Pre-Law

Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.

Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)

So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?

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Ed note: Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep, featuring live LSAT classes across the country and the online LSAT course Blueprint: The Movie — which are now open for enrollment for the 2014 September LSAT.

Taking the LSAT has apparently gone out of style. LSAC just released the numbers from the June 2014 LSAT, and only 21,802 law school hopefuls took the test. That’s down 9.1% from June of last year, and down 33.9% from the June LSAT’s peak in 2010. The last time so few took the June LSAT, Bill Clinton was president and Beyoncé was known primarily as a member of Destiny’s Child.

The continued decline in the number of LSAT takers is good news for aspiring lawyers as it’s likely that the number of law school applicants will similarly continue to decline. That, in turn, means less competition in law school admissions. Perhaps more importantly, there’s likely to be less competition for legal jobs in a few years, as that decline in law school applicants translates into fewer law school graduates.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.

Non-traditional applicants to law school face different barriers to admission and have different concerns regarding school choice, finances, and post-graduation career options than their counterparts who attend law school directly (or within a year or two) of graduating from college.

Three recent law school graduates who fit this mold when they applied took the time to share their thoughts and perspectives in order to benefit future applicants. One graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in his mid-40s (Scott), one graduated from Notre Dame with a JD/MBA after serving in the military (Todd), and one attended Western New England after 20+ years as a paralegal and office manager for a large law firm (Susan).

1. What were some of your concerns applying to law school as a non-traditional applicant? What were some challenges you faced because you were not right out of college?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, David Mainiero, Admissions Expert at InGenius Prep, examines major factors pre-law students should consider after taking the June LSAT.

You’ve finished the June LSAT… now what? In this blog series, I will help you navigate the perilous road to 1L.

First, decide whether (and why) you’re going to retake the LSAT in October.

Given that you just finished the LSAT, you’ve put at least three and a half hours of thought into one incredibly important component of the application. For your sake, we hope that wasn’t the extent of the thought you put into the LSAT.

Even in some cases where you have planned and studied appropriately, you might be considering re-taking the test. Or, if you aren’t reconsidering it yet, you might be when you get your score. There is nothing wrong with this. Tons of successful applicants to even the most selective law schools in the country take the LSAT multiple times; that’s not to say it’s encouraged, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. I myself took the LSAT three times.

There is plenty of generic advice out there about the circumstances under which you should retake the test, but ultimately it is a highly individualized decision. Nonetheless, here is some guidance on how to make this decision.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Lee Burgess offers advice for pre-law students on how to spend the summer before law school.

The question is often presented to us about what to do in the summer before your 1L year. Some future law students are working full time. Some are taking a break after graduating from undergrad. The burning question is — what should you do to help you be best prepared for your 1L year?

First, a personal story. I didn’t do anything to get ready for my 1L year. I was working full time prior to the start of law school and I left my job just a week or so before orientation. I think I went shopping and bought some new jeans because I wouldn’t have to dress up every day anymore. I know, great planning. Do I regret the decision to do nothing related to law school prep? Not really, in the sense that I needed to work and save money to help pay for law school. And I was able to catch on to law school well enough. But my first semester grades (to be perfectly honest) were not the best grades of my legal career. My grades went up during law school, as I continued to master the law school skill set. I have to wonder what would have happened if I had invested some time during the summer before law school getting up to speed on what law school exams looked like. I will never know, but in hindsight it might not have been a bad idea, something to consider at least.

But now having the start to my law school career well into my rearview mirror, here are five things you should do to get ready for your 1L year.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Dave Hall, founder of Velocity Test Prep, and David Mainiero, Admissions Expert at InGenius Prep, examine major factors pre-law students should consider before selecting a law school

So, you rocked your college grades, steamrolled the LSAT, impressed/conned/bribed your professors into writing outstanding recommendation letters, crafted the perfect law school résumé, and rounded out all of that perfection with an ideal theme for your personal statement and supplementary essays. Now, the only thing left to do is pick your law school out of the pile of admissions offers flooding your mailbox. Good problem to have, but how do you choose?

This is a matter we’ve given some thought to, and we suggest that you may want to use these three factors to make your decision. (Now, these three factors assume that your goal is to get a reasonably high-paying Biglaw or “medium law” type job. If that’s not your goal, the second section of this article will be much more relevant to you.)

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.

Spring is finally here and after a rough winter in most of the country, you’re probably longing for the lazy days of summer. But if you’re planning to apply to law school this fall, there are some things you should consider doing before you book that trip to the beach.

Your first summer homework assignment is to make sure you understand the law school admissions process and timeline. You can visit the Law School Expert blog for an overview of the process and a sample law school application checklist.

Once you have a good understanding of the mechanics of applying to law school, you should consider your motive in doing so. I challenge you to take this summer to explore whether the law is right for you — and I mean the reality of what it means to be a lawyer, not what you think you know from watching House of Cards.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. In mid-April, pre-law students will begin to hear back from law schools. Today, Joel Butterly gives some practical advice for pre-laws who end up on their dream school’s waiting list.

We’ve all been waitlisted at one time or another. It sucks. It might even be worse than a flat-out rejection. Now, you have to wait around knowing that your chances of getting into your dream law school are slimmer than ever; that any day might be the day you receive the thin-envelope-of-death. A bitter reward after months spent on the LSAT and your LSAC application. Hope is low. Despair is at an all time high. So is your caloric intake.

Before I launch into specific “to-dos,” I want to emphasize that expectation management is important. Completing these steps is in no way a guarantee that you will get accepted. However, I am a firm believer that students unwilling to quit on their aspirations almost always end up succeeding. While the battle for this particular law school may eventually be lost, the war has just begun.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.

Law schools have been increasing their scholarship opportunities in order to lure applicants. Why? Because law school applicants are in demand. Applications are down yet again, and law schools are scrambling to fill their seats. (See TaxProf Blog for exact numbers and trends, year over year.)

As law schools compete for qualified applicants with better scholarships, it may be easier to consider criteria like debt alongside rank and prestige when choosing a law school. As part of this new trend, law schools are adding on scholarship programs to make attending law school more affordable. Villanova Law recently announced an initiative to add 50 full-tuition scholarships for three years, and in-state students at Penn State are being offered $20,000 per year as part of a new scholarship program.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Last week, we looked at which Biglaw firms were the highest rated in 2013 by their own lawyers, according to the ATL Insider Survey. As we noted, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses to our survey from practicing lawyers and law students. The information from our survey provides our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating schools and firms, particularly in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories.

Today, we continue to milk the “it’s a New Year/here’s a list” format and present 2013’s highest-rated law schools. Please note this is not to be confused with the ATL Law School Rankings, which assess schools based on a range of employment outcomes (and which are coming out later this year). These ratings are a pure function of how schools were rated by current students in the areas of academics, financial aid advising, career services, practical/clinical training, and social life.

More clues that these are not the ATL Law School Rankings: Northeastern beats Northwestern, while Yale and Harvard do not even make the cut…

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