Friday, January 3, 2014

Response to Brian Leiter's "American Law Schools: The New Economic Realities"

On December 29, 2013, Professor Brian Leiter published the first part of a two-part article on Huffington Post, entitled "American Law Schools: The New Economic Realities".  And my response might raise a few eyebrows with readers here, but bear with me.

It's a damn good article, right up until the last few sentences.  Professor Leiter (correctly) points out that:
Money has taken over much of the practice of law in the United States. The American Lawyer magazine ranks law firms by their revenues and profitability. U.S. News & World Report -- a news magazine a generation ago, and now merely a website that ranks anything that can be ranked -- began evaluating U.S. law schools in the late 1980s. The driving force of their rankings, as numerous critics have noted, is money: how much money is spent per capita on education. (My institution, which ranks 4th currently, would rank 1st if my dean would only double faculty salaries!) The dramatic increase in law school tuition, partly attributable to the general financial pressures on institutions, like universities, that do not achieve productivity gains through technology, is also partly due to the perverse U.S. News incentive to spend, spend, spend.

U.S. News also purports to "measure" employment outcomes, though only in the sense of asking the schools to self-report how their graduates fare. Given the media frenzy that surrounds the U.S. News rankings each year, it was predictable that schools would massage the data to over-state the outcomes -- in a handful of cases, even hiring their own graduates as library assistants to boost the employment numbers! As I wrote a decade ago, the employment statistic for most schools published by U.S. News "should be treated as essentially fiction: it may have elements of truth, but basically it's a work of the imagination."

 . . . two events in the last eight years unsettled the status quo, one familiar, one less so.  The familiar event is the collapse of the global capitalist system in 2008, which soon spread to the legal sector, which entered its own severe recession. Less familiar is that in 2005, Congress overhauled the bankruptcy laws to make them much harsher for debtors and much friendlier to creditors; among the changes, no student loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy any longer, except in extraordinary circumstances. The combination proved toxic for many American law schools. Suddenly, substantial minorities of law school graduates were unemployed, thanks to the recession, and many were saddled with significant debt without any recourse of relief in bankruptcy. . . .
The ABA had been derelict in its duties for far too long, and there is nothing like stern reprimands from U.S. Senators to focus the attention. Soon enough, the ABA mandated improved employment data reporting by law schools, which made clear how poorly graduates of some law schools were faring during the recession. Around the same time, the New York Times began running a series of front-page stories about the collapse of the job market for new lawyers and the staggering debt loads some were carrying.
(And before we go any further - skeptical readers, take note!  The bolded statements above are straight from the pen of a law professor.)

You'll hear few complaints from me about any of that.  All fairly solid, accurate information.  Many parties were at fault for allowing legal education to spiral out of control, and many parties were at fault for allowing the legal profession to turn into a money printing machine for a select few elite lawyers.

But then the wheels fall off.  After such a promising start, Professor Leiter's second part of the article, entitled "American Law Schools and the Psychology of Cyber-Hysteria", missed the mark so widely that its failings must be addressed.

The thrust of the entire second part of the article is that bloggers blame law professors and law schools for these problems.  I was expecting the second part of the article to propose the solutions to the problems highlighted in the first part, but no, Professor Leiter went off on a sadly predictable tangent.

You see, it's not that anyone believes that law schools and law professors alone caused this mess.  That's just a distraction, a fiction created by legal academia uninterested in addressing anything of real substance.  It's window dressing.  It's a red herring.  We know - and have known all along - that everyone had a hand in causing the mess.  Higher education is out of control in terms of expansion and expenditures.  Professors are very handsomely compensated and enjoy the benefits of a leisurely life in academia (including, it would seem, having time to pen double-headers for Huffington Post on their students' dime, articles which are insultingly insensitive to the plight of many law graduates who funded those very articles).  The legal profession thrives on churning through the glut of new entrants and throwing them out when next year's models arrive.  Students are sometimes greedy and attracted to false promises of high salaries and wonderful careers.  The government funded the entire thing through student loans.  We're all to blame for it happening - schools, educators, lawyers, the government, the ABA, everyone.  We're not placing the blame solely on the shoulders of law professors and law schools.  I want to believe that Professor Leiter is smarter than this, but he's not giving me a lot to work with.

Here's where his confusion stems from, I believe.  We're no annoyed because we believe law professors are the cause of this entire mess.  We're annoyed because when it comes to legal education, law schools and law professors are precisely the parties who hold the power to facilitate change.  And they have failed to do so, time and time and time again - perfectly demonstrated by Professor Leiter's twin articles.  The first article highlighted the problems, but the second article, instead of proposing solutions, blames the students and sweeps the mess under the carpet once again.  Worse still, it dismisses the entire reform movement (which is predominantly student- and graduate-led) as not just an internet "meme" (most of which are rather frivolous - LOLCats, for example), but goes on to portray law professors as victims!  Only in the KrAzY world of legal academia, folks!

Yes, the law professors, most of whom work remarkably few hours per week in safe and comfortable conditions with wonderful job stability and extraordinary benefits, free from stress and boredom and clients and phone calls and deadlines and all those other pesky attributes that make work so unpleasant for those of us outside the ivory tower, those professors are the individuals who should be complaining, not unemployed graduates with their six-figure nondischargeable debt trying to fight for scraps of work in an oversaturated and shrinking market, trying to salvage what remains of their broken careers.

Instead of wasting such a good opportunity to propose meaningful change from within academia, the entire second article was wasted in a petty revenge piece.

Which is, unfortunately, the position of legal academia from top to bottom, Yale to Indiana Tech, with notable exceptions I can still count on just one hand.  Many years ago, when these issues were first raised, doors were slammed shut, hands were placed over ears, and almost everyone in legal academia started chanting, "Lalalalalala can't hear you lalalalalalalala."

So the activists did what activists do, which is to draw attention to the problems through any means necessary.  To do what gets attention.  And I think it's been working - applications are dropping, people are getting the message that there's a problem with the legal education system and it needs to be fixed.

It's not that law schools and law professors are the (sole) cause of the problem, as Professor Leiter misunderstands, although they were a contributing factor and certainly not blameless.  It's that they refuse to help solve the problems!  Worse, they have almost total control over solving the problems!

Example - the moronic decision to allow Indiana Tech Law School to open in 2013.  How did so many in legal academia look the other way and allow something like that to happen?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

Example - it's clear that there are still twice as many law graduates as there are jobs for those graduates.  Sure, some people seek a legal education for the enrichment the study of law brings, but most - the vast majority - want to become practicing lawyers.  Why have so few schools reduced class sizes to address the weak market demand?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

Example - why are law professors paid so highly (the source of which is student loan money borrowed by students), when they work so few hours, produce such valueless scholarship, and clearly are not being lured away by the private sector or government?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

Example - why have law schools not switched to a two year curriculum?  Why are some law schools as expensive as medical schools, yet have a fraction of the expenditures?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

Example - why are law schools giving large portions of their tuition to the parent university, essentially subsidizing the undergrads (and sports programs etc.) on the backs of the law students?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

Example - why do professors at the top (good) law schools refuse to speak out about the hundred or so bottom end law schools that are admitting underqualified students, devaluing the JD, flooding the market with grads who have little hope of success as lawyers (from a business perspective), and who are making a mockery of the entire legal education system?  Why do we still have 200+ law schools?  Only law schools and law professors can solve that problem.

The list goes on and on and on and on.

The solutions to all of these problems lie in the hands of law schools and law professors.  So law professors, step up SOLVE THEM!

You might not have made the mess, but you're the ones who are holding the mop and bucket.  Oh, and you own the building where the mess is.

Few would blame only law professors for the problems occurring in the first place, other than those looking to distract - again - the focus of potential law school applicants and those who supply the money.  But blame for failing to solve the problems in a timely manner lands squarely in the faculty lounge.  Law professors, deans, and administrators control how much the JD costs (which affects student debt), how many grads are produced (which affects employment prospects, salaries, careers etc.), and law schools are the primary filter through which the profession self-regulates.  Law schools are ground zero for these problems today.

The blame game is getting old.  Nobody cares.  What matters is the solution.  So instead of covering up the problem by spending time writing articles about how some bloggers are playing by their own rules, let's hear solutions to the problems from within academia.  What is being done to cut class sizes?  What is being done to cut costs?  What is being done to modernize the curriculum?  What is being done to bring sanity and dignity back to legal education?  The debate has changed from "do these problems exist?" to "what can be done to solve the problems?"

The personal attacks directed at law professors are, it seems, motivated by frustration that those who can change the system are failing to do so.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Leiter's second article is not without any redeeming features, and does conclude with at least a partial solution: "Congress will need to take up debt relief for a generation of students caught in the vise of an economic catastrophe."  Agreed.  Except that's just one part of the puzzle.  Debt relief would help and it must be pursued, although debt relief alone merely shifts the problem onto the (innocent) taxpaying public as a whole and ignores the source.  Let's not hide the problem by diluting it in the ocean of government accounting.  That's just lazy.

What needs to happen too is for the cost of education to be brought back down to sane levels.  It was possible to deliver a JD for a fraction of today's price a decade ago, two decades ago, three decades ago.  Not much has changed over the years, yet the cost of law school has skyrocketed.  Why?  Law professors should be working to bring the cost of a JD back down to those pre-madness levels.  Reducing the debt in the first place is far better than forgiving the debt after the fact.

The flood of JDs onto the market also needs to be addressed.  By graduating twice as many JD grads as there are jobs, significant unemployment will continue regardless of what The National Jurist predicts.  Law schools need to reduce class sizes, or simply close the low-performing law schools where employment levels are truly appalling.  And no new law schools.

The solutions are, in general, really rather simple.  They just happen to be solutions that law professors don't want to hear.  And I can understand that, because nobody likes to hear that the solution is downsizing their own job, or trimming the budget from their own department.  But unfortunately, that's what needs to be done.  The excuses for why it can't be done are becoming more and more tortured, illogical, twisted and unbelievable.

And that's where the stalemate arises.  Law schools and law professors acknowledge that reform needs to occur, they hold the keys to reform, yet they refuse to reform.  Which is why the pro-reform activists are doing whatever they can to break the stalemate with their limited resources, much of which involves chipping away at the source of stability for law schools: cash-wielding incoming/returning students.  If we can stop the students/money going into law schools in the first place, things will have to change.  But as everyone living in the US recently can understand, brute-force blanket cuts forced by strangling the flow of money across the board are far more painful than negotiated and gentle reforms reached through sensible compromise.

I, for one, would rather see the ABA or a group of deans/professors step up, bring everyone to the table, and implement some changes that everyone can live with.  Break the grip US News has by refusing en masse to submit data.  Every school agrees to freeze class sizes right now and then reduce seats by five percent per year over the next decade.  Freeze tuition right now and reduce it by five percent per year over the next decade.  One law review per school, and include experienced members of the practicing bar on editorial boards so that frivolous scholarship is stamped out.  Tenure remains, but only if professors teach a full class load each semester.  And no new law schools; if there's demand in the future, increase seats at existing schools again.  There's nothing too radical in there, right?  And there are dozens of other common-sense solutions that we can all happily live with.

So law schools, if you need a little help with figuring this out, all you need do is ask.  You've got thousands of grads (and professors) who know these problems inside out, and who have great solutions.

Charles Cooper is the author, along with Thane Messinger, of “Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession)”, in addition to being the moderator at and the author of “Later in Life Lawyers”.  He can be contacted at


  1. You make a few good points here, but I would ask how you think law schools and law professors can solve the problem of too much money going to parent universities? I would think law schools and law professors are against that.

    I would also ask how you think law schools and law professors can prevent Indiana Tech Law School from opening? I think pretty much every other law school and law professor is against this new competitor and thinks it is unnecessary.

    The same with competitor schools flooding the market, whether it is the bottom 100 or so schools or those who have increased class size and lowered standards this year, such as the University of Colorado. I think law professors and law schools elsewhere feel they are flooding the market.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. They can stop the flow of money to parent universities by not agreeing to raise tuition again. They can protest the unfairness of the scheme themselves. The deans can get their heads together and figure it out. The faculty could start to speak up about the unfairness of the system and how it's hurting their students, but they haven't even done that. There has been nothing but silence from the faculty lounge. If, as you suggest, the faculty are unhappy about sending money to the parent university, where are the complaints? The point is not necessarily that the money is being transferred, but that the law faculty are the only ones who have any power to stop it and they're doing nothing. And at this point, I'm not buying any suggestion that they are entirely powerless. Who else could possibly hold this power? Students? The government? The ABA? Lawyers?

      As for Indiana Tech Law School, here's how law schools and law professors can stop grave mistakes like that from happening. Take a look at the ABA Accreditation Committee composition:

      Thomas C. Galligan, Jr., President
      Colby-Sawyer College

      Vice Chair
      Anne Lukingbeal, Associate Dean
      Cornell Law School


      The Honorable Scott Bales
      Vice Chief Justice
      Arizona Supreme Court

      David A. Brennen, Dean
      University of Kentucky College of Law
      Lexington, Kentucky

      Donald C. Dahlin
      Emeritus Professor
      The University of South Dakota

      Arthur Gaudio, Profession and Dean Emeritus
      Western New England University School of Law
      Springfield, Massachusetts

      Paul M. George
      Associate Dean & Director, Biddle Law Library
      University of Pennsylvania Law School

      Peter G. Glenn, Of Counsel
      Stevens & Lee, P.C.
      Reading, Pennsylvania

      Dr. Robert Glidden
      President Emeritus, Ohio University
      Rockbridge Baths, Virginia

      Peter A. Joy, Professor
      Washington University School of Law
      St. Louis, Missouri

      The Honorable Carol Ronning Kapsner
      North Dakota Supreme Court

      Pamela Lysaght, Professor
      University of Detroit Mercy School of Law

      Ada Meloy, General Counsel
      American Council on Education

      The Honorable Margret G. Robb
      Chief Judge
      Court of Appeals of Indiana

      The Honorable Patricia Timmons-Goodson (retired)
      Raleigh, North Carolina

      Frederic White, Dean
      Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

      Rebecca Hanner White, Dean
      University of Georgia School of Law

      Adrien Wing, Professor
      University of Iowa College of Law

      The committee is stacked, literally stacked, with law professors, and there looks like just one lawyer in private practice who might actually have a finger on the pulse of the job market. The power to accredit new schools lies almost entirely in the hands of law professors who make up this committee. The message needs to be that no new law schools will be accredited until the glaring problems with the existing ones are solved. How about the accreditation committee clears up that mess first?

      As for closing low-performing schools, law professors at the upper end of the spectrum (Leiter included) need to be making the distinction between their own worthwhile institutions which actually produce employable grads, and those underperforming cash cows which are less about education and more about profiting from the student loan system. It's time the good professors at the good schools called out those low end schools which are spoiling the entire legal education system for everyone. I'm amazed that professors at top law schools are not distancing themselves from the problems in legal education and pointing fingers at the Cooleys and Indiana Techs, placing blame where blame lies.

      Think of it this way. The power to change these things must lie somewhere. So where? Us? Grads have little power (except here). The ABA? Toothless and run by biglaw and law professors. The government? Only perhaps through student loan availability, and we're working on that.

      No, the only logical place the power to change legal education rests with - surprise - legal educators. Because everyone else involved has a good reason why they can't solve the problems.

    3. Charles, you make a valid point but let me make a point. The ABA has hanging over it the specter of USDOJ anti-trust goons. Anti-trust laws are intended to protect competition because competition drives down prices. That is unless same government is pumping millions in loans that are not subject to market forces (e.g. creditworthiness) into the market. The scam will go on until the loans are cut off. Suggested solution: The case of for-profit trade schools is similar to law schools. They promise a lucrative job will materialize when you take their training so the student loan is a sound investment. Then you graduate and find out there aren't enough jobs available. Finally the feds laid down the law and said if more than a certain percent of your graduates default on their loans we will no longer make loans to your students. Quite a few went under quite quickly. It would work with law schools, too.

    4. Some professors at better schools may want to see the bottom 100 schools cut enrollments or even close. But most professors like Leiter, i.e. humanities professors at the top 10 or 12 schools, are terrified of that prospect.

      Why, you ask? Because that would mean fewer faculty positions for their students going into academia. Future faculty members are literally the only students they care about. They really are that narrow-minded. As another example of this, Leiter refers to that economic study as a pure abstraction, from the perspective of the professors who wrote it. He shows no concern at all for the students duped into buying those mythical million-dollar law degrees.


    6. 6:54, I agree with that. Cut off the cash and the system has to adjust, and those adjustments will be uncontrolled and involuntary. That works, and it's kind of what the bloggers are doing - dissuading people from spending money at law schools. I would love to see the money tap turned off at the federal level.

      And that's what puzzles me about the silence from law schools. They know such a dramatic shift would destroy many of them, yet they consistently fail to offer more reasonable and gentle solutions for reform.

    7. 8:14 makes his points in all caps, so he must be correct. All caps is better than a citation to an authoritative source.

    8. "Anti-trust laws are intended to protect competition because competition drives down prices."

      No. Antritrust laws do not exist to drive down prices. If you do not understand this, you cannot understand why the consumer (e.g., law student) is so screwed.

    9. When the dean of SLU Law School decided to cut faculty summer research stipends (someone please tell my boss you get paid extra for doing your job during the summer) the faculty pitched a fucking shit. And lo and behold, a miracle. The research stipends were saved! No longer would the nation be deprived of the value of much legal scholarship.

      The idea that they can't do anything about tuition or class size is laughable. They don't want to because they are greedy pigs.

    10. You need to read the context of the original DOJ opinion here - supply and demand was not a consideration, and the thing was not an official pronouncement of any kind that is binding in today's very different job market given today's very different level of educational costs.

      The ABA interpretation here if correct would mean that the antitrust laws prevent limiting education in any field to meet demand. In other words the antitrust laws require that an unlimited number of students be allowed to enter every field in the name of competition. There is no such thing as a limit and no such thing as reasonable regulation. An unlimited number of medical schools must be allowed to be opened in the name of competition.

      This is nonsense. The only ones taking it seriously are the ABA committees that accredit law schools. No other professional field applies this set of rules.

    11. That story about the St. Louis U. research stipends is sickening. People like that really aren't qualified to teach law, ethics, human values, or anything else.

    12. If you want to be sick, head to Midtown Manhattan where the law professors are blowing through student cash holding their annual gabfest in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

    13. They do seem to have lots of cash to throw around, don't they.

      That's what attracts many students to the scam. They sense there's lots of money to be made by joining the scam, but they don't realize that the money comes from their own debt-funded tuition. And it goes to deans and professors, not to the other 99% of law school graduates.

    14. Not true, the idea that professional organizations can't regulate themselves is boiler plate for all profesional organizations, save medicine and dental. These organizations will get sued, but will not even fight the charge. There was a case of optometry getting sued by a prospective school; optometry 'leaders' caved.

  2. Now law schools can target illegal immigrants in their collective pursuit of new lemmings in order to continue the six figure professorial gravy train. I wonder if any other country in the world would grant me the same rights to practice. Practicing law in Europe sounds very quaint at the moment. Here's the link:

  3. Leiter's reasoning in those articles is quite peculiar. Essentially he's saying that there are big problems, but he doesn't have to do anything about them. Why? Because those insolent scambloggers are blaming him for not doing anything. How can he be expected to act responsibly when the scambloggers are calling him irresponsible?

    1. "'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

    2. Precisely. The first part of the article was really good - he laid out the problems with legal education fairly well. And the logical second part would have been solutions for those problems to be presented, but instead we ended up with a bizarre attack on bloggers who seem to be the only ones interested in making any changes.

  4. Excellent response to Leiter's double-sided series. Charles, you need to get this on HuffPost for a wider audience.

  5. Well said; excellent. I too was "pleasantly surprised" by Leiter's opening remarks, but we all knew the other shoe was going to drop, because, frankly, it had to. Leiter invokes Nietzche (of course) to explain that people need someone to blame, yet Leiter is no less immune to the human condition than anyone else, even though he is keenly "aware." He, too, needs someone to blame, therefore scamblogs.

    As stated above, the scamblogs have always said that law school is a good deal for a few. It is a bad deal for many. But this requires case-by-case discussion and evaluation, and looking at a large body of outcomes and long-term trends. For Leiter to say that the scambloggers are just disillusioned malcontents with no thesis is, of course, a goss oversimplification and lazy argumentation.

    As discussed in previous posts, the ire towards law schools and LawProfs largely comes from the fact that for decades, No One Cared. Like the housing market, a few people made a lot of money selling bad loans to people who couldn't pay them back for years and years, thus raking in the dough but shifting virtually all of the risk to someone else. When the market crashed, its ruination ran far, deep, and wide. Similarly, Law Schools raised tuition, mislead others about outcomes, ignored real data, etc. to the detriment of many and the profession as a whole. To be fair, the ABA also accredited law schools like they were candy. But hey, things were humming along, money was being made, so who cares...? Until the crash, of course.

    UofC, as a para-ivy league, at least generates good outcomes for its students, and they are aware of "what the game is about" and try to pass that vantage point on to their students. That is more than what many Law Schools can say, independent of whether or not they are graced by the presence of someone like Leiter on their faculty.

  6. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Anyone going to address this one? (From the second in Prof.Leiter's HuffPo series) -

    "In another case, a lawyer in Chicago, a man in his mid-40s, has devoted hundreds of hours to blogs and chatrooms where he ridicules law review articles mainly by minority and female law professors -- so far, under a pseudonym, though one victim of his harassment has filed an ethics complaint with the Illinois Bar."

    (Toadly Emphasis is added)

    Or do y'all feel it's already been debunked often enough?

    1. It's a dishonest attack for sure, and one which highlights the link between Professor Leong and Professor Leiter in that debacle, although I'll defer to dybbuk when it comes to responding directly and what the approach of this blog will be in the future.

      But yes, it's a gross mischaracterization of dybbuk's role and his views, and he certainly did not write most (or even any) of the comments Professor Leong has attributed to him in her efforts to create some buzz about her own writing.

    2. I wonder if Nancy Leong is aware that Brian Leiter's sponsorship is the kiss of death to an academic career. He destroys whatever he touches.

    3. Bathsheba BoldwoodJanuary 4, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      Yes, he probably destroys that too.

  7. I think you are being too kind to the entrenched tenured professors administrators and deans. Some of them that i have met are the most vile arrogant and predatory self important scum ive ever come across. they view students as beneath them and have bothing but contempt for the young people that fund their absurd lifestyles.

  8. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    (From Coop) "You'll hear few complaints from me about any of that. All fairly solid, accurate information. "

    Sort of. Do you notice how word selection is used to round off the sharp edges?

    For example, Prof. Leiter says it is "some law schools" whose graduates have been faring poorly.

    - You're going to give that canard a free pass? From Kyle's website you can sort by employment score (note this score is based on FT JD required jobs less solos).

    - So, what would we use to define "fairing poorly"? How about 40% or more kids failing to get real law jobs requiring the degree they just purchased?

    - Guess how deep into the rabbit hole you have to go before you get to the schools having at least 60%? One Hundred and Thirty Two (132). This is UNLV, as happens. Note that fully 25% of those jobs are "local and state clerk" jobs. Given the dearth of Supreme Courts in the State of Nevada (presumably, there is only one, I mean), most of those clerk jobs are very unlikely to lead to jobs in sizeable firms so next year the majority of those kids will be out scratching.

    - More realistically, my own bias would be to say that any school where at least 25% of the kids fail to get real law jobs is "fairing poorly". Guess how far into the hole you have to get before FT, JD-required job outcomes hit 75%? Number 184, which is UT. And at UT (unlike UNLV), while a substantial number of those jobs (15%) are clerkships, the majority of kids getting clerkships are at federal district and appellate courts. Which are more likely than a local court clerkship to lead to good outcomes next year, at least according to what I've been reading.

    - So, UT in my mind is reasonably NOT a school where the students are "fairing poorly". And, by extension, I'll be lazy and just posit that any school with an employment score above UT is also just dandy.

    - That'd be a total of 17 schools. Out of 200.

    1. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      P.S. Apologies for the repetitive typos in misspelling "faring". I'm old enough that I'm having trouble proof reading in this tiny box... haven't had enough coffee yet... excuses ad nauseam, etc...

    2. That's an excellent analysis that puts so many of those pretentious professors to shame.

      I love your screen name, too.

    3. Have you ever heard of the movie "Deep Toad," starring Tony Robbins?

    4. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Thanks. But I wasn't trying to put anyone to shame but instead trying to inject some realism.

      The name - it's just my goofy take-off from an ode to Prof. Leong's "The Open Road and the Traffic Stop: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the American Dream" which was written as an essay by Prof. Brooks Holland (which he titled "Imagining The Open Road").

      Prof. Holland seemed fairly impressed with Prof. Leong's work. This quote is from the end of the intro to his paper:

      "In the end, I embrace the Open Road, not only as high-level scholarship, but as a virtue in legal education."

      Prof. Holland is a fellow CrimLaw professor, which may be why he wanted to put out the nice review of Prof. Leong's work. On the other hand, he has solid work experience in criminal law ("solid" as in, it appears to be 10+ years as a PD in NYC with trial experience), so perhaps he's a good judge of the content, although I find both to be faintly silly. But then, I'm not a legal scholar. I'm just a technician.

    5. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      "ever heard of the movie "Deep Toad," starring Tony Robbins?"

      Nope. Worth watching? Isn't the star some sort of motivational guru?

    6. Imagine a medical school where 40% of the graduates could not find work as doctors. And where some of those were actually being employed by the school to boost its statistics. Suppose the administration of that school and its apologists responded by blaming the 40% for not networking enough, or for not being satisfied with "M.D. advantage" jobs like insurance claims adjuster or medical equipment salesperson, or for just being entitled whiners. Would never be allowed to happen, right?

      Yet almost two-thirds of American law schools are in that position. About 132 out of 200.

    7. dybbuk? is that you?

    8. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      Anony at 12:11 PM, I'm not sure if your question is directed at me or at one of the other Anonys in thread. But if at me, the answer's no, I am not that ghost.

  9. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Another example of Prof. Leiter employing softening language in what I view to be sleight-of-hand misdirection:

    "... it was predictable that schools would massage the data to over-state the outcomes -- in a handful of cases, even hiring their own graduates as library assistants to boost the employment numbers! "

    (Toadly Emphasis Added).

    Really? A "handful"? Kyle's website is again helpful. You can sort all schools by percentage of students reported as "employed" who had school-funded jobs. Guess how deep into that particular rabbit hole you have to go before you get to a school that is not providing school-funded jobs?

    Number 147. That's right. 146 out of 200 apparently constitutes "a handful of schools".

    And notably, of that 146, only 32 schools self-employ more than Prof. Leiter's own UChi.

    Now, that is not knocking Chicago. This school has fantastic outcomes for its graduates with almost 95% getting FT-JD required jobs. But let's not overlook the fact that over 8% of those are school-funded. I don't know what those school jobs are, and Chicago won't release its NALP reports so we can't find out what those kids are paid.

    But in any event, to say that just "a handful" of schools do this is more than disingenuous.

    But hey, maybe it was only 4 or 5 schools who self-employ their grads specifically in order “to boost the employment numbers”. The other 140 or so only do so out of the altruistic desire to help their new graduates. Hah. While I am willing to believe that some, even a substantial number, of the 146 do so for nothing other than altruistic reasons, I have a hard time digesting the idea that it is only “a handful” having other motives.

  10. I am also shocked at how much sense the first part of Leiter's piece makes, but echoing comments I made in another thread a few days ago, there is one detail that I do not think is accurate:

    "Suddenly [as a result of the 2008 economic downturn], substantial minorities of law school graduates were unemployed, thanks to the recession..."

    To give Leiter the benefit of the doubt (I can't believe I just said that), this may have been true at his school, if he has blinders on and is unable to see beyond it, but substantial minorities of law school graduates had already been unemployed for years before 2008. It was hard to tell this from the employment numbers law schools were reporting, of course, because the "massaging" Leiter refers to had also been going on for years before 2008. In 2008 things went from "substantial minorities" to "something approaching a majority". It also went from primarily affecting grads whose academic pedigree left them vulnerable to dismissal by law school apologists as "losers" (e.g. went to a lower-ranked school, got poor to mediocre grades) to grads whose pedigree would have previously been considered satisfactory. It then became impossible for the law schools to hide these problems anymore, leading to the rise of the scamblogs, and here we are today....

    1. I will echo the fact that it's a "fair" point. UofC generates good outcomes, so it would be easy to have one's head in the sand and not realize that many, many law schools were producing atrocious results. If you truly live in the bubble, you would wonder "Why is everybody complainining? Everything is rosy! More champagne, post-haste."

      However, Leiter is smarter than that, and he further holds himself out as a law school ranking "expert." He, of all, knew or reasonably should have known the true score about student outcomes. Thus, it is disingenuous for him to advocate for his blame-the-hysterical-scamblogs conclusions in the manner than he does.

      This is known in other fields as "cherry-picking the data."

    2. One of the faults of Professor Leiter is that he tends to obtain his data by looking out of his office window, seeing the Chicago grads all doing fairly well, then saying "all looks good to me".

      It's not his school that's the problem. It's the 150 low end schools that operate nothing like Chicago. It's a different world entirely.

    3. Leiter's problem is that a lot of his buddies are professors at mediocre law schools.

      His job is safe - his friends' jobs are not.

    4. Given his personality, I seriously doubt that Leiter has a lot of buddies--anywhere.

      He has, however, appointed himself the public defender of mediocre law schools.
      Given his serious lack of legal experience, this is really the only chance he'll ever get to employ his adversarial attitude in public. It's obvious that he's aching to destroy someone, and he's failed many, many times in the past. Small wonder he can't control himself now. He's sniffed out a bit of contrived controversy surrounding Nancy Leong, and he's not going to let this one get away.

      Leiter reminds me of my friend's dog, who barked compulsively, sometimes for an hour or more, at cats he had no chance of catching. This went on for years, but then one day he killed a small cat. He got a second cat a few months ago. He was quite proud of himself.

      Leiter, too, will be mighty full of himself if he finally catches and destroys a scamblogger. Right now he's just in the barking stage.

  11. In the final analysis, the "professors" and administrators don't have the will to implement or even seriously discuss meaningful change. After all, they have an economic incentive to get as many asses into seats as possible.

    1. Exactly. It's not a matter of "can't", it's a matter of "won't". That's what makes it so frustrating.

    2. Yes. Orin's response downthread that scambloggers need to water down their criticism to appeal to potential faculty sympathizers is so much nonsense.

      Even accepting that the den of thieves that is the legal academy contains a few honest or somewhat honest souls, they are not going to be the ones who change a system that pays off so well for them.

      And if lawprofs do not like to be called lizards, roaches, and pigs, maybe they should stop behaving as such.

  12. There is a major problem in the legal profession that Professor Leiter addresses above of law firms, and to a lesser extent those employers sponsoring clerkships and internships for entry level lawyers, churning through the glut of new lawyers and then throwing them out into a job market that can absorb very few people. This produces a dirty trifecta for law grads. Churning lawyers into unemployment and underemployment goes together with gross overproduction of lawyers by law schools and the overspending by law schools as a result of unlimited federal student loans. The combination is ruinous to most law graduates, whether they have debt or not. Most lawyers are not holding full-time permanent jobs.

    Until the ABA asks law firms to reduce their gross reliance on up or out policies that pour out thousands of young lawyers into a legal job market that can absorb few, or a court holds that in today's job market, as applied by the law firms, up or out is age discriminatory, even the best law schools like Chicago, which graduates small classes, are feeding their graduates to the grim reaper sooner or later because there is so much lawyer oversupply.

    Longitudinal oversupply - too many highly trained and experienced lawyers is a huge problem today for experienced graduates of our nation's top law schools. The problems of the legal profession will not be solved by halving the number of graduates and the cost of law school. You are still going to have half of the people who initially get attorney jobs falling into unemployment, underemployment, temporary work and the like.

    The law school system relies on short-term jobs that last a year or a few years and then disappear. Up or out produces a very falsely rosy picture of an attorney job market that is very poor.

    1. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

      This cannot be overemphasized. Up or out and the traditional law firm "use em and lose em" approach has been wrecking careers for 20 years. The buildup of redundant attorneys is now monumental.

      No opportunities here. Move along.

    2. Yes, totally agree. I mentioned this is another post a few days ago.

      It would be much better if firms hired more lawyers at the 50-80k level, rather than a few at the 150k that must constantly be fired.

      Is there any sign the private sector is doing this? I've heard it's happening a little bit from Henderson's articles about the appearance of nonpartner career tracks, but we haven't really seen this become the new norm.

      In any case, more stable, salaried jobs would obviously be great instead of the current norm of lawyers treating each other like garbage.

    3. No sign the private sector is changing. The top law firms want to pay $160,000 and they want to churn lawyers. This is not a matter of money but of TRADITION.

      The problem is that a huge number of people are left out of work, whether they started in big law or elsewhere. The big law belch, so to speak creates massive oversupply in the legal profession.

    4. Many of the non-partner career track jobs are temp work. No benefits. Short-term contract at the firm. May or may not be renewed. Even if the pay is $120,000 annually, if you are able to work for only 3 months, and spend the year before and after that unsuccessfully seeking additional work, you are screwed.

    5. The dismal long term job prospects for that small percentage of lawyers who actually get a decent start in the law business cannot be overemphasized. Focusing on short term job statistics is a very cynical and meaningless approach that hides the long term inability to maintain a meaningful job as a lawyer. It is very misleading and requires an absence of candor at minimum (and I believe fraud) for law schools to focus on 9 month after graduation employment statistics. All of us working long term in law know that the percentage of graduates maintaining a job as a lawyer goes down continually over time. Only about half of all law graduates in the US are presently working as lawyers.

    6. You hit the nail on the head.

      Lawyering at a law firm is a career only for a very, very established few. In the past, the trick was to get enough experience and time before you were forced to start your own firm. Many, many small firms, microfirms and solos have been created ... and these are struggling to survive. LIke the associate at the large firm, only a percentage will survive. The few that manage to get "jobs" will eventually be thrown into this.

      It's a tournament, not a career. The schools don't tell you this.

      Today, the market collapse coupled with the extreme hypersaturation of lawyers means that the prospect of (1) getting hired by a legitimate firm and getting enough exdperience to (2) start your own practice is now gone with the wind. The schools don't tell you this.

      The notion that the market will recover and the firms will start hiring young associates once again --even if true-- will not improve the long-term outlook for the profession. It will make it worse.

    7. Excellent comment at 5:10.

      Initial employment statistics have lost most of their meaning, which is why schools like Chicago don't try to suppress them any more.

  13. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    More sleight-of-hand...
    "The cyber-hysteria about law schools ... is immune to facts or evidence. That became clear last summer when ...Simkovic ...and ...McIntyre... conducted the first systematic study of economic outcomes for those with a JD compared to ...a B.A. The results were unambiguous: students who earned a J.D. earned substantially more than their B.A. counterparts at almost every level of the income distribution... The cyber-mob counseled against earning a J.D. without offering any other guidance; yet the best evidence on offer, from Professors Simkovic and McIntyre, demonstrated that a J.D. was a good financial investment for the vast majority over the long term."


    "The cyber-response to this analysis was astonishing: those committed to the proposition that law schools were wicked, the cause of their economic misfortune, could not countenance that the facts were otherwise. Professor Simkovic responded systematically and calmly to the attacks over a period of several weeks, demonstrating the mistakes and errors underlying every objection to their research. None of this had any effect on the cyber-hysteria."

    Okay. Um, no. What Prof. Leiter here characterizes as "attacks" and "cyber-hysteria" from those "committed to the proposition that law schools were wicked" are actually a series of pretty-well reasoned Op-Eds available from The American Lawyer by Stephen Harper (who as far as I know is not committed to the inherent wickedness of law schools) and Matt Leichter (who may be? (who knows what lurks in a man's heart)).

    Professor Simkovic did indeed provide responses on Professor Leiter's typepad. Whether the responses were systematic, calm and demonstrative of all the "errors" and "cyber-hysteria" of his "attackers"[1] I'll leave for y'all to decide (I have my own opinion). Pretty much all of this is available from Paul Caron's blog with overall coverage summarized on the page linked below.

    [1] Why is criticism characterized as discourse, criticism or disagreement if coming from certain folks (and/or those folks they support) but always characterized as "attacks" if coming toward those same folks?

  14. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Okay, last complaint. Promise. This one is about smear by association, just in case you missed it.

    In the latter half of Professor Leiter's second essay he discusses how folks largely associating with fellow travelers become galvanized in their thinking, such that their shared positions become not only entrenched but become more extreme. This is old hat and (AFAIK) a well accepted idea.

    But Professor Leiter uses as his example the right-leaning elements of the Republican party to discuss this point, in what to me seems a cute attempt to align LS critics with Tea partiers in the minds of his HuffPo reading audience.

    Guess what 95% of the HuffPo reading audience think of the Tea Party movement?

  15. The elephant-in-the-room problem with any discussion concerning legal reform is the almost complete disconnect between practice and academia in the US legal system. The fact that students can graduate without ever having met a practicing attorney is farcical. There is room for reform from the bar and the lecture halls. The local bar associations should require practicing attorneys to mentor law students and academia needs to relax tenure requirements so that practicing attorneys can teach core subjects such the procedural courses, evidence, contractual drafting and other practice-oriented courses.

  16. I have to personally thank Prof Leitner, as registered democrat, I never knew that my minor participation in the scam blog movement indicates my tea party sympathies!

  17. Congress should limit federal guarantees on student loans to 20,000 dollars per student per year. Poof, the higher Ed tuition inflation problem is solved.

  18. Leiter = believer in Friedrich Nietzsche's ethics

    Nietzsche's ethics = the strong should dominate the weak

    1. And Leiter also believes that the weak should submit to the strong. When people fail to respect his authority and honor his wisdom, he tends to invent crackpot theories to explain their "immoral" conduct.

    2. Hypocrisy is Leiter's ethics. He feels fine about spitting defamation under his legion of pseudonymous socks on various legal blogs. He aslo feels fine about doing so on his own blog via the device of quoting an anonymous colleague who sounds exactly like Leiter (because he is Leiter). However, he claims to be deeply offended by scamblogger anonymity and pseudonymity.

  19. OT - OTLSS's old friend Paul Pless has been in the news again:

    1. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 3, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      That's too bad, and I mean that sincerely. I for one can't take any joy in this man's further downfall.

      Why do very intelligent people do such stupid things? First (of course), goosing the stats at UIUC. Whether on his own or under pressure from higher-up school administrators, just plain stupid. Either way.

      And this man has a wife and family, and seemed to be putting things back together as a local real estate agent (the wife being at UIUC herself). How could he have done this latest stupid thing? To himself? To them?

      No joy.

    2. Now his wife will leave him and he won't even get the benefit of her job, for which he traded his good name.

    3. Highly amusing. Strangely unsurprising.

    4. What? This guy lives next to a huge university but has to pay for sex?

  20. Great comments from "The Open Road" poster above. What he says suggests an idea:

    Could the scam blog movement do its own ranking system? There's at least 2 ways it could be done- either rank schools by best financial choices both long and short term, or rank by biggest scam law schools.

    Perhaps there is a third way, by ranking scam law schools alongside plumbing or refrigerator repair schools seeing which ones make the best sense financially?

  21. Leiter et al will never offer solutions because he will never admit the problem is anything but the economy. You will never convince this man that lawschools or the profession are to blame. Its the economy stupid.

  22. is LSTC posting sarcastically about this topic? Not always easy to tell with him.

  23. "And that's where the stalemate arises. Law schools and law professors acknowledge that reform needs to occur, they hold the keys to reform, yet they refuse to reform. Which is why the pro-reform activists are doing whatever they can to break the stalemate with their limited resources, much of which involves chipping away at the source of stability for law schools: cash-wielding incoming/returning students. If we can stop the students/money going into law schools in the first place, things will have to change. But as everyone living in the US recently can understand, brute-force blanket cuts forced by strangling the flow of money across the board are far more painful than negotiated and gentle reforms reached through sensible compromise."

    Hear hear.

    Scamblogs are a consciousness raising movement and it finally seems to be working. The common wisdom changing very slowly. There are going to be some negative unintended consequences to trying to change the system by appealing directly to applicants, and I wish those consequences could have been averted if more people in power recognized the problem and worked to do something about it earlier. But that is simply not going to happen - they are making too much money and are simply too greedy to stop unless they are forced by decreasing numbers of applicants who are much less willing to accept large debt numbers.

  24. Hi 11:09 am

    The Above the Law website has a yearly ranking system based on outputs and not inputs. They only rate fifty law schools partly because its very hard to make it into big law from below the first tier.

  25. Law school deans are supposed to be the cream of the legal profession and leaders of society. Instead, they misrepresent job outcomes, offer bait and switch scholarships, stack sections so that merit scholarship renewal requirements can't be met, hire their own graduates to game us news, etc. They practice dishonesty instead of coming up with real solutions.

  26. Lawyers must demand involvement from their State bars. Raise the level of the state bar exams to flush the weak applicants graduating from commode schools. Some state bar exams are a joke.

  27. I think it's important to see law professors as a "they," not an "it." There are several thousand law professors, and there is major disagreement among them right now about the future of legal education. Some professors are more or less on the side of the scambloggers; other professors are more or less against them; and a lot of them are in the middle.

    As with most institutions, law faculties that are sharply divided tend to do nothing, or at least nothing you can clearly see on the outside in the short term. But there's a wide range of opinions among profs inside the building, so I think it's wrong to generalize about what law professors as a whole have or haven't done or what they do or don't think.

    I also think this dynamic points to why it's important for scambloggers to avoid silly personal attacks and to drop the occasional sexist shtick. At its best, scam-blogging is having a real influence -- not just on students, but on faculty. But the easiest way to marginalize yourself is to single out people unfairly for repeated attack or make over-the-top claims based on little or no evidence. If you avoid those pitfalls, you'll have a lot more influence than if you don't.

    1. I find large parts of this comment filled with that particular type of nonsense one would only find among a paid thinker.

      The very first sentence is grammatically stupid. The first paragraph's claim, I suppose, is that law professors are diverse individuals with myriad thoughts on the law school scam and legal education. (It also hypocritically assumes that so-called "scambloggers" have a unified position).

      But then in the second paragraph, Orin acts like it's a sin to cast generalizations because the faculties and institutions in which those actors live are divided. But why is institutional politics even relevant?! If law professors are to be viewed as diverse individuals, we should view their actions as those of diverse individuals and not chain them to institutional inertia.

      What law professors have actually DONE anything individually? Orin concedes there are "several thousand law professors." I can name two full-time faculty members who have written aggressively for the side of reform. Two. Out of several thousand. In a field where "innovate" or "rebellious" thought is supposed to be encouraged and faculty members have tenure-backed academic freedom.

      How many have been publicly outspoken about the injustices their institutions committed? How many have filed bar complaints against peers who have acted with misconduct? How many have actively moved to place tighter institutional controls to better protect the integrity of legal education? How many have openly criticized the ABA, US News, or other third parties who have contributed to the mess? How many have sought to do serious, unbiased research on long-term employment opportunities?

      When we generalize, we're saying that as individuals law professors have not taken positive steps towards reform. Given that there are "several thousand" of them out there, I think you just proved our point. From all outward appearances, most law professors are hunky-dory riding the gravy train and not wrinkling any feathers. Obviously, faculties as a whole can't do anything when there are internal protesters and they have to keep the budget black. But the damning thing is the silence from the rest of them, particularly in light of how vociferous legal academics can quickly become on much less important subjects.

      As individual law professors, that's a total abnegation of your individual duties to foster a valuable legal education system and maintain its integrity. It's also a blatant example of how many law professors have no respect whatsoever for academic honesty.

      The third paragraph is flaming garbage. What "scamblogger" has used a sexist shtick? What "silly personal attacks" are you talking about? Who is being singled out unfairly? What over-the-top claims?

      And while I'm happy "scamblogging" is having an effect on faculty, if that is the case, it shows how far some faculty members have had their heads up their asses.

    2. I'm sorry if my grammar is below your standards. But I think you're confusing what people are doing with what people are saying on the Internet. The Internet plays a role in shaping the conversation. But some professors are trying to influence their institutions by advocating for change directly within their institutions instead of blogging about it. If you only count efforts to reform that you see posted on the Internet, that's your choice. But you're missing a lot of what is happening.

    3. I agree with what you are saying about the personal, sexist and racist stuff But I think the problem is (unlike some people seem to think) this all just didn't come out of nowhere. At some point over the last 15 years, the majority of the professors "in the middle" just stopped paying attention to the rise in sticker price, to the job numbers and debt loads, to whether students were able to pay back their loans. Or they just didn't really care to begin with. If they had cared, if they'd used a modicum of those smarts that supposedly just these "market" salaries, then it never would have gotten this bad.

      Either way, it was bad for students long before it became bad for professors. And the fact that it's taken so long to change, and that what little change that has been happening (faculty layoffs and buyouts) seems to be happening without major faculty input or control, gives the impression that most professors really don't care that much about what happens to their students and deserve the indignation heaped on them.

    4. Good points in all these comments. I enjoy hearing from Orin Kerr and respect him for coming here.

      And remember, George Washington was a classic trap school even before it lowered its admission standards. It's not as bad as Fordham, though.

    5. Any comment, Orin, about law professors who single out particular scambloggers unfairly for repeated personal attacks and intimidation?

    6. Professor Kerr, thanks for joining this conversation. It's important to have input from faculty because this is, following my own conclusions above, a faculty problem.

      I'll happily agree with the idea that law professors should be seen as a group of individuals rather than a homogeneous mass. But there's a massive disconnect between that idea and the observable results. Without exception, the overall faculty response (as a group) has been absolutely zero when it comes to addressing the problems with legal education (problems which are not really open to debate as to their existence anymore.) And while this might be a result of sharply-divided groups having no net effect, I'm inclined to believe that it's more a result of a general unwillingness to step outside the comfort of a well-paid faculty position.

      Given the thousands of law professors in this country, we've heard from virtually none. If faculties were as polarized as you suggest, surely the pro-reform professors leave some evidence somewhere highlighting their efforts? Articles? Debates? Committees? Letter? Editorials? Anything?

      I'm more inclined to believe that the vast majority of law professors inhabit a zone where they know the problems exist, but they are just too entrenched in the system to want to risk their own livelihood. They occupy that area in the center where they don't have to state a position, and thus they don't have to risk being the first to be fired. To them, it's still someone else's fight. They'd rather sit and wait for forced cuts and hope that it's not their position that is cut. Perhaps that's a problem with tenure; it shuts the mouths of those who have it because they know that those who don't will be the first to be shown the door. (It protects the freedom of opinion of those who actually are the last to exercise it.)

      (Continued below...)

    7. (Continuing on...)

      There are so many avenues for willing professors to write about these issues and support reform if that's what they are committed to. Anonymous support is always welcome - except I can understand why those who might take such a route might worry, given the continuous attempts by law school professors to "out" such commenters and treat them as if speaking without using a name is a lesser form of debate, or as if not using their real name is something to be ashamed of.

      Or, as you've demonstrated yourself, they are welcome to use their real name and support reform publicly and openly. As mentioned above, the existence of the need for reform is hardly a controversial topic these days.

      I just don't get the silence and stonewalling. Surely it is harming the faculty position more than engaging in actual debate about these issues? Will it actually take faculty cuts in order to foment change from within?

      Moreover, is there even such a thing as a middle ground on these issues? What is the justification for taking a middle ground? The professors aren't sure whether they are for high student unemployment or against it? They're still unsure whether graduates earning $40,000 performing temporary document review should be burdened with $200,000 in student loans that they'll never pay off? Are these pressing reform issues not squarely in the "if you're not with us, you're against us" category? It does seem black and white.

      Now, I will suggest that perhaps it's not the issue of whether we need reform or not that's dividing the faculty lounge (or I sincerely hope it's not!) I would suggest instead that it's a debate over how to implement reform which is the real debate. What cuts to make. Where savings can be had. That kind of thing. But still puzzling is the secrecy behind all of this. Why can't these issues be discussed in public? Is it a tradition of privacy in faculty decisionmaking? What's driving the need for the outward appearance of indifference and ignorance?

      I'll skip the last paragraph about personal attacks because I don't want to derail the progress made in these comments.

      Again, thanks for joining this debate. If only the silent supermajority of your colleagues could follow your lead and jump into the pool. The water's warmer than they might think.

    8. @Orin's 10:27 post:

      Then publicize it. Nothing makes actual public policy changes happen faster than going public.

      The fact that many of them have tenure and are willing to speak publicly about almost anything except their own industry speaks volumes.

    9. Charles Cooper, just off the top of my head, lawprofs aren't as silent as you are suggesting. For example, in March 2013, a group of over 60 prominent lawprofs joined together to criticize the status quo in legal education, echoing much of the the criticism of the scamblogs, in this letter:


      Over the last three decades, the price of a legal education has increased approximately three times faster than the average household income. With the help of the federal student loan fund, some ninety percent of law students borrow to finance their legal education and the average law school debt now exceeds $100,000. . . .

      The price of legal education has risen as the job market for lawyers has declined. More than two out of every five 2011 graduates did not obtain a full-time long-term job requiring a law degree; the median starting salary of the class, among the less than half of graduates for whom a salary was reported, was $60,000. The problematic economics are captured by this fundamental mismatch: a graduate who earns the median salary cannot afford to make the monthly loan payments on the average debt.

      . . . a lack of jobs, public interest or otherwise, has now made law school a questionable investment. The federal government estimates that, at current graduation rates, the economy will create about one new legal job for every two law school graduates over the next decade. Most knowledgeable observers believe that the situation is unlikely to improve even if the economy fully rebounds. More employers are relying on paralegals, technology and contract attorneys to do work previously performed by recent graduates, and cash-strapped public sector agencies are facing pressure to curtail legal expenditures.

      . . .
      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.

      The reaction of this blog was at best unenthusiastic, even though the letter was echoing the scamblogs -- and was signed by Paul Campos, Brian Tamanaha, and Bill Henderson, among many others (including me). Notably, one concern expressed was that it was important to not let professors have too much influence over the debate: for students to keep professors from having too much control over the debate: "The law school scam movement was started by students. . . . And we need to maintain control over the debate."

    10. Orin, your characterization of that post is unfair. Here is that full paragraph:

      "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."

      ...and there is a lot of fluff. In fact, the main point of ALP's post is rather clear:

      "[The letter is 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.)"

      It isn't that anyone was "unenthusiastic" that law professors were "criticizing the status quo" (by pointing out things that are, frankly, obvious), it's that you missed THE main issue/solution.

      And again, that was just ALP's opinion. Scrolling up to your initial post, don't you think it's a bit unfair to be attributing that to the whole "scamblog" movement?!

    11. I remember that letter well, and I think it is good evidence to support the idea that law professors are doing remarkably little instead of law professors taking action.

      It's one letter, written almost a year ago.

      It's also signed by a mere sixty law professors (who represent far fewer than sixty different law schools). With two hundred schools, each employing (at a guess) thirty law professors - at least - we're talking about a rough estimate of the total number of law professors at ABA-accredited schools at around 6,000.

      Which makes the parties signing that letter a mere 1% of the total professors out there. And that's a generous estimate.

      But to give it credit where credit's due, it was better than nothing. Yet it is echoed in Professor Leiter's recent two-parter, the problems of which I describe above: it highlights the problems, then suggests no practical solutions. A few broad strokes are made in the final paragraph - "altering the influence of the current ranking formulas", for example - but what we need at this point are solutions. We've known the problems for years and years and years. No, in fact, we need more than just solutions. We need solutions that are actually implemented. What we need right now is action. These are not complex problems to solve, which is part of the frustration as to why nothing has been done yet. These aren't problems that require years and years of pondering before any reform can take place.

      The solutions are actually rather clear. They could be implemented at no cost tomorrow morning. The only thing that is lacking is willpower on the part of the law schools.

      You do raise a challenging point at the end of your post, that being the original concern following the letter about law professors not having too much influence over the debate about reform. And that, at first glance, seems to pose a problem for the point I'm making: if I'm advocating that the problem is a law school problem that they should be solving, then surely I should also agree that by default, the law schools themselves should control the reform? I'll need to think on this some more, but my initial reaction is that I have no problem with law professors controlling the debate if their efforts are genuine and student-centered. How reform arrives is immaterial to me, provided it happens. But what we want to avoid is window dressing, token reforms, or kicking the can down the road.

    12. Charles, the authors of the letter decided to only allow 60 professors to sign it. They wanted to maximize impact by having the letter be signed by a specific group of known people, so they intentionally did not let anyone else know about it. We don't know how many profs would have signed the letter if they had been given the chance.

    13. Prof. Kerr,

      Have you considered creating a similar letter and seeing how many in legal academia will attach their name to it? (I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, as I do appreciate the serious attention that you've given to this issue/movement).

      That said, Brian Leiter is a self-interested and self-obsessed scumbag. Why can't we all just admit this? Are those in academia afraid of him?

    14. created a "coalition of concerned colleagues" designed to affect public change with a national body and you kept it hush-hush and limited who could play?

      Jesus Christ, remind me never to hire law professors to do anything.

    15. Less is more? Not in this case.

      But the letter was a step in the right direction. Do you have any information about any future steps that are being planned in secret?

      If the legal academy wants change, why must it take so long to get consensus? Must be like herding cats. Old cats.

      Are the younger, newer profs (a) more or less concerned than the tenured folk, and (b) more able to leverage modern technology to speed the process up?

    16. Let me ask you a question Charles. Lets put on our reality cap. Do you really think Profs are going to do anything but give lip service the the concerns of the Scamblogs? Really? Why would they do ANYTHING that would upset the applecart? I mean I appreciate the "mature" perspective you bring to this discussion, but it is simply unrealistic on your part to think the schools are going to do anything to change anything. The only way things are actually going to change is when there are far so few bodies to fill their seats that the higher ranked schools will be looking at a deficit instead of a profit. Then they will have no choice but to do something to entice students into their seats. The lower ranked schools have no power to do anything. Their business models are in the throes of failure and they are going to go by the wayside sooner or later, soon as students realize that just because they got into law school with a 140 LSAT does not mean they are going to have a job when they get out, or even pass the bar.

    17. Anon at 1:28, I didn't write the letter. But I suspect that the authors were treating the letter like an amicus brief. When you file an amicus brief, it's much better to have a small number of known people sign than to have a large number of unknown people sign. If a few people sign, then the clerks and judges are likely to notice who has signed the brief; if serious people signed the brief, the brief will be taken more seriously. If lots of people sign the brief, no one will notice who signed the brief and it will just be known as the brief that lots of unknown people signed. You may be right that it would have been better for the authors to take a different approach here, as this wasn't an amicus brief. But that was their decision, anyway.

    18. 2:03pm, sure, I hope for the best but if professors don't start to participate in reform, it's not as if we'll give up the fight and disappear. We'll still force reform through stopping the inflow of new students/money. Reform will happen.

    19. "But the easiest way to marginalize yourself is to single out people unfairly for repeated attack or make over-the-top claims based on little or no evidence. If you avoid those pitfalls, you'll have a lot more influence than if you don't."

      If only we lived in a world where this was remotely true. Sooner or later the law school reform movement will result in profs and admins being in a position of having to defend themselves in the political arena. The last 40 years of American history seems like fairly solid evidence that such unsightly tactics are highly effective in politics. This is basically just an argument to allow law schools to control the narrative. In other words, "engage us on our terms and maybe we'll deign to consider your arguments."

  28. Orin Kerr might have a good point, and I agree.

    Hasn't anyone on this blog ever stopped to think about how those graphic poems about anal sex, which were made anonymously and allowed to stand on this blog might have upset Professor Leiter?

    Small wonder Leiter doesn't like you guys.

    And I seem to recall many a "Fuck you Leiter" comment on the Paul Campos blog in reply to anon comments that Leiter probably never made.

    I say this with all due respect, but what short memories you people have.

    1. And how quickly you forget, 11:31, that a few pornographic poems were posted here back in the days when professors and other trolls made half the posts. They were continually trying to harass the posters and disrupt the commenting process, and the policy of this site was to allow it.

      Although I dislike pornographic writing, that was the least of the problems on this site last spring. It wasn't intended to lead anyone into debt, poverty, and misery, unlike many comments of the "don't listen to these unemployed losers" variety.

    2. Yes, what short memories. Here is a post from Leiter, from nine months ago, approvingly quoting an "anonymous" colleague (clearly himself), for the proposition that scambloggers should be cowering in corners for fear of law professors, along with his usual demented characterizations of Paul Campos:

      "Anyway, I’ll give the final word about this freak show to a colleague elsewhere, who wrote to me last week regarding the pseudonymous and anonymous trolls: “I, for one, hope that you put the fear of god into them. I've been unable to avoid the consistent spamming our normal blogs have taken over the last year from the likes of these schmoes ('MacK' and the others main perpetrators), one can only hope that they're cowering in a corner thinking back on the foolishness of repeatedly attempting to defame and intimidate honest and well-meaning educators. It's one of the worst symptoms of the right-wing anti-intellectualism that seems to get frothier in this country each election cycle. As for our friend in the rocky mountain state, I really think he's either run into some well-deserved, serious career problem (other than lacking all talent as a scholar) or has gone wholly round the bend.” As some readers pointed out, even Campos's many false allegations may have the salutary effect of making the bottom-feeders in cyberspace (including Campos's dozen-or-so trolls) a bit more cautious going forward."

    3. There's something I've been meaning to say for a while, and this mention of Campos brings it to mind once again.

      Paul Campos doesn't publish a lot of official, academic articles and books, but he does publish sometimes. He's been a prolific writer online for years, in ways that his narrow-minded critics can only dream about. And above all, he's reputed to be a good teacher, and he's obviously experienced with his courses and materials.

      It's the latter qualities that make Campos such an easy target for the prestige whores in legal academia, especially the younger ones. Good teaching, especially in the absence of a long list of meaningless publications, is held in the greatest contempt by those people. It changes the focus from the professors and their publications to the students and their careers, which to many professors seems unscrupulous and even unethical. And it makes Campos an exceptional and heroic figure in my eyes.

      I've never met Paul Campos, but I wish him and his students the very best in the new semester.

    4. 11:31 PM, let's not derail this topic by bringing up the extremely small minority (a fraction of a fraction of a percent) of comments that were, er, unusual.

      For the large part, and this set of comments is a very good example, the commenters here have shown themselves to be a mature, focused, and intelligent group of individuals.

      Furthermore, I think it's fairly safe to assume that many of the inappropriate comments are penned by imposters or those who want to paint the reform movement in a false light and who want to change the subject away from legal education reform.

    5. 3:56 am, Campos's teaching evaluations are available here:

      He appears to be consistently below average.

    6. 3:56 -- what makes you think that Campos is a good teacher if you never met him? Do you think it is also possible that others whom you have never met, but are attacked repeatedly on this blog, might be good teachers as well? I do not think, for example, that dybbuk ever met leong before his rampage against her, and probably had never talked to one of her students. Perhaps she is an even better teacher than Campos is?

    7. Although I generally think some of the "attacks" against professors are somewhat immature, it is the only reason they are paying attention to us. Professors (capitalized only because it starts a sentence) would gladly ignore these blogs otherwise. There are tens of thousands of law students (and millions of other higher ed students) in massive debt for worthless credentials, so nobody should be too surprised when they use colorful language to describe the main beneficiaries of this debacle. Personally, I have been called much worse than what I have seen here, but then again I actually practice law.

      So if professors don't like being called names, find a new job.

    8. Maurice AficionadoJanuary 4, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      Some people were upset by "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and "Portnoy's Complaint" too. Literature and art sometimes hurt individual sensibilities. It's a price we pay for greatness.

    9. Who cares? Frankly, none of them - Campos, Leong, or Leiter - has any place on a law faculty. So frankly, I view "A vs. B" teaching arguments as completely irrelevant. All three have middling legal experience, low levels of practical scholarship output, and all three seem more intent on engaging non-law issues for appeal with non-law crowds.

      What sets them apart in my mind is this:

      For an attorney with an actual bar license, filing a frivolous ethics complaint is verboten. You do not do it. It is not a tool or a toy to use in one-upsmanship. That Leong would even consider filing an ethics complaint based on what is obviously 1st-amendment speech, and that Leiter would condone such an act, tells you everything you need to know about the personalities involved.

      Leong and Leiter are mendacious, self-interested people. The gloves in this debate came off a long time ago, when Leiter went thuggish and forced Campos out of his anonymity so he could launch more proper ad hominem attacks. Unlike his speech on issues like obesity, Campos didn't want ITLSS to be about him. He wanted to be about the issues. Leiter wanted Campos to suffer personal consequences for his speech. Leong wants the same thing from dybbuk.

      There are lots of people who disagree with the scamblogging theories who are not, and never have been, the subject of the small fraction of posts that verge into the personal (which, for the record, are possibly posted by Leiter and friends). The reason Leiter has been targeted is that (a) he says ridiculous, head-in-the-sand, indefensible things; and (b) he aggressively goes after people instead of keeping the debate about the issues.

      There are literally dozens of law deans who hold publicly contemptible views who have never been subject to contempt on this site. The difference is easily explainable.

    10. To 6:26,

      I know that Leong cannot be a good teacher because her masterpiece article expresses open contempt for the "minutiae" of criminal law. An interest in teaching fine distinctions and important details was implied by her acceptance of a teaching job, but that didn't last long, did it?

      What if students rate her highly? Ratings are often based on personal preferences, ideological commitments, or entertainment value rather than the transmission of legal knowledge. And teaching awards are often hijacked by special-interest student groups. I've seen it happen (a lot) at my undergrad institution.

      I also know (with high but not absolute certainty) that Campos is a good teacher because he has experience with his subject matter, thinks clearly, and communicates well. Leong, on the other hand, managed to turn what could have been a simple, lighthearted essay into excruciating torture for her handful of readers.

    11. 6:22,

      On a scale from 1-6, a 3.5 is an average score. Campos's numbers are not "consistently below" this average. Not that this petty nonsense should matter, but I have noticed that you (whomever you may be?!) have been obsessed with his teaching reviews ever since he started ITLSS.

    12. I think the point was "below average" for the school. Click on the detailed data. Campos is way below average for his school's scores.

    13. Who the heck cares? He probably has less hair than average too (although still more than Leiter.) So what?

      What is germane is that his analysis of the Law School Scam was correct and that he took a brave and public stand on the issue.

    14. But, er, um, Campos isn't a true scholar!

  29. Charles -- This blog has had attacks on Leiter in the main posts, not just the comments. For example, a Leiter caption contest. When inappropriate comments appear, they are generally not deleted, and often high-fived.

    1. Maurice AficionadoJanuary 4, 2014 at 9:13 AM

      Leiter hates us.

      We don't care.

    2. Don't forget what this blog is: a forum where multiple bloggers (and guests) can publish pieces that expose the faults of the legal education system and suggest solutions. It's not one person's opinions, it's not somewhere that any one blogger gets to dictate what is published, and it's open to all opinions. I'm still personally waiting for law professors to use this blog as a place to publish their own opinion pieces. I for one have no problem with that, so please contact me if you're a law professor interested in explaining your position on reform.

      This blog has also grown up a lot, and like most things it went through some initial exploration in order to find its place and voice.

      We can debate all day about what comments are allowed and what comments aren't. Even among the writers here, there's some differences of opinion. In my opinion, letting all but the most irrelevant comments through is the lesser of two evils; I'd rather have readers who trust that we're not shaping the debate by stopping opposing opinions being aired. I strongly believe that the views and opinions presented by the writers on this blog can stand up to the opinions of those who wish to maintain the status quo, and it's important for others to see that too. I don't want to be accused of defending my positions solely by stifling healthy debate.

      It goes without saying that the opinions aired in the comments are not necessarily the opinions held by the writers here.

    3. It also goes without saying that any post or comment that is even remotely critical of Leiter should be immediately censored or removed. How dare you be so insolent.

  30. The only way the law school cartel will change is through market forces. So long as a person is willing to put themselves in deep debt for a jd, there will be a law school who will accept his money.. To think professors are going to volunteer in any activity that might have a negative impact on their employment or income is delusional. There are only two ways to minimize the carnage...public the scamblogs are doing. ....but the best way is to lobby for abolishment of the student loan cartel or for once again allowing loan discharge in bankruptcy. The system we have now is what has caused all of the problems. Of course lawschools are going to feed at the student loan trough for as long as possible. Cut those damn funds off and everything will change over night.

    1. "..there will be a law school who will accept his money.."

      In most cases it is not HIS money that these piranhas are accepting. Otherwise, excellent post.

    2. Excellent post that explains WHY law schools wreck innocent lives - which is because THEY CAN.

      But it implicitly raises the moral question that also hovers behind Charles Cooper's question about why more professors haven't spoken up, which is HOW CAN THOSE EVIL FUCKERS LIVE WITH THEMSELVES?

      Or to put it another way, what degree of arrogance, self-righteousness, greed, dishonesty and outright hatred exists inside law professors that allows them to willingly destroy young people's lives?

      And the answer scamblogs provide is that we don't know, but we are doing everything we can to expose what they doing in an effort to discourage young people from going to law school, to get the general public to understand what's going on and to perhaps, just perhaps, shame some of the sociopaths into working to change the system.

      Scamblogs = speaking truth to power. Which is why privileged reactionaries like Leiter hate them so.

  31. Imagining The Open ToadJanuary 4, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    Regarding: "I also think this dynamic points to why it's important for scambloggers to avoid silly personal attacks and to drop the occasional sexist shtick. At its best, scam-blogging is having a real influence -- not just on students, but on faculty. But the easiest way to marginalize yourself is to single out people unfairly for repeated attack or make over-the-top claims based on little or no evidence. " (Prof.Kerr, above)

    I have just a moment so the only thing I can say is: "Whoever who has ears, let them hear."

    1. Based on that quote from Orin Kerr, I must conclude that Leiter has thoroughly marginalized himself by singling out dybbuk for unfair, dishonest, and repeated attack. In addition, no one in this thread has singled out Leiter for anything. He's the one who wrote the original HuffPost piece going after the scambloggers.

      It's all right to respond to vicious personal attacks from professors, anywhere and anytime. Some law professors have carved out little empires for themselves where students are fair game and forbidden to defend themselves. Well, school's out for the scambloggers, and this is not a law school classroom.

  32. Great comment from the WSJ:

    "$100,000 is a joke. Most law school grads have $150,000-200,000+ in law school loans that they can’t discharge in bankruptcy. Law schools induce students to buy worthless JDs by lying and misleading about job and salary statistics. The behavior of law schools is fraudulent and illegal. You can’t get away with the marketing tactics of the education industry when you’re selling stocks and education is allegedly an investment, correct?

    I think any kid with two brain cells to rub together is steering clear of buying a law degree. JDs are worthless for the vast majority of graduates. Law professors are grossly overpaid (in addition to law deans like the fine scholar Mr. Rodriguez).

    Law schools will lie to prospective students and say anything to get students to sign up for federal loans. The entire scheme is a loan origination business model. The education is essentially worthless (read cases for three years and have a professor question you aggressively about them) and not even worth one-tenth of what these thieves charge. If you’re thinking about law school, do some more research and figure out what you want to do with your life."

    And another one:

    "The people running these schools are all glib scum. They will keep harping that everything is OK – like drug dealers, they need to find buyers for their product. And, like drug dealers, they don’t care whether the consumer will be much, much worse off in the long run – they merely want the sale. Everyone thinks they’re immune – I sincerely hope Northwestern Law School has to close its doors and I hope that karma throws Mr Rodriguez a curveball (made out of iron)."

    1. Jesus, that's sooo perfect!

      "The people running these schools are all glib scum. They will keep harping that everything is OK – like drug dealers, they need to find buyers for their product. And, like drug dealers, they don’t care whether the consumer will be much, much worse off in the long run – they merely want the sale."

      I mean, not just everyday, ordinary scum. Glib Scum.

      That's a whole new level of scuminess. Epic.

      "They merely want the sale."

      Damn Skippy nigga!! Mo' MONEY!!

      Sorry, got carried away there...

      The analogy to pushers is entirely accurate. Only it's far more dangerous. Education Debt, especially law school debt, is like LSD on steroids. The 'bad trip' lasts a lifetime.

    2. Unfortunately, I don't think Northwestern Law School is going to close its doors. And let me point out that they reduced the size of their incoming class well before Harvard and Columbia were forced to do the same. That showed, at the very least, glimpses of conscience and responsibility on their part.

      I do think, however, that there will be few if any JDs from Northwestern--or Michigan, Virginia or even Chicago--who get hired as law professors in the future. If you want to see some retribution against these impostors, then hope they get kicked where it hurts--in their academic pretensions. The world will be a much better place when law professors realize that their job is to train attorneys, not bogus "scholars" like themselves.

  33. The law schools have done what almost any organizations (or individuals) will do given too much money and not enough regulation. Its reprehensible, but its also human nature. It don't think they can make the drastic sacrifices necessary to reign in their excesses. Human nature again.

    The ABA is incapable for several reasons of properly regulating them. Meanwhile the flow of suckers willing to sign on for law school, although reduced, is still sufficient to keep them running. What will stop it is when the federal government becomes unwilling to keep loaning huge amounts to law students. This unfortunately looks like it won't happen for a while, but this is the weak link which will bring the scam undone.

  34. Re: Leiter and no offense.

    The argument gets a little thin when it is about first tier reality, since upper tier grads fare better than the lower ranked school alums.

    So Leiter is likely most critical of the scambloggers that have all the advantages in that they are from the top schools and have the best opportunities and the most versatile credentials.

    Who wants to listen to a collective Ivy league bitch and moan? Not Leiter is my guess.

    On the other hand, if things are really as bad as the Ivy League scambloggers say they are, then there really is no room at the top and certainly not at the bottom, and so a lot of lower tier schools should be closed down ASAP as one commenter has often advocated for.

    Stop the bleeding in other words, and restore law to the elite profession that it formerly was and based on high academic achievement. Higher LSAT scores, higher GPA's in difficult majors like hard sciences or math or business etc.

  35. Interesting to see the old "million dollar" valuation again. So simplistic. The average student today graudates with over $25 grand in undergrad debt. Add on another $240K for some law schools, say $120K in lost wages over a three year period, and you start off $385K behind at age 25. Even if there were a million dollars at the other end of the rainbow you'd never see it because you're behind the eight ball so early and will accrue so much interest over the life of the loan, not to mention delaying other life goals such as marriage, home ownership and having children, which are priceless to many people.

    Imagine for a moment that there is a house out there that is on sale for $1 million. Let's assume that this price is a steal, for the home's true value is $2 million once the housing market rebounds. Even if you had a guarantee that you could sell the home for $2 million 10 years from now, even if you had a willing buyer who would guarantee the sale in 10 years, it is beyond the grasp of most people to buy this house even at half price. They cannot make the payments.

    Even if it were a guaranteed million, it's not an attainable goal for most people.