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Messages - Thane Messinger

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11
Studying for the LSAT / Re: Highlighters and LSAT
« on: March 21, 2013, 04:29:26 PM »

So, don't highlight, do think and analyze carefully, and get a coloring book for fun when not studying to put the highlighters to good use.

 


Once upon a time I wrote that in law school all electronic devices . . . all of them . . . should be disabled.  A colleague wrote that "Heads would explode." 

Here's to exploding heads . . . or at least expanded ones.  = :   )

For all, if you want to get a sense of what law school and the LSAT are all about, read a few oral arguments.  For example, Paul Clement (who argued the PPACA, or "Obamacare") is widely considered one of the best advocates before the Supremes.*  Does he highlight?  Doubtful.  Does he take notes?  Well, yes, but they're either two lines with regard to a case, or an entire memo to evaluate every aspect of the jurisprudential impact of a line of cases.  The challenge is to *understand* the arguments.  Devices, gimmicks, bad habits . . . all are not just pointless, they're a distraction.  Use your *mind,* not gimmicks.

You want to be a biglaw hotshot?  Get (nearly) as good as Clement *before* the LSAT (much less before law school).  Really.

Thane.

*  The fact that Clement lost, in large measure, on the merits is irrelevant to the legal argumentation, and even the justices who ruled against the challenge were at pains to recognize (albeit minimize) Clement's force of argument.   

12
Studying for the LSAT / Re: Highlighters and LSAT
« on: March 17, 2013, 07:07:17 PM »

So the question is, will LSAC permit you to bring only a highlighter or can you bring more than one and use more than one at a time? For example, pink is main main conclusion, organge is evidence, green is opinion.

I will go further than Jeffort (and against the grain of nearly the entire educational establishment) to say that if you've fallen into the habit of highlighting, you are wasting your time and talent. 

If one could look at a law classroom from above, one will see a rainbow of highlighted passages . . . and nearly none of the highlight-happy souls will have a clue as to the deeper meaning of what it is they've so earnestly highlighted.

The LSAC testers are interested in logical ability, not in some mechanical aptitude.  Put away the highlighters.  Put away even a single highlighter.  Take several dozen exams, under real-world conditions, and then take a few dozen more.  And a few dozen after that.

Sorry to seem even a bit rude, but that's the take from at least one corner.  Highlighting (and, in the classroom, note-taking) are not just silly, they are a distraction from what you really do need to be doing.

Thane.

13
Law School Applications / Re: Prestige of UG
« on: March 17, 2013, 06:53:37 PM »
I'm wondering how top law schools (Eg T14) look at undergraduate institutions.
Do they look at its prestige? I mean I attend a for-profit regionally accredited UG (campus and online), and many times I heard that it is difficult to get accepted by top law schools from such as UG because it is not seen to be as rigorous as a non-profit UG. Is this true? Can a high LSAT compensate for this , or should I switch to a non-profit UG?

Aloha, Marissa -

As is often the case, the answer is a bit of "All of the Above." 

Yes, law admissions committees DO look at one's alma mater where it matters most . . . when the candidate is on the border.  This is usually true at a reach school, or at any top law school.  In such a case, this does come into play.

Moreover, for those still in their undergraduate years, not only do committees look at the school, they look at the courses, grades for each course, and sometimes (oftentimes, at a top school) they will know, personally or by reputation, the writer of the letter of recommendation AND the professors of senior-level courses.  It gets that granular where it counts the most.  So, if your years are filled with underwater basket-weaving, even if you do have a high GPA that will count against you at a reach school.  And, if your grades topped out when you hit your senior-level courses, or when you took 18 credits, or when you hit a rough patch, that will also count against you.  Deans and professors, who are usually part of this process (especially with the hard calls), are very much aware of these academic aspects. 

This will not be true for a graduate of a for-profit college, as there IS the presumption you state.  But it is a rebuttable presumption.  So a solid GPA and top LSAT, plus other softs, will be cruicial for a reach application.  Do not dismiss the value of these soft factors for a top law school:  this applies to nearly ALL candidates, as nearly all candiates have tippy-top scores.  Harvard and Yale and Stanford could, famously, accept only 4.0 students.  They don't, which is why these other factors are important, and also why the conventional wisdom among future law students is so incomplete or downright misleading.

There's a good book that goes into some depth in this.  It's Law School Undercover, by Professor "X."  (Not I.)  Well worth reading for ALL applicants.  If you're still in undergraduate school, take an afternoon of your Spring Break to read this.  Though less fun than your other activities, it could be the best (i.e., most useful) four hours you spend in college.

Thane.

14
General Board / Re: Starting over after first semester
« on: March 17, 2013, 06:43:16 PM »
I just finished my first semester of law school and my grades are less than stellar and I am afriad to move forward with my second semester in the event I may be dismissed. I was wondering if its possible to quit now and re apply/ start over at another school next semester. When I applied to schools the first time around I was accepted to multiple schools with ease and squeezed into my current school by the skin of my teeth. This turned out to be a bad decision because my grades arent up to par with my competition. So once again, can I quit now and apply for next Fall at another school to start over from scratch? Just dont want to continue this semester and be dismissed and have that tagged on me when I attempted to reapply in the future.

JoshT:

There are a few answers: 

First, grades are NOT a factor of raw intelligence, or, in the strictest sense, of competition.  Most students study hard, and nearly all are very, very intelligent.  Everyone in the class was at or near the top of their class.  The problem is that what is tested in a law exam is not what is seen in the law school classroom.  The classroom is a mix of terror, boredom, and sideshow.  The law exam is a microcosm of what a real lawyer has to do in filtering facts, in light of the law, in a lawyerlike process.  The disconnect between the two, plus the grade curve, are why there is such dispair in law school, especially now.  The entire semester, and year, are thus mostly wasted as law students currently "study." 

*If* you can correct the bad habits developed over 16+ years, and re-apply them in a lawyerlike way, you do have a shot at stardom.  But it requires not just hard work; it requires a reassessment of everything you've been told, and the common "wisdom" of nearly every law student.

Second, if your thought is to reapply to another, better (or equal) law school, that is unlikely to happen.  A book, Art of the Law School Transfer, will explain why.   (And for others, to make a critically important leap.)
 
Third, if your thought is to reapply to a "lesser" law school, presumably more in line with your inate talents, that would likely be unwise, for a number of reasons.  Chief among them is that, in this market, you're likely better off with middling grades at a better-ranked law school than even solid grades at a much less well-ranked law school.  I know, I know.  I'm not supporting this; just stating the (to employers) obvious.

I've been working on an ebook with the author of Later-in-Life Lawyers.  We have both come to a stark conclusion, which is this:  if your grades are poor and your law school is not at the very tippy-top of the heap, you should seriously consider whether or not you should continue, at all.  As the time for cost-free withdrawal is past, I suggest re-engaging yourself with your every fiber.  Get Wentworth Milller's LEEWS program, rededicate yourself to practice exams.  (Take at least a dozen for EACH subject, under real-world conditions.)  And you might just surprise yourself and find yourself placing very well.  This happens with some frequency, as those who did well first-semester get cocky, while a few who did not do well get serious.

Best of luck,

Thane.

15
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
« on: January 08, 2013, 01:15:40 AM »
Do NOT use someone else's outline.  You must do your own.  In fact, you must do two. 


I should have specified "Do not use someone else's 1L outline."  Different rules apply after first year.

I know I'm . . . against the wind, but for first year you MUST do your own outlines.  All of them.  It will make a big difference.  (But the outlines are only the starting point.  They're not the goal.)

Thane.

16
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
« on: January 08, 2013, 01:12:36 AM »
What does prepare mean?

Outline the entire course?
Learn to brief a case, spot the issue, use IRAC method?

I'd love to outline the entire course and feel that would be the best course of action because you can adjust it as you progress through the course, but how much detail should be involved in that initial outline.

Does anyone have any 1L Outlines they would like to share?


NavyLaw: 

You're not outlining the course, you're outlining the subject.  (The distinction is important, as what will be tested is the subject; what is covered in class is often tangential and plain irrelevant.)

How much detail?  Surprisingly, not that much--or certainly not as much as most assume.  As students we twist ourselves into knots, but the truth is that excellent exams use basic principles . . . very, very well.  That's the key.  Outlines are a tool, they're not the donut.

Do NOT use someone else's outline.  You must do your own.  In fact, you must do two. 

You *can* use another outline to confirm points of law--and you should and will use commercial outlines for this purpose.  But the work must be your own, and the main effort is not the outline, but in what you do with it.

Thane.

17
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
« on: January 06, 2013, 01:05:11 AM »
[“Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.][Thane]



PS:   Wow, whoever wrote that must be really on the ball.  = :   )

Thank you.

18
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
« on: January 06, 2013, 12:55:05 AM »
[“Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.][Thane]


Exactly!  Even a genius would prepare for what it is he will be tested on.  To not study is to deny oneself of knowledge.  I am not saying to overexert you self with reading an studying but it is imperative to me to set the highest standards for myself and to exceed those.  I just don't want become a Lawyer, I want to be one of if not the best at it!


Wild -

Absolutely right, and exactly the right attitude.  At the risk of being over-the-top annoying (or condescending), and for all, if this is not your attitude, consider whether the law is right for you.

Abraham Lincoln is much in vogue of late, yet just how different he is from our contemporaries is often missing from comparisons.  He had a grand total of one year of education.  (You read that right.  One (1) year.  And available only when there was someone in the county who was a "teacher," meaning someone who knew how to read.)  The rest was self-taught.  Lincoln taught himself how to read; taught himself the law; and worked far harder and for far less than nearly anyone would tolerate today.  One of his first jobs, chopping firewood, was paid in cloth (few had actual money at the time).  This became his first real shirt.  Again, this is about attitude and perseverance far more than brains or money.  Paradoxically, this same skill is still very much in demand in law school: you must go about learning the law *very* differently than you approached college (or anything else).

Of course, what we really need in a president is someone who can slay vampires, yes?

Thane.

19
Transferring / Re: Transferring from lower to tier to top 15?
« on: December 09, 2012, 05:30:03 PM »
Is this possible?

I received 2 of the highest grades on the only two assignments we have gotten back, and I am feeling pretty confident about final exams.

* * *

Any advice would be helpful.


Yes, it is possible, but of course the climb is steep.   Also, deadlines are strict, so be careful.  You might read Art of the Law School Transfer for more information and advice.

Thane.

20
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
« on: December 03, 2012, 08:17:55 PM »
If I have the Law in a flash cards (also Emmanual products) do I need to get the Outline book as well. I feel like the material will be the same.


Yes, the materials will be mostly the same, and you don't need to buy duplicative materials . . . but you do need to *do* your own outlines.  From scratch.  Relying on secondary sources, to be sure.  But do your own.  That, plus lots of practice exams (well before exam season), is where the grade mileage is.

Thane.

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