Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Association of American Law Schools hosts a gathering of 3,000 innovation-loving law professors

From January 6, 2016 through today, the legal academy has taken Manhattan by scam as the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) hosts its annual scholarly extravaganza at two midtown hotels, the theme of which is "From Challenge to Innovation: Legal Education in 2016." (Buzzword to English translation: Rebranding the law school scam ("Innovation") following a period of bad publicity and consumer skepticism ("Challenge")). 

At the convention, the AALS boldly ushered in a whole identical era of hype and diversion as the Presidency of the organization passed from George Washington Law Dean Blake Morant ("One commonly held misconception espoused by the media is that there are too many lawyers. . . ") to University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy ("I don't see legal education as being in crisis at all").  

This convention typically draws some three thousand law professors and hangers-on of various sorts (legal book publishers, ect.). Ordinarily, I would make extended fun of the participants' posturing and scholarly fluff as they collectively pretend that their free vacation is in the service of legal education and other noble causes. For instance, there was the panel on incorporating "trigger warnings" into criminal law classes and throughout the law school curriculum in order "to protect students from disturbing content." (AALS Program, p. 18) What a confidence builder that counselors-at-law in training are regarded by some of their teachers as too clueless and emotionally fragile to appreciate, absent solicitous forewarnings, that a criminal law class could just possibly involve a discussion of crimes. And then there was the roundtable on "Reforming Law and Scholarship by Disciplinary Design" (AALS Program, p. 23) moderated by Law Professor SpearIt, the clownish Ph.D. in religious studies, whose CV is untainted by lawyering or judicial clerkship experience, but who has established his radical street cred by changing his given name of Edward Maldonado to a stupid phallic pun.

But focusing on the irrelevance of so many of these panels overlooks the convention's constructive psychological function. Law faculty has just endured a semester with the scam-doomed Class of 2018, possibly the most academically undistinguished crop of law students in decades. That is such a downer that I can understand the urge to indulge in a boozy inter-semester getaway for a few heady days of ego-stroking and delusion. 

The convention program includes three nontrivial events that I would like to highlight with brief comment. (See AALS Program, p. 21, 73, 74)

1.  With the decline in JD enrollment, US law schools are seeking to create new sources of income by peddling educational products to "more and more varied non-JD cohorts," both domestically and in overseas markets. But what to do when the poor suckers actually show up for or log into class? The phrase "winging it as best you can" actually appears in the panel description quoted below. Somehow, I doubt that it appears in law school recruitment and promotional material.  

The New Kids on the Block: Are you Equipped to Take Them On? Integrating Non-Traditional Populations into Law Schools 
Moderator: John N. Riccardi, Boston University School of Law 
Speakers: Megan Bess, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Camille deJorna, Associate Consultant, American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, Chicago, IL, Hope Kentnor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law William Powers, The John Marshall Law School 
This panel explores the challenges of integrating non-traditional (non-JD) populations—non-lawyers, online students, foreign/ domestic LLMs, certificate students – into a law school. The pressure to enroll more post- and non-JD students is nothing new. But what happens when these "more and more varied" non-JD cohorts actually arrive? Does simply handing off  non-lawyers to your LLM office make sense? What about slotting them into the school’s pre-existing JD infrastructure? And how might some options implicate the ABA’s "acquiescence" (do no harm) standards for reviewing non-JD programs?  The underlying assumption is that schools have been quick to develop—or are developing—strategies to enroll more non-JD populations, but have spent less time thinking strategically about resource allocation issues. Career advice for non-lawyers? Community building for online students? Targeted academic support for foreign students?  The new kids will likely have non-traditional needs and expectations. But who has the competencies (let alone bandwidth) to take them on? Once they arrive, will you  find yourself "retrofitting" them into pre-existing functional silos—or perhaps just "winging it" as best you can? Come hear from experienced colleagues. 
2.  That the AALS would hold a session on law school public relations featuring the phrase "reframing the narrative" is not exactly a surprise, given four consecutive years of declines in law school applications and enrollment, and ongoing critical scrutiny from the New York Times. What is disappointing is that the head of the American Bar Association is scheduled to participate. Also that the ABA Section on Legal Education is a "Gold Sponsor" financial contributor to the AALS Convention. Some well-meaning advice to these "distinguished leaders" from one of those pesky "others" who "so often" portray law school in a negative light: Without a cool distance between regulators and regulated, the scam narrative is likely to prevail, no matter how glibly you promote the alleged positive attributes of your enterprise.
A Conversation - Reframing the Narrative on Legal Education 
Moderator: Gregory H. Williams, Former President, The City College of New York, and University of Cincinnati, Former Dean, Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Hastings on Hudson, NY 
Speakers: Paulette Brown, President, American Bar Association, Locke Lord LLP, Morristown, NJ, Richard A. Matasar, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Institutional Effectiveness, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, Blake D. Morant, The George Washington University Law School 
Join Dean Blake D. Morant, AALS President, ABA President Paulette Brown and former law school dean Richard Matasar (Chicago-Kent, University of Florida and New York Law School) in a conversation moderated by former AALS President Gregory Williams, about reframing the narrative on legal education and the legal profession. These distinguished leaders will share their perspectives on the positive attributes of legal education and the profession in counterpoint to the negative light in which law schools and the legal profession are so often portrayed today by the media and others. A brief Q&A with audience participation will follow.
3.  There are some timeless truths that are undisputed even by the most trailblazing innovator or the most critical of critical studies scholars. For instance, that legal education is and will remain a "good investment" and that advocating for the "institutional advancement" of law schools is the same thing as advocating for the legal profession. Unfortunately, there are many unenlightened persons who fail to appreciate the value of legal education. That is why it is so necessary for institutional leaders to refine and rehearse their media-savvy spiel or "pitch" to the level of a polished TED-talk.  "Hurry, hurry, hurry, step right up" just won't do.
The Value of Legal Education and Why It’s a Good Investment Now and in the Future 
Moderator: Michael E. Waterstone, Loyola Law School 
Speakers: Julia Erwin-Weiner, Stanford Law School, Katrin Hussmann, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Daniel B. Rodriguez, Northwestern University Pritzker, School of Law 
Whether your audience is donors, students, alumni or faculty, being an advocate for the profession is important to shaping the conversation. To close out this conference, join us for a send-off  from three leaders in Institutional Advancement who will share their thoughts on the future of legal education and the roles of Institutional Advancement in it.  Through TED Talk-style presentations, each speaker will give a ten-minute “pitch” on why legal education is a worthwhile investment. Following these presentations, the speakers will be available for small group discussions.


  1. If these cockroaches cannot see that there are too many damn lawyers in this country and there is a long-standing GLUT, then they cannot be taken seriously at all. They have ZERO credibility. Their overall conduct is the equivalent of a man getting caught breaking into a home - and then claiming that he wanted to make sure everyone in the house was safe.

  2. There is no need to "reframe the narrative" of the state of legal education. It has served our republic well until the early '00s. After all, we have the most stable, predictable legal and democratic processes in the world. That a recent immigrant can open up a gas station/mini-mart and enjoy the even enforcement of law is unprecedented. If she pays the bills, nobody is going to take it away from her on a political whim.

    The problem is not the Prawfs and Deans engaging in arcane academic exercises and indulgences. That should be encouraged and celebrated by us practitioners. During an Overweight truck matter, I quoted a Harvard Law Dean.

    The issue is the grotesque over saturation of attorneys into the job market. Too many law schools, too many diploma mills that uncannily resemble the correspondence law schools found in any 50s-60s Popular Mechanics and Popular Science Blackstone College of Law and LaSalle Extension University. "BE A LAW TRAINED MAN" with endless opportunities shout the ads!

    The law prawfs and deans must address overcapacity. The auto industry did in 2009. We no longer have Saturn, Mercury, Pontiac, Plymouth, Hummer, and other marques. They also closed underperforming dealerships. The auto industry has been restored to health and sell cars based on innovation and quality, not spiffs and rebates. Prices and profits have returned to record levels.

    By lowering admission standards to attract students, the deans and Prawfs might as well act like that great car salesman, Lee Iacocca. Rather than buy a car, get a check, it's get a loan, get a law degree!

    Lastly, no where in your post is the mere mention of Ethics. Regurgitation of the model ABA Rules is ridiculous and uninspired. The best Ethics CLE programs I have attended involve actual bar beefs that were sustained after Hearing. There is an actual name, harmed client and the misconduct was real and in your face. It was scary and a great deterrent. These bar sanctions are published forever! Even many years after you are long gone, in 2092, "In Re Putz Attorney" could be cited to a kid or CLE as an example of bad behavior. All the world will see it forever.

    1. Don't forget Oldsmobile!

    2. That was in 2002....just regular GM pruning, not really in crisis mode yet. They were still doing OK. Like they got rid of LaSalle, Terex, EMD, GM bus division, etc.

    3. That immigrant is not mandated to pay income tax, he under reports revenue, employs clan-folk under the table and breaks environmental laws. he also benefited from a turn-key business plan and loans from his kin...

  3. Thanks for posting this. I especially appreciate the link to the program and note that Access Group kicked in at least $250K, the sole "Foundational Sponsor." These people suck.

  4. Keep riding that gravy train!

  5. Fine work, Dybbuk, as usual.

    I certainly don't begrudge anyone a trip to New York; I just insist that the money for the trip come from the traveler's pocket, not the coffers of scam organizations such as AssOALS (they must not know how to spell "assholes"), the ABA, and 200+ law schools.

    If indeed "Challenge" and "Innovation" set the tone for this coterie of scamsters, topics such as these should have filled the program:

    1) The dreadful state of employment for graduates of law school

    2) The unconscionably high cost of law school

    3) The appallingly poor standards for entry to the legal academy and the legal profession

    4) The rip-off of the public by grasping, self-preserving scamsters

    5) The failure of law schools to prepare their charges for legal practice

    6) Hackademic fakery masquerading as intellectual sophistication

    7) The proliferation of toilet law schools

    8) Law-school scamsters' selfish and cynical exploitation of marginalized people with access to federally guaranteed student loans but no hope of succeeding as lawyers

    9) The domination of the profession by corrupt, avaricious institutions and their lackeys

    Those topics, of course, were conspicuous by their absence, because the real purpose of this gathering was "Institutional Advancement" (capital letters in the original), an octosyllabic synonym of scam.

    1. 10) Law schools being run by people who have never been or wanted to be lawyers.

  6. 'One commonly held misconception espoused by the media is that there are too many lawyers.'

    Simply amazing. Incredible. "A misconception" that is being espoused by "the media." That's all it is.

    If the industry truly believe that, then why aren't they out there providing Media Information Kits, and directing Dan Rather & Co. to a series of firms and businesses that are cursing the fact they cannot fill legal positions?

    1. Just exactly how many lawyers should there be, according to these scamsters?

      Their argument, such as it is, tends to allude to the large numbers of dolphins and penniless people who go unrepresented. In other words, there's a shortage of lawyers prepared to work for nothing. What a surprise!

      Even during a severe shortage of lawyers, however, we should not admit toileteers to the profession.

    2. Old Guy, I have read your posts and it appears you have been around the block. If a client told you he would meet you in court with your 5 bills on his Aggravated Battery case and he only had 3 bills, would you tell him to get a continuance because your not going to step up before the judge that day cause he was short? No. Both of us would work with the client. My solo buddies and neighborhood types will handle all comers for smallish fees. What we won't do is work for FREE. There is a huge difference between not being ABLE to pay for legal services and REFUSING to pay. I see this when folks are appointed a public defender. They are supposedly indigent and swear to that on their affidavits of assets and liabilities and magically, if the don't like the deal the PD negotiated for them, they have the money for one of us.

    3. Indeed, I agree that clients should pay us. I do sometimes help people free of charge—but that is my decision, not the client's.

    4. Frankly, the legal industry creates problems for people. The glut of attorneys has caused lawyers to "prey" upon the general public just so that lawyers can remain solvent.

      With fewer lawyers, there would be fewer lawsuits, thus less people would need legal representation.

    5. @2:20,

      But we're led to believe that lawsuits are filed merely fighting for the little guy. Thousands get screwed over by landlords and they need all of the pro bono services that can be rendered. Perhaps law school professors would realize, if they had practiced law, just how many suits are filed simply to get at the money.

    6. @9:58 -- about that

      Most landlord/tenant matters get handled at the municipal court level, where people generally act pro se. It's rare that you have such a lawsuit in excess of $3,000.

      I also want to draw your attention to the legions of attorneys doing insurance-related civil litigation. These people spin wheels just to create billable events, thereby charging the insurance company (which up 'till now blindly reimbursed them).

      If you are a plaintiff, you're aggressively recruiting plaintiffs, either by TV commercials, visiting union halls or chasing ambulances. I even heard of law firms deliberately sending disabled people into stores in order to identify alleged "violations" of the ADA -- but, it's all a scam to get some money in settlements.

      Then, we also have the "copyright trolls." These are my personal favorite, since I deal with them all the time.

      My point being that ALL these people are doing unnecessary work, thereby harassing people just to create problems for them.

  7. What's the first rule of bureaucracy? Keeping the bureaucracy alive-and that's how the ABA sees its job-the many TTTs and their hangers-on are all to be preserved, forever, and using intrigue and double-speak, the ABA will see that all survive. The next step? The ABA, with AALS, compelling the MBE folks to dumb down the exam, to be followed by enormous pressure exerted on state bar examiners to more generously grade the bar exam. Because of the negative press that comes with each set of MBE/bar exam results, the bad news has to stop. Otherwise, someone might actually pay attention...

    1. The ABA may soon find itself kicking a few law schools out of the scam, or at least denying accreditation to newcomers such as Indiana Tech and the Univershitty of North Texas (cUNT). These Johnnys-come-lately, if accredited, would only dilute the scam for the established scam schools. And already there's not enough scam-money to go around—not enough to satisfy the scamsters, that is.

      Watch as scam-schools throw one another under the bus. Is a competing toilet in financial trouble (Ave Maria, Charleston, and Thomas Jefferson are now being monitored by the federal government for their questionable accounts)? Has the percentage of graduates who pass the bar fallen to the abysmal level required (in theory) to attract the ABA's scrutiny? Does 138 at the 25th percentile (hello, Cooley) give grounds for an investigation? If so, why not tattle to the ABA? Maybe one toilet can save itself by flushing another.

    2. The Evolution of the Feces.

      All of the relatively recent blather about Law Schools and their overfed professoriate being essential to the “rule of law” ignores the fact that these increasingly desperate institutions are first and foremost subject to the law of natural selection and law of the jungle. Schools that are less suited to the diminished environment will not survive the struggle for existence. This is Malthusian doctrine applied with manifold force; as Darwin himself noted, competition is most severe between closely related forms which fill nearly the same place in the economy of nature.

      The struggle for existence not only pits desperate ‘Toilet schools’ against each other, but like starving animals who have been cornered, these schools have lashed out against the LSAT exam, the state bar exams, and the whole conception that students should be subject to any sort of quantifying standards. The toilets are in a battle to the finish; they are now freely defecating in the ecosphere. Trap schools watch this Bonfire of the Dumpster Fires hoping to wait out the clock, but now with an ever-growing fear the toilets’ death throes may trigger more widespread legislative reform (and withdrawal of the federal loan teat) resulting in a short-circuiting of the slower, evolutionary process and directly threatening the survivability of these educational Abu Ghraibs. Top-notch schools too must be tiring of the toilets’ shitting into the ecosphere. As the old joke goes, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”

      Survival of the fittest means many of today’s toilets are headed towards extinction.

  8. Dybbuk, I think that you misread that last quotation. Where it says "being an advocate for the profession", the word "profession" appears to refer not to legal practice but to law-school scamming. After all, it appears only in the context of "legal education", never with reference to working as a lawyer.

    1. It is all propaganda, of course. Whatever noble purpose the law school scammers say they are trying to advance-- the rule of law, ect.-- is obviously meant to provide cheap moral cover for their self-promotion.

      I still think (without being certain) that they are claiming that their law school hype is a form of advocacy for the legal profession. This is clearer from the second panel description I quoted, where there are two specific references to the "legal profession" as distinct from "legal education": ("...reframing the narrative on legal education and the legal profession. . . .in counterpoint to the negative light in which law schools and the legal profession are so often portrayed. . . ")

    2. I was joking, of course. I too think that they are referring to advocacy for the legal profession—somehow achieved through "Institutional Advancement" that favors themselves. They seem to think, or want others to think, that what is good for their exchequers is good for the legal profession.

    3. Oops, sorry I didn't catch the facetiousness.

      Incoming AALS President Kellye Testy is a particularly dire example of self-interest and gross hypocrisy cloaking itself in noble rhetoric.

      Watch Testy yap about the importance of pro bono (. . . Because, I believe the legal profession is ultimately one of service, and that it is a privilege to be a part of it and our job is to help promote justice and human flourishing for all of the world's people, not just those who can pay for it").

      Yet this same Testy graduated from law school in 1991 and became a lawprof in 1992. As I read her CV, her only job as a practicing lawyer was a one-year federal appellate clerkship.

      In 2009, Testy was hired as University of Washington Law Dean at $352,000. which even a certain hysterical law school tout acknowledged was "eye catching." (Her salary as a law professor was a mere $241,000).

      At these salaries, it is a reasonable that Testy has millions in saving, clearly placing her in a position to devote the rest of her career to pro bono. I await her decision to do so, for the sake of "human flourishing."

    4. I didn't know that Costco, Shell, Toyota, Com Ed, Verizon accept free legal services! Wow! Can I take some free classes at the U. of Washington Law School for the sake of "human flourishing?"

    5. Testy and her fellow overpaid scamsters remind me of the poverty pimps who get obscene salaries for eliminating hunger in the Third World but do absolutely nothing towards that end. (If they did eliminate hunger, they would also eliminate their sinecures.)

      Plenty of people would take Testy's job for $50k, even less—and would perform it with at least as much aplomb. Fire her hypocritical ass, stick someone in at $50k, and spend the hundreds of thousands in savings on legal services to foster "human flourishing".

  9. a giant circle jerk.

  10. Making a blanket statement that going to law school is a "good investment" is absurd. Whether or not law school “pays off” for any given person is dependent upon a number of variables - which is to say that for some people, law school can be a good investment, and for others, it can lead to catastrophe. The three most important variables:

    1. Which law school are you “investing” in? NYU - you’ll probably be OK. NYLS - that’s another story.

    2. Where do you rank at your law school? Top 10% and law review at a T2 - again, you’ll probably be OK. Bottom half at the same school - you’re in trouble baby.

    3. Who’s paying for this “investment?” Mom and dad footing the bill - lucky you. $150 K in non-nonchargeable debt, that’s when we start throwing around words like catastrophic.

    1. Haven't you heard? Attending any law school, from Harvard to TJSL, provides one with a million dollar wage premium over the course of a lifetime. This is without regard to grades or any demographic factor. It's really quite miraculous how simple it is.

      This fact was discovered by highly qualified researchers who are entirely disinterested from the law school industry.

    2. Building on 7:22's sound observation, I'd point to what law-skule hacks call intersectionality. A top school plus rich parents almost always spells a good result. A top school without the rich parents may be disastrous. I'm the poster boy for that.

  11. Testy sure looks like a pig.

  12. I feel a law review article coming on...
    "Am I the Butcher's Dog? Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias among law professors."

    Seriously, if I hadn't suffered through years of unemployment, depression and anxiety after going to my Toilet, I would be laughing at these useless clowns.

    No more than one or two schools will close down, even if the matriculation numbers keep going down. Something structural needs to change to get these rancid Toilets to shut their doors for good.

    There is a chapter in For Whom The Bell Tolls that describes the leftist takeover of a town. The allies of Franco such as the priests, the rich shopkeepers, etc are rounded up and forced to run a gauntlet. As they reach the end, they are thrown off a cliff. Occasionally I imagine something similar figuratively happening to law professors as they are kicked out of their defunct schools.

    1. As practitioners, we should encourage academic flights of fancy and discourse. Education and the quest for knowledge is a good thing. God bless the professors for engaging in that. I used the philosophy of the Harvard Law Dean in a traffic matter before a court. The real issue is Over Capacity in the legal market.

      I understand where you are coming from. Being an Underemployed Attorney really sucks when your sister has a shitty BA from a shitty school and makes three times what I do. My dad did better in 1983 in actual dollars than I did for the last two years of my practice.

      The Prawfs are like us, utility maximizers. They don't want to walk the streets and mope around for clients and work, like you and I do. They are trying to stay alive. You really can't blame them. What you can blame are the Deans, the ABA and the money people (private equity) that runs some of the diploma mills. The ABA continues to accredit schools...

    2. Not too many professors engage significantly in education or the quest for knowledge. Even at my élite school, relatively few could be called intellectuals.

      Law professors are hardly struggling to stay alive. Look at the salaries that have been discussed here. This Testy snob was getting $241k per year as a professor, before being appointed dean.

      Law professors know the score. They are complicit in the scam, along with the deans and the ABA hacks and the Infilaw flim-flam artists.

    3. With very few intellectuals, your "elite" school really doesn't qualify.

      Face it. You got scammed. It wasn't anything like a truly elite school. That's why you're here.

    4. Believe what you will. I know which law school I attended, and I don't need your approval. I use the word "élite" advisedly: the élite schools are élite not in quality but in aristocratic pedigree. And if you think that they teem with intellectuals, you are mistaken. They have intellectuals but also many imbeciles à la George W. Bush.

    5. But George W. Bush (who incidentally looked devastated in the last picture I saw) wasn't a faculty member, was he? Nor did he attend law school. I'm surprised you couldn't make those distinctions, having attended an elite law school.

      The original context, before your equivocation, was your mentioning that few faculty members at your own school were intellectuals. That's not at all surprising. The 16th school in your "Top 16" ranking naturally isn't going to have the best faculty. But a few truly elite law schools do have a good portion of intellectuals among their faculty. And their graduates aren't ashamed to name their schools.

    6. Captain Hurska Carswell, Continuance KingJanuary 13, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Old Guy

      How did you get the squiggly stuff on the word "elite?" We are all preaching to the choir here. We need to go to the Faculty Lounge Blog. If they threaten to remove my posts, I just remind them that U of I got nicked for $600,000 for "un-hiring" that Prawf for his Tweets.

      I figured out a good way to simply illustrate the problem. Uber Walmart world. The pie is only so big...

    7. Imagining the élite toadJanuary 14, 2016 at 9:17 PM

      "How did you get the squiggly stuff on the word "elite?" [élite] "

      Copy and paste helps. Also for stuff like the registered trademark symbol (®) or the always fun backwards R trope, as-in "Patents_Я_Us".

  13. This Spearit guy looks to be another great example of academic nepotism. Let's take a look at his credentials: neither his PhD nor his JD are with honors, he wasn't on the flagship law review (rather, a participation trophy specialty journal) and has no federal clerkship or biglaw experience. (Indeed, his "summer associate" position was at a 4 lawyer firm). I wonder who he knew that got him his current cushy gig?
    Given his name, I'd wager he's a walking caricature of a pretentious leftist academic, in the vein of Dougie Fresh pond cummings. At least Dougie Fresh has a few years of practice experience, if memory serves.

  14. Perhaps they could discuss this recent action by the SCOTUS and law school debt

    and why this person was depressed, an alcoholic, and had a criminal record (and failed the bar exam twice)....

  15. Law school academicians are shameless in masquerading as gatekeepers, guardians and partners in the legal profession. Their actions over the last few years confirm they don’t care Jack Shit about the profession. In fact, they are destroying it for personal gain.

    Not only have they steadily flooded the profession with lawyers over the years, but when this problem has come into sharp focus at a juncture when law could use positive support, they challenge the integrity of bar examinations, assert that commonly accepted yardsticks of scholastic achievement are vacuous, and set open admissions. They refuse to publically acknowledge a gross imbalance between supply and demand in the legal marketplace, and they advocate that inexperienced graduates go solo –the consuming public be damned. Their self interest is always placed first.

    The majority of law schools represented at this junket should be closed.

    1. Captain Hurska Carswell, Continuance KingJanuary 13, 2016 at 8:33 AM

      Newbie solos who know how to game a computer. They have 10 AVVO rankings, and remake themselves as experts with slick websites. There is one attorney in my jurisdiction who blew off a federal law suit and ended up with a half million dollar judgment being entered against him. This newbie solo was disbarred.

  16. 2016 AALS Agenda

    1. Welcome

    2. Keynote speech: “I don’t see legal education as being in crisis at all.”

    3. Snack: “Let Them Eat Cake.”