Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nothing funny this week...

Sorry guys, I’ve got nothing funny for you this week. I’ve been discouraged from toying with Brian Leiter and his friends, so the continued disclosure of the contents of his personal email account will have to wait. Some good stuff in there, too.  Maybe later.

My post this week relates to the letter to the ABA from the “Coalition of Concerned Colleagues”, a group of law professors who penned a letter to the ABA to kind of, sort of, perhaps politely hint that they’d like the ABA to do something to reform legal education; they’re not sure what, but yeah, they want to jump on the scam bandwagon too, just not calling it a scam in case their colleagues get angry with them.

The key paragraph of the letter is the last one, which is this:

Legal education cannot continue on the current trajectory. As members of a profession committed to serving the public good, we must find ways to alter the economics of legal education. Possible changes include reducing the undergraduate education required for admission to three years; awarding the basic professional degree after two years, while leaving the third year as an elective or an internship; providing some training through apprenticeship; reducing expensive accreditation requirements to allow greater diversity among law schools; building on the burgeoning promises of internet-distance education; changing the economic relationship between law schools and universities; altering the influence of current ranking formulas; and modifying the federal student loan program. As legal educators, it is our responsibility to grapple with these issues before our institutions are reshaped in ways beyond our control.

A good start, and anybody asking for change should be welcomed. But is this really their perception of what needs to be done? The suggestions miss the absolute mother of all problems: the fact that law schools are dumping twice as many grads into the market as there are jobs (and the fact that this is supply problem, not a demand problem; it’s easier to reform the supply than create additional demand.)

Let me repeat that. It clearly has not sunk in for some people:


Now, I understand that these suggestions are coming from law professors, all of whom have a vested interested in maintaining the current state of affairs in law schools (i.e. dream jobs for themselves). But how can they miss the point so badly?

Their suggestions have the effect of making law school more attractive, not less attractive.  Lowering the admission requirements even more than they are now by not even requiring an undergrad degree? More applicants.  A basic professional degree after two years?  More applicants.  Reducing accreditation requirements?  More law schools!  Allowing online education?  More applicants.  Modifying student loan programs?  More applicants.

No no no no NO!  More applicants equals more lawyers.  The market cannot bear the number of grads right now, so how on earth is it expected to cope with even more?  Sure, some of those grads would have less debt, but an unemployed lawyer is still an unemployed lawyer.

But more applicants also equals more job security for law professors.

The bottom line remains the same.  Schools must go on an applicant diet, not an applicant binge.  We are suggesting that law schools slim down by going on a low calorie diet, trimming down, reducing their intake, and allowing law grads to find jobs.  The professors are suggesting that instead of hitting Weight Watchers, they hit the Golden Corral, feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of law applicants.

Which leads to a disturbing conclusion: perhaps the efforts of these professors will actually harm students more than if law schools simply did nothing to reform themselves? It cannot be denied that their suggestions for reform do nothing to address the actual problem of an oversupply of law graduates (which implies an oversupply of law professors in the system). They instead strengthen law schools, provide job security for professors, and make it look like the system has changed; a dangerous outcome. Yet another generation of students will flock to this new, improved legal education system, only to be churned out on the other end with less debt, but more competition for the few legal jobs that remain.

The law school scam movement was started by students. We’re the ones who see the hardships first hand, from the trenches. We’re the ones living the nightmare. And we need to maintain control over the debate. While outside participants are always welcome, the message must be unified and they must understand that there is only one workable solution: significantly fewer law graduates. So blogs such as this one, and those listed on the right hand side of the page, must be supported. We need comments. We need regular hits. We need publicity. We need participation from everyone. Otherwise we just leave a vacuum that is filled with the kind of fluff contained in the letter from the Coalition of Concerned Colleagues.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting which professors signed the letter.  None come from schools that are not at or near the upper end of the rankings.  The low-ranked scam schools were either not invited to this elite party, or they chose not to respond.


  1. And Cooley is opening a new law school campus with Western Michigan University. WTF? More supply? The student loan pipeline needs to be turned off. Now.

  2. If altered properly, "modifying the federal student loan program" as they propose could solve a lot of the market failures here...

    1. I agree.

      So why didn't they say that?

      It's simple. It really is. CAP FEDERAL LOANS FOR LAW STUDENTS AT [INSERT SENSIBLE LEVEL]. Write that in the letter.

      Done. ABA knows what to do with all its power.

      These solutions are not unknown. We have debated them for years and years on sites like this, and we know what to do to solve the problem. We are not stupid little kids - we're highly educated adults who have damn well earned a seat at the reform table.

      But instead, we ended up with this pathetic, weak, "do something, but keep our jobs" action letter. This letter does nothing to solidify the fact that the ABA is looking out for biglaw and biglawprofessor.

  3. Everything is coming our way!

    Everything is coming our way:


      Everything is coming our way....

  4. The ABA should create a minimum LSAT score, somewhere around 155, and any school that admits students below the score loses accreditation. That would solve all supply problems and would be easier to install than federal lending reform. The problem is that the ABA pigs have no will to enact change.

    1. That would be a good idea.

      Fuck man, surely state bars can do this on their own too? Have minimum requirements for sitting the bar in that state? A 3.0 GPA? They have all been very quiet in this mess.

    2. That is because sate bars tend to be controlled by big law. However the majority of lawyers are not big law--they are out how here trying to scape together a living. This leaves little time for organizing. Big law has the time and money---we have the numbers---but no time and money.

    3. That is because sate bars tend to be controlled by big law. However the majority of lawyers are not big law--they are out how here trying to scape together a living. This leaves little time for organizing. Big law has the time and money---we have the numbers---but no time and money.

    4. It's too arbitrary. you could realistically have someone with a 150/3.8 who is a great law student but bombed the LSAT.

      The whole issue would be fixed if you had the bar policing the schools who fall below a certain bar passage rate. don't have 70% of your class pass the bar? too bad, you lose your accrediation. that would incent the schools to not take kids who have no business being in law school other than having federally backed loan papers in hand.

      I think if applicants continue to crash we'll have some market-served reforms sooner than later and we won't have to count on the pigs in the ABA to do it.

    5. Everything is arbitrary if you look at it like that. Fact is, we have no good way to figure out who will be a good lawyer or not, so having a cutoff based on a test score is as good as anything.

      Bottom kind is that half the schools, or at least 50 schools, need to close. If these pigs weren't so greedy, law schools would all agree to an immediate 25% reduction in seats, this year.

      But this is like the tragedy of the commons (remember that from 1L property?) A shared resource being depleted to the point of ruin by individuals acting in their own self interest.

      Surely law professors would be the easiest people to convince of that argument? Take action together now, or it all falls to pieces in the future.

      But seeing as most profs are (1) stupid and (2) boomers who have "got theirs", the entire system will have to crumble before they take action.

  5. Excellent post. Here is a link to the full text of the letter to the ABA.

    Except for putting the word "crisis" in scare quotes, the first six paragraphs of the letter describing the situation are really excellent. A good buildup. And then comes the key seventh "possible changes" paragraph that Adjunct Law Prof quotes and discusses. These range from weak to outright crap.

    For example, look at the first "possible change"-- admitting kids to law school after three years of college. That represents no change whatsoever in the way law schools do business-- the cost to students, the enrichment of professors, or even the pedagogy. It is a suggestion probably meant to somewhat decrease the incoming law students' levels of undergrad debt--which is a displacement of responsibility. Why not decrease law school debt? And, of course, it might have the perverse effect of increasing the applicant pool, thereby facilitating the scam.

    No need to beg the ABA. Law schools can do two things all by themselves to somewhat improve the situation. Not sufficiently, but somewhat: (1) vastly reduce tuition; and (2) reduce class size.

    The first can be done by relying on adjuncts rather than tenured six-figure salaried professors. And when the schools start feeling a financial pinch, some may need to think about asking the tenured professors to choose between "voluntary" pay cuts and possibly shutting down the school.

    The second should be a no-brainer, and for once the US News rankings can play a virtuous role by incentivizing a reduction in class size. Any school with a low applicant-to-admitted student ratio should sink to the bottom of the rankings, no matter how good the school's "peer reputation" score.

    These changes will make a difference, maybe relieve some suffering, and maybe even serve the professors' interests by keeping the gravy train chugging for a few years longer than it otherwise would have. But they won't be enough. Lots of law schools will need to close. Lots.

  6. Booooooooooooooooooooo.

    I wanted to see a photo.

    Photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo.

  7. OT - there's a FaceBook page called "Don't Go To Law School":

  8. The word is definitely getting out there, now more so even in the mainstream media (there was a story on CBS early show this morning about the law school lawsuits).

    This letter ignores the only two reforms that would actually do something about the problem: 1) Allow student loans to be cleared through bankruptcy after 7-10 years, and 2) the fed. government should stop making student loans that are unlikely to be paid back.

    BTW I have been asked to speak to students at a local middle school on their "career day" re: working as a lawyer. I plan to accept and to tell these kids the actual realities of practicing law for most lawyers today (as well as the fact that half or more of law school graduates today don't even get to be lawyers out of the starting gate). They are middle school kids, however, so I don't know how much of it will sink in, or whether they are able to question conventional wisdom so much.

    1. That's great! By the time kids are in college they won't listen plus by high school they are dropping math classes and stuff that shut off academic options. Tell them to take hard classes and keep options option.

  9. Tch-tch, PWNed by a roach. Got your mission statement on the top of the page yet?

    1. Go away Painter. It's too early for drinkie time. No work to do? No houses to paint? No kids' penises to touch?

      Or are you Leiter? Painter has a new ID, so this could be Leiter in disguise, coming here to cause trouble on the day when his picture is traditionally posted here.

    2. Mission statement? What is this, a resume from the 1980s?

  10. Anyone else just get this 0L email (no joke):

    Dear Law Student,

    We have extended the deadline to April 15 so you can take advantage of this summer for extensive travel/study in Europe in Miami Law's Summer Abroad Program.

    Take classes on a Greek cruise; study/travel in England, Germany, Italy, Hungary, France and more. For more details, click on the video link at the right to hear from students in last year's program.

    Choose from 3-7 credit classes in:
    Comparative Constitutional Law
    International Sales Law
    International Human Rights
    Global Legal Entrepreneurship
    Take My Evidence-Federal Rules 4-Credit Class
    Get ahead in your studies and graduate early
    Open up last semester possibilities: Part-time study, more time for work, expanded law clerking, and potential cost savings.

    Learn more at our website and remember, the deadline is April 15.

    I'm looking forward to you joining us this summer.


    Professor Michael H. Graham
    Dean's Distinguished Scholar
    Summer Abroad Program Director
    University of Miami School of Law

    P.S. – Save $250 for each friend you get to enroll. Details online.

    1. Save $250 for each friend you get to enroll? Is this moron serious? Like a pyramid scheme?

      Please profile this douchebag!

    2. S*!t like this burns me up.

      "Hey, OLs! Start that models-and-bottles lawyer life early by going on a cruise junket to ostensibly study law! Bring your friends! Get a discount!"

      Comparative Constitutional Law, my a$$. Like that has anything to do with anything at the DA's office or doing Family Law, assuming you can get the work.

      I guess I should expect this from the elitist limousine-liberal LawProfs, who clearly have no trouble paying their bills.

    3. Shit like this should frighten students away, not lure them in. This is just a BS paid vacation for the "professor" and no doubt his immediate family, first class cruise around Europe, all food and booze and probably a healthy per diem for him too, no doubt also with some free days in there for his own trips, all paid for by student loan money. Flights included for him too, I expect, first class.

      What a scam. And he will go back to his school and claim that this was "working" and should qualify him for a reduced load during the semester.

    4. ha, 1:26 nailed it. what a fkn scam. hoipefully so few people have signed up that the thing gets cancelled.

    5. P.S. – Save $250 for each friend you get to enroll. Details online.

      Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should deliver men to debt?

    6. If experiences like these were so "valuable," they would be included in the cirriculum, not yet another charge to the indentured students. Hell, at $150k+ sticker price, the law schools should pay for it themselves for the benefit of the students (no pricing number games).

      Wait, what? The lol skools acutally outlay some real cash, not play "scholarship" roulette games by moving cash from one bucket to another bucket? Never mind, trip cancelled...

  11. The trend that I am seeing among my colleagues is more disturbing. The very recent number of 4 out of 10 people leaving my old big law firm in my practice area and geographic area into unemployment is a major problem. This law firm was before a champion of its lawyers. Almost everyone got jobs when they left.

    Now it is different story. The legal job market for post-big law has been saturated. There is a limit to the number of lawyers big law firms can keep dumping on a non-expanding job market, and who can find employment as lawyers, and that limit has been reached.

    So many lawyers today are going into big law and coming out the other end into unemployment.

    This suggests that the oversupply is much worse than the first year employment statistics portray. Of the one fifth of first years who end up with the highest paying jobs, perhaps 40% of them will have to drop out of the legal profession within a few years of leaving big law because they cannot find jobs.

    Needless to say, big law firms, like law schools, have not adapted to the new reality of the job market. 40% of their former associates going into unemployment? Not their problem - it's someone else's problem.

    We need longitudinal employment statistics because the experienced job market is actually worse than the entry level job market. Another 40% or maybe more are being forced out of the legal profession within a few years of leaving big law firms for lack of demand for their services.

    The whole legal business model is a disaster and it destroys the lives and livlihoods of perhaps two thirds of its members either right after law school or shortly after leaving law firms. If big law grads cannot get jobs, it could not possibly be any easier for those who started in small law firms to move to their next jobs or to stay employed where they started work after law school.

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