1

Can law school faculty really be this obtuse?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 24, 2014 in Unsolicited Commentary

Earlier this week one of my good friends and occasional law:/dev/null commenter VA forwarded me a story out of Florida Coastal School of Law, which is apparently in the process of searching for a new dean.

The entry comes from Richard Gershon over at the “Law Deans on Legal Education Blog”1 in an entry titled “Florida Coastal Dean Search Raises Deeper Issues”. From the story it sounds like the faculty got to see presentations from the 7 finalists for the dean job, but cut one of those presentations short when their sensibilities got offended. :crack:

Here’s a snippet:

The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later.

Th concerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.

The LSAT in 2008 and 2009 was (153/150/147). In 2010 the numbers were (152/149/146). The decline continued in the succeeding years (151/147/145) in 2011 and (151/146/143) in 2012.

As might have been predicted, the weaker entering class of 2010 had a low bar pass rate, 67% for first time takers on the July 2013 Florida bar. This was the first time in several years that Florida Coastal had dropped below 70%.

At first I thought there was no possible way the story could be accurate. To borrow VA’s words, “And it was to the FACULTY… it wasn’t like ‘Hey, students, you go to a crap school!'” — but after seeing the first comment on the blog entry, from a FCSL professor who doesn’t dispute the account of events but simply notes “The entire Florida Coastal Community works hard to help our students do well on the bar,”2 now I’m inclined to believe it.

I don’t know how that story reads to the folks in academia, but as a lawyer on the outside all I see is “We don’t want to be held accountable!” If FCSL’s student profile climbed, and bar passage rates didn’t climb accordingly, it would be painfully obvious the faculty are at least partly responsible for the failure; now though, by accepting students with “declining credentials,” the faculty can blame any shortcoming in the pass rate on the caliber of student they’re letting in.

Then to make it worse, after throwing a temper tantrum about now wanting to be held accountable, they threaten to have the person offending them escorted from the premises by security? Wow.

Evidently legal education is in more trouble than I thought… :roll:

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:

  1. Never heard of it before now :beatup: []
  2. Duh? []

Tags: , , , , ,

 
7

TDot’s Mailbag v5.0: What Law School’s Really Like

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 14, 2010 in Mail

This was originally a TDot’s Tips entry titled “Tips for the Pre-L’s” — until I started writing it Monday afternoon, when Delta the 2L sat down next to me in the Fishbowl and wanted to know what I would be doing at 7:00pm that night.

I’ve learned the only acceptable answer when she asks me that question is “What would you like me to be doing Delta?” :beatup:

Turns out the Pre-Law Students Association at my alma mater was holding a panel discussion titled “What is Law School Really Like?” and she wanted a partner from the N.C. Central University School of Law to help rep for the Legal Eagles.

Since I came at law from a non-traditional angle I had to say yes. Besides, y’all know how I am about competition :angel:

There were about 30 undergrads in the audience, and the panel turned out to be a solid mix of folks with 3 students from Campbell Law, 3 from UNCCH Law, 2 from Duke Law, an alum from Wake Forest Law, and of course Delta and I from NCCU Law.1 I think 6-7 of us were 1Ls, but the 2Ls/3Ls/post-Ls were represented by at least 1 person apiece.

The questions covered a wide range of topics that you’d expect from aspiring law students: workload, types of classes, “gunners” and competition, and so on. But some panel members did tend to commandeer the discussion and recognize new questioners before folks had a chance to answer the previous question, and yesterday one of the sophomores in attendance shot me a message.

Rather than do the usual Q&A format for past mail entries, I figured I’d post what he sent me and offer my $.02 from there.  Here’s what I got:

Overall, I enjoyed listening to the panel and attending the event. I do wish the the questions/answers had been more organized so that each student from each law school could have given a more direct answer and that every student could have been given the chance to answer each question.

I would have liked to have learned more about the admissions process from the students also. I believe the bar exam was only mentioned once or twice in the whole forum; from what I have heard the bar exam is one of the top things that law students are trying to make sure they pass, that was one dimension that was almost forgotten about….and I’m not quite sure why?

It seemed like the whole time all of the students were all up tight and bashing the amount of work load and la la la the whole time. I was like okay I get the point that law school is a lot of work, I’m aware of that now, I am more than willing to put in the time and effort, enough with the talks about how much work it is, tell me more about WHAT LAW SCHOOL IS REALLY LIKE – tell me about the professors, tell me about the elective courses you can take, tell me about the mock trials you can participate in, etc etc.

I fully understand, and *commend* every single law student out there for the amount of work they have to put into law school; but this forum was not meant to whine about the work load if you get my gist.

Let me preface my thoughts by pointing out I’M NOT NORMAL. You hopefully figured this out at some point amid (i) Student Government being my preferred hobby, (ii) picking a T4 as my first-choice law school despite higher-ranked options, or (iii) deciding to go the law route at all after getting a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I’m strange, I’m upbeat about my own law school experience, and I’m even optimistic about the future prospects for the legal industry.

I’m also apparently one of the very, very, very few who feel that way :beatup:

So before reading on, I’d encourage you to check the other bloggers in the list at the right of this page. Dennis Jansen in particular has a ton of advice well worth reading — I read it myself before starting law:/dev/null, that’s how legit it is.

Now back to that email…

Admissions
Admissions was actually something I studied quite a bit as a side project when I was an undergrad.2 I’m not an expert by any means, but here’s some of what I’ve learned both in NC and nationwide:

  • The admissions process is going to vary by school of course, but pretty much everyone uses some form of indexing in their decisions.  Essentially take your undergraduate GPA and multiply it by a given fraction, take your LSAT score and multiply it by a different fraction, take whatever “special” factors your chosen school considers (e.g. legacy status, socioeconomic status, etc), add all those numbers up and you get your Academic Index score. Students above a certain number get in automatically, below a certain number get rejected automatically, and the folks in the middle get a closer look at your actual application to decide if you should be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted.
  • Any school that tells you they read all the applications is lying to you. There are simply too many applications for every school, and your typical admissions committee is roughly 3-5 people — usually 1 or 2 administrators, and the rest senior faculty. In other words they’re all busy people, and are simply not going to read 1,000+ essays or more per person. Period.
  • Apply early! Most schools also use “rolling admission,” which means they start accepting students throughout the application cycle — including those folks with the high Academic Index scores.  Typically that means by the time the advertised “deadline” approaches for a given school, all of the seats have admitted students filling them and you’re competing for spots that only open up when the accepted folks go somewhere else. The odds already are not in your favor; they get precipitously worse by the deadline.
  • Consider applying at public law schools in your state (if they’d be a good fit for you of course). Most state-supported institutions have caps on out-of-state students, making it comparably easier to get in if you’re in-state. For example, UNCCH Law limits out-of-state students to 25-30% of the student body even though out-of-staters typically make up 75%ish of the applications received. Private Duke Law, by contrast, had over 80%+ of its Class of 2012 coming from outside North Carolina.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I call this the “nontraditional” approach to admissions: if you know someone who’s an alum from your school, or back when you were a kid you used to mow the lawn for one of the professors, or one of your parent’s coworkers knows a friend of a friend who plays golf with the Dean, see if they have any advice they can offer to help you be as competitive as possible. The era of a well-placed phone call to the right person securing your acceptance has largely died off, but there are always “intangibles” in every process and there’s no harm in trying to line up as many as you can in your favor.

Bar Exam
At most undergraduate universities, when you finish all your required courses you’re usually entitled to graduate, get your degree, and start working in whatever field you studied.

Not so with law.

After you graduate, you’ll sit and take a bar exam for the jurisdiction where you want to practice. This is essentially a 2-3 day affair featuring multiple choice questions, essays, and similar tests on a variety of subjects to verify your competence to become a lawyer. Pass the bar, and you get to jump through the next set of assorted hoops to get your law license (“character and fitness” reviews, etc). Fail, and you get to wait 3-4 months to try again while desperately trying in the interim to find some way to pay your bills.

Training you to pass the bar, enabling you to become a competent attorney, is the #1 job of a law school. It’s also not easy — so make sure you pay attention in your law classes, because that info will be coming back in a few years.

The Work
There’s not much I can say here that will be useful to any of you, since I honestly don’t think the work in law school is that hard.

Why? Because I was horrible at my undergraduate major :beatup:

As a result I was/am already accustomed to sitting in one place in perpetuity (e.g. at a desk) doing the same thing for hours non-stop (e.g. debugging code) and giving up certain necessities of life (e.g. sleep and a social life) to get projects done on time. Law school has been a cakewalk by comparison, since the only “project” is generally a midterm and final exam — and reading case law for a few hours is infinitely easier than tracing Java code looking for an elusive bug.

Trust me ;)

Law school is a sizable volume of work, for certain. You’ll want to read all the cases you’re assigned so you’re able to understand the discussion taking place in class, which in turn will make it easier to digest the material and study for finals.

But law school is also a huge mind game. If you go in knowing you’re going to have a large volume of work and you take a disciplined approach to getting that work done, you’ll be fine — and should even have time for sleep and a social life :D

Professors
They’re all different, and it shows. MDG and Professor CrimLaw both have witty and disarming personalities — and are merciless graders who force you to know your material. Professor Torts takes a more disciplinarian approach. Professor Ks represents the “new school” and is more laid back than the others, while The Traveling Professor holds it down for the “old school” with her regal demeanor.

One unifying characteristic of the professors is that they’re all smart people. And the vast majority are friendly, approachable, and go out of their way to help students succeed at learning the law. After all, even these folks were 1Ls once upon a time.

The key is to not let yourself get intimidated — as your legal elders they’re entitled to a certain level of deference, but not to the point where you’re afraid to talk to them.

Electives
I’m not really qualified to say much here, simply because for almost all law schools your 1L year will be set in stone for you and cover “core” classes like Property, Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Constitutional Law.

If you want to browse around, NCCU Law has most of its electives posted online. Typically law schools will have electives on a huge range of topics (intellectual property, bioethics, veterans law, etc) and offer law clinics for students to experience first-hand different areas of the law where they might be interested in practicing.

But given the breadth of offerings and the differences between each law school, the best I can recommend here is to check out the individual offerings for every school you’re interested in.

Extracurriculars
This is another area where the philosophies of law schools tend to differ,3 but at many schools 1Ls get to participate in most of the exact same stuff as their upper-level colleagues.

Speaking for myself here at NCCU Law, I took part in 3 different mock trial competitions just for 1Ls, signed up for the 1L Moot Court competition (before realizing it conflicted with a UNCASG meeting), participated in an ABA-sponsored client counseling competition, played on the 1L basketball team in the annual Law Week tournament, attended several events for the Black Law Students Association, and got elected Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.

And there are literally dozens of other groups and activities that I could have done if I had other interests (or more time).

Most law schools will have class councils that throw parties, hold forums, host speakers, and so on. You’ve got legal fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and Phi Delta Phi. You’ve got BLSA and HLSA and undoubtedly other LSAs I don’t know about. You’ve got liberal orgs promoting things like workers’ rights, conservative ones promoting things like constitutional originalism, and everything in between.

So as far as extracurriculars go — at least in my admittedly limited experience — law school is as much a full-spectrum experience as college.

“What would you do differently?”
If I could change one single thing about my experience here at NCCU Law, I wouldn’t be as nervous.

Those of you who are long-time readers at law:/dev/null might recall the comedy of unforced errors that was my orientation experience. I’ve taken my Socratic beatings too. But you know what I found out over the course of the semester?

Everybody experiences the same thing at some point.

All the 1Ls are going through the same trials and tribulations. Some folks are more adept at it than others, but there isn’t a single person out of the 50ish in my section who haven’t been flummoxed by a professor. Rather than the “gunner”-filled atmosphere you read about, most of your classmates will be on Facebook or Gchat or “whispering” hints at a slightly-above-whisper level,4 all trying to help you succeed — because they’ve either (i) been there too or (ii) will be soon.

So don’t be nervous. Go in confident, know you’re going to slip up at some point, and take it all in stride. It’ll make your law school experience far more enjoyable ;)

—===—

That’s my $.02 on what law school is really like, at least on those few topics :) Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions!

Until then, have a great night everybody! :D

  1. The other 2 law schools in North Carolina are fairly new and only provisionally accredited: Elon Law and Charlotte Law. []
  2. Particularly the relative weights given to racial minorities (which are routinely criticized or banned) and “legacy” children of alumni (which are routinely not criticized or banned) and the effect of those weights among institutions of the 17-campus University of North Carolina… most of which were segregated until 50 years ago, giving a de facto race-based advantage to the white children of white alumni. []
  3. For example, the Campbell Law panelist said they don’t allow 1Ls to participate in extracurricular activities so they can focus on their studies. []
  4. The folks MDG fondly calls “the drunk whisperers” []

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
2

TDot’s Mailbag v2.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 7, 2009 in Mail

Before diving in, I just want to note I ran out of nails while finally building those bookshelves today. Nails.  Shiny 7/8″ nails.

I didn’t even know that was possible.  Nails are like the pennies of the carpentry business: they’re generally worthless individually, you inadvertently amass hundreds of them in a fairly short amount of time from totally different projects, and if you ever need one but can’t find any in the usual locations all you typically have to do is go poking around the house.  But there I was in the middle of shelf building, about to nail in a base board to a drawer, I reach for another nail, and… nothing.  I go to the toolbox, and… nothing.  I look around the apartment, in the kitchen, in the closet, in the storage unit, and… nothing.

My mind was blown as I had to go on a building hiatus to trek up the street to Lowe’s and buy a 1lb box of new ones.  Should be another few years before I run out again though :)

—===—

Anyhow, moving on:  for those of you who have been supporting this blog since the beginning, or new folks who happened to trudge through the archives, every now and then I take the questions I’ve gotten via email / Facebook message / text / etc and throw them into a blog entry — usually when I’m either lacking 1) time or 2) content to write something better ;)  I actually got 2 LSAT-related questions in the same day yesterday, so I’m combining it with 2 earlier questions for a second installment of TDot’s Mailbag:

***

Q: Ginger1 asks:

So did you, like, you know, have a bunch of study materials and stuff for the LSAT?  When did you start studying before taking it?

A: The only thing I had for preparation was the TestPrep book or whatever it’s called that you can get from LSAC. I ordered it when I ordered my LSAT admission ticket.

The book still sits unopened on my bookshelf though because I never actually studied for the LSAT.  The lack of studying wasn’t intentional, and I don’t recommend it — at all.  But in my case I had an academic backup plan in place (if I didn’t make it into any law schools I’d stay at N.C. State and start a Ph.D. in Economics), so the urge to prepare tended to evaporate if I was stressed about other stuff.  My plan was to take the test just to experience it, then re-take it this past June and start law school in Fall 2010.

For the folks I worked with at N.C. State who are going the law route, I’d give yourself at least a month or two to prepare — and the best preparation is taking an old test under the same type of rigid time constraints you’ll have during the test itself.  I’m fairly certain my score took a hit since I had to guess on the last half-dozen questions in the logic games section, all because I did a poor job managing my time.  You’ll want to get a feel for the time you’ll have to work with before going in to the test.  And make sure not to stress :)

***

Q: Michael, a fellow blawger, writes:

How well did you do on the LSAT?

A: Well enough to have options.  I don’t really tell folks my LSAT score because it was an unexpected blessing I owe more to good fortune than to preparation.  That and it’s a bit priggish — it’s kind of like winning the lottery and constantly going around telling your friends “oh, by the way, did I mention to you I won a million dollars yesterday?”

And coincidentally the LSAT has no bearing on the traits that make the best lawyers ;)

***

Q: Jennifer sent an email wanting a political update:

How did you do on your election for 1L SBA representative?

A: I’m 99.9% sure I lost.  None of the classmates I’ve asked have been able to find a listing of all the results, but at least one candidate wrote on her Facebook that she got elected so I’m assuming the SBA folks just emailed the winners.

I was lucky to meet some some cool people during campaigning though, so I’m more than satisfied :)

***

Q: We’ll close with one of the Legal Eagles of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Robert, who happened to find the blog on his Facebook wall and asks:

You keep mentioning this Gang of Eight. How’d you come up with this group? And who’s in it?

A: I didn’t really come up with it intentionally, we all just happened to sit in the same vicinity and realized none of us were uptight gunner types.  There were only 7 of us that originally talked during classes, but given the varying political ideologies in the group I was determined to tie in a reference to this Gang of Eight, so we adopted Pimp Daddy.  Their company definitely helps me get through the day :)

Here are the nicknames and a little background for the group members (listed alphabetically):

  1. DMoff:  mountain man who loves baseball, was Student Body President at his alma mater, and the only person I knew well going in as a 1L with me at NCCU after working together in the UNC Association of Student Governments
  2. Karl(a):  I had a different nickname originally for this young lady, but in our very first discussion about something other than law the first thing she says to me is “I’m actually a big fan of Karl Marx”… I almost had a heart attack, but enjoyed the ensuing debate :)
  3. Monica:  Love & Basketball reference for the ball players out there; her personality reminds me of the main character
  4. MP:  profoundly unoriginal nickname choice on my part — a Military Policeman in one of the Armed Services; big sports fan and graduate of UNC Wilmington (but loves UNC Chapel Hill athletics)
  5. Pimp Daddy:  fairly quiet guy, business-like and definitely “old school” (e.g. takes all his notes by hand); picked that particular name because he looks similar to an actual pimp I met once when I worked for the Wake County court system
  6. Rico:  reference to the 1991 hit song Rico Suave; a very chill guy who several of my classmates are secretly swooning over
  7. Rockstar:  an independent musician (cool) who knows an insane amount of stuff about various topics like sports (also cool)… but is a graduate and admirer of UNC Chapel Hill (fail)
  8. TDot:  yours truly of course :D

—===—

That’s everything I’ve got for tonight.  Have a great evening folks! :D

  1. Remember these are all pseudonyms, picked at random from a website that lists common American names.  Don’t be shy about writing in! :) []

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Copyright © 2019 law:/dev/null All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek.
Find TDot on Twitter or on Google+.