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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Law School Admissions / Re: Adoption Law-Advice Needed
« on: February 21, 2010, 12:50:06 PM »
Your numbers are good, so you should have a decent variety of options. One thing to consider is that while lower ranked schools may give you scholarships, higher ranked schools tend to have much more generous LRAPS (Loan repayment assistance programs). LRAPs will usually forgive your loans if you do public interest law for a certain number of years.

I wouldn't expect to make 60k right out of the gate, but you could eventually end up in that range if you make it your career.

DD -

What you've described is quite achievable, and I agree with Neal's comments.  To add to his advice, a question:  Have you worked in an adoption agency, or for a family lawyer specializing in adoptions?

Neal is quite right that your numbers are likely to give you many options.  If, however, you have experience in the area, your application will be MUCH better received.  This is because one's preferences are likely to change in law school.  Admissions officers and deans assume so.  And, in most cases, a preference is actually superfluous and even discounted, because most law graduates take positions with the expectation of being trained in an area they would never have contemplated prior to law school.  But an indication of past experience and substantiated reasons for a specific preference will add weight to that, and can make the difference in a toss-up application.

Moreover, experience (even part-time or volunteer) might lead to specific advice, recommendations, or contacts that will be VERY helpful in law school.  (With a summer clerkship, for example.)  These can indeed make the difference between the so-so first law job (and so-so salary) and dream job (and salary) with just the right firm or office.

Your interests are very much in need . . . I hope you do follow your dreams.

= :  )

Law School Admissions / Re: Quality of Undergraduate Institution & GPA
« on: February 20, 2010, 01:50:49 AM »
I see that this has been viewed several times.  Any insight would be greatly appreciated.  I am more curious about how much consideration is taken into the undergraduate academic institution rather than my own predicament.


As a general rule, the more qualitative factors are considered only after the quantitative factors place the applicant comfortably in the gray.  So, the closer two applications are to a toss up, the more weight will be given to a factor such as this.  Clearly, an obviously difficult school (Cal Tech, etc.) or major (theoretical physics with minors in differential equations and French literature) will make a difference, but only at the margins.  Even those won't overcome stats that are substantially below the norm for that law school.

I hope this helps,


Current Law Students / Re: UF 2L Taking Questions
« on: February 20, 2010, 01:44:09 AM »
I was thinking about transferring to UF.  Do you know any transfers?  If so, how difficult/competitive was it for them?  Thanks.

That's a good question.  I know of people who transferred, but they're "merely" people I have met maybe once or twice ever.  Now that I think of it, two UF law students who transferred into UF, in fact, wrote a book about the transferring process that may (or may not) help you:

(I never read the book and don't really know them, so I cannot vouch for the book's accuracy.)

As it happens I was an editor for this book.  It does have stats for schools.  I was unaware before reading this of the various schools that take an exceptionally large number of transfer students (relatively), which can of course make a difference in terms of acceptance probabilities.  There are a few surprises, on both the high and low sides.

For UF, apparently they offer admission to 27 out of 120 applicants, with 20 of those 27 accepting the offer.  

Also, FYI, transfer applications are usually reviewed by the dean directly.

Current Law Students / Re: Is law school worth it?- Freaked Out!
« on: February 20, 2010, 01:28:22 AM »
I am pondering whether or not to enroll in law school this fall. I have been reading a number of horror stories on a blog called "Exposing the Law School Scam" which claims that the job market is overly saturated, that the demand for legal jobs is actually shrinking, and that even graduates from top schools are being forced to take insultingly low salaries (I saw one posting on Craigslist in NYC that offered $15/hr. to an "experienced litigator") or even having to wait tables since they are unable find any work. This seems like a nightmare when one has to consider taking on a debt load that approaches $100k. I would love to hear people's thoughts, especially recent graduates and 2/3L's who are preparing to enter (hopefully) the workforce. On a personal note, I have been accepted at four law schools- LSU, Ole Miss, Rutgers Camden, and Hofstra, and have been waitlisted at George Mason and American. Should I press on or choose a different career path? Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!

Byron -

You raise important questions, both as to the income side and as to the very real expense side.

There are technical answers, and then there are real answers.  The technical answers are addressed ad nauseam in terms of rankings, grades, extracurriculars, etc.  Yet the real answer should focus on those and on something more important.  That something is your motive for going to law school. 

It is natural and expected to be freaked about about law school, for any number of reasons.  The real question is whether one continues to go back to the basic assumption that law school is simply for them.  If so--if you are upset by the notion of not going--then that's a very good sign that you should go.  If your reasons for going have to do with money, power, prestige, family pressure, and so on . . . those can be okay, but only if they're not the only reasons, and if they're not otherwise wrong for you.  Even if Daddy Warbucks is paying for law school, three years is a long time anywhere if it's not where you want to be.

So, the real answer to your question is deeply personal.  Do you really, truly WANT to go to law school?  (Don't answer this here.  This is answered in front of a mirror.)  To paraphrase the Oracle in a certain matrix, this is something you have to know for yourself, balls to bones, that law school is for you and you are for law school.

Also, your selection of law schools is quite eclectic.  At least one of those is very likely to lead to a good career, all else being equal.  Most are, however, likely to lead to careers (roughly) in their local areas.

I hope this helps,


Current Law Students / Re: case briefs
« on: February 18, 2010, 12:54:26 PM »
cases offered in law school so can understand reasoning of case.  it inefficient way to learn black-letter law, as that actually not what being taught.

Exactly right, and sorry if I glossed over that.  It's important not to get tripped up on all the window-dressing in a case--and most cases have lots and lots of dressing.  The crucial matter is the reasoning: the why.  Why did that fact make the difference?  What was the test (i.e., the rule of law)?  Is the reasoning flawed?  If so, why?  Do other jurisdictions have better reasoning?  From there, what would happen if a fact were different?  The jurisdiction?  And so on.

It's also important as the second points (inefficiency and exam bait-and-switch) are very much the things that trip up most law students.

Julie right.  Thane glad could respond Julie.

Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: February 18, 2010, 12:44:13 PM »

If that's the case, then I suggest maintaining a low profile.  Then they won't see you coming some years down the line.

A low profile is indeed a good default setting, for most.  Good call, Peter.  (And every class has faces of shock as star classmates come from seemingly nowhere.)  As hard as it is for us, after 16 years of ingrained habit, it's crucial to recognize that the dynamic in law school is different.  Not just the what--what we're supposed to learn--but the how and why: how we're supposed to learn it and how it will be tested, and why we need to get it at a far deeper level of understanding.  Different, different.  So, yes, when in doubt it's *much* better NOT to flop around, striving to impress all.

This depends, of course, on the natural inclinations of the individual.  Some of us just can't help being likable.  = :  )

Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: February 18, 2010, 02:11:01 AM »

Make better use of your time. And don't get stressed out about being unprepared in class or what not. All that matters is your performance on the final exam (and possibly midterms).  I wish that I would have spent more time outlining than worrying about the readings and briefing for class.

Thank you, Peter.  I suspect you wanted to shake readers up a bit (as I sometimes do as well), and your points are very much on point--especially about the importance of outlining over, well, just about everything else.  (I would add practice exam upon practice exam no later than two-thirds of the way through the semester.) 

A related caveat that sounds contradictory, but isn't:  A law student DOES want to care what profs and fellow students think . . . but not because of grades.  Rather, important information and, sometimes, contacts and recommendations come from professors.  And, as to peers, these are your future colleagues.  You can't imagine how insigificant law school worries become when it's time to actually practice.

Grades are key.  Yes, true.  But they're "merely" a necessary but not sufficient condition.  For a good (and lucrative) career, you will also need the respect and support of your peers.  In even the largest of cities, the legal world is a small town indeed.

So, with that written, Peter's main points are quite right.  Thank you.

I hope this helps,


Here's another one for those times when you just have to stop thinking about Pierson v. Post, Erie, and Learned Hand . . .

Current Law Students / Re: case briefs
« on: February 17, 2010, 12:22:53 PM »
You only need to brief cases for the first few weeks of law school or for however long it takes for you to be able to recognize how to read a case, dissect it into its components (procedural history, facts, issue, rule, reasoning), and take from it whatever it is you are looking for.  Once you are able to do that STOP BRIEFING!!! Get a case brief supplement or look up the cases on lexis or westlaw or whatever and call it a day.

Absolutely right.  Case briefing was designed in a simpler age for a simpler purpose:  to put all the law student ducklings in a row behind the mama prof duck.  (Who was then the papa prof duck, come to think of it, although I'm not sure papa ducks spend all that much time worrying about whether their ducklings are in a row, behind them or elsewhere.)  

In law school, cases exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to highlight a point of law.  It could be a rule.  An exception.  An exception to an exception.

So, focus first and primarily on that point of law.  USE the case, sure.  Know the case and know why it's there.  But don't spend more than five minutes scanning it.  Then and only then do you read it--and only the parts that are relevant to the point of law.  Absolutely don't spend more than five seconds on procedural history, etc., unless that is the point of law at issue.  (If, for example, it's in Civ Pro.)

Reverse the process:  know WHY you're reading the case before you do.  In law school it's easy to think of cases as the donut.  Nope.  They're a hole, or more specifically a black hole, into which an entire semester can be sucked--with absolutely no benefit.  Focus instead on what is important:  learning the rules of law (just one or two per class, usually) and on how to apply those rules to new facts.

If you get called on and don't know the procedural history, etc.--and I'm trying to think of any time this ever happened outside of The Paper Chase--just say you don't know.  Don't worry about it.  It WON'T affect your grade (as long as you're not obnoxious about it).  Don't worry about being embarrassed.  Really.  Who cares?  Focus on the rule of law, instead.

Current Law Students / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: February 17, 2010, 12:09:31 PM »
Many reading this might be saying "just drop the damn class," but for me this is really difficult because I feel like that is admitting failure.  On the other hand, I may literally fail if I stay in all of my classes.  But still, it is very hard for me to swallow that other people seem to be able to handle much more than me.  Any suggestions about what I should do would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks again

404 -

To add to the points EarlCat and BikePilot make, it is very true that what you're describing is a common feeling among all, or nearly all, law students. 

Maybe this will help:

We hear repeated again and again words like "drudgery," workload," "overwhelming," and so on.  If this is the approach, it would be extraordinary not to feel as you do.  What's worse, none of these will help.  There's no extra credit in law school for time served.

There might be a different solution: Learn more and better, with less work. 

One of the problems, if not *the* problem, is not law school.  It's us.  The study habits and "techniques" that were successful in college and before simply won't work, or won't work well, in law school.  Why?  Because law school is not college.  That sounds obvious, yet how many law students look at how they are supposed to learn the material?  No, instead most simply plow through, hoping against hope (and against advice of nearly everyone who has gone before), that the prof will *somehow* see through their exam to see all the work they've put in.  That's not how it works.

BikePilot has just the right advice in his take on reading law review articles.  Namely, don't.  Or, more correctly, don't "read" them.  Slogging through an 80-page law review article is not just an incredible waste of time, it won't help.  Will you know what you need to know after reading it that you didn't know before.  I can almost guarantee you that you won't get what you're looking for in this way.  The real challenge is to stop racing, and start learning in a much more efficient way.

Let's start from the beginning.  Why do profs assign reading.  Sadism?  Well, okay, maybe a little.  The main reason, however, is right there.  They assign materials to convey a handful of points.  That's it.  The objective as a student is not to READ.  The objective is to LEARN.  The challenge is to learn with the least amount of wasted effort.  So, reading ANYTHING that doesn't help in that understanding is wasted.

Don't read everything.  You can't.  You shouldn't.  And no attorney does that.  What to do?  First, confirm every scrap of paper for one thing: its relevance.  Figure out why you're reading it.  If you cannot state, in a simple sentence, why you're reading it, then don't. 

Never, never spend hours reading cases, or anything else for that matter.  Instead, try this:  Five minutes confirming the rule at issue.  Ten seconds confirming the relevance of the document before you.  IF it's relevant, five minutes scanning for the essential facts.  If it's relevant and valuable, twenty minutes reading--really reading--through what is relevant and valuable.  (If it takes longer, fine, but it shouldn't take much longer.  This is exactly the same standard in practice.)  Now for the important part:  You're not done.  Spend five minutes updating your outline, and another five minutes pondering a hypothetical or two with the rule you've just learned and facts you've just sifted.

If you're spending time briefing cases, stop.  Waste of time.  (Do profs check?  No?  Waste of time.)

If you're highlighting, stop.  Waste of time.  (Will this be graded?  No?  Waste of time.)

If you're taking notes, stop.  Waste of time.  (Do they help?  No?  Waste of time.)

Brown-nosing?  Gunning?  Subterfuge?  Stop, stop, stop.

The study of law can be truly engaging, and can be done, well, in less time than most now take, slogging about frantically from one source to the next, understanding almost none of it and getting more and more confused with each new stack.  Rely on those who've gone before to re-confirm what will actually make a difference, and focus ONLY on those aspects that will make a difference.  Unfortunately, this means challenging what has worked for 16 years . . . because it WILL NOT work for law school.

For all, law school is about learning the law, backwards, forwards, and sideways . . . and, just as importantly, learning how to apply those rules to a new set of facts, cold.  It is not about brown-nosing, all-nighters, highlighting, note-taking, or any of that nonsense.  Re-focusing can lead to much better results, with much less wasted effort.  And, of course, to just the right amount of stress.  No more feelings of being overwhelmed.

I hope this helps,


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