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Messages - Morten Lund

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Current Law Students / Re: Do Ugly People Deserve Legal Protection?
« on: September 12, 2011, 03:07:04 PM »

Hmmm... well, I guess that's one way to look at it.  the other would be that attorneys function in society and are part of society.  To blame them for everything that occurs in society is something some people do.  However, I don't see how that reflects poorly on attorneys.  That reflects poorly on people who don't take the time to understand what attorneys and the judiciary do.  Attorneys don't file suit for themselves (generally).  They file on behalf of plaintiffs.  Attorneys also don't award large settlements.  That's done by juries (and sometimes judges.) 

I couldn't agree more.  Much/most of what people like to blame lawyers for is less a function of lawyers and more a function of the nature of our society and our judicial system, or just unrelated entirely.

Of course, all too often the folks complaining about lawyers also seem to think that Shakespeare favored killing them first.

Studying for the LSAT / Re: When to start studying?
« on: September 07, 2011, 05:23:28 PM »
No argument here. 

My sloppy word selection notwithstanding, I never really expected that we were in disagreement on the central issue.

Quote from: FJ
To put a finer point on it, I'm not saying that some degrees are useless or that they don't teach you anything.  I'm speaking specifically to qualifying people for jobs.  What degrees in some fields do is simply qualify you for jobs that require "any degree".  So, for instance, OCS in the military.  However, the claim that they qualify you for more jobs than, say, a degree in computer science, because a computer science job is training in a specific area, is fallacious, IMHO. 


Quote from: FJ
As for teaching a person how to think, my personal opinion on that is that maybe NO degree really teaches a person "how to think".  Maybe the fields just attract people with good logical skills and maybe gives them a few problem solving methods that aren't intuitively obvious.

A worthy claim, and it certainly may be the case - I can provide no significant evidence in either direction.

Quote from: FJ
However, although some of the liberal arts degrees may teach a person how to think, I also find it highly likely that people who studied engineering also know how to think.  Or, as you pointed out, a person with a biochem degree probably thinks just fine.

And this, perhaps oddly, is where I disagree, at least to some extent.

There is thinking, and then there is "thinking like a lawyer."  Not all thought is the same, and not even all rigorous thought is the same.  Perhaps more to the point, not all rigorous fields teach or require rigorous thought.

(... and this is where the thread takes a left turn into major digression territory)

For instance, it has been my (anecdotal, non-scientific) experience that engineers are less prepared - thinking-wise - for the practice of law than are philosophy majors.  Engineering is perhaps the most employable of all majors, and engineers are certainly smart.  But - IMO - their way of thinking is, for lack of a better phrase, too tainted with reality.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with engineers where the engineer was struggling (or entirely unable) to accept a hypothetical, or consider a principle without a specific example - or, worse yet, where the engineer determined that a particular contractual protection wasn't necessary because "that would never* happen."  But more on my particular fascination with engineers in a different thread, perhaps.  :)

I like applicants with hard majors (including engineering) because I know that they are smart - but I also mentally adjust the training program to suit their undergraduate field of study.

*never = more than two standard deviations from the mean

Studying for the LSAT / Re: When to start studying?
« on: September 07, 2011, 09:59:58 AM »
As always, an excellent post, Jimmy.  A couple of thoughts:

Your major won't boost your chances of getting into law school.  Nor will it hurt your chances.

Yes and no, on two levels. 

I certainly agree with the general sentiment, but I hear no end of whining from law school admission folks about how they wish they had more applicants who were not majoring in English/History/PolySci, and they all claim to give extra points for the tougher majors - particularly math/science.  See Professor X' "Law School Undercover" for more on this point.  That said, you are absolutely correct that a good GPA is job one, and if the tougher major will have a significant effect on the GPA, then I would steer clear.  And in this case, OP says that math "isn't his thing" - giant red flag.  People should not major in math unless it is very much their thing.

Second, while the name of the major may have only a limited impact (if any) on law school admissions, we do occasionally learn something in college classes (shocking, I know), and that something may or may not be of assistance for law school admission.  For instance (my bias about to show), my math studies prepared me for the LSAT far more than my psychology studies.  I believe (with no meaningful data to back me up) that math, science, philosophy, and other "rigorous" fields of study provide better background for a good LSAT score than do history or English.  And a good LSAT score, of course, is the other half of law school admission.

And, on a side note, I do believe that while choice of major is not a major factor for law school admission, I believe that it can be a significant factor for employment selection - at least for some majors.  I know that I pay a lot more attention to a 1L resume when it shows biochemistry or physics as the undergrad major.

Quote from: FJ
Part of the equation is, "what would you like to do with your life?"  If you want to be an accountant, then you should get an accounting degree.

I might be being a bit harsh, but if so, only by a bit, when I say that a lot of degrees really aren't very employable.  Especially these days when 2/3 of young people will get a 4 year degree.  It seems to me that many degrees are essentially generic "McDegrees" that don't prepare you to do anything, professionally.

Absolutely agree, and not just for law school applicants.  Eggs in one basket and all that - it is a wasted opportunity to leave college without an employable degree of some kind.  And that holds even if you are successful in law school.  For a great many law school graduates, the practice of law is not forever.  I expect that there are a whole lot more "recovering lawyers" out there than there are "recovering physicians" or, for that matter, "recovering accountants."  The structure of the law business is set up to chase a lot of people out over time, whether voluntarily or otherwise.  Even if you don't need that physics degree now, it may come in handy 20 years down the road.

Quote from: FJ
I won't name any here, for fear of offending somebody, but you can probably decide which ones seem to fit that description.  As a warning, they almost all say some variation of the following about their program of study:

"Other programs of study just teach you a very narrow skill set.  Because of this, your opportunities after school will only be in a very narrow group of jobs.   Our program teaches you how to THINK, so our graduates are prepared to do any job in any field."

This is, of course, complete and utter BS.  The logic is essentially, "You won't be qualified to do anything.  Which means you're equally qualified to do EVERYTHING."

Just ask a hiring manager looking for an accountant, computer programmer, engineer, chemist, etc., whether a candidate with none of those degrees, but with a liberal arts degree that "taught them how to think" is somebody they'd even consider.  The reality is that they're not qualified for "any job in any field".  They're simply not qualified for any job.

As the holder of one of those "thinking" degrees myself I am not in the least offended.   :)      I do, however, partially disagree.  Certainly it is tough to apply for a job with a degree in philosophy.  It is not an employable degree.  That said, there is significant truth to the whole "learning how to think" bit - isn't that what law school is all about?  In fact, much as my studies in math prepared me for the LSAT, I believe that my studies in philosophy prepared me for law school and the practice of law - moreso than other things I studied.  I would encourage future lawyers to take philosophy classes if possible.

But I also agree that it would be foolish to graduate with a degree in philosophy (unless coupled with a more employable major).  Practical reality should not be forgotten.

Quote from: FJ
Now, right now, you seem to be bent on being an attorney because you've always wanted to be.  You might end up being one.  Just like the guy who always wanted to be a circus clown might end up actually being a circus clown.

That one goes in the databank for future use.  Thank you!

(Oh, and as to the original question:  Study early, study a lot, and study hard.  The LSAT score is at least as important as the GPA, so you should take the LSAT at least as seriously as you take your classes.)


Have you heard about that proposal by two profs in an upcoming law review article that law schools establish affiliated law firms to provide opportunities for students to work in a sort of supervise residency model? (South Carolina Law Review but currently available for reading here)

Alternatively, I would think a future solo-practitioner could try to find a kind/amenable solo practitioner to be a mentor --though this may be much harder to achieve than it sounds --I've never tried.

I had not heard of that proposal, but I am not surprised.  I know that I am not the first (or second, or third...) to suggest that a medical model would serve our profession well.  It makes a lot of sense - to me, at least.  I am sure the opponents could muster some good arguments as well.

Unfortunately, I believe that your dreads will drastically limit your chances of getting into a reputable firm. For the vast majority of firms, image and professionalism is very important. It is sad that you may be overlooked because of your hairstyle, but I am afraid that this is the grim reality. However, if it is worth it to you to keep your dreads, I am sure that if you are a good lawyer, and are persistent about finding a good firm who will accept you as you are, I think you can find one eventually, but it will be much more difficult.

Absolutely correct.

It may be that there is a double standard regarding hair styles for gender.  I also have little doubt that ethnicity plays into the equation.  That is horribly, horribly unfair.

But I don't care how unfair it is, and neither should you.

Instead, I encourage all jobseekers - particularly these days - to focus on REALITY, however unfortunate it may be.  And the REALITY is that in most legal jobs, any deviation from "standard" will make things harder for you, and will injure your long-term career potential (or just end your career outright).  The REALITY is that as a black male you already have one strike (at least) against you in many professional environments - why voluntarily make it harder for yourself with your hair?

There will come a time when you can rock the dreads, loosen the tie a little, and maybe even wear a three-button suit - but that time is most emphatically NOT at the beginning of your career.  That time comes after your coworkers know you and your work, and they will look past your unusual appearance.  Right now is when you conform.  You can be individualist later - but if you want to work in a law firm of any size and repute, right now you should do your best to remove your appearance from the equation.  Heck - just go with a Carlton impression if needed.  You will have plenty of opportunity to "be yourself" - later.

Random old-guy story:  women in my class were generally advised to wear only skirts to the office (no pantsuits), because senior partners would disapprove of the pants.  Same deal as the dreads, basically.  Unfair and/or immoral?  Sure.  Still good advice?  Abso-freaking-lutely.

The unemployment lines are filled with idealists and individualists who just couldn't suck it up for a couple of years.  Don't let that be you.

Either way, good luck.

(Apologies for the rant overkill.  I do get carried away.)


So, my question is this:  it seems like IT and related issues are a hot area within IP.  Is it realistic to work in IP without being eligible to be a patent attorney?

I know it's technically possible, but is it something that actually happens?

It all depends on what exactly you mean by "working within IP," of course, but I would go so far as to say that many, perhaps even most, lawyers that do significant IP work are not admitted to the patent bar.  Many don't have any particular technical background, either.

First note:  Remember that "IP" includes trademarks and copyright, which has no particular relationship to the patent bar.
Second note:  IP litigators, including patent litigators, are usually litigators first and second - they just happen to do IP litigation.
Third note:  IP issues are ever-prevalent in a wide variety of practice areas, so it is quite possible to practice IP law without practicing "IP law."
Fourth note:  Do you really want to do IP law, or do you really want to work with tech?  Securities, financing, M&A - those and others can be completely tech-centric practices without ever coming close to IP law.
Fifth note:  Have you looked into qualifying for the patent bar by adding some courses?  With some technical classes under your belt, it might not take much to get a qualifying degree.

That said, my experience has been that the IP practices of large firms hire both "patent IP" and "non-patent IP" lawyers, and do so separately.  IP litigators are usually hired as litigators, but perhaps with an eye toward patent litigation down the road.  But firms do hire non-patent lawyers for IP-centric practices, all the time.

Current Law Students / Re: Should We Deregulate the Legal Industry?
« on: August 22, 2011, 04:54:53 PM »

You do realise that you still  need a license to be a pharmacist though right?
You need a license to cut hair. I refuse to believe we need less regulation that a stylist.

I believe you are on the right track, but there is an important distinction between the pharmacist and the stylist, which is important to lawyers as well.

The stylists (like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.) have restricted entry primarily to protect the interests of the folks in that profession - i.e. to control/limit the number of industry participants.

While the same motivation is presumably there for pharmacists as well, there is also another purpose to the licensing and regulation - this time for the benefit of society:  Consumer protection.  The average consumer has no real way of knowing whether a particular pharmacist is competent or not, and dealing with an incompetent pharmacist can quite literally be fatal.  It therefore makes sense that the government regulate pharmacists to protect the population at large - more so than for some other professions, like computer repair.  The price for dealing with incompetent computer people is usually manageable, and can be handled after the fact by the market and the judicial system.

Therefore, the government does (and I believe, should) generally more heavily regulate professions and businesses that can cause great harm, and where the population at large cannot easily make an educated decision.

For instance:

Medicine v. massage
Automobile manufacture v. tricycle manufacture
Air traffic controller v. school crossing guard
Police officer v. mall cop

And, I believe:

Lawyer v. know-it-all cousin.

While the results of legal malpractice are usually not lethal, they can be devastating.  Most people also have absolutely no way of knowing whether their lawyer is doing a good job or committing malpractice every day.  I therefore believe it is not only appropriate that there are legally required minimum criteria for the practice of law, but that this process is essential for the functioning of the judicial system.

On a side note - what would it mean to "deregulate" the profession?  Nothing is truly unregulated.  Not just stylists, but masseurs, tricycle manufacturers, and mall cops are all regulated to some extent or other (I am less certain about crossing guards and cousins).

We live in a regulated society.  Any discussion of "deregulation" should really be restated as a discussion of a CHANGE in regulation.

If someone knows of a guaranteed and easy way to make 160k let me know I'm sure everyone on this board including myself would like to know.

Step 1:  Purchase about $400,000 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets.

Step 2:  Scratch.

Step 3:  WIN $160,000, more or less.


The thrust of this thread is all wrong. One should never concern himself with how much money one can make doing something. That's a recipe for hating life. One should focus on doing something that he loves to do. Whether it's the practice of law or shredding on a Gibson Les Paul, doing what you love will always be its own fortune.

I have to disagree.

I agree that making life choices purely on a "most money" approach is usually not the wisest route - but that is a whole lot different than suggesting that monetary concerns are not important, and legitimately so. 

Money may not buy you happiness, but LACK of money can sure buy a lot of misery.  Study after study shows "money trouble" as a source of unhappiness for Americans and a source of strife in relationships.  My view is that most of us have a certain lifestyle level that we deem minimally acceptable, and any career choice that cannot support that lifestyle level would be an unwise choice.

To the OP:  As noted, it is mostly graduates from the top schools that get the BigLaw jobs out of school.  But I would suggest that a 160k starting salary is not a "fortune" in today's America - far from it - and in fact BigLaw as a career path very rarely leads to true fortunes.   In the end, BigLaw lawyers are working stiffs for their entire career.  A comfortable living, to be sure, but little chance of financial independence.

As noted in other threads, the path to real wealth is usually the same as the path to financial ruin.  In the legal business, that usually means small-firm contingent-fee plaintiff's work.  Chances are pretty good that the guy advertising on the back of the phone book (that's an historical reference for you young'uns out there) makes a whole lot more money than the lawyers in the big fancy firms.

And, of course, chances are very good that that guy did NOT attend a highly-ranked law school.


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

This is an excellent observation, and there is more than a dash of reality there.

That said, I still shudder every time I hear of any fresh graduate putting up a shingle.  This is based perhaps mostly in my recollection of just how useless I was upon graduation (and for quite some time thereafter), but frankly I am hard pressed to think of more than a handful of fresh lawyers I have ever met who I would view as even marginally capable of operating unsupervised without committing wholesale malpractice. 

For this simple reason, and this reason alone, I generally oppose hanging shingles after graduation.  In fact, I would favor some type of post-doc internship requirement, MD-style, for bar admittance, but that is perhaps a different subject.

But, as you pointed out, this may be the only viable option open to many folks in today's situation, and you make do with what you can.  But for those who seek to open up shop right out of school, I would offer a suggestion/observation or two: 

- Chances are that you are far more incompetent than you think you are.  One of the features of incompetence is that it is often self-masking:  The incompetence keeps the incompetent from realizing his own incompetence. 

- So take a good hard at yourself and try to honestly evaluate what you do and do not understand.  Read and study - a lot.

- Try to limit your practice to relatively simple matters, and try to get repetition whenever possible, so that you may build expertise quickly (a tall order I know for a new solo, who will take any work available, but still).  Recognize your rookieness and try to mitigate the damage.  Marketing also becomes a lot easier if you can tout a particular skill or experience rather than general awesomeness.

- Get supervised.  Just because you are solo doesn't mean you are without resources.  "Consult" with other lawyers you know - relatives, friends, the guy in the next office suite, whatever (all within the bounds of the rules of ethics, of course).  Just find someone whose brains you can pick.  Heck, pay someone to shoulder-surf once in a while if you have to.  It is not uncommon in some professions to supervision requirements (which the bar mysteriously does not have) to simply hire more senior practitioners to supervise.  That could work for you too.

- Get involved in the local bar association.  The localler the better.  These groups are populated almost entirely with small firms and solos, and can be an invaluable source of information, education, supervision, client referrals, assistance, and perhaps even a job.  Good bar associations are the small firm support group.

- Beyond just the bar association, network.  A lot.  Firm lawyers have a huge networking advantage, as they can tag along with other lawyers in the firm, and benefit from those pre-existing networks.  Not so for the solo - you have to do it all yourself, and it is easy to put it off without a senior partner bugging you to go to the mixer.  But most law practices are ultimately a relationship game, so you should build as many relationships as you can.

(Ok, more than two)

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