Law Schools

U.S. News & World Report issues rankings of law schools. The most prestigious law firms recruit from only the top-ranked schools. I am not endorsing this; it is just a fact of life. If you are good enough to get admitted to one of the schools ranked in the Top 50, and you are in the top 15-25 percent of your class, you stand a chance of getting one of those $160,000-a-year jobs with a big law firm. If you don’t fall into these categories, the chances are that you won’t get one of these jobs.

Bill Hebert, president of the State Bar of California, in an essay entitled “What is the value of a law degree?”

Whether or not you think that the LSAT should be important, we all know that it is important. Scoring well on the LSAT is absolutely crucial to getting into a good law school.

But usually the power of the LSAT fades after you matriculate to a law school. Usually people who are concerned about your LSAT score are the people who consider their own LSAT score their greatest achievement in life. Pathetic, I know, but I’ve met these people in real life. They really think that scoring well on a standardized test means something more than being able to score well on a standardized test.

We accept that law schools need to be focused on the LSAT — they need some way to compare people from different schools and programs. But should employers still care about your LSAT score? Should legal employers really be concerned about a test that you took years ago, before you had any legal training?

At K&L Gates, the answer appears to be yes…

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We have a message for law school deans and administrators everywhere. To paraphrase Chris Crocker, “Leave… the grades… alone!”

Stories about changes to law school grading schemes aren’t much fun for us to write. But every time you deans tinker ever so slightly with your law school’s curve, we here at Above the Law get flooded by angry emails from law student readers, demanding that we call attention to whatever completely inscrutable change (or non-change) you have made (or not made) to your grading policy. In order to save us from having to write these stories, please cease and desist immediately from further amendment of your grading schemes.

Notwithstanding the views of the guy who posted his grades on Facebook, law school grades aren’t very interesting (except to their recipients). We’d much rather immerse ourselves in the law firm bonus horse race, for example. Compared to law school grading stories, the associate bonus watch is as riveting as the Oscars competition (or the Super Bowl, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Honestly, and with all due respect to our law student readers, we don’t particularly care about law school grades — and neither will you, in just a few short years. Right now you might be obsessed with your grades. And yes, they matter more than before, thanks to the tough legal job market. But you will forget your law school GPA sooner than you think. In the words of Professor Orin Kerr, “[o]nce you’re out of school for a bit, people care whether you are a good attorney, not your law school GPA.”

In this post, we’re going to cover controversies over grading at three law schools: the University of Chicago Law School, Cornell Law School, and the University of Buffalo Law School.

And then, God willing, we hope to avoid writing another story about law school grades until May or June (when the spring semester ends and students start talking about transfer applications)….

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Well, it’s a start. If you think it’s a good thing for law schools to be more transparent about the employment prospects of their students, then you have to applaud Washington & Lee Law School. The school had been building a bit of a reputation for taking an outside-the-box approach to legal education, but that momentum seemed to stall with the departure of Dean Rodney Smolla (to become the president of Furman University).

But one good way to distinguish yourself from other law schools is to tell the truth to prospective law students. Washington & Lee just dumped 17 pages of employment information on its admitted students. A lot of it is public information, such as general statistical data about legal employment, but still.

Having led the horses to water, we’ll see if any of these kids want to take a drink…

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I guess in some ways the legal economy across the pond is just as challenging as it is in America. And it seems that some British students are just as averse to personal responsibility as American students.  A graduate of Oxford Law the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice is suing the school for £100,000, claiming that the school “ruined” her legal career.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post may have given the erroneous impression that the plaintiff is suing the University of Oxford, the venerable and world-renowned institution that most people are referring to when they refer to “Oxford.” Although the plaintiff attended the University of Oxford as an undergraduate, where she studied law, she is actually suing the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice. According to a tipster who’s a graduate of the University of Oxford, the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice — which happens to be located in Oxford, UK — is not currently affiliated with the University of Oxford.

How did OXILP ruin her career? She claims that they didn’t prepare her to take crucial legal exams. Yeah, let me rephrase: she failed her exams and is now blaming the school.

You know, if Ben Kenobi was still alive, I think he’d scream, “You have done that yourself.” But let’s hear the sad tale of Maria Abramova…

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I know lots of guys fantasize about boinking “barely legal” teenage girls. Not me, I like women: fully formed, adult women. There’s just something unseemly about older men salivating over girls who could have been in high school a year ago. Call me crazy, but it’s just more interesting as an adult to be intimate with other adults.

Similarly, I like my lawyers to actually practice law. There’s something unseemly about watching market forces turn law school graduates into glorified paralegals and secretaries. Call me a prude, but there’s just something gross about seeing young, nubile attorneys going around begging for document review positions. These people spent three years of their lives and six figures of their (or someone else’s) money to get law degrees; they should have something to show for their efforts.

But even if I don’t like to look, I can’t deny that this is happening. We are all living in a time that will be studied by future generations: a time when attorney career paths bifurcated, between traditional partnership-track associates and what I’ll call “barely legal” career paths….

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I love it when crazy people self-identify.

I don’t know where Ray Wolfe goes to law school, and I don’t want to know. This guy seems unhinged and dangerous. You don’t have to take my word for it; you can look at the letters this guy sent to judges in Missouri.

According to court documents, Wolfe was a law student in Massachusetts, but was home in Missouri when he was cited for traffic violations. But there were scheduling conflicts between Wolfe and the Missouri court.

That’s when Wolfe unleashed his crazy. He sent a couple of menacing responses to Missouri judges. The letters were so outrageous that he was convicted on two counts of “tampering with a judicial officer.”

Those convictions were recently upheld in an opinion by the Missouri Court of Appeals — which means we can now all be entertained (and generally horrified) by the apparently unhinged Ray Wolfe….

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Last week we told you that The Conglomerate was crowdsourcing a set of law school rankings. It called upon participants to make head-to-head comparisons between different law schools, then crunched the numbers to produce overall rankings.

We covered the early returns, in which Stanford was leading, with Yale in second place. Then came the University of Michigan, followed by Harvard.

But those were just preliminary tallies. Now the final results are in, and you can check them out here. Professor Gordon Smith of The Conglomerate reports that 6,100 people cast over 300,000 votes.

At the top, there are not many differences from the U.S. News law school rankings….

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It seems like the number of applications to American law schools is finally going down. Maybe that number would go down even further if prospective American law students knew more about the magical land up north.

Yes, we’re talking about Canada. America’s homely cousin might not be as hot, but she’s got a great personality and is nice and funny. Having already figured out how to provide health care to all of its citizens, Canada seems to have also come up with a system of legal education that doesn’t hobble its young lawyers before they even start practice.

Canada’s key to success seems to be actually regulating its law schools and assuring a basic level of high quality across the board. There are only 20 law schools in Canada, which means that (gasp) not everybody who wants to go can go. Yet despite demand, Canadian law schools also cost less than their American counterparts.

It appears that much like their health care system, not every Canadian gets exactly what they want precisely when they want it. But their magical ability to behave like adults when faced with delayed gratification somehow makes things better for everybody. Chant “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” all the way to debtor’s prison if you like, but clearly the Canadians are doing something right — and maybe we could learn from them here in the States…

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Do we really need to make it easier for people to have weapons on school campuses? Really? We’re not worried about school shootings anymore? Is the Second Amendment really so broad that it requires us to allow students to weaponize their law school dorm rooms? Is there no “safe zone” in America where I can go and be reasonably assured of not being hit with an unintended, stray, accidental bullet fired from a hand cannon a man was legally allowed to possess just because George Washington needed some well-armed farmers to defeat the British?

According Idaho Law 2L Aaron Tribble, his right to have a firearm in his dorm room trumps his classmates’ rights to not have to live on campus with potentially crazy gunmen in legal possession of weapons. Tribble has filed suit against the University of Idaho over its policy that bans guns on campus.

He claims that the rule violates his Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights to possess a gun in his on-campus home…

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