Thursday, May 17, 2012

Step right up ladies and gentlemen

I've been putting together a collection of promotional e-mails prospective law students from all around the country get from law schools (One amusing aspect of this practice is that some schools keep harassing people all through their 1L year, as apparently they blast email everybody who took the LSAT in the previous cycle, in the hope that some people who didn't end up enrolling will now change their mind).

Here I want to focus on two aspects of this practice:what have become the the quasi-open enrollment policies of lower-tier schools, and the juking of the stats by some elite institutions.

As for the former, Nando at Third Tier Reality noted yesterday that the Oklahoma City University School of Law is accepting applications for its fall class up to and including August 1st, while the class's first-year orientation starts three days later.  This has apparently become a standard practice at lower-tier schools. Here's one from Regent:

Date: August 2, 2011 11:09:58 AM CDT
Subject: [Name], our final deadline is almost here!
Reply-To: "Regent Law" <>

Hi [Name],
We are checking every day, and we have not yet seen your application to Regent Law for this coming academic year. It's not too late to apply!
You still have time to fill out your LSAC application ... or list us as one of your schools if your application is already on file.
In turn, we are happy to send you a timely admission decision and consider you for a scholarship. Plus, you won't pay an application fee.
We have just a few spots available in our incoming 2011 class, [Name]. Apply today to make sure you meet the final August 8 deadline!
Jeffrey A. Brauch
Dean and Professor
Regent University School of Law
1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464

And this kind of thing is spreading well beyond the depths of the fourth tier:  In 2010 Seton Hall's (ranked #69 out of 200 ABA schools) admissions dean was sending out who knows how many emails at the end of June --the school's application deadline had supposedly passed three months earlier -- with this cordial invitation:

We do have a few remaining seats as well as scholarship opportunities in the Fall 2010 class.  If you have already earned your bachelors degree and starting law school in August might be of interest to you, feel free to call me to discuss submitting an application for priority review.  If I am not available to take your call you can also speak with our Associate Director, Laura Dauchy.)
Given that law school applications are down nationally almost 25% since then, I imagine a lot of places that until now thought they were above transforming their admissions office into a troupe of carnival barkers are shall we say becoming more flexible on this score.

And the highest reaches of our learned profession are not immune to engaging in quite dubious tactics.  My in box reveals that for at least the last three years Columbia Law School has sent out a blast email in the first week of February (actually on the exact same day, 13 days before the school's admissions deadline).  Here's the 2011 version:

Date: February 2, 2011
To: " Subject: Columbia Law School Application Fee Waiver

Dear Mr. :

We are writing at this time to encourage you to apply to Columbia Law School, if you have not already done so.

Our February 15, 2011 application deadline is approaching and we continue to actively read applications and render decisions.  If you wish to be considered for admission to our 2011 entering class, please apply via the LSAC online application at  We can assure you, if you apply and complete your application promptly, that your candidacy will be considered carefully. [my emphasis]

At this point in the admissions cycle, we understand that you may have applied to numerous other schools, and thus might feel burdened by the costs of application fees.  Therefore, if you have not already applied to Columbia Law School, we are waiving the usually required application fee of $80. In order to take advantage of the fee waiver, you must apply online via the LSAC electronic application. Please note that this fee waiver is specific to the current application cycle.

We should emphasize that this correspondence does not imply that our Admissions Committee would necessarily be able to take favorable action on your candidacy.  For more information on Columbia Law School and our admissions philosophy, please visit our website at

Best wishes for success with all your law school applications.  We look forward to our review of your candidacy for admission to Columbia.

Warm wishes,

E. Nkonye Iwerebon
Dean of Admissions
What's interesting about this is that many of the people who are getting this solicitation have quite literally zero chance of being admitted.  One person who got it had a 2.7 GPA and a 161 LSAT. This person qualified as an under-represented minority (URM) but CLS's affirmative action admissions policies don't come within light years of making these competitive numbers for admission  (You can look at a graph of CLS's 2012 class to get a sense of how absurd it would be for this applicant to apply).  And many other recipients had numbers that were far below at least one of what seem to be the hard GPA and LSAT cutoffs CLS's admissions office employ (Per LSN Columbia hasn't admitted a non-affirmative action applicant with a GPA below 3.4 in the last five years, but lots of non-URM applicants with GPAs below 3.0 got the above letter).

It appears CLS has an institutional policy of sending out an enormous number of application fee waivers immediately before the school's application deadline to people who have no chance of admission, but who will, if they can be induced to take the time to apply and pay the LSAC reporting fee of $16 (formerly $12), then be counted as applicants by the school for the purpose of lowering its acceptance ratio (which is part of the USNWR ranking).

This is pretty sleazy stuff. Now of course in this situation CLS retains what the Nixon administration used to refer to as plausible deniability: I'm sure they don't employ formal hard cutoffs for applicants, so the school can always claim that it's not true in the most literal sense that white kids with GPAs below 3.0 whose parents didn't happen to buy the university a new library have no chance of admission, even though nobody with that profile has been admitted to CLS since the Korean War. And obviously lots of law schools do much sleazier stuff all the time (at least most people who get into CLS actually get legal jobs). Furthermore CLS is far from alone among elite schools in soliciting applications from people with no chance of admission, although they seem to have taken the systematizing of the practice further than anyone else.

Still. this kind of thing is symptomatic of remarkable combination of lax ethics and imperious sanctimoniousness that characterizes so much of the upper reaches of both legal academia and the legal profession.



  1. Clueless boomer trope:

    We have a knowledge economy and we need workers who are smart and flexible; in order to get the job you have to have a specific degree (adv degree preferred) and a specific number of years of relevant experience.

    (Key: you can't be flexible and a specialist at the same time)

  2. This is purely due to the utterly pointless, unhelpful and useless statistic of "percentage admitted."

    What is the value of that statistics? If 5,000 morons try to get into Burger King to take advantage of a 1 penny hamburger, and only 100 get in - does that make BK a better restuarant than a Park Ave. establishment that accepts 100% of the people who apply?

  3. Only 60% of OCU Law grads passed the February 2012 exam. I guess they consider that a "strong bar passage rate."

  4. Haha, Columbia getting owned yet again.

  5. Other grad programs are relentless in their marketing in terms of contacting prospective students- like used car salesmen. I’ve contacted schools for MBA and MPH programs, just to get mailed brochures; around 1999 when I was looking at undergrad schools they still mailed brochures, anyway this one school has called me like ten times on the phone trying to sell me their program. …using bs sales lines and trying to probe my history and promote me to have spectacular future plans in regards to where the degree “could,” “take me.” The one admissions person for the one MPH program was telling me that I could possibly go to Washington to promote/influence legislation- bullshit, with no connections I would just be sitting at the desk I’m at now just further in debt. When the contact me they’re so enthusiastic that I have to talk them down… saying, “no, there will be no “leadership skills” learned. No, there will be no chance for advancement”

    Just look at how much they advertise all over the place on public trans, newspapers, tv, etc…

  6. Why doesn't USNWR rankings include a "sleaze" factor taken into account in the rankings? There could be a mathematical formula something akin to:

    S = (the number of unsolicited promotional emails sent to kids) * (the percentage of application fees waived) / (the number of days prior to orientation the school offers to accept applications)

  7. Columbia also plays it on the yield side (% of admitted students who actually enroll) I got a postcard from them after I had applied but before I was admitted asking for a statement of continued interest. I guess that if you said you weren't, they could deny you and if you said you actually were, it was more likely that you'd enroll.

  8. This further shows what we have been saying for months and years: the law school pigs have no integrity. They simply want the gravy train to keep running, regardless of the prevailing job market for students and recent graduates.

    "Step right up! You can surely make this softball pitch in this big basket, can't you? Well, come over. Just a dollar! Win your pretty girlfriend a nice, big plush bear if you land it in the basket and it stays in there."

    At least, the carnival barker will not cost you three years of your life, on top of $130K in non-dischargeable debt.

  9. February 8, 2006

    "TO: Selected Participants in the Law School Candidate Referral Service

    FROM: E. Nkonye Iwerebon, Dean of Admissions, Columbia Law School

    We are writing today to encourage you to consider applying to Columbia Law
    School, if you have not already done so.

    Although our February 15, 2006 application deadline is approaching, we
    continue to actively read applications and render decisions. We can assure
    you, if you apply and complete your application promptly, that your
    candidacy will be carefully considered, even if you are unable to meet our
    February 15 deadline. If you wish to be considered for admission to our 2006 entering class, please apply via the LSAC online application at

    At this point in the admissions cycle, we understand that you may have
    applied to numerous other schools, and thus might feel burdened by the costs
    of application fees. Therefore, if you have not already applied to Columbia
    Law School, we are waiving the usually required application fee of $70. Should you decide to apply online via the LSAC e-application, your application fee will be automatically waived.

    We should emphasize that this correspondence does not imply that our
    Admissions Committee would necessarily be able to take favorable action on
    your candidacy -- for more information on Columbia Law School and our
    admissions philosophy, please visit our website at

    Best wishes for success with all your law school applications. We look
    forward to our review of your candidacy for admission to Columbia."

  10. 8:27,
    I'm not sure why the continued interest statement is such a big deal. This allows them to maximize their yield on desirable candidates (high GPA / LSAT, etc.) by extending offers to people most likely to actually enroll. They can only have so many offers outstanding or they may end up over subscribed.

  11. The sleazy tactics just keep emerging. Stories like this show that schools really do have no shame. I think about the college seniors or underemployed workers who receive these emails and think "wow, I really have a chance to get into Columbia!" Despite the disclaimer at the end of the email, that seems like a natural reaction to an unsolicited invitation and fee waiver that arrives two weeks before the application deadline.

    And then, when the applicant doesn't get into Columbia, he or she probably thinks "well, I'll do really well at Seton Hall [or other lower ranked school offering admission] because, after all, I *almost* got into Columbia." If the applicant's parents hear about this Columbia email, they too will be reassured about their child's great prospects as a lawyer and will keep the pressure on to attend law school.

    I LOVE the idea of creating a sleaze factor for US News.

  12. As long as there are stats, people and institutions will juke them.

    Law students do it with their GPAs (paper classes, pass/no pass classes, joke classes, etc.)
    Lawyers do it with billable hours per year (can you really bill 3000 legit hours per year?). Firms do it with profits per partner.
    It's the nature of the beast.

  13. What's the difference between a hedge fund trader at Goldman Sachs and a law school Admissions Dean?


  14. Columbia Law School's little game is flatly unethical, and reflects exceedingly poorly on the institution.

  15. "imperious sanctimony" is probably the best way to express this concept.

  16. Wow...I remember getting the Columbia email, as well as a fee waiver application email the fall before, and another email telling me about their bullshit women's studies program. I didn't end up applying there because I hate NYC, but I can't say it didn't boost my confidence.

    In fact, after I took the LSAT I remember making a separate folder for law school emails because I LITERALLY got hundreds of them, some even after I was a 1L. Columbia was definitely one of the worst offenders out of the top schools at least. Prof Campos is dead on.

    Law school deans need to be in prison.

  17. 10:27 again - I should clarify that I actually did have a good enough LSAT score to get into Columbia, so I really thought that they were just taken with me and wanted me to apply. :(

  18. What is it with people on this site and anything that has to do with women? Can't you just make the point without dipping into the culture wars? Different people are interested in different topics. Just because you have no Interest in something does not make it bullshit.

  19. I don't think the point is the fact that it is a woman, as part of "women's studies". The point is, if that interests you, you would be a hell of a lot better off to read books, journals, and everything else the new world offers, as opposed to plunking down over 100k to benefit salesmen (er, women).

  20. 10:35, I assume you're responding to me. Well, I am a feminist and I am interested in women's issues - in fact I AM a woman! So please don't play the sexist card that you seem to be implying here.

    I suppose you're not familiar with the objections of many on this site to bullshit "Law and" programs that manage to put people hundreds of thousands of dollars into non-dischargeable debt while not managing to convey anything remotely useful to the practice of law.

    Columbia's email has another layer of bullshittiness in that they clearly targeted me in such a superficial, stereotypical way that they thought I would be more likely to apply to their "women's legal studies" program just because I'm female!

    That's why I think it's bullshit.

  21. both "top tier" ny schools do this on the yield protection side of things. when applying to ls, my gpa was over 3.7 and my lsat was over 175. i was accepted literally everywhere i applied... except for penn, nyu, and columbia. all three sent me letters asking that i explain to them why i really wanted to be there. i decided they could kick rocks.

  22. You don't need to waste three years and $150K to sit on a "Feminism and the Law" course. Auditing the course would be cheaper. Besides, if you are going to law school to learn "Critical Theory on Gender Law," then you might as well double down and get an LLM in "Space Law."

  23. 11:07-- Phylis Schafly is a woman,too. Not every woman would offended by that kind of communication. It is not bullshit. Of course you are a feminist.

  24. 11:36, last I checked not every feminist was required to have exactly the same opinion, and to be offended or not offended by exactly the same things.

    Anyways, you are missing the point - it's not about the value of women's studies in general, it's the fact that sleazy Columbia tried to market the brand of law and that they thought was most likely to get me to cough up the dough. Do you seriously not get that?

  25. In fact, Columbia's actions cheapen the value of legit women's studies. But I guess thinking that makes me Phylis Schafly. Geez.

  26. About the dumbest thing you can do with a 163+ LSAT is accept a slot sans scholarship in a lower-ranked (<40 USNWR) before the deadline these days.

    If a kid with a pulse and a 164 applies to any of these places two days before classes start, he probably gets in with sizable money.

    How long until law schools start paying bright college students to take the LSAT so they can increase the pool of available people to haul into the spiral? Nothing like getting a ticket on the Titanic for free.

  27. 1) Your reference to Nando and/or Third Tier puts you right along with him in gutter trash territory. Way to discredit yourself.

    2) Who cares if schools are soliciting in order to bolster their USNEWS acceptance ratio? That's the rules of the USNEWS rankings and there is nothing dishonest about waiving fees to improve on that score. Bitch about USNEWS rankings themselves, not about this.

    3) You need to reconsider going into semi-retirement mode on this blog. You're cranking out garbage again. Here's a clue--if you feel the need or desire to reference a scamblogger, it's time to step back and regroup.

  28. I wonder if 12:10 is a woman?

  29. 12:10: You seriously cannot see the ethical problems in convincing people to plunk down money, even if it's only the $16 LSAC reporting fee, to apply to a program they have zero chance of getting into? Really? Do you work in the CLS admissions office?

    And "Bitch about USNEWS rankings themselves, not about this," really? US News is a for-profit commercial operation. Law schools are not. No, I will not hold them to a higher standard than these allegedly non-profit institutions loudly proclaiming their own nobility.

  30. But...if they're waiving the application fee, I really don't see the harm in getting people to apply who won't get in. What am I missing? Also, for what it's worth, this was about 12 years ago (pre-internet solicitations) but I remember Columbia sending me a fee waiver (on paper, in the mailbox!) shortly before their deadline, too. The difference is, I had already applied and ended up getting admitted. So it's not necessarily just people who don't have a snowball's chance of getting in who get these fee waivers. I do remember being pissed that I wasted the 50 bucks or whatever it was to apply when I didn't need to, though!

  31. 12:10:

    Hi, Brian Leiter.

  32. Nando has done more in the past three years to improve the condition of the human race than Brian Leiter has done in his entire career.

  33. That 12:10 can't see what's dishonest about what Columbia is doing tells anyone all they need to know about how warped ethical standards have gotten in the legal academy in regard to any matter which touches on our financial interest.

    You might as well ask a pimp to explain what's unethical about his line of work.

  34. He would probably say it was "good, honest" work, and in any case more ethical than lets say being a Dean of Admissions.

  35. 12:10 is a turd, plain and simple. Now get back to grading essay exams.

  36. Just wanted to share the latest whiny nonsense over at Prawfs with you guys:

    A smart law student hedged her bets by accepting an RA position with a prof while continuing to seek summer associate positions. She got a SA position, then emailed the professor to express her regret that she couldn't take the RA position. He reproduced her email on Prawfs and started whining about how "callow" and "immature" she was, alleging her behavior to breaking a contract (which is, to say the least, sloppy legal reasoning unless he had actually made her sign a contract), complaining that she should have told him when she accepted his offer that she would jump ship for a better position, and more generally whining about the immaturity and lack of professionalism of law students and *gasp* his having to grade NINETY exams (i.e., pretend to do real work for two weeks). To their credit, many of the Prawfs commenters are calling this idiot out.

  37. HOLY SHIT 1:07, look at how these scumbag professors behave when they're misled. In the prior story's comments there was a story about how boomers and the FTC got $40 million from the FTC because Scketchers shape up shoes didn't magically melt fat like some lardass boomer expected them to. Now this.

    Yet if you complain that they LITERALLY destroyed your life and future by misleading them, 4 to eight fold, about the job prospects out of their law school they accuse you of being a whiner blah blah.

  38. And thanks for the link 1:07 that's a great development in the legal blogosphere (although the prof. has a point).

  39. She should have done it in person or over the phone.

  40. The professor's breath probably smells, so I would have gone with the latter.

  41. Wow, he just posted his email response to the student, which is incredibly obnoxious:

    "First, let me congratulate you on your position. I am very happy to hear that you were able to get a summer associate job in a tight market.

    Second, I want to offer some unsolicited advice: It would have been better if you had told me when you accepted the offer that the acceptance would be contingent on your not securing another and better offer from another employer. I could then have considered whether to extend an offer to the next person on my list. As it is, I am now stuck without research help, as potential RAs have already taken work elsewhere.

    As you know, the whole point of agreements is to sacrifice future possibilities for the sake of present security. I am sure that, had I e-mailed you in late April to say that I decided to rescind an offer to you because an unforeseen opportunity arose to hire another RA that I liked better, you would be not only offended but also practically inconvenienced.

    I am not offended and, indeed, am really happy that you got a good job. But several of my current students asked to be my RA, and I turned them down in favor of hiring you. Had I known that you would renege upon getting a summer associate position, I would have hired one of the 1Ls as a backup or “understudy” to insure myself against the risk of your going elsewhere.

    All of that said, I still would now urge you to accept the summer associate position. I just would advise, in the future, that you be extra-clear about your intentions when you accept future offers of employment."

  42. It's funny that he doesn't mention the one gripe that is legit (her not declining in person or over the phone) and instead rambles about other pointless shit.

  43. 1:07 --

    Professors are the worst. Fuck 'em.

  44. The RA was a woman. Anyone want to wager that she was hot and that this trait has some relevance to the prof's disappointment?

  45. One of the biggest culprits in this whole unsavory business is USNEWS and their friggin' "rankings."

    If we could do away with it, and the "elements" that determine rank, we'd go a long way towards eliminating some of these practices, which are engaged in solely to goose the school's statistics ---> rank.

  46. Down here in the filthy, backstabbing real world of practicing law where I reside, being "extra-clear" about one's intentions when accepting offers of employment has a way of vaporizing those offers of employment.
    And I don't want a rage induced stroke so I am not going to look at the prawfsblog, but I hope the professor didn't actually refer to what he and the 3L had as a "contract." That would be profoundly stupid.

  47. The CLS story reminds me of a similarly egregious incident from nearly 40 years ago when my wife was applying to law school. Eager to enroll women, schools aggressively pitched their institutions to prospective female applicants and wrote directly to those who had achieved above-average LSAT scores, then scaled from 10-48. I can’t recall my wife’s score, but it was in the range where she was very competitive; eventually, she matriculated at a “well-regarded” (there were no rankings at the time) East Coast school.

    As with today’s applicants, my wife applied to a couple of “reach” schools. In each case, she was sure to verify that her LSAT was not below some arbitrary school-imposed cut-off. I was a struggling graduate student at the time and the $10 or so application fee (there were no waivers that I can recall) was real money to us. She was rejected at both schools, although outrageously one school wrote back to her and said her application could not be reviewed because her LSAT was below its cut-off – even though the school’s application materials identified no such minimum. When she contacted the admissions office to ask for her money back, she was informed that because the school had processed (but not reviewed) her application no refund would be forthcoming. Now, there’s a scam!

    Nice to know that where law schools are concerned, little has changed.

    We laugh about this now, after a 35 (and counting) year legal career. But at the time – well, it would have been great to have a blog like this one to complain to.

  48. Law Prof,

    Please do a post comparing NY's decision to dismiss the law student's class action lawsuit for consumer fraud, with Sketchers consumer fraud liability.

  49. I don't want to give aid and comfort to sleazy law professors, but I do seem to recall that employment agreements are not within the statute of frauds, and so there can indeed be an oral contract there.


  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

  51. My comment to Prof. Hills (cross posted from Prawfsblog): I don't think we, as professors, engage in arms' length transactions with students; we have much, much more power than they do in the relationship. And, as a professor, I believe I have a fiduciary duty toward students even when hiring them as RAs. So it's never an ordinary contract in my mind; it's one in which I am keeping the student's interests foremost. Since the job market turned so sour, I routinely advise my RAs that they should feel free to continue seeking other positions that will offer them more money, training, and resume value than an RAship with me can do. That's in the student's interest and, as a professor, I have enough money and power to deal with any inconvenience when a student gets another position. (Among other things, I hire several part-time RAs each summer and do keep back-up lists.)

    I have to laugh at crankiness generated by grading 90 exams. I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1980 and all of the big sections were 150 students at that time. Professors taught two courses a semester, so they routinely graded 200 (small course plus large one) to 300 exams per semester. In those days, of course, the exams were all handwritten. I grew up as a CLS faculty brat and remember all of those stacks of bluebooks around the house.

    Even during my first decade of teaching (1984-94), I routinely graded 150 or more handwritten exams per semester. 90 exams? Typed on computers? Piece of cake. The lessening of our teaching/grading workload during the last thirty years is staggering. I say: Be more of a thankful fiduciary and less of a curmudgeon.

  52. Thank you, DJM. It's refreshing to realize that there are a few decent human beings remaining in legal academia.

  53. One shudders to think what might become of good Professor Hills' "scholarship" without the assistance of an RA over the summer, when he TEACHES NO CLASSES.

    What implications does this hold for his cherished research interest of "race, class and land."

    I'm certain this professor's mother and perhaps even one or two other professors might be interested in reading a law review article that he might have produced, had he only been able to count on the actual heavy lifting being done by the smug little miss "I prefer a job that leads to legal employment as opposed to a lifetime of indentured servitude."

  54. Thanks for posting that comment over there DJM.

    A couple of additional points: Surely Rick Hills understands that it is probably something of a professional catastrophe for an NYU *2L* to be a full-time RA for a professor in the summer before her third year? COA at NYU is now around $270K assuming debt financing, and somebody who doesn't have a real law job going into her third year is in very serious danger of simply not getting one.

    Rather than being peeved, he should be thrilled that there's now something like a reasonable chance that this student's decision to pay his salary is going to end up being something other than a disaster for her.

    As for exam grading, I remember a certain famed HLS professor telling me when I was a callow youth and he was a gray eminence that he would spend the first month of the summer doing nothing but grading blue books, which when you had 300 handwritten ones seems like a reasonable amount of time to spend on doing the job halfway decently.

  55. SD Wrote:

    Law Prof,

    Please do a post comparing NY's decision to dismiss the law student's class action lawsuit for consumer fraud, with Sketchers consumer fraud liability.



  56. DJM:

    Have I told you lately that I love you?

  57. Seriously? Rick Hills doesn't understand that it's going to take about 2 hours for the Internet to figure out who the 2L in question is? When I was in law school it would have taken us about 3 hours, and that was before the Internet.

    And dollars to doughnuts that someone has already tipped this to Above the Law--with the identity of the 2L. Clueless, clueless, clueless Rick Hills. Can't wait to read the ATL comments. . .

  58. When I read this post, the first thing that came to my mind was the idea of a used car salesman.

    "Sooooo, what's it gonna take to put a fall 2012 syllabus in your hand today?"

  59. Speaking of above the law, did anyone catch this article on CNN yesterday?

    It's about a linebacker from Ohio State who is deciding to go to law school rather than pursue an NFL contract with the Cleveland Browns, because he is concerned about the "long-term" health effects of concussions.

    Elie Mystal apparently (and hilariously) posted on above the law what he described as a plea to this young man, telling him that whatever the dangers of the NFL, they didn't compare with the "long-term financial and professional" damage that he would incur by going to law school.

    What was so interesting was that this was on CNN's regular news page, not just in the sports section, so thousands upon thousands of regular news consumers (not just sports fans) were exposed to what is now becoming the new consensus: Law school isn't worth it anymore.

    And not only is it just not worth it, it's actually potentially very damaging to long-term financial prospects.

  60. Maybe law students could start submitting complaints with the FTC?

  61. I think consumer products have way stricter misleading/fraud standards, than does the product of education.

    Which is ironic because the most a misleading consumer products cost you is a few bucks, where as a misleading education product can ruin your life.

  62. Thanks all. As the original attorney who was outraged by Hills' unprofessional behavior and posted the link to this blog, I'm gratified to see the resounding response he has received, both from people who post here and people who are regulars over at Prawfs.

    DJM - your post in particular deserves thanks. Thanks for showing Prof. Hills how to be a conscientious professor who keeps her students' best interest in mind.

  63. @4:22

    Seems they would have a better chance with the FTC than Dept. of Ed or the new CFPB.

    For instance, CFPB Director Richard Cordray recently gave the commencement speech at Michigan State. The title of the speech was "Muscle Up: The Power of Consumer Self-Protection."

    Cordray acknowleged student debt, but then said, "But my parents always taught me too that it is good to have challenges."

    This is the man that is supposed to be in charge of federal regulation consumer finance, but he has very limited power to control the federal government's own subprime student lending operation (Direct Loans), and he did not make a single reference to the current situation in legal education, very much a consumer finance transaction.

    Ironically, despite completely ignoring the acute situation in legal ed, he also encouraged the very type of activity on this blog. Maybe if LawProf keeps it up he will be willing to acknowledge there is a problem and it is being fueled by Dept. of Education lending and the kiting programs which hide the true debt burden (IBR/public service forgiveness).

    An exceprt is below. Here is the full speech:

    Today, the new technology that links people together supplies the same conditions for consumers to “muscle up.” Instead of complaining bitterly to nobody in particular, you can now seek out other customers and share your experiences. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer platforms that are almost limitless.

    Consumers are no longer alone, confined by physical isolation to begging for fair terms. You can reward and spread the word about the good businesses that treat you well, and you can punish and call out those that do not. The power of social media, as we saw in the political realm with the Arab Spring, is that it can generates mass power by joining human beings together with the greatest of ease. In the economic sphere, the result can be a critical mass of consumer power.

    I am completely confident that the biggest challenges we face today will be solved by your generation. In fact, I will flatly assert that the planet Earth has never seen any power to match human ingenuity. Be it climate change, energy depletion, disease, hunger – name a hard problem and I feel certain that by the time I am elderly you will have made great strides toward ameliorating them all. (So my third sneaky lesson today is: always value the resourcefulness of human beings, for talent, character, and persistence can move mountains.)

    Young people like you are already using their talent and ingenuity to help fashion their own brands of power. Consumers speaking collectively made their voices heard loud and clear in the past year, reversing unpopular product changes proposed by companies in several sectors of the economy. In bursts of assertiveness, consumers rebalanced the power arrangements they had found (but not accepted) in the marketplace.

    In the alternative, you can sit on the sidelines. You can wring your hands. You can retreat into negativity. But if you do that, you will accomplish nothing. You will condemn yourself to a world full of tricks and traps that harm and oppress consumers.

    So today I tell you: Translate your beliefs and your values into action. This is the best tradition of American citizenship, and it is the active element of American capitalism, which operates by the push and pull of market forces. YOU are the market, and may the force be with you. Raise your collective voices with a strategic passion for creating financial equality between yourself and all the businesses that fundamentally exist to serve you and earn your “custom.”

  64. To clarify above, this was a commencement speech at MSU Law.

  65. Exactly 5:24. The CFPB is bullshit and Cordray is a shill for lenders.

  66. @11:49--No, it does not make you Schlafly. It was a comment on the irony of you belittling women's studies, and being offended by being approached as a woman, while using the fact that you are a woman to give credibility to the idea that women's studies is bullshit. Why mention that you are a woman at all?

  67. You know what? I think Prof Hills violated FERPA (the federal privacy statute) with his post. I just posted a lengthy comment on Prawfsblog to that effect and am about to email a university counsel I know. If this is a FERPA violation, it's particularly worrisome that a bunch of law professors discussing this all day at Prawfsblog didn't think about the problem: it's a statute we're all supposed to follow! I thank my son Daniel (a 24-year-old with strong feelings about privacy and the injuries that professors perpetrate on students) for prompting me to think further about the privacy side.

    Any FERPA lawyers out there? MacK? Tdennis?

  68. Oh man DJM just brutally owned Prof. Hills on prawfs blawg.

  69. DJM: I'm raising a glass to you, long distance, for your TWO fantastic comments on prawfs blawg today.

  70. Great work DJM. Hill's posts struck me as blatantly unethical and out of touch. As a former academic turned JD student, I'm frequently amazed at the lack of teaching standards in the legal academy.

  71. lol prawfsblawg removed the post

  72. i found a cached version of hills's post, but it appears to be wiped from the regular prawfsblog page, or am i missing something?

    DJM, i would love to see the FERPA comment you posted. Hills is an arrogant moron, and you are a good person for naming and shaming him and his ridiculous behavior.

  73. Prawfsblawg has now removed the post - which would have been the ethical thing to do a long time ago, and to a certain extent now, though the timing with FERPA is awfully convenient and it smells more like cover-up than contrition.

    Anyways I was going to post there separately (I'm DJM's aforementioned son) about how appallingly unethical Hill's conduct was and is. I may still do that here, but first I wanted to ask - does anyone have a cached copy of the blog post and comments thread on Prawfsblawg just before it was deleted, with the full text of my mom's comment on FERPA?

  74. If anyone does have a copy of my FERPA comment and could send it to, I'd appreciate that. It was far from my most sterling publication, but I didn't expect it to disappear so fast into the ether :) I don't know if it will be useful to have on hand but I figure it would be easier to get now than later. Thanks.

  75. FYI - he put up another post:

  76. If any of you guys wants to read his original post, type "cache:" into Google search.

    The Internet is forever, Rick Hills! Lol.

  77. FYI - he put up another post:

    . . . and blocked the "Comment" function.

  78. I feel bad for the girl. If the law firm finds out about her "unprofessionalism" it could make her the easy choice for a head count reduction.

  79. 8:51: the Google Cache option doesn't work for me. Is it working for everyone else?

  80. Also, I love that he deleted the post apparently out of a new-found concern for his student's privacy. While he at least acknowledges that the total comments to his post (75) heavily and almost unanimously excoriated him, I don't believe for a second that he deleted the post for the benefit of the student's privacy rather than to end the public shaming he received today and to minimize further richly deserved damage to his reputation.

    I also think that he believed that only professors would see his post and commiserate about his righteous frustration with dem pesky, unprofessional students. Negative, Prof. Hills. The rest of us have access to the Internets too ... and we follow the ludicrous, self-righteous discourse over at Prawfs.

  81. 8:51: the Google Cache option doesn't work for me. Is it working for everyone else?

    Works for me. Eliminate the quotation marks -- i.e. cache: -- paste into Google and search.

  82. Lois Turner:

    Thanks, apparently it works for me in IE but not in Firefox. I was able to pull up the post. However, most of the comments are missing, including DJM's FERPA comment, which I missed when it was originally posted. DJM, if you have been able to recover the comment, would you mind posting it here, so that those of us who missed out on it can read it?

    - 8:51

  83. 8:51 here. I put the quotation marks around the text, meaning that what's inside the quotation marks is what should go in the google search. Sorry for the confusion.

  84. A helpful reader did capture the comment and emailed it to me. The spam filter ate my first attempt to post it here. So I'll break it into two comments. First half:

    Professor Hills, numerous people have noted how inappropriate and unprofessional it was to post this student's email without her consent. I wholeheartedly agree with those comments: A professor should not publicly attack an identifiable student's character--especially when the attack stems from the student's private email. In this case, the law may agree with morality. FERPA is not my field, but I believe your post may well violate that statute. If others on this blog know more about FERPA, I am interested in their thoughts. I try personally to follow FERPA's rules, but I'm far from a pro.

    FERPA, as we know, prohibits educational institutions that receive federal money from disclosing student educational records without the student's consent. The CFR makes clear that **employment** records count as "educational records" if the student "is employed as a result of his or her status as a student." 34 CFR 99.3 (definition of "education records"). That presumably is true of RAs at your school.

  85. I'm having great trouble posting the rest of this FERPA comment. So let me try posting the next bit as anonymous (just in case the spam filter keeps track)--DJM

    The same regulation makes clear that "personally identifiable information" includes "Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the person with reasonable certainty." Id. (definition of "personally identifiable information"). As others have explained, people at NYU could--and undoubtedly already have--identified this student. Indeed, people around the nation almost certainly have identified her by this point.

  86. This is why I love the internet. This asshole professor was offended because some student took a job that probably pays a whole hell of a lot more than a crappy RA job while at the same time giving him the blow off. His delicate sensibilities were rocked, he posted something on line, was blasted by a bunch of people and may have violated FERPA in the process.

    All this is documented by his hand. I guess now that he is stuck doing his own research, he may have to work a total of five hours a week.

    What a douche. I bet his house is a douchebag museum.

  87. That seemed to work so, for the other nighowls, here's the last part of the FERPA post (I hope):

    By posting both the student's email and your reply, I think you published part of the student's personnel file to the world. As I understand FERPA, even your response to the student is part of that file. Sure, it was your email, but so are the comments you write on student papers. FERPA recognizes our special fiduciary obligations to students and prohibits us from publishing some of the correspondence we have with them. (Actually, I don't think any employer should publish personnel records that are readily linked to a particular individual, but educational institutions are special in any event.)

    There may be some argument that these emails were not yet "maintained" by NYU and thus not subject to FERPA, but (again based on my limited understanding of the statute), that cuts close to the statutory line. I'm curious about this situation and plan to send a link to your post to a highly regarded university counsel I know. Even if you have not violated the statute, the policy of that statute underscores to me how unprofessional it was to publish this email exchange. I'm particularly troubled that you don't appear to see the privacy issues here. --DJM

  88. Thanks, DJM. I'm the one who requested whether you could post the FERPA comment, and it was very helpful that you did so.

  89. "I'm curious about this situation and plan to send a link to your post to a highly regarded university counsel I know. Even if you have not violated the statute, the policy of that statute underscores to me how unprofessional it was to publish this email exchange."

    Ah, so he WAS likely telling the truth when he said that he was deleting in response to your post, although he neglected to mention that it was because you told him that you thought he had violated federal law and intended to confer with university counsel.

    Given the rampant censorship over at Prawfs (a community of peopple you would think would delight in intellectual freedom), this blog is an absolutely necessary companion to reading Prawfs. And in turn, commenting on the nonsense over at Prawfs is directly material to the mission of this blog - to showcase the obliviousness, entitlement, and idiocy currently ubiquitous among legal academics.

  90. DJM & Son: great job with the FERPA stuff.

  91. @Lawprof - Please, please, please make your next post "Teaching Law Profs to act like professionals".

    Although, to be fair, the lady who was the subject of Prof. Hill's post actually treated him much better than many firms treat prospective employees (or even current ones). I'm happily employed now, but I have in the past had offers of employment withdrawn without explanation (by email - the horror!), and the number of firms that actually bother to even let you know that they received your job application (many of which require the filing in of a form that can take hours to complete) is less than those that don't.

    Truth is there are prominent firms in which it is SOP to fire at-will with only perfunctory explanation. Someone comes to work in the morning, gets called into a senior partner's office, told - as a popular and hard-working friend of mine was - that they are a "poor team fit", and is then escorted to their desk and from the building by a security guard.

    This is 'professionalism', at least as it stands today.

  92. Law Prof,

    Today I asked for a blog on sketchers vs law students consumer fraud suits. Can we instead dedicate a blog to how awesome DJM and son are? I think I'm more proud of today's blog wars on prawsblog than I am from passing the bar exam. We are the Martin Luther's nailing the thesis to the church doors. Keep up the great work everyone.

  93. @DJM

    Nice work and Kudos to your son. I am not familiar with FERPA and I am almost paralysed with jet lag at the moment, so I was actually catching up with e-mails in bed on an iPad and wanted to avoid a posting with more than my average number of typos. I have to say your postings (and some others) at Prawfsblog were devastating.

    What had occurred to me was that publishing this e-mail, which forms part of the students academic record (I assume her eligeability to be an RA was a function of her student status) would violate the Data protection directive EU Directive 95/46/EC if NYU was in Europe. As employee data it would also likely be a breach of the directive. I deal a lot with this because it is a big factor in international technology law - all sorts of software needs to be engineered to comply even when sold in the US (it has given some European software companies an edge as they are better attuned to data protection law.) One of my partners is a maven on this subject and teaches it. Since the EU reg is so much tougher and all international companies effectively have to comply with it (say under the FTC's safe harbor rules) I have come to regard the US as sort of the "Wild West" on data privacy and to just focus on compliance with the directive as "ringing all necessary bells."

    If Professor Hill had done this in Europe - say in the UK - he could be pretty certain that one of his students would have sent a note to the National Data Commissioner and it would have triggered an investigation and possibly fines - and college's would quite possibly treat his conducts as a disciplinary offence. NYU itself would be in trouble for failing to have policies designed to teach lunkheaded law Professors what they can and cannot do with students confidential data (and the e-mail is data.)

    I don't know if data is a "hot issue" in the academy right now, but data protection is a big issue in legal practice today - including US practice.

    Anyway, nice work. I think Professor Hill is going to have a tense talk with his Dean this week or next. I also suspect that he has sent his student an apologetic e-mail or shortly will, heavy on the grovelling, which for someone as obviously vain as and self regarding as Hill seems likely to be very tough and emotionally devastating. Poor dear....

  94. n.b.,

    I expect Professor Campos to soon receive a rather pompous letter from NYU asking him to delete from this this thread, citing student privacy. He ought not to do this, though I suppose there is a question as to whether he should delete the text of the student's e-mail even though Professor Campos is not at fault.

  95. excellent comment thread

  96. Professor Hills' cowardice is in keeping with the overall culture at PrawfsBlawg.

    I was at the epicenter of a similar incident a few months back where I wrote a post calling out Professor Michael Teter's vacuous post about Professor Campos. Dan Markel deleted my comment and then lied about his reasons for doing so and he further lied about the tone and content of my post.

    The crew over at PrawfsBlawg, with the exception of Professor Horwitz, are emblematic of the out-of-touch, elitist, "legal one percenters" who comprise the majority of the legal professoriate.

    The arrogance of guys like Hills and Markel is breathtaking. These guys have tenured sinecures and smugly dismiss anonymous comments. News flash to Professor Hills - most of the world doesn't have tenure and attributed comments could have potentially adverse consequences when challenging the entrenched power elite of legal academia. People like Professor Hills cannot be trusted. The student recently victimized by his arrogance and lack of judgment learned this hard lesson first hand.

    I reviewed Hills' CV. He has lived a charmed existence and knows nothing of the struggles of most of his students, let alone the larger American population.

    Guys like Roderick Hills make me wistful for the draft or some sort of national service regime. He and Dan Markel would have profited greatly by spending a couple of years with fellow Americans outside their social milieu. Sadly, they never had those experiences and it shows. What sad, empty lives...

  97. Waking up to this put a giant smile on my face. Way to stick it to 'em, DJM and son!

  98. DJM-
    Hooray for your son! And you! Our world is full of jerks like Hills, but thankfully there lots of others like DJM who work hard to help change the academy back to what it once was. We are in an awful place right now, as the Hills incident reflects at many different levels. Your work gives me hope for the future.


  99. djm and son:

    Been in trial all week and just now reading this thread so you probably will move on and read the next posting and not see this. Nonetheless, let me compliment you on your skewering of that silly fool on prawfsblog.

    As to your question, I once had a FERPA complaint many years ago against one of Tennessee's best ranked private schools. My faulty memory informs me that this professor probably violated FERPA---at least he violated it to the extent that I could definately ruin his day in Federal Court (the place where humor goes to die) and make him (and his University---he was its agent, after all) wish he hadn't have been so petulent.

    Tricia Dennis

  100. By the way, as many of you know, my dad was a professor at Vanderbilt for many years. If one of his RAs had obtained a better employment opportunity, I feel certain he would have beamed with pride at the thought that he, perhaps, contributed a small part to that student's accomplishment. That is the way truly engaged teachers/mentors react, I think.

    Tricia Dennis

  101. I have a friend from high school at Oklahoma City University law. Today, his/her Facebook status was a vague reference to "getting the job." After reading the comments it became apparent that the job was at Outback.


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