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Topics - Thane Messinger

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11
General Board / More on Success in Law School and Beyond
« on: August 03, 2009, 08:24:14 PM »
Aloha, All -

I was unable to respond in the earlier thread, Sucess in Law School and Beyond, which I assume is attributable to an assumption that that was spam.  While I would hold a different definition of "spam," my apologies if that was the case, as I am clearly a visitor here.

To respond briefly, part of why I posted the various recommendations was in a brief scan of the threads, and in the sense of deja vu: the same frustrations that I encountered, and felt, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  My own experiences are unimportant, except that they might serve as an aid to others now.  Here's why:  I have been appalled at how partners I've seen over the years have treated associates, on more than a few occasions.  I have come to understand, however, why this is so.  A large part of this is the reality of law practice.  Some is a result of who is attracted to law school, who is attracted to practice, and who is motivated toward and achieves partnership.  An aggravating factor is the economy, to be sure.  Still another part--a good half--is the associates themselves. 

I sense a frustration and even anger on the part of and underlying many posts.  Without getting too deeply into this, the important point here is that if a partner--any partner--gets even a whiff of insubordination, or insolence, or even irreverence, some will make it their life's mission to destroy that associate's career and life.  (And that doesn't even get to the basics of accomplishing the job, which many never get.)  Worse, what I've seen over the years is a worsening of the generational divide.  I wish I were joking, but it's repeated all too often at firms large, mid-sized, and small.  One post mentioned that of course he would never act out what he thought (which is of course easier online than in person), but that, I think, misses the point.  Even thinking these things is dangerous.  Sure, we all get frustrated, and need to vent.  I had a few choice thoughts about bosses along the way.  But that too misses the point.

Here's the truth:  If you, the reader of this note, do not read at least one of the recommended books [note, I did not write "buy," but read, and I did not write that you had to read one of mine], there is a strong possibility--even probability--that you will fail.  Whether that's making partner, paying down your debt, gaining independence, changing the world, whatever.  This might well be seen as self-interested on my part, despite the references to others' work, but that makes it no less true.  (The fact that three authors long out of law school approach the same problem with three solutions that practically dovetail each other ought to be reason enough to consider this as more than mere spam.)

I shall not likely be active in these groups, but as a pro bono effort of sorts I welcome any comment, question, or critique.  I'll check in a few times, and have posted my email.

I wish you all the very best,

Thane.

PS:  As it happens, my time in Cambridge was not as an undergraduate.  I try not to use that address, but am more alergic to multiple addresses that cannot feed into a single program.

12
Aloha, All -

I posted a note in the pre-law threads, after a suggestion by a colleague, and thought I might post one here as well.  [Some is verbatim and some is edited from there, as your needs are obviously different from the pre-law crowd.]  In scanning several of the threads here, what struck me is that essentially the same questions are being asked some 20 years after I was in law school.  This is not intended as an insult.  Quite the opposite: the fault is ours, the senior practitioners and professors.  What I gleaned among current students seems based, ultimately, in the same frustrations borne fundamentally out of a lack of meaningful guidance.  There are many resources out there, of course, and it's difficult for someone in law school to know which is which (much less, which is better).  Too, the current state of the economy is one that mirrors the one I graduated into, in 1991, with obvious parallels.
 
What follows is, to some extent at least, biased.  It is clearly my own opinion . . . and my opinion formed out of decades and numerous exchanges with all manner of lawyer and law student.  So, please take this with whatever size grain of salt you feel appropriate.  I'll try to state my reasoning behind each recommendation.  I'll also state that I am involved, in varying degrees, with each of the books I recommend (except the last one); so please take that into consideration as well. 

To address the question of reliabilty and authority:

Says who?  As mentioned I graduated in 1991 (aka The Dark Ages) from the University of Texas, where we had about one-fourth the number of resources and about one-twentieth the level of debt.  When I wrote the most recent book (which I'd not in a million years contemplated doing until practically forced to), I went to the local bookstore and took a peek.  I was shocked.  Shocked, I tell you.  No wonder law students were facing so much difficulty.  Much of what was in the dozen-odd titles was fairly harmless.  Not terribly helfpul, in my opinion, but not really bad.  There was, however, a significant percentage that *was* bad, and rather than go into details in flame-retardant clothing as to why, I'll defer to myself (below).  In short, however, I'd long forgotten just how useless much of the "help" was.

First to all the books *not* listed here: 

There is one book that has become the "standard-bearer" for seemingly all law students.  I'll not name it.  My take is that this book is among the "mostly harmless" ones.  Buy a good bed.  'kay.  Get a passport in case a Vault firm needs you in Budapest?  Sure, why not?  We can dream.  Brown-nose professors?  Take good notes?  Color-code cases?!  This is going to seem wildly odd to read, but this is bad, bad advice.  Why?  This is simply not the way to learn the law.  It is certainly not the way to learn the law well, and learn it efficiently--two essential qualities of the "A" law student.

My recommendation?  Yes, read these books, and decide for yourself.  I would suggest, however, that you read them from a library.  (This is good advice for each of the books that follow, actually, even--gasp--my own. Even if your local library don't stock it, you can ask the lead librarian to order a copy, and chances are they will.  It doesn't hurt to ask.)

Okay, here are the recommendations, and the reasons why:

For non-traditional students, "Later-in-Life Lawyers: Tips for the Non-Traditional Law Student," by Charles Cooper. 

For everyone, "Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold" (which I awkwardly abbreviate to "GGG"), by Thane Messinger.  Yes, full disclosure:  Without getting into too much self-interested puffery, I do think GGG will enable a student to achieve above-average results, at least, with less effort and much less wasted effort than is currently assumed is "law study."  In this, GGG strikes the balance, I think, between the strictures of Planet Law School and, well, everything else. 

It should come as no surprise that I don't agree with the usefulness or effectiveness of the bulk of advice on law school, which is why I wrote GGG and which would, on its face, be borne out by how perennially frantic most law students end up being (with a near-zero or even negative correlation between that and success in exams and in their careers).

This leads to another book, "Planet Law School" ("PLS").  Yes, it's over the top.  As I recount in GGG, the author of PLS and I have had a falling out of sorts.  We corresponded over the years, and one reason I finally wrote GGG was due to our growing disagreements.  Nonetheless, PLS serves as an essential check on the silliness that passes for "study" "advice," and also as a base from which one can adapt a study plan that is both useful and maintainable.  Among other reasons to read PLS are the hundreds of pointers as to various study aids.  I was embarrassed that I learned about some of these--years after having been in practice. 

So, yes, PLS (and, if you'll permit me the vanity, GGG) are essential.

For 2Ls, a third is:  "The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job."  While this would seem to be a book for just the Top 10%/law review crowd, it's actually *more* important for everyone else.  After all, if you've a line-up of "A" grades and a law review editorship under your belt, yes, you really shouldn't throw up on your interviewer's shoes (or on anything else) in an interview, and good for you if you can keep your lunch down . . . but it's everyone else who *really* needs this advice.  So much of doing well in life is simply paying attention; so much of that is opening your eyes; so much of that is someone who knows what to look for there to guide you.  So, I would recommend this book, whether you'll have OCI or self-generated interviews.

There's yet another book, this for students who dream dreams of teaching, or of high-powered practice, or of the satisfaction of a certain diploma on their wall.  It's "Art of the Law School Transfer," which should be out in a few weeks, I'm told.  Useful if that's at all a thought for you.

For 2-3Ls and recent grads, four books:

Again I'll mention my own, but perhaps I can do so as it was first on the scene.  In 1995 I wrote "The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide" out of my own early experiences.  The second edition was done in 2000.  It's been out for 14 years, and has helped (or so reviews and personal notes indicate) tens of thousands of graduates in focusing on survival in the world of law practice.

[* I do also have a few copies for anyone serious about providing a critiue.  A few hours to read it an an hour or so to tell me why it stinks . . . and how to neutralize or at least mask the odor.  If so please email me at thane@post.harvard.edu  ]

There are now three competitor books, two-and-one-half of which I am happy to share.

The first two are "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney," and "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum."  These are written as 21 short "Rules" for law office life (or for legal memoranda), written by a Yale grad, big-firm hiring partner, and good guy.  They're superb.  (Anyone who doesn't like my style--which, at times, includes me--is almost certain to like these two books.  And even if you're among the seven who do like my style, you'll still like, and benefit from, his two books.)

The third title is "The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law," by Mark Herrmann  It's quite good, and tells it very much like it is.  The reason I'm conflicted is that it's a tiny book (smaller even than the Jagged Rocks books), which is not wrong or bad (especially given the message), but it's an outrageous $35.  Even on Amazon it's twice as much as any of the three books above.  So, while I do like it, I'd suggest buying any two of the other books--even if not mine--before The Curmudgeon.  Of course, if your trust funds haven't been too badly affected by the recent economic goings-on, why not spring for all four? 

THIS IS A WARNING. PLEASE DO NOT USE THE BOARD TO SPAM.

-Nealric


I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and I wish you the very best,

Thane.

13
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Advice For Success in Law School
« on: August 01, 2009, 10:26:05 PM »
Aloha, All -

A friend suggested this site to me, and after scanning a few of the threads I could see the same types of questions that were raised by my fellow students and me, way back when.  There are, moreover, so many resources out there, and it's difficult for someone new to law school to know which is which (much less, which is better).

What follows will be, to a large extent, biased.  It is clearly my own opinion . . . and my opinion formed out of decades and numerous exchanges with all manner of law students and lawyers, including more than a few radical ones.  So, please take this with whatever size grain of salt you feel appropriate.  I'll try to state my reasoning behind each recommendation.  I'll also state that I am involved, in varying degrees, with each of the books I recommend (except the last one); so please take that into consideration as well.  To perhaps address the question of reliabilty and authority:

Says who . . . ?   I graduated in 1991 (aka The Dark Ages) from the University of Texas, where we had about one-fourth the number of resources and about one-twentieth the level of debt.  When I wrote the most recent book (which I'd not in a million years contemplated doing until practically forced to), I went to the local bookstore and took a peek.  I was shocked.  Shocked, I tell you.  No wonder law students were (still!) facing so much trouble.  Much of what was in the dozen-odd titles was fairly harmless.  Not terribly helfpul, in my opinion, but not really bad.  There was, however, a significant percentage that *was* bad, and rather than go into details in flame-retardant clothing as to why, I'll defer to myself (below).

First to all the books *not* listed here: 

There is one book that has become the "standard-bearer" for seemingly all law students.  I'll not name it.  My take is this book is one of the "mostly harmless" ones.  Buy a good bed.  'kay.  Get a passport in case a Vault firm needs you in Budapest?  Sure, why not?  We can dream.  Brown-nose professors?  Take good notes?  Color-code cases?!  This is going to seem wildly odd to read, perhaps, but this is bad, bad advice.  Why?  Suffice it to say that this is simply not the way to learn the law, as a lawyer, in law school, or anywhere.  It is certainly not the way to learn the law well, and learn it efficiently--two essential qualities of the "A" law student.

My recommendation?  Read or at least scan all of these books, and decide for yourself.  I would suggest, however, that you read them from a library.  (This is good advice for each of the books that follow, actually, even--gasp--my own. Even if your local library don't stock it, you can ask the lead librarian to order a copy, and chances are they will.  It doesn't hurt to ask.)

Okay, here are the recommendations, and the reasons why:

For Non-Traditional Students:

There's not much question, as there's just one.  "Later-in-Life Lawyers: Tips for the Non-Traditional Law Student," by Charles Cooper, is it.  Even if you don't agree with everything in it, if your life circumstances put you in law school sometime after your 22nd birthday, you should read this. 

For Students about to enter law school:

I'll have to start with self-interest here.  I recommend the following, which is a book I recently finished for pre-law and law students.  (You're shocked, right?)

"Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold" (for which I use "GGG" as shorthand).

Without getting into too much self-interested puffery, I do think GGG will enable a student to achieve above-average results, at least, with less effort and much less wasted effort than is currently assumed is "law study."  In this, GGG strikes the balance, I think, between the strictures of Planet Law School and, well, everything else. 

It should come as no surprise that I don't agree with the usefulness or effectiveness of the bulk of advice on law school, which is why I wrote GGG and which would, on its face, be borne out by how perennially frantic most law students end up being (with a near-zero or even negative correlation between that and success in exams and in their careers).

This leads to the second book, "Planet Law School" (commonly "PLS"), by "Atticus Falcon".  Yes, it's over the top.  As I recount in GGG, the author of PLS and I have had a falling out of sorts.  We corresponded over the years, and one reason I finally wrote GGG was due to our growing disagreements.  Nonetheless, PLS serves as an essential check on the silliness that passes for "study" "advice," and also as a base from which one can adapt a study plan that is both useful and maintainable.  Among other reasons to read PLS are the hundreds of pointers as to various study aids.  I was embarrassed that I learned about some of these--years after having been in practice. 

So, yes, PLS (and, if you'll permit me the vanity, GGG) are essential.

For 1Ls-2Ls, a third is:  "The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job: What Every Law Student Should Know About Interviewing."  While this would seem to be a book for just the Top 10%/law review crowd, it's actually *more* important for everyone else.  After all, if you've a line-up of "A" grades and a law review editorship under your belt, yes, you really shouldn't throw up on your interviewer's shoes (or on anything else) in an interview, and good for you if you can keep your lunch down . . . but it's everyone else who *really* needs this advice.  So much of doing well in life is simply paying attention; so much of that is opening your eyes; so much of that is someone who knows what to look for there to guide you.  So, I would recommend this book, whether you'll have OCI or self-generated interviews.

Another book I'll mention, but with not quite the same reasoning, is "The Slacker's Guide to Law School."  To be honest, I was conflicted about this, and agreed in the end to edit and write a foreword .  The author is rather different from me, and, most likely, many law students.  But I'm not so vain as to think everyone is as Type-A/Bookish as I, and so I suspect that he speaks to a significant population.  Moreover, the book has two redeeming qualities.  It is the first book I'm aware of that honestly deals with the "should I go" question, in detail.  And it's really, really funny.  It's almost a stand-up routine in parts, and so if you can get it in the library or at a discount on Amazon, it's worth it.  (Yet another take:  It's not as if reading a book will damage you.  A better thought is that if you pick up just a handful of useful tidbits from each book, the time spent is well worth it.)

There's yet another book, this for students who dream dreams of teaching, or of high-powered practice, or of the satisfaction of a certain diploma on their wall.  It's "Art of the Law School Transfer," which should be out in a few weeks, I'm told.  Useful if that's at all a thought for you.

Thane.

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