Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strict Scrutiny: Erwin Chemerinsky Lays Out UC Irvine's Origin Story

It's been a while since I've done an FJM. In the interest of clarity though, I'm going to start calling these Strict Scrutiny. It rolls off the tongue a bit better and will make more sense to people who aren't Ken Tremendous fans. TaxProf Blog recently ran an excerpt from an article Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in the DePaul Journal of Social Justice as part of his ongoing effort to justify UC Irvine Law School's continued existence. This vanity project continues to take money from student loans and lines Erwin and his wife's pockets. But wait! Erwin is back to talking about how the school is emphasizing "public interest law". Erwin's words are in italics and offset, mine in regular text.
In 2007, I accepted the position to be the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. I decided from the outset to create a law school with a strong emphasis on public service. The Chancellor, Michael Drake, and the Provost, Michael Gottfredson, who hired me agreed to the importance of this. But this, of course, was not the only objective. Several other goals also affected what we could do.
Yes, like making money, burnishing his "legacy", and creating job opportunities for people like Carrie Menkel-Meadow. Together, they will do for law school what Korea did for pop music.
First, the primary goal articulated by Chancellor Drake and Provost Gottfredson was to create a law school that would be ranked in the top 20, by every measure, from the outset. They were terrific in providing the resources to allow us to pursue being a top 20 law school, but this required that our primary criteria in admission be focused on LSAT and GPA numbers. These are a substantial part of every law school's ranking. Commitment to public service, of course, could be a plus in admissions decisions, especially among those with the requisite grades and test scores. But ultimately our admissions decisions would not be very different from other schools that wish to be in the top 20.

Erwin insists that he is changing the game while still measuring success by metrics that exist in a zombie magazine that has no reason to exist besides telling students where they should be spending those easy to come by loan dollars. How about actually innovating instead of just pretending?
Second, we needed to cultivate close relationships with the large law firms in our area. I spent a great deal of time thinking about how to attract terrific students to a brand new law school. The law school hired 10 founding faculty, all stars from top 20 law schools, to arrive a year before the students. My hope was that this would send a message to prospective students of the quality of the new school. 

Erwin isn't telling us how these professors fit in with his vision to develop a law school specializing in public interest law. A clear plan to implement this vision is more important than recruiting “stars” for his faculty. His obsession with “star” faculty is like a young kid who claims he loves a shoe simply because of its name brand.
We obtained commitments from 75 *4 employers - law firms, government offices and public interest organizations - that they would come and interview our students. This was to communicate to students that they would have job opportunities if they came. My best idea, though, was to offer a full scholarship for all three years of law school to every student in the inaugural class. This received national publicity, and we received about 2,800 applications for the 60 slots and had students turn down many top schools to come. The scholarship money came largely from large law firms in the area. Their incentive was to bring great students to Orange County with the hope they would stay and come to work at their firms. And, of course, we wanted to do all we could to help our students who wanted to go to large firms pursue this.
So after all that deep thought (during time for which he was paid, I'm sure), the best ideas Erwin came up with: get employers to promise to participate in OCI and let the first class attend for free. With the legal field rapidly shrinking, I don't see how simply getting firms to promise to participate in OCI is such a momentous triumph. I know of many people who will sit through time share presentations with no intention of buying simply to get a free trip. How long until these promises are recanted? Or perhaps firms can send the associates at the bottom of the barrel and turn OCI into a glorified mock interview process. I'm sure that the career center will work tirelessly to get jobs for this first class of students, and then fall off as more dopes are reeled in by Erwin's pitch. It all sounds like the lifecycle of the law professor pre and post tenure, doesn't it?
Third, once the founding faculty arrived, major decisions about the school were made by them and then by the faculty who were subsequently hired. There was no assurance that they would share my vision of the school, especially with regard to an emphasis on public service. We were hiring a founding faculty that would make us a top 20 law school; their views on public interest law really did not play a role in the hiring process.
So, in an article about how Erwin created a law school that emphasizes public interest law, he admits that he had no interest in prospective professors' views on public interest law. Erwin tips his hand here. He is only interested in building a cash machine that will redistribute Federal student loans to himself and UC Irvine.
Within these constraints, though, there was a great deal of opportunity to create a law school that put more of an emphasis on public interest law. This essay is a description of some of the things we have done in this regard.
The last sentence is the type of lukewarm statement that indicates that Erwin doesn't have any particular interest in advancing his alleged mission beyond paying it lip service. Erwin, there are ways to measure outcomes. It's called doing a job survey of your graduates.
It is too soon to know whether we have succeeded in producing law students who will pursue public interest careers. We have had only two graduating classes and a significant number of students are doing judicial clerkships. We have some students working full-time in public interest, some in government and many at law firms. We have a large number of students doing public interest work during the summers and doing pro bono work during the school year. We will need more time before assessing whether what we have done makes any difference. I know there is more that we can do. 
At this point, Erwin's lost the thread. He admits that he has no idea if his first class will pursue public interest law. Isn't that what he opened this law school to do? Again, the absence of innovative thought is very evident here. Erwin's law school has simply produced graduates who have the same kinds of outcomes most law schools' graduates have.
This essay describes what we have done in terms of our curricular decisions, our financial assistance, our pro bono program and *5 our career services office. These are not all of the components for designing a law school oriented towards public interest law, but they are certainly crucial aspects of doing this.
Admittedly, I was unable to read the full article. Maybe Erwin articulated a truly innovative vision in the rest of the article. But I suspect he didn't. All this essay seems to have are platitudes that don't really mean anything. The prestige chasing and emphasis in building that prestige quickly is ultimately designed to create the most efficient system possible to put a spigot in the student loan barrel. The false prestige Erwin wants to quickly create is only to entice students to come and spend entirely too much money for an education that has been proven to be largely worthless in today's job market. Erwin, just admit you're in this because you want to live in the sunshine and maybe buy a Ferrari. That would at least make respect you.

36 comments:

  1. That's a very revealing document in psychological terms. He's trying to rationalize using an empty promise of public service to extract funding from a nearly bankrupt state government. Through it all, you can almost hear him salivating over the instant Top 20 ranking, the prestigious faculty from Top 20 schools, the microscopic acceptance rate, the GPAs and LSATs of the entering students, the prestigious judicial clerkships...I wonder what his real priorities were?

    And what could be more prestigious than to be the dean of such a prestigious school? Chemerinsky, we worship thee!

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  2. It sounds eerily similar to Dean Alexander and Indiana Tech Law School - trying to create something different and new and better, but failing because the success of the entire enterprise rests on precisely the same things that will make it a mere carbon copy of what every other law school in the US is doing. At least Dean Alexander had the relative dignity to know when enough was enough and throw in the towel. Chemerinsky, on the other hand, seems content to perpetuate the fraud for as long as his reputation will allow.

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    1. Chemerinsky and his wife were pulling over $600K in 2011 from the taxpayer funded salaries. Why would he or his wife want to walk away from easy money? I doubt Peter Alexander was getting paid much from Indy Tech. By the way, is UCI a top 20 school? I wouldn't know because I haven't paid attention to the USNWR rankings since 1991.

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    2. I just checked -- it's "Unranked."

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    3. Its unranked - really? That's hilarious. It was supposed to top-20 by now wasn't it?

      But these rankings mainly seem to measure how much money a school can waste. They are the reason why law school tuition has risen so fast. They are a zero sum game. You try to buy your way into a higher slot, your competitors will increase their spending. None of you end up changing places, but your costs just keep getting ratcheted higher and higher. The whole thing just isn't sustainable long term. Eventually people are going to stop caring about these ratings.

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    4. Not only that, it's unranked because it's unaccredited.

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    5. I assumed it was already accredited, I guess even the ABA's accreditation rubber stamp doesn't move that fast.

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    6. It's going to be accredited soon. The ABA recently gave the skule notice of having satisfied the requirements. Of course, even Bubba's Bait Shop 'n' Tattoo Parlor could satisfy the ABA's requirements.

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  3. In the final analysis, Erwin Chemerinsky is only in this for the money - and maybe for supposed "prestige" of being a dean. I laughed my ass off when the pig referred to his academic thieves as "all stars." This is not the NBA, bitch, where truly talented and gifted people work their asses off to become the best at their profession.

    In contrast, "law professors" work - and I use that term loosely here - 4-6 hours per week. House cats are more productive.

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    1. Law profe$$ors also remind me of the "Butcher's dog," a lazy beast that gets all the scraps from the shop and generally lie around with their bellies full. When these bums get tossed out onto the street, they will not have a hope of survival. Domestic dogs cannot live in the wild and neither can law professors. Let's be honest. Most of them are in academia because they lack the social skills and business related talents to have any hope of success in another job.

      All the crap they spout about being thought drivers and visionaries is a load of nonsense. There are a few like Michelle Alexander who actually do some good, but the vast majority are just in it for the dollars.

      The scam deans, on the other hand, may do better. After all, they are the carnival barkers of the scam and there's a sucker born every minute. Maybe the next move is to another on-line for-profit diploma mill, or perhaps it's selling timeshares to retirees in Boca Raton. Maybe it's doing late night infomercials on buying tiny, tiny ads in local newspapers, or why YOU should buy GOLD now!

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  4. George S. PattonJune 4, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    "Erwin, you maleficent bastard, we read your book!"

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  5. This new vanity-toilet did not offer "scholarships" to the first class; it offered them free tuition. And it did so not for any noble purpose but merely in a bid to BUY its way into the top twenty (as determined by the moronic rabble-rousing shills at You Ass News). Scam-dean Chemerinsky even admits that his vanity-toilet was going after the very same few thousand people with high LSAT scores and matching GPAs that every other law school wants. In admissions and everything else, private con$iderations trumped the skule's alleged commitment to "public service".

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  6. The zero tuition (low debt) first classes of students will probably go into public service at a slightly higher rate than future classes. They are also going to have higher test scores than future classes. The question is, will Alexander base his legacy on the first year outcomes only? These full-ride students are much better situated than future students, and their choices, job outcomes, etc., are going to be different.

    I guess they can lure all sorts of lemmings in when they report a high placement % for this first graduating class. But, once local firms hire the first set of graduates (and it seems there is a huge push for that), will they have jobs remaining for the next class? Will they be hiring even if the average qualifications of class #2-3 are much lower than class #1-2?

    The real question is, can money purchase a high US news ranking, and if so, for how long? If you flat-out purchase the best profs and students, can you leverage that to get a sustainable revenue stream in the long term?

    I think it's a zero sum game. If UC Irvine succeeds, it will be at the expense of Berkeley and Stanford. There is a limited pool of students with high LSATs willing to take out loans or spend $200,000 for a degree, especially considering that the California market for lawyers is super-glutted. Irvine can't "steal" students from lower-ranked schools for long without a drop in their rankings. And, I am sure Berkeley and Stanford want to keep their best students.

    It all seems inefficient -- let's spend money for a new school with a full staff to give students who would otherwise be at Berkeley or Stanford essentially the same education. It would be a lot more efficient to send those students to Stanford or Berkeley, and maybe expand those programs slightly.

    If your goal is giving the best education to highly qualified students in California, Berkeley and Stanford can handle it, and you don't need a new school. But if your goal is to get more student loan dollars for yourself, your spouse, and your friends, I guess you have to open a brand new school so there are more administration/faculty jobs per student.

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    1. The idea was to buy prestige. With its high LSAT scores and GPAs, that first class was supposed to propel Irvine to the top of the idiotic "rankings". In future years, applicants with high numbers would have been attracted to Irvine solely because of its high rank, even though Irvine was nothing more than an Indiana Tech with the seed capital to buy an entire entering class for the sole purpose of creating prestige out of nothing. And those high-scoring applicants would have perpetuated the high rank.

      It was not a bad idea, from the sick, warped, self-preserving standpoint of that scam-dean Chemerinsky and his partners-in-crime.

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    2. Don't forget that Chemerinsky was buying professors as well, who are the real foundation of academic prestige. Brian Leiter was especially impressed with UC Irvine's faculty and conducted not one, but two, faculty rankings to give it a good nudge in the upcoming US News peer rankings. In turn, he will most likely publish the US News peer rankings on his own site, having done so previously.

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    3. The California "market" for Berkeley and Stanford grads is not "glutted." It amazes me how often people get this wrong. In California, where any moron with a pulse can attend "law school" and pass the bar, I agree that the legal market in general is glutted with bottom-feeders. Because so many low-ranked law schools are filled with students (including most likely you) who don't exercise common sense, a major stratification has occurred in that state as it has nation-wide. Graduates from good schools are landing every single opening that exists, and even then there's some spill-over where such graduates of quality schools can't find jobs. And now you want to cram in grads from the Tafts, California Westerns, and Southwesterns too? Are you freaking kidding me? When was it EVER the case in the history of the legal profession that graduating from a poorly ranked, poorly regarded, low-quality diploma mill of a law school was a path to a decent job? The market is not "glutted" for T14 grads, never has been, and never will be.

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    4. Er ok "professor at Stanford or Berkeley" nice trolling for applications.

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    5. "The market is not 'glutted' for T14 grads, never has been, and never will be."

      What about the market for T14 grads who are 5 years out and have learned that their department is being cut / their firm is imploding / their mentor is leaving without them / etc.?

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    6. There are people, and not just a few, from T14 institutions (even Harvard and Yale) who cannot get jobs in law. At the U of Virginia, one graduate in six is employed by the law school itself.

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    7. A T14 grad friend of mine who has a killer resume is now sitting in a one-room office with bargain furniture and no staff trying to build a solo practice from scratch.

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    8. Anonymous 9:26 PM: You say that the California market for Berkeley and Stanford grads is NOT glutted, but "there's some spill-over where such graduates of quality schools can't find jobs". Also, "[g]raduates from good schools are landing every single opening that exists."

      I am not sure what glutted means to you, but I am guessing that if you asked many Stanford and Berkeley law grads from 2012-2014, they would say it's glutted. After all, in your own words, many of them can't get jobs because of the sheer number of grads out there from all schools. Glutted = too many grads for jobs available.

      Plus, if they are taking "every job available" this also includes jobs they probably don't really want and didn't take out $200,000 in loans to obtain. These may be jobs that pay poorly, have poor working conditions, or are outside their fields of interest.

      I think the top schools' students are well aware the market is glutted for THEM as well. Maybe they are not as often completely unemployed and destitute, but they are paying large opportunity costs and struggling in other ways.

      The law school applicant pool reflects this, as applications are declining faster among highly qualified students than among less qualified students. The superstar students are moving into other fields or going to work at Facebook.

      Here is an article about the decline in law school applications among the highly qualified:

      http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/10/organ-the.html

      If the law market isn't glutted for the "best" students from the "best" schools, why have such students stopped applying to law school?

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  7. In related news, Chemerinsky scores $3 million for U.C. Erwin by way of another scam.


    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/06/consumer-fraud

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    1. God be fucking damned. Consumer Fraud clinic? The whole goddamn law skule is a consumer-fraud clinic.

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    2. You have to learn how to defraud people somewhere....

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    3. It's scam upon scam...this whole "profession" is a scam.

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  8. Rather like racists protesting the loudest about not being racist.

    Or the LA Clippers scandal:

    Chemerinsky in secret conversation with professors: "screw public interest law. I don't want you seen with anyone who is poor or anyone who isn't 100% Biglaw."

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  9. Irvine Tech is just fleecing its students to pay socialist millionaire Chemerinksy top dollar.

    When will the madness end?

    How high do annual costs of attendance have to go before students say no?

    $80,000 per year?

    $100,000 per year?

    $120,000 per year?

    I'd guess that at least 5-10 law schools need to close shop before tuition prices start coming down.

    How soon till we count the fifth law school closure?

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    1. It's all Monopoly money as long as it comes from guaranteed student loans available to any arbitrary dipshit in any arbitrary amount designated by any arbitrary toilet-skule.

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  10. Changing the subject for a moment: can any of you imagine such an "essay" appearing in a JAMA journal, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine or any other peer reviewed publication? We'll, of course not. The fact that law journals will publish such self-referencing drivel is disgusting in and of itself.

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    1. Self-congratulatory propaganda (in a supposed "Journal of Social Justice", no less!) is not much worse than the scholarshit that fills the pages of even the most highly regarded law reviews.

      I am more and more bitter all the time about going into this sick joke of a "profession". I was, and am, a god-damned fool.

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    2. Yes, of course. Chemerinsky's puff piece really isn't scholarly, and as advocacy it's the antithesis of social justice. But the poor kids who edit that journal have to worry about offending anyone who still has a scrap of prestige left to toss them.

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    3. Student review rather than peer review of scholarship enables vast amounts of scholarship to be published. Which is convenient because almost every law professor believes it is their primary function to publish, rather than teach. Scholarship is of course being regarded as far more prestigious than teaching.

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    4. I want to get in on this.

      It makes perfect sense that top schools are preoccupied with admitting outstanding students. Only outstanding students could learn enough to be effective lawyers, given the poor teaching that takes place at those schools.

      Naturally, given the poor student inputs at schools ranging from Hastings and American down to Cooley and Valparaiso, those schools should give no preference to published professors. The sole criterion for hiring and promotion at low-ranked schools should be effective teaching. Marginal students who borrow to pay their tuition deserve no less than that.

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  11. Even if Irvine were ranked, it would not be in the so-called top twenty. In terms of LSAT scores, it is roughly on par with Boston University. It would probably get a ranking not much better than 30—the high end of the fourth tier.

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  12. Yesterday Obama was on the radio with a proposal to allow refinancing of student loans. How exactly is an unemployable graduate of one or another law skule going to refinance a quarter of a million dollars' worth of student loans so as to be able to afford the payments? By binding her next of kin?

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