Prospective Law Students

A couple of months back, Jordan Weissmann of Slate and our own Joe Patrice got into an entertaining little dust-up over Weissmann’s assertion that “Now Is A Great Time To Apply To Law School.” The various arguments ranged over — among other things — the available data from the ABA and the BLS, the scholarship of Michael Simkovic and Brian Tamanaha, and the impenetrable mystery that is the “JD Advantage.” We’ll let readers determine who got the best of the debate. (Hint: Joe did.) But as pundits squabble over the value of a JD or the wisdom of the applying to law school in 2014, what are current would-be law students themselves thinking?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of 400 Blueprint students studying for the October 2014 LSAT. (We conducted an earlier, different 0L survey in conjunction with Blueprint back in 2012.) Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0L’s perceptions of the legal education landscape: will it be harder or easier to get admitted? What are the most important factors in choosing a law school? What are law school admission officers looking for? What are employers really interested in?

Read on to see what we could glean from the 0L mind, including their thoughts on why fewer people are taking the LSAT and applying to law school, even as some — à la Weissmann — predict the demand for lawyers will outstrip supply the supply of law school graduates in 2016.

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Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips on proper decorum for recruiting events.

‘Tis the season for LSAC Recruitment Forums and on-campus law school fairs. These are great opportunities for law schools to recruit applicants, but they can also be great opportunities for law school applicants to get a jump up on the competition. Here are some things you can do when interacting with law schools at recruiting events:

    1. Do your research ahead of time. Know which schools you hope to target and have specific questions ready. Great questions include how to arrange a campus visit, how many students specialize in an area that you are interested in (some interest/faculty support is good, too much competition is not so good), the attrition rate (how many people transfer versus stay at the school after the first year), and other information that you may not be able to find so easily on the school website. Stay away from things that should be obvious from the website like median LSAT scores, etc.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about law school hoping that it would help would-be law students make an informed decision. I exposed some misperceptions about law school that no one discussed. I also suggested some cost-effective and possibly lucrative alternatives to a legal education. And I wrote about some last-minute things to consider before going to law school.

But some of you will still go to law school for the wrong reasons and pay rip-off prices. Ego, familial expectations, and peer pressure may play a role in your decision. So I want to finish the law-school-themed posts by issuing a warning to students and their parents about the consequences of graduating without a meaningful job and with six figure, nearly nondischargeable student loan debt….

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Many people consider going to law school because they think they have no other career options after college. For most of these people, their GPA wasn’t great, and they have an average or even bad LSAT score. So they resign themselves to going to an average law school with plans to do really well in their first year and then transfer to a top school.

We warn the noobs that going to law school on a whim is a bad idea. We tell them about the many law students who don’t make it to the top of the class and are unable to get a job after graduation. So they are back to square one. But our warning does not address a fundamental problem: what alternatives do these people really have?

While that is ultimately not our problem, I want to talk about some alternatives to law school that an applicant should consider:

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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?

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Every now and then you forget that Capitol Hill interns are the absolute worst. Unless you live in Washington, D.C. In that case, these type-A Tracy Flicks are always around to give your already douchetastic bars that extra drop of vinegar. It’s not just that these proto-gunners won’t stop talking about their overinflated sense of the long-term legacy their ability to alphabetize will have on tax reform, it’s that they do this while surrounded by other D.C. professionals who actually make a difference want to talk about how much more alphabetizing they’ve done in their careers.

On some level you want to appreciate their eager spirits. It reminds you of the hopes and dreams you had before the weight of the world crushed you. But then other times their shameless sense of self-worth reminds you that politics is a narcissist’s game. Even if the narcissist is well-meaning, like I presume most interns are. Like when you get a tweet like this one from Yahoo’s Chris Moody:

I’m not gonna snark on this Hill summer intern. More power to him.

So apparently Moody is getting his passive-aggressive on by telling his 22K followers all about how he’s not going to snark on the snarkworthy link he’s sending. Moody would have made a great lawyer.

Well, what did this intern do? Did he make a cheesy webpage about himself explaining how he’s going to president?

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The traditional arguments against going to law school are: (1) there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs; (2) tuition and student loan debts are too damn high; (3) the high-paying or high-powered jobs are available only to the top students of the top schools; and (4) most “JD Advantage” jobs could have been obtained without a law degree.

The typical response to the above is something along the lines of, “That won’t apply to be because I’m going to put in the work and be one of the top students.” Now those of us who lived through law school might find this amusing and even ridiculous. But we can’t really blame them for their determination. We were their age once. Back then, the world was a playground and full of opportunities. If 0Ls today know all of the risks and can obtain a decent scholarship at least for the 1L year, then they should take a shot and see where they fall on the bell curve.

Today, I am going to talk about a few issues regarding law school and law practice that have not been discussed (at least extensively) amongst the law school critics. The issues apply to most students (even the top students) of almost every law school….

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‘Hmm, which law school should I apply to?’

Law school applications are down by 37 percent since 2010, and it’s growing more and more likely that the class of 2017 will be the smallest one we’ve seen in about 40 years. With a soft job market still at hand, people are finally realizing that it’s not a very good time to go to law school.

In fact, just 385,400 full-time law school applications were received for class that started in Fall 2013 — that may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the number of applications once topped 500,000. What’s even more heartening is that the law schools that received the most applications were all ranked among the U.S. News Top 25 (and most of them were ranked among the ATL Top 25, too).

U.S. News kindly provided us with a list of the ten law schools that received the most applications. Unfortunately, not everyone can get into a highly ranked law school, so we compiled our own list of the top ten unranked law schools that received the most applications.

Which schools appear on the dueling lists of the cream of the crop versus the cream of the crap?

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There’s another story today about the soft market for law school applications. According to the National Law Journal, law school applications are down 8 percent this year, and a shocking 37 percent since 2010.

We’ve discussed at length different theories for why this keeps happening.

But one law school is experiencing a boom in applications. It’s a new law school, one that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place. But it is doing one thing right that other law schools still resist: it’s dirt cheap….

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

* From Big Government to Biglaw: Our congratulations go out to Benjamin Horwich, most recently of the Office of the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice, as he joins Munger Tolles & Olson as counsel. Nice work. [Munger Tolles & Olson]

* The number of law school applicants took a nose dive for the fourth year in a row, this time by 8 percent, summarily crushing the hopes and dreams of law deans praying for a change of their otherwise most dismal fortunes. [National Law Journal]

* Considering the latest slump in applicants, whether a law school evaluates your average LSAT score or highest LSAT score matters little. Admissions officers will jump for joy that you have a pulse. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* “You don’t have to convict on every count to have a win.” Azamat Tazhayakov, friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct justice. [Bloomberg]

* Per documents filed by a lawyer appointed to represent Philip Seymour Hoffman’s children, the actor didn’t set aside money for them because he didn’t want them to become “trust fund kids.” [New York Post]

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