Education panel says character matters more than scores

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The 7th Circuit Bar Association annual meeting and judicial conference started its first round of discussions by talking about a continuing source of anxiety in the legal profession – law school.

A three-person panel opened with a discussion Monday morning on the demands of legal market, the skills that attorneys need to best serve their clients and whether the model of legal education needs to change. Pointing to studies from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and the Law School Admission Council, the panel dismantled some common conceptions among the practicing bar.

Attorneys and judges of the 7th Circuit are in Indianapolis for the meeting and conference, which began Sunday and concludes Tuesday. The three-day event includes panel discussions on a variety of topics and a dinner Monday evening featuring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Holocaust Survivor Eva Mozes Kor.

Opening the plenary session was “The Future of Law School,” which included the panel of Rebecca Love Kourlis, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System; Randall Shepard, retired chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court; and William Henderson, Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor and co-found of Lawyer Metrics.

The IAALS research shows that law firms are believed to want graduates to emerge from law school practice ready. However, the reality is that the firms expect new lawyers will have to learn on the job but the firms want these new arrivals to have a blend of legal skills, professional competency and character traits like a strong work ethic, common sense and resilience.

Similarly, the 2008 LSAC study faults the heavy reliance on LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages. The best predictor of lawyer effectiveness are personality traits like emotional stability, self-control, conscientiousness and ambition.

During the question-and-answer portion of the discussion, Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana asked Henderson whether law schools are looking more at an applicant’s personal makeup when deciding whom to enroll.

Henderson cited the familiar refrain from law schools that they are constrained by the U.S. News & World Report rankings. This annual survey rates the quality of law schools, in part, by the average GPA and LSAT scores of the students. Flouting that criteria comes with the potential price, Henderson said, of sinking a school’s position on the rankings and raising consternation among the alumni.

Kourlis disagreed, saying blaming U.S. News was too easy. The profession, she said, can make changes that would incentivize law schools to produce a different kind of attorney and, possibly, make changes to the bar exam.

She also noted the irony in legal education. Some of the law schools that are offering the most innovative curriculum, in particular courses designed to build writing skills, are generally in the bottom quartile and struggling for market share.    


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  1. File under the Sociology of Hoosier Discipline ... “We will be answering the complaint in due course and defending against the commission’s allegations,” said Indianapolis attorney Don Lundberg, who’s representing Hudson in her disciplinary case. FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW ... Lundberg ran the statist attorney disciplinary machinery in Indy for decades, and is now the "go to guy" for those who can afford him .... the ultimate insider for the well-to-do and/or connected who find themselves in the crosshairs. It would appear that this former prosecutor knows how the game is played in Circle City ... and is sacrificing accordingly. See more on that here ... Legal sociologists could have a field day here ... I wonder why such things are never studied? Is a sacrifice to the well connected former regulators a de facto bribe? Such questions, if probed, could bring about a more just world, a more equal playing field, less Stalinist governance. All of the things that our preambles tell us to value could be advanced if only sunshine reached into such dark worlds. As a great jurist once wrote: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Other People's Money—and How Bankers Use It (1914). Ah, but I am certifiable, according to the Indiana authorities, according to the ISC it can be read, for believing such trite things and for advancing such unwanted thoughts. As a great albeit fictional and broken resistance leaders once wrote: "I am the dead." Winston Smith Let us all be dead to the idea of maintaining a patently unjust legal order.

  2. The Department of Education still has over $100 million of ITT Education Services money in the form of $100+ million Letters of Credit. That money was supposed to be used by The DOE to help students. The DOE did nothing to help students. The DOE essentially stole the money from ITT Tech and still has the money. The trustee should be going after the DOE to get the money back for people who are owed that money, including shareholders.

  3. Do you know who the sponsor of the last-minute amendment was?

  4. Law firms of over 50 don't deliver good value, thats what this survey really tells you. Anybody that has seen what they bill for compared to what they deliver knows that already, however.

  5. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!