Pre-Law

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Anna Ivey helps prospective law school applicants improve their résumé for fall applications.

Are you staring at your résumé and experiencing a mild sense of panic wondering how you’re going to beef it up between now and the time you submit your applications this fall?

You may be tempted to sign up for a flurry of impressive-sounding activities, but remember that quality matters a whole lot more than quantity. Admissions officers know what résumé padding looks like. In fact, they have a finely tuned antenna for that sort of thing. Any activity where you list your main contribution as “member” — i.e. just showing up — isn’t going to count for much.

You’ll also have to list start dates for your jobs and activities, as well as hours per week, when it comes time to apply. It will be completely transparent if all of a sudden you discover a grand passion for immigrant aid volunteering, or sustainability work, or the inner workings of the Dodd-Frank Act three months before you apply. Track records matter.

Read more 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, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice with future and current lawyers on what they should be reading this summer.

Looking for some summer reading? Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (affiliate link) is short enough to read in a few hours as you lounge in a hammock, but has enough heft to keep you thinking for much longer.

Who Should Read This Book?

Whether you’re considering applying to law school, you’re starting soon, you’re currently in law school, or you’ve already graduated, Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a must-read.

So, pretty much, it’s a must-read for anyone who’s in the legal profession currently, or who’s thinking about joining.

Why? Because Richard Susskind has written a short, readable introduction to the many challenges and opportunities the profession will face in the next 30 years (aka, the length of your legal career). Ignore him at your peril….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: Summer Reading List — Tomorrow’s Lawyers”

As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.

(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)

We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.

What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park advises prospective law students on selecting an online law school.

Which are the very best online law schools?

This is hard question because there isn’t a clear ranking system — U.S. News doesn’t rank online degree programs (neither does Above the Law) — and actual first-hand information is scarce for online law schools. There isn’t much accountability at online law schools.

Let’s take a step back.

No juris doctor program at an online law school, at the moment, is going to give you the kind of career you would have if you attended a national top-tier law school like Harvard, or even a regional powerhouse (like University of Alabama if you live in Alabama).

Indeed, there are not that many online law schools, actually, that permit you to sit for any state’s bar exam. None are, at the moment, ABA-accredited (this is important because if you graduate from a law school with ABA accreditation, you can take the bar exam in any of the 50 states of the U.S.).

There are a lot more programs that offer a masters of law online if you already have a juris doctor.

So, with all of that as a warning, let me pick a couple of the best online law schools if you are dead set on getting an online law degree. Again, below, I consider juris doctor and LL.M. programs separately.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

We present the inaugural ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings. Our rankings methodology is based purely on outcomes, especially on the schools’ success in placing its graduates into quality, real attorney jobs.

Read more »

Today, we present the third and final installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice is joined by Mike Sims, President of BARBRI, Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School, and John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part III)”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park gives some practical advice to prospective law students on how to finance their education.

Law school scholarships are the most important way you can fund your painfully expensive legal education. Law school grants are more rare and not much different than scholarships.

Otherwise, you will — as with most law students — fall back on law school loans to fund your education. Be very, very, very careful with this route. Let me say this in all caps and bold so you can hear me:

DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL WITHOUT A CLEAR PLAN TO FUND YOUR EDUCATION!!!

Sorry for shouting.

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

Today, we present the second installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal are joined by Nicole Wanzer, Law School Recruiting Manager at Morrison Foerster and David Thompson an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part II)”

Today, we present the first installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. With the assistance of our very own Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal hosting the program, we are joined by Nicholas, a 1L at the University of Texas Law School and Jenna, a 2L from Florida State who transferred from Nova Southeastern and landed a summer position at Greenberg Traurig.

Future hangouts will feature a professor from Harvard, the president of BARBRI, Biglaw hiring partners and associates, and more current law students. Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part I)”

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 gives prospective law school applicants valuable advice on how to write the most effective personal statement.

If you’re sitting down right now, trying to write the most brilliant, persuasive, powerful personal statement ever written, but your fingers are paralyzed on the keys, you’re not alone. “I hate to write about myself,” some tell me. Others say, “My life has been pretty boring/sheltered/standard/privileged.” Still others say, “I went through hard times but I don’t want to write a sob story.” How do you hit the perfect compromise and create a personal statement you can be proud of?

Here are a few ideas to get you started on brainstorming topics:

1. It’s very hard to go back to the drawing board after writing an intro and conclusion, so just start writing your ideas down and sharing your stories and experiences. Start writing like you would a journal or blog post, using a conversational tone. Write how you speak. You can fix the grammar and spelling later. Fine-tune conclusions and themes later. Right now, get your stories on paper and see what themes naturally emerge.

2. Yes, your final personal statement will be between 500 words and four pages depending on each law school’s specifications. Most law schools want two-to-three pages. And yes, this is double-spaced. But don’t think about that. When you first get started you should write at least four pages so you have room to cut.

3. Don’t try to weave together everything you’ve ever done. Find things that are similar, either in subject matter or in exhibiting a trait you’re trying to demonstrate, and only weave them together if it really works.

4. Don’t reiterate things from your resume. Leave job descriptions to the résumé, and if you discuss résumé items in your personal statement, be sure to take a more anecdotal and lessons-learned approach rather than describing your duties and accomplishments.

5. Going in chronological order can be a trap. There is no reason to start with the day you were born, no matter how dramatic the birth might have been. Start with the most interesting thing about you — get the reader’s interest by sharing information about you that will be likable and interesting and as captivating as possible. Don’t try to “warm up” to your story with childhood memories, no matter how cute. You can always reflect back on those memories later in the essay if they were essential in formulating your goals and ideals and if they provide real context for your later achievements.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

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