Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Post by Old Guy: "Which Law Schools are Worth Attending?"

Which law schools are worth attending? For most people with less gold than Croesus, prospects for finding well-paying work after graduation will be a prime consideration.

Data on the class of 2013 from Law School Transparency show that only the following 9 law schools had at least 50% of their graduates working at a law firm with 101 or more attorneys (a generous definition of Big Law) within nine months of graduation:


If we consider not just jobs in Big Law but also federal clerkships, we get the following additional schools:


That's a total of 13 schools—the so-called "top 14" minus Georgetown—at which at least 50% of last year's graduates found a federal clerkship or a job in Big Law.

With 40% of the graduating class finding those jobs, the number of schools increases to 16. With 30%, 24. With 20%, 31 (that's 15% of the ABA-accredited law schools). With 10%, still only 78.

Let's try raising the bar instead. With 60% of the class getting federal clerkships or jobs in Big Law, the number of schools falls to 11. With 70%, the number is only 4 (Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford). And not a single law school sees 80% of its graduates get those jobs.

If we consider federal clerkships and jobs in Big Law to be the only good jobs for a fresh graduate of law school, we can conclude that more than 60% of the ABA-accredited law schools had not even 10% of their graduates in 2013 get good jobs. Almost all of those schools estimate the cost of attendance (including nine months of living expenses per year—don't people have to live during the other three months as well?) at $100k or more, usually much more. To people who feel that that is too much to spend (even before interest and fees are tacked on) for less than a 10% chance of a good job, at least 127 of the 205 ABA-accredited law schools are therefore not worth attending. Those who expect at least a 50% chance of a good job in exchange for what might well be a quarter of a million dollars' worth of non-dischargeable debt can immediately rule out 192 of those 205 law schools.

Why do I define "good jobs" in this way? Because of the cost of attendance—and the heavy debt that it usually entails. For law school even to begin to make financial sense, a person who is relying largely on loans needs the sort of income that a new graduate can seldom obtain without a job in Big Law or a federal clerkship. Indeed, the definition of "good jobs" is actually too broad, as most of those positions last only a few years and are followed by decidedly straitened circumstances.

These figures should give pause even to the typical devil-may-care lemming. Furthermore, they can inform educational policy. What exactly is the purpose of sustaining the 60+% of law schools at which not even 10% of the students have a decent chance of a respectable outcome? Should those schools not be shut down right now? Should eligibility for student loans require more than a rubber stamp from an admissions office? These are questions that we should not be afraid to ask.

For now, I say that the 13 schools listed above, those at which half or more of the students find jobs in Big Law or federal clerkships within nine months of graduation, are the only ones that anyone not independently wealthy should consider. And even they are dodgy, especially at full price. People who are paying little or nothing in tuition may shade the cut-off from 50% to 40% but should understand that in so doing they are taking a big risk. All schools below the 40% mark should be deemed fourth-tier institutions that no one without big money or genuinely usable connections should attend at any price.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Blueprint for Better Bullshit: Indiana U. lawprof William Henderson's proposed competency-based curriculum.

(Helpfully identifying the location of the migraine you risk by listening to him). 

A candidate for the next big thing in legal education is the so-called "competency-based curriculum." Its chief advocate is the relentlessly self-promoting Indiana University lawprof William Henderson, whose meager experience as a practicing lawyer did not prevent him from launching a consulting biz that, among other things, provides law firms with advice on hiring and on conducting "360 reviews" of employees.

At first blush, a competency-based curriculum may seem like a hopeful development. How can any proposal to replace the world's most unsuccessful professional training model, the Langdell/Socratic, be a bad thing?

But a competency-based curriculum is not primarily clinical, i.e. geared to actually training students to practice law and run their own small firms. Rather, a competency-based curriculum consists of coursework designed to bolster a series of very general personal habits (aka "competencies") that legal employers allegedly favor. Or, as Henderson puts it, "the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attributes of highly successful professionals." [1] These competencies include "for example, teamwork, communication skills, emotional self-control, problem-solving, and decision-making." [2] Or for a full-on blast of Billy's buzzword bullshit:
"[T]he types of education that will attain the highest valuation are complex problem-solving skills that enable law school graduates to communicate and collaborate in a highly complex, globalized environment. This is not vocational training; it is the creation of a new model of professional education that better prepares our graduates for the daunting political and economic challenges ahead." [3], [4]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

JD-Disadvantage, Part VI : The Not-JD-Degrees Awaken

"Wait, I thought this was the best way to get a Stormtrooper-Advantage Job...!  Why are there MORE degrees?  Why!?!"

"A law degree opens doors to many other opportunities outside of the law!"  

We've covered this quarter-half-truth several times on this site alone, not to mention the discussion that has taken place in other locations as well.  It almost doesn't bear repeating, yet this meme is so profligate, so desperate to take hold, that we can all point to examples of ShillDeans (again), NALP, and others trying to send young people and their federal student loan dollars down the primrose path to debt and joblessness. To counter this stream of misinformation, the scamblogs stand, defiant, against this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

A short while ago I covered the attempt to create a patent-law-light degree, which, as a non-bar-preparatory "law" degree, was invented to "contextualize the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues that scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and other STEM professionals around the world face."  This is also known as the "(patent) law is fizzling, so get these STEM-types in here" degree, as evidenced by the discussion and comments.

The University of Colorado is looking to get in on the action, also, by creating the "Masters of Studies in Law":

"In many jobs, it's now important to use law in your day-to-day work, but not necessarily practice law," said Paul Ohm, the law school's associate dean for academic affairs. "To have some formal legal education, but not necessarily a license."
He said patent agents (LOL!  Ed.), compliance officers (LOL!  Ed.), human resources professionals (ROTFLOL!  Hello, they already have degree programs.  Ed.) and other positions require some legal knowledge. He compared the trend to the shift toward nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the medical realm.
Students in the new master's program will sit alongside traditional law students in classes, which mostly eliminates the need for new curriculum and hiring additional faculty members. The law school will create two new courses, "Introduction to American law" and "Legal writing for non-JD students."

Wait, I thought a JD was "valuable" and "versatile!"  Why do we need all these new law-degree-light programs all of a sudden, when one could be basking in the glory of a newly-conferred JD degree? Could it be that (gasp!) there is no actual JD-Advantage after all, that thousands of students were being mislead, and that people who need "legal training" for an actual job can just take a couple of classes over the course of one year and get the basic "legal" information for what they need to know (at a fraction of the cost)?  

Boy, don't you know it's encouraging for the 2Ls and 3Ls to see non-JD candidates sitting in some of their very same classes, because, well, you know, they already have jobs and are smart enough not to go into extreme debt for an actual law degree with few employment prospects.  But I digress.

Let's get down to brass tacks:  applications have been dropping, LSAT-takers have been dropping, and bar exam passage rates have been dropping.  So what is this really about?

The program is expected to generate more than $500,000 in revenue by its fifth year. The campus has budgeted $100,000 in annual expenses for the program.

Follow the money.

All you physician assistants...sorry, JD-Advantage graduates...don't need these degrees, as you are already minting money by virtue of your legal education and bar licensure.  Now, go save some dolphins.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

California Western School of Law alum receives a special sales pitch from a school peddling online MBAs to dissatisfied recent law grads.

(Dear California Western SOL Alumni: You were gullible enough to graduate from this lousy law school, so perhaps you are deluded enough to pay for an online MBA. If you find yourself in a hole, keep digging). 

A recent post at The Faculty Louse, I mean Lounge, noted that a school called William Howard Taft University is trying to peddle a three-semester long online MBA program "designed specifically for newly admitted attorneys who are facing career challenges." The post’s snarky title ("An $18K Solution To New Law Grad Unemployment?") indicates that its author is appropriately skeptical. I pity the law school hustler who cannot even elicit a supportive comment or two from the academic narcissists who gather at The Louse.  

A correspondent, a grad of California Western School of Law, has provided OTLSS with a copy of a letter he received from William Howard Taft U. (below), which was directed to him precisely because of his status as a Cal West Law alumni. (above)

Taft's sales pitch is that its online MBA program ("with a concentration in Professional Practice Management") can teach the nuts and bolts of running a solo or small law firm to recent law school graduates. ("The Program teaches the skills necessary to manage a successful solo or small legal practice. It combines a traditional M.B.A. curriculum with webinars and assignments directly related to the practice of law.") Another lure, of course, is that its students get to defer existing student loans, with the slight drawback that they will be adding significantly to the sum. ("For those that qualify, it is also the only University program approved for Title IV Federal Financial Aid, allowing some to borrow tuition and living expenses while also deferring repayment of existing federal student loans.")

When a professional school tries to peddle more education to a drowning-in-debt lawyer, it does not need to utilize crass hype, just a delicate suggestion that all is not well. The letter received by our correspondent states:
"We understand that many newly admitted attorneys are facing economic challenges that didn't exist at the time they decided to attend law school. If you're not satisfied with where you are professionally here's an option you should consider.  
If you are presently employed and satisfied that your professional goals are being met, there's no need for you to read any further.  You can simply toss this letter in the trash. . ."
The signer, Taft President Jerome Alley, can be confident that few recent Cal Western grads are satisfied that their professional goals are being met, what with Cal Western's astonishing 31% bar-required job placement rate plus the fourth highest median per-student debt load of any law school in the country.

To recap. A bottom-tier law school takes three years of your life, plus your borrowed fortune, fails to teach you how to practice law, and leaves you to flounder. Then an iffy business school steps in and tries to sell you an online program that purports to teach you what law school should have taught you, but did not. By the time the lower-tier higher-education mongers get through with you, there will certainly be a whole bunch of impressive letters after your name (JD, MBA, PPM). Unfortunately, everybody will pronounce them as DUPE.


Interesting side-note: Taft runs an unaccredited correspondence law school, though its law school is evidently not involved in the particular educational product it is offering to law grads.

In California, grads of unaccredited law schools can sit for the bar, but only if they first take and pass a so-called "Baby Bar" after their first year of law school. In its most recent administration,  only 11% (4/ 38) of Taft law students passed the Baby Bar. For Taft law students taking the first-year exam for the first time, the passage rate was 6% (1/16). Yes, Taft is a school with a lot of worthwhile legal instruction to offer.

Oh, Taft Law's most famous graduate-- someone who evidently did succeed in passing both the Baby Bar and the real thing-- is a conspiracy loon and public blight named Orly Taitz. It is funny to think that the vast majority of Taft law students are even less capable than she. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Business Insider Survey Reveals Evaluation of Law School Must Require Statistical Chincanery

Recently, Business Insider - which, for the record, employs a fairly large staff for an online property and has millions of views each month - published some "survey results" that warrant further inquiry.

First up, we have pedestrian clickbait The 50 Best Law Schools in America.  The list itself isn't revolutionary or interesting beyond serving as confirmation of prestige to upper T2 attendees/graduates.  What struck me, however, is the methodology.  If you think that the US News methodology is lacking in sound methods, Business Insider has taken it to 11.5:
To create this list, we surveyed more than 300 American legal professionals to determine the best law schools in the US with the help of SurveyMonkey.
Our survey asked participants to select the top 10 law schools in terms of how well they prepare students to land their ideal job. We recorded the percentage of respondents that ranked each school in the top 10.

Approximately 52% of survey participants said they have a law degree, while 3.5% reported that they had a partial degree, meaning they're either still in law school or dropped out.
Did the record screech on your end, too?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lewis & Clark Law School Welcomes its First Visiting International Scholar of Animal Law.

Bottom of the kennel Lewis & Clark Law School's Center for Animal Law Studies has earned a congratulatory meow, and some hearty woof-woof-woofs, as it proudly welcomes its very first Visiting International Scholar of Animal Law. This is good news for the two well-groomed critters depicted above, particularly the legal prodigy from Zurich (the one on the left, unfortunately). Maybe it is good news for our four-legged, finned, and feathered friends generally. But is it good news for law students, those biped donkeys who must foot (or shall I say hoof?) the bill?  

Lewis & Clark Law School touts itself as the premier animal law law school, the top dog in the field. And with a bar-required nonfunded job placement rate of 47%, there is no reason to doubt the school’s beastliness.

Lewis & Bark (sorry) offers 33 courses in animal law--- including "animal legal philosophy & development," "animal rights law & jurisprudence," and "comparative international animal law." A law student who takes a sufficient number of these courses can obtain an Animal Law Certificate, thereby distinguishing him or herself from the pack. ("Earning an Animal Law Certificate shows future employers a deep knowledge and strong commitment to the field of Animal Law"). The school also hosts the "Animal Law Review." [1] In addition, it sponsors an annual inter-law school animal law competition-- actually three separate competitions, including a mock lobbying tournament. It even offers what it describes as "hands-on" and "clinical" experiences —such as a two-week long "Legal Project" trip to Kenya to meet with various wildlife and conservation officials, and working with a nonprofit to save the chimpanzees of Cameroon.

On its website, Lewis & Clark Law promises "growth" and "opportunities"-- pleasant-sounding lures that an animal behaviorist might classify as aggressive mimicry:
"Animal law is growing every year, and with this growth comes increased opportunities to specialize in the field. Exposure via animal law courses, animal law internships or clinicals provide an excellent means of targeting potential areas in which to develop an expertise. The various animal law opportunities available at Lewis & Clark allow students discover how they are best suited to work in the animal law field."
The website also helpfully notes that "Some may incorporate animal law into their practice on a pro bono basis or as a sole focus." Got that, struggling solos? You can practice animal law either pro bono or exclusively. You can even do both, I suppose. If that isn’t a sound way to build a nest egg, I don't know what is. And don’t say that it is too late simply because you have already graduated. Lewis & Clark offers an Animal Law LLM.  

Look, opposing animal abuse is a worthy cause. But do not imagine that a Certificate of Animal Law or an Animal Law LLM will allow you to blend heartfelt ideals with well-compensated professional career. What you will be doing is subsidizing, with borrowed money, the well-compensated professional careers of others, namely entitled and well-connected scholarly jet-setters. Whose own lofty objective to defend the vulnerable decidedly excludes you, their debt-ridden student. Yes, law school, not just Lewis & Clark, is guaranteed to offer an unforgettable lesson about animal behavior—about predators and prey, about jackals and lemmings.


Animal law is a hot topic among law school pedagogues. According to a synopsis of a symposium article published in Animal Law two years ago entitled Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law:
"It is truly impressive that animal issues in the law have become so prominent throughout the legal education system. With this increased exposure to posthumanist critiques of the legal system and its status for and treatment of animals, an increasing number of those involved in legal education are rethinking the law’s species-based hierarchy that places humans at the apex. . .  .Integrating such insight into the analysis of animal issues in the law will rectify the speciesist and otherwise exclusionary formulations of the socially constructed differences between various species, which have so far been unquestioned assumptions."
I agree, but note an astonishing example of institutional exclusionary humanormativity perpetrated by those very individuals involved in legal education-- namely, the failure of most law schools to select nonhuman animals to serve as deans. Well, a few have-- such as Case Western Reserve, which was led for two years by an old goat named Lawrence Mitchell, Brooklyn Law School, which is currently helmed by a braying jackass, and the InfiLaw Consortium of Zoos, which will only hire corporate parrots. Regretably, however, law schools have yet to avail themselves of the keen minds and obvious leadership qualities of the following: