Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold

Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold

by Thane Messinger
     
 

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To get straight to the point,Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold ("GGG") is, without a doubt, one of the most important law school and legal career books currently available. There are, of course, other guides that have made a huge impact in the market for such materials; "Planet Law School" (which is now PLS II) and "Law

Overview

To get straight to the point,Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold ("GGG") is, without a doubt, one of the most important law school and legal career books currently available. There are, of course, other guides that have made a huge impact in the market for such materials; "Planet Law School" (which is now PLS II) and "Law School Confidential" are two that immediately spring to mind, and which the prospective law student has most likely heard of. But whereas PLS and LSC are rather practical in nature, which is not in itself a bad thing because being led through the practicalities of applying to law school, preparing, studying, finding jobs and so forth are obviously important, GGG offers all this and so much more. Not more of the same, however, although GGG does cover standard material such as rankings and taking exams, and thankfully chooses to omit the tedious and common-sense generic topics such as how to apply for financial aid and how to pick upper level courses during 2L/3L, while emphasizing the important subjects such as the LSAT.

There is little room in the market for a mere copycat comprehensive law school guide, and GGG recognizes this. What sets GGG apart from - and above - PLS and LSC is that the author, Thane Messinger, has taken considerable care to help the reader think about the traditional basic (but solid) law school advice, rather than just absorb it, and explains to the reader why the advice is given and why it is important. Furthermore, GGG even encourages a healthy skepticism in its readers, challenging them to explore their own reasons for attending law school, whether they would truly enjoy a legal career, and where they want to end up when all is said and done. In other words, GGG treats its readers like intelligent grown-ups who are looking for more than platitudes and third-hand advice, instead of mere young adults who are too inexperienced to know what they want. This alone is refreshing in a sea of "do this and you'll succeed" books, none of which actually work in real life.

GGG is a lengthy book, coming in at close to four hundred pages. Even for a comprehensive guide, this is a generously-proportioned piece of work. While it can be read in its entirety, as I have spent the past week doing, the author encourages the reader to use the book in a more efficient manner, focusing in on those sections which are most important to the reader at any particular time. Some comprehensive guide books tend to build upon earlier sections in a linear progression, making it all but impossible to dip in and out at will. Readers of GGG will be pleasantly surprised at the structure of the book - discrete sections for each facet of the legal education process, each readable as a stand-alone module or as part of the whole. Modern readers weaned on a diet of hypertext and easy-access to information will appreciate the care that has been taken to make it simple for the book to be used as a brief reference from which information can be quickly gleaned, or for a more in-depth exploration of the topic in question.

An example of the author's attention to efficiency is the summary of each of the three main sections of the book. These elegant summaries barely cover two pages each, but - and I'm not exaggerating here - the summaries are worth their weight in gold, hitting the high points of each section, spelling out what the reader really must know. A law school applicant should, after buying the book, photocopy the summary to the "Getting In" section and tape it to the front of his or her LSAT prep book so it is seen every single day. The same goes for law students, who should tape a copy of the "Getting Good" summary to the wall by their assigned library seat in law school so the advice can be followed each and every time a case book or outline is opened.

GGG also stands out from PLS and LSC by virtue of the fact that GGG is a good five years more recent than the others. While much of the advice in PLS and LSC is still relevant, GGG was published recently enough to bear some of the scars of the economic collapse that demolished the legal industry, and from which the legal industry is still slowly recovering from. Not much has changed in legal education over the past decade, but when it comes to legal hiring and how to find work - the goal of every law student - reading up-to-date information is vitally important. Techniques that may have worked in 2000 certainly aren't as effective today. Think of GGG as a 2.0 version of the standard law school guide.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there's one particularly compelling reason to buy this book that isn't mentioned within its pages: The author. Let me explain. Thane Messinger has been heavily involved in the legal education world for many, many, many years. He knows what he's talking about. He has written books on the subject, edited books on the subject, and seen more great, good, mediocre, bad, and dangerous advice than just about anyone else on this planet. He stands behind his name and stands behind his wisdom. As he states in the introduction to GGG, "it's difficult to know whether the advice is actually good or not - until it's taken (or rejected) - by which time it's usually too late to do anything differently." Thane is your insurance policy against bad advice from an inexperienced author.

Law school is an extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming endeavor to screw up. There is so much information available on legal education, both in print and online, and very often, the reputation of the author is ignored in favor of the latest secret tips, techniques and gimmicks for success. There is a difference between taking advice from a recent grad and from a seasoned expert. There's also a difference between taking advice from an interested party (such as a law school admissions adviser or pre-law counselor) and taking advice from an independent, non-establishment, experienced and impartial expert. GGG is a distillation of Messinger's expert and independent knowledge, his understanding of what works and what doesn't work, and his expertise derived from about two decades of carefully watching countless law students succeed and countless law students fail. In short, he knows what he's talking about, and his advice can be trusted (as can the advice in other books he publishes and edits). And in a modern world where it's becoming so difficult to figure out who is on your side and who is out to take advantage of you, it's increasingly rare to find authors such as Messinger who can be relied upon to look after your best interests.

If you're thinking about attending law school, you're about to make a $100,000 purchase that will affect the rest of your career. Spend the money on this book and give yourself the most up-to-date, independent, insightful and reliable advice available. To do otherwise is madness.

Editorial Reviews

Adjunct LawProfs - Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review Highlight Law School Getting In Getting Good Getting Gold

By Adjunct LawProfs

Law School Getting In Getting Good Getting The Gold by Thane Messinger (Fine Press 2008)($16.95 list price)(order information available here), is not your ordinary law school guide book. Yeah, it has all the typical guide book information; tips about getting into law school, How to "Get Good" (doing well) and "Getting the Gold" (a good job).

Significantly, however this book is a bit different from other guide books and contains something more. That something is practical real world advice. For example, Mr. Messinger starts off his book by explaining what it means to "think like a lawyer." That is a critically important concept that is often missing from these types of books.

He also appears to know what is going on in legal education in most American Law Schools. However, some of the information which he exposes may go over the head of many of the books intended readers (college seniors applying to law school and first year law students). For example, he states that most professors know that the job market is so tight for full time professors today that most would not be hired today by their schools.

Mr. Messinger closes his book with a chapter he calls "Obiter Dicta." That chapter is basically a criticism of legal education today. For example, he calls for the rejection of what he calls "legal apartheid" which places the teaching of the law distinct from and superior to the practice of law. He believes that new faculty should have at least 10 years of practice experience, that the curricula should be redesigned and their should more clinical and legal research and writing classes. These are all interesting to someone like me who is an adjunct in academicia, but I do not believe that it belongs in this type of book geared towards students.

With that said, overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone considering law school or in their first year of law school.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781888960808
Publisher:
Fine Print Press, The
Publication date:
05/15/2008
Pages:
374
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
16 Years

Read an Excerpt

Setting the Stage: Or, How to Do Law School Wrong
Here’s the scene: a group of eager new law students file into the front doors of a law school sometime late in August. Filled with nervous energy, they’re nearly bouncing off the walls with excitement. The halls bustle with this energy. Anything seems possible. Yet much of this energy is channeled negatively. To cover intense feelings of inadequacy and nervousness, nearly all seem to blurt their life résumé when meeting each other: “Hi!…I’m Chip!…Yale undergrad and Exeter!…Heard of it?” “Hey!…I’m Suzy…just got back from my second summer in [pick some Third World spot]…guess it helped me get in here…did I mention I went to Princeton?” It’s amazing more students don’t pass out; they’re so busy racing through their life accomplishments they don’t seem to have time to breathe. And so it goes. For anyone within earshot (which is nearly everyone, as voices rise to eardrum-piercing levels), each self-flattering declaration causes, simultaneously, even more self-conscious nervousness, pangs of inadequacy, and, more than occasionally, dry heaves. Like electrons, students bounce nervously from one to another, eager to electrify others with their impressive credentials. Like spastic, autistic caricatures of themselves, many morph into almost-unrecognizable, egocentric boors. “Me, me, me!” Someone then mentions that the assignments for the first day’s classes are posted, and more than a few students gasp. Huh? You mean we really were supposed to have prepared? Quickly they make their way to the poster (or web page), jot down (or download) the assignments. They grab their casebooks, and start reading. Ohmygod. This isn’t like any reading they’ve ever seen. They attend a presentation on how to brief a case, and of course are eager to get started. They already have a dozen to do! Okay, they buy the extra highlighters and start to brief cases. Dutifully. Painstakingly. Man it seems to take forever. Each case seems to take hours—and it’s sometimes hard to focus halfway through on what was just read. Their minds start to wander ninety seconds into the first “hereinafter.” A holding? Huh? Procedural history? Gah! In the first week it seems that they’re spending every second of free time reading and briefing cases—and they’re supposed to go to class too! In class they take notes. Lots and lots of notes. Surely this will help to make sense of the Greek (well, Latin) they’re reading in the cases and hearing from the profs and other students. Oddly, the notes don’t seem to help. At the end of the week, they look at their piles of notes and it’s hard to tell what they’re even about, much less to help understand the cases. If they forget to put the class name on the note, they can’t even tell what the subject is! If they get out of order, they’ve no idea which way they go. So they put them in a stack that grows ever more disheveled, and on and on it goes, week in and week out, as they bumble through their first week, second week, and then first month. Someone mentions another task—outlines!—and now they’re starting to panic. How can they possibly do more?! The cases are taking all of their time, and they’re struggling just to keep up. Class is getting to be a joke. It’s fine to pretend to know what’s going on, but they’re worried about getting called on and goodness that is a sure killer, right? Then they’re called on. Ohmygod. I’m dead, they’re thinking. If only I understood that case! The facts! The holding! What are they getting at?! The prof must think I’m a real moron, you fear silently. Everyone feels this way—even the cocksure gunners (who hide their fears by having their hands nearly constantly raised). Surely they know how lost we are and will help. Now it’s a real panic. It’s the middle of the semester, they’ve been attending classes like clockwork, the professors are certainly nice, but it’s just not making sense. Gosh it’s hard. Hmm, outlines have been forgotten…there’s no time!…but with exams just around the corner, they know they have to start doing something. They’ve also read they’re supposed to practice with exams, and gee-it-would-be-good to have a study group. No way! This is a madhouse. It’s hard enough to keep up with the readings, much less deal with others and their peculiarities. Especially not those assholes! Didn’t you see how so-and-so looked at some other so-and-so? Exams! They’ve always done well. Surely these won’t be that bad. The semester is drawing to a close, and panic hangs in the air. Students are wide-eyed with fear. In just about every class something is said that brings utter dread: what are they talking about?! Some are like the undead…they’ve never come close to failing before. But will they pull this off? The law still isn’t making sense. It seems mysterious, even bizarre. All these phrases they’re supposed to know. What do they mean? Well, cramming worked before, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much choice now anyway. Exams are right around the corner! So, just like in a scene in The Paper Chase, cramming it is! “I’ll show them!” says nearly everyone to themselves, silently. More silently, they’re praying just to make Bs. Maybe one A, just to keep some dignity. Students huddle together and separately (this might seem an oxymoron, but that’s what will happen…like an academic fetal cry for comfort, students will almost hug themselves). Some will seem as if they’ll burst into tears at any moment. Others have distant looks, as if they see something important far, far away. Anywhere but here, they seem to say. Just let this be over. Taut faces and even shorter tempers give their fears away. Panic is contagious. Even those who were doing a good job and who do know the law succumb to a foreboding dread. Like cattle to the slaughter, they file into the exam rooms. Even with polite chatter, they can sense their impending doom, and the certain knowledge that they’re just not ready. If only a meteor hit, destroying the exam rooms and giving them even just 24 hours more! Perhaps ancillary fires will engulf the neighboring buildings, buying a week! Sadly, no meteor hits, and three and a half hours later they leave the exams knowing they could have done better. If only, if only…. Their thoughts trail off, and they pray that they’re not one of the ones in the bottom half, as by now they’ve seen and heard what happens to students in that dreaded statistical pool. Now starts the bargaining. Just give me this, Oh Lord, and I promise I will be good. Even committed atheists begin negotiating with deities great and small for their future lives. Like a bad science fiction movie, they stagger the hallways, putting on a show but knowing all the same that their dreams for a high-paying job are dead—along with how they feel. Many start acting out, and many of those go to the dark side—secretly planning to cheat, lie, or otherwise do whatever it takes to reverse the fate that’s been so unjustly handed them. Or they profess never to have cared at all. But they know better. Before, they’d been the best. Everyone had said so. Now they were a whole heap of nothing. Not just fighting for a good job—fighting for any job. With anyone! Pleeese? It’s so humiliating. The winter holiday is hardly worth enjoying as the stress of the semester never quite leaves—how can it with exam scores still hanging in the balance? Somehow, they eat the turkey and smile weakly through the family accolades. The new semester starts, and one by one grades start to come in. The reactions are painful, and predictable. A few positive surprises, but mostly very, very long faces. With the curve’s uncaring median, nearly everyone is seeing grades far below what they would ever have expected—or have ever gotten. For those hoping for an “A,” it’s a long, long way down. From undergraduate classes where nearly everyone gets an “A” or a “B,” in law school even a “B” seems shockingly rare. It’s as if hundreds of students are hearing the worst news they’ve ever heard—and for many, that’s exactly right. Classes are already a few weeks underway, and in a sort of post-traumatic shock, the whole process starts up again. Cases. Briefs. Notes. Panic. Frenetic worry. More notes. Panic. Cramming. More panic. Another, final set of exams. This time, however, the exams count. Spring fills with even more intense dread, if that’s possible, and for most, very little that’s remotely positive or productive. In less than a year, hundreds of the most intelligent, most decent individuals who’ve excelled in college have been reduced to a quivering mass of despondency—a surprising percentage of whom have suicidal thoughts. (But who won’t confide in a counselor for fear of an impact on bar examiners’ committees for fitness to practice law, which can investigate even intensely personal counseling.) Even the lucky few who actually did well—if you asked them privately—would find it hard to explain just how they did it. So the next year somehow starts with the undead wandering the halls, putting on their brave faces, and watching as an eager new crop of law students bounces off the walls with excited, expectant faces to class.

* * *

The above, admittedly way-too-long paragraph might seem unbelievable. It is unbelievable. It certainly was to me, and to everyone I knew. Yet this is what happens, year in and year out, at every law school.

Meet the Author

Attorney, adjunct professor of business law, and author of The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide; Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold; and Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession).

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