Tag Archives | law school

Image by Aberdeen Proving Ground, Flickr

Image by Aberdeen Proving Ground, Flickr

“I must have been crazy to consider going back to school at 41 with two young children at home.”

“Even if I had gotten into law school, it would have been an insane amount of work, a lot of time away from my family, and a long haul ahead.”

“I should have spent more time studying for the LSAT.”

“I could have done a better job prepping for that law school interview.”

Relax the shoulders; relax the back. Let go of any tension you are holding in your body. And if there are any thoughts that aren’t serving you here today – let them go.

Karen’s words intrude on my negative train of thought, and I feel mildly annoyed because I’m in a funk, and while I know these thoughts “don’t serve me well”, today, I am determined to be angry. I crank up the tension on my bike a full turn, settle into my saddle, and through gritted teeth, push hard against the weight of the pedals.


You chose to come here today. What was your intention? Ask yourself: why am I here?

Ok, I am here, because I’m ticked. Four weeks ago, after being wait-listed for ten weeks, I found out I will not be attending law school this September. After I got the news, oddly, I wasn’t as disappointed, upset, or as depressed as I thought I would be. Maybe it’s because I assumed acceptance was a long shot to begin with, or perhaps after being in limbo for so long, rejection was a welcome relief. But today, I woke up mad. And this morning I came to spin class because I am angry with myself. But being ticked wasn’t my intention; it’s just how I’m feeling now. So, why am I really here this morning? I’m here to work it out – my frustration, my disappointment, my emotions – all this through gnashed jaws with the intention of feeling better by the end of my sixty minute spin class.

The decision to go back to school at my age is not an easy one, but I can say going through the process of applying to law school, studying and writing my LSAT, and seriously contemplating the possibility of attending school full-time for three years with a young family, was at once both daunting and exciting. I’ve certainly learned a few things on this ride, and no matter what age you are, or where your academic pursuits take you, I hope I can impart a few words of sage advice that might help make your journey a much smoother ride than mine.


This is the beginning of your ride. How are you going to set it up? Think about what you need to do this. Decide: How you are going to take this ride?

Lesson One: Develop a realistic action plan.

Assuming you have gone through the process of what your academic goals are and why you are choosing the path you have chosen, you now need a solid action plan. Develop a plan with tactics and deadlines to help you achieve your end goal. Map it out, use technology, block off time in your calendar, organize your time, and use it well. Oh, and I can’t impress upon you how important it is to be realistic about your time. In my case, having to sit down and study again after being out of school for fifteen years was an unexpected shock. Working toward corporate deadlines, doing laundry, making lunches, and doing homework with my nine year old had in no way prepared me for sitting down at the library for hours and training my mind to think a certain way so I could ace the LSAT. If you think it will take you 8 weeks to study for your LSAT, MCAT or GMAT – double that time. Of course there are exceptions, and this may not be the case for you, but life is busy. You may be completing your undergrad while studying, working part-time or even full-time, depending on your situation, but in life, unexpected things arise, so mitigate your stress levels by assuming you need the extra time up front, and pace yourself appropriately.


Dig down into your core, take a deep breath, and find what you are looking for. It’s somewhere between ease and effort. Don’t think about what’s coming next. Find your breath, find a spot in front of your bike, and focus on this ride.

Lesson Two: Think about one goal, one objective; stay focused, stay on task.

We’ve all got distractions and weaknesses, and for many of us it’s easy to procrastinate, especially when it comes to doing hard work. In my case, the challenge was related to my familial demands, but I have to be honest here – at times it wasn’t just because my kids were demanding my time; rather they became my inadvertent excuse to procrastinate. Sure, my kids would love to have me 24/7, but did I have to volunteer for all those pizza lunches? Speaking of pizza, I could have ordered in a few of those for dinner, instead of spending 90 minutes making that Dijon rosemary rack of lamb with grilled veggies. And did I really need to be home to tuck them in and read them a story every night of the week instead of heading to the library with my LSAT books, when my hubby could have managed just as well without me? I can tell myself that I’m doing all this for my kids, but there were times when I used them as an excuse to avoid studying as much as I should have. Why? Because studying for the LSAT is much harder than trying out a new recipe, or reading my 5 year old ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. Be honest with yourself about what your distractions are and don’t lose focus. This may mean putting tools in place to keep you on track. Get a study buddy, remove distractions (or remove yourself from distractions), and stay on track with your action plan.


Focus on your pedal stroke. There’s always a weaker side. Now focus on that weaker side, make it better, make it stronger, and even it out. Ask yourself: What can I change today? What do you need to do on this ride, to go for better? What are you going to do differently? Change something.

Lesson Three: Assess your weaknesses honestly; and then act on them!

Be honest with yourself about what you suck at. If that sounds critical – it’s meant to. Let’s be honest, we all naturally like to focus on what we do well, and keep doing more of that, because it’s easier. But we all have things we need to improve on. In my case, and with regard to the LSAT, it was logic games. I was honest with myself about my weakness, but what I didn’t do was act on it. Instead, I avoided it. I decided to cut my losses and improve on the areas of the test I already excelled at – because let’s face it, it was easier, and frankly it made me feel better about myself. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Find your weakness, figure out what you need to change, and tackle it until you get better.


Remind yourself of your intention, and why you chose to come here today. This is going to get heavy – push through! You’ve got some momentum here, stay with it, and keep this pace. You’re building this. Your endurance, your strength, every stride makes you stronger – this is how you build it. You can do this!

Lesson Four: Don’t slack off, and stay positive!

If it feels hard, that’s probably because it is. Obtaining a higher education isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, the end result wouldn’t be so rewarding. Remember: it’s competitive, it’s demanding, and if you can’t get through the entrance exams and the application process, then you won’t have the mettle for law school, med school or any other comparable academic pursuit. Yes, it will feel tough at times; in fact, in my case there were many times when I felt like giving up. Remind yourself what motivated you to pursue this path in the first place, bring your focus back to your goal, stay on task, and stay positive!


This is the end of your ride. You’ve got something here. How are you going to go for better?! Let’s take this home!

Karen’s words jolt me back to the present. I look down and see a pool of sweat under my bike. Ok. So, I didn’t get into law school this year, but it was quite possible that I could have. I also could have studied harder for my LSAT, done a better job prepping for my law school interview, and put more thought into volunteering for a cause — that would have provided a more relevant and tangible perspective for my future career pursuits. Next time, I will go for better.

So, this is your ride, how are you going to take it?

Image by Tori Rector on Flickr

Image by Tori Rector on Flickr

The study of law might prepare students for the actual practice of law, or it might prepare them for using the legal understanding and concepts they learn in other professional business capacities. These essential steps in preparing for law school admission depend on whether you intend in obtaining a law license or not.

Undergraduate Degree

Every candidate for law school admission must have an undergraduate degree along with a suitable grade point average when considered with other factors. Virtually every undergraduate student is a pre-law student. Your major is irrelevant. Ask around any first year law school class and you’ll find that law schools accept candidates with degrees ranging from accounting to zoology.


If you’re planning on attending an ABA accredited law school, a suitable score on the Law School Admissions Test is required. The LSAT is a standardized, four-hour examination consisting of five parts. It’s administered four times a year at designated locations across the United States and selected locations in a growing number of countries. Because test takers are competing on a national level, many seek to gain an advantage by taking private courses preparing them for taking the LSAT.


Law schools have widely ranging criteria for admission. Along with college grade point average and LSAT scores, ABA accredited law schools like Champlain College also consider personal and professional backgrounds of candidates. Champlain offers a master’s degree in law online for those who seek to supplement their education and work experience without the intent of practicing law. The LSAT isn’t required for this program.

Think Ahead

Just like undergraduate studies, law school takes time and money. There are multiple requirements and strict deadlines involved in the application and admission process. If you’re planning on getting a law license, start thinking about the LSAT at least a year in advance. Take the admissions test early. If you want to start law school in September, you’ll probably have to take the LSAT in December of the previous year. Financial arrangements can be made along the way.

With or without a law license, once you’re a student of the law, you’ll remain a student of the law. It’s a fascinating and constantly changing field with new statutes, regulations and cases that you’ll need to review, consider and stay on top of. Strong professional and personal growth will follow.

This article was contributed by guest author Anica Oaks.

Image by Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr

Image by Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr

Hallelujah! You’ve passed the bar! You are now an attorney and ready to change the world.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people out there willing to share the tricks of the trade or even pass down a few helpful hints. Thankfully, you’ve got us to provide some key insights before you step foot into that new office.

23 Things New Lawyers Must Know


  1. Check your expectations. Kathleen Brady, head of a career planning firm with offices in New York and Philadelphia, says this: “Your first job may not be your ‘dream’ job, but it is going to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to advance towards your ultimate career goals; don’t discount it because it isn’t perfect.”

  3. Some people don’t really want you to fix things, and they aren’t really in need of a lawyer even though they walked through your doors. Instead, they just want you to listen. Yes, we know you could have gotten a therapy degree with a lot less effort, but let’s face it, people are looking for a decent ear!

  5. You might be able to attach Esquire to your name, but don’t forget to use your manners. Please and thank you go a long way!

  7. Look people in the eye and take notes while they are talking to you. This will help you remember while also making them, and their issue, feel important. You will gain their trust this way.

  9. Everyone’s busy. Offer to help when you can, and respect other people’s time as much as you want them to respect yours.

  11. Don’t let your online persona be a hindrance to your professional aspirations. If you’ve got embarrassing (or potentially embarrassing) Facebook posts or Tweets floating around, do yourself a favor and clean up your cyberspace act.

  13. Always look for ways to improve. If you’ve just finished a case, ask the boss how you did. Make sure he knows you’re not looking for compliments; tell him you want guidance and maybe he’ll give it to you!

  15. While your mentor/boss/supervisor might offer the improvement advice you ask for, don’t forget that he’s not your momma. He’s not going to clean up your messes or take the heat for your mistakes. You’re on your own; it’s your job now.

  17. Don’t be afraid to give people credit. Sometimes the best answer is one somebody else has. Encourage them and utilize their strengths to build on your own. They’ll be glad to work with you the next time.

  19. Don’t forget to take time off. This is a stressful venture and the burnout rate can be high. Don’t neglect moments to rest and renew; they’re just as necessary as working hard.

  21. Communicate with your clients – don’t just tell them things. Communication means they understood your statements, and that’s far better than just hearing what you have to say.

  23. Make yourself worth it to your clients. Don’t forget that while you’re worrying about your hourly wage, they’re worrying about whether or not you’re worth it.

  25. Don’t get tunnel vision. Yes, if you want to earn the big bucks, you’ll need to work with clients who are willing to pay for your legal services. However, there might be non-legal alternatives that are a better fit for your prospective client. For example, although Michael A. Ziegler is a bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney, it doesn’t stop him from offering the best solutions for financial stability. He even wrote a blog article about how to avoid foreclosure.

  27. Life is very much like a puzzle. So, when you’re struggling to put a case together, remember to look at the big picture before trying to put the little pieces in place.

  29. People like to feel valued. Show up early to meetings and if you’re going to be a tad bit late, call and let people know. Respect them and they’ll respect you!

  31. Don’t promise the moon and produce smoke. Under-promise and over-deliver–always!

  33. It’s your job to get all the facts, even when people don’t want to give them to you.

  35. Ask your clients what success will look like. Don’t guess. They know what they are expecting from you; get it out of them before you even start working.

  37. Don’t just tell, teach–in everything you do. You went to school a long time and you’ve got valuable information to share. Don’t hoard it.

  39. You’ll probably need to carry someone else’s briefcase before you get to the “good” stuff in this profession. Everybody has to start somewhere and that’s usually near the bottom. Don’t get discouraged – realize there’s nowhere to go but up!

  41. Answer and return calls promptly. Don’t shut people down; help them figure out how they can get the job done.

  43. Most of the time your client is always right. Figure out how to deal with the other moments.

  45. Keep your staff happy. There are people that know more than you; let them help you. Don’t be a smarty pants or a kiss-up.


All You Need is Here

If you adhere to these 23 tips, you’ll be better off than a large number of your colleagues. Everyone wants to be treated as though there is intrinsic value within. You have the power to assure each client that you care. Don’t miss your chance to make a real difference.

Image by pixabay.com

Image by pixabay.com

On Tuesday, April 29th, 2014, the University of Toronto Law Faculty Alumni gathered at 155 College St. to listen to a panel of three alumni authors: Kate Hilton, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Andrew Pyper. Justice Rosalie Abella, also a U of T law alumnus, mediated the discussion. Their topic of discussion: How does having a law degree influence a writer?

In the past few years, an outcry has populated the media: “Don’t go to law school!” This outcry has been accompanied by statistics urging students to save their time and money, and apply elsewhere. Employment rates for law graduates have dropped. Law graduates are in an employment rut, and potential law students are discouraged from applying to law schools. In March 2013, Time named the law graduate situation a “near-depression-level job market.” A month later, U of T law graduate Kate Hilton self-published her first book, The Hole in the Middle, to critical acclaim.

Accordingly, during the panel, neither Hilton nor her two fellow panelists said they regret their law degree. Instead, they said their law degree equipped them with skills that aid their writing career. In Time’s depression-level job market, these three authors created their own employment. Of course, potential law students should take their success under advisement; each case is unique. But as discussed by Hilton, Kay, and Pyper, a law degree has its uses outside employment in the legal profession. The skills law school cultivates can be applied to any profession requiring methodology, intelligent research, the creation of logical arguments, and general mental discipline. Hilton says that the long hours she spent studying and researching cases helped her develop a mental rigour that she continues to apply to her current work.

Writing, especially in the world of fiction, is a natural extension of the skills required to succeed in law school. Crafting an argument from existing laws is difficult, but crafting a fictional narrative containing multiple storylines, which are themselves logical arguments, from scratch is perhaps even more demanding; especially demanding if the author is working without motivation from an employer, client, or business partners. Authors must self-motivate.

Despite the organic applicability of law school skills to writing, no profession is perfect: all three authors agreed that it is generally impossible to make a decent living as a writer. Writing is decadent, an indulgence. Without a strong readership, a rich spouse, or steady day job, the pen alone cannot forge a living.

Hilton, Kay, and Pyper all agreed that social media is a necessary evil for the modern author – particularly Twitter. Hilton says she soon acclimatized to Twitter after her agent convinced her it was a necessary tool to maintain a strong fan base. Hilton is the newest and least experienced of the three authors, having self-published her first book last year. Middle merited such an enthusiastic response from readers that HarperCollins Canada republished the book later that year. Hilton’s self-published start differs from Kay’s, who started his writing career with an agent.

Kay, a fantasy and historical fiction writer, has a consistent international following, and by this token is able to scrape a living. He is the only panel author to have published a series (his first was The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy). During the reception after the panel, Kay’s autograph line was obviously the longest. In Kay’s undergraduate, he sold the first three chapters of The Summer Tree as a trilogy deal through his agent. He immediately flew to Greece and bought a used typewriter upon arrival. Hence, the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy was born, and Kay’s writing career began. Given the economic differences between 1987 and present-day Europe, Kay’s manual Grecian method is not financially possible for today’s broke writers; even with newly earned book deal cash.

Andrew Pyper also has a noteworthy following which is admittedly more glamorous than either Kay’s or Hilton’s. Pyper has written five novels, two of which are being adapted into feature films. Pyper started strong with his first full novel, The Lost Girls, which made his name in 2000 and is set for release as a feature film this year. The film rights for his new book, The Demonologist, have already been sold to Universal Pictures. Pyper and Justice Abella discussed an incident in the ‘90s where he helped push a car blocking Margaret Atwood’s parking space. Atwood had parked in a covetous professor’s parking spot on a visit to U of T, under invitation from Justice Abella, and had been suspiciously blocked in by another car. Justice Abella always remembered the incident, but until then, the panel had not known who the helpful, muscled youth was who helped free Atwood’s car (a photo of Atwood and Pyper moving the car can be found on Pyper’s website bio).

The panel concluded that a law degree does not aid a writer’s ability to gouge a living out of the tough economy – some aspects of success are pure luck – although it does give you the tools to write a convincing novel. However, a law degree is not useless. Writing a novel requires more than commitment to an idea. It requires a methodical approach and the capacity to execute that methodology. To fabricate a fictional universe operating under fictional laws and featuring fictional narratives requires discipline.

The mental discipline required to complete law school, especially at a high caliber institution such as U of T, endows a law student with a lifelong capacity for self-discipline. A control that can be applied to many fields, including writing.