Saturday, April 17, 2010

Things We Wish We Had Known (An Open Thread)

With the trappings of the last month of school upon us, it's time for a retrospective.  Some of us are feeling pretty old, and we think it's time (to respond to your many requests) to an open advice thread.  3Ls (or 2Ls or 1Ls - doesn't really matter): What did you do right in Law School?  What do you wish you had done differently?   What kind of advice do you want to give to those who are going to follow you?


It's cool, we'll get the ball rolling with our disjointed tips for success:
  • Go to (more) bar reviews 1L year.  I didn't get out much 1L year.  I'd like to say it was because I was studying all the time, but real reason was I was just tired/lazy. Thursday night would roll around and I'd be in my room playing a marathon game of CivIV.  Fail . . .
  • Have a focused approach to your job search.  OGI is not the time to do 4 interviews in 6 different cities each.  It will just stress you out.  Know what you want, be realistic about what you can get, hopefully you'll land on your feet.
  • Don't brief cases.  Ever.  Hopefully, most of you know this by now.  But it really is an indefensible waste of time.
  • Put a lot of thought into your schedule.  We scheduled our classes around what would be easiest to do interviews and play softball.  While this IS a good strategy, we also wish we had put more effort into trying to get into classes that we really really wanted.  Like that Seminar in Ethical Values that's about The Wire.  Why aren't we in that class? 
  • Study at the Undergrad Library.  It's fun, and you meet interesting people.  And it's a lot less depressing than the Law School library on a Saturday.
  • Black Shoes and a Brown Belt do not a Good OGI Make.  Don't wear a backpack, either.  Just trust us.
  • Running on main grounds and lifting at AFC/North Ground Rec Center is a great way to keep in shape.  IM/NGSL softball may not be, but it's still fun.  And North Grounds is probably better for your self-esteem than AFC.
  • Take practice exams.  Take practice exams.  Take practice exams.  It really is the most effective way to study.  Anything else is kind of second-tier.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish I hadn't gotten that A- in contracts last semester. It really caused my GPA to take a hit.

Anonymous said...

Study in the undergrad library if you're a horny, single, sex-addicted, non-committal loser looking to hit on younger babes who think it's cool that you're in law school.

Anonymous said...

1L here humbly requesting 2Ls (and possibly 3Ls) post as much as they possibly can about what they learned during OGI with respect to markets, grade cutoffs, etc. Career services hasn't told the 1Ls anything, and from what I hear we shouldn't expect it to be gospel once they get around to doing so.

As far as advice I have... it's a little hard to say while still a 1L. I think the most important thing is: don't let what other people are doing get to you. It can be super stressful to see the same 2 or 3 people in the library at all hours, but they're just as lost and confused as you are.

Law school takes a lot of work, but it's not 10 hours a day and there are massive diminishing returns. Don't get psyched out. And as a corollary - don't be 'that guy' who drags fifty hornbooks everywhere, talks about practice tests 4 weeks into the semester, and always takes the prime seat in the gunner pit. It not only doesn't help you, but you wind up contributing to everyone else's stress and paranoia.

Anonymous said...

Dear 1L, in order of importance: be a great interview, get above average grades, have good work experience, have a great undergrad degree.

Anonymous said...

"As far as advice I have... it's a little hard to say while still a 1L. I think the most important thing is: don't let what other people are doing get to you. It can be super stressful to see the same 2 or 3 people in the library at all hours, but they're just as lost and confused as you are.

Law school takes a lot of work, but it's not 10 hours a day and there are massive diminishing returns. Don't get psyched out. And as a corollary - don't be 'that guy' who drags fifty hornbooks everywhere, talks about practice tests 4 weeks into the semester, and always takes the prime seat in the gunner pit. It not only doesn't help you, but you wind up contributing to everyone else's stress and paranoia."

THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG. YOUR GRADES ARE ALL THAT MATTER. WORK ALL THE TIME. WHENEVER YOU AREN'T WORKING, SOMEONE ELSE IS.

Anonymous said...

2L here, responding to 2:03 and hoping most of what I learned about OGI turns out to be worthless to you. Why? Because firms hired like normal for summer '09 (current 3Ls), then realized that was a terrible move and a) no-offered and deferred current 3Ls and b) hired many fewer current 2Ls for summer '10 jobs. For that reason, I think a rebound is possible. Because whatever our grade cutoffs were are, I'm sure, higher than they should have been. But if you want that info? Go see Hopson. Kevin and Lawson are awesome, but Hopson (I hear) will show you the goods. Hit up all of them if you can, but become BFF with either KDon or PLaw, because if you don't have a job after OGI and they hear of something, they'll tell you about it because they know who you are and what you want to do. Best advice I can give.

Also totally concur w/ 12f's comment about being focused for job searching... and definitely not telling firms if you're not! Even if things get better, they do NOT want to waste precious call-back resources and precious offer space on some dude who they think might "think about it" for a month and then accept a job in a city across the country. Same goes for practice area -- you don't have to know right now that you're God's gift to ERISA practice, but at least have a coherent theory of why you want to work at Firm X and what you want to do there. It's hard to tell firms apart, and even after you do due diligence, you may find out that the firm really doesn't do what you think you want to do. But do the best you can.

Oh! And to go further, even if all the firms look the same, you have to do something to make it look like they stand out to you. Seriously. I have good grades, solid resume, relatively focused search, but still had trouble, and I think that's because I wasn't SPECIFIC enough. (One interviewer even told me as much, which I appreciated!) "I want to do litigation at BIGLAW in Philadelphia" probably cut it 3-5 years ago. IT DOESN'T NOW. Be specific, have good reasons for why you should work at Firm X, and why they should hire you. And then maybe somebody with more OGI success than me can describe just how to do that.

Good luck, though. Law school is awesome... Don't forget to have fun!

Anonymous said...

OGI advice:

1) have a 3.5 or better
2) have work experience
3) have a prestigious undergrad degree

Anonymous said...

Gunners never win.

Good grades do help a lot, but the Law Review has roughly the same proportion of gunners as the school as a whole. (I'm dead serious.)

The people that lock themselves in the library in October and suck up to the prof every class? They're just sad.

And networking/being able to relate to people/being able to do well in the interviews you do get are much, much important than grades (unless yours are really outstanding or really terrible... but most people's aren't).

Anonymous said...

Be specific, have good reasons for why you should work at Firm X, and why they should hire you. And then maybe somebody with more OGI success than me can describe just how to do that.

-------------------------------
This is good advice. Many people think they have great interviews because they get along really well with the interviewer. This doesn't necessarily mean anything; it's possible that the interviewer looked at your resume, said "This person isn't likely to get a callback," and most likely being an alum, didn't want to make the interview more uncomfortable than it had to be for the both of you. Interviewing is an art, where you have to both SELL yourself and appear to be a normal, social human being having a conversation. It's hard to strike a balance between the two - because selling yourself too much may be off-putting - but it's what you must do. A few times I left interviews during OGI thinking, "Well, that flowed really well, but if I had little shot, did I convince them to hire me for any reason besides the fact that I'm pleasant to be around?" I didn't, so no callback.

As far as grades though, if you are in the top half and you have a good personality, you should be safe, assuming you don't overreach on firms or try for cities you have no discernible connection to.

I'm not sure that work experience per se helps though; I think it helps you because it gives you more to talk about, and if you worked at a law firm before, it's a sign that you know what you are getting into.

Anonymous said...

My advice: OGI freaking blows. Not comfortable leaving your entire career up to a lottery system on a software platform that was designed by high schoolers? That's weird of you.

Anonymous said...

Another 2L here: My advice for OGI is don't bid on DC if you're trying to be safe. I don't care if you're only bidding on the DLA Pipers & Venables, they'll still be able to get somebody in the top 25% of the class.

Anonymous said...

2L here

1) I don't think I can stress enough how important it is to be specific regarding practice area if you don't have elite grades.

Having fallen somewhere in the middle of the class, I found I received a much higher percentage of callbacks in major markets (NY, DC) when I stressed a niche interest and had believable reasons for practicing in that area. It's amazing how much easier you can sell yourself saying I want to this particular thing as opposed to saying "corporate law" or "litigation." Having said that, when I found out how successful this strategy was when used legitimately I tried to "fake" a niche interest during callbacks at two firms whose practice didn't contain my real interest and I stupidly stumbled through my interviews and got rejected. This strategy may work for some of you who can pull it off.

2) If you come from a secondary market, start setting-up interviews early in the summer. I sent out letters to UVA alumni at those firms and then called them directly--it worked, I got 6 additional interviews with solid non-OGI firms. If your OGI year is going to be like ours, its probably going to be a crapshoot where you end up--I saw people with much better grades than myself get shut out of their chosen market. As insurance, I got a bunch of interviews outside OGI at respectable firms that helped make the stressful OGI process bearable. Its amazing how much easier the process is knowing that even if you strike out you still have an offer waiting back at home. An attorney advised me before OGI to "Get a job first, worry about the quality of the job later after you have one. You can always turn it down when something better comes along." That was great advice.

3) Understand that the process takes time. I saw people get incredibly frustrated when friends were jetting to NYC and getting offers the first few weeks of OGI. I knew of people that were still getting elite jobs all the way through November, so don't panic.

4) Use Donovan. I started a dialogue with him over the summer regarding OGI strategy and he spent over an hour on the phone with me discussing how I should approach the process. His information was personalized and not the same cookie-cutter info that I had received previously.

5) Don't listen to this you need a 3.5 garbage. Sure it helps, but if you can sell yourself you'll get callbacks, maybe not 10, but enough to give yourself a shot. There is a skill to this, there is a big difference between merely being personable and being able to sell yourself, if you haven't done many interviews practice with someone who isn't afraid to tell you that you aren't coming off well.

6) Don't be afraid to use any and all connections, regardless of how weak the connection may be. An interview is an interview, regardless of how you receive it.

Hope something in there helps someone.

Anonymous said...

Don't sleep your way through all of your section's P.A.'s before Barrister's.

Anonymous said...

Lots of shitty advice here. Grades, pedigree matter most. Personality a distant second unless you're ridiculously gregarious and attractive (most of UVA's normal/non-aspies are not). There are exceptions that prove the rule but that's about it. Also top 1/2 + personality was not safe last year and probably won't be this year, sorry.

One piece of pretty obvious advice over something you can actually control: if you think you're a marginal candidate, high-rank the firm with the largest summer class. It's tempting to rank a "lesser" firm with a small class higher thinking you'll have a better shot if you really wow the interviewer, but the honest truth is that if your interview carries you farther than your grades it will probably be with an interviewer who has a lot of callbacks to give out.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

9:57 is right on that you should express an interest in something more than just general litigation or corporate work. My most successful interviews were ones that I was able to intelligently talk about particular practice areas. Whenever I went with the "I'm focusing on lit, but am open" it didn't work out.

Also, don't fake an interest in an area that you don't know much about or ask questions about practice areas that you're not really considering or qualified for.

Anonymous said...

it is an INTERVIEW, your INTERVIEW matters . . .

I think the good interview thing is key. People here play that down b/c they thought they were good but actually were nothing. First, to be clear, good interviewing does NOT mean you have a good "personality."

Being a good interview means that you are smart, witty, self deprecating, and able to answer every real (i.e. not your name type of thing) question in a way that does these things and highlights your skills and links to your past client relationship experience.

This generally means you have done well in law school, have non-law high points on your resume, and have real work experience with paying clients of some kind. This should NOT include your 1L summer, but your 1L summer should also give you very strong legal related work experience around what you want to do.

Regarding information about the firm, your "practice area" does not matter. Its the firm, so you should be able to have someone by NAME who the interviewer may know who was a summer in last year's class or works there currently. Knowing what you want to do is bullshit -- anyone can make that up. Instead, tell them exactly who you know and what they said that was important about the firm.

Your answers should be quick, firm, never EVER involve a single "um, like, maybe" or fidgeting/glancing.

If you don't have those things I don't know how or why you think your interview skills are good . . .

Anonymous said...

How much worse was DC in the end last year? The comments from the OGI threads made it seem like similar GPAs yielded far more interviews in NYC or secondary markets than in DC, even if the GPA was in the 3.5 neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

There are obvious things: good grades, work experience, impressive resume, etc.

But once you are a week away from OGI, you cannot change these things. You must walk into an interview confidant. Believe it or not, there are excellent lawyers who were not on law review, some who (gasp) didn't even go to a top 10 school. You should go in knowing you can be a good lawyer, wanting to be a good lawyer, and interested in being a good lawyer. Interviewers love it when students seem on fire about practicing the law. If that's not you, then you need to fake it, and that means preparing a ton. Read the newspaper, learn about a securities controversy, or a bribery scandal, or whatever, and understand the legal angles.

Also, ask questions that indicate you want the kind of knowledge you can't get at school but can get from practice. This way you seem eager to get to work(remember, employers like good students not because they need students, but because it is a good indicator that they will be good lawyers).

Interviews really do matter. Never mail them in. Never let yourself think there's no point. If you seem sharp, friendly, funny and USEFUL, some employers will give you the benefit of the doubt if your grades are not quite what they are looking for.

Also, and this is crucial. Seem like a grown-up. This may be obvious, but nobody want to hire a kid. I think this is a bigger problem for people coming striaght out of college. If you have never worked full time, an employer has no way of knwoing that you can actually handle working full time. If you come across as a kid, or as immature, this will only heighten their concern. Seem serious, and substantial. Don't talk exclusively about baseball, softball, football and bar review at the corner.

Anonymous said...

to be fair, studying in the undergrad library ensures that you aren't surrounded by frigid, aspie, passive aggressive, unhappy, severe-looking law school girls.

Anonymous said...

Law school guy here:

All the law-school-girl-bashing is ridiculous. There are lots of very attractive girls in this law school. For the most part, guys who complain about "law school hot" are just scared of intelligent, confident, independant women and prefer to go after (or just day dream about) submissive, dumb girls who are easily impressed.

Grow up, man up and shut up.

Anonymous said...

lol 10:34

Anonymous said...

What was the LOWEST GPA someone had last OGI season who 1. got BIGLAW 2. got some kind of government honors program?

Anonymous said...

Some OGI advice from a 2L--Utilize Donovan and career services staff to be prepared and to come up with your story/theme that you want to get across in the 20 minutes that will make you memorable. Confidence in interviews is big. Don't get psyched out if your friends have a lot more interviews than you do, at the end of the day you just need one offer. Also, if there's a particular firm or office you want and you don't get htat initial interview spot, be proactive to track them down during their breaks to ask if they can fit you into their schedule. If an interviewer doesn't seem interested in you (you will likely have at least one you acts like you're wasting time), instead of getting down about it, use it as motivation to show them that they are wrong. Also, be open to secondary markets and check out all of the firms that come to OGIs, not just the big names, because you may be pleasantly surprised about what you find. Finally, as someone who had a below the median GPA, don't lose hope, you can still get call backs and offers. I had over 30% call back and offer rates, including for firms in DC.

Anonymous said...

Can we knock off this "aspie" business? Is that from autoadmit or something? It's offensive, and at any rate, very few people at UVA are like that.

Anonymous said...

12:40 = beta virgin aspie

Anonymous said...

12:40 = aspie

Anonymous said...

A superior being, while deficient in chaotic morasses such as small-talk, inferior double-standard-laden customs and values trumpeted by Neurotypicals, and deciphering Neurotypical body-language, more than makes up for it with a sharp, penetrating mind that is highly adept at developing an intense focus on a subject giving them a near-savant level of proficiency, an inborn sense of principles that allows them to develop practically consistent characteristics and values, and an ability to reason independently, reducing their susceptibility to dogma, acceptance of groundless assertions, and the hazards of groupthink.

Anonymous said...

If your grades are already bad or you're not totally set on finding a firm job:

(1) Volunteer to do public interest work.
(2) Find a project your boss thinks would fail and is too busy to try himself, but will let you try to do. This is more fun and makes a better story if it's something you're seriously interested in.
(3) Succeed at whatever it is.
(4) Talk about it in your next interview; emphasize how you took initiative and beat the odds.

Many public interest employers would rather have a spunky, smiley bottom-thirder than a boring, grumpy Law Reviewer.

Anonymous said...

Lots of shitty advice here. Grades, pedigree matter most. Personality a distant second unless you're ridiculously gregarious and attractive (most of UVA's normal/non-aspies are not)
--------------------------------
I don't think anyone is disputing this, but your OGI prep should focus on personality/interviewing skills.

I would also argue that geography is one of the most important things. Strong ties to a secondary market will greatly increase your chance of getting a job. I guess no one really wants to do Cleveland biglaw, but it's better than no job at all.

Anonymous said...

I love these dorks harping on their dogged and special preparation tips, when if they really thought about it, they would just thank their lucky stars that some loser flipping through hundreds of similar resumes decided to use a pre-select on them because they 1) had an interesting last name, or 2) came from/worked in the selector's home town.

Anonymous said...

4:30 PM:

What is wrong with you? Why would you say something so mean (I would also argue that it is inaccurate)?

Anonymous said...

I think half of it is that the ls girls don't try on their appearance. They don't do much with makeup or trying to dress it up a little. Maybe it's because they're working hard or going for the smart girl look...either way, it's not doing much for them.

The personality thing is a problem for ls men and women. Yeah yeah you're super smart, and that's cool, but I'd rather be with someone that can let loose and have fun. I eventually stopped hanging out with my section because all they would do is talk about cases and law shit all the time.

Anonymous said...

Ignore much of this advice, esp about being a "gunner." Most LS students like to pretend that they're soooo laid back and "too cool for school" and bitch and moan about "gunners." In reality, they're desperately insecure and are trying to compensate by trying really, really hard to act like they don't care. And most of these kids who act all "cool" in class are probably in the prof's office asking question 2-3x per week.

This isn't middle school anymore. It's OK to be a little intellectually curious and actually interested in topics besides softball and fantasy football.

So don't listen to all the insecure (and probably unemployed) too-cool-for-school kids with the dirty white hats playing solitaire all through class. It's OK to show an interest in the class and the teacher and ask a question or two (or even three). Besides being respectful, it might actually help your grades b/c you clarified misunderstandings in the material.

This recession was a huge wake up call and correction for UVA. You're not gonna get a (good) job by talking about softball and beer anymore.

Anonymous said...

7:04

Asking questions to better understand the material isn't being a gunner. Gunners are the people that ask questions that are way off topic and waste everyone's time.

Anonymous said...

7:37-

maybe i'm just lucky, but i've never encountered a student here at uva who was so clueless as to ask questions that are off-topic.

I think a lot of law students define "gunner" as anyone who asks more than 1 question per class.

Anonymous said...

7:40
You are lucky. You've missed hearing "in the reading assignment from next month it says...so I was just wondering..."

Anonymous said...

* laughing at all the single people in law school who will remain single until they carve out a small amount of time to "settle" for a long-term relationship with someone they'll end up divorcing after they realize there's no time to do anything when you are working in a legal career *

Anonymous said...

so much of what is said here is hurtful, pointless and thoughtless

Anonymous said...

370 hours until Constitutional Law!!! Get excited!!!

Anonymous said...

How hard is it to pull this off if you're not from Virginia? What if you have a Virginia driver's license, are registered to vote in Virginia, and have a summer job in Virginia? I know these are all factors, but are not dispositive. Any stories?

Anonymous said...

Can we all agree that lawyers tend to be heinous people with awful personalities?

Anonymous said...

Wow look at how long some of the comments here are. Some of you people love to give "interview advice" in thinly disguised, lengthy, mastubatory poasts that allow you to show what awesome alphas you are. lol

Anonymous said...

@ 10:38AM: Single?

Anonymous said...

In response to the specific OGI advice - do the special requests! Most likely because it forces you to say exactly why you love that firm on paper (which clarifies it for you before the interview and is flattering for them), but 3 of my callbacks and my offer that I accepted were from special requests.

In terms of grades, take professors you love. You're more likely to enjoy going to class and enjoy preparing for class (whatever the subject matter is), which will translate into higher grades and a better law school experience for you (far more important in the long run).