Ten questions you should ask any law school

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shortporch
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Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby shortporch » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:01 am

Completely subjective advice, but perhaps some of it rings true as you narrow down your law school choices. Perhaps these are idiosyncratic views. But perhaps they can be of use.

(Note: most of this will be soundly criticized by a number of law school faculty members if asked pointedly. Hence, the comfort of pseudonymity.)

For those of you with Asperger's, these are not literal questions you have to ask to the schools. Some you can find on your own through research without an awkward point-blank question directed at an admission's officer.

1. What bars do your graduates take?

Almost all law schools are regional (making USNWR something of a joke outside of a geographic region). But within a region, some law schools place far more into a number of markets than a local market. The official ABA guide lists where students take the bar. If most (more than 70%) of them stay in-state, you should expect to have difficulty trekking out on your own. If most stay in-state or go to the one major regional geographic center (e.g., Northeast state and New York, Midwest state and Illinois), then you can expect those two options. And if they're pretty well spread around the country, you can expect many more opportunities. Any state where at least 5% of graduate have taken the bar (e.g., 10 out of 200) may be a post-graduation target. Otherwise, you'll go it alone.

2. Do you have a list of graduates who've clerked?

It's a red flag if they can't give you this. Many have a PDF or XLS available on their website. And when you look at it, you can get a very good idea of the reputation of the school based on how many clerk, for what kind of judges, and where. Schools track this very closely to keep alumni in the loop and ensure opportunities down the line. Look at the last couple of years' worth of data in particular.

3. What's the stipulation for keeping my scholarship?

Something in the area of top-half ought to be a concern, as half of you won't be in the top half. That's stunning math, but something lost on many, as about 95% or so of students expect to be in the top half. Calculate that into your cost.

4. What rank of faculty teach the 1L sections?

If there are a lot of very junior faculty, or emeritus faculty, or visiting faculty teaching the 1L sections, it means that the school cares very little about teaching and your experience. That's not to say that having very junior, visiting, or emeritus faculty is a bad experience; it just shows the low priority if there's a critical mass (I'd say about one-third of the classes) in that direction. "Older" junior faculty and "younger" tenured faculty tend to be ideal, as they will be the heart of the school with the experience and ability. (Then again, perhaps the first time a professor teaches a class it's the best, and the 20th time it's stale; it may be a matter of preference for style, but it's still an indication of a school's teaching load priority.)

5. Who are your recent faculty hires?

If a school has been focused on hiring candidates with PhDs or little experience in the real world, it can lead to a less meaningful experience for students (again, in my humble opinion--they're usually excellent scholars). They're interested in scholarship output at the (potential) expense of student experience. If they have been hiring a number of faculty, it's a good sign of the financial situation of the school. If the school has not been hiring, it may be a bad financial situation; or it may be that faculty are not coming to the school because of a perceived problem.

6. Who are your recent faculty losses?

Losing a big name is not a big deal. But losing a number of faculty in a seemingly steady stream over a few years may suggest that there's trouble brewing in the administration and people are jumping ship.

7. What have tuition increases historically been?

Past performance is no guarantee, but the historical rate of tuition increases can affect your level of funding. If the school is hiking it at a rate of $2,000 a year, then you're looking at another $2,000 as a 2L and another $4,000 as a 3L--not a small sum, and something to consider.

8. How's your funding?

This is a question more for public institutions, as government funding has been trimmed dramatically from some schools. That can mean great instability in the years ahead, financial cuts, inability to maintain elite faculty, tuition hikes, and (most perilous!) a drop in expenditures per student and a resulting drop in USWR rank. For private schools, it's more about endowment, and that turns more on the S&P 500 or real estate market.

9. How long have your career services office employees been here?

High turnover in career services can be a problem. If employees are re-networking all over again and can't establish continuity, it can be problematic for those seeking competent staff.

10. Is the projected incoming class going to be the same size, larger, or smaller?

Larger class sizes might give you a better shot at getting in the door, but it also means more competition. If a school of 200 typically has the journals and the moot courts and the on-campus interview slots for 200, and suddenly admits 225, you can see that there will be a number of individuals squeezed out. Ironically, the increased class size is likely to make you want to go (because more are getting in than were before), so be careful.

Critique away. I'll probably back off some of my claims with enough criticism, but I might not.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:08 am

Historical tuition increases are almost meaningless--especially regarding law schools receiving state funds. State funding is being cut dramatically in several states & proposed to be cut significantly in other states thus tuition increases are likely to be much higher than history would indicate.

"Which bars do your students take ?" is not important with respect to ABA accredited law schools. The real issue is where do your students receive law job offers & which firms & entities interview during OCI.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Mce252
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby Mce252 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:09 am

Seems helpful if you're comparing two closely ranked schools.

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby fundamentallybroken » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:19 am

3. What's the stipulation for keeping my scholarship?

Something in the area of top-half ought to be a concern, as half of you won't be in the top half. That's stunning math, but something lost on many, as about 95% or so of students expect to be in the top half. Calculate that into your cost.


Not necessarily. Schools give merit scholarships to students who have shown academic success in the past, and who can reasonably be expected to do well in the future. While it is necessarily true that half the students in a class will be in the bottom half, this does not translate to half the students receiving scholarship money losing that money. I'd be willing to venture a guess that the majority of scholly recipients keep their money through school (and if you lose it by dropping too low, you probably didn't really deserve it in the first place.)

CanadianWolf
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:22 am

Consider: If I transfer, do I have to repay my scholarship ?

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shortporch
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby shortporch » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:12 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:"Which bars do your students take ?" is not important with respect to ABA accredited law schools. The real issue is where do your students receive law job offers & which firms & entities interview during OCI.


It's almost impossible to get hard numbers on where they receive job offers because of a lack of transparency in the employment statistics. But bar-taker data is the cold, hard data.

fundamentallybroken wrote:Not necessarily. Schools give merit scholarships to students who have shown academic success in the past, and who can reasonably be expected to do well in the future. While it is necessarily true that half the students in a class will be in the bottom half, this does not translate to half the students receiving scholarship money losing that money. I'd be willing to venture a guess that the majority of scholly recipients keep their money through school (and if you lose it by dropping too low, you probably didn't really deserve it in the first place.)


"a majority" means what, though? If 60% of students get to keep their scholarships, wouldn't you like to know that? Or that you have a 40% chance of having zero scholarships for years 2 and 3?

MrAnon
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby MrAnon » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:26 pm

This is all window dressing. The only thing you should care about when you pay six figures for a professional school degree is honest and accurate employment data, which most schools certainly do not provide ("Everyone else is less than candid, so why should we be?").

I would ask the school for unedited employment survey responses. Once you have them all in front of you, and you see how many people don't respond, or don't respond with a salary, it is an eye opening experience.

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FlanAl
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby FlanAl » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:27 pm

I'd like to add that you should ask what firms from your target market recruit there and try to find out their success rate at placing in those firms. Which is what i'm just about to be doing in an email

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby fundamentallybroken » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:36 pm

shortporch wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:"Which bars do your students take ?" is not important with respect to ABA accredited law schools. The real issue is where do your students receive law job offers & which firms & entities interview during OCI.


It's almost impossible to get hard numbers on where they receive job offers because of a lack of transparency in the employment statistics. But bar-taker data is the cold, hard data.

fundamentallybroken wrote:Not necessarily. Schools give merit scholarships to students who have shown academic success in the past, and who can reasonably be expected to do well in the future. While it is necessarily true that half the students in a class will be in the bottom half, this does not translate to half the students receiving scholarship money losing that money. I'd be willing to venture a guess that the majority of scholly recipients keep their money through school (and if you lose it by dropping too low, you probably didn't really deserve it in the first place.)


"a majority" means what, though? If 60% of students get to keep their scholarships, wouldn't you like to know that? Or that you have a 40% chance of having zero scholarships for years 2 and 3?


Yes, you're right - a "majority" is anything over 50%. (Edited out the snark - cranky day apparently!)

My point, on the other hand, was that one should look beyond scholarship stipulations. Asking questions such as "what percentage of recipients lose their scholarship after 1L" or "is there a probationary semester if I happen to fall below the stipulated gpa" are far more helpful than "what does my gpa have to be above?"

Simply assuming that a top half stipulation means half of the scholarship recipients will lose theirs after the first year is wrong.

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northwood
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby northwood » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:07 pm

those are all great points.
I would add- Where do most of your graduates practice- and how far is the average radius of practicing graduates ( from 3 yeras average) from the school. This will help you determine how far of a reach the school has. If you want to practice at the edge of it- or beyond the schools reach- then it may not be for you.

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kalvano
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby kalvano » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:11 pm

You forgot "How many open bar functions do you host for students?"

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby fundamentallybroken » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:20 pm

kalvano wrote:You forgot "How many open bar functions do you host for students?"


I believe this should be question number 1 - possibly even before applying.

seriously????
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby seriously???? » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:19 pm

to be truly informed you need to get a hold of a list of a graduating class. with that list, you can look up their bios, see what employment prospects truly are, email these people if you have any questions.
those questions aren't bad, but for the real skinny, you need to pull a OO7.

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bk1
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby bk1 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:23 pm

Another protip for the aspies: Don't demand the answers to these questions from the CSO panel at ASW. Everybody will hate you for being that jackass.

adt231
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby adt231 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:30 pm

bk1 wrote:Another protip for the aspies: Don't demand the answers to these questions from the CSO panel at ASW. Everybody will hate you for being that jackass.


haha. this is why ASW is pretty much a waste of time (unless you are totally unfamiliar with the area/school and you aren't in touch with any other prospective students at the school)

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pilchc
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby pilchc » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:36 pm

tag

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby fundamentallybroken » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:38 pm

adt231 wrote:
bk1 wrote:Another protip for the aspies: Don't demand the answers to these questions from the CSO panel at ASW. Everybody will hate you for being that jackass.


haha. this is why ASW is pretty much a waste of time (unless you are totally unfamiliar with the area/school and you aren't in touch with any other prospective students at the school) hilarious way to spend an afternoon

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northwood
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby northwood » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:39 pm

fundamentallybroken wrote:
adt231 wrote:
bk1 wrote:Another protip for the aspies: Don't demand the answers to these questions from the CSO panel at ASW. Everybody will hate you for being that jackass.


haha. this is why ASW is pretty much a waste of time (unless you are totally unfamiliar with the area/school and you aren't in touch with any other prospective students at the school) hilarious way to spend an afternoon



dont you go to admitted student days to meet potential classmates?

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FlanAl
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby FlanAl » Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:09 pm

bk1 wrote:Another protip for the aspies: Don't demand the answers to these questions from the CSO panel at ASW. Everybody will hate you for being that jackass.


i think i was that jackass but there were only like 4 other people there. actually I didn't demand answers I just asked if they would be able to provide them at some point, there answer was basically "no"

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romothesavior
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby romothesavior » Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:19 pm

This is a decent list, but the number one, most important thing you should be pressing them on is jobs. And if you can't get it from the admins, then you need to contact some current students.

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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby law's cool » Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:59 pm

What questions can admitted students really ask the Career Services Offices of these schools in order to get the most accurate, reliable data on employment #s?

People always say to "get a hold of a list of a graduating class" but I have never heard of anyone who has successfully done this at any school. Obviously this information would be fantastic to have, but it is (from what I've seen) simply not available. Schools won't give out this information because it will be posted all over forums like this one and will have severe impacts on where students go to school. Rather than acknowledging this, schools simply state that "we don't make this information available" or "look at our website for employment data" or "we can't give this information out - the names of students are on these spreadsheets." When I ask if they can just take out the names of the students, the reply is no.

Given all this, how can I really find reliable data on employment #s when law schools just aren't making the information available?

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Veyron
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby Veyron » Sat Apr 02, 2011 2:06 pm

If there are a lot of very junior faculty, or emeritus faculty, or visiting faculty teaching the 1L sections, it means that the school cares very little about teaching and your experience. That's not to say that having very junior, visiting, or emeritus faculty is a bad experience; it just shows the low priority if there's a critical mass (I'd say about one-third of the classes) in that direction. "Older" junior faculty and "younger" tenured faculty tend to be ideal, as they will be the heart of the school with the experience and ability. (Then again, perhaps the first time a professor teaches a class it's the best, and the 20th time it's stale; it may be a matter of preference for style, but it's still an indication of a school's teaching load priority.)


*Is GULC*
*Realizes that it doesn't care about teaching*
*Fires prestigious adjuncts*
*Hires crappy JD/PHDs and gives them tenure*
*???*
*PROFITS!!!*

MrAnon
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby MrAnon » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:04 pm

law's cool wrote:What questions can admitted students really ask the Career Services Offices of these schools in order to get the most accurate, reliable data on employment #s?

People always say to "get a hold of a list of a graduating class" but I have never heard of anyone who has successfully done this at any school. Obviously this information would be fantastic to have, but it is (from what I've seen) simply not available. Schools won't give out this information because it will be posted all over forums like this one and will have severe impacts on where students go to school. Rather than acknowledging this, schools simply state that "we don't make this information available" or "look at our website for employment data" or "we can't give this information out - the names of students are on these spreadsheets." When I ask if they can just take out the names of the students, the reply is no.

Given all this, how can I really find reliable data on employment #s when law schools just aren't making the information available?



Typically if someone is offering to sell you something (for 6 figures!) but gets evasive when you try to pin them down on what your investment will pay back then that is a very good signal that you are considering purchasing a bad product that stands to enrich the seller but not the purchaser. A U.S. Senator has now called the schools out on their shenanigans. http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNL ... hbxlogin=1 Maybe you could track down 10 recent grads on facebook and ask them what they are doing specifically with the law degree.

MP24
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby MP24 » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:17 am

law's cool wrote:What questions can admitted students really ask the Career Services Offices of these schools in order to get the most accurate, reliable data on employment #s?

People always say to "get a hold of a list of a graduating class" but I have never heard of anyone who has successfully done this at any school. Obviously this information would be fantastic to have, but it is (from what I've seen) simply not available. Schools won't give out this information because it will be posted all over forums like this one and will have severe impacts on where students go to school. Rather than acknowledging this, schools simply state that "we don't make this information available" or "look at our website for employment data" or "we can't give this information out - the names of students are on these spreadsheets." When I ask if they can just take out the names of the students, the reply is no.

Given all this, how can I really find reliable data on employment #s when law schools just aren't making the information available?


This is the advice that everyone (law students, lawyers, etc.) has been giving me - to ask to get a list of employment data or even just a list of places where students generally intern during the summer. However, I've contacted all of the schools that I'm interested in and they either direct me to their website or give me a very vague answer.

Law's Cool - I noticed from your other post that you are also choosing from an assortment of NYC schools to attend. Perhaps, this vague approach is just specific to these NYC- based schools and that schools out of this region are more apt to provide this information...

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DubPoker
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Re: Ten questions you should ask any law school

Postby DubPoker » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:23 am

Thread should be titled

"Ten things you should google about any law school"

actually I agree that some of these are good things to ask, like questions about the faculty, but some of these things (e.g. tuition increase, bar test info, clerk information, ect) are way easier to look up and compare online.




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