Monday, May 23, 2016

What will robot lawyers mean for human legal education?

Though the story has been covered throughout the legal blogosphere, a few readers have emailed to request an OTLSS post on BakerHostetler's hotshot new bankruptcy attorney, a robot called “ROSS.”

I know that some specialists dispute the concept of machine intelligence, but this robot was smart enough to land a plum entry-level job in the profession without attending law school or incurring educational debt.

According to the Ross Intelligence, Inc. website: 
"ROSS is an artificially intelligent attorney to help you power through legal research. ROSS improves upon existing alternatives by actually understanding your questions in natural sentences like - "Can a bankrupt company still conduct business?"   ROSS then provides you an instant answer with citations and suggests highly topical readings from a variety of content sources..  . . So what can ROSS do?  [It can] [p]rovide you a highly relevant answer, not 1000s of results, to your question posed in natural language. . . [and] [m]onitor the law for changes that can positively/negatively affect your case.  . ."
The advent of the robot lawyer might not be so delightful for those of the flesh-and-blood variety. ROSS’s skill set overlaps significantly with the job complexes of many junior corporate law firm associates and public sector research attorneys. Lawyers are said to devote, on average, nearly a fifth of their working hours to legal research and law firms spend $9.6 billion on research annually. That is a lot of remunerative work that will potentially be lost to our mechanical colleagues, and it does not even include the impact that predictive coding will have on document review.

Sputnik News has an appropriately sarcastic write-up (along with a very funny illustration of a robot lawyer), entitled "Law School Scam? $200,000 in Student Debt, Replaced by Job-Killing Robot."
"We are not even speaking about a profession that requires the completion of at least seven years of college, followed by an expensive test and an invasive background check, just for the benefit of staring down the barrel of a 15.5 percent unemployment rate and roughly $200,000 in non-dischargeable student debt. . . 
Instead, we are talking about the latest and greatest idea among the old-timers. . .who have already won the legal profession lottery, allowing them to seize an upper-middle class lifestyle after matriculating from law schools referred to as ‘third-tier toilets,’ or attending bastions of prestigious opportunity, like Harvard and Yale. . . 
The world’s first "artificial-intelligence attorney," touted as the newest member of white-shoe law firm BakerHostetler, threatens to spark a job-killing trend in a vocation where career prospects already frighten a terrorized workforce. BakerHostetler says will save time for lawyers who have to master a huge, growing body of legal literature.  The firm does not mention that nearly all of their 900 attorneys are paid for their time on an hourly basis, a pay basis on which BakerHostetler has generously offered to relieve them of."
Will law schools be forthright in acknowledging that the impending automation of a staggering amount of revenue-generating legal work almost certainly means less income and fewer stable jobs for lawyers, thus further devaluing a J.D. degree? Or will they instead peddle a fantasy that tech-savvy young law students, with the proper law school training, will be situated to take lucrative advantage of vast and exciting new opportunities as e-law providers, notwithstanding that few will possess true technical expertise? 

Consider the following quote from Andrew Perlman, the recently-appointed Dean of Suffolk Law School, whose bottom-rung atrocity of a school [1] generated much favorable publicity when it created an "Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation," along with a "Legal Technology and Innovation" concentration for its students.
"We want law students to think like entrepreneurs. . . There is tremendous potential for law graduates to fill new niches in the legal industry, such as founding an e-discovery company or creating a software process that makes law firms more efficient and effective. . . . New law-related jobs are emerging in which having a J.D. is a distinct advantage, such as jobs at companies and firms that engage in project management, e-discovery and automated document assembly. . . . We’re trying to give students an edge when seeking these kinds of positions as well as more traditional jobs."
Perlman and fellow high-profile law-tech enthusiast Indiana Univ. Law Prof. William Henderson draw on the work of British law and technology writer Richard Susskind, a champion of IT-based "delawyering" and "alternative sourcing." Indeed, Henderson relies so heavily on Susskind that I wonder whether he is a clunky robot prototype programmed for spouting Susskind, as well as for self-promotion.

Perlman and Henderson tend to depict the likely effect of disruptive or emerging technologies on our profession in suspiciously boosterish terms. They do not emphasize Susskind's more discouraging pronouncements, such as that he does "not see much of a future (beyond 2020) for most small firms." [2] Or that "law firms are likely to recruit young and aspiring lawyers in smaller numbers." [3]

And I certainly have not heard either propose applying Susskindian strategies to the legal academy, for instance by recommending that law schools disaggregate, alternative source, digitize, or robotize components of law professor jobs. [4] I mean, arguably all of law school could be replaced by some cool interactive learning apps, virtual reality simulations, and guided online discussion groups, all accessible from the comfort of home.  

It would be fine if more law students started thinking like entrepreneurs. It would be even better if more law deans stopped behaving like snake oil salesman. The new niches in the legal industry, and many of the old ones too, will be filled by ROSS and its robotic progeny. However, I suspect that it will be some time before we see the introduction of robot law school deans. The niche of getting rich by deceiving vulnerable kids is a distinctly human preserve.

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

[1] The overall 10-month-out employment rate for the graduating class of 2015 showed a minuscule improvement over 2014, despite a reduction in demand for entry-level lawyers, as a result of a significant year-over-year decline in the number of graduates. No improvement at Suffolk though. Rather, Suffolk's 10-month-out bar-required full-time placement rate declined from 46.2% to 43.3%, placing it among the bottom 20% of law schools.

Suffolk's 25th percentile LSAT is a scandalous 145, which is lower than all but 27 schools, and which prompts the unkind thought that its grads might not be bright enough to found e-discovery companies and so forth, even if the words "technology" and "innovation" appear on their law diplomas.

[2] Susskind, Richard (2013-01-10). Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (p. 57). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[3]  Susskind at p. 142

[4] For instance, Henderson opposes weakening tenure for law professors, notwithstanding considerations of efficiency, flexibility, and what Susskind refers to as "The More-for-Less Challenge." (Susskind at p. 4-5) (As you may surmise, the "less" part implicitly includes compensation for professionals).

Indeed, during a "Legal Visionary" webinar, the "Most Influential Person in Legal Education" addressed tenure in his typical blustery, obfuscatory, and self-serving  manner:
"So I know that one of the most popular things is ending tenure, and I actually don’t think that’s a good place to start because it’s kind of a take-away mentality that doesn’t put people in a good mood to innovate, and really innovation is what we need. . . . I think the right way to do it is through visionary leadership, getting people excited about the good things that flow from adopting a change initiative and widely publicizing, you know, bright spots or examples of success. I just think we need to do it from a point of view of the possibilities and making the world a better place and making the industry better, rather than kind of take-aways."
Legal Visionaries webinar, "The Disruption and Transformation of Legal Education and Services" (March 2014) at 24:32-24:50, 25:49-26:15 (copious stutters, uhhhhs, and ahhhhs omitted). 
In other words, creative destruction and race-to-the-bottom economics for thee, but not for me. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gee, Wally, that's swell: Indiana Tech produces graduates

You heard it here first. Long before Alexander's ragtime (or hip-hop?) band opened the first and only law skule to disgrace greater metropolitan Fort Wayne, we the Cassandras of OTLSS warned of what would happen. And indeed Indiana Tech's law skule has failed to thrive. The ill-laid schemes of Indiana Tech's mice (any men there?) gaed agley. Grandiose plans that supposedly warranted the expense of a curated art collection remain unfulfilled. Indeed, Indiana Tech this past year had to drop tuition to zero in order to attract students, and still only fifteen swallowed the bait.

Unfortunately, Indiana Tech has survived long enough to shit out a graduating class. On Saturday, May 14, 2016, all of 21 lemmings collected a JD from Fort Wayne's center of juridical excellence. If, like me, you missed the ceremony (which was open to the public at no charge, although parking cost $5), be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it on the Internet (http://commencement.indianatech.edu/watch/).

Now, of course the law skule could not have held its own graduation ceremony; after all, buying chocolate-chip cookies for 21 graduates and their guests might have driven the institution into insolvency. That could have spelled the end of the exciting and vital new field of law & hip-hop. To prevent that calamity, the university held one big ceremony for all departments, from Fashion Marketing & Management to Global Leadership (PhD).

As a journalist covering the law-school scam, I probably should have watched the whole damn thing. But I don't get paid for this stuff, and anyway that sort of torture might have justified calling in the union steward. So I took the liberty of skipping the first fifteen minutes or so, a procession featuring a brass band's unprepossessing rendition of Elgar. After some blowhard praised the trustees and the faculty, he introduced the keynote speaker, Jerry Mathers.

Certainly that name is familiar to me, but it may not be to a generation that has never encountered black-and-white television, so I'd better explain: as a child, Jerry Mathers played the lead role (that of Theodore "the Beaver" Cleaver) in a dull, white-bread 1950s sit-com called Leave It to Beaver. A typical episode centers on a tempest in a teapot arising from the Beaver's foibles and naïveté. Elder brother Wally lectures the Beaver ("You're in trouble now!"), but the improbably wise and forbearing father forgives all, and maybe Mom utters a word or two if she's not too busy with baking and sewing. It's a perfect little white suburban world where no voice is ever raised, no unkind word ever uttered. Women are marginalized, and racialized people are conspicuous by their absence. Tune in next week for another fun-filled episode of strait-laced McCarthy-era Americana.

Mathers was eminently qualified to address Indiana Tech's graduating class of 2016. Presumably through parental connections and geographic circumstance, he stumbled into acting for the boob tube at age 2. Whatever that early gig was, he parlayed it into Leave It to Beaver, which ran until Wally and the Beaver were simply too old to carry on the boyish farce. Since then, he has done … well, nothing, really. According to the introduction given at the ceremony, he worked at a bank for a time and also sold real estate. He seems to have had a few minor acting gigs over the past 40 years or so. That's it.

So why exactly was this actor manqué selected as keynote speaker? Well, the baby boomers who chose him must have looked with nostalgic admiration upon their childhood hero, even though most of the graduates probably hadn't heard of him. In addition, he must have been cheap. More prominent celebrities have exacted six-figure honoraria—too expensive for Indiana Tech, whose coffers have been depleted by a certain failed law school that shall go unnamed. And that is how Indiana Tech came to hire this flash in the pan.

But surely after 65 years in show business Mathers must be able to deliver one hell of a speech. Right? Wrong. It was the least inspired and least inspiring speech that I've heard since I last judged a moot. Mathers read from a script without even pausing at changes of paragraph. His few attempts at humor fell flat. He filled almost twenty painful minutes with platitudes: be yourself; do what you want to do; you're hot shit; you've succeeded against all odds; you're destined for great things. Even the audience tried to cut his speech short by applauding long before he was finished, but he was too daft to take the hint. Apparently he couldn't even wind the dreadful speech up ex tempore.

In Ward Cleaver's absence, Old Guy will have to conclude tonight's episode with a few moralizing words: If even a kid from Los Angeles whose parents get him into the starring role on a major television program can amount to nothing, don't think that your jive ass from Bluffton, Indiana, will get anywhere with a bullshit JD from Indiana mother-fucking Tech.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

LSAC Analysis for 2015-2016, OTLSS-style

Well, we have just reached LSAC's 92% applicant point for this application cycle, so I thought it was time to take a look at where trends have gone thus far.

Earlier this cycle, it appeared that applications were were clocking in about 5 times the amount of applicants, which was a significant departure from prior years.  Over time however, that curve began to straighten and fall in at 6.5 applications per applicant.  So far, so normal, although one can see that the trend was off to a slow start before "catching up" for 2016.



As LSAC only presents the most recent three years of data along with a highly-compressed axis,  it is easy to forget overall trends and think things are largely unchanged for the last several years.  Included below are applicant-over-time trends for 2012, 2014, and this current cycle.  Readers of this blog may recall that my earlier data is based on interpolation of large blow-up charts while later data is taken from LSACs posts, which is why the curves for 2012 an 2014 are super-smooth while 2016 looks all googly-moogly by comparison.  Interestingly, 4th-order polynomials seem to model these curves exceptionally well, although I attach no physical significance to the model other than "it works."  But even these three curves demonstrate a significant downward trend in applicants, and 2016 is struggling to rise from all-time lows.

Many have mentioned that applicants seem to have delayed applying until later and later into the application cycle, but I don't know that I have seen any particular analysis on that point.  Blowing the dust off the old college calculus textbook, however, we see that the derivatives of these curves reveal a lengthening of the application cycle:

In 2012 and 2014, the application rate maxed-out at about two months into the cycle.  Where 2012 topped out at about 3,400 applicants/week, 2014 barely crested 2,500 applicants/week at the same time in the cycle.  In 2016 however, not only was the maximum rate still lower, it occurred some six weeks later by comparison.

All of this suggests that while LSAC is proud of their 1% increase in applications over last year, digging deeper demonstrates that potential students are still hearing the message and thinking twice about taking the plunge.  The overall enthusiasm for law school is anemic at best, and hopefully will continue to be so as we continue to do our part in showing the scam for what it is.  Congratulations, everyone, and let's keep the pressure on.       

   


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

University of Maryland School of Law Director of Admissions Katrin Hussman Schroll declares that law school admissions offices have fallen in love with applicants from community colleges



Advice for the lawlorn. It is always gratifying when somebody professes to love you, especially if you are not considered conventionally desirable. Your suitor looks so attractive and speaks so charmingly and seductively of your blissful future together. How can you resist being overwhelmed by fantasies of advantage and fulfillment? 

I am not so cynical as to say that true love can never blossom between a law school admissions committee and a community college student. But if your educational mate really loves you for you, in all your humble uniqueness, how do you explain the salacious gaze it keeps casting at your student loan eligibility? Or its promiscuous offers of tuition favors to anybody wearing a semi-high LSAT score? Or its tawdry reputation for jilting lovers at the employment line?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_xHEapeX-Y

The linked law school recruitment video was posted at the DiscoverLaw site (a LSAC-funded law school recruitment project targeting marginalized communities and the very young), and also on You Tube.  It is entitled  "Law Schools Community College Students." (Yes, with a mash-note valentine representing the verb "love").  On the video, University of Maryland School of Law Director of Admissions Katrin Hussman Schroll declares that admissions committees have been been made to "fall in love" with with community college applicants, beguiled by their tales of hardships overcome and lessons learned. 
"In reviewing files, I have personally seen how students who have attended community colleges around the country are able to highlight how they have faced unique hardships and how they overcame these hardships, and more importantly what they learned from it. And in the process of telling their story, they have made us admissions offices [sic] around the country fall in love with those applicants to the point that we want to bring those experiences to the classroom because we consider those experiences an asset to the type of voices that you bring to law school classes around the country."
(Video at 0:09-0:49) 
I leave it to you to watch the video and evaluate Katrin Hussman Schroll's sincerity. Take her triple repetition of a seemingly unnecessary phrase -- "around the country." Is that a paraverbal indication of scamming or is it a heartfelt way of emphasizing the vast geographical scope of affection flowing to prospective community college applicants from their smitten law school admirers? And what about her eye-rolling, which seems so inconsistent with her earnest tone? Is that an endearing physical manifestation of her infatuation with the community college students of her dreams or might it just possibly be an unconscious gesture of contempt?



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Strict Scrutiny: Current 3L Explains Why Going To Law School Make Sense

It's been a while since I've read an op-ed ridiculous enough to warrant the full Strict Scrutiny treatment. But the wise Ross Campbell, current NYU 3L, decided to dispense some nuggets of wisdom to undergrads thinking about taking the leap. Ross Campbell is the epitome of youth; he thinks that his experiences can be extrapolated to the world at large. The article's text is bolded and in italics, while my comments are in normal text.

Editor’s Note: The author of this post is an incoming associate at a national law firm.
I assume "national law firm" means BigLaw. Ross's law school experience has resulted in an employment outcome that will not be attainable for almost all current and future law students. Ross is exactly the guy we want advising the average prospective law student.

Apart from investing considerable time and effort, many will have taken on heavy debt to reach this point, averaging $140, 616. No paltry sum, but ideally well spent pursuing the skills needed to practice law.

Here are some other suggestions that have just as much of a chance of succeeding as someone going to law school to learn about practicing law:
  • An electrician watching episodes of "The Electric Company" to figure out how to wire a commercial building properly.
  • A doctor practicing surgery on an old copy of the board game "Operation" after having lost at beer pong twenty straight times.
  • Trying to learn Japanese by going to Turkey and wandering around until you meet some Japanese tourists.
Should we, the Class of 2016, have bothered? The reality is that the job market may have looked a lot better in 2013. So why did we forge ahead?

Tell me more, Ross. We haven't been able to properly figure it out in the 500+ previous posts on this site.

When I decided to go to law school, there was growing optimism. Things had gotten verifiably better after the Great Recession. We still heard horror stories, but the economy was on the uptick and firms seemed to be hiring again. Though a J.D. was no longer the safe bet it once was, it still had a sheen of respectability and challenge. It was also a logical choice for many of us that were on the fence about our future.

Ross is afflicted with "Special Snowflake Syndrome". He chose to fly in the face of reams of empirical evidence because he had no idea about what to do when he became a grown up.

I had a sense that something still had to be said for becoming an esquire. I can’t say I wasn’t warned off of it — my friends and mentors often pointed out that fewer students than ever were applying to law school, that the debt was perplexing, and for what, exactly? The popular image of lawyers today is not exactly Atticus Finch. But I wanted to be a professional problem solver. I also felt like lawyering would force me into other walks of life, wrack my brains, and learn more about myself.

People tried to warn Ross not to do it. But he was special and was going to make it. He did (at least until the partnership review in 5-8 years). Ross also wanted to solve problems. Well, it can't be said that law school doesn't cause people to accumulate many unsolvable problems.

Luckily I will be able to apply what I learned in law school soon. But I am worried about future classes. Firms will likely rely less on summer associate programs going forward, which will restrict opportunities for new graduates. The demand for more practice-ready associates (and an unwillingness of clients to pay for first and second years) will also impact entry-level hiring. Also on the horizon are fascinating A.I. technologies that threaten to take names and jobs (looking at you ROSS Intelligence).

These are all great reasons not to go to law school. What are you playing at, Ross? I thought you were telling people to go law school.

So can I conscionably recommend law school? I think I can. Employment statistics and law school rankings will always be helpful in evaluating an acceptance letter for real job outcomes. Attention to emerging trends that could affect the entry-level market are also a must. Weigh these against your expected debt and search your reasons for wanting to become a lawyer. If you still feel optimistic, fight on.

Did I miss something here? Is Ross telling people to go to law school if they are not horrified after looking at the current hellscape that is the legal employment market and the life ruining debt accompanying the degree? In effect, people who have blind faith in their ability to beat the odds and get a BigLaw or "international" law job. I fail to see how a rational person can choose to go to law school after looking at the conditions facing law grads. This "argument" just boggles my mind. 

This article is the type of harmful propaganda that convinces aimless grads who have no career plans to go back to the warm embrace of academia. I was one of these people. After graduating, I was living at my parents' house with no idea what to do. It began with my dad telling me to take the LSAT. I did so, and got a pretty good score. Next, I decided to apply to a few schools. Lo and behold, my alma mater gave me a scholarship. Fast forward three years later, and I was done with the bar. I had also returned to my parents' house because there are no jobs for a law school grad with mediocre grades. For an extra three years of the college lifestyle, I will be sending checks to Sallie Mae until I am near retirement age. 

To all prospective law students, I say don't do it. Learn from my mistakes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Seton Hall Law Prof. Paula Franzese advises law students to "[e]mbrace a Forrest Gump-like view of the world and the people in it."




To Seton Hall Law Professor Paula Franzese, of BarBri and "Loving the Law Day" fame, goes the distinction of being the first law professor to write a book recommending that law students and lawyers imitate fictional movie character Forrest Gump. See Franzese, Paula (2014-03-20). A Short and Happy Guide to Being a Law Student (Short and Happy Series) (pp. 78-79). West Academic Publishing. Kindle Edition. ("Embrace a Forrest Gump-like view of the world and the people in it. Do not overcomplicate things. Be guileless and refuse to dwell on the negative. Stay positive as you focus on the good. When the cynics say, "Well, that’s just stupid," smile and reply, "Stupid is as stupid does"").

Forrest Gump, for those who have not seen the hit movie, is a fictional mentally-deficient platitude-spouting innocent, a person who would be an unwitting menace to self and everybody around him but for a lifelong streak of improbable good fortune somehow generated by his simple and trusting good nature.

In Franzese's view, the Gumpish lemmings who fill today's non-elite law schools are similarly destined to be "instruments for greatness." They need only be reminded, via strategically-placed notes bearing words of inspiration, of the existence of their protective lucky star. See Short & Happy at pp. 84 ("Surround yourself with messages of hope to remind you of the mightiness of your mission and the multi-dimensional magnitude of your abilities. There is a star you are under, and you are precisely where you are meant to be. Keep words of inspiration in places where you can see them regularly").

Franzese's book purports to have structure. It is divided into 8 sections, which are in turn divided into 63 chapters (each bearing a smiley-face-with-clock-hands illustration, identical to the one on the cover), which in turn are sectioned into multiple half-page to two-page-long subchapters, each of which provides some tidbit of advice or inspiration. In fact, the identical smileys are a truer guide to the book’s organization and content than the section or chapter titles. The entire book consists of bromides and banalities and anecdotes drawn from motivational literature and Franzese's own life of pampered ease, which are presented over and over and over again, in only slightly reworded form. 

For instance, Part 1 is entitled "You are Going to Be a Lawyer. Be Excited and Feel Proud." Chapter 1 is entitled "Dreams Brought You here. You are Now Making Them Come True." The subchapter headings of Chapter 1 include the following: "The world is yours."; "Your degree will equip you to use the rule of law to advance the cause of progress."; "You will teach others that kindness comes from strength."; "The most significant lawyers and law students value the gentler virtues. They know that wisdom and compassion are indivisible."; "You will teach others that kindness comes from strength."; "As a lawyer, you are uniquely trained to ordain positive outcomes and alter the course of history for the better."; "The law is a noble profession."; "A good lawyer defies the push of the crowds and takes a stand for decency." and "You will lead with both your mind and your heart."

Somewhat similarly, Chapter 3 is entitled "The Majesty of the Law and Your Place in It: Ten Reasons to Be Really Happy About Becoming a Lawyer." The subchapter headings present the ten reasons. Among them are "REASON ONE: Law school will teach you a method of analysis and hone your powers of discernment so that you can and will become a ninja for the good."; "REASON TWO: The law is a magnificent career path. It will allow you to do well and, most essentially, to find meaning in the work you do."; "REASON SEVEN: You will help the clients and constituencies that you serve be governed by what inspires them, rather than what makes them small."; "REASON NINE: You will resolve to love the law and to treat it as if you love it. You will promise yourself that you will persist in loving it, no matter the disappointments and occasional disenchantments."; and "REASON TEN: You will change your life by speaking only good things about it and others."

Isn’t this stuff already beginning to sound tedious, repetitious, and even dehumanizing-- reminiscent  perhaps of a vain and untrustworthy boss who expects enthusiastic appreciation plus sky-high morale from his staff of exploited drones? Well settle in, reader (or shall I say, "ninja for the good"), because as noted the book goes on like this for 63 chapters, the only consolation being that the chapters seem to get shorter in length as the book progresses. To me, the movie analogy suggested by Franzese's book is not "Forrest Gump," but rather, "The Blob." Reading this book is like being engulfed and smothered by a relentlessly expanding mass of sweetly-scented toxicity. 

The most insidious thing about this book is not the recycling of cheery platitudes and cutesy phrases. Rather, it is Franzese's repeated injunctions to be "be grateful," "be thankful" and "be glad" and to "refuse to heed the cynical and the jaded," even if you have to "fake it until you make it" because "gratitude is the way to joy." 

All this gratitude and thankfulness, along with the pre-making fakery, has a deeply practical purpose in Franzese-world, where rhetoric and attitude alchemize into material success. Consider the following quotes:
*  "Your experiences in law school, at work, in love and in life will match your level of rhetoric about your experiences in law school, in love and in life.  The world rises (or falls) to meet your level of expectation. Every day, state emphatically that you love the law, law school, your job and the people in your life. Fake it until you make it.  Sure enough and soon enough, reasons to be right about your declaration will start showing up." Id. at pp. 161
* "[E]ven if you have to fake it for now, you should begin to enthusiastically declare your passion and admiration for everything about the legal education that you are (or are about to) receive and the job that you have (or will have). . . In school and at work, relentlessly say thank you to everyone who is a part of your path." Id. at pp. 79
*  "You are learning to harness the power of your mind to think about and talk about everything that is good, honorable and right with the world and your place in it. As a lawyer, you will have the stature to teach others to do the same. Your life will move in the direction of your predominant thoughts." Id. at pp. 18
*  "The faultfinders seem so prevalent because they are so noisy.  Move away from that cacophony of grievance and lead the team of cheerleaders for the good." Id. at pp. 149
Franzese is too gracious to spell out the implications of her positive thinking philosophy, but I think they are clear enough. Consider all the young persons whose lives have been severely damaged, if not ruined, by law school debt and legal market saturation. Their failure is not the fault of the aforesaid structural problems in legal education. Their failure cannot even be attributed to their own recklessness in enrolling in the first place. No, their failure must be due to their unwillingness to think happy and thankful thoughts.

Franzese’s eloquence has the profound moral force of a sated glutton kindly advising a starving person to celebrate, in word and thought, the glutton’s self-satisfied joy at her recently-devoured feast. For the starving person’s own good, mind you, because through a "persistent attitude of great gratitude," his or her life will inevitably move in the direction of a delicious meal. 

Chapter 61 of A Short and Happy Guide to Being a Law Student is entitled "The Pony" and is a recitation of the old story or joke about the kid who plays delightedly in a room filled with a horse manure in the belief that with all that manure around there must be a pony in the vicinity. (Does Franzese think this chestnut is unfamiliar to anybody?) I first heard this joke when I was about six years old, and even then had a sarcastic laugh at the delusional logic of the shit-covered optimist. But Franzese admires the child's "great sincerity and strength of purpose" and wants you too to believe that the ponies of joy are sure to arrive, perhaps with the very next turn of the law school scammy-go-round. See Id. at pp. 270 ("Do you see the analogy to your present circumstances? Amidst the volumes that you must shovel and store and sanitize, there are ponies. I promise you that. There will be joys and privileges in your life’s chosen work that will astound and delight you").  

The number of law school applicants has risen slightly this year, following five consecutive years of steep decline. So there may be a base level number of persons per year willing to disregard all caution and gamble six figures of nondischargeable borrowed money on the value of a JD degree. In other words, to spend a small fortune to buy a pile of manure because the manure peddler has provided earnestly-expressed but non-legally-enforceable assurances that there will be ponies too. To those contemplating law school attendance this fall, I can only quote the wisdom of Forrest Gump and Prof. Paula Franzese: "Stupid is as stupid does."