Friday, March 16, 2012

Say anything

I didn't want to pay more attention to the controversy regarding the gap between Columbia's and NYU's NALP reports regarding the number of their grads who got big law firm jobs in 2010 and the NLJ250 statistics (for one thing big law placement is relatively minor side show in the multi-tiered disaster that is the current employment market for ABA law school grads), but a new story in Fortune throws further light on the extent to which anyone should believe anything law school administrators say regarding their schools' employment stats.  Here's the dean of CLS:

Among top tier law schools -- where debt can be steep -- employment data can be hard to parse as well. Columbia University's law school, which kept its No. 4 national ranking this year, says that it did not exaggerate its employment numbers because two dozen law firms did not report their hiring, and employed graduates who had not been admitted to the bar were not included in the overall total.

"It's true that the elite bar is hiring fewer people," says David Schizer, dean of Columbia's law school. "But is Columbia affected? No."
Really, at some point what is there left to say?  Note that Dean Schizer wasn't making an off the cuff remark to cowed law students at "town hall" meeting, or posting anonymous snark on the internet, or mumbling something to a Jobs Creator at the bar after his fourth G&T at yet another unbearably tedious fundraising event. Instead, he said this, while on the record, to a journalist for one of the nation's leading financial publications.

Stats? Stats:

Percentage of Columbia law graduates getting jobs with NLJ250 firms by year:

2006:  69.9
2007:  74.8
2008:  70.5
2009:  54.4
2010:  55.2
2011:  51.7

This chart shows a comparable collapse in big law hiring at most elite law schools for the class of 2009, which continued and deepened for the classes of 2010 and 2011.  On some level it's basically nuts to assert that the elite bar is hiring fewer people but Columbia isn't affected.  It's almost an oxymoron, practically equivalent to saying "the people who hire our graduates aren't hiring as many of our graduates but our graduates are not affected."

Again, I really don't know what to say.  Possible explanations:

(1) Schizer was misquoted.  If so, he ought to speak up now or forever hold his peace.

(2) Schizer said this and believes it's true. If so, he's deeply delusional, at a level I wouldn't have thought possible even for elite law school deans, who often show signs of being less than securely tethered to reality on a whole range of subjects.

(3)  Schizer said this, knows it isn't true, and is lying because he believes it's in his own and his institution's interest for him to lie.

(4) Schizer said this, doesn't know whether it's true or not, and doesn't care, because bullshitting is what deans do in the same way other people brush their teeth at bedtime.

My guess -- and that's really all it is -- is that (4) is the most plausible explanation.  Legal academics in general and legal academic administrators in particular are people who get used to just saying stuff without bothering too much about whether they actually know what they're talking about, because bullshitting is a hard habit to break.

Protip for future reference: Journalists for the national media aren't law students.  You're not a fearsome authority figure to them. In fact, what you are is a schmuck.  They won't tell you so in so many words, but if you lie to them or act like you know what you're talking about when you don't, they'll write stories that make it clear to their readers that that's what you are.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. That is the essence of the scam. The law school administrator pigs are experts in corporatese, edu-babble, and pulling a fast one. Among other academics, no one else is going to call them on their BS, i.e. "That's just something that academics don't do to each other." (And you wonder why this mess started.)

    These "educators" know that they can sweet-talk their buddies at the state legislature and Congress. They also are cognizant that there are few investigative journalists around. They will try to pull the wool over the typical reporter's eyes, as these ass-hats feel that they are so much smarter than a mere news journalist.

    In op-eds, you will notice how "law professors" and deans often lie to the public. That shows you the contempt they have for the common man and woman - as well as for the truth.

  3. LawProf, have you considered contacting the author of this piece at Fortune and offering the BigLaw employment statistics to them? You are exactly right. Saying these things in the national media creates a national conversation. Someone should respond appropriately.

  4. "It's true that the elite bar is hiring fewer people," says David Schizer, dean of Columbia's law school. "But is Columbia affected? No."

    The flap over fudging hiring numbers, he says, was a concern only because "Columbia is the gold standard. People are aware of how much being here does for their careers."

    What a lying sack of shit. I'm glad CLS is feeling the heat. I'm glad everyone is seeing the truth about the uncaring, miserable people in the CLS administration. I'm glad Schizer keeps putting his foot in his mouth in national publications and not just at bi-yearly town hall meetings (public interest summer funding isn't being cut! you're being paid exactly the same amount of money per week- just eight weeks instead of 10!).

    I didn't have a career before I got here, and I still don't have one. The only difference is I now have about 100K of non-dischargeable debt.

  5. I truly despise law school deans. At lease bankers are known as amoral to the general public. Deans cloak their profiteering in the language of the now dead American Dream.

  6. LawProf, love your quote in the article but Michelle Bachmann said it best.

  7. To say you know "X" to be true when you know you do not know whether it is true or false is a lie. And, when you intend for somebody to rely on your statement that is fraud. That's just the law, Dean.

  8. To say you know "X" to be true when you know you do not know whether it is true or false is a lie. And, when you intend for somebody to rely on your statement that is fraud. That's just the law, Dean.

  9. What I find also absurd about Schizer is that it is at the “elite bar,” i.e., the BigLaw largest 100 and 250 firms that the biggest long-term problems for the profession are appearing first – and it may be in the smaller and mid-size boutique firms that the long term survivors are found. To be absolutely blunt, when I exited law school 20 years ago first and second year associates at BigLaw spent their time doing things a semi-house-trained monkey could do. A bunch of them would spend nights at the printers (in a nice plush lounge with catering and a bar) while prospectuses were printed for bonds – checking that no one inadvertently fixed a typo; others engaged in pointless document review on deals where anything they found would be swept under the rug – and in litigation they reviewed reams of paper for little purpose.

    In the last 20 years even BigLaw has changed this – first by adding paralegals – then boiler rooms of contract attorneys at as cheap a price as possible – but still, outside specialized practices, the associates largely do repetitive dull tasks where they can be briefed on what to do in half an hour. And now automated review processes are killing that work too. That is why the whole targeting of BigLaw is a problem and it is also why First Year Associate hiring may not recover (that and the much stronger unwillingness of GCs to pay for first and second years.)

    By contrast what I am seeing is rising demand for experienced lawyers with sui generis skill sets. However, many of the BigLaw and Magic Circle firms have all but dicarded these departments because they did not offer the ability to leverage tens of associates per equity partner – and because the good associates vanish over the hill as soon as they can (and when they say they have the departments, the heavy hitters are all gone.) Thus for example Clifford Chance merged with Rogers & Wells – and within a year the entire R&W IP team had left –and the same happened at other big firms; ditto other specialized practices. Which leaves BigLaw with pretty fungible Corporate Transactions practices – where there is fairly little between the top firms in terms of impact on the deal (whatever the propaganda says the lawyers on these deals are usually picked by the investment bankers and they know the main thing is that the deal happens and the IBs get their bonuses.)


  10. MacK,

    I am a T2 law school graduate. I have a few questions that I would like to ask you after reading your posts concerning career viability. Is there an email that I could contact you at?

  11. Please continue to focus on elite schools as well as the rest. A lot of the scam continues based on the lie that kids at lower schools would be fine if they just worked harder and got into Columbia. If that is no longer true, it all falls apart.

  12. @1:49

    I am very cautious about posting my e-mail on websites. If you can find a way around that.


  13. LawProf: Elite law deans seem to have entered that segment of society that has done and said whatever it wants for so long, while the rest of their little world of law school, bench and bar gazes upon them with reverence, that they have come to believe that whatever dribbles out of their mouths is both profound and unquestionable. It is this same belief that enables NYU to buy $3 1/2 million apartments for faculty and administrators to live in and, with a straight face, call them "investments." (That background noise you hear the investment staff that manages NYU's endowment laughing so hard they might injure themselves.) This has long been a problem with judges, as you have been pointing out for years. So, yes, number four is the most likely answer. And no, Dean Bullshit will not take your advice about journalists, so the next chapter may get very ugly, or amusing, depending on your point of view.


  14. "Among top tier law schools -- where debt can be steep -- "

    Debt is steep at nearly every law school. Again, as bad as it is out there for grads from top 5 schools, it's indescribably worse for those attending schools outside of the Top 14. I really hope this coverage doesn't frame the crisis in terms of "people should be alarmed because Ivy-leaguers can't get biglaw jobs." The crisis in legal education extends far beyond the top schools. Law school is too expensive for everybody, jobs are difficult to get for everybody. I don't think the average layman reading the NYT will understand the magnitude of the situation if it's predominately framed as an Ivy League problem or a prestigious law school only problem.

  15. LawProf, take it easy on Columbia Law. They are still mourning the death of one of its students who committed suicide. Perhaps this student was affected by the contraction of legal jobs.

  16. @ 2:20

    I disagree. I think if it is framed as an Ivy League issue, a layman will be more alarmed. The Ancient Eight have always been perceived as meal tickets for life, regardless of the discipline studied. Joe The Plummer off the street might not understand the plight of an unemployed student from Cooley, the reason being he has never heard of Cooley and could theoreitcally question the wisdom and work ethic of the student attending there (the old, study harder, get good LSAT, work hard, network mentality that pervades the rest of society). However, Columbia is a household name, recognized around the world as an elite institution. I think your average person will become very scared if the students widely (and blindly) regarded as "the smart Ivy leaguers" are facing employment problems.

  17. The degenerates in the contemporary infotainmentplex are more likely to report on Ivy Leaguers and raise overall awareness of the underlying problem.

    T14 grads = attractive white girl

    TTT grads = young black male

  18. This is a good point. CLS will not guaranty you a good job. Not even close, and it's fraudulent of Dean Schizer to say that it will.

  19. "But is Columbia affected? No."

    ROFL. Yeah, right. I call bulls-it.

  20. Someone needs to get Michael Lewis to do a piece on this law school scam....or at least a similarly skilled writer

    Here is Lewis' take on Columbia School of Journalism, way back in the nineties (link taken from thirdtierreality blog)

  21. Columbia isn't affected?

    Latham. Ever heard of it?

  22. in your comment about journalists - I wonder why so many national journalists were misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq if they are so good at ferreting out when someone is lying?

    No, they write stories that say "Joe said X, Sam said why.". They do not really try to figure out who is correct. If someone has done a study, they will report on the fact that a study was done, and maybe how many pages it was, it they generally will not spend the time or energy to figure out if it is true or not. Unless it is one of the Murdoch media -- they will just write whatever fits their narrative regardless of truth.

  23. For a bit of contrast. MBA schools (and their deans) are ahead of the law schools. Their 'business model' is adapting a bit faster to reality:

    "The admission downturn has not spared the MBA elite, the group that includes Harvard and Penn. ... But even their graduates are fielding fewer job offers, said David Thomas, the new dean of the Georgetown business school, who previously worked at both Harvard and Penn. Leaders of Northwestern University’s Kellogg business school last month announced a “transformational” shift away from the traditional MBA program, in favor of a shorter one-year program and greater focus on international students."

    [I think international students are easier to milk.]

    "I believe that over the next 10 years, we will sort ourselves into about 20 schools” able to maintain full-time programs larger than 200 students, Thomas said. “And those schools will have to offer learning experiences that are truly distinct and powerful."

  24. Using hiring data from 2011, which reflects OCI in 2009 is probably notbthe best reference point for current commentary on legal hiring

  25. Columbia alumni are doing so well. Posted on one of my Linked In groups:

    "Brief Writer Available: Former Columbia Law School Kent Scholar, 3rd Circuit law clerk, and Adjunct Writing Professor at Temple. To engage her services, see LinkedIn profile - Rachel Schulman, Esq."

    This attorney graduated in the first half of the Aughts.

  26. The scam has so many layers.

    Even supposing that the lawsuits end up radically reforming legal education, they won't address the Student Lending racket.

    Sallie Mae and other Student lending entities, including the Federal Government should all be sued, and thereafter a superfund set up to compensate American individuals and families that have been the victims of inflated interest and usury.

    One has to ask: What percentage of the one trillion dollars outstanding in student loan debt is due to excessive interest without any caps whatsoever, which has benefitted a relative few to the detriment of countless others?

  27. sthu you deadbeat. you CHOSE to borrow the money so you better pay it back. we should be whipping debtors and bringing back debtor's prisons.

  28. For one of the first times I can remember since reading this blog, I have to say Campos is WRONG. Journalists for the national media generally are about as adversarial as 1Ls. The article didn't call out Schizer's bullshit.

  29. @ March 16, 11:06PM said:

    "We should be whipping debtors and bringing back debtor's prisons."

    I guess that says it all in a nutshell.

    There are some diabolical people that are following and commenting on this blog.

    As far as Federally backed student loans go, there is no sweeter deal around. If Peter cannot pay, Paul the taxpayer will.

    So in theory, if the student loan debtor does ever pay, for example, a quadrupled student loan off, the banks will have collected twice: once from the debtor, and twice from the taxpayer in multiple payments during the term the loan is outstanding.

    I'm sure this kind of abuse of the Student Lending system was never envisioned at its inception, but that is nevertheless what has happened and continues to take place.

    If bankruptcy for student loans will never happen, there must, at the very least, be caps put in place on the interest.

    If nothing ever changes, I will ask: What stronger deterrent can there be for getting a higher education, let alone a law degree?

    In other words, why risk going to College or law school if it is going to ruin a person financially?

    Especially now that we have the written proof from March 16, 11:06PM that there is a prevailing sentiment in favor of debtor's prisons and flogging for the un or underemployed Educated class in America?

  30. 11:06- i am all for making people pay back what they borrow, except in this case, people are being duped into borrowing to purchase something that has very little actual value. they are being, wait for it, SCAMMED. do you think seniors who mistakenly send their money to nigerian "princes" deserve to get restitution? i certainly do.

    if law school were priced reasonably (i.e. somewhere near historic levels), if law deans weren't lying with impunity to trick impressionable kids (i'm sorry, 22 is not an adult anymore), and if the product being purchased were more valuable than your average snuggie, then your argument might hold some weight.

    let's fix the whole damn thing. starting tomorrow, a borrower can only take out a maximum of 14,999 dollars per year, and cannot have more than 74,999 dollars of student loan debt total (inclusive of undergrad). now, i wonder, how much do you think law school would cost, two days later?

    i should add that i am at my school on fellowship (independent endowment). but nearly all my friends are not. it isn't right what's happened to them. you're just so out of touch; you're the problem, 11:06.

  31. 5:52 again- the dollar amounts for my "fix" refer to federally-backed loan dollars.

  32. Its the 'bunker mentality' the world over professor.

  33. I would like to know how the "pay what you owe" crowd would address the fact that many people end up paying 2-3 times what they originally borrowed, due to compounding interest. I would gladly pay what I borrowed, and if I only had to pay what I borrowed, I would be done paying in a few more years. As it is, with the interest, I'm going to be paying for most of the rest of my life. How do you address situations like JD Painter Guy's, where his loan balance skyrocketed due to huge penalty fees and his inability to pay the loan before the interest piled on? It's not as simple as "borrow money, pay it back."

  34. 7:41

    I am in the same boat as you. I want to pay back what I owe but will winding up paying significantly more than what was borrowed because of capitalized interest.

    Why can't I refinance? Why can't I pay back what was borrowed with a reasonable amount of interest?

  35. Part of the problem with legal education (and this had undoubtedly been said here repeatedly) is that a JD is required in order to sit for the bar exam. Unfortunately this required JD confers little in the way of knowledge or skill to the aspiring attorney, instead the entire enterprise acts as a sorting mechanism (smarter people -> better school, etc). The curriculum of the average law school has little to do with either the bar exam or the actual practice of law. It is hard to believe for those that have not seen it first hand, but there are "law professors" being paid large amounts of money to not teach anything of value.

    There is no meaningful oversight in place, for either the curriculum or the cost of tuition. And the schools can go on providing little for a high price. You see, the temptation to charge a whole lot of money for the privilege of getting a JD is seemingly irresistible.

    Add to that another level of failed self-governance in the reporting of job placement and starting salaries and you have what looks like a scam to me. The school I graduated from last May was claiming 97% employment (the stat since purged from their website). And, I saw with my own eyes how those in the class in front of me were suddenly hired for bullshit jobs that lasted, surprise, until just after the magic nine month mark. I was offered (and accepted, I’m not that proud) a “graduate fellowship” position eight months out. I am “employed” in the eyes of USNWR. There are times when I cannot believe this has happened to me.

    TL,DR: You need the JD to be an attorney, and a law school can determine what it means to have a JD and what it should cost.

  36. There are many factors on why people are borrowing money from lending companies. But one must be sure about the loans that they are dealing with.

  37. I'm a 2011 Columbia Law School grad. Half of my graduating class did not have secured employment to speak of--in any form, at any level--when we graduated, and this was a common, well known circumstance throughout the student body. Several of my fellow students would have taken anything in the public or private sphere, had it been offered to them. To suggest otherwise, to suggest that even ivory towered Columbia was shielded from a devastating economy/job market is preposterous.


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