Law School Rankings a Sham?

A Note From Red | Transparency, a simple word- an important meaning. 

As a Law School Class of 2016 graduate hopeful, my summer leading up to law school has been filled with preparation and anticipation for the upcoming school year.  It was a long journey to select a university (ultimately landing me back in Dallas at SMU Dedman School of Law), but nevertheless an exciting and fulfilling one.

A significant consideration when weighing my school options was to take into account the school’s U.S. News Ranking.  Compiled based on a variety of factors, most of which I must admit I do not know, the ranking includes all accredited law schools in the United States and rates them on a number scale, the most prestigious schools at 1 and least on down.

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|Photo Credit: SMU Dedman School of Law |

And while there were higher ranked schools on my list of acceptances when compared to my ultimate choice, SMU, I decided based on the current job market and overall environment and benefits Dallas and SMU offer I would go there (very excited about my choice!).  In terms of ranking, it was important for me to stay in the top 50 ranked schools, which, SMU is included in.  Yale, Harvard, NYU and the like are ranking consistently among the top 10.

While SMU is a competitive and distinguished law school, I did have some doubts later in the process on whether I should have accepted my admittance to higher ranked schools… after all they must be better right? No, not exactly.

While going to an Ivy League school is undoubtedly a huge accomplishment and these schools are consistently ranked on the top of the list and deserve their spot, the rest gets a little fishy.

In this recent article I came across, it sheds light on a school’s feeble attempt to raise its ranking by asking graduated students to contribute donations to the school.  Yes, that’s right: alumni donations factor into the U.S. News Ranking.  Why? I am asking myself the same question…

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| Photo Credit: US News & World Report |

In a market that is leaving most law school graduates unemployed and can only be described as dismal at this point, it leaves me questioning the integrity of the list- a list I considered an crucial factor to consider in a decision as big as which law school I was going to attend.  This list, which accounts for something so insignificant in making me a good attorney or finding me employment after law school, leads me questioning the broader interpretation of its rankings.

Degree, Debt… No Job?

A Note From Red | And the law school search continues…

I recently came across a startling and disturbing figure that only 44 percent of 2012-2013 law school graduates had a job after school.  Furthermore, even fewer of these were employed as actual lawyers. It is no surprise that in a saturated market lucrative job positions are hard to come by and while this statistic may seem gloomy, there are ways to avoid falling victim to it.

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| Photo Credit: Above the Law |

I came across a very interesting study (it was actually brought to my attention by another law school student hopeful) that ranked schools solely on their ability to get students a job after graduation.  Furthermore, this list only includes jobs that are directly related to the legal field. What was shocking about this list was that when compared to the typical lists, which include everything from LSAT scores, GPA, research grants and more, the statistics were quite different.

Yale Law School was number one on both lists but schools like SMU’s Dedman Law, which are located in a thriving city with great networking connections, were ranked higher on the potential job opportunity list.  SMU came in at number 22 for job potential, whereas it was in the mid-40s on the ‘typical’ top 100 law school list.

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|Photo Credit: Above the Law |

While prestige and ranking are important considerations, for me, getting a job immediately after school (to help start paying off the mounds of debt) is just as important- if not more!

Supreme Court Decides Presidency?

A Note From Red | The theme this week seems to be all things President George W. Bush, with his library dedication and opening having just happened.  Another aspect I would like to talk about, which combines law and W, is the Bush vs. Gore Supreme Court Decision back in 2000.

“Florida, Florida, Florida,” those were the memorable words spoken by the late NBC political corespondent Tim Russer,when he predicted what the 2000 election between then Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore would come down to.  Russert was right: everything came down to Florida.

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| Photo Credit: NY Times |

Days and even months after the election, there was still no president-elect.  The race between Bush and Gore was too close to call, and the Gore campaign had demanded a re-count after Bush was declared the victor in a number of extremely close vote tallies in critical counties.  The stakes were high because the winner of Florida’s 25 electoral votes would ultimately go on to win the White House.

The Supreme Court heard the case, Bush vs. Gore, on December 11, 2000. In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled in favor of Bush on the following day, December 12.  The decision allowed Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s previous certification that Bush was the winner of Florida’s electoral votes to remain.

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| Photo Credit: US News |

Recently, however, it was revealed in an interview with retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor that she regrets the Supreme Court’s involvement in this case.

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,’ O’Connor said. ‘Maybe the court should have said, “We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’ Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision. It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

Jackson, Gosnell and Zimmerman… Oh My!

A Note From Red | It’s been a whirlwind of a week for lawyers around the country… here is what’s going on!

It’s a high-profile week for lawyers and court systems around the country.  Three important trials are underway: the Michael Jackson Family lawsuit, the Pennsylvania doctor’s abortion trial and the ongoing Zimmerman trial.

Michael Jackson’s family members finally had their day in a Los Angeles court this past week.  They are seeking monetary damages from concert promoters AEG Live, who are accused of failing to vet Jackson’s former doctor Conrad Murray.

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| Photo Credit: ABC News |

Jackson, who passed away in 2009, died of an overdose after Murray gave him the sedative Propofol.  AEG Live denied responsibility for hiring Murray and argued they could not have foreseen the circumstances that ultimately lead to Jackson’s death.

On the other side of the country, a jury has begun deliberations on whether to charge Kermit Gosnell, a Pennsylvania doctor, with the death of four aborted babies who were allegedly born alive.  Additionally, Gosnel is facing charges for the death of a 2009 patient.

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| Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia |

Gosnell is accused of performing late-term abortions.  His defense, however, argues they were provided to girls desperate for relief and who needed a solution to their problems.

Lastly, the ongoing high-profile case against George Zimmerman, who is accused of allegedly killing Trayvon Martin, 17, back in February 2012 is as active as ever.  The latest development is that Zimmerman elected to waive his most recent hearing under the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, resulting in a trial date that will likely be this summer.

SMU (&Dedman Law) Welcomes Library!

A Note From Red | This past week marked a very special occasion for not only the country, but also SMU.  The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on Thursday with all five presidents, past and current, in attendance for the ceremony.  I was fortunate to be a part of the celebrations!

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SMU’s Dedman School of Law is still in the running as one of my top choices for law school and how fortunate would I along with all the other accepted students in the class of 2016 be to have three full years to take advantage of the George W. Bush Library.  With hundreds of archives, both print and electronic versions, historical audiovisual materials, gubernatorial records and other research materials, the library will prove an indispensible and special resource for any student to take advantage of and learn from.

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I had the privilege of touring the library on Monday before the general public during the SMU student preview day. I could sum up my experience in one word: patriotic.  Visitors of the library were taken on a journey through the president’s eight years in office and more importantly through almost a decade of significant American history.  One of the most memorable parts of the library was the 9/11 portion, which included significant artifacts like the president’s famous blow-horn he used days after the attack to address first responders and an actual piece from the North Twin Tower.

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Looking into the future, many are wondering where President Obama will decide to locate his library.  He attended Harvard Law School but many are predicting he may choose to build it in Hawaii, where he’s originally from.  He even made a joke about it during his last public speech.   All eyes are on Texas, however, as the first wave of visitors get to see the library for themselves.

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| Photo Credit: Ashley Stainton |

Red, White, Blue and SMU

A Note From Red | This was a big week on SMU’s campus with the opening of President George W. Bush’s library! My friend Ashley and I took pictures of SMU students as they celebrated… see all the red, white and blue inspiration!

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Red, white and blue were the colors to be seen in at the SMU Boulevard Block Party, one of many celebrations held this past week honoring the George W. Bush Presidential Center opening.

SMU students put Uncle Sam to shame, donning everything from flag inspired shoes to patriotic accessories.  Even those who didn’t come dressed in the colors were given American flags to make any ensemble fit the festive occasion.

“When else can you wear American flag pants and fit in with the crowd,” says SMU sophomore Rachel Finkbohner.

We especially like this student’s subtle yet chic way of incorporating the theme with her red Michael Kors clutch!

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Applying to Law School: What I Learned

A Note From Red | This past year has been nothing short of a whirlwind! With graduation pending, law school applications signed, sealed and delivered and now the next chapter of law school starting in the fall, it seems like I have hardly had time to reflex.  When I look back at what got me through everything (particularly those pesky law school applications) I started to compile a list of tips for my success (and sanity) for when applying to law schools.  Here is what I have to share…

The initial phase of applying to law school is deciding which schools you want to apply for (obviously!).  Of course everyone has dreams of going to Harvard or Yale, but unless you want to waist a fortune applying to schools you may not have a chance getting into, it’s best to calculate which schools are in your ‘target zone.’

What determines your ‘target zone?’ It’s a combination of your GPA and LSAT scores.  Of course a stellar personal statement, resume and recommendation letters help, but the most important components are those two numbers.  They essentially get you through the first process of screening or send your application to the wastebasket.  I found a great site that helps you calculate which schools are within your reach- because applying to schools can cost upwards of $60-150.  There are, however, schools that will offer a admissions fee waiver and while you still have to pay the $20 processing fee, I would strongly recommend taking advantage of these fee waivers if you are even somewhat considering or could consider the school.

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| Photo Credit: University of Illinois |

Some of the best advice I received was to apply to schools that you know you’ll get into, as well as a couple of reach schools, schools that are a little out of your range but that you would like to attend.  You never know what the admissions committee is looking for and even if your LSAT at GPA scores are a little weak in comparison to their normal standards, and I stress the world little, you still may have a chance.

Rank is important to consider when choosing which schools to apply to. Usually the higher ranked the school is, the better reputation and job opportunities that come from attending that university.  There are, however, other considerations that I learned were important too.  These include: location, because ultimately you have to spend the next three years of you life at this place and potentially start your career there; the students body, can you related to them and interact with them to foster a successful relationship with your classmates; and family.  I value my time with my family and wanted to be able to take quick flights home for holidays- because we all know exams can eat up our vacation time.

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| Photo Credit: Pertersons.com |

Finally, when schools start responding to you, either with acceptance or rejection, that is the time to be open to reevaluating your options.  Scholarship money can come into play and what you initially though you may want can change.  Be open to different possibilities and most of all ultimately be excited with your choice!

FIG: A Fashionista’s Candy Store

A Note From Red | Check out my latest piece for SMU Fashion Media! The FIG Market was such an amazing event to see.  It something very special and significant to Dallas and the Dallas Fashion Scene…

Once-barren clothing racks are now filled with sequined blouses, vibrantly colored dresses and freshly pressed skirts.   The staging lights have been checked, the sound of heels clicking against the cement floor drown out the hip music playing in the background, and the “who’s who” of the city’s fashion world are all gathered under one roof.

It’s a sight seen only a few times a year in Dallas.

Designers, fashion enthusiasts and storeowners assembled in the Downtown Arts District the weekend of March 23 and 24 for the Fashion Institute Gallery’s first of two fall markets.

Photo credit: Ashley Stainton

This is one of FIG’s bigger markets, says FIG’s Carman Thompson,  with 61 temporary vendors participating, in addition to the 38 permanent vendors who have showrooms located in the FIG building.  Hundreds of collections from Dolce Vita to J Brand were showcased for buyers representing boutiques and stores around the country.

Christy Munger, sales director for Akola Jewelry, had a booth at the show.  “Everyone is really excited,” Munger says.  “It’s the first time some of these designers and brands get the chance to make their merchandise available to the public.  We are interested to see what is popular, what stores think will sell – essentially what gets picked up.”

While the fall market is by appointment only, FIG also hosts a biannual FIG Finale – in January or February and again in August – which is open to the public.  Over 2,000 people have attended the event in the past for the chance to shop FIG’s exclusive sales at up to 75 percent off retail prices.

The nationally recognized tradeshows FIG offers throughout the year have helped keep Dallas on the map as one of the premier fashion cities in the country, says SMU student Katie Roberts, who worked the FIG fall market.

“My favorite part about working at FIG is seeing what looks all the buyers and exhibitors show up in each day,” Roberts says.  “These people are often very fashion-forward, so what they wear or what they choose to sell or buy helps me to visualize future trends. Right now patterned pants seems to be what’s in for next season and clothes with a lot of movement.”

Photo credit: Ashley Stainton

This first fall show was deemed a success with a lot of positive feedback from buyers and exhibitors, says Thompson.  The FIG team isn’t wasting any time, however. They are already getting ready for the next event.

“Once market is complete, it is just the cleanup process, and then we start preparing for the next upcoming market.  It is a continuous cycle,” says Thompson.

“When we prepare for the next market we have what is called a ‘market checklist,’” she adds. “This checklist has anything and everything there is to setting up for market. So the planning begins about six weeks out. Some things have to be confirmed prior to that, but that is our starting point.”

The next FIG event, the second fall market and 2013 winter market, will be held May 30 to June 1, so planning is in the initial phases.

Roberts hopes to again be a part of it.  “This is my second time working at FIG and, honestly, what keeps me coming back – besides the fun, fast-paced atmosphere and friendly staff – is the clothes!  I wanted to see what went on behind-the-scene in fashion, which is why working at FIG has ended up being perfect for me.”

Photo credit: Ashley Stainton

| The Dallas Arts District |

Investment Pieces: Where Fashion Meets Finance

A Note From Red | Please enjoy my latest blog for SMU Style

Fashionistas everywhere use all sorts of justifications as to why they need to have the latest Christian Louboutin shoes or Balenciaga handbag.  One of the most popular validations for spending upwards of a small fortune on fashion items is that they are “investment pieces.”

Spring Berkin Bags Photo courtesy: lamodelmafia.com

Celine Bag  Photo courtesy: style-is-style.com

The claim that fashion is an investment is truer now than ever before.  If you have walked into a Chanel orHermes store recently, you would have noticed the steep increase on the little red number printed on their price tags.

Every year, popular designer brands are setting fixed dates to increase the price of their merchandise.  Chanel, Hermes, Celine and Prada are just a few brands that do this.

This past February, Chanel raised its prices again.  Chanel handbags increased in price by 12.5 percent.  One of its most popular bags, the classic jumbo style, went from $4,800 to $5,400 virtually overnight.

Chanel Classic Jumbo Photo courtesy: Chanel.comPhoto Credit: Chanel.com

Hermes’ prices went up by 9 percent this year.  The company sited the ever-rising cost of raw materials like crocodile and leather for the reason, however.

Whether it’s the expensive materials driving up costs or a plot derived by designers to maintain brand exclusivity and heighten demand, these increases has become a growing and consistent trend in the luxury fashion world.

If you have your heart set on a fabulous bag, there is no better time than the present to purchase it and ‘invest’ in your fashion statement.

This Year’s Fashion Rebel | Yves Saint Laurent

A Note From Red | Paris Fashion Week may have been a couple weeks ago, but there is still a lot of buzz about the designers who presented their lines- one in particular.  This year, one of my personal favorites brands for clutches and jewelry stood out…

Yves Saint Laurent made a bold statement at Paris Fashion Week under the new creative direction of Hedi Slimane.  The 2013 collection was an unexpected mix between 90s wear and grunge.  Models looked more like disheveled, drug hazed rock stars than high fashion runway models. Many in the fashion word were shocked by the direction Silmane took the line, which is going through a rebranding transition by dropping the ‘Yves’ and changing to Saint Laurant.

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| Photo Credit: NY Magazine

“The message was literally loud, clear, and confident: Anyone expecting something ‘more traditionally YSL’ can piss off. Hedi has firmly asserted himself at the house. He’s doing Hedi, and that’s okay. This is a lifestyle brand for musicians and those who want to hang out with them,” said The Cut’s Stella Bugbee.

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| Photo Credit: Telegraph UK |

“Slimane delivered the punch that was expected of him – albeit a fashionable six months late. Yves Saint Laurent himself was a rebel within the fashion industry. For Slimane to alight upon an era in which YSL has no particular relevance is, therefore, perhaps in keeping with the spirit of the house. There was a bold energy and a youthful iconoclasm to this collection … In California, where Slimane lives and to where he has moved the design studio, nineties grunge is a deeply felt part of everyday folklore; but in Paris, it is an abstract concept,” said Jess Cartner-Morley, The Guardian’s fashion editor.

Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent show at Paris fashion week.

| Photo Credit: The Guardian |

“The core Saint Laurent customer, meanwhile, may not quite be ready for an indecent hem line … but she’ll cut quite a dash in a beautifully cut Nappa trench coat,” said Susannah Frankel, writer for Grazia.

Yves Saint Laurant, who passed away in 2008, was always known as a visionary.  He was a designer who tested the boundaries, and it seems his successor is compelled to do the same. The million dollar question is: will this translate successfully into everyday wear in stores across the globe?

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|Photo Credit: secretstylefile.wordpress.com  |