Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Does Univ. of Kansas Asst. Dean for Admissions Steven Freedman believe that Law School Transparency dissed the Great Emancipator?


Steven Freedman, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the University of Kansas School of Law, is a frequent poster at the Faculty Louse, online hub of the pro-scam law professoriate. There are two distinct tones to Freedman's writing, like the sweet sounds of an airhorn: (1) Righteous fury when he feels the honor of law school admissions professionals such as himself has been vilely traduced, for instance by Paul Campos’s post noting the similarity in ways that scam-deniers and atrocity-deniers dismiss or minimize irrefutable evidence; and (2) enthusiastic shilling of a sort that would embarrass a carny-barker. 

This post is about Tone Two Freedman. Only last year, Freedman published a post at the Louse entitled "Enroll Today!," which hurled the following pitch: "Enroll today or you will miss out on what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." (Kids, do not let the sun set on your decision to gamble three years  of your lives and six-figures of borrowed money). However, somewhat more reasonably, Freedman recently indicated that he applauds the work of the transparency movement. 
"This may shock you, but I have said numerous times publicly and privately before prospective students that prior to 2012 law schools did a poor job with transparency for employment statistics. I have said publicly I think the transparency movement should be applauded for pushing for greater transparency. The good news is that law schools responded to this pressure. . . "
Posted by: Steven Freedman | April 23, 2015 at 02:59 PM 
So let us dial back to mid-2012, shortly after the very first employment survey data was published pursuant to modified ABA Standard 509. At that time, Freedman was hosting an online forum at a website called Top Law Schools, where prospective law students congregate. Was Freedman then applauding the groundbreaking efforts of the nonprofit Law School Transparency [LST], leader of the transparency movement, in helping bring about this major ABA reform and for disseminating employment information on its website? Was he then telling the kids that law schools such as his own had done a poor job with transparency for employment statistics? 

Or, rather, was Freedman accusing LST of having an undeclared agenda of painting "as bleak a picture of law schools as possible"? Did Freedman assert that its alleged bleak-picture-painting "agenda" caused LST to create a "slanted" presentation of employment data that failed to account for many successful outcomes of recent law grads, such as FBI agents and compliance officers for athletic departments? Did he declare LST to be "inaccurate" based on a beyond-inconsequential alleged error in Kansas's number of funded jobs? Did Freedman even mock LST’s employment score in that it would have failed to count Abraham Lincoln as an employed lawyer because Lincoln was a solo practitioner?

"Everyone has an agenda and LST clearly has an agenda to paint as bleak a picture as possible. The way they present the data is slanted. Why aren't solo practitioners counted in their employment score? Under that method Abraham Lincoln would not count. Why aren't FBI agents counted towards the score? Why aren't folks doing compliance in athletics departments counted? We have a student with a permanent job offer from a big firm, that firm is paying for him to get an LL.M. at NYU. Why is he not counted? Why do they list the non-discounted cost, but not the average debt at graduation? I could go on, but I think you get the point.  
LST is also inaccurate. LST states that the KU Law Class of 2011 had a 2.4% school funded rate, which comes out to four school funded students. In fact, we only had two school funded positions, both of which were full-time, at least year long positions (one is a funded fellowship, the other is a permanent position in the library). So the correct number is 1.2%. 
So what do we do? We put all the data on our web site, both the top line data and the underlying data that makes it up. We're honest with our students letting them know it has a been a difficult market. But we're also honest with our students when we tell them that most of our students are finding the types of jobs they expected to get when they started law school. And we're also honest with our students that our students find a broad range of positions, from foot-in-the-door part-time positions with small firms, to employment at some of the largest law firms in the world."
Steven Freedman, Top Law Schools, Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:42 am

Readers can judge for themselves whether these are words one would normally associate with a transparency fan. Because to me they sound like the bullshitting of a committed obfuscater trying to get others to discount irrefutable evidence, somewhat like-- no, I won't say it.

But I will say that Freedman was incorrect in one respect. Contra Freedman, Abraham Lincoln was not a solo practitioner. After being admitted to practice in 1837, Lincoln became a junior partner in the firm of a militia friend, John Todd Stuart, one of the most important lawyers in Springfield, Illinois. This set Lincoln apart from most beginning lawyers of the milieu "who had to hunt around for business or accept cases that no one else would take." See Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Kindle Locations 1310-1311). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. After his partnership with Stuart ended, Lincoln went into practice with Stephen Logan, a very well-established local lawyer, and then, famously, with William Herndon.

As a non-solo, Lincoln would have been included in LST’s employment score, contrary to what Freedman told the kids at the Top Law Schools forum. So perhaps a supporter of LST could say, echoing Tone One Freedman: "There are no printable words I can summon that would adequately express my disgust at Steven Freedman’s accusations that LST has dissed the Great Emancipator."

17 comments:

  1. Just a minor pet peeve, but it's "data were" never "data was".

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    1. This is a style debate and not a hard rule. Data in context of a set can be singular. Latin singular/plural is not an English langauge rule.

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    2. I disagree, but I shall not continue to pollute this thread with my unrelated commentary. My apologies.

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  2. I don't know if it makes a difference but when I declined admission offers this cycle I made sure to indicate that Law School Transparency was the primary admissions tool I used and that the LST Employment Score was the main metric I considered. I wonder if some admissions officer read that and shook their fist at the sky, "Damn you, LST!"

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    1. What school?

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    2. Several (~10) of them.

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    3. You didn't take an offer, did you?

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  3. Great post. How do you remember this stuff? And the Lincoln smackdown is great.

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  4. "Why aren't solo practitioners counted in their employment score?"

    Because they're not employed.

    "Why aren't FBI agents counted towards the score?"

    Because they're not employed in a job where a JD is required or gives one a serious advantage.

    "Why aren't folks doing compliance in athletics departments counted?"

    Because unless the "folks" have the job title of "attorney," they're not doing work requiring a JD or where a JD is a serious advantage. Low-level NCAA athletics compliance does not, in any way, require or need a law degree.

    "Why is [our super special snowflake] not counted?"

    It sounds to me like he's employed at a large firm currently on leave. Also, that's an extremely rare situation. With any metric, those are going to get filtered one way or the other.

    "Why do they list the non-discounted cost, but not the average debt at graduation?"

    Probably because these are two entirely different things. Projected cost is useful to incoming graduates, as it allows them to gauge how much they will, in fact, likely pay for a law degree minus applicable discounts. Average student debt is a backwards looking number that provides no context whatsoever with respect to scholarships or past tuition rates, and so it has remarkably little utility for students going forward without details the schools don't want to provide.

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    1. Imagining The Open ToadMay 7, 2015 at 2:01 PM

      "Why do they list the non-discounted cost, but not the average debt at graduation?"

      What you've already said in answer, plus, unless things have changed the "average debt at grad" is actually just the dollar amount borrowed for LS, which can be considerably lower than the debt, all included.

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  5. Steve Freedman's righteous fury over Holocaust denial came just in time. I was getting ready to compare law school deans to Holocaust perpetrators.

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  6. "We have a student with a permanent job offer from a big firm, that firm is paying for him to get an LL.M. at NYU. Why is he not counted?"

    I think that I know what this means. Four or five years ago, some of the white-shoe law firms in New York deferred the hiring of their new group of associates by a year. Many of the associates got some money for the one-year delay, and probably some of them put the time towards getting an LLM.

    And so that—big fucking deal—is probably what Mr Inaccuracy has in mind when he refers to someone with "a permanent offer from a big firm" (not a permanent job at a big firm) that was "paying for him to get an LL.M.".

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    1. Imagining The Open ToadMay 7, 2015 at 2:08 PM

      I think you're right. I corresponded with several kids in the 2010, 2011 grad classes who got offers-then-deferrals from V100 sized firms. They got a stipend on the order of $2K a month while waiting, and watching the deferrals evolve from 6 months to 12 months (and, IIRC, in one case ca. 18 mos). They were not permitted to take other legal employment while receiving the stipend, so it was a bit of a gamble whether to wait it out working at Panera Bread (etc.) or cut bait and hope to find other FT legal employment.

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  7. That's quite true about Lincoln. Another interesting and relevant fact: Lincoln never went to law school. In his day, and even a half-century later, few lawyers had a degree of any kind.

    Today, however, scamsters like Freedman control access to the so-called profession—and get rich off a bit of state-run academic welfare designed to fatten scamsters at public expense.

    He says that "most of our students are finding the types of jobs they expected to get when they started law school". How about the types of salaries?

    "I have said publicly I think the transparency movement should be applauded for pushing for greater transparency": This is just a scamster's BS attempt to minimize the transparency movement and act as if its work were done.

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    1. All good points.

      Scammers in retreat will act differently from scammers on a rampage, as they were in 2012. But they can still lay a mean ambush for uninformed students.

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    2. 2:57 - a new word for you: "scampage". The sharklike feeding frenzy observed primarily in low-tier academics during times of free-flowing student loan money.

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

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