Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Close Encounters of the Third Tier: Cleveland-Marshall Law Prof. Mark J. Sundahl touts career opportunities in Space Law.

(The green alien looks friendly, but it is about to say that the galaxy is glutted with JDs, and that no reputable Space Law firm in the Universe would hire out of a black hole like Cleveland-Marshall).

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law includes among its faculty a smarty-pants named Mark J. Sundahl. As noted on his CV, Sundahl has a Ph.D. in Classics from Brown (2000), and a JD from UC-Hastings (2001). Sundahl became a law professor in 2004, following a couple of years in Big Law, and is now Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. When he is not professoring, Sundahl serves on various important-sounding advisory boards and is "of counsel" for a small local firm that represents aerospace and defense clients.
In general, I deplore the routine practice of law schools in offering law professorships to persons with extremely limited practice experience-- to persons who were, in fact, law students only a couple of years earlier. But I have to admit that Sundahl's combo of specialties--space law and ancient Athens--is pretty freaking cool. That is why it is a shame that Sundahl is a scammer.
In a promotional video for Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Sundahl states that there is a "great deal of opportunity for employment in the law of out outer space." He also asserts that the study of space law provides practical "skills that are transferable." Here is a link to the video, and a transcription of the most obnoxious of his comments:
"The job opportunities [in space law] can be found both in governmental organizations, you could work for governmental organizations, agencies within the US government, you could work for nonprofit organizations that, for example, set best standards, best  practices, for companies that are active in space, and governments that are active in space, you could work for any number of companies that manufacture space assets, for example manufacture satellites or launch vehicles or any of the many components that are integrated into these launch vehicles and satellites. And so there is a great deal of opportunity to find employment in the law of outer space and that is exactly what we’re are trying to prepare our students for. Because suddenly there are far more opportunities than there had been in the past. And we want to make sure that our students are trained in the field of space law so they can take advantage of these opportunities." 
(Video at 2:46-3:42) 
"The study of space law provides students with skills that are transferable. It seems like a very exotic, esoteric area of the law and many students might think it doesn’t have a practical application to their future career as lawyers, but that’s not the case. There are a number of transferable skills. Because in the course of the class students have the opportunity to read treaties and interpret international treaties and also navigate complex domestic regulations... but the ability to read, interpret, and apply those regulations can serve a student well regardless of what field they go into."

(Video at 4:17-4:57) 
Throughout much of the video, Sundahl maintains a weird half-smile. So enigmatic, like a Mona Lisa of law school scam. Is he trying to be ingratiating? Is he just that pleased with himself? Is it an unconscious signal not to take him seriously? 

Sundahl knows perfectly well that very few, if any, Cleveland-Marshall law graduates are going to "find employment in the law of outer space." In fact, Cleveland-Marshall's abysmal placement record establishes that most will not obtain any sort of full-time legal employment. A mere 76 out of 176 total graduates of the class of 2012 (43.2%) obtained bar-required full-time long-term nonsolo jobs within nine months of graduation--only 16 of whom joined firms with more than 25 lawyers, and none of whom obtained an Article III clerkship. [1] And though Sundahl yaps about job opportunities with "agencies within the US government, "it does not appear that Cleveland-Marshall's renown for training space law regulators, or regulators of any sort, has reached our nation's capital. Of the class 2011, only three graduates got jobs in DC, as opposed to 143 who remained in Ohio. [2] In 2012, fewer than three graduates landed jobs in DC. [3]

Would it be so terrible for Sundahl to tout his elective course in Space Law without suggesting that it leads to lucrative jobs or constitutes practical skills training? You know, just say that space law is an interesting thing to study and learn about, and that it involves international and administrative law, areas with which a law student should gain a certain familiarity. 

There are a lot of deep, and perhaps insoluble, structural problems with our system of legal education. But there is one thing law professors could do right now, on their own, that would make an important difference: they could respect their students enough to address them in an honest and straightforward manner about career prospects. Or if that is too tall an order, just keep quiet and don't affirmatively deceive them.

notes and additional links.

(Cleveland-Marshall's 43.2% is way below the ABA average of 53.9%. However, there are no fewer than three law schools in Ohio with even worse placement numbers (Capital University, University of Akron, and University of Toledo) and one (Case Western) that is about the same.  Even the best of Ohio's nine law schools-- Ohio State-- did not crack 59% in either 2011 or 2012. So the advice that scambloggers provide to most college kids-- Don't go to law school-- should probably include the addendum "especially in Ohio").




  1. ....aaaaand for those who actually get their legal or "JD-Advantage" job with companies that are "active in space", and governments that are "active in space", where satellite manufacture or launch vehicles or other "space assets" are concerned, you will be actually working with the Federal Aquisition Regulations, DoD and/or DoE regulations, and/or good old contract law whose origins date back to the 1600s.

    Be sure to dust off that copy of Hadley v. Baxendale, because you will need that just as much as anything that has "space law" written on it.

  2. "There are a number of transferable skills. Because in the course of the class students have the opportunity to read treaties and interpret international treaties and also navigate complex domestic regulations... but the ability to read, interpret, and apply those regulations can serve a student well regardless of what field they go into."

    Yes, well worth the cost of an additional $140K in non-dischargeable debt, right?!?!

    Of course, college grads are considered "sophisticated consumers" by the revenue collectors in black dresses. Then again, one would need to be a moron to believe that a law degree from a TTT will lead to vast opportunities in "space law."

  3. YOU can be the first lawyer on the moon! Boundless opportunity!

  4. "I'm the urban spaceman, baby; I've got speed
    I've got everything I need
    I'm the urban spaceman, baby; I can fly
    I'm a supersonic guy

    I don't need pleasure
    I don't feel pain
    If you were to knock me down I'd just get up again
    I'm the urban spaceman, baby; I'm makin' out
    I'm all about

    I wake up every morning with a smile upon my face
    My natural exuberance spills out all over the place

    I'm the urban spaceman, I'm intelligent and clean
    Know what I mean?
    I'm the urban spaceman, as a lover second to none
    It's a lot of fun

    I never let my friends down
    I've never made a boob
    I'm a glossy magazine, an advert in the tube

    I'm the urban spaceman, baby; here comes the twist--
    I don't exist"

  5. What's crazy to me about this is that the professor himself is a demonstration of failure. And I guess the prospective students are supposed to be (and probably are) too stupid to notice that.
    If you're looking at attending this illustrious JD factory in booming Cleveland Ohio, ask yourself: out of all the sun belt states with great weather, and absolutely loaded with defense contractors, how does this guy end up in Cleveland, and not even at Case Western? If "space law" was 1) a real thing that exists in the world, and 2) a field in which you would have a chance in hell of finding employment out of law school, wouldn't this "expert" be raking in high six figures working for, I don't know, Raytheon? Are we supposed to believe this guy passed up lucrative employment as an employee/consultant in "space law," so that he could live in Cleveland and work as an "Associate Dean for Academic Affairs," whatever that entails?
    At some point in his career he said "you know what, I'm going to take this valuable expertise I have, which is highly sought by the defense industry, a recession proof and insanely lucrative field, and I'm gonna move to Cleveland to work as an Associate Dean for a shitty law school."

    1. This. It's like people who sell "get rich quick" books. The way they get rich is by selling a load of crap about how to get rich.

      There is money in space law. Specifically, there is federally-backed student loan money in telling naive kids that there is money in space law.

    2. Yes, unfortunately, legal education has evolved into something that works a lot like multi-level marketing. A handful of people at the top make a lot of money by selling the promise of access to the "inner circle." There are a lot of bleached bones littering the shoulder of Juris Doctor road...

  6. "A new life awaits you, as a space lawyer, in the Off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!"

  7. At first I thought the Youtube video was a joke. I watched it again, and now I think I know why I was initially confused.

    I believe Sundahl is displaying what body language experts call "duping delight." This is when a person lies to their audience while taking delight in the lie. Watch how at 2:34 into the video he manages to tie in International Law and Space Law together and watch his evident delight. He's doing his best to try not to smile while talking ostensibly about something very serious - students taking on substantial debt to fund what they think is a paying career.

    Also, look at 3:25 - 3:31 as he visibly swirks when he says "there is a great deal of opportunity to find employment in the law of outer space." And pretty much anytime he says "Space law" you can see him hiding a little smirk.

    Note how his demeanor changes at about 5 minutes into the video, where he talks a lot more candidly about his interests and background. He's not trying to dupe you anymore, and you can see him getting more serious.

    What irritates me the most is that I can see through his bullshit, but I know that younger, more impressionable viewers may be inspired. I don't know. Maybe young people should simply not have access to vast seas of student loan money; they're simply not in a position to make good financial decisions at that age.

    1. excellent comment, totally explains his demeanor.

    2. A lot of grad programs push obvious (to those that work in the academic-industrial complex) fantasies to pawn students' future to meet their demand. In optometry and pharmacy, kids are told of the 'burgeoning' clinical opportunities they can use their volumnious drug and occular information they spent years and 100,000 plus learning. The schools even fund hospital positions for their 'clinical faculty' to play doctor with.
      You also read about the pathetic national associations of these professions, seriously talking about this tripe, while doing nothing to acctualize it less more education debt and length of training. It's tough to know where the B.S. and genuine delusion begins.

  8. This entire adventure in subjective truth is downright weird. Came from outer space, no doubt.

  9. Come on, guys. We'll put a man on Uranus by the end of the decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

    1. We may not have reached Uranus, but Uranian immigrants have reached Earth. A growing majority of scamdeans and TTT/TTTT professors came straight from Uranus.

  10. "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Debterprise. Its three-year mission: to explore the bounds of scamdom, to encumber each new lawyer and any others who can't find jobs, to boldly go where most law schools have gone thousands of times before."



      "I've been connnnnnnnnned!"

  11. The real money is in Space Real Estate Law and Space Environment Law. Do you know how polluted the universe is? You have no idea. Can you imagine all litigation work that is going come your way when you first land on Pluto?

    Seriously speaking, who gives a fuck about retards and their retarded parents that are buying into this space law bullshit? If God wants to punish, he deprives one of his or her mind. We call this evolution. (People down South do not believe in evolution so fuck them too). If these retards are ready to take on $200K in non-discharable debt to practice "Space Law" then fuck them, they deserve it.

  12. Having been snookered into spending years of his life and an untold amount of money getting a Ph.D., he probably feels entitled to scam away, to his heart's content.

    I saw an article a few years ago about Ph.D. students getting food stamps, in order to survive. When the reporter asked some dean how he felt about this state of affairs, his reaction was basically, why shouldn't they have to get food stamps, when I was in grad school, I couldn't feed myself without them either.

  13. Off topic - but individual schools are starting to report their numbers for the incoming 2013 class and its interesting. In NY, all but three schools (out of 15) saw their 1L class size drop from last year. Some schools took a particularly big hit:

    - Hofstra (as was noted by Campos) was down 33% (Ouch!).
    - NYLS was down 27% from last year and is down 42% from 2008 (if I could pick one school in NY to close down, it would be NYLS).
    - Syracuse was down 20% from last year.
    - Touro was down 17%.

    Overall, 1L class size is down 9% at law schools in New York State compared to last year and there has been a 19% reduction compared to 2008.

    One thing that surprised me - Pace actually increased its 1L class by 16% compared to last year. That is far and away the biggest increase (the next biggest was Cornell, which grew by 2%). Hard to figure. Must have been handing out scholarship money like candy and/or dropped admission standards.

    1. One other thing about Pace - its application volume was down 31% compared to last year but the size of its 1L class grew by 16%. Looks like Pace is moving toward an open admissions policy.

    2. I hope Pace figures out that if you hand out too many of them prestigious degrees, pretty soon they ain't prestigious no more.

    3. THIS POST IS THE MOST INFORMATIVE ONE. The fact is, the only hope for law school closures is through declining prestige based on application metrics for incoming cohorts. There will always be enough fannies in seats, as far as admissions is concerned if cash was the only metric--but it's not the "reputation" of the crappy university will superscede professors trying to save their jobs.

      In dentistry in the 80s, for example, applications were down, and about 4 schools (out of 40) shut down--not because of the worry of creating a surplus, and not because they couldn't fill all of their seats, but because the lackluster application standards fell to embarrassing levels.

  14. Ha! I see that comments have now been disabled for the video. Previously there was some garbage comment from this guy's brother talking about how proud he is.

    These fuckers are very scared.


  15. qechmeyDaj chut Huj laSvargh Quv vIghaj vaj vum qaStaHvIS neHmaH DaneH'a'

    (This law degree is a good idea if you want to work in the Neutral Zone) (Klingon)

    1. The perpetrators of the law school scam...they have no honor!

  16. how many douche bags does it take to screw in a light bulb. For Dr. Sundahl it take none. He has you guys who have nothing else better to do other than complain about his expertise.

  17. His facial expressions remind me of Bill Clinton...