Procrastination and the LSAT

I get panicked phone calls pretty often, as you might imagine. I've published my cell phone number on my website and in my books for over 10 years now, so yes, I've asked for it.

This particular student has awesome grades (3.95!!!) from a good private school in Los Angeles, but she was panicked about what she perceived as low practice test scores (mid 140s) and a looming February deadline. Her first question: Do I have enough time to get prepped for February? Or should I withdraw?

I think I was able to talk her off the ledge. I told her that if she starts now, and studies a little bit every day, there's no reason why she shouldn't be ready for a test that's almost three months away. But the key part is start now. And that's why I wanted to write a bit about procrastination, and two different ways that it strikes LSAT students.

The first type of procrastination is obvious: You underestimate how much time something takes, you wait until the last minute, you try to cram it all in at the deadline, and you fall short. We've all done this from time to time, and this is what most people think of when they think "procrastination." I get dozens of these calls every year: "I self-studied, but not enough. I was busy with work and school and blah blah blah, so anyway I took the official LSAT without enough prep and got a 142." Yep, I've seen that one before.

But the second type of procrastination is a bit sneakier. With the second type, you actually overestimate how much time a project will take. That's what last night's panicked caller was doing. She was inflating LSAT prep into a gigantic 6- or 12-month endeavor, getting intimidated by her imagined giant, then using anxiety about the big scary monster to put it off studying entirely.

The remedy for both types of procrastination is the same: Do a little bit every day. It's incredible how much progress you can make if you simply commit to one hour today, then one hour tomorrow, then one hour every day after that until you reach your goal. No matter who you are, no matter how far you are from your goal, this is my prescription. Yes, you can do more than one hour per day if you want. But that first hour, every day, is far more important than whatever hours you pile on top of that. It's inefficient and unreliable to skip four days this week and try to make it all up on the weekend. Lawyers (and future lawyers) are very serious, diligent people. If you can't find one hour per day in your schedule for LSAT prep, then law isn't the right path for you, at least not right now.

Don't under- or over-estimate the task in front of you. Stop worrying and start acting. Today. And tomorrow. You'll feel so much better a week from now, I promise.

How to withdraw from the June LSAT

Are you registered for the June LSAT, but aren't able to take the test? Make sure you officially withdraw so the test will be removed from your file and prevent an absentee notation. The deadline is 11:59 pm Eastern Time on Monday, June 5. Here's what you need to do.

Log into your account, proceed to the LSAT Status page, and find the option to withdraw your registration. At this time, the only option is withdrawing online; no phone calls, mail or faxes. In addition, refunds are not available at this point, nor can you transfer your registration to another LSAT test date.

If you withdraw by the June 5 deadline, the test does not count as one of your three LSAT attempts. However if you cancel your score, it does count. If there are only a few days to go, and you're nowhere near your target score, it's time to withdraw. Don't waste an attempt when you're not ready.

Visit the LSAC website for more information on withdrawing from the June LSAT.

Want a list of FREE (and very cheap) resources to help you study for the LSAT? Sign up here and I'll send them right to you!

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LSAT Test Center Restrictions are Tighter Than TSA Passenger Requirements

If you're taking the LSAT, you better familiarize yourself with the Law School Admission Council's day-of the test requirements as soon as possible to avoid having any last-minute surprises on test day. I was having a laugh with my LSAT class recently about the LSAC's long, crazy list of things you can and can't bring to the test. "It's almost like you're getting on an airplane or something," I told them. Well, then I looked at the TSA passenger requirements and realized that taking the LSAT is actually a whole lot harder than getting on a plane.

Valid Photo Identification Let's start with a small thing. Both the LSAT and the TSA require a valid photo ID. But the LSAC is now requiring you also bring a printout of your admission ticket that includes the photo that you uploaded through your account.The photo that you upload must meet the following requirements, or you will be denied entry to the test center.

  • - The photo must have been taken within the last six months.
  • - The photo must be clear, so that there can be no doubt about your identity.
  • - Only your face and shoulders should be included in the photo (like a passport photo).
  • - The uploaded photo must be a different photo than the photo that appears on the government-issued ID that you must take with you to the test center (do not scan or photograph your ID photo for uploading).
  • - The uploaded photo must match your appearance on the day of the test (e.g., with or without beard).

The photograph will be retained by LSAC only as long as needed to assure the authenticity of test scores and to protect the integrity of the testing process.

I do recommend a professional photo, by the way... because the list of ways you can fuck up your photo is legendary. The page gives some examples of what not to use as a photo, but I'll share a few here:

LSAC examples
LSAC examples

What You Can't Bring With You on Test Day Both the TSA and the LSAT prohibit weapons and firearms. That's good to know, I guess. The LSAT also expressly prohibits you from bringing, among other things,

  • - "electronic timers of any kind" (Why?  Who knows!)
  • - "digital watches, alarm watches, beeping watches, calculator watches" (The beeping thing I can understand. Otherwise, silly.  A calculator is of no use on the test.)
  • - "cell phones, pay phones, beepers, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs)" (I'm not sure how someone would bring a "pay phone" to the test, but I'd like to see it.)
  • - "personal computers" (Bummer, I was going to bring my Commodore 64 from 1985 and play Larry Bird vs. Dr. J)
  • - "headsets, iPods, or other media players" (Sorry, no listening to music or playing Angry Birds while you wait for the test to start.)
  • - "books, dictionaries, papers of any kind" (Along with the restriction against iPods, this sucks. The registration process can take upward of an hour if you arrive early, and you're stuck sitting there with absolutely zero entertainment, not even a magazine.)
  • - "rulers" (Bizarre.)
  • - "mechanical pencils" (I suppose the clicking could annoy a fellow test-taker. But why can't they outlaw annoying clicking, instead of outlawing mechanical pencils entirely?)
  • - "ink pens" (If pens don't work on the Scantron sheets, then I understand this... your answer won't count if you fill in the bubbles with a pen. But why are students prohibited from even bringing them to the test center?!)
  • - "briefcases, handbags, backpacks of any kind" (Which means that 100% of your shit has to be in a clear plastic bag... I'll get to that in a minute.)
  • - "earplugs" (I suppose this is because somebody one time tried to cheat by doing a lame "Oh, sorry, I didn't hear you call time because I was wearing earplugs...")
  • - "hats/hoods" (except religious apparel) may not be worn on the head (Stupid. Just stupid.)

After expressly prohibiting all those things, all of which you'd be allowed to bring on a plane, the LSAT then gives you a specific list of the "only" things that you are allowed to bring, which the TSA definitely does not do. Anyway, here's the list of the only things that you're supposed to be able to bring. I love this part:

"Test takers may bring into the test room only a clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum size one gallon (3.79 liter), which must be stored under the chair and may be accessed only during the break. The sealed ziplock bag may contain only the following items: valid ID; wallet; keys; analog (nondigital) wristwatch; medical or feminine hygiene products; #2 or HB wooden pencils, a highlighter, erasers (no erasers with sleeves), pencil sharpener (no mechanical pencils); tissues; and beverage in plastic container or juice box (20 oz./591 ml maximum size) and snack for break only. No aluminum cans permitted. All items must fit in the ziplock bag such that the bag can be sealed."

That's right ladies ... you get to display your tampons to the world in your clear plastic bag! (I'm surprised nobody has sued them on this... then again, they're an organization made up of every law school in the country so they might be able to scrape up a defense.) Does anybody know what the hell an "eraser with sleeve" might be? I hope nobody's too thirsty, because we're keeping you to a 20 oz liquid limit. I guess you could refill it during the break, but then again you're not allowed to drink it during the test. Furthermore, you can't have aluminum cans (note the bold font) and you must be able to seal your bag. This reminds me of the hot buffet at the Ranch 99 Market in Daly City, where it's all the wings and noodles you can stuff inside your styrofoam container, but you must be able to close the lid.

What You Can Bring With You on Test Day And then, there's a specific list of the items you're allowed to have on your desk during the test:

"Test takers may only have tissues, their ID, wooden pencils, erasers, a pencil sharpener, a highlighter, and an analog (nondigital) wristwatch. No electronic devices are permitted. Neither are timers of any kind except analog wristwatches."

I suppose the tissues are for your tears, as you contemplate the absurdity of the world you are hoping to join?

Good luck!

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How to Apply for LSAT Testing Accommodations

I hear from a lot of students who plan to take the LSAT and need help applying for testing accommodations. The LSAC does provide appropriate accommodations for students with documented disabilities. I have students immediately gain 15 LSAT points when they start taking practice tests under accommodated conditions, so it is hugely important that you apply for accommodations if you are eligible.

To request LSAT accommodations, you must document the current impact of your impairment and how it affects a major life activity related to your ability to take the LSAT under standard conditions. Your documentation must also provide a rationale and an objective basis for the requested accommodation.

Keep in mind that a diagnosis alone does not qualify you for accommodations. You must document the current functional impact of an impairment that limits a major life activity and provide both a rationale and an objective basis for the requested accommodations.

The process of applying for accommodations can feel a bit overwhelming, so I've written it out here in an easy, step-by-step method.

1. Register for the LSAT before requesting accommodations. Applying for accommodations can take a long time, so you should sign up for a test at least a couple months out, if possible. You can register for the LSAT online, by phone, or by submitting a paper registration form. Your request for accommodations will not be processed unless you are registered to take the test.

2. Download the Accommodations Request Packet on the LSAC website, and determine which process you should follow to submit your request for accommodations.

Candidates who have appropriate proof of prior approved testing accommodations on the LSAT, SAT I, SAT II, ACT, GED, GRE, GMAT, or DAT examinations and who are requesting the same accommodations on the LSAT, review the LSAC’s Policy on Prior Testing Accommodations and the steps to follow to document your request for accommodations on the LSAT.

All other candidates, click here for information on the steps to follow to document your request for accommodations on the LSAT.

3. Fill out the forms online or by hand. Then print and sign all forms before they are mailed, faxed, or scanned and emailed to LSAC. Submit all required documentation by the receipt deadline.

4. Monitor your online account for information about the status of your request for accommodations. If your request for accommodations is granted, LSAC will make arrangements with the test center and send both you and the test center supervisor confirmation of the accommodations granted.

Contact for LSAT Testing Accommodations LSAC Accommodated Testing P.O. Box 8512 Newtown, PA  18940-8512 215-968-1001 Email:

Good luck!

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The Fox LSAT Logic Games Playbook is Here!

I'm excited to announce that my latest book in my LSAT book series, The Fox LSAT Logic Games Playbook, is now available to purchase! The LSAT's logic games are easier than you think, and this book is designed to prove it. I regularly see the biggest improvement from his students on this section, and in my down-to-earth, irreverent style, I'll show you how to see through the BS and start learning how to crush the logic games.

The formula is simple: First, you'll attempt a game on your own. Then, I'll will walk you step-by-step through a full solution to every question, showing you how you can be 100 percent certain of each answer. You'll also have opportunities to practice each game again on your own, and through repetition, you'll start spotting the recurring patterns. I'll demonstrate the best ways to prioritize your time on the logic games so you can focus your energy on the truly challenging questions. No nonsense. No made-up trademarked buzzwords. No confusing jargon. And best of all, no pulled punches. So grab a pencil and crack this book. Let's get it on.

The Fox LSAT Logic Games Playbook is available on I'd love to hear what you think!

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Yelp Review of the Week: Nathan's Books, Podcast and Bootcamp is Helping This Student Conquer the LSAT

Here’s what Mike from Thousand Oaks, CA had to say after working with me on LSAT prep. Nathan's no BS approach to the LSAT exam has helped rewire my brain. When I first read his book Introducing the LSAT: The Fox Test Prep Quick & Dirty LSAT Primer, my practice test scores were low and I felt that the LSAT was some foreign exam which required specialized knowledge. The book provided me with a new view - this test can be beaten. As I binged through the Thinking LSAT Podcast, I came more and more to the realization that the exam is one of aptitude, rather than specific knowledge, which can be honed over practice much like routine exercise.

Rather than turning every piece of the LSAT into a mechanistic diagram, I have begun to see behind the curtain and to recognize many of the questions for what they are: tricky language designed to confuse. I was lucky to attend a recent two-day LSAT boot camp with Nathan and I left feeling far more confident in my abilities. I look forward to continuing to work with Nathan, through tutoring, as I prepare for the June 2016 LSAT where I hope to achieve a score that I would not have believed was within my ability a year ago.

Thank you, Fox LSAT!

Thanks for the nice words, Mike! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

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Yelp Review of the Week: A 174 on the LSAT and So Much More

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s what Annie from Santa Rosa, CA had to say after he took my LSAT prep class. I got a 152 on my first practice test, and ended up getting a 174 on the LSAT.  It's because I took Nathan's class. But that's just for starters.

Here's what else I got from being in Nathan's class:

  • - Scheduled proctored exams (outside of class time) to help with test anxiety and help us stay on top of studying
  • - Help with my personal statement
  • - Savings of over $2,000 on application fees
  • - Acceptance into every school I applied
  • - Help with navigating how to leverage scholarship offers
  • - A 95% scholarship to my dream school

Here's what I didn't have to do:

  • - Memorize "21 Types of LSAT Questions" list or some other BS
  • - Dread being in class - I actually loved every class b/c Nathan is so funny and entertaining
  • - Apply to law school with an LSAT score that wasn't my best (Nathan counseled me to try again after getting a 164 my first time, which was lower than I'd been averaging)

Basically, there's a lot that goes into applying to law school (including answering the question, do I really want to go to law school?), and if you take some other course that doesn't do all of this for you, you are really getting shortchanged, and probably paying extra for it. I am so glad I found Nathan and can't say enough good things.

On a sidenote: he's new to Los Angeles but if you want to see pages and pages of rave reviews, check out his San Francisco Yelp page.

Thanks for the nice words, Annie! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

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June LSAT Registration Deadlines

clockIf you're planning to take the June 6 LSAT, make sure you register before it's too late!

The online, by mail, or by telephone deadline to register is Wednesday, April 20 (receipt deadline). The late registration deadline is Wednesday, April 27 (receipt deadline). The online receipt deadline is 11:59 pm Eastern Time (ET).

Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up! But if you do register on the deadline day, make sure you do so during the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) business hours.

Visit the LSAC website for more information or to register.

Want a list of FREE (and very cheap) resources to help you study for the LSAT? Sign up here and I'll send them right to you!

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When Should I Take the LSAT?

Most people should start studying for the LSAT as soon as possible. A slightly different–but no less common–question is “When should I take the test?” That's a much tougher question. I can't really answer it offhand, but I can definitely give you some factors to consider.

1. The LSAT is only offered four times per year (February, June, late September or early October, and December).

2. It takes three weeks to get your score back.

3. Law schools start accepting applications for next year in fall of THIS year. As soon as they start accepting applications, they start admitting students and giving away all their scholarship money. This is known as “rolling admissions.”

4. Because law schools use rolling admissions, it's in your best interest to have your applications ready to go at the beginning of the admissions cycle. If you wait until late in the cycle, there will be many less seats available, and little to no scholarship money. I know you don't want to hear this, but this means many students are better served by waiting an extra year before starting law school.

Think about this: Would you rather start now and pay full price at a shitty school? Or would you rather wait a year and go to a better school and/or on a scholarship? The choice is yours.

5. The LSAT preparation process can take as little as a month for some lucky students, but averages more like three months for most students, and can commonly take as much as six months to a year. You'll only really know that you are personally ready to take the test after you've taken a ton of practice tests, gotten some professional help, and seen your scores improve, then level off.

Everybody eventually reaches a plateau. When you're at that plateau, if you're not going to do something different with your preparation to break out to a new plateau (like a different teacher, different books, etc.) then it's probably time to take the LSAT.

6. Many (or most) schools only count your highest LSAT score, which means that taking the test more than once might be advantageous. (Please take that link with a huge grain of salt, and call the admissions offices if you want the latest and most reliable information.) You should schedule one real test date and one backup date, in case you don't have your best day the first time out. (If you score way worse than your practice test average, then you should definitely take it again.)

Bottom line: When you add all that up, most students who are just starting out should probably go ahead and register for a test that is two or three months from now. You may or may not be ready by then, but signing up will help motivate you to study. If you're not ready, you can always move your test date back (with a few weeks notice and a small LSAC fee, of course). Here's a list of upcoming LSAT deadlines.

Need help preparing for the LSAT? Read why Fox LSAT stands out and how it will help you conquer the LSAT.

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Yelp Review of the Week: Whether You're Undecided or Ready for Law School, Give This Class a Try

happy-face-1191165Here’s what Jae from Millbare, CA had to say after he took my LSAT prep class.

I took the Fox LSAT class for a month and improved my score dramatically from the low 160's to 167-172 range. Nathan does an excellent job at teaching you the shortcuts that you need to know to be successful at the test, especially with the logic games section. His go-to strategy with the grouping games is especially good and makes those games a cake-walk. He also goes through tough Logical reasoning questions, showing you which operative words to look out for and why one answer choice is better than the other. If you find yourself getting questions wrong on practice tests and you have no idea why, this class will help you.

Another huge benefit for joining class is that you get his Fox LSAT Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia for free. It is a behemoth of a book with hundreds of logical reasoning questions with an entertaining and thorough explanation provided for every question and their answer choices. This helped me a lot, as I often found myself asking why a certain choice was incorrect when I was self-studying for the test. It will definitely help you sharpen your critical eye, so that you can find the correct answer choices faster and easier.

Finally, Nathan is a pretty awesome dude who is always willing to help outside of class time in case you have questions about the LSATs, law school, or careers in law. He is brutally honest however, and will not shy away from disillusioning you on the merits of going to law school. He keeps it real, and you should really listen to all that he has to say before fully committing. Law school debt is no joke and there may be no going back once you're in. Still, whether you are undecided or all-in on this law school thing like me, then you should definitely give this class a shot. You won't regret it.

Thanks for the nice words, Jae! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

Learn more about how my LSAT classes can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Yelp Review of the Week: The LSAT May Seem Boring, But Nathan Makes Studying Fun

shadow-1-1193727Here’s what Carlos from Los Angeles, CA had to say after he took my LSAT prep class. I was in Nathan's LSAT class and benefited greatly from it.

The material on the LSAT is boring as hell and Nathan does a great job of making the class fun with his humor. Nathan is constantly arguing with the speaker and using profanity (which is hilarious, btw) to keep the class alive. Actually, I think he's just being himself which makes the otherwise dry material very entertaining. Nathan scored a 179 on the LSAT so it seems he can do most of these in his sleep if he wanted to.

In addition to covering the LSAT section he does a 30 minute Q&A before every class (5:30-6pm) where you can ask him anything related to law school. He is always honest about the pros and cons of pursuing a legal career which I appreciated. He also did a great job of bringing in guest speakers to answer questions you may have.

Nathan is always available to his students. You can always email him and he'll get back to you. If you have a question about applying, want to send him your personal statement or got stuck on a question he's your man. I admire how available he makes himself. You can tell he wants to help people succeed on the LSAT and get into the best possible law school they can.

One thing I particularly appreciated is he allowed me to pay on a payment plan. This helped ease some of the financial burden of a $500 a month class. His prices are very reasonable and worth every cent but his flexibility was very much appreciated.

Nathan also offered proctored tests on the weekends so you get to mimic test conditions. I found those valuable.

Unless you're an outstanding test taker my advice would be to take the class for 1-2 months. At that point you start to see the patterns in some of the logic games and get a feel for how to set them up and you may be able to recognize certain types of questions throughout the test.

I 100% unequivocally recommend Fox LSAT. I researched a couple of places before choosing Nathan's class and preferred to support a local business and I can guarantee Nathan is funnier and more effective than any of the big test prep services out there.

Thanks Fox LSAT!

Thanks for the nice words, Carlos! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

Learn more about how my LSAT classes can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Sign Up Now for the Fox LSAT Los Angeles Boot Camp

los angelesFox LSAT Boot CampLos Angeles, CA April 23-24 10 am - 4 pm $495, all materials included Instructor: Nathan Fox, host of the Thinking LSAT Podcast

The Fox LSAT weekend class is a concentrated dose of LSAT awesomeness—6 hours Saturday, 6 hours Sunday. We'll start with a full, timed LSAT, so you'll know precisely where you stand. Then we'll thoroughly review each section of that same test, so you can see what you do well, and what you don’t. We'll cover basic and advanced strategies for each section, and then we’ll do a bunch of extra Logic Games, since almost everyone sucks the most at that. You'll walk away with a deeper understanding of the test than many of your competitors will have after weeks or months of studying. Whether or not you're taking the June 2016 test, you'll be fully equipped to self-study in the days, weeks, or months ahead.

Register today!

Limited free / sliding scale seats are available. Please email a brief statement of need to

Yelp Review of the Week: This Student Loved the Cost-Efficiency of the LSAT Prep Class

mason-jar-savings-bank-1311765Here’s what T.W. from San Francisco, CA had to say after he took my LSAT prep class. While prep companies give you a series of structures, templates, and facts to memorize, Nathan presents a much more fluid understanding of the LSAT. Instead of giving you list upon list to understand, Nathan provides 10 primary rules and focuses on a more holistic understanding of LSAT arguments. He does not waste time with baby steps into LSAT understanding, he digs right into it. He provides you the tools you need to pinpoint your weaknesses, address them, and move on.

As someone with little disposable income to provide to the LSAT, I sincerely appreciated the cost-efficiency of Nathan's class. He makes himself available any time, he allows you to connect to the class online if attending in person is too difficult, and he provides all of the materials for the class you will need. I only attended his course for one month and was able to address many of the issues I had never caught in my Blueprint course or studying on my own with books.

Thanks for the nice words, T.W.! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

Learn more about how my LSAT classes can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Yelp Review of the Week: Kaley's Score Went Way Up After Private LSAT Tutoring

danger-school-traffic-signal-1444922Here’s what Kaley H. from New York, NY had to say after she used my Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia book and signed up for private LSAT tutoring with me. I did a tutoring session with Nathan over Skype and used his Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia in preparation for retaking the LSAT.

My practice test scores went up with Nathan's help, but what I appreciated most was his approach to teaching. He doesn't sugarcoat anything, genuinely cares about his students, is a great voice of sanity, makes studying fun, and knows the test extremely well, but can still talk about it like an actual human. When you're taking a test as important as the LSAT, you really want the person teaching you to be like Nathan Fox.

I was at a decent starting point when I contacted him, but was struggling with an important concept in LR. He went over my June 2015 test with me in detail, told me what to focus on, and went out of his way to help me find a study buddy where I live (I'm on the East Coast) so that I could have all the support I needed to prepare to retake. Nathan picks up on your weak areas and can advise you on what to focus on to improve, which is one of the best reasons to hire a tutor if you're retaking the test. He was extremely helpful!

If you're worried about working with someone who isn't in the same time zone, don't. Nathan is incredibly responsive over email and will always take time to respond thoroughly when you have questions. If you want to get a sense of his teaching style before signing up for tutoring, I highly recommend checking out his Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia (it was the most helpful book I used) or his other books or listen to his podcast he does with another teacher. His writing and speaking are peppered with profanity and snark, but it's somehow always appropriate for the situation and hilarious. My friends started listening to the podcast and using his books as well and we've all become fans.

I highly, highly recommend Nathan's tutoring and materials to anyone studying the LSAT.

Thanks for the nice words, Kaley! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

Learn more about private LSAT tutoring and my books can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Fox LSAT Alumni Spotlight: Zach Watterson

Watterson headshotI love hearing what my former LSAT students are doing in law school and beyond. Zach Watterson took a LSAT prep class from me and achieved a score of 173. In this post, he answers a few questions about his experience taking the LSAT and shares some advice. How did you work with Nathan to prepare for the LSAT?

I took Nathan’s San Francisco course for three months starting in July of 2015 to prepare for the October 2015 LSAT. Nathan’s teaching style resonated with me and his willingness to always be accessible was a great aid whenever I had a question or was displeased with how my studies were going. After receiving my score from the October LSAT, I chose to retake the LSAT in December 2015. I did not re-enroll in Nathan’s class, but I emailed him regularly for help on questions I had and to review my personal statement.

When you started prepping for the LSAT, what scared you the most? How did your perceptions about the LSAT change?

I took the LSAT in September 2014 before I started working with Nathan so I already had a general understanding of the test. I knew what the various sections were and strategies on how to approach the test. I was not scared by the LSAT itself. Instead, I was most fearful that I would not meet my expectations of how I could perform on the LSAT. I knew I could perform well if I worked hard, but I expected to achieve my dream score every time I took a practice test. This was the most difficult part of my studies. In many of the initial full length practice tests and in the sections we took in-class with Nathan, I did not meet my goal score or I missed too many questions in a section to achieve my desired score. I became increasingly disappointed and frustrated which made studying more difficult. I had many moments of doubt, which were relieved by Nathan’s instruction.

Even though I had already taken the LSAT before I began working with Nathan, I had no clue as to how much work and time it takes to fully master the LSAT. I knew that my initial preparations for the September 2014 LSAT were inadequate, but in the first week of class with Nathan, he exposed the harsh reality that I should have never taken the LSAT in the first place. Nathan’s recommended amount of time to spend studying dramatically altered my perceptions of the LSAT. As Nathan repeatedly says, “the LSAT is not so much a test of knowledge, but rather a test of how hard you are willing to work.” The LSAT can be mastered. Learning this fact altered how I viewed the LSAT and freed me to focus on attacking each question rather than to be fearful of making a mistake.

What was the score you ended up getting? How did you get that score?

My end result was a 173 from the December 2015 LSAT. This was a 20 point jump from my September 2014 score and a nine-point jump from my October 2015 result where I gravely under-performed. I never wanted to take the LSAT three times or dedicate close to seven months of my life to studying. In the end though, that was what it took to achieve my dream score and to realize my potential. Nearly all of my success on the LSAT is due to Nathan’s approach and strategies to the LSAT. His emphasis to attack each question and always be critiquing put me in the mindset that I could conquer the LSAT. This made studying that much more enjoyable. Instead of viewing another thirty-five-minute section of reading comprehension as a burden, I saw it as a chance to tell the LSAT writers how their arguments made no sense. I achieved a 173 through repetition. My confidence grew as I saw the same question over and over again. Even though the words were different, I knew the answer just by seeing how the argument was structured. Consistently doing timed sections and drilling various question types and games was central to my preparation.

Where did you end up attending? What do you hope to do after graduation?

I am currently waiting to hear back from law schools on their admissions decisions since I applied after I received my December 2015 LSAT score. I have no idea as to what my plans are post law school. I have a wide range of interests in what area of law I hope to practice in and as a result, I do not have a concrete plan after receiving my JD. Hopefully, my 1L year will bring me some clarity.

Do you have any tips for current and future LSAT students?

Maintain a balance between your life, work, and LSAT commitments. I failed to do this in my preparation for the October 2015 LSAT and I now realize that so much of my stress and frustration could have been mitigated if I did not place the LSAT in such a supreme position. Too much of my time was consumed by the LSAT, which resulted in many hours being wasted as I just wanted to get through a timed section or a set of question types as fast as possible. In the month or so I had before the December 2015 LSAT I studied when I felt ready to, spent more of my time with friends, and began to coach the basketball and cross country teams at my high school. The LSAT should not be a burden. If you find yourself feeling that it is, step away for a few hours or a couple of days. You will not lose the skills you have acquired in your time away and it’s better to be immersed in your studies rather than be distracted by the nagging thought of “the LSAT really sucks.”

Taper off your studies as test day approaches. I have been a competitive track runner for nine years and I know the importance of feeling fresh and rested for an important meet. The LSAT is no different. Feeling confident and relaxed on test day will produce better results than you cramming in an extra section of logical reasoning or logic games in the days leading up to test day. The LSAT requires hours of preparation to do well. If you have not dedicated that time in the weeks leading up to the test than you have already failed to achieve your goal.

Running 10 miles a day with two hard track workouts the week before a championship meet will not result in a personal best. I more than likely will be crawling to the finish line. Your focus in the week leading up to the LSAT is to do whatever will ease your anxiety and build up your confidence. I ended my preparation for the December 2015 LSAT after I nailed a full length Logic Games section and missed only one question in a logical reasoning section three days before the test. I knew I was prepared and having this confidence was crucial to my calmness during the actual LSAT. I did not taper for the October 2015 LSAT when I should have after I scored a perfect logical reasoning section in my last class with Nathan. I felt that by doing a couple of full sections in the remaining days I could maintain my sharpness. I only exposed myself to negative thoughts which resulted in me being so nervous on test day that I was shaking as I took the LSAT. That was a recipe for disaster.

Focus on your immediate tasks and not the totality of what needs to get done. The general prescription for preparing for the LSAT is to do at a minimum ten full length practice exams before test day, drill logical reasoning question types for an hour each day, and do a section of logic games, reasoning, and potentially reading comprehension each day. That is an overwhelming amount of studying when you total it all up. Instead of being paralyzed by all that you have to do, focus on what you are going to achieve in the moment. Whatever time you commit to studying, create a goal. It may be, “I’m going to nail the first two games of this section,” or “I’m gonna learn what a necessary assumption is.” Whatever they are, the goals you set for yourself will keep you motivated and will focus your study time which will result in improvement.

Stay positive, immerse yourself in the LSAT, and believe in your abilities. The LSAT can be mastered, it just requires hard work which is always rewarded.

Thanks for sharing your story, Zach. Good luck and keep us posted where you're accepted!

If you want to talk with Zach about his experience, send him an email at

Learn more about my in-person classes and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.

Yelp Review of the Week: Private LSAT Tutoring Paid Off For This Student

nathan fox tutoringHere’s what Kyle from San Anselmo, CA had to say after signing up for private LSAT tutoring with me. Nathan was my private tutor for my second and third tries at the LSAT.

A good LSAT score was very important for my applications. I had an absolutely terrible GPA from several bad years in community college, so I wasn't going to get into a good law school without a good LSAT score. In my first few months working with Nathan, I didn't do what I should have done. I took days off practicing and didn't implement what he advised for me. My score reflected that.

It was in the months leading up to my third shot that he really pushed me into success. He had previously identified my weak spots but did a fantastic job motivating me to do the work. He explained logical reasoning in a way that finally helped me understand. He taught me the diagramming skills necessary to improve my logic games immensely. And he showed me how to do reading comprehension correctly, which also saved me. I had a goal of 162 and scored a 165. With that score, I got accepted to my top choice school, all thanks to Nathan.

I strongly recommend working with Nathan if you're getting ready to take the LSAT. His materials are entertaining, his lessons are effective, and he will get you to where you want to go!

Thanks for the nice words, Kyle! You can read the review and other recommendations on Yelp.

Learn more about private LSAT tutoring and how it can help you conquer the LSAT.

Logical Reasoning Questions Answered: What are Mistaken Reversals and Mistaken Negations?

what-s-that-1527433Lucy K. reached out to me with some questions about Logical Reasoning and asking for resources on mistaken reversals and mistaken negations. Here's what I told her about these terms and whether they're important when studying for the LSAT. Lucy K.: I'm working on a review of conditional reasoning right now. Do you have any resources on mistaken reversals? And also mistaken negations? I just worked through the LRB chapters on Weaken and Must Be True questions. The Weaken practice problem set went better than the Must Be True problem set, but I want to review them both. Right now I've been noticing that Weaken questions, compare/contrast dialogue between two speakers, // reasoning, principle, sufficient assumption, and flaw questions are LRs I've tended to get wrong.

I've noticed that I tend to get weirded out by long arguments, arguments with lots of formal logic, and some of the science/nature arguments (I always think I don't know what this jargon-word means, or I'm not an architect, biologist, anthropologist, et cetera, what if I'm missing something about a scientific process, or I think it would be great to diagram this LR question as I see the logic words, but I'm really scared that I'd diagram it wrong and/or am debating which abbreviations to use). I would like to practice these more.

Nathan: Oh dear. "Mistaken reversals"... "mistaken negations"... they're one and the same. I'm sorry you even have those two terms in your head, because you really don't need them. This is just something that LSAT dorks say when they want to impress someone. Logically, it's the exact same flaw. All you really need is the big picture. One example should suffice.

Premise: If you're eaten by a shark, then you're dead.

Mistaken reversal: Everyone who's dead was eaten by a shark. This is stupid because there are a lot of other ways to die. Like maybe a flock of rabid turkeys pecks you to death. Or whatever. Point is, it's obviously stupid. And believe it or not, this simple, obvious flaw is the LSAT's favorite thing to test. It's on every single LSAT.

Mistaken negation: If you're not eaten by a shark, then you're not dead. See, that's a slightly different statement but it's logically identical and it's stupid for the exact same reason. What about the rabid turkeys? What about all the other ways to die? This, again, is the LSAT's most common flaw.

Formally, the two flaws are contrapositives of one another. I suppose there is a technical difference in the form of the flaw, but it's simply not important enough of a distinction for you to bother knowing two different names for them. The terms "mistaken reversal" and "mistaken negation" have never appeared on the LSAT. Only in LSAT books. But not in my LSAT books, because I don't want you to waste your time on irrelevant technicalities.Generally, I am not in love with Powerscore's Logical Reasoning Bible for exactly this reason. It focuses on too many trees, so unsuspecting readers often miss the forest. It's not technically wrong (at least not often) but it's far too technical. Students come away thinking that the LSAT is harder than it really is.

Learn more about my LSAT prep class and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Should I Retake the LSAT?

go-slow-1088027-mEvery time scores come out, I get a few emails that sound something like this: "Hi Nathan. Scores just came out, and I got a 158. Should I retake the LSAT?"

The answer, as usual, is "it depends." It depends primarily on whether that 158 is a good score, or a bad score, for you. And there are a couple other considerations as well.

What's the average of your past three timed practice test scores?

This is the most important question. If you've been averaging 158 or lower on your practice tests, and you got a 158 on the real thing, then you're not a very good candidate for major improvement on a retake. Did you study hard this time? Did you take a class? Did you do the homework? If you did all that, and you're not planning on doing anything differently next time, then you shouldn't expect to get a score that's wildly better than your practice test average. In fact, you're even money (or better) to do worse if you retake the test.

If, on the other hand, you averaged 164 on your last three practice tests, and scored 158 on your actual test, then you're a terrific candidate for improvement on a retake. I'm always surprised at students who decide not to retake the test in this situation; I really think they're selling themselves short. If you can do it on a timed practice test, then you can do it on the real thing. Sure, it might take you multiple tries.

We all have good days and bad days on practice tests, so why wouldn't this same thing happen on the real test? If your score is way worse than your actual level of ability, as indicated by your practice test scores, then by all means retake the test. I hate to see students rush into law school applications with an LSAT score that I know they can beat. There's a huge difference between a 158 and a 164. Take your time, retake the test, and apply when you're ready.

Where are you applying?

Most schools (except for the very, very top ones) only care about your highest LSAT score. This is certainly the case at UC Hastings, for example. Here's a list of what law school admissions folks have said on the topic. If the schools you're applying to only take the highest score, then why wouldn't you retake the test if you think you can do better? The only downsides are the registration fee and a lost Saturday. The potential upside is huge.

When are you applying?

To give yourself the best chances of admission and scholarships, you need to apply early in the rolling admissions cycle. I try to tell my students that their applications, ideally, would be done by September of the year prior to the year they want to go to school. This always shocks some people, but the best scholarship offers and the best placements result from applying broadly (~30 schools) at the very beginning of the admissions window.

This is where many students make their biggest mistake--everybody seems to be in an awful goddamn hurry. Many 20-somethings think that if they don't go to law school now they are going to significantly delay their progress in life. This is nonsense. If you wait an additional year, and end up going to a better school and/or with a scholarship, you're going to be way further along in life than you'd be if you rushed into a shitty school and $150,000 of debt. This is the biggest investment you'll ever make, other than possibly a house. Take your time and do it right.

I'm happy to entertain specific questions on this topic, from existing students or random strangers. Leave a comment or send me an email. I'm here to help.

Learn more about my LSAT prep class and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Love is Hate, War is Peace, Boring Law Jobs Are Sexy (and Vice Versa): Hottie-In-Disguise Jobs and True Love

sand-heart-1404218This post is part three of a three-part series of guest posts by Larry Law Law, an adviser and tutor to law students who want to get top grades in law school. Note: In Part 1, Larry Law Law argues that knowing rom-com tropes may save your life as a law student. That is, in rom-coms, someone usually falls in love with The Crush, a sexy stranger who turns out to be a psychopath, cheat, or Raiders fan. Similarly, many law students love the idea of certain “sexy” jobs while knowing little about them.

In Part 2, Larry Law Law covers the consequences of getting a legal job version of The Crush (depression, alcoholism, unhappiness), and what “true love” might mean in the context of law jobs.

In this final, Part 3 of this 3 part series, Larry Law Law returns to rom-coms tropes for a potential solution!

* * *

While I mentioned that I find rom-coms stupid, the Hottie-in-Disguise trope in rom-coms is by far my favorite.

What is the Hottie-in-Disguise trope? Basically, a gorgeous actor/actress puts glasses on magically and -- voila! -- you are supposed to suspend disbelief and find them ugly.

Leading examples are Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That, Christopher Reeves as Superman hiding as Clark Kent, or Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry A Millionaire.

(Though they have no glasses, this is Kristoff’s role in Frozen, and Paul Rudd’s in Clueless.)

The main character sees this supposedly plain Hottie-In-Disguise every day, treats her like an Anti-Crush. The main character feels utterly comfortably with and really likes the Hottie-In-Disguise but doesn’t notice her at all.

Later, the glasses come off, revealing an outright Hottie.

Then, the pants fly off, and happily ever after.

In the movies, the Hottie-In-Disguise always gets discovered, and the glasses always come off.

In reality, Hotties-In-Disguise tend to remain disguised or their love unrequited.

Likewise, some of the best jobs are there, disguised, right under our noses, wearing glasses.

And the biggest losses are sometimes those opportunities we never knew about.

But what kind of opportunities are these?

They are especially those jobs where the titles and outward function of these places may boring:

You want me to be a lawyer at the Department of Agriculture? Department of Interior? National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? You want me to work in trusts and estates or tax?



Don’t just go by what seems sexy. These places don’t involve the same outward trappings.

Their websites won’t involve collages of super attractive, multi-ethnic associates in Italian suits.

There is no set of Vault or ATL rankings for “best government or off-beat law jobs.”

But if you ask lawyers who do these jobs -- especially those (like me!) who left supposedly “sexy” jobs for these apparently boring jobs -- they have a different view.

There are lawyers who practice in areas that seem boring to law students but contain many or most of the Nathan and Pink elements to sustain a satisfying – even exciting, sometimes – long-term career.

By “satisfying” I don’t mean “happy” in the “wheeeeeeeeeee-Disneyland!!!, chocolate-hot-tub sense.

I mean “happy” in this sense: “my work is interesting, I make enough money, but my life is not overly stressful, and I want to stay here.”

In my experience and in observing my friends, there are a bunch of different careers where lawyers appear to be fulfilled:

  • government lawyers who work on policy or regulatory stuff
  • criminal lawyers (whether for the government or not)
  • law firm lawyers who do more obscure work,
  • “private” public interest lawyers,
  • lawyers in smaller cities, and
  • academics.

Most of these jobs -- with one or two exceptions -- are less-tainted by the brush of prestige.

Which is why many students don’t notice them.

So, I beg of you: notice them. Give them a look.

Especially if think you know you want to do corporate or litigation or human rights, read the descriptions below and try to imagine yourself doing something else.

See if something resonates with you that isn’t a job you had thought of before.

  1. Government lawyers who do policy or regulatory work

I left New York recently, and live in D.C. now. I can’t trip without running into a government lawyer. D.C. is filled with geeks, geeking out on policy.

More than other cities -- especially New York -- people in D.C. pursue purpose-driven jobs more than money (although they get those when the kids and mortgage arrive).

These lawyers are regulatory, legislative, or policy lawyers who work analyzing policy and trying to translate policy into laws, regulations and rules. (Harvard Law has a great guide on this work. It also talks about criminal law, which I think is quite different, but it’s a useful guide.) Environmental lawyers, international affairs lawyers, securities lawyers, banking lawyers, etc., etc.

If you had a life before law school or you studied something you love, chances are there is a government agency dedicated to that thing you enjoyed studying.

Or, along the Daniel Pink lines, there is likely to be purpose up the wazoo here in part because you choose to work at an agency where you believe in the policies pursued. The agency is the client, and your purpose is to make the agency’s work possible.

Government law jobs usually provide a lot of autonomy and at least the challenging end of mastery. They are often understaffed and junior attorneys get lots of responsibility, quickly. For instance, one friend in the Legal Adviser’s office at the Department of State was negotiating embassy land deals directly with foreign governments his first year out of law school. (He is now the top lawyer at NATO). This may seem exceptional, but many junior government lawyers are doing very high level work on their own.

And, to reemphasize, these jobs can be in almost any area of work you imagine -- but you have to look for these jobs. And some of the jobs are not simply there for the taking after graduation.

I found some funky geeky jobs on Want to work for NASA and help astronauts? Or for the Army in Japan, doing international law? Or the Department of Labor (stop friends from working too hard)? The Farm Credit Administration, helping farmers get financing? The Drug Enforcement Administration, to impress Rachel Leigh Cook?

Don’t be afraid to geek out. Let the inner nerd step forth!

  1. People who practice criminal law whether in government or private practice

Almost all lawyers who practice criminal law -- whether in government or at private firms -- love their work. Some of these jobs are do not lack prestige -- many law students I know want to be prosecutors. (And, as I mention elsewhere, if your ultimate career goal is to be a successful Biglaw litigator, start out or become a federal prosecutor. The litigation department at my old firm was run, and overrun, by them.)

Whether prosecutor or public defender, your work is filled with purpose (taking down the bad guy/defending the innocent or protecting the weak from powerful, overreaching prosecutors), autonomy (you have a supervisor or team, but when it counts, it’s just you up there in court), and mastery (while it can be scary to do a trial or negotiate by yourself, people can do it -- a close law school friend defended in a murder trial by herself just two years out of law school). If you can take the stress -- sending a person to jail, or trying to stop that -- this is a great job.

  1. More obscure Biglaw practices

There are more obscure practices in Biglaw or at small firms that I have seen lead to more satisfaction than the straight-up corporate or litigation work.

White Collar Criminal Internal Investigations. This is work performed by Biglaw litigation departments that is not litigation. Basically, a Big Company does something bad. The Department of Justice or state prosecutor investigates. A harsh penalty can end Big Company, so Big Company hires a Biglaw firm (usually one filled with former prosecutors) to investigate and find the wrongdoing, and report to a special committee of the Board of Directors of Big Company, or to Department of Justice itself. This is odd work: companies work hard to uncover their own wrongdoing. Heads roll. On two investigations I worked, the CEO was forced to step down. All this to persuade the government to impose a less massive fine.

This work touches on all the Pink factors. It has purpose. Unlike other Biglaw work, your job is to root out corporate wrongdoing and and report on it. There is real autonomy and mastery on these kinds of cases. Associates have room to take responsibilities they would not normally -- making decisions and interviewing witnesses. Also, associates can become masters of the facts, and thus indispensable to partners. For instance, as a junior associate, I ran a sub-investigation of company’s operations in a big Latin American country (the investigation was multi-country).

I did a lot of this work in general. I wish I had noticed how much I liked it at the time -- I did like it. I didn’t hate it so much as have the idea that I wanted to do actual litigation work, and when I got it, I quit in about a year (I was working for the screaming partner I mentioned). If I had stuck with investigations, I might still be doing it. It does not give you much personal autonomy (long hours, jet around the world with zero notice), but the job was fulfilling and interesting. And more and more, at Biglaw firms and in-house, this is becoming a full time job.

Regulatory practices. Some industries -- pharma, banking of any kind, securities and investment advising, and communications -- are highly regulated. (So are certain sectors affected by everyone -- ERISA and tax). Entire government agencies (see above) do this regulating.

Enter the regulatory attorney at a private law firm. Often former government lawyers (but not always), these are often the happiest lawyers in Biglaw. They get to geek out and get paid Biglaw bucks for it. They have autonomy because regulatory work is almost purely advisory (research and client advice, no fighting with opposing counsel in court or in negotiations). Mastery is possible for junior attorneys because this involves complex information (laws and regulations) that can be learned through study (you’re good at that, right?) rather than experience the firm will never give you (you don’t run deals and trials unless you have gray hair).   So a junior attorney can really learn the pertinent regulations, and can add value immediately.

Purpose is the open question here. You can’t help if banking law is boring to you. But most don’t even consider it. Take a look and find out if this is your bag! If so, you’ve got a great career ahead of you. And maybe, you are the type of person that just likes mastering complexity, whatever the topic is. Good for you. While everyone else is chasing sexy careers, you’re here . . . alone, with relatively little competition for work.

Trusts and Estates. I know nothing about this work. I can only tell you that it seemed like the one of few (perhaps the only) lifestyle-friendly practices in Biglaw. At my old firm, partners and associates were not around much. Associates drank heavily, but in a fun “whooooooo, party!” kind of way, not a “I must drown the infinite sorrow of my law-darkened soul” kind of way. They took weekends off, for chrissake! So even though I haven’t the foggiest what they did, you should explore this.

  1. Private public interest law firms.

Some law firms that do good for money. Harvard Law has a guide on these firms. I once interviewed one -- the only law firm in the United States authorized to represent Cuba. Basically, these firms used to be the private law firms to unions and labor. Since unions basically died in the country, these law firms shifted to doing more public interest impact litigation.

Some firms are super-prestigious and most are small: Altshuler Berzon (all appellate clerks, many Supreme Court clerks), Bredhoff & Kaiser, Strumwaser & Woocher, Rabinowitz, Boudin, and Gupta Wessel. The big difference with Biglaw litigation is purpose. People are true believers at these firms.

There may still be issues with autonomy and mastery (I worked at a small law firm and am skeptical that they give you more responsibility as an associate), but you will not lack for purpose at one of these places.

And while it’s not Biglaw money, but you can pay your loans and eat brand-name cereal in boxes rather than generic stuff in clear bags if you want.

  1. Smaller city law firms

Many law students set out to work at big law firms in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Houston. Of the many friends I had who went to these big cities to practice Biglaw, very few have lasted. Some made partner, most do not.

But more friends I have who moved to law firms in smaller cities stayed and made partner in greater proportions than those in big cities. Places like Raleigh, Charlotte, Nashville, Portland. Liveable, or even great cities (who doesn’t want to live in Nashville or Portland?).

Quality of life in these cities tends to be much better. Billing pressures are lower, weekends are more safe. This does not mean a stress-free life, but it does mean you can sustain these lives for longer periods of time. Life is doable, there.

  1. Legal academics

I have written elsewhere about the uselessness of law professor advice to law students, but: you cannot deny that being a law professor is great.

Decent pay, lots of purpose (you do research you want to do), autonomy (you have to teach class but mostly you report to no one), and mastery (well, you have no supervisor telling you your law review articles are stupid, anyway, just peers who will rip on your work).

Still, this is a tough gig to get, and you have to usually clerk and practice law for a couple of years OR do a PhD in another field, too, on top of getting top grades and to kick the crap out of law school. This is a good job to aspire to, but you need to have other plans in place.

* * *

Next steps

Since you, dear reader, are here at Fox LSAT’s blog, let me take a wild guess:

You want to be a lawyer.

Or at least, you think you do.

And maybe you have a Dream Job in mind.

I’ve got 4 immediate action steps you can follow through on TODAY:

  • Watch Nathan’s video.
  • Read Paul Graham’s essay,How to Do What You Love.
  • Read Drive by Daniel Pink.
  • Check out USAJOBS and type in “attorney” to see what kinds of interesting jobs come up (last week, I noticed legal jobs with NASA, the Army, the Farm Credit Administration).

And only somewhat less immediately (start TODAY but you won’t finish), do two more big things:

Do serious due diligence on your Dream Job. In corporate law, a company does due diligence on a company it is about to buy to make sure it is worth the price it is about it pay.

Practically speaking, due diligence for you means finding out if the job you think you want really is all the things you believe it will be.

To find this out don’t just read. Talk to real people who have done exactly the job you want. They know better than anyone -- better than you -- if your Dream Job will live up to your ideals of it. This is not easy work. you have to ask awkward questions about the bad parts of the job. Often people don’t want to bad mouth their old employer or admit they made a mistake in taking a job. But keep looking until you find someone who will talk freely and frankly about these jobs. One tip: use LinkedIn to find people who quit the job you want (search for “previous employer”). Find out why they left.

Do internal research. Search your feelings, as the Jedi say. We live in our own minds but we do not know ourselves as well as we think. Even if we spend a lot of time navel-gazing, we don’t know ourselves as well as we think.

If you have a legal job you think you want, think hard about why you want that job.

If money and prestige are big factors for that, seriously think about trying to find another job you’d be willing to do despite the money and prestige (or if you’d still do corporate or litigation work without the money or prestige).

Hardest of all is to look for evidence contradicting your beliefs.

Sometimes we don’t kick tires because we don’t want to fall out of love with what we love.

But if your Dream Job is more than just a wispy dream -- if it is something you should and can do as a career -- it can survive a good tire-kicking.

Larry Law Law teaches law students to kick the crap out of law school and writes about law school, legal careers and legal creativity. Visit him here or write him here.

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Love is Hate, War is Peace, Boring Law Jobs Are Sexy (and Vice Versa): Falling to Earth and Daniel Pink

sand-heart-1404218This post is part two of a three-part series of guest posts by Larry Law Law, an adviser and tutor to law students who want to get top grades in law school. Note: In Part 1 of this 3 part series, Larry Law Law argues that understanding rom-coms may save your life as a law student. Specifically, rom-coms almost always involve someone who falls in love with The Crush (a sexy stranger who turns out to be a psychopath, cheat, or Raiders fan), and many law students are unfortunately in love with jobs that are the legal career versions of The Crush.

In this post, part 2 of 3 in this series, Larry Law Law explores the consequences of working a law job that is the career version of The Crush, and how to find “true love” in a career.


Last time, in Part 1 of this 3 part series, I said that you -- yes, YOU, the would-be law student -- might have what I call a Dream Job Crush.

This is: You might have fallen head-over-heels in love with an apparently sexy job that, in reality, you know nothing about.

This time, I’m here to talk to you about two things: (1) why your Dream Job Crush may be a problem and (2) how to find “true love” in your work (according to Daniel Pink).

* * *

Falling from Cloud 9

So what if you start a legal Dream Job and end up not liking it?

Well, the gap between the idea and reality of a Dream Job is a huge fall to earth.

And there are real, serious, not-f***ng-around consequences to this fall.

Many lawyers are unhappy.

Not all of them are unhappy because they over-idealized a job.

But many are.

I would argue that law is one of the most widely misunderstood professions that people generally think they know well (because they’ve seen a million lawyers on TV or in the movies).

And based on mistaken ideas about law, people go to law school, arrive at a job -- even a Dream Job -- and find that reality is very, very different and, in many cases, not fun.

You really have to grapple with these statistics about attorney job happiness (or un-happiness, as it were):

(In the mean time, why so many law students become disappointed and depressed lawyers is well covered by my old therapist, Will Meyerhofer (a former Biglaw attorney himself who does a lot of cognitive therapy for law students and lawyers).

But I think the huge gap between dreaming expectations and harsh reality explain these statistics for many young lawyers.

You might read these numbers and think, they must be talking about someone else.

But please, consider: those unhappy lawyers are not someone else.

They could be you. These numbers could be about you.

So what do you do? How do you find work that you truly love?

* * *

Love, Work and Daniel Pink

A couple years ago, Daniel Pink published Drive, on what motivates people at work (a super fast illustrated summary here).

In short, he offers another triad, one that can complement Nathan’s. To be motivated, employees need autonomy, mastery and purpose.

  • Autonomy is being given the power to work on things when you want to or how you want to.
  • Mastery – as he defines it -- is being given sufficiently challenging work - not too easy such that we are bored, but not so hard that we are overwhelmed.
  • Purpose is connecting your work to a cause that is larger than just yourself.

Viewed with this new way of viewing motivation -- let’s call this love -- we can see the problem with certain “sexy” law jobs. They lack one or more of these “Pink” factors:

Transactional/corporate law. Not much autonomy: I mean, partners have no control over their lives. Their billionaire or banker clients bark “jump,” and partners not only ask “how high,” but run to strap on a jetpack and do this. For associates, it’s worse. You jump to the tune of clients and partners.

Mastery can be tough. With fast-moving complicated transactions, it is hard to give associates work that is not too difficult under the time pressure or too boring (“Go put these docs in manila file folders in the due diligence room”).

As for purpose, you have to find meaning through clients. Maybe if your work facilitates their important work (say, Tesla or SpaceX), great. But if your work only makes your clients more money, you might get bored or sad working for clients on Wall Street, Big Oil, and company that abandoned their old motto “Don’t Be Evil.”

Litigation. Biglaw litigation generally means having the same clients as in Biglaw transactional/corporate work. But purpose can be worse: in litigation, usually, something bad happened, and you defend a client that, say, poisoned 3,000 people, or committed fraud by rigging 500,000 cars to evade emissions. Maybe, as I did, you do pro bono to feel better about your job -- but the rest of the time, you still have to help the poisoner or fraudsters.

Not much autonomy, because you become a slave to the case deadlines, unreasonable partner-created deadlines, and the work created by your opponent you must respond to.

You may get mastery here – in litigation you can get as much responsibility as you can handle, but they won’t train you (there is no safety net or feedback if you screw up. Someone else fixes your mess and you get a bad review later). Or you get unlucky and get crappy work at the beginning and are not given anything interesting for years.

Human Rights or Civil RightsPurpose is why you want to work in public interest: your organization is saving the world!   You may feel different after your 10th human rights briefs results in no change (the people of Venezuela are no better off for all my advocacy). For me, “I’m saving the world!” became “Others pat me on the back for saving the world, but really I’m not.”

There may be autonomy in how you work, but not in what you work on. You may have issues you care about, but once you join an organization, you work on the issues the founder cares about. (And public interest firms are usually dictatorships -- democracy is a great thing to advocate for other countries, but not an organizing principle for human groups).

Mastery may be tough if your office -- like all of the human rights places I worked -- is allergic to being organized. (And, going back to Nathan’s triad for a sec, money can be a problem.)

So there is that.

All this begs the question, what law jobs -- very specifically -- might actually involve “true” love?

Next time, in Part 3 of 3, I discuss Hottie-In-Disguise Jobs and True Love.

Larry Law Law teaches law students to kick the crap out of law school and writes about law school, legal careers and legal creativity. Visit him here or write him here.

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