Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Did the 79 law school deans who challenged NCBE Chief Erica Moeser’s “less able” explanation for falling bar passage rates lower admission standards at their own schools?

Perhaps you remember the October, 2014 memo from 79 law school deans to Erica Moeser, Chief of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). The memo was the opening salvo in an ongoing barrage of law school propaganda aimed at pressuring the NCBE to dumb down the bar exam in order to maintain passage rates for increasingly, uh, academically undistinguished law school graduating classes.
"We, the undersigned law school deans, respectfully request that the National Conference of Bar Examiners facilitate a thorough investigation of the administration and scoring of the July 2014 bar exam. .. . . In particular, the investigation should examine the integrity and fairness of the July 2014 exam. We also request that the NCBE provide the evidence it relied on in making the statement that the takers of the bar exam in July 2014 were less able than those in 2013." – Memo to NCBE, Chief Erica Moeser, signed by 79 law school Deans.
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard, ever the self-satirizing buffoon, not only signed on to the memo, but penned a separate open missive to Moeser, in which he went beyond an ostensible demand for evidence and investigation and outright rendered a verdict: "It’s not the students, it’s the test."
"Your unexpected defense of your test goes on to conclude that that the serious drop in scores was due to, in your view, the 2014 test takers being "less able" than the 2013 test takers. We don't know what evidence you have to support this surprising (and surprisingly disparaging) claim, but we do have evidence about our own 2014 graduates, and it tells our precisely the opposite: their credentials were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not better. . . . In plain language, I disagree with you: It's not the students, it's the test."
I used Law School Transparency’s excellent online resources to check the 79 schools whose deans questioned Moeser’s statement that the takers of the bar exam in July 2014 were less able than those who took the test in 2013. How many of those 79 helmed schools that lowered admission standards at the vulnerable edge of the LSAT spectrum between 2010 and 2011 (the dates when the incoming classes would be expected to take the respective 2013 and 2014 bar exams)? And how many lowered standards between 2010 and 2014, the date of memo?
A.  The distribution of LSAT changes at the 25th percentile between 2010 and 2011 for the 79 law schools whose deans signed the memo to Moeser:
down by 1 pt.
down by 2 pts.

down by 3 pts.
UC-Hastings, Charleston, Colorado
down by 4 pts.
Case Western
B.  The distribution of LSAT changes at the 25th percentile between 2010 and 2014 for the 79 law schools whose deans signed the memo to Moeser:
down by 1 pt.
down by 2 pts.
down by 3 pts.
down by 4 pts.
down by 5 pts.
down by 6 pts.
American, Capital, Faulkner, LaVerne, Valparasio
down by 7 pts.
McGeorge, Vermont, Southern Ill., Whittier
down by 8 pts.
Ave Marie, Charleston, Thomas Jefferson, Cooley
down by 9 pts.
Brooklyn, Hofstra

As for Brooklyn Law, its 25th percentile score and median LSAT declined between 2010 and 2011. So did its 25th percentile and median GPA. Thus, Allard’s claim that he had "evidence"-- the nature of which he did not disclose-- to establish that the credentials of BLS’s 2014 graduates "were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not better" may have crossed that thin line that separates self-serving bullshit from filthy lie.
Why did 79 law deans sign on to the memo? They knew, and they surely knew that Moeser knew, that admission standards have been declining sharply at most law schools. Maybe they were just trying to sow as much confusion and dismay as they could in order to place Moeser temporarily on the defensive. Kind of like a pickpocket, caught in the act, who cries, "Stop, Thief!" Or maybe they are such brazen smear artists that they believe they can scapegoat Moeser and the NCBE by promoting a fight-the-power narrative of promising young legal fledglings oppressed by autocratic testmasters. Or maybe they believe their own nonsense about how the JD program imparts immense legal knowledge plus exceptional thinking and reasoning abilities, and so a high bar failure rate is as incomprehensible to them as if a large number of medical doctors flunked a test of basic anatomy.
We have entered the era of Law School Scam 2.0. Some of the original concerns that animated the scamblog movement have been addressed, however inadequately. Class sizes are down, there is transparency as to short-term employment outcomes and exploding scholarships, and an applicant with a good a academic record who comparison shops can probably get a hefty discount on tuition at a non-elite school. What has changed is that law schools are now recruiting, even enticing, students with mediocre to horrible academic credentials. Bar failure is only the most visible aspect of the harm. These are kids who will find it especially difficult to carve out a place in our swamped profession, who will be ineffectiveness/ malpractice hazards if they do, and who are less likely than their more accomplished classmates to have some alternative skill set to fall back upon when their legal careers crash and burn. Thus, the scam continues, with the burden shifting to the least sophisticated and least resilient among the law students, in ironic mockery of the "sophisticated consumer" rationale that courts used to shoot down the class action fraud lawsuits against law schools.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seattle Law Prof. Paula Lustbader promotes civility training in Tuscany

I am a proponent of civility within the legal profession. We lawyers are members of a demanding profession, where clients and the public place their trust in our knowledge and judgment in order to protect their rights or obtain a measure of what they consider justice. There is honor in doing this well, and that applies to opposing counsel as well as oneself. At any rate, that which lawyers call "incivility" and which the rest of humanity calls "being an asshole," is usually counterproductive– if not immediately, then over time. 
I do not believe, however, that civility requires me to temper my opinion that the majority of lawprofs and law school deans are scammers and parasites, betraying their moral responsibilities to the profession by producing reams of worthless scholarship, by dramatically lowering admissions standards, and worst of all, by deceiving their students as to the opportunities that a law degree provides and exploiting the naivete of those students by getting rich off their loans.
But perhaps my understanding of civility is flawed, in a way that can only be remedied by going to a medieval Tuscan village and taking an eight day long civility cure. Fortunately, Seattle Law Prof. Paula Lustbader runs a nonprofit called the "Robert’s Fund," which stages continuing legal education instruction in civility in Sovana, Italy, in partnership with Seattle University School of Law. (Indeed, according to its Form 990, the Robert’s Fund is located in the Seattle University School of Law).
So far as I can tell from her 14-page CV, Prof. Lustbader has never held a job as a practicing lawyer. She joined the faculty of Seattle Law, then called Puget Sound, in 1987, the year before she graduated from its law school, and has been there ever since. As well, the titles of some of Lustbader's scholarly articles and presentations sound dubious to the uncivil ear. See e.g. You Are Not in Kansas Anymore: Orientation Programs Can Help Students Fly Over the Rainbow, 47 Washburn L. J. 327, 366 (2008) ("As we forge ahead to enrich their experience through improving orientation, we must remember that there is one main truth in Oz: Almost anything is possible, but you must BELIEVE and click your heels three times"). See also "Can the Professor Come Out to Play?" Society of American Law Teachers, Conference, Hawaii. (Co-presenter) (December, 2010).

Dubious too, perhaps, is  Lustbader's role in co-founding and directing Seattle Law’s Access Admissions program, through which the law school admits students "whose capabilities may not be accurately reflected in GPAs and LSAT scores."  Perhaps their legal capabilities are better expressed by their mastery of the triple heel click.

The Robert’s Fund has held its CLE program in Sovana several times since 2011, with the next such program ("The Civility Promise in Tuscany") scheduled for April, 2017. The cost is $3,650 (standard room) to $3,950 (deluxe room at four-star hotel) for early bird registrants, and $1,650 to $1,850 for one’s room-sharing spouse or significant other. The six-member faculty includes Lustbader, two Italian judges (one retired), and one, uh, artist in residence. The Robert’s Fund’s listed "staff and consultants" include four Seattle U. lawprofs (one emeritus), one University of Washington lawprof, and one Hamline lawprof.
"Revitalize your commitment to the profession you love. . . This popular seminar convenes in Sovana, a charming medieval village surrounded by verdant vineyards and lush olive groves. In this peaceful setting, participants immerse themselves in a continuing education program that integrates lectures, discussions, and interactive exercises that focus on fostering civility in the legal profession. The seminar is complemented by guided excursions through the nearby villages and beautiful countryside.. . . Enrich your personal and professional life. Relax and reconnect with yourself... Develop and deepen relationships... Engage in thought-provoking dialogue… All this while earning 30 CLE/CJE credits (including 8 ethics credits)."
The Robert’s Fund website includes nine brief video testimonials from past participants of the Tuscany civility program (one of whom (Craig Sims) is now a member of the faculty of the program). They make for entertaining viewing. All are predictably enthusiastic, but several express themselves so inarticulately about the nature and benefits of the program that it made me wonder whether too much international civility enrichment can have deleterious effects on one’s brain.
Is this how the well-heeled fulfil the entirety of their CLE (Continuing Legal Education) requirement in Washington State? By taking a guided vacation to Italy--with talks and workshops on "Civility Tai Chi" and "Exploring Creative Lawyering through Art" sandwiched between wine and olive oil tastings, Etruscan banquets, and excursions to Il Giardino dei Tarocchi and Pitigliano? Is the cost of the program tax-deductible? Does the public know that this is how members of the bar purport to maintain the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill their professional responsibilities, which is the supposed purpose of mandatory CLE?
And what about Seattle Law School, the entity that cosponsors this getaway? Do its students still receive top-notch civility training from the civility master on their faculty, even though they may not be able to afford the trip to Italy? Seattle Law grads have shockingly bad employment outcomes--the school's nine-month-out non-funded bar-required full-time job placement rate has ranged between 37.8% and 44.8% over the last four years. So it is nice to think that at least its grads have enhanced nonlaw employment prospects due to their genteel good manners.
Perhaps, though, the temptation to be skeptical or snarky about the Tuscany civility program or about law professors who have never practiced law is the very thing that establishes my need for state of the art civility training. Does the Robert’s Fund or the Washington bar offer overseas civility scholarships for the civility impaired? Are there employers that actually foot the bill for this thing? How nice it would be to hop aboard this gravy train, or shall I say, olive oil train.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Hip Hop and the Law": Dougie Fresh's magnum opus

Yes, it enrolled only 15 new students this year. Yes, it had to eliminate tuition just to achieve that feat. Yes, it has failed to earn accreditation. But don't count Indiana Tech out. With yet another literary masterpiece, it has secured northeastern Indiana's place on the intellectual map.

The celebrated AndrĂ© Douglas Pond "Dougie Fresh" Cummings and two other intellectual colossi of legal hackademia have co-edited Hip Hop and the Law, a compendium of the finest scholarshit in a field crucially important to bench and bar. Allow me to reproduce its promotional blurb:

"What is important to understanding American law? What is important to understanding hip hop? Wide swaths of renowned academics, practitioners, commentators, and performance artists have answered these two questions independently. And although understanding both depends upon the same intellectual enterprise, textual analysis of narrative storytelling, somehow their intersection has escaped critical reflection. Hip Hop and the Law merges the two cultural giants of law and rap music and demonstrates their relationship at the convergence of Legal Consciousness, Politics, Hip Hop Studies, and American Law. No matter what your role or level of experience with law or hip hop, this book is a sound resource for learning, discussing, and teaching the nuances of their relationship. Topics include Critical Race Theory, Crime and Justice, Mass Incarceration, Gender, and American Law: including Corporate Law, Intellectual Property, Constitutional Law, and Real Property Law."

Adam Lamparello—noted for his, er, personal revelations—recently hosted a reception for this world-historic publication. I am woefully sorry that I did not find out in time to attend. When shall I ever have another opportunity to get my very own copy of Hip Hop and the Law inscribed by Dougie Fresh, entirely in lower-case letters?

Practitioners, professors, and students should rush to Amazon.com and grab one (or more!) of the 19 available copies for the trifling price of $53, with free shipping. Learn how to apply the intersectionality of law and hip-hop to everything from Critical Race Theory™ to litigation over real property. Launch a new career in the dynamic field of Hip Hop Studies. Break new scholarly ground through critical reflection on this tragically neglected subject  You need this book.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Law Deans warn that capping student loans threatens the "rule of law" and the "individuals and institutions in our society."

"Since 2010, first-year enrollment has dropped from 52,500 to 37,900, a level last scene in 1973- much smaller and the rule of law will begin to fray. Our country needs lawyers, prosecutors, defenders, and judges, not only lawyers in big cities and big law firms. Capping graduate federal loans. . . would fall hardest on students from modest circumstances who will not be able to attend law school."letter to the editor of the New York Times, signed by Law Deans Blake Morant, Kellye Testy, and Association of American Law Schools Executive Director Judith Areen.

"Talented students are drawn to the legal profession because lawyers play a vital role serving individuals and institutions in our society. . .[C]utting federal loans will only narrow the pool of people who can pursue a legal career and decrease the availability of lawyers to serve this need."letter to the editor of the New York Times by Law Dean Matthew Diller.


I fear a collapse into anarchy– the bad W.B. Yeats kind, not the good Noam Chomsky kind. Social collapse begins when the rule of law starts to fray, like a once-beautiful tapestry that has been damaged, or like the nerves of a put-upon law professor forced to explain for the umpteenth time how his or her scholarshit is a bargain at any price, even if that price is paid by debt-ridden law grads. And when even a normally beigist establishment newspaper like the New York Times boldly endorses the viewpoint of law-hating scamblog insurrectionists, you know that society is in peril.

The logic is cruel and irrefutable. If you tamper with the availability and amount of federal student loans then fewer people will be able or willing to attend law school. If fewer people attend law school, then there will obviously be fewer lawyers. Ours is a society of laws, so if the lawyer supply is disrupted, we will eventually lose the rule of law.

What follows are a few facts about the letter writers quoted above, and about the institutions they lead or led, which may be marginally relevant to assessing their interest, bias, and character.  Might there be some reason, other than the obvious imperative to preserve society and the rule of law, why they want an unobstructed flow of money from taxpaying public into law school coffers via the ever-reliable conduit of gullible young persons’ ruined lives?

Kellye Testy, Dean of the University of Washington School of Law, was paid $375,012 in 2014. This was the 45th highest salary for a State of Washington employee. (Eight football coaches and three basketball coaches were paid more, proving that law school is far from the only scam out there). In an interview conducted in 2012, Testy rejected as "paternalistic" the suggestion that class size be reduced, though the school ultimately did decrease its class size very slightly (From 176 1Ls in 2012 to 163 in 2014). Testy is a strong proponent of Washington State’s limited license legal technician program,  under which nonlawyers can engage in the "limited practice of law"– as long as they take 45 credit hours of paralegal instruction, plus additional coursework related to the particular area of law for which licensure is sought, from an ABA-accredited law school. Speaking of limited practice, Testy graduated from law school in 1991 and became a Professor of Law in 1992, with only a one-year long Seventh Circuit clerkship sandwiched between her law school graduation and her law school professorship.

Blake Morant was recently appointed Dean of George Washington Law School. In Fiscal 2012, Morant’s predecessor, Paul Schiff Berman, collected $519,280 in "reportable compensation" from GW and an additional $54,876 in "other compensation from the organization and related organizations." Thus, Morant's GW salary is probably higher than his $443,856 annual take as Dean of Wake Forest Law. Morant serves as President of the Association of American Law Schools. In his 2015 Presidential address, he  declared that "[T]he need for quality legal education has never been more acute. The competitive global market requires professionals who can think critically and provide innovative solutions to complex problems." George Washington has the 7th highest percentage of ten-month-out "school-funded" jobs among the law schools (13.4%), suggesting that there are at least a few GW law grads having difficulty peddling their critical thinking wares in the global marketplace. The average law school debt of a GW Class of 2014 law grad was $141,246.

Matthew Diller was recently appointed Dean of Fordham Law (2015), having spent the preceding six years as Dean of Cardozo Law (2009-2015). The average law school debt of the members of the class of 2014 at Fordham and Cardozo was $140,577 and $121,644 respectively. Between 2010 and 2014, Cardozo’s  LSAT for incoming students fell by five points at the 25th percentile and four points at the median, so at least Diller is sincere in his opposition to policies that would "narrow the pool of people who can pursue a legal career." Diller boasted to the New York Times that "Schools, including Fordham Law. . . have expanded scholarship aid," but there still may be room for improvement. Fordham ranked in the bottom half of law schools in terms of median tuition discount ($12,500) and percentage of students receiving discounts (49.1%). Diller’s predecessor as Fordham Law Dean, Michael M. Martin, was paid $543,108 in Fiscal 2013.

Judith Areen was a law school faculty member at Georgetown for 43 years, including 16 years as Dean or as interim dean (1989-2004, 2010). Georgetown Law has the worst non-funded law job placement record among the elite T14, which may be related somehow to its enrolling the largest entering class of any law school in the country. In 2015, Areen became executive director of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), which "represents the deans and professors of 179 law schools" and which emphasizes the importance of legal scholarship within law schools. According to its most recent available 990, the AALS sits upon about 11 million dollars in net assets. It seems to derive most of its five million dollar annual revenue from law school faculty recruitment services. The AALS is known for hosting a huge annual five-day-long two million dollar "conference" that draws over 3,000 party-loving lawprofs from all over the country.Areen's predecessor as AALS executive director, Susan Westerberg Prager (who has since become Dean of bottom-tier Southwestern Law School), was paid $459,221 by AALS in Fiscal 2013.

In 2012, Areen stated that, "It’s law graduates who don’t practice law who are often most complimentary about their legal education and the analytic skills they received."  At least she did not say that the rule of law depends on having an ample supply of nonpracticing lawyers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Does the logo on your T-shirt reveal your aptitude for legal practice? Take the DiscoverLaw quiz.

I  am no fan of DiscoverLaw, which is the LSAC-funded (and, I think, created) organization  that coordinates so-called pipeline activities designed to direct or steer young people, including specifically high school and community college students, towards eventual law school attendance. [1], [2]

But I admit that if a kid is thinking about law school, he or she ought to go one step further and consider what practice area he or she would like to specialize in. To make this determination, it is advisable that the kid takes stock of his or her own values, concerns, and goals. 

So I was hopeful that the "Fields of Law" quiz on DiscoverLaw's website might prove a useful tool. A quiz-taker answers 18 multiple questions and then clicks the "find out" button to determine which practice area "just might be the field that’s right for you." The possibilities include civil rights, corporate and securities, criminal, entertainment, environmental and natural resources law, family and juvenile, health, intellectual property, international, sports, and tax. 


However, after reviewing the specific questions, I was not fully persuaded that this quiz really does reveal legal aptitudes. But judge for yourself:

1. My iPod is filled with ...
  • legally downloaded music
  • baseball highlight
  • sounds of nature
  • language lessons
2. My T-shirts usually feature ...
  • my favorite sports team
  • a brand name
  • my favorite band
  • something from nature
9. Man, do I hate ...
  • pollution
  • disease
  • plagiarism
  • bye weeks
12. With a law degree, I could ...
  • save the planet
  • fight crime
  • help children
  • work with celebrities
14.  The best first date would be ...
  • attending a murder mystery dinner theater
  • visiting an art museum
  • dinner at a French restaurant
  • volunteering at a Boys & Girls Club
17. I love movies ...
  • about heists and crime
  • with subtitles
  • that critique society
  • that have a celebrity cast

I do not care to speculate as to why the good people at DiscoverLaw regard "volunteering at a Boys & Girls Club" as one of four possibilities for an optimal first date. It is sufficiently disturbing that DiscoverLaw tells teenagers that the nature of their future successful and rewarding legal career can be revealed from their Netflix history or the logo on their casual wear. Or, really, from their fantasies. Whether one's dream is to be the trusted confidant of Hollywood movie stars or to save the Amazon river basin, a JD can make it happen.

(Although, looked at from a different perspective, DiscoverLaw has succeeded in designing a multiple choice test with no wrong answers-- you just have to remember to complete it. Perhaps that is a template for a redesigned multistate bar exam, one that would even satisfy the test's harshest critics, such as Brooklyn Dean Nicholas Allard, as well as those worthy strivers who have heretofore felt the sharpest sting of bar exam oppression, such as Infilaw's Arizona Summiteers).
Granted, at one place on its website, DiscoverLaw notes that the quiz is "not a foolproof diagnostic scientific tool" and even "just for fun." Elsewhere on the website, however, DiscoverLaw recommends the quiz with no such disclaimer. In a box labeled "Discover More," DiscoverLaw helpfully advises: "Not sure which field of law is right for you? Our Fields of Law Quiz might point you in the right direction!" Similarly, if a visitor clicks the "preparing for law school" tab at the top of the website, then the "make your next move" tab, and then checks "I am a high school student," he or she will receive the following advice: "Not sure which field of law is right for you? Take DiscoverLaw.org's quiz for ideas."
Before dismissing DiscoverLaw’s quiz, and its website generally, as childish and easily-recognizable hype, consider that DiscoverLaw: (1) targets kids from historically excluded groups, i.e. those who may not have a network that includes lawyers and non-practicing JDs to help them treat law school marketing with appropriate skepticism and (2) as noted, avowedly targets high school children, i.e. those have not yet achieved the status of "sophisticated. . . education consumer" that, it seems, automatically accompanies a bachelor’s degree. See e.g. Gomez-Jiminez v. New York Law Sch., 943 N.Y.S.2d 834, 843 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2012) ("By anyone's definition, reasonable consumers--college graduates--seriously considering law schools are a sophisticated subset of education consumers. . .")  [3]

I appreciate that the legal academy is slightly less scammy than a few years ago in certain respects. Most law schools have reduced class size, increased the availability of tuition discounts, and have been forced to become more transparent as to employment outcomes. However, in one major respect the scam is becoming dramatically worse– namely, the ever-increasing eagerness of law schools to recruit--I would even say entice--kids whose lack of academic credentials and social capital places them at severe risk of a disastrous outcome.


[1]  According to LSAC’s Form 990s (available at Charity Navigator) LSAC gave DiscoverLaw a grant of $54,731 in Fiscal 2013. LSAC gave  DiscoverLaw a grant of $84,896 in Fiscal 2012. LSAC gave DiscoverLaw a grant of $56,429 in Fiscal 2011. DiscoverLaw’s address is the same as LSAC’s– 662 Penn Street, Newtown, PA, 18940. 

[2] It is called DiscoverLaw-- there is no space between the "r" in "Discover" and the "L" in "Law." Credit to LSAC for making that extra effort to be obnoxious even when there is no apparent reason for it.

[3]   But at least high school kids can't actually apply to law school, right? Not so fast. The recently published Report of the ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education praises various "innovations" and "experiments" as "the source of possible solutions and models" (which an unsympathetic critic could interpret as meaning creative new ways to bamboozle the vulnerable). One such innovation that the Task Force singles out for praise is the following:
"The program at the Sturm College of Law even includes an option allowing highly qualified high school seniors to apply for its three-plus-three program as they apply to the university for undergraduate admission." (Report, p. 12)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Washburn and the Solo Sub-Scam

Recently, I ran across this article, entitled "Washburn Law Grads Ready to Practice."  Normally, this is the sort of benign PR poop that one lets slip past the radar of eyebrow raising.

But it's hard to ignore some bold claims:
The law school ranked 24th nationally in employment in full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage, according to 2015 American Bar Association data — above all other law schools in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

“We are pleased that our graduates are among the nation’s most successful in securing full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage. This is the gold standard of jobs for lawyers,” said Washburn law school dean Thomas R. Romig.
Lest you think this is just puffed-up journalism, when I went to the school's website, I found this rather loud banner:

Twenty-fourth in the country sounds pretty impressive...until you look into the actual numbers.  Let's look at Washburn's 509 data for the Class of 2014 (copied from LST):

Solo 10 0 0 0 10
2-10 Attorneys 29 1 0 2 32
11-25 Attorneys 3 1 0 0 4
26-50 Attorneys 7 0 0 0 7
51-100 Attorneys 1 0 0 0 1
101-250 Attorneys 0 0 0 0 0
251-500 Attorneys 0 0 0 0 0
501+ Attorneys 3 0 0 0 3
Size Unknown 0 0 0 0 0
Business & Industry 12 0 0 0 12
Government 20 0 0 1 21
Public Interest 2 0 0 0 2
Federal Clerkships 0 0 0 0 0
State & Local Clerkships 3 0 0 0 3
Other Clerkships 0 0 0 0 0
Education 1 0 0 1 2
Employer Type Unknown 0 0 0 0 0
Employed Total 91 2 0 4 97

So... 10 of their 91 "employed full time" graduates went solo.  For their entire class of 112, that's almost 9% of their graduates.  That's high.  How high?

Fourth in the country high.  Check out this list:


Texas Southern University 17.14%
Lincoln Memorial University 15.56%
Willamette University 9.02%
Washburn University 8.93%
St. Mary's University 8.72%
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 8.64%
Faulkner University 8.43%
Southern University Law Center 7.27%
Florida International University 7.14%
John Marshall Law School - Atlanta 6.84%
University of Nebraska 6.84%
University of La Verne 6.82%
University of Toledo 6.50%
South Texas College of Law 6.41%
Texas A&M 6.03%
Mississippi College 5.71%
University of Arkansas - Little Rock 5.60%
Oklahoma City University 5.56%
Charlotte School of Law 5.33%
Liberty University 5.26%

I wonder if this is the esteemed company Washburn wants the public to see it associated with.

There are other problems with Washburn's claim regarding its stellar employment results, the most notable being that Washburn placed only 12.5% of its graduates in law firms of 11 or more attorneys, whereas Kansas placed 20.2%, Oklahoma placed 20.9%, Arkansas placed 21.7%, Colorado placed 24.2%, all in said categorization, and Texas placed 25.6% of its class in firms of 500 or more alone.

Under Law School Transparency's Employment Score method (which justifiably excludes solo practitioners), Washburn ranks 107th in the country. So it appears that Washburn is using its solo numbers to inflate its employment rate over clearly superior schools when calculating its "24th in the country!" claim.

Lately, law schools have been hiding behind the "our representations were technically true!" fortification - which is somehow abutting the "our representations were so absurd no one would believe them!" fortification - in response to the lawsuits that gained almost no traction.

But what is it when a school apparently counts solo practitioners as "employed" or in a "position," much less one that is long term?  Is that even technically true?  A solo practitioner isn't employed or holding a "position," and I would bet that most don't last more than a few years before doing something else.  A solo practitioner is an entrepreneur at an uncertain start-up, almost always carrying additional business debt and negative operating costs until business picks up and large up-front expenses can be paid down. To compare it to an associate position in a firm of 20+ attorneys is disingenuous, at a minimum.

The data is pretty clear that prospective law students generally don't want to be solo practitioners immediately if they have a choice, and solo practice for new graduates is likely a symptom of low employment prospects rather than any conscious expression of being "ready to practice."

The following chart shows the percentage of recent graduates going solo versus the median LSAT score of the school's most recent incoming class. (Lincoln Memorial and the Puerto Rican schools were excluded.)

 As you can see, as the median LSAT score increases, the percent of those graduates who wind up going solo out of law school would be expected to decrease.  The inferences here would be that 1) very few graduates are apparently turning down more stable, better-quality jobs to go solo; and 2) either lower-quality applicants are more inclined to go solo than higher-scoring peers or they're feeling more forced to do so out of economic necessity.  I'll let the reader choose one's own adventure on that riddle rather than baselessly speculate that it's the latter.

This is somewhat troubling, of course. Sometimes, law deans will celebrate students for going solo out of law school, even building programs to promote it, and indeed there are some who can manage it.  But they're a minority, and if anyone is going to go solo, the world would likely be better served if it were students with better incoming LSAT and GPA scores.  Does the eager 150 LSAT really understand the limits of his own ignorance, particularly when some gushing law dean has been pimping the idea? Can he become an expert practitioner on his own as easily as his rival with an in-house mentor?

Shouldn't law deans, particularly those who worry about bar passage rates, be discouraging most people from going solo out of school?  Instead, if schools are allowed to count solos as "long term employed" and get away with it, law schools have an incentive to pump as many of their recent graduates into solo set-ups as are willing to take the bait, whether those students are ready to start a business in a saturated market or not.

I don't mean to be down on solo practice, other than to say I think it's borderline insane for most recent graduates with very limited practical experience to jump into a mucky pond where twenty-year practitioners can struggle to get good clients.  If you can make it, good for you.  That means you had skill, money, and/or luck in some combination.  

But what I know is that solos aren't "employed" and such a path isn't what the overwhelming majority of law school applicants pictures as a good - or even viable - career option nine months after graduation.  For law schools to continue to lump those numbers into their employment figures and sell the school as being excellent at "placing" graduates anywhere is blatantly dishonest.

That seems like a sub-scam, friends.  Give these folks the slightest angle to turn poop into the 24th best placement rate and they're going to do it.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who wants to be a lousy fiction writer?: A review of Drexel Law Prof. Lisa McElroy's new law school novel "Called On."

Last year, Drexel's celebrity law professor Lisa McElroy was harshly criticized for her snide and dismissive comments about the plight of recent law grads. More recently, there may have been a bit of unflattering commentary about McElroy's behavior in accidentally sending her students an email with a link to an anal beads sex video and then non-accidently publishing a self-righteous op-ed in the Washington Post suggesting that those students were blameworthy for having opened the link. I hate to pile on, but the fact is that McElroy's horrible new law school novel "Called On" has been seriously under-criticized, hopefully because few besides me were foolish enough to actually read the thing.

Seven reviews on Amazon as of this writing, and all seven gave "Called On" the highest possible rating of five stars (though at least three of the ratings are from McElroy’s fellow law professors). So perhaps I am all alone in my opinion that this book is crap. Scribblers like David Lodge and Francine Prose have written novels satirizing academia, but neither has scored anything close to unanimous five star ratings on Amazon. True, McElroy may not shine when it comes to crafting compelling narrative or memorable three-dimensional characters, but she is unparalleled in generating cutesy witticisms about (as one of the five star reviews puts it) "life, love, and the law." 

"Called On" is the story of an idealistic young One-L at elite Warren Law School named Libby Behl and her quest for love and legal wisdom.  It is also the story of Connie Shun, the brilliant, good-hearted, strong, perceptive, down-to-earth, endearing, and witty M&M-loving (that's M&M, not S&M) law professor who mentors and inspires Libby. (I wonder who Connie Shun could possibly have been based on).

Even though the author actually is a law professor, this novel is still badly misplaced. It should have been set instead in a high school or a summer camp. The story has a teen lit vibe, and all the characters speak and emote about "life, love, and the law" like angsty or stuck-up adolescents. 
Let’s start with Chapter 2. It is Libby's very first day of law school, indeed her very first class. The class is called Introduction to Legal Thinking, or ILT. Libby happens to sit down next to the ice-cold Quinn Everly, who is hogging all the electrical outlets. See if you can spot how McElroy sets up the subtle contrast between idealism and ambition:
"Um, hi. I’m Libby. Just wanted to plug in my laptop? Looks like we’re in for a long hour or so."  
The woman pushed her glasses up on her head.   
"Sorry. Need the plugs. Taping and typing, that’s my technique. Law review. Order of the Coif. Supreme Court clerkship. Every little bit helps. Early bird gets the worm and all that."  
Libby laughed. This woman couldn’t be serious. Law school was about saving the northern spotted owl (OK, so Libby was about two decades late for that one), standing up for marriage equality (and about a year late for that one, at least in part), and fighting for equal pay for women (never too late).  
                                                                   * * *  
Libby didn’t want to lose her cool. But seriously?   
"Yeah, so, don’t you think it’s fair for us all to be on the same playing field?"  
The woman put her glasses back on her nose. "We are. We can all get here early. And use the plugs we need. And those who don’t should just realize that they aren’t cut out to be federal appeals court judges."  
McElroy, Lisa (2015-09-18). Called On (Kindle Locations 160-165, 168-172). Quid Pro Books. Kindle Edition.
Looks seriously bad for poor idealistic Libby-- arrayed against such a ruthless competitor, like an overly-compassionate worm on the same playing field as an early bird. And things go from bad to mortifying when Libby spills a cup of coffee near the lectern, causing  Professor Connie Shun to slip and fall to the ground as soon as she walks into the classroom. Talk about a disastrous start to law school!

But the formidable professor keeps her composure. ("If Justice O’Connor had fallen in a pool of coffee, this is how she’d look. Together. In the least together situation ever.") Shun gets right back up on her feet and conducts a virtuoso class, even without her coffee-spoiled notes, using mistakes in sports officiating to illuminate how law and justice are not necessarily the same thing. Libby redeems herself too. She is "called on" in class, her worst fear realized, but meets the challenge with aplomb by out-arguing fellow student Anderson Kraft, the suave and handsome Harvard T-shirt-wearing guy with the cocky attitude, who turns out to be the villain of the novel.

Indeed, it is not long before the worthy underdog triumphs and the arrogant are humbled. Professor Connie Shun’s pedagogy, in its critical and humanistic depth,  guides students toward an understanding that law and justice, though different in nature, do not merely intersect or diverge, but can actually propel each other. Because Libby has a "calling" to use the law to do good, she is able to grasp this profound concept, which eludes the more self-centered or shallow students, one of whom ponders that, "Every ILT class was the same. They talked about law blah blah blah and justice blah blah blah and absolutely nothing that would ever help [him] do a deal or draw up a contract when he was a lawyer someday."
I vaguely recall that there were a whole bunch of core classes in the first year of law school, but these are barely referenced in the novel, so Connie Shun's Introduction to Legal Thinking course basically represents all of law school. And Connie’s ability to trigger student involvement in class discussion disproves the scamblogger critique:  
"Connie sat and watched. For all the crap law school had been taking in the media lately, this was the kind of class discussion that proved all the "law school is a scam" bloggers wrong. She didn’t have to do anything but get the students started with a provocative question. Then they took over."  
McElroy, Lisa (2015-09-18). Called On (Kindle Locations 322-324)
Libby may suffer from bouts of self-doubt, but perceptive Professor Shun almost immediately identifies her as a future legal star. "The best ones — the ones Connie took under her wing — were always about more than wanting a prestigious career and beaucoup bucks. They were about solving major problems in the world."