Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice for new law students.
There’s a ton of (virtual) ink being spilled these days over what to do as a new law student. Everything from “buy all your books and read ahead” to “hire a tutor to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities.” (I only wish I was making that last one up. For the record, don’t do it.)
Since I don’t like to be boring, here are a few less obvious things you can do, to make your life easier and better later on. Trust me, I learned most of these the hard way!
1. Set up automated backups on your laptop. Seriously, if you only do one thing before law school starts, do this. Have you ever lost years of work in a hard drive crash? It’s a nightmare. Imagine you’re a week from exams, and your computer dies, taking EVERYTHING you worked on all semester with it. DO NOT let this happen to you. Go to Dropbox right now, and sign up for the free version. Make a folder called “Law School” and add it to your Dropbox. Save every file you create in law school there. Presto, problem solved. You can thank me later. (I don’t care if you use Dropbox, but it is really easy. Use whatever you like, but do something. I’m paranoid enough now that I back up to Dropbox and to an external hard drive, but that’s probably overkill.)
For prospective law students, the promise of merit-based scholarship money amid a broken legal market seems like an incredible deal. So what if there aren’t any jobs? You’re going to go to law school at a significantly discounted rate, or maybe even for free, so you won’t be at any real loss.
Or will you?
What law schools don’t like to tell you with regard to these frequently conditional scholarships is just how difficult it can be to keep them. When you’re banking the terms of your financial future on a law school grading curve, things can get a little tricky. Some might even describe the situation as a big racket. Thankfully, the ABA has started keeping tabs on these programs, and now there’s a wealth of information available on retention rates for scholarships of this kind.
So out of the 140 schools offering conditional scholarships, which ones are most likely to take back your law school funny money? Let’s find out…
Just yesterday, the latest batch of starry-eyed dreamers sat for the LSAT (although the number of these hopeful 0Ls seems to be in freefall). As they wait for the scores to come in, these aspiring JDs will no doubt be doing their research and narrowing down where to apply. Law school applicants have no shortage of resources at their disposal to help them in making their decisions and navigating the process: from U.S. News to Princeton Review, from Anna Ivey to Top Law Schools. But we all know that there is no decision-making tool as beloved as a ranked list. People love rankings — such time and energy savers! We suspect more application and matriculation decisions are made by perusing rankings than will ever be admitted to.
Regular readers of this site might recall that a little while back we published our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking. We are proud that we, rather than burying our methodology in the footnotes or an obscure appendix, prefaced our rankings release with a detailed discussion about the choices we made in devising our methodology.
Whatever the subject matter, anyone looking to rate or rank anything has to make some choices between three basic methodological approaches:
If it seems like a silly debate, it’s only because you haven’t been buttonholed by a law school dean who has had just about enough of your oh-so-funny jokes about his school.
Law deans, especially law deans of schools with underwhelming employment numbers, are convinced, convinced, that the “employed nine months after graduation” statistic vastly under-represents the value of their law degrees. Recent graduates of their schools who have been sitting around without jobs for nine months think that their law deans can go jump in a lake. But a small percentage of these grads will get jobs — mainly crappy, barely-legal jobs, which don’t begin to justify the massive investment they’ve made in legal education — between months nine and ten. This could make it easier for law deans to inflate their job statistics with a ten-month rule.
The law deans are few but powerful. The people aligned against law deans (recent graduates, independent third parties, pretty much everybody else) are vastly more numerous but lack real power to influence the rules.
Caught in the middle is the American Bar Association. Normally, you might expect the ABA to do whatever the law deans want, but here there are just too many arguments in favor of the basic consumer utility of the “nine months.”
Chaos is a ladder. And right now, the legal education business is chaotic. Prospective law students are starting to wise up to the law school game. Applications have been dropping as law schools struggle to explain how it makes sense to go deep into debt just to participate in a very challenging job market. It’s very likely that the smarter people with good options are avoiding law school, leaving many law schools competing for a less intelligent crop of students. And still, more law schools are coming.
I don’t know if some law schools will fail, but I do know that some law students will be taken advantage of. But some law schools will also “win.” Some will come out of this “crisis” stronger and better off than before. Bloomberg Law crunched some numbers and has come up with some interesting stats on which law schools are gaining strength through the crisis, and which ones are grasping at straws…
This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time we have to knock down this ridiculous argument. There’s simply a lot of money invested in making prospective law students believe it.
And it makes a certain kind of sense. We’ve extensively reported on the decrease in law schools applications. We’re at all-time historic lows. It’s a comforting and mathematically banal argument that the lack of applications now will lead to a dearth of law graduates in 2016, which will mean great times(!) for the class of 2016. More importantly, law schools want people to believe those brave enough to apply to the class of 2017 will benefit from an “undersupply” of new lawyers by the time they graduate. I promise you more than half of the class at Cooley actually believe this crap.
The problem, of course, is that it’s not true. It’s not true, and the people who say it’s true have no evidence that it’s true. Heck, there’s an “undersupply” of lawyers right now, if you look at poor and low-income clients. But that hasn’t actually resulted in a vibrant hiring market for new and recent graduates now, has it?
It’s a bad argument, but let’s walk through it so you have something to link to when you hear it from friends who don’t know how to use Google….
In case you haven’t heard by now, the number of people who are putting down money to take the LSAT is at a 30-year low. But some people are absolutely reveling in the the dearth of competition — with the extreme drop-off in applicants over the last three years, now is obviously the best time to apply to law school.
With the June administration of the LSAT less then a week away, there’s no better time to wave high scores in prospective law students’ faces. There’s also no better time to show these 0Ls the scores they shouldn’t be aiming for on this exam.
U.S. News compiled a list of the law schools with the highest median LSAT scores, and we compiled a list of the law schools with the lowest median LSAT scores. Here they are….
As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.
(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)
We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.
What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….
Today, we present the third and final installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice is joined by Mike Sims, President of BARBRI, Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School, and John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School.
Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….
Today, we present the second installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal are joined by Nicole Wanzer, Law School Recruiting Manager at Morrison Foerster and David Thompson an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….
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