Christopher Yianilos, 33, has recorded many fond memories in Coastal Delaware. He has vacationed in the area from Northern Virginia since 1980, when his family bought a house in Sea Colony. He met his wife, Torra, in Dewey Beach and married her at the Indian River Life-Saving Station.
To his shore scrapbook, Yianilos now has added a new chapter — actually, seven new chapters, a foreword, an introduction and a conclusion.
Yianilos wrote the majority of his first book, “The Law School Breakthrough: Graduate In The Top 10% of Your Class, Even If You’re Not A First-Rate Student,” from within the quiet confines of the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach.
Last week, the neophyte author supplied the bibliotheca with a copy of his new paperback.
“This is just another one of those lasting impressions that my family and I will always have of the beach,” Yianilos said. “I hope someday to be able to retire down there.”
The tome is more “keys to success” than “tips to survival.”
The main objective of most law school students 50 years ago, Yianilos wrote, was to cross the finish line after three grueling years. But persevering is no longer sufficient. Aspiring attorneys of the 21st century strive to eclipse the competition.
“Today, the struggle is to excel — to do well academically,” Yianilos wrote. “The real challenge is to graduate at or near the top of your class so you can effectively compete for your dream job with the other 40,000 law students graduating with you — not to mention the million-plus lawyers already in the workforce.”
Graduating in the top 10 percent of a law-school class, according to the author, greatly increases one’s odds of attaining and maintaining a six-figure salary and of achieving future political notoriety.
After passing the bar exam on his first attempt, Yianilos parlayed his lofty class rank into a career on Capitol Hill. He became a law clerk for a federal judge, an attorney for an influential Beltway firm and then a staff lawyer for the U.S. civil rights agency. He is now chief counsel to U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).
Few indicators exist, however, for determining how well a juris doctor candidate will adjust to graduate school. Yianilos is testament to this truth, too.
The law school at Washington and Lee University asked Yianilos to attend an orientation program — which he called “preparation for dummies” — because his Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score fell far below the median for incoming students. After almost dropping out during his first year, Yianilos not only endured but also excelled.
“I was probably at the bottom of the barrel in terms of LSAT and graduated in the top 6 percent,” he said. “I think there are certain things that can give you a leg up. And the book shares those things that I learned in three years.”
Before endeavoring to transcribe his helpful hints, Yianilos served them verbally to anyone with an appetite for advice on law school’s trials and tribulations. Torra Yianilos, upon hearing her then-boyfriend describe the steady demand for these time-consuming guidance sessions, suggested he put the pointers on paper.
“[Torra] just said one day you should say that in writing. I don’t think she expected me to take it so seriously,” Yianilos said. “It was all in my head. But the idea for the book really came from my wife.”
The final product is a 189-page manual, edited by Gina Cheselka and published by Career Press in February, and sprinkled with exclusive quotes from well-known lawyers such as Sens. Warner, Edward Kennedy (D-Ma.) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.).
Some of the recommendations — study hard, meet with professors — are straightforward and self-evident, while others are allegorized in the author’s personal accounts.
“‘The Law School Breakthrough’ not only provides you with tangible secrets of how to prepare for class and how to succeed on final exams, it gives advice on how to model your life outside the classroom as well,” Yianilos wrote. “Both parts are totally interrelated and absolutely essential to law school success.”
With a cover price of nearly $15, “The Law School Breakthrough” is available at many major book retail outlets. The primer sells for about $10 on Amazon.com, where it already has received high marks from readers.
“It’s not like I’m Jose Canseco. I’m not going to make millions. It’s just kind of a book to help folks and to get all of these thoughts out of my mind and onto paper,” Yianilos said. “[The book] helps people who might be thinking about going to law school but who aren’t sure. And then I think it’s good for people who are in law school, because it lays out a proven path of success.”