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Law school students at the likes of Harvard and Yale had plenty to say to their deans too. Here we report on the results from the top ten schools (actually the top eleven since two schools were tied for tenth place) in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. In addition to the usual questions about firm life, we also asked summer associates to rate, on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), the helpfulness of their schools’ placement offices and how well their schools prepared them to work in a firm. They were also asked to ponder whether, if they had it to do over, they would have chosen to attend a different law school. The comments were all in response to the question: If you could tell the dean to change one thing, what would it be? 1. YALE LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 0.0 percent Prepared for practice: 2.97 Helpful placement office: 4.08 Number of responses: 72 A significant number of the Yale students surveyed asked for “less theory, more practical application.” One Yalie suggested giving “students more input into what classes are taught. I guarantee there would be more practical education (i.e., clinics, writing seminars, black-letter law).” Dean Tony Kronman says he’s sympathetic to these complaints but warns that Yale’s “is a finely-tuned culture that’s been developed over decades.” The “unparalleled degree of freedom here,” he adds, “is itself sufficient to stimulate a similar degree of anxiety. We treasure the freedom. We deal with the anxiety.” 2. STANFORD LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 7.7 percent Prepared for practice: 3.56 Helpful placement office: 3.70 Number of responses: 91 “Our grading system sucks, and tuition is too high,” was the complaint of one Stanford student. The same eloquent soul was also one of many Stanford respondents who said they would prefer a “pass/fail” grading system, while arguing for the elimination of “the mandatory mean.” “It’s too damn expensive,” lamented one strapped student, whose sentiment was seconded by others. On the other hand, Stanford students do not seem to have an inferiority complex. “Stop trying to be Harvard,” was a typical theme. Dean Kathleen Sullivan responds: “Our tuition is comparable to that at every other top private law school.” As for the complaints about the grading system, she quotes a federal judge, who told her, “If a grading system ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As to the purported Harvard envy: “I can only answer with a mystified, ‘Huh?’ It’s Harvard that is trying to be Stanford!” 3. HARVARD LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 6.6 percent Prepared for practice: 3.44 Helpful placement office: 3.87 Number of responses: 290 What kvetching there is here tends to be the loftier sort. “Our classroom discussions are forced and removed from both facts and reality,” wrote one summer. Another thought the school should “restructure the curriculum (especially 1L) to teach and value critical thinking and analysis rather than stylized work games.” “Don’t schedule all the interesting classes the same semester,” was the advice of one law student. And there were numerous complaints about tuition and the grading system. Dean Robert Clark reports that “in response to many of these very criticisms,” Harvard this fall instituted “the most thoroughgoing revision of its curriculum since the Civil War,” reducing the size of freshman classes by half. “The students,” he says, “are wildly positive about it.” (Clark is a director of American Lawyer Media, the parent company of L.) 4. COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 5.2 percent Prepared for practice: 3.46 Helpful placement office: 4.29 Number of responses: 193 Like their peers at Yale, Columbia law students would like to see a greater emphasis on “real-world, practical skills.” Law school ought to be “more practice oriented — more clinics, credit for pro bono.” There was also considerable grousing about professors, whose “primary responsibility should be to teach,” in the words of one frustrated student. Other thoughts on how law school should change ranged from a need for more financial aid to lower tuition to less bureaucracy. Dean David Leebron responds: “On the question of credit for pro bono service, that is, in my view, an oxymoron.” Pro bono, he adds, “is part of our professional obligation.” As for tuition, Leebron admits that it “is high,” but adds that Columbia is proud of its loan repayment assistance program. 5. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW Would attend another school: 8.9 percent Prepared for practice: 3.48 Helpful placement office: 4.50 Number of responses: 236 The leadership at NYU should “actually do something instead of just yapping away about keeping tuition down,” was the advice of one unhappy camper. The genesis of this complaint could be that NYU students graduate, on average, with the highest student loan debt in the country. One student wrote: “Make it free — full scholarships with voluntary contributions post-grad.” Despite the high cost, there were also complaints about large class size and the need for professors “who actually practice law and know what it’s like to be a lawyer.” NYU, notes Vice Dean Stephen Gillers, offers summer grants for students to do public interest work, as well as offering public interest graduates partial loan repayment. And, as for real-world law experience, some 75 practicing lawyers and judges teach electives each year. 6. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 10.1 percent Prepared for practice: 3.95 Helpful placement office: 4.28 Number of responses: 129 The quarter system schedule at Chicago came in for stiff criticism, exemplified by the words of one student, who wrote: “Put an end to [it].” A number of students weren’t wild about the inner-city location of their campus either. But by and large, the greatest amount of ink was spilled over the need for a “more generous loan repayment assistance program” and “more scholarships,” as well as more “clinical training.” Dean Saul Levmore responds: “We are instituting an entirely new financial aid/public interest support package,” beginning with the next class of students. As to the quarter system: “It does put our students on a different timetable with respect to summer jobs. On the other hand, it makes fall interviewing a pleasure.” 7. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 5.8 percent Prepared for practice: 3.64 Helpful placement office: 3.75 Number of responses: 171 Considering that roughly 40 percent of summer associates surveyed nationally plan to practice corporate or transactional law, it’s not surprising to see University of Michigan students clamoring for more corporate law courses. The school, many thought, needs “more training in corporate law” and “business-oriented classes.” One student argued that “student contact with alumni and practicing attorneys” would help. Overall, students here would like to see the school take a more “practical” bent. They would also like the school to “lower the ludicrous tuition” because “it is a state school, not an Ivy League law school,” and offer more options for students “who have no resources other than loans.” Dean Jeffrey Lehman says that these criticisms don’t reflect the true “center of gravity” among Michigan students. 8. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW Would attend another school: 7.8 percent Prepared for practice: 3.80 Helpful placement office: 3.91 Number of responses: 192 Spontaneous praise from exhausted law students? Yes, it can happen — at University of Virginia. “Don’t ever let Dean Harmon retire!” wrote one admirer. The school, wrote another, should “get more recognition … for the fantastic, academically challenging and well-balanced school that [it] is.” Any grounds for improvement here? “Get Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Everything else is truly great.” To be fair, there were complaints about the need for more legal writing instruction, and a few groused that overseas study was not allowed. Several believe the school could do more to help those interested in public service law. Dean John Jeffries responds: “We think that Virginia is the best place in the nation to be a law student.” The popular Beverly Harmon is assistant dean for student affairs. 9. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY’S BOALT HALL SCHOOL OF LAW Would attend another school: 4.0 percent Prepared for practice: 3.52 Helpful placement office: 3.53 Number of responses: 100 Boalt Hall students complained loudly about some of the fundamentals. “Get us some better facilities,” wrote one.” The grading system was, to some, “ridiculous and demoralizing,” and “arbitrary.” One maintained that the school’s “60 percent pass system” is “stigmatizing when firms don’t understand the grading” system. Several believed Boalt should require students to do pro bono work, and the school should teach “the elite lawyer’s duty to society, in general, and to the poor and powerless, in particular.” Dean John Dwyer reports that “99 percent of the class of 2000 were employed or accepted into full-time graduate studies programs following their graduation from Boalt Hall.” As for the criticism of pro bono, Dwyer notes that the school has an “outstanding curriculum” that includes clinical studies and courses in social justice. 10. (TIE) DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW Would attend another school: 13.3 percent Prepared for practice: 3.67 Helpful placement office: 3.87 Number of responses: 135 Many at Duke expressed the desire to be more “real world,” by adding “practical application classes in corporate” law, as well as a greater “clinical focus” generally. Judging from a number of individual complaints, there may possibly be a certain lack of unity among the student body. “The diverse student body is not integrated and tensions are very high,” was the judgment of one student. Dean Katharine Bartlett responds: “At Duke, issues that might otherwise be ignored or suppressed are confronted head-on.” As for “hands-on, experiential learning,” she notes that Duke has plans underway for two new clinics. 10. (TIE) UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA LAW SCHOOL Would attend another school: 5.8 percent Prepared for practice: 3.61 Helpful placement office: 4.19 Number of responses: 139 Penn students seem to be especially focused on academics, desiring “better class selection and times,” and “larger staff,” with “more class options.” “Make professors more accountable,” another added. As one respondent put it: “Change the system of evaluation from the obsolete examination style to a method that allows students to … have adequate feedback from faculty.” There were also calls for more diversity. Dean Michael Fitts did not respond to our request for comments.

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