I graduated law school in 2003, owing Harvard University just under $150,000. At the time, I had no idea what starting my professional career $150K in the hole would do to my life. I figured I’d work hard, make money, and pay my loans out of my general non-disposable income funds — kind of like my cable bill.
Seven years, two careers, numerous deferments and defaults, and one global economic meltdown later, I still owe a ton of money. Now, however, I pay it to various debt collection agencies and lawyers. When prospective landlords run a pro forma credit check on my application, they come back looking at me like I’ve been convicted of multiple war crimes. Every raise I’ll ever get will be eaten up by the collection agencies until sweet death allows me one everlasting and satisfying default. And, oh yeah, I don’t even want to practice law anymore — I quit my Biglaw job because, despite the debt, I really wanted to have a job that I enjoyed. So I essentially purchased a $150,000 disposable good. My time working in Biglaw was kind of like a very expensive vacation that I debt financed.
I mention all this because I am the cautionary tale prospective law students never want to think about. I mention all this because it is noble to crush false hope. I mention all this because there are way too many people poised to follow in my financially ruinous steps….
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….
In parsing the fate of law school students, there’s no point in talking about the 3Ls. Their chances of success in the job hunt are about as bright as Obama’s prospects of winning the war in Afghanistan. In other words, abandon hope all ye who enter here.
The 1Ls can actually pray the economy will improve. And unlike the poor 3Ls, they knew what they were getting into when they enrolled this fall.
But what about the 2Ls? They have a year and a half more to stay in the law school bunker. Is that long enough for the economy to pick up and for firms to open their wallets doors to draw them close to the Biglaw bosom? Many 2Ls report that their dance cards for the summer are empty.
But there may be hope for current 2Ls without summer suitors, reports Zach Lowe at AmLaw Daily. Some firms are coming back for another round:
[A] small number of those 2Ls stand to benefit from an added mini-round of recruiting, which law school officials and firm recruiters attribute to the cautious stance some firms took the first time around in August and September. The reason, according to about a dozen sources we interviewed: Firms shooting for smaller class sizes limited their offers to the best of the best in the class of 2010. The students in that group found themselves with several offers to choose from, leaving firms short of the already smaller-than-usual targets they’d set. Now those firms are going back to top law schools and asking about candidates who have not yet secured a gig for summer 2010, according to career services deans at law schools, law firm recruiters, and industry groups.
Which firms are still looking? What are they looking for? And, if Adolf Hitler was a 2L, what would he do?
Find out after the jump.
We mentioned in Morning Docket that Harvard Law School is cutting back on loan forgiveness to students bound for public interest jobs. The news that HLS is gutting a major initiative that it started just last year is pretty shocking, and we figured you’d like to see the full email from HLS Dean Martha Minow.
First, some background on what HLS was going to do. The Public Service Initiative was launched in 2008. Under the program, HLS would waive 3L tuition for students that committed to public interest jobs for five years after graduation.
It was a pretty good idea. If you are running up the huge HLS bill but you don’t want to go into Biglaw — or BIglaw doesn’t want you — the program would allow you to take the job you want/can get without ruining your financial future.
The problem, apparently, was that way too many HLS students either decided to forgo Biglaw or couldn’t get in the door. The Harvard Crimson reports:
When the program was launched last fall, administrators were unsure how much student interest to expect. Yet, last year, over 110 first-year students indicated their interest in the program–50 percent more than the targeted number–according to then-Law School Dean Elena Kagan.
There are two main takeaways from this overwhelming response: 1) It sure seems like a lot of students end up in Biglaw not because they want to, but because it’s the only way for them to pay off their huge debts. What a surprise. 2) There are a whole lot of 1Ls — at the second best law school in the country — who don’t think they’ll be able to snag Biglaw jobs.
So in response to this information, HLS cuts the program. Brilliant. Let’s get some student reaction and look at Minow’s email after the jump.
Jeremy L. Haber, a first year student at the Law School, is one of four finalists remaining in the Post’s “America’s Next Great Pundit” contest, the winner of which will write 13 weekly op-ed columns on a topic of his choice.
Haber, who said he entered the contest on an impulse, has emerged from over 4,800 entrants to outlast six other finalists — including a Nobel laureate in physics, an assistant secretary of commerce in the Bush administration, and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
These are the columns that got him into the final rounds. Unfortunately, some other finals got in the way of his punditry. He is a 1L and it is mid-November…
Last night, the WSJ Law Blog previewed a new set of law school rankings. Today, we have the full list from SuperLawyers. The magazine, in association with Minnesota Law & Politics and Washington Law & Politics, has ranked law schools based on the number of Super Lawyers they produce.
Is it a little self-serving for a magazine to rank law schools based on how many of the school’s graduates end up in its own magazine? Sure. It’s a little like US Weekly handing out Oscar nominations based on how many times a star has appeared on its cover.
But at least it is an attempt to rank schools based on graduate outcomes. The Super Lawyers Blog explains the rankings this way:
Most law school rankings look at things like bar passage rates, professor-to-student ratios and the number of books in the library, but they ignore the end product — the quality of lawyers produced. We think it’s like ranking football teams based on athletic facilities, player size and equipment without considering who wins the games.
In the real world — the world of clients and juries and judges — no one cares about your GPA or LSAT score. All that matters is how good and ethical a lawyer you are. That’s the focus of Super Lawyers.
Schools are ranked according to the total number of graduates named to the state and regional Super Lawyers lists in 2009. In the event of a tie between schools, the cumulative peer evaluation and research scores of graduates are used as tie-breakers.
They care about how “ethical” you are in the real world? Who knew?
Enough with the preamble. Let’s explore the cream of the crop, the Super Lawyers top 20, after the jump.
We wrote earlier today about Brian Schroeder’s Halloween misadventures. On the morning of October 31, the Harvard Law ’09 grad set fire to a chapel housing the remains of unidentified 9/11 victims. He turned himself in that evening.
Sidley Austin has responded to our inquiry regarding Schroeder, who had summered with the firm in 2008. The firm says it officially rescinded Schroeder’s job offer today.
Many have written to us about Schroeder, expressing surprise that he would do something like this. A collection of comments, after the jump.
Delaying start dates for incoming associates may have another downside: leaving them with nothing to do but get into trouble.
Brian Schroeder has an impressive résumé. The Texan graduated from Duke in 2005, having majored in theater studies, and went on to Harvard Law School. There, he was an editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review and a co-president of Lambda, an LGBT student group. He also took part in Parody, the HLS comedy show (which Elie was involved in during his time at Harvard Law).
After taking a year off to travel around Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe, he graduated from HLS this spring and moved to New York for a Biglaw job. He was supposed to start at Sidley Austin. [Update: Tipsters say Schroeder had taken the Sidley deferral package and was doing pro bono work.]
There’s nothing scary about this Halloween edition of the Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. Our featured newlyweds include two Skadden associates, a SCOTUS clerk, and a famous heiress / model / entrepreneur.
Here are our fabulous finalist couples:
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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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 email@example.com 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.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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