Northeastern Law

I previously wrote about the depressing prospects for graduates of all but the top ten or twenty law schools (“Two Law Grad Markets”). And yes, these were statistical generalizations, and the experience of specific individuals with particular skills and backgrounds will always be different, pro and con. But as an industry, if you care about our supply chain for talent, many law schools are burning platforms.

There are actually some closely connected problems driving this dynamic:

  • More JDs are being turned out each year than there are (a) full-time, (b) long-term jobs, (c) requiring bar passage, (d) at current salary levels;
  • perhaps the primary reason for the mismatch between supply of JDs and current demand for them (about two supplied for every one today’s market is demanding) is that clients increasingly resist paying for junior associates, which makes it uneconomic for firms to invest in traditional training;
  • but/and at the same time, every sentient observer is painfully aware that vast segments of the U.S. population — consumers and businesses alike — remain underserved by lawyers.

This would prompt any economist to ask, almost instinctively, “Why isn’t there a market-clearing price where supply and demand can meet?” Which is another way of asking, “What if there were a way to address both these problems at a single stroke?”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: An Apprenticeship to Practice — That Works”

Today is the first day of April. You know what that means (besides April Fools’ Day jokes). It’s almost time for prospective law students, the future members of the class of 2017, to decide where they want to go to school.

Last month, the highly influential U.S. News law school rankings came out (and the Above the Law rankings are not far behind). There was a decent amount of movement among the schools this time around — and deans around the country went into spin mode, of course.

Also spinning: the heads of prospective law students. One of them, confused by the latest ups and downs in the rankings, reached out to us for advice on his choice….

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For those who are brilliant (and lucky) enough to get hired, being a law professor is a great job. You get to write and teach about interesting subjects. You get the summers off — yes, we know you have articles to work on, but you have total flexibility about your hours and location. You get to be a public intellectual, writing for newspaper op-ed pages and magazines. And you get paid well, too.

If you have an unusual personality, don’t sweat it. Legal academia is welcoming to sociopaths. And sadists, too.

If you enjoy inflicting pain on others, being a law prof is a great gig. Using the Socratic Method, you get to torture 1Ls — and many of them will eat it up. As a law professor, the winner of multiple teaching awards, once told me, “The students like it when you’re a hard-ass; they like to be challenged.”

Many law students don’t mind verbal victimization, but they’d probably draw the line at physical contact. Which brings us to a high-profile law professor who goes around sticking needles in people….

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Paul Cravath does not approve of this post.

Light years away and in the distant future, perhaps some alien grad student in Defunct Planet Studies will stumble onto the ATL archives. He’ll conclude, not unreasonably, that the legal industry was a sort of oligopoly. That there were only a handful of firms: Skadden, Cravath, Latham, Quinn Emanuel, Tannebaum Weiss, and those few others that get such a disproportionate amount of our attention. And of course, there were only 14 real law schools.

This singular obsession with “prestige,” this mindset that the most elite firms and schools are the only worthy ones, is detached from the experiences of the vast majority of lawyers practicing at the 50,000 other firms and the students at the 180+ other law schools. Back in December, we had a little debate about the effect of prestige in the legal industry. In the spirit of the “prestige obsession is bad” side of that argument, we thought it would be worthwhile to see which firms and schools outside of the very top tiers are, according to insiders, great places to work or learn.

Over the course of 2012, we received close to 10,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey, where lawyers rate their firms based on compensation, culture, morale, training, and culture, and students and alumni rate their schools based on academics, social life, clinical training, career services, and financial aid advising. Based on our survey, the most highly rated firms and schools also happened to among the most prestigious (e.g., Stanford, Davis Polk), but there is certainly not a correlation between prestige and insider rating.

After the jump, we’ll see which schools outside of the T14 and which firms outside the Vault 50 were rated the highest by their own people….

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Overworked and underpaid.

* “Why drag us into it?” Constitutional or not, it seems that not even the D.C. Circuit wants to deal with the political hot mess that’s been caused by President Barack Obama’s recess appointments. [National Law Journal]

* There’s something (allegedly) rotten in the state of Texas: Bickel & Brewer was booted from a multi-million dollar lawsuit due to accusations that the firm paid top dollar for insider information. [Dallas Morning News (sub. req.)]

* There are many more women in the legal profession these days than there were 40 years ago, but — surprise, surprise, here’s a shocker — they’re still getting paid less than their male counterparts. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* And here’s today’s opportunity to beat the horse that just won’t die. This law professor says he pities those who buy into the media’s law school scam narrative, while in reality, most would pity the many unemployed graduates of his law school. [Huffington Post]

* Here’s a protip for the February bar: don’t fake a disability to get extra time. Even if you end up passing, the bar examiners will find out and pretty much ruin your life. Just ask this UC Hastings Law grad. [Am Law Daily]

* “Also, you probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).” Umm, come on, were the Washington police officers who created this marijuana guidebook high? [CNN]

As Staci observed earlier this week, if law students took data into account, we’d be living in a different world. Today, in the interest of moving a bit closer to that sunnier, happier planet, we launch the latest component of our Career Center: The ATL Law School Directory.

There’s been no small amount of discussion around here regarding the disconnect between the career and salary expectations of incoming law students and the majority of their post-graduation realities. Yet we are continually reminded that most 0L “research” consists of blind adherence to a single, arguably dubious data point, and nothing else.

However, there is reason to believe that some would-be law students are doing their due diligence and turning into won’t-be law students, but still, there continue to be of a hell of a lot of applicants at all levels, from “prestige whores” to “low hanging fruit.” Clearly, while we’ve no agenda aimed at discouraging folks from applying to law school per se, we do oppose uninformed and under-researched decisions to do so. The Law School Directory is an indispensable resource for aspiring law students willing to do their homework. (Which, based on some strong anecdotal evidence, we understand is a characteristic of successful actual law students.)

The ATL Law School Directory is to 0L-relevant data and information what the Ronco Veg-O-Matic is to vegetables (It Slices! It Dices!). You can sort law schools by a wide array of analyzing variables: employment outcomes, admissions criteria, top law firm employers, and much more, including the the results of our ongoing ATL Insider Survey, where current students and alumni rate the major aspects of the law school experience, from academics to social life.

So which are the best schools for Biglaw placement? Public interest placement? Clinical training? The Directory has the answers. After the jump, check out a sampling of our ratings tables, including the list of schools which are tops at losing track of their own alumni….

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When the music stops, will your law school have a dean?

Earlier this year, we wrote about Jeremy Paul, the dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law.

UConn Law has dropped a number of spots in the U.S. News law school rankings over the past few years, and in March, Dean Paul announced that he was stepping down as dean at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

Paul is an interesting case. After he tried to explain UConn’s performance in the most recent U.S. News rankings, we caught an email from a law professor trying to cheer up the beleaguered dean.

But Paul doesn’t need anybody’s pity. He’s ready to blow this popsicle stand, and he’s set to do it in the middle of the summer….

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There’s really no better expression of how law school can be a horrible financial decision than the story of a J.D. holder on welfare.

Usually, those stories involve a person who is mentally challenged in some way, or somebody who developed a hardcore drug or alcohol problem. A law degree obviously cannot protect you from all of life’s atrocities.

But the thought is that a practicing attorney of sound mind and body can earn enough to stay off of public assistance.

Or should I say “myth.” Law schools are very interested in taking your money, but they’re less interested in helping you find a job at the end of your journey.

Here’s one graduate’s sad, sad story. The only thing he did wrong was go to law school. Now, he’s qualified for food stamps….

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It’s springtime, and you know what that means: the Above the Law tips inbox has started overflowing with lurid tales of Barrister’s Ball debauchery. To start the season off on the right foot, we’ve got story for you from a law school that’s been on our watch list before for alcohol-related offenses.

Apparently students at this Massachusetts law school don’t know how to hold their liquor, much less how to properly budget for a such boozy extravaganza. This event is rumored to have cost the Student Bar Association more than $20,000, with overbudget expenses alleged to have reached the $8,000 mark.

Not too shabby for an affair where various bodily fluids were spilled. The ensuing drama all played out on the school’s online forum, where the following message appeared:

Can we all make a pact not to post this to ATL like someone did with those crazy booze swilling alcoholic 1Ls (now 2Ls)?

Alas, it seems that the kids at this school aren’t good at holding their secrets, either….

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I get that the legal profession has a drinking problem, if you will, but today we have an example of how a law school should not go about keeping young, would-be lawyers off the bottle.

Imagine you are a 1L. You just finished your first set of finals of your first year of law school, and so you decide to party a little bit. So you knock back a few beers on campus before heading out to whatever bar you are going to. It’s a time to celebrate, it’s a time to let your hair down. Maybe you get a little bit more drunk than you intended, maybe you have a beer (gasp) outside, but whatever — finals are done!

Did I say anything “unacceptable” above?

If you think that there’s no harm in the foregoing scenario, then boy do I have a law school for you to avoid. Apparently the administration at one law school was so freaked out by drinking on campus after first semester finals that the assistant dean of students felt compelled to send around an entire email reminding students of the school’s alcohol policy (reprinted in full below). We’re just getting this email now — it appears students wanted to be away for the summer before slamming their administration — but its existence is still shocking.

Somebody should ask Franklin Roosevelt if it makes sense to have draconian anti-alcohol policies during a recessionary environment…

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