North Carolina Central University Law School

A lot of ink is spilled over whether or not law schools are failing to produce “practice ready” lawyers. What does it mean to be practice ready? There really isn’t a great definition. I mean, do we want law students to walk out prepared to run their own firms? Argue before the Supreme Court? Draft a credit-default swap agreement from memory? Serve as a bankruptcy trustee? How much practical know-how should we demand our law schools instill?

That doesn’t really matter, “practice ready” looks great on a bumper sticker.

For my money, the phrase means lawyers prepared enough not to drool on their desks when a partner (or supervisor or judge) starts showing them the way they want their young lawyers to practice law. Because make no mistake, lawyers are always practice unready in the eyes of their employers until they do the job exactly the employers’ way. This is why clinics serve an important role in law schools. Not that 6 months of being a glorified paralegal builds a wealth of practical legal know-how, but because 6 months of trying to figure out how to deploy what you do happen to know to satisfy a demanding legal boss is the soul of being a junior lawyer.

To that end, there’s a new ranking of the top clinical programs in law schools with some surprising (or not, depending on your point of view) results….

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The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an “HBCU” as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” Out of 105 current HBCUs, five of them operate law schools: Howard University, Texas Southern University, Southern University, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina Central University. The University of the District of Columbia also enrolls a predominantly black student body, and is home to a law school, but it is not considered an official HBCU by the Higher Education Act of 1965 because it was formed after 1964.

These schools purport to fulfill a noble mission: opening the doors to the legal profession once shut by generations of racial oppression. They offer not only a distinctive purpose in admissions but also a distinctive experience for their students and faculty. Providing access to legal education to historically — and often contemporarily — disenfranchised black men and women is a laudable goal.

Do you know what else is a laudable goal? Getting those same men and women to pass the bar exam so that they can actually practice law. And there’s the rub….

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Ekaterina Rybolovleva: 'But daddy, I want an $88M apartment now!'

* No dowry, no problem: Dewey we have a suitor for this imploding Biglaw firm? Rumor has it that Greenberg Traurig was seen whispering sweet nothings into D&L’s ear about its possible interest. [Am Law Daily]

* BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has hired Milbank Tweed to work out a restructuring plan. Just think, maybe if your product didn’t suck so hard, you wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. [Reuters]

* Sex, money, and betrayal… it sounds like another failed TV series about lawyers on ABC, but in actuality, it’s just a preview of the John Edwards campaign finance trial set to begin this week. [Los Angeles Times]

* Technophobes beware, because this copyright battle over code is getting serious. Oracle v. Google turned into Larry v. Larry in court last week as the CEOs for both companies gave testimony. [Bits / New York Times]

* George Zimmerman thought he’d have to stay in jail longer because he was having trouble coming up with his bail money, but he was released in the dead of night. Bet he looked pretty suspicious. [CNN]

* “There are [fewer students] coming in and crying. I haven’t had a crier yet, which I have had in the past.” Given the legal hiring market, that’s a real accomplishment for a career services official. [Charlotte Observer]

* Who gives a sh*t? Not this Russian fertilizer tycoon. When you’re a billionaire, buying an $88M apartment for your kid is just a run-of-the-mill transaction. Come on, he’s not hiding his assets for his divorce. [Telegraph]

Of course this happened. Of course Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student who was famously tased during a John Kerry speech, ended up going to law school. Of course a law school looked at Meyer’s history of barely civil disobedience and resisting police and said, “Come on down.”

And really, Meyer’s story isn’t even the craziest law school matriculation story out there today. Not in a world where a 15-year-old kid is trying to figure out which law school he’s going to.

Which institutions of legal education are welcoming these students with non-traditional life stories?

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Is it really that hard to make a commencement speech? I wrote one in high school. It was basically about seizing the day. My friend made one in college. Same theme, only in Latin. You can also make commencement speeches about giving back to your community, the importance of education, or how your generation is the most awesome generation ever to be generated. It’s not hard, people.

And yet people consistently screw it up. Today we have two different ways that people can screw up a commencement speech — one example from an old person, one example from a young person. One example from a very good law school, one example from a school that isn’t ranked that highly.

Apparently, anybody can screw up a commencement address if they try hard enough….

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