REMEMBER THE SCENE FROM THE movie Alien in
which new generations of monsters constantly are being incubated?
Now imagine worrying that Washington already has too many lawyers.
Then imagine wave after wave of greedy paper-pushers, bullying
litigators, officious meddlers, and licensed ambulance-chasers
pouring into the world. These real-life terror factories are our
law schools. And they're increasing production.
The problem is a national one, but Washington leads the way. The
city's most prominent law school, Georgetown University Law
Center, is the nation's largest. George Mason University in
Virginia has one of the fastest-growing law schools in the
country. Then there are George Washington, American, Catholic, and
Howard -- plus the District of Columbia School of Law, reborn from
old Antioch College Law School. Nearby are the University of
Virginia in Charlottesville, the University of Maryland in
Baltimore, and the University of Baltimore itself.
In the hierarchical world of law firms, the high-paying jobs are
not available to everyone. Having gone to the right school really
The University of Virginia is a right school. Washington's most
prestigious firm, Covington & Burling, hires more graduates
from UVA than from either Georgetown or GWU. So does the elite
national firm Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue.
GWU and Georgetown have similarly tough admissions standards, and
their graduates have nearly equal success landing jobs with top
law firms. The rivalry between them is fierce. Georgetown's Dean
Judith Areen isn't above dissing GWU a bit, saying that Georgetown
is more accurately judged against Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. "We
play in a tougher league," she said.
For their part, GWU's deans try to convince applicants that
Georgetown is too big, its campus is in a bad area, and it is
developing a reputation as "too radical."
That may sound like a funny complaint coming from GWU, a school
that houses Professor John Banzhaf, the area's best-known
"radical" law professor. But Banzhaf, who has brought suit
alleging sex discrimination in dry-cleaning pricing, and
litigates zealously in his anti-smoking crusade, is the
exception rather than the rule at GWU.
GWU is every bit as expensive as Georgetown, and its admissions
standards seem just as rigorous. But top students accepted at both
schools tend to pick Georgetown, preferring its reputation.
That's not to say that a GWU law degree isn't worth the $ 60,000
it costs. Covington & Burling, Washington's most prestigious
home-grown firm, hires more GWU than Georgetown grads. The
school's popularity with recruiters also reflects GWU's emphasis
on corporate practice, while Georgetown seems better at producing
the kind of aggressive litigator who finds happiness at Williams
& Connolly or Arnold & Porter.
GWU's 300-student night program is smaller than Georgetown's but
still popular. It attracts quite a few Pentagon types and others
interested in such bread-and-butter topics as government contract
work. GWU gets 8,300 applications, accepts 1,750, and enrolls
about 470 students a year.
Banzhaf is also listed, in Wikipedia, as
among the top noted faculty
at the George Washington University Law School.