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Messages - Thane Messinger

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101
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: am i screwed?
« on: June 10, 2011, 07:09:54 PM »
I don't mean to discourage, but just to give you a little reality-check before you spend 3 years and a hundred grand pursuing a federal judge position that is highly likely to be nearly impossible for you to get.


Falcon's advice is worth pondering seriously.  I too don't like to focus on closed doors, and there are always (or nearly always) second chances.  Were you to be the first in your class (even at a 4th-tier law school), a judgeship would indeed become a more realistic opportunity.

Here's a test.  (Seriously.)  If you've not yet read Planet Law School, read that.  It's about as raw a look at law school as there is.  Then, if I might, read my own book, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold, which provides not nearly as dark a picture but looks seriously as well at the question of whether law school is right for you and, if so, how to go about it.  You don't even need to read them in full.  Just scan them. 

Okay.  Do you still have the same thoughts?  Do you *love* the idea of law school?  Do you see no other career possibility that fills you with an absolute insistance that this is the one for you?  Are you willing to go back and read the books, word for word, twice, and implement at least parts of the advice therein?

If you answer in the affirmative, and if you spend a month following through, the answer to your original question is much, much closer to "Yes."

For all, law school is not about effort.  Sure, it takes effort, but not nearly as much as most assume.  Lots of students burn out long before exams, and nearly everyone does less well than they should because of how they approach law school and preparation for exams.  So, to a large degree, the same question should be asked for everyone.  After all, even if you don't want to be a judge, being in that realm means that you're in a lot of other good realms too . . . and those will depend, to a large degree, on how well you approached law school.  (Note:  Not "how much effort you put in," but how *well* you approached it.)  The best law students look like athletes--it looks almost easy.  (Note 2:  It actually is easier, and more fun, the right way.)

Thane.

102
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Small Town Law
« on: June 10, 2011, 06:59:58 AM »
For instance, a law school may be 4th tier in the national scheme of things, but in the town its located, there's a good chance that a lot of people in the profession went there.  So, it's regarded as being a competent local school, versus a not-very-good national school.


Conversely, and to reinforce Falcon's point, there are fairly significant downsides--both practical and placement--to attending a non-prestigious school outside an area in which you wish to practice.  It's less that they'll look down on the other school than that they'll simply not look at all.  If you know that you would like to practice in a certain area, it's a good bet to attend a law school in that area.  (Even attending a top-tier school can raise its own problems, not least in that it's assumed you're "supposed" to head to biglaw.)

By the way, small town law can be an excellent career, long overlooked in the gleam of biglaw.  For the right person and practitioner, it's a wonderful life.

Thane.

103
General Board / Re: Poor 1L Grades
« on: June 06, 2011, 04:45:39 PM »
Law school reminds me of my parachute jumps in the Marines: I never knew where I was going to land when I jumped. I had to figure it out on the way down.


You might have hit it here.  Law exams require discipline.  Most students want to vomit law all over the question, with the result being a decidedly non-law answer.  For all, if you've not heard of LEEWS, that is a good starting point for approaching law exams.  Also, plan to be actively working exams by Thanksgiving--if not well before.

Congratulations, Duncanjp,

Thane.

104
News Discussion / Re: Lawyers = Commodity?
« on: June 05, 2011, 03:14:43 AM »
I'd rather do shitlaw and learn real litigation skills than take up one of these "career associate" positions.  These positions will create a caste system of the have and have-nots within firms.  The highly-coveted junior associates will still make $160K -- possibly more given that the firm has lowered the number of those positions.  The "career associates" will be stuck in a rut with no skills.


John, Morten, and All -

Excellent points.  The biglaw path, always narrow, has become almost a single-file trail. 

A slightly different take on the above:  For litigation especially, the actual practice of law is not the same as having a fancy office.  In point of fact, a new associate at the run-of-the-mill DA's, PD's, or JAG office will get MUCH more actual "experience" than most other new associates.  Clearly, as Morten states, the biglaw path is different in its approach, and for those lucky few, the skills for those who survive are fine-tuned to a great degree.  This is not, however, the end of the story.  Highly paid lateral positions are available (i.e., will be made) for experienced and good practitioners.  This should not be seen as the antithesis of biglaw (i.e., fecal-law).  Again this is most readily seen in litigation.  Spend a few years in any of the above offices--plus a real dedication to the craft--and to a large degree the biglaw question is moot.   The firm will come to YOU.  (Note:  it might actually be a top regional or even local firm one finds most attractive, rather than a national one.  There's a good discussion of this in Law School Undercover.)

Even in transactional work, it's easy to lose sight of the real value to a firm, which includes both law (meaning how to actually practice it) and network.  A law partner once said something rather disparaging about government lawyers, as if they were a sub-species.  While, on average, the government attorney might not have the same drive or even ability as the average biglaw attorney, this is very much a more nuanced question--and a revolving door.  Much of the missing equation--sorry to nag-- is actual quality. In each world, the competent (and incompetent) are well known.  The stars (and truly bad) moreso.  Do not think for a moment that your colleagues (and potential future employers) won't know.

The irony is that, once one does become good at a practice, the lure of a traditional law office is often attenuated.  Among many other factors, those overhead issues Morten mentions--plus the office headaches and much lower job security as a partner--can lead a successful pratictioner to wonder what the real attraction is.

That written, yes, yes, it is almost imperative to find a law office in which to start--the more real the better.

105
Black Law Student Discussion Board / Re: Discouraging
« on: June 03, 2011, 05:58:47 PM »
Work the LSAT like it's a job. It's normal to have self doubt, the LSAT score carries huge weight and is a determining factor in the type of school that will accept you and if those schools will offer you money. You may also want to look into prep courses. Just don't give up on your self.
Good Luck

Absolutely right.  Spend six months, eight hours a day, and you'll get about as close to your personal max as is humanly possible . . . and your personal max is far higher than you think it is.  (This applies to everyone.)

Along those lines, Falcon's suggestion for military service is absolutely right.  Excellent, excellent advice.  Good for not just the law, but also for all aspects of life requiring organization and a deeper perspective.  There's also the point about benefits, including educational benefits, and actual service to one's society.

Best of luck to you, and don't lose faith.  You can do it.

Thane.

106
News Discussion / Re: Lawyers = Commodity?
« on: June 03, 2011, 05:48:49 PM »
If entry-level legal work is broadly done at plumber rates, does that change law school choices?

So many questions here...

Most interesting, Morten -

It would not be surprising to see at least a modest swing of the employment pendulum, albeit in a more sustainable direction.  (For those aficionados of Vincent Price, be careful with the sharp end of those pendula.)  In the long term, this is not a bad thing: It is hard to justify $200 for an hour of document review, and it is equally hard to justify a six-figure salary for any new graduate.

For all who are not in the T14/Top 10%/Law Review brackets, this can be a very good thing:  search for those options open on a more realistic level, and focus on getting very, very good at the actual practice of law.  A few years out, no one will care about the world of 2011 (just as no one now cares about the busts of the mid-1980s or early 1990s), and for the very best practitioners, those stratospheric salaries are still there.

Thane.

PS:  For those familiar with union scale in the trades, a plumber rate is not bad.  Not bad at all.   = :   )

107
Where should I go next fall? / Re: why do you want to be a lawyer?
« on: June 02, 2011, 04:11:36 PM »
My comment was mostly tongue in cheek, but frankly, my advice to anybody considering buying or starting a restaurant is this:  most people go into business for improved family time, freedom to set their own schedules and to make more money than they could with a job..  The vast majority of restauranteurs don't get any of the those three things.

A most interesting comparison, and having been in the restaurant biz (many, many moons ago), there are some interesting parallels.  Primarily, both restauranteuring and law tend to be winner-take-all scenarios if money is the goal.  Most restauranteurs earn modest profits, or worse.  Most lawyers, same.  The factors in each world are different, of course, but the drivers (location/motif/alma mater, ambition, hard work) are surprisingly consistent.  For MBAs, MDs, and, well, just about everyone.

The clarifiying question is:  Do you want law badly enough to devote three years and a quarter of a million dollars toward the credential?

The truth in life is that, almost without exception, success follows a LOT of hard work.  Moreover, the harder the work initially, the more likely the success, and the greater that eventual success.

108
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: am i screwed?
« on: June 02, 2011, 04:02:55 PM »
Hamilton is absolutely right.  Hate to keep bringing references in, but there's a section in the provocatively titled Slacker's Guide to Law School that all law students (even non-slackers) should read.  It's the section on "why to go," and it's the best out there.  Read that and then decide.

Thane.


If you are really interested in PR/Marketing why even waste the time and money on law school?  Only go to law school if you truly want to be a lawyer - it's a waste for just about any other reason.  Do what you enjoy in life and what interests you.  If law school is a new or passing interest, forget it - it's not a glorious grad school.

I see. Ahhh, I feel so screwed beyond belief. I am starting to study on my own but that just made me more nervous. Thanks for the advice. I like journalism but I am really interested in PRs/Marketing only so I was exploring side options as well.

109
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: Part-time evening workload?
« on: May 30, 2011, 05:54:41 PM »
Basically, you should expect to spend every waking hour you are not at work or commuting doing class work.

Quite right.  I've known several colleagues who attended law school part-time.  The upshot is that even a 40-hour workweek is going to be challenging.  Attempting to maintain a managerial job with 50-60 hour weeks is not likely to work well.  Something will suffer, and bosses tend not to like it to be them.  So, as much as possible, try to ease into a lighter work schedule, at least for the critical times around the semester.

On the positive side, most employers are understanding, and most legal employers (especially smaller ones) are receptive to the dedication and organization of a dual-time life.

Go get em!

Thane.

110
General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: am i screwed?
« on: May 30, 2011, 05:40:16 PM »
My question is, if I got my 2nd bachelors and did a good job above 3.5 or what have you, will it be enough to sort've cover my 2.4? Am I beyond a doubt f***ed and can't get into a good law school (at least my dream school)? Give me some insight, I am willing to do whatever it means to get the wheels moving atm. I know 2nd bachelors is frowned upon but most of my credits will transfer and I can finish it easy while having my tuition covered as opposed to getting an MBA in Marketing where I'd have to pay. My mindset is if law school doesn't pan out, I can get into PRs or Marketing with my current debt only at 22-26k.

A second bachelor's degree (or a master's) is a "soft" factor.  The advice is straightforward:  ace the LSAT. 

As between a second bachelor's and a master's, the latter is probably better even if you have to pay, unless your second bachelor's would give you a substantial credential for a business career (e.g., accounting) that you don't already have.  Marketing can be a plus in a business setting, but to be honest most marketing folk either have it or they don't, and the specific degree is nearly superfluous.  Communication would be a common degree among marketing departments.

That written, if you can pull off a 4.0 (or close to it) for an upper-level set of courses, along with a compelling personal statement that would be a substantial plus.  The harder the courses (i.e., the more math), the more likely this is to impress.

There's a new book, Law School Undercover, that gives an insight from the perspective of a law professor who's also served on admissions committees.  He offers several unique perspectives that are really quite eye-opening.

Best of luck,

Thane.

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