Thursday, January 10, 2013

A petition

The linked petition refers specifically to the present situation at Duke Law School, but could with very few changes be applied to almost any elite school.  (The situation at non-elite schools is of course almost invariably far worse).

I hope the petitioner succeeds in eliciting a conversation among members of the Duke law school community and its alumni regarding the state of the school. I also hope it helps inspire similar conversations at other law schools where the cost of the school's degree is now in a problematic relation to the benefits that degree confers -- which is to say at every law school in America.

Update:   The petition now includes a signature page.

57 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Of course, if all this transparency into the budget is actually granted, you may end up with some professors feeling they are being underpaid compared to others and complaining or suing, so a bunch of people get raises to make things comparable -- See, e.g., the situation at UTexas last year -- and then tuition goes up even more.

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  3. Replies
    1. ...and by Duke I mean the Duke alumnus.

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  4. How would the median debt figures help a prospective student? If it turns out that the median student last year got a 20% scholarship (I have no idea what the actual numbers are, this is just an example), how does it help a student calculate their own situation if they were offered no scholarship or a 50% scholarship or a full scholarship? It may actually be more misleading for them to have this info rather than no info at all.

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    1. I've always thought that information was pretty worthless as well as there will be wide variation among students (rich parents, schollies, etc.)

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  5. that was a really well laid out letter. after reading ITLSS almost since inception, I don't think it could've been any more better.

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  6. Zero chance of success. Only when Congress ends the student loan gravy train will this bullsh!t end.

    $210,000 for a Duke JD, plus the foregone earnings? PLease.

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  7. Boom goes the dynamite.

    Since this letter can serve as a template (Ctrl-C) for similar letters at *every* law school...it probably will...quickly.

    Given their moral character (as demonstrated by their actions over the last three decades) the schools will try and stonewall and/or lie.

    But when *specific* requests for *specific* pieces of data are repeatedly denied/ignored *publicly*...the schools will be exposed for what they are.

    And the application numbers will continue to plummet.

    Then, some of the better performers may come clean...since they know the truth will harm them less than their competitors.

    And then the game will finally be over...the Cooleys of the world will have nowhere to hide.

    1) Stonewall and be ignored by applicants

    2) Tell the truth and be destroyed by it

    3) Lie and be sued over and over.

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  8. A quick glance at Duke's Form 990 says that an employee named "Michael W. Krzyzewski" was paid $7.2 million in 2011.

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    1. Duke LS or Duke Univ?

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    2. I believe he teaches Contracts and some Evidence at Duke.

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    3. He teaches a course on "How to effect outcomes by screaming obscenities at officials in a gym filled with the most obnoxious little shits imaginable."

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  9. At least Coach K's students don't have to pay $50,000+ per year and tuition and aren't given bogus employment stats about their employment prospects in the NBA

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    1. Instead, they're given bogus grades, and they don't pay any tuition.

      The unifarcities have become a total disgrace. I'd shut down all of their quasi-professional sports programs.

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  10. Still 30,226 people took LSAT last December

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  11. Terrific letter. I urge students and alumni to send similar letters to their deans; I hope that some faculty will also join. I am about to send the link to the dean at my school noting that, although our tuition isn't as high as Duke's, neither are our outcomes. We have already started this type of discussion at my school, but I think this letter will serve as a catalyst for sharpening and expediting the discussion.

    That could be true at other schools as well: Even sending this link to a dean will serve as a particularly sharp reminder that we are far past the breaking point in legal education.

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    1. Any highlights from the discussions?

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    2. No. Sending a link to a dean will not "serve as a particularly sharp reminder that we are far past the breaking point in legal education."

      It will serve as a particularly feeble reminder that despite the minor bluster generated by the scamblogs, 99.999% of all law grads, law professors, and law students really can't be bothered to do more than email a link, and 99.998% of them won't even do that.

      What would serve as a good reminder - and perhaps you could start at your school, DJM? - is a law professor going into the dean's office, having printed up the letter herself, signed it personally, and then demanded a response in writing.

      When are you handing your signed copy to your dean?

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    3. Oh man you really set her straight. Haven't heard any of this before - "The scamblog movement hasn't done anything!" or "If you were really serious you'd..."

      As someone said yesterday, piss off, Leiter.

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  12. Didn't Karen Owen powerpoint presenter attend Duke?

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  13. What the Duke Law administration wants to say in response but can't:

    1) STFU. If you don't like it, transfer to a shittier school and make your situation worse.

    2) To the guys, take your Duke Law student ID card and flash it to the chicks at the Charlotte or Elon law school parties. Trust me, you won't regret it so long as you act remotely like gentlemen.

    3) To some of the girls, a Duke JD is essentially a finishing school and a MRS degree.

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  14. 9:16,

    So law schools are literal, as well as metaphorical, whorehouses?

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  15. 8:30 am - Duke athletes are not given bogus grades, although I concede basketball players are given more leeway than the average student.

    I attended Duke on an athletic scholarship, i.e. I was indeed a quasi-professional athlete. The academic rigor at Duke was higher than at the top 10 law school I attended, where I was at the very top of the class, Order of the Coif, and a "main" law journal editor. Be careful of what you write. Duke is not perfect, but it does attract a very high percentage of phenomenally good student athletes. It simply is the case. My teammates today are by and large very successful, all in endeavors which require rigorous academic study (e.g., physicians, world class researchers, and on the bottom end of the pool, lawyers).

    This having been said, I agree with the thought of shutting down the quasi-professional sports programs which universities run. Athletic programs are such a distraction from the academic mission. It confounds me how a group of largely non-athletic people who have little idea of the rigors of high level competition (university presidents and administrations) become kow-towed by sports programs. From a personal level, nothing in my life was anywhere near as difficult as competing in athletics at an intense, high national level while trying to develop academically. To this day I wonder how much "better" and "mature" my academic development would have been if not for athletics, the only means I had to pay for a school like Duke. Multiply my personal experience by considerable numbers, and collectively a much more focused academic environment could obtain.

    I would also comment that while Duke was good to me, it is not a place which is sensitive to people without money. In this respect I am not sure it differs from any other top 10 universities, which reek with money and ego and prestige and entitlement. Attending such a place as a poor person who somehow did well academically provided a voyeuristic glance into the world of the entitled and it was fascinating. But for people without means (and this includes law students), it can be a difficult place from a cultural perspective unless one truly has their backbone in place. In this regard, I think the petition from a "Duke alumnus" is much needed and spot-on.

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    1. If "basketball players are given more leeway", doesn't that mean, more or less, that they are given bogus grades?

      I agree with your comments about the nexus of wealth and élite or near-élite schools such as Duke. A book published a few years ago spent a whole chapter discussing how Duke transformed itself from a backwater to a prestigious school in a decade or so—by catering to wealthy and prominent people. Those of us from modest circumstances are largely kept out—or, at best, left to struggle with both our studies and sports or jobs in order to pay our way.

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  16. The petition indicates that 30% of Duke law grads make the 160K biglaw salary.

    Of course, some are in prestigious federal clerkships and others have slightly lower - but still relatively high - salaries.

    I suppose this isn't bad.

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  17. Duke Law School Famous alumnus = Tucker Max = I hope they serve beer in Hell
    :)

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    1. Also, President Richard M. Nixon.

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  18. Anyone else notice this odd fact from the letter:

    "Only 58.9 percent of 2011 graduates landed jobs in private firms, and of that group only half made $160,000 as first year associates."

    So about 30% of the entire class started with a salary of $160K. But the other 30% of that nearly 60%? What percentage made, say, $150K? $140K? Over $100K?

    I'm betting that it's far, far more, probably closer to 80% or 90% of the entire group who found jobs in private firms.

    Sorry, but I have few tears to shed for outcomes such as this.

    Now, the same letter sent to any one of the lower tier schools (anything outside the top 50) would actually make far more sense. But I doubt there are many at Duke who really can't pay their average debt of $145K (including accrued interest).

    I had close to that from undergrad (about $15K) and law school (about $120K) combined, nearly a decade ago, from a TTT.

    Only 30% of the class had a starting salary of $160k...at my school, maybe one person every two years gets that kind of opportunity.

    Are the problems faced by law grads at a T14 school like Duke even remotely close to what most of us face? It's like the millionaire complaining that gas has gone up $0.25 per gallon, because it will cost him more to fill up his Porsche SUV. Hardly the same issue that the rest of us are facing, where these costs are actually a big deal compared to our incomes.

    I just don't see Duke Law grads as going on to lead lives of poverty and misery. Those degrees do open doors, many doors. It's the TTTs that are ruining lives, not Duke.

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    1. Agreed. I posted the same concern about three hours before your post.

      To be fair, I think Duke Alumnus is trying to keep tuition from increasing further. It's great that 30% of their class gets $160K salaries with others getting slightly lower or going to federal clerkships. But if the administration gets away with this, then it will only be a matter of time before Duke costs $100,000 per YEAR with the rest of the T14 following suit.

      But yeah - if a Duke Law grad is fortunate to get a $120K salary job with $200K SL debt, she will NOT get sympathy from me.

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    2. With a quick Google search, you can find the bimodal distribution of starting salaries. If you're below $160K, the chances are that you're very, very far below.

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    3. Seeing that even many students at Duke, and for that matter Harvard, graduate heavily indebted and unemployed, ou should know that your school at which perhaps one person every two years gets one of those high-paying jobs is a bad bet for anyone.

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  19. So let me see, the headline goes something like:

    EXTRA! EXTRA!

    "Impertinent brat from upper crust school is a mean go getter, and sends his supercilious Dean a nasty letter!"

    And his peers condescendingly recommend that the much tolerated hoi polloi do the same in their lower tier LS world.

    I'm so happy to see that progress is finally being made.

    Many a Dean will shiver and shake, and quiver and quake from now on for sure.

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  20. Wasn't it LawProf who told Stanford to lower their tuition? The high tuition model starts at HYS and works it way down. If Stanford (who has a huge endowment) lowered tuition to maybe $25K a year, the rest of the T14 would try and play along.

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    1. Excellent idea. It would then make the law schools below the T14 look even more ridiculous for charging $50k+ per year.

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    2. Imagine a toilet with the gall to charge MORE than Stanford.

      Well, there already are a few.

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  21. How about starting movement to stop US News from publishing these damn lists?

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    1. Let's say US news totally went out of business tomorrow. How would that help solve the problem of 45k grads for 22k grads exactly?

      The existence or non-existence of US News isn't what caused the number of law schools and law grads and tuition to explode. What caused it to explode is too easy to obtain student loans with no underwriting and no risk to the law schools when those loans go bad.

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    2. It wouldn't solve that problem. It might cause law schools to stop pissing away vast amounts of money to keep their expenditures-per-student and professor-student-ratios high. So it'd be easier for them to lower tuition to where it was 30 years ago (in today's $s). So at least their unemployed graduates wouldn't owe so much. But yes, you're right.

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  22. It seems somewhat ironic that the author of the petition (seeking transparency) prefers to be anonymous, but is seeking others to put their name on his/her petition.

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    1. I signed anonymously.

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  23. For the love of all that is sacred! Some sick animal just took a huuuuuuge "Seton Hall Law" in the office toilet! The janitors have been notified but their plumgers are powerless against it! It smells like a decaying animal!

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  24. It's happened. A Connecticut lawyer is offering recent law grads the opportunity to shadow him - FOR A FEE.

    http://lawandmore.typepad.com/law_and_more/2013/01/new-jds-will-pay-fee-to-shadow-experienced-ct-attorney-its-come-to-this.html

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  25. Still 30,226 people took LSAT last December

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    1. So? It doesn't mean that 30,226 will apply to law school.

      Chances are that more of those who scored under 150 (50th percentile) will either not apply or retake the exam.

      Those that scored over 150 will either retake the exam or demand higher scholarships/discounts before deciding where to go.

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  26. The following is an actual comment posted in response to the Duke petition.

    "I see this is anonymous and believe it is likely a joke. Any real Duke Law Student understands that the law school heavily subsidizes law students. The cost of education far exceeds tuition, something that his only made possible by the generosity of Duke Alumni. Furthermore, tuition would be far higher if the faculty were paid anything close to what they could make in the private sector (salaries of $1 million/year are common for partners in top law firms). Duke law students are very lucky they have selflessly decided to devote their work helping others.

    All of this is well understood which is why admissions at Duke is so competitive, prospective students understand it is a great bargain. Nevertheless it is somewhat disconcerting to see such an ungrateful tirade. Everyone should understand that Duke is doing everything it can to hold down tuition increases as far as possible. But prices do go up and we can't gut the quality of a Duke education to save a few pennies."

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    1. Ha. They don't even realize they're cattle. Its like The Time Machine with the Eloi and the Morlochs.

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    2. Riiight. I seriously doubt that comment was written by a student.

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  27. @3:46, I think there really are some students who believe this crap, plus it looks a little too obvious to be a prepared statement. I give it a 50/50 chance of being genuine.

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  28. 10:18 PM--I agree with 3:46 AM, it looks like something a law school dean spent hours crafting. Notice how it never addresses any of the points raised in the petition letter. I love how this person tries to guilt the law students by saying these profs could be earning a million bucks a year in private practice. Yeah, right!

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  29. Not a single signature on the petition yet?

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  30. The problem seems to be that no one wants to be the first to sign. If a student signs it, everyone will think that they wrote it or were involved somehow. I bet though that if someone got the ball rolling, many others would follow.

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    1. The "petition" format was probably a bad idea in the first place.

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  31. You can see a video of Levi and (the infamous moral coward) Michael Brodhead (of the Duke lacrosse debacle) talking about Levi's plans for Duke Law. When people in the audience began asking the sorts of questions this site highlights, Levi brushed them aside. He also declared that the future of Duke Law was in interdisciplinary approaches, because that's what all the great law schools are doing now.

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    1. https://www.youtube.co/watch?v=7lXxfsJgqyA&list=ECE9C9CFFACB0960D9

      starts at around the 30 minute mark, hard questions start at around 50 min. Amazing video, thanks for sharing. I can't believe how out of touch Dean Levi is :/

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