Law School Discussion

Success in Law School and Beyond (...and a Free Book Offer Too)

Aloha, All -

I posted a note in the pre-law threads, after a suggestion by a colleague, and thought I might post one here as well.  [Some is verbatim and some is edited from there, as your needs are obviously different from the pre-law crowd.]  In scanning several of the threads here, what struck me is that essentially the same questions are being asked some 20 years after I was in law school.  This is not intended as an insult.  Quite the opposite: the fault is ours, the senior practitioners and professors.  What I gleaned among current students seems based, ultimately, in the same frustrations borne fundamentally out of a lack of meaningful guidance.  There are many resources out there, of course, and it's difficult for someone in law school to know which is which (much less, which is better).  Too, the current state of the economy is one that mirrors the one I graduated into, in 1991, with obvious parallels.
What follows is, to some extent at least, biased.  It is clearly my own opinion . . . and my opinion formed out of decades and numerous exchanges with all manner of lawyer and law student.  So, please take this with whatever size grain of salt you feel appropriate.  I'll try to state my reasoning behind each recommendation.  I'll also state that I am involved, in varying degrees, with each of the books I recommend (except the last one); so please take that into consideration as well. 

To address the question of reliabilty and authority:

Says who?  As mentioned I graduated in 1991 (aka The Dark Ages) from the University of Texas, where we had about one-fourth the number of resources and about one-twentieth the level of debt.  When I wrote the most recent book (which I'd not in a million years contemplated doing until practically forced to), I went to the local bookstore and took a peek.  I was shocked.  Shocked, I tell you.  No wonder law students were facing so much difficulty.  Much of what was in the dozen-odd titles was fairly harmless.  Not terribly helfpul, in my opinion, but not really bad.  There was, however, a significant percentage that *was* bad, and rather than go into details in flame-retardant clothing as to why, I'll defer to myself (below).  In short, however, I'd long forgotten just how useless much of the "help" was.

First to all the books *not* listed here: 

There is one book that has become the "standard-bearer" for seemingly all law students.  I'll not name it.  My take is that this book is among the "mostly harmless" ones.  Buy a good bed.  'kay.  Get a passport in case a Vault firm needs you in Budapest?  Sure, why not?  We can dream.  Brown-nose professors?  Take good notes?  Color-code cases?!  This is going to seem wildly odd to read, but this is bad, bad advice.  Why?  This is simply not the way to learn the law.  It is certainly not the way to learn the law well, and learn it efficiently--two essential qualities of the "A" law student.

My recommendation?  Yes, read these books, and decide for yourself.  I would suggest, however, that you read them from a library.  (This is good advice for each of the books that follow, actually, even--gasp--my own. Even if your local library don't stock it, you can ask the lead librarian to order a copy, and chances are they will.  It doesn't hurt to ask.)

Okay, here are the recommendations, and the reasons why:

For non-traditional students, "Later-in-Life Lawyers: Tips for the Non-Traditional Law Student," by Charles Cooper. 

For everyone, "Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold" (which I awkwardly abbreviate to "GGG"), by Thane Messinger.  Yes, full disclosure:  Without getting into too much self-interested puffery, I do think GGG will enable a student to achieve above-average results, at least, with less effort and much less wasted effort than is currently assumed is "law study."  In this, GGG strikes the balance, I think, between the strictures of Planet Law School and, well, everything else. 

It should come as no surprise that I don't agree with the usefulness or effectiveness of the bulk of advice on law school, which is why I wrote GGG and which would, on its face, be borne out by how perennially frantic most law students end up being (with a near-zero or even negative correlation between that and success in exams and in their careers).

This leads to another book, "Planet Law School" ("PLS").  Yes, it's over the top.  As I recount in GGG, the author of PLS and I have had a falling out of sorts.  We corresponded over the years, and one reason I finally wrote GGG was due to our growing disagreements.  Nonetheless, PLS serves as an essential check on the silliness that passes for "study" "advice," and also as a base from which one can adapt a study plan that is both useful and maintainable.  Among other reasons to read PLS are the hundreds of pointers as to various study aids.  I was embarrassed that I learned about some of these--years after having been in practice. 

So, yes, PLS (and, if you'll permit me the vanity, GGG) are essential.

For 2Ls, a third is:  "The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job."  While this would seem to be a book for just the Top 10%/law review crowd, it's actually *more* important for everyone else.  After all, if you've a line-up of "A" grades and a law review editorship under your belt, yes, you really shouldn't throw up on your interviewer's shoes (or on anything else) in an interview, and good for you if you can keep your lunch down . . . but it's everyone else who *really* needs this advice.  So much of doing well in life is simply paying attention; so much of that is opening your eyes; so much of that is someone who knows what to look for there to guide you.  So, I would recommend this book, whether you'll have OCI or self-generated interviews.

There's yet another book, this for students who dream dreams of teaching, or of high-powered practice, or of the satisfaction of a certain diploma on their wall.  It's "Art of the Law School Transfer," which should be out in a few weeks, I'm told.  Useful if that's at all a thought for you.

For 2-3Ls and recent grads, four books:

Again I'll mention my own, but perhaps I can do so as it was first on the scene.  In 1995 I wrote "The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide" out of my own early experiences.  The second edition was done in 2000.  It's been out for 14 years, and has helped (or so reviews and personal notes indicate) tens of thousands of graduates in focusing on survival in the world of law practice.

[* I do also have a few copies for anyone serious about providing a critiue.  A few hours to read it an an hour or so to tell me why it stinks . . . and how to neutralize or at least mask the odor.  If so please email me at  ]

There are now three competitor books, two-and-one-half of which I am happy to share.

The first two are "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney," and "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum."  These are written as 21 short "Rules" for law office life (or for legal memoranda), written by a Yale grad, big-firm hiring partner, and good guy.  They're superb.  (Anyone who doesn't like my style--which, at times, includes me--is almost certain to like these two books.  And even if you're among the seven who do like my style, you'll still like, and benefit from, his two books.)

The third title is "The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law," by Mark Herrmann  It's quite good, and tells it very much like it is.  The reason I'm conflicted is that it's a tiny book (smaller even than the Jagged Rocks books), which is not wrong or bad (especially given the message), but it's an outrageous $35.  Even on Amazon it's twice as much as any of the three books above.  So, while I do like it, I'd suggest buying any two of the other books--even if not mine--before The Curmudgeon.  Of course, if your trust funds haven't been too badly affected by the recent economic goings-on, why not spring for all four? 



I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and I wish you the very best,


Re: Success in Law School and Beyond (...and a Free Book Offer Too)
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2009, 03:45:37 PM »
Maybe I'm tired, or just generally cranky, but good god man, make some attempt at communicating efficiently.

Although, I do approve of dropping the Harvard undergrad alum email addy when you discuss attending UT law. +1