J. Reuben Clark Law School

Lat here. Tomorrow is a big day. First, April 15 is Tax Day; we hope that you’ve filed your return — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of. Second, it’s the deposit deadline at various law schools. We hope that you’ve made up your mind — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of.

Just kidding. Here at Above the Law, where we are sometimes critical of the value proposition of legal education, I’m the designated defender of law schools. I write stories with titles like In Defense Of Going To Law School and Go To Law School: What Else Are You Going To Do With Yourself? I also compile and disseminate law school success stories. We are not uniformly opposed to law school here at ATL; we just want people to make informed decisions.

Helping people make informed decisions is the goal of our popular column called The Decision. We field queries from prospective law students choosing between different schools, offer them advice, and ask ATL readers to weigh in as well.

Now, on to today’s scenarios. We’ve titled them “Jersey Boys” and “The Book of Mormon,” for reasons that will soon become apparent….

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I’m about to show you a train wreck. Feel free to laugh as this would-be summer associate impales himself with his own questions.

But I’m not showing you this just for the lulz. This is a public service, a teachable moment for everybody who doesn’t know the line between “effective networking” and “annoying striver”….

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Nothing illustrates the way religion can warp the normal function of rational thought quite like the National Jurist’s “most devout law schools” rankings. If you are a person of faith, that’s fine. Mazel tov. And if you want to find new and exciting ways to mingle your religious beliefs with our secular laws, that’s fine too. I mean, I’ll do what I can to oppose you, but in America we must be comfortable with difference.

But picking a law school based on its piety seems pretty dumb. For one thing, law schools should be teaching, you know, laws and stuff. What you do with that knowledge is your own choice, but it seems to me that people should want the best education they can get, and then apply that education to the causes and issues that move them. Why go to Regent Law if you can go to Vanderbilt Law and then advocate for your theocracy from a position of greater strength?

The second problem is that picking a law school because it has some kind of “mission” beyond helping you become a good and employed lawyer seems like a path to pain. But that will become obvious as we actually look at the National Jurist’s list.

In any event, onward Christian lawyers…

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“You are not just individuals. You are the Michigan Law School Class of 2016, and you will always be a member of that class. And it’s not just a class: It’s an idea, a tradition, a tie to something greater than you.”

Mark West, the new dean of the University of Michigan Law School

You can learn a lot about a law school by how they greet their incoming students. The famous Paper Chase quote — “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year” — pretty much tells you all you need to know about Harvard Law School, or at least how it would like to see itself. If Dean West’s prodigious statements appeal to you, Michigan Law might be more your cup of tea. West continued: “You are not here to get your degree, and not simply to learn to ‘think like a lawyer’ or even merely to learn how to be a lawyer. You are here — at Michigan — to develop a lifelong association with all that is here. There will never be another time like this for you.”

Conquering heroes all, no doubt. Champions of the West.

Other law schools don’t take themselves nearly so seriously, but they all think their entering class of 2016 is pretty special. And they are. These are the kids who decided to go to law school when, historically speaking, everybody told them it was a bad idea. The class of 2016 is either the most motivated in history or the people most resistant to information and statistics in a generation.

Let’s look at how their own law schools describe them….

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As we mentioned yesterday, on-campus interview season has started at law schools all across the land. We’re happy to serve as your one-stop shopping center for all things OCI. Just send us an email (subject: “OCI”) about the things going on at your school that deserve more attention.

Today’s news is on the funny side. It appears that the wild and crazy kids from BYU Law are taking the stress of OCI in stride….

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Law school isn’t a bad choice or financially ruinous choice for everybody — just for many people.

Given the state of the legal economy, it sometimes feels like law schools are pumping out two classes of law students. The first blessed group of people can follow a “traditional” path to financial security: summer at a Biglaw firm, get an offer, work there for a few years while paying off debt, etc.

The other group consists of the law school have-nots. They didn’t get Biglaw summer associate offers because the supply of legal jobs has contracted while the number of available law students has increased. The “secondary” or “local” markets aren’t hiring either. Public interest work doesn’t quite pay the bills. Nobody is coming to interview them 3L year. They are members of the Lost Generation.

There are, of course, more law school have-nots than there are lucky ones. That’s just the way of things. But law schools tend to trumpet the few stories of success while ignoring the many stories of distress.

We’ve talked about all of this before, of course. But today we have an interesting opportunity to take a peek inside the head of a successful candidate — and see just how myopic his worldview is. And we can look at the thoughts of a have-not — and see just how bitter he’s become.

Below are two emails. One came from a summer associate at Cravath, raving about his wonderful, awesome world. The other is a response written by a rising 3L describing his no good, very bad employment prospects….

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Bow down before the most popular.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a seemingly endless stream of law school rankings. For example:

If you thought that rankings fatigue would set in at some point, think again. Every new set of law school rankings, no matter how arbitrary or methodologically suspect, generates buzz and massive web traffic. The message that readers are sending to publishers: MOAR LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS.

Publishers are hearing it, loud and clear. U.S. News, the kings of the rankings game, just released a new rank-ordered list: the 10 most popular law schools.

How do they define “most popular law school”? And is your law school or alma mater one of them? Some of the schools on the list might surprise you….

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