Monday, October 17, 2016

Wendi Adelson's criminally lousy novel, "This is Our Story"

A former Florida State law professor named Wendi Adelson is in the public spotlight because members of her family have been implicated (though so far uncharged) in hiring a pair of hitmen to kill her ex-husband, a fellow Florida State law professor and prominent legal blogger named Daniel Markel.   

According to her CV, Adelson obtained her first academic job in 2006, the same year she graduated from law school, as a Staff Attorney/Clinical Fellow at the University of Miami Center for Ethics and Public Service. In 2007, she moved on to the position of Program Director of Florida State Law's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, and became a Directing Clinical Professor in 2010. 

How did Adelson nab faculty posts fresh out of law school, leading to a Florida State law professorship only a few years later? It probably did not hurt that she graduated cum laude from the University of Miami, indisputably a praiseworthy accomplishment. It also probably did not hurt that in 2005, while still a law student, she married Markel, a Florida State lawprof. (This blog has covered the blight of spousal hiring in legal academia).

A few months ago, Above the Law published recordings of Adelson’s presentations to a writer’s workshop, held some time after Markel’s murder. Adelson complained, inter alia, that her “late ex-spouse” (a phrase Adelson creatively punned as her “latex spouse”) did not care for fiction  and did not read her book. (Podcast, 9:42-9:47, 10:28-10:33) I found this plaint to be unfair because, whatever his private misgivings, Markel extensively promoted Adelson’s debut novel, “This is Our Story” on his popular academic blog “Prawfsblawg.” (The novel was published in 2011, about a year before Adelson walked out on Markel, with infant children, bank accounts, furniture, and Markel family heirlooms in tow).

In spite of the intense publicity generated by the lurid murder mystery starring herself, I do not believe anyone has yet explored Adelson’s novel as a possible window into the self-perception of its enigmatic author.

Even at the risk of death by Prius-driving hitman, I am compelled endorse the latex Markel’s decision not to read his wife's novel. This is Our Story is inartful, shallow, clich├ęd, oddly bland given its human trafficking theme, and terribly self-important. Interestingly though, Adelson states that her book purports to tell, in substantial part, her own story. In an afterword to her novel, Adelson states that “I, selfishly, wanted you to know a bit about my story, which has much – but not all – in common with Attorney Lily” (i.e. the main character in the novel). Adelson, Wendi (2011-09-12). This is Our Story (Kindle Locations 3948-3949). Kindle Edition.

This is Our Story consists of three first-person narratives, that of the aforementioned young female lawyer Lily Stone nee Walker, and those of two of Lily’s clients, Rosa Hernandez from Jujuy, Argentina, and Mila Gulej from Bratislava, both lured to the U.S. under fraudulent work or work-study programs, and then subjected to forced labor as well as to physical and sexual abuse. Mila and Rosa are “composite characters” embodying “many of the stories” of Adelson’s clients. (Kindle Location 3945)

There are 46 chapters in the book, each of which is entitled “Mila,” “Lily,” or “Rosa”. The structure of Adelson’s novel consists of a chapter entitled “Lily” and narrated by Lily, followed by a chapter entitled “Mila” and narrated by Mila, followed by a chapter entitled “Rosa” and consisting of entries from Rosa’s diary. The chapters follow in strict Mila-Lily-Rosa order, with the single unaccountable exception of a Lily-Mila-Lily sequence at Chapters 30-32.

In the novel, Lily, a lawyer in her early thirties, gives up a thriving corporate practice in DC to follow her seemingly bright and sweet, if exasperatingly blunder-prone, new husband Josh Stone to “this Godforsaken place”—namely, “North Florida State University” in “Hiawassee Springs,” where Josh holds a professorship. Unfortunately, Josh installs Lily in what he describes as an “adorable, cozy” country house that he has just rented without realizing that the place is infested with cockroaches. Lily overcomes her disgust at her new digs and the boredom of small town life by hooking up with a nonprofit and becoming a pro bono immigration attorney specializing in helping trafficked women, the only one in a 300-mile radius.

You would think that the tales of Mila and Rosa would be emotionally harrowing. However, the Lily chapters are written with a bite that is lacking in the Rosa and Mila chapters, even though the narrative of a neophyte immigration lawyer adjusting unhappily to married life would seem less naturally compelling than those of two young women seeking to escape from an intercontinental sex slave ring. Mila comes off as vain and disconnected, while Rosa is devout, innocent, and sweet to the point of mental deficiency. Both are endlessly gullible and stupid, thus easy prey for the novel's collection of exploitative villains.

The Lily chapters are notable for the character’s increasing contempt for her husband. Lily criticizes Josh for his short stature (“He is my same height, which is something I had never considered pre-Joshua, because I had already determined that my dating window extended only from 6 foot two to 6 foot 4”), his pouting, his habit of calling her “Lilybillygoat” under the misimpression that it is endearing, his insincerity in asking what she wants him to make for dinner when he had already begun preparing spaghetti and pasta sauce (“I think dinner’s going to be really good, sweetie. . . Josh looked really proud of himself, like he just climbed an icy mountain in winter time instead of preparing a simple meal like I do for him every single night”), and his stupid career advice, often delivered in the infuriatingly triumphant tone of someone who “had just invented a solution to global warming.” But Lily especially resents her husband’s constant pressure for children, which Lily herself finds perplexing in that she wants children too.

I think Donald Trump would enjoy this novel, a rarity for a text written by an academic do-gooder who supports migrant rights and bristles at the term “illegals.” The numerous villains of the novel are pretty much all Latino males, and all are such sleazy, swaggering, sadistic, treacherous, violent and gangsterish pimps and molesters that one would think they came from the imaginings of a paranoid nativist. 

For instance, one macho baddie, “Carlos,” snarls at Mila, and I quote, “Chico tellz me you are prosteetutes, jes?. . .  Well, you still owe Chico a lot of money, Mila. You and your friend here can work off your debt togeder. You weel start tonight. And don’t eben theenk ov trying to get away, seelly Mila. Ju know I weel find you whereber you go.” [sic] (Kindle Locations 2355-2357)

Doesn’t that mocking pidgin caricature of Spanish-inflected English sound a bit racist?  Oh, don’t be seelly, for our heroine purports to share the same cultural identity. In Chapter 32, the pale-faced protagonist decides, for no apparent reason, to reconnect with her Spanish ancestry on her maternal grandmother’s side, even though she had “never really identified as being part-Latina, given my translucent skin, reddish hair, and the fact that no one ever guessed that I was Hispanic.” (Kindle Locations 2850-2851) Lily joins a spirited local female Hispanic encounter group to “discuss our common Latina heritage” and is enthusiastically accepted by the old ladies in the group as family, I mean as familia.  

Mila and Rosa are eventually rescued by Lily and the John Wayne-esque local sheriff she teams up with (an inarticulate but courageous aw-shucks-ma'am white savior dude who comes complete with leathery sun-toughened skin, big cowboy hat, and service in ‘Nam). Lily utilizes her legal skills, resourcefulness, and deep humanity to counsel the women, obtain shelter and asylum on their behalf, and reunite Rosa with her family. In turn, Mila, Rosa, and Lily’s other clients treat their “Attorney Lily” with worshipful awe, showering her with humble yet heartfelt gifts, such as homemade enchiladas and a teddy bear with angel wings and painted green eyes "to look like me."

In the final chapter of the novel, Lily adopts a baby that Mila conceives post-rescue and then abandons. (Even after all that Mila has been through, she still wants to pursue her dreams of Hollywood stardom).  Lily only informs her husband of the adoption after the fact. Though, as noted, Josh badly wanted children, Lily informs him that she adopted the kid in her maiden name and did not want him in her or her child's lives.
As I peered through the smudged glass on the door I could see that Josh had already arrived, shaggy hair and slim shoulders slumped over his book. “Same old Josh,” I thought to myself, surprised and saddened that I didn’t feel much of anything when I looked at him. 
* * *  
“So, she’s yours now, officially?” he asked.   
“Yes, name changed and all.”   
“Anna Stone?   
“No, Josh. Anna Walker, like her mom.” 
I said the last sentence slowly, and with as much kindness as I could muster. Josh and I had separated, but we hadn’t talked about anything official yet, like name changes or divorce. “Josh, I am going to change my last name back to Walker, once we’ve finalized…” 
“So, that’s it, Lily? It’s over, and I don’t even get a say?” He looked equal parts sad and combative. I tried to be gentle. . . 
I reached across the table to take his hands in mine, but he pulled them away and folded his arms defiantly instead. I took a breath and tried again, “Josh, my life is going in a different direction now, and Anna and me, well, we have to forge our own path. I hope, with time...” 
“You hope what, Lily?” Josh had venom in his voice and tears in his eyes, “You hope we can still be friends? Please don’t even…” Josh grabbed his hooded grey sweatshirt from the back of his chair and fled the diner, wiping his eyes with his forearm on his way out. 
(Kindle Locations, 3904-3932)  

My interpretation of the breakup scene is that author Wendi Adelson was signaling through her fiction that she not only wanted to divorce Markel, but that she also wanted him out of the lives of her kids. The naming question in the novel foreshadows Adelson's real life behavior, post murder, in changing her children's surnames from Markel to Adelson and removing the middle name of one son because it referenced Markel's deceased grandmother.

I think it is also likely that Adelson wrote the novel in order to promote herself as the public face of the morally unimpeachable cause of female antislavery, notwithstanding her lack of literary talent, her relatively meager academic credentials, and her relative inexperience as a practicing lawyer. This is Our Story was chosen as featured reading for the thousands of incoming freshmen at Florida State, and was also enthusiastically profiled in the Florida Bar News

In this vein, Adelson stated, in her interview with the Florida Bar News and in the novel itself, that her purpose in writing the novel was to encourage kids to go to law school and become public interest attorneys like herself. In the author’s afterword, Adelson declares her hope that “if you are one of those lucky people who has the luxury to spend many years focused on higher education, you will think about law school, and you will consider spending your life as an advocate for those whose voices have been taken from them. I wouldn’t be half the attorney, or person, that I am today without having met people like “Rosa” and “Mila,” and so many of my other clients, whose stories I can’t share with you.” (Kindle Locations, 3949-3952)  

The obvious drawback to Adelson's career advice is the stiff competition for entry-level public interest law jobs, sometimes from persons with structural or insider advantages, such as coming from a wealthy family or being married to a law professor. Aside from which, I do not think that even the most zealous law school recruitment tout would be inclined to recommend law school in order to follow the life path of Wendi Adelson.

In the novel, Lily’s heroic work is obstructed by a clueless and condescending husband whom she has outgrown. Hubby Josh whines and snivels, but ultimately accepts his marching orders. However, discarding Josh’s real-life model seems to have been a messier proposition. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Toxic Jobs Factor

Often we discuss full-time jobs requiring bar passage in two dimensions: whether they exist and how much they pay. More granular sources may try to obliquely describe quality by looking at the type of job setting (i.e., government, large firm, small firm) or maybe subject area (corporate v. ID, for example).  But mostly, we and the law school sycophants alike have kept the numbers portion elementary, which is good from a simplicity standpoint, although simplicity can aid and abet fraud by ignoring crucial nuance. But for most schools, the basic employment and salary numbers are bad enough as it is to warrant caution.

But here's a research question for the entrepreneurial law profs snooping around the page:  what percentage of full-time jobs requiring bar passage, even when they exist, are toxic?

Definitions vary - this isn't a category used by the BLS, although it probably should be.

By toxic job, I don't mean one with low pay, per se, or where you work 50-60 hours a week or even where there's an asshole partner or two.  What might be toxic in the advertising industry already might be ho-hum routine in law.  By toxic, I mean roughly the following:
  1. Frequent turnover, like the average associate tenure of less than two years, with many departing after a few months;
  2. Culture of unethical or immoral conduct;
  3. Incredibly poor organization with respect to files, billing, and scheduling;
  4. Objectively abusive superiors (or clients, for that matter) who often have legitimate personality disorders or substance abuse problems;
  5. The salary is so low and/or the overtime is so high that the practical hourly wage is under a level that makes the investment of law school worthwhile, say $15-20/hr.
  6. Instability to the point where one's job could constantly vanish in the next month.
You know, shit that makes colleagues say "you need to get out of there." The prime example would be the small law practitioner(s) whose competence, ethical compass, and emotional well-being are shaky, but they have enough business to need additional help, or enough fluke past success to have a book of business or a war chest.  But it is by no means limited to those scenarios.  Large law firms can develop a toxic culture despite the classy environs, and for mill-style law firms, toxic might be the default setting.  Firms once well-run like a vintage Cadillac can quickly become a sputtering jalopy, particularly in a field where investors are virtually limited to skilled practitioners who give a shit.  Even government can become toxic in the age of budget cuts and convoluted rationalizations about case-load size.

It's not quantifiable, but it's arguably more important than a salary number.  If you start at a toxic job, you will almost certainly be looking to lateral within two to three years (if not months).  And aside from certain tells, it's not like toxic jobs always advertise themselves as such; Lord knows the career services office isn't going to red flag them.

I suspect a large portion of lawyer unhappiness comes from the fact that a relatively high percentage of law jobs are toxic in ways that would make most non-lawyer business and government employees recoil with horror.  Of course, there are also few industries where the overwhelming majority of workers have to run their own shop eventually one way or another, or where financial success can be so perversely disconnected from genuine skills of production.

A lot of older lawyers may brush off toxicness as some sort whiny millennial-inspired complaint about standard-issue work conditions, particularly when it comes to wet-behind-the-ears lawyers "cutting their teeth," which seems to be a perpetually en vogue justification for pissing on the Golden Rule.  But it's a serious issue that should not be easily dismissed.  Toxic labor conditions distort the labor market by creating a lot of entry-or low-level positions that simply re-open every two years with no prospect for advancement, which is generally an assumption for "good" jobs - at least for 0Ls.

Crucially, clients (and opposing counsel and judges) benefit from having healthy, ethical, experienced lawyers. Very few clients are truly served by retaining a toxic law firm, whether they realize it or not; after all, if a principal lawyer is willing to exploit the labor force, what's to stop him or her from cutting corners with clients?

When prospective students look at employment statistics, it's hard to imagine them assuming that their first job may only last a year or two before getting thrown back in the chasm. 

It would be nice if there was some way to quantify and express that concept in a simple table.  Unfortunately, I fear optimism bias isn't limited to assuming that everyone winds up on the right side of the curve, and those with the resources to perhaps work on correcting the information distortion seem to oddly have priorities that don't involve negatively categorizing potential organizational donors at the expense of truth, fairness, or transparency.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Bar Exam and "Math."

Florida, we have a problem.
Shots were fired over a year ago as to this topic. On the one side was Dean Allard of Brooklyn Law School, leading the charge - "the bar exam is too hard! It's unfair!" On the other side was the NCBE - "current students are 'less able'! Buckle down!" If anyone should be on the side of mathematical analytics, is would be Bloomberg.
As is often the case in many things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Given my own participation in the debate over the years and my own leanings, it is safe to say I am still in the scamblog camp - this is, I believe the charges of bar exam difficulty are heavily weighted in the "hey, this affects my livelihood so stop looking at the data so hard" direction, not the more-politically-palatable proclamation that "diversity is super-important, how dare you try to interfere with that using an arbitrary test" direction. When the Law School Cartel has gone from laughingly-dismissing the scambloggers to calling them demons over the years, especially in the face of falling bar passage rates, I get a bit cynical. Then again, I am a product of the self-same system, so the Cartel reaps what the Cartel sows, I guess.

That said, let's talk about the major rejoinders from the Cartel, and what I find to be a fascinating debate over at the Faculty Lounge. Per my reading, they fall into three basic categories:

-more below the fold-

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

C-minus: University of North Texas turned down for accreditation

One word in the language seems so coarse that even many people who indulge in profanity shy from it. Chaucer bowdlerized its spelling when he had his Wife of Bath say "For certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve, / Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve" ('Yea, certainly, old fool, if you'll believe, / Tonight your fill of [*censored*] you shall receive'). Shakespeare hinted at it many times, from Hamlet's talk of "country matters" to Malvolio's recognition of his darling's handwriting from "her very C's, her U's and her T's". With a number of notable exceptions (Burns, Joyce, D.H. Lawrence), later authors have not been so bold.

Yet one institution calling itself a university has adopted a name that practically begs to be associated with this primus inter pares of the obscene lexicon. The University of North Texas even goes by its acronym, UNT, and proudly displays these letters where an enterprising vandal with a taste for verisimilitude could fill in the gap with a pen or a can of spray paint or any other suitable implement. Third Tier Reality recently featured a photo of a mug marked "UNT" whose handle, mounted on the left, supplied the missing letter through its shape.

The latest little stUNT in the law-school scam is the opening of (grUNT) yet another toilet law school, this one at UNT. Needless to say, the rUNT of the litter is a Different Kind of Law School, just like all others. It claims two redeeming features: an allegedly low cost of tuition (about $17k per year) and a mission to serve candidates whose horrible LSAT scores and abysmal grades somehow mask their aptitude for the legal profession.

Last month, however, the ABA's accreditation committee set down its rubber stamp long enough to recommend against accrediting UNT:

Reportedly the committee objected to the quality of the student body: "[T]he committee was troubled by the number of students with low LSAT scores. Last fall, one-fifth of students from the first class landed on academic probation. UNT also admitted 17 students in 2014 and 2015 who had been dismissed from other law schools. Most of them had poor grades." Specifically, according to the report, "[i]t appears that the law school is admitting applicants that do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar":

So it appears indeed. UNT's admissions function "rel[ies] less on GPA and LSAT scores ... in favor of recommendations and life experience":

Now, "life experience" is the hallmark of a diploma mill. For decades, commercial services posing as universities have sent out diplomas for a fee without requiring any academic work, supposedly because the buyer's "life experience" alone justifies a PhD.

Using "life experience" as a factor in admissions is different but little better. While "life experience" might justify giving a chance to an academically capable candidate who grew up in trying circumstances, UNT seems to be using it as an excuse to admit academically incapable applicants. Even the bar exam, simple though it is, requires a minimum of intelligence and literacy—traits not readily compensated by "life experience".

Rachel Hawkins, a 3L at UNT, defends her unaccredited law skule. She considers it "too big to fail" and seems to think that it deserves accreditation for that reason. "This is UNT. This isn't Jim Bob's law school", she says:

Sorry to be blUNT, Ms. Hawkins, but yours is indeed Jim Bob's law school. It's an unaccredited dump that admits large numbers of people who haven't a prayer of passing the bar exam, or for that matter completing UNT's own curriculum.

Royal Furgeson, Jr., dean of UNT, intends to fight for accreditation. He insists on "a fair hearing" at which UNT can "tell the council that there’s a giant need for affordable law schools like us":

Furgeson is so far up his own cUNT that he may come out the other end seeing daylight. Even if there is a giant need for a law school like UNT, it does not follow that UNT should be accredited. In particular, UNT admits huge numbers of students who just aren't smart enough even to graduate and pass the bar exam, still less to succeed as lawyers. The committee has pointed that out, yet Furgeson goes on prating about the mission of his stUNTed law school.

Should UNT lose its bid for accreditation, Ms. Hawkins may go to California, where her father practices law. Why? "[B]ecause in California, unlike Texas, you can graduate from an unaccredited law school and still take the bar."

Oh, Ms. Hawkins, are you in for a surprise! California does allow for taking the bar exam on the strength (such as it is) of a degree from an unaccredited law school—but only if the school is registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners. Only unaccredited law schools in California are eligible for registration. So, no, with your degree from UNT, you won't be able to worm your way into the bar in California. Too bad, Jim Bob.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Indiana Tech Law School Charter Class grads achieve impressive 8% bar passage rate

Some scambloggers were disappointed, even surprised, by the ABA’s accreditation earlier this year of that grotesque parody of a law school, Indiana Tech. However, as applied to Indiana Tech, the scamblog critique is unwarranted in one respect-- this particular newly-accredited JD mill will not exactly be making a significant contribution to the overproduction of lawyers, at least any time soon.

21 persons graduated in May with the law school’s Charter Class. Though the grads got an encouraging sendoff from commencement speaker Jerry Mathers, there was unfortunately no "Leave it to Beaver"-style happy ending after the bar exams were graded, though there was perhaps a wholesome lesson learned. According to the school, a dozen of these grads sat for the July, 2016 Indiana bar exam. The Indiana Lawyer reported that only one of those 12 passed, i.e. about 8% of its bar takers and 5% of the overall class.

On Indiana Tech's 2016 commencement program, three law graduates (all from Indiana) are listed as having made law review, and two of these three earned magna cum laude honors.  The cream of the Indiana Tech crap, I mean crop, and yet none of these three names appear among Indiana's list of successful examinees. A total of seven grads, all from Indiana, are listed on the program as having participated in moot court. However, none of these seven names appear among Indiana's list of successful examinees. I mean, even Charlotte Law, with by far the worst bar passage rate in North Carolina, was able to boast that practically the entirety of its moot court board passed the bar.

You would think that even the world's fastest gyroscope couldn't spin its way out of this disgraceful mess, but Indiana Tech VP for University Relations Brian Engelhart gave it an audacious whirl, commenting to the Indiana Lawyer that "As is the case everywhere, we had a mixture of passage, failure, and those within appeal range."

Perhaps so, but the nature of the "mixture" counts for something. I await the professional baseball player who gets one fluke hit during his rookie season, but strikes out every other time at bat.  Could he not defend his performance by saying: "As is the case with every other pro ballplayer, including every hall-of-famer, my performance involved a mixture of hits, outs, and questionable calls"?

By the way, the overall bar passage rate for the July exam in Indiana was 61% for all takers and 68% for first-time takers. So Indiana Tech grads underperformed the State average for first-time bar takers by a trifling 60%, and its publicly announced goal by 92%. 

I note that Indiana Tech's accreditation is technically "provisional," one of only four schools that hold that status.  There is a special ABA standard for withdrawal of provisional accreditation where there is a reasonable likelihood that the school will be unable to comply with ABA Standards. See ABA Standard 102(b): "The Council may withdraw provisional approval if the Council determines that the law school. . . is no longer able to demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the school will achieve full compliance with each of the Standards." 

The ABA must immediately initiate an investigation of Indiana Tech. Tech's bar passage rate provides crystal clear evidence that the school will be unable to bring itself into compliance with the ABA’s soon-to-be tightened Standard 316 on bar passage. ("The ABA Accreditation Standards Review Committee approved a proposal Saturday to change the requirement so that schools must show that 75 percent of their graduating classes pass a bar exam within two years"). Not to mention the shamelessly-flouted Standards 501(a) and (b) on sound admissions practices: "A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."

The ABA itself, and even a few thoughtful dissidents from within the academy, is favorably inclined towards accrediting new schools in the interests of pedagogical innovation, alternate tuition pricing structures, diversifying the profession, ect, ect. That would perhaps be okay if quick accreditation were counterbalanced with equally quick de-accreditation of existing law schools, whether provisionally or fully accredited, where employment outcomes and bar passage rates establish that the school has failed its basic obligation to "prepare its students for admission to the bar and responsible participation as members of the legal profession." See ABA Standard 301.

There are 205 accredited law schools in the US, and in no case is de-accreditation more warranted than in infamous Indiana Tech's, with its almost cartoonish or circus-like parade of scam pedagogy, scam promotion, scam personalities, and scam outcomes, as exhaustively catalogued on this blog. See the following, and I may have missed a few:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Association of American Law Schools Pres. Kellye Testy touts the MJ and the law school BA.

It may be that the innovative law school of the future will not focus exclusively, or even primarily, on JD education. The JD has faded in public esteem, perhaps permanently, as word has spread about about the astounding tuition spiral, deceptive recruitment practices, worthless professional training, sinking admissions standards and bar passage rates, and above all, about the awful employment outcomes. Recall, though, that it is called law school, not lawyer school, and, indeed, University of Chicago lawprof Todd Henderson once pricelessly suggested that a "better moniker" for the institution would be "leader school." 

What if financially ailing law schools could be revived through the creation or dramatic expansion of non-JD and non-LLM degree programs, such as the "MJ"? (For the unfamiliar, this acronym stands for the illustrious "Master’s in Jurisprudence," not only for marijuana, mango juice, and monster jam). What if law schools could experiment with bachelor’s degrees in law, thereby not only mulcting revenue from teenagers fresh out of high school, but also intensively grooming those same teenagers for eventual JD matriculation? What if non-JD degree and certificate programs could be marketed all over the world, perhaps even offered entirely in convenient online format, so that people can be scammed from the comfort of their own homes? What if overall law school enrollment could soar without the troublesome, if largely theoretical, possibility that the ABA might enforce its quality control standards? 

This intoxicating vision is no mere cannabis-and-mango juice hallucination. As the ABA explains on its website, "ABA accreditation does not extend to any program supporting any other degree granted by the law school. Rather the content and requirements of those degrees. . . are created by the law school itself and do not reflect any judgment by the ABA accrediting bodies regarding the quality of the program. Moreover, admission requirements for such programs, particularly with regard to foreign students, vary from school to school, and are not evaluated through the ABA accreditation process."

University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy provided some details in a recent, though undated, talk to the law faculty at Touro, that was posted online four months ago. Testy's perspective deserves attention because her services as Dean of her public law school are so highly valued by her State’s taxpayers that they are happy to provide her with a $378,900/yr. salary. She is, moreover, President of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and has been designated the sixth most influential legal educator in the US. So a notable driver in the thrilling monster scam, or jam, crashfest that is American legal education.


The crisis in legal education, as understood by a $378,900/ yr. law school dean:
  • "What’s happening right now is a lot of schools are living on either reserves they have build up or they are living on the good will of their University letting them have deficits. Neither of those things are going to last a lot longer." (Video at 42:01-42:14)

Remedy 1:  The MJ:

  • "I’ll share this just in case its of an area of interest. The JD education we do is really just one small part of the education we provide [at the University of Washington School of Law]. In addition to admitting those 165 or so JDs every year we have about 200 students a year that we educate that are in LLM programs, Ph.D in law program, and most recently what we call an MJ, a Master’s of Jurisprudence, and that is something that I know some schools have started thinking about." (15:42-16:12)
  • "Like a lot of schools, when revenue issues got difficult, we started thinking how can we have alternate revenue sources and build on the teaching capacity that we might already have. So we started this master’s degree of jurisprudence to educate people who don’t want to become a licensed lawyer, but just want to know something more about law. And we were thinking about people like HR professionals, compliance professionals, there is so much health care industry. . .And so we began this program last year and we have one class, and the first class drew about 25 students and they are fascinating." (42:45-43:24) 
  • "The downside is my faculty colleagues do not like having them [MJ students] in their classes. I thought it would be kind of neat because we are already teaching a class on X, Y, and Z, to have two or three more students in the class wouldn’t seem to be a huge thing. . . [but] the faculty find the difference between those students and our JD students so stark that they are kinda like “What do I do with these people?"" (43:47-44:17)
  • "The problem with the MJ is. . . students come to it with the idea that what I really want to do is learn more about employment law or communications law [but]. . . you are not going to have two classes in advanced communications law." (46:14-46:27)

Remedy 2: The Law School BA
  • "One of the conversations underway at U-Dub right now is whether the law school itself should offer an undergraduate law degree. And the theory there is that in every country but ours law is undergraduate and that if you were teaching an undergraduate law degree your pipeline might even be better. . . so we’re in high conversation at UW with the undergraduates. . . because you can imagine that that does not thrill the Department of Political Science." (32:32-33:05)

Remedy 3: China

  • "The University of Arizona. . . started an undergrad law program in Arizona and also in China, and they ended up with something like 200 students in Arizona and 600 students in China for this program. So that’s obviously going to get people’s interest up too, when everyone’s trying to think about student numbers and all." (47:28-45:57)

The Bottom Line:

  • "Like everything we do, it is a good reminder that we are not after gross revenue, we are actually after net revenue." [nervous chuckle] (44:45-44:52)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great leap backward: Lemmings scurry to Indiana Tech

Score another victory for the law-school scam. Indiana Tech reports that 55 lemmings enrolled in its entering class this year:

Last year Indiana Tech got only 15 lemmings, and to do so it had to drop tuition to zero. Now it is charging $19,750 per year—plus $660 for each credit hour beyond 16 in a semester. (Yes, taking Law & Hip-Hop with Dougie Fresh can set you back a cool two grand.)

Scam-dean Charles Cercone attributes this rise in enrollment in part to the provisional accreditation that the ABA predictably conferred upon that glittering center of juridical excellence that graces Fort Wayne. And he is right. With the ABA's rubber-stamped imprimatur, suddenly the toilet looks less risky in the eyes of benighted lemmings. But the difference is negligible. Provisional accreditation will enable the graduates to take the bar exam, but it won't bring them jobs. An accredited toilet is still a toilet.

Even with 55 entering students, Indiana Tech is probably losing money. The previous class had only 15 students, and the one before that about 25. Probably some of those have left, and not many have transferred in. Let's say that all 95 are still there. If they're all paying full price (an unrealistically generous assumption), the law skule's revenues from tuition are less than $1.9 million. I doubt whether Indiana Tech's law skule, with its 25 employees, can operate on that amount. Most likely it is still drawing down the university's endowment, which was healthy until this vanity project of a law skule was launched.

In a couple of months, we shall get to see some interesting facts, at least as reported by Indiana Tech. How deep into the 140s, if not the 130s, did Indiana Tech have to dip? How many people got their tuition waived or heavily discounted? And a few months later we shall learn just how well that first class of valiant Warriors™ have fared in their quest for work as lawyers or global leaders or experts in hip-hop. How many of this past year's 21 graduates have landed in Big Law? How many in federal clerkships?

Eventually these facts will catch up with Indiana Tech and do it in. Unfortunately, for now Indiana Tech continues to lure in dolts who never should be allowed to enroll in law school at all. How many more lives must be ruined before the flow of readily available guaranteed loans is checked?