Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nothing indefinite about the value of a legal education

Thanks to our JD education, we are far more than mere lawyers. "Polished communication" is  among the many marketable "soft skills" that law schools provide to their fortunate students, along with entrepreneurshipleadershipteamwork, cultural competence, and problem solving. This point was eloquently expressed by Nikki Laubenstein, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management at Syracuse University College of Law.
"In weighing the value of a J.D., you may have already realized that polished communication skills, such as effective writing, speaking, negotiating, and researching are sought after by employers across all platforms. Simply put, the right legal education can equip you with the intellectual and professional skills you need to excel in the legal field and in many other professional arenas. . . . Lawyers are problem solvers and a J.D. gives you the skills to act quickly, accurately, effectively, and with a purpose."
"http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-LMBsg9TsxgJ:blog.law.syr.edu/five-reasons-why-students-go-to-law-school+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari
That, in short, explains why JDs are so advantaged, including those JDs who never take or pass the bar exam or hold a law job. The public views us, their JD-holding heroes, as emergency first responders, uniquely equipped to extinguish conflagrations of intellectual confusion with the speed and purposefulness that the fire department employs against mere physical fires.

Accordingly, law grads, whether from accredited or unaccredited institutions, are especially well suited to address our society's vast unmet need for grammatical services. With access to effective and resourceful legal counsel, no citizen need make an uninformed decision regarding the correct indefinite article for such words or phrases as "purple onion," "big apple," or "egg". Indeed, with additional innovations in legal education made possible by additional billions in high-risk educational loans from the US taxpayer, I am confident that the legal academy can address any lingering deficiency in terms of missing commas.

In the exchange below, a person expresses the rare delusional belief that attending an unaccredited law school is "dumb." She then receives an appropriately stinging rebuke plus salutary correction from someone who identifies himself as a student or graduate of an unaccredited law school. This dispenser of prescriptivist justice flaunts his unaccredited-law-school-honed intellect and puts the critic to shame by articulating the rule on which words get an "a" article and which get an "an" article. Sticklers may notice that he gets the rule wrong, but who can deny that his formulation works in most cases?



[n:  I snagged this exchange over a year ago from a thread on an article about either Concordia or Indiana Tech, but cannot locate the original article.  Ordinarily, I would not publish without a link, but I feel that this instructive exchange should not be lost to history.]

49 comments:

  1. At least, "Don Jacobs" is smart enough to point out when to use "a" as opposed to "an" in a sentence. He MUST be on the higher end of morons considering or enrolled in an unaccredited trash pit.

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  2. Ooh, grammar fight! I thought that "a" was used as an article when the following word began with a consonant and "an" was used when the following word began with a vowel or a silent consonant. Hence, "an honest person would not dispute that an unaccredited law school is a horrible waste of money."

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    1. He actually did state the rule correctly, if (I'm in an unaccountably generous mood) by "consonants" and "vowels" he was referring to sounds rather than to letters. For example, we say "a unit", "a European", and "a Ouija board" but "an hour" and "an honor". There's an optional exception for unstressed syllables beginning with h ("a(n) historical analysis") and even for stressed syllables beginning with ("an haughty spirit [goeth] before a fall"), but that goes over the heads of law-school ninnies who can't even use a comma in a three-word sentence.

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    2. Many people nowadays do start those words with a consonant, namely the glottal stop (as in German). In their speech, "a ʔunaccredited" and "a ʔeducation", though nonstandard, are consistent with the rule. Likewise, "the" is traditionally pronounced "thee" before a vowel, but the many people who say "the ʔunaccredited" and "the ʔeducation" tend to pronounce it in its usual reduced form, on account of the intervening consonant.

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    3. He said "words that begin with vowels" and "words that begin with consonants." He did not specify vowel sounds or consonant sounds. IMO, no reason to be generous, since he was showing off his alleged intellect while trying to lord it over a critic.

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    4. Well, when I speak of consonants and vowels, I mean the sounds. Then again, I'm a linguist, not an illiterate lecturing the world on grammar.

      Anyway, you're right, Dybbuk. It's definitely a case of the pot's calling the kettle black. He who couldn't use the comma or the apostrophe correctly saw fit to attack someone else's usage.

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    5. Does being a cunning linguist qualify as polished communication?

      And if I say, "an historical event," have I started a vowel movement?

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  3. Why does a guy named Don start off his message by saying, "I am Donna"?

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    1. Because he didn't take Commas 101 in law school. Attractive though that course seemed, he passed it up in favor of Introduction to Polished Communication.

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    2. It is unthinkable that a law school-honed intellect would omit a needed comma. He was boldly claiming the dual identity of "Don" and "Donna" to indicate his freedom from the oppressive grammatico-social convention of assigning persons a single gender-identified name.

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    3. But "Don" and "Donna", meaning lord and lady, are reactionary carry-overs from the feudal aristocracy. Combining classism with illiteracy, he should make a fine law professor.

      ♪ La [D]onna è mobile
      Qual piuma al vento. ♪

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    4. @ Old Guy --
      "The lady is mobile / which feather to the wind"? What's that song from? (And pardon my horrible Italian as I tried to translate it.)

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    5. It's an aria from Verdi's opera Rigoletto. Those words mean 'Woman is fickle, like a feather in the wind'. Sorry about the obscure reference.

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    6. Old Guy, don't worry about it, you've got nothing to apologize for! If anything, thanks for (A) telling me about something new to listen to, and (B) giving me a linguistic challenge to try. (I certainly know of Verdi, and I definitely remember stuff like the Slaves' Chorus from his opera Nabucco. It's definitely one of his more famous works; after all, thousands of mourners were singing it at his funeral after he died.)

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    7. We could turn the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" into a "Chorus of the Law-School Scamsters". Here's a start:

      Vieni, lemmo, su zampe dorate!
      Vien' e cadi nella truffa nostra...

      Come running, lemming, on golden paws!
      Come and fall for our scam.

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    8. Since we're talking about students literally getting haircuts, perhaps something from 'Barber of Seville':

      Grande factotum della città.
      Presto nella scuola, per l'alba è già.
      Ah, che vita, che piacere
      per un professore di qualità!

      Ah, bravo Figaro!
      Bravo, brayissimo;
      fortunato per la verità!
      Pronto a fare di tutto,
      notte e giorno
      sempre intorno,
      intorno è.

      Miglior miniera d'oro per un scamdean,
      vita più nobile, no, non dà.
      Hornbooks e contorni, highlighters e penne,
      al mio comando tutto quello che c'è.

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    9. Wikipedia has a decent entry for Rigoletto, including audio of the great Caruso belting out La donna è mobile. But since the topic has moved on to law students getting haircuts, I must disagree with Anonymous that the appropriate song would be something from Barber of Seville.
      More attuned to what is happening to law students would be something from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

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    10. Ha, nice job, Old Guy! (And you too, Anonymous with the "Barber of Seville" thing.) How about a "Chorus of the Debt-Loan Slaves"?
      Also, I can't compose a simple sentence in Italian, much less compose an opera, although I do know Latin rather well and have composed entire poems in that... hey, how about it, want to collaborate and compose an entire opera about the plight of the modern indebted student? I'm all for that

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  4. They both be fools.

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  5. Classic faulty reasoning: Just because a JD "should" or "ought" to be viewed as valuable by others does not mean that others necessarily believe said JD is valuable. Apparently, if the law schools continue to say that it is true, then, by golly, it IS true...!!!

    Just ask any JD looking for a doc review job for more than $10 an hour, a JD-advantaged barista, or the person clearing $35k at a PI mill. Ask them if the JD (and the debt) has been an "advantage".

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  6. A JD is a great way to humble an arrogant liberal artist. Of course, it usually takes 3-4 years of underemployment to really do the trick, but Mr. Jacobs is likely well on his way.

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  7. OT but this looks like the latest in the campaign to make all of us debt slaves:

    http://www.fox26houston.com/news/local-news/92232732-story

    I'm thinking something got garbled in translation. It sounds like this was enforcing a civil contempt order as opposed to "arresting" someone for a crime. But the effect, I suppose, is the same.

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  8. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 16, 2016 at 5:29 PM

    Polished communicator: The salesman, I mean sales associate who sold me a new 1997 Grand Am. What a turd of a car. The greatest polished communicator ever... Perhaps any sales person working at a GM dealer?

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  9. Let's take this step by step:

    "In weighing the value of a J.D., you may have already realized that polished communication skills, such as effective writing, speaking, negotiating, and researching are sought after by employers across all platforms."

    —— No, I haven't noticed that. I don't even know what "platforms" means in this context. (Presumably it's jargon borrowed from the computer industry without an understanding of its meaning.) And since when does "researching" fall into the category of "polished communication skills"?

    "Simply put, the right legal education can equip you with the intellectual and professional skills you need to excel in the legal f1ield [sic] and in many other professional arenas. . . ."

    —— Nothing in this sentence or the previous one alleges that the JD, or the so-called education leading to it, imparts polished
    communication skills. In other words, the claim that employers covet those skills is irrelevant: even if we admitted it, we would not have to agree that the JD was valuable. Note too the cagey shift from "a J.D." (meaning any JD) to "the right legal education" (presumably meaning not just any JD). Also note the weak word "can". Of course the right legal education can equip a person with professional skills. But that doesn't mean that it will, nor yet that that person, however skilled, will be able to excel, or even to find work, in those fields.

    "Lawyers are problem solvers"

    —— So are plumbers, accountants, carpenters, seamstresses, and many other people.

    "and a J.D. gives you the skills to act quickly, accurately, effectively, and with a purpose."

    —— So what? And where's the evidence that the JD does those things? Note that we're back to "a J.D." again, so this claim applies to every JD.

    Conclusion: This "argument" is crap—nothing but a lot of high-sounding but empty rhetoric.

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    1. The vaunted “soft skills” supposedly possessed by JD’s are nebulous.

      Let’s take “polished communication” and “effective writing.” Get over yourselves. Most all people in today’s workplace can write . . . not to mention, run their mouths. Maybe not write with the stylistic flair of an essayist, but they can write. And that’s all that’s required. Business isn’t conducted by Shakespeares, and today’s politics aren't propelled by lofty orations from the Senate floor.

      And “research”? Can you say, www.inter_fucking_net?

      Law school’s involvement with “communication skills” appears nothing but a euphemism for signposting in moot court, and memorizing irritating bits of pedantry that might have had some use in a mid-20th century publishing house. Absent a big-firm job involving prolonged litigation, law school skills have no real application and thus morph into a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude exhibited by overeducated, now-purposeless attorneys who have no better pursuit than berating “lessers” for violating typeface conventions and making typos. This is incessantly trotted out in online commentary. “Don’t you know that ‘elite’ and ‘resume’ have accents?” “Did you see that typo: ‘Check YOU emails’?!?! Can you believe it??” Wow, how valuable. Look at me, I’m educated, you stupid shit.

      There’s a whole cadre of persons who’ve been hyper-educated about a very narrow sliver of knowledge and have almost no opportunity to put it to LEGITIMATE use. All schooled-up and no place to go.

      By and large, law school doesn’t teach transferable skills. Trying to re-purpose a JD is like trying to use one of the old Saturn V rockets as a sex toy.

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    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 17, 2016 at 3:24 PM

      Like I said, a car salesman. This car has aa turbo boost eco class silent o matic drive. It comes in sand hill moon mist tan with leather luxe twill hide upholstery. The steering is by turn-o-matic brougham delux. The wheels are ultra chromed dyna ride balanced.

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    3. ...and a competition steering wheel that made out of wood.

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  10. Dybbuk, you're a fine researcher, far better than most law professors. But you missed the huge, glaring, obvious issue with Nikki Laubenstein's praise of legal education. That would be that Nikki Laubenstein DOESN"T HAVE A LAW DEGREE HERSELF.

    She has an MA (or maybe a MA?) in counseling from Syracuse.

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  11. This thread started with an amusing conceit. It quickly turned into a jumbled mess of obfuscation and pedantry. Don't you people have anything better to do? Like maybe convincing a few thousand more students not to attend law school this year?

    Brian Leiter was able to report, with twisted motives but apparently accurate facts, that law school applicants are slightly up this year compared to last. That's a tragic commentary on the faltering law school reform movement.

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    1. Law school applicants are up 1.2% over last year at this time. However, I do not think this dead cat bounce, or shall I say doomed lemming bounce, is "tragic commentary" of any sort. Especially given that it is rumored that the discount rate for matriculates is up.

      From Fall 2010 to Fall 2015, in parallel with the existence of the scamblog and transparency movements, law school applicants dropped from 87,900 to 54,500, or 38%. At some schools the decline has been 50-70%. I would say that this is fairly encouraging commentary on the achievements of the law school reform movement. Along with the fact that our once marginal critique is now endorsed by the New York Times.

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    2. And, the existing applicant pool is significantly less qualified to be there and significantly less likely to pass the bar exam.

      I started a sentence with "And" as well...

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    3. Ain't nuthin' going to happen unless they tighten up on the supply of tuition dollars. Maybe one or two schools will close, but that's it.

      When the drooling mouth-breathers that entered law school in fall 2015 graduates and can't pass the bar, no one will be held accountable. No one has sympathy for failed lawyers.

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    4. Not only is the applicant pool significantly less qualified, but law schools have also dropped all pretense of standards in the scramble to keep their heads above water. If we had mandatory minimum standards in place for admission, this would already be game,set, and match. There is no way that someone with a 140 LSAT should be going to law school.

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    5. @12:56 AM:

      "Hi, Brian!"

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    6. As the posters above have indicated, applications are up a tiny amount only because it's easier than ever before to get into law school. Moving to open admissions and having only a slight uptick is not a good sign.

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  12. I think the period should have come before the quotation mark following egg.

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    1. That is the traditional style in North America but not in most other English-speaking places. I put the period outside the quotation marks, where it logically belongs, since it is not part of the quotation. In the days of hot-metal type, however, periods and commas right after quotation marks tended to break off because they were small and had nothing nearby to support them. Typesetters solved that problem by moving them inside the quotation marks so that they would be up against a letter.

      I'd better shut up about this, though, lest I be accused again of pedantry.

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    2. @6:37 -- I learn something new every day on these scamblogs.

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  13. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 17, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    Everybody has missed it: PLATFORMS is the language auto manufacturers use to describe their cars. For instance, VW has the Jetta platform which is used for the Golf, New Beetle, Wagon. K-Car was a PLATFORM. I can't believe these Deans turned my law degree into a commodity like a damn car...

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  14. "law school applicants are slightly up this year compared to last. That's a tragic commentary on the faltering law school reform movement."

    I don't know that it's a "tragic commentary" so much as more poof that PT Barnum was right. Also, I wouldn't say that the scam blog movement is “faltering.” I think it’s more of a case of fatigue. I’ve been following the scam blogs since before Campos. People on this blog, as well as Nando, Campos and others have said everything that there is to say about the scam many times over. The big issues, the little issues, and every issue in between has been covered, re-covered, and covered again. And I think that this has done a lot of good. The large decrease in law school applicants and enrollees is due, in large part, to the scam blog movement basically telling the truth.

    That said, I concur with what others have pointed out (I think even Campos has made this point). There might be a few schools that close or consolidate here and there, but the true reform that is needed - namely the closing down of at least half the law schools in the country - will only come about when the government loan dollars are cut off. And due to a variety of political and socioeconomic reasons, I believe that this will only come about if and when the US and global economy go into a 1930's-type economic depression (or worse). Of course, when that day comes, we will all have bigger things to worry about than the law school scam.

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    1. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingFebruary 18, 2016 at 9:48 PM

      The flip side of your argument. Like roads, interstates, space program, national defense, the government has "purchased" a justice system, ATTORNEYS. The government did this through student loans. Lawyers are the personification of justice...think about it. By having folks come to our offices and through courtroom representation, we resolve conflicts and advocate for citizens' right. I know this is idealistic....we do bring social justice to everyday folks....

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    2. I agree with your idealism that a lawyer is the personification of justice and often the living embodiment of our Constitutional protections. If it was the Government’s plan to populate the land with lawyers and thereby promote wider justice, it has gone horribly awry. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Way too many cooks make it difficult to prepare broth. And way, way too many cooks prevents anyone from making broth or anything at all in the kitchen.

      Yes, the Government bought the space program, but there were 6 manned Moon missions and they went one at a time. Two astronauts per mission landed on the lunar surface and planted one flag. A single astronaut standing beside a single flag is iconic and inspiring. Launching an invasion of hundreds of spacemen, each with two moon buggies, and each tasked to raise as many flags as quickly possible is less. Yes, the Government provides for the national defense, but the five branches do not routinely accept all comers, and each branch has a defined area of operation. The interstate highway system gave us I-45 . . . not I-45-A, I-45-B, I-45-C, I-45-D through Z, et cetera.

      No. Law schools are not promoting the justice system and, thanks to their long-term overproduction of lawyers, are now unraveling it. An ever increasing overabundance of lawyers in a slightly shrinking legal marketplace leads to rampant abuses, including pushing minuscule personal injury claims on very thin and questionable facts; using lawsuits to shake down insured defendants; unethical solicitation schemes; and far more. The public despises the profession, judges complain of clogged dockets, and legislatures across the land see justice in tort reform. Worse, the storybook Lincoln lawyers are forced out of their livings, meaning they simply cannot afford to take the type of “ordinary people” cases that once ennobled the profession and which, by their nature, are inevitably pro bono. Today’s market is testament to the fact that a lawyer surfeit will not help the legally underserved. Lawyers must be able to make a living . . . not to buy a house in the Hamptons . . . but to pay the office rent and Lexis bill so that she is able to handle her neighbor’s case against the school board, defend her cousin who got pulled over for nothing much, cover the custody hearing, and challenge the homeowner’s association who wants to harass the man for painting his shutters off white.

      No, sir, the practices of today’s law schools undermine our system. More lawyers do not equal more justice. They mean less.

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    3. Six figures of student loan debt and a dearth of entry-level jobs creates financially annihilated debt serfs working survival jobs, not public service lawyers. The ability of the law schools to skirt this simple, testable, observable fact is unsettling....

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    4. If all of the governments would begin hiring and filling the legal positions that were eliminated since 2007.....think about it. Governments at every level in all jurisdictions cut attorneys. Multiply that by the number of jurisdictions and there you have the shortage. Boomers are retiring. However, those positions are being eliminated. I see government prosecutors and defenders in my jurisdiction who are frazzled, overworked and exhausted. The courtrooms are crowded with defendants and victims. Many of these attorneys work late into the night. And then it repeats for the next day. Serious hiring is not happening... This is happening with Coppers too. Crime statistics point down because it isn't reported or folks don't bother calling for help when one is told to call a non-emergency 311 number.

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    5. @2:06: Governments still hire, but they simply hire non-JDs for those positions. There's a whole slew of quasi-legal positions such as contract manager, HR and compliance.

      And even if government started hiring again, the glut is so ridiculous, with such a huge continuing surplus, that it's effectively impossible for law graduates to be employed. Whatever positions the government creates, it can hire a 26 year old recent graduate rather than the 35 year old, considering both have about the same experience, but the younger person can be had for a lower pay and can be treated worse and used longer.

      I don't think there is any real fix available for those that struck out in law the past 10, 20 however many years. Any solution would be for those graduating in the future instead.

      But really, what point is there in even hiring JDs? Attorneys are completely unnecessary at most levels of government. Maybe a few to work for various criminal law or civil lawsuits, but for the most part a college graduate can do what government attorneys used to do. Most attorneys never go to court after all, and everything else isn't specific to attorneys.

      I think the government and most employers fully understand that law school and even passing a bar exam doesn't actually result in any sort of superior skill or knowledge from a regular college graduate. If anything, it seemingly indicates a person that was too stupid or too lazy to work after undergrad, and ran up debt while avoiding the workplace for 3+ years.

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  15. The statements above are all fine and good, but law schools do not promote lawyering and this will never change until schools stop hiring people who have never been or wanted to be actual lawyers. Think about it.

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    1. Well yes. Law schools are designed for maximizing profits, NOT training lawyers.

      If law schools legitimately wanted to teach law, they'd break down class sizes to small groups, and there would be substantially more papers and oral presentations required. But alas, that would cost too much money.

      Easier and cheeper (and more accommodating to LAZY, good-for-nothing professors) to stuff 60-70 students in one class, and have one lame exam at the end.

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    2. ^^^^^ This is the problem. Law schools are essentially useless other than the 1st year and legal research and writing. The ABA should be shut down by Congress.

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  16. But you get to learn how to "think like a lawyer" by people who have never been lawyers.

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