Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: The Curve

My second column for BLS Advocate has not yet been posted, so instead I offer you this preview, because I am too anxious to post. It still breaks the limit by about 100 words, but I think it's closer to appropriate. Be sure to check out the next column, which will be on the topic of 1Ls considering dropping out.

As I learned from my column last week, I am limited to 750 words on BLS Advocate so the previously-cited language about the elements of Intentional/Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, which I intended to include in every column, will be referred to via re-direction to that article. It is perhaps worth noting that I did not receive “a lot of hate mail” but I did receive a note of concern for my well-being, and a somewhat transcendent comment on my blog. “Thomas Cooley” obviously missed my point. This is not a column about academic success – or rather, that was not a column about academic success. This one is.

For people like “Cooley” that think top 55% at BLS is mediocre, I wish I could challenge them to come into one of our classes and see what they are up against. BLS, like so many schools beneath the top 50 before them, secures the seats in their class by offering merit-based scholarships. That many of these students (myself being one) may lose a significant amount of money by failing to finish in the top 40% is of vague concern to the prospective student. After all, I had the option of going to Loyola Law School, with a scholarship that was some $12,000 higher, but with the requirement of staying in the top 33%. It was a very tough choice between the two—and to this day I’m not sure I made the right one, because who knows, circumstances being different in L.A., I might have done very well during my first year—but ultimately LLS and BLS are practically identical twins on opposite coasts. But this isn’t an article comparing the two – it’s about The Curve.

It is worth noting, however, that Loyola Law School raised all of its students’ GPAs by .3333 starting in the Fall semester of 2010. BLS then did this after Fall semester grades come out for 2010. Loyola said it was done as an indication that their students are so strong and that they deserve a better reflection of that in their GPA. BLS said something to similar effect – but really, this has no effect.

The result of raising the GPA comes with the equal result of raising the cut-off point for scholarships. Recently the 2L class ranks were re-calculated because the transfers had not been included. I moved up 1%. It’s only 1%, but now I’m only 4% away from moving into the next level, which will recover 80% of my scholarship. I need to do the math for that today, to determine what grades I need to get.

I go back to my challenge to “Cooley” and want to mention my friend that transferred to Harvard Law School. First, she was not the only one to transfer to Harvard, nor was she the only one to transfer into a truly prestigious school. Second, at her going away party, I told her, “I am going to friend you on Facebook and I am going to ask you to compare Harvard and BLS after you get your grades. How much harder was Harvard than BLS?”

Her response? None. (Reliability will be the topic of column #4, but if she eventually responds, I will be sure to post a comment to summarize her experience.)

To be sure, The Curve is an instrument by which the institution of law school negligently inflicts emotional distress upon the student. Some schools, such as UC-Berkeley Boalt Hall, only use a system of passes and high passes. I believe there is another law school that has almost done away with grades entirely. A new school like UC-Irvine keeps its class super-small and its student-faculty ratio super-low (the class of 2013 has 83 students; the school employs 35 faculty members). UC-Irvine is the only law school that never sent me a rejection or acceptance letter. I am sure it would have been a rejection. As far as I can tell, they also use The Curve, and their median requirement for each 1st year class is a B+. BLS does not state this outright, but is probably close to the same.

In summary, The Curve is an outdated model that keeps the top 10% going into places like Skadden. The top 10% may be qualified to work at Skadden, but so may someone in the top 65%. The latter person may be the better investment, for it is not always true that the best students make the best attorneys (in the same way that the LSAT is not the most reliable indicator of first year success). Maybe Skadden et. al. should think about offering “bargain basement” salaries of $90,000 a year to non-OCI applicants. I’d take it.

Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He has written two novels, a book of short stories, and a memoir of his 10-month-stint in L.A. None of his creative writings have ever been published in print form. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He ranks in the upper 54% of his class. You may find his blog by visiting flyinghouses.blogspot.com. It consists primarily of book reviews, a dozen or so film and music reviews, a few pieces of sports journalism, and a light smattering of “special comments” about the study of law in 2010-2012.

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