Law Schools

This is why we shouldn’t let people under the age of 18 speak in public. Ever.

The new Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, is just 17 years old. Why we live in a society that regularly parades minors out in public to be ogled (whether for their beauty or dunking prowess or whatever) is a subject for another blog post.

As you know, beauty pageant winners are often asked about their life ambitions — as if staying “off the pole” wouldn’t be a major accomplishment in itself. Scanlan’s ambitions are particularly funny, more like the stuff you’d expect to hear from a 7-year-old girl instead of a young woman of 17.

Under normal circumstances, the public wouldn’t be a party to these particular ramblings. But since her parents decided to allow Scanlan to be thrust into the public spotlight, everybody gets to chuckle…

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Amy Chua

If you’re going to be a diva, then own it. Was this lesson lost on Yale law professor Amy Chua, the author of an incendiary essay in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, and a new book about Eastern versus Western parenting styles, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

Professor Chua seems to have it all: brains and beauty; an incredible academic career, with an endowed chair at Yale Law School; a hunky husband, fellow YLS prof Jed Rubenfeld; and two lovely and accomplished daughters. (Speaking of Chua’s kids, does anyone know where her oldest girl, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, is attending, or applying to attend, college? To Asian parents, sending a child to a top college is the ultimate vindication.)

Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld

But Amy Chua may need to work on her bitch-goddess qualities. After her controversial essay about the superiority of Chinese mothers and hard-ass Asian parenting set the blogosphere on fire — and sent her book rocketing to #5 on the Amazon bestseller list — Chua backtracked a bit, instead of defiantly standing her ground.

In interviews with the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, among other outlets, the self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom” seemed to turn into a pussycat….

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* Republicans won’t have Michael Steele to kick around anymore. [Huffington Post]

* Akin Gump apologizes for a controversial post on Powerline by partner Paul Mirengoff. [Indianz.com]

* Is WikiLeaks responsible for the Tunisian revolution? [Business Insider]

* Speaking of Tunisia, MLK Day is important and everything — but maybe, just maybe, U.S. officials in Tunisia should GO TO WORK ON MONDAY. Give them a floating holiday or whatever, but given current events, the U.S. Embassy there should probably stay open. [Gawker]

* Meanwhile, Australian lawyers are getting a flood day. [ABA Journal]

* Who exactly would benefit from dropping the LSAT? [Law Librarian Blog]

* Typo Nazis, here’s something for you. How many spaces should you put between a period and the next sentence? [Slate]

* Additional thoughts on Bruce Antkowiak’s recent criticism of the legal academy (previously mentioned here). [What About Clients?]

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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