As of November 19, 2009, we are no longer updating The Shark. You can access all of The Shark's archives here. We'll also have some law school coverage in the mix at our sister blog, Legal Pad.
Thanks for all your support!
Would somebody please explain to me why I thought it would be a good idea to attend a career-planning session at lunch today, and schedule an individual appointment for tomorrow when I have a week’s worth of reading to catch up on?
Some Shark readers may not regularly read Above The Law. Damn popular blog, yeah, but some days it’s also liable to scare you right out of your chosen profession. So if you missed it, bloggers there found it remarkable that, after announcing it would defer on-campus recruiting until mid-November, Orrick has started posting recruiting ads, right on time.
So much for all those whiners who say the media only reports when things go wrong. Read about Orrick’s return to campuses here.
Are we getting more value for our buck or is this the price of prestige? The CM Law blog has found a government report that answers the question:
According to law school officials, the move to a more hands-on, resource-intensive approach to legal education and competition among schools for higher rankings appear to be the main factors driving the cost of law school, while ABA accreditation requirements appear to play a minor role. Additionally, officials at public law schools reported that recent decreases in state funding are a contributor to rising tuition at public schools.
The report is from the United States Government Accountability Office (and available here as a PDF). The report also focuses heavily on minority access to law school, and the declining presence of African American students:
Since 1994, tuition and fees at law schools and selected professional schools have increased, and trends in minority enrollment have been comparable across types of schools. At law, medical, and dental schools during this time period, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders increased as a share of enrollment or stayed at about the same level, while African American enrollment declined or stayed at about the same level.
The report links the decline in African American students to education disparities, but maybe it has something to do with the declining rate of return of a law degree?
The announcement that 3Ls planning on attending their own graduation have to toss in $55 for the pleasure to do so has highlighted the Law School’s clever use of hidden fees: You enroll for what seems to be a (relatively) reasonable tuition, only to end up being charged for all kinds of things one would have assumed to have been covered by the initial $150,000 price.
Such hidden fees have been off-putting to users of other products, for example, cell phones. The popular solution? Pay-as-you-go phone plans. Why can’t a legal education be similarly consumer-savvy? Accordingly, I suggest that UVA become the world’s first pay-as-you-go law school.
I personally applaud the new graduation fee: If there’s one thing us lawyers need to learn, it’s how to take money from helpless people who are deep in debt and without any other options. We should be thanking UVA Law for teaching us the valuable lesson that when people have already put a lot of money into something, you can just keep charging them for whatever you want and they’re too financially invested to refuse! As for my ideas about a revolutionizing legal schooling, I hope you’ve enjoyed them . . . because there’s a $15 “column fee” for reading this.
I have not experienced any hidden fees at UMN Law School. My school smacks us with a huge tuition bill and then spends the rest of the year mitigating our horror with an aggressive regime of free muffins and pizza. This is a pretty effective tactic so far...
Stephanie Enyart doesn’t want to be a law clerk indefinitely.
Enyart, who is working at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, is legally blind. Since graduating in spring 2009, she’s been trying to take her bar and professional responsibility exams. And trying. And trying.
Enyart attempted to take the March, August and November multistate professional responsibility exams and the July multistate bar exam. All four times, she was denied accommodations she asked for, she told me.
The next time the tests are offered in February and March next year, Enyart is not going to take the same chance at rejection. The UCLA Law grad is suing The National Conference of Bar Examiners for discrimination against blind and low vision law school graduates. She’s asking to be able to use the same screen reading and screen magnification software she’s been using to get through law school (and at work) on the tests.
“I got all my accommodation for the California section – everything I requested,” she said, but not for the national segment. “It’s important to get my accommodations so that I can get on with my life … It’s not like you can take these tests anytime.”
The suit was filed this morning in the Northern District. Disability Rights Advocates is co-counsel with two out-of-state law firms working alongside the National Federation of the Blind. For more information, please see the press release.
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog is reporting that associate bonus season has been opened by Cravath. While the announcement is positive in one way (there are going to be bonuses this year!), the numbers truly pale in comparison to last year's.
First years (class of 2008) will receive $7,500. Second years (class of 2007) will receive $10,000. By contrast, when the class of 2007 were all a bunch of first years, they got $35,000. Let's all take a moment to reflect on the difference 365 days can make.
The federal government has dropped some major moolah into the hands of two California law professors for clinical programs that investigate inmates’ claims of innocence.
California Western School of Law and Santa Clara University School of Law will split $2.4 million in grants from the Justice Department. Cal Western professor Jan Stiglitz, who directs the school’s California Innocence Project, says the amount is significant.
“I think it’s the biggest grant we ever got – we’ve had half a million before,” Stiglitz said.
The money for the 18-month program, called the Post-Conviction DNA Testing Assistance Program, will cover the salaries of two new staff attorneys and some paralegals. They, in turn, will help expand the clinic’s reach by letting staff seek out cases where DNA evidence might exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates, rather than just reviewing claims that come in, Stiglitz said.
The 12 Cal Western students enrolled in the program will be in the thick of it. The biggest expense, says Stiglitz, is travel. The grant money will cover trips lawyers, staff and students will be making to prisons, evidence rooms and crime labs all over California.
Stiglitz said students will get to flex their fact-investigation skills, examining the evidence in rape, murder and certain types of manslaughter cases. They’ll help determine what evidence was used to make a conviction, and whether new evidence would help undermine a conviction.
He says this type of fact investigation rounds out students’ more scholastic classroom experience. “By the time they graduate, they’ve all read cases and written memos,” he said. But in real cases, he says, whether you win or lose is typically a product of the facts and not the law. “Why wasn’t OJ convicted [of killing his wife]?” Stiglitz said. “Because factually, the prosecution didn’t convince the jury that OJ was the one wielding the knife.”
For more on Santa Clara’s role, check out Legal Pad.
Sharon Nichols, a blogger and law student from Alabama, posted an interesting recap today of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas's appearance at her school.
Justice Thomas played the question and answer game with law students, resulting in some pretty casual, conversational comments that almost verge on blase. Some excerpts below, but check out the full post at Thank You Ma'am to read more (including what happened when Sharon asked how a law school-trained individual can actually come down on side or another in a close argument).
"First year [of law school] was clear as cement!"
"You'd think I was in a concentration camp or something and I had to find a way to fill my time -- law school."
"I don't like excerpts because people have agendas when they excerpt cases."
The ACLU of Southern California is accepting applications from law students interested in national security and immigrant rights litigation for its 2010 summer internship.
The ACLU office has nine lawyers total and brings in 15 to 20 interns each summer for a variety of cases.
Right now, attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who directs the national security and immigrant rights projects, is looking for four to five candidates. He has a preference for second-years, but says he routinely hires first-years. Interns work closely with lawyers on cases.
“We’re relatively resource-poor; the people here tend to be the primary attorney in charge of a case,” he said. “The interns work directly with somebody who plays a big role in it.”
Last summer, for instance, an intern joined in on settlement negotiations with the government in a federal litigation challenging the conditions at an immigration detention center. Another intern, who was fluent in Farsi, worked on a criminal terrorism case, Arulanantham said.
Interns can be paid a modest stipend of up to $800, though Arulanantham says ACLU has only offered pay when a student had no other source of funding. Now, he said, most students get funding through their law school public interest programs.