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Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

The Great Jurisprudence Megathread
Previous threads: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This is the twelfth iteration of this thread. This thread is for everything to do with the study and practice of law. Anyone is welcome to post questions in this thread, and bios of the major question-answerers may be found below.

This thread is not for legal advice. If you want legal advice, the best thing to do is to contact a lawyer who is licensed to practice where you live or where your problem is. Lawyers can get into a lot of trouble for giving out "free" advice, so don't ask the law goons to do that! If you still really have to ask, post in the legal questions thread or start a separate thread.

Rather, this thread is to celebrate the study, practice, and endless suffering that define the legal profession. This includes topics such as those below. A FAQ section for each subject can be found in the first several posts--the FAQ-writing process is an ongoing process (read: I'll finish it someday before I die). READ THE FAQs BEFORE POSTING! As much as we love answering the same 5 questions over and, we don't love it. RTFFAQ. If you can't get through a few screens of helpful text, then the thousands of pages of useless text you must read in law school (and as a lawyer) will destroy your tiny, impatient brain.


1. General Law Questions:
  • Should I become a lawyer? Should I go to law school?
  • OK, let's assume I still want to go to law school.
  • What do I need to do to become a lawyer?
  • If you're warning against becoming a lawyer, why the hell did you all go to law school?
  • Do attorneys really make all that money I hear about?
2. Before Law School:
  • Is law school right for me?
  • Say, I've got the chance to spend a summer in college working for a local attorney. Will I learn a lot? Will this wow admissions committees?
  • Will spending an extra year in college help me get into law school?
  • Hey, my neighbor's cousin's mistress' landscaper's best friend is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Dakota! If I can get Mr. Chief Justice to write me a recommendation letter, will I get into Stanford Law?
  • So I'm taking the LSAT cold tomorrow, anything I should know?
  • How do you study for the LSAT effectively?
  • My GPA is X.XX and my LSAT is XXX. What are my chances at getting into _____ law school?
3. Choosing A Law School:
  • Where should I go to law school?
  • What is this "T14" I keep hearing about?
  • How much does a law school's ranking matter?
  • Does a school's ranking affect how high I need to keep my grades?
  • I got into a T14/Tier 1 school, but they didn't offer me any money. I also got into a T2/T3/T4 school, and they offered me a huge scholarship! What should I do?
  • I want to make money. T14 or somewhere else?
  • But I'm going to be in the top 10% no matter where I go, so I'll still get that job...
  • Should I / Can I transfer after my first year at {crappy school here}?
4. Law Student stuff:
  • What is law school like?
  • How do you succeed in law school?
  • Okay, I worked hard all year and made the top 10%. NOW should I transfer?
  • What if I want to take a year off before going to law school?
  • What's a LLM and is it worth it?
  • Should I study abroad?
  • How do I get a clerkship?
  • What sort of job should I be gunning for anyway?
  • I have a shitload of debt, what do I do?
5. Life in the Legal Profession, Odds and Ends:
  • What's it like to work in (city XYZ)?
  • What sort of stuff do lawyers actually do all day?
  • What if I want to work for the federal government?
  • Who are you people?
  • Useful law links
6. Testimonials


Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

1. General Law Questions:

Q: What do I need to do to become a lawyer?

A: Two things: you need to graduate from law school, and you need to pass the bar for the jurisdiction you wish to practice law in. For the first part--choosing, applying to, attending, and not dying in law school--see other FAQs below. As for the second part, here's what you need to know:

Each state in the US has a bar association. This is the professional governing entity that keeps an eye on the attorneys in that jurisdiction. They also license new lawyers to practice, and punish bad lawyers. As a potential new lawyer, you will have to pass both 1) an exam, and 2) a "character and fitness" examination. #2 involves you listing every address you've ever lived at, supplying a credit report, giving 6-10 character references (usually your law school classmates), and most importantly, listing any criminal or academic offenses you have ever been involved with. The bar people are very understanding--I personally know people who had issues like DUI offenses, unpaid traffic violations, dishonorable military discharges, lapsed child support, and so forth, and they were okay.

The key thing is that they admitted to their mistakes and gave full disclosure. Were you hoping to forget all about that little pot bust in college, or the run-in with the cops? Tough luck--if you attempt to cover anything up, they will find out, and they will very likely make it impossible for you to practice law. They also don't like nasty people like unrepentant Neo-Nazis. This isn' t really an issue for most people, but it's something to consider before you sink 3 years and a lot of money into law school.

Q: Do attorneys really make all that money I hear about?

A: Depends. Some do, most don't. Here's a sampling of several kinds of legal work--there are other fields, and these numbers are not set in stone. (All numbers may vary depending on geographic location and the state of the economy.)
  • Lawyers who go into private practice at a big firm will often have starting salaries between $100,000 - $160,000; as partners (6+ years of seniority), they can make three to ten times that amount. They may also work 100 hour work weeks, become permanently angry and tired, and so forth--it's not a walk in the park. (More in the "Career" FAQs below.)
  • Government lawyers (including criminal prosecutors) "only" make between $40,000 - $90,000, but receive excellent benefits. They may work anywhere from 35 - 80 hours per week, depending on caseload and big projects.
  • Public service lawyers make between $30,000 - $50,000 -- these are the folks who may represent poor clients, and people who work for organizations like the ACLU or NAACP or Southern PovLaw. Bad pay, clear conscience.
  • Personal injury lawyers ("Call 1-866-ACCIDENTES") can make from low $30K to six-figures, depending on seniority, experience, and client base.
  • In-house counsel (lawyers who work as permanent staff members of corporations, such as the RIAA or Microsoft, etc.) can make anywhere from $60K - medium six figures, depending on experience, area of expertise, size of the company, etc.
Further, lawyers have an EXTREMELY bimodal salary range - the median sounds OK, but looking at the graph it is clear that the median means absolutely jack.


Q: What do judges wear under those black robes?

A: Normal work clothes. Unless you're the Honorable Judge Thompson of Oklahoma. Then you jerk off during court proceedings.

Q: Do lawyers actually hear the :doink: when they go places?

A:Only if they've been at work too long. It's usually a sign of dehydration, repressed rage, or a lack of physical contact.

Q: What the hell is the thread title about?

A: -------------------------
[1] "The sample is based on 23,337 law school graduates from the class of 2007 who reported salary information. Note, however, that 197 ABA-Accredited law schools graduated 43,518 students in 2007. Although we know the types of jobs taken by 40,416 grads, only 57.7% of this group provided salary information. If I had to wager on the direction of underreporting, I would predict it was under-inclusive of graduates with lower salaries and those who did not pass the bar. Why? Aside from the human psychology that it is easier to share flattering rather than embarrassing information, the roughly 7,500 jobs under the second mode are fairly close to figures I have seen from ALM and NALP data, which are provided by large law firms rather than individual students."

Linguica fucked around with this message at 18:06 on Nov 12, 2010

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

2. Before Law School and Applying to Law School: deciding whether law is right for you; applying and getting into law school; the LSAT; essays, teacher recommendations, applications, etc. "My GPA is X.XX and my LSAT is YYY. Will I get into ____ Law School?"

Q: Should I become a lawyer? Should I go to law school?

A: Probably not.

Sarah Waldeck posted:

Because I am visiting at another law school this semester, I don’t have to attend any admissions events this spring. Yet I’ve been thinking hard about what advice I would give prospective students and this is where I’ve landed: Only go to law school next year if (1) you have always dreamed of being a lawyer; or (2) you are accepted by a very prestigious institution; or (3) you are offered a full scholarship.

This is not advice I’ve arrived at easily. Fifteen years ago, such advice likely would have discouraged me from even considering law school. But the economics of my decision are likely very different from the economics of the decisions that will be made this spring. I went to a state university and graduated without a penny of debt. Partly this was because I worked for three years after college and managed to save money, but mostly it was because my in-state tuition averaged about $5,000 per year. Today, in-state tuition at the same institution would cost more than $16,000 per year. If I went to a private school in the metropolitan area where I usually teach, I’d be looking at a yearly tuition of about $45,000.

Tuition has been rising steadily for some time now. There is a perennial worry about whether prospective students understand what it is like to be a practicing lawyer or what the law firm jobs that enable them to pay off their debt really entail. But now there is an additional and even more serious concern about whether and to what extent graduating students will have legal opportunities in the first instance. As the Times article suggests, this concern encompasses both opportunities in private law firms and in the public sector, including some of the “public interest” jobs that students have traditionally taken to qualify for federal debt forgiveness programs.

Forty-five thousand dollars per year (plus other costs) seems like a lot to pay for such uncertain prospects. But the number of people sitting for the LSAT this year suggests that quite a few will be willing to pay it; soon we’ll have a clearer picture of how many LSAT scores will materialize into actual applications.

Of course, this year law school applications will be partly driven by the lack of opportunity costs. Graduating college students face generally dismal employment prospects regardless of what field they want to enter. But I suspect that optimism bias plays just as large a role in student decision-making. No matter what the economy, some lawyers will be wildly successful. Many prospective students are inclined to think that they will be part of this group, no matter how daunting the odds against it. On the more rational side of the analysis, it’s also true that law school historically has proven itself a relatively good place to weather out bad economic times.

What is different this time around, however, is that no one is yet sure whether the changes in legal markets and in law firms are permanent, or whether things will eventually return to what we had come to think of as normal. If you haven’t always wanted to practice law, or if you’re considering a law school that is not one of the best in the nation, or if the law school isn’t offering to pay for you to attend, my advice is to wait to see how this plays out.

Law schools know that many prospective students will ignore this kind of advice, at least for now. The decision to admit students—and to encourage them to attend—has a moral component, especially when law schools know that some students (many? most?) will face diminished prospects upon graduation. Law schools, the ABA and the AALS have a continuing dialogue about what constitutes a quality legal education. Now they should be talking about concrete steps that are responsive to the changing legal market. In the short term, and at a minimum, law schools would seem to have the obligation to hold tuition steady. In the long term, and if these market changes are permanent, universities need to ask hard questions about whether the number of law school seats should be determined by how many people want to go to law school or how many lawyers the market can absorb. This, in turn, would raise a series of questions about class size as well as the propriety of establishing new law schools.

Given the current legal climate, one would hope that decreasing applications would force law schools to grapple with these questions. But markets, including those for law students, are imperfect. The most I can hope is that prospective students think hard about whether, at this particular point in time, a legal degree is worth the investment.


This isn't a cycle. It's the start of what could very well be a permanent change in the legal industry. There was just no way this industry could perpetuate itself with the churning out of fifty thousand new lawyers year after year after year with not enough jobs to employ all of them. You've got the ABA accrediting new schools every single year, because that's their cash cow, and the problem just keeps compounding.

The jobs that do exist are changing and becoming fewer in number. We outsource work to India. People are seeing fewer lawyers for matters like tax, divorce, and probate because of software packages and pre-built forms sufficient for 90% of the populace. Mandatory arbitration is taking a lot of disputes out of the courtroom and not letting lawyers participate.

Large firms stopped pricing attorney salaries at anything approaching a reasonable fashion and firms couldn't keep up. Lockstep increases are a huge cause of all of the recent firm failings and mergers. I think lockstep will disappear within five years, as a matter of mere survival, but it's somewhat a question of whether it's too late to go back to the good ol' days of merit pay.

At some point the dam was going to burst, and here we are. But we've still got three years of fledging attorneys in the hopper, and at least a few more years after that of undergrads who are still convinced that law school is the best thing ever, and so long as there's an industry built on selling that myth and an economy so far in the shitter that graduate school becomes an attractive alternative to unemployment (at least for three years), it ain't gonna get better.

Want to fix the industry? Unaccredit the entire third and fourth tiers. And not because of some elitist statement of quality, but because we don't need 200 law schools in this country, even if they were all as good as Yale. Shrink class sizes in the remaining 100 law schools. Law school itself needs to become the barrier to entry, just like medical schools operate now.

Unfortunately, that means that all of the unique snowflakes might not be able to go to law school. It means that I probably would not have been able to go to law school. I started at a T3. Things turned out okay for me, but go talk to my friends who are all unemployed with zero prospects five months after graduation. Most of them admit they would have been better off had they never been admitted to a law school in the first place. Sometimes industry paternalism is a good thing.

A woman that will be paying off debt until she retires posted:

I’m on a one-woman mission to talk people out of law school. Lots of people go to law school as a default. They don’t know what else to do, like I did. It seems like a good idea. People say a law degree will always be worth something even if you don’t practice. But they don’t consider what that debt is going to look like after law school. It affects my life in every way. And the jobs that you think are going to be there won’t necessarily be there at all. Most people I know that are practicing attorneys don’t make the kind of money they think lawyers make. They’re making $40,000 a year, not $160,000. Plus, you’re going to be struggling to do something you might not even enjoy. A few people have a calling to be a lawyer, but most don’t.[1] posted:

Law schools are “exploiting” any students who aren’t successful, according to a law school dean who spoke at a program on law school rankings earlier this month.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves," said Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School.

Matasar said schools need to take responsibility for the failures of their students, according to an account of his Jan. 9 remarks by TaxProf Blog. Matasar said a law school education can cost as much as $120,000 for a students who are making a “lottery shot” at being in the top 10 percent of their class so they can get high-paying jobs.

He spoke during a program sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools that is available in a podcast. TaxProf Blog noted Matasar’s remarks and highlighted a Forbes article that questions whether students are being misled into believing that large school debt translates into a life of economic privilege. The article featured a lawyer couple divorcing amid overwhelming stress because of $190,000 in student debt.

“We own our students' outcomes," Matasar said at the AALS program. "We took them. We took their money. We live on their money. … And if they don't have a good outcome in life, we're exploiting them. It's our responsibility to own the outcomes of our institutions. If they're not doing well ... it's gotta be fixed. Or we should shut the drat place down. And that's a moral responsibility that we bear in the academy.”

At 50 law schools, 20 percent of the students either flunked out, can’t find jobs or have unknown outcomes, according to another speaker at the program, Indiana University law professor William Henderson. TaxProf Blog also transcribed some of his remarks.

Matasar questioned whether students are beginning to understand that law school does not guarantee a good job. He said registrations for the law school admissions test are flat or below the norm for this year. “That's never happened in a downturn in the economy before,” he said. “They're catching on. Maybe this thing they are doing is not so valuable. Maybe the chance at being in the top 10 percent is not a good enough lottery shot in order to effectively spend $120,000 and see it blow up at the end of three years of law school.” posted:

My firm recently was looking to replace a paralegal, and the hiring partner figured that, given the current job market, we could get a licensed attorney for the price of a paralegal, and get the benefit of having somebody to do all the idiotic court appearances none of the actual lawyers felt like wasting time on. So we placed an ad for an attorney, with the only requirements being "licensed in New York" and "some firm experience" (we'd accept somebody with summer intern experience). The salary offered was $50K. Entry level all the way. We were totally expecting to hire some recent BLS or Fordham grad just looking for a place to start out.

Within 24 hours of putting the ad out -- one day, people -- we had received over 200 responses. For one job. At least half of them were from people with V200 firm experience. It felt like we got resumes from every single associate who used to work at Thacher Proffit before they imploded, along with about a dozen people from Latham Watkins. We had a smattering of former Proskauer, Shearmen Sterling, Hogan Hartson, and Dewey Lebouf associates. And a lot of them weren't particularly recent graduates; while the majority of applicants were 2008 or 2007 grads, we got some people applying from as early as 2001. And from basically every top school.

In the end, we went with a UVA grad who'd been laid off from Cadwalader last Christmasish because he'd failed the bar the first time, and hadn't been working since. We didn't want to hire anybody with too much experience, since somebody used to making $200K over the last couple years would likely jump ship the second a better offer came along. Also, somebody who'd spent only four months at a big firm would be used to doing grunt make-work paralegal stuff, and wouldn't complain about it.

Ainsley McTree posted:

Did you notice the last page or so of posts in which we were all jizzing about a public defender position available in Barrow, Alaska? I couldn't speak for anyone else but I for one was not entirely exaggerating, I am not completely uninterested in the prospect and I went into law school saying to myself "the one thing I don't want to be is a public defender, I don't have the fortitude for it" but after 3 months of unemployment (well 5 technically but I started the count after I finished the bar, not graduation because at least when I was studying for the bar I had something to do) it's honestly starting to sound pretty good. Barrow, Alaska is located here:

Getting a job in law is hard and unlikely. Getting a stable job is considerably harder and unlikelier. Getting a job in the Federal Government is a pipe dream. According to there are 158 jobs available in the country under the category "legal and claims examining". There are more than 158 law schools in the country, much less yearly law grads. I don't know if you meant to phrase it this way but I get the feeling like you feel like getting a job with the federal government would be settling for mediocrity somehow. gently caress you. I would literally suck a dick for a cushy federal government job and I'm not even joking about that. Women and gay dudes do it all the time (well not for jobs usually but you get my point), I'm so much better than them that I can't do it once and be set for life? If only I had that opportunity.

You don't know why exactly you want to go to law school, well let me help you answer that question, you want to go to law school because you don't know what else to do with your degree and law school seems like the obvious next thing to do. That's the reason I went too and now that I'm done with it and unemployed and overqualified for any vaguely decent mediocre office job that would pay off my $150k-ish debt I feel like I have to tell you that you're thinking about making a huge mistake, don't go you idiot

I didn't mean to come off so hateful and angry when I started writing this reply but gently caress, every time I read a post about someone wanting to go to law school it just comes out, I'm sorry, I don't literally hate you, but I do hate the part of your brain that tricked you into thinking that law school is remotely a good idea right now.
In conclusion,

Q: OK, let's assume I still want to go to law school.

A: OK. Some good reasons to go:
  • You have a specific interest in practicing law
  • You enjoy working long hours
  • You're a detail-oriented person
  • You have a strong sense of perseverance in the face of agony
  • You have qualifications for a subspecialty of law that you're interested in (e.g. tax law, patent law, etc.)
Bad reasons to go:

"Everyone says I'm a good arguer."
Great, then go join the debate team. Being a lawyer has very little to do with spontaneous arguing and everything to do with extensive, meticulous research and mind numbing document preparation / review.

"Why not?"
Why not dance around a bonfire of C-notes, it'll be cheaper and more enjoyable. Speaking from personal experience, "why not?" is the absolute worst possible reason to pursue a degree in something.

"I majored in Poli Sci/ History / Philosophy / whatever, and what else am I going to do?"
You and 90% of law students. Fair enough I guess.

"I want to earn cash money and live the good life."
First, the chances of you landing a job that pays at the top of the scale are poor, and if you're not at a top-tier law school, pretty close to nil. Second, even if you do someone get lucky and manage to make that cash money, you'll probably be working so much that your "good life" will be getting an air mattress for your office instead of a cot.

"I don't really want to be a lawyer, but I think having a JD would be neat."
A law degree is expensive, time-consuming, and not nearly as flexible as your mother makes it out to be. Law school is generally not a thoughtful, policy-oriented, intellectually gratifying experience. It's also a very herd-oriented experience, and if you go you will probably end up as a bloodsucking lawyer, despite your best intentions.

If you want to spend a lot of time studying policy, go to school for that. If you're interested in politics or non-profit work, there are routes into both that don't require a law degree. If you want to start a business, do that instead of taking on a bunch of additional debt. If you want to backdoor your way into an MBA program...ok, that might be reasonable...but even then, make sure you'd be ok being a lawyer if your application to the joint degree program is rejected.

"Daddy is a senior partner at Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, so I've got a corner office waiting for me."
That doesn't mean you'll be any good as a lawyer, or enjoy it. However, it's basically impossible to change your mind on this so whatever.

"My family will disown me if I don't go to law school and blah blah."
See above.

<--- This guy said I should."
gently caress HIM.

"I want to get laid."

Q: If you're warning against becoming a lawyer, why the hell did you all go to law school?
A: Because we're overeducated Type-A neurotics. Lawyers have some of the highest rates of clinical depression of any profession, and substance abuse is far from rare.[/i]

being_a_happy_lawyer.pdf posted:

"A study of North Carolina lawyers found that 37% reported feeling depressed in the past few weeks, and 42% reported feeling lonely. 11% experienced suicidal ideation at least once a month for the past year."
When we say that you'd be better off becoming a plumber, we're not kidding - you probably would. The legal services industry is stagnant and likely to only get worse for the foreseeable future as work dries up and a glut of new lawyers enters the marketplace.

Feel free to post a question about your particular situation, and we'll happily tell you if you're full of poo poo or not.

Q:Is law school right for me?

A: This is an excellent question to ask before you get involved in the stress and financial burden of the law school admissions process, and the answer is not as simple as you might think. First of all, in the OP, I listed several good and bad reasons to go to law school. READ THEM! The very, very worst reason to go to law school is, "Why the hell not? I don't know what else to do!" While this isn't a bad reason to look into legal studies, you'd better drat well find a better reason by the time you show up at law school, or else you'll have trouble staying focused, motivated, and productive.

You also need to take a long, hard look at your admissions profile: what is your GPA like? what college did you attend? how well do you think you can do on the LSAT? do you have notable extracurriculars, or do you do nothing but study? are you an underrepresented minority? do you have good teachers who know you well enough to write a good recommendation for you, or will you be getting a note from "Uncle Jack" who works for 1-866-ACCIDENTES? Law school is an expensive and difficult undertaking, and if you think the best school you can get into is in the bottom tier, then you'd better have some serious motivation to fuel your studies.

That's not to say that you can only go to law school if you've "wanted to be a lawyer since childhood" or whatever. You don't even have to like law school once you're there. But if you do poorly in school, and it's not a great school, you will graduate unemployed (or underemployed) and in huge debt. Don't go to law school "just because"--have a clear goal in mind, and you'll be glad you did!

Q: Say, I've got the chance to spend a summer in college working for a local attorney. Will I learn a lot? Will this wow admissions committees?

A: Working for an attorney is nice, but it's never super impressive to law school admission committees. Pretty much as a matter of law, attorneys can't hand any really substantive work to non-law (or non-law student) employees. So by all means take the job, but if your boss tries to feed you some crap line about "I'm paying you peanuts because you're learning so much about the legal system!" then go to Starbucks for a job.

Q: Will spending an extra year in college help me get into law school?

A: This question has come up quite a lot, to my surprise. I've heard it both from people who had originally planned to graduate from college early (3 years) but were considering spending the full 4 years, and from people who spent 4 years in college and were considering a 5th year.

The short answer is: if you take more than 4 years to graduate college, admissions committees will take notice. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--you just have to make sure they notice all the awesome things you did in that 5th year. You know, like leadership positions on organizations or committees, getting promoted at your job, bringing up your GPA by taking cool and high-level courses (not fluff)), doing community service, learning a new language, etc. You were planning to do all this stuff in your extra year, right?

Q: Hey, my neighbor's cousin's mistress' landscaper's best friend is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Dakota! If I can get Mr. Chief Justice to write me a recommendation letter, will I get into Stanford Law?

A: No. If you haven't actually done any work for Mr. Chief Justice (or the attorney general, or Clarence Darrow, or Jack McCoy, or whichever famous lawyer), that letter is useless. It's even more useless if the person doesn't even know you. Admissions committees want to read about your skills, maturity, and potential for success in law. Most famous people who hardly know you can't really write about those things. Go ask your professor and/or boss for a letter. Better yet, plan early to impress at least 1 professor and/or supervisor enough that you'll feel comfortable asking for a rec letter when the time comes!

Q: So I'm taking the LSAT cold tomorrow, anything I should know?


Q: How do you study for the LSAT effectively?

A: Here's the general consensus:

entris posted:

General LSAT Strategy and General Questions
The LSAT has five multiple choice sections and one writing sample. Forget about the writing sample, it is largely irrelevant for your purposes. It doesn’t impact school rankings, and law school admissions people don’t particularly care about it. Of the five relevant sections: 2 are logical reasoning, 1 is reading comprehension, 1 is logic games, and 1 is experimental.

Question: Should I try to guess which section is experimental?

No. The experimental section will come in one of the first three sections of your test, before the break, but you should not try to guess which section it is. It is nigh impossible to determine which section is experimental; even people who are very familiar with the LSAT are unable to guess accurately.

Question: Should I guess on the LSAT?

Yes. When you are nearing the end of your time, make sure you set aside time to fill in the remaining questions. There is no penalty for guessing. Always pick a guess letter ahead of time, so that you can just quickly bubble in that letter when you are running out of time.

Question: Is one letter statistically better than others when guessing?

No. The people who create the LSAT spend a lot of time analyzing the questions. They would never allow one letter to occur more than the others, so don’t listen to any rumors that “B is the right answer 22% of the time!” or somesuch. Just pick a letter you like.

Question: How much time do I need to study?

This is somewhat dependent on your own personal quirks. Generally, you want to shoot for a minimum of 16 hours a week, for a couple of months, leading right up to the test. The LSAT is a standardized test, and it is very very difficult to improve significantly. Most people experience an immediate improvement, when they learn a few little logical tricks that they didn’t have before, and then they plateau for a while. If you want to see real improvement, and not just a small bump of five points or so, then you need to understand that studying for the LSAT requires consistent effort.

Take the LSAT seriously. It is a difficult test, and you should approach it like you would a difficult research project or paper – you will have to learn lots of little concepts, then bring those little concepts together into a cohesive structure. Then you have to take that structure and apply it under timed conditions. This process takes time – more than a month or two. I heard once that one of the LSAT makers stated that he believes people should study for six months if they really want to do well on the test. Most prep courses run for two to three months, and most students see improvement in that time. The key to studying is to give yourself anywhere from two to six months, and to study consistently.

It is important that you study a little bit every day, rather than a whole bunch of hours on one day. If you study every day, you train yourself to quickly drop into the LSAT “mindset.” The easier it is for you to get into the LSAT mindset, the calmer and clearer you will be. Then, on test day, you can sit down and get to work without needing much warm up time. If, on the other hand, you only study once a week, you aren’t practicing that transition. So, study consistently, even if it is just a little bit at a time. Obviously, if you can put aside three or four hours a day, that is great, but not everyone can do that.

Question: What’s the best way to spend my study time?

The first thing you need to realize is this: the LSAT requires you to think in a particular way. If you are not used to thinking in this way, you will need to practice it. The second thing you need to realize is that there are actual concepts that you need to learn for the LSAT. You must understand how basic logic works: you must understand the significance of words like “if,” “only if,” “unless,” “necessary” and “sufficient.” Therefore, in the beginning of your LSAT studying, it is far more important that you learn the underlying logic of the material, rather than trying to speed through a bunch of old practice exams.

Your study session should look something like this:

1. Pick an area of the test you want to focus on: Logical Reasoning, Logic Games, or Reading Comprehension.

2. Pick a concept in that area that you want to focus on. Let is assume you chose Logical Reasoning for #1. Now you decide, what kind of questions do I want to practice today? Do I want to practice inference questions? Parallel reasoning questions?

3. Review your study materials for that kind of question.

4. Do practice problems that only use that question type. Repeat the questions a few days later. Repeat them again if you do your other homework and find you have some free time.

This is the general process. You have to break the test down into manageable pieces, and spend time mastering each piece. If you take a complete LSAT section, you will not be learning the material in a systematic way; instead, you will be testing yourself on a random collection of concepts, and this isn’t going to help you focus and master each concept. So, use study materials that organize questions around central concepts. As mentioned above, the PowerScore books are generally the best self-study guides available.

Additionally, keep in mind that you are learning: A) how to answer questions accurately and B) how to answer questions quickly. You will only become quicker by understanding the concepts, and by understanding how to apply the concepts in an efficient manner. Your study materials should have all sorts of helpful tips on how to become more efficient.

Do not be afraid to repeat questions! You will not remember every question, and it is helpful for your brain to walk through the same steps of logic, because it makes each step easier. Repeat a logic game at least three or four times before you decide you are completely done with it. Each time you do it, you will learn something, I promise.

Question: What should my emotional experience be like, when I’m checking my answers?

I’m glad you asked! This next bit of wisdom is not mine, but comes from an expert in this field. There are only two emotions you should feel when you check your answers: complete surprise or complete apathy. When you do a problem, you should go over every answer choice and either eliminate it or select it. If you cross of an answer as a wrong choice, you should have a reason for crossing it off. Do not say “Oh, it seems wrong.” Do not say “Oh, I feel like it’s wrong.” You should say to yourself “This answer choice is wrong because it supports the argument and I’m trying to weaken the argument. This answer choice supports the argument because ______.” Similarly, you should have a reason for why you selected your final answer for the question. Do not guess when you are studying.

So, let’s say you have gone through the five choices, and you have gone over them and over them. You should now be absolutely certain that you have the right answer selected. There should not be any doubt in your mind. If you are not certain, then do not go to the answer choice. Review the question. Review the argument. Review the answer choices. Once you are certain you’ve made the right choice, only then should you check your answer.

When checking your answer, you ought to be so completely sure of your choice that checking the answer seems like a waste of time. If you get the answer correct, your emotional response ought to be something like “Of course that’s the answer, why did I bother checking?” If you get the answer wrong, you ought to be completely taken by surprise. Getting a wrong answer, while you are studying, should be a shocking, shocking experience.

You should never check your answer, get it right, and feel relief that you got it right. That just means you weren’t certain, which means you didn’t really understand the question.

Perhaps now you understand how it is possible to spend hours and hours studying. If you do it with this process, you will really immerse yourself in the material.

Additionally, you should make sure that the reasons you gave for eliminating wrong answers and selecting right answers are the same reasons that your study materials give for those answer choices. If you eliminate D because you think X, and your study material tells you that D is wrong because of Y, then you just got that part of the question wrong.

Question: Should I study “easy” questions? I should just study the questions that I don’t get right, right?

You should study every question type, both easy and hard. Your goal is to be as efficient as possible. Easy questions should take less time, hard questions should take more time. In a typical Logical Reasoning section, you will have about 1.8 minutes per question. Some hard questions are going to take longer than that. Where do you get that time? From the easy questions! It is easier for students to improve their efficiency with easy questions, which is why it is important to improve techniques for those questions. It is a lot easier to shave 20 seconds off of an easy question than it is to shave 20 seconds off of a hard question. If you can shave 20 seconds off 3 easy questions, that frees up 1 minute for a harder question later in the section.

A lot of natural high-scorers think that they can skip the easy questions in their materials, because they can get those questions right. Remember, the issue isn’t whether you can simply get the questions right. The issue is: Can you get the right answer in the shortest possible time? For example, a student who scores in the mid-160s may be able to get the first ten questions correct in 40 seconds each, but if he can shave the time down to 30 seconds each, that’s a free 100 seconds for later in the section. Well worth the study time.

Incidentally, special truncated courses that are targeted for “high scorers” are generally in violation of the above principle, and should be avoided for that reason.

Question: Should I ever take timed LSAT sections from old exams?

Yes. Although the bulk of your studying should be a slow, laborious process, there is a place for taking timed LSAT sections. You should take a full LSAT at regular intervals in your studying – something like 6 total timed exams for your total studying period. This will help you gauge where you are throughout your studying. Please note that students typically score six to eight points higher on self-administered timed LSAT practice exams. If you really want an accurate diagnostic experience, you should have someone else proctor the exam for you, and you should do it in an unfamiliar environment. Doing a full, timed LSAT at your desk at home, where you start the timer, is going to skew your results in your favor.

You should also take timed LSAT sections if you suffer from anxiety about the time pressure. If you are learning the material just fine, but the time constraints are wrecking your focus, then taking timed LSAT sections can help you adjust to the pressure. Simply being more familiar with the pressure can help. (If you suffer from really strong test anxiety, consider consulting with a professional therapist about that.)

Other than these two reasons, there isn’t really a good reason to just repeat old LSATs. You learn very little and you waste a lot of time that could have been spent studying more efficiently.

Question: Should I take a prep course? Should I hire a tutor?

Probably. Prep course and private tutors are expensive, and you can buy old LSATs and other study materials from Amazon. There are a couple of reasons for doing a course. Courses generally organize the material for you, so that you don’t have to waste time putting together your own study schedule. If you are the kind of person who needs structure in order to stay focused, a live class is the way to go.

In theory, course instructors are supposed to be attuned to the individualized needs of each student; your instructor should be able to give you good, specific feedback for your issues. You, the LSAT novice, are not going to know where your weaknesses are. You may think to yourself, “I’m bad at games, those are my weaknesses.” But an instructor will give you more specific advice: “Hey, I’ve noticed that you have trouble setting up games in a timely manner, let me give you some ways to improve that piece of the game process.” You may not always be aware of your weaknesses. You may not be able to figure out how to diagnose your little issues, and an instructor should be able to do that for you.

A course is also going to cover (hopefully) everything you need to know, and you will be forced to learn things that you otherwise may ignore. (For example, a course will cover the “easy” questions which you may not think you need to study.)

Also, most courses will conduct formal, timed old LSAT exams. This service is invaluable, because you will get a real test experience and can truly gauge how you are doing.

Hiring a good tutor is always useful, especially when combined with a formal course. 1 on 1 attention is always great, and a good tutor should be able to give you really personalized advice.

Logical Reasoning

Logical reasoning questions will comprise 50% of your exam, and so they are very important. There are many, many different types of LR questions, and you should become familiar with all of them. You should spend a lot of time working on LR questions. Most people want to spend most of their time on the games, but in my opinion the bulk of your time should be spent here.

Since there are so many different types of LR questions, you should consider a formal prep course that covers all of them. This is one of the reasons that a prep course can be helpful.

The general process for the logical reasoning questions is this:

1. Read the question stem first: Skip over the paragraph and read the question below it: “What is the conclusion of the argument above?” etc. You want to read the stem first because it will tell you what kind of question it is. Once you know the type of question that you are dealing with, then you read the paragraph. This way, your mind will already be on the lookout for the relevant information.

2. Read the paragraph. Pay particular attention to words like “all,” “every,” “none,” “if,” “unless,” “only if,” “some,” “most,” etc. These words will play important roles in the argument. As you read, keep in mind what the question is asking you to do.

3. If the paragraph presents an argument, identify the conclusion of the argument. This is absolutely key. If you do not know what the conclusion of the argument is, then you need to re-read. Do not proceed without the conclusion. (Some paragraphs will simply be statements of fact that you must draw a conclusion from, and you needn’t identify the conclusion for these questions.)

4. Evaluate the argument. Make sure you understand the relationship between the premise(s) and the conclusion. If there is a flaw, this is when you spot it.

5. Prephrase an answer. Dependent on the type of question, you should already have in your head a sample answer. If you can’t predict the answer at this point, then you haven’t understood the argument and you need to reread.

6. Finally, go to the answer choices. First look for your prephrase, or something similar to it. If you have no luck, then start crossing off answer choices.

This is the general process. There are many special processes for the various LR question types, so the technique varies. Generally, however, this is the process that you should go through with every question.

Reading Comprehension

You will have one section of RC, with four passages. One of these passages will be a comparative passage question, where you are given two short passages and asked various questions that compare the two.

Some courses will teach you about the various templates that the LSAT uses for its RC passages. These are sometimes helpful. You will see passages that discuss a specific artist or writer, and or passages that evaluate a proposed solution to a particular problem. You will see passages that discuss an academic movement. If you are familiar with the basic templates, you will sometimes find it easier to read the passages, but the real work for RC studying isn’t memorizing templates.

The real work is learning to active read. Active reading is a fancy way of saying “Think while you read.” As you read a sentence, think to yourself “What does this sentence mean? How does it fit with what I read before? Is this an important piece of the structure of the passage, or is it a detail? Is this important?” Active reading means that you really understand how the passage fits together, structurally, and you understand the overall purpose of the passage.

Most people think that underlining or highlighting equals active reading. It does not. Think of it this way: If you come across a sentence that you think is important, and you underline it, you are telling your brain: “Please, make sure that my hand and fingers accurately manipulate this pencil so that it draws a line under this set of words right here.” You are not saying to yourself “I think this is important because _____.” You are not saying to yourself “This important sentence means _______.” So, when you get to the end of the passage, you have a number of important sentences highlighted but you can’t remember what they actually say. This means you have to go back and reread your highlighted poo poo. What a terrible waste of time.

Instead, make a note to yourself in the margin. If the sentence is the author’s main point, maybe rephrase the author’s main point in your own words. Jot down your rephrase, and maybe make a note to yourself that it is the MP. So, you would have a note that says “MP: Author criticizes Impressionists.” (You must use shorthand: “MP: Auth crit Imp.”) Now you have a useful note that you can use for reference later.

You should make further notes for any important topic sentences. If an entire paragraph is about Aztec art and symbolism, and Aztec art and symbolism are not mentioned anywhere else in the passage, note down “Aztec.” Now if a question asks about Aztecs, you know where you can go to reread. The purpose of the notes is to create a series of signposts for the passage, so that you can instantly reread the relevant portion and locate any details. You should never try to memorize details, you can always reread to find them. If you have good notes, finding the important details will be quick. Incidentally, skim over sentences that are giving examples or details of broader points. Skim over long explanations of scientific processes. You will reread those parts if you need to.

By making notes in this manner, you are engaging with the passage in a way that underlining does not. You will finish the passage with a much clearer idea of the structure and general flow of the passage, which will help you answer questions. Do not be afraid to reread! If a question references a specific line number, you should reread. If a question references a small detail, you should reread. The key to saving time while rereading is actively reading the passage the first time around, and giving yourself guides for finding information in the passage.

Logic Games

You get four logic games per LSAT, which comes out to roughly 8.5 minutes a game. Some games will be easier, and you should do them quickly so that you can devote more time to the harder games. Here’s the general process:

1. Identify the game type. To do this, read both the paragraph and the rules. Is it a sequencing game? A grouping game? If you can identify the common game types without much thought, you will be able to set up the games much quicker.

2. Symbolize the rules. You should spend a lot of time decoding rules and learning how to symbolize them. You don’t want to reread the rule in English a bunch of times, so learn methods for turning them in to shorthand.

3. Make some initial deductions. Do the rules combine in a meaningful way? Can you figure out where certain variables can go? Generally, you want to front-load your effort by figuring out how the game works before you go to the questions. Often, if you find a meaningful deduction up front, there will be a question or two that uses that deduction.

4. Go to the questions.

Review the PowerScore games book, or whatever materials you have. There are lots of game types, but they are easy to familiarize yourself with. Remember, take the time to really learn the mechanics of the games. Don’t rush through them to see if you can do them in under 8.5 minutes. The two easiest ways to save time on games are to improve your set-up and improve your rule symbolization.
Q: My GPA is X.XX and my LSAT is XXX. What are my chances at getting into _____ law school?

A: Law school admissions - especially outside the T14 - are very, very number-heavy. That is to say, almost all law schools are generally much more interested in your LSAT and GPA than your extracurricular activities, work experience, letters of recommendation, and admissions essay. That's not to say that these other things are irrelevant, or even unimportant. But unlike undergraduate admissions, having absurdly high test scores and GPA will get you most of the distance in terms of law school admissions.

Having said that, the process is not completely numbers-based. If your GPA/LSAT index (a mathematical composite of the two numbers, the exact calculation of which varies from school to school) are anywhere above the 25th percentile for a given school's applicant pool, you will go into a "maybe" pile and a human being will read your application. This is where your brilliant writing skills, the professors that wrote love letters about your brilliance, and visiting with Mother Teresa during summer break will come in--they're still no guarantee of anything, but they definitely help.

So what are your chances? Look at Law School Numbers for an idea of where you'd be competitive. This grid isn't the Final Judgment of God, of course--not only will your extra stuff get read at some point if you're at all competitive (see preceding paragraph), but bear in mind that to some degree you can "buy" GPA points with exceptional LSAT points, and vice versa. However, there is no hard and fast rule about this, and your results may vary depending on how many times you took the LSAT, the quality and competitiveness of your undergrad institution, the law school you're applying to, etc.

The bottom line is this: if your GPA/LSAT are at or above the 50th percentile of admitted students for a given law school, don't be afraid to apply. If you're above the 25th percentile and can afford to apply to a lot of schools, go ahead. If you're below the 25th percentile, save your time and money and consider a lower-ranked/less-competitive law school.

Case study: let's look at a LSN graph for Vanderbilt, a very good school just outside the T14:

Keep in mind these are self-selected data points, but the trend is undeniably clear. In the vast majority of cases, applicants in each of the three regions got the predictable outcome.

Why did I parse out the T14? Because those schools have such a wide pool of excellent applicants that they can afford to pick and choose a little more and the lines are subsequently fuzzy. Nonetheless, a 3.9 / 178 is likely to get in everywhere (except maybe Yale or Stanford, which are never sure things).


Linguica fucked around with this message at 18:16 on Dec 18, 2010

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

3. Choosing A Law School:

Q: Where should I go to law school?

Law school is not like undergrad, where geographic location was something of an afterthought. Where you go to law school has a huge influence on career placement and reputation. Most graduates from a school stay in that area, and most law firms in that area will recruit heavily from the nearby schools. It's always helpful to ask yourself not only the national rankings, but where the school stands in the region.

For example, in the world of Los Angeles lawyers:
2. USC
3. Loyola
4. Pepperdine
5. T2 Schools from out of the region they've never heard of
6. Southwestern
7. T3/T4 Schools from out of the region they've never heard of

Exception: Biglaw firms can/will recruit nationally from all the T1/T14 schools. If that's your goal, then go to the highest-ranked T1/T14 that you can.

Always ask yourself: Will an interviewer know of/have a connection to my school?

Generally speaking, do this:

1. If you don't care at all where you practice, go to the highest ranked school you can, leaning towards schools near a big legal market.
2. If you want to practice at a large Biglaw firm, go to the highest decently ranked T1/T14 you can OR the highest ranked school you can where such firm is generally located (LA/NY).
3. If you want to practice in a certain region, go to the highest ranked T1/T14 you can OR the highest decently ranked school in that region.

Here's the overall results of a dumb study a while back that looked at school quality based on ease of finding a biglaw job as well as the "eliteness" of those jobs:

The study also broke it down into different "regions" and compared schools according to their placement within that region. Some of the rankings look weird as hell (Vanderbilt placing better than Chicago or Michigan in the midwest, WTF?) but remember it's based on where students actually work. For instance basically every school in the "East South Central" region is southern - not because firms there would never hire a Yalie, but because essentially zero Yalies work there.

Region 1: New England—CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT
Region 2: Mid Atlantic—NJ, NY, PA
Region 3: Midwest—IL, IN, MI, OH, WI
Region 4: West North Central—IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD
Region 5: South Atlantic—DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV
Region 6: East South Central—AL, KY, MS, TN
Region 7: West South Central—AR, LA, OK, TX
Region 8: Rocky Mountains—AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY
Region 9: Pacific—AK, CA, HI, OR, WA

Q: What is this "T14" I keep hearing about?

A: The Top 14 law schools in the U.S., as ranked by USNews&World Report. Why 14 and not 10 or 15 or whatever? While schools swap positions from year to year, supposedly no school in the T14 has ever been ranked lower than 14 since USNWR started publishing rankings, making it a convenient indicator of the "established" best schools. (However, try telling that to the schools that barely miss the cut...) Some people get really really annoyed by the T14 appellation, for what it's worth.

The T14 schools are the most likely choices to get any given student a good job, but a list of what might reasonably be considered "national" law schools would also probably have to include Texas, Vanderbilt, UCLA, USC, George Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, Fordham, Boston College, Boston University, Notre Dame, and maybe a few others like Emory and Howard. So basically, "T25" would make more sense probably.

Interestingly, the US News rankings used to list "T1" as the top 25 schools, "T2" as 25 through 50, "T3" as 50-100, etc down to T5, before they started merging the tiers. Today the list actually doesn't even mention "T1" and "T2" using this thread's standard definition of 1-50 and 51-100, respectively, instead merging them all into a boring "top 100".


Q: How much does a law school's ranking matter?

We've gone back and forth over this a lot in the threads. Here's the lowdown: going to a T14 school may not guarantee you the job of your dreams, but at worst you'll be in the "maybe" pile of nearly every employer in the country. On the other hand, going to a lower-ranked school--both <T14 and in the other lower tiers--doesn't mean you'll be unemployed, but it does mean that you'll have to work harder to get noticed by employers, either by bringing home perfect grades, or by networking with alums, or by expanding your skillset (e.g. into patent law, tax law, or another speciality). There are failure stories from top schools and success stories from low schools.

So, in a wishy-washy conclusion: Your law school's ranking may not determine your destiny on its own, but it will make a big difference on your career outcomes. Choose carefully.

Q: Does a school's ranking affect how high I need to keep my grades?

A: Absolutely. If you're at a Tier 1 and up or so, then feel free to drop out of the top 5%, just don't slack off too much. If you're at a lower-ranked school, the impression that I've got from people in the field is that you will constantly be held accountable for your grades, even years after graduating. This is ridiculous and elitist and so forth, but sadly it seems to be the case.

Here's a second-hand comment: "We have a cutoff for each law school. The one for Chicago is around top 33-50% (!), but for your law school [which was then in the 3rd tier, now tier 2], it's top 5%. We like you a lot, but you'll never get past the hiring committee. Sorry."

Example 2: "Friend of mine did combined MBA/JD at a T14 school. First year had brilliant grades, easily top 5%, law review, etc. But he tanked a lot of his business and 3L classes, and definitely fell out of top 10% by graduation. He's changed jobs once already, and had no trouble getting either job (and also got a slew of other offers)."


Q: I got into a T14/Tier 1 school, but they didn't offer me any money. I also got into a T2/T3/T4 school, and they offered me a huge scholarship! What should I do?

Look at all scholarships from lower tiered schools VERY closely. Remember that B+ curve I mentioned that all the top schools have? Lower schools don't have that. Their GPA mean is usually around a B or lower, and is especially harsh your first year. If your scholarship is dependent on your GPA then there's a VERY good chance that you might lose that scholarship after just a year. Then you'll be at a lower tiered school and you'll still be in debt with very few options that will get you a ton of money.

Q: I want to make money. T14 or somewhere else?

Go to the T14 if you have the option and you're going to school primarily to make money. If being a small town lawyer has always been your dream then this matters less but if you're thinking you want to work at a large firm, whether it be in NYC or some smaller market, the T14 will always make that path easier for you. Also, if you you're aiming for a Supreme Court clerkship or you want to get a job that sounds like it might be hard to get (all you soon to be "international lawyers" out there!) - you're going to need to be at a top school, otherwise you're probably not going to get that prestigious internship working for the United Nations or the Rwanda Criminal Tribunal or whatever else you had in mind.

Rankings matter a ton and as long as you're not a total social retard, what options are available to you depends almost solely 1) On where your school is ranked (or its location, if its a lower school) and 2) what your GPA is.

If you're at a T14, your GPA matters to some degree - you're probably not going to be an associate at Cravath or Wachtell or numerous other top NYC firms if you're not at the top of your class- but you still have a decent shot to get a firm job if you want it.

HooKars posted:

I'm slightly below the median GPA-wise at UVA, which is a lower T14 school, and I'm still at a firm ranked in the top 50. I have friends with GPA's lower than mine that are working at big NYC firms as well, and then there are people who went for smaller markets - like Seattle or St. Louis. They all have big law firm jobs however and the only person I can think of who graduated without a job, also never participated in on campus interviews or interviewed anywhere at all. It may not guarantee you a job IF you're a total social retard who can't form a sentence or you actively don't make any effort at all to find a job - jobs don't fall in your lap here unfortunately, you still have to interview for them - but if you're a normal person who goes through the appropriate steps, you're going to get a big law job at a T14 (* unless the market realllly tanks).

Knowing that you'll have a job when you graduate, combined with the B+ curve that the top schools have (which allows you to pretend you're doing well even though secretly a B+ is just average) - makes for a very stress free 3 years. I hear people talk about how hellish law school was and I can't even slightly comprehend this - I've had a great time and for me, it's been about as stressful as undergrad.
To put it in perspective: there probably something in the neighborhood of 4-5,000 new "market-paying" ($160K starting salary) lawyer jobs in a good year. This is not going to be a good year - summer hiring of law students is already looking to be way, way down. There are also something like 45,000 law school graduates every year.

Q: But I'm going to be in the top 10% no matter where I go, so I'll still get that job...

The farther down the rankings you go, the more your GPA matters - that's when things get stressful. Top 1/3, top 10%, top 5% depending on how far down the ranking's you're going. While it's easy to tell yourself that you're going to be top 10%, realize that EVERYONE else is going into school thinking the same exact thing. Your chances of actually being in the top 10% are not all that high and it'll take a lot of hard work to do that. In fact, it'll take more than hard work and learning the law - it'll take studying SMARTLY, teaching yourself how to take a law school exam, and you'll still be at the whims of your professor's grading.


You aren't the only one who got unlucky on the LSATs or didn't understand that the rankings really mattered or who bombed in college but are now willing to work their rear end off to get that good job and make good money. Everyone is going to be pretty much just as smart as you - you can't count on being the rose among dandelions, even at a T3 or T4.

Q: What if I want to take a year off before going to law school?


A2Z Blog posted:

About a month ago, one of our 3Ls, who works as a peer advisor for Michigan undergrads considering law school, asked me my opinion on a question he gets a lot: "What post-college job would be an impressive bullet point on a law school application?" As it happens, my answer was in complete accord with his advice. Don’t you love being able to sincerely agree with people? Such a pleasant thing. Anyway, here’s how he put it: "[M]y advice is usually to tell them to do whatever they want, unless what they want to do is play video games on their parents' couch. I'm doing this basically under the theory that a lot of these kids are taking a year . . . off because they're burned out, and that working 60 hours a week as a paralegal just because they think working at a farmer's market doesn't seem serious enough for a law school application isn't the best move." He went on to explain that the woman he had been talking to most recently "had a pretty impressive [and] consistent history in environmental science[,] working for various groups, and I think she just wants to move out somewhere warm and work on trails or do something in The Nature, as my Eastern European friends like to refer to it. But she's talked to a few law students who have essentially told her that she should take a paralegal or ‘legal assistant’ job instead of doing that, because her application will suffer if she's not doing Real Work. And I told her that was silly - I figure, students should feel free to take the year off and do whatever they want. Obviously if they have an opportunity to go to Sudan on a Fulbright, they probably shouldn't take a job at Blimpy Burger and live at their old fraternity instead, but that within the range of experiences you can have with only 8-9 months of free time, doing whatever you think is going to make you happy is the best thing to do.

Now, I should add two caveats. The first is, the advice changes once we’re talking about jobs that last longer than a year or two; at some point, you’re investing a largeish chunk of your life in some endeavor, and it’s reasonable for both you and an Admissions Office to expect that you’re getting something identifiable out of the experience—some return on the investment.

The second caveat is one I shared with my e-correspondent: “I do think it's good to have a sense of what you're getting into when you embark upon being a lawyer. There are many ways to get that sense, however, and a paralegal job is certainly not a sine qua non to having the requisite knowledge. But if someone is thinking, ‘I kinda think I'd like to be a lawyer, but I'm really not sure what lawyers do,’ then that person might be well-served to get some answers to that question, and paralegaling is one way to do so. But that's about the applicant's well-being, not about the applicant getting into law school.” And then I added: “I'd also say that there are certainly many paralegal jobs in this world that are fun, and that add to one's knowledge base, and that aren't 60 hours of work per week. I worked for a sole practitioner, for example, and I learned a ton and he's still the best boss I've ever had. But I took the job precisely because I wanted to decide whether I really wanted to go to law school, not because I wanted the job to get me into law school. It served the function I wanted it to serve.”

Q: Should I / Can I transfer after my first year at {crappy school here}?

First, don't GO to a school intending to transfer. To transfer to a top school, you will generally need to be in the top 10% after your 1L year. That is NOT EASY. Perhaps you are the blooming flower who can pull it off, but it is not a career plan -- it is a gamble. I remember one student boasting about his transfer plans on the FIRST DAY of law school. He failed his first exam, and the top 10% was already out of reach. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT PLAN TO TRANSFER. IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW CAPABLE YOU ARE - LAW SCHOOL GRADES HAVE A LARGE ELEMENT OF LUCK.


Linguica fucked around with this message at 20:07 on Mar 21, 2011

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

4. Law Student stuff:

Q: What is law school like?

Q: How do you succeed in law school?

Welcome to law school! Know that:
  • You have already been lied to by your school about your employment chances and salary.
  • It isn't nearly as hard to get into law school as universities / law students / lawyers would have you think.
  • Your LSAT score and GPA are not an accurate predictor of your class rank.
  • Everyone thinks they are a smart special snowflake who will be in the top 10%.
  • A significant percentage of your classmates are smarter / more studious than you.
  • However, this fact will probably not stop them from cheating.
  • People who do not work as hard as you will nonetheless get better grades and better jobs than you.
  • To a frightening degree, your grades (and future career) will be determined by factors outside your control.
  • You are probably going to come out of law school a less interesting person than you were going in.
  • Your career services center will probably range from slightly incompetent to outright abysmal.
  • Once you graduate and do the math you'd probably have made more as a plumber and be happier to boot.
  • If the above is not true about your income, then prepare to kiss your non-working life goodbye for the next few years. Odds are good that you'll burn out far before you make partner (assuming you ever had a shot at making partner in the first place, lol).

helio posted:

When you are trying to find a job (during On Campus Interviews during the fall of your 2L year, anyway) the three things, and only three things that matter are:
  • Your full 1L year GPA
  • Whether you are on law review, and not any other journal
  • What kind of job you are trying for, i.e. Biglaw, midlaw, public service, etc.
The only grades that matter are your 1L grades. At a T14, a huge chunk of the class has a good shot at a biglaw job paying market. At a T2, only the top 5-10% do (maybe top 25% if you have an truly stellar personality). I am not saying this to try to belittle lower ranked schools; it's just the way it is. That's why rankings matter so much. There are two consequences of this. First and most obvious, you need to get a really good GPA. Second, all of your classmates know they have to get a really good GPA. So whereas at a T14 where people get drunk and don’t care because they’re getting the job they want anyway, at T2s everyone is gunning for top 10%. This means you need to work harder than you ever have before.

This brings me to your question about what you can do to get a leg up. In spite what my previous paragraph might make you think, studying before law school is THE SINGLE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO TRY TO GET A LEG UP ON YOUR CLASSMATES. IF YOU TAKE AWAY ONE THING FROM ALL THIS, PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND DO NOT START STUDYING. The reasons for this include:
  • You won’t be studying what the prof wants you to focus on
  • You won’t know how to read a case. How you figure out how to read a case is: read it, think you know what is important, go to class, have the prof explain what is important, and go home and rewrite your case notes to reflect what is actually important. After about 8-10 weeks of this, you will finally start picking up the right way to do it. It is a VERY STEEP learning curve. Be patient and do not get frustrated. Everything clicked for me three weeks before finals. It took me 12 weeks to loving get it. I am top third of my class. You will be fine.
  • You will burn yourself out because by the time finals roll around you have spent 8 months or more on the material rather than 5 and you are loving sick of it. It reflects in your grades.
Let me reiterate: The people who uniformly did the WORST first semester were the ones, based on gunner status and overprerparedness, that you would THINK would have done the BEST. Do not be this person. You are smarter than them.

So, what the hell can you actually do to make sure you have the highest grades possible? I did almost none of these, but you are going up against other students who give a poo poo, so here is the recipe for actually doing well.
  • Go to class. Never skip. You want to know what the professor thinks is important and this, as explained above, is the only way to figure out how to read the cases correctly
  • Take hand-written notes. If you can’t stand doing that, find a way to disable your internet on your computer. I shouldn’t need to explain why.
  • Buy E&E Glannon for Civ Pro and use it as a companion during the semester rather than as a study tool at the end. Get E&E for torts as well. I would suggest a good contracts hornbook but my prof was Kingsfield reborn so I knew that class back and front. You probably don’t need a crim hornbook.
  • Get 2 to 3 GOOD OUTLINES from 2Ls or 3Ls for all your classes, keyed to your specific professor. Use them throughout the semester to make sure you are not missing any big points. Only use them after you have done all the reading on your own each day.
  • Do all the reading before class, otherwise class will be boring and make no sense.
  • Brief cases if you must, but I would give this up as quickly as possible. It is a waste of time
  • Personally, I highlighted cases using the following scheme: Yellow=facts; orange=holdings and key terms; purple=important dicta; blue=black letter. This made it easier to do outlining when the time came because I could just look for orange and blue
  • If the prof holds an optional midterm for christ’s sake take it. Ask for feedback and meet with the prof if he or she doesn’t give it.
  • Start your outlines a week before thanksgiving break. Use your reading notes, class notes, old outlines, and hornbooks in conjunction to make your own personal outline that you are comfortable with
  • Finish your outlines at least one week before your exams start; preferably two weeks
  • Take one practice exam from each of your classes, untimed, and fully IRAC (issue, rule, application, conclusion) the exam. Try to spot every issue and do a full analysis. Then set up a time to meet with your professor from each class and send them a copy ahead of time to mark up. They will explain what you need to do to improve
  • Take at least one timed test in each of your subjects under test conditions (i.e. closed book if that is what the class calls for). If possible, have the prof look over these as well. If not, try to find another student and grade each others’ exams.
These last steps are, in my opinion, the steps that set the top students apart from the rest. These are the students who are the most familiar and comfortable with their outlines and the subject matter in general. These are the students who know how to take law school exams, and more importantly what the professor wants in an answer. These are the students who will provide better analysis that gets the A answer because they already have the more basic stuff down cold, while other students are scrambling to finish their outlines. This is why you need to think big picture and be fresh for the last month. If you spend (waste) your time during the summer getting burned out and not actually improving your chances of getting good grades, you will not want to put in the work when it actually counts.

Also try to go out, drink and make friends. Being a depressed loner will not help your grades. Don’t skimp on sleep and don’t get sick. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and the only thing that matters is at the end, so go steady for three months, don’t wear yourself out and sprint to the finish.

Linguica posted:

I did really well in 1L, so I guess the stuff I did worked. Here was the basics:
  • I went to EVERY class. Well, that's not entirely true. I did skip one conlaw class in mid-spring so I could submit something before a deadline.
  • I got into the habit of studying EVERY day. In late October there were wildfires in San Diego and the school shut down for a week. The first day it shut down, I realized that I had been in the campus library every single day since school had started in mid-August.
  • I raised my hand a lot. There are a lot of people that will resent you for doing anything other than sitting there like a lump. Whatever. I paid $40K for my 1L and if I wanted to ask / answer questions I was going to. (Although I tried not to ask pointless poo poo or waste everyone's time, and I only raised my hand when I honestly had a question / answer, not just to hear myself talk.) And although I can't prove it, I wouldn't be surprised if I got a grade or two revised upwards by a professor who appreciated that someone was at least pretending to be interested.
  • I didn't go to office hours, mostly because I never really could think of anything that I wanted to go ask them. I probably should have though. A classmate that had above a 4.0 the first semester went to practically every office hour.
  • I didn't use outlines until I was studying for finals. When I finally read the outline, I felt stupid for spending so long trying to figure stuff out when all the answers were spelled out in the outline, but I am sure it forced me to actually learn it instead of reading it and going "OK I think I know it now."
  • I tried my hardest to not gently caress around on my laptop. In two classes (Civ Pro and Con Law) I didn't even use my laptop and just used pen and paper.
  • The biggest help in studying for finals was finding sample exams wherever I could. Certain schools (UC Hastings and Pepperdine are two I remember offhand) have a lot of old exams and sample answers publicly available on their websites. If you read a bunch of old exams and answers from other schools, you get a good idea of what sort of stuff comes up all the time, and how good answers are structured and what they make sure to spend time on.
  • You might be saying, "wait a minute, this sounds like you were a big gunner" and my answer would be, yeah, I guess. But there are big gunners at every school, and if you want to beat them, you can't do it by lying around all year and then cramming for two days.

Res Ipsa Blog posted:

1. Get advice from 2Ls and 3Ls who are successful in the areas you want to be successful in.
There are a number of ways to be successful in law school. You can make the highest grades, become an acclaimed advocate, or become an editor for a law review or law journal. An important key to being successful in law school is getting advice from students who are already successful in the areas you want to be successful in. Every law student wants to make good grades, and high grades, more than anything else, are rewarded upon graduation. Find students who are at the top of their class and find what worked for them, how they managed their time, and how they prepared for their finals. Find students who have had the professors you are taking to get an idea of what to expect and what the professor expects of you. If you want to focus on honing your litigation skills, seek out a mentor who has been on a national mock trial or moot court team. If you want to become an editor on law review or a law journal, focus on improving your writing skills, pay attention to detail, and find someone who already is on a journal to learn about what it is like being on a journal and tips on effectively managing your time.

2. How you do on the final is much more important than how you answer a question in class.
The Socratic Method strikes fear in the hearts of 1Ls across the nation every year, and it is easy to be caught up in just reading for class to make sure you can answer the question when the professor calls on you. However, knowing the minutiae of every case is not what is going to get you the best grades, you need to be able to step back and see the big picture, so don’t sweat it if you get an answer wrong in class, but make sure you understand why you missed it, and focus on preparing for the final.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Every year brave young law students start their outlines from scratch. While there is utility in analyzing cases and creating your own outlines, especially when you first start studying the law, the time you have available to you in law school is limited. Make the best use of your time by using existing outlines as a starting point, which you can then tweak and make your own. Conversely, you will never want to rely solely on someone else’s outline. Make sure you agree with their conclusions and summary of the law. When in doubt, consult with your professor.

4. Get to know your professors.
Law schools pride themselves on low student to professor ratios and as a result most law school professors have the opportunity to get to know their students. However, it is up to the students to take advantage of this opportunity. Take the time to meet with professors when questions in during the semester, rather than waiting till the end of the semester to approach them. There are students who never set foot in a professor’s office do very well on their exams. Just because they haven’t been in the professor’s office doesn’t mean they haven’t spent the semester getting to know the professor. Successful students seek out prior exams or model exams that the professor has made available, and contemplates questions that could arise while they study, so that they know what to expect on test day.

5. Get to know your law librarians.
Law librarians are a great resource. They know how to use online resources like Westlaw and Lexis, as well as print resources better than probably anyone else in the law school. They are also there to help you find what you are looking for. There are numerous databases and resources that are often overlooked by even experienced researchers or lawyers that law librarians are familiar with. They can also assist you in forming good Boolean searches, give you search tips, and point you to the best starting point for your topic.

6. Find time for yourself.
Law school will likely be the most challenging endeavor you will have undertaken at this point in your life. It is important, now more than ever, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular sleep patterns and exercise may seem hard to fit into your schedule, but are even more important now that it seems like you don’t have time for either.

7. Use technology wisely.
The smaller the laptop, the better. You law school books are going to take up a lot of space and the last thing you need is a 17 inch laptop to lug around every day. Back up your work religiously. Email yourself documents that you are working on at the end of each day. On the weekends, back your laptop up to external drives or at the very least to a thumb drive. Finally, use a free service like Mozy to back up your documents on a regular basis.

8. Master the law school exam.
Your entire grade for a law school class is often based on a single final exam. Master the law school exam process: and Getting To Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams.
At the very least, pick up old exams and do practice questions under timed conditions. Also, be aware that very often commercial outlines go into areas of law not covered by your professor, so to maximize your study time, seek out old exams or practice questions from the professor, the law school library, or other students. Law school exams usually consist of a long fact pattern followed by a series of questions. There are often no right or wrong answers. You are getting graded on spotting issues and them analyzing the potential outcomes. The facts usually come down somewhere in between two or more cases you looked at in your reading so you will have to compare the facts presented with fact patterns you came across in your reading and then predict how the court will come out. The prediction isn’t what you are graded on; it is the analysis of the facts and law that leads to your prediction that is graded. If you don’t correctly spot the issue, you lose the opportunity to get points for either the analysis. A very simple way to think of a law school answer is set forth by the IRAC Method: Issue, Rule of Law, Analysis, and Conclusion.

9. Consider joining a study group.
Going over the material with another person or a small group of people will help you hash out concepts, and ensure a thorough overview of the subject. Study groups sessions should be secondary to extensive individual study, so as a group you can focus on practice questions, clarifying issues, and making sure you have hit all the main concepts.

10. Don’t underestimate the value of after-class review or overestimate the value of reading for class.
After-class review is as important, if not more important than reading for class. Reviewing after class ensures that you completely understand the material. It should be the third time you are covering the material, the first being when you read before class, and the second being when you went over it in class. After-class review also allows you the opportunity to take any questions you still have on a topic to your professor for clarification. After class review sessions are also the perfect time to review and make notes to your outline.

Q: What are some good supplements for 1L classes?

CivPro: E&E / Glannon, the end.
ConLaw: Chemerinsky, the end.
Torts: E&E (BUT watch out for product liability)
Property: Understanding Property Law (Lexis Nexis), Gilbert
Contracts: E&E, Farnsworth
Crim: Understanding Criminal Law (Lexis Nexis)

Q: Okay, I worked hard all year and made the top 10%. NOW should I transfer?

Possibly! Some things to consider:

  • 2L OCI will be more difficult for you. You have no track record at this new school. If employers wanted someone from your old, crappy school, they would have interviewed there. However, if you are persistent and continue to excel, you should find a position. You can also go back to 3L recruiting once you have a track record. Speaking anecdotally, some employers appreciate the independence and drive you have to demonstrate to work your way up the ladder.
  • Ask yourself what school you'll want a degree from in ten years. You can bank on the prestige of a T14 law degree for the rest of your life, across the entire country. Your T3/T4 will only have a regional reputation, and probably not a very good one -- and you'll still be a Cooley grad for the rest of your life.
  • Your GPA will likely be as high as what you had at your old school. Your 1L grades are not counted in your new GPA. Your new school's GPA curve is probably heavily inflated. You are competing against distracted 2Ls and 3Ls who already have jobs. [2]
  • People are not really any smarter at a T1 / T14 school. The straight-A students will be more impressive, sure, but viewing the class as a whole, you won't notice a real difference. Don't be intimidated into thinking you're about to enter a whole new level of competition. Do not feel like if you are top 10% at a T2 you will only be average at a T14. If you are top 10% at a T2 you will certainly be capable of being top 10% at a T14 -- you have shown that you have the drive and abilities necessary to excel.
  • Social networking - if you thought 1L year was like high school, prepare to be the "new kid" at a high school that nobody knows. All the cliques and social groups have already formed. You will have a hard time meeting people. You can still do it, but it's hard.
  • Law review. Make sure you ask about the transfer law review policy before you jump. Most top schools have a separate transfer write-on competition with approximately the same acceptance rates as native 1Ls. Some like Harvard, however, do not. If that's something you want to do (and it probably is, you transfer gunner you), make sure it's available.
  • Money. There's a good chance that your current school is about to shower you with scholarships. Be skeptical. If you go to a T1 / T14, you will have a much better shot (see chart above) at that biglaw job where you can pay loans off. This is not a sure thing at your current school. Discount appropriately.


According to the 2005 LSSSE Annual Report, transfer students were less likely to:
  • Perceive their relationships with other students to be as positive as students who did not transfer.
  • Work with other students outside of class to complete an assignment.
  • Have serious conversations with students who are different from themselves.
  • Discuss ideas from reading or assignments with others outside of class.
  • Work on a paper or project that required integrating ideas.
  • Participate in cocurricular activities.
P. 14-15. The report continues, "These findings underscore that many of the strongest student relationships are formed during the first year of law school before transfer students join the campus community." (p. 15).

Q: LLM, what's the deal?

Q: Should I try to split my summer between two firms? posted:

Even after twenty-five years as a law firm recruiter, I'm still surprised when a summer associate decides to split a summer between two law firms. No matter how much law school and law firm career professionals advise against this, the conventional wisdom among 2Ls that a split summer is a good idea remains. Two jobs, the thinking goes, surely looks better than one; and isn't the split a way to improve one's chances of a job offer?

The reality is that the halves don't necessarily equal a whole, and dividing your time between two law firms might hurt your job prospects.

Diminishing Your Chances

From a law firm's perspective, there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t consider this option. Here are a few:
  • You will spend 6-8 weeks in direct competition with students who will work 10-12 weeks. The ones who work longer get more time on more assignments, longer and stronger relationships with lawyers, more opportunities to fix mistakes or improve bad work, and more time to become more integrated into the firm. You get less time for training and fewer events to learn about the firm and bond with its lawyers.[list]
  • It is extremely tough for recruiters to pace a summer program smoothly for both six and a 12-week time frames. If we have associates splitting the summer, we frontload the program to allow everyone to experience the best training and events. The second half can seem less interesting and less substantial for those of you going to a law firm in that time.
  • Once the second stint starts, you are tired and less focused, because you’ve just crammed a 12 week program into six. And maybe you've had to move from one part of the country to another. I’ve seen it firsthand: splits who join in the second half have diminished stamina, and yet, they’ve had to start all over again to compete with others who have are with one firm for the entire summer. All but a tiny minority of my summer associates who split regret their decision when it is time to move on.
  • Also, you never know when some personal emergency will arise. Should something happen, you'll lose time and opportunities at both jobs. This has happened to several of my summers in past years.
Hedging Your Bets

If you're already in a split this summer, how can you truly hedge your bets and improve your chances of nailing a job offer? Here are a few tips.

At the first law firm: Track your matters every day, and be prepared for conflicts check that the second law firm will require; submit the details about the work assignments to the second firm as soon as possible to allow you to begin work quickly.

At your second law firm: Connect with your second summer class during the first half. If you ask your second firm for the names / contacts of your classmates, they'll happily provide them. This is a way to build relationships before you arrive at the firm, and show interest in the activities that you're not there to take part in. Also, stay in touch with the recruiting professional at the second firm from time to time to ensure you've got everything you need

At both law firms:
  • Take care of yourself, physically and mentally. We encourage our summers to remain physically active, by going to the gym or through some other activity. Focus on a healthier diet, especially during the day when you're working.
  • Work hard and fast. Jump out of the box on summer assignments, taking short, substantive fact-based assignments whenever possible. It will build your "book" more quickly and demonstrate your commitment.
  • Don't waste a lunch hour--find a lawyer to lunch with every single day. Build every relationship you can, as quickly as you can.
What's In Store this Fall

Law school colleagues tell me they're hearing increased interest in splitting as a reaction to the economy. This might pose some problems, since I'm also hearing that fewer employers are going to accept splits across the country (even in Texas where splits have been the market culture for years).

We see who does/doesn't go with two firms on the NALP employer forms, which are published and available on line through NALP's website. Usually, the exceptions will most frequently be for students who spent the previous summer as 1Ls at another firm and have to return to keep an offer alive.

Remember, for the reasons detailed above, and more, employers dislike the practice. And in this economy, we don't have to accept split summers and the problems that come with them.

"Yale Law School Career Services Office, this is for [u posted:

YALE LAW STUDENTS[/u] not your average joe, but anyways they"]
Students are frequently in the position of having to decide among numerous summer job offers. Should students take advantage of the opportunity some employers offer to split the summer between two employers, spending 6 to 8 weeks at each position? The consensus in CDO is that splitting during the first-year summer may not be a good idea, but splitting during the second-year summer may be a wise choice. Yale statistics seem to mirror this advice. Over the last five years an average of 12% of first-year students have decided to split their summer while 33% of second-year students have split their summer.

First-Year Summer

For most 1Ls, their first-year summer job will be their first legal experience. It may take some time to become acclimated to the work environment, to the process of conducting research, and to dealing with fellow attorneys and support staff. Additionally, the importance of securing good references and a writing sample can be particularly important during this time because of the potential need for them when applying for second-year summer jobs.

Second-Year Summer

By the time their second-year summer rolls around, most 2Ls will already have had some experience working for a legal employer. This experience, coupled with an additional year of school, usually provides a level of confidence that will enable a student to hit the ground running during the summer. As a result, second-year students often find splitting their summer to be a wise choice if they feel the need to explore several workplaces.

Potential Pros
  • Opportunity to explore two different jobs. This is especially helpful for students who are trying to decide between a public interest or private sector position or are set on pursuing public interest but wish to spend part of a summer exploring a private sector position.
  • Ability to expand your network of contacts. Working with different employers increases your chances of meeting people with similar career interests who can serve as mentors and contacts in your future job searches.
  • Greater likelihood of working on a variety of different types of legal projects. While each project may not be very in depth, you will be able to explore a number of legal issues during the summer.
  • When working for one employer for the entire summer, a few students have been known to get a little lazy towards the end of the summer and not perform as well as they did in the beginning of the summer. By limiting the number of weeks you are with one employer, you may avoid that problem.
  • Opportunity to investigate more than one city.
Potential Cons
  • Insufficient time to thoroughly explore the position. It takes time to really see what the attorneys at an organization do, what the culture of the place is, and what it would be like to work there on a daily basis. Six or so weeks may not provide you with sufficient time to take in all this information.
  • Inability to secure a strong reference. Your opportunity to work on a significant project with an attorney who will get to know you and your work product sufficiently to serve as a strong reference may be lessened. It may be more difficult to develop strong mentor relationships as well.
  • Failure to create a strong writing sample. A good writing sample requires attention on your part and on the part of an attorney willing to assist you in revising your work product. This may not happen in 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Less time to rehabilitate in the event of a misjudgment/mistake. Everyone makes mistakes when starting new jobs. However, when you only have the opportunity to work on a handful of projects with a limited number of attorneys, your error may take on greater significance.
  • Logistical problems associated with moving to a new city and finding new living arrangements.
Deciding Where To Go First

Many employers will require that you spend the first half of the summer with them because there is a perception that students do better work during the first half of the summer and are more likely to accept an offer. Employers provide orientation programs for students arriving at the beginning of the summer. You may wish to work for the employer in which you have a greater long term interest during the first
half of the summer.

Summer Program End Dates

When interviewing with employers, inquire about the length of their summer programs. Some employers have surprisingly early end dates, as early as August 1. You are not going to be able to spend the second half of the summer working for an employer with an early program end date.

Conflicts of Interest

If you will be working for more than one employer in the summer, be sure that both employers are aware of your employment plans. It is likely that you will be asked to participate in a conflicts check to determine whether the potential for a client conflict exists. It is important that you do not reveal any confidential information. If you have any questions when participating in the conflicts check, consult with your employers.
Q: What happens if I don't find a 2L summer job / don't get an offer?


Q: Should I study abroad for a semester to gain all that sexy international legal knowledge?


A: No. A thousand times no. Study abroad in law school is expensive and useless. If you want to see the world, buy a drat plane ticket and go. You'll be able to do a lot more for a lot less than what study abroad programs charge. Law firms don't care about the A's you got in your study abroad courses. Everyone knows that those grades are handed out like candy because it helps recruit more idiot 1Ls who think it's the easy track to padding their lackluster GPAs.

Study abroad, especially in the summer, also means you aren't out in the market finding/working a job. When 2L OCI rolls around and you spent your summer vacaying in Thailand while your peers were clerking for a local judge or interning at a county prosecutor's office, guess who isn't getting a job?

There are two types of people who study abroad in law school:
(1) Guy with lovely grades who needs something, anything to put on his resume, no matter how inane and stupid that thing is.
(2) Guy who wants to spend his summer drunk, pretending he's still in undergrad and the "serious" stuff will start next semester.

Neither of those people is going to succeed, so don't be that guy.
- BUT -


Notwithstanding the "work during the summer, don't travel" advice, which is spot on, this is entirely wrong. Study abroad is what you make of it. I know lots of people who did study abroad in law school, had great times in interesting places, and have been successful outside of school. Hell, it's something I wish I had done when I had the chance. It's in no way a "black mark" on your resume; to the contrary, it helps you get jobs because hiring partners who have traveled take notice if you've been to the same places, and you can bet you'll be one of the interviewees that said partner remembers well if you have a chance to chat about your experiences in places you've both been. That said, it's best to do it at a time that doesn't interfere with interviews and whatnot, and you shouldn't pass on moot court, journal membership, or a particularly valuable clinic for it.
Getting that Clerkship

Data is for 2008 graduates. Comes from

So, you've done the law school overachiever thing, gotten good grades, made law review, and all that good stuff. You want to take the next step on the path to resume glory... you want a clerkship.
  • What is a clerkship?

    Being a law clerk is different than being a clerk of court. You're not the person that sits in front of the judge and calls cases, etc. You're research staff for the judge, and may or may not also be writing a lot of the product that comes out of chambers.

    Basically, it's post-doc for law students.

  • Why do I want one?

    You will learn a lot. You will make connections among the judiciary. You get to sit on the other side of the bench for the last time for 10 or so years, at a minimum. You get to see a LOT of lovely lawyers, and feel better about your own abilities. You get to practice your writing.

    You get to lord it over everyone else for all time.

  • Which one do I want?

    That depends somewhat on your intended practice area. The correct answer, regardless, is "appellate," preferably D.C., Second, or Ninth Circuits, unless you're an IP person, in which case, Federal Circuit.

    After that, there are certain other clerkships that count almost as much as an appellate clerkship. These are district court clerkships in S.D.N.Y. Get those.

    However, if you want to be a bankruptcy lawyer, there is no better position than a bankruptcy court clerk, and this trumps everything else. Same for tax lawyers and the tax court.

    IP people who aren't hardcore enough for the Federal Circuit should consider patent-litigation heavy districts, such as E.D. Va., E.D. Tex., N.D. Cal., and D. Del.

    Other than that, try to get a district close to where you want to practice. No one's going to be impressed by the District of Idaho clerkship you had except for Boise (and possibly other, nearby) employers.

  • What clerkships don't I want?

    State trial judges, unless you have your heart set on working for the local DA or as a PI attorney. Even then, probably not.

    Federal Magistrate Judges. You aren't real clerks, won't get paid a bonus by a law firm, and will have to write nine billion social security appeals.

    Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Hey, what's that? UCMJ, but by civilian judges? SIGN ME UP!!!

    Generally, avoid any specialized-jurisdiction court unless you like the field.

  • So I have a clerkship, now what?

    Congratulations, big boy! You get to be a badass. Expect to get paid a decent but not stellar government salary (GS-11 step 1), but have that made up for by a law firm signing bonus, which is now $50,000 from the best firms.

    Also, the DOJ Honors program looks upon you very favorably, if that's your thing. Same for a lot of fellowships and nonprofit stuff. After all, you just stamped your resume with yet another "I kick rear end" mark, which, for entry level attorneys who don't have any real skills or experience, is the best thing you can do.

  • I want to clerk for the Supreme Court of the United States!

    God help you if you're reading this thread. If you're good enough to do that, you don't need to ask someone from the Internet.

    However, if you're curious, the traditional way is to work for a "feeder" appellate judge who will then recommend you upstairs, possibly after a cage match between his/her 3-4 clerks.

    Non-traditional ways include going and being a professor for a while first or obtaining a Bristow Fellowship and trying to trade up. All require tremendous amounts of badassery, and more than a small amount of luck and knowing the right people and professors. Godspeed, goon. Prepare to have your hopes dashed.
Q: What sort of job should I be trying to get?

If you're already in law school, read this entire article. It is depressing and it will make you think. This is good. Better to feel a little scared and depressed about potential life decisions then to blindly make them and feel depressed 4 realz.

Q: How do I pass the patent bar?

Elotana posted:

1. Be a nerd under the age of 30 who can intelligently construct search strings based on unique phrases, if you are old or not a computer nerd ask one to help you (they don't need to know anything about patents or whatever)

2. Download the MPEP (individual PDFs for each chapter) and Acrobat 5 (it's what Prometric uses) and make your screen resolution tiny so your interface will be similar to what it is on the exam

3. Go here and spend a few hours walking through the 2003 repeats so you can be :smugdog: and answer instantly when they give you a recognizable repeat question, this will also get you familiar with what to search for each subject

4. Take the patent bar: Congratulations you've passed!

Note the complete absence of "prep course" or "patent electives" or even "knowing jack poo poo about law and/or engineering" in this method.

Q: I have a shitload of debt, what do I do?

Well, the USC School of Law has one solution: posted:


10-8 posted:

Starting in July 2009, individuals with federal student loan debt will be able to enter into the Income-Based Repayment option. IBR caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your "discretionary income." This option is the most student-friendly repayment option ever offered. It's similar to the existing Income-Continent Repayment and Income-Sensitive Repayment options, but with more favorable terms, i.e., (1) they define "discretionary income" as a smaller piece of your gross income pie, and (2) they take a lower percent of your discretionary income.

Anyone is eligible for IBR after July 2009. The math is complicated and if you want an exact number, go here for a IBR payment calculator. But the math works out to about 12% of your current gross income. Here's the catch: they calculate your IBR payment from your 1040 tax return, which states your previous year's income. This means you can effectively knock off a few percentage points because you're paying 12% of last year's gross income. I ran some numbers and it works out to about 10-11% of your current gross income depending on how big of a raise you get each year. Your payment goes up each year as your salary increases, but it always stays at that relatively constant percent.

Now, IBR only works for federal loans, so by itself it's worthless. But, like Voltron, IBR combines with the new (as of 2007) Federal GradPLUS loan. The GradPLUS loan is available to law students and has no dollar cap. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus the amount you get from Stafford and Perkins loans. Essentially, if you do it right, you can graduate with 100% federal debt, and then mitigate that debt through IBR.

The IBR payment is capped, even if your debt is so large that your capped monthly payment is lower than the currently accruing interest. If this happens, your unpaid interest is capitalized onto the principal. Note that this could be a hazard if you later jump ship into private practice and start making big bucks. You'll end up paying more than you would have if you had just paid on the straight 10-year plan that Copernic quoted. But if you want to stay in moderately low-paying public interest jobs for your career, IBR will allow you to do that.

After 25 years of timely payments (10 if you are in public service/government), your remaining loan balance will be discharged.

Let me put it this way: I paid for my own undergrad, law school, and now LLM. I'm graduating with an obscene amount of debt, in excess of $200,000. But my monthly payment will still be only 10% of my gross income (plus a negligible amount of private loans from undergrad), and after 10 years it'll all be discharged. That's a government bailout worth about $325,000, according to the IBR calculator.

Linguica fucked around with this message at 01:01 on Dec 21, 2010

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

5. Life in the Legal Profession, Odds and Ends

Q: What's it like to work in (city XYZ)?

Mookie posted:

New York tends to have later "start times" for the office (usually 9:30 - 10:30ish) compared to the west coast, but also tends to expect later hours for face time. Generally, the offices there are the largest of the firm, even when it isn't headquartered in New York, and will think that they are the most important, even when their overall business generation, hours generation, and success rates lag other offices (at most firms, even NY-based ones, the Silicon Valley offices tend to be the most profitable, not New York). Anecdotally, making partner in a New York office is more difficult to do, but that might simply be because of the initial size, etc.

New York offices will have every sort of case/deal imaginable, but tend to be very heavy on M&A and large bankruptcies and similar financial dealings (also with a lot of investment/banking client base).

Los Angeles is an odd city to practice law in; despite being the second largest city (in population) in the United States, LA is a very middle-market sort of town. Relatively few major corporations are based there, and cases pending in the local courts tend to be for out-of-area matters relative to other cities. Strangely enough, though, the LA-based firms are much more financially sound and respected than the San Francisco/Silicon Valley ones, for the most part. Expect to see a relatively larger amount of "soft" intellectual property (trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, etc.) and entertainment-industry related stuff (lots of contract and employment disputes, along with the soft IP). There used to be a huge amount of real estate financing work in LA (and Orange County), but most of that died with the economy.

San Francisco is the legal capital of California, and the West Coast in general. The Ninth Circuit is based there, as is the California Supreme Court. Additionally, the vast majority of major companies located in California are headquartered in or near the city as well, giving a steady client base. Likewise, the tech industry in Silicon Valley and the governmental-affiliated industry in Sacramento are readily accessible. Additionally, San Francisco is the major western financial center, with most of the region's banking and investment firms in the city. Add to that the large amount of patent-related work in the Northern District of California, and you have the recipe for a major legal market (which is significantly out of proportion to the relative population of the region).

The problem with San Francisco is that, on average, its law firms are very poorly run and relatively weak compared to other cities' law firms. This is seen in the large number of famous San Francisco law firm collapses- Heller Ehrman and Thelen this round, along with Brobeck in the last downturn. The reason for this seems to be that, more so than most other markets, San Francisco firms seem very susceptible to various legal "fads" that end up going bust and sucking the firms down with them. For example, a major portion of Brobeck's business was based around (1) riding the dot-com bubble and (2) riding the securities litigation wave that occurred in the late 1990s. When both of those dried up, the firm died and splintered into a number of pieces. Tower Snow still has no work.

More generally, San Francisco is a legal market that the sane will be avoiding right now. There are a LOT of out of work attorneys competing for jobs, and it will take a number of years for the market to soak up the excess regional capacity. Not only are there the people looking for work in the aftermath of the Heller and Thelen collapses, but the San Francisco (and Silicon Valley) offices of a large number of firms have been very hard hit by recent layoffs.

Washington, D.C.: Proximity to the federal government is the real color for the local practice here. There's a lot of practice groups that really can only exist in significant numbers in DC- tax controversy, government contracts, international trade regulation, lobbying, and similar administrative law work. The other unique feature of DC practice is the much larger revolving door into the government; unlike many other cities, where going to work for the government is considered a different career path from law firm work (sort of like in-house work), DC treats it a lot more like any other temporary lateral move.

DC offices of firms are generally not the most important firm offices; having a lot of unique practices (typically with relatively low billing rates/hours) tends to not only isolate you from the larger firm power structure but also get you seen as prime candidates for "cut the entire group loose" status. That said, because it is all local and its own thing, you're usually pretty insulated from the larger positive (and negative) currents of the firm as long as your group has decent local rainmakers.

For all you stereotypical goon nerds, there's also a somewhat overlooked patent/IP practice in the DC area, although it often tends to be subordinate to the out of town big guns. For patents, there's the Fed. Circuit, the E.D. Va. and D. Del. on your doorstep, with the NoVa tech corridor out in McLean and the like, as well as the ITC, which is rapidly becoming a preferred patent venue. The difficulty, as I mentioned, is that you're usually someone from out-of-town's in-firm local counsel. However, if the ITC continues to play its central role in patent fights, I'd expect the IP center of gravity to shift somewhat to DC over the next decade or two.

Chicago: Welcome to the primary BigLaw city between the two coasts, kids. As a result, the larger Chicago offices will tend to be pretty well-diversified, since they need to serve a pretty large geographic region, with some pretty large clients in the area.

That said, in the downturns, it is my impression that Chicago offices tend to get hit harder than other offices; perhaps this has to do with the business model of the local firms and how they do leverage (or fail to do up and out on people in the good times), or perhaps the work dries up faster as the local clients seek the security of NYC firms. I don't know, but I do know that even hardcore profit centers in Chicago like Kirkland & Ellis have fired attorneys in this cycle, and Kirkland even shitcanned some of its income partners (read: senior associates). The other big (but not as $$$$$$$$ LOOT $$$$$$$$ as Kirkland), Winston & Strawn and Sidley Austin, both have made similar cuts and pay freezes, etc. Take that for what it is worth.

Again, to emphasize the IP work, it is much less than Northern California or New York, but there's always something interesting rattling around in the N.D. Ill., and, depending on the reach/notice of your firm, you might get to go play in the Western District of Wisconsin, which is, like E.D. Tex., one of the patent-heavy jurisdictions.

Houston: You'll do a lot of energy law. Also, Texas is a weird legal market because it is pretty insular from the rest of the country, both in terms of firms and in terms of hiring. It's almost as if Texas likes to think of itself as a quasi-independent nation...

That said, you'll live like a loving KING working in Houston; the pay is pretty comparable to the coasts, and the cost of living is miniscule. If I had any connections to the state, I'd really consider working there.

Atlanta: I don't really know anyone that works in private practice here, only a couple of in-house guys at CNN and Home Depot. I do know, however, that Atlanta associates are CONSTANTLY bitching on Above the Law about compensation compression and general fuckery from local firms. Usually more so than the general compensation bitching on that site.

Q: What does a lawyer do all day?

Phil Moscowitz posted:

On a recent day this last week, I got into the office around 8:30 since I had hearings in state court at 9:00. I had oral argument in four cases, all in different sections: (1) motion to compel discovery (my motion); (2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (other guy's motion); (3) motion to sever (my motion); and (4) motion for summary judgment (my motion).

After briefly reviewing my pleading clips on the three cases, I headed off to court and signed in at each court's docket. Each judge has a sign in sheet and I noted the docket position of each of my cases and whether my opponent had signed in. This allows me to juggle each appearance--if I am #24 and there are several summary judgment hearings ahead of me, I'm probably safe going to another courtroom for the time being.

My motion to compel is unopposed, so I explain that to the judge on the record, she reads the proposed order I've prepared, and signs it. One down.

On the motion to dismiss, my opponent is in the courtroom so while the judge is hearing anoter case, we go outside to talk things over.

His client is an out of state company that stiffed my client on a $250,000 contract to build a barge. He's arguing that since we solicited his guy to build the barge and his guy has no presence here, the court has no jurisdiction. Think International Shoe Co. My guy gave me an affidavit to the contrary, so I'm arguing sufficient minimum contacts and fundamental fairness. Think World Wide Volkswagen and BK v. Rudzewicz.

Problem is, his client is on radio silence with even him and he needs more time to talk over the factual disputes in the duelling affidavits we've both submitted. I'm not one to jam a guy, so we agree to a continuance.

Motion to sever--the claims are all unrelated but joined because the plaintiff attorney is lazy and cheap and didn't want to spend a filing fee on each one. He also didn't file an opposition to the motion, nor did he show up for the hearing. The judge listens to my brief presentation of the case, agrees with me, and grants the motion to sever. I try to get her to toss out a few of the cases on procedural grounds but she would rather I do that in each individual case so I agree to submit a judgment.

Motion for summary judgment--not a complicated issue, but basically the plaintiff signed a settlement agreement at mediation prior to filing suit. Now he claims that he doesn't speak english, didn't understand what he was signing, and wants another bite at the apple. I get home-towned by the judge who is buddies with opposing counsel, but that's okay, my client is cool with taking this one up to the appellate court. Not that we'll win there, but more work for the plaintiff attorney = lower fee-to-hour ratio = pressure to settle.

I get back to the office just before lunch, and the mail is here so I go through it quickly. Several little file stamped pleadings, a demand letter, some bar association and CLE poo poo, and the jewel--an opposition appellate brief. I review the brief for a while and am genuinely happy...argument cleanses the spirit and reading an opponent's pleading always gets my blood going in anticipation: how he is wrong, how I managed to conceal the weakness in my argument enough for him to overlook it, how his blue booking is sloppy and his best case law is from some random circuit across the country, and how I will approach the oral argument...

After lunch, I call a client about the threatened foreclosure and judicial sale of his vacation home--long story short, the other lawyer does real estate and I don't but this is a firm client we are helping so I do my best and learn along the way. No agreement is made but the line of communication is opened.

The other day, I went through all my files and dictated a long as memo to myself for periodic status reporting purposes, so I go back to that memo and start chipping away. I knock out a few letters and form motions, check my email, then get with my secretary to figure out what else is on the burner. My secretary has scheduled some upcoming depositions for me and even drafted the depo notices for my signature without being asked--she is a doll.

About a dozen client reports and a few emails later, it's 5:00 and some of the lawyers and staff are going to happy hour. After a drink with them, I head out to a meeting with a potential client. He's a professional artist with some real chops, and I'd like to get some of his business. He's also a friend, so we meet over a few drinks to work out the scope of representation and shoot the poo poo for a while. I'll record this time, but not bill it--it's client development.

I get back to the office around 6:45, check for any phone messages, and grab a redweld with a new file I just inherited. Over the weekend, I'll watch football and analyze the file in preparation for drafting responsive pleadings and discovery. I'm home by 7:00, ready for a martini and the weekend.

Q: What if I want to work for the federal government?

stingray1381 posted:

There are lots of reasons why working for the federal government is a nice idea. You'll get regular pay increases, a predictable work week, good benefits, job security, and, depending on the agency, the work can be very interesting.

So, how much will they pay me?

Let’s get the most important question out of the way first. I am going to generalize here, but the following is pretty accurate for most federal attorney jobs. You'll most likely have a General Schedule pay grade anywhere from GS-11 to GS-15. Most newly minted attorneys start at GS-11. Within each pay grade are 10 steps with each step being a little higher pay. If you're fresh out of law school, you'll most likely start at GS-11, step 1, which is around $50k-60k depending on where you live. From there you'll move up.

Before you are hired, you'll be told your career ladder, which is essentially what grade level the job maxes out non-competitively (meaning without competing with other applicants). You'll learn that most good journeyman federal attorney jobs max out at 14, but lots of jobs in the DC area (like the Department of Justice “DOJ”) track up to GS-15. That means you'll have a non-competitive career track to GS-14 or 15. There are some jobs with less responsibility that only go up to 13 or even 12. Check out and poke around for more info on the General Schedule.

Where you live matters as well. Someone in Chicago will be making more than someone in Topeka. For reference, here is the General Schedule for different localities:

One more thing, much of DOD uses the National Security Personnel System, but after the recent Defense Authorization Act, it is going away. Most likely DOD will be back using the General Schedule shortly.

Give me an example of how the General Schedule pay system works:

Johnny, the happy 3L, graduates from UVA in the top 25% of his class and gets a job with the Department of Justice in D.C. as a staff attorney. His career ladder maxes out at GS-15. He comes in at GS-11, step 1 making $58,206. After one year he is evaluated, and he's doing great. He moves up to GS-12, step 1, where he's making $69,764. The next year he's at GS-13, step 1 and the year after he's put at GS-14, step 1. In D.C, that's a bit over $100k, which isn't bad for some guy three or four years out of law school. After he reaches GS-15, step 1, he’s at about $125K in DC, not including regular cost of living increases that federal employees get. So, he's reached his max grade level, what's next? Then the step increases will come into play. You can see how the step increases work right here:

What are the benefits like?

They are pretty good. The health care is solid, but you do pay a portion of the premium with a co-pay. Blue Cross is the largest federal government employee health insurer, so it will be similar to what you get in other good private sector jobs.

You'll also have access to a Thrift Savings Plan account, which is a fantastic 401(k)-type plan for federal employees with really low fee investment funds. You now immediately get a 5% match to your contributions upon entering federal employment. There is also a pension-like plan that I won't get into. Both of these retirement benefits together are part of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). You can Google for more FERS information if that's important to you.

Vacation time is nice as well. When you start you'll be getting four hours for every two week pay period. After three years this jumps to six hours and after 15 years it goes to eight hours. Sick time accrues at a rate of four hours per two week pay period as well. You'll also likely get flexible scheduling and some federal jobs even have work-at-home. Certain federal jobs also have overtime, which can mean substantially more money.

What exactly will I be doing each week and for how long will I do it?

It varies greatly. Many federal agencies have staff attorneys and also attorneys working for the general counsel of the agency. The staff attorneys will write, perform research, draft contracts, agency decisions, etc., while other attorneys handle administrative litigation. (Note: The Department of Justice is generally the only agency that can represent the federal government in federal court. So, if you're doing litigation for an agency, it usually is in administrative tribunals or as an assistant to the DOJ lawyer). Really though there are lots of different jobs in the federal government, and what you will be doing will vary by agency and job title. Read the descriptions on USA Jobs. They aren't normally very well-written, but they will give you some idea of what you'll be doing at each job.

As far as the hours you will work, it also varies. I've worked for a couple of agencies, and I never really went nuts with hours unless there was some particularly large project or trial. If you're at DOJ and you have a trial coming up, I guarantee you aren't leaving at 4:30 every night.

There's a catch, right?

The biggest problem with working for the federal government is that you can pretty easily acquire a narrow set of job skills that are only useful for other federal jobs. So, unless you want to stay with the federal government for the rest of your life, you'll always want to keep an eye out for other opportunities. Again, there are many exceptions, and lots of jobs do give you skills that are applicable to other private or public sector positions.

Also, your life will be much easier if you are already in D.C., or you really want to move to D.C. Although other cities have federal jobs, there are a lot less of them and they are vacant must less often. For example, in Chicago over a 12 month period, there were approximately 12 federal jobs that were available. So, while getting a federal job in D.C. is very hard, other cities are even worse. You're also better off in D.C. as a career employee because you'll have other job options within the federal government if you want to transfer agencies. These opportunities won't exist in other cities.

How competitive is it?

It's competitive. Lots of smart people that don't want to grind it out as an associate head to the Feds. Most jobs (though there are many exceptions, particularly at DOJ and DOD) aren't as competitive as big law firm jobs, but you'll most likely be competing with a lot of high quality applicants. This has been exacerbated by the downturn in the economy.

How do I get a job with the federal government?

Go to and apply away if you're 3L or a graduate. USA Jobs is the federal government’s employment site run by the Office of Personnel Management ("OPM"), the federal government’s HR agency. There are literally hundreds of attorney jobs available at all times.

After looking at some of the application requirements you'll pretty quickly catch on to one of the major criticisms of the federal government hiring process: the KSAs. KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities statement. It's normally three or four specific questions that force you to explain why the agency should hire you. They are tedious and annoying, but you can't blow them off if you expect to be hired. Not all jobs require KSAs, but a lot of them do.

I would also suggest taking a look at the individual agencies web pages. Some agencies, such as the Department of Justice, don't go through OPM, so you won't see their postings on USA Jobs.

As a law student, your best bet is a summer internship and/or trying to get into the respective agency's honors program if they have one and you have the grades. As you can tell by the name, Honors programs are competitive.

As a law student, your best bet is an internship and/or trying to get into the respective agency's honors program if they have one and you have the grades. As you can tell by the name, honors programs are competitive. Ask about agencies' honors program through the agency or through your career services office at your law school.

Useful Law Links

General Law School Info / Discussion
Law School Discussion
Top Law Schools

Law School Rankings / Stats
US News Rankings - Horrible and yet far and away the most important.
Law School Numbers - Put in your vitals, the schools you apply to, and it'll show if students like you got in or not.
LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools
ILRG Rankings
ABA Law School Stats - Has Excel sheets with all the stats for serious number crunching
Leiter Rankings - An alternative ranking system that tries to focus more on academic quality
Yahoo Transfer Apps - Tables of people's post-1L numbers, where they applied, and where they were accepted for transfer. Moderated by SWATJester, oddly enough.
Cooley Rankings

Common Resources
United States Code
Federal Rules of Evidence
Restatements: Westlaw / Lexis

Legal Search Engines
PreCYdent (founded by Linguica's K professor!)


1L, 2L, 3L - First, second, third year law student. An "E" instead of "L" means the person is an evening student.
Gunner - A person who is competitive, overly ambitious and substantially exceeds minimum requirements. A gunner will compromise his/her peer relationships and/or reputation among peers in order to obtain recognition and praise from his/her superiors.
K - Law shorthand for "contract".
T1, T2, T3, T4 - The four "tiers" of law schools according to US News & World Reports. Breaks the roughly 200 law schools into groups of 50, with T1 as the best and T4 as the... best of the rest.
T14 - "Top 14" law schools. Harvard, Yale, Stanford; Chicago, Columbia, NYU; Michigan, Virginia, Penn, Berkeley; Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Cornell. Make up the USN&WR top 14 spots (in some order) every year. Also is sometimes abbreviated: HYS / CCN / MVPB / DGNC which lists the schools within the four "echelons" of T14 (yes, lawyers are very status-conscious).
TTT - Third Tier Toilet. Perjorative term for "lower-class" law schools. Some people consider the top 14 schools T1, the rest of the top 25 schools T2, and everything below that a worthless TTT. Did I mention lawyers are obsessed with their perceived status?
URM - Under Represented Minority.

Linguica fucked around with this message at 02:21 on May 7, 2010

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

6. Testimonials

Ihatesoup posted:

After reading these Megathreads, I'm probably gonna skip law school. Work on getting my Bachelors and working some 9-5 grind. Maybe I'll steer towards marketing, but then I couldn't sleep at night.

If anything, it has saved my years of torment.

Guess I'll be closing the door on Cooley.

Sulecrist posted:

Today, I talked three people out of going to law school. Later, I overheard one of them repeating my comments to two more.

Spheromak posted:

Well you guys have turned me off the idea of law school for good. Now I can go get my arts degree and make the big money sucking dick behind the local walmart. :)

dey see me rollin posted:

I was so set on law school... Well, I'm not so sure anymore. Maybe I'll go for that psychology degree intstead....:smith: Although, I did invest over 1k in Kaplan. gently caress.

Kinuven posted:

I'm actually re-thinking the whole law school thing. After looking at studies, various lawyer-blogs, Bitter-Lawyer, this thread, the condition of the market, et cetera, I'm seeing a pretty bleak picture.

asuhdds posted:

Thanks you bastards, you guys successfully talked me out of pursuing law. Good input, great thread.

korgy posted:

I just found this thread after debating whether I want to pursue a law degree. I am an engineering undergrad and was thinking about becoming a patent lawyer. I now believe that I will not be pursuing this anymore. Thanks for the great OP!

bradmin posted:

final results:

brad gets beaten up on the internet
brad saves $150,000

i'm okay with that.

Ulysses S. Grant posted:

I posted in this thread a few months ago and I'd just like to say now that I have given up on the idea of law school and I'm more interested in a master's degree in economics or public policy (both are probably equally worthless).

Grand Duke Ian posted:

Thanks for the advice goons! Saved me a boat load of bills and 3 years of my life.

Electro Panic posted:

I think this thread just talked me out of Law School. A MPP sounds like its going to be far more interesting, enjoyable and probably useful. :welp:

Jew Bear posted:

I wanted to drop in and say that I was considering doing patent law prior to going to Stanford for a MSEE degree. After reading these threads, I reaaallly don't regret skipping law school. Thanks for validating my existence, boys and girls!

Being in itself posted:

Withdrew today. Thanks thread.

Hellblazer187 posted:

Fully licensed, unemployed. Going back to school for accounting. Should have listened. :(

_areaman posted:

This [thread] talked me out of law school, even after taking the LSAT's and getting recommendations and applications and everything.

Segway Butt posted:

Nice thread, completely talked me out of becoming a lawyer. I had no idea it sucked that bad.

Arcaeris posted:

Thanks to this thread I don't think I'm going to apply to law school.

Mister Fister posted:

Just want to thank all the lawyer goons here in saving me from going to law school and preventing a life of depression/alcoholism :)

Dameius posted:

This thread talked me out of law school and instead I got a government fellowship. The fellowship ran out of money and now I don't know what I'm going to do but its still better than going to law school. If you've made it this far down the OP and still are thinking about applying you are an idiot.

The Warp posted:

[Y]ou guys were helping me with my girlfriend. Well, I figured it's only fair to congratulate you on a flawless victory. With your help, I managed to get her to put law school on hold for a year while she thinks about things and retakes her LSAT. So thank you so much! If you guys weren't handing me the ammo, I don't think I'd have been able to save her life from soul-crushing mediocrity! I had her read all of your comments and I guess that planted the seed.

Spiderjelly posted:

This thread has convinced me not to go through with my plans to take the LSAT and apply to law schools. I'm now reading the FSOT megathread with great interest. Thank you, SA, for dictating my future to me!

Tiax Rules All posted:

I would like to thank this thread for singlehandedly keeping me from applying to law school with a gpa of 3.03. I can only imagine the pain, heartache, and money that this thread has saved me.

Oakdale posted:

Hey guys, I've been checking this thread since December '09 and I just wanted to say that, about 3 weeks before starting law school, I'm pulling out. This includes giving up a most-of-tuition-paid scholarship. The depressing poo poo about employment just kept creeping up on me and I couldn't shake the horrible feeling that I might be getting into debt for a terrible reason. So congratulations, you've swayed another would-be law goon. I guess I'm either gonna go work lovely jobs for a year in Texas and hang out with old friends or teach English in Japan, then apply to grad school for Agricultural Economics. gently caress. I have to get my quantitative score on the GRE higher now... but oh well.

Teddybear posted:

Thanks law school megathread, you insulted some sense into me. :)

Petey posted:

Very rarely does a day go by when I do not thank cthulhu that I did not go to [law school]. This thread probably saved my life.

Enigma89 posted:

Well I want to thank this thread from saving me from a looming doom on my life.

This thread scared me enough where I decided to apply for my masters program in France. I just had an interview with a graduate school in France and got accepted as an international student in their business and management masters program. Instead of paying $150,000 a year for a 3 years JD program. I will be paying a total of 18,000 EUR for a masters program that will set me up with an internship and probable job in Europe.

Life feels great when you have dodged a bullet.

JimTheSarcastic posted:

So given the advice of the thread (and common sense mixed with a little research), I've decided against law school and am using my pre-existing oil and gas experience and networking to pursue a career in that industry. Got myself a great job lined up with lots of room for growth. Consider me a Law School Megathread Success Story(tm)!

PIZZA posted:

Hello lawyer thread, you may remember me from such hits as "I'm thinking of going to law school" and "I have a 3.0 gpa music degree" back in like, April. Anyway, thanks a bunch for the advice, I'm stopping that madness before it starts, I thought some of you would be happy to know.

shovelbum posted:

Thanks for all the advice not to go to law school, 99% set up to start maritime academy in three weeks to study for my engineer's license. School is the same duration, job market is great, and a strong union keeps wages high.

shovelbum posted:

I owe you guys so much for keeping me out of law school! Thank you Law School Megathread, you made a big and legit difference in my life. Now if I could get all these law schools to stop emailing me...

Makochuk posted:

I figured this thread could really use some good news since it's such a depressing place. Regardless of how the rest of my applications turn out, I have officially decided to not go to law school. I was never completely sold on the idea to begin with because of stuff like this thread among other things, but I think that article Tau posted officially put me over the top.

Of course, this means I need to figure out else I need to do after graduation, but it truly seems that even working some poo poo retail job for $8 an hour and having to live at home with my parents for a while would actually be better than investing money into law school and never being able to pay it back (the former scenerio being perferable is what put it over the edge for me). It's going to be hard to convince my parents just how bad law school is, and I'm worried they'll view me as kind of a failure for backing out such a prestigious career (and how to convince them it isn't), but this thread should help and in the long run I'll be better off for it.

I'd like to thank you all for helping me avoid a life-ruining decision (unless you all are simply lying about the horrific nature of law school of course) and I hope this positive testimony of someone avoiding this trap will brighten you otherwise apparantly terrible days of having to be a lawyer (or jobless).

H-Tail posted:

I just wanted to throw my hat into the 'scared away from law' ring, and thank all of you here for giving me the information I needed to realise that however I look at it, the numbers do not work and that by going to law school I would be crippling myself financially forever.

qiubert posted:

a year and a half ago, when I was a freshman with no clue what to do with my life, I stumbled upon this thread and promptly changed my major from pre-law to math and statistics. Thank you Linguica.

AgentSythe posted:

Applied to the USPTO opening. Thanks for saving me 100 grand, Something Awful Forum Posters

Linguica fucked around with this message at 21:09 on Apr 25, 2012

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

Since this is a placeholder, I will shout out to our IRC channel on #lawgoons

<Secret_Asian_Man> i wish i had a koala

Linguica fucked around with this message at 21:28 on Jul 14, 2012

Jan 4, 2009

Proctors are guardians of the sanctity and integrity of legal education, therefore they are responsible for the nourishment of the soul.
A new thread so soon? They grow up so fast.

Ainsley McTree
Feb 19, 2004

Starbucks hasn't responded to my application yet :(

Jan 4, 2009

Proctors are guardians of the sanctity and integrity of legal education, therefore they are responsible for the nourishment of the soul.

Ainsley McTree posted:

Starbucks hasn't responded to my application yet :(

Writ of mandamus.

Sep 17, 2005

Ainsley McTree posted:

Starbucks hasn't responded to my application yet :(

Yeah, the new thread title may be too optimistic.

Ersatz fucked around with this message at 22:20 on May 14, 2010

The Arsteia
Nov 17, 2008

im at the library and a guy just yelped aloud and then apologized to everyone because he just got a job :kiddo:

May 25, 2009
Well, this was the last post in the old thread so I'll post it again here:


Alright law goons, here's your chance to talk another poor soul out of US law schools. I got rejected from Osgoode today, so it's Dalhousie for me, which I'm fine with- that's not the issue. I've been linking the sources you guys have been providing as to how awful the US profession is to my girlfriend (who is American, went to school here which is where we met). She is still thinking about several US schools, the "best" of which being Notre Dame with no scholarships (so insane debt, like 150k plus all told).

I've been trying to convince her that Canada would be a better idea- she's accepted at Dal too. But she wants hard statistics demonstrating it, like the ones that were linked a couple pages ago about percentage of people getting offers and only 3% of firms hiring 3Ls. But I honestly have been looking around and I cannot find anything- I don't know if my Google-fu is just too weak or stats like that are just not obsessively collected like they are in the US, but the Canadian Bar Association doesn't have anything, and I don't know any other organizations that would.

Anyone have any idea where I can get some good information like that?

May 27, 2001

You should take me off the list of Potential Misérables and put me on the list of Class of Never. You can make my blurb something like "Found a job doing what everyone who goes to law school to get into public policy wants to do."

Nov 28, 2007

Sibtiger posted:

Well, this was the last post in the old thread so I'll post it again here:

In case you don't stick around for CmdrSmirnoff to return, here's some of his quotes:

CmdrSmirnoff posted:

It's not as bad but it's not great. Bay St. firms have dumped associates and no-offered some students in the past year, but things are picking up a bit.

FWIW I'm at Osgoode - unemployed for 2L summer so far - and a bunch of my friends are, too. Up to 30% of the 3Ls here don't even have articles lined up, and applications are being accepted for my years' articling period, which they'll inevitably flood with apps as well.

CmdrSmirnoff posted:

For 2L summer, on a continuum from Biglaw <----> Prostitution, whereabouts does being a prof's RA sit? Is it a black mark for future employment? At this point with no job secured should I just take the summer off?

CmdrSmirnoff posted:

I'm seriously considering applying to a legal aid clinic in a town 1700km away, bordering the coldest town in the continental USA. A friend of mine is going back to his construction job this summer. Another is going to try and spend the entire summer high.

So it's not great up here at the momen

CmdrSmirnoff posted:

I'm trying to talk someone out of going to law school on a Canadian law school forum.

It's not going to work - I just realized he has 1100 posts since the application cycle began.


Jan 1, 2007

Mickey Mouse copyright
Walt Gisnep
Application cycle update: Rejected at Yale and Stanford, on the waitlist for Harvard. No, my application wasn't horrible. The new admissions dean at Harvard has waitlisted most of the applicants with numbers like mine or slightly better. Probably going to take the Northwestern deferred full ride and work in DC for a year because that's such an awesome deal. Unless I find some cool job I like and decide not to go to law school.

I also really enjoy fajita burritos from Chipotle, with sour cream and stuff.

Jul 18, 2008
Never asked for the OP update before, but change my Class of 2008 blurb to "Graduate of Minnesota. Was at a big Minneapolis firm, laid off after 1 year, now hopelessly unemployable"

Mar 2, 2004

I swear computers have chips installed in them that detect when you're almost ready to turn in that paper that's the only thing left between you and graduation, and then signal everything else to stop working.

It's all backed up on Dropbox and I think it's mostly fixed now, but there's some Murphy's Law in action.

Dallan Invictus
Oct 11, 2007

The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes, look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.

WaveLength posted:

Is the state of the law profession as dismal in Canada as it appears to be in the States?

Not quite as dismal, since we don't have the same mass of law schools flooding the market. But I'm a graduating 3L (from uOttawa, feel free to add me to the list!), and I and an appalling number of my classmates haven't found placements yet. On the other hand, you won't pay nearly as much in tuition if you're a citizen, so it might still be a worthwhile gamble.

Just realise that it's a gamble. If I'd known then what I do now, I probably wouldn't have gone.

Sibtiger posted:

But she wants hard statistics demonstrating it, like the ones that were linked a couple pages ago about percentage of people getting offers and only 3% of firms hiring 3Ls. But I honestly have been looking around and I cannot find anything- I don't know if my Google-fu is just too weak or stats like that are just not obsessively collected like they are in the US, but the Canadian Bar Association doesn't have anything, and I don't know any other organizations that would.

Anyone have any idea where I can get some good information like that?

Are you two Americans or Canadians? The advice I gave above isn't quite as applicable to international students because they'll pay a fair bit more for tuition at most Canadian schools. I can't find any good stats on hiring for Canadian law graduates either, but you might try looking at the various provincial bar associations and seeing what they might have?

Dallan Invictus fucked around with this message at 01:15 on May 7, 2010

Apr 3, 2006
Add this to the OP:

This thread talked me out of law school and instead I got a government fellowship. The fellowship ran out of money and now I don't know what I'm going to do but its still better than going to law school. If you've made it this far down the OP and still are thinking about applying you are an idiot.

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

new chartz :swoon:

Sep 17, 2005

MoFauxHawk posted:

I also really enjoy fajita burritos from Chipotle, with sour cream and stuff.

Sour cream is an abomination. Tacochat continues.

May 25, 2009

Dallan Invictus posted:

Are you two Americans or Canadians? The advice I gave above isn't quite as applicable to international students because they'll pay a fair bit more for tuition at most Canadian schools.
I'm Canadian, she's American. We will get married if we go to school together, so those will apply, but for a year at most.

Aug 10, 2006

"It wasn't my fault that my first unconscious thought turned out to be-"
"Jesus, kid, what?"
"That something smelled delicious!"

Grimey Drawer

Jan 31, 2003

My LPth are Hot Garbage
Biscuit Hider
I think we have the longest megathread just yelling "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO".

Dec 31, 2007

Fighting blood excels
Why is everyone hating on this man? This is great! "They make take our lives, but they'll never take..."/"Our independence day!"

EDIT: I mean my personal choices are more along this

and this. Special shout out to Soothing Vapors who might appreciate these two.

sigmachiev fucked around with this message at 01:49 on May 7, 2010

May 24, 2003
Linguica do you have a job?

Aug 16, 2004

Ainsley McTree posted:

Starbucks hasn't responded to my application yet :(

I dont want to get you down, but I'm looking for a summer job and saw your post so I applied online and I heard back already, and I live in China :(

Also I should be Northwestern 0L in the OP, assuming the NYU letter that arrives tomorrow is slim and light.

Jul 13, 2000
You're already dead

Ganon posted:

Linguica do you have a job?

Oct 27, 2005
happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy
Finding solid Canadian employment numbers is basically impossible. The best you'll usually find are surveys run by each school's CSO, but even then you'll get like a 40% no-reply rate.

However, while looking, I stumbled on these guys, who are something of a suicide hotline for lawyers. Come check out uplifting newsletters like "Life After Divorce" or "Living with Chronic Pain".

edit: Hey Sib, sucks about the rejection from Osgoode. If it makes you feel better, they just moved to a holistic system and the admission chances have become completely random. Also the school sucks right now because the entire building is locked down and under construction. Even our library was packed away into boxes, though some materials were moved onto stacks in the basement of a nursing building :v:

edit 2: Hireback numbers for Toronto are coming out and...goddamn. FMC only hired 7/14, with 3 of them clerking next year anyway. Cassels got 10/17. BLG did 17 of 25 (29 total students - 4 dropped out). And apparently Blakes is offering short-term contracts to students instead of hiring them. (note to American readers: these are some of our major firms)

CmdrSmirnoff fucked around with this message at 02:14 on May 7, 2010

Incredulous Red
Mar 25, 2008

So I'll be working free for the LA City Attorney's office this summer.

Go me.

May 27, 2001


Linguica posted:


Seriously though, you should put me in the OP as being able to answer why you don't need a JD to do public policy work.

Jul 12, 2004

1st Sgt. Matthews and the men have Procured for me a cummerbund from a traveling gypsy, who screeched Victory shall come at a Terrible price. i am Honored.
To update the OP, I'm back at the Guam AG's office.

Also, last threads' champions:

User -- Posts
JudicialRestraints 716
Ainsley McTree 660
Incredulous Red 475
CaptainScraps 473
evilweasel 463

Apparently UW-Madison needs to assign more busywork.

Apr 5, 2007

Better tear off this bar association logo.
This is a real good thread name. I'm going to Duke. I'ma live above HR and we're going to roleplay and drink a lot of Fresca and watch girls in tank tops play tennis and maybe lift some weights what uuuuup

Incredulous Red
Mar 25, 2008

Abugadu posted:

To update the OP, I'm back at the Guam AG's office.

Also, last threads' champions:

User -- Posts
JudicialRestraints 716
Ainsley McTree 660
Incredulous Red 475
CaptainScraps 473
evilweasel 463

Apparently UW-Madison needs to assign more busywork.

loving JR. (Ainsley doesn't have a job so I get it)

Also, atlas needs to step up his game.

Apr 21, 2007

it's wanking time.

Sulecrist posted:

This is a real good thread name. I'm going to Duke. I'ma live above HR and we're going to roleplay and drink a lot of Fresca and watch girls in tank tops play tennis and maybe lift some weights what uuuuup

You forgot about the Left 4 Dead 2 playing. Also, do you know which apartment you're in for sure?

Abugadu posted:

Also, last threads' champions:

User -- Posts
JudicialRestraints 716
Ainsley McTree 660
Incredulous Red 475
CaptainScraps 473
evilweasel 463

Hmm, interesting that the two posters I dislike the most have made it into the top 5 for number of posts. Just kidding.

For clarity sake, the two posters I dislike the most are Soothing Vapors and HiddenReplaced.

HiddenReplaced fucked around with this message at 02:37 on May 7, 2010

Dec 10, 2007

Carryover from the previous thread:

Diospadre posted:

Just checking through the requirements that the postings on usajobs list, all the IRS jobs seem to require at least 30 hours of accounting, maybe I have simply lost the ability to read?

A related advanced degree (MBA, JD) will take the place of those credits. Chances are you won't be considered for a revenue agent position, since those are accounting intensive, but for a revenue officer or tax compliance officer position your law degree will qualify you. The 6 credits of accounting is basically a way to bump your qualifications over other losers.

I'm a TCO and still in training, but the workload really isn't bad at all. It's glorified tax preparation. But on the first day my manager sat down with me and basically said that I was overqualified, and she didn't expect me to stick around for much more than 90 days. The better jobs (appeals officer, tax specialist, etc.) very rarely take external hires, so coming in as a RO or TCO and moving on within 6-12 months is pretty common.

Apr 5, 2007

Better tear off this bar association logo.

HiddenReplaced posted:

You forgot about the Left 4 Dead 2 playing. Also, do you know which apartment you're in for sure?

I have to give them some more money for security or something and somebody took the third-floor A1 I wanted so I could be anywhere. But I'll definitely be your neighbor and I will unironically use you for your washer and dryer.


scribe jones
Sep 17, 2008

One of the key problems in the analysis of this puzzling book is to be able to differentiate a real language from meaningless writing.

TheMadMilkman posted:

Carryover from the previous thread:

A related advanced degree (MBA, JD) will take the place of those credits. Chances are you won't be considered for a revenue agent position, since those are accounting intensive, but for a revenue officer or tax compliance officer position your law degree will qualify you. The 6 credits of accounting is basically a way to bump your qualifications over other losers.

I'm a TCO and still in training, but the workload really isn't bad at all. It's glorified tax preparation. But on the first day my manager sat down with me and basically said that I was overqualified, and she didn't expect me to stick around for much more than 90 days. The better jobs (appeals officer, tax specialist, etc.) very rarely take external hires, so coming in as a RO or TCO and moving on within 6-12 months is pretty common.

can you talk about the interview process a lil bit? that's the next step for me (already did the assessment for both TCO and RA), and I have no idea what to expect. just standard behavioral "tell me about a time when you" bullshit?

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