Tuesday, March 19, 2019

JD-Disadvantage, Part X - The Truth Comes Full Circle

I've been writing about the illusion of "JD-Advantage" in particular for some time now.  The reasons why are essentially two-fold: (1) JD-Advantage is indeed farcical and plain-old bunk at an objective level, and (2) I have first-hand experience in the same, so that makes me somewhat of a subject-matter expert.  I've included a handy summary of posts on the subject over the years at the bottom should anyone need a cure for insomnia or delusions of grandeur, either one.

As we all know, a data set of one is not a data set.  So before everyone starts chiming in saying "but your experience is relative and not representative, because you are just one person, and forget about your dumb posts, anyway," here is some additional information in support of the Truth(tm):

There are a number of problems with the JD Advantage category as defined.  One is (or perhaps two are) its breadth and pliability.  They almost certainly cause some outcomes to be reported as JD Advantage that it would make no sense ex ante to attend law school to obtain (because there are much cheaper and easier ways to achieve the same result), and thus should not be considered placement successes (in my terminology, Law Jobs).  Worse, the definitional flexibility may inspire some administrators to stretch the category beyond any reasonable scope, rationalizing some “demonstrable advantage in either obtaining or performing the duties of the position,” in order to report an outcome they can claim as successful, especially in hard times. 

Bam. Yessir, and a voice from the academy, no less.  But wait, there's more:

For example, is paralegal or law clerk (not for a judge, but as an unlicensed assistant for other lawyers) a JD Advantage position?  To be clear, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these jobs; they are valuable, honest work, and skilled besides.  But you sure wouldn’t plan to spend 3 years and $150,000 in law school in order to get these jobs—in fact, you can get a paralegal certification in one year at many inexpensive community colleges, and you don’t even need that to get an entry-level job as a paralegal.  And yet the ABA’s 2019 Employment Protocols for the Class of 2019 provide that both paralegal and law clerk are presumed to be JD Advantage placements by dint of job title alone.  (See here at pp. 26, 67.)  In the same publication, the ABA says legal secretaries are presumed to hold a “Professional” rather than a JD Advantage position (here at p. 68), though (in my experience, at least) their work in many if not most cases is as highly skilled and law-related as paralegal work, especially at smaller firms. 

Ah, the good ol' ABA, looking out for the little person.  Anyway:

(more below the fold):

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Purchased admission to university

Dozens of rich people and their collaborators have been arrested for fraudulent schemes to have already very privileged young people admitted to allegedly élite universities. Some parents bribed proctors of the SAT or the ACT so that a child could take the test with, shall we say, a little help. Others bribed coaches and others to pass their children off as recruited athletes deserving of extra attention and, of course, lower standards at the admissions office. Reportedly much of the money went through a charitable organization, and some of the people involved took tax deductions for their "donations".

I fully concur that the acts alleged are contemptible and that they should be punished aggressively. But does anyone really believe, as the prosecutor claimed, that "there can be no separate college-admissions system for the wealthy"? A separate system for the wealthy has existed for decades, and much of it is perfectly legal. Read Daniel Golden's book The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—And Who Gets Left outside the Gates. (Golden, incidentally, wrote the article cited above.)

Is Junior uncompetitive for Ivy? Call the "development" office and work out a donation, maybe a couple of million dollars, that may ever-so-coincidentally come to the attention of the people down the hall in admissions. As long as there is no formal quid pro quo, you should even be able to deduct the donation. Of course, this strategy works only if you have that much money and can afford to part with it—in other words, if you're filthy rich.

You may not have to go that far: your name may be enough. When it discovered that it had rejected a British princess, "horrified" Newcastle University back-pedaled and admitted her after all, blaming an "Italian" admissions officer for failing to consider that Her Disgrace "may have had more significance for the institution than another applicant"—than some poor slob like Old Guy, that is. US universities likewise fall all over themselves to welcome the scions of the rich and the prominent (usually one and the same).

If your own name doesn't command attention, you can have a well-placed person pull strings with the university. This ploy works especially well if you happen to be friends with the golfing partner of the university's president. Not many of us, however, can claim that distinction.

Or, if you yourself attended the university in question, or your spouse or another relative of your child's did, then your child counts as a "legacy" and gets special consideration. Again, this strategy doesn't work for people like Old Guy who are "legacies" of nothing in particular.

Those are just a few of the ways in which one can exercise direct influence over the admissions office. Indirect influence takes thousands of forms, many of them requiring money but all of them considered perfectly legitimate: aristocratic and expensive private schools, music lessons, élite sports (think polo and lacrosse—no competition here from the kid at East Bumblefuck High School), foreign travel, costly tutors for the SAT, even costlier "admissions consultants".

The tactics listed in the last few paragraphs may not strike you as fraudulent, unlike the purchasing of SAT scores or the bribing of the university's personnel. But they prove the existence of a "separate college-admissions system for the wealthy", one that takes up spaces that might otherwise go to lowly commoners.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Legal Hiring Landscape Leaves Something to be Desired

Why do the scamblogs, who are already past their expiration date according to some critics, keep whining about job prospects for graduates and for the legal profession as a whole?  Why not just shut up, or something, already.  

Well, thanks to an upcoming article, we have yet further information to explain why the scamblogs maintain their dogged insistance on the matter:

Why, then, you may well ask, is there persistent talk of the entry-level job market’s purported improvement, and even suggestions that it is “hot”?...Well, the percentage of new graduates obtaining a Law Job has risen steadily since 2011.  And how can the portion of the graduating class getting a Law Job increase while the number of Law Jobs falls?  Easy:  The number of students graduating law school has been falling faster than the number of Law Jobs.  Here’s a picture:

Look at the above chart.  When the scamblogs say that "JD graduates have been overproduced 2-to-1 compared to available jobs for decades," it is data such as this, hot off the presses, that we are referring to.  Granted, given this recent summary, perhaps we should amend our statement to say "Ok, overproduced anywhere from 1.4 to 1.8, given the year," but the thesis still holds.  When we speak of the "lawyer glut," this is it.  And when those who cherry-pick the data say "this is the best time to go!", the reality is exactly what the quote above describes - there are relative percentages, and then there are absolute numbers.  Not the same thing.

No employer sector offers more Law Jobs today than it did ten years ago.  Non-law-firm entry-level Law-Job hiring has remained relatively flat in all sectors (other than the sudden dip experienced by nearly every sector of the hiring market when the economy crashed in 2008-2009):

Again, look at the above chart.  The fact that non-law-firm hiring has been flat does not bode well for the JD-Advantage crowd, either.  Many, many times has the Cartel lauded and praised the opportunities for JD-Advantage jobs, and many, many times have we taken those claims down.  Into this flat market have excess JD graduates been pumped, year after year.  The market is clearly not crying out for JD-trained individuals.

A final chart shows lawfirm-specific hiring:

Again, this looks very similar to the prior chart.  While some might say "oh, look, firms of 501 or more lawyers are on the upswing," but by what percentage?  Take a more critical look at the broad expanse as a whole.  These lines are not flying off the charts, are they?  They look rather flat in actuality.  The total job line, at the top, has the profile of a road with several potholes, not the long graceful upwards-curve of a suspension bridge to new heights.

Friends, this is why we say what we say.  I, for one, am greatful the Academy is publishing this information, as it needs to be made known, even though the implications are not good for the Cartel. Many of us would like nothing better than for the excesses of the past to be wiped away, and there to be Elysian Fields ahead.  But the reality is that the market does not need new JDs at the rate they have been produced.  Don't go to law school because it sounds good, only go if you have the backing and the credentials to get you there.  It's nothing personal, it is just the reality on the ground.  Too, too many have been sold a bill of goods to only learn the truth later, and we would all like to see that scenario go away in favor of gainfully employed JDs doing real work for real people.

In fact, just don't go.  The market still has yet to right-size, given prior comments from the Cartel itself. Now is not the time.           

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Scamblogs Are Passe'...or are they?

Ripped from the headlines, as it were, as of February 21, 2019:

Some schools took advantage of students’ desperation for a lucrative career in law, said Jerry Anderson, dean of the Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. To attract students, they lowered admission standards and let students borrow well into the six figures to pay ever-rising tuition bills. Meanwhile, bar exam failure rates were rising.

“Not everyone should go to law school,” Anderson said. “Admitting students that are not really prepared for the rigors of a legal education or for the rigors of a legal practice, that’s a bad thing.”

A-yup.  Totally agree.  Nice that people in-the-know are actually talking about it, instead of pretending like it didn't happen.  Where was this discussion previously, especially when Campos and Tamanaha were being called out, to say nothing of other scambloggers...?  Wonder if Nando saw this...

Kaplan's Thomas said that what many people in the legal education field now see is “a little right-sizing of legal education. If we have all these schools and not enough demand to satisfy them, perhaps it would be better off in the longer run if some of the law schools — particularly in the lower tier — did indeed choose to close.”

Hilarious.  A little "right-sizing."  I seem to remember a lot of push-back on this idea, previously, how everything is fine, how the scambloggers are losers, if you can dream it you can achieve it, etc. etc. etc.  I notice many usual-suspects LawProfs have been very non-vocal on this, compared to even 5-10 year ago.  And what about access?  How do you plan to defend liberty and pursue justice with fewer, count 'em, fewer law schools...?

Meanwhile, law school tuition has been soaring. According to data compiled by the advocacy group Law School Transparency, since 1985, tuition at private law schools has risen 270 percent, while tuition at public schools has risen 580 percent after accounting for inflation. Average tuition now stands at $47,000 at private schools, $27,000 for public in-state students and $40,000 for public out-of-state students. 

If you go with the assumption that costs double every twenty years, law schools have been making a hefty profit way above even that rule-of-thumb, all along the way.  Because the law is "dynamic" and "ever-changing," don'cha know.

“People have long viewed a legal education as a ticket to financial security,” McEntee says [sic]. “And that just wasn’t the case. Not only did a substantial number of graduates not actually become lawyers, but then once you do become a lawyer, not all the salaries are commensurate with what you might expect if you get your information from the news or TV or movies.”

McEntee pointed out that fewer than 70 percent of today’s law school graduates land jobs that require a J.D. and passing the bar exam — the legal jobs that tend to pay the highest salaries. Several decades ago, the proportion was above 80 percent.

Ah well.  Pay no mind, nothing to see here, move along.  Just dive-in, 0Ls, the Law School Cartel has nothing but your best interests at heart.  The mean, mean scambloggers just want to thin the ranks so as to have less competition in their lucrative legal careers.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Western State College of Law in receivership; students left high and dry

We may be witnessing the ninth closure of a law school in recent years. Über-toilet Western State College of Law, located in Irvine, California, fell into the clutches of Dream Center, "a faith-based nonprofit" that appears to be serving God and Mammon. The subsidiary Dream Center Education Holdings bought up dozens of private institutions of so-called higher education all over the US, including Western State, but has lately fallen into federal receivership. Congresswoman Katie Porter, herself a professor of law at UC Irvine, accuses the Dream Center chain of having "defrauded students … across the country"; she vows to hold "these con artists" accountable.

The students at Western State have not received the financial aid that they have been awaiting since January. Some $9 million in funds to "Argosy University", which includes Western State, have vanished. Many students cannot cover living expenses such as rent and food.

Dream Center bought Western State just over a year ago but has been disappointed with an alleged shortfall in revenue. Porter, to her credit, pulls no punches: "Predatory actors like Argosy have been given free rein by the Trump Administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to make a quick buck at students’ and taxpayers’ expenses. The Department of Education has taken aggressive steps to deregulate for-profit universities, encouraged institutions to lie about their accreditation statuses, and left students vulnerable to fraudulent groups." I wish her every success in her efforts to stop the higher-ejookayshun scam in general and the law-school scam in particular.

As for the students, I'm afraid they have only themselves to blame. They should have expected a bad result from their über-toilet, even before it was bought out by this god-bothering non-profit outfit. The median LSAT score is 148, more than a quarter of the graduates are unemployed ten months after graduation, and the debt-financed cost of attendance stands at $282k.

Western State, it seems, cannot be long for this world. When it does go tits up, any remaining students should look into their rights to walk away from their debt. The public shouldn't have to pay for their folly, but they would be stupid to double down by transferring to another über-toilet.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Applicant Update : Applicants up 0.9% per LSAC, Applications down compared to last year

Well, this is a completely unexpected result.  What started off as a strong showing for the current cycle has since petered-out into a rehash of last year, if not more so.  To be fair, I would argue that the year-to-year comparison is 3% above last year as opposed to 1%, but the fact remains.

As readers know I like the "velocity" chart, so I am pulling that up again.  In 2012, the Million-Dollar-Express rocketed up to more than 3,000 applicants/week by Week 8, to glide back down in a graceful parabolic curve thereafter.  I would argue that this shows interest was "strong", and the numbers back it up in that the total applicant count was the highest of all.  Later years showed a more modest trajectory - the end results, while less, were respectable, but definitely showed decreased interest.  2016 was the nadir - instead of a moon shot, the curve looked more like a cannon shot.  Long and flat, which would indicate minimal interest in applying to law school.

2017 and 2018 seemed to show renewed interest, tracking the performance of prior years.  But this year has shown the lowest-trajectory yet, which I still find very surprising given the initial stronger start.

What does this mean?  Well, the area under a flat curve can equal the area under a tall curve (that is to mean, total applicant count can be similar in both instances), but we have yet to see anything rival 2012.  What started as something similar to 2012 and 2013 has instead become worse than 2016 despite recent comebacks.  Total applicants will still likely reach somewhere around 60,000, but this is much less that was initially indicated earlier in the cycle.  

Perhaps people are still getting the message after all: that a JD is not a sure-fire path to riches or saving dolphins, but a form of modern-day indentured-servitude that few will be able to get out from underneath in any reasonable time frame.  To the extent that this represents a long-overdue market correction, we of the scamblog movement welcome this as the much-needed medicine that has been avoided for a long time.  0Ls, do your research, as this may be the best time to wait a year or more, if not scrapping the idea altogether.    


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Toilets Я Us, Part VII: Profiting from the "non-profit" scam?

Notorious scam-chain InfiLaw is trying to turn über-toilet Florida Coastal into a non-profit institution.

After the closure of Charlotte and the announced closure of Arizona Summit, Florida Coastal is the last so-called law school in the InfiLaw scam-chain. Suddenly the profit-oriented firm InfiLaw is eager to turn its sole surviving über-toilet into a "non-profit" entity. Why? Florida Coastal offers some odd-sounding justifications, all of which ring hollow in light of InfiLaw's profit-seeking motive.

Especially interesting is the following:

Florida Coastal officials said that at the end of the process, the law school would be an independent entity. But they didn’t rule out some kind of role for InfiLaw, its parent company.

“We’re not exactly certain what InfiLaw’s final role, if any, will be. But they will not be the owner,” said Jennifer Reiber, Florida Coastal’s dean of academic affairs.

Other institutions, like Grand Canyon University, that have converted to nonprofit status have signed management agreements with their former parent companies after splitting off. Kyle McEntee, the executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency, said he questioned what kind of arrangement the new nonprofit entity would have with InfiLaw.

“Will InfiLaw be managing or does it hope to manage the law school?” he said.

So it seems that "non-profit" status might involve an "agreement" whereby InfiLaw would "manage" "non-profit" Florida Coastal—for consideration, bien sûr. Is this sort of sweetheart deal with the former owner the new face of the law-school scam? How can an entity be approved as "non-profit" if it intends to cut a questionable deal of this kind?