Reflections After Three Semesters

It’s official! I am in my second semester of my 2L year now, which means I am “over the hill.” Maybe it’s the spirit of the new year, or maybe it’s simply a natural occurrence for someone who is halfway done with a difficult task, but I’m feeling nostalgic. As I ponder on the things people told me about law school two years ago, I am struck by how inaccurate some of it was. Here are a few samples:

1. “All your tests will be essay.” FALSE. I have had more multiple choice questions in my first three semesters of law school than I did in my last two years of undergrad. A few of my finals have even been purely multiple choice, and some have been a combination of multiple choice and short answer.
2. “All your classes will be taught with the Socratic Method.” FALSE. This was true for the first few weeks of my 1L year, but the professors backed off of it as time went on. It’s almost non-existent now in my second year.
3. “On the first day, take a look at the person on your left and the person on your right. One of you won’t be there on graduation day.” FALSE. Although this may have been true in past years, I just don’t see it happening. While I know of a couple people that have dropped out, it is nowhere near 33% of people that were at orientation.
4. “Volunteer somewhere during your 1L summer. 1Ls can’t get paid jobs.” Somewhat false. It certainly is more difficult for 1Ls to get a paid summer job than it is for 2Ls, but it is not impossible. If I can find a paid summer job after my first year, so can you.
5. “Law school is exciting and fun!” OK, I never actually heard anyone say that, but that seems to be the idea that Hollywood perpetuates about law school. Have you ever noticed that the law students in the movies and on TV never spend much time studying? I’ve often wondered what kind of grades they get. Sometimes classes and readings can be interesting and possibly even dramatic. Your first time in a courtroom during a hearing or trial is pretty fun, too. It’s nothing like Hollywood, though; it’s a lot of quiet nights reading cases and composing outlines.

I’m sure there are other myths about law school out there that can be put to rest, but these are the main ones I’ve noticed. Feel free to comment on your own experiences.

Speaking Up

Before I started law school I was told that the discussions in law classes often challenged your beliefs. I knew that those kinds of situations were inevitable, especially considering I was leaving BYU to study at Arizona State. But for whatever reason, belief-challenging discussions didn’t seem to present themselves until this semester.


In addition to the Con Law class I am taking this semester I am also taking a seminar on free speech. Over the course of yesterday’s class the discussion turned to de-regulating the availability of pornography and allowing more swear words in TV broadcasts. Everyone in the room that contributed to the discussion appeared to be in support of both ideas, at least to a certain extent. I chose to stay quiet on those topics, although I later regretted my silence. Toward the end of class our professor quoted a story about John Stuart Mill and how Mill believed religious questions were irrelevant to his parliamentary duties, after which he said, “I wish the Republicans would take this suggestion to heart, given the recent comments about Mormonism being a cult. But that’s unlikely to happen.” Considering the amount of thought I have given to this subject as of late, I spoke up. I mentioned that several of the candidates in the debate on Tuesday night said things similar to Mill, although not all of them. As it turned out, no one else in the room had seen the debate, but everyone expressed surprise at the idea that a Republican would support an idea they agreed with. At that point, the girl next to me said, “let me guess, was it the Mormons?” After I said yes, she responded with, “it figures” (I wasn’t sure how to take that, and I still don’t).


I’m not saying that I’m opposed to people challenging my political ideologies, or that Mormonism is connected to the Republican Party. However, it’s interesting to learn how to contribute to religious/moral/political discussions when I feel so outnumbered, even at the #1 most “Mormon-friendly law school” of 2010. It causes me to wonder if I will continue to feel like a minority after I graduate. Either way, I’m definitely not at BYU anymore.

JRCLS Externship Program in Provo, Utah

The J. Reuben Clark Law School’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies is seeking law students with demonstrated academic excellence to participate in its 2010 Summer Externship Program. Selected student scholars will spend 6-8 weeks in Provo, Utah working on a range of projects related to the mission of the Center which is “to help secure the blessing of freedom of religion and belief for all people”. More information about the mission and activities of the Center is available at www.iclrs.org. 

Projects will include content contributions to the Center’s websites (www.iclrs.org, www.strasbourgconsortium.org and www.religlaw.org) and research for the cutting edge publications such as the newly published casebook, Law and Religion: National, International and Comparative Perspectives; the annual update to the treatise Religious Organization and the Law; and various papers to be shared at conferences including ones in Hungary, the United Kingdom and Peru.

To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume to Deborah Wright, Administrative Assistant for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU at wrightde@lawgate.byu.edu by 12 p.m. MST on Friday, April 16, 2010. 


Note: The Center will work with your school to explore whether credits for the externship can be arranged, but cannot guarantee the outcome of those efforts.

2010 Top Ten Most Mormon Friendly Law Schools

1.      1. Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 65
Cost of Living: $12,952
Cost of Tuition: $28,858
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 10 Miles
US News Ranking: 55

2. (Tie) University of Minnesota School of Law

Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 26
Cost of Living: $13,392
Cost of Tuition: $35,089
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 18 Miles
US News Ranking: 20

2University of Nevada, Las Vegas – William S. Boyd School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 26
Cost of Living: $14,260
Cost of Tuition: $21,332
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 13 Miles
US News Ranking: 75

3. George Washington School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 67
Cost of Living: $20,500
Cost of Tuition: $40,100
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 10 Miles
US News Ranking: 28

4. George Mason University School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 28
Cost of Living: $21,134

Cost of Tuition: $31948
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 21 Miles
US News Ranking: 41

5.      5. Texas Tech University School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 11
Cost of Living: $12,990
Cost of Tuition: $20,701
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 7 Miles
US News Ranking: 0

6.      6. University of Houston Law Center
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 16
Cost of Living: $15,536
Cost of Tuition: $25,977
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 29 Miles
US News Ranking: 59

7. Gonzaga University School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 33
Cost of Living: $14,375
Cost of Tuition: $30,263
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 12 Miles
US News Ranking: 100

8.      8. University of Idaho School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 45
Cost of Living: $15,270
Cost of Tuition: $20,962
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 83 Miles
US News Ranking: 0

9. Oklahoma City University School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 35
Cost of Living: $16,660
Cost of Tuition: $30,970
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 15 Miles
US News Ranking: 0

10. Lewis & Clark Law School
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 6
Cost of Living: $16,345
Cost of Tuition: $30,461
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 5 Miles
US News Ranking: 61

Honorable Mentions: (3 Way Tie)

Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 9
Cost of Living: $17,870
Cost of Tuition: $35,869
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 9 Miles
US News Ranking: 35

University of Nebraska School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 11
Cost of Living: $11,476
Cost of Tuition: $25,101
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 58 Miles
US News Ranking: 0

University of Virginia School of Law
Number of registered J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members: 47
Cost of Living: $15,700
Cost of Tuition: $41,800
Distance to Nearest LDS Temple: 119 Miles
US News Ranking: 10

Harvard Law School to Present Elder Dallin H. Oaks

The Mormonism 101 Series Presents Elder Dallin Oaks — Feb 26 at 5:00 pm


The Harvard Law School Latter-day Saint Students Organization is pleased to announce this year’s edition of the annual Mormonism 101 Series. Each year, the Mormonism 101 Series brings a prominent Latter-day Saint member of the legal or academic community to discuss the basic tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and answer any questions that students or others have about the church. This year Harvard is especially proud to present Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the LDS Church’s highest governing body!

Apart from his prominent position in the church, Dallin Oaks has had a remarkably distinguished legal career, beginning at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Law Review.  After law school, he served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court and then worked as an attorney for Kirkland & Ellis.  He then went on to teach at Chicago Law School for over a decade, serving for a time as interim dean. His tenure at the University of Chicago Law School ended when he was made president of Brigham Young University, where he also served for a decade.  This position, in turn, gave way to an appointment to the Utah Supreme Court, where he served as a justice throughout the early 1980s.  During this time, he was also chairman of the board of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  He resigned from the Utah Supreme Court when he was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a position he still holds.

The value of this opportunity to hear Elder Oaks speak, and to ask questions about the Mormon faith from one who can speak on behalf of the Church (and not just as a member of the faith) cannot be overstated.  Moreover, Elder Oaks’s legal accomplishments are virtually unparalleled.  In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court called his scholarly work “the most comprehensive study on the exclusionary rule” and in both 1976 and 1981, he was on the short list of potential nominees to the United States Supreme Court.

Hopefully someone who attends this event can share with us what they learn.

Should you really go to law school?

Despite the down economy and big firm layoffs, college students are still beating down the doors of law schools in America. More people — 60,746 — took the most recent LSAT on September 26 than had ever taken the exam before. The number of LSAT takers has been on the rise since 2007, but this is the largest jump since 2001— nearly 20% over last year.

I won’t dig into the reasons for this increase too much. (If you are interested, this thorough post on Most Strongly Supported has a good discussion.) But for any person considering law school or a legal career, this is a good excuse to discuss the question of whether you really should go to law school.

There has been a flurry of articles and blawg posts lately about whether a legal education is really a good investment. Vanderbilt Law professor Herwig Schlunk wrote an entertainingly-titled article “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be … Lawyers,” and Paul Caron of TaxProf Blog asserted that “Going to Law School Is Like Starting to Smoke.” There’s a healthy dose of humor and pessimism in both those pieces, but even the most optimistic observers have to recognize that the legal profession is undergoing a shift that is destroying many of the institutions that made it so lucrative. Aspiring lawyers must now realize that they might not have a job waiting for them when they graduate from law school. And law schools, particularly those in the top tier, have become more like big businesses than halls of learning. While the median income of lawyers increased by 25% from 1987 to 2002, the average law school debt increased 400% over that same period. In 2005, the average graduate of a private law school had $78,000 of debt from law school alone.

Young LDS students considering legal careers should carefully consider these sobering number, in light of Mormon Church advice on avoiding debt. I have heard many people within the Church say that borrowing money is okay for purchasing a home, obtaining an education, and sometimes to purchase a vehicle. But given the housing market collapse and the rising costs of a legal education, students should understand that neither a house nor an education is always a good investment.

While some parts of the country are still under-serviced, there are probably too many people getting into the practice of law. Last month Justice Antonin Scalia commented that he thought that America is “wasting some of our best minds” on lawyering, when other fields lack qualified applicants. After last September’s jump in LSAT takers, the ABA Journal took the unusual step of suggesting that applicants “consider the alternatives.

My advice to people considering law school is the same that it has always been. If you are interested in the practice of law, then by all means, pursue it. But if you don’t know what to do with your life and you know lawyers can make a lot of money, I think it’s a bad decision. I also recommend that future law students find out for themselves whether they will like legal practice. Most law schools will let you sit in on first-year law school classes, and you can volunteer or do internships at legal offices to find out what the practice is really like. It is better to find out early on that you wouldn’t really like being a lawyer, and if you do like it, the experience will cement your decision.

This content is cross-posted from LDS Law.

J. Reuben Clark Law Society Student Chapter Publishes First Newsletter


Recently, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Student Chapter published their first Newsletter. The chapter is comprised of law schools from all over the country, not just Brigham Young University’s, J. Reuben Clark Law School. The Newsletter is designed to bring individual JRCLS chapters closer together and promote a greater sense of community throughout all the chapters.

The JRCLS Student Chapter Newsletter is to be published monthly. Click HERE to read.

On law school and early marriage

Kevin Barney of By Common Consent has a post about what he calls the “Mormon Early Marriage Culture.” As is often the case with such topics, the post itself is brief but the comment thread is not.  Barney talks about how he was an “odd duck” in law school because he already had a wife and child. I was married before I started law school, which also put me in the minority. But it was not an especially small minority; there were a fair number of students who had gotten married after undergrad. Some of those married students even had children while they were in school. Additionally, quite a few of my classmates were married during or immediately after graduation from law school. So perhaps young married Mormons aren’t as significant a group of outliers Barney takes them to be.

I admit that my law school classmates may not have been the most representative sample. I went to school in the South, where even the law students are somewhat more likely than their East Coast or West Coast counterparts to be religious. Or perhaps, since the legal profession is a relatively traditional profession,  lawyers and future lawyers are more inclined to follow traditional social orders. It would take another study to figure that out.

A couple years ago the U.S. Census Bureau released some data indicating that, for the first time in American history, the majority of adults were unmarried. And according to the graph below (from seattlepi.com) the median age of marriage has risen to 27.1 years for men and 25.3 years for women. I don’t know what the median age is for Mormon men and women in America, but I’m guessing it’s a couple years younger.

A few of the comments on Barney’s BCC post make some good observations. One law student commenter noted that many of his fellow law students were in long-term relationships, even though they weren’t married. This matches with my experience as well: many of my classmates lived with a long-term boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancée, often owning property together. A generation or two ago they would have been married, but under current norms they put it off or never ultimately marry.

In a somewhat different vein, commenter John Mansfield noted that the age of first marriage for women had been creeping up after 1960, but that the average age of first marriage for men stayed steady until it shot up in 1973. He opined that this was largely due to Roe v. Wade, and that the continued lower age of first marriage for Mormons may be due to the fact that they are somewhat unaffected by the availability of abortions.

Good Luck Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) Test Takers


Good luck to all the law students who will be taking the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) tomorrow. The MPRE is a 60 question, 2 hour and 5 minute, multiple choice exam administered 3 times a year. Passing the MPRE is required for bar admission in all but 4, U.S. jurisdictions. Passing scores vary by the jurisdiction but required scores currently range from 75 to 86, depending on the jurisdiction you are applying to.

I’ll be taking the MPRE tomorrow in Phoenix. I’ve been getting differing opinions on how much I should study. Everything from “don’t study, the only people who study are the ones who don’t pass”, to “you better study alot, I had to take it twice”. So, I’ve studied a fair amount but still not feeling overconfident. I’ll study some more tonight and then “swing for the fence” tomorrow morning!