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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Studying for the LSAT / Re: How much studying should I be doing a day?
« on: April 22, 2011, 08:12:52 PM »
I have personally worked with/for Mark Lanier.  I guarantee you, if he were taking the LSAT right now he would be shooting for a 180. 

But he's not taking it right now.  He took it back then.  In spite of whatever LSAT he took, he ended up being a "real lawyer".

The main reason to get that great LSAT is to get into that great school, right?  However, he didn't do that.  (I mean no offense, to Tech graduates.  Just that most folks would not regard it as being on par with a few other programs in Texas.) 

Doesn't appear to have kept him from becoming a "real lawyer".

At the risk of succumbing to old-fart syndrome, it seems that there's an epidemic of "good enough" going around.  In law practice, until the case is closed, you won't know how much is good enough.  Of course, if a cavalier attitude is good enough, then that's the client's bad luck.  (After a while, however, that does tend to cut into one's ability to replace sports cars each year.) 

Thus, we overprepare.  Not just that, but that's our assumption

Do most lawyers do less?  Sure.  But their "success" is as much a matter of the other side's doing even less than that, or of luck, or of insider rules, or of whatever else is operating.  And the higher one goes, or the more serious one takes success, the more one holds to a higher standard.  Whether that's 180 or "A" or what have you, that's what separates the stars from everyone else.  And, to a large degree, it's a self-selecting process.

Here's the funny thing:  it doesn't really matter whether one actually gets the 180, or the "A".  Really.  Yale has admitted folks with 178, 176 . . . and biglaw employers have hired folks who have the occasional "B" . . . and lots of excellent, powerful attorneys have not attended a top school . . . but without that internal expectation--an insistence, really--the odds of getting anywhere close to that 180, or consistent "A's," or an excellent reputation (backed by actually being excellent) are slight to the point of vanishing.


Current Law Students / Re: How important is rank anyways?
« on: April 18, 2011, 06:40:50 PM »
Is one better off graduating from a T1 school top 1/3 of class but with NO Law Review or Moot Court  OR  is one better off staying at a T3 school, again top 1/3 of class but also having Law Review and Moot court experience????

Along the lines of the other comments, consider that it is not at all automatic (or even probable) that the options are doing-well-in-a-lesser-school OR doing-less-well-in-a-greater-school.  That's not how law school grades (or law review or moot court) work.   

These are separate factors, and are best viewed in light of how each affects the individual student.  What is your goal, and how will each (rank, law review, etc.) affect you?

Current Law Students / Re: 1L student thinking about Air Force Reserve
« on: April 18, 2011, 06:25:55 PM »
Is anybody in the air force reserves?

I am currently a part time law school (full time worker).  However I am  thinking that instead of going to summer school, join the air force reserve and go to boot camp over the summer.  Then once fall arrives, I can go to law school full time and graduate earlier.  Also once I graduate, I plan to become active in the air force and hopefully be accepted in the JAG program. 

Is this a realistic goal?  Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Dear World -

This is absolutely worth considering, especially if you can get into a JAG program.  There are several opportunities (JAG and other) . . . check  and  (and no doubt others).  Also, don't discount other branches, or other routes within the Air Force.

Depending upon your desires and outlook, military service can be an excellent way to begin a professional career.  In general, the reserves are a terrific opportunity if you qualify and are accepted.


Incoming 1Ls / Re: Cornell Slacker
« on: April 18, 2011, 01:09:44 AM »
I'm new to this web site. I am starting to seriously think about law as a post-graduate plan and I am a junior at Cornell studying Economics and English literature. I am a self-proclaimed slacker, and my gpa can show for it. I hope to graduate with around a 3.0 (my English grades are much better than my Econ grades), and I have 2 questions:

1. Can I apply to Law schools with my English major gpa and not Econ?

2. Does coming from an Ivy help my chances at getting into a top law school regardless of the fact that I don't have a stellar gpa?

No, and not really.  In fact, #2 can be counter-productive, if they get a sense of your essential over-indulged slacker-hood.  Absent other compelling reasons, they'll want to favor the single-mother immigrant entrepreneur.  (Yes, I have had just such a person in my class, and yes, she blew the curve for everyone.) 

However . . . admissions officers will be looking a course-by-course grades (if your LSAT warrants the deeper look), so that's where you can point out meaningful distinctions.  This, after all, is what lawyering is.

Your single way to show them is to ace your LSAT.  Do that, and write up how you "came to," and you've a shot.

Once you're in, try Slacker's Guide to Law School: Success without Stress, (mentioned elsewhere).


Current Law Students / Re: What is THE WORST that could happen?
« on: April 18, 2011, 01:00:46 AM »
I know everyone keeps telling you don't one will be paying attention.  Though this is probably true I know you still don't want to mess up.  I would just say be thoroughly prepared for class. When the professor calls on you don't get all crazy and nervous, but just answer the question and pretend that you are explaining something to someone you are comfortable with like a friend or family member. 

One should be prepared for class, but NOT to look good.  The best students minimize their in-class performance, rather than trying to shine.  For the best long-term results (i.e., referrals [with money attached!!!] from your future colleagues), you should not "shine," but instead come across as competent, likeable, and trustworthy. 

Preparation for class means understanding what will be discussed in that day's class.  Note, this does not mean "do all your case briefs" or "stay up all night 'catching up' on your reading" or any such nonsense.  It means understanding what the professor is saying.  Magically, if your study is focused in this direction, you can actually do a passable job responding to the professor even if you didn't read the case (not that that's what I'm recommending).

As hard as it is to accept, remember that law school grades are based on your exam.  Thus, your attention must remained focused there.  The classroom is a chance for you to practice, whether or not you're being called on.

Black Law Students / Re: Clerkship chances
« on: April 10, 2011, 11:34:11 PM »
I think you should apply broadly.  Since you have a class rank, I'm assuming you don't go to Yale.  In my experience, though this has probably changed since I was applying in the fall of 2007, it was fairly easy for URMs on the Journal to get clerkships as long as they applied broadly.  I imagine the same would hold true for H and S.  Of course, times have changed since then, but I still think you can probably find a good clerkship if you apply broadly.  If not, work for a year or two and try again (and let judges know in your cover letter that you're willing to be considered a year out as well).

Would certainly agree.  Also, at this level the decisions are not automated, nor even particularly linear.  Your stats put you in the running.  Once you're in the judge's chambers, it's pretty much a fresh start from there.  I can recommend two sources for this latter hurdle.  Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job has several excellent sections on this (and interviewing with a judge is not all that dissimilar from interviewing for a firm or other law job).  Also, Morten Lund's first book, on practice, will be a good look into the mind of an appellate judge, times two.  His book on memos will be even more important once you start your clerkship.

To emphasize A's point, don't not apply because you think it's a long shot, if it's a reasonable shot and it's a judge or office you would like to serve.  If so, make that known, and go for it!

Best of luck,


Current Law Students / Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« on: April 07, 2011, 09:36:44 PM »
Here's some background on me:
I'm near the top 25% of my class, I had a summer job both summers, I'm on the law review board, and I have some decent prospects in the job hunt (even though I don't have anything nailed down yet, and I'm going to starve this summer)

* * *

Reading is no longer useful, taking notes doesn't help at all, and there is really no incentive to choose a particular class on any basis other than who is teaching it.  I love the legal field, and I think I will continue to love my career in law, but law school is a huge waste of time and money.  Unfortunately, it's another hoop you have to jump through and the only people who could do anything about it are too heavily invested in the current system.

Jack -

If it helps, your perspective is shared by many practitioners and (shh...) more than a few professors.  I couldn't contain myself, and added a section "Obiter Dicta" at the end of GGG on just this, although I took it in a different direction (along the lines of medical education). 

In any event, do take course of some interest, by professors of some interest as well.  Take a semester abroad if you can.  Work part-time (a great way to see law school differently).  And hang in there.


Studying for the LSAT / Re: How much studying should I be doing a day?
« on: April 07, 2011, 09:19:08 PM »
Perhaps for some.  For me it would have been pointless.  Like most folks, I took 4 sections other than Logic Games.  3 of them were graded.  One of them, I know I missed maybe 3 questions on.  Might have missed 1 or two others that I thought I had right.  the rest, I doubt I missed any, but might have missed, at best, 1 or 2.

One difference in perspectives is that someone such as Lund is shooting for 180.  (Or, for me, the old scale of 48.)  Beware:  when entering the actual world of law practice, this perspective IS the world of law.  There is 180, and there is "lose."  I don't mean to make too much of this, but for a real lawyer, one strives to do (and be) the best.  Really.  The very, very best.  Not just "good enough," or "that's silly," or "golly isn't this over yet?"  Not everyone can get 180, sure.  But almost everyone can do better than they will if they study lightly or, out of some misplaced machismo, not at all.  Walk into an LSAT cold and the ghost of an admissions committee member will be standing watch, shaking his head.  The live member, sensing what the ghost whispers and reaching for the admissions stamps, selects the one labeled "smite."

Also, it's easy to make too much of difference.  Sure, individuals are different, and perhaps there's something to learning styles . . . but not nearly as much as one would suspect by reading about what works and what doesn't.  It's almost as if we've sipped a bit too much at the "if it feels good do it" Kool Aid bar.  At some level, brainpower is brainpower is brainpower.  And preparation is preparation is more preparation.  If you think you're prepared, think again. Prepare some more. 

I'm with Morten on this one, even if he is more extreme than I.  (Better that someone is!  = :  )


Incoming 1Ls / Re: The Best Law School Guide That I've Read
« on: April 07, 2011, 09:02:24 PM »
In any event, it's an orchestrated marketing ploy.

Aloha, Hamilton -

At the risk of jumping into something, well, risky, a comment from a colleague struck me some years ago.  He was commenting on the shock of a junior associate at the realization that what was done in a firm was commercial.  Just about anyone in a firm would have commented along the lines of "Well, duh."   Yet it seems the antipathy towards commercialism results in the worst of both worlds.  I am both self-interested in this (of course) and also fascinated as this is one of the subjects I occasionally teach (Foundations of Free-Market Economics). 

We are inundated by commercial messages, and for some this is deeply troubling.  Fair enough.  Yet what is unseen is that most of our choices are made for us, commercial and otherwise, long before we ever get to make those decisions.  Often, the pre-decision is not one to our benefit, and paradoxically, raw commercialism is about the only force for self-selection there is.  In traditional publishing, for example, a buyer (usually, a single person) decides which books will be on the shelves, period, often after a ten-second review.  This is not necessarily wrong, as most buyers were and are fairly adept at determining quality.  Yet as brands built, the cozy relationships meant that whatever the organization produced . . . would receive shelf space.  Something similar is operating on grocery shelves, which is one of the impetuses for oligopolies.  The advent of desktop publishing and Amazon has widely opened the field, to mixed but generally better results.

It seems to me that what is objectionable is not what a free-spirit anti-commercial internet soul would think, but rather an attempt to manipulate subversively.  With the advent of anonymous postings, this of course lends a new dimension to the potential for mischief.  But we shouldn't be deluded about how the world works.  In any event, I would suggest only that those who are going to the active practice of law prepare themselves for a barrage of commercial messages.  Orchestrated or not, it's the interpretation, not the existence, that's problematic.

Yours commercially,


Studying for the LSAT / Re: How much studying should I be doing a day?
« on: April 05, 2011, 01:50:10 PM »

What's wrong with an hour a day?  If you're really doing an hour a day, I'd say that's probably fine and you should go ahead with the 6/11.

Ever the contrarian, I'll say that one hour a day is way, way low.  If you're serious about law school, your LSAT is the hurdle, accounting for at least half of your admissions chances.  If you're serious about this hurdle, you need to spend as much time in preparation as you would spend in a real semester of study.


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