Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Savannah Law Prof Marc Roark rages at the announced closing of his bottom-of-the-barrel law school and implores social media to #SaveSavannahLaw

On his twitter feed, Professor Marc Lane Roark of doomed Savannah Law School (which is a branch of equally scammy John Marshall Law School of Atlanta) introduces himself modestly as a "Law Professor, sometimes poet, sometimes fiction writer, academic on homelessness, urban affairs, identity, literature, and the south."

As a poet, albeit just sometimes, Professor Roark may be more naturally perceptive than the norm, and therefore able to perceive meaning and beauty where others see only a dismal and toxic pit of scam. And, of course, he has a poet's ability to communicate meaning and beauty in vivid and compelling language. So I was moved by Roark's simultaneous social media elegy for his soon to be ex-law school, and last-ditch plea for its survival. Even if I must evaluate his eloquent words in the  skeptical and evidence-focused manner of a mere sometimes scamblogger and actual practicing lawyer. 

Roark: "Our bar passage rate was decent."  

Savannah Law's bar passage rate was 54.5% for July, 2017 and 33.3% for February, 2017-- outcomes that were respectively a whopping 23.9% and 20.6% below the Georgia state average. Indeed, Savannah was on track to violate the ABA's Standard 316(a)(2), which requires that a school's annual first-time bar passage rate be is no more than 15 points below the jurisdiction's average first-time bar passage rates for three of the last five years. 

Roark: "Our job numbers were outstanding." 

In so saying, Roark does not cite Savannah Law's overall job placement numbers, but rather its placement results within a very specific subcategory of employment outcomes, namely federal clerkships, of which Savannah grads snagged four in the last three years. This is a very run-of-the-mill performance, even for a fourth tier school. However, Savannah's unusually small class size lifts its federal clerkship rate to to 2.8%, or a smidgen above the median. (See this chart, listing federal clerkship rate for the graduating classes of 2014-2016, by law school). 

Unfortunately, Savannah's overall legal placement rate is more accurately characterized as "outrageous" than as "outstanding." For the Class of 2016, only 15 out of 36 graduates (41.6%) got full-time bar-required non-solo jobs within 10 months of graduation. This places Savannah in the bottom 30 among law schools, i.e. the bottom 15%.  

Roark: "Our scholarship was innovative and bountiful." 

Professor Roark has innovated unto the world a bountiful law review article entitled "Reading Mohammed in Charleston: Assessing the U.S. Courts Approach to the Convergence, of Law, Language, and Norms," 4 Widener L. Rev. 205 (2007). 

In the article, Roark summarized seven appellate court decisions where application of Saudi or Afghan law was requested by a party in a commercial context. Now any lawyer could have summarized these cases and their rulings, but only a law professor could supply the show-offy literary references and pretentious verbiage meant to convey, with as much circumlocution and puffery as possible, the obvious point that interpreting texts from different cultures can lead to distorted or unintended results. See Reading Mohammed at 212 ("As Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir about reading cultural epigraphs in an environment that would seem to challenge the norms and practice of that reading, so this article is an anthology of seven distinct instances in which American courts attempt to read Islamic law through their own cultural interpretive lenses. Instead of Austen, Nabokov, and Fitzgerald, our six memoirists struggle with the cultural norms of the Prophet and his law"). [ed: Roark means seven "memoirists," aka courts, not six. Widener Law Review members, circa 2007 were not paying close enough attention to the article during the editing process, though I can hardly fault them]

An earlier draft of this article (available for download at bepress) was entitled Reading Mohammed in Charleston: Assessing the U.S. Courts Approach to the Convergence of Law, Religion, and Commerce," So Roark replaced two of his three title convergers, swapping "religion" and "commerce" for "language" and "norms"-- though with little substantive alteration in the text of the article. See e.g. Reading Mohammed, bepress draft, p. 11 ("Like Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir about reading cultural epigraphs in an environment that would seem to challenge the norms and practice of that reading; so too, Reading Mohammed in Brooklyn [sic] is an anthology of six distinct instances in which American Court’s [sic] attempt to read Islamic law through its [sic] own cultural interpretive lens. Instead of Austen, Nabokov, and Fitzgerald, our six memoirists struggle with the cultural norms of the Prophet and his law").  

I pose this question: Do serious scholars write whole articles about the convergence of certain forces, then determine that it was actually entirely different forces that were doing the converging, but still find no need for substantive changes to the article, only to the title? Because a more critical person might conclude that such a move might more commonly be expected from a poseur or a dilettante or worse. 

Roark: "Our faculty had the 35th most downloads for law schools in SSRN." 

If Roark is going to brag about the total SSRN downloads of articles published by Savannah Law faculty, he ought to have fairly acknowledged that his championship team has lately been far off its game. In the last 12 months, Savannah Law has ranked 144th among U.S. law schools in new SSRN downloads with a total of 3,133, bested ever so slightly by top performer New York University School of Law, with 167,462 downloads.

But this elides the question: Why does Savannah Law's SSRN download stats deserve any more than negligible weight as to the issue of the school's moral right to exist? We are talking about law review articles, of which there is no shortage, and which rarely have any influence on actual legal practice or even on other academic disciplines. Roark, for instance, has posted 17 scholarly papers on SSSN, the vast majority of which are law review articles. These 17 articles have a cumulative citation total of one.

Roark's article "Reading Mohammed in Charleston: Assessing the U.S. Courts Approach to the Convergence of Law, Language, and Norms, discussed above,  has accumulated 121 SSRN downloads, or about 10 per year.  Its low total may suggest that genuine scholars of both Western and Islamic law are happily convergent in common allergy to pretentious bullshit. 

Roark: "Yet the owners of the law school decided that the real estate was too valuable for something like educating a group of radical, thoughtful, visionaries who would see (sic?) to do good in the world. . . . So today we learned they sold the building out from under the law school." 

I was touched by this heartfelt plaint. Not because I consider it valid, but because I had a strong sense that the aggrieved wording was a stand-in for the complainant's punctured ego. I mean, it has got to hurt when the interests who have been providing your comfortable livelihood make it clear that they believe the chair you are seated upon is objectively more valuable than that chair plus you. 

The LSAT score for the most recent entering class of Savannah Law was 144 at the 25th percentile and 147 at the median. Excluding the Puerto Rican law schools, only seven accredited law schools out of over 200 scored worse at the 25th percentile and only eight scored worse at the median. I hate to be unkind about this, but how likely is it that a group of persons who have earned the description of "radical thoughtful visionaries" have collectively scored close to rock bottom on a test that measures logic and reading comprehension? And if the students at Savannah Law do possess these sterling different drummer qualities, test results notwithstanding, is it not likely that they would contribute more to overall world goodness outside the frustrating constraints of the precedent-bound, procedure-bound, and credential-fixated realm of legal practice?

The capitalists in charge of this for-profit law school, subject now to Roark's public ire but not when he was anticipating uninterrupted salary checks, have asserted that "This hard decision resulted from Savannah Law School’s inability to attract a necessary applicant pool to ever achieve sustainable enrollment levels." Indeed, Savannah Law offered admission to 273 persons in 2017, but found only 38 enrollees among that number.  That is a pretty significant decline, both percentage and raw number -wise from 2015, when the school was able to secure 59 matriculates from 245 admittees. 

Perhaps Savannah Law's owners are not motivated by blind greed so much as by a sober assessment that their business plan had misfired in idealistically overestimating the pool of radical thoughtful visionaries. At least the special kind of visionary, whose imaginative wisdom leads him or her to pay $42,682 resident sticker per year to attend a school with job placement results and bar passage rates that are about as decent-to-outstanding as the cake that Marie Antoinette fed to famished French peasants. 

Roark: "At the end of the day, Savannah's legacy may simply be this: we never had a chance to show what we were capable of." 

These are poignant words indeed, until you actually think about them. 

First, Savannah did have a chance, in fact seven years' worth of chances since its establishment in 2011. Seven years in, and the school was only enrolling three or four dozen students per year, of whom a significant percentage were sub-145 LSAT scorers. I hate to side with the profit-hungry owners of the school but, again, were they not entitled to make some informed judgments about financial viability after seven years? 

Second, let us assume that Roark and his colleagues were hindered in their noble and ambitious goals by administrative incompetence and neglect and other circumstances beyond their control. Doesn't that simply put them in the category of nearly everybody? "I never had a chance to show what I was capable of" is something that could be fairly said by anybody whose talents and abilities were not given unlimited scope, funding, and encouragement. Welcome back to the real world, Savannah law professors, or shall I say soon-to-be-ex-law-professors, an often disappointing and frightening place where you do not typically get six figure salaries for a worklife of maximum autonomy, pampered ease, undue authority and respect, and the opportunity to show what you are capable of.

Roark: "Innovation centers have certain things in common -- one thing is-- they have law schools. Law schools bring smart people in contact with each other to create new synergies. If Savannah wants to be an innovation hub it needs a law school." 

But for the magnetic draw and adhesive quality of law schools, smart people rarely make contact, and certainly never join together to make beautiful synergies that bring enrichment to all. With no law school in the vicinity to draw then out of their shells, local smart people behave like autistic savants, each trapped inside of his or her own idiosyncratic and uncommunicative mentations. 

OK. To be less snide, I would like to note a somewhat boosterish, but still interesting recent article about how Pittsburgh became an "innovation hub." (Roark's exact phrase). The article is about the revival of the city's tech sector, with special focus on local developments in robotics. The article identifies Carnegie Mellon University as hub's hub, the place that drew funding for robotics projects, brought together scientists from various fields, and rapidly produced research that could be commercialized and productivized into the larger economy. 

Now, Carnegie Mellon does not even have a law school, but it still somehow managed to bring very smart people into contact with each other in a way that produced concrete innovation. Pittsburgh does have two middling law schools, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne, but the article did not deign to mention either, let alone give them a starring role in innovation. (Not quite fairly as to Duquesne, which did innovate to the extent of offering law students quality ukulele lessons to compensate for a less than first-rate legal education). 

Perhaps true innovation involves creations more substantive than "synergies," a word whose primary usage these days is to try to create vaguely upbeat impressions about interactions and convergences. 

Actually, my sense is that the word "synergy" has been so overused by scammers that it tends to unintentionally alert sophisticated readers or listeners that the declarant is an obnoxious flack. So maybe we can recognize the new usage of the word "synergy" by applying it to the collective behavior of most law professors in producing puffed-up scholarshit, in reinforcing one another's unearned sense of accomplishment and entitlement, and in their striking aversion to responsibility. Hey law profs, you have ruined a lot of lives with your contemptible synergies. 


  1. I can attest that actually having to work for a living stinks at times. You often do not get to set your own schedule, you often have to meet performance metrics set by others, and you often are not paid "what you are worth" - and, often, that value is hotly contested and ongoing between employer and employee. In short, it is not a bowl of cherries.

    On the other hand, it is better on average than the proverbial poke in the eye.

    Oh well. Looks like Roark and others similarly situated are about to get a huge dose of reality from Outside The Bubble. Hopefully they will learn something from it...

  2. Brilliant slap-down, as usual, Dybbuk.

    —— By every metric our little faculty has exceeded expectations.

    We set records in the departments of undeservedly high salaries, junkets to the Waldorf-Astoria, and smallest number of professors (zero) from Harvard or Yale.

    —— four federal clerks in [the entire mother-fucking history of the toilet law school]

    It's true that many other über-toilets are lucky to produce one federal clerk on a geological time scale. But four clerks in seven years is hardly a stellar achievement. It could reflect nothing more than the bias of a Savannah-friendly judge, or four decent students recruited somehow in a bid to exalt an otherwise cretinous student body.

    —— Our scholarship was innovative and bountiful.

    All that I can say is that it was illiterate. Roark's most bountiful innovations lie in the areas of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage.

    —— Our faculty had the 35th most downloads for law schools in SSRN.

    Want to bet that Roark was responsible for a big share of those downloads?

    —— [Roark's] 17 articles have a cumulative citation total of one.

    Hell, my most recent published paper handily beats Roark's entire œuvre. And I've never been a professor of any kind.

    —— Yet the owners of the law school decided that the real estate was too valuable for something like educating …

    Roark has a sense of entitlement the size of Missouri. Roark deems the project worthy, so someone somewhere has to fund it. He tries to frame the decision-makers as plutocratic "owners" who would destroy anything for a nickel or two, and he goes so far as to misrepresent the decision as a real-estate deal rather than the closing of a hopeless toilet law school. As Dybbuk so wittily observed, the land is worth more without the law school than with it. Draw your own conclusions about the value of the law school.

    —— And if the students at Savannah Law do possess these sterling different drummer qualities, test results notwithstanding, is it not likely that they would contribute more to overall world goodness outside the frustrating constraints of the precedent-bound, procedure-bound, and credential-fixated realm of legal practice?

    Another good point. Just suppose, arguendo, that Savannah attracted numerous diamonds in the rough with LSAT scores in the low 140s (if not lower still). Where, in the credentialist legal profession, were these worthies going to find work?

    —— we never had a chance to show what we were capable of.

    Dybbuk made an excellent point. In addition, the failure of Savannah was perfectly predictable. Just about any new law school can expect the same fate. Why? Because a new school, however "innovative" it isn't, cannot compete with the old ones. Savannah, like Indiana Tech and various other Johnnies-come-lately, was bound to be stuck in the 140s on the LSAT, because just about anyone with a better score would favor (and easily get) a fully accredited and more respected school. The only exception, Irvine, had major advantages such as backing from the University of California system and funds with which to buy an entire entering class (and the two following classes to smaller degrees).

    —— Innovation centers have certain things in common -- one thing is-- they have law schools. Law schools bring smart people in contact with each other to create new synergies. If Savannah wants to be an innovation hub it needs a law school.

    Without even disputing the premises, we can see that the conclusion does not follow. Compare:

    US presidents have certain things in common, one of them being male gender. If Janet wants to be president of the US, she needs male gender.

    Whatever an "innovation center" is, its law schools may be an incidental property of no importance.

  3. Reminds me of how when the NYT unloaded the Boston Globe at huge loss the price was the value of the building. They threw in the newspaper for free. Newspapers and toilet law schools, bad investments in 2018.

  4. Roark’s statement was so grandiose and delusional, I became concerned he stopped taking his lithium and was suffering a manic episode. I checked his twitter feed to see if he was tweeting at all hours of the night (he’s not). This is just another desperate law professor trying to cling to his six figure job scamming students.

    41.6% of 2016 grads obtained FT, LT, bar passage required, non-solo jobs. Not a single one of those jobs was with a law firm greater than 25 lawyers. 19% of the class obtained only part time or short term jobs. 8% were unemployed. Perhaps that is what is so radical, thoughtful, and visionary about the graduates. The vast majority of the grads have no interest in practicing law, or committing to a full time, long term job. They just want to create “synergy” in Savannah. 1 radical, thoughtful, synergistic, visionary is doing good in the world in a non-professional job!

    1. I am eager for the placement statistics to become available on former law professors.

  5. No question law schools are nice places and are thought centers. Problem is that their primary mission is to turn out people who can live their lives gainfully employed if they want to be and using the degree in an economical fashion so they can pay off the cost of law school and earn a living in a steady, full-time permanent job.

    Unfortunately, there is just no demand for more than half the graduates of today's law schools. The demand does not exist practicing law. It surely does not exist in jobs that require a BA only.

    The law schools are producing graduates who will be grossly underemployed or unemployed throughout their working lives. Their skills do not match the market place. It is a terrible thing to spend three years and a huge amount of money for a degree that leaves the holder unable to use that degree and in a devastating and futile search for work that does not exist. Many of these grads cannot get any skilled work because their skills do not match the skills that employers need today.

    If the law schools were teaching coding, investment management testing, HRIS systems use, the fundamentals of human resources, FDA and cosmetic requirements or other practical areas where some of the education gives someone a leg up on missing work experience, maybe they would be doing a service.

    People would be better off with less law training, more training in in demand areas that do not require a law degree and a two year program at most, maybe even a one year program

    The key is to teach people what is needed for today's job market and a three year traditional law degree does not do that for much more than half of today's law grads, given the existing oversupply of lawyers and law graduates of hundreds of thousands lawyers.

    Change your curriculum, make it cheaper, retrain some of the hundreds of thousands of lawyers who cannot find work and get them into internships which otherwise would not look at them because they are not under three years out of college. There you have a program that works.

    Train the blue collar workers who are too worn to do blue collar work anymore for jobs they could do. There you may have a program that works.

    Whatever you do, cut back your traditional law school program to the bare bones if you are not in the top 80 or so law schools.

  6. The lateral hiring market is very compromised for most lawyers who are more than a few years out of law school. I went to extremely highly ranked schools, law school and college, more than 30 years ago and work as a counsel, but am being asked for a law school transcript before applying to open positions at relatively small law firms (15 to 30 lawyers) in the specialty area where I practice. While the ad does not say do not bother applying if you have been working for so many years, that seems to be the implication. You not only need to worry about that first job. The jobs simply don't last a lifetime, and the hiring market is all geared to very inexperienced lawyers. Going to a high ranked law school, it is going to be hard to stay employed in an up or out environment. Going to a low ranked law school, you cannot count on any job a few years out. The delusional applicant to Savannah does not get that the game only starts with that first job. It gets much tougher to stay employed as a lawyer after that.

    1. The Savannah grad isn't competing for the same jobs. Yes Big Law will hire inexperienced attorneys---but only from elite schools. It won't touch that Savannah grad regardless of age. This is in fact a hurdle that even the connected can not overcome, not that the connected are particularly interested in doing Big law in the first place. The connected will move into government or corporate positions instead, for more money and no stress.

      Law is just a horrendous bet for all unconnected people. Some tokens will get through, but most will eventually be weeded out as time goes on. And once you fall off that track, it's almost impossible to get back on. Any employment gap or even failure to achieve the proper "career trajectory" is a death knell.

      There are just way too many lawyers. And not just from the past decade. There are too many going back to the 70s. We have half a century of lawyer overproduction, where in the last decade it has gone completely into a pandemic. The market is not correcting because the lemmings just keep signing up. I suppose if the federal government wasn't busy guaranteeing those worthless loans, probably at least half of these worthless law schools would close down. There is no way they could attract the money to justify their existence without the federal loan money.

    2. The difference between first year employment statistics and the harsh reality of the experienced legal job market is night and day. That harsh reality is not clear to the lemmings who sign up for law school. The reason may be that only first year employment statistics are published.

      Many colleagues from Harvard, Yale or Stanford Law, big law partners and National Merit Scholars are completely unemployed after years in big law, not to mention huge numbers of more normal people who worked in big law. It is crazy to sign up, even for many of the top law schools. The increasingly poor longitudinal employment numbers for lawyers are not easy to find if you are a prospective law student. By the time the person finds out about those numbers, it is too late.

      The Cravath system of up or out was based on everybody landing in a good job. Not true any longer. With the huge lawyer oversupply, up or out simply means out of work or not able to get nearly enough work for enough of the year for many experienced lawyers.

      Signing up for a low ranked school like Savannah would be career suicide for most people because of the lawyer oversupply. Not enough work for the top grads, so what can one expect if one is not a top graduate?

  7. Why is Roark complaining? This shutdown is the best thing to happen to him-and the wider world. He'll now have time to work on his poetry, and I for one can hardly wait.
    There once was a law prof from Savannah
    who became well acquainted with a banana...

  8. Quality may not accurately describe those ukulele lessons at Duquesne, but perhaps the toilet law school has the right idea: train the lemmings to work as buskers in preparation for their failure to thrive in the legal profession.

  9. Thanks dybbuk; good write-up.

    Had a kid over at JDU asking about SLS, snowflake-style not wanting to hear what he was hearing. Luckily for him the announcement of the closing came shortly after his OP.

    1. Clearly, licensed attorneys who have been through the scam and have had to hustle for work for years have no idea what they are talking about. Or that's how the snowflake so-called logic goes...

  10. Here's the 509:

    I was wrong about the total cost. Way, way wrong..

    Tuition alone at this TTTTT(5) will be 43x3 = ~130k.

    And then BOOM! Fee this. Fee that. A Graduation Fee?!??


    The exploitation never stops in the Law School Scam.

    Remember, what I quoted above is tuition alone. Not counting any extra living expenses, etc.

    For a Fifth-Tier night program.

    And all schools now are like this. Same costs roughly.

    There's no way to win absent you are Somebody that Somebody sent or from the PPC classes. It's truly a game for the rich now.

  11. I went back and looked at the 509.

    I dunno..

    I can't make sense of what, exactly the tuition is/was.. whatever. Everything has an "*" next to it. Disclaimers and qualifications, galore, etc.

    But... Setting that aside for the time being, get a read of this article about this place and the shenanigans that went on. Truly, scumbagish:

    Here's the candy:

    "After announcement of the closure, students were told that if they sought to transfer their credits, the potential school would be notified that Savannah had used a deflated grading curve of 2.7 rather than the customary 2.9 or 3.0, according to the suit.

    A significant percentage of Savannah students got scholarships that required them to keep a GPA of 2.75, but they were not told of the deflated grading curve, the suit alleges. Because of the deflated curve, a significant number of those students lost their scholarships and were forced to take additional student loans, the suit says.

    “On information and belief,” the suit says, “defendants deflated their grading curve, forced students out of their scholarships and into student loans, converted courses to a tele-learning format, deprived students of in-person instruction by SLS faculty and of materially important extracurricular activities, sold the 516 Drayton Street Building, and ultimately closed SLS in order to financially benefit defendants and to improve John Marshall’s financial position during the fall-out over noncompliance with ABA accreditation standards,” the suit says."

  12. This is how much the Academy doesn't want change:

    Original article:

    The same thing happened at Albany Law, if anyone recalls. The Dean wanted smaller class sizes and better applicants, etc. Instead, the school ultimately went in the completely opposite direction opting for partnerships with SUNYA because it has a very large undergraduate population and makes for an excellent pipeline of applicants - and that Sweet, Sweet, Fed, Loan Gravy:

    1. And, btw:

      Me: +1000000
      AAMPLE Troll: Wrong again, always and as usual.

      It's okay, Kids. Debt really doesn't matter.. Follow your Dreams.

  13. Schools are releasing the employment data for the class of 2017. I haven’t had time to look through a lot of data. From what I have seen, many schools continue to struggle to place students in legal employment.

    The #2 school in the nation (per the Cooley rankings) Cooley:

    -Only 27.8% of 2017 grads obtained FT, LT, BP required jobs, excluding solos
    -4% employed in non-professional positions
    -11.6% employed in short term or part time jobs
    -4.5% employment status unknown
    -20.7% unemployed
    -Not a single grad obtained a Federal Clerkship
    -0.009% obtained employment in firms of 251+ attorneys

    Arizona Summit had similar numbers to Cooley:
    -Only 31.1 % of 2017 grads obtained FT, LT, BP, excluding solos.
    -19.9% unemployed

    Savannah also struggled place grads in jobs.
    -Only 50% of grads obtained FT, LT, BP required jobs, excluding solos
    -5.6% of grads worked in non-professional positions
    -13.9% of grads were unemployed

    Looking at the second tier schools, Loyola Chicago had an unemployment rate that was 2X the national average:
    -61.7% employed in FT, LT, BP required jobs, excluding solos
    -12.2% unemployed

    I’m curious to see what the aggregate numbers show.

    1. Meh, this is the way it has been for a while, and will be from here on out. Roughly half (overall) of graduates getting actual jobs as attorneys, unemployment rates exceeding the national average (several times over, at the crappier schools), and six figure debt (which many view as Monopoly money, since most won't be repaid).

      At this point, the large majority of applicants are crazy to go to law school--the information is out there and easy to find with a few minutes of research.