Pre-Law

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….

Law schools, properly understood, ought to be viewed as regional vocational schools. You will have to pass the bar exam for the state in which you want to practice, and a law school in that state, in theory at least, is more likely to prepare you for the specific content on the state bar. Typically, the majority of alumni don’t stray too far, so the strongest network will be local, for local jobs. It’s to your advantage to go to school where you want to practice, sometimes even more so than going to a higher-ranked school.

With this in mind, last week we looked at our ATL Insider Survey results pertaining to New York City-area law schools. We examined how current law students rate their schools in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

Today we turn to Boston. The results of our survey might surprise you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Is the Most Wicked Awesome Law School in Boston?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Gregory Henning of Anna Ivey Consulting explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the application process. Part one of the series can be found here.

The typical law school application might require you to write three pieces: a main essay (two pages), a résumé (one page), and an optional statement on your interest in the school or some other topic (one page). That’s only four pages. Not too bad, right?

But those four pages are your only chance (in most cases) to communicate directly to the admissions officers. These documents are your only opportunity to step outside of the “numbers” to make a case for why you should be admitted. This is the only time the school will hear from you. Those four pages are starting to become pretty important…

Now think about your entire list of schools. Let’s say you plan to apply to 10 schools. You can expect to write two main essays (a personal statement and professional statement, depending on what a given school is asking for) and at least one résumé (some schools might ask for a longer variation of the one-page version that other schools require). If you apply to 10 schools, five might invite an optional statement about your interest in attending the school. Another three or four might ask for an optional essay on a different topic. If you believe you could add to the diversity of an incoming class, you may have a chance to submit an optional statement about that. Do you have any academic or criminal disclosure issues that need to be discussed and explained separately? If so, you’ll be producing another document.

Did you lose count? Even using a conservative estimate, it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be producing at least 10 separate pieces of writing when you apply to law school. That’s manageable, and certainly the content may overlap in many cases. You can create 10 documents. But wait, there’s more…

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Apologies to the Saul Steinberg Foundation.

New York City is the logical starting point for this occasional series highlighting law schools in specific locales. New Yorkers’ self-regard is bloated enough to believe they are at the Center of the Universe and that everything that happens there is naturally interesting to everyone, everywhere. The ATL Insider Survey asks, among other things, current law students to rate how their schools are doing in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

After the jump, check out how the students at Columbia, NYU, NYLS, Hofstra, Fordham, St. John’s, CUNY, Seton Hall, Rutgers-Newark, and Brooklyn rate their institutions. Somehow we don’t have sufficient survey responses from Pace or Touro….

UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): Apologies to Cardozo Law School. You were mistakenly left out of the initial version of this post and we have revised it to include you.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who Are the Happiest Law Students in New York City?”

A couple weeks ago, we shared with you some of our survey data, which showed that, generally speaking, law students’ experiences with their schools degrade over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in the areas of academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. When the ratings by first-year students are compared with those of third-years, the 3L scores are lower across the board, in all categories. In other words, the longer students are exposed to their schools, the lower their regard for the institution becomes. More equals worse.

We wondered whether or how this downward trajectory manifests itself after the students become alumni. After the jump, we compare the perceptions of students to those of graduates. The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Also, we identify the law schools where there is the greatest contrast between the views of current students and alumni — both negatively and positively….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Schools May Appear Worse in the Rearview Mirror”

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 explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the upcoming application process.

You watch Law & Order reruns. You spoke to some lawyers who applied to law school ten years ago. You have a friend who is in law school right now, and he says you have nothing to worry about. You even looked at a sample LSAT test that a colleague of yours was taking. It looks doable enough. Maybe someone even told you to take the test cold to “see how you do.” You figure you’ll have a personal statement to write and some recommendations to line up, no big deal.

You think you know what the law school application process will be like, right? Think again.

Most prospective law school applicants are not fully informed about what will actually be required of them in order to apply to law school. That lack of information causes applicants to misjudge, and often underestimate, how much of their time and effort they will need to produce strong application materials.

So what should you expect from the application process? This week, we’re starting a series of tips on how to get yourself mentally prepared for what lies ahead if you hope to submit strong law school applications this fall.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

A 3L in a ‘law-and-blank’ class yesterday.

“One of the well-known facts about law school is it never took three years to do what we are doing; it took maybe two years at most, maybe a year-and-a-half,” Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law, said in a 2010 speech. The continuing existence of the third year of law school is generally held to be one of the basic structural defects in our current legal education model, alongside the contracted job market and soaring tuition. There have been efforts to address the problem, the latest being NYU’s announced overhaul of its third year curriculum.

Yet these attempts to redefine what the 3L year means appear to many like half-measures at best, “lipstick on a pig” at worst. As we noted back in November, Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana/Maurer has made a sweeping proposal that calls for a special new program for 3Ls by a coalition of willing law schools. The 3Ls would embark on a skills-based, teamwork-heavy course of study in partnership with law firms who agree to employ the students, albeit at a reduced rate. Also, there is a proposal currently before the New York Bar that would allow students to take the bar exam after two years. These students would not obtain a J.D. unless they return for their third year, but would be eligible for a bar card.

In assessing the NYU proposal (basically an increase in study abroad and specialty courses), Professor Kenneth Anderson argues that law schools have allowed educational incentives (i.e., learning to how to be a lawyer) and credentialing incentives (i.e., becoming an attractive job candidate) to drift apart: “The problem lies in how very, very unattractive we’ve institutionally made [students’] incentives – and the price tag attached to what is essentially a bet rather than investment. It’s a bet with many more bad payoffs than good ones.”

All the discussion and debate about the three-year law school model focuses, understandably, on the utility of that third year. We thought it would be interesting to have a look at our survey data to get a sense of how the experience of law students changes over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. We wondered how, if at all, these perceptions differ between 1Ls and 3Ls….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Downhill Road from 1L to 3L”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the first of a two-part series, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice on how manage your workflow.

As your work piles up, you will often feel as if you can’t possibly finish it. Each project seems overwhelming when you think about it in the abstract. And as soon as you start work on a new project, and figure out what it will actually require, it can become even more overwhelming.

This article and its sequel share a few techniques I use to help gain some control over my workflow. Few of these ideas are original, but I’ve included my own variations and suggestions.

A. Managing Everything. You will feel less overwhelmed if you protect yourself from feeling physically overwhelmed by the projects on your plate. For example, don’t cover your desk with piles of active tasks. For each active task, collect the various pieces of paper in a folder. Put all your folders away. Keep a “to-do” list of all your active tasks — every one of them — without writing other reminders to yourself anywhere else. Your to-do list should include everything. My own to-do list consists of a Word document with three columns: client work; other work; and personal projects. First priority tasks go to the top of each list. Some people use Outlook or even dedicated software. In any case, keep track of what you need to do and your priorities in a way that you don’t unintentionally leave anything behind. You should, however, also stay flexible in reordering and adjusting the list as you go. Regardless of format, a to-do list will help you feel more in control of your agenda, inviting you to set priorities and take each job one at a time. It’s far better than living with a chaotic physical mess that constantly taunts you about what you haven’t done….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: Getting Your Work Done (Part One)”

Are you thinking about going to law school — and being encouraged to go, or even pressured to go, by your parents? Let’s start with the probably reasonable premise that your parents want the best for you. (Sure, your parents might be sociopaths who are trying to destroy your life, but why would you listen to them at all, if that’s the case?)

Not infrequently, the parental conception of “what’s best for you” involves a stint in law school. If you don’t want to go, how can you convince your parents that law school is a terrible, awful, very bad idea?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: How To Tell Your Parents You’re Not Going to Law School”

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