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News Roundup--Most Useful Law Course, Another New Law School, and Chutzpah

Vivia Chen

August 31, 2011

Most useful law school classes
. That might sound like an oxymoron, but Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, contacted 13,500 alums to find out the answer (576 replied). He reports on the top three courses in The Volokh Conspiracy:

1. Evidence - 156 respondents (27 percent)
2. Administrative Law - 120 respondents (21 percent)
3. Corporations - 105 respondents (18 percent)

Kerr adds that "the only other course to break 50 votes was Trial Advocacy at 71 (12 percent), although Federal Income Tax had 47 supporters (8 percent) and Antitrust had 41 (7 percent)."

As a former corporate lawyer, I must say that evidence was totally useless, though it comes in handy for nitpicking court scenes in movies or on TV.

In any case, I'm not sure what "useful" means, but these are the classes I remember:

1. Civil Procedure--because it taught me "to think like a lawyer." I had the formidable Sam Estreicher (aka "Third Reicher") at NYU, one of the most terrifying, brilliant professors I've ever had. (He used to call the seating chart his "power to compel.")

2. Contracts--because you will use it every day of your life. The principles of offer/acceptance, reliance, etc., are fundamental to human relations and will help in your negotiations with your employer, landlord, and children.

3. Torts--because it's all about human foibles. And if it's taught halfway decently, you won't sleep through it. I was also lucky to have Sheila Birnbaum as my professor.

New law school: Just when I thought my rants about the perils of going to a bottom-ranked law school might be making a dent, along comes this disheartening news: Tennessee has opened a new law school. The real kicker is that people are dying to go a school with no track record of any sort. Reports Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal:

The Belmont University College of Law in Nashville has an incoming class of 130 students — 30 more than a feasibility study predicted, said dean Jeff Kinsler. "We had a much higher yield on our offers than we thought we would," he said.

Ironic, isn't it, that this new school should be in Nashville, the same city where Law School Transparency, the organization that's been pushing for detailed employment data from law schools, began?

Maybe you're just too brilliant. It's a fine line between being confident and delusional. You need to think you're hot stuff if you want to get ahead in your career. But if you think you're sizzling hot, you might end up burned.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Gregory Berry, a former first-year associate at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, is suing in New York state court "for more than $75 million, claiming the firm fired him for exhibiting intelligence and creativity."

Now a solo practitioner, Berry describes himself in his firm resume:

Before his career in the law, Mr. Berry worked for several years as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and began his legal career at the "big-law" firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. He quickly discovered that the emphasis in "big-law" firms on generating billable hours rather than on applying creativity and intelligence to devising unorthodox and cutting-edge legal strategies left Mr. Berry wasting his talents.

Just what clients always want: a lawyer who thinks he's too talented to be understood.


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Love your blog! Have a great holiday weekend!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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