Thursday, December 23, 2010
I rode the crazy train during my first year of law school as much as anybody. Answer a question in class; think you’re amazing. Get a question wrong in class, think you’re an idiot. Get a good grade; think you’re amazing. Get a bad grade; think your life is over. Get on a secondary journal; think you’re amazing. Don’t get on law review; think you’ve failed.
And it won’t stop there.
Get an offer for a firm for your 2L summer job; think you’re amazing. Don’t get an offer from Most Prestigious Law Firm for your 2L summer job; think your social status will crumble. Graduate in the Top X percent of your class; think you’re amazing. Don’t earn Order of the Coif upon graduation; think you’re a loser. Get a clerkship after law school; think you’re amazing. Don’t get a clerkship with the Supreme Court of the United States; think you’re a nobody. Start working and bill 2300 hours in your first year; think you’re amazing. Realize that everybody else is billing 2600 hours; think you’re a slacker. Get a fancy new SUV; think you’re amazing. Realize that you’re basically driving a mini-van; shed a tear.
But how many of us grow up dreaming of getting an A+ in Contracts or working for Law Firm X? How many of us see that as our goal in life, even now? I’m not trying to be deep, like, “whoa, dude, our existence is fleeting,” or “there is no reality, we are all dreaming.” But while it’s good to take pride in what you do and strive to achieve good grades, law review, competitive clerkships, and prestigious jobs, there’s no sense in tying your happiness in life to metrics that may impact your delicate ego, but likely have no bearing on your definition of happiness, whatever that is.
I write about this a lot, but it doesn’t always sink in.
Law is a career where you can’t complain. Everybody has a war story that trumps yours. It seems like law school and the ever after is all about finding war stories that will one-up other people’s, just to impress them. You had to work 72 hours straight and had a partner throw a pen at you? That guy over there worked 100 hours straight, had a partner hit him in the head with a stapler, and that was in his first week at the firm! There’s no sympathy for the toil because everyone goes through it. But that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to lose sight of what you’re trying to get out of life.
Maybe your dream involves finding that special someone and starting a family; maybe it involves finding that special pay check and buying a boat. Heck, maybe your dream really is about sucking up as much prestige as possible so you can forever feel superior to your friends and enemies. Whatever it is, don’t forget it as we go through the ups and downs of Early Interview Week and beyond.
When I was growing up, the standard line was this: find a career doing something interesting, try to be successful in what you do (which could mean earning baller dollars, just enough to be financially secure, or doing something that satisfies that elusive it), and do that family thing that people do.
For better or worse, a majority of law students end up on the private sector path, which presumably falls into the category of doing something interesting and becoming financially secure (but if your only pleasure in life is doing employment compensation, power to you). But it is unlikely that working at Some Law Firm is how you define yourself and your goals in life. If you remove the “oh em gee, I need to work at Vault Firm X” factor, I’m pretty sure that most of us are going to end up doing work that we find interesting, at a job that pays reasonable compensation, and putting in hours that make us want to cry.
Tears of happiness, of course.
Up, up, an away,
Monday, November 29, 2010
1. You are super excited to hand in your memo and be done with it. Until you realize it means you have to prepare for exams.
2. You feel a surge of energy as you begin to prepare your outlines. Until you discover your first exam is CivPro. Yuck.
3. You cannot wait to crack open the commercial outlines you bought and let their wisdom flow into you. Until you realize your professor is the crazy one who uses a completely different casebook and focuses on different cases than those in the outlines.
4. You excitedly start counting down the days to the end of the semester. Until you start counting down the days to the end of the semester. WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?!?! I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME! GAHHHH!!!
5. You loathe the idea of applying for jobs already. Until you realize preparing your resume is a good distraction from studying.
6. You responsibly vow to avoid Facebook so you can focus. Until you realize you're desperate to see if your classmates are panicking too, so you hop on Facebook.
7. On the day of the Big Game you decide to watch with friends and take a break. Until you start arguing that Official Play Review is sort of like binding arbitration. Hey, Cougars, you AGREED that the official's call would be binding! SUCK IT!
8. You wisely decide to forgo alcohol while studying. Until you go over Subject Matter Jurisdiction and pray that a glass of wine will wipe it all out again.
Friday, November 12, 2010
1. Even the nicest girl in school can piss you off by doing nothing wrong at all.
2. Little noises (like my friend's computer fan which whirrrrrrr whirrr whirrrs constantly all through class) start to sound like a drumline standing next to you.
3. You find yourself more willing to gossip about people and be catty, just to talk about something other than school.
4. Even the Luv Sac in the lounge that no one sits on because of The Incident a few years ago starts to look inviting. I could really use a nap, so...
5. You suddenly do not care if you get an "'Atta boy!" from the professors. And yet cling to the ones you do get like they are the last bit of oxygen in the tank.
6. Diet Coke for lunch, which used to seem insane, now seems perfectly healthy. And luxurious!
7. Exercise, which you normally hate, is sounding really good. At least it's not CivPro.
8. You want to punch Cardozo in the face. Or Andrews. Or any judge, really. Except the one that might give you a job this summer. That judge is awesome.
9. You feel a strange tension between your Perfectionist self and your "Aww Fuck it" self.
10. You dream aliens invade your house. And they offer to let you come to their home planet so you sell all your worldly possessions and then they leave you behind. So you want to sue them claiming you detrimentally relied on their promise. Or something like that.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Hi Litigation God, it's me, Namby.
We haven't talked in a while since you've banished me to a sea of paperwork. It's not that I blame you for my lot in life; but it would be nice if every once in a while you smiled in my general direction. It's hard to focus on you when all I can think about is making my opposing counsel cower with fear, void his bladder and tear up his law license while giving me a large settlement check.
But I can serve you better. I know I can. I just need the strength to get through the day. Please give me that strength.
Would it be so much to ask to get a client that respected the advice that I gave? Or not lie to me at every opportunity that you get? Litigation God, just once, could you give me a client that didn't cause more trouble than his or her case is worth. Please give me a client with crystal clear liability and a massive deep pocket to pay my one-third.
Now, I do have a job at a time when more and more lawyers are looking for work, and I am very thankful for that. But Holy LG, could you just make it a little easier to get from the start of the work day to the end of the work day without that one e-mail, phone call or fax that just makes you question whether or not the other lawyer has been blessed with a brain. Or humanity.
In the name of the Father, the Son and Antonin Scalia,
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
I had two good law profs 1L. One gave us a midterm, which he graded and provided feedback on, but it didn't count. When did I feel like I was on the right track? After I bombed that midterm. BOMBED it. By doing everything wrong, I was able to figure out what I needed to do right. I met with the prof once, reworked the way I did my outline, and finally understood what a "law school exam" was all about. I got the highest grade in that class on the final, which is all that matters, right?
The other prof made all of his old exams available, with a checklist of issues as kind of an answer key. I knew I was on the right track when I practiced exams, at least by outlining the answers I would give, and my answers eventually matched the profs checklists. I wasn't a study group person, but sometimes I'd sit with a trusted friend and we'd each work on the same old exam question for 15 minutes in silence and just outline an answer, then we'd compare notes and fill in what the other missed.
I don't know what resources you have available to you at your school or from your various profs, but the answer as far as I am concerned is, DO PRACTICE EXAMS.
Shan asked: How can I make myself do my outline? I keep looking at it and I just feel so overwhelmed. So I find more outlines to borrow from, but that just overwhelms me more. I get that it should be concise. But I feel like the cases we've studied should be in there too. How to format it? In order of the course, or in order like the commercial outlines do (e.g, contract formation order.)
Like all things in law school, the answer is "it depends." Open notes or closed? Open notes, I tended toward a longer outline, a little more detailed, making sure I hit the little distinctions that turned up in those note cases. I would prepare a single page table of contents/checklist by topic and tab the shit out of the outline. My typical outline for an open note class was 15-20 pages. Con Law might have been a bit longer.
Closed notes? Checklists, baby. Only the key case names, if at all, because they're useful shorthand (e.g. Tarasoff letter). I didn't get my notes down to checklist form without reworking the outline four or five times. I had a thorough outline, then as I did practice exams and internalized more, I was able to cut it down. In the end, I only included bare bones.
So the answer, Shan, is to just start the outline. Its not gonna be perfect at this point -- its October, its hard to know exactly what you'll need yet. Just start it -- an outline is a work in progress, and in the end, very personal to your learning style and what you've retained and internalized versus what you need to reread and study.
Here's something I pulled from by Torts checklist as an example. Hope its useful:
- A 1) deliberate act 2) intending to cause causing a) harmful or b) offensive contact and 3) A’s act causes such contact.
- Harmful = painful, any kind of physical injury
- Offensive = offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity
- EITHER, an act done by the person with the purpose to cause contact OR “substantially certain” (not merely foreseeable, must know) that such contact would result
- Liable for all consequences intended and unintentional. The contact must offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity.
- YES: punching, sic a dog on someone, touching a hat on head or plate in hand, extending personalty.
- YES: (close on contact) blowing smoke in one’s face (particles?)
- YES: kissing stranger (not harmful, probably offensive to reasonable sense of dignity)
- NO: words alone; Hunter shoots what he believed was a deer, was a person, evidence it was a good faith mistake, sues on battery theory, loses because he had no intent to shoot a person;
Defense and recapture of property
- Katko v Briney. Spring gun case. Holding: This was a battery since D did intend spring gun to cause harm. Could not hold up as self-defense because it was an unreasonable amount of force, and there also was no imminent danger to invoke self-defense
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
i'm no longer a lawyer, but i still keep my toe ever-so-slightly dipped into the blawgosphere. i still read above the law religiously. even though it's a world i'm no longer part of, i still find it occasionally entertaining and more-than-occasionally interesting to keep an eye on that world, since i did make the mistake of dabbling in it myself for a little while.
over the last year or two, there has arisen a whole genre of "scamblogs": blogs written by law school graduates that refer to law school as a scheme that convinced people to part with large amounts of money, enticed by promises of high starting salaries and financial security. these blogs are getting quite a bit of media attention now that the Newark Star-Ledger has recently published an article about the writer of one of the older and more well-known scamblogs out there, big debt, small law [which is currently offline; the link goes to a cached version].
it's an interesting, and on some level, tempting argument made by this genre of blogs, but i think it is completely wrong. i think it's completely wrong even though law school has financially ruined me, and was by far the biggest mistake of my life for that reason and several others.
the argument that law school is a scam is rather tempting. a lot of people who go to law school are enticed by the six-figure starting salaries at Douchebag & Douchebag LLP, and sign their lives away gladly, thinking they'll make big money and be able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time. it's really easy to blame law schools for this. law schools don't come out of this smelling like roses, since the goal of their recruiting is to bring in a full class of students each year who are willing to pay the tuition and fees...and, preferably, bring in a full class of students with higher entrance statistics than the previous year, so as to raise their ranking and justify charging even more money next year. they have no incentive to highlight the fact that not every marginally bright person who goes to law school gets one of those high-paying jobs, or even gets a legal job at all. they have no incentive to bring prospective students' attention to the bimodal distribution of legal starting salaries. they have no incentive to portray the potential drawbacks of going to law school.
but, that's not enough to make it the law school's fault that law school ruined my life, your life, or anyone else's life. the argument that law school is a scam rests on the flawed idea that it's a law school's responsibility to portray both its good side and its bad side to potential students. in short, it's not.
would it be nice if they portrayed law school realistically? sure. but, law school is a product, just like anything else. very few products are required to advertise how using them could blow up in your face; the only things i can think of that have to talk in their promotional materials about potential negative side effects are prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products. ads for subprime mortgages or credit cards always focused on what you can get, not the stress of paying them off. fleabag motels don't actually put pictures of their nasty beds in their advertisements. dicey vacation areas always show pictures of pristine beaches, not shantytowns. how do you find out what's bullshit in the advertising, and what the reality of the product is?
you do your research.
you find out what kind of work a lawyer has to do, and you find out whether you'd enjoy doing that sort of work or not. you find out what the distribution of incomes in the legal field is. you find out whether you'd be able to stand a job in biglaw if you actually managed to get one. you find out whether you'd realistically be able to pay off the exorbitant amount of debt if you can't get a job in biglaw. you assess your interests, capabilities, and life goals, and decide if being an attorney fits in with that. you decide whether making the sacrifice of going to law school is worth it. and, you ask yourself, whether you're willing to take the hit, to live with all that debt and all those years of your life, lost, if you find out that being a lawyer is not all it's cracked up to be.
for some people, it's worth it. for me and many others, it isn't.
i don't blame law school [either the specific one i went to, or the more general institution of law school] for the fact that law school was the biggest mistake of my life. i blame myself. i did some of my homework, but i didn't do all of it. i had insufficient experience in the real-world to realise how crushing all that debt would feel. i didn't take off my rose-coloured glasses and realise that the legal profession was as stodgy as it is, and that i didn't have the energy or desire to fight the good fight for weirdos in the legal profession. i didn't think critically enough about the actual work that lawyers do to realise that i'd find it unsatisfying--until i was actually out of school and faced with the reality of having to do it full-time. in short, i wasn't scammed. i did something really impulsive and stupid, and i have to pay the price for it for the rest of my life. it's my fault.
in short, calling law school a scam is an excuse. it's an attempt to shift responsibility for doing insufficient research and making a stupid decision away from yourself and onto someone else.
if your biggest worry is about getting distracted with how they're formatted, that's really not a big deal. you'll get the hang of it in the first week or so, and then you won't even think about it anymore. make sure you know how the bullet-point features on your word processor of choice work, and you should be good to go.
one more argument against handwriting them and typing them later, though...are you really going to take the time to recopy all your notes? will that really be the best use of your time? depending on your work ethic and the way you study, the answer to that may be yes. but, think about that. i knew i would never do such a thing on a regular basis...and also, liked having the already-typed notes to condense and edit into an outline come finals week.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Jess asked whether there were any other suggestions to getting law school books for cheaper than the bookstore, other than Amazon or half.com. for one, you can always ask around...sometimes people who took the class last year are willing to sell their books for cheap, or even lend them to you. if the edition hasn't changed (or even if it has...shhhh!), this can be a cheap option. Google Shopping can also be full of win in this regard...be it books or anything else, i love its site-comparison features, and have had good luck finding things cheap through it.
jumi asked about standard software. first and foremost...i got through law school without Microsoft Office on my box. i used OpenOffice...which was perfectly suited for law school even in 2005 when i started, and has only gotten better over the years. that, Firefox, and a .pdf reader got me pretty much everywhere in law school. the only other piece of software that comes to mind was ExamSoft's SofTest, the computerized test-taking software my law school (Washington University in St. Louis) used. when i started law school, it was Windows-only, and i was pretty uncomfortable even attempting to use a virtual machine to take my test at that point. (fast forward to 2010...i've become a linux geek who has forsaken the legal field to work in information technology. go figure.) i kept Windows on my laptop until graduation for the sake of running SofTest. when i was in law school, people either ran it from Windows, or ran it on their Macs using Windows XP on BootCamp. i never tested it from Linux in a Windows VM; ExamSoft says that SofTest is not supported by any VM software. i'm tempted to find a way to test this claim out just to satisfy my own curiosity...but i understand that law school testing is stressful and high-stakes, so can only suggest that you at least make sure to either have a Windows or Mac box, or one you can borrow, come exam week. i also know there are a few other testing software suites out there, but i'm not familiar with them since my law school didn't use them. SofTest is also the most common.
The Jogger asked if you had to memorize things like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the UCC verbatim. that wasn't my experience. as unrealistic as the expectations of law school often are, professors are generally not that crazy. when i took civpro my 1L year, we were issued a fresh copy of the FRCP to go with our exam. we were responsible for being familiar with the applications and caselaw interpretations of the Rules, but as for the text of the rules or the rule numbers for each rule, we could look them up. most of my law school exams were either open-book (bring whatever resources you wanted) or modified open-book (bring your course textbook and whatever else the professor speciically said you can bring). but, one caveat here...it is good to have at least a general idea of the layout of the rules, and the course material. you're not going to have enough time to look absolutely everything up, as well as write a satisfactory response to the questions, during the exam time. even in an open-book test, preparatory work pays off--if nothing else, you'll know where to look, instead of flailing around trying to find relevant information.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Reposted here with permission.
The comments on his post may have more useful shortcuts added since he wrote this text. You should check it out. Also, you should read his blog.
It can be tiring to take lengthy class notes and write briefs on your computer (for those of us that still brief). To make it easier, we use shorthand. I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the keyboard shortcuts and typing shorthand that people find helpful.
- Attorney = atty
- Common Law = c/l OR cLAW
- Consideration = ø or cx
- Constitution = C
- Contract = K
- Court = ct
- Defendant = D or ∆
- Federal = fed
- General Rule = GRULE
- Jurisdiction = jdx or juris
- Majority Rule = majR
- Minority Rule = minR
- Negligence = neg or negc
- Plaintiff = P or π
- Rule Against Perpetuity = rap
- Standard of Review = sor
- State = st
- Statute of Fraud = sof
- Statute of Limitations = sol
- Strict Liability = SL
- Summary Judgment = sj
- Supreme Court of the United States = SCOTUS OR SCt
- Two part words (e.g., affirmative action) = x/y (e.g., a/a)
- About = a/b
- Amendment = ame
- Argument = arg
- Because = b/c
- Between = btw or b/w
- Commercial = comm
- Different = diff
- Discrimination = disc
- Each = ea
- Employee = EE
- Employer = ER
- Employment = emp
- Ending with “-ion” = ^n
- Especially = esp
- For = 4
- From = f/
- Government = gov OR govt
- Not = ! or ≠ or %
- Point = pt
- President = pres
- Probably = prob
- Property = prop
- Reaction = rxn
- Required = req’d
- Review = rev
- Should = sd
- Something = sthg
- Standard = std
- Statement = stmnt
- Within = w/in
- Without = w/out
- With Respect To = w.r.t.
- Would = wd
- Ctrl + (Shift + L) OR . = Bullet point
- Ctrl + / = Numbering
- Alt + Shift + (Left Arrow OR Right Arrow) = tab line left or right
- Ctrl + 2 = Star
- Ctrl + 3 = Question Mark
- Ctrl + 4 = Yellow Highlight (of the entire line of text)
- Ctrl + 5 = Green Highlight (of the entire line of text)
- Text + Tab = Creates a table
Microsoft Office (for Macs, Ctrl = Apple button)
- Alt + 0167 (or customize as Ctrl + Shift + S) / Mac: Option + 6 = §
- Alt + 8710 (or customize as Alt + P or Ctrl + Shift + P) / Mac: Option + J= ∆
- Alt + 227 (or customize as Alt + D or Ctrl + Shift + D) / Mac: Option + P = π
- Alt + 0248 / Mac: Option + O = ø
- Ctrl + (B or I or U) = Bold OR Italics OR Underline
- Ctrl + (C or V) = Copy OR Paste
- Ctrl + (Z or Y) = Undo OR Redo
If you have any to add, leave it in the comments and I’ll update this post. I realize I may be a minority in doing stuff like this.
Obsessive and compulsive,
Monday, February 22, 2010
It’s that time of year again. Law school acceptance letters have gone out and the future victims students are trolling the student blogs.
My advice? Run.
If you’re not going to run, then consider these 5 tips:
- Do not go to law school just because your humanities major did not give you any marketable job skills. That’s like signing up for the military because you won’t condescend to work retail as a B.A. The legal job market collapsed last year. If you were looking for riches and employment, then try Starbucks or business school…or the military. At least they’ll pay for school if you survive.
- When considering schools outside of the top 10 (or maybe top 20) focus on the schools in the state/market you want to practice in. Your New Mexico JD isn’t as powerful in Maine, even if the New Mexico school is ranked slightly higher than Maine’s Bumble School of Law.
- If you are choosing between a well-ranked school and a scholarship at a less prestigious school, ask whether the scholarship is contingent on your GPA or class rank. Most students at these schools will lose their scholarships because of the curve. And yes, your competition is as smart and motivated to keep their scholarship as you are.
- Much of the prep during the summer before law school is a waste of time. Your time is best spent working, because your scholarship or loan money may not come in until classes start. Working out also won’t hurt, because law school is the land of coffee and pizza.
- If you really want to know what law school is like then read law student blogs. An outline of my 1L fall semester is here, and an outline of 1L spring is here. There more blogs are linked on the left-hand column of dennis-jansen.com.
Again, I recommended that you run, so don’t batter me with nasty messages this fall about how I ruined your life because this blog convinced you that law school is all sunshine and lollipops. It is not. Run.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
My reply: I had an 18 month old when I started with a husband in Iraq. I can talk to you about it at length, but it is not quite the same.
A number of women bloggers had babies while in law school -- four spring immediately to mind:
Cee and each took a semester off and graduated a semester late. Lag Liv and Attorney Work Product graduated on time (I think). All were employed upon graduation, all four are married. However, you'd have to read their respective archives to understand how they did it. They each faced very different challenges bringing their babies into the world while law students. They are amazing, inspiring, clever and wonderful women and reading their blog archives would be a great way to spend an afternoon.
But NONE of them did it first semester 1L. They had summer, 2L or 3L babies.
1L is stressful. It is wonderful. I'd do it again. But it is the most important year and you need to be able to commit fully to it.
Advice, since you asked for it: I would defer admission for a year. Seriously. It is much easier to start law school with a 10 month old than to give birth right before 1L first semester finals.
I am going to poll the MILPs and see if they wish to add their insight in the comments -- they might disagree with me.
The Weekly MILP (Moms In the Legal Profession) Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis between PT-LawMom, Butterflyfish, and Attorney Work Product blogs. We originally rounded up just the moms in law school, but then discovered that those women eventually graduate. Who knew? So now all the moms in the legal field (heh... MILFs) are represented. We aim for Sunday posts.
See the past Round Ups at my other blog here.
(pregnant in law school; baby in law school; pregnant law student; pregnancy law school; infant law school)