I deduce that my application has posed an extraordinarily challenging decision for you. After all, I applied for admission in the fall of 1978, was placed on the wait list some time that winter, and am still awaiting your final decision. I certainly appreciate the effort that you have invested in considering my application during the intervening decades.
As you might imagine, this has not been an easy thirty years for me, either. Every day, through the changing seasons and changing seasons of my life, I have approached the mailbox with trepidation, thinking that I might finally experience the exhilaration of acceptance or the agony of rejection. But it was not to be; I never heard a word. I’ve decided it’s time to spare you the effort of further deliberation.
I’ve thought about you each fall and winter, as you’ve surely re-opened and dusted off my typewritten application and compared it to the new e-submissions that you probably receive today. How do my accomplishments from the late 1970s compare to the accomplishments of my current competitors? I’m certain, for example, that grade inflation has worked to my detriment, as my grades are stuck at the old levels and younger folks get higher grades with each passing year. It’s just not fair.
The schools in the so-called “CCN” band — Columbia, Chicago, and NYU — do battle with one another on several fronts. They compete for admitted students, especially ones with high LSATs and GPAs. They compete in job placement, in terms of getting their grads jobs with top law firms or coveted judicial clerkships.
And they compete with each other for attracting star faculty. The University of Chicago just hired away one of Columbia’s top young law professors — a legal academic who has appeared before in these pages….
There’s actually some data driving this discussion. According to Chen, citing research by Professor Henderson, graduates of Loyola University Chicago School of Law are six times more likely to make partner at a major law firm than graduates of the higher-ranked University of Chicago Law School, located just a few miles to the south. It seems that even though Chicago Law grads may have an easier time breaking into Biglaw than their Loyola – Chicago counterparts, the Loyola folks who do make it in the door tend to have longer-lasting law firm careers.
Let’s not pick on U. Chicago. There are other elite law schools with even higher Biglaw “washout” rates….
A few years ago, Scalia criticized the law school’s political drift to the left. But just before Valentine’s Day, they kissed and made up. On Monday, Scalia gave a speech at U. Chicago, where he used to teach (and served as faculty advisor to the Federalist Society). He also offered some, how shall we say, unexpected career advice for attorneys who are just starting out….
In preparing for this august occasion, I asked one of my colleagues, a veteran of these events, ‘What is one supposed to say at the Midway Dinner?’ This colleague proposed three main themes: first, encourage the students to enjoy the rest of law school; second, encourage the students to take classes ‘across the midway,’ in other units of this great university; and third, encourage the students NOT to forward e-mails from the Law School to the ‘Above the Law’ blog.
Continuing our discussion of “elite law school problems,” let’s talk about grades. If your law school is ranked poorly, waiting for your grades has made you stressed all January. But if you go to a top-ranked law school, it really shouldn’t be that stressful, right?
Hell, if you are going to a truly elite law school, you don’t even have grades. Sure, if you are gunning for the Supreme Court clerkship down the road, your transcript is important. But if you’ve made it all the way to one of the best institutions of higher learning, and all you care about it whether you get an A and a pat on the head at the end of the semester, you’re doing it wrong.
Sadly, there are a lot of people at top law schools who are doing it wrong.
At the University of Chicago, Dean of Students Amy Gardner decided to send a reassuring note to students about their grades. Most importantly, she told students not to believe each other if they try to brag about their grades.
It’s a lesson even non-Chicago students might need to hear….
Kyle McEntee (left) and Patrick Lynch (right), co-founders of Law School Transparency (LST).
Late last year, plaintiffs’ lawyer David Anziska pledged to make 2012 “the year of law school litigation.” Anziska, who’s currently spearheading efforts to sue law schools over allegedly misleading employment statistics, told my colleague Staci Zaretsky that he and his team members “want to sue as many law schools as we can to bring them into the fray.”
That’s all well and good — for plaintiffs’ lawyers, and for news outlets like ours seeking juicy stories to cover. But there are other ways to achieve reform. So here’s another thought: Could 2012 instead be the year of law school transparency? Transparency achieved voluntarily, by law schools coming forward on their own to share comprehensive data about how their graduates are faring in the job market?
In the weeks since we wrote about the University of Chicago Law School providing very detailed employment data about its recent graduating classes, based on our interview with Dean Michael Schill, we’ve heard from deans, professors, alumni and students of other law schools, all with similar messages. They believe that their schools, like Chicago, are also transparent about graduate employment outcomes — and they want to be recognized for it.
This chorus of “me too!” messages raises a promising possibility: Is law school transparency becoming, for lack of a better word, “cool”? Will honesty about employment data become the hot new trend for U.S. legal education?
How hard is it to write an exam for a course you’ve taught all semester? Seriously, tell me, how hard is it? On a scale of one to ten — ten involving programing a rocket ship, one somewhere around putting on pants in the morning — where does formulating a law school exam rate? A two? Maybe three if you are teaching the course for the first time?
It cannot possibly be so hard that you have to use the same exam over and over again, in the digital age. We’re not talking about something as complicated as the wheel. A law school exam can be reinvented, every year, with subtle and simple changes.
Using the exact same exam is just lazy. There’s no other word for it. LAZY. The high cost of law school is largely attributed to the hefty salaries of law school faculty. The least these people can do is write a novel exam each and every semester that they teach.
And yet during this finals period alone, we’ve got students from three law schools, including two law schools in the top ten, alleging that their professors couldn’t be bothered to come up with fresh exams for this year’s students….
The battle for greater law school transparency, for more accurate and complete information from law schools regarding the jobs obtained (or not obtained) by their graduates, has many fronts. Some advocates for transparency work through organizations, such as the Tennessee non-profit Law School Transparency. Some have turned to the political process, where the issue of transparency has attracted the attention of several United States senators. And some have looked to litigation, suing law schools for providing allegedly misleading data about post-graduate employment outcomes.
Here’s an interesting idea: what if law schools just started posting comprehensive, accurate employment data on their websites? On a voluntary basis — not compelled by politicians, lawsuits, or the American Bar Association (ABA)?
Wouldn’t that be great? And wouldn’t it be helpful to prospective law students trying to decide whether it’s worth investing three years of their lives, and a large amount of (often borrowed) money, to pursue a law degree at the school in question?
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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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