Saturday, January 18, 2020

Blaxploitation: Tuskegee University hosts law-school fair

Tuskegee University, a historically Black university located in rural Alabama, is hosting its third law-school fair later this month. Ninety law schools, nearly half of those accredited by the ABA, will send representatives to meet prospective students.

The list features mostly toilets and über-toilets. Not a single school in Tier 0, 1, or 2 will be present: no Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, or Stanford. The only representatives of Tier 3 will be Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn; even Duke and Virginia, the only two law schools in the entire South that are worth attending, will not be there. Various trap schools and crap schools from Tier 4 plan to attend. The rest of the group will be from Tiers 5 and 6, both near (Faulkner, Samford, Elon) and far (Texas Southern, the two John Marshalls, UMass Dartmouth). Oddly enough, Cooley is not on the list, despite incessantly trumpeting its racial diversity.

Since only three of the ninety schools are worth attending even in principle (and it must be said that one of them, Northwestern, is sliding towards Tier 4), this fair does a disservice to its largely Black target audience. It frames the other 87 schools as respectable establishments that hold out promise to Black people, when in fact they are very poor choices for anyone without money, connections, or both—which includes the bulk of the Black people to whom Tuskegee is marketing the law-school scam.

Disingenously, "Dr. Tammy Laughlin, assistant professor of political science, noted that the annual fair has become an integral part of efforts to support Tuskegee students’ admission to a wide variety of state, regional and Ivy League law schools"—when the only Ivy League institution attending this event is Penn, not exactly what comes to mind when people think of the Ivy League. (Since the Ivy League is an athletic conference of undergraduate institutions, "Ivy League law schools" is not a meaningful category anyway.) This fair drives Tuskegee students into life-destroying indebtedness for the sake of a decidedly inferior law degree that will serve them poorly when they look for work.

Booker T. Washington, the first president of what was to become Tuskegee University, is widely remembered as an Uncle Tom for his role in the contemptible Atlanta Compromise. Against the advice of many other Black leaders of his day, he advocated that Black people submit to Jim Crow—"the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly"—and gradually convince their white "friends" of their worth through the excellence of their industrial and agricultural labor. However well meant, this law-school fair continues Washington's shabby legacy of subjugating Black people to white interests—in this case, those of the mostly white law-school scamsters who would fatten themselves by saddling Black people with impossible debt and false hopes of advancement through the overcrowded and declining legal profession.

Monday, January 13, 2020

"Punitive Standards"

Image result for dan aykroyd ghostbusters cigarette

I had to read this two or three times to make sure I was getting this correct:

In what is being described as a “stunning” decision, a bankruptcy judge has ruled that a 2004 graduate of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School may erase more than $220,000 in student loan debt.

The law grad, 46-year-old Kevin Jared Rosenberg, represented himself. His annual income is less than $38,000, and his monthly income after expenses runs at a deficit of about $1,500, according to the Jan. 7 opinion by Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Cecelia Morris of the Southern District of New York.

I was going to go into a long quip-filled tirade about how "I felt a great disturbance in the Scam, as if millions of bootstrapping-Boomers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced," but considering the Chief Judge is a Boomer herself, maybe I'll just keep quiet on that part and move on...

Wow, do I feel for Rosenberg, and I wish him well.  Looking at his statistics - 2004 graduate, 46 years old - I'm seeing some real kinship there in similar numbers.  Another nontrad who was lured by the pipe dreams of the law school cartel.  Another nontrad for whom the the law school dream fell squarely flat, to say nothing of the K-JD variety.

Morris said she was applying the so-called Brunner test for discharge of student debt as it was originally intended. Since the test was created in a 1987 decision, cases interpreting it have set out “punitive standards” and “retributive dicta,” she said. Those harsh cases “have become a quasi-standard of mythic proportions, so much so that most people (bankruptcy professionals, as well as lay individuals) believe it impossible to discharge student loans,” she said.

“This court will not participate in perpetuating these myths.”

Amazing.  It's almost as if the ridiculous and completely unsustainable costs of undergrad and graduate school are finally applying enough pressure to the system that rational people can see the gross disparity between the treatment of student debt and literally all other kinds of debt.  When people can't buy homes, pay their bills, buy things, or start families, all for having the temerity of wanting to improve themselves and their standing, it's a real drag on the economy, man.  Why it took 40+ years to recognize this out is beyond me, but that gush of sweet, sweet federal loan money was probably too distracting for self-interested parties.    

Granted, there will be loan sharks and other holier-than-thou haters that will go into apoplexy over this development.  The case is on appeal, so no doubt the full force of these parties will be brought to bear against this decision standing.  Last thing anyone deserves is an actual jubilee, especially one of those lawyer-types.  You know they all drive solid-gold Bentleys and have seven vacation homes anyway.  Speaking of which, I need to sue somebody, get one of those lawyers on the phone...

Here's hoping this not only opens the door to reasonableness for many, many victims of the scam, but also is a small beginning in the entire financial rethinking of how education is handled in this country.  Wouldn't that be horrible.      

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The fake-lawyer scam

You could gain admission to Stanford, pay a fortune, graduate with a degree in law, pass the bar exam, pay for a license, and try to find a job.

Or you could just lie.

Robert Sinclair Argyle of West Bountiful, Utah, reportedly favored the latter approach. He managed to get a job at a law firm on the strength of false claims to hold a JD from Stanford and a license to practice in both Utah and California. He was caught and fired soon enough, but right away he landed a job paying a cool $175k plus benefits. There he "worked for a short time and was terminated when a background investigation revealed the defendant lacked verifiable legal education and law experience". Now he and his wife face multiple criminal charges related to these and other incidents.

But suppose that instead you went to now-defunct Valpo, and even graduated, but kept failing the bar exam. Should that be an obstacle to your legal career?

Why, not if you are Kelcie Miller. She lied her way into a job as a lawyer at the public defender's office in Madison County, Illinois; she even produced a forged document to substantiate her bogus license. Only when a court reporter checked the spelling of her name, and a judge tried to look it up in the directory, was she exposed. On Friday she pleaded guilty to a single count of false impersonation of an attorney. Sentence: 30 months' probation, plus restitution of $40,232 (apparently for salary fraudulently obtained). She happens to have a few more charges related to passing bad checks. In the meantime, the real lawyers of the public defender's office have had to review the cases on which Miller had illegally acted.

Miller was lucky to get off so lightly. I'm surprised that she didn't spend time in jail for that.

Suppose, however, that you had never gone beyond community college but really wanted to be a lawyer. You could, of course, go for a bachelor's degree and then a law degree, pay for both, pass the bar exam, and try to find work.

But Kimberly Kitchen had a better plan: lying through her ass. She held herself out as having graduated at the top of the class from Duquesne's law school and then having taught law at Columbia. She passed a number of forged documents to lend color to her false claim to being a lawyer. She practiced law for ten years, even becoming partner of a firm and head of the county's bar association, before being caught. She was convicted of various charges and sentenced to jail.

Kitchen's lawyer called her "incredibly competent" and presented a number of clients who testified to their satisfaction with her services. Plainly Kitchen was not competent, incredibly or otherwise, to practice law. The satisfaction of the clients has nothing to do with that. Indeed, it is astounding that a (presumably) licensed lawyer could call a fraud like her competent, thereby degrading the whole legal profession.

Well, Ms. Incredibly Competent appealed against the sentence on the grounds that she had been "a good fake lawyer" and that no fraud occurred, since no one suffered any damage. How her counsel could seriously present that argument is beyond me. Can anyone suppose that her clients and the firm, never mind the legal profession and even Duquesne, lost nothing? The losses go well beyond the obvious ones, such as fees paid. At one firm where I worked, when I found out that a lawyer who had left almost a year earlier had mishandled two matters in the same way, I called for every one of his files and reviewed them all myself. That took a great deal of time (and, yes, I found other errors of the same sort that I had to correct). What if I had found out that a non-lawyer had had carriage of matters for years? Someone would have had to examine all of those matters. And what if serious errors had come to light? The firm would have been fully liable for any losses. As the court pointed out here, the insurer would not have covered them.

About twenty years ago, there was a spate of exposés of "degrees" from diploma mills. Loads of people in exalted positions turned out to have bought a "degree" in this way. On top of that, many people—including the dean of admissions at MIT, who had the unmitigated gall to lecture the public on the importance of honesty and integrity—turned out to have fabricated degrees outright. Yet scamsters are still getting away with this sort of fraud. As long as the sham of credentialism lasts, Old Guy can only recommend verifying credentials aggressively.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

In the news: a possible Navajo law school; $111 million of alleged contributions from law schools


Diné College, of the Navajo Nation, is considering the establishment of a law school. "In a press release, the tribal college stated that discussion about developing such a program occurred during a symposium on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, where participants talked about accreditation, core courses and specializations, judicial advocates, traditional Navajo law and names for the law school."

One critical question seems to have been left out of that symposium: money. How much would it cost to set up a law school at Diné College? Where would the money be found? How much would the students pay? Would the school generate sufficient revenue? Exciting though the planning of curricula and the selection of a name may be, these practical questions must be answered first.

I'll surprise everyone by saying that this is one case in which a new law school is justified in principle. The Navajo Nation legitimately needs the educational and other institutions that will support genuine sovereignty. And no existing law school can properly teach Navajo law, despite the pretensions of narcissistic law professors who think that they know everything. Nonetheless, it is not enough to say "We should have a law school", as college president Charles "Monty" Roessel did in a press release. Many localities from southernmost Texas to northern New England, from remote Appalachia to rural Idaho, are saying the same thing. Unless the proposed law school would be viable, it should not be established.


A ridiculous advertisement masquerading as journalism asserts that despite law schools' "bad rap", "it would be hard to argue that they are not assets to their communities". Why? Because the Association of American Law Schools (Ass'oALS), whose name says it all, claims that "the total value of the students’ time" spent on "the delivery of legal services through clinics, other experiential courses and pro bono activities of graduating law students" during their last year at some 105 law schools "is estimated to be in excess of $111.5 million". On the basis of that allegation, the "article" concludes that "[l]aw schools give back" to their communities.

There are several problems with this piece of nonsense. An obvious one is the questionable claim that the students' time is given by the law schools. There might be some justification for that at those schools, most of them über-toilets, that require their students to perform unpaid work and even charge them hefty tuition for the privilege. Even so, the credit that Ass'oALS gives to law schools (surprise!) appears to be misplaced.

The valuation of the allegedly donated time is, quite frankly, idiotic. Our own Dybbuk demolished last year's similar claim that the "legal services" in question were worth $81.8 million. Three years ago, I similarly put paid to a ridiculous claim from tiny über-toilet U Mass Dartmouth that its students' so-called pro bono work since 2010 was worth $4.5 million.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Über-toilet update, Part II: Status of some of the worst law schools in 2019

The annual 509 reports that the ABA requires of law schools that have received its rubber stamp of approval are now in. Our friends at Law School Transparency have already summarized the new data. Here are a few highlights:

Golden Gate has seen its first-year enrollment collapse in a single year from 237 to 127, while the LSAT scores remain at exactly the same dismal levels. What exactly is going on at Golden Gate? Is the über-toilet collapsing?

Cooley has seen a similarly sharp decline, from 541 to 292. But Cooley kicked its LSAT scores up a hair. It is still the worst ABA-accredited law school when measured by LSAT scores. Cooley did recently announce the closure of one campus, but that announcement came after the start of the semester and thus should not have affected enrollment. So why did enrollment fall? In part because of Cooley's wholly inadequate efforts to raise its LSAT scores. But something else must be going on. In any case, enrollment is now so low as to threaten the sustainability of the über-toilet-in-chief. As I have estimated before, 75 new students per year is about the lowest level of enrollment that an ABA-accredited law school can sustain. Cooley's 292 new students were spread over five campuses. That's not even 60 per campus on average. Small wonder that Cooley is closing another campus. Perhaps the whole goddamn chain will vanish in the coming years, thereby making the world a better place.

Also declining in enrollment was Vermont Law School, from 194 to 151. At the same time, Vermont's LSAT scores slipped a couple of points to a level that leaves Vermont among the ten worst schools by LSAT score at the 25th percentile. That's a steep fall for a school that only ten years ago was almost halfway respectable. Vermont Law School is in deep financial trouble, and challenging Cooley for the bottom rank is no way to save the institution.

But the most dramatic decline of all occurred at Western State University, from 162 to 23. Hell, even Indiana Tech had more than 23 students in its inaugural class. What sort of law school can be run with so few students? It can hardly offer very many electives. Then again, similarly placed Indiana Tech offered "Hip-Hop and the American Constitution", plus four specialties (among them "Global Leadership"). But we know what happened to Indiana Tech, and it isn't hard to see where Western State University is going.

Appalachian, one of the best candidates for imminent closure, saw enrollment rise from 50 to 61—still too low for sustainability, especially in light of Appalachian's financial distress. LSAT scores went up slightly, and tuition went up 12%. More than 30% of last year's graduates were unemployed ten months out. Expect the Grim Reaper to harvest an über-toilet in Grundy, Virginia, within the next two years.

Florida Coastal is now all that is left of the InfiLaw scam-chain. Enrollment went up by almost half, from 60 to 87. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has kept track of this über-toilet, LSAT scores fell considerably, from 147/150/153 to 146/147/151. I expect Florida Coastal to announce its closure in a year or two, thereby bringing InfiLaw to a well-deserved death.

If you have read the previous article, you know that La Verne and Thomas Jefferson are both switching to California state accreditation—the former by choice, the latter not. But we may as well give these two über-toilets one last glance. Unemployment in last year's graduating class was 39.6% at La Verne and 50.7% at Thomas Jefferson.

New England School of Law | Boston nearly doubled, from 181 students to 351. It also raised its LSAT scores by a couple of points. Results on the bar exams, however, remain execrable, and more than a quarter of the last graduating class was unemployed ten months out.

A disturbing trend of 2019 is the widespread adoption of the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT for the purpose of admission. Old Guy disapproves. The LSAT is better suited to law school. More importantly, however, a single test affords a good and consistent standard for comparison. I recommend that the ABA put the kibosh on this GRE business by requiring the LSAT at all law schools.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Hasenpfeffer Incorporated, meet slave-raping president: Thomas Jefferson and La Verne go down on the same day

November 21, 2019, was an eventful day in the law-school scam, especially in southern California. Thomas Jefferson Law Skule lost its appeal against the ABA's decision to revoke its accreditation. That's the end of the line for Thomas Jefferson.

Old Guy must admit that Thomas Jefferson may not actually die. Earlier this year it obtained state accreditation from California, apparently in hope of living on in some much-reduced form after the ABA finally gave its jive ass the boot. But law skules not accredited by the ABA are ineligible for the student-loan scam, and Thomas Jefferson can hardly thrive as a state-accredited unter-über-toilet.

On the same day, the University of La Verne College of Law became the first law skule to abandon ABA accreditation in favor of state accreditation. Reportedly the board was concerned about "sustainability" in light of the ABA's adoption last year of so-called standards related to the bar exam. Lenny and Squiggy could not be reached for comment.

In the past three years or so, eleven ABA-accredited law schools have gone tits up (if we count two campuses of the Cooley franchise as law schools):

Cooley (one campus)
Mitchell (merged with Hamline—call it a dignified death)
Indiana Tech
Arizona Summit
Cooley (another campus)
Thomas Jefferson
La Verne

This occasion calls for one of Old Guy's commemorative songs:

We're gonna dump 'em…

Give us bar exams, we'll fake 'em;
Read ABA's rules, we'll break 'em.
We're gonna dump our toilet schools
(Dumping 'em our way).
Nothing's gonna save our ass, now,
Though the state gives us a pass, now,
We're gonna dump our toilet schools
(Dumping 'em our way).
There is no scam we won't try;
Never heard the word integrity.
This time we're dead in our tracks
(Dumping 'em our way).
Since we can't go on probation,
We'll take state accreditation
For our two overpriced cesspools.
And we'll dump 'em our way,
Yes, our way:
Dumping our toilet schools.
And we'll dump 'em our way,
Yes, our way:
Dumping our toilet schools
For goddamn fools.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Onward and Upward...More or Less.

Image result for concept art post apocalyptic wasteland
Progress continues, unabated, since 2008.

Well, it has been a long time between postings.  Some of it is in part due to slow-news days on the legal education front.  Another part of the downtime, for me at least, has been due to the transition to a new position, and that has cut into my time recently for delivering on the “JD-Advantage” perspective.

“Wait, a new job?” I hear the critics say.  “That is proof positive that all your whining and belly-aching about how JDs are not worth the time and money is a complete and utter fabrication.  Why don’t you just buckle down and work hard for once in your Gen-Xer life, and see what actually comes of it.”

We’ve all heard this before, multiple times.  Never mind the fact that the Boomer cohort as a whole, from whom this particular criticism often comes, has suffered from significant ageism in the workplace, under-funded investments vehicles for retirement, and the need to continue working because they will be destitute if they don’t.  Some of this is “their fault,” some of it isn’t.  Given the vagaries of life, however, you would think there would be some solidarity between generations on these difficult issues (sort of a “welcome to how the other-half live, now let’s actually stop with the slings and arrows and try to do something productive together” approach), but generally, not really.  Lazy Millennials, et. al. still need to get off the lawn, etc., so here we all are.

(In fact, one notable Boomer in particular has concluded that the federal student loan program is a colossal train-wreck and debt needs to be forgiven.  And no, not Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren nor similar individuals who have to, in-part, pander to the masses, but a long-serving chief officer at the DOE who ostensibly should know something about the issue.  Though, he is getting into politics also, so...)   

Some may recall an older post of mine where I ran the numbers, and concluded that the good old JD, outside the law, is not that remunerative.  The numbers didn’t work for several years, they barely “worked” for a few more, and even now, with some improvement, still are not great – some 15 years after my glorious non-traditional graduation.  Considering the fact that I have 20 years to go before I am eligible for any federal benefits, it still seems tenuous and one-disaster-away from ruin.  Overall, the cost-benefit analysis says “no.”

Why?  Because I would argue that the rent for a JD is just too damn high.  I think after the last several years of scamblogging, it can probably all be distilled down to this one fact.  We can debate the utility (or uselessness) of traditional legal education, the bar’zam hazing ritual, the lack of true clinical and/or apprenticeship models in the profession, the brutal economics for solos, or even newly minted lawyers with no connections having to compete for jobs with legacy lawyers coming from T14 institutions.  All these things matter and contribute to the picture, but they would all be a bit more survivable without six-figures-plus of crushing debt at 7%, give or take.

“A bit more survivable,” though, is the key phrase.  My own “successes,” should they be termed that, came very, very slowly, and did not adjust for inflation well at all.  Note again that I do not actively practice law (though I maintain the license as a credibility marker), and had to flee from the idea very early on due to my non-traditional status and the inability to break in.  “JD-Advantage” was, and still is, a face-saving measure to try to spin the narrative on a bad decision.  I won’t say it has zero utility, but the utility it does present is very watered-down, and could have been achieved through alternate, less-costly means.

Maybe the K-JDs, in contrast, are rocking their Maseratis and their models-and-bottles, and I don’t doubt that a few are.  However, my sources say “no” for the majority, even though self-interested parties will say "yes," and it is not clear how it will strongly improve any time soon.

0Ls, make sure you are considering alternate career paths, and not just choosing law as a default.  Sadly, many do, and some (like me) thought they were making a good decision back in 2002 or so, before the “word got out” on the now-ubiquitous internet.  I’m not saying the world doesn’t need lawyers, but clearly the world does not need that many of them now or in the future.