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Welcome to Law School: The 5 Essential Tips on Being an ATL Tipster

If you’re a law student, you’re either already back in class or starting class very soon. Congratulations! Whether you’re the most hardened 3L embarking on a useless third year by taking “Law and the Twilight Series” or a fresh-faced 1L still unaware of the “job market” people keep talking about, ATL welcomes you (back) to law school.

This is a wonderful period of intellectual discovery and debt accumulation that you should cherish always. Your law degree is worth $1 million… in memories, that is!

Why not share those memories with the world? If you’ve ever seen something go down at your school and thought “Above the Law might cover this,” then get off your duff and let us know. Law school students are a big part of ATL but don’t tip us nearly as much as you might think.

Here are the tips to tipping — share these around the school so everyone is on board….

First things first: the email is and the number to text is 646-820-8477. Now on to the listicle!

1. Yes, you absolutely will remain anonymous.

The most common barrier a potential tipster faces is the terror that they will be outed as a tipster and that the resulting publicity will ruin their law school experience if not their career.

These fears are unfounded. We’re like the Woodward and Bernstein of professors humiliating themselves — except we won’t give you the same name as a porno. Probably.

Why would ATL want its tipsters getting in trouble? You’re the lifeblood of the site! Our default is always to keep our tipsters anonymous to better encourage you to snitch on your friends or professors. That said, if you contact us via email, we may quote your email in the story. If you fear a direct quote could compromise your cover because your writing style is too distinct or the inside jokes are too easy to trace, then note in your tip that you want to be paraphrased rather than directly quoted.

Now, if you actually want credit for your story so you can see your name in lights, then just let us know. Some people care more about getting the credit in the publication of record for embarrassing law school drunk emails than securing a long-term career at a prestigious law firm. We call these people fame whores and there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s even a career path for that:

2. In case you’re worried, in most cases we won’t even identify the principals of the story.

Tipsters don’t have to be people who “just want to watch the world burn.” If a classmate makes a spectacular jackass of themselves, don’t worry that dropping a dime on some kid will ruin their life. We enjoy a funny story, not nihilistic destruction. We anonymize the poor saps at the center of stories almost all the time.

Common exceptions to this rule (and we still might keep someone anonymous even with these conditions at our discretion):

a) The subject is named by another news source (TV, newspaper, etc.) — why hold back information when the damage is done?
b) The subject is identifiable by a public record (arrest report, complaint) — basic research would uncover a name.
c) The subject is a professor or dean — they get paid for this pressure

So snitch away!

3. Never think: “Oh, I’m sure ATL has already heard this…”

As they say, “if you see something, say something.” You are our eyes and ears out there and we need that input. One of the most annoying emails we get has the subject line: “I can’t believe you guys weren’t on top of [dean tells admitted students they’re wasting their lives, starts crying, then drops the mic and walks off throwing up gang signs] from six months ago” because our reaction is almost invariably that we would have been on that if we’d been told at any point before now. If you thought the story was so friggin’ essential, go ahead and let us know as it’s happening.

If you assume we’re going to be on top of a streaker in the University of New Mexico Law Library just ’cause, think again. We don’t have bureaus out there and if you don’t tip us directly our only hope of hearing about the story is if it comes up in another outlet that gets captured by our Google dragnet. If we get the story from 20 different sources, who cares? You’re all going to be anonymous anyway so you can all feel like you were the first one.

On the flip side, don’t get mad if you tip us and we don’t run with the story. Hey, it happens. Some things are just more interesting inside your law school community than they are to the outside and that’s okay. Or maybe it just worked out that the story didn’t fit our editorial calendar for that week because Justice Scalia was caught eating the heads off live chickens and some Am Law 100 firm decided to pull a Dewey. It’s not a reason not to try as a tipster.

4. Don’t limit yourself to salacious stuff because we care about substantive stuff, too (believe it or not).

Sure ATL traffics some tales of embarrassment. As these collar-popping UVA folks pointed out in last year’s Law Revue competition. The key to this video is pausing when fake ATL stories flash across the screen. The work put into capturing the ATL Zeitgeist is impressive.

But that’s not all we do. If you’ve got a story about a major class change, or you hear of hiring/firing going on at the school, or your journal is about to publish a very interesting take from a high-profile professor, let us know all that too. As Steve Martin put it in My Blue Heaven, “It’s not tipping I believe in. It’s overtipping.”

5. No, we don’t take down things but we do update.

Everything I’ve written so far is meant to encourage students to reach out to ATL without fear. As a matter of fairness, you should realize that any story we write off your tip is going to be there forever. Following the policy of publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post — because who knows more about building a successful news business than the print media, right? — we don’t take down stories.

We will update stories with any new or corrected information, and we are always happy to include updates from the parties involved, but we don’t remove pieces.

But don’t let this deter you from offering a mere rumor as a tip. Mere whispers that the dean may be stepping down after bouncing a check to pay for three pygmy hookers won’t end up on the site forever without due diligence on our part. We’ll reach out to the school for comment before running anything that wild.

So remember to email us or text us (646-820-8477) whenever you get wind of something you’d like to see us tackle. We depend on you.

Earlier: What the Quack? Oregon Law Professor Has Meltdown, Gets Arrested
Law Revue Video Contest 2013: The Finalists!
Columbia Con Law Debacle Creates 200-Person Class That Angers Students
A Law School’s Possible Purge Of Its Junior Faculty Ranks
Progressive Professors Profit, Putting Pupils in Poverty

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