Texas Law

Just yesterday, the latest batch of starry-eyed dreamers sat for the LSAT (although the number of these hopeful 0Ls seems to be in freefall). As they wait for the scores to come in, these aspiring JDs will no doubt be doing their research and narrowing down where to apply. Law school applicants have no shortage of resources at their disposal to help them in making their decisions and navigating the process: from U.S. News to Princeton Review, from Anna Ivey to Top Law Schools. But we all know that there is no decision-making tool as beloved as a ranked list. People love rankings — such time and energy savers! We suspect more application and matriculation decisions are made by perusing rankings than will ever be admitted to.

Regular readers of this site might recall that a little while back we published our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking. We are proud that we, rather than burying our methodology in the footnotes or an obscure appendix, prefaced our rankings release with a detailed discussion about the choices we made in devising our methodology.

Whatever the subject matter, anyone looking to rate or rank anything has to make some choices between three basic methodological approaches:

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Lat here. Not long ago, Elie and I debated the merits of Harvard Law versus Yale Law, in response to a request for advice from a prospective law student lucky enough to be choosing between HLS and YLS. Then we opened up a reader poll, in which about 60 percent of you urged the 0L in question to go to Yale.

As we move deeper into spring, more aspiring law students will have to make up their minds about matriculation destinations. Today we’ll look at the case of a student who’s choosing between a trio of very fine schools: Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Texas School of Law, and UCLA School of Law.

Let’s hear him out, weigh the competing factors, and vote….

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Last week, we received our 4,000th response to the ATL School & Firm Insider Survey. (Please take it here, if you haven’t yet). Approximately half of our respondents are current law students, and in the wake of the U.S. News rankings release and the resultant hullabaloo, we thought it would be interesting to compare how the vaunted T14 stack up based on our own survey feedback.

The ATL survey asks students to rate their schools in five different categories:

  • Quality of faculty and academic instruction;
  • Practical / clinical training for the practice of law;
  • Career counseling and job search help;
  • Financial aid advising; and
  • Social life.

After the jump, we’ll look at how the elite schools compare….

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The Texas Law School is that way.

Everything is softer in Texas?

Occasionally we have an opportunity to look at how soft law school has become. Gone are the trials by fire immortalized in the book One L. Now it seems that law schools are taking their teaching cues from Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore.

At the University of Texas School of Law, they’ve divided their classes into “societies” that compete against each other in games, wear special uniforms, have dedicated house mentors, and employ special Care Bears who hug people when they get back from the library. Okay, one of those things isn’t true.

Of course, the Texas millennials love it…

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Professor Philip Bobbitt

In 2008, we profiled celebrity law professor Philip Bobbitt. Professor Bobbitt has a breathtaking résumé, featuring degrees from Princeton (A.B.), Yale (J.D.), and Oxford (Ph.D.); distinguished government service, for both Democratic and Republican administrations; and numerous acclaimed books, including Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution (1982), The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (2002), and Terror and Consent: the Wars for the Twenty-first Century (2008) (affiliate links). For a very thorough enumeration of his amazing accomplishments, read his excellent Wikipedia page.

Our profile drew heavily upon a New York Observer piece that dubbed him “the James Bond of Columbia Law School.” What did Professor Bobbitt do to earn that sobriquet?

“His mannerisms just kind of ooze a James Bondian kind of quality,” says Vishal Agraharkar, a former [Legal Methods] student and a teaching assistant for this year’s class. “Someone who acts like that in class and outside class we assumed must have just an incredible personal life. James Bond has a hell of a personal life, so he must as well.”

Well, it appears that Professor Bobbitt, 63, does have one heck of a personal life. Over the past few days, we’ve received some rather interesting information about the good professor’s love life. The reports go something like this: “Professor Bobbitt married one of his students! Over the Christmas holiday! She’s a 3L at Columbia Law! And a Turkish princess! They were married at the Supreme Court! By one of the justices!”

As is generally the case with juicy gossip, most of this is true — but some of it is not. Here’s the real story, based on my interview with Professor Bobbitt himself. And wedding photos, of course….

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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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Welcome Texas!

As you are all know, the University of Texas School of Law has moved into the “top 14″ in this year’s U.S. News law school rankings. It’s a bit of cheat for U.S. News: Texas is technically tied for 14th, which means that the magazine has actually managed to cram 15 schools into its top 14. I’d complain more, but I’m a fan of a Big (We Can’t Count To) Ten school.

While we all know that Texas is in the top 14, very few of you remember the significance of the top 14 in the first place. The top 14 isn’t as arbitrary as it sounds. Since U.S. News started publishing these law school rankings, no school that ranked in the inaugural top 14 has ever been ranked outside of the top 14, and no school that did not rank in the top 14 that first year has ever cracked that list. Until now.

The top 14 has been a way to distinguish elite institutions that are nearly interchangeable with one another from really good law schools that are just a cut below. When viewed that way, Texas’s inclusion was probably long overdue.

Let’s take a look at some of the other movement in this rarefied group of law schools….

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William and Mary Marshall Wythe School of Law Above the Law blog.jpgHow long should students have to wait for fall semester grades? Two weeks? A month? Some students at William and Mary School of Law are still waiting for fall semester grades — and they might not be alone.

I understand that law professors would rather drink wine straight from the box than grade a paper. It’s an onerous responsibility. But, it is a responsibility. Especially in this economy, where students are scrambling for scarce job opportunities. If a student has an incomplete transcript, or can’t produce a class rank upon request, a prospective employer might well go with one of the other hundreds of resumes flooding his or her inbox.

Last month, a student at the University of Texas School of Law complained that he lost out on a judicial clerkship because of one professor’s grading delay. Above the Law received this email on January 25th:

UT Austin school of law logo.JPGTexas Law’s Student Affairs Office said over the phone this afternoon that Prof. [Redacted] hasn’t submitted grades yet or filed for an extension. UT’s deadline was Tuesday of last week (which is already hilariously late compared to the University’s undergraduate policies). Supposedly, the Law School will dock [the professor's] pay until the grades are in or until he requests an extension, but he’s big pals with Dean Sager.

I’ve already missed out on at least one internship this summer because I didn’t have grades yet. A judge’s office called me to schedule an interview and asked that I bring a transcript. When I mentioned that, as late as Jan 16th, I still hadn’t received a single grade, they went ahead and hired someone else.

We emailed the professor to see if the grades were still outstanding, or why they were delayed in the first place, but he did not respond.

At William and Mary, the situation is such that the class rank of the entire school has been delayed….

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Grades delayed at W&M, UT – Austin… anywhere else?