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Author Topic: A note to aspiring law students from a lawyer who was in your position years ago  (Read 47305 times)

desmo

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so how much does the guy driving the towncar make?

dunson

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so how much does the guy driving the towncar make?


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TWo

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I hear they make pretty decent dough, especially with tips.  Guy that drove me was an ex-marine, although I have no idea why he went from military to driver.  I will say though, that he had an awesome number of stories to tell about the people he had driven.  One story was pretty funny about how he dropped Bill Cosby off in the Bronx cuz he never tipped.

The truth of which I can't really vouch for...

BIG H2001

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I think everyone here has made some good points, and unfortunately the big issue a lot of us are going to have to face is "am I willing to work BigLaw for a sizeable number of hours?"

IMHO, working 80 hours a week isn't really that big of a deal, all things considered.  Especially for those of us who originally wanted to go into medicine, and were planning on ~100/wk residencies.  :)

More importantly though, since we're on the Biglaw topic, the conditions in which you're working aren't really so bad at the top firms.  I just finished my summer associateship with arguably the biggest firm in the world, and really didn't mind the few nights I had to stay late.  Now, obviously the summer flings are just teasers, and I didn't really have to do any real grunt work or work the 80/hr weeks that true associates do.  At the same time, though, I did get to see what perks were available to the people making that 125K, and whatnot.

First off--and this is for this one firm only, not every firm--if anyone worked past 8:00pm, he got driven home in a towncar.  That's right--driven.  Not too shabby considering you don't have to ride the subway, and you can actually get some work done while you're riding in style.

Secondly, for those who worked more than 8 hours in a day, you were given a $50 stipend for food, which I (being frugal out of necessity) took to buy groceries instead of a fancy lunch.

Third, on the topic of eating, the firm had its own cafeteria (which is a horrible misnomer) which served 7 course meals if you preferred, or even just a sandwich or so.  And by the way, it was all subsidized, so the sandwich was ~$3.25--cheaper than Subway.  So was the huge meal, but who really eats like that at work anyway?  Kinda cuts down on the living expenses NYC is notorious for, although the $2500/mo to share a flat with 3 people didn't help too much...

Fourth, if you're worried about making connections to big business, it's really not that difficult if (as the OP states), you're a people person.  I started dating a cute girl who turned out to be an exec at a major webfirm, and will probably be moving in with her once I go back down to the city for good.  NYC is packed with opportunities to meet and greet.  The people you meet at work and the clubs will introduce you to anyone you want if you make yourself available.  I got to hang out with all kinds of celebrities and others just because of who I was with--cuz I definitely have been a poor, nameless fellow my entire life.

Furthermore, in regards to the hours worked and whatnot, it's true that everyone is expected to pull in at least 2100 hrs. there.  No big deal honestly, considering that that's for the entire year, and one must pace oneself.  If you're in litigation, you'll surely have to HUGE workweeks prepping for trial or mediation, but in the meantime you often have to search for things to do.  I know a number of partners who take their folders to the can with them so that they can charge the $750 while on the pooper. The corporate folks though get a bit more of a steady flow of work, but again, you're often getting in at 10 am with a specific goal in mind, and once it's finished, you go home.  More importantly though, for people who like to work, 2400 hrs is where you make "the big bonus," as in 6 figures, and is well worth it in terms of almost doubling your salary.  The steady 60-80 hr weeks are mainly there for people who LOVE money, or who are trying to show off so that they can make equity status in 5 or 6 years.  And by the way, at this particular firm, that's minimum 1.9 Mil/yr per partner.  I'd say it's worth it--if you feel lucky.

Other people don't even worry about trying to get partner with a Biglaw firm though.  They realize about 3 years in that if at 6 years they get a pretty resume and can pull in some clients, they will be SCOUTED by headhunter firms to work in Midlaw as a partner.  Then you get the regular hours and still get the big money.  You might have to move though.  And we haven't even gotten into the concept of being "Of Counsel."  That ain't a bad break there...

But honestly, if you think about it, working 10-9:00 with a lunchbreak isn't slave labor, considering that LAW IS FUN.  Even the supposed "drudgery" of research and memorandi.  Then, come 9:00, you get ready to go out on the town in Manhattan, the center of the world, and get home in time to meet that 9:30 wake-up call.

So sure, if you're looking for a family, a 9-5, and lots of free time to sit and watch television, I say go work for the gov't.  Biglaw seems to be a fast life, with a lot more involved than would be allowed if I had kids or other responsibilities.  You guys also probably shouldn't worry too much about going to a very prestigious school either, if  you're not looking for Biglaw, as the student loans would be murder without the first few years of that 125 to pay down the principal.  U Houston is a great school, and cheap as dirt too.  Go there.

My two cents:

Two's old roomate

It is exactly this type of optimism that sucks people into BIGLAW.  When you actually become a lawyer and have real responsibility, it probably won't be as fun.

TWo

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Yeah, my ex roomate is an a-hole.   ;D

He's going to hit me tomorrow.  lol

dunson

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Yeah, my ex roomate is an meanie.   ;D

He's going to hit me tomorrow.  lol

what kind of shi.t is going on here?  your exroomie posts on you name...is he credible?  or are you just pretending to be someone else....

BAFF213

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good post

I think everyone here has made some good points, and unfortunately the big issue a lot of us are going to have to face is "am I willing to work BigLaw for a sizeable number of hours?"

IMHO, working 80 hours a week isn't really that big of a deal, all things considered.  Especially for those of us who originally wanted to go into medicine, and were planning on ~100/wk residencies.  :)

More importantly though, since we're on the Biglaw topic, the conditions in which you're working aren't really so bad at the top firms.  I just finished my summer associateship with arguably the biggest firm in the world, and really didn't mind the few nights I had to stay late.  Now, obviously the summer flings are just teasers, and I didn't really have to do any real grunt work or work the 80/hr weeks that true associates do.  At the same time, though, I did get to see what perks were available to the people making that 125K, and whatnot.

First off--and this is for this one firm only, not every firm--if anyone worked past 8:00pm, he got driven home in a towncar.  That's right--driven.  Not too shabby considering you don't have to ride the subway, and you can actually get some work done while you're riding in style.

Secondly, for those who worked more than 8 hours in a day, you were given a $50 stipend for food, which I (being frugal out of necessity) took to buy groceries instead of a fancy lunch.

Third, on the topic of eating, the firm had its own cafeteria (which is a horrible misnomer) which served 7 course meals if you preferred, or even just a sandwich or so.  And by the way, it was all subsidized, so the sandwich was ~$3.25--cheaper than Subway.  So was the huge meal, but who really eats like that at work anyway?  Kinda cuts down on the living expenses NYC is notorious for, although the $2500/mo to share a flat with 3 people didn't help too much...

Fourth, if you're worried about making connections to big business, it's really not that difficult if (as the OP states), you're a people person.  I started dating a cute girl who turned out to be an exec at a major webfirm, and will probably be moving in with her once I go back down to the city for good.  NYC is packed with opportunities to meet and greet.  The people you meet at work and the clubs will introduce you to anyone you want if you make yourself available.  I got to hang out with all kinds of celebrities and others just because of who I was with--cuz I definitely have been a poor, nameless fellow my entire life.

Furthermore, in regards to the hours worked and whatnot, it's true that everyone is expected to pull in at least 2100 hrs. there.  No big deal honestly, considering that that's for the entire year, and one must pace oneself.  If you're in litigation, you'll surely have to HUGE workweeks prepping for trial or mediation, but in the meantime you often have to search for things to do.  I know a number of partners who take their folders to the can with them so that they can charge the $750 while on the pooper. The corporate folks though get a bit more of a steady flow of work, but again, you're often getting in at 10 am with a specific goal in mind, and once it's finished, you go home.  More importantly though, for people who like to work, 2400 hrs is where you make "the big bonus," as in 6 figures, and is well worth it in terms of almost doubling your salary.  The steady 60-80 hr weeks are mainly there for people who LOVE money, or who are trying to show off so that they can make equity status in 5 or 6 years.  And by the way, at this particular firm, that's minimum 1.9 Mil/yr per partner.  I'd say it's worth it--if you feel lucky.

Other people don't even worry about trying to get partner with a Biglaw firm though.  They realize about 3 years in that if at 6 years they get a pretty resume and can pull in some clients, they will be SCOUTED by headhunter firms to work in Midlaw as a partner.  Then you get the regular hours and still get the big money.  You might have to move though.  And we haven't even gotten into the concept of being "Of Counsel."  That ain't a bad break there...

But honestly, if you think about it, working 10-9:00 with a lunchbreak isn't slave labor, considering that LAW IS FUN.  Even the supposed "drudgery" of research and memorandi.  Then, come 9:00, you get ready to go out on the town in Manhattan, the center of the world, and get home in time to meet that 9:30 wake-up call.

So sure, if you're looking for a family, a 9-5, and lots of free time to sit and watch television, I say go work for the gov't.  Biglaw seems to be a fast life, with a lot more involved than would be allowed if I had kids or other responsibilities.  You guys also probably shouldn't worry too much about going to a very prestigious school either, if  you're not looking for Biglaw, as the student loans would be murder without the first few years of that 125 to pay down the principal.  U Houston is a great school, and cheap as dirt too.  Go there.

My two cents:

Two's old roomate

JGCESQ

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Some kid who's going to Georgetown in the fall sent me a private message, asking me for some advice about preparing for school.

(1)  PRE-LAW-SCHOOL PREPARATION. How much you will need will depend, to a large extent, on your existing familiarity with the law AND your human resources. In my case, there were no lawyers in my family whom I could rely on. Meanwhile, I'd say that about 50% of my peers had a parent who was a lawyer. That is an enormous advantage to a first-year student because law school is all about manufacturing time to study and comprehend the material. If you have someone who is a practicing lawyer and willing to help you, you can save an enormous amount of time and use your the saved time to study. The first class that I ever had in school was Legal Research & Writing, and it was taught by this crusty old guy from Harvard Law School. He gave us an assignment, and, not knowing how to complete it, I went to his office for help. His response was, "Go to the library and figure it out, yourself." Result? I and kids like me had to go and waste tens of hours on an assignment, looking in all the wrong places and generally running ourselves ragged while the kids with lawyer parents simply made a call to their fathers who either told them where to look or had the paralegals at their firms do the work for them.

(2) CASE BRIEFS. I would put some real effort into learning how to write concise, effective case briefs. It is an enormously important skill and one that has absolutely, positively nothing to do with being a good writer. In fact, good writers often have the hardest time adjusting to law school because they find that the impressive prose for which they had received such acclaim at college is utterly worthless in law school. As a general rule, lawyers are very poor writers, and that strikes many people as shocking because the law is regarded as one of the chief literary professions.

When I was a first-year student, I spent the first 6 weeks of the semester writing long, bloated briefs of every case that was assigned. In some instances, I would take up 5-10 notebook pages with a brief of ONE case. That is a sure-fire way to screw yourself up. You will receive NO CREDIT in law school for pretty language, peerless grammar, scholarly locutions, diction, delivery, etc. NONE. Those things matter for LAWYERS but have almost no bearing on the fortunes of a law student. What you must be able to do is look at a case, no matter how lengthy, and cut the fat away. Ninety-five percent of all cases that will be assigned to you stand for ONE proposition and can be summed up in a few sentences. A court will say a LOT of things in the course of an opinion, but most of them are irrelevant. By the time that you get halfway through the semester, you should see that each case stands for one proposition and that all the cases build on one another. No case brief should take up more than ONE notebook page. The problem is that many students are paranoid that they are "missing" something, so they tend to write EVERYTHING down. When you write everything down, you waste time. When you waste time, you lose time. When you lose time, you can't study as much. When you can't study as much, you don't know the material as well. When you don't know the material as well, you get bad grades---REGARDLESS of how naturally intelligent you are. You can be smarter than 90% of the people in your class and still rank at the bottom if you don't know how to study "for law school," which is FAR different from studying for collegiate courses.

(3) COMMERCIAL STUDY GUIDES. Some of the guides are excellent; some are terrible. When you go to the bookstore to buy your textbooks, start going through the various study guides. Check them out right away. If you're not a very efficient studier, you will need them to close the gap on the kids who are. The study guides are a huge equalizer for bright kids who don't know how to study efficiently. The biggest joke in law school is that the grades that you receive have basically nothing to do with how smart you are and everything to do with how you managed your time. The kids who get good grades get work done faster than kids who don't get good grades. If you're a very efficient studier, you give yourself MORE TIME to review the material that matters. It may take you 90-120 minutes to read and take notes on a 25-page court opinion that you could have learned about in a 1-paragraph synopsis in a study guide or hornbook.  

(4) TIME. This last point is really a regurgitation of what I said above, but it's the subject on which I am most adamant. The kids who can work the fastest while retaining a "minimally sufficient" familiarity with the material will do the best, and the key to working fast is learning to separate the thousands of pages of irrelevant junk you will read in a semester from the 200 pages of important stuff. Law school is a game, and the way to beat the game is to realize (1) that it IS a game; and (2) that most of what you're being taught is a peripheral distraction. If you waste time on irrelevant material, you will not do well, and this is very hard for many students because they come into law school knowing nothing about the law, and they can't tell the difference between what's important and what's not. They'll learn eventually, but usually not in time to save their grades.      

Chances are that your first week at law school will be spent thinking that the work is not as bad as you were led to believe. This is the calm before the storm. The work creeps up on you---in many cases before you even realize it. Maybe you spent the first two weeks killing yourself and were totally up to date with all your work. Then, your new friends invited you for a drink or to a party and, because of that, you don't do the 20 pages of Civ Pro reading that you had planned to do. So the next morning, you have to get up early and read those 20 pages, and because you had to read those 20 pages, you couldn't read those 2 cases for Con law. Pretty soon, you fall behind, and once you fall behind, you're dead. Moreover, working “on time” isn’t enough.  You must work ahead of schedule to give yourself more time to study at the end.. Read ahead. Buy study guides BEFORE exam time. Get them at the start and read them right through the semester. The kids who get the best grades are almost NEVER working from behind and almost always the kids working ahead.

After all, exams will usually commence ONLY 4-5 days after the last class of the semester, leaving you virtually no time to prepare for 5 exams. Things that you were being taught in the last week of the semester might be on that exam. Accordingly, if you waited until the last week of the semester to learn the stuff that the professor didn't get to until the last 2-3 weeks of the semester, you're in trouble. Don't work WITH the class; work ahead. Write concise, narrowly tailored case briefs and use study guides to help you learn the material ON YOUR OWN.

(5) ON BEING A TRIAL LAWYER. While litigation is at an all-time high, trial lawyers, it seems, become fewer with each passing year. They're a dying breed for many reasons. First and foremost, we have become a nation obsessed with what I call designer-label academia. Accordingly, law schools have become wonderful at recruiting “students”  and decidedly poor at recruiting “lawyers.” . There are so many TV shows about lawyers, but I've yet to see the show about real estate lawyers.  And I must have missed the last legal drama about top LSAT scores. All the TV shows about lawyers feature TRIALS because trials capture the public's attention. People love trials. That said, so few lawyers want to become trial lawyers for precisely the reason that I set out above: Today's law school graduate is far more rightly described as a student than an advocate. Many law school graduates who got a 177 LSAT and a 3.6 GPA in law school cannot get up in front of a group of people and sound even intelligent, never mind persuasive. Moreover, many of them don't write very well.

Being a great trial lawyer requires not only meticulous preparation but also natural talents that cannot be measured by any exam. The real questions are: Can you write a persuasive brief? Can you speak intelligently while standing in court? Can you think quickly ON YOUR FEET in response to questions? Can you identify with jurors? Do you have good emotional intelligence? Can you appreciate their various thought processes? Do you know how to manipulate them to serve your client? One of the facts of our system is that the guy who was editor of The Yale Law Journal can have his case blown to pieces by an immigrant juror who dropped out of high school. You must be able to identify with everyone or, at least, make them think you do.

LOOK at how O.J's dream team overcame the truly massive amount of evidence against OJ. On that defense team, you had Alan Dershowitz, who graduated #1 at Yale Law School and, at age 28, became the youngest person ever hired as a full professor at Harvard Law School. You also had F. Lee Bailey, another Harvard graduate and one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. And what did it come down to? Which high-minded legal argument won the case for OJ? None. The case was won by appealing to racial sensitivity and emotion. And who came up with the winning strategy? Johnnie Cochran, who came from that famed Top 10 law school known as Loyola. People made fun of Johnnie Cochran, but he was a great, great lawyer. I doubt he had the intellectual horsepower of Dershowitz, Bailey, or the others,  but he knew how to win the case; they didn’t. For all their brilliance, they didn’t know how to win the case; Johnnie Cochran knew. He knew which buttons to push.  Why? EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.


ocdb8r

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So if you're the sort of person that really wants to do trial law, is it possible?  I was given the impression it was a dying breed because so few things go to trial it becomes little more than happenstance for those who end up in a situtaion to be actually trying cases.  How would you focus specifically on trial law within your specialization?

dunson

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these are some great posts.  thanks for taking the time to break things down.