Monday, June 29, 2015

A Great Time to be a Guinea Pig: The ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education Endorses Law School Experimentation.

 
Last year, the ABA appointed 14 esteemed persons to address the cost of law school. This group could have chosen to call itself "Three Law School Deans, One InfiLaw National Policy Board Chairman, One Access Group President and CEO, One Lawprof, and an Assortment of Other Law or Legal Education Industry One-Percenters Hoping Their Equivocations and Banalities Sound Appropriately Thoughtful." Regrettably, it went with the more concise but less apt title of "The ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education."
 
Well, that may be too harsh. On the plus side, the Report of the Task Force ("Report"), issued just a few days ago, provides some interesting statistical info on the increase in tuition, tuition discounting, and major categories of law school expenditure over the last 15 years or so. The Task Force recommended that the ABA collect and disseminate annual data on law school expenditures, revenues, and distribution of financial aid. Also, the Task Force strongly endorsed the retention of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), which is threatened with evisceration. I am with the Task Force there.
 
On the minus side, however, is the Task Force’s boundless enthusiasm for the alleged promise of law school "experimentation" (aka "innovation," aka "dynamic legal education environment"), by which the Task Force means experimentation as to cost, curriculum, and somewhat ominously, as to "new revenue streams." (Report, p.  42) (Couch potatoes beware: Within a few years, law schools will be running ads on daytime trash TV for certificate program in health law and mediation [1]). Some word search fun: The word "experiment" and its variants  get 19 mentions in the 62-page Report. The word "innovate" and its variants score 13. Six for "experiential" and three for "dynamic." The fine phrase "incubators of new directions" is used three times.

Indeed, the Task Force concludes that there is no need to endorse "fiscal tough love" proposals, such as two-year JDs or capping student loans or requiring law schools to be responsible for loan repayment in certain circumstances. (Report, p. 39) Why? Because, the Task Force anticipates that practical solutions and models will emerge as law schools test their "curricular and pedagogical innovations" on the market proving ground. (Report, p. 39)
 
Experiment-wise, the Task Force singles out several, mostly horrible, law schools for recognition and praise as the vanguard of the "incubators of new directions" (Report, p. 11-14), and its choices have a suspicious whiff of cronyism.

*  William Mitchell is recognized for its hybrid online/offline degree program. However, the Report does not mention that Mitchell’s hybrid program has received funding from the Access Group, the CEO of which is a member of the Task Force. [2]

*  Syracuse Law is recognized for a 3+3 agreement with a nearby college. However, the Report does not mention that Syracuse Law Dean Hannah Arterian is Chair of the Access Group Board of Directors.

*  Northeastern is recognized for being one of the schools that has built its curriculum around "what are now seen an innovations" (Report, p. 13)--  in Northeastern's case, individualized experiential learning co-ops. However, the Report does not mention that Task Force member Luke Bierman was Northeastern’s Associate Dean for Experiential Education a few years ago.

*   Elon Law School is lauded for its "full-time course connected residencies-in-practice as part of a highly experiential curriculum that is two-and-one-half years long and 20% less expensive than the average cost of a private law school." (Report, p. 12) And the Report does, indeed, appropriately note that Elon’s currently serving Dean, that same Luke Bierman, is a Task Force member. But the Report does not mention that Elon has announced its intention to significantly increase its class size [3], which any reasonable observer would have to deem irresponsible, or that Elon's full-time ten-month-out nonsolo legal placement rate for the Class of 2014 was an abysmal 37.5%, ranking 175th out of 203 law schools. [4]

Most troubling, the ABA Task Force apparently views the opening of new law schools as a benign development, consistent with the need for experimentation. Its Report states that "new schools with differing missions are still opening. For example, the new University of North Texas/ Dallas College of Law seeks to provide low-cost legal education geared to practice-ready competencies, with a teaching-focused faculty, and an emphasis on diversity. Belmont University. . . has a different vision for its new law school as part of a university that brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service." (Report, p. 13) Words like these could have come straight from a recruitment brochure, and I fear that they reflect the outlook of the ABA.

The ABA has nixed the idea of allowing law schools to experiment with limiting tenure for full-time doctrinal faculty, but sky's the limit when it comes to experimenting with mission statements and gimmicks.

The Report states that "Moving forward, such experiments may well be the source of practical solutions and models, allowing others to see what can be done, how, and with what success. They can also show what may not work, and this is equally important." (p. 39) You know, John Kerry, pre-sellout, once asked a group of senators how they could ask a man to die for a mistake.  I wonder how many kids, or shall I say lab rats or guinea pigs, will have their futures destroyed while we wait for the results of several years of law school curricular experimentation, aka superficial and futile tinkering.
 
-----------------------------
Notes:

[1]  From the concurring statement of Task Force member Prof. Philip G. Schrag: "Law schools can provide a useful service by contributing to the training of . . . non-lawyer experts [such as Washington State's Limited License legal Technicians]. . . . [L]aw schools could offer a one-year or eighteen month Master of Legal Studies degree to help educate and credential limited-service professionals at a fraction of the cost of a full J.D. degree. Such programs would be. . . very consistent with the experimentation that this Task Force recommends."  (Report, p. 62)

[2]  Access Group President and CEO Christopher P. Chapman was a member of the Task Force. 

As a refresher: Access Group is a nonprofit comprised of 197 member law schools. In its heyday, only a few years ago, Access Group was the originator and servicer of 18 billion dollars in educational loans. Access Group got out of the student loan origination biz a few years ago, and its loans are now serviced by Xerox Educational Services, formerly known as ACS, an outfit which has elicited quite a list of complaints. According to its most recently available Form 990 (for Fiscal 2013), Access Group is sitting on $449,062,649 in net assets or fund balances, and employs 108 individuals. Christopher P. Chapman was compensated to the tune of $706,158 that year.

The Access Group's new philanthropic mission is law school advocacy and research. Access Group boasts that its regional representatives "provide a vital personal link between law school administrators and Access Group’s research, grants, and policy advocacy operations, operating as a two-way issue and information channel to ensure that the Company remains responsive to the needs of its Member Schools." Or, in slightly different words, "to make actionable data available to law school administrators and faculty, allowing them to demonstrate and improve the value of legal education. . . at a time when its significance is being questioned by prospective students, graduates, and policymakers alike."

Michael Simkovic, a law prof with a notably rosy view of the economic value of a legal education, received a $120,000 Access Group grant, and his work was cited several times in the Report.

[3] "From a business standpoint, Elon Law anticipates offsetting the loss of revenue from tuition reduction by gradually increasing the number of students joining the school each year, up from 112 this fall to about 130 within a number of years."

[4]   http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/law-jobs/


 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Hidden Truths

Both Nando and the LSTC have previously discussed PSU Dickinson Assistant Dean of Career Services Tamesha Keel, who now appears to have a side gig in law school spin at HuffPost.

In this post, entitled "The Hidden Truth About Law School Employment Stats", Keel laments that legal education analysts underplay JD Advantage jobs without even a microgram of irony:
Much of the stats we see being reported, [sic] point to only those bar passage required positions and J.D. advantage positions typically fall into the "Other" category. This has led to grossly inflated unemployment rates for recent graduates. 
Here are PSU's 2014 numbers as compiled from its ABA submission:

---Employed
LT/FT Bar Passage Required:  116
PT Bar Passage Required: 5
JD Advantage:  11
Temp JD Advantage: 1
Professional (all): 5
Non-Professional (all): 4
 ----Unemployed
Student:  6
"Deferred Start Date"-  10
"Not Seeking" - 2
"Seeking" - 14
Unknown - 3

Now let's look for some "hidden truths."  The most curious entry on this list to me is "Deferred Start Date."   Here is what the ABA placement questionnaire states about "Deferred Start Date":
The graduate has accepted a written offer of employment by the February 15th reporting date, but the start date of the employment is subsequent to February 15th. In order to qualify in this category, the start date must be identified with certainty, or the employer must be compensating the graduate until actual employment begins.  
Pretty narrow, right?  Color me surprised, but 10 PSU graduates had written offers of employment and/or compensation but had not yet started?  In 2015?  Really?

For reference, here are the top schools claiming "start date deferred" on their 2014 ABA forms:
  • Penn State - 10
  • CUNY, San Francisco, Cal-Hastings - 9
  • Pepperdine, Albany, Fordham - 7
  • Connecticut, Cal-Western, San Diego, Seattle, NYLS, Suffolk - 6
Among T14 schools, Georgetown had the most with 5, while Harvard, Duke, Cornell, and Berkley all had 0.  When figured in percentages, only 0.7% of graduates nationwide fell into this category, while PSU had 5.68% of its class deferred.  In the region, Penn only had 1 graduate (0.35% of its class) fall into this category.  Temple only had 1 as well (0.39% of its class).  Villanova had 2 (0.9% of its class).

Are PSU grads particularly deferral-able?  Or are law schools perhaps viewing "start date deferred" as a category in which to siphon off a few unemployed graduates on flimsy pretexts?  What were these deferred start opportunities?  Advanced tax practice with Morgan Lewis?  Doc review in Morgan Lewis's sub-basement?  Somewhere in between?  Law?  Non-law?

These are just questions, of course; in fact, that's all we can do.  The consuming public has no way of knowing if these are real jobs, bogus jobs, or even jobs at all.  Such things are hidden truths, and law school folks want the benefit of the doubt.

Indeed, the sales game manufactures trust in "hidden truths." Ms. Keel, for example, wants us to believe there is a veritable boom in demand for JD Advantage positions:
With an increase of nontraditional legal careers and the industry shift to utilize more outside resources, there has been a surge in what employers deems [sic] as "J.D. advantage" positions.
...
[O]ther trending legal careers that do not require bar passage are seeing increased demand for specialized legal talent. Almost 15% of class of 2014 graduates held J.D. advantage positions, the highest percentage since the ABA began tracking the data.

J.D. advantage careers has helped [sic] to advance the legal industry by embracing its [?] evolution. The employment growth underscores the next generation of lawyer's [sic] desire for nontraditional careers as well as the need for lawyers to fill these roles. And as more graduates fill advantaged positions, the perception of being less prestigious than bar required jobs begins to break down.
The self-immolation of my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage aside, it takes a leap of faith to assume that there's a real added demand for JD Advantage positions rather than law graduates accepting lesser positions that are being up-classified to JD Advantage.  And it's sure nice to know that Starbucks barista will become more prestigious with the presence of lawyers, rather than would-be lawyers adopting the prestige of Starbucks baristas.

Of course, it has to be a leap of faith for anyone outside of the law school's offices because we have no way of knowing what these JD Advantage positions are, or whether they were the type of thing worth attending law school at the exorbitant tuition rates.  Penn State - and if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me - does not report salaries for these positions, does not report what type of students take these positions or any other information beyond the vague - and abuse-prone - definition provided by the ABA.

These opaque, "trust us!" presentations are the real "hidden truths" of the employment stats.  Law school administrators want the consuming public to trust them as to what is behind that wrinkled curtain, to believe that there's a pool of good jobs waiting in Californey if you just ride their special golden-ticket train for three years.  It's the same shit as five to ten years ago, only now the illusion is the "evolutionary" practice/JD Advantage sector instead of the plentiful BigLaw gigs.

But by this point, everyone should know better.  Law schools actively slaughtered their own goodwill with respect to any "hidden truths."  The law schools' own conduct has given the public no choice but to be cruelly skeptical, as if these folks were elixir salesmen rolling into town a second time

If Ms. Keel and her peers lament that, they have two options.  One is to regain market trust, which takes time and a level of candor the industry generally lacks.  The other is real transparency.  Give the public viable, usable information upon which to evaluate these JD Advantage positions.

Something tells me they'll continue to take the third option.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The St. John's International Sports Practice LLM: Opening Doors for Gold Medal Students

Want to argue to FIFA why Canada should be awarded the 2022 World Cup on redraw?  Want to represent Rafael Nadal in Malaysian sponsorship agreements?  Want to draft Formula One insurance contracts when they renew the contract in South Africa? Want to work at the concession stand for the Blue Jays?

As we all know, there is a massive demand for international lawyers.  And there's a massive demand for sports lawyers.  But the two together?  If you join two fantasies, can you form a superfantasy?

With FIFA getting nailed recently, international sports is a hot topic.  Fresh from the laboratory of freaky LLM hybrids that would make Monsanto's most perverted researchers blush, St. John's has merged both of these fine snowflake specialties into one ass-kicking LLM:  international sports law practice.

No, I did not add a word.  They use the word "practice."  And the website makes clear that it's for real lawyers wanting a "rewarding" career:
This program is designed for attorneys with a passion for sports and a clear desire to practice in this rewarding global legal specialty.
After gushing generically about the faculty and "unique" curriculum, the LLM page makes what may seem like an empty promise:
Through this combination of engaging classroom and experiential learning, doors will open to the exciting global sports law profession and you will thoroughly prepare yourself for the challenges and rewards of a thriving career in this arena.
Here, they clearly should have gone with a more sports-like metaphor.  How about "you'll have an empty net one-timer for the Cup!" or "it's first and goal and coach is calling your number!"  If you're going to sell the passion for sports as a reason to invest in this thing, you might as well give it the full slate of Disneyesque tropes.

The remainder of the overview describes Queens as " ethnically rich and financially accessible", describes the Big East as "venerable", and states that "New York City is home to one of the most storied sports teams in history, the MLB New York Yankees and the Mets...."

Ignoring clumsy phrasing that makes me want to call this program a "fertilizer produced by the world's most diverse thoroughbreds," I want to focus a bit on the faculty.

The faculty list at the bottom of the page has thirty-eight names for this particular program.  As best I can tell, here is a guide to where they went to law school:

Foreign (Western Europe): 10
Foreign (Everywhere Else):  5
Traditional Top 14:  6
Second-Tier Private During Better Times:  9
All Other Schools:  8

Among the "other" category, there are a few genuine success stories, but most appear to be former athletes (Jeff Gerwitz, Brooklyn, was a tennis player; M. Quinten Williams, the only St. John's alum on the list, was a football player; etc.), practiced in other areas prior to moving into sports law (Jay Reisinger, Ohio Northern, did white collar defense; Don Zavelo, Kansas, was a labor law attorney; Daniel Mullin is basically an insurance defense attorney), or they are just plan accidents of history (e.g., Walter Champion, Temple, was hired two years out of law school to be what appears to be the library director at Texas Southern).

Landing a sports law position today, much less an international sports law one, is incredibly difficult without connections, a strong athletic background, and/or expertise in an area that happens to overlap with sports law.

Indeed, sports law is a fantasy field, and often has no more existence than "soft drink law" or "pickup truck law."  If you negotiate labor rights for a sports league, you are a labor law attorney with a sports-industry client.  If you defend athletes against disciplinary proceedings, you are an employment lawyer with an athlete for a client.  The basic nuts and bolts of law do not change because the client plays a game for a living.

We don't isolate non-sexy areas of the law this way.  There's no "kitchen appliance law" LLM or "international shipping logistics" LLM.  It's 2015.  We should ideally be past the point where law schools are selling bogus dreams with "rewarding" fantasy specialties and a "thriving career" representing Tom Brady.

You know who actually represents Tom Brady?  Jeffrey Kessler, a Columbia grad who's been in BigLaw since the 70s.

While this LLM may have a slight purpose for those already in the field or those with elite credentials and bottomless wallets, it's not the world it was in 1985, and for St. John's to peddle this to all comers with a "passion for sports" as a ticket to a thriving career and a hallway of open doors in international sports law is cynical and shameless.

Here's one of its own faculty members talking about the field:
Mendelez stressed that it is considerably harder to get into the business today. There is an enormous amount of competition, and as a result it is necessary for applicants to be highly qualified, experienced and specialized.
And here's Reisinger's practical advice for sports law aspirants:
The most important advice that I can give to those interested in Sports Law is to get practical legal experience in areas outside of Sports Law.
And this is before we even consider that international sports law is a very narrow subset of a narrow fantasy area.

The converse, of course, is that international sports law is also a narrow sliver of the fantasy of international law.  The odds of some third-tier snowflake ever practicing in the Hague or drafting transnational trade agreements seems low; the idea of doing it while specializing in defending footballers and working with Olympic sponsorships seems even more infinitesimal.

International sports predate many forms of international commerce and have been proceeding without a specialty LLM for well over a century in every possible permutation.  Why in the world do we, now, need a new credential, and how in the hell does anyone think it would be an advantage?  If you truly want to practice international sports law, the best thing you can do is go back in time and be born in the 1950s in Switzerland, or maybe be born as a world-class athlete in a European-friendly sport.  The 2nd-best thing you can do is go to a top law school and finagle your way into BigLaw.  The 3rd-best thing you can do is probably to hang around middle schools befriending future athletes.

But, hey, if you're a sports law aspirant or an international law aspirant or just a struggling attorney, why not go for it?   Tuition is only $55,500.00, and it's open to law school graduates foreign and domestic.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Is every professional job a JD-Advantage job?: The case of Washington & Lee School of Law.

For the last four years, accredited law schools have been required to conduct a nine-month (now 10-month) after graduation employment survey. The ABA’s survey protocol requires schools to classify each employed grad’s status as one of the following: Bar Passage Required, JD Advantage, Professional Position, Non-Professional Position, or Undeterminable.
 
This post concerns the two intermediate categories. Consider the following definitions, adopted by the ABA for survey purposes:
JD Advantage: "A position in this category is one for which the employer sought an individual with a JD, and perhaps even required a JD, or for which the JD provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but itself does not require bar passage or an active law license or involve practicing law."
Employed – Professional Position. "A position in this category is one that requires professional skills or training but for which a JD is neither required nor a demonstrable advantage."
 
For the last four years, the average law school reported its JD-Advantage placement at between 12.0% and 14.5% and its "Professional Position" placement at between 4.4% and 5.0%. [1]
 
When a law school categorizes a non-law job as "JD Advantage," it is asserting that the graduate who holds that job has derived real value from his or her legal education even though he or she is not actually practicing law. By contrast, when a law school categorizes a non-law job as "Professional Position," it is acknowledging that the JD did not benefit the grad, even though he or she landed a white collar job of some sort.
 
Therefore, I appreciate when a law school places a grad in the "Professional" survey category, as opposed to JD Advantage. As noted, doing so is essentially a statement against interest on the part of the law school, and the law deems statements against interest to have special reliability. Moreover, a law school could probably get away with placing the grad in the JD Advantage category, given that JD Advantage is so broadly and loosely defined.
 
In this regard, I want to note that Washington and Lee (W&L) School of Law, over the past two years, has placed 33 grads in the category of JD Advantage and ZERO grads in the category of "Professional Position."

W&L Class of 2014:

 
 W&L Class of 2013:

 
W&L is one of only 11 schools to place zero grads in the category of Professional Position for the most recent survey.  It is one of only three schools to place zero grads in the category of Professional Position for the last two years running. The other two such schools are lofty T14s-- namely, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania.
 
Is it likely that every single professional nonlaw job obtained by a W&L law grad who graduated in 2013 or in 2014 was JD Advantage?  Again, no other non-T14 school and only two T14 schools have made this claim.

Obviously I make no accusations, but I think that it is important for scambloggers and friends to be on the lookout for little anomalies like this because law schools in general have such a sordid history, pre-ABA survey, of publishing deceitful placement stats. We have the survey now, it is true, but the ABA's auditing regime is far from ideal. [2]  And it is also important to monitor what law schools say about JD Advantage because it is how lousy law schools try to justify the value of their JD programs in spite of poor legal placement outcomes.

-----------------------------------------------
notes:

[1]  http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/law-jobs/calculator

[2] "Each year, the ABA will select at least 10 law schools for Random School Review.. . . This Review will begin with a Level 1 Review and then, if warranted, proceed to a Level 2 and then to a Level 3 Review. . .A Level 1 Review consists solely of a review of all Graduate Employment Files. Graduate Employment Files contain the supporting documentation for a school’s reported employment outcomes. Documentation in the files will be presumed to be complete, accurate, and not misleading in the absence of credible evidence to the contrary." [Emphasis added]

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Some really bad luck" sank Indiana Tech. Film at eleven.

A recent editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette avers that opening a law school at Indiana Tech was the right thing to do, despite all the naysaying and baleful warnings from quarters like ours:


http://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/editorials/Legal-tender-7122838


It was a sound decision, insists one of the leaders of the "feasibility study". Only "some really bad luck" derailed Indiana Tech's sure thing. After all, "[i]f you look at the baby-boomer generation and expected retirements, and at the expected growth in the economy, the case was there".


Except that we, who were recently likened to the Wicked Witch of the West at the LSAC's lavish conference for 500 admissions scamsters, spoke to every bit of that and more. As usual, the "feasibility study" was nothing but propaganda designed to cook up a justification for a decision that was a fait accompli. Since there never was a case for a law school at Indiana Dreck, one had to be cobbled together out of the usual scraps:
  • a void to be left any minute now by the retirement of baby boomers en masse
  • many openings for lawyers as a result of economic growth
  • unmet demand for law schools in the region
  • a shortage of lawyers to serve the impecunious
Let's consider these one by one.


The much-vaunted imminent retirement of the baby boomers hasn't shown signs of happening—and the oldest of them turned 60 a decade ago. Moreover, the departure of old lawyers won't necessarily entail openings for new ones. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not noted for economic doom and gloom, has stated for years that "more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available". And that statement seems to militate against opening yet another goddamn law school.


Prognostication of economic growth is of course the standard chestnut for Pollyanna forecasts. But economic growth, even if real rather than imaginary, may not extend to all sectors. As the BLS has long predicted (see link above), much work that used to be done by lawyers is now going to cheaper paralegals, overseas suppliers, temporary workers, and others. Law is not the candy store that it was once upon a boomer time.


It is true that Fort Wayne had no law school. Yet, by my count, there were 31 accredited law schools (including one in Canada) within a four-hour drive during the "feasibility study". From Chicago and Michigan to Valpo and Cooley, there was something for every taste and LSAT score. True, a handful of people in the vicinity of Fort Wayne were unable or unwilling to move even a couple of hours away for law school. As Indiana Tech has discovered the hard way, however, one cannot build a viable law school on a couple of dozen local students alone.


Of course there's a vast unmet demand for free legal services, just as there's a vast unmet demand for free anything. If Indiana Tech ever becomes accredited and its graduates are able to pass the bar (neither point should be taken for granted), some valiant Indiana Tech centurions may be able to fill this void, competently or otherwise. But I doubt whether many of them spent three years and six figures of borrowed money with a view to practicing without pay.


In addition, both applications and admissions were already in decline when this "feasibility study" was concoc—er, conducted, and it was well known that large numbers of graduates even of established schools, to say nothing of unaccredited upstarts, were unable to find relevant jobs.


In short, the veriest simpleton could have seen that this would-be bottom-grade law school was headed for the rocks. The founders knew of the criticisms but proceeded anyway. And now they blame "bad luck" for their wholly predictable calamity.


The author also opines that "[t]he departure of the law school’s founding dean inevitably hindered the accreditation process". This refers to Peter Alexander, who suddenly (what was the euphemism?) resigned less than a year after the school opened. Reportedly he resigned on account of "the achievement of the goals he had established for the law school to that point in time and a desire to pursue other employment opportunities". So strong was the desire to leave that he gave up not only the deanship but also his tenured post as professor, all without a minute's notice. His profile on LinkedIn suggests that today, more than a year after his "resignation", he is marginally self-employed if not downright unemployed.


Now, I don't know what goes on in Alexander's mind (if I may so flatter him), but this narrative strains credibility. First, I find it hard to believe that he achieved any goals that he had established. Indiana Tech Law Skule 'n' Biker Bar completely missed his stated goal of starting off as third out of Indiana's five law schools in LSAT and undergraduate GPA: the first class's median LSAT score of 146 (percentile 29.5) fell ten points below his proclaimed target (percentile 67.4). Upon his departure, Indiana Tech was the poster boy of arrogance, greed, self-delusion, and exploitation (particularly racial exploitation). It had ousted Cooley as the leading laughing-stock. Enrollment was a third of the pie-in-the-sky forecast. Red ink gushed forth in torrents, to the point that in less than a year the school would be forced to raffle off a "scholarship" in the hope of trapping one more gullible student-loan conduit. Only a sadist could feel gratified and accomplished with that track record.


Second, he would not lightly throw away two sinecures in a dismal hackademic job market unless he had something better lined up. A genuine resignation, unmotivated by pressure, would ordinarily include a bit of notice—two weeks at the minimum, and probably several months for a dean and tenured professor; yet he was gone before the ink was dry on the announcement, and the institution immediately scrubbed from its Web site every mention of him. I therefore believe that he nominally resigned after being—how can I put this diplomatically?—invited to consider that option.


If that be so, then the departure of the founding dean was within Indiana Tech's control. And if it would "inevitably hinder[] the accreditation process", Indiana Tech has only itself to blame for that consequence.


I don't believe that it made a significant difference in the accreditation process, except perhaps to the extent that Dougie Fresh Pond Scum was an even more inept administrator than Alexander. The editorialist is off the beam here. He is just bitter that the one law school in his city has become a grievous embarrassment, not to mention a financial and professional liability.


The author of this editorial may not be so sanguine this time next year, when 25 or fewer people are expected to don hideous orange-yellow caps and gowns as Indiana Tech's first graduates. Will their precious alma mater be accredited by then? How many of them will have found suitable work? How many of them will be able to repay their loans?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Athornia Steele, Nova Southeastern Law Prof. and LSAC Board of Trustees Chair, compares scambloggers to the "wicked witch" from the Wizard of Oz.


(The Hotel del Coronado, where the Law School Admission Council recently hosted a four-day, three-night vacation/ conference for hundreds of law school admissions professionals).

Somewhere over the scambow is an enchanted realm called law school. You get there by riding a twister of career service lies, and then just follow the lemming debt road to an unforgettable three year long encounter with a faculty-full of wise and beneficent law wizards. It does not matter if you have a munchkin-sized LSAT score and the social conscience of a rusty can. The magic pedagogy of the law wizards will supply you with brain, heart, and a lollipop-sweet career that will have you up to your ankles in million dollar rubies. Just don’t be unnerved or led astray by the wicked scambloggers, or all those angry-as-a-flying-monkey law alumni.

From May 27 to May 30, 2015, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) hosted a conference for some 500 law school admissions professionals at the Hotel del Coronado, an enormous Victorian-era luxury beachside resort hotel near San Diego. The hotel is alleged to have been author Frank Baum’s inspiration for the Emerald City of Oz. Naturally, the LSAC hosts did not forego the opportunity for some tongue-in-cheeky Oz-inspired wordplay and analogies. (E.g., "Speakers and beaches and workshops, oh my!") Indeed, the very title and theme of the conference was drawn from Oz: "A Brain, a Heart, and Courage: Leading Law School Admissions Today."

LSAC's most recent biannual newsletter, issued in May, is partially devoted to the conference and its objectives. The newsletter includes the following unforgettable comments from Nova Southeastern Law Professor (and former Dean) Athornia Steele, who is also the Chair of LSAC's Board of Trustees:
* "You, the admission professionals, are like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion courageously in search of a way home, a feeling of stability, and a sense of forward momentum. We are all hoping that there IS a Wizard of Oz, or at least a Good Witch, who will help us in our quest."
* "Like the journey our Wizard of Oz friends took across the poppy fields, into the Emerald City, and through the dark forest, the work of LSAC and member law schools will not take place overnight and without some challenges. Unlike the journey to Oz, we’re not dreaming up these challenges; they are very real."
* "I have always loved the story of the Wizard of Oz and believe it to be a story directed to adults as well as children. If you go to your library’s catalog or Google any combination of the words leadership and/or personal development along with Wizard of Oz, a number of books and articles written on the leadership and personal development lessons of the Wizard of Oz appear."
* "Legal education in general, and admission professionals in particular, are engaged in a journey. It may take a bit more than clicking our heels together to overcome the wicked witch of the scam bloggers, rankings, negative media stories, declining applications, and pressuring deans, but at least at this annual meeting and educational conference, we can take some time to consider possibilities, recharge our internal strengths, and bask in the support of our friends and colleagues (and some lovely beaches and sunshine)." (Emphasis added). 
Now, Dorothy did say that there is no place like home, but a fancy resort vacation is still pretty good, especially when LSAC or one's employer is picking up the tab. And, of course, there is also law school-- there is definitely no place like that. 

It may be presumptuous to criticize a children’s fantasy classic, but it really is a shame that the story did not end on a more uplifting note. There should have been a joyous concluding scene where Dorothy mortgages the family farm to attend law school so that she can address the obvious crisis of unmet legal needs in her small Nebraska, I mean Kansas, rural community, as well as elevate her own leadership skills and personal development. In solidarity with Toto, she could then go on to obtain an LLM in Animal Law, the better to critique the legal system's species-based hierarchy.

Lacking that, it is fortunate that we have great and powerful legal intellectuals like Professor Athornia Steele to tease out the similarities between Oz and law school recruitment. Which scambloggers can do too, of course, but our perspective is tainted by wicked witchery. 

(There are a few other only slightly less ridiculous things from LSAC's newsletter archive that are worth discussing, and I will highlight them soon in another post or posts, my pretties. [Evil cackle, cloud of smoke, and exeunt]).
 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Do Pace Law School Dean David Yassky and Asst. Dean Jill Backer know that Pace's own salary survey data undermines their hype about JD Advantage?

For the graduating class of 2014, the average law school reported having placed 14.5% of law grads in jobs that are classified as JD Advantage, an all-time high for that category, with standout schools claiming to place over 30% of their graduating class in such jobs. However, we are still relatively uninformed as to the quality of JD Advantage jobs that all these law grads are (allegedly) landing.
 
According to the murky definition adopted by the ABA for employment survey purposes,  a job is JD Advantage if "the J.D. provide[s] a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but itself does not require bar passage or an active law license or involve practicing law."

Note the phrase: "obtaining or performing." That means a law school gets to classify a job as JD Advantage where it can assert that a legal education helps the grad do his or her job, even if it did not help the grad actually get his or her job. And even where a JD arguably provides a demonstrable advantage in obtaining the job, it may be the case that the grad could have obtained the same or greater advantage in some far less burdensome way-- say, depending on the job, through an industry-specific master’s degree, a CPA, or even a paralegal certificate.

You know, a used car dealer can peddle a decrepit old rattletrap for $150,000 and truthfully claim that the vehicle provides a demonstrable advantage over walking. What the dealer may not mention is that the same or greater advantage could have been acquired in other far less expensive ways.  
 
Notwithstanding the above, Pace Law’s Dean David Yassky and Jill Backer, its Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development have made some strong claims as to the desirability of JD Advantage jobs:
*     "There are a lot of jobs in addition to traditional law firm associate jobs, where legal skills and law school training are immensely valuable. . .Jobs like compliance at banks or pharmaceutical companies, jobs at big accounting firms that deal with corporate transactions or investigations, those are jobs that call for traditional legal skills even though they don’t have ‘lawyer’ in the name of the job." – Dean David Yassky 
*     "We know that people doing the fundamental work that law schools train their students to do are needed more than ever, and will continue to be more needed. . . And we know that businesses must deal much more with regulation today than they did as recently as 10 years ago or more, which means they need more people with legal training to do that work than they did a decade ago or longer." -Dean David Yassky
*     "The real problem is one of perception because the J.D. advantage position is actually perceived as "less than" a J.D. required position. In my view, this is misguided, and in fact hurtful to the legal industry." - Asst. Dean Jill Backer 
*     "It is assumed that a J.D. required position is more prestigious and has a better salary level. However, for many law graduates entering positions in compliance, HR and entrepreneurial roles, this is not the case. . . .This line of thinking is sorely behind the entrepreneurial mindset of our current economy."- Asst. Dean Jill Backer
In response to Backer, Kyle McEntee, director of Law School Transparency, wrote a great post at the Law School CafĂ© challenging law schools to "show us your work" on JD Advantage. McEntee noted that: (1) NALP reports that the average JD Advantage salary is 25% less than the average salary for graduates in bar-required jobs: and (2) Pace reported 14 grads of the class of 2014 as either law firm paralegals or law firm administrators--and placed nine of them in the JD-Advantage category.

In addition to the points made by McEntee, there is actual salary data from Pace graduates that further undermines Yassky and Backer’s loud-mouthed hype. Pace did a salary survey of nine-month-out grads for its graduating classes in 2009 through 2012, and reported JD Advantage salary data for two of those years, 2009 and 2011.  For both of these years, the JD Advantage median was significantly less than the Bar Passage Required median ($7,000 less for the Class of 2009 and $5,000 less for the Class of 2011).

A.  Pace Class of 2009:








B.  Pace Class of 2011:



Now, granted, these salary surveys were severely flawed in that the sample size is very small --fewer than than one-fifth of JD Advantage job holders actually reported their salary.

Still, these are Pace’s own findings, based on data obtained by Pace career service employees from Pace graduates. And yet these findings, which are consistent with NALP’s as to the inferiority of entry-level JD Advantage jobs in terms of pay, are not acknowledged by Yassky and Backer as they tout a Pace legal education for its JD Advantage value.

Were Yassky and Backer aware of their school’s own salary survey results when they made the statements quoted above? I do not necessarily think that outrageous puffery combined with convenient unawareness of contradictory facts, including data obtained by one’s very own institution, establishes that the declarant is deliberately trying to mislead. However, it does seem suspiciously two-paced. Which may be unavoidable when one is shilling for a pace-of-shit law school.