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I’m often accused of being snotty when it comes to legal education because I don’t see much point in going to a law school that’s not ranked at least in the top 50. Frankly, I think I’m doing a public service by telling people not to waste their money on a degree that might not land them a decent legal job.
That said, I do think that second- or third-rate law schools try harder. In a way, they’re innovators in the legal marketplace. Let me give you some examples:
1. Unemployed lawyers will be the best prepared. The National Jurist just named the 21 law schools for “best practical training”— and guess what? Yale Law School was not listed!
With the very conspicuous exception of Northwestern, none on that list qualifies as a top-flier law school. In fact, several are perennial bottom dwellers on that sacred U.S. News ranking chart, including Cooley, University of St. Thomas (sadly, it’s in Minneapolis, not the Caribbean), and Liberty.
So what does this tell you? Some of those least likely to get a good (or any) legal job will be the best trained. The obvious corollary is that those destined for the best legal jobs—grads of the super top schools—will be the least prepared. HA!
2. Don’t want to stay for the J.D.? No problem—you can still get a masters. I don’t know whether this serves a social purpose or is just a clever marketing gimmick. “The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is launching what it calls the first ‘risk-free’ juris doctor program,” reports Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal.
The program allows students to get a master of legal studies degree, MLS (remember when that meant masters of library science?), after completing one year of law school. Students can also continue for two more years if they want a J.D.
Craig Boise, dean of Cleveland-Marshall, tells NLJ, that “there are many good reasons why a law student may decide not to continue to pursue a J.D.,” including “financial concerns, family or personal issues.” Plus, he adds, “they may realize that though they still have an interest in law, a career in traditional legal practice is not right for them.”
So far, so good. But then Boise adds: “With this program, that year won’t be a waste of their time, and the degree would be attractive to employers.”
Attractive to employers? Hmm. I guess in the same way that employers might like employees with a masters in English or basket weaving.
3. Why wait three years when you can join the unemployment line in two? Another low-rated law school is offering an accelerated J.D. degree. Touro Law School (actually it’s not even rated) is giving “highly motivated and exceptional students” the chance to get a two-year law degree, according to a press release by Touro dean Patricia Salkin, reports New York Law Journal.
About a dozen law schools, including Brooklyn Law, are now offering two year programs.
But what’s the point in going to a low-ranked school just because you can do it in two years? Few of these schools even offer discounted tuition for hurrying through the process. Talk about chutzpah! The only upside I see: The sooner you get out, the sooner you’ll realize you’ve made a big boo-boo.
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