Law Schools

We know how much our readers love rankings, so for your viewing pleasure, we present to you the National Jurist’s sixth annual list of the Best Value Law Schools. This year’s Best Value ranking system takes into account the following criteria: tuition (25% of study), cost of living expenses (10%), average indebtedness upon graduation (15%), the percentage of graduates who got a job (35%), and bar passage rates (15%).

We’ve covered these rankings before. As in years past, National Jurist ranked only the top 20 schools, and has given letter grades to the rest of the schools on the list, ranging from A- to F. But this year, because of the uproar about transparency in employment statistics, the National Jurist’s rankings include adjusted weights for employment percentages based on 12 different categories.

National Jurist also paid special attention to average graduate indebtedness this year — and by “paid special attention to,” we mean that the publication hasn’t been following the news about the incorrect debt figures that were being used by law schools to pimp their programs like low-rent street walkers.

Check and see if your school made the grade this year….

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I’ve long argued that the LSAT doesn’t test a person’s raw intellectual horsepower so much as it tests how well a person prepared for the LSAT. It’s a reading comprehension test that rewards prior achievement instead of future potential. It can be taught. It can be gamed. It can be beat.

Others argue that it really does get to the heart of one’s “intelligence,” and their baseline ability to perform critical thinking tasks.

There is a new study out that says, basically, that I’m right, but I’m sure both sides will find something supportive in the findings. The study looks at the way studying for the LSAT impacts the physical brain chemistry of test takers. One thing I think we’ll all agree on is that merely studying for the LSAT messes with your head….

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It’s not like she was emailing the President of the United States or someone genuinely important or busy. These are professors, and not professors of astrophysics or bioengineering. They are law professors. We take long vacations, eat out a lot, and study the insides of our eyelids frequently.

– Professor Michele Dauber of Stanford Law School, defending yesterday’s overzealous Yale Law networker (in a comment on my Facebook page).

(A collection of possible reactions to the story, plus a reader poll, after the jump.)

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As Staci observed earlier this week, if law students took data into account, we’d be living in a different world. Today, in the interest of moving a bit closer to that sunnier, happier planet, we launch the latest component of our Career Center: The ATL Law School Directory.

There’s been no small amount of discussion around here regarding the disconnect between the career and salary expectations of incoming law students and the majority of their post-graduation realities. Yet we are continually reminded that most 0L “research” consists of blind adherence to a single, arguably dubious data point, and nothing else.

However, there is reason to believe that some would-be law students are doing their due diligence and turning into won’t-be law students, but still, there continue to be of a hell of a lot of applicants at all levels, from “prestige whores” to “low hanging fruit.” Clearly, while we’ve no agenda aimed at discouraging folks from applying to law school per se, we do oppose uninformed and under-researched decisions to do so. The Law School Directory is an indispensable resource for aspiring law students willing to do their homework. (Which, based on some strong anecdotal evidence, we understand is a characteristic of successful actual law students.)

The ATL Law School Directory is to 0L-relevant data and information what the Ronco Veg-O-Matic is to vegetables (It Slices! It Dices!). You can sort law schools by a wide array of analyzing variables: employment outcomes, admissions criteria, top law firm employers, and much more, including the the results of our ongoing ATL Insider Survey, where current students and alumni rate the major aspects of the law school experience, from academics to social life.

So which are the best schools for Biglaw placement? Public interest placement? Clinical training? The Directory has the answers. After the jump, check out a sampling of our ratings tables, including the list of schools which are tops at losing track of their own alumni….

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Last September, we wrote about Bruce Reilly, an incoming Tulane Law student who was an advocate, a writer, and a murderer. Reilly is now a second-year student at the school, but he killed a man 20 years ago. At the time, there was a huge uproar about his admission to law school, but Tulane’s administration supported Reilly’s candidacy for the degree (regardless of the fact that he may never be admitted to practice law). After all, Reilly claims that he is a “model case for rehabilitation.” Perhaps Tulane Law rightfully admitted him.

Today we bring you the story of Aaron Munter, a former law student who is now seeking readmission to complete his final semester before receiving his degree. Before leaving school, Munter excelled academically — he served as editor-in-chief of the law review, ranked second in his class, and received numerous awards for his scholarly endeavors. We should probably mention, though, that Munter didn’t leave law school by choice. In the spring of 2009, Munter was convicted of child sex crimes involving a minor, and sentenced to six months in jail, six months in work release, and five years of probation. A few years have passed, and evidently Munter thinks he’s rehabilitated and ready to go back to law school.

Should a man convicted for sex crimes with minors be readmitted to law school to complete his degree?

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* Little known fact of the day: the late comedienne Phyllis Diller apparently had a storybook romance with Paul Hastings name partner, Robert Hastings. She once said that her longtime Biglaw beau was the “love of [her] life.” [Am Law Daily]

* The Federal Trade Commission has closed its antitrust review of Facebook’s proposed Instagram purchase, clearing the way for the social networking site’s users to post grainy pictures to their hearts’ content. [Bloomberg]

* A former Vancouver lawyer serving a 15-year sentence for money laundering claims that one of the Mounties who investigated his case played a game of “hide the Canadian bacon” with Judge Ursula Ungaro. [Province]

* A judge who resigned in April has been retroactively removed from office for admitting to having sexual contact with his five-year-old niece. He presided over family court matters. Figures. [New York Law Journal]

* Which accomplishments and activities should you leave off your résumé? A) law review editor in chief; B) second in the class; C) 4.05 GPA; D) nonprofit executive director; E) child porn aficionado. [Willamette Week]

* Stabbing your lawyer is so last season. Another criminal defendant reportedly attacked his defense attorney in court, but this time chose to whack his own counsel in the head with his handcuffed hand. [Boston Globe]

It’s that time of year again. First-year students of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed variety are frolicking into law schools across the country for their first week of classes, blissfully unaware of the jaded upperclassmen who inhabit the same building. At this point, the biggest worry of 1Ls is whether they’ll be highlighting their books in rainbow colors — that, and if they’ll be able to get into their lockers.

In this edition of Locker Wars, we meet a member of the class of 2015 who fears that the administration at his law school already considers his classmates “dullards” because they’ve locked themselves out of their lockers so many times that an instructional video had to be sent out….

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If you talk to recruiters, they’ll tell you that lawyers are terrible networkers. There just seems to be something about the personality of lawyers that makes them either afraid to strike up conversations with contacts or unable to proceed like normal humans when they do.

Some people I’ve talked to suspect that the problem comes from legal training: the adversarial nature of law makes people look at networking as a zero sum game instead of a mutually beneficial relationship.

I think there’s also something to be said about the way this generation communicates. If they send you an email or a text, they expect a response, immediately. If you don’t respond, that must mean you didn’t receive the message. So they either don’t follow up, or resort to networking by badgering.

I’ll tell you one thing, though — “badgering” won’t get you anywhere with the administration at Yale Law School. That’s a lesson a prospective student learned the hard way…

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I wonder if Todd Akin has some way of shutting this whole thing down, or is it that he secretly wants this?

It’s been a fun couple of days trying to figure out what Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin meant when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin claims he misspoke. In a new political ad (look, if the guy doesn’t understand how women get pregnant, it’s probably going to take him a while to figure out how voters decide elections), Akin says: “Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize… The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

But what did Akin really mean when he tried to distinguish “legitimate” rape from the regular kind of “rape-rape” that seems to void a woman’s reproductive rights?

In these times when words are mean and hurtful, we tend to turn to Northwestern Law for guidance. The students at Northwestern Law have long taken their role as the PC Police very seriously. And so it shouldn’t surprise us that a Northwestern 2L is credited with main definition of “legitimate rape” on the incomparable resource of Urban Dictionary…

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Jim Chen

Law students should take merit stipulations into account when they decide whether to accept an offer of admission paired with a conditional grant of financial aid. By all accounts, they do not. Law schools should transparently disclose the likely effect of merit stipulations on their financial aid awards. By all accounts, law schools do no such thing.

Jim Chen, former dean at the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law, opining on the merit scholarship racket in a new working paper.

(If you recall, Chen’s school recently over-promised financial aid to incoming students, which will result in a $2.4 million shortfall over three years.)

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