I was reading a review of an article published by Richard Sander back in 2004 that set forth empirical evidence supporting conclusions that African American law students suffer due to affirmative action. Sander concluded that black students suffer in the areas of law school performance and bar passage, claiming that 50% of black students in the study ended up in the bottom 10% of their class, and black law graduates were 6 times more likely to fail the bar after multiple attempts. He says that black students, being mis-accepted into elite law schools, would be better off applying to less elite schools because they do not have the academic credentials to excel in the more selective environments. The review suggests that Sander argues it is because the institutions that blacks come from are less conducive to developing the credentials needed to succeed in the elite law schools. ( http://www.adversity.net/Sander/RHS_main_frame.htm )
Now, let me get this out of the way. I AM an African American male. I AM NOT here to debate affirmative action in any way. Rather I'm here to engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue with the TLS community on the following quote from the review: "He argues that students who perform at the bottom of their classes at more selective colleges often are confused by tougher material taught at speeds that challenge higher-achieving classmates. At less selective colleges, the material tends to be simpler, so these students can pull into the middle of their class and pick up the baseline information needed to pass the bar exam."
This suggestion that less elite law schools teach simpler material than more elite law schools strikes me as potentially inaccurate rhetoric employed for the sake of entertaining readers on the web. Isn't ABA accreditation suppose to ensure that this very thing doesn't happen? Is the material being taught at Harvard or NYU really more complex than the material being taught at University of Georgia or North Carolina? How could this be when legal education is considered to be one of (if not) the most uniform type of graduate school education there is. 1Ls at Temple take civil procedure, torts, property, legal writing, etc. just like 1Ls at Stanford. Many of them probably use the same textbooks, as many casebooks/texts are institutions in particular fields of law.
Now, I'm not neglecting the part of the quote that mentions speed of the teaching. I could see professors at Yale feeling less compelled to do a lot of hand holding in via lecture or feeling no apprehension to assign excessively enormous amounts of reading because they figure that the students at Yale are the best and brightest in the country. This notion, that for some reason Torts at USN&WR #50 is "simpler" than torts at a T14 school, is hard for me to grasp. Sure the faculty are more published, awarded and widely cited than faculty at lower rank schools. This fact supports the conclusion that the quality of education might be better at T14 schools, but not that the material is simpler. The faculty in the T14 might have more pull when it's time to apply for clerkships and Big Law positions. They might have certain life experiences within their arsenal that they can use to make the law come alive in a way that faculty at other schools, lacking those experiences, do not have to enhance their teaching. These qualitative factors all affect the quality of a law students overall experience, but not the quality of the material or your opportunity to wrestle with cases and extrapolate the implications of the black letter law (or do they --- please comment)
Also, it's not just Sander who I've heard go down this road. Alex Johnson, African American Professor of Law at UVA, mentions in this video clip shortly after the 39:00 mark that "African Americans disproportionately mis-apply to law schools." ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7_xHsce57c ) Is he indirectly supporting the reasoning held by Sanders that some law schools are easier for African Americans?
So this brings me to my next point. I've received this advice more than once: "If you're a black applicant your choices should be the T14 or Howard University" ... Now, most qualify this comment by saying, if you can go T14 you go, but anything outside of T14 is a waste of time. Well according to Sander, black students with "inappropriate credentials" might be better served seeking to apply to other schools outside the T14 but inside the T30 for instance. Howard University doesn't have the endowments, facilities, or reputation to rival T14 members, but for some reason the top of the class at HU is consistently afforded opportunities at some of the most prestigious law firms in the country. ( http://www.leiterrankings.com/jobs/2008job_biglaw.shtml )
Now ... For an African American student with a 162 for example, what do they do? If the relative competitiveness of your LSAT score gets you full tuition at Howard, but can't get you in a T14 with strong financial support, do you attend Howard? Sander says that the material is "simpler" (which seems like bad business for receiving an education fit for professional succes), but he also says you'll be more competitive there than you would at a T14 school. Finishing in the top 25 students at Howard opens doors to Wachtell Liption Rosen & Katz, but #200 at Georgia ... not so much. <-- This is the case that I've heard for choosing Howard over anything outside of the T14.
So what do you guys think? Are all legal materials created equally, but just not disseminated so? What do you think about Sander's discussion of previous exposure to academic rigor being a reason to go to a law school that teaches "simpler law?" What do you think about this Howard University secret to success for AA 0Ls who missed out on the T14? Please share your thoughts ... the overwhelming majority of posters on here are respectful and insightful enough to cause me to look forward to your responses on this issue.
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