Vanderbilt

Attorney retirement home?

Well, the election is over, and a gaggle of new Congressfolks and Senators are coming to Washington in January. Of this population, 43 percent are lawyers, reversing the decline in lawyer politicians. So let’s review the incoming class and you can not-so-quietly judge our new legislators for their education and experience in the comments.

Ten new members attended Harvard Law School, so congratulations Crimson for continuing your tradition as the shadowy institution ruling our lives. There are also some inspiring stories among the new members. Like Joseph P. Kennedy, who lifted himself up by the bootstraps and managed to get into Harvard without any connections whatsoever. Everyone’s education info and any interesting career tidbits are provided below.

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* Stop drinking the FCPA Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid doesn’t even taste good anyway. Unless you add booze. But I digress. [FCPA Professor]

* Is it illegal to lie on Twitter? Some thoughts from Professor Eugene Volokh. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* So you wanna get published in a law review, huh? Well, check this out, young padawan. [Prawfsblog]

* Who are the top employment lawyers in America? [eBossWatch]

* The ABA and New York Law School are butting heads on how to deal with time lost due to Sandy. [Legal As She Is Spoke via Constitutional Daily]

* Lat is giving a talk at Vanderbilt Law School tomorrow. It’s open to the public and free, just like the pizza (but if you take the pizza, you have to stay for the event). [Vanderbilt Law School]

Jason Hunt (left) and Samuel Cole Wakefield

This week brought unfortunate news for an unambiguously gay duo. A former employee of Vanderbilt Law and his boyfriend pleaded guilty to stealing more than $500,000 from the law school — as well as to charges of aggravated statutory rape. Both men then got hit with some pretty heavy sentences.

How much time are they getting? How did they perpetrate their fraudulent scheme? And what did they blow the money on?

Keep reading for more details of their crimes, some color commentary from local correspondents, and photographs of some beautiful youths who used to hang out with the defendants….

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Presumably, Tebow will continue to wear #15.

Much has been said about the baleful impact of the U.S. News hegemony over the law school rankings racket. Probably the most trivial of these effects has been the establishment — based on USN’s dubious methodology — of a static tier of 14 elite schools. And as “collective numerical names for elite groups” go, “T14” must be among the most inelegant and arbitrary-seeming. (By contrast, the exemplar of the genre must be “Sweet Sixteen / Elite Eight / Final Four.”)

As noted earlier this week, the composition, if not the precise order, of the T14 has been basically constant for more than a decade. All the “action” is at number 15, with UCLA, Texas, and Vanderbilt all claiming at least a piece of that spot since 2009.

So we asked you: which school should rightfully claim — and maintain — the 15th position? More than 1,100 of you responded. Quite a few felt that there simply is no other school worthy of inclusion in the top tier; the 14th position is simply where we have to draw the curtain between First Class and Coach, and that’s that. Many more respondents made a case for one of the three top contenders or a write-in candidate. (The three most common write-ins were, in descending order, USC, George Washington, and Washington University in St. Louis.)

After the jump, we’ll reveal the people’s choice for the 15th and final spot in legal academia’s most exclusive club, as well as arguments for and against each of the contenders….

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Last week, we received our 4,000th response to the ATL School & Firm Insider Survey. (Please take it here, if you haven’t yet). Approximately half of our respondents are current law students, and in the wake of the U.S. News rankings release and the resultant hullabaloo, we thought it would be interesting to compare how the vaunted T14 stack up based on our own survey feedback.

The ATL survey asks students to rate their schools in five different categories:

  • Quality of faculty and academic instruction;
  • Practical / clinical training for the practice of law;
  • Career counseling and job search help;
  • Financial aid advising; and
  • Social life.

After the jump, we’ll look at how the elite schools compare….

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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?

Perhaps. But there’s still a long way to go, as shown by a report issued this week by Law School Transparency….

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[L]aw school is a very risky (and expensive) investment; it should not be entered into lightly…. [E]ach potential student’s calculus will be based on a host of factors unique to him or her. For some, like an English major (relatively low opportunity costs) who gets some scholarship assistance (somewhat lower out-of-pocket costs) to attend Harvard Law School (relatively high pay-off), the investment in a legal education is almost surely a no-brainer.

– Professor Herwig Schlunk of Vanderbilt University Law School, in a new working paper entitled “Is a Law Degree a Good Investment Today?”

(Additional excerpts and discussion, plus links, after the jump.)

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Bar exams are underway all across this great nation. It’s an exciting time for the next crop of young lawyers (at least “exciting” in the sense that being trapped in a mall while zombies swarm around trying to eat your brains is certainly not dull).

In Tennessee, where the bar exam starts tomorrow, the state Board of Law Examiners has found a way to make things even more exciting for test takers. Over the weekend, a rumor surfaced that the grading for the July bar exam would be different than the grading for previous tests.

How? In what way? What would it affect? What does it mean?

I’d like to imagine every Tennessee test taker trying to ask those questions at the exact same time all at once, thereby providing the first direct evidence that we must be living in a universe with more than four dimensions.

Alas, the change turned out to be a minor one — to the extent that any “change” can be called minor, when you only learn about it the day before the bar exam…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Everybody Whose State Did NOT Make A Last Minute Change In Bar Exam Grading, Step Forward. Not So Fast, Tennessee.”

We’ve done a lot of stories about alleged thievery at law schools and law firms, and we’ve posted many funny messages from the victims of these crimes looking to get their stuff back. But we haven’t seen anything this elegant before.

Law students tend to ask for their stuff back in an argumentative, logical way, as if they were asking for an order of replevin against the lost-and-found Gods. But at one top law school, a student made a prayer for relief that sounds a little bit more like a prayer, or at least a poem, than a legal argument.

Check it out — it’s really quite pretty…

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This is the time of year when future lawyers have to make a crucial choice that will follow them for the rest of the legal careers: where to go to law school. The choice of law school is critical, maybe unfairly so. When you look at medical schools, the hard part is getting into a medical school. But in the legal profession, your choice of law school will be a huge factor in what professional opportunities you can take advantage of with your J.D.

Perhaps in past years, this choice was really easy for 0Ls: they could just go to the highest-ranked school they got into, and then hope for the best. But given the realities of the legal economy, 0Ls need to look at a number of factors beyond the U.S. News law school rankings: how much the school costs, what job markets the law school feed into, and so on.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received a number of inquires from 0Ls asking for advice about which law school to attend. We’ve pulled out two of the best questions, and now we want to open it up to the Above the Law readers to give these students — and all 0Ls — the combined wisdom of the ATL community.

These are really tough choices, and we know reasonable people will disagree. Hopefully you guys can help these 0Ls feel comfortable with their decisions, whichever way they go….

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