Saturday, September 10, 2011

Well I could have been in Econ but I wound up here

Joni Hersch and W. Kip Viscusi, a pair of Vanderbilt Law School professors, are publishing a paper, "Law and Economics as a Pillar of Legal Education," which features an argument for why law schools should hire people with doctorates, and in particular doctorates in Economics (such hiring practices correlate with both higher law school rank, and  higher citation rates for law faculty publications), and also advertises the existence of Vanderbilt's five-year old joint J.D./Ph.D. program in law and econ.   On one level their argument is a fairly harmless exercise in academic empire-building, but on another the paper features all sorts of information of interest to those of us concerned the ongoing slow-motion collapse of the current delivery model for legal education in America.

The paper reveals that 27% (359 of 1,338) of the tenured and tenure-track faculty, excluding tenured and  tenure-track clinical faculty,  at the 26 highest-ranked law schools per USNWR currently hold Ph.D. degrees.  (Typically, this type of analysis renders both clinical and legal writing and research faculty invisible).   Of this subset, "ninety-one faculty members have a Ph.D. in economics, followed by 61 with a Ph.D. in Political Science or related fields (e.g., Government and International Relations), 50 with a Ph.D. in History, and 43 with a Ph.D. in Philosophy."  32% of the tenured/tenure-track faculty at the top 13 schools have Ph.D. degrees, with 20% of those in the bottom half of the cohort do.  Northwestern leads the pack with 50% of its tenured/tenure track faculty holding doctorates. Other schools with a higher than 35% Ph.D. quotient include Yale, Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Penn, and Cornell.  65 of these law professors don't have a law degree.  (Since comparatively few senior law faculty have doctorates, these percentages would seem to indicate that at many of these schools a solid majority of all new hires in recent years have had Ph.Ds.)

Anyone who has had much exposure to both the dire employment situation for law graduates and the generally  poor quality of American legal education, which as many people have noted often (indeed, sometimes even at "leading" law schools) fails to deliver much of anything in the way of either edification or vocational training, will at this point be tempted to go off on a tirade about the cloistered narcissistic self-indulgence of overpaid and under-employed law professors, who are obsessing about citation counts while the legal system burns.

That kind of reaction is both perfectly understandable and eminently fair.  It does, however, run the risk of appearing to be -- and in some cases of actually being -- essentially anti-intellectual.  I don't want to be misunderstood to be arguing that there's something wrong with doing serious academic work on law and legally related topics.  I've noticed that occasionally the comments on this blog have veered off into attacks on the whole notion of studying topics such as, for example, gender and the law, while caricaturing the ideas of people such as Catherine MacKinnon, who in my opinion have done very important and valuable academic work.

But a fundamental problem with the current structure of legal education, especially at the highest-ranked schools (which because of the ratings nonsense everyone else attempts to imitate) is that the overwhelming majority of law students, including the vast majority of law students at the top schools, have almost literally no interest whatsoever in academic work per se, no matter how valuable and important such work may sometimes be.  With very few exceptions, law students are not people who would have gone to graduate school in the social sciences or humanities if they hadn't chosen to go to law school instead.  This was true of, conservatively speaking, 19 out of 20 of my classmates at Michigan 20+ years ago (at a time when the school was, much to my delight, in the midst of a veritable orgy of "Law and" faculty hiring), and even more true at schools at less exalted strata of the legal academic hierarchy.

Law students want to be -- or at least think they want to be -- lawyers, not economists, or political scientists, or historians, or philosophy professors.  Very few law students, just like very few lawyers, are intellectuals in any real sense of the word. (A commenter points out quite properly than not all academics are either, especially in law schools). This is not, I hasten to emphasize, in any way a criticism of law students and lawyers.  There's nothing special or praiseworthy in being interested in ideas for their own sake, any more than there's something special or praiseworthy about being interested in automobiles or cooking.  Society needs a certain number of reasonably well-educated and trained intellectuals, just as it needs a certain number of competent mechanics and dedicated chefs, but the idea that everybody should or can be an intellectual is as absurd as the idea that everyone should be able to rebuild the engine of a 1995 Corvette or whip up a first-rate paella. 

All of which is to say that if there's a good argument for turning law schools into faux graduate programs in Economics (or anything else) I have yet to hear it.   The argument for requiring three years of post-undergraduate education of any kind before people are allowed to practice law is at this point extremely weak. The notion that it makes sense to turn law faculties into places full of economics and political science and history and philosophy professors who have literally never practiced law a day in their lives (and, increasingly, have not ever even been in a law school classroom before they taught their first class in one!) is, shall we say, somewhat problematic -- unless you think it's a good thing that law students are now paying $150,000 for the privilege of helping to make possible the impressive faculty citation totals cited in Profs. Hersch and Viscusi's article.


  1. Paul. do you know if any studies have been done on whether professors with Ph.D.s get higher, lower, or the same teacher evaluation ratings as professors who don't have Ph.D.s.? Student evaluations of teacher quality don't tell us everything, but I would think they should be important here.

  2. Orin, I don't know of any such studies. As far as anecdotes go, a number of people have posted comments on this blog about "Law and" professors who were excellent teachers in the upper level classes they taught in their areas of academic interest, but who were quite bad when teaching required first year classes.

  3. One of the problems (it seems to me) is the entanglement of the instructional function of law schools with their credentialing function. Law students want not only to learn doctrine but also to get the best (i.e., most prestigious in the eyes of employers) credential that they can. And as the number of law grads has ballooned, the importance of having a credential better than the next guy's has only increased. That means it's more crucial than ever to get into an upper-tier law school.

    The prestige of a given law school depends largely on the scholarly oomph of its faculty and not at all on their practical expertise or teaching ability. Therefore, law schools, being ever in quest of higher prestige, are ever in quest of better scholars (or perhaps I should say "more celebrated scholars" since one's academic cachet is only partially correlated with the quality of one's scholarship).

    Thus, even though students say they want more effective and more practical teaching, they nevertheless flock to the schools with the better scholars, because those schools have more prestige and a more salable credential.

    I suppose one way to reverse this trend would be (as is so often proposed) to drastically reduce the number of law schools. If where you got your degree mattered less (because there was less competition for jobs), a school could choose to focus more on the practical, teaching side of things without facing a sudden dearth of quality customers.

  4. For what it's worth, I suspect that Ph.Ds would be better teachers because (drumroll, please) they have taught undergraduate seminars and discussion sections in grad school. In other words, they have teaching experience, unlike the traditional new hire coming from a clerkship and 5 years at Cravath.

  5. The significance of student evaluations of professors is limited by the fact that students have no idea how a particular teacher has prepared them for life beyond law school. They won't have any means to judge until they actually graduate and start living life beyond law school.

    However, I believe that the problems facing law students today really aren't related to law professors. Law students would be fine with any kind of professor provided the job market allowed them a chance to get their "real" training on the job. Further, the lack of jobs is a proxy for the lack of demand for legal services, so an emphasis on shifting practical training to the classroom is no solution.

    These are really separate issues and there is no need to try to connect them. The world of legal academia can be ridiculous even without bringing harm to the students and I enjoy reading Lawprof's related insights.

  6. Three thoughts:

    1) One of my best professors had never been to law school. He clearly did the work to learn his subject area and teach it well. He also made us think critically about the law and legal system. However, his focus and approach did reflect a more academic mindset and slightly less of a practice oriented one (though some "lawyer" law professors are even worse and don't do a good job of capturing either one). My conclusion: it's valuable to have a few of these PhD law professors in the mix, but they should be a minority; most should have been lawyers.

    2) I don't agree with the following statement: "Very few law students, just like very few lawyers, are intellectuals in any sense of the word." A significant number of lawyers and law students are interested in ideas for their own sake. I would rephrase this statement as: "Very few law students, just like very few lawyers, are ACADEMICS in any sense of the word." Personally, I don't like the tendency to equate academics and intellectuals because the category of academics is both under- and over-inclusive of intellectuals. However, with that modification, your basic point still stands.

    3) Thank you for taking on the comments about "law and" studies and the attack on MacKinnon. I'm not sure how good an instructor she is, but her work is definitely interesting and valuable. If anything, we have too many law and econ professors. Some of the basic insights are really valuable, but a lot of them use a simplistic theoretical structure to speak definitively on legal issues without having learned the details, facts, and nuance underlying those specific areas of law, society, and science. As a result, they often don't see how their theoretical structure doesn't help or, at a minimum, desperately needs modification to be relevant to the question at hand.

  7. The hiring binge of law professors with PhDs is simply another sign of "the great disconnect" i.e., that today's law schools exist primarily for the benefit of their faculty and administrators, rather than for the students' or society's benefit. One-third or more of the faculty is ridiculously high. Having said that, I do believe that a handful of "law and" faculty can round out and enhance a student's sense of how the legal system fits into society as a whole. (I'm thinking of an excellent legal history course I took in law school.) I also think that exposure to the empirical social sciences (in particular, psychology, as it relates to things like the reliability of witness testimony, or basic statistical analysis used in class action litigation) can be important and valuable to a practicing lawyer.

  8. If scholarship is the only currency, then I think there is little question that most PHDs provide better training in research methodology than the JD (which is pretty miserable in terms of requiring much in the way of research and writing). I say this as a JD teaching in an interdisciplinary non-law graduate program where many of my colleagues are social science PHDs.

    The PHD track provides more teaching experience for most prior to a tenure-track appointment, but in my experience it doesn't necessary make one a better teacher. Some people just aren't good teachers, no matter how much experience they might have. But much of what makes many JDs bad teachers is thinking they need to stick to a purely Socratic, case method approach. At its worst, this approach is lazy and a form of bullying. If done very very well, it has its merits for some classes, at least part of the time.

    The problem with the JD/PHD model is that it all but guarantees that professors will have done nothing their entire life but go to school, if only because it takes so long to complete everything. I think some practice experience is really helpful for keeping one's scholarship grounded in reality. Not that this is a criterion for tenure in the legal academy . . . which seems hell bent on proving it isn't a trade school by producing volumes and volumes of non peer-reviewed research.

    If law schools really want trained researchers for professors, then I think the European model makes a lot more sense, where law is an undergrad degree and then you can go on and get a PHD in law if you want to teach. Oh, and maybe shut down 80% of the law reviews out there and convert the rest to peer review. You can still draft students to cite check if you like. But my non-JD colleagues are simply flabbergasted when they learn for the first time that publication decisions for law reviews are made by students.

  9. 1:37: Agree strongly with everything you say, except I'd make it 90% of law journals (that would still leave something like 80).

  10. This exploration is very low on the list of important issues revolving around and "inside the law school scam."

  11. 1:37: One other benefit to shutting down the law reviews and shifting them to peer review: It's probably a necessary step to shifting Law School to a 2-year program with an optional third year of additional study. It would be almost impossible to operate student run law reviews without having the students there for 3 years.

    I felt that I learned a lot in 3 years of law school (and I'm unusual in that regard), but as far as practice, my law review experience was essentially pointless. Moreover, if I hadn't wasted so much time working on law review, I probably could have learned almost the same amount over a 2 year legal education (2.5 years at the maximum).

    Decreasing the years of education should decrease the cost of education. Of course, decreasing the years of education would substantially increase the workload on professors (they'd have to peer review their journals and likely teach more classes).

  12. "This exploration is very low on the list of important issues revolving around and 'inside the law school scam.'"

    Not sure I agree. I think it usefully highlights the profound disconnect between the schools and the students. The top schools are all desperately scrambling to make themselves into heavily credentialed "academic" institutions [and the lower ranked schools are scrambling to copy]. Meantime, however, the vast majority of students just want to learn how to be a lawyer.

  13. "...I just have to publish, I don't have to be clear."

  14. On the point of Law Reviews and their relevance.... of the 16 on LR in my graduating class only 3 work in firms, one is a clerk and the rest have gone solo...If LR doesn't help you get a job it has absolutely no point.

  15. For what it's worth, here's how I see it. There are three interrelated problems. First is the cost or rather the affordability of law school. The second is the usefulness of law school to students, the bar, and the public, I suppose, regardless of cost. The third is whether there is value in what legal academics are doing even if it isn't affordable or immediately useful.

    Schools could be providing the world's greatest preparation for lawyering and the most wonderful and insightful scholarship in the world, but if students can't pay for it, either because there aren't jobs to go around that will allow them to and/or because of the crushing debt, it doesn't matter, and it isn't worth it for most of them to go.

    I can see why the legions of the scammed don't care about 2 and 3, and I think you have to fix the first problem first. Some of the solutions I've seem floated -- shutting down half the law schools, eliminating student loans in their current form -- would allow the surviving schools to keep going without paying any attention to the second and third problems. Others, like moving the law classroom instruction into undergrad or requiring apprenticeships, would require tackling problems 2 and 3. I would rather see solutions that involve the latter (at my ideal law school there would be more practicing lawyers AND more PhDs, but fewer JD-appellate-clerkship-3-years-at-Biglaw-only professors) but I'm afraid we're going to get some variation of the former. Even as I'm lowering demand (!) by being very blunt with applicants about the costs and opportunities, I'm worried that we'll end up with law school being restricted to the rich and to the non-rich who can manage to do very, very well on the LSAT. That's why I think talk about problems 2 and 3 is important.

  16. Teacher evaluations. Holy shit. Who cares. And a study of them, no less! Ha!

  17. What a wonderful set of comments so far on this post. I am glad to see the peer review issue raised and hope we can focus more on it. My friends in the "real university" are shocked when I tell them that the vast majority of articles are not peer reviewed. I would have welcomed peer review and I think its absence in most law review articles makes the label "scholarship" inapplicable.

    Keep up the important work you are doing LawProf! As we used to say out in the real world "this dog will hunt".

  18. Lavandula that's very well stated. All three things are problems, although obviously the collapse of legal education as an economically rational proposition is what has made its vocational and academic shortcomings much more glaring and increasingly intolerable.

  19. @None/6:10 p.m.:

    You could do a separate post just on how meaningless most teacher evaluations in law school are.

    Without exception, I received a standard one-page form with the agree-disagree-don't-care bubbles on the front and open space on the back to share my thoughts with the ultimate reader. I always received this form in the last 5 minutes of one of the last 2 or 3 classes of the semester, when I had many other things competing for my attention. Anybody who used teacher evaluations as something other than a means to complain anonymously about that teacher's personal behavior was an outlier.

    This leaves aside the biggest issue, namely that a law student knows f__k-all about whether he is being effectively taught anything for later use.

  20. "Without exception, I received a standard one-page form with the agree-disagree-don't-care bubbles on the front and open space on the back to share my thoughts with the ultimate reader. I always received this form in the last 5 minutes of one of the last 2 or 3 classes of the semester, when I had many other things competing for my attention. Anybody who used teacher evaluations as something other than a means to complain anonymously about that teacher's personal behavior was an outlier."

    I have actually seen those evaluation forms serve a purpose: My PR class was taught by an adjunct, the vast majority of the class gave her very low marks on the scantron, and the administration never invited her back.

  21. @David Frazer

    I could not disagree with you more. So there's a "disconnect". Yeah. O.K. And then what?

    There are no jobs. And such jobs as there are, are not the jobs that will let you pay the bills. So you fix this "disconnect". Big deal. I mean, yes, all law students want to do is learn how to be lawyers, but that assumes that they need to know how to be lawyers because at some point someone will hire them. This is the problem I have with this blog. It forgets time and time and time again that the problem is very simple, and very basic in the sense that there is simply no purpose to law school for a very high percentage of students nationwide. I'm quite frankly tired of my patrol here, which, regardless of protestations surely to come, needs to be completed on a near-daily basis to object to the basic premise of blog entry after blog entry. And, case in point: you know, even more than learning how to be lawyers, law students want not to waste their money chasing after phantom jobs that, quite redundantly (because they are phantoms), don't exist.

    A more useful entry would have addressed the question of what law professors' responsibilities are to make sure that they're not being hoodwinked by admins into ruining kids lives by the baker's dozen. Instead, I guess we're just going to continue to let deans, marketing, admissions and financial aid - all of whom should be being ordered to swab the decks rather than steer the ship - do whatever they want, and law professors are going to continue to do what they do best, which is searching for their own ass with two hands and a flashlight and then asking each other questions about "what do you think it means to be in the dark?"

    Could you possibly be less helpful? You know, you don't have to go looking for the complexities in a problem that is, at heart, pathetically simple. You just have to have the courage to put the facts - simple as they are - to the people that need to hear them in a forceful way, stand behind your point of view on principle and force people to take very simple, common-sense steps to ameliorate circumstances for future students. We don't need every aspect of this problem to be theorized about (or even written about, to be honest).

    It doesn't matter the nature of the education students get if they're going to get dumped on the unemployment rolls; possibly excepted, of course, would be any schools - and I don't know of any - that offer courses with titles such as:

    Coping with Unemployment
    Using Drink to Drown One's Sorrows
    How to Dodge Collection Calls
    Your Consumer Debt Collection Rights
    Fun with Customer Service Reps: How Far Is Too Far?
    Cantonese: You're Gonna Need It, Gunner
    Mandarin for the All-Star ESL Recruit
    Faking Your Own Death: 101 Painless Plans that Look Real
    Marrying Down for Money (and Citi): Is It Wrong?
    Will It Be Weird Working as a Child Laborer? How to Fit in

    O.K. That's enough.

  22. LMAO at that list...nice!

  23. Chapeau to None.

    Nothing the law schools change in their administrative structure or pedagogy will create a single job opening. Legal education reform is a diversion from the only issue that matters: the oversupply of overindedbted J.D.s and under-demand for their services.

  24. @None/8:43

    I like the list.

  25. This is the problem I have with this blog. It forgets time and time and time again that the problem is very simple, and very basic in the sense that there is simply no purpose to law school for a very high percentage of students nationwide.

    This is a blog run by an intellectual (pardon me, an academic). As such the blog and many of its commenters find it interesting, enjoyable, and productive to engage in some verbal spinning-of-the-wheels to share ideas about the "problem" of legal education. Trying to feel out the contours of the problem, including its secondary and tertiary issues, may not be the world's most productive enterprise, but it's not totally worthless either.

    There's value in staying focused on the central issue (the mismatch between supply and demand) and dedicating time and effort towards constructing meaningful steps towards addressing that issue. But to assert that "Fact X" is the most important fact of an issue is a far cry from proving that "Fact X" is the only issue worth discussing.

    Could you possibly be less helpful?

    Yes. Yes, he could be less helpful. He could be like the other 99.9% of law school faculty who remain either passively or willfully ignorant of how their employers are fucking over legions of young 20-somethings.

    You know, you don't have to go looking for the complexities in a problem that is, at heart, pathetically simple.

    And there it is - a better sentence demonstrating how most law students and lawyers are "not intellectuals" could not be said.

    The vitriol you're spewing certainly speaks to how important the issue is to you, but I'd suggest that attacking a blog by a law school professor for being "professorial" is a pretty impressively wasteful way to spend your energies.

    The course list was funny. I'll add:

    Law and Moving Back in with your Parents
    Law and Economics of Ramen Noodles
    Intergender Relational Modes of Having to Have Six Roommates to Pay the Rent
    Law and the Psychology of Failure
    History of Legal Eduction: Early Roots, the Industrial Revolution, and Oh God We're Screwed
    Law and the Development of "Law and" Analyses of "Law and" Pedagogical "Law and" Courses.

  26. I had Joni Hersch at HLS. She was a terrible teacher. No students liked her as a teacher. I say this not to call out someone by name but to point out that you can be a very bad teacher - universally viewed that way by all students - and still excel in the Academy. I think that's part of the problem.

  27. Hm. My post of twenty minutes ago gone. Guess it was too harsh/sarcastic?

  28. Hm. My verb "to be" of one minute ago is gone. Guess it was too poorly conjugated?

  29. None -

    Maybe you should have one of those drinks and calm down. I'm on your side. One can acknowledge other problems with the law school model while still accepting the primacy of the financing structure. Indeed, the fact that influential players within the law school faculty community are focusing on making the education financed by excessive debt even less meaningful serves to highlight how fundamentally out of touch the faculty is, which is kinda the point of this blog.

  30. Setting aside the meta-question of whether PhDs have any practical relevance to law - as well was what I regard as the PRIMARY question of whether there's any such thing as "original research" in Law, I mean insofar as Law is not discovered but willfully created - to my mind the main problem of the PhD today, especially in "social sciences", is that the PhD has become equally as inflated as the JD.

    Exhibit One: The ludicrously stupid Condoleeza Rice did her PhD on the relationship between the Czechoslovakian Army and the Soviet Army during the era of Soviet domination of Central Europe. Her "original research" led her to conclude that the Soviet Army was the dominant one in that relationship.

    She got a PhD for that.

    And this social disease of fetishing "research" and "PhDs" is not confined to America; it has infected the entire Anglosphere. Recently I saw an ad for a Lecturer (British/Australian equivalent of American Assistant-Professor) in "Creative Writing", at a top-tier Australian university. Among the selection criteria are, "Research and publications on creative writing"...

    ..WHAT the F---? "Research" (and publiations in peer-reviewed journals) ON "creative writing"?

    Well, that would rule out Shakespeare, and Melville, and Walt Whitman and F Scott Fitzgerald, and...

    ...good GOD, what the HELL has academia become? Now you can't teach "creative writing" in any Anglosphere (US, UK, Canada, Aus/NZ) university unless you've done "original" "research" ABOUT "creative writing"?

    This kind of fetishisation of inflated "academic" credentials, is bloody Dark Age sh--. NOT "Medieval", but rather the kind of "scholarship" typical of decadent late antiquity circa 300-1000 AD, when in the remnants of Rome and then Byzantium, form was exalted over substance, and offices were conflated with merit, and for several centuries European scholarship and science retreated to an ossified halt...

    ...until around the 12th century, when European (Christendom's) science and letters were revived, NOT by any successors of holders of bureaucratic sinecures (like PhDs of today), but by persons of self-evident TALENT, eg Abelard and St Thomas Aquinas who never published any "original research".

    I look forward to the 22nd century - after our present interregnal (and hopefully short) New Dark Age - to around 100 or 200 years from now, when my gggg-grandchildren will live in a time of renaissance similar to the 12th century:

    (This entire 48 minute episode is good, but re my above points please fast-forward to 35:00 et seq):

  31. There is a scam element here as well. Let me explain.

    Student takes courses in "X." He wants to be an X academic and/or professional. However, he is quite mediocre at it. Say X is finance. Any way, he is not that good and there is no way in hell that he will attain any kind of serious private or academic finance post. He knows this. There are people in his graduate finance program who have it, but he is not one of them. He plods through his PhD and tries to figure out what to do.

    Ohhhh, law! Towards the end of his PhD he enters in the school's dual degree program so he can slap a JD by his name. Of course the law school accepts him with open arms.

    In Law and finance he is a genius. I know someone EXACTLY like this at a current T30 school. In law and finance, all he does is take very cliche and commonplace finance topics that would not be worth publishing in a finance journal, and writes a legal article about the regulation of that topic. Very easy way to churn out what is essentially academic shit, but that law reviews eat up. Law reviews are run by kids, they are LITERALLY RUN BY KIDS who have no where near the academic training required to spot a cliche hack article. They see the PhD/JD. They see the finance and law topic. Bam it's the cover article of a top 15 Law Review, even though it is pure hack shit that finance academics would shake their heads at.

    And there you have it. Someone who is neither good at finance nor law, but who is a law and finance superstar.

    You see this exact same kind of stuff with bad gender academics who become superstar law and gender academics. You see it with bad philosophy academics who become superstar law and philosophy academics. You see it with bad chemistry academics who become great law and sciences academics and so on.

    Perhaps you don't like us talking about McKinnon or other law and academics clowns, but by any measure, this is another scam. What these people are doing is fraudulently portraying themselves to the legal community as expert X academics. In fact, the X world doesn't hold them in any esteem and indeed they are X washouts. To advertise yourself with more regard than is due is an opportunistic lie, that they communicate for their own benefit, and this is why it's yet another scam.

    This is why I would never recommend law to any true academic worth his salt. The law is devoid of intellectual honesty. In practice it's basically lying for your client. In academics it's a miserable scam for all the reasons articulated by this blog. It's just shit. It's a shitty field. There are rare law folks who transcend and become great contributors, despite the swamp, but it's very hard to hold on to intellectual honesty in this field. Where there is no intellectual honesty there is no academics.

  32. I'm with Frazer. I'd also say that the general critique: "you're on my side on this major issue, but you're also agitating for change on other issues, and that distracts from the major issue" is very unproductive. First, if you want people to focus on the major issue and not others, then you should found your own blog and start your own movement for your major issue. Basically, this critique should be reserved for when you've started your own formal organization focused on the major issue and someone is trying to hijack the organization and focus on another issue. It isn't persuasive when you're just loosely aligned critiques of the status quo. Second, it itself distracts from creating a broad-based coalition for change. Third, unless you're deep into the legislative process, it's rare that one has to make trade-offs between two different reforms. Fourth, I've been involved in enough left-wing movements to know that this type of critique is rarely helpful and doesn't move the debate forward. Fifth, the depth of Law Prof's critique makes it interesting to come back; if it was all just about one problem in the law school system, I'd be less likely to check this blog daily. None of which means you're wrong that the worst problem is the financing of the legal education and the low cost-benefit ratio for the investment, particularly in lower ranked schools. It just means that it's unproductive to criticize Law Prof (or others) for addressing other concerns as well.

    When looking at the other scam blogs, I've noted that a lot of the "scammed" are limited because they're focusing solely on their "scam." They don't appear very cognizant that this "scam" is just part of a larger collapse of our social contract and a widespread "scam" against the middle class. To really build a movement for change, I would propose that the "scammed" need to root their critique in the liberal/progressive/democratic political tradition and movement. The "scammed" (and most lawyers in general) need to recognize that we're labor and share more in common with workers in other industries than with the most powerful members of our profession. The common lawyer belief that we're a "profession" and thus should never consider things like unionization strikes me as outdated. Moreover, we're kidding ourselves that change will happen solely by appealing to the ethical and moral senses of the leaders of our profession: academics, administrators, partners, etc. Their interests are too aligned against our own; they'll help, but it's unlikely they'll do it without significant outside pressure. We're going to need to organize for change among ourselves and try to use social and political action and reform to force change.

  33. If there aren't nearly enough jobs and students have $150,000 of educational debt because law school is an incredibly expensive waste of time (this is an exaggeration of course but it is far closer to the truth than what any dean and 95% of law faculty will tell you), that is a very different and much worse situation than if there weren't nearly emough jobs and people had $20,000 of educational debt because legal education was organized along more rational and less deceptive lines.

    Breezy, your comment got caught in the spam filter.

  34. This is the problem I have with this blog. It forgets time and time and time again that the problem is very simple, and very basic in the sense that there is simply no purpose to law school for a very high percentage of students nationwide.

    To paraphrase the NBC executive played by Peter Riegert on Seinfeld, "Or we could not do the blog altogether. How would that be?"

  35. "This is the problem I have with this blog. It forgets time and time and time again that the problem is very simple, and very basic in the sense that there is simply no purpose to law school for a very high percentage of students nationwide."

    I understand None's argument, because indeed many law schools try to obfuscate their fraudulent career placement statistics by claiming that the aforementioned is just one of many problems. It's a very simple form of lawyering really. At the same time, a blog devoted solely to the career placement scam, at the expense of all the other things that are wrong with law school, would be kind of boring.

    None is also the guy who repeatedly demands that LawProf link to the other scamblogs (None's being one of them, I imagine). Thus I surmise that None has his own blog that he runs as he wishes. There's room for None's blog, and there's room for LawProf's blog. However, there is no room for someone who insists - as does None - that all blogs be run exactly the way he wants. None you sort of come across as an a**hole FYI.

  36. @ Anonymous 9:00: I assume, then, that you must be the chap who repeatedly alleges that I have a blog. Because I don't. As for coming off as an asshole, well, thanks for the PSA. This greatly concerns me, of course, but you might consider a few things: (1) I've never taken a salary that has been wrung out of the lives of hundreds of kids who have been told an institutional lie, (2) it's the internet, Miss Manners, (Also, oh, no! :( I'd hate for you to think that!), and (3) I'm not the one running around saying that there's no room for anyone else. That's you.

    I object to the direction of this blog because most of the time it assumes the legitimacy of the current moral lines, and, I, on the other hand, don't. Strangely, it doesn't sound like you do either. This blog has repeatedly failed to put to its readers - a lot of law professors, it seems - the proposition that the fraud that has happened should not have been allowed to happen, the professorship had the responsibility to make sure it didn't happen, and it utterly and completely failed. Clearly, this has nothing to do with "running the blog the way [I] want". But I do have an opinion, and I am perfectly right in arguing forcefully in favor of it. In particular, I do object most of the time to the assumption that this blog seems to start from which is that what "they" (the admins) are doing with "their" schools (e.g., "law and" professors) somehow just creates the problem, and, oh, you know, we're just spectators with sympathetic faces. The truth is closer to this: what "they" are doing with your schools, you're letting them do, and that's unacceptable. That makes you the problem. It's your responsibility to make sure that the ship with all your students aboard is steered through safe waters, but I suppose the choices here are between (1) there being no room for me and (2) your continued intellectualizing about everything except that which might ring true and have the coincident effect of hanging you on the hook.

  37. As for 8:29, I don't know what to tell you about the "widespread 'scam' against the middle class. I guess I'll just cut and paste something I wrote here the day before yesterday or something:

    As far as actually doing something goes: first, you're right that a lot of awareness raising still needs to happen. That said, I think you've missed an important undercurrent of the scamblogs, though. Part of what is indeed driving this is the current economic depression and the similarities between the meltdown that kicked everything off (i.e., mortgages) and what is happening with education more broadly. Not to indulge this point more than I already have, but at heart, we've commodotized something that is either a public good or very close to one, and in the name of profits we've sought out less and less and less suitable raw materials (whether mortgagors or students) just so that we can start the paper-asset trail. It's highly lucrative and as highly destructive. The point, however, is that this is how awareness is raised. No one likes, cares for, or is concerned about lawyers. Their well-being is only mentioned in broader circles as a punchline. But if you can connect the outrages here (as they are) to the outrages in the broader economy, well, then you've got an argument about how we have all gone so very fucking wrong, just from a paradigmatic perspective. That realization will help motivate people because it pushes acceptable reform towards the more radical end. It's Negotiation 101, and the more legitimate the more radical arguments, the more motivated people are for it, and the better the reform we end up with is.

    Now, in that connection, I do see what you mean about law professors' useless theorizing. But that, quite simply, can't be allowed to become a good reason for just doing nothing in the way of talking about concrete solutions.

    And, finally, any solution that doesn't at a minimum provide transparency in the form of honest statistics collected from answers to very simple, straightforward questions, like "Considering the cost of my education and my current employment status, I feel that attending my law school was a good decision." I've suggested before that while it's inappropriate for schools to see students as consumers, students should have every right to assume that they are customers and are "always right", and I think a customer survey type of aspect should definitely be included. There is no good reason why it should be excluded. In the end, though, I think we need to make law schools put skin in the game. People are going to enormous, desperate lengths to avoid defaulting on loans. Making schools a co-guarantor (maybe of some percentage of each student's loans, if not the entire principal) would not, I don't think, be unacceptable. Doing so would not mitigate the disaster of defaulting, and I really don't see the objection to this proposal, either. I wouldn't default on my loans if I didn't have to just to fuck with my school, however much it deserves it."

    Not surprisingly, there was no more discussion on this thread with any practicality about it. Instead we got a bunch of shit about teacher evaluations. The point is, yes, as several have pointed out, we're all on the same side. My concern is where we start from, and while there is lots of space for opinion and sub-issues (some of which are important), most of the time what is written is much, much too generous to the status quo.

  38. Also @Breezy:

    I like your course list. Good additions all.

  39. "Considering the cost of my education and my current employment status, I feel that attending my law school was a good decision."

    Great idea for a question. The law school "losers" get a chance to tell the truth about how bad it is out there, and the "winners" get to tell the truth about bad it is out there when you win law school.

  40. THANK YOU.

    I'm a 2010 graduate (of Toledo College of Law), and I was frustrated with this problem throughout law school.

    I got my B.A. in Anthropology/Philosophy (double major) and I figured this degree left me with two obvious options: grad school or law school. I chose law school precisely because I did NOT want to be an academic.

    Not that there's anything wrong with being an academic. I actually am a good academic and would consider myself an intellectual (unlike a lot of my cohorts in law school, whom I expect were doubly frustrated).

    But I just didn't see myself as someone who would enjoy researching and writing/talking about obscure academic issues for a living. I wanted to get my hands dirty, to be a practitioner of something. A Marx quote describes my outlook well: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." I wanted to be in the courtroom advocating for clients and issues like the ACLU, not writing about them in barely-read publications like law faculty.

    I was shocked and incredibly frustrated to find out that law school was preparing me to be a legal academic instead of a lawyer. This reality was made clear by the asinine coursework requirements: To graduate, you only needed three credits (one class) in "professional skills," which could be met by taking a single class like Negotiation. Yet our "writing requirement" was generally fulfilled by taking two sections of "Advanced Legal Research and Writing" or a seminar class. And of course, these classes didn't require us to write appellate briefs or pleadings and motions or wills, but.... academic papers. Essentially law review notes that would only be read by our professor (which I guess is a slightly smaller audience than published law review notes).

    I somewhat enjoyed the academic papers I was forced to write, but the thing is.... I was in law school; I wanted to learn to be a lawyer!

    And I'm tired of law faculty defending this crap with the "lawyers needed to be well-rounded citizens" argument. (See Prof. Maillard:

    I understand the value of a liberal arts education... but I already had one before law school! Hello! I already spent four or five years learning about the world and how contemporary thought and culture came to be. That's enough!

  41. "Even as I'm lowering demand (!) by being very blunt with applicants about the costs and opportunities, I'm worried that we'll end up with law school being restricted to the rich and to the non-rich who can manage to do very, very well on the LSAT."

    That's not a problem. Let the rich have law school. Just remove the requirement for law school to sit for the bar.


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