Friday, May 15, 2015

Is Univ. of North Dakota Law Prof. Margaret Moore Jackson embarrassed by the quality of her students?

"As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, December 8, 2004.

"The facts cited in this article could spur faculty to hold discussions about building a curriculum for the students we have – not the students we used to have, or the students we wished we had."  Prof. Margaret Moore Jackson, "Teaching the Students We Have--The Changing Student Body." Blog post. Best Practices for Legal Education, April 16, 2015.

After Donald Rumsfeld made the comment quoted above, he was criticized for being a trifle glib, what with the bloody carnage and all. I don’t accept the premise, one could respond, you should not go to war until you are ready, and probably not even then. 
However, Rumsfeld, in his heartlessly pithy style, managed to convey something that I have noticed about scammers, especially those whose scamming is more or less lawful, such as politicians, corporate CEOs, too-big-to-fail bank executives, and law professors. They are often forthright in acknowledging the inadequacy of their tactics and resources, and their failure to anticipate changing conditions. It is only when you question the morality of their operation that they become defensive, if not outright uncomprehending.

I do not want to be unfair here. Prof Jackson, to her credit, does identify the moral objection to accepting law students with mediocre or sub-mediocre academic records and standardized test scores, as law schools are doing now with increasing and embarrassing frequency. (For instance, at Jackson's own school, the University of North Dakota School of Law, the 25th percentile LSAT score for entering law students dropped from 148 in 2011 to 143 in 2014). The following two sentences from her short blog post at "Best Practices in Legal Education" had my attention: "Why string along students whom we can predict will have difficulty achieving mandatory milestones like bar passage? An honest response would include the obvious conflict of interest – law schools need students in order to survive."  

But Jackson has nothing further to say about the "obvious conflict of interest" and her very next sentence is an evasive bromide. "But society continues to need well-educated lawyers too." I suppose the Rumsfeld equivalent would be if he had articulated a fleeting moment of distress over the casualties, but then perked up and said something like "But the world continues to need freedom too."

Prof. Jackson then offers the following instructive remark, or shall I say, delusion:
"By re-envisioning both teaching methods and programmatic structures, schools can both adapt to changing conditions and help students learn and perform well. Re-focusing a program of legal education to teach the students who are there, not the students who might have attended a decade ago, could invigorate the profession, opening doors that allow less-privileged, more diverse, and otherwise nontraditional students to succeed and excel."   
I strongly suspect that what Jackson means by reinvigorated teaching methods and programatic structures is more remedial reading and writing instruction in law schools, indeed a lot more. ("Even schools who have long administered healthy academic assistance programs may need to consider whether changes should be made"). And then hoping for the best.  

Maybe it would work, and this army of 143 LSAT-scorers would thrive in our swamped profession, thanks to the programmatic structural innovation and manifest goodwill of law faculty. Doors would swing open, entrenched privileges would topple like statues of enemy dictators, and law professors would be hailed as liberators. I mean, look at Elle Woods, who was cruelly stereotyped as a frivolous dim bulb simply because she constantly spoke and behaved like one, until law school unleashed her hidden potential. Of course, it is just possible that the Elle Woods experience does not generalize in that Elle: (1) got a perfect LSAT score; (2) attended Harvard; (3) came from a rich and indulgent family; and (4) is a fictional movie character.

So let’s say present trends continue, and lower-tier law grads fail the bar in increasing numbers, and that many or even most are unable to carve out a place for themselves in our swamped profession. Will lawprofs then assume responsibility? Or will they instead sigh about unknown unknowns, declare that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and then reenvision themselves some new programmatic structures, collecting their big salaries and perks galore all the while?

I actually endorse Johnson’s call for more diversity among law students, but assert that it must be pursued in a way that is not tainted by exploitation. Do law schools want to recruit more kids from multicultural or economically disadvantaged backgrounds? Fine, I want that too, but I do not want these kids to be scammed out of hundreds of thousands of borrowed dollars in the process.

The answer is simple: Law schools should offer full-ride scholarships to their "less-privileged, more diverse, and otherwise nontraditional" recruits. That way, these students will not be forced to subsidize the legal educations of their more privileged fellow law students and the cushy jobs and elegant lifestyles of law school professors and top administrators, or be burdened by massive educational debt after they graduate and pursue justice for all.

Because otherwise law school faculty are simply enriching themselves by gambling with other people’s lives--in fact, with the lives of very vulnerable kids who trusted them. The noble motives and goals that they profess will then be perceived as something cheap and obscene, like Donald Rumsfeld talking about freedom.


  1. The model of law school is not to teach the law at all. Law professors do not teach, and pride themselves on not teaching.

    That is what the 'Socratic method' is (not per Plato, just law professors) - an explicit assertion that the pupil should 'get it' between the lines of a conversation that intentionally does not reveal its object.

    Unmitigated greed and laziness is 'The Socratic Method,' and giving and grading one exam per semester.

    That is actually the most outrageous part of the entire scam: law students educate themselves. Then if they're lucky, their big law firm will educate them in a training program for several more years.

    If this law "Professor" proposes to teach her students, she will be the first goddamned one.

    1. You pay to educate yourself and then nobody wants to hire you because it is mostly useless. You might get an internship, you might get sporadic paid work or you might get something legally related to earn a living. There are a lot of "mights" for a very expensive time-consuming endeavor...and the word is out.

  2. It's almost as if North Dakota might be better off shrinking their law school to a class of ~40 higher quality students that would pass the bar exam and actually get jobs (class of 2017 matrics = 73).

    At least their tuition is a relatively cheap 11k/year for ND residents.

  3. Moody's has downgraded Southwestern Law School's debt rating:

    1. Downgrades are going to keep happening. It is pretty stunning that on top of massive tuition increases, and for a while, enrollment increases, that law schools managed to run up so much bond debt.

    2. The drops in class size/tuition for last year's entering class will now cover 2/3 of their students rather than 1/3, and there'll be some more on top of that for this Fall's entering class. The likely high end forecast is a slower continued drop in class sizes and tuition, meaning that these schools will be dropping 10-20% in gross revenue for the forseeable future.


  4. Jackson seems to be playing the "let's pretend that everyone is equally able" game. That allows her to indulge the fantasy that kids with 143 LSATs could pass a bar exam and become successful lawyers. All they need is to be *taught* properly in law school.

    And even Jackson doesn't know what kind of teaching will magically transform her students of lead into graduates of gold. But given enough lemmings and enough years of further failure, she'll get there!

  5. All school-funded scholarships (aka, discounts) should be prohibited as a condition of ABA accreditation. If a school has alumni willing to fund an endowment for Merit Scholars, or Opportunity Scholars, or Minority Scholars, then so be it.

    1. You do not like the Reverse Robin Hood? Sounds like a sexual position, because it is one. It is the one where you locate the best mark you can, stroke his hair, tell him he is beautiful and you will help the world see it, and then you bend him over and rape him - and send him a bill for his rape and for the guy you did not rape quite as much. You have to rape the students you have, not the ones you used to have, or the ones you wish you had.

  6. This post is so beautifully written Dybbuk, you continue to astonish.

    1. Was going to post the same thing. If your advocacy skills are half of what your writing skills are, I would choose you in a moment to be my attorney.

      I really enjoyed this part, it is the writing equivalent of a well-executed EDM build-up and dropping the dance beat:

      "Of course, it is just possible that the Elle Woods experience does not generalize in that Elle: (1) got a perfect LSAT score; (2) attended Harvard; (3) came from a rich and indulgent family; and (4) is a fictional movie character."

  7. Traning for Gravy
    By Maurice Leiter

    Now is the winter of our discontent
    And whatever; makes me sound smart like a king.
    No idea what it means, but reminds me of
    Cunt, freezing November discount cunt from a
    Young hooker living in a tent near Chigaco railyards, desperate for a bite to eat.

    Loveth her not,
    Except for the
    Open student vagina,
    No standards left, loans
    Gone nuts.

    In the same way
    She goes crazy on my nuts, hungrily taking

    A bite of my meat. Hot dawg! Pay those loans! Squirt white gravy on her shirt.

    Who do you think you are?
    How dare you, insolent girl! You ask me for cash, not vice versa?
    Oh, hello Amy, didn't recognize you. You're in my philosophy class,
    Right? Third row back?
    Employment experience.

    1. Thoroughly inappropriate. Very funny. Ashamed to be giggling at something so childish.

    2. Oh I see what you did there Maurice. :)

    3. Sung to the tune of Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" where the singer is a law dean and the "bitch" is a law lemming.

  8. Jackson is full of shit. She's just trying to justify the unjustifiable. Starting from the questionable premise that her law school should continue to exist (most notably because she would otherwise be out of a job), and acknowledging the incontrovertible fact that most if not all of the students there are hopelessly incompetent, she sells educational jargon du jour—programmatic this, invigorated that—as a road map for toileteers' job security. Keep your cushy job, she urges, by dragging your semi-literate charges through the bar exam. Because Society Needs Lawyers. And scamsters need yachts.

  9. The goals law schools espouse for diversity and multiculturalism for their law school classes are about as cynical as you can get. Law schools simply want to be able to tick a few politically correct boxes and then move on. The real problems for these students come after graduation. Students from the lower socio-economic and traditionally disadvantaged populations neither have the connections nor the nuanced social skills necessary to get hired for a long term, full time law firm position. Usually, these students' main hope is a government position, but the states and the federal government aren't exactly hiring these days. The ABA should require law schools to include separate statistics which would show how minority and traditionally disadvantaged students fare with employment so prospective minority and traditionally disadvantaged students can compare those stats with the class at large. Employment levels for a given class are less than useless (and misleading) if you are prospective 1L minority student.

    1. Good suggestion. Of course, the ABA won't require anything of the kind. If it did, the scamsters would manipulate the data, such as by reporting the scion of old money as having "unemployed" parents.

      Disadvantage in the legal profession is not a slight handicap but an almost insuperable obstacle. Even with top grades from a top law school, I could rarely get so much as an interview, and until recently no more than that.

      I have finally found a job in law, despite being of the wrong age and the wrong class background. But I still insist that law school is a fucking scam, particularly for those of us who are not rich and well connected.

    2. Congratulations, Old Guy! Very happy to hear you have landed a bit.

      The lawyers of more recent mint have been shaped by their experiences of this 'system.' Frankly, I trust them more than the older generation, many of whom mistake the conditions in which they came of age for personal strengths, and therefore assume personal weakness on the part of the those struggling in an absolutely changed environment. That, or they're scammers. I wish you success and power.

    3. Yes, Old Guy, congratulations! Is your job with a firm? I'm 10:12. I just think it's completely cynical for law schools to break out their students by demographics but then to erase the lines when they are looking at the only thing that really matters, the employment stats. If I were African American, I'd specifically want to know their placement rate for all of the African American students that they black slap themselves for admitting. It's really a scam within the scam. And as I've posted before, the faculty are usually theoretically liberal, but they are willingly participating in this scam that really adversely effects vulnerable populations.

    4. Thanks for your good wishes. I'd better not say more about my job, as scamsters, having hardly any work to do, have been known to track people down for vexatious purposes.

      Law schools are now preying heavily on Blacks and Latinos—two of the last significant groups that can be trapped into taking out six-figure student loans. The very institutions that didn't even admit Blacks or Latinos a few decades ago now pose as progressive givers of opportunity. Don't fall victim to these wolves in sheeps' clothing.

    5. I think that this observation is spot on. Law school scammers -- especially at 3rd and 4th tier schools -- are heavily marketing themselves toward racial minorities, with pious platitudes about upward mobility and social justice. But all they are doing is enticing people who are unsophisitcated consumers of education into taking out massive student loans that will wreck their lives. When I look at the "Law School Lemmings" website, I often see exhuberant Tweets from minorities who got accepted into a for-profit law school, and they act like they are on the cusp of greatness, and it makes me incredibly sad.

    6. Recently we saw here an ad offering sessions in Spanish for parents of young people interested in law school. It's just a way to take advantage of the naïveté of an ambitious but exploitable population.

      I am very eager to help Black people, Latinos, and other marginalized groups to move ahead. But law school these days is not a vehicle for advancement; indeed, for most of us it is just the opposite.

  10. Why doesn't Jackson take a cue from her compatriots, other, more mellow law professors?

    I mean.. Get over it. If you don't like the caliber of your students, move to Nebraska where they hammer home fundamentals like Readin', Writin', and Rithmatic'.

    Oh wait...

    Maybe the quality of student doesn't matter quite as much as the ability of one's paycheck, courtesy of federal student loans and those 'crappy' third-party students, to be cashed?

    And maybe it's tougher for loud-mouthed law professors, especially from liberal SanFran, to find such cashable paychecks in heartland Nebraska.

    Could that be it?


    1. Apparently Stadler isn't at Creighton any more, either.

    2. Well, North Dakota is even more rural than Nebraska (which at least has Lincoln and Omaha). So it should offer even better opportunities in the promising area of rural legal practice. I look forward to seeing what Jackass Jackson does with her Million-Dollar Degree.

  11. Imagining The Open ToadMay 18, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Some freshly scented blood in the water for your Monday morning read...

    Although "slash" in the second case implies a bit more than it actually is (10% paycut profs, 5% admins).

    Still, it's significant that it's happening.

  12. er, actually the Profs'. whoops.

  13. Hey CSOL faculty, drop 'em and squeal like a pig, Deliverance style. Y'all are in the Dirty South, so get used to it...