Michigan State University College of Law

We’re now in year two of the Michigan “let’s make the bar exam more difficult” plan. In 2012, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners changed the weight it gives to the essay questions, with the goal of producing lawyers with a better understanding of state law. I don’t know, there are probably all sorts of things that don’t apply to automakers in Michigan that you’d never see on the Multistate section.

This makes the bar more difficult and more stupid at the same time. It’s harder to answer an essay question than a multiple choice event where you can make an educated guess, but it’s also dumber to administer a “standardized” test that relies heavily on the individual tastes of essay graders.

In any event, the results from the July 2012 bar exam were predictably horrific. Only 55% of test takers passed the July 2012 test. Cooley totally embarrassed itself, even by Cooley standards, with only 42% of test takers from that school passing.

This year, 60% of test takers passed the July 2013 Michigan Bar. So that’s better, though still pretty rough. Cooley, again, covered itself in glory by posting a 43% pass rate. But all the law schools have complained about Michigan’s new, harder exam.

And the Michigan BOLE doesn’t care. Law schools in Michigan better raise their game, because the game ain’t changing….

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* At MSU Law, a couple of law professors are getting serious about figuring out how to leverage technology in the profession. They envision making legal hiring into “Moneyball” with MSU Law representing Oakland. So they plan to raise false hopes and ultimately fail too? [Lansing State Journal]

* A real estate attorney is hosting a boot camp to train slumlords. Yay? [SF Gate]

* If you never thought electing state judges was a matter of life and death, read this. [Huffington Post]

* Here’s a fun one: Should TheDirty.com be liable for encouraging readers to submit gossip? Our old friend Sarah Jones hopes so. [Forbes]

* The Steubenville rape case is back in the news after a grand jury has indicted four school officials for covering up the school’s infamous rape. [Jezebel]

* A couple of former Harvard Law roommates have a fashion startup called ShopRagHouse that allows customers to design their own clothes. They’re seeking some additional funding for their next collection with a Kickstarter campaign now. [Kickstarter]

* If you’re in New York and interested about legal careers in banking, swing by the Fordham Law amphitheater tonight from 6 to 8 for a free panel discussion featuring representatives from some of the largest banks in the world hosted by the Chinese Business Lawyers Association. [Eventbrite]

I’m not going to lie, these are quickly becoming my favorite columns to write every year.

For approximately 364 days a year, law school deans are free to tell us how great their schools are without being forced to provide any data to support their claims of being the best law school for whatever. But one day, each law school must confront the stark reality of their U.S. News law school ranking. They can disparage the rankings, get angry at the rankings, or boast about the rankings (if they’re lucky). But deans ignore the rankings at their own peril.

And so some deans are forced to address their schools’ poor rankings. They are free to spin things however they want, but for one day, they’re not operating in a vacuum. There is an objective fact that is just a little bit beyond their powers of self-reporting manipulation.

It’s a fun day….

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The U.S. News 2014 Law School ranking should be leaked sometime this evening (check back in with Above the Law and we’ll post it when we get it) and will be officially released sometime tomorrow.

Each year the U.S. News list is met with criticism, primarily from schools that do not do well in the rankings. Usually law schools wait until the rankings are out before they start bitching and making excuses. But this year one law school started complaining about the rankings first thing Monday morning, before the official list is even published.

I guess they know something we don’t.

The criticisms would be a little more on point if this law school took a real reformist approach to legal education. Instead, they’re doing the same things everybody else is doing, only not quite as well…

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Last month, in the inaugural post in our series of Law School Success Stories, we focused on the theme of “the value of thrift.” We outlined a “low risk” approach to law school, profiling happy law school graduates who secured their law degrees without going into excessive debt — under $50K upon graduation, which is the recommendation of Professor Brian Tamanaha, author of a new book (affiliate link) about reforming legal education.

Today we’re going to cover the flip side: the “high risk, high reward” approach to legal education. In some ways this is a dangerous theme. The promise of Biglaw bucks is the siren song that leads many to crash on the rocks of joblessness and crippling debt (as Will Meyerhofer discussed earlier today).

Some law schools clearly exaggerate the ability of a legal education to increase a person’s career prospects and earning potential. But for some subset of law students, however small, law school does turn out to be a golden ticket. Their numbers might be inflated, but they do exist. Law school has allowed these individuals to increase their incomes dramatically. And — shocker! — many of these J.D. holders actually enjoy their lucrative new jobs.

Read about a young woman who went from being a secretary to having a secretary — along with a six-figure paycheck. Meet a young man with a rather unmarketable undergraduate degree who now, thanks to law school, makes bank in New York City.

Here’s another way of describing today’s success stories: “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”

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It is no secret that electronic discovery is not exactly fun or glamorous work. Entry-level associates who have to do document review almost universally hate it. But how important is it, really? Can one deny that e-discovery has become a crucial part of the litigation system?

Has it become important enough to merit its own class in law school? At least one Midwestern law professor thinks so. Read about his plan to integrate it into his law school, and let us know your opinion in our reader poll

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From time to time, we have an opportunity to opine on LL.M. programs. I think they’re pretty much all worthless (tax LL.M. notwithstanding), but law schools make a lot of money from offering the programs.

There’s a whole industry involved in making you think that just about any LL.M. degree can help you in your career. And, if you don’t already have a job, you want to believe that there’s something simple you can do to improve your situation. Hey, it only costs money.

In the battle between common sense and greedy law schools, desperate job seekers are the losers. But let this be our final battle. If anybody signs up for this proposed LL.M. program, we can officially say that law schools can sell anything….

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Every so often, law schools are caught unprepared. Not just by a suddenly soft employment market or by weak practical training offerings, but sometimes the appearance of the hot sun itself can throw your average law school administration for a loop.

I’m not joking. Hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for tuition does not buy you a classroom with adaptable climate control!

We’ve seen it before at Cardozo and NYU. And now that we’re seeing some unseasonably warm temperatures, we’ve got another law school which is powerless to counterbalance the sun.

Instead, the law school seems to be offering some training to help law students cope with the weather….

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Kyle McEntee (left) and Patrick Lynch (right), co-founders of Law School Transparency (LST).

Late last year, plaintiffs’ lawyer David Anziska pledged to make 2012 “the year of law school litigation.” Anziska, who’s currently spearheading efforts to sue law schools over allegedly misleading employment statistics, told my colleague Staci Zaretsky that he and his team members “want to sue as many law schools as we can to bring them into the fray.”

That’s all well and good — for plaintiffs’ lawyers, and for news outlets like ours seeking juicy stories to cover. But there are other ways to achieve reform. So here’s another thought: Could 2012 instead be the year of law school transparency? Transparency achieved voluntarily, by law schools coming forward on their own to share comprehensive data about how their graduates are faring in the job market?

In the weeks since we wrote about the University of Chicago Law School providing very detailed employment data about its recent graduating classes, based on our interview with Dean Michael Schill, we’ve heard from deans, professors, alumni and students of other law schools, all with similar messages. They believe that their schools, like Chicago, are also transparent about graduate employment outcomes — and they want to be recognized for it.

This chorus of “me too!” messages raises a promising possibility: Is law school transparency becoming, for lack of a better word, “cool”? Will honesty about employment data become the hot new trend for U.S. legal education?

Perhaps. But there’s still a long way to go, as shown by a report issued this week by Law School Transparency….

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* A federal judge in Kansas has given Planned Parenthood’s Abortionplex a new lease on life. [WSJ Law Blog]

* What? A former Supreme Court clerk who got passed over for a job at a law school? Nicholas Spaeth, who’s also the former state attorney general for North Dakota, is suing the Michigan State University College of Law, for age discrimination. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times via SBM Blog]

* Interesting thoughts from Scott Greenfield on making executions public. I certainly don’t oppose more-comprehensive coverage of the criminal justice system in general. [Simple Justice]

* Elsewhere in criminal justice news, should prisons be run on a voucher system? Dan Markel offers some thoughts on Sasha Volokh’s interesting proposal. [PrawfsBlawg]

* An interesting profile of Alan Gura, the celebrated Second Amendment litigator, by a fellow small-firm lawyer, Nicole Black. [The Xemplar]

* Hopefully this will all become moot after a deal gets done, but remember the Fourteenth Amendment argument for Obama unilaterally raising the debt ceiling? Jeffrey Rosen thinks a lawsuit against Obama would get kicked for lack of standing — or might even prevail. [New Republic]

* But Orin Kerr believes that a recent SCOTUS case might change the analysis. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Howrey going to pay all the creditors? A lot turns on how some contingency-fee cases turn out, according to Larry Ribstein. [Truth on the Market]

* From in-house to the big house: former general counsel Russell Mackert just got sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for his role in a fraud scheme. [Corporate Counsel]

* Keep It Simple: a commendable theme for Blawg Review #313. [Patent Baristas via Blawg Review]

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