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I’m giddy…

and I must confess it’s not solely due to reading your applications.  Let me explain why.

On my iPhone I have three locations set up on the weather icon –  Palo Alto,  the small town of Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii and Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles.  These three locations carry significance to me beyond the simple “I wonder what the weather is like today” sort of thing.  These are three places that I’ve called home over the course of my lifetime – born and raised in that small town in Hawaii, college in Eagle Rock and now the roots run deep in Palo Alto.  While I check out Palo Alto’s weather for the usual reasons – bring the umbrella, leave the heels in the closet, take the raincoat, etc., the reasons for checking out the other two locations are more elusive. When it’s cold and rainy here or I miss the Hawaii connections, I wistfully look at the Waimea weather – usually warm with light showers – and memories flood back and I smile.  When it’s hot here or when I reflect on younger days, I look at Eagle Rock  – where it’s usually even hotter with no breeze – and memories flood back and I smile.  This morning, when I took my stroll through the three locations, what to my amazement do I see?  Snow predicted in Palo Alto on Saturday…really!  I can’t believe it.  If it does indeed snow, I am taking a break from reading files and calling it a snow day – well, at least the Palo Alto version of a snow day.  Maybe enough snow will fall for me to make snow angels.  I’m giddy just thinking about it.  (Go find a copy of the picture book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and remember what it’s like to look at the world with awe.)

Okay, I’ve gotten that out of my system.  I’m going back to reading applications.  As an update, we’re still making our way through file reviews.  The class is not full.  Decisions are going out fairly regularly although not daily.  I’m making some calls later this morning and hopefully will be making some tomorrow as well.  I can see the glimmer – it’s not a true light yet – at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t let this be a lost weekend…

It’s Friday and the long weekend is in sight.  If you’ve still not gotten your application submitted, this is when you need to carve out some time to get it done.  February 1st is rapidly approaching.  You are on notice.  Pleeeeease do not write to me on February 16th and say you thought the deadline was February 15th because that other school back east (rhymes with hale, bale or kale) has that deadline and you assumed SLS would be no different.  Missing an important deadline because of an assumption you made when you should have been a responsible applicant reading through materials carefully does not bode well for you.  But, back to  the original intent for this posting, get your application written and hit that submit button.  To echo Nike’s sentiment…just do it.

Same Time, Last Year…Reflections From a 1L Guest Blogger

Jake Klonoski, a current 1L, writes about waiting to hear – something you all are familiar with.  Read through this posting and know that there is an end in sight.  I especially like his advice about planning an adventure before starting law school.  Well, it’s actually his wife’s advice so kudos to Katie for that.  If you do take this very good advice on seeking out an adventure, keep me posted.  I love these kind of stories  and you may find yourself being a guest blogger here.  Remind me sometime to tell you about The Great Western Trip chronicling a group of 1Ls driving cross-country to get to SLS.  Let’s be clear, though.  This possible guest blog gig  is only an option if you choose SLS. And, now, I turn it over to Jake…

The feeling is wonderful.  You hit send on the LSAC website and all the LSAT studying and worrying over essay application wording, all the consideration about letters of recommendation and resumé polishing is over.  Now all the law school application boards have to do is appreciate how unique and wonderful your application is and surely you’ll be in.

Surely.

After all, you did everything possible…

For me, the feeling lasted about 2 hours.  Then the worrying began.

It started with the realization that the bullet indenting on two different sections of my resumé had been a bit off.  Was it possible to fax or mail in a corrected copy, I called to ask one school?  Would sending in a correction count for me – or against me?  Did it even matter?

Then it spread to the thought that I should have asked my recommendation writers to address each school specifically in all of their letters.  Not just in the opening, but in the letter content as well.  Maybe I could whip together some wording suggestions for them – at least for my top choices.  That was not unreasonable, right?  They could then send revised letter directly to the school.

By the end of the week, I found myself looking up the February LSAT schedule.  Maybe taking it again wasn’t such a bad idea – what could it hurt?

After all, this was law school, something I had been thinking about for years, and if a bit of extra work could make the difference between a great school and a good school, shouldn’t I push that extra bit?  What if I didn’t go the extra mile and that would have made the difference?

“What if…” – terrible words.  They will drive you insane.  And it is all too easy to find them repeated in law school applicant chat rooms (what dreadful places!), especially as other applicants report decision letters being received.

In the end, it was my wife who pulled me back from the edge – it is such a blessing to marry someone smarter than yourself.  She had gone through law school years before and knew that decisions took months and that my worrying accomplished nothing more that ruining those first months of the year.

And so she offered me three suggestions, three things I could do to use the time well.  I pass them on here, in hopes that they do as much (or more) good for others as they did for me:

1) Settle your debts and kiss folks good-bye.  Though you might go into law school understanding that it will not take over your life, that is the same understanding the Copiapó miners had as they went to work on August 5th before being trapped underground for 69 days.

Law school is intense and having time now to tell people what they mean to you, to warn them you might be out of touch, and to do the rounds with far-flung family and friends is invaluable.  Use the time – you never know how the world will change when they dig you out of 1L year.

2) Commit to yourself.  It is easy to lose perspective as you are swept up in the rushing energy of Stanford law school, the flood of loans, or the rising tide of legal knowledge that spills over you once you are on campus – and SLS is a West Coast school!  Before I even arrived on campus, I had written and rewritten my application essay so many times I could barely remember what had possessed me to apply to law school in the first place.

As a solution, Dalia Lithwick (SLS ’96) suggests that new law students take time to write themselves a letter (while you still can write!), to be opened upon graduation, reminding their future selves what the original (brilliant? naïve? crazy?) idea had been when the law school journey began.  My letter awaits my (optimistic hope of) graduation in 2013.

3) Plan an adventure.  Fond memories of the summer before 1L year can sustain you through a lot of library pain, and a good desktop photo can give you a huge energy boost in November.  More importantly, I am told that brilliant legal arguments are often grounded in exposure to reality.  This type of exposure can be in short supply while in law school, so grab this last chance to learn about something new in the real world.  “Adventure” can encompass travel, volunteering, or working somewhere interesting (ideally, your finances can be enhanced rather than drained).  And your classmates will be grateful if you have something interesting to talk about during Orientation.

But don’t overdo it – I made the mistake of grabbing a chance with the US Navy to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia (great photos for the desktop!) but lost out on the chance to settle my debts/kiss folks good-bye as a result.  Balance is required – a key lesson for a law student to understand.

In the end, law school will happen – for better or worse.  At SLS, it is certainly for the better, but regardless life has a way of working things out.  Again, the most important thing you can come into law school with is an appreciation for life’s balances.  These months doing something other than worrying about applications are a needed opportunity to practice that balance, because the three years ahead will challenge your balancing skills to the max.

As a final note – I did not send in a revised resumé nor did I try to redesign my letters of recommendations.  And I definitely did not take the February LSAT.  And things worked out pretty well.

In the end, there are just more important things to worry about than bullet alignment on your resumé.

As an example for future classmates, at SLS there are mountain lions on campus.  Beware.

Hello 2011

The break from work over the last two weeks was quite comforting and relaxing – travelled to Hawaii to spend Christmas with my family, visited some old haunts around the island, rang in the new year here in Palo Alto with good friends, got caught up on some favorite TV shows (thank goodness for TiVo) and am almost done with Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants.  Now, though, we’re back in business and we need to turn our attention to the task at hand.  Mail is being opened.  Applications are being downloaded.  Files are being read.  Decisions will go out this week.  Yesterday flew by as we all got back into the routine and I suspect the rest of the week will be a similar blur.  Onward we go.

At this stage in the game, there a three groupings of completed applications – easy admits, easy denies and those in a holding pattern.  This latter group is the largest by far right now.  These are candidates whose files are strong, but I’ve put them on “hold” until I see the larger pool or see something else that will convince me to nudge the application into one of the other two groups – hopefully the one with the corresponding thick envelope.  If you’ve received notification indicating that your file is in review and you’ve not heard from us, treat this as an opportunity to update your file.   What you submit may be that nudge I need.  Keep in mind, that this is not an invitation to clutter my in-box with non-essential information or to call me with weekly updates. Although I really don’t mind chatting with you on the phone or opening up yet another email, I suspect my time is better spent reading applications.  So, use your best judgment when thinking about how to update your file.

Winter quarter classes started yesterday and it’s nice to once again feel the energy and buzz around the building.  This may not be the best week to visit as everyone is just settling in, but when you have a moment take a look at our current course schedule and pay special attention to the Constitutional Law course listings and the Property course listings.  These are two required 1L courses and ones you should consider sitting in on if you do indeed end up visiting the law school.  Our dean, Larry Kramer is teaching one of the Con Law sections so you might want to sit in on that class.  It’s not every day that you’ll see a dean teaching a 1L course.  Another section is taught by Pam Karlan – one of the founding directors of our Supreme Court Litigation clinic.  Check out the Property offerings and see if you can squeeze in a visit. One section is taught by Buzz Thompson – the founding director of our Environmental and Natural Resources Program and the Director of the Woods Institute for the Environment.  Another section is taught by Michael Wara – a geochemist and a scientist in his former life before undertaking his JD studies here.  Whatever class you choose to attend, you’ll walk away excited about what you’ve just experienced, excited about the possibilities that exist here and excited about joining the SLS community.

Goodbye 2010…

Winter break officially begins for us at about 5 pm today when we turn off our computers, leave our extended absence messages on our phones and turn out the lights.  (Perhaps I use the term “winter” too freely here – especially for those of you who are snowed under or find yourselves in freezing temperatures.  New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota come to mind.  I feel your pain, but I am smiling away.  It’s a teeth-chattering 51 degrees here in Palo Alto and I’m headed to a place where the average temperature is in the low 80s.)  We’ll open up for business on January 3 and will get right on top of things.  Our attempt at hibernation, though, does not affect your workload.  You are still able to work on your application and you are still able to hit the submit button if you’ve put that finishing touch on your personal statement and are ready to get it out of your hands and into ours.  Remember, though, that if you aren’t quite yet done you can put this time to good use.  Take the extra time to fine tune your personal statement.  Take the extra time to make sure there’s a common thread running through your application and that things are tied together.  You don’t need to rush. For those of you who’ve submitted all materials and whose applications are complete, please know that not everything comes to a complete standstill – I’ll be reading.  My laptop will be my faithful companion over the break.  For those of you out there who are nervously biting your fingernails and waiting for a call from me, take a break.  No more calls until January.

Put aside the law school stuff for a little while.  Go out for a walk or a run.  Let visions of sugar plums dance in your head.  Read a good book.  Enjoy a good meal with friends and family.  Be good to yourself.  Celebrate 2010 and ring in 2011 in style.

Happy holidays to all.

And so it begins…

Offers will go out starting sometime this week.  You heard it here first.  So, yes, you’ll soon see the 650 area code pop up on your phone or see the congratulatory email from me in your in-box.  Now, I’m not arrogant enough to think that you’re all sitting around just waiting for me to call.  But, today, let’s put the application talk aside and instead take a look at my Don’t Do This list.  Just in case you get a call one of these days, let’s chat about things you should be mindful of when we connect.

1.        Don’t ask “Are you sure?” when I pass along the good news to you.  I wouldn’t be making the call if I weren’t sure.  If you have to ask this question, perhaps I should find a polite way to extricate myself from the conversation and go back and flip through your materials yet again.  Asking this question is not a good thing.

2.        Don’t say “I’m in the middle of lunch.  Can I call you back?”  Yes, indeed, someone has actually said that to me.  Guess what?  I won’t call you back.  I’ll scribble a note on your file…out to lunch.

3.       Don’t say “Stanford is absolutely my first choice!”  I know plans change and other offers may come through, but only say this if you really mean it.  It’s no fun to be pushed aside later after our courtship has begun to really take off.

4.       Don’t ask “How much funding will SLS give me?” At this point in the game, you’ve literally just been admitted and I’ve not yet looked at your financial aid paperwork.  Keep in mind that we’re need-based and not merit-based here so I can’t just throw out a figure to you.

5.       Don’t say “It’s been days (insert weeks or months here as appropriate to your situation) since I’ve sent my materials to you.”  I understand your frustration.  I get it.  So, please understand the process itself and the limitations of that process.  It is a long haul – as I’ve mentioned in other postings – and we can make it move along more quickly if we focus more on the numbers.  But, here at SLS, we’ve opted for a different kind of review and the downside, unfortunately, is the time it takes to accomplish this kind of review.  Bear with us and be patient.  I seem to recall learning at some early stage in my life that patience is a virtue.

The list is brief, I know, but take these comments to heart.  Be yourself.  Be excited.  Be nervous if you must.  Be cognizant of all the hard work you’ve done to get to this point.    And, don’t worry at all if you think of something you should have said or could have asked after the call has ended.  I’m here.  You have my number.  Call me.

A Day for Giving Thanks…

You may have noticed the silence on my end – my last entry was back in late August.  This autumn has been a tough one, personally, for me as I needed to head home to Hawaii very unexpectedly.  The fall recruiting season was cut short and I relied on the great friendship and professionalism of my three traveling companions – Rick Geiger from Cornell, Bill Hoye from Duke and Ken Kleinrock from NYU – to help carry the Stanford word as they finished our fall  tour without me.  More importantly, though, they carried me through some despairing days and I cannot find sufficient words to convey my appreciation for that.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again – they are the very best.

Let’s shift gears here, turn the page, get back in the saddle, get back on track…and talk admissions stuff.  It’s November 24 and you’ve either got your application submitted, you’re studying for the upcoming December LSAT or you’re trying to finalize the various pieces of your application.  If you’re one of those early birds and your materials are in and your file is complete, give up the controls for a bit because it’s our turn to do our work.  If patience is not your natural inclination, you will need to learn this skill as it is a necessity on your part.  Hang in there.  No need to run and check your mailbox, no need to check your missed calls.  I’ve been reading files, but I’ve not yet made any offers.  If you’re taking the LSAT in a couple of weeks, focus on your last-minute studying, but don’t overdo it and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with stress.  Stop rolling your eyes.  I realize it’s easy for me to say that – I’m not taking the LSAT and I’m not trying to get in to law school and I already have my dream job.  But do try to remember to put the test in perspective – it’s one piece of the puzzle and a puzzle has many pieces.  If you’re still working on your application, chances are it’s the personal statement that has your attention.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself “What do I want SLS to know about me?”  A jumble of ideas will likely be the result of this self-analysis.  Sort through the ideas – a thread will surface – and try running with that thread to see where it will take you.

Today is Thanksgiving and people celebrate the day in different ways.  The key word here?  Celebrate.  You can rejoice, you can have fun, you can make merry, you can commemorate, you can observe, you can honor, you can remember.  You can also be idle for a moment and revel in the quietness and silence.  Take a break from this admissions stuff.  It really doesn’t matter if you take the day off from studying for the LSAT.  It really doesn’t matter if you postpone finding that personal statement thread for a day.  Really.  Instead, reflect on what matters most to you.  Surely, you will discover that honor doesn’t quite belong to the LSAT or the personal statement.  There’s time enough for the admissions stuff tomorrow.

The Class of 2013 arrives…

They’re here!

 Orientation officially kicked off last evening with a reception and dinner in the courtyard.  It was a sweltering evening – by our Palo Altan standards – as the temperature dropped from the daytime high of about 100 degrees to the mid-80s by early evening.  The heat did not stifle the conversations by any means and colleagues have already commented on the “personality” of this class.  Yes, each class has a distinct personality.  Ask anyone here at the school and you’ll get an interesting conversation going.  It is always an extraordinary experience to see all the students in one spot at the same time, to usher in a new class, to be there at the start.  It never gets old and I never ever get over the excitement of it.  Each person started out as an electronic file for me to read – one out of 4000+.  Files were read, sorted, reread, and resorted until the 180 members of the Class of 2013 finally took shape and came into existence.  And, here they are.

 But what about you?  What do you get out of this posting?  Well, every single person who was at dinner last night started out at the same point you find yourself in right now – about to begin the process.  You see that it does come to an end.  You see that you will find yourself in law school somewhere.  So, on one end you are about to start the application process and on the other end you know you’ll land somewhere.  What matters now is what lies between these bookends.  So, here’s my tip of the day for you to consider.  It is so important that you take the process seriously from the very beginning.  There are two things you need to think about.  First, make sure law school is right for you and that you’re not just filing that application as a default.  Remember this…seeking sanctuary in law school because you don’t know what else to do is not a good thing.  It’s hard work and you really should love the law and, if you don’t have the passion for this, maybe your gut is telling you to look elsewhere.  Second, make sure that you want this now.  We’ll be around for a long time, but will that other opportunity be there later?  I’m not convinced opportunity knocks only once, but think about where you are in your life at the moment and think about what feels right for now and what makes sense for you at this juncture.  Listen to that inner voice.  Trust your instincts.

I need a vacation…

Well, actually, we all need a vacation.  SLS will be closed beginning on Friday, July 2 at 5 pm and will reopen for business on Monday, July 12.  Everyone is taking a week-long holiday.  Yay!  Please know that phone calls will go unanswered, voicemail messages will go unheard and emails will go unread from the end of the day today until the morning of July 12.

Don’t worry, transfer applicants, as I will continue to read your materials during this shut-down if your file is complete.  Otherwise, we’ll get caught up immediately upon our return.  This shut-down has happened in the past and we’ve worked our transfer process around this.  Take a deep breath – we’re in good shape and things are on schedule.

Continue to be patient, waitlisted candidates. The class is not yet completely firm.  I am hoping that things will shape up by the end of the month. When I fill a vacancy here at SLS, a vacancy is created elsewhere and round and round we go.  Believe me, I’d like to clear up all the uncertainty and have things settled.  Bear with us.

Applicants for next year, start putting together a calendar outlining your timeframe for applying.  Our applications will become available in late August/early September so start mapping out your application process.  When do you want to get the application in?  Mark that date down on your calendar and work backwards.  Mark down when you want to approach your recommenders to ask for their help.  Mark down when you hope to be done with your personal statement.  Mark down some time to review your materials prior to hitting that submit button.  Plan ahead.

I think I’ll write an essay titled “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” when I get back so stay tuned.  What summer is complete without this kind of writing exercise?  But, what will I do on my vacation? I have nothing extravagant planned at the moment – remember that I need to read those transfer applications.  I suspect my week will involve some amount of gardening as things are looking pretty sad around my house and I have to do something about bringing my bonsai plant back into shape.  I confess I paid it no attention this past winter and spring so it’s kind of pathetic at the moment. I’ve been watering it faithfully, recently, in hopes of bringing it back after months of neglect, but my husband keeps telling me it’s a lost cause.  I think I’ll just go find a similar bonsai pine – although a much healthier one – and transplant it into the old ceramic dish just to drive him crazy.  “Look,” I’ll say, “It worked.  I brought the plant back to life.  I do have a green thumb after all.”  He’ll be bewildered and stunned and that alone is worth the effort.  He’ll not know what happened – he doesn’t read this blog.  It’s our secret. 

 Back in touch in mid-July…

Reporting back from DC…

The worst question I heard at the forum?  A young woman comes to the Stanford table, introduces herself and launches into her story.  After a few minutes she just stops mid-sentence and a quizzical look comes over her face.  “Have I already spoken to you today?  I can’t remember which tables I’ve stopped at.”  The runner-up trophy goes to the young man who asked “Am I too old to go to law school?”  I could not just give him the quick “No” response.  I had to ask how old he was only because he looked so young – to me, that is.  26.  Yes, 26.  Imagine, those of us who are older than 26, thinking you may be too old to attempt something at this young age.  The world is just opening up for you, young man.

The best question?  This is a tough one as the DC crowd is pretty savvy and the questions are usually more precise and focused than at some of the other forums.  “If you were in my shoes and were thinking of applying for Fall 2011 entry, what steps would you be taking to make sure you’ve prepared properly for the application process?”  “How much attention should I pay to the rankings when looking at schools?”  These are the kinds of questions where you can get involved in an interesting discussion. 

For those of you thinking of attending other forums this year, keep in mind that this is your opportunity to talk to a real person.  You can explore our websites and you can memorize all the stats that we put out there in our publications, but that’s not the same as actually having a conversation with someone about our programs.  So, think of questions that you’d not really find the answers to in our publications.  Think of a particular aspect of the school or any of our programs that intrigues you and you want to learn more about.  Avoid the usual superficial questions.  Dig deeper.