Pre-Law

As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.

(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)

We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.

What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ATL Top 50 Law Schools: A Roundup of Criticism”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park advises prospective law students on selecting an online law school.

Which are the very best online law schools?

This is hard question because there isn’t a clear ranking system — U.S. News doesn’t rank online degree programs (neither does Above the Law) — and actual first-hand information is scarce for online law schools. There isn’t much accountability at online law schools.

Let’s take a step back.

No juris doctor program at an online law school, at the moment, is going to give you the kind of career you would have if you attended a national top-tier law school like Harvard, or even a regional powerhouse (like University of Alabama if you live in Alabama).

Indeed, there are not that many online law schools, actually, that permit you to sit for any state’s bar exam. None are, at the moment, ABA-accredited (this is important because if you graduate from a law school with ABA accreditation, you can take the bar exam in any of the 50 states of the U.S.).

There are a lot more programs that offer a masters of law online if you already have a juris doctor.

So, with all of that as a warning, let me pick a couple of the best online law schools if you are dead set on getting an online law degree. Again, below, I consider juris doctor and LL.M. programs separately.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

We present the inaugural ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings. Our rankings methodology is based purely on outcomes, especially on the schools’ success in placing its graduates into quality, real attorney jobs.

Read more »

Today, we present the third and final installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice is joined by Mike Sims, President of BARBRI, Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School, and John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part III)”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park gives some practical advice to prospective law students on how to finance their education.

Law school scholarships are the most important way you can fund your painfully expensive legal education. Law school grants are more rare and not much different than scholarships.

Otherwise, you will — as with most law students — fall back on law school loans to fund your education. Be very, very, very careful with this route. Let me say this in all caps and bold so you can hear me:

DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL WITHOUT A CLEAR PLAN TO FUND YOUR EDUCATION!!!

Sorry for shouting.

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

Today, we present the second installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal are joined by Nicole Wanzer, Law School Recruiting Manager at Morrison Foerster and David Thompson an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part II)”

Today, we present the first installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. With the assistance of our very own Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal hosting the program, we are joined by Nicholas, a 1L at the University of Texas Law School and Jenna, a 2L from Florida State who transferred from Nova Southeastern and landed a summer position at Greenberg Traurig.

Future hangouts will feature a professor from Harvard, the president of BARBRI, Biglaw hiring partners and associates, and more current law students. Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part I)”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine gives prospective law school applicants valuable advice on how to write the most effective personal statement.

If you’re sitting down right now, trying to write the most brilliant, persuasive, powerful personal statement ever written, but your fingers are paralyzed on the keys, you’re not alone. “I hate to write about myself,” some tell me. Others say, “My life has been pretty boring/sheltered/standard/privileged.” Still others say, “I went through hard times but I don’t want to write a sob story.” How do you hit the perfect compromise and create a personal statement you can be proud of?

Here are a few ideas to get you started on brainstorming topics:

1. It’s very hard to go back to the drawing board after writing an intro and conclusion, so just start writing your ideas down and sharing your stories and experiences. Start writing like you would a journal or blog post, using a conversational tone. Write how you speak. You can fix the grammar and spelling later. Fine-tune conclusions and themes later. Right now, get your stories on paper and see what themes naturally emerge.

2. Yes, your final personal statement will be between 500 words and four pages depending on each law school’s specifications. Most law schools want two-to-three pages. And yes, this is double-spaced. But don’t think about that. When you first get started you should write at least four pages so you have room to cut.

3. Don’t try to weave together everything you’ve ever done. Find things that are similar, either in subject matter or in exhibiting a trait you’re trying to demonstrate, and only weave them together if it really works.

4. Don’t reiterate things from your resume. Leave job descriptions to the résumé, and if you discuss résumé items in your personal statement, be sure to take a more anecdotal and lessons-learned approach rather than describing your duties and accomplishments.

5. Going in chronological order can be a trap. There is no reason to start with the day you were born, no matter how dramatic the birth might have been. Start with the most interesting thing about you — get the reader’s interest by sharing information about you that will be likable and interesting and as captivating as possible. Don’t try to “warm up” to your story with childhood memories, no matter how cute. You can always reflect back on those memories later in the essay if they were essential in formulating your goals and ideals and if they provide real context for your later achievements.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Law schools, properly understood, ought to be viewed as regional vocational schools. You will have to pass the bar exam for the state in which you want to practice, and a law school in that state, in theory at least, is more likely to prepare you for the specific content on the state bar. Typically, the majority of alumni don’t stray too far, so the strongest network will be local, for local jobs. It’s to your advantage to go to school where you want to practice, sometimes even more so than going to a higher-ranked school.

With this in mind, last week we looked at our ATL Insider Survey results pertaining to New York City-area law schools. We examined how current law students rate their schools in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

Today we turn to Boston. The results of our survey might surprise you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Is the Most Wicked Awesome Law School in Boston?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Gregory Henning of Anna Ivey Consulting explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the application process. Part one of the series can be found here.

The typical law school application might require you to write three pieces: a main essay (two pages), a résumé (one page), and an optional statement on your interest in the school or some other topic (one page). That’s only four pages. Not too bad, right?

But those four pages are your only chance (in most cases) to communicate directly to the admissions officers. These documents are your only opportunity to step outside of the “numbers” to make a case for why you should be admitted. This is the only time the school will hear from you. Those four pages are starting to become pretty important…

Now think about your entire list of schools. Let’s say you plan to apply to 10 schools. You can expect to write two main essays (a personal statement and professional statement, depending on what a given school is asking for) and at least one résumé (some schools might ask for a longer variation of the one-page version that other schools require). If you apply to 10 schools, five might invite an optional statement about your interest in attending the school. Another three or four might ask for an optional essay on a different topic. If you believe you could add to the diversity of an incoming class, you may have a chance to submit an optional statement about that. Do you have any academic or criminal disclosure issues that need to be discussed and explained separately? If so, you’ll be producing another document.

Did you lose count? Even using a conservative estimate, it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be producing at least 10 separate pieces of writing when you apply to law school. That’s manageable, and certainly the content may overlap in many cases. You can create 10 documents. But wait, there’s more…

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

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