Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The King Continues to Reign!

About two months ago Paul Campos made some blog posts on his section for Lawyers, Guns, and Money, that I summarized here.  There he discussed declining enrollment figures for American University and University of Iowa, and how the schools were addressing the challenges differently.

Within the past week, however, Campos has made waves with his newest pair of posts, linked here and here.  Rather than solely relying on me to accurately summarize his posts, I encourage you to read what he had to say.  I also encourage you to read the comments section to his legal education-related posts, not only will you recognize a lot of great posters but the commenting content is as good as they come.

The first post that Campos made, which was widely cited and circulated through law-related news, from the ABA Journal to Above the Law, was provocatively titled: "80 to 85% of ABA law schools are currently losing money."  Supporting his thesis was recent budget data from 23 public and 8 private law schools:
My survey of law school budgets suggests that, on average, law school revenues will be down this fiscal year by about 15% in real terms from where they were three years ago. Costs, meanwhile, have not decreased by the same amount — if anything, they are slightly higher (as of now the rankings struggle continues unabated). Very few law schools were running 15% operating surpluses three years ago, which means that the large majority of law schools — I estimate between 80% and 85% — are incurring significant operating deficits in the present fiscal year.
Campos did say that the data he was provided was often from anonymous sources whose parent institutions may not be happy having their information spread, so he has not revealed which schools that he has looked nor will he let on which schools are in the clear.

I think it is a bit much to extrapolate the results of 31 law schools and claim that they are representative of the 200+ ABA accredited law schools.  However, there is no denying Campos' feat in collecting so much data, nor the soundness of his analysis.  If that many schools are really running deficits, it is only a matter of time before schools take more extreme measures in order to stay in business, and when that happens, you can bet OtLSS will be there to help cover it.

18 comments:

  1. Campos's prediction is that, rather than closing, the schools will force through a cut in professor compensation. Realistic?

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    1. I tend to think it is realistic. Although they'd deny it they all have to know where this is headed. Lose the gig you've got and there are no guarantees of finding a new one. Want to try practicing law with no experience and no book of business? And that's assuming that the first week of having to fill out a time sheet wouldn't make most of them stroke out.

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  2. In his second post, Campos predicts that few if any law schools will be forced to shut down - they will just reduce operating expenses to the levels they were at 20 years ago. I hope he is wrong about this. Its great to see red ink and crashing enrollment numbers, but at some point I want to see this translate into 25-50 law schools closing down, or at least being forced to merge with other law schools.

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    1. To me, it doesn't matter if lower applications/admissions/enrollment is achieved via all 200+ law schools remaining open for business and each having tiny classes or via a bunch closing shop. The goal is ~ 25k graduates a year regardless how it is achieved. Sure we'd all love to see these overpaid, blowhard admins and profs on the street, but it won't change anything if the remaining schools simply scoop up the existing and would-be students. Also, don't underestimate the desire of alumni to ensure their degree doesn't become even more worthless by having a school go under.

      However, the first example of every single school being able to continue operations while enrolling shrunken classes may simply be impossible operationally for some of these "not-for-profit" but former-profit-centers. Sure the schools can cut compensation, let staff go, refuse to replace retirees, etc, but at some point there's no scale to educate fewer than 100 students a year (or 35, which is my guess on the max class size Indiana Tech will ever get).

      Anyways, congrats to all those who worked to get applicants down from 87k to 68k over the past few years. Keep up the good work. I think we'll see another double digit % drop in applications this cycle and then finally some significant faculty layoffs, salary adjustments and tuition discounts. Perhaps even a few schools will merge rather than simply shut down.

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    2. Sadly, I think Campos is right (with a handful of exceptions, such as the Infilaw schools, Laverne, Hamline, TJSL, Vermont et al). These law schools deans and tenured profs are like cornered rats -- they will do anything to stay alive and keep the gravy train going, as long as it does not involve much personal sacrifice. Right now there are about 8000 law profs and teachers of various kinds, compared to about 5500 in the mid '90s. So first they will get rid of untenured profs and lecturers and either replace them with poorly paid adjuncts, and/or eliminate small enrollment classes and pack more bodies into other classes (which doesn't involve much more effort). At the same time they will keep throwing tuition discounts to keep warm bodies in the seats. Then, when they run out of scholarship money, they will dig into endowments to get more money or finagle it from the parent universities. Finally, in about 15-20 years, when the current generation of tenured pigs retire, the law schools will just about be broke and face the crisis head on. Only then will they consider going under.
      I doubt that any school will significantly lower tuition, which would be the most important reform.
      But at least a few less souls will go into the bonfire (I can imagine that enrollment will decrease a few thousand every year), thanks to the scambloggers.

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  3. We law school critics helped make this happen. L4L, unperson, and Tom the Temp brought the heat to the bastards first - along with Loyola 2L and the Calico Cat and a few others. Then the scamblogger wave hit.

    However, the real game-changer was David Segal EPIC New York Times piece - from January 8, 2011 - entitled "Is Law School a Losing Game?" That certainly magnified the message. After that, several other mainstream news sources started shearing the law school pigs on a regular basis. This brought the financial plight of JDs to the public.

    Then, when Campos came on board, not even the biggest piece of trash industry shill could any longer claim that the scambloggers were "just a bunch of entitled, lazy whiners." Thanks to all of you for your support, research, comments and willingness to expose the law school scam. Now the diploma mills are starting to feel the effects of our work.

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  4. Serious question: You know how the law schools send out these glossy brochures with the manicured lawn and nice bucolic scenery? Now you know these sonsofbitches will lay off the "non-essential" personnel first (i.e., the janitors, landscapers, cafeteria workers, etc.) before they layoff professors. What happens when the lawn is full of ugly high weeds? At that point, can a student sue the school for misrepresentation? After all, you don't think the glossy brochures are going to include pictures of tall weeds and trash strewn around the campus grounds?

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    1. They can improve their employment stats by hiring students to do the grounds work. 9-10 months after graduation would be February and March. They can get the campus ready for taking the next year's glossy brochure photos in the spring.

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    2. And those students will have experience in environmental law.

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    3. And those students will have experience in environmental law.

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  5. All well and good, but why did Campos end ILSS and so suddenly? Can anyone honestly explain why?

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    1. Well you have to consider how difficult it is to be writing a blog post almost every day. He did this for almost 3 years. There no way to really keep this up. Most of the original scambloggers themselves retired or only post maybe a handful of times a year.

      After he ended ITLSS, he still posted on his LGM blog, maybe once or twice a month or so and he even said he would do so on his last ITLSS post. I suppose he could have continued writing on ITLSS on a 1-2 times a month basis but it probably makes a lot more sense to just continue his law school posts on LGM instead. With OTLSS site taking off with more frequent posts with mutiple authors sharing the load, it all worked out in the end.

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    2. I went to a symposium at Stanford where he gave a short talk, as part of a panel on the "crisis in legal education" (in anticipation of an article which will appear in the future in SLR). He said that he ended the blog because "he couldn't take it anymore" and quoted some comments in the blog comments by some people to the effect that their lives were ruined by law school debt and they wanted to kill themselves, or something like that. You can believe him or not.
      I don't blame him, really. He had said everything he wanted to say, I would imagine.
      He's done his duty - one of the 3-4 law profs with a conscience who have spoken out (the rest of them are selfish cowards), so good on him, I say.

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    3. Sure. Can you imagine how bored he must have become? He needed a break from repeating himself over and over. But after a break, he is feeling the passion again.

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  6. From Campos' final post there:

    "All of which is to say that I’ve said what I have to say, at least in this format. I’ll continue to write on this topic, both in academic venues, in the popular media, and even from time to time in blog form, at Lawyers, Guns and Money. But the time has come to move on from here.

    I’ve never written anything about the professional and personal price I ended up paying for starting to investigate, more than a year before I began this blog, the structure of contemporary American legal education. Perhaps I’ll tell that story someday. For now I’ll merely note that if people enjoying the extraordinary protections afforded by tenure aren’t willing to confront institutional corruption, then academic tenure is an indefensible privilege."

    http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/02/goodbye-is-too-good-word.html

    And as he said he would in this final post, he continues to post about law schools and legal education over at 'Lawyers, Guns and Money'.

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    1. Meant as a reply to 2:19 PM

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  7. Lusty Larry Likes It In The ToiletNovember 19, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Law professors deserve to end up in airport toilets tapping loafers for crisp dollars.

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  8. I think of Freakanomics the book and how it showed information can be so powerful in bringing down something evil. This is what you all are doing now. They can call you lazy and whiny babies but they are protecting their enterprise because it pays so well. I looked at my law schools recent stats and the numbers are not worth it to spend even 80k to get a law degree. Its a cheaper school but still way overpriced. If you can save a few people from debt slavery you have done wonders for your fellow citizens. Information will help win this battle. The facts are on your side. Win with truth. God save the profession and the men and women have fallen for the Law School law.

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