New York Times…June 22, 2010…front page article entitled “In Law Schools Grades Go Up, Just Like That.”
(other schools were mentioned…I’m only highlighting reporting re top law schools).
In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. The goal is to make their students look more attractive in a competitive job market. These include law schools like NYU, Georgetown, and UCLA. Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate – and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. They have come up with a number of strategic responses. Many top schools have bumped up their OCI weeks from autumn to August, before the school even starts, because they want their students to have a chance to nab a job slot before their counterparts at other schools do. Others, like Duke and University of Texas offer stipends for students to take unpaid PI internships. But the tactic getting the most attention – and the most controversy – is the sudden, deliberate and dubiously effective grade inflation.
Harvard and Stanford, two of the top-ranked law schools, recently eliminated traditional grading altogether. Like Yale and Berkeley, they now use a modified pass/fail system. This new grading system also makes it harder for employers to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, which means more students can get a shot at a competitive interview. It is unclear whether grade inflation is particularly effective at helping students get jobs, especially because many Biglaw firms adjust their expectations accordingly. Many hiring partners say they read Above the Law that reports grade changing efforts, even when schools themselves don’t announce the changes.
“Every year we do our homework,” says Helen Long, the legal recruiting director at Ropes & Gray….