Education / Schools

It’s time to answer the age old question: how useless are political science majors?

Actually the question is what undergraduate majors provide the best credentials to a law school admissions officer deciding how to best game the U.S. News rankings create a mutually rewarding academic environment. Political science majors don’t look so hot as a category. Even philosophy majors do better than poli-sci students on the LSAT. I guess realizing that law school is the only marketable skill they’ll be able to get since Slavoj Žižek already has “being paid to spout off about ‘The Real’ while dressed as a homeless man” locked up is a powerful incentive to study.

Professor Derek Muller of Pepperdine Law took the time to crunch the numbers for the 2013 incoming class and arranged the findings into a handy chart.

So how did your major fare?

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* The NCAA’s president thinks Northwestern’s sports union will be the first case of its kind to be heard by the Supreme Court, and his brain hasn’t even been scrambled by concussions. [Bloomberg]

* “If I’d come up with it, I’d probably be proud of it.” If this Georgia lawyer had used the “my client is too handsome for rape” defense, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a conviction. [Daily Report (reg. req.)]

* A few weeks ago, we wrote about the best law schools for making money. Since then, the rankings were revised due to error. Where does your school stand now? We’ll chat about this today. [Forbes]

* “[L]awyers aren’t retiring or dying nearly fast enough for us to fill their spots.” Perhaps statements like this about the job market wouldn’t be so prevalent if U.S. News told pre-law applicants the truth. [NPR]

* Law students will call you out for your behavior, even if you’re a police officer This one is suing the NYPD for false arrest after questioning their food truck tactics. We’ll have more on this later. [New York Post]

* A Minnesota court ruled that it is not a crime to encourage people to commit suicide. So… keep commenting assholes, just know that you’ll feel really bad if I do it. [Gawker]

* I might be in the market for a used car, and I’m hoping to get a really good deal on one of these “recalled” GMs. I hope the DOJ doesn’t screw up my plans. [Reuters Legal]

* Speaking of cars, Alan Dershowitz calls for vigorous prosecution of reckless drivers. I call for vigorous prosecution of any box-blocking suburbanite who drives around Manhattan on a Saturday like they’re cruising to the country fair. [ABA Journal]

* Alabama thinks that people over 70 should be excused from jury duty. YES, they deserve to be excused and I hope they burn in Hell! [WSJ Law Blog]

* Narc is the new tattletale. [Simple Justice]

* Are you an IP lawyer, especially a patent litigator? Here’s a symposium you should consider attending (featuring ATL columnist Gaston Kroub). [Markman Advisors]

* Speaking of conferences, who wants to hang out with Lat in Las Vegas? Read on for details (plus video)….

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Belle Knox

I want to be a women’s rights or civil rights lawyer. Maybe start a foundation for sex workers.

– Belle Knox, the Duke undergraduate student currently working as a porn star to fund her studies, commenting on her aspirations to become a lawyer. No word yet on whether she plans continue to filming porn flicks during law school.

Whenever the government gets involved with “helping” students suffering under crushing debt obligations, I wonder if “the government” even partially understands how students think.

There is a new proposal in the budget that would bring significant changes to the student loan forgiveness program. Specifically, the “Public Sector Loan Forgiveness” program. Currently, students with massive amounts of debt can sign up for income-based repayment of their student loans. Their payments are capped at 10% of “discretionary” income. If they work in the public sector or for a designated non-profit, the government forgives the rest of their loans after ten years. For those playing along at home, that means that taxpayers pick up the rest of the bill.

Critics on both sides of the aisle (including me) argue that the current system encourages schools to charge whatever they want for tuition, while discouraging students from making cost-conscious choices about their debt. It’s far from ideal, and this new proposal seeks to do something about it.

But since Congress is involved, the thing they want to do to “fix it” is stupid and will ultimately hurt student borrowers even more….

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A few days ago, Elie Mystal wrote about recent allegations of racist student conduct at the UCLA School of Law. I invite readers unfamiliar with the background to catch up by reading Elie’s post and, if you’ve the stomach for it, some of the many comments on his post. (It’s okay. I’ll wait.)

UCLA Dean Rachel Moran called for a police investigation. She alerted the student body. She agreed to meet with student leaders. From all I can see, the law school administration has so far handled the events appropriately. The official response balances the risk of dismissing the allegations or their importance with the risk of over-reacting and potentially polarizing the campus further.

I disagree with much of Elie’s criticism of the law school as a whole, as I disagreed with him about the Team Sanders situation at UCLA last fall.

Still, I didn’t originally want to write about UCLA this week. I drafted a post on another topic, in fact. But something about the UCLA situation, Elie’s post, and, perhaps most of all, the responses from many readers gnawed away at me. It hurt my heart. And when the desiccated husk that passes for my world-weary heart hurts, there’s usually something to it . . . .

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It started with “Team Sander.” In November, we told you that some students at UCLA Law School started wearing T-shirts in support of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose scholarship is racially divisive. Some people argued that the shirts were not racially motivated, and even some of my colleagues argued that they needed to “know more” about the intentions behind the shirts before they started calling people racist.

Well… now we know more, and “racist” seems like the only appropriate way to describe at least some students at UCLA Law. Now the question becomes: does the law school administration give a crap?

Read on for the disturbing allegations….

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Recently, a group of Harvard Law professors released the results of their survey of 124 attorneys from 11 large firms, asking what courses Harvard students ought to take to prepare for Biglaw practice. Overall, financial courses such as accounting, financial reporting, and corporate finance, topped the list, as noted by Will Baude over at the Volokh Conspiracy. But the study got me thinking: what courses should lawyers interested in starting a practice — either directly after law school or a few years down the road — study in law school?

If you ask this question of solos or consultants, most will argue that law schools need to teach business-type classes like how to write a business plan or how to market a law practice. And while law schools should certainly make those classes available to interested students, I don’t view them as imperative. Let’s face it, most of this material isn’t rocket-science (high school dropouts open successful businesses, after all), and the web offers a bottomless treasure trove of this type of information. (As an aside, one of my personal faves is Canvarise, a one-page template that pulls together all of the elements of a traditional business plan).

Nor do I believe that substantive courses — bankruptcy, family law, immigration, copyright — are all that important. Substantive law is state-specific, so it’s tough to teach and it’s always changing. What you learn as a second-year law student may no longer be valid a few years down the road. Plus, it’s not difficult to pick up the basics of a new practice area on the fly. Think about it: most students studying for the bar gain a quick understanding of as many as 25 different substantive practice areas in a summer. No reason the same isn’t true in practice.

In my view, law students should focus on studying and acquiring the kinds of skills that aren’t easily found or readily mastered in practice. With that as a guide, here’s my top five list of classes that will help prepare students for solo practice…

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Are porn stars’ rights deserving of strict scrutiny?

[W]hat I ask for is simple. I, like all other sex workers, want to be treated with dignity and respect. I want equal representation under the law and within societal institutions. I want people to acknowledge our humanity.

Lauren A., a freshman at Duke University, defending her decision to perform in pornography to fund her education. In her personal manifesto, posted on xoJane, she rejects her categorization as a “bimbo” and a “whore,” and envisions a world in which sex workers will enjoy the equal protection of the laws.

I think we’ve all noticed how invested the legal academy is in telling us that they produce “practice ready” graduates. But there is scant research on what actually makes one “practice ready” versus “effectively useless.” Some law deans tell us that clinics and “experiential learning” are particularly important. But are they? Or is that just a nice line you can use to fleece prospective law students who don’t know any better?

A new Harvard study takes a look at what law school classes actually helped graduates once they got into Biglaw. I know, I know, every school outside of the top 20 is now screaming about how “there’s more than BIGLAW, stupid Elie.” But if there are schools that just want to ADMIT that they’re not preparing their students for Biglaw jobs that they’re never going to get, please feel free to ignore the lessons of this study. For everybody else who wants to pretend that their students have a reasonable chance at taking the jobs with the highest salaries, there’s some interesting stuff here…

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