Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Highlights of a First-year Lawyer

As I wind up a week with the family in Hilton Head, I can't help but give thanks for some of the fantastic experiences I've had in the last two months since our swearing in ceremony as lawyers. First of all, I'm grateful to be working at a law firm with flexible partners who haven't blinked an eye at my week-long vacation in the midst of a busy time of year in our business. Other biggies:

Hilton Head 2012 with the boys
  • In many ways, I'm grateful that the law school gamble worked out at all. While many members of the Class of 2012 at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law have found great jobs, others are still searching. And by most accounts, the market is tough out there. A recent story in the Washington Post stated that, nine months after graduating, half of all law students last year did not find jobs as lawyers. That's a bad fraction.
  • I'm grateful to be playing a small part in some legal cases that bring me deep personal satisfaction. In the last three months, I've helped launch class action lawsuits involving unfair banking fees for college students, a conspiracy linked to Anthem health insurance premiums, and a train derailment that spilled dangerous chemicals into the environment
  • I'm grateful for technology, which allowed me to edit videos, communicate with clients and other lawyers, and draft pleadings from my laptop during vacation.
  • I'm proud to know more than a handful of fellow law graduates who have struck out on their own, starting independent law firms like this one and this one that are running on grit and ambition. They're going to do great things. 
  • I'm thankful for all the veteran attorneys and judges, like this guy and this guy and this guy, who have graciously welcomed me into a profession that demands vast knowledge and experience. 
  • I'm humbled by the opportunity to help people recover from serious injuries, including cases like this one, that are caused by the negligence of others. It's a responsibility I don't take lightly.  
  • More than anything, I'm thankful for family. Cheesy yes, but also true. I'm thankful for a week of building sand castles with my kids, taking oceanfront strolls with my awesome wife,  gorging myself on rich food, and waking up early to run off the calories. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Class action suit targets Kentucky's largest health insurer for conspiracy and unfair price tactics

I'm proud to be the plaintiff's attorney in a federal class action lawsuit filed recently by our firm, Jones Ward PLC. The suit is against Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, for illegally conspiring to drive up prices for consumers. Anthem is the largest health insurer in Kentucky by far, collecting $326 million in premiums every year. The next largest insurer, Humana, collects just $27 million in premiums. Anthem's status as the 800-pound gorilla of health insurance in the Commonwealth is no accident. Anthem operates under the Blue Cross Blue Shield trademark, and is part of insurance mega-company Wellpoint, Inc. Anthem's strategy for limiting competition is simple. It teams up with other Blue Cross partners and illegally divides up the nation's insurance market in violation of the Sherman Act. The insurance companies then agree to stay on their own turf and not compete with each other. In the process, they drive up prices and keep competitors out.

To read more about this case, and to download a PDF copy of the lawsuit, click here

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bad products flood U.S. economy

From exercise bikes and vitamins to coffeemakers and walking shoes, defective products are flooding the U.S. economy and harming consumers in all walks of life. That's the general message of a newspaper story published today by Darla Carter of The Courier-Journal in Louisville. In describing a long list of recalled or defective items, Carter writes that "products that we buy to improve our health or make our lives easier can leave us feeling cheated because they don't live up to marketing hype or have dangerous flaws."
This news story should not come as a surprise to consumers who have been injured by these products. It happens more often than you might think. The attorneys at Jones Ward PLC receive calls every day about problems like this. Here's a list of some of the defective products:
Sunbeam Products, recalled 520,000 of its coffee machines after more than 60 reports of burn injuries to the face and other body parts.
Reebok over-hyped its EasyTone walking shoes and ended up paying $25 million for refunds.
These blinds were recalled after a 2-year-old girl was strangled in the loop of a cord that wasn't attached to the wall or floor. This isn't the first miniblind recall. Anyone with children should be especially careful to check the brand's safety record and make sure blinds are properly installed.
Vitamin marketers including NBTY paid $2.1 million to settle charges about children's multivitamins featuring the Disney Princesses, Winnie the Pooh, and Spider-Man. The vitamins were falsely promoted as being good for healthy brain and eye development.
The company that makes the Ab Circle Pro will pay up to $25 million to settle charges of deceptive advertising. They claimed that working out three minutes a day on the Ab Circle would lead to a 10-pound weight loss in 14 days. It's ridiculous and sad that a company would even try to make a claim like this. Think about it: a total workout of roughly 45 minutes leading to a 10-pound weight loss. ab-circle-pro-review-1.jpg

There have been hundreds of reports of this product breaking, causing injuries to the head, face, shoulder and hip.
This drug, Budeprion XL 300 mg., is marketed as equivalent to Wellbutrin XL 300 mg. Turns out it's not equivalent at all, which means some patients might not get the desired effect with the generic drug, which is used to treat depression and to prevent seasonal affective disorder. It's made by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Impax Laboratories.
This list of recalled products could certainly be longer. Indeed, nearly every day a consumer product in the United States is recalled due to safety concerns or fraudulent marketing. If you or a loved one have been injured by one of the above products, or another recalled consumer item, call Attorney Alex Davis at 502-882-6000 for a free case evaluation, or email him at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Metal hip implant cases moving forward

I've spent most of the last three years learning about how metal hip implants injure people. These medical devices were promoted over the last decade as the best thing since sliced bread. They were pitched as a product that would last forever. Turned out that many of them had a higher than normal failure rate.

Now, hip device companies are facing a mountain of lawsuits from people with a nasty condition called metallosis, which can injure the kidneys, destroy tissue and bone, and cause memory problems. Here's a blog post that I wrote for our law firm, Jones Ward PLC, earlier today about the latest twist in the mass tort world of hip implants.

"Dozens of lawsuits over failed Biomet hip implants are being merged together in a federal court in Indiana, over the objection of Biomet.
The cases, including some from Jones Ward PLC, involve failed metal-on-metal implants made by Biomet. The most common type is the Biomet M2A Magnum. Lawyers for the Indiana company argued that the cases should not be merged together, in part because they claimed the devices were not as defective as other metal-on-metal implants such as the DePuy ASR.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, or JPML, disagreed. The panel, in a ruling filed Oct. 2, 2012, wrote that Biomet's efforts to settle some cases involving failed Magnums were "dwarfed by the almost 70 cases currently pending in federal court."

That number will almost certainly grow in the coming months as lawyers with Jones Ward PLC and other leading mass tort law firms seek compensation on behalf of those who have been injured by failed metal-on-metal Biomet implants. Sadly, the problems with these implants are similar to the problems with other metal-on-metal implants made by DePuy, Zimmer, and other manufacturers. In certain patients, the metal parts rub against each other, shedding tiny particles of cobalt and chromium into the patient's bloodstream, which can lead to a dangerous condition called metallosis.

The only permanent cure for metallosis is surgery to have the metal implant device removed. Although the cases against Biomet will likely require extensive litigation over the coming years, the recent ruling by the JPML is a step in the right direction toward getting injured implant recipients the compensation they deserve. Unlike a class action lawsuit, these cases will be merged together in Indiana just for the purposes of handling pre-trial testimony and the exchange of evidence, which is called discovery. In theory, each case would return to a local court once the merged case in Indiana is complete. If you or a loved one have been injured by a failed metal-on-metal hip implant made by Biomet, DePuy, or another company, call Attorney Alex Davis at 502-882-6000 for a free case evaluation, or email him at"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lawsuit of the week: penis amputation case

Our law firm, Jones Ward, was swarmed by reporters this week after we filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Louisville man whose penis had to be amputated due to poor hospital care. That's right. Amputated. Ouch.

To read a copy of the complaint, click here. Numerous television stations and newspapers, some as far away as England, ran stories about the lawsuit, and it was the focus of a special report on CNN.

What wasn't mentioned in those segments is the fact that the attorneys at Jones Ward PLC deal with these kinds of cases on a daily basis. For example, the law firm currently represents a coal miner who had his foot and lower leg amputated in a job-related accident in eastern Kentucky. It also represents individuals who have had body parts amputated due to failed medical implants. Perhaps the saddest amputation case of all was a jury trial in which the attorneys at Jones Ward successfully argued in favor of a woman who witnessed the amputation of her newborn baby's head in the hospital as the baby was being born. The jury awarded the woman $1.4 million.

In other news, here's a photo of me, obviously pretty pleased with myself, at the swearing in ceremony for new lawyers on Thursday. There's another ceremony in Frankfort on Oct. 19, but I wanted to be official as soon as possible. Time to get to work. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet, sweet news: Bar Exam results arrive

All my poker chips riding on one number
Life is returning to normal, whatever that means, after a few days of total pandemonium following the release of the July 2012 bar exam results in Kentucky. The good news: I passed. Better news: I don't know of anyone who did not pass. Of course, there are folks who didn't pass the exam. The overall rate of passage in Kentucky was roughly 80 percent for the February exam. First-time exam takers from U of L Law had a 90 percent pass rate last summer, and those with top-notch grades in law school did even better. For a full breakdown of bar passage rates, click here.
I'm just relieved that the process is over. It was  a humbling experience. I'll be sworn in as a lawyer Thursday by Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson in Louisville. My name will appear on lawsuits as soon as my license is complete, possibly as soon as next week. Then it's on to depositions, discovery, and possibly a trial later this year or early in 2013. Most people don't wake up in the morning and smile when they remember they have to go to work. I honestly can't wait to get to work as a lawyer. Congratulations to all those who passed the Kentucky bar exam.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five things every new lawyer should know

It's been exactly 13 years since the bar exam in July. OK, maybe not 13 years, but it feels that long. Anyway, the results will be releaseed exactly one week from today in Kentucky. Other states, including Nebraska, Florida, Utah and West Virginia, already have released their scores. But there's no use in lingering over the long wait time. The mountain cannot be moved. Instead, I offer a few modest pointers that I've picked up over the last few months. I'll be adding to this list over the next year, and blogging about my experience and the experience of other young lawyers in the Louisville area.

  1. Get a criminal lawyer in your Rolodex. Over the last six weeks, I've been approached by friends and neighbors for help with two different traffic tickets, and a dicey immigration-related matter. Even if I did practice criminal law, I couldn't do anything for these folks because I'm still waiting on my license and bar results. But I probably would still refer them to a friend who focuses on criminal law because they would be better served by someone with experience in that area. So, it pays to have a few criminal defense lawyers on speed dial. And you never know when you might need them for yourself!
  2. Find a focus. I'm stubborn, and I'm still learning this one the hard way. My main practice areas are in mass tort litigation and personal injury law. Check out our firm's blog here for details. So when I tried to file a quit claim deed the other day as part of a mortgage application for my house, I had to do it three times before getting the process right. Sometimes, it pays to hire someone who knows exactly what they're doing. 
  3. Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect and courtesy. This one should be a no brainer, but it's been burned into my skull even more over the last two months as I take phone calls and meet with new clients. At least in the world of plaintiff work, it is absolutely impossible to tell at the outset what will turn into a monster case, and what will turn into a non-starter. 
  4. Don't forget your law school buddies. I'm trying to meet at least one law school friend for lunch or dinner each week. I'm learning about their experiences, asking advice, and reminding them about the areas where I practice in case they stumble across a whopper client who needs help in my practice area. With a crazy schedule and loads of work, lunch away from my desk once a week is harder than you might think.
  5. Stay busy. Especially over the next seven days, I'm packing my schedule with as many client visits, deadlines, and other tasks as I can create. My aim is to forget all about the results of that little test, and the fact that all 130 or so members of our class will be furiously clicking refresh on a certain Web site next Friday afternoon to see if their number pops up. In fact, I am sure that I'll be so busy the results won't even surface in my mind during the 48 hours before they are released. Yeah, good luck with that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bar exam in 12 days: scary photos, scarier practice tests, and a final push to the end

It's ten o'clock at night and I'm still buckled down in the living room, poring over special venue provisions for civil actions against Kentucky tobacco growers. Earlier today, it was reams of multiple choice questions for a sample MBE test. In twelve more days, I'll sit down with several hundred other students and take the bar. I'm actually starting to feel OK about it. Over the last few weeks, however, I've been through intellectual boot camp: eight to ten hours a day of studying, thousands of pages of facts and rules, seventeen different outlines, countless essays, etc. As one fellow student put it recently,
Agency, Civil Procedure, Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, Torts, Wills, Trusts, Administrative Law, Conflict of Law, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Domestic Relations, Evidence, Income Tax, Personal Property, Real Property. Anyone feeling overwhelmed?
After law school, at left, and before the bar, at right
You can get a sense of the pressure and stress from the photo at right, depicting me at graduation from law school (confident, happy, full of wisdom) and then just a few days ago when bar prep was in full swing (haggard, frightened, mentally drained). I'm kidding, of course. Sort of. Maybe. From what I gather, most other recent law grads are going through exactly the same process, straddling the line between burnout and freakout. One of the brighter spots is that I've gotten a lot of great advice from friends, law professors, and practicing attorneys. Some of what they've said:

  • Accept the fact that this summer will be the worst summer you have experienced in a long time, and perhaps the worst ever. However, the worse your summer, the better the bar exam. If the summer is going really well, the bar probably will not.
  • The bar is a rite of passage, and you'll most likely get through it. It doesn't have a lot to do with actually practicing law, and you can perform below average on the bar and still pass. 
  • Bar prep tests are designed to scare the hell out of you (this much is certainly true), so that you'll study harder, and do fine on the real deal. 
  • Most law students from Louisville pass the Kentucky bar with no problem (our pass rate is typically around 90 percent). The few who fail either didn't study hard, had a major panic attack during the exam, or had major personal problems strike in the days or weeks before the test. 
This will be my last blog post before the bar. I'm already feeling guilty about my tobacco growers and their venue provisions (please, for everyone's sake, sue them in the county where their warehouse is located, or where the grower resides). I have a feeling that the bar exam will turn out fine, but I'm not leaving anything up to chance. Don't cross your fingers for me. I don't want luck. Pushing hard until the end seems to be the only way to do it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bar exam: pressure mounting, five weeks to go

This morning I'm sitting in a second-floor classroom at the U of L law school, doing what I do pretty much every morning: preparing for a marathon lecture about the bar exam. For the next three and a half hours, a curly-haired professor from UNC is going to talk about the ins and outs of constitutional law, from privileges and immunities to interstate commerce and the First Amendment. Earlier this week it was a guy from Yale talking about real property. Before that we marched through the laws of evidence, agency, tax, torts, corporations, and contracts. The material for the bar exam is vast, and the preparation seems endless.
The crazy thing is that we haven't even really started. A lawyer friend who lives in my neighborhood says it doesn't really begin until the "twenties" of June. One of the partners at the firm where I work says the go date is July 1, when I'm supposed to go full time on bar prep. So far, preparing for the bar has been not too different from working as a law clerk. Both require the ability to focus on countless mundane details for hours at a time, and then be able to analyze and remember those details weeks later. This weekend we're going to take a practice run at the MBE, a 200-question multiple choice monster that spans six core topics. The other half of the bar consists of 12 essays, each lasting 30 minutes. So far the summer hasn't been too bad. I've been busy at work, handling helping clients in personal injury and mass tort cases, answering discovery, filing lawsuits, and getting ready to start practicing in earnest this fall. But as we get deeper into studying and the real date of the bar exam draws closer, I can feel the pressure mounting. Full-time bar prep for me starts in less than 10 days, and then it's a month-long slog to the finish line. In times like these, I am grateful that there are other things that fill my life --- kids, wife, a house to worry about, lawns to mow, Monday night soccer, cleaning the swimming pool, etc. Diversions keep me sane, even if time for diversions soon will be precious.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shift from law school to law job is humbling, hard

Ever heard of the 10,000-hour rule? The idea is that, in order to master a specific skill, you must put in the equivalent of 10,000 hours of practice, or roughly five years of full-time work. The rule is staring me in the face as I begin the steep climb to competence as a rookie lawyer. The members of the Class of 2012  at U of L, myself included, spent the last year as 3Ls, the top dogs in law school. Now we're starting all over at the bottom. Louisville did a great job teaching me the law, but the field is so vast and there are so many things to learn. What's the difference between filling out a summons in state court compared to federal court?  How do you write a claim for loss of consortium? How does Medicare subrogation work?
Bar exam: that's me in eight weeks
Part of me wishes that I could push the fast-forward button and get to the point where I feel at least semi-confident about the areas where I will be practicing. For now, however, practice is not even my biggest worry. Bar prep started a week ago, and the exam itself is looming less than two months away. Listening to the Barbri lectures is like taking a mental stroll back through the first two years of law school. It's mildly interesting to remember all the cases that we read in order to learn tidbits of Contract law and Negotiable Instruments, but for the most part it's a painful process -- four hours a day of lectures so we can remember who gets priority in a fight between two creditors over a secured transaction (the perfected interest, of course), or whether a defendant's rights are violated when police conduct a stop and frisk search without probable cause (no, so long as there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity). In addition to the lectures, we're supposed to be spending another four or five hours a day reviewing and outlining our subjects. Then there's the four or five hours a day I'm working at the firm that was generous enough to give me a job. How many hours are there in a day again?
Lots of people have given me advice about studying for the bar this summer. They've told me not to worry too much. They've told me to worry a lot. They've told me it's a marathon, and not to get burned out early in the summer. All in all, I've heard way more horror stories than pleasant memories. At least it's comforting to know that Louisville has a high pass rate, especially for students who did well academically in law school. It's also good to know that you only need a score of 75 out of 100 on each essay in order to pass the Kentucky portion of the exam. Then again, there are 12 essays, and only 30 minutes for each. Screw up just one, or fall behind on your timing, and you are in serious trouble. In the end, I imagine that bar prep, and work as a first-year lawyer, will be much like law school: a long and grinding path, with plenty of frustrations along the way but rewards at the end for those who persevere. Final note: I've updated the title of this blog because I am technically no longer a law student, and I've changed my profile accordingly. However, if you are interested in law school at U of L, or in the legal market in Louisville, you can still contact me with questions or thoughts. My email:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Top Ten List: Law School Graduation Highlights

It's Monday morning, just two days after the graduation ceremony for our law school class. The voice mail light on my phone at work is blinking furiously, and the weekly attorney meeting is just a few minutes away. Still, I can't resist taking one more look back at the moment the Class of 2012 walked across the stage and finished law school. Here's my Top 10 List of the best moments from graduation:

Getting ready to graduate
10. Scanning the program at graduation and thinking about all of the ridiculously successful and hard working, interesting people in our class. We had about 125 people finish law school. There were grads in their mid-twenties, at least one who is older than fifty, some with multiple kids, and a few who had kids during school.

9. Listening to Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson delivery our commencement speech. She focused on the unexpected ways that life delivers success, and how mistakes and problems can turn into possibilities.

8. Walking across the stage and getting the official handshake from Dean Jim Chen, who will no longer be the school's dean after next month, but will continue to be connected to the law school. He's done a terrific job, and will leave big shoes to fill.

7. Standing up in our chairs on the stage and giving a somewhat unplanned standing ovation to Harrison Rich, the valedictorian of our class. For an interview with Harrison, click here.

6. Not thinking about the bar exam. Even for a minute.

5. Watching all of the other students cross the stage, and thinking about our collective future. Some of us will no doubt run into trouble. Some will be substance abusers. Some will fail the bar. Some will commit ethics violations. But right now, the future seems bright. We're heading into judicial clerkships, first-year associate jobs, additional academic degrees, and all sorts of other lofty pursuits. Louisville Law has done a great job preparing us during the last 1,000 days. The next 1,000 are up to us.

4. Receiving our hoods from Dean Kathy Urbach, head of the law school's Professional Development. I thought it was pretty cool that, in a down economy in which many of us are still struggling to find jobs, we selected her for this honor. If you're thinking about going to law school at Louisville, rest assured that Dean Urbach will not rest until you are employed. Here's a message that she sent to our class a few days ago:

Dear Law School Graduate Peeps,
I find myself thinking about each of you, hoping that your law school experience was meaningful and inspiring.  I suspect the answer is complicated but I sincerely hope that it was more positive than negative.

I can tell you without reservation that your law school experience was meaningful and inspiring to me.  Many of you have allowed me the privilege of getting to know you fairly well, which has been a joy.  I've observed each of you  work hard without stopping, lead with integrity and face the enormous hurdle that is post-law school life with grace.   I've admired your dedication, intelligence, talent and humor both up close and from afar. I'm most honored to be your hooding professor. 

3. Thinking, even during graduation, about how exciting and hectic my life as a lawyer is going to be. I'm already swamped with work, handling demand letters for personal injury cases, interviewing clients for medical malpractice suits, writing subpoenas and briefs, and analyzing thousands of pages of medical records for our mass tort practice, which involves prescription drugs and medical devices. By the way, I'm going to continue using this space to blog about the bar exam this summer, and then life as a lawyer in Louisville. If you have blog ideas, send 'em my way.

2. Throwing a party at my house the night of graduation, and spending time with all of the law students, attorneys, friends and others who showed up. I felt loved beyond anything that I deserved.

1.  Seeing all of my wonderful family and friends before, during, and after graduation. I could not have done the last three years without them. Here's one final sappy thank you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Grab bag: A few parting thoughts on law jobs, graduation, alcohol trouble, and sweet victory

I've got multiple ideas competing in my head for a blog post today, but instead of picking one I'm going to write about all of them.

1. Finality: in less than a month, I'll be picking up my J.D. as I walk across a stage in a gown and cap that cost me $90 to rent. For one day. Not too happy about the rental, but attending law school at the University of Louisville is still hands down the best career decision I've ever made. As I check off my final obligations in the coming weeks -- one exam, a few more classes, a couple of papers -- feel free to email me at if you are applying to law school and want candid advice about where to go and how to get there. Later this summer, I'll be writing about the bar exam, and then life as a first-year associate at this law firm.

2. Disappointment: this week I filled out the NALP survey for graduating law students, which provides salary information and employment statistics to aspiring law students, some of whom have turned around and sued their former law schools. The survey was a disappointment, partly because I found out it doesn't collect compensation details beyond base salary. That makes for a vastly incomplete picture, especially for those of us (outside traditional BigLaw) who are relying on more complex pay structures that take into account contingent fees, profit sharing and other types of bonuses. At the same time, I'm happy to be able to report having a job at all. Many, many, many students in my graduating class are still searching for an offer. My sources tell me all but a handful of last year's U of L grads found jobs within nine months. Here's hoping that's true for the Class of 2012 as well.

3. Scandal: spreading gossip is not one of my goals for this blog, but I feel obligated to mention the second U of L law grad in recent months who has made headlines in the legal world. In a bad way. Both students allegedly did dumb things in public involving alcohol, which you can read about here. I'm sharing the information not because I am in a position to judge others, but because it's a good reminder of the perils that lawyers (and law students) face when it comes to substance abuse.

Brandeisliga 2012
4. Victory: congratulations to the law school's soccer team, Brandeisliga, which won the university's intramural futbol championship earlier this week. I'm still a bit sore from playing three games in as many days, but it was a great experience. Soccer bonus: 50 greatest goals of all time via YouTube.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interview: Harrison Rich on picking U of L Law, getting a #1 class rank, and finding a killer job

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know Harrison Rich. You’re probably not alone. He’s the well-dressed guy from Bowling Green who usually sits in the back row during class. Quiet. Easy going. Not a big talker. But there are a few things you can learn from Harrison, especially if you’re thinking about applying to law school. For starters, his class rank is 1. He’s a law school exam destroyer who enrolled at Louisville despite receiving offers from other schools with far more “elite” reputations. He also isn’t an invincible robot (see below interview response on how he bounced back after getting a C+ on an assignment). Still, for the most part, Harrison has annihilated his law school classes over the last three years. He generously agreed to answer a few questions from me as part of my ongoing efforts to write about the ups and downs of legal education in the River City. A few of my other interviews: read about the former rock star who became last year's top student, or the 2L who will be next year's law review boss, or the oral argument champ from my 1L year. 

Name: Harrison Rich
Age: 26
Hometown: Bowling Green, Ky.
After graduation: Baker Botts LLP in Dallas, Texas
Harrison Rich

3L at U of L: How did you end up going to law school at Louisville?
Answer:  Although I am not originally from Louisville, I had roots here because I attended the U of L Speed Scientific School for my undergraduate engineering degree.  I had some pretty good offers to go to out-of-state law schools, as well as an offer from the law school in Lexington (which I could not accept out of principle...Go Cards).  Ultimately, I selected the school that would allow me to graduate with the least amount of debt.  I also ensured that the school offered certain coursework in intellectual property, because that was the sole reason I wanted to go to law school. 

3L at U of L: What did you do to prepare during the summer before law school started?
Answer: Honestly, I played a lot of golf and sat by the pool.  I do not think there is much you can do in terms of studying to prepare you for your first year.  The only book I read was "Acing Your First Year of Law School."

3L at U of L: Most law students are used to being part of an elite academic group, but few of them do as well as you did during your first year. What do you think set you apart?
Answer: First, I brief every case.  Essentially, I read the case and "book" brief it first.  Then, I go back through and type my case brief.  I love the case brief because I can easily find the information I need when I get called on.  I also do not have to furiously type down everything the professor says because most of it is already in my brief.  I use the case brief to review the cases before each class if time permits.  I do not have a good enough memory to book brief a case, not review it, and then confidently go into class.

Second, I make my own outlines.  Sometimes I will look at past students' outlines in order to improve my own outlines.  I do recommend using concise hornbooks to help outline because they provide great black-letter statements and analysis.  I do not really have any notable outlining strategy beyond those two aids.  I think the key is simply keeping them updated.  It is easy to slack off on outlining during the semester, but then you are forced to make up for that by spending many hours late in the semester making them.  Instead, I prefer to keep mine updated so that I can review them.  However, I know some students make their outlines at the very end of the semester, and it works out very well for them.

Third, I try my best to pay attention in class instead of surfing the Internet.  It is easy to get distracted by e-mail,, etc., so I try to stay focused because you never know what you might miss. 

Fourth, I try to stay balanced through exercise.  I think exercise is extremely important in keeping me mentally fresh.  I run at least three or four times a week at the park.

3L at U of L: You’ve obviously done very well in most of your classes. What was your worst mistake in law school?
Answer: Well, I got extremely sick after taking my first law-school final.  I ended up in the hospital and barely studied for the remaining three finals.  Thankfully, I did well because I prepared throughout the semester.  I think the takeaway there is that students should be preparing for finals throughout the semester, instead of trying to learn a sixty-page outline in two or three days.  Additionally, I did not know that you could reschedule finals, so students should be aware of that.

Also, I royally screwed up an assignment for Professor Nowka's Secured Transactions class.  Not only did I use the wrong debtor's name, but I put the date on the document as 9-11 because I was watching a show about 9-11, which was incorrect.  I received a C+ on the assignment, but booked the class.  The lesson there is that you can absolutely blow an assignment, but still do well in a class.  Thus, there is no need to fret over a bad assignment.

3L at U of L: People say that the three years of law school amount to an academic marathon, not a sprint. Did you ever reach a point where you felt that you ran out of gas? How did you get through it?
Answer: There are three weeks left in my last semester of law school, so I would say I am just about out of steam.  Three years of law school is certainly a long time, so I think it is crucial to keep your end goal in mind.  Without an end goal, it is easy to lose sight and get off track.  Whether your goal is working for the public defender's office, finishing in the top 5%, or working for a preeminent law firm, you should keep that ultimate goal in mind each day.

3L at U of L: Baker Botts, where you plan to work after graduation, is a giant international law firm with 725 lawyers. Not the typical place for a U of L student to land. How did that happen?
Answer: I think I may be the first U of L alum to work there.  Typically, the international firms recruit from T14 schools, which makes the competition for summer associate positions extremely tough.  I was fortunate enough to interview with Baker Botts at the Loyola Patent Interview Program, a giant event with the best firms in the nation.  It is absolutely crazy.  It is set up in a big hotel in downtown Chicago, and the interviews take place with two interviewers from each firm in a hotel room.  The pace is pretty hectic.  I think at one point I went through three or four interviews with different firms back to back.  I got a callback from Baker Botts a week after the interview.  They flew me to Dallas for a second round of interviews.  They pay for your hotel and take you out to eat, so it is a pretty sweet deal.  After that, I received a summer associate offer.

As far as their summer program goes, it was amazing.  First, their program is intended to mimic what it is like to be an associate, so you get real work.  For example, I had several patent prosecution assignments that were submitted to the USPTO.  I also was in charge of another project that resulted in me leading a teleconference with the in-house counsel of a major international software company.  Second, the firm provided an excellent social experience.  We attended major and minor league baseball games, a play, in-home cookouts with partners, golf outings, a tour of the Cowboy stadium, department dinners, and a trip to a resort outside of Austin where James Baker III spoke to us.  It was truly the experience of a lifetime.  Fortunately, it ended in a permanent job offer.

3L at U of L: What are you going to be doing for the firm?
Answer: I will be in the intellectual property group.  Specifically, I will be doing patent prosecution, patent litigation, patent licensing, and counseling.  One of the reasons I chose Baker Botts over other firms was that they do not force you to decide between patent prosecution and patent litigation like most firms do.  Instead, you learn it all.

3L at U of L: What advice would you give to an incoming law student?
Answer: I would advise them to listen to the advice they will constantly hear their first few weeks of orientation and school: brief the cases, outline, review, and stay balanced.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Law School Alternatives to Final Four Madness

Louisville has succumbed to basketball madness this weekend due to the Final Four matchup between U of L and UK in New Orleans. Plenty of law students have made the trip south for the game, and those who are staying here are taking a siesta from final exam preparation. This got me thinking: what are the best ways to pass the time for a Louisville law student outside of spectator sports? Lately, the options seem bountiful. I won't list them all, but if you're thinking about going to law school here in the River City, you can rest assured there will be plenty of diversions. I'm focusing on recreation in this list, since I've written about local nightlife in this post and this one and this one in the past.

1. Join a team. For a small law school, we have a bunch of intramural teams and other athletic clubs. I recently took a spot on the law school's IM soccer squad, cleverly named Brandeisliga. We've also had basketball and football squads (my all-time favorite name: "The Bottom 90 Percent"), and our school's softball team left today for a national law school softball tournament at the University of Virginia.

2. Toss a disc, play some pong. The school hosted a fun Frisbee competition this week on the lawn in front of the law building. Teams of students and professors (including the dean) participated, with the winners getting gift cards. Another perennial favorite if your free time is limited (always the case for law students) is the ping pong table in the law school's basement (see my amazing photo, above, of actual U of L law students playing actual pong).

3. Watch the ponies. The spring meet at Churchill Downs is less than a month away, and the track itself is just a few blocks from the law school.

4. Walk, run, or bike. I've been trying to ride a bike to class lately (I live about five miles from campus) and it's been surprisingly easy. Louisville is not always the friendliest place to be a cyclist, but there are a decent number of bike lanes. This also is the running season for the city, with the Papa John's 10-Miler coming up tomorrow and the city's miniMarathon taking place in late April. Louisville also plays host to the Ironman in August (well beyond my capacity as an athlete, but fun to watch).

5. Parking it. Spring is the best season of the year in our neck of the woods. Redbuds and cherry trees are blooming, and unless you have allergies the city's many parks are a great place to spend time. My favorites: Cherokee Park in the Highlands, Jefferson Memorial Forest in the south end, and Waterfront Park downtown.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Louisville jumps in latest law school rankings

If you are interested in a deeply flawed and mostly meaningless measuring stick for law schools, check out the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, which have Louisville pegged at 89 this year, a significant improvement over the prior year. We actually bumped up 11 spots compared to 2012, which I suppose is a good thing, because like it or not many people put a lot of weight on this kind of stuff.
You can read about which schools did well and which ones fell at this link or this one. I've also written about the rankings in the past, so I'm not going to dive into the issue again. Suffice it to say that if you are going to make a major life decision based on a magazine survey you may want to think a little deeper. Especially when the magazine doesn't know how to break a seven-way tie. Then again, the rankings are a reality that is here to stay. Either way, congrats to U of L for scoring a higher number this year. Go Cards!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top 10 things to do on spring break if you're a (current or future) Louisville law student

The vagaries of my final semester in law school, and my part-time job as a law clerk, have forced me to be MIA from the blog recently. To make up for the absence, I offer you a list of things to do over spring break if you are a law student (or an applicant) at the Brandeis School of Law.

1. Start spring break early at tonight's Med Mal mixer, a joint event for students of U of L's law, dental, and medical schools. You'll get a chance to meet the people you will be suing (or defending) in a few years. There's free food and drink specials. The fun starts at 7:30 and runs until 11 p.m. at Howl at the Moon, at Fourth Street Live!

St. Patrick's Day parade in the Highlands
2. Attend the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in the Highlands neighborhood on Saturday. The parade takes place in the heart of the area's Irish bar district.

3. Hoist a pint at one of the same Irish bars the following weekend, when another series of St. Patrick's events unfolds in the same area. Not to lose out on a chance to earn some green, some of these bars at holding events all week long. My favorite: O'Shea's on Baxter Avenue.

4. Indulge in Kentucky's hoops obsession by catching a few basketball games. Louisville is the nation's hottest television market for college basketball. Louisville plays tonight, and Kentucky plays Friday. March Madness follows for both teams.

5. Volunteer! The deadline for graduating law students to complete their 30-hour public service requirement is March 26. It's a great way to help people, meet people, and learn a little law.

6. Pay off the balance on your Barbri account by March 15 and take a spin on the company's new AMP bar prep software, which apparently leads to higher scores on simulated MBE tests.

7. Take another look at my list of the Top 10 Things to do on Winter Break in Louisville, including museums, bourbon distilleries and more.

8. Take a lawyer out to lunch. If you are still looking for a summer job, or even if you already have one, it's hard to underestimate the importance of making connections with members of the local bar. I try to have lunch with an attorney at least once a week.

9. Apply for a job. Lately, it seems like the clouds are parting a bit when it comes to local law firms looking for associates. The latest edition of Bar Briefs has a few options, and there have been announcements about personal injury and other law firms looking for new hires. Joining groups such as the Louisville Bar Association or the KJA also can be useful.

10. Stretch your legs. Studying law all day can wreak havoc on your fitness. Sign up for one of the races in this spring's Triple Crown of Running, or take a spin through Cherokee Park. I'm setting my signs a bit higher for the last spring break as a law student: spring skiing in Bozeman, Montana. Got a spring break idea of your own? Post it in the comments field below.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

U of L Law Stud(ent)s Set High Bar

This week I'm turning the blog over to a few U of L law students whose accomplishments show a ridiculous level of talent and dedication. They also illustrate how, in a competitive job market, standing out means more than just notching solid grades every semester. Any law student, in order to be successful, must pick his or her battles. They folks have chosen wisely. I'm taking the following information straight from school announcements made earlier this week.

This past weekend the Law School's American College of Trial Lawyers mock trial teams competed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in Region 7 of the ACTL National Trial Competition.  Two teams represented the Law School - Samantha Constantine and Thomas Stevens, and Paul Chumbley and Josh PorterAfter competing in three preliminary rounds, Samantha and Thomas were one of four teams (out of 24) that advanced to the final rounds.  UL was paired against UK.  Both teams were undefeated.   Samantha and Thomas, who represented the plaintiff during the final trial, defeated UK, and were declared co-champions of the Region 7 ACTL National Trial Competition.  Samantha and Thomas will now represent the Law School and Region 7 in the 37th Annual National Trial Competition to be held in Austin, Texas, March 21-24, 2012.  Only two teams advance from each of the 14 regions across the country. The teams and coaches want to thank all UofL law students who served as witnesses during practices.  Both trial teams put in countless hours to prepare for the competition.  Samantha and Thomas will now receive a new civil problem and will have one month to prepare both sides. The ACTL National Trial Team coaches, Kimberly Ballard and Rob Riley, congratulate Samantha and Thomas for advancing from one of the most competitive NTC regions in the country. 

The Student Bar Association is proud to announce that the recipient of the Student of the Month Award for January 2012 is Amanda Warford. Amanda is a published member and the Senior Articles Editor of the University of Louisville Law Review, Volume 50. Throughout her time in law school, she has been a participant in the Street Law Partnership with Central High School, a research assistant for Professor Judith Fischer, and a member of many student organizations. Amanda is a recipient of the Bench & Bar Fund Scholarship, as well as of the Marian Kincaid Warns & Carl Warns, Jr. Scholarship. Last summer, she participated in a panel for the 28th Annual Carl A. Warns, Jr. Labor & Employment Law Institute entitled "Objection! Evidentiary Issues in Employment Litigation." Her legal experience includes working as a legal intern for Thomas M. Jones, an attorney in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and as a law clerk for Bishop & Associates, P.S.C. She has also worked as a summer associate for Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP. After graduation, Amanda will be clerking for Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. in Owensboro, Kentucky. She will then return to Louisville, where she has accepted a position with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

New student group for aspiring trial lawyers will host free lunch and magazine giveaway on Monday

Here at U of L Law, we have student groups with all kinds of themes. We have organizations for health law, sports law, international law, and the environment. All of which is great. It is puzzling, however,  that there is no group that seeks to educate students about what it's like to be a trial lawyer, or to represent plaintiffs in the courtroom. This is especially puzzling, at least to me, in light of the huge number of Louisville law students who go on to practice in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, family law, medical malpractice, etc. Well, puzzle no more. As of Monday, the law school has a new student chapter of the American Association for Justice. I joined the group last fall, and now consider it to be just as indispensable as my student LBA card. I highly encourage everyone to attend Monday's meeting at noon (full disclosure: I'm hugely biased as I am organizing the meeting). Here are the details:

FREE LUNCH in #175
Noon, Monday, Feb. 13

Inaugural meeting: the law school’s new student chapter of the American Association for Justice, a national organization for trial lawyers and plaintiffs’ rights.

Hans Poppe
Q and A: trial lawyer Hans G. Poppe of Louisville

Benefits: learn about the membership benefits of both AAJ and the Kentucky Justice Association

Free copy of Trial magazine: to first 25 students

T-Shirts: free AAJ shirt for anyone who joins today.

Learn: what it takes to practice law in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death and more.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview: Eddie O'Brien, Comedian, 2L, and Next Year's Editor-in-Chief of the U of L Law Review

There are plenty of things that are unfair about law school, but in my opinion the law review is not one of them. As a member and editor of the school's flagship journal, I've learned invaluable editing, writing, and research skills, and my grades played only a marginal role in getting there. Being willing to work hard was way more important. Same goes for Eddie O'Brien, the new Editor-in-Chief of the University of Louisville Law Review and the focus of today's interview. Eddie is a 2L, a volunteer with the local chapter of Big Brothers, and a clerk at the firm of Weber & Rose. More importantly, he has a reputation for being a hard worker, a guy who gets things done, but also has a sense of humor and gets along with everybody. Eddie's story is a must-read for any law school applicant who thinks high grades are the only key to success. Have an idea for a law-related interview? Send it to me at

Name: Eddie O'Brien 

Age: 23
Hometown: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and most of my family still lives in the Baltimore-Washington area. When I was 5, I moved to Kentucky, and then moved to the Houston area when I was 13, where I attended high school and completed my undergraduate studies.
Before law school:: I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. During undergrad, I worked three days a week as a substitute teacher at the high school level.
After law school: Like most law students, I am still struggling with this. I know that I have no interest in civil litigation. Right now my aim is to clerk for a judge for a year or two and then enter an LL.M. program in the D.C. area. As an alternative route, I might like to try my hand at being a prosecutor or litigating on behalf of a governmental agency. I would eventually like to teach and spend my days writing and telling students why they're wrong. 

Why did you choose U of L Law?
I was immediately attracted by the responsiveness and friendliness of the admissions staff. The fact that I had ties in the area and the (relatively) inexpensive cost were major factors in my decision. Almost every day, something reminds me that I made the right choice: I have made great friends, been fortunate to learn from distinguished faculty who really know their stuff, and the atmosphere here is far more relaxed and open than other law schools. 

What's been the toughest thing for you in law school so far?
Law school. It is all-encompassing; you're either all in or you're out. I suppose the most difficult thing has been learning to prioritize, which is code for doing well while still maintaining some semblance of a social life. Also, law school and sleep are in constant competition, and law school inevitably wins. I had been hoping to achieve a bit more balance there as well, but then I was chosen as Editor-in-Chief. So much for that. 

How do you deal with the stress of school?
By remembering that while school matters, it's not the only thing. Particularly in your first year, you're almost conditioned to treat law school as a bubble -- you spend all of your time either in this building or studying at home, and even when you go out with friends, most of those friends are in law school with you and conversations almost always turn to the subject of law school. Getting out of that bubble while still succeeding within it is a big challenge. I used to count "pleasure reading" as a reliable and enjoyable diversion; no longer. The words "pleasure" and "reading" are juxtapositionally grotesque. So, I spent a lot of time going out with friends, staring at the television, arguing about sports and politics, and playing with my insanely cute dog.

I also feel obligated to give a shout out to the 1Ls in my Structured Study Group. Being an Academic Fellow really has been one of the most rewarding experiences in law school; it's fun to see 1Ls today and realize that not too long ago, I was just like them: both ambitious and nervous, determined and reserved. It's always nice to try to impart to them that this isn't as hard as it seems, and that next year they'll marvel in disbelief at just how much unnecessary pressure 1Ls place on themselves. So, in a sense, one of my diversions is encouraging 1Ls to find their own diversions. 

The job market for new lawyers is tough out there. How do you plan to attack it?
By avoiding it for as long as possible. (Kidding). All anyone can do is go out there and find something that they want to do and do everything they can to get a job in that area. I don't mean to make a statement that is so self-evident; it's just that I know from personal experience how indescribably big of a mistake it is to "settle" for a job. Beggars certainly can't be choosers, but there is nothing worse than hanging your lovely and impressive J.D. in an elaborate frame in an office where you will spend 50 hours a week being bored out of your mind. I am not sure how I'm going to attack the job market, but one of the key parts of my plan (whenever it may be devised) will be to avoid boredom. 

Congrats on being named Editor in Chief of the law review for next year. What's the big deal about being on law review anyway? 
Everyone loves the Bluebook, and law review is a great opportunity to get more intimate with the Bluebook. And like everything else, the Bluebook just gets better with age (it is in its nineteenth edition).

To paraphrase one of my predecessors, law review is what you make it. It provides an opportunity for students to learn the ins and outs of legal research (beyond what any first-year course can teach you) and writing, but perhaps most importantly, it gives students an opportunity to distinguish themselves. If you make it onto law review, you've demonstrated that you're part of the so-called "law school elite" (I prefer something less pompous, like law school gods). Law review also provides you with the opportunity to get your work published (yet another opportunity to distinguish yourself), and, of course, to attain an Editorial Board position. All of these are things that employers want to see. Finally, law review offers students the opportunity to earn up to seven hours of academic credit (which is a big chunk of the 90 hours you need to graduate).

The trade-off? It's a lot of work. But we don't talk about that. 

Why did you apply for the top job?
I like to be where the action is (in this context, anyway). The University of Louisville Law Review is fifty years old, so there is a great deal of history and a whole lot of tradition to preserve, but the future is just as important. I hope to build on the efforts of previous boards to improve the reputation and quality of the publication, and we have put together a great team for next year that I think will make considerable progress in that effort. I am very grateful for the confidence that my colleagues have placed in me; my job is to make sure that I don't screw things up, and hopefully even make things better. 

What advice would you offer to someone who is thinking about going to law school?
Think it through. Law school is a major commitment, not just for the three or four years you're in it, but for the rest of your life. I'm not talking only about those terrible student loan bills. Move beyond the threshold question of "do I want to go to law school?" and ask yourself what you plan on doing after law school. As someone who is more than half way through, I would certainly have attempted to develop a more realistic (and informed) game plan for myself. Bottom line: think it through. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

What I'm learning about in law school: reptiles, health care, and how to avoid a long stay in prison

The Pinto -- like U.S. healthcare?
In my second year of law school, I wrote a blog post about the things I was learning in Con Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and other classes. This semester is turning out to be completely different from any other so far. Four of my five courses are taught by adjunct faculty, and none of them are part of the core curriculum. But even so -- or maybe because of this -- I'm learning a lot about the law and life in general. Here are a few tidbits.
  • Advanced Trial Practice: in a class of just seven people, it's hard to hide. But who would want to hide when your teachers are two grizzled trial lawyers who teach law by swapping war stories, and organizing role playing activities in class. This is probably my favorite course of the semester so far. One of the techniques we're learning is David Ball's "reptile" method of trying cases, in which you convince the jury to make decisions that protecting themselves and the community, and avoid danger. 
  • Medical Malpractice: doctors, social workers, nurses and other medical providers have a duty to warn certain people who are not their patients if they diagnose someone with a condition that could be dangerous to others. We're also reading about the finer points of informed consent, physician liability, and the laws that govern hospital emergency rooms.
  • Health Law Seminar: this is a two-credit class that focuses on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. We're learning about how health insurance works (or doesn't) and how our country has somehow managed to have a healthcare system that costs as much as a Cadillac and runs like a Ford Pinto.
  • Negotiation: arguing with an insurance adjuster about a car wreck case is way more than starting high and settling somewhere in the middle. Our main textbook, Getting to Yes, shows how to negotiate like a pro, focusing on interests instead of positions, and inventing creative options for mutual gain. It might sound like hocum, but it works. 
  • Public Defender: I wish I could say more about the criminal cases I'm working on this semester for the public defender, but, well, I can't. They involve real people facing looooong prison sentences for serious crimes, and the students in our externship program get to do actual work on their cases, including appearances in court, and in some cases arguing motions before judges. 
Although my last semester of school is chock full of great experience, perhaps the biggest lesson I'm learning is patience. At this point, many 3Ls, myself included, are ready to kick off the training wheels and dive into real practice. But we can't. Yet. It's sort of like the time you bought your first house (or car), and you're waiting for closing day. It's going to happen, but the waiting is torture. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Louisville attorney flies blind, wins jury trial

The trial bar is buzzing in Louisville this afternoon following a story that I'm going to share as an inspirational tale for law students. A local attorney, Randy Ratliff, took a case at the last minute this week after the plaintiff fired his Florida-based lawyers. Law students may remember that Mr. Ratliff spoke at the law school when he was director of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program, a position he held from January 2008 to 2011. Full disclosure: he is Of Counsel in the law office where I will be an associate after graduation.
In the case in question, the general expectation was that the judge would grant a continuance so Mr. Ratliff could get to know the facts, prepare a plan, etc. After all, preparation is the key to a successful trial, right? Well, the judge decided the case would go to trial the same day Mr. Ratliff made his initial appearance. And according to the Kentucky Trial Court Review, which also maintains this Facebook page, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff this afternoon in the amount of $131,000. The last settlement offer had been for $30,000. Not a bad week of work. Congratulations to Mr. Ratliff and his client.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Job report: why OCI is so hard at Louisville Law, and why you shouldn't worry about it

This weekend brings the annual mock interview program for 1Ls here at Louisville Law. This relatively recent tradition is an excellent opportunity to get your feet wet in the summer clerkship game, and it will be closely followed by the infamous On Campus Interview season, or OCI. I wrote about OCI last year in this post, and in my opinion most of those comments still hold up.

OCI is a big deal at some law schools, but here at Louisville the number of available jobs is quite small, and the chances of getting one are brutally long. Many will enter, few will win. In fact, in my graduating class, I am aware of only a small number of students (maybe ten) who have landed full-time permanent jobs at large law firms through OCI. The fact is, large law firms have been shrinking in recent years, and there aren't that many in Louisville to begin with. This is not to say, of course, that these jobs don't  have merit, or that it is not worth pursuing a Big Law job, especially if your first-semester GPA was, say, 3.3 or better. The paucity of OCI positions also doesn't mean you won't find a job at all. There are scores of area jobs available through smaller firms, non-profit groups and fellowship programs, and the nice thing about some of these positions is that you are in control of the process because you choose where you put your networking energy, i.e., plaintiff work, family law, public service, etc.

Even if you don't participate in OCI, it's a good idea to start thinking about the summer if you are a 1L. You might call a few lawyers (even ones you don't know!) and ask for a job shadow, like this one or this one that I did during my first-year winter break. You might also think about knocking out some of those volunteer hours for graduation, which will put you in contact with practicing attorneys. You also should visit the fine folks in Career Services, study these job interview etiquette tips, and think about professors who could serve as references (tip: if you contact a professor for a reference, make sure to clearly identify yourself, send a copy of your resume, and give them plenty of time to respond; requesting a reference in person usually works best; do NOT ask them to fill out forms for you). The bottom line, as my tax professor might say, is that there are many options, and OCI is just one of them. The job market overall is tight, but there are lots of available options, and many of them are just a few miles from the law school. You also must learn to have nerves of steel when it comes to job interviews. My overall record with OCI in my first two years of law school was 1-16, as in sixteen interviews, and fifteen rejections. But that one offer resulted in a great clerkship, which eventually turned into a full-time job offer that I happily accepted. The end justifies the means. If you have a job question or comment, post it in the comments field below, or email me at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

High GPA = passing score on bar exam (maybe)

Just walked out of an hour-long primer on the Kentucky bar exam, which most 3L students will take in July at this local hotel. Among the tidbits offered to aspiring exam takers were these stats on the correlation between law school grade-point average and success on the Big Bad Bar:
  • For students with at least a 3.0 GPA at U of L Law (usually the top one-third of the class), 100 percent passed the exam last July on their first attempt. The same students in previous years have passed the exam at a roughly 98 percent clip. 
  • Students with a 2.6 GPA or lower had a 74 percent pass rate on the same exam. 
  • Overall, the school had a roughly 90 percent pass rate last year, compared to an 86 percent statewide pass rate. The 90 percent rate was down a bit from the previous year, but in line with the last five years overall. 
There are, of course, exceptions to the above rules. Bonnie Kittinger, general counsel and director of the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, told us it is not uncommon for otherwise high-achieving students to study lightly for the test and then assume they can hang loose for the rest of the summer. Some still pass. Others do not. We also discussed dozens of other details, including the grading process, filing deadlines, even the definition of a law school application. Perhaps the best advice came from Eric Ison, one of the state's seven bar examiners, who asked us to take the bar seriously, but also to remember to breathe. "Don't be consumed by the bar," he said. I will try to keep this in mind over the next seven months. I imagine it will be easier said than done.