Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Urban Landscapes, Humidity, High Heels, and Pantyhose

Brief post, because I have been working oh-so-hard as I started my summer associate job last week.

First, urban landscapes were simply not designed for women wearing high heels. The vents, manhole covers, and other assorted small holes in the sidewalk are booby traps just waiting to snag your heel and render you shoeless. If you do this in a group of your colleagues, you will get looks of sympathy from the women, but laughter from the men.

I have yet to share my rant about pantyhose with you, but I am going to do so now. I believe that if the so-called glass ceiling exists, it exists in the form of pantyhose. Pantyhose keep women back, with every run in a stocking there is an assignment or an opportunity that pantyhose keeps a woman from pursuing. Pantyhose, while sheer and delicate, binds women in a way that keeps them from achieving true gender equality. Mind you, I have never classified myself as a feminist, but pantyhose makes me miserable, and if I am forced to wear them because of some traditional, arcane, antiquated ideal that women should keep their legs covered in the office, then I will never ever make partner. Once the humidity sets in, and going outside feels like trudging through a swamp, pantyhose become the most uncomfortable garment known to mankind. I would sooner walk 5 miles in the most uncomfortable shoes I own rather than wear pantyhose on a day with 100% humidity. Pantyhose are simply an eternal burden women in contemporary society must bear that ranks right up there with corsets.

So I'll get to my point, and that is that it is impossible for women to be entirely comfortable in a humid urban landscape wearing high heels and pantyhose. Now, the men I know will raise that neckties aren't exactly slippers, but give me a necktie anyday of the week.

With love from the urban jungle sans pantyhose,


Friday, May 12, 2006

Should You Transfer Law Schools?

The decision whether to transfer law schools is a difficult choice for many students. Those transferring for reasons other than trying to transfer up the USNWRs fall outside the scope of this post.

First, what are your career goals?

When I thought about transferring, I thought about the doors that would be open to me if I transferred, and the doors that would remain shut if I stayed put. I didn't choose to attend law school so I could work for a big elite firm, but I decided (with mounting debt) that I would really like to have the option. Sure, the money would be nice, but the training would be good too. The prospect of working for such a firm coming from my previous law school seemed small, and I knew many people with decent grades who seemed to be having some difficulty finding jobs. Although my grades placed me at the top of the class, I worried about my employment situation. For many, this is a huge reason to transfer. I often heard while I was at my old law school that the law school you attend becomes increasingly insignificant the longer you are out of law school. While there might be some truth to this if you become a rainmaker, or do some amazing things with your career, the law school you attend will forever be enshrined on your resume, and it is one thing all future employers will see and consider. How they weight it, one can never be sure. I remember one of the most striking differences when I transferred last fall. I had started participating in fall recruitment at my old school just in case I didn't make the switch. When I started participating in my current law school's fall recruitment, the number of employers participating was more than six times the number of employers who participated in my old law school's fall recruitment. It was extremely eye-opening -- at my new school firms fought over us, took us to dinner and drinks during on-campus recruiting, while at my old law school we were lucky to get interviews with top firms. At the new school, employers sent us emails inviting us to events, and inviting us to apply to the firms, while at the old school I never heard from a single employer. The employment opportunities my new school afforded me immediately paid off my decision before classes even started. This is way I said to apply early in a previous post -- you want to make absolutely sure that you can take full advantage of your new law school's fall recruitment; otherwise what you gain in transferring decidedly diminishes.

Second, do you want to clerk?

Following up from the previous subject, because clerking is highly integrated with the first question, whether you want to clerk should be a big question to ask yourself. A prestigious clerkship with a well-known judge can catapult your career to unfathomable heights. This is something I didn't even know, and was never ever discussed at my previous law school. In fact, I didn't even really know what a clerkship was, or its implications at my old law school because nobody ever discussed it with us. Looking at the numbers from my previous school, less than 5% of the students clerk after graduation, which could explain why I was so in the dark. At my new school, the number of clerks is insanely high -- and students pursue very prestigious clerkships with Circuit Court Judges, and we have at least one Supreme Court Clerk this term. While I knew that my chances of becoming Supreme Court Clerk were insanely small even after choosing to transfer, I just liked the fact that hypothetically, this was an opportunity that I could potentially take advantage of at my new school. If I stayed put, this was yet another door that remained closed.

Third, do you want to go into academia?

This question also follows from the previous two. At my new school some students are able to become law professors immediately after graduation. If you get a fabulous clerkship, this can fast track you into academia as well. If you clerk and work for a prestigious law firm, again -- these are factors faculty look for when hiring a new law professor. Not to mention, the school you graduated from. Academia was another option I wanted to be able to consider, and I knew if I stayed put the best I could probably hope for was to eventually become a professor at the previous law school I attended. I didn't want to keep future teaching options limited, so this was another factor I considered. Of course most law professors graduated from Yale, Harvard, or Stanford, but they come from the rest of the top schools to varying degrees, and attending any school ranked higher than mine meant more opportunity.

Fourth, what will you give up if you leave your old law school?

For many students who are considering transferring, they may be leaving behind academic scholarships, Law Review membership, and the GPA insurance policy the first year grades afforded. When you transfer, you start completely over -- the GPA goes back down to 0.00, you have to claw your way onto Law Review at the new school (each law school's procedures differ on this), make new friends, and in many cases you will not receive scholarship money at the new school. These factors get even trickier if you are already at a school ranked in the middle of the Top Tier of the USNWRs. You have to ask, "is it better to be on Law Review at GW Law School, or will transferring to Penn and not being on Law Review be better?" For most of us who were at lower ranked schools, the answer is that we will probably be better off (when I say "better off" I mean that we will have more opportunities available to us) going to the top school without being on Law Review rather than sticking around our old school and doing the Law Review thing. Although Law Review is a golden key to the kingdom of the legal profession, so is going to a big-name, tippy top school. There are, frankly, opportunities you get by virtue of coming from certain schools rather than others, even if you are within the top 5% of your class. Certain judges have publicly said they do not hire clerks outside of top ten law schools, and many many law firms do not recruit at schools that rank below a certain level. Going to a top law school is a golden key unto itself. Ultimately, the question is, "will I have more career opportunities over the course of my career staying at my old law school, with all of the benefits I have already earned for myself, or giving up those benefits and starting fresh at a new higher ranked law school?" All of this said, if you went to law school to hang a shingle on Main Street of your home town, then transferring may not be in your best interest. But you still have to ask yourself, when the local people come to inquire about your services, are they going to be more likely to hire someone from the local law school, or from an Ivy League school? You will have to answer this question for yourself. You may also be concerned with leaving friendships behind, as well as leaving behind classmates you came to trust. I would be the first to say that friendships and people are important, but rest assured you will find those people to trust and confide in at your new school. You may not start off your 2L year knowing who they are, but you will likely have other transfer students you will meet at your new school, and those will be people you immediately bond with. They will be in the same position you are, starting fresh their second year, and looking to connect with people.

Fifth, be conscious of the hierarchy.

When I was at my old law school I was very conscious of the hierarchy this profession imposes on law students, and I would say that I am almost more conscious of it at my new school. Even though I can now say that I am a law student at top ten law school X, I am still aware that there are opportunities I don't necessarily have because I am not at Harvard, Stanford, or Yale. I think the top students here still have most of the same opportunities, but there are just benefits to being at the top of this profession-imposed hierarchy. The extreme optimist in me says, of course you can do anything you want coming from any school in the US, if you work hard enough and play your cards right. While this might be true to a small degree, life is just plain harder at the bottom of the hierarchy. I remember feeling like I had to fight for every opportunity at my old law school, and now I feel like many opportunities are just handed to me at my new one. I will be the first to say that the law school hierarchy imposed by both the profession and the USNWR sucks, but part of being in the legal profession is learning how to play the game and use things to your advantage.

Other thoughts...

There are many many many factors and reasons to transfer beyond those I touched on above. If you are unhappy at your law school, and you are looking to make a change (and you have great grades) then I would say take a chance on a new school. I cannot do my new school justice, but I definitely feel as though my new school is a much better fit for me than my old one. I know I was probably lucky in this respect, but my new school has been nothing but good to me, and I am grateful someone looked at my application and took a chance on me. I chose to attend my new school site-unseen -- the first day I spent on campus was for Journal Orientation before classes began, and my tuition check had already been signed and delivered. My new law school also happened to give me an academic scholarship, so all hope is not lost if you are leaving one behind. Granted, the amount afforded didn't come close to taking care of tuition, but it was something -- and it made me feel more wanted.

If I think of other things as transfer law school application season heats up this summer I'll post them, and as I see your comments I will respond. Good luck to everyone throwing their hats in the ring this year, and I hope to see some of you at my new law school in the fall.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Practical Thoughts on Transfer Student Apps

While this is by no means comprehensive, and entirely based on personal experience, since it is transfer law student application season, I wanted to share some thoughts on the process. These thoughts, views, and opinions are entirely my own, and based in my transfer application experiences last year. They are by no means entirely representative, and may not be applicable to your situation, but might present some good general advice.

First, apply early and apply often.

If you have good grades from your first semester, do not wait to start filling out applications and applying if transferring is something you really want to consider (whether you should or want to transfer is a topic for another discussion, and will be the subject of my next post). Although the transfer application process is much shorter than it was when you were applying to law school the first time around, once many schools start making admissions decisions early in the summer for the few transfer spots they have, it can be that much more difficult to get in later in the game. While all hope is not lost if you apply late (or if your grades from the second semester are not posted until July) as many schools will not have filled all of their slots, making your application the earlier the better holds true for transfer apps as it did for first year applications. Plus, it gives schools time to communicate with you when they need additional documentation. For instance, one of the top 10 schools to which I applied extremely late, contacted me the first week of August to tell me my Dean's Certification from my undergrad institution had not yet been received -- by that point, my application was pretty much worthless because most of their positive decisions had no doubt already been made. You also have to consider that some of the primary reasons for transferring are to try for law review at your new school and to participate in fall recruitment. A late decision can mean not participating in either of these two important activities, which would seriously undermine your reasons for transferring in the first place.

Second, dare to dream.

One of the worst feelings is that "what if" that plagues you when you choose not to apply to schools you would love to attend, but didn't think you would get into. Sometimes, you really just never know. I didn't apply to Harvard, Stanford, or Yale, and I regret that decision only because I don't know what would have happened had I applied. I thought I was lucky to get into the top ten school I currently attend, and I was thoroughly surprised when the call from the admissions office came -- but it makes you wonder "what would have happened if..." That said, you have to stay realistic -- just don't be too realistic. It is possible to climb the USNWR by leaps and bounds -- I am proof. Just think and weigh which means more to you -- the time, effort, and money of filling out the additional applications coupled with the peace of mind when you receive the answer, or the thought that you will never know that you could have gone to the law school of your dreams if you hadn't been lazy or stingy and just applied....

Third, grades, grades, grades, and class rank.

Grades and class rank are the #1 factors law schools look at in the transfer application process. If you are not near the top of the class your chances of transferring correspondingly decrease. Transferring to a school in the top 14 is extremely difficult if you are not in the top 5-10% of your class. It is probably still possible if you are in the top 15%-20%, and as you approach the top third, it gets extremely difficult to impossible (unless you are already at a top school and you need transfer for other reasons -- those kinds of applications are outside the scope of this post). Of course the USNWR rank of your school matters, but to a lesser degree, when they look at your class rank -- someone who is at the top of her class at a fourth tier law school will probably have more of an uphill battle than someone at a first tier law school, but she should still be in a good position.

Fourth, Law Review isn't as important as you think.

Getting onto Law Review is probably less important than you might think at first. Given that the process for getting onto Law Review differs at each school, having the Law Review credential on your transfer application is not necessarily as reflective of your legal skills as your grades and class rank. I will divulge that unlike JCA on Sua Sponte, I did not make Law Review at my previous school (ranked similarly to her previous school) and yet my new school (also ranked similarly to her school) still accepted me. If your grades and class rank are top notch, schools will be willing to overlook that you didn't make Law Review, so don't let that keep you from applying. The way I looked at it, not making Law Review at my old school presented the opportunity for me to pursue Law Review at a new school if I chose to transfer.

Fifth, location, location, location.

Schools in less desirable geographic locations tend to be easier to get into in general. Not to detract from the quality and caliber of schools located in certain areas, it just holds true that certain schools in California are harder to get into because people like living there. Meanwhile, schools in snowy, cold, less urban places tend to be easier to get into because many people do not necessarily like to live in the snow, or in the middle of nowhere (especially if it is a snowy middle of nowhere). If you are flexible in terms of your geographic location, it has been widely hypothesized (and probably widely reflective numerically in the USNWR) that schools in the middle of the country tend to be easier to get into than schools located on either coast. As I said above, California and certain big cities on the East Coast have more panache than some schools not just in the middle of the country, but in less urban regions in general. Schools located in these places are just as good as they are on the coasts in desirable urban areas, and probably represent the same or similar employment opportunities, so don't shy away from trying a new location. It is only two years of your life, and you can probably handle just about anywhere for such a short duration of time. If transferring is really something that is important to you, this is something to consider.

These are just some thoughts in a nutshell. As I think of specific topics while transfer apps are in their high season, I may post them individually. My next post will be on deciding whether to transfer.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And with that...finito.

Just turned in my last paper about couple of hours ago. I'll realize that I'm done in about 24 hours. Pheeeewwwwww....I'm done, I'm really done. Yay!

The Semester That Will. Not. End.

Here it is, the middle of the night, and I am still chugging away at my final paper that is due tomorrow by 5pm. In the past two weeks I have written a 30+ paged paper, turned in my last assignment for a Practicum, taken two final exams, and I have a few pages left to write on this final paper. I'm tired, and not to whine, but I am ready to call this semester over. The weather is great outside, I can hear everyone having a good time, and I am ready to join them.

The catch? I'm a 2L. I start work in a week and a half, and I have to stick around to do post-semester Journal stuff. Welcome to a life with the law! You want it to go away sometimes but it just won't. I feel like Sisyphus, and I haven't even graduated yet.

This is a short one tonight -- gotta catch some sleep before I try to polish this puppy off, turn it in, and wipe my hands of this semester. After tomorrow at 5pm, I swear the complaining stops. For about a week, anyway....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We Beat Out HLS. But I'm Not Happy.

So, my wonderful fantabulous law school beat Harvard Law School to the punch on something. But, I have to say that on I am not on my law school's side:

A proposed ban on wireless at Harvard Law is generating controversy. Apparently students prefer to instant message than pay attention to classroom discussion. The school is considering a ban on wireless in the classroom. Socrates is probably rolling over in his grave. Other law schools may be tempted to follow HLS' lead.

Okay, for the record it seems HLS is following our lead. This year was the first year my law school decided to do this very thing. Unbeknownst to me, being a transfer and all, I arrived starry-eyed on campus only to be greated with this email upon my arrival:

TO: All students

The law school has expanded its wireless management capability to be able to turn on or off a student’s wireless access based on whether that student is in a class or in an exam. This management tool (a combination of hardware and software manipulation) will allow us to manage the wireless network to a finer degree, for instance, allowing some network functions to continue, such as file transfers, without allowing other functions, such as web browsing. One of the benefits of this change is students will be able to save their exams to the network independent of whether the exam is blocked or unblocked. Students can choose to leave wireless on at all times and the access control will be determined by their activity.

Another benefit of this new technology is that web access can be limited during class times for students enrolled during a given class without limiting such access to others. Over the past several years, instant messaging, email correspondence, and web surfing have become an increasing problem during class periods, one noticed and objected to by faculty and students alike. Some web-based activities can be useful during class sessions, and indeed some professors have made use of web technologies for class sessions. Other activities, however, create competition for student attention, distract fellow students and, most faculty believe, lower the overall quality of class discussions considerably. Accordingly, the decision as to how much web access a student will have during each class session or exam will be made by the professor teaching that class.

Director of Information Technology.

Fabulous. And let me be clear that it is pretty rare that a professor will turn on the wireless during class. Honestly, at my old law school I did spend time using the internet in class. Admittedly, some of that time was spend clandestinely, emailing and other tabboo activities. But there were pluses too, in that I could look up cases on Lexis, read statutes we were discussing like the Federal Rules of Civ Pro, and paste them directly into my notes (which saved time doing it later).

I understand that the faculty is seeing wireless as entirely subject to abuse, but they should let the grading curve be stabilizer. People who do nothing but surf the web may be less likely to get a good grade in the course. When grades in this degree program are so important, why not let that be determinitive of the outcome over the duration of the course?

I'll tell you why -- because despite my past abuses, I somehow found my way to the tippy top of my law school class. I think this should say something about the malfunctions of traditional legal education rather than placing the blame on outside influences. If the socratic method were really that great of a learning tool, would surfing the web in class lend so little effect on grades? If my professors were so absolutely riveting, or the class discussion so fascinating, would I succumb to the temptation of getting on the internet for non-class related purposes?

I realize these questions are easily answered in the fact that fundamentally students should respect their instructors, which necessarily implies that one should pay attention in class. It is for this reason that I have not publicly spoken on this topic before.

But I cannot escape the nagging feeling that this decision is decidedly paternal. If we are going to be lawyers, i.e. professionals in three short years working on cases with millions of dollars at stake, shouldn't we be allowed to choose for ourselves which path to pursue? I am not arguing that using the internet in class is the right choice; I am simply asking that the school not take that choice away from us. The school should have enough faith in itself as an institution that we will not waste the $35,000 we pay in tuition each year to learn how to be professionals. Perhaps we can start our education by being treated like professionals, rather than being treated like high school students, or worse (remember the good old days when you couldn't have a cell phone or pager at school? And if you were caught with it they took it from you?). Let's not regress (even if some of our fellow collegue's behavior often feels as though it has).

And for those faculty who feel strongly enough about this, then they should ban laptops in class altogether, as some professors at this school already chose to do. Education obviously existed successfully for hundreds of years without laptops in the classroom. If the greatest legal minds in the country are sticking to an antiquated legal education paradigm, then leave it to the next generation to man the shift to the new paradigm.

And the debate rages on: More professors ban laptops in class
And on: The Good Law Student, the Bad Professor, and the Ugly Computer

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sweet Dream

My Sec Reg exam is tomorrow, in 9 hours and 28 minutes. Here is the sweeet dream I will be dreaming about tonight until I wake up and take my last exam of the semester (my original post can be found here:

Office of the Registrar
Your Law School
123 Main Street
Springfield, AB 12345

Dear Student:

We are writing to inform you that due to an unforeseen two-week nationwide holiday, finals for the spring semester have been cancelled. The faculty joins us in our sentiments that you have studied enough over the course of the semester, and therefore rescheduling final exams for this semester will not be necessary.

We know you are curious how our decision will affect your class rank, if at all. For your information, we are changing our official policy to make every student #1. When employers write to inquire where you are in the class, we will universally acknowledge that you are the #1 student in the class. Externally, we will continue to say that we do in fact rank, and we will continue to publish our GPA ranking percentiles on our website. The fact that these will be misleading will remain our secret. Please do not spoil this good fortune for others by divulging this information to friends outside of the law school, potential employers, or heaven forbid publishing this information on your blog.

We hope you enjoy your summer, and that you will not work too hard slaving away for a firm to pay us back the more than $100,000 you will spend for tuition for the duration of your law school career. Please find some time to enjoy yourselves. If you are studying for the bar, we are very sorry for your misery, and we hope you find some time to spend with your long forgotten family members before you again disappear into a firm for the next several years while you pay down your debt.

Again, best wishes for a fruitful and successful summer. We will not be in communication with you, as there will be no grades to post. Instead, your transcript will simply reflect an "A" for each course you chose to undertake. We will also retroactively be changing your grades to all A's to reflect our new "unofficial" policy to make everyone #1 because you all deserve it. For those of you who already had straight A's, congratulations. Now everyone can be just like you.

Congratulations on another successful year in law school.


Tammy Bakerschmidt
Dean of Students

PS. Law Review membership has been expanded, and everyone who decides they would like to join may do so. Please contact the Editor-in-Chief to inform her of your decision to join. Please note that you may also explicate your Law Review membership on your resume for employment purposes even if you choose never to do anything for the journal. We feel that this collaborative and non-hierarchical approach will make our Law Review one of the most important law journals in America.