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June 14 — Too Much Information!

That was not only the result of the NAPLA conference, but in many ways its theme. From the seminars on digital information and social media, to attempts to analyze the economy and the legal market, to suggestions on financing your education, to the presentation of the year's worst personal statements, we all spent a lot of time saying "too much information."

There was so much information that I'm not going to try to cover it all today. Instead, I'm going to list all the topics that I learned about, and update them as time permits. Then, if you add yourself to our new facebook page (see, I'm already implementing what I learned about social media), we'll let you know as each topic is reviewed.

Here are the topics we covered in four days:

  • New Information Available:
    • Tours of various law schools allowed me to update a few pictures for my "Grand Tour" section, and highlighted some accessibility issues.
    • The myth of applying early was thoroughly debunked by an LSAC survey of 150 schools. 95% said the February test can help, and some were even willing to consider June LSAT scores at wait list time.
    • The amount of information available to Pre-law Advisors through LSAC is admirable, but it assumes that there's a prelaw advisor available to use the data.
    • LSAC has released a fourth book of Ten Actual.... LSATs; this one is titled the “New” LSAT tests, because all of them have the "new" reading section, which contains one passage with a different format from the other three. It's available from LSAC, but not yet from Amazon.
  • The theme of moral character, especially as it overlaps with financial issues and with "stalking" on facebook and twitter, was particularly intriguing.
    • The added obligations on the students to disclose problems plus the additional investigations undertaken by admissions officers have resulted in a longer and more detailed application process.
    • Issues of appropriate and inappropriate uses of social media uses by the law schools and the students were a recurring theme. We covered everything from twittering a winning football game to banning laptops from classrooms.
  • A healthy debate about accurate financial and job information, ABA reporting requirements, and the applicant's obligation to investigate both the data and the meaning behind it, also permeated several workshops and lectures.
    • The necessity of helping law students become lawyers, with actual paying jobs, has caused a number of law schools to either formally or casually consider employability in making admissions decisions. This might be limited to resume review, with or without the help of people from the Careers Office, or it might be expanded to include an interview.
    • The causes and effects of the changing job market were given a fair amount of attention, even if the conclusions often sounded a lot like "I don't know." There was also some concern about the accuracy of the data being tossed around by participants from all sides. The involvement of ABA reporting requirements as a component of the problem was also considered.
    • In the financial aid game, some proposed changes in Federal law may affect loan repayment. You may have to choose between a subsidized interest rate and an earlier repayment schedule -- or federal law may make the choice for you. You may also be able to take advantage of a federal program to have a substantial portion of your loan repaid by the federal government -- if you know how to play the game and the program stays in place long enough.
  • The issue of minority representation had a small but significant place at the conference; as of 2010, 88% of all lawyers are white.
    • Minority Success programs seemed to have the same message as the conference I attended at Ohio State U in February of 2005: there are many different successful programs; the common feature is the investment of time and money. Given the dearth of both time and money, it's not surprising that law is the least diverse of all the professions.
    • We also addressed the issue of undocumented students and will continue to explore the problems of those who have “aged out” -- been dropped from a family application because they turned 21 before the family application was approved.
  • LSAC Procedures and Issues:
    • The installation of “FlexApp,” a program more easily accessible to blind applicants, will drive a number of other changes, including the elimination of the common information form and the addition of a common Dean's Certification. The new process of receiving recommendations through a third-party rec service will be more convenient and permit more abuses of the system.
    • The number of LSATs administered in the 2010-11 application year was down about 10%, but still up relative to the number of applicants. In an effort to end the "LSAT Roulette" game that began when law schools started reporting higher scores rather than averaged ones, LSAT may no longer allow admissions officers to grant permission to take more that the present maximum of 3 tests in 2 years; instead, the request must go through  LSAC.
    • Accommodated LSAT: issues that don't give the test-taker more time to answer questions — breaks, quiet rooms, readers, etc. — are relatively easy to get with appropriate documentation.  Extra time is the deal breaker.  Psychometrics show that the LSAT is different from GRE, SAT, etc., so there is not the same accommodation as allowed for those tests. Also, since the skills are different, tests taken when you were an undergrad may not be valid.
    • Now that applicants can submit both recommendations and evaluations, schools found themselves overwhelmed with documents. As a result, they can now specify a maximum number of recs, a max of evals, and a max total -- e.g., up to 3 recs, up to 2 evals, but no more than 3 total.

That's sixteen topics! At one every two weeks that I'm not on the road, I might finish by New Year's. I'll see if I can step up the pace a bit.

A Few Loose Ends

I can address a few of the less detailed topics now.

  • One admissions officer again referred to “crafting a class” – looking at each applicant as part of the entering class, not simply as an isolated file. This put me in mind of my Jelly Donut Model of admissions.
  • The last event of the conference was once again the "you'll never believe the essays we get!" panel. Without naming schools or applicants, here are some true gems:
    • Miss Aurora: listed every color of the rainbow and explained how each describes her.
    • Vendetta: the response to a rejection letter that swears vengeance for rejecting the applicant. The angry letter, complete with full identifying information, can be sent to LSAC or to every law school in the country via e-list.
    • Super Dude: his list of accomplishments includes surfing every pipeline in the world, taking a helicopter into Extreme skiing environments, and bungee-jumping — nude.
    • Viagra Man:  the title gives you the gist of the problem, but not the timing: during the LSAT. Four hours of discomfort to the test-taker, and untold distraction to those sitting nearby.

So before you write that "wow" of an essay, consider that it might be read to three hundred admissions officers and prelaw advisors, or, by benefit of the Web, become the laugh heard 'round the world.

"Less than more likely than not"

Huh? What? That's an actual IRS standard. It defines when the tax lawyer must file a Schedule UTP — "Uncertain Tax Position." In lay terms, if a tax lawyer is going out on a limb, he [gender choice intentional] must file a form with the IRS that says, "I made this judgment that I think you won't like." In legalese, his opinion is less than more likely than not to be upheld if the IRS audits the return.

Why am I telling you this? To show you the importance of both grammar and logic to lawyering. If you can't find your way through that phrase, you're lacking skills that you're going to need on the far side of the bar exam, so you'd best start acquiring them.

My last LSAT Prep Course will begin July 1. I'll try to address two of those topics before the group arrives. To get a note when we update, follow us on facebook

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