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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy news about the Law School Survival Manual from U. Mass.-Dartmouth!

Thanks to Tania Shah and Melissa Gill of Law Tutors, we just found out that U. Mass. School of Law is making sure that all of its incoming 1Ls will be getting a copy of the LSSM.  Thank you, U. Mass.!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should you really go to law school?

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog for posting this warning about most law schools' business models (here).  See also a related post (here) for the role that the U.S. News rankings may play, and see Prof. Tamanaha's original post (here).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Question from a blog follower:

In a comment to an earlier post, Anonymous said:

Any thoughts on how to handle unethical and/or unprofessional conduct by attorneys during a summer associate position? I don't feel lucky to have this position -- rather, I feel like I've made a mistake that will follow me around to future firms...

Our answer:  

hanks for your question, Anonymous. First question: do you have enough information to form an understanding about whether the conduct is in fact unethical? If so, does your firm have an ethics committee?

Here's what you might want to do:

1. IF you trust the mentor to whom you were assigned, raise the issue w/that mentor.
2. IF you don't trust that mentor (i.e., the mentor is the one behaving unprofessionally), what about the partner who interviewed you? Can you raise the issue with him or her?
3. If your firm has an ethics committee, you might consider raising it with that committee.
4. If there's no one at the firm whom you trust, then you know that you don't want to work there after graduation. If things are really, really bad and you can resign before the end of the summer--and do anything else to make money--consider doing that.

I'm so sorry that you're experiencing this problem.

BTW, there IS always the chance that you aren't seeing both sides of the matter. If there IS someone at the firm whom you trust, please do try to parse the issue with him or her. GOOD LUCK!

More on the shifting law firm paradigm.

Another great article from our buddy Bernie Burk, who found this in the AmLaw Daily (here).  If you're lucky enough to have a summer associate job, you might well be doing more interesting work than summer associates did in years past, and you should still report all of the hours that you've billed to the work that you're doing.  But fewer clients will be paying for your work on their matters, reflecting some sea changes in how law firms are running their business (see here).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch those loan balances--and make sure that you really want to go to law school!

Our buddy Jim Cossitt pointed out this article from the New York Times (here).  We want to make two points about this article and the concepts that it discusses:

1.  Don't go to law school (and amass a large student debt load) unless you really know why you're going.  Probably, you want to become a lawyer.  You might just want a legal education to help you in your own work.  (If you want to be a public interest lawyer, check this out.)  Those are both good reasons to go.  Not a good reason?  Your family thinks you would be a good lawyer (because you love to argue), and you don't want to tell your loved ones that you'd rather be anything else.  And don't go to law school before checking out things like the school's placement rate and bar passage rate.  Placement rate can be manipulated, but bar passage probably can't.  And if you're going to crank up those student loans, you darn well want to be able to pay them off with a j-o-b afterwards.

2.  Most student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  (You'd need to prove undue hardship, which is devilishly hard to prove, or have something very odd going on with that loan.)  So as that loan tab adds up, realize that you will be paying off every penny.

Law school isn't for everyone.  If it's for you, then go in with your eyes open.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More good advice about exam-taking.

It's too late for the spring semester, but some of you will be taking courses this summer, and the rest of you will have exam "joy" again this fall.  Here's another good piece of advice, forwarded again from Nancy's dad (here).

Another cautionary tale about a job-seeker.

This one comes to us courtesy of Nancy's dad:  here.  To steal a line from humorist Dave Barry, we are not making this stuff up.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why we are such sticklers for deadlines.

One of us has a hard-and-fast rule for her take-home exams:  turn the exam in within 72 hours of checking it out, or face severe consequences, such as flunking the course.  The emergency "out" to this rule is that, if the student sees that he or she isn't going to make the deadline--for a good (read: sudden-onset emergency) reason, that student is supposed to contact someone in the administration to explain the problem and get an extension.

The practice in such a case--when the emergency is real, as opposed to just a failure to follow the rules--is for the student to file a Motion to Accept Late Filing, just as the student would have to do in a real-life legal emergency.

Some students, over the years, have learned their lesson well:  some have done a full-blown Motion, and that motion worked.  At least one has simply filed a rambling apology that never answered the question of why the student didn't just pick up the phone and call the Registrar to explain the situation, as the exam rules provided.  We fear for the future clients of that student.

Why be such a stickler about the consequences for missing deadlines?  Because, in real life, lawyers who miss deadlines are committing malpractice, and their mistakes may well prejudice their clients' rights. 

Too many law students see law school as an extension of their undergraduate education.  But law school is professional school.  The habits learned in law school will carry over into the practice of law.

We wouldn't want engineering students to say, "OK, the calculations are off, but our design is close enough that we'll sign off on it, even though the design won't work."  We wouldn't want medical students to say, "Well, we know what most of the organs in the body are called and what they do; that's close enough."

Lawyers take people's lives in their hands:  sometimes literally (death penalty cases), sometimes figuratively.  That's important work.  Deadlines matter:  see here

Lesson:  If you're going to law school to learn how to be a lawyer, start behaving like one while you're in school.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dear Abby reinforces our point about following instructions.

When we read Dear Abby this morning (here), we saw this letter:

DEAR ABBY: The company where I work posted an ad online and at our state unemployment job board for a position that needed to be filled. The ad detailed simple but specific instructions that included asking applicants to write a cover letter to address certain questions. It also said -- in large letters: "YOU MUST FOLLOW THESE DIRECTIONS OR YOU WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED FOR EMPLOYMENT."
Of the 133 resumes we received, 76 did not contain the information that was requested. These applications were moved to an "Incomplete" file and not considered for hire. What's sad is that judging by their resumes alone, several of these applicants had the qualifications we were looking for.
With unemployment being what it is, I was surprised that the majority of the applicants did not comply with the simple instructions. Please advise your unemployed readers that a job is out there for them, but they must follow instructions. -- TRYING TO BE HELPFUL, TUMWATER, WASH.
DEAR TRYING TO BE HELPFUL: Consider it done. Now I'll offer another suggestion: Always proofread what you have written to ensure there are no spelling or transposition errors.

Just as we pointed out that following exam instructions is key (here), we want to emphasize that following instructions when applying for jobs is key as well.