Law Schools

Although no accredited law school offered night classes, public interest did not require granting of accreditation to law school offering night classes, absent a sound operation, because there was no compelling need for additional law graduates.

Matter of Laclede School of Law, 700 S.W.2d 81 (Mo. 1985) (via Westlaw Headnote of the Day).

As David Lat said earlier this week, “Here at Above the Law, we’re trying to help you.” Honestly, think of Above the Law as the MPRE, but for situations people in the legal community are actually likely to face. Don’t conduct sensitive firm business on a crowded train. Don’t offer hand-jobs in school-wide emails.

And here’s a good one: don’t reuse exam questions just because you are teaching at a different law school. It’s called “the internet,” professors. Your students have access to it and can find your old questions. If you put in just a little bit of work, you can come up with entirely new exam questions.

It’s your job! You get paid for it!

And if you do your job with minimal diligence, you won’t end up like Penn Law professor William Wilson Bratton, and we won’t have to write about you…

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Really, it’s a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news: the ABA committee reviewing the accreditation standards for law schools is starting to remember it has some power over how law schools operate. The bad news: the committee is contemplating a change that will only result in making it easier for schools to recruit any and all with the ability to pay (or go into debt), while at the same time gaming the U.S. News law school rankings.

The latest brain nugget to come from the ABA is a proposal to remove the LSAT requirement for admission into law school. Currently, the committee requires prospective law students to take a “valid and reliable” test. But a number of schools already have a waiver so they can admit their own undergraduates without taking a rankings hit due to low LSAT scores. The new ABA proposal would simply drop the requirement altogether.

I don’t think the LSAT is indicative of whole lot more than one’s ability to study for the LSAT. Being able to take standardized tests is an important skill — at least if you ever want to pass your state bar exam — but it’s not the only skill. From an educational standpoint, I don’t think it really matters if students have to take the LSAT or not.

But given the proliferation of law schools more concerned about generating tuition dollars than preparing the next generation of lawyers, the LSAT exists as one of the few barriers to entry to a profession that is already overrun with applicants. Dropping the requirement is a move in the wrong direction that will only make it easier for diploma mills to churn out the next generation of unemployed, wage-depressing attorneys….

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It isn’t easy to wring a correction out of the New York Times. The Gray Lady is notoriously stingy when it comes to confessing error. [FN1]

But David Segal’s very interesting and widely read article about the perils of going to law school — which still sits at the top of the NYT’s list of most-emailed articles, several days after it first came online — now bears a notable correction…

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Well, how much debt do you have?

Wow. Guy goes to law school, guy racks up a huge amount of debt, guy has no idea how he’ll pay off his debts. Sound familiar? Okay, here’s the twist: the guy failed the “character and fitness” component of the Ohio bar because he has no plan to pay off his loans.

What the hell kind of legal education system are we running where we charge people more than they can afford to get a legal education, and then prevent them from being lawyers because they can’t pay off their debts?

Because it’s not like Hassan Jonathan Griffin was in a particularly unique situation when he went before the Ohio bar. A year and a half ago, we wrote about a man who was dinged on his character and fitness review because he was $400,000 in debt. That’s an extraordinary case. Hassan Jonathan Griffin owes around $170,000. He has a part-time job as a public defender. He used to be a stockbroker. He’s got as much a chance of figuring out a way to pay off his loans as most people from the Lost Generation.

If Griffin can’t pass C&F, Ohio might as well say that half of the recent graduates in the state don’t have the “character and fitness” to be a lawyer…

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When you read the accounts of recruiters at these firms, you get a sense of why they might choose these metrics. They have multiple stacks of resumes. They meet hundreds of applicants at career fairs. Rather than scrutinizing anyone’s resume it’s easier just to limit the pool to the top three or four universities.

Do you really want to pore over the transcript of that kid from the University of Michigan? Wouldn’t it be easier just to call the Harvard grad? In essence, what they’re assuming is that the admissions offices at the super-elite schools have already picked the best of the best. Why second guess them?

Tom Bartlett of the Chronicle of Higher Education, writing about a paper by Lauren Rivera, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, entitled “Ivies, Extracurriculars, and Exclusion: Credentialism in Elite Labor Markets.”

The Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from my hotel room last weekend. (I just got back from the AALS conference in San Francisco.)


Here in New York, home to Above the Law and Breaking Media, we’re gearing up for more epic snow. Those of you lucky enough to live in the Golden State might have to deal with earthquakes, mudslides, and obnoxious celebrities, but at least you don’t have to deal with blizzards.

Falling snow? Not in sunny California. Falling bar exam passage rates? Yes — at least for 2010.

A few days ago, the State Bar of California released overall statistics for the July 2010 administration of the (notoriously difficult) California bar exam. The overall bar pass rates went down by a little — but at some schools, the pass rates went down by a lot.

Which law schools’ pass rates tumbled, and by how much?

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Above the Law’s 2010 Lawyer of the Year contest is now over. Thanks to everyone who nominated a lawyer; thanks to our finalists, for being such accomplished and interesting individuals; and thanks to all the voters, who picked our victor.

Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

Two famous figures, and one anonymous one. A man, a woman, and an individual of unknown gender.

For 2010, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

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The new U.S. News law school rankings are due out in March. And according to rankings guru Bob Morse, the publication is considering giving numerical rankings to the third-tier law schools.

This would be a big change. For those unfamiliar with the law school rankings (and if you are unfamiliar with the rankings, you must have ended up here looking for information on a Steven Seagal movie), let’s review. U.S. News currently ranks law schools from #1 to #100. After the first 100, U.S. News drops numerical rankings and groups the remaining schools into a “third tier” and a “fourth tier.” These schools are listed in alphabetical order within each tier.

Why? Well, for one thing, it becomes kind of silly to try to make a meaningful distinction between the 120th law school and the 121st. Doing it this way also benefits lower-ranked second-tier law schools. It arguably makes DePaul Law (ranked #98) look significantly better than all of the law schools in the third tier.

But do these distinctions make sense? The U.S. News people are examining that issue…

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Amy Chua: Yale Law professor and Tiger Mother.

Right now the legal world is abuzz about an essay published over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua, a prominent (and pulchritudinous) professor at Yale Law School. The essay’s title, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, pretty much says it all. The piece is based on Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, described by its publisher as “[a]n awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother’s exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards-and the costs-of raising her children the Chinese way.”

What does raising children “the Chinese way” entail? It’s not hard to guess. Here’s a good summary from Vivia Chen (one of the many Asian-American females to write about Chua; see also Jen Chung of Gothamist and Elizabeth Chang of the Washington Post): “Chua is an überachiever who’s hell-bent on raising her kids to be at least as accomplished as she is. Chua seems to delight in playing up to the stereotype of the pushy, academically obsessed Asian mom. So much so that I thought (for a moment) that she was pulling our legs. But she’s serious.”

Very serious. Let’s take a look at how Chua and her husband — Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale law professor, overachiever, and certified hottie, just like his wife — raise their two daughters, Sophia and Louisa Chua-Rubenfeld….

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