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Author Topic: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?  (Read 2646 times)

louiebstef

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2010, 12:04:12 PM »
Morton & Bigs,

Allow me to take a flier here.  Just imagine a revolution in the LS game: A throwback to actually reading the law.  Imagine the guts, determination and intelligence it takes to grind out four years under the supervision of a [probably] very busy supervisory attorney.  All of that work leading to the same bar exam we see today.

Not possible?  I'm not sure about it.  Consider this: Is it not rather universally acknowledged that experienced paralegals tend to do well in LS?  Is that book smarts?  I rather think it is a combination of practical legal, self discipline and time management skills that propel them to success.  Why not consider something like the Physician Assistant program?  Let's say someone with at least 5 years of paralegal experience (and holding maybe a minimum of an Associate degree or equivalent) is eligible to take an exam (maybe like one of the advanced NALA or NFPA certs) that would make them eligible to enter the "Attorney Apprenticeship Program."

Food for thought, eh?

It'd sure rattle the status quo.

"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

Morten Lund

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #21 on: September 27, 2010, 12:07:20 PM »
That is permitted in California, somewhat controversially, more or less exactly as you describe.  I don't have any data on how non-JDs fare in the real world compared to JDs, which would be interesting to know.

louiebstef

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #22 on: September 27, 2010, 12:19:57 PM »
Morten,

I was thinking about that myself.  Consider this: simply through being #3 or so of 550 students in my ABA paralegal program (and easily recognizable as the old bald dude with the goatee) has led to a handful of very powerful mentors, a paid internship that is much more like a LS summer associate position, and one or two whispered opportunities WHEN (not if) I finish law school?!?

The fact that this is my story is CRAP.  Who cares?  I never intended to work as a paralegal, I simply wanted to get a "hands on" perspective before going to law school.
 
The point is that it DOES happen in the "experienced" paralegal field.  Many sharp paralegals actually do make the jump, and when they do, they are already networked better than most T-14 stud-muffins. 

There is one PI firm here in the Tampa area that prominently features one of their female attorneys (She's a babe, of course) on their ubiquitous roadside billboard ads.  That woman was actually a paralegal at the same firm for ten or so years before going through Stetson's PT program.  I'll even wager that the firm may have paid half or all of her tuition.

It happens.  That is why I think that a global shift to include this path through "apprenticeship" is something from the past that is may be worthwhile bringing back on a larger scale.
"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

bigs5068

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2010, 12:31:08 PM »
Then I think we are more or less in agreement.  I feel rather strongly that law school does not prepare anyone for the practice of law - perhaps unlike you, I also do not believe that law school could EVER prepare anyone for the practice of law.  This realization, coupled with my own sad-sack experiences as a junior associate, is actually what drove me to write my books.  Working with junior associates is exhausting under the best of circumstances.

Frankly, I shudder every time I hear of a fresh JD hanging a shingle.

This is exactly what I think is wrong with the system. These Junior Associates as you say are exhausting, because they have no idea what they are doing and I imagine I will not either. For 3 years and 100K you would think you would be entitled to know how to be moderately competent. However, as you said you shudder when you hear a fresh JD hangs their own shingle. attorney. Many lawyers and even yourself say that law school DOES NOT PREPARE YOU FOR THE PRACTICE OF LAW. With my limited amount of common sense I would think the point of law school is to learn how to be a lawyer. However, it seems that each year law schools are getting farther and farther away from that principal. Maybe in your third year you should have to go out and find your own client, which you would have to deal in the real world. Then your professors will supervise you and guide you through a case or a transaction whatever it may be, but something real. This will take a lot of the professors time, but at least the school is earning their 30k for the year. I am sure employers would rather have the professors go through the as you put it exhausting process of teaching a junior associate what to do. With the current system and climate I imagine firms  are less and less eager to take on these EXHAUSTING new junior associates and that is why so many students complain about not finding employment.

To my original post your performance in this REAL life exercise would be a much better measure of the student's class ranking. Opposed to if a student answered a few more MC questions, which they might have even guessed on. At my school there are some people that ranked highly that I would honestly not in a million years hire to handle anything important for me.They are intelligent and able to get some MC questions right, but their grasp on reality is lacking and not to mention you can manipulate your class ranking by taking easy electives. The kid who takes contemplative lawyering, refugee law, courtroom as theater and gets some A's will be ranked higher than the student who elects to take secured transactions, advanced legal writing, etc. Then when OCI comes and they have top 20% of the class cutoff to apply the student who challenged themselves more is out of luck. That problem comes into law school admissions as well. The kids who take the easy road in undergrad are rewarded for taking B.S. classes and getting A's while the students who take molecular biology and get a 2.9 or so get no scholarship money and have less options.  I am obviously complaining a lot about this and I do really enjoy the law and law school. However, there just seem to be so many flaws in the current system that nobody in power seems even remotely interested in remedying.

kenpostudent

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #24 on: September 27, 2010, 12:53:34 PM »
Big,

I feel your pain, but I disagree with your fundamental premise. Experience may or may not help prepary a new associate. I will agree that law school is fairly impractical and could be far more practical if we made the entire third year nothing but clinics. That would help, but I don't think it would have quite the effect you are seeking. For instance. To become a CPA, you have to work under the supervision of a CPA for two years and peform 1,000 hours of supervised audits (in Nevada, anyway) before you are eligible for licensure. You may take the CPA Exam prior to that, but passing the exam does not confer a license until the apprenticeship forms are turned into the state. I find that newly minted CPAs are not much better than newly minted lawyers. As Morten suggested about law, Accounting is also a very broad field. Most CPAs only work on a small cross-section of clients. Even CPAs at large firms generally have a profile of the types of clients they serve. So, even a new CPA, with two or more years under his belt, is really not much more capable than the graduate fresh out of school. A new CPA has some experience and undoubtedly knows more than the fresh graduate, but they are hardly experts and many would not feel comfortable completing big audits without a supervising CPA or managing partner to review their work.

In law, I would think that it is really not much different. A CPA at an accounting firm probably gets far more exposure to accounting than a new associate at a big firm. So, two years at a big law firm would probably not prepare anyone very much for the practice of law, especially because most new associates do little more than research or due dilligence. At least a non-CPA actually does real audit work or real tax work, albeit under the supervision of a CPA. Law is just too diverse a field to require apprenticeship prior to licensure. Would you suggest a different path for a litigator rather than a transactional attorney?

Can a lawyer fresh out of law school win cases? Absolutely. It has happened. One of the major civil rights cases we studied in Civ Pro was won by two fresh law school graduates. Does is happen often? Probably not. Would more practical education in law school correct this? Maybe, but probably not. Ultimately, trial lawyers have an innate talent that they develop in practice. I don't believe that you can teach someone the presence and the soft skills that make one a successful trial attorney. Either you have it or you don't. I do think that you can probably teach practical skills in law school, but there are so many to teach. Ultimately, you learn on the job. That is really how nearly every profession works. Even doctors and dentists, who have some practical experience in school, don't feel very comfortable when the service their first clients. I actually had a long converation with my dentist about this. He said that it took him 2-3 years to feel comfortable doing his job. I found this to be true in accounting, as well. I don't think law school or any school can ever bridge that gap.

Morten Lund

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2010, 12:59:35 PM »

I was thinking about that myself.  Consider this: simply through being #3 or so of 550 students in my ABA paralegal program (and easily recognizable as the old bald dude with the goatee) has led to a handful of very powerful mentors, a paid internship that is much more like a LS summer associate position, and one or two whispered opportunities WHEN (not if) I finish law school?!?


It is certainly not difficult to recollect a number of excellent paralegals who became, or could have become, excellent lawyers.  Most of those, however, were practicing paralegals for a substantial amount of time - well beyond the time required to sit for the bar in California (I recall one particular gentleman who became a BigLaw partner the day after he was admitted to the bar, and another fellow who never went to law school but was paid more than any associate in the firm). 

My vague understanding of what happens in California is that most of the "readers" fall well below the standard of excellence that you describe - which is the source of some of the controversy.  As is stands, reading is largely reserved for those who fail to get into (or graduate from) law school.  That would presumably change if reading were more common, but right now I think it is hard to tell whether reading is better or worse than law school in terms of reality preparation.

Morten Lund

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #26 on: September 27, 2010, 01:10:09 PM »

 These Junior Associates as you say are exhausting, because they have no idea what they are doing and I imagine I will not either. For 3 years and 100K you would think you would be entitled to know how to be moderately competent. However, as you said you shudder when you hear a fresh JD hangs their own shingle. attorney. Many lawyers and even yourself say that law school DOES NOT PREPARE YOU FOR THE PRACTICE OF LAW. With my limited amount of common sense I would think the point of law school is to learn how to be a lawyer. 

We should make sure to determine what we are talking about in terms of preparedness for the practice of law.  The measure of quality of an attorney and the success of his career is not taken six months after graduation, or even after a couple of years.  It is no accident that all the "Super Lawyer" lists (goofy as those listings may be) include people with 10, 15, 30 years of experience.  Even the most well-prepared and brilliant fresh 25-year-old JD will not be a "good" lawyer, and that's ok.  The goal of any professional should be (IMO) not to be rookie of the year, but to reach the highest possible peak over the course of his career.

Firms also recognize this.  Sweatshop gossip aside, most law firms don't hire associates based primarily on who they think will hit the ground running, but based on who has the potential to become a great lawyer a decade later.  My concern with all the practical training programs is that they focus too much on day 1 survival skills.  Most law schools are trying to lay the foundation for success over the course of 40 years.  Are they successful?  Have they gone too far down that path?  I don't know - but we should take care not to reduce law school to a trade school. 

The practice of law is the practice of learning.  Every day is a learning experience, and thinking and learning are the most important skills you can learn.  The facts and the law will change, but if you have learned to learn, you will be able to change as well.

louiebstef

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #27 on: September 27, 2010, 01:12:46 PM »
Morten,

Very good point.  It would be difficult to quantify without first observing a general shift.  I concur with you that using "reading" as a backdoor entry for mediocre candidates is definitely NOT what the profession wants or needs (not that I know anything myself).

A caveat to what you quoted from me.  I really was not blowing my horn.  I am a serious weenie when compared to some of the outstanding and experienced paralegals you mentioned.  I used myself as an example of how is is really not impossible to network, even as a greenhorn,  if you are open to it.

I think many T-14 aspirants simply think the BIGLAW Tree will drop that golden apple right into their lap.  That is just becoming more and more unrealistic.  Those, like myself, who just will not make into a T-14, or maybe even a T-1 or 2 have to be VERY realistic heading into LS.....
"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

kenpostudent

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #28 on: September 27, 2010, 01:19:19 PM »
What practical skills do you think are lacking? You mentioned arguing cases, but few attorneys actually do that. You fashion arguments everyday in law school. You argue on exams. You argue on your briefs. The only difference is that you would present those same argument orally in court as opposed to on paper. What I think you mean is trial skills. There are mock trial competitions in law school to simulate that. However, nothing really prepares you like the real thing. No law student can actually argue a trial for real. It wouldn't be fair to a defendant, unless a law student was also the Plaintiff/Prosecutor.

What other lawyer skills do you want to build in law school: interviewing? There are tons of competitions for that. Law school teaches you to question issues and formulate questions on important issues. You don't need extensive training to put that into practice. However, there are both competitions and clinics that will help you build client interviewing, negotiation, and mediation experience.

How about writing? There are tons of writing competitions for myriads of types of practice documents from briefs, motions, office memos, and even non-practice documents like law review notes and general research papers.

You can get as much technical skill as you want to put the time in to develop. No matter what, however, you will never be fully prepared for your first day on the job. You will be learning your entire career.

Morten Lund

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Re: Does anyone think class rankings are the wrong way to measure students?
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2010, 01:54:42 PM »

A caveat to what you quoted from me.  I really was not blowing my horn.  I am a serious weenie when compared to some of the outstanding and experienced paralegals you mentioned.  I used myself as an example of how is is really not impossible to network, even as a greenhorn,  if you are open to it.

I think many T-14 aspirants simply think the BIGLAW Tree will drop that golden apple right into their lap.  That is just becoming more and more unrealistic.  Those, like myself, who just will not make into a T-14, or maybe even a T-1 or 2 have to be VERY realistic heading into LS.....

I agree on all fronts.  BigLaw currently uses law school ranking as a proxy for candidate quality.  It isn't the worst of proxies, but it is certainly a blunt instrument and misses many excellent candidates.  It would be to the benefit of all if someone with BigLaw ambitions (for instance) who failed to get into a top law school could work as a paralegal for that big firm, with the possibility of becoming an attorney by proving her worth.  I certainly think that would be a better result (for everyone) than having this person waste time and money at an atrocious law school that (in today's system) does nothing to further her goals.

We learn nothing in law school that couldn't be learned on the job.  While law school does lay a foundation, its primary function is currently (IMO) to act as a vetting process.