Friday, December 19, 2014

Does Columbia Law's exam deferment offer demonstrate "support and trust" for law students?

                                 (Who should be wearing these: law students or law faculty?)


A couple of weeks ago, a conservative political blog reposted an email that Robert Scott, interim Dean of Columbia University School of Law, sent to students. In the email, Scott stated that the law school would entertain final exam deferment requests made by students who felt "impaired" by the well-publicized non-indictments of two police officers who used lethal force in dubious circumstances. As well, the email indicated that several of the law school’s professors had graciously agreed to make themselves available for a few "special office hours" to counsel and support students through their angst. Plus the school arranged to have a trauma specialist hold sessions on campus. 

The Dean expressed his understanding that the non-indictments had had a "profound impact" on students in that they had "shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and the law." The Dean hoped that, through his efforts, the "Law School community can come to have a greater sense of mutual support and trust."

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/12/not-a-parody.php

The main reaction among online commentators was exasperation with a perceived generation of pampered and entitled youth. However, at least one article took the contrary view and asserted that the approach outlined in the email was a refreshing break from Professor Kingsfield-esque coldness and insensitivity.  

I disagree with both reactions because I do not think the Dean's email reflects either pampering or understanding, but something else. You know, a con artist wins and maintains the trust of his or her marks through little favors, as well as big promises, and also by feigning emotional support. [1] I read somewhere that when one of his investors suffered a personal tragedy, Madoff threw his arms around her and promised that he would always be there for her. Columbia Law’s touchy-feely solicitude is reminiscent of Madoff’s hug.

On top of dismay over flaws in the judicial system, which are real enough, these soon-to-face-the-cruel-world law students will shortly have to deal with the "profound impact" of having been hoodwinked and betrayed by a law school "community" that promised, or seemed to promise, valuable professional training and a respected credential in exchange for a massive investment of time and money. [2], [3]

What are the chances that any of the truly pampered law professors and deans who offer their students such effusive understanding and reassurance over Ferguson will be there for grads a few years out? You know, to counsel them through their stress or unhappiness over huge debt burdens and rapidly diminishing prospects for long-term remunerative and socially useful careers in the law. And how many of these oh-so-progressive lawprofs are, consistent with their self-presentation to students and others, effective advocates for the rights of the indigent or excluded? You know, as opposed to massively overcompensated producers of jargon-laden critical theory slop that nobody ever reads but that earns them invitations to expense-paid academic "conferences" in far-flung resort locales.

So I am not outraged that a few kids may get to briefly defer their exams by asserting emotional upset caused by distressing events in the news, a tiny indulgence amidst the scamming. Rather, I am outraged at the fleecing of these kids by a gang of rich and pampered exploiters who have the nerve to call themselves caring teachers and proponents of social justice. Many lawprofs identify with the political left (so do I) just as many televangelists identify with the political right. Culturally and ideologically these two groups could not be more dissimilar. But in their relationship to persons who are foolish enough to trust them, a lawprof and a televangelist are two of a trade and the trade is called scam.

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[1] Note that I am not calling Scott a con artist, my point applies to the general category of law deans, law faculty, and top administrators.  

[2] I know it's Columbia, and Columbia has an impressive nine-month-out placement record. But the very fact that it is one of the best schools for snagging big firm jobs out of the gate (308/ 425 obtained law jobs in firms of 251+ attorneys), may indicate trouble not-so-far down the road. See Steven J. Harper, The Lawyer Bubble (Basic Books 2013), 60 ("[T]he prevailing big-firm model survives on staggering associate turnover rates").

Consider the following comment from a thread on Inside the Law School Scam from two years ago. Anonymous, of course, but it had a ring of truth to other commenters on the post, and to me:
Anonymous January 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM
"As an unemployed older female Columbia Law grad desperately looking for a job, there is a big problem here. There are no jobs for older women. I need a job. All of the jobs that I otherwise qualify for have experience caps that I do not meet. Columbia Law School is a scam for women like me. My female classmates and I at Columbia have few or in my case no employment options. What should I do when no amount of looking produces a job? I need a job."
[3]  Two interesting facts about Columbia Law to consider when evaluating its pious sweet talk about support and trust and community. First, Columbia Law accepts an unusually high number of transfer students (46 in 2014, 52 in 2013) and anecdotally, transfers to T-14s have far more trouble finding good jobs than those who enrolled as 1Ls. Second, Columbia  has the highest tuition of any law school in the U.S., charging $60,274 per year in tuition and mandatory fees. This is significantly more than Harvard ($54,000), Yale ($56,200), or Stanford ($52,350).


30 comments:

  1. I'm not outraged about the exam deferment either, I just think those kids are a bunch of pussies. Unlike most JD's, a Columbia grad has a legitimate shot at big law. Wait until their fragile asses are working 80 hour weeks with the partner ripping them a new one over a misplaced comma on page 33 of a draft memorandum of law.

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  2. LawDeans as televangelists - there is another post in there, somewhere.

    Also, an excellent comment in the Gawker article:

    SerakThePreparer Kenhe Login
    12/10/14 1:40pm

    "Sigh. This is the kind of stereotype-affirming event that millenials really don't need right now. I am embarassed for all involved. If you need that extra time because of this "trauma," then please do us all a favor and don't follow a career where people are entrusting you with their livelihood, or even their freedom. See, being a professional means that even when something really bad happens, there are people counting on you, so you gotta suck it up and get the job done. It seems really bad and unfair, and maybe it is! So go pick a different career path- a fairer and gentler one."

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

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    1. This is one of the most sexist and stupid comments I have ever read.

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  4. William Desmond, a Harvard law student, wrote an article defending the request for the delay. It is hilarious, and it shows what is wrong with giving students AA. Look at all the comments ridiculing Desmond. If he wasn't "traumatized" before he is now.
    http://www.nationallawjournal.com/home/id=1202679079482/OpEd-Delaying-Exams-Is-Not-a-Request-from-Coddled-Millennials?mcode=1202617074964&curindex=0&slreturn=20141116093943

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    1. Here's a good critique of Mr. Desmond. https://statelymcdanielmanor.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/following-in-barack-obamas-invisible-legal-footsteps/

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    2. Desmond's risible article exudes privilege. Evidently Desmond and many of his darling (cl)assmates are so insulated from the world that racism, police brutality, and judicial bias had never come to their attention before this "pivotal moment in civil rights history". Now these entitled Leaders of Tomorrow are so dismayed that they simply have to drop everything, particularly their exams, in order to "start[] conversations long overdue".

      Well, get this, Desmond. I was homeless for the last two and a half months of law school. I could have had my exams deferred; a dean urged me to do so. But I wrote them on schedule, just as I did all other work on time. Do you really think that your "intense adversity" calls for greater dispensations?

      Grow the hell up.

      Old Guy

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    3. In the glory days of the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980's whiny, privileged students at elite colleges were demanding that their schools stock cyanide tablets so that they could commit suicide in case of nuclear war.

      They seemed to think they'd be missed.

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    4. Also, it's important to note that while the students and profs are taking time off to protest and/or process trauma, they are going to expect

      - that grocery store employees show up to work so they can buy food

      - that nurses, doctors, and hospital desk workers show up every day so that they can go to the ER if they happen to trip and fall during their time off

      - that coffee shop employees show up to work so they can get their lattes

      - that gas station attendants show up to work so they can gas up their cars

      - that cafeteria and restaurant workers show up so they can eat and go on dates

      - that maintenance people show up when called to fix appliances, furnaces, traffic lights, and anything else that might malfunction during these traumatic times

      If any of the above don’t happen, these law students and profs will be upset.

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    5. I hereby demand that the law skules stock cyanide tablets for those of us who cannot find jobs. It's the least that they can do.

      Thomas Jefferson can then rename itself the Jonestown Skule of Law.

      Old Guy

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    6. Or at least have the decency to rent a suicide booth for five year class reunions.

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  5. Turnover issue and lack of experienced jobs is the same even if you are an honors graduate of HLS. It is the turnover system that has created a huge oversupply of lawyers.

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  6. I agree 100%. What this episode shows is how desperate law schools are to keep the pigeons quiet and unsuspecting. The Madoff analogy is perfect.

    "No need to worry! Everything is under control! You're not just a client--you're a friend! See, here's $150 bottle of champagne for New Year's! Didn't I come to your daughter's wedding? We have a relationship here." (The unstated message is "Please oh please don't withdraw your funds!")

    One might think that a school like Columbia doesn't need to worry about attracting enough loan conduits. But keep in mind that Columbia needs to protect its brand. It needs to keep attracting its share of the *best* loan conduits--the same ones that HYS, Penn, and NYU are trying to attract, from an ever-shrinking supply.

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    1. Several years ago, when I took the LSAT, Columbia sent me an unsolicited waiver of its application fee "[o]n the basis of [my] performance on the LSAT only". That struck me as a shameless confession that a person with my LSAT score might well pass Columbia up if not bribed with a fee waiver, and that therefore Columbia was not particularly desirable. Which is another reason to place Columbia in the second tier.

      As far as I know, only Harvard, Stanford, and Yale back then did not waive their application fees for people with high scores on the LSAT. I got unsolicited waivers from virtually every school from Columbia down to the Stygian depths of Cooleyoid institutions.

      Old Guy

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    2. The scamsters stink of desperation. Now, they are bribing potential applicants with gift cards.

      http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/10/15/alabama-law-apply-here-get-free-itunes/

      Like good drug dealers they've learned to make the first taste free.

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    3. That was back in 2008, seemingly.

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  7. A brilliant post, especially the part comparing law profs to televangelists. 100% accurate - both prey on the ideals of the naive and vulnerable, and use a "we're on the same side against the bad people" approach to gain trust.

    Also, I agree that people not directly affected by the traumas (actual real-life family and friends of victims) should be energized to get things done, rather than needing to take time off.

    Real-life friends and family are one thing, but the rest of us have to do stuff to keep the world running so that people truly affected by any number of real-life traumas can take time off themselves. This is the vacuum law schools exist in -- they can actually do nothing and no one notices. Imagine if all the physicians or family court lawyers affected by events in the news took a few days off. People would notice! Imagine if all the janitors needed a break after watching CNN - people would notice! Law students and law profs stop working - no one notices and it makes absolutely no difference to the world in the long term.

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  8. First ever post here, or any law school scam blog. I just wanted to thank whoever runs this site. Hopefully fewer and fewer people get sucked into the law school scam that the ABA is running. It's disgusting how many lives are going to be destroyed because of the scam. I'm trying to fix the flaming disaster fire that I am in because of falsified employment data and just resigned my bar license. Keep up the great work.

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  9. This is True Cynicism, so pure that you can feel the warm glow of Hatred powering it. Law school as akin to Televangelism as akin to scams, damn. The condolences of a law proof likened unto Madoff, I can only praise dybbuk's post with faint damns.

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  10. The backdoor mass entry to Columbia Law School via the transfer route damages not only Columbia's prestige, and the standing of its graduates, but also that of graduates of the other T14s. It is to the point where the public is not impressed with that top law degree. It means nothing. Columbia has taken as many as 90 transfers a year to meet its money grabbing goals.

    That 45 year old double Harvard with Law Review- he cannot get a job either. Even though the second guy reached the pinnacle of academia, and got into Harvard from day one -twice. The flood of toileteers who transferred to Columbia devalues his degrees and his accomplishments too. The degrees are meaningless in this oversaturated market. Not only can he not be a lawyer. He is relegated to working in the family grocery store that he worked so hard to escape at age 45 because he cannot get other work. Meantime the Columbia transfers (who are really toileteers) are flooding the market with a fake Ivy brand.

    Sort of like Gucci when it is sold to so many people, the prestige brand loses prestige, and so do other like brands. The public is jaded by these formerly exclusive but now plebian brands.

    No, taking toileteers as transfers does not enhance the chances of Columbia's experienced grads at having a career as a lawyer or any other type of prestige career for that matter. Sort of makes Columbia and Hofstra the same, you know.

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    1. Surest way to spot a scammer is 1L class size. Some of the pits have larger 2013 1L classes than they did in 2010.

      The schools that will wilt in 'prestige' are the ones with huge, abnormally large, unjustifiably scammy 1L class sizes in a saturated market.

      Note well:

      Columbia = 352 1L
      Georgetown (Home of the "CATHOLIC" PSLF SCAM!) = 544 (25th percentile LSAT is 163 p-r-e-s-t-i-g-i-o-u-s!)
      George Washington = 481 (25th percentile LSAT is 159 - ha ha ha ha ha!) F that PIT.
      Harvard = 568 (brand dilution at its finest)
      Fordham = 398 (I think they've already been demoted in the minds of the reasonable)
      NYU = 437

      By comparison:

      Stanford = 179
      U Chicago = 196
      Yale = 199

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  11. Harvard's first year and graduating classes have been 550ish for the last 40 years. Problem is that this class size is no longer supported by the market for Harvard's experienced grads. A more than insignificant number are unemployed or underemployed or temps.

    Just do a search for Axiom and Harvard Law and see the Harvard Law grads Axiom has working for them. That work is not necessarily steady. Someone may work for a few months in good times and then get nothing for years. This is not a good way to pay for rent or a mortgage, let alone food or a car. Getting any work from Axiom is highly competitive. Many more Harvard Law graduates are not getting any type of work at all.

    Columbia's Law's first year and graduating class were 275 40 years ago. Now we are talking a graduating class of up to 450 with the transfers kicked in. The increase in graduating class size is on the order of 64%. If Harvard Law grads are having trouble finding work as experienced lawyers, Columbia's grads are having more trouble.

    These pits, and they are pits because they are selling law degrees that will lead more than a nominal number of their graduates to years of unemployment, temporary work when they can get it or underemployment.

    Even a top law school is no longer a good bet. They take too many people.

    It is time for these large schools to drastically pare their class sizes so they can over time sell each of their students a real career and not just a few early career jobs.

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  12. According to Columbia Coastal Law Academy of Excellence's own numbers, cost of attendance is about $85,000 per year.

    3 years of a Columbia legal education full price will cost a student at least $255,000.

    Is that worth it?

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    1. Here, just a few days ago, I answered that question in the negative:

      http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html

      Columbia, as I said (see comment posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 5:38 pm), is a second-tier school that should be considered only by rich people and those who are receiving "a very substantial discount". Even $150k, not to speak of $300k, is too much to spend on Thomas Columbia Coastal Law Academy and Skule of Cosmetology.

      Old Guy

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    2. All of the law schools are substantial risks. Not only Columbia. Harvard has also lost its brand in terms of risk profile. None of the law schools guarantee a career of decently paid work. The massive lawyer oversupply has bitten into every law school in the United States. If you spend lots of money for Yale or Stanford, you may not be able to pay it back either. Maybe your odds are better than for Columbia, but the odds of not being able to repay law school debt, or not making a good return on your six figure, three year investment, are not all that low, with any of HYS.

      That is the way it is today. Don't go to law school if you want job security or financial security. You are not going to get it.

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    3. It's impossible to know before the fact whether it's worth it. Once you have that great job (or not) out of Columbia Law School, you can say after the fact that it was worth it--until you get laid off with very poor options.

      You can definitely say before the fact that $280,000 in debt (which includes the interest compounding during law school) increases the penalty for failure and reduces the reward for success.

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    4. The big problem is the large number of lawyer layoffs. They are systemic, and they are designed to make room for ever younger lawyers. Not clear that any other profession has such a high rate of younger professionals replacing older ones starting only a few years after graduation from professional school. No, you would not know it unless you have been there and done that - been in the legal profession for a long time, and seen it change to this.

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    5. @3:04, there has been only one positive change. In the crash of 1989 (which marked the beginning of death spiral of the legal profession) firms did not want to do layoffs because they didn't want to project an image that they were having difficulties. They simply told associates that their performance wasn't up to snuff and "asked them to leave." The associate therefore left with the stigma of having been fired when the real problem was that their firm no longer had enough work.

      Of course, at this point it probably doesn't matter. Faux fired or laid off there are no other jobs to get.

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  13. Hey, Old Guy, thank you. I'd seen your comments around before you headlined a piece here, and I like to read you in longer format. Great work! Cheers!

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