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Author Topic: Law school for the rest of us: Advice/questions for/from T2/3/4 students:  (Read 36958 times)

slacker

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Good points, all, on the curves. I thought of one more thing based on Matthies' comments about "don't expect to be top 25%"...

If you have a scholarship based on maintaining a certain GPA, see where that GPA places you in terms of class ranking. This is especially useful if you're measuring a couple different offers against each other. For example, if one means you need to stay top 25% or you lose it, and another is more top 50% or has no gpa requirement other than good academic standing, this can be an important factor when making final decisions.

Thistle

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How's UALR Rev?  I'll be at Fayetteville in the Fall...finally got all my stuff taken care of and *hopefully* will be graduating soon. 

On a advice/question/something actually pertaining to this thread note, I'm so incredibly confused about grading curves.  My school doesn't curve grades, so I've never experienced this at all.  Anyone care to explain? 

There are as many different curves as there are law schools. The ones I am familiar with are the mean/median curves. Some schools range from a B+ (top schools) to I have heard a low curve of C-!

The way a mean/median curve works is that the entire class must come out to a mean/median of say 3.0. At my school it works like this: After the exam the prof reads all the tests, they then assign a grade to them. They then take all the grades and add them up, if that does not hit the mean/median of 3.0 for the entire class, they re-grade them. And start taking off points. This is where you can loose points for arbitrary reasons, nothing more than to get the grades to fit into the curve. You may have done A work, but be at the bottom of the A pile, so you get moved to B+ to make the curve work. It can be very aggravating. For there to be X amount of A’s there will need to be Y amount of C’s to get the curve to come out at 3.0.

The curve can save you, or it can kill you, and there is not a lot you can do about it. There are no “right answers” on law school exams (and you don’t loose points for being wrong either). The exams are completely subjective, so your grade will vary with how the professor sees your answer. It’s a very different system than undergrad, knowing the material is NOT enough to get an A, there is luck, and knowing the prof to contend with.



another thing that annoys me is with a forced curve, the difference between an A and a C may be as little as a few percentage points.

for example, lets say that there are 100 people in your class. 
the top ten papers in your class of 100 got 96 - 100% of the answers correct.  A's
the next 20% of papers got 91-95% of the answers correct.  B's
you got 90% of the answers correct -- an A in undergrad -- and you got a C.

unfair?  absolutely.  pity the poor bastard with the 80% who got a D-
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JD

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Yeah, I'm just a little worried cause I have to be in the top 20% to keep my scholarship (which isn't huge, and seems like it should be bigger, but whatever).  I've never had a problem with that in college, but, like I said, we don't have a curve. 

button127

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Rev - Could you please tell us what you feel are the reasons as to why you're in the percentage of the class rank that you are? Do you feel its a direct correlation to the amount of work/study time, or do you think its academically exceptional people outdoing the others.

Do you think that achieving a top 10% class rank was/is possible for you? If you had it to do over what would you have done to secure better grades? Different study tactics, worked alone, worked with a group, studied less, studied more, etc...? Thanks in advance.

Thistle

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Rev - Could you please tell us what you feel are the reasons as to why you're in the percentage of the class rank that you are? Do you feel its a direct correlation to the amount of work/study time, or do you think its academically exceptional people outdoing the others.

Do you think that achieving a top 10% class rank was/is possible for you? If you had it to do over what would you have done to secure better grades? Different study tactics, worked alone, worked with a group, studied less, studied more, etc...? Thanks in advance.



one of the things i had to get over was that there is nothing intriniscally wrong with being in my percentile.  honestly, top half of class isnt that bad for an old guy like me.  i dont know if top 10% is possible for me, and i have to be ok with that, even if i strive for it.

however, to answer your question, i believe that my issues were:

first, i've been out of school for over ten years.  even though i have done a lot of reading and writing during that time, it's not the same as coming right from undergrad.

second, i am extremely adhd but did not request an accomodation for more time.

third, the academic dean thinks i probably studied too much, if thats possible, and got burned out.  i never missed a class, and read every page.  was in the library until closing time every night.

fourth, i think that the learning environment in law school is not the primary way i learn.  i learn best by doing.  ergo, an A and a top 5% (i was 3rd out of 131) in legal writing, and C's in the policy/theory classes.

finally, in contracts (B-), property (C+), civ pro and torts (C) my professors said during conferences, was that i bypassed the simple issues and wrote about the complex ones.  i didnt give the elements of promissory estoppel, for example, because i assumed that from my application of it, the professor would know that i knew it; and i could spend the limited amount of time i had writing about the more complex topics.   every professor told me that although they knew that i knew the basic elements, if it wasnt on paper, i couldnt get credit.

so, for this semester, my plan has been:

first, i cant do too much about being out of school for so long. 

second, i got retested and am asking for the extra time on exams.  i didnt really want to, because i want a level playing field between myself and the other students; but my academic dean said that this does level the playing field - for me.

third, i'm working on more of a balanced life.  i still study quite a bit, but i no longer live in the library.  i go out with my wife, and watch some movies, and kick my younger classmates asses in texas hold em.

fourth, i will write down everything on the exams; all the elements, and then the application.  show the work, just like algebra.

my goal for this semester is to progress to a 3.0, which is top 1/3.  if i dont, its not because i'm a dumbass, or because i dont get it.  *everybody* is smart in law school.  us t3/t4's have professors from harvard (torts) nyu (contracts) etc as well as a t14.  a t3/t4 isnt any easier, and in many cases its harder.  therefore, i've just had to plug along as best i could.  study habits that worked in my undergrad and masters programs dont work in law school.  i will find out during this semester exams whether or not my adjustments helped.

i'm also one of two 1L's interning at a legal services center.  i interview clients, file motions, complaints, answers, counterclaims, the works.  this has benefitted me because it proves that i can do it.  the law really isnt rocket science, and my grades do not reflect my ability or potential to be a good lawyer.  a three-hour closed book exam cant do that.  i mean really -- can you imagine a senior partner coming to a young associate and saying "here is a complicated two page fact pattern.  i want a memo in three hours.  oh, and you cant use any research on it."  sounds insane -- but thats exactly what my law school exams were like.

in addition, i was the full-time honor justice this past year, and wrote three opinions on honor code matters, which my dean praised to the skies.  i've been elected to the student bar executive board for next year, and ran unopposed. i can think analytically, and apply law to facts.  but i do it better when i have time to consider the implications and do appropriate research.

in addition, i refuse to compete against my classmates.  i share notes, pick up extra handouts when theyre absent, listen to their troubles (everybody knows i'm a minister, and i still do my share of counseling).  when i am remembered by my classmates, i want to be remembered as a guy who was always willing to help out -- even if it pushes me down the curve. (and last semester it did -- i gave my outlines to a guy whose computer died a week before finals, and he did better than i -- so what.  life is too short).

finally, i had to learn that a C was actually a "satisfactory" grade -- and that it reflects that i do "get it" and that i really am ok.

and i also firmly believe, as matthies said in another thread, that a good 25% of it is luck.   did you get an exam question that you just happened to spend a little more time on -- or one that happened to be a favorite topic?  never undersetimate the value of hard work -- or of luck.

hope this answered your questions somewhat -- anything else i can do to help, please ask.
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JD

Chibundu

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Hey Rev,
Great Information. I appreciate it it all. I am also looking at UALR as my top choice. A couple of questions, though. What are the housing prices there. I am looking for some good ol affordable housing. I have seent the info about Barrister Place, but at $450, it is a little more than I want to spend. I would prefer to be around $250/ month. I know might be ridiculous, but I would like to try before I go and get a one bedroom. Also I wont be able to visit before the middle of the summer, so I would also like to know about the library? Work out facilities? Non-law extracurriculars? Lastly, How well are you aware of the job prospects in Houston. I have read that Fayetteville have more jobs outside of Ark, whereas Lil Rock work more in the state. I am not from Ark and I would prefer not to stay in the state. I want to go back home. Thanks in advance.
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Thistle

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Hey Rev,
Great Information. I appreciate it it all. I am also looking at UALR as my top choice. A couple of questions, though. What are the housing prices there. I am looking for some good ol affordable housing. I have seent the info about Barrister Place, but at $450, it is a little more than I want to spend. I would prefer to be around $250/ month. I know might be ridiculous, but I would like to try before I go and get a one bedroom. Also I wont be able to visit before the middle of the summer, so I would also like to know about the library? Work out facilities? Non-law extracurriculars? Lastly, How well are you aware of the job prospects in Houston. I have read that Fayetteville have more jobs outside of Ark, whereas Lil Rock work more in the state. I am not from Ark and I would prefer not to stay in the state. I want to go back home. Thanks in advance.


consider, however, that barrister includes all utilities, wireless internet, and you wont spend a nickel on gas to drive to school.  and sometimes its nice having your classmates just down the hall.  there is an elliptical machine, a couple of bikes, a 5-station machine, and free weights on the second floor.

i dont think you'll find a habitable place for 250.  an option is (are you coming to admitted students day?) to find a classmate or two to share rent with.  i honestly think you'll end up spending more than 250 though.

you have access to the main campus gym which is very nice.  the law library is tops, in my opinion.  i havent seen a lot of law libraries, but other people have told me that its better than most theyve seen.  i dont know much about extracurriculars, being an old married guy.  the downtown area is ok, though, i've been to a couple of bars down there.

as far as houston goes, i dont know.  i do know that some 3rd years i was talking to have jobs in dallas and atlanta.  its all about networking.  spend the sumer making some contacts in houston and getting some names of people to apply to for clerkships would be my advice.  if you come to asd, look me up.  good luck!
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JD

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Thanks for such a great thread guys. I will also be attending a T2 (very low to the bottom T2) if I can get my LSAT up. When I was reading about the curve in LS I was also totally lost. This has cleared it up alot. The only curve that was ever used in my school was in one of my chemistry classes (thank God). I have always been so anal about my grades and getting the best scores that I will have to get into a different mindset in LS. A good friend of mine that has a private practice in AR. graduated from University of Memphis 7 or 8 years ago and told me that one of his professors told him not to worry so much because "D means done". He is expecting me to be a basket-case in LS when grades are posted.lol
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Clara Bear

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Rev-

I'm starting at UALR this August and I'm way excited.  What kinds of places do OCIs there?  Is it only the big firms from LR?  Also, what are you doing for the summer?  Is it easy to find a paying legal job for the summer?

Thanks for your help! (Thanks to Matthies, too, for starting this thread)

Thistle

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Rev-

I'm starting at UALR this August and I'm way excited.  What kinds of places do OCIs there?  Is it only the big firms from LR?  Also, what are you doing for the summer?  Is it easy to find a paying legal job for the summer?

Thanks for your help! (Thanks to Matthies, too, for starting this thread)


yes, only the big firms (plus the military and the attorney general) interview here.  everyone except the military/atty gen require a 3.0 gpa just to interview.  from the oci's, i only know of 3 people who received jobs.  in short, the oci's account for less that 10% of the available jobs.  i certainly wouldn't count on them.

network, network, network.  go to bar association lunches (local firms pay for student meals and sponsor them) and find ways -- any ways -- to meet practicing attorneys.  i have just been elected to executive council for student bar association, and our incoming president has some good ideas, including finding an attorney-mentor for all incoming students.  wont have that done by next fall, but its a start.  in addition, there are only 2 1L's in the FT program interning this year.  We are allowed to do it, but nobody has taken advantage of it.  Center for Arkansas Legal Services is *always* looking for interns -- and they train you to do *actual legal work.*  once you get Rule 15 authorized (second year) you can actually *represent clients in court* -- i cant wait for that myself.

i dont have a job yet -- one of the things i'm stressing about -- but i have some interviews coming up in the next two weeks.

good luck, and see you next fall.

while grades are important in all areas, the only thing any interviewer has asked me about were my rwa (legal writing) and legal research grades.  nobody asked me how i did in torts -- hiring bodies are interested in the practical aspects of law school, and those two classes are pretty much the only ones 1L's get.
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JD