Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tamanaha Tears a New One

I finally got around to reading Brian Tamanaha’s new article (he wrote the book Failing Law Schools).  It is a great read because it represents a break in the silence of the uncomfortable law professor class, at least the biggest break since Inside the Law School Scam was retired.

Basically, the article argues that law schools, mostly made up of different factions of liberal law professors or “religious” conservative professors, pillaged the broken federal loan system to make themselves rich.  They started their professorial careers with the intent of fighting The System, and now they have become another example of corporate pirates, raping and pillaging the young to receive high salaries and many other goodies.

Furthermore, these mostly liberal professors have now created the ultimate anti-liberal system, where only the rich can advance in legal careers because only the rich—with rare exceptions—graduate near the top of the top law schools.  Also, only the rich can effectively deal with the massive debt loads upon graduation.

The most startling thing about the article, which Tamanaha predicts will cost him a number of friendships, is the vitriolic tone and the accusations of absolute hypocrisy.  It channels rather well the anger often expressed in blogs like this one, but he brings the message to the law review world with much drama.

For those interested in this read:

While it is still just more talk, the shift in tone from purely analytical to outright pissed off feels like some type of progress.  Hopefully, it will help snap a few more people out of their collective stupor.


  1. LawProfs, for the most part, have hovered between shoulder-shrugging to outright disdain for the plight of their students. You don't have to go far to see practicioners who graduated 5, 10, 20 years ago who hated their snobbish LawProfs and their law school experience. I was amazed at how little they cared, frankly, when I went through the wringer myself. How can you do what you do all day (i.e. very little), knowing that what you enjoy is built on the back of thousands?

    But why should they care? The money is THAT good. And who wouldn't want to write articles in the echo-chamber all day and go on summer sabbaticals? It's not like LawProfs are out there laying bricks or installing drywall.

    At least a handful of LawProf voices are willing to speak the truth, and that should be commended. Liberal LawProfs are certainly "liberal" with other people's money, and I laugh at their concern for underrepresentation while tuition skyrockets and fat paychecks are cashed. Bitch, please. And conservative "religious" LawProfs have demonstrated that prophets are not respected in their own home towns. Just wait for the Law School "Sanhedrin" to pounce on the likes of Tamanaha or Campos.

    All in all, it's amazing what the internet and the removal of information asymmetry can do as a market correction. Bring on the Law School collapse!

  2. I have a minor quibble with your report on the paper.

    There are few religious conservatives in legal academia, and very very few conservatives of any type in elite legal academia (T14). Elite legal academia sets the tone and the prices for the rest of the law schools, and this means left-wing law professors are far more responsible for the current mess than religious conservatives.

    That said, as a religious conservative myself, I do not approve of Christian law school practices of charging extremely high tuitions like every other school. They shouldn't be going with the flow. They should be charging a lot less, thereby doing less harm to their students than every other school.

    As an aside, I think it'd be great for more law schools to compete on cost. But the student loan system is too great an incentive to charge the max. Would that student loan reform made this possible.

    Anyway, Tamanaha is right to allocate most blame to the left-wing professorial elite. I hate to make this a right-left issue since there's plenty of both sides among the scammed students. BUT -- high tuitions really have been put in place by elite left wing law professors.

    1. Agreed on what Christian law schools "ought" to be doing. The actual walk-the-walk is sadly lacking.

  3. We should also be talking about the left-wing wealth re-distribution theory behind high tuitions. It goes like this:\

    Our students are future big law lawyers and partners, they'll be rolling in money. Therefore we can charge these future rich guys alot. Moreover we can use the high tuition to subsidize the "poor" students to give them tuition reductions ("scholarships"). Also, the poor students who will do "good" PI work. So we're spreading the wealth from rich to poor! Just so happens that most students are rich!

    Again, I hate to make this a left-right issue, but there's a crackpot left-wing wealth redistribution logic behind extremely high tuitions. Many professors justify them with this logic, saying the high cost enables the poor to attend law school. Ergo that crazy prof Campos argued with who said lower tuition = bringing back Jim Crow.

    -Jim (same as a commentor above)

    1. The same attitude can usually be found on the scamblogs. All these demands by deadbeats that the "wealthy" taxpayers pay off their loans for them (I'm sorry, of course I meant to say "discharge" them).

      After all, they can afford it.

    2. I'm guessing 6:33 is the same idiot from yesterday who doesn't understand bankruptcy law.

    3. There is always somebody screeching about somebody else getting a "free ride", even if it is legally sanctioned like bankruptcy.

      It's like those Personal Injury ads on TV. I guarantee you the guy who got the million dollar settlement is not the guy they show on TV saying "I got a million dollar settlement!" You don't want to be that guy, becuase a million dollars isn't going to solve the life-long disability that led to the settlement.

      Same with BK. It sounds like people are getting some crazy, undeserved windfall. Actually, you don't want to be the guy who has to file BK. It's not all fun and games, and you don't want to be in the place that lead to BK in the first instance.

    4. Right on, duped.

      Bankruptcy means:

      1) your credit scored is dead;
      2) your future employment is possibly jeopardized;
      3) personal shame;
      4) you either get wiped out or have a trustee watching over your finances for 5 years.

      What these jackholes don't grasp is that the judges in bankruptcy court can and do protect the system against abuses (never mind that now if you make a certain income, you can't even file a chapter 7 if you tried). The system exists to help restore people to economic functionality, which is better for all of society than having them bogged down with huge debts.

      As for the lenders, they know that bankruptcy reform is always a possibility. They rigged it in '05, so they should know it can just as easily go away.

    5. But bankruptcy ISN'T "legally sanctioned" for student debt. I'm cool with that.

      You're the one who is screeching.

    6. "You're the one who is screeching."

      Good God, y'all...please.

    7. @743,

      Right. And after they go through the bowels of hell by having their debts discharged, I suppose they are thrown DIRECTLY into a briar patch - along with B'rer Rabbit.

      "Oh noes, ANYTHING but discharge!" LOL

    8. 9:08, what's your dog in the fight?

    9. ^ My dog? Um, the truth, perhaps?

      That being said, I am also a taxpayer with no debts. I paid off my student loans years ago. Sounds like I need to pay yours off, too - right?

    10. You also were a taxpayer that let this whole system run out of control by voting for legislators who exacerbated this problem. You will be responsible financially for the solution one way or the other whether it is due to long term economic depression or government sanctioned loan forgiveness.

    11. Exactly, Adam. The "I'm a taxpayer" argument is also sort-of like when I hear people complain about funding others' retirements through social security.

      Earth to woe-is-me taxpayers: YOU PAY FOR BROKEN SOCIAL SYSTEMS NO MATTER WHAT.

      You're going to pay for the student loan disaster one way or another, so you might as well shift the loss to the lender and let the individual become a productive member of the economy again.

    12. I'd love to hear more about this depression-stick you are now shaking. Kind of reminds me of how Obama always likes to promise some kind of terrible economic miracle every time that he doesn't get his way.

      Let me guess: by being forced to pay back their just debts, graduates aren't "stimulating the economy." Because the lenders - as we all know - promptly set all of the money on fire as soon as they receive it.

      It sounds to me like you think America owes you big. It's actually the other way around - um, LITERALLY. LOL

    13. Doc, in this case, the "I'm a taxpayer" argument is a facade. The person making this argument simply has a hard-on for watching people endlessly and mercilessly punished for their mistakes. It has nothing to do with what is or isn't good public policy. It's all about the joy of watching sinners roasting in hell.

    14. No, I just don't see why the taxpayers should be punished in your stead, that's all. That's not exactly an unreasonable view - unlike, say, wanting to present the taxpayers with a six-figure bill for your worthless education.

    15. They're not being "punished." At all.

    16. ^ By that logic, then, neither are the people who took out the loans.

      Game, set, and match.

    17. "I just don't see why the taxpayers should be punished in your stead, that's all."

      In MY stead? My student loans are in repayment, chief. I have a full-time job.

      Sorry you're feeling so persecuted. Apparently, every person who files for bankruptcy is a direct offense against you, who personally bears the weight of their sins like a fiscal Jesus Christ.

      By all means, please continue strutting around the yard, clucking away about your moral superiority.

    18. If your loans are in repayment, then you should stop your sorry-ass bitching and just pay them off eventually.

      Little Injun.

    19. Why would I stop "sorry-ass-bitching"? According to you, I ought to be sorry-ass bitching about all the defaulters "welshing" on their debts and handing their bills to me, expecting ME to pay. Individual circumstances are irrelevant, and there's no such thing as good faith. There are only bill-payers, and damn dirty welshing DEFAULTERS.

      That's how the mind of the righteous operates.

    20. ^ But they aren't handing their bills to me. I'm fine with the law the way it is.

      You are the one who is bitching. So pay your bills, already!

  4. At the risk of commenting too much, I'll say one more thing: There is a crazy left-wing logic behind the overproduction of lawyers. It goes like this.

    Future law students will inevitably graduate and take high-paying jobs and get rich. What America needs is more legal activism and especially more lawyers serving the underserved in communities. America has too few lawyers! Look at all those poor people with disputes and no lawyers too help them. To get more lawyers to the underserved, we need to massively increase the number of them so that lawyers flood out into every nook and cranny of our society, especially poor communities. Then the poor will get legal services and social justice will be done.

    This theory was formulated in the 60s and 70s and hasn't been updated to take account of horrid job markets for new grads. Elite law profs STILL SAY there are not enough lawyers in America.

    Dean of Yale Law saying there's an undersupply of lawyers:

    Overproduction of lawyers was a planned, left-wing policy to make America a better place by making lawyers more available. This has failed, but they don't recognize that.


  5. Wealthy liberal hypocrites are not a new phenomena, nor are they confined to law school faculty lounges. Drive around a wealthy town on either coast and you will see plenty of those “Coexist” bumper stickers on the BMW’s and Benz’s. But talk about building low income housing in those towns and the natives will go nuts. Chelsea Clinton (33 years old) just purchased a $10 million apartment in Manhattan. How does that sound to all you Generation Y’ers who came of age during the Clinton years and now can’t afford to move out of your parents’ basement?

  6. When I think of law school greed, the figure that comes to mind is Dean Christopher Edley of Boalt Law School. He makes over $300K a year and was complaining that his benefits and retirement package were not enough. One look at Edley's mug and he epitomizes a limousine liberal. I have been to several law school professors' homes. These guys live in palatial homes. One law professor I know has two cars, a beat up Ford Taurus and a Mercedes AMG. He drives the Ford to the law school to trick students into believing he is a prole. Law professors and deans live like kings on the backs of the student serfs.

  7. It is comical how law school pigs and cockroaches, i.e. "law professors," strap their students down with $120K+ in additional, non-dischargeable debt - and then try to instill in those victims "the pursuit of justice" and "helping the downtrodden." If these "educators" were interested in such goals, then they should go out and make a career out of representing those in abject poverty. Of course, doing so does not come with a $180K salary for a 10 hour work week.

    In the end, it is clear that these rats are faux liberals. They have no integrity. In fact, they are reminiscent of hippies who objected to fighting in Vietnam out of "moral concerns" - and then supported Desert Storm and the Idiot George wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are opportunists. They stand for nothing.

    At least, these Boomer pigs were and are acting out of self-preservation. The current law students defending the ABA-accredited trash heaps are beyond pathetic.

  8. Tamanaha's article was one of the best pieces I have read on the crisis. It articulates extremely well something that has quietly infuriated me for a long time-- namely, that progressive teachers and scholars-- people who seemingly share similar views and values to my own-- will scam you every bit as ruthlessly as fundamentalist TV evangelists or corporate public relations shills.

    1. Yep. It's in every facet of society. They get working class people to blast unions for demanding too much. Then, of course, this fuels the effort to outsource jobs overseas. Oh, how they "love" competition in the labor market. "Competition" is a word which has no other meaning except "work for less."

      The working class of this nation really is pretty dumb and can't see that they should support efforts to increase wages in America - not reduce them.

  9. Elites have always despised regular people, and the less value a segment of the elite adds, the more it despises those beneath them.

    Law professors, who are as elite as it gets, and who actually add very little value (the legal profession flourished for centuries on a largely apprenticeship basis) have always despised their students - except for the top 10%.

    But in the past they weren't destroying their students' lives with non-dischargable debt. (Tuition adjusted for inflation was also much much less.) But for the last 10+ years, that's what they've been doing. And they look their victims in the face every day. And all then they smile evil smiles, and tell each other how wonderful they are.

    And they hate hate hate people like Campos and Tamahana who break the code of evil silence.

    And they will keep wrecking peoples' lives as long as it's in their self-interest to do so. Their leftism is a sham and a beard for their scam.

    This message needs to be repeated over and over until enough people hear it and there will no longer any self-interest left for the scammers - i.e. enough applicants to keep the doors open at about 50-100 of the 200 or so existing law schools.

  10. This article describes my dean at Hofstra Nora Demleitner perfectly. According to her wikipedia profile she is a self-described liberal democrat. Yet at Hofstra Demleitner lured in hundreds of students knowing they would graduate with huge debts and poor job prospects. Even worse Hofstra gave merit scholarships to students with high gpa's and lsat scores [those who had life's advantages to begin with]using the tuition money of poor students who had no scholarships and poor job prospects. She took from the poor and gave to the rich and made the poor poorer, all in the name of raising Hofstra's rank in u.s. news.

    Liberal Democrat Nora Demleitner did not care at all about the poor students at Hofstra. All she cared about was her high salary and how she could use Hofstra to move up. She accomplished the latter by becoming dean at W & L but she left Hofstra in shambles.

    Many of Demleitner's former students will never get out of debt. They will never be able to buy a house or a raise a family. How long will the ABA or the government wait to stop the Demleitners of this world?

  11. Progressives are by and large: 1) superb rent seekers, and ii) both expert in and very comfortable with spending the money and resources of others, all under the guise that they are both morally superior and more intelligent than the rest of us. The law school problem is clearly, beyond question, a liberal progressive problem, because in the top tiers of law schools, there virtually is no other species of faculty or administration which exist. I recall being a fiscal conservative (but not necessarily a social conservative, as I leaned libertarian) as an editor of Top 10 law review over 25 years ago. I was intensely resented by my peers for three reasons: 1) I was a national level athlete in a sport with significant minority participation, and my presence as someone who did not rise up the ranks through social privilege constantly reminded them of the limitations of the effete, above it all chattering class to which they either belonged to which they aspired to belong; 2) they could not advance the narrative - as they were often willing to do - that I was stupid and a mere dumb conservative (I had higher grades than the rest of them); and 3) I had previously worked as a Teamster as a warehouse worker and in a slaughterhouse for the UCFW and challenged their condescending notions of what they thought the working class wanted - I mean, really, did these wimpy Ivy League Political Science majors imbued with turgid and abstract notions of "social justice" really have any idea what it means to really work for a living?

    The place was so dominated by group think that acting unemotionally on relevant data was completely beyond the ken of most everyone at the school, save for a few professors who privately agreed with my world view.

    Note that this was over 25 years ago.

    I recall telling one of the few straight shooting professors at lunch a few years after law school at how absurd the affirmative action program at the school was. This was so because the outcomes were not very good in terms of standing in the class, long term career success, productivity, and most of all, servicing of a heavy debt load (again, this was 25 years ago) without any recourse to bankruptcy. This all to make the progressives who ran the place feel good about themselves, with little care for anything else. I came this conclusion by empirical observation, most significantly, too, by observing the status of one of my minority friends not admitted on preferences, who, of course, not surprisingly, experienced success like most everyone else in the top third of the class. This professor agreed with me, but stated the group think was so dominant he could never express it. I frankly understood. This is just one of many issues dominated by group think, with no reference to data or experiences.

    So prospective law students, the law school problem will not be solved by the progressive rent seekers who run them. Nor will it be solved by Congress as they will keep feeding the system with the no underwriting loans with awful terms heroin which keeps the progressive apparatchiks in the fine style to which they are accustomed. The progressives are not friends of young people - they protect an older, entrenched, progressive class of people. The only real answer is not to go to law school. Forget the abstract shibboleths. Law school is a lousy, lousy value, and the cost/benefit ration must radically change.

    1. I agree that affirmative action is another aspect of the liberal machine that has lead to counterproductive and deformed outcomes. I hope the Court kills affirmative action because it tends to catch minorities in schools where they perform poorly in the curve and have overall bad outcomes. AA is like the "access" argument used by the deans, claiming that the "elite" law profession is open to all diverse groups. In reality, AA is window dressing that allows for the appearance of diversity in a field that is still ruled by the rich white old money dynasties.

    2. Adam, as the previous poster said, no change from within (whether its AA, or anything else) is going to address this problem. Once in a while, a "Tamanaha" will speak treasonous words. But what are the odds that insiders will change themselves? They might toss some of their brethren to the dogs, but the machine will stay in control.

    3. Well said, 9:46. I lean liberal, but the clusterf**k that is higer-ed (and law school in paticular) is part of the larger reason a conservative stance can't be dismissed out of hand.

      And it at least demonstrates that there are a few LawProfs who acknowledge the problems with the current setup. I had been losing a lot of hope on that score.

  12. The problem with deans like Edley and Demleitner is that they lack empathy for their fellow human beings. They have no feelings of guilt as they ruin the lives of hundreds of their students. To them, turning out graduates with high debt and no jobs is just like stepping on an anthill is to a five year old.

    As for the Yale dean, he wants to help society by making others do the work and make the sacrifice. Another limo liberal.

    1. Here's a couple more blog posts on Demleitner:
      "In response to one line in a letter to the editor in the St. Louis newspaper encouraging law schools to come to grips with the reality that there aren't enough jobs written by a recent graduate, Dean Demleitner felt the need to write the St. Louis paper and defend Washington & Lee's honor. . . . [Referring to Demleitner's letter] This is wonderfully artful misdirection and surely the product of a superior education. Of course, the only real market demand in the profession is that their students be graduates of much nicer schools; while having vestiges of pseudo-prestige, Washington & Lee is a notorious trap school that gets squeezed out by Virginia, Georgetown, and of course Harvard and Yale and Duke. Since she went to Yale and apparently used her degree to get by without ever actually working in a law firm or doing anything that resembles the traditional practice of law, she surely knows this."
      "First, some background information. Only 78.8 % of the class of 2009 passed the bar, compared with the New York State average of 87.6 %. Dean Demleitner was worried, so much in fact that she wrote a panicked e-mail to the newly recruited class of 2012, with the clear intention of preventing them from transferring out:

      "As members of the class of 2012, you are part of an academic and cultural revolution at Hofstra Law School. Your class joined the School under revised admissions criteria of higher GPAs and LSAT scores (analysis shows a strong correlation between bar exam success and higher LSAT scores)."

      Yes, Dean Demleitner told the class of 2012 that they are better than the classes of 2011 and 2010. Apart from the internal chuckle I enjoyed from the preposterous use of “cultural revolution”, I was incensed. This insulting e-mail was another piece fitting into a disturbing pattern–one of Hofstra Law School’s willingness to exploit its students at any cost just so that it can raise its ranking. It began with our acceptance into Hofstra.

      I received an acceptance letter from Hofstra Law School; the words written lauded me as a great student. I was purportedly so great that I was offered a “Merit Scholarship” for $20,000. To make me blush with pride, the letter even invited me to come to special dinners exclusively for merit scholarship holders. All I had to do was maintain a 3.25 GPA. Being that I had a 3.5 during my undergraduate years, it seemed a manageable task. During the first year, I became suspicious. Almost everyone else had a merit scholarship as well. Much was clarified later on.

      This was not a merit scholarship; it was a bait and switch. Hofstra lured in high-statistic students with the honey of money fully cognizant that many of those same students would be filling their coffers once the first year expired. It was a statistical certainty; the curve grading policy ensures it. For example, if a class of 100 all scores a final grade of over 80%, a concrete percentage of them will still receive grades of Cs and C-s. That’s not a grade based on merit. They used us to up their ranking. Once it was up, they pulled the proverbial rug out from under us. In 2008, the conversations I had with Associate Director of Enrollment Management, Seth Kritzman, and Dean Miriam Albert dispelled any of my doubts on what Hofstra did: fraudulent misrepresentation."

  13. Yup, this article hits the nail on the head. My brother in law is a tenured law professor at a top ten law school out east, and has no conception that he is on top of a crusty dung heap and crapping on future generations. He lives in a $600K house, takes month-long summer sailing trips, has excellent health insurance and retirement plans, is constantly taking "work-related" vacations to places like Japan and the UK, drives a new Volvo (of course!), and sends his kids to private schools.
    And he still complains that he is not getting paid enough.

    How do these jokers contribute in any meaningful way to society? I am not saying most lawyers contribute to society, but at least we don't cloak our words in self-aggrandizing BS and destroy the financial security of thousands of young people. And all this nonsense about how they are taking the noble route by foregoing lucrative partnerships at large law firms. Most law professors I knew barely had the social and general business skills to hang on for one ore two years in actual practice.

    And this nonsense about legal scholarship. What a load of dog-spunk. I don't remember who did this, but I believe about 50% of law review articles aren't cited even once. And they are not even peer-reviewed; they're just the ramblings of some ass-hat with too much time on his or her hands.

    1. How does your brother-in-law contribute to society, you ask?

      By spending money.

      Lots of it. You already told us that he lives in a $600K house, drives a new Volvo, and sends his kids to a private school.

      Spending money (especially the money of other people) is supposedly what makes America strong now.

      In the Age of Obama, patriotism has never been so cheap. To be a good citizen, all you have to do is keep on shopping.

  14. This a great, and brave, article by Tamahana. I'm a conservative myself who, after 7 years of Ivy league undergrad and T-14 law school, had just about zero respect for the "Crit" crowd and their fellow travelers. It is refreshing to read an article by someone like that who appears to take the positive aspects of that world view (theoretical support for social mobility, even if I think most of their favored means to that end cause more harm than good) seriously and with integrity.

  15. Note to Adam B:

    The name is T-A-M-A-N-A-H-A.

  16. Here's an article in the ABA Journal entitled "Leftist Law Professors' Stayed Silent on High Tuition While Enjoying 'Sweet Ride' Says Law Professor.

    1. And let me say that the comments to this article are worth a read.

  17. I make this argument a lot indicting higher ed in general: that it is immensely ironic that one of the institutions that the Left has had a near-stranglehold on: higher ed, is in the shape that it is, and the people who benefit the most from it are the wealthy and the well-connected.

  18. In fairness, I doubt there is a person here who would have handled it any differently. "Oh, a pay raise? Yippee!"

    Redistribution is not a solution. Human nature is not going to allow it. This includes law profs. They aren't exceptions to the rule.

    The best solution is to educate the market and let the chips fall where they may.

  19. This confusion about "liberal" behavior is more clear when you understand that there is no difference between mainstream democrats and republicans. Two sides of the same corporate-controlled coin. Obama = Bush.

    The Neo-Con movement as it's known in America is referred to as Neo-Liberalism in the rest of the world. That should tell you something.

  20. Well, I read the whole thing, and a couple of times I found that I thought Tamanaha had understated the financial issues facing students - not intentionally - just actually.

    PAYE/ IBR, can result in a grad paying *more* than the original loan + principle balance that he/she would have paid had he/she been able to make payments on the original 10-yr schedule. Which is what happens when you've got a compound interest rate and you double the term of the loan.

    Also, carry large loan balances make all other credit a grad obtains thereafter (if he/she is not ineligible for more credit) much more expensive. Ask whomever you like, the unavailability of efficient credit markets for the "poor" keeps them mired in poverty, while the "middle class" and "rich" are able to smooth out downturns,finance large purchases of quality (new car instead of a used car + repairs that end up meaning the used car was more expensive than leasing a BMW) and ultimately get ahead or get more ahead.

    The collateral consequences of this debt mean 'the system' did not just create a new generation of new poor grads, it condemned their eggs and sperm to the same. Poverty is inherited.