(1) In the New York Times, Stanley Fish has a curiously diffident review of Brian Tamanaha's forthcoming book on the crisis in legal education. I'm reading the book now, and it's a somewhat understated but therefore all the more devastating critique of legal academia. I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Fish the academic, in part because he's usually not afraid to praise and criticize, in the most straightforward and unvarnished way, ideas, institutions, and people he believes deserve such praise and criticism. This review reads like something that might have been written by someone who had never set foot inside a law school, and indeed had no particular interest in the subject matter of the book he had been assigned to review: it merely describes (some aspects of) Tamanaha's argument, while studiously avoiding any hint of what the critic's own views, if any, might be regarding what the book has to say.
Given that Fish was a long-time member of an elite law school's faculty, recently joined the faculty of a new law school which graduated its first class in 2005, and in between spent several years as a high-ranking university administrator, it would be difficult to imagine anyone better positioned to comment on the substance of Tamanaha's claims. That he wrote a thousand-word book review without doing so is as I said both very uncharacteristic and notable in itself. After all, Tamanaha's argument is among other things an indictment of the enterprise within which Fish has spent a good part of his professional life. This is not the kind of thing someone like Fish would normally treat as if he were reporting on the total amount of iron ore mined in Canada last year.
That he does may suggest that Fish basically agrees with what Tamanaha has to say, but, for obvious reasons, would prefer not to acknowledge this. Fish after all has been one of the leading beneficiaries, both in academia generally and within legal academia in particular, of the superstar system (i..e, the practice of spending big bucks to get high-profile academics in order to try to pump up an institution's ranking) which has played a part in generating the out of control cost structure of higher education in America. I certainly don't blame him for getting while the getting was good (and unlike a lot of academic "superstars" he's actually written a great deal of stuff worth reading), but this has put him in what could fairly be called a delicate position in regard to the structural pathologies Tamanaha's book describes and condemns.
(2) Someone who has investigated the matter tells me that Florida State's longstanding practice of admitting a relatively small entering class and then taking an enormous number of transfer students (at any one time over the last few years, nearly a quarter of the school's non-1L JD students have been transfers) upset students admitted there as 1Ls enough that, in order to appease them, the school created separate class ranks for original admits and transfers. It would be interesting to compare the entrance qualifications of FSU's 1Ls with those of the transfers whose tuition dollars are clearly so crucial to the school's budget.
(3) Long-time scam blogger JD Painterguy was interviewed recently by a New York-area television station, for a segment on educational debt. Even for people who are already familiar with the basic subject matter, the segment is well worth watching. For those in legal academia who continue to float in an ocean of complacency, it ought to be required viewing.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Is there a point in this text?
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I thought the Fish piece quite good. There was no need for him to shout Amen. Actually Tamanaha,who has been really good on this subject, seems willing to leave the Fishes of the world alone. His proposal to essentially divide students into different tracks would leave Yale and other elite schools intact. Fish could keep on doing what he does. Elite firms, federal judges, and prestigious government offices would stll use that pipeline. iThere would be schools for students who want a lower cost alternative that trained them for more ordinary practice.ReplyDelete
What would happen to TTT and TTTT applications after its been made explicit that this is a lower track not leading to any glamorous or prestigious jobs. I think a lot of TTT and TTTT (and Ohio State) applications are currently based on a fantasy that these jobs are attainable. Nobody really goes to law school because they dream of a career in shitlaw.ReplyDelete
@7:34, I'm currently attending one of these schools. Absolutely no one has any illusions about landing a biglaw job or an Article III clerkship, and everyone realizes that honors programs will only be available (potentially) to the top 5% or so of the class. No one is fantasizing about working at an insurance defense mill either. I think most of the students' fantasies are about getting a decent-paying job with a local prosecutor's office or public defender, working in the legal department for a municipal or state agency, hanging their own shingle, or getting a job as an associate in a "legitimate" small firm. How realistic are these fantasies - not very - at least for most of the class. But these people are not dreaming of 160K jobs in Manhattan.ReplyDelete
People will become lawyers if they are not crushed by debt.ReplyDelete
"a lower cost alternative"ReplyDelete
Do you mean paralegal school? The only legal "career" that most TTT and TT grads have a shot at is document review and filling out forms in shitlaw with the occasional court appearance thrown in the mix. This work can be done with a GED. .
A school with faculty that does not concentrate on scholarship, focuses on teaching, is comprised of adjunct practitioners, mainly, would be a cheaper alternative.ReplyDelete
I noticed that Fish did not actually provide a critique of the book at all. When reading the "review," I immediately thought "Isn't this supposed to be a book review?" That is telling.ReplyDelete
Either he agrees with at least some of Tamanaha's argument - and chooses not to acknowledge it publicly, for obvious reasons - or he disagrees with Tamanaha's argument, but does not want to be on the wrong side of history.
2000 dollars a month in interest. If even ~1% of LS grads end up in his position there's likely ~10,000 guys just like him - that would mean a ~240 million increase in law school debt every year.ReplyDelete
I personally enjoy filling out my IBR forms. To me, it's my way of telling the taxpayes "law school fucked me so I'm fucking you."ReplyDelete
Fuck you, all of you working morons paying for my social welfare benefits, IBR etc. Fuck all of you. Pwned.
Yes, but 7:44, how many of those realizations set in prior to applying? Do TTT, TTTT, Ohio State, etc applicants realize how limited their options are going to be? I'm sure they've caught on after a year or two, but by then it's too late.ReplyDelete
If people know ahead of time what they can expect from the law school they go to no one can be misled. There will be an incentive to think carefully about the choice to go to law school.ReplyDelete
@7:44 here, replying to 10:08. I'm sure there are a few delusional people, but yes, I think the vast majority realize going in that biglaw and similarly prestigious/lucrative outcomes will be out of reach. Most of the people I've talked to view law school as a path to a middle class existence and (more importantly) a path out of a dead-end job, a failing business, or unemployment. The sad part is that even for people with very modest goals, law school is very likely to move them in the opposite direction. I don't feel particularly bad for someone who goes to a fourth-tier school thinking they're going to come out with a 160K job; I do feel bad for someone who goes to a fourth-tier school thinking they're going to get a 50K job. The people with unrealistic expectations of 160K biglaw and Article III clerkships are mostly found in the "trap schools" that Professor Campos discussed in an earlier blog post. The "trap schools" are not in the third and fourth tier.ReplyDelete
In order to qualify for IBR, you will have to live in squalor for the next 25 years. I wish you luck in adopting personal austerity measures. Oh, if and when you are done with IBR, the feds will send you a nice 1099-C form for you to pay a balloon tax on the debt that was forgiven. This tax is non-dischargeable, at least for a few years. Under proposed Congressional legislation, your passport will be revoked if you owe over $50K to the IRS. By that time, I will be retired in Costa Rica. Did you really think all of us would stay behind in this cesspool of a country to pay for your (millenials) mistakes?
JD painterguy did a great job on that show. He should be proud of his contribution to the issue of student loan debt and how it affects borrowers.ReplyDelete
To 11:45 a.m. (not 9:59 am): Please cite to IRS rule that they will treat forgiveness as income. Also, I'm in government - so your tax dollars are paying for my job and my forgiveness (which will be after only 10 years - hopefully mostly not spent in squalor). I didn't like the tone of your post.ReplyDelete
If you think the terms of IBR require you to live in squalor you need a reality check. The debt may suck but the adjusted payments are very manageable.ReplyDelete
To 12:45 PM: I'm not 11:45, but here is the information about the IRS and loan forgiveness. 11:45 may be a jerk, but s/he is correct about this point.ReplyDelete
12:45 here again: nevermind 11:45, here is a good link: http://www.finaid.org/loans/20080919treasurylevinforgiveness.pdfReplyDelete
I don't know who employs 9:59, but as for me, I won't be receiving that 1099-C. My hope is with proper management I'll see you in Costa Rica...without having to deal with people like you during my working years. Chilling out at 3 o'clock in the afternoon sucka!
Professor Campos, here's some possible fodder for a future post:ReplyDelete
Thanks Professor Campos. I had a huge swell in views today with ISP addresses from all sorts of Universities and even Washington DC.ReplyDelete
From an actual law school website:ReplyDelete
Here are some links to assist those interested in a legal career:
Craigslist (San Diego)
That assumes that you are considering Western Sierra a "school". Only a handful of "faculty", half of whom received their JDs from Western Sierra. In fact, none of the CVs on there are very impressive, and two omit undergrad degrees.
At least the tuition is reasonable.
That is probably because undergraduate degrees aren't required for admission to California-accredited law schools...two of the best lawyer's I know just have A.A.'s and a j.d. from one of these school's.
Internal Revenue Code Section 108 = income from discharge of indebtedness. There are many ways around it, read the code and do some due diligence...if you are prudent, you can cancel debt and not end up with a tax lien. There are also many ways to earn a living and not end up in squalor while still on IBR..being self employed is one example.ReplyDelete
I actually found this review somewhat refreshing (though very atypical). Generally, a lot of reviews tend to become about the review's author, not the reviewed work. In contrast, after reading Fish's review, I had a clear sense of the underlying work and Tamanaha's position. Moreover, I'm unlikely to take the time to read it, so it was nice to get the summary.ReplyDelete
Why differentiate elite from regular law schools. Don"t big firm lawyers need to know the law, how to write, depose, cross examine, etc.?ReplyDelete
The is a smooth continuum between shitlaw, midlaw, boutiques and biglaw. They are not 2 separate professions.