Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monopolies Don't Go On Forever

Kodak was one of the pre-eminent brands in the US from the 1890s until the 2000s. As late as 1976, Kodak sold 90% of film and 85% of cameras in the U.S. They kept innovating and improving their products through the years and stayed far ahead of other companies in the camera film industry.

Kodak believed its brand was so strong that they were impervious to competition. They turned down the opportunity to become an official sponsor at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. This gave competitor Fujifilm, a company looking for a foothold in the American market, the chance they needed to increase their market share. This missed opportunity by Kodak gave Fujifilm the push it needed to sustain its U.S. business and to overtake Kodak. Other factors that took Kodak down was a failure to continue creating new products, a culture of complacency, and a belief that the good times would never end.

In 1981, a Kodak executive named Vince Barabba completed a study that pointed to digital as being a real threat to Kodak's existing business model. But, on the bright side, Barabba said that the company had 10 years until digital technologies would become a viable threat. So what did Kodak do? Not much. The company was actually a pioneer in the field of digital photography, producing a prototype digital camera in December of 1975. But Kodak's huge margins on photography supplies, which reached up to 70%, were too enticing. The company commissioned many products that were "digital props" for its core physical film business, such as the Advantix camera. As other companies like Canon overtook them, the complacency of Kodak's leadership caused the company to fall to where it is now: a bit player in a commoditized industry.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tracking the dramatic decline of LSAT scores at the 25th percentile for incoming law school classes, 2010-2015.

The ABA recently published the fourth annual "509" disclosures of accredited law schools, which include the 25th percentile LSAT score of each school's most recent incoming class. As well, National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Chief Erica Moeser published each school’s 25th percentile LSAT score for the year 2010 in last December's edition of "The Bar Examiner." (p. 7-11) Therefore, we now have five years of LSAT data, covering the five-year long decline in law school applicants (87,900 in 2010 to 54,130 in 2015) and One-L enrollment (52,488 in 2010 to 37,058 in 2015).

The charts below show the distribution of changes in scores at the 25th percentile for classes entering law school between 2010 and 2015 and the number of schools where the 25th percentile score dipped below 150. [1] I also list the schools that lowered their 25th percentile score by four points or more during that period, a dispiritingly long list. I assume that this data will be published shortly at Law School Transparency, but I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible given that the application season is in full swing.

I note specifically the staggering 10-point LSAT decline experienced by Brooklyn Law School (BLS) at the 25th percentile, placing it in a two-way tie for the steepest decline of any law school in the country. BLS Dean Nicholas Allard has led the effort to place the blame for falling bar passage rates on Moeser and the NCBE, rather than on law school admissions practices. Allard’s noxious fog of bluster and accusations can be dispelled with the following three words: "Ten point decline."

A few years ago, Paul Campos wrote a book called "Don’t Go to Law School (Unless)." A possible alternate title for this blog post might be "If You Must Go to Law School, For God’s Sake Don’t Go to (      )."   "(      )" would include the vast majority of those schools that reacted to the dropoff in applicants by substantially lowering their admissions standards, especially those where the admissions standards were pretty low to begin with. The Deans and unprotesting tenured faculty at these schools have displayed a level of greed, recklessness, and contempt unworthy of professionals.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Indiana Tech tries to appear selective, Part 2

As my previous article explains, Indiana Tech improved the profile of this year's matriculants—from appalling to merely dreadful—by halving its class size. Questions of athletic or musical ability aside, this year's entering class of 13 could barely form a soccer team or fill the viola section of a symphony orchestra.

Indiana Tech turns out to have a reason for this move: ABA accreditation. According to scam-dean Cercone, the ABA intimated that Indiana Tech was insufficiently selective: its "admission standards going forward needed to be more in line with standards for other new law schools". Cercone concluded that a "stronger … student profile" would favor accreditation.

But Indiana Tech cannot bet the farm on a three-point increase in median LSAT score. Right after its failed bid for accreditation, it brought in a scamster named John Nussbaumer as its "new Associate Dean for ABA Accreditation and Bar Preparation". Nussbaumer went to Indiana Tech with "31 years of full-time faculty experience at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, including 18 years in senior academic leadership positions".

Now, Nussbaumer wasn't hired for his ability to dot every i and cross every t on the application. No, two other notable factors got him lured away from his sinecure at Cooley. First, he has experience in winning accreditation for other law schools: "[h]e has appeared more than a dozen times before the ABA Accreditation Committee and Council of Legal Education, helping lead successful efforts to secure provisional and full approval for three different law school branch campuses" (presumably a reference to Cooley). Second, and undoubtedly more important, he is an insider in the ABA accreditation scam:

He has served as a member of the ABA Section of Legal Education Diversity Committee, and he is currently a fact-finder and site inspection team member for the ABA Accreditation Committee.  He has worked collaboratively on accreditation issues with the staff of the ABA Managing Director’s Office, including Managing Director Barry Currier, and has also worked on accreditation issues with the ABA House of Delegates, the ABA Standards Review Committee, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific, and Progressive Caucuses.
With its hired gun Nussbaumer, Indiana Tech can be expected to—ahem—procure accreditation just in time for the graduation of its inaugural class. But how much is this costing the parent university?

A few years ago, when the building of this law school was announced, Indiana Tech University had a $40M endowment. I conservatively estimate outlays of $6M per year for the law school. (If the average salary is $100k and other charges such as benefits and payroll taxes add half of that, the 28 employees cost $4.2M per year.) Had the law school succeeded at bringing in 100 students in each class and maintaining its annual tuition at $30k, by now it would have been reaping $9M per year in income. Discounts on tuition would have reduced that figure, but the theoretical annual surplus of $3M could have made up for many discounts, shortfalls in enrollment, and other deficiencies.

In its first year, Indiana Tech was quite stingy with discounts. Only one person got half of tuition waived, and his "discount" actually exceeded tuition. (I'm willing to bet that he was Felts, the boy who on Indiana Tech's Web site posed in an unprofessional orange-yellow necktie and announced that people should "certainly" attend Indiana Tech on the advice of a local judge—without mentioning the significant fact that that judge happened to be his father.) So probably the people who approved the establishment of the law school calculated that the thing would break even at 75 students per year (¾ of the anticipated 100), maybe even fewer, and that in any event the university would cover any shortfalls for the first five or six years.

Instead, total enrollment has not yet come close to the figure anticipated for the first class alone, and tuition is now at zero. The university must be covering just about the entire cost of operating its toilet law school—not to mention the cost of two bids for ABA accreditation. That's one hell of a drain on an endowment that several years ago stood at $40M. And the rest of the university depends on that endowment, too.

On top of all that, the university now has to pay for an "Associate Dean for ABA Accreditation and Bar Preparation" who was approaching retirement from a cushy job at Cooley. For how long can the university afford to sustain its financial sinkhole of a law school? The endowment must be badly depleted, and the law school won't be viable even if (rather, when) it becomes accredited. Expect this toilet to be flushed once and for all within two or three years.

Thanks to Dybbuk for much of the information that inspired today's article.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Indiana Tech tries to appear selective

I was wrong when I reported that Indiana Tech took in 15 students this year: it actually got only 13:

Recall that Indiana Tech eliminated tuition this year (although the 509 report above does not show that fact) and that this past summer it announced the hope that 20 people would enroll in first year. Why did Indiana Tech miss that target? Did too few people apply?

No: Indiana Tech got 99 applicants. Yet it accepted only 31! What was wrong with the other 68 applicants? Were they all so unspeakably horrible that Indiana Tech, where 143 is a "serviceable" LSAT score, couldn't possibly consider them?

To answer those questions, compare this year's 509 report to last year's:

In particular, look at the following data:


2015: 99 applicants, 31 were offered admission, 13 matriculated
2014: 96 applicants, 78 were offered admission, 35 matriculated

Undergraduate GPAs (75th, 50th, and 25th percentiles):

2015: 3.61, 3.42. 2.99
2014: 3.15, 2.85, 2.49

LSAT scores (same percentiles):

2015: 153, 151, 148
2014: 151, 148, 142

A few observations:

The number of applicants in each year did not change significantly, but the rate of offers dropped from 81% in 2015 to 31% in 2014. In one short year, during which it failed to achieve accreditation, Indiana Tech went from open admissions to moderate selectiveness. That change is unprecedented.

Moreover, its GPAs shot up more than half a grade point, and its LSAT scores too increased dramatically. Only a few law schools avoided a drop in their median LSAT score. A three-point increase was rare indeed.

We can also reasonably infer that the calibre of Indiana Tech's applicants in general did not suddenly improve. The failure to achieve accreditation would have deterred most of the (ahem) better applicants. In addition, Indiana Tech would not have had to eliminate tuition if it had become a hot commodity.

Putting these facts and inferences together, we get the most likely conclusion: Indiana Tech rejected the bulk of its core audience—the dullards with the "serviceable" LSAT scores and GPAs—to come across as progressing in quality. By admitting only the best of its generally dreadful pool of applicants, Indiana Tech could manipulate its GPA and LSAT figures upwards. And why not? There was no cost to Indiana Tech: revenue was going to be exactly the same—nil—whether Indiana Tech admitted a baker's dozen of applicants or all 99.

Expect to see bullshit propaganda about "progress" and even "excellence" at Indiana Tech. But don't believe the hype.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Oft-Ignored, Omnipresent Lawyer Glut

Part of the vitriol from the Law School Cartel towards those that would have the temerity to question specious claims and ask for proof of the same (a/k/a the much ballyhooed skill of "thinking like a lawyer"), concerns the value of a law degree in the marketplace, and the ability to actually do the thing the degree purports that one be able to do, should one obtain said degree in the first instance.

Certainly, this is a challenging question.  Some studies have been attempted, and others purport to advance their own analysis, but the paucity of strong, reliable data makes answering this kind of question all the more difficult.  One cannot quickly order up a statistical sample in the laboratory, run a series of double-blind tests, and analyze the results.  The "laboratory" in this case is in fact the Real World (tm), and the tests are being run now, in real time (neglecting the contributions of relativistic effects, as we can all safely assume that were are within the same reference frame).  We are forced to wait, therefore, for the actual results, which takes decades to unfold.

In the meantime, we have to scrape by with logical inference (another "thinking like a lawyer" skill). Law School Transparency was recently lambasted for the conclusions it has tried to draw from past historical data, that law school is not a productive choice for many.  As financial institutions are quick to point out, "past performance is no guarantee of future results," and I believe LST would concur.  LST also points out that while its conclusions are based on available data, there are many (cough cough) who could readily provide more accurate data in refutation should they choose to do so.  Strangely, the voices in-the-know remain silent on this issue, but I'm sure LST would be happy to revise their conclusions should strong data present itself.

More below the fold.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Indiana Tech lawprof andre douglas pond cummings writes fawning law journal article comparing a better-known fellow lawprof with hip hop musician Ice Cube

Indiana Tech Law bigwig and OTLSS favorite andre douglas pond cummings recently published a 20-page article entitled Richard Delgado and Ice Cube: Brothers in Arms in a University of Minnesota Law School publication called Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice.
What, in cummings’s expert opinion, is the armed and brotherly connection (or, intersection, to use fashionable jargon) between law professor Richard Delgado and Ice Cube? Legal scholarship, of course. According to cummings, both Ice Cube and Professor Delgado use storytelling to decry injustice, a point that cummings makes again and again in slightly different words throughout his law review article, like a school kid padding a term paper. (See Section D) My guess is that cummings’s purpose in writing this article, besides the obvious imperative of buttering up a far better-known and more respected fellow lawprof, was to portray his own scholarly domain of "Hip Hop and the Law" as an extension of the critical theory and narrativity approaches associated with Delgado. 

a.    andre douglas pond cummings

andre douglas pond cummings’s very brief career as a practicing lawyer was spent as an associate in a corporate law firm doing mergers and acquisitions work– not, say, in legal aid or public defense. However, after transitioning to legal academia, cummings found his voice (or a cynic might say crafted his persona) as a radical exponent of social justice and scourge of all things capitalized, especially his own many names. cummings taught at the University of West Virginia School of Law for a decade before moving on to notorious pseudo-law school Indiana Tech, where he holds the title Vice Dean. Much of cummings’s "scholarship" is in the areas of "Hip Hop and the Law" and Sports Law, practice fields not notably in demand in Fort Wayne, Indiana. According to Indiana Tech’s 990, cummings was paid $204,445 in fiscal 2013.
In pursuit of his scholarly calling, cummings has traveled to conclaves in such locales as Lugano, Switzerland (where he gave a presentation on "Pop Culture and the Law"), Amelia Island, Hilton Head, and Palm Beach. While at West Virginia U., he even generously sacrificed his summers from 2005 to 2013 inclusive to play chaperone to law students for their study abroad program on "Law, Politics, and Culture," in Rio de Janeiro.   
B.     Richard Delgado
Richard Delgado became a lawprof directly out of law school, "skipping the usual period of practice or clerking." However unversed in the actual practice of law, Delgado has achieved the seemingly impossible within legal academia by making legal scholarship even more pretentious and ridiculous than it had been before. Delgado has published something like 20 law review articles framed around imaginary intellectual bull sessions between a good-hearted but aging and wishy-washy law professor and the professor’s favorite LLM student, the bold young firebrand and law professor wannabe Rodrigo Crenshaw, whose radical analysis of society and race has the professor captivated. See e.g. Richard Delgado, Rodrigo’s Eleventh Chronicle: Empathy and False Empathy, 84 Cal. L. Rev. 61 (1996). In a nicely self-aggrandizing touch, Rodrigo sometimes alludes to the importance of Richard Delgado’s work.
Delgado believes, as do his fictional characters, in the progressive value of "narrative" legal scholarship. See Richard Delgado, Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative, 87 Mich. L. Rev. 2411, 2441 (1989) ("Legal storytelling is an engine built to hurl rocks over walls of social complacency that obscure the view out from the citadel. But the rocks all have messages tied to them that the defenders cannot help but read"). Sadly, the impact of oppositionist narrative may be diminished when an author, however prolific, is a lousy writer and an unimaginative storyteller. In this regard, I recommend the following critique of Delgado’s Rodrigo masterpieces as well as Delgado’s overall "patronizing, condescending, elitist, egocentric narrative tone":  
Professor Delgado is married to Jean Stefancic, a law professor who holds neither a JD nor a Ph.D. Much of Stefancic’s scholarship is co-authored with Delgado. Delgado and spouse have law professored together at the University of Pittsburgh, Seattle University, and currently, the University of Alabama. Without having read every one of the Rodrigo articles– which I doubt anybody has ever done– I am willing to bet that spousal hiring in academia is not among the elitist privileges that righteous Rodrigo cares to check.
While on the faculty of Seattle Law, Delgado starred in a promotional video for the school (along with a silent Stefancic) and stated "As society gets more diverse we need legal services of all kinds. . . . Lawyers who are prepared to perform legal services for the poor are in demand." (Video at 0:10-0:28) He then specified "writing wills for Indians on Indian reservations" as one of three areas of legal employment opportunity, the others being immigration and poverty law. (Video at 0:32-0:37) Seattle Law’s 9 to 10-month-out full-time  legal employment rate has ranged between 37 and 45% over the past four years, so it seems that a lot of young Seattle Law grads have somehow overlooked Delgado’s brilliant career advice to do estates planning for the very poor.
C.    Ice Cube
Ice Cube is a hip hop musician, screenwriter, and film producer. As a member of the ’90s group NWA, he was the lyricist for half of the songs on the controversial album "Straight Outta Compton." Ice Cube is more successful, and a better writer, than either Delgado or andre douglas pond cummings, even though he has never attended law school, taught at one, published a narrative law review article in the University of Minnesota Journal of Law and Inequality or elsewhere, or starred in a promotional vid designed to hustle naive kids into enrolling in a massively overpriced degree program at a crappy school.  
D.    Representative Quotes from cummings's Article, or Selections from 20 pages and 128 Footnotes of Repetition, Radical Posturing, Rhetorical Self-Indulgence, Apple Polishing, and Cultural Appropriation
  • "When Professor Delgado published The Imperial Scholar, its impact was a literary shot across the bow of the traditional legal academy in its aggressive repudiation of entrenched White male civil rights legal scholarship. Like a hand grenade launched into the upper reaches of an ivory tower, Delgado authored a blistering critique that condemned famed civil rights scholars for their own racism and failure to garner, appreciate, or represent the views of the very oppressed minority groups on whose behalf these scholars purported to advocate." andre douglas pond cummings, Richard Delgado and Ice Cube: Brothers in Arms, 33 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice 321, 332 (2015).
  • "From the movement’s inception, Critical Race theorists championed storytelling and narrative as valuable empirical proof of reality and the human experience, while rejecting traditional forms of legal studies, pedagogy, and various forms of civil rights leadership. Similarly, hip-hop, at its root, is narrative in form; the best, most recognizable hip-hop artists use storytelling as their most fundamental communicative method." Id. at 324.
  • "[M]any CRT pioneers employed counterstories, parables, chronicles, and anecdotes aimed at revealing the contingency, cruelty, and self-serving nature of majoritarian rule. Similarly, hip-hop revolves around storytelling." Id. at 326.
  • "The assault on the rear flanks [of the status quo] was the clarion call to every scholar of color and emerging outsider scholar and lawyer to a new and different conceptualization by which legal scholarship could be presented and legal practice conducted." Id. at 334.
  • "Ice Cube, in the same narrative format championed by Richard Delgado, spun tales and stories in his rhymes." Id. at 338.
  • "Professor Delgado and N.W.A./Ice Cube both expose and decry racism, inequality, and oppression with passion and explosiveness through deeply personal narrative." Id. at 339
  • "Both Delgado and N.W.A. identify "the cure" to their detailed experiential ills as furious storytelling—Delgado in A Plea for Narrative and N.W.A. in Fuck tha Police and Gangsta Gangsta." Id.
  • "Through narrative storytelling and funky bass lines, CRT and hip-hop seek to educate, inspire, and motivate a generation." Id. at 340.
  • "When Professor Delgado’s influence is compared to that of Ice Cube, the hip-hop generation will understand the depth of this homage." Id. at 341.

E.    Commentary

One cannot help noticing cummings’s fiery rhetoric, which includes images of  military assaults by scholarly insurgents armed with explosive outsider narrative grenades.  Somehow, though, I suspect that entrenched systems of oppression will withstand the onslaught of cummings's lousy writing. Who outside the academy really cares whether law reviews feature law professors’ navel-gazing slop alongside their dull as dishwater doctrinal exegeses? Both formats of legal scholarship go overwhelmingly unread and uncited by courts and practitioners. No, andre douglas pond cummings and friends are not freedom fighters attacking the fortress of privilege and exploitation. Rather, they are pampered princes and princesses of the realm, initiating pillow fights within the luxurious palace boudoirs.

Though I share some of the political commitments of the CRT authors, I am skeptical of lawprofs who propose giving so-called counterstories a central place in legal scholarship or in legal writing. The allegedly liberatory function of storytelling encounters the following obstacle: anybody can draw a dubious analogy, emote, or spin a tale of woe for their own purposes, including, say, xenophobic billionaire presidential candidates, corporate public relations specialists, religious fundamentalists, avowed bigots, and glib scammers of various sorts. With narrative projectiles flying in all directions, it might be unwise to discount the truth-seeking function of refutable or impeachable evidence, logical analysis, and reasonable inference-- which, by the way, can lead to far more radical and devastating conclusions than song lyrics or personal reflections, even those that purportedly offer an outsider perspective. Plus, are the marginalized and oppressed really so tongue-tied that they need six-figure salaried law professors to represent their experiences via anecdote or fiction?

You know, the outsider narratives presented in the scamblogs do not purport to be scholarship, and scamblog authors and commentators do not require six-figure salaries, five-figure summer stipends, or conferences in luxury resorts to present compelling personal stories  or bleakly hilarious admonitions to illustrate  the growing body of statistical info about the lack of job opportunities in the legal sector. If the crisis in legal education is ever to resolve, it will not be because andre douglas pond cummings likes to spout hip hop lyrics in his law school classes and alleged scholarship while collecting $200,000/ yr. from his ridiculous unaccredited startup law school. It will be because transparency and scamblogging assist prospective law students and their influencers in identifying and avoiding a monstrous scam.


Friday, December 4, 2015

LSAC Applicants Up 0.6% From This Time Last Year

Sigh.  Some people never learn.

Hot off the presses, friends-of-the-scam-movement.  Given the latest issuance of emboldened malarkey from LSAC that more-or-less seems to argue that "LSAT scores don't matter," I figured that they had to have some "good news" up their sleeve that they were eagerly awaiting to trumpet - otherwise, they would not make such outlandish claims (or, at least I think they wouldn't).

Overall, I suppose this was bound to happen, even given LSAC's inability to accurately chart their own data at times.  The decline had been slowing rather than accelerating, and this result, while not great for the scam-blog movement, is not terrible either.  Given past history, one can anticipate that there will be approximately 56,000 applicants this year as last year.  Hardly a "bumper crop" of student loan conduits compared to prior years in any event.

Get ready for the Dean Allards of the world, however, and prepare yourself now, mentally, for the victory lap from the Law School Cartel.  Things are on the upswing!    Happy days are here again!   Just look at that million-dollar degree!  Being a lawyer is a sound choice for "defending liberty" and "pursuing justice," and don't forget all the lucrative JD-Advantage opportunities!  Woo hoo!

We however, know the truth - the market is still glutted, multi-decade practitioners warn against entering the field, and law schools are buying-out law prof faculty.  The price for a JD is still outrageous.  Bar passage rates still decline due to loosening standards.  The NCBE continues to decry the situation, and the ABA continues to say nothing.

Stand firm this cycle, friends.  While we graduates and practitioners don't have any legal duty to warn, we are here precisely because of the fact that if we don't, who will?  Certainly not the Cartel.  And while we can't convince everyone to look at other alternatives, there have been those who listen and those who continue to listen.    Let's do our part to prevent as many students as possible from making a mistake that will affect them for decades to come, despite the rosy prognostications of people who aren't, well, y'know, actual practicing lawyers.