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...

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