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U.S. News & World Report may expand their numerical rankings of law schools to include third tier schools, U.S. News research director Robert Morse announced during the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting.

“It's something that we're looking into,” Morse said. “ We do have ranking scores for all law schools but, editorially, we didn't want to say, ' This is the 188th law school.'”

If the publication goes through with the plan, the extended numerical rankings would be published in the next edition, which comes out on March 15.

While some third tier schools are pleased with the idea, others feel that the rankings are misleading and are actually calling for a reduction in the number of schools ranked, rather than an expansion.

“How they do the ranking right now doesn't make sense,” New York law School Dean Richard Matasar said. “The difference between No. 6 and No. 9 or 100 and 101 is minimal. You're really taking things that are essentially identical and treating them as tough there is a difference.”

Despite some negative feedback, Morse noted that the public understands numerical rankings more easily, which is why they would like to include their third tier schools. In the new format, 142 schools would be ranked, while the bottom 25 percent would still be listed alphabetically.

The annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools shed light on the struggles that law schools are now facing, including their lack of focus on practical training.

Amid a treacherous job market, big law firms are putting pressure on law schools to shift their focus from intensive research to more hands-on training, noting that their clients are no longer willing to pay for firms to train new associates.

For decades, law schools have focused heavily on research in the hopes that it would make them appear more elite in the rankings. Some deans, however, say its time to get back to law and start educating lawyers differently.

“The primary mission of my law school is to educate lawyers, and that does not make me a trade school,” Ellen Y. Suni, dean of The University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law, said.  “It's time we all stopped being wannabes.”

The shift in coursework is a lot easier said than done, however. One issue is the tenure system. In the panel discussion, Gary R. Roberts, dean of Indian University School of Law, noted that most faculty are rewarded for their scholarship, and need that prestige to be granted tenure. Fewer tenured professors, means less of a chance of being accredited by the American Bar Association.

“We all know we need more skills training, but we need to find ways to change the culture so we can get there,” Roberts said.

Nearly 3,000 legal educators attended the annual meeting, discussing topics such as the job market, changing coursework and accreditation issues.

Incoming 1Ls / from the natl jurist
« on: February 03, 2011, 12:54:06 PM »
The economic downturn has brought with it an escalation of concern regarding the value of a legal education. Law school tuition (and with it, student indebtedness) continues to increase, even as jobs at big firms are not nearly as prevalent as they once were, or appeared to be.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran a multi-page article, featuring a law school graduate who had racked up some $250,000 in debt, and had yet to find permanent employment. The term “return on investment” has finally made its way from the business world into academia. Yet despite all the hand-wringing, I believe that prospective law students have far more control over the accumulation of debt and their career prospects than many people suppose. And even in a challenging economy law school can be a winning proposition.

When our Career Services office reported an employment rate of 90.8 percent for 2009 graduates as of nine months after graduation, I considered it a good showing in light of the economic downturn. Then I learned that other law schools were reporting employment rates approaching 100 percent.

The problem is not that law school deans lie about employment data; the problem is that law schools have gone to great lengths to adapt to the criteria of U.S. News & World Report, a publication that has become the de facto arbiter of academic quality. One can claim (as another dean did in the Times article) that “a dean who pays attention to the U.S. News rankings isn’t gaming the system; he’s making the school better,” but that is true only if you really believe that the U.S. News criteria represent the best standards in legal education.

When I arrived at Wayne State University Law School, the dean’s office was in need of a paint job. I was upset about the bill, until I realized that the expense would increase our expenditures-per-student, a factor in the U.S. News rankings. Indeed, were I to repaint my office each month, Wayne Law would be a better law school in the eyes of U.S. News.

True, any dean who ignores U.S. News does so at his/her peril. At Wayne Law, however, we have resisted the temptation to distort our academic program to enhance our U.S. News data, notwithstanding my interior decorating efforts. We refused to dilute the quality of our part-time program by admitting students with weaker credentials than our full-time students. We have yet to hire our own graduates into temporary, dead-end jobs to bolster our employment statistics. You will not find employment-at-graduation figures for Wayne Law in U.S. News, because we believe that the figures we and many other law schools have available at that time are inaccurate and unstable.

Like all law schools, we use LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs as major factors in admissions. Unlike U.S. News, we do not use these numbers as the sole determinants of student qualifications.

U.S. News understandably endeavors to use objective, measurable data. The problem is that academic quality cannot be measured solely by the numbers. The adage is true: Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Our students at Wayne are remarkable for their maturity and altruism (a rare combination), but no measure employed by U.S. News accounts for these characteristics. And the shaping of law school admission standards to conform to U.S News criteria has had a disturbing impact on racial and economic diversity in American law schools.

Even Wayne Law’s 90.8 percent overall employment figure requires analysis. Actually, 83.1 percent of our 2009 graduates had jobs at the nine-month mark. U.S. News arrives at its 90.8 percent figure by adding those pursuing other degrees to the numerator and subtracting those not seeking work from the denominator.

About two-thirds of our graduates work in private law firms. For the class graduating in 2009, 71 percent of our graduates obtained jobs for which bar passage was required or preferred, with an additional 9.3 percent in other professional positions. Five graduates are in “non-professional” positions. At the nine-month mark, 10 of our recent graduates had hung out their own shingles, about twice as many as in non-recession years. Several of these people have now obtained jobs at law firms.

U.S. News lists median salaries, but again we should examine the underlying data. Of Wayne Law’s 126 graduates from the Class of 2009 reporting employment in the private sector, only 45 have reported their salaries to us. I suspect that those with higher salaries are more likely to report this data than their lower salaried peers, so I do not put too much stock in our $100,000 median salary figure for those employed in the private sector. This suggests that notwithstanding earnest efforts to collect data, the U.S. News employment figures (and the rankings based on them) should not be taken at face value.

The average salary (public and private employers) of recent Wayne Law grads ($77,900) remains higher than the average debt at graduation ($67,029). While significant, this debt would appear manageable. Of course, averages are just that. They mean little to a graduate who is unemployed or who has incurred six-figure debt, from law school or prior undergraduate studies.

In light of this, I advise prospective law students as follows:

Do not apply to law school if money is your primary motivation. There are easier ways to make money. The law is a profession requiring hard work, intellectual ability and the desire to serve others. Apply to law school if you are intellectually curious about the law, if you have a passion for justice, and if you want to help people.
Apply to a range of law schools. One benign consequence of the rankings scramble is that lower-ranked law schools offer substantial scholarships to candidates who will improve the schools’ LSAT and GPA medians. So a good student who is not in thrall to the rankings is likely to find a law school that will allow her to obtain a good legal education without incurring crippling debt.
When in law school, maintain control over your expenditures. A student who tries to live the lifestyle of a lawyer while in law school may find herself living the lifestyle of a student after graduation.  Avoid extravagant travel; maintain a healthy but inexpensive diet; stay in shape by running instead of skiing. Enjoy the simple pleasures, and save the big-ticket items for later.
While a Big Law firm paying six-figure starting salaries may be your cup of tea, don’t obligate yourself to obtain this type of employment if you were motivated to study law for other reasons. Many lawyers find fulfillment working in smaller law firms, in government or for public interest organizations. Some find their degrees useful in business or education. The advantage of a professional degree is that it makes you the master of your own fate, and expands your career options. The idea is to make a living, not a killing, and to make a contribution along the way.
In short, proper motivation, prudent choice of law school, careful debt management and conscious career choices can make law school a winning proposition. It’s not for everybody, but our profession continues to welcome motivated, altruistic, intelligent men and women. Our society requires no less.

(By Robert M. Ackerman, Dean and Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School)

Incoming 1Ls / Law preview
« on: December 28, 2010, 09:43:20 AM »
Is Law Preview worth it?Please share past expierence or opinions.Thx

Incoming 1Ls / Happy Thanksgiving Everyone
« on: November 24, 2010, 08:19:32 AM »
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

Hope everyone takes some time to relax and be grateful/thankful that they are either in law school and know that they have a real possibility of attending one.

UC Irvine School of Law to offer one-third tuition scholarships for class of 2014

Submitted by admin on Sun, 10/31/2010 - 9:00pm
With the cost of law school gradually becoming a hot topic in the education world, the University of California Irvine School of Law is taking aggressive steps to make sure that they are able to attract top candidates. The school recently announced that they will provide scholarships of at least one-third tuition to each member of the Class of 2014.

Opened in 2009, UCI Law is the first public law school in California in more than 40 years but has already become a competitor with the nation's top 20 law schools. Tuition at UCI Law comes with a hefty price tag of $40,000 for in-state students and $50,000 for out-of-state students. However, the school provided full-tuition scholarships to its first class, and half-tuition scholarships to the second. UCI Law has been able to offer these enticing scholarships thanks to private donations, including a substantial gift from Mark P. Robinson Jr., chair of the Dean's Advisory Council and senior partner at Robinson, Calcagnie Robinson Inc in Newport Beach, Calif.

“Because of the generosity of Mark Robinson and others, UCI Law will continue to provide generous scholarships to help us attract top-quality students,” said Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. “These schoarlships will also help reduce the debt burdens of our students by the time they are ready to pursue careers in law and public service.”

Incoming 1Ls / FROM THE ONION
« on: October 28, 2010, 10:52:12 AM »
Girl Has Just Enough Physical Flaws To Maybe Take Man SeriouslyOctober 27, 2010 | ISSUE 46•43
Article ToolsEmail EmailTo:
 BOISE, ID—Local auto-repair specialist Jim Ervine told reporters Thursday that an attractive woman he has spotted at the 4th Avenue Tavern may possess enough physical flaws not to simply reject him out of hand. "When you first look at her you see an eight, maybe even a nine, but if you examine closely you notice a slight overbite and asymmetrical eyes," said Ervine, who calculates that the birthmark on the woman's neck will make her more willing to overlook the fact that he's 15 pounds over weight. "Unless she had supportive parents who instilled her with a lot of self-esteem, I should have a chance. A good chance." Ervine said he plans on glancing occasionally at the woman's bony knuckles to give himself the confidence he needs to approach her.

Incoming 1Ls / Why the job market is changing
« on: October 26, 2010, 11:14:46 AM »
Why the job market is changing

Submitted by admin on Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:54am
The law firm world that we have all known is changing. Fueled by new economic realities. Law firms are beginning to adapt to a new reality. And that makes it hard for law students to understand the part they care about the most — the entry-level hiring market.

As someone who spends a large amount of time studying the history and structure of the legal services industry, I might have some useful insight on the vagaries of the current job market, including how things might change in the future. 

Here are three relevant observations:

1. The traditional law firm hiring model (pedigree and grades) doesn’t do a very good job of selecting candidates who are likely to succeed as large firm litigators or corporate lawyers.

2 The traditional credential-based model is gradually being dismantled because clients are no longer willing to absorb the cost of bad hiring decisions.

3. The skills and behaviors you need to set yourself apart are not taught in law school—indeed, your typical law professor is completely unqualified to serve as your jungle guide.

How we got here

Although these observations may seem extravagant, they make more sense when placed in historical context. At the beginning of the post-World War II era, the vast majority of U.S. lawyers were general practitioners working as self-employed businessmen. They did not make much money, primarily because there were more generalist lawyers than work.

In contrast, the average partner working in a “large” law firm made approximately five times as much as the typical solo practitioner. Although big firm lawyers comprised only a small fragment of the private practice bar (less than 4 percent of lawyers worked in firms with five or more partners), they had specialized skills that were in short supply relative to demand. 

For the next several decades, market forces favored the larger law firms. During this time period, the rise of the administrative state and the growth of transnational commerce created an enormous need for sophisticated business lawyers. And the only credible way to fill this talent gap was for the specialists — the partners in large firms — to train younger lawyers (associates). 

Indeed, if a firm had an established reputation, the business clients were willing pay for this training. 

Historically, the leading business law firms recruited at elite, Ivy League law schools, in part because these schools had full-time, learned faculty and required an undergraduate education. In the days before the LSAT and stringent state bar admissions standards, there was a general belief that the Ivy League model produced better thinkers and problem-solvers. 

After lawyers and law professors organized themselves nationally — through the ABA and the Association of American Law Schools — they were then able to successfully lobby state governments to adopt the Ivy League model as the template for all law schools. This movement coincided with the rise of the great public law schools, which made legal education affordable to a large number of first generation professionals. 

These changes in legal education substantially diluted the business rationale for law firms to recruit at elite law schools. But, the self-image of law firms had become intimately intertwined with the educational pedigree of their lawyers. And because large firms were still only a small proportion of the total legal market, any pay premium for the top academic graduates was still small enough to pass along to clients. In short, there was no economic downside to being an academic snob.

These favorable economic conditions lasted for several decades, and it became the industry-wide presumption that partners from the most elite schools were the best lawyers. The institutionalization of on-campus interviews by large law firms further perpetuated this pattern.  In turn, 20-year-old college students looking for a reliable path to prestige and wealth set their sights on the so-called national law schools.

Most current law students are quite familiar with the rest of this story. 

As the financial and technology sectors boomed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, law firms went on a hiring spree. And for the first time in history, the demand for elite law school graduates outstripped supply. This produced an entry-level job market that was “bi-modal”—a large proportion of graduates clustered at salaries of $40,000 to $50,000, a second large cluster at $140,000 to $160,000, and only relatively few jobs in between. 

Incoming 1Ls / Professors predict law school closings as grads earn less
« on: October 26, 2010, 04:53:56 AM »
Professors predict law school closings as grads earn less

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 5:00am
 A recent article by University of San Diego law professor David McGowan and academic fellow Bernard Burk of the Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford suggests that some law schools may be forced to close as the prospects for graduates decline.


In a recent article, “Big But Brittle: Economic Perspectives on the Future of the Law Firm in the New Economy,” the professors note that large law firms continue to hire fewer highly paid associates. On the whole, firms seem to be hiring more associates and paying them less. The article predicts that with the prospects of a substantial salary looking grim, law school applications will eventually drop, causing a number of law schools to close their doors.
The issue boils down to whether or not individuals still feel that law school is a good investment. According to Northwestern Law Dean David Van Zandt, the break-even salary for law grads is $65,000, and in some cases even higher. Coupled with the recession, law school is looking like a bad economic decision for more and more people.
Not all law schools are in danger, however. McGowan and Burk note that the “super elite” law schools will remain. In order for other schools to remain open, they will most likely have to have a track record of good placement as well as lower tuition in order to attract applicants.
The cost of law school has been a hot topic in recent weeks. One third-year Boston College law student even went as far as to write an open letter to the school's paper asking for his tuition back. The student cited a lackluster job market as well as massive student loan debt among his reasons to want to leave law school and receive a refund.
“This will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to U.S. News,” the student wrote.

Incoming 1Ls / FAMU over Harvard
« on: October 15, 2010, 12:55:13 PM »
When a boy enters first grade at the age of 4 and high school at the age of 12, it's a foregone conclusion that the child will end up at a Harvard or a Stanford or a Cornell. Right? Not if the boy is Ralph Jones Jr., a 16-year-old freshman at Florida A&M University who has received national attention in recent days for passing up opportunities at the 45 other schools that accepted him -- including the prestigious institutions listed above -- to attend the Tallahassee, Fla., HBCU.

Jones said that for him it wasn't about whether or not a school was an Ivy League -- he thought about location, scholarship offers, campus atmosphere and the institution's engineering program in making his decision. "Entering college at the age of 16," Jones told The Root, "I think that my motives behind choosing were a little bit different than other people's. One, I looked at distance from home. Florida A&M is about 300 miles away from my hometown of Atlanta, so that was something that was really important to me, whereas if I had gone somewhere that was considered an Ivy, that would have been a good 2,000."

The proximity is important because he is so much younger than the average freshman, he said. His parents have already had to drive down to his school twice from Atlanta to sign forms for him because of his age. He also said it's long been one of his goals to go to college for free. Many of his top choices were either too far away or did not offer him a full ride. Harvard and Stanford, for example, offered him some money but not a full scholarship. Cornell and Kettering offered full scholarships but were too far away for his liking. Georgia Tech, his No. 1 choice, did not offer a full scholarship.

But what really sealed the deal for FAMU, which Jones said was his fourth-choice school, was a pep rally and recruitment fair he attended. To Jones, the atmosphere was "exhilarating." He said he comes from a long line of HBCU grads, and after that moment, his decision was made.

Now that he's settled into his first semester at his new home, it's come as a bit of a shock to Jones that his choice of school has caused so much controversy. "The criticism has been overwhelming," Jones said. "[Talking to the media] was a big mistake on my part. I've never been under this kind of scrutiny before. Never nationwide like this. This is bigger than anything I've ever experienced."

People found him through his Facebook and Twitter pages, and even sent text messages to his cell phone number, which was listed on his Facebook page. He said he received about 20 text messages from people who felt he had made a poor decision.

"Some of the stuff people were saying was like, 'For someone so smart, he's so dumb.' I've gotten some really strange things," he said. "It's been … wow. [Last] week [was] interesting."

Jones decided to write a note on his Facebook page to his detractors, explaining why FAMU was a better choice for him than Harvard, pointing to his internship offer from Lockheed Martin as an example of the opportunities available to FAMU students.

For Jones, the negativity being thrown his way has only reinforced his determination to be successful at FAMU and prove that he can receive an excellent education at an HBCU.

"I think that this only pushes me to work a little harder, and to show people that this was my decision and I stand behind it, and I'm not going to back down from it," he said. "I've said over and over again that I'm a major in pre-engineering. And while a lot of people get upset that I didn't attend an Ivy League institution, what they don't realize is that [at] most Ivy League institutions -- while I respect them for their liberal arts programs, their law programs, their prestige, the great contributions they've made to society, etc. -- their colleges of engineering are really just in name as far as prestige is concerned. For example, Harvard's [school] of engineering is still fairly new, while the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is, I'd say, one of the best, if not the best, in the state."

Questions have abounded in recent years over the relevance of HBCUs, but Jones said that he believes these schools are still very valuable for students looking for a specific type of college atmosphere and learning environment.

"Everyone knows why HBCUs were founded, because of racial segregation and how African Americans couldn't attend mainstream institutions," he said. "Now that things have been righted and it is a possibility -- I can attest to that -- I think HBCUs are valuable now more so for the experience.

"I believe Florida A&M is unlike any other college in the world just because of the HBCU experience here: the step shows, the band, the night life. It's all unique," Jones continued. "When it comes down to it, the family feeling -- I didn't feel that at other institutions, because I visited a lot of schools. And this is the only one [where] I felt like I was part of something larger."

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