November 29, 2007

Cornell Law — Best at Studying?

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It is no secret that Cornell students are hard workers but in The Princeton Review’s 2008 Best 170 Law Schools book, that fact is numerically proven. Cornell’s Law School was ranked number one in most hours studied per day, with a reported average of 5.97 hours.
Paul Caron, law ’83, published this data on his blog after ranking all the data from the Princeton Review book.
“The data show that students at lower-ranked law schools study harder [a median 5.13 hours per day] than students at higher- ranked schools [a median 3.56 hours per day],” Caron wrote.
The next two schools ranked after Cornell for most hours studied were Roger Williams with 5.80 hours, and Baylor with 5.68 hours. According to U.S. News and World Report, Cornell is the 13th best law school in the country, whereas Baylor is 53rd and Roger Williams is not even in the top 100.
In the ranking of most hours studied, Cornell is the only Ivy League in the top 25. The next highest Ivy was University of Pennsylvania Law School at number 112 with 4.19 hours per day. Yale Law School, U.S. News and World Report’s number one law school, was ranked 162 out of 170, with 3.5 hours per day.
“Students at lower-ranked those at higher-ranked schools in order to land good jobs. A student who goes to Yale has his or her pick of opportunities merely by virtue of having gone to Yale, regardless of their performance there. A student at a 4th tier school [like Roger Williams] has to perform well to get noticed,” Caron said.
Caron also explained that as a Cornell law student, there are less internships at prestigious law firms which take time away from studying, because of Ithaca’s location.
The Dean of the Law School Stewart Schwab agreed with Caron, saying that there are “less hours of distractions” for Cornell law students.
“Urban law school students are already off doing work at law firms, as are faculty,” Schwab said.
Because the faculty are not spending as much time with law firms, they have more time to devote to the law school.
Professor Melanie Oxhorn, a Harvard law graduate, attributed a lot of the time studying to the structure of the law school.
“The classes at Cornell are more problem based, not lecture based, and they require more attention and output,” Oxhorn said.
Grace Lee law ’10 attributed the amount of studying to universal law school methods.
“The Socratic method is widely used in law schools, this is when students are ‘cold-called’ — think of Legally Blonde when Elle Woods is ‘grilled’ on the first day. I think it is a highly effective learning tool because it forces students to stay on top of the reading just in case they gets called on,” Lee said.
“Students don’t want to seem clueless in front of their professor and peers. However, since this is widely used in law schools, I’m not sure that this would be the distinguishing factor between Cornell Law and its peers, although I would agree this is definitely a factor,” Lee continued.
Cornell law is the smallest Ivy League law school, something that will not change any time soon, Schwab said. Schwab wants to increase the faculty even more, but will not at the expense of increasing class sizes. The irony of having the smallest Ivy law school at the largest Ivy is something that sets Cornell apart.
Cornell’s 2010 law class has 191 students, a significantly smaller number than Harvard’s 559.
“I think the size of our class, very small as law schools go, fosters this studying frenzy. People always see others studying and hear others saying that they study all the time, so students feel the need to keep up, particularly since the classes are graded on a curve,” Lee said.
The professors overall, seemed very impressed with the amount of studying done by their students.
“In my recollection people at Harvard were biding their time just to get out especially during the second and third year,” Oxhorn said. “I am somewhat impressed all my third year students chose to stand for a grade and not take this fairly demanding course pass fail at their final year.”