Paul Campos

845 West End Avenue

In the battle to stay high (or climb higher) in the all-powerful U.S. News law school rankings, law schools compete with each other to woo star faculty. And this makes sense. Because a school’s peer reputation score “appears to explain around 90% of the variation in overall USNWR score,” as noted by Professor Eric Talley over at TaxProf Blog, it pays for a law school to snag top talent.

How does a law school prevail in the battle for superstars? Well, despite their impressive academic pedigrees and their Big Ideas, law professors just like us: they love luxury real estate.

Check out the $3.6 million apartment, located in the magnificent prewar condominium at 845 West End Avenue, that NYU Law School just added to its collection of fabulous faculty housing….

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How has it come to this?

Most people and institutions jealously guard their credibility. It’s hard to get people to trust you, and nearly impossible to get people to believe you after you’ve abused their trust. Nearly everybody who throws their good name away lives to regret it.

I wonder if member institutions of the American Bar Association are starting to realize that throwing away their credibility for the sake of masking a few bad years of employment statistics is a bad idea. I wonder if they’re starting to get that the American Bar Association’s laissez-faire approach toward transparency is going to have consequences far beyond the yearly bloodsport of the U.S. News law school rankings.

As a couple of elite law schools are learning this week, right now their word and credibility carries significantly less weight than the New York Post’s….

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There goes my hero…

Law school students are becoming more and more vocal about the myriad unresolved problems with the law school industry. Things are getting so bad that yesterday, a Rutgers student (and former Navy SEAL) got into a shouting match with Governor Chris Christie about the Rutgers merger drama.

Something has got to break soon. Right?

If Above the Law’s 2011 Lawyer of the Year Paul Campos has anything to say about it, the answer is a definite “yes.” And he has a drastic idea for fixing what he would call the “law school scam.” It all starts at Stanford University, where he visited earlier this week to talk about his idea.

What did Professor Campos have to say? Does “30 percent unilateral tuition cut” mean anything to you?

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... to take a survey.

Yesterday, David Lat took a detailed look at the National Law Journal’s newly released list of “go-to” law schools — the ones placing the highest percentage of their 2011 graduates in Biglaw. Of course congratulations are due to Penn and Northwestern and the other schools whose graduates are still landing associate positions. But the real news is how seriously discouraging the NLJ data is. We all know the legal job market is tough, yet Bruce MacEwen’s observation that 85% of law schools give students a worse than 10% chance of getting a job in Biglaw still manages to startle.

Our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey (take it here!), asks current law students, among other things, “What do you expect to do after you graduate?” A whopping 71% tell us that they expect to work for a firm. (This percentage was consistent across class years.) That this proportion is so high, and so at odds with the NLJ findings, can mean some combination of two things:

  • The ATL student readership skews heavily toward that minority of students who will actually snag Biglaw gigs.
  • Many (if not most) expectations of law firm employment will be dashed against the reality of a contracting job market. In other words, a majority of students think they are in the fortunate minority

After the jump, we’ll look at how wide the gap between student expectation and market reality is, even at the “go-to” schools:

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Which law school helped her land a fabulous Biglaw job?

The general economy started to turn around last year, but the legal job market remains sluggish. In 2011, many top law schools sent fewer graduates into first-year associate jobs at the nation’s largest 250 law firms than they did in 2010. That’s the bottom-line finding of the National Law Journal’s annual survey of which schools the NLJ 250 firms relied on most heavily when filling first-year associate classes.

The results of the survey should be interesting to current law students and law firm attorneys. And they’re of possible practical import to prospective law students who are now choosing between law schools (or deciding whether to go to law school at all, based on a cost-benefit analysis that pits tuition and student loans against post-graduate job prospects).

So let’s look at the top 10 law schools, ranked by the percentage of their 2011 juris doctor graduates who landed jobs at NLJ 250 firms (i.e., “Biglaw”)….

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File this under: “reasons why the alumni office should clear everything with the PR department.”

Yesterday, somebody at Columbia Law School sent out an email to recent alumni asking for a $1,000 donation (or twelve $85 monthly installments) to help current law students. No, Columbia isn’t setting up another scholarship fund for public interest fellows. CLS isn’t even trying to make direct cash transfers to unemployed graduates in exchange for their silence. Instead, Columbia wants $1,000 from alumni to help offset the cost of the “early interview program” during which Columbia rising 2Ls interview with Biglaw firms and snag offers for jobs.

Do you think Columbia culled its alumni list to make sure that only graduates who were also working in Biglaw were even asked to make this kind of questionable donation? Of course they didn’t! A bunch of Columbia grads who aren’t working in Biglaw were asked to… wait, let me get this language exactly right:

“Give a student the chance at a dream job.”

Hilarity ensues….

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Mountain Dew: a mouse could not survive in this environment, according to PepsiCo counsel.

* Pepsi lawyers offer a creative (if disturbing) defense to a lawsuit by a man who claims he found a mouse in his Mountain Dew. [Madison County Record via The Atlantic Wire]

* Will birther queen Orly Taitz get to depose — i.e., “rupture the jurisprudential hymen” — of President Barack Obama? That would be kind of awesome. [Columbus Ledger-Inquirer]

* Professor Ann Althouse raises an interesting “who decides?” question about Cleveland’s controversial ban on trans fats. [Althouse]

* Please, lawyers, stick to cocaine. Allegations of crystal meth usage are très déclassé. [NewsOK.com]

* Kudos to Kirkland & Ellis for coming to the defense of lesbian and gay public employees in Michigan. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* It seems that the Montana Supreme Court isn’t a fan of the Citizens United decision. [Huffington Post]

* Jamin Soderstrom, a (rather cute) former S&C associate and current Fifth Circuit clerk, has written a book (affiliate link) analyzing the qualifications of presidential candidates and the relationship between résumés and presidential success. [Tex Parte Blog]

* If you’re a law professor / blogger who wants to get a rise out of fellow profs, write posts in praise of Paul Campos (just voted our 2011 Lawyer of the Year — congrats again, Professor Campos). [PrawfsBlawg]

Above the Law’s 2011 Lawyer of the Year contest is now over. Thanks to everyone who nominated a lawyer; thanks to our finalists, for being such accomplished and interesting individuals; and thanks to all the voters, who picked our victor.

Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

For 2011, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

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It’s hard to believe that another year has passed, but here we are. It’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve. The weather is turning cold, the Republican presidential contest is heating up, and it’s time to review this year’s biggest stories on Above the Law.

Consistent with past practice, we will refrain from offering our subjective judgments on the most important stories of the year. Instead, just as we did back in 2010 and 2009, we’ll identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of our friends at Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2011, based on traffic.

In terms of overall topics, the most popular category page for the year was Law Schools, for the second year in a row. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the year was an eventful one for the legal academy. It would be fair to describe 2011 as an annus horribilis for the law school world, with various forces laying siege to the ivory tower. The attackers include not just unemployed lawyers turned scambloggers, but the mainstream media, led by David Segal of the New York Times; plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have already sued several law schools (and have announced plans to sue at least 15 more in 2012); and even a tenured law professor calling for reform (Paul Campos, currently in the lead for 2011 Lawyer of the Year).

The second most-popular category at ATL: Biglaw. Although we’ve expanded our small-firm and in-house coverage dramatically here at Above the Law, adding multiple columnists in each space, our coverage of large law firms still draws major traffic and drives discussions.

Now, on to the ten most popular individual posts on Above the Law in 2011….

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The year is quickly drawing to a close, but we have unfinished business to conduct here at Above the Law. We still have to crown our Lawyer of the Year for 2011.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for nominations. We’ve narrowed down the nominees to a field of twelve (although you’ll see only eleven options in the poll because one is a joint nomination). As in past years, the contenders run the gamut from distinguished to despicable.

And the nominees are….

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