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  #1  
Old 07-23-2007, 05:47 AM
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Default Law skewl

I've tossed around the idea of law school for a while now. Before applying to graduate schools, I took the LSAT and did quite well, but I ultimately decided not to apply to law schools at that time. I preferred to pursue my MA first, and decide from there.

In 9-10 months, I'll get that MA. And I'm now seriously pondering law school. I'm fascinated by the role of law in international relations: how are treaties written and why? How can well-written law bridge two distant legal systems? How the acquis communautaire hold it all together? It seems endlessly engaging to me. As such, I've decided to apply to law schools this fall. I may not wind up going immediately, since I'll probably go to Russia or return to France for a bit.

In addition, most of the career options for people with my degree are either in government service or the non-profit sector. I have several reasons for not wanting a government job that I don't care to examine here, and the non-profit sector doesn't pay the dough. If I'm going to sell out - and I am going to sell out - I'm gonna want some compensation. But I'm mainly motivated by interest in the law, of course. That, and I want to learn how to cite cases because that is badass.

I've got a short-list of schools started (it tilts heavily towards UNC-Chapel Hill), and I think I'll put together a pretty strong application with some languages and all the international experience bullshit. I thought I would solicit some advice from the lawyerly-types on :ff:. If you're a lawyer, or if you play one on TV, what should I know before I start applying and getting all excited about the justice system?
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Old 07-23-2007, 07:28 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

TuckerMax.com
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Old 07-23-2007, 11:40 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Thank you! That isn't helpful in the least.
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Old 07-23-2007, 06:19 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

You already know the lawyers and law students on FF and you want to be like them? :rolleyes:


Just kidding, I love you guys.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:14 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF View Post
...If I'm going to sell out - and I am going to sell out - I'm gonna want some compensation...
Spoken like a true lawyer
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Old 07-24-2007, 12:08 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Damn, what happened to all the lawyer types? This must be their heavy season.
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Old 07-24-2007, 12:29 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

I'm in law school (and I'm married to an attorney, yes, I'm insane)

I actually like law school. The first year was really, really hard, and it really put me through the wringer. Now that I'm actually getting into practice area stuff and I'm taking classes I want to take, it's a lot better.

But, just to warn you, I just got my first pair of bifocals, and I swear it's from all the reading.
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Old 07-24-2007, 12:39 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

But they're really cute bifocals. ;)
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Old 07-24-2007, 01:25 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by vremya View Post
I'm in law school (and I'm married to an attorney, yes, I'm insane)

I actually like law school. The first year was really, really hard, and it really put me through the wringer. Now that I'm actually getting into practice area stuff and I'm taking classes I want to take, it's a lot better.

But, just to warn you, I just got my first pair of bifocals, and I swear it's from all the reading.
Thank you! I'm not afraid of some serious reading. I've spent the last year drowning in it. But I probably will take a year off to give my eyes a rest :glasses:
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Old 07-24-2007, 02:42 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

The bar exam starts tomorrow for many.
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Old 07-24-2007, 04:38 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Then you better start drinking tonight, Chuck.
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Old 07-24-2007, 03:54 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

I have no doubt that you'd do very well in law school, Chuck. Much though I loathe standardized tests, the LSAT is a decent predictor. As vremya correctly noted, law school is a lot of hard work, but that won't bother you none. Doing well academically involves (1) putting in the hours, (2) figuring out what the professors want and (3) giving it to them come exam time.

Experience tells me that law school is geared toward hard working people of average intelligence such as myself. Two sorts of people are extra susceptible to doing poorly: the stupid and the extraordinarily intelligent. Stupid people are at risk because . . . well, because they're stupid. Extraordinarily intelligent folk can get in trouble not because the work is overwhelming but rather because the work is so goddamn repetitive. It's just a half-educated guess, but I suspect you'll find enough of the subject matter sufficiently interesting that you won't have that problem, despite your status as an extraordinarily intelligent person.

Most if not all law schools are all about getting and keeping their bar exam pass rates high. Your first year class schedule will be set in stone. In some schools your second year schedule is predetermined as well. One way or the other, you'll find yourself taking courses such as Federal Income Tax, Commercial Paper, Corporations and Secured Transactions, which is only slightly less painful than rocketing bare-assed down a 200-foot sliding board covered with coarse grained sandpaper into a barrel of salt.

(My former boss back in Ohio theorizes that the bar exam actually tests your ability to prepare for and try a case. The Ohio exam was three days when I took it, and was preceded by a couple of months of intensive preparation. The vast majority of trials last three days or less.)

As for where to go, keep in mind that you will in fact be able to choose the courses you want eventually. You might want to do some research to determine which schools have the strongest international law programs. That's a matter of finding out who the international law gurus are, and where they teach.

If you end up working in private practice, you'll find that law school taught you exactly jack shit about the nuts and bolts of practicing law. Every lawyer and law professor will tell you that, but you'll never know just how true it is until you experience it for yourself.

You may or may not find that you wind up doing something entirely different from what you expected. Civil litigation was next to last (second only to criminal litigation) on my wish list when I entered law school, yet here I am. It's worked out extraordinarily well -- can't imagine why I ever wanted to do anything else -- but it came as a surprise nonetheless.

You might also be surprised (and maybe disheartened) over the appallingly high percentage of your time that gets devoted to administrative crap. Calendaring, billing, deadline management, file maintenance, conflicts checking, timekeeping, office management -- the list goes on and on.

You might end up with a megafirm that takes care of a lot of that stuff for you, but that situation isn't all peaches and gravy either. New associates with such firms make great money right out the gate, but there's the "golden handcuffs" phenomenon to deal with. Every moment of your every day belongs exclusively to The Firm.

Which brings us to the final point: to a considerable extent, being a practicing lawyer means that your life isn't your own. If you're married to 40-50 hour work weeks and a predictable off-duty schedule for planning your nonwork life, private practice probably isn't for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF
If I'm going to sell out - and I am going to sell out -
Atta boy! :D
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  #13  
Old 07-25-2007, 02:28 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF View Post
If I'm going to sell out - and I am going to sell out - I'm gonna want some compensation.
My constitutional law prof said one night (and you have to imagine George Carlin saying this, since that whole semester was just like being taught by George Carlin) "I didn't do this for public service - I did it for money. You want to go to heaven, that's good, I'm doing it for the money.".
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Old 07-25-2007, 03:41 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Stephen, thank you very much for that post. That's exactly the kind of information I'm looking for.

As an aside, I'm secretly hoping that I fall in love with the federal tax code while in law school. So I do my own taxes, and do them real kick-ass like, and then get audited, and the IRS comes and I'm like "bitch, please."
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Old 07-25-2007, 07:41 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Thinking that you will be able to study "International Law" and things like treaties is a serious misconception about what you will be able to do in "Law School." There are precious few courses and fewer teachers with any connection, let alone a meaningful one, to the subject in which you say you are interested.

The curriculum of law school is almost entirely geared toward the ordinary practice of everyday common law in the United States ... business transactions, criminal law, real property, estate planning, civil and criminal procedure (common forms of action in civil or criminal litigation), individual and corporate tax, corporate and similar forms of ownership, etc. Not that by attending "law school" and passing your state's bar examination you will have any practical idea how to "practice" law.

My field is appellate research and writing. The upside(s) are: no clients, no billing, intrinsically interesting problems, variety, and the luxury of being able to spend almost as much time as you want/need to resolve the issues to your own satisfaction, or at least to a point of repose. There's also a decent retirement and benefits package in my state (California). The downside(s) are: government pay (though I'm not complaining personally, the potential for upward increases is limited), increasing workloads, the "lack of a budget" crisis every year which threatens compensation for a while, insider court politics on some cases, and for all the variety in the cases, there are some repetitive issues, and every case has its boring aspects. Gotta cite-check all of it (multiple times). For me personally, the ups are pretty up, and the downs are not so very down.

Law school was not a particularly good or happy experience for me. It was the first time I had had that number of subjects that closely allied in topic all at the same time. It was weeks and weeks in my first year before I could tell which class I was in, or separate the strands of my notes into distinct categories. It was a seriously depressing experience for me because I'd always been, like 100% of my classmates, in the top 10% of my class in all other school I had attended. Now, suddenly, 90% of us could not be in the top 10% any more. Not only that, but out of the whole 3 years, I had only 1 professor who could actually use the so-called "Socratic method" of asking questions to guide the student to a better understanding of the material. All of the others used the "asking questions" method not to aid the student but to show, "I'm smart, and you're not!" Law school was 90% rabbits-out-of-hats to me ... I'd never be able to come up with THAT answer in a million years. My brain just doesn't go the way they wanted it to. It's a grind to be endured. But I appreciated it far and away over other graduate programs because in a very limited amount of time -- 3 years -- you're practically guaranteed to be done, WITH a salable skill. I saw kids in other doctoral programs take 5 to 8 years to finish, if they didn't fall victim to departmental politics between their dissertation advisers and the powers-that-be and wind up screwed out of finishing their Ph.D's altogether.

I don't know if law school is going to get you where you want to go, though perhaps with your background, you could take better advantage of not only the offerings in the law school (if any) in "international" law, but also in other graduate departments (gov't and int'l relations, international business, etc.)

Always take a class b/c the professor is a good teacher, not just because of his/her expertise or reputation or because you "need" the class. I had my law school's international law class from a world-class scholar and authority, who just happened to be an arrogant s.o.b. who wouldn't give you the time of day if your life depended on it. (the same teacher, in one first-year property section, famously said that he could teach the subject better to a dog than to the students in the class -- many of whom immediately set to howling and barking)

P.S. It's been nearly 30 years since I was in law school. things may be different now.

P.P.S. N.B., I went straight through school and had no "life experience" to speak of, so I was pretty much of a dumb bunny when I went to law school. My class profile was ages 19-45, so the "oldsters" undoubtedly enjoyed law school as a kind of break from the workaday world. You've been out in the world and done a lot of interesting things. Law school may be right up your alley. As always, ymmv.

P.P.P.S. I hope you have a good experience, whatever you choose!

Hope this helps.

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Old 07-25-2007, 02:27 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

You're quite welcome, Chuck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF View Post
As an aside, I'm secretly hoping that I fall in love with the federal tax code while in law school. So I do my own taxes, and do them real kick-ass like, and then get audited, and the IRS comes and I'm like "bitch, please."
:laugh:

Well . . . okay, you can fall in love with the Internal Revenue Code if you really want to, but NO FEDERALIST SOCIETY MEETINGS, not even to point and laugh.

-----------

maddog brought up an excellent point about going to law school later in life as opposed to straight out of college. I was thirty-two years old, nine years past college and working a shit job for shit money. Despite the strangeness, long hours and financial uncertainty, law school was a veritable heaven on earth compared to what I was accustomed to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by maddog
(the same teacher, in one first-year property section, famously said that he could teach the subject better to a dog than to the students in the class -- many of whom immediately set to howling and barking)
:laughdie:

When you've lost the ability to cow a group of 1Ls, it's time to explore alternative career paths.
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Old 07-26-2007, 12:42 AM
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Default Re: Law skewl

The only thing I learned in my tax class (Non-profit Taxation and Regulation) was that if someone came to me with a tax question, I should refer them to a CPA. If you are not a CPA, or a JD who is also a CPA, then that is what you should probably do as well. There seemed to be plenty of those at UGA. The reason is that in federal income tax or corporations/business associations or trusts & estates, you aren't really learning about how to do taxes or REALLY set up the capital structure of a corporation or write a valid will in your state--you are learning the theoretical structures behind these things.

Are you a theory person? Or are you a practical person?

That seems to determine how well you enjoy the brain part of law school. I am a practical person. I came to law school, and I wanted to learn how to solve people's problems. How do you stop the landlord from wrongfully evicting your client? How do you keep people safe from those who would like to hurt them? Etc.

Law school is not like this, for the most part. Law classes are best enjoyed by people who say things like "figuring out an issue in the law is like putting a puzzle together." Or, as my theory-crazy hubby does--let's just explore all these possibilities--what if X, what if Y, what if blah, blah, blah, BLAH! He's not even a lawyer--he just like thinking about the law and the possibilities. Let's argue all the sides. (No! What is the argument that is going to win the day? That is all that matters to me--none of this what might have been nonsense.)

If you are a practical person, I think it's very important to look at what the clinical programs are at the schools that you are interested in. Actually, I think this is important no matter what, because it gives you actual lawyering skills--you'll get to interview clients, focus on answering specific real-life issues in a useful way, feel the pace of the office, etc. My clinics and other internships were all either transactional or in an admin capacity, but I had friends who worked in prosecutorial and public defender clinics.

Despite my anti-theory nature, I really enjoyed much of law school. Some of the people who I expect to be my life-long friends I've met in classes. Most of my classmates were/are interesting, funny, caring, creative, kind people, and I'm glad to see them going places.

The hardest thing about law school for me, though, was learning that I am not able to do it all. First, I was not at the top of my class, instead I was THE average student at UGA. That's fine with me. But, being an average student didn't mean that I could take a clinic, a heavy load of classes, work part time, volunteer, be involved in a journal/several student groups, have a healthy marriage, take care of myself, AND not go crazy. (Meet Spring Semester 2006.) It can be tough, and I'm not some freak who tortures herself by cramming all of that into everyday. Ok, maybe I am freakish, but I don't think it was that unusual for probably half of my classmates--there was a good handful having babies during law school! Negotiating my limits was one of the most valuable lessons of law school.
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Old 07-26-2007, 03:46 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

maddog, I had a similar experience my first year. I generally got high grades in undergrad, and I got a C- on my first exam. Ouch!

ChuckF, I don't know what getting an MBA is like, but the purpose of the 1st year of law school is partly to pound a lot on info into you really fast, partly to (supposedly) get you accustomed to the Socratic method, and partly to cull the herd. In Contracts, 18 out of 60 people in my section bombed the final, and at least 6 were booted out of school for having a low GPA after that.
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Old 07-26-2007, 04:20 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by vremya
I generally got high grades in undergrad, and I got a C- on my first exam. Ouch!
After asking the assembled throng to raise their hands if they'd achieved near-4.00 GPAs as undergrads, [Prof.] Anzivino observed dryly, "Yeah well that sh*t's over." I'm here to tell you he was right about that.
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Old 08-08-2007, 08:04 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
Damn, what happened to all the lawyer types? This must be their heavy season.
Vacation happened to me; I just got home last night from 2 weeks on holiday. :cool:

Re: Tucker Max... heh, my Legal Profession/Professional Responsibility instructor was the John Steele mentioned in the charity auction debacle story.


Maturin, wildernesse, maddog, vremya, and Scarlatti have touched on pretty much everything: the pains of 1st year grades; developing a need for bifocals or reading glasses; the fact that what you learn in the law school classroom doesn't teach you a whit about actual lawyering; the importance of choosing good teachers. The only things I would add to the advice/recommendations are to look at what sort of clinical programs are offered at the various schools you are considering (because those programs are where you will really learn "how" to be a lawyer) and to keep your mind open about exploring different practice areas. Before I started law school, I thought for sure that I wanted to do contracts and that never in a million years would I have anything to do with criminal law.

If you have the time and inclination, I say go for it! The skills you'll learn and subject matter you'll cover are pretty useful to know, even if you end up never practicing law. With your background in international studies, I wouldn't be surprised to find that you become Ambassador ChuckF, Esq.
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Old 08-08-2007, 08:41 PM
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:woohoo: Political appointee!

:ohnoes: Senate confirmation!
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Old 08-08-2007, 09:25 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by ms ann thrope
Vacation happened to me; I just got home last night from 2 weeks on holiday. :cool:
Ah, you and me both. Welcome back! :)
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Old 08-08-2007, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
Maturin, wildernesse, maddog, vremya, and Scarlatti have touched on pretty much everything: the pains of 1st year grades; developing a need for bifocals or reading glasses; the fact that what you learn in the law school classroom doesn't teach you a whit about actual lawyering; the importance of choosing good teachers.
Hah! I had a head start! (SOMEthing to lead the class in!)

In fact, one of my parlor games is to have people guess how old I was when I got my first pair of glasses.

Glasses-wearing figures in my law school/legal history in two additional ways:
(1) I am a researcher now because, although I went through all the interviews, the academic tests, secured the actual appointment as a Coast Guard JAG, AND spent 3 months in daily therapy at the university optometric clinic during the whole process, I flunked the eye exam. You have to have gunnery officer eyesight to be a lawyer for the Coast Guard, it seems. It requires "complete and continuous third degree binocular fusion." While the optometry kids could teach me to see double, they couldn't teach me to see binocular. (2) I've always been extremely fortunate for the friends I've had around me. One day in first year, some of the folks in my section gathered around and said, "hey, let's go get you some new eyeglasses." I said, "but I've had these glasses since seventh grade." They were ... direct: " We hate to tell you this: it LOOKS like you've had those glasses since seventh grade!"

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Old 08-10-2009, 10:23 PM
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Soooo...started this thread two years ago. 733 days since it was last active according to :ff:.

This thing starts in about two weeks. Got my class schedule today. 1L's don't get any input into choosing. Property, Civil Procedure, Torts, and the legal research class.

On the one hand I am glad to get back to school, especially because I feel like my writing has been getting worse since I've been out. On the other hand, terror. :justice:
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Old 08-10-2009, 11:38 PM
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Default Re: Law skewl

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF
my writing has been getting worse.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF
the legal research class.
And will get worse still, once you're writing like a lawyer.
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