Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Original contributions to the literature

Here's a small but telling example of one of the many things that are wrong with legal education:  Last week I wrote about how an actual majority of high-ranked law schools were accepting applications months after their formal deadlines, and just weeks before the start of the fall semester. I also noted that several elite and sub-elite schools were giving applicants conflicting information on this point, depending on whether the applicant revealed he possessed desirable admission numbers.

I suggested this indicated a certain degree of, if not outright desperation, at least striking eagerness on the part of some top schools to find ways to fill their incoming classes, and that it wouldn't be difficult for schools to avoid the appearance or the actual commission of impropriety in regard to these matters by simply indicating that their admissions deadlines were not really deadlines at all, but flexible standards (i.e., making clear that applicants who wanted a guarantee of having their applications at least formally considered had to meet the application deadline, but later applicants might be considered depending on circumstances).

Davison Douglas, dean at William & Mary, e-mailed me about this topic, and sent a similar e-mail to Taxprof, which Taxprof published with Douglas's permission:

I read your blog today citing the Campos blogpost about law schools still seeking applications.
From where I sit, this story is completely overblown.
 Here at William and Mary Law School, we’ve had the following statement on our website for years (we never take it down):
  “March 1: Application deadline. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed, but your chances of being offered admission may be significantly decreased.”
 Many schools have similar language.
 Do we typically receive a few applications after March 1? Yes, a handful. Do those applicants gain admission? Occasionally. An example might be the spouse of an active duty member of the military who gets transferred to one of our nearby military bases in late spring. The spouse, who was set to attend another law school, applies late to our law school so that he won’t have to live apart from his wife. The person is a strong candidate and we accept him.
 Do we actively seek out applicants after our March 1 deadline? No.
 Are we still trying to attract applicants here at William and Mary for the incoming class of 1Ls?
 No. Our class is set.
 What Campos missed is that the willingness of law schools to accept applications after the stated deadline is pretty standard. It says nothing about a law school’s actual enrollment needs. My guess is that he never noticed that language on law school websites before.
I asked Douglas how many schools have similar language on their websites, as I had looked at a bunch of formal deadlines while writing the original post and hadn't noticed such language anywhere.  He didn't reply, which makes me suspect he has no idea, and that it's quite possible that William & Mary is one of very few schools (or indeed possibly the only school) that has a public policy of this kind.

"Many" legal academics have a bad habit of talking about things they don't really know anything about as if they do. With the help of a couple of readers I put a certain amount of work into determining exactly how many top 50 schools were, as of July 24, 2012, accepting applications for their 2012 classes. The answer wasn't "many:" it was 28.


  1. The Dean writes that they don't "actively seek" applicants after the stated deadline. Ok, that's just utter bullshit if he's trying to say, implicitly, that schools generally don't do that, or they're not doing that this year. They are. No question.

  2. I'm currently on the waitlist for a school that's ranked somewhere between 50-60, and the situation couldn't be more different there. Kids are chomping at the bit to get in because all the kids that got accepted at these top 50 schools didn't want to shell out the cash - so they went regional. Bad news for me, but it definitely shows a paradigm shift is happening.

  3. Oh wow!

    The law schools aren't actively seeking applicants after the "loose application deadline".

    That's why these parasite schools are literally sending out mass emails to GMAT takers, right?


    Die law school parasites. Die.

  4. It sounds like the dean felt offended because his school has late admissions enshrined in policy.

    I read his response as someone who is trying to be ethical within the boundaries of his position and making the apparently wrong assumption that everyone in his position is acting ethically.

    Remember, his job is to get people to attend his law shcool, so a certain Upton Sinclair quote comes to mind.

    The fact that he responded personally to the bloggers and allowed his email to be used with permission strikes me as someone who can be persuaded about the problems with american law schools.

  5. Perfect example of LP's earlier post "on bullshit". It's not that the Dean is lying - he just doesn't care about the truth, and it would never occur to him to have one of his underlings take a single hour (or less) to check a representative sample to find out the truth. Better to speak from ignorance, with confidence. After all, that doesn't even take an hour of research.

  6. 7:03:

    That's an interesting development, but not surprising. There's a dramatic employment dropoff after T-14 (and maybe even at enormous Georgetown).

    A regional school (especially in-state public school) means significant savings and about the same employment prospects. Why go to Tulane when LSU is so much cheaper? In-State Ohio State or Cincinnati are much cheaper than Case Western.

    The private, unaffiliated law schools will be the first to fall. New York Law School, adieu.

  7. Let it go. It was a weak post. You do not have to be (cannot be) right all the time in order to make your points.

  8. @7:22 What are you talking about?

  9. How about this from Emory's website:?

    A. If your application materials are not all complete (including LSDAS report, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and application fee) by the deadline, we can not guarantee you full consideration from the Admission Committee. Please be aware that the Woodruff Fellowship application deadline is Jan. 16. All applicants are considered for other merit-based aid, and if funds are exhausted later in the admission cycle, we will be unable to consider you for merit-based aid.

    There are others. You should check too before suggesting that the W&M Dean is wrong.

  10. He's saying the previous post about applications being accepted after the deadline had a high "who cares" factor. I agree, not that big of a deal.

  11. I agree with 7:22. Of all the unethical things that law schools do, entertaining a few applications passed the deadline doesn't even register a blip. Also, when the school provides a disclaimer (like W&M), I don't think there is anything wrong with it.

  12. Another good article...

  13. 7:22, actually, the post about late applications received more page views than any other post this month. Other posts have been linked on TaxProf, so I don't think that's the reason. I suspect a large number of 0ls were sharing the link--precisely because they didn't previously know that schools were still open to applications. Or maybe some of the views were from admissions deans checking up on their competition! One way or another, that post generated quite a lot of attention--it was surprising or interesting to well over a thousand folks.

  14. Law prof took the willingness of elite schools to amke space for applications after their own deadlines as a potential sign of desperation. He's not saying that there's anything wrong with accepting after the deadline per se. The fact that some of these schools play CYA by stating their deadlines in such a way as to allow them to accept after the deadline doesn't change a thing. It also doesn't change the fact that ten of the schools surveyed claimed not to be accepting applications when they actually were.

  15. Minnesota's website:

    J.D. Application Deadlines
    The Law School admits one entering class each year for courses beginning in late August. Applications are available beginning September 1 with a deadline of April 1. As applications are considered on a rolling basis, applicants are encouraged to submit all required materials as early as possible. The Admissions Committee acts only on complete applications that contain all of the required components. Late applications will be considered upon written petition. Applicants typically receive a decision within 10-12 weeks from the date the application is complete.

  16. It is cute that Douglas went to the trouble of making up an elaborate hypothetical about the spouse of an an active duty member of the military who gets transferred to a nearby military bases in late spring. Yes, who can complain about extending the applcation deadline in that instance, even against the stated policy?

    In the real world, they are just giving their marketing specialists extra time to fill the incoming class, or perhaps to acquire a more selective-seeming applicant-to-acceptance ratio.

    Lying about application deadlines hardly tops the list of law school atrocities, but it is another indication of their scaminess.


  17. @DJM--Page views alone do not indicate importance. There are lots of things that could be said or shown on the Internet that would get lots of page views and links, and would not be substantively important--or right.

  18. Minnesota told the caller to go ahead and apply so they didn't adhere to their formal policy either.

    The real point of course is that Douglas appears to have made a definitive-sounding assertion regarding this issue based on nothing more than a guess. Professional habits are hard to break.

  19. From the University of Chicago's website:

    The Admissions Committee will evaluate all completed Regular Decision applications and issue decisions on a rolling basis until all applications have received an initial decision. Because the Admissions Committee reads files in the order that they are completed, it is in your best interest to apply early in the cycle well in advance of the February 1 application deadline. Please note that the order in which your file is considered depends on your completion date (the date that we have processed your application and marked it complete) and that the Committee will not begin evaluating your file until it is complete. Although the Law School will continue to accept and evaluate applications after the February 1 deadline and applicants taking the February or June LSAT may still apply, space will be limited at that time (though, on occasion, we have accepted outstanding applicants into the summer)."

  20. @7:54 - W&M actually has a significant military enrollment, so it's not an elaborate hypothetical for Dean Douglas. W&M is easily accessible by all the military bases in Hampton Roads. There were maybe 20 or 25 active military members in my class.

  21. From Washington and Lee's website:

    To be considered for admission for the fall 2012 academic year, J.D. applications should be submitted by March 1. Applications for the LL.M. program should be submitted by March 1. Applicants whose files are completed by the above deadlines should expect a decision by March 31. However, please know, March 1 is not a hard deadline, and we will still accept applications after March 1. For those applications submitted after March 1, we cannot guarantee a decision by a particular date, but we will make every effort to render a decision in as expeditious a manner as possible.

  22. It is possible that Dean Douglas knows of multiple schools who do this, and does not imagine that many other schools would disadvantage themselves by refusing to entertain any applications after the deadline-- no matter what, when their competitors do. The quibble will be over the definition of "many".

  23. "I had looked at a bunch of formal deadlines while writing the original post and hadn't noticed such language anywhere."

    Which ones did you look at, and how many is "a bunch?"

  24. Well let's just see how many out of the "top 50" have a stated "soft" deadline...looks like there are about 4 cited so far! Whether it gets to "many" will have to be decided when there is an actual number.

  25. Harvard, Yale, Stanford seem to have no exception. Only 47 to go!

  26. This topic actually seems like a massive waste of time and actually embarrassing to discuss. What's the big deal if law schools accept applications after a deadline? Most jobs/corporations and schools have deadlines, but nothing in life is written in stone and there's always exceptions. Are the law schools more desperate this year for late applicants? Probably. Is it a sign that the whole law school system is on the verge of collapse? Doubtful. It's just a declining market and not as strong as it once was like tech stocks, real estate, etc. Nothing stays in a boom period forever and law school enrollment will probably adjust downwards for some time. It's still an embarrassing reach to harp on this subject of late applications. Don't flatter yourselves and think deans who make 500k annually are running scared and scrounging in the trash for late applications. Most schools are only off in their enrollment by 10-20 percent and most of that is due to the improving economy and increased hiring in the corporate sector.

  27. Chicago was specifically mentioned as a schools where it was unlikely that people could apply in the summer and not be rejected. The website clearly says that can happen.

    @ 8:35-- the websites would still possibly understate matters. It is probable that even without saying it, schools in the past have extended the deadline for exceptional candidates. And it' s not necessary to count up everybody to know that exceptions to rules are made in every context of life, except the one that says we're all going to depart this life at some point.

  28. 8:41 -- HYS were not on lawprof's list of 28 schools taking applications late, so they would not count.

  29. Columbia:

    What are Columbia Law School’s application deadlines?

    The earliest that we begin to accept applications for the 2011–12 admissions season is Sept. 1, 2011. For the entering Class of 2012, the deadline for our binding Early Decision Plan (EDP) is Nov. 15, 2011, and the Regular Decision deadline is Feb. 15, 2012. However, we encourage all applicants to complete their applications as early as possible, considering that applications are evaluated on a rolling basis in the order in which they are completed.


    February 1
    Application deadline for Regular Decision applicants. (as opposed to early decision)

    January 1, 2012
    The Need Access Financial Aid Application and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) become available.
    J.D. Application deadline if you wish to be considered for the NYU Law's Scholarship Programs.

    February 15, 2012
    J.D. Application due.
    Housing Entering Student Application goes live.

    So far, 0 for 6.

  30. Again, focusing on the websites may not really capture this phenomenon. DJM is right to the extent that the reaction to the original post will encourage people to read application materials more closely than they have in the past. Also, it will encourage people to be a bit more aggressive.

  31. 8:45 -- look at LawProf's original list of 28 schools here: http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/07/most-top-law-schools-still-accepting.html

    of the 6 you did so far, only Chicago was on LawProf's list of 28, and that was covered in 8:08's post.

  32. "Many" legal academics have a bad habit of talking about things they don't really know anything about as if they do.

    Not surprising, since that's one of the skills law school is best at teaching.

    See "Arguments, Policy"

  33. @9:14 The website info will not tell you whether any of the 28 schools have ever accepted late applications before this year. The info from the websites is still interesting because it makes clear that the idea of making exceptions to the deadline is not a presumptively crazy or nefarious practice. Apparently lots of commenters on this site did not know that it's possible to submit an application late and have it considered. Many people here were adamant that this could never happen. It could only be done because these schools, Chicago included, were taking applications after the deadline only because they needed to fill their classes.

  34. As I posted in the initial thread, I was allowed to apply late in the 2005 cycle after getting a high 170s on the February LSAT. 7 schools out of the top 14 and 4 out of the top 10 allowed me to apply well past their application deadline. However, they told me that I would be at a disadvantage for merit aid as most of it had been already awarded, and I decided to wait a year and got offered a full ride to a few schools in the top 10 for the class of 2006. As with almost anything, institutions are willing to make exceptions if they believe it will benefit them.

  35. "your chances of being offered admission may be significantly decreased"

    Decreased by whom? The Assistant Dean for Admission Chances?

  36. Reading that thread I was just stunned by former law students insisting that "a rule is a rule".

  37. Do Dean Douglas pointed out that the original post was wrong with respect to his school. He proved that point. I do not think it is his burden to go to extensive lengths to prove his passing comment that there were many others, or to provide an exact figure. He is not Dean of those schools and was not the one who initially raised the topic, and it seems to be a minor point in any event.

  38. "DJM said... ... the post about late applications received more page views than any other post this month. ... I suspect a large number of 0Ls were sharing the link [to let other 0Ls know those schools still taking apps]"

    Wow, double ouch on the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    The post itself is not only a bit of a ho-hummer as it relates to arguing the LSS, it may have (if Prof.M's suspicion is correct) have encouraged more 0Ls to apply.

  39. Which is larger or more inclusive, many or a bunch?

  40. According to Garner, "a bunch" is more than "many."

  41. "'Many' legal academics have a bad habit of talking about things they don't really know anything about as if they do."

    A good point generally, and I applaud LawProf's research on which of the top 50 schools are still taking applications.

    But the pot's calling the kettle black. LawProf seems unwilling to admit that in this case - with regard to accepting late applications - he is doing the exact same thing as the other legal academics he scorns. He has proclaimed that schools' websites broadly forbid late applications, and that they only make exceptions to that policy when it benefits their bottom line. But he doesn't know that that is in fact true, and hasn't responded to citations of others to school websites that expressly permit late applications. See Campos, On Bullshit.

  42. But, even without websites it cannot be the case that schools have not, in the past, accepted applications after the deadline. As someone noted above, exceptions are made to every rule.

  43. @ JULY 31, 2012 10:17 AM

    maybe the 0Ls were looking for leverage to get scholarships at higher-ranked schools.

  44. ^^^^
    10:17 here. Could be you are right. But I don't know enough about process to know if that would work or not. I think we've heard reports of 0Ls who are already admitted at more than one school, playing them against each other for better schollys (wish I had thought of that, back when!). But here we're talking about seeking (new) admission, very late.

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