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….
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….
“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….
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…
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…
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…
“Don’t stop believing merely because there is no basis for belief” sounds like the perfect title to a law school blog post. It reflects how law schools hope students think about the job market and it comes oh so close to quoting Journey.
It’s perhaps unfair to bastardize General MacArthur’s famous farewell speech to Congress, but there’s a fitting juxtaposition between informing politicians of the honor of fading away from the public scene while those very politicians run to law firms to continue lobbying their former colleagues.
LSATs are lower than in previous years. There’s been an arms race with LSATs and GPAs [among top law schools], but I think the shrunken pool has forced admissions officers to think about what we really need in our class, and it’s not just the LSAT. I think we are choosing substance over LSATs.
– Sarah Zearfoss, dean of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School, explaining to The Careerist that with fewer applications, Michigan is starting to consider substance (implying that she doesn’t think the LSAT is substantive).
We resume our examination of professorial pay at the nation’s top public law schools (which generally have to make salary data public due to their status as state institutions). We’ve previously visited the East Coast, represented by UVA Law, and the West Coast, represented by Boalt Hall (Berkeley).
Now it’s time to head into the heartland. Let’s collect and analyze some compensation information for law professors at another elite institution, the University of Michigan Law School (#9 in the latest U.S. News rankings, and #12 in the recently released Above the Law rankings).
These salary numbers are strong. And remember that dollars go farther in Ann Arbor than they do on the coasts….
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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