Law Students

Reports of Law School Cheating Increase Along with Focus on Grades

There is a reason why campus psychological counseling programs treat more law students than medical or business students, according to a law school career official.

The economic downturn has increased employers’ focus on law school grades, leading to more competition and higher levels of stress among law students, according to a National Law Journal column by William Chamberlain, assistant dean for law career strategy and advancement at Northwestern University law school.

The competitive atmosphere at law schools has also brought a higher incidence of cheating allegations lodged by one student against another, he writes.

The downturn in legal hiring has made grades even more important, Chamberlain says. “Formal summer programs at large firms have become so small that many firms can make offers to the same set of ‘top’ students and not be too disappointed if they do not get all of them to accept.”

The focus on grades extends to judicial clerkships and public interest fellowship programs, he says. “In no other profession do grades play such a central role in hiring decisions, and they matter even 10 years out of law school.”

Chamberlain says grades aren’t a particularly good predictor of a lawyer’s success at a law firm. As he sees it, the “obsession” with grades is harming the profession by diverting law students from focusing on the skills they need to serve clients’ needs.

“Though the importance of grades in law school is not going to diminish anytime soon, we in the career centers know that a student’s grades, whether strong or not, do not define the student and are only one aspect of the job search,” he writes.

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