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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Thanks Falcon, you've been really helpful!  I have to take some classes I never took in college so I can qualify for a masters I'd like to do joint anyway--so hopefully I can get all A's and have at least some traditional grades on my transcript.

If there's not an answer on their site, it's possible to check with LSAC directly.  If you're not able to track that, I have a contact there.  Let me know and I'll pass the question along.


Current Law Students / Getting Over It
« on: May 27, 2011, 01:16:13 PM »
All -

In case you've not seen this yet, here's a notable commencement speech by a law professor who offers either a healthy perspective or a tone-deaf (if not shockingly hypocritical) view:

[Scan through the comments below for an even more interesting take, including by a number of practicing attorneys.]

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Case Briefs and Helpful Outlines
« on: May 26, 2011, 08:49:37 PM »
As I am finishing out my the end of my first year in law school, I have decided that I would like to post some resources for others to have, that I wish I would have known about before starting law school. First, make sure to do all your briefs, but just in case you cannot understand a topic, there are some great websites out there that I use to help in my studying, and to check my case briefs.

Just a word of caution:  the point of case briefing is not to do the brief.  [!]  It is, instead, to understand how a single point of law fits within a broader context of that area of law.  So, be careful.  Some students all but kill themselves trying to do briefs, never realizing the real goal of briefing.  Many of these realize that spending 40 hours a week briefing (which is what is needed to do them the way they're often shown) is unsustainable, so they give up.  This leads to the worst of both worlds. 

Know that there are alternatives to "case briefing," and that real lawyers do not brief cases in the way shown in law school.  And, ahem, lawyers do need to understand cases.  So, be careful.


I've been planning on going to law school for sometime now, and am starting to get the ball rolling in earnest now.  The "issue" is that I went to a non-traditional college for undergrad and have written evaluations from my professors instead of grades.  In someways, I think this could help me because it presents a more holistic picture of who I am as a student but:

There are a number of possible answers.  An initial question:  is your college regionally (not nationally) accredited?

As to the LSAT, get a sufficiently high number there and, if the other factors are within the LSAC parameters, you will get a holistic review.


Choosing the Right Law School / Re: why do you want to be a lawyer?
« on: May 23, 2011, 01:04:35 AM »
So, why do you want to be a lawyer? Can I change my career even if I really become a lawyer one day? I mean, are there any other careers related to a law degree other than being a lawyer?

For me, My dream is to have my own restaurant, but to be a lawyer seems a more realistic choice  to me.

Kelly -

Good points by all, and this is indeed an important decision--probably too important for a default career.  There's a book by Juan Doria that has probably the best section on this topic out there.  It's the provocatively titled Slacker's Guide to Law School.  Worth reading for a number of reasons, not least the question of whether one should go into law (and law school) half-heartedly.  Among the other reasons is in keeping your sanity if you do go.

Best of luck,


Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Top 6 vs. money
« on: May 16, 2011, 01:43:40 AM »
Dear Mom -

As with many aspects of law school and the practice of law, there are elements of truth and large quantities of untruths, misconceptions, and general uncertainty, not least in blind grading, a strict grade curve, and the law of averages.

If your son is cut out for big law (and this is a serious "if," as biglaw is not just about alma mater . . . or even, shocking as it is to most students, grades), then clearly there is an element of truth, although it's not so much that only the big 6 count.  As a rule of thumb, it's the top quarter of the top tier, or approximately 14 schools that are considered national schools, with sufficiently broad reach as to place their graduates nationwide without too much fuss.  On average.  (Actually, there are more than 14 schools in the "top 14," but that's another story.)  It is true that the averages fall (in this economy, steeply) the further down you go.  But there are students graduating from School #14 (and a few from school #34 and even a tiny few from #54) who are in biglaw. 

There is also a misconception about what "biglaw" is.  If it's the equivalent of Gordon Gekko-style life, well, as with Grisham's protagonists, that's mostly fantasy.  There is clearly a different lifestyle in a top firm.  Point one is that it's a lifestyle that not everyone likes.  Point two is that it's a lifestyle that relatively few can keep up with.  Point three is that, again, grades are just part of this.  Point four is that pedigree is important, but not in quite the same way that everyone assumes.  In a different market a Yalie with Asperger's might have gotten the interview; in this market, probably not.  Okay, they might well get the interview...but much less likely, the job. 

[Sidebar:  Yale's grads will clearly have their pick, but not for the reasons most assume.  Yale grads are assumed to be more "eggheady" than even Harvard's, and thus more likely to go to clerkships and thence to teaching, policy, or like big-picture work.  Note what's missing?  Anything biglaw is going to need and demand.  Not always, of course, and a Yale grad will clearly be given serious consideration . . . IF they have the personality traits needed in biglaw.  Given Columbia's and NYU's location, their grads are more likely headed to biglaw--yet there are constant jostles between them.  And on it goes.]

Part II of "biglaw" is that, in any of the hundreds of cities below the largest, it's not the national firms that are where the action is at, but the top regional firms.  Within their markets, it is the regional--not national--firms that have the fun work.  And the pay isn't all that bad.  (By the hour, it can be higher than in a national firm.)  In those markets the national firms might have a smallish office with a token staff to satisfy the needs of a handful of clients (or even just one).  The large regional firm will be *the* firm representing all the juicy cases in, oh, Denver or Portland (your choice of coasts) or Austin.  And . . . personal opinion here . . . any of those four cities beat any of the majors, hands down.  Yes, NYC can be quite lively.  But it's also rather expensive, and a biglaw associate (or even partner) won't have a whole lot of time to enjoy all those museums anyway.  (And nightlife?  Where's our junior associate?  Up on the 40th floor.  Back to work, young man!)  An associate at a top regional firm can probably buy an estate, or close to it (not that they should), while the New York associate will be living in a cramped and outrageously expensive apartment, likely rented for at least a fair chunk of the associateship.  (If they last that long.)  Just saying.

A real question for your son:  Forget what he wants.  What is he good at?  Is he super-humanly organized, motivated, mature?  Was he elected President of his high school class?  Did he teach English in Bangladesh?  Does he proofread every email?  Twice?  I'm not being entirely facetious, actually, as this is, especially now, the type of applicant top schools (and thus biglaw) are looking for.  Not that they care about his high school years, but they do care about the qualities that carry forward.

More importantly, what does he want?  What does he really want?  Is it to work 80-100 hour weeks for ten years?  Lots of money?  Lots of bosses?  Does that sound not overly stressful, and not "fun," but just "who he is"?  If so, biglaw is a good bet, if he gets in. 

If there's a doubt, that's when the money put into law school becomes important.  One of the worst things is to be qualified for and get into a position one realizes is wrong, but to be trapped because of those massive loans.

Depending upon how well it's played, taking the LSAT three times can be a plus, showing at least a little bit of each of the above.

A few resources for him, in addition to [* * * self-interest alert! * * *] my own.  There's a new book, Law School Undercover, which gives a much better view than the above of the biglaw competition--in particular how it applies to law school.  It's not yet out in print, but it is available on Kindle.  There's Planet Law School, and if that doesn't scare him that's an excellent sign for biglaw.  There's Law School Fast Track, a useful, short guide that's a good balance to PLS.  And there are the three books (the first two for your son before/during law school) in Morten Lund's series Jagged Rocks of Wisdom.  Also, John Delaney has some excellent books out.  And one that you might find funny as a recommendation, but useful in its own way and to keep a good perspective about all of this.  It's Slacker's Guide to Law School.

For all who are not yet in law school and considering the same types of questions, in this market in particular, scratch out "son" and "mom" and fit your own name in.  These are rather serious questions, especially now, and I'll not be one to be unrealistically idealistic about it:  I and most others graduating some years ago had options (mostly by much lower levels of debt) that are not nearly as realistic as they are today.  So, while one needn't necessarily be fixated on top, top, top, these are important considerations.  Some of the happiest people I've known are lawyers (and a number of judges) who would flat out not be interested in biglaw, nor, in most cases, biglaw in them.  Not good or bad, but good to know going in.

Best of luck,


Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Choosing between T4's
« on: May 15, 2011, 12:59:21 PM »
These horror stories are not made up BS, you SHOULD second guess your decision.  Instead of only listening to the people telling you what you hope to hear, you would be well served to listen to the words from people telling you what you don't hope to hear.  These messgae boards may be the place for some basic info and to develop your line of inquiry, but you need to get out into the real world and talk to people in practice.  You could very easily find local grads from these schools by going through the state bar - they would be glad to talk to you and give reliable feedback on pros and cons.  A life decision should not be made based on the words off an anonymous internet message board.

...I was stressed beyond belief and really REALLY second guessing my decision to go to school after reading post after post after post about the horror of the "TTT" schools. 

1225 . . . the answer as to whether you should do it goes to a core question of who you are.  If you know in your bones that you absolutely, positively must be a lawyer . . . good.  That's a good sign.  If, however, your commitment is any less than that, redouble your consternation.

Assuming the answer is affirmative, then the choice should relate not to the schools (!) or to the trees, or even to the money.  The choice of school should relate to, yes, you.  Where do you absolutely, positively want to be?  This is especially important with local (i.e., 3rd and 4th tier) schools.  Yes, if you do very well (such as top 5%), then you might have options.  But in the main your choice should be deeply personal.  Do you love Maine?  Rhode Island?  Massachusetts?  It's a fairly small community in New England, so it wouldn't be unheard of to find a job in Maine from Roger Williams, but even so, it will be harder.  If there's a clear preference, listen.

Be wary of chasing after money.  First, you can likely call the law schools that didn't offer money, tell them about the offers you do have, and see what they do.  A law professor with a new book out (Law School Undercover) reports just how successful this tactic is.  Second, getting a scholarship in first-year is no guarantee of keeping it, so look at the three-year picture.  Assume that you will NOT have a scholarship in years two and three.  For those who might not have seen it, here's a recent article:

And, as everyone has written, best of luck.  No one likes being the naysayer, and of course the market is sufficiently dismal there's plenty of fodder for doom.   If you're truly a lawyer itching to break out, fear not.  Law school can be a terrific avenue.  Just keep in mind what everyone's telling you, and DON'T keep in mind what everyone else does in first-year.  Be smart, be focused, be cool.  Enjoy law school.  (If you're not enjoying law school, something is wrong.  Hard work?  Sure.  Frustrating?  At times.  Exhausting?  You bet.  But fun!)

Best of luck,


Studying for the LSAT / Re: I'm giving up on Law School....
« on: May 15, 2011, 02:12:07 AM »
I have applied to 13 schools, and got rejected from 12 of them (Widener University was the only school that admitted me, and they initially waitlisted me so that shows how little they thought of me). ....

With a 150 LSAT and 2.7 GPA, I simply am not Law School Material.

There's a book I promised I would mention.  It's not yet out in hard copy, but it is out on Kindle now.  It's Law School Undercover, by a "Professor X."  An inside look at law school, including law school admissions from someone who served on admissions committees as a memer of the faculty.  Might be helpful in your decision.

Best of luck to you,


Studying for the LSAT / Re: When to Start Studying?
« on: May 09, 2011, 12:38:27 AM »
     I'm a senior in high school (I graduate in two weeks) and I want to go into law. I know that I canít take the LSAT until 3 years from now, but I'm wondering if I should start studying for it.

Sara -

First, congratulations, both as to graduation and as to being very much ahead of the curve in knowing what you want.

The short answer is:  You don't need to worry about the LSAT or practice area yet.  It's very good to keep these in mind, but the primary focus should be in the following:  Doing very well in college, in a subject you genuinely care about; being careful about money; and being reasonably careful about everything else.

Doing well in college will give you options, including law school, and will also help you in preparation for the LSAT.  When the time comes, you should spend as much time studying for the LSAT as you spend in a full semester of study.  Here's where your foresight will pay off:  if you're planning your college years carefully, you can take a higher load during other semesters (and perhaps a summer or two), leaving a light load for the semester you'll be taking the LSAT.  Then, give the LSAT all you've got.  Don't worry about "not being good at math" (although you should try to get comfortable in math--it really does count). 

Law school is a marathon.  Nearly everyone treats it like a sprint--and it's natural to do so--but it's a marathon.  Take the following four years to prepare yourself for law school, and you will do very well indeed.


General Off-Topic Board / Re: What literature do you recommend?
« on: May 06, 2011, 06:46:51 PM »

To learn how to write better I suggest reading guides about basic grammar and writing.  You might find them helpful to refresh your memory about concepts you were supposed to be taught in grade school and high school. 

Purdue has an excellent online resource:


PS:  To all, there's easily a resistance or even antipathy towards grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.  This is unfortunate, as everyone can improve.  (Yes, I check the dictionary too many times to count.)  Graduate and especially doctoral students spend much of their time proofing and re-proofing their work, and woe be unto the graduate student who repeats a basic error.  (Actually, not always.  They will, however, find it hard to get stellar recommendations and inside job tips.)  In law school, this is confined mostly to a process that's rather important in a different sense than learning: the application process.  Know that faculty members sitting on admissions committees--and everyone else in admissions--cares about this, rather a lot.

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