Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Blameless" Tone-Deaf Law Professors Ted Seto and Steve Diamond Whistle Past Grave Yards

What with the recent closures of Indiana Tech and Whittier, to say nothing of mergers and attempts by law schools to raise funds in order to keep operating, what do LawProfs have to say?  By chance, are they implicated in any way?  Let's get right to it:

Not clear that blaming senior faculty is constructive. Like Jack, I work hard. I’m currently on sabbatical, but for the preceding five years, I averaged 20 units of teaching per year, twice what our junior faculty members are asked to teach, while maintaining some of the best teaching evaluations at a school with excellent average evaluations. During that same period, I wrote a first and second edition of a casebook, with accompanying 500-page teacher’s manual, and published numerous articles. I also designed and implemented several new revenue-generating programs for the school, the net revenues of which pay for my salary many times over. When our school went on a faculty-slimming program with buy-out offers, no one offered me a buy-out. I wonder why. (I wouldn’t have accepted in any event; I love what I do.) Sorry to seem self-promoting, but we more experienced faculty members sometimes need to defend ourselves.
Posted by: Theodore Seto | Apr 25, 2017 12:06:16 AM


Well!  Let's count the Baby Boomer bromides: (1) I "work hard" notwithstanding sabbaticals, (2) everybody loves me, (3) I'm important because I'm published, (4) I pay for my cost by helping keep the gristmill going, and (5) I'm better that everyone else and those other (younger) lawprof louses should be fired instead.  Nothing about law school lax acceptance practices, outrageous tuition costs, the dissemination of false and misleading information, that too many law schools are pumping out too many graduates, or the non-recovery of the legal market.  Clearly, no one else works as hard as Seto and he deserves his position, so go looking elsewhere for your pound of flesh from the scam.  

Are things better for the class of 2016 as opposed to earlier?  There appears to be some minor improvement according to recent ABA numbers, but hardly what one would call a huge swing to the so-called "golden days" of legal education.  UPDATE:  For example, the percentage of students from, say, Loyola(LA), who obtained full-time, bar-passage required jobs went down 0.2% from a whopping 47% to 46.8% from 2015 to 2016.

http://witnesseth.typepad.com/blog/2012/12/bloated-is-better-for-law-school-rankings.html



MacK dismissed Seto's arguments in late 2013, and it appears that his predictions were more on point:

Seto's assessment - and for that matter Dan Filler's approving posting of it is remarkable in inherently admitting something that Dan and Seto had until now been desperately denying - that there was a substantial fall in the number of law school matriculations in progress - and that there is an oversupply of JDs.

At the same time, Seto makes a mess of things. The key hole in his analysis is the assumption that until recently supply (JDs awarded per year) was in fact in equilibrium with demand for new law graduates. As has now been relentlessly detailed by numerous careful studies (as well as the missing lawyer phenomenon) that has not been an accurate assessment since perhaps the 1990s. Only a small proportion of the demand-supply mismatch can be attributed to the recession. (The non-equilibrium in the JD supply is a function of the market distortion of a student loan system devoid of underwriting standards.)

Where Seto may be accurate is in his prediction that on current numbers matriculations will be of the order of 39,900 - though it could easily be lower (the impact of law schools' desperate efforts to get applications in the current cycle (waiving application fees, chasing marginally interested applicants) will likely be a lower yield of matriculants from the number of applications, especially if the recovery continues to strengthen through the summer. What does this mean for law schools? Well one good prediction is that in any given metro area with multiple law schools, the bottom ranked law school will be in trouble as students shuffle up to the higher ranked school(s), or the lower ranked school needs to offer very heavy discounts to attract students. It may also lead to competition for transfers in senior class ranks (as schools like Phoenix law are discovering) and further efforts to prevent the losses of 2Ls and 3Ls and tuition dollars. Remember a fall of 8,000 law students means the equivalent of around 20-40 law schools' first year classes (assuming 200-400 per entering class.) The assumption of the pollyanna's is that the fall in matriculations will be evenly distributed across all law schools - but it seems more reasonable to think that those with the perceived worst value offering will take the biggest hit.

The next couple of years are going to be a wild ride for law schools - and September will be very interesting.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The seven tiers of law schools

Four years have passed since Law School Truth Center sorted the law schools into seven tiers (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2013/06/law-school-advisory-list-one-guys.html#more). I applaud the effort but disagree on some of the assignments: for example, I would not put Duke in with South Dakota.

For years I have said that only 13 or so law schools are worth attending even in principle (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html). I stand by that claim. But a more detailed breakdown, with descriptions of the categories, may help. Like Law School Truth Center, I have opted to use seven tiers, although I have numbered them from 0 to 6. I have considered only the law schools outside Puerto Rico that are at least provisionally accredited by the ABA, on the assumption that anyone literate enough to read these lines would never consider attending a state-accredited or wholly unaccredited law school. (If you wish, add an eighth tier for those schools that pick up Cooley's rejects.)



TIER 0: Definitely worth attending. Leap at the chance to enroll at one of these schools, even if you have to borrow the full cost.

*** NONE ***

Comments: Formerly occupied by a handful of schools, this tier has been vacant for years and is likely to remain that way until the second half of the century. Not for nothing is it named Tier 0.



TIER 1: Excellent choices for trust-fund babies. Others should seriously consider them while bearing in mind the very real risk of a bad outcome. You cannot, after all, eat prestige for breakfast.

Harvard
Yale

Comments: No, Stanford, your jive ass is not in the same league as Harvard and Yale. Petulant Californian demands for representation in Tier 1 don't sway me one bit.



TIER 2: Rich kids should feel free to attend these. Others should not enroll without a substantial discount and should weigh the risk of a bad outcome carefully.

Chicago
Columbia
NYU
Stanford

Comments: Formerly this category also included Michigan and Penn.



TIER 3: Rich kids are likely to consider these insufficiently prestigious. Others should not even apply without a fee waiver and should not enroll without a large discount, probably at least 50% off; even then, the risk of a bad outcome would loom large.

California—Berkeley
Cornell
Duke
Michigan
Northwestern
Penn
Virginia

Comments: This category, which has shrunk considerably since 2010 or so, is the end of the group that, as of the last time that I checked (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html), saw at least 50% of the graduating class get jobs in Big Law or federal clerkships. I advise against attending any school below Tier 3. Even Tier 1 is questionable nowadays.



TIER 4: Expect a disastrous outcome at these unless you get tuition waived, have local connections, and intend to build your career in the vicinity of the school (no farther away than, say, an adjacent state). As always, rich people can go here if they really want to.

Alabama
Arizona
Arizona State
Baylor
Boston College
Boston University
Brigham Young
California—Davis
California—Irvine
California—Los Angeles
California—Hastings
Cardozo
Case Western Reserve
Chicago—Kent
Cincinnati
Colorado
Connecticut
Denver
Drake
Emory
Florida
Florida State
Fordham
George Mason
Georgetown
George Washington
Georgia
Georgia State
Houston
Illinois
Indiana—Bloomington
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana State
Loyola Marymount
Minnesota
Nevada
New Mexico
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Rutgers
St. John's
Southern California
Southern Methodist
Tennessee
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
Tulane
Vanderbilt
Wake Forest
Washington
Washington and Lee
Washington University in St. Louis
West Virginia
William and Mary
Wisconsin

Comments: Many of these are what Paul Campos has called trap schools. Others are toilets with employment figures that are better than those of typical toilets. All are best avoided, from the faux-prestigious outskirts of Tier 3 to the toilety outskirts of Tier 5.



TIER 5: Don't go near these unless you are independently wealthy, crave a little wind-up-toy law degree, and are too dumb to get into a school in a higher tier even after exploiting your rich connections.

Akron
Albany
American
Arkansas—Fayetteville
Arkansas—Little Rock
Baltimore
Belmont
Brooklyn
Campbell
Catholic
Chapman
Cleveland-Marshall
Creighton
CUNY
DePaul
Drexel
Duquesne
Florida International
Gonzaga
Hawaii
Hofstra
Howard
Idaho
Indiana—Indianapolis
Lewis and Clark
Liberty
Lincoln Memorial
Louisville
Loyola—Chicago
Maine
Marquette
Maryland
Memphis
Mercer
Miami
Michigan State
Mississippi
Missouri—Columbia
Missouri—Kansas City
Montana
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New York Law School
Northeastern
Oregon
Pace
Pacific
Pennsylvania State—Dickinson
Pennsylvania State—University Park
Pepperdine
Pittsburgh
Quinnipiac
Regent
Richmond
St. Louis
St. Thomas—Minneapolis
Samford
San Diego
San Francisco
Santa Clara
Seattle
Seton Hall
South Carolina
South Texas
Southwestern
Stetson
Suffolk
SUNY Buffalo
Syracuse
Toledo
Tulsa
Vermont
Villanova
Washburn
Wayne State
Willamette
Wyoming

Comments: Many of these are only a hair's breadth from the bottom tier. Some are likely to close in the coming years. These schools typically feature a mediocre to lousy student body and dreadfully high unemployment and underemployment in the graduating classes of recent years. Unaccountably, a bit of prestige still attaches to a few of these schools. Don't believe the hype.



TIER 6: The survival of these into 2017 offers an argument against the existence of a just god. Anyone who enrolls at one of these should not be allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.

Appalachian
Arizona Summit
Ave Maria
Barry
California Western
Capital
Charleston
Charlotte
Concordia
Dayton
Detroit—Mercy
District of Columbia
Elon
Faulkner
Florida A&M
Florida Coastal
Golden Gate
Indiana Tech (soon to be closed)
John Marshall—Atlanta
John Marshall—Chicago
La Verne
Loyola—New Orleans
Massachusetts—Dartmouth
Mississippi College
Mitchell | Hamline
New England
North Carolina Central
North Dakota
Northern Illinois
Northern Kentucky
Nova Southeastern
Ohio Northern
Oklahoma City
Roger Williams
St. Mary's
St. Thomas—Florida
Savannah
South Dakota
Southern Illinois
Southern University
Texas Southern
Thomas Cooley
Thomas Jefferson
Touro
Valparaiso
Western New England
Western State
Whittier (soon to be closed)
Widener

Comments: These schools are mostly private. Several are unprofitable commercial ventures. All plumb the depths of the 140s, and even the 130s and perhaps the 120s, on the LSAT. The few people who pass the bar exams are unlikely to find real salaried work as lawyers. Fortunately, this tier is shrinking. Recent years have seen a couple of announced closures, some attempted and achieved mergers (effectively closures), an abandonment to the state, and a closure of a branch. Expansion will almost certainly come from above (Tier 5), not below (the unspeakable world of unaccredited upstarts).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Getting plucked: Duquesne Law School offers course on the ukulele

How can a toilet school best serve its students? Should it streamline its curriculum? provide tutors? conduct bar-review courses?

Or should it offer a few lessons on the ukulele?

http://triblive.com/local/allegheny/12243286-74/duquesne-law-students-learn-the-ukulele-to-relieve-stress

Unique among lemmings, Duquesne's students get the opportunity to play this noblest of instruments while they pretend to learn about torts and civil procedure. From the video provided at the link above, it appears that ambition so far greatly exceeds skill, as one might expect from Duquesne generally. I have unfortunately missed the students' unprepossessing performance of "Margaritaville", but I know it's my own damn fault.

When the trend of "diversity" reaches Duquesne, the family of lutes on offer will no doubt be extended to the sitar, the oud, and the balalaika. Regrettably the imminent shuttering of Indiana Tech forecloses the possibility of a collaborative effort for four-string faux-Hawaiian hip-hop.

The American Bar Association—or is that Barre Association?—has contributed $750 to this juridical ascent of Parnassus. Yet again we have proof of the ABA's commitment to sound expenditures in support of legal education. The pioneer of Duquesne's unique program hopes to expand it with a lending library of ukuleles. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I doubt whether many students would be willing to share a G-string.

In any event, Old Guy will happily support Duquesne's worthy effort with a composition, complete with chords for anyone who may be strumming along. (If you're from Duquesne, you probably can't manage more than three chords, so change C7 to C.) Perhaps it will be performed at a future luau for law professors in Waikiki.


ALL HAIL DUQUESNE
Air: "Aloha 'Oe"

– | C – F – | C – – – |
Pittsburgh has a toilet law school that's just nifty:

G7 – – – | – – – – |
I got in there with a score below one-fifty.

C – F – | C – – – |
And one special feature I endorse most gaily:

F – G7 – | C – C7 – |
Others study law; we play the ukulele.


Refrain:

F – – – | C – – – |
All hail Duquesne! Though I've no brain,

G7 – – – | C – C7 – |
And I owe two hundred grand for my tuition,

F – – – | C – – – |
And jobs are few, one thing is true:

G7 – – – | C – – ||
I can pluck the strings and act like a musician.

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.
Sheldon,
 
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.