Some Thoughts on Law School Selection, With Particular Reference to Miami

A commentator in the “We'll Try Harder” thread, in which I noted with some pleasure that a magazine says UM is great for Hispanic students, throws down the gauntlet,

What are the top 10 Best Law Schools for Jews, michael? Asians? Whites? Show this troll that the legal community really does care about segregating minorities into “incubators” where they can really flourish. Surely you have some thoughts on which Law schools are best for particular minorities…please share!

Well, since you asked.

I don't think there's a simple answer to the question of what law school is best for everyone (unless it's “Yale”). Tastes and needs vary.

Urban/rural is a really important choice — where are you more comfortable? Do you need to be away from distractions?

Weather matters a lot to some people, especially those subject to Seasonal affective disorder. Geography also matters in the sense that all other things being equal, there's multiple advantages to going to a law school near where you'd like to work. (Learn the local folkways, meet local employers in social and legal events, easy to get to interviews especially with smaller firms that may not have a travel budget.)

Big/small — you can get lost in a big place unless you are a self-starter while small schools tend to do a better job of hand-holding, but big schools usually have a larger faculty and thus a richer curriculum.

Some schools — fewer than you'd guess from their ads — have specializations that may matter to your JD education.

And for some people the makeup of the student body and/or the sensitivity of the law school and/or surrounding community may matter. In that sense, Miami really does have a serious and relatively rare feature that may matter enormously to some potential students: this is a city that speaks Spanish as much as English — and more than English in some neighborhoods. (The effect is much less pronounced on campus, as we're fairly Anglo, but a lot of the staff and some of the students will speak Spanish to each other.) That may attract some people, and may put off others, but it is a real fact of life in this city. I would imagine that some bilingual students would find this very comfortable and even comforting; I would imagine that some Anglos unused to linguistic diversity might find it challenging. (Others, like me, find it charming and cosmopolitan.) But it is a real and relevant fact here and in that sense if no other makes this a welcoming place for Hispanic students. (There are, of course, other things too, such as our habit of teaching a few courses relating to civil law in Spanish, but that's another story.)

As for Jews, I'm no authority on the subject, but I think there's a spirit at Cardozo that you don't find many places. When I went there for an interview I felt at home right away in a way that I rarely encounter. It wasn't unique, but it was noticeable. I wasn't able to accept their job offer for geographic reasons, but I really liked the place. And it is nice to have a school that recognizes Jewish holidays. (UM does a tolerable job of accommodation, but it's not always built into the official calendar.) My kids' resolutely secular private school closes for major Jewish holidays, just as it does for major Christian ones, and I appreciate that.

As for whites, I would say the best schools are the ones that are not too dominated by whites. It's a diverse and complex world out there, boys and girls, and you better get used to it.

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3 Responses to Some Thoughts on Law School Selection, With Particular Reference to Miami

  1. trollmaster says:

    You hint at a belief in the virtue of minorities self-selecting themselves into enclaves, to wit, Hispanics and Jews. But you impose a different standard on whites:

    “As for whites, I would say the best schools are the ones that are not too dominated by whites. It’s a diverse and complex world out there, boys and girls, and you better get used to it.”

    First, is this a correct conclusion regarding your thoughts? Secondly, could you define “whites”? Thirdly, is your approach limited to race and religion, or does it apply to ideological leanings as well?

  2. michael says:

    1. Do I have “a belief in the virtue of minorities self-selecting themselves into enclaves”? No, I don’t see a “virtue” in it. Nor do I have anything against it — it is not a “vice”. I see it as a matter of personal choice. (Note that UM Law, the place that started this discussion, is very very far from an “enclave” for any minority group — numerous as Hispanics may be they are still a minority of the students and faculty. Actual minority enclaves are rather rare in the academic legal world.)

    2. Would I really advise a white person to prefer a diverse school? Yes. And I’d probably say the same to everyone else too, whatever their ethnicity.

    3. Can I define “white”? No. In almost all cases I will allow people to define themselves.

    4. “is your approach limited to race and religion, or does it apply to ideological leanings as well?” It also applies to ideological leanings: if asked for my opinion, I would advise a person to expose themselves to diversity, and to avoid any school too dominated by any one view, especially if it a view they already hold. But I see this as also a matter of personal choice in the final analysis unless the ideological bias is so pervasive as to seriously damage the educational experience. I believe that this is uncommon.

    I believe that both ethnic and ideological diversity are good for law schools, and good for students.

  3. Jack Payne says:

    So much emphasis on ethnics, none, anywhere, on “legal” crime. If true overall, meaningful substance is not covered in law schools, balances in student and professorial bodies make little difference.

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