U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
USAIRS
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U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:34 pm

I did this last year, viewtopic.php?f=1&t=49703 , so I'll do it this year, too. I don't fully remember what I said in my former thread, but my views of things are constantly evolving and nostalgia slowly replaces actual memory, so be gentle with minor inconsistencies. In some ways I'm more critical of the school, in other ways I'm more appreciative.

As to my background, I came to Chicago from California and returned to CA after graduating about 5 years ago. I went to a large state-school. I'm the rare Chicago grad who went to government straight from law school, and am now at a US Attorney's Office.

Lady Heather
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby Lady Heather » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:52 pm

How is the quality of life for a government worker?

How much responsibilty do you have now as an AUSA?

articulably suspect
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:58 pm

Can you describe your day to day work life, in general?

Also after 5 years, where are you salary wise and what was your starting salary?.

Do you simply move up from level I, II, etc?

Did you get much trial experience early on? What was the learning curve like?

How did. are you managing your debt with a "low" salary?

02082010
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby 02082010 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:09 pm

Are you utilizing Chicago's restrictive LRAP?

Why did you choose Chicago over similar ranked schools you were accepted to?

Were you set on govt work when decided what law school to attend? How did Chicago's OCS facilitate you landing a job upon graduation?

Is a biglaw -> USAO jump possible or common? Has anyone in your office come from that track?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:19 pm

Lady Heather wrote:How is the quality of life for a government worker?

How much responsibilty do you have now as an AUSA?


Your first question is kind of broad. At my old job, you had the option of checking out and coasting to retirement or taking on 70 hours a week and rising to the stars. I chose the latter.

I have a ton of responsibility as an AUSA. You can't really ask for more than prosecuting a criminal conspiracy and being the lead attorney at my level of experience. With that comes a lot more work, though. A lot more short-fuse motions and briefing, and a ton of stress, comes with the litigation responsibility.

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kurama20
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby kurama20 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:20 pm

Just how tough is Chicago's 1L year? We all hear about how brutal it is---but is there anyway to make sure you do well?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:25 pm

ejjones wrote:Can you describe your day to day work life, in general?

Also after 5 years, where are you salary wise and what was your starting salary?.

Do you simply move up from level I, II, etc?

Did you get much trial experience early on? What was the learning curve like?

How did. are you managing your debt with a "low" salary?


My starting salary was about 75k. At the agency I worked at, you went up every year and then at the end of the third year you hit 105k. I changed jobs before that so I've missed a year of a raise, and am looking forward to getting above six figures after january.

I did a dozen trials in my first three years. The agency would give you as much work as you asked for, and I asked for everything. Learning curve was harder than 1L year of law school, but it makes you a genius after about a year.

I just pay my loans every month. It isn't that hard on about 90k. I have enough left over to support my non-working wife and kid, have a newish japanese car with payments, and a little condo in a nice part of town. Looking forward to my raise, though.

articulably suspect
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:28 pm

USAIRS wrote:
ejjones wrote:Can you describe your day to day work life, in general?

Also after 5 years, where are you salary wise and what was your starting salary?.

Do you simply move up from level I, II, etc?

Did you get much trial experience early on? What was the learning curve like?

How did. are you managing your debt with a "low" salary?


My starting salary was about 75k. At the agency I worked at, you went up every year and then at the end of the third year you hit 105k. I changed jobs before that so I've missed a year of a raise, and am looking forward to getting above six figures after january.

I did a dozen trials in my first three years. The agency would give you as much work as you asked for, and I asked for everything. Learning curve was harder than 1L year of law school, but it makes you a genius after about a year.

I just pay my loans every month. It isn't that hard on about 90k. I have enough left over to support my non-working wife and kid, have a newish japanese car with payments, and a little condo in a nice part of town. Looking forward to my raise, though.


What about IBR? Did you not use that? Don't you qualify? It sounds like your starting salary would've been a bit to high for LRAP?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:32 pm

hopefulundergrad wrote:Are you utilizing Chicago's restrictive LRAP?

Why did you choose Chicago over similar ranked schools you were accepted to?

Were you set on govt work when decided what law school to attend? How did Chicago's OCS facilitate you landing a job upon graduation?

Is a biglaw -> USAO jump possible or common? Has anyone in your office come from that track?


I have always gotten paid too much for LRAP. Most federal jobs will take you out of any LRAP after about 2-3 years, and even then you'd be phased out of most of it, so my position is that you should not consider LRAP if you want to work in federal govt. You may want to consider IBR, but that only works well if you put all your loans on a 10 year plan, which seems crazy to me.

I didn't know I was going into government work when I chose Chicago, but taking the scholarship was a good idea in hindsight. Chicago's OCS did shite for me. I networked my way into my jobs. The Chicago name did a lot for me, though. Also, the rigor (not joking) pays dividends.

At my US Atty office, 4 out of 5 came from elite schools, then clerking, then big law firm. Most recent group included a supreme court clerk. Our office is absolutely more competitive than most top law firms. However, the traditional route of coming from a DA's or City Attorney's Office is still fairly common.

articulably suspect
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:37 pm

USAIRS wrote:
hopefulundergrad wrote:Are you utilizing Chicago's restrictive LRAP?

Why did you choose Chicago over similar ranked schools you were accepted to?

Were you set on govt work when decided what law school to attend? How did Chicago's OCS facilitate you landing a job upon graduation?

Is a biglaw -> USAO jump possible or common? Has anyone in your office come from that track?


I have always gotten paid too much for LRAP. Most federal jobs will take you out of any LRAP after about 2-3 years, and even then you'd be phased out of most of it, so my position is that you should not consider LRAP if you want to work in federal govt. You may want to consider IBR, but that only works well if you put all your loans on a 10 year plan, which seems crazy to me.
I didn't know I was going into government work when I chose Chicago, but taking the scholarship was a good idea in hindsight. Chicago's OCS did shite for me. I networked my way into my jobs. The Chicago name did a lot for me, though. Also, the rigor (not joking) pays dividends.

At my US Atty office, 4 out of 5 came from elite schools, then clerking, then big law firm. Most recent group included a supreme court clerk. Our office is absolutely more competitive than most top law firms. However, the traditional route of coming from a DA's or City Attorney's Office is still fairly common.


can you explain why? if you're planning on staying in the public sector for 10 yrs, wouldn't it be a good idea? doesn't IBR, keep your payments relatively low over those 10 yrs?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:38 pm

ejjones wrote:
USAIRS wrote:
ejjones wrote:Can you describe your day to day work life, in general?

Also after 5 years, where are you salary wise and what was your starting salary?.

Do you simply move up from level I, II, etc?

Did you get much trial experience early on? What was the learning curve like?

How did. are you managing your debt with a "low" salary?


My starting salary was about 75k. At the agency I worked at, you went up every year and then at the end of the third year you hit 105k. I changed jobs before that so I've missed a year of a raise, and am looking forward to getting above six figures after january.

I did a dozen trials in my first three years. The agency would give you as much work as you asked for, and I asked for everything. Learning curve was harder than 1L year of law school, but it makes you a genius after about a year.

I just pay my loans every month. It isn't that hard on about 90k. I have enough left over to support my non-working wife and kid, have a newish japanese car with payments, and a little condo in a nice part of town. Looking forward to my raise, though.


What about IBR? Did you not use that? Don't you qualify? It sounds like your starting salary would've been a bit to high for LRAP?


IBR does not work well with a 25-30 year repayment period. My payments are already about what IBR would limit them to, and I would get no forgiveness even at the end of the 25 years of making payments. I pay about 1100 a month for loans. It is complicated, but it just doesn't work out given my pay increases and the fact that I'd be starting late. The system rewards you for high monthly payment over the short-term, and for planning ahead, and I don't have that. It can be done, but IBR wasn't around until recently so I couldn't plan for it.

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:41 pm

ejjones wrote:
USAIRS wrote:
hopefulundergrad wrote:Are you utilizing Chicago's restrictive LRAP?

Why did you choose Chicago over similar ranked schools you were accepted to?

Were you set on govt work when decided what law school to attend? How did Chicago's OCS facilitate you landing a job upon graduation?

Is a biglaw -> USAO jump possible or common? Has anyone in your office come from that track?


I have always gotten paid too much for LRAP. Most federal jobs will take you out of any LRAP after about 2-3 years, and even then you'd be phased out of most of it, so my position is that you should not consider LRAP if you want to work in federal govt. You may want to consider IBR, but that only works well if you put all your loans on a 10 year plan, which seems crazy to me.
I didn't know I was going into government work when I chose Chicago, but taking the scholarship was a good idea in hindsight. Chicago's OCS did shite for me. I networked my way into my jobs. The Chicago name did a lot for me, though. Also, the rigor (not joking) pays dividends.

At my US Atty office, 4 out of 5 came from elite schools, then clerking, then big law firm. Most recent group included a supreme court clerk. Our office is absolutely more competitive than most top law firms. However, the traditional route of coming from a DA's or City Attorney's Office is still fairly common.


can you explain why? if you're planning on staying in the public sector for 10 yrs, wouldn't it be a good idea? doesn't IBR, keep your payments relatively low over those 10 yrs?


Even though I will likely be in gov't for at least 10 years, I couldn't count on that right upon graduation. I could have hated it, and I actually ended up leaving my first job after 3 years. Then I would have been stuck with huge monthly payments. There is actually the odd chance that you'll lose your job, too. It can be a good risk, but I don't know about how one would be able to commit for 10 years straight out of law school.

articulably suspect
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:44 pm

USAIRS wrote:
ejjones wrote:
USAIRS wrote:
ejjones wrote:Can you describe your day to day work life, in general?

Also after 5 years, where are you salary wise and what was your starting salary?.

Do you simply move up from level I, II, etc?

Did you get much trial experience early on? What was the learning curve like?

How did. are you managing your debt with a "low" salary?


My starting salary was about 75k. At the agency I worked at, you went up every year and then at the end of the third year you hit 105k. I changed jobs before that so I've missed a year of a raise, and am looking forward to getting above six figures after january.

I did a dozen trials in my first three years. The agency would give you as much work as you asked for, and I asked for everything. Learning curve was harder than 1L year of law school, but it makes you a genius after about a year.

I just pay my loans every month. It isn't that hard on about 90k. I have enough left over to support my non-working wife and kid, have a newish japanese car with payments, and a little condo in a nice part of town. Looking forward to my raise, though.


What about IBR? Did you not use that? Don't you qualify? It sounds like your starting salary would've been a bit to high for LRAP?


IBR does not work well with a 25-30 year repayment period. My payments are already about what IBR would limit them to, and I would get no forgiveness even at the end of the 25 years of making payments. I pay about 1100 a month for loans. It is complicated, but it just doesn't work out given my pay increases and the fact that I'd be starting late. The system rewards you for high monthly payment over the short-term, and for planning ahead, and I don't have that. It can be done, but IBR wasn't around until recently so I couldn't plan for it.


thanks for taking questions btw. so for someone planning on da/pd or any other pubic sector job that has a starting salary of around mid-50K, planning on working in the public setor for the nex 10 yrs, would be smart to do the 10 yr plan +IBR? That was my plan anyway. Would you recomend this?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:46 pm

kurama20 wrote:Just how tough is Chicago's 1L year? We all hear about how brutal it is---but is there anyway to make sure you do well?


I don't have terribly strong memories of how hard it was. Compared to after graduating, you'll have a lot of free time. I worked during UG, too, so law school seemed like a vacation to me. I didn't do well, though. People who did were in study groups, took lots of practice tests, made connections to upperclassmen for good outlines, and took a lot of notes in class. I probably should have gone to class more.

Edit: The top of the class actually did a lot more. The above relates more to middle of the class students, who I classify as "over-acheivers".

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soullesswonder
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:55 pm

Where did you live while attending?

Was the social atmosphere as "academic" as people claim?

Did the overall quality of the professors live up to expectations?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:56 pm

ejjones wrote:
thanks for taking questions btw. so for someone planning on da/pd or any other pubic sector job that has a starting salary of around mid-50K, planning on working in the public setor for the nex 10 yrs, would be smart to do the 10 yr plan +IBR? That was my plan anyway. Would you recomend this?


I would first take the scholarship to a good school. I, personally, wouldn't take a job that does not at least pay enough to cover my loans should the IBR get the legislative shaft. Scholarship should be plan A because it is guaranteed, then look at the IBR and LRAPs as bonuses that you may not be able to count on. You may want to take a good federal job rather than be in local gov't, or you may hate the DA's office after 3 years and want to go into private practice. 10 years is both an incredibly long commitment and a very short repayment period for full loans. Seems crazy to me.

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kurama20
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby kurama20 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:57 pm

USAIRS wrote:
kurama20 wrote:Just how tough is Chicago's 1L year? We all hear about how brutal it is---but is there anyway to make sure you do well?


I don't have terribly strong memories of how hard it was. Compared to after graduating, you'll have a lot of free time. I worked during UG, too, so law school seemed like a vacation to me. I didn't do well, though. People who did were in study groups, took lots of practice tests, made connections to upperclassmen for good outlines, and took a lot of notes in class. I probably should have gone to class more.

Edit: The top of the class actually did a lot more. The above relates more to middle of the class students, who I classify as "over-acheivers".


Jesus that pretty much confirms it---Chicago is RIGOROUS to the max. How is Chicago seen in California? I'm particularly curious as to how Cali firms view Chicago in comparison to Boalt, CLS, and NYU. Oh yeah just how bad is the Cali bar? I always hear about how hard it is---what makes it so tough?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:12 pm

soullesswonder wrote:Where did you live while attending?

Was the social atmosphere as "academic" as people claim?

Did the overall quality of the professors live up to expectations?


I don't know what you mean by the social atmosphere. I enjoy an academic atmosphere, and found it among the grad students at UChicago. The law students were law student-y. A lot of the same cool people and jerks that you are likely to encounter on this site.

The professors were as expected, but the unusual thing was just interaction with them outside of class. As I've talked to people from other schools, that was more common at Chicago than elsewhere. I played basketball against Epstein, dinner with Obama, random hallway conversations with epstein, carpooling with Ryan Goodman, and just a number of random meetings and discussions with Richard Posner and other top professors. I had classes with them as well but, while nice, I think the small class size at Chicago and emphasis on student-prof interaction is most notable.

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soullesswonder
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:20 pm

USAIRS wrote:
soullesswonder wrote:Where did you live while attending?

Was the social atmosphere as "academic" as people claim?

Did the overall quality of the professors live up to expectations?


I don't know what you mean by the social atmosphere. I enjoy an academic atmosphere, and found it among the grad students at UChicago. The law students were law student-y. A lot of the same cool people and jerks that you are likely to encounter on this site.

The professors were as expected, but the unusual thing was just interaction with them outside of class. As I've talked to people from other schools, that was more common at Chicago than elsewhere. I played basketball against Epstein, dinner with Obama, random hallway conversations with epstein, carpooling with Ryan Goodman, and just a number of random meetings and discussions with Richard Posner and other top professors. I had classes with them as well but, while nice, I think the small class size at Chicago and emphasis on student-prof interaction is most notable.


Awesome. I didn't mean anything with the "academic" remark - I've just heard UC students are really interested in pondering the theories and implications of what they get in class. Personally, I like that.

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:36 pm

kurama20 wrote:
USAIRS wrote:
kurama20 wrote:Just how tough is Chicago's 1L year? We all hear about how brutal it is---but is there anyway to make sure you do well?


I don't have terribly strong memories of how hard it was. Compared to after graduating, you'll have a lot of free time. I worked during UG, too, so law school seemed like a vacation to me. I didn't do well, though. People who did were in study groups, took lots of practice tests, made connections to upperclassmen for good outlines, and took a lot of notes in class. I probably should have gone to class more.

Edit: The top of the class actually did a lot more. The above relates more to middle of the class students, who I classify as "over-acheivers".


Jesus that pretty much confirms it---Chicago is RIGOROUS to the max. How is Chicago seen in California? I'm particularly curious as to how Cali firms view Chicago in comparison to Boalt, CLS, and NYU. Oh yeah just how bad is the Cali bar? I always hear about how hard it is---what makes it so tough?


The Cali bar wasn't that hard. Well, the second time it wasn't, anyway.

I am not really doing a good job of describing the work at chicago. I was ...not necessarily always in class. My minimum would be to have an old outline or the outline of a friend, read a supplement, and browse and make notes from old tests. If there was no outline for the class, I would read the book and make my own outline in short-order, and I would deep-search the google for an outline on the same book or some old tests on the subject. I was a slacker. Most people read at least one supplement, went to every class and took notes, read the cases, took notes from the cases in the casebook, made their own outline, was in a study group, took a practice test and looked at the old tests, compared their outline with other outlines and reconciled. It has been a while. A current Chicago student would do a better job of describing it.

I can't really say how firms view the differences in the schools you listed. I have not worked in a firm. At my USAO, NYU and Columbia and Berkeley are pretty rare. Forn NYU and Columbia, I have to think they just don't come to california as often. It seems odd to me how few Berkeleyans I run into here, given the school's proximity. Harvard is the clear winner for placement here. It would probably be Harvard, then Yale, then UCLA, then Chicago, then Stanford, then Berkely, then NYU and Columbia, then just random schools, in terms of sheer numbers. I think we view all these schools as roughly the same (with the exception of UCLA, which is mostly the local school) and just kind of say "top school, clerkship, top firm" when you look at a resume, and you are able to go on the actual value of their experience, their interview, or their references when you make hiring decisions for laterals. Harvard is a pretty big school, though, so that may be the difference just in terms of numbers. I think Chicago tends to send more people to california than NYU and columbia, too. I don't think a person is at any disadvantage at all coming from another school in the top ten, so long as you have the same experience following law school.

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:46 pm

soullesswonder wrote:
USAIRS wrote:
soullesswonder wrote:Where did you live while attending?

Was the social atmosphere as "academic" as people claim?

Did the overall quality of the professors live up to expectations?


I don't know what you mean by the social atmosphere. I enjoy an academic atmosphere, and found it among the grad students at UChicago. The law students were law student-y. A lot of the same cool people and jerks that you are likely to encounter on this site.

The professors were as expected, but the unusual thing was just interaction with them outside of class. As I've talked to people from other schools, that was more common at Chicago than elsewhere. I played basketball against Epstein, dinner with Obama, random hallway conversations with [edit]SUNSTEIN, carpooling with Ryan Goodman, and just a number of random meetings and discussions with Richard Posner and other top professors. I had classes with them as well but, while nice, I think the small class size at Chicago and emphasis on student-prof interaction is most notable.


Awesome. I didn't mean anything with the "academic" remark - I've just heard UC students are really interested in pondering the theories and implications of what they get in class. Personally, I like that.


There was a lot of that and I do think Chicago attracts that kind of person. Lots and lots of policy in class, and lots of nerdy panels and speakers, too. Seriously nerd-heaven. I enjoy the academic side of law but, to be honest, I think it is wasted on the egos of law students.

Also, I should edit my second epstein quoted above. I meant to say Sunstein.

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The Brainalist
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby The Brainalist » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:43 pm

USAIRS wrote:I think we view all these schools as roughly the same (with the exception of UCLA, which is mostly the local school) and just kind of say "top school, clerkship, top firm" when you look at a resume, and you are able to go on the actual value of their experience, their interview, or their references when you make hiring decisions for laterals. Harvard is a pretty big school, though, so that may be the difference just in terms of numbers. I think Chicago tends to send more people to california than NYU and columbia, too. I don't think a person is at any disadvantage at all coming from another school in the top ten, so long as you have the same experience following law school.


Okay, I get that they are the same for your job because they all have their first job already, but for getting the first job, do you think these schools are the same? From what you are saying, it sounds like Harvard is the best.

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DavidYurman85
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby DavidYurman85 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:03 pm

USAIRS wrote:
kurama20 wrote:Just how tough is Chicago's 1L year? We all hear about how brutal it is---but is there anyway to make sure you do well?


I don't have terribly strong memories of how hard it was. Compared to after graduating, you'll have a lot of free time. I worked during UG, too, so law school seemed like a vacation to me. I didn't do well, though. People who did were in study groups, took lots of practice tests, made connections to upperclassmen for good outlines, and took a lot of notes in class. I probably should have gone to class more.

Edit: The top of the class actually did a lot more. The above relates more to middle of the class students, who I classify as "over-acheivers".


Did this influence your job prospects?

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DMV Messiah
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby DMV Messiah » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:27 pm

USAIRS wrote:I don't know what you mean by the social atmosphere. I enjoy an academic atmosphere, and found it among the grad students at UChicago. The law students were law student-y. A lot of the same cool people and jerks that you are likely to encounter on this site.

The professors were as expected, but the unusual thing was just interaction with them outside of class. As I've talked to people from other schools, that was more common at Chicago than elsewhere. I played basketball against Epstein, dinner with Obama, random hallway conversations with epstein, carpooling with Ryan Goodman, and just a number of random meetings and discussions with Richard Posner and other top professors. I had classes with them as well but, while nice, I think the small class size at Chicago and emphasis on student-prof interaction is most notable.

:shock:

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:46 pm

It isn't that I think Harvard is better. Their students seem to be onto something, at least. I get the feeling that they have aspirations beyond big law firms and clerking, even though they have those things, and have a better idea of what is available to them. It could be that Harvard students simply feel less limited and are more inclined to pursue things like being a prosecutor or politics. It isn't as if these things are more available to them. Ironically, the Chicago alum at my office are not the ones with clerkships or honors - it is the Harvard grads that come in with circuit court clerkships and honors. It makes me think they are doing something right at Harvard, simply because the top grads from there really have their priorities straight. It is no wonder that so many of them end up being judges or politicians, since being a prosecutor is almost necessary to compete.

Did bad grades hurt my employment prospects? Short-term, in the On Campus Interviews, it was definitely a factor. It correlates strongly with poor bidding strategy, though. Certain firms have informal cut-offs, which I was unaware of. I had no business doing interviews with Sidley Austin with my grades. To bring it all together, though, this doesn't indicate a difference if I would have gone to Harvard. My brother had just-below median grades at Harvard, and a district court clerkship, and an interviewer at Sidley called his grades borderline, which seemed to lead to a ding. I don't know how the change in grading system at Harvard affects this, though. It would seem to help people with just-below median grades.




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