Notre Dame Law School

Nothing illustrates the way religion can warp the normal function of rational thought quite like the National Jurist’s “most devout law schools” rankings. If you are a person of faith, that’s fine. Mazel tov. And if you want to find new and exciting ways to mingle your religious beliefs with our secular laws, that’s fine too. I mean, I’ll do what I can to oppose you, but in America we must be comfortable with difference.

But picking a law school based on its piety seems pretty dumb. For one thing, law schools should be teaching, you know, laws and stuff. What you do with that knowledge is your own choice, but it seems to me that people should want the best education they can get, and then apply that education to the causes and issues that move them. Why go to Regent Law if you can go to Vanderbilt Law and then advocate for your theocracy from a position of greater strength?

The second problem is that picking a law school because it has some kind of “mission” beyond helping you become a good and employed lawyer seems like a path to pain. But that will become obvious as we actually look at the National Jurist’s list.

In any event, onward Christian lawyers…

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Another day, another law school food story. I think after we do the D.C. trivia night, we should head to the Southwest and have a law school chili cook off. Loser has to eat their law dean.

This story isn’t about law students stealing food, it’s ostensibly about students giving food away. Or at least they were trying to. The law students were trying to raise money for hungry people… but they did that in the most Western, decadent way possible…

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* After 22 years of dedicated service, William K. Suter, the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, will be retiring come August. Now don’t get too excited about that, it’s not really a job you can apply for; you have to be appointed, so keep dreaming. [Blog of Legal Times]

* A Biglaw hat trick of labor deals: if you’re looking for someone to thank for bringing a tentative ending to the management-imposed NHL lock-out, you can definitely reach out to this group of lawyers from Skadden Arps and Proskauer Rose. [Am Law Daily]

* “Thanks for helping us out, but you can go f**k yourself.” AIG, a company that was bailed out by the government, is now considering suing the government with its shareholders. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Apparently there’s such a thing as the “Nick Saban Corporate Compliance Process.” And as we saw from last night’s game, that process involves efficiency, execution, and raping the competition. [Corporate Counsel]

* Guess who’s back in court representing himself in a racketeering trial? None other than Paul Bergrin, “the baddest lawyer in the history of Jersey.” Jury duty for that could be a fun one. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Too bad last night’s football game between Alabama and Notre Dame wasn’t played by their law schools. In that case, the final score on factors like tuition, enrollment, and employment would’ve been a tie. [HusebyBuzz]

* This just in: when studying for the LSAT, you should focus on scoring the best you can. This is actual advice that the future law students of America need to hear. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

The end is in sight for our long national nightmare. Starting in 2014, the NCAA will institute a four-team playoff to crown the national college football champion. The 14-year reign of the BCS will be looked back upon as a time of national unity: everyone thought the system was horrible. Even President Obama decried the system on the campaign trail . The BCS has been described as anything from a “horrible Jenga tower of bad arguments” to a “broken, failed, even corrupt enterprise.” Oh wait, that second quote is from a blurb for Brian Tamanaha’s recent book Failing Law Schools. But of course there is an important parallel between the BCS and the legal education industry: they have few defenders outside their own walls. The soon-to-be obsolete BCS system is only considered successful by those with a financial stake in the status quo. As for our current model of legal education, efforts to defend its value from the inside have not been well received, to put it mildly. But there’s an important difference between the BCS and legal academia. The BCS has shown a willingness to adapt and transform itself in the face of widespread and well-founded criticism.

Anyway, as even casual football fans know, a college team’s prospects are highly correlated with how the students at its affiliated law school rate their experiences. (Ed. note: this is untrue). So, after the jump, let’s have a look at how the law schools for the BCS bowl schools match up.

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Law school leaders only care about the Benjamins.

Now comes the time when law schools tell students that the 2012-2013 academic year will cost more than the 2011-2012 academic year, even though the schools will be providing no additional professional help to struggling graduates.

Some law schools will blame it on state budget cuts to education. Other schools will blame it on weak fundraising. Still others will give you a song and dance about how the increases are necessary to hire top professorial talent, and then there will be some schools who offer the unsaid, “we’re doing it because we can and you’ll just borrow more money to pay us.”

We don’t track every tuition hike, because just about every law school raises tuition every year for one reason or another. But when a law school is brazen enough to raise tuition by a higher rate than other institutions at the university — and expects law students to be too stupid to notice how they’re getting taken advantage of — we tend to notice…

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The power to thwart God's will is at your local drugstore.

Who’d have thunk it? These days, contraception is a hot-button issue. On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Rick Santorum thinks that Griswold was wrongly decided. Inside academia, students are challenging the refusal of one Catholic university (including its law school) to let its health centers prescribe birth control.

Getting upset over inadequate access to contraception is one thing. What about getting upset — at a Catholic law school, mind you — over a discussion of birth control? Can you imagine what kind of comments about contraception could cause a law school community to get all riled up?

Let’s look at — and argue about — the email that caused students at one top-ranked Catholic law school to get their diaphragms all scrunched up proverbial panties in a wad. Even the dean had to get involved….

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Professor Stephen Smith

Perhaps this is part of some elaborate research project into the workings of the criminal justice system. Professor Stephen F. Smith, who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure at Notre Dame Law School, stands accused of a serious crime.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Professor Smith faces one count of domestic battery, a class D felony. He’s accused of striking and kicking his wife at their home, in an incident that allegedly took place back in June.

Professor Smith doesn’t fit the profile of the typical defendant in a domestic violence case. How many DV defendants have clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court? How many have graduated from Dartmouth College, where Smith served as a trustee, and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he once taught?

After graduating from Dartmouth and UVA Law, Smith clerked on the D.C. Circuit (for Judge David Sentelle) and SCOTUS (for Justice Clarence Thomas). He practiced at Sidley Austin before joining the UVA Law faculty, where he served as John V. Ray Research Professor before moving to Notre Dame. (Query: What prompted Professor Smith to move from UVA to ND?)

Legal pedigrees don’t get much better than this. But enough of Professor Smith’s dazzling résumé. Let’s learn about the lurid allegations against him — and hear from ND law students about a campus controversy he created….

UPDATE: Please note the updates added to the end of this story. Thanks.

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It’s been a rough year in South Bend. A promising new head football coach led the Fighting Irish to a disappointing 7-5 regular season. The #5-ranked basketball team forgot to show up during March Madness (but at least the women’s team exceeded expectations). It was a year that many Irish fans would like to rewrite.

And now a few 1Ls at Notre Dame Law School would like to do some rewriting of their own. A tipster informs us that controversy has been brewing for a while regarding NDLS’s first year legal writing program. It appears that some students believe that they work too darn hard to only receive one measly credit for their second semester legal research and writing course.

So, what do angry law students do when they feel that they are not being properly credited for their writing efforts? They write more — a petition, to be exact. Find out what these future lawyers are demanding, after the jump.

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And now things get interesting. As we continue to run through the U.S. News 2012 law school rankings, we get to a crucial set of schools. The schools in this batch are certainly top tier, but they’re not “top 14″; for the most part, though, they charge like top 14 schools (especially the private ones).

So this is the batch of schools where we usually hear questions like: Should I go to this school at full price, or a much lower-ranked school for free? And our answer is usually, “How much lower-ranked are we talking about?”

The bottom line is that when people get into schools like Duke, or Penn, they are going to end up going to that school. But when people get into some of the schools on this list, they do seriously consider other options. Should I retake the LSAT, score better and apply again? How much financial aid am I getting? What’s the job market like in the [secondary market] this school is located in, just in case I get stuck there? Is it worth it to go into this much debt for a degree from that school?

These factors should come into play no matter which law school you get accepted to, but at this point on the U.S. News list, cost factors take on increased importance…

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There’s been a lot of buzz coming out of Notre Dame Law. No, the students are not being being pressed into service to defend the university from Declan Sullivan lawsuits. Instead, ND Law dean Nell Newton held a town hall meeting with the students to discuss the future of the university.

After the public meeting, Dean Newton met with some students, and they got into a discussion about the future of tuition at the law school. Depending on whom you talk to (and we’ve now talked to a bunch of people), Dean Newton suggested during this private meeting that there would be either (1) a significant, “dear God, what are you doing” tuition increase at the private law school, or (2) a modest tuition hike. We’ll let you decide whom to believe.

But one thing is for sure: tuition is going up. Notre Dame will not be holding the line with tuition, so current and prospective law students should be prepared to pay more, despite the weakness in the legal economy…

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