-- Apocalypse Now --COLONEL KURTZ "Where are you from Willard ?" WILLARD "I'm from Ohio, sir." KURTZ "Were you born there ?" WILLARD "Yes, sir." KURTZ "Whereabouts ?" WILLARD "Toledo, sir." KURTZ "How far were you from the river ?" WILLARD "The Ohio river, sir ? About 200 miles." KURTZ "I went down that river when I was a kid. There's a place in the river.. I can't remember... Must have been a gardenia plantation at one time. All wild and overgrown now, but about five miles you'd think that heaven just fell on the earth in the form of gardenias...
I encountered several prospective law students on Saturday. They had been admitted to the University of Georgia, and were visiting the school as part of their decision-making process. I asked them some questions about that process and learned that these students, at least (of course I don't have any idea how representative they were of current 0Ls in general), seemed fairly wary of the costs of going to law school, given their sense of the likely benefits.
For instance, one of them had a very high LSAT score paired with a relatively low GPA (a "splitter" in the jargon of the business), and had been admitted to to some very expensive top 20ish schools who were not offering him any scholarship money. I was struck by his straightforward insistence that he simply wouldn't consider them at sticker price, given that the cost of attendance would be more than $200K.
Instead he was considering some lower-ranked schools that would be far less expensive to attend. For example, the University of Alabama had offered him a scholarship that would cover three-quarters of his tuition cost, assuming he kept it (He also seemed quite sophisticated about "stips" -- that is, the stipulations schools put on scholarships in regard to academic performance. All the students I spoke with had read David Segal's New York Times pieces on this and related subjects). Interestingly, Alabama had flown him and several dozen other scholarship admits in for a recruiting weekend. The school paid for airfare and lodging -- something that must have added up to several tens of thousands of dollars.
I hadn't been aware that schools are actually paying 0Ls to visit, although given what else they (OK we) are spending money on, it makes sense. It probably makes more sense to spend $50,000 to fly people to your school and put them up for a couple of days than to spend money producing the garish "law porn" -- promotional materials advertising the school's virtues and accomplishments -- that has become ubiquitous in the age of the USNWR rankings. Given how sticky institutional reputation is among law schools, this kind of thing seems like an almost complete waste of resources, both arboreal and human.
Anyway, all this indicates prospective law students are perhaps becoming savvier consumers, although I doubt a two-day campus visit really gives people much useful information about whether they ought to go to that particular school. For example on the right sort of spring day Boulder, Colorado can pretty much appear to be heaven on earth. (Also, I gather the admissions people are careful to funnel prospective students to the "right" classes.) The job situation, however, remains largely invisible.
They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but if you're in Palo Alto or environs today there's a free lunch in room 190 of the Stanford law school building, where Deborah Rhode and