Friday, January 29, 2010

1L interview with Brandon Hamilton tackles admissions process at Louisville Law

Law school applications are up this year at U of L, but students with scores that fall below the school's medians should not feel disparaged -- at least not completely. That's the upshot of a recent interview with Brandon Hamilton (above right), our assistant dean for admissions. I hope to conduct more interviews with faculty, staff, and students at the school in the weeks to come. If you have an idea for an interview, or want to sit in the hot seat yourself, send me an email at

1L at U of L: We've heard that a record number of applications are expected for the Class of 2013. Is this true, and if so, what are the reasons?

Dean Hamilton: We have seen a significant increase in applications this year. The Office of Admissions expanded the areas in which we recruit in hopes of attracting a large number of qualified candidates. Of course, we believe that the economy has a role. We are excited too that there has been such a positive response to UofL Law.

1L at U of L: How should an applicant assess his or her chances of being accepted? If their grades and LSAT are below the school's medians, is that student in major trouble?

Dean Hamilton: We are a school that reviews applications holistically, although the LSAT and undergraduate GPA are important. It certainly helps if you have at least one (LSAT or Undergrad GPA) at or above the median. I wouldn’t, however, discourage someone from applying, if both are below the median. We have been known to take risks based on other characteristics of the applicant.

1L at U of L: Louisville obviously has a tremendous reach when it comes to finding a legal job in Kentucky. What about all the students who come here from out of state and plan to practice elsewhere?

Dean Hamilton: Great question. One of the benefits of being a school that has been around for a long time is that we have a strong alumni base from which we can pull. Our goal is for students to network with our alumni in the region they are interested in practicing. We would work to get you an internship or associate position in that region, so that the student could further continue to network, etc. This past year, our students gained employment in 14 states and 3 countries.

1L at U of L: Louisville was recently named one of the best "values" for a law school in the nation. What are the school's other strengths?

Dean Hamilton: We are a school that is interested in making sure that you graduate with the tools necessary to be successful. While you will receive an excellent theoretical education, we are committed to providing a skill based education and training. This is demonstrated through our expansive moot court teams, law clinics, externships, law reviews, and public service program.

In addition, we have an exceptional faculty, who are not only accomplished scholars, but have a commitment to the community and student success. To learn more:

1L at U of L: Is it OK for an applicant to call you and ask questions about their application? Does it ever hurt to call?

Dean Hamilton: It’s perfectly acceptable to call and ask questions. It doesn’t hurt to call, but, of course, professionalism is important.

1L at U of L: What are some of the strangest things that applicants have said to you, either in their personal statements or elsewhere?

Dean Hamilton: I hear a lot of stories, but consider them to be a part of one’s life journey. I am fascinated, inspired, and often motivated by the life perspective that an applicant might bring.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Law firms plan campus visits for interviews

Some of the top law firms in Louisville will be paying a visit to the law school in the coming weeks. Their well-dressed partners and associates will be holding interviews for summer jobs. Despite all the talk about the dismal legal market, this is proof that at least some jobs still exist, if only for a summer. Of course, the pickings are slim. It appears that no more than a dozen of us 1Ls will receive offers as a result of these on-campus interviews. The rest of us will be scouring the phone books, calling long-lost lawyer cousins, and pounding the pavement of the River City in search of something more modest. In the meantime, however, it's still exciting to think that I might land even a short interview with some of these top firms. I am told that the experience alone is well worth it. A few of the prospective employers planning to hold on-campus interviews:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome TLSers

If you found this blog via, thanks for visiting! You can use this blog to send me a private Gmail message, or to check out what it's like to be a 1L at the University of Louisville. To check out our discussion thread at TLS, click here. To see Louisville's stats on LawSchoolNumbers, click here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The personal injury lawyer: job shadow Part II.

(Author's note: this is the second part in a series about job shadows with Louisville lawyers) A few yards away from the bankruptcy lawyer’s office in downtown Louisville, Michael A. Schafer slides a stack of documents across his desk and motions for me to take a look. It’s a “settlement brochure” for a car wreck case, but the thing is thick enough to be a phone book. There are dozens of medical records, witness statements, even a personal diary written by the client. Schafer thinks the case may produce a six-figure settlement, which means a fee of at least $30,000 for his services. But this case seems to be the exception to the rule. Schafer, a former county prosecutor and a 1985 graduate of our law school, works a lot more cases that lead to fees of $3,000 to $5,000. Personal injury also is a crowded field, he tells me. Lots of lawyers, lots of advertising, and a limited client base. About 80 percent of Schafer’s case load is car wrecks. He also deals with motorcycle accidents, bicycle collisions, and dog bites. A lot of what Schafer does is not taught in law school, especially not during the first year. I’m in his office on this cold winter day to learn about the field of personal injury as part of a half-day job shadow. I’m trying to figure out what to do with my law degree when I graduate, and perhaps land a job during my first summer break. Schafer tells me he spends a lot of time counseling injured clients, listening to their personal problems, doling out sympathy. He also does a lot of negotiating. A substantial number of cases are settled before a lawsuit is even filed, and according to one of his brochures, 98 percent of cases are settled without the client stepping foot in a courtroom.

I sit in Schafer’s office for almost three hours, listening to him work the phones, and peppering him with questions. For a busy lawyer, he’s exceedingly patient. He talks about the importance of relationship building with other lawyers, physicians, insurance companies.

Personal injury seems appealing on a number of fronts. For one, it means a big paycheck if you can successfully market yourself and find the right clients. It’s also the financial bread and butter of many law firms, even if reality doesn’t play out exactly like it does in, say, a John Grisham novel like the The Rainmaker. Schafer does admit that personal injury has a bad reputation, partly due to those ubiquitous television ads. But the image of the ambulance chaser isn’t justified, he says, and most people change their tune about personal injury after they get screwed by an insurance company. Schafer still does a lot of advertising and marketing, as you can see from the above video. He says the Internet is the “great equalizer in the law business” in terms of marketing, and a key way for a solo practitioner to get the word out.

I leave Schafer’s office with even more questions swirling in my head. How would I create a Web site about myself? Would I even want one? What kinds of personal injury cases would I take if I entered the field? Whatever the answers, I’m grateful for Schafer’s generous allotment of time during this second job shadow. As we gear up for the big summer job hunt in February (see the new summer job poll in the upper right corner of this page), it’s helped me get a much better sense of how I might be spending my days in the future.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Law school grades: slicing and dicing the numbers

The second semester of law school at U of L has started, but I still have one foot stuck in the fall semester. The reason: grades are out. We received our results over the winter break, and professors are now holding individual meetings to discuss the results. In our Contracts class yesterday, Professor Grace Giesel told us not to freak out about the marks we received. In the transition from high school to college, she said the bottom half of students usually drop out. And in the transition from college to law school, the bottom 90 percent of students drop out. So she said the experience we had in those earlier schools, when we walked into a classroom, looked around and quickly decided that we could “beat these guys easy” is essentially no longer going to work. With that in mind, Giesel provided a breakdown of our grades for the first semester, and the number of people who received each score.

  • A (5)
  • A minus (7)
  • B plus (9)
  • B (13)
  • B minus (8)
  • C plus (8)
  • C (12)
  • C minus (3)
  • Less than C minus (3)

Seeing this list was somehow comforting, at least to me. My overall grade of a B for the course put me right in the middle, which is absolutely fine. My other grades were similar – nothing lower than a B, nothing higher than an A minus. My grade point average of 3.12 is hardly spectacular, but it’s solid enough to put me somewhere in the top one third of the class, at least according to these ranking tables from previous years. An upper level student tells me we’ll receive our actual rankings in a few weeks, and then again after each subsequent semester in law school. So the task ahead is simple: repeat what I just went through another five times over the next two and a half years, and I should be able to graduate. Simple, maybe. Difficult, definitely.
(Image: Columbia Law School blog site)