Category Archives: Legal

4 Ways for Legal Grads Looking for Government Jobs

The number of private practice jobs recently dropped to a 20-year low, according to a report from Above the Law.  The explanation? “In the law firm environment, for law firms of every size, growing efficiencies created by technology and business systems and increased competition from non-traditional legal services providers will both likely continue to put downward pressure on overall law firm lawyer headcount in the coming years and even decades.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that aspiring lawyers are out of luck when it comes to finding employment. In fact, embracing the lesser-traveled option of government work leads to stable and uniquely satisfying careers for many law grads. Wondering if working for Uncle Sam is in your future? Consider these four potential pathways to government law jobs.

1. The Attorney General’s Honors Program

“The largest and most prestigious federal entry-level attorney hiring program of its kind,” the Department of Justice’sAttorney General Honors Program hires a significant number of entry-level attorneys from diverse backgrounds and interests. This year, the program boasts more than 230 positions in fields ranging from antitrust and civil rights to national security and tax divisions.

According to its website, “Eligibility is generally limited to graduating law students and recent law school graduates who entered judicial clerkships, graduate law programs, or qualifying legal fellowships within nine months of law school graduation and who meet additional eligibility requirements.”

The Attorney General’s Honors Program online application opens in late summer with offers extended between late November and February, but you can get a jumpstart on the process now by familiarizing yourself with its application tips and checklist.

2. The Presidential Management Fellow Program

Created more than 30 years ago by Executive order, the Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) Program is a “flagship leadership development program at the entry level for advanced degree candidates.” Its aim? To develop a “cadre of potential government leaders.”  And while not specific to law grads, the PMF program is an advantageous avenue for those interested in a fast-track to great jobs in the public sector.

According to its website, the PMF Program is a pretty sweet deal:  “In addition to salary and benefits, the PMF Program gives you a lot in return for your hard work. Your two-year appointment will provide a fast-paced opportunity to gain experience and develop your talents. You will be challenged with opportunities to flourish into a problem solver, strategic thinker and future leader. In addition to working at a single Federal agency, you may have the option to participate in a rotational opportunity at another agency. These rotational opportunities will challenge you even further and give you insight into how other areas of government operate.”

Application for the PMF Class of 2018 will open in the fall of 2017 via a job opportunity announcement on USAJOBS so stay tuned for announcements and instructions.

3. Look into Federal Agency Openings

You don’t need to win a prestigious fellowship or earn a spot in a formal program to start working for the government, however. All federal agencies are also in need of lawyers, and attorneys who take on these pivotal positions have the potential to make a huge difference in the world around them. And while paychecks may fall short of what you’d find working at a big law firm, the benefits offers by the federal government are enticing, including generous vacation and sick leave packages as well as flexible work schedules not often seen in the private sector. Plus, you’ll be gaining the experience you need to compete in the private sector is you do decide to switch over.

All of which begs the question: How do you find a job in the federal government? Internships are a great way to network and make connections, and are readily available at many government agencies. Two examples? the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of General Counsel Summer Law Intern Program and the Department of Justice’s Summer Law Intern Program.  (Looking for the complete list? Check in with your career services office to consult the annually produced Government Honors & Internship Handbook.) Additionally, websites like USA.gov, USAJOBS.gov, and Making the difference.org are invaluable resources for job-seekers.

4. Check in with your Local Government

While federal agencies may first come to mind when you think of government work, not only are local government entities also in need of lawyers, but the opportunities may be more accessible. Again, networking can help you get a foot in the door by becoming an attractive known entity, as can a resume demonstrating a combination of public service, glowing references, and a strong academic record.

While big law firms often come first to mind when thoughts turn of jobs for lawyers, the truth is that there are many different options to explore — each with its own unique benefits. For many law students, government jobs represent a lesser-traveled yet equally exciting route to personal and professional fulfillment.

Why the Black History Month is an Opportunity for All Students The Law Makes a Difference

People all over the world rejoiced as Moonlight claimed “Best Picture” honors earlier this week during the Academy Awards. While the significance of the win has been somewhat overshadowed by the logistical snafu that found the Oscar being mistakenly awarded to fellow nominee La La Land, the long-term implications of the win will outlast the temporary buzz. Wrote Bustle, “Regardless of how the award ended up being named (and, man, was that a wild ride), it’s undeniable that a win for a film like Moonlight is unprecedented and groundbreaking, and could make a substantial impact on the types of films that are funded and greenlit in the future.” Making the victory even sweeter? That it occurred during the US’s Black History Month.

But the reality is that the vital importance of Black History Month far transcends Hollywood and the entertainment industry. For aspiring lawyers, this annual month-long commemoration offers the opportunity to do more than merely pay tribute, but to assess the role of the law — and themselves, within it — in promoting equality and social justice for all. Here’s a closer look at why Black History Month matters for aspiring legal professionals.

Beyond the Past

Much of Black History Month celebrates the past. And rightfully so: We’ve come a long way, in relatively short amount of time. As Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement, told NPR in 2015,  it was just “fifty years ago next month we were beaten, left bloodied, and almost died in Selma” while protesting for the right to vote.

However, it’s also a reminder that the work isn’t done yet. As Eric Liu wrote in a CNN piece on the need for reparations, “The experience of African-Americans is exceptional in its systematic, multigenerational, reverberating effects. And it’s exceptional in its centrality to the founding and building of our nation. No experience reveals more than the African-American experience both the hypocrisy and the possibility of our national creed.”

Meanwhile, contends Renwei Chung in an Above the Law piece, “In the last few years, race relations have gone backwards.” Compounding the problem? A disconnect in perceptions about race relations: A recent Gallup poll found 15 percent of black Americans identifying race relations as the most critical issue facing the country today compared to just four percent of white Americans.

The Role of the Law

Uniquely positioned to lead the way for righting ongoing wrongs toward equality across nearly every sector? Lawyers.

Consider the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE).  Established in 2015, RISE is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.” At its helm as CEO? Former law school dean and expert in civil rights law, education law and election law Jocelyn Benson, who told the ABA Journal after accepting the role, “I was offered an incredible opportunity to lead a national campaign to improve race relations in America at a time when there are very clear divisions.”

Meanwhile, at the same time many law schools are amping up their offerings in the area of race relations. Last month the Harvard Law Review elected its first black, female president.  ImeIme Umana, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, will preside as president of the 131st volume of the prestigious publication. Says Umana, “[Black women] have been systematically excluded from the legal landscape, the legal conversation, and we’re just now making some important inroads.”  There’s also a push for more black lawyers in the profession. According to data from the American Bar Association shared by The Guardian, white lawyers currently make up 88 percent of all lawyers in the US while black lawyers account for just 4.8 percent.

Contends writer Yolanda Young, “It is curious that a profession that exists to further thought and solve complex social, ethical and legal problems has been unable to solve its own even when some solutions seem obvious – increase minority law school pipeline initiatives and remove the cost impediments of attending law school; provide more training and apprenticeship opportunities; and above all else, treat black attorneys fairly once they enter the profession.”

Honoring and Engaging

Black History Month is also an ideal time to acknowledge the many achievements of African-Americans in the law. Consider Brooklyn Law School’s showcasing of its own prominent graduates whose careers have helped change the world. Many law schools also sponsor activities, initiatives and events of their own during Black History Month aimed at providing opportunities for law students to learn more about African-American culture and history and its relationship to the law.

Which returns us to the overarching question: Why is Black History Month so important?  Chung makes a compelling case in Above the Law:  “We cannot continue to take for granted the rights we have now,” he writes. “We are the future children of the movement. It is our responsibility, especially as minorities in the law, to learn the history and educate others so that we can stand beside Congressman Lewis and fight for our future. If we in the legal community do not fight for justice, fairness, and equality, then who do we expect to advocate for these causes?”

And while Chung’s words are directed toward the minority community, his message is not only applicable to but imperative for all members of the legal profession: “Black History Month is not just a tribute to the past because discrimination is not just a memory of the past. Black History Month is an annual call to action for us to contribute to the movement.”

Everything You Always Want to Know About the LSAT Debate

Abortion. Animal testing. Gun control. Climate change. The death penalty. Immigration. Euthanasia. Gay marriage. The LSAT? On the very long list of hotly debated topics, the LSAT may seem out of place. But the truth is that there’s a fierce battle raging right now over this notorious test — specifically regarding whether it still has value or if it’s time to kick it to the curb. Here’s a closer look at the discussion, along with arguments for and against this notorious test.

About the Debate

The LSAT has long been an integral part of the law school admission process in the US, Canada, and other countries throughout the world. Says the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), “It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.”

In fact, by most accounts, LSAT scores are the single most important factor in determining law school admissions. Until now, that is. Harvard recently made news when it announced its intention to replace the LSAT requirement with the GRE. While Harvard wasn’t the first to make this move, it was the most buzz-worthy, and others are expected to follow in its example.

As would be expected, Harvard’s decision wasn’t a hasty one. Rather, it was based on a Harvard Law School study conducted last year which determined that the GRE was just as predictive of academic performance in law school as the LSAT.  And while many people are heralding the elimination of the LSAT as progressive, others argue that the move is likely to lead to more problems than it solves.

Which begs the question: What, exactly, are they supporting and objecting to? Read on for the breakdown.

The Case for the LSAT

While no one would say that the LSAT is perfect, many agree that it’s the best way to assess whether candidates are truly a good fit because it is the only standardized test that measures logic. The Logical Reasoning portion of the LSAT may be the bane of many a law school applicant, but many argue that there’s a reason why this section counts for half of the LSAT score: the skills it tests are essential.

Says LSAC, “Arguments are a fundamental part of the law, and analyzing arguments is a key element of legal analysis. Training in the law builds on a foundation of basic reasoning skills. Law students must draw on the skills of analyzing, evaluating, constructing, and refuting arguments. They need to be able to identify what information is relevant to an issue or argument and what impact further evidence might have. They need to be able to reconcile opposing positions and use arguments to persuade others.”

It is exactly these skills that the Logical Reasoning portion tests, and which are absent from the GRE, which is primarily a test of verbal, math and writing skills. Without it, some say, a critical piece of the predictive puzzle will be missing.

Those in favor of keeping the test also point out that it devotes more time to reading skills and less time to extraneous material, like math. Says Manhattan Prep, “Law school demands strong critical reading skills—being able to comprehend, analyze, and critique what you read, and to do so efficiently. Both tests measure these skills, the LSAT just devotes more real estate to them, to the extent that over a third of the GRE tests strictly math skills. Math is more or less irrelevant to law school, which is why there are jokes about how lawyers can’t do math! Viewed this way, the GRE includes two hours’ worth of reading and writing assessment compared to the LSAT’s three hours’ worth of the same.”

LSAT supporters further insist that the test doesn’t just benefit law school admissions committees, but also students, in the long run. How? Because it represents a much better picture of what law school is like, it helps weed out less-qualified applicants who are less likely to succeed in law school and law careers.

Some even suggest that dropping the LSAT is a desperate, financially-motivated strategy aimed at boosting declining law school enrollments. (An argument which does not apply to Harvard, where students are still clamoring to get in.)

The Case Against the LSAT

But what if the LSAT as really IS broken? For starters, detractors say, while many law schools claim to take a holistic approach to admissions, the reality is that the LSAT counts. A lot. Given data indicating that the test favors the privileged (after all, not all candidates have the liberty or luxury of investing time and money into preparing to the LSAT), anti-LSAT advocates proport that removing the test from the equation frees up law schools to truly look at candidates as “whole” people, not numbers.

Said Harvard Dean Martha Minow, “Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership…All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances. Also, given the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”

In other words, it’s not just about opening the door to more diverse candidates, but also about potentially diversifying the field of law.

Now that you know the issues, where do you stand? Make your voice heard by adding your opinions and experiences in the comments section.

Joanna worked in higher education administratio

What All Students Need to Know about Disabled Rights

Approximately 15 percent of the world’s population — more than one billion people — have some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization(WHO). Unfortunately, many people with disabilities have unmet needs — making disability rights a highly relevant issue for today’s law students as future legal professionals. Not only that, but many law students have disabilities themselves and therefore face challenges of their own when navigating life in the law. Here’s a closer look at the issue of law students and disability rights.

The 411 on Law Students and Disabilities

In a Before the Bar blog addressing the hurdles faced by many disabled law students during their time in school, one student with a physical disability said, “It definitely seems like there are more and more students with disabilities who are going to law school, which is incredibly encouraging, but I’m not sure if they’re being accommodated any better than they used to be. Disability rights, in general, are becoming a bigger issue. It’s filtering into the law school environment, as well. Broadly speaking, law students are pretty good advocates for others—and themselves.”

If you are disabled, understanding your rights can help you successfully advocate for yourself while in law school. Specifically, you should be aware of two laws: Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects students from discrimination for “specific learning disabilities” at schools which receive federal financial assistance; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which insists that all people with disabilities be granted reasonable accommodations.

In addition to applying to physical disabilities, these laws may also apply to those with certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, executive functioning disability, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Clarifies US News & World Report, “The purpose of such accommodations is not to give students with learning disabilities an advantage over their peers but rather to put them on a level playing field.”

While law schools are not allowed to discriminate against students with disabilities, the reality is that some are more accommodating than others. By researching in advance which accommodations are available along with how (and when — the sooner, the better) to request these accommodations, you can determine law schools which will best meet your needs while simultaneously laying the groundwork for success once you are there. Says US News & World Report, “Deciding where to commit may come down to which program has resources better suited to support your particular needs.”

Lastly, keep in mind that the decision to disclose a disability at the time of your application is up to you. (This information may be germane to your application if it helped lead you to choose to attend law school and/or was formative in another key way.) Whatever you choose, remember that your disability cannot be held against you.

If you aren’t sure of our rights, or if you are in need of additional assistance, the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights and the National Association of Law Students With Disabilities are useful resources.

Why Disability Rights Matter for All Law Students

While disability rights may be immediately pertinent to law students with disabilities, disability law is an important area of study — regardless of whether or not you are disabled.

For starters, due to the aging population and increase in chronic health conditions, disability rates are anticipated to continue to rise in the years ahead. Additionally, despite laws enacted to protect them, people with disabilities are frequently faced with challenges to their rights.

In an article published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, “What’s Disability Studies Got to Do With It (Or an Introduction to Disability Legal Studies),” author Arlene Kanter asserts that a gap exists in this field. She writes, “While Disability Studies applies social, cultural, historical, philosophical, and humanities to the place of disability in society, Disability Legal Studies extends these perspectives to the particular role of disability within the legal system and legal studies. Although disability is central to many issues in law, it is generally absent from legal scholarship and classroom discussions.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, goes so far as to declare disability studies “a new normal.” Why? Because “disability is a porous state; anyone can enter or leave at any time. Live long enough and you will almost certainly enter it.”

In other words, at some point in their lives, nearly anyone could become disabled and therefore require the services of a lawyer trained in disability law. As a result, job prospects are many, with positions available everywhere from school districts, community service agencies and law firms to national policy or advocacy organizations, international human rights organizations, and federal, state and local government agencies.

While it’s true that laws exist to protect people with disabilities, it’s equally true that despite these laws, people with disabilities still represent a massive and disenfranchised minority group. Law students who train in this field — as well as those with first-hand experience managing the challenges of living with disabilities themselves — are uniquely positioned to play powerful, potentially life-changing roles in the lives of people very much in need of their expertise.

Can a Law School Handle the Law of Fair Sexual Harassment?

The popular crime drama program Law & Order: SVUmade headlines of its own earlier this year when it hit the rare and impressive 400th episode milestone. Now in its 18th season, the long-running show follows an elite squad of NYPD detectives and their legal colleagues during the investigation and prosecution of sexually base crimes.

While the show may be fictional, the stories it tells are often “ripped from the headlines.” And, unfortunately, it’s found ample fodder. SVU is one of the longest-running television series in history due in no small part to the fact that sex crimes happen in shocking multitude all over the globe every single day. And, as anyone who’s ever watched the show knows, lawyers play a significant role in bringing sex crime perpetrators to justice — often navigating the tricky ins and outs of the law in order to do so.

Here’s a closer look at the issue of sexual assault, along with why it’s an important area of study for law students.

The Reality of Sexual Assault

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a study conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense, just under one out of every five women in the US — or 1.3 million American women every year — have been sexually assaulted.

And that’s just in the US. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council further reveals that violence against women, including sexual violence, is escalating to a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

The fall out of these assaults is profound. In addition to the risk of death and injury, WHO’s findings also identify other serious health impacts of sexual assault, including depression, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and low birthweight babies.

Law Schools and Rape Law

Mere decades ago, rape law wasn’t part of the typical law school curriculum “because it wasn’t considered important or suited to the rational pedagogy of law-school classrooms,” wrote Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen in a 2014 New Yorker piece, “The Trouble with Teaching Rape Law.”  After the inherent sexism in rape law was exposed, she says, “The topic became a major part of most law schools’ mandatory criminal-law course. Today, nobody doubts its importance to law and society.”

And yet students and faculty members alike are reporting that law schools are now backing off from teaching rape law due to rising discomfort about the conversation. In an era of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” this is a contentious topic with some organizations arguing that the experience of taking a class on sexual assault can be a traumatic experience resulting in poor performance. And as attorney Stephanie Davidson explains, “All we are saying is that the statistics suggest that women in the room (and some men) have had personal experiences with that kind of violence, and since law school is no longer aimed solely at rich white men, we have to recognize who is in the classroom.”

However, others suggest that when fear of the conversation begins to stifle meaningful dialogue, we’re moving backward. In this sense, it is exactly this fear of the conversation which merits that “law students develop the ability to engage productively and analytically in conversations about sexual assault,” insists Gersen.

“A Terrible Reality”

In advocating for the rigorous teaching of rape law in law school classrooms to BuzzFeed, Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld highlights the elephant in the room: “Every topic taught in criminal law is a terrible reality.” Not only that, but it’s also a dynamic reality — meaning new topics are constantly arising which mandate informed legal perspectives and insights.

Take “stealthing,” for example. This new trend, during which men remove their condoms during consensual sex without the knowledge of their partners, may violate civil and criminal laws, but the territory is as yet uncharted. As Tampa Defense Attorney Hunter Chamberlain told WZZM 13, “As of yet, that statute does not exist. To change this from a legal behavior to an illegal behavior, the legislature or the courts are going to have to further define what consent means.”

Positioned to play major role in expanding laws to cover stealthing and other emerging sexual crimes? Legal professionals with a background in sex law.

And speaking of “terrible realities,” there’s yet another reason law students may feel particularly invested in sexual assault. Not only are women between the ages of 18-24 at elevated risk of sexual violence, but among graduate and professional students, 8.8 percent of women and 2.2 percent of men have experienced a rape or sexual assault themselves.  In other words, even on law school campuses, the topic hits very close to home.

4 General Legal Concerns and How to Overcome them

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This may be an apt observation of families, but we’re not sure it applies to law students. Because (while we’re not saying you’re unhappy) the reality is that many law students share overlapping worries. The good news? They’re not insurmountable. Read on for a roundup of four typical law school concerns, along with suggestions for overcoming them.

1. Bad grades

We challenge you to find a student who isn’t worried about grades. And it’s true: Law school grades matter a lot when it comes time to get interviews, clerkships, jobs and other opportunities which can make or break your career trajectory. Why? Because law firms rely heavily on both GPA and class rank, and if you’re not at least in the middle of the pack, you’re wind up with rejections — even if you attend a top tier law school.

If your grades aren’t where they need to be, your first step is to determine why. (Anything else is a bandaid not a cure.) Are your study habits lacking? Are you struggling with the material? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” fixes include establishing a more stringent study schedule, joining a study group, and/or getting a tutor.

You can also put additional effort into distinguishing yourself in other key ways, such as excelling on your LSATs, joining law review, or working in a legal clinic. While these activities won’t negate poor grades, they can be a mitigating factor.

2. Law school debt

The average law school grad heads out into the world with bright eyes, big plans and more than $110,000 of debt, according to U.S. News & World Report.

One of the simplest ways to keep debt low is to choose a school that costs less and/or offers more aid. You can also save big bucks by living at home, sharing housing, borrowing books, using all of the free resources available to you (check out the Internet Archive and the Gutenberg Project for starters), getting rid of your car, and getting a weekend job. While none of these things may be ideal, you’ll be glad you did when you owe less than your peers at graduation.

Making a budget and sticking with it is also a vital part of keeping expenses in check. Meals out and trips to the local pub are standard operating procedure for many law students, but these things quickly add up and can compound your financial troubles.

The good news is that you’re far from alone when it comes to the law school debt quagmire, so when you’re enjoying your next ramen noodle dinner, you can be pretty sure that many of your classmates are in the same boat.

3. Getting a job

The job market for law grads isn’t exactly sunny. In fact, the word “bleak” may be more appropriate.  Still, there are jobs out there — particularly with the right attitude in place. Says Tamesha Keel, Esq., CEO of international coaching and consulting firm LawPortunities, in a Huffington Post blog, “The real question law students should be asking isn’t ‘Will I find a job?’ but ‘How do I get a job?’”

Specifically, Keel recommends acquiring specialized, practical skills; developing advanced competencies beyond legal expertise, such as business development and project management; possessing an understanding of the evolving legal landscape (and where you fit into it); a focused plan and a specific strategy to go along with it; and a strong network of professional contacts. But don’t wait until graduation is looming to start, warns Keel. For optimal job outcomes, all of these things can and should be taking place during law school.

When your job hunt begins, meanwhile, there are still things you can do to increase our chances, such as applying for many job openings, being flexible geographically, and making sure your application materials are polished to perfection.

4. Managing relationships

Starting law school is a major life change. And while you can’t predict exactly how it will impact your relationships, you can expect there to be challenges along the way.

Whether you’re entering into a long-distance relationship or adding “law student” to the list of hats you wear alongside “mom”/”chef”/”chauffer”/”tutor”/and so on, one thing is sure: the more upfront you are about communicating your concerns, expectations and needs, the more prepared you’ll be to address rising issues. If you’re lucky — and why shouldn’t you be? — your loved ones will want you to succeed as much as you do, and will be delighted to support you however they can.

At the end of the day, managing relationships is about managing expectations: If you’re on the same page and make efforts to stay there, your relationships will be much better off for it.

Law school is hard enough on its own without adding to the load. By proactively identifying and addressing these four common worries, you can minimize stress and maximize success toward a productive, fulfilling and happy law school experience.

How to Get a Valuable Law School Recommendation

Congratulations on your decision to apply to law school.  Now comes the hard part: getting in. It’s not just stellar grades and all of the exciting things you’ve done that will get you there. It’s what other people think about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it that will help.

What do you need?  Recommendations.  Great ones.  You need people who can offer objective feedback on your intellect, talents, and endeavors.  You need people you trust who can speak to your strengths—and your areas for growth.

How do you find these people?  Let’s take a look at 5 ways to get valuable law school recommendations.

1. Top up the positive people in your corner.

You need to ensure that your law school recommendations are positive.  How do you do this?  When you ask a professor or other recommender to write you a recommendation, ask directly if they feel comfortable writing you a positive recommendation—and give them plenty of time—at least three weeks.

These people should know you well and have a sense of your academic accomplishments.  They should be able to speak positively to your character, work ethic, problem-solving skills, initiative, and academic strengths.

Make it a point to meet with each recommender either in-person or over the phone to offer insight and information into your recommendation (see #2).

2. Give your recommender lots of information.

You should give each recommender a packet of information—not of overwhelming size—that includes your: resume or CV, transcripts, well-written papers (if you’re asking a professor), any work evaluations (if you’re asking an employer), your personal statement, any forms required by the law school, and directions for submission.  Some law schools want the recommendations online and otherwise want them by mail.  Give your recommender whatever he or she needs to submit the recommendation easily.

Bottom line: your recommender should be able to use your packet of information, combined with a brief meeting (see #1), to compose a brilliant, positive recommendation that will get you into the law school of your choice.

3. Get concrete examples of your skills.

Positive, flowery prose won’t get you into law school.  Admissions officers want concrete examples of what you can do—and why that’s an asset to their program.

This is where you have a chance to shine and set yourself apart from the pile of other applicants.

Ask your recommender to discuss tangible things you’ve done—papers you’ve written, projects you’ve lead, and any other specific things you’ve done that demonstrate your suitability to law school.

One tip? In that packet (see #2), highlight two or three strengths you have—and ask your recommender to tell a brief story that shows at least one of them.  A paragraph or two is sufficient.

Admissions officers will enjoy getting to know you—and the specificity of your recommender’s letter will illuminate that for them.

4. Don’t submit too many letters.

Submit only what the law school requests.  The norm is two—the upper end is four.

Make sure the letters are distinct and that they each tell something unique about you.  The recommendations should reflect you as a balanced, unique individual, highly qualified to tackle the demands of law school and the legal profession.

5. Make sure you know the deadlines.

Give your recommender more than enough time (see #1) to meet with you, draft the letter, and send it.  Ensure that you equip your recommender with appropriate deadlines—and all materials, like envelopes, stamps, or log-in information.

Ask to be notified when the letter is sent so that you can follow up with the admissions office to ensure their receipt of the letters.

Ready?  Good.

Bottom line? Submit letters of recommendation with your law school application.  Send handwritten thank you notes.  You’ll be glad you did.

What Students Need to Know about the First Amendment

Freedom of speech has been a hot-button issue in the U.S. lately. Aside from the Trump administration’s challenges to free speech (a situation which prompted Huffington Post contributor Matthew Menendez to declare, “American democracy is at stake”),  debates over everything from trigger warnings to Harvard’s recent decision to revoke the admission of incoming students for posting offensive comments online have brought the issue front and center in the higher education space.

What better time to take a closer look at this vital principle than on the celebration of the country’s independence? Here’s a closer look at the First Amendment, along with why it’s important for students — particularly at this point in American history.

What is the First Amendment?

Freedom of freedom of speech was so cherished by the founding fathers that they dedicated the First Amendment to the new country’s Constitution to guaranteeing its protection: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

According to US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., meanwhile, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Why the First Amendment Matter to Students?

It’s all too easy to go through college life in a bubble of attending classes, studying, exploring your new environment and, yes, partying. In other words, the real world can seem very far away. However, this is a short-sighted perspective with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Say law professors Howard Gillman and Erwin Chemerinsky in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the lack of familiarity among college students with the First Amendment, “Teaching a freshman seminar on freedom of speech on college campuses has made us aware of the urgent need to educate the current generation of students about the importance of the 1st Amendment.”

Understanding freedom of speech isn’t absolute in protecting people’s right to express themselves. According to Gillman and Chemerinsky, incitement of illegal activity, defamation, true threats and harassment are not protected, and “Learning what kinds of expression can be constitutionally punished gives students a realistic sense of how speech can be regulated on public university campuses.”

In this sense, teaching the First Amendment to students can also be a powerful learning tool. The topic is anything but black and white, and studying the First Amendment helps students develop essential critical thinking skills aimed at helping them navigate these and other complex topics.

However, the First Amendment can also serve a very pragmatic purpose for students — both in terms of avoiding life-changing mistakes (See: Harvard rescindments) and in terms of successfully making a difference through activism of their own.

The First Amendment in the 21st Century

One of the biggest challenges to understanding the First Amendment today is that we’re attempting to apply it in a very different society than the one in which it was created.

As Mary Beth Tinker — of the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which ruled that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” — told The Atlantic, “The digital age, with its wonderful capacity to democratize speech, is so important to students’ rights, but also carries new and interesting threats to students’ rights. If we don’t encourage young people to use their First Amendment rights, our society is deprived of their creativity, energy, and new ideas. This is a huge loss, and also a human rights abuse.”

Meanwhile, battles over free speech are playing out on campuses all over the country every day, with many universities adopting very different stances. The ultimate question, according to The New York Times? “How can campuses best navigate inclusiveness and debate while being mindful of students who feel marginalized, disrespected and overlooked?”

U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” So while parades, barbecues, and fireworks are great fun, it’s also important to remember that there’s something larger at stake. Why not take a moment today to reflect on the First Amendment, all it was designed to protect, and where you stand on the matter: Are we meeting or missing the mark when it comes to interpreting the First Amendment for the way we live today?

6 Countries to Study the Master in International Taxation

Tax law is complicated to begin with. The complexity increases when one factors in globalization, the growing number of people and businesses subject to cross border taxation, international tax reforms and the rapid spread of digitization.

Enter international taxation studies, offering tax officials the knowledge and preparation they need to operate in our increasingly multinational world.

Once the domain of only a few countries, international taxation programs are growing in diversity. But all destinations are far from equal, and when it comes to choosing an international taxation program will need to consider the merits of both the educational institution and the advantages offered by studying in a specific country.  Here’s a closer look at six countries where you can study international taxation.

1. Switzerland

Switzerland houses several international organizations and has long been recognized as the preferred head quarter location for several multinational corporations. When you hear about education in the international taxation, Switzerland is likely the first country that comes to mind. Switzerland is well-known for its international cooperation with other countries in the area of taxation and is also involved in the development of international taxation standards. Additionally, Switzerland is a founding member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a member of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, and a member of the Intra-European Organisation of Tax Administrations (IOTA).

The University of Lausanne’s Master of Advanced Studies in International Taxation (MASIT) is the only Swiss program that offers leading education in tax law that is aimed at creating the next generation of skilled tax professionals, decision makers, and thought leaders. The program is offered by the Tax Policy Center, a joint initiative between the Faculty of Business & Economics | HEC Lausanne and the Faculty of Law, Criminal Sciences & Public Administration. The MASIT is ideal for those looking to practice either in Switzerland or abroad in a variety of settings, including law and consulting firms, banks, the corporate world, and government bodies.

An esteemed faculty comprising of leading academics, government officials, members of the OECD/EU, practitioners working in international consulting/law firms and in legal departments of major corporations is one of the MASIT’s differentiating features. Students can also specialize in International Corporate Taxation and Tax Governance, International Estate Planning and Tax Compliance, or Advanced Swiss tax law. Additionally, the opportunity to attend workshops, tutorials, seminars and conferences not only further prepares participants to succeed in global tax environments, but also offers plenty of networking opportunities.

2. The Netherlands

The Netherlands is home to the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD), the world’s foremost authority on cross-border taxation. Its mission statement? “IBFD is a unique center of expertise offering high quality information and education on International Tax. IBFD’s powerful research platform allows tax practitioners around the world to access this valuable content, on which they can rely to do their work faster and more effectively. IBFD is the pre-eminent independent (nonprofit) foundation with the ultimate goal to promote and disseminate the understanding of cross-border taxation at the highest level.”

We can think of no better destination for international students than this epicenter of international taxation expertise in such close proximity to the IBFD. The IBFD has a partnership with the University of Amsterdam, and the Netherlands boast other top programs like Maastricht University’s LLM in International and European Tax Law and Leiden University’s LLM in International Tax Law.

3. The United States

Not only is the United States one of the globe’s major centers of international business, but it’s also home to some of the most prestigious international tax programs. Of course, it’s not surprising that universities like New York University offer highly ranked international taxation programs – New York City is, after all, the world’s financial hub.

However, for international students looking more specifically for an education in US tax law, Hofstra University’s MBA in Taxation may be the perfect fit. Aimed at preparing students for leadership roles in various types of organizations, the program builds on core business competencies while imbuing in students strategic perspectives on federal business and taxation issues.

4. Austria

Austria has a long history in banking and finance, and was a primary capital market in central Europe throughout most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Today, Austria maintains a strong presence within the European financial sector.  It has expanded its financial institutions into Eastern Europe and places great importance on cooperation and investment in international financial institutions. In July of 2018, Austria will also assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and as one of its priorities during its tenure, will work to deter profit sharing and tax evasion.

All of these factors make Austria a prime location for studies in international taxation.  And if you choose the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law at Vienna University, you’ll have access to both interdisciplinary and non-traditional disciplines within the field of international taxation.

5. Spain

Spain is so focused on international taxation that in 2013 it established a National Office for International Taxation aimed at controlling and coordinating all aspect of international taxation — from transfer pricing to the cross-border coordination of tax audits. Said Ernst & Young of the development, “With the creation of this highly specialized unit, the Spanish government follows the global trend to tackle aggressive tax planning and, in particular, what is perceived as an increase in the level of sophistication in the structuring of cross-border transactions.”

Another benefit to studying international taxation in Spain? The opportunity to learn Spanish.  Spanish now stands as the second-most spoken language in the world, and coupling your international taxation education with Spanish fluency will open doors in developed and emerging markets throughout the world.

If you’re looking for a top-notch education in international taxation against a backdrop of all that glorious Spain has to offer, look no further than the Centro de Estudios Garrigues’ Executive Master in International Taxation. Featuring a cutting-edge curriculum fusing theoretical analysis with hands-on learning opportunities based on actual international taxation cases, students gain both knowledge and the confidence to apply that knowledge in the real world.

6. South Africa

The African continent is, perhaps, one of the most rapidly expanding economic markets in the developing world. Described as “lions on the move” by the McKinsey Global Institute, several African economies present impressive potential for investment and business development and have shown continued growth, despite downturns in some of the world’s more established economies. While Africa may not be the center of the economic world now, forward-thinking students of economics and finance will recognize the advantages offered by studying international taxation in Africa.

As one of the continent’s most dynamic economies, South Africa is an optimal choice for international taxation studies.  South Africa is one of Africa’s largest business hubs and is rapidly expanding into extremely relevant industries, like fintech, with new international start-ups entering the market all the time. It follows that complicated topics pertaining to taxation and investment continue to emerge, and that professionals with the expertise to manage these issues both domestically and internationally will be increasingly in demand.

It also follows that international taxation would be at the forefront of the educational sector, as evidenced by programs like the University of Johannesburg’s MCom in South African and International Taxation.

If you’re looking for a challenging career in international taxation, advanced studies are the best way to position yourself for a quick ascent up the ladder. While this list is not exhaustive, these six countries offer particularly opportune environments in which to gain the skills and experience you need to become a leader in the field of international taxation.

What is the Law Students Should Know to Communicate with a Professor?

Above the Law recently shared the story of one law school professor’s struggle to navigate the relationship between professor and student. Her quandary is a relatively unique one: Like most of her students, she’s a Millennial. For law students attempting to communicate with professors who may not be as directly in tune with the generation-of-the-moment, however, the gap may be even wider. Here’s a closer look at why communication matters in law school, and how students can best position themselves to succeed through enhanced communications.

Communication Counts

Relationship building is an important part of law school. Aside from the fact that getting to know your professors can help make the law school experience less intimidating, there are numerous benefits to connecting with your law professors, including everything from potential research opportunities to letters of reference. Factor in the opportunity to develop a mentor-mentee relationship which can help you throughout your career, and the reasons to reach out grow.

Unfortunately, connecting with professors is sometimes easier said than done.  Ms. JD recently addressed three typical challenges faced by students when attempting to get to know their professors. While some of these may seem harsh, they’re rooted in reality. From hard-to-talk-to professors to the intimidation factor, these problems can stand between students and the professorial contact they crave.

Tip for Talking to Your Professors

Adhering to a few basic guidelines can help you optimize your interactions with law professors without coming off like a “gunner,” AKA an overly ambitious (and frequently annoying) student.

For starters, keep in mind that professors aren’t at your disposal. Just like you’re on campus to learn, they’re there to teach, which makes respecting their time a must. Recommends LawSchooli, “When you see one making his or her way through the parking lot in the morning, they often have to get up to the office and prepare a million things before class. Generally, when they are on their way somewhere it’s best to just nod and let them carry on. Gunner types break this rule a lot and I’m sure it’s fine some of the time, but I recommend against the hallway ambush.”

So if not hallways, then where and when are the best times to try to talk to your law professor? Office hours are an obvious place to start — especially for more complicated and elaborate issues. For quick questions, approaching your professor right after class, during events, or even in the lounge (an inherently social space) are all acceptable venues to strike up a conversation.

And then there’s the how to address your law professors. The Washington Post recently ran an opinion piece on whether law students should use titles or first names when talking to their professors. While this is largely a matter of personal preference (on the professor’s part, that is), erring on the side of caution and following social conventions (ie. using the title, “Professor”) is the safest bet. Trust that professors who prefer to be called by their first names will let you know.

When it comes to the generation gap, meanwhile, one word can work wonders: Defer. Explains Inc., “Consider the communication preference of the individual you wish to communicate with and defer to their likely communication preference. We often communicate with others how we prefer to be communicated with, but the countless options for communication that now exist force us to be adaptive….Since age has a strong correlation with an individual’s communication preference, it’s useful to use generations as a clue to what form of communication would be most efficient and impactful.”

For example, if your professor is a Baby Boomer, scheduling an appointment or stopping by formal office hours may be preferable. However, if your professor is a Millennial, emails may be the way to go. Continues Inc., “Adjusting our communications for each generation can be exhausting but it’s a new reality we must face. What’s more exhausting is the constant miscommunication that occurs when you try to communicate with everyone based on your specific communication preference.”

And, regardless of generation, being respectful and concise when talking to professors is a must-do.

One last thing to keep in mind? The desire to connect is not one-sided. Just as law students are keen on building relationships with their professors, so are professors and law schools alike keen on deepening student engagement.