Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Law School Merit Scholarships vs. Millennial Work Ethic. TKO

The Sunday New York Times exposed the deep dark secret of law school merit scholarships - you have to work hard to keep them. Above The Law, the most read legal blog and home of hundreds of unemployed pajama wearing lawyers spending their days commenting anonymously, (example: The issue would be: WHY FUCK ARE WE GIVING ANY OF THESE ASSHOLES MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE?) picked up the story.

Yes folks, the same generation that has told BigLaw and other legal employers the conditions under which they will grace the legal profession with their wonderous knowledge (free pajamas, 3 days a week at Starbucks - one including a full 4 hour day - vacations "when needed to create a better work/life balance," immediate delivery of the latest Apple product upon release, and a sufficient amount of hugs) is very, very upset that law schools appear to be giving out a lot of free money and requiring a certain grade point average to maintain the scholarship. Shouldn't they get the money because they need it and they're cute?

How can the law schools do this? First they force you to attend at gunpoint by telling you that their graduates get jobs, and now they give you scholarships, require a 3.0, causing those like Alexandra Leumer, 2009 Golden Gate graduate, to "feel snookered."

Sounds like a snookered lawsuit industry may be on the horizon.

Leumer elaborates: By the middle of second semester of that first year, everyone saw the system for what it was,” she said. “We were furious. We realized that statistically, because of the curve, there was no way for many of us to keep our scholarships. But at that point, you’re a year in. They’ve got you. You feel stuck.

Candidly, this is something I never had a problem with, as I was always so far below the curve academicly, I never knew what it was like to be on the other side, and work to stay there.

When will the law schools get it? When will they realize that free money is free money. It's like a salary - requiring work to keep it is just, well, wrong. Those days are over. Money should be handed out to interested law students because they want to go to law school, period. If we begin teaching them that they have to work for the money they are being given, the only result will be a bunch of hard working lawyers, and that is so 2000.

The Times understands today's law student: In referring to the students' lack of knowledge that the scholarships are kept through competition for the required GPA based on the curve, it nails it: Students who don’t seek out this data tend to regard merit scholarship offers as a school saying “We love you.” It’s more like an invitation to a foot race, and before you get to the starting line you’d better know how fast to run and how many others are running.

Now who wants to run fast when the alternative is to have people tell you they love you?

There is a solution to the problem. The Times reports that Chicago-Kent offers students less scholarship money ($9,000) if they want it guaranteed, and more ($15,000) if they can clear the 3.25 G.P.A. hurdle.

Guess what?

Ninety percent opt for the larger and riskier sum, according to school officials.

Snookered. Yeah.

When we look back at this time, we will remember this as the generation of poor, stupid, impressionable college graduates who were "snookered" into entering the legal profession.

Jeff Lipshaw over at Legal Profession Blog, has some thoughts on the snookering:

"I have this image of one's acceptance letter carrying warning decals that make it look like my lawn mower or, at the very least, like my Starbucks cup. "CAUTION: THE BEVERAGE YOU ARE ABOUT TO DRINK IS HOT, THE SCHOOL YOU ARE ABOUT TO ATTEND HAS COMPETITIVE STUDENTS, THE LIFE YOU ARE ABOUT TO LEAD IS UNCERTAIN, AND THERE'S NO WAY OUT."

Just like a Starbucks cup.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This isn’t really about work ethic. It’s more like the Lake Wobegon problem, where everyone is a little above average.

Work ethic suggests that if you are capable and work hard, you will succeed. This would happen if grading was based on mastery of specific skills. Then, everyone could keep their scholarships. But that’s not how law school grading works; grading is based on a curve. Thus, even if every student was brilliant and spent 100% of their time working, a portion of them would still fail to keep the scholarship. The solution is to limit the percentage of scholarships given to less than the above-the-curve percentage required by the school. Until schools do that, the scholarships are a ponsi scheme.