Alex Schneider: GW Law must innovate to help its students

The GW Law School’s version of “Saturday Night Live,” called “Law Revue,” sold itself as a show of snark and humor, a break from the stresses of school.

The effort was tremendous, poking fun at common law school experiences. But for all the clever inside jokes about courses, study habits and school events on Feb. 23, I heard something else too.

In front of administrators, faculty and fellow students, the actors despaired at their chances of securing legal jobs.

This was a cry for help. What began with humor ended in bitterness.

There was “How Screwed You Are” based on the One Direction hit, “What Makes You Beautiful,” adapted by Corey Ershow, the show’s director.

“You will be begging for jobs like you won’t believe,” the song went. “You don’t know … you don’t know how screwed you are.”

Then, there was Trent Buatte’s “We Learned Law,” set to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

“We learned law in a hopeless place, employment fell at a record pace, we learned law in a hopeless place, only doors slammin’ in your face,” they sang.

In the middle of the show, an actor said “I need a job.”

“Me too!” an audience member yelled back.

These performances were meant to be funny. But sitting through skit after skit, each decrying the job prospects of law graduates, left me wondering whether anyone else in the room had the same unease about the message of the show.

And with Interim Dean Gregory Maggs sitting in the audience, the message was direct and clear: Despite all the programs, initiatives, info sessions and resources, students are scared. The administration has a duty to respond.

There’s an argument to be made that the legal job market is beyond the control of anyone who was gathered in that room, that it is weak and that no matter what GW does, its students will have a tough time come May.

I don’t buy it. I don’t buy that a school with some of the most impressive legal minds can’t innovate to help its students.

Innovate by changing the curriculum, by individualizing education, by changing enrollment levels, by increasing programs that target non-traditional legal jobs and by aggressively matching employers to students.

At the very least, any dean – interim or otherwise – should guarantee that the Pathways to Practice program that pays alumni to gain work experience will continue beyond next year.

I don’t think law students are “screwed” or “hopeless.” And as a student, I’m betting real money on it. But if I were a law dean who watched that show, I would work extra hard to make that case.

Alex Schneider is a first year student at the GW Law School.

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