Law School Applications

Amanda Knox

* “The multimillion dollar question is: Is it going to happen and for how long?” Surprisingly, health care attorneys from large firms are being quite blasé about the Congressional battle over Obamacare. [Blog of Legal Times]

* The 2013 Global 100 is out, and with an 8.6 percent growth in revenue, DLA Piper was able to really show the world the benefits of churning that bill, baby! We’ll have more on this news later today. [American Lawyer]

* This is getting exhausting: Dentons, the three-way merger product of SNR Denton (a merger product itself), Salans, and Fraser Milner Casgrain, is in talks with McKenna Long & Aldridge for yet another merger. [Am Law Daily]

* The director of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s enforcement unit will be stepping down to spend time more with family. The countdown until he returns to Skadden Arps starts now. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Ted Olson and David Boies, perhaps more commonly known these days as the gay marriage dream team, will be working together to challenge Virginia’s ban on marriage equality. [National Law Journal]

* Should law school be two years long? Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency (3 points) is beating the pants off Northwestern’s dean (-4 points) in this debate. [Debate Club / U.S. News & World Report]

* If you’re still considering applying for law school despite all of the warnings seen here and elsewhere, then you’ll probably want to follow this advice. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* The Italian Court of Appeal is retrying Amanda Knox of a crime she’s already been convicted and acquitted of, and the chances she’ll be extradited if convicted again are slim to none. Buon lavoro. [CNN]

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case will look at the constitutionality of Michigan’s 2006 ballot initiative to ban affirmative action in public university decisions. I can’t wait for John Roberts to blithely declare an end to racial struggle in Michigan the same way he decided it was okay for North Carolina to be racist again, because racism is over in the South.

Not that Roberts cares about pesky things like facts, but the facts on the ground in Michigan since the state’s ballot initiative show that without affirmative action, minority enrollment has plummeted. At the University of Michigan, minority enrollment at the college and the law school is down 30 percent.

Now, I know a lot of conservatives will respond to that number with “so?” I get that there are entire swaths of America that could give a crap if minorities are going to public universities or not. I’m sure the hatred for “undeserving” minorities will be well expressed in the comments.

Those people aren’t running the University of Michigan, however. The people running Michigan would like to admit a diverse group of students, and the state’s ballot initiative has clearly hampered that effort. For that law school, it’s a very complicated problem, because as we’ve been reporting, law school applications are down across the board, and that includes minority applicants….

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Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He’s currently sharing some of his thoughts about legal education and other topics here on Above the Law.

I was recently befuddled about some information I had been given. That happens. I was inspired by my own momentary confusion to write this blog post. It made me realize how much raw data has to be sorted through to achieve transparency.

Perhaps the most important aspect of training in argumentation, which constitutes the bulk of the first year of law school, is learning how to frame issues. A skilled advocate comes to understand early on that the party who is able to define the question to be asked has already determined the answer that will be given. It is more than mere semantics.

Laypeople tend to regard lawyers as sophists, because they — the lawyers — are so concerned about accuracy and precision. Lawyers may even distinguish between “accuracy” and “precision.” Lawyers do not assume that everyone has exactly the same concepts in mind even if they are participating in a single conversation together, because the essential “meeting of the minds” is elusive. They also appreciate the consequences of sloppiness.

Allow me to offer an example…

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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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Sorry, SCOTUS.

* A study revealed that almost half of all links in online Supreme Court opinions are dead, but at least internet pranksters like this guy have been given a chance in the spotlight. [New York Times]

* CHECK YOU [BLACKBERRIES] OFTEN, because firms like Shearman & Sterling, McCarthy Tétrault, Skadden Arps, and Torys will advise on the ancient technology’s private sale. [Am Law Daily]

* We hope this IPO isn’t imported from Detroit. Chrysler filed a prospectus with the SEC yesterday with the help of attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Paul Bergrin, more commonly known as the “Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” was handed a life sentence yesterday. At least he’ll have street cred with his gen pop friends. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* If you’re still thinking of applying to law school now, you must be the kind of person who needs advice on how to go to college and fill out applications, all at the same time. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann Levine shares some advice on the law school application process.

1. Asking for fee waivers from schools

Law schools need applications: with application numbers down significantly over the past few years, recruiting the limited number of qualified applicants is a huge concern for most law schools. They need to keep their number of overall applicants high, and their number of admitted students as low as possible. A major strategy for accomplishing this is to offer free applications to some, or even all, applicants. Some schools are offering free applications before a certain date, and some will email you if you meet the pre-determined criteria through the Candidate Referral Service (which you can subscribe to through your LSAC account). You can also obtain application fee waivers by attending a law school fair or LSAC Forum, or simply by asking for them.

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

* The death toll of the latest mass shooting at the Navy Yard is 13 (including the gunman, military contractor Aaron Alexis), and people are rallying for stricter gun control laws before we’ve even had time to mourn. When will we ever learn? [New York Times]

* Today is Constitution Day, and Justice Antonin Scalia would like to remind you to celebrate — except if you think it’s a living document. If that’s the case, you can just “[f]ugget about the Constitution,” because that thing is dead, baby. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Please sir, we want some more! The Judiciary Conference has been forced to plea poverty to President Barack Obama due to its teeny tiny itsy bitsy post-sequestration budget. [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Congrats to Kimberley Leach Johnson, the first woman to climb to the very top of the ladder at Quarles & Brady. That makes her the only eighth woman currently leading a Biglaw firm. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* And congrats to Matt Johnson, outgoing chief counsel to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), on his return to the private sector. He’ll be taking his talents to the lobbying firm, McBee Strategic Consulting. [The Hill]

* From second career choices to no career choices: if you want to go to law school after working in another field, you should consider if it will help or hinder your applications. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Even at the top of the in-house food chain, women lawyers are still paid less than their male counterparts. But hey, at least they’re not being forced to cry poverty like their in-house staff attorney brethren. [Corporate Counsel]

* Neil Barofsky, the former King of TARP in the United States, is making the move to Jenner & Block, specifically because as opposed to all other firms, “Jenner took the side of really getting to the truth of the matter.” [Reuters]

* Luxury fashion is fun: four Biglaw firms, including Cleary Gottlieb, Cravath, Torys, and Proskauer Rose, all took Tim Gunn’s mantra to heart to make it work for the $6 billion sale of Neiman Marcus. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* If you want to try some lawyer, we hear that they taste great when poached this time of year. Speaking of which, Troutman Sanders just reeled in three attorneys from Hunton & Williams. [Richmond BizSense]

* Law schools in the Dakotas are renovating their buildings in the hope of enrolling more students. Luckily, South Dakota has that sweet indentured servitude plan. [Prairie Business; National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re thinking of applying to law school, here’s a plan of attack for the month of September. That’s right, friends, you can start gunning right now! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Are you ready for some tax law?! The NFL and other professional sports leagues might lose their nonprofit status if new tax reform legislation makes it through the House and the Senate. [Businessweek]

* “The situation is an absolute mess.” Last summer’s SCOTUS decision on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders has created a “legal limbo” for inmates. We hope they find suitable dance partners. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Even after you retire, you apparently still have to deal with the Cebullsh*t from your life on the bench. Former Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s misconduct review is likely heading to Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. [Great Falls Tribune]

* Woe unto them that call unpaid work fair: the Second Circuit quickly granted Fox Searchlight an appeal in the Black Swan unpaid intern case in the hope of offering some “much-needed guidance.” [Deadline]

* Which private law schools offer students the best value? Some unlikely contenders are named on this list, and some T14 schools even make appearances. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]

* GW wasn’t the only school that grew the size of its entering class (although it was the largest increase). William & Mary and Missouri-KC saw big gains, too. Yay, more lawyers! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re considering applying to law school, think about schools that have lowered their standards and are offering scholarship money like candy. Otherwise, here are some helpful hints. [Huffington Post]

* Henry Putzel Jr., former reporter of decisions at the Supreme Court, RIP. [Washington Post]

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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