Thought I'd give an overview of the February ASD and open things up for discussion. I'll try to be detailed, but I certainly don't remember everything everyone said, so feel free to add to or clarify things. I'll mostly just give my impressions of the day and some takeaway points. Let the rambling begin.
Things started off with opening remarks in the reading room with Dean Syverud. He seemed nice and welcoming, though I don't really remember much of substance that he spoke about. He spoke of his background, what the goals are for staff at Wash U, and how there are always outstanding people coming to the school. He also mentioned that law school is still worth the investment, but didn't really say too much of substance that struck me as new or especially informative.
We moved on to a student panel comprised of two 1Ls, a 2L, and a 3L in the moot courtroom. I particularly liked the 3L's perspective because he made it clear that he wasn't BSing us. They acknowledged that legal hiring is in a tough place right now, and they often made the point that "law school is what you make of it." Obviously this relates to grades, but they also talked about clinics, the DC externship semester, and other options for experiential learning. While Wash U's definitely not the only school that has those kinds of programs, they did a good job of promoting them and explaining how valuable they can be in hiring decisions.
After the student panel, Professor Drobak gave an "intro to socratic method." To be honest, I'm not really sure how what he spoke on had much to do with socratic method, aside from him saying that he calls on people at random. It was really more of a sample lecture, IMO. He mainly talked about the International Shoe case and how he worked with students to develop a model that would eventually be a law student's takeaway lesson. A lot of his lecture seemed like jargon that he acknowledged yet didn't really explain, but it was interesting to get a lecture that was somewhere between him talking to 0Ls, and actually emulating what 1Ls experience, if that makes any sense. Probably doesn't. Sorry. I do think that I would enjoy having him as a professor in 1L.
Lunch with faculty was next. The salad+chicken was tasty. I rediscovered a love of iced tea. And I hear TLSers outed themselves at one table, though I wasn't a part of that. Bravo.
Next was financial aid. Not much that I remember taking away from this. Talked about budgeting. Nothing new or exciting that I can remember. If you hadn't already read about it, they have a pretty decent PI stipend that you get for your 1L summer if you get a PI summer job.
Alumni panel followed financial aid. Two of them are in PI, two are with firms (one in CA, one in NYC) and the other is actually staff at Wash U, but I can't remember his exact position...he worked in private practice for a while before changing gears IIRC. I don't remember many of the specifics. They all reiterated doing experiential stuff and getting experience while still in law school, and they also generally agreed that you should get involved with the various competitions that take place in school. I think one of the PI-ers found her interest in that field after winning a client representation competition, or something like that. There were a lot of questions for them regarding the name recognition of Wash U. They generally agreed that people in the field that knew Wash U had a very favorable opinion of it, and those who didn't really know the school seemed to have no idea what or where it is. I don't know if they ever really said it explicitly, but I felt that they were reiterating that to some extent getting places is all on you, whether that be grades, law review, experiential involvement, working with profs, or making other connections that eventually help you out. I'm probably forgetting some things, because I thought there was a lot of info here, so feel free to add. On the whole they all loved Wash U, but you wouldn't expect to hear anything different at WUSTL's ASD, would you?
Janet Bolin from career services came next. She talked about Wash U's national focus, which they're clearly making a major selling point. Though it was mentioned before, she talked about the DC semester, and also said that they're trying to put together a similar program for other cities. She was really excited about the school's use of Linkedin. I thought it was pretty standard practice for schools to have alumni groups on Linkedin, but she seemed to think it set Wash U apart. Based on what she said it really does seem like they're working hard to meet with students personally to understand where they want to be and what they want to be doing after graduation. Apparently she often visits employers when she's in other areas for random work-related stuff, and tries to get them resumes from students who seem like they would fit there best. Again, I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty.
We finished up with a wine and cheese reception with some students in a nice house across from campus. And some people went to happy hour in the law school's indoor courtyard afterwards.
My Takeaway Points
On the basics, I thought things were great. I loved the campus, the students and staff were extremely helpful, and the surrounding city was great too.
Some people think St Louis is sketchy (none that I really met this weekend), and maybe that's true of certain pockets, but I didn't notice that at all. I saw some areas on just about each side of campus, but not north of Delmar, which I hear is one of the rough areas. The law school facility is great and I really like the courtyard in the middle of the building. Also loved that almost all the buildings matched on the outside.
Going in, my biggest worry with Wash U was job placement. Like many schools, the top ~20 percent clearly end up with solid options, but because you can't depend on on getting that, the question becomes, what about everyone else? Between the staff presentations, the students, and the alums I came away feeling reassured. The students and alums seemed to sincerely believe that with hard work in and out of class, making connections, using Wash U's network, and making the right decisions as far as clinics and such, you should be able to find something you're comfortable with. Many of the students I spoke with mentioned the sizable scholarships that helped make their decision, so I think "something you're comfortable with" should be taken with that grain of salt. I don't mean for this to seem overly optimistic; we obviously have to understand that for the most part the administration chose who we came in contact with. That said, even the students I spoke with who weren't a part of our program seemed realistically positive about their prospects in a way that was reassuring.
For a school that many would call regional, it definitely seems to have a wide reach nationally. They spent a lot of time on this point. This isn't really a new idea, and it comes through in their placement statistics. If you're looking to stay in the midwest it can still get you where you want to go, but it might give pause that they're focusing so much on areas outside of their region.
Hopefully something in my rambling helps someone out there. Anyone have a different experience or have anything to add? If you weren't able to make it I'm sure there are many of us who are happy to answer questions about the ASD.