Bar Exam Hypotheticals: Law School False Pretenses

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29th, 2010 by bl1y

In lieu of posting some later afternoon news (because all anyone in the legal blogosphere is talking about is The Kagan, and I really don’t care unless she says something balls stupid), here’s a bar review hypothetical.  But first, some background:

According to my Kaplan Bar Review Flashcards:

The crime of false pretenses consists of (1) a false representation of (2) a present or past material fact by the defendant (3) that causes the victim to pass title to his property (4) to the defendant (5) who knows his representation to be false (6) and intends thereby to defraud the victim.

Example: A offered to sell B a watch for $50, claiming it is worth $100.  If A knows it is actually worth only $50 and accepts B’s payment of $50, A has committed false pretenses.

We will assume that Kaplan has the law correct (and this is the MBE, not state specific rules).  In the example it is important to note that A’s valuation was not mere puffery.  Stating an actual value is a material fact, whereas if A had only said “You’re getting a great deal at $50″ this would be puffery, and no false pretenses would have occurred.

Also, keep in mind that handing over money counts for passing title, even though it’s not what you normally think of with that phrase.

Discuss whether any of the following four scenarios gives rise to liability for false pretenses:

(1) Amy, a law school admissions officer tells admitted (but not yet enrolled) students about the value of a law degree.  Amy states that a law degree offers career stability, as lawyers are always in demand, and says a law degree is very flexible, opening doors in all fields from staring in Monty Python films to being President of the United States.

(2)(a) Baker School of Law represents to admitted students that 97% of its students are employed within 9 months of graduation.  10% of those students are employed at the law school after failing to find jobs elsewhere.  Another 10% are working as solo practitioners.  And, a final 10% of those students are at jobs they have only because the school is subsidizing their salaries.

(2)(b) Baker School of Law represents to admitted students that 97% of its students are employed within 9 months of graduation.  However, not all students respond to the school’s survey.  While 97% of respondents were employed, only half of the students responded.  Assume unemployed students are less likely to respond to the survey than employed students.

(3) Charles, the Director of Baker School of Law’s Legal Writing and Research Program writes an article published in the North Davey State University Journal of Legal Education, a journal typically read by other professors, rather than prospective law students, though available to the public at large.  The article claims that 1L students in the Baker Legal Writing and Research Program undergo a “painstaking” critique of each of their exercises.  The largest exercise of the year is an oral argument, after which the students receive some feedback from their mock judge (a volunteer not associated with the school), and no feedback from their professor (who was not even present for the argument).

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In Defense of the LSAT

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7th, 2010 by bl1y

You don’t have to poke around sites that talk about law school very long to hear complaints about the LSAT.  They’re mostly some variation on the theme that the LSAT isn’t great at predicting law school performance, or how someone will ultimately perform as a lawyer.  Then, they follow up with some anecdotal evidence, acting as though it completely invalidates the test.

First, let me couch all this by saying that the LSAT should be understood as being merely probabilistic in regards to law school/practice performance.  It doesn’t say that someone with a 170 will do better than someone with a 160, but rather that they are more likely to do better.  It’s an aptitude test and gives schools an idea on the likelihood that you will perform well.

Second, let me also remind you that there is no perfect test.  If you wanted an incredibly predictive test, you’d take law school applicants and put them into a firm’s summer associate program and let them try their hand at doing real life legal work.  This would of course be incredibly expensive, time consuming, and very difficult to evaluate.

Schools are interested in getting students with a high chance of meeting their standards, and they need a test that conveys that sort of information in an efficient way.  So, let’s look at what exactly the LSAT tests.  I think they may have changed the names of the sections recently, but the questions are Logical Reasoning (50%), Reading Comprehension (26%) and Logic Games (24%).

Reading comprehension is a pretty basic skill for a lawyer to have.  So is logical reasoning.  People sometimes think the logic games are completely disconnected from the law school experience, but they’re not.  The logic games are close to pure logic problems and are a test of your deductive skills.  The section called Logical Reasoning is not really logical reasoning, but rather a blend of logic and reading comprehension.

The fact that the LSAT tests the very types of intelligence lawyers rely on is not the real reason it’s a good test for law schools to use.  The LSAT tests skills, not knowledge.  Skills must be developed over time through practice and self-analysis.  So, for the vast majority of the population, performing well on the LSAT is an indication of your ability to do tedious, boring tasks for long periods of time.

Spending your time doing tedious, boring shit, shit that no one’s really that interested in?  That’s exactly what you’ll be experiencing in law school and in the legal profession.  If you can’t sit down and hone your LSAT skills, what makes you think you’re going to be able to sit down and analyze case law for hours on end, or memorize civil procedure rules?

Of course, doing well on the LSAT doesn’t mean you have a great work ethic.  For instance, I majored in analytical philosophy, so I had basically two years of very relevant training before I took the LSAT.  Also, in my elementary school’s gifted program we routinely did logic games style puzzles.  Having trouble with the games?  Then you’re dumber than a bunch of 10 year old redneck kids.

So, while a good score on the LSAT doesn’t mean you’ll be a good student or a good worker, a bad score does mean you’ll be a bad student and a bad worker.  If you couldn’t follow that bit of logic there, I suggest you give up on the LSAT right now.

Another common complaint about the LSAT is from the people who say they “don’t test well.”  This always comes from the people with really high GPAs and terrible LSAT scores.  These people get mismatched numbers for one of two reasons:

1. They can’t handle stress.  The LSAT tests, among other things, your ability to perform under pressure.  If you choke when things get tough, you’re going to bomb your law school exams, fail the bar, and be a terrible lawyer.  Law school and practice is full of stress.  If you want an easy job, go be a professor.

2. They have bullshit majors.  Political science, English, Gender studies, that sort of thing.  Basically all liberal arts.  These are majors where all you really need to get a good GPA is the ability to memorize a small number of facts and then bullshit on essays.  When all you deal with are fuzzy ideas of course you’re going to get your ass kicked by a test that wants you to do cold, hard logic where there is exactly one right answer that is necessarily true based on the information you have.  If math and science kids were doing poorly on the LSAT, we’d know there was a legit problem, but they don’t; they do the best.

Lastly, I’ve heard complaints that it’s possible to “game” the LSAT.  There is in fact one way to game the LSAT.  In logical reasoning sections there is a fairly fixed pattern in the questions.  The difficulty increases as the section goes on, but with two exceptions.  Around questions 3-5 there will be one hard question.  Getting hung up on it will cost you time and points, it’s often best to skip it and come back to it later after you’ve done the other easy questions.  Also, at the end there are 3-4 medium difficulty questions.  Some people never get to them because they get stuck on the very hard questions.  People in the know skip ahead and do them, then tackle the really tough questions.

That’s it.  It can make a difference of a couple points in your raw score, but “gaming” the LSAT won’t take you from a 155 to a 165.  And, for the people scoring over 170, these tricks are useless because even the difficult questions are only moderately challenging.  We finish with plenty of time left.

Some people might think doing the reading comprehension and logic game questions out of order is also gaming the LSAT, but it’s not.  It’s just common sense to examine the reading samples/logic games and see which looks like it’s the easy points and do that first, saving the toughest questions for last.  If you can’t figure that out, you shouldn’t be a lawyer.

If someone can come up with a better idea for a test than the LSAT, I’d love to hear it.  But either way, I think the LSAT is a damn solid test.  And, so do law schools.  They could choose to ignore it if they wanted, but they don’t, because they know it’s actually quite useful.

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The Dark Side of Merit Pay

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11th, 2010 by bl1y

UCLA recently held a debate between eidtor in chief and former editor in chief, Elie Mystal and David Lat. The topic of the debate was whether firms should stick with lock-step promotions or switch to merit based compensation, and part of the debate, as reported on Ms. JD, was that minority and women associates may end up on the losing end of a merit based system. The reason? Old white men with their old white man prejudices will rate women and minorities lower and thus compensate them less.

While I agree that merit based compensation could lead to women and minorities earning less, there is a less politically correct explanation that’s pretty likely. Instead of discrimination being the cause of lower pay, it could be affirmative action.

It’s no secret that law schools use affirmative action (aka: diversity) to admit more students from under-represented minorities (aka: black). What no one likes to mention is that black students generally have far worse undergrad grades and LSAT scores than their white counter parts. In fact, the numbers for the top 25% of black students tends to look like the bottom 25% of white students.

Now, you can chalk this up to black students having worse educational opportunities early on, and that might be the case. But, it still means that black law students are generally just not as smart as their white counter parts (so far as GPAs and LSAT scores measure intelligence). Common sense would say that this would end up getting reflected in their grades, and for the most part it does. Black law students tend to get lower grades, even in classes where grading is based on entirely anonymous exams.

Now, at most law schools, poor grades will result in poor job opportunities. But, at a top 10 school, you can be at the bottom of your class and still get a good job, because the bottom 25% of the top 1% is still really damn smart. Unfortunately, affirmative action means that the bottom 25% might not really be part of the top 1%. And to make problems worse, many top schools no longer give grades, GPAs, or class ranks.

So, law firms looking to recruit top talent will end up hiring minority associates who are in over their heads, and this will naturally result in them earning less under a merit based system. I’m not saying pay won’t be affected by racism, it probably will be. But, we also have to keep in mind the effects of affirmative action in law school admissions.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #8

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 11th, 2010 by bl1y

There’s too many God damn law students.

The New York Times has reported that since The Economy Happened there has been a 20% increase in LSAT takers. Naturally, this is leading to an increase in students applying to law school (some schools have reported more than a 50% increase in applications).

On the other end, law schools are not rapidly expanding their lecture halls and hiring new professors. Nope, the available seats in good law schools is going to remain pretty much the same. So, getting into a decent law school is going to be a lot harder, and you can expect your future class mates to be even more competitive and douchebaggy.

Just to make things worse, third and fourth tier diploma mills have been cropping up all over the place thanks to the ABA practically endorsing degrees not worth the Kinkos paper they’re printed on. And unlike the good schools, they will be more than happy to widen their doors to take in more suckers. So, if you go to a mid-ranked school, when you graduate you’re going to have a huge number of kids from crappy schools competing for the same jobs.

Now, you might be thinking students at shit schools won’t hurt your job prospects, but some 30,000 students graduate from TTTs every year, and the numbers are going up. A 20% increase in those students, means another 6000 hungry lawyers in the job market. If you only have to compete with the top 5-10% from those schools (and you probably will), that’s 300-600 fewer job opportunities for you.

If you happen to be one of those TTT students…I’d feel sorry for you, but I don’t feel sorry for dumbasses who should have known better than to go to such a shitty school in the first place. However, I will offer you a gratuitous hottie as a consolation prize.

And look, she’s upside down! It’s practically a metaphor for how the rest of your life will turn out if you decide to go to law school.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #7

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 11th, 2010 by bl1y

Delusions of Grandeur

Many young law students and law school applicants have dreams of earning the coveted $160,000 salary (or whatever happens to be the going rate at big New York law firms), or the equivalently high amounts offered in DC, Atlanta, or other secondary markets.

The vast majority of people who apply to law school will never make that much money. Visualize Law has provided a chart breaking down the fates of applicants into the law class of 2008.

This chart, unfortunately, presents an overly rosy view of your future career opportunities. Going by these numbers, over 20% of law school graduates will find jobs earning top dollar. And, if you assume that a large amount of the people making less than $160,000 are in markets that pay a lower amount that is still equivalent (or better) after taking cost of living into account, it looks like almost everyone makes bank.

However, anyone who’s applied for a big law job can tell you that unless you go to a top 20 school or are in the top 10% of a school ranked 21-100, you’re pretty screwed. Tier 3 or 4? don’t even think about it. And, remember, being at the top of your class or in a top school just gets you the interview. Many of those students still don’t land the fat big law jobs.

So where did Visualize Law go wrong? First, I’m assuming they got their data based on where law schools report their students end up. But, that data suffers from a self-reporting bias. Students who earn $160k are more likely to report back on their job offers than students who earn less or don’t land a job at all. But, good luck getting a school to disclose how many students didn’t respond to the surveys.

And, it doesn’t take into account the huge number of lawyers in the class of 2008, myself included, who were laid off and unable to find another big law job. I’m part of that magical 10% at the top, and I’m pulling in unemployment checks.

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