Monday, March 4, 2013

A view from the bottom

I am a K-JD who is attending a 4th tier law school on a full-tuition scholarship, and will incur exactly $0 educational debt because of my parents being thrifty and generous with their middle-class income (I also graduated debt free from a small private college through scholarships, the money I made, and my parents).

I learned of the law school scam a little over a year ago when I stumbled onto LawProf's blog.  Before I had been relatively happy; bored of the classes but okay with my new friends and grades.  I don't remember what the newest post was on Inside the Law School Scam, but the implications terrified me.  Being more amenable to the right-wing/conservative views on economic issues, I had read about and even written on the higher education tuition bubble, but I had never questioned the value of attending law school, even (especially) for free.  After a few weeks of sizable internal struggle, I decided that because I wanted to be a prosecutor for a small to mid-sized town, it made more sense for me to graduate debt free than to transfer to a better school (for whatever reason dropping out altogether was not part of the equation).

What is interesting about the very bottom of law schools, from a general perspective, is that things have been bad before the Great Recession, at least since the 1990's when tuition really began to increase, if not earlier.  They were able to skate by for a variety of reasons that many of you are familiar with: much of the focus has always been on the elite law schools, they kept their tuition a couple levels under the elites, and the overall okay economies of the Clinton and Bush administrations (aside from the hiccup in the mid 90's and the crash in 2007) masked the struggles of their graduates.

Because of their lesser sophistication of the legal education situation (though that has been rapidly changing, at least in my school: a 2L class shirt recently had text that said: "I spend $150,000 on law school and all I got was this lousy shirt"), I think the views of those from the bottom of the law school pack have been underrepresented in these discussions (notwithstanding the excellent and entertaining Third Tier Reality and others).

LSAC applicant statistics have shown the largest decline in test-takers among those who score in the highest percentiles, and commentators even outside the profession have noted that "the wrong people are applying to law school."

This masks the incredible pressure that schools like the one I attend are facing.  Even though there are more people percentage-wise not scoring in the top percentile of the LSAT, numerically there is a much larger decline among the lower-scoring LSAT takers, and this presents an existential problem among those in the lower tiers.

How are they going to maintain their "elite" model while dealing with involuntarily smaller incoming classes?  They are going to be further squeezed through the "transfer game" (my school's 1L class seems to lose 25-35 students a year).  If the trend continues to this year then I have estimated that the next incoming class (of 2016) will be half of what my 2L class is (2014) currently, adjusted for their transfer loss.

There is not an endowment, the alumni do not give, LSAT medians have gone down, and there is close to an open-admission policy already.  So what is happening that is of interest here that could be said to be in response to this crisis?

(1) a very small tuition increase (it might actually be a very small decrease when adjusted for inflation), and (2) retooling the curriculum so students get more feedback, are better prepared for the bar, and get more practical experience.  I think 15-20 years ago a focus on very small tuition increases and a much better curriculum would have been laudable and even effective.  Now it just seems like they are rearranging the cell blocks on the Death Star, while the cynic in me wonders if the curriculum changes are designed to boost bar passage rates a little in preparation for a 10% increase in acceptances.

The view from the bottom is not pretty, and especially so for expensive, private law schools who place less than half their graduates in real lawyer jobs.  Vermont Law School is just the first of the proton torpedoesThe proposal to merge the two Rutgers law schools is the second.

Many of these expensive, low-ranked, and poorly performing law schools are going to have to close.  But some do, according to Professor Bill Henderson, provide a clear niche by placing better than many tier one law schools.  The subject for a future post will be to lay out a few paths for those schools to bring the costs into line with their credential.  Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the schools on the bottom end.  Though a lot of talk is about Columbia's massive transfer acceptance, Georgetown's relatively poor placement rates for its supposed prestige, or Virginia hiring 20% of its graduates, the real action is at the lower tiers.  Keep your eyes peeled for the next salvo.

43 comments:

  1. "...rearranging the cell blocks on the Death Star..."

    Star-Wars-updated-Titanic-reference FTW.

    One would have rationally hoped for a less-harsh market correction, but as it stands one can't let it go on as it has for this long and expect no consequences. Here's to more proton torpedoes in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Luv the scifi refs!

    The bottom is where the action is. (In law school reform, not anything else. I don't swing that way. With guys. Girls? Sometimes. Er, I'll shut up now.)

    Too much attention is placed on a handful of prestigious schools that are now revealing themselves to be toilets. But below those schools are 150 schools that have worse horror stories. But since newspapers are full of journalists from those top schools, guess who gets coverage? If my local TTT had a naked day where we all attended class painted green, we might get a thirty second piece of coverage on the local news with the crew still using betamax cameras or something.

    The real underside of this scam is hidden from national media. It's our job to put it right where it belongs. We're just as important as the students at the top prestigious schools.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The GW Law School’s version of “Saturday Night Live,” called “Law Revue,” sold itself as a show of snark and humor ... In front of administrators, faculty and fellow students, the actors despaired at their chances of securing legal jobs. This was a cry for help. What began with humor ended in bitterness ... with Interim Dean Gregory Maggs sitting in the audience, the message was direct and clear: Despite all the programs, initiatives, info sessions and resources, students are scared. The administration has a duty to respond. .

      http://www.gwhatchet.com/2013/03/04/alex-schneider-gw-law-must-innovate-to-help-its-students/

      Delete
  3. I don't think you understand what a "percentile" is. It is literally impossible for the "percentage of test-takers in the top percentile" to go down. If the test-taking class is that dumbed-down, the new top percentile might be 150. But it will always be one percent. By definition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You sound fun!

      Delete
    2. He may be confused, but what he means is that there is a larger percentage drop in applications from high percentile scorers, e.g. 170+, than among the mouth breathers 155-.

      But, yeah, percentile/percentage confusion in the post.

      Delete
  4. The harm of the scam disproportionately affects those at the bottom, without question. This links in to a recent post here about where we should focus ourselves. The bottom is the obvious choice. All law schools are scams, but some are scams on the level of "real estate investing infomercial" and some are on the level of "Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme".

    Start at the bottom and work up. A scandal at Harvard might make headline news, but good luck finding one. There are countless low hanging pieces of scam fruit at lower tier schools though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "The harm of the scam disproportionately affects those at the bottom, without question. This links in to a recent post here about where we should focus ourselves."

    1. I think the posts are being made too quickly because from my experience a blog post on the front page is the one that gets read the most, and it takes time for everyone to read it-maybe 4 days to a week. (i.e. Nando posts about once a week)

    2. Yes, the premise of "Third Tier Reality" is the best focus and message to send, and the very mostest and bestest message is to warn and to constantly suggest that given the whirlwind of controversy by now about the life and soul destroying consequences of nondischargeable 6 figure toxic debt, it is better to sit it out and wait and see for a few years.

    I know that if I had to do it all over again, and knowing what I know now, I would have never gone to a lower tier law school.

    Nowhere on any of the scamblogs has it been said that some people don't make it and do well in law, but there is the long ignored flipside.

    3. IBR is a ghastly and inhumane slap in the face to people that are really and truely bankrupt and suffering from all of the corollary effects of the debt to income ratio.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "1. I think the posts are being made too quickly because from my experience a blog post on the front page is the one that gets read the most, and it takes time for everyone to read it-maybe 4 days to a week. (i.e. Nando posts about once a week)"

      I think that is a very good point. However, LawProf kept a busy posting schedule (5 a week), and his is the site that we are trying to emulate. I do think that we should limit them to one a day though. We will have some kinks as we get used to working together but thank you for your comments and feedback.

      Delete
    2. Maybe it depends on the size of the reading public?

      Campos did post about passing the 1 million views mark in seemingly record time, and later the 2 million views mark.

      There probably is a fraction (large or small I don't know) of the audience that followed Campos that were academics and/or people unaffected by the scam but who were delighted to say: "Tut tut" over the whole mess, and chat about it and from a safe and well paid distance. So maybe faster and more posts proved the merrier for ILSS?

      If not, then Mack the K or whatever he called himself will grace all of us with his regal presence and thoughts.

      We will see.

      Delete
    3. LawProf, posted 5 days a week, but often his posts were short comments on news articles, e-mails he received or other blogs. To make this cite useful, in addition to trying to produce continuing (interesting) commentary, the authors might consider including an aggregation of "law school scam" news. You may get more repeat page visits if people came to rely on the site for information about the latest law school application data, law school rumors, and other random information on the market for lawyers and the plight of students. I enjoyed reading LawProf's stuff, but it was a great source of information on the latest happenings. Now that his blog is done, I wouldn't know where to look to find these things. . . .

      Delete
    4. Above the law is a good one. This blog is attempting to fill LawProf's gap. You can count on new law school news developments to be covered here.

      Delete
    5. "You can count on new law school news developments to be covered here."

      I'm glad.

      Everything that happens, happens for a reason in the big plan, as they say, and so I just have a feeling that the groundwork laid by all of the blogs will not be for naught or in vain.

      LawProf will be back is my feeling too.

      How long can a system that cannot be defended, be defended?

      Also the Education Bubble And Scam Report Blog is a great resource.

      Delete
    6. I see no reason to post more than one piece per day. The goal is to step it up from what Campos started, is it not?

      Why post less? Why make this place seem more inactive and apathetic than before? We need to be posting more, not less. I'm sorry that you feel you need a day or more to digest each piece fully, but don't impose your slowness on everyone else who laps this stuff up.

      Delete
    7. Type above in first sentence. I meant that I see no reason to limit posting to one piece per day. More is better.

      Delete
  6. I left this comment on Cryn Johannsen's Blog:

    Cryn:

    As you know, I am being stalked around the Internet by an extremely committed Anon and pretty sadistic person.

    He is highly intelligent, and seems young, and also bent on some purpose or goal or agenda.

    I have repeatedly asked him for his name, and he refuses to give it.

    He calls me a roach and ridicules and derides me because of my student loan debt, and because I live with my parents house, and does this over and over and over and over.

    He falsely claims that I do not work at all, or that I am unwilling to seek government employment, which he claims would solve all of my debt problems with federal student loans and absolutely discharge my 340K of SL debt in 10 short years.

    Last night he said I was more or less sucking blood out of my parent's necks.

    Everybody knows that I am not Anon and so does he. And he will continue to throw some pretty cruel commentary my way.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if the 10:03 AM commenter is the same person that I have described above.

    I have no idea who he is or what his agenda is.

    All I want to do is find out who he is. As I say, I have asked many, many times for his name and situation, and with no results.

    Anyway, good luck with the book, and if I can help in any way as we discussed let me know.

    And to everyone else that is suffering from the shame and degradation of the whole situation, please take very careful care of your mental health.

    We are living in extraordinary historical and bankrupt times and with no way out it seems.

    John Koch
    AKA Painterguy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is related to the topic how?

      If your little adversary is that "intelligent," maybe you should take his advice?

      Delete
    2. @Kochroach,

      You ARE sucking blood out of your parents. Do you actually deny it?

      You know what you're like? You're like the guy who beats the shit out of his wife every night.

      When the neighbors intervene and tell you to stop, you get mad at them and say that you are shocked - shocked! - that they would have such a lack of respect for your poor wife's privacy.

      Then you walk back into the house and beat her up some more.

      Delete
    3. Painter and Mr. Infinity should both be banned. They both bring absolutely nothing to the table.

      Delete
    4. John, if you can't keep the posts somewhat on topic, will you please stop posting. I don't know who this anonymous person your always referring to is, but if you can't post anything intelligent, just read and move on. No ones out to get you!

      Delete
  7. On topic to today's post:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/04/a-new-civility-standard/

    Great comments. I guess Bri-Bri isn't as popular at the academic lunch table as he might think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guy's a total nob. I'm surprised Chicago tolerates him. He is insecure and a bully.

      He's in love with the academy, and believes that academics are somehow above the practical. While the true philosopher navel gazers might embrace reason for the sake of reason, someone forgot to tell Mr. Leiter that law is a profession, that law profs are categorized as members of a "professional school", and that the do-ers thus are superior to the thinkers in law.

      It's doubly true in law than it is in other professional schools (e.g., medicine, vet school, dentistry, divinity) as the law is a construct of men. There are no fundamental truths in law or grand answers. There are grand problems, and good insights, but you're not curing the plague or contemplating the truths of the universe, or even coming up with a stronger amalgam.

      Lawyers serve as advisors and advocates. This is what they do. Law faculty are supposed to train these future advisors and/or advocates on how to advise and advocate within the bounds of society's rules. The rules can change and be subject to interpretation, but they exist. That, Brian Leiter, is what law is. Take some notes as you might find this informative for your jurisprudential bullshit sessions (I mean, lectures on jurisprudence).

      No one really respects law professors. Lawyers do not. Judges certainly do not. True academics do not. The med and b-school faculty do not. The only people who respect law professors are undergraduate students and 1Ls. Everyone else thinks that they are full of shit.

      Delete
  8. I forgot to add that Mr. Infinity (do not underestimate him) is full of tricks, and assumes multiple identities and from both sides of the scamblogging issues and even was able to win the trust of the scambloggers and infiltrate Third Tier Reality as the Epic Fail Blog.

    BTW, "World Traveling Law Student" can also be interpreted as transient bum.

    Just a heads up to the blog authors.

    Please who are you anon?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that crafty devil. So everyone who criticizes you is automatically trying to "infiltrate" and destroy the scamblog movement?

      Well we can't have THAT.

      Allright, boys, clearly it's time for us to rally 'round the roach. Says nobody EVER!

      Delete
  9. TheValvolineDean PwnsAllLemmingsMarch 4, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    We need a Kerouac like road tale of The Valvoline Dean taking his federally student loan financed Mercedes AMG convertible from the seton hall law toilet in Newark, Nj to ritzy Short Hills. Then he can backslap and gladhand alums for donations. this is the new American road epic!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think the first low-end schools that will suffer are those located in major cities. I think there may be a need for such schools in rural, underserved areas so long as grads do not bail to urban areas hoping to compete with local grads. It's just not going to work.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You don't have to ban me. I'm going.

    And remember what I said about the anon stalker: he assumes multiple personalities and might even be posting pro scamblog comments.

    What was happening on the Campos blog was that the anon stalker was responding to comments that I didn't even make, but that sometimes sounded like me.

    And so, Campos did some house cleaning by deleting all reference to me, and in exchange I kept my word finally to not post on ILSS.

    Of course that agreement was out the window on the very last ILSS Post, where I was being brought up in the earliest of the comments, and moreso later, and so I felt that I should say something in reply.

    But for the record I have made some "normal" comments and they managed to go unsuspected by the anon stalker who knows my name but absolutely refuses to say who he is.

    Good luck with the new blog to everyone. I hope it will be effective. I assume the readership will be less, given that Campos was followed by many of his peers, many of whom were delighted to talk "at" a problem as if it were an abstraction.

    Many times my off topic silly jokes, such as the one about silly banjos baked in an apple pie, were out of concern for the deadly serious and sometimes uspetting mood, and I just wanted to lighten the atmosphere a little, just as the pics on TTR perform a similar function. Call it a dramatic device. (Roger Waters felt that his "Wall Album" was seriously flawed in retrospect because it had no comic element for balance.)

    Anyway, everyone came to Gatsby's house and drank his liquor and ate his food, but in the end no one came to Gatsby's funeral.

    At least this blog keeps his memory alive.

    Campos turned out all right at the end; it is what peyed on Campos, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams...


    Sincerely,

    The Painter, Compliance Manager, Insurance Salesman, Construction laborer, Telemarketer, Waiter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All these references to middle school literature. Aren't you living in your parents' house and eating THEIR food?

      Delete
  12. ^^^^Dammit! Typo. I meant "preyed"

    ReplyDelete
  13. Painter:

    In all seriousness, get a fucking grip.

    Do one of the following things:

    1 - Leave and never come back
    2 - Ask the guys who run this blog if you can join as a writer. At least that way your ramblings would be confined to your own, ignorable posts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. #1! For the love of God, choose #1.

      Delete
    2. Fuck you, cocksucker Anon.

      If I could beat you, your family, and your neighbors to death with a baseball bat, I WOULD.

      Delete
    3. @Moderator,

      So you delete my flawless rejoinder to the poop-sculpting pussy, but you leave his ball-less, impotent DEATH THREAT untouched?

      What's up with that? Maybe *I* should start threatening to file police reports too, obviously it gets results.

      The sculptor extraordinaire should be able to sink or swim on his own, although I rather expect that he FLOATS on the water, LOL.

      Delete
    4. Suuuure I did ...

      I'll give you this much. You've got ONE skill (besides the obvious sculpting ones): you can cry.

      I can't imagine what you said to Nando and the person who runs this blog. Remember that scene in "The Shining" where the huge wave of blood crashes out of the elevator? I imagine something similar happening to the moderator here, only it's a tidal wave of tears pouring out of your ENORMOUS cooter. The way you bitch, that thing probably IS the size of an elevator.

      Delete
    5. Haha, so you are going to drown everyone in your own menstrual blood? Is that what you are saying?

      Delete
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