Monday, April 24, 2017

The Writing was on the Wall at Whittier

Given the conflagration that has occurred now that Whittier has voted to close its law school, I'm reminded of earlier discussions in late 2015 where a defense was proffered for the existence of the school.  Given the lofty-pedestal that selfless, sacrificing non-profit schools have occupied, it was especially telling to read the recent TRO that was filed in defense of the law school, whose arguments for non-closure were all about how profitable the law school was to the parent university, and how much money had been made in the selling of land the law school stood upon.  
Frankly, I'm not posting here to get into that (although Professor Frakt did pointedly chime in), as we all had our opinions then and years prior, Whittier or no Whittier.  What I remember more are the following comments from (former) Law Professors:
Several years ago I had the misfortune of being a professor at a TTT/TTTT law school, and let me assure you that it was predatory.
To the point where I quit working there after only one year rather than continue to be associated with it and also reported its shenanigans to the ABA.
Which did nothing, of course. Which is a big part of the problem.
You are obviously bright and accomplished. Like you, I taught at a low-ranked law school. I made all the arguments you make. You have to make those arguments to convince yourself that you are not part of the problem. I understand. It was a wonderful, rewarding, flexible job, and I did not want to leave.
At the end of the day, however, most of your students, like most of mine, are worse off after graduating from your law school. You can deceive yourself by keeping in tough with the handful of graduates that, by luck, connections, or brilliance, land lucrative or fulfilling legal jobs, but if you are honest, most of your students will never get a reasonable return on their investment. The vast majority of your students at Whittier are not given opportunity by their JD, but rather are given a financial burden that will crush them.
Again, you are smart. You can poke holes in LST's work. Congratulations. You have a PHD and a JD from elite schools; you should be able to do that, even with work from much more sophisticated people. But you should be seeking the truth. And do you actually think that the vast majority of your students are better off after obtaining their law degree from your school? Have you surveyed your graduates? Have you kept in touch with the ones who failed the bar multiple times? Again, you have a wonderful job, but at some point you may realize that most low ranked law schools create more burdens than opportunities.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Whittier Law School Closing

Happy 4/20 day.

In arguably the first "real" casualty of the law school bubble's burst, the Whittier College Board of Trustees has voted to close Whittier Law School.
We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome.

Accordingly, on April 15, 2017 the Board voted not to enroll new 1L classes at the Law School beginning this fall.
The law school leadership is disappointed at their little game being over.
As is well known, the last few years have been extremely difficult for law schools across the country. Whittier Law School felt those challenges keenly and we took significant steps to address them. Sadly, our sponsoring institution opted to abandon the Law School rather than provide the time and resources needed to finish paving the path to ongoing viability and success. We believe this action was unwise, unwarranted, and unfounded.
Apt, as attending Whittier Law School itself has been an "unwise, unwarranted, and unfounded" decision for prospective law school applicants for some time.

According to Law School Transparency, Whittier's 2015 graduating class had an employment score of 19.1%, an underemployment score of 48.9%, and a bar passage rate of 38.1%.  The non-discounted cost of this train-wreck is $284,377.  In 2016, Whittier enrolled a class of 132 with 25-75 LSAT split of 144-149. 

I am not sure Whittier provided a valuable service when it was founded in 1966, but today it is a deadweight piece of foul shit that needed flushing.  Literally everyone in the legal profession - and the clients we represent and that intangible sense of "justice" we supposedly uphold - except Whittier Law School administrators benefits by its closure.

We can debate how many negative-value institutions should close, but few people with any real credibility would defend Whittier's existence.  So let us celebrate this particular domino falling and hope that it is not a one-off loss of faith by a rogue small college.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another View of the Economics of a Law Degree

OTLSS has been fairly consistent in its fundamental message over the last four years: law school is too expensive overall for what you get, the job market is not favorable and continues to not be favorable to graduates, and what program you get into is a primary consideration assuming you still want to take the plunge.

An unpopular message, of course, if you are involved in legal education.  Especially if you do not have a long history and a large endowment that allows one to be picky about who it lets in.  But the scambloggers don't know anything, of course, so best to dismiss them as whiny losers - which was the extent of the response from the Cartel to scamblogger criticism.  Sure it was couched in fancy terms and attempts to legitimize the argument with dubious economic data, but that was the end result.

People with no dog in the fight, however, would seem to say otherwise, which much more straight-forward data:

Per this chart, we seem to know this already.  Law degrees are one of the (inexplicably) most expensive graduate degrees on the market.  MBAs and STEM degrees are significantly less by contrast.  Heck, even certain Arts programs require actual studio space, to say nothing of science, engineering, and medical facilities required to teach their respective subjects.  Law, by contrast?  Pfft, open up a mall storefront and some WestLaw accounts and you're good.  Books and fax machines are expensive, but not THAT expensive.

Well, what about that stellar success that awaits 98.6% of law graduates, or whatever the Cartel advertises as a good job rate nowadays? 

Hmm.  Well, eleven years out, Law Grads still have a one-to-one ratio as regards their income and debt burdens.  Doctors are down to 0.90, which is to be expected given their initial high-cost/high-pay scenario.  MBAs and STEM folks are down into the high 0.70s.  MAs sadly seem to increase, which points to why many folks ran into the arms of the Law School Cartel in the first place.  Hey, with no other points of comparison, Law looks better than a career in the Arts...!
Lastly, preftige matters, full stop, as can been seen from this last chart:
It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sobering.  Graduates from non-elite law schools (if you even want to call the top 100 "elite" in the first place) start with TWICE the debt burden, on average, that their preftigeous conterparts, yet still only have the above-referenced 1.0 income to debt ratio eleven years out.  While you see some confirmation of this phenomenon in other fields as well, only in the medical profession does in not seem to matter where you went to school(?), at least as far as economics are concerned.
Again, one has to ask: why is law school so expensive?  Why is the data so starkly different than the "positive" trends that are so noticeable in other professions?  How can it possibly cost twice as much to educate a lawyer as opposed to, say, a scientist?  Yes, the law can be complex to the uninitiated, but over time one's knowledge base and skills improve as in any field of study.  The same it true with, say, organic chemistry, for example - people manage to make significant educational strides in fields of that nature as well, but apparently at half the price.
In any event, the article closes with the following:  So, if you are seeking an affordable graduate degree that will boost your earning power, what should you do?
Yes, indeedily-doodily, that is the question.  It would appear that the data speaks for itself.  Don't go to low-tier law schools on vague and ephemeral notions of "defending liberty," "pursuing justice," or "loving the law," that's for sure.  Also, don't go to law school at all, unless your social capital allows you entre into top programs with a lock on a job prior to starting. 
Unless you enjoy having debt equal to your earnings for decades or more, of course.  Sadly, this appears to be the case even in the best of scenarios.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cincinnati and the Limits of Law Dean Power

Often we direct our ire at law school deans, usually for egregious things documented in the public record.  But it's important to remember that at many schools, law deans are far from monarchs and serve at the daily will of a pleased administration, governing, board or faculty.  Particularly in the faculty context, cookies are not easily returned to the jar from when they were stolen.

Consider the last few weeks at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Dean Jennifer Bard.

On March 19, Cincinnati Business Courier ran this item:
A group of faculty at the University of Cincinnati College of Law is calling for the ouster of its new dean less than halfway into her five-year contract due to an apparent conflict of priorities.
[A] group of at least nine law professors discussed holding a vote of no confidence in Bard as early as Nov. 22, 2016. UC's College of Law has 36 faculty members and seven professors and deans emeriti.
Upon reading, one has to wonder what, exactly, Bard did to earn a vote of no confidence.  Thoughts of Larry Mitchell, Sujit Choudhry, and to some extent Lawrence Sager emerge.

Three days later, the Business Courier had a response from Dean Bard herself:
The University of Cincinnati's College of Law dean said calls for her ouster from a "small but vocal cabal" of faculty result from steps she has taken to tackle the college's deficit.
One suggestion was to integrate the UC law library into the existing university library system.
Bard said an audit of the law school identified a need for written pre-travel approval and the submission of travel receipts, which has caused discomfort for faculty.
Emphasis added.  The New York Times write-up also identifies increased teaching loads and trimming supplemental salaries to those with endowed chairs.

These ideas aren't radical cost-cutting measures. For over a decade the rest of the legal profession - if not the white collar world in general - has been tightening the reins on travel abuses.  That a public law school would require pre-approval and receipts for reimbursement should be the long-held, no-duh expectation and not a controversial suggestion from a radical dean.

Almost immediately, she was placed on administrative leave by an interim provost.

As with any workplace soap opera, there's likely additional facts to which the public is not privy, but consider the optics on this:
  • Cincinnati brings in a female law dean to fix the budget in an era of deficits and reduced revenue
  • Law dean proposes what appear to be entirely reasonable cost-cutting solutions
  • At least a quarter of the faculty revolts within two years of a five year deal and they unceremoniously put her on leave mid-semester
Not only is it bad for Cincinnati that the faculty has put its pouting foot in the ground that no one's touching their luxury goodie bags, but consider the ramifications upon the bigger picture.

Many law schools still operate in a 2005 mentality that the applicants will come, tenure is sacred, academic conferences in Waikiki must be attended, etc.  You can't simply inflate revenue the way tuition is inflated.  Dean Bard isn't the first hatchet-wielder and she sure as heck will not be the last in this particular industry.

Seeing a provost dump the law dean at Cincinnati for proposing such measures, what law faculty would stay silent in the face of auditing and radical proposals? Does this not encourage a stronghold defense of such sacred perks?

Ultimately, law deans can only be as good - and can conversely be as evil - as the people who support them permit.  Here, we have a law dean who from public appearances, made an effort to curb costs at a mid-range public law school.  As a thank you, she has apparently been shown the door and will likely be replaced by an executive will be more deferential to the crucial needs of tenured faculty.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Notable Charlotte School of Law Success Story...

/ScamDean Hat On

It's been a difficult few years recently for the higher-calling of the Law School Mission Statement (tm).  Fewer students have been applying due to self-serving and pernicious lies propagated by disgruntled law graduates (with licenses) who clearly don't want to work very hard, to say nothing of certain LawProfs who have a penchant for biting the hands that feed them.  LSATs and bar passage rates have been declining while costs have increased, but that is not the fault of students - its the fault of unfair testing methods and always-rising prices.  What people don't need is criticism, but inspiring stories about how you too can be a Million-Dollar Graduate.  So here we go...

Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson was just 26 when she filed paperwork to run for office in 2013. Her age didn’t seem to deter voters as she won the election with 56 percent of the vote. She took the seat at age 27, making her the youngest and only female mayor in the town’s history.
Ha ha, suck it, you diversity-demonizing nay-sayers and scambloggers!  Talk about "JD Advantage!"  If you can believe it, you can achieve it!  With all the reams and reams of Negative-Nellie talk about "experience" and "connections" and "financial backing" and what-not, it's refreshing to see someone with some moxie get out there and make it happen despite what the critics say!  See what a Charlotte SOL degree can do for you, right?  Let's read some more... 
After interning with former First Lady Laura Bush, working on Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012 and graduating with a degree in law from the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina, Wilson longed for the red rocks of Southern Utah.
"Cedar City is my home," Wilson said. "As soon as I finished law school, I knew I wanted to move back to Utah and be involved in some way."

Well, OK, not EVERYONE can do an internship with a First Lady or work on high-profile political campaigns, but that's missing the point.  Rather than scoffing at "connections," let's focus on what was really the heart of the issue - going back home to make a difference, with a JD in tow.  So, stop being jerks, you scambl...

Times are certainly different from those of Wilson’s grandfather, Loren Whetten, who also served as mayor in Cedar City from 1966-1973...[d]espite their success, Wilson [and others] are part of the select few Utah millennials who have found a place in politics.

Oh, OK, NOW you're going to start complaining.  So, it's not basking in the glow of Charlotte SOL, its the "nepotism," right, cynics?  Yeah, I see how you guys are.  So, are you trying to say that lots and lots of recent law graduates are not mayors of small-town America, running things better than their forebears?  How dare you tarnish someone else's achievements.  Maybe YOU should go run for office, Mr. Harvard-Yale-Stanford, and see how far YOU get, huh?  Or maybe you should have gone to Charlotte, instead...!
In any event, it's not what you start with, its what you do with it.  Instead of being mayor, maybe you would have to settle for, oh, I don't know, an AUSDA position, or director of a non-profit, or maybe just a humble solo practice if BigLaw doesn't quite do the trick.  Don't let the nay-sayers hold you back.  Just as in this example, thousands and thousands of grads can go on to do amazing things with their (Charlotte) JDs.
/ScamDean Hat Off
Or so they say.
No disrespect to Ms. Wilson, and we all certainly hope that she is doing well and making a difference.  We hold up Ms. Wilson, however, to say that there is always "more to the story" when considering one's future legal education and the "advantages" that certain JDs can potentially confer.  Oftentimes, it matters more what you bring with you prior to starting, than what you obtain while you are there - and the Law School Cartel will quietly brush this fact under the rug as if it doesn't matter.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ditching the LSAT and Slurping the Froth

This evening, on the day before the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar meets (at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, where great decision-making meets the Pacific Ocean!) and considers, among other items, permitting alternative entry examinations, Harvard Law has announced it will accept the GRE in addition to the LSAT.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” Dean Martha Minow said in a statement. “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable.

“...[G]iven the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
This superficially seems like an admirable goal: make it easier for elite students to apply to law school.  That's particularly true for a school like Harvard that would likely be taking top 10% GRE scores who could, if they sat for the test, surely score a 165+ on the LSAT fairly easily.

Of course, Harvard is but one of over two hundred law schools, and it's the exception, albeit one that absurdly sets trends. 

Absent controlled studies of how a particular GRE score correlates to a particular LSAT score, this move simply gives applicants two bites at the apple, and schools yet another number to manipulate in their favor in compilation form.  This is particularly troubling in an age when the declining applicant pool has led to declining LSAT numbers and often correlates with declining bar passage rates three years later.

How do GRE scores correlate with bar passage rates?  Anyone have anything close to an educated guess?  Sounds like once the rest of the schools follow Arizona and Harvard's lead, they've got at least a five year window before there's enough data to show anything worth reporting.

There are other obvious problems with Harvard's reasoning, such as:
  • Nothing stops those students from taking the LSAT;
  • Nothing stopped law schools from accepting the GRE years ago;
  • Nothing stops the LSAT from being as accessible as the GRE;
  • If you're legitimately worried about your students' ability to drop the two hundred bucks for the LSAT, set up a voucher/scholarship program...and if that's a concern, maybe it's a good time to ask whether students in such financial straits are really good options to incur hundreds of thousands in student loan debt.
But to me the biggest problem is that it exposes the fallacy of a stupid argument law schools have been making, at least prior to this newfound skepticism of the LSAT that just so happens to correspond with declining LSAT scores.

Do you remember, like 2011ish, when we got arguments like this one?
Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where applications this year declined more than 11%, said it was a good thing prospective students now were more “clear eyed” about the risks and rewards of a law degree.
“The froth in the applicant pool—those who were just going to law school because they didn’t know what else to do and everyone told them it was a safe bet—is pretty well gone,” he said.
 And here's Sheli Soto, Arizona State, spring of 2012:
"I do think one of the key results in that national discussion is that students who are looking at graduate school and law are being much more serious and deliberate (about) whether or not they want to apply to law school."
And here's Jerry Organ making a corollary argument just a year and a half ago:
[W]ith the decline in the number of applicants to law school, one might surmise that those choosing to go to law school really are serious about their investment in a legal education and may be working harder to be successful in law school...
Yup, better quality applicant pool - at least in terms of focus and commitment.  There's never really been any empirical evidence for it (how would prove seriousness?), but it's an argument we've heard repeatedly post-decline: that an advantage of a smaller applicant pool is that the students no longer applying were the least interested in eventually being lawyers.

Doesn't this shift away from the LSAT completely demolish this stupid argument, at least as to the benefits claimed by law school apologists?

If there's one thing a serious law school applicant will do, it's prepare-for and take the LSAT.  Arguably the LSAT - which is not without its problems - serves as a rudimentary gatekeeper for "seriousness."  Those not willing to plunk $160 and sit a few hours on a Saturday morning?  Not serious about law school.

If law schools had any interest in an applicant's level of determination, seriousness, personal investment, whatever, there would be no discussion whatsoever of dropping the LSAT or seeking alternatives. 

In reality, law schools generally don't know an applicant's "seriousness" and they really don't give a shit.

By allowing the GRE, law schools like Arizona, Harvard, and soon to be many others, are opening their gluttonous mouths wide for the same "froth" they pretended was a bane to the pre-decline law school world.

That froth - assuming the law schools ever had the palette to discovery it - only tasted remotely sour before this whole thing with declining LSATs and bar passage rates.  Now that froth is the sweet and savory deliciousness of knowledge diversity and access for those of all backgrounds.

So go ahead, law schools, and admit applicants on the LSAT, GRE, spelling bee, or on sending twenty cereal boxtops to a PO Box in Pooville. 

Just never tell us again about how the applications are more "serious" or "focused" when they can't even be bothered to take the standard admissions test.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

According to Some LawProfs, Politically-Motivated Ethics Complaints are Misguided

Even LawProfs Can Have the Occasional Character Flaw...

The Scamblogs have been accused more than once of being "unethical" as regards their position that Law School is, well, a scam for many, many, many, many well-intentioned people.  This has certainly raised the ire of some, as, frankly, who likes being called out on their own, ah, ahem, "deplorable" behavior?  Thank goodness that some LawProfs like Stephen Lubet, who actually study ethics, are willing to confront his fellow LawProfs: 

As a liberal Democrat, I have no sympathy for Conway’s habitual disregard for truth. As a professor of legal ethics, however, I think this [ethics] complaint is dangerously misguided and has the potential to set a terrible precedent...[f]irst, the complaint keys in on two specific statements, neither of which had any connection to Conway’s law might be different if she had been acting in an official capacity, which could be construed broadly as related to the practice of law, but she is a political adviser to Trump with no governmental responsibility. Political debate is protected by the First Amendment, even when it strays into questionable territory, and it should not be the job of the bar authorities to police the exaggerations and misstatements of politicians just because they happen to be lawyers.

While I hardly want to draw a comparison between the scamblogs and Kellyanne Conway, or frankly just about any politician of any stripe, Lubet cuts through the tangle to the heart of the issue.  Nor would I consider the means and methods scamblogs employ as "exaggerations and misstatements" - we may use humor, or sarcasm, or stinging rebukes, but we are not in the business of hucksterism.  We do get accused of bending the truth, which is rather funny considering all the truth-bending engaged in by the academy - but I digress.

But the worst outcome would occur if the professors’ complaint were actually to succeed. Imposing discipline on Conway—even the mildest slap on the wrist—would inevitably lead to a slew of new complaints against attorneys involved in public debate. Lawyer-candidates in the 2016 election cycle included Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and Martin O’Malley, with many others in Senate and House races...[e]ach of these candidates presumably could have been subject to a bar complaint by a disgruntled adversary...[e]very statement by a candidate or spokesperson [would then be] potential fodder for a politically motivated disciplinary complaint.

Luckily, the politically-motivated ethics complaint against one of our own was dismissed for more-or-less the same analysis.  And we are not politicians at the national stage, though we hope our message has some degree of national effect.  It is indeed unfortunate that many within the academy apparently don't have the discipline to refrain from such tactics those criticized by Lubet.  Moving on:     

The professors recognize that bar complaints about public speech can "lead to mischief and worse" but argue that Conway, as counselor to the president, has a "higher obligation" than other lawyers to avoid dishonest statements. I think this gets it exactly backward. Speech is most strongly protected when it is part of a robust political debate...Justice Louis Brandeis once said that the remedy for bad speech is more speech. Likewise, the best remedy for alternative facts should be real facts.

Wouldn't it be interesting if scambloggers lodged ethics complaints against ScamDeans and LawProfs for concealing material information, issuing misleading statements, and the like?  Wouldn't that raise it's own kind of pearl-clutching condemnation of "mischief and worse"?  Apparently it's ethics for thee, but not for me, when it comes to some members of the academy.  And if one thing has been clearly demonstrated by the scamblogs over the years, Law Schools in particular are tremendous fans of their own pet "alternative facts," especially where employment outcomes and job projections are concerned.  Thank goodness that the right of free-speech is being upheld by the academy, even when some facts are not to their liking, because vigorous debate is a cornerstone of our democracy, or something.  I mean, who would want to engage in speech-chilling behavior, just to protect their own egos, amirite?

Yes, indeed.  Onward into 2017, friends!  Your comments and support are part of what brings the truth to light, and we appreciate your involvement.  Here's hoping more and more continue to listen in the months and years ahead.