As the title implies, Dean Conison went on the offensive recently, stating how Charlotte School of Law is poised to lead legal education into the 21st century, or something like that. While we are certain that this was an attempt to make Infilaw proud and bring the scamblogs and other critics to their knees, weeping at the logical deductions and conclusions therein, the reception of the argumentation was, ah, shall we say, something else.
A bit of background for those who do not know: up until recently, Conison was dean at Valparaiso School of Law and he is on the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, cocerning law school accreditation, among other items. Conison has also been a prolific writer in the mainstream media, and has penned pieces on law school tuition (not really the problem you might think), what to do with a JD (corporate VP, wealth manager, art gallery owner), and legal scholarship (not to be criticized).
On or about the same time in mid-2012, Conison took on the then-law-school-backlash in his letter to the alumni. Only three pages are reproduced here, as the rest of the letter went on to detail the "accomplishments" of students and faculty and are not the thrust of the argument.
Not surprisingly, the scambloggers have it all wrong, according to Conison. Disgruntled graduates consider themselves "consumers," and this is a novel concept. In past decades, while law schools were indeed criticized for not providing skills(!) or not providing adequate professional responsibility training(!), the idea that Law Schools should be held accountable for their misleading statistics and representations is "novel." Newly-minted JDs should just shut up, or something. Further, who can expect law schools to self-monitor their admissions process, reduce tuition, or make changes to staff, anyway? Those open-road narratives are expensive, you know.
During this time, Valparaiso's statistics slid. When looking at Valpo's data over the last few years, LSAT scores have dropped significantly - the 50th percentile, for example, has gone from 150 to 143, yet the number of new admittees has stayed relatively constant at around 200/year. Tuition has gone from $35k to almost $40k over the same time period. Many graduates suffer from unemployment, and only about 40% of graduates have full-time, bar-passage-required jobs. Those who are employed are not in BigLaw, but in small "firms."
Fast forward to today: Over at The Faculty Lounge, Conison criticizes the "black box" approach to using falling LSAT scores as an idicator of law-school-worthiness, or for later bar passage predicitons, or for placement data. One should not judge a law school based upon the applicant pool it accepts or the results it delivers, reasons Consion,
because federal student loan dollars but on "educating students and transforming them into professionals." "A law school is a complex educational enterprise delivering a wide range of educational services. Different schools have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are very strong in clinical education, others very strong in public policy. Some position themselves to provide opportunity; others position themselves to develop large firm lawyers. Some schools put much effort into developing professionalism and other non-academic competencies; others emphasize building scholarly competencies and future law professors. Understanding what law schools do inside the box is critical to understanding and evaluating them," reasons Conison.
Thankfully, the commenters are having none of this:
Our own Antiro notes the following:
David Frakt fires back:
Dean Conison’s black box analogy brings to mind another kind of black box -- the flight data recorders that are recovered after an aircraft accident. When Charlotte School of Law and its sister schools finally crash and burn, and InfiLaw is forced to reveal its internal data in response to the subsequent class action lawsuit, what will the data inside the black box say about the cause of InfiLaw’s downfall? Based on Dean Conison’s posts on The Faculty Lounge, one factor that will be difficult to rule out is “pilot error.”
Priceless. Read the comments, as they are hilarious and enlightening. Supporters of the scamblog movement, let's take a moment to give thanks in the New Year that what once passed for serious discourse from the ScamDeans and Law School Cartel is now being called out for what it is: sheer, unabashed shillery. What once was used as "evidence" to immediately mock law school critics is now instantly turned back on the purveyors. While we have further to go, we have also come a long way at the same time.