lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Houston tops U.S. News Rankings Law v. Undergrad Comparison

Paul Caron at TaxProf, compiled a list of law schools whose rankings outperform that of their parent institutions in U.S. News Rankings: Law v. Undergrad (see the graphic there for the full list). The University of Houston topped the list with a wopping differential of 136 places. This isn’t really news to me since I did both my undergrad and law studies at Houston, but it’s interesting to see the phenomena quantified and note the other institutions in similar situations.

Daniel Solove picked up the thread at Concurring Opinions to pose the question of what effect the standing of the main university has on a law school. I’ve heard more than a few people at the law center speculate on the negative impact of its association with the University as a whole. I tend to think there’s probably more upside than down, but that’s predicated on whether one percieves the unique position and opportunities of the University of Houston as a whole, and the law center as a part of that.

I left my comment speculating on the reasons for this disparity at TaxProf, but I’ll reprint it here for the sake of convenience

Since I attended Houston for both undergrad and law, I suppose I moved up in the world just by staying put. From my observation here I would boil it down to three factors (1) prospective legal market (2) cost and (3) market for students.

Market for students v. cost is the main factor – for undergrads, Houston competes in essentially the same market for students as higher-ranked state institutions University of Texas and Texas A&M which therefore have similar price-points and with Rice as a more expensive, higher-ranked private option. For law schools only the University of Texas is in the same market among state institutions and South Texas and Thurgood Marshall are much more expensive, lower-ranked private institutions. From a cost-benefit perspective, Houston is up against more competitive schools at a equal price point for undergrads but less competitive higher price point schools for law school. The differential is probably exacerbated by the fact that the University of Houston is located in the deeply impoverished third ward neighborhood, which is generally seen as undesirable by prospective undergrads but is probably less of a factor for law students.

Then the legal market in Houston seems pretty healthy. Anecdotally at least, students who have done reasonably well (30% and up, approximately) generally seem to be able to land summer associate gigs without too much trouble. The school also benefits from a generally robust economy that lures unsuspecting future law students to the city for jobs, many of whom then choose to stay for law school. This also accounts for our fairly active evening program.

From that perspective, I would predict most of these high-differential schools are similar in that they are (1) located in a good legal market (Houston, Atlanta, D.C.) or the only market within geographic proximity (Las Vegas, Utah) and (2) are relatively low cost compared with institutions in the same market (3) those markets are much more competitive for undergrads than for law students. I would also predict that these schools would have robust evening law programs for the same reasons.

New Forms and Directions for Law Review Websites

Doug Hass at This is where the cowboy blogs away… notes that not only are the Hoosiers good shots (see my previous post here), but they just rolled out a fantastic update to their Law Review’s website – the Indiana Law Journal Supplement.

In design and function, the Indiana Law Journal Supplement represents the best implementation I’ve seen of the rapidly converging worlds of law reviews and blog technology. (For another excellent implementation along similar lines, see the Yale Law Journal Pocket Part) Houston, we have some catching up to do.

Lise Olsen delves into story behind Judge Kent’s reprimand and transfer

Houston Chronicle investigative reporter Lise Olsen, who made a name for herself reporting on the case of Ruben Cantu, has turned her sights on Federal District Judge Sam Kent in an in-depth article – How far did this federal judge go?

The reprimand issued by the 5th Circuit judicial council which placed Kent on paid leave and transferred him from Galveston to Houston was serious enough to pique speculation but left the details up to the legal community’s very capable imagination. Olsen reveals serious allegations indeed, centering on sexual harassment of court employees.

Jeffrey Toobin might forgive Justice Thomas for being black or conservative, but not both

Jeffrey Toobin’s recent article Unforgiven, in this week’s New Yorker, is the latest in a long line of Supreme Court pundits puzzling over the enigma of a Supreme Court Justice who is both black and conservative.

Thomas came of age at a time when broad swaths of American society thought it was time for African-Americans to be given chances that had been denied to their forebears. To be sure, all that Thomas received in these places was a leg up, and he succeeded each time based on his own skills. Thomas’s career looks like a model of how affirmative action is supposed to work. But that isn’t how Thomas sees it.

Toobin finds it clear that every job and opportunity Justice Thomas was given in his career was given to him because he was black. This is the necessary narrative folklore required to posit Justice Thomas as a hypocritical ingrate, even though it’s been noted that Thomas was in the top 1-2% of his class at Holy Cross and with a decent LSAT score should have had a shot at Yale law no matter what color he was. This oft-repeated treatment that Thomas was somehow demonstrably unqualified for the Supreme Court on his own merits seems to prove Thomas’ own point that affirmative action has just as often served to undermine his career as advance it. Comically, Toobin seems shocked and appalled that Thomas would be less than forthcoming on his jurisprudential philosophy in confirmation hearings less than four years after Bork became a verb. Toobin’s attempt at psychoanalysis boils down to a plea – equally paternalistic and pathetic – why Clarence, oh why can’t you be the reliable liberal vote you, as a black Justice, were born to be?

For a more nuanced interpretation of Justice Thomas’ views on race, see Mark Tushnet’s Clarence Thomas’s Black Nationalism.

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