Thursday, March 27, 2008

The $$ Shell Game

Life the Universe and Everything asks: Appropriate question??What percentage of your applicants receive scholarship offers. I'm curious here because at the school I'll be visiting, you have to be in the top 25% to retain your scholarship. Top 26% gets you bupkiss. So if say 50% of applicants walk in with $$$, that tells me they're trying to attract students with higher numbers, and plan on screwing them once they're in the door. Obviously in that scenario, half the folks would lose their scholarships. Is this an appropriate/hot button question to ask? I would also want to know how the sections are allocated. I've heard of school stacking a particular section with scholarship students to make it next to impossible to be in the top percent of the class.

This started as a comment in the last post, but got long. See the comments of that post for Useless Dicta's take.

The first question is absolutely a question you should be asking. You may not get the whole truth on the answer but how they handle it might tell you a lot. My school screwed so many people that was it wasn't even funny. I emerged unscathed with my scholarship in tact, but I was one of the few.

Also, if your numbers are *much* better than the school average and you have other reasons for choosing the school besides scholarship money, I would absolutely negotiate, though not at admitted students weekend of course. Applications are down across the board this year. Leverage that knowledge if you can.

Example, you're offerred full tuition if you maintain top 25%. Ask for that if you maintain top 50% instead, or 3/4 tuition for top 50%. A friend of mine really did that -- she said "thanks, but I can do better at the the cheaper higher ranked state school" and talked her way to a better deal. Took balls and a good back up plan -- she had a good BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement), acceptance at a higher ranked cheaper school that she would be happy enough going to. It was worth it for her. Might work for you if you've got the #'s, a good back up plan, and good reasons why the lower ranked school is otherwise attractive.

I would NOT ask about the section stacking -- they won't own up to that and anything you get from the students will be based on hearsay and conjecture.

I would ask about the curve. Is it a B- median? Or a B- mean? The latter could mean wider distribution and greater chance that if you do land below the curve in one class, it will kill your chance at keeping a scholarship.

Also at my school, 26%-50% still get money, but much much less. Make sure you really get "bupkiss."

But I *would* ask how many people receive scholarships in relation to the rank they have to achieve. And what is the NUMBER of people that you're ranked typically against . . . if there are only 75 full time students, #19 in the class is out of luck.

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Admitted students weekend

Life, the universe, and everything asks: I just received my class assignment for my admitted students weekend. I am scheduled to sit in on a constitutional law class. Can anyone enlighten me about this sort of law? The only thing I know of it is Susan Estrich's opinion that it spoils every law student because everyone wants to practice it, but almost no one gets to. What should I expect?

Just so you know, I am only answering this question because the asker quoted Douglas Adams and I look for any excuse to quote Douglas Adams. Even Administrative Law.

More generally, admitted students weekends are like a big happy open house. They trot out all the law students who actually like it there and have them gush about why they chose this law school over all others, why law school is not really as bad as you've heard, and why its exactly as bad as you've heard, but just not so bad at their school. I should know: I am one of the students my law school trots out, because I am generally very positive about it. Though I am honest with the prospectives. Feel free to ask the "hard questions." You might even get some straight answers, but remember the overall purpose of admitted students weekend is to get you to choose that law school over the others at which you were accepted. Sit back and enjoy the sales presentation, and look for indicators that the place really is the right fit for you.

In your case, you know for sure you'll be sitting on a mock class. (I assume that its not an actual Con Law class occurring on a weekend.) You may even get a case or two to read in advance of the class to get a "feel" for the Socratic method. Don't be fooled: the real deal will be a lot more intimidating, for the first few weeks of law school at least. The prof at your admitted students weekend will probably take volunteers, not cold-call on people, and eager almost-1Ls will probably actually volunteer. Again, I don't discourage this as it can be fun. Just don't expect it to reflect the real thing.

As to what the prof will actually cover, I have no idea. At my school during our admitted student weekend, we read a famous English criminal law case that involved men lost at sea in a life boat and cannibalism. (Click here to read it if you like.) So based on my experience, expect something fun and somewhat controversial in order to generate a lively discussion, but not like "hot button" controversial.

As to the Susan Estrich comment: "Con Law" touches nearly everything in the law . . . I'd say everything without the 'nearly,' but law school has made me wary of such definitive statements. What she probably means is people want to practice the sexy areas like free speech, and its true; most people will not get to argue a free speech case before a Circuit court, let alone before the Supremes. That doesn't mean you don't get to do due process, equal protection, and commerce clause arguments. My Family Law and Labor Law classes, for example, have just been Con Law with a focus.

(All right, enough. I have to go read for Admin class, otherwise known as "What Would Scalia Do.")

Monday, March 10, 2008

a potpourri of pre-L advice

alright, i see a bunch of different topics in the questions thread, so i'm going to address what i can.

the summer before law school

as far as the summer before law school, Butterflyfish is correct--you don't need a law job the summer before law school. in fact, it's probably better not to have a law job that summer, because all you'll be doing in law school is law. take a break from it, since you'll be doing law all year from there on out, between law school and summer jobs in legal workplaces. the summer before law school i worked the same two jobs i'd been doing through my year off after undergrad. i was working part-time barcoding books in a library, and i was working full-time waitressing. the barcoding job was mind-numbing, and i hated it, but i needed the money and it was an easy job at a library i had been working in since my second year of undergrad. the waitressing was much was something i knew i'd never be able to try again, and something i had always wanted to try once. that's my suggestion...if there's some kind of summer job you can do for a short period of time before you start law school, something you've never done and always wanted to try, do it. it doesn't have to be anything taxing or academic...specifically, it's probably better for it not to be, so you can come to law school as relaxed and clear-headed as possible.

on coming back to school, after working

to the person who was wondering what it would be like to be working and then coming back to law school--don't worry about the college kids being ahead of you. i wasn't out of school quite as long as you were [one year, not four], but coming straight from undergrad isn't much of an advantage. in fact, it could be an advantage. some people come straight from undergrad to law school when they're really burnt out on school. if you've worked for a couple years and now feel ready to come back, you'll be in a good, fresh mindset--which is everything when starting your 1L year.

don't worry about being rusty with studying. law school is completely different from undergrad. it's a different kind of class, a different kind of reading, and a different kind of school experience. you will have a massive amount of adjusting to do to figure out how you best internalize law school information--but so will everyone else, whether they're three months out of undergrad or thirty years out of undergrad. i'm glad i took that time off after undergrad to work...i got some interesting experience, and i came to law school with a fresher, happier mindset than i would have had i gone on straight from undergrad.

choosing a law school

my personal experience in choosing a law school was atypical. at the time i was choosing a school, i was in a serious relationship with a person in St. Louis. i wanted to be near him, but i wanted to go to a law school where i'd have a good time [even if the relationship went south], i'd get a good education, and be able to easily move somewhere else in the midwest if i wanted to. so, Wash U was the only school i applied to, and that's where i went. it turned out to be a great decision...i love the school, i'm still glad i went there even though the relationship ended fall semester of my 2L year, and i got a great job in Chicago for after graduation. that's my background on this issue.

what's my suggestion? figure out what's most important to you. if you really want to work public interest, go somewhere where you'll take out the least loans, or even no loans at all. if you have a specific geographic area in mind, look for schools there. if you don't yet have a specific city in mind, then pick a school where you'd enjoy living for three years, but be mindful that the school is well enough regarded in places that you're interested in that you can get your foot in the door. if you plan on working a high-paying job at a large firm, especially if you're not wedded to any specific geographic area, it is probably best to go to a top-tier school if you can get into it, and pay the loans down.

whether you're planning on public interest or private sector, geography is a key consideration. unless you're planning on working in one of those really huge markets that are so popular that you don't need geographic connections to work there [New York, DC...], consider seriously going to law school in your chosen market if you're intent on working there. in small to medium markets, employers are extremely concerned about your local connections, and about whether you're actually going to stay in the market for the long haul. so, if you're dead set on a small to medium market, prove your dedication now, and pick a law school there.

[ineedhelp, or anyone else...i'm currently a 3L at Wash U, so if you have specific questions about it feel free to email me at, and i'll be glad to respond!]


it's a tradeoff between laziness and penny-pinching. the old editions are mostly like the new ones, but not exactly. if you get the old edition, you'll have to compare it with someone who has the new one, get the different page numbers, and search for the new cases that were put in the book. some books there's very little difference; some books, especially in fields where the law changes a lot, there's a ton. 1L books are probably less likely than most to have major differences, but there are no guarantees.

what i usually do for books is order them online. you can get them significantly cheaper from places like amazon and than you can from the bookstore, even if your bookstore sells used books. i never get anything but the most recent edition, because i'm not willing to take the time to compare them to the old editions to see what's different. but, i can usually get a good deal on the newest one if i shop online. it's still pricey, but i feel it's justifiable.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Summer before law school

From Prue: what should i be doing the the summer between undergrad graduation and starting law school? i am finishing an engineering degree, and to be honest i'm a little burnt out. what i really want to do is be lazy and work in a mindless job, like starbucks. how important is it to get a summer job (or nonpaying one) the summer before law school?

You absolutely do not need a legal job the summer before law school. Where do these ideas come from anyway? I saw another comment about getting a legal summer job prior to law school. No one expects that of you and I doubt it provides that much of an edge in the end.

1L summer is an entirely different story.

But for the summer before law school, take a pottery class or travel someplace awesome or read some great non-fiction. It'll give you at least as much to talk about in an interview than working as a glorified file clerk somewhere. No one ever asks about that summer. In fact, I was a teacher and no one ever asks about the six summers I had off during that career, though I occasionally work in some interesting stories.

Anyway, in my humble opinion, nothing wrong with working at Starbucks for the summer. Just don't put it on the resume unless you have no other work experience . . . ever. Funny thing about legal resumes: my ten working years prior to law school is about three lines, and will eventually be one. As you go through school and do internships and summer jobs, those experiences become what matters. Until you've worked a few years, then those experiences are what matters... etc., etc., etc.

What I did: I worked less than part-time teaching LSAT classes, I played with my son, and I prepped.

Other WIWHK folks? What did you do?