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Topics - Ron Hiatt

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Law School Admissions / POLL: Did your undergrad grade on a curve?
« on: August 01, 2006, 11:47:05 AM »
I was amazed to find out recently that most undergraduates courses are not subject to a forced curve, and this type of grading comes as a shock to most when they get to law school. My school graded every class on a forced curve... that explains how so many on this board are able to have such high UGPAs.

I'm interested to find out what percentage of UGPAs were subject to a forced curve.

Dean's Response to Recent Law School Rankings.

Law School Community and Friends:

The US News & World Report magazine recently published its annual ranking of American law schools.  We are disappointed in the results of the recent ranking and I am writing to provide you with some information about the law school's program and about the US News and other law school rankings.

Last year, the law school was ranked by US News as tied (with three other law schools) for #94 in the first two groupings of law schools.  This year's ranking dropped the law school into the next group or tier of schools which are not ranked numerically.   This development is not only disappointing, but surprising as well.  Our careful analysis of the US News 2005 ranking reveals the following:

  • Examining the scores on individual criteria scoring, it is clear that Santa Clara is at the top of third tier. However, it is unclear why the law school was demoted a tier.  The law school improved over last year's report in two significant criteria:  its reputation among lawyers and judges (weighted at 15% of the entire scoring system) improved from a 2.5 to a 2.7 and its entering class undergraduate grade point average (10% of entire score).  More importantly, Santa Clara had essentially the same numbers as last year on all of the remaining criteria (e.g., LSAT scores of entering students, bar pass rate, etc.).  There is only one criterion (employment rate at 9 months; weighted at 12%) that Santa Clara declined over 2004 scores--from 93.4% in the '04 report to 84.4% in the most recent report.
  • Therefore, with the law school's improvement in two areas collectively weighted at 35%  and its continuing strength in nearly all areas, it is puzzling why the rankers moved the school downward in this year's ranking.
  • More importantly, when the internal rankings data, obtained from US News’ editors, is reviewed, it becomes even clearer that the law school should not have been moved downward.  The magazine provided the following analysis of the law school’s comparative ranking (’04 over ’05).

     Overall rank              
     Academic Reputation       
     Reputation Lawyers/Judges 
     Faculty Resources         

This data shows that under US News’ own methodology, the law school improved considerably in ’05 compared to ’04.  Its comparative ranking increased in 2005 in the categories of academic and non-academic reputation, in its selectivity and in its faculty resources.  The school’s ranking decreased only in it’s comparative placement data.  US News cannot explain the decrease in the law school’s overall ranking when the school increased in all categories except one (placement at graduation) which was a relatively minor part of the overall weighting scheme.

In the areas of “specialty " rankings, the law school was rated #4 in the country for the diversity of its student body and tied for #15 for its Intellectual Property Law program.

The annual US News ranking project has long been criticized for its methodological flaws and its attempt to reduce a complicated task to a simplistic formula.  This is a reason that just about every American law school dean has encouraged prospective law students not to rely on the rankings for any serious consideration of law schools.  Moreover, the ranking process has encouraged disingenuous behavior by some law schools, such as misstating placement rates for graduates, failing to report LSAT scores for all admitted students, and other misconduct.

The criticisms of the ranking are particularly pertinent to this year's report on Santa Clara's law school.  The survey demotes the law school when all stated criteria are as strong or stronger than last year, fails to consider the law school's recent election to membership in the Order of the Coif (the "Phi Beta Kappa" of legal education), and elevates several other law schools with decidedly lower measures on the stated criteria above Santa Clara.

The law school’s leadership take seriously the task of continuously improving the law school’s academic programs, the levels of student support and services, and the opportunities for its students to benefit from professional opportunities in law school and in the practice of law. For example, some of the steps Santa Clara Law recently has taken (or is in the process of implementing) to improve its programs, include:

  • Hired a new career services professional who will work with third year students and recent graduates to expand their employment possibilities and opportunities;
  • Initiated a new preparatory program for 3L students to better prepare them for the state bar examination;
  • Created and widely distributed new marketing materials accurately promoting the law school's programs, strengths, new faculty and student and faculty activities;
  • Hired (and continue to hire) nationally recognized faculty members;
  • Designed a position for a dean of student academic and professional development who will assist our students in their preparation for entry into the legal profession, including passage of the state bar examination.

Santa Clara Law will continue to strengthen its programs and curriculum to make it a better law school and will continue to market the law school in rankings, surveys, and other similar endeavors. I believe that continuing to focus on the fundamental attributes of a good law school program will make this a better law school and that will be reflected in the many surveys and rankings that attempt to provide information about law schools.  More importantly, it will be reflected in the students and faculty we will attract to the school and will improve the "value" of a Santa Clara Law degree.  We also will continue to report our information accurately to the providers of law school surveys and rankings.

Finally, it also is useful to note that there are many rankings purporting to evaluate law school programs and many have noted areas of strength of Santa Clara's law school. The Consus Group, a national organization of business and law consultants published a national ranking of law schools and ranked Santa Clara as the #64 law school in the country based on a comprehensive set of criteria.  Brennan's "Judging the Law Schools" ranks Santa Clara as one of the top 10 American law schools in its annual "Diversity Index. Princeton Review recently listed Santa Clara as a one of the top 100 law schools in the country and #10 in the country in the criterion of "best environment for minority students."

I have encouraged our students, faculty and alumni to continue their pride of the law school,  Moreover, I  hope they will continue to encourage their friends and family to strongly consider Santa Clara as a great place to study law. 

Donald J. Polden, Dean

General Off-Topic Board / Two Random Questions
« on: April 30, 2005, 08:38:53 PM »
1. It's on the tip of my tongue... what's the term they use for the top student in a class?

2. How do some people (midjeep with the barney-like spanking 'tar comes to mind) have animated GIFs for their avatar? I've tried both uploading and pointing to hosted images, but no matter what, it just takes the first frame of the GIF.

Politics and Law-Related News / Judicial Tyranny, my ()()
« on: March 29, 2005, 09:36:29 AM »
You've probably heard the following phrases bandied about by the religious right, FoxNews talking heads, radio talkers, and GOP politicians: judicial tyranny, activist judges, legislating from the bench, etc.

It seems pretty clear to me that the right feels emboldened by their latest electoral victory and have set their sites on bastardizing the one branch of government that is actually paying attention to the Constitution instead of pandering to political pressures. I believe this branding of the judiciary as out-of-control and liberal is a concerted effort to get the most conservative judges confirmed. The ploy, in this case, is to generate a broad consensus that the federal judiciary is renegade and liberal beyond belief, yet the numbers don't support this assertion.

On C-SPAN this morning, one of the guys from Hotline gave some interesting numbers about the political affiliation of federal judges. It surprised me. From all the rhetoric, I would have thought that there was at least a balance of Dems to Reps in the federal judgeships. It's not even close. Judges nominated by Republican Presidents out number their political counterparts by nearly 3 to 2. I didn't remember the exact numbers he stated, so I looked them up online and tabulated the number. I have reproduced my findings in the image below.

(click on the thumbnail to view image)
Data compiled from The Federal Judges Biographical Database

I almost forgot to include the mailing labels when I was applying to BU, as per their Application Instruction #2:

Did anyone out there actually forget to include them? Come on, it's an anonymous poll.

I wonder if they will auto-reject someone who doesn't follow the instructions down to the detail like this. I would.

Choosing the Right Law School / Overly Competitive Schools
« on: March 01, 2005, 02:28:20 PM »
So I've been reading Law School Confidential, and in it the author makes several references to the competitive schools with nasty environments. We've all heard about them... places where people won't share notes, steal books out of the library, and basically do anything to get an 'edge'. In LSC he won't ever mention the schools' names, ostensibly to avoid having his ass sued into oblivion. He says things like "we all know which schools these are". Well, guess what? I don't know which schools these are!!!

LSC also lists a few school policies which may foster this type of environment. Off the top of my head I can remember that one of the policies was posting grades and/or class rank. Another was if the school doesn't aggressively pursue violations of the honor code.

Anyway, who know which schools are like this, or what else to look out for when visiting campuses?

I'll throw one name out there to get the ball rolling. I have heard from a few former students at BUSL, and they have both described this exact environment there.

Choosing the Right Law School / Endless Waiting + Nerd + LSN = Graphs
« on: February 11, 2005, 09:03:04 AM »
So I've applied to eleven schools. Sent first one in about a month ago and the last one about a week ago. The waiting is already driving me crazy, so naturally I'm on LSN every single day looking for the most recent updates. Hoping for a glimmer of hope from a reach. I decided the other day to download some of the school's data for which I was appyling. I ended up downloading all eleven schools and running them through a normal distribution in Excel. Bad idea, it just freaked me out. When I was applying, I thought I had 5 reaches, 5 targets, and 1 safety. Of course I checked out Chiasu and found that my assumptions were a little off, making some of my targets, reaches, and my reaches, super stretch reaches. Still, one must always hold onto some hope that this year's applicant pool is ridiculously depressed, and Boalt will decide to make a LOT of exceptions to their usually high UGPA averages.

I must preface this by saying that I realize some of the data (especially for non-T50 schools) is skewed by the fact that most of the members on LSN are insanely anal nerds who probably have higher numbers than the national average. This is just an assumption based on what I've seen around LSD & LSN. For instance, many of the lower tier schools have very few Rejections posted by LSN members. This is not to say that these schools have not sent out Rejections to a good number of applicants, only that these folks getting dinged aren't hanging out online all day obsessing about their law school applications. (Hmm, maybe that's why they're getting dinged from TTTs?)

Each graph is a normal distribution of acceptances based on the applicant's index. The black vertical line represents the mean. The two blue lines represent the plus/minus two standard deviations, that encompases 98% of cases within the data set. The red line represents my index. My LSN page is linked on my sig, if you want to check it out. Also, click on any graph to see the full-sized image. Without further ado, here are my graphs.

First, the good news. Well, sorta. My index is well within the range of acceptances for Suffolk, my safety. I am still below the mean, though. I'm not sure what their Rejection curve looks like, because they have only three Rejections posted.

The next four were/are my targets schools, Santa Clara, Cardozo, Houston, & Chicago-Kent, respectively. Unfortunately none of these schools had enough dings on LSN to get any good rejection curves. Although I do fall within the 98% confidence range of accepted scores for all of them, I am also well below the mean, and usually very close to the bottom 2%. I would also suspect that the rejection curve overlaps the acceptance curve in the range where I'm sitting. I would also venture to guess that if I had the rejection curve, I'd be sitting in a much meatier section of it. In retrospect, I'd probably consider each of these a traditional reach.

* Oddly enough, Chiasu gave me the second highest probability for Chicago-Kent (behind Suffolk). Yet, my index line is right on top of the bottom 2 percentile marker.

This next one is disappointing. Washington College of Law (American U) is a school that I thought was a target school. I have some rejection data for them too. Not a lot, but 12 points should be enough to get a representative curve. The rejection curve (magenta) is to the left of the acceptance curve (navy). As you can see, there is little overlap of the curves in the zone where I am sitting. Oh well. I am going to start to think of this as a reach.

The data only gets worse and worse for schools which I knew were reaches. Now they look like super-stretch-if-the-Red-Sox-could-do-it-why-not-me reaches. For all of these, I also have a decent set of rejection data to make the rejection curves. They are, in order, GWU, BC, U Texas, BU, and Boalt.

Now, if only I could send in an addendum to all of my apps, letting them know that I've taken on a new extracurricular activity... obsessing needlessly and analytically about applying to law school!


Would someone who's written what they feel is an excellent PS mind sending it to me.  I need some inspiration.

Update: alibami_z has the BEST advice for this request, which I've seen posted around LSD many times.  Jump down and read that response.  Ignore all the cräp (especially from Julie Fern) in between here and there.

Law School Admissions / Disclosure of Record
« on: January 05, 2005, 03:22:23 PM »
Hello,  Could somebody please read my disclosure below and comment on it.  Will this disclosure have an adverse effect on my chances of admittance?  If so, how bad will it be?  I'm thinking about making my PS focus on how much I've matured over the past six years and learned from my mistakes.  Is that too obvious?  Any serious advice would be greatly appreciated.  In case you're interested I have a 2.98GPA and a 160LSAT. 
edited for privacy

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