March 04, 2006

1L Summer: Judicial Externship or Firm?

An enquiring mind wants to know:

Which job should I chose? I am a first year and have been put in the very lucky situation of accepting between a firm and a judicial externship for my first summer job. But I am not sure which one I should take. I really like both offices. The ppl were really friendly in both cases. I met with the judge and with the managing partner in both situations and they were very likable and seemed like they'd give me lots of substantive work... any advice? Honestly I am really dumbstruck.

Hm. Like you say, yours is a good problem to have, but I don't see any clear way to resolve the dilemma. Your answer may depend on what you hope to do long-term (after you graduate from law school) and what sort of judge and firm we're talking about. If this is a prestigious federal judge you'd be working for, that makes the externship more attractive. If this is exactly the firm (or the exact type of firm) you'd eventually like to work for, the firm might be the best choice.

If you don't know what you want to do long-term, I'd personally lean toward the externship b/c you might get a better introduction to a wider variety of law there. On the other hand, odds are high that the firm is going to be more fun in terms of having a good time w/other summer interns, getting free lunches, etc.

So that's not much help, eh? Can anyone else offer some perspective?

Posted by mowabb at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 11, 2005

Ethical Use of Stationary

Katherine writes:

Assume you're an associate and you're leaving a firm. Would it be unethical to use the firm's stationary to send out a letter to clients explaining that you're leaving? Comments would be appreciated.

This is actually sort of related to one of the things we recently covered in employment law. My understanding is that it's perfectly fine (and legal) to tell current clients in advance that you're planning on leaving your current job. It's even ok to tell them that you're going to be starting your own business that might be competing with the business of your current employer. However, it is not ok to actively solicit customers for your new business before you've quit your old job. The legal battles are fought on the line between notifying and soliciting.

Of course, that's just a tangent. Katherine's question is whether you can use firm stationary to explain that you're leaving the firm. I say yes. Why not? So long as you're not asking them to follow you to a new firm or your own business, it's just professional courtesy to let your clients know you're moving on. And so long as you're still employed by the firm, it's part of your business to let the clients know that you're leaving, so using business stationary seems like the right thing to do.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Please comment here or at Not for Sheep.

Posted by mowabb at 09:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

Does Withdrawing From Classes In Undergrad Look Bad?

A reader writes:

I'm currently an undergraduate in Fall Semester of my sophomore year. I've maintained a 4.0 at my school.

But due to medical reason, I'm going to have to withdraw from my classes this Fall semester. Since I'm withdrawing, “w's” show up on the transcript to indicate the withdrawal from classes. MY QUESTION IS: Do all the w's look bad that show up on your transcript to indicate that you've withdrawn from classes?

First, I assume you're asking about how law school admissions committees will view those W's, and I can only say that if you've got a whole semester of W's on your transcript they're not just going to say “oh, that's bad,” they're going to look to your application letter or statement of purpose to see some explanation for that. You can use those writing opportunities to explain what happened and why it has made you a stronger candidate for law school.

Second, you're a sophomore in college! You've got a lot of time to think about what you want to do. Explore your options, enjoy undergrad, and maybe a year or two from now you can start worrying about things like this. ;-)

Of course, I'm a slacker and that's just me. Any other thoughts? Has anyone had experience explaining W's on a transcript for a law school application?

Posted by mowabb at 10:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Averaging LSAT Scores?

A reader wonders what happens when you take multiple LSATs:

I have read that some schools average LSAT scores which could end up costing one points instead of creating a better score. Is this true? Do some schools average the results?

I've heard this, too. I'd say you'd just have to contact the individual schools' admissions people to verify. Does anyone know more?

Posted by mowabb at 09:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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...

Posted by mowabb at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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!

Posted by mowabb at 08:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

Patent Bar?

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!

Posted by mowabb at 10:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 07, 2005

Chapman v. Southwestern?

Reader Daniel writes:

I am torn between Chapman and Southwestern. I keep hearing bad things about SW on Chapman, although much less known, seems to be a happier place and is new. But I can't resist how nice the entertainment law looks in those glossy pages of SW's viewbook, not to mention its massive alumni network.

WHAT TO DO?! Any SW students out there want to give me some input?! I really need some candid comments on the school, the good, the bad, the ugly. If you want to email me personally, please do.

Any Chapman students out there with some input about their experience at the school?

So hey, can anyone help Daniel out here?

Posted by mowabb at 04:32 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2005

Request: What's the Effect of Multiple LSATs?

A reader writes:

How much are my chances going to be hurt by taking the LSAT twice? I did not do well the first time, and will be retaking it to hopefully get a better score.

This seems like one of those admissions questions that really can only be answered accurately by the members of the admissions committees at the schools to which you are applying. However, what I've heard and what makes sense to me is that 2-3 LSATs aren't that big a deal—especially when you show improvement. Perhaps you're right that a score of X won't get as much credit if you got it on your second or third try as if you got it on your first, but it's still an X and shows you're capable of that score.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Did you take the LSAT more than once, and if so, do you have any idea how that affected your application experience?

Posted by mowabb at 02:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Request: Help with 2L Scheduling

Law student “Stare Decisis” writes:
I'm seeking advice on schedule planning for the second year. Specifically, how to choose classes: based on the bar, based on what you think you want to practice, based on time the class is offered, based on whether there is an exam, based on the professor teaching, etc. I'm curious whether anyone has advice based on what worked or didn't work for them.
If you have any suggestions, please post them in the comments! My two cents: As a rule of thumb, worry less about “bar classes” and instead take classes based on your own interests and the area of law in which you think you'll practice. Your bar review course (if you plan to take one, and who doesn't?) will prepare you for the bar; try to use law school to prepare you for your career in law. I also highly recommend clinics, even and especially as a 2L, because they give you experience you won't get in any other class and provide a nice break from the tone and routine of regular classes. If you wait to try a clinic until your 3rd year you won't have time to build on that experience in law school, but if you do a clinic in your 2nd year and love it, you can make your 3rd year that much more fun and interesting by taking the same clinic again or by taking another clinic, or by working an externship where you use your clinic skills. Talk to current 2Ls and 3Ls at your school! Talk especially to those you know who have gotten jobs you think you'd like or are pursuing careers in areas of law you think you'll want to work in. Ask them about the classes they've taken and the professors that are good in those subjects. Their advice will be more specific and informed than anything you'll get from anyone else, plus they might offer you their outlines, which never hurts. Finally, remember that you are the one who has to do the reading, attend the classes, take the notes, make the outlines, and take the exam or write the paper, so take your own interests seriously. Other people can offer advice and rules of thumb, but you should make your own decisions about what classes to take.

Posted by mowabb at 06:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

Request: Wireless Access, Everyone?

Dave! is engaged in a battle with his law school's IT department. The school is just now rolling out wireless access, but, “they are being draconian about access--only supporting Windows!” So, in feeble attempt to at least gain some insight about what other schools are doing, Dave! appeals to you, gentle readers: 1. Does your school offer wired access to the network in classrooms? 2. Does your school offer wireless network access? 3. (If you know) How do they authenticate for the network? Please leave comments below or on Dave's own thread. Thanks!!

Posted by mowabb at 12:46 PM | TrackBack

November 26, 2004

Request: Finals Preps

One-L “uhoh” writes:
Ok, so now I'm hopelessly behind in the reading. And when viewed in the cold light of day, after a night of purported inspiration, my outlines have revealed themselves to be the product of a very disturbed and caffine-crazed mind. Given that it's probably too late in the semester to actually learn the law, on what skills should I focus in order to mitigate the damage?
And given that it may be too late for advice at this point, can anyone offer any concise finals prep tips for all of us heading into finals in the next few weeks? If you could pass on one single secret of your success, what would it be? (Feel free to offer more than one, but since we're all pressed for time...) UPDATE: This should probably be in the “what not to do to prepare for finals” file, but Jeremy Blachman offers a few of the best things you can do when you're supposed to be studying but would just prefer not.

Posted by mowabb at 12:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Request: Williams v. Walker

“Dissenter” writes:
Hi, remember Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. from first year contracts class? Just wondering if anyone knows what happened to this case after the case was remanded to trial court? did walker-thomas furniture co settle? (subsequent history not reported).

Posted by mowabb at 12:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Request: 1L Looking for Work

A reader wrote in a couple of weeks ago with the following request:
Nov. 1 is officially behind us. I can now start looking for work. The question is where? I go to a regional school in a major metropolitan area. I have no idea what kind of law I'd like to practice but personal bias suggests that criminal law and insurance defense are probably out. How do I find out about superior court judges who will accept my free labor? Any other ideas?
One easy answer is to talk to your school's career office — they should be able to tell you about good best for judges to talk to and that sort of thing. They should also be able to help you go through the options for your particular region. You probably knew that, though, so two books I'd recommend: I have both, and think both should be required reading for 1st semester of 1L simply because they can help you make better-informed choices as you explore what to do with your J.D. Any other great tips out there?

Posted by mowabb at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

Choosing A School: Rank and Specialization

A reader writes:
How much does it matter which school I graduate from if I know with absolute certainty that I want to focus on, for example, "soft" Intellectual Property law (trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc.)? So, for instance, George Washington University is ranked #2 in IP law. Would I be silly to turn down a technically higher ranked school like Northwestern or Duke in order to go to GW for its strong IP law program, assuming all things are more or less equal -- e.g., same overall costs, no preference in going to school or living or working in any particular part of the country, no strong desire to be associated to (or to be disassociated from) an undergraduate campus, etc.? Or for any lower ranked school with a strong program in X for any higher ranked school with a weak program in X? Where do you draw the line?
Excellent questions! Any thoughts out there?

Posted by mowabb at 09:47 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 17, 2004

Request: Case briefs v. Book briefs?

A 1L reader has a question for anyone and everyone. He writes:
I like to contribute whenever I can, but in the words of Op Ivy (yeah, I'm a geezer) "All I know is that I don't know nothin'" So, Blawgers, I pose the following question for you: At what point did you decide that you understood the briefing process well, and stop writing out briefs and relying on book briefing? As the semester wears on, I'm getting (or feeling, hard to tell the difference!) more bogged down with reading. I have a book briefing/highlighting method, but I still take the time to write out a brief. Lately though, my written briefs have been getting shorter, and I've noticed that frequently when the prof will make a point in class, it's not in my written brief, but it is in my "book brief". Am I kidding myself? Or does book briefing cut it?
Anyone? I continued to "brief" cases in a very abbreviated way throughout 1L, but in my second year I have just tried to write 1-2 sentences summarizing each case in my notes—a very very abbreviated brief. I don't really want to have to look at my book at all on an exam, and I don't want to transfer book briefs to an outline as I prepare for the exam. So that's my solution, but I'm certain there are better responses. Please send them in!

Posted by mowabb at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2004

Request: Extracurricular Reading?

Neo Tokyo Times is wondering if there's any reading a good law student should be doing outside of what's assigned. He writes:
Now, the big question I have to ask myself, and you fair reader, is what kinds of outside reading are the most useful? I've been skimming through some of the referenced law review articles in our casebooks, but oftentimes the longer and more extensive articles start discussing increasingly obscure minutia well beyond the scope of my classes. And some of the professor's articles are similarly obscure. Should I be spending extra time on treatises? Headnotes, or those sort of commercial guides? I'm definitely going to start progressively outlining every week, so that the material is fresh during my outlining process, but I don't think that'll take much more than a few hours on the weekends. Anyhow, I think my next minor project is to research and discover the processes people use to achieve excellence as law students.
Hm. That's a puzzler. I don't recall having enough time as a 1L to do a lot of "outside" reading. I couldn't even keep up with the "inside" reading. So I'm obviously not the person to ask, because I'd say that the only outside reading that's useful is any that you need to help you understand the inside reading, but if you can do all the inside reading and get in your head in an easily accessible fashion, you're good. Save the outside reading for the summer, or ... later, anyway. But like I said, I'm not the person to ask. Anyone have any ideas for NTT? If so, you can leave them here, or in the comments on his post. Oh, and NTT, as you discover the processes people use to achieve excellence as law students, please share!

Posted by mowabb at 10:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

Request: Personal Statement v. Statement of Purpose?

Here's an "applying to law school" dilemma for you. CM writes:
I have a question about applying to law school, not law school itself. The applications I've seen are vague about the personal statement topic, so I wrote an essay about why I want to go to law school and how my past experiences fit in. I was hoping I could use it for all the schools I'm applying to. I just read an article on about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose -- one is about you as a person, the other is about why you want to go to law school. The article recommended keeping these two separate, and trying to figure out which one a school wants based on the application. That's news to me. So my question is, should I write another essay that's more personal and doesn't talk much about law school? And should I have one of each type of essay to send to different schools, or is it okay to use the same one?
I wrote about personal statements here during my own application process, and I still think the advice quoted there (from a book by Donald Asher) is pretty good. The long and short of that is there's no formula; what works for you and seems to "fit" with your application and make it shine is going to be different from what worked for me, but if you're "honest and forthcoming" you're on the right track. Can anyone offer more helpful advice for CM or respond to his/her specific questions about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose? Does anyone know any admissions counsellors who might be willing to respond to something like this?

Posted by mowabb at 01:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Measuring Competitiveness

In response to this request from Sui Generis, Nuts and Boalts offers:
A few ways you can measure relative comeptitiveness among law schools using the schools' own policies. Of course this is probably about as valuable as location of water fountains or emergency evacuation plans.
I'd say it's much more helpful than the location of water fountains ... unless you're really thirsty. Thinking about more about this topic, I think the competitiveness variable might depend somewhat on what you want to do w/law school and your legal career. If you're hoping to be top of class, law review, big firm job, and all the trimmings, every school will be competitive for you b/c you'll have to fight like hell w/the other people who want the same things. If your goals are different (say, if you want to do public interest law and aren't bothered by a 3.0 GPA and less than $100k in salary on graduation), you should be able to find a good group of peers at most schools who share your goals and will be less cutthroat about things. If this is true, a school's support for public interest might be some indication of how competitive you'll find it, but this is pure speculation.

Posted by mowabb at 01:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

Request: Measuring Competitiveness at Law Schools

Sui Generis writes:
Much like "k" at "I hate stupid people," one of the most important things I'm looking for in a law school is a cooperative (or at least non-hostile) student environment. In general, I thought this post sounded like really good advice but it got me to wondering: What is the easiest/most reliable way to learn how competitive a school really is? Thanks!
So does anyone have any suggestions on this? It seems like a tough question because just about everyone I could think of to ask (current students, professors, administrators) would seem to have a sort of vested interest in answering more one way than another. Also, everyone has their own experience; where one student will say School X is hyper-competitive, another student may say the same school is chill and cooperative. So are there any statistics or reliable sources measuring the competitiveness variable?

Posted by mowabb at 08:09 PM | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

If they only knew then...

Although not a direct response to CP's request, lawgeekgurl recently posted some thoughts for those considering whether to go to law school. An excerpt:
So you want to be a lawyer? Are you insane? Check that, you ARE insane if you are thinking of a law career. Have you sought treatment? If you've already decided treatment is not the answer, well, okay, here are my tips on what to expect upon entering law school, and some websites that might be of use to a newbie law student.
The rest includes links to some other helpful sites (including Blawg Wisdom—thanks!) and lots of tips that really seem geared more toward those who have already decided to go to law school and want some attack strategies for the first year. Speaking of attack strategies for the first year, don't miss If I only knew then... by the Uncivil Litigator. Great advice about getting practical experience while in school and why you should think carefully about picking your classes. Includes helpful comments from readers, as well. See also: A good strategy for those thinking about law school but still unsure is to just read blogs by lawyers for a few days, explore the archives, get an idea for what they talk about, how they talk about it, and see if that seems like something you'd want to do and be and think about, etc.

Posted by mowabb at 11:03 AM | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

Request: Is law stable, and what is it really like?

This just in from "CP" on the Wisdom Request Wire:
I'm a network admin right now, but am afraid that the computer/IT industry is going downhill or will go even more downhill than it already has been going downhill. My question is: do you think the legal field is a more stable one in the long run than computer/IT? I don't see too many 50+ year old IT professionals, unless they're in management, but I do see a lot of lawyers in their 50s and still enjoying what they're doing (well, "enjoy" is such a dodgy term... just joking). Also, where can I find info on what it's actually like to be a lawyer on a day to day basis? I've checked out two websites that friends recommended: and, and while they do have attorneys writing about what they do, it somehow still doesn't seem to let me know what it's "really" like. I'm mostly interested in working for a corporate law firm. Arguing cases in court isn't my thing. (I hope that doesn't mean I can't become a lawyer? Gulp.) Thanks in advance for all your help and advice!
If you have thoughts or comments that might be helpful to CP, please respond in the comments to this post, or in a post on your own site that pings this post (via trackback), or just submit your wisdom via the Submit Wisdom Form. Thanks!

Posted by mowabb at 10:23 AM | TrackBack

September 14, 2004

Super Size The LCD

In a response to yesterday's request for advice on buying a laptop for law school, Nuts and Boalts offers Super Size My LCD Screen, "a non-engineering perspective on laptops for law school." There you'll find a thorough discussion of many different variables to consider when buying a laptop, from hard disk size to quantity of RAM to weight to, yes, the size of the screen. Thanks to all the other good souls who have left such great advice in the comments to the original request. This is all something of an experiment and it appears to be working just great so far—thanks to you! So, um, thank you!

Posted by mowabb at 07:29 AM | TrackBack

September 13, 2004

Laptop Recommendations?

Blawg Wisdom's first ever Wisdom Request reads:
Hello all! I am a senior in college planning on attending law school in the fall of 2005. I have no computer and desperately need one NOW. My question is this: is there a certain kind of laptop that is recommended for law students by law schools? I want to get a laptop that I can use for the next four years. I know next to nothing about computers; all I know is that I want a PC that can play Sims 2! Thanks.
Any suggestions anyone? If so, please write about it on your own blawg and submit the link, or just reply in the comments.

Posted by mowabb at 11:44 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wisdom Requests

Introducing a new feature here at Blawg Wisdom: The Wisdom Request Form! This form is an opportunity to connect two different types of Blawg Wisdom readers: People with questions and people with "answers" (or responses to questions, anyway). People With Questions: If you're someone thinking about going to law school, or if you've decided to go, or if you're already in law school, the Wisdom Request Form is for you. The next time you find a law-school related issue that you have questions about, visit Blawg Wisdom, fill out the request form, we'll post your question, and wisdom will soon return to you (we hope) via the generosity and kindness of the law students and lawyers who have dealt with that issue in the past. These wise people will respond to your query on their own blawgs and submit the links, or they'll just reply in the comments to your query, OR they'll respond directly on the submission form, and we'll collect them into a future post on Blawg Wisdom as soon as we can. People With Answers: If you're a current law student or practicing attorney, check back with Blawg Wisdom once in a while to see if there are any requests (they'll be collected in a "Requests" category). (We may also send emails w/specific requests if we know of people who might be especially well qualified to respond.) Then, either respond to the request on your own blawg and submit the link, or reply in the comments to the request, OR post a response directly to Blawg Wisdom via the submission form. As always, you'll be helping other law students have an easier time with the challenges of law school, and you may also learn a little bit yourself in the process of thinking and writing about the issues raised by the requests. So request and submit to your heart's content. Blawg Wisdom loves you.

Posted by mowabb at 06:38 AM | TrackBack