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Author Topic: So I failed out of law school - any chance for redemption? (kinda long)  (Read 7495 times)

kicko

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I started my first year of law school during the 2004-05 school year...If my subject title is any indication, things did not go well.  A brief rundown of what caused it:

1)I had attended a law school that took an unorthodox approach to the curriculum in that the 1L was designed so that you would graduate within 2 1/2 years instead of the standard 3.  Imagine your 1L schedule, then tack another class, like Legal Writing, on top of it.  I was offered a scholarship, and the campus was incredible, so I just assumed that I could hack it.
2)Our school divided us by tracks; there was General, Advocacy, and Intellectual Property.  I like computers and had an interest in copyright law, so I chose IP.  Big mistake.  Here I was, with two of the easiest, least work-intensive undergrad degrees available (English and Communications), competing entirely against people with Engineering and hard science degrees.  When we were keyed with another track for a class (therefore a much more diluted academic pool), these were the classes I succeeded; the majority of the classes, where I was with my track alone, I was simply competing against students with far more rigorous academic histories. My lax academic background also didn't do me any favors with:
3)Our grades being determined by a single exam; I came from a background of nothing but small assignments and a number of exams per class, to this.  As such, I never learned to study comprehensively; at any given point, I knew just as much about the material as anyone else in any of my classes, but to tie it all together in one giant package at semester's end...I just couldn't comprehend it.  Don't get me wrong, I know this is how essentially all law school classes operate; I was just wildly unprepared for it.  These 3 things eventually led to:
4)Mental and physical exhaustion.  By the end of my 1L I had lost about 30 lbs. (already a bit underweight anyway) and was chain-smoking.  I was already spent by the end of my 1st semester, but I didn't have the heart to face myself and admit that this isn't working out for me.  By finals of the 2nd semester, I was depleted...I literally had no energy to study, retain information, and continue.

Fast forward to now.  I am about 3 classes away from finishing my MBA, and if I do as well as I have been, I'll finish with about a 3.7 - 3.8.  For once, I'm taking classes that require alot of dedicated hours (especially for me, since I've traditionally been terrible at math), and have, for the first time ever, learned how to actually study, instead of just going through the motions to pass a class.  I've never been a great student, but failing out was academically a blessing in disguise because I don't think I'd be forced into a situation where I had to stay on top of things.  For the first time in my entire academic life, I actually know how to study effectively.  Now I'm to the point where receiving a B means that I messed up somewhere and correct it for the next class, as opposed to my old way of thinking, just dismissing it as "well, at least I passed the class."  I'm almost obsessed with doing as well as I can now, and making sure I know all material at all times.

Also, I've been working for a large law firm for a little over the past two years; a pretty big advocacy firm in its field (Immigration Law).  Part of my job consists of writing our newsletter and keeping in contact with our business prospects.  Though as a publishing associate for our firm, my boss gets the name credit, but some of the material I've written myself has been published in Westlaw (BTW, does this mean I'm a published writer for a legal publication?).

Finally, for months, I've studied for the LSAT like it was a second job.  I'm to the point now that Logic Games, the bane of my LSAT experience the first time around, is by far my most comfortable area.  I've completed 4 LSAT books from cover to cover, with more books on the way, timed myself numerous times to ensure test time never becomes an issue. I'm still months away from the October test date, and I already feel I'm confident enough to place in the 75th% percentile of a number of schools, a far cry from the 156 I got from my first LSAT in 2003.

Essentially, I've done everything I've can to right the wrongs, and have made every step I can to show that law is in my heart and soul, and it's where I feel I belong.  It's like I've become a completely different person and student since then.  Every mistake I made in law school, from picking the wrong school, to study habits, to my general health and well-being, as well as what I would do differently for each, just replay in my head constantly.  I've confronted what mistakes I've made and I have gained so much more academic and professional experience now, insomuch that any school that took a chance on me would see a complete transformation of a student who tried law school a few years prior.

This being said, I also need to be realistic about second chances:  would any law schools be willing to look past me stumbling the first time around if my past few years' work show an academic transformation, as well as experience in working in a law firm and actually doing legal writing as a profession?  I'm not sure how this works (google is surprisingly sparse on the subject, oddly enough), and I don't know if every law school by default will just look at the check next to "have you ever attended law school?", find my history, and toss out my application regardless of my progress I made after?  I'm not naive, I've no doubt that a few of the schools I apply to will do just that.  I'm just wondering, with how esoteric and random the law school admissions process is, is it even worth pursuing at all, or am I just fighting a lost cause at this point?  If I am, my contingency plans are much better this time around (an MBA is more reliable in today's workplace than an English/Communications undergrad, after all), but I'd just like your opinions on the matter.


StevePirates

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There are plenty of people who do law school twice.

I know a few people who curved out of their first law school, took a while off, and came back.  You seem to have really done well for yourself since leaving law school the first time. 

You'll certainly have a lot of explaining to do, but you should be able to get a second shot.

SASS

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Hmm. I have some questions.

1. I never heard of a law school making students finish in 2.5 years. why would they do that when they make more money charging people for 3 yrs? I have never actually looked into this so I am little curious.

2. I know you can specialize in areas but I find it odd you were able to arbitrarially pick the IP class with no experience. Without a technical background, you can't take the patent bar anyway.

3. Everyone is physically and mentally exhausted by the end of 1L so trying to pass that by an admissions board will make it sound like you don't have what it takes.

I am curious what school you went to, though I know some people don't like to share that info.

CoxlessPair

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If I had to guess, the OP's school sounds exactly like the University of Dayton.
Air Force JAG Corps

kicko

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Hmm. I have some questions.

1. I never heard of a law school making students finish in 2.5 years. why would they do that when they make more money charging people for 3 yrs? I have never actually looked into this so I am little curious.

2. I know you can specialize in areas but I find it odd you were able to arbitrarially pick the IP class with no experience. Without a technical background, you can't take the patent bar anyway.
Oh they still get your money like it was a 3 year program; they just squeeze 3 years' curriculum into 2.5 so they just get your money faster.  It's not too difficult to find out what law school it is, it kind of trailblazed the whole 2.5 years thing; last I heard they want to introduce a 2 year + one summer program  ::)

As far as the specialization, I've no reply.  I was covering patent law with the rest of the class, even though I learned (later on, mind you) that I was systematically eliminated from ever praciticing or using over half the things we were learning.  Though it was a bottom-tier law school, you'd think they would look at my background and go "wait a minute..." (or conversely, my own research could've yielded this) but I was so far vested in the semester that there was nothing I could do.

Quote
3. Everyone is physically and mentally exhausted by the end of 1L so trying to pass that by an admissions board will make it sound like you don't have what it takes.
Oh, don't misunderstand me; I know that the 1L is essentially just a big energy drain regardless of how prepared you are...trust me, if I had to write an essay or face a board explaining my experience, I wouldn't be foolish enough to say this.  I was clarifying that I made some bad decisions to start school off, was woefully unprepared for how to best study for these exams, and it kinda compounded and made things that much worse for me.  For example, if I started in the general track, in which I'd be competing against far worse students than than in IP, I would've been stressed but ultimately fine, and I probably would be an attorney somewhere, wondering how I'll ever pay off this mountain of student loans, instead of writing this post.

CoxlessPair

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Well, I transferred out of UDSL, so I feel for you if that is the case.

Your situation is unique enough where I am not sure if anyone on this board would have any concrete advice for you. If you have some schools in mind based your LSAT/GPA and region, I think the best bet would be to call the Admissions Dean and have a frank chat. I have found admissions offices to be relatively frank places, so I don't think they would jerk you around either way.

The only advice I might offer is that if you are in a position of having to plead your case, I would avoid the details of the 1L. 1L sucks for everyone and if you attempt to justify how terrible it was, it might sound like you are making excuses. You seem to be pretty level headed so I probably would just say that it was the wrong program at the wrong time in your life.
I only mention this because I worked as the pre-law adviser for the ugrads at my school this year and whenever they had to submit a statement of academic clarification (explaining one semester with a atypically terrible gpa), it always was irritating when they would attempt to explain it away in terms of the difficulty of course work, spiteful TAs, etc. The best statements were always the shortest and most contrite.


Best of luck to you.
Air Force JAG Corps

StevePirates

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Falling on the sword and pleading mea culpa is always better than playing the blame game.

Messing up, learning from your mistake, and growing is always a good story.

OConnorScribe

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Just wondering -- why go back now that you've earned or will soon earn an MBA? Is there a goal in mind that would make doing both back-to-back -- and not simultaneously -- make any sense? Why put yourself that much further into debt when you could compete for a good job now, and one likely at a higher starting salary than you'd receive out of law school.

I hope you aren't doing it as a way of absolving yourself for past sins and finding redemption. Because, speaking from experience gained from my immediate non-law school past life, that's unhealthy.

Good luck, though, as you proceed. Go take a proctored practice LSAT at Kaplan. It's free, and it'll give you a great benchmark. And no, I don't work for Kaplan ... :-)
Pace '10

kicko

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Just wondering -- why go back now that you've earned or will soon earn an MBA? Is there a goal in mind that would make doing both back-to-back -- and not simultaneously -- make any sense? Why put yourself that much further into debt when you could compete for a good job now, and one likely at a higher starting salary than you'd receive out of law school.

I hope you aren't doing it as a way of absolving yourself for past sins and finding redemption. Because, speaking from experience gained from my immediate non-law school past life, that's unhealthy.

Good luck, though, as you proceed. Go take a proctored practice LSAT at Kaplan. It's free, and it'll give you a great benchmark. And no, I don't work for Kaplan ... :-)
Well, as far as the costs for the MBA are concerned, I'm doing it at a state university, and while money has certainly been tight, I've been able to afford it entirely without student loans (another valuable blessing in disguise from my 1L experience:  unless you get into a private school that can assure you a well-paying job, it's best to stick to state schools, or risk facing a student loan debt that outlives you  ;) ). 

From the day I realized I had failed out, my goal was almost immediately to see what steps I could take to get back in, and one of those was GPA padding in a valuable degree.  So pretty much from day 1, I went in the MBA program with the mindset of "best case scenario: you get this graduate degree and return to law school; worst case: you don't get in to law school, but you have a valuable degree that can actually get you a decent job."

Regarding the combination of both, I've always been fascinated by corporate law, and our business law professor from the MBA program tells me that alot of MBAs with JDs also do tax law (the pay is good, but the material seems dull and besides that's way too much number-crunching for me). Also, from what I've experienced firsthand from work is that attorneys generally make terrible accountants and office managers, and that if your firm generally has a staff of about 10 or more, this role becomes pretty vital. I would assume alot of budding independent attorneys just starting out take this role for granted.  I figure why not make myself more marketable for this type of position by showing a mastery of both business and law?  Granted, I only have one law firm as reference, but I assume all larger firms have a position like this?

Thanks for the heads-up on the practice Kaplan exam, I'll be sure to contact my local office during lunch to find out more.  I took the Kaplan prep the first time around (it was pretty good, but not $1k good), and I vaguely recall that they had alot of old exams on file...I wonder if there's a way to just pay to have access to those exams without the prep; I'm close to exhausting the 2007-08 LSAT prep books from nearly every publisher, and it's to the point that I'm starting to recognize the same questions again  ;D