Law School Admissions News Roundup

  • Indianapolis Law School Changes Name with Large Donation- As reported by The National Law Journal, the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis has changed its name to Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Robert McKinney, “attorney and civic leader,” has made a donation of $24 million, and “matching funds provided by the university brought the total gift to $31.5 million,” which has made it the largest gift in the school’s history. The money will go toward creating McKinney Family Scholarships and setting up five endowed chairs. One catch, however, is a requirement made by McKinney that the school will become one of the top 30 law schools in the U.S. The school is currently ranked 79 by U.S. News.
  • Law School Debt and the Government- We’ve discussed the inordinate amounts of debt overwhelming law students, but how does the federal government play into all of this? As the ABA Journal observes, “direct federal loans have become the lifeblood of graduate education, and they shelter law schools financially from the structural changes affecting the profession.” But can it continue this way? Not necessarily—with the new Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, long-term, “if a large portion of students don’t repay their full loans, the perceived benefits of interest income on direct federal student loans will become an enormous financial liability.” The Education Department does not generally do a background check on who it lends to—whether the student will earn a high-enough income to repay the loan doesn’t really come into play. And many law grads will now be taking advantage of the income-based repayment plan, which will ultimately “reduce the federal funds available for future student loans” due to their unpaid loan balances. It seems that the government’s naïve optimism—especially that higher education leads to higher income—is just as dangerous, if not more so, as that of future and current law students. For, “unless the government’s actuarial assumptions on student loan repayments turn out to be correct, federal funding of higher education is on a collision course with the federal deficit.”
  • Emory Launches Juris Master Degree Program- Emory University School of Law will debut a year-long juris master degree program as an introduction to the law geared toward undergrads, grad students, and professionals, The National Law Journal reports. Emory aims to have a larger program than what exists at other schools, including Pepperdine and Yale. While the inaugural class will have about 10 to 15 students next year, over time it could expand to close to 50. Professionals in business, technology, health care, and engineering may find interest in the program, which plans to collaborate with other universities and grad schools.
  • Public Interest Summer Fellowships May Be More Than Meets the Eye- Those law students interested in summer fellowships in public interest had better read the fine print. As reported by U.S. News, although these internships come with stipends—some more substantial than others—many also include additional requirements. Some schools expect the students to complete some campus volunteer work, which can often involve fundraising. While this added expectation may frustrate some students, especially stressed 1Ls, others are grateful for the stipend and don’t really mind the extra work. Of course, this tactic can also be viewed as “law schools exploiting student labor,” especially when the potential for a full-time public interest position is minimal these days. Bottom line: If you want a public interest summer fellowship, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
  • Many Lawyers Seeking Out Alternative Careers- According to the NALP employment report, only 68.4 percent of the Class of 2010 have jobs in which passing the bar is necessary—“the lowest percentage since NALP start[ed] collecting these statistics,” the National Jurist reports. Are law grads actively seeking out work in other fields of their own volition, or is this just an outcome of the recession? Perhaps both, since even before the economic downturn many law grads chose jobs in which a J.D. was an asset, but not a requirement. If you are considering alternative legal careers, Jurist recommends “reading market reports and statistics, to see what other fields are currently showing growth,” since you’ll do better choosing a growing field. Also consider any transitional skills you gained from your legal education that could serve you in other careers, such as negotiation skills or research and writing skills.
  • How to Graduate with Debt and be Financially Viable- A J.D. does not necessarily lead to economic security—but in what circumstances does it? Jim Chen, Dean at University of Louisville School of Law, crunched the numbers using “qualification for a home loan while paying off student debt as a measure of whether a legal education makes economic sense,” according to The National Law Journal. Chen discovered that grads need to earn three times their law school tuition annually to attain “adequate financial viability.” In order to achieve a “good level,” they must earn six times their tuition. This calculation is based on the assumption that students borrow the amount for their whole tuition and nothing else. Those who borrow less would not need to earn as much. Yet, as Above the Law points out, many people work on paying their educational debt before buying a home: “If you dedicate yourself to paying down your debt, maybe you can be in a position to own a home when you are 10 or 15 years out of law school, without having to have a partner’s salary.” Regardless, these results are worth considering, conveying that a law career can be a risky investment and not necessarily a sure thing, as many believe.

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