Law Schools

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

As the owner of a small law firm, I’m always surprised at how many blind résumés I receive in the mail. First of all, who even uses mail anymore? Does anyone seriously think that I’m going take them more seriously because they used cream-colored, 100% cloth, 24-pound bond paper? I’m not.

But forget the résumés for a minute; for me, it’s the cover letter that tells me whether I want to interview this person. Over the years, I’ve received thousands of cover letters from lawyers and law students. I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t need to read the résumé before I’ve made my decision.

So with that in mind, here are 11 tips for writing cover letters to potential employers.

1. Spell my frikkin’ name right. You’d be astounded at how many times candidates blow this one.…

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Does this count as 'employed at graduation'?

This has not been a great weekend for the University of Pittsburgh community. As many of you know, the school’s college basketball team choked disappointed fans with an early round exit from the NCAA tournament.

You should always avoid comparing a school’s basketball team with its law school, but it appears that things aren’t going much better at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. While there is some evidence that the legal economy is recovering, the improving fortunes have not trickled all the way down to 3Ls searching for work….

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* If you root for your law school alma mater over your undergrad alma mater, you are the kind of unprincipled betrayer who deserves the very worst of all that life has to offer. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Did you know that university professors could get fired for appearing in burlesque shows? [Siouxsie Law]

* Some thoughts on what black prospective law students should consider when choosing a law school, from Yolanda Young. [On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Best. Deposition transcript. Ever. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Please, please, please, let there be many character and fitness boards who will ding this law student who stomped a bird to death. [Huffington Post]

* Happy Purim, everybody. And if you are an Irish Jew, I wish your liver the best.


Big deans don't cry?

Yesterday we talked about a couple of schools that fell in this year’s U.S. News law school rankings, whose deans promptly devoted school-wide emails making excuses for their programs dropping. Predictably, they criticized U.S. News’s latest methodology, even though this year’s formula did a better job of focusing on factors law students actually care about (like jobs, not donuts).

We asked you to send us other responses from law school administrations regarding this year’s rankings. And, ye Gods, foot soldiers with no clear mission or exit strategy in Afghanistan aren’t bitching and moaning as much as law school deans are just because U.S. News prefers schools that get their students jobs. If these crybaby deans could care about the employment outcomes of their students half as much as they care about the U.S. News rankings, then going to law school wouldn’t be such a financially dangerous option and their schools would do better in the rankings.

We were overwhelmed by the responses. Keep ‘em coming! But we’ll have to deal with many of them when we get to the appropriate point in our series of open threads on law schools.

Today I just want to focus on a few schools that did better in the rankings this year, yet still found the time to bitch about U.S. News. You expect schools that drop to be dismissive of the rankings, but when schools that are bathed in rankings glory are unsatisfied, that’s a little bit more interesting….

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Is your law school being a crybaby?

We’ve already noted that there was no change at the very top of the 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings. The best schools remain the best schools.

Further down the list, we start to see some volatility. Now, every year there needs to be some change in the rankings; how else is U.S. News going to get people to buy new magazines? When you cede control of your legal education system to the list-making skills of a for-profit magazine, those are the kinds of realities you just have to live with.

But the way U.S. News tweaked its methodology this year is special. This year, U.S. News tweaked things ever so slightly to make their rankings just a little bit more output-oriented. While the rankings are still unabashedly focused on the qualifications of students on the way in than what those kids end up doing on their way out, this year’s list pays more lip service to the employment outcomes of recent graduates. We recently quoted this section of a letter U.S. News editor Brian Kelly sent to law school deans: “[E]mployment after graduation is relevant data that prospective students and other consumers should be entitled to. Many graduate business schools are meticulous about collecting such data, even having it audited. The entire law school sector is perceived to be less than candid because it does not pursue a similar, disciplined approach to data collection and reporting.”

U.S. News placed a little more emphasis on employment after graduation this year, and some schools took a significant hit because of it.

And now? Well, my friends, now we get to hear a couple of law schools squeal — just like their graduates have for the past three years….

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* Sorry Wisconsin, but Judge Sumi’s going on vacation, so you can take your bargaining rights and stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine. Man, I hope she’s going to a place where the sun does shine. [Wisconsin State Journal]

* An NBA referee is suing a sportswriter over a tweet made during a Timberwolves/Rockets game. Seriously? You can’t call a foul just because someone hurt your feelings. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]

* Quinnipiac Law: where being convicted of fraud is a pre-req for employment as the registrar. I guess they must have a work from home option, since Mary Ellen Durso is under house arrest. [Hartford Courant]

* Should all buildings that were damaged in the September 11th attacks be declared landmarks? Probably not — after all, Century 21 was damaged, and that’s just a landmark for crappy couture. [Reuters]

Capturing Somali pirates.

* Arr, me matey. Five Somali pirates were forced to walk the plank. Okay, not really, but it was the first time in 190 years that a U.S. jury convicted a defendant of the peg-legged kind of piracy. [CNN Justice]

* Because common sense is hard for some lawyers, you probably shouldn’t advise your clients to break into their foreclosed homes. You probably shouldn’t break in on their behalf, either. [ABA Journal]

* William J. Stuntz, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, R.I.P. [Harvard Law School]

Drums please.

The U.S. News law school rankings for 2012 are here, y’all. Time to pay tribute to that which is more important to legal educators in this country than anything else.

As is customary here at Above the Law, we will be posting a series of open threads, running through at least the top 100 law schools. These open threads offer you a chance to compare and contrast different schools, praise (or condemn) your alma mater, and talk trash about rival law schools.

We’re not sure what we’ll do with the formerly “tier 3″ schools that have now been graced with numerical rankings by U.S. News. And we have no clue how we’ll handle the formerly “tier 4″ schools, which are now being classified as “tier 2″ schools — but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I quietly accept U.S. News’s misleading attempt to recharacterize these schools as “second tier”….

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We continue our series on law-related license plates that are interesting or amusing. We’re still taking submissions, for a contest we will eventually hold; please submit your pictures via email (subject line: “Vanity License Plate”).

One way of communicating your status as an attorney to your fellow motorists is by dropping some mad legal knowledge — you know, a little legalese.

Check out this next license plate….

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Santa Claus — aka Bob Morse, rankings czar at U.S. News & World Report — is letting us open our presents early (or at least before midnight). The U.S. News law school rankings were supposed to come out on Tuesday, March 15, but Morse and his colleagues at U.S. News kindly posted them sometime around 10 p.m. Eastern time tonight. Yay!

(You’ll recall the same thing happened last year, too. The rankings were supposed to come out on April 15, 2010, but they were made available online by April 14 at 10:30 p.m., when we wrote about them.)

Now, on to the latest rankings — technically the 2012 law school rankings, but “ranked in 2011,” as noted on the U.S. News website.

We’ll start at the top, with a look at the top 14, or so-called “T14,” law schools. For the first time in ages, there’s a newcomer among their ranks. Guess who?

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The U.S. News law school rankings come out tomorrow, Tuesday, March 15. In the meantime, however, U.S. News has given us a little teaser.

They’ve posted the top 10 law schools, over on their website. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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