Monday, April 24, 2017

The Writing was on the Wall at Whittier

Given the conflagration that has occurred now that Whittier has voted to close its law school, I'm reminded of earlier discussions in late 2015 where a defense was proffered for the existence of the school.  Given the lofty-pedestal that selfless, sacrificing non-profit schools have occupied, it was especially telling to read the recent TRO that was filed in defense of the law school, whose arguments for non-closure were all about how profitable the law school was to the parent university, and how much money had been made in the selling of land the law school stood upon.  
Frankly, I'm not posting here to get into that (although Professor Frakt did pointedly chime in), as we all had our opinions then and years prior, Whittier or no Whittier.  What I remember more are the following comments from (former) Law Professors:
Several years ago I had the misfortune of being a professor at a TTT/TTTT law school, and let me assure you that it was predatory.
To the point where I quit working there after only one year rather than continue to be associated with it and also reported its shenanigans to the ABA.
Which did nothing, of course. Which is a big part of the problem.
You are obviously bright and accomplished. Like you, I taught at a low-ranked law school. I made all the arguments you make. You have to make those arguments to convince yourself that you are not part of the problem. I understand. It was a wonderful, rewarding, flexible job, and I did not want to leave.
At the end of the day, however, most of your students, like most of mine, are worse off after graduating from your law school. You can deceive yourself by keeping in tough with the handful of graduates that, by luck, connections, or brilliance, land lucrative or fulfilling legal jobs, but if you are honest, most of your students will never get a reasonable return on their investment. The vast majority of your students at Whittier are not given opportunity by their JD, but rather are given a financial burden that will crush them.
Again, you are smart. You can poke holes in LST's work. Congratulations. You have a PHD and a JD from elite schools; you should be able to do that, even with work from much more sophisticated people. But you should be seeking the truth. And do you actually think that the vast majority of your students are better off after obtaining their law degree from your school? Have you surveyed your graduates? Have you kept in touch with the ones who failed the bar multiple times? Again, you have a wonderful job, but at some point you may realize that most low ranked law schools create more burdens than opportunities.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Whittier Law School Closing

Happy 4/20 day.

In arguably the first "real" casualty of the law school bubble's burst, the Whittier College Board of Trustees has voted to close Whittier Law School.
We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome.

Accordingly, on April 15, 2017 the Board voted not to enroll new 1L classes at the Law School beginning this fall.
The law school leadership is disappointed at their little game being over.
As is well known, the last few years have been extremely difficult for law schools across the country. Whittier Law School felt those challenges keenly and we took significant steps to address them. Sadly, our sponsoring institution opted to abandon the Law School rather than provide the time and resources needed to finish paving the path to ongoing viability and success. We believe this action was unwise, unwarranted, and unfounded.
Apt, as attending Whittier Law School itself has been an "unwise, unwarranted, and unfounded" decision for prospective law school applicants for some time.

According to Law School Transparency, Whittier's 2015 graduating class had an employment score of 19.1%, an underemployment score of 48.9%, and a bar passage rate of 38.1%.  The non-discounted cost of this train-wreck is $284,377.  In 2016, Whittier enrolled a class of 132 with 25-75 LSAT split of 144-149. 

I am not sure Whittier provided a valuable service when it was founded in 1966, but today it is a deadweight piece of foul shit that needed flushing.  Literally everyone in the legal profession - and the clients we represent and that intangible sense of "justice" we supposedly uphold - except Whittier Law School administrators benefits by its closure.

We can debate how many negative-value institutions should close, but few people with any real credibility would defend Whittier's existence.  So let us celebrate this particular domino falling and hope that it is not a one-off loss of faith by a rogue small college.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another View of the Economics of a Law Degree

OTLSS has been fairly consistent in its fundamental message over the last four years: law school is too expensive overall for what you get, the job market is not favorable and continues to not be favorable to graduates, and what program you get into is a primary consideration assuming you still want to take the plunge.

An unpopular message, of course, if you are involved in legal education.  Especially if you do not have a long history and a large endowment that allows one to be picky about who it lets in.  But the scambloggers don't know anything, of course, so best to dismiss them as whiny losers - which was the extent of the response from the Cartel to scamblogger criticism.  Sure it was couched in fancy terms and attempts to legitimize the argument with dubious economic data, but that was the end result.

People with no dog in the fight, however, would seem to say otherwise, which much more straight-forward data:

Per this chart, we seem to know this already.  Law degrees are one of the (inexplicably) most expensive graduate degrees on the market.  MBAs and STEM degrees are significantly less by contrast.  Heck, even certain Arts programs require actual studio space, to say nothing of science, engineering, and medical facilities required to teach their respective subjects.  Law, by contrast?  Pfft, open up a mall storefront and some WestLaw accounts and you're good.  Books and fax machines are expensive, but not THAT expensive.

Well, what about that stellar success that awaits 98.6% of law graduates, or whatever the Cartel advertises as a good job rate nowadays? 

Hmm.  Well, eleven years out, Law Grads still have a one-to-one ratio as regards their income and debt burdens.  Doctors are down to 0.90, which is to be expected given their initial high-cost/high-pay scenario.  MBAs and STEM folks are down into the high 0.70s.  MAs sadly seem to increase, which points to why many folks ran into the arms of the Law School Cartel in the first place.  Hey, with no other points of comparison, Law looks better than a career in the Arts...!
Lastly, preftige matters, full stop, as can been seen from this last chart:
It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sobering.  Graduates from non-elite law schools (if you even want to call the top 100 "elite" in the first place) start with TWICE the debt burden, on average, that their preftigeous conterparts, yet still only have the above-referenced 1.0 income to debt ratio eleven years out.  While you see some confirmation of this phenomenon in other fields as well, only in the medical profession does in not seem to matter where you went to school(?), at least as far as economics are concerned.
Again, one has to ask: why is law school so expensive?  Why is the data so starkly different than the "positive" trends that are so noticeable in other professions?  How can it possibly cost twice as much to educate a lawyer as opposed to, say, a scientist?  Yes, the law can be complex to the uninitiated, but over time one's knowledge base and skills improve as in any field of study.  The same it true with, say, organic chemistry, for example - people manage to make significant educational strides in fields of that nature as well, but apparently at half the price.
In any event, the article closes with the following:  So, if you are seeking an affordable graduate degree that will boost your earning power, what should you do?
Yes, indeedily-doodily, that is the question.  It would appear that the data speaks for itself.  Don't go to low-tier law schools on vague and ephemeral notions of "defending liberty," "pursuing justice," or "loving the law," that's for sure.  Also, don't go to law school at all, unless your social capital allows you entre into top programs with a lock on a job prior to starting. 
Unless you enjoy having debt equal to your earnings for decades or more, of course.  Sadly, this appears to be the case even in the best of scenarios.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cincinnati and the Limits of Law Dean Power

Often we direct our ire at law school deans, usually for egregious things documented in the public record.  But it's important to remember that at many schools, law deans are far from monarchs and serve at the daily will of a pleased administration, governing, board or faculty.  Particularly in the faculty context, cookies are not easily returned to the jar from when they were stolen.

Consider the last few weeks at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Dean Jennifer Bard.

On March 19, Cincinnati Business Courier ran this item:
A group of faculty at the University of Cincinnati College of Law is calling for the ouster of its new dean less than halfway into her five-year contract due to an apparent conflict of priorities.
[A] group of at least nine law professors discussed holding a vote of no confidence in Bard as early as Nov. 22, 2016. UC's College of Law has 36 faculty members and seven professors and deans emeriti.
Upon reading, one has to wonder what, exactly, Bard did to earn a vote of no confidence.  Thoughts of Larry Mitchell, Sujit Choudhry, and to some extent Lawrence Sager emerge.

Three days later, the Business Courier had a response from Dean Bard herself:
The University of Cincinnati's College of Law dean said calls for her ouster from a "small but vocal cabal" of faculty result from steps she has taken to tackle the college's deficit.
One suggestion was to integrate the UC law library into the existing university library system.
Bard said an audit of the law school identified a need for written pre-travel approval and the submission of travel receipts, which has caused discomfort for faculty.
Emphasis added.  The New York Times write-up also identifies increased teaching loads and trimming supplemental salaries to those with endowed chairs.

These ideas aren't radical cost-cutting measures. For over a decade the rest of the legal profession - if not the white collar world in general - has been tightening the reins on travel abuses.  That a public law school would require pre-approval and receipts for reimbursement should be the long-held, no-duh expectation and not a controversial suggestion from a radical dean.

Almost immediately, she was placed on administrative leave by an interim provost.

As with any workplace soap opera, there's likely additional facts to which the public is not privy, but consider the optics on this:
  • Cincinnati brings in a female law dean to fix the budget in an era of deficits and reduced revenue
  • Law dean proposes what appear to be entirely reasonable cost-cutting solutions
  • At least a quarter of the faculty revolts within two years of a five year deal and they unceremoniously put her on leave mid-semester
Not only is it bad for Cincinnati that the faculty has put its pouting foot in the ground that no one's touching their luxury goodie bags, but consider the ramifications upon the bigger picture.

Many law schools still operate in a 2005 mentality that the applicants will come, tenure is sacred, academic conferences in Waikiki must be attended, etc.  You can't simply inflate revenue the way tuition is inflated.  Dean Bard isn't the first hatchet-wielder and she sure as heck will not be the last in this particular industry.

Seeing a provost dump the law dean at Cincinnati for proposing such measures, what law faculty would stay silent in the face of auditing and radical proposals? Does this not encourage a stronghold defense of such sacred perks?

Ultimately, law deans can only be as good - and can conversely be as evil - as the people who support them permit.  Here, we have a law dean who from public appearances, made an effort to curb costs at a mid-range public law school.  As a thank you, she has apparently been shown the door and will likely be replaced by an executive will be more deferential to the crucial needs of tenured faculty.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Notable Charlotte School of Law Success Story...

/ScamDean Hat On

It's been a difficult few years recently for the higher-calling of the Law School Mission Statement (tm).  Fewer students have been applying due to self-serving and pernicious lies propagated by disgruntled law graduates (with licenses) who clearly don't want to work very hard, to say nothing of certain LawProfs who have a penchant for biting the hands that feed them.  LSATs and bar passage rates have been declining while costs have increased, but that is not the fault of students - its the fault of unfair testing methods and always-rising prices.  What people don't need is criticism, but inspiring stories about how you too can be a Million-Dollar Graduate.  So here we go...

Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson was just 26 when she filed paperwork to run for office in 2013. Her age didn’t seem to deter voters as she won the election with 56 percent of the vote. She took the seat at age 27, making her the youngest and only female mayor in the town’s history.
Ha ha, suck it, you diversity-demonizing nay-sayers and scambloggers!  Talk about "JD Advantage!"  If you can believe it, you can achieve it!  With all the reams and reams of Negative-Nellie talk about "experience" and "connections" and "financial backing" and what-not, it's refreshing to see someone with some moxie get out there and make it happen despite what the critics say!  See what a Charlotte SOL degree can do for you, right?  Let's read some more... 
After interning with former First Lady Laura Bush, working on Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012 and graduating with a degree in law from the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina, Wilson longed for the red rocks of Southern Utah.
"Cedar City is my home," Wilson said. "As soon as I finished law school, I knew I wanted to move back to Utah and be involved in some way."

Well, OK, not EVERYONE can do an internship with a First Lady or work on high-profile political campaigns, but that's missing the point.  Rather than scoffing at "connections," let's focus on what was really the heart of the issue - going back home to make a difference, with a JD in tow.  So, stop being jerks, you scambl...

Times are certainly different from those of Wilson’s grandfather, Loren Whetten, who also served as mayor in Cedar City from 1966-1973...[d]espite their success, Wilson [and others] are part of the select few Utah millennials who have found a place in politics.

Oh, OK, NOW you're going to start complaining.  So, it's not basking in the glow of Charlotte SOL, its the "nepotism," right, cynics?  Yeah, I see how you guys are.  So, are you trying to say that lots and lots of recent law graduates are not mayors of small-town America, running things better than their forebears?  How dare you tarnish someone else's achievements.  Maybe YOU should go run for office, Mr. Harvard-Yale-Stanford, and see how far YOU get, huh?  Or maybe you should have gone to Charlotte, instead...!
In any event, it's not what you start with, its what you do with it.  Instead of being mayor, maybe you would have to settle for, oh, I don't know, an AUSDA position, or director of a non-profit, or maybe just a humble solo practice if BigLaw doesn't quite do the trick.  Don't let the nay-sayers hold you back.  Just as in this example, thousands and thousands of grads can go on to do amazing things with their (Charlotte) JDs.
/ScamDean Hat Off
Or so they say.
No disrespect to Ms. Wilson, and we all certainly hope that she is doing well and making a difference.  We hold up Ms. Wilson, however, to say that there is always "more to the story" when considering one's future legal education and the "advantages" that certain JDs can potentially confer.  Oftentimes, it matters more what you bring with you prior to starting, than what you obtain while you are there - and the Law School Cartel will quietly brush this fact under the rug as if it doesn't matter.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ditching the LSAT and Slurping the Froth

This evening, on the day before the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar meets (at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, where great decision-making meets the Pacific Ocean!) and considers, among other items, permitting alternative entry examinations, Harvard Law has announced it will accept the GRE in addition to the LSAT.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” Dean Martha Minow said in a statement. “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable.

“...[G]iven the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
This superficially seems like an admirable goal: make it easier for elite students to apply to law school.  That's particularly true for a school like Harvard that would likely be taking top 10% GRE scores who could, if they sat for the test, surely score a 165+ on the LSAT fairly easily.

Of course, Harvard is but one of over two hundred law schools, and it's the exception, albeit one that absurdly sets trends. 

Absent controlled studies of how a particular GRE score correlates to a particular LSAT score, this move simply gives applicants two bites at the apple, and schools yet another number to manipulate in their favor in compilation form.  This is particularly troubling in an age when the declining applicant pool has led to declining LSAT numbers and often correlates with declining bar passage rates three years later.

How do GRE scores correlate with bar passage rates?  Anyone have anything close to an educated guess?  Sounds like once the rest of the schools follow Arizona and Harvard's lead, they've got at least a five year window before there's enough data to show anything worth reporting.

There are other obvious problems with Harvard's reasoning, such as:
  • Nothing stops those students from taking the LSAT;
  • Nothing stopped law schools from accepting the GRE years ago;
  • Nothing stops the LSAT from being as accessible as the GRE;
  • If you're legitimately worried about your students' ability to drop the two hundred bucks for the LSAT, set up a voucher/scholarship program...and if that's a concern, maybe it's a good time to ask whether students in such financial straits are really good options to incur hundreds of thousands in student loan debt.
But to me the biggest problem is that it exposes the fallacy of a stupid argument law schools have been making, at least prior to this newfound skepticism of the LSAT that just so happens to correspond with declining LSAT scores.

Do you remember, like 2011ish, when we got arguments like this one?
Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where applications this year declined more than 11%, said it was a good thing prospective students now were more “clear eyed” about the risks and rewards of a law degree.
“The froth in the applicant pool—those who were just going to law school because they didn’t know what else to do and everyone told them it was a safe bet—is pretty well gone,” he said.
 And here's Sheli Soto, Arizona State, spring of 2012:
"I do think one of the key results in that national discussion is that students who are looking at graduate school and law are being much more serious and deliberate (about) whether or not they want to apply to law school."
And here's Jerry Organ making a corollary argument just a year and a half ago:
[W]ith the decline in the number of applicants to law school, one might surmise that those choosing to go to law school really are serious about their investment in a legal education and may be working harder to be successful in law school...
Yup, better quality applicant pool - at least in terms of focus and commitment.  There's never really been any empirical evidence for it (how would prove seriousness?), but it's an argument we've heard repeatedly post-decline: that an advantage of a smaller applicant pool is that the students no longer applying were the least interested in eventually being lawyers.

Doesn't this shift away from the LSAT completely demolish this stupid argument, at least as to the benefits claimed by law school apologists?

If there's one thing a serious law school applicant will do, it's prepare-for and take the LSAT.  Arguably the LSAT - which is not without its problems - serves as a rudimentary gatekeeper for "seriousness."  Those not willing to plunk $160 and sit a few hours on a Saturday morning?  Not serious about law school.

If law schools had any interest in an applicant's level of determination, seriousness, personal investment, whatever, there would be no discussion whatsoever of dropping the LSAT or seeking alternatives. 

In reality, law schools generally don't know an applicant's "seriousness" and they really don't give a shit.

By allowing the GRE, law schools like Arizona, Harvard, and soon to be many others, are opening their gluttonous mouths wide for the same "froth" they pretended was a bane to the pre-decline law school world.

That froth - assuming the law schools ever had the palette to discovery it - only tasted remotely sour before this whole thing with declining LSATs and bar passage rates.  Now that froth is the sweet and savory deliciousness of knowledge diversity and access for those of all backgrounds.

So go ahead, law schools, and admit applicants on the LSAT, GRE, spelling bee, or on sending twenty cereal boxtops to a PO Box in Pooville. 

Just never tell us again about how the applications are more "serious" or "focused" when they can't even be bothered to take the standard admissions test.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

According to Some LawProfs, Politically-Motivated Ethics Complaints are Misguided

Even LawProfs Can Have the Occasional Character Flaw...

The Scamblogs have been accused more than once of being "unethical" as regards their position that Law School is, well, a scam for many, many, many, many well-intentioned people.  This has certainly raised the ire of some, as, frankly, who likes being called out on their own, ah, ahem, "deplorable" behavior?  Thank goodness that some LawProfs like Stephen Lubet, who actually study ethics, are willing to confront his fellow LawProfs: 

As a liberal Democrat, I have no sympathy for Conway’s habitual disregard for truth. As a professor of legal ethics, however, I think this [ethics] complaint is dangerously misguided and has the potential to set a terrible precedent...[f]irst, the complaint keys in on two specific statements, neither of which had any connection to Conway’s law might be different if she had been acting in an official capacity, which could be construed broadly as related to the practice of law, but she is a political adviser to Trump with no governmental responsibility. Political debate is protected by the First Amendment, even when it strays into questionable territory, and it should not be the job of the bar authorities to police the exaggerations and misstatements of politicians just because they happen to be lawyers.

While I hardly want to draw a comparison between the scamblogs and Kellyanne Conway, or frankly just about any politician of any stripe, Lubet cuts through the tangle to the heart of the issue.  Nor would I consider the means and methods scamblogs employ as "exaggerations and misstatements" - we may use humor, or sarcasm, or stinging rebukes, but we are not in the business of hucksterism.  We do get accused of bending the truth, which is rather funny considering all the truth-bending engaged in by the academy - but I digress.

But the worst outcome would occur if the professors’ complaint were actually to succeed. Imposing discipline on Conway—even the mildest slap on the wrist—would inevitably lead to a slew of new complaints against attorneys involved in public debate. Lawyer-candidates in the 2016 election cycle included Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and Martin O’Malley, with many others in Senate and House races...[e]ach of these candidates presumably could have been subject to a bar complaint by a disgruntled adversary...[e]very statement by a candidate or spokesperson [would then be] potential fodder for a politically motivated disciplinary complaint.

Luckily, the politically-motivated ethics complaint against one of our own was dismissed for more-or-less the same analysis.  And we are not politicians at the national stage, though we hope our message has some degree of national effect.  It is indeed unfortunate that many within the academy apparently don't have the discipline to refrain from such tactics those criticized by Lubet.  Moving on:     

The professors recognize that bar complaints about public speech can "lead to mischief and worse" but argue that Conway, as counselor to the president, has a "higher obligation" than other lawyers to avoid dishonest statements. I think this gets it exactly backward. Speech is most strongly protected when it is part of a robust political debate...Justice Louis Brandeis once said that the remedy for bad speech is more speech. Likewise, the best remedy for alternative facts should be real facts.

Wouldn't it be interesting if scambloggers lodged ethics complaints against ScamDeans and LawProfs for concealing material information, issuing misleading statements, and the like?  Wouldn't that raise it's own kind of pearl-clutching condemnation of "mischief and worse"?  Apparently it's ethics for thee, but not for me, when it comes to some members of the academy.  And if one thing has been clearly demonstrated by the scamblogs over the years, Law Schools in particular are tremendous fans of their own pet "alternative facts," especially where employment outcomes and job projections are concerned.  Thank goodness that the right of free-speech is being upheld by the academy, even when some facts are not to their liking, because vigorous debate is a cornerstone of our democracy, or something.  I mean, who would want to engage in speech-chilling behavior, just to protect their own egos, amirite?

Yes, indeed.  Onward into 2017, friends!  Your comments and support are part of what brings the truth to light, and we appreciate your involvement.  Here's hoping more and more continue to listen in the months and years ahead.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What's Next For the Scamblog Movement?

Indiana Tech has closed and the Charlotte School of Law is in its death throes. Over the next 10 years, it is reasonable to expect other schools to shut down. The main causes for shutdowns will be bad student outcomes leading to low enrollment or poor financial performance. When this movement started, the law school industrial complex felt invincible and acted with undeserved arrogance; the schools are now on the ropes. What's next for the scamblog movement? What further impact can we make? Are there other structural changes that now deserve our focus?

My personal checklist of things that still need to happen:

The power of the law schools to police themselves is taken away
The ABA is a puppet organization that rubber stamps and answers to the whims of its law school constituency. Since the ABA's founding in 1878, it has done little to help law students. In its early days, the ABA helped eliminate apprenticeship style programss in favor of the current method used to teach law. More recently, the ABA accredited or provisionally accredited schools like Indiana Tech and the Charlotte School of Law. These schools were woefully unprepared to offers results in line with the tuition they charged. The ABA did nothing. Instead, we had to wait until the Indiana Tech Board of Trustees and the Department of Education stepped in to stop the bleeding. The ABA was the body that should have policed the debacles at these schools. Instead, they stood by while students had their money stolen by these subpar institutions. They have no right to continue in a role as a steward for legal education.

Student loans need to be tied to job-related benchmarks
Most people go to law school to get a job. Period. Administrators and professors who claim that students go to law school to learn how to think are out of touch with reality. They should be ignored. The way we can corral costs for law school is to hit them where it hurts: the pocketbook. If law schools continue to provide a useless education to students, then they shouldn't be compensated for it. Instead of allowing places like the Charlotte School of Law to charge $60k to each of their students without any consequences, claw back $50k of that money if enough of their students don't get a job that requires a law degree. Law school administrators will say that would be unfair because people with law degrees have so may different career options. To that I say: BS. Very few people go to law school to become a contracts administrator. They want to become attorneys. If your law school fails to help students become attorneys, then the school and its faculty are abject failures. That is not something to be rewarded. I would prefer that educational debt be dischargeable in bankruptcy, but that may send us down a slippery slope that many people in higher education will fight to the death.

Institute an apprenticeship or trade school model as an option for students
The current model of law school is broken. Do you really think that someone going to Charlotte School of Law will ever find themselves in a negotiation hinging upon an international treaty or some arcane area of law? No. They will likely be handling criminal defense, family law, or traffic; these are areas of law that affect normal people. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a career in these areas of law. But the crippling debt placed on these students preclude them from helping normal people. Getting paid $100 to fix a traffic ticket won't make much of a dent in the average $194,000 cost of attendance. Giving students who don't want to get into Biglaw or elite practice another route is essential. Students should have the option to read the law once again. If they do read the law, then the testing for such students should also be different. Don't make them sit through a two day bar exam, covering areas of law they may not have studied or want to study. Instead, allow them to take a more practical exam, akin to a supersized version of the MPT. The thing that may cause objection is that contributes to the bifurcation of society into haves and have nots. That's a structural problem that goes much deeper than law school; we just need to help students who want to practice law and help others.

We haven't won yet. Not until the cost of law school tuition approaches rationality and we don't have large numbers of law grads roaming the streets unable to work in the field they trained in. For me, this wasn't about sticking it to the law schools (OK, maybe a little bit). My personal goal was more focused on curbing the avarice of the law schools at the expense of their students.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Applicants Down 1.5% or Up 20.5%, Depending on How You Do the Math

Now that we are roughly ten weeks into the 2017 applicant cycle, I thought it was time to discuss the latest round of numbers from LSAC.  Looking through the analysis, though, it is not good news, so far as supporters of the scamblog movement are concerned.

LSAC started this cycle reporting a five percent decline in applicants over 2016, which has slowly been shrinking to the -1.5% mark.  So far, not so controversial - as time goes by and more and more applicants surface, the delta tends to improve rather than get worse.  However, if you take the LSAC data and plot it on a chart that is actually legible for once, you start to notice something odd: applicants appear to be tracking the 2014 data, which is significantly more than 2016.

Which leads to the obvious question: how can LSAC be showing declining numbers, when the plots show an improvement over 2016?  That's when apples-to-apples comparisons become critical.  Long story short, I believe I discovered the issue: LSAC appears to be going off pure spreadsheet numbers, but not paying close attention to which data they are comparing to what.  The summary is below:

When dealing with LSAC, is it difficult to line up their "start dates" as they tend to fluctuate a bit from year to year.  For example, I have to take LSAC's word that after week "1", applicants were down 5%.  However, when comparing weeks "2" and "3" with the same period last year, you will see that we are off to a good start on agreement: -4.7% and -4.2% respectively. 

However, starting with week "6", things start to diverge.  Apparently instead of comparing 2016's "Week 6" to 2017's "Week 6", LSAC did the math on 2016's "Week 6" and 2017's "Week 5."  While that comparison does yield -3.7% (per LSAC) in applicants year-over-year, the reality is that actual Week-6-to-6 (in red) shows in increase of 8.04%.

Similarly, there is a variance in Weeks 7, 8, and 10.  Each time, one can calculate and arrive at LSAC's % Difference calculation, but each time it appears to be wrong.  They are just going down the spreadsheet, and not comparing apples-to-apples.  Comparing Week 7-to-Week 7, (Green), Week 8-to-Week 8 (Orange) and Week 10-to-Week 10 (red), the actual percentages are actually up over 2016. 

When looking at the graphical data, one can see this as well.  Looking at Week 10, Applicant Data shows that that 2017 is much higher that the same time in 2016.  We appear to be back at 2014 levels.

Is it possible that the OTLSS analysis is off by one week, i.e. that the 2017 curve needs to be shifted to the left one week?  It's possible, as again LSAC is not clear from their charting about when they start - but even then the 2017 curve would still appear to trend higher than 2016, perhaps even by a larger percentage.  As LSAC does not report every week but instead skips some weeks randomly from year to year, this only adds to the potential confusion.

Unfortunately, even allowing for some fluctuation it would appear that students are somewhat changing their minds and ignoring the warnings about law school.   With Indiana Tech and Charlotte and others in the news, with their blatant, craven treatment of students as nothing more than loan conduits, it boggles the mind that students would be considering law school in greater numbers, even at more highly ranked schools.  Maybe they feel they have no other options.  Maybe they think they can beat the odds.  Maybe they are independently wealthy and a $175k price tag for a law degree means nothing to them.  Who knows.

All the more reason for the scamblog community to stand firm.  While a potential increase in the student crop this year is music to the ears of ScamDeans and LawPrawfs, we also know that it is a disastrous outcome for many once the student has been through the Law School Gristmill.  While not everyone will heed our warnings, some do and that is the best result anyone can hope for. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winding up a law school: the case of Indiana Tech

Indiana Tech's law school will shut down after this semester, and Charlotte's cannot be long for this world. What will happen to their assets?

Soon after last autumn's announcement of Indiana Tech's impending closure, Eric Welch of Muncie, Indiana, demanded that that glorious Harvard on the Wabash (as I called it in a previous article) return the $20k that he had put up to endow a scholarship:

Unlike me, Welch is "very disappointed" by the shuttering of Indiana Tech. He established the scholarship in order "to help a law student with a well-rounded body of work, extracurricular activities and classroom studies". Generous though his donation indubitably was, it would not have helped a law student very much: a base of $20k invested at 5% would have supported a scholarship of only $1k per year, nothing like the $30k that Indiana Tech originally charged (but admittedly more than the $0 that Indiana Tech charged in its penultimate year). And I'm not convinced that a single deserving student could be found at Indiana Tech. Hell, only one member of the first year's graduating class passed the bar exam (and another got in on appeal).

Nonetheless, Welch endowed a scholarship in perpetuity, and he certainly didn't expect Indiana Tech to shut up shop in less than four years. His purpose has been thwarted by the very recipient of his largesse. Why shouldn't he get his money back?

Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams LLP of Fort Wayne apparently donated $25k for a scholarship. Rather than seeking a refund, it plans to let Indiana Tech put the money towards some other program. But Welch doesn't want his money to support the bachelor's program in recreation therapy or the infamous PhD in global leadership (for which Fort Wayne is an internationally recognized center of excellence). And why should he? The university may have a legal claim to those funds but not a moral claim. It should give the money back to Welch or at least transfer it to a law school of his choice.

But the contention at Indiana Tech goes well beyond scholarships. Washington-based lawyer Christopher Mackaronis represents thirteen students and two faculty members of soon-to-be-defunct Indiana Tech. He is "looking into misrepresentation and fraud", as Indiana Tech allegedly duped students and staff alike into moving to Fort Wayne (not exactly the Côte d'Azur) and forgoing other opportunities.

And what about the art collection that Indiana Tech touted even before it opened? Is the university simply going to absorb that collection? Has the artwork already been sold off to make up part of the law skule's eight-figure losses?

These concerns apply in spades to the Charlotte School of Law. Although Harlotte doesn't have a parent university that can absorb its assets, it is owned by the notorious InfiLaw chain of scam schools. Does InfiLaw have the right to absorb any endowments that donors may have set up for scholarships at Harlotte? Would it be appropriate, morally or legally, to move those funds from Harlotte to Horrida Coastal or Arizona Scum Pit?

Two law schools are on their death bed, and others are likely to follow. We shall see what happens to their estates, so to speak. For now, anyone wishing to endow a scholarship should consider using an independent foundation rather than putting the law school in control of the funds.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Setting standards for the LSAT

A few years ago, when I was in law school, I tutored people on the LSAT. I told them that a 150 would get admission only to a lousy school and that a 140 would almost certainly be rejected everywhere.

Today, by contrast, a 150 will earn a large discount (deceptively called a "scholarship" in scamsters' jargon) from any of several dozen toilets. Forty-nine ABA-accredited law schools—almost one in four—have median LSAT scores of 150 or lower (often much lower). (I have omitted the three law schools in Puerto Rico for linguistic reasons: the low scores there probably reflect the fact that most students had to take the test in a non-native language.) And even a 140 is good enough for admission at many a toilet. At Appalachian and Arizona Summit, the LSAT score at the 25th percentile is 140; at Cooley, it is 138. I hesitate to estimate the floor for admission nowadays: the Univershitty of Texas, regarded as a "first-tier" institution by the standards of You Ass News (but as a fourth-tier institution by my outcome-based standards), has been known to admit people with scores in the upper 120s.

The limp-wristed ABA requires that applicants take the LSAT but doesn't set a minimum score. Unsurprisingly, law schools take full advantage of the hollow requirement by admitting applicants with scores that would make a garbage collector blanch. To understand just how frightfully bad the students at many toilets are, we need to examine the percentiles that correspond to the various LSAT scores. One convenient table is found here:

Although the table is six years old, its percentiles are close to those of today. Here is an extract:

150: 44.3%
145: 26.1%
140: 13.4%
135: 5.6%

Thus a person scoring 150 outperforms only 44% of the people taking the test in the same administration. Remember that nearly a quarter of the accredited law schools have a median LSAT score of 150 or lower. That means that a quarter or more of the law schools drew most of their students from the bottom half of all people who took the LSAT.

Does that seem appropriate? Is the pool of people who sign up for the LSAT really so strong and distinguished that the great majority should be presumptively admissible, even at law schools far from the bottom?

Consider Cooley's data. At the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of its latest entering class, the LSAT scores were, respectively, 138, 141, and 147. Converted to percentiles according to the table cited above, those scores correspond to 9.6, 15.2, and 33.0. In other words, at least a quarter of the students in Cooley's latest entering class fall in the bottom 10% of all test takers.

How can that be right? Does the bottom 10% of registrants spill over ipso facto with so much lawyerly potential that Cooley, by far the largest law school in the US, can appropriately draw upon it for a quarter or more of its class?

Is there any score on the LSAT that even hints at inadmissibility? Apparently not in the view of the ABA and the scam schools that it enables and defends. The very act of registering for the LSAT must mark a person with such godlike excellence that the score fades into anticlimax.

Well, maybe money-grubbing scamsters like Frank Wu feel that "law school is for everyone", but I don't. Not every Tom, Dick, and Harry is cut out for the legal profession. We lawyers should insist on high standards, not no standards. If (as I believe) the LSAT should be required of everyone, surely there must be some reasonable limit below which a candidate is at least presumptively inadmissible. I'd set the floor at the 80th percentile, which corresponds to a score of 160; but even the 70th percentile (157) or the 60th (154) would be a vast improvement—and would drive dozens of toilet schools out of business immediately. Perhaps each school should be allowed to admit a small percentage of students with lower LSAT scores, just to accommodate the common but unproven claims of brilliant applicants who Don't Do Well on Standardized Tests. But there should be some limit—and a damn sight higher than 120 (the lowest possible score).

I propose a slight reform that is triflingly easy to implement: get rid of the 120–180 scale and report the percentiles instead. Force Cooley to tell the world plainly that at least a quarter of its class scored in the bottom 10% on the LSAT. Make several so-called "first-tier" law schools admit to dipping well below the 60th percentile. Let prospective toileteers see just how horribly low their scores are. Straightforward percentiles in place of arbitrary scaled scores can cast much-needed light on shady admissions practices.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2,000,000 Page Views

Back around October 2014, this blog reached 1,000,000 page views.  Just a little over two years later, we have recently surpassed the 2,000,000 mark, and I thought a short review was in order.

First of all, it is gratifying to see that a sea-change finally took place within the movement.  The first two to three years of OTLSS was regularly peppered with mockery, derision, and disbelief concerning the idea that law school could even remotely be a "scam."  Deans, Prawfs, and some other vocal critics would regularly pontificate about how great a law degree was, how the employment data was "fine," how the debt was "managable," and how scambloggers were uncouth know-nothings who just didn't want to work very hard.

Turning to today, I don't see much of that anymore.  With Indiana Tech closing down and schools like Charlotte teetering on the brink, all of a sudden the scambloggers don't sound so misguided.  Law jobs keep not coming.  LSAT and Bar Passage rates continue to drop.  Hard-hitting articles in major news sources, naming law schools by name, are more and more prevalent.  Significant amounts of staff and faculty have been let go.  The ABA and DoE are being shamed into finally doing their actual jobs and following their own standards.  Student Loan default rates and employment statistics have been shown to be doctored.  The Cartel is on the defensive, instead of basking effortlessly in the unearned, unspoken and unquestioned presumption of quality and preftige.  OTLSS and many, many others deserve a pat on the back for not backing down and proclaiming the truth.

That said, there are still miles to go.  Many schools are engaging in whatever tactics they can to garner students, get bail-out funds by slapping names on buildings, firing employees, and anything else to keep the doors open.  Shockingly, there are a handful of schools who are still trying to get opened and accredited in the first instance, as if there was some strange economic sign that law schools were lucrative again and legal careers plentiful at this point outside of the T14 or so (if that).  Many still want to blame the bar exam or State-level Boards of Bar Examiners for failing statistics, not their own admission policies.  The Courts are still loathe to afford the same standards and findings for law students that they are willing to afford to other students who have been scammed by educational institutions.  Yet more and more students are pumped out into a market that cannot absorb them by half.  

As we go forward, patience is key.  People are paying attention and getting the message.  Applicants are down again this particular cycle, and the "new normal" appears to be settling in.  Just an in protracted civil litigation, sometimes the process has to take its own course for an extended period of time before the parties are willing to settle, or before the court finally issues a ruling.  Reality is slowly being accepted, and we can celebrate that fact regardless of what particular source or sources are driving it at any given time. 

Perhaps one day, going to law school will actually be a smart move again for a significant number of people.  Up to and until that time, friends, let's continue to stick to our guns and proudly proclaim our message - it matters to people, whether or not they realize it and whether or not we get a "thank you".  (Although, once in a while, it happens!)  Ultimately, this market correction is fundamentally no different than any other, and it is long overdue.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Technical Programming Error

It's time to take a short break from failing law schools, as this will be going on for some time, and instead take a look at failing federal agencies.  Namely, the Department of Education:

Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.

When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.

Well, hey, anybody can make a mistake, amirite?  At least it wasn't 100%, so that counts for something!  I thought IBR and PAYE and all that alphabet-soup was solving the student loan crisis so that liberty and justice could abound, among other things.  What, pray tell, is the culprit here? 

A spokeswoman for the Education Department said that the problem resulted from a technical programming error.

Those damn computers, lemmetellya.  Continuing on:

This isn’t the first time data problems have affected the Education Department. A recent government report criticized how the department tracks information including the budgetary implications of student loan forgiveness.  

“This is a quality control issue with a Department of Education that has been facing criticism already for other data issues,” Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.  The department “needs to be regularly audited so these issues can be discovered sooner.”

No college saw its repayment rate improve under the revision, and some schools saw their seven-year repayment rates fall by as much as 29 percentage points.

Wait, we have Education Professors at Seton Hall taking shots at the student loan gravy train, and demanding accountability and standards?  You may want to watch your back, Professor Kelchen, as the Law School next door may have a thing to say about that.    A law school, by the way, that puts approximately 25% of its class in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required jobs, at a $270k sticker price?  Physician, heal thyself!

Zerohedge, as usual, cuts through the chaff:

There is another interpretation: as we reported yesterday, when we revealed that a Chinese province admitted it had fabricated fiscal data for the period 2011-2014, the reason the data were made up "because officials wanted to advance their careers." One can imagine that the career pressure for those government workers who would report, and be held accountable, for revealing the true picture of America's disastrous student loan bubble, would be likewise staggering...the far more dire implications, however, are for broader student loan market, because if the latest unfabricated data suggesting that loan delinquencies are rapidly rising toward 50% across most of America's colleges, then the US is facing a default problem of staggering proportions. 

Ok, kids, non-trads, whoever:  go sign up for law school, and take out those massive student loans!  I'm sure IBR will be there, waiting for you.  No worries.  The Law School Cartel says so.  I have no doubt that they all have your best interests at heart.  I'm also sure the angry Senators and Representatives who feel mislead about ballooning higher education costs will get over it soon...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Charleston and Florida Coastal fail DOE's standards for "gainful employment"

[NOTE: Thanks to a poster for pointing out that I had written Charlotte instead of Charleston. I have edited this posting accordingly. Apologies for the error. ——OG]

The US Department of Education has identified more than 800 programs that fail its "gainful employment" rule by having a typical graduate's annual loan payment exceed 30% of discretionary income or 12% of total earnings:

Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects are various associate's degrees or "certificates" in fields to do with make-up, hairdressing, drawing, photography, and the performing arts. But the list also includes two professional degrees: the JD programs at the Charleston School of Law and the Florida Coastal School of Law ("Horrida Coastal").

Charleston has been in dire financial straits; its very survival is in doubt. Horrida Coastal, like the recently disgraced Charlotte School of Law ("Harlotte"), is owned by the notorious InfiLaw company, which also operates the equally dreadful Arizona Summit Law School ("Arizona Scum Pit").

Failure to meet the threshold for "gainful employment" can result in loss of eligibility for federally guaranteed student loans. That would sound the knell for institutions that depend on such funds—especially profit-seeking academies, such as Charleston and Horrida Coastal, most of whose students could not come up with many tens of thousands of dollars per year without a little help from Uncle Sugar. Already Harlotte has been kicked off the student-loan gravy train, for reasons that go well beyond a comparison of debt and earnings. Horrida Coastal may be the next to get the boot.

That would leave InfiLaw with only one scam school, Arizona Scum Pit. With the dubious distinction of being one of only five out of 200+ schools (excluding the ones in Puerto Rico) to post LSAT scores worse than those of the other InfiLaw toilets, Arizona Scum Pit may not lag far behind. See these data on Arizona Scum Pit from Law School Transparency (LST):

A quarter of the class of 2015 was "Non-Employed"—not working in any capacity—ten months after graduation. Almost a third of the graduates reporting employment were in "Business & Industry", which could mean anything from CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation (not bloody likely) to stock clerk at a grocery store. Arizona Scum Pit reports no data on salaries, but LST estimates that someone relying wholly on loans will owe a cool quarter of a million dollars at the time when payments begin. Almost a third of the class pays full price, and the great majority get small discounts at best.

If Arizona Scum Pit isn't already out of compliance with the standard for "gainful employment", it must be close to the line. Even typical debt of only $80k upon graduation would require a typical gross income of $58k—quite a lot for a toilet school with many unemployed graduates—in order to stay within the limit of 12% of total earnings.

InfiLaw, it would seem, derived its name from the Latin infimum, meaning 'the lowest'. Now it's sharing the ignominious company of fly-by-night beauty schools. With one school already ineligible for student loans, another threatened with ineligibility, and the third hanging by a thread, InfiLaw may soon be gone. Good fucking riddance.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Did disgraced Charlotte School of Law supply the missing causal link between misleading law school representations and reasonable reliance by students?

A few months ago, Chidi Ogene, President of Infilaw’s disgraced bottom-of-the-barrel Charlotte School of Law (CSL), tweeted in favor of public disclosure of body and dash cam footage from a local law enforcement lethal force incident. I agree with the substance of the tweet, but I am also kind of stunned by the hypocrisy of CSL's chief executive issuing a call for transparency.

Indeed, in its very zeal for non-transparency, CSL has unintentionally made a contribution to the scamblog cause of greater magnitude than even its own likely self-destruction. In appealing an ABA disclosure order, the school commissioned a market study that connected its own misleading statements regarding the quality of its educational product with reasonable reliance on the part of its intended audience of prospective and enrolled students.

A no-brainer, one might think, that a prudent but relatively unworldly young person fresh out of undergrad might be vulnerable to focused and carefully crafted deception by a sophisticated institutional scammer. However, almost all of the class action fraud lawsuits that were filed against law schools a few years back were summarily dismissed because courts ruled that the plaintiffs could not meet their burden of demonstrating the element of reasonable reliance. See e.g. MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 724 F.3d 654, 665 (6th Cir. 2013) (“We agree with the district court that this statistic [provided on Cooley’s website that the average starting salary of Cooley grads was $54,796] is objectively untrue [but]. . . [d]espite the statement's untruth, the graduates cannot demonstrate that their reliance on this statement was reasonable”).

CSL commissioned the study in mid-2016, on appeal from an order by the ABA to reveal on its website that it was noncompliant with general ABA admissions standards. CSL’s apparent purpose in commissioning the study was to persuade the ABA that disclosure would be overly burdensome.

Instead, what the CSL study ultimately accomplished was to provide the Department of Education (DOE) with proof positive that the school had made statements that were “substantially misleading” (an administrative standard that incorporates reasonable reliance, thus quite similar to fraud). In finding CSL ineligible to participate in federal student loan programs, the DOE cited to CSL's own study: 
"[T]he positioning of CSL’s description of its curriculum as “rigorous” directly beneath the discussion of compliance with the ABA standards. . . has the likelihood or tendency to leave students and prospective students with the false impression that CSL was compliant with that very requirement by the ABA.
* * *  
CSL’s assertion that knowledge of noncompliance would be material to student admissions and retention decisions was not conjecture. . . . CSL commissioned (and provided to the ABA) a market study that tested the impact of disclosure on CSL applicants. The study analyzed the views of individuals with LSAT scores above 142 who had applied to one or more of the InfiLaw schools. These individuals were asked to assess the impact on the likelihood of their respective enrollment at a particular law school if acceptance materials from that school included a statement that the school failed to meet accreditation standards dealing with admissions, educational programs, and bar passage. The study concluded that approximately 3 in 4 applicants (or 74%) stated that they would be “much less likely to enroll” after reading such a statement – establishing that reasonable students were highly likely to rely on the disclosure of information regarding the accreditation failures that CSL sought to keep from public view.”  (emphasis added). 
The CSL study calls into question the summary dismissal of the law school fraud lawsuits. If reasonable reliance exists as to a law school’s misleading representations regarding its compliance with general ABA admissions standards, why not as to its misleading representations regarding the seemingly more important matters of graduate job placement and salaries? 

Looking forward, we have recent and troubling evidence that law schools may still be routinely publishing substantially misleading graduate employment data on their websites. In 2016, 10 randomly-selected law schools were subjected to an ABA employment survey audit. Five of these schools, or fully 50% of the audited institutions, failed to meet the minimum standard set forth in the ABA’s audit protocol that no more than 5% of employment files can be incomplete, inaccurate or misleading. Furthermore, two schools appeared to have created supporting documentation after being asked to submit files, i.e. they provided manufactured data to the ABA. 

The ABA requires law schools to publish the employment survey results on their websites (See ABA Standard 509(b)). That same ABA Standard requires that all information published by a law school must be complete and accurate.

Shouldn’t the ABA require the five schools that failed to comply with the ABA’s minimum requirements for ensuring the accuracy of reported employment data to inform prospective students of their noncompliance? You know, instead of providing these violators with confidentiality, as ABA managing director Barry Currier shamefully has done? And whether the ABA takes action or not, shouldn’t the DOE investigate whether these five schools, in publishing alleged employment data without informing prospective students that their data failed to meet the national accreditor's mandatory minimum standards for completeness and accuracy, have engaged in substantial misrepresentation?