Law School Admissions

Who doesn’t love a good typo? We certainly do here at Above the Law (which is why we make so many; we’re just trying to amuse you — and to test the proofreading skills of the commenters).

Typos can be quite funny, especially when committed by leading law firms. As long as they don’t hurt your clients by costing them millions, they generally amount to harmless fun.

Everyone knows that typos happen — like a certain other thing. Which brings us to today’s caption contest….

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Linear extrapolations are widely suspected of being unreliable, but maybe not widely enough. Stated differently, it’s a category error to engage in static, not dynamic, analysis. Stated yet differently, the interesting challenge is almost never to ask, “What can we do to solve this problem?” but instead, “What happens after we take this approach to solving the problem?”

Here’s an example. A long-running contributor to structural disequilibrium in the metropolitan New York traffic congestion pattern is that bridges across the East River are toll-free, whereas almost all other bridges and tunnels in the area carry tolls as high as $12 one-way. Not surprisingly, the East River bridges are chronically congested and “over capacity.” (The experts’ knowing diagnosis that they’re “over capacity” always amuses me; drivers are paying in time, not money: The “capacity” of the bridges is what it always has been.) So periodically proposals are floated to impose tolls on these bridges, with seemingly reliable projections of how much revenue would be collected based on today’s vehicle traffic multiplied by the average toll.

This is a linear extrapolation, a static analysis, and it’s wrong. It overlooks the question, “How will people alter their behavior in light of the tolls?” Obviously, the answer is that some will carpool, some will take mass transit, some will telecommute more often, some will use different combinations of bridges and tunnels. Whatever happens, toll revenue will fall short of {[today's traffic volume] x [proposed toll]}.

Now, in law school land, we have a stunning example of market dynamics at work….

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Justice Ginsburg: a full-service wedding provider.

Ed. note: We’ll return to our normal publication schedule on Monday, December 2. We hope to see you at our holiday happy hour on Thursday, December 5 — for details and to RSVP (to this free event with an open bar), click here.

* Even in a post-nuclear world, Republicans can still block certain judicial nominees. [New York Times]

* A prominent Toronto lawyer has gone missing — and so, allegedly, has $3 million in client trust funds. [Toronto Star]

* Dewey see legal fees in the future for Stephen DiCarmine and Joel Sanders? Well, multimillion-dollar lawsuits won’t dismiss themselves. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.); Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Congratulations to Matthew Layton, the new managing partner of Clifford Chance. [The Lawyer]

* And congratulations to Ralph Pellecchio and Jim Wernz, who were married by none other than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who even helped them write their vows. [Talking Points Memo]

Harry Potter: guilty!

* Sure, let’s have the whole “is now a good time to go to law school?” debate again. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Especially if you’re a minority, since white people are losing interest in law school. [Am Law Daily]

* Congress can’t even get its act together about real guns, so perhaps it’s no surprise that limits on fake guns are set to expire soon. [New York Times]

* Harry Potter was convicted of obstruction of justice. Just because you’re a wizard doesn’t mean you’re above the law. [Daily Utah Chronicle]

During an appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio, Tom Hanks was asked what profession he would not like to try. His answer: “A lawyer. That’s doing homework for a living.” I still think that’s the most accurate one-sentence description of the practice of law. Being a lawyer isn’t about soaring rhetoric or intellectual polemics. It’s about organization and attention to detail. It’s about paperwork, really high-level paperwork and research.

If you don’t like doing homework, you’re not going to like going to law school or practicing law. Certainly, if you don’t like doing your own paperwork, you’re going to hate doing it for somebody else. So when tipsters alerted us to this guy from Craigslist who is trying to hire someone to help him with the boring paperwork of applying to law school, I just wonder which episode of Suits made him think that he’d make a good lawyer….

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* Affirmative action is again being put to the test before the Supreme Court, but this time, we’re not so sure the justices will punt the ball like last time. The countdown to one of Elie’s epic rants on race in America starts in 3, 2, 1… [National Law Journal]

* The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is open for business, but the government shutdown has pretty much brought work at both the International Trade Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to a complete standstill. May they live to fight patent trolls another day. [Corporate Counsel]

* Good news, everyone! Many Biglaw firms have changed the way they make their real estate and office space decisions, primarily because “maintaining profitability has become very challenging.” [GlobeSt.com]

* Here’s another list of the law schools where you can get the most bang for your buck — except it neglects to mention what percentage of the class responded to these salary questions. Oops! [PolicyMic]

* Just saying, but if you’re applying to a law school on an early decision basis, it’s helpful if you actually want to go to that law school above all others. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

Ed. note: This is the latest post in our series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes.

We know that law school applications are down, but how are the rest of the numbers looking for the class of 2016? Which schools experienced the most dramatic shrinkage in class size? How have LSAT scores and GPAs changed for the T14 vs. the T100? Which schools defied the downward spiral and actually experienced an increase in class size?

Check out our infographic, after the jump.

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Law school rejection letters have been sent to even the best of us, and most are quick to pick up their bruised egos and call it a day. But there are others out there who are unable to move on with their lives. Their dreams have been crushed, and they want nothing more than to exact revenge against the admissions dean who destroyed their imagined future in the only way they know how: by pointing out the dean’s grammatical and typographical errors in the rejection letter itself, and in other academic works found online.

If you’re wondering what correspondence like that would look like, wonder no more, because we got our hands on it, and boy, is it entertaining…

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In a way, I think the schools ranked just below the top schools have felt the decline in law school applications the most. Schools ranked in the top 50, but not the top 15, foolishly charge comparable rates to the very best institutions, but they can’t provide the same kind of employment outcome success as the very top schools. Students either go to the top schools that maybe they couldn’t have gotten into in a more competitive pool of applicants, or they go to get significant cost savings (and maybe a full scholarship) at less prestigious, local schools.

You’d think that the very bottom schools would be hurt the most by the decline in applications, but the Cooley model shows us that the people who don’t do well on tests but are desperate to go to law school are still applying, while there appears to be a brain drain in terms of the most qualified applicants.

The choice for law deans just outside the top tier seems to be to cut class size or massively lower admissions standards. I’d argue that there’s a third option: deans could actually compete on price and start charging a reasonable tuition for legal education. But that option might actually start to solve the problem, and right now deans think that prospective law students not acting like idiots is a temporary condition that they just have to ride out.

Earlier this month, we talked about George Washington’s decision to lower admission standards in order to keep class size high. Today we’ve got a similarly ranked school that has evidently decided to go in the opposite direction — in a big way….

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In this age of plummeting law school applications, many deans must make difficult choices. They must sacrifice one of two things they love dearly: tuition dollars or their U.S. News ranking. It’s the legal academy’s version of Sophie’s Choice.

As fewer people apply to law school, deans have basically two options: they can shrink the size of the entering class, which reduces tuition revenue, or they can keep the size of the entering class the same, which results in credential dilution — a student body with lower LSAT scores and GPAs. Credential dilution can lead to a tumble in the closely watched U.S. News rankings, which can further reduce applications, setting in motion a vicious cycle.

So far, most schools seem to have opted for shrinkage. Most deans would prefer to be able to claim that they are taking a “stand for quality,” as Dean Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall recently stated.

(Yes, we recently covered one exception. But to paraphrase Chinatown, “Forget it, Jake — it’s Cooley.”)

Interestingly enough, however, one top law school seems to be going in the other direction. It’s actually increasing the size of its incoming class over last year, even if doing so might lead to credential dilution….

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The law school brain drain is in full effect. Applications from Ivy League graduates are down, and applications are down in general. Last week, my colleague Elie Mystal described the troubling predicament like so: “[T]he students with the best ‘logical reasoning skills’ as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.” That being the case, how have top law schools responded to the less than impressive talent pool? By doing the same thing they’ve always done.

Despite the fact that some of the most well-qualified students are fleeing the law school application game like rats from a sinking ship, T14 law schools are still attracting rather competitive applicants. Unlike the law schools that would reportedly consider admitting applicants with sub-145 LSAT scores, top schools would never deign to lower their elite standards — well, at least not by that much.

While it’s still difficult to get into a top law school, it’s not quite as difficult as it used to be before the bottom fell out from the entry-level employment market. What do top law schools’ LSAT scores look like now compared to three years ago? Let’s take a look…

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