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Author Topic: When to start studying?  (Read 1787 times)

MLawand

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When to start studying?
« on: September 06, 2011, 01:32:12 AM »
Since this is my first post, I might as well introduce myself. I'm Matt, I'm a freshman in college. Since I was a kid I have always wanted to become a lawyer. I want to major in political science, but my father and brother are telling me that I should go for a quantitative major. That way I can set myself apart from the liberal arts crowd, and have a good plan B. Math isn't really my thing, but what they are saying makes a lot of sense. My father is big on being your own boss, so he thinks I should major in something that I could do on my own. I think I will get my CPA then go for my JD afterwards. Would having my CPA boost my chances at getting into law school? If you guys could go back, would you start studying for the LSAT from your freshman year?

Sorry for all these random questions I'm throwing out everywhere, I just need second, third, and fourth opinions. I'm sure I'm not asking the right questions, but lets see what you all have to say.

legalrabbit

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2011, 12:54:03 PM »
Matt,
It's hard to speak on the college major/ career part since that's a very personal choice. However, if I had to go back in time, I would have told myself not to pick a hard major. Your GPA matters more than your major so pick something that you'll enjoy studying.

Re: LSAT. I'd say studying intensely for a few months would be more beneficial than spreading it out over several years (you'd burn through materials, it wouldn't be fresh, etc etc). Having said that, if you have time during the summer (say, before sophomore year) to devote serious effort into LSAT studying, then go for it. You don't have to be a junior or senior to take the LSAT. From my experience, don't touch LSAT stuff during the school year because you should focus on your GPA.

Just my two cents. Good luck.

 

Hamilton

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2011, 01:03:47 PM »
I do not think getting the CPA is a bad idea.  For law school, major does not matter, its GPA that does; however, rather than put all of your eggs in one basket (i.e. law/law school), I like the idea of having a marketable major that you can use if law does not work out.

FalconJimmy

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2011, 06:41:48 PM »
I think I will get my CPA then go for my JD afterwards. Would having my CPA boost my chances at getting into law school? If you guys could go back, would you start studying for the LSAT from your freshman year?

Just want to make sure tha tyou're aware that you essentially need a master's degree to sit for the CPA exam.  A lot of schools have changed their curriculum to lead naturally into a Masters of Accountancy or an MBA afterwards.

Your major won't boost your chances of getting into law school.  Nor will it hurt your chances.

If your goal is to get into the best law school you can, you should chose a degree that will allow you to get the highest possible gpa.  Your goal SHOULD be to get into the best law school you can.

However, if you think you can get the same GPA getting an accounting degree that you could get on a Poli Sci degree?  Then, the choice is yours.  Lots of variables going into that.

Part of the equation is, "what would you like to do with your life?"  If you want to be an accountant, then you should get an accounting degree.

I might be being a bit harsh, but if so, only by a bit, when I say that a lot of degrees really aren't very employable.  Especially these days when 2/3 of young people will get a 4 year degree.  It seems to me that many degrees are essentially generic "McDegrees" that don't prepare you to do anything, professionally.

I won't name any here, for fear of offending somebody, but you can probably decide which ones seem to fit that description.  As a warning, they almost all say some variation of the following about their program of study:

"Other programs of study just teach you a very narrow skill set.  Because of this, your opportunities after school will only be in a very narrow group of jobs.   Our program teaches you how to THINK, so our graduates are prepared to do any job in any field."

This is, of course, complete and utter BS.  The logic is essentially, "You won't be qualified to do anything.  Which means you're equally qualified to do EVERYTHING."

Just ask a hiring manager looking for an accountant, computer programmer, engineer, chemist, etc., whether a candidate with none of those degrees, but with a liberal arts degree that "taught them how to think" is somebody they'd even consider.  The reality is that they're not qualified for "any job in any field".  They're simply not qualified for any job.

Now, right now, you seem to be bent on being an attorney because you've always wanted to be.  You might end up being one.  Just like the guy who always wanted to be a circus clown might end up actually being a circus clown.

Thing is, you should learn a lot in college and be exposed to a lot of different things.  You may not feel the same way when you're done.

You might, but you might not.

Having a marketable degree is never a bad thing.  Granted, you may not LIKE doing what your degree is for, but the only thing worse than having a job you hate is having no job and no way to get one.

MLawand

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2011, 11:33:08 PM »
FalconJimmy - I read in an earlier post that everyone should read your posts twice. I can see why he said that, I want to thank you and everyone who replied to this thread for taking the time to help me. I think the plan is going to be to get the degree in accounting first, even if it requires a Masters. I am blessed enough to have my education paid for so I might as well do what I can to make the best out of it. I am only 18, so I have a lot of time to think about getting my JD. Which as of right now, I will. I'm still keeping an open mind about everything, who knows, maybe I'll end up going  tomedical! (Not in my agenda what-so-ever!).

Best Regards,
Matt

Hamilton

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2011, 08:43:11 AM »
Never forget that GPA is HUGE when the goal is to get into a top law school - which Falcon is right, that should be your goal.  If you take a meaningful, but more difficult path in college, that means you are going to have to keep your eye on the ball, never let up, and churn out the best grades possible.  In the end it will all pay off.

FalconJimmy - I read in an earlier post that everyone should read your posts twice. I can see why he said that, I want to thank you and everyone who replied to this thread for taking the time to help me. I think the plan is going to be to get the degree in accounting first, even if it requires a Masters. I am blessed enough to have my education paid for so I might as well do what I can to make the best out of it. I am only 18, so I have a lot of time to think about getting my JD. Which as of right now, I will. I'm still keeping an open mind about everything, who knows, maybe I'll end up going  tomedical! (Not in my agenda what-so-ever!).

Best Regards,
Matt

Morten Lund

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2011, 12:59:58 PM »
As always, an excellent post, Jimmy.  A couple of thoughts:


Your major won't boost your chances of getting into law school.  Nor will it hurt your chances.

Yes and no, on two levels. 

I certainly agree with the general sentiment, but I hear no end of whining from law school admission folks about how they wish they had more applicants who were not majoring in English/History/PolySci, and they all claim to give extra points for the tougher majors - particularly math/science.  See Professor X' "Law School Undercover" for more on this point.  That said, you are absolutely correct that a good GPA is job one, and if the tougher major will have a significant effect on the GPA, then I would steer clear.  And in this case, OP says that math "isn't his thing" - giant red flag.  People should not major in math unless it is very much their thing.

Second, while the name of the major may have only a limited impact (if any) on law school admissions, we do occasionally learn something in college classes (shocking, I know), and that something may or may not be of assistance for law school admission.  For instance (my bias about to show), my math studies prepared me for the LSAT far more than my psychology studies.  I believe (with no meaningful data to back me up) that math, science, philosophy, and other "rigorous" fields of study provide better background for a good LSAT score than do history or English.  And a good LSAT score, of course, is the other half of law school admission.

And, on a side note, I do believe that while choice of major is not a major factor for law school admission, I believe that it can be a significant factor for employment selection - at least for some majors.  I know that I pay a lot more attention to a 1L resume when it shows biochemistry or physics as the undergrad major.

Quote from: FJ
Part of the equation is, "what would you like to do with your life?"  If you want to be an accountant, then you should get an accounting degree.

I might be being a bit harsh, but if so, only by a bit, when I say that a lot of degrees really aren't very employable.  Especially these days when 2/3 of young people will get a 4 year degree.  It seems to me that many degrees are essentially generic "McDegrees" that don't prepare you to do anything, professionally.

Absolutely agree, and not just for law school applicants.  Eggs in one basket and all that - it is a wasted opportunity to leave college without an employable degree of some kind.  And that holds even if you are successful in law school.  For a great many law school graduates, the practice of law is not forever.  I expect that there are a whole lot more "recovering lawyers" out there than there are "recovering physicians" or, for that matter, "recovering accountants."  The structure of the law business is set up to chase a lot of people out over time, whether voluntarily or otherwise.  Even if you don't need that physics degree now, it may come in handy 20 years down the road.

Quote from: FJ
I won't name any here, for fear of offending somebody, but you can probably decide which ones seem to fit that description.  As a warning, they almost all say some variation of the following about their program of study:

"Other programs of study just teach you a very narrow skill set.  Because of this, your opportunities after school will only be in a very narrow group of jobs.   Our program teaches you how to THINK, so our graduates are prepared to do any job in any field."

This is, of course, complete and utter BS.  The logic is essentially, "You won't be qualified to do anything.  Which means you're equally qualified to do EVERYTHING."

Just ask a hiring manager looking for an accountant, computer programmer, engineer, chemist, etc., whether a candidate with none of those degrees, but with a liberal arts degree that "taught them how to think" is somebody they'd even consider.  The reality is that they're not qualified for "any job in any field".  They're simply not qualified for any job.

As the holder of one of those "thinking" degrees myself I am not in the least offended.   :)      I do, however, partially disagree.  Certainly it is tough to apply for a job with a degree in philosophy.  It is not an employable degree.  That said, there is significant truth to the whole "learning how to think" bit - isn't that what law school is all about?  In fact, much as my studies in math prepared me for the LSAT, I believe that my studies in philosophy prepared me for law school and the practice of law - moreso than other things I studied.  I would encourage future lawyers to take philosophy classes if possible.

But I also agree that it would be foolish to graduate with a degree in philosophy (unless coupled with a more employable major).  Practical reality should not be forgotten.

Quote from: FJ
Now, right now, you seem to be bent on being an attorney because you've always wanted to be.  You might end up being one.  Just like the guy who always wanted to be a circus clown might end up actually being a circus clown.

That one goes in the databank for future use.  Thank you!


(Oh, and as to the original question:  Study early, study a lot, and study hard.  The LSAT score is at least as important as the GPA, so you should take the LSAT at least as seriously as you take your classes.)

FalconJimmy

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2011, 04:13:55 PM »
As the holder of one of those "thinking" degrees myself I am not in the least offended.   :)      I do, however, partially disagree.  Certainly it is tough to apply for a job with a degree in philosophy.  It is not an employable degree.  That said, there is significant truth to the whole "learning how to think" bit - isn't that what law school is all about?  In fact, much as my studies in math prepared me for the LSAT, I believe that my studies in philosophy prepared me for law school and the practice of law - moreso than other things I studied.  I would encourage future lawyers to take philosophy classes if possible.

No argument here.  To put a finer point on it, I'm not saying that some degrees are useless or that they don't teach you anything.  I'm speaking specifically to qualifying people for jobs.  What degrees in some fields do is simply qualify you for jobs that require "any degree".  So, for instance, OCS in the military.  However, the claim that they qualify you for more jobs than, say, a degree in computer science, because a computer science job is training in a specific area, is fallacious, IMHO. 

A job that you can qualify for with "any degree", you can get with a CS degree.  So, all the jobs that the McDegree could get you are also available with the CS degree.  It just so happens that in addition to those jobs, the CS degree qualifies you for a variety of other jobs as well.

As for teaching a person how to think, my personal opinion on that is that maybe NO degree really teaches a person "how to think".  Maybe the fields just attract people with good logical skills and maybe gives them a few problem solving methods that aren't intuitively obvious.

However, although some of the liberal arts degrees may teach a person how to think, I also find it highly likely that people who studied engineering also know how to think.  Or, as you pointed out, a person with a biochem degree probably thinks just fine.

Whether they were able to study biochem because of their ability to think, or biochem taught them how to think, or a combination of both, who knows.  But I think you're going to get just as many people with exceptional logical skills from the folks who got a BS in math or chemistry (or more) as you will from those who got their BA in philosophy.



Morten Lund

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2011, 08:23:28 PM »
No argument here. 

My sloppy word selection notwithstanding, I never really expected that we were in disagreement on the central issue.

Quote from: FJ
To put a finer point on it, I'm not saying that some degrees are useless or that they don't teach you anything.  I'm speaking specifically to qualifying people for jobs.  What degrees in some fields do is simply qualify you for jobs that require "any degree".  So, for instance, OCS in the military.  However, the claim that they qualify you for more jobs than, say, a degree in computer science, because a computer science job is training in a specific area, is fallacious, IMHO. 

Yep.

Quote from: FJ
As for teaching a person how to think, my personal opinion on that is that maybe NO degree really teaches a person "how to think".  Maybe the fields just attract people with good logical skills and maybe gives them a few problem solving methods that aren't intuitively obvious.

A worthy claim, and it certainly may be the case - I can provide no significant evidence in either direction.

Quote from: FJ
However, although some of the liberal arts degrees may teach a person how to think, I also find it highly likely that people who studied engineering also know how to think.  Or, as you pointed out, a person with a biochem degree probably thinks just fine.

And this, perhaps oddly, is where I disagree, at least to some extent.

There is thinking, and then there is "thinking like a lawyer."  Not all thought is the same, and not even all rigorous thought is the same.  Perhaps more to the point, not all rigorous fields teach or require rigorous thought.

(... and this is where the thread takes a left turn into major digression territory)

For instance, it has been my (anecdotal, non-scientific) experience that engineers are less prepared - thinking-wise - for the practice of law than are philosophy majors.  Engineering is perhaps the most employable of all majors, and engineers are certainly smart.  But - IMO - their way of thinking is, for lack of a better phrase, too tainted with reality.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with engineers where the engineer was struggling (or entirely unable) to accept a hypothetical, or consider a principle without a specific example - or, worse yet, where the engineer determined that a particular contractual protection wasn't necessary because "that would never* happen."  But more on my particular fascination with engineers in a different thread, perhaps.  :)

I like applicants with hard majors (including engineering) because I know that they are smart - but I also mentally adjust the training program to suit their undergraduate field of study.

*never = more than two standard deviations from the mean

FalconJimmy

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Re: When to start studying?
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2011, 08:35:14 PM »
I like applicants with hard majors (including engineering) because I know that they are smart - but I also mentally adjust the training program to suit their undergraduate field of study.

Interesting.  I don't seem to know of any undergrad engineering majors at my law school.  Perhaps other schools have more. 

To me, the hardest part is that when writing, I have to remind myself to write like I would write for a person not versed in the law.

For instance, you don't do well if you write:

"The property is an example of mislaid property."

At least so far, the profs seem to want something along the lines of:

"The property is probably best categorized as mislaid.  It is clearly not abandoned as the true owner has made no statement or action that renounces title of the property.  It isn't truly lost in that the true owner has a reasonable means to find it and placed it down deliberately.  As mislaid property, it is obvious that the true owner placed it down and simply forgot to retrieve it.  Thus, the title holder of the locus in quo acts as a bailee and is responsible for the safekeeping of the item until the true owner retrieves it..." (etc.)

Engineering is a field where the correct and complete answer to a professional problem might be "5".  So, yeah, I guess I can see how they'd have trouble changing gears to having to not just "show their work", but to show the thought process they went through to get to their answer, and tip their hat to other plausible possibilities that they considered along the way.

So, I can see how this would be a totally different way of expressing acceptable work.