Monday, December 29, 2014

A "Guest Post" by Professor John C. Kunich

A recent comment by Law Professor John C. Kunich on another OTLSS article deserves a post of its own. While we here at OTLSS were not that thrilled with Kunich's critique of David Frakt's critique of Florida Costal School of Law (nor with FCSL's unprofessional treatment of Frakt for daring to suggest necessary change), Kunich does bring up a separate point worth repeating:  

The comments on this thread are indicative of a much broader and more dangerous trend within legal academe than any of the allegations that have been made about the few law schools specifically singled out herein. I will keep my remarks brief, but this is a complex issue with serious implications.

During the past four years, I have been an invited guest speaker/debater at roughly half of the law schools in this nation. My speaking engagements have brought me to law schools at every point along the putative prestige spectrum. As just a few examples, I’ve spoken at Yale, Stanford, Columbia, U. of Chicago, Boalt Hall, Georgetown, Duke, Northwestern, NYU, Vanderbilt, U. of Michigan, Boston U., BYU, George Washington, Widener, U. of Missouri, Lewis & Clark, Vermont, Elon, FIU, U. of Denver, DePaul, LSU, Regent, and Appalachian.

As I visit these and many other law schools, I chat with students and professors. One message I have consistently heard from students is that there are major problems in legal education today. Students, even from supposedly top-25 law schools, are often worried that they will not be able to find employment sufficiently lucrative to allow them to repay their loans and make the years of foregone opportunities worthwhile. A sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly is that “I’ve done everything right. I played by all the rules. It’s not fair that I can’t even give my work away as an unpaid intern. How am I going to climb out of this deep pit I’ve dug for myself?”

I emphasize that I’ve heard this type of message from students at some of the oldest and most highly ranked law schools in America. These are students with LSAT and UGPA credentials that, according to the statistics-driven paradigm of admissions standards, should have predicted smooth sailing. Yet there are rough waters and storm clouds even for them. What went wrong?

It is probably comforting for professors working at long-established law schools with above-average admissions credentials to deride the challenges facing younger, more diverse institutions. But this ignores a far more ubiquitous problem. There are formidable challenges confronting the students at all but the most elite law schools today, and these challenges may well be here to stay.

The relatively easy availability of federal loan money has enabled undergraduate and graduate institutions of all types to raise tuition at rates considerably above inflation for many, many years. The allure of plentiful money with attractive interest rates has pulled many young people into colleges and graduate schools who might have been better off pursuing technical/trade schools or just beginning their careers early. But as student debt continues to expand, a huge bubble is reaching critical mass. We are creating many more new, expensively educated graduates in a wide range of fields than the job market can accommodate at acceptable remuneration[emphasis added]. 

High rates of unemployment and underemployment, increased use of down-sizing, self-help, and off-shoring, immense numbers of people unable to make payments on their student loans, idealistic young graduates forced to work for the highest-paying employers rather than in public interest jobs, and growing unrest within the millennial generation…all of these are symptoms of real problems within higher education today. I think we need to focus more on these big-picture issues than on the challenges facing a tiny percentage of law schools. If we continue to ignore the broader, endemic difficulties, we will only guarantee that the solutions will remain unrealized.

Respectfully submitted,

John C. Kunich

Well said, Professor Kunich.  Unfortunately, if history is any indication, these warnings will go unheeded by the Law School Cartel as real change affects their pocketbooks in a negative way.    This would be especially true where Infilaw's investors and those similarly-situated are concerned.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Law School Administrations Created An Aristocracy

Law school sells a dream to people. Students believe that in exchange for $150,000-$180,000 over three years, law school will provide them a ticket to the upper middle class. Administrators imply that if students work hard, they will be able to keep their scholarships for all three years and graduate with little to no debt and instantly begin making $150,000 per year at a white shoe firm. Over the past few months, these notions have been assailed from all sides. The deans are now trying to spin the current situation as "not that many people are applying which increases your chances of making big money straight out plus we'll give you a free iPad so please sign on the dotted line". Law school is a nightmare. That's why I was personally affronted when I saw this article about an ex-law school dean following her dreams.

The tone of the article shows how tone deaf the legal education complex remains to the reality around them. Ms. Lopez is not necessarily a bad person. She is just someone who was able to make enough money that she was able to quit her "cushy" job (the article's words, not mine), and work for a nonprofit. How many of the graduates of New Mexico Law from the last 27 years could do the same thing? 

In exchange for providing an education that doesn't teach students how to actually be attorneys, legal administrators are able to make so much money that it is feasible for them to save enough to follow their dreams if they wish to. Ms. Lopez was able to squirrel away enough that she is able to take a job that probably pays a lot less than she made at New Mexico Law. What rational human being wouldn't want this system to keep going when it is so profitable for them? 

Law school administrators and professors  have essentially created an aristocratic class that is able to sustain itself and grow on the backs of law students.  Marie Antoinette is once reputed to have said, "Let them eat cake".  Think about the aristocratic overtones that law school tries to imbue the profession with. Law school is a pantomime where the professors are royalty and the students are court jesters trying to curry favor with them. In what other profession are you paid extra for the summer to do your job? In what other profession are you able to travel and work in exotic locales as long as you can justify it? The charmed life of law professors and administrators is in peril, and they can see it. 

Law school administrators and professors are only acting as they should be expected to. They will not change. It is up to us to change the minds of potential students. The money that fuels the machine is the only thing that can derail it. Only then can the system be reformed enough that law school costs are brought back down to reasonable levels and law professors are forced to live like the rest of us. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pace Law School hustlers have a plan for those whose "current LSAT score is not competitive enough to secure. . . admission to law school."

Pace Law School has an exciting new "pipeline program." It works as follows: Pace directs potential applicants whose "current LSAT score is not competitive enough. . . to secure admission to law school" to an LSAT prep course ("LSAT Focus Approach"). Simultaneously, the school enrolls these hopefuls in a six-week Legal Writing course taught by a Pace law professor. If, after all that coaching and prepping, a kid manages to lift his or her LSAT score to 153 or above (i.e. the 55th percentile among test-takers), Pace guarantees his or her admission to law school. And, should he or she actually enroll, Pace pays for that pre-application LSAT prep course. ("[Y]ou will receive a one-time tuition reduction to cover the cost of the program").

Understandably, the Pace admissions crew cannot contain its enthusiasm on behalf of prospective pipeline program students, those diamonds-in-the-145-LSAT-rough [1], who now have a fair chance to take their rightful place among the the juris elite. Thus, Pace Law's website bolds the following exclamation, with the final word in caps: "Seize the opportunity. Start your future NOW!"

Seize NOW! Compared to Pace Law School's admissions hustlers, a carny barker's "hurry, hurry, hurry, step right up" is a model of restraint and dignity. Though, admittedly, Pace's come-on does include a cute touch--touting its pipeline program using an I-R-A-C format. (above) Well, since precocious Pace Law wannabes now know I-R-A-C, perhaps they can move on to a second helpful mnemonic.

SINKING: Pace University School of Law’s median LSAT score is sinking. For the entering classes of 2013 (and 2014), the median LSAT at US News's 133rd finest was 151. In 2011, only a couple years earlier, the median was 154. For 2013, Pace's 151 median LSAT was the second worst among New York State’s 15 accredited law schools, besting only Touro. Sinking also describes the feeling a Pace grad will experience when entering a glutted job market with a degree from this joke law school while carrying a six-figure interest-accruing educational debt.

COUNTING: Pace is counting on poorly qualified applicants to enroll so that its faculty and administration can keep counting their loot. Pace’s non-discounted tuition is a hefty $45,364/yr., i.e. $28,000 more than CUNY Law School, which has marginally better employment outcomes. [2] A few years ago, Third Tier Reality reviewed the school’s IRS Form 990 and found three Pace lawprofs (Steven Goldberg, John Nolon, and Nicholas Robinson) listed among the University's top earners, each pulling down more than a quarter-million dollars per year. [3]


MISERABLE: Job prospects with a Pace law degree. Pace’s placement record is the worst of New York's 15 law schools (couldn't even beat Touro), with only 38.6% obtaining bar-required FT, non solo, non-school-funded jobs within 9 months of graduation. And of these, the vast majority landed in firms of 2 to 10 attorneys. Oh, Pace's bar passage rate is several points below the State average too.

"Seize the opportunity. Start your future NOW!" Translated from scam-speak, that means "Enroll in Pace Law School as soon as you can because Pace's predatory faculty and administrators are impatient to seize your borrowed fortune. But what you will be seizing for yourself is the contents of a waste pipe."


[1]  From the linked Pace Law pipeline program recruitment video:
Kid #1: "I ended up getting a 145 and applying to law schools and got rejected from every single one. . . .This course led me to go from a 145 to a 154, which, you know, that was the difference between going to law school and not." (Video at 0:24-0:30, 2:00-2:07) 
Kid #2: "I am very grateful for taking this class because I wouldn't be here in law school if it wasn't for it." (Video at 2:07-2:14)
[2]  But then Pace Law's new Dean, David Yassky, offers his assurance that his underlings will make an effort to learn your name, a personal touch that is well worth the additional tuition. ("Pace Law School takes an individualized approach to student needs and concerns. Staff members in the Office of Student Services, Office of Admissions, Registrar, and Center for Career and Professional Development make an effort to know each student by name").

[3]  Which pales in comparison to the million dollar premium that Pace Law grads will likely earn over their careers, according to an interview a few days ago with Dean Yassky, as well-heeled employers in "[j]obs like compliance at banks or pharmaceutical companies, [and] jobs at big accounting firms" bid for the services of 153 LSAT-scoring graduates of, arguably, New York's worst law school. Mind you, Dean Yassky scrupulously explains that a Pace law degree is only worth a single million bucks, not tens of millions-- no embroider, he:
"Law school and legal education remains highly valuable," Yassky told the Business Journal, “There was a recent paper several months ago that the expected increase in lifetime earnings owing to a law degree is roughly a million dollars — over the course of a career — which I think is about right." 
"A law degree, [Yassky] said, is “a material increase in earning power; it’s not the tens of millions that some people thought it might be, but it’s still a big number."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Does Columbia Law's exam deferment offer demonstrate "support and trust" for law students?

                                 (Who should be wearing these: law students or law faculty?)

A couple of weeks ago, a conservative political blog reposted an email that Robert Scott, interim Dean of Columbia University School of Law, sent to students. In the email, Scott stated that the law school would entertain final exam deferment requests made by students who felt "impaired" by the well-publicized non-indictments of two police officers who used lethal force in dubious circumstances. As well, the email indicated that several of the law school’s professors had graciously agreed to make themselves available for a few "special office hours" to counsel and support students through their angst. Plus the school arranged to have a trauma specialist hold sessions on campus. 

The Dean expressed his understanding that the non-indictments had had a "profound impact" on students in that they had "shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and the law." The Dean hoped that, through his efforts, the "Law School community can come to have a greater sense of mutual support and trust."

The main reaction among online commentators was exasperation with a perceived generation of pampered and entitled youth. However, at least one article took the contrary view and asserted that the approach outlined in the email was a refreshing break from Professor Kingsfield-esque coldness and insensitivity.  

I disagree with both reactions because I do not think the Dean's email reflects either pampering or understanding, but something else. You know, a con artist wins and maintains the trust of his or her marks through little favors, as well as big promises, and also by feigning emotional support. [1] I read somewhere that when one of his investors suffered a personal tragedy, Madoff threw his arms around her and promised that he would always be there for her. Columbia Law’s touchy-feely solicitude is reminiscent of Madoff’s hug.

On top of dismay over flaws in the judicial system, which are real enough, these soon-to-face-the-cruel-world law students will shortly have to deal with the "profound impact" of having been hoodwinked and betrayed by a law school "community" that promised, or seemed to promise, valuable professional training and a respected credential in exchange for a massive investment of time and money. [2], [3]

What are the chances that any of the truly pampered law professors and deans who offer their students such effusive understanding and reassurance over Ferguson will be there for grads a few years out? You know, to counsel them through their stress or unhappiness over huge debt burdens and rapidly diminishing prospects for long-term remunerative and socially useful careers in the law. And how many of these oh-so-progressive lawprofs are, consistent with their self-presentation to students and others, effective advocates for the rights of the indigent or excluded? You know, as opposed to massively overcompensated producers of jargon-laden critical theory slop that nobody ever reads but that earns them invitations to expense-paid academic "conferences" in far-flung resort locales.

So I am not outraged that a few kids may get to briefly defer their exams by asserting emotional upset caused by distressing events in the news, a tiny indulgence amidst the scamming. Rather, I am outraged at the fleecing of these kids by a gang of rich and pampered exploiters who have the nerve to call themselves caring teachers and proponents of social justice. Many lawprofs identify with the political left (so do I) just as many televangelists identify with the political right. Culturally and ideologically these two groups could not be more dissimilar. But in their relationship to persons who are foolish enough to trust them, a lawprof and a televangelist are two of a trade and the trade is called scam.


[1] Note that I am not calling Scott a con artist, my point applies to the general category of law deans, law faculty, and top administrators.  

[2] I know it's Columbia, and Columbia has an impressive nine-month-out placement record. But the very fact that it is one of the best schools for snagging big firm jobs out of the gate (308/ 425 obtained law jobs in firms of 251+ attorneys), may indicate trouble not-so-far down the road. See Steven J. Harper, The Lawyer Bubble (Basic Books 2013), 60 ("[T]he prevailing big-firm model survives on staggering associate turnover rates").

Consider the following comment from a thread on Inside the Law School Scam from two years ago. Anonymous, of course, but it had a ring of truth to other commenters on the post, and to me:
Anonymous January 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM
"As an unemployed older female Columbia Law grad desperately looking for a job, there is a big problem here. There are no jobs for older women. I need a job. All of the jobs that I otherwise qualify for have experience caps that I do not meet. Columbia Law School is a scam for women like me. My female classmates and I at Columbia have few or in my case no employment options. What should I do when no amount of looking produces a job? I need a job."
[3]  Two interesting facts about Columbia Law to consider when evaluating its pious sweet talk about support and trust and community. First, Columbia Law accepts an unusually high number of transfer students (46 in 2014, 52 in 2013) and anecdotally, transfers to T-14s have far more trouble finding good jobs than those who enrolled as 1Ls. Second, Columbia  has the highest tuition of any law school in the U.S., charging $60,274 per year in tuition and mandatory fees. This is significantly more than Harvard ($54,000), Yale ($56,200), or Stanford ($52,350).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Post by Old Guy: "Which Law Schools are Worth Attending?"

Which law schools are worth attending? For most people with less gold than Croesus, prospects for finding well-paying work after graduation will be a prime consideration.

Data on the class of 2013 from Law School Transparency show that only the following 9 law schools had at least 50% of their graduates working at a law firm with 101 or more attorneys (a generous definition of Big Law) within nine months of graduation:


If we consider not just jobs in Big Law but also federal clerkships, we get the following additional schools:


That's a total of 13 schools—the so-called "top 14" minus Georgetown—at which at least 50% of last year's graduates found a federal clerkship or a job in Big Law.

With 40% of the graduating class finding those jobs, the number of schools increases to 16. With 30%, 24. With 20%, 31 (that's 15% of the ABA-accredited law schools). With 10%, still only 78.

Let's try raising the bar instead. With 60% of the class getting federal clerkships or jobs in Big Law, the number of schools falls to 11. With 70%, the number is only 4 (Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford). And not a single law school sees 80% of its graduates get those jobs.

If we consider federal clerkships and jobs in Big Law to be the only good jobs for a fresh graduate of law school, we can conclude that more than 60% of the ABA-accredited law schools had not even 10% of their graduates in 2013 get good jobs. Almost all of those schools estimate the cost of attendance (including nine months of living expenses per year—don't people have to live during the other three months as well?) at $100k or more, usually much more. To people who feel that that is too much to spend (even before interest and fees are tacked on) for less than a 10% chance of a good job, at least 127 of the 205 ABA-accredited law schools are therefore not worth attending. Those who expect at least a 50% chance of a good job in exchange for what might well be a quarter of a million dollars' worth of non-dischargeable debt can immediately rule out 192 of those 205 law schools.

Why do I define "good jobs" in this way? Because of the cost of attendance—and the heavy debt that it usually entails. For law school even to begin to make financial sense, a person who is relying largely on loans needs the sort of income that a new graduate can seldom obtain without a job in Big Law or a federal clerkship. Indeed, the definition of "good jobs" is actually too broad, as most of those positions last only a few years and are followed by decidedly straitened circumstances.

These figures should give pause even to the typical devil-may-care lemming. Furthermore, they can inform educational policy. What exactly is the purpose of sustaining the 60+% of law schools at which not even 10% of the students have a decent chance of a respectable outcome? Should those schools not be shut down right now? Should eligibility for student loans require more than a rubber stamp from an admissions office? These are questions that we should not be afraid to ask.

For now, I say that the 13 schools listed above, those at which half or more of the students find jobs in Big Law or federal clerkships within nine months of graduation, are the only ones that anyone not independently wealthy should consider. And even they are dodgy, especially at full price. People who are paying little or nothing in tuition may shade the cut-off from 50% to 40% but should understand that in so doing they are taking a big risk. All schools below the 40% mark should be deemed fourth-tier institutions that no one without big money or genuinely usable connections should attend at any price.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Blueprint for Better Bullshit: Indiana U. lawprof William Henderson's proposed competency-based curriculum.

(Helpfully identifying the location of the migraine you risk by listening to him). 

A candidate for the next big thing in legal education is the so-called "competency-based curriculum." Its chief advocate is the relentlessly self-promoting Indiana University lawprof William Henderson, whose meager experience as a practicing lawyer did not prevent him from launching a consulting biz that, among other things, provides law firms with advice on hiring and on conducting "360 reviews" of employees.

At first blush, a competency-based curriculum may seem like a hopeful development. How can any proposal to replace the world's most unsuccessful professional training model, the Langdell/Socratic, be a bad thing?

But a competency-based curriculum is not primarily clinical, i.e. geared to actually training students to practice law and run their own small firms. Rather, a competency-based curriculum consists of coursework designed to bolster a series of very general personal habits (aka "competencies") that legal employers allegedly favor. Or, as Henderson puts it, "the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attributes of highly successful professionals." [1] These competencies include "for example, teamwork, communication skills, emotional self-control, problem-solving, and decision-making." [2] Or for a full-on blast of Billy's buzzword bullshit:
"[T]he types of education that will attain the highest valuation are complex problem-solving skills that enable law school graduates to communicate and collaborate in a highly complex, globalized environment. This is not vocational training; it is the creation of a new model of professional education that better prepares our graduates for the daunting political and economic challenges ahead." [3], [4]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

JD-Disadvantage, Part VI : The Not-JD-Degrees Awaken

"Wait, I thought this was the best way to get a Stormtrooper-Advantage Job...!  Why are there MORE degrees?  Why!?!"

"A law degree opens doors to many other opportunities outside of the law!"  

We've covered this quarter-half-truth several times on this site alone, not to mention the discussion that has taken place in other locations as well.  It almost doesn't bear repeating, yet this meme is so profligate, so desperate to take hold, that we can all point to examples of ShillDeans (again), NALP, and others trying to send young people and their federal student loan dollars down the primrose path to debt and joblessness. To counter this stream of misinformation, the scamblogs stand, defiant, against this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

A short while ago I covered the attempt to create a patent-law-light degree, which, as a non-bar-preparatory "law" degree, was invented to "contextualize the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues that scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and other STEM professionals around the world face."  This is also known as the "(patent) law is fizzling, so get these STEM-types in here" degree, as evidenced by the discussion and comments.

The University of Colorado is looking to get in on the action, also, by creating the "Masters of Studies in Law":

"In many jobs, it's now important to use law in your day-to-day work, but not necessarily practice law," said Paul Ohm, the law school's associate dean for academic affairs. "To have some formal legal education, but not necessarily a license."
He said patent agents (LOL!  Ed.), compliance officers (LOL!  Ed.), human resources professionals (ROTFLOL!  Hello, they already have degree programs.  Ed.) and other positions require some legal knowledge. He compared the trend to the shift toward nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the medical realm.
Students in the new master's program will sit alongside traditional law students in classes, which mostly eliminates the need for new curriculum and hiring additional faculty members. The law school will create two new courses, "Introduction to American law" and "Legal writing for non-JD students."

Wait, I thought a JD was "valuable" and "versatile!"  Why do we need all these new law-degree-light programs all of a sudden, when one could be basking in the glory of a newly-conferred JD degree? Could it be that (gasp!) there is no actual JD-Advantage after all, that thousands of students were being mislead, and that people who need "legal training" for an actual job can just take a couple of classes over the course of one year and get the basic "legal" information for what they need to know (at a fraction of the cost)?  

Boy, don't you know it's encouraging for the 2Ls and 3Ls to see non-JD candidates sitting in some of their very same classes, because, well, you know, they already have jobs and are smart enough not to go into extreme debt for an actual law degree with few employment prospects.  But I digress.

Let's get down to brass tacks:  applications have been dropping, LSAT-takers have been dropping, and bar exam passage rates have been dropping.  So what is this really about?

The program is expected to generate more than $500,000 in revenue by its fifth year. The campus has budgeted $100,000 in annual expenses for the program.

Follow the money.

All you physician assistants...sorry, JD-Advantage graduates...don't need these degrees, as you are already minting money by virtue of your legal education and bar licensure.  Now, go save some dolphins.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

California Western School of Law alum receives a special sales pitch from a school peddling online MBAs to dissatisfied recent law grads.

(Dear California Western SOL Alumni: You were gullible enough to graduate from this lousy law school, so perhaps you are deluded enough to pay for an online MBA. If you find yourself in a hole, keep digging). 

A recent post at The Faculty Louse, I mean Lounge, noted that a school called William Howard Taft University is trying to peddle a three-semester long online MBA program "designed specifically for newly admitted attorneys who are facing career challenges." The post’s snarky title ("An $18K Solution To New Law Grad Unemployment?") indicates that its author is appropriately skeptical. I pity the law school hustler who cannot even elicit a supportive comment or two from the academic narcissists who gather at The Louse.  

A correspondent, a grad of California Western School of Law, has provided OTLSS with a copy of a letter he received from William Howard Taft U. (below), which was directed to him precisely because of his status as a Cal West Law alumni. (above)

Taft's sales pitch is that its online MBA program ("with a concentration in Professional Practice Management") can teach the nuts and bolts of running a solo or small law firm to recent law school graduates. ("The Program teaches the skills necessary to manage a successful solo or small legal practice. It combines a traditional M.B.A. curriculum with webinars and assignments directly related to the practice of law.") Another lure, of course, is that its students get to defer existing student loans, with the slight drawback that they will be adding significantly to the sum. ("For those that qualify, it is also the only University program approved for Title IV Federal Financial Aid, allowing some to borrow tuition and living expenses while also deferring repayment of existing federal student loans.")

When a professional school tries to peddle more education to a drowning-in-debt lawyer, it does not need to utilize crass hype, just a delicate suggestion that all is not well. The letter received by our correspondent states:
"We understand that many newly admitted attorneys are facing economic challenges that didn't exist at the time they decided to attend law school. If you're not satisfied with where you are professionally here's an option you should consider.  
If you are presently employed and satisfied that your professional goals are being met, there's no need for you to read any further.  You can simply toss this letter in the trash. . ."
The signer, Taft President Jerome Alley, can be confident that few recent Cal Western grads are satisfied that their professional goals are being met, what with Cal Western's astonishing 31% bar-required job placement rate plus the fourth highest median per-student debt load of any law school in the country.

To recap. A bottom-tier law school takes three years of your life, plus your borrowed fortune, fails to teach you how to practice law, and leaves you to flounder. Then an iffy business school steps in and tries to sell you an online program that purports to teach you what law school should have taught you, but did not. By the time the lower-tier higher-education mongers get through with you, there will certainly be a whole bunch of impressive letters after your name (JD, MBA, PPM). Unfortunately, everybody will pronounce them as DUPE.


Interesting side-note: Taft runs an unaccredited correspondence law school, though its law school is evidently not involved in the particular educational product it is offering to law grads.

In California, grads of unaccredited law schools can sit for the bar, but only if they first take and pass a so-called "Baby Bar" after their first year of law school. In its most recent administration,  only 11% (4/ 38) of Taft law students passed the Baby Bar. For Taft law students taking the first-year exam for the first time, the passage rate was 6% (1/16). Yes, Taft is a school with a lot of worthwhile legal instruction to offer.

Oh, Taft Law's most famous graduate-- someone who evidently did succeed in passing both the Baby Bar and the real thing-- is a conspiracy loon and public blight named Orly Taitz. It is funny to think that the vast majority of Taft law students are even less capable than she. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Business Insider Survey Reveals Evaluation of Law School Must Require Statistical Chincanery

Recently, Business Insider - which, for the record, employs a fairly large staff for an online property and has millions of views each month - published some "survey results" that warrant further inquiry.

First up, we have pedestrian clickbait The 50 Best Law Schools in America.  The list itself isn't revolutionary or interesting beyond serving as confirmation of prestige to upper T2 attendees/graduates.  What struck me, however, is the methodology.  If you think that the US News methodology is lacking in sound methods, Business Insider has taken it to 11.5:
To create this list, we surveyed more than 300 American legal professionals to determine the best law schools in the US with the help of SurveyMonkey.
Our survey asked participants to select the top 10 law schools in terms of how well they prepare students to land their ideal job. We recorded the percentage of respondents that ranked each school in the top 10.

Approximately 52% of survey participants said they have a law degree, while 3.5% reported that they had a partial degree, meaning they're either still in law school or dropped out.
Did the record screech on your end, too?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lewis & Clark Law School Welcomes its First Visiting International Scholar of Animal Law.

Bottom of the kennel Lewis & Clark Law School's Center for Animal Law Studies has earned a congratulatory meow, and some hearty woof-woof-woofs, as it proudly welcomes its very first Visiting International Scholar of Animal Law. This is good news for the two well-groomed critters depicted above, particularly the legal prodigy from Zurich (the one on the left, unfortunately). Maybe it is good news for our four-legged, finned, and feathered friends generally. But is it good news for law students, those biped donkeys who must foot (or shall I say hoof?) the bill?  

Lewis & Clark Law School touts itself as the premier animal law law school, the top dog in the field. And with a bar-required nonfunded job placement rate of 47%, there is no reason to doubt the school’s beastliness.

Lewis & Bark (sorry) offers 33 courses in animal law--- including "animal legal philosophy & development," "animal rights law & jurisprudence," and "comparative international animal law." A law student who takes a sufficient number of these courses can obtain an Animal Law Certificate, thereby distinguishing him or herself from the pack. ("Earning an Animal Law Certificate shows future employers a deep knowledge and strong commitment to the field of Animal Law"). The school also hosts the "Animal Law Review." [1] In addition, it sponsors an annual inter-law school animal law competition-- actually three separate competitions, including a mock lobbying tournament. It even offers what it describes as "hands-on" and "clinical" experiences —such as a two-week long "Legal Project" trip to Kenya to meet with various wildlife and conservation officials, and working with a nonprofit to save the chimpanzees of Cameroon.

On its website, Lewis & Clark Law promises "growth" and "opportunities"-- pleasant-sounding lures that an animal behaviorist might classify as aggressive mimicry:
"Animal law is growing every year, and with this growth comes increased opportunities to specialize in the field. Exposure via animal law courses, animal law internships or clinicals provide an excellent means of targeting potential areas in which to develop an expertise. The various animal law opportunities available at Lewis & Clark allow students discover how they are best suited to work in the animal law field."
The website also helpfully notes that "Some may incorporate animal law into their practice on a pro bono basis or as a sole focus." Got that, struggling solos? You can practice animal law either pro bono or exclusively. You can even do both, I suppose. If that isn’t a sound way to build a nest egg, I don't know what is. And don’t say that it is too late simply because you have already graduated. Lewis & Clark offers an Animal Law LLM.  

Look, opposing animal abuse is a worthy cause. But do not imagine that a Certificate of Animal Law or an Animal Law LLM will allow you to blend heartfelt ideals with well-compensated professional career. What you will be doing is subsidizing, with borrowed money, the well-compensated professional careers of others, namely entitled and well-connected scholarly jet-setters. Whose own lofty objective to defend the vulnerable decidedly excludes you, their debt-ridden student. Yes, law school, not just Lewis & Clark, is guaranteed to offer an unforgettable lesson about animal behavior—about predators and prey, about jackals and lemmings.


Animal law is a hot topic among law school pedagogues. According to a synopsis of a symposium article published in Animal Law two years ago entitled Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law:
"It is truly impressive that animal issues in the law have become so prominent throughout the legal education system. With this increased exposure to posthumanist critiques of the legal system and its status for and treatment of animals, an increasing number of those involved in legal education are rethinking the law’s species-based hierarchy that places humans at the apex. . .  .Integrating such insight into the analysis of animal issues in the law will rectify the speciesist and otherwise exclusionary formulations of the socially constructed differences between various species, which have so far been unquestioned assumptions."
I agree, but note an astonishing example of institutional exclusionary humanormativity perpetrated by those very individuals involved in legal education-- namely, the failure of most law schools to select nonhuman animals to serve as deans. Well, a few have-- such as Case Western Reserve, which was led for two years by an old goat named Lawrence Mitchell, Brooklyn Law School, which is currently helmed by a braying jackass, and the InfiLaw Consortium of Zoos, which will only hire corporate parrots. Regretably, however, law schools have yet to avail themselves of the keen minds and obvious leadership qualities of the following:

Newsflash - Indiana Tech appoints new dean

Just a quick update:

Many might shake their heads in utter amazement at the news that Indiana Tech Law School has appointed Charles P. Cercone as its new dean.  Charles was at the helm of none other than Cooley Law during its most shameful exploitation of students, 2003 until the present time, overseeing not just its disgraceful expansion but also its inability to adapt, leading to the closure of its Ann Arbor campus.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that the appointment of a dean truly gives insight into the future direction and values of any particular institution.  With their heads still buried deep in the sand, Indiana Tech has made another extraordinary blunder, showing once again that their enterprise lacks any real nexus to its lofty (and clearly false) facade of educating the next generation of lawyers, and is little more than a front for scamming students out of their student loan money with little regard for employment outcomes.  In that sense, Indiana Tech has picked the perfect dean - if rapid, uncontrolled expansion and maximum profit at the expense of students is what Indiana Tech is seeking (and it is, because its model is unsustainable in any other form), then they've picked the right guy.

Unless (fingers crossed) Charles has been brought in as one of the few deans with real world expertise in how to shut down a failing law school.  In that sense, he'd be the right guy too.

More soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Getting Infilawled: Florida Coastal School of Law

There are three main whipping schools of the "Scamblog movement" which, solely by themselves, demonstrate that the Scamblog movement is correct in its criticisms and supported reforms.

First is the most obvious: Cooley.  It is almost hard to believe that a law school like Thomas Cooley School of Law, excuse me: The Western Michigan University School of Law, exists.  Not only does it feature the standbys of expensive, private, low-ranked law schools (high tuition, terrible employment prospects, and poor bar pass rates), but it created its own "law school rankings" system called "Judging the Law Schools."  It is a complete farce: factors such as "law library square footage" and "student body size" are weighed as equally as LSAT and UGPA scores.

Second is Thomas Jefferson School of Law.  TJSL has the prestigious distinction of being the law school with the highest average graduate debt.  Unbelievably, TJSL also has the prestigious distinction of featuring bar passage rates (50.3% in 2013) that can only be described as horrendous, and ranks dead last among California's ABA-accredited law schools.  I'm certain with the steep fall in bar pass rates this cycle will push TJSL at least into the 40's.  Check out this link for a genuine expose on how rocky TJSL's finances are by the OTLSS team.

Third, and last of the most common whipping boys is The Infilaw System.  This for-profit law school enterprise stems from a Chicago private equity company, and currently encompasses three low-ranked, expensive, private law schools: Arizona Summit School of Law (recently renamed from Phoenix School of Law), Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL), the subject of today's post (it is currently trying to acquire another low-ranked, expensive, private law school).  Infilaw schools, like Cooley, and other low-ranked, expensive, private law schools, hide behind the convenient cloaks of "diversity" and "practice-ready" in order to justify the end-result: thousands of academically weak Americans graduate each year with high debt loads, poor bar pass rates, and worse employment outcomes, with the aforementioned institutions reaping hundreds of millions in subprime taxpayer-backed student loans.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LSAT Scores Do Not And Cannot Predict Bar Exam Scores

In a lot of the commentary about declining LSATs and declining bar examination scores this past summer, there is, shall we say, a lack of the sort of rigor that normally attaches itself to peer-reviewed publications.

For recent examples of this, please see the work of Derek Muller (Pepperdine) and Jerry Organ (St. Thomas), both somewhat supporting the "damn you, MBE!" thesis advanced by Brooklyn Dean Nicholas Allard.  (more recent nonsense here).

Simple foundational statistics and healthy skepticism can do much to completely demolish these ideas.  For example, here's Organ:
[A] comparison of the LSAT profile of the Class of 2014 with the LSAT profile of the Class of 2013 would suggest that one could have anticipated a modest drop in the MBE Mean Scaled Score of perhaps .5 to 1.0.  The modest decrease in the LSAT profile of the Class of 2014 when compared with the Class of 2013, by itself, does not explain the historic drop of 2.8 reported in the MBE Mean Scaled Score between July 2013 and July 2014
And here's Muller making a similar claim:
[W]e see a fairly significant correlation between my extremely rough approximation of a projected MBE score based on the LSAT scores of the matriculating classes, and the actual MBE scores, with one exception: this cycle. 
Just one problem with all of this:  LSAT year-over-year comparisons are more or less baseless and have no predictive value by themselves.

About the LSAT

To learn why, we need to try to understand where LSAT scores come from, and understand that they have little connection to objective reality.  An LSAT score is derived from the raw number of questions on the LSAT that one correctly answers.  The administrators of the LSAT then "scale" the scores from 120 - 180 depending on the difficulty of the test, which is pre-determined using a metric that is based on prior recent LSAT administrations (LSAC uses what is called "Item Response Theory" to model the test to individual performance on questions instead of assuming all questions equal as your 7th grade math teacher probably did).  They "normalize" or "equate" the test to to even things out over administrations.  It's not entirely transparent (if it is somewhere in clear fashion, please point it out and I will correct anything erroneous herein), but it's fairly clear that the median over several administrations is around the 150 mark by design.

The idea is that students who take a "hard" LSAT should not be punished relative to students who take an "easier" LSAT, and therefore the former will have a more forgiving curve.  The "curve" is set in advance because the questions are "pretested" by previous examination takers, so LSAC "knows" how hard that particular test is.

It should be obvious that this approach makes what might be a serious mistake, and certainly an assumption that invalidates its extrinsic utility:  it assumes that the students taking each administration of the LSAT are roughly equivalent in aptitude on a year-over-year, aggregate basis.

In statistical terms, they assume any given set of administrations is a fairly representative sample of a fairly constant population of pre-law students.  This would seem to severely undercut any idea that the LSAT has any sort of non-relative value; after all, if item response theory evaluates prior responses to questions, and the prior students were either significantly brighter or significantly dumber than the current group taking the test, how can the test possibly have any year-over-year validity outside of a comparison relative to one's class?

A simple hypothetical:

In year 1, 60,000 separate students take the LSAT.  The economy was especially brutal for straight-out-of-college hires, and so a large cluster of elite students decide to try law school.  The median IQ of the group in 115, and there are a spate of applicants from the Ivy League and comparable schools.  An IQ of 105 would roughly put someone in only the 25th percentile.

In year 2, the economy is moving much better, the elite graduates have found something else to do, and the median IQ of 60,000 LSAT takers is 105.  In this group, a 115 IQ puts one in the 75th percentile.

Going strictly by the three-year percentile charts, in year 1, the student with the 115 IQ is going to score in the low 150s.  In group 2, the 115 IQ is going to be in the high 150s, gaining 6 or 7 points just by being with a dumber group overall.  In group 1, the 105 IQ scores in the mid-140s.  In group 2, that same student shoots up into the low 150s.  In the world of bar predictors, this same low-scorer just greatly increased his bar exam probability by simply sitting down a second time at a later point.

You can claim that the certain tests will be above or below the percentile mean because of the variances in item response theory and "equating" working themselves out over the administrations, but when the overall mean is set at 150 and there's a nice bell curve around it, the conclusion is inescapable that a 150 in 2009 will not necessarily equal a 150 in 2014.  A 150 in 2009 could be a 142 or a 163 in 2014 depending on who else has taken the test recently and who else is in the room.

  • There is no inherent connection between IQ/reasoning ability/brainpower and one's LSAT score.
  • The raw number of LSAT high scorers is dependent almost strictly on the number of people who take the LSAT within a certain timeframe.  A school's declining LSAT numbers is more of an indication that there are fewer fish in the pool overall, and really nothing more.  In an alternative universe, it is possible that a school's LSAT percentiles would drop and their bar passage rates actually increased.  LSAT scores are dropping almost everywhere outside the top rank of schools.  This, by itself, should make us question any extrinsic value that the test may have.
  • No matter how dumb a large cohort is (say, a series of years where going to law school is a ridiculous idea), a certain percentage (2-3%) of students are going to inevitably score over 170, at a minimum because the test will at some point self-correct for the "difficulty" of the test, and LSAC apparently aims for a 150 median over time.  That does not mean they all have equal abilities in terms of navigating law school and the bar examination, or in subsequent law practice.  In a few years, I expect to see "new associates aren't as sharp as they used to be" writings from law partners who have had their heads in the sand.
  • There is no true transparency anywhere in this industry, not even on something as basic as an entrance examination based on what appear to be otherwise-sound mathematical models. 
  • It is entirely possibly to have a four-year period where there is a steady decline in the quality of students taking the examination, but only a slight or modest decline in LSAT scores.  This is basic math.
Historically, there may have been a vague correlation between LSAT scores and bar exam performance because classes were relatively stable in their distributions, and thus LSAT scores more or less mimicked a generalized measure of intelligence for relatively consistent sample populations of potential law students.

After 2008, and in wake of the most recent bar results, those bets have to be called off.  To put it bluntly, it's entirely possible the law schools slowly started enrolling collectively dumber students, and we really have no way of knowing that from LSAT medians.

It is absurd for any serious claim or inquiry about one cohort's abilities to be based on the LSAT where the LSAT has no real connection to actual real-world aptitude beyond providing a relative measurement against one's peers.  It does not - and cannot - answer the question of whether one's peers are abnormally bright, normal, or abnormally dim.  Because of that fatal flaw, LSAT scores have no predictive value whatsoever when it comes to a slightly different population taking an unrelated test that has separate controls for year-over-year validity.

As a concluding point, here's a daily koan for you:  why do Allard and friends not go back in time and ask about how the LSAT got scored? 

Assuming Unknowns and Constants

Another fundamental flaw in the analysis provided by Organ, Muller, and others is even considering the 25th, 50th, or 75th percentile LSAT scores as usable in determining anything about how a portion of that group will do on a subsequent examination where the differences are significant at much smaller levels than 25 percentage points (such as bar exam pass rates).  The numbers between those guide posts can be highly variable, and the statistics manipulators are basically assuming there's some constancy or uniformity in the unknown numbers in drawing their conclusions.

Consider a law school entering class of 10 students.

Class A:  161, 161, 161, 156, 156, 156, 156, 154, 147, 140
Class B:  160, 160, 160, 155, 155, 155, 155, 153, 153, 153

Now, which group has the higher LSAT scores and will likely be ranked higher in the magazines?  Now, which group would you bet on to have the higher bar passage rate, if all ten students take the bar?

Multiply this little exercise by hundreds and you can quickly see where not knowing what's at the tail end of the curve (or the middle portions of the curve) is a huge problem.  We (and that includes Muller, Organ, and their peers) have no way of gauging just how terrible the bottom-tier students are at these institutions, notwithstanding any issues with the LSAT itself.  130?  125?

What about the allowance for people who haven't even taken the LSAT? 

There are, of course, other variables the MBE critics are ignoring.  One is students who drop out or transfer (in or out).  If students with median LSATs drop out because law school is a losing bet, the school's bar pass rate is more likely to drop than not.  Similarly, if a year has abnormally high transfers, either an exodus from lower-ranked schools by high-scoring students or an influx of lower-scoring students at higher-ranked schools (both are possible), it's going to throw off any correlation between the LSAT and bar pass rates.

There's far too many variables that cannot be accounted for by law professor statistics.


The admissions-department heuristic that LSAT scores can predict future bar exam success is misplaced in an act of statistical misunderstanding similar to the classic "correlation, not causation" mistake from Stats 101.  Allard, Muller, Organ, et. al see historical correlation, assume causation, and then cry foul when a "predicted" result doesn't happen (and, in a surely-unrelated aside, it hurts their institutions).

Out of all the measurements we have available, the bar exam is probably the most consistent in terms of measuring raw aptitude on a year-over-year basis given that they're looking for a minimum competence bar and not a "hey, let's get snowflake into law school" motivation.

It's likely not the problem; it's almost certainly the students these law schools are enrolling, and no manipulation of statistics and empty claims of MBE chicanery can alter that.  There may be a problem with the test, but given that other, more simple explanations seem more likely and there is no reliable proof of an error, I don't think it's much of a credible thesis.

Ultimately, this is - yet again - number manipulation by the law schools and their friends, this time to support the idea that their open admissions policies should have as little repercussions as possible (it's basically a salvo in the coming battle over bar passage numbers the lowest-ranked schools may have with the ABA).  As a concerned member of the bar, I oppose their efforts, and I oppose any effort to make the bar exam essentially match percentages with the LSAT, as all that does is ensure that a set percentage of each class WILL pass the bar no matter how dumb the cohort or three-year cohort or whatever.  We can talk about the bar exam's utility elsewhere, but if we're going to have it, it needs to mean something beyond what the law school deans want it to mean.

They have no way of supporting any claim that the class of 2011 was just as bright as previous classes, and most available evidence suggests the opposite (for one, they went to law school in fall 2011), but the schools will be damned before they let what is likely the sorry truth get in the way of blaming someone else for the mess they've ultimately created.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Memo to Law School Deans - This Beast is of Your Own Making, so Stop Trying to Pawn it Off

UPDATE:  Oops, looks like a lot of this has been covered recently by AdamB.  My 2 cents follows. 

"Less Able."
With these words, internecine warfare has begun within the Law School Cartel.
Not only have there been declining LSAT test-takers and declining application counts for years now, but there have also been declining bar passage rates.  Somebody is to blame for this radical turn of events.  But who?
Why, its the stupid NCBE and their stupid "bar exam" of course!  What else could possibly explain the poor performance of students and this strange turn of events?  Stupid test writers, I'll bet they are not even tenured Law Professors!
The NCBE, not one to take this lying down, fires back:

Dybbuk catalogued the latest decline in median LSAT scores and GPA stats for incoming classes, and the results have been discouraging.  As described, Law Schools have clearly been choosing their preferred method for dealing with declining applications:
Strategy Two: Lower admissions standards, with not-so-long-term disastrous implications for the school’s reputation, the profession itself, and for the poorly qualified matriculants,  aka lemmings of average and below average intelligence, who are less likely than brainier members of their cohort to bounce back after taking the plunge.    
It would appear that the NCBE is on target with their critique.
But wait!  Dean Allard rides to the rescue, to chasten and rebuke.  It is not the students, who have been insulted, it's the test (that has been around for decades) this is the problem!  There has been "no transparency."  There is no evidence the students are "less able" (just, the, um, scores themselves, but who cares), just mere assertion!  Getting a JD is "hard work" and requires "intelligence."
The coup-de-grace, per Allard?
It is strange that after completing, at great expense, such intense studies, the first thing law graduates must do is pay a lot of money, once again, to prepare for a test that will enable them to practice law.  This defies common sense.
Why, yes it does, yes it does.  Welcome the to the scamblog camp, Dean Allard.
Friends, "open enrollment" is starting to have its effect, and the Law Schools are scrambling for cover.  It would be entertaining to feast upon all this discord (and I do admit to grabbing some popcorn laced with a heavy dose of schadenfreude), but the real tragedy here lies with recent students and graduates who are getting scammed.  While the various camps within the Cartel blame each other, disclaim contributory negligence, and lob their wordy hand-grenades, real people with real debt are the casualties.  No one within the Cartel seems to actually care about their federal student loan conduits, and they are more interested in passing the hot potato to someone else rather than rendering sober judgment unto themselves.
0ls, non-trads, these are the kind of people trying to entice you into Law School.  See how they act.  See how they dodge and weave.  Run for the hills, now, before the entire structure collapses and you get caught up in the collateral damage.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Keep Your Kids Off Cooley.

The good news is that bottom-of-the-barrel Thomas Cooley Law School has a free Saturday program for elementary and secondary school youth in Pontiac, Michigan. This "pipeline program" [1] boasts the child-friendly title "Cooley Collaborative for a Certainty of Opportunity," or CCCO.

According to its program profile (below), CCCO "uses small and large group mentoring programs involving both students and their parents to build character and increase academic success." It aims to warn kids away from the temptations and "destructive influences" they will face as they mature— things like teen pregnancy, "kid crime," and substance abuse. Cooley has taken a lot of flack from scamblogs, but surely one can forgive a lousy law school its 22.9% nine-month-out bar required job placement rate if it can keep area adolescents from getting knocked up and/ or becoming gangster dope fiends. 

The bad news, of course, is that Cooley Law School does not warn kids off the temptation or destructive influence of itself. 

One of the highlights of CCCO is the free 'Success on Saturdays' program held every other Saturday at a Pontiac high school. Success on Saturdays helps kids focus on getting organized, on test taking strategies, and on study habits. Accordingly, program services provided include "[s]tudy skills,""tutoring and academic support," and "[m]entoring/advising service." And, needless to say, the organizers will not neglect to gift the children with all-important "Law school and career information."

What can you say about a pipeline program like this? I hope, and think it is possible, that the program does some good, even though it is sponsored by an outfit with dubious ulterior motives. Perhaps a fair analogy would be to an after-school or weekend program for children run by a fundamentalist religious organization. The kids arguably benefit from the fellowship, group outings, and some of the moral and practical lessons. But one also hopes that a parent, or some other trusted adult influencer, would quietly take each kid aside and say: "Look, I am glad the activities are fun and that you are making friends, but there are aspects of the organizers' outlook and what they want for you that you should regard with deep skepticism."

Or this being the USA, perhaps the most effective way to reach our vulnerable youth is a through a slickly produced and bluntly worded televised public relations campaign. I envision something like this: An actor or celebrity displays a sheet of fine linen paper on which attractive calligraphic print is visible, and declares: “This is your resume.” Next, he drops the paper into a clogged toilet, and then retrieves it using a plunger and medical gloves. He holds the now soggy and repulsive page close to the camera. "This is your resume on Cooley. Or, rather, Cooley on your resume. Any questions?"


[1] "Law school pipeline programs across the country attempt to make interventions early along this stream on the theory that these interventions will widen the flow of students later in the application stage." Michelle J. Anderson, Legal Education Reform, Diversity, and Access to Justice, 61 Rutgers Law Review 1011, 1029 (2009).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bar Exam Scores Decline

It has been a long time since my last post.  I have not been investigating the scam as frequently, so I have not had much new information to contribute.  Fortunately, one of our best posters came back recently from The Phantom Zone.

I just thought that I'd repost something that is making the rounds.  Apparently -- gasp -- it is true that law schools have been admitting students with even less aptitude.  For example, Dybbuk has hammered home the truth about open admissions at some of the worst T4 schools.

Overall, the classes that started in 2010 - 2011 have MBE bar exam pass rates far lower than previous classes.  Of course, Scam Dean Nick Allard of Brooklyn Law School has tried to fight back against the truth revealed by these numbers (apparently, he thinks that bad scoring is to blame).

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Yes," "No," or "John Adams": How do you think Albany Law Prof. Mary Lynch answered the question: "Do we need [so many] new lawyers every year?"

How would you answer the question: "Do we need so many new lawyers every year?"

It seems like a yes-no question, doesn’t it? So you could answer, if you are sufficiently delusional: Yes, there is a significant unmet need for legal services, and even though few of these potential clients can afford to actually pay a lawyer, surely the government and private foundations will step in with sufficient funding. The New New Deal is just around the corner.

Or you could answer: No, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, nationwide, fewer than 50% of new lawyers will obtain law jobs through 2022.

But there is yet another way to answer this yes-no question, the evasive scammer way. For instance, you could respond by noting that it is a really good question, and then spout a torrent of enthusiastic and empty verbiage about the civic virtue of the law. You could reach all the way back to the early years of our republic in order to name-check John Adams and then zip forward to the "globalized, digitalized world" of the near future. You could carefully deploy the phrase "the question is. . ." or "really the question is. . ." or "that, I think, is the real question." Maybe the questioner and audience will get so disoriented by this gaseous fog of words that they will imagine that the initial question has been answered in a highly sophisticated way, which in a way it has been.

Albany Law Professor Mary Lynch, the Director of her school's "Center for Excellence in Law Teaching," chose the third option in an interview broadcast on WYNT television on August 22, 2013. Interviewer Phil Bayly asked: "Before we even get to their education, you know what people are asking their television right now. Do we need [so many] new lawyers every year?" Lynch responded as follows:
"I think that’s a really good question, and I think the question is what is it that lawyers can do for society. And if we really think about, law is a civic profession. Our country was founded on law. John Adams. You think of all the people that founded our country. So what are lawyers? Lawyers are involved in industry. Many of our Presidents, our senators, you know, government, not-for-profit. So really the question is what kind of lawyers do we want to be? Are they going to be effective problem solvers as we go into the 21st century, and into a globalized, digitalized world? And that I think is the real question. Are we equipping them with the kind of skills that make them the kind of folks that we want helping us solve the problems of the world."  
[This comment appears about one minute into the nine-and-a-half minute long interview]
I must say that this nonsense disappointed me given that it came from a Professor with a genuine, though not recent, background in practice, consisting of four years as a district attorney (1985-1989). Imagine if Lynch, in her long-ago role as a prosecutor, had posed the original question to a witness, and the witness had responded by commending her "really good question," and then launched into a stream of gibberish pertaining to what she deemed the "real question"? Wouldn't Lynch have said "Objection, nonresponsive" or "Objection, please direct the witness to answer the question"? Wouldn’t the witness have been sternly admonished by the court to answer the question posed? Wouldn’t the jury have snickered at the fool on the witness stand?

Lynch purports an interest and involvement in legal educational reform and clinical education. I don’t dismiss this completely. For instance, Lynch ran her school's clemency clinic, which is absolutely a worthy project. (Preparing clemency petitions is unlikely to lead to actual jobs for grads, but it is a genuine unmet need, something that benefits society). But I want to tout one additional reform that law professors can undertake, on their own, that could make a significant difference: Listen respectfully to your recent grads, and tell truth about job prospects, especially to your students. Or, if that is too tall an order, simply avoid the temptation to shill your lousy law schools.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Will Bottom of the Barrel Thomas Jefferson School of Law Further Reduce Its Faculty, Staff, Bar Prep, and Parking?

On March 21, 2014, a remarkable conference call was held between a high level team at financially-beset Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL) and representatives of the bondholders who unwisely financed TJSL's chevron-topped vanity project to the tune of 130 million dollars. To its credit, the TJSL side decided to record the call and make it available on the internet on grounds that the bondholders were so numerous that a recording was the only way to effectively communicate with all, rather than a select group. 

The majority of the conference call consisted of Dean Thomas Guernsey narrating a slide show (which unfortunately is not available) about the school’s operations, programs, constraints, and revenue projections. The audio file of the call can by accessed by going to this web address and following instructions:

On October 29, 2014, just over seven months after the call, TJSL reached a last-minute debt restructuring agreement with the bondholders. Under the agreement, the school becomes a mere tenant in its own lavish eight story cathedral of legal learning, aka Hasl's "Mammoth" Folly. However, on its website, TJSL reassures readers that "students should not see any change in the operation of the law school caused by the restructuring" and that "We do not anticipate a reduction in the number of staff as a result of the restructuring."

What follows are a few highlights of what Dean Guernsey told the bondholders, during the March 21st conference call, about recent and projected budget cuts at the school. Potential law students and their influencers may wish to consider Guernsey’s comments as they evaluate whether TJSL is likely to provide, as TJSL promises on its website, "a learning environment in which all of our students can more effectively acquire the academic and non-academic skills that they need to thrive in a rapidly changing legal profession." They might recall that, even pre-budget-cuts, the school's bar-required job placement rate for recent grads was among the worst in the country and that its bar passage rate is dismal. How the school will improve its performance with a reduced and demoralized staff is not clear. Perhaps magic.


* "As we’ve reported before, the school has taken dramatic cuts since 2012. The number of employees at the school declined from 139 to 102. We have reduced spending by 22% and believe the result is that we have a bare bones budget for the operation of the law school." (Conference call, at 32:50-33:10)

* "We are projecting a significant decline in the number of full-time faculty that the law school will employ as the number of students declines and then levels off." (32:24-34:40) 

* "We are projecting further personnel reductions planned over the next three years. . .We have assumed that benefits and salaries for those who work at the law school will not increase over the next four years, but that after that there will be a 2.5 percent annual growth. At some point, the continued inability to give salary increases is going to have obviously a negative impact on our ability to retain people." (33:28-34:05) 

 * "A number of expenses we have reduced, these are just the ones that are $50,000 or more. Professional fees by more than $560,000. Student recruitment by more than $430,000. Library continuations by $125,000. Security by $89,000." (39:22-39:38)

 * "We are looking for other ways to improve. . . [A] bar preparation course [for] which we pay about $600,000 a year ends in 2016. We have no intention of renewing that. That leads to a $285,000 reduction in 2017." (39:47-40:13)   

 * "We have worked hard to reduce our parking expenses, which should be about $115,000 less in 2015.  We are currently renting 400 parking spaces, and we’ve  negotiated a reduction in that number to 150 spaces at $85 per month." (40:15-40:39)

* "As we’ve talked before, the law school has made significant budget cuts lately. We have reduced the overall FTE headcount by over 21% in the past year alone. As I’ve indicated, we have further reductions projected over the next three years. Significant salary and benefit concessions have been implemented. We froze salaries and wages since 2012. In August, soon after my arrival, we made a 5% across the board cut in salaries, with an additional 3% cut for the faculty. We eliminated the 401K matching, which was up to 3% of salary and that became effective on January, 2014. And we have eliminated paid sabbaticals." (38:26-39:14)