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TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 14, 2010 in Mail

This was originally a TDot’s Tips entry titled “Tips for the Pre-L’s” — until I started writing it Monday afternoon, when Delta the 2L sat down next to me in the Fishbowl and wanted to know what I would be doing at 7:00pm that night.

I’ve learned the only acceptable answer when she asks me that question is “What would you like me to be doing Delta?” :beatup:

Turns out the Pre-Law Students Association at my alma mater was holding a panel discussion titled “What is Law School Really Like?” and she wanted a partner from the N.C. Central University School of Law to help rep for the Legal Eagles.

Since I came at law from a non-traditional angle I had to say yes. Besides, y’all know how I am about competition :angel:

There were about 30 undergrads in the audience, and the panel turned out to be a solid mix of folks with 3 students from Campbell Law, 3 from UNCCH Law, 2 from Duke Law, an alum from Wake Forest Law, and of course Delta and I from NCCU Law.1 I think 6-7 of us were 1Ls, but the 2Ls/3Ls/post-Ls were represented by at least 1 person apiece.

The questions covered a wide range of topics that you’d expect from aspiring law students: workload, types of classes, “gunners” and competition, and so on. But some panel members did tend to commandeer the discussion and recognize new questioners before folks had a chance to answer the previous question, and yesterday one of the sophomores in attendance shot me a message.

Rather than do the usual Q&A format for past mail entries, I figured I’d post what he sent me and offer my $.02 from there.  Here’s what I got:

Overall, I enjoyed listening to the panel and attending the event. I do wish the the questions/answers had been more organized so that each student from each law school could have given a more direct answer and that every student could have been given the chance to answer each question.

I would have liked to have learned more about the admissions process from the students also. I believe the bar exam was only mentioned once or twice in the whole forum; from what I have heard the bar exam is one of the top things that law students are trying to make sure they pass, that was one dimension that was almost forgotten about….and I’m not quite sure why?

It seemed like the whole time all of the students were all up tight and bashing the amount of work load and la la la the whole time. I was like okay I get the point that law school is a lot of work, I’m aware of that now, I am more than willing to put in the time and effort, enough with the talks about how much work it is, tell me more about WHAT LAW SCHOOL IS REALLY LIKE – tell me about the professors, tell me about the elective courses you can take, tell me about the mock trials you can participate in, etc etc.

I fully understand, and *commend* every single law student out there for the amount of work they have to put into law school; but this forum was not meant to whine about the work load if you get my gist.

Let me preface my thoughts by pointing out I’M NOT NORMAL. You hopefully figured this out at some point amid (i) Student Government being my preferred hobby, (ii) picking a T4 as my first-choice law school despite higher-ranked options, or (iii) deciding to go the law route at all after getting a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I’m strange, I’m upbeat about my own law school experience, and I’m even optimistic about the future prospects for the legal industry.

I’m also apparently one of the very, very, very few who feel that way :beatup:

So before reading on, I’d encourage you to check the other bloggers in the list at the right of this page. Dennis Jansen in particular has a ton of advice well worth reading — I read it myself before starting law:/dev/null, that’s how legit it is.

Now back to that email…

Admissions
Admissions was actually something I studied quite a bit as a side project when I was an undergrad.2 I’m not an expert by any means, but here’s some of what I’ve learned both in NC and nationwide:

  • The admissions process is going to vary by school of course, but pretty much everyone uses some form of indexing in their decisions.  Essentially take your undergraduate GPA and multiply it by a given fraction, take your LSAT score and multiply it by a different fraction, take whatever “special” factors your chosen school considers (e.g. legacy status, socioeconomic status, etc), add all those numbers up and you get your Academic Index score. Students above a certain number get in automatically, below a certain number get rejected automatically, and the folks in the middle get a closer look at your actual application to decide if you should be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted.
  • Any school that tells you they read all the applications is lying to you. There are simply too many applications for every school, and your typical admissions committee is roughly 3-5 people — usually 1 or 2 administrators, and the rest senior faculty. In other words they’re all busy people, and are simply not going to read 1,000+ essays or more per person. Period.
  • Apply early! Most schools also use “rolling admission,” which means they start accepting students throughout the application cycle — including those folks with the high Academic Index scores.  Typically that means by the time the advertised “deadline” approaches for a given school, all of the seats have admitted students filling them and you’re competing for spots that only open up when the accepted folks go somewhere else. The odds already are not in your favor; they get precipitously worse by the deadline.
  • Consider applying at public law schools in your state (if they’d be a good fit for you of course). Most state-supported institutions have caps on out-of-state students, making it comparably easier to get in if you’re in-state. For example, UNCCH Law limits out-of-state students to 25-30% of the student body even though out-of-staters typically make up 75%ish of the applications received. Private Duke Law, by contrast, had over 80%+ of its Class of 2012 coming from outside North Carolina.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I call this the “nontraditional” approach to admissions: if you know someone who’s an alum from your school, or back when you were a kid you used to mow the lawn for one of the professors, or one of your parent’s coworkers knows a friend of a friend who plays golf with the Dean, see if they have any advice they can offer to help you be as competitive as possible. The era of a well-placed phone call to the right person securing your acceptance has largely died off, but there are always “intangibles” in every process and there’s no harm in trying to line up as many as you can in your favor.

Bar Exam
At most undergraduate universities, when you finish all your required courses you’re usually entitled to graduate, get your degree, and start working in whatever field you studied.

Not so with law.

After you graduate, you’ll sit and take a bar exam for the jurisdiction where you want to practice. This is essentially a 2-3 day affair featuring multiple choice questions, essays, and similar tests on a variety of subjects to verify your competence to become a lawyer. Pass the bar, and you get to jump through the next set of assorted hoops to get your law license (“character and fitness” reviews, etc). Fail, and you get to wait 3-4 months to try again while desperately trying in the interim to find some way to pay your bills.

Training you to pass the bar, enabling you to become a competent attorney, is the #1 job of a law school. It’s also not easy — so make sure you pay attention in your law classes, because that info will be coming back in a few years.

The Work
There’s not much I can say here that will be useful to any of you, since I honestly don’t think the work in law school is that hard.

Why? Because I was horrible at my undergraduate major :beatup:

As a result I was/am already accustomed to sitting in one place in perpetuity (e.g. at a desk) doing the same thing for hours non-stop (e.g. debugging code) and giving up certain necessities of life (e.g. sleep and a social life) to get projects done on time. Law school has been a cakewalk by comparison, since the only “project” is generally a midterm and final exam — and reading case law for a few hours is infinitely easier than tracing Java code looking for an elusive bug.

Trust me ;)

Law school is a sizable volume of work, for certain. You’ll want to read all the cases you’re assigned so you’re able to understand the discussion taking place in class, which in turn will make it easier to digest the material and study for finals.

But law school is also a huge mind game. If you go in knowing you’re going to have a large volume of work and you take a disciplined approach to getting that work done, you’ll be fine — and should even have time for sleep and a social life :D

Professors
They’re all different, and it shows. MDG and Professor CrimLaw both have witty and disarming personalities — and are merciless graders who force you to know your material. Professor Torts takes a more disciplinarian approach. Professor Ks represents the “new school” and is more laid back than the others, while The Traveling Professor holds it down for the “old school” with her regal demeanor.

One unifying characteristic of the professors is that they’re all smart people. And the vast majority are friendly, approachable, and go out of their way to help students succeed at learning the law. After all, even these folks were 1Ls once upon a time.

The key is to not let yourself get intimidated — as your legal elders they’re entitled to a certain level of deference, but not to the point where you’re afraid to talk to them.

Electives
I’m not really qualified to say much here, simply because for almost all law schools your 1L year will be set in stone for you and cover “core” classes like Property, Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Constitutional Law.

If you want to browse around, NCCU Law has most of its electives posted online. Typically law schools will have electives on a huge range of topics (intellectual property, bioethics, veterans law, etc) and offer law clinics for students to experience first-hand different areas of the law where they might be interested in practicing.

But given the breadth of offerings and the differences between each law school, the best I can recommend here is to check out the individual offerings for every school you’re interested in.

Extracurriculars
This is another area where the philosophies of law schools tend to differ,3 but at many schools 1Ls get to participate in most of the exact same stuff as their upper-level colleagues.

Speaking for myself here at NCCU Law, I took part in 3 different mock trial competitions just for 1Ls, signed up for the 1L Moot Court competition (before realizing it conflicted with a UNCASG meeting), participated in an ABA-sponsored client counseling competition, played on the 1L basketball team in the annual Law Week tournament, attended several events for the Black Law Students Association, and got elected Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.

And there are literally dozens of other groups and activities that I could have done if I had other interests (or more time).

Most law schools will have class councils that throw parties, hold forums, host speakers, and so on. You’ve got legal fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and Phi Delta Phi. You’ve got BLSA and HLSA and undoubtedly other LSAs I don’t know about. You’ve got liberal orgs promoting things like workers’ rights, conservative ones promoting things like constitutional originalism, and everything in between.

So as far as extracurriculars go — at least in my admittedly limited experience — law school is as much a full-spectrum experience as college.

“What would you do differently?”
If I could change one single thing about my experience here at NCCU Law, I wouldn’t be as nervous.

Those of you who are long-time readers at law:/dev/null might recall the comedy of unforced errors that was my orientation experience. I’ve taken my Socratic beatings too. But you know what I found out over the course of the semester?

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

All the 1Ls are going through the same trials and tribulations. Some folks are more adept at it than others, but there isn’t a single person out of the 50ish in my section who haven’t been flummoxed by a professor. Rather than the “gunner”-filled atmosphere you read about, most of your classmates will be on Facebook or Gchat or “whispering” hints at a slightly-above-whisper level,4 all trying to help you succeed — because they’ve either (i) been there too or (ii) will be soon.

So don’t be nervous. Go in confident, know you’re going to slip up at some point, and take it all in stride. It’ll make your law school experience far more enjoyable ;)

—===—

That’s my $.02 on what law school is really like, at least on those few topics :) Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions!

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

  1. The other 2 law schools in North Carolina are fairly new and only provisionally accredited: Elon Law and Charlotte Law. []
  2. Particularly the relative weights given to racial minorities (which are routinely criticized or banned) and “legacy” children of alumni (which are routinely not criticized or banned) and the effect of those weights among institutions of the 17-campus University of North Carolina… most of which were segregated until 50 years ago, giving a de facto race-based advantage to the white children of white alumni. []
  3. For example, the Campbell Law panelist said they don’t allow 1Ls to participate in extracurricular activities so they can focus on their studies. []
  4. The folks MDG fondly calls “the drunk whisperers” []

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TDot’s Mailbag v4.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 21, 2010 in Mail

After Torts today I let myself get convinced by Rico to stick with my exercise routine for the New Year and go for a run outside… even though it’s only around 37ºF and raining. I couldn’t feel my fingers after the first mile :beatup: They’re still defrosting, so I figure today’s as good a day as any to answer some mail since there’s plenty of point-click-copy-paste involved ;)

And yes I know it’s literally been months since I answered reader mail here at law:/dev/null… but that’s mostly due to the fact it’s literally been months since I got any reader mail :P

A few of the recent entries must have triggered some latent inquisitiveness from a handful of folks though, because the inbox got e-bombed over the last week :) I figured I need to answer them before folks lose faith in my responsiveness ;)

So here are your questions… well… answered :D

***

Q: Liz asks in response to a post I linked off the Kilpatrick-Stockton update, where I mentioned disliking BigLaw:

What really made you dislike BigLaw? You seem to be a workaholic, so the workload argument seems like an excuse.

A: It’s no excuse, I promise you that :)  Am I a workaholic? Maybe. But there’s 1 key difference between when I was a BigLaw paralegal and what I do now: I actually enjoy it ;)

Law school has been an adventure and I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people, and running UNCASG gives me an opportunity to improve the lives of 215K+ students here in North Carolina. Compare that to law firm life, which consisted mostly of attorneys giving me things a couple hours/days before deadline or the partner I worked for deciding he needed yet another weeklong vacation and wanted me chained to my desk in case anything happened in his absence.

With law school and ASG, working during a holiday is something I do by choice; with BigLaw, it was a mandated part of my job. I’ll take the former over the latter 7 days a week :D

***

Q: Clarence wants insight into the Kilpatrick-Stockton post itself:

I thought it was interesting 2 of the top 4 K-S finalists were T4 schools. Any theories on that?

A: I’ve got plenty of theories, I just can’t guarantee any of them are valid ;)

The first thing that comes to mind is the fact it’s a North Carolina-based competition, and a majority of the state’s law schools are in the lower ranks.  In the latest edition of the US News rankings, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest are all now in Tier 1; Campbell and NCCU Law are both Tier 4; while Elon and Charlotte both only have provisional accreditation and can therefore functionally be treated as Tier 4. So even though the bulk of teams came from UNCCH and Duke, the natural odds of the 4 finalists including a pair of T4 schools are non-trivial.

There’s probably a cultural aspect to it as well. At least here in North Carolina, NCCU Law and Campbell Law both have well-earned reputations for producing high-quality trial attorneys and judges, and that legacy is worked into things like the aggressiveness of the Socratic method in 1L classes. The T1s by contrast have a reputation geared more toward BigLaw, international affairs, research and teaching; anecdotal evidence from friends at those neighboring schools is that classes are a challenge, but not intensely so.

Running with the cultural theme — and at the risk of getting shot by my T1 colleagues — I wouldn’t be surprised if the curve plays an impact too. Both Duke’s median and UNCCH’s median are set at 3.33 (B+), while Wake Forest sets theirs at 3.00 (B).  The T4 schools set their medians far lower, with Campbell’s median around 75 (C+) on their numeric system, and NCCU Law standing by its strict-C curve at 2.00 (and capping a course grade at A versus A+ elsewhere).

Most employers know that curves are set all over the place at different schools, which is why class rank is so important to landing a job rather than GPA. But for the chronic overachievers who go to law school, there is a fundamental shock to the psyche when a “good” semester is full of B-‘s or B’s compared to your fellow 1Ls at neighboring schools banking straight A’s.

Combine those latter two points — reputation and curves — and what you get are 1Ls who feel like underdogs compared to their peers, with a hunger to “show up and show out.”  That’s basically what happened at the Kilpatrick-Stockton competition this year IMO (at least I know that’s what we did :D )

***

Q: Courtney expresses faux concern over the lack of structure we’ve had here since 1L Fall came to an end:

What happened to Tweet-sized Tuesdays and the Friday Drive-by??

A: The lack of structure that comes with winter break :P

Not sure what the future of Tweet-sized Tuesdays will be.  They were created last semester because the schedule for my section looked like a camel hump, with 5 classes on Wednesdays — that meant Tuesday nights spent studying instead of blogging.  This semester has the pain spread throughout the week. I’ll have a better idea as we get closer to midterms if I need to curtail the time spent writing here and bring Tweet-sized Tuesdays back ;)

As for the Friday Drive-by, that’ll be resuming at some point here in the next few weeks :)

***

Q: Michelle wants the rest of this story:

How did that CivPro exam turn out?

A: There was a 22-point curve, so even though I almost failed I didn’t do too badly :)  I’ll post a full rundown of my 1L Fall grades at some point over the next couple days.

—===—

That’s it for this edition :) If you have a question you want me to answer, send an email to tdot [at] lawdevnull.com or hit me up on Facebook!

Have a great night everybody! :D

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“Now, therefore, be it resolved…”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 6, 2010 in Randomness

A pair of readers noticed that my kk-inspired run-through of the 2000s assiduously avoided any reference to New Year’s resolutions.

It’s not that I don’t like them or don’t make them, I just intentionally set the ball so laughably low that they’re not really resolutions at all so much as statements of things that will happen (barring an utter catastrophe). A quote that Jansen posted here pretty much sums up why I haven’t had “real” resolutions.

Last year was a case in point, when I only had 3 “resolutions”:

  1. Graduate from N.C. State
  2. Win reelection as UNCASG President
  3. Get into law school

The first one was going to happen come hell or high water — the only question was whether it would be in the spring, summer session I, summer session II, or fall :) I couldn’t let myself come into 2010 as a perennial undergrad.

Reelection was also a relatively foregone conclusion, since a majority of the voting delegates asked me to run again. The only catch was that I had to be enrolled in a UNC institution, and I wasn’t sure either NCCU Law or UNCCH Law would accept me — so I just planned to pick up a Master’s in Econ at NC State as a fallback. Sad, I know, but I love my job :beatup:

“Get into law school” was intentionally worded that way too: even if I didn’t get in where I wanted to go, I was going to get in somewhere even if it meant applying to some JD farm :D Luckily I got my first choice.

So 3 “resolutions,” 0 of which were actually in doubt.

Since setting a low bar worked so well last year, I was going to take it a step further this year and set no bar at all. But I felt bad when I was talking with some friends who were sharing their own resolutions, expecting me to do the same… and then I said I had none. So after that I came up with a few for 2010. Here goes:

  1. Finish 1L year with at least a 3.0 GPA. A friend of mine who graduated from a T2 law school this past May said that law school grades were 1 part your effort, 2 parts your classmates’ efforts, and 3 parts random chance. Even if his aphorism turns out to be true, I’d really really really like to finish the year with at least a B average. Considering my grades in undergrad, I’d like to be considered a “good student” again :)
  2. Make it to, and through, Marine Corps OCS. Last July I started the application process to become a JAG officer in the USMC, got to the Physical Fitness Test… and discovered I was more out of shape than I thought. I’ve been doing physical training since then but progress has been slow, especially last month when I was on crutches. Getting to Officer Candidate School this June is going to depend on getting to 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 3 miles in 18 minutes. I’ve got a long way to go and only 3.5 months to get there.
  3. Finish strong. My term as UNCASG President ends on April 30th, which also marks the last time I’ll be involved as a Student Government official of any kind at the campus- or state-wide levels. Even you new readers to law:/dev/null know I take SG seriously — for reasons I’ll elaborate on in a later post — so I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to adjust :beatup: But if this is going to be the end, I want to finish on top. After breaking so many records in a year I’d like to knock down a couple more in the few months that are left.

So that’s my list of resolutions for 2010. They’re a little more difficult than the resolutions from last year, but hopefully when I write a post like this a year from now it’ll turn out the bar was still set pretty low :)

Off to bed, UNC Board of Governors meeting in the morning. Have a good night folks! :D

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Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part II)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2009 in Background

Disclaimer for any of you who become regular readers:  any time I write that I’m going to do/say/explain something “tomorrow” or “soon” or “shortly” or any other chronologically-oriented word that would indicate a time horizon in the relatively near future, add at least a week or two to it.  I’m one of those folks you hear about who get distracted easily by shiny objects, except in my case the “shiny objects” are random occurrences in life that remind me of random earlier occurrences in life and consequently prompt a story.  Consider yourself forewarned, caveat emptor, etc etc etc :)

Moving on…

A couple days ago in this post I mentioned one of my new 1L colleagues who apparently flagellates himself as restitution for his social awkwardity.  Still don’t know the kid’s name because I skipped the past 2 days of orientation (more on that later… maybe), but he essentially tried to demonstrate his Alpha Male-ness by terrifying a young lady I was conversing with about law:/dev/null.  I noted in response to his asininity that the ABA requires all accredited law schools to teach essentially the same material to 1Ls regardless of their “tier,” so theoretically my experience helps inform this blog about as well as anyone else’s informs their own.  I closed the post by posing this question:

…[I]f everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?…

Computer scientists like binary and powers of 2, the fundamental “on” and “off” that governs electrical circuits and spreads out to all CSC constructs like Boolean algebra, memory sizes, and so on.  My figuring is that there are only 2 types of people who go to a T4 law school:  folks who aren’t qualified on paper to get in anywhere else, and folks who could (or did) get into a higher tier school but had at least one logical reason for sticking with a T4.

There’s not much to say regarding the first group, so consequently I won’t say much ;)  For the folks who don’t have the paper qualifications to get into a top school — bad LSAT score or bad GPA typically, since often these are the only 2 values that matter regardless of how many reams of experience one accrues in a legal-oriented field — the T4s are providing them with a rare opportunity to prove through their work ethic they have what it takes to become attorneys.  In that capacity T4s perform a huge public service, because many of the best attorneys are the ones who work hard, meet filing deadlines, and take care of their clients because they know they may not be the brightest and have to make up for their deficiencies (by contrast, at least in my experience, many of the worst attorneys are graduates of top schools who are lazier than a quadriplegic sloth in a drug-induced coma).

The second group is a more difficult nut to crack because many of them have different and varying reasons.  This also happens to be the category I fall into — I actually applied to only three law schools (a T1/”T14″, a T2/”T100″, and T4 NCCU) and had already mailed off my acceptance and deposit to NCCU before I even got my letters from the other two.  I was lucky to do exceptionally well on the LSAT despite taking it “cold” with -0- studying of any kind, combined with nearly a decade of experience in the legal field during my time as a college dropout and after (more on that in a later post).

So why did I decide to go to the North Carolina Central University School of Law, a historically black college in the bottom tier, when I had two other higher ranked options?  Here are my reasons (which conveniently happen to count out to a power of 2):

***

(Before jumping in, I need to stipulate I’m ignoring the T14 school I applied to in these comments — I knew when I applied that I wasn’t going to attend because I didn’t want to move across the country :))

  1. Cost. In high school, I was one of only two students in my graduating class (so far as I know) who were actively recruited by MIT for their Computer Engineering program.  Instead I decided to attend NC State University in Raleigh because, even paying out-of-state tuition, it was a significantly less expensive proposition — MIT’s tuition and fees over a decade ago in 1998-99 was $6K+ more expensive than NCSU’s out-of-state tuition and fees *today* (let that marinate for a minute so you can fully grasp it).

    Cost of attendance was a similar motivator for picking NCCU.  My tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year come out to $9,097.16, less than half of the T2 school I applied to up the street (I don’t compare total cost of attendance for law schools since there’s so much variability in the housing and retail markets, but it’s worth noting many T1s are in outrageously expensive cities).

  2. Competence. Folks who have worked with me in NCSU’s Student Government or the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments will tell you that I am a notorious micromanager, an unapologetic perfectionist and overly obsessive about details (“anal retentive” is the pejorative most often thrown).  When I filled out each of my applications for law school, I quite literally checked, re-checked, re-re-checked, and re-re-re-checked everything before either filing documents online or submitting materials in person. In the case of the T2, I even had a friend from the campus go with me to drop off the application and had him check everything for me. We both confirmed all of the required documents were in the packet I dropped off, including my form declaring North Carolina residency. Yet magically, 54 days after that packet was dropped off, I received an email that the residency form was missing and I’d have to shelve everything I was doing in my life (like trying to graduate) to re-send a duplicate copy.

    Compare that to the response of the T4. When the LSDAS didn’t send my transcripts because one of my letters of recommendation had not yet arrived, I got an email from NC Central only about two weeks after they received my application indicating the transcripts were missing… then got a second email a week later as a reminder (fortunately I had more than ample notice to get in touch with the errant professor and get my LOR squared away, so I didn’t receive any further notices). Not only did NCCU not lose any of my paperwork, they promptly notified me multiple times when they didn’t receive stuff in the first place. That’s a level of competence and attention-to-detail that can only come from a school recognizing its rank and striving to improve.

  3. Character. My time visiting the T2 in-person to gather more information was about what you’d anticipate from a school that loses paperwork and doesn’t notify people until two months later. Trying to meet with the Dean to ask questions was a fruitless endeavor, and the low-grade paper-pusher who finally graced me with her presence acted like it was a burden to talk with me — as though I had just taken her away from the positively riveting experience of playing Minesweeper all day.  And this was as a student with an LSAT score well above the institution’s top quartile.

    The T4 experience was completely different. The Chancellor of North Carolina Central University met with me for about an hour to answer my questions about the University. The Dean of the School of Law met with me for about 20 minutes to answer my questions as well, even telling me he wasn’t sure I was qualified to attend because “[t]here are students who genuinely want to attend NCCU as their 1st choice instead of wanting to go to Carolina and applying to us as their backup” (which, though I was mildly insulted, I considered an eminently reasonable response from a Dean of a law school). They graciously offered their time to speak with me, provided me with their email addresses if I had further questions, and responded to those emails when I contacted them later. It was a “students first” mentality that comes with trying to build a legacy by taking care of its customers.

  4. Culture. In line with my earlier reference about T4s providing a public service by accepting applicants who are “sub-standard” on paper, the culture at the North Carolina Central University School of Law is one where every student is expected to learn the material and excel. This is reflected in the institution’s bar passage rate (81.9% in 2007, +7.9% over the state average) which is actually comparable to several T1 institutions and most T2s. My impression is that the intensity of the student body stems from the knowledge they are “underdogs” in the legal arena, competing with law graduates coming from schools with bigger profiles, resources and legacies.

    Graduates from top schools, by contrast, seem to lack that same level of intensity. That sense was actually summarized best during my experience working with the North Carolina State Bar (our state agency responsible for licensing and regulating attorneys). I was a college dropout at the time and working as a low-level staff member in the Grievance Division. When I mentioned to one of the staff attorneys my interest in law school and wondering where I should apply, I got this as a response (inflection and hand gestures translated visually by me):

    • If you want to be a lawyer who knows the law, go to Campbell (another T4 in the Triangle)
    • If you want to be a judge who knows the law, go to Central
    • If you want to be a politician who “knows” the law, go to Carolina

    (one of the newer attorneys who was still paying down his student loans also chimed in with “If you want to know the law but be homeless, go to Duke” :))

    I simply mesh better with an environment where there’s a feeling of “us vs them” and people are willing to help uplift each other because we’re all essentially a family. There’s still competition of course, but all the “gunner” talk you see on other law-related blogs doesn’t seem to apply to NCCU.

***

And although it wasn’t an actual reason behind my decision, I thought it was fitting that NCCU’s school colors of maroon and gray were just a slightly darker shade than NC State’s red and white ;)

I realize the length of this post has reached ridiculous proportions, so I’ll clip it here for the evening. At some point over the next couple days I’ll actually get into my other experiences during orientation this week… some of which I’ll admit now were more than slightly embarrassing. Good night folks :)

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