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Messages - Morten Lund

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Current Law Students / Re: Contracts...kill me now
« on: April 26, 2012, 12:11:05 PM »
I suspect we may be thinking of different things. 

A contract/settlement/verdict is hardly ever a perfect result/outcome for either party - almost by definition - but work product is a different matter entirely.  In terms of the quality of a contract/memo/client advise/whatever, 100% is no pep-talk fluff.  It is very much daily reality in large swaths of practice.  Anything less will quickly lead to vanishing clients.

I don't get to provide "pretty-good" documents to my clients.  Quality is binary.

Current Law Students / Re: Contracts...kill me now
« on: April 25, 2012, 08:09:06 PM »
In most real life scenarios a 70% would be a C at most

Grumpy partner rejoinder:

In real life, 100% is an A;  99% and below is an F.


I have always wanted to be in law (judicial/government), and I have always been told that I should be in law.

I just want a good idea of what I'll be giving up for the next few years. 

I agree with the previous posters as to law school itself - but I would emphasize what FJ hints at, and ask (or suggest that you ask yourself) what your plans are for AFTER law school.  Most people have no particular sense of what it means to be "in law" - usually when someone tells you that you should be "in law" it simply means that you have an argumentative streak.  And while that isn't a bad thing, it is not a particularly good predictor for whether you will find happiness in a legal career.

A law degree offers a wide variety of career options - so wide that it is impossible to plan without narrowing it down a bit.  And many of those careers require time commitments far beyond what is required in law school itself, so you should consider that as well.

You suggest "judicial/government" as your immediate target - and those are options that could involve a more humane job schedule, but still pretty open-ended.  Prosecutors and defense attorneys, for instance, both typically work quite hard, and for very limited pay.  Judges may have a better gig, but appointments are hard to come by and require experience in harder-working jobs.  Government employment is perhaps the safest, and the Federal government (at least) is hiring - but here again it is pretty broad. 

I do not mean to dissuade you, but I encourage you to think about in some detail what you plan on doing with your law degree (and ask questions here, as many others are thinking on the same thing).  If you are simply collecting degrees, then there is of course no particular concern, but if you are planning a career shift you should make sure that you are shifting to a career that will meet your needs.

Good luck.

Are you saying WI and VT have reciprocity will all states?  I was not aware that WI didn't have a bar exam, that's surprising.  I know of at least two states that have reciprocity with no one (DE and RI).  I was under the impression that reciprocity is a two way street.  Can reciprocity be one way?  Are you guys sure about this?

Wisconsin does not have reciprocity with all states.  Wisconsin does not, for instance, have full reciprocity with California (or more specifically, California does not have general reciprocity like most other states do).  People moving to or from California almost always have to take the local bar exam in some form. 

Further, as far as I know, in each instance where there is full or partial reciprocity, one still has to satisfy the admission requirements of that state.  So, for instance, when I (a member of the Wisconsin bar) joined the California bar, I not only had to take the "lawyer's bar exam" (same as the regular bar exam, minus the multistate), but I also had to take the MPRE - because it is not required in Wisconsin.  Lawyers moving from Minnesota to California take the lawyer's bar exam, but not the MPRE - but it is already required in Minnesota.  Transferring lawyers in any state also have to pass local background/ethics check, and the standards for those vary from state to state as well.

Similarly, as noted, graduates from a Wisconsin law school (i.e. Marquette and UW-Madison) do not have to take the Wisconsin bar exam for admittance to the Wisconsin bar.  If and when they wish to practice in another state, however (not usual, with Chicago down the street), they have to take the bar exam in that other state, regardless of reciprocity.

As a general rule, "reciprocity" is not a waiver of general bar admission requirements, but simply a waiver of some or all of the written examination - if that examination has successfully completed previously.

So while I don't recall a specific instance of someone moving from California to Wisconsin, I would be more than surprised if Wisconsin did not require an ABA JD - because that is a requirement for admission to the bar in Wisconsin.

Like it or not, the legal industry is incredibly prestige-driven.  Large corporate clients demand the best attorneys and will only go to those white-shoe firms that hire, what they perceive as, the "best attorneys" (HYS, Law Review, top x%).

... some firms will simply dismiss you based on the school you went to and your grades.  You will be blocked from these firms and there will be nothing you can do to get in short of offering them a multi-million dollar book of business.

John is spot-on.  Firms looking to hire don't take your grades in law school as an indicator of how smart you are (college grades, on the other hand...), and we don't particularly care how well you know the law - we assume you know nothing.  Nor does your GPA or class rank come into play in the courtroom or the boardroom.

But prestige does matter.  It matters a lot*.  It (IMO) matters a whole lot more than it should, but that's reality for you.  This is in part due to law school elitists within the firms, but in no small part due to market demand.  The law firm industry is just that - an industry, and they respond to their customers' desires.  A few decades back, some clients started demanding that their legal teams not be completely male and white - and suddenly law firms sprouted diversity programs**.  More recently, many corporate clients like to work with firms that have sustainable business practices - and you will now be hard pressed to find an AmLaw 100 firm that does not have a sustainability program of some kind**.  And, less nobly, some corporate clients prefer to work with attorneys from the top schools, or with firms that have very selective hiring criteria.  In response, some firms have changed their hiring practices to favor candidates that look good on paper. 

*Which law school you attended just might come up in the courtroom or the boardroom.
**That isn't to say that firms do not also have more noble motivations for their diversity or sustainability programs, simply that these client demands have had an effect on the law firm landscape.

Paper prestige will continue to rear its ugly head for the duration of your legal career, but never as seriously as during the first hire.  After that it is mostly an occasional annoyance from some stuffed suit - with one significant exception.

That exception is legal education.  Hiring of law faculty at every law school in the nation, regardless of rank, leans heavily toward the most prestigious resumes available.  This strange state of affairs is described/discussed in Thane Messinger's excellent Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold (plug 1), and also in Professor X's also excellent Law School Undercover (plug 2).  Both books are excellent reads, by the way (plug 3).  You will have tremendous difficulties ever being hired as faculty if you are not a top graduate from a top law school.

Ok - that meandered a bit.  Sorry.  In short:  law firms can be mercenary and arrogant, but are not stupid.  Your grades will set your vector out of school, but do not completely control your career trajectory.

Good luck.

Online Law Schools / Re: Kill All the Law Schools
« on: February 03, 2012, 03:52:42 PM »
I absolutely oppose any apprenticeship requirement.  When that is implemented, only children of lawyers will be able to become lawyers.

That's an interesting observation.  I usually find myself favoring an apprenticeship/internship requirement, but it certainly would not do to institutionalize legacy-ism in the legal profession.  On the other hand, the medical profession does quite well with an internship requirement, and I don't believe there is any particular concern about nepotism there.  Could we not copy the medical model?

As to the original question, I would suggest that adding more lawyers would not reduce legal fees one bit.  The only result would be more out of work lawyers and more ex-lawyers.

Job Search / Re: Location and IP law
« on: February 01, 2012, 11:16:19 AM »

Prior experience in your practicing field is highly valued in the legal market. 

I again agree with John, with the caveat that you should not necessarily expect full seniority credit for time spent outside of firms - this is particularly true for non-legal or quasi-legal jobs.  In other words, a firm might still bring you in as a first- or second-year associate after several years in-house.

I don't view this as a bad thing, however.  Many people are (IMO) far too concerned with their relative seniority.  So unless it offends you to be in the same seniority class with people younger than you, I would also encourage you to forge ahead.

(And a caveat to the caveat:  If you stay with non-legal or quasi-legal for a very long time (a decade or more), firms may start to view you as stale.  At that point firms may no longer be an option.  But at that point you may no longer care.)

Good luck.

  You are completely out of the running for biglaw.  Most of the midlaw firms in your area are not interested in you.

For once in my life I am going to un-crush a dream*, at least partially.  Take note - this may never happen again.

*Assuming that OP's dreams include BigLaw.  If not, then feel free to disregard.

FJ is right, as usual, but I will add some detail with a caveat on the quoted part of his post. 

Yes, bad first-semester grades make it harder.  Much harder.  This is mostly because of the disproportional impact of those first-semester grades: interview decisions for the 2L fall interviews are made either entirely on the first-semester grades, or at best on the full first-year grades.  So without good first-semester grades it is hard to get a good interview, and hard to get a good 2L summer job, which makes it hard to get a BigLaw job after graduation.

BUT - while that is the standard path to a BigLaw job, and the easiest, it is not the only path.  Plenty of firms hire in the "3L Market" as well, and if your bad grades are isolated to the first semester, then your GPA/class rank should be within criteria, and you will be in pretty good shape.  Heck, you might be better off than many.  Most students available in the 3L Market are people who did not get job offers from their 2L internships, and they are sometimes viewed as "damaged goods."  You won't have this problem, since your 2L internship won't have been with a BigLaw firm.

Believe it or not, many BigLaw firms also hire folks based on resumes in the mail.  The right letter at the right time will work wonders.

Lawyers aren't stupid - even BigLaw lawyers.  If you can get past the set criteria, to the point where you can tell your story, we will listen.  We all went to law school, and many of us (myself included) found that first semester a major obstacle as well.  If you can show that you did figure it out, and convince us that you are smart, diligent, and dedicated, we will be interested.

Job Search / Re: Location and IP law
« on: January 20, 2012, 05:22:07 PM »
More generally, I'm not sure if you need to be in the area where the biotech companies are located/whether this is an important factor. Does anyone have any insight/opinion about this?

Yes, I have an opinion, and I am a patent litigator.

Just look for the firms that have well-regarded IP practices.  Generally, they're near their clients (an exception to this is the EDTX, where defendants are routinely being sued by non-practicing entities).  Then look at the attorneys' credentials to see whether you'd be a good fit.  Generally you can tell that a particular firm does a lot of practice in a particular technological area by looking at the attorneys' undergrad degrees and at some of the cases they've handled.  If you're going to a top 10 school, there's really no need to go to school in the area where biotech companies are located.  If you do well enough in school and you pass the patent bar, you should be able to land a decent job anywhere in the country.

I agree with this poster completely, but would like to emphasize the part about "if you're going to a top 10 school..."  If you attend a middle-ranked school geography becomes more important.  Frankly, though, you will probably be an attractive candidate regardless of geography (assuming that you do ok in law school) - the issue will be more about exposure.  If you are at a second-tier school in the wrong geography you will have to look for firms, instead of waiting for them to come find you.

Good luck.

Current Law Students / Re: Qualities ....
« on: December 13, 2011, 04:56:38 AM »
What would you guys say are the qualities that make up a successful lawyer?

Attention to detail
Ability to see an issue from both sides.

Don't disagree with your post, but I might combine/generalize these into "ability to apply thorough and dispassionate analysis to any subject or task" - whether that subject/task is the validity of the Iraq war or the identification of typos in a document. 

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