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Bad News for the Law School Class of 2010: No Jobs Until 2012

Bad news from NALP. They told U.S. News & World Report that the legal job market for new JDs isn’t expected to pick up in the next two years. In fact, the employment statistics for this year’s graduating law school class are meant to be even lower than last year.


In other words, the Class of 2009 had it easy. About 88 percent of grads were employed within nine months after graduation. As Vault law editor Vera Djordjevich said regarding NALP’s 2009 numbers: “It’s worth noting that this percentage is still higher than that for each of the years following the last recession: 1991 (85.9%), 1992 (83.5%), 1993 (83.4%), 1994 (84.7%) and 1995 (86.7%). Looked at in a certain way, law graduates were downright spoiled for the last 10 years.”

“On the other hand,” Djordjevich continues, “Remember that many of these 2009 grads were hired out of summer programs in 2008, before the worst of the recession hit. That means that statistics for 2010 and 2011 grads (who would have been summer associates in 2009 and 2010) are likely to be much worse. We’ll see more of the effects of reduced summer programs, deferred start dates and smaller entry-level classes.” And it seems NALP has confirmed her prognosis.

“The Class of 2012 will be the first class for which we might see some kind of uptick in employment,” Jim Leipold, NALP’s executive director, told U.S. News. “I’m not making a prediction that it will recover in 2012; I’m saying it probably won’t recover much before then.”

Everyone agrees that a summer associate position is pretty crucial to securing a job after graduation. Only 3 percent of law firms say they recruit third-year students who hadn’t had an associate position. Add to that Leipold’s news that almost 25 percent of law firms have cancelled their summer programs, and you have a problem. The number of students without summer associate experience is getting bigger, and the number of law firms hiring students without summer associate experience is getting smaller.
Though there was some good news from NALP and the Bureau of Labor Statistics this spring–the legal sector gained 300 jobs in May–it really only applies to more experienced lawyers. New JDs will have to wait a little longer for their job prospects to return to “normal.”

This post is authored by Carolyn C. Wise, Vault.com’s Senior Education Editor. She oversees the production of 10 annual guides covering undergraduate and graduate admissions, top internships, and career advice compilations for entry-level law and MBA job seekers. Her team is responsible for all educational content on Vault.com, including law school profiles, admissions advice, LSAT prep and law school industry trends articles. Carolyn reminds students that, “studying is important, but it isn’t everything. Volunteer, or join a club or sports team. This will make you happier overall—and more attractive to potential employers.”

To hear more on this topic, and to hear directly from Jim Leipold at NALP, check out Law School Podcaster’s full show, The Current Economic Environment.

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The Extraordinary Law School Application

Law School Insiders Grant Your Wish and Offer 5 Tips to Make Your Application Stand Out

For Elle Woods, the bombshell in “Legally Blonde,” her videotaped law-school application was all but approved when the selection committee saw her tiny red bikini.

Reality check: You’re not Elle Woods. And the real application process is not that easy. These days, law schools are seeing double-digit increases in applications. Thanks in part to the nation’s economic meltdown, the competition is stronger than ever before.

Admissions officers and recruiting experts agree: A thoughtful, well-executed and timely application will receive the best response. Forget the bikini; try spell check instead.

“The application is a professional marketing tool,” said Michele A. Hayes, director of students recruiting for the University of Maryland Law School. “It’s like applying for a job. You’ve got to sell yourself and you want to give a good first impression to the person reading your file.”

All applications are carefully reviewed and considered, admissions officers say, even those on pink, scented paper. But the ones that get the acceptance letter are those that arrive long before the application deadline, have no glaring errors and jazzy personal statements.

What is new is that more law schools are now asking applicants to include a resume, so that document must be impeccable as well. Application committees want to see your education and work experiences as well as examples of community volunteerism, language skills and other qualities that make you stand out in an ever-growing crowd.

Send in vague essays or recommendation letters, and you’ll be scuttled first.

“Make it personal,” said Claude Reeves Arrington, associate dean for admissions at The University of Alabama School of Law. “The application process is not all about numbers.”

Traditionally, getting in is tough. The nation’s top law schools are overwhelmed with responses in any given year. Take our advice on how to get into law school from the people who will ultimately decide your fate.

1. Get a move on, already

Sending your application in as quickly as possible will pay off. Those applicants who are the first in may receive an acceptance letter when they otherwise might sit on the fence, said Jason Wu Trujillo, senior assistant for admissions and financial aid at the University of Virginia School of Law.

If you apply late, it increases the competition for fewer slots, Hayes said. That is one reason pre-law students need to manage their time carefully, Hayes said. She recommends students take the summer to write, review and rewrite their personal statements. It also is smart to have multiple editors look at the document to be sure it is up to snuff.

Those who wait too long are the people who tend to make easy mistakes. There are few things as annoying as finding another law school’s name on an application, said Lewis L. Hutchison, assistant dean for admissions at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.

Another common mistake students make when they feel like they are running out of time is to reuse their personal essays for multiple law schools. As a result, their essay might talk about how much they want to study environmental law – yet the school that is reading it does not offer that program, Hutchison said.

2. Actually read the directions

There is an old teachers’ trick that reminds students to read directions fully. They tell students to read the whole test before starting – which few of them do – only to find instructions at the end of the page telling them to put their pencils down and leave all the answers blank.

While you’ll want to make sure you don’t leave anything unanswered, admissions experts like Ann Killian Perry, assistant dean for admissions for the University of Chicago Law School, say they quickly grow frustrated by students who obviously ignored the instructions on their particular application.

For example, it is hard enough to read thousands of personal statements at the recommended length of two pages, Hutchison said. That is why statements that go beyond four or five pages become burdensome. And few students have had a life interesting enough to merit that much space.

Make sure all of the requested documents are there, especially a resume. Some law schools like resumes because it serves as a guide for the rest of the application’s paperwork. Lawyers need to be detail oriented, Perry said. Forget a piece of the application and your abilities are now shadowed in doubt.

And remember what your mother told you: appearance counts.

“Typos absolutely kill me,” said Adam Childers, a partner and director of recruiting for Crowe & Dunlevy, a law firm in Oklahoma City. “It sounds like a small thing, but we work in a very precise profession. If you don’t take the time to fix errors, I don’t know whether you’ll pay attention to detail when you work for me.”

And it may seem obvious, but don’t exaggerate, showboat or try fancy paper. They will make the admissions staff wonder if you are trying to hide something with these divisive techniques.

3. Work the personal statement

Hayes and other admissions officers understand it is frustrating to apply to multiple law schools. That is because it seems like everyone is looking for something different when it comes to the personal statement.

Yet it is essential to winning the attention of the admissions committee, experts agreed. For example, there is no interview at the University of Virginia’s law school, so this document serves as the human face of potential students, Wu Trujillo said.

“There is no area of the application more important than the personal statement.”

The statement should reveal something about the applicant’s life, Hayes said. For example, her favorite statement came from a journalist. This wordsmith wove a story for the applications committee, she said.

He started by explaining how his experiences led to his decision to apply to law school. He then outlined how this decision was a pivotal shift in his life. Finally, he gave details on why he selected the University of Maryland, noting that it was the right fit for him.

The admissions committee is not looking for cookie-cutter statements, Hayes said. Nor do reviewers want poetry, creative writing or sob stories worthy of their own segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“We want to know why you chose Maryland,” Hayes added. “We know they have choices in the region, so you need to demonstrate that you’ve done some homework about ou
r school and how it will help you reach your goals.”

Campbell loves statements that show how a student has grown, Hutchison said. Take a potential student interested in human rights. The statement could outline how they joined a human-rights organization. Next, he or she attended a march on a political issue and became the club’s president. Perhaps the next year that candidate worked in a human-rights organization.

This demonstrated a clear interest in the topic, Hutchison said. A great statement then connects this growth pattern to the desire to focus on human rights and the law. The piece de resistance is adding how a Campbell law degree could further the student’s career and life’s work.

“It’s a matter of how they pursue their passions,” Hutchison said. “We want to see vigor, depth and persistence. One clear way to stand out is to answer a simple question – why do you want to be here, not why do you want to be a lawyer. That personal statement could take a person slated for denial and put them in the admit pile.”

Reeves Arrington agrees.

“Applicants submit essays often that are regressions of their resumes. Inspire interest,” she said. “The admissions committee looks for an applicant’s uniqueness, which can be disguised or diluted by an essay that summarizes an applicant’s life from kindergarten through college.”

Reeves Arrington also recommends students use the essay to explain anything in their past that may hinder their acceptance.

“If an applicant has some form of misconduct to report on the application, affirmatively discuss that incident. Do not try to avoid it or blame it on others,” Reeves Arrington said. “Similarly, applicants who experienced academic difficulties should explain why they did not perform to their potential.”

4. Select recommendations carefully

Make sure they are academic recommendations – that is why the admissions committee really wants to see them. Those from former employers or personal friends may not impress them like the ones outlining your growth as a student.

Admissions staff said people would be surprised at how often applicants submit recommendation letters that are “lukewarm” or worse about the candidate. Unless they are stellar, letters tend to blend together after a while, officials admit.

“Ask your professor if they’ll be your strongest advocate,” Wu Trujillo said. “You don’t want there to be any question in the mind of the reviewer.”

Think about who can talk about your intellectual and academic abilities, Hayes said. If you’ve been out of school for a time, contact your former professors and take a meeting with them. That way, you can refresh their memory of your time in their class as well as update them on what you’re doing now.

“Get people who really know you,” Perry said. “The more detailed they are the better they are.”

5. Hone your resume

Admissions officers all want you to know one thing about your resume. Be concise. Keep it short. Get to the point.

“Two or three-page resumes scream out, ‘I’m trying too hard,’” Childers said.

Hutchison recommends students instead try to find ways to finesse their skills and experience. For example, saying you studied abroad no longer makes you stand out. But explaining how you were in the Peace Corps and had an epiphany to study law while overseas will make the committee’s eyes light up.

Just like in a work-related resume, experts agree you should try to explain gaps in employment or time between educational endeavors. Even if you just worked in a fast-food restaurant, find a way to take the skills you learned on that job and how they relate to the skills you will need as a lawyer.

And do not forget to add a line or two of your additional interests. This little blurb is often left off a professional resume, but it should be included in this instance, especially if the law school doesn’t necessarily require this document.

Let your interests tell a story about you. Law schools want a diverse student body, so use this as an opportunity. Tell the applications committee about what makes you unique. They just might decide you are the right person to round out their next student body.

Perhaps you play guitar. Maybe it is your love of ancient history. Or it could be that championship body surfing ability. Whatever it is, it is one more tie between you and the members of the admissions committee.

“It gives them a point of reference and makes you seem more real,” Childers said. “I’d rather learn about someone who was an Eagle Scout than hear about another Honor Society.”

This guest blog post was authored by Karen Dybis and was published in the 2009 Fall issue of preLaw Magazine.

Click here for the digital edition of the 2009 Fall issue of preLaw Magazine or visit the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school!

Check out our podcast Creating the Killer Law School Application: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Application to hear more on this topic and to hear directly from Ann K. Perry, Assistant Dean for Admissions, The University of Chicago Law School. You can also hear more about law school admissions from Jason Wu Trujillo, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Virginia Law School in our show, The Current Economic Environment.

Looking for help with specific parts of your law school application? Listen to our podcast Law School Personal Statements and Letters of Recommendation: Where to Begin?

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New from Law School Podcaster! How To Succed as a Summer Associate

Tune in to our latest podcast for some great tips on how to make the most of your summer law job!

It’s that time of year. Those law students lucky enough to land a summer law job this year are settling in to their clerking jobs with private law firms, government agencies, or not-for-profit organizations. If you’ve been fortunate enough to score one of these coveted positions, you’ll want to check out our new podcast, How To Succeed as a Summer Associate: Advice to Help Turn Your Summer Law Job into a Permanent Position.

The show covers the current climate for summers, how to find the right work, strategies for the best way to balance assignments, tips for tackling legal research, and advice on how to avoid landmines in social events. Guests for this segment include Kara Nelson, Foley & Lardner’s National Director of Legal Recruiting, Wendy Siegel, the Director for Recruiting and Marketing, Office of Career Services at NYU School of Law, Sabina Clorfeine, co-author of The Summer Associate’s Guide to a Permanent Job Offer, and Elie Mystal, editor of Above the Law.

Our panel of experts run through some of the do’s and don’ts for summer legal employment and offer tips to help you appropriately navigate summer associate internships, especially during challenging economic times. Click here to listen to the show!

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7 Steps to Choosing the Best Law School For You

What to Know About Yourself and Your Potential School While the Search is Underway

You can’t find the right school if you don’t know what you want from the beginning. But, how do you choose a school that will lend its name to the rest of your career?

“When you are practicing law, the first question that you ask another lawyer is ‘Where did you go to law school?’ It creates an impression,” said Sarah Zearfoss, assistant dean of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.

Admissions and student experts suggest factoring in location, size, cost and prestige — finding the best fit, while receiving the best education. With more than 200 accredited law schools to choose from, here are seven things to know to help narrow your search.

1. Know What You Want

It’s similar to searching for the right car — you need to ask yourself what options you need, eliminate what you don’t and consider how comfortable you’ll be in the driver’s seat. After all, you’ll be driving it for three years.

“The match between a student’s career goals and the opportunities at the school is one of the most important factors,” Zearfoss said. Because most prospective students are considering studying law for its career benefits, make sure the school can take you where to go, she advised. That means having an idea of the type of law you are interested in, and finding a place with a curriculum, clinics and other opportunities that will help you pursue it.

One caveat, however, is to not let your search get too narrow based on curriculum.

“Review the curriculum, but remember at the end of three years you are going to take the bar exam, and the bar exam is not specialized,” said Ann Killian Perry, assistant dean for admissions at the University of Chicago Law School.

Make sure your legal education exposes you to many facets of law and will keep you interested as your tastes change.

2. Know Where You Want to Be Now, and Later

Location is key to flourishing in law school.

“Some students need to be near family or support,” Perry said.

Others are ready to go off to have an adventure. Law schools in urban settings may have more resources for students, such as a wide array of internships at law firms, city agencies and government offices. However, big cities can provide lots of distractions. Same goes for beach towns and party schools. A rural town might provide fewer opportunities, but plenty of community warmth and less distraction.

Judd Grutman, a third-year at the University of Michigan, advises applicants to consider accessibility of resources.

“The last thing a law student wants is to waste time doing mundane things,” he said. “Surrounding yourself with amenities means more time for fun.”

Think about the location as a place you may stay after law school, as well.

“The conventional wisdom says you should go to a school in an area where you want to practice law,” Zearfoss said.

Many schools provide a regionally-based curriculum, while others may offer a wider-based law program that translates to fields across the country.

Being in a location where you’ll be happy is as important as being academically secure.

3. Know the Size and Atmosphere You Are Looking For

Whether large or small, the size of a law school should be something you feel comfortable with. A big school, like a big city, comes with more of everything — people, opportunities, competition and resources. Diversity is also a plus.

On the flip side, a smaller school can offer an insightful environment.

“Our small size helps foster a close knit community, among both students and faculty,” Perry said. “Our students find a more collaborative effort of learning and exchanging ideas.”

What it all boils down to is feeling like you fit. Do you thrive under cutthroat competition or friendly teamwork? Are you searching for life-long legal buddies or a commuter campus where you can get in, learn and get out?

“I found Michigan to provide a supportive, fun-spirited social network, both within and outside of the law school,” Grutman said. “Being comfortable has been crucial to my personal success. And I have a good time as a result.”

How can you get a feel for the school’s atmosphere? The best option is to visit. Then talk to current students or alumni and call the school’s admissions office to attend regional events.

4. Know the Rankings, Then Look Deeper

For many pre-law students, rankings are their Bibles. While you may not live by them, you’ll probably admit they weigh heavily into your decision-making process. The truth is, they should come with a warning label — ‘For general purposes only.’

“Many factors go into evaluating a school, and I don’t think one ranking can establish a school’s value. It is just one piece,” Zearfoss said.

Perry advises looking at factors you are most interested in, such as specialties, bar passage rates and student-body make-ups. These statistics can offer better insight into what you will gain by attending.

Recent University of Michigan Law School graduate Jane Feddes agrees.

“Rankings are important, but they are not the final word,” she said. “I think it is important to pick a school that gives you the best chance to have a job when you graduate.”

5. Know What Ohers Say About The School

The all-important prestige of law school can’t be under estimated. Prospective employers may filter applicants based solely on a school’s name before even looking at a resume.

“When deciding where to go to law school, I wanted not only a place I felt at home, but also a place that made me proud to say I had gone there,” Feddes said. “Prestige is nice and it looks good hanging on your office wall, but it won’t make your law school experience any better or worse. Focus on fit, then sprinkle in prestige.”

6. KNOW THAT THE ENDS WILL JUSTIFY THE MEANS

Law school is an investment. That said, you should pay attention to the price, and make sure the debt matches your career goals.

“It is fool-hearty to choose a school just because it costs $20,000 less if it can’t take you where you want to go,” Zearfoss said. “Your investment is worth it, if it opens doors.”

The simple fact about law school debt is that it’s inevitable. Perry recommends keeping a close eye on financial aid deadlines, as well as application deadlines. Then wait to receive your financial aid package to choose a school based on how much it will cost and the scholarships an
d grants you’ll get. But don’t rule out the more expensive schools if they are a good fit otherwise.

7. KNOW THE FIT, AND APPLY

After narrowing the field of 200 accredited law schools according to how they fit you, it’s time to see where you fit with them. Applications can get expensive, so compare your personal statistics (GPA and LSAT score) to the schools’ averages.

Typically, students apply to about 11 schools, while some send more than 20 applications. A good rule is to split your field into three categories — stretch schools, likely to accept and slam dunks.

“Even the best candidates will get turned down by some of the top schools because schools look for different things,” Zearfoss said.

All successful searches include being turned down. Just remember, you’ll only be attending one law school.

This guest post is authored by Merideth Kimble and was published in the 2009 Back-to-School issue of preLaw Magazine. Click here for the digital edition of the 2009 Back-to-School issue of preLaw Magazine or vist the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school!

To hear more about the many factors that will affect where you decide to go to law school, check out Law School Podcaster’s podcast, “Choosing the Right Law School.” You can also tune in to hear more from Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at University of Michigan Law School, Sarah C. Zearfoss, on our show, The LSAT: Everything You Need to Hear about the Test and you can also hear from Dean of Admissions, The University of Chicago Law School, Ann K. Perry on our show Creating the Killer Law School Application: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Application.

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Factoring in Loan Forgiveness Programs at Top Law Schools


Obviously, one of the primary factors that govern a graduate school applicant’s enrollment decision is The Almighty Dollar. As in: how much will this cost, what kind of aid can I get, and what sort of earning potential am I looking at once I finish? Analyzing educational cost is a complicated task because students must first identify actual numbers (sticker price – available scholarship and grant money) and then put those numbers in the proper context by understanding loan repayment and properly estimating future salary figures.

One thing that is further complicating this financial aid stew is the addition of loan forgiveness programs. Popularized by elite law schools, the concept is a relatively simple one: eschew the big paychecks (and long hours) of a big law firm in favor of public interest work and, in exchange, you will get help paying back your enormous graduate student loans. Law schools have discovered that an attractive loan forgiveness program is a terrific marketing tool. This is primarily due to the fact that a huge number of law school applicants (especially those who are qualified to land admission spots in the elite programs) are highly optimistic people who view themselves as truth-seeking, freedom-fighting altruistic beings. In other words, everyone thinks they are going to do public interest work when they first apply to law school.

This poses an interesting question: how much stock should a top-flight candidate put in a school’s loan forgiveness program?

A quick look at any reputable survey will tell you that the number of law school graduates who ultimately do public interest work is far, far less than the number of law school applicants who say they will one day do public interest work. There are many factors that play a role in this phenomenon. It is easier for a student at an elite law school to secure a summer associate position at a law firm than with a cutting edge public interest entity. Public interest firms and groups have fewer recruiting resources. The pressure to work in the big legal markets like New York or L.A. forces students to search for an accessible path that will also pay the costs of relocating and then living in those cities. There are also simple (and often perverse) economic incentives, career-building considerations, and personal preference factors to consider. But the simple truth is that the number of actual public interest lawyers is so much lower than the number of hypothetical public interest lawyers because people have no idea what they want to do when they are applying for law school. In fact, it is safe to say that the “actual” number for any subset of the legal profession is substantially lower than the suggested numbers generated by surveys of law school applicants.

It is human nature to change one’s mind, especially after being exposed to hundreds of hours of logical reasoning and critical analysis.

So this takes us back to our initial question, framed in a new way: if students think they might want to do public interest law, but know they probably won’t, should they put much (or any) stock in each school’s loan forgiveness program?

My answer to this – perhaps surprisingly – is yes. But it comes with a caveat. Students who see themselves doing public interest work after law school should still take that aspect of a program into account, but must do so with an understanding of human nature and the likely evolution that will take place in law school. This approach will help applicants identify those programs that offer a more realistic possibility of providing a future benefit.

Take, for instance, the difference between the following two loan forgiveness programs: Harvard Law School, circa 2008, and the University of Chicago Law School. Before discontinuing the program in 2009, Harvard chose to subsidize a public interest student’s education by picking up the tab on the entire third year of law school ($45,000). This caught the eye of more than a few applicants, but wound up imposing a massive burden, as students were required to work at least five years in a qualified public interest position.

Chicago’s program, on the other hand, is more modest in scope but less fraught with peril. Students who do post-graduate work in the public interest sector are eligible to receive up to $10,000 for each year that they do so, for as many as seven years. This might not be as enticing to an applicant as the promise of a free third year of tuition, but it comes at no risk and is still a very nice way of rewarding people for using their legal educations to make the world a better place (presumably).

Law school applicants everywhere, consider loan forgiveness programs if you see fit, but be sure to analyze them with the proper lens of perspective and rational expectation. And just know that whatever school you are analyzing and whatever program they are offering, the whole thing is primarily a marketing concept brilliantly designed to play on your own idealized view of your eventual career.

This guest post is authored by Adam Hoff, 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.
For more details on this topic and to learn about options for financing your law school education, tune in to the full podcast, “Financing Your JD: How to Pay For Law School“. Guests include Stephen Brown, Assistant Dean of Enrollment Services at Fordham School of Law and Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of two essential financial aid information and planning websites FinAid.org and Fastweb.com.

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What Makes a Great Law School Library?


Many thought that the digital age would render brick-and-mortar libraries obsolete. But the modern-day law library has emerged as a vital center for learning and research that’s busier than ever. We rank 198 law libraries for resources, service and space.

When James Dunkelberger first walked into the law library at Brigham Young University School of Law, he was surprised by the extensive list of resources available to students.

He was assigned a personal study carrel where he could store his study materials and supplies. It came with wireless network access as well as a hardline connection that he could plug into. And he had access to the library’s 25 private rooms that he and members of his study group could reserve for meetings.

“It’s like a home base,” he said of the BYU law library. “You can network with the people you need to. Everything you need is at your fingertips.”

The result is a place that is inviting, even enjoyable, for students but still offers everything they need to enhance the educational process.

“The school has provided us a place where we feel comfortable and has the space and the technology to facilitate learning,” Dunkelberger said.

The situation at BYU isn’t unique. While the mission of law libraries hasn’t changed all that much over the years, the way they go about achieving those goals certainly has.

Today, every library must provide material not just in printed books, but in a variety of digital formats. And they have to make sure the library is not just a place for academic research, but a comprehensive learning center where students can interact with one another while still getting valuable instruction and advice from trained professionals.

It’s all part of the evolution of the law library in the 21st century.

“The objectives [of the law library] are the same,” said Arthur E. Bonfield, professor and head of the law library at the University of Iowa College of Law. “The means of satisfying those objectives, though, have changed.”

What makes a good law library in the 21st century includes a variety of factors: comfort, accessibility, convenience and, most of all, availability of the latest technological tools.
This is the third time The National Jurist has ranked law school libraries — with rankings previously appearing in 2000 and 2004. And for the most part, law schools continue to improve their offerings — from number of volumes to ratio of professional librarians to enrollment.

Our methodology has changed slightly over the years. We no longer measure for number of computer workstations, as wireless technology has replaced the old school-provided hard-wired stations.

But the core measurement system is the same, using data from the ABA: The number of volumes and titles make up 50 percent of the score. The ratio of library study seating to enrollment counts for 20 percent. The ratio of full-time professional librarians to enrollment, and the number of hours that the library is open each week account for 15 percent each. We translated each raw figure or ratio to percentile form on a 1-10 scale.

The end result: The University of Iowa repeats as the top library — the post it held in 2004. Yale Law School ranks second, up one spot from 2004. And Indiana University-Bloomington is third, dropping from second in our 2004 rankings.

But while there is not a lot of movement in the rankings, there has been a lot of improvement among most of the nation’s 198 law school libraries.

Information Please

Law libraries used to measure their effectiveness in providing the information that faculty and students need for research by the number of volumes and subscription titles they stock. But that’s changing.

The explosion of digital material has meant a sea change in the way library administrators approach their roles in the educational process.

Bonfield said that the Iowa law library, which is primarily used for research by students and faculty, strives to provide the widest range of on-site information resources possible. The library still purchases large amounts of print material every year — ranking an amazing second for total number of volumes. But the amount of digital information it must acquire to keep up with the demand is also growing.

“Our objective is to have everything,” Bonfield said.

That means Iowa and other libraries have to devote a greater portion of their resources to make available books and reference material in a variety of electronic formats.

The library at Yale Law School, for instance, now spends about 25 percent (around $600,000) of its annual information budget on licensing of digital resources, according to law librarian Blair Kauffmann. Yale also has placed a larger proportion of information services online and has created digital resources such as The Avalon Project, which provides free access to historical legal information found in the library’s collections.

But despite the heavy reliance on digital material, use of print remains high. Kaufmann said that library circulation last year was the highest in history.

Schools face a delicate balancing act in deciding how much to invest in print versus digital materials.

“Some longtime faculty members prefer print format,” said Kory Staheli, library director at 25th-ranked BYU, “and newer faculty members prefer an online electronic format. We have to make sure we have what both need.”

Caroline Osborne, law librarian at 18th-ranked Washington & Lee School of Law, said that libraries must be responsive to the needs of users in this evolving educational environment. That means figuring out the right mix of formats.

“Our print collection is still very vital,” Osborne said. “But we are changing what we are adding.” Last year, the Washington & Lee library stopped collecting print volumes of state legal codes. Instead, students are provided electronic access to the codes from all 50 states.

Prompted in part by economics and in part by technology, the changes stem from a gradual reassessment of the basic way in which libraries go about meeting their responsibilities to the educational community.

“We are looking at the collection as a whole,” Osborne said. “We are moving away from the traditional collection.”

Instructional Role

For law libraries, the challenges of the electronic age go beyond just being able to deliver material in either print or digital form. It means that more library users need assistance when it comes to using and accessing the various forms of information.

“Years ago, our instruction focused primarily on print material and microfilm,” Bonfield said.
“Today, we spend lots of instructional time on the use of digital material.”

That often involves advising students on which approach – print or digital – would be the most efficient way to access the material.

“In the past, we just assumed that if we had the collections, they would figure it out,” said David Armond, associate director of information technology at BYU.

Helping students find the material they need in a format they can use is a key mission for law librarians.

“I will never forget my first semester,” said April Merrill, a third year at the University of Tulsa College of Law, which ranks 34th. She was looking for a form for a quiet title action, but literally had no idea where to begin.

“I spent at least an hour with one of my classmates searching for this form, to no avail,” she said. They finally went to the reference librarian on duty. She personally guided them to the correct form books and taught them how to use the index quickly to find what they needed.

“It took her maybe 10 minutes, but I will never forget how to find forms,” Merrill said.

That kind of hands-on help is critically important for law students. Even the experience of going into the law school library can be intimidating, as it was initially for Merrill.

“There are just so many books and electronic resources, it can be overwhelming,” she said.

Kristin Zinsmaster, a third year at the 11th-ranked University of Minnesota School of Law, said that assistance from the school’s trained librarians is vital for her as a member of the school’s law review.

“The Minnesota Law Review is pretty much in the business of making obscure requests of our reference librarians, during both the racking and cite-checking processes,” she said. “The law librarians are well-acquainted with both of the processes and are absolutely invaluable to us as a journal.”

Zinsmaster cited one instance last year when she was searching for hard copies of speeches by former presidents. The speeches had been removed from the Web site shortly after the 2008 election and had not yet been added to the presidential papers. But, she said, a librarian was able to locate the most official paper copy of the speeches in the same afternoon.

Jack Sullivan, also a third year at the University of Minnesota, said he’s been able to make the most of both print and digital resources at the law library.

“It’s the place where I’ve learned how to conduct research, with the assistance of reference librarians and other staff,” he said.

Merrill said that she takes advantage of the law library’s quiet study rooms and the enclosed computer lab.

“In those quiet spaces, I’m able to get my work done without constant distraction,” she said.

A Place of Their Own

In today’s law school environment, schools are finding that it pays to design their libraries to fit the needs of students.

Six years ago, BYU’s law school launched a major upgrade of its facilities that doubled the size of the law library’s space. The school provided wireless connectivity throughout the building and assigned each student with their own study carrel, which becomes like their own office space. BYU now has the highest ratio of seats to students in the nation, with 1.98 library seats for every student.

Dunkelberger said he spends 30 to 40 hours per week in the library and during finals, as much as 12 hours a day.

“The best thing about the law library is the facility itself,” he said. “It’s space that me and my study buddies can use.”

Many law schools emphasize the library as a home base for the law school community, rather than as a repository for books, said Washington & Lee’s Osborne.

“It’s become an office for students,” she said.

And the design of the library has changed, allowing it to become more integrated into the overall life of the students.

Joan Howland, associate dean for information technology and director of the University of Minnesota’s law school, said that the school’s library is busier than ever. Students are still using the library as a place to study and congregate, even with laptops making material available from almost any location, she said.

“There’s a lot more traffic, more interaction with the reference desk,” Howland said.

Students can contact librarians via e-mail or live chat to get help.

Kaufmann said Yale law librarians are turning to innovative methods to reach students. One avenue involves offering more instruction and even providing a host of credit and non-credit courses. The library also is involved in most of the law school’s clinics, offering lectures and devising research guides for each.

“Today’s ‘born digital’ generation of law students are among the most intensive library users we’ve experienced,” Kaufmann said.

Yale students can text-message reference questions and the school’s online catalog can be readily viewed on handheld devices such as the iPhone. And the Yale library sponsors blogs focused on rare books, foreign and international law and legal references.

The University of Minnesota law library has even tapped the social networking phenomenon: The library has its own Facebook page that allows administrators and students to communicate with one another.

Technology Budget Crunch

The transition of libraries into the digital age doesn’t come without its challenges, though. Administrators are faced with pumping tens of thousands of dollars into new technology at the same time they are facing increasing budget pressures.

“It’s much more expensive to run a really nationally first-rate law library than 25 years ago,” Bonfield said.

At Yale, the library has formed strategic alliances with publishers to digitize important information services, making early American legal treatises, U.S. Supreme Court briefs and primary legal documents available online.

“It’s not cheap to run a law library,” the University of Minnesota’s Howland said. “Technology is very expensive, and we still need to buy certain materials in hard copy.”

With the availability of digital information exploding at a breakneck rate, what does the future hold for law libraries?

At many schools, law libraries are assuming a broader role in providing educational support for the classroom.

Dragomir Cosanici, library director at fifth-ranked Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center, said the school makes many classroom lectures available online through programs such as Skype.

“So if a professor is off to deliver a lecture in Holland and still wants to hold his class, he can do so,” Cosanici said. The library also offers a number of software packages that allow a student to answer questions or provide feedback instantly while in class.

Cosanici predicted that “cloud computing” will become more prevalent – reference materials will be made available in Internet-based files that will allow individuals to work from any computer anywhere.

“It’s happening now in some ways,” he said. “And in the future, we will do away with passwords as we know them, and instead use smart cards to access materials.”

There also will be greater availability of multinational materials, with more accessibility and more free access to those resources, he predicted.

Libraries also will help students develop the research skills to become more practice-ready so they will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as they begin working, ei
ther clerking or in practice.

Osborne sees an increasing role for technology in law libraries. Devices like the Kindle e-book reader and the new Apple iPad are expected to have a major impact on the way people access and acquire information.

Even so, Osborne said, there will always be a role for information preservation.

“The law library will continue to be an institutional repository and hold a major role in the legal education process,” she said.

This guest blog post is authored by Keith Carter and was published in the 2010 Spring issue of preLaw Magazine. Click here for the digital edition of the 2010 Springissue of preLaw Magazine or vist the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school!

To hear more about the many factors that will affect where you decide to go to law school, check out Law School Podcaster’s podcast, “Choosing the Right Law School.”

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Applying to Law School: Five Important Factors to Keep in Mind


Students in Knewton’s LSAT course often ask our advice about where they should apply to law school. By “where,” they mean “which schools” — but they also mean it literally, as in “where on the map.”

It’s a tricky question to answer. Law school rankings can help identify the top 20 or so schools in the nation — but they certainly can’t tell you if a school is right for you.

So: how do you find the law school that will be the best fit for you? Here are five important factors to keep in mind:

1. Where you want to practice.

No one expects you to have a crystal ball, but it is important to think about the geographical areas in which you might be interested in practicing post-law school. For example, the University of Alabama and Washington and Lee are both ranked in the mid-30s in the 2010 Law School Rankings by U.S. News and World Report. But just because they’re similarly ranked doesn’t mean they offer similar job prospects nationwide. As this data shows, 27% of Washington and Lee students remain in Virginia post-graduation; 70% of University of Alabama students remain in Alabama. If you’re looking to practice in Alabama, then, it would be supremely foolish to pick Washington and Lee over U and A. Bottom line: If you know where you want to practice, try to pick a school with a strong alumni network in that area. It’ll help come job-hunting time!
Earning exceptional grades is one way to make up for attending a lower-ranked school. Local firms will often recruit students at the top of the class. If you want to practice in Lexington, it might just be better to go to the University of Kentucky (ranked 60th) and graduate in the top 10% of your class than to go to the University of Minnesota (ranked 22nd) and only graduate in the top 50%.

2. Prestige.

Let’s face it: a school’s reputation can make a big difference in your job chances post-J.D. Certainly, you should always consider fit first—a highly ranked law school doesn’t necessarily guarantee a great experience—but a big-league name on your diploma (hello Stanford, Harvard, NYU) will increase job prospects no matter where you want to practice. If the top-tier schools are within your range, go for it! Devote yourself to LSAT prep, and use your score to determine the top-ranked schools within your range early on in the admissions process.

3. Big market or small market?

If you’re hoping to practice in a major city, your chances at a job will be much improved by attending a top-ranked school, anywhere in the country. Firms in San Francisco won’t necessarily draw more grads from Bay Area law schools; in other words, attending a top school in NYC is unlikely to put you at a disadvantage. In smaller cities and towns, however, who you meet in law school is crucial to your professional success. If you’re hoping to practice in a smaller, more localized region, try to attend the best school in that region—and then network, network, network.

4. Quality of life.

Don’t forget that what happens outside of law school is often just as important as what goes on inside. Cost of living, summer job markets, access to culture, student involvement, and other quality-of-life metrics are important to consider. Don’t go to a law school in a city in which you’ll be miserable. This is 3 or 4 years of your life—don’t push your personal happiness aside!

5. Area of interest.

Is practicing in a certain area of the law more important to you than practicing in a certain part of the country? It might be worth venturing away from your home region to attend a school that offers better job prospects or has a reputation for stellar teaching in your field of interest. For example, if you’re interested in oil and gas law/energy regulation, you probably want to go to Texas—it’s where you’ll find jobs, and Texas law schools are most likely to specialize in this field. Environmental law your thing? Head to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, both fertile grounds for practicing in this area. UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall and Lewis and Clark (in Portland) offer two of the best environmental law programs in the nation.

In the end, be careful not to put too much stock in data and rankings. Yes, research is important — but often, trusting your intuition will take you much further. Good luck with your applications!

This post is authored by Kristen Kennedy, one of Knewton’s top-notch LSAT prep teachers. (She also attended Northwestern — so she knows a thing or two about getting into law school.) Kristen is also a guest on the Law School Podcaster show, Comparing LSAT Test Prep Companies: Which One is Right For You?

For more information on this topic, check out our podcast, Choosing the Right Law School: Understand the Factors that Affect Where You Want to Go To School.

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Insider Tips for Part-Time Law Students


Yes, you can. It’s not easy, but part-time students learn how to balance family, day jobs, extracurricular activities and law school.

When Brandy W. started law school in 2005, her life became a physical and mental marathon. The 30-year-old single mother with a 12-year-old son, worked full-time for the U.S. Department of Justice as a management analyst, while attending George Mason University Law School four nights a week.

“I had no personal life,” she said. “I studied mostly on weekends and often an hour or two after work. I had to squeeze in quality time with my son. He spent a lot of time at school with me, sitting in on my classes and doing his homework.”

But she made the sacrifices because she was shooting for a goal she had had since she was a teenager. She eventually learned to manage her workload, and even worked on the law journal, served as a writing fellow and competed in moot court.

Although part-time law students are over-booked and over-worked, they’re often among the most committed students on campus, say administrators and faculty. They’re determined to get that J.D. despite the stress and work. They’re usually split about 50-50 between men and women, although men sometimes hold an edge. Part-time students tend to be older by average than full-timers, but most are still in their 30s. Generally, where part-time programs are available, from 25 to 35 percent of students are part-time, except for schools that specialize in part-time law.

“There don’t seem to be more drop-outs among part-time students than full-time,” said Alison Price, associate dean and director of admissions at George Mason’s law school in Arlington, Va. “Part-timers really want to be in law school. They’re very committed.”

The transition

Attrition rates for part-time and full-time students are very similar, said Susan Goldberg, associate dean for students at Widener University Law School in Wilmington, Del.

“I’m so amazed at their drive and commitment,” she said. “And they bring real world knowledge into the classroom.”

Even so, many part-time students said they had a tough transition as 1Ls. After all, they’re not going half time — it’s more like three-quarters time. They generally take 10-11 hours of class a term, compared with the 12-15 hours for full-timers.

“I don’t know how I managed,” said Sheila Miller, now a judge in Clinton Township, Mich. “I got off from work at 5 p.m. and started classes at 6 p.m. I took 10 credits a term and had no summers off.”

She graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., in 1990 after about three years as a part-timer. Throughout law school, she worked “everyday, all day” as an administrative assistant in the Michigan Legislature. She was also a member of the school’s national trial competition team, won an American Jurisprudence Book Award and served as a teaching assistant. Her efforts paid off with a job as an assistant county prosecutor after she passed the bar.

Though not working full-time by day, for mothers like Maureen Semple-Hirsch, simplifying life a little bit more made class by night a lot easier.

“I was taking a class toward my master’s in nursing, I was serving on an institutional review board and I had other volunteer commitments at my kids’ school and at a hospital,” said Semple-Hirsch, a South Texas College of Law graduate. “Then I got my first semester grades back and decided to remove some of those things. That’s the best advice I can give to someone thinking about part-time law school: Do empty your plate as much as possible. Be pro-active about time management.”

For many students, law school has been a lifelong dream, as it was for Matthew Feher, a lobbyist at the Massachusetts Municipal Association in Boston. He started at New England Law at age 28 while working at the association. A spring 2009 graduate, he’s now awaiting bar results.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’d been intrigued by politics and the law,” said Feher, now 32. “As a lobbyist, I interacted with lawyers in all areas and I wanted to know more. I loved my job and I didn’t want to leave.”

Finding the time, and money

Students said they gave themselves whole-heartedly to their jobs while going to law school at night. Some said they even got promotions while in night-time law school. But employers aren’t always entirely sympathetic to the idea.

Tamika Crawl-Bey worked as an engineer for a manufacturing company while going to Widener.

“They didn’t want me to go to law school,” Crawl-Bey said. “So I didn’t tell them until I was two years into it.”

At that point she was just about ready to quit her job to take an externship with the law firm where she now works.

Scores of law schools in locations throughout the country offer part-time programs. Most schools expect students to finish in three-and-a-half to four years. American Bar Association rules say students must finish in no more than seven years.

The biggest motivation for going to law school part-time rather than full-time may be a financial one: less in student loans to pay off.

Derek Bottcher, a 2008 graduate of George Mason Law, was a manager for Charles Schwab when he started school. He paid for school out of pocket and was able to reduce his debt significantly, making it easier for him to choose a job.

“Loans put you in the position of having to seek enough pay to sustain your loan payments,” he said. “If you don’t have to wear golden handcuffs, it frees up so many things in your life.”

Bottcher is now an associate with Hastings Janofsky and Walker in Washington, D.C., and practices in labor and employment law.

Insider’s tips on how to handle part-time law school

Pick a school close to job and home so you can limit commute time. “Between the office I worked in and the law school, the only separation was a parking lot,” said Judge Sheila Miller of Michigan. She also lived just a few blocks away from the school and from her home in an efficiency apartment.

If you start part-time, you may be able to switch to full-time later. Maureen Semple-Hirsch, for example, switched to full-time toward the end of her time at South Texas College of Law in order to speed up the process. Not all schools can let you make the switch, however, due to schedule conflicts.

Do you work nights? Some law schools offer programs that allow you to go to school part-time by day while working at night. Part-timers have “always been part of our mission,” said Judith Greenberg, associate dean at New England Law, where 30 percent of the 1,100 students attend part-time.

The school ha
s part-time day and evening programs and even a special combination of day and evening classes for parents with primary child-rearing responsibilities.

Be sure to fit in time for internships and externships that will help you land a job later.

This article was authored by Rebecca Larsen and published in the 2010 Winter issue of preLaw Magazine. Click here for the digital edition of the 2010 Winter issue of preLaw Magazine or vist the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school!

To hear more on this topic, listen to Law School Podcaster’s podcast, Part-time or Full-time Law School: Which One is Right For You?. Law School Podcaster Host/Producer, Diana Jordan. interviewed Andy Cornblatt, Dean of Admissions, Georgetown University Law Center; Stephen Brown, Fordham Law School, Dean of Enrollment Services and Jannell Roberts, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles to get some insight into how the admissions committees weigh part-time applications, the timeline for applying, the credentials of full-time versus part-time applicants and the differences they see in applicant pools.

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Share Your Insights on Law School Admissions and Win an iPad From Law School Podcaster and Veritas Prep


Law School Podcaster, the premier online law school admissions resource, has joined forces with law school admissions consulting provider, Veritas Prep, to find out who’s applying to law school, why, and which resources are most helpful for law school applicants.

In exchange for 2-3 minutes of your time and your insights on the law school admissions process, we will enter you in a drawing to win an iPad!

To take the short survey, click on this link.

Responses by July 18th are greatly appreciated.

Just enter your email address when prompted within the survey for your chance to win an iPad courtesy of Law School Podcaster and Veritas Prep.

Thanks in advance for your participation!

Law School Podcaster and Veritas Prep

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preLaw Magazine and Law School Podcaster Team Up!

Law School Podcaster is teaming up with preLaw Magazine to share more news and information that will benefit law school http://lawschoolpodcaster.com/wordpress/2010/09/nontraditional-law-school-applicants-students/applicants and students.

Law School Podcaster is the premier broadcast source for law school applicants and students. Law School Podcaster delivers relevant information and advice through regular audio segments for those planning to apply for a JD and for savvy law students seeking success in law school and beyond. Topics include everything from a behind-the-scenes view of the admission process to post-law school job opportunities and current market trends.

preLaw Magazine educates readers by empowering and informing them on current legal education trends, profiles of law schools and by providing advice. For ten years, preLaw magazine has helped thousands of prospective law students identify the law school that fits them best. Through comparison data, pre-law students can identify which school offers the resources needed to follow the career path they choose.

Stay tuned for more news about some exciting new joint projects!

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