Saturday, August 20, 2016

Arizona Sadist Law School To Increase its Bar Passage Rate by Preventing its Students from Graduating Until They Can Pass a Mock Bar Exam

In an era of of falling bar passage rates nationwide, we should applaud the exciting news that private-equity-owned Arizona Sadist Law School or ASLS (I do not want to call the place "Summit" until it actually excels at something, or at least holds a few of its classes on a hill) is poised to dramatically increase its own bar passage rate through the inspired pedagogical strategy of not allowing some of its 3Ls to graduate. 

Beginning with the graduating (or, uh, possibly not graduating) class of 2017, students at ASLS will be required to pass a school-designed mock bar exam prior to receiving their JD. This is reminiscent, somewhat, of the so-called "baby bar" that California administers to students at unaccredited law schools. Of course, unlike at Sadist, the California baby bar is designed by the state's Committee of Bar Examiners, not by the individual schools, is initially administered at the end of the first year of legal study, and its passage rates are collected and reported. So students at these schools have clear expectations and early feedback.

In response to an inquiry from the ABA Journal, Sadistic Dean Shirley Mays pricelessly griped that her school’s bar passage rate would be 42%, or even 46%, instead of 30%, but for the fact that its best students routinely transfer to other schools. [1] For a sports analogy, imagine how delighted you would be as a diehard fan of a perennial last place team if the coach complained that the team might still be in last place, but by a lesser margin, if only its best players would stop accepting mid-season offers to play for better-performing rivals.

Mays announced the mock bar requirement in an email to its student body that was unfortunately marred by ego-soothing and ostensibly burden-sharing administrative language. ("While we are confident that our graduates have the potential to succeed. . ."; "We want you to take ownership of your success. . ."; "[A]ll of us need to make adjustments . . ."; "Warm regards").

Thus, Mays's email is only conventionally sadistic, reading as it does like a carefully-crafted layoff notice or job rejection letter or insurance rate hike. In keeping with the lofty ambitions incorporated into its very name, the school should have elevated its evil by forthrightly placing highly personalized blame and shame where it clearly belongs-- on the victims.

For instance:

Dear Unworthy Student,

Let’s talk about ingratitude and betrayal. We took you in, gave you shelter from the terrible storm of not going to law school, and invited you on a journey to the towering heights of professional success. Though your standardized test results scored your aptitude at somewhere between below average and outright mentally disabled [2], we looked at you with a holistic eye and were smitten by the heart and soul of a future legal champion and civic leader. [3] Other law schools were so horrified by your credentials that they would not accept your proffered tuition dollars, in spite of the desperate financial condition of many. But to us, you were a glittering juris diamond in the very, very rough. We had faith in your potential when nobody else would.

Yes, you made us believe in you and love you, which is why it so hurtful to belatedly realize that you have taken cruel advantage of our misplaced confidence and naive goodwill. Year after year, you broke our hearts. You passed all our classes, received our precious degree, and then went forth to humiliate us and jeopardize our accreditation by failing the bar at rates possibly unmatched by any other ABA-approved law school in the country. [4]

To wit, you have scammed us, your too-trusting faculty, administrators, and private equity investors. You have scammed us out of our reputation, which is worse than the mere loss of money ("Who steals my purse steals trash," ect.). Therefore, we have no choice but to protect ourselves from your malicious deceit by designing a last-ditch fail-safe to salvage our publicly-reported bar passage numbers.

But, as much as you have wounded us, such is our fondness and our codependency that we cannot bear the thought of losing you. Therefore, you may remain with us as our tuition-paying guest for an extra semester or maybe two or three until you have revived our shaken faith in your ability to pass a test of minimal competence. It is unlikely that we will insist that you remain with us for a sixth year. [5], [6]

Through Tears,

Your Devastated But Still Devoted Law School, Arizona Sadist.


[1] Mays: "A large percentage of our best students are courted by higher-ranked law schools after they complete their first year of law school. . . . Had these transfer students remained at our law school, our bar pass rates would be 12 percent to 16 percent higher." 

[2] ASLS's most recent entering LSAT scores were 140/143/148.  By the way, as recently as five years ago, they were 148/150/153.  A 25th percentile score then is a 75th percentile score now. 

[3] ASLS admissions webpage: "Arizona Summit Law School takes a holistic admissions approach that considers. . .  a broad range of factors that focus on a student's potential to succeed in law school." 

Mays: "We look beyond test scores by taking the time to get to know our students' ambition and work ethic as factors to grant admission. . . The new name highlights our commitment to the success of our students who come from diverse backgrounds and stages in life and provides a supportive academic environment where civic-minded leaders and community advocates are nurtured." 

[4] Ave Maria School of Law is in trouble with the ABA over its awful bar passage rates, but even Ave Maria's bar performance is not as bad as ASLS's.

[5] Mays: "Students. . . are limited to taking the mock exam while they are a student. [sic] There wouldn't likely be an instance of a 2017 graduate taking the mock exam in 2020."

[6] According to Mays's email, the bar passage rate for ASLS graduates with a sub 2.5 GPA is two percent. If the mock bar is anything like the real one, a lot of these students will never pass and give up on law school in frustration. Did you think it could not get worse than spending three years in law school and never passing the bar?  How about spending five years in law school and never receiving a JD?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

LawProf Frank Wu: BigLaw Jobs Don't Mean the Market is on the Upswing

It’s time again for another edition of “Welcome to the Scamblog Camp!”  This post’s featured guest is Frank Wu, from UC Hastings School of Law.

Professor Wu gets off to a slow start, unfortunately, in that even he can’t resist a textbook-swipe at “hyperbolic” critics, or “young people” looking for “instant gratification.”  In other words, Gen-X, Y, Z, A etc. are all “lazy, entitled whiners, because you are not me, therefore, you are the opposite of me, i.e. lazy, entitled whiners.”  The simple economics of obscene debt burdens coupled with low starting pay is again lost on people, apparently - it's easier to blame the victim and write people off as "lazy."

The problems have been publicized well enough if hyberbolically. But they are problems plural rather than singular. There is the lack of jobs, specifically those desirable to young people whose expectations have been set by the instant gratification of the internet era; the extraordinary cost of tuition, which typically is debt financed; and concerns over the utility of the skill set that is offered. Fixes for one problem or two problems exacerbate the third problem…

However, to Wu’s credit, he does get back on message quickly:

A rush of young people into law schools is good for the law schools, to be sure. Whether it is good for the young people is another matter.

If we bounce, it will not be “back.” It may be a bounce, to an altogether different place. Things do recover. But almost never to their starting point. Newspapers have been bouncing to the internet…[a]utomobiles with only internal combustion engines, operated by human beings, will be replaced within our lifetimes…[r]ecord collectors insist on the superiority of vinyl records to even lossless streaming for their music, but most listeners have left analog for digital.

Yep.  As has been stated many times on this blog alone, buggy-whip manufacturers need not apply (although, personally, nothing beats classic vinyl).

When I was in practice, literally a lifetime ago (I am twice the age now I was then), a pack of associates with highlighters and post-it notes, located on a windowless lower floor performed the task, one or two even being handed a plane ticket to inspect a warehouse of boxes. Today, a separate firm, maybe a “captive firm,” uses outsourcing, scanning, and algorithms, to deliver the same work product at ten times the speed and one tenth the cost.

That is the “bounce.”

No, no, Frank must not have gotten the memo from the rest of the Law School Cartel.  There is a greater need for lawyers than ever before!  JDs are worth a million dollars, easily!  All we need are more “practical” “teaching” “methods…”

I actually am an optimist [concerning Anglo-American Law and emergent legal fields]...[t]he demand for legal services, to the surprise of many, is not the same as the demand for lawyer’s services: accountants, consultants, and paralegals all compete…[p]oor people, even those of us who belong to the American norm of "middle class," do not have access to adequate, economical legal help.

Yet clients are more sophisticated than ever about purchasing professional services. Even ordinary people, likely one-time consumers, can buy a la carte “unbundled” versions of representation. The business has become stratified…

Wait, what?  Wu is an optimist, yet he just ran through the laundry list of competing legal services, lack of market, and the fact that “bread-and-butter” clients are sophisticated and buy unbundled services?  Not exactly a gold mine.  Also, I thought it was only law students who were “sophisticated consumers” according to the courts.

Above all, however, the jump in big law firm entry-level compensation is not enough to remedy much because of scale…[b]ig firms, even in boom times, provide a minority of opportunities to new graduates. A majority of law schools place few if any of their students on Wall Street…[t]he tenure of the junior lawyers at big firms is not lengthy. The pyramid structure ensures that few will make it to the top[.]

The law firm is not trying to be nice. It’s recruiting and retaining talent through calculation. As Don Draper remarked on the hit television show Mad Men about having to say thank you: “that’s what the money is for.” The bulk of law school graduates will end up, as they always have, in solo practice or at small to medium firms; or in government, usually state and local rather than the coveted clerkships with federal judges.

More “optimism,” I guess…?  Not much about saving dolphins here.  I thought it was only the mean, mean scambloggers who talked about BigLaw reality, dashing the sugarplum dreams of new 1Ls.

That is what mystifies me. When I describe the predicament of the legal profession, and thus of legal education, I have received pushback from people who say: yes, but, there is a range, and there are those firms and schools who are making out just fine. I don’t doubt that. What troubles me, and all of the rest of us ordinary folks, is that publicizing only one end of the spectrum (either end) presents a distorted picture…I prefer realism.

No mysticism required.  Cat’s out of the bag.  People are waking up to the truth.  Desperate people 
say desperate things in order to survive.

It is positive, I suppose, that big law firms are offering more to their first-year associates. As a signal about the legal marketplace, it is at best weak and at worst misleading.  We would serve our students better if we adapted.  Nostalgia is not a strategy.

Well, said, Professor Wu, well said, and it looks like the criticisms from the scamblog camp were, (ahem) right all along.  There certainly is nostalgia for the days when big-bucks flowed into Law Schools by the metric ton, without having to pander to people's estates and put a non-law-related names on the building, or apply to the USDA for funding, in order to survive.  Only now, people are forced to admit it.  Coulda shoulda woulda been different, but, oh well.

Until next time, friends!  Keep fighting the good fight!

Friday, August 5, 2016

USDA to fund toilet law school in Vermont?

Vermont Law School 'n' Apple Orchard is seeking funds from the US Department of Agriculture:

It has applied under a program for "essential community facilities". Vermont Law Skule must prove that it "provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area" and does not fall into the category of "private, commercial or business undertakings".

Let's deal with the second part of that first. Vermont Law Skule is in fact a private undertaking. That alone should disqualify it, right off the bat, if anyone at the USDA is paying attention to uncontroversial facts.

Now, as for the first part, let me first tell you a bit about the "community" of South Royalton. I've been there. It does not even count as a crossroads. There is no traffic signal; indeed, there is nowhere to put one. Driving past dairy farms that have seen better days, one passes a sign announcing the unincorporated settlement of South Royalton. On the west side of the two-lane highway is a dated gas station with a cardboard sign in the window announcing hand-made maple-tapping buckets for sale. Directly across the highway is Vermont Law School. Behind the law skule stands a little row of shops consisting of a bar, a bookstore, and perhaps three or four other establishments. And of course there's some housing, almost all of it for people affiliated with the law skule.

That's just about it. The nearest grocery store is half an hour away, in New Hampshire.

In other words, Vermont Law Skule is the community, if indeed there is any community at all. So how can it justify itself as an "essential community facility"? Shut Vermont Law Skule down (please, please do!), and you shut down the "community" as well. Sure, a few dairy farmers would remain, as would the proprietor of the gas station with the maple-tapping buckets. Big fucking deal. That doesn't warrant $15 million in federal funds.

Under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture and the signboard of "rural development", a godawful private law skule may get to siphon off federal funds with which to line the pockets of a few dozen upper-crusty hackademic shitheels. What's wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Law Prof. Carrie Menkel-Meadow thinks that the purpose of law school is to "teach peace to law students and the rest of the world."

Is there a crisis in legal education? Or, alternatively, is there is a "crisis" in legal education? – note the ostentatious scare quotes meant to express doubt or cynicism as to the premise. If you are reading an article that places quotation marks around the phrase "crisis in legal education," then you have received fair warning: read on at your peril because you are about to be blasted with an academic’s self-serving delusions about how a legal education is invaluable, despite fashionable naysaying. 

Case in point: a remarkable law review article by UC Irvine law Prof. Carrie Menkel-Meadow, entitled "Crisis in Legal Education or Other Things Law Students Should be Learning and Doing," 45 McGeorge L.Rev. 133 (2013). The very first sentence of Menkel-Meadow’s article reads: "For the last few years we have been bombarded with news articles, lawsuits, conferences, and scholarly treatments of the "crisis in legal education."" Id. So, again, fair warning.

According to her hefty 56-page CV, Prof. Menkel-Meadow has been a law professor for approximately four decades, following her stellar two-year-long career as a practicing lawyer (1975-1977). Menkel-Meadow writes about the challenges of legal education with a clarity that can only be achieved by a jetsetting legal academic who draws a public sector salary of $330,978 a year [1], but who has not held a job practicing law since the first year of the Carter Administration. 

Menkel-Meadow's law review article is a rigorous treatment of the argument that she and UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky made in a co-written New York Times editorial entitled "Don't Skimp on Legal Training" (April 14, 2014), in which the duo asserted that the "crisis mentality" besetting the legal academy is "unfounded" and "do[es] not reflect the contributions legal education makes to achieving justice and well-being for many in the world." The editorial also advocated for innovations such as "new courses to provide students with the expertise to deal with the crucial problems of our time," including "world peace."

Similarly, in her article, Menkel-Meadow asserts that law schools should teach softer, nontraditional skills and values, such as alternate dispute resolution (her speciality), leadership, fairness, creativity, and peace.

So pay careful attention to the following insights about legal education from Menkel-Meadow’s article, the likes of which never occur to scambloggers:

     1. "It is not that there are too many lawyers, or too many law school seats, or even that there are not enough jobs, it is that those who are trained by studying law could study different things and practice or work with more appropriate knowledge bases and skills sets. . . . .In this Article, I will suggest that legal education and the work of those calling themselves lawyers could be and should be more broadly defined if the goals of the legal profession include solving human problems and producing peace and justice, as these are "value-added" forms of social goods produced by having legal knowledge." Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Crisis in Legal Education or the Other Things Law Students Should Be Learning and Doing, 45 McGeorge L.Rev. 133, 134 (2013).

2.  "In my view, what modern legal education should prepare students for is a set of values and skills that are informed by what "legal" values and law offer to deal with what are essential human needs: • Realization of "justice" (particularly, but not exclusively, distributive and equity notions of justice) • General "problem solving" skills (with attention to problem definition and instrumental and multidisciplinary approaches to solution generation), including a sensitivity to • Fairness (including both procedural and substantive concerns); • Peace (and social ordering), including effective resolution of disputes.• Decision making;• Leadership, facilitation, and management (of people, groups, and complex information); • Creativity (new entities, new transactions, and new relationships); • Counseling and collaboration (with clients, employees, colleagues, and constituents); and • Governance." Id. at 137.

3.  "New forms of legal work demand new conceptualizations of our field, both as legal educators (courses, formats for teaching) and as practitioners (opportunities for internships, new practice formats, tensions between deep specialization and resiliency, flexibility and change). The organizing concepts and "tropes" of legal education may have to be broadened to include new and different borders and boundaries." Id. at 147. 

4.  "All of this requires new paradigms of legal thought and training, as well as practice, but by looking for new solutions to difficult social and legal problems in these troubled times, there may be opportunities for new sites of legal work and differently constructed topics for legal education. If architects are "spatial agents," my colleague Sameer Ashar says lawyers should conceive of themselves as "relational agents," or as we dispute resolution theorists like to call ourselves, "social and legal relationship engineers" or "process architects" (pick your own favorite comparative professional metaphor!)." Id. at 154. [2]

5.  "My students at UCI have recently developed a new program (now for some academic credit) called the Global Justice Summit, a multiparty negotiation in which students attempt to design and draft a new constitution for a variety of new countries and other entities. The purpose of this exercise is to teach collaboration skills, drafting, creativity, the development of new "rights" . . .and recognition of human needs. It is an exercise that produces a positive "product" rather than a winner and loser in conventional moot court exercises. Since 2011, we have successfully drafted three distinct constitutions for both reconciliation and separation of different "nationalities" from each other, while learning how to create new entities and to affirmatively consider governance structures by studying the old and assimilating that into the new. My students hope to expand this program to other law schools in the coming years. This is an example of "constructive" legal education..." Id. at 157. [3]

6.  "American legal education might be diversified, sectored, and specialized. Some might study law to practice, others to train their minds in "legal thought" (logic, order, inductive and deductive reasoning), others as an overlay on some other field" (science, economics, business), and others just to become educated citizens of their countries or the world....some might use law study to change the way we think about the world by conventionally arguing for new or different laws. Or, as has been my hope, they reconsider law school as a school for social, political, economic, and legal problem solving where, in the words of my "other" law school (Georgetown), "law is the means, justice is the end." Id. at 159.

7.  "[N]ew lawyers might just adapt, reconfigure, and reconceive the work that lawyers do and see that there is more that people with legal education can do, not just for personal gain, but for the global society in which we live. As one who began her own studies of law to seek justice (and later, peace), we clearly have a need for students to deal with the remaining distributional injustices and unnecessary wars in the world. Legal education could do more to teach peace to law students and the rest of the world." Id. 

I hope that readers are inspired by Menkel-Meadow’s call for legal education to "teach peace to law students and the rest of the world." Consider how many hundreds of millions of our fellow humans are right now beset by suffering and deprivation caused by "the remaining distributional injustices and unnecessary wars in the world." To think that this suffering that could be resolved if only we had a sufficient number of law grads, supplied with new paradigms and new conceptualizations, to go forth and bring peace.

Only a cynic would suggest that Menkel-Meadow's visionary words of wisdom are, in fact, a cascade of fatuous jargon meant to burnish the egos and sense of self-importance of law professors.

Menkel-Meadow is not merely speaking to a domestic audience. She has helped to foster global peace through legal education by traveling to OƱati, Spain, to present a paper called "Too Many Lawyers? Or Should Lawyers be Doing Other Things?" and to Beijing to participate in roundtables on experiential legal education methods. Hopefully, her next expense-paid international trip will be to Stockholm to accept a Nobel Peace Prize.

Menkel-Meadow asserts that law students are needed in order to deal with remaining "distributional injustices." Seemingly, one such "distributional injustice" is called the "law school scam," which makes multi-millionaires out of law faculty by reducing those very students to debt slavery. But perhaps scamming law students is the price that society must pay in order to produce peace, justice, and well-being in the world. 


[1]  For 2014, Menkel-Meadow's base pay as a law professor at the University of California-Irvine was $297,367.  She also received an additional $33,611 in "extra pay," bringing her gross annual pay to $330,978. Not bad for someone whose purpose in obtain a legal education was to seek justice and peace, as opposed personal gain. See Crisis in Legal Education, at 159.

[2]  I prefer to think of myself as an "advocate" than as a "relational agent," but that may reflect my own misconceived paradigm. While we are creatively exploring professional euphemisms as a means of finding new solutions in troubled times, how about "scamation agent" for "law professor."

[3] I appreciate that Menkel-Meadow invokes her students, those budding young champions of Global Justice, whose creativity and collaborative skills she has helped to nurture. So it is worth checking her reviews on the "Rate my Professor" site. Menkel-Meadow earns a stellar 1.9 on a 1 to 5 point scale, with commenters raving about her humility, graciousness, and generosity in granting permission to go to the bathroom.