State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:14 am

I was a trial lawyer for 24 years, have served on my state's intermediate appellate court for 13 more and have taught appellate and trial practice as an adjunct at a T50 for the last 10 so fire away if you have questions I can help with.

RodneyRuxin
Posts: 455
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:08 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby RodneyRuxin » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:30 am

1) why TLS?
2) why the corny username?

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:31 am

RodneyRuxin wrote:1) why TLS?
2) why the corny username?


Um. Why not?

User avatar
Bronte
Posts: 2128
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:00 am

What are the best and worst features of being on the bench?

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:27 am

Bronte wrote:What are the best and worst features of being on the bench?


The best features of the appellate bench are the intellectual stimulation and the flexibility. The issues are often very interesting and require a lot of research and deep thinking to avoid unintended consequences. I really like to write and crafting a good opinion can be both rewarding and sometimes even a lot of fun.

As far as flexibility is concerned, 90% of my job is spent reading and only 10% is actual opinion writing. I read hundreds of pages of briefs and petitions a week but the great thing is that you can read pretty much anywhere and any time as long as the work gets done. Most appellate judges I know take briefs to doctors appointments and the like to keep up with the load. With laptop computers and tablets, I even do a lot of my writing at home at night when things are quiet and I won't be interrupted by a phone call from a colleague who wants to discuss a case.

The worst feature is the loneliness of the job. You become isolated from your former lawyer friends and since we only sit to hear oral arguments several days a month, the only people you see on a regular basis are your law clerks, secretary and the UPS guy. I get around that by teaching as an adjunct. It lets me interact with young, inquisitive minds as they discover what the law is all about.

User avatar
Bronte
Posts: 2128
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:36 am

(1) How politicized is the appellate bench in your state? Do you regularly confront issues that require you to consult your political and moral views or are most of the issues highly technical?

(2) What did it take to get on the bench?

User avatar
Danger Zone
Posts: 7317
Joined: Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:36 am

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Danger Zone » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:39 am

I've heard horror stories from appellate judges about the hours being worse than private practice. Is this a function of self-control, or is it just necessary for keeping up with the workload?

RodneyRuxin
Posts: 455
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:08 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby RodneyRuxin » Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:41 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:
RodneyRuxin wrote:1) why TLS?
2) why the corny username?


Um. Why not?


Just curious what brings a judge to answer questions on TLS and was wondering if there was a story behind the name. Didn't mean any offense.

What brought you to the bench? What do you mean by "trial lawyer?"

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:29 pm

Bronte wrote:(1) How politicized is the appellate bench in your state? Do you regularly confront issues that require you to consult your political and moral views or are most of the issues highly technical?

(2) What did it take to get on the bench?


1) I live in one of the minority of states where the judges are not popularly elected (which is a horrible system as far as I am concerned). That said, becoming a judge anywhere involves political considerations at some level, either by actually winning an election or being selected by a president, governor or legislature. I was involved in local and state politics for over 20 years before I was approached about taking a seat on my court.

In my state and most others that don't popularly elect judges, there are strong ethical prohibitions about political activity and influence once you are on the bench and the result in my state is a judiciary that at all levels is pretty independent of the other two branches of government and while we sometimes get a few bad judges, there is no corruption problem that seems to plague states where judges are elected.

2) I get asked that a lot and the answer depends on the system used. To become a federal judge, you need to have been politically supportive of the party occupying the White House when a vacancy occurs, be cozy with both or at least the senior senator from your state, be acceptable to the ABA and a super majority of the Senate.

At the state level, either just win an election if that's how its done or know the right people to be be nominated by the governor and confirmed by one or both houses of the legislature. In some states you also have to pass muster with a screening committee that whittles down the candidates to perhaps three names for each vacancy.

In short, the trick is to stand where the lightning will strike so a lot of luck is involved but my advice to maximize your chances is to become a very good lawyer so you have a reputation for competence, get involved in bar association activities so your peers are more likely to recommend your candidacy favorably, get to know the power brokers that influence judicial selection if your state doesn't elect them and then hope that the stars line up for you.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:47 pm

Wormfather wrote:
RodneyRuxin wrote:1) why TLS?
2) why the corny username?



This is why we can't have nice things.

My question:

What do you look for in potential clerks?


Every judge is a little different in how they select clerks but speaking only for myself, I want law clerks who have a good work ethic, a strong intellect supporting solid analytical skills, good research and writing skills and people who aren't afraid to disagree with me and defend their position. I tend to be more impressed with involvement in a successful moot court program than law review and ask about what applicants like to do for fun (once a candidate told me that they read books on appellate advocacy for fun - she didn't get the job.) Frankly, law graduates that meet these criteria are not terribly hard to find (I get well over a hundred applications a year whether I have advertised a vacancy or not) which brings me to the most important consideration - how their personality will fit with mine and the the other chambers staff. I will pass on the #1 graduate of the best law schools if the result will be conflict and tension in my chambers. I think most appellate judges will agree their clerks become part of their family and finding compatible ones is worth a lot of time and effort.

PotentialClerk
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:46 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby PotentialClerk » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:57 pm

Any advice on how to prepare for an interview with a State Appellate Judge aside from the usual "know your resume inside out" and contacting former clerks.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:11 pm

Danger Zone wrote:I've heard horror stories from appellate judges about the hours being worse than private practice. Is this a function of self-control, or is it just necessary for keeping up with the workload?


I have heard those horror stories as well and some of them are true. One of my former colleagues, now retired, was infamous for the "sweat shop" she ran for her clerks. They typically worked 12 hour days and six day weeks. That is not the normal situation on my court and I think it is a function of how good a manager the judge is. Personally, my clerks are involved in only about half of the workload that comes in the door. I read every brief and petition that comes in since I am the one making the decision and my clerks are only involved in those cases which will go to a three-judge panel for oral argument.

In cases assigned to me, After I have read the briefs and determined what the issues are, I assign the case to one of my clerks to vet the record (yes, lawyers sometimes are less than truthful in their briefs about the facts and the law), research the points to get the latest law on the issues and summarize all that in a bench memo to me that I will discuss with them and use as the basis for asking questions at oral argument. After argument, I usually write the opinion using the bench memo as the basis and ask the clerks to edit my drafts, correct my typos and put all the Bluebook citations in.

I tell my clerks that I don't care what hours they work as long as they get the work done by the deadline I give them. The result is that they rarely need to work late and morale has been consistently high.

I tell my clerks, and the former ones all agree, that being a law clerk is the BEST job you will likely have as a new law school graduate so it is unfortunate that it is the first job you will have as a lawyer because it is downhill after that.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:26 pm

RodneyRuxin wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
RodneyRuxin wrote:1) why TLS?
2) why the corny username?


Um. Why not?


Just curious what brings a judge to answer questions on TLS and was wondering if there was a story behind the name. Didn't mean any offense.

What brought you to the bench? What do you mean by "trial lawyer?"


No offense taken. In the spring, one of my students was talking about how valuable a resource TLS is and I thought I would check it out since my son is about to apply to law schools and I thought it might be helpful to him. I have lurked here for a couple of months and while there is a lot of valuable stuff in these forums, there is also a lot of misinformation. Things are slow for my court in the summer months so I thought I would see if I could be helpful in clearing the air for prospective law students and lawyers in a generic sort of way.

I called myself a trial lawyer because between a few years in private practice and over 20 years as a career prosecutor and three terms as DA, I tried over a thousand cases and more than 300 jury trials. In addition to prosecution and criminal defense in state and federal courts, in private practice I also did a lot of business related civil litigation (involving employment and regulatory issues - not personal injury.) I'm not sure how else I could characterize my pre-bench life as an attorney.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Bronte
Posts: 2128
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:45 pm

(1) What is the most damaging misinformation you've seen peddled on TLS? (I'm worried about the prospect of this question sparking a flame war with a judge but hope we're capable of behaving.)

(2) As informed by the writing of the litigants before you and of your own clerks, what are some features of strong legal writing? Poor legal writing?

(3) How much do you hate being reversed?

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:58 pm

PotentialClerk wrote:Any advice on how to prepare for an interview with a State Appellate Judge aside from the usual "know your resume inside out" and contacting former clerks.


I just realized I neglected to answer the rest of your question.

As far as preparing for an interview, you first have to get an interview. About 20% of the clerk applications I get have cover letters that misspell my name or are obvious form letters that populate the letter with the wrong field resulting in letters that begin "Dear Honorable". Judging from what I have seen over the last 13 years, I think law students who use the career services office at their school to check over their cover letter and other submissions and for practice interviews, must be in the minority.

If you make it to an actual interview, do a little research beforehand. Learn a little about the judge and the court he/she sits on. You do have to strike a balance between learning enough about the judge to carry on an intelligent conversation that indicates you really want to work for this person and coming across as a stalker. If you know classmates or alums who interviewed with that judge before you might ask them what to expect.

When you arrive for the interview, don't treat the judge's secretary like a piece of furniture. She rules the roost in chambers and likely has veto power over any applicant if she tells her judge she didn't care for him/her.

There is not enough space here for all of the interview horror stories I could tell but turn offs for me include interviewees who can't or won't make eye contact with me, those who interview me instead of the other way around, those who don't have any questions about the job and those who don't know when the interview is over.

I have two law clerks that I hire for a two year clerkship and stagger the terms so I hire a new clerk every year. Because of this and because my clerks know me very well, I involve them in the interview process and we discuss the candidates after all the interviews have been completed.

Interviews are a poor predictor of future performance as a clerk but they are helpful in weeding out people who look good on paper but just wouldn't work out as my clerk, also though not foolproof, they are useful in deciding if a candidate is a good fit for the chambers personality-wise.

Having said all of this, note that every judge is different. I have a friend on our Supreme Court who only hires from the top 5 graduates of his alma mater. Sometimes he gets a good clerk and other times, not so much.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Thu Jul 11, 2013 8:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:45 pm

Bronte wrote:(1) What is the most damaging misinformation you've seen peddled on TLS? (I'm worried about the prospect of this question sparking a flame war with a judge but hope we're capable of behaving.)

(2) As informed by the writing of the litigants before you and of your own clerks, what are some features of strong legal writing? Poor legal writing?

(3) How much do you hate being reversed?


1) I think the most misleading stuff has to do with the notion that you can't succeed as a lawyer unless you attended a T14 school and that the US News ranking of your alma mater is all employers care about.

There is a long overdue shakeout going on in the legal profession right now brought about by the tanking economy and one side effect of that is it is finally dawning on folks that, thanks mostly to the ABA, law schools don't do a very good job of training actual lawyers who can represent a client from day one. I have an ongoing friendly debate with a couple of law professor friends who insist that law school isn't a trade school and they see their job as teaching law as an academic exercise, not how to practice it. I see it as a professional school like medical school and a J.D degree should suggest you can advise or represent a client just as an M.D. suggests you can treat a patient.

Every law dean I know hates the US News rankings as misleading and I agree that they are, but all the deans I know say that they have to live and die by those rankings (and some schools attempt to game them) because law school applicants rely so heavily on them, misleading as they are. In my opinion, a smarter approach is to look at the employment data over at Law School Transparency or the rankings at Above the Law. In my experience, the top graduates of even lower ranked law schools can get pretty good jobs pretty quickly after graduation, including judicial clerkships and Biglaw firms.

In short, unless your life won't be complete unless you clerk for a SCOTUS justice, figure out where you want to work, what kind of law you have an interest in practicing and look beyond HYS and even beyond the T14 to see which law schools can help you get a job there.

2) The best legal writing is characterized by brevity, clarity and organization (any good writer will tell you it is easier to write long than short). In contrast, bad legal writing is long, boring, disorganized and murky. The latter is unfortunately more frequent that the former.

3) It is kind of ironic but trial court judges really hate being reversed and sometimes take it personally but virtually all appellate judges I know don't worry at all about it. I tell my friends on the state Supreme Court when they reverse me that they are not necessarily right, they are just usually final (I did have two opportunities to say I told you so in two different cases where I wrote the opinion for my court, had them reversed by our Supreme Court and then they were reversed in turn by SCOTUS with the majority in both cases adopting the analysis of my court, but those opportunities don't come often. Really, we just don't worry about a reversal at all when we write an opinion.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

TheZoid
Posts: 417
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:07 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby TheZoid » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:49 pm

Just to address your point about the US News rankings and some of what gets thrown around on TLS, I think a more fair way to characterize the TLS sentiment is not that you can't succeed as a lawyer if you don't go a T14 school, but more that many non-T14 schools don't give you a good chance of getting a job that will allow you to service the debt. I think that's more the reason for the words of caution than the inability to succeed as a lawyer, because I agree with you that that can be done from many (most?) places.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:00 pm

TheZoid wrote:Just to address your point about the US News rankings and some of what gets thrown around on TLS, I think a more fair way to characterize the TLS sentiment is not that you can't succeed as a lawyer if you don't go a T14 school, but more that many non-T14 schools don't give you a good chance of getting a job that will allow you to service the debt. I think that's more the reason for the words of caution than the inability to succeed as a lawyer, because I agree with you that that can be done from many (most?) places.


I get that, but in my view, no current law school comes close to giving your money's worth if you are paying sticker and going into heavy debt to become a lawyer is just a really bad investment plan. It might pay off for a lucky few but probably not for most.

*** Addendum 7/10/2013

To expand on this a little, a lot of the "advice" and commentary on these forums comes from people who know just enough to be dangerous and regurgitate what they think is conventional wisdom without really knowing what they are talking about. The result is often a case of the blind leading the blind.

I sense from many of the posts on TLS that the point of going to law school (and going into deep debt to do so), is joining a Biglaw firm where you will be set for life. To me this is overly simplistic and often inaccurate. Just to use round numbers, American law schools just graduated somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 new lawyers this year. Perhaps 1% or around 500 of them will find jobs paying the kind of Biglaw salaries that I see so cavalierly quoted in these forums. That leaves 99% or around 49,000+ new lawyers with starting salaries in the $40,000 - $80,000 range depending on the job and location. That is just not going to be enough to service the average law school debt and at the same time allow for things like a family. It also doesn't factor in the many large firm partners I know who are raking in big money but don't find their work personally fulfilling or who work or drink themselves into an early grave (although their widows and children do have the benefit of being well provided for.) To be fair, I also know some megafirm partners who love what they do but I just think all the wannabes out there should know that the fantasy and reality may not be the same.

That said, I am not trying to discourage people from going to law school if they are want to go for the right reasons (and just getting filthy rich isn't one of them as far as I am concerned because the odds are long on that ever happening). If you really have a desire to learn the law and apply that knowledge to either help clients or to help you succeed in the business world, I say by all means go to law school. Just do it with your eyes wide open and avoid going into debt to do so - even if it means attending a lower ranked school on a scholly. I have been a lawyer for almost 40 years and I have not gotten rich but I have always been able to provide for my family and, despite holding a bunch of different legal jobs over those years, I have looked forward to going to work every single day. There aren't many jobs that you can say that about and if you think the practice of law will be like that for you, then, as far as I am concerned, that is the best reason of all to become one of us.

I hope that helps clarify where I am coming from.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
pupshaw
Posts: 504
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby pupshaw » Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:58 pm

Tagging for future reading. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions here.

User avatar
Opinions_R_Us
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:34 am

RodneyRuxin wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
RodneyRuxin wrote:
What brought you to the bench? "



It sounds trite but I was in my third term as District Attorney and frustrated because, while I still loved the job, I knew that the trick in politics is to get out of town ahead of the posse and the "It's time for a change" mantra would sooner or later resonate with the voters. I was also frustrated that my job kept me from spending much in the way of quality time with my children and after missing a lot of school recitals and ball games because of jury trials or speeches to civic leagues, I realized that they were growing up without me and I wanted to change that dynamic before it was to late. I had no real interest in the appellate bench but when a vacancy occurred on our Court of Appeals, I was asked by the Judiciary Committee chairman in our state Senate if I would be interested because he thought I would be a good choice. Because of years of lobbying the legislature as DA and political involvement, I was known and respected by the then governor (he used to be a fellow DA) and the leaders of both political parties in the legislature so it was a painless process after I agreed to do it.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

TheZoid
Posts: 417
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:07 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby TheZoid » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:36 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:
TheZoid wrote:Just to address your point about the US News rankings and some of what gets thrown around on TLS, I think a more fair way to characterize the TLS sentiment is not that you can't succeed as a lawyer if you don't go a T14 school, but more that many non-T14 schools don't give you a good chance of getting a job that will allow you to service the debt. I think that's more the reason for the words of caution than the inability to succeed as a lawyer, because I agree with you that that can be done from many (most?) places.


I get that, but in my view, no current law school comes close to giving your money's worth if you are paying sticker and going into heavy debt to become a lawyer is just a really bad investment plan. It might pay off for a lucky few but probably not for most.

*** Addendum 7/10/2013

To expand on this a little, a lot of the "advice" and commentary on these forums comes from people who know just enough to be dangerous and regurgitate what they think is conventional wisdom without really knowing what they are talking about. The result is often a case of the blind leading the blind.

I sense from many of the posts on TLS that the point of going to law school (and going into deep debt to do so), is joining a Biglaw firm where you will be set for life. To me this is overly simplistic and often inaccurate. Just to use round numbers, American law schools just graduated somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 new lawyers this year. Perhaps 1% or around 500 of them will find jobs paying the kind of Biglaw salaries that I see so cavalierly quoted in these forums. That leaves 99% or around 49,000+ new lawyers with starting salaries in the $40,000 - $80,000 range depending on the job and location. That is just not going to be enough to service the average law school debt and at the same time allow for things like a family. It also doesn't factor in the many large firm partners I know who are raking in big money but don't find their work personally fulfilling or who work or drink themselves into an early grave (although their widows and children do have the benefit of being well provided for.) To be fair, I also know some megafirm partners who love what they do but I just think all the wannabes out there should know that the fantasy and reality may not be the same.

That said, I am not trying to discourage people from going to law school if they are want to go for the right reasons (and just getting filthy rich isn't one of them as far as I am concerned because the odds are long on that ever happening). If you really have a desire to learn the law and apply that knowledge to either help clients or to help you succeed in the business world, I say by all means go to law school. Just do it with your eyes wide open and avoid going into debt to do so - even if it means attending a lower ranked school on a scholly. I have been a lawyer for 42 years and I have not gotten rich but I have always been able to provide for my family and, despite holding a bunch of different legal jobs over those years, I have looked forward to going to work every single day. There aren't many jobs that you can say that about and if you think the practice of law will be like that for you, then, as far as I am concerned, that is the best reason of all to become one of us.

I hope that helps clarify where I am coming from.
.

I completely understand where you're coming from with that, and I think you have a good perspective on it. I think the number of Big firm jobs is closer to 5,000 or so (someone correct me if I'm wrong), but your point stands. Few people will get them in the grand scheme of law school grads either way. Also, thank you for taking questions, I haven't seen a judge on here before, so your input is much appreciated.

User avatar
Bronte
Posts: 2128
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:50 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:I get that, but in my view, no current law school comes close to giving your money's worth if you are paying sticker and going into heavy debt to become a lawyer is just a really bad investment plan. It might pay off for a lucky few but probably not for most.

*** Addendum 7/10/2013

To expand on this a little, a lot of the "advice" and commentary on these forums comes from people who know just enough to be dangerous and regurgitate what they think is conventional wisdom without really knowing what they are talking about. The result is often a case of the blind leading the blind.

I sense from many of the posts on TLS that the point of going to law school (and going into deep debt to do so), is joining a Biglaw firm where you will be set for life. To me this is overly simplistic and often inaccurate. Just to use round numbers, American law schools just graduated somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 new lawyers this year. Perhaps 1% or around 500 of them will find jobs paying the kind of Biglaw salaries that I see so cavalierly quoted in these forums. That leaves 99% or around 49,000+ new lawyers with starting salaries in the $40,000 - $80,000 range depending on the job and location. That is just not going to be enough to service the average law school debt and at the same time allow for things like a family. It also doesn't factor in the many large firm partners I know who are raking in big money but don't find their work personally fulfilling or who work or drink themselves into an early grave (although their widows and children do have the benefit of being well provided for.) To be fair, I also know some megafirm partners who love what they do but I just think all the wannabes out there should know that the fantasy and reality may not be the same.

That said, I am not trying to discourage people from going to law school if they are want to go for the right reasons (and just getting filthy rich isn't one of them as far as I am concerned because the odds are long on that ever happening). If you really have a desire to learn the law and apply that knowledge to either help clients or to help you succeed in the business world, I say by all means go to law school. Just do it with your eyes wide open and avoid going into debt to do so - even if it means attending a lower ranked school on a scholly. I have been a lawyer for 42 years and I have not gotten rich but I have always been able to provide for my family and, despite holding a bunch of different legal jobs over those years, I have looked forward to going to work every single day. There aren't many jobs that you can say that about and if you think the practice of law will be like that for you, then, as far as I am concerned, that is the best reason of all to become one of us.

I hope that helps clarify where I am coming from.


I agree with a lot of what you're saying, and I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. But let me offer a couple thoughts to help explain the salience of big law and T14 discussions on TLS.

First, your estimate of the number of big law jobs is a bit low. There were closer to 3200 entry-level big law jobs in 2012, most of which pay $160,000 starting salary. That's about 10% of the people who got legal jobs last year and closer to 13% if you count Article III clerks. And that likely substantially underestimates the number of jobs in this category because it only counts the 250 largest firms.

Second, the majority of these positions are secured by students at T14 schools. At the University of Chicago, for example, about 70% of the class got big firm jobs if you again also count Article III clerks. Thus, for students who do go to these schools, discussion of big firms that pay big six figure salaries is not as ridiculous as it might seem.

Nevertheless, you are correct that TLS has a somewhat myopic focus on big law. For me, it seems natural because I'm on my way to a big firm and most of my classmates are too. But I agree that for students not yet in law school, many of whom have little idea what a big law firm does let alone what it's like to work at one, that focus might not always be ideal.

User avatar
Danger Zone
Posts: 7317
Joined: Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:36 am

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Danger Zone » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:53 pm

Let's not forget that the reason students on TLS are so focused on big law is because it's the only way they can afford their student loan payments.

User avatar
Bronte
Posts: 2128
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:58 pm

Danger Zone wrote:Let's not forget that the reason students on TLS are so focused on big law is because it's the only way they can afford their student loan payments.


Not really true. With scholarships, loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs), and federal income-based repayment (IBR), there are actually a lot of routes to pay for law school besides big law. In any event, I think you would only be making the judge's point. If big law is the only way you can pay off your debt, maybe you shouldn't go to law school and take out that debt.

User avatar
KD35
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:30 am

Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby KD35 » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:02 pm

I wanted to ask you about your experience as an adjunct since it hasn't really been talked about yet.
1) what do you teach?
2) what are the biggest errors you see law students make on your exams? What sets the best a part from the rest?




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests