It’s nearly August. But at Harvard Law School, administrators are still trying to sort out what happened with Professor Bruce Hay’s spring Evidence course.
Not that grades matter all that much at HLS. The most important part of an HLS student’s transcript is the part at the top that says “Harvard Law School.” Heck, the school recently reformed its grading procedures, making the actual grades even less important.
But appearances must be maintained. It’s important that students feel their “super, gold-star, yay pass” grades are well-earned and fairly distributed.
Apparently students felt that Professor Hay did not adequately communicate how they would be graded. And now the administration has to step in…
Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) hoped to quietly jump on the grade-inflation bandwagon in order to help make its students more competitive in the legal marketplace. The school bumped letter grades up a notch, so that a C- became a C, a B became a B+, and an A+ became an A+you’reasuperamazinggunnerrockstar.
And last night, Loyola had its big moment on the Colbert Report:
The upside is that Loyola-L.A. just broke through to a whole new audience of potential applicants. The downside is that we can hear the deflation of the hopes of all the Loyola law school grads who planned to wow employers with their amazing GPAs.
We reached out to Loyola about being mocked by one of America’s most influential people. A response from Dean Victor Gold, after the jump.
We’ve done a lot of reports on schools that have instituted grade reform to make it easier on their students. But at DePaul College of Law, the administration decided to strictly enforce its curve as a way of combating wanton grade inflation.
Apparently not all of the professors were on the same page. Professor Howard Rubin taught Legal Profession this past spring and graded the class the way he always has. But his grades were curve-busting, and the administration asked him to lower those grades to match the school’s curve.
Professor Rubin refused to do this — and, well, now we’ve got emails…
A) Law school experiences embarrassing employment outcomes.
B) Administration refuses to admit legal education is ridiculously overpriced given the soft job market.
C) Students demand immediate administrative action to help students find work.
D) Administration has precisely zero ideas on how to help students get jobs.
E) Administration blames its own “tough grading curve” that allegedly “disadvantages” its students.
F) Administration enacts “grade reform.”
G) Students feel momentarily appeased.
H) Employers ask for class ranking and go back to putting 90% of the transcripts they receive from the school in question into the shredder.
Next year, Tulane Law School will make grading easier. Getting a good job with a Tulane Law degree will remain just as difficult as ever…
We reported in November that Loyola Law School of Los Angeles was thinking about artificially raising grades. In response to the terrible economy, the school has acted on the proposal. Here’s the opening line of the message from Loyola Law Dean Victor Gold:
Last week the faculty approved a proposal to modify the grading system. The change will boost by one step the letter grades assigned at each level of our mandatory curve. For example, what previously was a B- would be a B, what previously was a B would be a B+, and so forth. All other academic standards based on grades, such as the probation and disqualification thresholds, are also adjusted upwards by the same magnitude. For reasons that will be explained below, these changes are retroactive to include all grades that have been earned under the current grading system since it was adopted. This means that all grades already earned by current students will be changed. It also means that all grades going forward will be governed by the new curve. The effect of making the change retroactive will be to increase the GPA of all students by .333. The change will not alter relative class rank since the GPA of all students will be moved up by the same amount.
Loyola students are having difficulty getting jobs. In response, did the administration consider dropping tuition? Nope. Instead, they just gave everybody an extra third of a grade — retroactively, no less. That’s not just inflation; that’s a rewriting of history.
Really, are employers out there going to fall for this? Loyola hopes so….
Here’s a little rule I just made up: People who do poorly in legal writing at New York Law School should not file pro se complaints against their school. It’s a good rule for people who don’t want to embarrass themselves.
I think I’ll call my brand-new maxim the “Timothy Keefe Rule.” The kid deserves something after getting smacked around by a New York appellate court. Here’s the set up, from the First Department opinion in Keefe v. New York Law School:
Plaintiff, a transfer student at defendant law school, commenced this action alleging, inter alia, that defendant breached an implied contract of good faith and fair dealing with him as a result of a grade he received in his Legal Writing II course. Claiming that he was unfairly disadvantaged because he did not take Legal Writing I at the law school, plaintiff seeks to require the law school to change its grading system from letter grades to pass/fail.
Keefe’s suit was dismissed at the Supreme Court level, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division. I sure do hope he tries one more time at the Court of Appeals, because this is the kind of terrible argument I can’t get enough of …
Yesterday, we reported that Harvard Law School was making a change to its grading curve before finals. We told you that HLS lifted the requirement to have a certain percentage of the class received a “low pass” in the law school’s new High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/Fail grading system.
After our report went live, Harvard Law School’s Vice Dean for Academic Programming, Andrew Kaufman, sent around an email to all students. According to Dean Kaufman, mandatory low passes were never a part of the HLS grading plan:
We have recently become aware of all sorts of rumors floating around about “changes” in our so-called grading curve, in particular the percentage of Low Passes. In fact, we have never had and do not now have a mandatory curve. All we have had for the last twenty years is a recommended curve. We did not recently change that curve. All we have done is to make clear to faculty that under the new grading system and in keeping with the recommended nature of the curve, they have discretion regarding the exact percentage of grades to be given in each category.
Vice Dean for Academic Programming
Fair point. Thanks for clearing that up.
But HLS dropped letter grading over a year ago. Are you telling me that the Harvard Law School faculty wasn’t entirely clear on how to grade students, for a year? During the worst legal job market in recent memory?
Some HLS students we talked to aren’t very happy with that.
Given the state of the legal economy, I don’t have a problem with grade inflation at top law schools. The job market is terrible enough as it is. If an extra (inflated and totally BS) third of a grade helps a student get a job right now, I think that is fine. Whatever, sometimes you have to “juke the stats,” and I understand that.
But it’s not cool when schools institute grade inflation secretly and hope nobody will notice. It’s not cool when schools try to pass off grade inflation as something other than grade inflation. Law schools have to do what they have to do, but there is no reason to pretend that everybody is stupid.
At Harvard Law School and at Georgetown University Law Center, the administrations have decided that their students need things to be a little easier. But neither law school seems willing to admit that the economy played a role in their sudden embrace of grade reform….
But now grade reform has spread to schools that are tinkering with their curves. USC Law decided to give students an extra .1 — you know, ’cause it looks better. NYU Law also made things a little easier for their students, academic rigor be damned.
Last week, we received word that Loyola – Los Angeles is also contemplating changing its curve to make things a little easier for students trying to get jobs. A Loyola tipster reports:
LLS is trying to push a grade change referendum to change the median grade from a 2.7 (B-) to a 3.3 (B+). … [P]erhaps if you post something, … [it will result] in a lively discussion on the issue, and our school will see how it’s such a bad idea to do this since it punishes the small number of us that actually did well at this mediocre school by making grades meaningless and giving distinction to those who don’t deserve it.
Loyola Law Dean Victor Gold told Above that Law that any change in the curve is at the preliminary stage:
Our students have asked for changes to the median grade because other local schools have already increased their medians. Some students have suggested a change as great as moving from B- to B+. I have asked the faculty grading committee to look at the issue, but it has not yet made any proposal. If the committee makes a proposal, it will come to the entire faculty for a vote. Any change will have to carefully balance several factors. We want to give our students the strongest possible position in a difficult job market while at the same time maintaining a grading system that is both fair and honest.
At least the USC Gould School of Law is being relatively honest. According to the administration, USC students do not get grades on par with students at peer institutions. This hurts USC students in the job market. The most simple way to fix this discrepancy is to just give everybody at USC Law an extra boost to their GPA.
You think it can’t possibly be that simple? Here is the grade reform proposal that USC faculty and student representatives will be voting on, on December 11th:
Under the current grading curve, the average grade in each first-year course is set at 3.2. Under the Dean’s proposal, the average grade in each first-year course would be set at 3.3 rather than at 3.2. The effect of this change would be to raise each first-year grade by .1. For example, a student who would have earned a grade of 3.2 in Torts under the current grading curve would instead earn a grade of 3.3. Similarly, a student whose year-end GPA under the current grading curve would be a 3.2 would instead have a year-end GPA of 3.3.
I don’t see why a major law school would admit that their grading system was a joke that they came up with out of a hat, but there you go. Free points for everybody, because halfway through the 2008/2009 school year USC decided that law school was just too damn hard.
USC’s justifications and rationalizations after the jump.
We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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