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Bookends, Reflections and Jake…

January 12, 2011.  Jake Klonoski was a 1L starting off his winter quarter and I asked him to be a guest blogger.  Fast forward to June 16, 2013 and Jake is walking across the stage at graduation with his daughter in his arms.  Where did all the time go?  I thought it only fitting that Jake be a guest blogger once again.  Kind of like bookends.  He was there in the beginning to give some advice and now here he is again to reflect back on the past three years.

Jake is on another tour of duty – in Kabul – as I type this.  Katie and Maddy are here at home.  Thousands and thousands of miles separate them, but those ties are ever so strong.  Stay safe, Jake.  Come home soon.

Thoughts on Three ­­­Years at SLS

By Jake Klonoski

Remembering the two long lines of velvet tams, family with excited waves and clicking cameras, and the rising notes of Handel’s “The Trumpet Shall Sound” while the Class of 2013 recessed from the graduation ceremony that completed our three-year journey, it is difficult to identify—in that moment or the years leading up to it—any lesson so important that it outshines the sparkle of daily thoughts and reflections that flash through the Stanford Law community.  One of the downsides of being in a place of such creative and inexhaustible minds is that it is nearly impossible to come up with an original reflection that has not been shared more eloquently by a classmate.

Failing to spot any universal exhortations, let me offer a completely personal one: if you have a child, take your child onstage with you to accept your diploma.[1]

Now, child accompaniment is not without risks.  Carefully thinking through the neonatal pick-up BEFORE getting in line to wait for your name to be called is critical.   There is the possibility of the on-stage meltdown.  And woe to the law student who fails to consider how to unload the bundle of joy after descending the stage—juggling the diploma and the infant for the rest of the ceremony, in fear of an ear-piercing cry during the dean’s “Charge To The Class” prevents proper reflection on the gravity of the moment.  You can count yourself lucky if the only disruption is an emphatic yawn.[2]

But the crescendo of applause for the baby accepting a diploma, from audience and classmates alike, makes all the stress worthwhile.  The cheering intensity from onlookers at least doubles, which has the added effect of stunning a carried child for the critical stage-crossing, diploma-receiving moments.  Whether the kid emerges from this stupefied state into smiles or into tears is a question of temperament, but regardless, your official graduation photo, no doubt snapped at that moment, will be suitable for framing and conversation years later.

But a graduation baby is important for more than just future conversation. The cheer that arises from onlookers is more than simply the normal excitement at a cute miniature human.  Instead, a law school baby is a testament to the strength of our law school community, proof that a class has moved beyond the bonds of legal professionalism and grown towards being something more akin to a family.

For one, it seems to be biological instinct to avoid beginning a family at times of danger or uncertainty. [3] Some sense of security in one’s surroundings and in the future seems a prerequisite to take the chance of bringing a new life into the world.  Not every law school offers such assurances.

Secondly, it seems impossible to maintain a law school workload with a newborn without support from your law school community.  Without classmates willing to share notes with an expectant mom slowed by morning sickness, summarizing readings skipped during missed classes, and reassuring a new parent that “no, that lecture missed while your child was sick really wasn’t all that important,” beginning a family can be a recipe for a quick burnout.  But with supportive classmates—like those who threw my wife a baby shower—a baby’s arrival becomes a source of communitywide celebration.

Lastly, the attitude of the faculty and administration is critical.  How much understanding of real life enters into the academic realm?  Is your school the intolerant and uncharitable environment of “The Paper Chase” or are you at the kind of school where the Dean of Admissions offers to babysit?  Do your professors share their tips for training a newborn to sleep through the night?  Does your clinical professor allow you to arrange your trial workload to ensure you can spend precious time with your new family?

A graduation baby offers witness to the fact that a law school has done more than simply prepare its students to take the bar exam.  It has created a home for its students where it is possible to live outside the casebooks and outlines, to enjoy life as more than simply a number with an “L” after it, worrying day after day about securing a job as a law firm associate or judicial clerk.  Though a graduation baby demonstrates this phenomenon, the benefits of a school with such a culture repeatedly touch every student personally and professionally over the three years, and for many years to come.

For the Stanford Law Class of 2013, over a dozen babies were born to a class of 189.[4]

But counting births is not the only, nor the best evidence of Stanford Law being something special among law schools.  And this reflection is intended to be more than a proud father crowing about his baby.  Certainly you don’t miss out at Stanford Law if you aren’t ready or interested in starting a family.  Rather, what makes Stanford remarkable is how much faith it gives in those around you and the community at large, and how much support it offers you if you are willing to take difficult or exciting personal risks, whatever they may be to you.  In my three years here, again and again, as life intervened, the community within the law school proved itself to be exceptional.

In 2010, following the first quarter of my 1L year, when I lost a brother to suicide, I found great comfort in the small kindnesses and support of classmates.  And from professors, there was thoughtful patience and compassionate understanding.  Looking back now, I realize how easily I might have given up on law school and how reasonable such a decision would have been.  Reflecting on that time today, I believe staying at Stanford Law gave me more support than I would have gotten anywhere else.

The next year, when ordered to return to military service and travel across the Pacific with the Navy following the tsunami and nuclear disaster in northwest Japan, the first few weeks of the quarter brought emailed readings from professors and excellent notes taken by classmates.  When I came back, my classmates welcomed me into study groups and patiently caught me up on what I had missed.  Without that support, there is simply no way I could have avoided an academic leave of absence from law school.

These are dramatic illustrations from one student’s experience, but they demonstrate something I witnessed each day: classmates supporting classmates, professors investing in students, and Stanford staff creating a community where all serious (and even some trivial) needs are addressed.

I personally will never forget the day I came into the library after tearing my coat sleeve on a fence.  I asked the librarian at the front desk for a stapler so I could temporarily staple the sleeve together until the end of the day.  Taking a look at my problem and insisting staples were not the best solution, she insisted that I leave my jacket with her.  She said she’d look into what could be done. When I returned a few hours later, she had sewn the jacket back together.

There is simply no place like Stanford Law.  Without a doubt, it offers up a first-class legal education, both in the classroom and with its clinical programs.  A list of the amazing legal minds and professional opportunities at the school writes itself.  But it is the community that is built each year, the woven fabric of mutual support and lasting friendship, that makes the law school experience here exceptional.

Following graduation, while at a legal conference in July, I ran into a recent graduate of a peer law school from a large city in Massachusetts.  After watching my 14-month-old, Madeliene, toddle between my wife and a flock of birds during one of the breaks, the recent graduate asked how it had worked starting a family while in law school.

“Well,” I began, “My wife did the hard work, but I was lucky enough to go to Stanford Law. . .”

Her cinched face stopped me.  “It’s not right,” she interjected with a scoff, “At Stanford you guys have the chance to actually enjoy going to law school.  Who ever heard of such a thing?”

“It is just not right,” she repeated, shaking her head as a bird Madeleine was chasing sprang into flight.

As the students in the graduating class of 2013 study for the bar and take flight, it occurs to me that perhaps our three years were abnormal, that we simply enjoyed good fortune and an overabundance of good people in our class.  Ours was after all the class that began with Stanford’s football team winning the Orange Bowl and ended with victory in the Rose Bowl.

That is why at future SLS graduations I will watch for graduates with their children crossing the stage with them, and I will cheer a bit louder for each of them, their remarkable families, and the community that makes it possible.  Each child tells a story about the kind of school Stanford Law is, the trust students are willing to place in those around them, and the hope Stanford inspires for the future.

To each and every one of you who helped build this supportive community—thank you from me and my family.

And as a final note, if you are the fool who forgets to arrange a baby hand-off with your family and you end up terrified in your seat with your child, unable to really concentrate on what the Dean is saying, it turns out that the Dean’s Charge is uploaded to YouTube a few days after the graduation ceremony.  And it no doubt will be worth your full attention.

For your sake, I just hope your baby is as heavy a sleeper as Madeleine is.

___________________________

[1] Were this graduation stage imagery to portray my family situation accurately, I would be holding our daughter and my wife, Katie, would be carrying both of us.   Mothers are amazing!

[2] The baby’s, not yours.

[3] Certainly the New Jersey baby boom following Hurricane Sandy offers an alternative narrative of babies springing from times of great distress.  Regardless, I acknowledge the risk of a law student claiming any knowledge of science, patent lawyers aside.

[4] More than just SLS community support, Stanford is a uniquely wonderful place to begin a family due to the informed conversation in birthing class about which contraction tracking app is the most user friendly and which lactation app is most effective in the days after birth.  And in Silicon Valley, if the app doesn’t work well, no doubt a parent in the birthing class is working on Version 2.0.

Yellow is Always Good and It’s Getting Better…

It’s been exactly 95 days since my last entry.  It seems like just yesterday (well, not really just yesterday, but certainly not 95 days ago) that I was trying to get to you know better.   It’s been rather quiet on my end, I know, and while I’ve still got calls to make and files to read before the day is done, I want to put all that aside and come out of my hibernation just for a bit and tell you about a very good thing that recently happened here at SLS.

When the Yellow Ribbon Program was established, SLS made a commitment to provide a match up to $3000 to all students who were Yellow Ribbon eligible.  Soon thereafter, we increased that match to $10500.  A couple of days ago we made the following commitment:  Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year, SLS will contribute the maximum amount possible under the Yellow Ribbon program.  The VA will then match this amount so that between SLS and the VA, the full cost of tuition and fees will be covered for Yellow Ribbon eligible veterans.

Hooah.  Hooyah.  Hurrah.  Huzzah.  Oorah.

Getting To Know You, Getting To Know All About You…

Some of you have already submitted your application and are now waiting on me to do my job.  (No worries – I’m working away and not procrastinating at all.  Really.  The hydrangeas definitely needed to be cut back this past week, the bonsai plant needed immediate attention otherwise who knows what shape it would morph into, the linen closet required rearranging and the spices had to be organized alphabetically.)  Others of you are anxiously awaiting the downtime during the holiday season to put the finishing touches on your application and, for some of you, this break from classes or that project at work means hunkering down and writing the personal statement.  If you find yourself in the latter category, this blog’s for you.  The rest of you can stop reading here and go off and do something a lot more entertaining than reading my advice on personal statements.

Thinking about the personal statement oftentimes conjures up all kinds of anxiety.  Sweaty palms.  Lots of doing other things so as to not do this one last task – you know, avoidance techniques.  Skittish behavior.  Fingers tapping aimlessly on the keyboard.   Stringing sentences together in your head.  It’s a daunting task, isn’t it?  Take two-to-three pages and tell me something that will make you stand out amongst the thousands of others whose personal statements I’ll read this year – not to mention the thousands I read last year or the year before (you get my drift).  Take two to three pages and make me sit up and take notice.  Let’s pause here just for a second and allow me to set the record straight and alleviate any palpitations you may be experiencing by just thinking about the statement.  Forget standing out.  Don’t approach it that way.  Don’t think about a “wow” factor.  No need to do it up in a big and loud fashion.  Instead stop and think for a bit about what it is that you want to convey to me.  We all have stories to tell so your task is really to figure out which story you want to tell me.   If you’ve gone about this properly, you’ve been thinking about topics and have jotted ideas down on a piece of paper or on some electronic device.   You’ve then looked at that list of options and condensed similar ideas, culled out the bad ideas or the “not much to say on that topic” ideas.  The swirling sentences in your head seem a bit more manageable now, don’t they?  So, get started.  Put pencil to paper (or the electronic equivalent).  Just do it (Thanks, Nike, for the catchy phrase).  Let the words flow.  The words probably won’t be pretty on the first try, but keep at it until your voice comes through.  Keep at it until you get to the point where you feel content after that last sentence is completed and you breathe that sigh of relief not because it’s done, but because it’s good.  Read it out loud.  Ask yourself a few questions like these (or exactly these if you trust my advice):  Is this what I want Stanford to know about me?  By the end of the statement, will Stanford know more about me  – beyond how well I write – than before reading it?  Does my statement illustrate how I think, how I view my world?  If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, then you’ve done your job.  I will read your words and I will sit up and take notice.

As I read over this entry, I’m tempted to no longer call this part of the application the personal statement.  The word “statement” sounds so formal.  It should more appropriately be called the personal story.   I say switching out one word for the other makes the task less intimidating and more real.  Unfortunately, it’s too late for me to call up the powers-that-be at LSAC and beg to update our application and make the switch from “statement” to “story”.  But that shouldn’t stop either of us from thinking of it in this way.  From here on out, it’s all about the personal story.  Tap into the creative side of your personality and start writing.  Tell me a story.

[P.S.  I don’t really alphabetize my spices.  Last one out, first one in.]

The Importance of Maps…

A couple of weeks ago as we headed to UCLA for an evening panel, I was lost in my thoughts watching the cars on I-405 creep by ever so slowly.  I was only half-listening to a conversation my travel buddies were having about interstate highways that traversed the country.  Two things dawned on me as I did my half-listening.  First, my travel buddies had a very healthy dose of interest and excitement about the topic and I did not because I have no sense of direction.  I am not good with road maps so 1) never assign me the task of being in charge of reading them when on a road trip and 2) never ask me to partner with you in an orienteering competition. Second, I realized then that while road maps are no doubt fascinating and critical to getting from point A to point B or to points anywhere else, there is also another kind of map that is equally important…your life map.  What is it that you want to do with your life?  What is the direction your life is taking?  Where are you going?  Are you on your way to a meaningful life and, if so, how are you getting there?  The turn on the map I’m concerned about at the moment is the path to law school.  Is your true north pointing to law school?  If so, have you planned out your route?  Get a pencil and a piece of paper and start jotting down some notes or flip open that laptop and start tapping away.  Are you ready to tackle law school now or is there something (or a few things) you’d like to do first?  Remember this – one rarely, if ever, regrets taking time off before heading to law school.  If thinking about other things to do is an apt description of where you are now, then your route will veer a bit before getting back on the JD road.  This is absolutely okay.  How many times have you gone on a road trip and decided to take a side trip along the way and do some exploring? How else would you have come across that little café or that fruit stand that had the coldest drinks in the heat of the summer?  How else would you have discovered that hike which led to a glorious view of a valley usually only seen by those brave (or foolish) enough to ignore the private property signs?   Or come across those wild orchids in a field yet to be trampled by anyone?  I know these examples may seem small in comparison to opportunities you’re facing or options you’re thinking of, but I bring them up only to illustrate the point that side trips can lead to wonderful discoveries. For sure, there are definitely some side trips that you could have done without, but you learn from those as well AND you can always tell a good story about it so don’t consider those wasted opportunities.  You get the picture, right?  Detours, side trips, veering off – these are not bad things.  Use them to create a fuller and richer life map.  Don’t worry so much about always staying on the path that you’ve mapped out.  Allow for spur-of-the-moment left-turns and allow for detours that may take a bit longer than a quick stop.  The nice thing about maps is that you can always find your way back.

When drawing up your map, it is important to keep yourself honest.  If you’ve taken a right turn and you realize you should have taken a left turn instead, mark that down.  That right-turn journey has told you a lot so you want to make sure it gets a place on your map.  When looking back on this map of yours whether in a year from now or twenty years from now, you’ll really want to see all the twists and turns that got you to where you are.  Leaving out that right turn doesn’t reveal your entire route – thereby disqualifying your map as being true to you – and you will have forgotten what you learned by taking that turn.  The absolute best thing about creating this life map and keeping it always with you is that it you have in your possession a most valuable treasure map and you will find your treasure – along the way and at the end.

Last year I ended my first blog post of the season with a link to a song.  Let me do the same this year and leave you with something to get you into the mood for heading to California – if you’re not already living in this great state of ours.  It’s an oldie, but goodie.  I dare you to listen to this and not twist or shimmy along. The song sounds a bit scratchy – just like listening to an actual 45-rpm vinyl record.  The Rivieras singing California Sun way back in 1964…

Interesting Comments, Rumors and Observations…

Well, it’s been a week since we had you over to our place.  We’ve spent time cleaning up, putting the furniture back in place and doing the dishes. All those dishes…who’d have thought entertaining 200 people would be so exhausting.  I’ve also had time to think about those few days you spent with us and here are some random musings.

1.  Will our entering class be 220-strong?  I’ve heard that this rumor was floating around over the weekend.  Unless ALL of you at the weekend accept our offer, this will not happen.  Put any concern you might have about SLS getting any larger to rest.  180 suits us just fine.

2.  I was asked an interesting question about our admissions policy.  Will Dean Kramer’s departure signal a change in the way we review files and make decisions?  Specifically, will we become a school that places a great deal of emphasis on the numbers rather than looking at the entire file?   My initial reaction to the question was one of curiosity.  Why the concern for policy when you’re in and all is good?   But, then I put on my big picture glasses and realized why the question was being asked.  The student wanted to be a part of the community that our admissions process had put together and a change to those policies could signal a change in the kinds of students who were admitted and who chose to attend.  Well, no need to worry.  I’ve worked closely with three deans (Brest, Sullivan and Kramer) and not once in all the years of collaboration did we ever think about doing things any differently.  I have no doubt that the incoming dean – from inside SLS or from outside SLS – will see any reason to change our course.  What do we have to gain in comparison to all that we’d lose?

3.  This dovetails nicely with a question I was asked dealing with change.  As many of you may have heard, Dean Kramer is leaving us to become the head of the Hewlett Foundation.  With his departure, will the school rethink its direction or back away from the reforms that have taken place during his deanship?  Dare I say that the changes at SLS are bigger than the man himself?  As he would be the first person to tell you, these were developed and implemented by and with the support of the whole community—faculty, alumni, students, and staff—after an engaged conversation about what we could and should do to keep SLS at the forefront of legal education.  SLS remains fully committed to its interdisciplinary focus.  We remain fully committed to the idea of collaboration and cross-pollination with other departments and schools on campus.  We remain fully committed to experiential learning, to fostering innovation among and by and with our students, and to doing all this in the unique ways we do.  Dean Kramer leaving will not alter this course.

A good question to ask is what will we do between now and when his successor is named?  A search committee is being formed, and that committee will include student representation.  Students are right now in the process of selecting their voice for the committee, which is expected to start meeting before the summer.  We’ll have the benefit of Dean Kramer’s guidance through the end of the summer, and an interim dean will take over his responsibilities if a successor has not yet been chosen.

Another good question to ask is whether you’ll get the chance to interact with Dean Kramer down the road?  Guess what?  He’ll be back to teach – not in your first year, for sure, but he’ll be back and rumor has it that he’s branching out and will teach other things in addition to Constitutional Law.

4.  Some of you have inquired about being assigned to particular professors for fall quarter classes for a variety of reasons – you went to their home for dessert, you hit it off in a discussion after a panel, your area of interest overlaps with theirs, etc.  Sorry to say, assignments are all done in a somewhat random fashion.  Of course, I do a balancing act to adjust for gender, age, backgrounds and other factors.  Imagine if we ended up with all the hard science PhDs in the same small section or all the Duke undergrads (insert any college name here) congregating in one group.  And, you know what?  It doesn’t matter if you’re not assigned to your dream professor’s section.   You will make the connection without my assignment.  That, I can guarantee.  So, just to be clear, no need to send me books by my favorite author, a case of Diet Coke or anything else you think I might enjoy – there is no need for them.

5.  Who in the world is Ryan Lee?  He showed up on Sunday at the registration table and asked to sign in.  We did not have a packet with his name on in it, but no problem on our end.  We always make up extras for those few admits who show up without RSVPing.  We didn’t question him when he said who he was – who signs in as an admit if they’re really not an admit?  Well, apparently Ryan Lee does.  He picked up a blank nametag, wrote his name on it and then headed off to a panel.  Go figure.  So, for those of you who are planning to walk through our doors come August, be on the lookout for Ryan.  He might just show up for a class.

6.  Deadlines are approaching and you’ve got some thinking to do.  I’ll leave you alone to your thoughts and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that you’ll choose wisely.

INNOVATION LEADS TO TRANSFORMATION…

Years before the economic crisis hit us and years before the media turned its attention to the problems facing law schools and legal education, SLS started charting a new course for legal education.  In looking back, we now know that the economic crisis not only accelerated the pace of changes to the profession but, as well, accelerated the pace at which legal education must adapt to these changes.  Today, as we reflect on all that has taken place, what we are most certain of is that the course we charted years ago is exactly on target.  Read through this and see for yourself.

ETCETERA, ETCETERA, ETCETERA…

As of 5 pm on December 16, the university officially closed down for our winter break.  Every year our Facilities and HR people keep telling us that we’re not supposed to be in any of the buildings if at all possible.  Stay home, take a break, rest, relax, etc., etc., etc.  Bah, humbug, I say.  Whoever made the decision to shut this place down clearly does not understand the intricacies of the admissions cycle.  Could there be a worse time for us to stay home, take a break, rest, relax, etc, etc. etc?  Well, just between us, we actually arranged to work one day last week and we’ll be doing a little bit more this coming week.  Sure, we’re ignoring the phones and emails for now, but applications are being processed.  And right now, that’s what matters most.  I’m still keeping busy with my file reading and trying really hard to get caught up.  In fact, I made some calls this first week of the shut-down and will make some again this coming Tuesday and Wednesday.  After that, though, we’ll really turn everything off and stay away from the office until January 3 so there will be silence on my end when it comes to making new offers.

When I woke up this morning to feed Malcolm (my golden retriever and not my husband or son who are capable of feeding themselves although you’d not always know that if you met them), it was freezing outside.  I know my idea of freezing is probably quite different than yours, but it was still really, really cold – all the way down to the low 30’s.  My iPhone said 28 degrees but my rule of thumb is to add on about five degrees to whatever I see.  But, why am I bringing up the weather?  Yes, it’s cold for me – maybe not for you – but you should revel in the fact that I’m shivering because this means I have no plans to do anything but sit here with my computer reading files.  The house is cozy.  I’ve got a cup of hot tea nearby.  I’m reading files and perfectly happy doing so.   And that’s a good thing – you want me happy as I read!

I can now only wistfully recall the warmth last Christmas when I was in that small town on the Big Island – my ancestral home as one of my colleagues here told me I should say in order to distinguish Waimea from Palo Alto.  He claims he gets confused by my usage of the word “home”.  Do I mean here or there?  So, ancestral home it is.  As you might imagine, it was a bit harder to read files in Hawaii last year.  Family and friends beckoned, Hapuna Beach called out to me, old haunts yearned to be visited, but I still managed to read.  That is, until my sister told me to take a couple of days off.  Her reasoning?  I was home for a visit so what I really needed to do was take a break, rest, relax, etc., etc., etc.

Funny how that message keeps popping up.  Maybe there’s a lesson here for all of us.  Take the time to enjoy the season.  What’s left undone with your application will wait for a couple of days.  What could you do instead?  Go see a movie.  Browse the shelves in your local bookstore and find some books to read.  [My stack includes The Boy in the Moon, The Buddha in the Attic, The Last Werewolf, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and In the Garden of Beasts.] Cook a meal that takes more than 30 minutes to put together.  Bake some cookies and pay a visit to your neighbors with some in hand.  Flip through your old photo albums and reminisce about people far away and moments long gone.  Take a breath and just be.

Moshi Moshi…

It’s mid-December and I’ve not yet started to make my calls to you.  That will change very soon (as in today or tomorrow) and you may be the one to see the 650 call come through or you may be the one to read that congratulatory email in your in-box.  I’ve got a stack of files in front of me and I’m feeling a tad playful and mischievous  thinking about who will be that first person I call.  Should I do it in alpha order?  Should I do it by date the files were completed?  Should I just toss the files up in the air and pick the one that lands face up?  Should I get out my map of the country, close my eyes and pick a state?  [Remember spinning the globe when you were young - with no idea of what was yet to come - to decide where you’d live when you grew up?]  Should I do it by time zone?  I really shouldn’t call someone from California when it’s 7:15 am, right, especially if that someone is still in school?

If you’ve not read my blog from last year about my Don’t Do This list, spend a few minutes and take a glance at it.  All five points are still relevant.  I did not hear “I’m in the middle of lunch. Can I call you back?” last season and thank goodness for that.  I was fully prepared to first scream into the phone and then very politely say “I’m sorry.  I think I’ve reached you in error.  Sorry to have been a bother.”  I do want to add one question to that original list and I really hope no one will ask this of me this year.  “I know you send out t-shirts, so could I get one in an extra small?”  If that question pops up, I guarantee that particular admit will end up with the largest t-shirt in our stash.  I suppose it’s not really an outlandish question and nowhere as obnoxious as the out to lunch comment, but still.

Now, I hope you won’t be nervous or anxious when I reach you quite simply because there is no reason for you to be nervous or anxious.  It’s just me calling.  It’s okay if you can’t think of anything especially coherent to say at the moment.  I understand.  It’s okay if you start screaming and can’t seem to stop.  I understand.  Someone who did just that last year is here now in the 1L class and we laugh about it with each other.  It’s okay if you think about something witty you could have said three minutes after we end the conversation.  I understand.  I’m here if you want to give me a call back.  It’s just me and you’ve got my number.  It’s not okay to tell me you’ve already heard from other schools.  I won’t understand.  Just kidding.  Remember one thing…if the call (or email) comes, it is well deserved and I should really be the one screaming into the phone hoping you’ll choose Stanford.

Talk to you soon…

(Curious about the meaning of Moshi Moshi?)

Full Steam Ahead and the Importance of Threads…

My fall travels are O-V-E-R and I don’t need to get on a plane again until mid-February.  No more checking weather.com to learn how to pack that suitcase.  No more trying to decide whether to layer or just take that winter coat.  No more perusing Google maps to figure out how to get from my hotel to wherever it is that I need to be.  This is especially difficult as I have no sense of direction – all I needed to know growing up in Hawaii was whether someplace was mauka or makai.  No more putting my life in the hands of NYC cab drivers.  No more wishing and wishing for that upgrade to first class.  Has anyone else noticed that since the United and Continental merger these upgrades are harder to come by?  No more cursing those passengers who can’t figure out when they should board.  No, Seating Area 3 does not board immediately after first class.  No more trying to trying to unlock my hotel room door only to find that it’s not my room.  Right, that was last night’s room number.  But, why should you care about all of this?  Well, this means I now can devote my full attention to your application.  No more reading an application here and an application there.  The reading season is now fully underway and it’s full steam ahead.

Now that I’m reading in earnest, let me tell you a little bit about my reading process and my reading habits.  I get numerous distractions in the office over the course of the day and I sometimes find I cannot make the desired dent in my electronic reading stack so I actually do a lot of my reading at home. The hubby is watching football (insert any other sport here) or some History channel show (yuck – still don’t understand why he’s not a Criminal Minds fan) and the only child is off at college.  All this equals no distractions.  If I’m in the zone and have had a marathon reading day, I probably am not going to do the same thing again the next day.  If you ran a marathon today, you’ll probably not run a second marathon tomorrow – you might instead take the day off from running or do a light workout.  Ditto with file reading for me.  Reading takes concentration and focus and it needs 100% attention.  Some files are easy to read and the decision comes easily – there is depth to the application and everything ties in together.  Things are connected and I am able to get a really good sense of who you are – how you think, what you think.  Others, however, I labor over because I’m not able to easily put together the puzzle pieces and have to really dig to get to know you.  It just depends on the file.  Sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on it, but my Spidey sense starts tingling and those files take longer as well.  Sometimes I come across a personal statement that is enthralling and that makes me push the file into the admit group.  Sometimes I come across a personal statement that is appalling and that makes me push the file into the deny group.  Sometimes everything falls into place and I jump up and down and start clapping – not literally, of course, but I will smile and you know which group this file ends up in.  My critique of applications could be visualized, I suppose, along the lines of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Little Man icon for movie reviews .  And, yes, sadly, there are times when an empty chair is appropriate.

Let me ask the same question I asked in the first paragraph of this posting.  Why should you care about all of this? Three reasons.  First, I want to highlight the importance of having that thread in your application that unifies things.  Remember this – it is your responsibility to make sure that thread exists.  It is your task to weave that thread in and to make sure it is there for me to discover.  I will find it, but only if you have put it there to begin with.  Second, excellent writing skills are so important and this comes through most significantly through the personal statement.  Your task is not just to tell me a story, but to tell me a story in a well-written and compelling fashion.  You may have one heck of a story, but if it’s not written well you can imagine which Little Man icon most accurately portrays my reaction.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly for you as you wait out the decision process, I hope you will see that it’s not a simple and cursory review that takes place.  You’ve put a lot of time into your application and I want you to know that I put a lot of time into reading what you have to say.

A Brief Reading Assignment…And Lucy Reigns…

A Brief Reading Assignment…And Lucy Reigns…

As you embark on the application process this year, there is one very important document you should read now, then read again when you begin to see admission offers appear in your mailbox (or in-box).  This 4-page Law School Admission Council document is titled The Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices and is a statement that all law school admission officers are expected to adhere to and abide by. Take the time to read through the document.  Print up a copy and keep it handy.  I’ve done the same – there is a copy always within reach on my desk.

The statement outlines the principles that guide our work as admission officers.  It keeps us honest and focused on fair practices concerning you rather than our own need to outfox or outwit other schools and climb the rankings ladder.  Admissions is a business – I get that – but let’s put the games aside and really help you make the best decision you can based on your own sense of “fit” and not by having law schools twist your arm and force a decision before you are ready to make it.  Hold us to the tenets expressed in the statement.  I hate the next statement I’m going to make because I shouldn’t have to say it, but I’m going to say it anyway.  Keep us honest.

When I hear from an applicant about a situation they’re facing, I silently say “Tsk, tsk, tsk…” and brace myself for the ensuing conversation and say “There is a statement you need to familiarize yourself with.”  When you read the statement, you will discover that a school cannot ask you to make a decision prior to April 1.  You will discover that you may accept any new offer even though you’ve accepted a scholarship elsewhere and paid a deposit.  You will discover that a school at which you’ve placed a deposit or confirmed your enrollment cannot require you to remove your name from another school’s waitlist.  Really?  Yes, so you need to take an active role if you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t feel right.  Reading the statement is a very good way to start.  Now you know, but how do you go about “reminding” an admissions dean or director of this pesky issue?  I am keenly aware that this act of reminding is an awkward and uncomfortable situation.  I understand and I feel your pain, but you need to find your voice and be heard.  Take the bull by the horn, bite the bullet, etc., okay?

In reading over this post, I’m beginning to feel that it’s kind of a heavy topic.  Right?  So, let’s see if I can turn this around and end on a happy note.  Click here – Lucy is always good for a smile and she’s headed in the right direction, don’t you think?