Archive for "law school transparency"
- The Votes Are In! Colin Hedrick, ’13, Inducted as New SBA Prez.
- It’s Award Season! Winners of the Annual “Best of BLS” Awards Include Ferris Kim (Student Leader) and Frederic Bloom (Professor). SBA President’s Awards Go to OutLaws (Student Group), and The BLS Advocate (Community Service).
- Students Launch Practicum, Online Companion to BLS Scholarly Journals. blspracticum.org
- BLS Community Mourns the Loss of an Adored Professor, Michael Madow.
- Community Group Brings City to Court Over Leaky Light Fixtures in Schools. NY1
- Appeal Filed in NYLS Suit Dismissal. Law360
- Chief Judge Lippman Announces New 50-hour Pro Bono Requirement for Bar Admission in NY, Starting in 2013. NYLJ
Fewer than a dozen students gathered on Monday, April 2nd to speak with the American Bar Association committee visiting BLS last week for its sabbatical observation of the law school. These visits occur every seven years at ABA-accredited schools, and primarily entail inspections to see whether the school is meeting ABA standards on everything from admissions to faculty tenure requirements.
The ABA’s informal student session was loosely formatted as a Q&A, and was somewhat unusually located in a mostly empty 7th floor Moot Court room. No members of the BLS staff, administration or faculty were present during the hour-long session.
The volunteer committee members – all male, mostly lawyers, but at least one a legal recruiter – seemed genuinely invested in the “fact-finding mission” that brought them to BLS. The members explained that after observing classes, meeting faculty, and speaking casually to students they encountered throughout the week, the committee would draw up a report and present it to the ABA’s accreditation team.
As one committee member poetically described the process, he and his team would perform the cholesterol check and the ABA would then prescribe BLS’s diet via an “action letter,” most likely telling the school to lose a few pounds here and there. Even one hundred errors, he said, would not mean that the school is necessarily in danger of losing its accreditation.
Topics covered at the session included career services, information technology, library services, admissions, the registrar’s office, and class size.
Perhaps the most interesting question the committee posed to students was its last: if you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the school, what would it be? Students responded with answers ranging from “transparency” to “the curve.”
One committee member noted in response to a student comment about low attendance at the session that generally, “the smaller the number of students in the room, the happier students are.”
TILSEC Response to Author(s) of BLS Advocate:
We are writing in response to the November 2, 2011 editorial entitled “Law Students to the ABA: Wake Up, Get Off the Sidelines” posted by BLS Advocate.
As members of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (“ABA YLD”), we appreciate your concerns regarding the ABA’s involvement in encouraging law schools to report accurate law school graduate employment data. The ABA is aware of this issue and has taken several measures to increase the transparency and availability of this important information.
At the August 2011 ABA Annual Meeting, the ABA unanimously passed Resolution 111B. This Resolution calls upon all ABA-Approved Law Schools to report detailed employment data, including specifying whether their graduates’ employment is part-time or full-time, in the public or private sector, and whether the employment is in a position for which a JD is required. Resolution 111B also urges the ABA-Approved Law Schools to publish the median salaries for their graduates. To ensure that prospective students can make informed decisions about their prospective law school education, Resolution 111B calls upon the Law Schools to make this information readily available on their websites, and to include this information in their catalogues and letters of acceptance.
Further, the ABA YLD, which was the primary sponsor of Resolution 111B established the Truth in Law School Education Committee (“TILSEC”) to ensure that the ABA YLD maintains an active role in this vital issue. The principal charge of TILSEC is to make certain that ABA-Approved Law Schools fulfill their obligation to report accurate employment data. TILSEC is comprised of leaders within the YLD and ABA Law Student Division, and will consistently advocate for the interests of all prospective law school students.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions as we seek to make meaningful improvements on this issue.
In the middle of a steamy New Orleans summer, Brooklyn Law School student Dwayne Thomas, ’13, traveled Big Easy streets on a mission. He needed to track down a set of court documents that might prove one unfortunate Louisiana inmate not guilty.
“My first thought coming into law school was to get people out [of jail] who were wrongfully convicted,” said Thomas. His sleuthing brought him to a local courthouse, where he finally obtained a set of old documents that may turn the case around.
When he decided to go to law school, Thomas didn’t know for sure whether he wanted to go into public interest law. But having grown up in the projects of Jamaica, Queens, he knew that an education in law could equip him with the tools needed to help reverse the high incarceration rate his friends faced growing up. That thought led him to the Innocence Project New Orleans, a non-profit that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners in the deep South.
This summer, Thomas was one of more than 450 students who participated in the BLS Public Service Grant program, which for the past decade has provided students with a stipend of up to $5000 for summer work in the public sector — either in government, with a judge’s chambers, or at a not-for-profit organization.
Florence Attino, Associate Director of Financial Aid, likened the program to a “mini corporation” due to the sheer number of students enrolled, and all the paperwork it entails. The program has doubled in size in the past six years, she said, due in large part to the drying up of private sector jobs.
“I don’t see it slowing down,” she said.
Michael Shearman, ’13, spent his summer working at the Securities Exchange Commission in Washington, DC, with the aid of a Public Service Grant. At the SEC, Shearman worked on international bribery cases as part of the agency’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act team. He’s also played a part in the investigation into the Rupert Murdoch-News of the World phone hacking scandal, as well as delving into other high profile projects.
“It was a huge factor,” Shearman said of the grant’s impact on his decision to work at the SEC.
Two other BLS students, Jared Steller and Neerav Shah, were also SEC interns this summer–no secret, since they were featured in the New York Times Dealbook blog in August, speaking about their internships. In mentioning his stipend to the Times, Shah noted that “[l]aw schools are making a real push to support public service.”
But many schools do not actually provide their students with the same level of public interest funding as BLS. Attino noted that the program is unique to BLS because, as a stand-alone law school, the institution does not have to share its federal funding with unrelated graduate and undergraduate programs, as others do.
And BLS students do not take the program for granted – especially those who had already lined up summer work in reliance on the grant when they received an emailed memo on March 1st, indicating that their summer’s public interest funding would be capped at $3000 instead of $5000 for the summer.
The grants are funded in part by federal work-study money, and the school has customarily matched those funds to reach the $5000 per student cap. According to the March 1 memo, the cut resulted from a decrease in federal funding.
Kristie LaSalle, ‘12, a member of the newly founded BLS Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (ATA), helped form the BLS ATA with several other like-minded students shortly after the announcement of the public service grant reduction. According to a statement LaSalle issued to the Advocate on behalf of the group, “[s]tudents met, town-hall style, mere days after the announcement of the funding cuts.”
The ATA explained that this “student outcry” over the funding cuts “arose not only out of concern for students’ own ability to afford the cost of living over the summer, but also out of a recognition that the decision reflected a marked departure from the school’s prior commitment to public interest and public service, a cornerstone of the school’s mission and a devotion for which it has gained much respect in the broader legal community.”
Fortunately for 2011 grant recipients, the school decided to restore funding to its original level, but Interim Dean Michael Gerber made it clear that next summer’s public interest job seekers will likely feel the impact. In an email to the BLS community announcing that grants would be restored to the original level, he wrote:
“This decision…does not come without cost. We will maintain the grant amount by using our entire FY 2012 federal work-study grant in the summer of 2011, as well as expending substantial additional Brooklyn Law School funds.
“While we will tirelessly continue to pursue other sources of funding for 2012, it is likely that reductions in federal support will continue. As a result, it is difficult to predict what the structure of the program for summer 2012 will be, although it is certain to be substantially restructured and grants will almost certainly be reduced.”
According to the new BLS development director, Jean Smith, the school has not yet found a donor to endow the public service grant program.
However, “whenever we reach out to people for fundraising purposes our primary push is financial support for our students,” Smith said by email.
For those still concerned about the issue of transparency within the BLS administration, LaSalle says that the BLS ATA plans to act as a liaison between students and the administration, “not only for the public service grant issue, but for many issues that deeply impact students’ lives and experiences at BLS.”
Betsy Kane, director of public service programs, suggests that students prepare for the upcoming summer by seeking other sources of funding for public interest work, including the Sparer or BLSPI fellowships, and non-BLS affiliated grants such as the Equal Justice Works stipend, the Charles H. Revson Law Students Public Interest Fellowship, or the Peggy Browning labor grant.
Both Thomas and Shearman admitted that they may not continue public interest work for their entire legal careers, but they are grateful for the opportunities they had this summer.
“Before you go to law school you have no idea what being a lawyer is like,” said Thomas. “[Now] I have a better idea of what I want to do when I get out.”