Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Another day, another blog post.

I spent a lot of time surrounded by my fellow students in the library when I was in law school. One young woman had a wallpaper image on her laptop that was comprised of a sleek silver Mercedes and the the word “Believe” in white letters along the bottom of the screen. That was her motivation. That was her goal. Me? I looked at photographs of my children. That was my motivation. I was in it for my family. She was in it for a car.

I hope she found what she needed in the study of law.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Another day, another rambling blog post. I spent a fair amount of time studying the library during law school. That was not always the plan. I started law school with two beliefs I would soon abandon. The first was that I would do the bulk of my studying at home. We have a spare bedroom with a desk, lamp, and a printer. All comforts of the office, mere few steps down the hall from my family. That soon proved to be a bad idea as I needed to get as far away from my family as I could. It was too distracting to hear, for example, one of my two children cry. Even as I trusted their mother, my wife, to handle any situation with utmost confidence, I would too often open the door to see what was happening. It is quite hard to ignore the cries of a young child. And then there were the times where my daughter would knock upon the door. Once she figured out that her fist could make quite a racket, it was hard to convince her otherwise. I lacked the strength to turn away a girl who missed her father.

The second belief was hat I would spend each Sunday with my family. I had erroneously believed that I could manage to get through all of my schoolwork during the week (!), with Saturday available as a supplement to the Monday through Friday "work week." Yeah. That was a mistake. I soon found that I needed, desperately needed, the entire weekend not only get started on the work of the week ahead, but to digest the work of the prior week. And the practice questions. And the review material. And, and, and. It never ends.

I had been conditioned over the prior decade to believe every work week had days off. Not so much in law school. The week has no end. There were no days off. It is all one big blur of work. The river keeps on flowing.

I had a friend or two in school that did spend each Sunday with family. One such individual had two children, a third by the time we graduated, and was a man of god who attended church regularly. Sunday was church for him. He made it work. God left my life a long time ago, but I too felt a strong need to spend time with my wife and children.

But, he did not have similar family responsibilities during the week. My wife is an attorney, and a busy one at that. During my first two years, my wife’s alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. I would get up at 6. She had to be out of the house by 7. I had to be on the road, with both girls in the car, by 7:15 am in order to get them both to daycare and to campus before class began. My drive to campus took me an hour and fifteen minutes, each way, Monday through Friday. My first class was at 8:45 am.

Since I made the mistake of enrolling in a FTT (fourth tier toilet, aka TTTT), class attendance was mandated. Funny thing about the FTT schools, they knock the bottom of the class out of the box to keep their bar passage rate high. More on that later. But, suffice to say, I needed to be there when class began, or I would be considered absent. I was allowed three. Upon a fourth absence, the student would fail the class.

Really. This actually happened.

My eldest daughter was enrolled in a pre-K class when I was a 3L. The only thing that changed was that my drive now took, no kidding, an hour and a half, each way, Monday through Friday. I have spend more time driving an automobile through traffic than I ever dreamed. And by "dream" I pretty much mean "nightmare."

After leaving campus, picking up the girls, and arriving home, I would make dinner. Even with my last class ending at 4:10 pm, and the long drive, I would still be home before my wife. Then, around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. I would sequester myself in the office (spare bedroom) and get through the cases, briefs, and outlines I needed to read for the following day’s class. I rarely was in bed before midnight. I saw 1:30 a.m. far too often.

As you can probably imagine, this type of schedule will eat you alive. It just isn't healthy to try and maintain that kind of pace. So, I soon began spending my entire weekend in the law library, getting my reading done and allowing myself to use the weekday evenings at home to read brief, outline concepts and handle all the mundane busy work thrown at me by utterly ridiculous classes. What passed for my legal research and writing course was light on substance and heavy on bullshit. It's damn shame, too, because that subject is something I certainly could have learned more about.

Sunday with the family wasn’t possible. I missed an awful lot of my kids growing up over the three years I spent in law school. I’m still bitter about that. Ask me in five years if it was worth it. Because right now, today, as I type this, it doesn't feel worth it at all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Not even an email

I had a friend who was an attorney way back prior to my wife and I attending law school. He seemed nice enough. I knew him socially. He is about ten or twelve years older than I am. He was part of a group of guys I watched football games with and drank beer. You get the idea. He seems to like being at attorney.

I asked him about getting a letter of recommendation when I was applying to law school. He asked me to write something up and send it over to him to sign. I was a bit taken aback. I was in my late 30's and had provided letters of reference for others upon request. I wasn’t asking this guy to do anything I hadn’t done myself several times over. It's about three paragraphs and one sheet of paper. We're talking twenty minutes of your time.

I should mention, I had already obtained four letters for the Law School Admissions Counsel from other attorneys that knew me. I asked this guy because I thought we were friends, that there was some level of mutual respect between us, and that his letter would be more personal, and therefore his letter would be one that I would use in place of another, less personal general letter.

Fast forward three of years and here I am graduating from law school. Do I get a phone call, text message, or an email from my old buddy? Nope.

I did expect anyone to reach out to me while I was studying for the bar exam. In fact, I greatly appreciated those who backed off and let me prepare (suffer) in peace. A few of my law school classmates and I sent messages back and forth as we were trying to keep each other motivated and positive. One friend who sat for the February bar sent me a couple of cool notes of encouragement. I really appreciated those.

Now, after the bar exam, I have been hearing more from friends and family. Whether you’re an attorney or not, most people knew the bar exam is the real deal.

Nothing from my man. Nada. Not one peep. Nothing about graduation, nothing about the bar exam. It's weird.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reasons for anonymity

I’ve decided my purposes for writing this blog are better suited if I keep my name off of it. I just want to create an outlet for venting off steam about about law school and the bar exam. It’s not that I’m afraid of anything, it's just that the actual names of people and places aren't terribly important. I have already had a few long, honest conversations with several people about my experiences over the last three and a half years. I’ve spoken with practicing attorney, future law students, and non-lawyers at length. The anonymity is something new.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I sat down and began typing a month after I sat for the bar exam. It just came pouring out. I guess it needed to.

I have written quite a bit in the past on a variety of topics. A couple articles of mine were published in national magazines.  I have also blogged for over ten years (on websites other than this, or course). There is simply no need for self-promotion with this particular endeavor. What I need to do is work through a bunch of bullshit and move on with my life.

What surprised me was now many stories I have about all the complete jackasses I was surrounded with during law school. You want to know why people hate lawyers? It’s because lawyers are assholes.

This is as good a time as any to mention how much I am enjoying the Inside the Law School Scam blog.

Although the invidious socialization effects of traditional legal education certainly haven't helped: whether law school is more of an asshole magnet or factory is a question worthy of more intense study than it has yet received., brother.

I like to think writing all of this crap out and posting it online will be helping me in some way. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t worth a try, I suppose. I didn’t sleep very well last night as memories of some of the god damn stupid shit I’ve been through came roaring back. There were people in law school, both students and professors, who outright lied to my face on multiple occasions about all manner of things. Sure, there are the usual job placement stats that every law school seems to make out of whole cloth. There are also the professors that are completely full of shit and the law students that will throw anyone under the bus for a better grade. They are an ugly, mean, and vicious lot.

I’m glad I was able to make it through with at least some of my soul left intact.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Choose a school or settle for one

I went to what is commonly referred to as a FTT or TTTT. That would be a “fourth tier toilet” to the uninformed. One step below a TTT, what is known as a third tier toilet. Awesome, huh? Makes me proud as hell.

I got an email from someone in the administrative office last week. They told me my diploma was available for pickup. I replied with a request they just mail it to me. I didn’t feel like burning the gas for the drive to campus and back.

One small step for man, one colossal leap into the abyss for legal education. So, they tell me anyway. I am not entirely convinced my law school was worse than any of the schools ranked one tier above it. If you’re not in the top 15 or so schools in the nation, it all just blurs into one mess as far as I'm concerned.

I have a lot of stories to share about my experience. In no particular order of importance, I’ll just start with this one. A few of the kids I had for classmates (yes, kids) had never heard the phrase “third tier toilet.” A girl I knew only superficially (I would said hello and she would grunt something in reply) was admiring a palm tree someone had drawn on a classroom dry erase board one fine spring day. She wanted to name it for some reason. Make it a mascot. I jokingly suggested “Triple T.” She didn’t get the joke. So, I explained it to her, TTT is shorthand for third tier toilet, a school that is not in the first or second tier of law school ranking. She was a member of the Federalist Society, a group well known for their mirth making and cheer. Need I mention she had no idea what I was talking about? No. Idea.

It never really bothered me much that I was attending school without the prestige of a sound ranking. My goal was always nothing more than an opportunity to hang my own shingle. I was living in a small town when I decided to attend law school. This was the town where my wife and I wanted to raise our daughters. This is the town we plan to return to now that I’ve completed my legal studies. Being a small town, it had no law school. We had to move to the big city for that. There are not many law firms in this particular town, and none that even slightly resemble the often glorified massive Big Law firms you find in large metropolitan areas.

I chose a law school because all I needed was a degree from an ABA accredited law school to sit for the bar exam. That’s it and that’s all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A legal education

I decided to go to law school in early 2007. I had been injured in August of 2006 when a drunk driver ran me down while I was on a bicycle. I awoke in the hospital with a broken back. Not something I’d care to repeat, but I made it through better than a lot of other people have. I'm not in a wheelchair and I'm not dead. So, I've got that going for me.

At the time, the most money I had made in any one year was $48,500. Not big money by any means, but money I could live comfortably on. My wife also has a career, so we're a double income family (isn't everyone these days). Our combined income made us comfortable. I really couldn’t complain. But, I found myself in a transitionary period. I had been recovering for eight months from my injuries, and the contract work I had been doing for the past few years had dried up. We lived in a small town, and the employment options were few. There wasn't anything I could find that would pay what I considered to be an adequate salary. I wan't a twenty-something with low overhead. I was married with child and mortgage. Simply stated, I had responsibilities.

I must have applied for thirty jobs that year. Really. I have a stack of rejection letters up in the office. I saved them in a manila folder all this time. I just re-discovered it as I was digging through a bunch of law school crap (most of which is now in the recycling bin). I secured employment, as I'm not a proud man. First was a webdesign contract job. It was a one month contract that somehow lasted for eight months. I never knew if I still had a job at the end of the current month. I just worked through each month, one at a time. My employer would say at the end of the month, "Can you come back next week?"  The work was enjoyable, but the instability was stressful. The second job I took was that of an inventory manager at a retail store. The work and my co-workers were enjoyable, but there was just nowhere to go with that job. I came in at the maximum salary that the position would ever receive. Not only was I struggling to find decent employment, stable with the promise of future advancement, I also wanted to do something different with my life. Perhaps, upon reflection, it was my midlife crisis.

Can’t find a job? Go back to school. Improve your earnings potential. Make something of yourself. Wait out the economic downturn in the relative comfort of the vaulted halls of academia. Or, something like that anyway. I was not alone. That's what everybody thought.

My undergrad grades were from a lifetime ago. I was awarded a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. My cumulative GPA was a stunning 3.0. I had apparently centered my studies upon a foundation of binge drinking and pulling trim. At least for the first two years I spend outside my parent's home. As had been said by many people, many times before, my grades improved as I continued toward earning my degree. My final two semesters I earned a 3.77 and 3.85 (with a 4.00 summer session of two classes prior to my senior year in there as well).

My LSAT score was roughly commiserate with my undergrad GPA, another stunning number, a 153. Could I have prepared for the test and earned a higher score? Well, yeah. The truth is, I didn't prepare at all. It seems odd, if not indefensible, looking back now. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I just signed up and showed up. Preparation zero. Too late now for it to make any difference. Maybe I should have tried.

My wife has been a member of the state bar since 2004. We had two children after she graduated law school and began working as an attorney. My options were slim with two children and a wife who, understandably, had little interest in sitting for a bar exam in another state. First, she would not be able to generate any income prior to her getting licensed in whatever new jurisdiction we relocated to. Second, preparing for and taking the bar exam is not exactly fun. It is an absolute mind-fuck of self doubt and stress. Essentially, my only available course of action was to attend one of the three law schools in our state. That meant a choice between one public law school whose medians were slightly above my meager offerings, a second public school I had a decent crack at, or a private, for-profit, bottom-of-the-barrel law school that would definitely have me.

I sat for the LSAT, collected the requisite documentation, wrote out the checks and applied to all three. No big surprise, you can color me FTT (aka fourth tier toilet).

Three years goes by, and yes, I graduated. My class rank was two-clicks south of dead center. Yes, I am a very average man.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I waited a month, to the day, after the bar exam to begin writing. Any earlier than that, and, well, I was too exhausted to begin it any earlier.

Since then I have gained about ten pounds, reconnected with my wife, and worked to reestablish a relationship with my two children. That may sound worse than it is, but, really, I was mentally and physically checked out from the family for quite some time. Most of the last three years, actually. Daddy missed a lot of his kids growing up, and that bothers the hell out of me.

The day I sat for the bar exam, I stepped on a scale. I weighed less than I did when I graduated high school. You think this summer was stressful? You’re god damn right it was stressful.

This writing I set about doing, as of this morning, is a 3,000 + word screed I banged out in two sittings. I have put together a blogspot page as I feel the need to share this with the outside world. As it stands currently, this is more of a cathartic exercise allowing me to organize, formulate, and hopefully defeat those things which give me nightmares. I’ll be working out the chunks into some coherent form (at least I hope) and creating blog posts over the coming weeks.

I have notes that will form the basis of this writing, scribbled on the back of law outlines, handwritten across sheets of loose leaf, scattered about the wreckage of my office. I am still uncovering them, in physical form and from the detritus of my conscious mind.

I spent a full day last week going through a bin of manila folders and an assortment of three inch binders, crammed with printouts, notes, my law outlines, the outlines of others, laminated quick reference guides, copies of multiple choice questions, practice essay questions, and a multitude of bar review materials. The bulk of it ended up in the recycling bin. I threw away so much shit. Three years of my life. It took several trips to the recycling bin to get it all out of the house.

Perhaps I need clarify what passes for a “full day” at this point in my life; it is the time between dropping my eldest off at kindergarten and my youngest at daycare before I reverse the process four and a half hours later and bring them back home again to make dinner and await the arrival of my wife after her day at the office.

That is what I can allot toward feeling sorry for myself and lamenting the choices made that led me through the last three years of law school, the bar exam, and to my present state of being. Or, some similar self-reflection and wonderment at just how I got to where I am now. What a long, strange trip its been.

Every journey begins with one step

Remember, kids, a house of scorn can only be built upon a proper foundation of remorse, anger, and uncertainty.

All of which I am currently swimming laps in.

A house of scorn I will build.

In case you're wondering, this isn't much more than a placeholding ramble of mish-mash. First blog posts are so often a hurried and regrettable mess, aren't they?