Friday, July 1, 2022

"Law-school lite": will bachelor's degrees in "legal studies" deplete the ballyhoo'd "JD advantage"?

The so-called University of Southern California joins other institutions in offering a bachelor's degree in "legal studies".

In many countries, the professional degree in law is a bachelor's degree: students can go straight into preparation for the legal profession after finishing high school, without first obtaining a bachelor's degree in another field. This new bachelor's degree in "legal studies", however, will not give access to the bar. Its purpose is anything but clear. Scam-professor Bob Rasmussen denies that it is "law-school lite": he says that the program will impart "general knowledge for what you would want a smart, educated person to know about the law". Smart, educated people have presumably been learning about the law for centuries without the help of four-year degree programs, so I don't see the urgent need for this new degree. 

The curriculum includes the following courses: "Law and the U.S. Constitution in Global History, Law and Society, Introduction to Criminal Law, Fundamentals of the U.S. Legal System and Current Court Cases". That sounds pretty thin to me. "Current Court Cases" is obviously ephemeral, and a few of those other courses sound like candy-ass crapola of the dreaded "law and" variety. Conspicuously absent is rudimentary training (outside the criminal field): what exactly is a contract, and why should one care? 

Vague notions gleaned from "Law and Society" will not prove useful for employment. At first I speculated that the purpose of the degree was to curry favor with admissions offices at not-quite-toilety law schools. But the piece cited above ends with the following:

Undergraduate degrees in law could help graduates obtain JD-advantage jobs without the cost of a law degree, said Kyle McEntee, founder of the advocacy group Law School Transparency, in an interview with Reuters.

Kyle McEntee was indeed the founder of Law School Transparency, but this year he apparently sold it and the anti-scam movement for thirty pieces of silver and a cushy job at the LSAC. The law-school scam is unlikely to thank him for suggesting that jobs in its mythological "JD-advantage" category can be filled without the supposed advantage of a JD, just a cotton-candy bullshit bachelor's degree in "legal studies". Nor will scamsters be flattered by the unfavourable comparison of "the cost of a law degree" to that of majoring in "legal studies" in the course of an undergraduate program. 

If you are stupid enough to sign up for law school, expect to be undermined by a bunch of undergraduates who opt for "legal studies" instead of some other major with similarly bad prospects for employment. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Namby-pamby ABA gives dispensation to non-compliant Cooley

Two years ago, when the ABA supposedly tightened its so-called Standard 316 for accredition of law schools, we pointed out the weaknesses in the new standard and predicted that the ABA would allow non-compliant schools to remain accredited. We were right.

Odious "Western Michigan University's" Thomas M. Cooley Law School, an erstwhile chain now shrunken to two outlets, has received a three-year "extension" of time to come into compliance. The standard requires that at least 75% of those who take a bar exam pass it within two years of graduation. Cooley's rates for 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively, were 66.01%, 62.31%, and 59.51%. 

As we pointed out in the article cited above, law schools and their administrative enablers have resorted to various stratagems for temporarily bolstering bar-passage rates without improving quality. One popular old ruse was to cajole or bribe inferior students out of taking the exam, so that their predicted failure would not affect the bar-passage rate. Schools have been known to pay quite a few thousand dollars just to keep one student away from the exams. Another trick is to pare enrollment down artificially just long enough to make the school more "selective", with better students more likely to pass the exams—only to return to open admission as soon as the school achieved compliance with the norm. Unabashed pursuit of compliance has turned a number of über-toilets into glorified test-prep courses. And of course there is boundless potential for special pleading, flim-flam excuses, and other bullshit reasons to get "extensions" that amount to indefinitely renewable licenses for shameful non-compliances.

The scam-enabling ABA reassures us that Cooley's extension comes with strings attached:

They include working with faculty to improve teaching and learning, reviewing the effects of more rigorous grading policies, and making a “significant financial investment” in a “reliable plan” to ensure that the law school has resources to operate in compliance with the standards.

Also, the law school must adhere to a revised admissions policy, so entering classes have stronger success predictors for graduating and passing a bar exam.

What exactly is meant by "working with faculty to improve teaching and learning"? How will that be measured? Not at all, Old Guy imagines. What good will "reviewing the effects of more rigorous grading policies" do, especially if those "effects" turn out to be nil or negligible (or even negative)? Just what will the "reliable plan", the "resources to operate in compliance with the standards", and the "revised admissions policy" entail?

Note too that the ABA gave Cooley a three-year extension to a period of compliance that by default lasts only two years. One does not ordinarily think of an "extension" as being longer than the original period. Furthermore, with a bar-passage rate that shows a rapidly declining trend, Cooley is hardly the ideal candidate for an "extension". If Cooley gets a three-year extension for such dreadful results, would any school be denied?

When will the ABA cut the crap and admit that it is not serious about standards for accreditation?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

ABA proposes to abolish required testing for admission to law school

Having introduced the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT, the ABA now proposes to stop requiring any sort of test for admission to law school. Its so-called Strategic Review Committee recommends that Standard 503, which currently requires the use of "a valid and reliable admission test" (with some exceptions), be changed to read as follows: "A law school may use admission tests as part of sound admission practices and policies. The law school shall identify in its admission policies any tests it accepts."

Cui bono? Above all, the lousiest of the scam-schools. Once the one objective, uniformly assessed element of applications is eliminated, every über-toilet will be able to cover up the fact that it draws its marks primarily if not exclusively from the bottom of the barrel.

Even the LSAC, which produces the LSAT, has been in on the act, with a new alternative scheme for admission that will not require any standardized test. As far as Old Guy can tell, the scheme involves taking a couple of candy-ass courses that somehow magically prove suitability for law school.

Just stay the hell away from the law-school scam. Old Guy doesn't know what else to say.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Law-school scam surges ahead

March 2022 has been a terrible month for the anti-scam movement, and we still have eleven days to go. Four major setbacks have come to our attention here at OTLSS.

The first was the announcement, reported in the previous article, that privately owned Jacksonville University plans to open a law school and has even obtained the required funding from the municipal government.

Soon after that, privately owned High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, announced that it too is going to open a law school, possibly within two years. As if that weren't foolish enough, the university also plans to open a school of optometry, a school of nursing, and a school of entrepreneurship (whatever that means), while spending $400M—about $70k per student—on construction. How it's going to pay for all of that I don't know, but I certainly am not offering to underwrite the loans. But the law school cannot possibly be needed. North Carolina already has six law schools (seven before the Charlotte School of Law went tits up), only one of them possibly worth attending in Old Guy's assessment. All of them are in the north-central part of the state, from Durham to Winston-Salem. One could drive to all six of those law schools in two hours or so. High Point University is only about twenty minutes' drive from two other law schools: Wake Forest, in Winston-Salem, and Elon, in Greensboro. Why the hell should another goddamn law school be built in that area? If it sees the light of day, it will certainly be another über-toilet, with not even accreditation to offer to new students. Like Indiana Tech, it will fold soon enough.

The third setback is the absorption of Law School Transparency into the Law School Admission Council. As the article states, "Law School Transparency was a thorn in the side of law schools when it launched in 2009, criticizing what it said was misleading graduate employment data and calling for changes in how schools report student outcomes". LST did good anti-scam work. Now the LSAC, which coordinates applications to law schools, produces the LSAT, and thus greatly promotes the law-school scam, has taken LST over. In exchange for surrending LST, Kyle McEntee, its director and founder, has been hired as "senior director"—perhaps one should say scamster-in-chief—of the LSAC. Et tu, Brute? 

And recently the LSAC has announced plans to introduce its "Legal Education Program" as an alternative to taking the LSAT. Until the past few years, law schools in the US and Canada (other than some non-English-speaking localities), and even a few in other parts of the world, required the LSAT of all applicants. A few schools introduced the GRE as an alternative, and many others followed suit even though it had not been approved by the American Bar Association (the scam-leading organization in charge of accreditation of law schools in the US). Now the LSAC will let applicants take a couple of years of courses in lieu of writing the LSAT. Billed as "equally valid", this new approach will serve mainly to confuse the data so that it will become impossible to assess student bodies objectively. Whatever its flaws (and Old Guy thinks that they are greatly overstated, mainly by scamsters and people who score poorly on the test), the LSAT provides a consistent measurement of applicants' ability to think logically and to understand English text. A few cotton-candy courses on "the skills necessary for success in law school", "the legal profession and law school experience", and "strong support networks" will not. 

The two proposed über-toilets aren't of great concern: they can be expected to shut down as quickly as they open. But the LSAC's little coups revitalize the law-school scam. Let's hope that they encourage the federal government to curtail access to student loans, without which the scam could not endure.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Jacksonville loses one über-toilet, will gain another

Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida, has announced its intention to open another goddamn law school. Florida Coastal, also located in Jacksonville, survives only to give its last few students another year to finish their studies and collect a Mickey Mouse law degree from the last über-toilet of defunct scam-chain InfiLaw.

As usual, the stated justification is geographic. The mayor of Jacksonville reported that his is the largest city in the US that does not have a law school. (He said nothing about the one that is shutting its doors after having enrollment of almost 4000 students not many years ago. Might it be that Jacksonville just doesn't need a law school?) Of course, he also alluded to the supposedly vast numbers of local people who can't possibly get off their asses and go to any of the twelve law schools that already exist in Florida—such as the U of Florida, only about an hour and twenty minutes away—or for that matter to any of almost two hundred more distant law schools, practically all of which have more to offer than an upstart.

This would-be über-toilet is to be housed "in a downtown office building", rather like Thomas Jefferson School of Law and other whopping failures. Already the city of Jacksonville has pledged $5 million, curiously enough the very amount that the university expects to spend on opening its vanity project. Initially there will be only four professors, not exactly enough to offer Law 'n' Hip-Hop or a range of certificates in Global Leadership—nor even to inspire confidence in the university's commitment to sustaining the dump long enough for the first class to graduate.

Targeted enrollment for the initial class is 20 to 30 students. Within two years the university wants 150 students—whether per class or for the entire school is not clear. Nor is anything said about the important question of costs. Still, Old Guy has seen quite enough to advise resolutely against signing up for three years at an ill-considered über-toilet that may not last that long. Even a horrible shithole like Cooley is marginally better than this big if. Expect another Indiana Tech or worse.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Über-toilet coming to West Virginia?

A new bill before the West Virginia House of Delegates would establish a law school at Marshall University.

Now, Old Guy had never heard of Marshall University, but he can say that this proposal is even more ridiculous than the proposal to open a law school in Shreveport, Louisiana. West Virginia is declining in population. The largest city, Charleston, does not have even 50,000 people. Pretty though its mountains can be, the state is the very poster child of illiteracy and backwardness. (Q: What does a West Virginian girl say when she loses her virginity? A: "Cut it out, Pa; you're crushing my Marlboros.") This rural, retrograde state absolutely does not need even the toilet law school that it already has, let alone another one.

Even Brad D. Smith, the president of Marshall University, has expressed polite doubts. He points out that he and his colleagues have not "seen or conducted a market study for the development of a law school". Indeed, Mr. Smith, a sensible person would start there! Especially after the Indiana Tech catastrophe. But don't expect much sense in the West Virginian legislature.

How little sense? Have a look at this:

A law degree is one of the most versatile degrees, [Delegate Matt] Rohrbach said. Many corporate CEOs and other corporate leaders hold the degrees to help them better fulfill their roles without ever stepping [sic] foot in a courtroom, he said.

First of all, as we have said countless times, a law degree is actually one of the least versatile degrees. It's useful for practicing law—and just about nothing else. And it's not even very useful for that, because there are two graduates for every entry-level job. 

Second, we've also exposed the fallacy of concluding that the fact some "corporate leaders" or other supposedly prominent people have a degree in law implies that the degree contributed significantly to their professional attainment. Many "corporate leaders" own a set of golf clubs, but it does not follow that by buying a set of golf clubs you will stand a decent chance of becoming a "corporate leader".

Third, a new law school at Marshall University would only ever be an über-toilet, and anyone who wants an idea of what would await its graduates can have a look at the many über-toilets that see fewer than half of their graduates working in law ten months after graduation—and then usually in low-paying positions. An über-toilet in West Virginia could expect to fare even worse than its established counterparts in more urbanized states, because whatever demand there is for lawyers in West Virginia is amply met by the one law school in the state and others in the region. 

In a manner strikingly reminiscent of Indiana Tech's "feasibility study", Rohrbach maintained that his proposed law school would "fill[] the need in the Huntington, Charleston, Beckley market. There's [sic] a lot of people with a need, but they can't really quit what they're doing and move to Morgantown for three years" in order to study law at West Virginia University.

Why does that recall Indiana Tech? Because there too we were told of the vast numbers of people stuck in Fort Wayne who couldn't move their asses to attend one of several law schools within a two-hour drive. But the bogus "feasibility study" could not change the facts. What Indiana Tech found was that the local market consisted of a couple of dozen people at most—by no means enough to run a law school. And hardly anyone moved to Fort Wayne for the privilege of studying law 'n' hip-hop at Indiana Tech. The über-toilet was gone in four years, and the parent university lost much of its endowment on the disaster. The same fate would surely befall a law school at Marshall University, except that Fort Wayne—which is quite a bit bigger than Huntington, Charleston, and Beckley combined—would look downright promising in comparison to southwestern West Virginia.

Mr. Smith, take it from Old Guy: resist every effort to saddle your institution with a law school. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

No merger of Akron and Cleveland State

Toilet law schools University of Akron and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (Cleveland State University) contemplated a merger, but now those plans are off. It seems that each of the toilets wanted to maintain its campus.

Old Guy never saw anything to be gained from pretending that Cleveland and Akron, a good 45 minutes apart, offered fertile ground for this endeavor. He remains of the view that both law schools should close down—as indeed should all nine law schools in Ohio. The best of the lot is Ohio State University, which ridiculously insists on styling itself "The Ohio State University"—a mediocrity where more than a quarter of the class ends up not working in law after graduation. Far better law schools than this can be found nearby in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ontario. Down in the depths of über-toiletry lies dreadful Ohio Northern University, which, with only 59 students in the latest entering class, is likely to dry up and blow away. More than two-thirds of the class gets discounts ranging from 50% to 100+% (that's right, outright bribery occurs at the top), while 40% of the graduates find themselves not working in law (and usually not working at all) ten months after graduation.

Despite its undeniable charms, the Buckeye State just does not need a law school at all, let alone a reformed or reconstituted Akron–Cleveland hybrid. The entire region spills over with law schools from Tier 2 to Tier 6. How exactly a large state like Ohio has managed to assemble an assortment of law schools ranging from humdrum to shitty is a good question for historians of the law-school scam, but in practice all nine should go. Never mind that it is a big state; never mind that under more propitious circumstances it might have pulled off a respectable law school: it has not done so, and now is certainly not the time to try.

If you live in Ohio or Indiana, your nearest choices of decent law schools are Michigan, Chicago, Northwestern, Penn, and probably a couple of schools north of the Great Lakes. Do not go to any Buckeye or Hoosier law school.