University of Texas Law School

There’s a lot to unpack this morning about the sudden resignation of Lawrence Sager, Dean of the University of Texas Law School.

Before we get into the rumor circus — and it’s a complete circus right now — let’s get some facts straight:

A) Larry Sager was already on his way out. We reported in August that Sager had decided to step down at the end of the year.
B) Sager was forced out yesterday. UT President William Powers Jr. told the Austin American-Statesman: “We asked him to step down and he did.” Stefanie Lindquist takes over as interim dean, immediately.

If some reports are to be believed, it’s not an accident that a woman will be replacing Dean Sager. Allegations of gender inequality when it comes to pay are hounding Sager as he makes this hasty exit.

Let’s delve into it and get some student reaction…

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Putting years of legal education to use.

You know things are bad when U.S. News, the Holy Grail for students trying to figure out where to go to law school, is writing articles about all of the non-law related jobs recent graduates are taking just to get by.

This isn’t one of those “oooh, look at all the super-awesome things you can do with a sweet law degree” articles. U.S. News wrote a straight-out “J.D. stands for Just a Dog walker” article.

Everybody who is in law school knows how difficult the job market is. But U.S. News is giving this sobering message about “non-traditional” legal careers to people who have not yet signed up for their own financial doom.

And it turns out that even going to a highly ranked school doesn’t save you from having awful job choices…

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We get it, law students: the curve sucks. Because the law school curve affects important things like class rank, law review eligibility, and employment opportunities, it can make or break your life. And in a world where the legal market is still recovering from circling the drain, your grades mean more than they ever did in the past.

While the curve reflects some amount of fairness for larger classes, what happens to the students in smaller classes? You’d think that if everyone in a seminar class kicked ass on the final, the school would allow the professor some leeway with the mandatory curve. That seems like it would be fair, right? It’s a load of bull if the school refuses to step away from the curve in this kind of a situation.

And speaking of bull, apparently if you mess with one in Texas, you’ll get the horns (or at least be called a crybaby). A student at the University of Texas School of Law is trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to fight the powers that be….

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Larry Sager

Aren’t you supposed to get some kind of prize for moving your school into the top 14?

Lawrence Sager, dean of the University of Texas School of Law, will be stepping down at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.

We’ve been a big fan of Dean Sager around these parts. He’s an NYU guy transplanted to Texas. And he managed to get Texas into the top 14 of the U.S. News law school rankings.

But all good things must come to an end. Why is Larry Sager relinquishing the UT Law deanship?

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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’re not going to believe this, but according to the National Jurist, the best law school for “standard of living” is not in the Northeast. I know, I’m as shocked as you that schools in the mostly cold, dreary, overcrowded, hyper-competitive, super-expensive Northeast don’t rank more highly when it comes to their standards for law school life.

In all seriousness, I don’t begrudge University of Texas Law its victory in the lifestyle rankings (gavel bang: The Careerist). I have a couple of good friends who live in Austin and two things are clear: there’s is some serious, drop dead, it’d be worth having to drive a Lexus, talent in and around UT. And Austin is to Texas as The Hanging Gardens were to the rest of the Babylonian desert.

But there are a couple of top standard-of-living schools that seem a bit undeserving….

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Many law school graduates are wondering how they can make themselves more marketable in light of their dismal job prospects. Hell, even graduates from elite law schools are having trouble finding jobs these days.

What can these would-be lawyers do to help themselves land a respectable job?

Some of these people are actually so desperate they believe that getting even more legal education will solve their employment woes. Maybe, just maybe, they think, an LLM from a better school will help them wipe the sub-T14 sludge off their résumés. Of course, money is no object, because really, after throwing $150,000 at a wall and hoping that it sticks, another couple thousand dollars is just a drop in the bucket.

But don’t sign up for that LLM just yet, because the masterminds at the University of Texas School of Law may have a solution for you. Education is the key, but it’s not the kind of education that you’d expect….

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We know that tuition keeps going up at American law schools. And, for the most part, we know where the money goes. Law schools use tuition money and alumni donations to fund capital projects and law professor salaries. And, at some schools, the law school kicks back some money to the larger university. Law schools are cash cows, and everybody likes money.

Who is to blame for this? It’s hard to say. I tend to blame the American Bar Association, since the ABA is one of the few entities with regulatory authority over legal education (some law students are trying to get the Department of Education involved).

If the ABA will not act, it’s only natural for people to make as much money as possible, with reckless disregard to who gets trampled along the way. But one can find other culprits if you look hard enough. You could blame law school administrators, who are more concerned with money than education. You could blame the students themselves, for willingly forking over all of this cash. You could blame the federal government, for seemingly giving away money without making sure the taxpayers are getting a return on their investment.

But you know who you shouldn’t blame? Law school faculty. That’s right — they might get fancy new buildings and make six-figure salaries, but it’s not really their fault that the cost of a legal education has outstripped its value.

Who among us would not take more money and more perks for doing our same job?

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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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Texas exists so I don’t have to make up headlines like the one above. Khou.com reports:

Simkins Residence Hall is the last all-male dormitory at the University of Texas. Tucked into a quiet corner of campus along Waller Creek, it was the first men’s dorm with air conditioning.

It is notable for another reason as well: Simkins is named for a UT law professor who was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Yeah, no average Klan sympathizer can get his name on a dorm in Texas. You’ve got to be a Klan leader for that kind of recognition.

Administration officials claim they only recently became aware of the Simkins’s supremacist background. That’s probably true. But something tells me that 55 years ago, when the dorm opened, somebody at UT damn well knew that this law prof was a Klansman…

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