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Messages - Thane Messinger

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Incoming 1Ls / Re: Recommended Commercial Outlines?
« on: July 11, 2011, 01:47:32 AM »
If I might offer a partially concurring and partially dissenting opinion:

As I make final preparations for 1L to start (just two more months), I am curious which commercial outlines people recommend?  Where do you get them?  Amazon? 

Any feedback would be appreciated.

1: Take notes in class and read the cases for at least the first couple months. 

Either do not take notes, or take notes SPARINGLY. 

Notes are an almost complete waste of time when studying for a law exam.  They’re also quite distracting in class when you’re supposed to be doing something else . . . something else rather more important.  (Hint: it’s not learning law.)

Okay . . .

For those thinking I must be insane (which is not ordinarily a bad guess), the parenthetical should shock you.  And it should shock you further because it's true.  Here's the punchline:  The law school classroom is not to learn the law.  Rather, it is to learn how to apply law you have already taught yourself.  This is why the techniques so commonly used (notes, color-coding, sharing outlines) are also so ineffective or even counterproductive. 

2: Don't rely too heavily on commercial case briefs.  They are good in a pinch, but they don't help you study for the final very well.

Indeed so.

3: Make friends with someone (or join a club or something) that has access to some outlines from prior years.  These are huge.  The best way to use them is to have one with you in class and actually take notes on the outline.

Do your own outlines.  In fact, you should do two.

IF you use someone else’s outlines, those are useful when used instead of notes.

But nothing substitutes for getting the law into your head, and the law IS in outline format.

4: Pay specific attention to which topics the professor spends time on.  Commercial outlines are really good (sometimes better than a professor) but you won't get any points if you go off on tangents that weren't covered in your class.

Quite right.

5: If you are sure you will be using BarBri to study for the bar after law school, you can save on the book deposit by signing up during your first year.  They have some awesome commercial outlines for all of your first year subjects, and they give them to you when you make your deposit..  I discovered this too late.  A barbri rep will be hounding you when you start school, and they can answer your questions.

Yes, and despite the many things that might be written about these prep services, they’re extremely useful, and are worth it.  They can also be good for first-year review.

If you do exceptionally well, you can even get someone else to pay for it.  = :  )

6: If your library has access to the CALI stuff (Computer assisted legal instruction) you should give them a try.  They run you through the material, ask multiple choice questions, and explain the rules and the answers.  I thought they were very helpful.

Excellent, excellent advice.

7: Use to help you find the best price.  It usually searches all the major bookstores and gives you links. (I use half and amazon most of the time)

While clearly it’s good to use sources tied to specific casebooks, the truth is that it really doesn’t matter.  You could even use a secondary source from 1972 and get 92.5% of the value out of it.  And, yes, this applies even in, say, Con Law, where quite a number of rules have changed.  Why?  The answer to that question is the answer to why so many first-year students have such a frustrating time:  once you know where the law has come from and where it is now, you’ll have a deep sense of how lawyers think.  THAT is what is needed (and rewarded) come exam time.

Best of luck, and enjoy first year!  (Seriously.)


When the Chief Justice gets into trouble, you know we're about to have some fun . . .



PS:  As to the subject line and for bigs especially, while it might take a few levels of inference, the seeds of rankings' true pervasive (and perverse) impact is seen in Roberts' remarks.  (Not as to Roberts, but as to law professors and the ever-more-irrelevant frenzy of the bulk of legal scholarship.)  What's interesting more than a professor's rebuttal are the comments from practitioners that follow the article.  Scroll down for more reading fun.

Job Search / Re: Studying for the BAR, huge DEBT, no JOB, WHAT DO DO?
« on: July 08, 2011, 02:15:06 AM »
Specks -

As to the process, each branch maintains its own selection criteria and process.  Search via each branch's recruitment site.  (I believe there were links to each elsewhere, but they're easy enough to find.) 

Quite a few members of the military are critical of national and social policies, but you do have a fair concern.  While it's certainly possible to be blase about patriotism, that's not a terribly good start.  (If you'd like to ignite a sense of pride in these United States, click on Transparency International, find their annual list of global corruption, choose any of the nations in the bottom half--via a game of darts is fine--and go teach English there for two years.  Actually, two months will likely do it.  You'll become so patriotic your own parents will threaten to disown you if you don't cease and desist humming God Bless America.)

Hanging your own shingle?  Unless you're willing to work harder there than you will in Officer Training School (or Candidate School, depending upon the service), no. 

If "no" is a bit too brusque (as I've been guilty of), read Lund's first two Jagged Rocks of Wisdom books.  Substitute "client" for "partner."  If you're still inclined in that direction, that's a good sign.

As to choosing an area of law, not even a 3d-year law student should spend too much time on this.  This is hard for pre-law students to fathom, but there are really only two tracks in law school: litigation and transactional . . . and those aren't all that hard-and-fast.

I could recommend a book, but that would be a tad self-interested, yes?   = :   )

Best of luck to you and your tutee.


Also, she complains that she sent out 150 resumes to no avail. This, too, needs to be qualified. If these were just template, unsolicited resumes, then 150 is nothing. However, if she sent a resume for each law firm along with a tailored cover letter (for example, she could've researched a recent case the firm worked on and discussed what she could have brought to the table, and so on), then 150 is significant. But if she just sent out 150 template resumes/cover letters, then she should have sent out hundreds (if not thousands) more. There are over 2700 attorneys and law firms listed on Martindale Hubbell in San Diego alone.

I think part of the problem is that most people fail to realize when they're unemployed searching for a job should be approached as a full-time job in itself. From the scant details that I've read about this case, I'm not sure she understood this.

Excellent points.  I graduated into a dismal market (in 1991), and while I had OCIs (which became suddenly even rarer as firm after firm cancelled) I also had to scramble to line up my own interviews, including paying for a trip with money I didn't have to, essentially, create my own interview tour.  And this with, yes, law review, top school, etc.  Interestingly, it was one of these interviews that paid off, in a firm I almost didn't contact.  (And, yes, nowadays there's no excuse for anything less than a semi-custom CV and letter for each firm.)  Had I had the skills in OCI that I had to develop for the self-generated interviews, I might have bought a ticket to Boston or New York rather than Honolulu.  Although looking back I am happy it worked out as it did, it was a stressful time.  But it was far less stressful for me than for others.

I write that only to say that it's easy to react negatively when someone lectures about finding a job, etc, etc.  But, it really is true.  If it's a full-time job, chances are you'll be fired . . . and hired into a job you do want.

Not only should looking for work be taken very, very seriously, but it's important to be brutally honest with yourself about interviewing skills.  In a good market, so-so interviews can work, sort of.  But even then, those top jobs tend to go to those who are, yes, top candidates . . . but also to those who act like top candidates. 

There's an excerpt by a law partner about interviewing in a book, the Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job.  The parter provides a measure of this brutal honesty.  That book was written for a seemingly different age, but, paradoxically, it's even more important now to develop those skills for finding and landing an interview, and then actually interviewing well.

Current Law Students / Re: Venting about Bar Exam
« on: June 26, 2011, 03:27:10 PM »
I greatly appreciate any advice anyone can give me.  Thank you.   

Ag -

As to lesser-ranked students being taught to the bar, not quite.   In any event, a few thoughts:

Don't try to "cram."  That is the method that has somehow seeped into our collective academic consciousness.  It's a terrible idea, and it doesn't work very well.

Instead, this is the time to synthesize what was learned--often fleetingly--for the first year especially.  Dig out your outlines.  What you'll do is twofold.  First, perfect your outline for each subject.  Does each part make sense?  When you look at each element, it starts to become elementary.  As you go through the bar review lectures, fit each piece back into that puzzle.  The acid test:  it should be "ah ha!," not "huh?!" 

Second, condense each outline from 30-50 pages to 1-2 pages.  Seriously.  This is what you need to have walking into the bar exam.  But not as sheets of paper.  Rather, it's etched into your mind.  But not because you're "cramming."  Rather, it's because you've gone over it so many times it's just so basic. 

Third, this should be fun.  Really.  Listening to the tapes and even being in the exam should be stressful, yes, but it should also be exhilarating . . . and calming.  The reaction should be "So that's what we were talking about in first year." 

You can do this.  You will do this.  You were smart enough to get into a good law school . . . you're going to be fine. 

Will type more, but gotta' run. 

Best of luck, sincerely,


SAN DIEGO CBS 8 - A former local law student is suing her alma mater for $50 million, after she couldn't find a job.

The student, San Diegan Anna Alaburda, graduated with honors from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and passed the bar on her first try. She claims she has been unable to find full-time work as an attorney for the past three years. [continued ....]

If she loses, will that be evidence that the law school didn't do its job?

= :   )

Schools are literally putting significant amounts of money, resources, and time to boost the opinion of some magazine that has no authority and uses an absurd methodology to make their conclusions. It is so absurd that schools jump 20 spots any given year and they have 11 way ties in the rankings see the 11 way tie for 84th place. .

Bigs & All -

There a recent article in the ABA Journal online that you might find interesting:

Also, for more ammo on your side, there's Thomas Sowell's Inside American Education.  On pages 108-110 especially, he's quite provocative about the ratings scam/urge/business.

See?  Being a lawyer is too fun!   = :   )

I think everything you said is true, but it is exactly what is wrong with legal education.

* * *

It is too bad the MacCrate report did not go any further than it did, but one failure doesn't mean people should stop. Hopefully more people like him stand up and make an attempt to change the system that is in serious need of reform.

Bigs & All -

Would you believe the antitrust route was tried?  Feisty Massachusetts School of Law, which refuses to go through ABA's accreditation ritual because it would mean higher tuition and less well-rounded students [yes, you read that right], plugs away but with no discernable movement on the part of Dean Velvel and MSL's many complaints.  There was--surprise!--a settlement in that case between the Department of Justice and the ABA. 

As to MacCrate, he and his report were akin to the 1983 report A Nation At Risk, which excoriated our educational system.   It would have been hard to have been more critical than MacCrate and his committee were of legal education.  It would have been all but impossible to be more "powerful."  To repeat, he was a voice from the inside, at the top of the profession, commissioned by the ABA.  [!]   Not only has nothing happened, but what has happened has tended to make the situation worse, not better.  A random sampling of grandparents--from all walks of life and whether as to high schools, college, or law school--would be appalled at our system now.

Unfortunately, the incentives in the system are too deeply embedded.  The solution that fails to address those incentives will fail, period.  (Paradoxically, the closest this came was during Bush II, when the Administration spanked the ABA for its rather ham-handed handling of judicial nominations.)

I became interested in this over a decade ago, in response to a reader of Young Lawyer's Jungle Book who later wrote Planet Law School.  If there is "harsher than MacCrate," Atticus Falcon is it.  It took some years for me to come around, and in my second book, on law school (GGG), I address many of the issues we're talking about.

Also, I fully agree with you as to the quality of lawyers within the profession.  This has been and remains a common complaint among practitioners and judges (including Supreme Court justices).   I too agree that, were this medical school, this would be raw malpractice.  (In fact I argue just this in GGG.)  Falcon uses "pedagogical malpractice" enough that even I start rolling my eyes.
One way to think of this is to separate the ideal from the individual.  Idealism is a dangerous thing (even if you happen to have just the right brand of idealism), because it runs up against human nature.  [Worse still is an idealist with power, as then there's little to check that righteous ambition.]  At another end of the scale is a combination of reality and individualism.  So, for an individual, the answers are usually to (1) understand what is going on, (2) avoid the worst dangers, and even (3) take advantage of the system toward one's own ends. 

[Yes, there is an idealism that does work, grounded in realism and focused on rules of the road.  Unfortunately, this now cuts very much against the social and educational grain.]

The problem vis-a-vis law school is that among those incentives are incentives--very strong incentives--to believe in the system.  Those who get great grades from top schools are crowned victors, and everyone else mutters about how rigged this system is.  Well, yes.  But it's rigged for reasons having little to do with U.S. News.  U.S. News is the symptom, not the disease. 

A slightly different take on a point on which I would disagree:  students are not customers, nor should they be treated as such.  This is one among many illnesses that infect our educational system--albeit not, for different reasons, in law school.  Students should be treated courteously, of course, and with respect.  But allegience is owed to the profession first, and then to students.  What happens when the pendulum swings too far from the bad old days of professors as demigods to one in which the entire system is nearly scared of its own shadow for fear of angering any segment of the student population, or of "serving" their "customer"?  Would you like fries with that degree?  It should come as no surprise that learning is likely to be less than it might in such a system, and--here's the key--the ones most harmed are those students who are most at risk:  who could have achieved more with a few truer assessments and prods.  What happens instead is a system of a relatively thin layer of insiders with ample help on the side . . . and, well, everyone else.

I would argue that in fact a focus on the students is part of what causes so much harm, as, by definition, students are not yet aware of what is important.  One need only imagine a senior practitioner in place of a law professor for a few minutes to realize just how pointless most classroom discussions are.  Unfortunately, most students understandably misinterpret feel-good discussion for meaningful learning.  They take armfuls of notes and then wonder just what it is they're supposed to be doing.  They wake up several months later, when exam results are in.

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on such a tangent.  I've heard the "I'm a customer!" line rather too often, and see just how pernicious the effects are.

So, yes, the system is misaligned.  Badly misaligned.  And while I suspect we would agree on nearly everything, the real challenge for any individual student reading this [Say, that's everyone!] is, after the healthful venting, to refocus on what this all means.  For that I would go back to the intial comments:  rankings are important because people believe that they are.  People want to believe.  Hey, it's your species.  How they're important, however, is not how they're commonly used.   Moreover, for anyone already in law school, the real challenge is to do well, which is far harder than it seems.  The forced curve is just one culprit.  The more serious culprit are the many maladaptive behaviors from high school through college.  If you don't believe me, try another professor:  the author of Law School Undercover.  He offers another inside look at something of some importance: exams.

To bigs, thank you.  This is why we go to law school.  = :   )

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Music For the Brain!
« on: June 20, 2011, 06:48:25 PM »
funny, that what your suggestion getting.

= :   )

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Music For the Brain!
« on: June 19, 2011, 03:22:28 AM »
List the music you listen in the background while studying.

Would anyone be upset if the correct answer (albeit with due acknowledgement to the suggestion for an uplifting battle hymn) is . . .

 . . . silence.

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