Law Schools

Linda Doyle

[A] brick-and-mortar LL.M. would be far more beneficial than an online LL.M. at this point.

Linda Doyle, a hiring partner at McDermott Will & Emery, commenting on the utility of pursuing an online LL.M. degree. Washington University recently made headline news for its introduction of an online LL.M. degree.

We try to provide some balance in our coverage of law schools. Last night, for example, we posted our latest round of law school success stories, to balance some of the more depressing fare in our pages — such as the $10K a year lawyer job being offered to Boston College Law School students, which the law school defended vigorously.

At the same time, we have to report the reality that’s before us. And that reality isn’t always pretty.

Which brings us to today’s topic, the latest employment data from our friends at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP)….

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It's the summer, put your hand down.

It’s hard out there for a law student who can’t find a summer job.

Back in the before times, the summer was this excellent opportunity to make a little bit of money and, more importantly, secure legal employment for after graduation. Now, things are worse. For those who have a summer associate position, the program involves ten weeks of stress, hoping that you don’t screw up your offer while also praying you like the people you work with because there is no 3L hiring market.

For those who are unemployed, I mean, honestly, spending a summer getting drunk and playing SWTOR is probably as good as anything else you can do.

Whatever you do, you probably don’t want to end up like this student. The rule for law students over the summer is very simple: first, do no harm….

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Last month, in the inaugural post in our series of Law School Success Stories, we focused on the theme of “the value of thrift.” We outlined a “low risk” approach to law school, profiling happy law school graduates who secured their law degrees without going into excessive debt — under $50K upon graduation, which is the recommendation of Professor Brian Tamanaha, author of a new book (affiliate link) about reforming legal education.

Today we’re going to cover the flip side: the “high risk, high reward” approach to legal education. In some ways this is a dangerous theme. The promise of Biglaw bucks is the siren song that leads many to crash on the rocks of joblessness and crippling debt (as Will Meyerhofer discussed earlier today).

Some law schools clearly exaggerate the ability of a legal education to increase a person’s career prospects and earning potential. But for some subset of law students, however small, law school does turn out to be a golden ticket. Their numbers might be inflated, but they do exist. Law school has allowed these individuals to increase their incomes dramatically. And — shocker! — many of these J.D. holders actually enjoy their lucrative new jobs.

Read about a young woman who went from being a secretary to having a secretary — along with a six-figure paycheck. Meet a young man with a rather unmarketable undergraduate degree who now, thanks to law school, makes bank in New York City.

Here’s another way of describing today’s success stories: “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t like guns. I don’t like gun owners, and the Second Amendment is the only amendment I can’t stand. If there was an unsecured firearm just hanging out around the ATL offices, I’d be very unhappy. Guns kill people and I’d be far more worried about a co-worker accidentally shooting the biggest target in the room than the Adam Kaisers of the world making a personal appearance to our offices.

But, even though I’m a pansy-ass liberal who trusts in power of peace over the false security of loaded weapons, I would not freak out if I found out that somebody around here kept a gun under his desk in case Evan Chesler hears one too many “Cravath no longer pays top of the market” references and decides to execute order 66.

Of course, I’m a grown man who knows that when the bullets start flying there’s no shame in running or hiding like a bitch. Other people with less experience and confidence might see a gun and turn into a useless pile of fear.

And that’s when the internet needs to step in and give some advice…

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

I participated recently in a panel discussion at a conference, speaking with other lawyer/blogger types in front of an audience consisting largely of people from law firms and law schools. After we finished, I did the decent thing and sat and listened to the panel that followed mine. I happened to choose an empty seat next to a woman who introduced herself to me later as a dean at a law school, in charge of career placement, or whatever the euphemism is for trying to find students non-existent jobs. The law school was a small one — yes, one of those dreaded “third tier” places.

She confronted me afterwards. “I guess I’m the bad guy, huh?”

I was startled by her candor, but I knew what she meant. This was one of those people from a third tier law school — the greedy cynical fraudsters signing kids up for worthless degrees, then leaving them high and dry, unemployed and deeply in debt.

Despite her participation in crimes against humanity, I had to admit she didn’t seem so bad, in person.

Then I snapped back to my senses — and went on the attack, assuming my sacred role as The People’s burning spear of vengeance….

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* The Ninth Circuit denies en banc rehearing in the Prop 8 case. Can we please hurry up and get this thing in front of the Supreme Court already? [Ninth Circuit via Metro Weekly]

* Even more law schools are shrinking their class sizes. Do we have a trend on our hands yet? [Crain's Cleveland Business]

* AOL’s attorneys at DLA Piper sent a nastygram to a Maryland blogger, alleging intellectual property infringement, based on the blog’s aggregation. Because you know, AOL/the Huffington Post has never aggregated anything. [Maryland Juice]

Laura Flippin

* Speaking of DLA Piper lawyers, just before she was found guilty of public intoxication, partner Laura Flippin was also accused of lying under oath by the judge in the case. In short, things did not go as well they could have. [The Flat Hat]

* Remember the law school martyr Phillip J. Closius? He may no longer be Dean of University of Baltimore Law, but he has not finished his crusade to improve the financial security of students. Keep fightin’ the good fight, Phil. [Baltimore Sun]

* Congratulations to the 15 firms that made the NLJ’s 2012 Appellate Hot List. Most are Biglaw shops, but three elite boutiques made the cut: Bancroft, Horvitz & Levy, and Kellogg Huber. [National Law Journal]

* Ever wondered what life in prison is like? Check out this podcast, in which Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit, is interviewed by Professor Zachary Shemtob (disclosure: Shemtob is Lat’s co-author and special friend). [Cruel and Unusual: A Podcast on Punishment]

In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman: “I love this plan, I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Not that I’m actually any part of the plan that they’re putting together out west, but anytime somebody suggests a bold new way to cross the streams of legal education and legal employment, I say, “LET’S DO IT.”

And even if it means that a few classes of graduating students end up covered in sticky marshmallow, so be it…

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We have entered June, and most recent law school graduates finished school a few weeks ago. The initial anxious adrenaline rush of receiving your fancy new bar exam study materials has faded, and summer tedium is setting in.

Our Bar Review Diarists are getting a little deeper into their studies. They’re beginning to realize studying for the test isn’t necessarily difficult. It’s largely boring. They are discovering how alluring a pointless shopping trip can be, and they are realizing how long it’s been since they have written anything by hand. In other words, it was kind of a bummer of a week.

Let’s see how Jeanette, Nathan, and Andrew are handling the summertime blues…

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Last week I wrote a story asking the question, “How important is it for law schools to teach students about electronic discovery?” The post stemmed from a perturbed tipster, who lamented the fact that her alma mater had decided to offer a class exclusively dealing with the subject.

The poll results were interesting. Most of you said the subject is definitely worth learning in school, despite its alleged unsexiness.

Additionally, I received an letter a few days after the story ran, signed by 14 attorneys, including small firm and Biglaw partners, tech company leaders, and one state judge, who wanted to give their collective opinion on the issue.

Technophiles will appreciate the note, although some young lawyers might find it an ominous sign of document review work to come. Let’s take a look at what these decision-making readers had to say…

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