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.


  1. But these pigs are "public servants."

    1. You got a typo. You need to delete the "l".

    2. Imagining The Open ToadMay 5, 2017 at 12:00 PM

      Also, Nando, to go along with the correction by Anonymous, note that you spelled "lice" wrong.

  2. Let me get this straight - female law dean arrives, tries to right-size the organization by actually following a budget, LawPrawfs subsequently put her head on a pike.

    Such are the turbulent times we live in. I myself have heard rumors that LawPrawfs also enjoy such things as "pensions" and "health insurance," from the time of the Ancient Ones, though many believed all these went the way of 401(k)s and HMOs. Of course, the Forbidden Zone still remains just that, but many Gen-X and Millennial Scholars continue to brave taboos and unearth these strange and miraculous artifacts, despite the edicts of the Tribe...if only people will listen! The Cartel is not telling you the whole truth...!

  3. This selfishness and greed won't end until the student loan money is completely gone. These law professors are an absolute joke, teaching takes probably 4-6 hours a week and they only grade one exam at the end of the semester and still have four months vacation a year. All while making 200k plus benefits that would make anyone jealous. They are complete scum.

    1. With the exception of a few profs at my school from whom I actually learned something and learned to respect, legal academia is nothing more than a glorified circle jerk. Every now and then some prof will come up with some clever survey of tort law in Utah to justify his or her existence but the reality is what you have described.

    2. Scum, but desperate scum. They all know damned well that when the loan money is cut off a lot of them will be worthless to corporate employers and even more worthless to private law firms. They are smart enough to know that, the only remaining question is whether to save every possible penny so they can start some other kind of business when those of cards they now inhabit comes crashing down,

    3. And you forget that during that vacation, they get their extra summer research money. They usually teach 2/2 at the most, citing the need for the time to produce useless articles. They do not care that their students are racking up tremendous debt. 99% of them claim to be liberal and if a bank screws over someone on a mortgage it time to protest but if the law school creates an indentured, unemployed class of graduates, then hahaha.

    4. A survey of tort law in Utah is not considered scholarship; rather, it is denigrated as "practice". God forfend that anyone in a legal academy show the slightest regard for the practice of law.

      In legal hackademia, only useless pontification of zero significance to bar or bench counts as scholarship. The ideal piece of scholarshit bears a title akin to "Towards an Intersectional Synthesis of Critical Pluralist Narratives with Neo-Rawlsian Hip-Hop".

  4. Any organization, public or private, should require approval for travel (which could take the form of an expense account) and submission of receipts for reimbursement. That's simply a question of responsible accounting.

    Cincinnati allows its profe$$ors to teach only three classes per year—one in one semester and two in the other. Most law schools use the same feather-light schedule. Needless to say, profe$$ors feel put out when they are asked to do any work at all, so I'm not surprised to see a rebellion break out at Cincinnati.

  5. Mrs. Thatcher went down sort of the same way. But, she lasted 11 years.... no law school dean alive, male or female, is as tough as Maggie Thatcher was....

  6. The same thing happened at Albany Law School with former Dean Penelope Andrews. She assumed the position July 1, 2012 and stepped down on Oct. 14, 2014:

    If you will note, this was due to a "realignment" of the school's "strategic plan":

    Shortly thereafter, the school decided that cranking the wheel and opening the valve full-bore was the "better" (read: more profitable) way to go:

    The pipeline of Fed. Student Loan "oil" is all that matters to these people, nothing more, nothing less.

    Dean Andrews, similarly, tried "right-sizing" the school - and the faculty - which is what led to her eventual ouster.

    Law schools are run for the benefit of faculty. Jobs for students do not matter - at all. First, the massive oversupply eliminates the possibility of all graduates finding jobs in the legal sector, especially in a state like New York with 15 law schools. Second, the starting salaries haven't budged in years (bimodal distribution) and the vast majority of graduates who can find legal employment (less than half) remain at the low end while debt has ballooned every year at 3x-5x the pace of inflation, debt being the cost of tuition. Lastly, over time people are churned and burned out of the legal profession as they age and become more expensive to keep as employees and less productive in terms of age and wanting other things like, say, a family life outside of law, etc.

    Albany gladly axed Dean Andrews and looked for the Status Quo and new ways of expanding the pipeline vs. reforming. This little drama has played out before to almost the exact same beats.

    Interesting, isn't it?

  7. More on Albany:

    February 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Yeah, I cried when Charles Ponzi went to prison, too.

    These law school school professors have been utterly indifferent to the fact that the vast majority of their students have been ruined financially by going to law school - so much so that they were whining that the Dean of Albany Law School wasn't taking in people from the waiting list, even though the employment prospects of the waiting list people was near-zero (hint, the people on the waiting list are even worse prospects than the regular admits).

    As long as they got their bloated salaries, short work weeks, and summers off, They Did Not Care what happened to their students.

    Karma is a bitch.


    In the midst of the upheaval, the faculty were complaining about Albany not taking students off the waiting list, 30-35 or so I believe. Why? It all falls to the bottom line. That's all profit.

    *Lost* profit to the school, as Dean Andrews tried to right-size and straighten the ship.

    Bear in mind, they pay no taxes. ALS is a "non-profit".

    And finally, this gem from Above the Law:

    * Albany Law’s dean says don’t believe the horror stories you hear about law school, especially since “[t]his is a really good time to apply.” It’s worth noting that she wasn’t able to pay off her loans until she was a tenured law professor. [Albany Times Union]


    Keep in mind: She graduated in the mid-nineties, when the cost of tuition was much less. Today, this is the amount Albany is sending it's Lemmings out into the world with:



    And yes, you don't get to be tax-exempt. You'll have to pay taxes and COL as you go. You don't get special treatment. That was reserved for the financial Rapists, not you. C'est la vie.

    Bonne chance, mon ami!

  8. Totally off topic, but it emerged today that Erwin Chemerinsky -- the dean, Grand Poobah and (to all intents and purposes) raison d'etre of the preposterous UC Irvine Law School vanity project -- is one of the three finalists for the job of dean at Boalt Hall.

  9. Off-topic, but are you guys following the ABA vs. DOE lawsuit over the DOE reneging on PSLF certifications?

    DOE is - apparently - taking the position that affirmative PSLF certifications obtained (mostly by deeply in debt new attorneys) through FedLoanServicing pursuant to a DOE reg are only a tentative 'yes' contingent upon the debtor 'going to fuck himself/herself when DOE changes its mind after 10 years or 120 qualifying payments...or just go fuck yourselves'???

    Complaint filed Dec 2016 (link in article):

    Answer filed by DOE March 23 2017 (link in article):

    1. I gave this some more thought today.

      In my mind, this is the beginning of how the Fed. Gov't will pull the rug out from under PSLF. Why? Because now the've reneged on prior decisions and are starting to split hairs. The beginning of the End.

      The gov't made an initial determination which people relied upon and now they back out - 'cause they're the Fed. Gov't and they can do what they want..

      This is just hitting now as the first wave starts to apply to receive PSLF. There's no way, at least I don't see it, that the gov't is planning to honor this program.

      They work to kick people out of repayment plans, etc. on technicalities. I just don't see them letting this work. Yet, colleges and law schools hype the shit out of these programs to minimize the impact that 6-figure debt should have on rational minds. Anything to induce people to take the gamble because that's how the schools get *their* money and that is what matters.

      The economy isn't generating college-level jobs let alone law school level ones. Build a Time Machine and go back to 1955 if you want that.. When college and law degrees were scarce and mattered much more as a consequence.

      I don't see PSLF lasting at all once the gov't can renege and say an earlier determination is invalid. Once you do that, you can do most anything.



      And what idiot didn't see this coming. Never in a trillion years would I rely on the Government's word that it will forgive loans after a 10 year period. Too much can change, such as, you know, the Government. The consequences of having forgiveness pulled from you are enough to wreck your financial life forever. Principal balances will have ballooned astronomically under these plans. People who started off owing $175k might now owe $250k or more.

      The law students that believed the baby boomers who told them they could work for 10 years and then their $200k+ debt would just get wiped away free and clear are total idiots. PSLF was concocted without a full understanding of the amounts that would be eligible for forgiveness. The Boomers who dreamed it up probably thought students had $15k in student debt like they did when they graduated in 1978.

      Not one dollar has been forgiven under this plan. Lets not forget that. And know we have Donald Trump. PSLF is setting up to ruin a lot of peoples lives in a major way.

      Posted by: JM | Dec 21, 2016 12:30:28 PM



      You believed us?!??

      We fooled you again, kids!!

      The Boomers entire agenda is to keep the Gravy Train rolling. They know the System will break. They know that future generations are going to be screwed. They do not care.

      They only care about keeping the train going until they die and so they won't get hurt. What happens to future generations, they don't care about at all.

      That comment was pure gold.

    3. Agree 100%. The law schools and applicants seem to look at this as a binding contract, and it is nothing of the sort. Taking on 6 figure debt and depending on the government to forgive it if you work in the "right" job for 10 years is a major gamble.

      Already the Trump administration is starting to undo a lot of what Obama did. Did y'all see where the DOJ is trying to back out of consent decrees entered into with cities with particularly egregious police misconduct problems?

      Also agree that the people who thought up PSLF figured it would be limited to people with maybe 20K or 30K or so in loans. They never thought it would be the default program for borrowing $200K or more with no intention of ever paying it back.

    4. Indeed, the state has no contractual or even moral obligation to forgive those loans, even if it currently does so.

      The debt, on the other hand, is a contractual obligation—and a hard one, as it is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

      I would never hire a lawyer who during the past eight or nine years was stupid enough to borrow $150k or more in order to attend a Cooley (and bear in mind that about 190 of the 205 accredited law schools are Cooleys). A lawyer who would fuck up that badly could not be entrusted with the affairs of others.

    5. Any old guy who denies the dramatic difference between USC or Notre Dame, on the one hand, and Cooley on the other must be senile.

    6. USC isn't Cooley, but it also isn't Cornell, NYU, or Harvard. I put USC into the fourth tier (which includes more than 90% of the accredited law schools) because no one who isn't rich should attend it. Only about a third of the graduates get a job in Big Law or a federal clerkship—the sorts of jobs that might, if only they lasted, enable a graduate to pay off their very substantial debt.

    7. "Indeed, the state has no contractual or even moral obligation to forgive those loans, even if it currently does so."

      But the issue is that it had no contractual or moral obligation to make the loans in the first place. I have a serious problem with the taxpayers who didn't get scammed having to pick up the tab for the ones who did. The guilty parties are the people running the law schools.

      This is not rocket science. In the 1980s, when I went to law school, you could get through a private school for under $35K not counting lost earning potential. But back then you went to the bank for your student loans. Once the gubmint took over the loans law schools started giving their faculties raises and other universities, seeing the money to be made, opened forty or more new law schools in a market that was already glutted. Where is the fault of John Q. Taxpayer in all this? I'd say nowehere.

      And let's not start blaming Trump, who has been in office what? Three months? The whining cry of academia in the 1980s was that they had to raise tuition because of mythical Reagan-Bush cutbacks. They wanted the money, that's all.

      What people generally don't get is this. When the Arab Oil Embargo hit in 1973 colleges were basically scared shitless, thinking that when they raised tuition to cover increased fuel costs they were going to lose a lot of students, just as they had in the Great Depression. But guess what? They didn't lose students. That was the tipping point - - when they realized you could jack up tuition with impunity. At some point they'd have hit the wall but then the gubmint started writing the checks.

      So how long to we keep writing checks to support lawprofs and scamdeans who do no work and forgiving the debt. There should be no talk of debt forgiveness until the loan money has been cut offf.

    8. OP here,

      What did you all think about the merits of the ABA suit? THe 501(c)(6) issue aside, it's a huge deal with an executive branch agency tries to retroactively rescind its own regulation/ action taken pursuant to that regulation...and the plaintiffs are not represented by some no-name so cal plaintiffs' firm.

      However nasty the federal government gets in the near or even medium term relative to federal student loans...that's how hard the pendulum will swing back.

      Disagree with the Old Guy, the government has a moral obligation. It's lender behavior that blows up price and the government has a perfectly legal means to control price DIRECTLY (pun intended); it's called a price control. PS. No federal student loan EVER going back to 1978 was funded with 'taxpayer' money. Not FFELP and not Direct - which are funded with US sovereign bond debt...Millennials' US sovereign bond debt to pay plus or minus 15 trillion left us.

      Nota bene: the federal government could fix the issue of tuition price today with one sentence of legislation. You know, Pepperidge Farm remembers when Nixon froze every single wage and price in the entire county by executive order pursuant to an act of Congress by reason of inflation...and it's legal now for the government to dictate to schools what they can charge. Fuck the government.

      Thing is, it's barely even the Boomers' government now and it will not be their government at all in 10 years. You see, there's already 1 million more Millennials than Boomers and ten of millions more Millennials than GenX. We are the majority now and we will get catered to politically as a result. Like we won't be increasing taxes on ourselves when the SS trust fund is depleted in fewer than 10 years. Millennials have been used and abused economically by Boomers and sooner rather than later the tables completely turn...

  10. I would like to post about a totally unrelated subject but one that is really important to prospective law students. That is the real and lawful age discrimination that puts an expiration date on even the very top law degrees of the best students years before they will want to stop working as a lawyer.

    My experience in calling a recruiter today was that there were over 15 legal jobs in my practice area and city advertised on their website, but the headhunter told me they could not get a commission for placing me. Most of those jobs, all but a couple, required 6 or fewer years of experience. However even for the jobs that required more experience, the headhunter refused to tell me about the jobs.

    Now i am employed as a lawyer and have top degrees and top employers on my resume. The problem seems to be too much experience, or being too old, to put it more clearly. I really am old, but not too old to do the job very, very well.

    I think the early expiration of these top law degrees, and it is true from every law school, is a reason to walk in the other direction, away from most of the top law schools.

    You are in an economy of severe lawyer oversupply and not enough work to go around. You also have early retirement policies in many law firms and reviewing out of even the newest partners based on their not bringing in enough business. In house has very limited numbers of jobs, and they are often not stable jobs.

    The advertised jobs are not necessarily filed. One of the jobs I spoke to a few months ago was put on hold, and that has happened to me before. You are not even dealing with as many legal jobs as the ads suggest.

    Age discrimination, which is almost impossible to challenge successfully today. is a real factor in why the median lawyer income for employed lawyers and stated on a full time basis is lower than that of pharmacists.

    Most people should seriously consider whether they are okay with not being able to get a full-time, permanent legal job or a comparable job that lasts through their 50s and 60s. If they are not okay with this long-term unemployment or underemployment at older ages, people should seriously considering walking away from that top law school acceptance.

    1. It's a bit more insidious than that, but that's just one layer to get through.

      The reality is you have to be part of the PPC to have an actual career. That 6 years number is just one they threw out to disqualify you, and to keep you from understanding they already have a certain class of people in mind, who have the perfect trajectory and the right lineage, but they need to pretend the job is open and competitive so they just make up more and more strict requirements until they've weeded everyone else out.

      I have actually seen job openings pulled and then re-listed with even more specificity like "2 years of X experience, 1 year on Y platform, progression to Z". It's extremely obvious that they just listed off what their chosen candidate for the opening had, and in fact the opening only came about because someone was chosen.

      Nobody ever likes admitting their connections. Everyone swears up and down they did it themselves, but then their cousin or uncle or parents are somehow involved somewhere along the line, every single time.

      If you don't have these connections in place, it's just not going to happen for you. You'll have to get really lucky and over-perform, and even then, as you have done, and as you see, you can still get knocked off the ladder at any turn. Realistically you were never actually on the real ladder, you were just a placeholder. I mean no offense with my comment nor to personally attack you, I am in a similar boat, I simply wish to express reality, as too many interested voices want to silence it.

      The same way the law schools had been silencing the scam bloggers for a long time, until the truth had to come out. I think the next step is blowing the PPC wide open. There is no social upward movement in the West anymore, but even worse is it's not even possible to retain your class.

    2. This is so very, very true. And is almost always overlooked in the discussion of the law school scam.

      Law students invariably assume that they are lawyer material, that they will reasonably tolerate (or even enjoy) the course work, that they will repeat their undergrad stellar scholastic experience, that they will shine in interviews, and that as a result of all these things, they will land a legitimate job (i.e., paycheck) in a law firm or with a law-related employer. And given all this, that they will reasonably tolerate (if not enjoy) working, and have a career in the law.

      The wisdom of all the above assumptions is regularly mocked and analyzed by scambloggers. And rightfully.

      But let's assume each and every one of these assumptions as Granted. After all, law school draws some pretty talented people (at least in their own minds).

      Great. You aced law school, absolutely loved your classes, landed a job in a law firm of your choice, find the work stimulating, find the intense internal competition bracing, and can't get enough of it. You like it!! You're good at it. And it's your life, so there's none of this 'work-life balance' crap.

      You got a five-year shelf life before massive underemployment hits.

    3. What is PPC? I always got jobs based on merit, as did almost everyone I knew when we were young. Big law hires are based on academics.

      Problem is that they do not hire lawyers who have the academics and the big law experience and are age 45+ absent portable business or a rare search for an existing partner or counsel who is already at a comparable firm or in big government or a big in house job and is needed to do the work. Then that person is typically not too old.

      The other problem is that the big law jobs even for partners and especially for counsel may have a short shelf life, producing the need to find a new job at an older age.

      The biggest problem today is the overcapacity problem of too many lawyers and not enough work inside law firms. That means hiring is pretty limited.

      It is hard to understand the hiring of so many first years when contract and equity partners are not sufficiently busy.

      Maybe some of the hires are done based on connections, but it is fairly rare that it would be a connection of someone other than the lawyer, the lawyer's spouse of the lawyer's current or former co-workers or classmates.

      You contrast this with doctors, where some of the bigger medical groups pay an average of over $250,000, employ the doctor for life, provide a pension on retirement at age 65 of half of salary and provide lifetime retiree medical benefits.

      You see a ton of minorities and minority women in these really good, lifetime doctor jobs. You rarely see a big representation of anything other than white men at the older ages in law.

      For a lot of older lawyers, a top law degree has no or almost no economic value. The same is true for minorities and women generally. It is the polar opposite of medicine, where opportunity to have a lifetime career abounds.

    4. In response to the commenter about PPCs, my observation is that the promotions that are made are mostly about relationships and getting along with lawyers and clients in big law. I never observed the connected getting promotions. Honestly, most of the connected hoofed it out of big law a long time ago, or never joined big law, instead opting to go into their family businesses, charity work, whatever interested them.

      Even if your father is a partner in big law and in a position to help you, there are relatively few of those yous. Eventually, daddy retires and you are on your own, so it is not that easy.

      Surely there are some connections but that is not the way it works. If you are a woman or minority, the odds of getting a partnership are somewhat better than the odds of keeping a partnership.

      Very few people come out of law with successful lifetime careers today, and almost all the people who do are white males. Maybe a lot of them are upper middle class kids of lawyers, and not poor. Maybe the poor never get very far.

      What I was talking about in my post where you have a headhunter advertising 14 of 17 jobs in a practice area in a major city for those who graduated from law school less than 6 years before would seem to be a serious failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. I think the fact that up or out and class year hiring is permitted in a profession like law in the fact of acute lawyer oversupply is another failure of the age discrimination law. These failures are horrific for society as a whole, because they produce a huge underclass of highly educated lawyers with elite degrees who will never be able to fulfill their potentials or even avoid severe unemployment and underemployment when they reach their 40s, 50s or 60s.

  11. Law Deans better watch "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" if they want to survive:

    "The Company Way"

  12. Bottom line here is to rethink law very carefully before you leap into law school.

    It is important if you are considering law to consider the long-term opportunities for a full-time permanent legal job for your career. These opportunities are far from guaranteed, and for many women and minorities, the opportunities in law for a career position are poor.

    So if you have a degree from an elite college and did well or graduated magna cum laude from a state university or other college, and are now considering law, think twice. Look at how you can take the premed courses you missed by working at a facility related to the school that offers these courses, and get your tuition subsidized. It is well worth waiting three years to start professional school while you take the prerequisite premed classes to get a lifetime job as a doctor if you are under 30. That law degree, even from Harvard or Yale, is a throw of the dice as to a lifetime job for many people. The holder of an MD degree from a U.S. medical school has about a 93% guarantee of being fully employed as a doctor when he or she wants to be so employed, and at a salary that is about twice what the average lawyer makes once medical training is complete.

    The grads of the top law schools mostly do not earn that $180,000 salary many years down the road. That is the dirty little secret of law - many experienced grads earn much less than new grads. Not so in medicine though.