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Author Topic: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???  (Read 1190 times)

michael23

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Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« on: May 15, 2005, 06:30:14 PM »
Does anyone know any good websites that cover the many different areas of study and specialties? I know you usually do not decide till second year but many schools have select areas of specialties and i fell I need to factor this into my decision? Anyone have any ideas?

esquire

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2005, 08:04:34 PM »
Don't pay too much attention to specialization programs offered by law schools.  Jobs after law school are all about class rank and the rank of your school.  A law firm will take the person with the better credentials everyday over the person who took a few classes in law school. 

Another thing, you don't "decide" on a specialty while in law school.  You may think you decide but what you do depends on what job you get after graduation. 


Served

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2005, 10:02:28 PM »
Many people don't plan on doing what they wanted to do before law school, but a handful of people do.  Concentrations can be great if they are in the right subjects.  If you really know what you want to do and have a passion for it, go to the law school's you want to get into and see how they describe their teaching philosophy.  Some are generalist schools, others are specialists, offering certificates, concentrations, dual degrees, etc.
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esquire

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2005, 10:15:11 PM »
It doesn't matter if you have a "passion" for the specialization if you don't have the credentials to be hired by a firm that practices in the area. 

Health law is a good example.  Corporate health law is almost exclusively practiced by large law firms.  These firms could care less that schools like DePaul and St. Louis University have highly ranked health law programs.  These firms hire their health law associates the same way they hire their other associates, based on class rank and the rank of the school. 

I know loads of people with health law certificates who practice medical malpractice defense. 

The only exception to the rule is for IP and that's only if the candidate has passsed the patent bar or has an engineering background. 


Served

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2005, 12:30:28 AM »
esquire, that is absolutely wrong.  I personally know attorney who wanted to practice entertainment law.  They planned to do this before law school, went to 2nd tier schools with such concentrations, and are very successful in the industry.  As Matthies says, professors and connections can be very important.  Niche business practices require more than just a good generalist education.  Even if one goes into a generalist practice, it will take a long time to learn on the job the skills they need, so one is at an advantage to already have those before practice.  Why do you think JD/MBAs are preffered at some firms, why do you think patent firms sometimes pay extra for Ph.ds, etc, etc.  I know I would personally rather hire a corporate attorney with a Finance and Business background than one who majored in English and decided to go the law school for kicks, barring some excellent training and track record.
“The best way to lie is to tell part of the truth.”     -Twain
“Religion is the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.”     - Freud
“When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”     - Maslow

BoscoBreaux

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2005, 01:29:15 AM »
There seems to be some confusion about specialty/certificate programs, at least with respect to their impact.
First, it is helpful to understand why specialty programs exist. Many years ago, there were no such things as specializations at law schools. Eventually, however, students began to request more "non theoretical" classes, which resulted in practical programs, later to morph into full specialty programs. Employers, while not necessary providing the impetus for the change, had no quarrels with it, and in some ways benefitted from the knowledge that not all law graduates are the same; this eased some hiring decisions.  But, it is a customer (student) based change.

Second, one must contemplate the benefits.  Of course, if someone, ever since they were 10 years old, wanted to be a prosecutor, then taking practical classes, advocacy, criminal law supplementals, etc., might be fun. But would it make you a better prosecutor?  The jury is out (no pun intended), and just as many employers would prefer hiring a well-rounded law graduate than one who subsisted on a steady diet of Crim.  So, for every employer that sees it as a plus, there is one that sees it as a drawback. Consider it a wash. What is known is that performance in  law school, especially performance in very good law schools, dictates job opportunities, NOT specialty programs.  If an employer is looking for a new IP associate fresh out of law school, I think it wouldn't be unrealistic to see a Berkeley law review editor get the job, even over an average student from the same school with a IP specialty.  In short, it is how well you do in law school. and where you go, not what you do when there in terms of specific classes. 

Third, the intangible contacts issue.  Certainly, having contacts is important, but contacts aren't distributed only to those students fortunate enough to participate in the specialty program. Further, do you think Harvard One L's who are determined to work environmental law are worried about all of those Vermont Law One Ls are going to get all the good jobs? 

Now, I wouldn't suggest avoiding a specialty of interest if offered at your school, and if you are sure you'd love to work a particular field, go for it. But I wouldn't let my decision of which school to attend be influenced.

BoscoBreaux

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2005, 01:35:29 AM »
esquire, that is absolutely wrong.  I personally know attorney who wanted to practice entertainment law.  They planned to do this before law school, went to 2nd tier schools with such concentrations, and are very successful in the industry.  As Matthies says, professors and connections can be very important.  Niche business practices require more than just a good generalist education.  Even if one goes into a generalist practice, it will take a long time to learn on the job the skills they need, so one is at an advantage to already have those before practice.  Why do you think JD/MBAs are preffered at some firms, why do you think patent firms sometimes pay extra for Ph.ds, etc, etc.  I know I would personally rather hire a corporate attorney with a Finance and Business background than one who majored in English and decided to go the law school for kicks, barring some excellent training and track record.

It is interesting to note that the biggest sports agent in the country went to a second tier school, without a specialty at all.
I'd agree with your statements, however, if you were comparing a Penn grad with a Ph.D., or M.B.A., versus a Penn grad with a "generalist" education.  However, I doubt very much if Intel would turn down a Penn generalist over a Univ of Midwest IP certificate, even if he majored in electrical engineering. Just look at all of the Santa Clara IPs who are begging for work in Silicon Valley--mostly because Stanford and Berekeley generalists have the jobs there.

hey not you hey

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2005, 01:43:12 AM »
if you look on the net you can find different school rankings based on areas of specialization to get you started. do your own research.  make calls/emails.  beyond that, take everything LSD'ers say with a grain of salt.  many have no idea what they're talking about.

BraveheartDC

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 11:01:37 AM »
I believe in the value of 1) classes related to your desired specialty and 2) the contacts you can make while in school.  Go to a good school where you can take good classes and meet good people, plus do good work and you are money.  Specialty is becoming more important, but you should not sacrifice a school that is much better for a certificate from a crappy school.
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jacy85

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Re: Conncentrations & Areas of Study- What to do???
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2005, 11:22:56 AM »
Almost every single attorney I've spoken with has said that the specialties offered are somewhat useless.  The only thing they're really good for is for the connections you all are talking about, and there's no reason you can't find someone in the field your interested in and ask them to lunch to ask them some questions.  You don't need to sit through 5 tax law classes to make contacts in the area.  You can look up an alum in the field, and contact them.  Most alums are eager to help people from their class.  You can network without a speciality program.

On top of this, saying that you 100% want to practice X type of law is a stupid mindset to go in with for most people.  With the exception of maybe IP and Patent law, most people don't know what they even like in law school until they're there.  Sure, I think being a prosecutor could be an interesting field, but for all I know I could hate Crim.  An accountant can go to law school thinking, "I'm def gonna do tax law" but then it turns out he falls in love with Civ Pro.

This is why I think choosing a school for a speciality for a JD can be a big mistake.  You may end up not liking the legal side of whatever field you're interested in, or you may come across something you're unexpectedly passionate about.  Networking and putting yourself out there at ABA events and using your alumni network can easily provide contacts in the field.