Black Letter Living

The blathering of a law student who doesn't know what the hell he got himself into.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Doing the Update Thing

So that offer to do PhD program went up in smoke when the guy changed his mind and said it was too late to add me. He was like: "apply next year." You'll have a better chance. Why? That will mean I am already going to be two deep in law school and at that point I might as well finish up this thing to-at the very least-get another couple of letters to put after my name.

Whatever. I have my doubts that the PhD thing is right for me anyway. Really, the hardest thing about law school is that I have to wait so long for my life to start. Clearly starting anew in a program that will probably last at least five years is not the solution to that concern. As far as law school goes, I am starting to realize that the standard thing to do when you do the law school thing is the following.

1. Apply for law school
2. Do law school for 3 years
3. Study for the bar and take it the summer afterwards
4. Maybe clerk for a judge for a year.
5. Work in "Big Law"--read 60-70 hour weeks in NYC, DC, Boston, LA, San Fran--for three to four years while making $145,000+/yr
6. Trade in that experience for a less stressful job with better hours. Government, In-House, etc.
7. Perhaps move away from practicing by doing this last job.

I just turned 24. I will graduate and pass the bar at 26. I will be done with a clerkship at 27. I will be done at BigLaw and done with the prime of my life at 31. Scary...

The time that takes depresses me. I always thought that I could avoid BigLaw-and I can-but it's hard not to go along with it when that's all your other classmates are working towards. And the salaries? Well, you may at times wonder why you went to law school in the first place when you are making the same amount of money you could have been should you do Govt/Public Interest. And once you turn down the opportunity to do BigLaw, you cannot very easily jump in should you change your mind. Even if you can, you are starting out with a bunch of green recent law graduates. I feel old being a year behind many of my law student classmates as is.

So that's my delimma. I want to be successful but I want to work on starting a family soon with the woman I love. We are starting to have meetings about the crucial job search process that begins at the end of this summer for us current 1Ls. I am starting to get scared.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

There's a potential offer out there to do a doctorate in a subject I
might enjoy more. I am still feeling it out with the head of the
program. Most likely I will not pursue it, but I am entertaining the
thought at least. As much as I complain about law, I like it in a lot
of ways and there are a variety of things to do with a law degree
even if you limit yourself to the legal world. And I am almost a
third of the way done...

This PhD would basically put me in academia if I did and did it well
enough. Not a bad place, but if it doesn't work out, there's more
opportunity cost spent and I would be near thirty at the end of it. I
am operating on the assumption that I will continue nonetheless.


I was in Criminal Law on Friday and we were talking about a case that
involved a registration requirement for felons. Just another example
about how scary the idea of being a felon is. Once you are a felon,
it is hard to vote, hard to get a job and there are other random
restriction you might not even know about.

I'm going to try pretty hard to stay on the straight and narrow and
avoid that fate...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Enjoying the Law

The other day, my civpro teacher said that if you do not like
ambiguity you will have a miserable life as a lawyer. I was worried
when he said this, but then I started to wonder about who actually
liked ambiguity. Sure, I mean I am comfortable with it and can deal
with it, but who prefers that over actual definite answers? Only
obnoxious philosophy majors if you ask me.

Later that day, I read Bill Simmon's interview with Macolm Gladwell
on I would link to it, but I am doing this by email so....

Anyway, he started talking about how you really cannot be successful
or happy if you do not enjoy doing your job in your free time. That
seems rather hard to make happen. Work is work. While I can enjoy
doing work just fine, I can never think of something in my spare time
for fun that actually would translate into something marketable
enough to make a living doing it full time. Or am I wrong? Should I
be worried that I am not briefing law cases for fun?

How's that for ambiguity!

Law Book Buying

Before the fall semester I was accepted into the school where I am
last minute, so I did not have much choice but to buy my books-at
their inflated prices-at the campus bookstore. For the spring
semester, I did things differently. I bought the books online. When
I was an undergrad, this saved me a lot of money and hassle. I was
surprised, though, that law books still cost a lot even if they are
from an online retailer and even if they are used.

Nevertheless, I bought both my Property and my Criminal Law book
online and I was quite happy with the result. I saved about 75
dollars total. The Property book was new, but the CrimLaw book was
used. I must say from now on I will try buying books used. When they
already have highlights in them, it makes it easier to pick up the
key parts of the case when you are in a rush. Yeah, it is good to
have experience doing this yourself, but I still double-check what
the previous owner did. And by this point, after book-briefing
hundreds of cases, I think I have the process down.

Of course, sometimes you do not know the class' books until it is too
late to order them online. I found that contacting the professors
ahead of time worked well. My friend tells me that she buys them from
the campus book store while she waits for the copies to come. She
refrains from marking the books and then returns them back in time
for a full refund. I think this is kind of sketchy and risky myself,
but I'll throw that out there as an option too.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

1L Blues

February is over and I still do not have anything lined up for this
coming summer. I was warned that finding work your 1L summer was
hard, but I didn't know it would be so difficult to give my services
away. Yeah, I have only had one year of law school under my belt but
I do not think I am completely useless.

I wonder who those people are who actually get a law firm to hire
them their first years. They must smell better or something.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Weekend Thoughts

There's no better feeling in law school then putting in a lot of work and sleepness nights to do a lawyering assignment and then enjoying an easy weekend afterwards. Getting good grades last semester did not feel as good. Of course, I am just a 1L and I am sure nailing moot court or having a drug-infested study group orgy is probably not so bad either.

A fair number of people drop out of law school or have severe doubts about it as they plod through. I wonder, is there any masters program that give you anything for those classes that you spent money on?

When people drop out I wonder about how they get over wasting on that money. Then again, what you learn in a year of law school whether it comes to knowing something more about the law and increasing your analytical skills has real value. Maybe not worth $30 to $40K, but it's a nice consolation prize. And as always, when you make a future decision, you must fight your human tendencies and forget sunk costs.

Do people normally enjoy what they do the best or do they do the best in activities that they enjoy the most? Chicken and the egg, I suppose.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Sometimes I really love law school. Sometimes I will be in class and I will actually stop watching the clock. I sometimes find the class discussions really interesting and take a moment to really be happy about where I am.

Other times, though, I wonder whether this all wasn't some mistake. The reading every day and the research for lawyering drags on me. I often find that I rather be reading about news and business than doing anything to do with law school. Between classes, I stay in the law school to read. At the end of the day, I can either stay in the law school library and study or I can go home. I normally choose the latter. All these gunners around me just make me stressful and I have to leave.

I got good grades my first semester, but now that I have a semester under my belt I feel less confident about what I am doing than I ever did before. Sometimes I just want to run away and go live on a farm or something where you do real, tangible work.

It at least is something more real than highlighting a case book and ruining its resale value...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Law School Wait List Advice

When I applied to law school this past winter/spring, I applied to just 5 schools. I had some geographical restraints and after applying for graduate school before, I had little interest in blowing a lot of money on application's fees. (Later on I found out that most people apply to 10 schools or more and hope that they can get the best deal during the scholarship bidding process, but I digress....)

Anyway, at the end of the application process I got into two schools and was wait-listed at two T-14s at which I applied. I ended up getting off the wait list at both of these schools. One in the beginning of summer and one at the end. When I was stressing over the wait list process, I could find little information available about getting off a wait list. This ain't a thorough, how-to guide, but I figured I would throw out what worked for me and what I learned from the process.

1. Show Some Love

You cannot fake this. You have to actually give detailed reasoning, not boiler-plate praise that could be given to any law school. Make it emotional and make it real.

2. Act Like You Care, But Don't Harass Them

One person on a discussion board said they were calling one of my wait list schools every day. Needless to say the guy didn't get in. I don't know if that made the difference, but I didn't try his strategy and things worked out well for me. My rule of thumb was to contact the schools every couple of weeks. Normally, I had a reason to contact them again, like giving them a new recommendation or something along those lines.

3. Change Your Application

Wish you had written a better essay? Wish you had provided extra recommendations? You now have a chance to do a do-over. The wait list process is a new application process. Send along extra recommendations and write an essay-in letter form-about how great a fit you will be at this school in particular. If you have new grades, send them. If you are doing a cool new job, let them know. If you retook the LSATs and did better, send that along too.

You can either bombard them with all this new material the minute you get wait-listed, or you can ration it out as you get new updates from them about the list. Personally, I rationed it out. Figure out what makes most sense at your target school.

4. Be a Lurker on the Discussion Boards

Perhaps you can post on these boards, but you don't want to be bad-mouthing the schools at the same time you are saying how great they are. Admissions Committees certainly read the boards and while they do not go on witch hunts to uncover people, they can't help it when they stumble on someone they recognize talking shit. Don't put yourself in that position. Otherwise, you might end up always wondering what did you in.

5. Be a Nice Guy

It may be hard for some future lawyers, but when you are talking to people at these schools don't be an ass. Be a very nice person just thankful that they are giving you the time of day. Sure the secretaries do not make the decision, but it helps to have someone in the office in your corner when they pass along information to the AdComms.

6. When They Ask to Confirm Your Interest... Wow Them

Some schools will send you a note asking you to confirm your interest in staying on the wait list. Explicitly they are asking you to just give a yes or no answer along with some details about how long you want to stay on the list. In reality, they are giving you an opportunity to really wow them with your personality and love of their school. Take it.

I hope this helps. It worked for me. If you have a question, leave a comment.