Resource Review – Careers in International Law

Have you utilized our resource room materials?  Bring your laptop, grab a coffee, and come see if there is a resource that might interest and guide you – and of course – schedule a time to chat with us if you find a legal interest we can help you know how to research.  Just yesterday, Jamie helped a pre-law student take her interest in environmental policy and research to find a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy one-year program that tracks the interest through a program that doesn’t carry the debt-load or non-related studies time that a traditional law degree would mean for her!

Most of our materials are not intended to be checked out, so drop by when you’ve got an hour and we’ll make sure you have a comfy place to read!  Here’s a review of one of our recent purchases.

This fall we saw an increased interest from our pre-law students in pursuit of international law careers and the increased offerings from law schools of J.D. Dual Degree Programs (there are currently at least four that offer dual US (J.D). / Canada (L.L.B.) degrees).  So we invested in a great resource from the ABA Section of International Law, Salli A. Swartz, Editor, Careers in International Law (2008).  The book is in its third edition and is a best seller for law students interested in international law.   It includes authors from many creative and more traditional possibilities in both public and private sector international law.

What we like about the book is the wide variety of practice areas from the many contributing authors.  It reiterates many of the practical practice skills that serve students well in any practice area.  Many of the authors discuss their law school experience and the impact on their international careers – from perspectives where international law was their initial focus and those where international law was more of a career change or something that grew out of their law school experiences.  There are helpful appendixes of the websites and programs that are especially relevant to this area.  The only thing we could have done without is the continued commentary on the ABA and its value in this area – but after all it is an ABA publication, and Illinois is ranked in the top five states of attorneys that have designated themselves into the ABA Section of International Law (along with D.C., New York, California, and Texas).

Some other points for students to consider:

  • Can I further prepare through foreign language study?
  • What will obtaining a work visa be like?  (a NAFTA agreement allows lawyers to obtain work visas in Canada if they have a job offer as long as they properly comply with the procedures for application – BUT – consider possible difficulties in obtaining visas for European or Asian markets and the possible difficulties of obtaining a visa while on the job search.
  • What types of summer exchange programs could I take advantage of during undergrad to demonstrate my serious interest?
  • Do I already have the capability of establishing dual-citizenship?  (a rare but potentially valuable criteria – read the fine print and seek advice from those who have expertise in this area if you are eligible).
  • How can I make this interest apparent in my personal statement?

Come into our office to utilize this resource or the others that might guide you in your interest in a legal education.

Pre-Law Practice Area Series – Part I

Pre-Law Practice Area Series:  Your Initial Investment – How to Begin the Search for a Practice Area

Welcome back from Thanksgiving Break!  We had plenty of time to remember all the great opportunities we’ve had this semester – and to remember to extend a warm thanks for your engagement in the Pre-Law Advising Center.  As exam season approaches, a typical law student’s calendar is filled with plans to finish outlining for each class and the plan for when and how to approach taking practice exams for each class.  Of course, some of the most memorable activities you pursue during exam time are those that free your mind from the intense preparation – your “distractions”!  Last year, the Law School Dean of Students commented that the busiest time of year for schedule alterations was the days leading up to finals, when students are eager to be distracted by something meaningful to them that involves plotting and planning and not necessarily studying 😉

So if you, like me, find time for all the big idea planning and determining what projects to undertake during Winter Break, here is a perfect project for you to invest an hour or two and refine your analysis of what you want to do after law school.  It will guide you on how to finish your applications, where to visit, and how to eventually plan the beginning stages of your legal education, which has an incredibly strong impact on where you eventually find yourself practicing.  Overwhelming populations of attorneys say that they “fell into” their area of practice based on their summer experiences in law school and placements in their initial years of practice.  While it is true that opportunities you take will guide your experiences, having a strong understanding of many potential opportunities, what they lead to, and how you can best situate yourself to take advantage of these opportunities will give you the advantage over those who let grades, or random internship experiences, or career services offices dictate their momentum on the job search.

I suggest you print this checklist, grab a cup of coffee, find a nice spot with your laptop – and invest one to two hours refining your understanding of practice areas and potential careers.


  1.  Brainstorm a quick response to the question “Why law school?”  How do you envision using a law degree right now?  Even if you are in the very initial stages of considering law school, you should have something guiding you in that direction, vocalize it.
  2. Now go to the Stanford Law School Navigator – an intensely detailed online resource and one that I cannot pretend to offer a better or more rounded guide than – and read the general direction overviews for each of the four major directions: Academia, Litigation, Regulatory & Policy, and Transactional (found at:  Note which direction interests you the most right now, and be able to define why.  Which of these directions most aligns with your answers to step one?  There is a lot of law school lingo embedded in the descriptions – so don’t hesitate to look up concepts or words that you need more information on.
  3. Explore each Path (what we typically refer to as a “practice area”) by clicking on it and reading the general overview.  Maybe you will be tempted to start clicking into various specialty areas within each path, I’d suggest investing the time to read each Path’s (practice area’s ) general overview first – to increase your vocabulary in each area and to move to the next step of exploring specialty areas with the most informed perspective.  Of each of these paths, which interests you most?
  4. Now it’s time to explore each path’s specialty areas.  Start with the area that most suited you, and work your way through each specialty area.  You will become aware of the relationships between specialty areas.
  5. Notice that you can narrow the specialty area by limiting it to a specific direction.  For example, under Business Law, I chose Media, Entertainment, and Sports and read the description for “all directions.”  Narrowing the direction doesn’t change the overall description, what that does is limit the “map” of courses and opportunities at Stanford for you to look further into.  The foundational courses are likely available everywhere – but some of the specialty courses only at Stanford.  Consider this a resource to come back to later, when you are in law school and continuing to refine your path and choose your 2L and 3L coursework based on your continued legal experiences.
  6. Expand your search.  So you have an idea of the direction you want to take, and the path that interests you, and have an understanding of some of the specific practice areas within each area.  Your vocabulary and understanding have probably expanded significantly!  Now that you are expanding your search, your discussions will be smarter, your analysis will be more refined, and your insight will be greater.  Move forward by utilizing these other tools.

A.  Go to the ABA’s listing of legal blog categories and browse a few blogs in the practice areas that most interest you:

B.  Take a look at the ABA’s list of factors to consider and the detailed clinic descriptions of each law school here:

C.  Go to the website of a school that interests you, research the areas of law that they are known for.  I look at the ABA’s listing of school’s LLM programs (Master’s of Law) to know which areas schools are carved out specific programs that likely indicate a strong focus, you can find that towards the back of the 2012 ABA Law School Guide found here:


Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where we will share some of the research found on two specific areas of law – health law and education law.  As always – wishing you the best as you invest to find your best fit for a future legal career!

Free Stanford Law School Navigator!

Stanford Law School has released a unique online career and curriculum guide to the public! SLS Navigator allows you to learn about different careers in law and choose courses that will help you prepare for those careers. The overall theme is that a comprehensive guide will allow students to make the most of their three years of law school. Access the guide here:

The most helpful aspect is the breakdown between four major “directions” that a law degree may be used for: Academia, Litigation, Regulation and Policy, and Transactional; and the “paths” that explore the specific legal area within each direction. Just reading the introductory pages for these directions and paths is an incredible resource as you begin to refine your career and academic goals!

The level of depth and integration that Stanford put into this three-year development of SLS Navigator becomes evident when you start to select options from within each “path”. Then you are guided to course suggestions, law reviews and journals, and clinics at Standford that students with your interests should pursue.

Perhaps you aren’t interested in attending Stanford, but this resource can service you in two incredible ways. First, having a vocabulary and understanding of the four major “directions” and some of the “paths” that interest you will put you ahead of the ranks of applicants that don’t understand these major directions, and be incredibly helpful to you in the decision-making process for choosing a law school and allow you to know what kinds of options and opportunities you should be asking admissions officers about at your potential schools. Second, once you are in law school, looking back to this guide in preparation for your 2L and 3L years is comprable to an incredible advising session and the type of advice that can guide you to exactly where you need to go!

If you value knowing the opportunities that exist for you and having a model guide that can enlighten your law school experience, this navigator is something you should sit down with and dedicate an hour or two exploring!

LSAT Study Groups

Do you work better in a group setting? Would the accountability of a study group help you in your LSAT preparation? The Pre-Law office would like to facilitate the creation of LSAT study groups. Utilize this sign-up to find other LSAT students with whom you can work:

1) Choose whether you prefer an afternoon, early evening, or evening time slot and which day of the week works best for you.

2) In the comment section, please note your preferred email address for group use.

3) We will send an email to students interested in the same times and let you take over planning where you will meet and whether or not you’d like to meet more than once a week!

Once you are in law school, study groups begin forming as soon as orientation is under way. Students in the same section of classes will create small groups to discuss, review, and study together, usually at established times each week either in the evenings or between classes. Many students are able to generate new arguments beyond their own because they have so frequently heard a variety of perspectives in depth in their study groups – and this skill is one that should be fostered long before exam preparation towards the end of the semester.

Make the most of your group – and get a head start on a study habit that will lend to your success in law school!  There will be e a new sign-up at the beginning of next semester to accommodate new schedules!

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:

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!