Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Have it "Your Way" at Chicago-Kent

OK, here's your order!  Would you like to Super-size your JD with a Specialization in Entertainment Law or Space Law?

Sigh.  What to say, what to say.  Let's just launch right in, shall we?

Chicago-Kent's new 1L Your Way program, debuting next fall, permits new students to defer selected first-year course work to a subsequent year in favor of taking an upper-division elective, such as patent law or business organizations. This option is designed for first-year students with defined practice goals. For example, students who plan to practice intellectual property law or corporate law often begin law school with that goal in mind.

"We're providing new opportunities for students who want to hit the ground running," said Dean Harold J. Krent. "Those of our students who know that they want to concentrate in a particular practice area are eager to start specializing in the first year, and the summer job market often rewards them for doing so."


"Your Way?"  Ah, the fast-food drive-thru analogies abound.  This has been touched on before:

We all knew it would come to this eventually. The legal profession — once reserved for studious minds who diligently ponder the most complex moral, ethical, and legal issues of the day — has been reduced to a collection of short-order cooks, who whip up documents instead of eggs and toast. Actually, that change probably happened many years ago. Generations ago, even. But there is something visual striking about the new Connecticut offices of the Kocian Law Firm. The firm is operating out of an old Kenny Rogers Roasters building. The Kocian lawyers are keeping the drive-thru window — and they’re using it as an easy and efficient way to exchange documents and quick advice with their clients. 


Our own Law School Truth Center has a thing or two to say about this as well:

Ah, metro east St. Louis: drive by shootings AND drive by criminal defending. If there's one thing the thugs of East St. Louis need, it's to shout about their sexual assault case into a static-heavy mic. If only someone would come up with some sort of portable communication device that could allow people to set appointments more conveniently; until then, he's got the market for convenience covered. Clients will no doubt take you seriously running a law practice out of an abandoned bank. 


Anyway, back to having it "Your Way."  Sounds great in principle, but the proposed pay-off (specialization translates to 1L summer opportunity and eventual jobs) remains to be seen.

To begin with, law schools have offered "specializations" for quite some time now, and I think most graduates would say that they fall flat. Many, many JDs have "IP Specialization" or "Business Law Specialization" or "ADR Specialization" or "Environmental Law Specialization" gold stars on their diplomas, and, well, the flood gates of opportunity did not exactly throw themselves open. Look at the dismal employment stats and skewed, bi-modal income distributions, for example. 

Additionally, law schools have had 2L/3L clinics for years, which are touted as the experiential "workhorse" compared to the typical 1L core class or 2L upper-level class.  While some practical experience is certainly a good idea, many JDs have complained about how little time they actually get to do substantive work through the clinics. The fact that 90 credit hours get in the way of practical experience is certainly a part of this difficulty, but also the sheer volume of students seeking these opportunities (*cough* *cough* JD overproduction *cough* *cough* open enrollment *cough* *cough*) naturally limits what any one student gets to do. Here's hoping the law schools have spent some time reviewing and seriously updating this angle. 

Finally, the proposal stands to create some "odd duck" 1Ls compared to the rest of the herd. Firms already know students don't know anything - they don't hire you based on your "knowledge" anyway. They hire your for (1) pedigree, (2) connections, and (3) grades, among other things. Shifting classes around, like rearranging chairs on the Titanic, does not do much to affect an outcome that really has nothing to do with straight-up academics or practice-readiness in the first place. Plus, the hiring lawyers already went through the "classical" legal education process themselves, and now you as the Your-Way student come to the table with a different set of credentials. I can hear it now - "Wait, you've taken a class on Business Organizations, but not on Contracts or Property? How does that work?" As a 2L, when "real" summer associate opportunities "open up," (or so I was told but never saw, personally), the classes and experiences that students have obtained have equalized out, anyway.

Plus, who got legal jobs their 1L summer, anyway?  I mean, connected people, yes, but your average Joe rising 2L?  The 1Ls I knew took summer classes, studied abroad, or did something else to fill their time.  No one I contacted, be they paying gigs or even externships, even wanted to look at you unless your were a 2L, and this was the going advice at the time. 

As a side note, it will be interesting to see what classic 1L classes get pushed back to later years in favor of more "practical" classes under Your-Way-type programs (my personal prediction is Con Law - sorry, all you civil-rights and free-speech lovin' LawProfs, but those are the breaks when it comes to what the majority of firms deal with and bill for). 

Overall, while "Having it Your Way" may be a nice idea, it comes (1) too, too late, and (2) can't do enough on its own. The issue is JOBS, folks, and no amount of "practice readiness" changes the legal market or undos decades of JD overproduction. A related issue is PRICE, folks, as these JDs need to service huge amounts of debt thanks to this so-called practice-readiness that has been bestowed upon them. If half as many practice-ready JDs were produced at half the cost, for example, then graduates could afford to pursue less-remunerative but more available opportunities early on in their careers. It's a balance. 

Oh, but wait, IBR, say the ScamDeans. Right. I'm sure the American Taxpayer just loves the idea of bailing out billions of dollars worth of student loans that are going essentially unpaid, to produce more practice-ready JDs than the market needs. I see what you did there with your "ethics" and "professionalism." 

This practice-ready canard is perhaps well-meant, but it is certainly well-played, make no mistake. False hope will draw many students (and their sweet, sweet federal student loan dollars) into the fold. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


  1. That was an accurate summation. The scammers need to create mistaken hopes to draw more students into the scam. And did anyone catch the abject irony in Chicago-Kent offering a criticism of existing JD education? That was meant to make their purported reform appear convincing, but the criticism remains: that first summer can make or break a career, yet most students don't find good jobs their first summer.

    We now have yet another argument against the scam, thanks to facts conceded by Chicago-Kent.

  2. I went to this Toilet. The place is brimming with overpaid and underworked faculty. Many of them live in very, very nice houses along the north shore of Lake Michigan and Conviser (of BarBri) lives in a castle on the Gold Coast. It is literally a castle.

    And the post is dead-on about the quality of the so-called clinics. I did one of them and it was next to worthless as the "professors" (local attorneys) simply picked those the students they liked best to draft client documents and do the work.

    Many (~50%) of my former classmates are toiling in their old jobs (pre-law) or are in the mythical "JD Advantage" jobs trying to pay off their student loans. The place is a fairly typical Toilet. About the only good thing that can be said about it is their facilities are at least nicer than JMLS and they don't have crucifixes hanging everywhere (like Loyola).

    Oh, but be sure to check out the inspirational recruiting videos C-K has posted on youtube!

  3. I'm pretty sure Vegas has companies that offer drive thru weddings. How long before we see a toiletlaw firm providing drive thru divorces.

    This article has me laughing still. What a noble and honorable "profession," huh?!?!

  4. Curriculum changes are primarily about professors and deans feeling less guilty. If they have a special curriculum, then they feel like they have a reason to exist. It's an argument for them to keep their jobs -- "yes, there are too many law schools producing way too many lawyers, but I should personally keep MY job because my school has a special curriculum." It helps one sleep at night.

    The second purpose of the curriculum changes is to make these arguments to incoming students -- "yes, there are too many law schools producing way too many lawyers, but you should bring your student loan tuition money to ME because we have a special curriculum here."

    The third purpose is to make professors feel important. "I know what the legal field needs and I am going to shape this profession in my own image!"

    At the end of the day, none of this makes much long-term difference in the lives of the students or their clients (if they ever practice).

  5. What I am seeing in all this is a reaction to the scamblog movement. As applications decline more and more toilets are resorting to gimmicks that they hope will draw the snowflakes and lemmings to them for a supposed leg up. "Sure, Loyola is ranked higher than Kent but if you come to Kent you will graduate "practice ready" and will have multiple offers from big law because they won't have to train you!"

  6. "In point of substantial merit the law school belongs in the modern university no more than a school of fencing or dancing." --Thorstein Veblen.

    Here is what I would say to (at least) the bottom 120 of the 200 law schools: You have a "teaching law firm" that handles cases in genuine practice areas, like DePaul? Good, very innovative. Add a course in office management. Okay. Provide a bar review type course type for entering students to help orient them to the doctrinal basics and another such course at the end, so they won't have to pay BarBri. Good. Set up a couple of research and writing courses taught by appellate practitioners. Okay. Please make sure the students are fully informed that their future is small law or solo, except for a very few who might snag a public sector job. Good. Now just one more thing: Shut down the rest of the law school, and reduce tuition accordingly.

  7. It's all in the numbers --


    1. Tuition (and O'Brien's salary) doubled over seven years. Basically a 14% increase per year.

      There are corporations that would love to make 14% per year, but then they have actual market risk and taxes to contend with. This is a shameful, reprehensible, monopolistic money grab on the part of these so-called "non-profits" and "educators."

      If you're looking to "defend liberty" or "pursue justice," don't look at law schools as they do neither.

  8. Vote Now:

    Given the obvious Law School Scam and the harmful results on real human lives, are the Law Professors:

    1. Distinguished, Honorable, Esteemed, Noteworthy, Virtuous, fair, just, wise, acclaimed, commendable, illustrious, revered, respected, venerated, eminent, prominent, extolled, commendable, and highly regarded?

    2. Or are they: Dishonorable, of bad character, unscrupulous, base, contemptible, disdainful, baleful, malignant, hurtful, harmful, villainous, immoral, unethical, cunning hypocrites as well as cheats and liars, rogues, knaves, low and base scum, nefarious, mean, or vile and filthy pigs?

    1. I vote for mean, vicious, cunning hypocrites.

  9. This program is dumb. Setting aside the shameless scamcraft at work here, what 1L classes are they allowing people to swap out? Do they realize that puts their students at a potential disadvantage? How are you going to do a meaningful clinical rotation if you don't have a basic framework on which to build?

    I'm for blowing up the system, but let's at least try to get something that, like, works.

    1. I agree. This is stupid.

      And "gimmick" is exactly the right word. And that's all it is.

      How do the students compare with 1L's from other schools when they send in resumes? Okay, for the sake of argument, let's say a #5 student in his class at Kent vs. a #5 student from another law school who has all taken all the common-core 1L classes.

      Legal employers do NOT like "?" marks - at all - when they screen and that's precisely what this stupid idea does. The employer is going to likely take the non-Kent student because, as we all know by now, everything in law is lockstep. Adding variety to 1L classes will do nothing but disadvantage Kent law students in summer hiring.

      Ridiculous gimmick thought up by equally ridiculous, grasping minds. And these professors and academics genuinely believe they could hack it in the Real World of law? They keep telling their students and the world-at-large this. But I have my doubts.

  10. This makes Kent look even more like a toilet-bowl dump than it is.

  11. Well if the employment outcomes on their web site are anything to go by, their graduates need all the help they can get. Class of 2012 was 282 graduates. This includes 168 who actually got full time long term bar passage required jobs. Subtract 9 who went solo. Also a staggering 76 were in 2-10 lawyer firms. A lot of these jobs are office sharing or eat what you kill arrangements. The real legal employment rate is probably well below 50 percent.

    1. What I find fascinating is that these are basically average results for a law school today.

  12. I'm extremely skeptical about the motives behind this "innovation."

    Taking courses outside the first year curriculum will make it difficult for C-K students to transfer. How would the transferee law school consider the students' application since it can't be compared with other applicants? And there would be complaints. I would be pissed off if I were a 1L and some potentially curve-busting 2L was sitting in my torts class. No, I'm sure that most other law schools would not consider a HIYW C-K transfer applicant that had deviated from the standard 1L curriculum. Could this possibly have been a consideration when this program was conceived?

    Also, this program cost absolutely nothing to implement and now, as it is doing, C-K gets to crow about its new curriculum structure. This is just more deck chair rearranging on the Titantic when what is needed is real reform that relates to cost less law school matriculation.

    1. That's a great point about transfers. Anything to reduce the transfers. Anything to squeeze more debt-funded tuition out of someone stupid enough to attend that first year. Once they're in the door...those are your prime prospects for 3 years of tuition and 30 years of misery.

  13. I know it's a desperate gimmick, but can we just entertain this idea for a moment?

    Which courses can a student defer to the second year? Maybe the Crim courses? Suppose they want to give up any hope for crim internships, and any opportunities for courtroom experience before graduation. Then is there any sense in taking IP, Tax, Securities, etc. in the first year? Does anyone prefer them for having done that?

  14. Here is a funeral home that is has a drive thru.

  15. kent used to tell incoming students circa 1999 that it was so up-and-coming and destined to be a tier 1 law school in coming years. such a toilet.