Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Morality plays and structural criticism

A 3L said something to me yesterday that I thought was quite perceptive: One of the biggest problems with the current situation is that law schools attract generally risk-averse people who are unknowingly engaging in highly risk-seeking behavior.  People go to law school because they think they're investing a lot of money to insure themselves against under- and unemployment, when in fact a huge percentage of the time they're not buying insurance so much as a lottery ticket.

What percentage of the time is still quite obscure, because we don't have good stats.  Although the Law School Transparency people are doing fantastic work with the data available to them, that data is quite bad.  We don't know the answer within a tolerable degree of accuracy to such basic questions as "what percentage of graduates of ABA-accredited law schools, and of particular schools, have full-time salaried (aka. real) jobs that require a law degree (i.e., law jobs) nine months after graduation, and what do these jobs pay?"  We have even less information about people further down the line, which is actually even more crucial.

For example, if you're considering going to NYU for full boat (this is going to cost you around $250K in tuition and living expenses), wouldn't you like to know what NYU's class of 2006 is doing right now?  How many of the people who got those fabulous $160K jobs with the signing bonuses are still in them?  Nobody knows.  What's the median salary of an NYU grad from the class of 1996, that is, 15 years out? Again, nobody knows.  (An extremely unscientific survey from Forbes, which relies on unsolicited self-reporting by people in private practice, can be found here).  Given what 250K in non-dischargeable debt represents in terms of lifetime risk, these questions are of more than purely academic interest, and it's remarkable that prospective law students continue to fly almost completely blind in regard to them (I realize I'm addressing risk at the least risky spot in the law school hierarchy. The point is that for all we know an NYU law degree might be a bad investment for what would be considered by the powers that be a shockingly high percentage of NYU grads).

Yesterday I was pleased to see Deborah Merritt of the Ohio State University Law School post an extensive and thoughtful comment about the Law School Transparency Petition, which she has signed, and which she is encouraging other law faculty to sign.  I'd like to respond to a couple of her observations.  I of course agree strongly with her that there are good reasons, beyond allowing prospective law students to make good choices, for improving law school transparency. If we don't know what our students are actually doing, especially several years after graduation as opposed to nine months afterwards, how can we make what goes on in law school relevant to our graduates' careers? This has been an under-emphasized point in the LST movement, which has the potential to provide a basis for reforming legal education in several different ways.

I have to disagree with Prof. Merritt's assertion that only a few schools are "cooking" their employment numbers.  In a narrow sense this assertion is probably true (it's unlikely in my opinion that more than a few schools are actually breaking the rules of the game by affirmatively lying about the numbers they report to NALP and USNWR).  But the problem, in my view, is that the game itself cooks the numbers.  A school can report perfectly "accurate" numbers under the current reporting regime, and still give a wildly misleading impression of how many of its graduates are employed in real legal jobs, and what those jobs pay.  That's a structural problem, and it's related to some of Prof. Merritt's observations about tone.

One of the things that's clearly upset a lot of legal academics about this site is that a number of things I've written could be interpreted as launching attacks on the moral integrity of law faculty and administrators as individuals. Now it's not as if questions of individual moral responsibility are irrelevant to the present situation -- they absolutely are relevant, and each person inside the present structure has to decide for his or herself how to answer those questions.  But the notion that the problem is, that as some commenters have asserted, law school administrators are "sociopaths and criminals" is in my view wrongheaded.  That kind of criticism assumes that the scandalous state of the contemporary American law school is a product of bad people being in positions of power. This in turn would seem to entail that the problem could be solved if good people were in those positions instead. It will be seen that this kind of criticism is a mirror image of the defensive reaction of some law faculty -- "we're good people, so how could we be doing the bad things you're attributing to us?" etc.

But the problem isn't the law school faculty and administrators are bad people.  I doubt the overall moral character of people who go into legal education in the first instance has anything at all to do with the present situation. If, for example, law school deans lie a lot more than the average person, that's not because liars become law school deans but because being a law school dean turns you into a liar.  The problem, in other words, is structural.  Complaints about the moral character of law school administrators are like complaints about the moral character of politicians. The problem is the nature of politics, not the nature of politicians.

All of which is to say it would help if people wouldn't take structural criticisms quite so personally.  Hate the game, not the player, as I'm given to understand the kids say.  And changing the game isn't primarily about changing the players -- it's about recognizing that the game, as it's currently structured, almost inevitably puts us all in morally compromising positions.  Again, what we choose to do about that at the individual level is all about individual moral responsibility.  But the fact that the game itself has become rotten isn't any particular person's fault or responsibility.  And that fact in turn is one of the main reasons why it's so difficult to change the game, or indeed to get people within it to even recognize what it has now become.


  1. "that law schools attract generally risk-averse people who are unknowingly engaging in highly risk-seeking behavior."

    Exactly. People who go to law school are generally risk averse, hard working types who studied day and night with the goal of getting a job with a liveable salary. These are not risk takers looking for millions. These are not the kids who dreamed of being athletes or movie stars. They're the "honest day's pay for an honest day's work" type.

    That's why the schools work so hard to create fraudulent career placement statistics. Your average 0L would run the other way if they saw that, in reality, only 20% or one third of graduates get full time jobs as lawyers. That's why the school claims "99%" are employed with a "median salary" of $80k.

  2. "But the problem isn't the law school faculty and administrators are bad people."

    I'm not so sure, but this is a rehash that whole nazi guard "I was following orders" discussion.

  3. "wouldn't you like to know what NYU's class of 2006 is doing right now?"

    I haven't done an exhaustive survey, but one such person I know went from a V10 litigation to 20 hours per week of contract work for a plaintiff's firm. Another went from a V10 litigation department to working for free. Both got laid off. Granted, they worked long enough to easily pay off their loans assuming a reasonable lifestyle, and they gained good experience, but things aren't what they imagined.

  4. "Although the Law School Transparency people are doing fantastic work with the data available to them, that data is quite bad."

    Honestly, I believe a goal to this blog would be a nationwide effort to get good data. I don't see how it could be hard, once the ABA or a government agency were to actually try, to get to the bottom of what the true job placement levels are. This isn't something that requires any specialized investigation. This is statistical employment data from a group of people who are living (for the most part) in the united states. Why is good data so hard to get????

  5. @6:52: Come on. Don't let the argument lose credibility by comparing law professors with nazis.

  6. The birds are coming home to roost very soon.

    Within the next year, we will witness the largest student loan default crisis in history, and all of the naysayers will watch as their positions are gutted. With most of the government loans, you are allowed a period of up to 3 years (36 months) within which to postpone paying your loans due to unemployment/job loss, etc. For those people, who first felt the wave of this economic downturn in 2009, their 3 year window will expire within the next year. As each subsequent month of continued high unemployment rolls by(per CBO projections), each successive class of graduates from 2009 onward will have exhausted their 3 year windows. Those individuals will inevitably default if they are unable to acquire the income elsewhere, rely upon family, or win the lottery.

    I anxiously await the coming economic downturn as the fiscal realities begin to smoke these liars out of their comfortable offices and classrooms. I hope they have saved well and began to procure foreign students from abroad because in the absence of government funding and the default crisis, these institutions are going to get their fated comeuppance.

    Very soon the dialogue within these blogs, which had been mistakenly viewed in the past as the rantings of fringe outliers, will become commonplace.

  7. This post makes you come off as a sociopath. Just saying

  8. "Within the next year, we will witness the largest student loan default crisis in history"

    How is that? With IBR, deferments and such it's impossible to default on your student loans.

  9. Dan, post that comment on Prawfsblawg, or the thousands of other blogs run by professors who have no shame and regret about the law school scam. Please do not attack one of three or so professors who are speaking out against the scam.

  10. First, brava to Prof. Merritt!

    * * *

    But the fact that the game is rotten isn't any particular person's fault or responsibility, which of course is one reason why it's so difficult to do anything about it, or indeed to get people within it to even recognize the nature of the situation in which we now all find ourselves.

    My professional responsibility professor told us on the first day of class that the lawyers who are least likely to realize that they're breaking one of the prof. res. rules, or are on the verge of breaking one, are those who view themselves as basically good people trying to achieve good things. Since they've never purposefully done bad things, it's hard for them to even consider that they might have crossed the line. (Shysters, by contrast, tend to know the rules thoroughly, because they intend to practice as close to the line as possible.)

    I think that's part of the problem here. Law professors have always viewed themselves (not without justification) as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Getting them to wake up to the harm the law-school/higher-ed./government-guaranteed-loan system is doing requires them to completely shift their self-image.

  11. And the irony is that had the law schools paid closer, honest attention to the employment situations of their graduates, they, too, would have been better prepared for the fate that awaits them---and perhaps have prevented it. Instead, they stuck their head in the sand, thinking and hoping that this "great recession" would be like 2001, 1992, 1982, and before. Unfortunately, their misreading of this unprecedented, structural change in the U.S. economy will seal their fate.

    Quietly and sublimely beyond the modern realities and comforts of reality TV shows, iphones, Facebook and social media, there remains the silent anger, which, despite all the modern connections and comforts, boils slowly and inevitably. In an era of constant information, many are fooled into thinking that they can anticipate or predict the eruption that will follow. What they don't know is that their read on information is only as good as as what is conveyed or volunteered. Ironically, they will be brought down by the lack of knowledge that stems from their own campaign of misinformation.

  12. IBR won't last under the Perry or Romney administration. The government is cutting back, and the Tea Party won't allow the government to subsidize and write off what they perceive as others' volitional risks/investments when they program begins balloon out of control.

  13. Solution to law school nonsense/market problems:

    1. Associate's (2-year) degree is only academic requirement for admission - from any accredited, degree-granting institution - with some prereqs established by ABA...

    2. Law school "reverts" to an LL.B. program and is a 2-year course.

    3. All law grads required to complete a 2-year apprenticeship - like done for solicitors in the UK - and State Bars require training for admission and regulate subjects/practice experience. All legal employers - including judges, companies, State agencies, law firms of any size, etc. - can hire and "qualify" apprentices - no matter the pay scale. Possibly other types of entities, such as insurance companies and accounting firms, if a grad wanted to specialize in insurance law or tax law.

    4. Bar Exam/Admission to Bar. Studying and sitting for the Bar exam can happen any time between steps 2 and 4.

    5. Apply to jobs (or hang a shingle) as a licensed attorney.

    6. Within 5 - 10 years of Bar admission, must obtain an LL.M. in some practice area or specialization - just one year's worth of academic credit - can be obtained at any accredited law school, etc. A similar model to the requirement in many States for public school teachers to obtain an MA/MS once employed.

    Effect: 3 years of legal education still "paid in" - so law schools have no gripe that they lose out economically. Students have 2 years less higher ed expense up front, thereby reducing debt burden for an additional 2 years of unnecessary education. The cost of the 3rd year, the LL.M. component, is deferred 5-10 years until after graduation. Law grads actually get trained and some job experience/connections in their communities during the apprenticeship - and a small salary - all benefits law schools currently have no capability (and fail) to provide. Further, this proposal turns the law degree into a basic 4-year track that is still useful in the marketplace but does not require incurring all of the additional cost to become licensed. Let's be honest - actual legal practice isn't for everybody, but the knowledge gained in law school is more useful to obtaining many more jobs than the knowledge gained with a literature degree. In a similar vein of candor - the practice of law is sinmply a trade, and this model offer a law grad many opportunities to jump off the train and not incur additional cost. Note that only those who would want to become licensed and practice under this model would incur Bar exam costs and the 3rd year (LL.M.) cost.

  14. Nonsense

    The last thing this movement needs is someone who will not advocate criminal punishment for fraud. Campos is starting come across as an establishment democrat-type. I fear people like that more than clowns like Paul Horwitz and Brian Leiter. And you should too.

  15. 7:19, if IBR goes we've got problems.

  16. Dan, Fine you posted that on the blog of one of literally two or three professors speaking out against the scam. Now what have you posted on the blogs of literally thousands of professors who say law school is perfectly fine? Nothing.

  17. I like the undertones of your post 7:16.

  18. IBR will increasingly be seen as a TAX PAYER=Government-funded BAILOUT. Mark my words. When this problem reaches the crisis point next year and either Republican, most likely Perry, rides into the Presidency atop yet another Tea Party wave/independents/unemployed, there is no way he or the Republican Congress will put forth any legislation to expand government or its money to what will be characterized as yet another BAILOUT program. The Tea Party-types, many of which lack a college degree, will fuel the rhetoric with their corporate backers. And they will make damn sure there are no RINO Republicans in there to foil their plans so don't bank on any "thinkers" to somehow move toward the middle and save the day. Everything is mounting for a cataclysmic economic and political failure.

  19. Again, I think what many people find unconscionable is that this "cooking of the books" is being done by lawyers, law professors. They are rightly held to a higher standard since they really can't claim ignorance of the law.

    Two observations:

    1. Most people who do bad things are good people. And they don't do bad things in ignorance. They are tempted by whatever seduces their hearts. For law professors, my sense is that the temptation is purporting that law schools really are great institutions of learned knowledge and pathways to legitimate wealth.

    2. That the vast majority of law profs come from the very top elite schools surely skews the viewpoints within the Academy. It's a very narrow slice of intellectual thought that permeates the legal academy.

  20. Well 7:31, a month ago Obama was about to suspend checks to social security recipients and the military, so you're right. If something like that could almost be cut then nothing is certain.

    However, as I explained before, in terms of the math IBR is a great deal for the government. I won't go into the details but if given a choice between having to placate your citizens (a) $50,000 per year (social security), (b) hugely expensive $250,000 stimulus jobs (recent jobs plan), (c) welfare (also expensive) or (d) a nondischargeable loan to study for three years -- (d) is an easy winner. In terms of money it's not even a blip on the radar. Republicans will go after a, b and c before they tackle d.

  21. Law schools, like lemmings, do what is customary, and, in this case, the custom is wrong.

  22. Exactly 7:36. 100% of people in jail are innocent, as they like to say.

  23. IBR should go. It's a bandaid that will delay the inevitable tipping point and destroy more lemmings' lives

    I don't care what other professors say. I care what Campos says because he is becoming a voice for reform. If that voice whitewashes individual accountability for those turning the levers of criminal fraud, then he remains part of the proble

  24. I completely disagree with you Dan, and I think you are an incredibly ungrateful asshole. I'd much rather see you go than to see this blog go.

  25. Dan, thanks for your isolated opinion. Come back when your way works. Good luck. Like your hair; hope you win:)

  26. "Come on. Don't let the argument lose credibility by comparing law professors with nazis."

    While the acts aren't equivalent, the dodging of responsibility certainly is. In a complex institution, each individual denies any culpability for negative outcomes by saying, "I'm just one piece of the machine. I couldn't possibly be expected to change things by myself. And if I refused to participate, someone else would just take my place. So don't blame me."

    That's the accurate part of the comparison.

  27. Yeah I've seen the "nazi guards" argument applied to white collar crime before. Obviously law schools aren't concentration camps, but the point is that we shouldn't be so ready to absolve the staff.

  28. 7:21: I think you've got some interesting ideas there . . . Especially in regard to allowing people to get into law practice, or to get off the track early, without investing nearly as much time and money as they need to now. Of course serious reform proposals are always going to raise difficult questions of intergenerational equity. If we make it much cheaper to become a lawyer, as we should, what effect is that going to have on everybody who had to pay much more?

    Dan: People who have broken criminal laws should be prosecuted, and those who have engaged in civil fraud should be held liable. Lots of the socially harmful features of the current law school situation falls well short of those standards though.

  29. I'm not so sure that the career placement statistics fraud shouldn't be criminally prosecuted. Even if the numbers are reported according to ABA rules. RICO for example can be used.

  30. Law prof-

    Thx for the response. With all due respect, I don't think a RICO case would be that difficult to prove. TTT Most deans are aware that 1/2 of every class is unemployed and has been for 20 years.

  31. Not NYU, but UVA Law did a longitudinal study of the class of 1990.

    Attorneys at large private firms had mean salaries of $523K. The lowest private category ("Other") had mean salaries of $208K. The "Government" category had $129K.

    The 25%-75% split across all sectors is $150K-$450K.

    The practice of law is drastically different from when these lawyers started practicing, but it is not as though there is no data.

    You should also look into the NALP "After the JD" longitudinal study.

  32. Fraud is a RICO offense. The charge would be something like, "Administrators conspired with the ABA and the NALP to overstate employment prospects for the purpose of inducing students to use student loan money on legal education over other education."

  33. Interesting UVA study.

    "All 360 living graduates of this [1990 graduation] class were contacted in 2007, with a response rate of 72.2%."

    Of course, like law school statisticians, the study assumes this 72.2% were a random sample that accurately represents the group. In other words, when it calculates e.g. the median salary of this group, it assumes that is the median salary of the entire 1990 class. But whatever, we can adjust for that. Still, I wish lawyers had either the intellectual rigor (is a stats 101 concept rigorous, though?) or intellectual honesty to do this right, but again, whatever because we can adjust for that. It also uses the very deceptive mean salary, but again we can mentally adjust for that too.

    But even with those adjustments, the class of UVA 1990 is doing pretty well for themselves and this was a good study. I'd like to see more such studies.

  34. Thanks 8:09. That looks like an interesting study, especially in regard to the gender splits (note the 25% to 75% data appears to be household not individual income).

    I know Michigan has done a 5 and 15-year out survey of its grads for decades now. As you say, the practice of law has altered drastically over the past 20 years, so it's tough to extrapolate out.

  35. Why is it that the law school can be in CONTACT with EVERY SINGLE ONE of these students during the enrollment process, during the student loan/tuition payment process each year, etc---yet they somehow lose contact with these people following the May of their 3rd year in most cases?


  36. Here'a suggestion: Each law graduate that reads this blog should send Campos a list of the graduates for the given year that they graduated.

  37. 8:31, I doubt LawProf has time to do such a study for every school but what happened to that guy who was going to set up a website for this purpose?

  38. I am struck by how difficult it is to engage in this discussion without quickly bringing in all sorts of issues that are central to the problems LawProf is trying to address, but that go way beyond the Law School Transparency issue. A few days ago a commenter discussed the effects of USNWR on legal education, and in my view and experience, those ratings are the crux of both the specific problems of increased tuition and manipulation of employment figures, and the larger problems driving deans to make institutionally harmful decisions because of USNWR. Gifts of money have been made to law schools with the provision that they will go up x number of places on the USNWR rankings. Theoretically a dean could refuse such gifts, but in many states funding to public law schools (and all of higher ed) has been drastically cut over the last decade, so law schools need to rely on private donations more than ever. One might also say "Just ignore USNWR," but you do so at the peril damaging your law school's reputation, which in turn affects whatever employment prospects there are for current and former graduates.

    So though I support the Law School Transparency Petition as an important way to help potential law students make informed decisions about what they are getting themselves into financially, I wish SO much that someone - the ABA, a group of law schools, another LawProf person - could come up with a way for law schools to disengage with USNWR.

  39. Edububble studied this using LinkedIn:





    You can find out quite a bit with LinkedIn.

  40. Today I'm proud to be a Moritz grad. Thanks Professor.

  41. I'll give you a real simple way law schools can disengage with USNWR. Stop talking to them. Don't cooperate with them in any way. That goes for law schools, the ABA, and anyone affiliated with the legal education industry. Perhaps someone should circulate another petition to that effect.

  42. "I'll give you a real simple way law schools can disengage with USNWR. Stop talking to them. Don't cooperate with them in any way. That goes for law schools, the ABA, and anyone affiliated with the legal education industry. Perhaps someone should circulate another petition to that effect."

    9:20, that would be terrific. If I were in a position to start such a movement/petition, I would do so in a heartbeat. LawProf: Do you think anyone could realistically do this?

  43. @6:52

    Goodwin's law by the second comment. I got whiplash there.

  44. @9:39 *Godwin's law.

  45. Layers and layers of collective action problems.

  46. Law Prof:

    7:21 here. I have pondered the equity piece - and from a public policy perspective, I believe the justification for reform lies in "saving" the profession and doing right by new students - with a ton of "mea culpa." It seems there may be hidden cost savings in the proposal, and some other costs as well - why not hire an apprentice for $30K a year (and later pay a starting salary of, say, $45K a year), thereby closing off job opportunities for those burdened under the "old" system who can't afford to take those jobs anyway because of debt? Also, this proposal might cause mayhem with the government GS scales, although, the government may prefer it in this era of (ostensible) cost savings. FYI, I'm a second tier law grad who "made it" and truly lost 10 years of my life to paying off $100K in debt ... this is a matter I'm passionate about (just ask all of my associates!), and I would enjoy the opportunity to work with someone on getting traction for these ideas ... if you're interested, drop me a line at puglife4real@gmail.com Thanks.

  47. Lawprof;

    A few things: Yes, law school does attract the risk adverse but law school also plays into that frame of mind. How? look at the cases we studied. They are about real people doing real things and more often than not, they get their heads lopped off as the result of taking a chance and filing suit for their own rights. A generality, yes but a relevant one all the same. Students reading these cases will become risk-adverse because of the outcomes of many of them. I think that is why lawyers are such a conservative bunch in practice while calling themselves liberal in theory.

    Furthermore, your statement that many of the problems in the law school game are structural and not based upon individuals being liars but rather becoming liars is how I have always understood it. I don't think these are bad people, they are just naive with cushy jobs. When money is thrown at a person, the age old adage, that "money changes you" becomes very relevant to the discussion. The problem IS systemic and structural and the only way to change it is with structural change from the outside. Changing it from the inside will result in watered-down concepts that will give the illusion of change on its face but will not be worth anything more than the paper it is printed on.

    This is why people like you and people like Nando at TTR are so relevant. You guys may be very different in your message (very different) but the "movement" needs both of you.

  48. The ECONOMY is going to change it from the outside and crack it WIDE-OPEN in the coming months. Grab your popcorn; the show is just beginning.

  49. A few of my friends have already filed Chapter 7 within the past month. I think I may do it next month as well. No, we won't be able to get rid of the student loans, but the blowback from all of us collectively destroying the other creditors might hasten the economic downturn. I look forward to the coming crisis because people in high places don't feel the pain until flood waters begin to reach their level.

  50. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if there are evil people responsible for this mess at the very top. Maybe the lower and middle level people are innocent dupes, but I also think that such people could be complicit as well.

  51. 10:22, You way overstate the impact. The economy has been in trouble ever since the republicans pushed the austerity package, and the impending super congress's failure is going to lead to painful cuts, but your little bankruptcies don't matter.

  52. The collective groundswell will matter because it will destroy the very foundations upon which many of these fraudulent actions exist. True, it will reappear in some other form, but, in the meantime, some "humility measures" should be taken to bring those people in high places back down to earth.

  53. What we need here is some old fashion honor and accountability.

    At a press conference following a multiple fatality incident at a Japanese factory, the company's CEO bowed so deeply to the victim's families that his head touched the floor. He then quietly left the room in disgrace.

    When we start seeing that from law school deans, we'll have made some progress. It won't change how FUBAR we all are. But it's a start.

  54. It is coming, folks. One way or another, the wagons are being circled. The law schools can either do the right thing, or they will be forced to fold under the unfolding economic pressures/cutbacks that will inevitably occur in the next recession.


  55. Deans don't give a shit what happens to the students. Their goal is to victimize as many students as profit allows.

  56. These Deans will become victims of the economic downturn.

  57. I disagree 10:58. I think law school will actually get a huge increase in enrollment due to the downturn, and many applications will come from people who know the job prospects are bad but go any way because they have absolutely no other option.

  58. Wow--lots of interesting ideas in both the main entry and comments. I definitely agree that there are numerous structural problems affecting legal education. One of those problems is that very few academics or policymakers study the business of law. There are notable exceptions, but relatively few law professors study the career paths of lawyers, the economics of providing legal services to different types of clients, or innovative ways to provide those services. Professors of economics, sociology, and business, likewise, do relatively little work related to the business of law. Contrast that to the amount of work done on the economics of delivering health care services.

    This may sound like a typical pointy-headed professor observation: Let’s turn the whole problem into a subject of academic research and publish more papers! But I hope it’s not that. One of my many concerns about the legal market is that we have so many un/underemployed lawyers and so many unmet legal needs—even among people and companies who could afford to pay something for legal services. Oversupply combined with unmet demand means there is something seriously wrong with our business models. That’s a problem, not just for law grads, but for potential clients. And since we are a highly autonomous, self regulated profession, only we (including both academics and practitioners) can solve those problems. To me, the transparency issue is both critically important in its own right and part of even larger structural problems in the delivery of legal services—problems we should try to address more systematically as a profession.

    I taught a seminar last year on the business of law, and I’d be happy to send the syllabus to anyone who is interested in teaching in this area (it’s a good subject for both practitioner adjuncts and full-time profs) or in seeing some of the studies that do exist. The syllabus reflects just one of many models for teaching a course like this. This spring, I’m considering teaching the seminar in a different way: I may start with some of the studies on lawyer career paths, as well as the LST white paper, and then ask each student to do a paper that explores what alumni of our school have done in their careers. The students could survey a number of alumni in a particular area or do in-depth interviews with a smaller number; papers might focus on particular practice areas, demographic groups, or issues (e.g., what impact have loans had, how do you balance work/family, etc). If others are interested in teaching a similar type of seminar, I’d love to share ideas, brainstorm structure, etc. This type of seminar might provide the seeds for future, more expansive studies of the profession. There is already some excellent work in the field to build upon. I’m at merritt.52@osu.edu. Thanks, Debby

  59. These people won't be going to law school if there is no loan program in place to sufficiently provide them the funds to pay for such an endeavor. Do you seriously think the government will continue to fund graduates, who either default or have to be subsequently subsidized and forgiven of their debt through IBR? It might make economic sense for the people, who can currently take advantage of the IBR opportunity, but there is no way such a program can continue at the rate that it will increase over the next few years. Further, there is no way that enrollment will increase given that and the increasingly well-known paucity of job opportunities for law grads. Just look at this article in the AP entitled "Law schools lure fewer students as jobs dry up": http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jTGw2uqpboSjnNoVCh93wfVFxA5g?docId=c2464d41b3f2490a98eadd8d5f0d371c

  60. Very soon in education the economic viability of each profession will be a deciding factor in whether the GOVERNMENT-subsidized loan will finds its way to one's account. That isn't to say that private loans won't be available, but if the government pulls the plug on high-risk loans, then the private lenders are sure to follow suit unless they can charge an extremely high interest rate, which many, arguably, already do.

  61. What we need is some form of Consumer Reports for Higher Education, and, no, I don't mean UNAWR obviously. There was an interesting article in the Washington Post about the guy behind the UNAWR rankings. I'm not sure if any of you saw this or if it was mentioned in a previous post, but this article from 9/2/2011 puts a face on at least one part of the problem: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/us-news-college-rankings-are-denounced-but-not-ignored/2011/09/02/gIQAn6BzzJ_story.html

  62. We should keep tabs on Mr. Norse and the 6 individuals that he oversees to determine what, if any, impropriety takes place in the determination of these rankings.

    How do we know that Mr. Norse or one of his underlings isn't treated to lunch by some representative at Georgetown, George Washington, or any of the other ABA-accredited schools?

    If we stage a march, we should stage at his Georgetown office location.

  63. Here's UNAWR location, which I found on...wait for it...Yelp.

    1050 Thomas Jefferson St NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    Neighborhood: Georgetown

  64. Let's dismantle the liars and the mouthpiece for their lies.

  65. Why not just get rid of the law school barrier to entry, in combination with strict placement transparency?

    1) Convince states to merge their bars into one national bar.

    2)Make the bar exam more difficult (add an intelligence/analytical reasoning portion to it to sort of merge the LSAT into the bar)

    3) Allow everybody who wants to take the bar to take it, regardless of attending law school.

    4) Create and enforce stricter rules of ethical conduct for maintaining active membership in the bar (e.g. two strike expulsion).

    5) Have the new national bar mandate strict transparency requirements. Place burdens on the schools to do the "legwork;" i.e. create a draconian penalty for non-responses.

    6) Problem solved: law schools would have to justify their existence by demonstrating to potential students the value they'd add for their cost with real, transparent stats. Beneficial by-product: since law schools are mostly a sorting mechanism, 1/3 (maybe even 1/2?) would disappear almost overnight.

  66. Sorry but this looks like a hey, the game is fucked so don't hate the player. Just another pronouncement from on high from a slightly clueless academic. You and Merrit are so cozy in your positions and so used to having your butts kissed from below that you think you're not part of the problem. I was on the fence with this one but now I really think if you have a conscience and no law loans to repay you need to quit. (sorry, not a lawprof).

    I work for biglaw and I hold my nose every time I have to manage or come near a doc review case because we are so blatantly taking advantage of attorneys in mostly desperate situations when we should be simply hiring more associates. But I have massive law school loans to repay and absolutely no power to do anything about the situation. And I still feel horrible about it all. You have a choice. You now know the situation. If I were you I would not be making these grand statements absolving yourselves and typing away at the keyboard, uselessly, about it all. That petition you;re circulating won't do much but shine a light on a part of the problem that most people are already aware of.

    All I see is someone who thoroughly enjoys his position of power. Just because you all of a sudden had a "come to Jesus moment" we're all supposed to say, hey its cool! Its all good! He's one of us and on the side of the angels. (This criticism is aimed more at people like Merrit than Campos) Its a cry for attention and recognition that you academic types crave. You want my respect? Quit and say why. Because in the end you know how you're drawing your salary and who suffers and if you can live with that, fine. But hey, all of these half measures are better than nothing...I guess.

    Of course, this is only my little inconsequential personal opinion.

    Also, to the person above who thinks that attaches skyrocketing tuition to US News is delusional. Guaranteed student loans create a false market where tuition is based on maximum amount a student can be loaned rather than what students can afford to pay out of pocket. There are endless stories of students being able to pay their way through school by taking on a part-time job decades ago.

  67. Re 1:23: I hesitate to state the obvious since it has already been stated so many times, but the "he should quit" line of reasoning is just assinine:

    If everyone who cares about making an institution better, more honest, or more moral, quits because things are already so bad, then the only people left in the institution--the only people with the power to do anything--are the ones who genuinely don't care. By encouraging wouldbe reformers to quit you create a situation where, if people followed your advise, the remaining faculties would be self-selected for their indifference and/or willful blindness to the problems of modern law schools. Revolutions are remarkably rare, and I'm not sure how exactly a revolution could be effected from outside legal academia. Our best hope for change is for professors who give a damn to stay at their jobs, talk to their colleagues, and start moving things from the inside. I don't know whether there are enough such professors to succeed. But I do know that without such professors there is no chance of change on any timescale that will help the current or next generation of law students.

  68. LOL - there will be no revolution (ending the current structural issues regarding student loans is the problem and not what professors say or better transparency)...and whom do you think has helped the current situation get to the point it is? There are a ton of assumptions in your argument and good luck with all of them. I happen to think that if law profs from top tier schools start quitting and saying why then it will effect far more change than circulating a petition. Its just a way of saying, hey look at me...Im trying...Im not the bad guy. Meanwhile dead bodies continue to pile up.

    Also, I was making a personal moral judgment and Im allowed to have one. Campos is way down the list but I still judge him for what he continues to personally profit from. And you can't say any differently about that.

  69. I don't understand this common notion of lawyers being "risk averse". I handle everything on flat rates and contingency. I am constantly evaluating risk and reward and placing my bets.

    Every lawyer who truly becomes successful is like this. What other profession, outside of finance and tech entrepreneurship, lets an ambitious person become as successful as law?

    You can advertise for routine cases for flat (or hourly rate) cash flow. You can take money and invest in small contingency cases (small PI), then larger (med mal), then larger (product liability, drugs, Viox, asbestos) then larger ( securities, class actions, patents). Or you can get a book of business clients and hire associates to do grunt work.

    Everything about the law school scam is correct. But being "risk averse" is a psychological disorder. A successful person knows how to manage risk-reward.

  70. I think a better way of saying might be that most people don't go to law school in order to run their own business. That ends up happening to many of them, of course. But most people just want to work for a boss and collect a check. At least, for a while they want to do that.

  71. Anyone filing for bankruptcy should at least try to include their student loans.

    I have no experience with bankruptcy, but don't the creditors have to object to the discharge in order to maintain their standing? If everyone includes their student loans, maybe a few would slip through the cracks. If everyone tries it, it might create a very successful cases that others could cite.

  72. Student loans are barred by law to be discharged through bankruptcy unless you are totally and completely disabled. A very high standard that very few people qualify for.

  73. @ 5:01:
    "...most people don't go to law school in order to run their own business. That ends up happening to many of them, of course. But most people just want to work for a boss and collect a check. At least, for a while they want to do that."

    No person who just wants to "collect a check" will ever go anywhere, regardless how large the check is. Every established lawyer "runs their own business" whether he has 0 partners, 3 partners or 500 biglaw partners. Bring in a big book of business and you are a partner wherever you want. Lose your book of business and you are gone.

    Your point about wanting a job in the beginning is well taken. Since law schools teach nothing, you need to learn and its reasonable to expect at least a living wage for 7 years of college.

  74. These law school deans need to be burned at the stake.

    I CANNOT WAIT until this shitty country collapses. I want America to die SO BADLY, so that these pathetic pigs suffer as much as I have.

    Law school scam.

  75. 9:30, you'll probably enjoy this story, and I hope it shows you that things can always be worse.

  76. 7:12 you are right, but there is a simple supply and demand problem. Society only has so much need for legal services, and if there are more suppliers than necessary some of the suppliers won't have work. Simple math. This would be true if all the suppliers were huge go-getting, industrious, entrepreneurial people with fantastic sales skills. Once the demand has been met they should switch to offering another product, something other than legal services.

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