Archive for October, 2009

Oct 19 2009

Bull Rushing a Bear (Job) Market

Published by under Miscellaneous

Since we have entered law school we have been inundated with gloom and doom advice about the state of the legal economy.  Each week’s ABA newsletter last year seemed to highlight another several hundred jobs cut at some big city firm, partner’s asked to give up some job perk, and ominous undertones implying those of us still in school would not likely find work.  Being a first year student I felt the same way I felt about all tragedies that didn’t directly effect  me… so what?  But as months went on, and I heard nightmares of recent graduates, it occurred to me that there had to be a solution for this predicament of too many lawyers not enough jobs.  This post is my answer, which will inevitably be ignored:

Now I admit that I am not a brilliant economic mind.  In fact, economics is the primary reason I changed majors in undergrad, eventually leading me to law school.  But I think I have a handle on the basics, and the legal job market seems to be a pretty basic concept to me.  As supply goes up, demand goes down.  Profound, ain’t it?  But believe it or not there are a finite number of legal problems in America; as we continue to fill the job market with new lawyers it resembles a cup under the faucet (or spicket, if you are from North Carolina).  If we do not soon turn off the faucet, we are left with a big mess.  This seems to be the only logical solution, since lawyers have already tried the opposite approach, creating more problems to support the growing field.

To clarify “turning off the faucet,” I mean regulation.  A nationwide proposal amongst every accredited law school in country to not accept a class of 2013.  To draw an academic parallel, no less a groan from my classmates, you will recall the Supreme Court tried this in Wickard.  The government said stop producing this product in excess because doing so is dragging down the national post-depression economy.  Needless to say we are again in a post-recession/depression economy, and need to be particularly cognizant of society’s needs.  I foresee two primary benefits to this approach.  First, we take some small measure to thin out the “job-seeking” crowd.  By reducing the denominator in the jobs to lawyers ratio, we would ever so slightly lower unemployment.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly it would strengthen the talent of the next class that is produced.  Having twice the population competing for the same number of spots allows only the best to continue their training, instead of simply applying until you get accepted somewhere. 

The obvious argument against is that this would be “bad for business.”  But, I have to question the validity of this.  One of my numerous and sordid jobs prior to law school was working at the Maryland Fund for Excellence.  You know us as, “Hi.  I’m from your college.  Give us money!”  In any case, one of the facts from our script was that state funds (at a state school) only covered about 50% of the cost of a student’s education.  Now, couple this with another fact.  I had the occasion to meet the associate dean of one of our near peer law schools over summer break.  This person said they had admitted over 220 students into the Class of 2012.  Now for the hypothetical…

If there are 200 students at 100 recognized law schools, creating a 50% of 1 student’s tuition deficit [let’s round it off at 40,000/year, though Elon is markedly less].  This is 20,000 students times 20,000 dollars, creating a $400 million deficit.  Traditionally, this is covered by raising tuition rates for students for whom, as it stands, there are bleak job prospects at the end of the line.  If we were to cut a class for a year we would not only lower the variable costs of running the business, but allow professors with newly found free time to pursue new methods of teaching and research.   This has the collateral effect of adding value to the teacher, and perhaps, the school.  This way, perhaps we would produce better lawyers, instead of just more…

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Oct 14 2009

Passing the Bar

Published by under Advice,Best Practices

A lot of wonderful folks yet to take the Bar ask for my advice these days, and I think it’s time to share my enlightened wisdom with the masses…

1. To Thine Own Self Be True

By the time you sit for the Bar, you’ve been through three long, hellacious years of law school. And passed! By now, you ought to know what works for you and what does not when it comes to studying. If you don’t, then you can stop reading now because nothing else I say is likely to help you. Really. I mean that. Just stop.

Realizing that different material often requires different study techniques (e.g. I flow-charted Con Law, flashcarded (not a word) the hell out of Torts, and outlined Wills until my eyes blurred), take some time to seriously asses the beast you face and the best way to kill said beast. Will you make flashcards? Outlines? Practice hypos? All of the above?

The only correct answer is the one that will enable you to pass the Bar, regardless of what your professors, BarBri, and your ever-wise friends may tell you to the contrary.

2. It’s NOT About the Hours!

The single most asked question regarding the Bar exam is, “How many hours are you putting in??”

The single best answer to this question is, “Who gives a crap!? Bugger off!”

Passing the Bar is NOT a question of hours spent studying! IT. IS. NOT!!!! Do not be fooled by the “Oh, I arise with the dawn and study ceaselessly until the bewitching hour” idiots. They’re probably going to fail. Because they’re “studying” a lot, but they’re probably not studying well.

Studying for the Bar, in my humble opinion, should be a checklist, not a stopwatch. Make a list of things you must accomplish before you sleep. Then make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, but could always do on Sunday if sleep finds you sooner rather than later. Crack down the list until the list is finished. Then STOP.

If it took you 12 hours, oh well. That’s life during Bar study. If it took you four hours, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! GOOD FOR YOU!! W00t!!!

Now, in the manner of Jesus, a parable to prove my point:

Two lumberjacks competed to see who could cut down the most trees (in the pre-environmentalist days … today it would be bamboo, but I digress). The first lumberjack worked day and night. He took no breaks. He barely ate or slept. He was a machine. The second lumberjack took a nice lunch break every day. He took an equally charming dinner. Called his wife to tell her he loved her (I added that part).

When the time came to see who won, low and behold! It was the second lumberjack. The first was confounded. “I worked around the clock! I never stopped! How did you beat me!?”

The second lumberjack replied, “Easy. I cheated.”

JUST KIDDING!!! THAT’S NOT WHAT HE SAID!!!

The second lumberjack replied, “It’s true that I took breaks. But I used those breaks to sharpen my axe.”

Cool, huh?

3. RELAX!!! Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

Stressing yourself out will NOT help you pass. IT. WILL. NOT!!! Admittedly, stress is part of the game. It just is, so accept that fact and don’t let it eat you alive. And DON’T make it worse!

I suggest easing into Bar study. The first week of BarBri (or whatever) is not an ultimate predictor of success. It’s a time for you to figure what the heck is going on and what happened to your once happy life. Ease in. Remain calm. Everyone else is just as lost, hopeless, panicky, and freaked the heck out as you are. EVERYONE. (And if they say they’re not – like on Facebook – they’re lying.)

After about a week or two, kick it into gear. Now you have an idea of what’s going on and how little you learned in law school. Make your checklist. Attempt finishing it every single day. DO NOT EXPECT SUCCESS. The point of BarBri is to set you up to succeed … eventually. If you could pass the Bar in the first week of the class, you wouldn’t need the class!! So relax!! Everyone else is failing to some extent, too. EVERYONE. (And if they say they’re not – like on Facebook – they’re lying.)

When BarBri (or whatever) ends, you’ll be a couple weeks out from the Bar. Ease out. OUT!!! I SAID OUT!!!! If you’ve kept up with your checklist, then you’re right where you need to be. If you made 1,200 flashcards (ahem), now would be a good time to learn them. While sitting on your balcony. With a beer. Then a coffee. Then a Bible. Now is also a good time to write practice essays. And re-write them. And RE-write them. (We Charter Class members are quite good at re-writes. Just ask us. We’ll tell you. We’re “masters.”)

When you’re a week away, accept that Jesus still loves you even if you fail; that you cannot possibly know everything you will need to know for the exam; that you’re powers of BS are exponentially higher now than they once were; and that now would be a good time to review, as opposed to learn. You will not learn. Anything. Nothing. Zero. What’s there is there. Sorry. Deal with it.

If you ease in, crank it up, then ease out (a lot like certain other pleasant life activities that work kinda well that way .. ahem), you’ll arrive at the exam a lot less stressed than a lot of people. Again, you WILL be stressed. But it’s better to be stressed, well-rested, and well-fed than just stressed. And your chances of success should increase dramatically.

4. Here’s What I Did, So If You’re JUST Like Me…

Again, I stress that success on the Bar depends on doing what works for you. That said, here is what worked for me.

I am NOT an outline reader. I do NOT have a photographic memory. I don’t care which genius professors tell you to just read outlines (ahem), if you can’t recall and use what you’ve read, then it’s useless. Needless to say, reading outlines and taking notes on said outlines is the thing I did the week before the Bar when I wasn’t going to learn anything anyway. It is NOT something I did prior to that point.

My checklist:

BarBri in the morning. No laptop. NO LAPTOP! GET OFF THE INTERNET YOU FREAKING CHILD! THIS IS THE DAMN BAR EXAM! GROW UP!!!!!

Excuse me. Terribly sorry. Where was I?

Right. After BarBri, I made an outline (made, not read) of the lecture notes. Then I typed flashcards based on that outline (50-100 per subject).

If I was still awake, I worked practice MBE problems either in the BarBri books or online.

Then I went to bed. Sometimes having (gasp!) not worked practice MBE problems! Oh, the shame!!!

Saturday was a day of practice essays. All day. Like 30 essays. In a day. Every Saturday. Sometimes I’d write the same one five or six times in a row until the law was nailed into my brain. But then, I really enjoy legal writing so it was kind of fun. Yep, I am that much of a dork.

And then I’d play golf.

Sunday was a day of rest on which I always felt too guilty to rest so I’d review flashcards. While watching golf.

All the other advice you [don’t] need will be heaped upon you in droves, rest assured. And whatever happens, you’ll most likely survive. And the sun will still shine. And all will be well in the end.

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