Friday, August 29, 2014

Widener Law Prof. Ben Barros sounds the alarm: A shortage of law grads is on the horizon, along with a shortage of sand in the Sahara.

Prof. Ben Barros, who teaches at poorly regarded Widener University School of Law (median LSAT score 150), has published several provocative posts at the Faculty Lounge arguing that the job outlook for recently graduated lawyers is not as bad as people believe or as the nine-month-out survey data indicates. In fact, according to his latest post “The Coming Lawyer Shortage,” the slight contraction in overall law school enrollment means that the good times will shortly roll. In this post, Barros asserts that “in a relatively short time, we will have gone from an environment where employers received hundreds of resumes for every open position to one where employers might not receive any resumes at all.”

Barros dismisses the far more pessimistic projection as to anticipated lawyer job openings over the next decade made by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The BLS is merely composed of unbiased expert statisticians and economists, and so can hardly match the credibility and reliability of a self-interested law professor whose cushy job rides on the decision of young people to borrow many tens of thousands of dollars to attend his bottom-of-the-barros school. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Strict Scrutiny: Michael I. Krauss Tries To Hustle People Into Attending Law School

It's been a while, my friends. Things have been busy at my non-law job and quite frankly, there wasn't a lot coming across the radar that I was moved to write about or that the other excellent authors on this site hadn't tackled yet. Then, Michael I. Krauss dropped this gem of subtle scammery. As you read this, it appears that Krauss is empathetic and could be an agent of change. But we should all know better. This valiant attempt deserves some Strict Scrutiny. As usual, his words are in italics and mine are normal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Case of Scam, starring co-interim law dean Michael Scharf and a cast of international law gurus.

(Case Western Reserve University School of Law co-interim dean Michael Scharf smiles broadly as he contemplates his next lemming buffet). 

Michael Scharf recently became co-interim Dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, following the resignation of that outspoken law school shill and, uh, notorious ladies’ man Lawrence "Train Wreck" Mitchell. Scharf is a creditable scholar and practitioner of international law. According to his CV, Scharf worked for the State Department for five years as an attorney-advisor, and he cofounded an NGO that provides pro bono legal advice to states and international institutions on such weighty matters as peace negotiations, constitution drafting, human rights, self-determination, and war crimes prosecutions.

But watch Scharf’s performance in the remarkable seven and a half minute long recruitment video linked below. In the video, Scharf and several faculty colleagues try to persuade an intended audience of prospective law students that a Case Western Reserve JD is the key to the jet-setting job of their dreams. Without being overly harsh, I would say that Scharf looks like an overfed wolf in a burgundy dress shirt, with a huge self-satisfied toothy smile that only he believes is ingratiating, trying to sell straw homes to piglets. And the other faculty come across as similarly sleazy despite their credentials and soft voices. It is another example of how legal academia turns decent people into predators.

A.  Selected quotes from the video by Case Western Reserve law faculty advising that Case is the place to embark on a career in international law.

Scharf: "We hope you will come to Case, so we can help you launch your career in international law."

Prof. Jessie Hill: "This year, a national survey of law professors ranked Case Western’s international law program as one of the top in the country. Our program attracts students from around the world to study here and they graduate with international law jobs across the globe."

Scharf: "Case’s international law program has a four million dollar endowment... with this money we provide students summer, semester-long, and post-grad internships grants to help them break into a job in international law."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cooley's Michigan Campuses going to take a Faculty Haircut

This was the next logical step after Cooley, now known as "Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School," instituted a "Financial Management Plan," was to swing a battleax at Rapunzel's way-too-long hair and lay off large amounts of faculty and staff.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Wreck of the Thomas M. Cooley

Well, it was a long time coming, that's for sure.

It appears that Antiro will have more to say soon about the latest news concerning faculty and staff cuts at one of our favorite law schools, Thomas M. Cooley School of Law ("the law school with the most 'O's' in its name, several years running).  Y'know, the school that is famous for changing names, for filing libel suits against critics, and where the employment statistics were deemed "objectively false" by the Court.
In any event, I felt that this momentous occasion was worth reprising one of OhioDocReviewer's greatest hits, as a commemoration of the event.  Without further ado:

"The Wreck of the Thomas M. Cooley" (with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot)

The legend lives on from the lawyers all 'round
Of the big school they call Thomas M. Cooley
The school, it is said, gives her grads up for dead
And its library, they say, is quite roomy

With a load of student loans, several thousand accounts more
That the Thomas M. Cooley would soon empty.
That big scam, it's true, was a turd through and through
And the fails of its grads come often and early.

That school was a crime on the American side
A crummy diploma mill in Mid-Michigan
As the big toilets go, it was bigger than most
With a CSO and a dean both well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of law firms
That they sent fully locked and loaded for Kurzon
And later that month when the dean's phone bell rang
Could it be that court word they'd been fearin'?

When Graduation Day came, the old crook (the dean) came on stage sayin'.
"Fellas, it's tough, but we no longer need ya."
Nine months later, as employment surveys came in, he said
"Fellas, your money was good, but now I don't know ya."

The Dean e-mailed in, he had discovery requests comin' in
And his TTTT school and job was in peril.
And later that fight, when the real stats were brought to light
Came the wreck of the Thomas M. Cooley.

Does any one know, where the love of God goes
When your JD gets you just ten dollars an hour?
The alumni all say they should have dropped out their first day
Instead they've got nothing but debt and wasted years behind them.

The alums' marriages split up or they might have suicided;
Many became broke and went under.
And all that remains is shame and blame in the faces
Of the wives and the kids over their blunder

Ann Arbor expands its rolls, Grand Rapids bursts at the seams
The dean adds rooms onto his nice Tudor mansion.
Lansing, Michigan schemes off young naifs' dreams;
Soon Tampa Bay will be open for morons.

As everyone knows Cooley's farther below even Touro
She'll take in any lemming that can find her,
And the graduates will all go, as the dean and staff know
With tons of non-dischargeable debt well-encumbered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Toileteer Lawyers' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine thousand times
For each grad from the Thomas M. Cooley.

The legend lives on from the lawyers all 'round
Of the big school they call Thomas M. Cooley
Ol' Cooley, it is said, gives her grads up for dead
And the fails of its grads come often and early.   

Given the way things are going, it appears that further verses will need to be written concerning The Battle of Law ScamDeans as well.  Friends, stay tuned.  We appear to be living in interesting times.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do They Deserve Gold Stars or Red Flags? Which Law Schools are Promulgating Questionable Claims of Placement Success?

In 2011, the ABA revised its consumer information provision (Standard 509) to require accredited law schools to conduct nine-months-out employment surveys of graduates and provide segmented data. These surveys revealed, beyond any residual doubt, that law schools had been massively inflating their job placement success rates on their websites and in their promotional literature. Revealed that our oh-so-progressive legal educators-- our profession's very own "Republic of Conscience"-- are little more than a gang of puffed-up quick buck artists, with approximately the same regard for their students as tobacco manufacturers have for their customers or military contractors have for the troops. 
The survey requirement was unquestionably a watershed reform. But these surveys are not 100% precise. Not every newly minted JD fills out the placement survey, and law schools are permitted to guess the employment status of non-responsive grads from publicly available information, such as Linked-In or Facebook profiles, from resumes uploaded to Symplicity or other resume collection sites, or from a google search. [1]

If you think about it, this guesswork leaves ample room for law school career service functionaries to present a false picture of employment outcomes, even if they cannot scam as brazenly as in their pre-survey glory days. That firm listed on a recent grad’s Facebook profile-- is it a legitimate JD-required small firm job or is it an empty shell of a solo practice conjured up in an effort to save face by some kid whose true status is "JD/Mom’s Basement"? That vaguely white-collarish job snagged by a recent grad--is it a true JD-Advantage job or did the kid obtain a nonlaw job in spite of, not because, of his or her law degree?  

In June, 2014, a mere three years after revised Standard 509 went into effect, the ABA adopted a protocol for reviewing law graduate employment data. One may applaud the ABA’s adoption of reform or oversight measures, however piecemeal and snail-paced, and I do. Though there is the little matter of the thousands of young lives being destroyed in the meantime by the law school scam. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Support Law School Transparency.

Is that lighter defective? Is that glittering diamond really just cheap junk? Will that filler tube spring a leak? Is that toilet prone to clog? Absent disclosure of clear and accurate consumer protection info, you might not find out until it is too late. 

The small nonprofit Law School Transparency has done invaluable work in monitoring law schools, formulating proposals for accountability, and following through with effective lobbying. I believe that Law School Transparency was the prime mover behind revised ABA Standard 509, the most important law school reform to date, which forced accredited law schools to survey their recent grads and provide segmented employment data. As well, the Law School Transparency website is a treasure trove of well-organized data as to the cost and performance of each and every ABA-accredited law school.

Law School Transparency is doing a fundraiser, and I encourage readers to throw a few tax-deductible bucks their way if possible. Think of it as a payment in advance for the joyous spectacle that transparency plus scamblogging may bring about within a few years-- when scores of law schools will be forced to shut down or radically change their business model because they are no longer able to sucker a sufficient number of naive kids out of a sufficient amount money to maintain the status quo.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Overall Structural Changes Will Not Be Televised

Some of you may remember my post on Canadian Woes in the legal market. This story also sounds vaguely familiar:

By the time the parents of Serena Violano were in their early 30s, they had solid jobs, their own home and two small daughters. Today, Serena, a 31-year-old law graduate, is still sharing her teenage bedroom with her older sister in their family home in the small town of Mercogliano, near Naples. Ms. Violano spends her days studying for the exam to qualify as a notary in the hopes of scoring a stable job. The tension over her situation sometimes spills over in arguments with her sister over housework or their shared space. And with her 34-year-old boyfriend subsisting on short-term contracts, Ms. Violano doesn't even dare dream of building the sort of life her parents took for granted.

Serena seems to be [edited per first poster below] doing what she can to get involved in areas such as wills and real estate matters, while her boyfriend appears to be working temporary gigs of some sort. Both are in their early thirties. Both are dealing with a glutted market.   

Well, these damn kids just need to want to work hard and just go get a damn job, amirite? The secret to success is to not be "that guy," you know, the one without a stable job. This is clearly the result of too many participation trophies being handed out when they were young. Can I get a "hell-yeah!" around here?
The Wall Street Journal, strangely, takes a different view from my own analysis of the situation:

Their predicament is exposing a painful truth: The towering cost of labor protections that have provided a comfortable life for Europe's baby boomers is now keeping their children from breaking in. The older generation benefited from decades of rock-solid job protection, union-guaranteed salary increases and the promise of a comfortable retirement. All this has allowed them to weather Europe's longest postwar crisis reasonably well.

By contrast, many younger Europeans can hope for little more than poorly paid, short-term contracts that often open a lifelong earnings gap they may never close. Employers in many countries are reluctant to hire on permanent contracts because of rigid labor rules and sky-high payroll taxes that go to funding the huge pension bill of their parents.


Now some people will say "well, that is unionized Europe, so of course all those lazy socialist cheese-eaters have sweet no-work gigs that cost everyone a fortune." However, as we all know, you don't have to look far to find similar complaints here in the good old capitalist U.S. of A. Boomers working long into retirement years with no savings, some hanging on desperately to underfunded pensions. People getting kicked out of work in their 50s due to RIFs in order to keep costs down. People in their 20s and 30s working multiple gigs, with no career stability, who can never seem to break in to that promised "full-time with benefits" job that keeps being dangled in front of them like a carrot. What to do about the situation?
Enter the Law School Cartel, spinning vacuous tales of "million dollar JDs" and "JD Advantage" jobs and Saving Dolphins and BigLaw outcomes, all for the low, low price of $200k in loans that will follow you for the rest of your life. When facing uncertain economic times, however, who doesn't like to hear about 90% employment rates, satisfying careers, and high-median salaries? That $200k will work itself out, somehow.

The simple fact is that the economic landscape has been changing all over, for everyone, yet the Cartel likes to pretend that it is still 1974. Yes, the Cartel likes to highlight International Space Copyright and Internet Sports Law so as to appear cutting-edge and relevant, but truth-be-told, the basic curriculum has not changed in decades. Yes, back in those days, when JDs had not been pumped out 2-to-1 compared to available jobs for years, tuition was low on a relative percentage basis, and technology and outsourcing had not undercut legal grunt-work, yes, there was probably some opportunity. Most of the Boomer lawyers I have met seemed to have "made it" in some capacity, although they will admit (in confidence) that it is a different game now, and even they are feeling the pinch.

I'm sure Serena thought there was some opportunity there, too, but forty years can certainly change the landscape. Lemmings, pay heed to the "big picture" when contemplating law school. Law does not exist in a vacuum (unlike the Law Schools themselves) and it is you, not the ScamDeans, not the LawProfs, who will be contending with a rugged economic market, trying to make ends meet, paying for CLEs and bar fees, chasing clients with actual assets, while legal market share continues to contract.

For those of you who have the resources to weather the storm, more power to you. Some of you are getting the message, however, as evidenced by declining LSATs and declining applicant counts, but more of you need to realize that the law is no safe harbor for the majority of students. Go do something else where you can possibly make some semblance of a career, or at least carry less debt along the way while you are trying to make it happen.

This is not about "working hard and being the best," this is about survival.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Accepting last minute applications!: Creighton University School of Law helps dismantle society's barrier to legal education for impulse buyers.

Retailers are known to make small fortunes off of impulse buying-- those unplanned purchases made in a moment of irrationality or self-gratification. It is good to know that there is a law school analog-- the last-minute application. What did law schools ever see in those application deadlines that expire months in advance of the start of classes-- deadlines that give potential lemmings ample time to weigh the cons of attendance against the pros, and that cruelly exclude the neglected demographic of the impulse buyer?   

Take Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebrasksa. Only 53.6% of its Class of 2013 law grads obtained full-time non-solo bar-required jobs, nine-months-out.  Tuition is a hefty $34,000 per year, not counting about $1500 more in fees. Law School Transparency estimates that the debt-financed cost of a Creighton JD (based on non-discounted tuition) at $194,754. US News ranks Creighton 115th out of the 200 accredited law schools. But those are just numbers and, as Creighton Law School's website explains: "At Creighton University School of Law. . . we'll never be reduced to our numbers." Still, it is impulse buyers who are less likely to consider the import of these statistics. Perhaps that is why Creighton Law sends emails like the one below, provided to OTLSS by a correspondent, in which the admissions coordinator shares the good news that the school is still accepting applications a mere 10 days before the start of 1L orientation. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scam on the Beach: The 2014 SEALS extravaganza at the Omni Plantation Resort on Amelia Island.

Every year around this time, 750 or so law professors from all over the country assemble at a tropical seaside resort for the SEALS (Southeastern Association of Law Schools) Convention to enjoy a week of schmoozing, boozing, banquets, and watersports. Last year’s bash was held at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, and was profiled here. This year's bash is currently in progress at the Omni Plantation Resort on Amelia Island.

But this event only seems like a callous and disgraceful indulgence, ultimately paid for by heavily indebted law students. In reality, society benefits from the many workshops and colloquia held amidst the pampering. It is face-to-face encounters that stimulate great minds, and legal education would suffer if law professors were forced to share their non-peer reviewed brilliance solely through impersonal means such as publication in journals or on ssrn, or by giving talks at their own and nearby law schools, which may not even feature oceanfront accommodations, full-service spas, or three championship golf courses. Only tanned, rested, and alcoholically lubricated law professors, fresh from a free luxury vacation, can provide the necessary optimism and energy to address the crisis in legal education going forward. 

Indeed, this year's program seems to have a particular focus on law school pedagogy itself. So it is appropriate that one of the largest out-of-state delegations to Amelia Island comes from Washington and Lee Univ. School of Law (W&L), with 16 faculty members in attendance. For the last couple of years, W&L has garnered lots of favorable publicity with its third-year "practicum" requirement, and therefore has much guidance to offer faculty from other law schools-- especially if you ignore W&L's dismal job placement record and its recent 17-place drop in the US News rankings. 

Here are a smattering of highlights from the SEALS program, with my comments in parenthesis and italics: 

Workshop on Teaching: 
Incorporating Simulations into Law School Courses: "While at one time, clinics and externships were the only option for students desiring such training, an increasing number of law schools are now offering new options, such as simulation-based practicum."

(This thing is led, of course, by a W&L law professor. Given its miserable placement record, perhaps W&L can innovate in the area of simulated legal jobs for its graduates, maybe within a virtual society like Second Life or an online role-playing game. Call it World of Lawcraft, and enable users to create their own avatar-lawyers who fight exciting courtroom battles in a heroic quest to make a living. The only drawback I can see is that you can’t pay your real-life rent in Linden dollars or honor points).

Discussion Group: Clinical Legal Education and Race: "The participants will draw upon life and practice experiences, and explain the ways in which those experiences impact their teaching. They will discuss the standard articles that have been used as teaching tools on issues of race and identify gaps that need to be addressed in future scholarship."  

(My question here: Why are they talking about "standard articles," "future scholarship," and professorial life experiences in the context of clinical legal education? How about discussing strategies for civil rights litigation instead of contemplating their navels and yapping about the alleged need for more scholarshit?)

Discussion Group: Strategies for Balancing Our Love for Work and Our Love for Life Beyond the Academy:
 "We [law professors] also have people, goals and interests outside of work that we love and that remain important priorities for us whether they are aging parents, spouses, significant others, children, sports or hobbies. At a time of decreasing enrollments and tight budgets, supporting work-life balance for professors can become a low priority. Yet, if this remains an important goal for professors, we must find ways to balance our competing priorities." 

(You know, law professors, your unfortunate students will graduate and get some kind of paying employment, and then face precisely the same issue of balancing work-life priorities. But in balancing those priorities, few will be able to draw on the big salaries, light workloads, autonomy, contemplative ease, and perks galore that you take as your due. And your dolce vita is made possible by their misplaced trust and massive debts).

Teen Pizza Party: (Does SEALS throw a family-friendly legal scholarship confab, or what? Or maybe law schools have begun recruiting teenagers to be law professors, which is an innovation I could support. The adolescents would surely work for less money than their moms and dads, and probably have better attitudes).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Worst Advice Ever

Browsing through some recent law school news articles, I came across this unusual item: an advice column in the Times Union (Albany). Have a read and see what you think.

DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: A good friend's daughter is applying to law school. I've known "Jess" most of her life, and I'm familiar enough with her academic record to know that she's not going to get into a top-tier school. While of course there's no disgrace in this, the unfortunate truth is that these days, graduates of the kind of law school Jess can hope to attend generally have difficulty finding jobs that pay enough to justify the mountain of debt they've accumulated while in law school. (The market for the services of graduates of second- and third-tier institutions has, in recent years, been drying up. I know because I'm an attorney, and I suspect that Jess and her parents are unaware of the situation.) While I don't want to discourage Jess, I'd hate to see her end up owing $150,000 or more on a student loan that, at the salary she's likely to be offered when she graduates, could take 15 to 20 years to repay. Should I speak up, or not?
Hesitant, San Francisco Bay Area

DEAR HESITANT: Perhaps Jess' parents plan to help with the tuition. Not that borrowing less makes law school a better investment on a dollars-and-cents basis. But it may be worth it to them to see their daughter receive a professional degree, especially if it's in a field that particularly interests her.

In any event, what you should do is wait to see if anyone in Jess' family asks you about law school or the practice of law. If someone does, you can encourage him or her to investigate the job offers that graduates of the schools to which Jess is applying are receiving -- you can and should, in other words, point them toward reality. But it's not up to you to tell them you think that law school is a bad investment for Jess.


Time for a little advice from agony uncle Charles:
DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: Are you kidding me? You’re seriously recommending that a young college grad spend $150,000 on a worthless JD because her parents might want “to see their daughter receive a professional degree”?  Do you not understand what terrible advice that is? Do you really think that this is all about the parents and how proud they will be when boasting that their daughter has gone to law school?  The poor girl is not only going to spend a fortune on this foolish endeavor, but also she’s about to waste three of the most important years of her life, or probably at least ten, maybe twenty, if she’s borrowing money for law school.  She's about to ruin her life, and you’re encouraging this because it’ll make the parents proud?  Trust me, a law degree is nothing to be proud of these days. A JD from Harvard? Yeah, okay, that’s impressive, but this young lady isn’t going anywhere near schools of that caliber. She’s going to an average school at best.

You mention that it might also be worth the investment – and I use that word very loosely indeed – if law is “a field that particularly interests her.” Look, the work that lawyers do day in, day out, is utterly tedious. Mindnumbing in most cases. It’s busywork, paper-pushing, form-filling. Nobody finds that interesting. Literally nobody.  There are some people who tolerate it, but few lawyers love their work. Those that do, they graduated from top law schools and get the handful of real-life interesting law jobs available, or they are extremely lucky, well-connected exceptions from lower-ranked schools. From an average law school, this girl will end up either unemployed, performing document review, slumming it in a moribund small firm, or hacking away in some insurance defense mill, none of which is stable, well-paid, or intellectually-satisfying. The interesting stuff, like arguing appeals, working as an AUSA, or leading complex international transactions? Not a chance.

From a financial perspective, it’s just about the worst way one can spend $150,000. Her salary post-JD will likely be no more than it was pre-JD. Advancement opportunities (and salary raises) will be non-existent, whereas in many other careers there is at least the chance that once dues are paid, there’s some advancement and financial reward. She will struggle to pay her student loans. The big firms that pay the big bucks won’t touch her.

You know what, associating the word “investment” with law school just needs to stop.

Your advice is pretty much this: If you see someone making the stupidest decision of their life, just shut up about it until you’re asked, because it’s far better to let someone ruin their future than speak up and offer your expertise.  Does this apply to other situations too? If I were to see a toddler playing with a kitchen knife, I guess I shouldn’t tell the parents; just let the kid sever an artery?  Teenager drinks a six-pack and decides to drive to the gas station for some chips?  Guess I should just butt out of that one too – no, not just butt out, but give him $20 and ask him for a packet of gum while he’s there?

Hesitant in San Francisco, you’ve been given some truly bad advice. Don’t let Jeanne and Leonard stop you offering your wisdom to the family.  Here’s what you need to do. Go to the girl, tell her in no uncertain terms that she’s got to do her homework before considering spending any money trying to enter a dying profession. Tell the parents the same – don’t hold back either. There are clearly thousands of kids right now who are not getting the right information about how badly law school will ruin their futures. It’s plain wrong to sit back and let it happen. Point them all in the direction of this site and tell them to take note.

Law will still be waiting for her in a couple of years if she tries something else and fails, or if she really does have an unquenchable thirst for legal work.  There's no rush; the market is still in turmoil, and I can guarantee that in a few years, law school will be cheaper and better than it is today.

I hate to hawk my own wares, but I’d happily send the parents and the girl a copy of Con Law. Next time I’m in San Fran, I’d also happily buy them all lunch and explain in great detail what a terrible mistake they are on the verge of making.

For anyone who encounters applicants or parents who aren’t getting the message, there are now many sections of Con Law available for free – a full ten sample chapters of material.

The rule for law school is the same as the general rule for life: good people don't stand idly by and do or say nothing when they see bad things happening.

Charles Cooper is the author, along with Thane Messinger, of “Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession)”, in addition to being the moderator at and the author of “Later in L ife Lawyers”.  He can be contacted