Sunday, January 8, 2012

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Forget it, he's rolling:

At the other end of the spectrum was the president of the American Bar Association, William Robinson III, who defended American legal education as the finest in the world. “So many who never went to law school want to talk about law school as a trade school,” Robinson said. “It is not. It is a school of higher learning” -- a statement that drew spontaneous applause.
Robinson is making time during his year-long tenure as ABA president to make sure law students all across America know what a smart choice they've made to spend a couple of hundred thousand bucks getting a law degree at this particular moment in the ongoing (d)evolution of the market for the providers of legal services:

Robinson said he always visits with law students when he makes trips around the country and never fails to be impressed with their skills and knowledge.

"They are, in my opinion, making very wise decisions about their future," he said. "These are very bright people."

The decision to attend law school is not necessarily about job security, Robinson said, but rather about opportunity. A law degree offers the "widest potential variety of career opportunity" compared to other advanced degree programs, he said.

The ABA is committed to defending law schools from attacks on its ability to produce good lawyers, he said

"Our law schools can stand up and measure up against any other graduate program in this country," he said.
That this windbag's hallucinations were greeted with "spontaneous applause" doesn't surprise me, given that his audience was made up of legal academics.  After all, Robinson is flattering the grandiose visions of legal education and the legal profession to which a certain segment of the profession -- that made up of high-status people with law degrees who have little or no contact with the actual practice of law -- is particularly prone.

Consider the reaction of one law professor to a complaint about the present publication system for legal scholarship:

[This is] another smug, anti-intellectual attack on scholarship which seems to be part of a greater effort to transform legal education, and perhaps higher education in general, into a trade school . . . the demand for intense, imaginative intellectual engagement has been integral to the high quality of legal education. We are not producing plumbers and bookkeepers, we are producing the leaders of our Society whose primary ability is the strength of their intellects.
BL1Y responds:

Professor Bayer has perhaps been away from the legal industry for too long. The typical lawyer does not spend his day leading Society. He makes routine appearances before a judge which last only a fraction of the time spent waiting to be called. He makes small modifications to a model will. He sifts through piles of contracts and catalogs their contents for a client engaged in a merger, and then through another pile of SEC no action letters. The great mass of lawyers spend their time as fungible cogs doing the grunt work of giant corporate machines, or else navigating the petty squabbles of their neighbors.
Precisely.  How do so many legal academics manage to maintain the bizarre delusion that the purpose of law school is to "produce the leaders of our Society?"  Easy:

Academics tend to miss the sheer drudgery and asswork involved in being a lawyer; the only reason people do it is because they believed at one point they’d be millionaires. If you are reasonably likely to make as much money being a nurse, no one will go to law school. I don’t know why so many reformers think there’s a bunch of potential lawyers in Los Angeles waiting in the wings to get yelled at by judges for $60k a year – their entire career.

 Even the academics that practiced for [any length of] time tended to have surprisingly, uh, delicate careers; I don’t think many of them were hired to handle appearances day after day. Being an attorney is pure ass, and the only reason people do it is the idea of riches. A lot of attorneys don’t get to riches, but if you’re 45, w/ 20 years in on your job, you don’t have a lot of choice.
One deeply dysfunctional aspect of contemporary American legal education that doesn't get enough attention is the almost complete disconnect between the vision of law presented in law school, and the social reality of what practicing -- or, increasingly, failing to practice -- law actually entails.  The phony employment and salary statistics are the most obvious, but not necessarily the most invidious, aspect of that disconnect.

That disconnect is captured perfectly, though unintentionally, by the title of the best-known work of arguably the most professionally successful law professor of the last generation.  Let's just say Law's Empire sounds a whole lot more inspiring than Law's Document Review, or Law's Status Conference, or Law's Boilerplate, or Law's Barista.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, there are two tragedies for a very large percentage of law school graduates. The first is not getting what they want. The second is getting it.


  1. Wow. William Robinson III stated that most graduates are bright people making intelligent decisions about their future?

    How come I don't feel so intelligent as a recent graduate? As someone making $13,000 a year in a non-legal job two years after graduation and who has about $100,000 in student loans, I don't feel too intelligent. In fact, without knowing me, most people, just by reading the facts above, would say I made a very unwise decision. I have to agree with them.

    Dream on, Mr. Robinson, dream on. But the change has already started and there are too many people who live the reality every day to know that what you state is untrue. As more and more individuals join the club, it will be harder for you and your colleagues to stick your head in the sand as a means of solving the problem.

    Change is around the corner. And those who insisted on ignoring the problem despite evidence to the contrary will be seen for what they are: terrible leaders who failed to adjust to change when it became necessary.

  2. At 11:06 AM:

    Couldn't have said it better myself. The most interesting aspect of this whole ordeal is that the higher ed system will fail. The status quo can acknowledge this fact or go down with the sinking ship.

  3. Yes, the entire system of American hgher education is going to fail...

  4. Higher education is failing already. Cheap debt is about to take down the euro. You think that higher education will be spared?

    For an interesting look at the psychology of debt fueled mania, and the aftermath, see Michael Lewis' new book Boomerang.

    Left alone in a dark room with a pile of free federally backed student debt, higher education did no protect its students, it fed on them.

    There will be a reckoning.

  5. I wouldn't pay too much attention to Bill Robinson. He's merely the latest cipher from the provinces that the ABA power elite have installed as President. I doubt he's really thought too much about any of this stuff until very recently. His breathtaking comments, too me, read like someone regurgitating (badly) talking points. His recent comments about tenure and law school as anything but a "trade school" seem transparently to be someone else's thoughts. I'll give him pass

    This is actually a pattern for the ABA. In my 7 years of ABA membership, we've seen folks like Mr. Robinson, a woman from Colorado (Karen Mathis), and a guy from Alabama (H. Thomas Wells) get installed as President. I think that a "small law" female practitioner from Chicago is next in the Presidential queue. As stated above, these are all mid-law ciphers that the ABA elite use to to project an "inclusive" image for public consumption. Perhaps, this is why the ABA Presidents are so hot-trot about "diversity", after all, they owe their positions to it. I mean, an unbroken stream of blue state, AMLaw 25 partners wouldn't have the same appeal for the masses. Usually these figurehead rubes focus on some non-controversial Presidential agenda issues like legal aid to hurricane victims or pro bono services to Veterans. I'm sure Mr. Robisnon planned to do the same. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune if being installed ABA President in 2011. Having met Karen Mathis and H. Thomas Wells, I can't image their handling this crisis any better than Robinson.

    It's very rare the ABA installs a member of the legal power elite into the Presidency. Carolyn Lamm, lobbyist/lawyer to 3rd world autocrats and civil rights abusers, is a recent exception. There have been others. I'm sure that a dark-hearted lobbyist for oppressors like Lamm would have handled these matters differently, but alas she dodged the bullet a few years back. Here's an article about Lamm's consultancy on different activities:

    In closing, Robinson is just a figurehead. Wrong place, wrong time. Please keep highlighting his faux pas' and mis-steps, but recognize why guys like him get the Presidency in the first place. Having an ABA President from the Senate Minority leader's home state is just good politics - especially for an organization whose role in judicial nominations is under perpetual scrutiny.

  6. The system will be transformed, which is not the same thIng as failure.

  7. "A law degree offers the "widest potential variety of career opportunity" compared to other advanced degree programs, he said. "


    It'd be pretty great if this was funny on purpose.


  9. One other reason that (employed) academics experience a disconnect is that they overwhelmingly went to very prestigious schools that opened lots of doors. Those who attended less prestigious schools almost always did very, very well at those schools. It is very hard to be hired as a law professor if you don't meet one of those criteria. Indeed, you generally have to have attended a very prestigious school to get considered, unless you graduated a long time ago.

    I would submit (and I know that others disagree) that Law School remains a relatively good-deal for people who fall into those two categories. The job market is bad for everyone, but people who attend a T-14 school (and particularly those at HYS) still have a lot of opportunities and generally obtain good to decent employment.

    So, lots of Law Professors have trouble recognizing that a system that served THEM well fails others. Moreover, they often justify the entire system based on their memories of attending HYS.

  10. ok. . . I guess the Hindenburg "transformed" on an airfield in new jersey.

    Student debt is greater than credit card debt, and is no longer "good" debt. The same way a 1.4 million dollar mortgage on a McMansion in the exurbs isn't "good" debt any longer.

    Things will be "transformed" because the current system is an abject failure that crushes the middle class.

  11. "One other reason that (employed) academics experience a disconnect is that they overwhelmingly went to very prestigious schools that opened lots of doors."

    This isn't true at lower tier schools. There it's more like "went to a top school, couldn't make it as a lawyers, desperately searched for an exit option, found law school."

  12. "A law degree offers the "widest potential variety of career opportunity" compared to other advanced degree programs, he said. "

    Just lies and rhetoric after lies and rhetoric. This is a promise that if you go to law school you will have better job opportunities than you would have at other programs. So why can't you sue Mr. Robinson for fraud when his statement is exposed as a self-interested lie?


  14. Nah, see, law school has a "wider variety of career opportunities" than say, engineering school, because while people who go to engineering school become engineers, people who go to law school do all sorts of things.

    None of which need be, and few of which are, "better" than careers opened up by any other program. But there sure is a wide array of choice, from warehousing to restaurants to document review to--every now and again--actual law firms and government agencies.

  15. I think the best way to respond to Mr. Robinson's absurdity is to point out the most harmful aspect of law school (that LawProf is yet to cover, for whatever reason) - which is that it is a mental illness factor.

    Again, 4% of 0Ls are depressed (same as the general population), 40% of 3Ls are depressed and 17% of graduates are depressed two years out. (google depression law school 40% for numerous studies).

    So if Mr. Robinson was truly meeting graduates, then some of them had to be showing signs of mental illness. The fact that he didn't observe this shows that he is an ass with zero ability for empathy.

    The inability to empathize is one of the cornerstones of psychopathy. Another is the ability to lie shamelessly.

    In all seriousness - how many law professors, legal administrators do what they do because they are complete predatory psycopaths?

  16. @TM--So, you agree. It will be transformed.

  17. Higher education is a failure, and will be transformed. So yes. I agree.

  18. Leaders of our society???? What mushrooms are these people ingesting at this conference? I am currently working on a document review (which I am damn lucky to have landed) working with several attorneys from T14 schools. We all have to sign in and out with a 22 year old paralegal to receive a "hall pass" to use the bathroom.

  19. Once again, the solution is simple. If you want to revolt, if you want to "stick it" to the system, do not pay back 1 dime of your student loans.

    Problem solved. The debt is simply unsecured, just like credit card debt. They can't touch you. If you own a car, transfer the car title to a spouse or parent. Legally you have no assets. (When in reality you have plenty)

    If you are a lawyer, you should know how to evade the system. So evade it! This is the result of the law school scam. Rejoice, enjoy your 20k per year law practice, and do not pay your loans.

  20. There is something very troubling about the comments: all of you seem to believe these statements are innocent misunderstandings, or naivete.

    They are intentional lies. Blatant, contrived, lies said by despicable people who profit by saying such lies.

    Stop using language that excuses them and start using language that accuses them.

  21. 2:16,
    For the billionth time, it's called deferments and IBR. Nothing you say is revolutionary in any way.

  22. "A law degree offers the "widest potential variety of career opportunity" compared to other advanced degree programs."

    Mr. Robinson, put your money where you mouth is! Please pony up a couple of hundred grand into Stooley School of Law SLABS. I dare you. I am sure you will have no problem with that. In fact, every ABA tenured professor and administrator should be forced to invest the entirety of their pensions into SLABS subject to normal bankruptcy.

  23. Private law SLABS not subject to a government bailout and subject to normal bankruptcy protections, I mean. You won't do it, Mr. Robinson because you are all bark and no bite. Keep talking big, Mr. Tough Guy and thumping your chest.

  24. The SLABS aren't tranch-able, so no dice. I don't think the slabs even exist on federal debt, so it is only the small amount of private debt issued prior federalization that still has some time to maturity.

    However,your solution favorably remind me of the code of hammurabi.

    229. If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not made his work sound, and the house he built has fallen, and caused the death of its owner, that builder shall be put to death.

  25. Well, I hear that a lot of recent grads are having trouble paying for the bar exam and are having trouble with living expenses before finding their first jobs. If this is the case, why can't Mr. Robinson and all the AALS cheerleaders set aside a portion of their retirements and assets to set up a low risk loan for these people? I mean Stooley grads are so "versatile" and "so bright" with so promise that it it's a no brainer, a perfect low-risk investment opportunity.

  26. There are several problems with the academics. They really don't believe that our system is about a higher public good.

    This is propaganda that covers up the quite crass market based reasons: Law school is a cash cow. However, you play right into the game: You treat education like its a commodity rather than a public good.

    Market economic isn't always the best choice for how to address all issues of value. We would never build a road based on the idea.

    Society wants those lawyers to represent clients so it should create a system that allows for those clients to have lawyers not saddled with debt rather than expect the individual lawyer to solve the problem. The above language is so alien to Americans.

    If you look at all education (rather than focusing on just the legal market) this becomes self-evident. All education cost is increasing at rates greater than inflation.

    In fact, despite the claims to the contrary, the reason for the increases is not academic wages. The wages in most universities has remained flat over time. Its also not as is believed amongst scam bloggers. because loans are too easy to obtain.

    If you look abroad, education does not cost as much as U.S. educational cost despite the educational systems being to the left of the U.S. college education system. The difference is not that education is easy to get (as scam bloggers argue), but how the government pays for it. They don't push the cost to the individual student and their families as does the U.S. system.

    Educational cost is directly related to the cuts in college education funding by the government. If college education funding budgets are cut by, for example, 20 percent in one year, you see a direct increase in tuition by 20 percent.

    Offering "reforms" by further treating education as a commodity will only make it worse.

    In fact, I predict given the dynamics that nothing will change, and it will only get worse because academics are making propaganda statements to avoid the issue of cost, and your side is making ideological arguments that misunderstands the nature of the cost.

    The solution is to return education to being a public good.

    Here are the benefits:

    (a) You get to argue effectively that bankruptcy should be a right of students.

    (b) The cost of going to school is decreased because education budgets are not cut so that the cost is passed along to individual students to fund tax cuts for the well off.

    (c) If you have it as a public good, you can think of alternative payment plans for the existing debt that make IBR debt forgiving immediately available in a pay as you go fashion rather than waiting 20-25 years. You also consider ideas like worth being defined after the person has finished school so that its implemented under the tax system rather than a loan system (which brings with it several costs like interest, penalties, etc that should be based on income level).

    There are solutions, but many are not in accord with the ideological views of Americans.

  27. 2:40: I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but the basic problem with the federal loan system is that it's a way of hiding the fact that the cost of higher education has now been almost completely privatized at the front end. Worse yet, it's been privatized in a highly inefficient way, which means that the public will end up paying for much the cost anyway, but in a particularly costly and destructive way. What we have now is a system that combines the worst features of private and public financing.

  28. @TM. The American system of higher education has failed some people. It has not failed everyone.

  29. No system fails everyone Zimbabwe-nomics worked out well for Mugabe.

    And while what you say is true, higher education does not fail everyone, I think that the system is currently failing, and has failed a critical mass of individuals to the point where we can call it a failed system.

    I am just some guy on the internet, though. What do I know.

  30. LawProf:

    I agree that student loans, under the present system, create a perverse outcome of excessive debt. To me, this is like saying water is wet. However, excessive debt is a symptom, not the disease. If you address the symptom without curing the disease (or at least explain the problem to Americans), you will not cure the problems in American higher education (indeed, all education because high school education is also under Neo-liberal assault).

    Here's my point: If you end public student loans today, students are still screwed because (a) our system requires higher education of some kind simply to get a job (the Neo-liberal argument is that "too compete in the world markets we must be a well educated work force" which has been argued by successive Democratic and Republican Administrations going back to Nixon, and is backed by private capital); (b) What would replace it would be the private sector (As anyone here can tell you private sector student loan debt is several times worse for consumers than public). Reform, therefore, must be a wider discussion or else its illusionary.

    More importantly, your argument relies on an assumption that I disagree with: That people are rational. First, its not at all clear that they are when it comes to certain goods and services (education and health care being the big two). Second, its not all clear that the system in the private sector wants them to be.

    Your ideas about "if Americans knew the cost it would cause a market correction" is one of those arguments pushed in health care. It underlies President Obama's claims that he will "cut cost in health care." The argument goes that most of health costs are hidden from Americans because the costs are footed by their employers. If they are exposed to the actual cost, then the market will do the rest.

    The argument assumes that people are rational about their own health care cost needs when say facing a heart bypass situation. The reality is that they aren't. This is why other societies have figured out cheaper, and healthier ways to do health care finance for all. Its also why Medicare is cheaper than the private sector health insurance market in the U.S. The same analogy applies to despite workers trying to find a way to obtain a job.

    This is too complex an issue for me to fully cover here, but the point that I am making is that I have no faith that things will work out in this society because the problems are systemic, and I don't think changing the system to place the burden on the individual to figure it out solves the problem.

  31. Follow up:

    The health care finance example of insurance is actually the best analogy here to understand the desperation of workers trying to survive in a global economy as to why ending public loans is not enough. If you look at that example, despite the stated goals, the projects are that private health care insurance costs will continue to spiral out of control. In fact, when compared to countries abroad we pay nearly twice the GDP as those abroad. Similar outcomes can be seen in education. The data and the value of the analogy can readily be found online. My feeling is that its not being discussed because it does not fit with the Neo-liberal arguments that Americans have been forced fed since the 70s, and, therefore, the conversation will not produce solutions. I don't think our society is capable of them so long as it looks to market fundamentalism as the solution to every problem.

  32. Can you people PLEASE stop debating whether to end educational loans?

    With all due respect, you do-nothing losers don't have the power to get a law Dean to wipe your dirty ass for you. You don't have the power to enact transparency. You're nothing. That's why you're bitter unemployed losers. You have no ability to do anything. You certainly do not have the power to reform the entire educational finance system!

  33. What are the odds that LP has spent more time reading my writing than any of my actual law professors?

  34. As William Prosser seems to have been onto something when he wrote, in 1948:

    "Your lawyer in practice spends a considerable part of his life doing distasteful things for disagreeable people who must be satisfied, against an impossible time limit and with hourly interruptions, from other disagreeable people who want to derail the train; and for his blood, sweat, and tears he receives in the end a few unkind words to the effect that it might have been done better, and a protest at the size of his fee. There is no lawyer who has not at some time in his life rebelled inwardly against all this, and wished that God had assigned him to the peaceful existence of a digger of ditches or a master plumber. Your professor is most often a young man who rebelled early, and while in that state of rebellion was unexpectedly offered a means of escape with a little more pay."

  35. "That this windbag's hallucinations were greeted with "spontaneous applause" doesn't surprise me, given that his audience was made up of legal academics. "

    LawProf - glad to see you not paying heed to the pearl clutters whining about using proper language. These scumbags need to be treated for what they are, loudly and repeatedly. They are the main players in the devastation of lives in a game played out by what you said here:

    "it's been privatized in a highly inefficient way, which means that the public will end up paying for much the cost anyway, but in a particularly costly and destructive way. What we have now is a system that combines the worst features of private and public financing."

    And to the guy writing a novella defending student loans - just because getting rid of one problem doesn't solve the rest does not mean you just throw your hands up the heavens and say, "oh well." Reforming student loans so that the system doesn't play out as lawprof described above is a huge step in the right direction and greatly limits lives being deeply hurt in a "particularly costly and destructive way."

  36. Robinson reminds me of someone in history who said, "let them eat cake." People who say these blogs make no difference seem to miss the media coverage the blogs are getting. Seems like I can't open the NYT without some discussion of this issue.

    But even if the media ignored these blogs, at least they are raising the issue and prospective students can read them and ignore them if they choose. No matter what these blogs say, and no matter what the media says, and no matter how much "truth in advertising" in the employment stats, the nature of the average law school applicant is that he/she will apply knowing full well that he/she is the exception to the rule. i'm okay with that, as long as they look back and thought, I was going to be one of the top 10% but only managed top 50%. right now, it looks like if you're top 98%, you're set with a job with a salary north of 100K. That's what wrong with all of this.

  37. Let's see.

    On one side you have thousands of highly paid people whose livelihood depends on the "scam." These people are well organized and meet at least once per year, where their leader Mr. Robinson gives them motivation and support. Well funded, well connected, strong.

    On the other side you have a bunch of people posting anonymous comments on the blog of one law professor.

    I wonder who will win this battle (not that you can even call this level of domination a battle.)

  38. Law Prof:

    This is also a part of the problem as demonstrated by someone who thinks he agrees with you:

    "And to the guy writing a novella defending student loans"

    (a) We are discussing a complex problem, and, they think writing a few paragraphs on the subject that's not reducible to a soundbite is a "novella." Good luck coming up with reform when even people who claimed to be lawyers aren't willing to think deeper than this.

    (b) We got into mess through a complicated system. No where do I say student loans are a good things. In fact, my post says that we should not be dependent on student loans at all. We should have a cheaper educational system. To them, saying that (1) means I am favoring loan system and (2) says doing nothing. How does one address this segment of the population, which quite frankly whether left, right, or middle is probably the dominant way of thinking. In other words, how are you going solve the underlying complicated problems when all that most are seeking a simple "answers" that do not solve the underlying problem?

    What's to stop them from doing the same thing once you end the student loans? This is precisely why I am not at confident that rationality will magically return.

  39. Are you so clueless that you think the comments section of a blog is an a appropriate place to go into depth on the "complex problem"? And you dissect these issues like a neophyte, as if the rest of us haven't been here day after day, year after year thinking and reading and writing about them. i.e. your shit is played out. Without federal loan financing the problem of a lifetime of debt for a worthless degree disappears. Others may still exist but no longer that one. I could go on about education in this country in general but I'm not going to waste my breath. Its all available to you online.

  40. @ 6:15:

    Maybe you are correct, maybe not. However, isn't that the perception that most people in the status quo, regardless of the topic, want outsiders to believe?

    History has shown time and time again through various cliches:

    The pen is mightier than the sword.

    Times can, and must, change.

    For every problem, there is a solution.

    We have the truth. The truth is all we need. The beauty about this situation is that even if we do nothing, the system will fail. Do you really think IBR is a long term solution? Deferment and forbearance? The federal government is broke. Even our mindless and corrupt Congress will, at some point, have to answer to the public about these loans...despite phony two year cohort default rates. Idiotic college degree stories, and mindless press stories that are in denial of the facts.

    Furthermore, the law school scam is dependent upon third party funding. They don't control it, except through their lies. At some point, there will be a systemic fail because the numbers of people NOT succeeding are growing at a geometric rate. Macroeconomics, buddy.

    I hope you don't really believe what you typed. After all, there are more blogs than just this one identifying the problem. If you don't believe me, maybe the internet in your area is broken and you only get a few sites.

    If you do believe what you are typing, than chances are you will die a nobody, having accomplished nothing worthwhile in your life. History will not remember you and people will forget your name because you left no impression on them.

  41. Lawprof:

    Couldn't help myself:

  42. 6:4

    "Are you so clueless that you think the comments section of a blog is an a appropriate place to go into depth on the "complex problem"

    The above comment is your projection. Law Prof responded to the complexity of my argument without pretending it was inaccurate:

    "2:40: I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but the basic problem with the federal loan system is that it's a way of hiding the fact that the cost of higher education..."

    While he and I disagree over student loan solution he advocates, he admits that I am right in much of what I say.

    Folks like you are a part of the problem. We have spent decades letting the loudest, most obnoxious, control what happens. You are part of the reason I don't think a real solution is possible.

    I have actually researched the topic. that's the whole point. For example, I know to quickly Google state cuts in higher education and "tuition increases" to pull up this:

    I can pull up, if need be, Congressional hearings on the subject.

    I can also pull up data demonstrating how ending public school finance shifts the loan market to the private sector.

    I can't believe anyone here would argue with any amount of rationality that private loans are better than public, but that's implicit in your comment unless you think private loans are magically going to end.

    I don't care if you don't want to discuss it. People like you are a danger to helping make sure that this does not continue to spiral out of control.

  43. IME law professors either fled biglaw firms after working for a few years, meaning they were subjected to boring, rote work on large litigation or deals without much understanding of the big picture or client development. Or, they went into government/public policy, and did interesting jobs that involved more policymaking than the practice of law. Either way, they fled from the very two aspects of lawyering their students need to learn to do law work as the American public understands it (Bl1y's response described this type of work best). They don't know anything about working with clients or client development, and they hate and fear the repetitive, mundane drudgery that is law practice.

  44. How do you know all of this?

  45. I don't think the quality of a legal education is as major of an issue as the transparency of employment outcomes, cost of law school, and the availability of federal money to finance this boondoggle.

    While I am sure you can make a good case that law school does not prepare students to be lawyers, I'm not sure that this is unique or even very relevant.


    1. One of the major issues is the cost of law school. Improving a law school education to include more practical aspects is not likely to decrease the cost but put additional cost pressures on schools. As such, it would be counterproductive to the better goal of making law school more affordable.

    2. I'm not sure that law school is as completely worthless as being argued. Assume that a typical law student is an above average student from a mid-public university. The reading requirements of law school are probably much higher than the undergraduate education and many may be taken extended essay exams for the first time. This should improve the writing and reasoning skills of the average student.

    3. Finally, it is rare that professional programs teach a large amount of practical skills anyway. It is likely that a heavy emphasis on practical education might be a bit dated and not appropriate.

  46. I dunno about (3) there. Granted my impression of med school is formed almost entirely from movies, but they do still cut up corpses, right?

    I assume accountants account and engineers engineer, too, but perhaps I really am way off base.

    I agree with the premise that skills training doesn't really matter a lot when the demand for legal services is not enough to satisfy the supply of lawyers--that being demand in an economic sense.

    I suppose it might be worthwhile in that people who came out of law school with no prospects would at least have gained *a* skill, even if it isn't a marketable one. It may at least temper the emotional reaction of feeling extraordinarily ripped off.

    To be honest, I'm pretty sure a man would still feel ripped off by a basketweaving course if he spent $100,000 on it premised on the exciting, but illusory, opportunities basketweavers enjoy, no matter how damned well he was taught to weave baskets. But maybe less so!

  47. 8 pm here.

    Mikoyan, I agree with you that law school could and should have more practical aspects. I'm just not sure that is the highest priority. And it seems like all professional programs suffer from this - except maybe medicine (which is much more expensive than law from the school's point of view).

    It's also hard to see where this goal does not run counter to lowering costs - though replacing tenured law professors with adjunct legal practioner teachers might accomplish this - even with smaller classes.

  48. 8:00 and 8:11 you are completely correct. Talk about reforming legal education is not very useful for improving the outcomes of legal graduates. The most important reform needed is closing at very minimum half and preferably at least three quarters of the law schools. The demand for legal services by clients who can pay a reasonable amount for any legal services does not come close to supporting the number of law school graduates. This has been true for decades. Tangentially, I find it odd and alarming how law schools have been able to deceive with employment statistics that do not resemble reality for so long. I suppose it has been such a big lie that it has not been very suspect. Hopefully, this is changing. As bloggers and readers, we can do our part by telling the truth of the dismal employment prospects both long term and short term to every individual and to every forum possible.

  49. lol @ the truth having some sort of power. that idiotic statement alone disqualifies you from being a lawyer.

  50. BL1Y should get a job if he hasn't already...I'm talking about any job.I'm just saying.

  51. @6:15 Nothing is over until we decide it is!

  52. The amazing thing here is that this discussion seems to take place in a hermetically-sealed environment into which only the voices of academics and their boosters is allowed. Actual students? Actual lawyers? totally unheard.

    Unheard also - any mention that in many, many other countries the decision to enter legal education is not (yet) a soul-and-career-crushing one. Are legal academics in the UK facing this kind of backlash? No, mainly because they are not paid nearly so much as their American counterparts, and law school is still in essence seen as a trade affair. Sure, UK academics would love to introduce a similar system to the US - but the British government is never going to provide the kind of public funding that keeps US legal academia in the pink.

  53. From time to time the law-prof talks complete bilge - as do some of the posters. Yes, there are realms of the legal profession where pissed off people who only went to law school because it paid more than the alternatives are stupifyingly bored. But I can honestly say I have never found being a lawyer a boring job - it is tremendously interesting work. I get to tear apart cutting edge technology, deal with ingenious scams and frauds, travel to interesting places where I meet interesting people and sue them.

    Yes, I have written very complex contracts, from scratch - and a couple of books to boot, and yes, good lawyers do have to write contracts from scratch, and I have seen lousy lawyers cost the clients tens of millions (and even hundreds of millions) by slavishly using form-books. That is what I mean when I say that too many people who are unsuitable to be lawyers have been let into the profession.

    Oh and Judy Areen was a terrible dean at Georgetown as far as the students were concerned. There was a scandal when in 1991 she and Peter Edeleman (aka Pete the Prick) moved the on-campus-interviews back to November so that the public interest practices (who then lazily interview later) would get to interview the 2Ls before the usual 3 weeks of law firms - by November all the summer slots had already been filled and none of the firms showed up. The whole thing was made worse by denials - which were pointless because the lawschool used law students for part time work - and they were aware of the entire story.

  54. Anyway, I have no problem with Bill Robinson encouraging legal academics. It would seem that the effectiveness of the curriculum is less important than the demand and supply for lawyers caused by other things the society (economy, changes in technology, widely available student loans, delusions of competence by people thinking about law school)

  55. Law School is not a trade school? Would that be why Yale Law School led the campaign to make attending an ABA Accredited law school a condition of Bar Admission? Is the ABA recommending that it lose its sole accreditation rights - provided by Congress. Is it suggesting that the Accredited Law School requirement be dropped.

    As long as you need to go to an ABA Accredited Law School to join the trade, as long as law schools seek accreditation from the ABA - they are trade schools. Indeed, non accredited law schools have a better claim to being legal academies than accredited schools.

  56. It's funny to hear people talk as though law professors, doctors, plumbers, etc. sit around drinking pina coladas all day counting their money. Folks, lawyers aren't the only people who have to do scut work.

    For my part, I'm getting tired of patiently explaining to people about all the hoop-jumping required to land a faculty job within 20 miles of a Starbucks.

  57. Any of those hoops involve sexual favors nyc?

  58. Federal Loan guarantees, student loans and the cost of education - which came first, the chicken or the egg.

    I was educated at college level in Europe and then for my JD in the US. Student loans have changed the landscape in the US. First, it is much more common for people to "go away to college" that is to say, apply to a college somewhere other than their hometowns, thus incurring extra costs over those who stay at home. Moreover, US colleges are amazingly plush institutions, with all sorts of food-courts, amazing sports facilities, dormitories of considerable luxury, etc. and mobs of administrators, sleekly well paid academics, amazing receptions (no varnish like sherry and potato chips, but canap├ęs.)

    All of this is driven by student loans - by the fact that students can defer the evil day that they pay for it, that a $2000 fee hike this semester is really not that much when you are already borrowing $100k + and also by the federal guarantee which means that no lender cares about the underlying economics and risk in financing tuition of $47,000.

    If the student loan guarantees did not exist law schools would find a way to cut the tuition. They would pay tenured professors less than say average private practice lawyers (tenure is worth something), they would cut administration, they would close if they could not attracts enough students willing to pay their tuition.

    The downside, poorer kids would find it much harder to go to law school ... bit with lower tuition they could still work their way through an evening program - the way students going to Suffolk in the 1910-1930s did - before Yale and Harvard launched the great ABA accreditation wars to keep what ABA President Drinker called the "Irish, Italians and little Russian Jew-boys" out of the profession.

  59. "Federal Loan guarantees, student loans and the cost of education - which came first, the chicken or the egg."

    The tuition for U.S. higher education did not markedly start to increase until the 1980s when the first of the spending cuts in state funding to higher education started. Before the spending cuts that led to tuition increases, there were the exact same kids going off to college, and, there were student loans. The difference is there was no reason to obtain student loans because college was affordable. The difference is that college was not an "investment" that required one to gamble with one's future.

    Here's the problem: Even if one does not gamble with law school, the system is going to require some higher education, and, gambling what education will pay off will increasingly become a gamble.

    This is ideology of "free market fundamentalism":

    "If the student loan guarantees did not exist law schools would find a way to cut the tuition. They would pay tenured professors less than say average private practice lawyer"

    Does the private sector not exist in your world? For that matter, does it not exist for several posting here? I keep hearing mention of the public loans, but not private, which leads me to believe this is just conservatives trying to push for cutting government programs rather than trying to push meaningful reform.

    Do you think the private sector will stop lending? Let me answer that for you. No, they will not stop lending. What they will do is offer worse terms than they offer now.

    People are economically desperate. That's why they are going to college in droves in a desperate attempt to change their economic condition. If you end public loans, they will be forced to go with private loans, and those private loans aren't going to go away.

    I am not even going to get into the "blame labor" aspect of the received arguments on the scam blog sites. To figure out whether your arguments are right, how many of you have checked to see whether the cost of college professor positions, including those of law professors, have increased above inflation as has tuition over the years? I admit until now I had not thought of this, but if salaries are not increasing above the rate of inflation this alone can not explain massive tuition increases. I know in public colleges and universities the salaries are flat, and that the schools are increasingly relying on adjuncts.

    I also find it interesting that someone who claims to have gotten a cheap or free education in Europe can not see the problem is not that the government pays for college, but how. If its in loans, its bad, but if it is in grants and low cost tuition, then there would be no student loan crisis.

    I suspect many of you are ideologically opposed to true reform despite the talk about reform here because it wouldn't be market based reform.

  60. 7:03

    YOU wrote a book? Books?


  61. Here's an illustration of the point about private student loan debt. The article points out that the private debt is on the increase:

    In fact, although I can't find the story, when the federal government tried to reign in the private loan debt, the private lenders simply changed the structure of the private loans, and marketed to desperate students in a different way.

    There's a reason why loan sharks existed in the private sector long before public loans existed. As our overall economy continues to not product jobs, more people are going to desperately try to use education to change their economic circumstances. The solution must be cheap education. Not pretending ending student loans will address the problem. If your education were cheap to obtain, there would be no student loan or glut of lawyers crisis because people would not be tied down by their debt.

  62. are a windbag. All those "genius" thoughts you think you just dropped on us have all been discussed by LawProf and others for years. Are you new here?

    And yes, private loans are better than public loans if they are DISCHARGEABLE. And did you track the increase of tuition along with the increases of federal loan limits, genius? Nobody here is a market fundamentalist but for the hundredth time, the current situation is the worst of both worlds. YOU are the real danger to reform because you obfuscate the problems with needless bullshit while yelling that everyone else is.

  63. In short, 9:54 AM proves my point that this is mostly more conservative ranting.

    You are against public loans because they "hurt" students. But, not private although they offer worse terms, aren't dischargeable despite your shilling for them, and are in fact going to worsen the problem.

    You aren't worried about lowering the cost of higher education either. Just getting rid of student loans.

    Its clear this movement has some right wing elements not interested in reform.

  64. 12:32 - my comment is not conservative ranting. The simple issue that I have observed is that a series of policies with respect to law school loans has driven the massive increase in the cost of law school. I worked my way through law school at a T15 school - because I was denied student loans - no because of a lack of need. I was educated to BSC in non-US colleges.

    The current US student loan system is pernicious because of the Federal Guarantee and the non-dischargeability - although the latter is a smaller factor as any private lender to a third-tier student with $150k+ in debt would discover - if someone is not earning enough money to cover their debts - it is a loss.

    Where I went to college they raised tuition by $100 and there were riots, sit-ins and people dropping out. It was a long time before tuition was raised again - the consequences were immediate and painful for the school and the politicians - and yes it was a 1st tier international institution.

    The US loan system has created a problem - a lack of attention to cost. As I pointed out - when I was at Georgetown Judy Areen spent an entire year's law school tuition on flowers to brighten the place up for a conference of law school deans - a YEARS ******** TUITION. No where, anywhere in the world, have I seen the profligacy of US academia - the "feather bedding." Professor's unqualified spouses found jobs on $60-120k in administration to get them to move, celebrity professors who are paid $2-400,000 and teach maybe 2-6 classes.

    The student loan system is a disaster. The problem is - how do you get rid of it now. Kill the student loan system and only the rich will be able to go to law school for the 15-25 years that it will take pure monetization to bring tuition into a sensible range.

    Moreover, the fact that running a law school is so lucrative means that law schools have recruited totally unsuitable people into law school. There is only one reason you should go to law school - BECAUSE YOU WANT TO PRACTICE LAW. Now because you took something dumb for your first degree and now want a job that pays a little better than your BA qualifies you for. The legal profession is full of assholes - and almost all of them are people who went to law school because its a nice living, and then found the law tedious drudgery. I only want people to be lawyers who enjoy the practice of law - and my partners and assistants all fall into that category - we love what we do, in our own law firm, one we created, where we do make actually pretty good money, because we genuinely enjoy complex international high technology litigation - we write about it, we love it - we find it great.

  65. I suspect you are conservative because your arguments are factually false, but you don't seem to know this, and what's worse you keep telling me "water is wet" without understanding how I am explaining why that is the case. I don't care how many times you post. You can not rebut the facts by repeating yourself. Its a classic swiftboat, conservative strategy. Repeat a lie enough, people will believe it. Here's the lie: Its government. Nevermind, that the crisis you are discussing is in actuality caused by cuts to funding in education by states because conservatives didn't want to pay for education, and they wanted to increase tax cuts for higher income earners. This is playing out in states like NY and CA and elsewhere. Your entire premise is a conservative one: government bad! You provide no analysis of what's producing the cost, and don't seem to care, which again tells me you are a conservative. The cost comes from cuts to funding of education (its directly related to it in an almost 1 to 1 ratio, and has been since the 1980s). Once again, I invite people to compare the U.S. model for education to those abroad. this is the thing that illustrates the conservative "free market" arguments being made here. indeed, like I said, how anyone can say with any sincerity that private loans aren't as bad - well that person is just a liar. Not interested in "reform" other than in the same way the conservatives are interested in "reform" for tort law cases. Meaning, "reform" here means less government rather than addressing how conservative arguments caused the crisis in the first place.

  66. by the way, its not lost on me that, if public loans are cut out, and one is left with just private loans, when the private loans get so bad that people can't handle them, the argument will be to bail out the banks through you asking the same government you complain about to bail you out. The real solution rather than pretending loans will magically go away because public loans are gone is to admit that the problem runs deeper, and address the deeper problem.

  67. "But, not private although they offer worse terms, aren't dischargeable despite your shilling for them"

    You are as dumb as a bag of rocks. I said they would be better IF they were dischargeable....IF...get it moron? Public loans too. THAT is the issue....a one sided financial instrument where the student carries all the risk and there are no regs in place to limit tuition. I want MORE regulation, not less. How is that conservative? My god you're thick.

  68. at 4:32 PM - you really are kind of - well - dumb. You are suggesting that my argument against the student loan system means that I am opposed to public funding of universities .... did I say that? No. You made it up - which frankly is pretty swift-boat like. Moreover, your statements about cutting public funding for education misses the point - colleges facing a funding cut put all the cost on the students because the student loan system made it feasible to do so. Moreover, US colleges are profligate because cost has no immediate consequences for them, in part because of the student loan system.

  69. And if your "if" really mattered, I would care.

    Naomi Klein has this great book called "The Shock Doctrine."

    Here's why you are a conservative:

    "The book argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman have risen to prominence in some countries because they were pushed through while the citizens were reacting to disasters or upheavals. "

    You and using the same approach here.

    The crisis or upheaval you are discussing is a manufactured one created by the Neo-liberal assault on public financing of education.

    Without that assault, there is no crisis in student loan debt. People would not need to take out massive debt if the tuition is not high.

    You wouldn't be here using it to dismantle programs that existed a full decade without any problems. Indeed, this excuse of rising cost is used to cut Pell Grants too. This "if" of yours is also how conservatism operates.

    Indeed, we are supposed to ignore the fact that other countries are paying effectively for higher education around the world without the same costs. The reason why is because they fund the schools rather than using the cost as an excuse to further cut programs.

    The terms of private loans, on their face, are worse than public loans. If both are allowed into bankruptcy (which I agree with) there would be no issue with the public loans either,and the terms of the private would still be worse. This is simply the product of comparing their terms of their face.

    But, we aren't suppose to think too much about how arguments are constructed to advance conservatism because "We have no choice! Its expensive, and its the government fault."

    Except of course abroad the exact same programs run by the government aren't this expensive. I used the health care example above for a reason. The same sort of disaster capitalism plays out there. We must cut this program, and make you more desperate because we are trying to help you. Right, whatever. Let me know, once again why a loan with a repayment term of 10 years with an interest rate of almost 9 percent is better than a loan with more flexible terms and a lower interest rate.

    How does any of this ultimately get to the real problem: That there is an assault on funding of education, and the "cost" you are talking about is really just cuts.

  70. I suggesting that if you replace the funding to public education (liberal) rather than trying to cut public loans (conservative) then you accomplish the goal in a way that other countries have done without using a crisis to pretend you have no choice but to act conservatively. This site seems to be all about the Shock Doctrine or Disaster Capitalism. The issue you want to address you address with a market approach rather than one that works abroad- which is state based educational finance rather than loan based. Not only does it work abroad, but its cheaper. You can't see that solution because you are conservative.

  71. Klein is to left-wingers what Rand is to right-wingers. As soon as you see a comment mentioning either it's time to stop reading.


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