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Any advice for someone starting law school?

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Any advice for someone starting law school?

Old 05-17-2018, 09:58 PM
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Default Any advice for someone starting law school?

I have been accepted into the JD program at the University of San Diego starting in August. My wife and I just moved back to San Diego from Ecuador and I was having a hard time committing to leaving again so I am pretty dang proud to have a seat at the best program in the city.

I now there are a few THT'ers who have gone down this path and I sure would appreciate hearing your insights, and advice.

Mike
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:09 PM
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Mike

There are a lot of lawyers out in the world scratching to make money. Be sure you can get a job. Many take jobs as State Attorneys or District Attorneys and they make less than cops. Makes it tough to pay back lots of loans..Just saying. Good Luck with your future endeavors and with school.. If you decide to be a prosecutor, I am sure it can be rewarding but exhausting also.

I am NOT a lawyer but a cop. I like the hands on aspect of LE..
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Cracker View Post
Mike

There are a lot of lawyers out in the world scratching to make money. Be sure you can get a job. Many take jobs as State Attorneys or District Attorneys and they make less than cops. Makes it tough to pay back lots of loans..Just saying. Good Luck with your future endeavors and with school.. If you decide to be a prosecutor, I am sure it can be rewarding but exhausting also.

I am NOT a lawyer but a cop. I like the hands on aspect of LE..
When I was settling for the 2nd tier law school here I was more worried about that than I am now.

I should be able to graduate without much or any debt. I have been working hard for something for a lot of years and decided that law school is where I want to invest some money and time. I have a degree in Linguistics that has treated me well and taken me around the Americas (not quite the world, but I've been around:D) and I have developed a talent/fetish for translating legalese, contracts and laws through a few ventures in Latin America. I don't know where I will go but I am pretty confident that I can fill a few niches here in a border town.

Life should be anything but dull,

Mike
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:57 PM
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I am a lawyer and volunteer in a mentoring program in our local business school, mostly assigned to students who are trying to decide whether to go to law school.

Gone are the days when law school was a reasonable thing to do for folks who just didnít know what else to do with a liberal arts degree. I think law school only makes sense now if you fall into one of the following categories:

1). Your parents are going to pay for it.
2). You have a passion for it AND the academic chops to get into a top tier law school or finish top of your class at a mid tier law school.
3). One of your parents has a successful law practice you can step into.

Finishing middle of the pack in a mid or lower tier private law school with a six figure debt is a terrible way to start a career.
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:24 AM
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See a psychiatrist
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Old 05-18-2018, 03:50 AM
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There are many professional fields other than the practice of law where a law degree and legal education will help you. Corporate and business development in any company,law enforcement and other areas of civil service, journalism, politics (elected or appointed), entrepreneurship, among many.

I report to a large board of directors and half of them are trained lawyers who don't actually practice law.

If you were accepted and can go without debt, good for you!

Last edited by nicecast; 05-18-2018 at 04:09 AM.
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Old 05-18-2018, 03:57 AM
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the world needs more lawyers
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Old 05-18-2018, 04:55 AM
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1. Don't come to class unprepared. If your professor assigns reading, do it (read it even if you don't fully understand it).

2. Every evening, take your notes from each class, and do an outline. Keep your outline up to date, so that by the time finals come around, you can just refine your outline. You'll probably also learn to "brief" cases. If you brief all the important cases, between your outline and case briefs, you'll have the best study guide in the world. This will also help your confidence, which will help you with stress management.

3. First year is tough. You don't know where you "rank" in relation to your other classmates, so you never know whether you're excelling or failing. When I was in law school, we had one grade in each class: the final exam. So everything hinged on how you did on that. First year is also spent basically changing how you think and analyze situations.

4. Back up your computer. Use some sort of cloud storage or something so that if your computer craps out, you don't lose all of your notes, outlines, briefs, etc. I can't emphasize how important this is.

5. Be disciplined about time to relax, spend time with your wife, etc. Exercise, eat well, and don't drink too much alcohol.

6. Finding some other students to form a study group is helpful. They don't have to be the smartest in the class. Even explaining legal concepts to your study group helps you understand the concepts more deeply.

7. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of arrogant a-holes in law school and in the legal community. Learn to be an a-hole when necessary, but don't become one. Along the same lines, distinguish between who you are and what you are/do. Being a lawyer is what I do, it's not who I am. Sometimes, being a good lawyer requires you to go against what your natural inclinations are (you can't always be nice, humble, or the peacemaker, nor can you always be an arrogant jerk). I joke that sometimes I have to "put on my lawyer costume" when I go into highly charged situations- you have to act confident even when you're terrified, etc. Having some acting skills/poker skills helps. Learning to carefully manage your reactions in highly emotional/stressful situations is a good lawyer skill, but not so great in your marriage.

Good luck! It's a great adventure. Practicing law is not the most pleasant way to make a living, but it can be thrilling and rewarding.
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Old 05-18-2018, 04:57 AM
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Corporate law
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Old 05-18-2018, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by nicecast View Post
There are many professional fields other than the practice of law where a law degree and legal education will help you. Corporate and business development in any company,law enforcement and other areas of civil service, journalism, politics (elected or appointed), entrepreneurship, among many.

I report to a large board of directors and half of them are trained lawyers who don't actually practice law.

If you were accepted and can go without debt, good for you!
This is spot on. Do not feel limited by a law degree, ESPECIALLY in the international business world where you already have experience.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by lps View Post
1. Don't come to class unprepared. If your professor assigns reading, do it (read it even if you don't fully understand it).

2. Every evening, take your notes from each class, and do an outline. Keep your outline up to date, so that by the time finals come around, you can just refine your outline. You'll probably also learn to "brief" cases. If you brief all the important cases, between your outline and case briefs, you'll have the best study guide in the world. This will also help your confidence, which will help you with stress management.

3. First year is tough. You don't know where you "rank" in relation to your other classmates, so you never know whether you're excelling or failing. When I was in law school, we had one grade in each class: the final exam. So everything hinged on how you did on that. First year is also spent basically changing how you think and analyze situations.

4. Back up your computer. Use some sort of cloud storage or something so that if your computer craps out, you don't lose all of your notes, outlines, briefs, etc. I can't emphasize how important this is.

5. Be disciplined about time to relax, spend time with your wife, etc. Exercise, eat well, and don't drink too much alcohol.

6. Finding some other students to form a study group is helpful. They don't have to be the smartest in the class. Even explaining legal concepts to your study group helps you understand the concepts more deeply.

7. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of arrogant a-holes in law school and in the legal community. Learn to be an a-hole when necessary, but don't become one. Along the same lines, distinguish between who you are and what you are/do. Being a lawyer is what I do, it's not who I am. Sometimes, being a good lawyer requires you to go against what your natural inclinations are (you can't always be nice, humble, or the peacemaker, nor can you always be an arrogant jerk). I joke that sometimes I have to "put on my lawyer costume" when I go into highly charged situations- you have to act confident even when you're terrified, etc. Having some acting skills/poker skills helps. Learning to carefully manage your reactions in highly emotional/stressful situations is a good lawyer skill, but not so great in your marriage.

Good luck! It's a great adventure. Practicing law is not the most pleasant way to make a living, but it can be thrilling and rewarding.
Excellent advice on all counts. His advantage is having worked before. If he treats it more like a job and less like school, and does all the things you mentioned (especially briefing and outlining), success will come.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by nicecast View Post
There are many professional fields other than the practice of law where a law degree and legal education will help you. Corporate and business development in any company,law enforcement and other areas of civil service, journalism, politics (elected or appointed), entrepreneurship, among many.
I report to a large board of directors and half of them are trained lawyers who don't actually practice law.
If you were accepted and can go without debt, good for you!
That is very true, but many of the lawyers who do not practice are usually well educated and went to a top 50 law school.
We have a substantial number of "lawyers" in our financial business - most all went to top 50 law schools and some even practiced at mid-size or large law firms for a while, and it made them well trained for contract review and reviewing corporate disclosures.
Currently US News Ranks 144 law schools, so #72 would be the mid-pack. At a tie for #95, San Diego is in the bottom third, and that means (at least based upon what we see in the NYC area, unless you are in the top half of graduates you will probably never get any job in the field of law as an attorney, and even as the #1 graduate, you won't be interviewed by, much less recruited by a single top 20 law firm with the $180k/yr starting pay.
From what friends, and mostly children of friends tell me: if you are paying to go to law school ($200k for a degree), you need to go to either a top 10 law school, top 25 law school and graduate in the top 50% of your class or top 50 school and graduate in the top 25% of your class to get a good (not necessarily big law high $$$) legal job out of school.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:12 AM
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Donít let people discourage you. I have been a lawyer for 33 years. I have enjoyed it 90% of the
time probanly. If you have a lot of curiosity and like constantly doing different things it is hard to imagine a better profession. Law school is funny. Some will flow through with seemingly no effort, some will work very hard, and some will never get it. If you can write well, have a healthy curiosity, and read the assignments, you should do well. There is a lot of first year angst as there is typically (at least where I went) only one exam per course per semester.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:22 AM
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1. If you have some life experience/maturity you will be at a tremendous advantage over most of your fellow students who are going straight from undergraduate school. Remember that as you go through the process. Particularly your first year.

2. Study for your last exam first. First exam last.

3. Work hard and to learn. Don’t just work to make grades. Don’t get swept up in the panic. Grades are important and will usually follow serious effort properly applied. But graduating from a top school and/or with top grades usually only translates to getting a better first job and getting it more easily. After 2-3 years of practice no one (other than the top grads from top schools) knows or cares where a lawyer graduated from or what their grades were. Results in law practice are often (not always) inversely related to the factors that help graduates get their first job.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:25 AM
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The good news is that once you pass the bar, you can go swimming in either the Atlantic or Pacific and not worry about being attacked...

Oh wait, they do attack each other...
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:38 AM
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Don't be involved in a "relationship". NO Time ! You need ALL your energy and time for school ....
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Old 05-18-2018, 06:40 AM
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The only lawyers I've come in contact with were idiots, look in the mirror and see if thats you.
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Old 05-18-2018, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by gcbeach View Post
Donít let people discourage you. I have been a lawyer for 33 years. I have enjoyed it 90% of the
time probanly. If you have a lot of curiosity and like constantly doing different things it is hard to imagine a better profession. Law school is funny. Some will flow through with seemingly no effort, some will work very hard, and some will never get it. If you can write well, have a healthy curiosity, and read the assignments, you should do well. There is a lot of first year angst as there is typically (at least where I went) only one exam per course per semester.
I've been practicing law 11 years now and agree with this.

I would also add to know what you want to do with your law degree before you start law school. Better yet go at night and have someone else pay for it, this what I did. If you do it this way you will come out of school with 4 years relevant experience which is more important than any class rank. Law school is like any other school, 1% of what you study actually translates to real life work. Most (some exceptions) of the top students can't hack it in private practice and end up teaching or not practicing law. Find a way to differentiate yourself from your peers (the international stuff you mentioned sounds like a good place to start).

Look at law school as a means to an end. Don't expect the degree to get you the job, get the job first and use the law degree to capitalize on it. More importantly expect to work hard, if you go private practice expect 10 hr workdays and working on the weekends at times.

A note on school rankings. Unless you want to practice in another state, it makes no difference. Also after you have experience and clients, it makes no difference.

A note on class rankings, it is pretty much established after your first year and unless you are relying on the school to place you makes no difference. Look at the partners at firms that originate vs the maintenance partners and decide which one you would rather be.
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Old 05-18-2018, 08:07 AM
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Mike -

Congratulations! You follow in my footsteps here in San Diego, albeit nearly 50 years later. To prepare for law school, I suggest watching The Paper Chase (1973) with John Houseman and Timothy Bottoms. To prepare for practice, watch The Verdict (1982) with Paul Newman.

Have a good time, but not as good as I had.
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Old 05-18-2018, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by 805gregg View Post
The only lawyers I've come in contact with were idiots, look in the mirror and see if thats you.
A hole comment.
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