# Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
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### Messages - Thane Messinger

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##### Studying for the LSAT / Re: Is it true Feb LSAT hardest?
« on: February 12, 2010, 04:15:34 AM »
I wouldn't be surprised if the scores are the lowest. Only T2/3/4 schools really take February LSATs- my guess is that a lot of Feb takers are people who are trying to get into that range of schools at the last minute. Shouldn't change the curve too much, as it's weighted against other administrations.

Just speculation though.

This is likely to remain one of those imponderables, as the LSAC would hardly offer evidence to contradict its assertions of a test normed nationally and over time.  Certainly raises eyebrows.  The techniques for validating tests and test questions is quite sophisticated, however; the difficulty is when the populations in each test might be substantially different and different in unpredictable ways.  There too, questions can be used to validate these different populations, and presumably the numbers of test-takers are sufficient to achieve that.  (e.g., if a percentage of test-takers in one test get a series of questions wrong with greater frequency, that can be used to adjust the scores.)  Not surprisingly, that's a lot of faith to place in the statistical integrity of the system when so much is at stake for the average test-taker.

That written, nealric's take is a safe one.

Also, I found an interesting corollary when studying for the bar.  Several friends seemed to spend a LOT of time calculating just how low their score could be to pass.  (A pointless exercise on so many levels.)  One such person seemed to take delight in sharing his calculations after each day.  Said individual took the bar four times.

. . . Seems far better to forget the abstract mathematics and focus on acing the test.  Forget margins.  Forget decimal points.  Just ace it.

Along with the *excellent* stickies--where were you twenty years ago?--plan on spending a LOT of time preparing for the LSAT.  You'll be glad when scores come out that you spent the extra 60 hours taking the extra 10 exams.

PS:  To all who took the exam, you did GREAT.

502
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Ridiculous Tuition?
« on: February 12, 2010, 03:46:11 AM »
In addition, there's also the flip side, which is the calculus from the law schools' side.  The University of Michigan decided in the 1950s that it couldn't support the type of law school it wanted to be (i.e., a national one) with just Michigan's population.  Like most flagship state schools, it was strong, but not world-class.  So, unlike most state schools, it raised its tuition to near-private levels, re-invested that money into building a national school, and presto! (well, a few decades of "presto!") . . . it achieved what it had sought.  In that sense, those higher tuition dollars were well worth it.  The lesson was eagerly grasped by other law schools, of course, and so we've seen real pressure on even mid- and lower-level schools to replicate this.

Of course, not everyone can be at the top, so what we're really seeing is a churning, something like what happens when we toss fish food into the pond at the nearest park.

There are two more reasons.  One, the requirements of the ABA add considerable pressure.  One-point-five, this pressure is not just for accreditation, but for prestige.  The former can be had for a relatively modest few million.  The latter takes much, much more.  And the scale is not arithmetic.  So, in a sense, the constant pressure for prestige creates an ever-more-voracious appetite for resources to buy prestige, which in turn (it is hoped, as with Michigan, Boalt Hall, and Texas) will buy better students, which in turn (it is hoped, as with Michigan, Boalt Hall, and Texas) will buy more prestige, which in turn . . . .

Two, and related to the Michigan tale, on the "consumer" side we might have as much ignorance as stupidity.  Aside from rankings, there's not a whole lot for the average applicant to go on.  So, rather than seeing higher pricing as a hurdle (or something to be justified), it is seen as an indicator of quality.  Voila!  Yet more reason to charge more.

503
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Excursion: A Law Job
« on: February 12, 2010, 03:30:57 AM »
Quote

There are several possible answers, actually.  At the risk of taking this thread a bit too far afield (from its focus on transfer-friendly schools), I'm reminded of what just about every lawyer I know would say.  Actually, that's not quite right.  I can't think of a lawyer for whom "No" wouldn't be the most polite answer.

In any event, that is not I.  So, help me along.  What sort of law job are you seeking?  What and where do you hope to practice?

Thane.

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##### Law School Applications / Re: For Those of You Asking "Should I Go to Law School"...
« on: February 10, 2010, 02:47:39 PM »
Aloha, John, nealric, and All -

Yes, this is excellent.  When markets correct, those who happen to be in the entry-level rungs feel the pain first and hardest.  That was true when I graduated, and while I doubt I would have listened, it would have been good to have at least considered what's in the link.

Since nealric mentioned book-worthiness, last year I was handed a manuscript by a new author, and while I was initially appalled (its title is "Slacker's Guide to Law School"), I came to see it in much the same way.  I mention this because it has probably the best section on "Should I go?" of any pre-law book out there, including mine.  (I did address this in a somewhat different way, as my assumption is that most readers are GOING to go.  The real question is where.  So, part of what I advise is to think about the options, such as an MBA, PhD, or the like.  In short, as corny as it sounds, take some time to figure out what you REALLY want, and strive towards that.  If it's action and capital, the MBA or *possibly* MBA/JD is a good bet.  If it's cerebral, a PhD or PhD/JD combo might be better.)  Another major factor is the cost associated with any of these programs.  Defraying these costs is possible, but should also be viewed with a wary eye.

In sum, be very, very careful of going to law school with stars in your eyes.  The actual world of law practice is far, far different from our collective imagination.  That's not to write that it's not attractive.  It is.  But those stars need to be aligned--which for most means, among other things, being exceptionally careful before even embarking on the LSAT--before the stratospheric salaries and fame (and happiness) follow.

In any event, a great link.  And to all, this sticky is very much worth the viewing.

Thane.

505
##### General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: Highest Quality Law Instruction
« on: February 10, 2010, 05:00:32 AM »
To follow Bike Pilot and nealric's comments, the quality of faculty is high at all, or nearly all, law schools.  Why?  The pool from which law profs have come over the past several decades is that of a Top 5 law school, a clerkship or perhaps a year or two at a national firm, and then on to teaching.  There are few Kingsfields about anymore.  And most who go into teaching go because they want to, so you're generally getting a happy professoriate.

I attended Texas and also, years later, Harvard.  An important aspect of both is that, as large law schools, there's pretty much a wide palette to choose from, at least in years 2-3.  A tiny law school might be considered to hold its students more captive, but the only ones I can think of have reputations as having, if anything, an even cozier, more student-friendly reputation.

Bike Pilot's point about Law & Econ, environmental (or some other) specialization is fair, so if that's a concern and you're *far* on the opposite side (which might not be the best approach to get the most out of any law school), that might be a factor at the very few schools (Chicago, Yale, Vermont) for which one of these is a clear bent.

So, in sum, it's hard to think of a school that would be markedly better (or worse) on this score, and it's likely not the factor on which a decision of where to go should be made.

Thane.

506
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Transfer Friendly Law Schools
« on: February 10, 2010, 03:01:20 AM »
Anyone know which schools are transfer friendly?

There's a book out on this if it's not been mentioned.  It's title is The Art of the Law School Transfer, by Andrew Carrabis and Seth Haimovitch.

Transferring law schools is trickier than it might at first seem, and comes with numerous personal considerations, among them a loss of GPA at the new school, often a last-in-line position for course selection and scholarships, and feelings of loneliness among a new crowd.  For the right person it can be a great opportunity, but it's important to go into it with one's eyes open.

Importantly, for those considering transferring for the job benefits, those are real.  Interviewers will be curious, but not (usually) in the negative sense.  They'll be impressed by your motivation and perseverance, and will want to know that you can handle yourself.  As most transfer up, the vocational boost can be quite significant.

Also, the deadlines for transfer applications are quite strict.  (And, unlike most applications, the final decision on transfer applicants is often made by the dean of admissions personally.)  Of special imporance are grades, both in what they are and in getting them in on time.

Best of luck to you,

Thane.

Where do you practice now?  Can you hook me up with a job?

Contract2008 & All -

As I now teach primarily, after years of practice, I am likely not to be entirely helpful, depending upon your preferences and particulars.

I might also relate a personal history, as I too faced a market much like this one, many moons ago, and as I have traveled to numerous law schools and seen similar questions being asked of visiting associates, partners, and even judges.  So, my perspective is perhaps unique.

For a number of reasons, this is unlikely to be a successful approach.  Among the reasons are that attorneys are intensely jealous of their reputation, which, in practice, is pretty much one's paycheck.  With regard to employment inquiries, few attorneys would refer a prospective attorney to another attorney, absent a reasonably serious basis for the recommendation.  This might be a clerkship, part-time job, or possibly some extended personal knowledge (such as a family connection).  One might think of a snooty version of some episode of Masterpiece Theatre, which isn't too far off the mark, actually.  The exceptions to this prove the rule: I've seen "recommendations" that all-but-kill an applicant's chances with some version of "I had to give this person your name, I'm sorry, but just to be sure you get the message I have absolutely nothing to go on..."  That, of course, is just about the kiss of death for that law office, regardless of the qualifications.  (Exception to exception: "I have absolutely nothing to go on but I think she's editor-in-chief at the Stanford Law Review."  That takes it from trash can to edge of desk just above can.)

For ideas on jobs, starting your practice, and overall success, if you can find a copy of my book in the library that might be helfpul.  (For different reasons, either one will suffice.)  There's also The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job (somewhat badly named, as it's applicable to all law jobs), on interviewing.  And either of Morten Lund's books is excellent.  Read any of these and that job is much closer.

Best of luck to you,

Thane.

507
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Transfer Friendly Law Schools
« on: February 06, 2010, 05:46:23 AM »
Anyone know which schools are transfer friendly?

There's a book out on this if it's not been mentioned.  It's title is The Art of the Law School Transfer, by Andrew Carrabis and Seth Haimovitch.

Transferring law schools is trickier than it might at first seem, and comes with numerous personal considerations, among them a loss of GPA at the new school, often a last-in-line position for course selection and scholarships, and feelings of loneliness among a new crowd.  For the right person it can be a great opportunity, but it's important to go into it with one's eyes open.

Importantly, for those considering transferring for the job benefits, those are real.  Interviewers will be curious, but not (usually) in the negative sense.  They'll be impressed by your motivation and perseverance, and will want to know that you can handle yourself.  As most transfer up, the vocational boost can be quite significant.

Also, the deadlines for transfer applications are quite strict.  (And, unlike most applications, the final decision on transfer applicants is often made by the dean of admissions personally.)  Of special imporance are grades, both in what they are and in getting them in on time.

Best of luck to you,

Thane.

508
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: texas law schools
« on: February 06, 2010, 05:34:30 AM »
Aloha, mccarthy & All -

UT is, of course, a quasi-national law school, so getting in would be a strong boost.  That written, UT is (or at least was) highly competitive--not in terms of its rankings but in the negative sense of students feeling the need to be competitive with and among each other.  Partly because of UT's position as being just below the top schools, and in striving to reach national status and place its student nationally--students were thus competing with the likes of Harvard and Boalt Hall grads.  (This brings to mind the old joke on Mad TV (?) about hiring someone really ugly so that you'd look good by comparison.)  In my days (1989-91), those who hoped for positions from UT in Texas were fairly safe--but in a bad market, not completely safe--while those hoping to practice elsewhere sweated a little bit more.

I mention that because it's important to think about the type of experience one wants out of law school.  It's easy to assume that Boston Legal is the only way to fly, but in fact that is fairly rarefied, and for those who actually make it, not many want to stay.  (I interviewed at a firm in Boston, as it happens, and upon being shown the floor wanted to escape.  Every office door was closed, and people were not friendly at all.  Then again, I'm from Austin.  = :  )

Also, SMU and UH (which in my neck of the ocean refers to the University of Hawaii) are well-regarded, have good facilities and amenities (though it's been years since I've been to either), and will be a boost within their respective areas and, to a lesser extent, regionally.

This leads to perhaps the point that should go first: where would you like to practice?  Where would you like to live and retire?  Seriously, which city do you like the most?  Some don't like Austin (egads!), while others wouldn't care for [pick your least favorite].  Unless you *truly* don't care, it's better to pick the school that will be the closest fit to you, in all senses of the word.  Geography is a part of that, as is the focus and expertise of the school's faculty, the facilities (particularly if ADA is a concern), and so on.

I hope this helps,

Thane.

509
##### Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Day vs. Evening Division Program
« on: February 06, 2010, 05:04:31 AM »
Aloha, bLawb & All -

Suffolk has a solid reputation within Boston (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, within New England), so if you're inclined to practice there, the national rankings are relatively less important.  One reason Suffolk is well regarded are the adjuncts that it has access to in the area, its access to and focus in the local courts, and the degree of maturity and motivation of its students.  (As it happens, I know one of its graduates and worked with him as he was in law school.)

As to rankings, it's easy to see those as a national, linear guide, but in fact it is not hierarchial in the normal way we would use that, and especially not for part-time programs.  In essence, it matters as much what one wants to do with a law degree, and where one wants to practice, as it does what the law school's technical ranking is.  It's unfortunate that we tend to put the wrong weight in rankings, or that we tend to put a weight in a ranking that might not apply as well to a specific person or situation.  (Note: this is not to write that rankings are not important, only that they are often used to make decisions that might not be the best decision for that individual.)

As to the degree, yes it will be Suffolk.  Whether that will be "the same" is really dependent upon the degree to which one must rely on the school for an initial job, in which case the variables of grades and deportment are more prominent.  So, yes, after one is practicing it's unnecessary to say more than "X" for the law school.  But for most about to enter law school, the real question is the relative boost of that school toward one's first law job.  In the case of Suffolk, because of its solid reputation, all else being equal that should be a fair boost for a local firm.

I hope this helps,

Thane.

510
##### General Board / Re: Is a dark blue suit, pink dress shirt, and pink pocket square too flashy?
« on: August 13, 2009, 11:34:55 PM »
Exgratia & All -

I hate to keep doing this, but there's a book on this very topic.  It's The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job.

Thane.

PS:  As to both pocket squares and pink shirts, no and no.  Not even a close call.  Do you want to make a fashion statement, or do you want the job?  Paradoxically, to get the job, you want the opposite of attention to your appearance.  You want the interviewers to not even know why you look so sharp.  Just that you do.

PPS: But don't take my word for it.  Here's a colleague who, as it happens, wrote the foreword to Insider's Guide:  "Personally, I was as clueless as can be during my interviews in law school.  Some of my missteps mostly seem cute in retrospect, like wearing a carefully fluffed bright red pocket-square during interviews.  I was new to wearing suits, and had no idea about the finer points – I thought I looked quite dapper.  Other missteps were more egregious, and almost certainly cost me several call-back opportunities, like taking interviewing tactics from Grisham’s The Firm (the book, not the movie).  Lo and behold, reality is different from fiction."

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