Sunday, November 23, 2014

Getting Infilawled: Florida Coastal School of Law

There are three main whipping schools of the "Scamblog movement" which, solely by themselves, demonstrate that the Scamblog movement is correct in its criticisms and supported reforms.

First is the most obvious: Cooley.  It is almost hard to believe that a law school like Thomas Cooley School of Law, excuse me: The Western Michigan University School of Law, exists.  Not only does it feature the standbys of expensive, private, low-ranked law schools (high tuition, terrible employment prospects, and poor bar pass rates), but it created its own "law school rankings" system called "Judging the Law Schools."  It is a complete farce: factors such as "law library square footage" and "student body size" are weighed as equally as LSAT and UGPA scores.

Second is Thomas Jefferson School of Law.  TJSL has the prestigious distinction of being the law school with the highest average graduate debt.  Unbelievably, TJSL also has the prestigious distinction of featuring bar passage rates (50.3% in 2013) that can only be described as horrendous, and ranks dead last among California's ABA-accredited law schools.  I'm certain with the steep fall in bar pass rates this cycle will push TJSL at least into the 40's.  Check out this link for a genuine expose on how rocky TJSL's finances are by the OTLSS team.

Third, and last of the most common whipping boys is The Infilaw System.  This for-profit law school enterprise stems from a Chicago private equity company, and currently encompasses three low-ranked, expensive, private law schools: Arizona Summit School of Law (recently renamed from Phoenix School of Law), Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL), the subject of today's post (it is currently trying to acquire another low-ranked, expensive, private law school).  Infilaw schools, like Cooley, and other low-ranked, expensive, private law schools, hide behind the convenient cloaks of "diversity" and "practice-ready" in order to justify the end-result: thousands of academically weak Americans graduate each year with high debt loads, poor bar pass rates, and worse employment outcomes, with the aforementioned institutions reaping hundreds of millions in subprime taxpayer-backed student loans.




It's easy to see why the law school had 1L enrollment of 808 in 2010, the height of the law school bubble.
To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with a diverse student body or graduating law students who are reasonably competent for practice after being sworn in.  But FCSL, like many of similar schools, shouts "diversity" and "practice ready," and uses it as a foil to stymie critics  According to FCSL on their "Coastal Careers" webpage:

Florida Coastal School of Law prides itself on an unwavering commitment to student outcomes, continuous improvement, and a passion for excellence

What are the results of said "unwavering commitment to student outcomes?"  Median cumulative program debt of $175,274 for their graduates.  I've never heard of the phrase "median cumulative program debt" before, but I'm sure it doesn't account for accruing interest or undergraduate student loans, which would likely push the median debt to over $200,000!  Imagine two young people meeting at FCSL, falling in love, and then trying to have a family with $400,000 in federal student loans!  I'm sure Romeo and Juliet won't have any savings to tap into to send their kid to FCSL to join mom and dad's small law firm 25 years down the road.

Things look better when we get to student employment outcomes. At least in one aspect.

Florida Coastal School of Law was able to confirm the employment status of 100% (510 out of 510) of its program completers who graduated between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012 (the time period set forth by NALP).
 100%!  That means that the employment statistics should be pretty complete.  And complete they are:

The job placement rate for the 2012 graduates, whose employment status was known, was 74.3%. Our job placement rate was calculated by adding together all of our employed graduates (379) divided by 510 (the number of graduates whose employment status we were able to confirm). In accordance with NALP guidelines, the number of employed graduates includes all employment positions, including legal and non-legal positions, permanent and temporary positions, full-time and part-time positions, and any positions funded by Florida Coastal School of Law.
Unfortunately, the truth eventually has to come out.  25.7% of FCLS's 2012 graduates were unable to secure any temporary, part-time, non-legal positions, much less full-time, permanent, legal positions.  Think about that for a second.  A full quarter of FCLS' 2012 graduates were completely and absolutely unemployed during the Obama Administration's robust economic recovery.

The President of FCLS is a man by the name of Dennis Stone.  His profile at the Infilaw website indicates that he, among many things, is a site evaluator for other law schools, and was a founding member of Infilaw. 

This is President Dennis Stone.  Courtesy of FCLS's website.

























You may remember Dennis Stone from Professor Paul Campos' article over at The Atlantic, which featured TV-drama level drama of President Stone literally kicking a Dean-candidate mid-presentation for pointing out that FCLS's declining admission standards put it at risk of running afoul of several ABA standards.  If you haven't read Campos' article yet, make sure you read the comment section, which features discussion threads which I can only describe as bizarre.

David Frakt, the man who was interrupted mid-presentation and kicked out of FCLS, joined The Faculty Lounge a few months ago, and has come out with a new post where he was kind enough to share most of his powerpoint presentation that got him on Dennis Stone's bad side (Frakt had to redact five pages which featured propriety data from the school).

Frakt's powerpoint presentation reads much like a presentation that a scamblogger might give if he or she were to be considered for a Deanship at a low-ranked, private, expensive law school.  Indeed, the title reads:

FCLS - A Law School in Crisis.

In the "disturbing trends" page, Frakt made the following list where FCLS was coming up short:

-Declining bar passage rates
-Declining, unacceptably low post-graduate employment
-Dramatically declining applications
-Declining, unacceptably low entrance credentials of matriculating students
-Increasing, unacceptably high transfer attrition, particularly from top of class
-Declining, unacceptably poor employee job satisfaction and morale

Frakt in his powerpoint presentation, predicted a drop in FCLS's bar passage rates below 60%.  At the Faculty Lounge, Frakt writes about how he was unfortunately proven correct.  I use the word 'unfortunately' because, for all the issues I have with low-ranked, private, expensive law schools, there are human beings who are affected in racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans, and graduating without the ability to pass their state's respective bar.

There is of course a whole inter-scamblog debate on how culpable graduates of schools similar to FCLS are for their predicament, but I place most of the blame on the "repeat-players" in the legal education market who know FULL-WELL the debt-loads, bar passage rates, and job prospects of their school's graduates : law school administration and faculty.

Florida's 2014 July bar exam results were posted on September 22, 2014.  FCLS clocked in at a disastrous 58%!  The only law school posting a worse result than FCLS was the Ave Maria Pizza School of Law.  Frakt explains why he was able to predict the drop in bar pass rates:

Although some seem loathe to admit it, there is a very strong correlation between LSAT scores and MBE scores (see, here and here).   Let the LSAT scores of your admitted students drop, and three years later, the bar pass rate is bound to follow.
On a hunch, I decided to visit Florida Coastal School of Law's facebook page.  There is a lot of posts about diversity, networking, multicultural events, networking, and Dennis Stone being honored in the community.  But on September 22, 2014, there is no post congratulating FCLS' passing the Florida bar!  On September 16 there was a post linking to an American Bar article about networking, and a post on September 29 about the law school hosting "Dia de Justica," but nothing on the 22 about the 58% of their graduates who passed the Florida bar.

Interesting.

Meanwhile, in the present, Professor John C. Kunich of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, spent some time in the comments section of Frakt's TFL post criticizing Frakt's approach to law school admissions and defending FCLS.  His post is worth a blog post in of itself.  Suffice to note that the post include the following phrases (which ring similar to many of the points that pro-FCLS posters in Campos' The Atlantic article made):

Florida Coastal School of Law is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse law schools in the nation.
This school, similar to Charlotte School of Law where I was a tenured professor for several years, relies on a sophisticated blend of factors to predict a person's likelihood of success. (Frakt points out that the law school accepted 75% of applicants in 2013).
This we know for certain: if the door to a law school education is locked for anyone whose numbers fall below some arbitrary cut-off, those people will have zero chance of success in law school or as a lawyer. 
These phrases from  Professor Kunich basically brings us full-circle: why does a low-ranked, private, expensive law school like FCLS exist?

According to Professor Kunich, FCLS exists to provide a legal education to those of whom are rejected by law schools with less holistic admissions policy.  As the professor notes, a law school education is needed for one to be a lawyer, so FCLS fills that market need.

Law schools like FCLS are solely in business by accepting students with poor academic credentials and charging them tens of thousands of dollars in yearly tuition, paying administrators and law professors hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly salary.

To FCLS, Profesor Kunich, and anyone arguing in favor of "opportunity" law schools: What is the expected outcomes for the bottom 80-90% of your full-freight paying graduating class?  What sort of opportunity in giving these students a six figure lottery ticket to the glutted legal job market?  Is accepting non-academically talented URM's, non-traditionals, and RM's and indebting them to the tune of nearly $200,000 really giving them an opportunity?

Sometimes, as Nancy Reagan was fond of saying, you just have to "Say no."  Say no to the students who are not likely to succeed in law school and the legal jbo market FCLS. 

Fin.































19 comments:

  1. Solid write-up. ""Opportunity" law schools" are an entirely ironic creature. Cooley was basically founded as being a "different" law school that was built on opportunity, fighting the ABA to create that opportunity for the unwashed masses. Its victories basically ushered in a slew of mills that - rather than providing opportunity to a majority of students, provide debt serfdom. Almost without fail, the worst offenders of scamdom are relatively recent to the game, and the InfiLaw schools are no exception:

    Florida Coastal (1996)
    Charlotte (2006)
    Arizona SOL (2005)

    If the ABA had managed to hold on accreditation standards and kept these nonsense schools out, we likely would not even have a market problem today. Instead, we got a spate of new trash heaps with large enrollments that added nothing to American law but more bodies and carnage.

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    1. But these "heaps" are consistently busting Yale's and Harvard's anuses in Moot Court. And over more than several years, so as to dispel a fluke scenario. Heaps huh? Hmmm.

      Delete
  2. With a river of unsupervised federal money flowing towards any chump with a bachelors degree, the question isn't whether law school is a scam, but rather, how could it have become anything else than a scam?

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  3. Well done. Kunich has submitted comments on our older posts re: Charlotte Law, another InfiFLAW favorite, so those are worth reading as well.

    http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2014/09/guest-post-by-former-charlotte-law-prof.html

    http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2014/09/guest-post-by-former-charlotte-law-prof_15.html



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  4. "There is of course a whole inter-scamblog debate on how culpable graduates of schools similar to FCLS are for their predicament, but I place most of the blame on the "repeat-players" in the legal education market who know FULL-WELL the debt-loads, bar passage rates, and job prospects of their school's graduates : law school administration and faculty."

    It's also important to continue to point out (as I know you guys have done) that most of the jokers who make a nice living by ruining the futures of 0Ls are themselves lawyers--people who are supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard than the average businessperson. The ABA leadership needs to be (literally) kicked for failing to shut down law schools that are clearly obtaining money by misrepresentation (either by stating falsehoods or by failing to speak to correct misimpressions that they know they've created). It's disgusting.

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  5. FCLS is producing diverse leaders for the 21st century's global challenges in an era of transformation.

    You can find FCLS alumni arguing in front of the Supreme Court, at the sidelines of NBA games chatting with the stars they represent, or helping their dolphin clients win crucial civil rights victories.

    Of course, not all FCLS lawyers are so public spirited. The truly ambitious are earning 9-figure salaries in the hot practice area of space law.

    But don't worry if you think the FCLS guys are taking up all the good opportunities, leaving none behind for you. FCLS grads are constantly being poached by Harvard Law School, the White House, and NASA, who struggle to fill their rockets with top legal talent.

    Don't deprive the world of your legal expertise any longer. Protect dolphin's rights. Let them reward you with their undersea pirate treasures that they pay their lawyers with. Or just settle for a job shouting at cowering Supreme Court justices begging for your legal advice.

    Take the LSAT. Score in the 135-145 range. Even color in random bubbles with your Crayola set if you have to. Draw a rainbow across your answer sheet. Just get your student loans to the FCLS team, let Dean Dennis Stone make his car payments, and your awesome career will be awesome.

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  6. OT: Get a load of this--

    "Law School President Quits After Just 8 Days

    The newly appointed president of the Charleston School of Law has resigned after eight days, apparently as a result of infighting among the school’s three owners and uncertainty over its potential sale."

    http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202677321080/Law-School-President-Quits-After-Just-8-Days?slreturn=20141024160448

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  7. Please note that the 58% of FCLS graduates who passed the bar refer solely to passing the Florida bar. Here in Tennessee, the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners provide a breakdown of passage rates per school (see http://www.state.tn.us/lawexaminers/stats.htm ). Five FCLS graduates took the Tennessee bar and none passed. Unfortunately few state bar licensing organizations provide this much detail.


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  8. Why would Frakt want that job? (Other than the money.)

    Happy Thanksgiving to all. There is always something to be grateful for and hopeful about, no matter how bleak things may seem.

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    Replies
    1. Hell, I too want that job. I want any fucking job.

      Old Guy

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    2. Send them a Resume Old Guy...

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  9. What else is there to say about Infilaw? At this point the people attending are too dumb to do the research, have special snowflake symptom / delusions about what an infilaw degree is, or just don't care.

    They preach diversity and to a certain extent they are right - they are going out of their way to take advantage of minority groups.

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    1. I share these sentiments. Infilaw is an obvious scam. So are Thomas Jefferson, Indiana Tech, and quite a few other plainly predatory toilets. I have little sympathy for people who stupidly end up at these places.

      An LSAT score below the high 150s should be a shot across the bow. Certainly people who cannot get out of the 130s (to say nothing of the 120s) do not belong in the legal profession and should stay away from law school.

      Old Guy

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  10. That guy Dennis Stone looks like he belongs on the Ferguson, Mo. police force. I wonder what they would have done to David Frakt if he hadn't immediately packed up and left. My guess is that we'd now be discussing an "accidental" death at FCSL.

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  11. The comments on this thread are indicative of a much broader and more dangerous trend within legal academe than any of the allegations that have been made about the few law schools specifically singled out herein. I will keep my remarks brief, but this is a complex issue with serious implications.

    During the past four years, I have been an invited guest speaker/debater at roughly half of the law schools in this nation. My speaking engagements have brought me to law schools at every point along the putative prestige spectrum. As just a few examples, I’ve spoken at Yale, Stanford, Columbia, U. of Chicago, Boalt Hall, Georgetown, Duke, Northwestern, NYU, Vanderbilt, U. of Michigan, Boston U., BYU, George Washington, Widener, U. of Missouri, Lewis & Clark, Vermont, Elon, FIU, U. of Denver, DePaul, LSU, Regent, and Appalachian.
    As I visit these and many other law schools, I chat with students and professors. One message I have consistently heard from students is that there are major problems in legal education today. Students, even from supposedly top-25 law schools, are often worried that they will not be able to find employment sufficiently lucrative to allow them to repay their loans and make the years of foregone opportunities worthwhile. A sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly is that “I’ve done everything right. I played by all the rules. It’s not fair that I can’t even give my work away as an unpaid intern. How am I going to climb out of this deep pit I’ve dug for myself?”

    I emphasize that I’ve heard this type of message from students at some of the oldest and most highly ranked law schools in America. These are students with LSAT and UGPA credentials that, according to the statistics-driven paradigm of admissions standards, should have predicted smooth sailing. Yet there are rough waters and storm clouds even for them. What went wrong?

    It is probably comforting for professors working at long-established law schools with above-average admissions credentials to deride the challenges facing younger, more diverse institutions. But this ignores a far more ubiquitous problem. There are formidable challenges confronting the students at all but the most elite law schools today, and these challenges may well be here to stay.

    The relatively easy availability of federal loan money has enabled undergraduate and graduate institutions of all types to raise tuition at rates considerably above inflation for many, many years. The allure of plentiful money with attractive interest rates has pulled many young people into colleges and graduate schools who might have been better off pursuing technical/trade schools or just beginning their careers early. But as student debt continues to expand, a huge bubble is reaching critical mass. We are creating many more new, expensively educated graduates in a wide range of fields than the job market can accommodate at acceptable remuneration.

    High rates of unemployment and underemployment, increased use of down-sizing, self-help, and off-shoring, immense numbers of people unable to make payments on their student loans, idealistic young graduates forced to work for the highest-paying employers rather than in public interest jobs, and growing unrest within the millennial generation…all of these are symptoms of real problems within higher education today. I think we need to focus more on these big-picture issues than on the challenges facing a tiny percentage of law schools. If we continue to ignore the broader, endemic difficulties, we will only guarantee that the solutions will remain unrealized.

    Respectfully submitted,

    John C. Kunich

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  12. To follow-up with the ideas I mentioned in my previous post, there are significant dangers linked to the widespread tendency to ignore systemic problems in legal education. The usual posts on websites such as this one endlessly deride young, diverse, stand-alone law schools for their supposed failure to maintain adequate admission standards. However, there is a much more serious defect related to the penchant of nominally not-for-profit schools to deprecate schools with greater flexibility in the admission rubrics.

    There are genuine drawbacks from an approach that insists on some arbitrary combination of LSAT and UGPA in all but the most exceptional situations. The more we emphasize LSAT scores above a certain threshold (such as, for example 155), the less our students will (to use the Clinton-era term) “look like America.” Okay, so I’m old! But there is something real that is lost when we elevate numerical criteria over a more holistic approach that embraces various forms of intelligence, different types of achievement, and a spectrum of human potentialities.

    LSATs and UGPAs are ineluctably connected to a person’s background, upbringing, early childhood education, tutoring, academic enrichment opportunities, lack of need to work outside the home during school years, family stability, neighborhood crime rate, cultural and social environment, and myriad other factors. When admissions committees demand adherence to rigid numerical achievement benchmarks, they sacrifice the hopes of many applicants who, through no fault of their own, were unable to avail themselves of advantages that more privileged students marinate in their entire lives.

    Does it help a young person’s prospects for achieving a high LSAT or GPA if he or she never had to take an after-school job or two to pay the family’s rent or keep the electricity on? Does it help if there weren’t street gangs making life unbearable every night? Is it an advantage if there was a quiet, comfortable place to study? It is a positive factor if the immediate family, other relatives, friends, and neighbors were supportive and encouraging of academic excellence? Is it helpful to have private schools, paid professional tutors, safe schools, and plentiful educational resources? If not, then why do so many law professors do all we can to provide these, and many other, benefits for our own children?

    We delude ourselves when we tout “equality of opportunity” and congratulate ourselves for applying the same standards to every applicant, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or religion. But this masks the vast differences in life circumstances that produce an eventual UGPA or LSAT score. Such a paradigm is elitist and exclusivist. It virtually guarantees that most law schools will be overwhelmingly non-diverse and middle-class or better. Just as the Plessy standard of “separate but equal” was never truly equal, the elite model of admissions criteria does not actually offer equality of opportunity.

    These may not be entirely pleasant topics to contemplate, but we ignore them at our own peril, as well as that of our students.

    Sincerely,

    John C. Kunich

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  13. Florida Coastal School of Law students have historically met or exceeded the average bar pass rate in Florida. If what David Frakt says is true, the school must have some really good teachers.

    I know a number of Florida Coastal School of Law students who transferred after their first year to tier one schools in Florida and elsewhere. Based on that, it would be reasonably to infer the school also has some very capable students.

    Florida Coastal also has one of the most diverse student bodies of any law school in the country. Readers of this blog are probably aware the school has a #1 ranked moot court team, and I know it shines in other areas as well.

    As the Infilaw bashing continues, let's try to keep things in perspective, and give credit where credit is due. I work hard to teach the students who take my classes, and I don't want them thinking they can't succeed because David Frakt says they'll never pass the bar.

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    ReplyDelete