San Diego Law

Welcome back to our series of open threads on the latest batch of U.S. News law school rankings. Last time, readers weighed in on the law schools that made up the bottom third of the traditional first tier. Alas, thanks to the way employment statistics are now weighed in the U.S. News methodology, some law schools were knocked off of their prestigious pedestals, and law students are calling for their deans’ heads now that they’ve descended downwards into previously uncharted territory: the traditional second tier.

Today, we’ll take a look at those law schools, as well as their new rankings rivals — the schools that have traditionally been known to dwell in this part of the U.S. News list. You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. Your next stop, the Second Tier Zone….

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The picturesque Richard H. Chambers Courthouse in Pasadena, home of the Ninth Circuit.

California has released some macro-level results from the July 2011 administration of the bar exam. The California bar is notoriously difficult, and every year we like to take a look at which schools prepared their students well for the exam, and which schools did not.

Last year, the overall pass rates were 68.3% for all takers and 75.2% for graduates of the twenty ABA-approved law schools in California. This year, overall pass rates clocked in at 67.7%, while students who went to ABA-accredited law schools in California passed at a 76.2% clip.

But you might be surprised at which California law school had the best passage rate on the California bar. Hint: it’s not Stanford, or Boalt Hall, or UCLA….

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Almost a year ago, David Van Zandt, one of the most admired figures within legal education, announced his departure as dean of Northwestern Law School. Van Zandt moved to New York, leaving behind his multimillion-dollar mansion in Chicago, to assume the presidency of the New School (a move that made headlines here in NYC).

A search committee went to work, to try and find someone to fill Dean Van Zandt’s large shoes. Today the law school announced its new leader.

The new Northwestern Law dean, like his predecessor, is a distinguished scholar. He also comes with a strong track record as a law school administrator.

Who is he? Let’s find out….

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You know, given the fact that most law school professors act like they are doing you a favor by grading your exams, it’s a wonder this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Of course, since it doesn’t happen more often, this is a noteworthy occurrence.

A criminal law professor out in California figured out there were grading errors from her fall semester course. She figured this out last week. But the errors were so significant that it changed the class rank of some students.

Yeah, so if you got dinged from a summer associate position because your first semester grades were too low, or if perhaps you didn’t even apply for some positions because you didn’t meet a percentile cut-off, whoops, your professor might have screwed up.

Which law school needs to examine its motives?

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The Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from my hotel room last weekend. (I just got back from the AALS conference in San Francisco.)


Here in New York, home to Above the Law and Breaking Media, we’re gearing up for more epic snow. Those of you lucky enough to live in the Golden State might have to deal with earthquakes, mudslides, and obnoxious celebrities, but at least you don’t have to deal with blizzards.

Falling snow? Not in sunny California. Falling bar exam passage rates? Yes — at least for 2010.

A few days ago, the State Bar of California released overall statistics for the July 2010 administration of the (notoriously difficult) California bar exam. The overall bar pass rates went down by a little — but at some schools, the pass rates went down by a lot.

Which law schools’ pass rates tumbled, and by how much?

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university san diego law.jpgUPDATE (3/12/11): Douglas Wacker was acquitted of the charges discussed below — please see the update at the end of this post.

One University of San Diego Law School student isn’t worrying about deferrals. He’s worrying about defense strategies. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A 30-year-old Marine Corps captain will face a court-martial Feb. 8 on rape and other charges involving three University of San Diego students in April 2007, a judge ruled today.

At the time of the alleged crimes, Capt. Douglas S. Wacker was on unpaid leave from the military to pursue a law degree at the university and on a spring break trip to New Orleans with the three alleged victims.

So not a very fun spring break trip for those San Diego law students.

According to the Union-Tribune, the New Orleans D.A. and a USD administrative board both looked into the allegations and decided not to pursue them, even though, in the opinion of one USD student, Wacker’s a “creeper”:

This guy was a 3L last year and was on the moot court board. A lot of people thought he was a real creeper.

Wacker might well be a “creeper,” whatever that means, but whether he’s a rapist is yet to be determined. The University of San Diego won’t be giving him a degree until that’s sorted out though. The University’s message to students, AND an update (analysis from a lawyer and former Marine as to Wacker’s fate), after the jump.

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