With applications to law school continuing to plummet, some schools are reacting by slashing already low admissions standards. I hate to keep picking on New England Law -- this is a rhetorical phrase, actually I don't mind at all -- but last year the school managed to increase its class size despite ghastly employment figures and a Harvardesque cost of attendance (given HLS's grant programs it's actually less expensive to attend for the average student than NESL) by lowering the median LSAT for its full-time class to the 41st percentile, and that of its part-time admits to the 33rd percentile.
What are the long term consequences for the legal profession and, more important, the public, of dozens of ABA-accredited schools adopting essentially open admissions policies? A recent graduate writes:
I find the desperateness of even some T1 schools startling. Hopefully the collapse is imminent, even though those of us who graduated in the last five years in New York are totally fucked unless then Court of Appeals suddenly has an epiphany -- but with five Republican appointees, I am not holding my breath.
Your comment about the 25-year-old nervous defense lawyer really struck home for me.
I wanted to suggest that you write a post about the result of the flood of new lawyers, especially in urban areas like New York City, with huge debt and growing desperation. I will admit that eight months ago, when I showed up to my first court date with my first client, I almost crapped myself. No amount of Mock Trial, Moot Court, public speaking, or internship shadowing can prepare a new lawyer for showing up to a simple court date without knowing a damn thing about what to do. I read an entire practice guide, just to show up and turn in a basic omnibus motion. When the judge asked me questions, I just nodded my head.
The judge and prosecutor knew that I was green. They both had a similar expression on their face: something between annoyance and pity.
Now that I have done a number of these court dates and a trial, I am much more confident. Law school taught me nothing about state law and only focused on preparing me for the MBE. My internships allowed me to see cases at different stages, but I did not get to follow a single case from arraignment to trial, which would have been very helpful. I have a few "mentors," i.e. people I can call up about twice a month before wearing out my welcome, and I can ask questions and see a sample motion or two. But I am basically flying blind, and it is the only option I have without employment and training. I have to learn on the job to actually gain experience and hopefully be attractive to a public defender's office someday...even if that is a long shot. I just read a lot of state case law, every day, and it does help over time to educate myself.
I am curious to see the effect of the flood of new lawyers, many less competent than myself, on the court system. Will we see a rash of disbarments and reversals for ineffective assistance of counsel? The profession really shot itself in the foot by expanding the number of law schools, thus lowering the standards for many attorneys. Now, with the extreme competition for less students, more law schools will lower standards further to people without the intellectual capacity to write even a grammatically correct motion or to pass the bar exam.Some readers in the DC area may want to consider attending this lunch time event tomorrow. (It will also be streamed live on the internet).
The end result of all of this will be scary. I can now pass for a lawyer with some knowledge and experience (because I have some knowledge and experience) but I know that I am not the only person going the solo route in New York City...there are thousands of us under the age of 30 poaching clients. I am sure this is the case in the other major cities -- and elsewhere.