R-E-S-P-E-C-T

On Wednesday night, a student expressed some concerns about the subjective nature of one our courses and how it could hurt his GPA. UNTDCOL does not rank students, but I know this particular student to be one of the top students in our class. The adjunct professor leading this particular session, but not the professor for the actual class, reminded us to keep grades in perspective. He used himself as an example and admitted to making three—that’s 3—C’s in law school. He still managed to land a good gig at a big time law firm.

It’s what the adjunct said next that really stuck with me.

He mentioned that in talking to people in the Dallas legal community, attorneys fell into two categories when it comes to UNTDCOL—either they would never hire anyone from our school (including the hiring manager at the adjunct’s firm) or they were completely supportive of our mission and want to ensure it succeeds, presumably by hiring qualified candidates from our institution.

This caused some alarm among my classmates. Many thought securing ABA accreditation would be enough to convince the local legal community of our legitimacy, but the fact this adjunct’s firm would not hire a UNTDCOL graduate seemed to rekindle that anxiety.

There is a lot to unpack here and I do not claim to be an expert on law school recruiting, but I have worked in this industry for the past eighteen years, so I think I can provide some insight and pull back the curtain just a little bit.

First, I accept that “big law” firms will not hire UNTDCOL students. I worked for a “big law” firm that was hesitant to hire attorneys from any Texas law school not located in Austin. “Big law” wants to know who you know. Put another way, what connections did you develop in law school that either (1) produced an alumni-based advocate for you from their partnership or (2) produced potential business leads.

The inaugural graduating class of UNTDCOL has yet to receive their bar scores, so the total number of law firms with partners from our school stands at 0. Likewise, since we just graduated our first class in June, there are not UNTDCOL-trained attorneys serving as GCs for any corporations.

Second, I get that some firms want to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to our school. The bar results released in November will say a lot, but the results for the next three or four bar exams will say even more. If UNTDCOL can, as I suggested in an earlier post, graduate classes with a 70-75% bar passage rate, firms will begin to take note and recognize the legitimacy of our mission.

This, of course, does not excuse the outright dismissal of our school by some in the legal industry. No doubt the legal industry has a few pretentious practitioners who value the degree-granting institution over the person on the diploma. Take for example the crowd in our field who felt Harriet Miers was unqualified for the Supreme Court because of her SMU education.

Indeed, there are Dallas attorneys who dismiss us.  Like the attorney who asked me, “when are you going to take a real law school exam,” after I explained to him I was studying for midterms. Apparently, this attorney felt that a “real law school exam” could only be a one question essay administered at the end of a semester.

I decided to tune out the negativity and focus on what I can control and what matters.

We attend an ABA-accredited law school and, upon graduating, we are entitled to the same rights and privileges as graduates of every other ABA-accredited law school.

Just like a Harvard grad, we earn the privilege of practicing law by sitting for and passing the bar exam.

Just like a Stanford grad, we earn our client’s business by providing the best legal advocacy possible.

Just like a Texas grad, we do so ethically and responsibly.

Over time, our work will speak for itself.

Even then, there will be those who refuse to listen, but it’s nothing a few courtroom victories can’t help but fix.

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