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#26 ProfReader

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 09:33 PM

You are completely right that it is a long and painful route.  So yes, one might argue that someone is stupid to pursue the academic path, given the debt and the time and the uncertain job prospects.  I assumed that you meant that it was stupid for law schools to require such qualifications, which I don't think is stupid.  As long as there are people willing to put in the time to do the degrees, it is smart for law schools to demand those credentails (assuming that we do not want law school to become more practical in the way that they might be if it were taught by practitioners).  However, the financial situation isn't so grim.  During my SJD I was making around $25,000/yr in funding, about $8000 teaching a course, and another $10,000 or so in contract work.  If I recall, tuition was around $6000, leaving me with $37,000.  Not exactly the princely sum of a Bay Street associate, but I wasn't going into debt or going hungry and, of course, there are way fewer jerks in my apartment than on Bay Street and the work is (in my opinion) much more interesting.  In terms of the post-appointment salary, embarassingly I don't actually know what law professor salaries are like across the country (aside from a few anecdotal datapoints), but $70,000 seems really low.  Perhaps that is the salary for professors in general rather than law professors specifically?  And, of course, as a law professor there are lucractive contract opportunities.  In terms of your timeline, it isn't way off the mark, but it is a little bit too long.  Four years undergrad, only some students require an MA but let's assume 2 year MA, and 3 year JD.  However, an LLM is only 1 year and an SJD is generally only 3 years. 



#27 ProfReader

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:07 PM

Got2B.  That is a difficult situation to explain in the abstract, although one that I run into very often with my students.  The students recite the law (sometimes in some detail) and quickly conclude whether the facts do or do not bring the situation within those facts without drawing on facts in the problem that might support or refute their argument.  As a concrete hint, you should always go back and read the introductory paragraph of a hypothetical.  It often seems like just background to set the stage, but it isn't.  It is usually very rich in facts that you can bring into your answer.  Asume that there are no sentences in the hypo that are just in there for no reason or for background.  Assume that every piece of information should be used to answer the question.  These are generally safe assumptions.  I can give you a more concrete example.  I am watching Monday's How I Met Your Mother right now.  In the episode, Barney breaks into Robin's apartment, goes through her room, finds her diary, reads her diary, and uses the information to get into touch with her exboyfriends.  Aside from the potential trespass issues (to chattel and to land), there are also potential privacy law issues.  Let's assume that you are in Ontario and know that the Court of Appeal (in Jones v Tsige) recognized the potential for a tort of invasion of privacy.  I have only read the headnote, so I will focus on the facts here rather than the specifics of the law.

At bare minimum, a student will say that looking in her diary is an intrusion to seclusion, as a diary contains private information.  A student who is really applying the facts might be more specific and talk about how her diary was not merely an account of her day but how she used it to speak about her innermost thoughts and feelings.   Someone might also seek to link the facts of this case to Jones, which also involved accessing an individual’s private written records (in that case, banking info).  Looking closely at the facts, we also know that Barney broke into her apartment. This is arguably also an intrusion on her seclusion (as it is her home and not, for example, a public place).  Many students will point this out.  However, we also know from the facts that he got the diary from her room.  Arguably, there is an even higher expectation of privacy in your room than your apartment generally because, for example, even when you invite people over they may not go in your room and due to the private activities that might occur in your room (i.e. changing clothing, etc.).  Many students won't have made this distinction, even though it is clear from the facts where her diary was located. 

 

Again, a student who carefully reads the facts might note that in using the information to locate Robin’s exboyfriends and ask them questions about her past, Barney likely disclosed some of the information he obtained from the diary to those individuals.  Arguably this may fall within another potential privacy tort, public disclosure of private facts.  A student who does more than just identify the potential tort might note that the individuals Barney disclosed the information to seemed to already be aware of the information, so that might call into question whether it can really be said that he was “disclosing” the information.  Also, the facts suggest that Barney only disclosed this information to a few persons, so this may not constitute “public” disclosure of facts.



 


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#28 Uriel

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:22 PM

You are completely right that it is a long and painful route.  So yes, one might argue that someone is stupid to pursue the academic path, given the debt and the time and the uncertain job prospects.  I assumed that you meant that it was stupid for law schools to require such qualifications, which I don't think is stupid.  As long as there are people willing to put in the time to do the degrees, it is smart for law schools to demand those credentails (assuming that we do not want law school to become more practical in the way that they might be if it were taught by practitioners). 


Thanks again very much for the great info. Just in case I'm not being clear, and on reviewing my last post it appears I wasn't, I'm not at all knocking the decision to pursue the academic path; I thought very hard about it myself. It's the latter point that I do kind of get behind. It still seems too much to ask that the already arduous path to academia should have an additional three years pegged on to it for the purposes of legal scholarship. (Are two Masters' degrees really necessary? After having demonstrated graduate potential in another field, why can't we just wave a JD through to an SJD program?)

I read a lot --- a lot --- of old legal textbooks and treatises, and a huge majority of them are written by MAs or LL.B.s. There was a time when the credentials weren't the governing factor in your evaluation of preparedness to publish and teach class. Certainly the best profs currently teaching in Canadian law schools were able to begin their teaching careers without an advanced legal degree, and they turned out spectacularly. I'm just saying, the fact that people are willing to get the credentials isn't the best test of whether it's a good idea for the academy, the profession, the university or the student. (I mean, look at sessional teaching. In an intensely competitive environment, people will be willing to do all kinds of collectively counterproductive things for employment.) You're losing a lot of good, productive teaching years and crippling the prosperity of your professors by forcing them into middle age before they come into salary. Just my five cents.

As for average salary, I did a spot check of randomly selected newly-tenured law professors across Canada to see how many showed up on salary disclosure charts, and outside of the U of T and a few at Osgoode, none did. I asked about this anecdotally and came up with the lower figure. That does, of course, seem to reflect a Canada-wide figure that includes markets with a substantially lower cost of living.

#29 greatness24

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:30 PM

I know of a prof who makes over 300 grand at Osgoode.  Think contracts.....................



#30 ProfReader

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:38 PM

You are correct that excellent scholarship has been produced by many people with fewer qualifications.  I have no way of empirically measuring this, but perhaps now with people coming in with more writing/research experience and expertise in a particular area, they are able to produce that excellent scholarship earlier in their careers (although that doesn't really do them any good because they were leading the poor student lifestyle while getting to a position to write said excellent scholarship rather than doing so while already in a tenure track position).  I agree that the second masters degree (or even the LLM) may not be necessary.  I can definitely get behind the SJD or PhD to show expertise and research potential and to have a large written project such that you can spin it off into papers, but I agree that the MA is not necessary and do not really see why the LLM is either.  I'm not sure what the rules at all schools are, but an LLM is not necessary everywhere in order to get an SJD. I definitely have colleagues who began an LLM, rolled that work over into an SJD and graduated with just an SJD after 3 years (one of them definitely did this at the UofT...again, I don't know what the rules are elsewhere). I don't think it disadvantaged them on the job market either.  So I can accept that perhaps it would be more reasonable to expect a 4 year degree, 3 year JD, and 3 year SJD.  Unfortunately, the necessary credentials aren't about to change (if anything they will go in the opposite direction) since there are enough people with those credentials.

 

Of course, my situation is such that I think I required that extra LLM time (so perhaps that is why I do not feel particularly passionate about the credentials issue).  I got into law school after 2 years (you could still do that at most schools until at least the earl 2000s), finished my JD (then LLB) when I was 22, was called to the bar when I was 23, finished my LLM at 24.  I was in no way ready to be a law professor at that time, so I definitely needed the extra 3 (or what ended up to be more in my case) years.  If I hadn't done the LLM and was able to go straight into an SJD, I still don't think I would have been ready. 


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#31 ProfReader

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:44 PM

I know of a prof who makes over 300 grand at Osgoode.  Think contracts.....................

I assume you mean that he or she does contract work rather than teaches contracts.  I thought Uriel's figures were a little bit low for the base salary, but not by much.  If I had to guess, I would have said the starting salary is more in the neighbourhood of $85,000-$95,000, but I definitely trust his research.  When I got offered a job, I wasn't in a position to try to negotiate.  In terms of contrats, there is a lot of money to be made, especially for particular areas of the law, so I can see how your professor would get to $300,000.  However, for people who are pre-tenure and have to spend lots of time writing, it is often best to keep that to a minimum (or to only do contracts that you can use that research for a publication). 



#32 greatness24

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:47 PM

Nope, I mean to teach contracts.



#33 Neo

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:01 PM

I know you mentioned that you have never sat on the admissions committee but in your expert opinion, ProfReader, what are the prospects of admission into Osgoode's JD program for those who have very low LSATs but have legitimate reasons (e.g., medical) and decent (but not great GPAs) and very strong ECs (multiple graduate degrees plus meaningful work experience)?  I am actually asking this question on behalf of a close friend who applied as an access applicant to a number of law schools (mostly out of town) but is concerned that Osgoode has now abolished categories such as access and special circumstances, etc. even though Osgoode (at least in theory) has a holistic admission policy (the question how holistic is also debatable, I supposed).  She also seems to think that the access category is limited to only aboriginal applicants although I personally disagree as I think that the category includes those who have experienced medical setbacks and unexpected circumstances that are of prolonged and continual nature.



#34 ProfReader

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:17 PM

Nope, I mean to teach contracts.

 

That is definitely the exception, rather than the norm.  Even those most famous people at UofT tend to max out around $285,000 (and UofT pays higher than Osgoode).  If it is who I think you might be referring to, he wasn't getting paid this JUST to teach contracts, but rather had a fairly high ranking administrative position.



#35 Uriel

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:16 AM

You are correct that excellent scholarship has been produced by many people with fewer qualifications.  I have no way of empirically measuring this, but perhaps now with people coming in with more writing/research experience and expertise in a particular area, they are able to produce that excellent scholarship earlier in their careers (although that doesn't really do them any good because they were leading the poor student lifestyle while getting to a position to write said excellent scholarship rather than doing so while already in a tenure track position).  I agree that the second masters degree (or even the LLM) may not be necessary.  I can definitely get behind the SJD or PhD to show expertise and research potential and to have a large written project such that you can spin it off into papers, but I agree that the MA is not necessary and do not really see why the LLM is either.  I'm not sure what the rules at all schools are, but an LLM is not necessary everywhere in order to get an SJD. I definitely have colleagues who began an LLM, rolled that work over into an SJD and graduated with just an SJD after 3 years (one of them definitely did this at the UofT...again, I don't know what the rules are elsewhere). I don't think it disadvantaged them on the job market either.  So I can accept that perhaps it would be more reasonable to expect a 4 year degree, 3 year JD, and 3 year SJD.  Unfortunately, the necessary credentials aren't about to change (if anything they will go in the opposite direction) since there are enough people with those credentials.

 

Of course, my situation is such that I think I required that extra LLM time (so perhaps that is why I do not feel particularly passionate about the credentials issue).  I got into law school after 2 years (you could still do that at most schools until at least the earl 2000s), finished my JD (then LLB) when I was 22, was called to the bar when I was 23, finished my LLM at 24.  I was in no way ready to be a law professor at that time, so I definitely needed the extra 3 (or what ended up to be more in my case) years.  If I hadn't done the LLM and was able to go straight into an SJD, I still don't think I would have been ready. 

 

I completely agree --- if we could do away with the LL.M. and/or the increasing need for an M.A. to get into law school, I'd be 100% behind the industry-standard SJD or PhD for the reasons you state.

 

So, great!  It's decided.  The LL.M. is cancelled.  I'll call the American schools, you call the Canadian ones.  :)



#36 erinl2

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:46 AM

I know of a prof who makes over 300 grand at Osgoode


That would definitely be anomaly, if true. If you have a look at Ontario's sunshine list from last year, there are very few profs at York over $200,000,let alone $300,000.

#37 Got2B

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:24 PM

ProfReader,

 

Thank you so much for your feedback! I'll attempt to start applying it and do some practice exams for my profs to look over. Right now I'm just feeling rather lost and like I'm never going to "get it", especially since I thought I was getting it. Again, thank you. I really appreciate your feedback.

 

PS- I loved the HIMYM example



#38 ProfReader

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 06:17 PM

Right now I'm just feeling rather lost and like I'm never going to "get it", especially since I thought I was getting it.

 

Law school exams are a skill that takes time for some people to develop.  You shouldn't feel that you are never going to get it.  Also, bear in mind that in upper year there are lots of classes you can take that don't involve the same sorts of hypotheticals that your first year classes generally involve.  There are trial practice/moot classes that involve oral advocacy and legal writing.  There are seminar classes with papers.  There are classes with essays on the exam that involve analyzing the law rather than applying it to facts (i.e. Over time, Canadian courts have shifted the law of defamation from a focus on protecting the individual's reputation to a focus on protecting free speech.  Do you think the courts have shifted the balance too far?).  There are classes with take home exams (if you think that the exam environment contributed to your difficulties).   


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#39 ProfReader

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:14 PM

I completely agree --- if we could do away with the LL.M. and/or the increasing need for an M.A. to get into law school, I'd be 100% behind the industry-standard SJD or PhD for the reasons you state.

 

So, great!  It's decided.  The LL.M. is cancelled.  I'll call the American schools, you call the Canadian ones.  :)

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).


Edited by ProfReader, 07 February 2013 - 10:15 PM.


#40 Uriel

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:30 AM

Don't tell them that!  They think law review is my most impressive credential, suckers.


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#41 Ptolemy

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:35 AM

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?" 



#42 ProfReader

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:30 AM

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.b...-hiring-report/




 



#43 westdale123

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 07:56 PM

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!



#44 ProfReader

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:51 PM

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, 08 February 2013 - 11:35 PM.

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#45 Jenkz

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:53 PM

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? 



#46 ProfReader

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:24 PM

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, 08 February 2013 - 11:24 PM.

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#47 Ptolemy

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:23 AM

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, 09 February 2013 - 08:27 AM.

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#48 Therumpshaker

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:30 AM

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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#49 sonandera

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:48 AM

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?



#50 Uriel

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:36 AM

Nope, font selection.


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