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.

The UNTD-COL Difference

This week, Hon. Royal Furgeson announced that he will retire from his position as Dean of the UNT-Dallas College of Law at the end of June 2018. The only dean our school has known in its short history, Dean Furgeson worked tirelessly to ensure its launch went as smoothly as possible, including navigating the rough-waters of the ABA accreditation process.

In June, the ABA granted UNTDCOL’s provisional accreditation, but Dean Furgeson continued his work. I have no doubt his work will continue well past his retirement and I would just like to say, “thank you.”

You see, Dean Furgerson reads this blog.

At least occasionally.

Ok, at least once.

How do I know?

He emailed me to thank me for a post I wrote right before I started my 1L year. Just weeks before class started, an advisory committee recommended that the ABA not grant our school accreditation. Dean Furgeson held a “town hall” meeting for all students where he explained the committee’s decision and laid out the school’s plan. Dean Furgeson’s courage and conviction convinced me that sticking with this school that believed in me was the right choice.

Dean Furgeson then thanked me for my words, because that is the type of Dean and person he is. He legitimately cares about his students and staff members and takes the time to get to know each and everyone of us. I feel confident in saying that not all law school deans function this way.

We will miss your leadership Dean Furgeson and while no one can replace you, we know that you will help to ensure that the next Dean of UNTDCOL will continue to carry on your work.

 

Why Does Everything Seem So Disorganized?

After one week, the toughest part about law school is figuring out what is due and when.

What’s that?

Your law school only gave a final and no other graded material?

Well, UNT-Dallas College of Law is different in a lot of ways, including that every class has multiple graded assignments, including quizzes, mid-terms, and finals.

I feel like every syllabus has been updated at least once since the official start of class on Monday, sometimes without the professor informing us of the changes.

The more I think about it, I think this might be intentional. In the “real world,” each court and judge have their own specific rules. Additionally, every case has some form of docket control order. An attorney is responsible for knowing all the rules for a specific judge and jurisdiction. They are also responsible adhering to orders entered that govern discovery, motion practice, etc.

I think our professors want to make sure we learn to read policies and procedures very carefully before sending us out to practice law. No hand holding here!

On UNT Accreditation

If you follow this link, it should pull up a PDF copy of an article that appears on The Texas Lawbook’s website. I wanted to link directly to the website, but could not get it to link properly. I think this might be the most enlightening piece I have read on the accreditation issue to date.

Interestingly enough, both Emmanuel Obi and Rocio Cristina Garcia both spoke to our 1L class at a Dallas Bar Association event last Thursday night. I think I speak for the entire UNT-Dallas College of Law when I say that we appreciate their support.

I especially like Ms. Garcia’s comment that the only thing a high LSAT score proves is that a student had the resources for a prep course.

Also, this is the only piece outside of my own that really tackles the battle between the ABA and the Department of Education.

Why I Am Not Afraid to Attend UNT-Dallas College of Law During Its Accreditation Process


By now, the news is out there that UNT-Dallas College of Law (“UNTDCOL”) has hit a bump in the accreditation process. I begin my 1L journey at UNTDCOL on Saturday and I have full confidence the school will secure accreditation during my matriculation.  UNTDCOL has been completely transparent with its students throughout the accreditation process and in a meeting in front of the student body on August 5, 2016, they assured all students that they would take any steps necessary to conform to the ABA’s stringent admission standards to achieve accreditation.

Compare this to the lack of transparency exhibited by SMU, a school that tries hard to present itself as a top tier law school, when they decided to suspend their part-time/evening law school program. As an applicant to the SMU evening program, I found out of their decision to suspend the program through an article on Texas Lawyer. About a month later, I received an email from SMU explaining their decision to suspend the part-time program and offering a position on the “wait list” for their full-time program.

But I digress, this post is not about SMU, but rather UNTDCOL.

Let us consider the facts:

  • On July 11, 2016 the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar’s (‘reporting committee”) sent a letter to UNTDCOL informing the school that they were recommending that the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar of the American Bar Association (“the accrediting committee”) not grant UNTDCOL accreditation at this time.
  • The reporting committee found that the curriculum and faculty at UNTDCOL were satisfactory, but suggested that the school admissions criteria, specifically as it relates to LSAT scoring, put the school at risk of admitting a high number of students unable to pass the bar.
  • The reporting committee’s recommendation is non-binding, meaning the ABA could choose to not accept the reporting committee’s recommendation and grant UNTDCOL accreditation.
  • UNTDCOL was originally scheduled to appear before the accrediting committee on August 5, 2016 to receive its decision, but since the reporting committee did not send their letter until July 11, 2016, UNTDCOL would not have had their allotted 30 days to respond, so the accrediting committee moved UNTDCOL’s hearing to their next scheduled meeting in October 2016.
  • UNTDCOL is actively preparing a response to the reporting committee’s assertion that it’s admission standards could potentially admit a high number of students unable to pass the bar.

This entire process raises a number of questions.

Is there any correlation between LSAT scores and bar passages rates?

There have been no peer studied reviews conducted that show there is any correlation between LSAT scores and bar passage rates. The cynic in me wants to say that the only thing a high LSAT scores proves is that you had the resources to take a prep course, but I know that the LSAT has been proven to be an effective indicator of success for the first year of law school, but that’s completely different than being an effective indicator of bar success.

Conservative columnist Megan McArdle penned a syndicated piece in which she argues in favor of the ABA of revoking accreditation for law schools that fail to prepare its students to pass the bar exam. She stops short of telling us what she thinks an acceptable passage rate for a school would be, but says  “a large majority of them.”

Let’s take a look at the bar passage rate for the nine  law schools in Texas currently accredited by the ABA. As you can see in the chart below, the University of Texas boasts the highest median LSAT score of any accredited law school in the state, yet the bar passage rate for its students over the past three years has been in the bottom third. Meanwhile, Texas A&M University School of Law, whose median LSAT score of 156 ranks right in the middle of the nine accredited Texas law schools, has the second highest bar passage rate over the same amount of time.

TX Law Schools

Why then  is the ABA taking such a hard stand against UNTDCOL’s admission standards?

It seems that UNTDCOL might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity threatened to take away accreditation powers from the ABA.This explains why the ABA would be reluctant to simply rubber stamp UNTDCOL’s accreditation, but the facts show UNTDCOL has earned its accreditation, in spite of possibly admitting some students with less than stellar LSAT scores.

What remains a bigger is mystery is why conservatives like McArdle are all of a sudden seeking to embolden the powers of the Department of Education. Strange bedfellows for sure, but I think Dallas City Councilman, Philip Kingston, might be on to something. In a responding to the July 11 letter, Kingston wrote:

 The practice of law in America, especially civil law, has become exclusively the province of corporations and the extremely rich. It’s just flat too expensive. When an entire industry fails to offer even the most basic service to the vast majority of our citizens, that’s a system failure. The legal education system has been entirely complicit in this failure. The admissions criteria for law students are very high, and the cost of tuition is stratospheric. Students exit with few choices other than to seek the maximum hourly rate they can possibly earn. The UNT model seeks to ameliorate this system failure at least slightly.

Kingston’s argument makes sense. In her article, McArdle does goes after trial lawyers like John Edwards.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked in the legal field for seventeen years, the bigger concern is students graduating from law school with no real world legal experience. Sure, they can wax eloquently about legal theory, but they have no idea how real world litigation works. I have seen it firsthand in young associates I have worked with and in negotiating settlement agreements with defense attorneys on my own.

In later posts, I will discuss how I have been able to collect on violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), on my own without any outside legal counsel, by simply writing a letter and making a phone call. Most companies dump consumer litigation in the laps of young attorneys fresh out of law school. Not only do these young attorneys not fully understand the TCPA, but they also haven’t yet mastered the art of negotiating.

I am not the only one who feels this way. 3Ls and young associates alike realize that most law schools rob them of experiential learning opportunities. UNTDCOL is well ahead of the game in this regard and has placed a premium on experiential learning opportunities.

By the time I graduate in 2020, I predict UNTDCOL will have earned its accreditation from either the ABA or Department of Education, that UNTDCOL graduates will be passing the bar at a 70% rate, and that we will come out with more experience and be better prepared to jump into a legal career. For those reasons, I am not afraid to attend UNTDCOL while it waits to earn its accreditation.