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Take the LSAT and Run!

Vivia Chen

September 21, 2012

Smart_by-Andrey_KiselevHere's what's happening in the world of legal education:

1. Think like a lawyer without being one. Want to acquire the reasoning power of a lawyer without having to shell out a cent (actually, it's more like hundreds of thousands of dollars) for law school? Easy! Take the LSAT—but go no further.

Research shows that just studying and taking the LSATs will make you smarter. From The National Law Journal:

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley Department of Psychology and U.C.'s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute have found that intensive LSAT study alters the brain, reinforcing circuits and helping bridge the gap between its right and left hemispheres.

Graduate student Allyson Mackey, the lead researcher, told the NLJ that the research focused on "how the brain changes as a result of LSAT preparation—which we think is, fundamentally, reasoning training. We wanted to show that the ability to reason is malleable in adults."

The research involved 24 college students and recent grads who underwent magnetic resonance imaging of their brain, "both before and after they spent 100 hours studying for the LSAT over three months." Moreover, these scans were compared against those of 23 people of similar age who did not study for the LSAT.

The upshot:

The scans revealed increased connectivity between the frontal lobes of the brain among the first group, and also between the frontal and adjoining parietal lobes—parts of the brain associated with reasoning and thinking.

In essence, the LSAT takers showed stronger connections between the part of the brain tasked with deductive reasoning and the part that handles spatial cognition—the ability to tackle everyday tasks.

Fascinating, right? I think so. In fact, I'm almost intrigued enough to take the LSAT again. (Guess I better get some tutoring first. Wonder if Kaplan has a special blogger rate.)

2. If you must go to law school, please, please don't go to one with a lousy ranking. I know I sound like a broken record on this score, but I'll say it again: Law school can land you in the poorhouse.

If you can't get a job after graduating from a low-ranking law school, all you'll have is buyer's remorse. Once again, former students are discovering that suing their schools for putting out fraudulent employment information about grads is pointless.  Reports The National Law Journal:

The fraud class actions targeting law schools around the country haven't received much love from the bench.

Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen on September 11 tossed out a case against DePaul University College of Law brought by nine graduates who claimed the school inflated its employment statistics to lure students. Earlier, judges in New York and Michigan dismissed cases against New York Law School and Thomas M. Cooley Law School, respectively.

Since this is the third case where students have lost, I think this qualifies as a trend. The judge's reasoning is basically the same as in the other cases: caveat emptor. In other words, big girls and boys should know better.

3. Maybe you need a law professor to convince you. If you have any doubts about being a lawyer, I'd urge you to read Don't Go To Law School (Unless) by Paul Campos, the University of Colorado Law School professor and the bête noire of legal academia. The blogger behind Inside the Law School Scam, Campos passionately argues that legal education—particularly if it's not at a top school—is a foolish investment for most people.

Boy, his colleagues at the not-near-the-top law schools in the nation, including 44th-ranked Colorado, must love him.

So let me sum up: Take the LSAT (it will make you smarter). But don't go to law school (it will make you poor, which will make you feel really stupid).

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected].


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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