Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oblivious LawProfs

We publish employment statistics at Elysium School of Law...?  Huh.  Who knew?

Wow.  I am somewhat shocked and amazed, although I suppose I shouldn't be.  Yet I still am.
In my recent post on Butthurt LawProfs, I painted a picture of indifferent scholars enjoying the fruits of their "labor," subsidized on the backs of their students, yet fiddling while Rome burns.  I basically said that they could afford to fiddle, though, as this crisis would not touch them in any meaningful way due to social pedigree.  Further, as the plebeian JD graduates have had the temerity to speak out and just aren't bowing and scraping as they should be, a few professorial feathers have been ruffled, so get back in line.
And then I thought, well, perhaps I was too harsh in my indictment.  Am I saying that there is no call for legal scholarship, at all, ever?  No, I can't exactly say that.  Am I saying there is no call for legal education, at all, ever?  No, clearly there is and will be a need for new lawyers, just not 40k per year at the current time (with significant backlog).  Yes, some schools need to close, costs need to come down, but perhaps I shouldn't take my own experiences (and those of many, many others) as a reason to rail against the establishment.  Do I really mean to say the LawProfs Just Don't Care - ship out the processed meat, bring in the new cattle?
Apparently I was close, as Professor Orin Kerr commented below:
Here's a contrary view from the other side of the fence.

My sense is that most law professors haven't been impacted that much by the scam blog movement, actually. Most professors know that the job market is really tough and that applications are down. They know that budgets are tighter, that pay increases are lower (or non-existent), and that faculty hiring has slowed dramatically. And they may have heard about the scam blogs.

With that said, most law professors don't spend a lot of time thinking about such things in their day-to-day lives. They go on teaching their classes, writing their articles, and meeting with students just as they did before. Plus, students at their home schools treat them the same way that they did before. There's a lot of anger in the scam blogs, obviously. But most professors don't read the scam blogs, and professors who don't criticize the scam blogs online generally aren't the specific targets of that anger.

Just my 2 cents. (I also don't know any professors who "Just Don't Care," but that's a separate comment.)

Dybbuk responds:
Prof. Kerr,

Do law professors spent time thinking about the highly misleading placement statistics that many, even most, law schools were publishing until very recently? Do law professors spare a thought or two about the impact those stats may have had on the lives of their students?

In turn:
Dybbuk, I suspect that a large chunk of law professors don't know that their schools publish placement statistics. I also suspect that a lot of those that do know their schools publish statistics have no idea what their placement statistics are. Also, most of those who know that the statistics exist and have an idea of what they are have no idea whether they are accurate. Placement statistics are something that the Career Development Office and the Dean's Office would deal with, not the profs. To be clear, I'm not defending that; I'm just trying to describe the world view.


Actually, I truly appreciate Professor Kerr's honesty and his taking time to comment, and I don't take his comments as an excuse to attack him, personally.  He's just the messenger in this case.
Apparently, it's not that the LawProf establishment "doesn't care", as that would imply some lack of basic human decency.  It's not even Pride.  They just literally HAVE NO IDEA. 
These learned individuals, who can prognosticate at length about detainee rights in Guantanamo, application of Nietzchean philosophy to jurisprudence, and gender equality issues at the intersection of Federal and Tribal law, are just unable to discern the basic economic supply-and-demand relationship that their job and their pay comes from consigning thousands to the debt-serfdom grinder with few to no real prospects.  And that this problem has been accelerating for some time now.
Accurate employment statistics?  Who knows.  Do we even publish them? 
Scamblogs?  What are they even talking about?  TL; DR.
40k JDs are produced for 20k jobs every year?  So, JDs aren't getting good jobs?  Really?  Student loan defaults are up?  Oh.  Well, that's too bad, I guess, but that's the Dean and CDO's bailiwick.  Back to my law review article.
Pay freezes?  Hiring freezes?  Applications are down 15 - 20%?  Hmmm, I wonder what that means.
0Ls and non-trads, here it is, straight from the horse's mouth.  With the rare exceptions of those like Paul Campos and Brian Tamanaha (and perhaps Orin Kerr), LawProfs have no idea as to the actual state of the legal industry or the miserable plight of the majority of their students.  That's not in their job description, anyway, to know about these things.  Go talk to the Dean or the CDO if you actually require something as pedestrian as a "job" after graduation.
Rarefied air, indeed.  Ignorance is bliss.


  1. or pretend to not know. they dont want to rock the boat.

  2. I refuse to believe that lawprofs have no idea about the scamblogs. Aren't they wondering why enrollment in their diploma mills has dropped lately?

    The problem is that it serves no purpose for lawprofs to argue with the scamblog authors and their crazy commenters. At least with their real name.

    What lawprofs of somewhat reputable schools need to do is to publicly demand that low end mills close. They also need to tell the ABA section of legal education to make it more difficult to accredit a law school unless it can show that all of their attendees have a good chance of getting a job that will pay their loans.

    Has it come to this point? You're damn right.

  3. You're too kind to the professor. You'd have to be living under a rock to not know what's going on in the legal industry. People on the damn bus know.

    Those professors who are aware of the obvious, ARE LARGELY SILENT. They are not using their positions of power, connections, voice, energy to change their "home schools", inform their woefully ignorant colleagues, plan a revolt with their students. They're not talking about this in classrooms.

    Kerr's at GW. The GW that just accepted a 22% LARGER 1L class and reduced admissions requirements. Ever hear Professor Kerr say they shouldn't? Yeah, me neither. If he wants to come to this forum and put in his mild defense of ignorance, he's asking for a little reality from the commentariat. I know the professor thinks it doesn't matter if GW tanks, he'll be fine, but the reality is he's been getting paid quite well from government subsidies so his blase attitude doesn't impress me.

    He too should realize you can't shit where you eat and go on eating well. You'll end up eating shit or starving, even if you think you're that snowflake that will land on its feet.

  4. "and gender equality issues at the intersection of Federal and Tribal law"

    That was a good line. I loled . Do they really teach this stupid shit in law school? How does any of this help you deal with real client issues?

  5. Yeah, well put. Prof. Kerr's post from "the other side of the fence" actually strengthened the verdict of "Just Don't Care."

    I have a lot of respect for Orin Kerr. For one thing, he defended Campos on the law professor blogs, and I can't imagine that was well-received. For another thing, he is among the few law professors whose scholarship is frequently cited by reviewing courts. I hope he continues to post on this blog.

    But I am afraid his post-- and granted he is just the messenger and was not speaking for himself-- made me think of the phrase "Good Germans." The level of ignorance he describes from extremely educated people can only be described as willful.(Cue Tom Lehrer: "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?/ "That's not my department," says Werner Von Braun").

    Hey, law professors: These are kids who trusted you, who obeyed you for three years, and who made you rich by undertaking a staggering burden of debt. If they are not in the center of your moral concern, who is? Do you really think it is dignified or progressive to ignore what is happening to them?

    1. "The level of ignorance he describes from extremely educated people can only be described as willful."


      Consider, for example, the faculty roster of the "worst," i.e., lowest ranked per US News school in my state:

      Granted there are some "toilet law" grads on this faculty, but even most of them have multiple post-graduate degrees, and there are plenty of people with "elite" academic pedigrees at JMLS. I don't see anyone who could credibly claim that they lack the mens rea to understand what their students are facing. And what most of their students are facing is really goddamn bleak. Nobody is hiring from this place, outside of family members or a very tiny handful of kids at the top of the class.

  6. "Dybbuk, I suspect that a large chunk of law professors don't know that their schools publish placement statistics. I also suspect that a lot of those that do know their schools publish statistics have no idea what their placement statistics are."

    Anyone who looks at the USNWR rankings knows that schools publish placement statistics.

    Oh God how I would love to cross examine this lying bastard in front of a jury.

  7. I suspect that what Kerr says about the feelings of most law profs regarding the scam blogs and terrible outcomes for many of their students is true. That is to say, they choose not to think about it. And if feelings of unease begin to creep into their minds, they can always ease their consciences by telling themselves that no one forced their students to go to law school, that its not their fault that the job market tanked, that there is always IBR, etc .... And that’s not surprising - it’s a basic human instinct really. When forced to choose between honesty and your livelihood - 99% of the people will go with the latter. Even those who are honest - like Campos - aren’t about to forego their paychecks (and I don’t want to dredge up the whole pro and anti -Campos thing. I personally admire the man, but I know that others feel differently).

    But here’s the thing, what’s going on here (and has been going on for some time) is deeply unethical. The deans, profs, and administrators know this, even if they choose not to think about it. Can the law schools - and their enablers at the ABA for that matter - drop all the BS about “legal ethics.” Seriously, just drop it. No one needs to hear it - not from you.

  8. If he doesn't know about the "scam blog" movement, what the hell is Kerr doing commenting on this blog?

  9. It is their duty to know. You cannot willfully put your hands before your eyes and then excuse your behavior due to blindness. These professors just don't care and they will continue not to care until reality forces them to care---if ever that reality arrives.

  10. He's right, of course. The default of most law professors is ignorance because they don't need to care . I suspect that has many causes. One is that the business of dealing with students has been shifted to a caste of professional administrators. Another is probably the backgrounds of most law professors that blind them to the reality of what life is like for lawyers who didn't go to Harvard or do a federal clerkship. The third, as Orin points out, is that their students don't tell them. They may complain about their situations at the bar, or sitting around in student apartments, or on Facebook, but nobody is bursting into their offices and asking them why tuition is going up 5%.

    How the institution that pays your salary makes its money should be the concern of every law professor, even acting out of rational self-interest and no duty to the students. When you abdicate control of the daily life of your institution to a class of professional administrators who look upon students as "consumers", don't be surprised when they see you as a "cost-center." A particularly difficult one to cut because of tenure, but a cost center nonetheless. We saw it in Vermont, with the For-Profits, at SLU, SH, and I suspect at many other law schools that haven't made the papers.

    People generally don't listen to what people are saying unless the speaker has some authority. Scambloggers and scamblogs are more likely to be dismissed as the rantings of mentally ill individuals or people with serious social handicaps who would be unemployable in any economy. The success of scamblogs have always been their persistence, which trickled into the MSM, which then trickled down to applicants and burst the myth of the "million dollar law degree." Beating up on ignorant law professors has always been a sideshow.

  11. Maybe a little off topic, but, I think there is a place for legal scholarship. It's the same place where you put historical scholarship, economics scholarship, English literature scholarship, etc. The fact that law school is a professional school, not a PhD program or purely scholarly endeavor complicates this issue.

    Maybe law school should do like med school and separate scholarship from professional training. Med school "scholarship" falls under biology, physiology, anatomy, biomedical engineering, etc., whereas MD training falls under the professional "med school" program. There are also MD-PhD programs to bridge the gap in rare cases.

    This kind of separation would enable appropriate levels of scholarship, funded by existing revenue streams for research. Money in the professional school could be focused on professional development, instead of being funneled away from students and into "research".

  12. The focus on professors is, and will be, of marginal utility in terms of solving the problem. The professors are part of (almost to a one) the liberal, progressive academic industrial class which benefits from a government run student loan programs. These programs have no underwriting, are and will be of significant liability to the taxpayer, and of course, unlike virtually any other debt instrument in society,not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Heck, even underworld bookies will negotiate a debt.

    So the only recourse is for students simply not to attend law school, or any school other than those demonstrating excellent value. Period. Debt is a trap, and student loan debt is the worst sort of trap.

    Political change will be hard, as so many young people have been conditioned to think of liberals as friendly to middle class people. But with student loans and their concomitant protection of the academic apparatchiks, nothing could be further from the truth. These programs have been put into place have grown with the support of progressives, who mindlessly believe (it feathers the nest of their academic constituents) that all education is worthy, no matter the cost. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe Republicans are particularly sensitive to the challenges young people face. But progressives are the driving force behind this problem. And it is oh so difficult for young people to change their world views and indoctrination and recognize that.

    Quit subsidizing all of these institutions without underwriting on the backs of students so the prices of education can come down. I dont get it. Technology should have vastly reduced the cost of education rather than pump it up 3 times inflation.

    I recall writing Cryn Johansen in a post relating these views and intellectually she seemed to agree with me. But you can bet here world view remains that some Government program must be had to fix the problem.

    1. Thank you for all the comments, and I think BoredJD and 8:43 have a good point of criticism. Beating up on LawProfs is a sideshow to the movement, but a necessary one as part of the overall process of piercing-the-law-school-veil, IMO.

      Once you see who you are actually dealing with and where their progressive-liberal-bread-is-actually-buttered, then it helps when trying to make an informed choice. They will spout all day about "defending liberty" and "pursuing justice", as our friends at the ABA like to go on about, but when push comes to shove we all know the actual truth.

    2. 8:43 made one of the best comments I've read on this blog. The hypocrisy of self-proclaimed liberal academics never ceases to amaze me. They are building a rigid aristocracy with an entrenched liberal elite class while claiming to care about the little guy.

      Year after year, most college/LS/grad students enthusiastically vote for "progressive" politicians who give them the white elephant gift of easier access to more student loans. These students cheerfully and moronically support elite liberals who are getting rich off the backs of their own supporters.

  13. FWIW worth I think Orin Kerr is basically right regarding the level of knowledge most legal academics have regarding the economics of legal education and the legal profession, with the caveat that the situation inside law schools is changing very rapidly, and lots of people who were completely oblivious two years or even one year ago are having their consciousness raised.

    The reasons for the previous status quo, in which the average law prof knew essentially nothing about his school's placement statistics (either in their fake or real versions) or his school's budget has to do mainly with two factors, one of which is fairly benign and the other which isn't.

    The benign factor is described by Kerr, and could be summed up as the perfectly sincere belief that paying attention to those things truly wasn't one's job, and that the people whose job it was to pay attention to those things were responsible individuals.

    The malignant factor was a function of what has been called bureaucratic role morality: people realize it's not good for their careers to overstep conventional job boundaries, by doing things like calling into question the behavior of their bureaucratic superiors, so they don't, except in extreme circumstances.

    All that's over now, or rapidly ending, because the extreme circumstances have arrived, or are arriving, at lots of schools.

    1. Professor Campos,

      Thanks for your comment. It's good to hear that the law school professors are finally waking up to the damage the present law school set-up is doing. I do wonder though what is now going on in the minds of the deans and career development offices.

      In any event, if there is one thing I wish the the legal academy would understand is that it is NON-DISCHARGABLE debt that is wrecking people's lives.

      It's not the absurdly high tuition or the lack of opportunities for meaningful legal employment (both short and long term) that do the real damage (although they both greatly exacerbate the situation). It's the NON-DISCHARGABLE debt that turns a possibly wasted 3 years into a life-destroying disaster.

      The best thing law schools could (and should) do is to refuse to accept tuition payments made with non-dischargable debt. The next best would be to reduce tuition (to 1980 levels adjusted for inflation) and to focus fund-raising on needs/merit based scholarships.

      But one way or another, law schools need to stop destroying lives by relying on non-dischargable debt to fund their ongoing existence. Their doing so - given the visible carnage of the last several years - puts them way near the bottom of the moral barrel .... below used car salesman .... and just about everyone else.

    2. Lawprof, how "superior" are administrators, even high level ones, in law schools?

      It seems to me law schools share common features with large law firms, where the "owners" of the school are both the tenured faculty and the top admins. There are obviously tenured faculty members who are less influential than their colleagues, and the dean might be more influential than any single tenured faculty member. But I have to think that the faculty are the preeminent interest group and united would have most of the power.

      What appears to have happened is that the faculty have abdicated their day to day responsibility of running the law school to the administrators, much like the partners at large law firms abdicate their day to day duties to other partners who serve as the top of a pyramid of non-lawyer support staff. There's nothing stopping the tenured faculty from taking back their law school and imposing cost-cutting and enrollment measures (is there?) except for self-interest.

    3. When are the enrollment numbers for Fall 2013 coming out? That should be interesting information.

    4. To be fair, bureaucratic role morality does affect a wide area if not most of human interactions with and within large organizational structures. I guess the question seems to be one of whether or not one is OK with the outcomes. If they are not OK with it, some people move on to other avenues, some people don't.

      One would think tenure would protect a large degree of so-called "whistleblowing", but apparently Campos is among an exceedingly small group who feel the ability to utilize their position to do the thing their position entails, ironically.

    5. BoredJD, I think this varies a great deal between law schools (as it probably does between firms). Some law schools have a strong tradition of genuine faculty self-governance, while others are run as practical fiefdoms by their deans. And there are intermediate situations, such as schools where there's a strong presumption that everything important will be decided at the committee level, and full faculty meetings are largely pro forma.

      Anyway your central point is certainly true. Law faculties could demand to take a central role in all the institution's important decisions, instead of, as is so often the case, limiting their role to hiring and promotion decisions. But doing so is both often against individual self-interest and features lots of collective action problems.

      But collective action problems can be overcome, especially when people start fearing for their jobs.

    6. I can appreciate Campos' opinion in the generic sense. But in the specific, I can't conclude there is any way possible that the professors at CU don't have a firm grasp on the employment/cost situation given what has gone on with Prof. Campos. And that school expanded its' 1L class this year. There are all kinds of possible excuses, but the reason that remains true is the job provides a very nice lifestyle. If that comes at the cost of others, hey, a lot of people find themselves in that position, and if it wasn't me, it would be someone else. So fuck it.

  14. Let me just say that I don't believe Law School is worth it even if YOU Don't have to go into debt. If I have an extra $200,000 in the bank through hard work, should I transfer my account to Podunk Law School simply to get a JD? Anybody know how long it takes the average person to accumulate $200K in after tax dollars, especially given the thieves on Wallstreet?

  15. do you think the people who built the bridge to nowhere cared that they were wasting tax payer dollars?

    do you think the people who build homes care that the buyers cant afford to by the homes?

    do you think the folks at best buy who sell big screen TV's to people who cant afford them lose sleep at night?

    do you think the drug dealer selling crack knowing it will destroy a life really cares about his customers?

    its a job, just like teaching at law school. why do you expect law professors to act differently than other people who have to make a living?

    1. Yep, everything you listed is exactly like law school, in every single respect.

      Keep napalming that army of strawmen.

    2. The bridge to nowhere was a isolated incident (though of course other tax revenue wasters are out there), and the tax payers were not stuck with non-dischargeable debt.

      People who build homes don't represent that "if you buy this home, you will have a great career." When you buy a home, you get a home. If you can't pay for it, it gets foreclosed, and in many states (those that don't allow deficiency judgments), that is the end of it (i.e. foreclosure cancels the note/debt). In states that do allow deficiency judgments, most banks don't bother because they are dealing with an insolvent debtor. Those debtors to do get hit can just declare bankruptcy.

      TV's, really the same thing. Worst case scenario it is bought on credit card, and debtor ultimately goes BK. And under the current system, they would probably get to keep the TV.

      If you are ok comparing professors to crack dealers, I am fine with that.

      Yes, it is just a job. But assuming that being a law professor is no different than any other job, you are assuming that law school is purely a commercial enterprise, bent solely on making profit. In reality, of course, this has become the case. But unlike most commercial enterprises, these non-profit institutions don't pay taxes like for-profit corps, their "customers" don't borrow money that is non-dischargeable, and the ultimate burden falls on the taxpayers in the event of default. And with regards to for-profit enterprises, consumer protection laws apply, which apparently is not the case (at least in the 6th circuit) which regards to universities.

      And your argument is that because everyone is greedy and apathetic, it's ok that professors are greedy and apathetic. This really assumes as true the entire point made by this article (i.e. that professors only care about money and lack empathy for students).

    3. Of your list, the only social pariahs who've ever dared to waste years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars preaching endlessly to me about "social justice" are law professors.

  16. The space station picture is good but perhaps an "Ivory Tower" might have been better.

    1. The "Elysium School of Law."

      Its grads will truly be practice ready for space law.

    2. That is International Space Law. And yes, you can practice as a sole from Nebraska.

    3. When its time for the peace treaties with aliens*, your $200,000 degree in International Space Law will be worth its weight in Gold-Pressed Latinum.**

      * See e.g.,
      ** See

  17. Leaving aside your other examples, I'm sure law professors believe they are superior to drug dealers. Yet they, like drug dealers, have allowed lives to be wrecked, not with drugs, but with non-dischargable debt.

  18. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
    ― Upton Sinclair

  19. OT, but in light of this comment by 9:21 am:

    "The hypocrisy of self-proclaimed liberal academics never ceases to amaze me. They are building a rigid aristocracy with an entrenched liberal elite class while claiming to care about the little guy."

    I thought this article might be of interest:

    Found via Instapundit who commented:

    Perhaps academics view the business world as cruel and exploitative toward workers because academia is so cruel and exploitative to its own workers. . . . [and students imo]


    1. Those professors started out as humans 20 or 30 years ago, at which time their greatest vice was mere conceit. Over the years, they became monsters, with thousands of ruined minds and careers on their nonexistent consciences.

      Here's the memo: getting a few A's at Harvard or Chicago 20 or 30 years ago doesn't give you the right to suck the wonder, the energy, and the money out of every person who ever gets near you.

  20. Some comments posted on the WaPo's article on declining law school enrollments that every law professor (and Dean) should read:

    "Law school destroys the financial lives of at least 60-70% of its graduates. Even at so-called "good" schools at places like George Washington, a solid percentage of the graduates will have their lives ruined by a worthless education.

    And, of course, the debt is non-dischargeable thanks to effective lobbying! Law school destroys lives."

    "2011 grad - if I could return my law degree and the debt, I'd do it faster than you could snap your fingers. Of course, law school also stole some of the best years of my life that I'll never get back. I would rather be a convicted felon without debt than a law school graduate."

    "If you're thinking of law school after graduation and can't make it into an ivy league, your much better off taking out $200,000 in credit card debt, fleeing to Costa Rica, and spending 3 years on the beach. At least when you get back to the states you can file for bankruptcy"