Friday, June 4, 2010

In Scott Turow’s book “One L,” he mentioned the reason he chose Harvard over Stanford. It wasn’t academics. The reason was the lowest ranked person in Harvard is still guaranteed a job where at Stanford he wouldn’t be. This book was written in 1970 with less than 100 Law Schools in existence. Today, there are more than 200 Law Schools in existence cranking out 43,000 grads a year. The legal job market is saturated. Law Grads are begging for Doc Review, Paralegal, or Clerical jobs. Things are bad.

If you ask from the ABA how there are handling this: First, they are oblivious. What problem? Second, their end-all answer is to increase the Bar Exam’s toughness and passing score. “We will just raise the passing score,” is their motto. They tried this formula in Florida. The Fla Supreme Court raised the score from 130 to 136. Did it help? No!

First, you need to understand without Bar passage a JD is useless. Discount all other propaganda; it is. Second, an average grad packs $100 K in loan debt accompanying the JD degree. Very few jobs pay enough to pay that debt off. The graduate has no choice but to keep plugging away at the Bar Exam until he passes. He invests in a number of courses, e.g., Barbri, Micromash, Kaplan, PMBR, Piper ... to drill to get a passing score.

Most Law Schools have no incentive to change the system. They offer the career services office and that is it. They will treat their alums like estranged spouses after graduation.

I understand this system works for Law Schools and the ABA. But to those of us trying to earn a living practicing Law; it s*cks. So, I offer my solutions to change this system:

a)Lower total admitted first year class size to 90 students. This is average Medical School class size. The smaller class size provides a better end product.

b)No more P/T, Night, Correspondence, Online, or Law Office study. No other professional degree offers these alternatives. You will never meet a physician who went to night medical school.

c)Cap Law School loans. Law Schools charge more because they know you can afford more.

d)Have undergraduate prerequisites to Law School study. Medical, Dental, Chiropractic etc Schools have prerequisite classes. My Law School required two undergraduate accounting classes. This requirement did cut down knee-jerk admissions applications. Simply require 8 to 9 required germane classes.

e)Follow the UK's example. US Law School must have a required 4th year of Law School. This 4th year of Law School would be a matching paid residency. Every UK Pre-Solicitor must have a paid matching residency done through his Law School. The Law School must find him a matching paid job for experience. If they can’t find the student a job, no class slot is allotted. This is similar to medical residency/clerkships. Read, this is the main reason we don’t have store-front medical schools. Imagine a Law School trying to find just 80 paid jobs.

* * *

Most state Supreme Courts have given the ABA power over Law School accreditation. There is great political power and prestige with this capacity. But, the ABA has a problem. It has a monopoly on Law School accreditation. It keeps this monopoly because it doesn’t factor need into the equation of Law School accreditation. Currently, The ABA tries to take out Law Schools for low State Bar Passage Rates. But, that will never work. Thanks to BARBRI, Micromash, Piper etc… a whole industry is set up to help the worst student pass this test. The Law School experience is null at that point. It’s a broken system waiting to fail.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Its Bar Exam time again!!!

Twice a year the Bar Exam is given, Jan and July. Newly minted Law Clerks take it and either fail or pass. No middle ground here. The thing you need to understand is that most people keep plugging away at Bar Exam until they finally pass it. Mostly, it’s a hazing ritual. People who pass the Bar exam are clueless on how the practice law. This disassociation has always bothered me. Further, it has always bothered me that you can know the correct answer to the base question asked; yet still get the question wrong. Why? Because, one of the answers is more correct than the others!

In the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” the main character was a man who was know as the great imposter. He took and passed the La Bar Exam. When the FBI finally caught him, the agents all asked the same question, “how did you cheat on the La Bar Exam?” The main character neither went to Law School nor finished high school. The FBI agent never asked him how he successfully impersonated a pilot, a physician, or a bank executive. They were all concerned how he cheated. He finally told an agent that he could not find a way to cheat on the Bar Exam. What he did and said was he, “studied his ass off!!”

People, there are Exam Takers who never went to Law School and are taking and passing this Exam on Office/Chamber Study. There is even Correspondence Law School people taking and passing this exam. Goto Barbri, Pieper, or Micromash etc… get the books and do the practice problems. Drill. Drill. Drill. Definitely take PMBR; it’s worth it in my opinion. You will eventually pass. Then, there is the real world/ unemployment and the constant debate of whether NY or Calif has the harder Bar Exam.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Folly of Projecting Ahead

This post is inspired by frequent posts career on

The posts take the pattern "I hate occupation X (legal). I think I should goto occupation of (insert occupation: Nursing, Construction, Finance..." Because of a real or perceived shortage and currently available jobs.

This seems to be the trend. Posters/People stand here(today) and look there(tomorrow). The general problem is the landscape changes. When I was in high school there was supposed to be a shortage of accountants. So, when I went to college I studied accounting. The college powers-that-be took the requirement of Engineering Calculus away, then everyone flowed into accounting. By the time I got into the field there were no jobs. There was also a shortage in the legal field until they went from 100 to 200+ law schools in a 25 to 30 year period. Ten years ago there was a projected nursing shortage. To increase the nursing occupation's size: class size, online schools, schools, and nursing immigrants numbers were increased. I think the next bubble will be financial and construction workers. Don't goto a shortage occupation. By the time you get to "there"; it will be gone.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should I get an LLM?

Every once in a while, you get a post on on whether (s)he should get an LLM. My first two reactions are always this:“So, you can’t find a job?" and, "Are you trying to hide from your loans?” I can understand this. I have used these excuses. These are the top reasons people goto grad school/Law School. Generally, we are taught that furthering education will pay out in the end. This is not necessarily the case here. With an LLM, it doesn’t work out well in the end. Putting this aside. Let me ask you a basic question. What extra privilege does an LLM give you above a regular JD? None! So why get it:

a)If you are a foreign-trained attorney. NYU has a LLM program for foreign trained to meet the educational requirement for a US license. Can you say Nigerians?

b)If you want to teach at a Law School and haven’t clerked for an U.S. Federal Appeals Court.

c)If you are considered getting state board certified in a legal specialty, e.g. Tax.

d)If you are considering a back door into BIGLAW. In the past, there has been some discussion on bulletin boards on using a top ranked LLM in Taxation to slip into BIGLAW. It is true, some people have used this technique effectively. Recently, though, this technique has been failing.

Lets face it, LLMs are a lot of time and money. To use it to gain employment? The LLM have not proven to be an effective method. To use it to gain experience? Most attorneys to get their experience from mentors, from volunteer work, from struggling with practice manuals, or from taking CLEs. To use it to gain board certification? It is true some states require an LLM for board certification. Nonetheless, most attorneys, unlike physicians, don’t even consider board certification. Can you say increased malpractice insurance?

I practice Tax and am constantly asked if I have an LLM in Tax. I don’t. I have an undergraduate in Acctg, an EA, and a JD. In my small practice it has not mattered. Competition from cut-rate shops in India has effected me more than not having an LLM. Sorry to digress. For Tax Career advice see Consider the above before putting down another $50K for an LLM.

Law School Admissions Part II

Generally speaking, if you have a 3.0 GPA and 150 LSAT you can get into a TTT Law School. You may not be able to dictate where, but you can get into one. As I posted before, the admission process is highly ABA regulated. If you have either a GPA below a 2.5 or a LSAT score below 140, then the school needs a compelling reason why they admitted you. We have asked people to retake the LSATs if they possess a high GPA didn't hit the magic LSAT number.

These are the factors from an admission prospective:

Your undergraduate GPA is the biggest factor for predicting Law School success. It is the biggest factor in admissions. Some weight is given to your undergraduate institution. A person with a lower GPA from Harvard or (insert Ivy here) can get away with a poorer GPA. It is believed that the tenacity that it took to get into an Ivy will translate to business success after graduation. A person with a 2.0 Chemistry BS from State U can't get away with a poor GPA. I know Chem is a hard major. I know the argument: If you don't get into Law School, then you want some useful degree. Cope! Whatever you major in do well.

The LSAT is funny. It's a cash-cow for the ABA. Read into that. The big hint is that it is a test that can be studied for and drilled for(practice tests) to get a better score! What does the LSAT do? For the most part, the LSAT predicts 1L retention. If you have a very low LSAT; you generally don't seem to make it through your 1L year. The converse is true. After 1L, the predictive value breaks down rapidly. Seriously. After the test. You pretty much don't care who gets the corner office: Mr. White or Mr. Green. It's their problem. As a side note, after 1L year no one mentions or cares about the LSAT. I have never been asked on a job interview about my LSAT score. Nevertheless, the interviewer my extrapolate from the pedigree of my school its range. During interviews, I am mostly asked the same three questions: 1) What was you last big case? 2) How many clients can you bring with you? 3) how big/what type of Law did your prior firm practice?

You probably heard the line, "that a graduate degree will not get you into a professional program with a bad undergraduate record." That is not really true. An MS in Biochemistry has gotten people into Harvard Medical with a poor undergraduate record. Similarly, an MBA, MS, or MA has gotten people into a good Law School with a bad undergraduate GPA. Reread that last sentence. Grad School is a better course of action than staying in undergraduate realm and trying to boost you GPA with PE, Communications, Psych, or Art classes. Please note, some schools don't even factor in these add on courses.

If you are looking for your admission essay, personal recommendations, time in the Peace Corps, or whatever to get you in, then don't. The GPA and LSAT can move you the farthest. If a split decision comes between wait list and offer these factors can help. But, I wouldn't hold my breath.

That's my two cents based on my experience.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting into Law School the Nutshell Addition

I was a student member of the Admissions Committee at my former TTT Law School. Surprisingly, no one has asked me until two weeks ago about my experience. She actually wanted to get into a TTT Law School. I honestly tried to dissuade her from going to Law School. I think I convinced her to try for a MBA at ¼ the cost. A small victory in a losing war. 
This is the briefest nutshell of admissions into a TTT Law School. My understanding, from a former faculty member who did T1 admission, T1 admission is different.  At Yale, each faculty member looks at the application packet and gives a + or -. At TTT, it is a little above an administrative task. Remember this! Law School admission is heavy monitor by the ABA. Whereas your undergraduate institution can cut wealthy Alum’s daughter a break; we would get nabbed for it. Here is a quick note: First, we only had one applicant request and interview. It just doesn’t happen at the TTT level. No one likes to take them and no one likes to give them. Cut us all a break and don’t ask for one. Second, the admission office gave a + point if the student did a campus walk around and asked about housing etc. It shows they had some interest in going to the school, e.g., we were not a safety school.

 The 1L class structure looks like this:

The first half of the class, these are the full or partial scholarship students. These are the MDs, DMDs, or high numbers people. They could get into a T1 at partial scholarship or no scholarship. They couldn’t get a full free or part ride. In essence, these people jack up the USNWR numbers and are assured to graduate and pass the Bar Exam.

The second half of the class, these are the people that deserve to be there. They are TTT Law School material in grades and LSATs. They may get a book scholarship, but that is it. Generally, if you see a lot of scholarships at a school, then the tuition is really inflated. No one gets something for nothing.

The third half of the class is unique. These are the people with marginal grades or LSATs. There is a high probability they may not make it past the 1L year. They do make the ABA’s official/unofficial cutoffs. You can point out these people in your 1L classes. You know the 2.5 GPA guy with 160 LSATs? The judge’s son with a low GPA. The BIGLAW Partner’s son with a low LSAT score? The local bigness executive changing career with a low LSAT score.

Do you see yourself? Next post of GPAs, LSATs, graduate degrees, and other stuff.