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View Full Version : Aspiring Lawyer: Good Law School and Specific Area of Focus


Theseus
07-23-2008, 1:44 AM
I have been intending to go into law for some time now, and due to the recent loss of my sales job of which I was dramatically underpaid and the recent environment in California and the exciting times for 2A rights I have decided this is where I would like to focus my skill and attention.

It seems that some of you are VERY well informed and was wondering if I could get a little help and guidance.

Firstly, I am in the LA Area and am looking for some good schools. Any recommendations other than the obvious USC, Loyola and ...There was another. . .

Also, what area should I focus on? From my understanding you don't really get into specific law focus until 2nd year. . so does it even matter at this point what my focus is?

Let me know...and if all goes right you will have one more person to help in the fight.

Sobriquet
07-23-2008, 7:56 AM
Check out US News & World Report. Go to a law school that has a strong alumni network in the area in which you want to practice. If it's a Top 25 school, that's less important, but still strongly recommended.

If you think there's anything else you'd be happy doing, I'd say skip law school and consider an MBA. There are far easier ways to make money than being a lawyer. If you have any family or friends that are attorneys, I strongly suggest you ask them about what the reality of a legal practice is really like these days. Especially in California.

Timberwolf
07-23-2008, 9:04 AM
Where you attend law school depends a lot on what type of GPA you had during undergrad and your LSAT scores.

All considered I'd recommend UCLA or Western State but then I'm predjudice in that I used to teach at UCLA's law school and went to Western State.

Pvt. Cowboy
07-23-2008, 9:23 AM
http://www.jmu.edu/

JMU in old Virginny has a law college with a department that focuses on RKBA.

Ironchef
07-23-2008, 9:33 AM
Go to Boalt or Berkeley and become a Bingham attorney! We're always in the top 100 fortune companies (highest law firm) to work for and we even have some constitutional practice groups...and likely some firearms gurus in our DC office.

peekay331
07-23-2008, 10:12 AM
unless you are really motivated, smart, and really lucky, it's going to be tough getting a job that focuses on RKBA or even constitutional law. Those jobs are simply very rare and most don't pay very well. Also, once you go to law school, the school has a funny way of funneling most of its students into private civil practice, i.e. big to medium firms.

I knew lots of people going in with lofty and noble ideals only to succumb to the lure of big money. Also, when you graduate with approximately $100-200k in student debt, it really does limit what types of jobs you can take.

berto
07-23-2008, 10:18 AM
It really depends on what and where you want to practice.

A straight 2A practice requires a breadth of knowledge but is unlikely to pay your bills on its own. The other areas in which you develop an expertise are where you'll be doing a lot of non 2A work and will make up a significant part of your practice so you need to be sure you'll find that kind of work satisfying at some level. Do you want your own shop or do you want to work for an established firm and of what size?

Your options may be limited by your pedigree (LSAT, undergrad school, and GPA) but LA has a ton of schools of varying reputation/quality/cost. It probably makes sense to look beyond LA if you're not tied down by other commitments.

PM me if you like.

junker87
07-23-2008, 11:08 AM
I posted a very long post on this subject on another board (I am a car guy).

If you are going into law based on financial rewards (and it sounds like you are looking for better alternative to your sales job), and want to work for firms like Latham, Cromwell, Gibson, Kirkland, Wachtell, Skadden, etc and make 160K your first year with possibly another 50K in bonus, the list of acceptable schools for these firms are very very limited.

Put it another way, even if you are ranked #1 and you went to Loyola or Southwestern, your resume goes straight to the trash at these places. This is not a dig at these schools, but just what it is out there. Basically, there are only two (maybe three depending on your ranking) schools in CA that are acceptable to them, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA. UCLA is the maybe one depending on your ranking.

This rule applies less to trial lawyers, even less (to almost non existent) for IP. But for corporate, this is what it is.

Sobriquet
07-23-2008, 11:11 AM
USC is highly respected, too.

peekay331
07-23-2008, 11:29 AM
I posted a very long post on this subject on another board (I am a car guy).

If you are going into law based on financial rewards (and it sounds like you are looking for better alternative to your sales job), and want to work for firms like Latham, Cromwell, Gibson, Kirkland, Wachtell, Skadden, etc and make 160K your first year with possibly another 50K in bonus, the list of acceptable schools for these firms are very very limited.

Put it another way, even if you are ranked #1 and you went to Loyola or Southwestern, your resume goes straight to the trash at these places. This is not a dig at these schools, but just what it is out there. Basically, there are only two (maybe three depending on your ranking) schools in CA that are acceptable to them, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA. UCLA is the maybe one depending on your ranking.

This rule applies less to trial lawyers, even less (to almost non existent) for IP. But for corporate, this is what it is.
I agree with the general idea of your post. Top tiered firms are very concerned with what school you went to. That being said, some of the best firms in California do hire people from Loyola, Hastings, and other similar schools. My firm just hired a 4th year who graduated from Hastings and was previously at O'Melvney in LA. There are many other similarly situated. Of course, the worse the school, the better your grades need to be. And from what I hear, the competition is absolutely cutthroat at these wobbler schools.

Alan Block
07-23-2008, 11:36 AM
Peoples College of Law. Nobody from there has passed the bar but you could be the first!

Ironchef
07-23-2008, 12:09 PM
Bingham has an average starting salary of $205k. Don't need an impressive school..but it does help tremendously.

drdanno84
07-23-2008, 12:18 PM
Mayor Villaraigosa went to the people's college of law, don't know if he passed the bar though.

drdanno84
07-23-2008, 12:22 PM
Latest salaries statistics for california:
http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=litigation+attorney&l1=California

Theseus
07-23-2008, 12:24 PM
Well, firstly thanks for all the replies.

My goals aren't about money. I have always been of the belief that if I could live comfortably enough to afford the toys I want and enough freedom to do what I want I will be set, so it isn't about the money.

I have always been interested in law and have fond memories of the debate team in high school. I hated the research, but was good enough at it, my strength was in developing the argument and presenting it, so unless my understanding of the legal profession is wrong I might be best as a trial lawyer or something similar.

I chose this forum because I want to not only help people wrongly prosecuted for weapons related issues (criminal law), but to help construct legal arguments for change (policy).

I chose this area because it seems there are not many lawyers specifically devoted to this particular area of law (unless I am wrong).

I have finished mostly only my gen ed classes to transfer to a UC or CSU so I am looking for my undergrad first. I was thinking Criminal Justice, Political Science, or Public Management as I have eventual political aspirations.

So I hope this helps you more in suggesting a good course of action. I was looking more for that than ONLY a good school.

peekay331
07-23-2008, 12:29 PM
Well, firstly thanks for all the replies.

My goals aren't about money. I have always been of the belief that if I could live comfortably enough to afford the toys I want and enough freedom to do what I want I will be set, so it isn't about the money.

I have always been interested in law and have fond memories of the debate team in high school. I hated the research, but was good enough at it, my strength was in developing the argument and presenting it, so unless my understanding of the legal profession is wrong I might be best as a trial lawyer or something similar.

I chose this forum because I want to not only help people wrongly prosecuted for weapons related issues (criminal law), but to help construct legal arguments for change (policy).

I chose this area because it seems there are not many lawyers specifically devoted to this particular area of law (unless I am wrong).

I have finished mostly only my gen ed classes to transfer to a UC or CSU so I am looking for my undergrad first. I was thinking Criminal Justice, Political Science, or Public Management as I have eventual political aspirations.

So I hope this helps you more in suggesting a good course of action. I was looking more for that than ONLY a good school.
I would suggest you try to get a part time gig at a firm being a file clerk or something to that effect before going to law school. Being an attorney really isn't as glamorous as it is on TV. If you hate the research aspect, you'll REALLY hate being an attorney. That 10 minutes you argue in court could have been backed up by 100+ hours of research and writing that brief.

junker87
07-23-2008, 12:34 PM
I would suggest you try to get a part time gig at a firm being a file clerk or something to that effect before going to law school. Being an attorney really isn't as glamorous as it is on TV. If you hate the research aspect, you'll REALLY hate being an attorney. That 10 minutes you argue in court could have been backed up by 100+ hours of research and writing that brief.

And when you are junior, YOU get to do the research for the more senior associates.;)

berto
07-23-2008, 12:34 PM
Money may not be your goal but six figures of debt and the lifestyle you desire require you to make money.

If you hated the research for debate you really need to reconsider. Your job as an attorney, especially an inexperienced one, will be almost completely research. Long, tedious, and boring hours spent researching fine points.

Finish undergrad. Have fun but do well at the best school you can attend.

RomanDad
07-23-2008, 12:35 PM
The curriculum for the first year is pretty much set for all students.

The curriculum for the second year is MOSTLY set (you'll get one elective or so each semester).

The third year is almost all electives with just a couple of required courses.


Given the field of law youve mentioned you want to pay particular attention in crim. law, crim. pro., and con. law. (all required classes). Then you might want to take more criminal/ constitutional type classes on top of it depending on what your school offers.


The summer internship between 2nd and third year is very important. Personally, given the interest, I would suggest internships at the DOJ, AG, or any of the various DA/City attorney offices, as you'll learn how the system works from the inside, which is crucial to knowing what youre doing when its time to do it.

Theseus
07-23-2008, 12:39 PM
In response, I am not so adverse to research now, I was then.

Research is manageable now that I am older and more attention oriented. I was quite an active hot head back then.

So what undergrad might I look for if I would still like to make a difference prior to going law?

RomanDad
07-23-2008, 12:44 PM
In response, I am not so adverse to research now, I was then.

Research is manageable now that I am older and more attention oriented. I was quite an active hot head back then.

So what undergrad might I look for if I would still like to make a difference prior to going law?

ANY undergraduate degree can get you into law school... The No 1 guy in my class was an English major.

berto
07-23-2008, 12:52 PM
So what undergrad might I look for if I would still like to make a difference prior to going law?

Attend the best school you can. Your major isn't important as long as it's academic in nature as opposed to fluff like recreational studies. Maximize your GPA and nail the LSAT. Grades and LSAT scores open the door to top schools and scholarship money.

ohsmily
07-23-2008, 1:09 PM
Well, firstly thanks for all the replies.

My goals aren't about money. I have always been of the belief that if I could live comfortably enough to afford the toys I want and enough freedom to do what I want I will be set, so it isn't about the money.

I have always been interested in law and have fond memories of the debate team in high school. I hated the research, but was good enough at it, my strength was in developing the argument and presenting it, so unless my understanding of the legal profession is wrong I might be best as a trial lawyer or something similar.

I chose this forum because I want to not only help people wrongly prosecuted for weapons related issues (criminal law), but to help construct legal arguments for change (policy).

I chose this area because it seems there are not many lawyers specifically devoted to this particular area of law (unless I am wrong).

I have finished mostly only my gen ed classes to transfer to a UC or CSU so I am looking for my undergrad first. I was thinking Criminal Justice, Political Science, or Public Management as I have eventual political aspirations.

So I hope this helps you more in suggesting a good course of action. I was looking more for that than ONLY a good school.

I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself if you don't even havea bachelor's degree. Finish up school and maintain the highest GPA you can. Then take the LSAT and weigh your options at that point.

STAGE 2
07-23-2008, 1:49 PM
I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself if you don't even havea bachelor's degree. Finish up school and maintain the highest GPA you can. Then take the LSAT and weigh your options at that point.

+1. The LSAT is your magical key, even more so that grades. How well you do on that will be the major factor in what choices you have.

EastBayRidge
07-23-2008, 2:17 PM
Finish up undergrad first, and get the best grades possible. It's a numbers game - GPA and LSAT. In a down economy grad schools have their pick of students anyway, since lots of people have time on their hands and are thinking the way you do. Go to an accredited school.

Treat your first year like a job. 8-10 hours a day of classes and study. It's THE most important year of law school. If you screw it up, you'll be playing catch up, job-wise and grade-wise, and will most likely not be able to do so. Aim for journal membership and top 10% of your class - especially if your school isn't top-ranked. Otherwise good luck getting interviewed. End of first year is usually a good time to reassess, once your grades come in.

Also, think VERY hard about doing it at all. Is it worth more than $60K-$100K in debt for a job that on average pays in the $40K-$50K range (I'm going by NY figures but I don't think there's that much variance) ? Is it worth being a peon again for the first several years of practice ? Law school teaches you precious little about actual practice, and first-second year associates are often little better than potted plants w/r/t the work product they produce - and their seniors aren't shy in letting them know it.

Sobriquet
07-23-2008, 2:21 PM
You're not at the point where you should be worrying about this stuff. Bust your *** and get the best GPA you can. Study hard for the LSAT and take a good prep course. In California, Testmasters.

Here's the harsh reality. If you want nice toys, and score below a 160 on the LSAT, cut your losses and strongly reconsider law school. Even 160 won't cut it with a top school. It's harsh, but that's the truth. Buy the next issue of US News & World Report's grad school issue.

As for majors, you're going to hear the usual English, Philosophy, etc. My honest advice to you is that major doesn't matter much. Choose one that is useful outside of law in case you decide not to go to law school. Take some classes that involve research and writing (maybe a PoliSci *minor*) to get used to those skills.

EastBayRidge
07-23-2008, 2:22 PM
...

Theseus
07-23-2008, 2:30 PM
Strangely none of this information is any more helpful than I hoped it would be. :confused::confused:

Is there no one that is practicing in this area of law that can offer some insight to what the firms need now, or are likely to need in the future to forward 2A related cases? Do they need researchers? Lobbyists? Litigators?

berto
07-23-2008, 2:42 PM
Strangely none of this information is any more helpful than I hoped it would be. :confused::confused:

Is there no one that is practicing in this area of law that can offer some insight to what the firms need now, or are likely to need in the future to forward 2A related cases? Do they need researchers? Lobbyists? Litigators?

They need research drones willing to work long hours on tedious tasks. Who do you know that you can influence as a lobbyist in Sac. or DC? Litigation is thousands of hours of research for minutes in court. The research is the part of litigation that you'll be doing.

You need to realize that 2A is not a practice that will cover all of your hours and the vast majority of firms (98%?, 99.8%?!) do no 2A work at all. Your focus is excessively narrow and most of your work will not be 2A related unless you hang a shingle and choose to be in debt while you wait for only 2A work.

Click on this link:

http://trutanichmichel.com/

They're what you're aiming towards. Note the breadth of their practice.

Theseus
07-23-2008, 2:50 PM
They are exactly the type of firm I had in mind. They cover Criminal, Firearms, and Civil Rights. This all seems to be in the same area of interest for me. ..

I am willing to do the research. . I figure that if I was to go into law or other profession I would want to study more on the skills I don't have or need help in, so what skills/training does one need to qualify for that kind of position?

peekay331
07-23-2008, 3:04 PM
You aren't getting what people are trying to tell you. Get the best LSAT and GPA possible, especially the former. Then get into a top 10-20 law school and have your pick at whatever you want. This is the best advice that people here have given.

It doesn't matter what major you are. Get one that is a good backup or that'll give you a good GPA. Unfortunately, those two goals are often mutually exclusive.

In the meantime, if you are serious about 2A issues, as someone already suggested, get some internships at the NRA, AG's office, DOJ, public defender's office, etc. That will help you decide if you're still interested and build your resume when you come out. No one will care that you are a Calguns member, but they will see that you interned for the NRA, etc.

EastBayRidge
07-23-2008, 3:10 PM
"I would want to study more on the skills I don't have or need help in, so what skills/training does one need to qualify for that kind of position?"

Not to be flip, but all of them. I think what people are emphasizing is that it's a lengthy process, and to take it one step at a time. Between you and a court appearance a la Alan Gura are many intermediate steps, each of which need to be successfully completed before you even get a chance. GPA. Undergrad. LSAT. And on and on. The skills you need to master are those that will get you successfully to the next step.

ohsmily
07-23-2008, 3:16 PM
Strangely none of this information is any more helpful than I hoped it would be. :confused::confused:


Perhaps it is because you are years away from even potentially needing this advice. You don't have a bachelors degree at this point. You are "considering taking the law school route" but are asking very specific questions about what types of classes you should take while IN law school to prepare yourself for these jobs, where the jobs are, etc.

mymonkeyman
07-23-2008, 11:31 PM
Some Advice:

1.) RE-THINK THE IDEA OF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL and then re-think it again. Going to law school has ruined many lives. Law school costs lots of money. Many graduate with $80k-$100k in debt. If you go to Stanford, Berkeley (aka Boalt), UCLA, USC, and the upper-echelon of Hastings (or equivalent out of state schools), you have a good chance of paying that off quickly, with the $160k starting salary. However, if you do not, it's not just a little less, expect a starting salary of $40k-$60k, that is NO BETTER THAN NOT GOING TO LAW SCHOOL. This is while you are paying off huge loans. That is even assuming if you pass the bar. Most law schools in California are SCAMS and RIP-OFFS. They cost MORE than the good law schools, are considered INVALID FOR PRACTICING LAW in other states, KICK OUT much of their class each year, and MOST OF THE CLASS FAILS THE BAR REPEATEDLY. Go to an ABA School or no School at all. Going to a non-ABA Law school generally means you can never practice law outside the state of that law school. Look at US News & World Reports Guide to Graduate Schools for a list of ABA Schools and their relative rankings.

2). Do not limit yourself to California. For numerous reasons, this board has already spelled out why California sucks. Going to law school in another state is the perfect opportunity to move elsewhere. You are more likely to get a middle-tier ($60-$100k) starting salary graduating from a regional law school and going to a regional firm than you are in California or other dense/high-population states that are dominated by Biglaw firms.

Also, it just makes sense to increase your chances. Applying to law school is a gamble. The more good law schools you apply to, the better your chances are of going to a good law school.

3.) The curriculum in law schools is overwhelmingly the same. Every law school has criminal law as a required course and criminal procedure as required or optional. Every law school requires constitutional law, which covers most civil rights issues. Lower end schools have a higher % of fixed courses and a lower % of electives. Some schools have certain focuses, which mean more electives to choose from. These might have criminal practice courses, advanced civil rights courses, etc.

Almost no schools offer firearms law, and those that do do so very rarely. I think some of the professors at Volokh Conspiracy sometimes teach it, they are at GW, GMU and UCLA. Don't expect to talk/learn about the 2nd amendment if you go to law school, it'd be very rare.

4.) As a Conservative or Libertarian, you will find the Professors' Spin on the curriculum and the law very frustrating. Almost all Law School professors are liberal to socialist. Many of them inject their insane ultra-liberal ideas into the curriculum and require you to vomit it back up to get a decent grade. Most law school students are equally liberal and just lap up that vomit. If you were hoping for good in-class argument, you will only get that in courses where there is no PC position, like Torts or Contracts. You are not going to get even the opportunity to discuss Firearms Laws (because no topical course exists), and your viewpoint would not be allowed to be adequately expressed.

Note: There are a handful of conservative leaning law schools: University of Chicago is the biggie, BYU is a well-respected one (especially in Utah), Pepperdine is a local one, and GMU is another one I can think of. There are a few more. Do not go to Ave Maria, even if you are Catholic, the school is about to implode.

5.) Your Undergraduate GPA and LSAT Score are pretty much 90-95% of what determines where you get into. Use Chiashu (http://www.chiashu.com/schools) to guess your chances at individual schools. To Improve your Chances on the LSAT, take Logic / Set Theory / Abstract Math courses in Undergrad so you get the logic basics. Then do LSAT books or prep courses so you learn on the LSAT specific methods & ways to finish on time. Work hard in undergrad + take easier courses to get overwhelming A's. Then do not expect to do nearly that well in law school.

Davidwhitewolf
07-28-2008, 4:01 PM
FWIW, at UC Davis School of Law there is (was?) an indoor pistol range about twenty feet from the back door. It's for ROTC, and this was twelve years ago so who knows? it may be gone by now.

My roommate won the Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot when we were 1Ls -- beat the commander (which I guess few civilians ever did) and scored a butterball turkey. Good times.

peekay331
07-28-2008, 4:11 PM
UCLA has one of the most renowned Second Amendment scholars in the country, Eugene Volokh.

http://www.law.ucla.edu/home/index.asp?page=739

When I was a 2L, I attended a public interest fundraiser auction in which he offered to take the winner shooting for a day at a range. Unfortunately, I didn't have the cash flow to do it, but I do regret it to this day.

Daevian
07-28-2008, 5:24 PM
Go to Patrick Henry for your BA (if you don't have it as of yet.) We creamed Harvard in Moot Court. Every undergrad from this school as gone into FBI and public offices. It beats going to Berkely.

As far as your law school goes: a lot of that is self taught and it's extremely easy. Suing an individual or the state is not rocket science.

If you want a good law education, I recommend moving out of state and going to Georgetown Univ.,

If you want to study ConLaw go to PHC (Patrick Henry).

If you are just lazy and don't care much about your education than go to any undergrad, get good grades :rolleyes:, and go to USD for your law school.