Tuesday, July 04, 2006

 

Day or Night?

One issue that many people thinking about law school (or grad school in general) may face is whether to enroll in the Day Division or Night Division (i.e. Part Time). The following are my general thoughts on the matter.

In general, I would say that the Day experience is better. The pros include: (1) ability to focus on your studies during first year without having to spend a great deal of time at a job (note: I say during 1st year because many people in the day division take part-time jobs during the year for 2nd and 3rd years); (2) more possibility to bond and get to know classmates in your section (tougher in night division because of amount of work); (3) better chance of landing a job from an on-campus interview (just seems that way from my personal experience and most firms’ summer associate programs are set up for students graduating in three years) (sidenote: I really think that it’s true if you’re planning on getting an MBA); (4) you graudate (usually) within 3 years; and (5) you feel that you are a student in the school, administrators cater to you, etc.

Unfortunately, the main reason that people “choose” to be in the Night Division is that they don’t have a choice about it. Maybe they want to keep their job or maybe they can’t afford to quit their job to go back to school and take on more debt. However, as you can probably tell by my reasoning above, it is not the end of the world if someone decides to go to night school. The benefits are not major and it should not be a main reason to not pursue a degree in law if that’s what you really want.

LIFE UPDATE: I also realize that one purpose of these UofM Alumni Association blogs is to give students a feel for what life is like in various “professions” after graduating from college. Unfortunately, my life isn’t the most exciting thing in the world as I am still merely studying for the bar exam every single day. Maybe once I start working I’ll have something to write about, but as of right now it’s just bar review course followed by library followed by review of notes followed by practice tests each and every day.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

A-B-C 1-2-3

Thought I'd put in a quick post about what the difference is between the three years of law school (or four years if you're in an evening program).

FIRST YEAR - As you can see from the posts below, first year is almost certainly the worst year in any law student's career. You are basically learning a brand new language in a very competitive environment, all without knowing where you really stand and always wondering if you are doing the right things to get good grades. First year is also the year where you take many of your "core classes": contracts, torts, criminal law, civil procedure, constitutional law, etc. (sidenote: these are all of the courses that I am presently relearning for the bar examination). First year is also the year where people are the least likely to be involved in student organizations or have a job (unless they are an evening student). Law Review and various law journals are reserved for 2nd and 3rd year students. Following first year, most students use the summer to work at a law firm as a clerk or work for a non-profit in a legal position or just do whatever they want.

SECOND YEAR - This year is a breather when compared to first year. Most students take a few of the remaining required courses (like evidence, criminal procedure, and legal profession/ethics) and fill up the rest of the courses in one of two ways (or a combination): subjects that are on the bar exam that are not required (e.g. secured transactions, corporations, wills, etc.) or subjects that the student finds interesting or finds will be helpful in his/her career (e.g. entertainment law, law and pop culture, trial advocacy/mock trial, etc.). Most students from the day division will retain the jobs that they had the previous summer throughout the school year, possibly search for a new job through off-campus or on-campus interviewing, write on a student journal or Law Review, or become more involved with student organizations. Sidenote: right now I’m glad that I went with the “bar courses” route second year, but even if you don’t you should be able to be okay for the bar exam.

THIRD YEAR - Basically third year is the same as second year except that students usually do a senior seminar during third year. A senior seminar is usually a class where a student writes an extensive research paper on a specific topic. Additionally, some people might be involved in a clinic (e.g. a death penalty clinic where students assist in an appeal for an inmate on death row), though many clinics can also be taken during the second year. Third year is usually the least stressful, up until the time that you start thinking about the bar exam. Also, during third year some people might be seeking out the job that they will plan on having following the bar exam.

That’s a real broad overview of the three years, but should give a basic idea of what’s involved. Any questions or comments - post away!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

 

Specialization

I may have mentioned something about this earlier in the blog, but I got a question about it and it’s probably something that a lot of people who are thinking about law school are wondering.

The questions: 1) How relevant are specializations? and 2) How easy is it to get a job in a specialized field? Is it naive to think that going through school with an IP (Intellectual Property) specialization will land me a job doing IP work?

1) Specializations are not relevant at all and also are very relevant – it depends on when you’re asking yourself this question and if you want to go into one or two very specialized areas (I believe patent law and admiralty law are two that you can get/need special certifications – might be wrong on that). When you’re in law school and at the time that you graduate it doesn’t really matter if you have any idea what you want to specialize in – it is probably good to have a general idea, but is not necessary. It is not necessary because lawyers are licensed to be lawyers, not lawyers. My understanding is that any lawyer can basically take on any case they want, with some special exceptions (like those special certification ones mentioned above and death penalty cases). Thus, even if you’re a criminal lawyer, you can still write your friend’s will and represent your sister in an auto accident. Whether you would be the best to do so is another question, but you would be able to do it. So in general, specializations aren’t really relevant. That said, almost every lawyer specializes in some particular field, whether it be divorce, appellate law, litigation, slip and fall accidents on the Magnificent Mile, whatever. Thus, specializations play a role in just about every lawyer’s life but can always be changed. You can figure out your “specialization” while you’re in law school, based on a job you have at the time, whenever. My suggestion for law students would be to have an open mind about what field of law you want to practice while you’re in law school, try to eliminate some particular areas that you really don’t like either through classes or clerkships, and realize that your specialization might not really be your choice but instead the choice of whatever firm decides they want to hire you (unless you start your own firm, of course).

2) As can be seen from my response to question 1, almost all jobs are specialized in some way. However, the amount of specification really depends. For example, some lawyers are civil corporate litigators. This means that they would usually take on any civil law case, involving a business, that is ready to be an actual lawsuit or already is a lawsuit. That’s a pretty broad specialization. A more narrow specialization would be something like asbestos litigation attorney or an IP attorney (which can be further broken down into patent attorneys, trademark attorneys, etc.). As to the part of the question involving IP law specifically, I should first note that I know very little about IP law, IP firms, or the career paths of IP students. However, what I do know is that it is a much more specialized field in the sense that many law students who become IP attorneys have engineering backgrounds. My understanding is that this is because the lawyers need to be able to talk to their clients (who will usually be those seeking patents) about particulars of a process or product that would involve more technical knowledge. This isn’t to say that if you don’t have an engineering background you can’t be an IP attorney, but I believe that having that background helps. Many IP attorneys seem to also seek IP certificates and, as mentioned above, might need to get a special certification to practice in certain areas. So, to answer the particular question, just having a background in IP/engineering probably won’t land you a job doing IP work because almost all of the IP attorneys have a background in IP/engineering; however, it is very helpful (nearly a prerequisite) to have an IP/engineering background to do IP work.

I hope this answered some questions. Keep them coming – this blog is really for anyone thinking about potentially going to law school or currently in law school. I obviously don’t represent the opinions of all law students, but I’ll try to do the best I can to give a knowledgeable response.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

 

A Day In The Life of a 1L cont.

So I finally decided to go back and fill in some of the "Day in the Life of a 1L" stuff that I left out from my April 19th posting.

After the first few nerve-racking days of figuring out where your classes are and what the hell briefing a case means, you start to get into a pattern for how each day will be. The first couple of months are similar to undergrad (well, except if you go to a "commuter-type" school where you can't just roll out of bed and go to class in your pjs). You wake up whenever you need to (first year classes are prescheduled so you'll probably have a 9am or 11am start time for your first class). After class you usually browse over the reading that you did the previous night to get ready for the upcoming afternoon class. Then you'll have an afternoon class and go home. Once home it's dinner, then probably about 60-80 pages of reading and then free time to do what you want. It's pretty similar to undergrad except that (1) the reading assignments are much longer and more difficult to understand and (2) there seems to be much more reviewing before class in law school (to make sure you're not embarrassed when you get called on). There's quite a bit of free time (relatively), especially on the weekends and you should take advantage of it while you can.

Generally, sometime in mid-October or early November people start outlining for their classes (I'll try doing a whole blog on outlining soon). Early on you can do much of the outlining with free time during the weekends. Later on, come mid-November, you'll probably be in full study mode. This means that basically all systems are shut down except to go to class and study. The earlier you start outlining the less you have to do later, but you don't want to burn yourself out too early either. For me, I tried to make sure that I was relaxed and having fun up until early November and then I got down to work. Mid-November daily life was: Wake up, go to class, outline, go to my other class, then stay late at the library outlining and reading for the next day's classes. My weekends consisted of: waking up and outlining (sometimes showering and eating). That's just what I needed to do to succeed in my first year. Some people can probably borrow an outline and either be smart enough (or a good enough writer) to not have to do a lot of studying or not really care about their grades. It really depends.

Well, I should get back to the world of Constitutional Law...I thought that I had left it in first year, but it has come back...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

 

School or Work

The question of whether I would rather be in school or in work has come up quite often over the past few months. I think that this is mostly because my friends who have been working since the end of college think about how I'm STILL in school (or at least in the school setting), but it also is coming up more and more because having an actual job is just a couple months away. The typical response from people who work seems to be: "I'd rather be in school. You can get up whenever you want. You don't have to worry about your boss. You're learning new things that you care about. You can even take the summer off." The typical response from people who are in school seems to be: "I'd rather be working; at least then I get a pay check and usually have free time on the weekends." I just thought that was kind of funny. I guess that people seem to focus more on the bad aspects of their daily routine than the good. I think that my answer is that I enjoyed being in school while I was there, but now I'm a little tired of it and ready to get out of debt.

I guess that my relevant thought in regard to an undergraduate reading this blog would be that you should really think through going back to school (or continuing in school). There are a lot of people that I know who are in jobs and are sick of their job, but instead of trying to find a new job, they decide to go back to school. Usually this happens without the person thinking through why they are going back to school and what their plan is on using the new degree that they are seeking. Going back to school not only takes up a lot of time, it also throws you into additional debt. Going back to school just for the heck of it - and with little advancement in pay - doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Just a warning.

Another note is that this doesn't really apply to going to college because college has, for some, become a no-brainer following high school. Additionally, most employers are looking for a college degree for many, many jobs. In fact, I found it interesting that when I think about a lot of people I know who went straight to work out of college there are only a handful who are truly using any particular skills that they learned in undergrad for their jobs. The ones that are are usually people in finance or engineers. I'm sure that there's a ton of other professions that I'm forgetting, but for the most part it seems to ring true with the people that I know. I guess that just shows that if you are getting a degree in undergrad that you really don't have a strong feeling for anymore, it's not a big deal.

Anyways, I'm just in the middle of my bar review routine (see below post). It's pretty boring so I figured that I should write about something other than my day-to-day activities. As always, please post a comment if you'd like a discussion of anything particular regarding law school. I'll try to get back to filling out some of my general thoughts on first year, second year, and third year in future posts.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 

T-Minus 61 Days

That's the amount of time that I have remaining until the bar exam. Since I'm supposed to discuss what my life is like as a post-law student, here is a typical day during bar review preparation (for me):

6:45am - Wake up
8:00am - Take bus to bar review course
9:00am - 12:30pm - Bar review lecture
12:30pm-1:45pm - Eat lunch and walk to law school library
1:45 - 4:30pm - Review lecture notes and start review of outline for tomorrow's bar review lecture topic
4:30-5:30 - Take bus home
5:30-7:00 - Work out, eat, watch PTI on TIVO
7:00-8:00 - Finish review of outline for tomorrow's bar review lecture topic
8:00-9:30 - Do 50 practice multi-state multiple choice questions or do 2 practice essay questions (depending on current topic being reviewed)
9:30-11:00 - Review answers to multi-state questions or essay questions
11:15 - Bedtime

Actually, that's not really going to be a "typical day" - that will be the schedule for every day except for Memorial Day. Weekends will be basically the same except, instead of going to lecture, it will invovle doing more practice questions or listening to audio lectures or going over flash cards. Well, I guess that's not true either since there are some variables, like playoff Pistons games (TIVOing them and then fast forwarding through them until the last 8 minutes or so), softball games, and a couple breaks each week to watch a movie or maybe even go for a walk down the beachfront.

I think that having this type of schedule written up where I know what I'm going to have to do minute by minute is going to help me quite a bit. Staying organized definitely helps to reduce any stress that would come from thinking "oh my gosh, am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing today?" In addition to this general hour-by-hour summary, I also have a 7-page schedule from the bar review preparation course hanging on my door telling me what my assignments are to be each day until the exam.

Finally, posting this is also not meant to scare anyone or complain - I'm just letting you know what a typical day in a post-graduate law student is like. It's just something that you have to go through and I know that. I'm just crossing my fingers that I'll only have to go through it once...

Friday, May 19, 2006

 

The blue bus is callin' us, driver where you takin' us?

As I went to blogger to put up another post, "The End" by The Doors came up on my stereo. I guess it seems appropriate since I will be graduating in two days. Yet at the same time it's really what I would call "The Awful Middle" - aka the time leading up to the bar exam. After turning in my final paper last Friday, I decided that I needed to get a head start on the MBE (multistate bar exam) portion of the bar by listening to some audio lectures provided by PMBR (one of the bar review programs). So I spent around 60 hours this past week listening to those lectures on the six main areas for the MBE - contracts, real property, criminal law, constitutional law, torts, and evidence. Not the most fun I've ever had, but it needed to be done and I feel much more confident heading into the next 10 weeks.

I thought that I would be much more exicited about graduating, but unfortunately all I can think about is the bar exam. I posted the schedule on the back of my door. It's pretty scary - about 10 hours of studying each day, though I do get Independence Day off. Great....

Anyways, I'm going to relax tonight and root on the Pistons - hopefully they won't get embarrassed again. We'll have to see.

"Waiting for the summer rain..........."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

 

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Fast forward a little bit from the last posting and here I am: sitting in the library with a little over four hours before my last ever final exam. I am saying to myself, like I almost always do a few hours before the exam, “I just want to take this now and get it over.” That’s when I usually know that I’m ready to take the exam – except being a third year now might skew that reasoning. Even though each time I look through my notes I seem to tweak one little thing in my “mini-outline” (that’s actually 20 pages of material in size 9-font with 0.13 inch margins), I really just want to take the exam now. The Pistons game has been TIVOed (a new verb), and I’m just looking forward to relaxing while watching Big Ben swat another Lebron James shot. Unfortunately, I do have one last final paper to turn in, but that should be completed in two days or so and I’m not really stressed out about it at all.

I was going to try to do a comparison of studying for final exams during second semester of third year to first semester of first year, but there’s just too many variables. I actually have studied quite a bit for the exam I’m about to take, but it is tough to compare when you only have one exam instead of the normal five. I do know that I’ve been taking my time in getting up, going down to the library, and coming home rather early each day – which is nothing like first year.

One last thing about the title to this blog is that I’ve learned that there’s no real “light at the end of the tunnel” until you retire – and that’s only a “maybe.” Of course, after this “final final exam” I have my “final final paper” to write. Then I almost immediately go into studying for the bar exam. And after that it’s time to start my career. Wow, in reading that sentence back I sound like a complete pessimist. I didn’t mean it to be that way – I just wanted to point out that it is good to look to “endpoints” in time, but to also be a realist and understand that work basically continues forever.

One more last look over my mini-outline, through my flowchart, into the exam room, and through the tunnel…until I wake up tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Distractions as the end nears....

So this past Tuesday night I had my last law school class ever. It was a joyous feeling, but one that hasn’t quite hit me yet – mostly because of the lingering bar exam. In fact, I doubt that it will hit me until August, after I finish taking the bar. I feel like I’ve been on cruise control for the past few months now – just going to class and making sure that I meet deadlines, but not stressing out about anything. That includes the final project that I just turned in for one class and the final exam that I have coming up in a little over a week. I couldn’t even convince myself to read through and edit the final project one more time.

Tomorrow is the big symposium event for the journal for which I am an editor. I’m planning on doing an article about being an editor on a journal for a future post, but right now I think that I’d just like to take a break from lecturing on my thoughts on various aspects of law school to discuss my current state of mind as my law school career comes to a close. The main things that I’m feeling right now are:

(1) Oh my God, I’m almost done with law school. What a relief.
(2) Do I actually have to study for this law final exam? What a waste of time this is; I could be using this time to study for the bar exam – or at least enjoying the NBA playoffs.
(3) That’s right…I should probably start looking at some bar exam materials so that signing up for the PMBR (another bar prep class like Kaplan) isn’t a complete waste.
(4) What’s the weather like outside? Are the Cubs or Tigers playing? Are the Pistons going to even lose one game during the playoffs (*knock on wood*)?
(5) Can’t wait to go the KY derby in a week! Who’s the favorite?
(6) Oh my God, I’m almost done with law school. What a relief.

So as you can see, I’m not really focused on classes or final exams right now. I would say that this is the same mindset that 95% of third-year students. Should I be focused? Maybe. Why would I want to? Make sure that I graduate at the level that I was striving for throughout my law school career and, more basically, make sure that I don’t embarrass myself. Overall, though, I’ve realized that these grades don’t really matter unless you are still trying to get a job or would like some extra “insurance” in case you believe you will be switching jobs and that your future employers would hone in on your GPA.

I was talking to a friend the other day about the difference between right now and first-year. “I can’t even imagine how we stayed at the library from 8am until 10pm for weeks at a time. How did we do it?” To which the response was: “Because we were worried and there were consequences to not doing your best.” That made me feel much better as I see the bar exam looming on the horizon. And I think that’s just it – there will be consequences to not doing my best on the bar exam and I worry about them. That should be enough to get my butt out of bed early every morning (in the summer in Chicago!), head down to a Bar/Bri review class, spend hours going over outlines, and then more hours going over review questions, and then do it all over again – for 12-14 weeks. We’ll see….

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

"I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade..."

“A Day In The Life” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, blending the dark verses of John, the poppy versus of Paul, and orchestration from George Martin (plus a ringing alarm clock!). However, a day in the life of a first year law student is not quite as wonderful. If I had to describe it in three words they would be: frightening, confusing, and overwhelming.

There are basically three different types of “days in the life” of a first semester, first year law student. There are the days in the first week of class. Then there are the days in September and October. Then there are the days in November and December. The three words above, however, basically apply to each and every day.

Looking first to the days just after spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks (which will ruin your back while carrying them around school), you try to figure out where to go and what exactly you’re supposed to be taking from reading all of those books. The first days of class can be very frightening. You will realize that all of your classmates are smart. You will also hear some of them describe just how smart they are by past accomplishments and where they went for undergrad. My experience has been that it really doesn’t matter where people went to undergrad or what their past accomplishment are – usually the hardest workers end up doing the best. So while most of your classmates will be guessing who will be in the prestigious “top 10%,” it is safe to assume that, for the most part, they will be wrong because it is very difficult to figure out just who are the hardest workers. The girl who won the CALI award numerous times first year (the top student in each particular subject) almost never spoke the entire year and was extremely unassuming. But she worked her butt off to understand the material and how to write a good exam answer.

Those first few days of school you will likely read the cases and text assigned. And then re-read it. And maybe even re-read it again. And still not know what’s going on. That is normal. It takes a few weeks to get a feel for what the class is about, what the professor expects, etc. Speaking of professors, there’s some that will try to use the “Socratic Method” of teaching that is discussed in detail in the book “One L.” Basically, the teacher calls on a student randomly and that student will have to answer all of the questions that the teacher poses – either for one case or one topic or potentially the entire class period. If you get those teachers then you better be prepared for class every day. Those classes can be a little nerve-racking, but in the end you’ll find that you know that material very well. Other teachers might just ask for volunteers or let you know ahead of time what people or rows of people are “up” for the next class.

Speaking of class, I need to run to one – but I will continue on my “Day In The Life” of a 1L next blog.

Monday, April 10, 2006

 

Question #1: Do I Want To Be A Lawyer?

I sat down to write a new posting about what a day as a law student is like, but I realized that I would really be skipping an important step – and maybe a step that I should have mentioned in my first blog (even before discussing law school applications). The issue is whether and why you want to get a law degree. I say law degree because there are a number of law students who do not become lawyers, and even some that had no desire to ever become a lawyer. Many want to start their own businesses or become writers or go into politics or become business professionals (to name just a few options). There’s even a doctor at my law school and a woman who is in her 70s that is going to law school just because her father once told her when she was younger: “Women can’t go to law school.” The best thing about a law degree is that it is beneficial in almost any field. Even the experience of law school is highly beneficial, as is the experience of studying and passing the bar exam. However, it is a very expensive venture and deciding to go to law school is something that should be considered with much thought.

So, setting aside all of the other ways that a law degree can be beneficial besides actually becoming a lawyer, what exactly does a lawyer do? A lawyer is defined as a professional person who is licensed to practice law. Not too helpful. The definition continues that a lawyer conducts lawsuits and gives legal advice. I would add that a lawyer also drafts legal documents. In my mind there are three “types” of lawyers: criminal, civil litigation, and civil transactional. There are probably many other types (like, for instance, an in-house counsel), but these are the main categories that I see. The thing about law school and the bar exam is that is trains you to be all three. In fact, as a lawyer, you have the ability to practice any type of law – “specializing” in a particular field of law is something that the lawyer himself or herself does on their own. So, for example, if you work extensively on patents and then your parents ask you to write their will, you have the license to do that. Now there are some special categories that you would need to get special certification for (like patent and admiralty, I believe), but for the most part any lawyer can write up any legal document and work on any case (as long as they follow the rules of professional responsibility, aka ethics). There is never any real need to figure out exactly what type of law you want to practice, especially in law school. Much of what type of law you practice will come through your experiences in law school and what jobs are available at a particular time.

Going back to my three main “types,” a criminal lawyer works on criminal cases – litigating on behalf or against a criminal. A civil litigation lawyer works on civil cases, which are those cases that do not involve crimes. Basically, the civil litigation lawyer would work with a client that has a problem and might want to sue or is being sued. A civil transactional attorney is basically one who deals in transactions not involving a lawsuit – this would include drafting wills, making real estate transactions, giving tax advice for corporate mergers, etc.

So what does it take to become a lawyer? Well, it somewhat depends on what kind of lawyer you want to be. However, the overarching qualities for all lawyers are to be effective communicators, great writers, dedicated researchers, and hard-workers. Criminal attorneys are always “in the action” and get the most court room experience earliest; but, generally speaking, they also make the least amount of money and the work can be very emotional. They need to attain good speaking skills and writing skills. Civil litigation attorneys also need to attain good speaking and writing skills because they will write a lot of complaints, briefs, and motions and are in the courtroom arguing their case. There will also be a great deal of researching. Civil transactional attorneys are usually experts in a particular area and must have very high attention to detail and excellent writing skills. For example, if you are a patent attorney it helps to have an engineering background so that you can effectively communicate with your client about their idea.

All of this is very general, but I hope that you get a basic picture. The decision to become a laywer is an important one because, while you might hear about all of the money that attorneys make or how much power they can have, it also takes a lot of money, hard work, and time. I looked at becoming a lawyer as a challenge and a way that I could help people. I believe that I made the right choice.

I’ll try to provide further detail in future postings – feel free to comment if you want more information on a particular area.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Help Your Community and Become a Better Lawyer!

To take a break from the boring discussion of law school admissions (this must be one of the most boring blogs ever, right??? – I’ll try to make it a little more exciting), I thought that I would discuss how service organizations and non-profits have played a role in my career.

Two weekends ago I went back to the University of Michigan to witness Dance Marathon at the Indoor Track and Field Building. If you don’t know about Dance Marathon check out the website at www.umdm.org (and get involved!). The organization raises money for children’s pediatric rehabilitation programs throughout the year, culminating in a 30-hour event where UofM students stand on their feet for 30 hours to show their dedication to the cause and have fun. While a student at UofM, I danced in the Marathon twice and was involved with managing the organization. I had an excellent undergraduate in experience, in great part due to the time I spent in Dance Marathon. I was able to test my mental and physical strength by standing on my feet for thirty hours, attempt to use some of the skills I was learning at the business school to assist the non-profit organization, and met wonderful children, students, and members of the University and Ann Arbor community. I also met some of my best friends through the organization and got to see many of them again at the Marathon this year.

I would highly suggest becoming involved in a service organization. Aside from the benefits listed above, I believe that experience in service organizations can help you in law school, assist in finding a job after law school, and make you a better lawyer (and a better person, obviously). One of the best skills that I learned from DM was time management. Attempting to balance school work, time with Dance Marathon, and having fun my senior year taught me to structure each day and prioritize my time. This became very useful in law school, especially the first year. When you realize that final exams for law school are coming up in a month it is very important to organize and prioritize your time so that you are getting the most out of your studying. Being involved in a service organization also makes you take a break from studying and focus on (what many see as) more important “real-world issues.” I was involved as an alumni member in Dance Marathon after I left the University, and I believe that taking a break from school work to assist the organization really helped to clear my head and feel that I was accomplishing something. When I got back to law school work I was more focused. The first semester of law school becomes very depressing and frightening because you will not know how well you are really doing (and if all of your hard work is paying off) until February or March of the second semester, so being able to get away for a while and accomplish something helps boost your confidence.

My experience with Dance Marathon certainly played a part in the scholarship that I was able to get to law school and the admissions process in general. As I stated before, my personal statement was about my experience in DM and (evidently) it caught the eyes of some of the law school deans. One of the deans even personally called me to discuss my experience in service organizations and he expressed his belief on how important it is for a law student to have a well-rounded background that includes community service.

I think that my experience with DM also played a part for me in finding a summer associateship. In fact, community service was the topic discussed the most in all of my interviews during second year – and was stressed by all firms as something that they valued. Now, I’m not really sure if some of the firms were just saying that to look good – but I know that the two firms I was choosing between at the end truly valued community service and make sure that their lawyers continue to give back to the community. I also heard that the legal profession does the most pro bono work of any other profession. I’m not sure if that’s true or not (I’ve got to think that social workers, non-profit workers, and doctors do a great deal of pro bono work), but it is definitely true that lawyers do quite a bit – it is recommended that lawyers do 50 hours of pro bono work a year. And quite a few young attorneys get their first experience with their own client and in the courtroom by taking a pro bono case. So, I guess lawyers don’t deserve to be the butt of all those bad jokes after all, right???

Dance Marathon raised a new record of $326,000 for children’s pediatric rehabilitation programs at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the UofM two weeks ago, and pushed the 9-year total to roughly $1,500,000! Congratulations to all of the dancers, committee members, Central Planning Team members, and all that contributed to the huge total!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

"Can I give over $100,000 to go to your school?" "Sure, just fill out this huge application and we'll get back to you in a few months."

Immediately below this posting is a picture of me that the University wanted me to post. I’m going to try to figure out how to get it posted in the top left corner of the blog (like all of the other UofM alumni that are doing the blogs).

Anyways, I promised that I would post some comments about my law school application experience. First of all, I remember that it took a long, long time to write my personal statement, but once I had it completed I basically just tweaked it a little bit for each application (there were different page requirements for different schools). I wrote my personal statement about my experience with Dance Marathon (which I will post about next). I know some people wrote about leadership, playing music, a tragedy they overcame, their experience working for human rights, why they wanted to go to law school, etc. etc. etc. I think that the topic you choose is probably important, but not the most important thing. My understanding is that they mostly just want to see how well you write.

As far as how many places to apply, I was told the following and I believe that it worked out well for me:

Apply to three schools that you are confident that you will be able to get into (safety nets)
Apply to three schools that you think you have a fairly good shot at getting into
Apply to three schools that you dream of going to (dreamer schools)

Obviously you should be able to see yourself at each one of these schools since, at the least, you have to pay for each application. Some other considerations for deciding which nine (or however many you decide) schools to apply to would be: location (city, state, and climate), programs at the school, and rankings (various). I was also able to get an offer of a scholarship at a couple of schools, which played a part in my final decision. For me location also played a large part because I really liked the city of Chicago and thought that it would be a city that I wouldn’t mind living near for years.

I also tried to visit all of the schools where I was accepted. I think that is a very important thing to do so that you can get a feel for actually being a student there. Try to go to one of the established visiting events or at least try to set up a tour with one of the current students during a private visit (they should be able to set this up if you call the admissions office). I would also suggest possibly stopping a student in the hall (if he/she doesn’t look too busy) to ask them their personal opinion of the school, since sometimes the staff and students who put on the events and private tours are prepped to say only certain good things about the law school. Also walk around the campus/city and possibly look into the housing options.

One more thing – it is important to figure out a timeline for the applications and stick to it. You don’t want to have to rush through applications and mail them out just before the deadline. Start early (October or November I believe is the usual time) and work through them carefully.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

Michael Mayer Posted by Picasa

 

There are five people...if you can tell us in what order they are standing then you can go to law school!!

It's kinda scary for me to realize that I took the LSAT over four years ago now. I also realized that many of you might be seniors that, if you were thinking of following the same path that I did, already took the LSAT and applied to law schools; but I'm going to start from the beginning anyways. Plus, it is never too late to go back to law school - I would say that about half of my law school class took some time off before going back. There's even some 60 and 70 year-olds running around the halls (and one doctor that I know of)!

Anyways, the LSAT is usually a horrible experience. It's a funky test that, it seems to me, shows little to nothing about how you will achieve in law school. I think that someone's ability to work hard is a much better factor, but I guess it is a little hard to test that in a standardized, quick way. So, instead we're stuck with still having to take the LSAT.

My words of advice for this test is to start studying for it a few months in advance, go to Kaplan class, and time yourself on practice tests. Also, read through the explanations to practice questions (if available). I remember taking my LSAT at the UofM law school. It was almost 100 degrees and the windows were closed. I asked the proctor if we could open the windows because it was so hot in there that I was sweating onto my scantron - and I don't usually sweat very much. His response was: "If everyone else agrees, then I will open them." Well, there were about 90 people in the room. 87 agreed that the windows should be opened. 3 didn't. The windows remained shut and I continued to take the horrible test in what must be an environment similar to hell. So, another word of advice is to scope out where you want to take the exam and whether that location has proper air conditioning or heating (depending on when you it).

I'll be back soon to discuss applications (or whatever questions anyone posts). I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

So you wanna stay in school for 3 more years????

Hello to my fellow Wolverines. As it states in the upper left hand corner (in what must be 60-point font), my name is Michael. I'm a 2003 University of Michigan graduate of the business school. During my time at the business school I asked myself the question that is the title to this post: "So you wanna stay in school for 3 more years?" in reference to attending law school right out of college. And my answer, after thinking that I didn't care for most of the material covered in the business school classes, was "YES." So I took the LSAT, applied to some schools, visited different cities and campuses, and settled on being a law student in Chicago. I believe that I made the right decision, but I'm obviously not sure if that would be the right decision for you. I'm here - well, actually this blog is here - to help you find out how you should answer the title question. And by the way, it might be 4 more years of school if you are planning on attending part-time.

So I invite you all to please leave some comments and questions for me on this blog. I will do my best to answer them as quickly and detailed as I can. Any and all questions are welcome, though I'm not sure if I'll be able to answer them all.

Over the next few weeks I will try to post some more information about me, my experience as a law school applicant, how my time at Michigan prepared me for law school, how I survived first year, the process of finding a job, and more.

Enjoy your St. Patty's Day and the NCAA tourney - maybe we can finally make it next year (I, unfortunately, had to suffer through the Brian Ellerbe years).

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