Friday, November 7, 2014

"Yes," "No," or "John Adams": How do you think Albany Law Prof. Mary Lynch answered the question: "Do we need [so many] new lawyers every year?"


How would you answer the question: "Do we need so many new lawyers every year?"

It seems like a yes-no question, doesn’t it? So you could answer, if you are sufficiently delusional: Yes, there is a significant unmet need for legal services, and even though few of these potential clients can afford to actually pay a lawyer, surely the government and private foundations will step in with sufficient funding. The New New Deal is just around the corner.

Or you could answer: No, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, nationwide, fewer than 50% of new lawyers will obtain law jobs through 2022.

But there is yet another way to answer this yes-no question, the evasive scammer way. For instance, you could respond by noting that it is a really good question, and then spout a torrent of enthusiastic and empty verbiage about the civic virtue of the law. You could reach all the way back to the early years of our republic in order to name-check John Adams and then zip forward to the "globalized, digitalized world" of the near future. You could carefully deploy the phrase "the question is. . ." or "really the question is. . ." or "that, I think, is the real question." Maybe the questioner and audience will get so disoriented by this gaseous fog of words that they will imagine that the initial question has been answered in a highly sophisticated way, which in a way it has been.

Albany Law Professor Mary Lynch, the Director of her school's "Center for Excellence in Law Teaching," chose the third option in an interview broadcast on WYNT television on August 22, 2013. Interviewer Phil Bayly asked: "Before we even get to their education, you know what people are asking their television right now. Do we need [so many] new lawyers every year?" Lynch responded as follows:
"I think that’s a really good question, and I think the question is what is it that lawyers can do for society. And if we really think about, law is a civic profession. Our country was founded on law. John Adams. You think of all the people that founded our country. So what are lawyers? Lawyers are involved in industry. Many of our Presidents, our senators, you know, government, not-for-profit. So really the question is what kind of lawyers do we want to be? Are they going to be effective problem solvers as we go into the 21st century, and into a globalized, digitalized world? And that I think is the real question. Are we equipping them with the kind of skills that make them the kind of folks that we want helping us solve the problems of the world." 
http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/4280049  
[This comment appears about one minute into the nine-and-a-half minute long interview]
I must say that this nonsense disappointed me given that it came from a Professor with a genuine, though not recent, background in practice, consisting of four years as a district attorney (1985-1989). Imagine if Lynch, in her long-ago role as a prosecutor, had posed the original question to a witness, and the witness had responded by commending her "really good question," and then launched into a stream of gibberish pertaining to what she deemed the "real question"? Wouldn't Lynch have said "Objection, nonresponsive" or "Objection, please direct the witness to answer the question"? Wouldn’t the witness have been sternly admonished by the court to answer the question posed? Wouldn’t the jury have snickered at the fool on the witness stand?

Lynch purports an interest and involvement in legal educational reform and clinical education. I don’t dismiss this completely. For instance, Lynch ran her school's clemency clinic, which is absolutely a worthy project. (Preparing clemency petitions is unlikely to lead to actual jobs for grads, but it is a genuine unmet need, something that benefits society). But I want to tout one additional reform that law professors can undertake, on their own, that could make a significant difference: Listen respectfully to your recent grads, and tell truth about job prospects, especially to your students. Or, if that is too tall an order, simply avoid the temptation to shill your lousy law schools.

54 comments:

  1. Sounds like Alison Lundergan Grimes answering the question of whether she voted for Barack Obama. The voters of Kentucky saw through it, but I doubt many lemmings will see through this.

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  2. At least she is still employed, unlike some of Albany Law's other faculty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=520rhYHmKGg

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  3. "Or, if that is too tall an order, simply avoid the temptation to shill your lousy law schools."

    It's probably more than a temptation. My guess is it's closer to a command. "You're either for us or against us. And those of you who are against us will no longer be needed."

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  4. Another fine post, Dybbuk. Good research and a devastating case against the mealy-mouthed professor.

    I really think that only a practicing lawyer of the highest ethical caliber could have written that post.

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  5. All right, let's suppose that John Adams were alive today and a professor at Albany Law School. How would he have answered that question?

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    1. John Adams was a potentially mentally-ill Harvard law graduate and humanist with a progressive Alpha-wife, and who defended evil empire terrorist types and enjoyed forays to France and Holland. His early arguments about Massachusetts independence also have the distinct cuteness of modern legal academia.

      There's no "suppose" he becomes a law professor today.

      But, uh, yeah, he probably had the sense to know we're a bit overcrowded on the bar and that our youth should be doing other things.

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    2. "But, uh, yeah, he probably had the sense to know we're a bit overcrowded on the bar and that our youth should be doing other things."

      Lynch might well know that too. But she sure isn't going to say that when it puts her cush gig and luxurious salary in jeopardy.

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    3. Well, in Adams' day there was no such thing as law school and most lawyers were wealthy, educated gentlemen practicing law as a hobby.

      One thing is certain - he wouldn't be caught dead teaching at a school of Albany's quality.

      Good rule of thumb: Anytime someone answers a question with "the real question is. . ." you know they are full of shit.

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  6. I, like most people, find these types of answers infuriating. It's not a spur of the moment confused answer or a panicked denial, but, instead, is very clearly formulated in advance as a dodge. This is a disgusting cousin to the "non-denial denial" and it's chipping away at the trust between those in power at the bottom who continue to see their living standards decline. I agree that it's unfair to judge a person on a single comment like this, so I implore people who are engaging in this type of language to consider the long term effects that this erosion of trust is having.

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  7. If I were a mouthpiece for the law-skule scam, my answer would differ from Lynch's in at least the following ways:

    1) It would be expressed in complete, grammatically correct sentences.

    2) It would be coherent. (Lynch's answer could almost be mistaken for a Dadaist poem.)

    3) It would answer the question that was asked.

    4) It would acknowledge the legitimate underlying concern about the employability of new graduates and recently licensed lawyers.

    5) It would not be so transparently dishonest that the veriest simpleton would reject it.

    Old Guy

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  8. The real question is ...why Albany law was sued by their alumni for fraudulent misrepresentation of its employment statistics? After Lynch dishonest answer, we understand.

    Good post Dybbuk. Well informed, well written. You should be law prof.

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    1. Dybbuk could very well become a law professor. There's a scandal brewing among law and philosophy professors in Dybbuk's own home town. One endowed chair is already vacant, and a second could become vacant within weeks.

      If Dybbuk were to accept a professorship, he would undoubtedly teach vastly better than some of the incumbents. He's also uniquely equipped to perform research on legal ethics and human values. In particular, having a conscience, he would care about the effect of huge annual tuition increases on vulnerable populations.

      In addition, Dybbuk has never practiced law without a license. A demand that is perfectly legal when presented by a licensed attorney can become extortion when tossed around by a law professor. As a licensed attorney, Dybbuk would never find himself in that humiliating situation.

      Of course, Dybbuk, being a gentleman, will deny any interest in academic positions that other professors would figuratively kill for. But I do hope he'll give it some careful consideration.

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    2. The prominent posters at this site, myself included, can forget about being hired to teach at a law skule.

      Old Guy

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    3. What is the scandal at where? Chicago?

      Please tell us what you know.

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    4. There's been a huge increase in academic scandals lately. The reason for this is obvious. As tuition rises much faster than the rate of inflation, students are expecting more mature and professional behavior from their professors. Since few professors behave in this way, students feel justified in contriving lawsuits to recover some of the unearned surplus.

      It certainly doesn't help that some law professors threaten lawsuits against other professors at the drop of a hat. So occasionally an honest professor will pay the price for the poison spread by sociopaths within the profession.

      The only cure for this cancerous trend is to lower tuition at all institutions, but especially at law schools. With less easy money at stake, fewer criminals will become professors and fewer students will claim to be victims.

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    5. Some of the recent scandals involving law and philosophy professors would border on the comical if they didn't also involve predatory actions and the flagrant abuse of power, including market power. They do indicate comical levels of ignorance and ineptitude. Are you sure these are the kind of folks we want teaching naïve and vulnerable students how to change the world? Wouldn't the public interest be better served if they were to change their own law schools and philosophy departments? Or allow their students to change them?

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    6. In a perfect world, dybbuk and Nando would be deans of law schools. In this world, not gonna happen.

      Old Guy, you should become one of the regular bloggers here.

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    7. 1. Appreciate all the kind words! Though I have zero interest in becoming a lawprof (or law schools in employing me). It is interesting that lawprofs, in spite of their extremely cushy jobs, apparently suffer from high levels of depression. (below) I suspect that that is due to the corrosive emotional effects of making their living off the likely future misery of kids who trust them. Only true sociopaths and the very, very self-deluded can feel comfortable doing so.

      http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2014/03/law-professors-law-students-and-depression-a-story-of-coming-out-part-1.html

      2. Old Guy: I appreciate your great comments as well, and you have an open invitation to become a OTLSS blogger.

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    8. Old Guy, you should accept Dybbuk's invitation. Blogging here is the next-best thing to being a law professor. It doesn't pay nearly as well, but it's a lot easier on the conscience.

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  9. There should be no doubt that she is representing the interests of the faculty and her bank account rather than the interests of either her students or the 0Ls who are attempting to weight the various factors in the risk/rewards in their "what to do after undergrad" equation.

    You would also think that considering the relevancy and frequency of the question concerning the number of law graduates, she would have had a much more polished answer. So not only is she dissembling in an attempt to lure 0Ls into what is pragmatically a very questionable degree program, from this evidence, it appears that she also isn't very good at the public relations part of her job.

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    1. I think she was trying to sound casual and unconcerned at a silly little question. If she had offered a polished and tightly reasoned answer, then viewers would have known it was an important issue deserving of her time--and theirs.

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  10. I have been reading about the law school 'scam' and am fascinated by all of it. I'm a 2001 LS grad currently in a nonlaw job and while I was somewhat aware of how hard it is to make partner or find a good law job I never realized the scope of the problem.
    But it seems to me that this is not a unique problem; plenty of college grads have trouble finding jobs, and plenty of people in their 40's and 50's have been let go by their companies and replaced by younger, cheaper labor. These are issues the people have been facing for decades.

    Biglaw lawyers who don't make equity partner face the same problem that big corporation management guys who don't make executive have: you can be replaced by someone cheaper. If you're not in the inner circle or bring necessary value, then you're basically a piece of equipment. Who can be replaced with a cheaper piece of equipment that does the same job.

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    1. It's good to have you here. I really enjoy treads where experienced lawyers enter the discussion.

      Fortunately for you, you got your law degree at 1998-2001 prices. Have you checked tuition and debt levels lately? Most of your family, friends and associates would be shocked to see the actual figures.

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    2. Yes, quite shocking. Went to a state school and paid less than 10k/yr in tuition (7-8?). That plus room and board was like 20k a year?
      Now tuition alone is 40k.
      But state schools in general have been raising tuition as funding from the govt has dried up. Undergrad tuition is almost 20k, and that's 4x what it was 15 years ago...
      I know a guy who is currently at a state school paying 30k a year for his JD. Had a sales job which he left or lost back in 2012, then went to law school. I'm feeling for him right now...

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    3. ^^^ the decline in gov't funding is a tiny - and I mean TINY - part of the problem. The real story is the huge increase in the number of faculty in relation to students. In 1980, there were almost 30 students/faculty member. Now it is 12 students/faculty member. And, the salaries are higher. And, the bond debt of the schools themselves is higher. A gravy train built with junk bonds filled with hobo academics and powered by young souls barreling toward an unfinished bridge...

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    4. Let me add some ancient history. The seminal event in the skyrocketing of the cost of higher education was the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. Colleges were, like the rest of America, hit with shocking increases in their energy costs and had no choice but to pass the cost on to the consumers. There were still people in academia back then who remembered the Great Depression and how it decimated enrollment. Everyone held their breath as tuition was raised, expecting a wave of students dropping out. But a funny thing happened. Nobody dropped out. People just paid the higher tuition. Emboldened, the academics began trying more and bigger price hikes until things got completely out of control, where they remain today.

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    5. So what's going to happen when the student loan bubble bursts? They're all federally guaranteed, so I don't think the lenders will lose money...

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    6. INDENTURED SERVITUDE. That's what happens....

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    7. actually,, you're wrong on the ratio. Student to faculty ratio is the same as 1980; student to administrator ratio is many times the number in 1980. Faculty salaries, the few that are tenured, have not increased much; administrator salaries, have shot past the moon. These pigs think of themselves as CEOs and should be showered with perks for their specialness.

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    8. Imagining The Open ToadNovember 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      "actually,, you're wrong on the ratio. Student to faculty ratio is the same as 1980"

      I don't know who you are, presumptive professor, or who you think you're fooling, but the ABA has this information easily available and you're easily wrong.

      E.g., s/f ratio of ABA accredited law schools went from about 30:1 in 1980 to just under 15:1 by 2008, effectively doubling the number of faculty for the number of students. At some schools it's under 10:1.

      It's also relatively easy to find data showing that tenured faculty salaries have more than doubled, in today's dollars, from 1980, despite the decreased workload due to doubling of faculty numbers and (yes) an explosion of administrators who've taken on all the "extra hat" duties the tenured faculty previously had to bear.

      In simple terms, then, factoring in halved workloads and doubled salaries, law professors today are paid more than 4 times what they were paid in 1980.

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  11. I suspect that when John Adams complained about the "abuse of words," he was referring to his enemy, Thomas Jefferson. The hypocritical Jefferson, who was recently called the "Monster of Monticello" by an Albany Law School professor, had an inordinate attachment to racially selective ethics for himself and lifelong bondage for others. That alone would make him an excellent namesake for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Combine that with his sophistry and chicanery, also prominent at the law school, and we have an extraordinary coincidence of history. Perhaps only when the law school closes can Jefferson's reputation be rehabilitated, and then only partially.

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    1. Oh yes, that's why Jefferson wrote the DofI, Bill of Rights, and attempted to insert anti-slavery clauses into them (he was outvoted by others). All because he was into lifelong bondage for other people. And the goings-on at TJSL are totally his fault because time can move backwards as well as forwards.

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    2. Madison wrote the Bill of Rights. People who refuse to look up stuff like that often end up borrowing lots of money for nearly useless law degrees.

      And whatever Jefferson wrote in his first draft of the Declaration, he supported slavery in the Louisiana Purchase and insisted that his own slaves be auctioned, not freed, after his death. That's what made him a hypocrite. You can't take every flowery phrase at face value. People who do often end up borrowing lots of money for nearly useless law degrees.

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    3. slave bondage was the equivalent of today's bank bonds, a measure of wealth. power corrupts.

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  12. How is this blog not reporting on this guy's writings:

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/10/the-coming-civil-war-between-doctrinal-faculty-.html

    His first paragraph alone was a big update on whats going on with the scam

    In another post, he predicts 20-80 (!) law schools will close. He's a law prof emeritus, BTW.

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    1. That guy's blog was started recently (like the oldest post there is October 2014). The first paragraph is far from a "big update" on anything, and I don't really see anything here that's alarming or unsurprising except a third-tier professor whoring for attention and riding the coattails of a bunch of stuff this blog (and others) have already published.

      "How is this blog not reporting on this guy's writings" = probably because the article is mostly obscure and doesn't add anything. Barnhizer has published stuff on reforming legal education before, but it's far from the level of criticism that Tamanaha or Campos brought.

      Also, OTLSS has reported on Barnhizer's work before:

      http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2014/01/helpful-legal-scholarship-part-two-why.html

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    2. Barnhizer is highly significant as a law professor who has nothing to lose. He has no reason not to tell the truth. How many law professors meet that standard?

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    3. The Barhizer blog is actually very interesting. Thank you for mentioning it. I never knew about it before.

      Highly recommended for anyone who cares about restring the legal profession and shutting down scam-schools.

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  13. I have found that mathematics is the only answer to the question. Driving 60 mph equates to traveling a mile a minute. If fewer than 50% of new lawyers will obtain law jobs equates to more than one half of law graduates being employed in the legal profession this being based upon the amount of law graduates and the amount of legal jobs available. Any verbose defying these mathematical statistics is illogical.

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  14. I was quite confused by Mary Lynch's answer. Why would she use the name of a founding father to sell a scam? I thought that having a Sam Adams would help me here, since they come from a firm that uses the name of a founding father to sell a beer.

    I paid approximately $43520 less than the annual tuition at Albany Law School and received about as much enlightenment.
    She can't say "No" because then people won't go to her law school. She can't say "Yes" because then she would sound like a moron. So she says "John Adams". This makes her sound stupid to the smart but also makes her sound smart to the stupid. She makes sure to borrow prestige from senators and presidents to include even John Adams. She says nonprofits and government to imply that there are oodles of jobs without having to argue that.

    Unfortunately more law school professors are going to choose "John Adams" when answering questions in the future.

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    1. "John Adams" is the pseudosophisticate's version of little George Washington and the cherry tree.

      Old Guy

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  15. I'd like to answer the "real question" that Mary Lynch asked. Is Albany Law School equipping its students with the kind of skills that make them the kind of folks that we want helping us solve the problems of the world?

    The correct answer is an emphatic "No!"

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    1. I count four "real questions"—other than the one actually asked—in her short, incoherent statement. She was too unintelligent or too lazy to make up a story and stick with it.

      You're right about the particular toilet where she happens to teach. The median LSAT score of its entering class was 151—at the 50th percentile of all test-takers. Fully 20% of what should have been the class of 2013 at Albany Law Skule did not graduate within four years. Lynch certainly knows that her toilet's students are in the main unsuitable for the legal profession and that her toilet does not equip them even for rudimentary legal practice, let alone Solving the Problems of the World™.

      Old Guy

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  16. Her answer reminds me of some of the verbal gymnastics that marketing types display when trying to explain why a student admitted to a top-10 school should consider going to second-tier school instead.

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    1. Good point. I'd like to explore that issue more fully for the benefit of the prospective law students (or their parents) who visit this site.

      The one argument that can sometimes justify choosing a Top 50 or Top 100 school over a Top 10 school is the argument from cost. Tuitions can be lower, especially at state schools. The local cost of living can vary quite a bit. And some lower-ranked schools actually have considerable endowments that allow them to offer free tuition to large numbers of applicants. Places like SMU, Wake Forest, and San Diego come to mind, although there may be better examples.

      However, we find that in the absence of free tuition, none of the other arguments for attending lower-ranked schools are compelling or even interesting. None of the internship programs, alumni connections, specialty law journals, IP law centers, or human rights concentrations are worth borrowing full tuition to attend. Some of them have minimal value in establishing a career, but that value is nowhere near the astonishing cost.

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    2. @11:24 -- one caveat

      The distinction between a "top 50" or "top 100" law school is artificial and has no meaningful significance, so much so that US News eliminated the "tier I" and "tier II" categories.

      In the law school world, there is just: (i) a T14 school, (ii) a toilet, and (iii) a festering $#&% hole.

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    3. 3:17 is exactly right. Except in the most general terms (HYS is obviously better than TJSL, for example) the US News rankings don't really mean anything. Cost and employment outcomes vary widely amongst schools of similar ranks and in the same US News tiers. T4 Southern Illinois University, for example, has a quite good (relatively, of course) 70% employment score at LST, similar to many T1 schools and better than nearly all T2s.

      T3 South Dakota has a 60% employment score, more than 15% better than T3 NYLS while costing about half as much. (granted the top students at NYLS are more likely to get biglaw, but I'd take my chances at South Dakota).

      Regional job market, alumni network, and cost of attendance are critical factors that are ignored by US news.

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    4. I agree with all of you. Difference between say 20th ranked and 40th ranked school is meaningless in terms of career prospects. For most people the top 5-8 schools still make sense at full sticker price. However I think a second-tier school on a free ride makes more sense that T14 at full price.

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    5. I think it's more than just #20 and #40. Even schools ranked as low as #80 may or may not vary all that much from tier I schools in terms of employment and bar passage.

      For example, I went to Temple (currently ranked #61 by US news) at a time when it was just $15K per year for out of state residents ($12K for in-state residents). The employment outcomes for Temple grads in the Philly market were at least as good (and I'd argue better) than those of Fordham grads in New York, which was a tier I school at double the cost of tuition. Since the bar passage rates were comparable, you really do have to wonder why Fordham is ranked higher. Is it just because it's located next to Lincoln Center, while Temple is in a ghetto?

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    6. 0Ls should care about four things:

      1) Likelihood of getting a biglaw job (if they want big law)
      2) Likelihood of getting a FT/LT lawyer job
      3) Cost
      4) If a non-T8 or so, geographic location

      There is a very rough correlation with the first two in the US News rankings, but there are many exceptions and #3 isn't taken into account at all.

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    7. Neglected in this discussion is the fact that employment rates at minor law schools, for example South Dakota, don't reflect much about the value of the school. They simply reflect the self-selection of South Dakota residents into their own state law school. An out-of-state student who paid $23,000 a year in tuition, with living expenses pushing the total debt over $120,000, would be in serious trouble without some reduction in tuition. Students should never attend a low-rated law school without a huge discount, either through a "scholarship" or massively subsidized in-state tuition. This in spite of the awesome USD alumni network and the mere 30% chance of being excluded even from low-paying jobs.

      Some schools may not deserve their high USN rankings, but low USN rankings are almost always deserved.

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  17. Imagining The Open ToadNovember 11, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    We don't need more lawyers, we need more maps.

    MAPS, we need maps - so the kids can find The Iraq.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGrTHd5Fbak

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    1. Must be a slow day at McGeorge...

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    2. Imagining The Open ToadNovember 11, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      Sorry, you lost me on that one, neighbor.

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