ambivalent imbroglio home
April 20, 2006

Best public interest law school plan ever!

The latest comment on Blonde Justice's great second thread about choosing a public interest law school concludes:

I went to the cheapest school I could get, after taking scholarships and financial aid into account. I get LRAP too. I worked hard so my grades and my internship experience would distinguish me, even if the name of my school didn't. Everytime I compare finances with my colleagues, I'm glad I did.

This is really the best plan I've ever seen for those who have some certainty they want to do a particular kind of public interest law when they graduate. Oh how I wish I had done this!

Posted 09:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

Advice for careers in criminal law

Professor Kerr recently asked for opinions on good advice for law students who might be considering careers in criminal law.

I always encourage my students to pursue their interests in criminal law, as I think careers in criminal law on the whole are vastly more rewarding than lives wasted in discovery disputes on behalf of large corporations careers in civil litigation practice (the latter being the primary competition). Less lucrative, granted, but vastly more rewarding.

Coming from a law professor that is priceless! The post generated a veritable goldmine of priceless advice. First, these helpful thoughts on pursuing criminal appeals work, and more generally:

My advice to students interested in criminal defense (the same advice I give to my kids): volunteer to work where you want to get hired. Get to work early, stay late and leave no room for doubt that you are the person that the firm will want to hire when you graduate. If a summer clerk, or student volunteer impresses me by his/her ingenuity, dedication, intellect during a few months while clerking for the firm, I wouldn’t consider looking at another person’s resume regardless of how impressive it is on paper. In short, get your foot in the door and don’t waste the opportunity.

Excellent advice, I'm sure, but not so helpful if you made the mistake of taking internships in geographical areas where you can't/don't want to work. For people in that position (like me), a public defender offered this encouraging advice:

How you can get a job with a PD’s office: Although, many PD’s and DA’s that I know volunteered at their agencies before being hired, it is definitely not a criteria. I know that if it’s what you really want to do and it shows, it doesn’t matter that you have a civil background with no criminal experience. It’s important that you want to have clients and are truly willing to do what’s best for your clients. Interviews with PD offices are not fun, but if you definitely want to be a PD, it will show. Be prepared to be in court every day, learn to think on your feet, and encounter unexpected problems every day. But that’s the fun of it!

I've probably heard all of that before but it's great to see it all put together like that. In my recent interview one of the questions was: “Why did you spend a whole year working for this civil law thing? And don't they sue attorneys?” I couldn't figure out whether that seemed of interest to them b/c they thought it showed I'm not committed to criminal defense, or if they were concerned about it b/c they thought maybe I don't like lawyers and have some agenda to get them in trouble for malpractice. Now I realize it was probably both and if it comes up again I'll try to be more clear about addressing those potential concerns. (The real reason I did the civil law job was that it was interesting, it paid, and I wanted to learn at least about about the civil side of things while I had the chance.)

Many of the comments on this thread are from people doing criminal defense in private practice (like this one) and it's encouraging to hear that so many find that so rewarding since I might end up having to go that route if the public defender options don't come through.

The thread also offers a brief outline of how to start your own criminal defense practice, and this from a public defender that encapsulates why I prefer to find a job in a smaller jurisdiction:

PD’s offices in less urban areas are lovely to work in, you don’t have to worry about working your way up to felony cases and such, and there’s always a demand.

Amen! I could quote just about every one of the comments here b/c they are all so helpful (this one even gives ), but better still, just read the rest of the thread on If you're pursuing a career in criminal law, you'll find this 10 very well-spent minutes.

Posted 03:04 PM | TrackBack

Law Schools for the Public Interest Student

Professor Appleman has a great post on Prawfsblawg about how law schools might better help law students find public interest jobs. She concludes with the following great suggestions:

1) create a really strong public interest alumni network, with mentoring and interning options; 2) designate one OCI counselor to spend at least half of her time devoted solely to public interest; 3) have workshops explaining to students how it's possible to earn a public interest salary and still pay your rent, loans, and eat; 4) visits and meetings from local public interest attorneys; 5) continued assistance *after* graduation, since often it takes a little longer to find p.i. jobs; and 6) at least some form of loan-repayment schemes for eligible grads.

The public interest students at GW have had some of the same thoughts Prof. Appleman expresses and we recently lobbied to get a full-time career person dedicated to public interest law. We were half successful; the dean has authorized a part time position and said that whoever takes the job can work as much as he/she needs to in order to get the job done. Apparently the dean does not believe there is enough demand for a full-time person, but we hope to prove him wrong. What we've found is that the demand might be appear strong if you survey incoming 1Ls about their career aspirations, but that demand drops precipitously as loan debt skyrockets, making students feel they are not able to consider a public interest career by the time they reach their 2nd and 3rd years. As I and others have said before, “I can't afford to take a public interest job” is often a fairly hollow excuse, but the fact remains that it's an excuse that almost certainly decreases the demand many law schools feel for public interest career services.

Posted 02:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

Cost-effective searching on Westlaw

For those of you about to graduate law school: Your infinite supply of “free” legal research crack is about to come to an end. Many of you have hooked up with a new pusherman (e.g. a firm that's going to bill your continued Wexis access to its clients), but it's unlikely your new dealer is going to be as generous as the one on which you've come to depend. Looks like it's time to check into rehab!

To help you get started, here are some things I learned recently from our Westlaw representative:

Westlaw offers three main pricing options. First, “Plan A” is kind of old school. When you log into Westlaw with Plan A you'll have to choose whether you want your session to be billed hourly or by transaction. If you choose “hourly,” the clock starts the second you log in and it keeps ticking at the same rate regardless of what you do. If you have this option, use it only when you know exactly what you want and you can dive in, grab it, and print it, then get out. If you choose to be billed by transaction, you'll only be charged for the actual searches you conduct. There is no charge for logging in; charges basically begin once you enter a search query and hit “search.”

The second and most common pricing plan is called “Special Plan” (creative, huh?) and it's basically a negotiated flat rate for searches w/in some subset of Westlaw's available databases; each subscriber negotiates which databases are included in their “special” plan. You can do as many searches as you want in databases included in the plan; searches in databases outside the plan cost extra. This is a common arrangement in many firms and government agencies. Talk to your firm/agency librarian to find out exactly what is and is not included in your special plan.

Westlaw's last pricing option is called “Pro Plan.” It's a “mini flat rate” designed for public interest organizations, solos, and really small or boutique firms. You pay a flat rate each month for access to only a couple of sources you know you need. For example, if you're practicing criminal law in Alaska, you'd probably have access to Alaska and maybe 9th Circuit criminal cases, as well as Alaska criminal statutes, and that's it. You'll be shut out of everything else. (I assume you could always have a second login for searching on a transactional basis on your own dime.)

If for some reason you're ever stuck searching on a per-transaction basis, here are some things to keep in mind to keep costs to a minimum:

  1. The larger the DB, the more expensive to search. Pick the appropriate size db for your research task.
  2. The more specialized the database, the more expensive it is.
  3. Use the “directory” to narrow your search (look for the white “directory” link at the top of your screen after you log in). This makes Westlaw a little more like Lexis in that it allows you to choose the most appropriate (and narrow) database for your search.
  4. In the Directory, the sources on the right side are more expensive than those on the left.
  5. In the Directory, use the “Topical Practice Areas” to narrow your search.
  6. Charges begin once you enter a search string and hit “search.”
  7. Once you get a list of results they are included in the transaction; you can read through them w/out extra charge.
  8. When you want to search, write out the search on piece of paper so you don't waste time and money experimenting w/search terms inside Westlaw.
  9. Also, before you search, call 1-800-Westlaw; tell them you want to run search but you're not sure of the results. They will run it for you and tell you how many cases you'll get. If it's a bad search, they will help you craft a better search. This is free!
  10. Over time you'll get better at formulating searches, but until that point, don't hesitate to call for every single research assignment you have.
  11. If you just know the issue but don't know what kind of search to run, you can also call that number and they will help you formulate your search.
  12. Within a search result, “Results Plus” results (in the frame on left side of screen) cost extra.
  13. Internal citations w/in cases count as extra transactions. If you just want to click on citations and print them out, use the hourly search.
  14. If you accidentally hit “search” before you were finished formulating your search terms, call the number and tell them you messed up and they will credit you.
  15. A “transaction” does not depend on the number of hits you get. Make sure your search is not too narrow or too broad. 40-150 might be pretty good number of results.
  16. Narrowing in a search: use Locate in Result—does not count as transaction.
  17. Use “Field” searching to get a quicker answer. E.g., author, attorney, synopsis digest, etc.
  18. The Synopsis Digest field restricts search to summary and headnotes.
  19. The Synopsis field restricts to that.
  20. “Digest” restricts to headnotes only.
  21. Words/Phrases will search for any part of the case that talks about the definition of a term; use for definitions of legal issues related to a word or phrase.
  22. Keycite is a transaction; use it only for those cases you absolutely know are going into your brief.
  23. Keycite is probably the least expensive transaction on WL.
  24. Use “limit keycite display” at the bottom of a keycite results page to narrow results for no extra charge.
  25. Research Trail keeps history of your searches; print this trail for every assignment you do to give you a research record for every client/assignment.
  26. You can return to those results before 2 a.m. on the next day.
When I started law school and learned about the way Wexis gets law students used to unlimited service and then yanks it away at graduation, I knew it was going to be hard to deal with when the time came. As I think about not being able to just sort of go exploring inside Wexis anymore, I know I'm going to miss that freedom. A lot.

Posted 12:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

Fingerprinting in DC

I know it's not something most people need or want to do very often, but if you find that you need to have police take your fingerprints for some reason and you live in D.C., here's what you do:

Bring proof of District residency (driver's license or utility bill) to 300 Indiana Ave., NW, Room 3058, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. The cost for D.C. residents is $10. Call 202-727-4409 for more information.

I'm posting this here because I couldn't find the info online and I just went through a few phone calls to get it so I thought I might save someone those steps.

Note: If you're a VA resident in the DC metro area, try the Arlington Sheriff's office.

Posted 09:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 04, 2006

Blawg Wisdom Upsy Datesy

A handful of good questions and and answers have appeared on Blawg Wisdom in the last few weeks. Please head on over and offer any advice you can to the law student who works full time but still wants to get legal experience this summer, and to the 1L choosing between a judicial externship and a firm this summer. You may not have “answers” for these questions, but your two cents might be more helpful than you think. Plus, karma-wise, this can only be good for you, and let's be honest here, you can use all the help you can get in the karma department, right?

Your fellow law students thank you for your wisdom and support!

Posted 09:43 AM | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Blawg Wisdom: Updated

Just FYI: Blawg Wisdom got a few updates this week thanks to great posts from Songius, Funny Yet Accurate, and Divine Angst. Check it out.

And, as always, if you see any great advice for law students in your reading 'round the web, please share.

Posted 09:49 AM | TrackBack

January 19, 2006

MeFi's Advice to the Unhappy Young Attorney (and a note on Blawg Wisdom)

Today on Ask MetaFilter:

I've been an attorney for 4 years now, 28 years old, bored to death and uninsprired at my current job and completely clueless about my future.

The question goes on to give more background and context, then concludes with:

This is not the work I want to be doing. I am bored to tears daily and am frustrated. I don't even know if I should continue to be an attorney but then, what else would I be doing with my life? I think I'm fairly intelligent, a hard worker and a very quick learner. I'm not interested in litigation but I am interested in the transactional aspect of the law. I think I may enjoy serving as a general counsel for a company but they say those jobs are hard to come by. I have been looking for positions in the Jacksonville area but have not come across anything yet. I guess my question is, how do I know I'm in the right field? What should be my next step? I feel like I have no direction in my life. At this point, I am completely unsatisfied with my career right now. Any advice/insight/criticism is welcome. Thanks.

Hmm. Lots of responses, although no silver bullets. I just thought some of you might find it interesting. Or not.

This would be perfect for Blawg Wisdom, but if you haven't noticed, I haven't really been keeping up with that. I apologize to the handful of you who have submitted Requests for Wisdom in the past couple of months. I'm not ignoring you, but, well... I guess the thrill has kind of gone out of the project. It hasn't become as useful or as active as I'd hoped, which might be because there's really not much of a need for the service it provides.

So what do you think? Should we put Blawg Wisdom out of its misery, just leave it as is for the sake of posterity, or attempt to hand over site management to some young whippersnapper with the time, energy, and inclination to keep it up?

Posted 10:13 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Applying for Fellowships

Hey, if you're a 3L and you haven't applied for any fellowships yet, you're screwed.

Just kidding. According to my Public Interest Lawyering prof and guest speakers, there are lots of fellowships that you can still apply for if you get on the ball. For the most complete list of opportunities, go to your career office and ask for a copy of the Harvard publication called Serving the Public: A Job Search Guide. Apart from that, here are some general tips for planning and conducting a legal fellowship or public interest job search. If you're a 2L, you need to read these and get started now. (Do what I say, not what I do.)

Different kinds of fellowships:

  1. Those that are like a job at a law firm — require a cover letter and resume. These are often freestanding fellowships that someone offers in honor of someone who has passed away. Often last 1-2 years.
  2. More extensive applications: Teaching fellowships at GULC and other schools, state bar fellowships, etc. Applications require a series of questions, cover letter, resume.
  3. EJW, Skadden-type: Much more labor-intensive application. Requires detailed description of a new project you plan to do. Usually you have a partnership w/a “sponsor” organization and you're not just going to be a staff attorney; you're going to do something new to add to that organization's work. EJW applicant pool this year was over 300. That number hasn't really gone up much in many years, probably not b/c there aren't enough people who want to do this, but b/c the application process is difficult and requires a lot of work up front to hook up w/an organization, etc.

General advice:

  1. You must start thinking, planning, and working on these things well in advance. NOW.
  2. If you're thinking about public interest, you really can't afford not to apply for fellowships as opposed to staff positions. Apply to every one that interests you and that you have time to apply to.
  3. The beauty of fellowships is that they're short-term so you can try different things to see if you like them.
  4. Do your research! Some fellowships are seeking very specific candidates and you might be one of the few people who fit the bill.
    Make a timeline of deadlines and due dates for yourself—for asking for letters of recommendation, when you apply, etc.
  5. Volunteer! Get internships in law shchool! Start your first year so you can get to know lots of people and organizations. Build relationships with organizations so you'll have an organization to work w/for the design-it-yourself fellowships (like EJW).
  6. PSLawNet is great, but do not rely solely on them! They are not always right and their information is not always complete. If you're interested in something, call and verify deadlines and requirements.
  7. Don't get desperate and just apply for anything you're remotely interested in or qualified for. The people reading your applications will smell that and it won't be good for you.
  8. Do not “cold apply” to a fellowship of any kind because no one else does. Talk to people who have been there, do your research, know what they're looking for. You've got to do the work. Who you know can also be very big. There are “secret rules” for how to complete each application and what it's supposed to include; you have to know these secrets or your app is going to get rejected on the first glance.
  9. If you've got a 3.1 GPA it does not belong on your resume.
  10. The one-page resume is for law firms. Fuggedaboudit for fellowships if you've got lots to include. They want to know who you are; demonstrate your committment.

Before beginning of 3rd year (or even better, by mid 2L), limit your job/fellowship search by looking at:

  • Geography—be honest w/yourself about where you're willing to live. What about SO? Family?
  • Subject matter—what area of law you want to work in?
  • What you want to do—policy, litigation (do you want to be a slave to the judge?), direct service, community outreach?

  • Who are you? Know yourself. What is your dream and what are you willing to do to make that happen? Are you a risk-taker, or do you want to play it safer? Do you like expensive martinis or cheap beer? Do you want to start your own new thing, or work for someone else?
  • Unique aspects of fellowship/job. Prestige? Prisoners. Undocumented immigrants? Who you know? Think about random variables that might make one fellowship or job better than another for you.
Obviously this isn't a complete fellowship or job search plan, but it should get you started. The most important advice in regard to the fellowships is start planning now! And good luck!

Posted 12:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 03, 2005

International Job Search?

Wisdom Request: If you know anything using a U.S. JD to work in another country, particularly England, please leave whatever advice information you can at Blawg Wisdom. Thanks!

Posted 04:35 PM | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Blawg Wisdom: Thing One & Thing Two

It must be law school application season because Blawg Wisdom is now featuring requests for your help on Thing One & Thing Two in the application game: GPA and LSAT scores. Please Mr. Please, don't play b-17.... I mean, please please please if you have any expertise or just an opinion on how to deal w/less-than-optimal GPA/LSAT situations, get on over to Blawg Wisdom and offer these requesters your thoughts. Thanks!

Posted 09:51 AM | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

Patent Bar Question

Blawg Wisdom currently features a question about whether there's any value for 1Ls in taking the patent bar. Since I know nothing about this, I beg any reader who does know something to get on over there and share. You all did a great job responding to the last request, so it would be great to keep all that helpful sharing going.

Thank you!

Posted 10:24 PM | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

Request for Wisdom: A variation on that pesky GPA question

Blawg Wisdom has just been updated with a request for wisdom on whether an English PhD should go to law school. Oh, wait, that's not the question, even though it's a more interesting one to me. The real question is: Does undergrad GPA really matter in the law school admissions process for an accomplished non-traditional applicant? If you have any thoughts on this question, please get on over to Blawg Wisdom and share!

Oh, there is also a recent post about bar review flashcards over there. If you're taking the MPRE in November, you might want to use the instructions for making some flashcards for that, too. Maybe.

Posted 09:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

Wisdom Request: Calling Couplers

There's a great new request for wisdom over at Blawg Wisdom. Please check it out—especially if you're a law student who has managed to make it through law school with a relationship/marriage intact, or if you're the spouse of a current or former law student.

Posted 11:06 AM | TrackBack

June 08, 2005

Studying for the Bar?

New updates at Blawg Wisdom talk about choosing a firm size and studying for the bar. If anyone else makes pretty pictures of their notes I think we should start some sort of online archive of them. Better yet, why not print them onto big sheets of fabric and sell them as table napkins or table cloths for law geeks? Perhaps LawSchoolStuff would be willing to enhance their offerings?

But seriously, do you have any bar study tips? Blawg Wisdom's Bar Review category is pretty empty, so if anyone has anything to offer there, I'm sure many readers would appreciate it. You can add to the comments here or there, or submit your wisdom here. Thanks!

Posted 06:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

Choosing a public interest law school

A reader wrote in recently with a dilemma: He has been offered a “full-ride” scholarship at a school at the higher end of the top 50 in the U.S. News rankings, or no aid but admission at an upper top-20 school. He'd like to do international public interest law related to poverty issues. Which school should he choose? Also, more generally, what factors should he look at for each school to compare them and make this decision?

If you have any thoughts, please share. For starters, here's a slightly edited version of my response to this reader:

First: Congratulations! Getting a full-ride to a top-50 program is an awesome accomplishment!

Second: Knowing what I know now after two years of law school, I would definitely take a full-ride at a top 50 school with a very solid reputation in my desired area of specialty. No question. Why? Because my impression has been that school rank or prestige are probably helpful—even in public interest law—but the difference between upper top-20 and upper top-50 is just not worth the $90-$150k dollar difference involved in a choice like yours. That said, I really don't know what a PI employer (esp. one in international poverty law, for example) would do when faced with a selection of candidates from these schools. My guess is that, most things being equal, the employer would likely want to hire someone from the higher ranked school. Yet, it wouldn't be that simple because you've obviously already distinguished yourself enough to get this scholarship, and I bet whatever earned you that (your previous work in the field, I'm guessing) would also earn you special attention from employers.

So, another way to put this: You're clearly shoulders above the average upper top-50 student, which is why you got the scholarship. That distinction will show through to employers, so I would say your career chances at the upper top-50 school will be nearly as good (if not exactly as good) as at the upper top-20 school. If you were going into BigLaw, the choice would be much harder. But in PI law, my impression is that school rank just isn't that huge a factor. Your resume will be strong from either school so employers will give you a serious look, either way.The quality of your legal training probably won't vary much between the two. Graduating with zero debt (or very little -- I assume “full ride” includes room and board) is huge because it makes you more flexible -- you'll be able to consider a wider variety of jobs w/out making your heavy debt load a major factor in your career decisions. From where I sit, your choice is clear: I would choose the full ride at the upper top-50 school.

HOWEVER, I'm just a 2L and what do I know? Not so much. I'm just speaking for me. You may have different considerations. How do you feel about the possible debt you'd accrue at the top-20 school? Do you see any differences in the two programs (besides the obvious factors of cost and location) that make you lean one way or the other? You may have tried this already, but what if you did this: Remove cost from the equation; assume both schools would cost the same. Which would you attend and why? Now remove cost AND rank from the equation—which would you choose? Doing this will force you to focus on other, possibly more important factors, such as:

  • Classes: Look at the courses offered at each school and make a list of 8-10 courses you think you'd really like to take. Does one school have more classes that sound great? Also, call the registration people and ask how often your most desired classes are offered. Many schools list a number of courses in their curriculum materials that are actually only offered rarely. If that's the case, you may choose a school partly hoping to take one or two classes that won't even be offered in the two years you'll be there and taking electives (you probably won't get electives in your first year). The registration people should be able to tell you if this is the case.
  • Faculty: Then look at who teaches the classes that really appeal to you. Read their bios. Do any of them sound like people who have done things you want to do and/or who are connected to institutes, nonprofits, gov't orgs or NGOs that you'd like to get connected with? Look at what they've published; you may not be able to read much of it, but you could skim some of the papers and/or read abstracts (many are online via SSRN and other places). Are any of these people doing interesting work? Do any of them make you say, “Yeah, I really would love to know that person and maybe have him/her as my mentor”? In your first year, faculty won't matter nearly as much, so look beyond to the electives you'd want to take.
  • Journals: You may have no interest in being on a journal, so this may not be an issue. But if you have even a vague interest, you should look at the journals at each school and also at how you qualify to be on staff of one. If there's one that especially appeals to you (like the “Journal of International Poverty Law” or something), you should contact someone on that journal (phone or email or whatever) to find out how you could get on staff. Do they choose based on grades or writing competition, or both? If grades are a factor, how big a factor? How competitive is it? How prestigious is the journal in its field? Being on a journal in a subject area in which you want to work can be very fun and very helpful to your education b/c you'll read and write on specialized topics in that area.
  • Clinics: Clinics are important to PI law and if either school has a clinic or two that grabs you, you should give that school extra points. If there's a clinic that would let you do exactly what you think you want to do, that's a huge bonus. It'll look great to employers and again, it will be excellent training for you. If you want to go further with this, call the clinic director and ask to speak with students who are in or have been in the clinic. Then ask those students what they did in the clinic and what they are going to do for their summer jobs or careers, and whether the clinic was helpful or worthwhile, etc.
  • Career services: Does either school have someone one staff who is dedicated to helping PI students get PI jobs in summers and after graduation? GW has a person who does this as part of her job. This is nice, but it means that there's no one working full time year-round to maintain connections with public interest employers, research jobs and connections for you, and generally help you in your PI career building. In contrast, Georgetown has an entire PI office dedicated to this sort of thing. The more resources the school gives to this, the better it will be for you. In addition to what the career services office tells you, try to talk to students who are doing things you think you'll want to do. The career services people should be able to give you a couple of names you could email so you could ask about their satisfaction w/the school's career services, etc.
  • Summer funding: As a PI student, you are not so likely to find summer jobs that pay; therefore, it's good to know what grants will be available to you in the summers. For example, GW gave out $165k this summer, spread among approximately 50 people; at least 100 people applied for this pool, meaning only 50% who wanted funding got it. You should be able to find those kinds of numbers for each school. This shouldn't be a deal-breaker factor for either school, but it's one more piece of data that might help you make a choice.
Those are all the big factors I can think of now. I think if you gathered as much data you could get on these variables and tried to compare the programs, you should be on your way to making an intelligent and informed choice here. I don't know how much time you have, but even if you can only surf their websites and make a couple of calls for each school, I think doing so would be worth your time. Once you have some data on these points you'll have to make the choice about what the debt means to you. Before starting school, I figured the debt was no big deal. Perhaps that will prove to be true, but now it looks like a huge deal. Even if it doesn't affect my life or career too much, it weighs on my mind and adds a sort of general anxiety to the future. Living without that would be worth a lot to me, but that may just be me.

Posted 10:10 AM | Comments (14)

March 17, 2005

FYI: Equal Justice Works Summer Corps

If you're a law student working a public interest job this summer, you might want to apply for an Equal Justice Works Summer Corps grant, which provides $1000 for your education expenses. If you're interested, you should apply today because it's kind of a first-come, first-served thing, so long as your job qualifies. A qualifying job would be a civil rights job, legal aid or some other direct service to indigent clients on the civil side. Last year they gave grants to people working for public defenders, but they've changed the rules this year so those jobs no longer qualify.

Posted 07:03 AM

March 03, 2005

GW Journal Competition Coming Up Again

A reader who will remain anonymous writes roughly:
Everyone and their brother is giving us advice for the upcoming Journal competition. I figured I should turn to one of my “blog-idols” as well:-) Got any advice or tips? Post something before 4pm... after that, we are in hiding!!!
Well, reader, about all I can say is: Good luck! But I can also say that I enjoyed the competition last year and it really needn't be hard or onerous. Therefore, my advice is to try to have fun with it. The bluebooking isn't all that bad. One way to do it is to look at the shortcuts in the front (or is it back? depending on the directions for the competition, I guess) cover of the bluebook and cite everything based on the examples you see there. Then go through each citation one-by-one, read the rule(s) that govern it, and make sure you've dotted every “i.” If a rule sends you to another rule for some reason, go read it—it might tell you something you've forgotten. Remember to abbreviate appropriately w/case names and other places where abbreviations are allowed/required. Don't forget subsequent history where necessary (according to the rules). What else? That's what's on the top of my head. I've found that when bluebooking, it's best to be as thorough as I can be, then put it aside for a while, then go back and start checking my work against the rules one last time. I always always always find at least some little thing I'd forgotten the first one or two times through. The fun part is summarizing the cases succinctly and constructing an argument from the materials. Make the argument you want to make, not the argument you think some judge wants to hear. If you write what you want to write, it will be better, even if your judges disagree with it. A good strategy may obviously be to summarize the cases first, then free-write your argument quickly, writing it like you would if you were writing a note to a friend or something—casual, your own language, just getting the points down that you want to make. Then go back and revise and expand that into something slightly more formal and support it all w/good citations. That's how I did it, anyway. Oh, one more thing: I'm pretty sure I made it on a journal in large part b/c of how I ranked my choices. If your grades aren't stellar (mine aren't), the best choice is AIPlA b/c it's the only journal that doesn't consider grades. Other than that, obviously make your choices based on whether the subject matter of the journal interests you (your choices are obviously severely limited at our wonderful school w/its paltry four options; not that I think the world really needs more legal journals, but...). I bet I haven't told you anything you haven't heard already, but this is the best I can do. There's really no secret that I know except what I said already: Try to make it fun. If it's not at least a little fun, you probably shouldn't even do it b/c it's not like the work will get better once you're on a journal. I'll be curious to hear from any 1Ls (after the competition, of course) who would like to share how things went for them. Best of luck everyone!

Posted 11:49 AM | Comments (10)

February 22, 2005

2L Summer Job Question

One year ago at this time I faced a dilemma about what to do for my 1L summer. Several of you, my kind readers, offered advice that proved invaluable—you said work for the public defender, I did, I loved it, and now I'm planning to make that my career. With that in mind, the time has come to make another career/summer job decision, and once more I seek your advice. Here's the situation: I worked last summer for a great PD's office where I had a great experience and learned an incredible amount about being a PD. It's a small office (only about a dozen attorneys) in a medium-sized city. I'm thrilled that they have asked me to return this summer, and I'd love to do so. But my question is this: Should I go back to the same PD office I worked in last year, or will that look bad to future public defender employers? The benefits of going back to the same job are that I know them and how things work in the office so I should be able to help them out more and get more responsibility in return. The office is also in a jurisdiction that allows 2Ls to get a “second year practice certificate” so I could represent misdemeanor defendants in court (w/a licensed attorney present and ready to step in at any moment if I start to screw up). Also, returning to the same job should send a message to future employers that I did well there, they liked my work, which seems like a good message to send. So basically, it would be an awesome opportunity that would give me some really good experience. The drawbacks I see are simply that if I return to the same job, my only real knowledge of being a PD will come from this one office and it just seems like it might be a good idea to see how another office does things. What do you think? If you were looking at hiring a new PD, would it matter whether the candidate had spent two summers in the same PD office, or would that make no difference? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated. (Please feel free to throw in your two cents even if you're not a PD yourself or never have been. I'm just trying to make sure I see all the angles here.) Thanks!

Posted 08:51 AM | Comments (16)

January 25, 2005

Law Classes Pass/Fail

Dear law professors, hiring attorneys, fellow law students, and other knowledgeable types, I have a very busy semester, and I'm considering taking Fed Courts pass/fail. Do you have any thoughts on the pros or cons of such a plan? FYI: The class is small, and the professor has high expectations for our level of participation, so I will have to read and be prepared regardless of whether I'm concerned about my grade. This may mean that I will not really get much benefit from taking the class pass/fail, but it would also ensure that I will learn the material, despite decreased grade pressures. If I were going to, say, be a public defender, would taking fed courts pass/fail somehow be a red flag against me when potential employers looked at my transcript? How about if I wanted a judicial clerkship (federal or otherwise)—would this pass/fail thing be a red flag in that context? Can you think of any other contexts where taking Fed Courts pass/fail might be viewed negatively by people whose opinions I should credit? Any thoughts would certainly be appreciated. Sincerely, -ambimb

Posted 07:32 AM | Comments (3)

August 08, 2004

Link Love

bwisdom-page-views hit 1218 in its first week Thanks to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit and Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy for linking to Blawg Wisdom and recommending it to their readers. Their links pushed the site from 79 page views two days ago to 1218 page views yesterday. Today it's at over 500 and counting fast. Isn't it amazing what a little link can do?

Posted 08:46 AM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2004

Wisdom Grows

Shout out to Letters of Marque, Sua Sponte, Screaming Bean, Jeremy Richey, Jeremy Blachman, and Transmogriflaw. Thanks to them, Blawg Wisdom is slowly becoming populated with links to great tips and gems of advice from successful law students around the "blawgosphere." As I read through some of the posts I'm impressed once again with the generosity and breadth of knowledge and experience and opinion displayed by so many blawgers. If I could only go back about two years and know then what I know now thanks to all of you...

But even though that's not possible, that's no reason to keep the benefits of our experience from those who are following in our footsteps. So again, if you have written or read a law school advice post on a blawg somewhere, please drop me an email so I can add a link to that post at Blawg Wisdom.

New: If you don't have a blawg of your own, but would like to pass on any tips or bits of advice to other law students about your law school experience, please send your wisdom to me and I'll make sure it gets posted at Blawg Wisdom.

Finally, here's a little experiment: Can the LazyWeb tell me the best way to automate Blawg Wisdom so that when someone writes a blog post containing advice for law students, that post automatically gets copied (and posted) to Blawg Wisdom?

Posted 10:41 AM | Comments (5)

August 01, 2004

Collected Wisdom

Law students who blog are constantly offering advice to other law students-to-be. This means there's a wealth of up-to-date information available for those who are interested, but it's not always easy to find. I wonder if we could devise some sort of advice aggregator, some central location to collect all this wisdom (or at least links to it) so that people would know where to go when looking for advice from people who have gone before them.

What do you think? Would it be good to have a blawg about blawgs (that would be a metablawg), specifically focused on advice from law students to law students? It seems like the alternative is what has been happening, which is that law students who blog all just randomly collect the advice we see here and there and hope people just happen to find it. That means we might spend a good amount of time and effort putting down some thoughts that we hope will help someone else in the future, yet that effort is wasted if the people who need it can't find it. Also, I've found numerous times that I read some good advice somewhere, but don't really need to think about that topic until later. Then, when I need the advice, I can't remember where it was. If we had a central repository of links to all the advice we read or write or know about, maybe it would be easier to find the exact information you need, when you need it.

So I propose this:

Blawg Wisdom: Advice about law school from those who are in it.

The idea is to create an advice aggregator. If you write or read a post from a law student, professor, or legal practitioner primarily containing advice about any aspect of law school or job searching while in law school or immediately after, please tell me about it (via email) . Tell me where it is (the URL), and if you can, provide a short summary of what readers will find there. I will post a link to it with your summary (or mine). Eventually, we should end up with a nice collection of advice that will be easily-accessible to all who are interested.

If you are a coding wizard of some sort and could help create a web form to collect advice submissions (so that people don't have to do it via email), that would be terrific.

And if you would like to share in the joy of keeping Blawg Wisdom up-to-date, let me know and I can add you as a poster. If you're part of the BlawgCoop, you'll be automatically set up to post at Blawg Wisdom, as well.

Posted 05:02 PM | Comments (4)

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