They Keep Turning Out More and More Lawyers. But How Good Are Area Law Schools?
Washingtonian [01/1994]

"Professor John Banzhaf, the area's best-known 'radical' law professor"

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 does matter.

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.