We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books. Thirty years ago if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken.
This is the time of year, every year, where most of us pause and reflect a bit on the past year, the year ahead, and what really matters anyway (see, e.g., this guy). And with the horror and pain of last week still fresh, this need for reflection is bound to be more pronounced.
Many thoughtful people are urging serious reflection on the part of the legal industry about how to address its basic structural problems. Not to put too fine a point on it, but does anybody disbelieve that the industry — both its educational and professional wings — is facing a sort of existential crisis? As has been endlessly rehearsed here and elsewhere, the cost of legal education is, for most, completely, utterly out of whack with the potential ROI. And longstanding assumptions underlying the business model of law firms are being challenged by technological advances, commoditization, and the growth of LPOs.
One concept threading through any discussion of the legal industry is this nebulous thing called “prestige.” Generally speaking, lawyers as a group dislike uncertainty, and “prestige” serves as a sort of organizing principle, letting everyone know where they stand. For instance, the U.S. News “T14” shows no sign of ever being shaken up. And the Biglaw hive mind consistently orders firms in precise ways. The Vault rankings are remarkably stable from year to year, to such a degree unlikely to be attributable to some self-reinforcing cycle caused by the rankings themselves. An arbitrary and typical example: Schulte Roth, which came in at #77 overall in 2010, ranked 80, 77, 76, and 82 over the previous four years. Another: Alston & Bird, which came in at #55, ranked 57, 61, 59, and 57 over the same period.
But apart from its role as a social validator or organizer, this idea of “prestige” can be used as a dubious metric in driving some truly momentous decisions. Law students make hugely important career choices based on little else but the Vault and U.S. News rankings. Some law schools lie in order to game the U.S. News rankings. It is at least partially underlying Dewey & Leboeuf’s push to join the more rarefied ranks of the S&C’s and Cravath’s. (Meanwhile, the ATL commentariat goes beserk at the slightest whiff of “TTT” anywhere within its sights.)
After the jump, let’s hear from a couple disparate sources about the baleful effects of prestige-obsession on the legal industry, and then let’s have the Harvard guy defend it….
There’s been no small amount of discussion around here regarding the disconnect between the career and salary expectations of incoming law students and the majority of their post-graduation realities. Yet we are continually reminded that most 0L “research” consists of blind adherence to a single, arguably dubious data point, and nothing else.
However, there is reason to believe that some would-be law students are doing their due diligence and turning into won’t-be law students, but still, there continue to be of a hell of a lot of applicants at all levels, from “prestige whores” to “low hanging fruit.” Clearly, while we’ve no agenda aimed at discouraging folks from applying to law school per se, we do oppose uninformed and under-researched decisions to do so. The Law School Directory is an indispensable resource for aspiring law students willing to do their homework. (Which, based on some strong anecdotal evidence, we understand is a characteristic of successful actual law students.)
The ATL Law School Directory is to 0L-relevant data and information what the Ronco Veg-O-Matic is to vegetables (It Slices! It Dices!). You can sort law schools by a wide array of analyzing variables: employment outcomes, admissions criteria, top law firm employers, and much more, including the the results of our ongoing ATL Insider Survey, where current students and alumni rate the major aspects of the law school experience, from academics to social life.
So which are the best schools for Biglaw placement? Public interest placement? Clinical training? The Directory has the answers. After the jump, check out a sampling of our ratings tables, including the list of schools which are tops at losing track of their own alumni….
Are you a recent law school graduate searching for a job in a down economy? Do you hope to find a nontraditional position in the Great Midwest? Do you have an unconditional love for breakfast foods? If so, you need look no further, because Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis may be able to assist you with all of your employment needs.
As we know, IU Indy Law likes to keep it real — so real, in fact, that Dean Gary Roberts has preached that law students are idiots if they believe their salaries will be $140,000 right out of school. At odds with this tradition of realness, the second tier law school is offering its recent graduates what seems to be a prestigious, in-house opportunity.
The job listing in question touts: “It’s a good feeling to know someone is paying you for what you’re worth.” But unfortunately, at this law school, your J.D. is worth jack squat and a stack of waffles….
You'll bump into more black people at the Indiana State Fair than you will at the Indy Law atrium.
If you had told me at the beginning of the week that something happening at Indiana School of Law – Indianapolis would turn into a three-day Above the Law story, I would have said, “No dude, I’m not going to race-bait the Jews during Passover.”
But it turns out that my powers of racial inflammation were not needed for this Indy Law story. A student writing as “Invisible Man” managed to stoke racial passions at the school simply by finding reverse racism where few others could: in the banners hanging in the law school’s atrium. Indy Law Dean Gary Roberts found the student’s objection essentially incomprehensible, but we haven’t actually seen the law school atrium, to judge for ourselves just how oppressive these banners of black people might be to the white students that make up 80% of the Indy Law student body.
Until now. Finally, tipsters send us photos of the atrium banners, to put this whole controversy into perspective. I hope you brought your magnifying glasses to work today…
It would appear now that I was wrong. This is maybe just how Dean Roberts rolls, having the guts to tell the truth as he sees it to his own students.
Yesterday, we told you about the controversial email that someone calling himself “Invisible Man” sent to his fellow IndyLaw students. In the message, he claims he feels unwelcome at his law school because of three banners that prominently feature African-American law students. After our publication, the story made it around the internet, getting picked up by Jezebel and focusing people on a law school many were unfamiliar with.
Well, today Dean Roberts responded, and his message is pretty brilliant. And the copy is clean, so you can’t say I wrote it…
I think we’ve all seen law schools or law firms conduct a “diversity campaign” through extremely selective photography. There might be only four people of color at your law school, but you can best believe that all four of them will show up in the brochure for prospective students. Your 100-person law firm might have only two brothers who can show up to work without wearing a uniform, but both of those dudes will magically end up in a central position on the law firm website.
Everybody knows the game. Black people, brown people, women, and people in the majority all know what the PR department is trying to do. Back when I was in law school, there was this sister in a wheelchair who had Harvard photographers following her around like paparazzi.
I never thought of these attempts to represent through photography what cannot be achieved in reality to be particularly problematic. I never thought that over-representing minorities in law school brochures was painful or offensive to the overwhelming majority that would therefore be underrepresented in the pictures. I guess I thought that one of the benefits of being in the majority is that you don’t need a stupid PR photo shoot to make you feel like you might be able to get through school without being discriminated against.
But maybe I was wrong about all that. Maybe there really is one law student in Indiana who is ready to blow the lid off of a serious case of reverse racism that has just been staring us right in the face…
And now things get interesting. As we continue to run through the U.S. News 2012 law school rankings, we get to a crucial set of schools. The schools in this batch are certainly top tier, but they’re not “top 14″; for the most part, though, they charge like top 14 schools (especially the private ones).
So this is the batch of schools where we usually hear questions like: Should I go to this school at full price, or a much lower-ranked school for free? And our answer is usually, “How much lower-ranked are we talking about?”
The bottom line is that when people get into schools like Duke, or Penn, they are going to end up going to that school. But when people get into some of the schools on this list, they do seriously consider other options. Should I retake the LSAT, score better and apply again? How much financial aid am I getting? What’s the job market like in the [secondary market] this school is located in, just in case I get stuck there? Is it worth it to go into this much debt for a degree from that school?
These factors should come into play no matter which law school you get accepted to, but at this point on the U.S. News list, cost factors take on increased importance…
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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