Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scam on the Beach: The 2014 SEALS extravaganza at the Omni Plantation Resort on Amelia Island.




Every year around this time, 750 or so law professors from all over the country assemble at a tropical seaside resort for the SEALS (Southeastern Association of Law Schools) Convention to enjoy a week of schmoozing, boozing, banquets, and watersports. Last year’s bash was held at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, and was profiled here. This year's bash is currently in progress at the Omni Plantation Resort on Amelia Island.

But this event only seems like a callous and disgraceful indulgence, ultimately paid for by heavily indebted law students. In reality, society benefits from the many workshops and colloquia held amidst the pampering. It is face-to-face encounters that stimulate great minds, and legal education would suffer if law professors were forced to share their non-peer reviewed brilliance solely through impersonal means such as publication in journals or on ssrn, or by giving talks at their own and nearby law schools, which may not even feature oceanfront accommodations, full-service spas, or three championship golf courses. Only tanned, rested, and alcoholically lubricated law professors, fresh from a free luxury vacation, can provide the necessary optimism and energy to address the crisis in legal education going forward. 

Indeed, this year's program seems to have a particular focus on law school pedagogy itself. So it is appropriate that one of the largest out-of-state delegations to Amelia Island comes from Washington and Lee Univ. School of Law (W&L), with 16 faculty members in attendance. For the last couple of years, W&L has garnered lots of favorable publicity with its third-year "practicum" requirement, and therefore has much guidance to offer faculty from other law schools-- especially if you ignore W&L's dismal job placement record and its recent 17-place drop in the US News rankings. 

Here are a smattering of highlights from the SEALS program, with my comments in parenthesis and italics: 

Workshop on Teaching: 
Incorporating Simulations into Law School Courses: "While at one time, clinics and externships were the only option for students desiring such training, an increasing number of law schools are now offering new options, such as simulation-based practicum."

(This thing is led, of course, by a W&L law professor. Given its miserable placement record, perhaps W&L can innovate in the area of simulated legal jobs for its graduates, maybe within a virtual society like Second Life or an online role-playing game. Call it World of Lawcraft, and enable users to create their own avatar-lawyers who fight exciting courtroom battles in a heroic quest to make a living. The only drawback I can see is that you can’t pay your real-life rent in Linden dollars or honor points).

Discussion Group: Clinical Legal Education and Race: "The participants will draw upon life and practice experiences, and explain the ways in which those experiences impact their teaching. They will discuss the standard articles that have been used as teaching tools on issues of race and identify gaps that need to be addressed in future scholarship."  

(My question here: Why are they talking about "standard articles," "future scholarship," and professorial life experiences in the context of clinical legal education? How about discussing strategies for civil rights litigation instead of contemplating their navels and yapping about the alleged need for more scholarshit?)

Discussion Group: Strategies for Balancing Our Love for Work and Our Love for Life Beyond the Academy:
 "We [law professors] also have people, goals and interests outside of work that we love and that remain important priorities for us whether they are aging parents, spouses, significant others, children, sports or hobbies. At a time of decreasing enrollments and tight budgets, supporting work-life balance for professors can become a low priority. Yet, if this remains an important goal for professors, we must find ways to balance our competing priorities." 

(You know, law professors, your unfortunate students will graduate and get some kind of paying employment, and then face precisely the same issue of balancing work-life priorities. But in balancing those priorities, few will be able to draw on the big salaries, light workloads, autonomy, contemplative ease, and perks galore that you take as your due. And your dolce vita is made possible by their misplaced trust and massive debts).

Teen Pizza Party: (Does SEALS throw a family-friendly legal scholarship confab, or what? Or maybe law schools have begun recruiting teenagers to be law professors, which is an innovation I could support. The adolescents would surely work for less money than their moms and dads, and probably have better attitudes).



Discussion Group: Teaching Cross-Cultural Lawyering: "Cultural competency is critical for students who will practice in a range of substantive areas and encounter clients who differ from them in race, nationality, gender, age, education level, religion, and economic status. Teaching cross-cultural lawyering skills can be particularly fraught with challenges, and the lessons imparted often hinge on the cultural, racial, and gender identity descriptors of the teachers and students. Our discussion group will focus on strategies for teaching cross-cultural lawyering skills in a variety of clinical and non-clinical contexts. Discussants will share exercises, materials, and perspectives related to teaching effective cross-cultural skills, focusing in particular on applying lessons to a range of practice settings and enhancing student reception to these concepts."

(Ain’t that a mouthful? I can help conceptualize the practice of “cross-cultural lawyering” for all these oh-so-progressive discussants. Regardless of race, gender, or creed, what every client wants from her or his lawyer is a favorable resolution to her or his legal problem. Yes, a client wants that even more than she or he wants to be represented by a lawyer who weeps tears of empathy for the historical or ongoing oppression of the client's identity group, or its rich contributions to civilization). 

Discussion Group: Teaching Methods to Help Students Develop A Professional Identity: "Law faculty members have begun to focus on the development of professional identity in law students. . . .Panelists will propose specific methods that can be employed by any professor (regardless of the level of experience) in either doctrinal or clinical courses."

(The snark mostly writes itself here, but I would also point out that one of the professional identity discussants is Dean Luke Bierman of Elon Law School. Elon has one of the worst job placement rates among the country's law schools as measured by full-time, long-term bar-required jobs, with a mere 32% of Elon grads landing such positions within 9 months of graduation. So perhaps Dean Bierman is well-suited to broaden the discussion to include professional identity formation for waiters, baristas, and ESL teachers abroad, the likely fate of many Elon JDs). 

Summer Study Abroad Programs: Advantages & Perils:
 "Many law schools offer summer study abroad programs in places ranging from Korea to Paris. In this panel, faculty who have been involved in setting-up or coordinating summer study abroad programs discuss the promises, perils and pitfalls of such programs."

(I can save the discussants 90 minutes. The "advantage" of law school study abroad programs is that they provide a nice income stream for the school and yet another free working vacation for the lucky faculty advisors. The "peril" is that either the participants or interested observers will realize that it is all a dirty scam). 

Prospective Law Professors Workshop: Maximizing Your VAP/Fellowship/LLM: (Prof. Marcia McCormick (SLU) is one of the speakers, a person so high-minded that she once defended five-figure summer research stipends for law professors solely in terms of public good, commenting that "I think there is great value in legal scholarship. The public benefits by getting legal and government structures that make real people's lives better. Students benefit from the scholar's ability to turn chaos into order and communicate both the chaos and the order to someone who hasn't done the same work." So when Prof. McCormick uses the term "maximizing," she doesn't mean that in some vulgar careerist sense, she means maximizing order out of chaos so as to produce legal and government structures that make real people's lives better).

Finally, anyone who writes about the law school scam feels a special glow at the mere sight of the words "Indiana Tech." So I was pleased to notice that the SEALS convention will be graced by the presence of recently resigned Dean of Indiana Tech Peter Alexander as well as by hip-hop and sports law specialist andre douglas pond cummings, the interim Dean. Alexander will be a speaker on a panel entitled "The Role of Advocacy in the Modern Law School," which "will address the question of whether advocacy continues to be relevant to legal education and to the practice of law." andre douglas pond cummings, will be a discussant on a panel entitled "What is the Role of Trust in the Marketplace?"

I am not an academic or a discussant, but I would venture to say that trust has a very, very important role in the marketplace. No scam would be possible without it.   



48 comments:

  1. "You will pay for your insolence!"

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    1. When I read ". . . enjoy a week of . . . boozing . . . and watersports," I immediately thought of Brian L hanging around the showers in the gym asking guys to pee on him while he lies on the shower floor.

      Go ahead, delete this comment if need be :(

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    2. Leiter's handle on the golden shower message boards he frequents is Peter Adurine.

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    3. The 2:07 comment is hilarious, and very clever.

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    4. The average law student is paying about $150,000, plus interest, for her insolence. What can the Blighter do to commenters on this board that he isn't already doing to his own students?

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    5. I'm extremely sorry, 1:31, that you had to endure any thoughts of Lighter at all, let alone thoughts of him in the showers.

      However, it seems to be the case that people who judge others very harshly, including many law professors, are acting out a generalized sadomasochistic narrative in their lives. It's their twisted way of pleading for mercy after all the harm they cause to others.

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  2. You forgot to mention that Washington and Lee had 11.2% of its students in short term school funded positions for 2013. Their under-employment score went from 31.5% in 2012 to 35% in 2013. The job picture at W & L is certainly bleak. Their third year program seems to be hurting rather than helping job placement.

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    1. Will their employment rate improve now that they have finally taken down most of their Confederate flags?

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    2. That third-year program is abject foolishness. It appears designed to drive away students--as well as employers--and destroy the law school.

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  3. Replies
    1. No. Let them eat shit...the fuckin' pigs.

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    2. Sachertorte, no doubt—after the caviar and the pheasant under glass.

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  4. The main culprit behind the scam is the federal government with their lending for graduate students, which is both overly-generous and completely lacking in actuarial controls. It seems to be based on two assumptions:

    (1) that graduate students are mostly mature, responsible individuals who will not borrow more than they can reasonably repay, and
    (2) that graduate schools are mostly respectable, responsible institutions who will not raise their fees and costs excessively.

    In the case of law schools, at least, both these assumptions are demonstrably false. The government should substantially reduce graduate lending, particularly through the gradplus program. But they seem to have their own motives for continuing with the current policy.

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    1. Bah. I was hoping that limiting federal graduate lending would actually seriously limit the legal education scam. Looking at Professor Campos's latest post though I may be wrong:

      http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/08/looking-back-itlss

      If this were to happen private lenders would just fill the gap. I had assumed that private lenders would apply actuarial standards and restrict lending to schools with poor outcomes, such as lawyers. How naïve of me. As commenters here pointed out, the lenders would merely securitize this graduate debt and sell it to third parties. They would be motivated to recklessly lend as much as possible.

      Boondoggles like this conference are just symptoms of all this excessively generous student lending. As long as its available schools *will* take advantage of it by overenrolling and overcharging. That's human nature. And unfortunately there are still plenty enough dumb lemmings they can overenroll and overcharge.

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  5. Force the law $kules to announce this vacation junket prominently on their Web sites, complete with data on expenditures. "Were it not for this hackademic rip-off, your tuition would be $X lower."

    Old Guy

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    1. Absolutely correct. Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth:

      "SEALS always has had the air of a boondoggle--professors and their kids playing at a beach resort for a week while purporting to be at an academic conference. But most folks balance time with family and time in the conference. There are some great panels and discussions every year and many of them are as well-attended as AALS panels I've seen (there were about 50 people at a panel on Bickel last year). In reality, people do not go to these conferences for the panels, anyway. So the real difference between SEALS and AALS may be this: When people skip SEALS panels on Amelia Island in August, they do it to play golf or jump in the pool; when they skip AALS panels in New Orleans in January, they do it to get drinks and good food. Make of that what you will."

      http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/
      August 6, 2014

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    2. Good comments on Prawfsblawg too, including one from our friend Orin Kerr. His main point appeared to be that SEALS has gotten more serious since he first went in 2004. I suspect that some professors will quit attending SEALS precisely because of that, but some may be attracted by the newfound semi-seriousness as well.

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  6. What does this conference cost to attend, per person?

    http://sealslawschools.org/conference-and-hotel-rates/

    Registration is anywhere from $160 to $235.

    Accommodation ranges from $159 per night for an oceanfront room, to $425 per night for a three bedroom villa.

    I expect the academics won't be "slumming it" with a mere ocean view, especially as attending this vacation - er, I mean, conference - isn't on their own dime.

    So...the arrive on the 31st of July, conference starts early on the 1st of August and ends on the 6th. Checking out on the 7th...that's seven nights...at $159 per night...a minimum attendance cost of $1,273 including registration costs. Meals and incidentals? Add another $100 per day, give or take. For each attendee, the respective law school will be forking out a couple of grand.

    Not including any "bring the spouse" perks.

    For anyone offended by this utter waste of student loan money (because there's no reason this conference couldn't have been held at the Holiday Inn Express in Chattanooga, TN), the SEALS site has published a handy list of every attendee, complete with email addresses for the professors, many of which are personal email addresses.

    http://sealslawschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Participant-List-2014-alphabetical.pdf if you're interested.

    My school seems to have sent four professors. Reinforces precisely why I will never, ever donate a single cent to their fundraising efforts.

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    1. Don't forget transportation—and payroll.

      Indeed, the conference could have been held in some undistinguished location. But it did not need to be held at all. Even the Holiday Inn Express in Chattanooga would have been a waste.

      Old Guy

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    2. So Washington and Lee is spending about $32,000 to send its faculty on this paid vacation. Would you call Washington and Lee a well managed law school?

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    3. Speaking for chattanooga, I just as soon them leave my fair city alone.

      I am a bit surprised that one can obtain a room at the Omni for $159 a night. For several years I have attended a Georgia trial lawyers seminar at the Omni for CLE (yet another extortion racket, but, I digress.). The best I could do was about $220 per night (that includes taxes of course). The food at this resort is extremely expensive. Last year, my husband and I spent about $100 on dinner, before adding in a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner. By the way, the green fees for golf aren't cheap.

      Disgusting.

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    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. omni (every)
    plantation (an estate producing goods by resident [slave] labor)
    resort

    the venue is not an accident.

    law professors and law schools are overwhelmingly racist.

    they target racial minorities for what they know to be a catastrophic debt and poverty that will destroy the participants and mire their families in life-long poverty as families provide the private charity that prevents homelessness, starvation, suicide.

    these minorities will not be able, after being fleeced by a fraud, to have children of their own.

    they will have no economic power in this world, and less than they had before law school.

    for this alone, the involved fraudsters knowingly, actively and affirmatively misleading and lying to those from racial minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds should be stripped of their property, branded with truth that they are RACISTS 1%'ers shunned, punished, and imprisoned by society.

    law schools actively target blacks, hispanics, asians, poor whites, under-privileged, under-connected, under-read applicants. they target the relatively powerless and poor in society to take property from them and their futures from them by deception.

    there is nothing scummier than that.

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    1. This is exactly what Nora Demleitner did at Hofstra.

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    2. I would call this racial exploitation being practiced by liberal democrats.

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    3. You're right. I hadn't thought about the impact of reverse Robinhooding on minority students. Since merit scholarships are based on LSATs and GPAs the scholarships go mainly to asians and white middle class. Minorities pay for these advantaged groups to go to law school. Law school deans complain how the LSAT is unfair to minorities but they don't hestitate to exploit that when it helps the deans.

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    4. You should have a separate thread on minority exploitation by law schools.

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    5. It is one of the great ironies of the law school scam that so-called liberal deans are trying to solve their problems by using minorities and the poor through reverse robin hooding scholarships.

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  8. Just wondering, amongst all those wonderful and intriguing classes for important law school professors, any classes, on say, "How to reduce law school tuition so that the poor and middle classes can be involved in our future legal system?"

    Or how about a class on "The impact of high law school tuition on eliminating the poor and middle classes from participating in our legal system?" Or how about a class called "What happens when our future legal practitioners are indebted hundreds of thousands of dollars from attending law school and the impact such indebtness has on the cost to provide legal services?"

    I know, I know, such classes don't have as nice a ring to them as "Teaching Cross-Cultural Lawyering." I guess my next career (or my current career because I sure as hell am not working as an attorney) will certainly NOT be as law school conference organizer.

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    1. Or, how law schools can exploit minorities so that we can get free vacations at posh resorts.

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  9. But, but, but...where is there the panel on the narrative of the "Open Road" and its application within American Jurisprudence...? Did I miss it...?

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  10. Glad you're back, dybbuk.

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  11. it's good to see the lawprofs back on the, uh, gravy train...

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    1. Gravy train is racist towards the professors with meat-flavored or sauce-like heritages.

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    2. lol, racism rears its ugly head once again...

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  12. I spend a lot more of my own money to go to conferences. I don't think that the amount of money or the idea of a conference

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  13. Is a bad one. However the content looks to be absolutely inane. They could actually spend some productive time here instead of total bs.

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    1. The "content" is just for show. There will be about 3½ people at each of those sessions. The others will all be out enjoying themselves.

      Old Guy

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    2. Yes. Unlike CLE seminars, these sucubuses

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  14. What kind of person would want to spend a whole week in August in or near Jacksonville, Florida? That's the kind of heat and humidity they're trying to get away from. If those people were halfway intelligent in their corruption, they'd spend a week in Aspen, Seattle, or Santa Barbara.

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    1. I'd like to see some of the few remaining honest scholars form their own group. Then they could hold a conference wherever they want.

      In the long run, any attempts to present legitimate scholarship to an association of law schools are doomed to failure. Institutions dedicated to pretense, deceit, and falsification will ultimately destroy the credibility of anyone who fails to maintain a proper distance. Far too many reputations have already been destroyed at luxury resorts. Run over by the gravy train, so to speak.

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  15. Does it include any workshops on how to feed your family after your law prof job is eliminated?

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    1. Rice and beans, my friend. Or bean burritos. Or peanut butter sandwiches. Got to balance the amino acids in your proteins.

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    2. I was saddened to read that many of the useless professors at Albany received generous buyouts. I would have preferred that their ponderous posteriors get thrown out on the street.

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  16. By the way, Dybbuk, thanks for your honest and fearless reporting. You've shown an unerring instinct for academic corruption, cultural pretense, and political hypocrisy. Only a working lawyer, it seems, can figure out what's really going on at the law schools.

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  17. That really looks like a nice resort. I'd like to go there some time--on my own dime, after I've earned the money.

    You can find some real bargains by using Expedia and other travel sites. No need to stay a whole week, either.

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  18. And while the professors are doing their irreplaceable research in Florida and elsewhere, it's not too late to apply to Hamline School of Law for Fall 2014. That's according to their website, which also promises to make you a critical thinker.

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    1. Thirteen graduates of Hamline's class of 2013 are categorized as "unemployed - not seeking". If you want to go into debt for no apparent reason, Hamline Law is an excellent choice.

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