February 25th, 2016 / By

The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law has decided to accept GRE scores from applicants. The school will also accept LSAT scores, with applicants free to choose between the tests. (Note, though, that an applicant who takes the LSAT must submit that score; that applicant may choose only whether to submit a GRE score as well.)

Is Arizona’s move an attempt to attract more students in a weak market for legal education? Undoubtedly–the school’s press release admits as much. But that doesn’t mean that the change is bad for prospective students or legal education. Weak markets should prompt innovation. Arizona has taken a number of other steps to make legal education more accessible and attractive to students: It slashed tuition (twice) for nonresidents and created a BA program in law.

Here’s why I like Arizona’s latest innovation as much as the other two.


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Attrition May Jeopardize Accreditation Status Of Dozens Of Law Schools

February 24th, 2016 / By

This column originally appeared on Above the Law

Earlier this month, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar took an important step towards holding law schools accountable through the accreditation standards. The committee charged with writing the law school accreditation standards voted to send a slate of accountability measures to the Council of the Section of Legal Education — the final authority for law school accreditation.

Last week I wrote about the proposed changes to the minimum bar passage standard and the transparency standard. This week, I discuss the Standards Review Committee’s proposals for refining the non-exploitation standard, Standard 501. (more…)

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Early, Early Decision

May 17th, 2013 / By

Harvard Law School has announced a new, extra early decision program. The school will consider Harvard College juniors for admission, delivering decisions during the summer after junior year. The students, however, will not matriculate immediately after college graduation. Instead, this program defers admission for two years after college, requiring students to work or pursue a fellowship during that time. Depending on the results of the pilot program, Harvard may extend it to juniors at other colleges. The Boston Globe, Harvard Crimson, and Above the Law all have stories about the new program.

From a student’s point of view, the program seems very appealing. Successful students will lock in a seat at Harvard Law, with freedom to develop other workplace connections and skills before they enroll. Their two years in the workplace may focus their legal studies and make them even more attractive to employers. I’ve noticed anecdotally that law graduates with scientific, business, foreign language, or other pre-law experience seem to fare better in the job market than K-JD graduates with similar law school records. The Harvard program capitalizes on that trend.

From the school’s perspective, the program is also promising. Harvard Law has a chance to choose the most talented Harvard undergraduates, then send them into the world for useful experience. Once Harvard has said “yes,” those graduates may be less likely to apply to other law schools.

What are the downsides of the program? The Harvard program requires LSAT scores, pushing test preparation and test taking back a year. That may discourage some applicants or require a shuffling of other academic priorities. The program may also prevent admittees from negotiating with other law schools for a better financial deal–although Harvard’s need-based aid and generous low-income protection plan diminish those concerns.

On the innovation spectrum, Harvard’s admissions program is a small change. It doesn’t alter the cost of law school, the curriculum, or the forces reshaping the legal job market. The program is worth noting, however, for three reasons. First, shifts in the legal market have pushed even high-ranking Harvard Law School to respond. That should send a signal to other schools that are still hoping for a return to the old market. Second, I wonder whether other schools will follow Harvard’s lead. Does this program have legs? Finally, if the approach does spread, is this a program that will move us toward greater integration of the workplace and academy? Is it one of several steps toward a future in which future lawyers will move more fluidly between work and study? Or is this just a move in the competitive admissions market?

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About Students and the Opportunity Cost of Curriculum

February 12th, 2013 / By

The law school admissions process is odd. Among the major professional schools, law school has the lowest barrier to entry in terms of personal commitment to the profession. A student does not choose medical school as a “default” option.  A student cannot get into a credible business school unless she has significant work experience. Law schools require only a GPA and an LSAT score. Many law schools may not even ask the most important question, “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” The typical law student is probably 22-23 years old. She may never have worked a regular job, worked on a project where others depended on her, filed a tax return, or bought a car or house. This profile has important implications for curriculum.

Let me digress a bit here. Two weeks ago, I was in California for a symposium on legal education, and this gave me a chance to see some old friends from business school. One of my friends has a spouse who is in her spring 3L at a Top Ten law school (she does not have a job yet and the worst case plan is to work a year for free on the hopes of a job opening in her desired career). He is very involved in her world of law school, and sometimes even attends her classes and socializes with her law school friends. So we naturally got around to talking about law schools and one avenue of conversation was whether law students were smarter than our Wharton classmates. (more…)

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