Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Extraordinary Opportunity

A recent ad aimed at law school grads.  I have no comments, other than the ad being fairly representative of the (un)professional, aggressive, cutthroat and sales-driven atmosphere awaiting most law grads who set up solo practices or work for small firms.  I've removed the name of the lawyer and his firm:

Have you ever wanted to work in a successful firm where you're an integral part of a team of winning trial lawyers? Do you love the prospect of being a hero every day by helping real people with real cases? Are you looking for a job where you can earn more by producing better results? If you answered yes to all three of these questions, this job may be for you. We're a boutique firm with a busy trial practice and rapidly growing demand at our [removed] offices. We are seeking a top quality law school graduate eligible to work as a traffic defense (speeding, DUI, etc.) litigation attorney starting immediately. The position is one of the most important in the office, involving daily and direct contact with our clients, making them feel confident in our ability to protect them, calming their fears, and showing them excellence in the courtroom.

A strong desire to excel is a requirement for this job. You must be prepared to work harder and smarter than your competition before, during, and after trial. By following our case management and trial litigation system, you will be a champion for your clients on a daily basis. You don't even need any experience, as we will train you. However, positive energy in everything you do *is a must*, and it's also important that you're comfortable writing and speaking for a public audience and in trial. If trying cases to win and standing up to bullies in court scares you, this isn't the right fit. You must also be an independent worker. The last thing I want to do is micromanage your day, so if you need to be told what to do all the time, we're not for you. If you're a person who starts your day with a smile and ends it with a bigger smile, definitely consider applying for this position.

Here's the deal. I do not hire "associates" because that term has become synonymous with indentured servitude. I do help young lawyers start their own firms, I provide them with an office in my building including parking, staff support, furniture and equipment, telephone, internet and a computer, personal one-on-one training, and marketing resources which bring in a steady stream of clients. If you earn my trust through quality representation of your own clients, you may be allowed to serve in an "of counsel" role for cases that my firm brings in while building your own business. I will take you to court and show you how to try cases and win. I will guide you through the process enough times for you to feel confident, perform skillfully, and win trials. 

As such, this is not a traditional "job", there is no paycheck other than what you earn, and there are no benefits. I will help you set up your trust and operating accounts, but you will need to start with the cash to kick off your own marketing campaign ($1,000 minimum) and a malpractice policy. This year I brought two "of counsel" attorneys into my building and helped them set up their own firms. They are now ready to graduate. Both are in or have just completed their first year of solo practice, and neither had much experience. Last month, both of them grossed over $15,000. After expenses, I would estimate that they are making at least $60,000 to $75,000 per year (they pay and can claim deductions for their home offices, mileage, etc). They are their own bosses and make their own hours. I provide mentoring.

Don't take my word for it - take a look at the numbers, which are listed in the table straight from the trust account ledgers. (see [removed]) These are gross numbers -- the percentage that we retain for rent, staff support, etc will go from 25% to 33% to 40% as your revenues grow to annualized levels of $100,000, $150,000, and $200,000. As you can see, my first In-house Attorney Of Counsel earned well over $150,000 in her first 12 months of practice, and is on track to bring in nearly a quarter of a million in 2014. My second attorney posted equally impressive numbers, but both of them have learned what they can and must now leave the nest to make room for the next generation of superstars. I have no doubt that they will soar on their own, and continue to enjoy the benefits of membership in my marketing firm, [removed]).

To apply: e-mail us. Make sure you spell and write English correctly (any other languages in which you may be fluent, especially Spanish, will make you a great teammate). The subject line must read "I'm your new lawyer...". In your e-mail, tell me why you're the best fit to join our team. Let your personality shine through in this. Also, be sure to send your resume as an attachment, as well as any other attachments, links to your websites, pictures or videos that you think would be helpful. Of course, we will check you out on the internet, so if what we find is pictures of you looking or acting inappropriate, don't bother answering. No phone calls, e-mails only. My name is [removed], and you can find out more about me at [removed]. If you call my firm about this opportunity and waste my receptionist's valuable time, your resume will go directly in the trash and you will make the list of lawyers who can't follow instructions.


You should apply immediately if interested. While we will wait as long as it takes to get the right person, we are ready to fill this opportunity today. E-mail me your resume today, and get started with your successful career as a winning trial lawyer.

Still want to be a lawyer?  Remember, you just paid $150,000 for an education which might - if you're lucky! - qualify you for purgatory a job like this.  Anyone who is thinking of enrolling in law school beginning this coming fall should pay very close attention.

48 comments:

  1. Predators feeding on prey who have already been decimated by parasites.

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  2. I bet his law school is proud of him.

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  3. I am a 20 year solo. If someone still wants to be a lawyer, this is not the worst deal I have ever heard of. It reflects the real world of kill what you eat. I had to borrow to rent an office, get phone service, print letterhead, buy furniture at auctions, etc. Did my own typing until I could afford a two day a week secretary.

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    1. I was thinking that same thing, that genuinely, this really isn't so bad of a situation.

      How bad has it gotten that I really think that?

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    2. In today's market for new lawyers, it's not a bad deal. Compared to the basic dignity afforded entry-level workers in every other line of work I can think of, it's bad.

      I too started in a firm like this - minimal salary, no benefits, no health, no nothing. Not even bar dues paid on my behalf. It's just an example of what lies waiting for law grads. No benefits, boss who can bark out orders because if you don't thank him profusely he can just put an ad up on Craigslist and have your replacement in your chair within 24 hours, etc.

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  4. "the list of lawyers who can't follow instructions" - F this pompous douche who's attempting to exploit people. Law school is so worthless, including most of the T14.

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    1. This is scummy.

      Here's the catch: They expect the indep. contractor to spend on their own marketing. As I understand it, the firm doesn't take a percentage of the new IC's clients. That could conceivably put them in employer/employee territory and make them responsible for SS, etc. So instead, they have the sucker spend $1000 MINIMUM (what does $1000 get you, really, in legal advertising? That's a joke..) and instead take their cut by charging for office-sharing expenses based on revenues, the trick being that the percentage varies - and INCREASES (WHY?!? WHAT?!?) - based on the amount brought in. Now, I'm not saying they do this for the newest Associates - the ad is unclear, of course and that's deliberate - but this looks like their mode of operation.

      So in essence, the new IC is allowing the firm to run a rent/expense free office and dump all their money into advertising and getting clients for themselves.

      The ad is not clear, but I would guess that there is still a bottom charge for office sharing because of rent, at a minimum.

      Scummy. Perfectly scummy..

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  5. Meh. This is a basic eat-what-you-kill arrangement--established attorney lets a newly graduated JD have office space, support staff, etc in return for a percentage of whatever revenue the newbie brings in. As the ad correctly notes it is not a "job," since there are no paychecks and no benefits. For a certain type of person it could certainly lead to financial success. If you are not that type of person, why would you want to spend/borrow six figures to subject yourself to this?

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    1. Yep. LSAC and the Law Schools sell Unicorn Fairy Dust dreams - if they actually sold young people reality, (1) the "right" people would be going to law school, and (2) the market would correct itself in an instant. Problem solved.

      But hey, we've got a lot of Boomer ScamDeans and LawProfs who "deserve" their income, you see, and law schools have been investing in a buch of fancy buildings, so somebody has got to pay for all that stuff. It's the indentured-servant kids these days that are entitled, lazy, and shiftless, not those brain-trusts making $250k to teach a couple of classes and get summers off.

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    2. 6:53, you're right. It's a typical arrangement, but one that law applicants don't consider. Say the words "office share" to a law applicant and they have visions of a cute little room with older attorney mentors next door, maybe a little library, tasty coffee, a couple of secretaries who will type up letters, and a leather chair and a big oak desk. They don't understand the realities of what an office share arrangement actually entails.

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  6. Reminds of me of the scene with Ben Affleck's speech in Boiler Room.

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  7. In the end, is this so bad? This guy provides an office rent free, phones, etc. You represent his clients but in the end they see you as their lawyer, which helps get your name out there, referrals, etc. If you start making money, he gets a percentage. When you have enough of your own clients and experience, you leave and do it totally on your own. If somebody wants to learn the business and build their own practice without coming up with material dollars, this is one way to do it.

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    1. "When you have enough of your own clients and experience, you leave and do it totally on your own."

      I'd be interested in the wording of contract I had to sign with this guy - see if he has any residual right to my income after leaving his office.

      "and continue to enjoy the benefits of membership in my marketing firm"

      Hmm... sounds like he intends to claim a portion of your income indefinitely.

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    2. A charging lien on his clients only. No way he could claim residual rights on your future income. That would be completely unethical...unless he is on the attorney fee contract, shares responsibility and liability for the case and client approves sharing of the fee.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. 7:54, you may want to re-read the ad. It's not an arrangement where the successful applicant is handed the boss's clients, and the ad explicitly states this. The poor lawyer is tasked with not only finding his or her own clients, but also paying for his or her own marketing. It's like an office share where the word "share" doesn't mean what normal people think it means.

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  8. Law is a sales job. It is presented as otherwise, but it is not.

    Unfortunately, one doesn't usually figure this out until about $150k has been spent after 3 years.

    If someone wants a sales job, they do not need to spend $150k and 3 years to get one. They don't even need college, in fact.

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    1. Yes, law is in most cases a sales job. That should not be hidden or sugar-coated. But the same is true for doctors, accountants, professional engineers, graphic designers, architects, etc. If you own a firm or a piece of a firm, you're expected to sell as well as provide the services you're selling.

      The exceptions, for lawyers, are positions in-house or in government. And even there, you still need to keep "selling" yourself and your services to the organization's decision makers.

      - One of the Lucky Ones

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    2. The problem with a lot of lemmings is what I would call a credentialing mindset. In my state if you get a B.A. and take a few prescribed teaching classes you can get a teaching certificate that entitles you to get paid union scale in the public schools. I think a lot of people who go to law school are thinking that if they go to school for three years someone is going to give them a high paying job. 9:59 is right to some degree, but in the last year I saw two mid-1980's grads I know get whacked by insurance companies for no good reason and both are now scrambling to make it as solos.

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    3. Unsurprisingly, people have become credentialist in the extremely credentialist environment of the past three decades. Time was when an intelligent, hard-working, presentable person could get a job with potential for advancement without having many credentials; it was assumed, in most cases correctly, that she would learn the finer points of the work on the job. Today, however, one must have a degree and experience in precisely the type of work that is to be done. Failure to pursue credentials thus excludes one outright from most jobs with any future.

      A lot of people assume that the six-figure cost of law school is just a matter of paying one's dues for admission to a lucrative profession. Why would it cost so much, and why would the government guarantee student loans, unless the professional prospects were great? They don't know that they're being misled.

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  9. Wow, this ad reminds me of an Amway sales pitch. Notice the $1,000 "marketing" fee requirement.

    A few years ago, a colleague told me he had 2 recent law grads pay him $1,500 a month to "learn" the ropes. He was using these kids to do research, write briefs and carry his litigation bags to court. He tried to convince me to do the same but I feel terrible about exploiting people, especially if they are already screwed (which describes most recent JD grad out there).

    The attorney who posted that ad is no different than the grifting hustlers masquerading as law school deans and professors. He is also trying to cash in on the "law school" gravy train. It is absolutely disgusting. Please post the jurisdiction that ad came out of. I want to look up that jurisdiction's ethics rules to see if this kind of ad violates some canon or law.

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    1. Virginia.

      Wasn't difficult locating the original source of the ad.

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  10. I find the pitch distasteful, sure, but it's basically how I started. At least the guy is offering to mentor someone. However, if marketing yourself is what you want to do, skip the 150k law diploma and become a realtor.

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    1. I will be taking the real estate exam in two weeks. My years in real estate law enabled me to get a 94 on the practice exam without studying. E&O coverage $400 a year vs. $4,000. No payroll to make. No asshole judges to deal with. Always get paid if you get a good result for someone. Want me to go on?

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    2. Tricia, good advice. In my experience, when I was practicing residential real estate law right out of law school, a moderately motivated real estate agent's income dwarfed mine, and they had no student debt. If you can sell, you're far better off in real estate in almost any way you choose to compare the two professions.

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  11. I'm sorry guys, I just don't think this is that bad. The guy doesn't appear to be hiding the numbers and it appears he is willing to train. It seems like he is being direct and honest to me. Sure, it may not be the $160,000 job in Biglaw but it seems straighforward.

    I grant you the ad may appeal to your more Type A, extroverted types. It's axiomatic that extroverts have major advantages in their careers. The problem with law school is it appeals to those introverted types (like me) who like reading and preparing briefs and the like. When we graduate law school , we're at a distinct disadvantage when those salesman skills are needed.

    Toilets keep putting out the nonsense that if you don't get a job after you graduate, you can just set up your own solo shop. But there aren't that many lawyers that can make a successful solo career. It takes a very special skill set to suceed as a solo and I would argue that the great majority of law students do not have the fundamental personality attributes to do well in the arena of solo practice.

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    1. I am a successful solo and don't think there is anything special about me. I went to a third tier law school (albeit before lawschools were ranked by US News . . and although I was accepted to a top tier law school), started out in mid-law and have been on my own for more than 23 years. What does it take to be successful in a solo practice (at least when I set mine up) . . is competence and when necessary, the ability and willingness to try cases. Do I think I am smart and quick on my feet? Yes. Do I think this is a required attribute for any successful lawyer? Yes. Do I think most lawyers have these attributes? Yes. When I went solo, I had no kids and my wife worked. After the kids were born, my wife became a full time mom and my practice was enough to pay the bills. I honestly don't think there is anything special about me other than I decided to go for it. I am not a "snowflake" who sees myself as extraordinary in the least. On the other hand, it is rare I meet what I consider to be an extra ordinary attorney, although there are a few out there.

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    2. 12:23 - things are much, much worse now than 25 years ago when I assume you graduated.

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    3. 11:17, I think you're right. Solo practice definitely needs an A type personality, the kind of guy or girl who can sell ice to an Eskimo. The key to a successful solo practice is convincing clients that their problems are bigger than they think, and that the solution is hiring that particular attorney to make it all disappear. Sales. The practice of law, especially at the level of most new solos, is formulaic, rather simple, and about as far from "law school law" as you can get.

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    4. Imagining The Open ToadApril 2, 2014 at 9:29 PM

      "The key to a successful solo practice is convincing clients that their problems are bigger than they think, and that the solution is hiring that particular attorney to make it all disappear. "

      I hope you'll reconsider this statement. Perhaps you didn't mean it quite the way it sounds when isolated.

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    5. 8:29, in my experience (and yours may vary considerably), there is little money to be made anymore if you tell clients their problems are not as bad as they think. Huge speeding ticket? Truth is (in my jurisdiction) the judge will do little more than impose a fine, not jail time, but many clients will still gladly pay for an attorney who shows them the part of the statute that permits up to a year in jail; now an almost-guaranteed $200 fine and no attorney fees has turned into a $750 attorney fee and the same fine. Residential real estate? Same thing, hawk the title insurance upgrades; cash in the lawyer's pocket even though the coverage is just about totally unnecessary. Forming a business? LegalZoom works perfectly, but I could encourage $1,500 in legal fees for much the same services; drafting incorporation docs, bylaws etc.

      Clients worry. Rich lawyers play those worries, inflate them, and then bill for solving things which left alone would generally disappear.

      Not in all cases, of course. Some clients had legitimate problems that did need a lawyer's touch. But many don't, and turning those clients away is bad for business.

      Another example: have you ever seen a lawyer return more than a token amount of a retainer? It's not because the lawyers accurately estimate the cost of the services, it's because the lawyers will continue to bill a client until the money dries up. Pay $2,000 as a retainer for business formation, and you could bet that at my old firm the lawyers would make sure the task took the full 10 hours to complete, even if it didn't.

      But again, your experiences may differ.

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    6. Charles -- There's a lot of truth to the picture you've painted, but my experience does differ in a couple of ways.

      FIrst, regarding business formations, a decent fraction of my practice involves cleaning up messes created when someone tried to form a business with a DIY service or an accountant who knew just enough to be dangerous. It would have been a lot cheaper for those people to pay a lawyer $1,500 up front to get the business formed properly. (Still, I will grant you that often the problems I see are aggravated by the client's failure to maintain good records and follow through on what a book or accountant might have advised him or her to do.)

      Second, I almost never am in a position to refund any of the retainer amount, but that's because, in my practice, the retainer is only a down-payment toward what I expect the final fee to be, not an up-front payment of the entire estimated fee. With small matters, the only reasons why I require a retainer at all are to make sure the client is serious and to at least cover the overhead involved in opening the matter if the client stiffs me.

      - One of the Lucky Ones

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    7. Imagining The Open ToadApril 3, 2014 at 8:26 PM

      Charles - Thanks for the additional explanation. I guess we'll just have to leave it at, "our experiences differ significantly".

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    8. That works. There are some lawyers who can still make a solid career purely out of their skills and reputation, and who don't need to sell as part of their practice. Fresh law grads, however, have neither skill nor reputation, and sales is going to be a huge part of any new practice until the skills and reputation develop. Unless, of course, the grad is staking a claim in a true underserved market where the clients need her more than she needs the clients.

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    9. Imagining The Open ToadApril 4, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Charles, I do not at all disagree that the private practice of law, from solo to partner at biglaw, requires nearly constant sales work.

      Have I rubbed elbows with a few sleazebag lawyers? Yes. Opposing counsel who can't seem to tell the truth if their life depended on it, lying to me, lying to the judge about me, misusing confidential materials, etc. But I do not know lawyers who scare clients by inflating problems or by emphasizing worst-case scenarios just to increase fees. And I do know many lawyers who admit overestimates and refund accordingly or (as is more often the case) admit the matter took only 27 hours of the original 30 estimate and bill that accordingly.

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  12. Except the real estate market is bad and with boomers downsizing will only get worse.

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    1. Downsizing means selling and buying something else. Selling and buying means commissions. Do the math, Einstein.

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    2. Scads of boomers are becoming real-estate agents.

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    3. Scads of every generation are becoming real-estate agents.

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    4. Not where I live, and even if there were here's the deal. In the mandatory 60-hour class I had to take you could quickly pick out the entrepeneurial types who know you have to kill what you eat from the corporate types who are used to a Friday paycheck. The totally hawt white girl in the class told me she could never sit in a cubicle all day. The even hawter black girl told me she wanted to serve under-served markets. This white dude would rather sleep with the black girl but he wouldn't bet th' ranch that she'd be the more successful of the two.

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  13. I have a good plaintiff practice now, but never could have done so if my first three years were not working for a plaintiff firm learning everything I could. I was lucky I got paid pretty well to learn, (100K+ the second year) but in the long run the salary was worth less than the training and experience.

    Those of us who can only really afford to hire new graduates, and then just barely with a low salary, should get some slack here.

    ANY entry level attorney job you'll learn a ton your first year, from doing DUI appearances to doc review to basic first year civil litigation tasks. In most cases you'll also be using up the time and distracting more senior lawyers and staff as they explain things to you and correct your mistakes.

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  14. I've had about an equal number of new hires work out and not work out (fired or quit).

    Whether laid off or quitting, it is an expensive and traumatic thing to happen to a small firm. You spend many hours finding, hiring, training, and getting the new hire up to speed on our cases. All of this has 0 return and considerable cost.

    I basically consider the salary of a 1st year associate to be a sort of advance. On one hand their presence is a net negative for the first 2-4 months, even if they were volunteering. On the other hand they need something to live on. So the deal is, I pay you more than you're worth the first year, the second year you get less than you're worth, after that I know your strengths and weaknesses and can set something fair to everyone. If it is too low, the 2-3 year mark is when you're most marketable,

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  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/bruni-our-crazy-college-crossroads.html?_r=0

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  16. Case Western Reserve is literally begging for applicants. Here's a little gem I received:

    -----,

    Given your talents and drive, I think you could excel at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and jumpstart your future success as a lawyer.

    So if you haven't already, please apply before midnight tonight.

    When you do, you'll still be eligible to receive the following privileges: a waived application fee and automatic scholarship consideration.

    I encourage you to beat the deadline. Submit your application before midnight tonight.

    Sincerely,

    Assistant Dean of Admissions
    Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    P.S. Not ready to apply for fall enrollment? Then please visit our secure site and let me know if you're planning to apply for a future term.

    (I edited out my name and the Assistant Dean of Admissions name.)

    I missed the deadline. The very next day I received an e-mail telling me that they have extended the deadline to April 15th. LOL

    The law schools are feeling the heat...

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    1. Verrrrrrry interesting!

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    2. Trying to recruit students, or just the same old "boosting yield" tricks we've seen before (soliciting applications with the intent of rejecting them all to make the school look more selective)? Any insiders want to comment?

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    3. 11:19 here. It could be the "boosting yield" thing. I don't know what numbers it takes to get into CWRU now.

      Someone should start a blog in the vein of "Law School Lemmings," except it should feature all the crazy e-mails law schools send out to prospective students. ("We have the 55th ranked space law program in the nation.")

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    4. No, they're actually desperate for lemmings over at Case Western Reserve.

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