Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hey 1Ls! Hey Pre-Ls!

Hey 1Ls!

You've gotten one semester under your belt. You're either happy with your grades or looking to improve. You've sort of got the hang of things but still find yourself spending too much time on legal skills.

We get it. We've been there.

Any burning questions?

Hey Pre-Ls!

Acceptances are rolling in. Or not. Or you're thinking of applying this year.

Any requests for posts?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1L summer: do anything, as long as it's legal.

grades are back, resumes are in shiny, working order, and it's time to hunt for that 1L summer position. the central idea of the 1L summer position hunt is as follows--it doesn't matter what you do, as long as it's something legal. this includes firm jobs, public interest jobs, summer school, and study abroad. take your pick, as long as it has something to do with the law.

if you know what field you want to be in and can't seem to find a job in that field yet, don't despair. it won't hinder your ability to get a job in your chosen field next summer. the only real constraint i suggest is that if you're planning on going anywhere but an enormous market like New York or Washington, DC...do whatever you can to be in that market of your choice over the summer. if you want to go to a huge city, it's not such a big deal, because they assume everyone wants to move to the big city whether you have local ties or not.

but, if you know you want to make your career in a specific medium- to small-size city, local ties are key. if you have family there, if you grew up there, that's good. but, whether you do or not, you need to start making ties to the legal community and showing your desire to work in that market. get a summer position there if at all possible. if you don't get a position, you're not definitely out of luck if you want to work there your 2L summer...but you may be behind if you're vying for a position against someone who did work in that town the previous summer. so, it's better to lay your foundation now if you can.

if you have had a law-related job before law school, that's no substitute for having a law-related job your 1L summer. law-related jobs before law school are valuable because they put you in the position to see what happens in legal workplaces and make a far more educated decision about whether you want to be in law school in the first place. however, you are not a lawyer, or even a law student, in these pre-law school jobs. you do not get substantive legal work of the type that a law student or lawyer would get--or, at least, you should not, because that would be malpractice.

you also don't get substantive legal work during your first year of law school...you read cases, get grilled by your professors, and write papers for legal writing. you don't have real clients. you don't have the context of a real case. you learn crucial case analysis skills your first year of law school, but that's only a small slice of legal work. you need to actually work for a lawyer, interact with clients, and work in a legal environment as a legal professional. the only law school experience that gives you this is clinical work--something that first years just don't get.

if you want to travel during the summer, try finding some kind of international internship. often law schools or public interest organizations will provide opportunities to do public interest legal work abroad. these programs are generally available to first-year law students, and first-years have a great chance of getting to do them because so many second years plan to stay in the states and do jobs that will hopefully lead to a permanent position after third year. that way, you'll be able to spend a lot of time out of the country...but still experience having clients, and be able to show a commitment to doing legal work come next fall, when interviewers will be asking about your legal experience.

if you can't find any legal job that you are interested in, your other option is to do summer school, either at your institution or through a study abroad program. i don't recommend this if there's any way you can work in a legal office, because [as i've already mentioned] law school and law practice are so different. but, you'll still be further ahead if you take summer legal classes than you will be if you don't do anything legal at all over the summer. you need to make it clear that you want to devote your life to legal work, and taking law classes over the summer still shows that you're interested in learning as much as you can about the field. it's not the same as having clients, but it's still pertinent to the field and you can make convincing arguments about how your summer study will make you a better legal intern at your 2L summer job.

in short...make sure you're doing something this summer that pertains to the law. it shows dedication to the field, and you'll gain valuable experience. it doesn't have to be in the legal subfield in which you want to practice forever; as long as what you're thinking of doing interests you, go for it. don't worry about getting pigeonholed into the field where your 1L job is; my 1L summer job was nothing like my 2L job, and most people i know can say the same.

almost every 1L does something legal their first summer, either a legal job or summer school--the opportunities are out there, and you will be at a distinct disadvantage if you don't seize one of them and are up for a 2L summer job against someone who did gain legal experience that summer.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Don't let this happen to you

I was reading a post on a law student blog and the author, in her second semester of law school, was wondering why several of her otherwise perfectly normal classmates have suddenly become asshats.

Little did she know its a common disorder seen among the law student population.

Sudden Asshat Syndrome: afflicts otherwise ok but insecure law students who keep their heads down and work hard first semester and don't draw attention to themselves. Until... they get a couple of good grades and decide what they have to say is more important than what other people have to say.

Symptoms:
1) Interrupting professor to correct a misstatement about the facts. Because its mission critical to recall exactly how many feet Mrs. Palzgraff was from the explosion.
2) Raising hand to tell rambling personal stories only tangentially related to anything. Unless it begins, "This one time, at band camp" AND ends with the blue-haired professor passing out from shock, skip it.
3) Spinnging irrelevant hypotheticals: Ok, so I get why he gets the fox, but what if it was a beaver? And instead of shooting it, he clubbed it to death? Would that make a difference?

Cure: none. Because even future bad grades tend not to make them shut up. Once the beast is loosed, its never going back in the cage.

Remedial measures: ear plugs.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Do bar passage rates mean anything?

A reader asks: I have heard from several sources, none of which actually have been to law school, that once a student has passed the bar exam, the caliber of school he/she attended doesn't really matter. What are your ideas on this (and I'm not referring to Harvard or Yale as options)?

From what I understand, the bar exam thing you heard is crap. C-r-a-p crap, and this is coming from someone who would desparately wish that were true because I go to a low tier school. (I got into a Tier 1 school... deep into the list, but Tier 1 all the same and didn't go because of, well... read the blog... ugh I hate the need to justify my choices but law school can make you a prestige whore).

Nearly everyone does a commercial bar prep course (read: BarBri) beause law school does nothing to prepare you for the bar. My school has like a 92% pass rate -- that's not gonna help me get a damn job. Most schools are between 79-95% for first time takers. So if that theory were true, than once you passed the bar, 79-95% of law school graduates would have no trouble finding work in their field. And that just ain't true!!!!

Maybe the "advice" you heard could be better phrased "Fewer people care what law school you went to after you've worked your first job for a few years."

There is a HUGE difference. Because the law school often opens the door to that first job. Many on my blogroll passed the bar but are doing jobs as contract attorneys reviewing documents in a law firm basement with no benefits and half the starting salary of their "peers" who went to better schools and/or had better connections and/or had better grades. This does not "count" as a job to BigLaw firms, or indeed many jobs where people eventually want to work.

So if what you want is the law firm job, starting salary 145k, expecting to work 80 hours a week in a big city market ... go to the highest ranked school you get into and get the best grades you can. EDITED TO ADD: assuming the "highest ranked" school is pretty highly ranked. Beyond the scope of this post to discuss ranking and job prospects in more detail. see comments and future posts.

If that's NOT what you want -- and realistically, its something only available to a small fraction of law grads -- go where you will be happy. Go to the school with the market in which you want to work, do lots of internships and network your ass off to get the legal job of your dreams.