According to an old joke, the meaning of the ethnic word “chutzpah” is best illustrated by a man who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy on grounds that he is an orphan. However, I always felt that it would that it would be fairly easy to create more outrageous examples of brazen hypocrisy. I mean, the man in the joke does implicitly acknowledge his crime and offers truthful, if unpersuasive, mitigation.
What if, instead, the man in the joke bragged about the excellent parental care he had provided? How about if he asserted that his moldering parents were alive and healthy on the basis of a quack medical protocol that presumes life and health and does not require that the patient be examined for respiration, pulse, or movement? How about if he insisted that any allegation of wrongdoing be adjudicated confidentially by a clubby panel of parricides?
I want to flag the comments below, from ABA Section of Legal Education managing directors Barry Currier and William Adams, as exemplifying law school scam chutzpah. These comments pertain to the preliminary results of the first annual ABA audit of law school employment survey data. The ABA found that five out of the ten schools selected for a random audit failed to comply with the standard set forth in the ABA protocol that at least 95% of a school's employment files be “complete, accurate, and not misleading.” Moreover, two schools created documents only after being informed that they would be audited or asked to submit files.
Bad news, one would think, or at least troubling news, given law schools’ dismal recent history of circulating inflated and highly deceptive job placement numbers so as to bolster student recruitment efforts. But, no, Currier and Adams both hail these results as “good news”:
- “The issues identified tend to be small things like which boxes to check on forms or where to store information. . .If the underlying information turns out to have been accurate, which is what we are finding, that’s good news. . . Then, getting them to do the paperwork in exactly the right way is our major concern.” (Barry A. Currier, ABA Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education, quoted in Inside Higher Ed, Nov 1, 2016)
- “The good news is that the overwhelming majority of schools subjected to the data review have both accurately reported employment results and provided credible documentary support of what they have reported. Of the schools identified for follow-up discussions, most have issues relating to documentation questions. It is not yet evident that any of these schools has misreported data. . . The two schools that appear to have created their documentation after the fact raise more serious problems, but they may also be able to explain that what we perceive is not accurate.” (Bill Adams, Deputy Managing Director, Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, memo to Council, Aug. 5, 2016)
- There are no plans for releasing the names of law schools flagged for issues. There are also no plans for expanding the audit pool for the random school review, which found issues at half of the schools scrutinized. Currier had no projected date for finishing the audits. “We feel like we’re actually reasonably far ahead of the curve of what other accrediting agencies are doing.” (Barry A. Currier, quoted and summarized at Inside Higher Ed, Nov 1, 2016)
Why do these comments constitute chutzpah rather then mere institutional public relations? The answer lies in the details of the ABA Protocol for Reviewing Law Graduate Employment Data and, perhaps, in the backgrounds of the quoted ABA worthies.
Consider that stage 1 of a random employment audit consists “solely” of a review of all Graduate Employment Files for completeness. A Stage 2 or Stage 3 audit, which involve independent verification or confirmation of some of the reported data only takes place at the discretion of a three-member ABA committee that includes Adams, and a Stage 1 audit is all that has taken place so far. Moreover, an employment file is “presumed” to be “complete, accurate, and not misleading absent credible evidence to the contrary.”
Therefore, the “good news” that the ABA did not identify any “evident” problem with the underlying accuracy of data is due to the fact that so far, and in accordance with the protocol, no effort has been made to independently verify or confirm the presumed-to-be-true underlying data. You know, you tend not to identify instances of possible misconduct when you do not look for them and presume that they do not exist. (This is putting aside the fact that the ABA’s weak review did stumble upon prima facie evidence that two schools fabricated documentation, which Currier did not deem sufficiently significant to acknowledge as grounds for concern in his good news pronouncement).
In fact, given the absence of verification and the presumption of accuracy, I wonder how blatant the scamming must be for an ABA audit at first stage to even theoretically uncover misleading data. Maybe ABA alarm bells would go off if some fourth tier pit reported that 4.9% of its recent grads were employed as Associate Justices on the US Supreme Court. But wait, I do not think that that alone would suffice given that the protocol specifies that a school is not out of compliance unless “more than five percent (5%) of the Files” are found to be “incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading.”
It may be unkind to mention, but Currier and Adams came to their current high-level ABA managerial jobs after holding deanships or professorships at some truly awful law schools. Currier was Dean of the privately-owned and non-ABA accredited Concord Law School (2004-2010) and before that of fourth-tier Samford (1996-2000). Oh, and in between his deanships, Currier held an ABA post as "Deputy Consultant on Legal Education" (2000-2004). Adams was Dean of privately-owned fourth-tier Western State (2009-2014), and was a long-time Professor at fourth-tier Nova Southeastern (1989-2009). Currier and Adams’s respective backgrounds raise the question of whether they harbor a certain unconscious bias in favor of marginal law schools.
Most shockingly of all, an OTLSS audit has discovered that both Currier and Adams have the words “Regulatory Captured” and “Revolving Door Access” tattooed in money-green lettering across their buttocks.
Okay, that I simply invented, but do not call it incorrect for that reason. While I have no data to authenticate the existence of the tattoos, I do have a self-created protocol that presumes that my unverified and self-serving assertions are accurate and not misleading.