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Messages - Duncanjp

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General Board / Re: 1Ls: How are you doing after the first month+?
« on: September 24, 2011, 03:05:02 PM »
If not, and you are studying extra hard to counteract a massive panic attack, you might become a 2L someday.

I'm a 2L, but looking back at last year, that statement is fairly accurate for how a 1L should be feeling after one month of law school. Some 1Ls seem to spend as much time looking for shortcuts to learning the material as simply reading and learning the material. This is perilous. Yes, it's a hell of a lot of work. But I'm generally of the view that there are very few meaningful shortcuts. Some say that you don't really have to read the cases to pass the exams. And perhaps a few people out there do fit that profile. But I would caution any 1L against embracing that idea because in reality, it's not going to work for the vast majority of 1Ls. I've got a load of reading to do myself for next week, so I can't spend a lot of time here, but here are a couple of benefits to reading and briefing all of the cases: 

1) to witness how a plethora of diverse facts are analyzed by legal minds and how they apply the law to such facts; and
2) to develop a "legal voice" in your head.

You can memorize the definitions and elements of inchoate crimes, 3PB contracts, private nuisance and all that fun stuff that we learn in 1L. But rote memorization doesn't teach you how to write a great essay in which you analyze the facts and apply the elements the way an attorney would. I discovered as a 1L that reading a thousand cases begins to infuse a certain intangible quality to one's written analysis on exams. It's a certain "legal voice," for want of a better term, that gets cultivated over months and months of reading endless cases about drunks scratching out an offer to sell the farm on a napkin or the knucklehead who shipped himself aboard the train in a box with the intent to rob it. As you flood your brain with all these cases, you start to hear a subtle new voice in the back of your mind, which is a composite of all those erudite judges' voices mixed with your own. This is the voice that you use when you write your exams. It's not just an enhanced vocabulary: it's analysis. Developing this legal, analytical voice/outlook is critical to writing an excellent paper. And it comes in large part from reading, reading, reading one case after another. And just as critically, from writing practice exams over and over.

After only one or two months of law school, if you are feeling comfortable, unhurried, or "got this sucker in the bag," so to speak, and you're brushing off even some of the reading, then you may want to carefully consider whether or not you really want to reach 2L. It's easy to fool yourself. 1Ls in September should feel sightly overwhelmed, together with a sense of urgency to complete all of the work. I don't know if you need to panic, but I can say from experience that that's not far removed from how most of the 2Ls that I know felt in September-October last year. It's certainly how I felt.

General Board / Re: Not enough lawyers.
« on: August 27, 2011, 01:48:20 PM »
Falcon is exactly right for the vast majority of those facing foreclosure. They haven't been defrauded by their lenders: they stopped making their payments. And there isn't a lot that an attorney can do for those people other than procrastinate the inevitable. But in cases of true fraud, what a person really needs is title insurance, not an attorney. I see it constantly in my business, unfortunately. One of the many scams I'm seeing involves unconscionable people in default who record a fraudulent deed of trust against their property, naming bogus parties like The Financial Recovery Group, as trustee, and Real Property Investors, an unincorporated association, as beneficiary. This makes the chain of title look like the owners in default managed to refinance the defaulted deed of trust. Shortly thereafter, they file a fraudulent rescission of the notice of default and a reconveyance of the genuine deed of trust. Two months later, the bogus beneficiary conducts a short sale and some undereducated title examiner working for a title company doesn't have the wits to recognize the pattern or to question why the beneficiary is conducting a bloody short sale two months after funding the blickety-blank-blank loan. (I'm trying to keep my temper in check here because this subject infuriates me.) So the examiner sees the recon in the chain and blows off the defaulted loan without questioning it, and then the crooks sell the property to the unsuspecting buyer and race off to Jericho with the sale proceeds. The buyer moves in and a short time later the original beneficiary on the true deed of trust forecloses and evicts the buyer. But the victimized buyer doesn't hire an attorney. He tenders a claim with his title insurance company, and the title company ends up sending the buyer a check for the full price of the property. This kind of fraud, I'm sad to say, is rampant. And while you can blame the title companies when they fail to spot the fraud in time to stop it, the fact is, lay people have great difficulty recognizing fraud when it's happening because so many of them just don't have the education and the critical thinking skills that come with it to decipher when a con game is in progress.

In sum, victims of fraud often don't need attorneys. They just need title insurance from a financially sound title company. Those who would invest money in real property without buying title insurance assume a heck of a large risk.

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.

Non-Traditional Students / Re: Well, I got into law school...
« on: August 13, 2011, 08:54:41 PM »
Duncanjp, follow me to the Batmobile. You are needed in: Are CBA schools a joke?  Hurry!!!

I still like the 1960s Batmobile the best, but the Dark Knight's was pretty cool, too. Except, c'mon: bullets would've popped those balloon tires easily. I ask you.

This has been a pretty thorough and completely enjoyable, perhaps even meaningful, discussion for a thread. Thank you. Have you changed your decision one way or the other about where and whether to proceed with law school?

Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 13, 2011, 08:26:44 PM »
Hiya, Falcon. Lay underwriters underwrite less complex transactions than underwriting attorneys, with greater restrictions on the scope of the insurance they underwrite, the geographical territory in which they're allowed to work, and the amount of liability they're authorized to assume. Lay people process claims, but our attorneys actually decide them. A J.D., and more importantly, admission to the bar, will vault me out of the realm of laymen.

Thanks for the explanation.  It makes good sense for you to pursue this, then.  Best of luck.

Thanks. Nowhere to go but up. Honestly, I wish everybody on this forum the best of luck, in all sincerity. Whatever you hope to do after becoming an attorney, the path is long and arduous to get there. People have their particular hurdles. But ultimately, everyone has to pass the same exam. We can debate the wisdom of one's choice of schools, but the fact is that a license to practice law is a bloody hell of a mountain to climb, and there are no guarantees that you'll ever make it to the top once you start. I have to salute all of those who have made it all the way.
I'm tempted here to say, "The cream rises," but there's the first rule of humility: the only difference between God and a lawyer is that God doesn't think he's a lawyer.

Hey! I've been trying to remember a word that I have only ever heard William. F. Buckley use. He began a column with it once, years ago. I believe it starts with a D. It means to call attention to something by saying you're not going to call attention to it a political device. I know it's out there. But I haven't heard it for 25 years. Anybody know what in the pumpkins that word is, offhand? I'd be grateful.

Anyway, best of luck, wherever the river takes you, Falcon. And to all to who are trying this.

Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 13, 2011, 02:49:45 AM »
I'm an insurance underwriter.

Duncan, I mean this in all sincerity, but that's a very good career field, isn't it?  How will having a JD help you?  Sincerely curious.

Hiya, Falcon. Lay underwriters underwrite less complex transactions than underwriting attorneys, with greater restrictions on the scope of the insurance they underwrite, the geographical territory in which they're allowed to work, and the amount of liability they're authorized to assume. Lay people process claims, but our attorneys actually decide them. A J.D., and more importantly, admission to the bar, will vault me out of the realm of laymen.

Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 12, 2011, 03:33:19 AM »
I attend a CBA school, Lincoln LS of Sacramento. I love it. My professors are judges and practicing attorneys, many of whom have been teaching there for 20 years or more. It works for me, Amy.

But there is a lot of truth in what people say about an ABA education vs. a state school. While you can get a J.D. from a state-accredited school without selling your soul to the bank, that's about where the advantage of a state J.D. ends. When I graduate, I'll only be able to take the CA bar. There has been some suggestion that I might be able to sit the bar in a few other states after I've practiced in California for 3-5 years, but it's a minority of states and I can't name a single one offhand. On the other hand, my wife's dearest friend since high school went to a state law school in SoCal. She recently retired from the Public Defender's Office after spending over 20 years litigating everything from forgery to murder cases. When she moved back to her family home in Kansas, she inquired about practicing there, and they told her, "So sorry, but you can't take our bar. You went to a state-accredited law school. Get the picture? Now get the hell out of this office."

To me, that's insanely elitist, but reality is reality. Frankly, with the glut of unemployed ABA graduates out there and the exorbitant cost of any law school (even state schools aren't exactly cheap), you really need to know why you want to attend law school, wherever you go. This is especially important if you're considering a state school over ABA. If you already have substantial experience and solid credentials in a particular field, and you know that 1) admission to the bar can only help your existing career, and 2) you will never leave California, then maybe you could make a state school pay off. I happen to fit the rather narrow profile of those who will almost certainly benefit from such an education, and I don't give a rip what they do in bleeping Kansas. I hate the Chiefs and I'm not moving there.

But if you're coming down from Canada, you may want greater mobility than a CBA will afford you. I've heard it said that many, if not most, attorneys end up working in fields of law that they never envisioned for themselves while in law school. It's just where the jobs led them, for good or ill. As a state school student, I'm going to apply my education to my field. I'll never defend or prosecute criminals. (God, who'd want to?) I'm in class with a lot of slightly older students, a retired prison warden, a director of human resources, and some private investigators, for example. I'm an insurance underwriter. Those of us with preexisting fields of concentration will be able to apply our legal knowledge within our chosen fields and as such, the ABA education probably isn't that necessary. But neither I nor probably most of them expect to compete for an associate attorney job in some random field of law after graduating. That would be a big step backwards career-wise, and with all the unemployed ABA grads out there, the competition would be pretty stiff.

Non-Traditional Students / Re: Well, I got into law school...
« on: August 11, 2011, 02:27:13 AM »
And that cost won't change until (1) people stop flooding the schools with applications, and (2) loan money is not made so readily available.  Schools are responding to a (ill-conceived) demand, their seats are full and more schools are being opened.  Until the bubble bursts they will keep lowering the bar for admission.  Heck, Cooley is opening ANOTHER campus in FL.  At $1,200/credit hour that is like printing money.

Hi Hamilton. Up until maybe 20 years ago, when a person entered law school, he or she embarked on a path that most mortals could only dream about. Only a special few got into law school, and by limiting admission to that certain few, the profession preserved its elitism. But the elitism of being an attorney is eroding what with so many new lawyers flooding the market. In some respects, I think it's a good thing. Society holds all citizens accountable for knowing and applying the law in their own lives and in the lives of others you can't cause injury to another's person or property without legal consequences. Since everyone is under the same yoke, how is society improved by limiting access to the formal study of law to just a select few? Granted, more attorneys reduces the prospect of attaining substantial wealth from the practice of law, but at least more people may find access to the law if the glut of lawyers drives down the price of representation.  Law schools could easily maintain the elite social status of being an attorney by doubling or tripling their current tuition rates and abandoning all student loan programs. This would place the education out of the reach of the majority of people seeking admission. But under that scenario, the only people who would be able to study law would be the most wealthy among us. And they would also be the only ones with any access to it. That isn't right. There is definitely a shortage of jobs for new attorneys, but too many people express too much worry about whether other law students will be able to find jobs, it seems to me. If I can borrow from Clint Eastwood, it's what we know about ourselves inside that makes us worry.

Non-Traditional Students / Re: Well, I got into law school...
« on: August 10, 2011, 01:40:35 AM »
Duncan, you're obviously a very intelligent person.  Our stories are remarkably similar.  I'm not even that far away from you as far as age goes.  You've obviously made an informed decision and are comfortable with the various risks involved.

Personally, although there may be a very small set of people for whom a non-ABA school may be appropriate, that set is probably very, very small. 

To me, the frightening thing is that it severely narrows your options.  Going to an ABA school may be problematic, and I think everybody should be aware of the potential pitfalls.  (My opinion?  Half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation.)

The thing that would frighten me about a non-ABA school is that as daunting as the prospects are for ABA-school grads, they're probably an order of magnitude worse for non-ABA grads. 

I have ideas of what I would like to do upon graduation, but who knows.  I have other options.  I can try to go JAG corps.  I can try to apply for work in the federal government.  Just off the top of my head, those are two options that no non-ABA graduate can even contemplate.

I can transfer to a better ABA school if I can get good enough 1L grades.  Again, no non-ABA graduate can even think about this.

Your decision may be appropriate for you, personally.  I just fear that only a very, very, very, very small proportion of your 1L classmates realistically know what they're getting into.  Granted, probably fully half or more of the 1Ls at my school don't know what they're getting into, either, but at least upon graduation, they're eligible to pursue a job in the DOJ or whatnot.

Best of luck to you.  As I said, we're not that different.  You're obviously a very intelligent person.  I hope things work out exactly as you have planned for them to.

Thanks for the compliments, Falcon. The only really intelligent thing I've ever done was to marry for love. But you're obviously just as intelligent as anybody here and you clearly have a generous measure of class to go with it.

I think you're right on target about the benefits of an ABA school. If a person wants options after graduation, ABA is the only way to go. This thread has been an exercise for me to explore some of Hamilton's rhetorical questions. Hopefully, the OP is getting some useful food for consideration out of it as well, in light of the difficult issues that have been discussed. But one of the most poignant things I've heard anybody say anywhere on this forum is your observation, Falcon, that "half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation." That smacks of fact. One of the hardest things to do in life is to find a career that you absolutely love, and then weave your life around it. Too many people of my acquaintance have settled for jobs they hate (the current marketplace for jobs notwithstanding). Somehow I managed to get it right, but I was 34 before I did. Enrolling in law school before you've fallen in love with a career in law seems bass-ackwards to me. It's certainly risky, at any rate. A person should first discover a love for working in law, at least on some level, and when that prerequisite has been established, boom: enroll. Otherwise, I fear the reality of what it means to be a lawyer may be sadly disappointing, if not flat-out boring for many people. In my discussions with classmates about our study habits, the better students consistently describe the bulk of their law school experience as solitary. The really good students that I've met don't seem to be chronically socializing with other students or meeting in study groups to practice spotting issues and to discuss cases. Instead, they're confined to their dens by themselves: reading cases and writing briefs, outlines, and practice exams. In essence, teaching themselves the law and how to apply it. It's a lonely business and not for everyone.

So as I survey the people spread across my class, I know that a percentage, mostly the younger ones, are unclear why they're even there or what they should expect from it. The older students tend to be very clear, on the other hand. Most of the older people expect the law education to enable them to perform their jobs better and to help them stay on top of their game and remain competitive, even if they never pass the bar. That in itself makes the education worthwhile. For example, I have several colleagues, all of whom ought be doing exactly what I'm doing to avoid stagnating at their desks. I don't mean to sound like I'm clapping myself on the back, but after a long day at work, I'm sitting in a classroom learning about res ipsa loquitur or 3PB contracts while my co-workers are all at home eating dinner and preparing for a hard night's TV schedule. The company sees this. Just as importantly, so do our clients. And after a single, swift year of law school, even at a mere state school, I'm becoming aware that I'm pulling ahead of my peers, most or all of whom have been in the business twice as long as I have. Pretty gratifying. At the same time, a lot of important leaders in my company and industry are stampeding toward retirement, and there isn't exactly a surfeit of qualified people to replace them. When those people start calling it a day in the next few years and the powers above look around at their options for promotion, I expect to be standing far apart from the crowd.

You're probably right that there aren't many people who can make a state school education really pay off. But for the right person in the right place with a good plan, I believe it's not as big a gamble as it may appear.

Non-Traditional Students / Re: Well, I got into law school...
« on: August 09, 2011, 12:18:51 AM »
Duncan, out of curiosity, why did you pick a non-ABA accredited school?  Was it the cost, or is there simply no ABA school that's reasonably geographically close to you?

I would never have gotten into a really top school, no matter how hard I tried. I lacked the grades and the time to prepare for an adequate LSAT score. Cost was less of an issue than it might have been 20 years ago. In fact, it was a non-issue on one hand, but it certainly factored in my decision. I read on their website that McGeorge, my local ABA school, only permits its students to work 20 hours per week. Can't do that with a mortgage and a career. That said, once you hit 50, you really have to ask yourself whether spending $140,000 or so on a law degree will ever truly pay off, regardless of the quality of the school. That's a heck of an investment just to fuel what might prove to be nothing more than an ego trip in the end. In my situation, my only chance of making this endeavor pay off is the vertical horizon. I've got a great chance there. But I'm not likely to ever go looking for an associate position with some personal injury law firm, large or small. So I never seriously considered applying to McGeorge. Plus, when I got the idea to go to law school, I only had a scant few weeks, I think about six, to spend my evenings after work preparing for the June LSAT, and you need a score to enroll, even at a state school. I didn't want to waste another year waiting to matriculate at my age. (To those of you in your 20s or 30s, spend the year preparing. You've got the time. Do it right.) So two decades after graduating from Davis with a 3.3 UGPA and taking a lot less time to prepare than I needed, I scored in the average 150s on the LSAT. If I had set my sights on McGeorge, I would have needed to spend six months preparing for it, especially after not having taken a formal exam for so many years. I was a bundle of nerves during the thing. With my score, I would have been a marginal candidate at best if I had applied to McGeorge, notwithstanding my military service and the uber-compelling PS I wrote. And Davis? They would have just laughed. I considered applying for a transfer to McGeorge when I ranked inside the upper 5% after 1L grades came out this June, but honestly, by the time I graduate and take the bar, I highly doubt that the name of the school on my J.D. is going to help me much, regardless of what it is. In sum, the reality check is what propelled me into a state school.

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