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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Current Law Students / Re: Advice and support...
« on: November 02, 2010, 12:55:05 AM »
I am a 1L in a top 30 school and so far, I ahve to say I absolutely hate law school. I am miserable, for thge last week, I have been crying every day- smtms multiple times a day. My classes are mostly ok (I find crim fascinating), but contracts abhorrently dry and extremely difficult to understand. I have never felt so dumb/inferior compared to my classmates and it's taking a toll onmy self -esteem and my happiness.

I knew what I was getting myself into in a way (its not like I went into this blind)- I graduated in 2007 and worked 3 years as a paralegal in litigation. But I never thought I would be so miserable being in law school and all this has put a serious burden on my emotional health. I started seeing a therapist 2 weeks ago bc I have been having trouble sleeping, I've been feeling really lonely and out of place, I even grind my teeth now, I'm constantly stressed, and I just can't seem to get a good grasp on things. Ultimately, I still think I want to be a lawyer, but after 3 months of this hell, I'm beginning to wonder if it is worth all the mental anguish, unhappiness and stress that is taking a toll on me now. ...

I was wondering if anyone has been in my situation or has any words of wisdom about what I should do.. everyone tells me to stick it through (everyone says the first year is the worst and that it'll get easier) but as the days go by and we get closer to finals, im finding it increasingly hard to even concentrate on staying on top of my stuff when I'm constantly mulling over this decision to go to law school. ..

An important post and some good responses.  As to concrete help, I'll no doubt get into trouble, but there's a new, very short book that might help.  It's Law School Fast Track, by Derrick Hibbard.  It's not about shortcuts but about building good habits, and about not falling into the traps you describe.  (Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword, so I do think it's worth every law student's read.)  Also, if possible attend LEEWS; at a minimum get the audio.  That will help immensely in preparing for exams, and, not unimportantly, mental health.

You are feeling what most--if not nearly all--law students feel.  Hang in there.


Current Law Students / Re: Computers in the classroom
« on: November 01, 2010, 04:50:22 PM »

In law school this is turned on its head.  Cramming doesn't work because that's not what a law exam tests.  "Studying" also doesn't work, because that's not what a law exam tests either.   So computers, which can be a valuable tool, rarely are.

(Note:  One should pay attention in law school.  In fact, the attention should be intense.  But it's not to "learn."  Rather, it's to practice.)

I think your reasoning on this thread relies on a somewhat faulty assumption that the professors are capable and engaged in class.  If a teacher essentially reads an outline or bumbles through the Socratic method, then class time can be a giant waste of time.  I think the principles you are preaching may be accurate and helpful in the right academic environment.   My grades have steadily improved as I have learned to "practice" on my own.  I'm basically certain that I could get as good or better grades if I never came to class at all as long as I had a decent outline.  I've never actually tested this theory, but I have earned A's in a few classes where I didn't buy the book or take notes.  It's not because I'm naturally gifted, it's because I've figured out that studying for finals, at least in my school, is much more effective than preparing for and listening in class.

I wouldn't disagree with this, but I would take this in a different direction.  Clearly, not all profs are good at the Socratic Method.  As Morten had said once in a thread (I think), a law professor's discussion in the classroom is akin to water-cooler chatter among senior lawyers--or something to that effect.  There's something to be said for re-"professionalizing" the law school professoriate (which, paradoxically, means exactly the opposite of what a "professional" law school faculty has come to mean).  As it happens, I argue exactly this in GGG.

To your point, however, you're quite right.  It IS possible to skip class and do well.  Nearly any lawyer could do this.  That, of course, is part of the trick--but it's not because a lawyer will remember the specific rules needed.  Chances are anyone more than a month past the bar would remember only half the tested rules, if that.  Instead, the lawyer could reason through the fact pattern, which is what profs test.  In reasoning through the fact pattern, the specific points are picked up; the rules emerge from the reasoning as much as vice versa.

Too, the danger is that most students will think of "study" as some form of memorize-and-regurgitate.  This type of study has a very low correlation to law school success.  This is why even poor lecturers can be useful . . . if used in the right way.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Why the job market is changing
« on: October 27, 2010, 09:52:58 PM »
One thing I notice, but maybe it is only because I am in the Bay Area is that if you have a computer science or engineering background your grades in law school will not matter. There are so many huge tech companies here that are doing extremely well and need to protect themselves and IP firms are doing amazing. If you have an engineering background you are golden regardless of what law school or what grades you get.

Bigs -

It might be going a bit far to say that law school and grades don't matter at all, but what is true is that legal employers look for qualities.  Some of those qualities are obvious (such as alma mater and grades), and are important for the traditional law student.  Other qualities are unique, such as those for IP work.  Still another quality that can apply somewhat differently is language. 

So if a firm or agency needs someone who understands a specific field, such as chemical engineering, that or a degree in chemistry will serve to put that candidate in a different position.  This is also true (albeit somewhat differently) with language proficiency; one either can communicate or one cannot. These can have the effect of seeming to push grades to the side, but in fact that is not true either.  First, chances are good that an engineer will too have those grades.  = :  )   The correlation between learning science and learning the structure of law is positive.  And specialized knowledge is a soft factor pulling, on average, those applicants into higher-ranked schools.  Finally, while the universe of individuals with a law degree plus some specialized credential is smaller, it is not a universe of one.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Why the job market is changing
« on: October 27, 2010, 04:05:16 PM »
Here are three relevant observations:

1. The traditional law firm hiring model (pedigree and grades) doesn’t do a very good job of selecting candidates who are likely to succeed as large firm litigators or corporate lawyers.

2 The traditional credential-based model is gradually being dismantled because clients are no longer willing to absorb the cost of bad hiring decisions.

3. The skills and behaviors you need to set yourself apart are not taught in law school—indeed, your typical law professor is completely unqualified to serve as your jungle guide.

If anything, large firms have become even MORE prestige obsessed and MORE grade conscious in the downturn. The traditional credential-based model isn't being dismantled at all- firms are just hiring fewer people. Perhaps the current method isn't a good method of selecting candidates, but I've yet to hear of a large firm complaining that they aren't getting quality candidates. The issue is getting enough clients to pay for the training of those quality candidates- which they will have to do regardless of their screening criteria.

Small firms seem to be doing the same thing they've always done. They go to the local schools.

Absolutely correct.  Firms are changing, along with the demand for their services . . . but the impact vis-a-vis students is very much more of the same. 

What might be difficult to accept is that a senior practitioner CAN tell, roughly, who's "got it" and who doesn't, and there IS a correlation to prestige (both school and grades).  For a firm, at whatever level, that's good enough.  Especially with the latter (grades), the assumption is that you (the future graduate) do control that.  We can debate this ad nauseam (and I have, usually in a way critical of firms and law schools), but the fact remains that firms simply cannot be bothered with reforming law schools; they get what they take.


Incoming 1Ls / Re: seeking advice
« on: October 26, 2010, 04:47:29 PM »
I've been employed here for 5 years but I still view what I do as a job because even though I've been promoted I don't want to stay here for the remainder of my working life or in the insurance field.
I doubt I'd make enough to pay both mortgages but I really don't want to let money deter me from pursuing my goal.
I've put off school for a long time because I always thought it wasn't the right time for me to go. Now I know that there isn't a right time. Maybe a better time but not a right time. However I want to go now because I've waited long enough. If I wait any longer I probably won't do it.

These are good sentiments--and exactly so as to "right" v. "better"--but they point in the opposite direction.  While the answer might have been different in 2006, this year it is almost certainly better to wait a year or two, given the market and also your current earning and savings potential.  The market will take some time to absorb a pent-up supply, much less catch up to a healthy equilibrium, and while that's not determinative neither should it be dismissed. 

If it's important enough to you and you set a goal for admission in year 201x, and plan like the dickens for a stellar LSAT and careful preparation, that is time well spent.  A dream deferred need not be a dream denied; it can be all the better with the right approach.

If you do decide to go ahead, here's to avoiding naysayers.   = :   )   Seriously.  Sometimes it is good to follow one's gut, and that is one of the markers for a good decision.  If so, your LSAT and preparation will be even more important.

Current Law Students / Re: Computers in the classroom
« on: October 26, 2010, 04:36:27 PM »
I think there is no question people can do well without showing up to class or being on the internet all day. Some people can bench press 300 lbs without putting in any effort, but that kind of natural ability is rare. I just think it is not wise to risk finding out if you have the natural ability or not and risk getting horrible grades.  Especially considering law school is not that demanding. If you take 15 units a semester you need to pay close attention in class for 15 hours a week. It is not that cruel and unusual to pay attention to something for 15 hours a week especially considering your first year you don't work. So you really have no reason to be distracted and you can stay off the internet for a set block of 15 hours,  you can surf the internet anytime it operates 24/7 so why in those 15 hours you are paying exorbitant amounts of money for would you go online. Of course you can succeed by not even showing up, but I would not recommend that philosophy to anybody and I do not think anyone would disagree that 99% of the time if you read, take notes, do practice tests and just generally put some work in you will do better than the person who does not show up, is on face book all day, and crams at the last minute.

Bigs -

This is not to disagree with you, but I wasn't referring to natural ability.  In fact, this is one of the disorienting factors in law school, as nearly everyone has relied on natural ability to do well, but in law school, that is unreliable at best.

This isn't about ability (natural or otherwise) as much as it is about focus.  Most law students are focused on the wrong things, in the wrong ways.  This makes the occasional side trip to Facebook more than occasional, and down the slippery slope that student goes.

More to the point, done right a law school classroom (even an unfriendly one) should be fun, or at least engaging. (Yes, "unfriendly" can equal "fun" if you're doing it right.)  An A student engages in a series of mental jousts . . . not with fellow students, but with the prof.  That's the competition--or at least the benchmark. 

Current Law Students / Re: Computers in the classroom
« on: October 26, 2010, 12:12:30 PM »
From my experience I noticed that the people who stay off the internet do well and those who have to check their facebook every 20 seconds do not do so well. This was really seen in the second semester of my first year. My school has a fairly high attrition rate and the first semester everybody was pretty focused and scared sh**less of failing out. I saw no internet use from anyone the first semester and then our grades came back and most people did alright. However, once that fear went away people started having to check their facebook every 20 seconds. Then when second semester grades came people were astonished at their grades. I had that happen to several of my friends and they were shocked that their grades went down so much. Not being an a-hole I said man that sucks etc, but in my mind I was thinking well you missed a several classes because you simply did not feel like coming and when you did show up you were on the internet half the time. There are exceptions and some people can get away with not paying attention, but I can see no reason why you should risk finding out if you are smart enough to be one of those people that does not have to work hard. Especially when you are paying 30k a year and your G.P.A. is so important to finding your first job.

Bigs -

The paradox is that it is possible to do well without paying attention in class . . . but not the way nearly everyone does it.  This is because it's easy--too easy--to view the law school classroom as pretty much like every other classroom. The cycle of undergraduate education over the past 30 years has been that, outside of the sciences, it's possible for a smart student (such as later attends law school) to goof off and still pick up enough to get at least a B, if not an A.  A bit of cramming just before finals and, voila, at least a passable grade.

In law school this is turned on its head.  Cramming doesn't work because that's not what a law exam tests.  "Studying" also doesn't work, because that's not what a law exam tests either.   So computers, which can be a valuable tool, rarely are.

(Note:  One should pay attention in law school.  In fact, the attention should be intense.  But it's not to "learn."  Rather, it's to practice.)

Current Law Students / Re: Computers in the classroom
« on: October 25, 2010, 10:37:10 PM »
Good points, Thane, but you turned my suggestion into something far more substantive than it was.  I was making the much lower-level observation that law practice is full of distractions, particularly including computer distractions.  Therefore, intentionally exposing students to computer distractions in class might prepare/train/inoculate them for computer distractions in the office.

Both this post and my prior should be read with tongue halfway into cheek.

Leave it to a Thane to cause trouble.  You're quite right, and perhaps this should indeed be part of the grand strategy to prepare everyone for practice.  [Fade in evil laugh.]

= :   ) 

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Military
« on: October 24, 2010, 01:05:43 AM »
Active USAF here, 7 years in with 3 more to go and then a big decision on whether to do 20 or go guard/reserves and head into Law School.

You should be making that decision now.  Please take advantage of the great officer programs that the USAF has to offer before you leave 10 years on the table.  Be sure to consider another service or stay reserves if you can.  Don't let all that time go to waste.

There are (or were) a limited number of slots for fully paid schooling (tuition plus salary).  Additional commitment, of course, but it's hard to imagine a better way of going through law school.  Hard to get, but harder to beat.  Worth checking into.


AGREED.  Don't let that time go to waste.  I am a retired CWO4 who is quite happy to collect VA Ch. 33 along with a nice retirement check...

Current Law Students / Re: Computers in the classroom
« on: October 24, 2010, 12:54:04 AM »
Even if used productively (i.e., not to check the latest updates on Twitter), laptops are still a distraction.  That learning should already have happened; the classroom is for a different purpose.  And when laptops are used to check the latest updates on Twitter . . . .

On the other hand, the practice of law is full of computers, and they don't get any less distracting (as evidenced by me posting here and now).  Cynically (and semi-facetiously) one might suggest that computers should be encouraged in the classroom simply as practice for reality.

Aloha, Morten -

Finally, a chance to disagree!   = :  )

I can't help but think of one of the senior partners in my early years.  When he "cut and pasted" for a new document--in banking law, no less--he quite literally used scissors and tape.  (Okay, so that's not "pasting.")  He would assemble a new document from the entrails of earlier ones, and would hand the Frankensteinian assembly to his secretary.  He was THE banking law authority in the state, by the way. 

Another senior partner taught me a lesson--I of computer-savvy wispersnapper-dom.  She was irritated and then all-but told me to start using what was then a fairly primitive dictation cassette.  It was very odd at first, and seemed horribly inefficient--until I got it.  Not just "got the hang of it," but understood.  It was possible to talk out documents in a small fraction of the time, even counting proofreading, than with direct work.  And, to your point of proofreading, there might be something to the process of not typing our own work; it's fresher if we see it from someone else.

You're quite right, to moderate the disagreement, that computers are obviously everywhere in practice.  But, that doesn't make them necessarily right.  If used in an way other than to focus on the needs of the client, then they stop being useful and start being less than scissors and tape.

So, call me a quasi-savvy counter-revolutionary.

= :   )

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