Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Is justice more accessible when 2,500 law professors get a free winter vacation? Thoughts about the annual Association of American Law School (AALS) conference and its "Access to Justice" theme.

Who, in these bleak midwinter days, would turn down an employer-paid vacation to someplace warm? Certainly not 2,500 jolly law professors and law school administrators, eagerly preparing for four days of boozing and shmoozing in the San Diego sun. It is time for the AALS (Association of American Law Schools) annual convention, set to run from January 3-6, 2018, at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and Manchester Grand Hyatt.

With such a turnout, the conference panels will obviously be many, with some devoted to law school pedagogy, some to the intersection of law and this-or-that, and some to current events. I appreciate the hard work that law professors will invest to make them all a success, whether that means droning for several minutes about recent legislation and major appellate court decisions in their area of alleged academic expertise, pretending to be public intellectuals by sharing their so-important opinions about Trump and identity politics, sounding off about whatever trendy issues are getting people furious on Twitter, or discoursing about the best ways to force feed an appreciation of social justice to their drowning-in-debt students. Also there will be "more than 50 networking events and opportunities" because obviously law professor careers matter too.

For instance, there will be a law professor panel on "Fake News" moderated by Lyrissa Lidsky, the newly-appointed and $330,000-a-year-salaried dean of the University of Missouri School of Law. (As an amusing aside: check out the impressive "prior legal experience" section of Lidsky's CV-- six entries based a single one-year judicial clerkship, plus working summers during law school). Only a cynic would note that every annoying pundit and windbag has been yapping about so-called "fake news," for over a year, making it unlikely that the AALS panelists will provide new insights into the phenomenon.

According to William & Mary Law Professor Paul Marcus, the outgoing AALS President, there is a profoundly serious purpose to this vast hodgepodge of blather, as reflected by the theme he has chosen for the conference: "Access to Justice." In his message to attendees (See Program, p. 9), Prof. Marcus states that:
"For a long time many law schools recognized the importance of training students to work for this fundamental ideal [of equal justice]. . . The story of the admirable efforts by law faculty members and students to meet these great needs is not well publicized on the pages of major newspapers and on the Internet. But, our story, as members of the AALS, is all about dedicated students and faculty members across the United States who diligently pursue the goal of equal justice for all by providing sorely needed legal representation. It is an exciting story of the recent explosion, in number and variety, of legal clinics at our member schools . . . This larger story of what we as legal educators can do, and what we and our students are doing, to assure fairness in law for our less fortunate citizens is an exhilarating and uplifting story." 
These are admirable ideals, as one might expect from a public sector employee who draws a $270,500 annual salary. Although I would say that Marcus has slightly diminished his high-minded virtue by grousing that the media has failed to publicize "the larger story" about the socially valuable contributions that law schools make, a 'plaint reminiscent of what is often said by flacks representing organizations whose corrupt practices have elicited critical media coverage. 

I hate to deprecate the uplift, especially because I am a proponent of clinical legal education, but are these do-gooding clinics a fair tradeoff for saddling tens of thousands of young people per year with six-figures of non-dischargeable debt? Furthermore, don’t law school clinical courses often involve, in substantial part, assigning students to do unpaid intake or clerical work for independent or publicly-funded providers of legal services to the poor, such as the Innocence Project or legal aid offices-- a form of pedagogical outsourcing, even if law schools try to hog all the credit?

Take criminal law, which is Paul Marcus’s scholarly focus at William & Mary Law. I believe that each and every one of the 200+ accredited law schools has multiple full-time tenured or tenure-track six-figure-salaried professors who specialize in criminal law. (William & Mary, for instance, has eight). Let us very roughly estimate the collective salaries and benefits (including such perks as summer research stipends and travel and lodging expenses to AALS and SEALS conferences) of criminal law professors nationwide at 200 million dollars per year.

By comparison, how much money do law schools allocate to criminal law clinics? William & Mary Law's website lists only two criminal law clinics, and both draw significantly on non-law-school resources and expertise. One is an "Innocence Project Clinic" in which students assist the staff of the local Innocence Project in selecting viable cases, work that could arguably be done just as well by bright undergraduates or retirees. The other, an appellate clinic, is run by an attorney with the firm of Bailey Glasser LLP, who holds adjunct rank in the law school, meaning that he likely receives little compensation from the school or none at all.

William & Mary Law has no clinic devoted to helping prisoners prepare post-conviction and clemency petitions, a genuine area of drastic unmet need because there is no constitutional right to counsel on collateral filings. Though in a recent interview, Marcus bragged about how he and his students help ensure "a different form of access to justice" by conducting a "Literature and the Law" course at the regional jail. (Podcast, at 24:10-24:50))  So even if William & Mary law students do not provide the incarcerated with very much legal assistance, they at least offer a book club.

The problem is not existing clinics, of course, it is that they are embedded in an institutional structure of exploitation called law school. And law schools touts and apologists rely on these clinics as a source of puffery and self-congratulation beyond what any dignified person would deem appropriate. (See e.g. Marcus’s statement above, and his description of the development of clinical legal education in the U.S. as a "wonderful miracle." (Podcast, 20:34-20:37)) Problematically, law schools showcase their clinics for fundraising, for student recruitment, for media relations, and as the proffered moral basis of shindigs such as the AALS conference, as though the event has anything to do with access to justice. Access to self-indulgence is more like it.

Hey, AALS Conference Fake News panelists, please re-read Marcus's message. Does it signal the nature of the AALS's media relations strategy -- to hype law school clinics "on the pages of major newspapers and on the Internet" as "[t]he story" and "our story" and "the larger story," and "an exhilarating and uplifting story." You know, as opposed to such trivia as the ruination of tens of thousands of young lives per year via obscene admissions practices and tuition levels? Isn't that an especially topical and unexplored form of "fake news" worthy of your discussion?


  1. Great post, but thoroughly depressing. It's clear that these hacademics live in a well compensated and well cushioned bubble, genuinely immune to real life.
    More troubling is the fact that they are also totally immune to the real world their students live in. It's easy to be a proponent for social justice when you're making 300K/year, with paid, conferences. My guess there won't be a single panel of esteemed academics addressing the personal disaster that is law school debt with limited or no job prospects.
    And the suffering new law grads? To quote that great law professor, Marie Antoinette,
    "Let them eat cake."

  2. Caprice Roberts is a law professor at a school called Savannah Law School, which I have never heard of before. I looked up its stats, and they ain't pretty. Hey Caprice: 148 median LSAT + 3.1 median GPA & 41 first year students = T4 shit hole.

    1. Caprice is a good name for her. I can only assume that her parents didn't know what it meant, like the woman who named her daughter Eczema because she had seen the word in a magazine and thought that it was "purdy".

      Anyway, Savannah Law School is a bullshit branch of the John Marshall toilet school in Atlanta (not to be confused with the similarly named institution in Chicago that allegedly is being courted by the U of Illinois). With only 41 incoming students, it may not have much life left. Good.

    2. I once met a woman named Carrion. No joke. Did her parents look up that word before naming her?

    3. I used to know a lady named Fluorine. Sweet gal, odd name.

    4. Carrion has to be the worst name I've heard, and I've heard some real horrors.

      As for Fluorine, did you praise her electronegativity?

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. It is a mistake to think these law profs and admins actually need the salary they make. They don't, they have trust funds and other sources of income. They however deign to interact with us commoners, but we must pay the privilege to be lectured at and our unseemly commoner thinking and behaviors to be corrected. It is very important us commoners understand our proper place and show proper obsequiousness to our superiors.

    When these professors are "teaching" us, they of course have to dumb things down and speak at our level. And even then we don't understand. When we hear things like equality and freedom and look for legal reasoning, logic, and all the other things we look for, we must always keep in mind it is all at the whims of our betters. We must just accept what they say. We must not think deeply on these matters that are beyond us.

    And while yes, for us commoners work experience, credentials, schooling and the like are important for us to get jobs, that's just another sign of our inferiority. You see, these elites don't operate under the same rules, because since they are born into the aristocracy they are of significant internal worth. Even if they did nothing, they are worth more than us. We only have worth if they say we have worth, we have to earn our place through our labors and from seeking approval from our superiors. But those of strong breeding and from good families already have that worth and approval, it is a part of them, their very nature.

    I hope I have explained things properly to you dybukk, so you don't continue to make these same errors in the future.

    I apologize in advance for the above post, but I simply could not resist.

    1. Oh, indeed, Grouse. Peons like us have much to learn from our betters. Why, I have no idea of what it takes to get one's wedding featured in the society pages of The New York Times. Nor had I ever heard of Cheli & Peacock, a company that sells luxurious package tours to rich fucks ("9 rooms of over 100m² in size, each with a private plunge pool", whatever a private plunge pool is). Nor did I understand the importance of flashing one's upper-crusty boarding school on one's résumé. Such valuable Social Register insights come only to those that are to the manner born.

    2. Exactly-so after enlightening us as to how benighted we art, the esteemed profs have done all they can for us. So if we can't find jobs, that's on us, not them or the schools.

    3. Yeah, what can you expect of a bunch of washed-up zeroes who never went to Choate? who didn't get to spend a year in Spain during high school? who don't stay in thousand-dollar penthouses over Waikiki? who don't fatten their already enormous rumps with red-velvet cupcakes?

  4. My entire family, for 100 years at least, have been Democrats. After law school, I became a Republican (and I’m not rich).

    Republicans are really bad, but democrats are so much worse. The reason they are worse can be illustrated in this post: it’s a con job. They don’t create, they don’t take risks, etc. They want a powerful government that they control to give money to themselves and their friends and ignorant masses to take advantage of.

    I hear the Trump adminstration might cap all graduate school loans. I can’t wait to see these roaches have to compete for a living like everyone else.

  5. Fake news? Maybe Lidsky is talking about her own CV. She spends two paragraphs talking about "LANGUAGES" that she doesn't speak. By contrast, my humble little one-page CV omits several languages that I speak, read, and write proficiently.

  6. LOL..why wouldn't Lyrussa Lidisky be an expert on "fake News" news and the future of "journalism"? She is a law professor after all.

  7. Fake news indeed. These law professors are all shysters. Writing useless books/articles about nonsense that 99% of the general public could give a damn about and no-one even reads anyway.

    For instance, why would I spend $20 on some nonsense abortion book when I could just look it up on Wikipedia?

  8. To all future law school applicants:

    As someone who just graduated in 2016 and unemployed, I will tell you all how law school works from someone who went through it all.

    First and foremost, the legal profession is an insanely obsessed status society. The King/Queen of this status-obsessed society is the Law School Dean. This person is essentially the King/Queen of the entire Law School so therefore he/she has more power than everyone else. Accordingly, everyone else must suck up to this individual because their career depends upon it.

    Next, you have the Law Professors with Tenure who are essentially untouchable because they are tenured. Most of these individuals have stopped publishing scholarship because they no longer need to do so. Why would they need to publish scholarship when they are tenured? Once a law professor achieves tenure, he/she has little work to do because they are the individuals who teach law to the future practitioners of our noble profession. These law professors are the smartest people in the world. They teach future Presidents, CEOs, Doctors, Senators, Governors, and many more individuals.

  9. Moreover, law professors make good money but what a lot of people don’t understand is that these individuals also have endowed scholarships from prominent alumni. Some of these law professors may have listed salaries of $200,000 but these scholarships can add to their total unlisted salaries being $500,000 or so. Don’t believe me? Ask your law professor about these endowment scholarships that prominent alumni fund so they can participate in this “status-obsessed” society.

    Next, you have legal writing professors and clinical faculty who are on the next rung of the ladder who are nowhere near as powerful as the King/Queen Law School Dean and the Tenured Faculty. The untenured faculty are considered equal to the tenured faculty because the tenured faculty know in their minds that these individuals will likely receive tenure barring them have some mental breakdown or not attending any classes to teach whatsoever.

    Moreover, what many law school applicants need to realize during the application process is they will be inundated with brochures of how lovely and happy everyone is in law school. Youtube videos exist of how “happy” everyone is at law school and law schools will have ambassadors that are listed that no-one contacts because no one is weird enough to do so.

  10. To future law school applicants: I hope you realize one thing. You are one thing to law school administrators/professors. If you don’t realize what that thing is, I hope you don’t attend law school next year or whenever.
    I hope future law school applicants realize that they are not future college football players/college basketball players who will have their ever whim and need tended to. For instance, consider Christian Mcaffrey. When Christian Mcaffrey was at Stanford, he probably had 10 people who tended to his every need and whatever else because Christian Mcaffrey and brought millions of dollars to Stanford University.

    If the #1 person at Stanford Law and the Law Review Editor went to the Stanford Law Dean and asked 10 people to tend to their various needs, that person would be laughed at of the Deans office and sent to have a mental health evaluation.

    Moreover, once law schools have you enrolled and your part of that 1L class and you are sitting being lectured Contracts and whatever else, nothing else matters and you are part of the law school. Your Grad Plus Loans have been deposited into the law school and everyone is happy.
    During 1L year, the law school tries its hardest to break you and think like a lawyer whatever that means. Everyone will go to the library and study 8-10 hours a day to all compete against each other and get the highest grade in a forced curve. After 1L semester, the entire class is ranked and the top 10% will start walking around the law school like they own it. As someone who graduated at the median of the class, the cult is real. The law review people all literally think they are better than everyone else.

    1. Not quite my experience. I was up at the top of the class but didn't walk around as if I owned the place. Funny, it was the rich dipshits at the bottom of the class who did that.

      I also didn't form a study group, exclusive or otherwise; I did everything by myself. And I didn't hover around the other people on the law review.

      Also, the instructor (often denied the dignity of "professor") who teaches legal writing is usually treated as a nonentity by the profe$$ors.

      Anyway, don't worry about the hierarchy of the self-appointed gods in legal hackademia. What matters is the sick, corrupt, dead-end nature of the whole enterprise. Don't go to law school.

  11. Accordingly, the law review people will all study with each other and form exclusive study groups and outlines that only they use so they continue this perpetual cycle of nonsense. I hope every future law school applicant who does actually enter law school treats 1L year as a life and death struggle because after your first year, nothing else literally maters. If you do well enough at 1L year and get that job at OCI, you have won the law school game. Congratulations. If you haven’t, I hope your parents will pay off your loans.

    After the hell that is 1L year, 2L and 3L year are pretty much fuck off fests. Everyone has formed their groups and people just hang out with their own group. Good luck trying to join a group if you aren’t part of that clique. Imagine high school but 10X worse with passive aggressive mega fucking narcissistic assholes who just think about themselves everyday every moment and believes SINCERELY that they are the center of the world.

    To future law school applicants, good luck and have fun in law school next year.

    1. 9:27-9:28,

      A brief addendum to your comment:

      “I hope every future law school applicant who does actually enter law school treats 1L year as a life and death struggle because after your first year, nothing else literally maters. If you do well enough at 1L year and get that job at OCI, you have won the law school game.”

      When you attend a toilet law school and win the life and death struggle after your first year (ie Law Review, good grades), there is a very good chance you will still LOSE the law school game. Legal employers prefer graduates of top schools over graduates with supposedly good credentials from a toilet law school.

      I attended a TT in the early 2000s. I had good grades and law review after 1L. But I attended a TT. So I was rejected for every Biglaw and Fed job at OCI. Other law review friends had the exact same experience. Throughout the remainder of law school, after graduation, and after I passed the bar, I continued to blast resumes. I was rejected by every big law firm, toilet law firm, prosecutor office, public defender office, government legal office, and judicial clerkship to which I applied. I attended a law career fair in which a big law firm refused to even accept my resume. All of my friends went solo, toilet law, or took non-legal jobs. This was supposedly the golden age of the legal market prior to the Great Recession.

      As 9:27-9:28 said previously: “First and foremost, the legal profession is an insanely obsessed status society.”

      So no legal employer will be impressed by your TT, TTT, or TTTT degree.

      There was nothing wrong with myself or my friends. We were stained with garbage law degrees. I know three people who went on to get MBAs and now work very good corporate jobs. One friend became a police officer. My friend regularly meets attorneys in court who are envious of his pay and benefits. They tell him he made the right decision. I salvaged my life by going to med school.

      Save yourself from wasting three years of your life on a worthless degree.

    2. If you saved one person's life from these posts it was worth it. Law school is a complete disaster for most graduates and ruins tens of thousands of people's lives annually. Don't believe the scumbag professors who live off student loans.

    3. Landing a job through on-campus interviews does not mean that one has "won the law school game". The job may or may not pay well. Very likely it won't last longer than a few years and won't lead to better opportunities. Hell, the job may not even materialize. (Some big firms in recent years have collapsed before their newly hired students could start work.)

      I cannot endorse the blithe comment "good luck and have fun in law school". Good luck isn't going to help, and whatever fun one might have during law school will almost certainly be greatly offset by unjustifiable expense and a ruined career.

    4. Old Guy, I think your experience with law school was not typical. Unless they have some glaring personality defect or, like you, are deemed too old, graduates from elite schools who finish in the top of their class will have plenty of solid employment options, including big law and big fed. Of course, whether those initial jobs turn into long-term careers is a different matter. Also, Anonymous at 7:56, like you, I graduated from a T2, but 10 years earlier than you. In my experience, the top 10% got good jobs. Maybe not Davis Polk or Sullivan Cromwell, but legitimate legal jobs. If you were outside the top 10%, finding a job was a real struggle unless you had solid legal connections. Finally, if the unemployed 2016 grad is still out there, when you went to law school, the scam blog movement was already well-established. I'd be interested to know if you were aware of the warnings of people like Campos and Nando when you decided to attend law school.

  12. ^^^^ I don't necessarily believe lawyers are generally narcissists... I do believe many of them are aholes...... think about how they sell their souls to at times represent the interests of evil. That is the job of a lawyer... and to do it well...selling your soul at the same time you convince yourself you are doing god's work .... is succeed.