Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vanity Rephrased, Part One: Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria Law

This is part one of two entries discussing Ave Maria Law School.  In part two, we will look at some recent news regarding the college and look more at the school's financial picture.

The Abridged Ave Maria Story

It's a story that may be more fitting of a film entitled A Monaghan for All Seasons.

The early 90s dawned, and Domino's Pizza founder and billionaire Tom Monaghan had a Paulean revelation about free-spending materialism.  “I realized I was a showoff. I wanted not just more, I wanted more than others. What I thought were virtues were really not.”  Monaghan sold the Detroit Tigers, a rich man's toy he had bought stocked with World Series talent and sold right before a decade-long dumpster fire of baseball futility.  He stopped collecting classic cars and even stopped work on his latest Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building.

Monaghan - a genuine, devout Roman Catholic by all counts - turned to education, vowing to give away his fortune to assist his charitable ends.  To better understand his pious aims, we must first understand that he had, and has, a problem with contemporary Catholic education.  Places like Georgetown, Loyola, Seton Hall, St. Johns, DePaul, Marquette, Boston College - for many devout Roman Catholics, these schools may as well be secular.  (And here and here)

A few truly devout schools fought against the tide of liberalism and secularization.  Catholic University of America was and is one example, not to mention a smattering of liberal arts colleges that upheld the strictest Catholic virtues.  Nonetheless, Monaghan joined the mini-schism in Catholic education and sought to augment the presence of traditionalism in academia, concurrent with a broad expansion of undergraduate enrollment nationwide.  He started the Ave Maria Foundation to fund various endeavors.

Ultimately, his goal became to build a world-class, devoutly Catholic, elite university.

Monaghan was, or became, a benefactor of Franciscan College of Steubenville (Ohio), one of the handful of colleges with an approvingly orthodox bent.  He initially pushed for a law school there.  But, according to the New Yorker article cited above, Franciscan lacked the ambition to become a big, elite research institution, as did another small college.  His university wouldn't be a modest priest.  It would be a Cardinal.

Monaghan founded his own college, Ave Maria, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1998, and then appears to have purchased a local college called St. Mary's when he ran into accreditation issues.  But as any good academic knows, a liberal arts college is just one piece of the elite university puzzle.  As coincident fortune would have it, nearby, Professor Steven Safranek and three of his peers sought a more Catholic school than Detroit-Mercy.
As [Safranek] recited his Hail Marys, an idea began to percolate: Why not start a new Catholic law school? A few weeks later, Safranek caught word that Tom Monaghan, the eccentric billionaire who founded Domino’s Pizza, had sold his business and was planning to devote his fortune to conservative Catholic causes. So he hashed out a proposal and got four other University of Detroit Mercy professors and an administrator to sign on. To show they were serious, each of them offered to chip in $20,000 and work for free for a year.
Monaghan bought into it, and quite literally.  Ave Maria Law School was born, amidst a new wave of pure Catholic institutions and the latest piece to Monaghan's elite university puzzle.

Safranek and friends moved to Ann Arbor.  Nino Scalia and other conservatives gave positive feedback.  Applicants showed interest.  In 2000, with significant scholarship support, Ave Maria Law School enrolled seventy-five students with generally good admissions criteria.  Bar pass rates in 2003 and 2004 rivaled the University of Michigan's.  Almost a decade before Irvine, Ave Maria had the first phase of a vanity law school down pat.

But not all was well in this academic paradise.  

Monaghan still wanted a big, elite university in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  As the New Yorker explains, the local community lacked his prescience and imagination:
Monaghan hoped to move the college and the law school to the vast grounds at Domino’s Farms, an action that had to be approved by the Ann Arbor township. Approval was hardly a given; some of his earlier projects, such as a subdivision featuring homes designed by the thirty best architects in the world (chosen by a panel), had been stalled by the town. Now there was much local grumbling about a plan to erect a two-hundred-and-fifty-foot-tall crucifix, bearing a forty-foot-tall Jesus, at the site of his proposed university. In April, 2002, the town denied Monaghan permission to build his university in Ann Arbor.
Significantly butthurt about Ann Arbor rejecting his twenty-five story monument to the ultimate act of pro bono publico, Monaghan sought to move his project (or, rather, His project) to sunnier locales.

He found Naples, Florida:  a vacation spot heavy on local conservative Catholicism and light on local elite university competition.  After all, Monaghan's university was not going to compete with Miami and Stetson.  It was going to compete with Duke.

In Naples, he would construct his modern-day Ark, of sorts: "an old-fashioned company town with a theocratic twist."

Unfortunately, those of lesser faith scoffed at suddenly moving across the country.  Professor Safranek, once his ally in the fight against heterodoxy, suddenly became a Luther-like foe.
Safranek...complained to the American Bar Association that Monaghan wasn't acting in the school's best interests by relocating....

The professor led a September 2006 faculty revolt against the move — and was quickly fired. Then, like Ernsting, he sued. "We had done everything right. We were poised to be one of the best law schools in the country," Safranek says. "But Monaghan's greed, his desire to say, 'Look what I'm going to do; I'm going to create this university in the middle of nowhere,' ruined it all."

Charlie Rice, a founding board member of Ave Maria law school and then a constitutional law professor at both Notre Dame and Ave Maria, agrees. "Monaghan just wanted to get rid of people who were not favorable to the move. He treated those guys outrageously. It was unconscionable."
Students and faculty at Ave Maria College likewise protested; that college was quietly closed in 2007.  Moreover, faculty at Ave Maria Law were frustrated not only at the pending exodus, but also at Monaghan's control over the school.  According to the New Yorker article, he had instituted a dress code for faculty.

As it turned out, his money was not given freely with the spirit of beneficence; his purse came with strings, and they were sinners in the hands of a despotic puppeteer.

Lawsuits would be filed and settled.  The American Bar Association gave its papal acquiescence.  Ave Maria Law was founded in 2000, accredited in 2005, and, like one called to go on a mission in the tropics, transported itself to a new jurisdiction in 2007.

In the ultimate act of vanity befitting a billionaire businessman, Monaghan had co-opted someone else's faith-based vanity project as part of his own faith-based vanity project and turned the commandment dial to 11.

In Florida, Monaghan found a deal that was too good to be true.  A company called Barron Collier entered into a joint venture with Monaghan where they would build the planned community of Ave Maria, Florida, around the university in some swampy tomato fields near Naples and split the profits down the middle.

But Monaghan needed a way to exercise control over his company town against pesky things like democracy.  He discovered good old fashioned legislative exceptions and theocratic feudalism.
The law gives Monaghan and Barron Collier Cos. more power than any Florida developer in at least 24 years, power perhaps not seen since the days of the early 20th century land boom. The law makes landowners, not registered voters, the ultimate authority in Ave Maria. The law ensures Monaghan and Barron Collier Cos., as the largest landowners, can control Ave Maria's government forever.
What could possibly go wrong with this utopia?

Sure, contraceptives and pornography are banned even for non-Catholic residents.  Sure, words like "fascist", "edicts", and "nightmare" get thrown around when discussing the town.  But Monaghan has built his dream, of which a law school pumping out Catholic-infused lawyers ("every 1L is sacred"?) appears to be an integral part.

For as much as we criticize Erwin Chemerinsky for the vanity project of UC-Irvine, he didn't move the school and build a new university-town combo over which he could remain overlord.  Before there was Chemerinsky, there was Monaghan, and Ave Maria, the vanity project on ecclesiastical acid.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Indiana Tech, the finest unaccredited law school in Fort Wayne, offers a raffle-based scholarship.


There is an ongoing debate over whether academic scholarships and grants should be primarily need-based or merit-based. The former may be harmful where the scholarship award still does not justify the recipient’s costs and risks. The latter may reinforce the class structure rather than reward real aptitude, especially where merit is measured in substantial part by flawed or teachable standardized testing.

Unaccredited Indiana Tech Law School, ever the innovator, may have hit upon a third way: the raffle-based scholarship. If you sign up for illustrious law Prof. Adam Lamparello’s upcoming two-hour student recruitment event, described for some reason as a boot camp, you will be eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship to Indiana Tech Law. A set of Beats by Dre headphones will be raffled off as well.  Not only that, but all attendees get a free LSAT registration (certain conditions may apply), and a light lunch. So everyone leaves a winner-- well fed, but hungry for justice.
April 18 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm   
Please join us on Saturday, April 18, 2015 for a workshop designed to show you how to be prepared for your first year of law school. The workshop will be held from 10:00am to 11:00am, followed by a "What do lawyers do?" panel from 11:00am to 12:00pm, in the Courtroom of Indiana Tech Law School, with a light lunch to follow. Assistant Professor of Law, Adam Lamparello will discuss topics such as how to succeed in your law school courses and which skills are most important to become a successful lawyer. He will also provide mini-outlines for some first year courses.  
                                                         *** 
Attend for a chance to win a $5,000 scholarship! 
At this workshop, one person will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship in addition to any other scholarships or financial aid received. One raffle per event, you must be present to win, and scholarship must be used for matriculating in Fall 2015. Other raffles include a Beats by Dre headphone.

I worry that the faculty and staff of Indiana Tech Law School might be alone out there in their efforts to reconfigure legal academia’s approach to student recruitment and scholarship disbursement in a way that enhances the dignity of our profession, so here are a few more suggestions:

1: A tent revival, featuring enthusiastic testimonials from persons who were saved from the torments of low-income career malaise by blind faith in unaccredited legal education, followed by a call from a charismatic law preacher for believers to step up to the stage and receive unto themselves their personal law school scholarship.

2. Ads on the inside of match book covers. ("If you can draw or copy this crude picture of a blithering fool wearing a dunce cap, you are eligible for scholarship money at Indiana Tech Law School.")

3. A spam email. ("Greetings, good Sir or Madam. I am the Prince Regent of an important third world kleptocracy, and I require a small amount of undemanding legal work by an Indiana Tech trained legal mind, upon completion of which, compensation of one million dollars will be most gladly deposited in your account by my Minister of Econometrics. As a token of My royal goodwill and respect, I have attached an Indiana Tech Law School scholarship voucher.")

4. An astrological hotline, where the psychic foresees an Indiana Tech Law School scholarship and great wealth in your future, but only if you act soon. 

5. Fake online dating profiles featuring impossibly attractive persons of both genders who declare their red-hot passion for justice, and state that what they most desire in a romantic partner is an Indiana Tech law degree.

6. Suggest to the rising generation that quality professional legal education, both globally and in Fort Wayne, involves dance music, sports law, and the overthrow of oppressive grammatical conventions, such as capitalizing the first letter of one’s many names.

Okay, maybe the last one is too far-fetched.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

University of Arkansas Law Prof. Christopher Kelley touts the remarkable career-building opportunities offered by his two week "Transnational Negotiations" program in Minsk.



(Cultural Learnings of Belarus for Make-Benefit Glorious University of Arkansas Law School students).  
Practicing law, like so much else, is mostly a matter of learn-by-doing. Consequently, legal academia is now placing greater emphasis on experiential education, after only a trifling century-and-then-some delay. In my view, experiential education is, potentially, a small step in the right direction, even though it does not really address the far greater, and intertwined, problems of the mammoth law student debt burden and the cratering of the entry-level legal job market. Law students are paying for professional training, and that is what the JD-peddlers should provide.

But, no, count on legal academics to get experiential education wrong. When they speak of experiential education, they often mean elaborate and pointless simulation games [1], rather than live-client clinics and internships in law offices.

Take, for instance, the art or skill of "negotiation." In our market-oriented system, anybody would benefit by becoming a better negotiator. Now suppose that a law student has two weeks to devote to the task of improving his or her skills as a negotiator. Which of the following options should the student select?

A. Arrange a short-term internship with a successful local attorney who specializes in, say, family or personal injury law and observe the attorney as he or she assesses people and situations and determines what concessions to make, what points to insist upon, what deals to offer, and how to frame his or her proposals as being in the best interest of the other party or parties. 
                                                                   or
B. Fly to Kiev or Minsk with a law professor at a cost of thousands of borrowed dollars, pay for housing, attend intensive all-day classes in which the professor yaps about "cross-cultural negotiation skills in an international setting," and then breaks the students into "negotiation teams" and has them role-play international business deals with Byelorussian or Ukrainian students, some of whom, unfortunately, do not speak English very well. [2]
I shouldn't imply that the choice is so clear because option B has its supporters, such as Professor Christopher Kelley of the University of Arkansas School of Law. Prof. Kelley runs a two-week long two credit hour course in Transnational Negotiation that includes a week in Minsk or Kiev. The course is held during Spring and Fall Break because, as Professor Kelley shrewdly notes, lengthy summer abroad programs tend to be "less popular," what with the law students' need to work summer jobs, presumably not available in Belarus or the Ukraine.

Professor Kelley feels so strongly about the pedagogical benefits of his approach that he spoke at a workshop on "Globalization Across the Law School Curriculum," at the big 2012 annual SEALS (Southeastern Association of Law Schools) shindig at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida to share his groundbreaking ideas about "ways to integrate globalization issues and instill cultural competencies and values in courses throughout the law school curriculum." [3]

Law schools should, indeed, offer courses in international law. But a two week role-playing course in negotiation half way around the world during spring break? What the hell is that? [4] The professor gets paid, gets an appealingly exotic line on his CV, gets to make or maintain career-enhancing contacts abroad, and gets invitations to Amelia Island to yap about his innovative pedagogy. And the students get the bill.

It must be admitted that, at least from the law school’s press release, the law students seem to enjoy the program. Students who participated in the program in 2013 were quoted as follows:
*  "I firmly believe that there is a need for lawyers in all areas of the world . . .Everyone has the same human desires and if you can help them achieve those, then your services will always be in demand."
*  "My favorite part of the trip was the exchange with the Belarusian students both in class during negotiations and after class when they took us to some of their favorite local joints."
*  "I’ve always been interested in the international aspects of business and law and somebody I hope to live and work abroad. . . Being in Belarus has enhanced my desire to work in international law."   
*  "I lived in Australia for two years as a missionary for my church, and I was interested in international law before this trip. . . .I’m definitely still interested in a career in international law after going to Belarus. Belarus was amazing!" 
*   "The practical exercises that we engaged in with the students from Belarus taught me not only a lot about myself as an individual and American, but also a lot about others. . . One student said it all, “we are all people.” I think this theme sums it all up."


Yes, we are all people, an excellent lesson to absorb in nursery school.  The dispiriting qualification that the kids will learn as they mature is that some people are scammers. For instance, law professors who reach deep into your pocket to pay for their travels abroad or their academic "conferences" in resort locales. [5] 

My question is this: Will these kids feel as positively about their pricey Byelorussian adventure a year or two down the road when they are fledgling lawyers trying to find jobs in a flooded profession? Will they recall with gratitude the negotiation skills acquired or enhanced in Belarus? Or will they recall their study abroad course as a little scam within the larger scam of law school?

_____________________________________________________
notes and additional links.

[1]  See e.g., http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/06/lets-play-pretend-washington-and-lee.html

I except mock trials from my general skepticism of simulations or practicums because there it is possible to fashion a simulation that is a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

[2] A student's comment, from the linked article: "All of the students in the course spoke English but some were better at it than others. . .[s]o not only were we working on negotiations, we also helped the students who weren’t so strong in English understand what the issue(s) were and in a sense taught helped [sic] them with their English skills."

(scroll down to p. 10)

See also Tamanaha, Brian Z. (2012-06-18). Failing Law Schools (Chicago Series in Law and Society) (Kindle Locations 3670-3673). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition. ("The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is known to select attractive family venues for its annual gathering, holding conferences in 2010 at Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida, in 2011 at Hilton Head Marriott, South Carolina, in 2012 at the Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island, Florida, in 2013 at Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida").

[4] Note the disgraceful hype in Kelley's come-on to his students in which he yaps about the "remarkable opportunity for you to be a pioneer" the "valuable educational and career-building opportunities" and the "extraordinary, unprecedented opportunity": 
"I invite you to consider being part of a Transnational Negotiations course this spring in which you will negotiate with Belarusian State University Law Faculty students in Minsk, Belarus, during our spring break. To my knowledge, no American law students have ever entered the Belarusian State University Law Faculty for a class with BSU students.  So this is a remarkable opportunity for you to be a pioneer. You will be the first American law students to develop your skills with BSU [Belarusian State University] law students in a BSU classroom. . . . You will be responsible for your expenses for the Minsk trip. . . .You will have alternatives–other spring-break courses are being discussed. They, too, will offer valuable educational and career-building opportunities. . . .I am eager to talk with you about your interest in this extraordinary, unprecedented opportunity." 
[5]  Do law professors believe-- not just say, but actually believe-- that legal education is enhanced by their conferences and courses in the Breakers, Amelia Island, aboard an tropical island-hopping cruise ship, in Minsk, Kiev, the French Riviera (hello, Thomas Jefferson School of Law), or many, many other beautiful locales of their wanderlusting hearts' desire? Brian Tamanaha demonstrated how to dissolve such pretensions with a laser flash of wit
"I did chuckle, though, reading your statement that law profs have set up a panel at "The Breakers, in Palm Beach" to discuss "the challenging environment for law schools."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies, and Employment Statistics: Blog-Fog About BLS Lawyer Employment Numbers

This is a longer post, so I'll give you the main takeaways up front:
  • The actual Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)'s projections for lawyer growth show a need for about 20,000 new lawyers a year including projected retirements - if the BLS doesn't believe an impending wave of Boomer retirement will hit American justice, why should you?
  • Since we're still pumping out way, way more than that, it's still a bad time to go to law school
  • There are multiple BLS programs.  Figure out which one your author is referring to, and the pitfalls of using such numbers.
  • Claims of lawyer employment/unemployment based on the CPS program of the BLS/Census Bureau have to be taken with a bucketful of salt
40,000 New Lawyer Jobs!  Rad!

It's slightly old now, but a few weeks back, Thomas Cooley's President Don Leduc made an astonishing announcement:
According to a just-released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of employed lawyers in 2014 increased by 40,000 compared to 2013, while the number of unemployed lawyers fell by 8,000.
...
The time of the law school critics has passed.  Now is the time for those whose dream is to become a lawyer to disregard the blog-fog and look at the clear employment picture that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has painted.  That dream’s future is now.
If you look at the pretty graph accompanying this fine piece, with its bombastically stellar closing paragraph, it clearly shows consistent lawyer employment rates over 97.7% with a maximum unemployment of 24,000 between 2008 and 2014.  A footnote to the table states this:
BLS Current Population Survey - Table 3. Employed and experienced unemployed persons by detailed occupation and class of worker, Annual Average for each year 2008-2014 (unpublished, obtained from BLS by request)
Wait a minute - if it's a "just-released...report," where are these numbers coming in the chart coming from, particularly if something had to be obtained from the BLS by request?

I've looked around for a recent BLS report about lawyer unemployment, and am unable to find anything.  So let's walk through this one step at a time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ("BLS") has multiple programs that often get thrown together in casual discussion.  For a helpful starting point, you can look at Leichter's page on lawyer overproduction.  He knows more of this stuff than I do, so feel free to hassle him with any questions.

The CPS:  What Leduc Referenced

The Current Population Survey ("CPS") - what they reference in the footnote - is a joint effort between the BLS and the Census bureau.  It's conducted via a monthly survey of 60,000 people and its methodology can be reviewed here.  You can review the questions asked here.

This is where Cooley is getting the "employed lawyers" numbers in their chart.  The number of employed lawyers in the annual 2014 report (1,132,000) is, in fact a 40,000 person increase from the 2013 report (1,092,000).

But this needs to be taken with heavy salt:
  • If a lawyer is employed in anything else (including severe underemployment like working retail), they show up under that profession, and not as a "lawyer" at all.
  • CPS counts someone as employed if they worked at any point in the previous week, including having a lousy week in part-time solo practice.
  • CPS (and other government surveys) are generally biased against counting people as unemployed, and one is apparently "unemployed" based on their last occupation, and not any particular occupation they trained for.
  • Another helpful CPS chart shows that "lawyer" has a median age of 47.0 - higher than most computer professions, engineering professions, and - yes - physicians and surgeons.  For a profession that pumps out 45k a year and ostensibly employs 30k or so new entrants every year, how can this be, unless there is a disproportional departure from the ranks of those under 45?
  • CPS never asks its respondents if they have a Juris Doctor
  • CPS only samples 60,000 a week.  That means its sub-sample of lawyers will be around a few hundred or so at the most.  At that point, the numbers aren't as precise and celebrating over a 3-4% change isn't as reliable as it might be otherwise.
  • None of the unemployment tables published list a number of unemployed lawyers.  The most recent tables show a decrease of 10,000 in the legal sector overall.  And this shows a sharper drop in unemployment for women than men, which doesn't bode well for 80% of the drop being attorneys. 
  • CPS is self reported, so if workers go from unemployed/not seeking to part-time solo practitioner, it would show as a rise in attorney employment, as would attorneys whose solo practices are losing money and not paying themselves anything.
  • CPS includes part-time employees. Reduced to "full-time", the number is 737,000.
If anyone can find detailed CPS unemployment numbers online, please let me know.  One must assume it's the "experienced unemployed persons" information that Cooley got directly from the BLS, as I don't see that denominator listed in the online tables (I may just be missing something).

Still, given what we know about what the CPS measures, it's not really proper for Cooley to claim that the BLS is painting a "clear employment picture"for prospective students, when the data that they're using isn't designed to measure new lawyer openings at all.

The OES/CES:  What Measures Lawyer Jobs

Another BLS measurement, the Occupational Employment Statistics.  The OES is a separate survey you can read about here.  The OES data is used to generate industry-specific and region-specific estimates for current and future employment.  It does not measure unemployment in any meaningful way.

The OES projects 1,052,900 people in the entire legal sector with a 50% median hourly wage of $36.95 (about $75,000).  They project there are only 603,310 lawyer jobs in the country.  Yes, they estimate fewer jobs in the sector than the CPS shows as employed lawyers.

Why the discrepancy with CPS?  OES excludes law firm partners and solo practitioners.  Unless you plan on being a solo or insta-partner (hint: you're not that special), this is really the number you need to focus on for determining where lawyer jobs are actually going, not the CPS.  The fact that there is no attendant unemployment number suggests that one should not be relying solely on any single BLS statistic.

There is also the Current Employment Statistics, which is a separate survey targeted to calculating aggregate employment and payroll, and is useful in their Projections programs.

Employment Projections:  What Actually Projects Jobs

The BLS uses the numbers from OES and CES (and possibly other programs) to develop its industry-specific projections in the Employment Projections Program.  You can read its methodology here; pay attention to the part where they do not use CPS data.  As you can see, the BLS is currently projecting an overall growth of 132,000 or so in the entire legal sector between 2012 and 2022.  When we break it down further by occupation, we find the BLS currently projecting overall lawyer growth of 74,000 positions with an overall 196,000 job openings due to growth and replacement needs over the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022.  If you read the accompanying technical documentation, you will see that the second number is the first plus projected replacement needs based on workers leaving the occupation, which is derived from CES survey data about payroll.  This is actual survey data that should be a fact-based stake in the hearts of the "Baby Boomers are leaving!" argument.

From this, we know that the BLS is estimating that there will be 74,000 "new" lawyer jobs over the next ten years and 122,000 "replacement" job openings.  Each year, that means that there are 7,400 "new" lawyer jobs and 12,200 "replacement" job openings.  This doesn't count retiring solo attorneys or law partners leaving, but the number of new "lawyer" jobs would already factor in if new "lawyer" jobs were being created by their departures.

How many new lawyers do we need each year?  About 20,000, according to the BLS.  I'd concede we likely want to graduate a few thousand more than that to accommodate legitimate JD-plus jobs and account for washout, but taken as a whole and in context, the BLS numbers can only fairly support the assertion that we're pumping out way too many lawyers, probably to the tune of 15,000 at least.

And as Matt Leichter points out on his "overproduction" page linked above:
If you look carefully, you can see that the projections tend to overestimate the number of lawyer jobs that eventually exist ten years later.
Yet, Leduc is telling prospective students the future is now, while still playing a part in pumping out 40,000 or so new lawyer job candidates every single year.

So . . . who's creating "blog-fog" again, and who's being clear?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Another Public Service Message from OTLSS

Much has been said already concerning dybbuk's excellent take-down of the Simkovic & McIntyre papers and the obvious conflict of interest involved, so it was time to commemorate this event with another LSAC parody-poster:



While we're at it, let's bring up our prior greatest hits, including taking a jab at representing dolphins:



And, given that "Better Call Saul" took off in its own right, here our prior jab at "S&M", the first time around:



Here is the ad it was based on (Thanks, UConn):


Friends of the movement, print these out and hang them up, give these out as flyers, e-mail them to people you care about.  The Cartel is faltering and the correction has been long overdue.  Help us spread the word and prevent good people from making a well-intentioned but uninformed educational and financial mistake.

Remember, we don't make any money by issuing warnings.  They, on the other hand, make money by enrolling the na├»ve.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Guest Post by Prof. Michael Sycophant: I am not addicted to the satisfying, smooth, and flavorful taste of six-figure grants from the noble and highly-regarded tobacco industry.


Paul Campos of the University of Colorado is once again confused by my independent research with Joe Camel and Marlboro Cowboy. Our masterwork, The Cardiovascular Value of Smoking, was not funded with grants, and is the product only of the scrupulously objective analytical rigor made possible by my absurdly cushy and well-paid job as a Junior Valet at the Smoker’s Union. 

Two follow-up studies-- "The Best Time to Start Smoking is Right Now" and an upcoming study of the comparative pleasurability of smoking according to college major, race, and gender, are funded through grants from Chemotherapy is Fun Inc., an independent provider of health care solutions, and from the Smokers Emissions Council, which is an important provider of research into why adorable dolphins would be totally heartbroken if you don’t light up immediately. 

The funding provided through these grants is used to acquire software and equipment (Dude, I’m getting a Dell!), a teaching buyout to relieve my beautiful mind of the burdensome time-suck of yapping at a couple of classes of thick-headed losers who couldn't even get into Harvard, a staff of obsequious flunkies to cater to my every whim, and summer vacation stipends, as well as to attend conferences at important luxury resorts. 

There has never been an effort by the Smokers Emissions Council or Chemotherapy is Fun, Inc. to censor our findings in spite of the fact that our results are completely favorable to them. Joe Camel, Marlboro Cowboy, and I are proud of our success in securing funding from such highly-regarded organizations. Furthermore, grant funding of important scholars like myself is extremely common. For instance, just off the top of my head, I can name a host of researchers who have received grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, and who have conducted research into weighty matters like antibiotics development and child abuse. Are you against science? Antibiotics? Saving children? 

Critics claim that my alleged addiction to nicotine money is some kind of hushed-up little secret, but actually the sound of my morally diseased hacking could rouse the dead. I believe in transparency, and these critics are clearly blinded by the obfuscatory smoke of their own toxic jealously. With better data, obtainable by placing $220,000 in my transparently outstretched palm, everybody can win—be they smoker, nonsmoker, tobacco company, or dolphin. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Seton Hall Law Prof. Michael Simkovic bags $220,000 from the Access Group and the Law School Admissions Council.

"Funding bias" or "funding effect." This is the widely-accepted phenomenon whereby the results desired by a study’s funders closely correlate to those reported by its researchers. Funding bias includes a researcher’s awareness that some types of studies are more likely to be funded than others. 

It is old folk wisdom that he who pays the piper calls the tune, but funding bias is more subtle. The payer may sincerely give the piper discretion to play whatever tune he or she wants, and the piper may sincerely do so. Nonetheless, the tune that the musician selects will still have a striking tendency to be one known or believed to be favored by the moneyed patron. This bias can apparently operate unconsciously, which is why funded studies should be treated with a mammoth dose of skepticism. See e.g. Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 501 n.17 (2008) ("Because this research was funded in part by Exxon, we decline to rely on it"). 

As most here presumably know, last year Seton Hall lawprof Michael Simkovic published a provocative study of the economic value of a law degree, claiming that a law degree is worth an average of just over a million dollars more than a BA, with the average annual earnings premium calculated at $57,200. See Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre, The Economic Value of a Law Degree, 43 J. Legal Stud. 249 (2014). Simkovic has recently followed up by publishing a draft of his next article, called "Timing Law School." 

According to Simkovic, the huge lifetime JD premium accrues whether a JD actually practices law or not. Moreover, even at the bottom quartile of outcomes--the fourth tier of law graduates as it were--the lifetime JD premium is calculated at $432,000, and the annual earning premium at $21,700. In my mind’s eye, I see a young JD-Barista or a JD-part-time tree-trimmer whipping out a Cooley or Florida Coastal law degree before his or her boss’s delighted eyes, and receiving an immediate $20,000 a year raise. 

Kids need not fret about missing the gravy train if they graduate in a recession year, or about the size of the "cohort" of new lawyers that law schools pump into the economy in their graduation year, or about starting salaries, or about those dismal nine-month-out job stats. According to Simkovic’s new research, that stuff doesn’t matter in the long-run-- the main thing is to enroll as soon as possible to maximize the value of the JD-premium. Thus, Simkovic explains one of his "key takeaways": "The best time to go to law school is the earliest point possible after which you make the decision that you’d eventually like to go. By waiting, you’re spending more of your limited working life working for lower wages."

Now, Simkovic is a junior law professor at a second-tier law school, and therefore a finding that a law degree is an extremely risky proposition would be adverse to his employer's interests, and his own -- it doesn't take an econometrics study to deduce a causal connection between the decline in tuition-paying lemmings and the decline in cushy lawprof jobs. But perhaps even more saliently, Simkovic has received grants totaling $220,000 from the Access Group and Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) to fund his ongoing studies of the great value of a law degree. Simkovic collected $120,000 from the Access Group and $100,000 from the LSAC. The draft of his new article discloses the funding source, but not the grant amounts, and his CV mentions the amounts, but merely describes the source as "private foundations."

So who exactly are Simkovic's generous funders--patrons of his pied piping, Pembrokes to his law school Bard, sugar bowl to his porridge pot? Let's have a brief look at these private foundations, and readers can judge for themselves whether there could possibly be any ulterior motive to their philanthropy.