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Messages - Morten Lund

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Politics and Law-Related News / Lawyers = Commodity?
« on: June 03, 2011, 01:55:45 PM »
Law jobs, previously outsourced, are being insourced back

Does this trend indicate a permanent shift in the law firm business?  Is the junior associate as we know it a thing of the past?

If entry-level legal work is broadly done at plumber rates, does that change law school choices?

So many questions here...

There is some disagreement, but I believe the quasi-consensus is that YHS stand alone, but the rest of the t14 are more or less interchangeable. 

Regional factors probably play more than specific ranking within that group.  Will Chicago do better nationally thank Duke?  Maybe, but not to the point where it is worth stressing over.  Any t14 will open doors.

As to where to apply - all of them.  They are all very selective, and I find it rather random which schools will accept or reject a given applicant.  My suggestion (assuming stats like you described) would be to blanket the t14.  If you are accepted to YHS go there; otherwise go to any other t14 that accepts you.

Good luck.

Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Top 6 vs. money
« on: May 17, 2011, 05:28:52 PM »

I would discount any discussion of how much the top six are going to change from year to year.  While the USNWR rankings are totally flawed, they're actually pretty consistent toward the very top. 

As other posters pointed out, I think you are placing the distinction in the wrong place.  Regardless of what USNews says, the marketplace is pretty consistent in how it values law schools.  In terms of "national law school" value and placement, there are basically three categories:  (1) Yale, Harvard, Stanford, (2) the rest of the "t14", and (3) all the other schools.  Within each group, frankly, there isn't much difference.  As far as I am concerned, there is no particular difference between NYU and Georgetown.

One more point: best not to lump all "biglaw" together.  Firms are not all created equal.

This is certainly true, both as regards to culture and hiring.  There are, however, consistent themes, and to the extent that "BigLaw or bust" is the goal, t14 is a very good idea - regardless of which end of "BigLaw" is being targeted.

Finally, I question whether any law school is worth the sticker price--not so much because I don't think law school is worthwhile for some, but because even the top six schools are, in my opinion, seriously overpriced.

It all depends on what you are looking for, of course, but on the whole I would beg to differ - at a minimum with regard to the top three.  Law degrees from Yale, Harvard, or Stanford (and to a lesser degree from any t14 school) place you in a position of legitimacy with regard to almost any endeavor, and makes everything easier.  Not just in terms of the first post-graduation hire, but in terms of any other job you might be seeking at any point, whether law-related or not, and even in terms of a random real estate deal you might be involved with 30 years later.

While it is possible to squander these opportunities, I find that a top law degree is incredibly valuable - certainly worth the price of admission and then some.  It's a gift that keeps on giving.

Yale grads are assumed to be more "eggheady" than even Harvard's

... not to mention better looking, better from the 3-point line, and far more humble.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: international law
« on: May 11, 2011, 06:22:28 PM »
I also wonder what you mean by "international law."  This phrase is used to mean a variety of things.  In its most literal sense, the practice of "international law" would essentially be limited to proceedings in the Hague.  Was that what you meant?  If so, you might consider a law school that is tied to political power centers, such as Georgetown, or any of the very top-ranked law schools.

More commonly, the phrase may refer to what is essentially "multi-national law," i.e. cases or transactions with participants or features from several countries.  If this is what you meant, than you can find happiness in a variety of places, as most of the world has some international feature these days - particularly if you go into corporate/business law.

Current Law Students / Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« on: May 11, 2011, 05:52:56 PM »
I believe that the law firm industry has done a particularly poor job of changing to accommodate the needs of lawyers who have (or want) families. 

Why should they?  There's no attorney shortage.  If a woman or man doesn't want to put up with the demands of biglaw, there are literally thousands of other competent attorneys willing to take their place.

This may sound odd coming from me, but...  even BigLaw lawyers are people.  We like having hobbies and seeing our families too.  Not all of us are a-hole robots.  We have painted ourselves into a bit of a corner with our hyper-machismo and hyper-competitiveness, but I suspect that even the most hardcore BigLaw lawyer wishes that he hadn't missed his son's second birthday.

I believe that the biggest beneficiaries of recent attempts to make the workplace more woman-friendly are ... men.  "I have to go home to put the kids to bed, but I will be back online (from home) at 8" was not a permissible statement 20 years ago, but now, thanks to law firms accommodating women, this is becoming acceptable in more and more firms - for both men and women.  I believe this is a change for the better, and I hope the trend continues.

Sure, some law firms will never bend from their policy of "be as hardass as possible," but most BigLaw firms aren't nearly as tough as they pretend to be.  I personally enjoy my job now more than when I started, in no small part due to these social changes.

On a more cynical level, this cultural shift is increasingly becoming a matter of recruiting reality.  Each year, the incoming associates are less "Wall Street" and more "Harold and Kumar."  The firms that can adapt to this cultural sea change will be able to recruit top talent that is turned off by the "all work and no play" model.

On an even more cynical level, it is also a matter of client demands.  It is no longer unusual for legal RFPs (law firm beauty contests) to give significant weight to law firm diversity.  Many companies simply will not hire law firms that are viewed as insufficiently diverse.  It is tough to meet client diversity requirements if your firm can't hold on to women past their third year.

And there is a corollary:  For the past 15 years or so, law schools classes have been roughly 50% female, yet women are barely represented in the senior associate/partner ranks at BigLaw firms (for all the reasons discussed in this thread).  Where do these female lawyers go?  Why, they go in-house.  All of a sudden they are in a position to decide where to send legal work.  You will not be surprised to learn that female ex-associate clients tend NOT to send legal work to lawyers or firms that they view as hostile to women.

A firm that consistently chases out female associates is basically training the next generation of general counsels, and teaching them to not like that firm.  This is not a good business model.  The self-interested firm with a long view makes sure that everyone feels treated fairly.

There is more.  But ultimately, I believe that a boiler-room approach is bad business for any number of reasons.  It also makes most people unhappy, and I for one like being happy.

Current Law Students / Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« on: May 11, 2011, 10:02:16 AM »
It's not just law, either.  Any hard-driving, high-achieving woman is likely to have to make some choices.

This is generally true, but I believe that the law firm industry has done a particularly poor job of changing to accommodate the needs of lawyers who have (or want) families.  To some extent this is a "feature" of the practice of law (it is inherently more difficult for a litigator to work part-time than, say, a dentist), but ultimately I believe that law firms collectively have failed to make a serious effort to truly change. 

We remain, at heart, an "old-boys club."  By that I mean that there is, in most large firms, a fairly narrow path that leads to "success."  Most people at the top made more or less the same life choices.  This path is now open to women as well as men, but only if those women make life choices similar to those of their male counterparts.  Some firms do better than others - my firm, for instance, is more flexible than most.

I believe law firms can do better, both for male and female lawyers - fathers are parents too, and today's fathers are expected to be more involved than our fathers were.  Instead we are largely stuck in the mentality that requires firm uber alles.

I am frankly not sure what the answer is, but I cannot help but think that there is room for improvement.  We can and should accommodate a broader range of approaches to life.  If this change happens, however, it will not be for a while yet. 

For folks coming out of law school now, you have to accept and deal with the reality that large/medium-firm practice is very difficult to combine with serious family time.

USD isn't a bad school, and it does play well in San Diego.

BUT.  If you manage an LSAT score to match your GPA, you should be in the running for the higher end of the t14, and any of those schools will play far better in San Diego than USD.  And, of course, if there should come a time when you want to leave SD, then a t14 serve you a whole lot better than USD.  If you were to get into any of the really good schools, I would very strongly advise against choosing USD.

The earlier posters are correct that only so much weight should be given to rankings.  If choosing between school #67 and school #50, I wouldn't worry about the ranking.  If choosing between school #67 and school #5, on the other hand - that's another matter entirely.  A diploma from a really good school is the gift that keeps on giving, and you should not forgo such an opportunity lightly.  Of course, that assumes you score very well on the LSAT, so hopefully you have been studying hard...  :)

On the scholarship front, you may have discovered the dynamic that low-ranked schools offer plenty of merit scholarships, while highly-ranked schools do not.  Highly-ranked schools, on the other hand, will usually offer better needs-based aid.  Don't give up on going to a top school just because you won't get a merit scholarship.

Either way, good luck.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Good school for Oil & Gas law
« on: April 26, 2011, 07:51:31 PM »
It would seem that you are surrounded by people in your office who would know the answer to that question far better than a random sampling here.  Have you asked the attorneys at your firm what they think, and where they do their recruiting?

Studying for the LSAT / Re: How much studying should I be doing a day?
« on: April 26, 2011, 08:45:02 AM »
I'll add another thought to that:  To the extent that I am currently successful as an attorney, that success has more to do with what I did in college (GPA/LSAT) than what I did in law school.  I was not a particularly good law student, but my efforts in college allowed me to be a mediocre law student in a better school than otherwise would have been the case. 

Studying for the LSAT / Re: How much studying should I be doing a day?
« on: April 23, 2011, 09:07:57 PM »
I understand your objection.  I just think that saying that if you study an hour a day for the LSAT, that this is somehow an indication that you simply don't have what it takes to be a successful lawyer is a bunch of BS.

Let's try a different tack?  Did you play sports?  Did you play football?  After all, that was probably the most highly visible sport at your school.  If you didn't play football, then frankly, you don't have what it takes to be a successful lawyer.  Because a successful lawyer would do whatever it took to give 100% at everything.

Thane and I may officially be beating the proverbial dead horse here, but I'll give it another go.  Your last post indicates to me that you missing Thane's point completely.

The first paragraph I quoted above does not accurately reflect Thane's point.  The second quoted paragraph does not follow from Thane's actual point.  Ditto for the rest of your post.

Let's try another tack.

For the moment, forget the LSAT, forget law school, forget the bar exam.  Let's instead focus on the practice of law, which is what this is ultimately about.

The actual practice of law is a perfectionistic existence.  Your job is to get the best possible result for your client.  You are not supposed to decide that "5-to-10 is a pretty good plea bargain.  I might be able to get it down to 5-to-8 if I spent another day researching, but the House marathon is starting, so I guess 5-to-10 will have to do."

Bad lawyers do in fact make exactly that type of decision - but good lawyers do not, or at least they work very hard to avoid them.

To apply that more directly to the life of a junior associate:  If you give me a memo that has an unacceptable number of typos in it (i.e., more than zero), I will point them out to you.  If you flush with embarassment and fix the typos immediately, then you bought yourself another few chances.  If, on the other hand, you tell me that you intentionally didn't proofread carefully because you thought the memo was already good enough, then your career prospects are not good.

Here's something to ponder:  Take two junior associate research memos.  They are identical in all respects, except two.  Both memos correctly identify the legal issues and current state of the law, but one memo reaches the wrong conclusion.  The memo that reaches the right conclusion, however, is riddled with typos and poor grammar.

Given a choice between those two memos, I would rather have the memo with the wrong conclusion than the memo with the typos.

Or, more specifically, I would rather have the associate who authored the wrong memo than the associate who authored the sloppy memo.

This is because sloppy tells me you don't care, and you didn't try hard.  You unilaterally decided that the memo was "good enough."  We don't expect junior associates to know anything - we DO expect them to work hard, be diligent, and take everything very, very seriously.  You'll learn substance on the job, but I don't know how to teach an attitude of perfection.

I don't mind people who fail.  Everyone fails.  What I don't like is people who fail because they couldn't be bothered to try hard enough.

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