A Few Thoughts for Future 1Ls from a UIUC Alum at Yale Law School

This posting was written by Stanley Richards, UIUC Class of 2012. He graduated with a BA in Political Science and BS in Public Policy in Law. He is a Student Director for the Yale Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and Online Editor for the Yale Journal of Regulation. He is currently trying out for the Yale Law Journal.


I am glad I did not consult many online “resources” before coming to law school. Any basic Internet search on “law school preparation” or some variant of this yields a plethora of links to websites and posts created by people and institutions of questionable credibility. Much of the advice and “myth-busting” does more to encourage anxiety than to mitigate it. I was excited by this opportunity to blog because I want to tell those of you who are applying to law school or that have already been accepted a little bit of inside knowledge that I have gained as a Yale 1L. Most of this will ease any concerns you future lawyers have; I have selected mostly those things I wish I knew before going to law school.

I think the most important discovery I have had is this: three years in law school is a very short amount of time. The timeline for firm jobs and clerkship placement makes this time even shorter and more hectic. If you are gunning for a firm job you will be likely be interviewed for it the summer before your 2L year and be extended a permanent offer of employment the summer before your 3L year. Interviews for clerkships in the federal courts continue to be moved further and further earlier in the calendar. Law students, therefore, will have only about one year to really make their mark and build their resumes to impress their future employers. For instance, the firms that will interview me this coming summer will only have two semesters worth of grades to look at (in fact, only one semester of “real” grades because Yale Law does not do traditional grades first semester 1L year)! So, 1Ls are well advised to be prepared to do a lot their first year. It is not like undergrad wherein one can cruise the first year doing Gen-Eds and getting acclimated to campus life, planning to pull up their GPA in subsequent years if need be. You will be rewarded later for getting involved in clinics, secondary journals, and doing meaningful substantive research your 1L year.

Secondly, there are so many opportunities in law school. Popular myth has it that law school is a combative and a zero-sum game. This is just not true. Do not get me wrong, there are passive-aggressive people. There are “gunners” who just ask too many questions in class and do not give others a chance to talk. But, on the whole, considering law schools tend to be full of ambitious people, the atmosphere is relatively collaborative. With the numerous journal offerings, research opportunities with professors, clinics, and courses, there are plenty of places where people can succeed and make their mark. I remember being concerned that I would lose in this zero-sum game and being intimidated by the numerous students from very elite schools or who seemed to have saved the world three times over before coming to law school. I realized within a few weeks such anxieties were ill-founded and that there was plenty of opportunity to succeed.

Third and finally, write early and write often. Student scholarship is a big deal and it is not limited to the particular institution’s law journal. Professors are often eager to work with equally eager students, and it is excellent in interviews to be able to speak about one’s research.

These are just a few of the many things about Yale Law that have surprised me. I will admit that some of these observations may speak more to the reality at Yale than at law schools generally, but I think many law students who were very anxious before 1L year will agree with a lot of what I am saying.


Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Spring Break Edition: Things To Do

Spring Break starts at the end of this week.  Here are some suggestions for how to use the break wisely.  

Seniors Applying This Cycle

1. Applications. If you haven’t already done so….submit your applications!!!!!  I know several law schools have extended their deadlines but this is a rolling process and many schools have few if any seats (or financial aid) left to give to applicants.

2. Decision Time.  For those of you that submitted applications much earlier this cycle and consequently are now weighing all your options — really evaluate your offers and try to come to a decision in the next couple of weeks.  Those of you who have been in to see me have been advised to create a table or spreadsheet listing the items most important to you (i.e., cost/scholarship, employment numbers, bar passage rate, location) to help you decide among your offers.  Also make plans to visit the law schools if you haven’t already done so — you would be surprised about the number of students who love a school on paper but are not thrilled with the school once they visit.  Law school is a HUGE investment — find the time to visit the schools!!!!

Juniors Applying in the Fall

1. Letters of Recommendation. Start thinking about whom you should ask to write your letters of recommendation and plan to request your LORs BEFORE you leave campus for the summer.  Applicants frequently make the mistake of waiting until fall to approach their professors and then find themselves waiting quite a while.  Your professors are busy so you need to plan ahead to give them enough time to write your letters… and the letters that others are requesting.

2. Attend PLAS Programs! Attending our upcoming PLAS programs will help you get a jump start on your applications.  Remember — most law schools admit applicants on a rolling basis so the earlier you apply, the better!

  • Financing Law School, Monday April 1, 5-6pm, College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Classroom A. Our Financial Aid Series continues! With so many different aid offers from various law schools….how do students choose? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, a current 2L and Pre-Law Advising Graduate Assistant, are here to walk you through it! Ms. Griffin and Ms. Davis will show you what a law school financial aid offer looks like and demonstrate how to evaluate aid packages and make fair comparisons among schools. No registration required. 
  • Applying to Law School — A Workshop for Fall Applicants — Monday, April 15, 4-5:00 pm, Room 1027 Lincoln Hall. Applying to law school early in the application cycle can result in more admission offers, more aid, and much less stress. This workshop is designed for students who will be applying to law school this fall and want to maximize their law school opportunities. We will provide an overview of the law school application process and share a timeline for optimal application results. No registration required.
  • Personal Statement Workshop for Fall Applicants — Thursday, April 18, 12-1:00pm, Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore Building.  Law school applicants consistently say that the personal statement took much more time to write than they expected. This workshop will provide an overview of the personal statement and the resume for law school applications. Please register by clicking on this link http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508 to our Event Calendar. Once there, please select this event and then click on “register.”  Registration is required so that we can provide enough seating and materials for everyone.

All Pre-Law Students

1. Find and apply for summer internships NOW.  Not sure where to start?  Go here, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2012/12/20/internship-newsletter/, to access our Internship Newsletter that was originally posted on December 20.  It contains 17 pages of information on internships and jobs.  Many of these postings have March deadlines so start looking now!

2. Stay informed… about all of our PLAS Programs, information sessions, updates on the legal profession, etc.  How???

 Enjoy your break!

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Today at 4pm — Dean Pamela Bloomquist of the Loyola University Chicago Law School

Interested in attending law school in Chicago?  Join Pamela Bloomquist, Assistant Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, TODAY at 4pm, Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore Building, as she provides an overview of information about life at Loyola. She will talk about what Loyola is looking for in applicants, what the student body is like, and what’s new at Loyola. Dean Bloomquist will also answer any of your questions about life at Loyola. No registration is necessary for this event. All students interested in learning about Loyola are welcome.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Going to a law conference? Law student perspective. . .

Thanks Arian, for being so practical and confident and reminding me of the important factors in attending and making the most of a law conference!  Pre-Law students . . .as you’re exploring your potential areas of interest you might consider attending a local legal conference!

1. Become friends with the organizers, email them, ask for assistance with defraying costs, sharing a room at a hotel. You can simply inquire about other persons or students who will be attending from a specific region you are interested in.

2. Ask to be paired with a mentor, especially if it’s your first time. Make use of that mentor. You may be interested in being paried with someone practicing in a certain area/focus or geographic region.

3. Get a list of the attorneys attending beforehand. You can contact them and plan to meet at the conference. Lots of people attend and not always the same sessions so don’t take it for grated that you’ll run across them.

4. Have an elevator pitch. “Hi my name is _, and I’m a 2L at _.” Ask for their name, ask what they do, and find a connection. If none is forthcoming, speak a little bit more about yourself.  Tell them why you’re interested, tell them why you’re here. Ask where they work, ask what types of issues they see in their line of work.

5. Try to have background information on the people you approach – doesn’t have to be extensive, for example, where they’re from, or where they work. This helps with the quantity vs. quality question – do you try to collect more business cards or have quality communication? Try to have a quality conversation, but that doesn’t mean it has to be long.

6. When you approach people and get their business card, tell them you’d like to remain in touch with them and ask if that’s ok. It shows your intent, and you’re not blindly asking for their business card as part of a collection. Try to gauge whether you could form a mentoring relationship with the person.

7. Take notes. You can make little notes on the back of the business cards you get. Things like what you spoke about or facts you want to remember about the person that can inform future conversation.

8. The follow up email is key. People often forget who they’ve met when they re-enter their routines. A great idea is to include in the follow up email a professional picture of yourself so that they can readily connect the name with a face.

9. Let people (the organizers, your mentor, others you meet) know that you are interested in meeting attorneys in a specific field, or from a specific geographic area.

10. Adhere to the attire requirement. One guy wore red pants, another girl wore hot pink wedges – don’t do that, especially in the legal field. You will stand out for the wrong reasons. Dress so that you will be complimented.

11. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I live my life by asking for what I want.

12. Be confident. Be confident. You’ve got this.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Maximizing Dean Visits: Part I (Or, How to Make a Good Impression on a Dean)

We’ve already hosted one law school dean on campus this semester, and we’ll be hosting several more in the coming months. (Coming up in February: Dean Mitchell from Case Western Reserve and Dean Burns from DePaul. Visit our calendar here for more details on each.) In this post, let’s examine just how students can maximize dean visits. (We will look at how to maximize law school visits in Part 2.)

Students should go to these events. Frankly, I’m shocked that more pre-law students do not take advantage of the opportunity to meet an admissions dean who has come to campus. Why don’t they? Let’s do a brief cost/benefit analysis.

Admission Dean visit to campus
Cost: No money, an hour of your time
Benefit: Making a good impression on the dean can result in admission or scholarship offers. You’ll probably learn something valuable about the law school admissions process, or about the school itself. At the very least, you’ll give the dean a face to associate with your application, making your file more personal than the thousand files of people s/he has never met.

Many students think that attending a law school open house or meeting an admissions dean won’t influence their decision about whether to admit you to their school, or whether to award you a scholarship. In my experience, that is totally wrong. Why?

First, I think many people would be surprised to know how much power an admissions dean has over the final admissions decision. Many deans can make admissions decisions entirely on their own, or override a veto by a committee. I know deans–more than one–who have made an on-the-spot decision to admit an applicant–with a scholarship–while that applicant visited during an open house. Why? Because the dean was impressed by the applicant’s professionalism, passion, and maturity. In other words, a positive personal impression by someone with a lot of power over your admission can weigh heavily in your favor. After all, admissions is a human process–if it were ALL about the numbers, then machines would do it.

Second, many students think that the dean won’t remember meeting them. Not only am I impressed by the memories of admissions professionals, but I know that many take great pains to jot down the names of students they spoke with–sometimes during a conversation and sometimes right afterwards. Several deans have told me that as soon as they leave a meeting with students, they immediately review those students’ applications while their impressions are still fresh. At minimum, most deans will have students sign in and then use that sign-in sheet to see who was interested enough to make the effort to come and meet them. This will be noted in the applicant’s file.

Third, many students think that in a roomful of people, the dean won’t notice them, either for positive reasons or negative ones. By nature and by training, we lawyers are detail oriented and most of us are very observant. Trust me–even if we aren’t saying it, we’re thinking it. Here are some simple but powerful positive observations that deans have shared with me about particular students/applicants after visiting our campus:

  • S/he is very personable/pleasant/mature. How simple is that? Being nice gets noticed. Or, as one dean puts it, nobody wants a jerk in their school.
  • S/he speaks very well. A valued skill for a prospective lawyer.
  • S/he seems to truly care about ________. Examples: The environment, helping children, global security…This signals that the applicant has clearly articulated a passion and has asked insightful questions about a legal career in that area.
  • S/he would be a great fit for our school. This one’s a little harder to pin down, but just as applicants get a “feel” for a school by visiting, deans can get a similar feeling by meeting applicants.

The down side to being observant means that deans also sometimes have negative impressions of students and applicants. Some examples:

  • S/he never made eye contact with me/stared at the floor the whole time. Again, another simple gesture. In a first impression, eye contact demonstrates poise, confidence, and good interpersonal skills…all of which a lawyer needs in order to get and maintain clients.
  • S/he is very intense. This could mean that the person fired a barrage of questions at the dean, instantly name-dropped some “connections” (My uncle’s chiropractor went to your school and he’s writing a recommendation for me…), or shared some outrageous expectations (I deserve a big scholarship!) See above, about nobody wanting a jerk in their school.
  • S/he doesn’t seem to know why this law school is a good fit. Deans always like to ask what interests applicants about their school. Telling a dean that her law school is probably the best you can get into, or that it’s close to where your parents live, is a little insulting. Side note: I have observed applicants saying both of these to a dean. In both cases, the dean mentioned it to me afterwards…and not in a positive way.

While we’re on the subject of first impressions, please let me say that etiquette and dress say a lot about you. Two brief observations:

  • I have personally observed many students interrupt the dean of admissions to ask another question while s/he is speaking. This is extremely disrespectful and rude, and it will without a doubt be noticed and remembered by the dean.
  • No one expects you to show up wearing a tuxedo or bridesmaid gown. But wearing your bar crawl t-shirt, or worse, sweatpants, or much, much worse, pajama pants and slippers (yes, all of these actually happened) to meet a law school dean suggests a serious lack of professional judgment. A popular saying is to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” A button-up shirt or sweater and pants is perfectly acceptable and takes no more effort than a t-shirt and jeans. When in doubt, go business casual.

To summarize: Meeting deans of admissions and attending law school visits can actually make a big difference for your application. An admissions dean holds a lot of power over admissions and scholarship decisions, and personal impressions can and will be factored in. Do not make the mistake of thinking that attending these events is not worth your time.

During the visit: Be nice, be pleasant, make eye contact, wear business casual clothes, listen while the dean speaks, and don’t say anything too outrageous within five seconds of meeting the dean. Nothing too taxing, right?

In Part 2, we will examine how students can maximize law school visits.


Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Illinois Law Open House Feb. 4

Are you interested in the University of Illinois College of Law? Good news: the law school is hosting an Open House event February 4 at the Law Building from 5-7 pm, and you are invited! This is a great chance to learn more about Illinois Law and get a feel for the law school and the student body.

At this Open House you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Meet current Illinois Law students
  • Hear from Dean Smith
  • Meet professionals from Career Planning and Financial Aid offices
  • Take a tour
  • Share a meal! Food will be served.

Please RSVP to law-admissions@illinois.edu by February 1.

To find out more about Illinois Law before your visit, explore their website at https://www.law.illinois.edu/

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

$5 LSAT Test Prep Opportunity in NYC!!

Planning on being in the New York City area over break?  You should consider signing up for the New York City Bar’s Annual LSAT/Law School Prep Series, set for January 7, 8 and 10.  If you sign up by January 1, the cost is $5! (It only increases to $10 after January 1).  The program  was created to provide prospective law students with information on everything from preparing for the LSAT through being successful in the first year of law school. The program includes LSAT Preview Classes by several well-regarded test prep companies – as well as panels with admissions representatives and law students from regional law schools and a Networking Fair with free classes and material giveaways.  It will be held at the NYC Bar Association Office, 42 West 44th Street.  For more information and to register, go here: http://www.nycbar.org/index.php/diversity/student-pipeline-program/programs/187-lsatlaw-school-prep-series.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Law Fair Is Tomorrow — You Don’t Want to Miss It!!

Our biggest Law Fair ever is tomorrow! Over 120 law schools will be here for the Law Fair on Tuesday, October 23 from 11am-3pm at the ARC. Click on our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012to access our special edition Newsletter for the list of attendees, as well as tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this great opportunity!  This newsletter contains information on what to wear, what questions to ask (page 2), and which schools are coming (pages 5 and 6).  And to help you focus your approach, check out pages 3 and 4 for some possible “target” schools lists.  This newsletter has ALL the details on the fair. 

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the ARC, 11am-3pm!

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Law School Lunch Lectures – Get a feeling for law school!

Professor Henderson Lecture at Illinois College of Law- 9/19/12

I hope that any pre-law students who came to this lecture had a great time (and enjoyed the free lunch afterwards with so many of the U of I’s best professors, deans, and students!)  Attending these lectures is a great way to get a feeling for what law school is like, and to ponder legal questions that are presented.  I strongly encourage you not only to find a day that you can make it here on our campus – but to attend a lunch lecture at every one of your campus visits.  Most attendees don’t take notes, but I decided to type up lecture notes so that you could see what one type of lecture notes look like after being heavily influenced by law school note-taking.  I hope they are clear enough to make sense of the topic, and maybe even elicit thought or comment from you!  I’ll be sure to post future lunch lectures and encourage pre-law students to attend the ones that sound especially interesting and relevant.  Jamie and I will be at the Helen Gunnarsson Seminar tomorrow at the law school at 12:00 if you are interested in attending.  Hope to see you there!


 Human Capital Accounting for Lawyers

The issue addressed by Professor Henderson’s lecture is that the economic rules of law practice and legal education are now different due to globalization.  He broadly summarized this with the phrase “Asia, Automation, and Abundance.”  Before diving into any specifics in legal education or the flaws that are a part of the system that was established pre-globalization, he took the time to lay out the basis for his theories and the terminologies and influences that guided this development.

Human Capital Accounting (HCA) is a systematic gathering of facts, assigning significance to those facts, and then using the results to make better decisions.  There is a constant assessment of whether the added value of “better decisions” exceeds the cost of the decision-making process.  Professor Henderson cites C.F. Braun’s insights from earlier in the 20th century, his belief in sharing the “why” or the decision-making process with the people implementing those decisions, and the necessary “tooling” or “white collar tools” that were developed to create a successful field.  All this to say that the same successes can be found if we “retool” and modernize the profession in practice and in the legal preparation law schools provide.

Professor Henderson had a simple framework for the rest of his lecture:

1)       Articulate Goals (modernize legal education / practice)

2)      Present estimated costs and estimation of benefits that move toward that goal.

3)      Compare costs and benefits and make decisions.


To modernize the education and practice, law schools need to move away from a model that is built on creating lawyers for artisan trades and private practices that was established post WWII.  With increased access to legal information, what clients now have are sophisticated legal needs that require non-traditional legal services.  So there is not a clear economic rationale to train lawyers.  The needed human capital (HC) is an ability to collaborate over a complex domain of knowledge including: information technology, systems engineering, fianance, marketing, project management, and law.  The focus in law school should be communication and feedback around this diverse set of elements.  Here Prof. Henderson provided anecdotal evidence from the legal classes he is teaching and the peculiar class design that allowed him to see that predictors of good and successful group work was predicated on communication – useful feedback and an opportunity to understand and listen.

In assessing the costs of this type of system, it became clear that the hidden costs are the emotional costs in shifting to such a communication based model of legal education.  No specific numbers were given to analyze the costs of implementing what he coined as a “competency based curriculm with intensive feedback.”  He did however point to the fact that some states, like Michigan, have integrated competency models into their government programming.  Anyone can get an idea of what a competency model looks like by viewing this model at:  http://www.michigan.gov/documents/AG_BARS_14717_7.pdf

In making the decision to leap forward in legal education to using competency models focused on the domain of knowledge and skills in a modern world, Professor Henderson challenged law schools to step outside the prescribed curriculum and meet these modern needs.  Responding to questions about ABA standards and the “slowness” of change, he left with an explicit call to universities to be bold and willing to make these changes – to which Dean Smith jokingly responded with respect for the advice and a disclaimer that Professor Henderson does not represent legal counsel for the law school 😉

In all, I had mixed feelings about the lecture.  On one hand, I enjoyed hearing how successful legal minds contemplate the need for legal education reform – and on the other hand I listen as an educator (I taught for four years) who finds so much of what is said as glaringly obvious and inadequate in terms of actually leading to actual change.  What will lead to change I then ask?  I suppose a continued effort by scholars and practitioners like Henderson to spread this philosophy will contribute to that change.  Will a free market speak to it?  Can the US continue to be the leading authority?  These are huge questions and are always debatable – and if you have a thought please comment or stop in to chat!

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

More opportunities for pre-law students: Jurors, witnesses, and an internship fair!

Here are three great opportunities for pre-law students.

1. This is a great opportunity to help a law student and see what trial advocacy classes are like!
Volunteers are needed to sit as jurors and hear opening statements from U. of I. College of Law students enrolled in the Trial Advocacy Program from 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 & 18 at the Champaign County Courthouse. You can volunteer for one night or more. Opening statements are from a homicide & a serious personal injury case. Contact: Julie Campbell, jjhill@illinois.edu or 333-5842

2. And, for those of you who enjoy acting…College of Law Trial Advocacy volunteer witnesses are needed. Volunteers are needed to play expert witnesses for the U. of I. College of Law Trial Advocacy class from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 2, 3 & 4 at the Champaign County Courthouse. You can volunteer for one night or more. You will be given a script for your role and all the information you need the night you volunteer. No outside work or info is needed. Contact: Julie Campbell, jjhill@illinois.edu or 333-5842.

3. Looking for an internship? Check out the Sociology Internship Fair this Friday, Sept. 21, 1-3pm in 3057 Lincoln Hall.  All Majors Welcome! Spring and Summer Internships available in a variety of settings –check out a list of who’s coming on the website:



Gifts to the first 25 students who arrive!

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email