if someone else obtains information improperly and gives it to us, then we might use it. As noted by Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, in a recent piece for the New Yorker:
[T]he press—at least, the more established American corner of it—has a standard that works as a daily guide to behavior, even when it seems to defy logic. A congeries of information-gathering techniques, including breaking and entering, stealing, and phone-hacking, are unpardonable and can never be undertaken directly by news organizations, but if others give news organizations the fruits of such labors it’s fine to publish them. Bradley Manning is a traitor, but Nick Davies, of the Guardian (who received Manning’s “war logs” from WikiLeaks), is a patriot, and Julian Assange occupies some nebulous in-between zone.
Prosecutors who use search warrants to pry into politicians’ personal lives and then leak their findings before filing any charges are sleazy. Journalists who publish transcripts of Eliot Spitzer’s text messages to a prostitution service are models of professionalism. Ritual sanctification is assumed to take place at the moment when questionably obtained information passes into the hands of a reporter.
So consider yourselves warned. That edgy joke you want to email around to the entire practice group, that passionate political email you want to blast out to your entire law school? Well, please don’t send, unless you are prepared to see it on Above the Law someday.
UPDATE (6 PM): Don’t forget to check out Tammy Hsu’s response to the online peanut gallery.