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The US schools have received the message....although less arduous and time-consuming, they have their own equally ridiculous set of credentials.

 

Be on the law review while doing your JD at only Harvard or Yale.  Clerk for a well-regarded appeals court or the Supreme Court.  Do a one year Visiting Assistant Professorship/Fellowship.  Apparently the one "note" you write while on law review and the one paper you publish during your VAP qualify you to teach.

 

I interviewed at a few US schools and not a single one even asked me about my SJD research.  They did, however, ask me such important questions as "why did you go to [inset name of my JD school]?" (said in a judgmental tone) and "why weren't you on law review?" (I proceeded to explain that in Canada we have peer reviewed journals and so being a law review editor is much different here).

 

I was wondering about this. I applied to a couple of US schools and the dean of one of them phoned my house about a scholarship they were offering me. I looked at his profile and saw that he had no law degree beyond a JD and I was like "WTF?" 

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Yes, as the relatively extensive (142 hires at 96 different US law schools) and highly reliable (i.e. no anonymous reporting) data from last year suggest, only 45% of entry-level hires hast year had an advanced degree.  Of these 63 people, well over half only had a masters (in law or some other field) and no doctoral degree.  It is likely that even fewer hires of the vintage of the dean you spoke with had a masters degree.


http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/entry-level-hiring-report/




 

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This is an amazing post. Thanks for doing this, Prof.

I have a question about the miserable 'law-school-debt'.

I have incurred a slightly higher-than-average amount of government loan as a resulting of taking a lot of summer courses during undergrad. And it seems as though it will grow into the range of 100k by the time I finish the law school (currently 0L, but entering a law school in coming Sept).

 

I've been wondering how most law school graduates are doing these days in terms of paying back their debt. Does an average lawyer (right out of article) make enough to sustain a reasonably comfortable living (i.e. rent/insurance/groceries/vehicle/etc.) while paying back the debt? Or do most people choose to clear up their debt ASAP?

 

I just don't want to find myself swimming in the pool of debt for years after law school.

 

Thanks!

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Westdale,


I can report on my experience, but I'm sure others will have something to add.  You say "vehicle", which makes me assume that you are referring to living outside of Toronto. Most of my closest law school friends ended up in Toronto, so I know the Toronto financial situation a little better. I graduated from law school about 10 years ago, so I can definitely give a bit of perspective on the financial health of my various law school friends 10 years post-grad. I don't think that most of them had quite $100,000 in debt (even with inflation), but I'm sure that some had close to that. I only had about $15,000 in debt (thanks to my parents and scholarships), so I will report on the experiences of my friends.
 

Most of my friends who went the Bay Street route (and are now becoming partners or going in house) have paid off all of their debt at this point and own condos (if single), houses (if they have a significant other), or really nice houses and a nice car (if they have a significant other who also works on Bay Street or in another very well paying profession).  Although I don’t think they have paid off their houses entirely, the ability to save up a significant down payment and furnish nicely suggests a certain amount of financial health.  Most people seemed to live with someone during articling and so they made a decent dent in their debt that year.  I can’t stand roommates and I still managed it, as you are never home during articling.  I think I saved around $25,000 that year (and I wasn’t making a Bay Street salary, I was working at a big firm in another city).  Most of my friends who went the small firm or government route took a few more years to pay off their debt, but they seem to be purchasing real estate right now.  One of my close law school friends who works for the government had about $30,000 in law school debt.  Despite being completely financially irresponsible, he paid it off within a couple years and now owns a condo in Vancouver.
 

To answer your specific questions, yes, most people seem to be doing well enough post-articling (or even during articling) to live comfortably and to chip away at their debt. In fact, most people live very comfortably, even during articling (i.e. expensive happy hours downtown, drycleaners in the financial district that are a ripoff, eating out most meals, a fair bit of money spent on work clothes, etc.). Obviously you may take longer to pay off your debt in a city with lower salaries or in a job with a lower salary (although you don't spend nearly as much working at those jobs, since it is perfectly acceptable to dress in mediocre suits and most people aren't going to martini bars with $15 drinks). However, extrapolating from the “evidence” on Facebook (i.e. photo albums of house pictures), it seems that even my friends in less lucrative markets are doing just fine. I think I have already sort of answered your other question, but because of this need to keep up with the Jones', very few people seem to attempt to pay off their debt ASAP (I don't think I know a single person who seemed to do this).

So while you should try to be modestly frugal during law school (i.e. pre-drinking before you go out to the bar, drinking coffees instead of lattes, etc.) and consider living with a roommate while articling, you shouldn't let your financial concerns be a crushing worry. Even better, be as charming as possible during law school to those of the opposite sex with good grades and perhaps you will end up living large on a dual Bay Street income :)

 

Also, the big firm summer jobs pay very well, so your debt may not end up being as high as you estimate now if you can score one of those jobs.



 

Edited by ProfReader
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Jenkz.  I'm trying to keep this anonymous, so I'm not going to identify my specific area of law.  However, I teach in the first year curriculum (in the area of private law, i.e. contracts, torts, property) and I teach in a fairly specialized area of the upper year curriculum.  I have also taught legal research and writing.  However, I think I can probably answer your questions about practicing in certain fields, as I teach/research in both a generally and a fairly specific area, my partner works in completely different areas, and my best friend works in other completely different areas (either of whom I could easily ask if I didn't know the answer to your question).  

 

I can respect that. I've made a prior thread on this board about this subject, and I've gotten differing answers from professors, professionals, and law students on this issue. What is your opinion on a science background and IP practice? It seems as though the larger firms are hiring junior associates who specialize in IP during law school on the condition that they have a science background. Does this hold true across the board? 

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Jenkz,

 

A couple of my friends work in IP, so I can certainly comment on what I know from that perspective.  First, I think it depends on the kind of IP that a firm does.  A science background is very helpful to patents because they are so scientific in nature.  However, my firm had a partner who seemed to (I say seemed to because we primarily socialized together rather than worked together) work primarily on trademarks and licensing agreements.  A science background wouldn't be particularly advantageous to this kind of work.  I think there is a preference among the big firms to hire students who have a science background (because, let's be honest, summer students aren't super helpful substantively and one with a science background might be more useful).  However, in terms of hiring associates, I think this preference might diminish somewhat (unless, as I said above, the firm is primarily involved in patent work).  For example, I have a friend who did not have a science background but ended up working with the IP group a bit while articling, really clicked with that group, and they hired him on as an associate in IP.  So if you have a science background you definitely have more of an in, but I would not say it is at the status of being a prerequisite to working in IP.  However, I am open to being corrected by others reading this thread who have more expertise in this area (i.e. who work in IP at a firm). 

Edited by ProfReader
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This is an amazing post. Thanks for doing this, Prof.

I have a question about the miserable 'law-school-debt'.

I have incurred a slightly higher-than-average amount of government loan as a resulting of taking a lot of summer courses during undergrad. And it seems as though it will grow into the range of 100k by the time I finish the law school (currently 0L, but entering a law school in coming Sept).

 

I've been wondering how most law school graduates are doing these days in terms of paying back their debt. Does an average lawyer (right out of article) make enough to sustain a reasonably comfortable living (i.e. rent/insurance/groceries/vehicle/etc.) while paying back the debt? Or do most people choose to clear up their debt ASAP?

 

I just don't want to find myself swimming in the pool of debt for years after law school.

 

Thanks!

 

Regarding what "most" law school grads are doing these days to pay off their debt, I think it is important to keep in mind that most don't get high-paying jobs in biglaw during the summers or after law school. So it is important to be frugal for sure. Live like a student during school so you don't have to live like one after school for too long.

 

If I were you (and I kind of was you this time last year), I would get the highest-paying job possible before 1L and get out of debt as much as  you can. 

Edited by Ptolemy
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Hi LawProf: Your answers to all the questions are great - thanks for that!

 

My question has to do with curves. Is it really difficult to mark exams among your students? Are we really so close in skill that someone with a 66 and someone with 70 both get bumped to a 74 just so we both get Bs? Is the 66 exam and the 70 so similar or are you doing it because the marking guide says you have to. 

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Hi LawProf: Your answers to all the questions are great - thanks for that!

 

My question has to do with curves. Is it really difficult to mark exams among your students? Are we really so close in skill that someone with a 66 and someone with 70 both get bumped to a 74 just so we both get Bs? Is the 66 exam and the 70 so similar or are you doing it because the marking guide says you have to. 

 

Great question - as an extension, I have heard from profs that the line that gets drawn between a B-, a B, and a B+ is pretty nebulous.  Is that true?  Does it just come down to organization or something?

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With regard to exams, yes it can be difficult.  I find that the marks of around 80% are completely clear, but I probably agonize over the marks for the other 20%, often reading the exams again.  I find it much harder for paper courses than for exam courses (those that have hypos rather than essays).  I make a really detailed marking key out of 100 potential marks and that helps with grading.

 

Yes, the line between two grades can be very close, but I would not say that it would come down to just organization.  If two exams had the same substantive content but one was organized better than the other, I would not draw a letter grade line between those two grades.  Sometimes the line isn't that fine and it draws itself naturally.  For example, I might have an exam with 100 points and seven students had the following grades: 84, 82, 80, 78, 77, 76, 75.  There is a natural gap between 78 and 80 where I would draw the B+/A- line.  However, it would be much more difficult if the grades were 82, 81, 80, 79, 76, 76, 75.  I might bump the 79% up into the As, since the exam answer quality is closer to those exams.  I would seldom use this rule to bump people down though, unless it was required to adhere to the curve (ie if the marks were 85, 84, 84, 80, 79, 79, 78, I would probably not bump the 80 down).

 

With regard to the similarity between a 66 and 70, yes, they can be very close.  That is really just a couple of marks.  In terms of bumping a 66 up to a B, I don't think I've ever had this happen, but I've definitely bumped lots of 78s and 79s into the Bs where I had too many C+s.  Perhaps this is what happened with the 66 that you are talking about.  There may have been too many Cs, so almost all became C+ and almost all of the C+ became B.  Different schools have somewhat different grading policies, but you have to be concerned with both making sure that you comply with the average that the school sets and you also have to have a distribution of grades.  Sometimes it all works out where the grades sort of distribute themselves and other time it is really, really difficult. 

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As a 0L who has no good questions to contribute (yet), I just want to say this thread is awesome and incredibly insightful. Thanks for taking the time to do this ProfReader.

Edited by xyz

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Like xyz, I'm a 0L. This has been a great thread. Is there anything that you would suggest doing in the year leading up to our first year in order to prepare for the first year of law school?

 

Thanks. 

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GoldenSpartan.

 

I didn't know if you were asking from the perspective of someone who was already accepted, so I had a look at your other posts...it looks like you are attending Western starting in September.  In terms of getting ready for first year, I wouldn't suggest doing too much academically.  Because it looks like you are moving to a new citty, I think there are some things you can do to make that an easier transition, which will likely have a positive impact on your studies and your law school experience.  First, I would suggest getting as many logistic moving-related things figured out as you can from your current location (Ottawa?), so that when you arrive in London you can attend all of the orientation week stuff and get to know your new classmates.  To that end, I would also suggest going to London a few days before orientation week starts so that you aren't running around too much.  I know that I hated ditching impromptu drinks with new friends during my own orientation week because I had to let the cable guy in and go buy furniture!  You might also consider conneting with future classmates that are in Ottawa.  It is always good to go into law school knowing a few people.  I think having a good social support system in place will help make the adjustment better, which can help academically.  Once you do start classes, the main piece of advice I have is is not to let yourself get behind in readings and not to be too shy to talk in class (especially if there is a participation mark!).   

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Ok, perfect. Thank you very much for your quick response. As a follow up, do you know whether there is a significant difference between living in residence the first year as opposed to off-campus? On the one hand, living on campus would make it easier to transition into the city and make it easier to get to class. However, I don't know what the levels of distraction will be as opposed to off-campus living. Thank you once again. 

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GoldenSpartan,

 

First, I just reread my first post with all of its spelling errors...I'm definitely not as good as you youngsters at using my phone.

 

I'm sure that some current Western students will be able to add insight, but I would definitely live off campus unless it is truly a graduate residence.  18 year olds who are away from home for the first time are really annoying and you don't want to live in that environment (not only for studying reasons but also because you won't have much in common with them).  I think you would probably be happier and more productive living off campus.  Alone might be best, if you can afford it, as roomates can turn out to be difficult.  You're right that the transition to the city would probably be easier with residence, but with some pre-planning, I think you could still have a fairly smooth transition.  You're also right that residence would make it easy to get to class, but London is small enough that I'm sure it is easy enough to get around by bus.  I've been to London several times and there seems to be tons of apartments close enough to campus.  The main detriment to living off campus is I'm sure, as with any other university town, it is extremely difficult to sublet an apartment over the summer, so you may end up paying that rent if you go back home for the summer or subletting with a steep discount. 

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Thanks for all your valuable pointers in this thread, ProfReader.  I was wondering if you could offer some insights with respect to those who have an interest in Sports Law in terms of which law schools (I heard Western might be the best Ontario law school but have also heard Osgoode) are most suited for entry into the industry and offer the best preparation in terms of course selections.  I suspect that Sports Law falls under the umbrella of Entertainment Law and is more oriented towards the curriculum of U.S.-based law schools but it would be great if you can share your thoughts on this matter.

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Just to pitch in from the practitioner's perspective --- a lot of sports law is not all that different from either corporate/commercial or employment law.  You might very well find yourself working at a full-service firm with a good chunk of employment law and collective bargaining background under your belt and then find that your firm happens to have the Raptors or the Oilers as clients.  The next thing you know, you're the Oilers' lawyer.

 

While there are focused courses on sports law at some schools, and there are some legal structures specific to sports (e.g. waivers), you may not be getting the best bang for your buck in selecting a school based on its sports law program.  If you're super-keen, have a look at which professors/adjuncts are teaching the sports law courses at the various schools.  It might be more productive to get to know the people actually doing the work and then looking for a recommendation. 

 

Ultimately it isn't going to be sports law courses at school that get you into the field.  It's good grades in relevant areas of law and networking with people that practice in the area.  You could get an A+ in two different sports courses (which is probably the max available at any school) and still not have too great a shot at practicing sports law.  Instead, someone with better grades generally and at a school preferred by the firm with the clients you want is going to get a general job (IP, corporate, employment) at Firm X.  Then, once that student impresses the billing lawyer for the Montreal Canadiens, that lawyer begins to put the student on all the various transactions involving the team. 

 

Why is this?  Because knowing the GAA of Pekka Rinne in his rookie year off the top of your head has nothing to do with the job.  The job is drafting an employment contract.  Or papering a transaction where the consideration for the bargain is a second-round draft pick instead of real estate.  In this regard, it is handy to have taken sports law classes because you may be more familiar with the structure and elements of an NHL contract specifically, but the determining factor isn't what you know about sports law but the firm you work at, and how good you are at the substantive area of law the Canadiens want to pay you for.

 

To bring it down to specifics, I've been on a total of one (1) sports file, and I knew a lot about that sport and the various legal and regulatory frameworks concerned with it just from being a fan.  But the file was just a plain ol' intellectual property litigation file.  "You used our trademark."  "No we didn't."

 

So I'm that (team/league/player)'s lawyer not because I had any background in sports, but because I worked at a firm with sports clients and I had the relevant background to work on that file.  If I were a corporate guy instead of a litigator, I could have then pushed the partner in charge of that file to put me on anything else that should come up with that client.  The school I went to had no bearing on anything, except for providing me with the opportunity to interview with that firm.

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Great insight, Uriel!  Thanks for your input.  I suspect that one needs to do well in courses such as Contracts since it really is the foundation of Collective Bargaining Agreements in professional sports.  Then again, the other side of the equation, as you noted, is really mastering corporate law in general terms and perhaps more importantly, have the backing of those who are well-established in sports law already (e.g. Pat Brisson on the player agent side, Donald Fehr on the player association side, and Gary Bettman on the owners side).

.

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That might be aiming a bit high.  :)  Just try to make some contacts here and there with law firm partners that represent the clients you want to represent.  Knowing the clients themselves (Bettman, etc.) would of course be awesome, but I don't even know how you'd start doing that.

 

As for courses, you can bomb Contracts, as long as you get your grades high enough to get picked up as an articling student at the firm that has the client you want.  Of course it helps not to bomb it, and to have something to show to the partner in charge of that client to demonstrate that you'd be a good person to rely on when she needs help with the file.

 

Contracts are of course vital to any written employment contract, but I'd also argue pretty hard for labour and employment law, since they bend and break contract law proper.  Still, usually you take contracts in your first year and labour in your second, so you'll wind up with both. 

 

Most of your advanced labour classes will deal with collective bargaining, grievances, etc. that are central to dealmaking and dispute resolution between management and players' associations.  If you pull off straight "A"s in labour courses and approach a partner at your firm that represents the Winnipeg Jets, saying you want to help out with any of those client files, you'll be in good shape even if you've never taken a sports law class.  The critical thing, though, is getting a job at that firm, and then getting in front of that partner --- not necessarily excelling in that specific area of law in school.

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