Thursday, July 18, 2013

Upstairs Downstairs at the Vermont Law School Scam (featuring Professors Jennifer Taub, Cheryl Hanna, Mark Latham, and Career Services).

The law school scam has an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs is where six-figure salaried law deans and professors dazzle you with visions of a lucrative, interesting, jet-setting, and socially useful legal career. Downstairs is where career services sells you business cards and advises you to network with your dentist.

Here are some contrasting quotes from the upstairs and downstairs scammers of Vermont Law School (VLS), a horrible third-tier law school, which is currently sailing into well-deserved trouble. Upstairs quotes are in bold print and come from this two minute long recruitment video. Downstairs quotes come from past issues of the VLS career services newsletter entitled Career Strategies. A few thoughts of my own appear in the footnotes.

"I am often asked: "Should I go to law school?" My answer is: "Absolutely." Law school is the very best preparation for a broad career." - Geoffrey B. Shields, President and Dean. [1]

"There’s a Career Services aphorism that goes like this: In a good job market it may only matter what you know. In a marginal market it may matter who you know. But in this market it is how many people you know and are going to get to know!!" (Oct. 12, 2012)

"Those opportunities are, in part, new. [2] There has never been the kind of global opportunity for young lawyers that we have today and that’s just going to grow like crazy over the next few years." - Geoffrey B. Shields, President and Dean.

 "You’ll find that your career path will not lead directly to your employment goal, so you have to be open to opportunities even if they’re not exactly in your chosen field. To put it more simply: be open to taking a job just to get in the door." (Feb. 21, 2011)

 "What attracts me to Vermont Law School is really that it lives up to its motto: Law for the Community and the World." [3] - Jennifer Taub, Associate Professor of Law.
"What are the best sources of people to network with?. . . . Neighbors and others you know casually (even your dentist!)" (Feb. 17, 2012)

"I am amazed at the opportunities that they have as law students to get out there and see law in action." - Jennifer Taub, Associate Professor of Law.

"Be a relentless networker -- whether it's at events on-campus or off. Never pass up a chance to talk to someone who is a lawyer or who knows a lawyer or might be helpful in finding contacts for you. Informational interviews can open many doors for you." (Apr. 13, 2012)

"Being a lawyer is about what kind of person you are in your community and in the world and so if you’ve wanted to go law school, if law school is really your dream, don’t give up on your dream." [4]  - Cheryl Hanna, Professor of Law.

"Don't bail out. If you sign up for a networking event, be sure to attend. Some who do attend will be sure to look at the unclaimed name tags to see who skipped out, and particularly if they are among your contacts, that's not going to create a favorable impression." (Apr. 18, 2011)

"What we do here at Vermont Law School is train people to be leaders and we train people to make a difference." - Cheryl Hanna, Professor of Law.

"One of the smarter suggestions from professional development experts we've consulted over the years is to take the time to think of your skill sets and interests in terms of a personal brand. How can you market yourself to potential employers and people you're networking with to make the strongest impression possible." (March 9, 2012)

"So there are a ton of career paths that you can pursue as a lawyer. We often have in our minds that there just these traditional lawyer jobs going to a big firm and doing deals or litigating in court. But that’s just really just a small piece of what lawyers do." - Cheryl Hanna, Professor of Law.

"Constantly update your status on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. At least once a week your should post something that reflects on your personal brand and is career-related. Did you just attend an event? Complete a project? Read an interesting book or article? Share that information." (April 11, 2011)

"We think that there’s only one place to attend law school and that’s Vermont Law School." - Mark Latham, Professor of Law and Deputy Vice Dean.

 "If you would like to have business cards that use the official VLS fonts, logo and template, Whitman Communications is the vendor. The cost is $24 per 100." (April 18, 2011)

"Students go to China and work on environmental issues. Students do externships around the globe." - Jennifer Taub, Associate Professor of Law.
"We know that a number of you are frustrated about the lack responses from employers and that it is tempting to give up looking for a summer internship. But at this point in the early spring, it is more important than ever that you follow up on your applications." (April 13, 2012)


[1] Shields retired, eff. August 1, 2012. He was succeeded as Dean by Marc Mihaly, who is credited with the following quote: "The world does need this law school. . . .We are different from other schools because of the people who choose to come here, both students and faculty. Vermont Law attracts people who want to change the world, not to fit into it."

I read this quote to mean:  Other law schools scam the ambitious, but Vermont Law's special niche is scamming idealists. 

[2] Shields does not specify the nature of "those" opportunities, other than that they are "global."  If you watch the video, you will notice that Shelds has a shit-eating grin on his face, which thoroughly detracts from the impact of his words.  He should have taken a lesson in scamming from Professors Taub and Hanna, who are just dripping with sincerity.

[3] Here is a list of meaningless corporate mottos to similarly "attract" Taub. Honeywell Corporation, for instance, "really lives up" to its motto: "We are Honeywell."

[4] If your dream is, indeed, to become a Vermont lawyer, you are fortunate that that State is one of seven to allow residents to take the bar without attending law school. Here is a four-minute long Vermont NPR segment on the State's legal apprenticeship program, called the "Law Office Study Program."

The segment mentions several successful Vermont lawyers without JDs. These include a (rather impressive) Professor at Vermont Law, Maryann Zavek, whose faculty bio indicates that she dropped out of law school after her first year and then spent three years as a paralegal for Legal Aid, prior to becoming a Legal Aid attorney herself. The segment also mentions the late Joan Wing, who served as President of the Vermont State Bar Association. 

If prospective and current Vermont law students are truly "different drummer" personality types, then they should think seriously about following the example of these attorneys, in lieu of dumping a small borrowed fortune (projected nondiscounted cost: $238,726) into the welcoming pockets of scammers like Taub, Hanna, and Latham in order to attend a school that offers a 43.7%(!) full-time legal employment rate, nine months out.



  1. Someone please tell me that these people are amoral. I do not want to believe that anyone with any concept of morality could be capable of doing this to other human beings.

    1. Reminds me of a book that I read about the Rhodesian War. The author, a soldier in the Rhodesian Army, was walking through the barracks and saw a line of men spilling out of one of the rooms. It turned out that a local prostitute had come by, and the men were waiting their turn. As each one lurched and ground on top of her, she stared blankly off into space, munching a bag of potato chips.

    2. The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt


      PS: We're living in the early stages, right now. Among other things, Arendt identified Scientific Socialism and National Socialism not as left-right but as two sides of the same totalitarian (i.e., Leftist) coin. If you think I unfairly project ideology onto this, where do you think the ideologies of anyone in Vermont Law School lie? (This from the state with the only self-identified socialist as a senator.)

    3. "Someone please tell me that these people are amoral. I do not want to believe that anyone with any concept of morality could be capable of doing this to other human beings."

      I'm waiting for someone on here to do a book review of "Confessions of a Sociopath" by M.E. Thomas. The author admits that she is a law professor. Also notes in the book that law schools and the law in general attracts people of this type.

      This would certainly make it easier to explain how people who claim to be forces for social justice can justify getting rich on the backs of students, many of which will never benefit from school and will exit into lives of financial ruin.

  2. VLS is a mediocre regional law school, much like dozens of other schools around the country. What sets VLS apart is that it's located in a region that doesn't need a law school - not even one. If it did, UVM would have opened one a long time ago.

    1. That is why this particular TTT will probably be among the first to fold. Many TTTs cater to a lot of commuter students who want to go to law school while living at home to save money. But VLS is in a remote part of a thinly populated state, so that most of its students move to Vermont for a few years to get a J.D. and then move out again. I would imagine that the percentage of Yale law students who are from Connecticut isn't too much higher than Connecticut's share of the U.S. population. Relocating to New Haven for three years to get a Yale J.D. is one thing, relocating to South Royalton for three years to get a VLS J.D. quite another.

  3. This excellent piece has inspired me to adopt a personal motto. After much consideration I have settled on "I am Lois Turner." I find that I am really living up to it already.

  4. LOLWIN at the "Upstairs/Downstairs" analogy. Perfect.

    Funny, everybody imagines themselves as the landed gentry, not as the valet...

    1. OK, I'm not done.

      * "Don't bail out. If you sign up for a networking event, be sure to attend. Some who do attend will be sure to look at the unclaimed name tags to see who skipped out, and particularly if they are among your contacts, that's not going to create a favorable impression." (Apr. 18, 2011)

      Love this one. See the implicit blame? See how it's always your fault? Yeah, the first thing I think when a colleague misses an event, assuming they are not presenting, is "What a loser dumbass, black mark in my book, I'll remember this forever." My actual first thought is "hm, something must have come up, hope things are ok."

      * "Constantly update your status on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. At least once a week your should post something that reflects on your personal brand and is career-related. Did you just attend an event? Complete a project? Read an interesting book or article? Share that information." (April 11, 2011)

      Good God. If I get one more meaningless, impersonal broadcast-blast over social media, I'll axe my computer. I'll take a personal short note over a sales-pitch anyday. The extroverts can go bury the other extroverts under reams of meaningless drivel all day, as far as I care.

    2. "Constantly update your status on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. At least once a week your should post something that reflects on your personal brand and is career-related... Share that information."

      Hey everyone, I'm Jason, a Virgo, a relatively politically independent moderate, a total bottom, and --ta da-- I'm entering Montpellier Law Center this fall!!! I'm so, so very excited about it. Can you believe it? Law School?!? Wow! I just can't wait to tell you all about it.

      I'm enrolled in this class called "Civil Procedures" and as part of my pre-semester reading, I'm studying this really neat judicial opinion from a very old lawsuit called 'Pennoyer v. Neff.' It's a really, really long opinion and I'm working so, so, so hard to understand it. I'm really super stressed, so I flew to a nice, sandy Bahamas beach to read the 1878 opinion yet again. The sun is shining, I've got a tall drink in my hand, I'm stretched out in the sand, and I'm wailing away on Pennoyer.

      I'm learning that jurisdiction is a totally a very personal concept, and that there's this in rem thing that requires 'minimum contacts' and makes you use attachments --but only if you're trying to buy land in Oregon in the 1850s time period.

      Anyway, I'm now totally sunburned, I've got sand in my crack, a starfish has stung me twice, and I still don't fully have a handle on this Pennoyer shit. But I'm working super-hard and I'm stressed.

      I'm not certain that this Bahamas study break was a good idea. I was supposed to attend a meet-and-greet in Nassau (the Bahamas' capital) tonight, but I'm so badly sunburned and my crack is now so sand-saturated that simple walking is difficult. I really want to bail out of the meet-and-greet, but my Soviet Masters back at my law school advise me: "Don't bail out. If you sign up for a networking event, be sure to attend. Some who do attend will be sure to look at the unclaimed name tags to see who skipped out!"

      Holy shit. If I go to the meet-and-greet, I'll be limping around the party with gobs of sand literally falling out of my boardshorts as I try to suck-up to the Bahamian establishment by chatting them up with Pennoyer. But if I bail, the prestige police will photograph my unused name tag, and post it on The World Wide Web for all to see. And if my dentist were to find out that I bailed on the meet-and-greet, he would tell his hygenist about it, and I'll get cut off from my nitrous oxide.

      All this Pennoyer shit's really chapping my ass. Let me tell you about my super neat UCC readings about this fierce battle between forms ....

    3. 2:39, well done. You've captured 95% of the crap that's on social media.

  5. Great post! I just burn inside hearing this crap, students should start riots over this kind of nonsense.

    1. You betcha.

      Actually, the "Upstairs/Downstairs" title of this piece is somewhat misleading in that the English estates were run by moderates who favored (or were at least forced into) gradual evolution and not revolution.

      These clowns are far closer to The Bastille, which was stormed at the opening of the French Revolution. Law School's Ancien Regime is so damned esconced in their privilege, and so willingly oblivious to the unworkable profession they created, that the Bastille will have to be stormed yet again.

      Let them Eat Cake and Buy their own Coffee.

      Vive la revolucion.

    2. Quite right. The sad reality is that everyone lost, including all of France for the succeeding 200+ years.

      The aristocracy had already given up, and still they stormed. Talk about devouring their own; the French revolution was about as awful as war could be. And about as diametrically different from the American revolution as possible. If you want to read just how horrible the French rebels were, read about Antoinette's teenaged handmaiden. Don't eat beforehand; you'll lose your lunch.

      We do need lawyers, and we do need good lawyers. Just not 40,000 of them, and not at these prices. What's worse, law school is not where they're made, and law professors and deans should get the career equivalent of the guillotine. But that won't happen. Instead, they'll try to save their hides, and if they're stormed, we're all going to lose.

    3. The French Revolution was the beginning of our modern, Western world, revolution spirit, equality, common ownership. Some blue pigs died when the justice got out of hand--big deal.
      What did the American Revolution do: enshrine property, big deal...

  6. This is timely:

    Comments being accepted.

    1. Simkovic, one of the authors of the "study," is a junior faculty member at Seton Hall. Need I say more?

    2. Quote from it:
      "After all, the law school scam industry has been bountiful for some, just like being a Kardashian."

      There's an scamblog "industry" now? And you can gain celebrity fame and fortune from it? Where do I sign up?

    3. Where's my scam blog check?!? I'm guessing that the scambloggers have made a thimble full of water compared to an ocean full for the deans and profs.

      In two days, NYT has had two articles. One saying studying for the bar is sexy and adventuresome and one saying you are going to make millions practicing law so go for it.

    4. "After all, the law school scam industry has been bountiful for some, just like being a Kardashian."

      A bizarre statement indeed. Could they be referring to Campos?

  7. This is all demonstrates that there is no market for most Vermont Law grads. If so the school has no reason to exist today.

    Lets go back and ask what a balanced job market where a law degree has real value looks like.

    When I started as a lawyer, a starting lawyer got a job by sending resumes directly to employers and sometmes from on campus interviews. People who lost jobs looked at the ads and if they could not find anything called their colleagues and found out who happened to be looking for lawyers Headhunters did a reasonable business in placing lawyers who had to leave a job in a new job. People from my law school and people I knew generally were employed and if they lost a job were unemployed for only a few months at most.

    The only time a lawyer networked with his or her dentist about legal work was a lawyer whose practice included representing dentists. Networking events were to keep current, meet people in your practice area or from your schools and to help get clients.

    Incessant networking to find a job and no first legal job for a law graduate is insane. Either you get hired through the normal course and within a reasonable amount of time after you graduate or lose a job, or you are excess supply. You are redundant in British terms. The market is not there for your services, and you need to do something other than law.

    Your dentist is highly unlikely to even know if any of his or her patients are working in a place that is hiring a lawyer, let alone an entry level lawyer where Vermont Law grads will make the grade, or someone with the experience that lawyer has, for a more experienced lawyer who is looking.

    These statements by the placement office at Vermont Law are indications that there is no market for many or most of their graduates.

    1. Any dentist worth his salt will up the dosage of Novocain. Maybe inject it directly into the brain, rather than stopping at the nerve.

  8. "What are the best sources of people to network with? Neighbors and others you know casually (even your dentist!)"

    This is the same sort of "advice" you'll hear from multi-level marketers. Your business is not in good shape if you have to resort to pestering your family, friends and acquaintances for sales...

  9. Talk to your dentist... Ha ha. That's a good one. Talk about a stab in the dark. Career Services at Vermont Law might as well tell its students to run out to the curb at 7:30 in the morning to ask the garbage man whether he knows anyone looking for a lawyer. What a joke. I agree with one of the comments about social media. Is it "helpful"? Possibly. Is it overrated? Yes!!! So continue to update your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts every hour on the hour and see where it gets you.

    1. Yea I laughed out loud at that one. You mentioned the garbage man. Don't forget the clerk at the convenience store, the waiter at the next restaurant where you eat lunch, and the counter lady at the dry cleaners'. All of this reeks of desperation. If this is what it takes to even have a chance at getting a job why the fuck would someone go to law school today? I'm with 10:33. If graduates of a school can't get jobs through normal channels then there is no need for that school.

    2. You'll have better luck getting your dentist to give you a box full of Vicodin for no legitimate reason than you will getting 'legal work' from him/her.

  10. Student Loans reach another troubling milestone:

  11. Dentists are the kind of people who want to *give* you work to do.

    *If* you are a patent attorney.

    I went to a new dentist a few months ago and mentioned that I had done a lot of patent work in the past. Being a dentist, he naturally had an invention he wanted to patent.

    The last dentist I did work for complained that she had no idea how to find a patent attorney.

    So, yes, there is pent up demand for patent law in the form of dentists. (I hide from potential patent work, I don't seek it out. I'm not paying the malpractice insurance for patent work.)

    (This factoid brought to you from Ripley's Believe It or Not.)

  12. The answer: Join the Army.
    Money Quote: "I paid off $108,000 of law school loan debt," McGregor told CNNMoney. "All I had to do was put my life on the line."