Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.
Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)
So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?
We’re familiar with the fact that the number of law school applicants is down. Indeed, quite a bit of metaphorical ink has been spilled on analyzing the ramifications of this trend on law school applications. For instance, the WSJ Law Blog recently ran a story analyzing the LSAT scores at top law schools. Somewhat surprisingly, the numbers were fairly consistent with previous years, despite fewer applicants. Above The Law followed up with the analysis of a few additional schools, though all were still T14 (with the exception of ATL’s favorite whipping boy, Cooley). And, of course, we here at Blueprint analyzed these changes and discussed how to use them to your advantage.
So the implications of the decrease in law school applicants have been fairly well documented for top law schools. However, only a small minority of law students will be applying to them, and an even smaller amount attending. This begs the question: What’s going on further down the law school chain?
And like any business that suddenly finds itself with fewer customers, law schools are looking to entice new students to apply. Because — and it’s always important to remember this — law schools are businesses, at least as much as they are academic institutions.
Will they take a hint from used car salesmen, setting up whacky, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men to draw the eye of passing motorists?
Or possibly Red Lobster, offering shrimp AND lobster with any J.D.?
Or, more likely, will they try to improve their job numbers while offering larger scholarships?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Gregory Henning of Anna Ivey Consulting explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the application process. Part one of the series can be found here.
The typical law school application might require you to write three pieces: a main essay (two pages), a résumé (one page), and an optional statement on your interest in the school or some other topic (one page). That’s only four pages. Not too bad, right?
But those four pages are your only chance (in most cases) to communicate directly to the admissions officers. These documents are your only opportunity to step outside of the “numbers” to make a case for why you should be admitted. This is the only time the school will hear from you. Those four pages are starting to become pretty important…
Now think about your entire list of schools. Let’s say you plan to apply to 10 schools. You can expect to write two main essays (a personal statement and professional statement, depending on what a given school is asking for) and at least one résumé (some schools might ask for a longer variation of the one-page version that other schools require). If you apply to 10 schools, five might invite an optional statement about your interest in attending the school. Another three or four might ask for an optional essay on a different topic. If you believe you could add to the diversity of an incoming class, you may have a chance to submit an optional statement about that. Do you have any academic or criminal disclosure issues that need to be discussed and explained separately? If so, you’ll be producing another document.
Did you lose count? Even using a conservative estimate, it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be producing at least 10 separate pieces of writing when you apply to law school. That’s manageable, and certainly the content may overlap in many cases. You can create 10 documents. But wait, there’s more…
“One of the well-known facts about law school is it never took three years to do what we are doing; it took maybe two years at most, maybe a year-and-a-half,” Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law, said in a 2010 speech. The continuing existence of the third year of law school is generally held to be one of the basic structural defects in our current legal education model, alongside the contracted job market and soaring tuition. There have been efforts to address the problem, the latest being NYU’s announced overhaul of its third year curriculum.
Yet these attempts to redefine what the 3L year means appear to many like half-measures at best, “lipstick on a pig” at worst. As we noted back in November, Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana/Maurer has made a sweeping proposal that calls for a special new program for 3Ls by a coalition of willing law schools. The 3Ls would embark on a skills-based, teamwork-heavy course of study in partnership with law firms who agree to employ the students, albeit at a reduced rate. Also, there is a proposal currently before the New York Bar that would allow students to take the bar exam after two years. These students would not obtain a J.D. unless they return for their third year, but would be eligible for a bar card.
In assessing the NYU proposal (basically an increase in study abroad and specialty courses), Professor Kenneth Anderson argues that law schools have allowed educational incentives (i.e., learning to how to be a lawyer) and credentialing incentives (i.e., becoming an attractive job candidate) to drift apart: “The problem lies in how very, very unattractive we’ve institutionally made [students’] incentives – and the price tag attached to what is essentially a bet rather than investment. It’s a bet with many more bad payoffs than good ones.”
All the discussion and debate about the three-year law school model focuses, understandably, on the utility of that third year. We thought it would be interesting to have a look at our survey data to get a sense of how the experience of law students changes over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. We wondered how, if at all, these perceptions differ between 1Ls and 3Ls….
Today, the ATL Career Center launches its latest feature: a Pre-Law section, featuring ratings, inside info, and expert advice on law schools, LSAT prep, and the application process. Check it out here.
While law school applications continue to decline and legal jobs are scarce, the business of discouraging people from going to law school is positively booming. There is a mountain of data which would seemingly dissuade anyone from taking on massive debt only to then leap into the clogged toilet of this job market. (And yet, see this compelling analysis that now is actually a great time to apply to law school, especially for lower scoring applicants.)
But what about future law students — are the 0Ls getting these gloomy memos? And how is it shaping their choices?
Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of BluePrint’s summer students studying for the October 2012 LSAT. We had nearly 600 respondents. Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0Ls’ perception of the legal landscape, including the realities of financing a law school education and the current state of the legal job market.
After the jump, see some of what we could glean from the 0L mind, including a striking disconnect between the “job market” and a “career path”….
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….
So, on Monday night I was watching the Men’s 400 meter race and women’s uneven bars, playing Star Wars because Madden hadn’t dropped yet, and drinking. Near the end of the evening, I stopped by Facebook (supposedly on my way to read reviews of more goddamn pediatricians), and I had a new message.
It was a friend of mine who has another friend who is thinking of going to law school. Knowing my stance on such things, my friend asked me to pretend like the decision to go to law school was inevitable and focus on a different question: what can college seniors do to increase the chances of getting into a good law school in case their LSAT scores are low?
I’ve got an answer. And really, the sober answer isn’t all that different than the one I had hammered out at 2:00 a.m….
I don’t know how long they’ve been doing this, but I’ve just learned that Cornell offers a “Pre-Law Summer” program aimed at undergraduates who want to know more about becoming a lawyer. Cornell is charging almost $5,000 ($4,970 to be exact) for an “intensive, six-week program taught in New York City.” The program promises to give students an “unparalleled chance to develop an accurate picture of the realities, rewards, and challenges of being a lawyer today.”
(Oh, did I mention that the price tag doesn’t include housing or food in New York City for six weeks? I should have mentioned that.)
You know, I’m not even going to blame Cornell. If you have college students (or parents of college students) who are desperate to give you $5,000, you take it. In related news, if anybody wants to pay me $5,000 to watch me eat a sandwich, you know where to reach me.
But here at Above the Law, we believe in equal access. For all of the people who don’t have $5,000 for the “Pre-Law Summer,” we’re going to give you all the information you could have gotten from the program in one post, in the middle of February, for free!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.