Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where are we going?

(UPDATE - I should mention up front that my posts represent my own views alone, and not the views of this blog in general or any other specific writers here.  I'm just soliciting suggestions for where readers might like me to focus, and I do not speak for any other contributors, all of whom have their own styles, interests, and agendas.  But comments generally relating to this blog as a whole are also welcome.)

This will be the last of my “introductory” posts.  Next week, it’ll be on to pushing some specific activism.  But before that, I just wanted to get some thoughts together on where this movement is going.  What are we looking for?

Too summarize the scamblogs before ITLSS, there seemed to be a large group of individuals who had all suffered badly by obtaining JDs, but who all responded to this harm in different ways.  Some wanted student loan reform.  Some wanted the end of student loans.  Some hoped to achieve transparency in the statistics (and actually achieved great success with this as Law School Transparency), some wanted law school to answer for their crimes in court.  Some dreamed of law schools closing for good, while others wished for milder changes to the curriculum.  All had validity, but with so many sets of hands pulling in so many directions, I don’t recall seeing much change.  Publicity, yes, plenty of publicity, and perhaps that led to a decrease in application volume, but nothing specific and identifiable really changed.  (And if I’m wrong about this, please let me know.  I’m aware that law school applications dropped generally, which is a fine goal to have achieved, but no reforms at the institutional level.)

Then ITLSS came along, and we came together.  That site was the central plaza for the scamblog movement, and people inside the law school Establishment stopped and listened.  ITLSS gave the message some legitimacy and made many inside the scam – professors, deans, administrators etc. - realize that this wasn’t something that was going to disappear when we lost interest, and it wasn’t something that they could brush under the corner of the rug.  That didn’t stop them trying though!

But even at the ITLSS stage of our evolution, we lacked direction.  Or let me rephrase: I thought we lacked direction.  We didn’t lack direction in our motivation and passion for confronting the issues, but I never felt like we knew where we were going.

Throughout my working life, I have seen things fail because the goals were not set beforehand or developed as early as reasonably possible.  If one is aiming at an intangible, constantly-changing target, or no target at all, one never hits the ten ring.  From huge projects to small, without knowing where we are going, we end up going nowhere.  Sometimes, we end up going in the wrong direction.  Most of the success can be attributed to luck.

And we can see that even within the scamblog movement.  One group (LST) set a very specific goal early on – transparency and reform in the way law schools presented their employment statistics – and kept their eyes on that goal.  And they hit, and are now one of the great success stories of law school reform, respected too by those inside and those outside the law school scam.  And some other scamblogs have set no specific goals, or goals that really don’t mean anything, goals that can’t be turned into a plan of action, and I think it’s debatable if any can point to specific changes in the law school Establishment and say, “We did that.”

My point being as follows: I feel that if we do not set a tangible, achievable goal, we will achieve nothing except more talk.  (Although as one of my fellow writers pointed out, talk is necessary because it keeps the message fresh and keeps application levels dropping, which in turn will hopefully lead to law school reform.)  Should we set a goal?  Something that we can all aim for and work towards?  And if so, what would that goal be?  There are plenty of things that need changing.  Are there certain things that we want to see changed?  Do we want to lead the change, rather than merely being responsible for a reduction in applications, which will allow law schools themselves to dictate how they respond – and they may respond in ways that benefit the scam rather than benefiting the students.

Or am I completely wrong about this?  Should we be more focused on guerrilla tactics instead?  After all, the law school Establishment is very organized, very formal, and doesn’t know how to react to students challenging the status quo.  (I do despise the term ‘guerilla’ though, as it reminds me of that book much loved by lazy law school career services employees, “Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams”, which was basically an excuse for those careers office employees to drink coffee all day and tell their students to go and read the book and then find the jobs for themselves.  In fact, perhaps that book should have been a huge red flag to us all – why did we need to use guerrilla tactics in the job search?  After all, the law schools told us that 90%+ of their grads were walking into these kinds of awesome jobs, so they should be have been easy to find, right?  But that’s another story for another day.)

What should we be focusing on, if anything?  Should we be focusing on all law schools, or perhaps just a subset?  After all, we know that Harvard and Yale are hardly scam schools, and nor are many of the top schools, especially when considering some of the truly terrible schools that reside at the bottom of the rankings.  We have limited resources, so should we focus on the main offenders?  Shuttering some of those bottom-feeder schools would result in a dramatic reduction not just in the number of available seats in law schools, but in seats in the right law schools.  Aiming for across-the-board cuts doesn’t place the cuts where they need to be.  (Rather like the sequestering process going on at the federal level as we speak.)

Or should we aim to become part of a wider higher education reform community, reaching out to broader student loan reform groups and those representing students at other levels and in other fields who are suffering many of the same problems?  I’m sure we have resources and information that would benefit them, and they would have the same for us.

I’m not necessarily advocating that we pick a single niche to focus on and do nothing else until we have achieved that goal.  For LST, it worked.  For us?  Probably not.  But I do think we need to start to at least define the problems specifically rather than generally, and that we start to really identify specific areas and schools that cause the most harm and which should be reformed.  Third Tier Reality is a good example of this: Nando focuses on the worst offenders first, the high-value targets.  He has no need to profile top schools (yet) because they really don’t contribute to the scam in the same way that the bottom-feeders do.

I’ll revisit this after we’ve all had a chance to think about it.  My personal opinion is that we need to focus first on a group of specific, named schools, and through pushing for serious reform at those schools (such as specific changes in class size, curriculum, faculty, admissions, facilities, financing etc.) we can highlight the issues in the broader law school Establishment that affect all students.  And I’d love to hear your thoughts on which schools we should be targeting.  Who are the greatest offenders?  I have my list.  Which schools are on yours and why?

In my years in practice, I’ve come to learn one key thing: you need to tell people what you’re asking for, because otherwise they just don’t know.  It’s all well and good to moan and gripe to opposing counsel about the harm done to your client by his, but you’ve also got to tell him exactly what your client wants in terms of righting the wrong.  And I think we’ve come to the stage in the law school scam movement where we need to tell people, “This is what we want.”


  1. I think if you focus on individual bottom-feeding law schools, the site will basically just become a duplicate of Third Tier Reality. I'm not knocking TTR; just saying that you should do something that's original.

    1. Are they not the problem though?

      I'm not suggesting that we profile them and try to step on Nando's toes. That's his area of expertise. I'm just suggesting that perhaps we start to narrow in on exactly where the problems lie - the most obvious place to start would be the low tier schools that don't provide jobs and charge a fortune for a ticket to stand in the unemployment line.

      In essence, are we misspeaking when we talk about the "law school scam", when what we really mean is "the low-ranked law school scam"?

      I have every intention of pushing original activism here through my posts, but our resources are limited and we can't move in every direction at once and attack every problem with equal vigor. I wish we could, but I'm trying to keep things practical.

      What problem would rank number one on your list of complaints about legal education, and why?

    2. I was actually fine with what Campos was doing. He covered topics relating to the scam. This sometimes included coverage of the diminished job prospects facing graduates of tippy-top law schools, and yes, even those graduates who landed first-year associate positions.

    3. "In essence, are we misspeaking when we talk about the "law school scam", when what we really mean is "the low-ranked law school scam"?"

      But the scam isn't confined to the Cooleys of the world. For all but HYS (maybe), law school is a bad investment if you are paying anything remotely close to sticker price - you are effectively buying a lottery ticket with pretty bad odds. Michigan, Hastings, and (I suspect) Chicago aren't good investments, either.

      That's where the scam comes in - using the availability of Federal loan money, law schools (and other schools) got very efficient in extracting all the surplus value generated from a legal education. Two problems: they got so greedy that they overshot, and began extracting more than their degrees were worth; and the combination of the recession and the fundamental restructuring of the legal market began eroding the value of the law degree, even as tuition continued to rocket upwards.

      One of the fallback positions of the law school scamsters is "go to a T-14 school, and everything will work out fine". That's not remotely true, and we should be calling them on it.

    4. I think the best thing to do would be to just read the day's news on law schools/legal education, which is not hard to do given all the legal publications online and all the pieces in the general media, find one or more interesting articles, write up your thoughts on it from the POV of "the scam" and post with a link.

      Every day, there are at least some articles out there that provide fodder for conversation.

      Let the comments drive the conversation. Comments will also provide ideas for new posts.

      I suggest not spending any more time debating what you're going to do, because the blog WILL die that way. Paralysis by analysis.

      A blog is informal by its nature, it does not need a carefully defined mission statement. Campos didn't start that way, he just started posting and momentum developed.

      Just do it.

    5. Agree completely with 12:19.

  2. i agree. i think if you attack low employment on one day and then a lying dean on another day and then how expensive law books are on another day then you just end up jumping from place to place and not making much of a point. but i think that there is room for a sharp focus on some things and general posts too. there are what six or senven bloggers signed up here already and they can each choose what they want to write about. but i would like some people to write about general tings adn some people to write about their own favorite issues. there is room for all.

  3. I see one main issue that is more importnat than ANYTHING ELSE:


    That has to stop. So that is what I want this blog to aim at. How is up to you all. Close schools, reduce class sizes everywhere, paint the JD as an unattractive grad degree, whatevah. Just stop the overflow of JDs into the job market and I think most all other problems will be solved.

  4. Folks, the scam movement just got a gift in the form of a new rankings system. If you can get this out there on top law schools and other websites where 0Ls congregate, it can continue the momentum.

    It lists every ABA law school and what percentage of their grads wind up in NLJ 250 firms. In short, it lists, by the numbers how many of each school's grads wind up in these firms, and then, by the numbers, which firms they go to.

    It's called the "go-to law schools" ranking.

    Here's the thing. Only SIX law schools in the entire country have placement rates of 50% or better in these Biglaw firms. Zero have placement higher than 61% Which makes it very handy to turn the data on its head and give

    It goes from Alabama through West Virginia.

    First law school listed is Samford in Alabama. 5 grads got NLJ 250 firm jobs. Out of 145 graduates. So 3.38%.

    So now you can use that data in a way that 0ls can understand. Want a biglaw job with an NLJ 250 firm right out of law school? Then if you go to this school, there's upwards of 96% you won't get there from here according to this data. (It may adjust a tiny bit for clerkships, but probably not much---and there aren't nearly as many judges hiring clerks as there are law firms hiring associates.

    The entire top 14 added together placed under 2300 (less than 50% of their collective enrollment)lawyers in these firms. They are by far the largest feeder schools.....wo what happens to the other 40,000 graduates of the other 180+ schools? It doesn't take a genius to figure it out.

    This blog could post one school and their horrible numbers every day. Put them on display. These rankings should become as well known as USnews rankings to 0Ls.

    You'll always have special snowflakes that go anyway. But if a third of the class isn't showing up in the fall, the tough decisions will eventually have to get made.

    1. I agree on the general point but this a pretty crude analysis as applied to the top schools. You need to add in at least Art III clerkships, as a decent number of grads at the top schools do Art III clerkships. Stanford and Harvard place well over 61% of their class into elite firms--you also need to consider that a fair portion at the very top go to elite boutiques that aren't part of the NLJ250--and Yale could if so many of its class didn't want to go elsewhere.

    2. OK, that's all well and good. But can we agree that schools outside the top 14 or top 25 (i.e. almost all of them) don't fall into this category?

    3. Yes, of course. Fewer than ten or so schools place enough Article III clerkships for it to make a difference.

  5. Here's the link to their "top 50."

    A few things are noteworthy.

    Only six schools placed 50% or higher.

    When you get to the bottom of the list, the University of Tennessee is #50.

    Pretty good accomplishment, right? Top quarter of all law schools nationwide.

    So how many of UT's 146 graduates would you think got Biglaw jobs with NLJ 250 firms?

    The answer: 12.


    Out of 146. For a percentage of 8.22%.

    Now, there are all sorts of reasons one might go to Tennessee, particularly if they get in-state tuition. And it may make sense for them if they want to go into public interest work, or if they plan to go into a small firm where their father and uncle have their name on the door. So that doesn't mean it's a bad bet for all 146 students.

    But all 146 students should be aware on the way in that if they are dreaming of a job with a big law firm, then 134 of them, or upwards of 91%, probably aren't getting that job.

    Which means it probably isn't worth it for most of the folks paying out of state tuition.

    And remember, this school is IN the top 50.

    There are 150 more schools with worse percentages than these.

    (The funniest was Cooley---999 graduates, 1 lawyer with an NLJ 250 firm)

    So your odds of a job like that coming out of Cooley aren't just the old figurative "one in a thousand" It's very nearly LITERALLY one in a thousand.

    1. Sorry. Here's the link:

  6. I think you greatly underestimate the scamminess of top law schools. Top law schools do have better employment outcomes, but these should not be overstated. Many T14s are still placing less than half of their graduates into firms of over 100 attorneys, meaning that most of the class end up jobs that do not justify the debt (and we all know that IBR/PLSF only papers over the problem).

    More importantly, top law schools engage in the same fraudulent accounting tactics, deceptive advertising (e.g., proclaiming the versatility of the JD, promoting Big Law without disclosing the high attrition rate), rampant tuition inflation, ratcheting up class sizes, and pocket-lining of deans and professors as their TTT counterparts. Duke, for example, pioneered the practice of hiring its own graduates while simultaneously bragging about a 100 percent employment rate.

    Rightly or wrongly, top schools enjoy a level of prestige and social capital unrivaled by their TTT counterparts. With this respect must come accountability. The top schools have the greatest duty to reform law schools, a duty which they have shamelessly abdicated. These schools are abusing the public trust, and consequently eroding the ethics and professionalism of the legal profession as a whole.

    As yet another reason why top schools should not be off the hook, remember that the law faculty of TTTs are overwhelmingly populated by entitled practice-dropouts from HYS, who cultivated the scam to provide themselves with a cushy landing. Do you really think the institutions that produced these graduates should be let off easy?

    My thoughts are these: 1) Continue to blog about a wide range of issues, because different issues will attract different constituencies and ultimately produce a broader coalition. 2) School-focused activism is good. We should figure out a way to bridge the gap between students and alumni (or even 1Ls and 3Ls) to make this more effective. 3) While I think eliminating the student loan program should be the ultimate goal, law school reform should focus primarily on reducing the number of graduates and reducing tuition.

    1. I was referring to the website.

  7. "One of the fallback positions of the law school scamsters is 'go to a T-14 school, and everything will work out fine.' That's not remotely true, and we should be calling them on it."

    If a student must attend a Top 14 school (or a Top 6, or HYS, or the proverbial "Yale or Fail") to have a reasonably good outcome justifying six figures of nondischargeable debt then why are the remaining nearly 200 schools still open?

  8. It is like fighting City Hall, and as the old saying goes, you cant do it.

    But maybe, and at the very least, the scamblogs can warn naive lemmings with a very clear set of guidelines to think very long and hard over, and Nando has done that in his blog and priofile descriptions.

    If even a few lives are saved then the effort will be worth it.

    But if you want a throw it all in the hopper and come out with a "reasonable" goal, then the goal should be to plead with anyone thinking about law school to sit it out for a few years, and to tell them that they are not giving up on their "dreams" but just taking a wait and see attitude before taking the plunge and taking what may turn out to be crippling debt.

    Maybe as long as 5 years. Because by then the whole shootin' match and ballgame might be entirely different.

    And BTW, congrats on the mounting # of pageviews!

  9. The trouble with kids is that they want to rush ahead into the future, and will even tragically leverage themselves up to do so.

    Slow down, and look around. Wait a while and travel the world, and maybe you will find something else you want to do in life.

    Or, you paradoxically might end up like an irrational and big, thick, huge boner, like Mr. Infinity, and go into law :)

    But the choice is yours.

  10. Oh there once was a silly old banjo,
    and it was baked in a pie!

    A silly old Billy old
    nilly willy old banjo.

    And it was baked in a pie!

    And when the pie was open,
    the banjo began to play. YAY!

    And it turns out that everyone
    had a really nice day :)

    Except for Mr. Infinity

    who is a BONER!

    1. My day would be a lot nicer if you would unlatch yourself from your parents' throats and stop drinking all their blood to survive.

    2. See what I mean? What a deranged thing to say, and what am I to the anon stalker?

      Every morning I come out of the house and wonder if he is waiting in the street to shoot me.

      I have asked him over and over to come clean and say who he is. Why can't he do that?

      Everyone knows who I am.

      And why is he obsessed with my family?

      I hope this insane and anon person is not or will not become a member of the Bar in any state.

      Or, then again, he could be a plant.

      God I hope not.

    3. Poor oo. Just for the record, I would never put you out of your misery. I hope you live to be 120. And I hope your debt never goes away during that period unless you actually pay it off the honest way.

      Now climb back into your boyfriend's tank (sculpted out of crap) and pester him for sex.

    4. "Now climb back into your boyfriend's tank (sculpted out of crap) and pester him for sex."

      I have a vise; I'd love to stick your head in it, 4:12, and turn the handle `till your eyeballs pop out.

    5. Haha, is it from your Fisher-Price tool-kit?

      Internet tough guy or no, you are clearly nothing but a giant pussy - who sculpts things out of his own turds.

      I wonder, what will the great artist create next?

  11. Three Cheers For The Cosmic Lady!

    She's hanging from a tree.
    She went to law school
    like a damn fool.
    But now, at least she's free.

    Three cheers for the cosmic lady,
    we knew she'd travel far.
    The first one in her family
    to ever pass the Bar.

    Three cheers for the cosmic daughter,
    she never gave up hope.
    She found enjoyment;
    good employment;
    with daddy's nylon rope.

    But see her eyes!
    they look so frightful
    in the red light of the moon.

    What made the lady so upset
    to end her life
    so soon?

    Some say: "Life is just unkind"
    and that it: "sore distressed her mind."
    but some say it was: "greed and gold"
    for t'was to Albert Lord
    she had been sold.

    "It's not our fault she's hanging there!"
    So said the law school dean.
    "There are figures, stats, and rows and lines
    she should have read between!"

    Three cheers for the Cosmic Lady
    but....just go cut her down.
    The Mayor said it will not so
    to have this in our town.

    Three cheers for the Cosmic Lady
    She's up there with the stars.
    Where cherubs turn harmonious spheres
    and Angels play guitars.

    Three cheers for the Cosmic Lady!
    Three Cheers for the Cosmic Lady!
    Three Cheers......

    1. Roachy, shouldn't you be using your weekends trying to find a job rather than writing poems about your growing homosexuality?

  12. Would rather be a roach than a thick head capo dos boner pleading with every blog owner to ban me.

    And why the hell do you do that BTW? What is your motive? Why do a few little stupid jingle poems threaten you so much?

    Do not underestimate me. We will find you and your ID. So you had better quit now or just come clean and be honest and just say who you are.

    Again, who are you?

    I am perfectly willing to forgive and forget, but I have to know who you are are and what your motives are.

    You are smart enough OK but kind of cruel. And the world is full of people like you. Way too many.

    Just try to be honest and say who you are.

    1. The world is full of too many people like ME? Wow, coming from someone who lives with his parents into his 50s, that's pretty rude. If criticism really bothers you that much, you should stop posting your off-topic drivel.

      And LOL at your promises of revenge. Sounds to me like your creditors have a pretty good record of how your past promises turned out.

      It is literally impossible for me or anyone else here to "underestimate" YOU.

    2. Who are you?

  13. The issue with focusing on the diploma mill schools is two-fold.

    1) Those schools have nothing to gain by changing. They are bottom tier. They will always be bottom tier. They exist to make money for administrators and tenured professors. At least with a school that has a central university, or that cares about rankings, they are confined by USNWR- they cannot simply have an open admissions policy.

    2) The students who attend these schools may simply be beyond saving. They may be unable to process any kind of warning. Or they literally have no other options- three years of federal loan money is enough to attract them regardless of their job prospects. Or they come from extremely modest backgrounds where getting into ANY LAW SCHOOL is a big fucking deal and turning down a law school would be unheard of.

    That said, we could lobby the ABA to make the bar passage standard stricter. We could start a political campaign to have the DOE review the allocation of federal loan monies to these schools. We need allies.

    But I also think we can't target all law schools. It's like any political movement- the most extreme positions may be logically sound but are also unpalatable. Take abortion- if you believe human life begins at conception, then abortion is murder and you would ban abortion in all circumstances. However, this is an unpopular view, and is not the mainstream position of the anti-abortion crowd.

  14. To the OP, I would say continue on like Campos did, not focusing on one part of the lawl skool fiasco, but all of it. We know people are getting the message, just keep repeating it in variation. The law schools are beginning to come unglued; the re-conjoining of the two Rutgers campuses is proof of that. There is a looming crack-up; I don't know when, or where.

    1. So you DON'T think the site should focus on playing with your own turds? I find that hard to believe.

    2. And you wonder why I play mean....

    3. Haha, yes, what a meanie. All you do is cry, rub your sore cooter, and beg the moderator to remove the posts you don't like. And talk about sculpting your turds into weapons, of course.

      You're one fierce woman warrior, that much is clear.

  15. Why not try to take down US News & World Report?

    1. USN&WR is no longer even a printed magazine, just a duller version of with dull college and car rankings.

      The damage has already been done.

  16. I think it is also important to continue to tell the stories of the law school victims. It builds community and let's others know it isn't their fault and they aren't alone. So many of the people who wrote in at ITLSS just appeared to me to be suicidal. And to the extent this forum can try to find answers and share information that would be good.