Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

My law school advice

The advice I'd offer to someone interested in law has changed, but my conviction that this is still the easiest way to change the world is unchanged :)

  1. Find an altruistic reason for being a lawyer. Medicine still earns good money, and to judge by everything I've heard medical school is still easier than law school. Engineering also earns good money, and is much easier than either medicine or law. If you can identify a reason to be at law school other than money, and which couldn't be satisfied any other way, then you'll have a big morale advantage throughout your 1L year. You'll also have an easier time writing the personal statement for your application.
  2. Make an educated guess as to what specialty you'd like. Books like The Official Guide to Legal Specialties can help. If you have an initial guess as to what you want to do, you'll be able to write more a focused personal statement when applying. Then, once school starts, you'll find that "networking" has more than a vague meaning: you'll see a school announcement about an alumnus/alumna in that specialty being on campus, you'll meet that person, and maybe a summer opportunity will be the result.
  3. Attend the best school you can. There's no sense in breaking the bank, or moving, to attend a slightly higher-ranked tier 3 school in lieu of a local tier 3 school. But the fact is that you're better off being at the bottom of your class at Harvard than graduating at the top of your class at most state schools, and the first tier state schools are especially attractive targets if you're a resident of that state.
  4. Read Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann KcKinney. I've given up on Law School Confidential as being too cynical, possibly dated, and prejudicing you against the more "ear to the ground" advice you'll get from your school's career office. The most useful message from Law School Confidential has to do with taking reading seriously in your first year, and that information is conveyed much more effectively by Reading Like a Lawyer. There isn't anything else you can read about law before your 1L year that would really help you in your 1L classes, so other than this one book you should just enjoy your time.
  5. Get a clear acrylic clipboard, a bunch of binder clips, and a good mechanical pencil. One current trend is to get your books "cut" (i.e. so that they're available as individual pages to put in a three-ring binder or attach to a clipboard). That's good. The other current trend is to go nuts with different colors of highlighters when reading. That's not good. The problem with the latter is that you're less apt to make notes in the margins, and the one thing you can't do with a highlighter is write an original thought.
  6. Get a good multi-function duplex laser printer and a spare toner cartridge. You want something that does quality laser printing, reliable duplexing, copying, faxing, and scanning. Right now the Brother MFC-8860DN is still the best deal, available for $360 at Costco (with an extra $83 for a spare TN-580 high-yield toner cartridge).
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