University at Buffalo Law School

This Thanksgiving, I was thankful for a healthy baby. Watching the Cowboys get blown out with your son is a whole other level of awesome that I can’t begin to adequately describe.

Trust me, my little guy will not grow up to like the Cowboys, he won’t end up being a Republican, and there’s no way in hell he’s going to law school. As soon as I got back to work, I remembered to be thankful (again) that I graduated from law school long before the economic meltdown and the era of high tuition with low job prospects.

Other people aren’t as lucky. Over the holiday, a presumably unemployed, 2012 law graduate sent a scathing letter to the dean and the faculty of the law school he graduated from. He’s angry. Based on the letter, he also might be a little loopy, possibly from hunger, but he’s certainly very, very angry….

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So far this year, we haven’t had any huge commencement kerfuffles over graduation speakers at law schools. Last year, you’ll remember that Michigan Law was in a tizzy over Dean Evan Caminker’s pick of Ohio Senator Rob Portman as a commencement speaker. Portman is one of those anti-marriage equality types, and Michigan Law students actually organized a walkout to protest his divisive views.

This year, Michigan has gone with a much more conservative choice.

Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog has published his annual list of law school commencement speakers. Michigan Law’s choice is boring, but let’s see if we can’t find somebody else on this list to get excited about…

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Critics of the legal-education industrial complex would probably like to see some radical changes in the U.S. law school system. They’d probably want a few dozen law schools to shut down entirely, to reduce the glut of lawyers in this country. Barring that, they might want to see law schools reduce tuition dramatically — not just freeze tuition, which some schools are already doing, but make an outright cut in the sticker price of a J.D.

Alas, expecting such changes isn’t terribly realistic. Law school deans and law professors aren’t going to willingly reduce their salaries or send themselves into unemployment — and why should they? Despite all the warnings about the risk involved in taking on six figures of debt to acquire a law degree, demand for the product they’re selling, legal education, remains robust (even if it’s showing signs of abating).

Interestingly enough, however, we’re seeing some law schools cutting their production (of graduates, of J.D. degrees)….

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We have a message for law school deans and administrators everywhere. To paraphrase Chris Crocker, “Leave… the grades… alone!”

Stories about changes to law school grading schemes aren’t much fun for us to write. But every time you deans tinker ever so slightly with your law school’s curve, we here at Above the Law get flooded by angry emails from law student readers, demanding that we call attention to whatever completely inscrutable change (or non-change) you have made (or not made) to your grading policy. In order to save us from having to write these stories, please cease and desist immediately from further amendment of your grading schemes.

Notwithstanding the views of the guy who posted his grades on Facebook, law school grades aren’t very interesting (except to their recipients). We’d much rather immerse ourselves in the law firm bonus horse race, for example. Compared to law school grading stories, the associate bonus watch is as riveting as the Oscars competition (or the Super Bowl, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Honestly, and with all due respect to our law student readers, we don’t particularly care about law school grades — and neither will you, in just a few short years. Right now you might be obsessed with your grades. And yes, they matter more than before, thanks to the tough legal job market. But you will forget your law school GPA sooner than you think. In the words of Professor Orin Kerr, “[o]nce you’re out of school for a bit, people care whether you are a good attorney, not your law school GPA.”

In this post, we’re going to cover controversies over grading at three law schools: the University of Chicago Law School, Cornell Law School, and the University of Buffalo Law School.

And then, God willing, we hope to avoid writing another story about law school grades until May or June (when the spring semester ends and students start talking about transfer applications)….

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