September 27, 2005
GPA: Is 3.0 to low for top schools?
Another concerned law school applicant writes:
I need some help! What are law schools are going to think of my situation:
- 5-year dual-degree B.S.,B.A. in Engineering and English
- But, Overall GPA dragged down to just 3.0 due to awful, terrible grades in several Physics and Math courses (including 2 Fs)
- 3.3 Engineering Major GPA
- 3.6 English Major GPA
- 165 LSAT
- Do consistently well in the humanities, literature, philosophy etc. courses, English Honors student
Since my overall gpa is grazing at 3.0, numerically, wouldn't I be weeded out of most top law schools? I know law schools look sympathetically upon engineering (really, it's painful staring at equations for hours everyday), but it seems like I am in a gray area.
Any thoughts? The conventional wisdom is that a strong LSAT, statement, and letters of recommendation could make up for a lower GPA. Of course, if you really want to get in it seems smart to apply to schools that don't seem to have much problem w/a 3.0, as well.
Did anyone face a similar situation? How did things go? Any other suggestions?
September 25, 2005
Enjoying law school even if you don't want to be a a lawyer
Recent Harvard grad Jeremy Blachman posts a draft of a potential piece he was working on for publication in a newspaper about enjoying law school even if you don't want to be a lawyer. The whole thing is certainly worth reading, but Jeremy concludes with the following three tips:
How to enjoy law school, according to me:
1. Take classes from the best professors you can find, no matter what they’re teaching. (And get to know them. My one regret is that I didn’t try harder to do that.)
2. Join every extracurricular activity that sounds interesting to you, and even some that don’t. Lots of smart people do lots of cool things that don’t involve casebooks.
3. Don’t worry about it. You’re smart, you’ll do fine, you’ll graduate. Don’t stress.
Seems like good advice to me. He also has an alternate version of the piece here. Of course, if you're sure you don't want to be a lawyer, you might want to avoid taking on a lot of debt just to take classes from good profs, enjoy a bunch of extracurriculars, and not worry about graduating. There are a lot of better things you can do with your three years and $150k if you're pretty certain you're never going to use that J.D. I mean, how much does it cost to climb Mt. Everest?
JD Jungle: Law Review 101
JD Jungle provides an overview of Law Review—how it began, what it does, and why you might want to consider trying to be on it. This could make a nice bit of spare-time reading for 1Ls in the spring who have to decide whether to compete for a journal/law review spot. Maybe you should use FutureMe.org to send yourself an email next spring just before your journal competition to remind you to read this article so you can go over the pros and cons at that time. Sure, you could just set a reminder on your desktop calendaring program, or on your PDA (does anyone use those anymore), or maybe on your phone, but none of those things offers to “sic a pack of cute angry girl lawyers on you. for real.” Is that a threat or a promise?
September 24, 2005
Request: Learning to live w/an LSAT score.
It must be law school application time because that seems to be what readers are concerned about. And the two things that people are most concerned with when apply for law school are the two things that law schools seem to care most about—GPA and LSAT score. The last request was about Thing One; here's one about Thing Two:
I'm a senior this year have been studying as best as I've been able. This process has taken a lot of soul searching, but now I'm confident that this is what I want to do. Unfortunately, it's hard not to be frustrated by unsatisfactory lsat scores. I know that there is a law school for everyone, and I'm certainly not suggesting that I'm just out for one of the top ten, but how do I know when I should take the lsat? To be truthful, I'm a bit panicked right now. I have a pretty high gpa from an ivy league school, but my lsat just isn't, in my opinion, reflective of my abilities. Cutting to the chase, isn't it important to break 160??
I'm not sure, but I kind of think the question in the middle is: “How do I know when I should retake the LSAT?” Not surprisingly, I have no good answer, but I have some thoughts.
First, U.S. News rankings are just not everything. Decide what you want to do w/a law degree, then find a school that will help you do that, then decide whether your LSAT is too low for those schools. You probably already know about the BC Law School Locator, which tells you what schools are looking for in terms of GPA/LSAT, so that can be a big help.
Second, remember that these things are never set in stone; just because you don't have the numbers, that doesn't mean for sure you won't get into a particular school. You probably have other things going for you—your Ivy League education, maybe some work or volunteer experience, a good statement or writing sample, etc. So the numbers aren't everything.
Third, you can always apply now w/the LSAT score you have, study like a demon and/or take a prep course so you can take the next LSAT. If you get a higher score, send a letter to your schools asking them to update your application file and to reconsider your application in light of your new numbers.
But really, the best plan is to only go to law school if you know what you want to do w/your degree and not just b/c you can get into a good school. Whatever you want to do, remember that you might get a lot of advantages out of going to a lower-ranked school. If you're a good student (which your “pretty high” GPA suggests you are) then you should be able to do fine in law school. Going to a lower-ranked school might help you be a bigger fish in a smaller pond so you'll end up in the top 5-10% of your class. Being top-of-class at a lower-ranked school can be more impressive than being mediocre at a better-ranked school.
Finally: Law school is not for everyone and it's very likely not the only or possibly even the best way to achieve what you want in life. Again, take this as an opportunity to reexamine what your goals are and make sure that this is really what you want to do. I think Should You Really Be A Lawyer can be a big help with this. Once you've figured out what you want to do and why, you can decide the best way to get there. If that still means law school, then make the most of the numbers, experience, and other assets that you do have and don't stress about rank. Do the best you can at the school you decide to attend and things will work out from there.
Of course, these are just my opinions. I hope other people have thoughts on this, as well...
Request: Apply earlier, or apply w/higher GPA?
A reader writes in with the following dilemma about applying to law school:
I am applying to law school for entry into the fall 2006 class and was wondering if you have any advice concerning the classes I am taking at a community college for fun.
I took a calculus II class (let's not focus on why I view this as “fun”) this summer and received a D. Worried about how this grade would affect my undergraduate GPA (3.53 from the University of Pittsburgh), I am retaking the class for a better grade.
My question concerns strategy. Should I wait until I get a better grade this term before submitting my community college grades to LSAC? One negative to this approach is that I will not be able to finish my law school applications until all the data is in, which means early January.
A majority of the schoools I plan on applying to are center-of-mass on the US News top 100, but I would like to set my sights a wee bit higher. I'm concerned that waiting until January will be too late.
All thoughts you have would be appreciated.
In other words, will a low community college GPA hurt more than waiting until January to apply? I have no clue, myself, so if anyone else does, please share!
September 18, 2005
Reader “Civil Inactivist” sent in a request almost a week ago now. He'd like your thoughts on the value of the patent bar fro a 1L:
I have been wondering as to the relative worth of taking the patent bar? Being a first-year, and being told to take it as soon as possible, despite the ticket of the test itself and study materials, I wondered if anyone has an opinion. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to take it as soon as possible? Will it help with summer internships etc.?
Your help is appreciated!
I have no clue about this, but I'm sure someone does. All I can say is I'm sorry it took me so long to get this up!
September 13, 2005
Admissions: Does undergrad GPA really count for non-traditional applicants?
Reader “Doc” is requesting your input on the following question:
How much does undergrad GPA matter in getting into a top law school? I goofed off during my BA and got a 2.6 GPA in English. But I went on to get a masters degree (3.78GPA) and a PhD in English (3.8GPA), I have numerous publications and I've been a visiting assistant prof of English for the last couple years. (I graduated with the BA ten years ago, now.)
I fully expect to pull a 170+ on the LSAT. Assuming I do, will I be able to get into a top-10, maybe top-15 law school, or will that BA GPA come back to haunt me?
I don't really know the answer to this question, but I would say that any school that's going to care about your undergrad GPA after you've accomplished so many other educational goals is a school you shouldn't really care about getting into. Sadly, my impression of law school admissions is that the process is often so rigidly processed that they really do just punch in the numbers (undergrad gpa and LSAT score) and weed from there. So my guess is it's going to matter, even though that's ridiculous.
The more important question is: What the hell is an English PhD thinking to jump ship from academia into law school? Are you really really really sure you want to do that, Mr. Doc? I'm thinking you're going to be sorry, but I could just be projecting... ;-)
September 12, 2005
Bar Review Flashcards
Ok, this won't help anyone at this very moment since I don't think it's possible to take a bar exam for the next few months, but if a bar exam is anywhere in your future, make yourself a little note to check out these Bar Review flashcards from Emory Law Student. Adam's notes about the cards:
They come mostly from BarBri and PMBR materials, as well as my lecture notes and even (when I could dig 'em up) my class notes from law school. Some of them will be specific to Georgia, but the MBE cards (Con Law, Contracts, Crim, Evidence, Property, and Torts) should be useful to everyone...
Adam also has a template for making flashcards in Word and directions for printing them out so you can make your own. Thanks, Adam!
September 05, 2005
Blawg Review #22
Hello, class! Welcome to the Back-to-School edition of Blawg Review! I know last week was an incredibly rough week and you've all got a lot on your minds, but we have a lot of material to cover today so if I may borrow my contracts professor's trademark phrase: Ok, let's get started!
Killer Katrina: Hurricane Katrina has reshaped many many lives, including those of lawyers and law students. For example, New Orleans appellate lawyer Raymond P. Ward wondered last week if he should stay or go; he made what appears to have been a wise choice and decided to go. Ernie the Attorney tried to leave but couldn't, then eventually did make it out. Both Ernie and Raymond have lots of links to more first-person and on-the-scene sources of information about the storm and its aftermath, including a few photos.
Like everyone with family and other loved ones in the Gulf Coast area, Joey of Yayarolly goes to law school spent a tense week watching the news and worrying about
his her family. He She finally got some good news but he's she's now forced to start 1L a little behind on his her reading. Similarly, Jaybeas Corpus, a 2L at Washington College of Law at American University in D.C., worried about his family ahead of the storm, then learned they'd made it through ok. Jay also links to this terrific video of Anderson Cooper giving Senator Mary Landrieu (D, LA) hell for mouthing platitudes in the face of catastrophe.
Professor Yin summarized Katrina's big-picture impact on lawyers and law students: 1/3 of the lawyers in Lousiana (including the one Evan Schaeffer recently spoke to in a bar) have lost their offices, papers, computers—possibly their clients—and the state supreme court is under water. As Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle notes, the impact may be greatest on solos and small firms.
On the law school front, Katrina shut down Tulane University Law School (temporary website), as well as Loyola's New Orleans campus (temporary website). Both are using blogs as a way to communicate (Tulane blog, Loyola blog). To help minimize the impact this will have on law students, other law schools around the country have offered admission to the displaced students for a semester at least to give Tulane and Loyola time to clean up and get back in operation. This might just give 50 lucky students the chance to learn from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds at the University of Tennessee. Some Tulane 3Ls have posted online updates of their reactions to Katrina, including C.G. Moore's account at Overlawyered, and Asian Provocateur's thoughts on her own site. (AP: Please let me know if I'm mistaken and you're not really a Tulane 3L!) Meanwhile, some law professors are discussing postponing or moving the next Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting, which is currently scheduled for January in New Orleans.
Not surprisingly, the hurricane also prompted many other conversations in the blawgosphere, including Professor Vic Fleischer's consideration of whether it's true that what we've seen was actually a “naturally disaster.” The looting was a concern for many, prompting some to ponder whether looters should be shot on sight. Professor Orin Kerr says no, but Professor Bainbridge says there's no clear answer. Funny, I thought I learned in crimlaw, torts, and property that you can never legally (or morally) use deadly force merely to protect property. Perhaps I missed a memo somewhere? But the looters are a temporary problem; Professor Ribstein considers another, much larger issue: What kind of city will New Orleans be once it's rebuilt—an amusement park of the past or an economic engine? The answer to that will likely be a long time coming; meanwhile, at Between Lawyers Denise Howell is talking about how lawyers can help other lawyers make it through these difficult times. She also offers a few more related links on Bag and Baggage. The ABA is also linking up Katrina-help resources, including some specifically for law students.
SCOTUS: The other major headline dominating all else is the passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, followed closely by coverage of what this might mean for the Court and the country. SCOTUSblog continues to update with excellent commentary and also points to commentary by Howard Bashman at How Appealing and this roundup of reactions from Chris Geitner's Law Dork.
Hearings for John Roberts, Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor (and now apparently for Chief Justice, as well), are due to start tomorrow and Massachusetts corporate collections attorney Jane T. Woodworth says the fact that he's a man nominated to replace a woman shouldn't be an issue. “True equality means appointing the best person for the job regardless of gender (or anything else).” In addition to gender, Roberts is being critiqued on many other angles. For example, the comment section to what started out as a light-hearted self-congratulatory post on Professor Bainbridge's blog morphed into a fairly serious (and still going) discussion of the extent to which SCOTUS nominee John Roberts' Catholicism would be an appropriate subject of inquiry during his up-coming confirmation hearings. For still more angles on Roberts and the SCOTUS, the Scoplaw has extensive notes from a recent panel discussion at Georgetown about the Roberts' nomination.
Meanwhile, a large number of law professors oppose Roberts' nomination. Could this have anything to do with a recently-renewed interest in the old question: Are American Law Profs Too Liberal? Professor Bainbridge (who would certainly say the answer to the question is “Yes!”) collects many links on the subject and concludes that conservative law professors need to insist that the pool of candidates for new faculty positions include conservatives. Professor Gordon Smith also commented on the political bent of law faculties in his very first first Office Hour Podcast. The good professor hopes to continue the podcast with weekly episodes dealing with a wide variety of topics, including business law, sports, and, of course, cheese.
Practice Area Bits: Of Course, Katrina and the SCOTUS were not the only topics of conversation in the blawgosphere last week—far from it! Lawyers in a variety of practice areas were busy pumping out excellent coverage of their corners of the law, including:
David Giacalone reminds us that August 31 was Love Litigating Lawyers Day. He celebrated with some of his favorite positive quotations about lawyers, just in case you were about to forget that “the houses of lawyers are roofed with the skins of litigants.” George's Employment Blawg celebrated with a great t-shirt and a little haiku. How did you celebrate?
Johnathan B. Wilson celebrated by critiquing California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's :lawsuit against a number of national fast-food chains, alleging that their sale of french fries endangers public health.“ (Also here.) Maybe Mr. Lockyer just needs to learn how to match a good wine with those french fries—Professor Bainbridge has some advice on how to do just that!
George's Employment Law Blawg features a regular weekly roundup of hot topics in labor as well as the occasional joke featuring ”a young man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie“ poking his head out of a silver BMW. There's another great joke in the comments—it's funny and it's not even a lawyer joke.
Evan Brown of Internet Cases notes that the Fourt Circuit has reversed a decision of the district court which had found in favor of Rev. Jerry Falwell in a trademark infringement and ”typosquatting“ case. The court's decision places the domain name ”fallwell.com“ back into the hands of outspoken Falwell critic Christopher Lamparello.
That Back-to-School Thing: Since this is the Back-to-School edition of Blawg Review, it would most certainly not be complete without a few highlights from the student corners of the blawgosphere.
New 1L Kim Plaintive quickly realized that law students can be ”serious dorks.“ She also already had her first sitting-in-class-and-couldn't-care-less moment and although this made her wonder if she's really cut out for law school, I'd say it means she's a natural. How else is she going to make it through three years of this?
Another 1L, Kristine of Divine Angst, offers her thoughts on starting law school after being out in the working world for a few years. 1L CM of Magic Cookie shares her first experience being called on in class. Her lesson is either, a) that the answer in torts, contracts, and corporations (among other classes) is almost always ”money,“ or b) that getting called on makes you stupid.
But while most 1Ls are still figuring out how to balance classes and social lives, Mother In Law is figuring out how to be a non-traditional student who must balance class and family life. She's also got a harrowing account of trying to make her books more user-friendly.
For many students, the law school balancing act continues into 2L, and that's especially true for Transmogriflaw, a 2L and a new mother who is figuring out how to balance classes and motherhood. It's not always easy, but she seems to be coping remarkably well!
But no matter what stage they're at, law students can always use more advice on how to make their time in law school better. In that vein, following up on his piece 1L of a Decision, Prof. Yabut advises all law students that: "only a stupid a$$ doesn't self-assess. Frankly, there are enough lost, unhappy souls practicing law as it is, without you — yes, you! — adding to the numbers by blindly careening toward a career.“ Although it sounds a little harsh when put that way, this is similar to the message Deborah Schneider is trying to get across in her book, Should You Really Be A Lawyer? If you haven't had a chance to check out that book, you can now get a sample of what it has to offer by listening to an interview with Deborah in the 16th episode of my very own Ambivalent Voices podcast. It's really a must-listen for law students—especially 1Ls. Keep your eye (ear?) on Ambivalent Voices in the next few days to hear many more back-to-school interviews with law students from around the country!
Elsewhere, Harvard law grad and Anonymous Lawyer author Jeremy Blachman offers some advice about law school from the perspective of hindsight.
Law students eventually have to get jobs, but will their blawgs affect that process? Related to that subject, Jeremy also recently penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he suggested bloggers need legal protection from being fired from their jobs for blogging. Fellow Harvard Law grad Bamber was not impressed with the piece, while Anthony Rickey, a 3L at Columbia Law, says ”don't worry.“ Anthony believes a market truce will develop between bloggers and employers because employers will realize that the bad publicity they get from firing a blogger is worse than whatever minimal damage the blogger's posts might do to the employer. This is obviously a concern for many 3Ls and recent graduates who blog: Will my blog hurt my employment chances or is it going to get me in trouble once I have a job?
Finally, going back a few weeks in Anthony's archives is a brief critique of the 18th edition of the Blue Book, particularly its suggested method for citing to a particular blog post. Since the Blue Book potentially plays such a large role in the lives of most law students, and especially in this case, those who read blogs and, to some extent, depend on them for research and commentary, the topic seems relevant to this special edition of Blawg Review. For the record, I agree with Anthony: The suggested blawg citation method is ridiculous and shows that the editors of the Blue Book need to read more blawgs and learn what permalinks are. No wonder law school sucks so much sometimes—it's all the Blue Book's fault!
Well, that's going to do it for Blawg Review #22. Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions for how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
And for more immediate blog-carnival-goodness, be sure to check out the Carnival of the Capitalists hosted this week at Rethink(ip). Rethink(ip) is a group blawg by three intellectual property attorneys from three different firms; learn more about it in the Blawg Review review!