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.