Monday, October 02, 2006

Plotting Your Law School Career

A method many students find helpful in approaching scheduling classes after the first two semesters when all classes are assigned, is to balance the load. Particularly in third semester, when Constitutional Law and Evidence are consuming students live, tacking on Business Associations and Wills and Trusts can be a lethal combination for those with grade point averages on the razor's edge.

From the third semester on, it is time to look at classes with an entirely new approach to learning such as Guardianship, Juvenile Law, Mediation, or Drafting Contracts. They aren't "easy" courses, but they are manageable when it comes to the time needed to prepare for them and do well.

There is a temptation to ram through all required classes as soon as possible and then attempt to fill up the last semesters with whatever else is out there. As all too many former students can attest, a breakneck speed is not the best way to achieve lasting success. While some fortunate few can accomplish this, most cannot.

Consider using summer classes to add to your credits and taking a lighter credit load during the most difficult classes so that you can focus your efforts on intensely complex subjects such as Constitutional Law, Business Associations, and Wills and Trusts. Use classes in Landlord Tenant law to learn necessary bar subjects while giving yourself a break from wildly complex and time consuming classes.

Keep an eye to the bar. Family Law is tested. Juvenile Law is not. However, Family Law and Juvenile Law dovetail in many respects so taking a semester with family law, juvenile law and Massachusetts Family Law Practice/Clinic along with Motions means that virtualy everything interacts with everything else and you get an extra bang for your study "buck."

Clinics and Judicial Internships are critical to making contacts in the legal community. Planning for employment after school is not to be sneezed at. A judicial internship will put you in touch with the court system and possibly enter into the world of legal work in that way. Clinics introduce you to attorneys in Juvenile law, Famly law, and the diverse placements of general clinics.

Prefer business to domestic relations? Then consider Business Associations, Drafting Contracts, Bankruptcy, and other related classes at the the same time.

Consider taking Wills and Trusts with Guardianship as the classes dovetail on some issues and conveyancing works in nicely since lawyers dealing with wills, trusts, and guardianship issues must often handle sales of land. Family Law also shares many of the same subjects.

Play to your strengths. If you're an accountant and love it, find all the business related classes you can and use them as a base to build a good grade point average by exploiting your knowledge base.

One student took both conveyancing classes at the same time and learned the theory as well as the practice simultaneously.

Nothing will make law school easy. It is arguably the most difficult professional degree with the possible exception of medicine. Students are already studying hard, now students need to learn to study smart.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


By Kendra Cooper, 3L

David Feige spoke Wednesday in MSL's Old Courtroom about his experiences as a public defender in the Bronx. For over fifteen years, Feige represented defendants who ran the gamut--from homicides to petty theft and shoplifting. His book, "Indefensible," describes one day in his life, replete with colorful detail of the wide range of clients he encountered.

Before he entertained questions from the audience, Feige read a passage from his book in which he explains how it is that innocent people plead guilty. He describes defendants desperate to escape a tormenting legal system that is designed to wear people down. As a seemingly interminable time passes, spanning months or years, clients wait to clear their names. Sometimes these defendants are incarcerated for the duration, or free on bail they and their families could least afford. These clients miss work, often losing their jobs, while little progress is made on their cases. Over time, the fight for one's innocence takes on a grey hue, truth no longer a black and white issue, as the financial and emotional toll on the client and family increases, and the process drags on.

Feige describes one client who, in frustration, jumped over a subway turnstile when its mechanism accepted his payment but refused to allow him to pass. Transit police arrested the hapless soul, charging him with larceny. After a year of multiple, time-consuming court appearances, the client pleaded guilty...just to get out of the legal morass.

Feige urged MSL students to seriously consider starting their careers in public defense, before students become enamored with or dependant upon higher incomes found in other areas of law practice. While public defender salaries do not rival those of some private firms, Feige believes the rewards are great.

No longer a NY public defender, Feige writes and occasionally appears as an expert on Court TV. Even if public defense is not on your radar screen, "Indefensible" is a must read for a realistic perspective on the legal system. Two thumbs up!

(Lest anyone think the problems Feige describes are only found in New York, go Monday mornings to the Middlesex District Courthouse in Cambridge and listen to the motley array of arraignments. Just change the names, to protect the guilty...and the innocent.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

MSL's 2006 Fall BBQ

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MSL's 2006 Fall BBQ -enjoying the event

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MSL's 2006 Fall BBQ

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MSL 2006 Fall BBQ - food, fun & friends

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MSL 2006 Fall BBQ - setting up for the event

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Fall 2006 BBQ's chefs

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MSL 2006 Fall BBQ

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Helping Set up for the MSL BBQ

By 3 p.m. students were outside, setting up the tables and preparing for the onslaught of hungry fellow-students at the annual MSL fall BBQ. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 21, 2006

Welcome 1L's

Welcome New Students!

Every semester a hundred or so of the cream of the crop walk through the hallowed doors of MSLaw to dissapear into the FOG of law school, reappearing now and then during the first year to hollar "HELP!" before drifting off again, rowing like mad for the far shore.

This semester new students are up against Civil Procedure and Property, Criminal Law and Writing for Lawyers. The Professors will all tell you not to use study guides and canned briefs and they mean well. Certainly, NEVER bring a study guide to class. Canned briefs, if used to the exclusion of doing your own work will set you up to do poorly in analyzing fact patterns on tests. However, if you read the case, make your brief and then consult a canned brief to see if you missed something they are a valuable asset to your learning process. There are many canned briefs on - use them wisely. They are NOT a substitute for study - abuse them at your own risk.

Probably the most popular study guides are Emanuel Law Outlines and Barbri. Emanuel is far and away the least expensive. You can get them on or eBay for about $30 each new and a lot less used. Barbri will have a table at the school soon where you can peruse the wares. It is a more expensive commitment, but worth it if you plan on taking Barbri for upper class subjects, the MPRE, and/or bar review. There is no reason not to use both in your first year except that it takes time to read both.

This writer's personal preference as a 1L was Emanuel Law Outlines to learn the black letter law. Black letter law is everything - you can't learn to apply it unless you know it. By mid-term you should know your black letter law backwards and forwards and you won't learn it from casebooks.

Wait, there's more...1L's need to learn how to write exams like a lawyer, using lawyerly thinking and analysis. That means clearing one's calendar (and missing work if need be) to attend Professor Sullivan's Examsmanship Classes. They are an absolutely vital first step. You'll want to attend them BOTH semesters of first year as she helps teach examsmanship in the subjects 1L's take both semesters.

This writer supplemented that with Legal Essay Exam Writing System available through Eschew the seminar in Boston and get the CDS and book so you can listen to them in the car, along with the other CDS on your black letter law subjects.

I can hear the cry now. "When do I have time to do all this?" Didn't you notice that sign over the door of the school? The one that says "Abandon all free time ye who enter here." Oh, maybe it is invisible to 1L's. We 3L's sometimes forget.

So welcome, 1L's. And 2L's, we're glad to see you back. You've noticed there are fewer of you than when you started and that's to be expected. You're facing a challenging semester of Constitutional Law and Evidence, but hard work and good study aids will help you see your way through. Obviously, a few of us made it to 3L status and are on our way through comp, so it can be done.

The Editor

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

MSL Graduation 2006


There's the stage before the big event. Before long the speakers will wax eloquent and the graduates will celebrate a long anticipated event. Posted by Picasa

Karen Wayne


Karen Wayne is absolutely radiant, as a graduate who is waiting to be sworn into the Massachusetts Bar should be. Posted by Picasa

There are bonds that last a lifetime


Graduating from law school is almost like going through boot camp and coming out the other side. We form bonds that last a lifetime. Posted by Picasa

These are the days

We'll always remember these days and our friends... Posted by Picasa

Graduation Pals


Associate Dean Michael Coyne posing with graduate Dan Harayda Posted by Picasa