Archive for February, 2010

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The “Go-To” Law Schools, According to the Biggest Law Firms

Law school applicants getting ready to choose a law school will undoubtedly face a competitive legal hiring market, along with the prospect of servicing enormous debt on graduation. While it’s fair to say that not everyone graduating from law school wants to or will be able to work in a big law firm, there’s no escaping that one measure of a law school is the rankings and statistics that tell us how that school does with placing graduates in the biggest law firms. So, even if you think you might opt to work in the public sector or in another position outside of the big law firm world, it’s worth looking at law school placement numbers at the big law firms when making that decision.

The National Law Journal (NLJ),has compiled its rankings of the Top 50 “Go-To” schools based on the percentage of 2009 J.D. graduates who landed jobs at NLJ 250 firms by Sept. 30, 2009, using survey data submitted by the 250 top law firms as ranked by NLJ.

At the top of the NLJ list is Northwestern University School of Law, which placed 55.5% of its graduates at NLJ 250 firms — a sharp decline from 2008, when the highest percentage of graduates heading to NLJ 250 firms was 70.5%.

The top 25 schools in The National Law Journal’s annual Go-To Law School List are as follows:
1) Northwestern University School of Law — 55.9%
2) Columbia Law School — 55.4%
3) Stanford Law School — 54.1%
4) University of Chicago Law School — 53.1%
5) University of Virginia School of Law — 52.8%
6) University of Michigan Law School — 51%
7) University of Pennsylvania Law School — 50.8%
8) New York University School of Law — 50.1%
9) University of California, Berkeley School of Law — 50%
10) Duke Law School — 49.8%
11) Harvard Law School — 47.6&
12) Vanderbilt University Law School — 47.1%
13) Georgetown University Law Center — 42.8%
14) Cornell Law School — 41.5%
15) University of Southern California Gould School of Law — 41.3%
16) University of Texas School of Law — 36.6%
17) University of California at Los Angeles School of Law — 35.9%
18) Yale Law School — 35.3%
19) Boston College Law School — 34.6%
19) Boston University School of Law — 34.6%
21) George Washington University Law School — 31.6%
22) Fordham University School of Law — 29.4%
23) University of Notre Dame Law School — 28.8%
24) Washington University School of Law, St. Louis — 27.5%
25. University of Illinois College of Law — 26.7%

The NLJ reports that “the 2009 percentages include deferred associates, so an even smaller group actually went to work last year. Remember, the list consists of the very top performing schools, where job prospects in years past have proven recession-proof. Not so in 2009. We’ve ranked the top 50 law schools by the percentage of 2009 juris doctor graduates who snagged jobs at NLJ 250 firms by Sept. 30, 2009. Numbers are based on information gathered from our annual NLJ 250 survey—statistics we get from the nation’s largest law firms.”

The NLJ also identified firm favorites—the schools from which the top law firms on the NLJ 250 recruited most of its first-years in 2009.

Listen to our full podcast “Choosing the Right Law School,” for more information on this topic.

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Summary of Free LSAT Classes That Are Currently Being Offered

Many test-prep companies these days are offering free sample LSAT® classes. Take advantage of the offers, test out the various companies and find a teacher and course that really works for you.

Here’s a summary of some of the top companies offering free classes:

1. Atlas LSAT Test Prep: Scroll down to “Trial Classes” and learn about attending the first session of the full LSAT prep course for free. Atlas LSAT also offers free LSAT workshops that teach strategies and review LSAT basics. Both Trial classes and LSAT workshops are free and available Live Online and in select cities across the US and Canada.

2. Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions: Scroll down “LSAT Prep” box and click on “Find a Free Event” and plug in your zip code. Sample classes, free practice tests and more near you!

3. Knewton: Free trial includes free practice test, live online instruction and LSAT® and law school admissions seminar.

4. Powerscore Test Preparation: “Free LSAT Help Area” with a collection of tips and discussions and a Complete LSAT® Logic Game Tutorial and Explanation.

5. The Princeton Review: Free LSAT® events across the country, including strategy sessions, practice tests, hyperlearning classes and forums.

Please let us know if we missed anyone!

For more info and tips about the LSAT, tune into our full show “The LSAT: Everything You Need To Know About the Test”.

To hear more from the test prep companies about the unique features of the different courses, study options and materials they offer, listen to our podcast “Comparing LSAT Test Prep Companies: Which One Is Right For You?

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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part: Upcoming Podcast to Look at “Getting In Off the Waitlist”

The “Waitlist.” Purgatory. Limbo. Call it what you want. What does it mean? And, what should you do? Some schools advise the best thing to do now is nothing at all, while others say they want to hear from you with periodic updates. How can you tell what the right approach is?

Law School Podcaster rounded up some experts to help you plan your strategy. For our upcoming show, “Getting In Off the Waitlist,” we interviewed Richard Geiger, Associate Dean, Cornell Law School, William J. Hoye, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs, Duke University School of Law, Graham Richmond, Founder and CEO of Clear Admit, Ann Levine, Owner of and author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like An Expert.

We’ll find out how to know whether a school really wants to hear more from you, what to send to the admissions committee, how often you should contact them, and what else you should know to help you move off the waitlist and on to the admitted students list. Stay tuned to hear more about this segment!

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How to Mitigate a Weakness in Your Law School Application

One of the biggest tasks confronting a law school applicant is the need to mitigate weaknesses or perceived weaknesses in an application. Nearly everyone applying to law school knows they need to perform this necessary step, but the hard part is ascertaining true weaknesses and then actually addressing them. Here is a 5-step process for mitigating the biggest weakness in your application:

1. Identify the biggest weakness in your candidacy. The first step is identification. If you don’t know what your biggest weakness is, how can you possibly mitigate it? For many law school applicants, this is the most difficult task of all. Part of the problem is frame of reference. Most applicants attempt to perform a self-analysis and many are even incredibly critical of themselves, so the problem isn’t one of willingness or effort. Instead, the issue stems from a failure to visualize the competitive landscape. More often than not, candidates will evaluate themselves by comparing their own backgrounds and accomplishments relative to those of the people around them (classmates, friends, family members, co-workers, etc.). This is a rather unhelpful comparison. Instead, a law school applicant should make every effort to analyze their candidacy in relation to other applicants. This is the primary value that admissions consulting companies like Veritas Prep provide, although students can certainly get this perspective from faculty members and friends, if they are lucky enough to have access to such qualified individuals.

2. Understand that the weakness works two levels. Every element of your application that might be a major weakness – GPA, LSAT score, resume, etc. – works on two levels: an obvious surface level and a latent, thematic level. The surface level is easy enough to understand, but is the hardest to compensate for, as the premise here can be summed up as “it is what it is.” A 2.9 GPA is just that – a 2.9 GPA. There is nothing that you can do to change it and there’s no way to convince a school that it doesn’t matter. You have to report it to the law school and the law school has to report it to ranking agencies. Everyone in the process is captive to raw numbers and surface-level determinations. However, the thematic level is something else entirely. This is the aspect of a major weakness that most candidates miss, which is a shame because it is much easier to sway a decision-maker on a thematic level. To take the low GPA example above, the latent implication of a low GPA is a lack of discipline, focus, and maturity. Candidates have a much easier time showcasing those traits in other aspects of their profile than they do of making the low GPA go away.

3. Start with school selection. Once a weakness has been identified and properly understood on two levels, the first step toward mitigation is to be smart about school selection. Again, sticking with low GPA, it behooves a candidate to do some research into programs that seem more forgiving of a low GPA. A quick comparison of two elite law schools – Chicago and Berkeley (tied for 6th in U.S. News & World Report last year) – shows a pretty major disparity in GPA range. Berkeley’s 25th-75th percentile range for GPA in 2009 was 3.64-3.9 while Chicago’s was 3.49-3.76. That may not seem like much, but a .15 difference is massive for such equitable schools. Not surprisingly, Chicago’s LSAT range is much higher than Berkeley’s (169-173 for Chicago compared to 163-170 for Berkeley). You can make a lot of guesses as to why these disparities exist, but the biggest rule of thumb is don’t fight it! If you have an awesome LSAT score and a lower GPA and are debating between Chicago and Berkeley, the choice should be easy. Apply to Chicago and give yourself the best chance to succeed.

4. Take any steps possible toward correction. Once you have a list of schools that makes the most sense, it is practical to take any steps you can toward “fixing” the weakness. This is cheating a little bit, because if something can be fixed, it rises to a level several degrees higher than mitigation. That said, it is startling to see how many candidates settle and accept their fate. If you have a sparkling profile but bomb the LSAT, take it again! If you tanked an accounting class freshman year, take another one. Sure, it won’t erase that bad grade or change your GPA if you already graduated, but it will show the law school that you have grown up and are serious about moving in the right direction. When the weakness is in leadership, teamwork, or other extra-curricular factors, it is even easier to take correctional steps, as it simply requires getting involved.

5. Mitigate through the application. This is the step where every candidate ultimately lands if there is a true weakness in the profile. Once you’ve identified the weakness, worked through the two levels of impact, selected the best schools, and taken correctional steps, you are left with the challenge of positioning your application in such a way that it mitigates the harm of the weakness. Going all the way back to a low GPA and what it means for your candidacy, mitigation will mean using the application to express to the reader that you indeed have the maturity, focus, and discipline to succeed in a law school classroom. The position that such an applicant would take would be to build a “here’s when the light bulb came on for me” narrative. For someone with a low LSAT score, the application becomes about intellectual horsepower. And so on. Most law school applicants mistakenly highlight their strengths at the expense of mitigating weaknesses, or they go too far and overtly apologize and make excuses for those weaknesses. The key is to use the personal statement and other application components as a way to change the reader’s mind on a thematic level about a component from the profile. Ultimately, that is how you mitigate a weakness.

Adam Hoff is the Director of Admissions Consulting and Research at Veritas Prep. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and Pepperdine University, where he served as the Associate Director of Admissions. Adam oversees Veritas Prep’s law school admissions consulting services to ensure that Veritas Prep clients are successfully poised for admission to their select law schools.

You can hear more from Adam on strategic tips for your law school application in the Law School Podcaster episode, Law School Application Strategy: What You Can Do Now To Help You Get Accepted.

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Turnabout Is Fair Play! ABA To Take Closer Look at Rankings of Law Schools & Law Firms

Looks like the organizations that rank law schools are about to be evaluated themselves. Can you hear the chuckles? The American Bar Association (ABA) voted this week at its midyear meeting to take a closer look at how a “variety of organizations” rank law law schools and law firms.

The ABA’s resolution stopped just short of mentioning the U.S. News & World Report rankings, but that’s clearly the focus. You may have heard that the U.S. News law school rankings have generated just a little bit of “discussion” and “debate” for quite a while now — among law school deans, law firms that hire law grads, law school applicants and, well, just about everyone else.

Just what does this ABA resolution say? Well, it’s pretty general, to say the least: “RESOLVED: That the American Bar Association examine any efforts to publish national, state, territorial, and local rankings of law firms and law schools.”

It seems like the ABA vote was prompted, to some degree, by an announcement last July from U.S. News that it intends to add law firm rankings, conducted in conjunction with the Best Lawyers survey of law firms, to its annual reports. The rankings of law firms are expected to be published in October 2010. Counting the days already?

The ABA Journal reports that the New York State Bar Association sponsored the resolution, and said, in an accompanying report, “we know, based upon the experience of the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of law schools, that there will be significant issues regarding the validity of the rankings.”

After the resolution passed, ABA President Carolyn Lamm said that she would ask the ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to examine law school rankings, and the Ethics 20/20 Commission to review law firm rankings.

To review, the ABA has resolved to “examine any efforts” of organizations to publish rankings of law school and law firms. Believe it or not, the ABA Journal reported that “the debate in the ABA’s House of Delegates about the measure proved to be the most contentious of any resolution it considered [Monday].” Yep, that’s what they said.

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Baby, It’s Cold Out There! Law Firms Respond to Proposed Changes in Recruiting at Law Schools

Change does not come easily to the citizens of Law Firm Land. Witness the tepid reaction, if not downright frigid, by some big law firms to the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) Report’s (pdf) recommendation to move the period when offers are extended to law students to January, five months after on-campus interviews.

For those not yet familiar with the acronym from the on-campus interviewing (OCI) experience, NALP is the national organization of law schools and employers that, among other things, sets guidelines on the annual on-campus interview season, and determines how long students can hold onto a job offer before making a decision. Tradition is king here — the process has remained pretty much the same for 40 years, with law firms recruiting on campus in the fall and making offers shortly thereafter.

The recent NALP Commission and subsequent Report (see our earlier post detailing the Report’s recommendations) came as a result of the recession, where law firms found themselves overstaffed and forced to lay off hundreds of lawyers in New York and nationwide, and delayed by up to one year the first-year start dates.

Jones Day was an early critic of the plan for an “offer kick-off day” in mid-January during students’ second year of law school and now has offered more details in a critique (PDF) on its website that says the plan is an anticompetitive “radical restructuring” of the recruitment process.

NALP solicited comments to the recommendations in the Report and they are hearing back from member law firms and law schools. According to Jim Leipold, executive director at NALP, “almost universally people felt a January kick-off date was too late.” The biggest issue? Recruiting officials at firms have expressed concerned that a January “offer kick-off day” will create a prolonged recruiting season with law firms spending nearly half a year wining and dining top students.

Leipold told the New York Law Journal, reaction to its proposals among the schools and firms is “mixed.” NALP is reviewing feedback from more than 825 members, including more than 125 written comments.

NALP’s Jim Leipold was a guest on Law School Podcaster’s segment, “The Current Economic Environment: What It Means for Law School Applicants & Students.” Tune into the full show to hear more on this topic.

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Brain Game Time! Another Logic Games Challenge.

Atlas LSAT has posted the most recent Logic Games Challenge #21 and they invite our listeners to join in: College Comedy Tour

A comic is planning her college tour schedule for the year. Her tour will include performances at least one of exactly eight different schools: Penn, Queens, Rice, Stanford, Tufts, Utah, Vermont and Wellesley. Her tour schedule must conform to the following conditions:

•If she performs at Rice, she will perform at neither Penn nor Stanford.
•If she performs at Queens, she will perform at neither Stanford nor Tufts.
•If she performs at Wellesley, she will perform at either Tufts or Utah, but not both.

1. Which one of the following could be a complete and accurate list of the schools at which she performs?
(A) Queens, Rice, Wellesley, Vermont
(B) Queens, Rice, Tufts, Vermont, Wellesley
(C) Rice, Tufts, Utah, Wellesley
(D) Rice, Stanford, Tufts, Wellesley
(E) Penn, Stanford, Tufts, Vermont, Wellesley

2. If she performs at Wellesley and Vermont, but not Utah, then she could also perform at any one of the following schools EXCEPT:
(A) Penn
(B) Queens
(C) Rice
(D) Stanford
(E) Tufts

3. If she performs at exactly four schools, including Tufts and Utah, the schools at which she does NOT perform could include any of the following pairs EXCEPT:
(A) Wellesley and Stanford
(B) Queens and Stanford
(C) Vermont and Rice
(D) Penn and Rice
(E) Stanford and Vermont

4. If she performs at exactly five schools, and does NOT perform at Rice, it could be true that she performs at neither
(A) Vermont nor Stanford
(B) Vermont nor Tufts
(C) Tufts nor Queens
(D) Tufts nor Utah
(E) Queens nor Stanford

5. If she performs at Rice, what is the maximum number of schools that could be included in the tour?
(A) 6
(B) 5
(C) 4
(D) 3
(E) 2

6. If she performs at exactly five schools, including Stanford and Vermont, the schools at which she does NOT perform could include any of the following EXCEPT:
(A) Penn
(B) Queens
(C) Rice
(D) Tufts
(E) Utah

Challenge Problem – Not for the faint of heart…
7. If she performs at exactly five schools, how many different groupings of schools (disregarding the order visited) are possible?
(A) 8
(B) 7
(C) 6
(D) 5
(E) 4

Think you have the answers? E-mail them to First person to submit the correct answers wins a $25 Amazon gift card. The best explanation posted on Atlas LSAT Forums wins $25 as well.

Answers to Logic Games Challenge #20: (1)E (2)D (3)C (4)A (5)E (6) C (7) E

For more information about the LSAT, check out Law School Podcaster’s full show “The LSAT: Everything You Need to Know About the Test.” To hear directly from LSAT test preparation providers about study options, tune in to “Comparing LSAT Test Prep Companies: Which One is Right for You?”

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Is LSAT Test Preparation In Your Future?

Comparing LSAT Test Prep Companies: Which One is Right For You? is a new podcast from Law School Podcaster to help you consider some of the test preparation options available. To help you figure out the best approach to studying and preparation for the LSAT, we have interviewed the various test preparation companies to hear what they have to offer.

In this show, we hear directly from the folks at the following test prep providers:

* Atlas LSAT Test Prep
* Knewton
* Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions
* Blueprint LSAT Preparation
* The Princeton Review
* PowerScore Test Preparation

They discuss the different types of courses they offer, from traditional classroom courses, private tutoring and online courses. Each company will have the opportunity to explain how they are unique and what makes them stand out. Listen and learn what option is best for you.

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Talk About Bridging the Gap Between Law School Education and Legal Employers’ Needs

It’s pretty much a safe bet that most law school applicants and students don’t want to hear a legal employer equate their three year law school education, with oh… say… a Pontiac. But one general counsel of a large company put it just that way recently and that is the question posed by the title of a recent NALP (National Association for Law Placement)article, Has Legal Education Gone the Way of the Auto Industry?

The article, from the NALP 2010 Bulletin, reports on a December 14, 2009 panel of legal industry experts gathered in New York City “to continue the public conversation about changes that are happening in the legal industry.” The Roundtable Discussion took place among a mix of law firm partners and associates, law school deans and NALP professionals. (NALP is probably best known to law students as the organization that provides the industry guidelines that govern on-campus interviewing (OCI) by legal employers at law schools around the country).

Highlights from the Roundtable discussions include the following:

•A back and forth about how the law school curriculum may need to change in response to changes in the economy and the industry and the role of law firms in training young lawyers.

•Philip Bradley, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Duane Reade, pointed to the gap between what law schools think they’re doing and what the law firms think they’re buying.” Bradley continued, “For the law schools to continue to churn out people in sort of the academic vein without bridging that gap makes you somewhat akin to the car companies — you’re manufacturing something that nobody wants.” He called on law schools to come into the modern world and “bridge the gap” because “the luxury of practicing law for three years to learn how to practice law — which was what it was when [he] came out of law school — isn’t there today.”

•A discussion focused on lawyer training and development both in law school and through the practice of law. Law firm and law school participants recognized that law schools do a good job of teaching the essential skill of “thinking like a lawyer,” but also that law schools have to find better ways to teach a wide range of professional skills, loosely categorized by Dean William Treanor of Fordham University School of Law, as “the craft of lawyering skills”(these include clinical skills for both litigation and transactional practices, professionalism, business and quantitative skills, ethics, sense of service, problem solving skills group and teamwork skills and an awareness of emotional intelligence).

•A discussion of integrating more “experiential learning into the curriculum,” without raising the cost of a legal education “by including more widespread use of internships and by providing more opportunities for specialization within the curriculum.” This will require greater collaboration between law firm lawyers and law schools.

•The group drew insight from information about the “Canadian articling process, a year-long training program required by the provincial licensing authority in Canada that accomplishes many of the goals clients and firms in the U.S. say they want.”

•There was discussion of law firms transitioning away from lock step advancement by law school class to “levels-based” advancement and compensation schemes. “Profitability is going to depend more on … organizational capital in the future, as opposed to individual rainmaker capital.”

•Bradley suggested that law firms take a “short-term view of things” when they “skinny back on the professional development programs [at law firms] in times of economic distress.” He pointed to in-house counsels’ frustration at law firm partners focused too much on “profits per equity partner” rather than investing in the in-demand group of people that they’ll be pulling through the system.”

To hear from the Executive Director of NALP, Jim Leipold, on what changes in the legal industry mean for law school applicants and students, tune into the Law School Podcaster episode “The Current Economic Environment .”

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Promoting Women in the Law

There’s a great resource available to law students and it’s also helpful and inspiring for those considering or applying to law school. Ms. JD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by law students four years ago to reinforce and expand the representation of women in law school and the legal profession. Ms. JD offers a wide range of content — through it’s website,, blog, a student organization at 70 law schools around the country called the NWLSO (National Women’s Law Student Organization), a national conference, scholarships, fellowships and lots more.

The Ms. JD blog has something for everyone! Blog posts include topics like “Advice on Taking the Bar Exam” and “How to Get a Clerkship” to “Balancing Acts: Your Career and Personal Life” and “Choosing A Career and Landing a Job”.”

A few of the things to note from Ms. JD:

* Ms. JD Scholarship: Every summer Ms. JD funds summer stipends for two female law students dedicated to public interest work. Past recipients have used their stipends to intern at the ICC in the Hague, the JAG Corps, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and the Equal Justice Foundation.

* Ms. JD Fellowship: Ms. JD is launching the Leadership Fellows program. In conjunction with the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession’s Margaret Brent Award, Ms. JD will match 20 high-achieving female law students with mentors from among the Commission’s alumnae of commissioners and award winners. The one-year program is designed to foster a commitment to excellence in a new generation of women attorneys, inspired by the generation of trailblazers who paved the way for their success.

Law School Podcaster is teaming up with Ms. JD to share more news and information that will benefit law school applicants and students.

Keep listening and stay tuned for more!

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