Law School Swag

July 31, 2010 at 1:58 am (Misc.)

Law School Dreamer now has its very own shop of law school-related merchandise.  Every purchase goes directly to my law school tuition fund (which currently has a balance of zip/nada/zilch). 

http://www.cafepress.com/LawSchoolDreamer

I’ve never been the creative, artsy type, but I found this to be a lot of fun.  And who knows, maybe I’ll earn a buck or two. I’d be happy to custom design whatever may be desired.  Just send an email to: lawschooldreamer at gmail dot com.  Here are a few of my designs:

EsquireLaw SchoolLaw SchoolLaw School GunnerLaw SchoolLaw SchoolKeepsake Box

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I. Hate. Haters.

July 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm (Misc.)

Apparently the news of my wishing to attend law school has spread like wildfire throughout my firm.  I had kept my aspirations a secret for two years, fielded questions about what I was hoping to do with my political science degree, and whether I still saw a future for myself working as a paralegal at my firm.  Among many reasons, the main reason for me keeping things under wraps was my own fear and anxiety.  I was afraid that if I told anyone about my goals and bombed the LSAT or wasn’t able to get-in to law school I would be too embarrassed to face the attorneys I work with, much less the other secretaries and paralegals at my firm (who would likely snicker at me). 

So I waited until I received my LSAT score back and could be assured I would at least get in somewhere.  That was a month ago.  Since then, I told two attorneys, and now the entire support staff seem to not only know, but to make this news priority among the latest office gossip.  Which, apparently, is causing quite a stir with the partners too.  In the last two weeks I have: 1) received congratulations from my co-workers; 2) confided in that they at one point had similar aspirations and regret not “going for it”; 3) asked if I need my head examined; and 4) talked about in my presence (hiding behind a bathroom stall).

This morning I arrived at the office to receive the following email from our office manager:

Law School Dreamer –

While the partners and I are happy to hear about your decision to attend law school and your recent success on the LSAT, we are concerned that the news has become the center of increased “chit-chat” throughout the firm.  This decreases productivity and could create tension among your co-workers.  If possible, please refrain from discussing your aspirations and future plans at the workplace.

Best,

Office Manager

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You know you’ve studied for the LSAT when . . .

July 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm (LSAT Prep)

  • In a class lecture, when the professor makes an assumption without stating its premise that led to the assumed conclusion, you immediately try to search for the missing premise.
  • When speaking with your friends, if you open your mouth, touch your tongue to the top of your teeth (as if to make the “L” sound) your friends immediately turn away  . . . running.
  • As soon as you get your midterm/final/any large exam you disregard the letter grade and immediately question where you ranked percentile-wise within the class.
  • On a multiple choice test with answer choices A-D you panic because there is no “E” answer choice.
  • You remember random facts from reading comprehension passages and logical reasoning stimuli.  Usually, in the middle of the night.
  • You go through lsat practice test withdraw . . . and kind of miss the challenge of spending four hours taking a test hoping to have scored even just one point higher than your best.
  • You are certain you are actually a smarter thinker and process facts more critically post-lsat prep.
  • You realize you have no idea what’s on television because you haven’t turned it on in six months – and you’re too far behind now to catch up with Grey’s Anatomy/Desperate Housewives/The Good Wife!

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Just call me speedy!

July 20, 2010 at 11:52 pm (Applying to Law School)

In my youth, I had a bit of a lead foot that got me into a lot of trouble.  By the time I turned 19, I had 6 speeding tickets to my name (okay, very lead foot).  All of said tickets were for speeding at least 20 mph over the speed limit (one was a 85 in a 50 . . . ooopsies).  However, in my defense, I have since mellowed into a much calmer, sane driver.  So as advised by a few law school admissions experts (via their books) I obtained a copy of my driving record and attempted to phone my state’s bar examiner character and fitness committee to make absolutely sure this type of behavior would not bar me from the bar.  Unfortunately, I was told that I would have to wait until I have applied, and have been accepted to a law school before the committee would give me an answer.  This seems ridiculous to me.  Perhaps I will call back tomorrow at a different time with a different alias.

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Thoughts on Law School Rankings

July 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm (Applying to Law School)

Photo courtesy of visualizelaw.wordpress.com

As I begin compiling my own personal list of law school rankings (from most wanting to attend to  . . .. well, you know) I find myself ranking each school in order of my own personal preferences.  I have my own “Tier 1,” “Tier 2,” etc. Interestingly, I have schools ranked in my own personal “Tier 1” that are ranked by U.S. News and World Report as Tier 4.  When I talk to law school applicants either in real life or on message boards like top-law-schools.com, I feel ashamed and embarrassed for liking a *gasp* non-top-tier law school.  I can akin it to liking the boy on the “wrong side of the tracks,” you know, that boy from school that your mother told you is bad news and going nowhere.  You see qualities in him that no one else sees, and heck, maybe it’s the fact that your mother forbids your contact that makes it all the more desirable.  I can also analogize law school rankings with fashion staples, like skinny jeans – they are gorgeous on some people, but not everyone can rock the must have trend-of-the-season.  In fact, for tall skinny models, skinny jeans are dynamo, but for curvy girls, they are a complete fashion faux pas. The latest season’s trends are usually ridiculously overpriced despite being made with the same materials and of the same quality as lesser known brands (see my connection to law schools?)  For example, a Tier 4 that is definitely on my application list has one of the most rigorous curriculums geared toward advanced legal research and writing.  In fact, unlike most other law schools, students must fulfill a legal research requirement all 3 years of law school.  This makes profound sense to me, after all, 10-20 years after graduation, a lot of the laws learned in law school will be changed or maybe even completely debunked, leaving the attorney to research new, current laws.  Legal research seems like it’s one of the most important foundations of a legal education, however, the “trendier” or “better known” law schools require just one legal research and one legal writing course out of the entire three-year curriculum. 

To further highlight the oddity in quality of education not necessarily being represented solely in the top tier, I direct your attention to the U.S. News and World Report section of “specialties.”  Not only does the USN&WR rank the schools in tiers, they flesh out specialty areas such as clinical training, dispute resolution, environmental law, health law, intellectual property law, international law, legal writing, tax law, and trial advocacy.  Of the two areas I am particularly interested in, legal writing and trial advocacy Tier 3 schools top the list in those specialty areas.

Photo courtesy of visualizelaw.wordpress.com

Two schools are currently tied for my own personal “Tier 1.”  One is a USN&WR Tier 1 state school for which I would receive in-state tuition, the other is a USN&WR Tier 4 private school.  Both have similar median private sector salary incomes, nearly identical bar passage rates and mirrored employment percentages.  Where they differ, however, is the admissions requirements for LSAT scores.  The Tier 4, having similar GPA admissions requirements to the Tier 1, claim they take a “holistic” approach to admissions, placing less weight on a single test, and more weight on the applicant as a whole.  To them, they claim, the GPA is a clear indicator that a given applicant can succeed in an academic setting, however it is the extracurriculars, involvement in public and community service, uniqueness, and life experience that make the applicant more or less desirable in shaping the incoming class. 

On the other hand, no one can deny the prestige and eliteness in claiming alum status to “[Harvard/Yale/Stanford] School of Law,” not to mention the heightened earning potential as reported by USN&WR.  For example, in Chicago you’ve got the coveted University of Chicago School of Law with a midrange private sector salary of $160,000.  Compare that to the neighboring John Marshall School of Law with a midrange private sector salary of $56,500-$120,000.  Both schools report an average student indebtedness at graduation of +/-$123,500 (with Tier 4 John Marshall slightly higher than Tier1 #5 U of C). 

I set out for advice from non law students and law applicants.  I really wanted to know what other legal professionals thought about the rankings and this is what I was told:

Partner in Medium Sized Private Practice: Rankings do not matter.  You have to take the same test as every other future lawyer to pass the bar.  Sure, name recognition helps in employment prospects, but so do alumni networks. Alumni generally recruit from their alma matter, so there are still job opportunities at lesser known or lesser ranked schools.  Regardless where you choose to go, don’t rely on any school’s career office – be proactive when looking for employment prospects.   

Prosecuting Attorney (3 Years out of Law School):  Go to the school you feel most comfortable in and are assured the best possible chances for success.  For you, this might be a small, community-feel with small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio that you are more likely to find in a lower ranked school.

Associate in Large Practice (2 Years out of Law School): If you want “Big Law,” go big or go home.  If you want to work in the public sector, go to the school where you will incur the least debt, either through scholarships or through lowest cost of tuition.

Law Professor at (ironically) a Tier 4 School:  Go to the highest ranked school you can get into, don’t worry about the debt, it’s a necessary evil but well worth it in the end.

While I appreciate everyone weighing-in, I’m no more decisive about rankings than I was before.  However, I’m becoming more and more indifferent to rankings every day. (How’s that for clarity – see, I’ll make a GREAT lawyer one day!)  One thing that I do know for sure though, be it a Tier 1, Tier 4, Tier whatever . . . I am mostly focused on bar passage rate, employment after graduation, and average indebtedness.  So don’t disregard the rankings all together, rather, use them as a guide to help evaluate the best school for you (which may not be the best school for someone else).  

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How to Research Law Schools and Build a Law School Applications List

July 10, 2010 at 12:48 am (Applying to Law School)

Disclaimer: I am not an expert.  So, really, the title of this post should read: “How I am researching schools and building a law school applications list.” 

Whether you are out of undergrad, at an undergrad that is just not “with it” in terms of law school admissions, or you think you’re so called “pre-law advisor” is clueless, you should be proactive about researching which law schools you want, and should, apply to.  In this post I will share some methods I have used to research law schools. 

First of all, do attempt to make contact with your school’s pre-law advisor (if such a bird exists).  If you’re not sure who this person is, check your LSAC account page; on the left-hand size of the page you will likely see a blue box that lists your pre-law advisor’s name and phone number.  Ideally, you would have already contacted them so they could advise you about which classes to take that will dazzle adcomms (not that they comb through your transcript anyway) or which logic and critical thinking courses are good for LSAT prep.  My undergraduate university, though I love and cherish the institution dearly, apparently does not have a designated pre-law advisor on campus.  While my LSAC account page does list someone, it is apparently out-of-date because he is no longer at my school.  Regardless if your working with an advisor, you should be proactive and do a little research on your own.  Don’t rely on someone else to tell you which schools you are a good match for.  Here are some places to look:

Researching Law School’s General Information :

  • Your school or public library will likely have a copy of U.S. News and World Reports Guide to Graduate Schools.  This is very handy and is considered the “gold standard” of rankings.  Law Schools seem to be a slave to these rankings, and law school applicants seem to base their decision wholly on rankings (literally I’ve heard of applicants choosing a higher ranked school by just a few slots with no scholarship money than a slightly lower ranked school with a lot of scholarship money – please do not be that INSANE).  These rankings will include information about 25th and 75th percentiles for GPA and LSAT applicants admitted in previous admission cycles which can be used to loosely gage your probability in gaining admission to the given school.  My university, unfortunately had a 1999 copy, and nothing more recent, so I opted to pay for the $14.95 online access which will expire in April of 2011.  What’s really nice about the U.S. News & World Report rankings is that not only are the schools ranked by overall quality, there are several sub-rankings that rank the schools by specialty area like environmental law, trial advocacy, part-time law schools, etc.
  • Law School’s own websites provide a plethora of information, though inherently biased in favor of its own school, there is generally no shortage of “this is why you should choose our law school” type information.  Use this LSAC webpage to quickly link to all ABA-approved law schools.  You can also usually request information by mail which is a handy way to sit down and compare schools side-by-side. 
  • Law School Forums organized either by undergraduate universities aiding their own students in graduate school pursuits or the LSAC Forum which is the grandaddy of all forums and take place around the U.S. are one-stop shops to meet admissions representatives from a wide-range of schools (both in rank and location) all in one place. 
  • Most law schools designate official “Visit Days” which welcome interested persons to tour the law school, sometimes sit-in on law school classes, meet with current students, and ask questions of admissions representatives.  This is a great way to really get a feel for the school’s atmosphere, but is not an option if the school is too far away and you can’t afford to hop a plane or spend a day’s worth of driving to visit.
  • One way to get a student’s perspective of a given law school is to speak with current law students attending the school your interested in.  Law schools can usually provide you with the contact information of a few “volunteer” students, or pass along your contact information.  Keep in mind, again, this student is likely to be selected by the admissions office so this perspective is likely one that the law school is happy to share with you.  Alternatively, you can usually find “X Law Student Taking Questions” threads on forums like Top-Law-Schools.com.

Law School Admission Probability Calculators:

  • Once you have your LSAT score and LSDAS GPA you can now become addicted to probability calculators – one of the most stress-inducing ways of predicting chances of gaining admission.  My favorite probability calculator is the “Law School Predictor,” which categorizes your probability of admission by admit, strong consider, consider, weak consider, and deny.  There is a predictor for Top 100 law schools (also commonly known as the coveted “Tier 1,” non-Tier 1 law schools, and part-time law schools (this covers all American Bar Association approved law schools that offer part-time programs).
  • LSAC has an “Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools” and its own probability calculator which identifies your likelihood of admission based on percentages.  While this one does not give you a clear admit/deny probability, it does provide an easy snapshot of where you stand in terms of LSAT and GPA.  This calculator includes all American Bar Association accredited law schools (regardless of rank) and you can sort the list alphabetically or in terms of likelihood.  This calculator is somewhat out-of-date as its based on 2008 admission data which may not accurately reflect current admissions probability since the dramatic increase in law school applicants in 2009 has increased the competitiveness of law school admissions.  One thing this calculator offers that others do not is you can check the box for law schools you are interested in and easily see the schools application fee, location, and additional descriptive information and data compiled by LSAC where you can also add the school to your “School List” for later application viewing and submission.  However, I would caution you against compiling your school list before August.  I was told by a LSAC representative that the school lists are “purged” in August so that old law school applications from previous application cycles are cleared to make room for new applications that will become available in September-October.
  • For the most up-to-the minute information on law school admissions turn to Law School Numbers.  Keep in mind the accuracy of the available information is entirely dependent on the registered users providing their own LSAT, GPA, URM (under-represented minority) status, scholarship information, and additional “soft” factors.  What Law School Numbers provides that none of the other predictors have is the ability to view additional information like the URM status, scholarship offers, and extracurriculars and you do not need to wait until the end of an admission cycle to view admission info since applicants who are active on the website during admissions season tend to update their status regularly.  But again, I cannot stress enough, this information is not as reliable as the other two predictors listed above.

Building a School List:

As I mentioned previously, do not build your “official” school list in your LSAC account until the 2011 admission applications are available since the LSAC will purge school lists in August to make room for the new applications.  But you can certainly make your own list of schools you intend to apply.  A supportive professor of mine told me that when thinking of law schools to apply to, I should “cast my net as wide as possible.”  What she meant by that is, I should pick several “reach” schools whose median numbers for admission are above mine, several “target” schools that are realistically within my range of numbers, and several “safety” schools that I am reasonably confident that, given my numbers, I should be admitted to.  A quick snapshot view of the numbers can be found on TLS’ school rankings list and additional information on several of the schools in the list is available by clicking the school name.

Of course, actually determining a “reach,” “target,” and “safety” school is pretty difficult.  In my personal opinion, I would use the Law School Predictor as a guide by using the classification system.  A “deny” or “weak consider” will likely make it onto my “reach” school list.  A “consider” or “strong consider” will likely make it onto my “target” school list.  And an “admit” school will likely make it onto my “safety” school list.  Remember, this is just a guide, so use it to loosely compile your list.  If there is a school you really dream of attending and if you did not apply would always wonder “what if” and the predictor classifies it as a “deny” I would still apply if you can afford to or better yet, were granted a need-based fee waiver.  I’ve heard great stories of applicants who applied early in the application cycle or early decision and were granted admission.  “Early decision” or “early action” means submitting an early application that would bind you to attend that school if you are granted admission – this is different from the “regular” application and has an early application deadline.  Some schools will extend an offer to someone who obviously really wants to attend their school because it’s a safe bet (rather a binding bet) that the applicant will attend their school which of course, like everything else, plays into account when figuring the law school rankings.

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The Law School Applicant’s Version of Christmas Presents: Fee Waivers

July 9, 2010 at 11:17 pm (Applying to Law School)

I’ve been pretty addicted to my email lately. No, it’s not the latest shopping discounts that’s got me checking my blackberry every 10 minutes, its law school fee waivers! Also known as “presents” for law school applicants.

I love getting emails like the one I received from University of Minnesota who complimented me on my “exemplary” LSAT score (which by the way, is lower than their 25% for 2009 admitted applicants) and the one from University of Richmond which welcomes me to drive across the country for a visit.  These emails certainly provide helpful information that I may have otherwise not considered and are actually enticing me to apply since its free.  Though, I have not yet received any fee waivers from any of the schools that are already on my to-apply list but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Interestingly, the Law School Admissions Council (a/k/a “LSAC”) Candidate Referral Service asks which states you are most interested in attending law school (you can choose up to five) and I have yet to receive any from my list of 5 states.  So it appears many law schools send them to applicants who are not even initially considering a given geographical area.  I’ve been told by other law school applicants that if there is a school you would really like to apply to but have not received a fee waiver (and think you really deserve one either because your numbers are above their admission medians or because your just too poor) you shouldn’t feel shy about asking for one.  Some recommendations:

  • Send a short, concise email – its more convenient and easier for response.
  • Keep the email at 3-6 sentences in length.
  • Make sure you indicate your LSAC Account Number, GPA, and LSAT score.
  • Be sure to include if you have received an LSAC fee waiver (which waives the credential assembly service, two LSAT administration fees, and grants you a copy of the “Official LSAT Superprep”).  Law schools may feel that if you were deemed “financially needy” by the LSAC which fact checks your financial situation, then you are legit and really do need the application fee waived.
  • Show a sincere interest and indicate any mitigating circumstances.
  • Additionally, I am told that law school admission forums give applicants a great opportunity to learn more about schools and speak with admissions representatives about schools and application fee waivers. 

    These fee waivers tempt me to send in my application, however I am being realistic about what this means in terms of my own pursuit of law school admissions.  It is my understanding that part of the law school rankings compiled by U.S. News and World Report is the consideration of the ratio of applicants who apply to a given school and who are ultimately granted acceptance.  Law schools use fee waivers to entice applicants who may or may not have a chance of actually being admitted to their school to boost the number of total applicants who sent applications for consideration by law school admissions committees.  So while I’m excited for the application fee waiver (and flattered by the complimentary emails) I am keeping in mind this does not mean the school is particularly interested in me as a future law student of “X School of Law.”

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    How I Prepped for the June, 2010 LSAT

    July 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm (LSAT Prep)

    I’ve had a few requests to share my preparation strategy for the June, 2010 LSAT.  I’m flattered that some of you want to know how I prepped, but remember, there are a lot of test takers (35% to be exact) who scored even higher than I. But in a nutshell, I read the Powerscore Logical Reasoning Bible, the Powerscore Logic Games Bible, and the Official LSAT Superprep. If you apply for, and are granted a fee waiver, the Official LSAT Superprep is free from the Law School Admissions Council. I studied entirely on my own without the aid of a prepcourse or study-buddy.

    I was most concerned about the analytical reasoning (a/k/a “Logic Games”) portion of the LSAT because on my practice test I only managed to attack two games, and answered correctly about half of the questions I attempted (lets just say it was single-digits).  So I read the Powerscore Logic Games Bible first, and then I purchased logic games organized by game type through Cambridge LSAT.  I spent about a month working on mastering each logic game type, and then panicked when I realized I was only two months away from the LSAT.  So I took a bunch of timed practice tests, and got frustrated.  (I would recommend waiting until you’ve fully acquired or at least learned the skills needed to do well on the LSAT before jumping into timed practice tests).  I then took a few untimed practice tests, and this really improved my score.  I also went back through the Powerscore Logical Reasoning Bible and made flashcards to help me remember the different question types and the strategies for each individual question type. Powerscore actually sells flashcards, but I find that by making them on my own, I’m learning the material while creating the cards, and while testing myself.

    All together, I took fourteen practice tests, only four of those were untimed.  The rest were strictly timed with 35 minute sections, but most only included 4 sections (the unscored experimental is the fifth section, not necessarily appearing fifth, but it is “a” fifth section).

    In hindsight, as I previously mentioned, I wish I would have spent more time learning the skills before jumping into timed tests and getting frustrated.  Also, I wish I would have spent more time reviewing my practice tests and really determining which question types I’m struggling with and forcing myself to realize why a particular answer choice was incorrect (or in LSAT speak, “uncredited.”)

    One of the most key tips I can give anyone who is self-studying is to make a syllabus or schedule of assignments and deadlines that must be met.  If you don’t think you can hold yourself accountable, have a friend check in on you.  Ideally, you know someone who is also studying for the LSAT and will understand how serious it is that you stay on track.  Also, do not ever think you do not have time to prep.  Remember, I work full-time and take full-time classes.  I got up early (sometimes 4:30 a.m.) to begin my day.  A friend of mine in cyber world also has a crazy schedule and one of the ideas he had was that even if you do not have time to take full, timed practice tests, if you can just take even one timed section every day, from Monday through Friday, you will have completed a full test in a work-week.  Of course, it is important to at some point sit down and take an entire test in one sitting to get the idea of the timing and how exhausting it can be, but this is a great way to make progress in under an hour each day (if you also take the time to review each 35-minute timed section).

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