The Blog


What Should the Law School Applicant Read...Before Law School Starts?

A talented advisee who was a top student in college (he earned a 4.0 GPA) and is now in law school, shares this advice with those who are shortly contemplating their first year in law school. He recommends the following:


In the summer before law school ( and it is best to start much earlier), read the following. In every case, seek the most current version available.


One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School, by Scott Turow. This classic account of the first year of law school gives the reader a grasp of the challenges of law school, and offers advice about what to do and not to do during the critically-important first year.


Learning Legal Reasoning: Briefing, Analysis and Theory, by John Delaney. This book is essential as a guide to help you learn how to construct excellent, “to the point” briefs for your future law school classes.


How to Do Your Best on Law School Exams: Complete with Exam Problems& Answers, by John Delaney. This excellent resource is on par with the LEEWS system (, but less expensive.


Civil Procedure: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


Constitutional Law-Individual Rights: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


Constitutional Law-National Power and Federalism: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


Contracts: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


Criminal Law: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


Property: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


The Law of Torts: Examples & Explanations (Aspen Publishers)


In your “E & E” reading, focus on the courses and subject areas that will be covered in your fall 1L classes. Your E & E books can serve as a hornbook for each of your 1L classes.


Purchase and use these during your first year:


Law in a Flash (a flash card learning system for each of your 1L courses). These are highly recommended if you want to start learning the black letter law early. Check eBay for used versions of entire sets. Law in a Flash is very helpful to clarify subjects in class that may not be clearly presented. Use these cards as study aids for any quizzes you might have, because they contain hypotheticals with the tricks you are likely to see from your law professors. Study the hypotheticals with the study group you form and lead. These cards will also be useful as a refresher before your future bar exam, after law school is over.


Other key reading:


Planet Law School II: What You Need to Know (Before You Go)...But Didn’t Know to Ask...and No One Else Will Tell You, by “Atticus Falcon,” Esq. This very interesting book contains the critically important explanation of the “law school paradox” and it explains how law schools stress knowing black letter law. This book is time consuming, but very valuable.


For more information about how I can help you in your law school planning, please contact me.



“Sway” and Its Lessons for Law School Applicants

I recently read the new book  Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by the brilliant authors Ori and Rom Brafman. With searing, powerful anecdotes, they bring to life key lessons about how very smart people can and will make poor, irrational decisions.

The key forces they describe that can result in irrational decision making are:

Loss Aversion: the tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses.

The Diagnosis Bias: the inability to change one’s mind after an initial, quick diagnosis of a person or situation.

The ‘Chameleon Effect’: the tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us.

As I was reading Sway, I realized that I’ve seen these forces at work in the world of law school applications, legal education, and law-related career choices.


Loss Aversion: A law school applicant says, “I want to go to a Top 14 law school (but I don’t have anywhere near the GPA and/or LSAT score to be offered admission there). But I’m going to apply anyway. Everybody’s watching me. If I don’t apply now, I’ll be embarrassed. Admission might happen, and I’ll also apply to some Tier 4 law schools, just to make certain that I’ll have some law school choices. I just can’t stand the thought of not being in school next fall.”

What happens? Inevitably, the applicant is rejected from all of the Top 14 law schools. It’s not a lottery; it’s an analysis. You have to win your argument on a foundation of strong numbers. So only the Tier 4 schools offer this person admission. The applicant feels compelled to start law school at a Tier 4 school. Only later does this person realize that the market of law-related employers tends to ignore job applicants from Tier 4 law schools. Yet the Tier 4 law school experience is quite academically demanding, and the competition is fierce. It can be extremely difficult to get to the top of the class, even in a Tier 4 setting.

How to avoid this problem: Stop. Do not launch applications. Start over again with a comprehensive effort to earn a huge increase on the LSAT. Find appropriate law-related work. Do a great deal of law-related reading. Visit law schools. Work with an experienced prelaw advisor.

The Diagnosis Bias: A law school applicant says, “You know, when I visited the X Law School, the weather was lousy, it was hard to find parking, some people didn’t smile at me when I first walked through the doors, and the admissions office didn’t have much time for me. Forget it. I’m not applying there.”

What happens? The applicant fails to apply to a school that might actually be a great fit.

How to avoid this problem: In the example I’m thinking of, the X Law School happens to be an outstanding law school for lifting its best law students to top jobs with major law-related employers in a highly desired city. It really does a fine job for its best students. To not apply based on such shallow initial reactions is ridiculous. Take the long view. Can a particular law school help you reach your goals? Is it respected in the place(s) where you want to work? Does its name have some market power? If so, it has to be seriously considered. Be willing to reconsider thoughtfully your initial impressions.

The ‘Chameleon Effect’: A graduate an elite law school (I can think of three immediate examples, a brand new Top 3 law school graduate; a Top 14 law school graduate who landed a job with one of the most respected corporate legal departments in the US; and a highly respected elite law school official who needed the bar in that person’s new state of employment) says, in effect: “I am a graduate of one of America’s very best law schools. Therefore, I am extremely bright, like everyone around me there. Therefore, difficult things will automatically come easy to me. Therefore, I am not going to invest too much time and effort in a commercial bar exam prep course for the bar exam I’ll take this summer. As an extremely bright person, I am entitled to bar passage, just like my very bright peers.”

What happens? To the person’s shock and deep embarrassment, the person fails the bar exam. Then colleagues of the person react with the “diagnosis bias,” instantly wondering if a mistake has been made in the hiring decision. The person is now in the “penalty box,” and must fight hard to retain the job offer. Enormous pressure is on the person to pass the bar the second time.

How to avoid this problem: Sign up for the most respected commercial bar exam prep course that serves students who want to pass your state’s bar exam. Give it every ounce of your attention and effort. Employ the strategies that they recommend. Learn from their materials. Go to every class. Put all their information and experience on your side. Do not rely solely on your assumptions when you have expert guides to show you the way.

Could you be making mistakes in the areas of Loss Aversion, Diagnosis Bias, or the Chameleon Effect? If you need assistance in planning for law school, please contact me.



11/11/08: News from

One of my advisees received his first law school admission offer yesterday, from a respected Washington, DC law school.  This young man, believe it or not, dropped out of high school.  He basically "fired" it.  He started taking community college classes, and then transferred to his state's most prominent public university and its ROTC program.  He went on to an extraordinary career in the military.  Lessons from his life history formed a superb personal statement.

His Washington, DC law school gave him the earliest admission offer I've ever seen in the annual 1L JD admission cycle--dated October 31st!  But we're not done yet.  It's possible for this advisee to earn a Top 10 law school admission offer.  We'll see.

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Ten Reasons Why People Fail the LSAT

Gary Ryan Blair is the creator of a website I strongly recommend. It’s called “The Goals Guy” ( I particularly find Mr. Blair’s Goal-Setting Tips, Techniques and Ideas useful.

In one area, “Ten Reasons Why People Fail,” I realized that Mr. Blair offered powerful insights into why some people struggle miserably with the LSAT.

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How to Win Admission to a Top Law School

How to Win Admission to a Top Law School:
Persuading Elite Law School Admissions Decision Makers

High grades from a respected college or university, plus an LSAT at 167 or above are a powerful opening hand in the competition for winning an elite (say, top 15) law school admission offer. But high numbers alone are not certain to carry the battle.

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