Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pace Law School Asst. Dean of Career and Professional Development Jill Backer asserts that 25 U.S. Presidents will vouch for JD versatility.

Pace Law School has recently imposed some cutbacks in an effort to address its five million dollar deficit. These cutbacks reportedly include the elimination of all sabbaticals and all research stipends, a 5% salary cut for senior staff, and a 10% salary cut for all faculty. Perhaps more detailed information would be available but for Dean David Yassky’s decision to place a secret watermark on material distributed to faculty.
Yassky may be trying to discourage public discussions of Pace’s weak financial position, but really, these cutbacks are nothing to be ashamed of. I think that Pace Law’s website ought to feature banner articles describing, with pride, each and every defunded professorial perk. Pace could say that with the profession in crisis, the school has higher priorities than indulging its faculty with research stipends (aka well-funded summer staycations) or sending them off to expense-paid conferences in exotic resort locales (aka vacations).
What Pace Law should be ashamed of, however, is the recent editorial in the New York Law Journal by Jill Backer, Pace’s Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development, criticizing the "sharp delineation" between law jobs and JD-Advantage jobs in the mandatory annual job placement survey. Here is the most remarkable quote from the article: 
"[I]t has long been acknowledged that practicing law is only one way to utilize a law degree. Indeed, a J.D. is a versatile degree, just ask 25 of 44 U.S. Presidents how they used theirs. So, why are the various regulators and reviewers of law schools making a sharp delineation between those graduates that are practicing law in the traditional sense which requires the Bar exam and those graduates using their degree in other ways?"
Is the annual 10-month-after-graduation employment survey of law grads misleading due to the segmentation of law and non-law jobs? Wouldn't it be better instead to do a 239-year-after-independence survey of Electoral College (I mean, Electoral Law School) victors? Skeptical of authority I may be, but if 25 U.S. Presidents are prepared to vouch for JD Advantage I just might have to do a rethink. So, with the assistance of google and a book by Robert Stevens called Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s, here is a Presidential legal education survey-- OTLSS’s contribution to employment transparency in the manner recommended by Pace.

The first finding of the survey is that most of these allegedly JD-Advantaged U.S. Presidents probably never heard of a J.D. degree, to say nothing of its famous versatility, since the degree was only invented around 1900. Law was an undergraduate degree before that, and remained so for a long time after in all but a very few schools.  For  most of U.S. history, academic study was  not a requirement for admission to the bar. Indeed, well into the 20th century, an LL.B and/or a law office apprenticeship remained viable options, and the JD did not become the universal law degree until the early 1960s, at the behest of the ABA. But such pendantry should hardly concern someone who works in academia. Why let historical trivia interfere with entertaining hype, such as the mythical tale of the 25 JD-Advantaged Chief Executives?
Furthermore, almost all of the 26 (not 25) Presidents who were admitted to the bar actually practiced law, at least for a time. (Clinton seems to be the sole modern exception– he did not practice law after graduating from Yale Law. Rather, he became a law professor, the ultimate JD-Advantage position). Thus, in Backer terms, these future Presidents did indeed "practice law in the traditional sense," as distinct from, say, the many law grads at Pace and other lower-tier law schools who are unable to find bar-required jobs, and may not even have the Presidency to fall back on.

Granted, a few of the Presidents, mainly very early ones, seem to have chosen law primarily to bolster their social standing and political influence. However, then as now, becoming a lawyer because of law’s prestige value is advisable only if you are already rich.

Here are some other results from the Presidential survey.

*     Presidents who became lawyers without ever attending law school, but who qualified for admission to the bar by "reading law" and serving as apprentices or clerks in law offices: 15

*     Presidents who briefly attended law school, but did most of their legal studies as apprentices prior to admission to the bar: 1 (In 1826, Franklin Pierce attended some law lectures for a semester at Northampton Law School, one of the few law schools then in existence)

*     Presidents who dropped out of law school as 2Ls or 3Ls, but still qualified under state admissions rules to take the bar exam and become lawyers: 2 (Wilson, FDR)

*     Presidents who graduated from Harvard Law with a JD, but who have publicly advocated eliminating the third year of law school: 1 (Barack Obama preached what FDR practiced)

*     Presidents who graduated From Yale Law School with a JD.  2

*     Presidents who graduated from Duke Law School with a JD.: 1 (Ah, Tricky Dick, you would have made a fine law school dean or AALS honcho).

*     Presidents who graduated Harvard Law with an LL.B: 1 (Hayes)

*     Presidents who graduated from all other law schools prior to the invention of the JD: 3 (Arthur, Taft, and McKinley) (I will generously give Albany Law credit for McKinley, since this ancient marshmallow-loving palace of legal learning has few other points of positive distinction. However, I could not pin down whether McKinley actually completed a course of study at Albany, or simply attended some law lectures there during his single year of matriculation, in 1867).

*    Presidents who dropped out of law school and did not become lawyers: 3 (No, Columbia, giving Teddy Roosevelt a posthumous JD does not count. Truman and Johnson also belong in the category of "JD-Dropout-Advantage.")

*    Devious New York politcos who became Dean of Pace Law School-- which may not exactly have the grandeur and power of the Presidency, but at least is a high-profile executive position that provides the incumbent with opportunities to preach optimism to the gullible, exacerbate the middle class debt trap, and punish leakers of classified info: 1

*    Persons who graduated from law school, but who were never elected President of the United States:  A few million.
A brazen law school flack may be able to fool some of the lemmings some of time, but the heavily marketed mirage of JD-Advantage fails to withstand impeachment. Our Presidential poll does not support the notion that there are high-and-mighty nonlaw jobs out there for lower-tier law grads or that law school surveys should discontinue the practice of delineating law and nonlaw jobs. However, it does provide a timely reminder that earlier generations of Americans trained lawyers in a radically different way, which deemphasized academia in favor of self-study, apprenticeships, and law office training.


  1. "Persons who graduated from law school, but who were never elected President of the United States: A few million."

    There's the money shot.

    Sadly, Jill Backer's ridiculous plea to past presidents is going to work on many of the dummies who don't see the false logic behind it. If she truly had any basis on which to asset that law grads are generally more successful than those who avoided law school, she'd be able to use such data to get her point across without gimmicks.

    Why hasn't she done that? Well, I doubt it's because she's stupid enough to miss the utility of such data. The only possible explanation is that positive data about the outcomes for law graduates of schools such as Pace simply doesn't exist.

    So thanks, Jill, for inadvertently demonstrating to us all that Pace is a shit deal for most of its students. But we already knew that - as do many prospective applicants, who in recent years have foregone wasting their time in such a dump, resulting in Pace's embarrassing inability to pay its bills.

    1. I've said many times in the past that employers do not understand people with JD's who are not working as JD's. Pace and all the other law schools want to induce the Lemmings to gamble on law school claiming that there is some kind of reasonable percentage chance at an alternative job for a Lemming who doesn't land a JD-Required job. There is not. And, more importantly, there is no pay premium. You will start at the bottom after falling 3 years behind and now with that lovely non-dischargable debt from your worthless Pace law degree.

      A "shit deal" doesn't describe enough, IMO, how bad someone's life can be ruined coming from law school, let alone a school like Pace.

    2. With few exceptions, employers conclude that a person with a JD who is seeking work that doesn't require a JD is a failed lawyer. And that's usually a reasonable conclusion. People don't go to law school in order to become paralegals, insurance agents, secretaries, retail clerks, and so forth.

    3. Yup, Old Guy. Absolutely correct.

      And it's because the general population still thinks that a law degree is a money machine. And why would someone not take advantage of that license to print cash were it not for the fact that they were some kind of total fucking loser?

      The average retard on the street thinks that lawyers make bank. That myth fuels two things: high application rates from 'tards who think that they'll also make bank when they graduate from Insanely State Law School (and which false sense of future success is bolstered by the fact that ITLS - no coincidence - charges shitload of money for the opportunity); and the fact that nobody with a JD can get a fucking job outside law. I mean, why would anyone leave that money factory to work in another career if it were not for the fact that they were a failed lawyer??!?!?!?!?!????


  2. Not to muddy the waters but 42 of 43 US Presidents are related to one common ancestor: King John of England. That is, British "rule" of America never really ended. The other somewhat minor issue with Presidents is that they come from elite circles within circles and not every boy, or girl, in the American Corporation / pseudo Monarchy has a chance to grow up and be President. It's not 1 in XXX,XXX,XXX odds. It's zero. You will never be a member of the Exclusive Club simply because you weren't born into it.

    This is psychological gamesmanship playing into several myths: the Myth of the Meritocracy, the American Dream, the myth of the prestige of the legal profession and harkening to its elitism - because people want to believe they are or can be elite.

    Pace is truly pathetic with this. This is beyond ridiculous.

    The last sentence by Dybbuk is important but the State Bars and the law schools themselves don't want anything like that. There are only a few states remaining where one can apprentice but beyond that, in practice, it's irrelevant because no attorneys will do this today for someone. The law schools want their money. The apprenticeship method would be the ideal route because it doesn't screw people with debt plus also actually trains them over time. Hence, no one wants it.

    1. There are likely a few hundred million people on the planet descended from King John, a fairly high percentage of white anglo-saxons, and I would guess a fairly high percentage of whites in North America. Basically, anyone with an English last name in their family tree has a very high chance of being a descendent (note that the exception is Martin van Buren, who was Dutch, rather than someone like Obama).

      The cause of that is more genetics, history, and math than conspiracy. Of course it doesn't defeat the more salient point that meriotocracy is a myth. It's just not a good piece of supporting evidence.

    2. Er, King John was (1) a douchebag, and (2) born centuries before they'd even began to think that the New World might exist. I doubt that one of the shittiest English kings of all time would ever have had the foresight to set up a dynasty or secret club that would rule a nation he never knew was there in the first place. Fuck, as a white dude myself, I've probably got a healthy dose of KJ-DNA in me too. And countless other famous white guys.

  3. Check your history. Bill Clinton was Attorney General of Arkansas for a couple of years, which should count as practicing law in a JD-required position.

    1. Why? It's an executive branch office and as far as I can see there's no requirement to have a JD to be attorney general of Arkansas. Seems JD advantage.

      Also, he ran unopposed in the general election as a Democratic 30-year old law professor. Talk about a different time.

  4. A very few states:


    Go down a few spots to the entry by 'ksllaw' if you want the real story and to be somewhat depressed. Here's one:

    **Construction or Factory Worker. (HS Diploma wins)

  6. Thank you for this, dybbuk. I snarkily railed against one of Backer's fluff pieces last year, so I appreciate your treatment of Backer's current attempts at relevancy.

  7. Backer is deliberately misleading the lemming population. She knows damn well that law does not open doors to the presidency or other high-status positions. The relationship is rather the reverse: presidents almost invariably started with high status and were thus the sorts of people who (until the recent opening of law $kule to every mouth-breathing ninny) were likely to go into law.

    Besides, what was allegedly true of a few eighteenth-century aristocrats may have little bearing on prospects for employment in the twenty-first century. Again, Backer knows that. She is deliberately misleading people in the hope of trapping them into bringing their borrowed money to Pace.

    And of course she is flat wrong about the number of presidents who have had a JD. Well into the twentieth century, few lawyers had a degree of any kind. She might as well have said "Reading law is an excellent avenue to the legal profession. After all, half of the presidents did just that."

    And I don't understand "practicing law in the traditional sense which requires the Bar exam". Is there any other sense in which a person can practice law?

    Watch Pace award honorary JDs to all US presidents in order to claim them as its "graduates".

  8. If a JD were oh so versatile then this site would not exist. Sorry, the versatility angle has been used and it no longer works. Try again.

    1. I'm very afraid that you should be correct but that you're wrong. I'm afraid that the versatility angle does still work. I fear that man times more people, from lemmings to their easily impressed parents, read the NYLJ than read blogs like this.

      Hopefully I'm foolishly fearful. But I don't think so.


  9. A few years ago there was a professional baseball player named Willie Bloomquist. Willie's main lure to teams was that he had the versatility to play every position except pitcher and catcher; his problem was that his actual defense at every position was poor and he was a subpar hitter to boot. A Pace JD is a lot like WIllie - a buffet of bad options is "versatility" only to an idiot, a shill, or a lemming.

  10. Jill Backer used to work for Joan King, master charlatan of spin and deception.

  11. ITOT Channeling Dean Vernon WormerMay 28, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    "The materials he passed out carried two watermarks, one large across the text, and another secret one (or so he said), with each faculty member's name so he will know who the leak is, he said."

    And any slimy slime wuss of a prof who violates my secrecy order will be subject to Double Secret Probation.


    1. Love that movie...

      Idiocy, as they could scan and OCR it to an unprotected, unmarked document.

  12. ITOT - Channeling MRS. Dean Vernon WormerMay 28, 2015 at 7:57 PM

    Jill Backer, Pace’s Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development:

    "Indeed, a J.D. is a versatile degree, just ask 25 of 44 U.S. Presidents how they used theirs. "

    Thoughtful and measured response from Marion Wormer, Dean Wormer's wife:

    "You can take your thumb out of my ass any time now, [Jilly]".

  13. SURVEY:
    (1) Is a JD a sufficient condition for being President of the United States?
    (2) Is a JD a necessary condition for being President of the United States?

    If you answered, "YES!" to the preceding questions, congratulations, you just scored low enough on the LSAT to be accepted to Pace Law School.

    For the rest of you, losers, Congratulations! You are fully eligible to be President of the United States*!

    *Some exceptions may apply. Scoring too highly on this survey may preclude an offer of employment as an Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development at Pace Law School. By answering this survey you (the "End User") are informed and acknowledge that Turning Tricks is legal only in the State of Nevada with a state-issued license, or with license of the American Bar Association, or other accrediting agency recognized by the federal, Department of Education, or by the Department itself (which declines to enforce its rules against false and misleading advertising on a case-by-case basis).

  14. Maybe they'll add US President as a category to the 10-month employment survey.

  15. "All the US presidents thus far have had cocks. Therefore, if you've got a cock, you're going to be a US president. Come to Pace!!!!!"

    The latest article from Jill Backer...

  16. JD versatility: serial killer.

    "[D]espite mediocre Law School Admission Test scores, Bundy was accepted into the law schools of University of Puget Sound and the University of Utah."

  17. Calvin Coolidge graduated from Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts, and learned the law from two lawyers in Northampton, Mass. by working as a clerk for 18 months. His biographers speculate that he never borrowed a dime his entire life.

    Today's young lawyers make $35k a year, carry $200k in debt, and "borrow" money from the Bank of Parental Hope to afford to buy canned tuna to supplement the week's ramen noodle medley.

    1. You know what?


      1000x this.

      People think you've got some kind of Wonka Golden Ticket after passing the Bar or even before that, simply by graduating from law school.

      If they truly had any knowledge of the real life of most lawyers...

      Today, everything is based on getting someone in debt before they even reach the job world. I feel, somehow, that this is wrong on many levels. Beyond that, the economy has not, will not, and cannot create the kind of job(s) that would justify someone going into such debt.

      We are in a new Guilded Age. Window-dress all you want. But, IMO, this is the situation now. Young people need to realize and deal with this new reality. Not illusions based on the past where higher education, including collage, meant something.

    2. This is worth watching:

      The sentence that caught me was Thiel talking about someone needing to go to college because they "needed a certain credential." He mentions doctors. That's college AND medical school. College is a pre-req. It's the same with law. If you want to be a lawyer, you *must*, in the US, attend college first. So, you're already on the hook for the 1st 4 years, no way around. If law is the credential you want, you're already hooked starting with college. The whole System makes you pay and it starts early. You can't apprentice with law? Why? Because.. So they got you.

  18. In the piece by Backer, she mentioned a study that found that half of surveyed LSAT-takers had no intention of practicing law, and were applying to law school with the intention of pursuing a non-legal job. I have to be sympathetic here, because I once fell into that category too -- naive and foolish enough to think it made sense to get a JD even though the idea of actually being a lawyer chilled my blood. Fortunately, I didn't attend law school. But there is a SERIOUS problem when that many people are applying to law school and have no interest in the career for which a law degree prepares you. (I know that lots of these lemmings won't be practicing law anyway, because they won't find any sort of job, but that's a separate issue.) Someone needs to get the message out there: If you don't truly want to be a lawyer, DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL!