Two Students, Two Schools, One Eagerness for the Law

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

MARGO SCHLANGER is headed to Washington. After her graduation next spring from Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn., Ms. Schlanger will begin a year-long clerkship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judge on the federal circuit court in the nation's capital.

While this is a prestigious appointment, Schlanger has lots of company: Nearly half of her third-year classmates will clerk next year for federal and state judges.

Schlanger doesn't know what will come next, but as for many graduates of top law schools, government service is a possibility. "Clinton's election has awakened a lot of interest in government among my classmates," she says. "Many of us didn't aspire to working in the Bush administration but are considering government now."

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A native of Chappaqua, N.Y., Schlanger graduated from Yale and worked briefly as a fact checker at The New Yorker magazine before entering law school in 1990.

As with many law students, Schlanger's workload is staggering: Besides a normal course load, she's the book editor on Yale's law journal, participated in a moot-court competition this fall, and works with a student project helping teenage mothers get day-care benefits so they can stay in school. "I eat when I can," she laughs.

The day-care project is part of an extensive clinical-education program available to Yale law students. Schlanger, who has been active in clinical work all three years, estimates that about half of the students participate in clinical projects during their tenure.

As a woman law student, Schlanger is no longer a rarity: About 43 percent of the nation's law students are female. But she says there is still a lot of self-awareness and solidarity among women students. A Yale Law School Women's Association is active, and other women's groups have worked hard to give female students equal access to judicial clerkships and to get more women on the faculty.

Schlanger is grateful to be in a privileged educational environment, but she pays handsomely for it: With the help of a loan, she recently handed Yale a check for $10,000 to cover her last semester.

IT'S taken him a while, but John Britton believes he's found his niche. Mr. Britton is a 30-year-old, first-year student at Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law in Buies Creek, N.C.

Campbell's law school (generally referred to by the name of the university rather than the man who founded the law school in 1979) also has found its niche. In a state with four other law schools - at two public universities and two private ones, Duke and Wake Forest - Campbell has won a reputation for turning out graduates well trained in trial and advocacy skills.

According to Dean Patrick Hetrick, Campbell also "is becoming known as the law school for North Carolinians," since many of the applicants to the three larger law schools in the state are nonresidents. About 80 percent of the 320 Campbell law students come from North Carolina, and roughly the same percentage stay in the state to practice.

In several respects, Britton doesn't match the law school's usual student profile. He's older than most of his classmates, he's a native of Maine with a graduate business degree from Duke, he expects to be a business and tax lawyer more than a litigator.

But Britton - whose wife graduated from the law school last spring - appears to be typical in his enthusiasm for the program, which, he says, "puts as much emphasis on practical procedure as on legal theory. You're prepared to hit the ground running after you graduate. The teaching is phenomenal. I haven't been disappointed with a single professor."

Campbell University is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church, although it has no denominational requirements for admission. Britton says the Christian orientation comes through in a focus on legal ethics that is integrated into the course work.

Campbell's law school has come far from what Dean Hetrick laughingly calls a "give-me-your-tired-and-poor law school" 13 years ago. More than 1,200 people applied for the 110 places in Britton's class. The North Carolina bar-examination pass rate for Campbell graduates is 98 percent. And a Campbell moot-court team recently placed second in a state competition, losing to Duke after defeating two Wake Forest teams; soon it will go to a national meet. * Previous articles in the "Redefining Higher Education" series appeared Nov. 16 and 23.

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