Sunday, August 12, 2012


Note: I wrote this post primarily for fellow law professors who have been sounding the "hypocrisy" theme. I don't mind trolls; I used to dress them up as a child.

I'm getting a little tired of the hypocrisy charges, in comments here and elsewhere. So let's address that issue head on. First, people can call me a hypocrite only because they know my name. I, along with LawProf, Brian Tamanaha, Herwig Schlunk, and some others, have been willing to speak up--under our own names--about what the facts tell us. If I were a hypocrite, I would pocket my salary--despite what my research and the research of others reveals--and say nothing.  I'll be 57 in two months, and I have tenure. My job and retirement accounts are secure; I foresaw the stock crash in fall 2008 and moved any money I had in stocks out for a while. Why rock the boat?

Second, I am paid to do research, teaching, and service--and that is what I am doing. I don't just get up and post some ideas that pop into my head over morning tea. Nor do I write things just to aggravate other law professors. I have done a lot of research about law school tuition, the costs of legal education, and the career prospects of lawyers today. I have also done a lot of research (and teaching) about how the business of law has changed and continues to change at breakneck speed. Most professors, in my experience, know very little about those facts. And that is what is so dangerous about the present moment.

Unless law faculty understand how their students' loans work, what jobs are available to their graduates, and how their alumni at various professional stages are faring--using real empirical research rather than samples biased by selection--they simply cannot make good plans for their schools, their graduates, and the profession.  So I will continue to do research, teaching, and service on these subjects.

Some people may not like what I say; that has been true of other scholarship I published.  When, together with two social scientists, I pointed out the statistical defects in a process that state supreme courts had used to raise the passing score on bar exams, I really ticked off members of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, as well as a researcher from Rand who had designed the process for them.  But, you know what? A few state supreme courts read our analysis and agreed; they didn't raise passing scores in the unfair way that many other states did.

Law faculty look critically at laws, judicial decisions, empirical data, societal norms, and institutional practices.  We teach our students to do the same.  A senior lawyer told me recently that "lawyers are the people who ask the hard questions." If that's true, we have to be willing to ask those questions about ourselves. I'll keep researching, teaching, and advocating on these issues. I welcome disagreement--that's how we get to the bottom of pressing social and economic issues. But I'd like to have disagreement based on fact and analysis, not name calling.


  1. I don't think you need to worry about the hypocrisy-trolls. They're cowards. Keep up the good work.

  2. Nah, at first the scambloggers might have been suspicious, but I think that has all been overcome and is water under the bridge.

    LawProf and DJM do not make all that much money all things considered, and whatever money they have and get they must surely be putting at risk as in possibly getting "let go" at work, and are also possibly risking their very careers.

    If anyone wants to see real hypocrites, they are all the preposterously wealthy icons from the woodstock concert in the disgusting summer of 69.

    Neil Young, David Crosby, and pals all have a net worth of 40 million at least and are solidly a part of the 1%.

    I projectile vomited when the Nash fellow had the gall to show up at Occupy and twaddle songs about human rights.

    The best way to attack a baby boomer is to attack their icons and very souls and to show them that they are hypocrites and that their time is past and that they are too old to do anything about it, or to change their awful legacy of student loan debt usury and the destruction of Higher Ed in Amwerica.

    1. Keep on Rockin in the FREE world.

  3. Thanks, commenters. Just to be clear, I think some of the people who are calling "hypocrisy" most loudly (especially on other blogs that link to this one) are other law professors. That's why I want to challenge them, not only on the hypocrisy meme but on their underlying commitment to following research where the facts lead.

    Have a good Sunday everyone!

  4. I'm surprised you and Lawprof didn't get tired of the "hypocrisy" nonsense long ago. It's a blatant, orchestrated disruptive tactic intended to divert attention from the substance of your argument or bully you into shutting up altogether. Ignore it. Don't get defensive. Don't even respond. Stay on point. Keep hammering them.

  5. My version of this post would have been quite a lot shorter. It would have read: "Go fuck yourself on a flagpole."

    Someone could be offended by that, though, so it's better that you wrote it the way you did.

  6. Wow DJM is easy to troll.

    With that level of sensitivity to relatively tame trolling you might want to run the hell away from the internets DJM before the black belt trolls start targeting you.

  7. Drs. Merritt and Campos,
    I think you are two rare heroes in a world full of cowards and scoundrels. Keep up the great work and ignore the blowhards who try to take potshots. You are both performing a valuable public service and having a positive effect on many lives. You are worthy of high praise IMO.

  8. The White Knight to the rescue!

  9. @1:57PM

    In your own, savage, idiotic and limited, lame and stupid, self centered mind, which is kinda simple and rather dumb, you have miraculously managed to come up with two whole sentences.

    Next time, try to come up with something a human can understand, and try not to write to an audience of greedy reptiles, which is a part of what you are, and all you seem to think everyone else is.

    DJM and Lawprof can delete any comments any time and know the exact location of all alleged "trolls" and who they are.

    Got that snake?


    "Resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.


  11. Look, I'm a fan of DJM, I just feel she (and LawProf) has a moral imperative to turn away from a system she decries. Die-hard sports fans will love their favorite team, and still disagree with decisions and actions of that team.

    This is not an attempt to troll, but an honest examination of the situation. If DJM truly wants to inspire us, she will eventually make the hard choice.

    Until then, denounce the law school scam with one hand, and count the profits from that scam with the other... Do what you do DJM. I'll come here to read your prudent articles, but I certainly won't be holding you up as a paragon of virtue as well.

  12. Don't worry about the gutless, ball-less, spineless cowards who are pocketing their loot and keeping their mouth shut. The ones who vehemently deny they are academic thieves do so because they know, on some level, that they are bankrupting an entire generation - for their personal gain. You are doing great work, on this front.

  13. Warsaw, you moron, what part of INSIDE the law school scam don't you understand?

    What else would you advise? That CIA spies stop going undercover in foreign countries?

    What an idiot.

  14. I have been reading this blog long enough to remember the early complaints about name-calling, the use of the term "vermin" (things to be exterminated) to describe human beings. Okay, I was one of the complainers. There could be no analysis (no supportable one, at least) that could justify that. Those complaints were turned aside as "pearl clutching", by commenters and, if I remember correctly, a specific post that had some talk about The French Revolution.

    The point then and now is that there ought to be a way to discuss these matters without resort to tactics that distort the open consideration of important issues. Many people won't agree, I know. For them, the gravity of the situation means that people get to say whatever they want, however they want. That has been the rule here with very, very limited exceptions made for talk judged to be over the top in sexism, racism, or homophobia. Under the circumstances, it's odd to see the word "hypocrisy" treated as somehow beyond the pale. My dialogue with DJM was not about hypocrisy. It was about the lack of charity for others, her harsh condemnation of people who occupy the same position as she, save for the fact that they do not write on blogs. That's all. DJM should not have to quit her job if she feels that she has found the acceptable balance between work she loves to do, and the problems she has with the system that gives her the privilege of doing work she loves.

  15. At first I thought that this post was going to be aimed at purists in our own ranks who may have expressed distrust and bitterness towards everyone within legal academia. Then I read the linked thread and realized that Prof. Merritt is taking flack from fellow law professors!

    They are jealous of her salary. They are vain and deluded enough to think that they are in her league in terms of scholarly contributions to the legal profession. They think that she should put the prerogatives of her academic colleagues ahead of the plight of her students and the needs of her profession.


  16. Lois Turner hit the nail on the head. Ignore the trolls. Please keep up the good work.

  17. DJM and Lawprof are performing a valuable service. Many well meaning members of the profession are ignorant of the current state of affairs in the law school scam. My husband and I are both boomer graduates of a public law school. Like Paul Ryan, my H received social security benefits through school. I benefited from low, low tuition and state scholarships and tuition waivers. We are now major donors to our, sad to admit, barely 2d tier school. The tuition at our school is still relatively low. But, our graduates' job prospects are grim. Our fellow alums are completely oblivious to the real issues involved in the law school scam. I've shared this blog with some. Keep it up, DJM and Lawprof. You will prevent some young people from making a terrible mistake, and you will influence more influential alumni.

  18. Until an established law professor quits his job in a very public way while decrying the law-school scam in no uncertain terms, nobody in this mess has any right to be throwing around accusations of hypocrisy.

    Moreover, if LawProf or DJM were to do such a thing, I have no doubt whatsoever that the very same people who are shouting "hypocrites!" now would immediately switch to attacking LawProf's and DJM's scholarship and claiming that their public explanations for why they resigned were just a smokescreen to hide some purported termination-for-cause.

    There's nothing you need to defend. Just keep up the good work.

  19. What about a shaming campaign? Set an amount (2.5%, 5%, etc.) and donate that amount to an organization that directly gives back to students and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

  20. Without making a judgment about DJM on this score-- and I'm not--the definition of hypocrisy is far too cramped. It also means saying one thing and doing another-- a clash between words and actions. If all anyone had to do to avoid the charge was say, "I really feel bad about saying one thing and doing another", there would be no hypocrites.

  21. Or decrying a thing, and then profiting from that same thing. (For the record, I don't necessarily agree that all profs who write about the scam should be required to martyr themselves by giving up their jobs, but it does create a moral inconsistency).

  22. @SadBoomer,

    Why do you continue to donate to your school? Not judging, just curious (I'm a small donor to mine as well.)

  23. Thanks for the link to the troll fashion show. Those clothes were inspired!

  24. I would bet that I graduated (more recently) from the same school as SadBoomer. B1G OR B12, Boomer? I could donate, but I won't. Why give money to an organization that has a license to print money? What portion of my income I do give away goes to far worthier causes.

  25. "Principles only mean something when you stick to them when it's inconvenient."

  26. Cooler, are you a professor at a DO school?

  27. They have been threatened since the beginning by anyone that they couldn't dismiss as one of the Perfect Meritocracy's losers. This whole argument comes down to whether law schools deserve any more social capital than used-car dealerships, and the last thing that law schools want to do is to argue the facts with an insider. They especially don't want to defend tuition rising at several multiples of inflation, amid heavy downward pressure on both rates of full-time legal employment and starting salaries.

    Hence, the shitstorm over at Caron's blog. (For what it's worth, Paul Caron, I appreciate the space you've regularly given to the issue.)

  28. Can we figure out a way to blame that weird girl in "The New Girl" (the Fox show) for the law school scam? She's so weird.

  29. I don't blame people for taking advantage of the system as it exists. LawProf and DJM fall in that category. At least they're advocating reform and not just quietly trying to increase the gravy train.

    Income Based Repayment is a good example. I fundamentally disagree with the program, but it would have made sense for me to use it had I stayed in non-profit.

    So DJM and LawProf should just say "F you I quit" to their jobs because they disagree with the system? That's what quitters do and no change will come of that.

    Law professors call DJM and LawProf hypocrites and other names because they can't attack their facts or arguments.

  30. DJM, I am one of the anonymous commenters who was critical of your prior post, but I don't think I have ever called you a hypocrite.

    Rather, I meant to press you on what you meant by "greedy"; I think your understanding was not coherent, and I asked whether you were not greedy by that definition. Your concession that you might well be didn't fill with me glee that you were admitting hypocrisy or anything like that; rather, I persist in thinking that you really have a different understanding of true greediness that isn't spelled out (see, e.g., your comments about your attempts to renounce salary increases, which seek at some level to differentiate yourself) or, as I originally suggested, that your gripe isn't really about greediness at all . . . but rather depends on some sense of desert (e.g., that you deserve your salary because you work hard at your assigned roles while simultaneously not putting your head in the sand re reform). Whatever the refined criticism, I think you can find professors worthy of it, but I am pretty confident that it requires that you paint with a finer brush, and resist the temptation just to throw your own body on the bonfire (while pulling it away a short distance, too).

    I think you have doubled down here with a very unorthodox understanding of hypocrisy. I'm not interested in whether you are or are not a hypocrite -- it doesn't for me impair the worth of what you are saying. But it just can't be right that a true hypocrite would just keep her head down and say nothing, or that this psychological conjecture precludes other behavior that's hypocritical. That makes about as much sense as saying that an alleged liar can't be one, because he'd rather stay mum than risk having his lies exposed. Hypocrites and liars -- again, not calling you or anyone else that -- usually out themselves to some degree.

    I agree with much of what you say here, but on the greed riff, I think some of the pushback you are receiving is merited, even if some of it is just name-calling. There's a fair bit of that going around on all sides.

    Keep up the good work! I value your efforts, even if I sometimes disagree.

  31. Keep up the good and morally essential work. You are not a hypocrite to continue to ply your trade while advocating reform any more than I am a hypocrite for continuing to collect my salary as a luckily employed lawyer while so many of my colleagues are unemployed. Your position as a tenured professor provides great credibility to your arguments and exposes. I have known that law school was a scam since 1992. I am so extremely glad that someone in your position is doing what you are doing in exposing this terrible and life destroying scam. Personally, it was only after I paid off my student loans and accumulated a certain nest egg around 2000 that I became vocal and willing to tell everyone the truth as I had both observed and experienced it...i.e. there are way way too many lawyers, there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed lawyers, law jobs are about as stable as quicksand, the employment and salary statistics posted by law schools and by private sources are far disparate from the truth because they suffer from biased selective reporting, and you learn very little in law school that helps you succeed at lawyering. Keep it up, keep it up. I see this blog as a godsend lending credibility to those of us who are willing to step forward and tell others what the ugly truth really is. Chin up, Lawprof and DJM.

  32. I'm not really sure that this devistating unrelenting critique could come from someone outside the law school machine.

  33. Well it seems like boomers can fall into the trap as well.

    RE: Student Loans and Social Security Garnishment:

  34. Fed economist Kevin Kliesen said:

    “Student debt is a good form of debt,”

  35. A question. It is my understanding that when tenured professors have to be laid off that the last to receive tenure are the first to be laid off. It is also my understanding that when a tenured professor moves from a tenured position at one law school to a tenured position at another law school that the moving professor will be at the bottom of the list of tenured professors at the new school and have the least tenure protection. If this is so does anyone know if this situation is inhibiting lateral transfers among law school professors? William Ockham

  36. LawProf and DJM have crossed the line from making academic arguments to political arguments, and the first volley every politician has to face is cries of "you hypocrite."

  37. @9.06 - It could, but no-one would pay any attention.

  38. DJM --

    You're falling for an old rhetorical trap.

    The hypocricy allegation has several purposes, including:

    1) To change the subject of the debate away from the merits.

    2) To consume your time and resources on a non-merits argument.

    3) Hoping you will reveal personal information which can be used to further the hypocricy allegation.

    4) Hope you become angry and say something intemperate, so the issue becomes the intemperate remark and your uncivil tone.

    Ignore 'em.

  39. The charge of hypocrisy is more fairly brought against against the advocates of social justice and a fairer society that populate law schools and their administrations, who fail to notice that implementing these concepts should start close to home. Many law professors are vocal about such issues, but fall uneasily silent when the focus turns to law schools – if not simply flinging accusations of hypocrisy.

    It also falls IMHO heavily on those who a teaching law, but have no real knowledge of the legal professions. To take a few examples from the TaxProf blig:

    Senior professors may get a little bit more than $200k but an attorney with the same number of years of expertise earns much much much more.
    Aaron G

    Aaron G is either delusional or just pig ignorant. Has he heard of the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Should someone be teaching law school who does not know of it … or how in 10 seconds to check your statement. The median attorney earns $112,760 a year, the mean $130,170 – and most in that category would be as experienced as the typical law professor. That number is what the typical 20 year veteran is making.

    Anyone who is a professor could make more money in another job.
    Eric Rasmusen

    Again – ignorance? Does Mr. Rasmussen have any idea how the average pay of a law professor stacks up against the average pay of well – other people? Does he have any idea how the salary of a law professor (with tenure) stacks up against the income of the typical lawyer?

    The idea of the academic who has no idea what lawyers do is an exaggeration designed to make a caricature.

    JMH posted this just after the two howlers from Aaron G’s and Eric Rasmussen!!

    I think most professors are well aware of the differences between private practice and the academy. I, and many of my colleagues, did practice law before coming into academia.

    Has JMH actually looked at the statistics on the typical experience of law professors – 2.6 years. Has he read the comments on academic job searches that suggest that too much practice experience hampers the ability of candidate professors to obtain a position? Does he really think that the experience of the academically bound JD in any firm or agency is typical or practicing law – in that say 1 year to 18 months?

  40. I don't know...typing on a blog to a handful of malcontents doesn't really make one courageous.

    So I do think that DJM and LawProf are a bit hypocritical.

    Then again, as just a couple of individual law professors, they probably don't have enough power to do much of anything else.

    I suppose as long as each of them has attempted to rally other co-workers to the cause and speaks the truth to any student who comes up and speaks with them (i.e. tells them they should drop out, if appropriate) then they might be doing about as much as can be expected.

    If they feel okay with profiting from the "scam" after doing that and continuing to fight for raises and increased benefits every year, that's for each of us to judge though.

    I may call you hypocrite, but you make more money than me, so you can just evade my accusation by calling me jealous. Neither of us should care much what the other know if the accusation is true.

  41. @MacK - Great comment. Glad I don't have to read that stuff myself. I don't think I could take it.

  42. I don't know...typing on a blog to a handful of malcontents doesn't really make one courageous.

    What's courageous is publicly criticizing the system the way they have and thereby painting a bull's-eye on themselves for every self-interested halfwit between Boston and San Diego to shoot at.

  43. The law school is the one producing biased, unrepresentative or questionable information, not Mr. Campos.

    Accusations of hypocrisy are thus making an elementary mistake. I point this out on my blog which is dedicated to taking a strict constructionist view of hypocrisy.

  44. @6:30, As to why we continue to donate, good question. I suppose, as our classmates say, "I made a lot of money in law and I couldn't afford to go anywhere else". So we feel we have to "give back". And we don't think our school is one of the really bad actors, it has been hurt by the over proliferation of schools.Anyway, we will reconsider when our current commitment runs out. And @6:53, don't know if we went to the same school, but I hear you re: contributions.

  45. @ 3:00

    Okay fine, "INSIDE" the scam. So you're saying DJM is internal, party to the scam, linking her to the problem even more closely than I did. You're practically making my case for me.

    We can blog and comment all we want, but words come easy and talk is cheap. Action is what counts. DJM had a nice post on that subject, with advice for things we can do. I hope she'll also consider this opinion on what she can do too.

  46. Oh, I'm sure your opinion will be a crucial consideration for DJM as she plans the balance of her career. In fact, I'd bet she thinks of little else.

  47. If people can't see the ethical incongruity between someone claiming that law school is a scam, and continuing to profit from that scam, then I don't know what to say.

    I'm on DJM's side, but that doesn't mean she's beyond reproach (and nor am I, for that matter).

  48. @ 4:44pm

    If law school was inherently a scam that could never be reformed, then perhaps you have a point. However if tuition was reasonable and the number of jobs matched number of grads, for instance, then it would no longer be a scam.

    The thing is law school and being a law prof, in and of itself, is NOT a scam. The system as it exists today is a scam. It is NOT "incongruous" to be part of a system while wanting to reform that system if reform of that system is possible.

  49. I would also add that whether DJM or LawProf are "hypocrites" or not, a law prof recognizing the "scam" that is legal education as a whole and speaking up about it is a lot better than "non-hypocrites" who benefit from the scam silently or even shill in defense of it.

  50. Sometimes the truth is deeply unpleasant. Certainly, no individual who has matriculated at one of the 203 ABA law schools across the country likes to realize the enormity of the consequences of that decision. Without a doubt, many doors have been shut as a direct result of the staggering debt that has been imposed upon him or her, and, yes, even the students who worked hard, got the grades, did the networking, sacrificed 3 years of their life, and found some sort of palatable employment will be stuck in this massive debt the rest of their lives. It will affect relationships, decisions to have children, and the quality of one's life and one's sense of success and well being. It is better to warn those who can still cut their losses and, for those of us who cannot, to face the reality of the situation as it really is rather than engage in a delusion perpetuated by law schools.

  51. As a consumer of educational services, I deeply appreciated your well reasoned, well written blog, as it analyzes the many aspects of law school education. The charge of 'hypocrisy' is ludicrous. Haters are haters, and they are skilled at crafting any argument to discredit.
    Let's take the counter-argument: Let's say you quit your job and continue to write. The hater argument now becomes "Your opinions don't carry weight anymore, because you're not in academe anymore. Therefore, you are not qualified to criticize."

    You're not a hypocrite, you're heroic. Much more heroic than a sports hero, than a business CEO hero, than a political hero.
    A sincere THANK YOU for revealing the underbelly of the law school industry. I share your insights with many, and everyone i talk to had no idea of the problems you're bringing up for discussion.


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