Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cinéma-ing on the Cheap

Last semester, I took a survey course on the rules governing the  EU common market and the core EU freedoms (i.e., freedom to provide services, free movement of goods, freedom of establishment).

So why am I mentioning it? In the class, we read a decision from the European Court of Justice about selling DVDs (released in another EU Member State) in France before they were officially released in France. France is unique in the EU in that it has one of the longest (if not the longest) delays between when a movie first comes out in theaters and when it may be released on DVD. If I remember correctly, it’s one year.

Madagascar 3, then, will come out in Germany months before it comes out in France.
Trying to rectify this issue, foreign distributors (all the while crying “free movement of goods in the EU!”) wanted to be able to distribute DVDs already release in other parts of the EU in France, and claimed that France’s unusually long delay was a barrier to the free movement of DVDs within the EU. The European Court of Justice agreed that there was a barrier, but sided with France’s claims that the delay protected art and culture and French cinema, entertaining evenings with friends, etc. My professor noted that it really protects the movie theater industry (like a back door subsidy) more than it protects film as an art form, but hey.

Relevance to today, you ask? Well, the French National Cinéma Festival is in full swing this week (until Wednesday, at least) and I am taking advantage of it. Essentially, when you buy a full price ticket (or student price ticket for me), you get a cute little bracelet. Then for every showing thereafter, when you show your bracelet, the ticket is only € 2.50! This means that I went to see What to Expect When You’re Expecting on Sunday, and Madagascar 3 on Monday, and tonight I’m going to a movie, and Wednesday I’m going to a movie…you get the point.

On a side note, I adored Madagascar 3. I will even admit to quietly clapping my hands (and grinning like a fool) when things were working out well for Alex the Lion and his crew of lovable zoo escapees. My personal favorite character, I must admit, was the Italian sea lion Stefano. He's quite cute, although admittedly only of slightly below-average intelligence. The French crowd laughed at the jokes about France, and I had a BIG chuckle when they made fun of French labor law, saying that the monkeys (who work for the clever penguins) now only need to work 2 weeks out of the year. I have had to do a little French employment law during my internship, and although the French definitely work more than 2 weeks a year, it's still definitely a different legal landscape than the US!

What to Expect When You're Expecting was fluffy and I laughed, which is what I was looking for on the rainy, dismal afternoon that was last Sunday. I cracked up at the end because I noticed that the group of spectators in front of me was composed of 4 boys in their late teens -- no girls in sight. Not exactly the demographic What to Expect was expecting.

I'll let you know how my next two movies go. :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sixth Sense

The day has come and gone – the day of the business development breakfast that I helped coordinate here at the office. The two attorneys I was working with on the project spent hours slaving away on the invitation list because in Paris, the success of your event can be as much about what you say as who’s there (that's likely true of events in other places, too...). They got input from former colleagues, checked and rechecked the spelling of everyone’s names against prior lists, and wrestled with Outlook distribution lists until they were calling the technology help desk in incredible frustration, etc. (meanwhile, I was compiling the research for the presentation itself). A lot of time was spent on this, and there were some big names on the list, some big general counsels at French companies: all people who could send some business our way.

Except, of course, for the people on the list who are dead.

That’s right. We invited dead people. Unwittingly, they were left in the contact database, and we were calling people to harass those who had not RSVP’d. Turns out, some of those folks had pretty good excuses, being dead and all. I wasn't privy to any of these presumably awkward conversations but I can only imagine what they were like.

Oh, and there were retired people on the list, and people who have abandoned the practice of law on the list, too. 

Invitation Photo. Heck yes.
And then, of the 80 or so people on the list (I don't know how many were alive, practicing attorneys of that figure), 8 said they would come. Morning of the great breakfast presentation featuring a BEAUTIFUL PowerPoint presentation designed by yours truly (no, seriously, I legit took a cover photo for it and everything with fresh flowers, etc.) however, there were…three.

But!! All went well, the presentation was well-received, our three attendees were lively and asked questions after the speaker’s every point. So, perhaps a new client will come our way. Or three.

We’re talking about turning it into an article, so that would be cool, and I would get a co-author credit, so again, nice for the CV and my upcoming job hunt to end all job hunts.

Apart from communing with the dead, I have been a busy bee, delving into my most recent project: new French export controls on weapons, ammunition, and other military/defense items. 

Oh and default Microsoft Word here is in French, and then when you start writing in English it puts you in English U.K. So, I now (for work at least) spell defence with a c. Baller. 

And now I'm going to see Paul Taylor Dance Company!! Whee!! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

La Toque...or Going to Get Legal Mail

Hey ! Ami !

The above is a reference to the hip and famous French video-blogger, Norman – who I adore, by the way. Some of his stuff has English subtitles, but if you’re interested in some hilarious commentary on life, Apple addicts, arrogant bilingual people, or a song about how your life has improved since Google’s arrival, then check out www.normanfaitdesvideos.com.

Anyway, on to the actual post.

In France, attorneys have personal or firm mailboxes both at their office locations and at the massive courthouse, the Palais de justice. The mailbox is called the “toque” and it’s tucked away in the center of the Palais in an area that is FORBIDDEN TO THE PUBLIC (it says that on the door) and for attorneys only. I, of course, am not actually an attorney but a mere intern, but I guess we count.

Unfortunately, because I am a foreigner, I do not have a handy student card that lets me use the so-called “professional entrance” to the Palais. Instead, I have to use the public entrance, which means waiting in line with the masses to go through security.

In case you’re not aware, the national monument and church known for its breathtaking stained glass, Sainte Chapelle, is in the center of the Palais de justice complex, kind of in the courtyard. The public entrance to the courthouse and the tourist entrance to Sainte Chapelle are right next to each other, their respective lines fanning out along the sides of the justice complex. Sadly for me and my time, both lines funnel through essentially the same x-ray machines and metal detectors. I waited for a good half hour this morning. The trick I think is arriving there at 9. No one is there at 9 because that’s still relatively early for French time. I made the mistake of arriving at more 9:40ish, and the line for the Palais entrance was easily three times longer than I’ve ever seen it.

Apparently, I may be able to avoid this in the future if I get a written statement from our office administrator attesting that I am an intern (gosh darn it!) and no ordinary member of the public. Then with that I might be able to use the line-less professional entrance.

Okay, so. At the toque there is a lawyer-only free coffee machine (European style, little cappuccinos like, none of this drip coffee business), but what tickles me the most, and what I didn’t know before I came here, was that to appear before the court, lawyers in France still wear ceremonial robes. They’re black, like American judges wear, but sometimes (perhaps always?) they have kind of frilly white ascot type things that spill forth from the collar of the robe. They are *attractive.* But, it’s fun nonetheless to see easily identifiable attorneys walking the long halls of the courthouse.
Attorney Library

Another fun aspect of this is that there is a library for attorneys. It has print journals that exceed the materials we have available at the firm, especially if you’re looking for something older than say, 1980. Today, I had to photocopy some arbitration articles from 1974, so I stood in front of the copier with the firm-issued copy card for a good 20 minutes. But, I can’t complain.

The library is pretty cool – it has the old fashioned green bankers lamps on wooden tables set throughout the space, and the walls are filled with two stories of books. The second story sort of rings the space, and is accessible through a little spiral staircase in the corner, and there is a ladder that runs along a rail. It’s kind of outdated, but to find where in the library your particular journal is located, you go to the welcome desk and look through a binder that has the journals ordered by title. My journal today was on shelf 24. Not being that familiar with the arrangement of the library yet, I had to wander about to find it. I’m sure I looked a bit lost.

Well, I’m off to church! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Busy-ness (?), Trains, and Church

Chers amis,


It’s been an odd combination of busy and not busy at work. Sometimes, I’m running around working and gathering stuff, and end up skipping or postponing lunch or staying later than usual. Other times, I’m a wee bit bored and end up surreptitiously doing what I call “professional development reading” on law blogs, news sites, etc. because no one has an easily delegable task for me to do.

Toughest of all, however, is holding out everyday until the French-approved lunch time of 1:30. It has even surpassed the keyboard dilemmas. I’ll have you know I have become quite competent on the AZERTY keyboard, and then I get confused when I go home to my QWERTY iPad.

What have I been doing for the past week and a half? Let’s see:

I’ve worked on some commercial lease negotiation stuff, some research for the upcoming firm-hosted breakfast conference that I mentioned in my last post, and some French memo writing for a big lawsuit going down in French Polynesia.

Biggest and coolest of all though is being the unofficial point person for outside counsel on this one matter (a corporate reorganization in Eastern Europe). Essentially, I get to call and ask counsel in different countries whether they’re going to make our deadline, ask and answer follow-up questions and generally liaise between my office and theirs. Then, I compile their submissions on their country’s law into a memo to our client, and I edit their English along the way. So far, it’s been a very cool cross-border experience.

As I mentioned in my last post, generally everyone has lunch together in a conference room. The variety of lunch discussion topics has been pretty amusing. It’s ranged from attractive male and female tennis stars (not being all that familiar with tennis stars, it took me a while to pick up on some of the names being tossed around), soccer (of course), childbirth (usually it’s all women at these things), really bad reality TV shows (did you know that Ice-T has a show with his wife Cookie, or something like that?), the incomprehensible celebrity of the Kardashians (enough said), what high school everyone’s kids are going to (in France, I think it’s an application process even for public schools where you list your first through 3rd choices, etc.), to the Queen of England and her Jubilee this week (with some Kate and Pippa gossip thrown in). Also, having read the Game of Thrones series, I was asked to give some spoilers, haha.   

On the sight-seeing side of things, I went to the town of Chartres on Saturday to see its renowned cathedral and just explore. I took the train from my nearest train station, Gare Montparnasse, which is only 2 metro stops away. I arrived at the train station and made my way from the metro area to the big main line train area, and tried to get my e-tickets from an automated ticket withdrawal machine. 

After 5 failed attempts to withdraw my tickets, I ended up going to stand in line to speak with a real person. I was in line for *quite some time,* nervously glancing at my watch as my departure time grew nearer and nearer. Once I was able to speak with a representative, I discovered that picking up your tickets at the automated machine does not work so well if you have a foreign credit card. The machines apparently only take cards with “puces,” or those little shiny SIM card looking things that some credit cards have. So, my lowly little PNC Bank debit card didn’t cut it.

I got my ticket with, oh, 4 minutes to spare until departure. The platform was clear at the other end of the station and the representative asked if I had a suitcase. When I replied that I did not, she kindly suggested that I run, unless I wanted to wait around an hour and catch the next train. I decided that waiting was not really that exciting of an option, so I booked it from platform 1 to platform 22 (of like 25). I ended up getting a little turned around and looked at platform 21, but the train sitting at it was dark and locked, so another Cartres-bound traveler and I headed on to 22. I saw that the first car was down to pretty much standing room only, so in great wisdom, I ran down to the next car and leapt aboard literally as the automatic doors were closing. It was somewhat of an exhilarating morning.

The train took about an hour, and after my arrival in Chartres I headed straight for the cathedral and wandered about inside checking out the stained glass. I honestly did not notice the famous labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral – I think it was pretty obscured by the chairs/pews – but I got my step-mom an oversized postcard of it anyway.

After touring the cathedral and gift shop, I had lunch at a restaurant just outside so that I could see more of the cathedral’s exterior. I read some and then someone was doing a mini-organ recital in the cathedral, so I got to enjoy that as well. By this point, I was kind of running out of ideas of what to do, so I toured the more touristy streets and perused some different shops. I ended up passing some time in the small park just in front of the cathedral where I read some more, and unbeknownst to me at the time, ended up getting a pretty impressive sunburn. The weather was warm but there was such a breeze that I never felt uncomfortable – ergo, how I never noticed that I was burning. Oh well. Ended up catching an earlier train back to Paris than I had originally scheduled.

This Thursday, I’m considering going to see a performance of Verdi’s Requiem (I did a paper on requiem masses in high school, so I kind of have a radar for them now) at a theater outside of the Louvre but I don’t want to get a ticket in advance because I would hate to miss it if something came up at work. I.e., last Friday I was supposed to go to a lecture on arbitration and the media at a local university from 5-7. I cleared it with the managing partner more than a week in advance, but by the time I got phase one of this Eastern European corporate reorg memo out to the client, I would have been late to the talk, so I didn’t go. I don’t want to tempt fate with Verdi.

I’m also excited for Friday, June 22 because I bought a ticket to see Paul Taylor Dance Company (a modern American company) perform at a theater here in Paris. I have never gotten to see them in the US – one time, I was in DC and they were performing at the Kennedy Center the day after I left…same thing has happened in NYC – so I am thrilled to finally get to go!!!

I know this is turning into a mammoth post, but I have to mention church, too! I went to First Church of Christ, Scientist, Paris last Sunday and it was nice, but it didn’t feel like *home* for the next 10 weeks. So last Wednesday, I tried Second Church, which is conveniently close to where I work…and I loved it. I was invited out to go out to dinner within minutes of my arrival by a fellow American (who has lived in Paris for more than 30 years). I arrived at church carrying a small tubular kind of fan that my friend had loaned me for my apartment – it ended up being quite the conversation piece.
After the service, I spoke with a few people and everyone kept asking about the fan and wanting to write down the make and model because it’s a unique size and they like it. Kind of odd, but I definitely felt included. Dinner after the service was great, and I’m looking forward to going again.

Hopefully, I’m going to get better about posting more frequently!