Environmental Law Pessimism?

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observationalist
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby observationalist » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:10 am

Just on this one response you gave to another poster:
It's also disrespectful for you to assume that I will only want to do BigLaw after being in law school for a couple of years. You don't know me, my ideals, or my passions. And not everyone at a T14 is going to want to do environmental work. I really don't understand what you're trying to prove here."


I doubt the poster meant any disrespect by pointing out a truth, which is that the vast majority of prospective law students who express the same convictions as you (including people with fairly heavy experiences in the PI world, like Peace Corp alums) will start out law school thinking one thing and end up changing their views by the end of it. It's one of the major criticisms of the U.S. legal education model, and something that's systemic in how the schools recruit and train new lawyers. Holding out those six-figure salaries with large law firms as the dream job is how so many schools have been able to raise tuition beyond what should be required of someone who genuinely wants to do public defender work or represent the indigent poor. Many people argue that law school operates as a sort of trap, where otherwise PI-minded people with enormous potential and a genuine desire to contribute end up competing with their more practical, business-oriented colleagues for the same limited number of jobs. I would assume that most of us who have been through it have seen that happen, particularly if we go back to those early days and recall conversations we had with our new classmates. Ultimately even most of the people who snag biglaw will move onto something else in a few years... some of them will have the chance to return to whatever they originally wanted to do. But most will have become accustomed to the new standard of living, particularly those who have started families and/or adopted very aggressive debt repayment plans. It could literally be decades before they find a way back to the sort of work they would have once labeled their dream job.

I wonder if any schools have advice for people like the OP who may want to safeguard themselves against the groupthink that goes on in law school, without becoming a social pariah of sorts (e.g. still being able to contribute to their community and enjoy their time in law school)? Some thoughts:

-seek out like-minded individuals at your school and work together. support each other as best you can during the job search, which can get crazy once you realize there really are no jobs out there.
-join interdisciplinary associations where the people you're working with are outside the law school. it can help you retain some perspective and perhaps teach you some things you can't find in school.
-be very frank about discussing (repeatedly, without becoming that annoying hippie) your career aims and goals with friends, career services people, and profs. this will help cement your intent within the community and increase the chances people will help you in the search. otherwise they will assume you don't have any serious passions and are therefore suitable for being pressured into firm work if you have the grades for it. (I still remember walking into the career services office 1L year, informing my new advisor that I was looking at public interest NGOs in NY, DC or abroad, and having her tell me with a straight face that firms in Birmingham were hiring and I should look at their practice areas and find the ones I'm interested in. The mentality really, truly is that pervasive, even at the best schools.)
-seek out mentors who do the type of work you think you want to do and lean on them as much as they're willing. your confidence in your chosen career path is going to be shaken up quite a bit during the first year or two of law school; staying engaged with people who have already cleared the way for you can help.
-learn to accept that even close friends are going to approach law school in an entirely different way than you, and that a diversity of goals is the best way to prepare you for entering the legal profession. it will help you keep some perspective on things and prevent you from demonizing people who genuinely just want job security, a way to provide for their families, and the same level of comfort and mobility their parents had. if you don't do this you risk becoming an insufferable a-hole. at worst you set yourself up for a strong sense of failure if the right doors don't open up for you and you end up going the same way as them in the end.

I guess a lot of that was just about finding ways to keep your perspective. So yeah, just do that.

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observationalist
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby observationalist » Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:01 pm

Also on this:

Ialdabaoth wrote:So when you mention environmental boutiques/small-shop firms, do you mean I should try to do a summer at such a firm instead of both 1L and 2 summers with NGOs or agencies?


There are a lot of ways to go about doing it... the goal is to get as much actual experience and build as many connections in order to hedge your bets and increase the chances that one of those places will either be in a position to take you on after graduation, or willing to accept you along with some funding you source from your school some other grant program, or willing to help put you in touch with people who are in a position to hire you with/out funding. Unfortunately one of the problems with small firm hiring is that schools shed almost no light on that area of employment, so to find out which of those firms are actually in the habit of hiring grads you need to put in a lot of legwork. I'll suggest (as I usually do) contacting the schools you end up getting accepted to and ask for a full list of all the employers who hired their grads in the last year, but keep in mind schools are not yet willing to give up this information for fear that it casts the job outcomes in a bad* light.

*Bad isn't really bad, only not worth the JD. While those small shops can be great places to start out a practice, they are not going to pay the type of salaries you will need to pay off your loans if you're attending a school at sticker. (The exception is a boutique like Beveridge and Diamond in DC or Sive Paget in NY but they are at least as competitive as normal biglaw if not moreso right now). For schools to continue convincing people that their programs are worth sticker, they need to continue hiding outcomes for which their very expensive JD program probably doesn't look worthwhile (the 'bad' outcomes, including smalllaw, doc review jobs, temp agencies, non-law jobs) and continue inflating the presence of the few high-paying firm jobs and prestigious government gigs which top-performing graduates snag. We're trying to change the rules so they actually have to show you what their graduates do for work, but the ABA hasn't been eager to fix all the red tape. For the time being you still need to contact the schools and try to leverage your acceptances for information on where graduates go.

WSJ_Law
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby WSJ_Law » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:18 pm

anewaphorist wrote:The people on TLS can be ridiculous. Sure, a 173 would get you H, S, and possibly Y. You could re-take and shoot for the stars, but you don't need a T3 for a great enviro program (read Berkeley, UCol-Boulder). And if the problem is hiring, it's not like choosing a T10 (very attainable if you ED) over a T3 is going to make it markedly harder to get one of those scarce PIEL spots. IMHO, work experience will count for more than a marginally better school. Don't let people here tell you to retake, especially if you scored 4 points above your PT average. 4.0 168 is about as close as it comes to a lock for all schools up through, say, UVA.


LOL at great enviro program. Under this logic you should ED to vermont

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Ialdabaoth » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:41 pm

WSJ_Law wrote:
anewaphorist wrote:The people on TLS can be ridiculous. Sure, a 173 would get you H, S, and possibly Y. You could re-take and shoot for the stars, but you don't need a T3 for a great enviro program (read Berkeley, UCol-Boulder). And if the problem is hiring, it's not like choosing a T10 (very attainable if you ED) over a T3 is going to make it markedly harder to get one of those scarce PIEL spots. IMHO, work experience will count for more than a marginally better school. Don't let people here tell you to retake, especially if you scored 4 points above your PT average. 4.0 168 is about as close as it comes to a lock for all schools up through, say, UVA.


LOL at great enviro program. Under this logic you should ED to vermont


I don't think that's the logic inherent in this post. I think that anewaphorist (correct me if I'm wrong) meant that a great environmental law program can exist at a top school like Berkeley or at a strong regional school like Colorado. He/she was discussing the importance of me retaking my 168, not whether or not I should apply to a Tier 3 (?) school like Vermont.

As I've mentioned before, I don't think people interested specifically in environmental law should rely blindly on specialty rankings, but it is prudent to take both a school's overall reputation and its environmental resources into account when making decisions about where to apply. For instance, I have almost no interest in Chicago, Penn, or Cornell because they lack the curriculum and/or clinical opportunities I'm looking for.

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beach_terror
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby beach_terror » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:45 pm

Just to toss this out there: if a school lacks clinic opportunities, there's probably an "externship" that either exists or you can petition for that will give you a similar experience.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Ialdabaoth » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:53 pm

Observationalist, again, thank you so much for all of your help and suggestions! One thing I would add to your list is seeking out top law schools that regularly place a significant number of people into PI and government work. For example, Berkeley, NYU, and Georgetown traditionally place about twice the percentage of their graduates into PI than Chicago does. (I don't, in any way, mean to bash on Chicago--it's just not the place for me. Plus, they actually have a really amazing LRAP now.)

Do you think these types of placement percentages at Vanderbilt were working against you/shaped your perspective on institutional resistance to pursuing PI?

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Grizz
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Grizz » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:57 pm

Ialdabaoth wrote:Observationalist, again, thank you so much for all of your help and suggestions! One thing I would add to your list is seeking out top law schools that regularly place a significant number of people into PI and government work. For example, Berkeley, NYU, and Georgetown traditionally place about twice the percentage of their graduates into PI than Chicago does. (I don't, in any way, mean to bash on Chicago--it's just not the place for me. Plus, they actually have a really amazing LRAP now.)

How much of that is self-selection? I'm guessing quite a bit (due to Chi's rep for law & econ and MOAR RIGOR). It's hard to know just from outcomes.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Ialdabaoth » Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:58 pm

beach_terror wrote:Just to toss this out there: if a school lacks clinic opportunities, there's probably an "externship" that either exists or you can petition for that will give you a similar experience.


I definitely agree with you. Berkeley is actually one of my top choices, and they don't have a traditional environmental law clinic. Instead, they have a strong relationship with Earthjustice and other nonprofits/agencies.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Ialdabaoth » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:02 pm

Grizz wrote:
Ialdabaoth wrote:Observationalist, again, thank you so much for all of your help and suggestions! One thing I would add to your list is seeking out top law schools that regularly place a significant number of people into PI and government work. For example, Berkeley, NYU, and Georgetown traditionally place about twice the percentage of their graduates into PI than Chicago does. (I don't, in any way, mean to bash on Chicago--it's just not the place for me. Plus, they actually have a really amazing LRAP now.)

How much of that is self-selection? I'm guessing quite a bit (due to Chi's rep for law & econ and MOAR RIGOR). It's hard to know just from outcomes.


I agree, but even if it's self-selection, then that still supports observationalist's idea of surrounding yourself with like-minded people in order to ensure that you stick to your goals. Also, I think that the self-selection/mass of people necessitates that a school puts enough energy and resources toward supporting students who want to pursue PI/government.

On a side note, what's MOAR?

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Grizz
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Grizz » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:24 pm

Ialdabaoth wrote:On a side note, what's MOAR?

MOAR RIGOR is a meme regarding Chicago and their reputed "rigor."

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johnnyutah
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby johnnyutah » Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:58 am

Ialdabaoth wrote:On a side note, what's MOAR?

Municipal Ordinance Arbitration Recognition. The MOAR Act is one of the most important changes to environmental law in the past 30 years, and Chicago has several of the nation's foremost experts on it. MOAR Act litigation can be quite complex, and Chicago's "claim to fame" in enviro law is that they equip students to work with it effectively.

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naw
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby naw » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:00 am

johnnyutah wrote:
Ialdabaoth wrote:On a side note, what's MOAR?

Municipal Ordinance Arbitration Recognition. The MOAR Act is one of the most important changes to environmental law in the past 30 years, and Chicago has several of the nation's foremost experts on it. MOAR Act litigation can be quite complex, and Chicago's "claim to fame" in enviro law is that they equip students to work with it effectively.

+11

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beach_terror
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby beach_terror » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:21 am

johnnyutah wrote:
Ialdabaoth wrote:On a side note, what's MOAR?

Municipal Ordinance Arbitration Recognition. The MOAR Act is one of the most important changes to environmental law in the past 30 years, and Chicago has several of the nation's foremost experts on it. MOAR Act litigation can be quite complex, and Chicago's "claim to fame" in enviro law is that they equip students to work with it effectively.

lol

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starchinkilt
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby starchinkilt » Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:06 am

Here's an interesting paper on practicing environmental law.

http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/view ... ntext=pelr

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Environmental Law Pessimism?

Postby Ialdabaoth » Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:23 am

starchinkilt wrote:Here's an interesting paper on practicing environmental law.

http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/view ... ntext=pelr


This looks really interesting. Thanks!

Are you involved in PIEL? If so, what's your take on what's been discussed here so far?




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