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Messages - HURLEY- L.S.D.

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I'd like to thank everyone for your insights thus far.  Choosing to attend Widener is a life-impacting decision, and having as much info beforehand as possible really helps to weigh this decision in the best way.

Here is what I think of Widener so far.  Feel free to add or subtract to this as you see fit.  And keep the information coming on Widener.  I'm sure that many people will benefit from what you contribute to this thread.


Widener: Pros and Cons

Widener (Delaware) is a fourth-tier law school situated in an area of the country that is almost saturated with J.D. programs.  That means that if Widener-DE were located elsewhere in the nation, they might be regarded as a third- (or possibly second-) tier law program.  But that is just in theory, and the reality is that when you graduate from this school you will be competing with graduates from the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, Temple, Rutgers-Camden, etc.  They are, however, the only law program in northern Delaware, and that means that there might be some good local internship and employment opportunities for Widener grads exclusively.  The scope and quality of these opportunities vary, and are highly dependent upon Widener Law's reputation locally, which tends to swing anecdotally from being a "good" to "ok" law school, to being a "very bad" place to get a law degree.  It all depends on who you talk to, although nobody appears to be raving about it.  It cannot, therefore, be said that Widener's program is mediocre.  No one has said that Widener is not teaching the law though, or that their grads are poor lawyers.  Widener is ABA accredited, and some successful students have graduated and moved on to practice in good firms. 

Among the most serious concerns expressed by their potential 1L's is Widener's harsh grade curve, which falls somewhere between a 2.3 and a 2.7 GPA (C to C+).  This is a concern especially to those students who are awarded Widener's infamous first-year scholarship, which can be renewed if and only if a 3.0-3.1 GPA is maintained.  To make matters even worse, those students who don't make the GPA cut to renew their scholarships may also have a difficult time transferring with that low of a GPA.  Furthermore, it is rumored that Widener is slow to release final transcripts from the year, which makes it all the more difficult to get all of the needed transfer materials to other law schols.  Nobody is certain about what Widener's letter-of-recommendation policy is for professors writing for students who plan to transfer, but it isn't too much of a stretch to infer that Widener's administration frowns upon it.  It should be noted that Widener is not alone in its grade policies, and that other law schools also apply strict curves first to weed out students who would eventually only fail the bar exam, and second to increase the level of competition among 1Ls.  Two schools in particular that share this philosophy are Southwestern (Los Angeles, CA) and Wittier Law (Costa Mesa, CA).  These two schools are reputable, and have produced many fine attornies.

Another concern about Widener is their administrative responses to the problems that would naturally follow from admitting students with low GPAs and LSATs.  Two of these problems are low bar-passage rates and poor performace in while in school.  One way that Widener deals with this problem is by establishing a strict-grade curve, as mentioned above.  Another way is by employing teaching methods that are outside the straight "socratic" approach that most schools use.  This latter phenomenon involves encouraging student dialogue and interaction by having them prepare oral presentations on certain cases and then presenting to the class.  This might be encouraging to some students who did not have the opportunity to overcome their fears of public speaking in grade school, high school, or college.  However, to students coming from top universities, this experience is a dreadful waste of time that could otherwise be used studying the material that every law student MUST know for the exam.  But just before the student can grab their books and leave the class to catch up on some case reviews, they must be mindful of yet another tactic that Widener employs to "whip" these sub 150's LSAT students into shape--mandatory class attendance.  That's right, you MUST be there, and if not then expect consequences.  Or, you can just get your mom to write another note for you :).  Student's shouldn't take it too personally though.  These protocols are in place to get people, who otherwise wouldn't be admitted to many schools in the area, to shape up and pass the bar.  There is more than one way to approach these problems though, and the coming years will determine how flexible Widener is with these issues.  In the meantime, bright and hard-working students should expect to be insulted by some of these high-school flashbacks that the Widener administration has implemented.

If you are interested in corporate law, then Widener does have some good courses and programs.  In fact, they have a certificate program in corporate law which might interest some who plan to specialize.  There isn't much in the way of statistics to determine how successful the graduates of this program become, and since Widener is not geared (like tier 1 and 2 programs) to send people off to "Big Law" after graduation, it is not certain what these future lawyers do afterward, espcecially because they can't go and handle corporate transactions at the local office of "Joe Sole Proprietor".  The program seems very interesting notwithstanding, and if a person works hard and succeeds they will likely have a solid level of knowledge about corporate law.  Wilmington, Delaware is actually the corporate hub of the United States, and it is good to see that Widener has capitalized on its location and integrated a corporate tract into their program.  It is strange, however, that Widener's corporate-law specific program is not nationally ranked at all, and even schools that are the farthest away from Wilmington, DE (e.g. UCLA) have programs that are said to be better than Widener's.  Come to think of it though, Widener's catalog has a lot to say about their proximity to Wilmington, and the opportunities that could develop for those wanting to study corporate law, yet they say very little about how well their program trains future lawyers to practice in this field of the law, or how their corporate-certificate program is designed to get good jobs for those who pursue this certification.  That is troubling, although Widener may not be doing a very good job at explaining it.  They do explain the merits of their health-law program though, and that program is actually ranked at least #1 or #2 by USNews, which shows that anything that is not ranked at Widener is not exactly due to them being ignored by those who research these things.  If you plan to go into health law, then Widener could be your law school.  It is odd that Widener hasn't capitalized on this yet and established a journal devoted to health law. 

For someone looking for a decent law school with foreign-study opportunities, respectable journals, long-term presence, and non-strict admissions indexing, then Widener is a place to consider.  They do produce attornies who have gone on to become partners of firms, or wealthy individuals, or able practicioners of the law.  It is a realistic expectation, however, that the few years after graduating from Widener will be tough, and jobs will not come knocking at your door as they might for some at other local law schools.  At times it might feel that the administration is working against, rather than for you.  This can be interpreted, though, that Widener is only looking to strenghthen many of its students who do not currently have the discipline and work ethic to pass the bar.  That actually works in your favor when the rankings game is played out, so coming to class every day and doing some book reports is a necessary evil that should be endured for a season.  If you work hard, though , you will learn the law, and you will be prepared for the bar.  You'll have a degree that some people will really admire, and ten years down the road none of the problems we've mentioned here will be an issue.  If you love the law, and you want to be an attorney, then go for Widener.  It is the better of the two campuses, has a good journal, and will give you better training and opportunities than many other fourth-tier schools can.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Chapman Law School
« on: April 14, 2005, 11:55:24 AM »
I have a few follow-up questions about Chapman.  Even if you only know the answer to one of these, I'd appreciate your feedback:

1.  How do they work class registration each quarter?  Is getting into good class a real pain, or does it work smoothly?

2.  It seems that they are trying to recruit some top-notch students.  Do you think that these students are planning to attend?

3.  What is "the hook" for Chapman?  What is it that should make a person want to go there?  Is it just location, or is there something else?

4.  What is the deal with their real-estate certificate program?  Does that lead to a pretty good job afterwards?  Also, what other programs at Chapman are good?

Any other facts and figures you could provide would be appreciated.

Ok, everyone.  Back on track to the Widener issue.  If you want to talk about Biden, study groups, or cats, then please start another thread. 

some have made very good points. especially the point that, if you pass the bar you will get a job, widener can't hold you back that much.

I've heard this given as comfort to many pre-law students, but I just don't see it substantiated with any data.  The law-school's reputation is a major factor in job placement with firms, and nobody can just walk into a firm, say "hey, I passed the bar", and get a job. Just because I pass the bar does not mean that my Widener degree will not hold me back.

...childish darn does not happen all the time, but as was posted somewhere else, i think widener is like #6 in terms of competitiveness.

What do you mean about "childish darn"?  I'm curious about this.

Also, by "#6" are you referring to the Penn/Nova/Temple, etc. issue?

...don't buy into the propaganda that widener is trying to improve.  If they really want to improve, they would stop letting in just about anyone who happened to even take the lsat.

Thank you!  Finally, someone sees where I am coming from.  Whether or not there is a market for these students, as another poster retorted, Widener's admitting them brings down their rank. 
Some of the asinine things that i see my wife having to do are just ridiculous.  She has to do high-schoolesque book reports/presentations.

Whoa!  Hold on..  Please tell us more about this.  I haven't heard of this yet.  Book reports/presentations?  Like in the 5th grade?  What books are we talking about?

As far as scheduling goes...after first year, you schedule alphabetically.  one semester the A's will be first and then the next they will be last.  And when you schedule are screwed.

This is the most ridiculous thing that I've ever heard of, and I'm glad that you shared it with me before I actually enrolled.  Why do they do it this way?  Why not just give 3L's more ability than 2L's based on their seniority.  Plus, what about those in the middle of the alphabet?  That idea about basing admissions priority on the alphabet is the most stupid idea I've heard yet when it comes to Widener.

The subject of pre-law prep books has been discussed already, but I'd like to know what everyone thinks about the books they've read, and which ones were the most helpful.

Also, I remember reading about a pre-law prep course where you get an overview of the first year's courses and what to expect.  Anyone remember the name?

I enjoyed Law School Confidential.  I found it to be pretty helpful, although I was a bit down for a couple days after reading it.  I haven't read Planet Law School yet.  How was it?

Any other good books?

Also, I'd like to know a good place to buy a condo/townhome/house around the Widener area.  I've heard that West Chester is nice.  Any others?  Where are the "hip" places to live around there that would help me enjoy that area after coming there from out west?

Thanks everyone.  I appreciate all of this info.  I'm seriously considering Widener, but I'm just being very skeptical because it would involve a cross-country move and thousands of dollars (among other things). 

I want to make sure that it is a good school to go to, and that I'm not shooting myself in the foot for future job prospects.

Now, jiggityjig mentioned something about late grade releases preventing transfers.  I haven't heard about that yet.  What is it?

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Rate the avatar of the poster above you!
« on: April 13, 2005, 07:15:00 PM »

Looks like you've got your arm around one of Iggy Pop's disciples...

Whose picture is that?  Cute girl.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Rate the avatar of the poster above you!
« on: April 13, 2005, 06:53:23 PM »
I'll give the benz pic a 6/10.  Only because it hovers below my Van Gough hot-air balloon.

OK, something positive.  You can join my study group (which, at this point, consists of only me).  Yankee Kitten can join, too, but she'll have to leave the underachievers behind (we're not pulling them up this year, kitten!).

That's it?  Join a study group? 

I was looking for some facts about the school that might arouse the interests of those planning to attend.

Job placement?  Bar-passage rates?  Unique programs?  Famous instructors?  etc....

What is Widener doing specifically to boost its rankings?

Oh, and let's not buy into the propoganda surrounding the harsh curve:  That it is a way to boost bar-passage rates.  Many other schools have high bar-passage rates and they don't have harsh curves to go with it.  I think that the harsh curve is there to prevent students from transferring. 

Good point, Twarga, yet your observation only serves to prove my point.

A simple administrative change would dramatically impact the atmosphere at Widener.  Right now, with their ridiculous curve combined with ultra-high requirements to keep scholarships, it causes students to do the sorts of things that will help them when the curve pans out. 

Now, I'm not saying that we need to overhaul the administration at Widener.  What I AM saying is that it really doesn't matter how motivated the students are to improve things at Widener because the problems are purely administrative. 

If the administration were more creative, intelligent, and driven then they could fix at least 90% of the problems that we are talking about.

The bottom line is that law school is tough, and twarga is right about the fact that we can only control what we do, not what others are doing.  However, when we are minding our own business and class registration is a hassle, or the career-services office is totally brain-dead, or students are hiding materials, then it doesn't exactly help.

I've found that my best performance comes when I am working very hard to succeed, and the administration makes the educational process run smoothly.  I have attended schools where the administration is really bad, and believe me, it makes a HUGE difference (negatively).

I'm still willing to hear more about Widener though, because biting the bullet and attending must involve seeing something positive there. 

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