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In Brief – How did you choose your law school?


Vol. 39 No. 5

How did you choose your law school?
Kaplan Test Prep recently surveyed students who were in its LSAT program and took the LSAT. Here’s how the students responded when asked, “Which is most important to you when picking a law school to apply to?”

  1. Geographic Location: 24%
  2. Affordability Tuition: 12%
  3. Job Placement Rates: 8%
  4. Academic Programming: 19%
  5. Availability of Clinics, Internships, Extracurriculars: 5%
  6. Other: 2%

Meanwhile, Brian Leiter did an informal poll among readers of his blawg, Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports. Here, in order of most responses, are the five factors his “largely academic” readership deemed most significant when evaluating a law school:

  1. Scholarly distinction/quality of the faculty
  2. Students’ numerical credentials (LSAT, GPA)
  3. Emphasis on legal doctrine and analytical skills
  4. Emphasis on legal research and writing skills
  5. Small class sizes

Leiter does not provide percentages. He notes, though, that another response, “bar exam pass rates” was not far behind “small class sizes;” that both of these were well behind the top four responses; and that No. 3 and No. 4 trailed No. 1 by a wide margin.


What do you do best?
How can you crack the notoriously tough job market for new law school grads? One idea is to specialize—even if you’re still a 1L.

That’s according to Laura Bergus, social media policy and technology consultant at Bradley & Guzzetta LLC—and a member of the class of 2011 at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Her 1L school career counselor inspired her to focus on a narrow field of law, Bergus says. At theLawyerist blawg, she recalls that the counselor went as far as to challenge her to “strive to become an expert in something.”

It’s really not that hard, Bergus suggests, for law students to coordinate their legal writing class assignments, independent research projects, seminar papers, and journal notes or articles so that they’re mostly within the same general topic area.

The next step, she advises, is to work from that foundation and spin off side projects in your area of interest. For example, Bergus is interested in social media, so she recently presented at a conference on social media and law for local governments, helped teach a three-hour ethics CLE for lawyers on social media use, was hired by two nonprofits to create their social media policies, and landed her current job.

Bergus attributes some of her success to the very nature of social media. Because this particular field involves so much sharing, anyway, she explains, it’s easier to get your name and expertise out there than if your primary interest is, say, antitrust.

“But even if your passion is for a more esoteric part of the law,” she believes, “it can never hurt to strive to become an expert.”


Popular study guides available online for free
If you didn’t discover this in time for your fall semester exams, here’s a tip to file away for the spring:Examples & Explanations, the popular series of study guides from Aspen Publishers, is available online via Google Books.

Many law schools, such as The John Marshall Law School in , offer the series for checkout in their law libraries. But if it’s crunch time and all the copies are spoken for, don’t panic. As John Marshall’s law library blawg notes, the free preview that’s available for each title is not completely comprehensive but does include “a large majority of the pages.”

One less thing to worry about!


Is your law clinic in peril?
Last spring, a law-clinic lawsuit against a large agricultural company prompted a legislative effort to withhold state funds from a public university unless the school gave the legislature sensitive information about clinic clients and activities.

Around that same time, in another part of the country, a dominant industry in the area came up with an 11-point plan to “kneecap” an academic program that sometimes represents citizens challenging that industry’s environmental permits.

There are law clinics in almost all of the nation’s more than 200 law schools, report Robert R. Kuehn, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, and Peter A. Joy, vice dean and professor of law, also at Washington. Besides giving students important hands-on experience, such clinics provide more than 2.4 million hours of free legal assistance each year to more than 120,000 clients who otherwise might not have access to it, Kuehn and Joy write in the November-December 2010 issue of Academe, from the American Association of University Professors.

There is a long history of such clinics coming under fire from corporate or other interests, but Kuehn and Joy believe “[t]he past year has seen an unprecedented number of attacks on law clinics.”

What’s behind this trend; what’s at stake; and how are some faculty members, university administrators, and other law-clinic supporters responding? The full article, called “‘Kneecapping’ Academic Freedom,” is available.


The hot list
So, you want to specialize, but you’re not sure which area of the law to focus on? Along with considering your own interests, you might want to research which areas are currently booming or expected to grow during the next few years.

In his 22nd annual report on trends in the legal profession in the United States and worldwide, Robert Denney of law firm strategic management and marketing consulting firm Robert Denney Associates Inc. classifies the following practice areas as “red hot”:

Regulatory, both federal and state, and especially in health care, banking, pharmaceutical, and energy.
Health care, covering many areas and all types of providers.
Alternative dispute resolution, both mediation and arbitration.
See Denney’s full analysis, including practice areas that are “hot,” “getting hot,” “cool,” and “cold” as well as other law-related trends.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.