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U of Toledo / Before considering Toledo Law, some things to think about
« on: November 18, 2010, 02:01:48 PM »
This is a post of some things I wish someone would have told me before I decided to go to Toledo specifically and law school generally. Take it for what it is worth, YMMV, whatevs. I am not really wanting to get into arguments on here since this is all my opinion, but I will answer questions for a while:

1. The city of Toledo is a festering pile of <expletive>.

I live on the edge of town in one of the nicer areas, but as the economy weeble wobbles the criminal wave is spreading outward. In the few years since I moved here, there has been a noticeable increase in stabbings, muggings, rapes, murders, car jackings, home invasions, etc. For example, we had an undergrad student get stabbed to death in the chest a few months ago over 75 cents. The stabber had a prior conviction for, you guessed it, stabbing someone in the chest. He was out a few months, then stabbed this poor student.

Meanwhile, the city is effectively bankrupt and laying off police.

We are also having an enormous number of arson reports. This is because nobody wants to live here and people are stuck in bad mortgages in crime infested neighborhoods and can't move their homes on the market.

On top of that, the road work being conducted around town is driving rats out of the sewer system and into the abandoned homes not yet torched or razed to the ground.

So whatever cost benefit analysis you do on deciding whether to come here or not should take into account increased expenditures for personal safety (i.e. guns, car alarms, things like that) and a personal decision as to whether you would like to or are willing to tolerate such "soft" factors.

2. Toledo law is what it is

And that would be 3rd tier. Simply put, there are only a few things that will make you stand out in this legal market as a Toledo Law Grad, and they are as follows:

a. Top 25%

b. Diversity applicant

c. Good connections to the industry

Everything else is booster club BS. So what does this mean to you, the future applicant? Let me summarize...figuring out "b" is easy. Also, "c" should be fairly easy too. Make sure they are good connections and not just "I know Mr. Attorney socially". I am thinking more like family, close friends, etc.

So that leaves "a". What makes a Top 25%-er, IMHO? The following:

- be a detail-oriented person.

If you are a big picture guy, like me, forget law school and start looking for other work. The classes are geared to grind slowly through details and culminate in an outline, which helps the details-oriented see the big picture. As a big picture guy you are fighting this trend and you cannot win. You will miss easy points on the exams because you are pressed for time and your brain glosses over the details that the details-oriented brain easily picks up.  Don't believe me? Take summer classes and see how much better your grades are when everything is time compressed and you're the only one who "gets" the material well enough to ace the exam. Been there, done it. Everyone else is griping about being overwhelmed while you follow along in class like always.

- enjoy working with numbers. 

You'll have to work with formulas that often don't make a lot of sense. You are also tested on your use of these formulas. It would help to enjoy working with formulas.

- enjoy kissing butt.

If you are not the type to stay after class, ask questions, go to the prof's office, go to social functions to kiss butt, etc., then avoid law school like the plague of rats mentioned earlier. You will not get the "bonus" points the profs are allowed to give for "class participation".

Things that do not help you be in the Top 25%:

- being smart

I graduated college with honors, have a high IQ, and tested well on the LSAT. Not saying I am better than you, especially in law school, because I am  middle of the road here. I am just giving some perspective for you to consider. Being smart is not a necessary element to being Top 25%. I know plenty of Top 25%-ers. Some of them are idiots. Some are highly intelligent. Most are just details-oriented.

- working hard

You cannot force your brain to think differently in a time-sensitive environment. Can you be trained to "think like a lawyer"? Yes. Can you train your brain through hard work to "think like a lawyer" in a 3 hour exam format when you are crunched for time? Yes, but it is unnatural. You fight against your "default" brain setting. You are out of your comfort zone.

- getting the right answers on the tests/papers

The points are in arguing the hyper-technical details. The answer is an afterthought. Again, if you miss details, you lose points even if you get the right answer.

- paying attention in class

Law professors are, overall, very poor teachers. Toledo is no exception to this. Some are really good, most are average to below average to what you experienced in undergrad. Some of the classes I bombed were the ones I paid the most attention in. Some of my best grades were in classes I just crammed for in the last 2 weeks.

3. The legal profession is in serious trouble

Do not believe the employment data from the law schools. The salary stats are bi-modal i.e. a cluster near the bottom, a cluster near the top,  some grads not responding to the questionnaire, and little in between the two clusters. Schools collect and compile their own data, and publish whatever they want. Don't go in thinking "Oh, worst case for me is that I make $30,000 in a govt job with bennies". Competition is FIERCE out there, unless you are Top 25%, diverse, or connected. Even to volunteer ("Me get paid for work? That's unpossible!")

Just some random thoughts to consider from someone who was in your shoes a few years ago.

Is my experience typical? I don't know. Just thought I would tell a different side, take from it what you will.

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