Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We Tried Law School so You Don't Have To

Readers of OTLSS and other blogs that dare to be critical of the Law School Cartel have likely heard of David Frakt.  Like Tamanaha and Campos before, Frakt has argued for increasing the admissions standards at law schools, not only for the sake of the schools and the profession, but for the sake of future practitioners themselves.  Frakt is probably most famous for speaking truth during his job interview to become Dean of Florida Coastal School of Law (before being promptly shown the door for recommending some tough medicine).  Frakt continues to demonstrate that poor admission statistics generally lead to poor results later (for graduates, to be clear), another unpopular position to take if you are on the Cartel-side of the fence.  

...aaaaand so it goes.  Often this kind of insider-honesty is decried as an attempt by "the man" to prevent diversity and opportunity for disenfranchised students, when the brutal reality is: what school wants to turn down gobs of federal student loan money if it doesn't have to?  And the scamblogs are hardly enticing students to sign up, but to stay away, frankly, for their own sakes.

But what about the students themselves, and their own decision making process?  Over the several years we have all heard admonishments from the Boomer-esque "Personal Responsibility Brigade," yet to some degree there is a point to be made there.  Setting aside the irony for the moment that many people trying to entice students into law have been Boomers themselves, only to blame students for their predicament once the degree is conferred, only so much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the Cartel itself.  The following comment from a current law professor is poignant: 

Look, here's the deal: those of us who are law professors (or have been) know that many of our students are just not willing or able to believe that if they don't score well on their LSATs, they are very unlikely to "make it." Heck, they plead and cry and threaten suit to remain in law school even if they _also_ get very low grades in law school; another indicator of non-success, as it is typically measured, as attorneys. It sounds paternalistic, but Frakt has a point: since we all know that these potential or actual students are highly unlikely to make it past the bar or, if they do, to gain "meaningful" employment as measured against their previous expectations, it's better for them to not go to law school. Yes, they are in denial about that, but sometimes, you have to exercise some "tough love" in these cases. It truly is a consumer issue, as Frakt correctly says. What in the _world_ are you trying to obtain by calling him a racist and all sorts of things?! Please. That's nasty and below a mature, professional discussion.

Second, anon has a very good point: law schools are indeed - the vast majority of them, at least - hiring only from the top five law schools (if that). That's incredibly elitist and downright stupid. I'm sorry, no offense to those of you smart, nice, highly intelligent folks who, for very good reason, made it into those schools... [b]ut I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to think that only a handful of schools (actually, really only Harvard, Yale, and Stanford) can produce law professors that can teach students the law and how to think critically, etc.[...]

At bottom, I think law schools really ought to hold themselves way above what is currently going on: profit-making, snobbery, and self-serving procedures. Another example of the failure of the American educational system.

Posted by: TruthAboveAll | December 19, 2018 at 11:53 PM

To those who think the scamblogs don't know what they are talking about - don't take it from us, take it from the insiders who are willing to be honest.  The Cartel would have done well to maintain admission standards rather than fling open the doors year ago, and students should not assume that nay-sayers are out to get them, personally, just because the path is dangerous and consequence-filled.

As we always say: 0Ls, pay heed before deciding to take the plunge.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sacred Cows Die Hard

What began as a "simple" post expressing concern over increased law school applicant rates, and the misguided rationales that could explain why such an increase is occurring, instead resulted in a lively debate in the comment section over the value and utility of law school and of a legal career in and of itself.  As some have openly questioned the purpose of the scamblogs now that it is 2019, it is all the more interesting that the debate still continues to roil, rather than being a matter that is instead fully "settled," if the use of the scamblogs has indeed run its full course.

Lawyers deal in nuance.  If a dispute was a simple matter of facts, or something that proved to be not much of a dispute after all, then lawyers would not even be needed.  It is preciscely becuase that large expanses of grey can exist between extremes of black and white that individuals skilled in weighing various factors, and advocating for a position that is supported by the same factors, becomes necessary from time to time.

The anti-scamblog arguments, as evidenced by the last comment section, still seem to fall into a handful of broad categories:

*  The scamblogs are just plain ignorant;
*  The scamblogs oversimplify the true state of affairs;
*  The scamblogs are insolent;
*  The scamblogs are a bunch of losers whose message should be discarded, Because Reasons.

What is interesting about all this is that these broad arguments were the exact same arguments leveled at the scamblogs almost ten years ago, if not earlier.  While it is unfortunately difficult now to link to  sites such as Third Tier Reality, one thing I distinctly remember from Nando's inaugural post was the debate that raged in that comments section.  The long and the short of it is this:  nothing much has changed between late 2018 and late 2008, at least as regards the anti-scamblog comments.  In 2013-2014 or so they died down, I would argue because the truth of the movement had been made manifest, but now that a new crop of students are applying who perhaps are not as acquainted with the message, the cycle begins anew.  This excellent post on the history of the scamblog movement is still informative.

--more below the fold--

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A New Year Approaches, With Increased Applicant Rates

As discussed previously, LSAC's new and improved data reporting comes on the heels of a significant increase in applicants for 2019, some 15% more compared to this time last year.

For those who care about the legal landscape, the current market, or the fate of future students, this is difficult to see as anything but troubling news.  For the Cartel, happy times are seemingly here again, as we are seeing data that goes back nearly to 2012, compared to the nadir of 2014-2015.

As per usual, the Cartel seems to miss the overall point - people are attending law school for laudable but unrealistic reasons for the most part.  And rather that discussing what is realistic (e.g. how many lawyers can the economy support), the conversation goes sideways into notions of the way things "ought to be":

Data show that large numbers of students entering law school say that they hope to work in the public interest, but then end up working for large firms instead — though debate rages about when precisely they defect and why. Debt burden is one explanation, but informal expectation and institutional pressures are probably more to blame. And the realities of this "public-interest drift" fit very poorly with the self-advertised rationales about how legal training in its current form serves social justice.

Debt-burden is the entire explanation, once one is removed from discussions surrounding the first-world problems of Yale or the remainder of the T14.  Whether one is working towards social change or something as pedestrian as merely trying to put food on the table, the "realities" are that we live and move and have our being within a market economy.  State and local government, to say nothing of foundations, are apparently unable to absorb the costs necessary to engage in the desired amount of public-interest work, which in turn asks struggling students to work for free.  While no doubt idealism plays a role, the crushing of said idealism forces many, many law students to do what they have to.  Perhaps if law schools charged less...?

To respond to this disheartening situation, law schools will need to consider how to reset their missions for those students no longer able to suspend disbelief about how their ideals and their training fit together.  The point is not to reorient law schools entirely. Their primary task will always be the production of lawyers for the bar — a core commitment with which other agendas will necessarily fit uncomfortably. Law schools will never be staging grounds for fundamental social change when they are organized to advise private dispute resolution and administer extant forms of public justice.

And a certain amount of hypocrisy and rationalization is the essence of most people’s ethical lives in all times and places, especially when those people are at the top of unjustifiable hierarchies. "The important thing," a moralist once remarked, "is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments." Ethically pure law schools are not an option. An age in which American elites have remedied some exclusions while leaving many others intact or even more entrenched, and in which "meritocracy" is a rationalization for unprecedented elite ascendancy, is one we have to inhabit indefinitely. Sure, it is hypocritical when Yale Law students, each and every one of whom chose to enroll because the institution is at the top of the rankings, indict the school’s proximity to power and prestige. But nobody is above hypocrisy.

This is at least a fair indictment of the situation.  We of the scamblog movement, however, have never "suspend[ed] disbelief about how their ideals and their training fit together."  That fact falls squarely upon the hypocrisy (recently admitted, above, now that it is late 2018) of the Law School Cartel.  In fact, perhaps we scamblogs were too brazenly cynical, but one of the planks of our movement is that law schools have sold pipe-dreams for decades in order to induce a flood of naive students to march to their economic (and perhaps idealistic) doom.  Sadly, the above data reflect the beginnings of a new flood, and I expect we will hear more "tsk, tsk" lamentations not about the fact that the gristmill exists in the first place, but that the gristmill is still not sufficiently social-justice-oriented-enough to allow the Cartel to regard itself in the mirror at night. 

What if the truth of law schools is that their main social function, aside from producing the next round of elites, is that they buy off those who initially doubt that perpetuating elites is what law schools ought to be doing? If law schools faced this haunting question more routinely, they might resolve to demystify the law as a first step to reinvigorating democratic life. This would matter not just for the ethical conundrums of a handful of elites, but also to the country and the world.

A certainly worrying and justifiable conclusion, but I maintain that this hand-wringing pales in comparison to the thousands upon thousands of law graduates bound to modern-day indentured-servitude with few to no prospects.  While this may not occur around the halls of Yale, it occurs on a daily basis at scores and scores of law schools around the country.  Let's address the most egregious aspects of this practice first, and then turn our attention to the "elites" and their practices within the Halls of Power at Yale and Harvard and the social-justice-cooling effects there may be.

"Elites," I note, that are themselves complicit in the detestable practices at said scores and scores of law schools around the country.  The mal-administered "democracy" of the law student applicant cycle appears to begin anew, with Nothing Learned as to its effects or consequences.  0Ls, pay heed.

Monday, December 17, 2018

A look at the ABA's 509 disclosures for 2018

Every year around this time, the ABA requires those law schools that have received its "accreditation" (scarcely distinguishable from a rubber stamp) to produce a "Standard 509 Information Report" presenting some basic data, notably on the class that entered in the autumn. We at Outside the Law School Scam read a sampling of 509 reports, principally but not exclusively from über-toilets. The reports can be downloaded here. Our friends at Law School Transparency have also updated their data in light of these reports.

As you might expect, the scamsters' effectively unaudited data don't reveal much. There are, however, a few highlights:

Thomas Jefferson enrolled only 59 students this year, of whom 52 were "Enrollees from Applicant pool" and 7 were "Other first-year enrollees". How exactly a person is admitted otherwise than from the applicant pool is not clear to me. Are people abducted off the street? Does Thomas Jefferson, like Harvard's undergraduate college, maintain a "Z list" of people admitted on the condition that they first spend a year lounging on the French Riviera? Anyway, 59 is a long way down from last year's figure of 241. It provides further evidence that Thomas Jefferson is not long for this world. Note also that a sixth of last year's 1Ls failed out (the ABA prettifies this category with the term "academic attrition") and that a tenth of the class transferred to other (unidentified) schools. Not a single person transferred to Thomas Jefferson.

Of the two remaining InfiLaw über-toilets, Arizona Summit enrolled 17 students—surprisingly many for a school that is not offering classes. That's below the number of full-time professors. Sixteen percent of last year's 1Ls failed out, and 41% transferred elsewhere. Florida Coastal, the other InfiLaw make-believe law school, enrolled only 60 students, down from 106 last year and 808 in 2010. A third of the 1Ls failed out.

North Carolina Central University won the ABA's favor this year by imposing a minimum LSAT score of 142. That measure, allegedly aimed at quality, sent first-year enrollment from 166 last year to 103 this year. Although almost half of the students got no discount at all, 11 students received "More than full tuition", which to Old Guy sounds suspiciously like a means of buying students. Discounts, after all, cannot exceed 100% of tuition; beyond that, the law school must dish out real money. How many grand does it take to bribe someone to sign up at North Carolina Central? Bear in mind that the LSAT score at the 75th percentile is only 150 (below the median for the entire pool of LSAT-takers) at this über-toilet, so apparently it wouldn't take much to cash in. I would not recommend attending for less than $20k per year in cash, but many people who otherwise would have ended up at some Tier 5 toilet instead take Tier 6 North Carolina Central plus a few dollars.

Cooley (listed as "Western Michigan University") still brings up the rear on the LSAT, with at least a quarter of its entering class at 139 or lower. Enrollment went up significantly this year, even though most students got no discount on the astronomical annual tuition of $53k.

Appalachian, that Cooley of the Blue Ridge, saw its enrollment nearly double to 73 last year, but this year was down to 50.

The University of North Dakota is as shitty as ever, with its LSAT score of 150 at the 75th percentile. First-year enrollment declined from 71 to 62, but 28 students transferred in: 25 from Arizona Summit, 2 from Cooley, 1 from Thomas Jefferson. The migration from Arizona Summit to North Dakota was perhaps one of the more bizarre events of the 2018 scam-year. Now more than a tenth of the entire student body at the U of North Dakota is freshly arrived from Arizona Summit. Presumably these Summitites hang around together and bitch about how much better things were at their former, effectively defunct law school. It must make for peculiar dynamics at that juridical Mecca of the Peace Garden State. Perhaps the U of North Dakota is preparing to scoop up the jetsam of Thomas Jefferson and other dying über-toilets.

Please share anything of interest that you discover in the 509 reports or elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ontario rejects proposal for new law school

While law schools have been springing up all over the US, the Canadian province of Ontario has had the sense to reject a plan to create another law school in Toronto.

Ryerson University proposed to open a law school as early as 2020. "Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrilee Fullerton reviewed the proposal and concluded, based on a number of factors including a surplus of students for articling positions, modest wage growth and projected job openings, that another law school in the province isn’t needed." Articling positions are apprenticeships required in Canada for admission to the bar, and for years there have not been enough articling positions for the graduates seeking them; Ontario even had to introduce an alternative to articling, the "Law Practice Program", for the many graduates who could not find articles. And those who do become lawyers may still struggle to find work: just as in the US, too many new lawyers are chasing too few jobs.

In light of the evident fact that there are already too many law schools in Canada, Ryerson had promised to "differentiate itself with what it described as a bold, new approach to legal education". Oh, really? Where have I heard that before? Every new law school claims "a bold, new approach to legal education", but not a single one delivers. Furthermore, changes to "legal education" will not address the shortage of jobs, which militates against opening yet another law school.

Ryerson's "aim was to focus on equity and diversity, while being a 'champion for ordinary citizens and driver for small businesses'". This too is a standard canard of the law-school scam. Fostering "equity and diversity" in this context amounts to luring racialized people into a trap of unemployment, for the benefit of overpaid hackademic scamsters. And the bit about "ordinary citizens" and "small businesses" refers to the common but false assertion that lawyers can make a living by serving people who cannot afford legal services. Yes, millions of people go without the legal help that they need—because they can't or won't pay for it. Serving such people is no way to make money.

Ryerson's would-have-been toilet needed funding that the provincial government was unwilling to provide. Apparently the provincial government also rejected the proposal to "bridge the gap by charging higher fees".

So Ryerson's proposed toilet law school was unneeded, unaffordable, and useless. What's not to like?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Tale of Two Feasibility Studies

With the demise of Valpo apparently on the way, it is interesting to reflect on the change of tone between Indiana Tech's feasibility study (ITLS) proposing the need for a law school in 2011 and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's feasibility study (THEC) denying the need for a law school in 2018.
While it is somewhat difficult to draw up a line-by-line comparison between the two studies, as each study chooses to highlight different points, you can certainly hear the difference between a "sales job" on the one hand and a "pragmatic denial" on the other.  This should not be surprising, as hind-sight has proved to be more than 20-20 given the years that have transpired.  While the Law School Cartel has not been completely shaken up, the toll that has been exacted has shown who was swimming naked when the tide did go out, and who is still treading water
Here are a few examples:
*  Comparing Legal Outcomes
The After the JD Longitudinal study of legal careers sponsored by the American Bar Foundation (ABF) and the NALP Foundation provides encouragement that student loans are a good investment, even for those who take lower-paying jobs when they graduate…[i]t first surveyed them in 2002 and again in 2007…[i]n the 2007 survey, 20 percent of respondents had paid off their loans in the preceding five years, and median debt had fallen by $20,000 to $50,000…[i]t appears that most law students do not pay high law school tuitions seeking a pure economic return on investment.  Rather they see their education as the gateway to meaningful, interesting careers (p.16,17) (data from before the Great Recession but cited by the study in 2011.  Ed.)

At full (enrollment) capacity, there is roughly a balance between the numbers graduation from law school in Tennessee and project employment opportunities, but: (1) the occupation projections are predicated on “full employment,” which is proven overly optimistic in past cycles, (b) It is not clear that the current 10-year projections on employment of lawyers fully comprehends the impact of disruptive technology, particularly artificial intelligence, on the quantity, nature and location lf legal services work, (c) while the current occupational projects may comprehend the fact that 10 percent of lawyers work past the age of 65, it is less certain how the methodology takes into account legislative initiatives in Tennessee to reduce the need for legal services, such as tort and workers compensation reform (p.4)
Already, you can hear the pitch - look, even though its expensive, look at the great results!  Debt isn't so bad after all!  Plus, who can put a price on an interesting career?  Seven years later, the THEC is saying "not so fast, let's look at the data.  There is optimism bias here, past performance does not guarantee future results, and there is market pressure."  
More below the fold:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

US-style legal hackademia infests Indian law school

We have justly lampooned hackademic scholarshit about "the open road" and the alleged intersection of law and hip-hop. Like so much other foolishness that starts in the US, the phenomenon of pretentious nonsense from legal hackademia has spread to the other side of the world: the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata is offering a course on law and Harry Potter.

Those who enroll in this ridiculous course are "expected [to] have already read all the books at least twice, if not more". Old Guy hasn't read one page of any Harry Potter book and doesn't intend to, but he wonders about this requirement. Is Harry Potter really so profound and complex that it—unlike all other texts assigned in law school—must be read at least twice?

The course is "intended to encourage students to think critically about Indian social problems" such as discrimination, torture, slavery, and religious strife. Infantile shiterature, we are expected to believe, provides a neutral framework for exploring these problems. I doubt very much whether any Critical Thinking™ will occur in an environment that can't pull it off without invoking the genre of puerile fantasy.

The forty-student course quickly filled up. Presumably it is viewed as an easy way to get a good grade without having to read anything: just show up for class, spout some platitudes about Indian social problems, write (probably with a crayon) a couple of pages on sophisticated philosophical conclusions derived from the exalted books, and collect an A. The popularity of such foolishness, however, is no mark of merit. Nor will it be of much help on the bar exam or in legal practice.