merits, schmerits

I’ve talked before about my dismay regarding the decline in actual merit-based grading in the American education system. But the latest news at the law school level pretty much takes the cake.

The most infamous case right now is Loyola in California. The school is going back and bumping up every single grade it’s given in the last few years. The idea is that this will supposedly make their graduates more competitive in a market where other California law school graduates have a higher average GPA. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the school’s ranking in the U.S. News and World Report annual top law schools issue. This “we’re all WINNERS because we paid SO MUCH MONEY for our education so we DESERVE IT” approach is beyond ridiculous.

Even worse, schools are paying graduates to take unpaid public service jobs and even paying private firms to give students “test runs” before committing to hiring them. And then those schools are able to count those students as employed graduates. While those programs certainly have advantages, like bringing some top students into public service and giving other students an opportunity to get their foot in the door at top law firms, there is certainly a flaw if those numbers are allowed to be included in schools’ employment statistics.

These news topics point to nothing more than fault lines in the broken system that is law school rankings. It’s absurd to me that a “top tier” school has a terrible reputation for many in this state for churning out under-educated and under-prepared fledgling lawyers, while a “third tier” institution enjoys a stellar reputation for sending attorneys into the legal world who are well-prepared after a solid practical education with a foundation in research and writing.

Don’t get me wrong, not all grads of the “top tier” school are terrible. And my school certainly isn’t perfect. But I do believe you get from something what you put into it. I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into my legal education, and I expect the person next to me to have also done so if they’re going to get the same grades as me. For that matter, I expect the person at the school down I-80 to have done the same if they’re going to get the same grades as me.

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6 thoughts on “merits, schmerits

  1. Pingback: It’s Not Whether You’re Right Or Wrong, It’s How You Make It « Legally Questionable Content

  2. THAT IS HORRIBLE!!!! How can Loyola legally change the grades of students retroactively?! Usually students have to fight and do extra work to get their grade changed. This is sickening! Education tends to be one of the few places where people want the LEAST amount for their money. It’s a horrible truth, but I hate to see when the administration acts along the same principle!

    • Colsy: They can do it because they’re doing it for EVERYONE. They’re not the only school that has openly done so, or that openly plans to do so. My problem is that this will supposedly make them “more competitive” in the job market. But if I were a recruiter for a law firm, I’d make it my business to know what schools use as their grading curve. And which ones have changed their student’s GPAs. I understand that some firms throw out resumes based solely on the GPA. But do you really want to work for a firm that’s willing to sacrifice quality applicants just for the sake of simplicity? I wouldn’t.

  3. Now that this has become such a huge story, I’d think that anybody who gets a resumé from a Loyola grad will automatically be suspicious of their grades. Which might hurt their students in the long run…
    I completely agree about the “tier” thing. When I was deciding where to go to school, I spoke to some alums from my undergrad, one of whom owns a firm in the region I want to practice in. He told me he hires from one school almost exclusively, even though it’s not ranked nearly as high as other area schools (there are a lot). Why? Because those grads from lower-ranked school are ready to be lawyers on Day 1 and he can put them straight to work, trusting them to be well-prepared. That’s obviously not to say that grads of higher ranked schools won’t be good attorneys, but I’ve heard that partner’s reasoning echoed more than once.
    I wish schools would focus more on the business of training and preparing amazing lawyers instead of on the business of rankings and competing with each other.

  4. I find the whole grading thing in law school to be frustrating as hell. I am at Hastings, where the curve is pretty tough compared to the surrounding schools, and the surrounding schools include Boalt and Stanford! I am glad that they aren’t bumping people because I am a fan of integrity, but I am frustrated at the thought of the Irvine students messing with our rankings using an easier curve when rankings mean so much in the job market. Grrr….

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