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.
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Opinions_R_Us
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:32 pm

Bronte wrote:
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.



I am impressed that you actually researched the numbers which I just pulled out of the air and I bow to your research skills but I don't think our points are incompatible and if you managed to grab a Biglaw brass ring then good on you. I hope it turns out to be everything you expect (I really mean that). I do think we are both saying that many of the expectations aired in these forums may be unrealistic unless most of the posters here are T14 bound and will all be the ones to gobble up those 3200 megafirm jobs. I will say that 5 of the top 100 law firms have offices in my state and none of them are starting associates at $160,000. The three that I am most familiar with since they employ former clerks of mine are in the $120, 000 to $145,00 range. I suspect that the $160,000 figure is for the New York, Chicago, or LA offices and not the other offices where the cost of living is lower.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:47 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:I am impressed that you actually researched the numbers which I just pulled out of the air and I bow to your research skills but I don't think our points are incompatible and if you managed to grab a Biglaw brass ring then good on you. I hope it turns out to be everything you expect (I really mean that). I do think we are both saying that many of the expectations aired in these forums may be unrealistic unless most of the posters here are T14 bound and will all be the ones to gobble up those 3200 megafirm jobs. I will say that 5 of the top 100 law firms have offices in my state and none of them are starting associates at $160,000. The three that I am most familiar with since they employ former clerks of mine are in the $120, 000 to $145,00 range. I suspect that the $160,000 figure is for the New York, Chicago, or LA offices and not the other offices where the cost of living is lower.


Yes, I agree that we're not too far in disagreement. And you're right, $160,000 is the big market salary, whereas smaller markets tend to be in the $125,000 to $145,000 range. But most of the jobs at these firms are in those major markets, especially New York. As to most posters being T14 bound, it's certainly the case that most vocal posters are T14 bound. But that might only perpetuate the problem.

Thanks again for taking the time. I'm sure I'll have more questions for you in due course.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:54 pm

KD35 wrote: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?


1) At various times over the last 12 years, I have taught Constitutional Criminal Procedure (4th, 5th and 6th Amendment stuff), Trial Practice and Appellate Practice. In the fall I will be teaching a section of Trial Practice.

2) When I grade an exam, if a lot of my students are having a problem with a question, the fault is mine and I either drafted a lousy question or I didn't do a good job getting the material across. Other than that, it usually comes down to the student just not taking the course seriously. Where I teach, Trial Practice and Appellate Practice are electives and the students who take those classes tend to take them seriously because they have an interest in the subject matter. Con Crim Pro is a required course at my school and the subject is guaranteed to be on the bar exam so while everybody takes it, not everybody takes it seriously because they have no interest in criminal law. Lack of interest will inevitably be reflected in the amount of studying done and thus in the final grade. The most common mistake in taking any exam on virtually any subject is a student just not reading the question carefully enough (especially if it involves a factual hypothetical.) I should also explain that Con Crim Pro is the only course I teach that has a traditional final exam. The Trial Practice exam involves a mock trial with actual witnesses and the Appellate Practice exam is a written brief and oral argument in a case I assign.

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Bronte
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:10 pm

(1) What substantive issues most frequently come before the court (e.g., foreclosure, criminal procedure)? Is there an area of the law in which you prefer to issue opinions?

(2) Do you have any funny stories you're willing to share?

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:31 pm

Bronte wrote:(1) What substantive issues most frequently come before the court (e.g., foreclosure, criminal procedure)? Is there an area of the law in which you prefer to issue opinions?

(2) Do you have any funny stories you're willing to share?


Probably 70% of my court's caseload is criminal or habeas corpus cases. I enjoy those cases but I have also really enjoyed wrestling with some of the interesting issues that come out of our civil jurisdiction including administrative law which I thought was boring in law school and workers compensation which isn't even taught in most law schools. My least favorite are probably the domestic relations cases where the parties often hate each other so much that the children get left behind and where unfortunately, too many lawyers push often unnecessary litigation and meritless appeals if the client is well off because the meter is running. It isn't unusual to see lawyers pressing an appeal involving $100,000+ in attorneys fees in a domestic case over property worth half that.


I could tell a lot of war stories as both a litigator and as a judge but I will share two here:

At oral argument, if an attorney mentions that it is the first time they have appeared in our Court, we generally go easy on them in our questions because they are so nervous. A young assistant public defender arguing his first case to a three-judge panel kept misrepresenting the facts (we really do prepare for these things and know the record better than the lawyers often do) so one of my colleagues called him out on it - rather gently, I thought - but the lawyer didn't take the hint and kept misrepresenting what the witnesses actually said. I was presiding so I admonished the lawyer and reminded him that he had an ethical duty of candor to the Court. The lawyer looked at me, his eyes rolled back in his head and he then keeled over like a sack of potatoes behind the lectern. One of my colleagues and I immediately came down from the bench and my colleague started CPR while I checked that he was breathing and that his airway was clear. The third judge disappeared into chambers - I later found out that she thought the lawyer had been shot so she bailed. So the scene now is that you had a courtroom full of lawyers with one of them unconscious in the well of the courtroom with two judges kneeling over him in their robes trying to make sure he was OK. As I knelt over the lawyer, I noticed that the courtroom bailiff hadn't moved and was just sitting there watching all this. I shouted at him to "get off his ass and call rescue" whereupon the lawyer came to and apologized and told us he was an epileptic and apparently had a seizure. He wanted to continue his argument but I insisted that he get checked out by the the EMTs and continued his case for a teleconference argument at a later date.

The second story is an object lesson for appellate litigators. We were in chambers preparing to hear oral argument in a domestic relations case and the issue was the equitable distribution of the martial property. Before court convened, I was reviewing the divorce decree and noticed for the first time that the usual boilerplate language that actually dissolved the marriage was missing. When the case was called I asked the appellant's lawyer how we had jurisdiction of this case and she looked at me like I was nuts. I pointed out that the divorce decree did not actually dissolve the marriage and she and her opponent scrambled to look through their file for the decree. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the lawyer for the appellee, who I went to college with, slump in his chair and I knew then which lawyer had drafted the decree although neither lawyer caught the omission. He then did exactly what he should have done which was to stand up and fall on his sword. He admitted that he had drafted the decree and inexplicably omitted the language which dissolved the marriage. Everybody agreed that until that was fixed, there was no jurisdiction for the appeal and we dismissed it. His client, the wife, was sitting behind him and one of my colleagues piped up that he hoped that neither of the parties had remarried because they would be a bigamist. I could see all color drain from the wife's face and after we dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, I could see her literally beating on her lawyer's back as they left the courtroom. I'm sure the conversation in the hallway was interesting.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Bronte » Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:46 pm

I love that the one judge figures someone's been shot, so she goes ahead and retires to chambers. Hopefully the lawyer learned his lesson about misrepresenting the record.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby y2zipper » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:00 pm

That second story is exactly why the law field is hilarious sometimes. I'll give the lawyer credit for eating his mistake, though. Working for child support services means I've seen how brutal family disputes can be sometimes. Nothing is tougher than trying to work with 2 people who absolutely hate each other to the point where they don't care about their child anymore.

Edit: don't have any questions, but wanted to say thanks. It's nice to have either judges (or 12 year old boys pretending to be judges for all I know) answering questions.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:02 pm

y2zipper wrote:That second story is exactly why the law field is hilarious sometimes. I'll give the lawyer credit for eating his mistake, though. Working for child support services means I've seen how brutal family disputes can be sometimes. Nothing is tougher than trying to work with 2 people who absolutely hate each other to the point where they don't care about their child anymore.

Edit: don't have any questions, but wanted to say thanks. It's nice to have either judges (or 12 year old boys pretending to be judges for all I know) answering questions.



My family would likely agree that I often act like a 12 year old. To prove that point, I will add a third story that is also a lesson for appellate litigators.

It was another domestic relations case and the issue on appeal was spousal support. I am pretty sure that what the appellant's lawyer intended to argue in his brief was that the lower court erred in its failure to award spousal support because of repeated threats made by the husband to the wife during the marriage. Unfortunately, the lawyer or his secretary went wild with the search and replace function in their word processing software and the result was that wherever the context of the brief might suggest that the word intended to be used was "threat" or "threatened," what actually appeared was "treat" or "treated." When the lawyer got up to argue, proving the point about my level of immaturity, I interrupted him and said, "You have presented a very novel issue, do you seriously think the law compels spousal support because of repeated 'treats' given to the wife by the husband?" The lawyer looked at me and said he didn't understand the question and I told him to read his assignment of error out loud. He did so, turned red and never recovered to salvage his argument after every other lawyer waiting to argue started laughing. Needless to say, he didn't prevail on appeal. Really, you just can't make this stuff up.

I guess you can now see why they don't let us appellate judges out much.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby tomwatts » Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:26 pm

This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:33 pm

tomwatts wrote:This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.


I'm glad you are enjoying it but I'm also here to help if I can and maybe you folks currently at ground zero can help me understand something I am curious about.

This may not be the proper forum for this and if not, I apologize and will be happy to take this discussion elsewhere. As I have said, I teach as an adjunct and I have a huge interest in how the legal academy is responding to the criticism about the way we have been educating lawyers for the last 75 years or so.

Many of my friends in private practice and government who hire law school graduates complain that the economy and resulting cutbacks mean that they no longer have the luxury of taking the time or spending the money to train lawyers after they hire them like they used too and want the law schools to serve up something approaching "practice ready" graduates. My friends in the academy are resistant to that approach for a whole host of reasons most of which seem to boil down to "we've never done it that way before" and say that the ABA wouldn't let them do that anyway. I know Washington & Lee is experimenting with "splitting the baby" on this with early mixed results.

The school I teach at has had about a 20% drop in enrollment over the last 3-4 years and a few non-tenured faculty have been laid off. My school has responded by planning to offer a two year J.D program starting next year and by forming a committee to look at other options. I have been asked to serve on that committee and it occurred to me that currently I have a golden opportunity to ask a bunch of current and future law school "customers" for their input on this problem.

So I guess my question is simply, prestige and rankings aside, from your perspective, what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities do you as the customers reasonably expect the law school experience to provide you with by the time you graduate in order to get the job you want?

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Master Tofu » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:09 am

Opinions_R_Us wrote:
tomwatts wrote:This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.


I'm glad you are enjoying it but I'm also here to help if I can and maybe you folks currently at ground zero can help me understand something I am curious about.

This may not be the proper forum for this and if not, I apologize and will be happy to take this discussion elsewhere. As I have said, I teach as an adjunct and I have a huge interest in how the legal academy is responding to the criticism about the way we have been educating lawyers for the last 75 years or so.

Many of my friends in private practice and government who hire law school graduates complain that the economy and resulting cutbacks mean that they no longer have the luxury of taking the time or spending the money to train lawyers after they hire them like they used too and want the law schools to serve up something approaching "practice ready" graduates. My friends in the academy are resistant to that approach for a whole host of reasons most of which seem to boil down to "we've never done it that way before" and say that the ABA wouldn't let them do that anyway. I know Washington & Lee is experimenting with "splitting the baby" on this with early mixed results.

The school I teach at has had about a 20% drop in enrollment over the last 3-4 years and a few non-tenured faculty have been laid off. My school has responded by planning to offer a two year J.D program starting next year and by forming a committee to look at other options. I have been asked to serve on that committee and it occurred to me that currently I have a golden opportunity to ask a bunch of current and future law school "customers" for their input on this problem.

So I guess my question is simply, prestige and rankings aside, from your perspective, what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities do you as the customers reasonably expect the law school experience to provide you with by the time you graduate in order to get the job you want?


Thanks for doing this - its a great resource to have someone with your experience on the board taking questions.

Just a couple of notes on your post -

I think 0Ls are probably the wrong group to ask - if the 0Ls are rational consumers of the law school product, then this supply-demand problem would have been resolved long ago. I think a better test group for your question would be the recent grads.

The notion that ABA won't allow practice-ready schools is a joke of an argument. There is already a law school that splits their school year into quarters and require their students to do clinics/coops every other quarter (Northeastern).

I think the two year law school program helps and makes a lot of sense. To be quite frank though, I don't understand why (a) law school is a graduate program (as opposed to a college degree in most of the world) and (b) graduation from an ABA accredited law school is a precondition to practice if someone who didn't go to LS can still pass the bar. Either the bar is a bad metric at filtering practice-ready lawyers, in which case I say lets scrap it or re-do it, or we should admit as lawyers everyone who can pass the bar. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Danger Zone » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:09 am

Because barriers to entry make lawyers believe their profession is more preftigiouf.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:10 pm

Master Tofu wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
tomwatts wrote:This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.


I'm glad you are enjoying it but I'm also here to help if I can and maybe you folks currently at ground zero can help me understand something I am curious about.

This may not be the proper forum for this and if not, I apologize and will be happy to take this discussion elsewhere. As I have said, I teach as an adjunct and I have a huge interest in how the legal academy is responding to the criticism about the way we have been educating lawyers for the last 75 years or so.

Many of my friends in private practice and government who hire law school graduates complain that the economy and resulting cutbacks mean that they no longer have the luxury of taking the time or spending the money to train lawyers after they hire them like they used too and want the law schools to serve up something approaching "practice ready" graduates. My friends in the academy are resistant to that approach for a whole host of reasons most of which seem to boil down to "we've never done it that way before" and say that the ABA wouldn't let them do that anyway. I know Washington & Lee is experimenting with "splitting the baby" on this with early mixed results.

The school I teach at has had about a 20% drop in enrollment over the last 3-4 years and a few non-tenured faculty have been laid off. My school has responded by planning to offer a two year J.D program starting next year and by forming a committee to look at other options. I have been asked to serve on that committee and it occurred to me that currently I have a golden opportunity to ask a bunch of current and future law school "customers" for their input on this problem.

So I guess my question is simply, prestige and rankings aside, from your perspective, what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities do you as the customers reasonably expect the law school experience to provide you with by the time you graduate in order to get the job you want?


Thanks for doing this - its a great resource to have someone with your experience on the board taking questions.

Just a couple of notes on your post -

I think 0Ls are probably the wrong group to ask - if the 0Ls are rational consumers of the law school product, then this supply-demand problem would have been resolved long ago. I think a better test group for your question would be the recent grads.

The notion that ABA won't allow practice-ready schools is a joke of an argument. There is already a law school that splits their school year into quarters and require their students to do clinics/coops every other quarter (Northeastern).

I think the two year law school program helps and makes a lot of sense. To be quite frank though, I don't understand why (a) law school is a graduate program (as opposed to a college degree in most of the world) and (b) graduation from an ABA accredited law school is a precondition to practice if someone who didn't go to LS can still pass the bar. Either the bar is a bad metric at filtering practice-ready lawyers, in which case I say lets scrap it or re-do it, or we should admit as lawyers everyone who can pass the bar. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.


I agree that 0L's may have limited input to offer and as I said, I'm willing to take this part of the discussion elsewhere.

In any event, I would certainly also like to hear from 3L's who are now in the job market and recent grads who have just been through, or are still going through, the hiring gauntlet. I'm just trying to get as much input from as many quarters as I can and that includes 0L's who are now making the decision about where to go to law school and I assume that choice was or will be will be informed by what they expect for an educational outcome.

Apropos of this discussion: http://m.americanlawyer.com/module/alm/ ... 1043764846

With regard to the question of why law school is a graduate program, I honestly don't know. I do know that Congress put the ABA in charge of accrediting law schools and the ABA has always taken the position that law should be a graduate program.

With regard to your other question, law school is a prerequisite for taking the bar in all but 7 states. In those states, you can still "read the law" and sit for the bar after apprenticing with an attorney.

I also partly agree with your comment on the bar exam but you are comparing apples to oranges. First, you have to remember that, thanks to Congress, the ABA, not the states, control what gets taught in law school and the only way the states can decide what you should know to practice law is through the bar exam. It is no secret it is BARBRI and not law school that prepares you to pass the bar. Second, as I have noted before, law schools make no pretext that they are training lawyers. They only claim to be training legal scholars. Although there are a few cracks appearing recently in the facade, the vast majority of law schools expect your employer to actually train you to practice. That worked fine for many decades but even before the economy took a nosedive a few years ago, clients were complaining more and more vigorously about having to pay to train a firm's new associates. The bubble is now bursting and more and more firms are hiring laterally instead of vertically. In law, firm size is directly proportional to inertia but eventually, I predict that even the Biglaw firms will be forced to abandon the old model. The problem is, to many people are hoping that the current instability is a blip on the radar and if everyone can hang on for a few years, the storm will pass and law schools and law firms can go back to the way things used to be.

At the risk of sounding like a Cassandra, there is a bloat throughout both the profession and the legal academy and as the profession and the academy start to "right size" (damn, I am sounding like a human resources drone), I think only those firms and schools that provide the kind of value and product that the customers (read clients/students) are satisfied with for a reasonable cost, will survive in the long run.

At the risk of oversimplifying a somewhat complex problem, if at the back end of the pipeline, employers of law school graduates want those they hire to possess certain knowledge and skills and if at the front end of the pipeline, law students want to go to a school that will give them that knowledge and those skills to make them more marketable to those employers, then the questions become: "Can law schools adapt to provide the skills and knowledge sought? and "Will they?"

These questions are easy to ask and harder to answer and my assumptions are dangerously based on mostly empirical data and not exhaustive research.

I'll get off my soapbox now. This was not the primary purpose for my participation in this forum. It is just something I have an interest in following and perhaps influencing a little at some point, so fell free to get back to asking me about something else law or law school related.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby 2014 » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:16 pm

What do your clerks tend to do upon leaving your chambers after their 2 years?

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:11 am

2014 wrote:What do your clerks tend to do upon leaving your chambers after their 2 years?


I have 12 former clerks. Four are in private practice. One is an associate in a boutique firm that only does appeals and of the others, two are associates and one is a partner with medium or large firms. The others are with federal, state or local government agencies including the US Attorney's office, a couple of DA offices, public defender's office, city attorney's office, an Assistant Attorney General and one is a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission and one went on to another clerkship with another judge.

As an aside, I have an annual cookout for my current and former clerks and their spouses and most show up and fill me in on what they are up to. Those that practice near where I live also drop by my office to go to lunch and occasionally seek career advice. We stay in touch and I consider all of them as part of my extended family. I think a lot of judges have similar relations with their former clerks.
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

Master Tofu
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Master Tofu » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:18 am

Opinions_R_Us wrote:
Master Tofu wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
tomwatts wrote:This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.


I'm glad you are enjoying it but I'm also here to help if I can and maybe you folks currently at ground zero can help me understand something I am curious about.

This may not be the proper forum for this and if not, I apologize and will be happy to take this discussion elsewhere. As I have said, I teach as an adjunct and I have a huge interest in how the legal academy is responding to the criticism about the way we have been educating lawyers for the last 75 years or so.

Many of my friends in private practice and government who hire law school graduates complain that the economy and resulting cutbacks mean that they no longer have the luxury of taking the time or spending the money to train lawyers after they hire them like they used too and want the law schools to serve up something approaching "practice ready" graduates. My friends in the academy are resistant to that approach for a whole host of reasons most of which seem to boil down to "we've never done it that way before" and say that the ABA wouldn't let them do that anyway. I know Washington & Lee is experimenting with "splitting the baby" on this with early mixed results.

The school I teach at has had about a 20% drop in enrollment over the last 3-4 years and a few non-tenured faculty have been laid off. My school has responded by planning to offer a two year J.D program starting next year and by forming a committee to look at other options. I have been asked to serve on that committee and it occurred to me that currently I have a golden opportunity to ask a bunch of current and future law school "customers" for their input on this problem.

So I guess my question is simply, prestige and rankings aside, from your perspective, what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities do you as the customers reasonably expect the law school experience to provide you with by the time you graduate in order to get the job you want?


Thanks for doing this - its a great resource to have someone with your experience on the board taking questions.

Just a couple of notes on your post -

I think 0Ls are probably the wrong group to ask - if the 0Ls are rational consumers of the law school product, then this supply-demand problem would have been resolved long ago. I think a better test group for your question would be the recent grads.

The notion that ABA won't allow practice-ready schools is a joke of an argument. There is already a law school that splits their school year into quarters and require their students to do clinics/coops every other quarter (Northeastern).

I think the two year law school program helps and makes a lot of sense. To be quite frank though, I don't understand why (a) law school is a graduate program (as opposed to a college degree in most of the world) and (b) graduation from an ABA accredited law school is a precondition to practice if someone who didn't go to LS can still pass the bar. Either the bar is a bad metric at filtering practice-ready lawyers, in which case I say lets scrap it or re-do it, or we should admit as lawyers everyone who can pass the bar. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.


I agree that 0L's may have limited input to offer and as I said, I'm willing to take this part of the discussion elsewhere.

In any event, I would certainly also like to hear from 3L's who are now in the job market and recent grads who have just been through, or are still going through, the hiring gauntlet. I'm just trying to get as much input from as many quarters as I can and that includes 0L's who are now making the decision about where to go to law school and I assume that choice was or will be will be informed by what they expect for an educational outcome.

Apropos of this discussion: http://m.americanlawyer.com/module/alm/ ... 1043764846

With regard to the question of why law school is a graduate program, I honestly don't know. I do know that Congress put the ABA in charge of accrediting law schools and the ABA has always taken the position that law should be a graduate program.

With regard to your other question, law school is a prerequisite for taking the bar in all but 7 states. In those states, you can still "read the law" and sit for the bar after apprenticing with an attorney.


I'm a recent grad.

On the more drastic end, I would be in favor of a shift in paradigm to either allow undergraduates to study law or to allow more folks to sit for the bar without spending $200k, i.e. expanding the supply more but doing so in a way that will afford more segments of the population with representation through lower rates and more competition.

I don't think the legal education economics work. The sky-high tuition costs/student loans skews the distribution of talent and effort towards what is already a highly saturated segment of the legal labor market, resulting in under-supply and under-representation in other parts of the legal market. It also results in excessive under-employment and unemployment with respect to the law graduates looking for jobs in that crowded space. I think having cheaper tuition, eliminating law graduate programs as a precondition to practice, etc., will help in creating a more fluid legal market.

In terms of a more practical solution, I think anything that reduces the barriers to entry (shorter terms, lower costs, etc) is helpful. I think it is also somewhat helpful to have a more practice-oriented curriculum. More importantly though (I think), lawyers ultimately are entrepreneurs in the sense that they are expected to be owners of (or partners in) their own business. More work should be done to get law students ready to be entrepreneurs.

With respect to the article, I don't fully buy the Leichter premise, that supply doesn't create demand since poor people just can never afford legal services. A couple of notes -

a) If legal jobs don't pay well, then that's more reason why we should lower tuition/cut terms/decrease barriers to entry.

b) As the price point of legal services drop (as supply is expanded either via lowering barriers to entry generally or, for any particular segment of the market, a re-routing of talent), more people will be able to look at their checking accounts and say legal services is something that I can afford. I'm not saying you will get to a perfect world where everyone will be represented in all legal matters and no lawyer will be unemployed but I do think it will be better than the status quo.

c) Fundamentally, entrepreneurs create their own demand. It won't be easy but there's no reason why those law graduates working in service-sector jobs can't set up their own shop and start practicing. Are they inexperienced? Sure, but the ABA haven't made experience a precondition to practice.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Scotusnerd » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:10 am

Thank you for answering questions. Have you ever had former clerks or colleagues call you to endorse a certain candidate for a clerkship? How much weight do you give those recommendations?

I am a 2L in government where pretty much everyone in my office has clerked in the court system, and I'm trying to gauge my options for clerkships on the other end. I'd love to do one: as you've alluded to, it seems like one of the most interesting legal jobs available.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:57 am

tomwatts wrote:I'm a recent grad.

On the more drastic end, I would be in favor of a shift in paradigm to either allow undergraduates to study law or to allow more folks to sit for the bar without spending $200k, i.e. expanding the supply more but doing so in a way that will afford more segments of the population with representation through lower rates and more competition.

I don't think the legal education economics work. The sky-high tuition costs/student loans skews the distribution of talent and effort towards what is already a highly saturated segment of the legal labor market, resulting in under-supply and under-representation in other parts of the legal market. It also results in excessive under-employment and unemployment with respect to the law graduates looking for jobs in that crowded space. I think having cheaper tuition, eliminating law graduate programs as a precondition to practice, etc., will help in creating a more fluid legal market.

In terms of a more practical solution, I think anything that reduces the barriers to entry (shorter terms, lower costs, etc) is helpful. I think it is also somewhat helpful to have a more practice-oriented curriculum. More importantly though (I think), lawyers ultimately are entrepreneurs in the sense that they are expected to be owners of (or partners in) their own business. More work should be done to get law students ready to be entrepreneurs.

With respect to the article, I don't fully buy the Leichter premise, that supply doesn't create demand since poor people just can never afford legal services. A couple of notes -

a) If legal jobs don't pay well, then that's more reason why we should lower tuition/cut terms/decrease barriers to entry.

b) As the price point of legal services drop (as supply is expanded either via lowering barriers to entry generally or, for any particular segment of the market, a re-routing of talent), more people will be able to look at their checking accounts and say legal services is something that I can afford. I'm not saying you will get to a perfect world where everyone will be represented in all legal matters and no lawyer will be unemployed but I do think it will be better than the status quo.

c) Fundamentally, entrepreneurs create their own demand. It won't be easy but there's no reason why those law graduates working in service-sector jobs can't set up their own shop and start practicing. Are they inexperienced? Sure, but the ABA haven't made experience a precondition to practice.


Thanks for the input. I think that in the next couple of decades, those who practice in the private sector will need to be nimble and creative in their approach to both marketing their services and their delivery.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:14 am

Scotusnerd wrote:Thank you for answering questions. Have you ever had former clerks or colleagues call you to endorse a certain candidate for a clerkship? How much weight do you give those recommendations?

I am a 2L in government where pretty much everyone in my office has clerked in the court system, and I'm trying to gauge my options for clerkships on the other end. I'd love to do one: as you've alluded to, it seems like one of the most interesting legal jobs available.



I have judges, law professors, former clerks, friends and neighbors call me all the time to recommend prospective clerks. They are highly coveted jobs and nobody is shy about trying to pull strings to get one. Obviously, I weigh those recommendations based on how well I think the recommender understands my needs and what I look for in a clerk. If someone I know pretty well recommends a candidate, I will always give them a close look and probably an interview but a look is all the recommendation gets you. A recommendation doesn't mean I will necessarily hire them. When I first became a judge, one of my colleagues invited me over to his chambers and he spent about 15 minutes complaining about one of his clerks (a T10 LS graduate), who he had hired because he was the son of a close friend and his advice was that I should never make that mistake. I was stunned because the clerk in question was sitting in an office about a dozen feet away and, unless he was stone deaf, he could every word his boss was saying about him.

Even if I wind up not hiring someone, if I am impressed with them and I think they will be a good fit with another judge, I will call that judge and suggest that they take a look. I have placed several people in other chambers that way.

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Postby Another » Thu Jul 18, 2013 1:30 pm

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:27 pm

hopkins23 wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
tomwatts wrote:This is a fun thread. I don't have anything meaningful to add or ask, just expressing my approval.


I'm glad you are enjoying it but I'm also here to help if I can and maybe you folks currently at ground zero can help me understand something I am curious about.

This may not be the proper forum for this and if not, I apologize and will be happy to take this discussion elsewhere. As I have said, I teach as an adjunct and I have a huge interest in how the legal academy is responding to the criticism about the way we have been educating lawyers for the last 75 years or so.

Many of my friends in private practice and government who hire law school graduates complain that the economy and resulting cutbacks mean that they no longer have the luxury of taking the time or spending the money to train lawyers after they hire them like they used too and want the law schools to serve up something approaching "practice ready" graduates. My friends in the academy are resistant to that approach for a whole host of reasons most of which seem to boil down to "we've never done it that way before" and say that the ABA wouldn't let them do that anyway. I know Washington & Lee is experimenting with "splitting the baby" on this with early mixed results.

The school I teach at has had about a 20% drop in enrollment over the last 3-4 years and a few non-tenured faculty have been laid off. My school has responded by planning to offer a two year J.D program starting next year and by forming a committee to look at other options. I have been asked to serve on that committee and it occurred to me that currently I have a golden opportunity to ask a bunch of current and future law school "customers" for their input on this problem.

So I guess my question is simply, prestige and rankings aside, from your perspective, what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities do you as the customers reasonably expect the law school experience to provide you with by the time you graduate in order to get the job you want?


You'll probably get a greater quantity and better quality of responses from people in the "Forum for Law Students" and "Legal Employment."

My brief two cents:

1) I think law school should be reduced to two years if possible. I also think that law students should be allowed to take the bar during their last semester of law school (like in AZ), but that's not really up to you.

2) Law school has become too academ-ized; so I agree with you. There are too many professors who teach in law schools are are egg heads. Many of them are not interested in teaching, don't empathize with the plight of the current law student IT, and sometimes even offer bad advice. All my best professors who actually taught me something about the practice of law were adjuncts/clinic professors or non-tenured professors who practiced for 10+ years themselves. Sadly, they get paid the least.

3) I don't know how your law school's legal writing course is for first years, but mine was a joke. My school's legal writing course was basically taught by 2Ls and supervised, overseen by ONE professor that we never really spoke to or learned from. That shouldn't be. 2Ls don't know that much more than 1Ls about good legal writing.

--

Thanks for answering our questions.

My questions:

1) Are you afraid of being "outed"?
2) How would you counsel somebody who is about to do a clerkship?
3) Do you have some clerks you don't keep up with as much anymore? Was it because you just didn't get along? Was it because the clerk was incompetent?
4) Do you have any resources (books, blogs, etc.) that you would recommend for a soon-to-be clerk?



Thanks for the two cents. My school really emphasizes writing and its reputation for that that has really helped with the employment stats relative to its USNWR ranking.

As for your questions:

1) Not particularly. The biggest downside would be being inundated with more clerkship applications than I already get. I haven't been saying anything here that I don't tell students when I am asked to speak at my state's law schools.

2) Not sure what you are asking. The question assumes you already have the clerkship so do what your judge says, keep your finger off the scales of justice, be thorough in your work and don't do anything stupid that would embarrass your judge.

3) While some of my clerks have certainly been better than others, none have been "incompetent". All have done a very good to outstanding job for me and a couple were superstars. I stay in contact with all of my former clerks - just some more than others, but that is due to geography because some practice closer to my office than others - not because of personality or any other issue. I put a lot of effort into the clerk screening and hiring process and it has paid off for me over the years with a lot of terrific clerks who have made me look really good.

4) I don't know of any books on clerking but my best advice is to simply ask your judge what he/she expects of you and how they want you to work with them. Every judge runs their chambers their own way with their own workflow plan. You just need to find out what the program is and get with it. Some judges delegate more to their clerks than others so you need to sit down early with your judge and make sure you are on the same page in terms of what you are expected to do and what is off-limits.

I think you will quickly learn that judges are real people and while some are certainly jerks, most are a pretty good sort and are very approachable and easy to work with and for.

Hope that helps.

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Postby Another » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:41 pm

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:17 pm

hopkins23 wrote:Thanks. I will be doing a clerkship and I am really looking forward to it.

Some questions just because I'm curious:

Did you ever clerk yourself? If you did, did you find it helpful when you tried to become a judge?

Do you have aspirations for SSC or the federal bench?

Do you get along with all your clerks despite political differences? Do you know some judges who make clerkship hiring decisions based on political views?

It seems a long way from now, but I could like to one day be a judge myself; any advice?



I was never a judicial clerk myself. Although we called it a clerkship back then, in my 3L year, I was what today you would call a paid intern with the Attorney General's office and they offered me a job when I graduated so I never even thought about clerking for a judge. Knowing what I know now, the only way I can see a clerkship being helpful is to help you understand what a judge does that most lawyers never see because it goes on behind closed doors. I don't think a clerkship actually helps much to become a judge except to the extent that if you clerked for a respected judge, maybe the powers that be that decide who should be on the bench will think that your judge taught you something useful.

I never had any aspirations for the federal bench. While certainly prestigious, the types of cases in federal court tend to be a lot more boring as a general rule and the salary isn't much better although there is certainly something to be said for a lifetime appointment. I have two former colleagues who are now federal circuit judges and both tell me it was way more fun on my Court. I did take a shot at a vacancy on my state's Supreme Court a few years ago but as I pointed out in an earlier post, you have to be lucky and the political stars didn't line up for me at the time but the person who got it is a good friend and is doing a great job.

I don't ask about political views in the hiring process and they are not part of my hiring consideration. We do have political discussions in chambers regarding current events sometimes and I enjoy debating issues with my clerks. I know of two judges who do use political viewpoint as a hiring consideration but you might be surprised to learn that they try to hire clerks with the opposite political viewpoint from theirs to help keep them intellectually honest (one is a conservative Republican who likes to hire liberal clerks and the other a liberal Democrat who like to hire conservative clerks).

Anybody can be a judge but understand that not everybody who wants to be a judge will be one. I have a post earlier in this thread where I touch on this same question and I will repeat the bottom line here. If you want to maximize your chances, get a reputation as a very good lawyer and get involved in bar association activities so you can get favorable bar association endorsements, learn who the political power brokers are who influence the selection for judicial vacancies in your state and get on their good side and finally and most importantly, be lucky and figure out where the lightning is going to strike and go stand there.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby tomwatts » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:13 pm

Okay, I've had some time to think, and I'll take a stab at answering the question.

I'm not sure what I expect/expected law school to provide. I'm enrolled at another professional school at the same time, though — a policy school — and I'm struck by an experience that I had when I sat through a "shopping day" of classes there (visit 20-minute introductions to different classes offered in the coming semester to see what you might like to take). The most excited I saw students get from a run-of-the-mill class was when the teacher, an adjunct or lecturer or something, said, "This class is deliberately vocational," and went on to explain that he had structured the class based on what he thought would be most useful to us for the particular types of jobs we were likely to get if we were interested in the title of the class. Students really liked that.

My guess is that students really want a professional school to prepare them for their profession. The idea of a "vocational" school shouldn't be a dirty one to law professors; it's what the students want. (Not just the clients — they probably want it, too. But the students.)

I also think that law professors should get some kind of teacher training. Anything would be an improvement over nothing, and I think nothing is pretty much what they get right now. Some are very good, by accident, but many more could be better.

And I think that law classes shouldn't be taught by having the students read appellate court opinions to the exclusion of all else and then tested via a single issue-spotter exam at the end. That's just crazy. It made sense in in the late 19th century because there was so much less statutory law and virtually no regulatory law at all, and because there were no such things as midterms and problem sets and the like. But now that there are, the pedagogical innovations of at least the 20th century (if not the 21st) should be incorporated into law classrooms. (And don't get me started on the uselessness of most casebooks, in a day and age when Google Scholar has virtually all that casebooks can offer for free on any device that can connect to the Internet.)

One could teach a great deal more law, and in less time, if one simply taught it better. Then there would be time for skills courses, too, such as the negotiation courses that I'm told have become popular at more than just my school, or other such courses. One of the reasons I like the policy school is that it has some of the best skills courses in existence, ranging from op-ed writing to speechmaking to leadership training. A law school could do with plenty of skills courses, too, not just doctrinal ones.

More generally, I think that law schools are often oddly segregated from the rest of the university, and I think that leads to problems (such as a total lack of taking in 20th-century pedagogy). My school's different institutions within the broader university are notoriously separate, so the law school's separation is probably no surprise, but my undergrad was fairly integrated, as far as I could tell, and the law school still might as well have been on a different planet, doing its own thing separately. Joint appointments between the law school and Arts & Sciences or a business school or a policy school or — if you can find someone — a medical school might help. Just putting in more effort to talk to the rest of the university, or any non-lawyers, really, might help. But I think that making law schools less insular would be helpful for long-term development.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:26 pm

tomwatts wrote:Okay, I've had some time to think, and I'll take a stab at answering the question.

I'm not sure what I expect/expected law school to provide. I'm enrolled at another professional school at the same time, though — a policy school — and I'm struck by an experience that I had when I sat through a "shopping day" of classes there (visit 20-minute introductions to different classes offered in the coming semester to see what you might like to take). The most excited I saw students get from a run-of-the-mill class was when the teacher, an adjunct or lecturer or something, said, "This class is deliberately vocational," and went on to explain that he had structured the class based on what he thought would be most useful to us for the particular types of jobs we were likely to get if we were interested in the title of the class. Students really liked that.

My guess is that students really want a professional school to prepare them for their profession. The idea of a "vocational" school shouldn't be a dirty one to law professors; it's what the students want. (Not just the clients — they probably want it, too. But the students.)

I also think that law professors should get some kind of teacher training. Anything would be an improvement over nothing, and I think nothing is pretty much what they get right now. Some are very good, by accident, but many more could be better.

And I think that law classes shouldn't be taught by having the students read appellate court opinions to the exclusion of all else and then tested via a single issue-spotter exam at the end. That's just crazy. It made sense in in the late 19th century because there was so much less statutory law and virtually no regulatory law at all, and because there were no such things as midterms and problem sets and the like. But now that there are, the pedagogical innovations of at least the 20th century (if not the 21st) should be incorporated into law classrooms. (And don't get me started on the uselessness of most casebooks, in a day and age when Google Scholar has virtually all that casebooks can offer for free on any device that can connect to the Internet.)

One could teach a great deal more law, and in less time, if one simply taught it better. Then there would be time for skills courses, too, such as the negotiation courses that I'm told have become popular at more than just my school, or other such courses. One of the reasons I like the policy school is that it has some of the best skills courses in existence, ranging from op-ed writing to speechmaking to leadership training. A law school could do with plenty of skills courses, too, not just doctrinal ones.

More generally, I think that law schools are often oddly segregated from the rest of the university, and I think that leads to problems (such as a total lack of taking in 20th-century pedagogy). My school's different institutions within the broader university are notoriously separate, so the law school's separation is probably no surprise, but my undergrad was fairly integrated, as far as I could tell, and the law school still might as well have been on a different planet, doing its own thing separately. Joint appointments between the law school and Arts & Sciences or a business school or a policy school or — if you can find someone — a medical school might help. Just putting in more effort to talk to the rest of the university, or any non-lawyers, really, might help. But I think that making law schools less insular would be helpful for long-term development.


Thank you for your thoughtful response. You raised a couple of points I had not thought about before and I really appreciate it.




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