This is the sixth installment of our 224 part series, Better Know A Dean. Today we posted our interview with Kenneth Kleinrock, Assistant Dean for Admissions at NYU Law — The Fightin’ NYU Law’s!
Dean Kleinrock received his BA from Queens College (CUNY), magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa (1975), his M.A.T. from Duke University (1977), and his Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University (1987). In 1989, Mr. Kleinrock joined the admission staff at the New York University School of Law. He began as Director of Recruitment and Admission Services, and became Executive Director of Graduate Admissions in 1997. He was named Assistant Dean for Admissions in 1998 and became Assistant Dean for Admissions in 2012. Currently, Dean Kleinrock oversees the offices of J.D. Admissions, Graduate Admissions, and Student Financial Services.
AD: NYU Law is consistently ranked in the top 6 by USNEWS. How much emphasis should a law school applicant place in the USNEWS rankings?
KK: While it is gratifying that year after year, NYU is acknowledged among the very best law schools in the country, we believe that some candidates place too much emphasis on rankings. This can lead a candidate to make a choice that is not necessarily the best for that individual based on the school’s order in the ranking.
AD: If an applicant receives an offer from NYU Law as well as several other peer law schools, why should he or she choose NYU Law over its competition? That is, what do you think distinguishes NYU from other law schools at the very top of Tier 1?
KK: NYU’s admitted students stand at the very top of the national applicant pool. Our admitted students are extraordinarily accomplished and have excellent options. Students who choose to come to NYU have thought carefully about their futures and have evaluated their options. Our students have identified four key reasons for selecting NYU: Leadership, Innovation, Community and Location. They come here because they see the clear advantages of attending a dynamic, energized institution in New York City that is a leadership law school in key areas of legal education such as public interest law, international law, corporate and business law, and clinical legal education. Additionally, they come to NYU because it has a robust selection of courses and programs, one of the leading full-time and global faculties and a diverse student body that comprises a remarkable law school community. A powerful feature of the Law School is our ability to offer breadth and depth in the curriculum. This is attractive not only to students who have a clear notion of their interests as well as those for whom this will develop along the way. At the same time, with our 9:1 student to faculty ratio, students are able to develop close working and mentoring relationships with the faculty. Finally, we offer our own housing at the Law School that creates an amazing law student community right in the heart of Greenwich Village.
AD: NYU has a tremendous number of centers and institutes — currently 29. What opportunities do they offer over and above what students receive in a traditional classroom setting?
KK: Centers and Institutes at the Law School add to the already unique academic community by bringing faculty and students together with leaders form a vast array of disciplines. They encourage the exchange of ideas through a combination of conferences, symposia, fellowships, academic programs and courses. For example, the centers and institutes host leading scholars and practitioners each semester. This high level of activity is a boon to both faculty and students, who are given the opportunity to complement their formal coursework in the traditional classroom setting with many other forms of thoughtful interaction.
AD: How are students selected to participate in a centers/institutes at NYU?
KK: Students are not necessarily selected to participate in centers/institutes, but are rather encouraged to participate in centers and institutes in order to enhance their classroom education at the law school. A student can choose to attend a symposium, speaker series, etc. if they feel that they are interested in the specific work taking place at the center. There is no application process for this aspect of our law school. Students may also work as research assistants in the centers and institutes during the academic year and during the summer.
AD: There are a lot of unhappy lawyers. What advice would you give to someone considering law school so that they don’t end up regretting their career choice later on?
KK: A benefit of attending law school and graduating with a J.D. degree is that employment opportunities are endless. Students considering law school should understand that upon graduating from law school, he or she will not be limited to practicing law in the traditional sense if they chose not to. There are many practice areas to choose from, and with the experience students will gain during their three years at NYU, they will be equipped to do many different things.
AD: Many large New York law firms that have been major recruiters for your graduates have significantly downsized their summer associate programs. What effect do you think this will have on NYU Law grads and the legal market in general?
KK: With the downsized summer associate programs we feel that it is important for law school students to cast a wider net and be open to many different employment opportunities in a broader geographic range – perhaps some that they might not have considered prior to the state of our economy. With this said however, we are still confident that through the hard work of our Office of Career Services and the Public Interest Law Center with large, experienced staff, and the strong alumni network at NYU, our student will continue to be successful in finding meaningful employment.
AD: In a related question, layoffs and deferred start dates have forced many otherwise big law associates/candidates from schools like NYU to look to public interest and non-legal jobs. How do you think (or hope) this experience will shape the generation of lawyers?
KK: Again, as referenced above, we think that in this new economic climate we will see law school graduates casting a wider net and thinking about their careers in a much broader sense than perhaps they might have in stronger economic times.
AD: Law school is expensive and not everyone is interested in working at a big law firm after graduation. NYU has several scholarships that enable students interested in pursuing a career in public interest. How many of these scholarships do you award every year, and what is the application process?
KK: The Law School awards 20 full tuition Root Tilden Kern Scholarships each year. Candidates for admission apply for the scholarship along with their admission application. A separate essay and an additional letter of recommendation are required. For students who are admitted, their application is forwarded to the scholarship selection committee. The selection committee identifies students for on campus interviews in late March.
AD: Can you briefly describe how NYU’s public interest scholarships differ from the Loan Repayment Assistance Program it offers to its graduates?
KK: Scholarships are outright grants that are applied toward tuition. Loan Repayment is in a sense, a scholarship at the back end. Any student who takes a qualifying job is eligible to be considered for LRAP benefits that, in some cases, can pay up to a student’s full law school debt burden over a ten year period. Currently, NYU has about 500 alumni participants in the program and spends close to $5 million annually to support our alumni in public interest careers.
AD: How do you think your students’ law school experience is shaped/impacted by studying law in New York City?
KK: Many students choose NYU precisely because they see the advantages of attending law school in New York City. In addition to being an international capital of law and business – NYU students enjoy access to a wide range of law firms, courts, NGOS, government agencies, the United Nations, Wall Street, etc. The number of prominent figures who are on our campus every week is a benefit of our location. The landing page on our web site shows candidates what happens at the law school on a daily basis – speakers, conferences and other events that enhance students’ legal education.
AD: Knowing what you know about the law school admissions process at NYU, if you had a son or daughter applying to your school, what two things would you tell them that they had to do to maximize their admissions chances – and what two things would you tell them to avoid doing at all costs?
KK: An applicant’s goal should be to present the best application possible. This takes time, thought, research and reflection. Some applicants rush through the process without thinking carefully about selecting recommenders, conducting a self assessment and addressing issues that may raise concerns. It is important to write a well-written statement that gives us a sense of what a particular student will add to the entering class. Applicants should avoid the “resume in prose” statement or the temptation to let the form of their written work overtake the substance. It is surprising how many candidates refer to a particular law school in their statement but it isn’t the law school to which they are submitting the application. Finally, I always advise students who are in their senior year of college to be sure to submit updated transcripts with 7th and 8th term grades. A strong performance in the senior year can certainly improve one’s candidacy.
AD: If your son or daughter were applying to law school, what factors would you hope they consider when choosing which law school to ultimately attend?
KK: I do quite a bit of admissions counseling for alumni, colleagues and friends whose children are considering law school. It is critical that candidates visit the institution and experience the atmosphere of each of the schools they are interested in attending. Are students collegial and engaged? Prospective students should talk to current students about their experience and see if it matches their needs. Is there a sense of community? Are faculty members accessible? How do they work with students outside the classroom? Do they mentor students and help them reach their professional objectives? Does the law school devote significant resources to student services, career services, student life?
AD: Do students who apply in November or December have any advantage (or disadvantage) by applying before the applicant pool has really taken shape? Is there a “best” time to apply to NYU?
KK: Our deadline is February 15. We employ a “rolling notification” process not a rolling admission process. This means applications are reviewed in the order they are completed, but decisions are not made in the same order. Ours is a thoughtful, comparative process and it takes time for us to read applications and make decisions. The earlier a candidate applies, the earlier she might receive a decision. All applicants completed by the deadline will hear if they are admitted, denied or wait listed by mid-to late-April. For some reason, quite a large number of applicants wait until the week of the deadline to apply. While that will not negatively impact our decision, those candidates will likely not hear from us until later in our cycle.
AD: Take us through your admissions review process. How do you evaluate a candidate’s undergraduate GPA, LSAT score report, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and other relevant factors?
KK: The method we employ when we review applications is exactly as you referenced above – it is a process as opposed to a formula. Therefore, we look at each application in its totality – we do a full and comprehensive review of each and every aspect of an applicant’s file. We review both the quantitative factors as well as the qualitative factors. We review the undergraduate transcript closely, with attention to such factors as trends in the applicant’s grades, class rank, the ratio of pass/fail to graded courses, the diversity and depth of course work, and the length of time since graduation. Factors other than undergraduate grades and LSAT scores may be particularly significant for applicants who have experienced educational or socio-economic disadvantage. We evaluate work experience and extracurricular and community activity for evidence of advancement, leadership, and capacity for assuming responsibility. A recommendation letter is particularly valuable when the writer provides substantive information about the applicant’s abilities, activities, and personal qualities. Since we do not interview candidates, the personal statement provides an opportunity for the applicant to supplement the information provided in the application. Applicants are also welcome to include a resume.
AD: Does NYU factor in grades from graduate or masters programs?
KK: Graduate work is another factor we consider in the process. A rigorous graduate level program can add to the strength of a candidate’s application. Grades in graduate programs are usually high and not considered in lieu of undergraduate academic performance. We also don’t recommend that a student pursue graduate work solely to improve one’s chances of being admitted to law school. About 11% of our enrolled students hold masters and doctoral level degrees.
AD: How much weight does do you place on an applicant’s LSAT score?
KK: The methodology we use to evaluate applications is a full review process. We do not use a formula. We do not apply a percentage or a weight to any one factor in an applicants file. While traditionally the LSAT is used as a predictor of an applicant’s success in law school, one number alone is not sufficient to tell a candidate’s full story.
AD: How much weight do you place on the LSAT writing sample? How is that used in the admissions process at NYU?
KK: I can answer this question by stating an example from this past admissions cycle – and it is safe to say, I see such an error with surprising frequency. I read a personal statement that was submitted with the NYU application that said “XYZ School of Law is my first choice law school…..” and needless to say “XYZ Law School” was NOT NYU. This example should show you that proof reading is essential – we want to know that you have put forth 100% of your effort in making sure you have crossed all of your T’s and dotted your I’s.
AD: Since the admission has become so competitive, we’re seeing more and more students transferring — in fact, during the last cycle NYU had 50 transfer students. How many transfer applications do you typically receive, and how many students did you accept to yield the 50 students who ultimately enrolled as 2L transfers?
KK: The number of transfer applications varies from year to year, and the academic strength of the transfer pool also varies. We don’t admit a set percentage or number of transfer applicants and use a consistent high standard for admission. In fact, our enrollment of transfers has been from about 40 to 60 over the past several years and has varied depending on the strength of the pool.
AD: Over the past few years it seems like more and more students are interested in transferring – this hasn’t always been the case. What do you think is the driving the “transfer mania” these days?
KK: Our experience with the volume of transfer applications has not really changed all that much in the past few years.
AD: Who is your ideal transfer candidate? What are the most important factors you consider when deciding whether to accept as a transfer student?
KK: The factors we consider are the undergraduate record, performance on the LSAT, the law school that the student is attending and most importantly, academic performance in the first year of law school.
AD: Are transfer students eligible to participate on the Law Review or one of NYU’s other journals? If so, what process must a transfer student follow to participate on a journal?
KK: Yes, transfer students are eligible to participate on journals at NYU. Transfer students participate in an upper class writing competition that takes place at the beginning of the fall semester – just after Transfer orientation begins.