Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Paper Chase & Pace Law School

If you are a prospective law student, you may be in the midst of choosing a school.  The following is a post we did on the Pace University School of Law. 

Our Coverage of Law Schools That Do it Right.
 I've always had a little problem with law school rankings. Periodicals like the US News & World Report prepare these one size fits all lists that usually include Yale and Harvard at the top. This is usually followed by a potpourri mess of lower tiered schools. There is a reason why the ABA and the Law School Admission Council refrain from taking part in these lopsided "surveys". They often do not reflect the true worth of a school. To me, its akin to the Martindale AV ratings or getting yourself listed in Who's Who. Do these ratings really measure up to the real worth of the particular attorney? (I know plenty of recently disbarred AV rated lawyers. And I'm pretty sure you'll get listed in Who's Who as long as you buy the plaque). When preparing its cookie cutter annual ranking, I always wonder if US News & World Report really takes into account what each particular law school has to offer. For example, is it fair to equate bar passage rates between schools in New York and California with those states that offer easier testing? Let's be frank. The bar exam in New York is much tougher than most states. In that regard, we invite our readers to give us a little insight into some law programs you may have encountered.

This month we profile the Pace University School of Law. Located in White Plains, New York, this hidden gem is among the most underrated legal institutions in the nation. Part of the reason behind the undervaluing may be due to the glut of law schools in NY. Take for example US News & World Report. The magazine ranks Pace Law as one of the top three environmental programs in the country beating out a host of heavy hitting ivy league institutions. Despite this, it places the school's overall ranking oddly in the same tier as Appalachian Law School. While I am confident Appalachian Law offers fine academia (they are the current national moot champions after all), it bares noting that the school was founded in 1994 and is located in the small town of Grundy, Virginia (pop. 1105). Pace Law School simply offers more advantages than Appalachian. (More clinical programs, wider choice of classes, location just outside Manhattan). In a similar vein, I was surprised to see New York Law and Connecticut's Qunnipiac Law School located in a higher tier. Both schools are very comparable to Pace. The three seem to consistently yo-yo back and forth between tiers. Of course, Qunnipiac Law School has the advantage of a beautiful campus. New York Law has the advantage of being mistaken for NYU all the time. I always saw Pace Law as a school that offered the best of both worlds. You had the proximity of Manhattan coupled with a suburban Connecticut-like tranquility. Take the best of NY Law and Qunnipiac, mash them together and you get Pace Law.

Pace Law offers opportunities for students to do real clinic work in a variety of areas including immigration, environmental law, criminal justice, land use and investor rights. One of the school's greatest assets is the Pace Law Environmental Litigation Clinic. Helmed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Karl Coplan, two of the nation's leading environmental litigators, the clinic gives some students the chance to do some precedent setting federal work. Often, these students face ivy league laden corporate law firms. More often than not, the Pace students get the better of these powerhouse legal teams. Imagine explaining to your client that his $500 an hour lawyer was just beaten by a group of students.

Pace Law's stellar faculty and staff include an array of legal scholars and current practitioners who place an emphasis on real world learning. The school has a great open door policy that I did not experience in other law schools. And with small class sizes, you are going to get a quality education. It is also the home of NY State Judicial Insitute (the educational center for all of the state's justices and judges) The Law School even offers a variety of joint degrees where you can add a LLM, SJD, MPA, MEM. MS or MBA to your JD including a joint program with Yale. Federal internships at the esteemed United States District Court for the Southern District of New York are in walking distance for Pace Students. Many of the world's leading law firms are a short train ride away in New York City. Of course, you don't need to leave the confines of White Plains. Over the years, the city has transformed itself into a great place to live, work and play. The school's suburban campus rests on the borders of some of the richest counties in the U.S. Many of the nation's leading legal minds live and practice in its backyard. The networking opportunities are immense. In my own experience with law school functions, I had the opportunity to schmooze with Hillary Clinton, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Mayor Bloomberg's chief of staff, Leona Helmsley's chief attorney, a VP at MTV and a slew of partners from some of the country's leading law firms. In Westchester, you cannot take five steps without smacking into some mover or shaker.

I enjoyed my experience with Pace Law. (if you consider the Socratic method enjoyable.) I attended Pace Law after a year of serving time in a Manhattan law school. Working my way through school, I was also a full time employee of Pace. As such, I think I can bring a rather unique perspective to my views of that particular educational institution. As both a student and an employee, I was able to see both sides of the coin. By attending a previous school, I am able to compare offerings. I also took part in an externship program offered by Catholic University's Columbus School of Law and my wife attends UCONN. Frankly, I think Pace Law measures up to these top tiered schools.   Since my time at Pace, it appears the school updated the library facilities, food services were improved and a bright new glass covered classroom building was added that incorporated wi fi access. A parking garage was built. Aesthetics aside, the school continued to offer the services of an excellent faculty. The school consistently improves upon itself. The education was exceptional. For more information on this month's law school review, please visit the Pace Law School Website.

*Editor's note: As a fresh faced college graduate, I stood ready to conquer the legal world. I had the mindset that I wanted to be a corporate attorney complete with the requisite red suspenders, blue shirt with white collar and one of those metal ball thingamawhatzits on my enormous cherry wood desk. Though I was accepted in law schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, I decided New York was where the action was. I enrolled in a downtown Manhattan Law School in my quest to reach Wall Street. It's funny how your perspective on life changes. I quickly learned how expensive it was to study in NYC. One closet sized apartment I looked at had a pulldown bed from a closet and a bathtub in the middle of the kitchen. The landlord was an elderly gentleman who wanted around $1800 a month. "American dollars?" I asked incredously. The alternative was living outside the city and driving in to school. No economic walk in the park either. If you were lucky, you could find metered parking in front of the law school. Unfortunately, the meters allowed for one hour parking. Classes were one hour and fifteen minutes. Those extra 15 minutes usually resulted in a hefty parking ticket. Private parking at the school cost between $15 - $20 an hour. A big problem when you had your first class at 9 and your second class at 5. Taking the train in to the city was also expensive when you factored in a monthly ticket. I decided to be frugally creative. The subway was about $1.50 at the time. I would drive to the Bronx to where the subway began and I would take the 6 to Grand Central and then switch to the 5. The Six is a local. Basically, that meant the journey to my school lasted longer than the Santa Maria's voyage to the new world. It was during that first year that I discovered Pace Law School. Living in White Plains, it made more sense for me to use the school's law library to study. Although not a student, I found a helpful library staff and even a few professors willing to lend their ears. It was at that point that I decided to make the switch to the greener pastures of Westchester County. If you are considering law schools, I suggest adding this wonderful institution to your list. I like to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin who stated that you are only guaranteed the right to pursue happiness, you have to catch it yourself. I like to think that Pace Law helped me out in that pursuit.


Cynthia said...

As both a 2003 graduate of Pace Law School and a current member of the Library staff, I share your opinion, Adrian, with one exception. The Library was renovated over 2005-2007, and now the quality of the facility almost matches the quality of the staff. Check out the pictures on our website http://library.law.pace.edu, or just come back and visit.

Adrian M. Baron said...

Thanks Cynthia. It looks like we were at Pace at about the same time. I updated the post. Appreciate the comments.


Anonymous said...

It's about time this school started getting some credit. My own law school took part in the National Environmental Moot Court Competition that is held there a few years ago. I got to meet Bobby Kennedy Jr. Very down to earth.

John said...

Pace is on my list of top 3 choices for law schools. Thank you for the additional information.

Adrian M. Baron said...

An an alumnus, I would be happy to answer any of your questions about Pace Law. Feel free to email me at abaron@ptblegal.com

Unknown said...

I'm thrilled to see my alma mater getting the credit it deserves. Just a few years ago, it was one of the only law schools in the country with a policy center dedicated solely to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Between the Pace Energy & Climate Center, the environmental law program, and the Land Use Law Center, Pace offers an exceptional, practical education to students who want to do good in the world through their work.

Mike said...

Attorney Baron,

Great post. I attended Pace in the 90s. I can't believe how much better the school and White Plains have gotten.

I enjoyed your post about Mickey Mantle and muskets.

Rich said...

Thanks for your Post on Pace.
It sounds like a law school with a lot going for it, including excellent clinical education opportunities.
One thing that you did not emphasize reflects a great omission from most American legal education: real practical legal education in how to do the things practicing lawyers must do. With so many new lawyers on their own or in firms with little or no training, where are they supposed to learn things like how to negotiate a contract, take a deposition, or conduct a closing? As I mentioned in a post in OnLawyering entitled "Raising the Bar on Lawyer Professionalism," law school education is long on case law and statutory analysis and short on how to deal with the clients, opponents, witnesses and court personnel that lawyers deal with every day.
Clinical education could be the answer, but not as it is available at most American Law Schools, as it does not systemically identify and teach the basic skills lawyers need to be competent professionals. It is a good thing that medical education (mostly through residency programs) does a much better job of teaching young doctors.

Amanda said...


Right now I'm in an internal battle between going to Pace, NY Law and Rutgers- Newark... I'm was leaning towards Pace before I read this post, and now I really am I think... I would love some additional info from you especially because you did the manhattan law school thing and hated it...

Thank you so much!!!!!

Anonymous said...

the criminal justice clinic allows 8 students to participate. So, there are great clinical opportunities...for eight people. I went to Pace becasue they were supposed to have a great criminal justice clinic. unfortunately, I was not allowed to participate in this clinic. So, I guess I went to Pace for no reason. Stop acting like there are all these great clinical opportunities. They are available only to the chosen few. the other 90% of the class gets to go fuck themselves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your post this has helped tremendously. I was firsted introduced to Pace Law School at a law fair and knew that I had to apply. These replies helped me.I wish all if the prospective student's good luck.

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Gregor Renk said...

I am studying very hard for getting into one of the best law schools. The best part of my preparation would be LSAT Logic Games because it helps sharpening the brain and IQ. It was good to know about this school, will research more and get back to it.

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