Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Law School Do Over and a Potential Comeback

I know that we haven't updated in a long time (almost two years!), but that's because all of the regular contributors to this blog have long since graduated and are submerged in the world of billable hours, document review, legal research, court appearances and the like. But we may be making a comeback. Or at least an attempt.

If you are a law student who has found this blog helpful in the past -- or even just stumbled across it today -- and you're interested in contributing, let us know. Send an email to We're looking for regular contributors as well as guest posters.

In the meantime, check out this excellent blog post that, while a bit humorous, has a lot of truth in it: Law School Do-Over: 7 Things I'd Do Different

I, myself, was guilty of a number of these things in law school: #1, #2 and #6, in particular. And working for an appellate court judge after I graduated quickly broke me of #3. Oh, the things I wish I would have known then that I know now...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bar exam open thread

Bitching, questions, hypos and madness welcome.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

on internships, gunners, and navigating the rules

we've had a few responses to our questions post so far. these are my always, i don't promise that they're right, but i do promise they reflect what i've learned from my experiences in law school.


first, MEK asked:

I'm going to a 4th tier law school and just completed my first semester. I got just below a 3.0, but I want a good summer internship. Also, this is a second career so I'm not the typical twenty-something. I'm not that interested in doing something related to my past career. I'm going to a public school so fortunately I won't have crazy debt when I get out. I'm perfectly willing to do a free internship. What's your best advice for landing a great summer internship? Do you have any suggestions for types of internships that most people won't think of or ones that are more available than one would expect?

first and foremost, apply early. i don't support applying for internships before grades come in, since so many employers say to come back when the grades are out. but, once you have your grades, get those resumes out to as many jobs as you can find that may interest you. especially in a market as saturated with law students this holds for both paying internships and unpaid ones, both public-interest and private-sector -- since virtually every law student is trying to get a legal summer job, there are invariably more law students (1Ls and 2Ls both!) applying for any given organization than there are positions they're offering. your biggest advantage, no matter what your grades are, is to get that application in before they start interviewing and hiring.

secondly, cast a wide net. if a job posting you see looks even remotely interesting, apply for it. you have nothing to lose by putting your name into consideration: if you don't get the job, you're in the same place you were if you didn't apply. if you get it, you have an option for legal employment for the summer, and may end up really liking it if you take it. sending a lot of applications is time-consuming, but worth it if it's more likely to result in a job.

personally, i never had any particularly interesting tactics for finding job leads; i consulted my career services office, as well as online postings. my 1L summer i worked an unpaid public interest position in a legal clinic in St. Louis for victims of domestic violence; my 2L summer, i worked for a large law firm in Chicago. both jobs i actually took i ended up finding through my law school's career services office.

i knew a lot of people who had a lot of luck finding internships through people they knew. i wasn't in a great position for that, since i was going to school in a city where i didn't know anyone outside the law school, and whose job market was particularly distrustful of those who were not born and raised there. as a second-career law student, you're more than likely in a better position to find jobs through people you know, especially if you're attending school in the market where you've previously lived and worked. ask around -- people you've worked with in the past, people you know from clubs or involvements around town. if they're not lawyers or working with companies who hire legal interns, ask if they know anyone who does. it seems daunting at first, but this really is the best way to find out about unadvertised job opportunities -- and there's the added bonus that if you're applying to work for someone who knows you or a friend of yours, the fact that you come highly recommended is going to overshadow your grades, the tier of your law school, or anything else.


Joe asked:

How do you deal with gunners? I had a scored assignment where the two of us were opponents negotiating a contract and my opponent decided he needed to make the most one-sided ridiculous contract he could. He wouldn't move on his terms and as a result, I was graded down because I didn't really exchange numbers with him. I think he did it because he either didn't know better, or because he really wanted to win. But either way, he cost me.

first off, these appear to be two separate questions: how to deal with gunners, and how to deal with someone who made a crazy one-sided contract in a negotiation competition. sure, the guy who made that one-sided contract may have done so to game the system (a classic gunneresque move), but it could also be because he didn't know any better, or because he thought he was generally somehow clever in doing so.

as for how to deal with gunners? take any advice i provide on that question with a grain of salt. why? because, i have a confession to make: i was a gunner in law school. i may not have been the kind who spent large amounts of time (or, really, any at all...) in the library, but i sure did like to hear myself talk. i talked way too much in class, and annoyed the crap out of my classmates and even some of my professors. i wasn't the smartest guy in the room, usually far from it, but i compensated for that by talking 'til i was hoarse.

so, what's my advice on dealing with gunners? ignore them. seriously. short of stuffing a gag down their throat or getting an injunction barring them from the law school premises, there's not a whole lot you can do to stop them from being gunners. you can tell them to stop their knock it off until you're blue in the face, but they're probably aware of what they're doing, and either don't care that you're annoyed, or are appalled that more people in class aren't getting the most out of their educations by being gunners like they are. cut your losses, ignore the gunners, and move on.

as for the grading of the negotiation exercise, that's a much more difficult question. did the professor say in advance that exchanging numbers was one of the significant grading criteria? if not, then my best suggestion would be to adopt a reasonable tone, throw out a suggestion that's particularly favourable to your client (either a number in a client negotiation, a result in a mock trial, et cetera...depending on the event) instead, and bring up facts that support giving you what your client wants. it's good to adopt a reasonable tone given the out-there suggestions your opponent was making, and trust that you're going to look good for calmly making demands far more reasonable than your blustering opponent. if that doesn't get your opponent to calm down in a reasonable amount of time, though, go ahead and play hardball, and call him on being unreasonable.

if, on the other hand, the professor did tell you in advance that discussing numbers would be a grading criterion, then it was your responsibility to remember to do that within the time of the negotiation, no matter how ridiculous your opponent tried to get. in future negotiations, make a note of that (or any other criteria that the professor gives you in advance) before going into the negotiation.

always keep in mind that these "negotiation exercises" or "mock trials" or "moot courts" or anything along those lines that you see in law school don't necessarily reflect real-life work. it's a game with a finite time limit, and there will always be a series of rules that you're going to have to follow to maximize your score. following those rules may deviate from what you'd do in a real-life situation with looser rules or more time, but they'll lead to a better grade in the exercise.

(and, that was one of my biggest gripes about law school as i went through it...there seemed to be a lot more contrived situations to deal with than there was anything actually useful to prepare me for legal practice.)


Feel free to keep asking questions, or chime in on the questions already asked, in the comments!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Should I go to law school: 2011 Edition

Lawyer/Mommy/Blogger extraordinaire Lag Liv posted her thoughts on whether and under what circumstances law school is a good investment.  Lag Liv is a Biglaw attorney who graduated from Chicago, and she was answering a query from a reader who got into a few top-30 law schools and who is interested in a career in Biglaw.  I would simply repost Lag Liv's thoughts (and have her permission to do so) but the comment thread her post generated at her blog is also very valuable and offers a broader perspective.   

She addresses, among other things, the importance of law school rank versus class rank and provides a snapshot of the current employment environment in Biglaw.  In the comments, there is a discussion of how law school rank affects certain public interest jobs, clerkships, etc.

I'll direct you to read her post and the comments here.

Current law student, Shan, found that her comment was too long for Lag Liv's thread, so she generated her own blog post on the topic.  She asks a prospective student nine questions, and if the student cannot answer yes to at least one of them, he probably shouldn't go to law school.  Her post is here.

Friday, February 04, 2011

ask away, ask away, ask away!

hello, everyone!

it's now February. first semester grades are in, and have been for a while, and you 1Ls are starting to figure out what kinds of study and test taking tactics work for you, and which don't. second semester is getting to be in full swing. the job hunt...that's probably also in full swing here.

anyway, it's been a while since we've done an open question forum. is anything weighing on your mind? is there anything you're just plain curious about? ask here, and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some perspective while you're waiting for grades

The following was first posted on the now-deceased blog, i.don’t.wear.skinny.jeans.  By some freak of the blogosphere, I found this post and secured the author's permission to re-post it.  Enjoy. 

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

Temporary Multiple Personality Study Disorder

Re-posted with permission from Like Falling Off a Blawg, by Shan.
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

How to tell if it's the end of the semester

Re-posted with permission from Like Falling Off a Blawg, by Shan.  I remember feeling #9 every semester...

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

A Prayer to the Litigation God...

Note: At the request of Butterflyfish, I've reposted this from my blog.

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

So you were pre-med and got a C in Organic Chemistry?

This video has been making the blawgosphere rounds, so I thought it should make an appearance here as well.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Answers to Open Thread

Rach1227 askedSo when does that point come where I feel like I'm actually on the right track??

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 askedHow 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;
(later in outline)
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

Mid semester open thread

Prior posts: 
So, what can we tell you?  Your 1L mid-semester questions answered... asap.

Monday, August 16, 2010

the law school scam...isn't.

[this is a cross-post from my blog, but i thought it may be relevant here to law students and especially potential law students, so i'm posting it here in its entirety.]

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.

notes: typed vs. handwritten

Kelly asks whether she'd be at a disadvantage taking notes by hand as compared to a laptop. it's hard for me to conclusively say...i saw people who did it both ways in class. there didn't seem to be a noticeable correlation between how typists did and how hand-writers did. i always did it on a laptop, because i'm a ridiculously slow hand-writer but a pretty fast typist.

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

a few answers.

alright, we've had a few questions in the last post on here, so i'm going to take a crack at providing some answers. if anyone else has anything better, feel free to comment or write a new post.

Jess asked whether there were any other suggestions to getting law school books for cheaper than the bookstore, other than Amazon or 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 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 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

Open Thread

Ok pre-Ls... one month or so til law school. Any questions?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Law school time savers: Typing

This post was originally posted at i don't wear skinny jeans, a blog written by a current NYU 1L.

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.

Typing Shorthand

  • 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

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • 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

A current law student's advice for the Pre-Ls in 2010: in a word, RUN

This post originally appeared at Dennis and is re-posted with permission.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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

Pregnant / having kids in law school

A reader asked: I am planning on attending law school as a 1L in the fall but I just found out I am pregnant and would be due in October of my first year. I am now discouraged. When I saw your blog I was encouraged. I was wondering if you had children while in law school and how you managed that?

My reply: I had an 18 month old when I started law school 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 Magic Cookie 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)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Outlining 101

This was originally posted at Thanks, But No Thanks. Nobody, the author, alternates with the Legal Underground and writes the weekly law school roundup. Reposted with permission.

Recently, one of the test prep companies on campus made the (grievous) mistake of inviting me to come in and speak to the 1Ls on "Survival Tips for Your 1L Year."

Hey. Quell your laughing, guys. They were serious, though I sort of suspect I was their backup choice. I love this sort of event, for the same reason I like blogging: giving out unsolicited advice is one of my favorite hobbies.

Anyway, I spoke on a panel of 4 upperclassmen from varying backgrounds and of varying academic interests. We had to answer all the token questions: Do you have any smart survival tips? (Obviously. Some more useful than others.) Is there anything you wished you knew? (Yes. Enough to write a book on it), Do you have any Socratic method horror stories? (I gave them the gory details of my first day of school)

We also got this one: What do I do about outlining?

This is what I said:

1. Just Do What Works for You: Mwhahahahah. Kidding. Sorry. Everyone says this in law school. What "just do what works for you" actually means is "I'm not that confident about my own system, and frankly, I've stumbled through so many that I can't remember how I got here anyway." The Just Do What Works For You approach isn't all that helpful if you have no idea what works for you.
The approach I recommend is the Don't Freak Out If Someone Else Does It Different approach. Someone is going to have a longer, more color-coded, outline than you do. Someone else will have an index. It will all be ok: you are good enough, smart enough, and you've spent enough damn hours on this outline that you're going to have to live with it.

2. Remember, Outlining is About Access: You do not need to know what Justice Storey said on page 49 of that opinion. I promise. Your outline should not contain this material. What your outline should do is provide a roadmap to the class. This means that major themes are featured, recurrent questions are addressed, and materials are synthesized (more on that later) in a way that makes them easy to access in your mid-exam flurry.

3. Class counts: If a topic is highlighted in class, you should have it in your outline. Your book notes will be helpful filler, but in 2.5 years of law school, I have yet to encounter an exam that favored topics exclusively covered in the book over lecture notes. Think about it. Your professor has several hours a week to hear himself talk about whatever he'd like. If he wanted you to ignore what he was saying, he would have made this a paper class.
My rule is this: if it is mentioned more than two days in class, the topic gets its own heading in my outline. Less than 10 minutes, and it doesn't make it in.

4. On the role of the book: One of the biggest mistakes I made 1L year was trying to synthesize the enter textbook into my outline. I ended up with a torts outline that was 109 pages long. This made people look at me like I was a crazy person (accurate) and was pretty much impossible to use during the exam, because it was so long and bulky (see #2).
I think this is a common 1L problem. Laying too heavily into the book not only ties up the time that would be better spent outlining or studying, but it can cause you to neglect the information that was focused on in lecture.

5. Easy there, turbo: Step slowly away from the squib cases. It is hard, when you're outlining, to resist the urge to put everything in there. To avoid this temptation and assuage my neurosis, I bring (a) class notes, (b) reading notes and (c) a copy of the assigned texts into my finals, when it is allowed. Here's the beauty of that approach: you don't have to put everything in your outline. If your professor throws you a curveball question, you will have your class notes, reading notes, and your book (which you've been taking notes in the margins in all along) to help you out. If none of those things help you, take a deep breath: everyone else is screwed too.

6. The Best Outline Prep is Reading: Seriously. Stay up on your reading. You're going to be almost $100k in debt for this- you might as well make your class time worth it by being prepared. That said, if you get behind (and you will)- it is ok to focus on the "big" cases and let the shorter ones slide when you start outlining. If it comes down to really understanding International Shoe or not, you're going to need to damage control. Get the big 'uns, and resist the urge to "catch up" on all of your reading when do you your outline- you do not need to have assiduous notes on every case, so long as you can find a case if you need it.

7. On Timing: I started outlining in mid-October, realized that nothing I'd done was useful, and started over again in November. This was later than I would have preferred, but not the end of the world. On a 4 unit class, I spent approximately 20-30 hours on my outline, over the course of the semester. I suspect this skews to the heavier side, but I could be wrong. I say this to warn you: it is easy to underestimate how long this process takes, especially first semester 1L year. I recommend starting in early to mid-October.
I don't recommend starting earlier- its hard to figure out the big picture of your courses when you're still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. As a 2L, I outlined in the last 2 weeks of the semester. That was about perfect for my purposes.

Here's What Works for Me: Candidly, this is how I outline. No one would give me a straight answer when I was a 1L, so I've done my best to explain my system. If it doesn't make sense, feel free to ask for clarification. There will be 2L and 3L readers that think I am full of crap- they may be on to something, but this is the system I have worked out:

  1. First, I grab the professor's syllabus*: He writes the test, so I figure he probably knows whats important. I use the syllabus as the framework for my outline. So, if Section I on the syllabus is "Personal Jurisdiction"- guess what is Section I in my outline?

  2. Then, I grab my book: I take the assigned reading, and I go through section by section, incorporating it into my baby outline. If it is bolded in the book, it goes into the outline. I add each case as well, noting the casebook page for each case.

  3. Then, I grab my class notes: I go through my class notes and fill out the "meat" of my outline. I like doing things in this order because, once I've incorporated my class notes, I can really see where the gaps in my learning are. This is also a great way to check (a) that you have all the class notes, and (b) see graphically what the prof has focused on.

  4. Then, I incorporate my reading notes: My reading notes fill in the gaps where my lecture notes are missing stuff. For cases, I include a bullet point or two summarizing the reasoning or significance of the case, and a quick byline that reminds me what the case is about. When I am feeling particularly anal-retentive, I make sure that each case is labeled with the page number of the reading material it is on (disclaimer: I have never used this feature).
    For example: Hawkins v. McGee (hairy hands case), CB 321
    - Damages should be difference between what was bargained for and what was recieved.
    - Pain and suffering are not compensable here because pain and suffering are part of the deal for surgery.
    - It is way too easy to make a masturbation joke here.

  5. Finally, I "synthesize": Every prof will tell you to do this. I am not entirely clear on what it means, but here's what I do: I go through my outline, and I read it, top to bottom. I go section by section, and I re-write. During this stage, I do a lot of condensing- this is helpful because (a) it helps me to recognize recurrent themes in the course, and (b) it makes my outline less unwieldy. Often, this is where I discover that there are some unanswered questions in my notes- I start to realize what I don't understand, and what I have a good handle on.
    More generally at this point in the game, I try to figure out what each case stands for, and the major themes of each section. Looking at the notes, I ask: what was the point of including this case? (note: this is differnet than "what was the point of this case?") I edit my outlines frequently, and re-read them frequently- outlines are all about the process of outlining, so this is basically review, channeling my OCD tendencies into something productive.

  6. Last but not least, I share: This is not a required step, but it is often very helpful. Once I have a solid outline (or at least a solid outline section), I go through it with someone else. Often, in talking about the material, we each tease out new questions. Two heads are better than one, in many cases, but be careful: just copying someone else's outline is often more confusing than helpful.
That's what I do. Tables of contents, color codings, and Advanced Outlining will be covered in Outlining 102: Oh My God How Is It Thanksgiving?! ....But you should do what works for you.

Happy outlining!

*Why does that sound so dirty?

Monday, September 07, 2009


From my mailbox: A writer described an awkward situation with gunners and people who argue with gunners and tension mounting in a 1L section and ended with a general question about appropriate classroom participation level.

If you have to ask, you may be over-participating.

Keep your "head down" in class for a week or so... only answer if called on. Listen to your peers for that week -- I mean really listen, don't think of counter-arguments or clever retorts. In your head, categorize the comments they make as follows: helpful/responsive; helpful/tangential; unhelpful/tangential. In future, make sure your own comments fall mostly into the first category and occasionally into the second.

I am a fan of class participation; I do not think it makes you a gunner just because you contribute to the class discussion. But make sure you actually contribute something.

Remember, you can't make your reputation in law school by any single comment in class, but you can sure as hell break it. If you really want the rep as the smartest guy in the room, shut the heck up and ace the exams.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Orientation: Open Thread

How long is it?
What did you do?
What did you wear?
What did others wear?
How many times did you hear the words: "You'll find what works for you."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reality check

This blog has historically tried to be positive -- realistic, but positive -- about law school. When the founders of this blog started it in 2006, the legal market was very different, but even then those of you who dreamed of BigLaw were cautioned that law school rank and grades mattered.

If you are considering law school and think that its the golden ticket in this economy, know that law firms have trimmed their summer associate programs for 2009, delayed start dates, and some are canceling summer programs for 2010. This is in addition to the mass lay offs that often affect even first year associates.

If you're thinking "well this post isn't about me, because I want a [small/ mid-sized/ family/ public interest/ clerkship] position," ask yourself where do you think all those folks with almost-stellar credentials who cannot get work in BigLaw are going to end up?*

I'm not telling you not to go to law school. I just ask you to knock the stars out of your eyes and look very seriously at what you're getting into and make sure you know what you want out of it.

(* See Massachusetts)

Monday, August 03, 2009

(Almost) FREE law school supplements! HERE!

Welcome to the First (and probably only)
Wish I Would Have Known Law School Supplement Give Away
(some restrictions apply)

  • Comment below to list the supplements (MAX 3) you would like.
  • Then EMAIL ilovebutterflyfish at with shipping information.
  • First come, first served. I only have one copy of each. Limit THREE books per address.


1. These books are not totally free.
When I receive your email, I will send a request for PayPal payment to offset the cost of shipping/packaging/handling. I think $5 each book is fair... I'll probably actually lose money at that rate.

2. I want these books to go to a law student who will use them this year.
So please don't pick the books you're pretty sure you can turn around on Amazon for the quickest profit, mmmk?

3. Limit THREE to an address.

And now, the books:

Aspen Examples&Explanations

  • Civil Procedure (Fifth Ed.) Glannon
  • Criminal Law (Third Ed.) Singer & LaFond
  • Evidence (Fifth Ed.) Best
  • Property (Second Ed.) Burke & Snoe
  • Torts (Third Ed.) Glannon

  • Introduction to the Law of Real Property (Third Edition) Moynihan & Kurtz
  • Problems and Answers: Estates in Land and Future Interests (Third Edition) Makdisi (Probably the hardest thing to understand in property law, this book was so approachable that I didn't need to relearn this area of the law for the bar exam.)
  • Learning Criminal Law as Advocacy Argument (complete with Exam Problems and Answers) By John Delaney (I preferred this for Crim over the E&E!)

  • Civil Procedure (21st Ed.) Steven Emanuel
  • Wills, Trusts, and Estates (7th Ed.) Peter Wendel. Keyed to Dukeminier/Johanson/Lindgren/Sitkoff casebook.
  • Crunchtime: Corporations (2nd Ed.) Steven Emanuel

Case Summaries:
  • High Court Case Summaries -- Keyed to Sullivan's Constitutional Law casebook -- 15h Ed.

  • How to do your best on law school exams (complete with problems and answers) (Third Revised Ed.) John Delaney.
Legal Skills
  • Synthesis: Legal reading, reasoning, and writing. (Second Ed.) Schmedemann & Kunz

Books requested on 8/3/09 may go out as early as 8/4/09!
This was wildly successful, huh?

Disclaimer: none of these is the current editions. Editions listed above! They may in fact be two editions out of date. But most of this law has not changed in many years... the companies push out new editions with trivial changes each year to keep prices high. These are used books -- most are gently used, with little highlighting and few margin notes -- but they are used all the same. As is, all warranties expressly disclaimed, and whatever other legal mumbo jumbo you want to throw in here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Originally posted at Jansen / No.634. Reposted with permission.

Huma is right – I remember reading blawgs during the summer before law school and not knowing what the heck certain terms meant. Here’s a quick rundown of things that confused me, most of which are from the “definitions” page of No.634.
  • ABA: American Bar Association.
  • Appellant: A party to a lawsuit who appeals a losing decision to a higher court in an effort to have it modified or reversed. The person who won is called the Appellee.
  • ATL:, which is the legal world’s equivalent to TMZ.
  • Bar Review (Activity): a semi-formal gathering of law students at local pubs. Bar review is held weekly, and is an almost exclusively 1L-event. A few months into the semester, two types of people will still attend bar review: those have a really strong set of law school friends and those who have no friends outside of law school. Individual sections will also have weekly bar gatherings, usually on Fridays.
  • Bar Review (Publication): a libelous publication at UMN law school. This is how UMN students find out where the next Bar Review (activity) will be held.
  • Biglaw: refers to large, private firms.
  • Blawg: A law-related blog. These come in a variety of forms that include the personal blawgs of law students, professor blawgs, attorney blawgs, fictional blawgs, judges, and scandal sheets.
  • Briefing: A semi tedious way that first year law students summarize cases. A case brief typically consists of the case title, procedural posture, holding, and a summary of facts. After first semester most students begin book briefing.
  • Civil Procedure: A typical first year course that deals with the procedural rules used for civil (as opposed to criminal) cases in Federal Courts.
  • Clinic: a law school program providing hands-on-legal experience to law school students and services to various clients. (read on Wiki)
  • Discussion: Lecture. Professors, especially those presenting speeches/talks, will often refer to their speech as a “discussion.”
  • FPP: Federal Procedure & Practice. A legal treatise on Civil Procedure. It’s brilliant, and available on Westlaw.
  • Gunner: The over-eager, inconsiderate person in every law school class that talks over her peers and monopolizes class time. The cliché is: “If after the first semester, you don’t know who the class gunner is, then it’s you.” See video.
  • Hornbook: A legal treatise. These are long enough to be unhelpful unless you are utterly lost in the class. Remember, you don’t get any extra points for mentioning things that the professor did not cover in class. The most useful legal treatise is the FPP, which is available on Westlaw.
  • Interest Meeting: Free Lunch. For the first semester at UMN law, student organizations hold “interest meetings” or sponsor talks almost every day during the lunch hour. This means free pizza. Towards the end of the semester when people are feeling obese and/or sick of pizza, the student organizations will try to entice you with Quiznos mini-subs and Holy Land food. Sometime during second semester you will realize that a hour in the middle of the school day is more valuable than the free food.
  • Justice: an appellate judge, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court, a member of a Federal Court of Appeal, and judges of any of the various state appellate courts.
  • Law Review: Typically the most prestigious journal at any law school.
  • Law Revue: A theatrical/comedy troupe of law students (the most famous is at NYU). At UMN this is called T.O.R.T.
  • LexisNexis: an online research system (like Westlaw) that you get access to as a 1L at UMN. Some law schools do not give Westlaw/Lexis access to first year students. Lexis contains cases, treatises, a legal dictionary, statutes, and more. Do not buy supplemental books that contain statutes or restatements until you check if they are on Westlaw/Lexis first. Lexis offers reward points for research. It is very easy to rack up points and redeem them for Starbucks giftcards, & etc.
  • Lunch: priming for CivPro (Stella’s definition) Reading assignments a few hours before class will seem unthinkable until your second month in school.
  • Mandatory: Optional, unless you are specifically told what will happen if you don’t do the “mandatory” thing. A way that UMN tries to scare 1Ls into attending events is to “take attendance.” This stops working second semester when the 1Ls realize that nothing happened to the “rebels” from first semester.
  • Nutshell: A Spark-Note-like study aid for a given legal subject. These are more useful than hornbooks, but tend to oversimplify the law.
  • OCI: On campus interviews. This happens during the beginning of your second year, and is supposedly a “disaster” for those who are not in the top of the class.
  • Petitioning: The application process to get onto a legal journal. At UMN, it starts after spring semester finals.
  • Procedural posture: what happened to get the case to where it is. Who won below? Who appealed?
  • Restatements: Restatements of law are treatises on legal subjects, published by the American Law Institute. Many restatements are eventually codified into law, and your professors (especially in Contracts) will probably assign portions of a restatement.
  • SSG: Structured Study Group, a tutorial session at UMN led by an upper-year student.
  • Sincerely: boilerplate
  • Snark: Legalese for “bitchy
  • Talk: Lecture
  • Torts: A typical first year class. This is the blood, guts, and hilarity class. On Wikipedia: Tort law is a body of law that addresses, and provides remedies for, civil wrongs not arising out of contractual obligations. Typical tort cases include assault, battery, slip-and-fall, car accidents, etc.
  • T.O.R.T.: Theater of the Relatively Talentless. The UMN equivalent to law revue. See Website.
  • Westlaw: an online research system (like Lexis) that you get access to as a 1L at UMN. Some law schools do not give Westlaw/Lexis access to first year students. Westlaw contains cases, treatises, a legal dictionary, statutes, and more. Do not buy supplemental books that contain statutes or restatements until you check if they are on Westlaw/Lexis first.