Advocates for Starving Advocates

Northeastern’s NuLawLab Creates Scores of Legal Jobs

NuLawLab Creating Jobs
INNOVATIVE DESIGN THINKERS IMAGINE EMPLOYMENT FOR THOUSANDS

The Northeastern University School of Law’s innovative research facility, NuLawLab, announced Tuesday that revolutionary design-thought technology has yielded significant advances and created thousands of jobs — or what it calls NuJobs — for new attorneys.

“The NuLawLab applies a variety of structured creative processes to bring together solutions that are desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable,” said Luke Bierman, NUSL’s outgoing Associate Dean of Experiential Education. “So, using our innovative design thinking, we intuited that the students at NUSL, from their point of view as humans, desired post-graduate employment.”

NuLawLab Creating Jobs

An NuLawLab technician demonstrates how the program uses design thinking to create NuJobs.

 

What long proved an insurmountable challenge for the NuLawLab was developing a means of employing NUSL students in a manner both technologically feasible and economically viable.

“We designed some thoughts on that, and we thought some designs,” Bierman said. “And that’s when we pushed the boundaries of design thinking to ‘Design Building.’ We built the designs we thought right inside my mind.”

Indeed, in a report issued Tuesday to the American Bar Association and the US Department of Labor, NuLawLab outlined how it intends to host thousands of NuJobs in Associate Dean Bierman’s mind.

“With the future of the legal industry moving into the cloud, we concluded through a series of Design Thinking experiments that human labor should follow commerce in that direction,” the report says. “Carrying out this conclusion to its natural end, we constructed a cloud inside the mind of Associate Dean Luke Bierman. In Bierman’s Head Cloud, Northeastern Law graduates immediately enter fulfilling, rewarding and well-paying jobs as soon as they receive their JDs. It’s truly extraordinary what is happening in this man’s head.”

NUSL Associate Dean Luke Bierman showing off the places where he does his best work — his mind and his white board.

NUSL Associate Dean Luke Bierman showing off the places where he does his best work — his mind and his white board.

The report goes on to outline a pseudo-digital currency that NuLawLab has innovated to compensate attorneys employed in NuJobs.

“This is where design thinking really showed us something,” Bierman said. “What we’ve design-thought here is a virtual currency, akin to Bitcoin, but far more advanced, because it will only ever exist in the minds of the people who trade in it.”

NuLawLab’s NuJobs revelation follows more good news for NUSL. The law school recently announced its latest ABA-mandated employment statistics, and, according to Bierman, the school had within nine months of graduation placed 324 out of 203 graduates from the Class of 2013 in full-time, long-term legal jobs. The data further shows that 714 of those students found employment with a former co-op employer.

Of course, current NUSL students were overjoyed Tuesday with the revelation that jobs existing only in Associate Dean Bierman’s head would alleviate their fears about grueling job searches and overbearing student loans.

“Wow, I have to say, I totally underestimated that LawLab thing,” said second-year NUSL student Christina Andersen. “It always seemed to me that it was just like a jargon machine, where some guy sat in a room curating stories about other schools’ innovations and a web site that parroted back buzzwords from TED Talks and 99% Invisible. Clearly, I was way off.”

NUSL Dean Jeremy Paul commended the NuLawLab on its breakthrough, saying he was envious of Elon University, the law school powerhouse that managed to snag Associate Dean Bierman away from Boston. Dean Paul said he intended to ask Associate Dean Bierman to think-design him “a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent,” before he left for North Carolina.

Dave Brown is a Boston Business Lawyer and founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP. As a 2012 graduate of NUSL, he too is in awe of the cloud in Luke Bierman’s head.

 

VOTE FOR JUSTICE!

JusticeBridge

JusticeBridgeAN INNOVATIVE PROJECT NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT

The Justice Bridge Project is being recognized for its innovative incubator model, and with the help your vote, it could take home a coveted prize.

The project, which is building a solo- and small-practice attorney incubator to help new lawyers provide quality legal services to low- and middle-income clients, has been nominated for an Innovating Justice Award by the Hague Institute for the Internationalization of the Law (HiiL). The award includes prize money that could provide crucial financial support for Justice Bridge. The competition is currently in its “public support,” round, which means Justice Bridge needs your vote to advance to the next round. Everyone is eligible to vote, and may vote by CLICKING HERE.

Justice Bridge, a project developed by Northeastern University School of Law Professor Deborah Ramirez, has received endorsements or support from the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association, and a vast cross-section of the Boston legal community that includes current and retired judges and distinguished partners from some of the city’s most prominent law firms. The project needs a relatively small amount of funding to move forward with its launch, and the Innovating Justice Award would provide a large portion of the launch budget.

Hungry Hungry Lawyers believes this project is key to the future of the legal industry. By mentoring new lawyers, giving them work, experience and other crucial resources, Justice Bridge is an ahead-of-its time incubator that will help develop genuine community lawyers. By expanding legal services to the middle- and lower-middle class, Justice Bridge will not only create new markets to bolster employment for a generation of lawyers struggling to find jobs, it will also provide advocates for an abundance of working-class clients who are struggling to find lawyers. SO, CLICK HERE AND VOTE!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP, a firm of Boston Business Lawyers. He is now going to click here and vote.

MY LAW SCHOOL IS LYING (Part II): Why is Northeastern Law’s Administration Lying to Itself

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NORTHEASTERN ADMINISTRATORS ARE DELUDING THEMSELVES INTO A DANGEROUS COMPLACENCY

This is the second post in a two-part series. It focuses on NUSL’s administration, which is lying to itself about the troubles of the legal industry. Part I focuses on the Northeastern University School of Law’s manipulation of job data to promote its co-op program.

“In spite of the numbers, things aren’t really that bad.” — Northeastern University School of Law Associate Dean Luke Bierman assessing the job market for new lawyers, February 4, 2013

“The job market for prospective lawyers is even bleaker than the law school employment outcome data … would appear to suggest,” American Bar Association Journal, April 1, 2013

“Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” — The Honorable Judge Judy

As applications to NUSL’s JD program have dropped considerably this year (reflective of a national trend), Northeastern’s credibility is likewise diminishing. Consider that the program recently drew two red flags from the watchdogs at Law School Transparency for failure to comply with ABA job-data reporting standards. Meanwhile, as its placement rate plummets, the school’s relatively new Dean, Jeremy Paul, is bizarrely increasing its class size. In short, this will make it more difficult to raise the placement rate, increasing the likelihood that Northeastern will drop in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (again) and the quality of its candidates will almost certainly suffer as a result.

Paul’s decision to increase class size (effectively a short-sighted cash grab), seems bound to plunge the school into a downward cycle of decreasing placement rate, decreasing rankings and less interest from top-notch applicants. While it’s rare for someone to choose NUSL over Harvard, it’s not unheard of. If Paul manages his remaining time at Northeastern as he has his first year, that rarity will become myth.

What’s sad is that I believe NUSL is a good law school that has developed a corrosive truth problem. Northeastern law students are probably the happiest in Boston. The practical education experience is still far ahead of the field at a time when this type of curricula is vital to the future of the legal industry. I haven’t spoken to one unemployed NUSL grad who regrets their decision to attend the program. So, why can’t NUSL promote itself without lying?

I believe the problem starts with the powers that be. In my personal experiences with NUSL administrators, I have come away with the impression that they are hiding the truth from themselves and lack the urgency to address this problem. Here’s a great example: During a meeting at NUSL on February 4 to discuss potential solutions to the job-market problem, I heard the aforementioned NUSL Associate Dean Luke Bierman say this in front of students, faculty and alumni: “In spite of the numbers, things aren’t really that bad.”

From my perspective this statement seemed conspicuously out of touch, on par with John McCain’s campaign-killing pronouncement in the Fall of 2008 that the fundamentals of the American economy were strong. What followed in this meeting was a heated discussion between myself and Associate Dean Bierman in which I asserted to him that things are actually worse than the numbers indicate. Not better. When I admitted that yes, in fact, there are more than zero students from the Class of 2012 who had found jobs, Bierman seemed more than content that he, the co-op program and NUSL were doing their jobs to the utmost satisfaction.

Not long after that exchange, on March 29, the ABA released its employment data for the class of 2012, showing that NUSL’s placement rate had dropped more than 10 points and is now nearly 12 percent below the national average. On April 1, the watchdog group Law School Transparency backed up my position that the market is worse than the the data indicates. “The job market for prospective lawyers is even bleaker than the law school employment outcome data … would appear to suggest,” ABA Journal wrote in its summary of LST’s analysis.

To his credit, before departing the meeting, Bierman apologized, saying he was sorry if any of his remarks were “insensitive.” To his discredit, it was not a lack of sensitivity that bothered me. Luke Bierman was not insensitive. He was out of touch with reality. If Bierman and Paul think that a one-in-five shot of landing a job with a co-op employer is “working” or that the market is somehow better than the numbers indicate, then they are woefully misguided and possibly delusional. The more NUSL lies to itself and others about the reality of the situation, the less incentive the institution will have to correct these problems. With no sense of reality and no sense of urgency, I would venture to say that this head-in-the-sand/optimistic spin strategy — at a time when applications have dropped by nearly 25 percent — is a threat to the long-term health of NUSL. And that’s a shame.

Worse is that NUSL has irons in the fire, but is doing everything it can to snuff out that fire. The school has, for example, publicly touted its in-development Justice Bridge program, an incubator for new attorneys launching solo and small practices that would aim to serve clients of modest means. This is a program that Boston Bar Association President J.D. Smeallie recently praised and other groups have endorsed. It is also a program for which Paul and Bierman — behind closed doors and out of the public eye — demonstrate no genuine support.

While it is publicly preferable to be in favor of a novel program that would help disadvantaged and working-class clients while addressing this job program, NUSL’s administration is privately euthanizing it. As much as I would hope I am wrong about this (and all apologies to Mr. Paul and Mr. Bierman if that is the case), the school has taken no action that would indicate otherwise. I have personally witnessed Associate Dean Bierman’s Justice Bridge tap dance over the course of the last nine months. He gleefully takes credit for the initiative whenever possible in public. Behind closed doors, however, he downplays the viability of the program to students and faculty doing all he can to smother enthusiasm and keep himself from binding NUSL to some kind of expectation that this this will get done and that it will be a success.

All that stands between Justice Bridge and open doors is seed money. And not a lot of seed money. Nonetheless, where is Dean Paul when it comes to raising this money? Where is Associate Dean Bierman? Based on what I know and after sifting through a series of misinformation and outright lies stemming from the Northeastern University School of Law, I can only assign credibility to one thing that I’ve heard Mr. Bierman say. I genuinely believe that he is unaware of how bad things are in this job market.

Otherwise, I would have to conclude that he does not care.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP. He would encourage anyone who disagrees with Luke Bierman’s assessment of the job market for new lawyers to e-mail Mr. Bierman at l.bierman@neu.edu. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity for you to educate Mr. Bierman on the state of the job market by sharing your personal story about searching for employment.

MY LAW SCHOOL IS LYING (Part I): Why is Northeastern Lying to Us About Its Co-Op Program?

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NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY IS MANIPULATING THE FACTS ABOUT ITS CO-OP PROGRAM

This is the first post in a two-part series. Part I focuses on the Northeastern University School of Law’s manipulation of job data to promote its co-op program. Part II focuses on NUSL’s administration, which is lying to itself.

And verily I was taught by my law school: Thou Shalt Not Lie.

The Northeastern University School of Law first introduced me to the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Although I do not remember all of those rules verbatim, ABA Model Rule 8.4(c) is one that tends to stick in the old hippocampus: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: … engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Simple. Clear cut. Don’t lie. Don’t deceive. Not even a little. Ever.

Disclaimer: The rules of professional conduct are not applicable to law-school marketing.

NUSL — a school that excels in practical education — has provided us with an excellent practical demonstration of the credibility gap law schools have slumped into. On its career services web site, NUSL proudly boasts of its co-operative education program: “Co-op is working: 48% of our graduates with full-time legal jobs accepted a position with a former co-op employer.” This claim falls under the heading, “Class of 2012 Highlights,” as if Northeastern’s placement record for the Class of 2012 somehow warrants highlights. In fact, Northeastern’s Class of 2012 fared far worse on the job market than graduates from many other schools. According to stats released by the American Bar Association, 56.2 percent of 2012 grads had acquired full-time, long-term jobs that required bar passage within nine months of graduation. Only 43 percent of NUSL grads had jobs in that category.

Brief note for those uninitiated with NUSL’s co-operative education program: Northeastern students are required to complete four externships — or “co-ops” — in the legal field as part of the school’s JD program. This is a unique program in legal education, and in my opinion an exceptional educational experience. Northeastern, however, is misleading prospective students to believe that its co-op program gives them a better chance of landing post-graduate employment. The numbers show that this is simply not true.

Until recently, the claim on Northeastern’s career services page was an outright lie. It has since been edited into a merely deceptive white lie. A fellow 2012 grad told me that career services originally boasted, “Co-op is working: 48% of graduates accepted a full-time position with a former co-op employer.” This claim did not add up. Remember, ABA job data says that only 43 percent of 2012 Northeastern grads found full-time work in the legal field. If only 43 percent have full-time jobs, how could 48 percent have been hired by former co-op employers?

This fellow grad reported to me that he e-mailed NUSL’s Luke Bierman, the Associate Dean of Experiential Education, to point out the mathematical impossibility of the claim. The site was promptly edited to reflect the current version of the statement. In other words, NUSL softened its lie.

With the help of two qualifiers, we are now told that 48 percent of grads who found full-time, legal jobs were hired by former co-op employers, which is technically true. But the number is nonetheless presented as part of a statistical slight of hand to support the fundamentally false claim that “co-op is working,” when it comes to placing graduates in legal jobs. 

I would posit that most prospective law students are not informed enough on the minutia of ABA job-reporting statistics to parse this statement properly. It’s more likely that many of the would-be applicants reading it perceive that because “48 percent of graduates who found full-time legal jobs,” did so with former co-op employers that they too will have a 50-50 shot at landing a post-grad job as a result of co-op alone. Of course, it was not remotely close to 48 percent who found full-time legal jobs. In fact, it’s only 48 percent of 43 percent. Working backwards from these percentages, roughly 44 grads from a class of 215 found full-time jobs with their co-op employers (about 20.4 percent). Yet Northeastern is sending prospective students this message: If you come to Northeastern, the co-op program by itself will give you a 50-50 chance at a job (implicitly suggesting your job prospects are better at NUSL than they are elsewhere). Or as the law school asserts, “Co-op is working.”

False. Co-op is not working. At least not for the purpose of improving job placement.

As I move through the NUSL web site, I continue to stumble on other numbers that do not hold up under scrutiny. On its “Careers” page, NUSL makes another dubious claim about co-op employment success: “In fact, co-op experiences do more than prepare you for the job market — they often lead directly to a job offer. On average, almost 40 percent of Northeastern law students accept post-graduate employment offers with a former co-op employer.”

Right now, about one in five grads lands a job with a former co-op employer. Does that really qualify as “often?” And what does that 40 percent stat mean? An average of what? The last five years? All-time? Without further qualification this is a purposely vague number and it’s meaningless.

Let’s look at the data another way. Consider that EVERY Northeastern grad is required to do four co-ops. That means the Class of 2012 performed an estimated 860 co-ops. Only 44 of those led to full-time jobs. That means 0.05 percent of co-ops actually led to a full-time job. To be fair, the 44 grads who accepted full-time jobs could only take ONE job. So, let’s not consider the other three co-ops those 44 grads performed, (so, remove 132 co-ops from our analysis for the sake of fairness). If we throw those out, we get an adjusted success rate of 0.06 percent (44 jobs out of 728 opportunities). As I see it, if the program were just 25 percent successful at connecting students with jobs, NUSL would have a 100 percent employment rate.

Co-op is not working. Northeastern knows these numbers better than anybody and cannot with good conscience promote this claim that the co-op program is a panacea for the job crisis plaguing new lawyers.

A NOTE ABOUT THE NUSL CO-OP PROGRAM

Given my statements on the success of the co-op program as a job provider, I feel compelled to explain that I do in fact hold the program in high regard. As much as I believe in, support and herald the co-op program as an innovative and fundamentally necessary endeavor in legal education, I recognize that it cannot help Northeastern students land jobs that do not exist. Is co-op “working?” Yes, but not in the way NUSL is trying to tell us it’s working.

I’ll use my wife, Mimi Brown, as an example. Mimi, who graduated with me in 2012, has a passion for food policy, which is a hyperniche area of law. It’s genuinely difficult to find lawyers and legal organizations (outside of the FDA) who are working on the issues Mimi cares about. Nonetheless, Mimi’s co-op experience reveals the breadth and strength of NUSL’s co-op network. Among her four co-ops, she worked for a government public-health organization, a non-profit food policy lobbyist and a think tank monitoring the corporate advertising practices of major food corporations (she also spent a term working for a state appeals court judge).

What’s better is that her experience was valuable experience. She drafted a petition to the FDA. She worked on a project that led McDonald’s to shut down a web campaign targeting children. When I discussed this with a partner in a well-known Boston firm, he was blown away. This partner, a BC grad who was only nominally familiar with the co-op program, was impressed that NUSL could accommodate the career aspirations of someone with such unique ambitions. So, if you ask me whether the co-op program is working, I would affirm that it absolutely is when it comes to educating students in the law.

This is why I’m genuinely aggravated that my school would play this shell game with the truth. The co-op program is not, as NUSL is trying to suggest on its web site, immune to the crumbling job market. But it is an exemplary program that’s building better lawyers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a Boston Business Lawyer and a founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP. He would advise Northeastern to promote its strengths rather than lie about its weaknesses.

UPDATE: DLA Piper is NOT hiring 400 New Lawyers

Puffer Legal — No!
Puffer Legal — No!SORRY, WE WERE APRIL FOOLING

It is our sad duty to inform you that DLA Piper, widely considered the world’s largest law firm, is not hiring 400 junior associates to staff a new division called “Puffer Legal.” Further, to the best of our knowledge, Piper is not in the midst of developing a new wing to deliver quality legal services to middle-class clients (which is too bad).

As many careful readers probably discerned for themselves, our post about Piper’s impending hiring binge was an April Fool’s Day prank. We sincerely hope that we didn’t toy with anyone’s emotions or stir false hopes about the future of the legal industry. If you’re a new attorney who read our story and rushed a resume to Piper HR, then we’re sorry we put you to such trouble. However, we’re nonetheless glad that you did send that resume, because we think Piper should see it, and we hope they hire you anyway. In fact, everyone go ahead and send Piper a resume, even if the firm has no public plans to hire a glut of junior associates. The world’s largest law firm should know that all of you exist.

We have received surprisingly little outrage (basically none) in response to this story, which we believe means one of two things: 1. Most readers followed our trail of breadcrumbs and discerned for themselves that this was indeed a joke and granted us immunity under the terms of April Fool’s Treaty. 2. Most people haven’t sorted this out yet and a wave of outrage is forthcoming.

In the event that outrage is indeed on its way, we hope you’ll consider the intentions behind “Puffer Legal.” First, we felt like poking a little fun at Piper, an organization that has brought some negative attention to the legal industry recently. Second, we wanted to use some fiction to show a little truth. Our hope was to make Puffer Legal sound as plausible as possible, because even though that firm is fictional, the Justice Gap problem is very real. And at the same time people are struggling to find affordable lawyers, 10.6 percent of the JD Class of 2012 is still unemployed. And only 54.9 percent have full-time (long-term) legal jobs. In our view, these numbers alone make a compelling case for a market-based solution to the Justice Gap. Puffer Legal is one embodiment of how something like that might work.

If nothing else we hope we incepted this idea into the minds of many readers, so that perhaps in the near future there will be law firms delivering affordable legal services to people who are struggling to access justice.

Although we bow to the skill and wit that pulled off “Google Nose” and “YouTube Shutdown,” we had fun participating in the April Fool’s Day festivities this year and we’re glad to see that some people enjoyed it. Although one new attorney remarked, “This is either very exciting or an incredibly well-thought out April Fools prank for which no one will ever forgive you,” we also had a favorable response from a partner in a Boston firm, who said, “When I got to the managing partner’s quote, you knocked ‘Google Smell’ off the top of my favorites list so far this year (and I can tell you, as the parent of two school-age kids, we take April 1 pretty seriously).”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a Boston Business Lawyer, and a founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP. He is also an experienced prankster who once convinced his Entertainment Law professor that Vincent Chase was a Northeastern Law student enrolled in that professor’s class.

 

Northeastern Law > Harvard Law? Validating an ATL Poll

ABOVE THE LAW POLL SHOWS NUSL TO BE ‘THE MOST WICKED AWESOME’ LAW SCHOOL IN BOSTON

Above the Law posted results yesterday of its tragically named student poll, “Which is the Most Wicked Awesome Law School in Boston?” 1 As Northeastern Law grads, the people behind Hungry Hungry Lawyers felt this poll was worthy of some examination. Don’t get me wrong, we have strong, positive feelings for NUSL, but if it’s better than Harvard, then we’d like our Supreme Court appointments now, please.

How is it that Northeastern dominated these rankings? Well, ATL used a student-satisfaction methodology, asking students how they felt about various aspects of the student experience. On the one hand, this doesn’t offer the top-down, third-party analysis based on objective factors that you get from something like U.S. News & World Report, but it might measure one of the most important factors students consider in choosing a school: How happy are current students with the product? And Northeastern students are typically happy with the product, as this poll reflects. Then again, it seems to us based on the results the poll is skewed by the unique perspectives of the different kinds of students answering the survey questions. Let’s consider:

Quality of Faculty and Academic Instruction (ratings are on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 4):

1. Northeastern (3.67)
2. Boston University Law (3.64)
3. Harvard (3.60)
4. Boston College Law (3.56)
5. Suffolk University Law (3.18)

So, yes Northeastern students tend to think their teachers are more up to snuff. This makes sense, because classes at Northeastern tend to be geared toward public-interest topics that NUSL students greatly value (except for the visiting prof. “Environment/Global Justice” debacle from the summer of 2011). That doesn’t necessarily mean the teachers are “better quality” than professors at other schools (for the record, some are great, others are good and then some less so), but they are typically excellent at serving their audience.

Also, let’s consider that Boston University students are — unequivocally and without exception — smug, self-satisfied and disappointed they didn’t get into BC. Therefore these respondents are more inclined to save face and overrate the institution that begrudgingly welcomed them after its first picks chose to attend BC. Even if every BU Law class were taught by Karl Childers, BU Law students would rate the faculty at nothing less than a 3.64.

The Terriers go so far as to rank their professors above those at Harvard, which can’t possibly be true. Of course, the perspective of Harvard students is skewed by the fact that they are smart enough to know when their professors are full of shit. It probably doesn’t happen often, but every teacher at one time or another is totally making it up as they go along, and the Crimson students are on top of that and therefore more reluctant to give their faculty perfect scores.

Finally, it doesn’t seem fair to Suffolk professors that they must be rated by Suffolk students. Many Suffolk students suffer from a Napoleonic complex, which is the natural result of attending law school in this market. As a result of this complex, they tend to perceive their professors as substandard — and, to some degree, the only thing holding them back from world domination. Therefore, their poor faculty took a beating in this poll.

Practical and Clinical Training:

1. Northeastern (3.92)
2. Suffolk University Law (3.24)
3. Harvard (3.20)
4. Boston University Law (3.12)
5. Boston College Law (2.93)

Northeastern and Suffolk are the only schools on this list really invested in practical and clinical training, and their students won’t shut up about it, so this result is no surprise. Harvard gets a pass here for being Harvard, but the fact that BC and BU students rank their programs so low in practical ed (which is vastly more important than traditional legal schooling), shows how vastly the law schools rankings overrate these programs.

Career Counseling and Job Search Help:

1. Harvard (3.34)
2. Northeastern (3.17)
3. Boston University Law (2.92)
4. Boston College Law (2.48)
5. Suffolk University Law (2.47)

Shockingly, Harvard students are satisfied with their job prospects. Career services counselors aren’t magicians, they’re only as good number of jobs available and the quality of the applicants chasing them. That BC, BU and Suffolk all rate their career services below a 3.0 would indicate to me that students in those schools are suffering in a weak market.

Social Life:

1. Boston College Law (3.62)
2. Northeastern (3.58)
3. Harvard (3.22)
4. Suffolk University Law (3.13)
5. Boston University Law (3.04)

At first, I thought this was total nonsense there’s no way BC students like their lives more than my colleagues at Northeastern. But then I remembered that NUSL’s Student Bar Association just books events at Conor Larkin’s every week. And that’s just about the worst bar in Boston, which is saying a lot. No whiskey, bad food, no space to move and abundant roaches. The woefully misinformed undergrads think its cool. It’s a train wreck, and not in a good way like Punter’s Pub, appropriately located across from Museum of Fine Arts. Now I’m wondering why the Huskies even ranked themselves this high.

No idea how it’s possible that Suffolk students are having more fun than the kids at BU, an institution you think would benefit from the abundant social opportunity in that neighborhood. Then again, Suffolk is right next to the Beantown Pub, home of the Paul Revere, which is a delicious sandwich. Delicious sandwich wins.

Overall Rating:

1. Northeastern (3.45)
2. Harvard (3.27)
3. Boston University Law (3.17)
4. Boston College Law (3.07)
5. Suffolk University Law (2.88)

There you have it, Northeastern wins law school. Huskies, let’s break out the Knob Creek, and get one of those old-fashioned NUSL-style parties brewin’. Or let’s just all go over to Conor’s. That’s fine. The whiskey is on me!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a Boston Business Lawyer and co-founder of Boston MicroLaw, LLP. He’s so glad now that he didn’t get into Harvard.

Notes:

  1. Ten percent of Boston readers chuckled at that title, and the rest of us groaned in unison and then politely acknowledged that, yes, some people here frequently use the expression, “wicked awesome,” typically to describe something that is the opposite of a “wicked pissah.” Then we pahked, got out of the cah, and apparently enjoyed them apples just like Matt Damon in that movie while baking beans and pretending that Dustin Pedroia isn’t a total douche who we’d all hate viscerally if he didn’t play for the Sawx. Ha ha, Boston!

Law Schools’ Struggle With Counting Continues

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WATCHDOG SAYS SCHOOLS FAIL TO MEET ABA REQUIREMENTS ON REPORTING JOB DATA

The long-term battle between legal educators and counting remains unresolved according to the watchdogs at Law School Transparency. Counting, the action of finding the number of elements in a finite set of objects, has long plagued law schools, particularly when it comes to finding the number graduates from each school who have found jobs in the legal field. This task once befuddled law schools to such a degree that they would count, say, a waiter at Applebee’s as pretty much a lawyer almost. Recognizing that counting can be quite difficult, the American Bar Association issued specific guidelines in 2012 to ensure that no Applebee’s waiter would ever again be asked to deliver a motion for discovery with that riblet basket.

As simple and specific as the ABA guidelines may be, schools are apparently still struggling to get it right based on a comprehensive review of data posted on the web sites of 199 ABA schools provided by the non-profit counting aces at Law School Transparency. The report is quite good, and we recommend you follow that link in the previous sentence to check it out. LST was founded in 2009 by then-Vanderbilt law students, which begs the question: Is reviewing law-job data a law job? (Seriously, someone in Vanderbilt’s career services department would love to know, so they check the right box on that now-mandated ABA form).

Anyway, LST reviewed the data from the Class of 2011 (the first to fall under ABA guidelines), and its report throws up red flags when schools fall short in reporting their methodology, fail to post required data to their web site or report incomplete information. In summarizing its findings, LST said exactly what we were thinking: “There has been much ado about the improved accreditation standards, but the improvements are meaningless without compliance and enforcement.”

Thankfully, someone has the time and inclination to review this data, which is difficult, because as former law students, the proprietors of Law School Transparency were almost certainly smothered in riblet sauce after pulling many double shifts at the ‘Bees.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Brown is a founding partner of Boston MicroLaw, LLP, and recently started blogging about Small Business Formation in Boston. His Applebee’s application was dismissed with prejudice. 

Legal Residency Proposal Dodges Meaningful Reform

PROGRAM WOULD SERVE NO TANGIBLE BENEFIT TO STUDENTS

Even math-challenged attorneys can tell you that four plus three plus two equals nine. That number, by itself, represents a lot of things to different people, from a Ted Williams jersey to a cat’s lives to the magical ingredient in Herman Cain’s elixir for tax reform. But if a new idea comes to fruition in the legal field, the number nine will also represent the minimum number of years that a college-bound freshman would have to wait before landing a job as an attorney.

Recently, Rutgers School of Law Dean John Farmer, took the position that the law profession is broken and that the magical cure-all to the myriad of persistent problems is the legal residency. Like its medical counterpart, it would theoretically place newly minted lawyers at law firms for two-year stints at cut-rate salaries. In these positions, attorneys would presumably gain practical experience with law firms that would be awash with skilled, educated, cheap labor. Dean Farmer’s plan is further couched in fluffy language about the need to make legal services available and affordable to people priced out of the current system, and that by hiring a bunch of residents, law firms would be able to serve this important function. So let’s take a big picture look at what is necessary to become a lawyer under his plan.

Essentially, it amounts to four years of undergraduate education (and tuition), three years of law school education (and tuition), and two years of an underpaid residency post. Given that the idea won’t reduce the amount of money going to institutions of higher learning, it’s no wonder this gem comes from a law school dean. The idea also doesn’t appear to have been well thought out.

We practice law, not medicine. Now I don’t mean to downplay the importance of the work of attorneys, but it basically includes research, analysis, application, writing, and for some, representation in court. To falsely equate the amount of training for that to the amount needed for medical diagnoses and surgeries misses some very key distinctions between the professions. Doctors hold the health and well-being of people in their hands, literally. They need practical, hands-on learning experiences, and a lot of them, in order to be entrusted with such responsibility. Lawyers also need practical experience, but truly innovative plans to reform the field can integrate those experiences into a three-year law school program. They’re called clinics and externships and co-ops, and they keep the burden of equipping lawyers with practical skills with those who are paid to bear it — the law schools. Might something similar to a residency be important to attorney development? Sure, and the viability of such proposals should be considered. But too many members of academia seem to be floating these ideas as a way to avoid making meaningful changes to legal education rather than to genuinely help students.

Look at who stands to benefit from a legal residency program versus who stands to sacrifice. The undergraduate institutions still get to educate and collect from students eager to obtain the bachelors degree that’s required to enter law school. The law schools still get to keep their archaic three-year curriculum and pocket three year’s worth of tuition. The law firms don’t need to change the pay structures of partners or more senior associates, and they’ll be theoretically overrun with new recruits who they can now pay relative pennies to while the partners reap the financial rewards. Sure more people might be able to gain access to legal services, but is this really the best way to go about ensuring that? Are the large law firms as currently constituted the best vehicles to drive this change forward? Given what they’ve done already, do we really trust them with this important task (some would say they are not)? Once again the burden will be borne by those in the worst position to do so, the law students and recent graduates. They’ll have seven years worth of education loans, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. After that, they can look forward to two more years of apprenticeship at a paltry salary as compared to their fellow lawyers as interest accumulates on those loans, with no job waiting at the end of it. And the dean’s answer to this? “The law firms should be required, under this proposal, to offer stipends to help those residents who don’t make the cut but have debt burdens.” So not only do law schools continue to receive what amount to federal subsidies in the form of federal graduate student loans, now they get to further justify high tuition rates by saying that law firms will be required to provide debt-laden former residents with stipends to cover loan repayment after school? Proponents are likely to argue that students and recent grads do benefit from the proposal, in the form of real-world experiences and networking opportunities. Sure, but is this really the best way to open up these benefits to students and new attorneys?

Administrators should be asking what combination of in-class and practical education is required to train an attorney as part of a law school curriculum. That’s their starting point and it’s the biggest issue I have with the dean’s proposal. He wants to increase the requirements for law students and recent graduates not because that added experience is necessary to train a lawyer, but because higher-ups in the legal education field want to have their cake (tuition) and eat (spend) it too. Proposals like this make it appear like the legal education industry is making every effort to wring out every last concession and alteration from students and employers in order  to avoid any changes to the ways in which they the schools 1) educate students, and 2) get paid.

At its heart, the law school is operating just like a law firm. It’s made up largely of lawyers. Those at the top — partners, deans, and professors — profit off of the efforts and payments of associates and students. The system becomes incapable of meaningful change because those at the top cannot and will not contemplate a decrease in their share or a cut in unnecessary overhead costs. Thus, you get the nonsense that the mouthpieces of these profit-making enterprises regularly regurgitate in print and at conferences.

Because law school is an essential and rewarding experience, it has to be saved from itself. The foundation of legal education reform should be a desire to equip young lawyers with the skills necessary to serve the people. School administrators need to look themselves in the mirror and ask whether should really take nine years of higher education to do so. If anyone can answer the question in the affirmative with a straight face and back it up, I’m happy to listen. More likely, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ And if it is a ‘no,’ then something far more cynical is going on in the schools and firms of our profession.

Jon Cohen is a founding partner at Boston MicroLaw, LLP, a practice of business formation attorneys and general outside counsel for small businesses in Boston and Cambridge, MA.