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Messages - Thane Messinger

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I was browsing through law school numbers the other day and saw people being thrilled to be accepted into tier 3 schools and willing to move across country for based on rankings alone and that will likely lead to a bad result. I mean for a New York City applicant to go to Gonzaga instead of New York Law School based on Gonzaga being Tier 2 and NYLS being tier 3 is a terrible decision, unless Washington is where they want to end up, but assuming the applicant likes NY that will be a horrendous decision. However, I see people on LSN potentially making that mistake a lot and I nearly did myself last year going to Michigan State instead of GGU, when I wanted to live in San Francisco.

This point is quite right, and it's equally true that many use the rankings badly, or give too much weight to the wrong factors.

To anyone in the process of applying to law school, rankings ARE important, but there are other factors, and there are nuances within rankings that can make a difference to an individual applicant.

It's easy to see a singular ranking as part of a linear rank.  No.  Rankings should be seen as a three-dimensional, non-linear guide extending above and across the U.S.  They should also be seen, in most cases, as only the crudest of approximations.  Among the many factors are considerations unique to the individual, such as area preferences.  

In sum, rankings are valuable, if considered properly.  It's important to put them into a context useful to a specific person: you.

I am starting law school in the fall and have a pretty good idea of how I want to use my law degree in the future.  I am however curious about which area of law would, I hate to say guarantee, generate the most interest from “Big Firm” employers.  What is hot and what is not? 

An excellent question, with what might seem an odd answer:  most firms could not care less.

First, a firm assumes that anyone it hires is very, very smart, but, essentially, a blank slate. 

Second, unless the firm specializes (in which case it is a boutique), it will place its associates where the fit is best, and where the need is immediate.  So, unless one has a specific interest, chances are the eventual practice will be nothing like imagined in law school.

Third, many lawyers fall into a practice . . . and quite a few fall into one they never would have guessed.

Finally, it is very, very tricky to choose the "hot" area, because hot areas change by the year and sometimes month, much less by the three year marker.  It's much, much more important to think about what you like, and shoot for that.  This is not necessarily a specific area, but might instead be a general approach to law, such as being a bookworm, Type A overachiever, life of the party, etc.

So, while it's fine to keep a clear interest in mind, do be open to a variety of practice possibilities.


Studying for the LSAT / Re: No prep, 159 LSAT, how much can I improve?
« on: March 14, 2010, 01:18:30 AM »
maybe all of the information will persuade me to take a scholarship at a t2 school instead of studying for months to retake the LSAT.

Of course I'm not stupid enough to act immediately on some stranger's advice, but discussing decisions with people sometimes helps me come up with good strategies.

Fleaflicker -

Discussion is indeed a key, and the challenge is to know which opinions are worth taking. 

An initial question:  what are your goals?


Law School Admissions / Re: Physician with 3.98 161 LSAT
« on: March 14, 2010, 12:12:47 AM »
I am not interested in a high salary, an elite job, or an impressive status. If I am aiming for a top caliber school, it's so I can be surrounded by the best, inspiring people who are passionate about what they do. That is not to say this only exists at a top 20 school or a top 50 school... and ultimately I am motivated and determined enough to make my goals happen for the population I am determined to help regardless of the law school I get into.

Aloha, LawyerMD -

These are good reasons to aim for law school, and a top law school.  You're quite right that the caliber of student at a top school is, well, stellar.  There are many fine students at any law school; the key is to find the school that's right for you.

Best of luck in getting there.  It is a fun ride, with the right attitude.  


Law School Admissions / Re: Physician with 3.98 161 LSAT
« on: March 12, 2010, 11:25:19 PM »
There are many reasons why I want to practice both law and medicine besides health care law but I dont have to explain that to you.

Please google MD-PhD (spend over 8-9 years in school) MD, MBA; And believe it or not I have seen people with MD JD MPH... running hospitals, and other major health care organizations. Three years is not a long stretch of time and I find it pretty obnoxious that you would discount peoples goals because of their current profession.

There are lawyers who switch into medicine, and vice versa. There are various combinations of dual degrees. In fact there are even a handful of medical schools that offer MD-JD 6 year programs.

This is not at all a silly question.  Three friends in my first year section were physicians.  They were, I think it is fair to say, among the happiest of us all.  One, who turned 52 during his first year, had a great IP practice.

In fact, if genuine your desires are BETTER reasons than to make lots of money, change the world, blah, blah.  (And admissions committees will see them accordingly.)

A few questions:

Are you willing to spend three months of full-time study to retake the LSAT?  If so, chances are you'll do much better, and chances are the deans will give the benefit of the doubt.  (With cases such as yours, it's much more likely to be decided by the seniormost admissions staff.)

Without a higher score or some other factor, however, the prior answers are quite right: admissions to a Top 10 school are unlikely.  (A further question:  is the Top 10 for academics, camaraderie, prestige...?)

In short, not silly at all.  Admissions committees are looking for just the qualities you write of . . . but, at the top especially, they need to see all of those qualities, the quantitative as well as the qualitative.

Transferring / Re: Advice on transferring
« on: March 11, 2010, 11:56:58 PM »
I'm currently in my second semester at Cooley.  Yes, I know the reputation they have.  I currently have a 3.88 at Cooley, undergrad GPA of 3.91, and terrible LSAT of 147.  I'm looking to transfer after this semester, and really looking at Northeastern.  Any thoughts from somebody that goes there or transferred in the past?  Also considering Penn State, Hofstra, and St. John's.  What are the chances of getting in at these schools and anybody know what the financial aid situation is for transfers?  Thanks.

If you're interested, there's a book out, Art of the Law School Transfer.  Also, if you are serious about transferring the deadlines are fast approaching.

Your law school GPA will help, but your other conditions will be especially important given the LSAT; while less important, it's still part of the picture.  Thus, the many other pieces (statement, LORs) will be crucial.  Good luck!


Honestly, the only piece of the formula that is objective in their entire formula the LSAT and bar passage rate make up only 12% of it and the rest is nearly entirely subjective and gives U.S. news way to much power in my opinion. Maybe someone out there loves the rankings and thinks it is great, but I think it is really wrong. \

Bigs & All -

This might be one of the most frustrating aspects of the application process, but the truth is that objectivity is not the sole truth.

I'm reviewing one of Morten Lund's new Jagged Rocks books, and it struck me that many lawyers make the same mistake.  Just because something is subjective does not make it less relevant.  Sometimes, it is all the more so.  So, if we accept that, say, professors' collective evaluations of each other are subjective (which, prima facie, cannot be completely true), that still doesn't take us very far.  This is the essence of repuation, which is the essence of how the law (and world) work.  If everyone believes that x law school is "the best," then it is.  If no one does, then it's not.  The number of books in its library, the brilliance of its professors, students, and staff . . . all lovely, and all beside the point.  The essence of reputation is that, to a large degree, it creates its own reality. 

To further complicate things, these are very much dynamic.  Having many fine law books and professors and students and staff . . . over time those things will begin to seep into the consciousness of the professoriate, which will then be reflected in, yes, the rankings.

So, just because it's subjective "don't make it wrong."  The real key is the legitimacy of that subjectivity.  Arguably, the U.S. News rankings are about as legitimate as any; one can quibble here and there, but it's doubtful any better system will arrive--and it's exceedingly doubtful that we will grow beyond the petty need for rankings.  (Hey, it's your species too.)

See?  This is fun!   = :  )

Studying for the LSAT / Re: No prep, 159 LSAT, how much can I improve?
« on: March 11, 2010, 11:04:59 PM »
my starting point was in the low 50s. my two actual LSAT results have been 172 and 177. it's definitely doable but you have to be willing to put in the time. i believe i studied 40-50 hours a week for 3 months in order to get my 172. it took me another 8 months to get my 177. that's nearly a year combined.

Congratulations, elsa.  And, yes, it can be done.

It's easy to see the LSAT as hard, random, unfair, biased, [fill in your favorite here].  In truth, the LSAT tests the same thinking skills that will be used in law school and in the law.

In part, studying for the LSAT breaks down the "trickery," or factor based on familiarity with the test.  In another sense, however, studying for the LSAT, like exercise, improves one's cognition.  Moreover, it expands those neural nets that are useful for logical thinking.

So, while you won't read a 3-12 month full-time prescription often, that's exactly right.  (And for those not yet to have taken it, that's a good benchmark.  Can one waltz into the test center and score a high 170s?  Sure.  But that's not the way to bet.)

This, too, is another reason the score factors so heavily into admissions decisions.  It is not only a cognitive test, it is a test of dedication and perseverance.

Best of all, once you've gotten that great score, based in large measure on real work, the feeling of accomplishment will be genuine.

Law School Admissions / Re: Applications sent: Post-mortem analysis
« on: March 11, 2010, 10:52:31 PM »
So, I know someone scored very low on the LSAT.  Less than 150.  In other ways, however, she's truly stellar.  As an undergrad, she's presented a paper among a panel of professors at a national conference in her field, has been a teaching assistant, has three absolutely _oustanding_ LOR's (one from a famous scholar in the field), a 4.03 GPA, is a URM, and has a top-notch personal statement (among other things).  To explain her low score, she wrote an addendum citing a history of low standardized test scores compared with her successes as an undergrad. 

My question is: what is the chance that she will get into any T14 school?  And any Top 30 schools.  We intend to go to the same school or area, and U. Michigan is of particular interest.  I know this is impossible to say, but what are your thoughts?

Augustine & All -

While the result is uncertain, the process is actually fairly concrete.  In cases such as this (a wide variance between LSAT/GPA indicators), the application is kept in the middle stack for additional reviews longer than would otherwise be true.  This is both good and bad.  Most likely, the dean of admissions, senior admissions officers (in a larger school), faculty, and possibly other deans and faculty will be part of the process.  What they're looking for are clues as to the applicant's qualities and long-term potential.  Clearly, mixed signals send, well, mixed messages. 

What they will NOT be impressed by are stories of how LSAT scores are unhelpful, invalid, unreliable, discriminatory, or don't somehow apply to this applicant.  What they MIGHT be willing to consider are factors that show, in a concrete way, how this particular LSAT score might not be reflective of this applicant's qualities and potential.  Among other things, this is balanced against the qualities of that GPA and other factors.  (i.e., difficult or easy courses, program, college; genuineness of LORs....)

To take the tack she did (citing a history vis-a-vis standardized tests) is tricky but might work, if there is more than simply a general allegation.  Is she claiming an ADA disability?  Does she have proof to back that up?

In many ways, these are exactly the same review standards as apply to an attorney, so the challenge for any applicant is to look at the application in just the way an attorney would look at a client's:  what, specifically, is needed to prove a point, and what points are needed to show the correctness of the cause?  (The cause, in this case, being that this applicant is the best one among the remaining stack of middle files.)

I hope this helps,


warning: listening to random people online who claims to be top whatever percent of their class can lead to miserable first year experience. Do study. Do prepare. Do whatever it takes to learn the law. Understand the structure of law school. Most of the advice people give are 'common sense' that you already know, but won't help you at all once you get to law school, this is because law school demands many things from you that you might not have. Understanding this can take a long time, especially for those who are stubborn about their approach. Be humble, but be smart and selective about what you listen to. Don't listen to trashy advice. That's deadly.

Sorry, all, for the delay in jumping back in.  [Cheering . . . ?!]

Many good and interesting comments in this thread, and excellent points, above.

Perhaps what might be best for the original poster and for lurkers is to consider psychology.  It's natural and flattering to state some version of "I didn't study and did great." or "I didn't get top xx%, but I didn't study and who cares anyway?"  It's most painful to take the opposite approach, and if one *does* study and still doesn't do well, that's doubly hurtful.

There are many, many things going on in law school, simultaneously and sometimes in conflict.  The key as an individual is to decide which ways to lean, and then to be consistent and careful in the approach.  There are many ways to study.  Unfortunately for law students, the patterns of study that worked before will not work in law school.  One reason is that these study habits really weren't all that good before; they were effective because you were at the top of the academic heap.  It shouldn't be surprising to state that that's no longer the case.  So, it should follow that "study" assumes far greater importance in a law school environment populated almost exclusively by the academic cream.

While I try (I really do!) to avoid too much in terms of "expert" advice, I thought I might share something as the connections between excellence (preparation, dedication, etc.) and result (grades, success) struck me while I was reading it.  

I just received a manuscript for the third book in Morten Lund's Jagged Rocks of Wisdom series.  (His first book is Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney.  His second book is Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum.  Although they officially compete with mine, I like them so much I wrote forewords for both, and heartily endorse them.  You really should read them before you start your first law job (either clerkship or as a first-year associate.)  They will almost certainly help in your first years.]

Morten is all the things one would read of a legal star:  Yale Law School, partner at a national firm, and a shockingly nice guy.  (Although you might not guess that from the tone in his books.)

His third book is on negotation.  Aside from being insightful, it struck me that his book models what "thinking like a lawyer" is all about.  His sentences are direct, almost abrupt.  His message is precise, almost surgical.  As to the substance, he doesn't care whether you like it or not: this is the truth from his side of the table, learned after many years of experience and missteps, so take it or leave it.  I encourage you to take it.

(Among other reasons, it is a refreshing and honest change from the feel-good flap-doodle that passes for critique in grades K through 16.  (Yes, feel-good flap-doodle is expected and good in K . . . as in Kindergarten . . . but not as one approaches Year 16.)  What's sad is that, when leaving the relatively protected worlds of college, law school is the first real shock for many, followed by the REAL shock of a senior partner with ungodly expectations and zero patience.  This is one reason firms are so strict about their grade expecations.)

If you've a chance, find a copy of Lund's book(s) in your library or Amazon, and see if you agree.  This is the sort of precision and concision that is expected of an attorney.  And it is the same type of thinking that is extremely helpful in law school.  (The Memo book is a must prior to your first job.  The first book, and mine, are a good way to get mentally set for that job.)

And . . . I hope this helps,


PS:  As to certain other books for new lawyers, well, let's not go there.  = :  )

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