Thursday, August 9, 2012

The adversary system

DJM's intriguing and detailed suggestion that law students form official student organizations that would push back against the structural dysfunctions of the contemporary law school highlights what in my view has become a central truth about legal academia:  Law schools and their students are now in what in many ways is a fundamentally adversarial relationship.

To put it another way, the interests of, on the one hand, university and law school administrators, and law school faculty, and on the other, law students, are becoming increasingly divergent.  Law students want to get a reasonable return on their investment; law schools want to maintain and extend an economic structure that makes that outcome ever-more unlikely for an ever-larger percentage of those students.

An official student organization that semi-explicitly recognizes this would be considered by law school administrators something of a subversive group -- roughly analogous to the way the management of a business considers labor organizers to be subversives.  And of course from the perspective of management, labor organizers are subversives, since their goal is to direct a larger share of the organization's revenues from capital to labor.

Similarly, what the law school reform movement is calling for are actions that, in the short term, will be bad for law schools and their universities, and good for law students.  Of course the movement is not relying solely or even primarily on a sudden outburst of altruism by the academic powers that be: in the long term, law administrators and faculty will almost universally prefer lower compensation and higher teaching loads to seeking other forms of employment. As for central administrators, they will prefer extracting a more modest income stream from a law school than getting none at all.

The difficulty is this: what are the most effective ways of raising consciousness among two groups, who, for different reasons, resist seeing that the relationship between law schools and their students has become fundamentally adversarial?  The great majority of law school administrators and faculty are, for reasons that are too obvious to elaborate, in deep and continual denial about this.  But raising law student consciousness is difficult as well, for reasons that are worth elaborating.

First, many law students still begin law school lacking much of the basic information that would lead them to conclude that the law degree they will acquire will have, at graduation, negative net present value.  The extent to which this has been or is now the fault of the students themselves may be an interesting question: the practical point for the reform movement is that raising consciousness on this matter remains crucial.

Second, even as consciousness is raised on the economics of legal education and the legal profession, law students are prone to their own versions of the denial that envelops law school administrators and faculty. On one level this is a defensive psychological mechanism that has adaptive advantages: people who maintain a positive attitude, all things being equal, do better than those who don't. Of course "all things being equal" is a crucial caveat: if a negative attitude leads a student paying median tuition and getting median grades after the first year at a median law school to drop out, that ex-student is likely to do better in the long run than similarly situated students who maintain a positive attitude in the face of grim statistics.

Third, law students understandably believe that currying favor with law school administrators and faculty is important to their professional prospects.  This belief tends to be seriously over-stated: the fact is that most faculty most of the time can do very little for the professional prospects of their students.  But they can sometimes do something, and students, again understandably, don't want to surrender on their dreams of professional success any sooner than necessary.

A key goal for the reform movement is to push the moment at which law students realize their relationship to the law schools they attend is adversarial to an earlier and earlier point in their legal careers.  Until recently, this realization often didn't come until a couple of years after graduation. Now at many schools it has been pushed well into the third and even second-year classes.  (My experience and correspondence suggest the first year bubble is still fairly intact at many schools).

Just how to go about doing that is a complex question, whose eventual answers will be a product of trial and error.  This blog and others like it are part of that effort, as is the immensely important and remarkably successful work of Law School Transparency.  Attempting to organize official student organizations dedicated to law school reform may turn out to be an effective strategy, as might efforts toward creating more informal types of student solidarity.

But the message is slowly and surely getting out, and every day various stakeholders in the battle over reform come a little closer to understanding the nature of the situation.


  1. There's no question about the denial by faculty: all you have to do is read the law faculty law blogs.

  2. I wonder if the NLG might have the balls to take some initiative. True, they are a politically polarizing organization, and the issue of law school reform should not be easily susceptible as a quasi-Marxist ploy.

    Still, they are the only organization that has the balls to touch a lot of third-rails, such as Israeli apartheid. And they've been very supportive of occupy-style fee hike disobedience that general campus student bodies have engaged in. I would add the prison industrial complex and other issues as well, but most of those have become quite kische these days with the ivory tower left.

  3. As the 7:57 commenter from yesterday's "Time for Action" post, thanks for acknowledging this problem in today's follow-up.

  4. The problem with having law students "organize" into a group effort to fight against rising tuition costs or at least to advertise the fact that law schools need to reform, is that most law students who have the necessary frame of mind and belief that reform needs to happen would just as soon quit going to law school.

  5. Adding to 8:31, organizing like this requires one recognizes more than tacitly that you are paying for something that doesn't make sense.

    It's tough to expect that of people.

  6. What an absolute mess all of this is. There should be an organized list of the problems, and in order of importance.

    Some say turn off the SL spigot. Some say shut half the schools down, some say the perceived problems are overstated or exaggerated.Some say there are too many lawyers irresponsibly being produced by irresponsible institutions. Some say the problems never end, and even 20 years out one can be unemployed without a paddle. Some say Leiter haunts this blog and is a bad dude.

    Some say buyer beware. Some say IBR will save us all. Some say cut back on Law school Administrators and Employees and lower salaries. Some say return bankruptcy. Some say it is al part of the larger SL debt bubble which a couple of noted financial authorities say is not a bubble. And on and on and on.

    How about making a list of grievances, in order of importance and sending it to every Congressperson and to the President?

    Maybe there will be some mention during the elections.

  7. Most law students are not even aware they are in an adversarial relationship! An especially insidious aspect of the law school scam is that most law students still view their professors and deans as authority figures with their best interests in mind. The truth is - as with any illegitimate syndicate - their professors’ and deans’ top priority is preserving their power and privileges. Students are further blinded by the fact that Special Snowflake Syndrome is alive and well among law students, as LP points out. See also the comment from a law student advisor at 7:57 am today after DJM’s last post.

    Yet another reason why asking current law students to carry the banner of reform is a waste of time.

    The anti-scammers should stay focused on what’s already working: keep getting the word out to prospectives and the general public. The issue of vast numbers federal tax dollars being thrown away to prop up the high salaries and cushy lifestyles of law admins and professors will resonate powerfully with the public. Exposing it is a much better strategy for “reforming” the law school cartel.

  8. It hasn't worked for grad student why would it work for law students.

  9. LP or DJM,
    Did you see that letter from the dean of SLU that resigned? Aside from her whining about summer grants I was curious about the reallocation of law school funds by the central university. My understanding was that the university got a cut of tuition (10-20%) and that was it. Can the central university take money beyond that? Also, it looks like they moved donor money from the law school to the central university's budget.

  10. in regards to the SL defaults, how is "the taxpayers" on the hook? the student had to pay tuition to get into the institution, so the funds were paid out into that local economy, increasing the tax receipt bases, and the money eventually spreads out as it is spent. "the taxpayers" may bear the brunt of the default (if that is legally possible), but the flow of money creates tax receipts and stimulates the economy. so it evens out....?

  11. I would add the prison industrial complex and other issues as well, but most of those have become quite kische these days with the ivory tower left.

    "Kische"? Was ist das? Google did not come up with anything relevant.

  12. @Huey "Most law students are not even aware they are in an adversarial relationship!"

    Yes. It's an adversarial relationship wrapped up in a co-dependent relationship. Like a pimp/pusher and his stable.

  13. Yeah, but there's one big difference: Pimpin' ain't easy.

  14. I'm Gonna Get You SuckaAugust 9, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    "Bitch better have my money. Not some, not half...but all!"

  15. @9:08am -- "kische", that's a stumper. "Chic", maybe? Quiche? Cliché?

  16. ^^^ Cushy? Cozy?

  17. Fat Guy,

    I don't really know anything about the politics of intra-university battles over revenue. I've heard that university budgets are so dependent on various types of cross-subsidization that administrators are often less than scrupulous about moving money around -- even money given by donors for what the donors understand are specific purposes that the university is legally obligated to honor.

    Also, my understanding is that the skim central takes on law school tuition varies enormously across schools, and that occasionally it turns out a law school is actually subsidized by central.

  18. 9:05: LOL! How about I sit at home and the government (i.e., the taxpayers) sends me a check for 200K every year. I will pay this money back into the local economy by buying new cars, flat screen TV’s, going on vacation, eating out at nice restaurants etc ... It all evens out so everyone wins, right?

  19. Yeah, I just don't think currently enrolled law students are going to be the ones to take the lead on this. As others have pointed out, the ones who realize that law school is a scam will (and should) drop out and save themselves. The ones who stay are clinging to the hope that they will have productive legal careers, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If you don't think you're going to be able to have a legal career, why the heck would you continue to pony up for a second and third year of law school? (I know there are a few scambloggers who are current law students, but I really just don't get the psychology behind that...drop out!). But what do currently enrolled students have to gain from exposing the scam? It's too late to help them, and they are probably more concerned with getting jobs than with helping students of the future.

  20. News - Dean Annette Clark of SLU resigns stating University president unilaterally took $1 million of law school money for his own university uses, in addition to disrespectful treatment:

    HT to commenter in ABA post yesterday. Seems like what DePaul went through a number of years ago...also a Catholic university.


  21. Thanks LP. I had the same reaction regarding donor money.

  22. There not totally adversarial. Both law students and law schools need federal loan money to keep going.

    A very easy solution to 90% of the problem would be to just require that law schools be responsible for certain percentage of defaults (by making future funds unavailable).

    It would be amazing to see the ABA change standards and the ability of law schools to suddenly be able to offer a low price education.

  23. "They're" not "There" - glaring grammar mistake. Can you edit posts?

  24. "This belief tends to be seriously over-stated: the fact is that most faculty most of the time can do very little for the professional prospects of their students. But they can sometimes do something, and students, again understandably, don't want to surrender on their dreams of professional success any sooner than necessary."

    That statement is consistent with a common pre-law and law student and even licensed attorney world view: I want to keep my options open - so I will choose a liberal arts pre-law major, not locking into a mere "trade" or "job" degree - so I wish to believe that a law degree is "versatile" - so I wish to believe that my associate position in BigLaw might lead to my dream position of CEO, novelist, sportscaster, etc. - in other words I don't really want to grow up and have to make choices that take me irrevocably down one path and not another. Part of that approach of course is not making enemies, color within the lines, keep your nose clean, don't do anything that shows up on your "permanent record" or that inhibits your roster of potential "recommendation writers" or worse yet turns away a "mentor". That of course is a strange personality trait for scrappy future litigants and advocates, but I think that trait is fairly common, particularly during the period when the degrees are being obtained and particularly at the more competitive schools. Or maybe I am just a half-@$$ed amateur psychologist who doesn't know what he is talking about . . .

  25. The law school model only works because of the other adversary system, student v student. Kids are too busy forming groups and alliances and competing with each other. They don't even have time to realize they're fighting the school, too.

  26. ""They're" not "There" - glaring grammar mistake. Can you edit posts?"

    Mine own glaring grammar mistakes only begin glaring after I've hit the "publish" button.

    But no - unless you're logged in with a blogger ID, you won't be able to do anything with a published post. Even then, I think you can only "remove/delete", not edit, the post.

  27. "Part of that approach of course is not making enemies, color within the lines, keep your nose clean, don't do anything that shows up on your 'permanent record' or that inhibits your roster of potential 'recommendation writers' or worse yet turns away a 'mentor'. That of course is a strange personality trait for scrappy future litigants and advocates...."

    What you've described seems to be just common sense. Why burn your bridges when you have nothing to gain from it and its chances of making a difference are pretty slim? Besides, prudence and foresight are much more important skills for any lawyer (litigator or otherwise) than being a Rambo.

  28. The relationship of law grads and their law schools is also adversarial. The law schools want to pump out more and more grads into a vastly overcrowded profession. The only way to do that is to push more experienced grads out of their jobs in a profession that is barely growing but graduating 45,000 new lawyers a year.

    Up or out policies are great for law schools because they open entry level jobs. They are not great for lawyers put out of their jobs in a very bad legal job market.

  29. HueyLewis at 8:46, "Most law students are not even aware they are in an adversarial relationship! ... law students view their professors and deans as authority figures with their best interests in mind. "

    You and LP and some other commenters touch on this topic, and I sit here thinking, "Wonder what's wrong with me? I always saw it as adversarial, from day one. Am I just a cynical suspicious bastadge?"

    I also just assumed my classmates saw it the same way - but the topic never came up in LS, so maybe not...

  30. @ 9:48 Shark Sandwich

    That is a very, very good point. Grades, rankings, journals/etc. are highly competitive. o

    Also in general, please don't forget that at schools of all ranks throughout America seriously want to practice law.

    I want to be a prosecutor. I'm going to a school that is at least "known" in the several states that I woud want to work as a prosecutor for. I'm getting a full-tuition scholarship and am not going to debt with living expenses.

    There are many in my position that want change that aren't dropping out because even though we acknowledge the scam, our financial position (scholarships) means that even if we do not get the desired legal jobs are futures are not ruined.

  31. I think the analogy to a management-labor divide is romantic and poorly conceived. If professors and administrators are part of management, they are at best mid-level, with very little profit participation and more affinity for the laborers than anyone here usually credits (LawProf, having found religion, is engaging in some magical thinking about his distinctiveness).

    If students are laborers, they have a much lower stake in the continuing health of the enterprise than the analogy would suggest. They may or may not get a vague pleasure or career bump from the continuing prosperity of their institutions, but after a few years of employment (God willing) they care vastly less than would someone counting on continuing employment at their job and needing to ensure the institution's continued functioning. And the odds that they will ever be sufficiently motivated to collectivize and bargain for shop-wide tuition rates, as opposed to negotiating whatever deals benefit them personally, are vanishingly slight.

  32. As a better analogy, how about the relationship between a government agency and the people who are supposed to benefit from its regulations?

  33. anonymouse/10 am, Maybe adversarial is the wrong term. In terms of learning/grading, the prof-law student relationship is in a sense adversarial, particularly in a socratic/curved grading environment. But at the same time it's reasonable for a student to assume that even pedantic Prof. Kingsfield types feel some kind of duty to their students with respect to teaching them the material, grading fairly, and, most importantly, preparing them for rewarding careers. But the current cost vs. benefits equation for most law degrees casts doubt on the latter assumption, a fact most law profs and deans choose to ignore, for their own selfish reasons.

    I guess it would be more accurate to view the two groups as having diverging interests, as LP also points out. "Adversarial" is kind of misleading in this context.

  34. The STLU Dean's letter gives me no comfort in regard to the purpose of this blog. More a matter of management fighting CEO, and neither (at least from the content of the letter) has any idea what is happening to their customers. So much concentration on summer research funds and a mention of rankings makes my tummy upset. Yes, tummy.

  35. Hey LawProf, how many visitors do you get to this blog every day? I'm amazed at the diversity of the backgrounds of people who comment here. I'm guessing that this suggests a large audience, but I really have no idea. Thanks.

  36. I agree with the earlier commenter that the NLG is well suited to this argument. The chapter at my school, and more importantly, in my city, already seem to unofficially practice a policy of discouraging people from going to law school (albeut ineffectively, since most people they are in contract with are already there). Plus, the Guild already has sympathetic policies such as lowering dues for unemployed members, etc that have been discussed here before, and, since they are a leftist organization, have more experience than most at being in an adversarial relationship with the administration.

    I think it should be easy to convince them to more explicitly endorse holding the light to the structural problems of the schools. Plus its another chance to tell people how shitty the ABA is so i can't imagine most of the membership wouldn't be game.

    Of course, i am biased (I'm a member).

  37. "Third, law students understandably believe that currying favor with law school administrators and faculty is important to their professional prospects. This belief tends to be seriously over-stated: the fact is that most faculty most of the time can do very little for the professional prospects of their students. But they can sometimes do something, and students, again understandably, don't want to surrender on their dreams of professional success any sooner than necessary."

    I think it is more the inverse- law professors and administrators cannot do much to help a law student's budding career, but if so inclined they could do a lot to hurt it. Such inclination may turn to action if the law professor feels the student is directly threatening their job or the requirements of their job. Such a scenario will last until after the student has passed C+F and no longer needs their school for anything.

    Any student reform group will need to have the backing of at least a few tenured law professors at the school. At CLS I could think of only one.

  38. Law schools are clearly run for the benefit of faculty and administrators, NOT the students or the supposed "profession."

    1. Law profs barely know the students names much less actively try to help them land a job.

  39. Serious question. Do mid-level law faculty have any sense of self-preservation such that they can be recruited to consider serious solutions? Because look at the plans their senior administrators are coming up with:

    UC Hastings. Since we can't fill our class without taking students whose credentials would send our USNWR ranking into TTT teritory lets reduce class size and charge more. After all, there must be lots of students who in five years will be willing to pay in the mid-50's in state tuition to go to the bottom feeder of the UC system where fewer than half the graduates get real jobs. And the legislature will continue to spend money it doesn't have on a school it doesn't need.

    UC Irvine. We have to do what we do because its what we have always done.

    Penn State. Since we can't fill our class without taking students whose credentials would send our USNWR ranking into TTT teritory lets reduce the size of our JD pool from 650 to 500, even though we must maintain two campuses, and make it up with LLM students and non-degree programs for foreign judges. There are a lot of foreign judges who want to come to a remote mountain valley 200 miles from the nearest international airport rather than, say, NY or DC, which are rumored also to have law schools. And they will love to live among 40,000 undergrads who get howling drunk every weekend and paint themselves blue on game days.

    GW. Go ahead kids. Borrow all you want. Its not like you have to pay it back. The government is such a sucker it will let you pay a small amount for 20 years and eat the balance; as a great philosopher once spake, "never give a sucker an even break."

    What all these have in common is that they make sense only if the object of the exercise to to carry the current generation of senior administrators and faculty to retirement age. They leave the mid-level faculty high and dry in five of six years. Don't they see this? And if they do don't they want to do anything to preserve their careers?


  40. "I think it is more the inverse- law professors and administrators cannot do much to help a law student's budding career, but if so inclined they could do a lot to hurt it. Such inclination may turn to action if the law professor feels the student is directly threatening their job or the requirements of their job. Such a scenario will last until after the student has passed C+F and no longer needs their school for anything. "

    I suppose a professor might think less of a student who declaimed that all professors, or that professor particularly, were shiftless crooks. But you would have to work pretty hard -- well past general critiques of legal education -- to get anyone to revenge himself on a student. Most would think it unethical, some couldn't be bothered, and the few who might be inclined would risk being set upon by furious colleagues. Administrators are something of a different matter, but you wouldn't believe the slights, calumnies, and indignities such folks already endure without hint of vengeance. Undoubtedly there are exceptions, but this is a distraction.

  41. @RPL I suspect that mid-level faculty are just trying to hang on and praying that when the storm comes someone else's house gets demolished instead of their own.

    1. Where are they going to go? There are no jobs!

  42. I spent yesterday doing OCI. Probably three quarters of the 20 students I interviewed handed me lists of references on which law profs figured prominently. Clearly, there's a widely held view that getting references from law profs helps with landing a job. (Myself, I could not care less.)

  43. Who gives out references during a screening interview? Weird.

  44. RPL: The most prominent voices in the reform movement within legal academia are almost without exception all midlevel people. I hear from quite a few untenured and non-tenure track faculty who are anywhere from quite unhappy to completely disgusted with the status quo, but who don't believe their employment situation allows them to speak out.

    What's much more striking is the almost complete absence of senior people. One would think that a 65+ year old professor with 30 or more years in legal academia -- and there are a lot of such people on faculties these days -- would be ideally situated to contribute to calls for reform.

  45. Why would a future/current pensioner bother to change the status quo?

  46. Speaking of law and scam and student loans, there is another huge group of people being conned into 2 and 4 year legal assistant/paralegal degrees.

  47. Law Prof: Thanks for the response. Its the most encouraging thing I've heard (although, alas, that's not saying much). For anything to change there must be someone within the system with a long term incentive for change. The senior leadership has shown itself intellectually and morally bankrupt.


  48. I will have more thoughts in a new post, but don’t want anyone to fear that I’m scared off or nursing hurt feelings because I haven't commented today. I’ve been nursing a seriously ill family member and preparing for class--and if you track djm comments you already know that I'm not much of a morning person. But here are a few thoughts to get back in the mix:

    The most important one is that it will not change my efforts one way or the other whether students form groups or join the effort in other ways. Many schools will be examining their future this year, in a way that schools haven't done seriously for a long time, and I think students could play a helpful role in that discussion. This is also a chance to begin discussing issues with much broader ramifications: educational cost, future jobs, income distribution, investment in our country’s future, the economic relationship of generations. But if law students don’t want to take part in the discussion, or feel too intimidated to do so, that’s fine. I’m in this fight for the long term, and there are both professors and practitioners who are in the fight as well. Small numbers of us for now--but not just the people on this blog. And the numbers are always small at the beginning of change.

  49. Are there any professions in which the people 65 and older are the prime movers for reform? What does "senior leadership" mean? Do you mean older people in the ABA or AALS? I would guess most older law professors think about what is going on in their particular schools, and don't see themselves as part of a national group that is to be lead by some "leadership" class. The evidence indicates that schools are being forced to make decisions about what to do in the current crisis. I'm sure older law professors are involved in those decisions. Just because people are not on blogs does not mean there is no interest, and being on blogs does not solve the problem either.

  50. I think Shark Sandwich @ AUGUST 9, 2012 9:48 AM nailed it. You cannot organize a group of students into a cohesive unit when they are primarily concerned with the in-fighting law school fosters.

    I have never witnessed anything quite like it. And I've been around the block a few times, believe me. I saw people thrown under the bus at first opportunity. The stories I could tell! It was like living in a Solzhenitsyn novel. Mistrust was everywhere.

  51. I agree with the posters who doubt the feasibility of trying to change legal academia from the inside. 1) students are too vulnerable or brainwashed or simply emotionally overwhelmed to organize ; 2) academic politics would, I imagine, discourage most mid-level professors---they either want tenure or want plum committee assignments to enhance their salaries or marketability and rocking the boat won't help them in any regard ("University politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small."--Henry Kissinger)

    It seems to me the change must come from the outside. I propose the formation of a national association with a benign sounding name, such as the American Legal Society--whatever. Membership is open to all the law school grads screwed or soon to be screwed by this awful system; veteran lawyers who are realizing that the annual crush of graduates is slowly eroding their ability to make a living; and academics---anyone who realizes this system is unsustainable and the ABA has abdicated all responsibility for this profession.

    This organization could have annual meetings, it's members could work out policy position papers (such as restraints on student loan funding, etc.) a speaker's bureau (people who are articulate and could go on air and explain the organization's policy positions---24 hour cable shows crave issues to fill up the day), a legislative relations committee to pressure lawmakers into changing the current, broken student loan funding model and challenge the status of ABA's power to accredit law schools, even a group dedicated to changing the disdain HR managers carry for the JD degree so some of our folks can get a decent job----this list is not exhaustive or comprehensive, but you get the idea.

    Will it take some time to get off the ground? Probably. Will it take some time for it to become effective? Maybe. But, the law school problem didn't occur in a day and it will take some time to solve it---but we can solve it--this I firmly believe.

  52. One thing that Professor Merritt is right about, if I may paraphrase by stealing a quote from Joe Hill:

     “Don't waste any time mourning - organize!”


  53. 11:34 is exactly right: It is very unlikely that most law professors or administrators would hold against students the activities I have proposed--or even, as 11:39 says, remember the names of the students who participated in them.

    Law students are a very vocal group of complainers; in my experience, they are not shy about registering their views on many subjects. They complain that exam period is too long or too short; they complain that their section studied the Model Penal Code while another section studied state law (duplicate that complaint for every other difference among first-year sections); they complain that a second-year professor cold calls students during interview season; they complain that a second-year professor *doesn't* cold call students. They petition to eliminate first-year courses that some professors dearly want to teach. They complain bitterly (and quite properly) about the need to improve legal writing and clinical opportunities--changes that would reduce money for other initiatives the faculty would prefer.

    I agree with many of these complaints--although when they're contradictory, I try to stick with one side. But for any one complaint, a student could offend quite a number of professors. And, although these complaints hardly go to the core of global issues, they touch on things that matter personally to professors.

    Moving to the next, more politically challenging level, do you recall the fights between the Christian Legal Society and gay law students during the last 5-7 years? Or the fact that CLS members sued several law schools? For the entire 28 years I've been in teaching, there have been complaints about whether BLSA should exist, how it should define its membership, whether it should have its own lounge...

    If professors wanted to keep grudge lists, we would have to paper our walls with them. There's just too much disagreement within the walls of a law school to worry about it--especially if students step forward to address an issue of serious importance to the future of the school and profession (as, in fact, some of the issues listed here have been).

  54. Many withering comments indeed in negative reply to the last two posts!

    So, if the notion of youngsters emulating their pathetic boomer woodstock era forebears whilst holding hands and singing puling strains of Kumbayah in a multitude of regional advocacy groups seems, within the last 24 hrs. to have gone the way of the 8 track tape and the electric waffle iron and the electric typewriter.....

    Let us withdraw apace, and revisit what seems to be the original question, which is: What solutions are there for the many, many problems that have been so well identified by the young scambloggers and also this blog?

    Civil Disobedience is passe and has been conquered by Homeland Security, as was evidenced by Sl debt protestors getting maced last year at Occupy.

    Homeland Security had it's genesis in the summer of 69. The cruel and self centered hippie boomers needed to figure out a way to prevent younger generations from using their own tricks against them and their usury.

    What better way than to resort to barbarism, which is all the counterculture was: a repudiation of Western Civilization, and a regression to barbarism.

    Let's go back to the drawing board and a clean, new sheet of drafting paper.

    And please, no summer of 69 assholes should offer any ideas. Haven't you harmed America enough already?

  55. Prof. Merritt:

    Those complaints do not go to the heart of the system itself. Nor do those complaints involve self-identifying as a "loser" of the law school game. That is a very difficult thing to do in the hyper-competitive environs of lawschool. I imagine it takes some separation from law school to shed the sense of shame at "failing" before these folks can recognize that law school was a rigged game from the beginning, much less develope enough anger to organize.

    But you are right. It's time to start taking real, concrete, concerted action.

  56. 3:22

    While I may be an "asshole", I was all of 12 in 69 and I was and remain an opponent of the Department of Homeland Security. You might want to think twice about alienating people willing to help just because you don't like the year in which they were born.

  57. I agree with tdennis that a national organization would be very useful. It might function something like the Federalist Society--a group that is highly antagonistic toward current law school faculties. The group's mission statement opens with the declaration: "Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law." That's probably enough to irritate most law professors!

    Today, the Federalist Society has chapters at every law school (with more than 10,000 student members), as well as divisions for legal professionals (30,000 members) and faculty members (many fewer members--number not disclosed on the website!) And it has had significant impact on many policy issues.

    But here's something to think about: The Federalist Society started as a student organization at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Chicago in 1982. It has grown from that beginning. It had some powerful early backers, but it was a student group. And it was a group that attacked--and still attacks--the intellectual foundations of many law schools. Yet those students get references and jobs. I suspect that, when they go on interviews, they even find employers who agree with them.

  58. Prof. Merritt:

    What if we plan a conference ( yes, I know, a lot of work) and see who shows up? Perhaps have it in an area rich in law schools. Just because I don't think it will attract many students is no reason not to experiment. The first conference may attract all of 15 people, but we need to start somewhere, even if it is at an Applebee's in Columbus (and even if you and I were born in the wrong decade/century).

  59. Congress needs to stop the unlimited flow of money to fund the law school scam. It is much worse than made out. The adversarial system drastically affects experienced lawyers. There was on commenter today from a V10 law firm saying his firm places all of their departing associates. That is no longer the case at most firms lower down on the food chain, and these firms fire a huge number of lawyers each year based on up or out policies. Furthermore, in house employers have become much more savvy about the numbers of surplus lawyers. They can churn lawyers, the way law schools can jack up tuition to sky high levels, because of the surplus lawyers seeking jobs. If you go to someplace that does not protect its lawyers, prepare to be out on the street with no notice. Prepare for a revisit of the high school clique. Keeping your job is like winning a lottery. If the clique does not find you acceptable, you will be out in a second, and if you fall out of favor you will be out in a second. All a function of your fungibility as a lawyer because there are hundreds of qualified people standing in line to replace you. Law firms can engage in the firing churn as can in house employers just because they can. Thank the law schools for this awful surplus and your long-term poor job prospects even if you spent a decade at a V5 law firm.

  60. 3:35

    You are absolutely right on everything point you made. Mid law, I hear, is even worse and those firms our imploding monthly. I have become convinced that until we as a group figure out how to reform the law school loan system, our attempts at reform may be futile---but we must organize to accomplish this task.

  61. lame, lame, lame. All LAME!

    Why can't Campos just write a Dear Congress or Dear President Obama letter about these here problems, and cc us all here?

    Telling students to act like outmoded, reincarnated 1% elite boomer brats, who, in essence, practised sobriety while pretending to be angst ridden and possibly on LSD whilst stroking lava lamps,while winking at wall street all the while, and with singular and great, boomer, deceptive cunning, is kinda dumb.


    LOL! I hit a nerve hey? And got you off your crusty old mid fifties complacent rump!

    Poor and preposterously indebted people with not much left to live for can maybe do that once in a while. Needle, needle needle :)

    I bet you spun stupid old-tech plastic records and smoked pot and used to talk to your misguided teeny bop friends about how great all the idiotic creeps (some of whom are now solidly part of the 1% and very wealthy today) that played music at the 69 woodstock concert, were.

    And it's one two three four what are we fightin' for?


    The counterculture got it's wish.

    I had to laugh when Bob Dylan played for a primary school a few years back and scared the crap out of the little kids.

    Kids are pretty perceptive, and know an insincere and greedy hippiecrite when they see one, such as Bob Dylan.

    But go ahead and read your favorite POS rag: rolling stone magazine, the rag of the huge, corporate junk music industry and the 1% and bible for the souless Wall Street cruel Boomers that still think their generation will somehow matter.

    Boomers suck.

  62. And now a word about employers. First a gentle reminder: I graduated from Columbia in 1980 and spent two years clerking in DC with top grads from the rest of the T6. I know plenty of BigLaw senior partners and Fortune 500 GCs; we swapped course outlines and studied for the bar together. Despite my questionable demise into academia, they haven't stopped talking to me. I know a little bit about what they think and, perhaps more important, what pushes their buttons pro and con.

    A surprising number of these powerful people had to stand up for unpopular positions early in their careers. Those weren't kumbaya days; we were all a little too young for the summer of love. For us, it was pushing for the first maternity leaves; being the first lawyers to give birth while on the payroll; refusing to attend luncheons at clubs that wouldn't admit female or minority members; being the first to come out of the closet; deciding what to say to the senior partner who squeezed the bottoms of young female associates; gathering the nerve to tell a senior colleague that a racist joke wasn't appropriate.

    Most of them have also had experiences where a brave objection saved their own hides. There are so many temptations in law practice to step just a little over the line. When a junior person says, "wouldn't that violate the discovery order?" or "that's not really an accurate number, is it?"--and is right--these people are thankful. Because, after practicing more than 30 years, we also know lawyers who have been disbarred or served jail terms.

    These are people who have little patience for the kind of "I might lose a good reference" attitude expressed in many of the comments. Most of them acknowledge privately that they may have caused this attitude in their children, by always being there to fix things. But they still don't like it, and they certainly don't want to hire it.

  63. @4:12, you only prove that this silly movement is just that, silly. I mean, you guys are so full of angst mingled with fear that it smells of desperation.

    I ask this: did you all fail the second part of law school (the job finding part) out of laziness? I mean, honestly. What did you all do in order to find a job?

    4:12: did you look beyond your area? Did you consider relocating? Did you network? Did you go to bar events or find a mentor? Did you talk to professors? Did you consider an LLM? If not, you have no reason to complain.

  64. Ha! An LLM. Great idea, man!

    As for the other suggestions, he probably didn't do those. Good call.

  65. Wow: this exists.


  66. tdennis, the Applebee's Society--I love it! Seriously, I think a conference/meeting would make sense at some point--thanks for the suggestion. In the immediate future, I think a lot can be done by just a few interested students, faculty, and alumni or local practitioners in various places. I have some specific ideas for the kind of information these groups can request or collect, and others like you will have ideas to add to that. And as someone who has been in legal education for a long time, I have some ideas about how that information could be used, where the pressure points are, etc. Practitioners like you will have other good ideas about pressure points. What's your favorite Applebee's dish?

  67. DJM

    If I may add to your list: asking the judge to please not call you "honey" in front of the jury.

  68. @ 4:16 PM

    LOL! You sound like you are failing, and old, and somehow I think you are a boomer.


    Boomers take notice:

    John Lennon and Yoko Ono are Capitalistic, mass production Art. The Strawberry Fields part of Central Park is a well paid for Corporate backed place to go to for young people to contemplate post woodstock concert unchecked capitalistic usury and debt for life.

    If you wear blue Yoko gimmick sunglasses it might help to see the whole situation in a disgusting light.

    Bob Dylan is the same.

    Jimi Hendrix was NOT THAT GOOD!

    Janis Joplin is not a creator of culture or a world leader, and neither is Mick Jagger, who is preposterously wealthy.

    All of the above are culture peddlers and are sold on the open market.


  69. 4:24 p.m., wow. That is a mind blower. I take it somewhat personally that this new blog denies my existence: "Even some "professors" (there is no proof that there are any professors who are against law school - it could all be a ruse) are jumping in on the bandwagon . . . ."

    Let me reassure all of the students signed up for my Evidence course and Prosecution Clinic this fall: Reports of my non-existence have been greatly exaggerated.

  70. My letter to Mr. Infinity:

    I can help you with the layout of your blog. There are ways to make it look better.

    Really, I can help, and I come in full friendship and willing to hear all you want to say.

    And maybe I can put in a good word for you with Nando and Cryn Johannsen, and maybe they will put you on their blogrolls?

    If you can arrange for us to both be on national TV I will agree to the interview.

    What more can I say?


    BTW: Julia Child (My Baby :) once did a wonderful show about the fish that was served up on a platter, with the tail up and thru the mouth.

    A Fench Recipe, and there is a name for it.

  71. DJM- If you feel you are able to reveal this information on this blog, please go to your law school alumni directory and tell us how many of the women and how many of the minorities and how many of the white males are currently working at 100+ person law firms or in house, how many in the government and how many in business or not employed. Please tell us how many of people in each group there were in your class. Interesting to know how the law school implosion has affected more experienced lawyers.

  72. 5:08, I'm a little uncomfortable with that because it's a private site and the individuals give their information to the school with that understanding. It's also a little tricky for me because, as a professor at a university, I can't do research on human subjects--and that type of information probably would qualify--without getting permission from the Institutional Review Board. I could probably get permission from Columbia to use the list, and then from the IRB board here, but it would take some time I haven't had so far.

    This summer, I have been doing a variety of internal studies of outcomes for OSU grads to share with my colleagues here. At some point soon I hope to post information on how to conduct that type of study, so that professors (or students) at other schools could do the same thing if they wanted to. Actually, for recent classes, almost anyone can gather the relevant information through the internet--and I think I can give helpful tips on how to do it.

    Eventually, I also hope to apply for IRB approval, build on the internal studies I've been doing, and publish more generally applicable information about outcomes for law grads. I probably shouldn't have gotten so distracted by blogging this summer :)

    But I'll post some info soon on how people can gather some useful data about lawyer careers. That might help address some questions.

  73. Lucky NYU Law faculty member to get $3.5 million apartment:

  74. Old news. Real estate investment.

  75. I have an idea:

    The next time Occupy arranges a public Student Loan Debt protest, why not have ugly old Bob Dylan and old and gross Yoko Ono, both uneducated in a formal sense and sub higher ed boomer idols and inordinately and preposterously wealthy from the late 20th century commoditization of music, and Wall Street Shills, spray pepper mace into the faces of the young and poor, indentured with no way out, commoditized, educated class?

    Dylan can scream hypocritical shit music of his own making at the kids, and Yoko can aim the pepper spray right into the eyes of the trusting young faces and beneficiaries of Higher American Ed?

    All satire of course :)

  76. And the rest of the outstandingly wealthy Boomer idols, such as rich Neil Young, can twiddle guitars about old men looking at life and etc and celebrate how they all got rich under a system that was bent on severely punishing education, and celebrated overall hypocritical crap and junk, such as Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

    Baby Boomers have nothing but garbage in their souls, and thier idols are all garbage too.

    I can think of one trillion reasons why.

  77. 5:08/DJM

    As a Columbia alum (though not from CLS, but undergrad), I am pretty sure I can access some of those directories as well. However, the information is only as good as the response rate. I don't have the same ethical concerns as DJM... ;-) What should I be looking for specifically?

  78. Fat guy:

    Universities and major colleges are in effect a conglomerate corporation - a GE or Samsung - except that instead of making a range of products from jet engines to microwaves, or phones to ships - the Universities cover a range from medicine to law to history of art, BAs, BScs, PhDs, MA, MBAs, JDs, MDs etc. The result is that their costs are kinda fuzzy - money is fungible after all.

    In any university or college department you have multiple sets of costs - but the big issue is central overhead (you can use all sorts of terms for it.) Central overhead is the cost of maintaining common facilities the whole university or college uses - be it sports facilities - football stadiums for example, or boathouses stacked with 4 and 8s and small racing dinghys, or squash courts, etc., squares and gardens and "university hall," guidance counsellors and the college presidents house and salary, common use lecture theaters and other facilities, campus clubs, etc., student registration.

    So to understand law school finance you need to understand that there are tow sets of numbers. First, the college or university is limited by the ABA to taking no more than 20% of the law schools tuition as a straight rake-off. But, many colleges and universities then charge academic departments, such as law schools, for use of common facilities, common "overhead." Now that is pretty elastic - who knows, the law school may be charged for the football or basketball team as part of sports facilities. There have been major rows about this as some colleges and universities have managed to get a rumoured 40% of law school revenue. But it is hard to know.

    Now I was an oarsman as an an undergraduate - not great, but I did row - and when in law school I though it might be good to get out on the river in a scull from time to time, and my school did charge a contribution towards the boat house facilities - but when I tried to actually arrange to have a scull to take out on the river, it was made very clear that this was not for the law school, just undergraduates who were eligable under NCAA rules.

    Some law schools addressed this issue to a degree by moving themselves away from the main college/university campus - a tactic designed to disconnect budgetarily as much as possible. Nonetheless, understand that many law schools have programs that generated an effective "geyser of cash" for their host institution and many had every drop of surplus cash charged out.

    It is very hard to work out what the financial relationship of most law schools is to their parent institution - but it seems probably that if you could take all the junk out of the balance sheets they are net contributors in almost all instances, big net contributors.


    is clearly a joke site. It includes intentional mistakes like suggesting that American University is in Virginia when it is in DC, close to the Maryland border - and numerous other BS statements. It is actually a pretty good parody of what defenders of the worst law schools are now arguing- but is running out of steam - it is a hard joke to keep going.

  80. 3:22

    What the hell are you talking about?
    Electric waffle irons are still very popular.

  81. 5:08, if you're interested in doing this (just as a concerned alum, not as a scholar doing human subjects research), you could take a particular class and record the professional positions (or work address if a particular position isn't listed). Classes from 20, 25, or 30 years ago might be particularly interesting.

    It's probably not wise to rely solely on the positions given in the directory itself; many people do not update their law schools on their whereabouts. You'll want to confirm current positions through the web. You also should search for positions for people who don't list any in the school directory. Some of them may be unemployed, but others have just lost touch with their school (or are too p'd off to stay in touch).

    I can give some fuller thoughts on how to do that searching in a separate post. It's actually quite fun. But gotta finish this class syllabus tonight! Wouldn't want a first week of classes without assigned readings :)

  82. ^^^^ No, NOBODY likes to eat electric waffles.

    It's frankly shocking that you'd suggest otherwise.

  83. You know, I figured it had to be satire. Joke's on me I guess. We can therefore take everything Mr. Infinity says as a joke. Carry on.

  84. MacK,
    Interesting. I was always under the belief that the 20% rakeoff was to cover those common charges.

  85. I have looked at my class results and anecdotally and from the directory they are awful. Those $160,000 jobs are not there for experienced lawyers, especially once you take out the white male group. School's advertisIng those jobs to get 0Ls to sign up is fraud. The older the class gets, the less likely they are to have high paying jobs. Not because people want to take it easy. The good jobs are not open to all uniformly. Age, sex and race matter very much and the result is sickening.

  86. Here is a very funny site called: "Boomer Deathwatch"

  87. A funny comment on the Boomer Deathwatch site:

    "David Crosby is coming for your liver!"

  88. College Debt Hits Well-Off
    Upper-Middle-Income Households See Biggest Jumps in Student Loan Burden

  89. @8:15 PM

    Mr. Infinity is probably just JD Painterguy. He said that he was going to make some changes to his blog.

  90. fat guy:

    It is a little more complex yet - and this will be a long posting. The ABA sets various standards for approval of law schools - i.e., their accreditation, in particular:


    (a) The present and anticipated financial resources of a law school shall be adequate to sustain a sound program of legal education and accomplish its mission.

    (b) A law school shall be so organized and administered that its resources are used to provide a sound program of legal education and to accomplish its mission.

    Interpretation 201-1
    A law school does not comply with the Standards if its financial resources are so inadequate as to have a negative and material effect on the education students receive.


    (a) If a law school is part of a university, that relationship shall serve to enhance the law school’s program.

    (b) If a university’s general policies do not adequately facilitate the recruitment and retention of competent law faculty, appropriate separate policies should be established for the law school.

    (c) The resources generated by a law school that is part of a university should be made available to the law school to maintain and enhance its program of legal education.

    (d) A law school shall be given the opportunity to present its recommendations on budgetary matters to the university administration before the budget for the law school is submitted to the governing board for adoption.

    Interpretation 210-1
    A law school does not comply with the Standards if the charges and costs assessed against the law school’s revenue by the university leave the law school with financial resources so inadequate as to have a negative and material effect on the education students receive.

    Interpretation 210-2
    The resources generated by a law school that is part of a university should be made available to the law school to maintain and enhance its program of legal education. “Resources generated” includes law school tuition and fees, endowment restricted to the law school, gifts to the law school, and income from grants, contracts, and property of the law school. The university should provide the law school with a satisfactory explanation for any use of resources generated by the law school to support non-law school activities and central university services. In turn, the law school should benefit on a reasonable basis in the allocation of university resources.

  91. As you can see - a little vague. There is no formal 20% rake-off ceiling - it has just been rumoured that this is the level that the ABA is pushing. However, numerous reports put the direct rake-off at 25-35% - see for example the New York Times Article "Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!"!&st=cse

    “If my president were to say ‘We’ll never take more than 10 percent of your revenue,’ I’d say ‘God bless you,’ and we’d never have to talk again,” says Lawrence E. Mitchell, the incoming dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. “But having just come from a two-day meeting of new and current deans organized by the American Bar Association, I can tell you that some law schools pay 25 or even 30 percent.”

    Among deans, the money surrendered to the administration is known informally as “the tax.” Even in the midst of a merciless legal downturn, the tax still pumps huge sums into universities, in part because the price of a law degree continues to climb.

    The problem for the law schools is that a straight "rake-off" hurts their USNWR ranking, since part of its scoring system considers the amount of money the law school spends per student "on that student's education." So law schools have an incentive to allow the University to actually inflate charges to the law school for common services - since this is money actually "spent" on the law student - and to understate the direct take from a share of the tuition.

  92. Now you may wonder what happens when there is no proper explanation of what the University is charging the law school for - and on one occasion this came up - at the University of Baltimore. The ABA accreditation report actually asked the question and insisted that the law school dean get together with the university president and come up with a clear answer (as opposed to the usual murk). The day after that report came out - the law school Dean was fired, presumably for allowing such an unpleasant subject to come out from under the rug.

  93. Wouldn't a lot of public law schools "rake-off" or otherwise transfer amounts be subject to Open Records laws?

  94. JDpainter seems to be at it again, telling the world how it is. Or should I say, telling the world how it isn't. Doesn't it seem fishy that most scambloggers and their readers are the type of people who have lost it upstairs?

    I mean, look at some. Nando, for instance, seems hellbent on verbally assaulting anyone who doesn't see eye-2-eye with him (he's lucky he doesn't get slapped with a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress). And JDPainter likes to POWERBASH the baby boomers (all satire of course).

    This is the scamblog movement. A bunch of rag-tag kids trying to show the world that the educational system is a conspiracy. How do you honestly believe your own arguments?

  95. Thanks LAW prof, blogged this issue.
    I agreed with, and truth on this--- Law schools and their students are now in what in many ways is a fundamentally adversarial relationship.

    The Law school is not a scam, the Profs are competent enough, are not scammers. The only obstacles came from the restricted rule by---ABA/ STATE COURT.
    The real criminals are the ABA/STATE COURT, made lunatic rule---JD GRADS ( no license) , can not give legal advice / bring client to the court.
    1>The rule undermined JD grads abilities , it meant that--law school and law profs are incompetent.
    3>ABA/STATE COURT ABETTING LICENSED ATTORNEY SCAMS on the one needs legal helps,....freely.

    This is truthfully a fundamentally adversarial law systems----MONOPOLIZED BY ABA/STATE COURT .




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