Monday, March 24, 2014

Law School Administrator Wants Tweak To US News Formula So California Law Schools Don't Look As Bad

What Is Wrong With California Law Schools?
Money Quote: “In essence, he wants the U.S. News formula tweaked so that schools whose students are looking for work in California won’t pay a price for the state’s relatively poor employment prospects.”

Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation
 Money Quote: “The pain for law schools could last longer. “The decline in applicants will devastate the financial position of many law schools, and it remains to be seen how they will manage,” Tamanaha wrote. “The number of entering students in 2014 will go down to a level not seen in three decades, when there were 50 fewer law schools.”

Appalachian School of Law to scale back class sizes, staff
Money Quote: “Next year’s incoming class may have about 40 students as opposed to about 70, she said. The current enrollment is 222.”

37 comments:

  1. Okay..

    This is preposterous!!

    This is now, officially, out of hand and off the rails.

    It's obvious: These people will literally say and do anything to keep the Lemming / Money Flow coming in.

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  2. While I am not one for defending ScamDeans, what McGough at Appalacian said was interesting:

    “I think most people say that the legal world is reconfiguring — we have paralegals doing what lawyers used to do 25 years ago,” she said. There is some shifting given technology as well, but the primary reason from what my reading is … there is a fear of debt. …[There’s] so much a lack of legal jobs as the legal profession is a lot of money and a lot of time.”

    It must be bad when a Dean openly acknowledges structural, technological, and economic shifts instead of hiding the truth. Guys like Leiter and Diamond will continue to live in the bubble and deny reality, but maybe others will not be able to look at themselves in the mirror any more and will start accepting the truth.

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    1. Well, Duped, a couple of years ago in my community the idjuts on the local board of education hired a superintendent of schools who proved to be a hopeless incompetent. Began imposing goofy education school fads on the system, e.g., abolishing all letter grades below 9th grade. Huge public outcry that the board of education ignored, even laughed at, until almost one third of the eighth graders left town for high school. The loss of students to private schools cuts per-capita state aid and the loss to charter and magnet schools forces the local schools to send local taxes to where the students choose to go. The budget was wrecked. The superintendent "retired." Eventually there comes a point where you simply cannot deny the truth without looking like an idiot. Like my community's schools, Appalachian has lost so many students there was simply no way to any longer deny the truth.

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    2. The statement "there is a fear of debt" does not accurately explain what is going on. A better explanation: "Law school now costs far more than it is worth."

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    3. This quote from the Dean of Appalachian Law School should be the zombie brain poke to any arguments about poorer regions containing hordes of legally underserved people.

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  3. "To lure more applicants, some law schools have slashed tuition and many have ratcheted up the numbers of scholarships they are offering. That will help some future lawyers avoid the same debt load that has hobbled recent graduates."

    The end is in sight. There is no such thing as scholarships at TTTs; there are only discounts. How do you save yourself by taking less money into your institution? They are eating the seed corn.

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  4. And that Dean has to be terrified; 40 students has got to be pushing the limits of what the university will accept before closing the law school. In addition, they are now at (40/70)/(1/3) = ~85% of their former gross revenue (if they are not cutting tuition), and are heading to 57% in two years.

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    1. I see what you're doing there. It's actually 1-((30/70)/3) = .857 = ~86%. Your formula, taken literally, would result in revenue this year being .57x3 = 1.71 = 171% of last year's revenue. (Dividing by 1/3 has the same effect as multiplying by 3.)

      And yes, they're headed to 57% of last year's revenue in two years.

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  5. It really is fun to watch the law school pigs burn.

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    1. Just don't burn the popcorn!

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  6. I note the second article repeats the old saw that the poor are underserved by the legal profession. Would someone please point me to the data that the poor are underserved? I and my other personal injury colleagues serve the poor through contingency fees. Those that get into criminal trouble are served by the public defender's office. Those that need a divorce or restraining orders frrom their spouses receive legal aid. What does that leave? Getting thrown out of their homes because they didn't pay the rent? Failing to pay usurous, but legal payday loans? Failing to pay a hospital bill? Lawyers cannot change the outcome in these situations and therefore, in these areas, there is no service to be performed in the first place, much less underperformed. Does anyone honestly believe that unsophisticated people are going to bring the Rent-A-Center contract to a lawyer for explanation before they sign it? Believe me. They won't. Do poor people need more social workers to help navigate them through life? Maybe. But lawyers make poor social workers and I have a feeling that is the type of service that those who claim the poor are underserved have in mind. I certainly could be wrong in this conclusion and invite correction, but I would like to see some hard data that supports the contention that poor people have legal issues not addressed by the present system of legal services. Until I do, I will continue to find this justification for a law school's existence tiresome.

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    1. The poor are underserved, because legal aid and the public defender's office offer inadequate services. But that problem emphatically cannot be addressed by producing more lawyers (especially of the Florida Coastal variety). The money to expand or improve those services simply is not available from either private or public sources.

      Even if unsophisticated people took the contract from Rent-A-Center, they'd still end up signing it, as Rent-A-Center just isn't going to negotiate its terms and the customers have few options. Law-school hacks theorize contract as a "meeting of the minds" without giving much thought to the power imbalance that favors the stronger party.

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    2. Your basic premise is sound, tricia. I have, however, seen people with little problems who cannot afford a lawyer and who will not much interest legal aid. Neighbors got sued over a right of way dispute by a looney neighbor on the little house they had bought with state-backed financing. At least that paid off. When their son was hit by a car they called and said: "When we were in trouble and couldn't afford to pay you you helped us . . ." Years ago I helped the receptionist at the firm where I worked when her landlord announced a retroactive rent increase. Boy did that greasy, scumbag lawyer run. Helped the bookkeeper get back a security deposit. The poor are to some degree under served but gone are the days when lawyers could make enough on their regular practice to afford to help out the little guy now and then. All the crap that law schools are putting out now will not solve the real problem - gross oversupply. Oversupply keeps deans and lawprofs overfed and they don't want to go there.

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    3. Great comment. The "poor are underserved" line only makes sense to people who know nothing about the subject.

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    4. Many poor people see the judicial system as completely f***ed up, so they're not exactly eager to contact an attorney. I think the need is often hidden by the fact that the poor have little faith in the system and therefore often settle disputes outside of it, which can be a good or bad thing.

      Law schools are not interested in helping society. They care about money, phony prestige, and maintaining the status quo.

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    5. I do not mean to sound elitist, but I realize that how I view getting sued or snookered out of $500.00 or $1000.00 dollars is all the difference in the world to how someone making $18,000.00 dollars a year may view this amount of money. But is there mass snookering of the poor to justify flooding the market with lawyers? Yes, there are ancedotes, such as the ones you related 10:30 AM and I have every reason to believe what you related. But on the large scale claimed by law school apologists? I want to see real, observable data. Until then, "the poor need legal representation line" should be treated as an assertion without evidentiary proof in my opinion.

      By the way, brighter people than I have seen the irony in the law school establishment insisting that we enslave young people with crushing debt, impoverishing them in the process so more poor people can obtain representation. Do these people ever really listen to themselves? Do they think? Do they grasp what thinking like a lawyer means? It means, in part, seeing the holes in your own argument.

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    6. As I (9:52) said above, even solid proof that poor people need more legal representation would not help the argument, precisely because that legal representation would not be paid for. I don't deny that poor people are inadequately represented in family matters, criminal matters, disputes with employers, and so on. But they don't have the means to pay for a lawyer, and no one else is offering to cover these costs either. The way to get better representation for poor people is to fight for it in the political realm, not to turn out more and more lawyers at a cost approaching $300k each. There's already a big surplus of lawyers that be put to the task of representing poor people—if the funds were available.

      Disputes over $500 cannot be sensibly addressed by hiring lawyers. Legal aid won't take that sort of thing on; it would be cheaper just to give the aggrieved party the goddamn money. And this gets back to Tricia's point.

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    7. Imagining The Open ToadMarch 24, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Ms. Dennis above mentioned usurious (but legal in a lot of places) payday type loans. I drive past a title/payday loan place every day (it's actually co-located with a Duncan Donuts - get yer coffee/donut/inescapable loan all in one place).

      Driving past it makes me wonder - why is their business model so pernicious? Is the risk of default so high that they HAVE to charge at that level in order to make a decent profit? Or, could someone come in and offer real interest terms and kick their butts, financially?

      Just thinking out loud for when I win the Lotto and have a bunch of capital to play with...

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    8. 10:30 here, tricia. You do not seem to understand that I was agreeing with you. The poor used to get served when lawyers could afford to not have to wring every last blessed dime out of every file. Read what I wrote again. The poor have, for that very reason, been hurt by gross oversupply.

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    9. I take your well-reasoned point, 10:30. So many ripples to the scam tidal wave; so many victims. So much hypocrisy on the part of the establishment.

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  7. I got an e-mail from Vermont Law School stating that they now offer a two-year J.D. Sounds good, right? Except the two-year program is only available to a select number of students; everyone else will have to serve out their full sentence.

    This is clearly a strategy to game the rankings by attracting applicants with better numbers. It has nothing to do with innovation in legal education or helping students. These law schools are shameless, and Vermont is one of the worst actors in the law school Ponzi scheme.

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    1. Even at 2/3 of the cost, a degree from Vermont Law Skule is still too expensive.

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  8. For those who have not noticed, It has started. They want to cap loan forgiveness at public service jobs to $57,500 with the rest being paid off over 25 years. Looks like all of those law students indebted with hundreds of K of Loans will not be able to hide out in a governmental job to avoid the payment burden: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/03/04/2015-budget-white-house-proposes-broader-debt-forgiveness-for-students/?fb_action_ids=694592267249462&fb_action_types=og.recommends

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    1. Campos profiled the proposal on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

      For those who didn't hear, this is the new White House budget proposal.

      Also in that budget proposal is a plan to change IBR to use both spouses AGI when filing separately as the base for 10% discretionary income calculation. That is

      *dumb, and

      *oppressive, and

      *could cause IBR payments to exceed normal repayment scheduled payments(!), and

      *runs contrary to property law. For instance, if spouses hold their assets as separate property, the debtor-spouse's creditor can't attach the non-debtor-spouse's assets...so, what's the effect of including the non-debtor-spouse's income in the IBR calculation....to up the debtor spouse's contribution to his loans by 100%.

      On the bright side, Obama's not been able to get a WH budget passed Congress...ever in his Presidency. However, he did manage to get his drubbing of law / grad students in two years ago: removed all subsidies on grad plus loans to fund pell grants! Thanks, Obama.

      The buck always stops at the doorstep of the poorest and hence weakest party.

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    2. I think that it's appropriate. If the spouses get a divorce, the one with the greater income might well owe the other one support, so taking income (not assets) into consideration is not so dumb and oppressive as you claim.

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  9. “In essence, he wants the U.S. News formula tweaked so that schools whose students are looking for work in California won’t pay a price for the state’s relatively poor employment prospects.”

    In other words, toilets shouldn't get low rankings because their graduates won't be able to achieve their objective of working as lawyers in California. Instead, they should enjoy better reputations than they deserve.

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  10. As I have said before, if that dean is publicly predicting a class of 40 1L's, they are probably on track to have 30 or fewer. They could really introduce their students to the realities of Appalachia by moving the school into a double wide trailer.

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    1. No, they'd better not squander their limited funds on lavish facilities. Get a single-wide instead.

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  11. Dear Dupednontraditional (from The Open Toad)March 24, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Hey Dupednontraditional, maybe you've already done this, but if not, please, please, please consider doing so.

    I've spent a fair bit of time reading the posts on Charles' first website, "www.nontradlaw.net". He set it up originally as a public service and discussion forum for non-traditional law students and years ago, I think it served that purpose quite well.

    But the people there today desperately need some current, real-world grounding. I think you could give them this kind of real-result, real-world grounding.

    If you visit and read their postings, you'll find folks in their mid-40's with sub-150 LSATs seriously planning how to go to law school. I'm not knocking non-trads here (I didn't go myself until my mid-30's, but that was in the 90s), but in today's environment I feel a nontrad who doesn't have freaking stellar UGPA and LSAT should just shelve "the dream" for now.

    And in fact, given your own experiences as related here, even a 40-year-old who DOES have stellar UGPA/LSAT creds should think twice, then think thrice, about this sort of decision.

    Just sayin', as they say.

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    1. Open Toad, believe me, I wanted to troll the heck out of nontradlaw.net a few years ago. Instead I started my own (modest) blog, and then joined OTLSS later.

      I'm glad I didn't though, in retrospect, as now we have Charles on board here and that's a good thing. Still, maybe I can work with Charles and put something up over there, since we are all of one accord these days.

      Your point is well taken - I absolutely cringe when I hear about 40-somethings falling for the scam, because they have so much more to lose (family strain, assets, lost careers). Maybe a few have the assets and connections to survive, but I have to believe most don't. I certainly didn't.

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    2. As a non-traditional student who did have stellar credentials and did excel at an élite law school, I (called "Old Guy" here and at ITLSS) fully agree that law school is a bad idea for just about anyone past age 30 or so. In my third year, the dean himself told me that my age would be a big obstacle to finding work as a lawyer, and he advised me to go back to what I was doing before law school.

      I can say categorically that people in their mid-thirties or beyond with low LSAT scores should not even consider law school unless they happen to be trust-fund babies.

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    3. It wasn't always like this because I knew a few attorneys who graduated in their 30s and succeeded. They were veterans going on the G.I. Bill, ex-law enforcement or just applied later in life. I would think that they are the rare exception these days though unless a boatload of business is forthcoming. This profession seems to be very unforgiving when it comes to age because of the oversupply. A truck driver, especially long haul, can start a career in the 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s, because of the need.

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    4. Of course your dean waited until your 3rd year to tell you that - he wanted to collect 3 years of tuition from you even though he knew all along that your degree would be useless.

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    5. Maybe I should become a long-haul truck driver.

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  12. lol that nontradlaw.net calls themselves the "intelligent law community" but so many posters are clearly mentally deficient. If you're taking out debt to go to law school in your mid-40s, you are 80% likely destroying the remainder of your life.

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    1. Web sites such as that are overwhelmingly populated by nincompoops. "Top Law Schools" is another one: despite its name, the bulk of the discussion is not "Should I take Harvard over Yale?" but "Should I take Indiana Tech over Florida Coastal?".

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