(of Planet Law School [PLS] and PLS II by Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder/instructor)
Planet Law School (1998)
(Including a full text of its description of LEEWS. A review of PLS II  follows.)
"Law school professors are not there to teach you the law. ... The law school faculty is not there even for the purpose of helping you learn the law. ... And here's the worst news of all: from their point of view, you're a nuisance. ... If you intend to do well in law school, it's time for you to begin separating the myth of law school from the reality."
— PLANET LAW SCHOOL (p.37)
"Most law school students learn too little, too late. They have no chance at reaching the top 10%. They aren't contenders. They end their first year as also-rans."
— PLANET LAW SCHOOL (p.54)
As you may judge from the foregoing, PLANET LAW SCHOOL (PLS), by "Atticus Falcon" — The Fine Print Press, Ltd., Honolulu, Hawaii, 1998, 404 pages — pulls no punches. That's the explanation given by the author, a practicing attorney and graduate of a "top twelve" law school, for choosing to remain anonymous. PLS is comprehensive, authoritative, and purports to offer what law students "Need to Know (Before You Go [to law school]) ... but Didn't Know to Ask." It is also for current law students, as it addresses with witty practicality the ins and outs of life in law school (including such sensitive topics as sexual, racial, and disability issues), as well as such post law school matters as clerkships and how to apply, bar exam preparation, and career options. PLS acknowledges that students currently in law school may be too busy on the "treadmill" of day-to-day efforts to read it, but that would be a mistake. Law professors will hate the book, but law students are immediately empowered by it.
In this observer's view [Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder], PLS is a subversive, even revolutionary text. For example, it hopes that one day the current "deliberate pedagogical malpractice of law schools [whew!] . . . will have only historical interest, in the same way that we read about how, once upon a time, all surgery was done by barbers—without anesthetic." (p.129) Professors and law schools are almost certainly not so deliberately engaged in obfuscation as PLS asserts. However, the premise that law schools do a poor job training lawyers is on target.
PLS' central thesis is that law school is the "emperor without clothes." Almost all law students have the capacity to "think like lawyers" and perform like lawyers (and should therefore get A's), but law school does a lousy job inculcating these skills. From Harvard/Yale on down, law schools, unlike any other professional school, routinely turn out graduates who are "certifiably incompetent" to practice law (p.35) — an observation, PLS notes, made (less caustically) by no less an authority than former Chief Justice, Warren Burger, in 1973 (pp.35-36). And nothing has changed.
Although PLS pushes, hopes for change, it is very much focused on the now. It is a compendium of thoughtful, practical, often amusing advice on every conceivable subject of interest to law students (e.g., moot court, research assistantships, what classes to take, etc.), and a handy reference source for virtually every study aid extant (although now somewhat dated). Of particular note are the historical and literary references, an education in itself. (E.g., "The Golden Mean [of the ancient Greeks] was the 'eutrapelos,' a paradoxical combination and balance of gravity and levity. ... I am sure this is something like what Herman Hesse had in mind when he wrote the statement in Magister Ludi, ... : 'Although humble, he was completely at ease.' To narrow the idea down to just one word, it's 'grace'— ... as in 'grace under pressure.' And boy are you ever under pressure in law school." p.139) PLS' mission is to instruct how to succeed in spite of law school and law professors. Indeed, PLS instructs how to take advantage of law schools' current shortcomings (which serve to bamboozle most of the competition).
LEEWS shares the view that law schools (and all other sources, including PLS, since it is almost impossible to get what you need out of a book) fail, utterly, to adequately instruct law students how to analyze like lawyers, how to systematically yet efficiently identify relevant issues in confusing fact patterns, how to present analysis concisely, etc., and how to exhibit these critical skills on all-important final exams. And we remedy the situation. It is precisely our insight into how law students should be instructed, and the delivery thereof, that puts our students head and shoulders above all but the (we estimate) 5-7% of students who have a knack for taking law school exams, who impress professors with their "lawyerlike" ability on exams, and who garner most of the fewer than ten percent of grades (typically) that are A's.
It is not at all unusual to learn that our students routinely occupy the top spots in their law school classes [Duke, U. Penn., U. Texas, or UVA could be the school referred to in the description of LEEWS], and that they would rather not share what they learned from us with classmates. Should you already be one of those few with a knack for balanced, nitpicking analysis and concise presentation (often math and hard science majors, which wholly belies the notion that success in law school is about being "a good writer"), then we'll make you just that much more formidable.
"A friend told me that his friend at Georgetown took LEEWS and scored the highest in two of his classes. Great lecturer."
— Lawrence Wu, Columbia '99 (Mr. Wu took LEEWS as a first semester 1L. He went on to be named editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review for '98-'99.)
We are delighted that PLS acknowledges basing much of its instruction on preparing for and taking exams on ours. In chapter 6 it states: "There is a system for handling the law school essay exam well. It's the single most important key to law school success," and "this chapter provides only an introduction to this system" (p.83). With the permission of PLS, the full text of the glowing description of LEEWS on pp.89-90 follows. [Additional references to LEEWS are on pp.91, 93, 94, 386, 399 of PLS. LEEWS additions and updating are noted parenthetically.]:
Wentworth Miller's LEEWS
"This chapter has given an introduction to a systematic approach to Thinking Like a Lawyer. Its creator is Wentworth E. Miller. A Yale Law grad, he is the founder of "Wentworth Miller's LEEWS." LEEWS stands for the "Legal Essay Exam Writing System." It is probably the best kept secret on Planet Law School.
When I was in third year, a friend who'd Made Law Review told me he'd discovered that every one of his fellow editors had taken the LEEWS in their first semester of law school, as had he. It was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.
I then took it because I was curious. But it was far too late to make a difference in my prospects after graduation. Don't you make that mistake. Those who took it in their first semester of law school had kept the information all to themselves—and did not recommend the program to others. That gave them a huge advantage over their fellow students. Indeed, even though I am praising it highly, I advise you to keep it to yourself, too—just as the future Law Review editors did during their first year. As sadly Machiavellian as it is, you need any edge you can get in law school. Other than this book, Wentworth Miller's LEEWS—or something like it—is the best thing you could possibly have going for you.
If you think you can get by merely on this chapter's introduction to Miller's method, you are being penny wise and pound foolish. The LEEWS manual is over 80 pages long, single spaced. [Actually, 136 double-columned pages, including practice exercises.] It covers far more potential situations than this chapter did—including situations where you need to modify the approach laid out in the example. What's here is a quite watered down and revised version of what's in the LEEWS manual—which is not available through bookstores. (And what's here does not fit Con Law or Property, at all.)
Miller himself, or his associate, JoAnne Page—another Yale Law grad—gives one-day workshops on his method, all around the country. If you are not now in law school, you should take it before you even start. LEEWS is more than just an exam-taking system. It's also a system for studying. [Our emphasis.] (Other material in this book, including much of the next chapter, is also based on Miller's system.) And it's designed for those who've been in law school only a few weeks. Other than some jargon and concepts, beginning law students don't know much more than you do. Further, if you read just the Glannon primer on torts, the Blum primer on contracts (and perhaps also Rules of Contract Law), and Delaney's Learning Legal Reasoning (all recommended in chapter 5), you'll have enough knowledge to easily understand all the LEEWS material."
[Note: Apart from a (used) commercial outline, your (used, if possible) textbook, and references that can be found in any law library (e.g., hornbooks/treatises, restatements, law dictionary, etc.), LEEWS discourages purchase of the numerous other study aids as superfluous. (E.g., flashcards and substantive audio lectures.) For example, LEEWS will enable you to do more effective, yet more condensed case briefing than other sources (including the above-referenced Delaney text).]
"The program itself is seven hours long, and there's an hour for lunch. It's intense—and Miller is no Milquetoast. If you cannot attend a live presentation, you can purchase the program on [audio] cassette tapes. In fact, if you are not in law school yet, and it's almost summertime, that would be the wiser move. This is because the LEEWS workshops are offered only during the academic year.
Whether live or on tape, the [live] program costs less than $100. Depending on the [group] option you choose, the price for the on-site presentation can be as low as $75. Wentworth Miller's LEEWS is a steal for what he charges. For information as to workshop itinerary and costs, or to get the tapes and manual, call (800) 765-8246."
[Note: As of fall '08 the live program is $125 (includes book). However, group rates can take the cost as low as $105 (e.g., group of 3 = $115). The audio CD program is $160, which includes packaging and mailing.] See Register/Order for full details.
[Further note: Should you go on to law school (PLS properly cautions you to carefully consider your decision to attend law school) LEEWS cannot recommend highly enough a companion book to Planet Law School entitled The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book. This book, also published by The Fine Print Press, offers invaluable practical advice on every aspect of behavior, dress, comportment, office politics, client relations, relations with other lawyers, billing, etc. once you begin practice, including your first job as a summer law associate.]
Planet Law School II (2003)
"Virtually all of 'higher' education in America (other than the sciences) 'sold out' a long time ago. ... People don't go to college or beyond to get an education. They go to get a job credential, a union card for a particular line of work. College graduates today are less literate, numerate, or cultured than were high school graduates of a century ago. There has been a staggering misappropriation of resources in this country to 'higher' education, for the sake of inflated job credentials. These funds should have gone to elementary and secondary education instead."
Planet Law School II (PLS II), p. 770.
Whew! Is that a provocative indictment, or what? Does that get you thinking? Atticus Falcon, the pseudonymous and still anonymous author of PLS II, goes on to make the point that had the funds gone to lower level schools, "the problems associated with reverse discrimination would probably vanish." However, those calling the shots re fund allocation "are all university-affiliated, with advance degrees. They want to keep the money flowing into their own gravy trains."
Released — "unleashed" is perhaps the better word -- in November 2003, PLS II continues the onslaught begun in 1998 by PLS I. A thoughtful, well-researched, erudite, and savage tiger of a book, it claws at law schools, law professors, the American Bar Association, and every artifice and impostor standing between a prospective law student and success in law school, and a client and adequate legal representation. At 858 pages, including a 25 page reference index — Look up your law school, even a professor. They may well be there. —, it more than doubles the length of the first version (reviewed above). After five years of followup, several years of e-mail correspondence between Atticus Falcon and his legions of PLS I adherents and critics, and exhaustive research into not only the current state, practices, trends, and culture of the nation's many law schools, but also reseach into the origins of law school and law school teaching, PLS II now names names (of professors, law students, etc.) in its mercilous and relentless assault on the status quo of law school teaching.
Full disclosure. Since the publication of PLS I, I — Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder/instructor — have gotten to know and become a friend of "Atticus Falcon." He is not me (!!). I know his name and have had dinner with him on several occasions. I thought I knew his "top twelve" law school, but now I am not sure. I have been sworn to secrecy regarding his identity. I can tell you this. He is a practicing lawyer. He is mature and very serious about improving the teaching and training of lawyers. He had a career prior to becoming a lawyer. I think he was a journalist. He is highly intelligent, knowledgeable, populist, and somewhat lacking in humor, especially as regards law school teaching, which he passionately believes does a disservice to both law students and to the public that will rely on legions of poorly schooled law graduates. He is earnest and scrupulously honest.
However, although he has tutored law students in recent years in the sense of exchanging e-mails, advising, monitoring their progress, Atticus to my knowledge has never been a teacher, as I have been for well over 25 years. Thus, respecting how, exactly, students react to advice, I think there are areas in which Mr. Falcon has blind spots. In short, regarding what law students need to be successful, I am quite sure he is not always correct, although he thinks he is and tries mightily to be.
As he acknowledges in PLS II (p.168), Mr. Falcon and I have a "friendly disagreement." He thinks the "PLS approach" (which includes LEEWS) is the way to go, the sine qua non for law school success. In that LEEWS predates PLS I by 18 years (LEEWS was first offered in 1981), and law students employing the LEEWS approach were highly successful during that time, I not only believe, but KNOW that much of what PLS advocates — primers, restatements, etc. — is superfluous, if harmless. Indeed, I believe PLS is superfluous, if success in law school is your only aim. Over two decades of experience have persuaded me that learning what you need from books (including the LEEWS Primer) is impossible. You can no more learn what you need to succeed in law school from books, than you can learn how to ride a horse, swim, play golf, be a successful political campaigner, or try a case from books.
You need someone to show you, PERSONALLY AND HANDS ON, HOW to "analyze as a lawyer," HOW to systematically and efficiently pull hypothetical-type fact patterns apart into manageable components, HOW to present analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per "issue"), HOW to extract what you need from cases in 2-4 line briefs, and HOW to construct 30-50 page effective course outlines. Then you'll know HOW to learn the law, and you'll understand it, with primers and hornbooks entering the picture only as backup. And IF, IN ADDITION, YOU PRACTICE and work very hard, you'll very likely be highly successful in law school — gradewise.
To be fair, although it assays to set forth fairly specific approaches to exam taking and preparation, PLS II recognizes that other sources, including LEEWS, are needed. The biggest problem I have with PLS II and the PLS approach is that it paints such a depressing portrait of law school and law professors, and prescribes such a dauntingly burdensome regimen even before one begins law school.
I am of the view, backed by well over 25 years of experience, that you can approach the start of law school in sunny ignorance of its shortcomings and pitfalls. You shouldn't stress about it. You should read biographies of lawyers and look forward to law school. You can even plunge in and brief cases too much and the wrong way (as most law students do), and feel confused in class, and gradually begin to question the motives and even competence of your professor (rather than yourself), so long as at some point, preferably at least a few weeks before exams, you do LEEWS either live or audio and get on the right track. There are surely some professors with whom you can establish meaningful relationships. You just need to know their limitations and the limitations of law school. Now PLS II can provide a very advantageous perspective and antidote to the ego deflation law school tends to induce.
There is no doubt but that the nation's 200+ law schools are churning out more lawyers than are needed. Notwithstanding the adage that one lawyer in a town starves, but two creates prosperity for both, there simply are not and will not be enough lawyering jobs for over 40,000 law graduates a year. So why are more and more new law schools opening for business each year? Grow up. Because there is demand. Because law schools are darned profitable; because a law school adds prestige to an upstart boom city such as Orlando, Florida (home of newly opened Barry and newly re-opened Florida A & M law); because a law school provides jobs for professors, administrators, custodians, etc.; and so on.
Nevertheless, for the individual who decides for whatever reason that he or she wants to be a lawyer, applying to and starting law school should be a positive, exciting, reaffirming experience. And it doubtless is. I see it with one of my daughters, who is currently applying to law school (and a second will also in a year or so). Until they peer into PLS II.
PLS II quickly disabuses the reader of any notion that law school is going to be affirming. In the very first paragraph it is suggested that you will need a "life support system" in the new world that is (planet) law school (and PLS II supplies it). Here's the next paragraph: "The memorize-and-regurgitate approach that worked so well for you before will not work now. In fact, it will prove counter-productive. It is self sabotaging. nearly all law students have to learn that lesson the hard way. And tragically, most don't until after they've finished that all-important first year of law school."
All true. All true. But you wouldn't have picked up the book if you weren't interested in going to law school. Is that what you want to hear right off the bat? Don't you want a suggestion that going to law school might be a good decision? That by becoming a lawyer you might make a positive difference in the world, as well as earning a good living? That law school can be a stimulating experience, if taxing?
To its credit, PLS II recognizes its discouraging aspect. On the second page (actually p. 8 including table of contents, etc.) it advises that it was "written for a self-selective group of highly motivated, conscientious students, not mere browsers." And if reading it seems "too much," then "you'd better forget about law school — now." Well, I don't know about that. Perhaps I should note this more encouraging adviso at the top of the same page: "... law school isn't brain surgery or rocket science. In fact, it's actually quite simple. (But that's not to say it's easy.) It's just that you're not told, beforehand, how the system works. ...."
In truth PLS II really does have your best interests at heart, as well as those of the downtrodden in need of a good attorney. If you are wavering, if you aren't sure about law school, and PLS II dissuades you, then the book may have served you well. Atticus Falcon wants you to have your eyes wide open. He wants future lawyers who are dedicated to their clients and well prepared, not grasping, fast-buck legal sharks.
This, as is virtually everything PLS II says is wrong with law schools (all of them!) is true. Law schools, including the Harvards Yales and Stanfords, do a lousy job training lawyers (which is one reason all but a couple states require a bar exam). Professors DO hide the ball. Law school is far less enjoyable or stimulating than it could be for the great majority of students.
In the review above of PLS I I cut law professors some slack. I suggested that their "crimes" are of omission, not commission. But since then I have learned of professors who took LEEWS themselves as students, but who have not passed along even the rudiments of the techniques that served them well. I was invited to a fledging law school by its dean to deliver my program to the entire entering class and all professors. After complaining to the dean about my criticism of law professors at this website, only the two writing instructors at the school saw fit to attend the program. And one professor assigned a paper for the day after the program, which discouraged many of the students from attending. So I think maybe yes, law professors find it too comfortable keeping law students in the dark to make any meaningful change in the case method of instruction that PLS II so ably discredits.
I highly recommend that you purchase and read PLS II, preferably before you enter law school. (There won't be time once you start law school.) I have two daughters planning to go to law school. I'll give each a copy of PLS II. Not because I think it will aid significantly in their law school success. If anything, I think PLS II is daunting and discouraging in that it offers so much and suggests so much. But Atticus Falcon is an exemplar of what a lawyer should be — broadly and deeply educated in the liberal arts. Much more so than I am, I regret to admit.
"One may smile, and smile, and be a villain." (Shakespeare's Hamlet, PLS II, p. 241.)
Complete text of Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter (with parallels to the law school experience), PLS II, pp. 243-246.
"If I tell the truth, they rush to beat me, ... If I lie, they trust me." Kabir, 15th century Sufi poet and philosopher in India. PLS II
Would it interest you to know that the immortal words in the Constitution, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," as they originally came from Jefferson's pen, were "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property?" ("Property" was changed to "happiness" by others for propaganda reasons. It made the Constitution more appealing to more people.) Do you want to know the origins of law school in America? Do you want to know the origins of the Case and Socratic Methods, how Langdell and Harvard trumped Yale and Columbia in terms of how law school was to be conducted, very likely to the detriment of legal education in America? Do you want to know that Socrates himself was instructed by a woman — a mystic named Diotima? Do you want to know what Critical/Political Race Theory is, and what's wrong with that influential current movement in the law and its proponents? You should, and PLS II instructs you in these areas and many more.
Reading PLS II, like PLS I, is an education in and of itself, from Plato and Aristotle to the Romans to early Christianity to Dickens and post-modern thought. Such information is a treat and delight. PLS II instructs on the origins of law school while questioning whether there is a need for law school. It is an adjunct to one's education, which has probably been neither broad nor liberal enough. It explores the classist and elitist forces arrayed against evening and internet-based law schools (and the need-to-work men and women served by such schools). It dissects, exposes, and takes to task (devastatingly) such divisive and questionable trends in law thinking as "Legal Realism" a/k/a "Critical Legal Studies," and its progeny "New Crits" and "Race Crits." It names names — e.g., Race Crit proponents Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres —, and tells it like it is. It is a revolutionary tome, a call to arms that provides a broad and thought-provoking perspective that should inform every lawyer entering the profession.
In sum, by all means buy PLS II, but consider its prescription for success overly broad and inclusive. If you have the time and can afford the many primers, restatements, etc. recommended by PLS II, reading them certainly won't hurt. However,where how-to-achieve-success advice is concerned, Atticus Falcon is still experimenting. No need for that. We at LEEWS long ago polished the formula for grade success — learn how to analyze as a lawyer and therefore how to learn the law; learn how to pull apart ANY law essay hypothetical into its component units, thereby revealing relevant "issues," learn how to present your analysis of issues concisely while impressing the professor; learn what you need to do day by day, week by week as you proceed through the term — briefing cases in 2-4 lines and outlining courses in 20-50 pages — to properly and efficiently implement the LEEWS approach; work hard. Success, satisfaction, and even enjoyment in law school will be the result, as it has been for tens of thousands before you, leading to a good starting job and, we hope, a successful career. If all that PLS II accomplishes is to bring you to us and give us more credibility, then we at LEEWS are sure you'll agree it was more than worth the price.
"I absolutely enjoyed WM's presentation style. The 8 hours went by very quickly. The infusion of humor was extremely helpful!! Atticus Falcon [author, Planet Law School] hit the nail on the head by saying LEEWS is "the single most important key to success in law school." Grading in law school is a comparative process. The price of this program is a premium given the edge offered."
— Marc Girling, Texas Wesleyan '09E
[Note: If you read PLS II, you needn't read PLS I. PLS II may be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. According to its frontispage, "updates and [Atticus] Falcon's advice column" can be found at www.planetlawschool.com. There is also a Yahoo message board/discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/planetlawschool/. Atticus Falcon himself may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or written to c/o The PLS Institute, 3112 Windsor Road, Suite A-103, Austin, TX 78703-2350.]