Over the past few months I've found that, when it comes to the crisis facing law students and graduates -- and therefore, eventually, law schools -- law faculty and administrators tend to fall into four categories, which can be analogized to the categories people fall into regarding their reactions to climate change. (I'm not making any assertions about the merits of various climate change arguments in this post, as it's a subject I know nothing about beyond what I read in the papers. What I'm interested in is the usefulness of the analogy).
First, you have your flat-out Deniers.
These are people who simply deny there's any crisis. For example, you have people who deny altogether that the earth's climate is warming. The law school analogy is the professor (there is, I am reliably informed by one of his colleagues, at least one such law professor, who interestingly is middle-aged and doesn't seem to be suffering from senile dementia) who denies that the cost of law school has risen relative to inflation.
Most Deniers are not quite this extreme: they'll acknowledge the earth is warming, but they'll claim this is a natural cyclical process, rather than a product of human activity. The law school analogy are faculty and administrators who acknowledge costs have gone up and the employment situation is bad at the moment, but who treat all this as a natural, cyclical, and most of all temporary situation, that has essentially nothing to do with what law schools have done or not done, and which will simply go away without any action on our part.
I know quite a few people in this category: They cite the (needless to say imaginary) employment stats from a few years ago, when "96%" of our graduates were "employed," and say there's every reason to believe we'll be back in that situation as soon as the economy picks up again. As for the costs of legal education, they dismiss this part of the crisis with various hand-waving gestures, usually based on some vague belief that legal education is far better now than it was a generation ago, and that a better product is inherently more expensive. The bottom line for them is that the extent to which there's any crisis at all is exaggerated, and in any case it's all cyclical, while the skyrocketing cost of law school isn't a product of what in the climate change literature is referred to as anthropogenic forcing, but rather of Newton's fifth law of thermodynamics, which holds that, all other things being equal, education is priceless and can therefore not become too expensive even in theory.
Then you have your Fatalists. The Fatalists acknowledge there's a crisis, admit it's to a significant extent human-caused and likely to get a lot worse, but argue that at this point there's little or nothing we can do about it. In the climate change world, these are the people who argue that even cutting carbon emissions by quite a bit won't do much to forestall the future effects of our existing social arrangements, given what we've already put into the system, and who in addition point out that it's pretty much useless for, say, the U.S. to cut back significantly on emissions if China and India don't.
The law school analogy are people who admit the employment situation is terrible, that it's going to get worse, and that it's been made worse by the collective behavior of law schools, but who argue that there's not that much law schools can do to improve it, short of the climate change equivalent of radical de-industrialization (i..e, closing half of the law schools currently out there). In particular, Fatalists emphasize there's literally nothing individual schools can do by themselves, since this is a classic collective action problem.
The third category is made up of the Inconvenient Truthers. The ITs take the same basic view as the Fatalists, with the crucial difference that they believe that, with a combination of enough consciousness-raising and concerted political action, the collective action problems can be overcome, and many of the worst effects of human-caused climate change can be headed off, or at least ameliorated at an acceptable cost. The law school analogy consists of the people inside the system who believe that radical reform is both necessary and possible.
At this point, the ITs in both the climate change and law school world are largely dedicating themselves to trying to overcome ignorance, social inertia, and most of all the the considerable power of those vested economic interests who have the most to lose from any serious attempt at reform, and who are therefore doing everything they can to keep people in either the first category or the fourth.
The fourth group consists of the Sleepers -- the people who just aren't paying much attention to this issue one way or another. In the world of climate change, the Sleepers are people who have a vague sense that there's a fierce argument out there about how global warming is either a potential environmental catastrophe of unprecedented proportions, or an insidious myth fabricated by tree-hugging wackos, or possibly something in between. But since the consequences of what is or isn't happening are still somewhere off in the medium to distant future, the Sleepers basically ignore the controversy altogether as they continue to live their lives in the same fashion they did before anyone started trying to raise the alarm about rising global temperature.
Although in terms of behavior Sleepers are indistinguishable from Deniers, they're not, unlike the latter group, ideologically committed to the idea that Everything Is Fine: rather, they're just not paying attention yet. This makes them (perhaps) more promising prospects for the efforts of the ITs, although it's important not to underestimate the extent to which inattention can sometimes be even more difficult to overcome than conscious denial.
In the law school world, I would guess the vast majority of faculty, and even a surprising percentage of administrators, are at this point Sleepers. There are probably about equal numbers of Deniers and Fatalists, who are being harassed by a still-tiny cadre of Inconvenient Truthers. But whatever the proportions may be, any serious reform effort requires finding a way to move as many people as possible out of the fourth category and into the third.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Law school climate change
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And knowing what "proportions" and "levels" you are talking about. This off-the-cuff categorizing does not get us very far--if anywhere.ReplyDelete
6:41, are you the troll from the comments to the UK apprenticeship model post? If you're looking for 100% certainty, look elsewhere.ReplyDelete
Man-made global warming is a hoax.ReplyDelete
@6:51-- I don't know what you are talking about. I was referring to the 4 categories that law professors supposedly fall into. The 100% certainty charge is a straw man. You don't get 100% certainty with anything. But, there ought to be some level of precision when you group people into crude categories (though, how?) and say that reform methods depend upon moving people from one category to the next when we have no idea how many people are in one or the other. One hundred percent certainty? No. But details do matter if one is serious about the problem at hand.ReplyDelete
"Newton's fifth law of thermodynamics, which holds that, all other things being equal, education is priceless and can therefore not become too expensive even in theory"ReplyDelete
Utterly classic. Your colleagues must hate you for pointing out how ridiculous they are. This kind of cynicism is supposed to be reserved for burned-out 3Ls.
This is dead on. I was a sleeper until your blog started; I got interested and am now engaged and trying to learn more. But most of my colleagues--all?--remain asleep, including the administration. What's interesting is that I see sleepers that have lots of reasons to stay asleep, like "It's too complicated" or "That's the Dean's job" or "Campos is a nut." Even if you try to engage them, they have reasons (often gleaned from their brief exposures to Deniers) why this is not worth waking up for. So, it's not as simple to wake them up as just making noise. You have to have a very targeted marketing intervention that says "Wake Up!" and provides them, in one page or less, the most compelling information in the most succinct way. This is why I believe you need to be writing each law prof individually, and why I'm not sure the petition is the right initial vehicle for that initial exposure to the issues. The petition requires work--it is a high barrier to entry first exposure to these concerns. Is it right? Who is behind it? Will I look foolish if I sign it and it is exposed later as some sort of hoax? What are its demands exactly? Are they appropriate? Etc. The petition requires a decision, and most sleepers aren't even close to ready to make a decision. I would suggest you hit them all individually with a marketing blitz first, and then follow with the petition eventually.ReplyDelete
Just a thought.
"... the skyrocketing cost of law school isn't a product of what in the climate change literature is referred to as anthropogenic forcing, but rather of Newton's fifth law of thermodynamics, which holds that, all other things being equal, education is priceless and can therefore not become too expensive even in theory."ReplyDelete
Now, that is priceless.
6:41 here, 7:19 is getting at what I was driving at in my comment. Anecdotes and guesses about people's thoughts and feelings do not advance things.ReplyDelete
7:19 here. Yes, 7:20, Campos is a master wordsmiths and great with subtle digs. But ultimately you (Campos, this movement, whatever) have to decide on who your audience is. Originally this blog seemed mostly to cater to pissed off students or grads. The language that appealed to them does not speak to law professors, and it will not help wake up sleepers--it just gives them another reason to stay asleep ("Campos is obnoxious."). Granted, there are some benefits of being in your face--like getting attention so that you can later try to reason with people. But if the goal, as today's post suggests, is to wake up the sleepers, both Campos and the pissed off students need a nuanced marketing message, not clever but off-putting insults to the target audience.ReplyDelete
I think that Campos is realizing this, as evidenced by the softer tone recently. This may annoy the pissed off students, but it has a greater chance of hitting the real audience: other law professors...
Hey now, lay off good ol' Sir Isaac. Newton's work was in optics and kinematics, not thermodynamics. Perhaps it could be Carnot's Fourth Law of Thermodynamics.ReplyDelete
And for what it's worth, count me in with those who think this kind of magazine quiz categorizing is facile and useless.
@7:19-- That is what has been so confusing about this enterprise. The scam bloggers have been saying all of this stuff for years. The supposed value added with this was that a law prof was saying it and might be able to make inroads with his cohort. It was obvious from the beginning that "clever (hmm) but off-putting insults" directed at law profs would not be the way to wake up the "sleepers". It would instead, well, put them off. "You are are bunch of lazy criminals ... now sign my petition damn it" seemed an odd strategy-- unless there was never a true desire to get other profs on board anyway. Or, maybe there was no strategy at all. And, maybe profs don't need to be on board.ReplyDelete
In the few interactions I've had with legal academics recently, they are all to a person firmly in the Sleeper camp. The difficulty of the legal job market is not entirely lost on them, but few of them have any idea at all of either a) how strongly the odds are stacked against their students and b) how much their students are paying to attend their classes.ReplyDelete
Campos burned his bridges from the get-go.ReplyDelete
And judging by the direction the posts have been going, this blog will wither and die before too long.
Oh well, let's hope the lawsuits get somewhere.
If professors don't know how much their students are paying to attend their classes, then that's not sleeping, that's active denial.ReplyDelete
How hard is it to see how much the tuition is at your school, after all...
Law schools are different. My interactions with profs indicate they know very well how much it costs to go to their schools.ReplyDelete
Law schools, and law professors, are not all the same. My interactions with law professors indicate that they know how much it costs to go to their schools.ReplyDelete
Sorry for the double post. The first did not show up for a while.ReplyDelete
I think the job market thing is really hard to get across to people. I was in that situation myself (working now) and I remember sending the resumes and cover letters and getting no responses but it's quickly becoming a fading memory. It's something that's extremely difficult to relate to when you're employed, especially if you've never experienced it.ReplyDelete
I don't think it really matters whether a given post on this blog is useless. IMO, what's important is that the blog remain active, so that 0Ls who may be wondering about the wisdom of attending law school will find the blog readily. Maybe Law Office Computing can correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand, most search engines tend to move to the top of search results pages that are frequently/more recently updated. Even if there are no institutional reforms, this blog can still perform an important service by getting some greater number of 0Ls to realize that yes, law school is not worth it for the vast majority of students, and that this is not simply a temporary problem. The odds of someone finding this blog will go way down if it vegetates.ReplyDelete
Lemuel: I can certainly appreciate that. I don't mind the mission-creep that will inevitably settle in. A blog about the current crisis in legal education certainly could branch out into discussions about the shoddy teaching, the ridiculous assessment techniques and the raw lack of practical usefulness of a legal education.ReplyDelete
All of that would be against the backdrop of "you're paying HOW MUCH for HOW CRAPPY a product?!"
And everyone can have an off day. Today's installment is certainly an "off day" even by the liberal standards of blogs. This reads more like a conversation you have at the bar, "Hey hey check this out, people X are just like people Y in this controversial setting!"
Take it as a sign of how much I appreciate this blog and respect what LawProf is doing here that an entry like this gets a head-wagging post of disapproval from me, as if my opinion matters :P
@Breezy: Maybe we could suggest topics that we'd like LawProf to discuss? Something I'd be interested in hearing about is how law professors tend to view their students, including whether they only really care about the top x%, so that bad outcomes for everyone else don't really matter to professors.ReplyDelete
"Something I'd be interested in hearing about is how law professors tend to view their students, including whether they only really care about the top x%, so that bad outcomes for everyone else don't really matter to professors."ReplyDelete
I'd like to hear about this, too.
@Lemuel - Matches my experiences, but then I usually like the people I read not to simply write things that play to my prejudices.ReplyDelete
You are correct that the more hits this Blog gets the more it will show up on the search engines. I agree that this blog should stay alive and that suggested topics like you and Shark Sandwich(!)have put forth is a great technique. We need to wake up the sleepers, that is clear. In my experience, most of the sleepers are hard working, good hearted people who really care about students and the institution. The problem is that too few of them have contact with the outside world, particularly small firm and solo practitioners. I had the good fortune to work with the local bar association on many matters over the years, but my experience is not shared by many of my colleagues. The bottom line is that we need to do a lot of educating the educators before things will change. But, they will change. There have been several "paradigm shifts" in legal education in my 44 years and I sense another one coming soon!
Thanks for the suggestions for topics, which are always welcome. I'll write on the one suggested by Lemuel tomorrow.ReplyDelete
Maybe LawProf is being too general. Maybe law professors realize there is a problem in general, but don't think there is a problem at their school. LawProf needs to call out the worst offenders.ReplyDelete
quoted from Lemuel, above: "...this blog can still perform an important service by getting some greater number of 0Ls to realize that yes, law school is not worth it for the vast majority of students, and that this is not simply a temporary problem."ReplyDelete
Like I've said before, this blog has become "just another scamblog," and that is exactly what Lemuel has described.
That's a huge disappointment, because any disgruntled current of former law student can write about their law school experience and debt, but a tenured law professor ought to be able to do more.
Might as well shut her down, because there are enough scamblogs out there repeating the complaints about employment numbers, uncaring faculty, and law school expense.
This above article is evidence that even the lenders don't see these loans as profitable for themselves.
And with the report from today that the federal student loan default rate has jumped 25% in the past year, there is even further evidence that the lenders, like the students, are not getting a good return on their investment either. (see below)
The guy is one tenured law professor, who doesn't teach at one of the elite schools, out of thousands. What exactly do you expect him to do right now? It's not as if he's taking up valuable column space in the Scamblogger Newspaper.ReplyDelete
Did we prepare the website listing all professors along with whether they were willing to sign the petition yet?ReplyDelete
Ultimately, it will be the financial repercussions like the increasing default rates, which will bring these law schools and, in general, higher education institutions to their knees. The avarice and greed of these law school will not be entertained or humored by bankers or the taxpayers. No money from the banks or government after next year's massive economic downturn will finally destroy the tier 4's and then the tier 3's before it starts to affect the tier 2's and tier 1's in the the next 2-3 years. In addition Obama's defeat, rightly or wrongly, will result in a Tea Party-led gutting of government spending and programs. The forces are all coming together to crush the DENIERS and awaken the SLEEPERS. Quietly, Madame Defarge sits in her corner knitting away.ReplyDelete
The avarice and greed of these law school will not be entertained or humored by bankers or the taxpayers. No money from the banks or government after next year's massive economic downturn will finally destroy the tier 4's and then the tier 3's before it starts to affect the tier 2's and tier 1's in the the next 2-3 years. In addition Obama's defeat, rightly or wrongly, will result in a Tea Party-led gutting of government spending and programs.ReplyDelete
Banks are irrelevant because loans come from the government now, and I don't see the Tea party cutting education when they have bigger fish to fry.
The only way the taxpayer funded loan thing helps, IMHO, is if a US Attorney uses it as a basis to file a fraud lawsuit against the schools similar to what happened to Solyndra.
Like I've said before, this blog has become "just another scamblog," and that is exactly what Lemuel has described.ReplyDelete
There is a very important difference between this blog and the others: This one has special credibility because it is written by someone on the inside. It's easy for 0Ls to dismiss warnings coming from a graduate who can't find a job ("that won't be me" etc.). It's not so easy to dismiss warnings coming from one of the very people who are trying to get your money.
@1:24pm The student loan crisis is going to be far larger than the mortgage crisis(Look at the numbers). And unlike a home, which can be foreclosed upon, and resold---albeit at a lower price, an education cannot be repackaged and resold for newfound value in an environment where there are no jobs. Unlike property that can be transferred or sold, an education remains fundamentally with you always. If there is no value in it and one cannot include the associated education loans in a bankruptcy, then the solutions that, at the very least, are available during this on-going mortgage crisis aren't even touched upon for education loans. Yes, there is IBR, but that is it---and it readily narrows down your employment opportunities, if any.ReplyDelete
0Ls don't read the scamblogs, whether written by a graduate or a professor. They read other, more optimistic, sites.ReplyDelete
No one likes to be told that they are making a mistake.
This whole analogy is a mess because global warming is completely fabricated. The data was all heavily massaged and by "massaged," I mean that it was altered by the application of correction factors that had the effect of producing a warming effect where the data did not suggest one.ReplyDelete
And that was in the studies where the data wasn't outright fabricated.
At the end of the day, man-made global warming consists of:
-a political movement that seeks to increase taxes and put control of manufacturing, transportation and energy into the hands of a few bureaucrats
-a bunch of scientific reports that were based on fabricated data or secret calculations and formulas (ie, non peer reviewable)
-a big media push focused around getting the general public into a panic over their impending death from global warming
A similar thing was done with the ozone bullshit back in the 70s, but the internet wasn't around to debunk it and the guys got nobel prizes instead of public humiliation.
"At the end of the day, man-made global warming consists of:ReplyDelete
-a political movement that seeks to increase taxes and put control of manufacturing, transportation and energy into the hands of a few bureaucrats"
I prefer going with the "Idiot's guide to reality approach"
What's a more likely explanation:
1) Those that believe in global warning are full of shit because they are part of bureaucratic conspiracy motivated by a delusional religious belief in the earth and desire to tax people.
2) Those opposing it are full of shit because they are motivated by money and ticked off people are limiting their ability to make money by doing what they please to the air, water, and soil.
To the people denigrating Campos and the important work he accomplishes with this blog: STFU and go away.ReplyDelete
@8.16 - Right. Blogging, at least in my unqualificed opinion, is about writing whatever the hell you like whenever the hell you like. That said, Campos should keep this blog going because, in the ,end, it's not the 100-comment threads that will get the change he wants to see accomplished, it's continuining to make a splash with the academic community, and hopefully getting a significant portion of the academic community behind a petition asking for change.ReplyDelete