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  1. #1
    Now with tartar control.. TheAnalogKid's Avatar
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    Any Attorneys Here?

    So, recently I became interested in law school. My undergrad GPA is low therefore putting a lot of emphasis on my LSAT score. After working in local government and land use development for 4 years, I think I may have found a calling (or a desire to work) in Environmental/Land Use Law.

    I was wondering if there are any attorneys on BikeForums and if they would have any advice or would want to facilitate some dialog regarding the legal profession and law school.

    Thanks in advance.
    Live simple, Bike often

  2. #2
    Beauty Everywhere snowy's Avatar
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    I'm not a lawyer but might as well be I have attended Paralegal school and worked in law firms for the last 7 years. I'll answer questions that you might have. I have thought about law school but, I need to find myself a rich man first!!!
    "RIDE FAST TAKE CHANCES!"

    Interested in the Women's Forum? Send me a PM for more information.

  3. #3
    Overacting because I can SpongeDad's Avatar
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    Environmental has been on the skids for a while after the big superfund years. Land use is a bit cyclical / recession impacted but would probably be fine once you got out of law school. Also government connections are a plus in that field.
    “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." (Churchill)

    "I am a courageous cyclist." (SpongeDad)

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    If it works for you and you have an interest in it, go for it. A law degree and a valid bar membership will always ensure you of *some* work somewhere if the economy tanks.

  5. #5
    Young and unconcerned Treefox's Avatar
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    Lots of folks go to law school wanting to do environmental or human rights law or whatever, then realise how in debt they are and find that their only course of action is corporate tax law... Unfortunately...

    As an undergrad I did a major in 'law and society' which was the non-pre-law law major (more sociology / criminology stuff). But of course lots of the courses counted for both - - one of the first things our lecturer told us early in one of the entry-level courses was that while he was sure we all wanted to go out and be lawyers to do good, most of us would end up selling out because we we'd be so far in debt.......
    Die schokoladenseite des radfahrens.

  6. #6
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    If it works for you and you have an interest in it, go for it. A law degree and a valid bar membership will always ensure you of *some* work somewhere if the economy tanks.
    Not so. There are a lot more lawyers out there living hand-to-mouth (or worse) than you might think.

    AK, as for your desire to go to law school, you have a far better reason for going than most folks who end up there, me very much included. Unlike me and 95% of law school applicants who can't think of anything better to do with our History/Poli Sci/English/Sociology/etc. degrees, you have a specific interest and a direction you want to pursue based on something more than "that sounds kinda cool . . . " So you are already ahead of the game.

    Now for the hard part. You say your grades aren't very good. Even with good LSAT scores, that puts you behind the 8-ball for getting into a top-level law school. That means you are likely (not definitely, though: see below) headed for what the working world will percieve as a middling to mediocre school. I do not mean to sound off-putting or crass, but it is the way a lot of people - including a lot of people who make hiring decisions - think.

    That just about guarantees that your law school experience is going to really, really suck. Frankly, the single best thing about going to a top-10 law school is that it dramatically lowers the overall anxiety level because the job market is much more receptive to you. Does someone coming out of Harvard have a better legal education that someone coming out of East Toad Hollow State? Almost certainly not, but the world at large does not see it that way. I'm not saying it's fair or right, but it is a fact of life. It is harder - a lot harder - to get an employer's attention coming out of a middling law school than it is coming out of a highly ranked one. You can think this is the height of stupidity, but it is the way things actually work.

    So assuming you go to East Toad Hollow State, you will have to be prepared to compete like holy hell to be at the top of your class to get the job interviews. Employers can, and do, demand that only the top X% of the class from such schools be permitted to interview with them. So being in that top 5% or 10% of your class can literally be the difference between getting the job you want - or any job, for that matter - and not even be able to get an interview.

    The above is especially true of private sector positions, and even more so the higher the starting salaries are. Government positions are often less competitive, but not always. Of course, government positions often don't pay as much as the private sector. Of course, the hours tend to be more normal, too. (Believe me, those law firms that pay idiotically high starting salaries are not charitable institutions, and will expect their pound of flesh in return.)

    Understand, I am not trying to scare you into giving up on your goal. You have identified a potential career path that floats your boat, and that is huge. But you should have as realistic an understanding as possible of what lies between where you are now and getting truly launched down that path. If you are ready to face the challenge of spending three years in a pressure cooker and taking something of a flier on being able to really line up what you want to do, then by all means, go for it. Personally, I hope you do and carve out a rewarding, satisfying niche for yourself in the law. Lord knows, the profession can always use more members who have a soul.

    Oh, and I'm not even trying to scare you out of applying to some top-tier law schools - four years in a field you want to pursue further will, by itself, distinguish you from at least 85% of the other applicants, the ones who went straight from high school to college and are now looking to go straight into law school and have zero real world experience and zero real idea why they want to go to law school. The top schools tout their interest in "diversity" in their entering classes. So if you ace the LSAT, put some of them to the test. You'll never know if you can get into Harvard or U. of Chicago or Columbia or Boalt (UC Berkeley) unless you try.

    Which leads to what I consider to be an iron-clad, for-the-love-of-God-do-not-violate-this-rule rule: go to the very best "name" you can get into, because at this point, it is all about the perceived quality of the credential, not about having a "great experience" (law school will not be "great," regardless of where you go) or the size or the location or anything else that is a legit consideration for an undergraduate institution. A JD from a top-tier law school is instant credibility, pretty much forever. On the other hand, a degree from further down the food chain certainly will not carry the same level of credibility and may even be a hindracne to be overcome. Should that be the case? Of course not. Is it the case? Absolutely.

    Good luck. I hope your hard work is rewarded and your dreams fulfilled.
    "I'm in shape -- round is a shape." Andy Rooney

  7. #7
    K2ProFlex baby! ilikebikes's Avatar
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    What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the sea? you all know the answer
    You see, their morals, their code...it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...These "civilized" people...they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve

  8. #8
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    I have pondered law school myself, but I fear that would dilute me even more. I'm already a jack of all trades with IT stuff... For example, I've in the past few years, kick-started OpenLDAP servers at one place, played guess the spindle with Oracle at another, reset lost SAP* passwords with a third, and made sure the big machine in the locked closet had all five Active Directory schema masters at a fourth.

    Law school would be nice in some ways. I keep wondering about passing the bar and getting a JD, then finding some organization I can work for that needs someone who can take care of an IT department completely, social, technical, and legal. However, with all the student loan debt, I'd be forced just like Treefox stated, to head to some company or law firm and either end up in tax law finding loopholes, or as a junior paper pusher in some criminal law firm, getting rich defendants off.

  9. #9
    Banned. timmyquest's Avatar
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    My friend thought he was going to go the law school route. A decent, though not great, GPA and an average LSAT score meant that he wasn't getting into his "good" schools. After talking to some local connections he has decided to wait a while and perhaps reapply to the schools he wants to get into.

    From what he has learned and told me, the biggest of which came from a local Judge who was previously a county DA, if you can't get into a good school you may want to pass. As he put it "If i hadn't heard of the school, you went in the no pile. It's harsh and i may have overlooked some good lawyers, but with 500 applicants, you have to cut it down somehow".

    Obviously, don't screw around with the LSAT. LSAT has former tests which you can buy on the cheap, there are a ton of books out there to help you study, take practice tests...it all adds up.

    Lastly, I know that Lewis and Clark in Portland is known and takes pride in their environmental law...there are obviously others.

    Good luck, and think it through.

  10. #10
    Now with tartar control.. TheAnalogKid's Avatar
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    Thank you to all those who responded. I particularly appreciate the lengthy and informative response from bikingshearer. I have thought considerably about the notion of going into a lower tier law school, and that seems to be where I am applying for the most part. Part of my research in this field is to find out what it out there and what the chances are. I am not considering the field in order to obtain a high-paying/high-status position, the money is not important to me; I just need a challenge and a consistant challenge for the remainder of my career. Currently, I am not getting this need fulfilled.

    Law is just one part of the handful of paths about which I am thinking. I will be meeting with the pre-law advisor at my undergrad institution (a philosphy prof who I had in 2001 and got a "D"--oops) and hopefully can get a realistic view of law degrees and schools. I also have a handful of lawyers in my family with whom I will speak to get their perspective.

    I am looking hard at:
    Univ. of Denver, Lewis and Clark and Gonzaga (but programs I have heard great things)
    But there is also other schools like: Santa Clara, San Diego, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.

    We'll see what happens as I look further into this. As always, thanks for the help!
    Live simple, Bike often

  11. #11
    Disgruntled Planner bpohl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpongeDad View Post
    Environmental has been on the skids for a while after the big superfund years. Land use is a bit cyclical / recession impacted but would probably be fine once you got out of law school. Also government connections are a plus in that field.
    DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO LAND USE!
    Don't waste your breath to save your face when you have done your best.

  12. #12
    Now with tartar control.. TheAnalogKid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bpohl View Post
    DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO LAND USE!
    This response is vague. Why shouldn't I? It is what I know.
    Live simple, Bike often

  13. #13
    Kicked out of the Webelos bluebottle1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
    Now for the hard part. You say your grades aren't very good. Even with good LSAT scores, that puts you behind the 8-ball for getting into a top-level law school. That means you are likely (not definitely, though: see below) headed for what the working world will percieve as a middling to mediocre school. I do not mean to sound off-putting or crass, but it is the way a lot of people - including a lot of people who make hiring decisions - think.
    The truly ironic part about this is that many of those making the hiring decisions could not have managed to be hired by their own law firms if those firms used the same criteria 20 years ago that they use today. There has been an enormous spike in the number of lawyers over the last 15 years or so and even hiring partners who have little business being so selective can now afford to be.
    ______________________________________________

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  14. #14
    BF Risk Manager
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    I can tell that Bikingshearer works in the business. I work on the defense side of medmal cases, so I don't have a lot of other contact with other areas of the law. Having said that, however, I am struck by the number of lawyers in this area who are making a middling living at best doing something they don't like. Depending on what area of the law you go into and where you practice, there can be a lot of competition for a finite amount of work. If you didn't go to a top tier law school and make Law Review or win at moot court, it can be a difficult job search.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  15. #15
    Senior Member jvan12345's Avatar
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    Bikingshearer and MillCreek are pretty accurate in their assessments. Props to Bluebottle too - that is completely spot on with my experience as well (since I am at a large firm and do participate in recruiting).

    Believe it or not, you stumbled across someone (me!) who actually is an environmental lawyer. One thing that is going to differentiate you in this field is a strong technical background and/or lots of experience in the area you want to go into. Technical background can be broadly interpreted in this field. For instance, in my office alone, there is a former CivE, a former ChemE and myself (background in biological sciences). There are other lawyers without technical backgrounds whom I work with. However, as a broad generalization, the lawyers without the technical backgrounds have been doing this since the 70's and 80's.

    Also, land use law and true environmental law are pretty different animals, IMHO. I'd be happy to answer your questions via PM.

  16. #16
    some new kind of kick Suttree's Avatar
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    AnalogKid do you want to do environmental consulting such as planning (writing general plans, specific plans, etc.) and environmental studies (like NEPA work--writing EIS documents) or do you want to do litigation focused on environmental law/issues? There is a world of difference between the two and the paths that lead to each overlap somewhat but are substantially different.

    I went to a UC law school and got my bar license and now I work for a large environmental consulting firm--I use Westlaw and legal research to support our planning services and to do consulting. Practically this means that I get to figure out stuff for planners when they get stuck and I handle any new permit or compliance framework no one has ever done--ESA experimental populations? Check. Surface mining permits? Check. Programmatic Agreeements for Section 106 of the NHPA? Check. I work on a ton of CEQA and a lot of federal cultural resources law issues. The law background helps but by far most of my colleages are not attorneys. You can become a planner without going to law school at all--and you will have more fun if you don't. Also if you do planning work this can help make you more attractive to law firms later. I do feel like having training in law helps me find the relevant law and to get to the substantive heart of things faster than many of my colleagues but my training is not essential to what I do--it merely helps me stand out and offer something different. A lot of people go lockstep through the process without any idea how to figure out exceptions to the rules and how to solve problems when they run into a legal blockade in planning law.

    If you want to do litigation then you do need legal training and a bar license. Being at the top of your class will be very useful in securing your first job but not essential. Almost all of my classmates even those in the bottom quarter of the class now have real jobs doing something the want to do--be it litigation or what have you. That said I would not wish law school on my worst enemy--the whole law school charade is merely an artifice that makes it artificially hard to become an attorney. Lawyering is a very practical skillset not as intellectual as you might think--it is about finding the right rules to apply and doing very arithmetic and rigorous fact-to-law application. If this sounds like fun then jump aboard--but go sit in on a law school class before you do just so you can see what the hurdle is like. Try wrapping your mind around fun things like the rule against perpetuities ("no interest is valid unless it vests, if at all, within 21 years of a life in being at the creation of the interest"). Law school and the bar exam are hellish--you have to like to sit and memorize and memorize and practice for days weeks months on end and then take insanely paced tests. The California bar is three days long 8 hours a day. Most states are something like this--maybe a day shorter at most. Then there is the world of practice--which can be a mind numbing grind interspersed with sprint-paced deadlines and no room for half-measures. If you are a very logical person and you enjoy detail oriented work and logic puzzles the law is for you. If you want to be a planning generalist then you should get a planning degree and build on your existing technical background--a solid profession and not likely as expensive as a law degree.

    Good luck.

    edit: keep in mind some jurisdictions let you sit for the bar and become licensed if you have only a bachelor's and do law study--basically
    an apprenticeship with a law office. This is an uncommon path but I suspect it would be better than law school. See if this is possible in your jx
    if you are interested.
    Last edited by Suttree; 03-25-08 at 12:28 PM.

  17. #17
    Go Blue! Nick Carraway's Avatar
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    Like others, I think that bikingshearer described things pretty accurately. I would point out, however, that there's a bit more of a range btw. Harvard and East Toad Hollow State than the message indicates. The places you mentioned are perhaps towards the lower end of the rankings, so yeah, pretty important to do really well if that's where you end up. I would at least send an application to the University of Colorado. Maybe it's a reach for you, but you have little to lose by trying and it's in-state tuition if you get accepted. As many have said, lots of people end up w/jobs that are completely unrelated to what they went to law school for b/c of financial pressures (this isn't necessarily "selling out," however), though it sounds like you'd at least have some decent governmental options given your interests. Or, you might go to law school and become interested in something completely different. I *definitely* agree w/bikingshearer about the importance of your having a well-thought out reason for wanting to go in the first place. Not just for getting in, but also b/c it'll keep you focused during those less than wonderful times everyone has in school.

    Best of luck.

  18. #18
    Now with tartar control.. TheAnalogKid's Avatar
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    Thanks again for the additional information. For the record, I work as a local government town planner but I am beginning (after 4 years) to not like it. Well, it is enjoyable, but it is not for me. As a planner, I have dealt with environmental issues regarding wetlands, water rights and oil and gas regulation. I have always been drawn to the research and technical aspect of these issues rather than the regulatory "upkeep" of such uses. From my point of view, I have also seen where regulation needs improvements or amendments in order to better serve the greater good. I have been fascinated about how things/regulations came to be and how they;ve been upheld in the past (case studies) and I believe that the environment is something that affects all of us and therefore be willing and passionate enough to fight on its behalf.

    The days of busting my ass in a city office getting a plan approved that will take wetlands, exploit the dwindling water resources of the west, or relocated prime raptor nesting grounds so that a developer can get a couple million clams in his pocket are wearing thin. I'm tired of feeling powerless.
    Live simple, Bike often

  19. #19
    Disgruntled Planner bpohl's Avatar
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    I don't know, Analog. Being a planner, land use law would be a natural step for me to take, but I deal with land use attorneys every day, and I just can't imagine being the guy who wants to get s strip club approved within 200 feet of a school, or a tattoo parlor in the middle of a neighborhood (think medical waste), or anything that would lead to further deterioration of neighborhoods that are already in need of help. Land use is tough, depending on your location. You don't have trials. You have public hearings, which are altogether a different thing. Emotions run high when you're messing with people's neighborhoods, and I just couldn't see myself doing that kind of work. Luckily, as a planner, I usually, but not always, feel like I'm on the right side. It's just not something I could do in good conscience.
    Don't waste your breath to save your face when you have done your best.

  20. #20
    Spelling Snob Hobartlemagne's Avatar
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    My sister is a lawyer. At first she had a calling to do Hospice Law, helping dying people get their estates together.
    She then had a much louder calling and went into Corporate Tax Law.

    The first rule of flats is You don't talk about flats!

  21. #21
    GATC
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    If you are into land use, can you do something like I don't know an MPS in landscape architecture or city/regional planning or something like that? Demography? Shorter commitment, less $$ (out and in probably but...)

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    I've given a lot of thought to law school. I am graduating in May, and I am going to take a year off, at the least first though. I am thinking I actually am more interested in academia, but I am still scheduled to take the LSAT in June. I am moving to New York, and if I don't wind up getting this Human Rights Watch job I am aiming for, I may look into paralegaling for a bit, if only to get a bit of perspective. Lawyering has lost a lot of appeal lately though, as it has for a lot of people. The number of applicants is declining heavily. I remember reading a more recent article than this- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/09/national/09law.html but it makes the same point.

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