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Messages - Morten Lund

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Some schools might make a mental adjustment of your GPA based on circumstances - probably more based on family history than ethnicity - but that is a big "might," and then only if you get deep enough into the process to where people are actually reading your application.  Straightforward affirmative action based on ethnicity is more than a little difficult for law schools these days, and gender doesn't really matter any more.

If you don't get past the initial (and perhaps second and third) round of numbers-based vetting then soft factors are irrelevant.  As a result you should be realistic about the schools that will let you get far enough for soft factors to play.

Harvard U / Re: Pass/Fail
« on: June 24, 2010, 11:10:42 AM »
YLS does have an "honors" grade (= high pass), and they are used by firms to some extent - but not nearly to the extent of a GPA/class rank.  Some people think honors are important mainly if you want a high-end clerkship or a White House job.  I don't know whether data is available - all I have is anecdotal evidence.

Honors are given at the professor's discretion (no curve or specific requirements), and there is a lot of variation among professors, so there is a certain sense of arbitrariness about the whole honors business.  (YLS also has a "low pass" grade, which according to legend is even more rare than failing).

So how do firms (and other employers) distinguish?  Other resume items and interview.  At the top schools, employers will assume that everybody is smart - the question becomes more about fit.  To some extent there is mutual selling, but by no means does every firm make an offer to every Yalie.

Harvard U / Re: Pass/Fail
« on: June 23, 2010, 10:53:22 PM »
Yale Law School has had this system for many years now, to no apparent harm.  YLS does not issue a class ranking, and I do not believe HLS does with their new system either.

Sure, a theoretical slacker could coast his/her way through, but as a practicality neither of those schools admit a lot of slackers.  If anything, their problem is an excess of neurotic overachievers.

By the way - "pass/fail" really is a misnomer, at least for YLS.  "Pass/pass" is more accurate.  You would have to try very hard to fail a class.  I suspect HLS will apply a similar policy.

Yale U / Re: Please help a prospective law student
« on: June 23, 2010, 09:28:18 PM »
Fair point - my "interesting" observation got caught in a mid-sentence mental shift.  As a BigLaw partner myself, I certainly wouldn't argue that I am any less interesting than my Washington-bound classmates. 

Slightly expanded, my point is this:  YLS students are less likely to have standard aspirations.  Very high proportions of graduates from HLS, Georgetown, NYU, and other good schools go straight to Wall Street firms (or equivalent), and stay there.  There is nothing wrong with this, that is a perfectly fine career option - but YLS seeks out students with different plans.  As a result, relatively few YLS grads go to Wall Street firms, and they don't necessarily stay.  Instead, you will find that they sought out "alternative" career paths, whether it be academia, politics, or something else entirely.  There is a mix of firm and non-firm graduates at every school, of course, but YLS seems to go out of its way to admit students reflecting a broad range of life goals.

Hope that makes more sense.  Just my opinion, of course, and all are welcome to disagree.

Law School Applications / Re: Chances?
« on: June 23, 2010, 09:08:12 PM »
With a 4.0 GPA you are clearly intelligent and diligent.  The LSAT is mainly a test of intelligence and diligence (preparation).  How much of each is hard to say.  With sufficient preparation you should be perfectly capable of acing the LSAT.  What score to shoot for?  Perfection, of course. 

Will you manage LSAT perfection?  Probably not - some random chance always sneaks in.  But with your track record and your ambitions, to aim for anything less would be silly.

The LSAT counts as much as your GPA (and perhaps even more).  As I like to say, you spent four years working on your GPA - in all fairness you should spend four years working on the LSAT as well.  Now, spending four years on LSAT prep is generally unrealistic, but my point is that you should take the LSAT very, very seriously, and you should prepare for it very, very thoroughly.  Reading a quick book and doing a practice exam doesn't count.  Practice, practice, and practice some more, until you know exactly what your score will be before you even sit down. 

The LSAT is completely learnable.  Taking the LSAT is a skill you can acquire with sufficient practice and determination.  If you are serious about law school, you need to be serious about the LSAT.

As for your chances of getting into a top school - well, that depends on what you mean by a "top school."  With a good LSAT score you should certainly be able to get into a top ten, but at the very top other odd factors start showing up, and admissions get less predictable.

For instance, I suspect that Yale would give you points for a scientific publication (peer-reviewed?), but might actually count your prior legal experience AGAINST you.  Hard to say (but don't worry - those experiences will be huge pluses when interviewing for legal jobs).  My experience is that the main defining feature of students at Yale/Harvard/Stanford is that they are all interesting.

But without an excellent LSAT score, your chances of getting into the top three is virtually zero.  Without a good LSAT score your chances of getting into a top ten school is pretty slim.

Take the LSAT very, very seriously.


I am currently wondering what my chances are at getting accepted into a top law program.  My GPA is a 4.0 from both my undergrad (B.A. in neuropsychology) and graduate programs (clinical psychology).  I have a scientific publication.  I am currently interning at my county's courthouse (pretrial investigations), and I have previous legal experience working for an SSI attorney.  I am also minority status.  I have not taken the LSAT  :-\  I am just wondering what score do I need to shoot for and what might my chances be?

Thanks to anyone who replies.

Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Super Lawyer Rankings
« on: June 23, 2010, 12:21:31 PM »
Interesting indeed.  Assuming the class size adjustment is fairly legitimate, this would appear to be a ranking of "schools that generate lawyers who end up BigLaw partners or hotshots at locally prominent small firms."

That would explain Yale's relatively low ranking and the relatively high ranking of schools like Texas and UVA, but I am puzzled by why Stanford ends up so low.

Curious exercise.

Interesting exercise.  I suspect the answer would vary rather drastically on a regional basis, and I assume you are limiting yourself to theoretical US respondents.

I agree with the previous posters.  Moving into BigLaw, or anything close to BigLaw, from either of those schools will be difficult at best.

I also agree that doing the LSAT over could be worth your time, if you are determined to go to law school.  The LSAT is mostly about preparation and practice.  Which is why I am always surprised at how casually this test is approached by many students (not suggesting that OP did this).  The LSAT basically counts the same as your GPA, and you spent four years working on your GPA.  Why would anybody take a cavalier view of the LSAT?


Moreover, in this economy, a little time "off" will not necessarily be held against you, by either schools or future employers.  There are a lot of people with gaps in their resumes right now.  To the contrary, you can make it work for you.  Spend a year prepping for the LSAT and doing something useful.  It doesn't have to be a "law job" or anything like it, or even a job at all - just don't go off to find yourself in Nepal or flip burgers.  Start a new community social program, volunteer at the state penitentiary, work with a dot-com startup - whatever, just do something that shows initiative and determination.  And then pummel the LSAT into the ground, and go to a law school that will get you the job you want.

Yale U / Re: Please help a prospective law student
« on: June 22, 2010, 03:45:17 PM »
If you are honestly looking at Yale, all that matters are GPA and an LSAT above 175.  Even then you have no guarantees. 

Why do people constantly post the same thing over and over again?  Like it or not, Law School Admissions = LSAT + GPA.  Sure, there are exceptions, but generally they are few and far between at any reputable school.

... and one of those exceptions would be Yale Law School.  Sure, everybody there has excellect GPA and LSAT score - no doubt.  But given the number of applicants, YLS could virtually fill their smallish class with perfect GPAs and LSAT scores - yet they don't.

During my time at YLS, two things became abundantly clear:  First, everybody was really smart.  Second, everybody was really interesting.  It is no accident that YLS graduates are disproportionately (compared to Harvard, Stanford, etc.) overrepresented among professors and judges, and underrepresented among BigLaw partners.

To increase your chances at YLS, be different, be interesting.  Of course, that can be a difficult thing to add to your resume your senior year in college...

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