Friday, March 8, 2013

The Mythology of the Elite

One of the worst problems with the collapsing law school scam complex, whether Fourth Tier toilets or First Tier factories, is the continued self-perpetuation of the most artificial hierarchies.  The rankings-worshippers need a non-journalistic publication like USNWR—which does not fact-check the information submitted by the law schools—to organize the toilets and factories, and having a law school ranked, say, number 50 looks much more impressive when 200 law schools exist rather than 50.  I can understand the nervousness of mid-ranked schools when the bottom falls out and the lowest schools close.  It leaves many other schools a few steps closer to the bottom.

This is more significant than it may sound at first.  After all, the current ranking system, in light of the current economic reality, provides a clear argument for closing the majority of law schools immediately.

As we all know, when it comes to adhering to the artificial law school hierarchy, all parts of the legal world have turned homogenous, from the Supreme Court to the local public defender’s office.  I remember the shock I felt during one of the presidential debates last year, which took place at a college that I had never heard of, when I discovered from a newscaster’s side comment that a not-too-distant Supreme Court Justice had graduated from this no-name university.  I had forgotten that until the last few decades, Supreme Court Justices and law partners came from diverse backgrounds, as they were chosen based on their supposedly distinctive careers, not on their membership in the exclusive Ivy-Club.  Now, a distinctive career matters little, and the major prerequisite for nomination to SCOTUS is a Yale-Harvard-Princeton degree and a prior federal judgeship (I do not see Elena Kagan’s role as Solicitor General and Dean of Harvard Law as a substantial deviation from this trend).

This hierarchical trend, grounded in the exclusivity of one’s law school, increasingly holds true at all levels of the lawyer food chain.  For example, law schools try to pack their faculties with as many T-5 graduates as possible (with the Ivies getting preference).  Most members of the faculty have never practiced law.  Last year, a younger law professor explained to me how his career advances each year.  He goes to a hotel in Washington DC for the annual Law Professor Beauty Pageant, where administrators from law schools sift through the applications of T-5 graduates with top 10% GPAs, read the abstracts of their latest law review articles, and attempt to assemble adjuncts that look like they will have the longest list of publications on their CVs within the next few years.  Eventually, those adjuncts with the longest lists of publications will compete for tenure track positions.

That’s it – that is the whole process for advancing up the law professor ladder!  No experience is important, least of all teaching experience.  The quality or popularity of one’s articles matter little.  The law schools only care about where a professor graduated, his class rank, and the number of publications on his CV.  In fact, the hiring administrators actively discourage people from publishing books, as this wastes time and space on the CV.  It is better to have a long list of numerous articles because, well, it looks more impressive than a shorter list of book publications.

Most of you are aware, I am sure, that many mid-ranked T1 schools (formerly known as T2) do not hire their own graduates as professors (nor do T3/T4 law schools).  In the past, a school would hire their own graduates after their litigation or commercial transaction careers began to wind down.  Now, a law school hiring committee only wants professors from a higher-ranked law school, as this creates prestige in social circles and boosts the rankings in USNWR.

This ridiculous system has made the law school faculties virtually homogenous.  It makes many of the T-5-graduate professors arrogant toward their non-T-5 students.  The hypocrisy of the lower-ranked first tier law schools, who will not let their own graduates near an open faculty position, exposes the scam in clear terms.  These schools pump out hundreds of lawyers a year, but they will never touch with a ten-foot-pole a single one of these graduates, regardless of their grades and subsequent careers.

Many years ago, I remember having dinner with a rich lawyer in Arizona, a friend of a relative, and he was telling me about how he worked his way into a partner job in his law firm.  He graduated from Arizona State University’s Law School in the 1970s.  As is typical of many boomers, he lectured me about how hard he worked, how different things were in his day, and how the average law graduate had a stronger work ethic.  Then, he told me that for the last 15 years, his firm only has hired new associates from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, NYU, and Columbia.

I asked him point blank: doesn’t that seem hypocritical?  You graduated from ASU – but you really would never interview another ASU graduate, even if he were the valedictorian?

He simply said, “No – not anymore.”

Perhaps I should’ve gotten a clue back then.  Of course, I thought that he was the atypical snob rather than a representation of the standard attitude of his generation (a generation in control of most of the legal profession at this point).

Instead, I thought that my interest in criminal law and my lack of interest in “getting rich” would insulate me from the snootiness of law firms, judicial clerkships, and academia.  Fat chance!

In the current employment wasteland created by the lawyer glut, many of the public defender and district attorney offices in urban areas use criteria that increasingly resembles a law firm resume screening process.  More and more, the incoming public defenders, the lawyers that other lawyers used to make fun of as bumbling rejects, now hail from the top third of their classes from T-14 schools.  The continuously dwindling state budgets, which causes the amount of prosecutor/defender jobs to remain static until employees resign or die, combined with the lawyer glut, has made these once-undesirable positions into a lucky catch for anyone that can pull off an interview.

This seems to be an inevitable, self-perpetuating cycle.  As all of these sectors of the legal world – from elected politicians to federal judges to law school professors to law firm partners to district attorneys to public defenders – continue on the road to homogeny, this narrow sector of the “elite” defines the hierarchy for the rest.  The T-5 crowd wants to hire other winners of the law school craps shoot – and so it will go.

This raises the most obvious question of all: why should we continue to have any law schools outside of the T-14 or T-25?  The numbers essentially show that the majority of graduates from below the T-25 will not have long-term legal careers, so why bother keeping these schools?  The continued existence of these law schools simply wastes huge amounts of taxpayer money, ruining the lives of thousands of lemmings a year and increasing the number of the permanently unemployable.

Even as some state bar associations are discussing the elimination of the third year of law school, it seems that at the same time those states are responding to the lawyer glut by increasing the minimum score needed for passing the bar exam (see Michigan, New York, California).  While I agree with proposals for limiting the number of new people admitted to the bar, I do not understand why the ABA does not simply create a rule – completely within its accreditation power – that no law school can admit any students with an LSAT score below 160 (or if they want to use the number that schools create by combining a student’s GPA and LSAT score, that would work as well).  This would block unprepared lemmings from law schools before they sign their lives away.

The issue is simple: why bother graduating huge numbers of JDs, only to prohibit many of them from obtaining a license after law school through ratcheted-up bar exams?

Yes, a minimum LSAT cutoff would cause many T3/T4 schools to close, as many of these schools fill 95% of each class with students scoring below the 50th percentile.  Yet, a minimum LSAT cutoff would benefit the legal profession by establishing actual standards, and it would protect graduates with limited academic talent from failure on the bar exam.

Now, obviously the ABA has been in league with the law school scam complex, accrediting any toilet school as long as the administration lined the pockets of the right people.  But if the right amount of pressure/exposure is placed on the ABA, the same pressure/exposure that forced them to revise the standards for law schools reporting employment/salary information, they might put commonsense gatekeeping standards in place to shut down the increasing number of open-admission law schools.

This proposed system would not change the legal hierarchy at all – it would simply reduce the number of losers in the law school rankings contest.  One must be a top graduate of the T-14 to meet the minimum qualifications for most legal careers, whether in a law firm, government agency, or elsewhere.  Essentially, LSAT scores already determine the prospective legal careers of 95% of students before they even apply to law schools.  The LSAT already divides students into reliable categories of winners and losers.  So why allow most of the loser schools to continue existing? 

Outside of the fabulous faculty salaries, the loser schools provide no financial benefit to society.  The one time firing of a few thousand law professors, caused by a new minimum LSAT cutoff score, is much less harmful to society than the continued overproduction of indebted, un-hirable young adults.  The fired law professors probably will have enough money to survive for the rest of their lives or until they find a second career.  This single purging of law schools is much more desirable than the continued generation of tens of thousands of the un-hirable lawyers with lifelong debt.


  1. Number 1!

    And jeez, dude, this is writing that is as good as, if not far better, than LawProf himself!

  2. Valuable point about the number of law schools. Like you say, most good schools see the increase in the number of TTT schools as a good thing, because being top 50 in 200, or 250, or 300, is far better than top 50 out of 100.

    And they know that those TTTs are not going to compete for jobs with their own grads at the top 50, so they say bring it on. Schools in the top 100 would gladly have 1000 schools in the country, as then they could claim they were a top 10% school and not just a top 50% school.

    1. Also, as noted in the article, graduates of the top schools staff the not-so-top schools.

      The more law schools, the more jobs for law professors from the T-14.

  3. It's all a numbers game. What a scam.

  4. I remember how James Adams at Third Tier Drake - and a few others - seemed to hold TTT students in contempt.

    Perhaps, this is akin to imperialists viewing the natives as inferior. It makes it easier to exploit or financially rape them.

  5. It was so awkward at my TTT to hear the lawprofs speak about their own Supreme Court clerkships and out the federal judiciary is made up of HYS graduates.

    TTTs spend a lot of time trying to convince the buying public that law grads from their schools are as good as the spiffy prestigious graduates. And yet when it comes time to hire faculty, they completely eschew that message and hire HYS.

    That hypocrisy alone should end any idea that the TTT graduates are really necessary or that the lawprofs at those schools are doing anything but pushing more people through the pepper grinder that they know have no prayer to practice law in a meaningful way.

    So yes, it would serve society if these institutions were closed instantly. BUT, there are more interested parties than the lawprofs. Guess which side of this the banks are on? See the banks - those faceless things that run the damned country - have bonds and loans outstanding that they themselves need paid, and they hate it when the truth about formerly-profitable businesses comes out.

    That said, there is no reason not to have an established LSAT/GPA cutoff. 150 seems about the level where there's a huge drop in cognition and ability to think analytically, and it would probably be low enough to remove any antitrust issues.

    As to GPA, they need to adjust it based on school attended and major. The fact that law school reporting equates a 3.7 in electrical engineering at MIT with a 3.7 in feminist sociology from Southern North Dakota Tech is asinine. I would suggest a more sophisticated version of the following rough cutoffs:

    2.0 for anyone studying math, science, engineering at an elite school in those fields (if you have to ask, it's not).
    2.25 for anyone studying those fields at a flagship public or other notable nationally-known private school.
    2.5 for anyone else studying math, science engineering; anyone studying any other subject at an elite school in that field
    2.75 for anyone studying anything else at a flagship public or nationally-recognized private school
    3.0 for anyone studying crap at a random school with no national recognition.

    if you can't get a 3.0 studying political science at God Knows Where State, you have no business enrolling in law school.

    1. Does LSDAS not weight these things? If they do, I'm guessing that it affects GPAs only superficially.

    2. If USN&WR were really smart, they would somehow tie it to their undergrad rankings. Something like, a GPA from the number one-ranked school is reduced by one basis point (.01), a GPA from the number two-ranked school is reduced by two basis points, a GPA from the number one hundred school is reduced by a full point, etc.

  6. Higher Ed is one of the most predictable, stable investments one can make. As an investor, that is, not as a student. With the constant message that higher degrees equals higher lifetime earnings (lie?) and the fact that banks make bank from these government backed fail proof loans, what's not to like from an institutional perspective? Screw the students. Plenty more of those dumb fish in the sea for the next year.

  7. Voluntary indentured servitude.

  8. Interesting article, a minimum LSAT would be the easiest way the ABA could get rid of over 100 law schools.

    That being said, that's pretty unlikely to happen as long as some URM groups have much lower scores than whites and asians. I believe the median LSAT of blacks is 143.

  9. Still avoiding the main issue (too many grads)

    1. That was a good article by the former K&S partner, thanks for the link. He sees the issue - too many law schools - and blasts the deans for trying to divert attention from the true problem.

  10. Blah. It is all Bathos

    After Campos and ILSS, and then the sudden surprise way Campos got the hook, and/or suddenly dropped through the stage floor via a secret hidden trap door, this blog is all bathos and the postings are way too fast and with not much commentary.

    Look, if you people are too afraid to come out in the open and talk with Brian Leiter, I am offering to do so.

    I won't discuss you guys. Just me. Because it is all about ME ME ME ME!

    Me and Leiter can maybe grin many grinny grins, and with many a wheezy laugh, poke each other in the ribs with our elbows and discuss this post.

    I have even invited the anon Jo Jo the idiot circus boy along for the debate.

    What would yose people do without me?

    Leave it to me.

    John Koch

    (My one a day post BTW)

    1. Without you? Um, we'd have a better blog?

      Go ahead and meet with Leiter. Maybe you can compare notes on how to identify all your critics by name, since you're so obsessed with that.

      I don't know what you think he'll tell you. Clearly you aren't interested in taking advice. Maybe he will hand you a treasure map? No, even that would be too much work for you. Just cut to the chase and ask him to give you a check for 500 large.

    2. "We?" You just said yesterday that you were not a part of this Mr. Infinity.

    3. Um, no. I suggested that the moderator save his blog (whose comments are already dwindling) by simply blocking your IP address.

      The problem with you is that you think the hundreds of people who hate you are all one person.

    4. I love it. I got him to say "Um"

      That's the world traveling transient bum for you.

      The cowardly bum that says "Um"

    5. Hey moderator, time for you to shit or git. Rename this site the Paintroach Blog and begin the evacuation. Or block the roach's IP address.

      It's that simple.

    6. Why can;t this person just say who he is?


      Go ahead and block me.

      In fact, if I am not blocked by tomorrow morning I will have no respect for youse all.

      I gave the moderator my IP address. So block me and let the anon person win.

      I have asked him about 20 times for his Identity, and he refuses to give it.

      Why? Why is he hiding?

      Please, just say who you are.

      And as everyone knows, I am in the public and not anon.

      John Koch
      Long Island, NY

    7. Do it. Block the roach. It's now officially unanimous, even the roach itself is in favor.

  11. Let's make graduating 3Ls fight lions, panthers, and bears in a coliseum at graduation. Those who survive get to join the bar.

  12. "The one time firing of a few thousand law professors, caused by a new minimum LSAT cutoff score, is much less harmful to society than the continued overproduction of indebted, un-hirable young adults."

    Hear, hear! Off with their heads. The majority of deans and faculty (don't forget deans) are lazy and underworked while possessing a healthy sense of entitlement. They deserve the heave-ho. Let them pound the pavement for jobs if they think they're such hot shit.

  13. The number of schools closing needs to be tied to the law job market. The law jobs market is only going to get grimmer and grimmer. Predictive coding will gobble up most doc review positions. Anything that can be, will be outsourced. Online transactional products will eat up attorney market share. Right now, there is roughly one job for every two law grads each year. As mentioned, job market will get worse, not better. Plus, many initial jobs, including big law jobs, end and a number these attorneys don't ever get back into the game--eventually finding non-law employment. In any event, the days of the "versatile" law degree and the three years for humanities lost souls to find themselves are over, thank god. In the future it needs to be a much shorter roster of schools offering much better prospects. As noted in the posting, it would be better to implement painful measures (closures, layoffs) in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, tenure complicates this. I'm confident that ways will be found to circumvent or simply not honor tenure. It's untenable and will hold entire institutions back. Do you hear that faculty? Many of you will be unemployed soon. Seriously.

  14. For those of you who have not been following, Prof. Campos is still fighting the good fight over at Faculty Lounge. He laying into the admins there about disclosing IP address to Leiter. The man is on a mission and I love it. Who knew the internet could free these "refined" people to be so scandalous.

    1. I think everyone is still waiting for a denial or explanation from Dan filler. I know I am. He seems to be a total jackass lacking any self-awareness concerning what an unhygienic dipshit he is--Leiter and this joker are peas in a pod. They wouldn't last one day out of academia.

  15. A powerful and beautiful post.

    Well done!!

  16. For those you of who keep responding to that annoying poster... Don't. If no one acknowledges him his comments will go away. Or at least we won't be talking to him.

  17. "If you can't get a law firm job, you can always get a public sector position, due to frequent turnover and low wages."

    Does anybody remember this bit of scamming advice, which was once almost as pervasive as the "versatility" myth?

    Actually, maybe twenty years ago or even ten, there was just a wisp of truth to it. In the trenches of many areas of public sector law, there was (and is) a healthy disrespect for the name on your diploma, for law school grades, and for the opinions of law professors who wouldn't know the difference between a courtroom and a faculty lounge. So if you were very lucky and caught somebody's eye, you could take your diploma from a no-name school and still have a satisfying legal career.

    No longer. Now you have public sector austerity at all levels that has taken on a cast of permanence. Job openings are less frequent. Rounds of layoffs (and salary and hiring freezes) are far more frequent. The same job opening that might have generated 10-15 applications now generates several hundred. And among those several hundred will be applications from experienced attorneys willing to work for entry level wages.

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  19. They have T2 schools so that some of the T1 graduates will have jobs.

    They have T3 to employ graduates of T2 and T1.

    They have T4 to employ graduates of T3, T2, and T1.

    It's a pyramid scheme.

    Each person who teaches a tier or two or three below where he graduated is mentoring a generation who can't aspire to his position. But, he is employed.

    This is the same in all grad school. The MIT PhD chemists are teaching at State U. Where do the State U chemistry PhDs go? Not into academia. Yet, the PhD is essentially an academic degree. What do they do with it?