Saturday, August 13, 2011

What does it mean to call law school a scam?

Not surprisingly, some law professors aren't too happy about some of the assertions I've made -- or supposedly made: contra Prof. Horwitz I never said "virtually no professors prepare for class" -- during the six days of this blog's existence (like a more distinguished predecessor, I plan to rest from these creative labors tomorrow).


I'm happy to concede that the simple unmodified claim that "law school is a scam" is hyperbolic -- and that's why I haven't made it.  What I am arguing is that, for a very large number of current law students and recent graduates, the law schools they attend or graduated from have some striking scam-like elements. What does this mean?  A scam is a scheme to obtain money by means of deception.  Of course a huge number of social practices have scam-like elements.  For instance advertising almost always has scam-like elements, and in a contemporary economy advertising and business are intimately intertwined.  The complex social interactions described in books like Michael Lewis' The Big Short involved quite a bit of scam-like behavior, most of which was perfectly legal (as Mike Kinsley famously observed, "The scandal isn't what's illegal; it's what's legal").

In other words, the scam-like qualities of any particular practice will fall along a spectrum. At one end lies Bernie Madoff'; at the other, a scrupulous unwillingness to profit by even the most minor exaggeration or omission.  Where law schools fall on this spectrum is both historically and institutionally contingent, which is to say that the extent to which law schools are scam-like varies a lot by time and place.  Law schools are scam-like precisely to the extent that they represent to potential students that they provide things which in the end they fail to provide.  Historically, law schools have promised three things in return for a student's tuition: professional training, intellectual edification, and a reasonable return on investment, in the form of an enhancement of earning power that justified the direct costs and opportunity costs of spending three years in this form of post-graduate education.

It's not particularly controversial to assert that, historically speaking, the representations law schools have made regarding the first two benefits have tended to involve considerable exaggeration.   Complaints that law students learn nothing about practicing law are as old as the American law school itself, and as fresh as today's Twitter feed.  As for edification, the academic value of law school, while not as uniformly disparaged as the claim that law school teaches people how to practice law, has also come in for some very rough treatment over the course of the last century and a half.  (For a classic demolition, see this essay, which thoroughly outraged me when I read it as wide-eyed 1L -- rather remarkably, it was assigned reading material in an "experimental" class).

But the crucial point is this: as long as enough law students were getting a reasonable return on their investment in terms of enhanced earning potential, the fact that law school taught them next to nothing about the actual practice of law, and that much of their time was wasted in intellectually barren classes, was enough to make claims that law school was a "scam" seem hyperbolic.  While the failure to engage in professional training at anything beyond the level of ideological acculturation described by Kennedy was the source of much complaining by both law students and their future employers, and while the sheer boredom and academic emptiness of much legal education was also a source of considerable unhappiness, law students and recent law graduates were merely restive rather than openly rebellious as long as they could, ultimately, get paid.

The problem, of course, is that now they're not getting paid.  The scam blogs, with some exceptions, have tended to focus on the plight of graduates of lower-tier law schools, where, in terms of return on investment, the scam-like qualities of contemporary legal education are most evident.  But the current crisis in legal education reaches to the very top of the legal hierarchy.  I spoke recently to a friend on the faculty of a top ten school, who was, to his credit, intimately familiar with the precise employment statistics for the school's most recent graduating class.  Fully 20% of the school's graduates were unemployed at the time they took the bar (this is at a school where just a few years ago almost literally no one who actually wanted to practice law didn't have a real legal job lined up at graduation). At another top ten school, I've been told that 3Ls who do not yet have jobs -- of which there are many -- are finding it almost impossible to get on-campus interviews during the fall interview season.  Employers have already moved on to the second-year class, even though a significant portion of the third year class at this very prestigious school will be trudging through their final two semesters with little prospect of securing employment prior to graduation.  And this is at the very top of the law school pyramid . . .

So no, law school is not a scam in the literal sense. What it is, for a huge number of law students all across the law school hierarchy, is a practical, intellectual, and economic waste of time and money.

The question then becomes, what to do about that.  So far, this blog has been focused solely on criticizing the current state of affairs.  I believe that the people in charge of contemporary legal education -- the ABA, the AALS, the deans of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools, and most important of all, the faculty of those schools, need to come to grips with how bad the situation really is.  Law schools remain largely in denial about both how bad the employment situation actually is for their students, and about the skyrocketing cost of legal education.  The cost of going to law school has gone through the roof even as the economic benefits of a law degree have declined sharply.  That these two curves continue to move in the directions they've been moving may not make legal education a scam -- but it does make it something that is badly in need of fundamental reform.  That is an issue I plan to address at length.  But fundamental reform never takes place before those who stand to gain the most from the maintenance of the status quo are convinced that maintaining it is no longer an option.

60 comments:

  1. So, why call the blog "Inside the Law School Scam"?

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  2. How does one convince those who benefit most from the status quo that it's unsustainable, when the end is not staring them in the face?

    It's not like there are not enough applicants to fill every seat at even the lowest-ranked schools, despite applications overall being down by a statistically significant percentage. It's not like these applicants will be stopped from taking out loans up to the school's tuition/cost-of-living threshold. It's not like any professor, dean or ABA official will be held accountable if this class or the next one struggles as much as the classes of 2010 and 2011 are.

    I'm thrilled to see a professor on our side here, even if that professor is anonymous. Every improvement made in the last three years for transparency in reporting employment outcomes for law graduates has been initiated by of students and graduates, not professors. Hopefully, you'll start a trend, but the early indications are that most of your brethren will view questions of employment outcomes as too declasse to ponder aloud.

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  3. What specifically should law professors do-- other than starting a blog? I am serious. What are some concrete proposals. They do not have be sure fire or perfect. Should law schools be like medical schools and keep people out of the profession to maintain salaries, even though that means a shortage of doctors in areas of the country. If so, how would that be done? For example, you could say that anyone who scores 159 or below on the LSAT can't go to law school. That would be a way to choke off the numbers. You have said it already-- despite years of warnings on the Internet-- and you can't say that young people aren't on the Internet-- large numbers of people are still applying. There are currently about 15 million people unemployed in this country. The country's economy is in a mess. That has to figure into any plan.

    How about getting rid of student loans? That is a thought, but it would go against a very strong belief in this country-- and not just by people who want to scam folks-that everyone should have a shot. Whether they make it or not, they should have a shot. I would not have been able to go college without scholarships and government loans. That helped me move from one class to the next. The same is true for my husband, and now our children have a different life. So, you can cut people off by imposing rigorous academic standards or you can limit access to educational loans. I'm not making a judgment about the worth of either proposition. It's an observation because I'm really interested to hear something besides critique and cri de couer. What are some of the other things that could be done and what role do you see law professors playing?

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  4. "So no, law school is not a scam in the literal sense. What it is, for a huge number of law students all across the law school hierarchy, is a practical, intellectual, and economic waste of time and money."

    Do you mean that law school isn't a "scam" in the sense that law school wasn't *intentionally* set up to be "a practical, intellectual, and economic waste of time and money," but rather due to changed circumstances has become such a waste?

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  6. "You have said it already-- despite years of warnings on the Internet-- and you can't say that young people aren't on the Internet-- large numbers of people are still applying."

    They are still applying because second, third and fourth tier schools still claim that 99% of their grads get a job with a median starting salary of $160,000 - even though that is one of the most misleading, cooked and fraudulent statements ever made.

    The solution HDL, is simple, comply with Law School Transparency's job placement disclosure standards. If you want to do the right thing then why are law schools fighting the ABA and LST so hard when asked to report HONEST job placement info?

    In short - don't piss on my shoe and tell me it's raining. You know exactly what you are doing wrong, and you know exactly how to change it. You won't because it's how you make your livelihood.

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  7. Bullshit. Not a scam? Not a scam?! In what world does someone in a position of both enlightenment and trust in regards to his or her students get to say that we didn't really mean to take advantage of you? The person who has the whole of the responsibility doesn't get to carve it in two simply because people are now trying to hold him to it. However much you want to parse the concept of a "scam" and however you might want to muse over the essence of "intent", all of that is so much bullshit when you've fallen down on the job, and then fell asleep on it, on top of a pile of cash, which pile of cash was covering up your responsibility to make sure the people who trusted you were not taken advantage of. That's what happened. At some point, you and all of your colleagues nationwide forgot (or, worse, ignored) the fact that law school is just a professor and his or her students, and nothing more. All of the admin that built up around you, and all of the most horrible practices that sprung up around you, you are responsible for, no matter how friendly you all might be to pass in the hallway, and no matter that your individual, inviting demeanors might make the "We didn't 'intend' this 'scam'" argument somehow worth fleshing out in a blog. If you want to talk basic torts, then fine. You had an obligation because of your position of trust. You failed. That ruined lots of people's lives. You ruined lots of people's lives. You either were too goddamned stupid to know you should say something (because that was and, it seems, is your responsibility) or you simply didn't want to. Education is not a buyer beware kind of proposition. It simply isn't. It's education. By its very nature, teachers are in a position of leadership, trust and, therefore, also responsibility. That's the heart of what the outrage is about on the scamblogs, and it (and they) raise a moral argument as much as a logical one. You seem to prefer a definitional or theoretical argument, which is, frankly, all of: preposterous, morally despicable given your position, and personally insulting. Heave ho.

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  8. I can see from your other comments that you are out of control. There is no point in engaging. Yes, transparency is necessary. But it won't stop many people from thinking they can make it. The main thing people look at when they apply to law school is where they can get in. If they want to go, and there is a place for them to get in, they will go and give it their best shot.

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  9. HDL, why do you dodging the simple solution?

    Law School Transparency has proposed a modest and effective set of disclosure rules. http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/

    They sent their proposal to every school and neither of them complied. Then the ABA tried to institute some meager and ineffective (but at least it was something) changes and the schools fought the ABA.

    There is a very simple, non-philosophical, concrete solution to this entire mess: honest information about what happens to your law students upon graduation. LST offers a mechanism to achieve that goal, yet instead of complying you choose to much up the debate by trying to argue that a solution is practically impossible - all the while rolling around in your enormous salary which is entirely contingent on your not finding a solution.

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  10. A simple solution? Just do one thing, and it all goes away. Okay. I don't agree with you. I've already said I agree that transparency is necessary. I just don't think that will do the trick. We disagree on that point. That's all.

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  11. Heave Ho, were you talking to me? I asked why he called the blog "Inside the Law School Scam" because his latest post seemed to be backtracking from the idea.

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  12. I agree that transparant statistics aren't going to change a law school applicant's mind. When I applied to law school in 2002, at age 22, I did not even bother to look at school's employment statistics. Why? Because I was going to law school and everybody knows that lawyers make a lot of money. That's all the research I needed to do. Call me stupid, but that just means top 50 law schools are admitting stupid people.

    It isn't so much about targeting student's directly, but targeting parents, and college career counselors, and any adult anywhere who might have a better idea than the applicants of what these statistics mean, and who might be more inclined to look them up. Its about changing the culture, the conventional wisdom, from one in which everybody knows lawyers make a lot of money to something closer to the truth. I didn't check those websites, but I bet my Dad did. And what he saw was a misrepresentation. An "average salary" based on the double bell curve and wasn't savvy enough to suspect anything.

    So we need honest numbers. That's step 1. Step 2 is for law professors to start talking about this. It cannot remain the case that the only people sounding the alarm are the failed and poor graduates themselves. It is too easy to dismiss them as losers, which seems to be most everybody's first reaction. We need law professors to talk about it, and to be quoted talking about it, and for those quotes to be published in widely read media. Armed with this kind of information, parents and other adults might be less inclined to encourage law school and students might start to realize it isn't going to be their golden ticket.

    We need to get to a point where people talk about law the way they might talk about professional sports. Go for it if you have exceptional talent. Otherwise, try something else, because there is no room for you.

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  14. In response to your comment at 12:49 P.M., HDL, I don't expect law professors to do anything.

    I would *like* law professors to lend their support to efforts like Law School Transparency, instead of ignoring them or treating their proponents as whiners and outliers. Law professors are in a unique position to serve as advocates to their schools' administration for policies like LST's, e.g., disaggregation of students' employment outcomes to make it clear how many students are actually practicing law two or three years after law school, among other things.

    If a school should discover that a majority or a significant minority of its students aren't being hired by anybody even after taking the July bar exam, then I would appreciate law professors pressuring the administration to change the curriculum to suit people who will need to work as sole practitioners if they are to be lawyers at all. I'm not sure what changes this would require in teaching and evaluating learning, and I'm sure that most faculties would howl at considering such a thing. It certainly doesn't bother them now that 99% of their students wouldn't trust what they learned in 1L to carry them through the MBE, and instead rely on BarBRI to teach them in 4 hours what their professors couldn't make plain in 4 months.

    Law professors can certainly act in support of changing their schools for their students' benefit. I just doubt that they will, unless underemployed alumni like me do what they can to raise awareness of the problems of legal education. If it takes hyperbolic accusations of complicity in fraud to get law professors to reconsider their students' outcomes, then we will cry "Scam!" until our lives or our schools improve.

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  15. But is calling people frauds, quasi-criminals, fools, and saying their life's work is useless a way to make them allies? What you surely learned in law school is that procedure matters; in fact it is difficult to even separate procedure from substance. What you say and how you say it matters.

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  16. Also, "SP" you were not and are not stupid. It is human nature to hope and to strive. It does not always work out, but people -- if they have not been beaten down in their childhoods-- are not so easily discouraged.

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  19. @HDL/4:44 p.m.:

    I have no problem believing that you work hard as a professor, and that you're good at what you do. You probably have many successful former students who believe that you were a good professor.

    However, I don't believe that you or most professors even thought about former students' impressions of what you taught as of the bar exam, or two years out in practice, or two years not having practiced. Other than those successful former students coming back to share a moment with you, how much feedback could you even solicit as a normal matter? There's a lot of noise in scamblogging, but they have served to boost the signal.

    Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe there are many more graduates finding opportunities to practice law than we think, and maybe the cyclical upswing will allow us to put off questioning our assumptions about the benefit of legal education relative to its cost. If LawProf has made you curious about the truth of this, and you act on that curiosity, then this has achieved its purpose.

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  20. To answer your fundamental question: I do not accept your characterization of who I am and what I am doing. Just because you say something does not make it so. As I said before, you and I are not going to meet on this. We just aren't, and it does not matter. You know nothing about me, what I know, or my experiences in life. And did I say anyone was crude? You are responding to something someone else said.

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  21. I have to go. I have to make my 20 per day networking calls in the hopes of finding some independent contractor work (and let me tell you that networking with lawyers is depressing as hell). I only made $700 so far this month and I can't last on that level of income. Yes I am desperate, and it has affected the tone I use to talk with the people living fat by putting me into this situation. I didn't think that, seven years ago when I started law school, my life would be like this. It is absolutely infuriating to see how hard I have to work when compared to the bullshit that professors do all day. Why don't you have to be in the market, having buyers drive down your price to $15/hour because that's all it's worth? Why can't I lie about my product like you do in the hopes of swindling buyers out of money? To add insult to injury, you have some modern day insensitive legal professor royalty telling me that she will not change her ways because I insulted her. F*CK YOU. Choke on the money you make by scamming poor people like me.

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  23. There's no talking to you HDL, so I decided to delete my comments. Why would you want anything to change when it mean having to give up your huge salary and enter the legal job market like your students? You would never concede one point along the path to that ultimate result. In that way you are like the vast majority of law professors, which is why you are the problem.

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  24. @Morse Code

    It did not take LawProf to make me curious. I have been reading blogs about this for several years now. And the blogs have "boost[ed] the signal, as you say. But there is, in fact, a serious discussion going on about the future of legal education in the academy and outside of it. This is not just the province of scam bloggers. It really has not been my experience that profs-- in law school and graduate programs-- are oblivious to the employment situation.

    As for students-- it is true. I do mainly hear from them about good things: when they want a recommendation, advice, or when they contact me to say they passed the bar or have gotten married. Reunions are the same as everywhere. The people who are the most keen to come back are the ones who are, at least, satisfied with their lives. I see some of them in court and bar association meetings. But those are not venues for complaint.

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  25. Here's the problem. My professors and deans keep telling me that the legal market will pick up when the economy picks up. Of course, nobody knows when that will be, and I don't expect anybody too. However, it is totally dishonest for professors and admins to act like this will be the silver bullet. There will be no hope for recent graduates and those preparing to graduate. Firms will just dip into the newest crop of 3L's. What is the academy going to do with this lost generation of attorneys? Obviously professors and admins know there is a problem. Do they care ?

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  26. HDL:

    No. I wasn't directing my comments to you. I share your opinion. I was directing my comments to the author of this little whitewashing operation. I guess the take-away here is that when you look up the hierarchy (as I do as a lowly law grad) you feel taken advantage of by people you trusted and you see what happened to you as a scam that should not have happened and for which certain individuals should be held to account; apparently, however, when you look down it, everyone you know is just generally swell, hardworking and earnest beyond question, and everyone down-hierarchy just drew a shit hand for some reason that is just so, so mysterious.

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  28. On further reflection, yes, HDL, some of what I wrote might apply to you as well. The point is that for people who have lost everything that they not only have but might have had (and even were led to believe was reasonable to expect in return for hard work - and we're not talking riches), there is very little nuance to the issue, and, you know, it's rather insulting to hear the qualifications this prof and you seem to put on it. No one cares whether or not you're working hard. What you should have done instead of gawking for a couple years at the scambloggers with food falling out of your stupid mouth as if it were some fascination is to raise the issue yourself, in ethical terms - both legal and academic. No one cares how hard you work. You had one thing to do for your students - just like, to be fair, every other legal academic had the same obligation - and you didn't do it. Spend however many hours you want polishing off your cases and classes, refining your teaching skills - I don't care; none of that matters one bit. You fail at the most basic level.

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  29. @HDL/5:46 p.m.:

    If you've been aware of this phenomenon through the scamblogs for years now, has that awareness changed your pedagogy? Has it led you to champion more transparency in how your school reports employment outcomes, regardless of what the ABA standard is?

    Institutional inertia is a powerful force. Let's face it - no professor is going to be cheered for asking uncomfortable questions about their recent graduates' experiences in the workforce. No professor is going to be cheered for telling his peers that a majority of their former students felt they succeeded in spite of the standard legal pedagogy, not because of it. If possible, the ABA and law schools will opt for as many studies of the issue as it takes for the legal economy to rebound. It's easier and less embarrassing than the alternatives.

    In short, I'd like law schools to find out what their recent graduates are doing with their time, and report it in a manner whereby prospective students can see what their chances are of ending up in a job they could have obtained with their bachelor's degree alone. I would also like law schools to provide a means whereby professors and schools can reach out to their law graduates and ask what they think of their preparation. Maybe transparency in both directions is what's needed most.

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  30. @morse code,

    It has changed my pedagogy only to the extent that I talk with students about the issue and talk with colleagues about it. There has been an ongoing effort to get information about graduates and to find out what they are doing, which I support. Schools need to have that information for lots of reasons. It is not always a simple thing to get, though. As I have always done, in good times and bad, I tell people who ask me about law school that it is a step that they should think long and hard about. They need to find out what lawyers actually do before making the decision. Most people know lawyers through television, where everyone is having fun and exciting drama all the time. It is a service profession that is very hard. It is also, like any profession, subject to the business cycle. So, what you have to say to people can change depending upon whether things are up or down, and that fluctuation will always be there. If a person is really determined to be a lawyer, and has done his or her homework, I would not dissuade him or her, anymore than I would tell a person who wants to be an actor or painter that they should not do it. I treat adults as adults.
    I have friends who hated the law and left, and others who love it. There were things about practice that I liked, but not enough to make me stay with it. I have to confess that I did not think about statistics when I was applying to schools. I just believed that I wanted to be a lawyer.I thought mainly about which schools I wanted to go to.

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  31. @HDL/8:32 a.m.:

    The information may not be simple to get in all cases, but I disagree that it's all that hard to obtain. Because of LinkedIn/Facebook and the acquaintances I made, I know the employment situation for 45% of the class of 2011 from my school without making a conscious effort to do so. Surely, a law school willing to devote resources and time to the question could do at least as well as I have. For what it's worth, I suggest that this may be an excellent use of part of the budget for your school's career development/career services office.

    I'm not asking you or any other law professor to feel personally guilty about what's going on. You didn't create law school as it currently is, and you didn't cause the downturn that took most of the legal job market with it for the past three or four classes of law graduates. I just want law schools to be curious about what kind of world their graduates find themselves in, and to reshape their offerings if those graduates are not being prepared to succeed in it.

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  32. @HDL: Just so long as you're telling students to "do their homework" before moving on with those applications - I'd hazard a guess that most of us - like you who thought primarily about which schools you wanted to go to - felt like we had done our homework. So, you know, don't worry about it. Thanks for speaking up at your home dinner parties or whatever when your friends' precocious little starlet says she wants to be a lawyer.

    That's all that could possibly be asked of you considering the institutionalized and intentional deceit in employment statistics that we both acknowledge and this. No one has really ever been hurt. So, you and LawProf are good.

    http://alleducationmatters.blogspot.com/2011/08/suicides-and-student-loan-debt.html

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  33. @ Morse Code,

    Yes, it will now be easier to find people. Forty-five percent is good, but not enough. Getting people to talk about the trajectories of their lives (which would be most useful) is not so easy as just finding them. But that is a start.
    As for being aware and addressing it, people are aware and it is a serious topic at a number of law schools that I know of. Changing the form and content of classes, discussing whether law schools should be folded into undergraduate education, as it is in Europe, whether there should be sharp cut offs for attendance based on scores as happens in other educational systems in the world-- these and other things are being talked about and/or implemented insofar as the changes can be made within institutions. As impatient as some may be with talk, everything has to start with that. There are too many people, too many competing interests to believe that this can all be done by fiat or one magic silver bullet.

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  34. @HDL/10:43 a.m.:

    None of us mind that true change must begin in talk, so long as it ends in action.

    The founders of Law School Transparency are two recent law graduates of Vanderbilt. They wrote a white paper on improving transparency in employment reporting by law schools (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1528862) last year. What's interesting is that it extensively refers to a previous ABA-sponsored effort, the MacCrate Report, that began in 1992 and published its findings three years later. Unsurprisingly, the current ABA employment reporting model scratches the surface of what was previously recommended 15 years ago.

    More than half of the data fields recommended by LST are already collected by NALP. What privacy concerns there are with issues like salary levels are addressed at length by the white paper. Increasing transparency in employment reporting is an eminently doable thing, and almost nobody would argue that the status quo for employment reporting is sufficient. Yet law schools and their faculties are not taking the lead, or pressuring ABA to impose these standards on them all to reduce comparative disadvantage for piecemeal adoption by schools. Why?

    It's fine to discuss this issue in all its particulars, but I would argue that we are well past the point of discussion with this one issue. If you want to debate what the employment outcomes are telling you about how to teach your students, okay, but there is no good reason not to learn what those are in the greatest possible detail. A fire needed to be lit under the academy, and the scambloggers did it.

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  35. @ Morse Code. We have no disagreement about the need to find what graduates are doing and make that information available. The question whether this alone will significantly alter behavior is unknown. I've indicated my skepticism. But I could be wrong.

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  36. HDL...wow are you a stupid stupid man. Hold on to all your rationalizations....hope it makes you feel better about yourself when you wake up in the morning. All around you are people in dire straights directly because of the institutions you defend. If I follow your logic we should not have any laws at all. You are everything that is wrong with legal education. Congrats.

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  37. @ D. What are you talking about? I have not rationalized anything. You are arguing with a straw man. All I've said is that transparency is needed, but I'm not sure that alone is the answer. It may be. As I said, I could be wrong in my skepticism about one act being the answer to everything.Then I said there are many other options being discussed for long term reform beyond the boom and bust cycle-- law school into college like in Europe, reforming the government loan system, score based cutoffs for admission to the profession, as in other countries, law school for two years instead of three... I was just answering the charge that no one is thinking about the direction of law schools but people on the Internet.

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  38. @HDL/12:18 p.m.:

    I'm not sure I care if it does alter behavior significantly, although I believe it will. I'd just like to see some moral leadership from law schools and their faculties.

    What LST proposes is a two-list model, wherein graduates anonymously provide their job data (including whether a JD/bar license is required for their jobs) in one list and their salary data (expressed as a range) in another. I suspect that such an approach would confirm a lot of the scamblogs' conventional wisdom: (a) very few people get jobs with salaries at or above the so-called "median graduating income," and schools use their salaries to distort expectations for their classes as a whole; (b) fewer people are in JD-mandatory jobs after law school than anybody not recently graduated would believe; (c) unemployment is rife for recent law graduates and tends to feed on itself.

    If you do nothing else after our conversation (which I've appreciated - most law professors I've known wouldn't bother), press for this at your school and with anybody you know at ABA.

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  39. @Morse Code

    Thanks very much. I have appreciated our conversation, too. I have wanted to have this kind of engagement before. But looking at the tenor of some of the conversations on other blogs gave me pause. If the commenter does not express 100 percent agreement-- the same type of language, the same words even-- then he/she very often gets total abuse. I am from a different generation, not used to all that. There is little reason to volunteer for it.

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  40. HDL - sparee us the sanctimony. Yet another rationalization....so you get attacked for the stupidity you espouse but something is wrong with all of us but not your words. Everyone reads your words very well. You are a know-nothing and a do-nothing.

    You are very lucky I am not an ex-student of yours....I would spit in your face if I ran into you again, metaphorically speaking. It seems to me the only thing that gets your attention.

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  41. Transparency is only part of the solution. HDL, you ask what law professors can do. The administration at most schools is comprised almost entirely of legal academics. Certainly, when it comes to matters of school policies and curriculum, I would hope that law professors would have more say. Certainly, professors in other academic cities get involved in campus politics.

    For example: Don't Ask Don't Tell was a major issue at my school during my second first years and many professors took an active part in debates and protests that occurred on campus, some going so far as to petition the administration for changes to the school's policies regarding military recruitment. Likewise, when our dean left, the professors took an active role in the interviewing and selection process for the new dean who was, surprise, a law professor at another school.

    I am not so much disappointed as I am blinded by rage when law school faculties stay mum or dismiss the concerns of their graduates. During my ethics course in fall 2007, a Wall Street Journal came out describing the conditions of temp attorneys and most law school graduates. Our professor claimed that it represented a tiny fraction of attorneys and that those who did contract work did it out of preference to other kinds of work. Three years out and 200k in debt later (after graduating in the top half of the class and landing a clerkship), I can say that people don't go looking for contract work; it's what they come to when every other place says no.

    I'll conclude by saying that every fucking law professor in this country should get on their knees and thank Congress for IBR. If it wasn't for that, your heads would have been on pikes by now.

    ReplyDelete
  42. HDL:

    "If you do nothing else after our conversation (which I've appreciated - most law professors I've known wouldn't bother), press for this at your school and with anybody you know at ABA."

    I'd argue that you have an obligation to do no less. You're intimidated at participating here? Really? I'm 50% of the faces you see every day in front of you. What gives? You made me. Throw in a recession's-worth of frustration and desperation, and you got me. Now you can't bear to hear what I have to say? How now?

    Academia - traditionally - really did believe in intellectual independence and in the idea that what academics do is important for the health of society, and that it was a calling in the best civic sense such that the position - again, because of its importance - demanded that other, less tangible values than the personal financial rewards be elevated to pride of place. It seems to me, then, that unless you're just a sociopath with a commercial outline motivated by your bank balance, then you've got to do something. Otherwise, what good has a career been? Yes, there are risks, but you tell me: Between the two of us, who is the better positioned to run them? And who is actually running them? Further, between us, who is in a position to successfully force a change - which change we both (I think.) agree is fundamentally important. If legal education bears such important non-financial benefits as to justify not only your salary but the arguments of some of your colleagues that we can just blame this whole scam on those who were motivated to have a solvent financial life and who, therefore, deserve their misfortunate because they were (cynically) financially-motivated to begin with, then how can you or anyone else who considers himself an academic after the best tradition NOT agitate for change? How can you also use your next breath to argue that law school is a buyer beware proposition? Hm? Not all these things are compatible. Either you admit that you're strictly in it for the profit - and no more than a door-to-door knife salesman (I mean no offense to any law graduate actually selling knives door-to-door to survive.), and I suppose maybe we should re-think tenure (Because isn't that a fairly reliable guarantor of intellectual independence?), or your position does have social value, and there are just risks you are going to have to run so that the social importance of what you do is protected and the attendant benefits to society continue.

    I don't know what to tell you, but this doesn't add up. A lot of people have been hurt. Why do professional executive deans, admissions, financial aid and marketing get to run the mental institution over where you work? Hm? Tell me that, too.

    ReplyDelete
  43. The foregoing comment was brought to you lovingly by Heave Ho. I should clarify that since you and I have talked before.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I have never said the things you are attributing to me. I have repeatedly said that transparency is vital, but not likely enough to bring about real reform, and does not help people who have already graduated, which is why I made reference to changing rules about loans and debt. How does that go with saying law school is a buyer beware position? I have never said, and do not believe, that anyone deserves misfortune. You have created a straw man to argue with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agreed with this view----transparency is vital, but not likely enough to bring about real reform, and does not help people who have already graduated.

      Stronger enough to publicized about the law school and law PROF. They are NOT scam. The real scam came from , as someone posted --ABA/ STATE COURT RULE , WHICH scaled JD GRADS,no license, can not give a legal advice,which violated US Constitution ---FIRST AMENDMENT.
      We need to reform this ruling.

      Delete
  45. Oh, no. Sorry. I mistook you for someone else (not made of straw) here.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Guys, most people who went to legitimate schools and studied real subjects like mathematics, science, physics, or engineering already know that law professors are a freakin' joke. The only thing that's different now is that their students are starting to realize this. In fact, most of society is becoming aware of this.

    Who knows, maybe someday people will call a "law professor" an oxymoron. Personally, I think "chatty adult babysitter" is a more apt description of what you guys actually do.

    Now, there's nothing wrong with being an adult babysitter, but should the government continue to subsidize your sky-high salaries?

    I know law schools are not directly subsidized, but let's be real. Without the government handing out 150k in nondischargeable loans to dumb kids, how could the law school system as we know it continue to exist?

    Now, I'm not sure if you law "professors" are aware of this, but Uncle Sam is BROKE and that profligate bastard is going to have to reevaluate his spending habits in the near future. This means that the public, at some point, is going to have to give the value proposition of law school a second look.

    So law professors, what makes law school a good investment at 150k a pop? Do you create jobs? Do you enhance access to the law? Do you enrich society?

    I've talked to a lot of law students, practicing attorneys, and customers of legal services, and from what I've heard law schools don't appear to do any of those things. In fact, law schools seem to make professors rich and everybody else miserable. In fact, the only people in favor of law schools these days are professors--how strange.

    But it still seems like a bad investment to me. Therefore, I don't think the government should give kids 150k to study law. Let me put this another way. Do you think it would be wise for the government to give 150k to kids to study phrenology? Would that create jobs or enhance our society? I don't think so. The only beneficiary in that situation would be the phrenology instructor.

    The writing is already on the wall guys. Our country is broke, and we cannot continue to borrow anymore. In a couple of years the government is going to stop loaning money to kids to go to law school. This will actually be a good thing for our country. But it will be a dark day for the law schools.

    When that day finally comes, do you think the law "professors" will travel to Capitol Hill and argue that the economy will collapse or minorities will denied an education if the government does not continue to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars to stupid kids? Will the law schools need a bailout?

    You guys better start working on your arguments for why law school is such an awesome investment.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Law school is NOT scam, as same as Law Prof.

    The scampers are--ABA/ STATE COURT PANELS MADE A RULE PROHIBITED JD GRADS CAN NOT GIVE A LEGAL ADVICE. BY THAT RULE MEANS ---WE ARE THE POWERFUL CAN SCAM ON YOU AFTER YOU GRADUATED FROM LAW SCHOOL.

    ReplyDelete
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