Friday, August 18, 2006


I am still recovering from a state of complete and utter shock. About five minutes ago, I opened a letter from the Office of the Registrar for Law School X. The letter blathered on and on about budget stuff, and my eyes quickly glazed over. It wasn't until I flipped over the letter, and saw on the back in small print, that all of the budget stuff was pretty much getting at the fact that tuition has now increased to $19,500/semester!!!! This is INSANITY, I tell you...INSANITY!

But that isn't the best part. We are apparently not the most expensive degree program on campus (on a yearly basis, at least). The MBA program has the distinction of costing $41,000/year...but they only have to pay that for two years.

Even the Medical School isn't as expensive as the JD program, and I think they might even be ranked slightly higher in the USNWRs.

A little notice of this seemingly significant tuition bump would have been nice...granted, about $5000 doesn't seem like much until you realize you are paying close to $40K/year just in tuition.

Tuition costs are simply out of control. There is absolutely no other way to describe this.

Frankly, what the hell do you get for $40K/year??? Access to some famous profs and some dusty books in the library, and that is about it. Think of everything the med students get -- access to high tech labs, cadavers to dissect, starched white lab coats with their names embroidered on the right breast pocket, and stethoscopes. And they pay less tuition. First thing Monday morning, I am marching into the registrar's office and demanding at least a gavel or some other legal type object with my name imprinted on it. Then maybe I will feel a little more comfortable signing that loan promissory note that already has my name typed by the signature line.

And clink go the golden handcuffs now tightly locked around both of my wrists . . .

Monday, August 07, 2006

Practical Thoughts on OCI

I received several email inquiries, and I would like to address the substantive parts of those questions in one big post.

First, bid on as many firms as you possibly can, and then some.

I like to think of OCI as one big pond, with all of law firms as fish, and all of the law students as fishermen. To catch a lot of fish you need a big net, right? Well, the same goes for fall recruitment. The students I have seen come away from fall recruitment without jobs were typically those who did not cast their nets wide enough. Don't be that student -- remember that the wider and farther you case your net, the more likely you are going to catch something. Don't be too picky, too "status conscious" and for goodness sake, do not feed into the hype of firm X or Y. The more interviews you go on, the more likely you are to find a place where you would like to work, and people with whom you would like to work.

I knew several students who wanted to do environmental law, and only bid on firms who did environmental law, in parts of the country far from our law school that were not thriving legal markets. Guess what? These students ended up without jobs (despite their stellar grades). While many law students can be choosy, the reality of life is that you cannot be choosy until you have at least one offer in your back pocket. If you cast your net too small in a remote area of the country, your chances of catching one of the fish decrease dramatically.

The same goes if you want to transactional/corporate work versus litigation. Don't rule out all of the big litigation firms -- certainly rank transactional firms higher, but still maximize your bids. Remember that all of the bids you waste are opportunities you are letting pour down the drain. Most large law firms do a little bit of both anyway -- they don't call themselves "full service" for nothing. Plus, it is just a summer. It will be better to be employed doing something you don't necessarily like, than to not be employed at all. You can always leverage an offer into something else during 3L fall recruitment. And you never know, you just might like what you didn't set out to do.

Second, pound the pavement and the mail.

Once you are at fall recruitment, pound the pavement to pick up as many additional interviews as you can. Drop your resume with recruiters and go out of your way to take the slots of students who cancel their interviews. I had several friends who ended up working at firms that they didn't bid on (or didn't get interviews with) during fall recruitment. They got callbacks by being that student who showed so much interest in a firm, that they found a way to meet people and ask questions.

You should also mail your resume, cover letter, and writing sample to firms who don't necessarily interview on campus at your school. If you already know you will be in the area from out of town, by all means send the recruiter an email saying, "I will be in City X the week of Y date, and I would love to have the opportunity to meet with you." I received several screening interviews this way that lead to callbacks in and of themselves.

Third, pay selective attention to the hiring criteria listed by the employer

If the qualifications an employer lists as the type of student they are looking for have anything to do with class rank or journal, just overlook them (especially if you are a transfer student -- your grades/law review invitation should certainly satisfy these criteria). Basically, you can completely overlook the qualification portion unless they are looking for someone with a tech background to do IP work, or something similarly specific.

Fourth, don't forget that you are just as much a student at your new school as the non-transfers.

As an aside, and I just have to mention this because some have written about feeling "bad about taking a slot from someone else" at their new school, when an interviewer only has so many people they can interview. To this I say, do NOT worry about "taking a slot from a student" at your new school. You ARE a student at your new school, the employers are there to interview YOU. If an employer mistreats you because you are a transfer student, you should immediately inform your career services office. This represents a form of discrimination that law schools will not tolerate.

Fifth, don't feed into the Vault Rankings or the hype like you do the USNWR.

Every school has copies of The Vault rankings in their OCI waiting areas, and year after year I see students getting carried away about going to a highly ranked firms. Take these rankings with a grain of salt, and accord them much less deference than you did the USNWR.

First, firms really vary by region. I can guarantee you that the top firm in NYC or Chigaco is not necessarily the top firm in DC, and vice versa. Students also tend to get fixated on certain firms for no apparent reason, creating hype about a particular firm, and lusting after it. When they take a step back, they realize they know absolutely nothing about the firm. Try to make informed decisions to the extent that you can (law firm websites don't exactly assist you in this process, but use them as much as possible).

Remember that you get paid pretty much the same (especially during the summer when bonuses and benefits aren't factored in) at Vault Firm #1 and #100. The real question you have to ask yourself, is "do I want to work with the people at this firm?" and "will I enjoy the work?" Even if these questions are negative, it is better to be employed than to be unemployed, and OCI isn't the end of your career -- it is only the beginning.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Law Review on Resume

Continuing on the OCI talk from yesterday, many transfers are speculating whether they can include the fact they made it onto Law Review at their previous school. Well, dear transfers, the answer is YES, and you SHOULD.

The resounding majority of employers I have come into contact with say that you should include it as "Invited to join Law Review X" or "Graded onto Law Review X". Obviously, you cannot say you were a staff member, unless you accepted your position and actually did work for the Law Review over the summer. If you did, as some do, then you should list it as "Position X, Law Review X, Spring-Summer 2006".

I hope this clears up the confusion.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Transfer Law Students & Fall Recruitment

By now, many of you potential transfer students will know which law school to which you will be transferring, and where you will be spending the next two years of your life. Some of you may also be getting ready to interview on campus in a couple of weeks, at places where you have never even attended a single class. And yet, in just a few short weeks, potential employers will soon be peppering you with questions about this new law school that you have chosen to attend. I am breaking my summer hiatus to impart a few words of advice for those transfer law students out there who have chosen to do the "big law firm" thing, and who will soon be facing fall recruitment as a transfer law student.

1) Remember that law firms who give you a hard time are places you wouldn't want to work anyway.

At my top ten law school X, fall recruitment works in such a way where we bid on law firms by ranking them. We are then given about 25-30 interviews based on our rankings, and the firms who get us have no choice but to interview us. For those of you at schools who work this way, you may run into employers who turn their noses at transfer law students. Be prepared for this, but keep in the back of your mind that you wouldn't want to work for them anyway, if they are that snobby about whom they hire. There were several firms I interviewed with (who shall remain nameless) that claimed that they didn't have an "accurate understanding" of my grades from old law school Y (I am pretty sure a GPA very close to a 4.0 means pretty much the same at most law schools, but that is just my perspective...or the glaring, "top 5% of law school class" might mean the same thing at most law schools too...again, just my perspective...) because they didn't hire there. One thing to look at in selecting firms to interview with is to see if they also recruited at your old law school. If so, you will be less likely to encounter the types of firms who will ostracize you for being a transfer. These same firms tended to say, "If you don't get a callback, why don't you try for us next year after you have some top ten law school X grades?" (Meaning, we only want to hire the top students from here, and we want to make sure you will be one of them before we hire you.) In the back of your mind just keep thinking, "I will stay at the firm that felt I had something to offer, and supported me before I had any law school X grades." At law schools that allow firms to select who they will interview, you are much less likely to encounter the above. You will know going in that the firm chose your resume out of a stack of several hundred, and saw something in you they liked.

2) Come up with a very good response for the question, "so...why did you transfer?"

During the screening interviews, and even on the callbacks, you will be asked the dreaded question, "so...why did you transfer?" My career services office told me a good response would be, "well, Law School X places such a high rate of law clerks, that I felt it provided a better opportunity for me to clerk." This answer was tepidly received -- some firms like you to clerk, some don't. Some see it as a waste of recruitment resources (this is really a discussion for another post). This answer also brought on a spate of follow-up questions, “where would you like to clerk? With whom would you like to clerk?” and etc. Unfortunately, I had not properly prepared for these questions, and I just looked unpolished. If you choose to use this answer, make sure you are prepared for the follow-up questions. For that matter, make sure you are prepared for any follow-up questions to any answers you provide, period.

3) Never ever ever ever ever never bash your old law school

The best response to the aforementioned question plays up the positives of both of your chosen schools, while not bashing your old one. Never ever, under any circumstances, bash your old law school. Chances are the firm employs people who attended that school, and it is just plain bad form to say anything negative in an interview.

I am not saying don’t be honest. There was an interview where an interviewer asked me, “Why did you decide to choose new Law School X?” I felt really comfortable with her, and my answer was basically, “because they accepted me.” She laughed, and said, “You know what? That is why I chose to go there too. They accepted me.” We had a great chat after that, the interview ran late, and I ended up getting an offer there. So use your best judgment, but sometimes being just plain honest pays off.

4) Remember that everything really does work out for the best, and your dream firm might not really be your dream firm after all – how much do you really know about the firm anyway?

Every law school has their hot firms – places where people literally fight to get an interview, and where everybody goes, “wow, she got an offer from X firm!” Just keep in mind, that you know hardly anything about these places before stepping foot in them. Reading all of the literature out there and postings on their websites really does not paint a very good picture about what it is really like to work at the firm. You aren’t going to have any clue until you go on a callback interview, and even then you will only meet roughly 6 people – hardly enough to have an accurate picture of what the firm is really like.

Keep in mind that some of these places everyone seems to covet for some odd reason might not be the best fit for you. Also keep in mind that if they make billions of dollars a year, there is a reason – they expect you to work extremely hard.

I know law students are, by their very nature, competitive creatures. Just try not to let this cloud your judgment when you are selecting a firm. Most associates leave their first firm within 2 years – probably because they selected the wrong firm from the get-go. If you can help it (and you can) try not to be one of them.

Before going on a callback try to formulate questions that show your interest in the firm, but also will help you eventually figure out if you want them. Some questions might have to wait until after you receive an offer – but don’t be shy about asking those questions either. This is an important decision, and you should make sure you are adequately informed.

If I think of anything else this week, I’ll post it…and as always, feel free to ask me any questions.

Most of all, GOOD LUCK!