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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Thank you for the kind words and appreciate the advice.  I will definitely take a look a the books you mentioned.  Do you have any opinion though on what I should be focusing on now in preparation for law school?  For example, becoming familiar with legalese, studying landmark cases, legal writing etc.?

Also, any courses yourself or anyone else may know of that I could take in anticipation of law school (about five months away).  Thanks in advance.

As to courses, I've mixed feelings on those, primarily because the type of preparation that will be most helpful can be done with a fairly reasonable approach.  A structured approach might be helpful, but to be honest I've not seen anything out there that's an Ah ha! program.  (Believe it or not, I was considering joining in a five-week program, in, yes, Hawaii, which would be quite expensive for students, thus creating (yet another) two-class system.  That never got off the ground for a number of reasons.  While I still think it could be an excellent program, I'm hesitant to recommend going down that path.)

As to specifics . . .

Legalese.  Believe it or not, much of what we consider legalese is on the way out, partly because so few study Latin nowadays.  Those legal phrases you will hear are connected with doctrines or cases, usually, and will become second nature.  I would thus tend to think that these will be more confusing than they will be helpful, if taken in isolation.

Landmark cases.  Possibly, but only in the context of the framework that will be helpful.  This framework is a basic outline, which will become a master outline (to "master" the subject).  How to start.  There's more in the book, but essentially, scanning the commercial outlines will provide a good start for the basic doctrines in each of the six major subjects.  Be careful not to delve too far below the first- and second-level headings, as that can be its own (seductive) trap.  This stuff IS interesting, and can be overwhelming if digested before that framework is fully in mind.  (For example, if getting into the differences between contributory and comparative negligence doctrines, it's easy to get caught up in the majority/minority distinctions and flip in status, unless one has in mind the trends affecting negligence law (within Tort law), generally.)

As to legal writing, to be honest that might to a large extent be dependent upon the program and the school you attend, and there's not much in terms of specific provision or approach that is likely to be time well spent.  

In all of this, preparation is important, but it's equally important to treat this as a first pass, a 40,000-foot view of the subjects you will dive down to bomb . . . er, learn.  With five months to spend, you'll find that you do have time to explore those details further, and you'll find that they make sense.  This will help you to avoid the common mistakes in your first year of law school.

I hope this helps,


Current Law Students / Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« on: March 07, 2010, 05:58:35 PM »
Law school sucks that way. By the time you figure it out it's time to graduate. Just keep working and you will do fine. As for law school grading, it's super arbitrary in my experience.

Ncccippy & All -

Indeed so.  And since the other threads had me digging up books to find the various sections, here are the sections that might reduce that suckdom:

For those already in law school, in Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold I suggest reading from page 168 ("Efficiency Versus Laziness") through 200, and then 239 ("What You'll Need") through 307. It's fine to skip the other sections, as those will be handy later and, well, just for fun.

The key is to achieve the maximum result with the least effort. Or, more carefully, with the least wasted effort.  Much of that is in thinking, really thinking, about how to spend limited time in a sea of law, cases, and distractions.

Best of luck to all,


PS:  Grades really aren't that arbitrary, but they certainly seem that way.  [How about pages 298-302 ("Exams: A Secret") for more fun.]

I have been accepted to law school for the Fall 2010 semester and wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible for school.  I was not a pre-law major so do not even have a rudimentary knowledge regarding some fundamentals of the law school experience e.g. case-briefing, outliving, etc.

What should/could I be doing to better prepare me for law school now so that I won't find myself in any sort of G.P.A. deficit during my first semester or year.  

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Any advice is appreciated and any suggested books or courses are welcome.  Thanks.

Aloha, M112 -

This will no doubt cause a few flames, if not take us to one of several levels in Dante's Inferno.

First, congratulations!

Second, you're asking exactly the right question.  This is a very, very good sign.

Third, here's the advice:  Yes, you can and do need to prepare.  I suggest you start with two books, one of which is wholly self-serving (so take it as you will).  The first is Planet Law School, which, through years-long conversations with its author started and changed my thoughts a decade or so ago about this topic.  The second book is mine, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.  

Obviously, you're past the first part of that second book, so you would start with the second section, on Getting Good.  I recommend this because it might be helpful in digesting some of the material in Planet Law School, which, believe it or not, is even more radical and dense than I.

In short, you can prepare with a reasonable time commitment by beginning the process of thinking through the framework of the law or, more specifically, in each of the six major areas covered (usually) in your first year. These will be extremely helpful to you as you begin your first year, as the discussions in class will make sense and the cases will too.  (And you'll not feel the need to waste time on case briefs, as the importance of each case will be obvious.)

I hope this helps, and again, congratulations,


Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: March 07, 2010, 05:04:15 PM »
I get your point about not losing the big picture, as I had a lot of trouble doing that last semester. For instance, I had a lot of "How the heck was I supposed to know that?" moments whenever I did hypos on E &E. (like when I was doing the questions on personal jurisdiction, some of the answers would contain information about amount-in-controversy requirement, which I did not learn at that time. This was very frustrating at first, but as I continued to study, everything started coming together. What I felt as I learned more and more about one subject was that if I studied these things before (contrary to the general advice that tells you "don't ever study law on your own before law school"), I would have had a lot easier time learning the concepts. So my question is..

1)What do you think about studying the law before coming to law school? Would that make much difference? Isn't making a basic outline possible (maybe by following each chapter of a book like E&E and summarizing information in it) even if you are not in law school?

This will likely generate a lot of heat, but I (now) firmly believe in preparing prior to law school.  It's not that one cannot learn all that one needs to know in our legal gestation of nine months, but that very few do.  And very few do because the expectations and assumptions are so flawed.  

So, yes, I strongly encourage anyone to build basic outlines for each of the six topics.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing in-depth.  But a framework into which finer details and knowledge will go.  [This is on pages 140-44 ("To Prep or Not To Prep") and 257-60 ("Back to the Future: Outlines") of Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.]

Note: We're talking about a few dozen hours.  [!]  A fraction of the time spent on the LSAT prep, or just about anything else.  And this time will have a HUGE payoff.

2)Isn't it really about repeating things after all? I mean, isn't that how we learn every type of information?

Yes it is, but not in the ways most assume.  Education has, in large measure, become about memorization.  This is fine, as far as it goes . . . but it really doesn't go very far. In a graduate or professional program, that's a "C" . . . a failing grade.  After all, why use humans if it's just about remembering.  We have computers and books and pencils and paper for that.

Learning is about more.  This is the difference between knowing a piece of information and knowing what that information means--and how to use it.

The difference, as a practical matter and to our question, is that simply re-reading an outline 47 times might help in terms of memorizing the prongs of legal test x.  But it won't do much in terms of knowing what to do with that legal test.  (Hint: this is another name for "law exam.")

Reverse the lens.  Play with that legal test 47 times, and you WILL know those prongs.  And you'll also know what to do with them.

Does that help?

3)What other source would be good for learning black letter law? What would YOU use if you were to become a law student again? According to your book, Restatement is a good source. Should I cut the time I spend on E&E and read Restatements?

Restatements are excellent, for both black letter law and, as with the E&E series, hypos.

There are student editions of the basic Restatements, which are a solid investment.  Primarily, however, commercial outlines will be the best first stop in getting the contours of the basic points down.  The note of caution is that most commercial outlines have grown quite dense, with mountains of lower-level information.  Be careful not to get bogged down with that, at first.  When you begin playing with hypos, that's when the lower-levels are valuable.  Moreover, they start to make sense, and become intuitive.  You'll find yourself saying, over and over, "Well of course.  How else would it be?"

[See pages 239-43 ("What You'll Need") of Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.]

4)Could you please comment on my studying method?

-what I do is, before we are about to cover a concept or doctrine in class, I would read E&E and write down summary of what I read (basic history, each rule, situations in which that rule would apply, exceptions, etc in my outline) and then read commercial outline to find out rule of law for each case we cover in class. Go to class. Listen and try to understand as much as I can about the topic (Write important things I learn from class in my outline).

I am sorry for asking so many question. I would be so thankful for whatever advice you can give.

No need to be sorry, and this is a useful "base fix" (a term in navigation) for your journey.

You're absolutely right to focus on this before class.  That is when it has to start.  (But not with cases.  = :  )

I suggest starting with your syllabus (just to confirm emphases and order) and with commercial outlines.  Again, you're creating an outline for the most basic points, first.  You'll add to this as you move on.

In class, your listening should be intense.  You're almost leaning out of your chair.  (If you're searching for the latest on craigslist, the question is really . . . why are you wasting time in class?  Skip class and go shopping.)  This intensity in class is silent.  You're focused on understanding the points from the professor's side:  does what is being said from the front of the class make sense?

Take FEW notes, or none at all.  The ONLY points to note are those elements to add or alter what's in your outline, and thus what will be in your mind.  These must relate directly to black letter law.  (Note:  "relating directly" covers a whole lot.)

After class . . . immediately after class . . . you incorporate those notes into your outline.  (If it cannot be immediate, it should be that day.  Any later, and it will become gibberish.  You'll barely remember what it was that was being discussed, much less be able to draw any meaningful lesson from it.)  You then go to E&E and the Restatements and to practice exams to work through fact patterns.  This is the process of internalizing the law.  Black letter law + facts + practice = thinking like a lawyer.

[This is on pages 244-53 ("Not Good Enough. I Want Specifics!") of Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.  See also pp. 261-63.]

What follows is meant as a friendly jab, not as a flippant or negative comment toward you or anyone.  (Everyone, including me, has done the same.)  So, please do take this in the spirit intended.  Here goes:  

To paraphrase a certain intergalactic knight, "Do or Do Not.  There is no try."  

The life of a law student is frustrating and overwhelming because there is no framework, and thus the endless daily interactions lead to confusion rather than sense.  With that framework, it will make sense, and it will become enjoyable, or at least engaging.  

If every you feel yourself slipping into that "try to understand . . . " mindset or a sense of being overwhelmed, stop.  Something is wrong.  At best, there's not much real learning that's happening.  Re-focus and re-dedicate your efforts to those elements that will help you with those two prime directives: learning black letter law and learning how to use it.

I hope this helps, and best of luck to you.


Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: March 07, 2010, 03:55:47 AM »
I want to ask a few questions here again about how to use supplements. I personally like E&E the best. If I found these to be excellent source to learn the black letter law (as they not only explain the law but also give a lot of hypos) should I rely primarily on these? Reading E&E may take only few minutes, but, at least for me, to INTERNALIZE it, it takes repetition and that would consume significant amount of time. For instance, it took me reading twice or three times (particular sections, for instance, federal court and jurisdiciton issues) to really be able to draw the big picture. Doing this repititively can easily consume 4~5 hours. If I add the time to read case briefs and reviewing it can easily be +6 hours. Is this the right way to study? assuming I have only 6 hours to study per day. or do you have any suggestions as to what I can change in my studying habit?

E&E is a fine resource, and should be part of your study.  Not necessarily primary, but a big part.  (Another big part are the legal research engines, which are free to students.  Free!  These are extremely expensive in practice, so it's astonishing how underused they are.  Find your campus reps, and sit down with them to make sure you are an expert at legal research.  Among the benefits are that you can do case briefs in seconds rather than hours.)

The answer to your question is that the absorption (and then internalizing) of knowledge does take a few passes, or more than a few passes, through the material.  This can, as you state, take time.

The danger is that we tend to think of these as discrete elements.  In truth, one doesn't internalize something until one uses it.  So, E&E is a tool for fact patterns as much as black letter law.  Thus, using E&E as part of hypotheticals is a better use of time.

This might seem a bit circular--are you supposed to re-read it, or what?  The suggestion is that the effort to refine a master outline is intense, and brief.  Don't spend too much time on any section.  (And that time is mostly in the refining, not simply memorizing.  Do not waste time attempting to memorize.  Memory will come with use.  Practice makes perfect.)

When working on an outline, you're really looking at the most basic elements of the rules.  The surprising thing about law school (and the law) is that most of the rules can be fairly simply stated.  The exceptions and exceptions-to-exceptions can also be stated simply, and within the context of the larger rules.  So, try to force a faster refining of the black letter law (i.e., your master outline, and then your summary outline, which should be done soon), and then, as an integrated process, work through the fact patterns in the E&E books and practice exams.  You'll draw from your outlines, often, but you'll be focused on the connections between the rules and whatever facts you happen to be playing with at the time.

In short, reverse the process.  Rather than attempting to build the big picture from the details, see if you can anticipate the details from the big picture.  In other words, the "big picture" is the outline you have constructed.  The details are the facts and specific law.  You work FROM that big picture, not (just) towards it.

Does that help?

Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: March 07, 2010, 03:33:55 AM »
After reading this thread, I feel like I have to apologize to Thane for what the other student said. This is because, if I heard your advice before law school started, or even after few weeks into law school, when my head was still big and my heart so full of ego, I would have responded in the same way; it is tragic how stubborn human mind can get, especially so when we are directionless and hopelessly lost. If you did bad in your first semester, listen to Thane's words carefully and think about what went wrong. Even if you did well, I still think you can learn so much about what law school really is about and what is expected of you as a student. The main point of Thane's advice is: think like a lawyer and do what a lawyer does when they have to know the law, why not try it? It can't hurt to think like a lawyer when you are in law school.

Thank you, and apology accepted.  = :  )

I've noticed two diametrical reactions of senior attorneys and executives.  After having dealt a time or two with situations and reactions such as the earlier ones, the response can either be highly negative (and most caustic), or patient.  Interestingly, I've also found that patience is, nearly always, the better path--not just because it is better karma, but becasue it is more efficient.  Counterintuitive but true.

In any event, let me know what you think after you've decorated your corner office.  = :  )

Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: March 05, 2010, 07:13:27 PM »
Excellent advice, Thane. Among the best I've read.

Distilled: work smart, not hard. Nobody cares about your effort; they care about your results.

A thought occurs to me, from the discussion in the other thread:

It's natural and easy to receive grades from the first semester "mid-terms," and to assign (much) more weight to them than they deserve.  With few exceptions (actually, none that I'm aware of), first-semester grades count for a small percentage in one's final law school grades.  (Excepting one-semester courses.)  There are many reasons for this, not least that profs know that students are struggling, and also as a wake-up call of sorts to students that these exams are nothing like one's undergraduate years.  In the profs' minds, this is their warning, to help.

Here's the point:  it's easy for those who did extremely well to assume that that's just the natural order of things.  They're the stars.

It's also easy for those who did not do as well as they expected (which is nearly everyone) to assume, dejectedly, that that's just the natural order of things.  They's not the stars, anymore.

To all, please keep in mind that those first-semester grades are almost meaningless.  What counts is how you do from this moment in time--right now--to the exams, and of course in those exams.  That's the donut.  There will be a surprising number of "upsets," with first-semester stars relegated suddenly to has-been status, and with new stars coming from seemingly nowhere.  Often, the super-stars are the quiet ones.  Almost never the gunners.  (Why?  See the other discussions.)

The key is to maintain a focus, and to focus on ONLY those elements of law school that will help in thinking like a lawyer--that infamous phrase--namely, an internalized understanding of black letter law, and an ability to think through a new set of facts, cold, within the meaning of that internalized black letter law.

Current Law Students / Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« on: March 05, 2010, 11:50:04 AM »
Thank you Thane. I got your book yesterday and spent the entire day reading it. It was a truly amazing book. It brought tears to my eyes. Knowing the reality and why things are the way they are, and the fact that I was not aware of what was truly going on and what was expected of me as a student, I was so ashamed of my ignorance. It is amazing how I did everything that you mentioned were ineffective- spending first few weeks being buried in casebooks, being frustrated at the professors and classes, trying desperately to read the supplements without actually absorbing them, and constantly telling myself that I will be okay while I KNEW I was not. The fact that I found out everything just now, after a semester is over, really hurts. I wonder why anyone at my school, including the person who has an academic advising job, could not tell me what you wrote in the book. I did not realize just how much anger I have built within myself over the past few months. (I know this sounds very immature) I want to blame others, but then again, it is all my fault for not knowing.

You are most welcome, and thank you.  One reason I became active in these discussions again (after a rather frustrating first attempt last semester) is that I realized what part of the year it was, and that law students would be feeling much as you did.

In any event, your reaction is not immature at all.  Further, I don't believe the blame should be on you, or on any law student.  Your reactions--and the reactions of any new law student--follow the educational pattern that was simply expected for the prior 16 years.  Notebooks open, pens out, regurgitate.  Next.  It would be surprising if the transition were much different, given the unfortunate set-up.  Despite repeated sayings that "Law school is different," it is very, very hard to actually change how one goes about learning.

Also, while some out there reading your note might think you quite foolish for spending a day reading a book about law school, exactly the opposite is true.  It has been said that insanity is defined as doing the same thing again and again, with repeated failure, yet expecting different results with each new try.  This is the world of most law students.  The "failure" is that sense of frustration, pent-up anger, hopelessness, and senseless doom.  This is the horrible life of most first-year law students, stuck in a rut of attempting to memorize and, in class and with no notice, vomit up case facts, procedural history, etc., without knowing the underlying purpose of those cases, facts, procedural posture, or indeed of the law.  That is the tragedy.  And it is completely unnecessary.  (Or at least mostly unnecessary.)

The anger you write of is, unfortunately, something that most law students go through.  For nearly all, however, this happens in the second year, when it's effectively too late.  Moreover, there's little incentive at that point to figure out what really went wrong, as to do so is to challenge their assumptions and actions of the prior year, making the reality all that much more painful.

In any event, while anger is natural and, in moderation, healthy, the real challenge for you now is to re-focus in ways that will be helpful.  As should be clear, internalizing the framework (as seen in an outline for each subject) and beginning the process of seriously connecting that framework with an ever-changing set of fact patterns (practice exams) will set you on the right path.  It will make sense, and it will take less time.  

There is still time.  Don't panic.  The time spent over the past six months has not been wasted.  That knowledge is there; it just needs that framework to make sense.  You'll be amazed at how quickly it does make sense once you stop fighting the law (i.e., all the nonsense of the first semester) and start loving it (i.e., realizing how much FUN it is to play with fact patterns and the legal rules).

I'll take the next sections out of order to connect these points:

One thing that I felt a little confused about was the part about how to fit your knowledge of black letter law together with what is going on in class.

Briefly, we (understandably) miscontrue "participation" as meaning "do a good job in responding to the professor's questions about a case."  Nope.  There's no mileage there, literally and figuratively.

In truth, we should be focused on participation . . . but not what is said.  Rather, this participation is in what is heard.  When in class, listen intently.  Joust with your professors, mentally.  When they say a statement, ask the What If questions, silently yet rapid-fire.  Challenge their statements, silently yet rapid-fire.  This is intense--just like the practice of law.  If something is unclear, jot that down . . . just one line! . . . and confirm its meaning within your outline.  Do so immediately.  Waiting even an extra day will mean that much of that meaning is lost (as you have other classes to keep up with); you'll have a harder time refreshing your mind as to that point; and you likely will never get to it at all.  This is one reason it's so easy to be overwhelmed; there's simply too much to do.  This is another reason it's so important to focus on only that which is important.  Everything else (i.e., much of what law students assume law school is supposed to be about) is wasteful of time or even counterproductive, and must be pushed aside.

Stay absolutely on track in terms of the topics being covered in that day's class.  You MUST have gone through that section of your outline the night before.  This is not about getting a "head start"--that is the wrong path, and even if it were the right path, for reasons that should be clear from the book, it won't work.  It is about staying on track.  This is the hard (and easy) part: just one day at a time!

Cases are useful ONLY to the extent that they further your understanding of that framework.  That framework is the outline.  Thus, as you build and refine your outline (and then re-refine it to a summary outline), you are cementing that understanding of Black Letter Law.  From there, you are constantly testing that knowledge with fact patterns--in class and in practice exams. (Paradoxically, this approach will lead to better discussions with the professor when you are actually called upon.  This is because the facts will make sense, as will the rule under discussion.  Not just that, but you'll understand all the ancillary and competing doctrines, because they too will make sense.  They won't be gibberish in a quasi-legal vacuum.)  That is the type of in-class discussions professors hope for, and almost never get. 

And that is the connection between the two.  It is what happens in your mind, not in class.

Does that help?

the bad: It is hard to say anything bad about the book that I really liked, but I think you could have thought of your audience in broader ways. Maybe not everyone who picks up your book is not someone, by your (or anyone else's) standard, a fine student at a reasonably good school. Maybe that person might not be making B's, maybe that person is failing. Maybe that person might be attending tier 4 school and would be discouraged to read your book when you mention stories about Harvard law or students who are getting only 'average grades'. I know that a person who would stop reading your book simply for reasons like these did not really try to understand what you were trying to convey, but that is also how many people are like. For instance, and this may sound contradicting because I just praised you for this, I feel like there could have been a better way to emphasize (to a pre-law student) that college studying habits won't work than simply being repetitive about it- or maybe there isn't a better way, and one should just go through a semester of law school and find out for herself. If you could come up with a better way to do this, that will be a huge plus.

Thank you for this.  Your thoughts correspond with some of my concerns, and I've been keeping notes (yes, notes  = :  ) about these topics for an updated edition at some point.  When you have the chance, after exams, I'd be interested in your further thoughts of what might have been better presented.

As to Harvard, et al, your comments are apt.  The odd characteristic of law schools is that, even for those in T3 and T4 schools, the ways in which law schools are run are almost identical, regardless of the school.  Given who the professors are now, the irony of rankings is that one gets pretty much the same legal education in a T4 law school as they do at Harvard, et al.  Believe it or not.  

I'll think about how to address that point more carefully, and again, I welcome your further thoughts.

Anyways, I do not know how to thank you for writing such a wonderful book. This book will save my lives.

You are most welcome, and best of luck in all of your lives.   = :  )


Law School Admissions / Re: Question about admissions and LSAT scores
« on: March 03, 2010, 11:41:05 PM »
LSAT really is important. Unfortunately, extra cirriculars like yours won't give any appreciable boost.

The good news is that studying for the LSAT goes a long way. Don't just retake the LSAT on the fly. Plan on spending at least 200 hours of hard studying if you haven't already. If you have already put those study hours in, you may consider rethinking your strategy.

S -

The above advice is dead-on right.  The real question is the degree to which you focused on your first LSAT.  If not much, then you do need to spend a LOT more time on that.  It will help, for many reasons.  If you did spend a considerable time and effort in your first attempt, then, as nealric states, think about what really went wrong. 

There was a thread elsewhere about LSAT tutors.  To be honest, I'd not given that much thought, and tend to be at least somewhat negative on the notion.  If, however, this is truly a dream, then your LSAT must take top priority.  In addition to a class--repeat, in addition to--you might, might consider a tutor.  (Again, this wouldn't be my first thought, but depending upon your answers to the above, it's an option to prove or disprove that admission to UW.)

Good luck!

You are right rankings have some merit, certainly Hastings is more respected than GGU in the Bay Area and University of San Diego is more respected than California Western in San Diego. The rankings mean something, but once you get concerned about rankings and attending a slightly higher ranked school outside of the location you want to work in you get in trouble.

If you take my situation last year I nearly made a HORRENDOUS decision based on U.S. News rankings. I have always wanted to live and work in San Francisco and for some idiotic reason I thought going to Michigan State would give me a better chance of accomplishing that than going to Golden Gate. Michigan State was t-3 and GGU was a t-4 so the ranking was technically higher. However, had I gone to MSU I would have created a massive hurdle for myself and nobody in San Francisco would be that impressed at the distinction between 110 and 132 or whatever the difference between a t-3 and t-4 might be.

I do want to say I am shocked at how ridiculous the formula for the rankings is. To have 40% based on completely subjective opinions of unidentified agents of a private company is shocking. In reality the only two objective ranking things that are measured in the ranking formula are LSAT score and Bar Passage and they only make up only 12% of the schools rankings, which is baffling to me. The other factors can be toyed with and manipulated and it really does surprise me that such a horrendous formula carries so much weight in student's decisions to attend law school.

This is a good example of how rankings can be misused, and you're quite right about both the intra-regional prestige of various schools, and also the very different calculus that applies across regions.  The more different these factors are, the more one's personal circumstances should be considered, even over a raw rank.  

This is why it's useful NOT to think of rankings as linear--as we tend to do (T14, etc...).  Were you looking at, say, Golden Gate and the University of Michigan, there the difference would be obvious.  (Not a terribly fair comparison, of course, but this is what makes the point.)  Anyone from the University of Michigan is likely to have a better time finding a job in California than anyone in California in a significantly lesser-ranked law school.  Narrow that gap, and other factors (should) start to weigh more heavily.  Within any tier, a difference of a half-dozen is all-but-irrelevant.  Within the top two tiers and within a few dozen places, other factors are more important.  And below that, the range gets even wider, as you state.  The reason, however, is that we're talking about the lower two tiers.  Were this between a T14 and low-T1 school, or mid-T1 and mid-T2, the answer might change.

To all, Big's point is quite right: rankings should not make the decision, usually, and especially not if other factors (such as a clear desire to live in a certain place) are more relevant to YOU.  "You" is in caps because this really should be a personal decision, based on factors unique to your own preferences, circumstances, and finances.

However, rankings ARE important.  This might ruffle feathers, and it's certainly an uncomfortable truth.  But, depending upon what one intends to do, be very, very wary about the tendency to dismiss rankings.  Even if based entirely on fluff (which they're not, not even as to the 40% quasi-subjective component mentioned), they are still important, because they're taken as important.

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