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Author Topic: Don't even know where to start!  (Read 871 times)

decado

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Don't even know where to start!
« on: April 14, 2011, 10:29:06 AM »
Hi all.  First post here.

I'm writing because I've decided that I really want to go to law school.  Here's my situation . . .

I did six years in the military (1999-2005), after which I went to college and got a BA in English (GPA 3.7) at the University of Rochester, a small, private college in Western NY.  I'll be 30 in a couple of weeks. 

I graduated in May of last year, and since then I've been working in the petroleum industry, a job I got not because of my degree but because of my military experience.  However, I've come to realize that I'm really not going to be happy in this job or in this industry.  I've hemmed and hawed about going to school since I graduated last year, and a good talk with my dad recently made me realize that I should just go for it, instead of talking myself out it.

The problem is, I come from a staunch blue-collar background.  I'm the only person in my family to graduate from college, and it was a hard thing to navigate at first. (Many people may not realize that not having a parent with a degree actually makes a huge difference when it comes to things like applications, etc.  It makes it harder to apply if you have nobody to ask for advice and whatnot.)  Because of that, and because I don't know any lawyers, I don't really know where to start. 

I'm not worried about the LSAT -- I'm good at studying for standardized tests. I took the GRE last year and did very well on it, considering I didn't study (I had some major health problems, really messed me up for a while). Anyways, I've already ordered the LSAT logical reasoning bible.  I figure there's nothing I can do about that but study, study, and study some more.  My real concern is where to apply.  I don't own a house, my bills are relatively low, my car is almost paid off, and my credit cards bills are negligible.  I would like to stay in the NY/NJ/PA area if I could, as I have a family (a daughter) who lives in Western NY and I don't want to put too much distance between us, as things are hard enough in that department already. . . I currently work in NJ, about five hours away.  :(

As far as the type of law I'm interested in, I've really started to appreciate labor law.  Specifically, as a current member of USW, I'm really starting to understand the need forthe kind of work unions do and I want to help, perhaps starting at the negotiation level.  But I guess all that could change if I am misinformed or it turns out the work isn't what I think it is -- something always possible when jumping into a new career.

Anyways, any advice people can impart concerning where to go and what my chances of getting into a "good" school are would be greatly appreciated.  I realize you guys get these types of threads a lot, so your patience with this noobcake is appreciated as well.

Edited to add:

I should also mention that in my current job, I work swing shifts.  For those of you unfamiliar with how this goes, I'll explain:  I work 7 straight evening shifts, get two days off, six straight day shifts, get 1.5 days off, and then 7 straight midnight shifts, and then get 5 days off.  I'm bringing this up because this schedule makes it virtually impossible for me to go back to school, even part time.  If part-time school isn't an option for me, I might as well say to hell with it, quit my job and just go to school full time.  Otherwise, I'd have to look for another job (a daunting task in this economy) and then go part-time . . .  but that doesn't seem like it is going to happen.  But, I am willing to entertain any ideas in that department as well.     

MikePing

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Re: Don't even know where to start!
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2011, 11:10:11 AM »
It sounds like you are on the right track. 

Don't focus too much on what type of law you want to practice.  Your obsession right now should be the LSAT.  Strongly consider signing up for a live prep course.  I don't know how that will work with  your job, but it will make a huge difference. 

You can also check out the website I contribute to for pre law information that might be interesting/usefull.  As far as what school to go to, start with the region and work your way down US News.  That will give you a starting point for schools to consider. 

decado

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Re: Don't even know where to start!
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2011, 11:39:57 AM »
It sounds like you are on the right track.

Thanks!  I hope I am.  I'm still trying to figure out what schools I should be aiming for, but I guess that is wasted energy until I take the LSAT and I have an actual score in hand.

Can you tell me, should I take the LSAT that's coming up in June, or wait until October? I wonder, if I take the October LSAT, will have I every thing I need in order to apply for that year . . . and for that matter, when do law schools start accepting applications?  Is it the same as most universities?   

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Don't focus too much on what type of law you want to practice.  Your obsession right now should be the LSAT.  Strongly consider signing up for a live prep course.  I don't know how that will work with  your job, but it will make a huge difference.

Yeah, a live prep course is probably out of the question.  My hours are severe and non-negotiable.  To say nothing of the frequent overtime -- last week I worked 5 12 hour days in a row, this week I have some 16 hour days ahead of me.  Fortunately I have a lot of down time while I'm at work, but I still have to be there.  So I should have plenty of study time, just no time to attend a live course.   

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You can also check out the website I contribute to for pre law information that might be interesting/usefull.  As far as what school to go to, start with the region and work your way down US News.  That will give you a starting point for schools to consider. 

Cool.  Thanks!

Morten Lund

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Re: Don't even know where to start!
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2011, 06:14:37 PM »
I pretty much agree with MikePing.  Some additional thoughts/observations:

- Take the LSAT very, very seriously (I know Mike said that, but it bears repeating a few times).

- I wouldn't sweat the live LSAT course too much.  If you are good at standardized testing, a course may not add much, and you may be better off studying on your own.  But do study.  A lot.  And practice.  There are tons of books and practice exams out there - I suggest reading/doing as many as you can.

- As to which school to attend, it is impossible to tell until you get your LSAT score, since this will define which schools are available to you.  Your target area is chock full of law schools across the full quality range, so your main focus should be the LSAT. 

- If you do very well on the LSAT, your GPA puts you in the "maybe" range for Yale/Harvard/Stanford, and if you get in to one of those, you should go.  In addition, many of the next tier of schools are in your area, including Columbia, NYU, UPenn, Georgetown, Princeton, etc. - either way you should have a decent set of options.  But LSAT first.

- Be prepared for the sucky part:  graduating from law school at 33.  Most law jobs take a serious plebe view of beginning lawyers (and justifiably so).  It can be very difficult for second-career lawyers to adapt to being at the bottom of the ladder again.  Second-careerers tend to do well and advance quickly (as one would expect), but you still start at the bottom, and the bottom sucks double when your boss is five years younger than you.

- Don't sweat the blue-collar bit.  Yes, law school will at times feel like high school, with stupid clique-based drama, and yes, some things will initially be harder for you than for the guy whose father and grandfather are lawyers, but law school isn't rocket science.  You'll be fine if you take it seriously.

- In fact, a few years working "on the rig" will make you attractive to many employers, and there are many practice areas (including mine) where the clients come from that same background - and clients like lawyers who understand their business.  If you aren't adverse to working in the oil industry after law school, you will likely find that your experiences are valued highly there.  If you don't want oil, there are plenty of other lawyer-intensive industries that will value whatever you did in the oil business.

Either way, good luck.