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Messages - Miche

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Current Law Students / Re: Socratic method = russian roulette?
« on: November 03, 2009, 12:49:54 AM »
It's been two months. I bet you feel a lot less like it's a bullet to be dodged, and more like it's a nuisance to be avoided. :-)

I remember that I liked classes with Socratic panel: a group of students who were all expected to be prepared and expected to participate. Took the pressure off the rest of the class and made the students in the "hot seats" feel companionably miserable.

Also, I liked the classes where students promptly admitted to being lost or unprepared. After the prof hears a few of those, the expectations are lower.

Current Law Students / Re: What is THE WORST that could happen?
« on: November 03, 2009, 12:43:51 AM »
What's the WORST that could happen? You could say something dumb, be mocked, and have your silly comment referenced for the rest of the class session...or even the rest of the semester! Alternately, you could say nothing at all, petrified from fear, and either pass out or vomit. Then, your nearby colleagues will need to assist you with your medical condition while class marches on.

In either mortifying scenario, you'd still proceed with your life, and graduate, and hit the workforce, and no one would be the wiser. :-)


Basically, the "worst" that could happen is just that you won't perform well, and you'll internally beat yourself up, and then you'll move on and feel less scared the next time (and the next, and the next).

I think a lot of the fear that comes from the Socratic method is just fear of public speaking, fear of being judged, fear of failure. If you're terribly worried about public speaking, you can overcome your fears through Toastmasters, other public speaking or outreach programs, or confidence/leadership efforts.

One simple, expedient way to rip the Bandaid off: volunteer. Yep. Raise your hand and ask a question, or volunteer an answer. Or go up after class and talk to the professor. That eliminates the mystery and the suspense.

It helps to remind yourself that it won't make a difference in two years. Hell, it's unlikely to make an impact in 2 weeks. So, if you can conquer your nerves here, you can redirect that energy towards something else.

Don't worry -- this, too, shall pass! And when it does, you'll be a bit stronger for it.

A slightly different perspective. I attended an Ivy. The name recognition has helped, tremendously. But I've also run into attorneys who dislike the Ivy reputation, or are suspicious of it.

Approximately 75% of the time, I've received a great advantage from my alma mater. That means that approximately 25% of the time, I've had a mediator, colleague, or potential employer ask, snidely, "We have a Good Local School right here, you know. *I* went to Good Local School. Not prestigious enough, huh?" Or, "I know someone who attended [Ivy]! S/he is MUCH dumber than I would've expected." Or, "With an Ivy degree, what are you doing here? Slumming until you decide to do X?"

Rankings are a (loose) collection of assumptions and impressions. They're useful, but they don't capture what an individual employer or peer believes, knows, understands, and likes. Which isn't to belittle rankings; it's just a reminder that there's a personal element that can be just as strong.

Job Search / Re: Defining biglaw and a day in the life
« on: November 02, 2009, 09:57:46 AM »
I think of it as more of an attitude. At 500+ lawyers, the biglaw attitude is definitely there. However, and perhaps unfortunately, that same attitude can thrive and flourish at a firm with 150 lawyers. (Hell, the biglaw expectations can even exist in a 30 person firm, though those firms are obviously called boutiques.)

Atomic40's definition is the most practical, I think. Does the firm run around the clock? Are there expectations that people will step out of dinner to take a call, and leave dinner if necessary to return to the office....even when it's NOT two months before trial or before a deal closing? Are support staff around to assist with weekend projects? Are there little amenities to make the long days livable, like dinner or taxi service?

A quick litmus test is to determine people's relationships with their Blackberries. If it has to stay on, 24/7, there's a biglaw sensibility lurking there. If it can be turned off or left uncharged without huge guilt, it's probably not biglaw.

Job Search / Re: RANT: 2009 Legal Job Market
« on: November 02, 2009, 09:49:41 AM »
Definitely a scary market. I think it helps to set tangible goals that you can reach. I mean, you can't MAKE someone reply to you. If you define success as hearing back from someone, you'll feel helpless in the instances when you receive no response. And that helpless, churning feeling is what causes most of the terror, I think.

Set certain attainable daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Every day, send out 5 well-crafted letters to places that you've researched. Not form letters, but letters with specific references to the program or firm's recent accomplishments and how your experience (limited though it is) is directly applicable. Letters that discuss why the program or firm is especially admirable, what traits you see in the program/firm, and why you're sending the letter right now. Even when places aren't hiring, they can be swayed by sincere and unique letters. (Has worked for me twice before, in law school and after graduation. And even better success stories for my friends.)

Every week, set up one appointment to talk to SOMEBODY about the legal market. It can be informationals with recruiters or local alumni, it can be a meet and greet with the judiciary or a public agency, it can be a young lawyers' meeting or political social event...anything. Just get out there. Because being around other people is healthy; it prevents you from moping around the house and it keeps you circulating and staying positive. Also, you get new ideas when you're in new situations.

Every month, make a commitment to do some kind of legal work. It can be consulting, free-lance, pro bono, auditing a course, going to an MCLE (even though you may not get credit)...anything. Just do something so that when people ask what you're doing, you can talk about something other than your job search.

Concerning the lack of response, I made a spreadsheet. I tracked when I sent info to people and how long it had been since a response. After the 3 week mark, I sent a letter (different, still positive, still researched) with more info about myself and a polite inquiry as to the status of their search.


Job Search / Re: undergrad - does it factor in at all?
« on: November 02, 2009, 09:37:37 AM »
My former boss invited several different entry-level attorneys for in-person interviews, based on their undergrad. His reasoning was that they were still young enough in the legal industry, so it made sense to review both their law school and their undergraduate performance.

Further, he specifically second-interviewed a guy who went to an HYP undergrad and a second tier law school. He thought the candidate was excellent and wanted an opportunity to determine why the discrepancy in rank between UG and law school. Turns out that the candidate's reason wasn't compelling, but it does provide anecdotal evidence that employers look at more than just the latest academic entry on a resume.

My current boss has strong ties to her undergrad, so it absolutely plays a role in our hiring.

I didn't go to an Ivy undergrad, but I attended an Ivy law school. When I lateraled ~ a year ago, there was a small but vocal minority of firms who wanted to talk about my undergrad. Again, anecdotal evidence, but I'd say the undergrad does matter somewhat....just another soft factor to throw into the mix.

Job Search / Re: Crisis of Faith: Why even pursue this path?
« on: November 02, 2009, 08:54:10 AM »
What are the future plans of your fellow colleagues who agree with your philosophy (i.e., that lawyers and law mostly suck)? Ask around and see how they're handling their discomfiture with the legal profession.

"Good ol' boy" networks are significantly less relevant in smaller firms. Personality and intellect are more of the currency there. So, if you can surmount the hurdle of being jobless at present, you at least have some hope that you'll like more of your work colleagues than you do your school colleagues. Certainly, that was the case for me.

Your current hate-on for law needs to be counteracted -- not just for its psychological effects on your motivation, but because you aren't going to be able to present a good interview facade if you don't have something to rally behind. Have you tried clinics and other kinds of volunteering? They're less political and there's more of a human face to your clients. Also, no billing and billing descriptions.

Spend more time away from lawyers. That's usually the antidote from law poisoning. I've found that the more time I spend away from lawyers, the more I like law. It has its good points; it's just hard to see the forest for the trees. Moreover, time away from lawyers means time building support networks and business connections. Both of which can be of aid to you, emotionally and if you decide to seek an alternative JD career. (There's a thread on the forum with some alternative JD career options. I don't have the link handy, but it's on the first page.)

Be careful about deferring your loans, as you may lose certain rights if you have a cosigner. (Some private loans require that there be a certain number of on-time payments immediately at the beginning of your repayment cycle; deferring means you miss the opportunity to make those payments and remove a co-signer from your loan.)

Current Law Students / Re: questions for 2Ls and 3Ls
« on: November 02, 2009, 08:28:11 AM »
1. Is briefing on your own/reading every case from casebooks necessary?

 I read the cases and confirmed that I did understand the key facts. Learning to read cases is, largely, a function of learning what to skip and how to wade through someone else's prose and logic. I didn't brief any cases, though I highlighted a cogent phrase or two in each case to help me remember why the case was important.

2. I am very behind in almost every class I am taking because I read really slow. However, when I look at the outline and supplement materials, I still do understand why things are the way they are. What troubles me is that I sometimes have no idea whats happening while I'm in class because I didn't do my reading. Is attending every class really necessary to learn the law?

Being behind in reading is extremely common. As others have said, stay on top of the reading if you need the participation points. Otherwise, it's not a big deal to be lost because you skimmed or didn't read a case. For example, some cases have convoluted procedural history; that history is often irrelevant to the law or your professor's pet theories, but students end up spending 25 minutes discussing it because they don't yet know what's relevant and what's not. No big deal to be lost in that situation. Or sometimes, two or three cases have identical holdings to the main case, and the prof talks about the other cases just to drive home the point. As long as you know what the point is, it doesn't matter that you didn't read minor supporting cases.

On the other hand, if you're lost when the prof and students are applying rules to cases or comparing one set of standards to another set of standards, that's a bigger deal. What I mean is that the act of applying the rules or interpreting the standards or finding the elements shouldn't throw you for a loop. You may later be able to go back, read through outline/supplemental and understand what was said, but you'll be missing the exercise of analyzing, in real time. That "on the fly" analysis is a kind of mini-test, to see if you do in fact understand the material and to see if you'd be able to adequately analyze the material in an exam setting.

3. Also, I looked at some of the old exams and model answers. It seems like as long as I study on my own(but not necessarily always keep up with demanding reading load) and understand the law, I believe I will be able to produce a reasonable good answer on the exams that look similar to the model ones I've seen. I think supplements are very helpful, if not essential to my studying. To be honest, I think casebooks are unnecessarily confusing and worded in a difficult way/ contain extra information that really isn't the law etc.

Yep, I relied on supplementals heavily. And yep, casebooks are a jumbled mess -- they're collections of rulings, so the structure is necessarily more random. One case often stands for several different propositions, and sometimes there's a case that only half-illuminates an idea or perspective. You sound like you're focused on learning the law, which is important. Spend equal time learning how and when to apply the law and you'll be fine.

And, BTW, you can probably pass all your courses doing less than you're doing right now, depending of course on how vicious your school's curve is. But with some tweaks to what you're doing right now, you can do much bettter than "manage to pass."


Law School Admissions / Re: Traffic Violations
« on: November 01, 2009, 10:42:15 PM »
There's a difference between expungement and acquittal. If GW specifically exempts only expunged records, you'll hafta submit addenda. (If you're wildly loathe to do so, you can call GW and see what kind of permission you can get...)

Massive invasion of privacy though it seemed, I recall several schools requesting to know about *expunged* records when I applied.

Edited to add: I know many law students who submitted addenda for issues much more egregious than repeated traffic violations. Misdemeanors and other crimes didn't prevent them from getting into their top choice schools.

Law School Admissions / Re: Writing addendum for prior arrests
« on: November 01, 2009, 10:33:33 PM »
I can't speak to the effect that your prior arrests will have on your application. However, some good advice about submitting an addendum: don't think of it as a burden, a kind of tap dance to explain away negative elements of your application. Think of an addendum as a positive thing: another way to get your voice and yourself before adcomms, a way to highlight your achievements and positive elements of your application.

I don't know the details of your alcohol + autumn events, but you should generally be angling your explanation so that it demonstrates *positive* personality traits. Your loyalty, courage, commitment to your goals, etc. Then, after painting a heroic picture, you confess that in THIS PARTICULAR situation, you were too young/immature/careless. And thus, you were arrested/convicted. You repent and have never committed X act again; moreover, here are some tangible examples of how you're very responsible.

One of my friends had to explain breaking and entering. The story revolved around being bored in a small town -- seeking all kinds of challenges -- and then being dared by a friend to commit a crime. Of course, he acknowledged how dumb his actions were, and how he learned from them, and how he never did it again, and how X, Y, and Z all served as proof positive that his former transgressions were in no way indicative of who he is now. However, the critical part is that he went into the "apology, swear to do better, give me a chance!" portion of his addendum after first describing his many positive traits and how those traits had generally served him well. It puts his arrest and indiscreet actions in a better light, without detracting from his sincere remorse.

Good luck!

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