Why We Outline

The word “outline” means something completely different when you are in law school. Before starting law school, “outlines” were the things I avoided in my writing classes because I thought I didn’t need them. In law school, outlines are what allow me to take information in the photo above and compress into the document below.

Think of outlines as a compression agent for all the information in your class. The outline condenses all the material from class into a single, easy to manage document. In most of my classes, mere construction of the outline was enough. Simply organizing the class information into “silos,” helped me to learn the information. Then, a quick read right before an exam and you’re good to go.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

On Wednesday night, a student expressed some concerns about the subjective nature of one our courses and how it could hurt his GPA. UNTDCOL does not rank students, but I know this particular student to be one of the top students in our class. The adjunct professor leading this particular session, but not the professor for the actual class, reminded us to keep grades in perspective. He used himself as an example and admitted to making three—that’s 3—C’s in law school. He still managed to land a good gig at a big time law firm.

It’s what the adjunct said next that really stuck with me.

He mentioned that in talking to people in the Dallas legal community, attorneys fell into two categories when it comes to UNTDCOL—either they would never hire anyone from our school (including the hiring manager at the adjunct’s firm) or they were completely supportive of our mission and want to ensure it succeeds, presumably by hiring qualified candidates from our institution.

This caused some alarm among my classmates. Many thought securing ABA accreditation would be enough to convince the local legal community of our legitimacy, but the fact this adjunct’s firm would not hire a UNTDCOL graduate seemed to rekindle that anxiety.

There is a lot to unpack here and I do not claim to be an expert on law school recruiting, but I have worked in this industry for the past eighteen years, so I think I can provide some insight and pull back the curtain just a little bit.

First, I accept that “big law” firms will not hire UNTDCOL students. I worked for a “big law” firm that was hesitant to hire attorneys from any Texas law school not located in Austin. “Big law” wants to know who you know. Put another way, what connections did you develop in law school that either (1) produced an alumni-based advocate for you from their partnership or (2) produced potential business leads.

The inaugural graduating class of UNTDCOL has yet to receive their bar scores, so the total number of law firms with partners from our school stands at 0. Likewise, since we just graduated our first class in June, there are not UNTDCOL-trained attorneys serving as GCs for any corporations.

Second, I get that some firms want to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to our school. The bar results released in November will say a lot, but the results for the next three or four bar exams will say even more. If UNTDCOL can, as I suggested in an earlier post, graduate classes with a 70-75% bar passage rate, firms will begin to take note and recognize the legitimacy of our mission.

This, of course, does not excuse the outright dismissal of our school by some in the legal industry. No doubt the legal industry has a few pretentious practitioners who value the degree-granting institution over the person on the diploma. Take for example the crowd in our field who felt Harriet Miers was unqualified for the Supreme Court because of her SMU education.

Indeed, there are Dallas attorneys who dismiss us.  Like the attorney who asked me, “when are you going to take a real law school exam,” after I explained to him I was studying for midterms. Apparently, this attorney felt that a “real law school exam” could only be a one question essay administered at the end of a semester.

I decided to tune out the negativity and focus on what I can control and what matters.

We attend an ABA-accredited law school and, upon graduating, we are entitled to the same rights and privileges as graduates of every other ABA-accredited law school.

Just like a Harvard grad, we earn the privilege of practicing law by sitting for and passing the bar exam.

Just like a Stanford grad, we earn our client’s business by providing the best legal advocacy possible.

Just like a Texas grad, we do so ethically and responsibly.

Over time, our work will speak for itself.

Even then, there will be those who refuse to listen, but it’s nothing a few courtroom victories can’t help but fix.

Midterms

It’s hard to believe, but Midterm examinations are upon us. I know most law schools don’t administer Midterms, but UNTDCOL is among the minority that do. Most of our instructors weight the Midterm examinations in such a way that they usually account for roughly a third of our final grade, so it’s obviously important to be prepared.

I remember taking my first Midterm as a 1L last October. Contracts! It was unlike any exam I had ever taken. Even though I felt prepared going in, I found myself frustrated, especially with the multiple-choice questions, as most of them contained two or more “right’ answers. The trick, our professors told us, was determining the “most right” answer. I have encountered the need for this same type of precision in all of my law school classes so far and it’s the same type of precision a successful legal practice demands of an attorney.

Consider the following “real world” example I stumbled across recently.

Plaintiff A, domiciled in Texas, sues Defendant B in Texas state court. Defendant removes the case to Federal court for diversity. In their Notice of Removal, Defendant establishes its citizenship  through the following paragraph:

Accordingly, because Defendant B is a limited liability company whose citizenship is determined by the citizenship of its members, and because its sole member BBBA, a limited liability company owned by BBBB, a New Hampshire corporation with its principal place of business in Ames, Iowa, Defendant B is a citizen of New Hampshire and Iowa for diversity purposes and complete diversity exists between Defendant and Plaintiff.

A week later, the Judge enters an order finding that Defendant had established the citizenship of its shareholders, but not its members. Consequently, the Court found Defendant’s notice insufficient to establish the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction, but allowed Defendant to refile. Defendant B changed this paragraph just slightly:

Accordingly, because Defendant B is a limited liability company whose citizenship is determined by the citizenship of its members, and because its sole member is BBBA, a limited liability company whose sole member is BBBC–and which is owned by BBBC–a New Hampshire corporation with its principal place of business in Ames, Iowa. Defendant B is a citizen of New Hampshire and Iowa for diversity purposes and complete diversity exists between Defendant and Plaintiff.

Both paragraphs reach the same conclusion–the “right” answer, so to speak–that diversity exists between the Defendant and Plaintiff, but only the second paragraph satisfies the statutory requirements of U.S.C. § 1332. Paragraph 2, as law professors like to say, is “more right.”

Remember this as your prepare for your Midterm exams, especially Civ. Pro.

The UNTD-COL Difference

This week, Hon. Royal Furgeson announced that he will retire from his position as Dean of the UNT-Dallas College of Law at the end of June 2018. The only dean our school has known in its short history, Dean Furgeson worked tirelessly to ensure its launch went as smoothly as possible, including navigating the rough-waters of the ABA accreditation process.

In June, the ABA granted UNTDCOL’s provisional accreditation, but Dean Furgeson continued his work. I have no doubt his work will continue well past his retirement and I would just like to say, “thank you.”

You see, Dean Furgerson reads this blog.

At least occasionally.

Ok, at least once.

How do I know?

He emailed me to thank me for a post I wrote right before I started my 1L year. Just weeks before class started, an advisory committee recommended that the ABA not grant our school accreditation. Dean Furgeson held a “town hall” meeting for all students where he explained the committee’s decision and laid out the school’s plan. Dean Furgeson’s courage and conviction convinced me that sticking with this school that believed in me was the right choice.

Dean Furgeson then thanked me for my words, because that is the type of Dean and person he is. He legitimately cares about his students and staff members and takes the time to get to know each and everyone of us. I feel confident in saying that not all law school deans function this way.

We will miss your leadership Dean Furgeson and while no one can replace you, we know that you will help to ensure that the next Dean of UNTDCOL will continue to carry on your work.