Assist. Dean of Admissions, UC Hastings Law
Assist. Dean of Admissions, UC Hastings Law
Greg Canada is the Assistant Dean of Admissions at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law . He earned a B.A. in history and philosophy from Virginia Wesleyan College, summa cum laude, an M.A. in philosophy from Boston College, and a graduate certificate in higher education administration from Harvard University. He has devoted his entire professional career to serving higher education. In addition to working various student service positions as a graduate student, he has spent over 14 years in undergraduate, graduate, and professional school admissions. In addition to his responsibilities at UC Hastings, he is actively involved with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, and serves as an evaluator for the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship program. He currently serves on the LSAC Services and Programs Committee and chairs the LSAC Law Forums subcommittee.
AD: Thanks for agreeing to answer my questions today.
GC: Not a problem. I’m happy to do it.
AD: In doing my research, I learned that UC Hastings students really like their professors.
GC: That’s true, we pride ourselves on hiring a really bright, affable group of people at Hastings.
AD: No, I mean really, really like their professors — at least according to AboveTheLaw.com.
GC: Oh, jeez, not that!
AD: C’mon, how was I supposed to do this interview without bringing that up — it was a little too steamy to pass up! Seriously, though, with the advent of the Internet, harmless stories about things like professor crushes can get picked up and unfairly implicate the Law School. How does the school respond, or does it?
GC: Of course, we are always concerned whenever rumor or innuendo casts the law school in an unfavorable light. However, most often this “press” these days is a matter of personal expression or conjecture. That is one thing I find quite amazing is that the amount of opinion surrounding law schools and the admissions process – it’s really astounding. As a result, there is just too much out there for us to try and address — it would be a full time job to monitor all the chatter out there about Hastings. So, I pay some mind to it but don’t give it too much weight.
AD: In your opinion, what rumors are out there about Hastings which you feel are patently unfair?
GC: One of the chronic rumors that I find deeply frustrating — I sometimes feel like Sisyphus with this one, constantly pushing the boulder up the hill only to watch it roll back down — is the view that Hastings is a really competitive, cutthroat place. This “hook” about Hastings seems to get recycled every year and it’s not based upon any recent investigation as to what life is like at the school. It simply gets retold over and over again. So, we find ourselves having to answer same question again and again: “I hear Hastings is a really cutthroat place, is that true?” To the best of my knowledge, that reputation of the school dates back to the late 1960’s and early 70’s, when the law school enrolled 500 first year students, but expected a good number of them to be weeded out after their second term. Despite all the institutional efforts that we have since made to create a much more friendly, student-centered environment, that reputation still lingers — it’s one thing that Hastings has not been able to shake.
For instance, we in the Admissions Office are cognizant of this reputation and try not to admit ultra competitive, ultra cutthroat people. (Letters of recommendation, by the way, are very helpful in this regard.) But no matter what we do to change the dynamic of the class, no matter what we do to promote the educational and social experience of our students, companies that publish the law school guides don’t take much time to edit or update their information about the atmosphere at Hastings. And these truths occasionally get echoed by the all too many on-line experts. So, whenever someone inquires about the atmosphere here, I implore them to come and find out for themselves what the law school is really like. They need to see for themselves, because after all, they are going to be entering an investigative, fact-finding profession. Why not start behaving like attorneys in this regard? Prospective students need to visit the school and experience Hastings, and not rely solely on secondary literature or opinion about what the school is like. It’s not prudent.
AD: Are you finding that with the advent of the internet and the proliferation of these rumors (or recycled rumors), that it’s harder to attract your ideal student?
GC: Well, you know, there might be some truth to that. There is so much information so readily available to prospective applicants – all they have to do have is point and click. For many, there is a sense in which once they see something online – no matter how outrageous — then it must have at least some truth to it. They implicitly assume that if someone cared enough to take time and effort to write about it, then it has to have something to it. But it’s very easy, especially online, to mistake someone’s opinion with information that has been vetted. So, to the extent that you rely on the internet, you must have a skeptical eye, one that can separate the wheat from the chaff. In the end, our message is always that you have got to go visit the law school, you need to take the time to research the school, and that ultimately means going beyond even the websites and glossy brochures. Applicants need to see firsthand whether or not they could vision themselves thriving at a particular school.
AD: Right. When I interviewed Bill Hoye from Duke, he said the same thing. Visiting a school is quite possibly the best thing you can as an admitted student. You are selecting a law school for the next three years. Before you make a choice, you need to visit, talk with the students, talk with the faculty, and to get a real good sense as to what it’s going to be like for you as a student.
GC: I couldn’t agree more. I’d even say it goes beyond thinking about law school as a place where you plan to spend the next three years. You need to look at law school as the beginning of your legal career. Look, I have an old saying: Going to a law school you never visit is a lot like getting married to someone you have never met. I’m sure that sometimes it might work out, but it’s certainly not the wisest strategy for those who have the opportunity to choose. So much of a law school’s positive and negative attributes may elude the written word, can’t be captured in the photos on a school’s website or view-book. They must be experienced. Deciding to go to law school is a serious investment not only of one’s time but also of one’s money. And once you graduate, you will always be an alumni — someone who is associated with that school. So taking the time to make a sound decision about whether not this is the best law school for me is very important. I cannot emphasize that enough. In all honestly, nothing makes me more uneasy than when someone says, “I would like to extend my deposit deadline because I haven’t had a chance to visit.” When I hear that just shake my hand and wonder, “What are you thinking?”
AD: Let’s talk about the application process a little bit.
AD: Your Early Decision (ED) deadline passed, what, on November 15th, right?
GC: That’s correct.
AD: And I am sure that our readers would love to know how many applications you received?
GC: We received approximately 250 applications for the fall of 2011 early commitment process. That’s less than what we typically get. In years past we typically received somewhere between 275 or 300.
AD: Since your ED applications are down between 10 and 16 percent, are you expecting fewer applications this year? Do you think that this is one indication that there are going to be fewer than the nearly 6,000 applications you received during the 2009-10 cycle?
GC: Yeah. I am expecting a dip in the applications. All indications from the Law School Admissions Council — whether it’s the lower attendance at forums or a dip in the number of first time LSAT takers – seem to indicate that we are going to experience a dip in applications.
AD: A sizable dip?
GC: It’s hard to say right now.
AD: What do you attribute to the dip in LSAT test takers?
GC: Well, I mean the word is definitely out. It took a while for the news about the shrinking legal market that was appearing in the Wall Street Journal or in the New York Times for the past couple of years to have an impact on admissions. Given the time it usually takes for applicants to prepare to apply for law school, two years in many cases, the influence of the market was not felt immediately. This is the year when I am expecting us to see the impact of the changing legal market. I have talked to a number of my colleagues here on the West Coast, and they have indicated up to double-digit decreases in applications.
AD: Fewer applications doesn’t necessarily mean fewer enrollments, right? I mean you still expect to have roughly 45,000 students going to law school, right? I guess the only impact that few applications will have is a potential dip in the quality of the candidates — is that what you expect to see?
GC: I don’t see an indication that the current dip in applications will result in dip in the quality of the pool. For starters, there has always been a group of applicants who have viewed law school as a fall back — a place where they could wait out a dismal economy and the worst that could happen is that they would get a nice paying job at a private firm and live a comfortable lifestyle. It is not quite same bet anymore, especially now that the legal market has taken a hit and law school tuition is going up. The value proposition for those people for whom law school isn’t a calling — those who just don’t know what else to do, especially in a bad economy — may not be there. So, it’s quite possible that there will be fewer of these people in the pool this year, folks who would otherwise only be halfheartedly entering law school and the legal profession. Now, of course, I am looking at this through a very cloudy crystal ball. I don’t have an oracle in front of me that will tell me in advance who is in the pool. My gut is telling me that for those people who really see the law as their passion, those who have always wanted to be lawyers, I don’t think the current downturn in the economy or rising tuition is going to bridle their desire to attend law school. So, again, I am not convinced that the shrinking application pool nationwide will mean that there will be less qualified applicants for law school.
AD: How has Hastings’ grads done in the current job market? You mentioned that the word is out that there are fewer jobs and that law firms are certainly becoming much more selective in who they have to hire. How have your students done finding jobs?
GC: Hastings has fared as well as one could expect. We are doing everything possible to assist students in finding not only jobs in the legal market, but positions in the private sector where the value of a JD still is pretty high. The San Francisco legal market isn’t one of the most robust markets, and it has taken a hit by the downturn. Yet, it remains a coveted marketed. People relocate to the Bay Area because of the quality of the life that comes with living in San Francisco. We are finding that a not so insignificant number of our unemployed graduates this year have actually turned down jobs in places outside the Bay Area to hedge their bets on landing a seemingly better opportunity here. In other words, we are beginning to appreciate the role personal choice is playing in our unemployment numbers. Couple that with the games law schools feel pressured to play these days with these statistics for the sake of rankings, at graduation and nine month employment rates should not be seen as the only way to measure the currency of a school’s degree.
AD: If you were one of those students who is going to invest in a law school education — and we will talk about the cost of that decision in a moment — but if you are going to be one of these students, what’s the best way to protect that financial investment?
GC: I think the most important thing one can do to protect one’s investment is to anchor one’s decision to attend law school to authentic, well-considered reasons. I think applicants must do some serious soul searching before making this commitment. If you have thought through all of your career options and keep coming back to the law, if you have worked at an attorney’s office and despite what you’ve seen you still want to be an attorney, then I think you will definitely get a good return on your investment by attending law school. You not only see your legal education as a means to make a living, but as preparation for a certain way of life. Now, for the folks who fail to seriously examine the personal value of a legal education, who do not consider how it will mesh with their talents, values and aspirations, then I think the investment is becoming less a sure bet, less easy to protect. I see part of my job as helping prospective students arrive at their own conclusions as to what the value of a legal education is for them. Needless to say, I end up doing my fair share of dissuading, especially when a prospective student tells me that he wants to go to law school because he likes to argue. I wonder if he considered other careers…
AD: Or simply considered getting married!
GC: [Laughing] Yeah, I suppose that could be another option for those who like to argue.
AD: I not sure which is the less expensive option – especially if you consider divorce!
GC: [Laughing] That’s true!
AD: Ok, seriously, if there is a job out there that you want that takes a law degree to do it, then obviously that is part of the value you ascribe to a JD, regardless of cost, because it’s going to make you happy. I think that just obviously with the economy, the focus has shifted to cost and…
GC: Yes, I agree that cost of attendance has become of increasingly important. But to follow your point, there is a relative connection between cost and worth that each student must critically examine. For those who are not really sure about attending law school or becoming, say, an attorney, then the increased costs of attending law school will make it less worth it. For those who are answering their calling, they will still think it’s worth it.
AD: One of the things that some of the other deans I’ve interviewed have stressed in terms of protecting the financial investment of law school is the importance of doing well in law school. Doing well — particularly during the first year — can have a pretty substantial impact in both in terms how much money you can make after graduation, but also in terms of your quality of life. And I’m not just talking about getting a job at a big firm. For some people, that’s what they want and that’s great. But it’s so important to have options in case the big firm option doesn’t present itself, or because you simply are not willing to assume that lifestyle. Having a strong academic record in law school is going to open doors to other career options — like judicial clerkships, academia, in-house counsel, etc. — and people who don’t figure that out early will find themselves at a real disadvantage. Do you agree with that?
GC: To certain extent, yes. Doing well in law school is one of the best things to do to maximize your investment. Your opportunities will definitely increase if you do well in law school. But we must keep in mind, not everyone will be at the top of their class, and not everyone will have the opportunities you’ve just mentioned. For the majority of the folks who fall somewhere near the middle of the class, I don’t think the return on their investment will be diminished over the long term if they were meant to go law school. Maybe it will be in terms of the options that they will have right out of the gate, but not necessarily over the long haul. As my Dean likes to quip, the incredibly successful attorneys usually come from the middle of their class.
AD: Alright, so let’s talk about actual costs. It’s no secret that the State of California has been hit hard by the Great Recession and non-resident tuition at UC Hastings (nearly $50K/year) has far surpassed the cost of attending private law schools like Stanford. Even your in-state tuition ($39K/year) rivals the tuition at many other private schools. If I’m an out-of-state (or even in-state) admitted student, give me your best sales pitch for attending UC Hastings.
GC: Well, my pitch is pretty simple. For most students, the sticker price can be misleading. Like private schools, public schools like UC Hastings effectively discounts the cost of attending law school for many students, so rarely will students pay the full $47,000, which is what we list for out-of-state attendees this the upcoming year. Last year, for example, about 75% of our students received an institutional grant, which averaged $11,000 per student. In addition, over 20% of our students received scholarships that went as high as $15,000 per year. So I always tell students do not be deterred by the sticker price. If you feel that, aside from the cost of attendance, Hastings meets your criteria in terms of what you’re looking for in a law school, then you should go ahead and apply. You will not know your financial commitment until after you are admitted, when you receive a package from our financial aid office. We also offer a generous loan forgiveness program, Public Interest Career Assistance Program (PICAP), for those who choose to use their skills and talents to support the common good. You should keep this in mind too when you’re considering costs.
AD: Speaking about your LRAP program, how long has that been in existence?
GC: About 10 years now.
AD: And you mentioned that it’s pretty generous: how many people take part in that?
GC: I’m not sure off the top of my head, but here’s how it currently works. For UC Hastings Law, if you make $70,000 or less, and if you’re working at an approved 501(c)(3) or in some governmental agencies, then you are eligible for the loan forgiveness as early as within your first year of practicing law. Students are qualified to receive loan assistance or loan repayment from the school as long as they meet those two conditions. The important thing to remember is that the $70,000 criteria applies no matter where you live. $70,000 might not seem like a lot if you live in San Francisco, but it may if you live in the Central Valley of California where the cost of living is considerably less. And it works on a sliding scale. So the less money you make, the more you get back from the school to help pay off your government subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
AD: One of the things that I am always surprised about is the literally millions and millions of dollars in outside scholarships that are specifically available to law students. I’m not sure if you have been on the AdmissionsDean website, but we have a section on paying for law school that has a law school scholarship finder. Once there, students can search for certain kinds of scholarship based on areas of legal interest, geography, ethnic backgrounds, past employment, disability, etc. Now, if you’re about to go to law school, you’re crazy not to apply for some of these! Even if it’s a $1,000 award or a $1,500 award or a $5,000 award, it’s not going to cover your entire tuition but it’s definitely going to lower your bill, especially if you can land a couple of them.
GC: That’s right. In fact, we have an external scholarship database on our website that we are always trying to get prospective and matriculated law students to peruse. And the way that I look at it like this: Let’s say it takes you an hour or two to complete an application, and you end up being offered a $5,000, $1000 or even $500 scholarship. How is that not worth your time? Five hundred dollars an hour is not a bad billable rate! So I always encourage students to consider outside sources. Plus, there’s also the professional recognition that often comes with winning an external scholarship. Scholarships can be underwritten by bar associations or organizations which can help build your professional network, not to mention look nice on a resume.
AD: Let’s return now to talk about early decision applicants. UC Hastings had roughly 250, correct?
GC: Yes, we have 250 applicants this year.
AD: And that’s down from last year by about 25 or 50.
GC: Yes, about 10%.
AD: And of those folks who applied to early decision, how many did you admit and how many did you deny?
GC: We admitted about 15% of the pool. For those who were not offered a place, we will look at them again in light of the rest of the application pool.
AD: Are your acceptances binding?
GC: No, a binding commitment is made once the student makes a deposit. But that brings up a good point. Unlike Hastings, some schools do require that you forfeit all other law school applications once you’ve been admitted through their early commitment program. Given the different conditions law schools place on these programs, it is important for any applicant who is considering using this route to be familiar with those terms prior to applying.
AD: That makes sense. Now, in general, how do you review an applicant file? And do you read every file?
GC: No, the nearly six thousand applications would be a little too much for my poor eyes! But I do read a good number from our pool. I like to think of what I do when reviewing a file is making textured judgments. I do not plug a bunch of numbers into a sophisticated formula to arrive at my decisions. (Applicants are usually happy when they hear I do not rate them the way law schools get rated.) Instead, I peel through the layers that each application presents, making a series of considerations at various points along the way. At Hastings, we utilize an academic index, a certain weighing of LSAT and GPAs based upon first year performance, to help provide the admissions office with a general orientation to each file. The questions I will start the evaluation off with will tend to be slightly different depending on where you are in the range of academic indexes. For instance, if your application has a very high academic index then that usually triggers a certain set of questions that I will try to address as I feel my way through the application. Are there any concerns about your fitness of character? Do you exercise good judgment? Granted you have high scores, but do you write well? Will you contribute to the class? Do we think you’re going to complement the learning experience of your fellow classmates? Are your reasons for going to law schools grounded in a deep sense of self? Those are some of the first questions that come up with applicants with high academic profiles. Now with people with low indexes, we will be looking and thinking: Why is that LSAT low, or why is that GPA low? Maybe the GPA is 20 years old, and then a different set of questions emerge. I have a responsibility to look for applicants for whom the numbers do not give us the best indicators of future promise, the proverbial diamond in the rough.
AD: Is it safe to say that when you are considering an applicant with a high index that you are looking for negative information, something that would dissuade you from admitting that person?
GC: Sure, I’m looking for red flags. But with our high indexed applicants I will also be looking for potential scholarship recipients. What I want to stress is that the indexes, the numbers, provide me with an orientation. And while I start with these numbers, I don’t end with them. They are not determinative. I cannot ignore the non-cognitive variables. Our mission is to help educate the future leaders of the bar, government and private sector, so we cannot exclusively value intellectual virtues. We must also prize selflessness, perseverance, compassion, courage, and sincerity – excellences of the heart.
AD: You mentioned looking for people who are going to come and contribute something different or contribute to the law school community. Does UC Hastings Law require a diversity statement?
GC: No, we do not.
AD: Do you accept them?
GC: Yes, we will accept them. But, truthfully, I have become ambivalent about diversity statements at Hastings. I feel that that I can usually gather enough about what an applicant’s potential contribution will be to the school, how she will complement the ensemble of other first students here, without an additional statement specifically describing her difference. I have read many applications where the statement does not add to the file except the amount of time it took to read it. Perhaps I am ambivalent more because I have seen some weak diversity statements. I have seen ones which start off, “Unlike the rest of your application pool . . . ” These applicants are trying to set themselves apart from a group of individuals about whom they a very little knowledge. One thing I tell students over and over is that you should think of your application to law school as your first legal case. So when you make an assertion like this, you have got to be able to back it up. I’ll be asking, “How do you know?” So use good judgment, be prepared.
AD: I notice on your application that you do value adversity statements. In fact, it is required for your Legal Education Opportunity Program. This is the first time I have heard of this program. Can you tell me more about it?
GC: LEOP is a program unlike any other in the country. It was in established at Hastings in the late 1960’s to give individuals who have overcome significantly adverse backgrounds and life experiences an opportunity to receive a top-notch public legal education. In some ways this program pioneered the holistic application review that most law schools practice today. A LEOP applicant’s academic promise is reviewed through the lens of the adversity she has encountered. Applicants are asked to submit a supplemental statement and answer a series of questions which are intended to give us a better sense of the hardship the applicant has endured. Given the negative academic impact that such adversity can have on an applicants’ numeric records, the median GPA/LSAT of students enrolled through LEOP is generally lower than the overall student body. While we recognize that this may not be beneficial for our place among America’s best law schools according to US News, it is always been part of Hastings mission to be a top-rated public law school that is committed to access. About 20% of our incoming class is comprised of students who have entered Hasting through LEOP. Once they are here they participate in a supplementary educational support program designed to ensure their success at Hastings and on the bar. LEOP students are some of our best students, and many have gone on to become legal and political powerhouses in California.
AD: You have mentioned US News with a hint of cynicism in your voice. How do you feel about the US Newslaw school rankings, and how much weight do you think students should place on them?
GC: Well, in determining what the best law school is for a given applicant, I think published rankings should not be given absolute weight. To the extent that they do factor into an applicant’s decision, I would suggest that the US News rankings be considered along with other law school rankings. The popularity of the US News rankings over other rankings is not due, in my mind, to the fact that US News is the closest to getting it right. As I keep mentioning, savvy prospective law students should ultimately assess law schools according to metrics tailored to their interests and values. US News, for example, gives more weight to law schools as academic institutions and therefore privileges faculty-on-faculty assessments over the law school’s standing in the professional world. Many prospective law students, however, would tip the balance in favor of professional reputation, since most of them see law school as the means for becoming prominent officers of the court. Much of the current US News ranking would appear differently if they adjusted their metrics to be in line with what the majority of their consumers valued in a law school.
AD: And we’ve tried to address your point by creating a way to rank law schools by the criteria that matter to you, as opposed to the criteria that matter to someone else at US News, etc.
GC: And I applaud you for doing that on AdmissionsDean.com. I really think that is the right way to go.
AD: What a lot of people don’t recognize about the US News rankings is that there is a methodology in there, and if you don’t care about the number of volumes in a law school library, guess what, that’s being factored into their rankings anyway.
GC: That’s right.
AD: Coming back to the application process, any “dos” and “don’ts” for parts of the application like the personal statement and letters of recommendation?
GC: Sure. Well, in terms of what to do in a personal statement, I think the first thing one must do is follow instructions. Given how easy it is these days for people to apply to a number of schools with minimal effort, it is easy to assume that each law school is going to have similar requirements for the personal statement. A lot of law schools can weed applicants out simply because they did not take the time to read instructions. Again, this is your first case, and you should see your personal statement as playing the role of your opening and closing argument. If you are not following directions or not answering the questions, well, then you will not be making your best case for admission. Secondly, don’t forget that this is an opportunity for me to get sense of your ability to communicate. This doesn’t mean that you should try to impress me with an elaborate vocabulary or the use of complex sentences. In fact, I tend to be quick to pick up when you are stretching your lexicon or grammatical abilities. Sometimes I am struck with confusion. Other times I sense desperation. As I oftentimes quip, desperation can be one of the world’s worst colognes!
AD: [Laughter] Oh, Dean Canada, that statement’s definitely staying in this transcript!
GC: What I am trying to suggest is that being an effective communicator is about knowing how to sing within your range. It requires that you possess the proper mix of confidence and humility that self-knowledge teaches. Now, a third bit of advice I often give is that I don’t want a statement of purpose, but a personal statement. There is a very important difference between the two. The first, which many graduate programs require, is more future-oriented. It usually talks about what your goals are for studying XYZ, who you want to work with at the school — very future-oriented stuff. This is not unimportant for me, but this information can all change once you enter law school. A personal statement, for me, is primarily retrospective, tracing the unalterable path that has brought you to this moment in your life. While this path may be similar to others’, it is uniquely yours, especially when it is described in your own voice, and it usually provides me with much more compelling, interesting information about you as an applicant than all the benevolent things you plan to do once you get your law degree. In fact, sometimes I become skeptical when an applicant spends her entire application talking about how she plans to serve the underserved, how she wants to work on the margins society, yet has nothing in her application to support her assertion. Besides ruining the chance to tell me something concrete about herself, she may leave me questioning her sincerity. This is not how you make a strong case for yourself.
AD: So if the personal statement is making your opening or closing argument, then the letters of recommendations are, what, character witnesses?
GC: Exactly. Choose them wisely!
AD: Do you prefer academic letters?
GC: In the end, it’s about getting the best possible endorsement. There are many plausible reasons why a professional recommendation is the applicant’s best option. But you may raise a concern for me if you are a recent college graduate and do not submit one recommendation from a faculty member. I will want to know why. Did you not take part in your classes? Didn’t you make use of faculty office hours? In addition to being bright, I’d like to know that you’re an active, collaborative learner, a contributor, a voice. It’s difficult for students who did not participate in their classes, who did not visit their professors outside of class, to submit recommendations that give me information along these lines. So I may wonder…
AD: Any suggestion on how to get a good recommendations?
GC: First, as you’ve hinted, when you make a request for a recommendation, be sure you ask for a good letter of recommendation. Once you have lined somebody up, give them a deadline at least a week or two before you truly need their letter to be submitted.
AD: So give a premature deadline?
GC: Yes, if they do not meet the deadline, which is known to happen, then you will not put yourself in a bind. Second, I’d make an appointment to meet with your recommender to expound why you are going to law school. Familiarity is key. I’d bring a resume or a paper too. The more the recommender can say about you, the more I tend to rely on what she says about you. And believe me it is not difficult to sense when a recommender isn’t very familiar with you. A good portion of your recommendation is spent describing her class or her bona fides. Clearly, this is a type of a witness you’re better off not calling to the stand.
AD: Let me give you a quick opportunity to sell a little bit about Hastings Law. Your clinics at Hastings–you have quite a few of them, in-house ones and outplacement ones. How do they work? And just quickly describe what opportunities they provide to students.
GC: Sure. Given our location in San Francisco and our mission, Hastings’ clinics have been a big draw to the school. They allow students to work directly with clients in helping solve real legal problems. They give students the opportunity to start developing their professional identity, providing insights about what can be expected of them once they become attorneys. So I look at the clinics at Hastings as kind of a professional apprenticeship meets service learning. Now, the difference between the out-placement and the in-house clinics is twofold. The in-house clinics, for example our Civil Justice Clinic, are on campus where they supervised and mentored by our own faculty. The in- house clinics cases students provide students with the opportunity to take on an entire case, start to finish. The outplacement clinics, like ourenvironmental law or criminal law clinics, basically work the same way, but students work under the tutelage of a practicing attorney at a governmental and non-profit law office. Students in these settings gain experience working on certain parts of a case.
AD: And how about concentrations, how do those factor into a student’s time in Hastings?
GC: A lot of our prospective students apply because they’re attracted our concentrations. Our new concentration in Heath and Law Sciences, which is built on a partnership with UCSF, has generated incredible interests lately. Folks who pursue a concentration are committed to developing a sophisticated, in-depth understanding of a particular area of law. They take anywhere between 22 to 28 units, which is a little bit less than a third of their total academic requirements. But a good number of our students do not concentrate. It’s not a requirement. I should also add that it’s important not assume that a law school does not have a strength in a given area of the law because it doesn’t have a corresponding concentration. In fact, some very fine law schools do not offer any concentrated areas of study.
AD: How many transfer applications does UC Hastings Law typically receive from students attending other law schools?
GC: We usually receive roughly 180-200 transfer applications per year.
AD: And when do those start rolling in?
GC: They start in May and our deadline is July 1st. We won’t review applications until we have two semester’s worth of grades.
AD: So what do you look for from a transfer applicant? And, out of 180 applications, how many does UC Hastings accept?
GC: We typically will admit somewhere in the ballpark of 50 transfer applicants and we yield about half of those. Some years we have admitted fewer, and other years we have admitted more based upon the size of our incoming 1L class. But in terms of what we look for, honestly, I start by seeing how well that applicant did during her first year of law school. I don’t pay as much mind to her LSAT/UGPA as I do with first-year applicants because these numbers taken together are used primarily to predict first year success. So if I have your first year grades in front of me, the other academic predictors take a step back in my deliberations. I will also compare the applicant’s first year’s performance with others who have come from the same institution, and then see how the latter have fared at Hastings. Your predecessors serve as helpful guides. They do not determine how you will do at Hastings, however. I still make layers of considerations. Perhaps you didn’t do well as your in first semester but in your second semester you earned a 4.0. You have definitely found your groove. Or we perhaps the opposite was the case, and there was a sharp decline in performance. Perhaps you were named to law review, earned top honors in certain 1L classes, and so forth. I also take note of reasons why you want to transfer. Lastly, I like to see a strong resume, because that’s going to be helpful for on campus interviews.
AD: Do you regularly see students transferring from the same schools?
GC: Yes, there are a number of well-beaten paths to Hastings.
AD: And does UC Hastings tend to lose a lot of students to transfers elsewhere?
GC: On any given year less than 5% will move on to another law school. We actually bring in the same number of students that we end up transferring out. That’s part of the idea behind the transfer process — to maintain equilibrium in enrollment.
AD: So everybody has their own reasons — rankings, or wanting or not wanting to be in California, etc.?
GC: Yeah, a lot of times it’s about attending a higher ranked school. In some cases, however, it’s about finding a better fit.
AD: Well, I think you’ve exhausted my questions for today, Dean Canada! Thanks so much for your time. I’m sure our readers will appreciate your candid thoughts.
GC: My pleasure, Don!