Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students

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9780312605117: Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students
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I WISH I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW!

Don't get to the end of your law school career muttering these words to yourself! Take the first step toward building a productive, successful, and perhaps even pleasant law school experience―read this book!

Written by students, for students, Law School Confidential has been the "must-have" guide for anyone thinking about, applying to, or attending law school for more than a decade. And now, in this newly revised third edition, it's more valuable than ever.
This isn't the advice of graying professors or battle-scarred practitioners long removed from law school. Robert H. Miller has assembled a blue-ribbon panel of recent graduates from across the country to offer realistic and informative firsthand advice about what law school is really like.
This updated edition contains the very latest information and strategies for thriving and surviving in law school―from navigating the admissions process and securing financial aid, choosing classes, studying and exam strategies, and securing a seat on the law review to getting a judicial clerkship and a job, passing the bar exam, and much, much more. Newly added material also reveals a sea change that is just starting to occur in legal education, turning it away from the theory-based platform of the previous several decades to a pragmatic platform being demanded by the rigors of today's practices.
Law School Confidential is a complete guide to the law school experience that no prospective or current law student can afford to be without.

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About the Author:

ROBERT H. MILLER graduated from Yale University in 1993 and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in May 1998, where he served as senior editor of the Law Review. After graduation, he served a prestigious federal court clerkship, and is now an attorney at the well-known New England law firm Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green, where he specializes in constitutional, intellectual property, and business litigation.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1
 
Thinking About Law School? Think Again …
 
Know thyself.
—SOCRATES
 
THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE of advice that can possibly be given to you, the prospective law student, is simple. Surprisingly, perhaps, it has nothing to do with how to study or how to write a good exam. It is not about how to glean wisdom from the dusty pages of the U.S. Supreme Court opinions that shaped our country, or how to make the law review, or how to impress an employer in a job interview. Those things are important, but they’re all secondary.
The most important advice that you can get as a prospective law student isn’t even about law school. It’s about you—and it can be summed up succinctly but completely with a single word.
Commit.
That’s it. “To carry into action deliberately.” Commit.
Show up for your first day of law school with only a vague notion of why you’re there—without a clear set of reasons for putting yourself through the punishment you’re about to endure—and you’ll be setting yourself up for a miserable and unfulfilling three years. Show up committed, with a well thought-out set of goals supported by reasons for attaining them, and the experience can be exhilarating.
The choice is yours. You picked up this book looking for answers, or maybe a “quick fix” that will put you ahead of your competitors in the rough-and-tumble world of law school. You have it in one word: commit. That’s it. Don’t “decide” to go to law school. Don’t “try” law school. Commit to law school. That is the pure axiom of law school success. Commit, or forget it—for in law school, to quote the ancient Jedi master Yoda, “there is no try.”
Still with me?
Now … about the cocky guy next to you who just put this book back on the shelf with a “Hrumph” after reading these first few paragraphs—don’t worry about him. That’s the overconfident guy who will spend the first weeks of law school casually reading cases, partying in the bars, and teasing you about studying too much. Learn to love that guy because he’s someone you’re going to flog on your first-semester finals. Trust me on that because I used to know that guy.
He was me.
Step number one on the road to your commitment to law school is to ask yourself one critical question. Why do you want to go to law school?
No really. Think about it. What’s driving you? Force yourself to come up with an answer. Now be honest. Does your answer, or something like it, appear on this list?
• because my mom/dad/sibling/relative/friend is a lawyer
• because I took the LSAT and got a good score
• because I’m not good at science and wouldn’t be able to get into med school
• because lawyers make good salaries and have financial and/or job security
• because most of the people at my school are applying to law/med school
• because I watch  Law & Order reruns and think they’re interesting
• because I’ve read all of John Grisham’s novels and find them fascinating
• because I don’t know what else to do and law is a respectable profession
• because my parents/relatives/teachers/friends think I’m a “born lawyer”
Okay. So if your rationale for going to law school appears above, all is not lost. It just means that you need to rethink your motivations because these just aren’t going to cut it for you. Let’s dispel some illusions.
My relative the lawyer made me do it
First of all, what is it about your parent/sibling/friend the lawyer that makes you want to follow him into his profession? Is it the money? The prestige? Do you even know whether this person is happy practicing law? Have you asked him lately? More important, have you ever followed this person through a typical day—or even better, a typical week? Ever ask this person what he likes least about the law, or about how much time he spends in court compared to how much time he spends with his nose buried in the books? Ever ask how long it took him to make partner, or how many hours a week he had to work to become partner? Ever ask him how much time he gets to spend with his kids, on his hobbies, or exercising? How her relationships are with her family and friends? These are revealing questions that may help you explore a career in law more realistically. Ask them before you romanticize your relative the lawyer.
I can’t ignore this amazing LSAT score, can I?
Why not? The LSAT is allegedly an aptitude test that predicts how well you’ll do in law school, but the accuracy of this correlation is controversial and much debated. A good LSAT score is a tremendous asset when applying to law schools. A whole chapter in this book is devoted to teaching you how to get the best possible score. However, the test bears almost no resemblance to what you’ll be doing in law school, and even less to the actual practice of law. Both law school and law practice require well-developed research and writing skills, and to a lesser extent, oral advocacy proficiency, none of which is tested on the LSAT. No legal concepts are tested on the LSAT, which is basically a souped-up, trickier SAT. Yet some would use a good LSAT score to justify law as a career choice. A good LSAT score may bring you to the dance, but it’s no guarantee that you’ll be happy to be there.
I don’t have a mind for science, so …
Otherwise known as the old “I can’t be a doctor because I couldn’t hack orgo, so I might as well be a lawyer” rationale. Trust me, I get it … I took orgo twice myself, but seriously, where’s the logic in that argument? We’re not playing the game of Life here—this is the real thing. Contrary to the beliefs of many, there are other career choices besides law, medicine, and investment banking. Maybe you should explore some of them. Take a year off to travel, learn a language, teach, write, or work for a nonprofit or volunteer organization. Start your own business. Think a little and figure out what it is that you like to do. Don’t just fall into this ridiculous mind trap and go straight for the law school applications because all your friends are doing it. To quote your mom, “If all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge…”
It’s the economy, stupid
This is one of the biggest misconceptions of all. If you’re going into law because you think it’s your road to riches, stop and go directly to business school or ignore the advice in the last section and become an I-banker. That’s where the real money is. While associates in big-city law firms  do make six-figure salaries right out of law school, in a good year I-bankers at comparably large investment firms commonly make that much in their holiday bonus. Similarly, a successful business idea can bring you a partner-level salary two or three years after start-up, not to mention stock options, a flexible work schedule, and the pleasure of being your own boss.
Remember this—the average lawyer’s salary in the United States is still only about $40,000 per year. Sure, partners at big-city firms may pull down over a million a year … but those big salaries generally belong only to the real rainmakers, and it may have taken even them fifteen to twenty years of eighty-hour weeks, two failed marriages, and a heart attack to get there. Clients don’t just grow on trees or fall out of the sky. You have to earn the right to represent clients, and that takes serious time and effort. Meanwhile, the prosecutors you’ve romanticized from television or the novels you’ve read may make as little as $25,000 a year while working the same hours. So don’t kid yourself. A career in law does provide some job security and a good assurance that you and your family won’t starve on the streets, but if money is your primary motivator, there are much easier ways to make your millions.
This ain’t Hollywood, son
That brings us to the unspoken reason why many people go to law school—the secret longing to be Tom Cruise in  The Firm, Gregory Peck in  To Kill a Mockingbird, Sam Waterston in  Law & Order. Unfortunately, this too is a romanticized notion of the law. Most lawyers never make guest appearances on CNN or get to parade secret, star witnesses into court to the gasps of the gallery. The vast majority of cases settle before trial, and the work between intake and settlement is a long, private grind of discovery battles, document review, motion practice, and many hours spent reading, writing, and thinking far from the limelight. If your aspirations about law school center on supercharged days before a jury and invitations to appear on national television after your latest victory, it’s time to wake up to the reality of what the practice of law is really like.
Most lawyers, even the really good ones, typically toil in the state and lower federal courts, often on mundane legal issues. Most lawyers will never argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, and an appearance before a circuit court of appeals or a chance to break new legal ground may only occur once or twice in a career. That’s not to say that your days as a lawyer won’t be interesting or intellectually challenging. Many of them will be. But they won’t be like what you see in the movies.
Finally, remember that even what you see on  Law & Order is the culmination of hundreds of hours of hard work in the library reading cases, developing theories, drafting court briefs and memoranda, and taking depositions from unwilling witnesses in law firm conference rooms—things the producers will never show you on television. For every hour of court time you log, you may spend hundreds of hours reading, researching, and writing. If you become a civil or criminal litigator or a prosecutor, you’ll have your days in court before a judge and jury—but if you go to work for a big-city firm, it may take you five to ten years to even see the inside of a courtroom, and even longer to try your own cases. In the meantime, you’ll be a researcher—analyzing issues, finding applicable cases, and writing memoranda to the more senior associates and partners in the firm. You’ll typically be asked to work sixty-to-eighty-hour weeks, late nights, and at least some weekends.
Your fate is typically better in a smaller firm, or working for a state or federal prosecutor. Doing so can bring these opportunities much more rapidly—often within the first year or two, but these positions typically pay much less.
On the corporate side, it is much the same story. If you want to become a dealmaker in a large city, you’ll need to get in line. For the first few years, you’ll be paid handsomely to draft boilerplate agreements and spend late nights at the printer arguing over the placement of commas in merger agreements and initial public offerings. Remember that at a big firm, there may be sixty to eighty starry-eyed associates in your “class,” all of whom want the same plum assignments that you do. Someone has to do the scut work, though, and for the first few years, that will be you. While smaller firms again offer more rapid opportunity, the deals are also smaller. Further, someone still has to proofread these agreements—and that someone is still going to be you. Oh—and if you’re thinking of going the in-house route, remember that most corporations won’t even consider hiring someone right out of law school. You’ll need some years of firm experience first, unless you hook up with your friend’s start-up company, and if you do, remember that 95 percent of these “start-up” companies never actually get anywhere.
Of course, there are exceptions to all these scenarios. Partners in big firms will occasionally take promising young associates under their wings, channel them interesting and important work, or provide them with uncommon opportunities to sit “third chair” in a trial, or to help “put the deal together.” Be clear, though: These are the exceptions, not the rule. The road to partnership is paved with disillusioned associates who became bored and disenchanted with the work they were given and left voluntarily, or who, after seven years spent toiling in the mines, were told that they were not on the partner track and should look elsewhere for employment. In a typical large firm, of an entering class of forty to eighty associates, only a small handful, maybe three to five, will survive to make partner eight or ten years later.
Hey, you! Yeah, you—the one with the distressed look on your face about to reach for that copy of  Med School Confidential instead. Relax. It’s not all bad. It’s just that there are so many people out there with misconceptions about law practice that we need to clear away the delusions up front to approach this experience with more realistic expectations. Now that we’ve done this, it’s time for more introspection. Let’s explore whether you have an accurate picture of what your law school experience will entail. As you read the questions that follow, carefully consider the answers that come from within. Pay particular attention if a “Yeah, but…” comes up. Trust me—it’s better to deal with this crisis now than to experience it a month into your first semester.
A REALISTIC EVALUATION OF YOUR FITNESS FOR LAW SCHOOL
Go somewhere where you can be undisturbed for the next thirty minutes or so and force yourself to answer the following questions honestly. What follows is a realistic picture of the day-to-day grind of law school. In many ways, it’s also an accurate picture of the day-to-day life of a young lawyer. So forget the glamorous pictures of law practice you’ve seen on television and in the movies and be honest with yourself. While few people will find themselves completely in love with the thought of spending their next three years holed up in a library, if what you see below is too far out of sync with what drives you, your misery may last much longer than the three years you’ll be in school.
• How comfortable are you with the idea of spending the majority of each day in silence, reading difficult material?
• Do you or could you have the stamina to read dry, complicated material for four to six hours a day, every day?
• Are you self-reliant, or do you depend on others for constant encouragement, evaluation, and/or affirmation?
• Can you seize the main points of an assignment and move on, or do you typically get hopelessly bogged down in detail?
• Are you disciplined enough to get up and attend classes every day?
• Are you comfortable speaking out in class and arguing in front of others?
• Have you been able to “will” yourself through difficult periods in your life?
• When you don’t understand something, are you capable of teaching yourself?
• Do you enjoy doing research, searching through books in a library or online databases, for pieces to a puzzle or “the answer” to a problem?
• Do you like to write critically and analytically?
• Is your personality more proactive than reactive?
• When you’ve given your best effort, will you be able to sleep at night knowing that you’ve done the best you could, or are you more likely to beat yourself up wondering if there was more you could have done?
• Are you ready to make the law your life for the next three years by subverting most of your hobbies, other interests, and your social life to serious academic dedication?
It’s probably obvious from the way these questions were worded, but you’re looking for mostly yes responses—or at least the probability that you’ll be able to work up to yes responses on each of these questions. If you’ve had too many “oh-ohs” during this evaluation, you should take that as a warning. For example, if you don’t like to read, you’re making a big mistake applying to...

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