The Reality of Law School

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WonderCat
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The Reality of Law School

Postby WonderCat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:34 am

Once, long long ago, I was like many of you - obsessively obsessed with the law school admissions process. Since TLS got me through that miserable 8 months, I figured I'd do a little bit to give back to the community. Here's my take on law school and lawyering in general. It's not a bitter rant, but it's not rosy rave either. I'll gladly take questions on here or via PM.

About me: I'm a 2L at a school ranked between 25 and 50. I scored at or above the 75th percentile at my school (I can't remember), but wasn't offered a scholarship. A 164, I believe. Like many of you, I lied to others on here about my LSAT score, embarrassed that I didn't hit 170. I actually met the one person I outed my real self to on TLS - she coincidentally went to the same school as me. She still thinks I got a 170. Ha! I got a full scholarship at a couple T2 schools that I turned down. I'm approximately $85,000 in debt ($25,000 from undergrad). It could be worse. I wish I would have gone to a lower ranked school and taken the money, however. Right now I'm ranked above the 50th percentile in my class, but just barely. I'm simply a B+ student (OK, slightly less than a B+ student) and I don't think that will change. It's a little depressing, but that's life. I have a brief due for a class tomorrow, so I'm pulling an all-nighter. This is my break.

(1) Dont worry about people here. Seriously. This site is an amazing source of information, but no one really knows anything about law school unless they've been there. I'll be the first to admit that I was intimidated by the level of talent and knowledge on TLS. However, making it through law school and learning "the law" are talents that, believe it or not, don't require a ton of intelligence. In any event, don't be intimidated. Here or in law school.

(2) You aren't prepared for law school. If you worked as a paralegal, you might be prepared for being a lawyer - but not law school. No one is. That's not to say it's unmanageable. In fact, many people develop an excellent system to balance work and school. My first year I stayed at school until midnight most nights. It was ridiculous, especially for my wife and I didn't gain much from it. In fact, I realized that by the end of the semester I had forgotten 90% of what I had read. I wish I would have spent my study time preparing for exams, not "doing the reading." Law school will be tough - there will be really bad days. However, the greatest thing about law school is that it ends: on spring break, summer break, winter break, etc. As bad as you feel, every bit of stress will disappear on the last day of finals. That doesn't happen after you begin to practice. As far as preparing for law school - I say go for it. I read a bunch of bullshit online about enjoying my last remaining summer, not studying, blah, blah, blah. One hour of reading a day would have given me an excellent foundation in the core classes. Don't obsess over what study guides to buy - they're all pretty good - just pick up some used E&E's. You seriously don't need the latest editions. Really. Truly.

(3) Exams suck. No, I'm not top 10% and no I don't have a terrific reason why. Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law. They also accurately show which students can issue-spot the best - another skill not really needed. I'm honestly not bitter, I've just never heard an attorney talk about how he "missed" an issue or argument. The issues are usually clear in real-world practice if the substantive background to spot them. Nonetheless, exams are a reality. The people who I've talked to at the top of the class have one common piece of advice: write concisely. Don't write everything you know. Write what's important.

(4) Study groups are pointless for exam preparation, but they may help you meet friends. Speaking of friends, I tend to be the guy that's happy with 2-3 good friends and lots of acquaintances. The risk in that approach is that finding even 1 good friend can be difficult for some people. I managed to find my clique and am quite happy with it, however I know others that struggle. Most people agree (at my school) that the Student Bar Association is obnoxious. They're the preppy popular kids from high school - they all fuck each other and cheat together (law review and moot court competitions, legal writing assignments, etc...). If that's your thing, go for it I guess. The biggest thing you can do to help your reputation is be that guy or gal who everybody likes - say nice things to everyone (go out of your way to do it) and never trash talk. Genuinely nice people are a rarity in law school - most students are aggressive and needlessly argumentative. Just be happy. The easiest way to make people (and professors) hate you is to constantly offer your opinion in class. No one cares how smart you are - they just want to make it through to the next day. Just be cool and relaxed. Participate, but not every day.

(5) There aren't many jobs out there and it's getting worse. I was INCREDIBLY lucky and landed a gig at a large local firm my 1L year. I got the job through a diversity program that accepted "economically diverse" students and placed them in firms around the state (I'm white). I nailed my interviews and got lucky. Most people I know did "something" their first summer, but very few were paid - and certainly not like I was. I applied to every firm that came to our school for OCI (70 or so) and got maybe 7 interviews. My grades aren't bad - they're just not great. It sucks, but the same 20 people get all the interview spots at schools that run their OCI like ours does. I didn't get a single call back. Many of my friends were in the same boat. I got lucky and was hired back at the place I worked last year. There are plenty of people ranked much higher than me who have absolutely nothing. It's VERY depressing. The recession only matters when YOU'RE the guy without the job. If I didn't get the offer I did, I'd be miserably depressed. Again, I was lucky. Many aren't. 60% of my class has lower grades than me. 90% aren't in the top 10%. Don't forget that.

(6) Take advantage of everyone opportunity you get. Become friends with professors and local attorneys. Ask them for advice or help - it's an easy "in" and it makes them feel good. I took the (very) few opportunities I got and tried to make the most of them. The firm I work at loves me even though the quality of my work is average (just being honest here). Another summer clerk, much smarter than I am, got no-offered because he didn't have the right personality. Make people feel guilty for not hiring you (because they like you so much). And do good work too - always go above and beyond and bill fewer hours than what the attorney told you to spend on the project. This means secretly working at home for free to impress them with your efficiency. I also did an internship with a federal judge and developed a great friendship with him - he's having my wife and I over to dinner on Wednesday. I don't think he's ever read anything I did for him (it all went to his clerk), but the connection is worth a fortune. Being a successful lawyer is about personality, connections and a base level of knowledge. The most successful lawyers aren't always the smartest.

Well I gotta go - time to finish up this brief. Let me know if you have any questions. It's not an exhaustive guide - just a reflection of what the last year or so has been like.

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los blancos
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby los blancos » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:37 am

WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but
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Fark-o-vision
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby Fark-o-vision » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:46 am

I don't want to be contrary, but I'm glad the poster provided the information he did. Only because the shit he posted about law school reflects my real talents.

Can I speak well in front of people? Not really. Can I actively, and creatively, develop strategies on my feet? Nope. Do I have the ability to think beyond the parameters defined so that I may arrive at an orthodox, though valuable, conclusion? Never been my thing.

I can read absurd amounts of literature, recall nearly everything, and write very, very quickly. I'm confirmed in my feeling that I'll be a much better law student than I'll ever be a lawyer.

aPosseAdEsse
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby aPosseAdEsse » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:49 am

Interesting post, thanks.

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saltoftheearth
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby saltoftheearth » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:51 am

great post

WonderCat
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby WonderCat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:04 am

Fark-o-vision wrote:I don't want to be contrary, but I'm glad the poster provided the information he did. Only because the shit he posted about law school reflects my real talents.

Can I speak well in front of people? Not really. Can I actively, and creatively, develop strategies on my feet? Nope. Do I have the ability to think beyond the parameters defined so that I may arrive at an orthodox, though valuable, conclusion? Never been my thing.

I can read absurd amounts of literature, recall nearly everything, and write very, very quickly. I'm confirmed in my feeling that I'll be a much better law student than I'll ever be a lawyer.


Become a professor! :)

If you do really well in law school, the rest will be gravy - if you do mediocre in law school, it may be more difficult for you than it is for some of your peers. You have three years to perfect your public speaking - I'm sure you'll do fine.

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newyorker88
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby newyorker88 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:09 am

NVM i just reread and realized you're a 2L
Last edited by newyorker88 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ec2xs
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby ec2xs » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:11 am

This was a really great post. OP, from the fact that you're married and are forging friendships with judges, would I be wrong to assume you didn't go to law school right after undergrad? If this is the case, do you think that it has helped you? Hurt you?

WonderCat
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby WonderCat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:13 am

los blancos wrote:
WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but


Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."

WonderCat
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby WonderCat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:15 am

newyorker88 wrote:If you don't mind what was the salary offer for your first job? A range is fine if you don't want to say the exact number.


$1,600 a week. No, it's not Big Law money - but I was/am satisfied - it's particularly good for the market I'm in. There are a number of bigger firms in town, but most of them only hire 1 or 2 summers from my school.

WonderCat
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby WonderCat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:20 am

ec2xs wrote:This was a really great post. OP, from the fact that you're married and are forging friendships with judges, would I be wrong to assume you didn't go to law school right after undergrad? If this is the case, do you think that it has helped you? Hurt you?


I went right out of undergrad and look like I'm 15. I have a quiet personality and had absolutely no connections to the legal world or the city I'm in prior to starting school. When I get an opportunity, I just work hard, smile a lot, look people in the eye, thank them for the opportunities they gave me (and send hand-written thank you notes) and ask lots of questions. Getting the opportunities is the hard part - it's amazing how many people blow them by acting like assholes.

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los blancos
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby los blancos » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:29 am

WonderCat wrote:
los blancos wrote:
WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but


Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."


Fair enough, thanks. I just thought your statement was worded a little too strongly and it seems like we probably agree (i.e., I'm splitting hairs)

Snuffie
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby Snuffie » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:35 am

Thanks OP. You've given me a lot to think about.

In my program, I'm known for being an intimidatingly smart guy that tends to use words most of the class doesn't understand. I never did that on purpose, but it took me a long time to realize that intent didn't matter - it's all perception. I have had some amazing opportunities, but those followed high caliber work and not the aforementioned public displays.

Bearing all of that, your allusion to social intelligence surpassing conventional intelligence are very well taken. The latter will get you into law school, and hey, will get you through the law school, but the former will make your career.

I've had the good fortune to work in a legal clinic the last few months - not as a lawyer or legal professional mind you, just a paid intern doing this and that, and I got that job because A) I can write and B) I had contacts that vouched for me.

Last week I was asked to witness a legal document, and I noticed how the attorney took genuine interest in the client's irrelevant ramblings - clients never do get right to the heart of the issue, I've noticed, but the attorney engaged these people with enviable grace.. Five or ten years from now, I'm certain that this gentleman will be a judge. Where will be? If I continue my present course, I'll likely get that JD, maybe even from a T14, but being the overbearing intellectual will be my undoing.

Like I said, thanks a lot. You've given me a great deal to consider.

Best of luck with your remaining time in school, and in the bright future that undoubtedly lies ahead.

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James Bond
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby James Bond » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:38 am

--ImageRemoved--

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j.wellington
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby j.wellington » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:36 am

This was honestly very helpful. I always wondered/suspected there was a disconnect between what it takes to succeed in law school and what it takes to be a good lawyer. Have you had the opportunity to participate in a clinic at your school and can you speak to their usefulness?

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Sauer Grapes
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby Sauer Grapes » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:49 am

....
Last edited by Sauer Grapes on Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kiersten1985
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby Kiersten1985 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:03 am

WonderCat wrote:
los blancos wrote:
WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but


Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."


Most attorneys I work with have insane deadlines but the work product still has to be done deliberately and thought-through. That's why they're at work until 2am every night. If you don't consider that "rushed" then I guess it's not...

And when's the last time you've been to trial? Everything going according to plan and no quick-thinking skills? Are you kidding me? (And yes, I have been there.)

I don't know...this whole post just reeks of someone who didn't think enough about LS/being a lawyer and now is just bitter that he chose a path that's ultimately not for him.

And who feels they need to lie about their LSAT score on here? Honestly.

qualster
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby qualster » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:06 am

Kiersten1985 wrote:
WonderCat wrote:
los blancos wrote:
WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but


Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."


Most attorneys I work with have insane deadlines but the work product still has to be done deliberately and thought-through. That's why they're at work until 2am every night. If you don't consider that "rushed" then I guess it's not...

And when's the last time you've been to trial? Everything going according to plan and no quick-thinking skills? Are you kidding me? (And yes, I have been there.)

I don't know...this whole post just reeks of someone who didn't think enough about LS/being a lawyer and now is just bitter that he chose a path that's ultimately not for him.

And who feels they need to lie about their LSAT score on here? Honestly.


Well, he's right about that part. Gosh, the guilt was eating me from the inside. I tell people on the Internet that I scored a 148 but I really got a 146. Are you happy Kiersten1985 and OP? I'm not the genius I claimed to be.

AsylumPB
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby AsylumPB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:07 am

nice post! what type of affect did law school have on your marriage?

slider
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby slider » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:33 am

I liked the post. I felt it was honest. Thanks for sharing.

too old for this sh*
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby too old for this sh* » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:35 am

Kiersten1985 wrote:
WonderCat wrote:
los blancos wrote:
WonderCat wrote: Exams grade a student's ability to think and write quickly. Those aren't skills you really need in the real practice of law.


ok i'm a dumbass 0L but


Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."


Most attorneys I work with have insane deadlines but the work product still has to be done deliberately and thought-through. That's why they're at work until 2am every night. If you don't consider that "rushed" then I guess it's not...

And when's the last time you've been to trial? Everything going according to plan and no quick-thinking skills? Are you kidding me? (And yes, I have been there.)


I would opine that much depends on the type of law one intends to practice. Not all attorneys are litigators, constrained by trial dockets and always in a courtroom. In post-conviction work, there are deadlines, but they generally don't hit you one day with something due at close of the next day. If one tends to routinely have to be burning the midnight oil, time management is often lacking. So in that regard, I would tend to agree with the OP. And I offer this after spending roughly a decade in a solo office and another two years with a small firm...most in the office are putting in eight to ten hours inclusive of the time out of the office for lunch.

As to the issues with public speaking...best suggestion I can offer there is to listen to oral argument off of the Circuit Court websites. Few of the attorneys are what could be considered polished...I never expected to hear anywhere near that much stammering. Needing to be quick of thought in that environment, sure...I can agree with that, given that it is not uncommon for the Panel to go in directions not even discussed in the briefs- but if you know your case, then the questions should not be a problem.

I don't know...this whole post just reeks of someone who didn't think enough about LS/being a lawyer and now is just bitter that he chose a path that's ultimately not for him.


I wouldn't go that far. I would say that perception and/or expectation did not meet with reality, but if people take off their rose-colored glasses, they will recognize what is being offered. The LSAT really has nothing to do with the realities of the practice of law nor should it, IMO, be some Magic 8-Ball for who should do well in law school. It stands to reason that the broad swath that law school is expected to cover will not necessarily allow for all who exit with a JD to be good lawyers. And by good, I speak to skills, not pay....lots of very competent attorneys who are not grossing what their inept counterparts might have managed somewhere else.

christopher1108
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby christopher1108 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:45 am

Thanks for the great post. I like to know their are others who are realist. What do you consider an adequate amount of time spent studying (on average...not finals) during 1L? Also, what do you advise for summer before 1L? Thanks in advance

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Kiersten1985
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby Kiersten1985 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:54 am

too old for this sh* wrote:
Kiersten1985 wrote:
WonderCat wrote:Yes... really. Most attorneys I work with have a huge work load, but that doesn't mean their work is rushed. It's all very deliberate, thought-out, analyzed, re-analyzed, and thought out some more. As a litigator, 98% of your time will be thinking, researching, writing and interviewing. You will spend little time in court - and when you're there, you'll be prepared. It's rehearsed and usually goes to plan. There aren't tons of surprises that require mad quick-thinking skills.

Quick-thinking and quick-writing abilities are skills most people relate to intelligence, and they're probably right, but it's a fallacy to believe that these skills are required to be an intelligent lawyer. They aren't. The best lawyers say the same thing day in and day out: "let me think about that."


Most attorneys I work with have insane deadlines but the work product still has to be done deliberately and thought-through. That's why they're at work until 2am every night. If you don't consider that "rushed" then I guess it's not...

And when's the last time you've been to trial? Everything going according to plan and no quick-thinking skills? Are you kidding me? (And yes, I have been there.)


I would opine that much depends on the type of law one intends to practice. Not all attorneys are litigators, constrained by trial dockets and always in a courtroom. In post-conviction work, there are deadlines, but they generally don't hit you one day with something due at close of the next day. If one tends to routinely have to be burning the midnight oil, time management is often lacking. So in that regard, I would tend to agree with the OP. And I offer this after spending roughly a decade in a solo office and another two years with a small firm...most in the office are putting in eight to ten hours inclusive of the time out of the office for lunch.


My experience is from Big Law, so I suppose our views on hours are different. Granted, aside from my pro bono cases, the cases I work on are large corporate ones. I don't think it's an issue of time management, but rather an issue of who you're client is and the fact that they finally give you the go-ahead to file that brief about an hour before it's due. Or the partner decides he needs to change several pages of wording at 11pm. People here live, eat and sleep their work and that's just the way it is. And any partner that I've worked with walking into the courtroom is highly intelligent, quick-thinking and extremely polished.

Maybe the distinction just has to be noted about what type of law/firm within litigation one is planning to practice. Big Law is just very different.

zanyventer
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby zanyventer » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:56 am

thanks

lawschoolstudent85
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Re: The Reality of Law School

Postby lawschoolstudent85 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:57 am

Great post. Thanks for the insight.




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