Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Great and true news for St. Thomas Law!

National Jurist magazine just released an interesting new set of rankings, evaluating the best schools for practical training as a lawyer.  Here are the top ten:

1)  St. Thomas (MN)
2)  Northeastern
3)  Wisconsin
4)  BYU
5)  New Hampshire
6)  Brooklyn
7)  Pepperdine 
8)  Maryland
9)  Baylor
10) Loyola/Chicago

A few observations about this:

A)  Wait a minute!  Where is my alma mater, Yale Law?  Oh, that's right… we didn't learn much about how law works on the ground.  That really wasn't what the school was about (at least at that time-- it is probably more focused on practicality now).

B)   We are in pretty good company here-- these are all good, solid law schools.  

C)  I suspect that people at Baylor, where I taught for ten years, might be surprised to find themselves behind St. Thomas, but having taught at both places it makes sense to me.  The survey expressly disfavored programs that rely heavily on simulations (like Baylor does) and favored those with programs where students get out into real courts and work with real clients.  I'm not sure that disparity is  warranted, because though simulations don't directly serve the community, they can be fine educational tools (I use them extensively now in two of my classes, in fact).  

D)  St. Thomas absolutely deserves the acknowledgement of this strength.  We have wonderful clinics, led by Virgil Wiebe.  How many schools have clinics run by a Rhodes Scholar?  The picture above shows two of my best clinic students, Sara Sommervold and Charles Dolson, giving a presentation to other students about their visit to prison to visit their client.  Charles is now a third year student; Sarah has graduated and is working for Northwestern Law School's Wrongful Conviction Center.   It's not just the clinics, though-- our students get great externships and all of them-- every single one-- has a professional mentor in the community.  When I talk to my upper-level classes about criminal law, they come to the discussion with real-life knowledge, because they are already handling courtroom tasks, they know judges and prosecutors and defenders, and they teach me about what goes on in Minnesota courts.  I love that.

E)  And I love this, too-- the picture in the National Jurist article is from the very first time we did the Trial of Christ.  My co-counsel was student Jon Scheib, shown standing at the podium as Susan Stabile looks on.  It's the perfect picture for that article.  It shows the trust we have in our students-- to go out into the world, to engage with real people, and to stand beside us (not behind us) as we continue to define this great new school.

Well, congrats to St. Thomas, I guess.

I guess, because I don't know what to make of
"Those Law School Rankings." Hope you have not changed your opinion of them for the occasion.

As for Yale, one of their ladies won the Top Gun competition at BU this year. Beat a lot of good students from a lot of good law schools, and took home 25 grand. Yale must be doing something right in the way of practical preparation, but then it may just be a case of the proverbial "blind hog" finding acorns.

When I told one of my Yalie friends, he seemed embarrassed that a Yale student would stoop so low as to show prowess at trial practice.

Still, congrats again to St. Thomas.
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