Perhaps the most important tool in my law school toolbox, my brand new Keurig.
Perhaps the most important tool in my law school toolbox, my brand new Keurig.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been on vacation all week.
This summer that means a staycation at home to try and get things tidy and organized before the new school year starts. Things get started a month and a half from today and I can’t wait to start my second year of law school.
As I digitized some of our old files, I came across a pile of rejection letters–some from law schools and some from publishers and agents. I have eight rejection letters alone from SMU Dedman School of Law. I love reading them. Each one gives me inspiration to keep on doing what I am doing.
One year of law school down and I managed to rank in the top 25% of my class (UNT-Dallas does not rank students, instead they provide a GPA based band), while working full-time and raising a family.
How did I do it?
Well, it wasn’t always easy.
First of all, I could not have done it without a supportive family. My wife is super human and shouldered a lot of the weight of parenting, especially during the week. Mondays through Thursdays she was pretty much a single parent. I read a lot of books and heard a lot of attorneys speak about law school and what to expect the first year. Many of them warned against starting a family while in law school and spoke of the difficulties of balancing family time and school time. That’s true to an extent, but I think if everyone in the family is all in on the law school mission, it doesn’t matter.
Second, and this is almost as important as point one, working in the legal industry helps–TREMENDOUSLY! I cannot emphasize this enough. If I were to give one piece of advice to a high school or college student considering law school (or adult considering law school), it would be to get a job in the legal industry.
A wise faculty member explained spoon theory to us during orientation. While spoon theory is most often used in helping people cope with disabilities, I think it’s a smart way to approach time management in law school. In short, we each have a finite number of spoons (think of it as bars of energy) to use over the course of each day and we must determine the most efficient way to use these spoons.
Students entering law school with limited or no previous experience in the legal field must use more spoons to learn the material presented. The more legal experience you have, the fewer spoons you have to use for law school activities and the more you can use for work, family, and free time.
Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I never spent a minute after class ended in my books or notes. Instead, I came home, ate dinner, and spent time with my wife. We do not have class on Friday nights, so on Fridays, I would not touch a school related book or look at my notes at all. Instead, as soon as I got off work, I would come home and spend time with my family. I would then spend most of Saturday and a couple of hours every Sunday morning to read and work on my notes. I still managed to watch every football game I wanted to watch and we stayed current on every TV show we watch together as a couple.
In all, I spent about 5 to 6 hours each week reading and taking notes. This was less than the amount of time I was actually in class each week and way less than what they advise a 1L student at the beginning of the year, but the main thing is to find what works for you and to stick with it.
Needles to say, my method won’t work for all students, but I think it shows how experience in the legal field can allow you to utilize fewer spoons than your peers and still have a successful law school career.
More than anything, the first year of law school is learning to “think like a lawyer.” Working as a legal professional, you read case law, learn to spot issues, and how construct arguments on a daily basis, even you don’t recognize the acronyms IRAC or CRAC. Real world experience in the legal industry especially prepares you for Legal Writing and Legal Research.
If you follow this link, it should pull up a PDF copy of an article that appears on The Texas Lawbook’s website. I wanted to link directly to the website, but could not get it to link properly. I think this might be the most enlightening piece I have read on the accreditation issue to date.
Interestingly enough, both Emmanuel Obi and Rocio Cristina Garcia both spoke to our 1L class at a Dallas Bar Association event last Thursday night. I think I speak for the entire UNT-Dallas College of Law when I say that we appreciate their support.
I especially like Ms. Garcia’s comment that the only thing a high LSAT score proves is that a student had the resources for a prep course.
Also, this is the only piece outside of my own that really tackles the battle between the ABA and the Department of Education.
By now, the news is out there that UNT-Dallas College of Law (“UNTDCOL”) has hit a bump in the accreditation process. I begin my 1L journey at UNTDCOL on Saturday and I have full confidence the school will secure accreditation during my matriculation. UNTDCOL has been completely transparent with its students throughout the accreditation process and in a meeting in front of the student body on August 5, 2016, they assured all students that they would take any steps necessary to conform to the ABA’s stringent admission standards to achieve accreditation.
Compare this to the lack of transparency exhibited by SMU, a school that tries hard to present itself as a top tier law school, when they decided to suspend their part-time/evening law school program. As an applicant to the SMU evening program, I found out of their decision to suspend the program through an article on Texas Lawyer. About a month later, I received an email from SMU explaining their decision to suspend the part-time program and offering a position on the “wait list” for their full-time program.
But I digress, this post is not about SMU, but rather UNTDCOL.
Let us consider the facts:
This entire process raises a number of questions.
There have been no peer studied reviews conducted that show there is any correlation between LSAT scores and bar passage rates. The cynic in me wants to say that the only thing a high LSAT scores proves is that you had the resources to take a prep course, but I know that the LSAT has been proven to be an effective indicator of success for the first year of law school, but that’s completely different than being an effective indicator of bar success.
Conservative columnist Megan McArdle penned a syndicated piece in which she argues in favor of the ABA of revoking accreditation for law schools that fail to prepare its students to pass the bar exam. She stops short of telling us what she thinks an acceptable passage rate for a school would be, but says “a large majority of them.”
Let’s take a look at the bar passage rate for the nine law schools in Texas currently accredited by the ABA. As you can see in the chart below, the University of Texas boasts the highest median LSAT score of any accredited law school in the state, yet the bar passage rate for its students over the past three years has been in the bottom third. Meanwhile, Texas A&M University School of Law, whose median LSAT score of 156 ranks right in the middle of the nine accredited Texas law schools, has the second highest bar passage rate over the same amount of time.
It seems that UNTDCOL might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity threatened to take away accreditation powers from the ABA.This explains why the ABA would be reluctant to simply rubber stamp UNTDCOL’s accreditation, but the facts show UNTDCOL has earned its accreditation, in spite of possibly admitting some students with less than stellar LSAT scores.
What remains a bigger is mystery is why conservatives like McArdle are all of a sudden seeking to embolden the powers of the Department of Education. Strange bedfellows for sure, but I think Dallas City Councilman, Philip Kingston, might be on to something. In a responding to the July 11 letter, Kingston wrote:
The practice of law in America, especially civil law, has become exclusively the province of corporations and the extremely rich. It’s just flat too expensive. When an entire industry fails to offer even the most basic service to the vast majority of our citizens, that’s a system failure. The legal education system has been entirely complicit in this failure. The admissions criteria for law students are very high, and the cost of tuition is stratospheric. Students exit with few choices other than to seek the maximum hourly rate they can possibly earn. The UNT model seeks to ameliorate this system failure at least slightly.
Kingston’s argument makes sense. In her article, McArdle does goes after trial lawyers like John Edwards.
From my perspective, as someone who has worked in the legal field for seventeen years, the bigger concern is students graduating from law school with no real world legal experience. Sure, they can wax eloquently about legal theory, but they have no idea how real world litigation works. I have seen it firsthand in young associates I have worked with and in negotiating settlement agreements with defense attorneys on my own.
In later posts, I will discuss how I have been able to collect on violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), on my own without any outside legal counsel, by simply writing a letter and making a phone call. Most companies dump consumer litigation in the laps of young attorneys fresh out of law school. Not only do these young attorneys not fully understand the TCPA, but they also haven’t yet mastered the art of negotiating.
I am not the only one who feels this way. 3Ls and young associates alike realize that most law schools rob them of experiential learning opportunities. UNTDCOL is well ahead of the game in this regard and has placed a premium on experiential learning opportunities.
By the time I graduate in 2020, I predict UNTDCOL will have earned its accreditation from either the ABA or Department of Education, that UNTDCOL graduates will be passing the bar at a 70% rate, and that we will come out with more experience and be better prepared to jump into a legal career. For those reasons, I am not afraid to attend UNTDCOL while it waits to earn its accreditation.