Why a T4 law school was my 1st choice (Part I)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 13, 2009 in Background | Subscribe

One thing I’ve learned when starting a new project is to keep it secret until you’ve got a fairly decent idea of how you want the project to turn out. Ask someone for their thoughts on a vaporous concept alone and you’re likely to get a critical response — and sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

That was the case today, my 2nd day of orientation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.  During a mid-day break while talking with a prospective friend (I’m shy by nature so on those few occasions the opportunity for conversation is thrust upon me I hang on for dear life) I was asked about my undergraduate background, which in turn led to a discussion about studying Computer Science, which in turn led to a discussion about social networks / blogs / Twitter / etc… which in turn led to me mentioning law:/dev/null.

At that point a kid who I can only conclude has a raging inferiority complex jumped in with “You’re going to a Tier 4 law school, what on earth can you know about being a 1L to justify writing a blog?” (emphasis his).

So many things with that statement that merit ranting, so little time.  So I figured I’d hit the main one.

Most people by nature are braggarts, and lawyers more so than most.  An outgrowth of that reality is the constant pigeonholing of people based on the law school they attend.  US News & World Report kindly contributes to this foolishness by ranking all 184 law schools in the country and helpfully chunking them into roughly equal-sized Tiers.  Your top schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale and so on go into Tier 1, while your non-top schools like Appalachian, Duquesne, Ave Maria and their counterparts go into Tier 4.

The statistics about each school generally determine their tiers.  Higher tiers tend to have “more selective” admissions, higher bar passage rates, and better job placement percentages; lower tiers have “more permissive” admissions and lower percentages on both bar passage and job placement.  Although rankings might be useful to the braggart class, they can create self-fulfilling prophecies that don’t accurately reflect the quality of what students are actually taught — for example, higher ranked schools get more attention in books like US News Top 100 Law Schools, therefore they get more applications for a fixed number of spots, therefore they become even more “more selective” when most of those folks get rejected, therefore their rankings are reinforced or improved the next time around, and so on ad inifinitum.

What on earth can a student at a Tier 4 law school know to justify producing a blog?  The same stuff as everyone else — almost all 1Ls get taught the exact same material, primarily because groups like the American Bar Association have certain basic standards that have to be met for a law school to get accredited.

But that fact begs the question:  if everyone is learning substantially the same material, why would anyone bother attending a Tier 4 school in the first place when it would seem (at least statistically) that a top school would give someone better odds at passing the bar and landing a job?

I’d tell you, but it’s just past midnight (as in 2+ hours past my bedtime).  Keep an eye out for my answer tomorrow :)

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[…] a T4 law school was my 1st choice – Part I and Part II – a look at why things other than the rankings are important when deciding which […]


 

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