Tuesday, April 28, 2009

disconnect between USNWR overall rankings and LRW rankings

Ken Adams (in his AdamsDrafting blog) has noticed the disconnect between USNWR's overall rankings of law schools and its rankings of legal writing programs. He writes:

What you notice immediately is that the rankings for legal writing in no way track the overall rankings. For example, only three schools included in the overall top 15 appear in the rankings for legal writing (Northwestern, at 10; Michigan, tied for 13; and Cornell, tied for 24). . . . Usnewslogo

For students at the “elite” law schools, traditionally the biggest challenge has been getting accepted. A law degree from an elite school pretty much assured the holder of superior job prospects, so exactly what kind of education those schools provided was of relatively little significance.Faculty at elite schools have been free to teach what interests them rather than what would stand their students in good stead in the world of work. One result has been that as compared to “doctrine” courses—courses that teach a discrete area of the law—”skills” courses traditionally received less emphasis at elite schools.

By contrast, students at less exalted law schools have faced greater challenges in the job market and so have clamoured for teaching that would help them prove their value to employers. And that includes skills teaching. . . .

[T]he economic crisis means that fewer students at elite law schools can count on effortlessly snagging a BigLaw job. That could well result in students being more vocal in demanding that their education have a greater bearing on what they’ll be doing after graduating.

Ken has a lot more to say on the topic, and he invites your input on the issue.

As for students "being more vocal" in asking that they be given a relevant education, is it ironic, as reported by Inside Higher Ed, that in the most recent Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), "nearly half of all law school students reporting that their education does not “contribute substantially” to their ability to “apply legal writing skills” in the real world"? 

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