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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Law School Admissions / Re: importance of extra curricular activities?
« on: August 19, 2011, 03:03:55 PM »
Regardless of the kumbaya stuff that a lot of these admissions folks try to spout, the vast bulk of their decision is numbers, alone.  They simply have too many files to process.  They use numbers and nothing more to make their "first cut". 

* * *

However, a person who is competitive for a spot at Yale and misses out due to lack of extracurriculars is almost certain to get in at a top 8 school.  Unless they want to be a Supreme Court justice, their career isn't particularly harmed.

True, but not true.  For a reach school . . . which is what the applicant really wants (and the school that will likely give the biggest vocational boost) . . . the soft factors become dispositive for exactly this reason--everyone in that final decision pool has good numbers (or stellar numbers, depending upon the school).  At that point, the admissions committee pretty much tosses out the numbers [!] and digs deep into transcripts, extracurriculars, and Ouija boards.

It's quite right that the LSAT is important, if not crucially so; but that doesn't diminish the importance of soft factors, especially where it counts most . . . which is where most applicants want it to count most.

The deeper point combines the two:  better to focus on a leadership position in a single endeavor rather than a mishmash of semi-endeavors.  The former can take less time, and certainly is less distracting to efforts in, say, an LSAT exam.

And it *does* matter where one goes, if career is the goalpost.  Yale *will* open doors that School #8 will not.  And School #8 will open doors that School #118 will not.  (This is not to argue that it's the only thing that matters, or indeed the only goalpost, but it does no good to dismiss reality.)


Law School Admissions / Re: importance of extra curricular activities?
« on: August 17, 2011, 08:13:18 PM »
how important are extracurricular activities when applying to law schools?
im hoping to have a peer-reviewed journal article published in a scientific policy journal, and have done internships for two consecutive summers at a government institute. however, i am not involved in any extracurricular activities during the school year.

i'll be a rising junior and i'm hoping to apply during my senior year. would participating in an extracurricular activity in september not make much of an impact on my application next year?

thanks so much!

This is covered extensively in a new book, Law School Undercover, by a Professor X. 

In short, choose one thing, and be a leader.


I don't object at all to making people aware of:

1.  the financial realities of this path.  Old rule of thumb on small biz is that you don't start breaking even for 2 years and may not turn a net profit on the venture for 5.  You might very well end up sorting packages for UPS on the night shift to make rent for a while until your practice is started.

2.  The difficulty of this path in terms of the type of personality required.

3.  The dangers involved.

People should go into this with eyes wide-open.  Where I quibble is with the assertion that it can't be done or that trying to do this is a sure path to ruin.  The warnings have a good basis, but to be frank, we all know attorneys who hung out a shingle at graduation and did just fine.

Given the alternative prospects for many graduates of today's schools, I don't think a solo practice is an unreasonable aspiration.

FalconJ -

No argument from my side as well.  My points were aimed in a somewhat different direction, as I see sub-par lawyering far too often.  (Including from some "top" lawyers who darned well ought to know better.)  If the motivation is there, and large heaps of it, anything is possible.  If the motivation is not there, get it or get out.

And, as to jobs, I would encourage any graduate to widen the net massively.  I know this sounds a bit too easy, but I too dealt with this, many years ago.  It can be done.  Find a small office, law or non-law, and learn.  Central to this is the genuine desire of the individual.  Not just loan repayments (although that's clearly front-and-center too), but the real person.  For anyone with a burning desire to practice, that's the person who should be contacting every DA in every town (note, not just city) in the surrounding 12 counties.  For others, there might be corporate, government, or other opportunities with some connection to law (contracting, real estate management, regulation, etc.) that might be a decent or even better fit.

Good luck to all,


What? Entry level jobs day one after passing the bar down from $160K.....MADNESS!!!!!!

Quick, everyone dropout and go to B-school where we can learn to make coffee and fake paperjams for extra cigarette breaks!!!!! :o

Actually, business school is a lot of fun.  And, truth be told, more appropriate for many who attend law school.

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Military
« on: August 16, 2011, 01:56:00 PM »
I guess I can see that idea. Maybe that's why so many retired vets end up as cops(and not good ones either)

I'm a vet in lawschool too, I just only did the 1 tour plus guard option.

Although you probably already know this, I would advise staying in the guard and getting that retirmement.  62 seems like a long ways off right now, but when you hit it, you'll be glad to be collecting that pension.  It's pretty substantial.  I wish I'd stuck out 16 years in the guard after my 4 years active.  Ah well.  I was young.  62 is a long ways off when you're 22.

Absolutely right.  Think very, very, very, very carefully about your plans whether you stay, go, or just don't know which way to turn.  (And especially the last.)  A few good decisions provide a rock-solid foundation and open options.  Bad decisions do the opposite. 

I have a friend who went solo after 6 months at a firm. Honestly, I question his competence. I'd bet those people slaving away at those big firms and corp. in-house counsel offices are learning more than you'd think. Those "slaves" have the luxury of someone to continue teaching them after law school. They're being groomed to move up in the organization, and its a process that takes time. Theoretically, if all goes well, they'll end up in the position of the partner teaching them the practice. There are attorneys, and then there are good attorneys.

Incompetence aside, my friend makes ends meet by taking public defender cases on contract. That jurisdiction doesn't have an established P.D. office.  His practice is slowly growing, but its been tough for him. The hours are pretty good most of the time, and he is his own boss. That counts for alot. Other solo attorneys I know got their start in the prosecutor's office. They did that for a couple of years and then went solo. They made alot of connections that way.

This is a post worth re-reading for all, whether or not you're contemplating starting a firm.  Among other reasons, for those in a law office of any kind, there is and should be a greater awe in the value being GIVEN to you by being in that office and learning from experienced practitioners.  Why is this form used and not that one?  Do I confirm this or not worry about it?  Why shouldn't we notify x about y?  Oh, we need to worry about z?

It is stressful, thankless work?  Well, often, yes it is.  That is the nature of most professional service providers, and it's simply part of the reality of law practice.  Keep in mind too that someone is paying you for all this.  (This is something a solo practitioner becomes acutely aware of.)

Duplicating this early training in a solo practice is tenuous and difficult.  It can be done, but it often isn't . . . much to the harm of clients and bank account alike.


Current Law Students / Re: open your own practice
« on: August 16, 2011, 01:42:04 PM »
The most common way to riches and the most common way to bankruptcy or financial ruin both travel through the same intersection: small business ownership.  Many people on this thread are trying to offer sound advice based on real-world experience.  (At least I am, but maybe everyone else is making crap up)  Don't be discouraged by the advice, but don't disregard the advice just because you think I am too chicken to open my own firm.  Investing in a down market can be a great strategy, if you have the capital to establish a good system and foundation.  If you want to ride the wave by working harder than everyone else, you have to have a large amount of clients to generate enough cash-flow to run a healthy business.   And once again, if you want to get a loan for your new firm and take advantage of the amazing interest rates, you have to remember that its all about cash flow or collateral. Courage, goodwill, contacts, determination, or a snazzy law degree won't mean crap.

Quite right.  There are hot practice areas, and there are even lucrative areas wide open to entrepreneurial lawyers.  The trick is that there's a reason firms are built around "partnerships," even if most partnerships are no longer the traditional kind. 

The fact that senior lawyers spend considerable effort and thought into who is part of their practice and which departments ought to be beefed up and which should be trimmed should give some clue as to how the profession works.  As Morten Lund states in one of his books, law is a team sport. 

If you're even halfway serious about starting solo, find three experienced practitioners and talk with them about how to do it right.  (If you don't know three experienced practitioners, that's a very bad sign.) 

Part of being a practitioner, of any stripe, is putting yourself out there.  Your business is YOU.  So if you're mousy, or lazy, or anything less than a natural star, beware.  It can be done, sure . . . but that statement is part of the warning.


Current Law Students / Re: open your own practice
« on: August 16, 2011, 01:31:32 PM »
Do you think that getting an ABA JD and then an online LLM would help going solo?

Would it impress clients and give extra knowledge? Or would it be a waste of funds?

It would be a waste of funds (and time).  Do an LLM if you *love* the law (and probably not even then) or are in tax law and your firm is paying for it and "suggests" it (rare).  If you really want to teach law, try to get into an SJD program (rarer still).

Many good points in the discussion, but there's a bigger issue still:  practicing law well (quite aside from being able to find clients for whom to actually practice) requires skill.  This skill is not only not gained in law school, in many ways law school is a distraction.  Thus, recent graduates face (at least) two additional burdens:  they don't know what they don't know, and they might not care about what they don't know.  I'm not being flippant; learning what is needed to do even a proficient job requires dedication and an open mind and eyes and a genuine desire to learn and an understanding that you probably won't have a draw for much of your first year, at least, so you'll need to work an extra job *in addition* to working harder than your adversary--a desire greater and beyond what was in even the first year of law school.  If that describes you, excellent.  I would be happy to practice with you.  For everyone else (which, be honest, is nearly everyone else), don't do it.  Don't do it for your clients, for your colleagues, and for yourself. 

If you're going to go this path, check out an appointments practice with a local court.  Get to know the players, and put your name in the hat.  It's hard work, and an eye-opener.  With the above conditions, you might become quite successful indeed.

For the 97+% of everyone else, read Insider's Guide to Getting A Big Firm Job, ignore the title and find yourself a small-firm job instead, or a job with an agency, or perhaps a job tangentially related to the law.   There is still a cachet in being trained in the law, and presented right (especially in a market such as this), you can do very well in a non- or quasi-legal position.

If at some point you feel the need to express yourself (and make more money) through a private practice, go for it.  But go in knowing how much work it will be and how much harder you will have to work to match what the big boys and girls have.


Current Law Students / Re: open your own practice
« on: August 03, 2011, 09:03:15 PM »
wow you seem to be living in fear.  Just because you think thats going to happen to you it doesn't mean it's going to happen to others.  Step out of that negative mindset. If I ever become a lawyer I will definetly open my own practice. And guess what?  I'll gaurantee that I will be succesfull. The only thing holding me back right now  is that I don't want to pay for it so I'm searching for scholarships to fund most if not all of my education because I hate being in debt for education. Education should be free for everybody but thats another topic altogether.

Here's a quote for everybody to memorize:

"Without a doubt, the most common weakness of all human beings is the habit of leaving their minds open to the negative influence of other people" --Napoleon Hill   

This isn't exactly the reason to think twelve times before starting your own practice.  Doing so right out of law school, for all but a tiny percentage, is extraordinarily dumb.  As a friend once said, new solo practitioners are walking malpractice machines.  Sad but true. 

IF you're willing to duplicate the learning process in a firm or DA/PD's office, maybe.  IF you're willing to spend twice as much time on every case, billing less than full charge, maybe.  IF you're heart-numbingly aware of your own shortcomings, and are willing to absorb anything that anyone in practice is willing to teach you, maybe.  IF you're truly serious, maybe.  Anything short of that, and the answer is not just No, but a good ol Texas "Hell No."


Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Leave T1 for niche TTT?
« on: August 01, 2011, 10:56:30 AM »
There are literally millions of lawyers in America and your going to have to bust your ass to be good enough to have someone pay you to be a lawyer.

To be perfectly honest, part of what inspired me to pursue this was my experiences shopping for a divorce attorney a few years back.

I had consultations with three of them.  One of them was great.  He's the one I wanted.

Another?  The big name in town?  A condescending shyster who was one of the most unprofessional rip-offs I've ever encountered in any business, anywhere.  I actually hired him, first, and after over $1,000 in legal fees, all I had to show for it was a boilerplate child custody agreement. 

The third?  An attorney who, near as I can figure, probably billed about 10 hours a week.  Thoroughly unimpressive.

To All -

Please read and re-read Falcon's post (and BikePilot's too).  They touch upon some deeply important aspects of the actual practice of law that are very much relevant to law and prelaw students.  I continue to reflect on my own early experiences and even then was annoyed at my own ignorance.   But it was worse than mere ignorance:  I didn't know what I didn't know.  Looking back, I should have been even more annoyed.  = :   )


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