Interview with Amy Mangione, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions, Albany Law SchoolTop Law Schools would like to thank Amy Mangione (AM), Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions, Albany Law School, for taking the time to answer our questions!
Law School Reputation/Public Perception
TLS: Tell us about Albany Law School. What would you most like applicants to know that they can't glean so easily from U.S. News rankings or from your law school's website?
AM: Albany Law School is the only law school located in New York State's capital. With that comes many opportunities-professional networking, internships, jobs-in state government, politics, the judiciary, and the private sector. Beyond that, Albany Law has an extremely close-knit community, from the students to alumni, many of which practice in the area. A school's culture-being supportive and collaborative-just can't be quantified through rankings.
That said, we're proud of the fact that Albany Law School has risen 32 spots in the U.S. News rankings over the past three years.
TLS: Whether or not they apply to or ultimately attend Albany Law School, what do you think applicants should consider when choosing a law school? If you had a son or daughter applying to law school this year, how would you advise them to choose between schools?
AM: Applicants should consider a school's geographic location, curricular and practical opportunities, scholarships and financial aid, job placement success, and whether the culture or environment is a good fit. The size of a school may also be a consideration.
TLS: What is your view on the role the U.S. News and World Report rankings play in the law school recruitment and admissions process? How do the rankings affect Albany Law School?
AM: Many applicants place a great deal of importance on the rankings, and we take it seriously. Not all of the great qualities of Albany Law School are identified by the U.S. News rankings, though we're happy to see the recognition lately. I would say that rankings are a tool that should be used as part of a larger picture.
TLS: Is there value to additional metrics (e.g., new rankings like the ones promulgated by Above the Law)?
AM: All metrics are valuable but only tell part of the story. Read up on the metrics-rankings are most beneficial when used in context. For example, preLaw magazine has listed us No. 8 in Government, No. 11 in Public Interest, and No. 12 in Public Defenders and Prosecutors.
TLS: Are there any exciting things on the horizon at Albany Law School? Any new developments, programs, or opportunities you'd like to share with our readers?
AM: Albany Law School is making great strides. Some of the recently announced initiatives have involved distance learning, cybersecurity and data privacy programs, and the formation of the Community Development Clinic, where students represent underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Capital Region. This year, one of our professors spearheaded a new international summer learning opportunity in Italy. It's all exciting. Faculty members and their committees are always collaborating and considering new curricular opportunities that will best serve our students. We are also developing new opportunities with our affiliate the University at Albany.
TLS: How would you describe the students at Albany Law School?
AM: Albany Law School's students are friendly, high achieving, and passionate-the cliché of a cutthroat student body does not apply here.
TLS: How many students participate in student-run legal journals?
AM: We have three journals - Albany Law Review, Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology, and Albany Government Law Review. Some 80 students each year play a role in producing the publications, managing the web sites, and organizing full symposia.
TLS: Aside from journals, what are the most popular legal extracurricular activities available to students of Albany Law School?
AM: The Moot Court and mock trial programs are popular, where students compete against schools across the country in family law, negotiating with clients, and more. Also, the Pro Bono Society has a number of well-staffed projects that serve military veterans and service members, senior citizens, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others. Non-legal extra-curriculars include the basketball club and men's and women's rugby teams.
TLS: What sort of clinical opportunities are available for students? Are there any clinics Albany Law School is especially proud of?
AM: We take pride in all the clinics! They include the Immigration Law Clinic, Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic, Family Violence Litigation Clinic, Health Law Clinic, Community Development Clinic, Mediation Apprenticeship Clinic, and Attorney General's Litigation Bureau Practicum. Not only are students getting hands-on experience, but they are making a difference in the community at large. Their work is inspiring.
TLS: What are the best and worst things about going to school in Albany?
AM: The best thing about being a law student in Albany is obvious: its location, which provides access to the New York State government and all levels of state and federal courts, including the state's highest court. Albany has an active and connected legal community. The local bench and bar-some of the best and brightest legal minds-are very engaged with Albany Law School students and events. Many of them are alumni. Also, it is a short trip to New York City, Boston, or Canada. The worst thing? Winter in the Northeast can be intimidating to some, but it's easy to get used to. We do have the benefit of all four seasons, so the cold doesn't last.
TLS: Many law schools have emphasized practical, skills-based learning in recent years. Has Albany Law School taken any steps in this direction?
AM: A "practice ready" approach is the focus at Albany Law School. In fact, making sure the curriculum is infused with professional skills training, experiential opportunities, and clinical learning is clearly defined in the law school's strategic plan. 1Ls begin with a lawyering program that introduces them to the legal system through a year-long simulated dispute. There are advanced simulation courses, problem-based courses, and in-house clinical opportunities where students represent real clients in matters related to immigration, community development, health law, family violence, and more.
TLS: What role do you believe law schools should play in preparing students for the bar exam? And how have your graduates fared with bar passage in recent years?
AM: Bar preparation threads through Albany Law School's entire curriculum. Our professors take care to highlight bar-tested content in their courses. Albany Law offers bar prep courses for credit, and we have a full-time member of the faculty who is dedicated to academic success and bar support which starts on Day 1.
TLS: Most law schools have a core 1L curriculum requiring civil procedure, contracts, torts, constitutional law, property, criminal law, and legal writing. Does Albany Law School stray from these requirements? Are there any additional classes students are required to take before graduation?
AM: The required 1L curriculum also includes a Professional Success Seminar, which concentrates on enhancing skills related to case reading, briefing, analyzing, outlining, communicating, and testing. The seminar also addresses professionalism and career pathways. It's really a great foundation for law school and beyond. Legal writing is a part of the two-semester Introduction to Lawyering course, which also deals with legal research, clinical methodology, and development of professional skills by working through a simulated lawsuit.
There are other requirements after the first year, including an experiential requirement involving simulation courses and the Law Clinic and Justice Center, and an upper-level writing requirement.
TLS: Other than the core required classes, what courses would you suggest students take before graduation?
AM: I always suggest taking courses that offer solid foundational preparation for the bar exam, and encourage students to take advantage of faculty advisors, alumni mentors, and student mentors who can guide them toward courses that will fit their personal goals.
TLS: Could you please explain the weight or emphasis given to each part of a student's application, such as GPA, LSAT score, personal statement, and letters of recommendation?
AM: At Albany Law School we perform a holistic review. There is no specific formula or weighing of any one piece of the application over another. It is possible for strengths and weaknesses to counterbalance each other.
TLS: The personal statement seems to be the part of the application a prospective student can most independently influence. Can you offer applicants any advice regarding writing the personal statement?
AM: Like an interview, the personal statement is a chance to put your best foot forward. Make sure it is free of errors, easy to read, and tells some of your story.
TLS: How often do you find statements that really stick out from the crowd? What do these statements consist of?
AM: A statement that stands out has a clear point of view. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and it tells your story with clarity. It really should be unique to you.
TLS: Are there any personal statement topics that applicants should probably steer clear? Any clichés or pitfalls to avoid?
AM: Limit the use of quotes-it's your personal statement, so it should be written in your words. If you are using a quote, make sure it is illustrative of the point you're trying to present. Also, be careful of writing in too much detail about the people who have influenced you; they are not applying to law school-you are.
TLS: Do you come across personal statements that actually hurt the applicant's chances?
AM: Unfortunately, it happens. Steer clear of poor grammar and poor structure. Your statement should reflect the effort that you have put into it.
TLS: Some schools allow students to submit a "diversity statement" separate from the personal statement. How does Albany Law School view such statements? If such statements are potentially helpful, can you discuss when a diversity statement is or is not appropriate?
AM: Yes, we allow students to submit a diversity statement. It can be helpful when a student feels there is information-something we may not have explicitly asked for-that is relevant for the admissions committee but does not appear anywhere else on their application. It is not required.
TLS: Could an applicant significantly improve his or her chances of admission by drafting a personal statement specifically discussing an interest in Albany Law School?
AM: Yes, expressing a sincere interest in Albany Law School can help the committee envision you as a student and how they can best support you in your goals.
LSAT and GPA
TLS: Realistically speaking, how large a part of the admissions process are factors other than a candidate's GPA and LSAT?
AM: GPA and LSAT scores are Incredibly important. With GPA and LSAT scores, we're looking at academic preparedness. The rest of the application gives us a window into your personal preparedness and fit for the law school.
TLS: How does Albany Law School view applicants who apply with multiple LSAT scores? Do you only look at the highest score, or do you consider all scores in the aggregate?
AM: In terms of the holistic application review, all scores are considered. Your highest score is the most important, as it is used for comparison across the applicant pool and for scholarship consideration.
TLS: If an applicant cancelled an LSAT score, does the school like to see an addendum explaining why?
AM: If the applicant feels like they would like to explain why they cancelled a score, they are welcome to do that. But it is not considered a red flag unless it appears multiple times.
TLS: What is the latest LSAT administration an applicant can take and still qualify for admission during the admission cycle? If an applicant is placed on the waitlist, can a new summer LSAT score help his or her chances?
AM: The June 2018 LSAT is the last test they can take, and yes, a higher score on the June test can help them.
TLS: Beyond undergraduate performance and LSAT score, what else does Albany Law School look at when reviewing applications?
AM: Other items that are reviewed include the personal statement, letters of recommendation, resume, graduate record if applicable, and any additional addenda or written submissions.
TLS: How much do you value pre-law school work or life experience?
AM: Each candidate is unique and brings different experiences to the table-being on a pre-law track does not make a candidate any more or less desirable.
TLS: Applicants often have difficulty choosing and approaching potential recommenders. Can you offer some general advice regarding letters of recommendation?
AM: Try to choose someone who has known you for a significant period and can speak to your academic or professional traits. Have an in-person conversation with any recommender, explain why you're selecting them, and what you hope they will be highlighting on your behalf.
TLS: Tell us how Albany Law School treats transfer applicants. How many transfer students do you take each year? Where do these students come from?
AM: The number varies from year to year. We welcome transfer applicants, who come from a variety of ABA-approved law schools across the country.
TLS: What are the most important criteria for selecting transfer applicants? Is the LSAT score still relevant? How about undergrad performance?
AM: The No. 1 most important criterion is law school performance. LSAT and GPA scores are still relevant, but not the priority.
TLS: How many students transfer out of Albany Law School after 1L year to attend other institutions?
AM: Last year, no one transferred out of the school.
Career Opportunities and Employment Outcomes
TLS: Describe the legal market in New York. What's the outlook for the next few years?
AM: The legal market has been historically strong for Albany Law School. As the only law school within 90 miles of the Capital Region, we have more internships than we can fill. The market has been expanding over the past several years, and our graduates are enjoying great jobs in the region, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., and across New York state.
TLS: What are the most common career paths for graduates of Albany Law School?
AM: Our most common career paths include law firms, government (prosecution, public defense, attorney general's office, EPA, Dept. of Health, clerking for judges, etc.), business (in-house positions, including with start-up companies), and public interest work.
TLS: On average, how many graduates leave the state for work?
AM: Typically, most of our students graduate and work in New York state. At the same time, we have alumni in every state of the country, concentrated largely in eastern cities.
TLS: How many students get paid law firm jobs - ones that turn into full-time employment after school - through the on-campus interviewing process?
AM: Almost all our students work through the Career Center to pursue job opportunities. Hundreds of the interviews are on campus every semester, but many of our students also travel to other cities for interviews and employment.
TLS: What about a student who graduates in the middle of the class - the true "median" student, so to speak. What sort of work can they realistically expect to have in 2018/2019?
AM: Many students work in small-to-medium sized firms. Many others take positions in government, given that we are located in the heart of New York's capital city, one of the largest and most influential capitals in the country.
TLS: Nearly every law school has recent graduates who cannot find permanent, full-time legal employment. What does Albany Law School do to help them get on track?
AM: Last year, we had very few students unemployed 10 months after graduation. Our Career Center experts help them connect with alumni, invite them to networking opportunities, and encourage them to stay persistent and to continue their job-search full time.
TLS: Do you think transfer students are disadvantaged at all when it comes to seeking employment?
AM: Transfer students have access to all the opportunities all our students have.
TLS: Some schools have adjusted class size in recent years to mediate the difficulties of un- and under-employment for recent law school graduates. Has Albany Law School taken any steps to adjust class size?
AM: Our small class size is appropriate for the job market, which is reflected in our high employment rate.
TLS: Are law schools doing enough to ensure that prospective students get enough information to decide whether to go a quarter-million dollars into debt for a J.D.?
AM: This law school works with every student so that they understand the financial commitment. The median debt of our students is barely 40% of the number you quote above.
TLS: What sort of tuition increase should entering students anticipate over the next three years?
AM: The Board of Trustees does not take tuition increases lightly. We seek to make law school as accessible as possible for qualified candidates. We offer as much financial aid as possible, and exhaust all other avenues, including cost cutting and fundraising, before increasing tuition.
TLS: What sort of financial aid opportunities are available for applicants? How does the school allocate these resources between need-based and merit-based awards?
AM: Albany Law School has generous merit-based scholarships, including full-tuition awards. There is need-based financial aid, but not need-based scholarship.
TLS: How are students selected to receive scholarships?
AM: Consideration is automatic for all admitted students. It is based on cumulative GPA and an applicant's highest LSAT score.
TLS: Is there anything prospective students can do to increase their chances of receiving aid?
AM: Yes, make all efforts to improve your LSAT score and, if possible, cumulative undergraduate GPA.
TLS: Are scholarship packages for entering students ever contingent on academic performance? If so, why impose restrictions like this? Isn't that putting a lot of pressure on scholarship recipients?
AM: Most of the scholarships at Albany Law School are not contingent. Those that are contingent offer students a fair opportunity to maintain their scholarships by performing at a level they have already demonstrated that they are capable of. Contingent scholarships provide an opportunity to be fair to all applicants by allowing for the allocation of scholarships that might correct for discrepancies in first-year scholarship awards for those that under- or out-performed their prior academic indicators.
TLS: Do you offer any additional scholarship awards to retain current students based on their performance during law school?
AM: Yes. Merit-based scholarship can be reallocated or increased for returning students based on academic performance.
TLS: What sort of financial aid is available for transfer students?
AM: Transfer students are eligible for need-based financial aid.
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