Thursday, February 25, 2016

If a Benchmark Says You Suck, Change the Benchmark

It is an axiom of sorts that when shit starts hitting the fan, the lounging mandarins aren't just going to sit calmly and get pelted with unseemly shit.  They're going to cover their brandy snifters, fetch ivory-handled umbrellas, and eloquently ponder leaving the room altogether.  Speaking of which, David Yellen is bailing - while Dean Yellen seemed to have more good faith than many of his peers, he'll be working elsewhere while his former students are stuck in the legal world he and his peers built and tried - however hard or feebly - to correct.  It's peculiar, indeed, that academics, whose presence in the legal community may be transient, are seemingly more valued as reformers than attorneys who are in it for life.

The point here, though, is that a real scam is dynamic.  When exposed, an amateur scammer simply folds up shop, disappears, gives up the game.  The second the shit hits, they already have a foot out the door.  But the professional scammer adapts.  He adjusts to his new environs, reacts with subtle modifications and keeps on scamming, pretending that he was never a swindler at all.  A real charlatan, after all, would have folded up and left immediately once that first piece of feces contacted the fan blade.  Instead, a professional scammer sees shit on their arm as a fertilizer for new possibilities.

Consider Arizona Law's recent adoption of the GRE as a potential admissions test.
University of Arizona College of Law’s recent decision to ease up on the LSAT and let prospective students apply with a GRE score, discussed in today’s Wall Street Journal, has caused some consternation in the tightly regimented world of law school admissions.

But to those who wonder, can they do that? Arizona Law Dean Marc Miller has a simple answer: Yes, and other schools can too.
...
Mr. Miller said the school’s proof that the GRE is just as good a predictor of first-year law school grades as the LSAT is a study Arizona Law put together in conjunction with Educational Testing Service, the maker of the GRE. With that study in hand, he said, the school believes it can start taking GRE scores without waiting for a formal blessing from the ABA. Incoming students can still apply using an LSAT score.
I do trust that the study was as scientifically rigorous as, say, the million dollar law degree and the Indiana Tech Feasibility Study.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the study would be peer-reviewed, right?  According to the article, the ABA is preparing an investigation that will presumably involve reading the study and then moving on to more important issues.

For those who are curious about how the study was done, here's the ABA Journal article:
The decision relies on a study finding that performance on the GRE reliably predicted 1L grades for University of Arizona law students. Nearly 100 current and recent graduates of the law school took the GRE in November; the results were compared with their first-year grades.
Given that the band of people who were admitted to Arizona and chose to attend Arizona is far from representative of the applicant population and that a hundred people leaves a large margin of error, it should be fair easy business for the ABA to conclude that it's a perfectly acceptable alternative.

For a few years now, entering LSATs have been slipping.  Law schools at the middle and bottom of the pack have been scrounging for students with LSAT scores that can protect their medians and 25th/75th percentile.  Arizona is no different in that it's either fighting or falling.

But there's an easier way.  Instead of being beholden to the too-small LSAT pool, find some other professional test and use it instead!  And don't worry, Arizona isn't the only experimenter out there.  From the ABA Journal article:
The Wake Forest University School of Law and the University of Hawaii School of Law are both studying how well the GRE measures law school success.
Note that there was never any concern with accepting an alternative test prior to the downturn.  For decades, law school functioned off the LSAT; good, bad, or ugly, it's been fairly reliable.  Suddenly, facing a crisis not only of quantity but quality of students, the law schools innovate.  They find a way to sidestep the benchmark and enter a new world of thought where no one has any idea what GRE scores mean in law school, and won't for some time.

It's astounding how quickly the law schools can act when it is their own best interests to do so.  With respect to tuition and the job market, we've heard lots of hemming and hawing and remarks about institutional inertia and trying to solve the issues and other reasons reform can't exactly happen overnight - or in a five year period.  There have been formal committees whose grand conclusion is to anoint another committee.  And yet, like *that* the law schools are trying to scrap entry credentials that have withstood reasonable criticism for decades.

Not that the LSAT is a great test or anything, but if this was done for any non-cynical reason, it should have been done 20 years ago.  Instead, there are suggestions made like this:
Jeff Thomas, executive director of prelaw programs at Kaplan Test Prep, suggested another benefit in a Wall Street Journal interview. “The GRE is regarded as the easier test,” he said.
It'd be damn impressive were it not so impeaching.

47 comments:

  1. Great. Anything to get butts in seats. My buddy who is out of a Top Tier law school over 35 years is completely unemployed. His Solo GP practice tanked three years ago and has not found employment as an attorney. He is now begging for 40K clerk jobs. I have taken a weekend non law job to make ends meet. Please listen to what is going on here...

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  2. "And yet, like *that* the law schools are trying to scrap entry credentials that have withstood reasonable criticism for decades." Which tells you everything you need to know right there. If they were really trying to solve the glut problem, they'd tighten standards, not relax them. Higher standards = fewer lawyers = greater employability in the legal market. But no. They're sticking with the "warm bodies" strategy. Kind of like the mortgage bubble: anyone with a pulse gets a mortgage so the bankers can continue to sell worthless bonds at high commissions. We all know how that ended.

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  3. Recourse to the GRE serves two main purposes:

    1) Drawing in shitty people without having to accept their shitty LSAT scores.

    2) Confusing the data by eliminating the one useful uniform standard that up till now has applied to all accredited law schools.

    The latter is no less important than the former. It will enable toilets to appear less toilety. It will frustrate comparisons of law schools. It will make a mess of what heretofore has been straightforward and simple.

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    1. The tiers are pretty much set in stone. You've listed them yourself before.

      Outside of those few schools, all schools are equally as worthless. The only comparison at that point could be by price, which in a free capitalist market would result in price discovery, i.e. these schools would be pretty much worthless without government manipulation.

      Alas, the government does not believe in capitalism, despite claiming it does, and is intent on artificially creating the supply side of the market.

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  4. Are you preparing to take the LSAT? Think about this "argument" (quoted from the text above):

    ———

    CONCLUSION: The GRE is just as good a predictor of first-year law school grades as the LSAT.

    BASIS: The decision relies on a study finding that performance on the GRE reliably predicted 1L grades for University of Arizona law students. Nearly 100 current and recent graduates of the law school took the GRE in November; the results were compared with their first-year grades.

    ———

    Unlike the ABA's scamsters, the students whom I have taught to do well on the LSAT could identify several flaws in that "argument". Here are a few:

    1) The basis says nothing about the LSAT, so the conclusion that "[t]he GRE is just as good ... as the LSAT" cannot follow.

    2) We are given no reason to believe that a result at the U of Arizona applies to law schools generally.

    3) The "study" used "current and recent graduates" (what exactly is a current graduate?) of one law school, although the LSAT is administered not to graduates but to prospective law students.

    4) The small population—"[n]early 100" could be as few as 51—could magnify errors, particularly in light of the almost certainly unrepresentative nature of the "sample".

    5) A subsequent measurement cannot "predict" the result. In the "study", graduates took the GRE, and presumably it is alleged that their scores correlated well with their grades in law school. If so, perhaps grades in law school can be said to predict performance on a subsequent GRE, but there is insufficient reason to suppose that the GRE is a "predictor", let alone a good one, of grades in law school.

    6) The "study" is suspect. It was commissioned, developed, and conducted by a law skule that was eager to prove the conclusion by hook or by crook (and I use the word crook advisedly).

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    1. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 26, 2016 at 10:06 PM

      1-5, yep, yeah, da, ja, etc..

      #6, da, but to add, unless I have misunderstood, wasn't it also funded by an organisation having a strong interest in the outcome?

      Why are people who should be so well versed in logic immune to your points 1-6 above?

      And why is it that my favorite Pink Floyd song keeps ringing through my head?

      (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0kcet4aPpQ)

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    2. Most law students wouldn't know logic if it bit them on the ass. The same goes for most lawyers.

      Delete
    3. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 28, 2016 at 8:42 AM

      Old Guy,

      Are you suggesting that I should bite the prosecutor in the ass when my INNOCENT, liberty loving client is convicted?

      Delete
  5. Why would a Marxist college hire a guy like David Yellen? Don't get it.

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  6. Even if the GRE is an easier test than the LSAT, it’s easier for everyone taking the test, and any given score will still fall into a percentile determined by those who did better, and those who did worse. In that sense, it should be easy enough to compare GRE scores to LSAT scores. It seems to me that the real issue is whether the pool of GRE takers (most of whom are looking to go to business school rather than law school) has more or less aptitude than the pool of LSAT takers. If the GRE takers have greater aptitude, it should work to the disadvantage of a someone looking to get into law school using a GRE score - at least if you measure them by percentile.

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    1. It is possible to score much higher on one test than on the other.

      Also, the GRE is primarily for (academic) graduate school, secondarily for business school.

      Delete
    2. It's possible to score higher on the MCAT than the LSAT too (in terms of percentile). But I don't think it would do pre-law students any good if law schools started accepting MCAT scores. To me, the issue is whether it's easier for the typical law student to score in a higher percentile on the MCAT than they would on the LSAT. I don't know the answer to that question, but it seems that it would be dependent on the overall aptitude of the pool of people taking the test.

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    3. I meant to say the issue is whether it's easier to score higher on the GRE oe lsat. Obviously most prelaw students would get their ass kicked on the mcat

      Delete
  7. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 26, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    I really could care less whether a law school accepts the GRE, LSAT, MCAT of driver's license test scores. 30 years ago, I had near straight A's and I did not take the LSAT seriously. I thought it was bullshit because I busted my ass in College over a long period of time over many disciplines. I had an established track record of educational diligence. What really matters are law school exams and ultimately, the Bar Exam. If the diploma mill correspondence like law schools Cooley Marshall Indiana Costal Tech, pressures the Bar Examiners, then I will be concerned.

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    1. I couldn't care less.

      Delete
    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingMarch 3, 2016 at 11:27 AM

      Are you attempting to correct my grammer? Maybe I should hire one of those Valpo profs to proof read my posts. I think $12.00/hr is good. They will need the work after some Retail Theft mope tells 'em 3 bills is too much for a court appearance. They can get it cheaper from one of their matriculants, a recent newbie solo....

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  8. Ha ha ha, eff that Yellen guy. He was no Valvolene Dean, but damn he could sure make law school seem as sweet as Bailey's on vanilla ice cream. Figures that the law deanship was merely a stepping stone.

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  9. It does not matter if the GRE is easier or harder than the LSAT. These tests are standardized, thus a test taker is scored relative to how everyone else does. Therefore, even with the supposedly "easy" GRE, you still have a bottom 10%.

    The important thing is to have a way of measuring ALL applicants to law school by the same metric. Since GPA can be affected by many factors, the admissions test is the only standard and consistent measure of comparing applicants to one another.

    I took both tests, and my verbal GRE score was slightly lower than my LSAT score in terms of percentile. My math GRE score was pretty high, but it did not translate into doing well on the LSAT. Therefore, I don't think anyone can rightfully insinuate that one who does well on the LSAT will necessarily do comparably well on the GRE.

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  10. Buyouts at Valpo:

    http://www.nwitimes.com/news/education/valparaiso-university-law-school-to-offer-faculty-buyouts/article_baf82ec5-8398-56ea-b05c-4d4c03321ae8.html

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    1. There shouldn't be a single buyout at Valpo, because there's nothing to buy. If those professors aren't performing useful work, and they haven't for years, they should be locked out and their belongings delivered to them by a bonded courier.

      And that's it. Problem solved.

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  11. Excellent post-and proof the scam will not die. These guys are professionals, and are willing to adapt so long as the federally insured dollars flow. Until the money stops, the scam lives.

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    1. If the federal government tries to impose employment-based standards for law student loans, the law schools will challenge those standards on antirust grounds. These standards would have the effect of basing enrollment on demand for lawyers, something the Justice Department has said violates antitrust laws.

      There is something so special about the creation of a massive oversupply of lawyers that the oversupply has to be unlimited and to increase every year. Entry test scores, bar exam results and employment outcomes are irrelevant. The law school industry is beholden the the antirust laws and they trump every other consideration. So there is no lawful way to limit law school enrollment and to limit the flow of federal loan dollars.

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    2. If that is indeed true, it's worth carving out an antitrust exception for law schools. How good are the scambog movement's lobbyists?

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    3. The law schools will say anything, as we've seen.

      The government and certainly the ABA can limit law schools if it wanted.

      The reason doctors make so much money is artificial scarcity. There are plenty of physicians around the world, and in fact even in the US there were plenty of doctors and dentists at one point, and the professions were jokes like law is now.

      But then entry was strictly limited, and salaries went up.

      For whatever reason, this is not done for law.

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    4. @11:37 -- I'm not so sure you're correct regarding WHY medical salaries went up. The primary reason was because there was a change in the "payer."

      Medicare & Medicaid were established in 1965. In the years that followed, doctors began abusing the fee-for-service payment structure of the system, thus salaries started to skyrocket.

      Also, during these decades, it became standard for health insurance to be offered as a benefit to employees by their employer. This is something the unions had long lobbied for. Doctors were also able to take advantage of this set-up, thus they could bill the insurance companies (who had deep pockets), rather than the patient.

      In short, the "payer" changed, which gave incentive to increase prices for medical services. If your customers don't have much money, you have to keep your prices low. If, however, an insurance company started to pay for it (either directly to the doctor, or indirectly by reimbursing the patient), you could increase the prices.

      I'm not sure there has ever really been any significant decrease in the number of medical schools. In fact, the number of medical schools have been steadily increasing, with something like 20 osteopathic schools opening during the past decade. This does not include the foreign medical graduates, who go to medical school abroad.

      As for dentistry, there was a very dramatic drop in the number of dental schools during the 1970s. This is believed to have been caused by the use of fluoride in toothpaste, thus making dental care easier.

      But dentistry never really enjoyed the high salaries doctors had. Of course, some dentists made-out like bandits, but that wasn't always the case.

      The Healthcare sector is going through massive changes these days, so it will be interesting to see if doctors and dentists continue to do as well as they have the past 40-50 years.

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  12. It sounds like some schools just can't resist that huge trough of risk-free unlimited Federal loan money, so they don't care how academically-disinclined the entering student-borrowers are, or how overcrowded the job market is for them, if they manage to graduate. Maybe some of the schools are close to shutting down, but want a few good, last slops in that trough before going out!

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  13. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 26, 2016 at 9:56 PM

    "According to the article, the ABA is preparing an investigation that will presumably involve reading the study and then moving on to more important issues."


    Oh my, you inglourious basterd, you do have that rare, rare gift of hilarious understatement.

    Thank you!

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  14. "Changing the benchmark...That's what professionals do!"

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  15. Right now if you take out the enrollment of the T14 and use the BLS figure of 15,700 lawyer jobs being created a year, you get not even 59.5 jobs per law school for the bottom ranked 189 law schools. Who knows what the quality and pay for these jobs is.

    Not an encouraging number to entice people to enroll.

    Anyone who has looked at job ads knows that JD advantage is a scam put out by the law schools to mask the limited number of lawyer jobs. JD advantage jobs do not require a law degree. They require a BA. They do not pay for a law degree. They pay for a BA. They do not prefer a law degree if they say lawyer or paralegal, lawyer or CPA or just BA as a compliance or human resources job would not require or prefer a JD. You are a sucker to go for JD advantage unless you get a joint MBA JD at a T8 and want to go into investment banking, private equity or venture capital, which have high pay levels for non-lawyer jobs - in fact higher pay than big law.

    Every other JD advantage is screwing themselves with three years of opportunity cost and living costs not paid for by a job, and most are saddled with substantial law school tuition - all for no return in the job market and likely employment discrimination going forward as a result of a failed JD that stands out like a sore thumb on their resumes - for life.

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    1. Hell, just get the MBA and save the time & money needed to earn the JD. The JD/MBAs at my T14 all wish they had.

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  16. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 27, 2016 at 8:36 PM

    The BLS figure of 15K law jobs being created each year is a NOTHING given the size of our economy. We are still the largest economy in the world. 15K is a rounding error type of statistic. What that number really says: NOT HIRING. Yes, Boomer lawyers are retiring. However, their jobs are being eliminated. Not replaced, especially by the government. It is brutal and the law schools know this. However, they want to hang on too....the Prawfs don't want to end up like my buddies and I. Underemployed and Unemployed lawyers struggling for work, fees, clients and jobs.

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  17. If your potential applicant pools shrinks due to a drop in LSAT takers, why not cast a wider net to allow those intent on making the mistake of getting an MA in English Literature to instead make the mistake of a JD.

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  18. I'm glad the LSAT is regarded as the harder test. The reputation of the LSAT itself is the psychological barrier that keeps out those who know they are not smart enough for law school. After all, it takes world-class intellect to understand mind-boggling concepts like the mailbox rule, substantive due process, and apparent authority. Frightening the feeble from even embarking the awe-inspiring journey of itellectualism that is earning a JD is something we should be grateful that the LSAT provides.

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    1. It doesn't frighten enough of them. People with scores in the 120s are bold enough to apply to law school. And some of them get in.

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    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 29, 2016 at 1:19 PM

      Then let them pass their classes and then the bar. Just do not mess with the Bar Exam and cave to the K-Mart-Yugo like law schools. If they can pass the Bar Exam, they are in. If I am not mistaken, Hillary took the Bar exam twice. She is much smarter than me and I passed on the first time. She made one hundred grand selling cows in one transaction.

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    3. She failed the NY bar, I think.... passed the Arkansas one on the first shot. The cows were fat and well-marbled having dined on the Rose Law Firm billing records, soaked in corn syrup and rolled in alfalfa pellets.

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    4. No, I emphatically do not want brain-dead people at the bar.

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    5. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingMarch 1, 2016 at 9:18 AM

      The problem is, Old Guy, that ship has sailed quite a while ago. Just check out some of the bar complaints and convictions at the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Talk about Idiocracy. Everything from running a client's credit card for $10K to public indecency. These are not just OOPS, but things that a reasonably bright 9 year old should know.

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    6. That's no reason to promote a free-for-all. Set up higher standards. Keep more people out.

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    7. Agreed. Keep the garbage out.

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  19. Having a healthy Federal Practice, I have to wonder how these people will get by. You have to know the Federal Rules, The local Court Rules, the Case Law. . . one slip up and the Judges will knock you out.

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  20. Question for the OTLSS crew:

    Shouldn't the USNews Rankings be out soon?

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    1. Ooooohh, I just love US News ranking time.

      I wonder if this will be the year that UC Irvine cracks the Top 10. Or the Top 18.

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  21. Man....that Indiana tech study. I laughed so hard when I first read it. Now that Indiana tech LS has come to fruition as an epic failure, that study is only secondary to Alan Greenspan talking.

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