Thursday, February 26, 2015

The "Edward Snowden" of LawDeans Speaks Out



"LawProfs are Public Servants and Law Schools are a Public Good, eh, Professor...?  Sure, I believe you too.  You see the quotations I'm making with my claw hands?  It means I DON'T believe you!"



James Huffman just penned an excellent piece, and similar to other watershed moments like the merger of Hamline and William Mitchell, or the Segal New York Times Article, this article demonstrates that more dominoes are ready to fall.

While I'm greatful for Huffman's voice on the one hand, the older I get, the crankier I get too, and the less forgiving I am of the academy who should have known better if they actually held true to the views they so carelessly espoused.  Honesty is great, but when the nuclear bomb has already gone off it is small comfort to those struggling to get past the detonation - and no small ire we all share when the establishment tried to pretend that there was no bomb blast in the first place.

This line reminds me of Dean Jay Conison in 2012.  The reason reform has been slow to non-existent is that 

"...most law faculty view themselves as public servants and legal education as a public good[;] they reject the very idea that legal education can even be thought of in business terms."

Public servants?  Give me a break.  That is a pernicious, outrageous lie, unless you consider sending thousands of students every year to the abbatoir "public service."  Firefighters, EMTs and police officers are "public servants,"  thank you.  Say what you will, but people working a thankless job at state agencies, that underpaid public defender, your local public librarian or school teacher, or a domestic violence case-worker are public servants long before pampered and suckled ScamDeans and LawProfs.  Try getting outside the bubble sometime.

Also, education is "not thought of in business terms?"  BWAHAHAHA!!!  Ignoring charter/private schools, technical schools, undergraduate schools or even Infilaw for the moment, whaddaya think this is, Europe, or something? This is 'Murica, where EVERYTHING is thought of in business terms.  Love it or leave it, you pinko punks.  Last time I checked, cheese-eaters may be socialists, but they are not blind.  Or from Wisconsin, necessarily. 

Back to the point, Huffman doesn't let the Cartel get away with this, despite his own prior history:

"Like it or not, law schools face real business challenges.  Demand has declined every year since 2010—not just a little but by nearly 40 percent. The same number of law schools have 33,000 fewer prospective customers than they had five years ago.  At a minimum, this means law schools must be far less selective...[i]t doesn’t matter how much public good they are doing, law schools, like the universities to which most of them are attached, do have a bottom line."

But we know this already.  We know all about preftiege, the bimodal-distribution of salaries, the challege of cutting "expenses," and everything else.  What is this really about?  Lazy, entitled students who don't want to work for a living, right?  Pampered Gen-X and Gen-Y know-nothings that want jobs handed to them on a silver platter, right?

"As someone who promoted all of the above as a law school dean and benefited from it all as a law professor, it pains me to acknowledge that during my nearly four-decade career legal education, I abandoned frugality for profligacy. Some of the rise in cost resulted from program expansions in response to a plethora of new legal specialties and from steady pressure from the American Bar Association for more training in lawyering skills that requires a much lower student-faculty ratio.

But the core factor in the escalating cost of legal education is that the guild of law school professors long ago captured the combined regulatory apparatus of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the AALS. We law professors have constructed a legal education model that, first and foremost, serves faculty interests—higher salaries, more faculty protected by tenure, smaller and fewer classes, shorter semesters, generous sabbatical and leave policies and supplemental grants for research and writing. We could not have done better for ourselves, except that the system is now collapsing."

BOOM!  That's it.  That is the hard, unabashed truth that has taken decades for anybody with any stones to admit.  All those years of laughing, derisive dismissal.  All those years of strawmaning struggling JDs.  All those years touting "versatility."  

It was nothing more than ABA-impotence coupled with Cartel shillery, greed, and regulatory capture.  Just like the SEC "regulating" Wall Street, LawProfs and Deans went back and forth between Schools and Association/Reuglation entities to self-deal.

Yeah, that sounds like "public servants" and "public goods" to me.  All the while denying and obfuscating the truth and blaming anyone but themselves.  Guess the limo-libby-law-profs need to take that log out of their own eyes and actually have something to answer for, after all.  I know, I know, thousands of graduates find the shock to be tremendous.

What are Huffman's recommendations for the future?

*  Cut faculty in half, devote most LawProf time to teaching.
*  Eliminate tenure, rely on the marketplace
*  Reduce law school from three to two years.
*  Stop the facilities arms race
*  Take advantage of on-line technologies.

BAM!  BAM!  BAM!  Things the scambloggers have said for years.  Things local bar associations have said for years.  Straight from the horses' mouth, no less.

Get ready, everybody.  We've know the truth for a long time, but actually having to compete in the marketplace (where the other 90-99% live) is about to launch ScamDean and LawProff butthurt into the stratosphere.  I'm sure there are plenty of struggling JDs (some near retirement, even) who will be more than happy to show the new players the ropes, amirite?  Collegiality, and all that jazz.

It was a long time coming.

http://www.newsweek.com/law-schools-reform-or-go-bust-308339



 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

True Long Term Legal Employment; Something About Old Dogs and New Tricks

For many people who apply to law school, the focus is far too often on the near-term: what kind of work will I get when I graduate? who's actually showing up at OCI this year?  what is this school's nine-month employment rate?  These are important questions, but they are admittedly an incomplete picture.  One year is simply not "long term."

When various law deans have responded to their abysmal employment rates that a law degree is a long-term and lifetime investment, they're partially right.  We do need to focus on outcomes 10-, 20-, 30-, and even 40- years out, as these are the days when expenditures transition from loans to retirement and families and investment and all those you can't do paying down debt.

By all indications, though, long-term outcomes aren't nearly as rosy as the suave salesmen claim.  After all, you just know that dishwasher that's supposed to last fifteen years is going to crap out after eight.  Why would the law deans sell any differently?  Why, in the law schools' persistent refusal to collect this essential data, would you ever give them the benefit of the doubt in the total absence of useful empirical data?

Consider this recent anonymous op-ed in the Missouri Bar Journal.  The tl;dr version would be this:  20-year litigator, laid off in 2011, 450 job applications, no work, blatant ageism, now in doc review.  Wash, rinse, pull away two more chairs, start the music again, repeat.

Really, new law school applicants, you should read this shit and figure out if you want to join a profession where people over 40 feel this way.  You can just feel the snarky anger and sneering derision at ignorant hiring parties who just don't grasp reality, or do and just. don't. care.
Perhaps this apparent and sometimes blatant “ageism” is driven by human resource personnel questioning “why” an experienced litigator would be applying for an entry level position or an unsubstantiated “fear” that such an experienced litigator would “jump ship” at the first opportunity. As for the “why,” an entry level salary with employment benefits is clearly better than unemployment or the legal “purgatory” of temporary or contact document review work at low pay without benefits. Moreover, any such “fear” flies in the face of the realities of the current legal job market. Simply put, there is no such opportunity to “jump ship.”
This individual went to law school at a time when costs were significantly lower and employment prospects profoundly higher.  Do the math.

Remember, kids, your loans will be a 25-30-year pay off barring an economic miracle.  If we accept that legal employment at the 25-year mark is significantly lower than at the one-year mark (which should be obvious at this point), and we realize that the one-year employment rates do not justify the investment of the law degree, how in the world can you justify the expenditure at all?

Do you realize you're basically betting three years of your life and six figures on landing in the minority of law partners / lifer government attorneys / in-house counsel-level attorneys?

If you're truly a special snowflake, you quite literally have better odds betting on football games, or throwing the chips on red or auditioning for Jeopardy.

But back to our anonymous inspiration.  If you're reading this and applying to law school for the fall of 2015, I beg you to do the following: poke around your first choice law school and see if you can get a list of graduates or law review members or what have you from 1995.  Get on Google or a bar directory and see where they are in 2015, see what they're doing, see how many have been vaporized.  Ask yourself if you want to be there and still paying a large percent of your discretionary income to student loans.

Because whatever the law deans tell you about a long-term investment, remember that your general employability goes down after eight to ten years or age 40 or so, whichever comes first.  At that point, you're an old dog set in your ways, and you're expected to either have your own book or your own narrow niche of expertise.  And with Lord knows how many old dogs running around, and a lazy dog catcher, good luck finding any scraps for yourself

What really struck me about this attorney's article is his proposed "solution": a bar association task force.  Are you serious?  Are you that set in your ways that you think the only (or "a good") "solution" to these systemic and widespread problems is another white collar paper-shuffling, jet-setting, uncle-fucking task force?

I found myself nodding with literally everything in the article except the pernicious suggestion to form a task force.  Is there any more worthless object than a bunch of Brahmins trying to address the problems of the untouchables?

I hate to say this, but the suggestion of going to a task force unintentionally justifies the widespread decision not to employ people over a certain age.  There is quite possibly no suggestion that would accomplish less while giving the authorities a sense of accomplishment than such a practice.

If you want real reform, there is a finite set of solutions that all echo the same basic theme:
  1. Stop pumping out lawyers.
  2. Create legal jobs for older lawyers.
  3. Push other older lawyers to retirement and other careers.
There you go.  There's your damned Task Force.  They would take weeks and expensive trips and write 40 pages (including passages about not being "blameworthy") and give you something remarkably similar with a bunch of window dressing and horse poop.  I'm giving it to you straight, and for free.

But what do I know?  I'm not trying to sell lifetime career fantasies with absolutely no proof, and, indeed, proof to the contrary that this industry is ageist towards non-equity holders over 40.  There's a certain attraction to living for the moment and having life myopia, but odds are pretty good that someday you're going to be 45.

Don't you want to now what life's like for the median 45-year old JD holder?  Don't you think it's a bad idea to assume it's all nice houses and sexy spouses?  Isn't it concerning when otherwise-accomplished attorneys are tossed overboard with only the flimsiest of lifeboats?

If you're filthy rich or find the Fountain of Youth, worry not.  Otherwise, you might want to figure this part out before putting your chips on a seat deposit.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lucky Hamline Law students may receive two diplomas.



Harvard. Yale. Stanford. No matter which top law school you attend, and no matter how well you do, you will only be provided with a single diploma.

But students of St. Paul's Hamline School of Law, who will likely complete their degrees at nearby William Mitchell due to Hamline's recently announced proposed merger with Mitchell, may get to boast twice the number of law diplomas offered by other law schools, even the very best. From the "Current Students Frequently Asked Questions" page on Hamline Law’s website:
What will my diploma look like (which school name)? 
Following acquiescence by the American Bar Association, classes of the combined school will have Mitchell | Hamline on their diplomas and students may be offered a second document with the name of their school.  

With double diplomas, students of the law school soon to be formerly known as Hamline will surely be able to double their problem-solving abilities and global perspective. Double their alumni network. Double their anticipated earnings in excess of similarly-situated non JDs  (so instead of a single lousy Simkovic million, they can anticipate two). 

Beyond a name on the wrong side of a vertical line and the parting gift of a second diploma, it will be interesting to see just how much of Hamline Law School actually survives the merger. And here I am not wondering about the exciting dual degree programs planned with Hamline University, or about "access to Hamline's athletic facilities" for William Mitchell’s presumably gym-deficient law jocks. Whether this merger is truly the birth of a "unified and vibrant blend of two institutions with common goals" (as Hamline Dean Jean Holloway characterizes it), or the elaborate burial of a dead law school, depends on how many Hamline faculty and staff will be retained by the new entity. The Dean of Mitchell stated that he "hoped" to avoid layoffs through voluntary attrition, but acknowledged that there will be "some cuts in faculty and staff." We will see.  

I want to note that Hamline Law, though small and relatively obscure, was a scam trendsetter in identifiable ways, and therefore merits the distinction of being the first law school to flunk out of existence.

1. Hamline has consistently reported one of the very highest percentages of law grads employed in full-time "JD-Advantage" positions, which a reasonable person may deem suspicious, especially given the vagueness of the JD-Advantage category.

For the Class of 2013, Hamline reported that it had placed 25.9% of its graduating class in full-time (FT) JD-Advantage jobs, the second best performance among the 200 or so ABA-approved law schools. By comparison: William Mitchell reported 12.9% (73rd place), the University of Minnesota reported 8.4%, and the national average was 11.3%. For the Class of 2012, Hamline reported that 31.6% of its grads landed in FT JD-Advantage jobs, making it the #1 JD-Advantage school in the nation for that year. For 2011, Hamline reported 20.0% in FT JD-Advantage jobs, a sixth place finish. [1]

2. Under its former Dean, Don Lewis (2008-2013), Hamline made a big effort to nourish a secondary income stream by marketing master’s degree and certificate programs to the non-JD seeking multitude.
 
For instance, in an article in Attorney at Law (Twin Cities Edition) published in May, 2013 ("Don Lewis of Hamline Helping to Shape the Legal Experiences of the Next Generation"), Lewis was quoted as follows:     
"There are a number of people out there who work in a number of professions who need some measure of legal education, but don’t necessarily have to go to law school. My view is that law schools (and particularly Hamline has embarked on this path) need to offer other options other than the JD. . . . We also need to be much more expansive in offering a legal education to a broader range of people."
Accordingly, Hamline currently offers certificate programs in Dispute Resolution and in Health Care Compliance to non-law students. In addition, wannabe conflict interveners can obtain a Master's in the Study of Law (MSL) with a Concentration in Conflict Resolution that can be completed in just 15 months, in-residence or online. ("One of our key goals is training you to be a conflict intervener who can deliver real value to an employer through your ability to creatively anticipate and solve problems"). Hamline also boasts a program in international business negotiation that interactively connects its students with fellow international negotiation students in Budapest via an IPad platform. 

Hamline also offers a Certificate of Global Arbitration and Practice, but no IPads and distance learning for that. Rather, you earn your Certificate by going to London for four weeks of intensive courses, at a cost of $6,850 in tuition and program fees (airfare and meals not included). Merger or not, there is still at least one more chance to become a global arbitration and practice certificate holder. Hamline's next intercontinental boondoggle-- excuse me, Global Arbitration program-- will run from June 14th to July 16th, where your international arbitration guru and jolly traveling companion will be Hamline Law Professor Allan Blair, a guy so wild and crazy that he has been known to spice up his scholarly work with reference to Saturday Night Live skits. See Edwin Butterfoss  & H. Allen Blair, "Where is Emily Litella When You Need Her? The Unsuccessful Effort to Craft a General Theory of Obligation of Promise for Benefit Received," 28 Quinnipiac  L. Rev. 385 (2010).

3. According to a recent article at Minnpost, Hamline "zealously marketed. . . its weekend JD track, which was apparent to anyone who walked through the downtown Minneapolis skyway system."  Does any other law school peddle a weekend JD program on skyways? Thanks to Hamline, I now visualize aggressive marketing and recruitment as an elevated pedway where higher education crosses over into scam. 

Given that Hamline may be on its way out, it is only fair to conclude this post with a kind word. I would like to praise the unnamed Hamline communications person who wrote up the merger announcement for Hamline Law’s "news and events" web page. In what I took as a snarky little dig at the 135th-ranked school set to devour 121st ranked Hamline, the announcement concludes by describing Hamline as "the top-ranked private law school in Minnesota according to US News & World Report."

So a possibly premature, but still heartfelt RIP to Ham the Scam. 

---------------------
note:

[1]  Go to this site:   http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/law-jobs/calculator     

Then Click on JD Advantage, Long Term (LT), Short Term (ST), and Full Time (FT), which will generate the employment rates for law schools in rank order, according the formula selected. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Law School Transparency launches podcast series to explore the real world of legal practice.

As is distressingly apparent from the tweets collected at Law School Lemmings, a lot of incoming law students are extremely naive about lawyer work and lifestyles, and hold aspirations that are influenced, or shall I say tainted, by this or that movie or hit TV show. Even worse is the unspeakably cynical law school propaganda designed to convince young idealists that an expensive legal education will allow them to assume a leadership  role in the struggle against intractable social or political problems, such as racism or environmental catastrophe.

Law School Transparency has a wonderful new series of podcasts ("I am the Law") in which various kinds of lawyers are interviewed for 20 to 35 minutes. The podcasts are meant to provide kids contemplating a legal career with some useful information about what legal practice in various specialties is really like. Among the interviewees are a personal injury lawyer (Tricia Dennis!), a former public defender, a family lawyer, a patent attorney, a real estate attorney, an administrative appeals lawyer, and an immigration lawyer. Several other podcasts are forthcoming.

http://www.lstradio.com/iatl/

I especially recommend the Tricia Dennis interview, which was conducted by Prof. Deborah Merritt, Paul Campos’s co-dissident at Inside the Law School Scam. Tricia speaks with humor and verve, and is clearly devoted to her work, but she provides some grim observations about a practice area that once offered real opportunities for new grads, but that has been devastated by tort reform and by lawyer oversaturation, which she deems "a profound, profound problem, at least in this State." (26:40)

For instance, Tricia observes that lawyers who can afford to advertise extensively on TV are putting out of business those who cannot, a cautionary point for newbies who hope to hang out a shingle.  

And Tricia makes another point, an even sadder one, that lawyer oversaturation means that a newbie lawyer is far less likely than a generation ago to find crucial local mentoring: 
"Someone my age, we should be mentoring young kids who either by choice or by circumstances are not getting big firm jobs [or] government work. We should be mentoring these people. But we can’t! I mean, there is no way I could mentor a young graduate from UT simply because I cannot train my competition. I cannot stay in business and have somebody else learn my business model, and then compete against me. Now, when I was starting out in 1987, and it wasn’t quite so bad….I was mentored by a mean son of a bitch, but he knew how to teach me how to practice law and he was willing to do it. . . . .He could do it because there was still enough cases [that] I wasn't going to hurt his business."
          (27:12- 28:15)

All of the "I am the Law" interviewees so far are enjoying more or less successful careers, and the questions posed to them only infrequently touch on legal education. Therefore, I hope that even academics who feel threatened by the scamblog perspective will recommend this series. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Applicants Down Between 5-10%, Depending on the Day; LSAC Forgets How to Use Excel in the Process


UPDATE:  Well, somebody's ears over at LSAC must have been burning, because they have republished their chart with formatting that I think we can all agree with.  Although, I am glad to keep a record of LSAC's prior charting for "instructive purposes."

OTLSS Prediction Based Upon LSAC Graphical Data


"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it..."

Yep, that's 1984-esque Doublethink for you.  Or LSAC graphical applicant data, take your pick.

As we all know, application rates have been declining for several years now, many times in the double-digit-percentage range.  Although it appears to be showing signs of slowing, the rate of decline has not bottomed out yet.  One would not know this by looking at LSAC's graphical representation, however, and if anything, one would be inclined to think that there is a modest uptick in some cases.  This is especially confusing in that the most recent year-over-year decline has been more than negligable, yet the 2014 and 2015 lines are right on top of each other.


To verify whether or not this was actually the case, I took an old copies of the LSAC chart I for 2012 to 2014 that I had lying around (yes, I know).  With an oversized print out and pencil and paper in hand, I, an army of one, gentle readers, interpolated my own data for 2012 to 2014.  I then added the "accurate" data that has been numerically published by LSAC for this cycle.  Feast your eyes on the results:


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Won't you be my Scamentine?: A discussion of "spousal hiring" in the legal academy, featuring Law Profs. Victor Fleischer and Howard Wasserman.



As should be known by now, law school is, at best, a hideously expensive gamble. Every year, the law schools flood some 40,000 newly minted JDs into an economy that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projects will only generate 21,880 lawyer jobs annually through the end of this decade. Even if a young lawyer beats these coin-flip odds and lands some sort of full-time job in the profession, he or she will most likely be desperately unhappy due to killer workloads and diminishing job security. However, it is true that some young lawyers will defy even these odds, and join the tiny and diminishing number who find decent-paying jobs that they enjoy doing.

Among the lawyers who win this double lottery, some will encounter the following painful, even heartrending, dilemma: their spouse (often another lawyer, lawyers tend to marry each other) loses his or her job, and is offered another job far away. Does the person quit his or her job and follow his or her partner? Try to manage a long-distance marriage (hard on the spouses, brutal on the children)? Or encourage his or her spouse to turn down the job offer, stay in the household and, maybe, deal with the indignity of long-term unemployment and dependency?

For those lofty beings called law professors, this problem is less likely to arise. You see, law schools favor something called "spousal hiring."

Friday, February 6, 2015

It's Time for Some Donation Request Letters (Valpo Edition)

The Donation Request Letter is an time-honored tradition.  Who doesn't like free money, after all?  

Snark aside (briefly), one is used to the idea when it comes to one's undergraduate school - after all, undergrad has historically been the stepping stone to a career, or a waypoint that helps open the door to further education (and, later, a career).  One might certainly feel inclined to demonstrate gratitute towards one's alma mater in the form of financial gifts, in appreciation of the education and services received.  However, given the difficulties that have been endemic to the legal market for some time now, along with misleading employment stats, skyrocketing tuition, and reduced applications, the Law School Donation Request Letter is another animal altogether.  See, for example, a correspondent's letter from Valpo Law:


As a side note, some of our readership may not be aware that Valpo's former Dean, Jay Conison, a long-time proponent of law school, recently flew the coop to head that esteemed institution of Infilaw learning, Charlotte School of Law.  There is no accounting for taste, I suppose.

However, all is not lost!  The crisis in legal education is acknowledged.  There has been a lot of "progress" towards "transform[ing]" legal education.  The school is moving forward "bold[ly]."  The faculty is "first-rate," and the legal writing and research program is one of the "nation's best."  (Because we all know that everyone else's writing and research programs must suck.)  The school's "reputation" is "intact."  The almuni have "made their mark."

Well, I'm ready to donate $50, how about you?  The claims in the letter and the data-driven results compiled by LST clearly match, right?

One has to ask what purpose the gifts actually serve.  Upon reading the letter, it is not readily apparent how dollars contributed generate "transformation," improve faculty, or help in "vital" ways.  It seems odd that the tuition garnered from 200-ish brand-spanking-new 1Ls each year, let alone current 2Ls and 3Ls, does not  achieve these goals on their own.  No, further appeals for gifts are necessary.

Because if you are willing to give $50 now, you might be willing to give $500 or $500,000 later.  The psycology of this behavior is well understood.  Given the number of grads going to BigLaw, however, that number doesn't seem to bode towards the high side anytime soon.

I suspect many such letters have gone to many alumni from law schools all across our great nation.  As applications continue to slide as the truth continues to come out, watch these appeal become ever more fervent.  The deficits have to be made up, somehow.