University of Michigan Law School

The whole world has ground to a halt to watch the World Cup. Except of course in the United States, where the World Cup is mostly a curiosity to fill our days now that the NBA and NHL have finished their seasons.

Perhaps you’d pay closer attention if you had a guide to the teams that gave you a personal stake in a given squad. Without further ado, here’s an explanation of which law schools most closely resemble World Cup sides…

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Lat here. Tomorrow is a big day. First, April 15 is Tax Day; we hope that you’ve filed your return — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of. Second, it’s the deposit deadline at various law schools. We hope that you’ve made up your mind — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of.

Just kidding. Here at Above the Law, where we are sometimes critical of the value proposition of legal education, I’m the designated defender of law schools. I write stories with titles like In Defense Of Going To Law School and Go To Law School: What Else Are You Going To Do With Yourself? I also compile and disseminate law school success stories. We are not uniformly opposed to law school here at ATL; we just want people to make informed decisions.

Helping people make informed decisions is the goal of our popular column called The Decision. We field queries from prospective law students choosing between different schools, offer them advice, and ask ATL readers to weigh in as well.

Now, on to today’s scenarios. We’ve titled them “Jersey Boys” and “The Book of Mormon,” for reasons that will soon become apparent….

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The most polarizing figure in the field of syndicated trivia programming watched over a microwaved TV dinner is Arthur Chu. Chu, a 30-year-old insurance analyst, has lit up his competition on Jeopardy since late January. Chu rejected the tried-and-true method of running categories from top to bottom — giving the viewer a pleasurable run of questions with an increasing level of difficulty — to employ game theory in a mad hunt for Daily Doubles. Some hated him. Some Jeopardy experts defended him. Most of us really didn’t care that much over the media-manufactured controversy.

For a bit it seemed the only things capable of halting his reign of terror were Jeopardy’s prescheduled tournaments, which did put the champ on ice for a few weeks.

But last night, a law student put Chu down. Sure, that’s impressive, but could she win the next ATL Trivia Night? (It will be in D.C. on Wednesday, April 2; RSVP here.)

So what law school boasts a Jeopardy champ?

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Last week, we looked at which Biglaw firms were the highest rated in 2013 by their own lawyers, according to the ATL Insider Survey. As we noted, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses to our survey from practicing lawyers and law students. The information from our survey provides our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating schools and firms, particularly in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories.

Today, we continue to milk the “it’s a New Year/here’s a list” format and present 2013’s highest-rated law schools. Please note this is not to be confused with the ATL Law School Rankings, which assess schools based on a range of employment outcomes (and which are coming out later this year). These ratings are a pure function of how schools were rated by current students in the areas of academics, financial aid advising, career services, practical/clinical training, and social life.

More clues that these are not the ATL Law School Rankings: Northeastern beats Northwestern, while Yale and Harvard do not even make the cut…

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We’re now in year two of the Michigan “let’s make the bar exam more difficult” plan. In 2012, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners changed the weight it gives to the essay questions, with the goal of producing lawyers with a better understanding of state law. I don’t know, there are probably all sorts of things that don’t apply to automakers in Michigan that you’d never see on the Multistate section.

This makes the bar more difficult and more stupid at the same time. It’s harder to answer an essay question than a multiple choice event where you can make an educated guess, but it’s also dumber to administer a “standardized” test that relies heavily on the individual tastes of essay graders.

In any event, the results from the July 2012 bar exam were predictably horrific. Only 55% of test takers passed the July 2012 test. Cooley totally embarrassed itself, even by Cooley standards, with only 42% of test takers from that school passing.

This year, 60% of test takers passed the July 2013 Michigan Bar. So that’s better, though still pretty rough. Cooley, again, covered itself in glory by posting a 43% pass rate. But all the law schools have complained about Michigan’s new, harder exam.

And the Michigan BOLE doesn’t care. Law schools in Michigan better raise their game, because the game ain’t changing….

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Next month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case will look at the constitutionality of Michigan’s 2006 ballot initiative to ban affirmative action in public university decisions. I can’t wait for John Roberts to blithely declare an end to racial struggle in Michigan the same way he decided it was okay for North Carolina to be racist again, because racism is over in the South.

Not that Roberts cares about pesky things like facts, but the facts on the ground in Michigan since the state’s ballot initiative show that without affirmative action, minority enrollment has plummeted. At the University of Michigan, minority enrollment at the college and the law school is down 30 percent.

Now, I know a lot of conservatives will respond to that number with “so?” I get that there are entire swaths of America that could give a crap if minorities are going to public universities or not. I’m sure the hatred for “undeserving” minorities will be well expressed in the comments.

Those people aren’t running the University of Michigan, however. The people running Michigan would like to admit a diverse group of students, and the state’s ballot initiative has clearly hampered that effort. For that law school, it’s a very complicated problem, because as we’ve been reporting, law school applications are down across the board, and that includes minority applicants….

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“You are not just individuals. You are the Michigan Law School Class of 2016, and you will always be a member of that class. And it’s not just a class: It’s an idea, a tradition, a tie to something greater than you.”

Mark West, the new dean of the University of Michigan Law School

You can learn a lot about a law school by how they greet their incoming students. The famous Paper Chase quote — “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year” — pretty much tells you all you need to know about Harvard Law School, or at least how it would like to see itself. If Dean West’s prodigious statements appeal to you, Michigan Law might be more your cup of tea. West continued: “You are not here to get your degree, and not simply to learn to ‘think like a lawyer’ or even merely to learn how to be a lawyer. You are here — at Michigan — to develop a lifelong association with all that is here. There will never be another time like this for you.”

Conquering heroes all, no doubt. Champions of the West.

Other law schools don’t take themselves nearly so seriously, but they all think their entering class of 2016 is pretty special. And they are. These are the kids who decided to go to law school when, historically speaking, everybody told them it was a bad idea. The class of 2016 is either the most motivated in history or the people most resistant to information and statistics in a generation.

Let’s look at how their own law schools describe them….

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The law school brain drain is in full effect. Applications from Ivy League graduates are down, and applications are down in general. Last week, my colleague Elie Mystal described the troubling predicament like so: “[T]he students with the best ‘logical reasoning skills’ as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.” That being the case, how have top law schools responded to the less than impressive talent pool? By doing the same thing they’ve always done.

Despite the fact that some of the most well-qualified students are fleeing the law school application game like rats from a sinking ship, T14 law schools are still attracting rather competitive applicants. Unlike the law schools that would reportedly consider admitting applicants with sub-145 LSAT scores, top schools would never deign to lower their elite standards — well, at least not by that much.

While it’s still difficult to get into a top law school, it’s not quite as difficult as it used to be before the bottom fell out from the entry-level employment market. What do top law schools’ LSAT scores look like now compared to three years ago? Let’s take a look…

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From earthquakes to power outages to going into labor, we’ve written about almost every kind of bar exam horror story that exists on this earth. But we’ve never seen or heard of one that has been motivated by alleged religious bias — until today.

Everyone knows that things like hats, hoods, scarves, and visors are not allowed to be worn during the bar exam. But religious headgear, like Sikh dastars and Jewish yarmulkes, is permitted, as long as special written approval has been obtained before the test from a state’s board of bar examiners.

When there’s a miscommunication somewhere along the line, things don’t always go as planned. Yesterday, a proctor in Massachusetts passed a distasteful note to a Michigan Law graduate of Muslim faith during the morning essay session. We have a copy of that note…

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Today, our friends at BARBRI and Law Preview present a Google Hangout aimed at helping pre-law students understand and navigate the law school application and admission process. This week, Brian Dalton is joined by Sarah Zearfoss, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions, Financial Aid, and Career Planning at Michigan Law and Jessica Soban, Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer at Harvard Law.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers…

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