10 Law Schools Found Inflating Student Grades

Looks like recent alums really needed the 0.333 grade boost

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Law school just isn't what it used to be. According to The New York Times, law schools across the country are inflating students' grades to increase their job prospects after graduation. In one case, a school retroactively tacked on 0.333 to every grade recorded over the past few years. The Times counts at least 10 law schools, including New York University, Georgetown and Tulane, that have adjusted their grading systems "to make them more lenient." In the blogosphere, the story piqued the interested of these pundits (each of whom has a law degree):

  • The Demand for Lawyers Is Finally Declining, reasons John Hinderaker at Powerline: "The reality is that any society--even ours--has a limited need for lawyers. I'm reminded of a cartoon in the New Yorker from several decades ago. Two people are talking at a cocktail party; one of them says to the other: 'How did I know you're a lawyer? Simple: everyone is a lawyer.' That was how things seemed to be going during the 1970s, but like all trends, this one couldn't continue forever."
  • Perhaps Law Firms Should Adjust, writes Howard Wasserman, a law professor writing at PrawfsBlawg: "Jon Siegel suggests that employers opposed to this sort of grade inflation could fight back by ignoring GPA and focusing on class rank. I agree it would be great if firms would shift their focus. The problem is an (anecdotal) strong resistance in the legal market to do so. Part of the push to change here came because our dean's conversations with people in the hiring market convinced him that GPA was the be-all-end-all and class rank did not matter. As a relatively new, lower-tiered school, firms are interested only in our very top students. But many firms seemed to say that a 3.3 GPA was not high enough for them to look at, even if that person was # 3 in the class."
  • It Seems Like They Are, writes Nathan Koppel at The Wall Street Journal: "Law firms, for their part, are wise to the ways of law schools. In assessing a job prospect, firms appear to be relying less on possibly-inflated GPAs and instead are paying more attention to other criteria, such as class rank and law-journal experience."
  • This Is Poorly Reported, writes Ann Althouse, a law professor: "I consider this news a huge bore in light of the fact that law students' grades are always adjusted on a curve. It's not as if the students previously got the grades they deserved and now the grades are phony. When lawprofs grade law school exams, we may start with raw scores that represent what we really think of them, but the final grades are determined by the school's predetermined goals for averages and percentages at the various grade levels. If the school thinks those averages and percentages are set in the wrong place it can reset them."
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