Admissions

We’ve been following the decline in law school applications as prospective law students figure out that the pot of gold at the end of the law school rainbow isn’t available for everybody.

Today, we have a look at new numbers that show an even more precipitous drop in applications for the class of 2016 than many had expected. So far, applications are down 20 percent from where they were in 2012. Law school applications are down 38 percent from where they were in 2010.

If you’ve been wondering why we’ve seen this proliferation of law school deans and professors making spurious arguments in favor of going to law school, this is why.

But maybe instead of trying to win the media battle, these numbers will inspire some in legal academia to address the underlying problems with legal education. Because trying to argue the problem away with nonsensical op-eds doesn’t seem to be working out….

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If you show us the ability to be an attorney, we’ll give you the opportunity to be an attorney. It’s not like we let anybody in the door. We don’t. But we’re much more inclusive in our admissions policy than most law schools are.

Jeffrey L. Martlew, associate dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s brand spanking new Florida campus, commenting on the school’s admissions policy of inclusion, rather than elitism.

(Want to learn more about this bastion of legal education’s unique approach to law schools admissions? Come on, you know you do, so keep reading!)

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Law students react to op-ed in the New York Times.

Yesterday, we discussed a New York Times op-ed, “Law School Is Worth the Money,” by Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Mitchell has been slammed — by me, by Professor Paul Campos, by Alison Monahan, and by many others. If you’ve been looking seriously at the state of legal education, it wasn’t hard to eviscerate Mitchell’s arguments.

But Mitchell seems to believe that looking critically at the value proposition of legal education is a media-driven phenomenon. As he wrote in his op-ed, “For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks.”

It seems that Mitchell has forgotten about the students. Bloggers and law professors don’t really have any skin in this game. But actual students feel like law school deans have taken advantage of them, and telling them “everything is okay here” isn’t a winning argument.

These kids are tired of law deans, like Mitchell, who continue to act like law schools can keep doing what they’re doing while recent graduates don’t have jobs and are crushed under a mountain of debt. They’re really sick of the subtle implication that they only reason the “great deal” of law school didn’t work out for them was that they were “lazy” or somehow undeserving.

In short, they are sick and tired of the very kind of arguments Mitchell made in the New York Times — and yesterday they spoke out about it, loudly….

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This law dean is hoping you’re wearing Bad Idea Jeans when you read his NYT op-ed.

You know that you are selling a substandard product when you start trying to blame “bloggers” as the reason people are refusing purchase your bill of goods.

Lawrence E. Mitchell, the dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, took to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times to defend the value proposition of going to law school. Mitchell would have you believe that the media — which only recently started asking law schools to provide evidence that legal education was worth the exorbitant prices schools charge for it — has unfairly and “irrationally” dissuaded the brightest students from attending law school. He writes: “The hysteria has masked some important realities and created an environment in which some of the brightest potential lawyers are, largely irrationally, forgoing the possibility of a rich, rewarding and, yes, profitable, career.”

To be clear, the argument here is that some of the BRIGHTEST potential lawyers are acting “irrationally” by not going to law school, which I suppose leaves only some of the not-brightest potential lawyers as the ones who still believe op-eds from law school deans touting the value of law school.

Mitchell’s problem is actually quite common among law school deans. In fact, Mitchell unintentionally captures the basic disconnect between law students and the deans that take their money: the facts Mitchell wants people to focus on when they are considering going to law school are not the facts that matter to people when they graduate from law school.

And the reason law school applications are on the way down is that the brightest potential lawyers are starting to understand the difference….

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Today brings us more evidence that the number of people applying to law school is dropping. A new Kaplan survey shows that 51 percent of law schools have cut the size of their incoming classes. Of those schools, 63 percent claim they are cutting in response to the weak legal job market.

While the job market is certainly a factor, we know that schools are also struggling to keep up their admission standards as fewer and fewer people apply to law school. Some people think this is a temporary trough and that applications will pick back up once the economy gets better.

But some people see a crash coming, one that will force a few law schools out of business…

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So Harvard Law School is now conducting admission interviews — via Skype. Yaaay.

I’m all about Skype. It’s a wonderful and useful technological tool. Still, I would want to trust my hypothetical law school admission process to it as much as I would entrust my (also hypothetical) new Ferrari to a 17-year-old on a Friday night.

Let me spell it out…

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* When in doubt, seek divine guidance and bet it all on black. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is going to be visiting Las Vegas this week, where he will attend a Red Mass and then head for the Strip. [Reno Gazette-Journal]

* After being limited on page length, a licensing expert opted to file a five-page cartoon brief in the Apple e-book case. This dude can retire, because he’s achieved legal baller status. [Bloomberg]

* James Hayes’s lawsuit over ICE’s alleged federal “frat house” has been sent to mediation for a possible settlement — but in real Greek life, he likely would’ve been peer pressured to de-pledge. [Washington Post]

* Bull’s-eye! Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack has recused himself from a personal injury case where he was alleged to have called a Cozen O’Connor partner a “piece of sh*t.” [New York Law Journal]

* The case of the missing asterisk: an Ohio Court of Appeals candidate was fined for wearing judge’s robes in her campaign flyers because she failed to indicate her judicial status or lack thereof. [National Law Journal]

* How much does it cost to cover up and then begrudgingly deal with a child sex abuse scandal? The tab thus far for Penn State University is about $17M — $4M of which went to legal services and defense. [CBS News]

* Despite Villanova Law’s admissions scandal, the dean reports that the school has admitted its “highest-quality” class ever. You know it’s hard to believe anything you say about your data, right? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Angelica Cecora

Ed. note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow. A restful and happy Labor Day to all!

* The lone ex-Dewey partner who was sued by Citibank for defaulting on his capital loan is fighting back, claiming that he was “fraudulently induced” into signing up for the plan even though the bank knew that the S.S. D&L was sinking. [Reuters]

* If you’re trying to avoid additional questions being raised about your alleged bad behavior, a resignation amid scandal isn’t the way to do it. Suzanne Barr, the ICE official accused of running a federal “frat house,” has quit her job. [New York Daily News]

* A federal judge taught the members of the Louisiana Supreme court that the year 1994 did, in fact, occur before the year 1995. Justice Bernette Johnson will now ascend to the rank of chief justice. [Times-Picayune]

* Because we’re all a little hopeless these days: given the bleak realities of our economic situation, perhaps it’s finally time to change the standard for a discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy. [New York Times]

* “The groups that attempt to rank schools are involved in a lot of hogwash.” Even if that’s the case, people are still going to care about the University of Illinois’s rankings nosedive after the Paul Pless to-do. [News-Gazette]

* Don’t be scared by the absurd tuition rates or the abysmal job prospects, because law school is still a great investment for African-Americans — and for law schools in search of diversity, too. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]hat a lawyer would take this kind of case is shocking.” Sadly, it’s not. Angelica Marie Cecora, the alleged escort who filed a $5M suit against Oscar de la Hoya, now has to pay all of his legal fees. [New York Post]

Applying to an unranked law school ‘early decision’ is like playing musical chairs with one other person and three chairs.

Remember when you were applying to college how some schools had “early decision” programs? You’d apply to your first-choice school, and in exchange for them telling you early, you had to commit to go to that college and no other. As if applying to colleges was some kind of national game of musical chairs, and people who didn’t get a seat would end up being forced to pursue higher education in Mexico.

I didn’t apply to anywhere “early decision” because I value options and don’t scare easily. I applied to 11 colleges, got into ten (eff you, Stanford), and then visited four or five of them. Obviously, other kids did things differently. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of Ivy League caliber kids commit to a great school early in the process. People choose their colleges based on all kinds of factors, and when you know, you know.

Law schools are very different. Students usually go to the best law school they get into, unless a school that is slightly lower-ranked offers them a ton of money. The only places that should be running an “early decision” program that includes binding commitments are Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

You could make a case for some other top-ranked programs doing early decision for law school. But when you see an unranked program getting in on the action, it feels like the school isn’t tempting students into “early” decisions so much as it is trying to rush people into “bad” decisions….

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If you talk to recruiters, they’ll tell you that lawyers are terrible networkers. There just seems to be something about the personality of lawyers that makes them either afraid to strike up conversations with contacts or unable to proceed like normal humans when they do.

Some people I’ve talked to suspect that the problem comes from legal training: the adversarial nature of law makes people look at networking as a zero sum game instead of a mutually beneficial relationship.

I think there’s also something to be said about the way this generation communicates. If they send you an email or a text, they expect a response, immediately. If you don’t respond, that must mean you didn’t receive the message. So they either don’t follow up, or resort to networking by badgering.

I’ll tell you one thing, though — “badgering” won’t get you anywhere with the administration at Yale Law School. That’s a lesson a prospective student learned the hard way…

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