Friday, January 29, 2016

Santa Clara Asst. Dean for Career Services Vicki Huebner explains how a visit to her favorite dog groomer gave her insights into obtaining legal employment.

I know that some discontented law students and grads have been heard to whine or growl about useless law school career services professionals. And that is a doggone shame because these canine, I mean canny, career companions can actually offer much food, or puppy chow, for thought.

Take, for instance, Santa Clara University School of Law Assistant Dean for Law Career Services Vicki Huebner’s remarkable September 16, 2015 post on her school’s Career Management blog, entitled "What I Learned About Finding a Job in the Legal Profession from My Dog’s Groomer."
In this post, Dean Huebner explains that the practices of her favorite dog groomer correspond to the skills or strategies needed to successfully obtain legal employment. Dog grooming and law job hunting are analogous in three crucial regards: (1) being excellent in the substance of one’s work; (2) branding one’s own market niche; and (3) developing one’s professional relationships.

From Huebner’s post: 
  • "What occurred was not only an excellent grooming session for Gabriel [Dean Huebener's prize Shepland Sheepdog], but a lesson for me on how to apply the principles of thinking like a business owner to the job search strategy."
  •  "There is no question that Juan is an excellent groomer. Just in case I had any doubts, Juan took pictures of Gabriel before and after his grooming sessions. . . . The quality of Juan’s work is the foundation for building his book of business and retaining clients. Likewise, legal job seekers need to demonstrate their ability to engage in the practice of law at a high level. Their attention to detail, demonstrated analytical skills, ability to articulate thought, and clear and concise writing is the foundation to be considered for employment opportunities. Law students should actively seek opportunities to enhance their practice related skills. . . "
  •  "Juan's salon was not the grooming environment I was used to. Juan wants to have a high-end dog grooming business. It is clear from the moment you enter his salon that he is branding himself to be that. . . . Similarly, job seekers have to consider whether or not they are communicating a brand which is conducive to the job market they are trying to enter. In other words, do they "look the part" on their cover letters, resumes, and job interviews." 
  •  "Juan, Gabriel, and I have longstanding relationships. . . . Networking is not about asking for things (e.g. contacts, referrals, and a job). It's about building longer lasting relationships."
  •   "Thanks to Juan, Gabriel looks and smells great once again! More important for me, a visit to Juan’s salon reinforced key strategies about how to advance a job search."

You know, one could write a virtually identical post by identifying the general practices of any successful small businessperson, not just the owner of a high-end pet salon. What is more, one could analogize job hunting or practicing law to almost any activity that requires a modicum of organization, skill, or commitment.

Therefore, if a career services dean enjoys some absorbing little hobby, interest, or lifestyle choice, then he or she can use that to articulate or frame his or her career advice. All it takes is sufficient shamelessness plus a facility for artfully embedding trendy business buzzwords in one's bullshit, I mean dogshit, professional counsel.  The kids won't realize until it is too late that they have been scammed, indeed mocked. 

On the other paw, the job placement record of Santa Clara School of Law and Kennel of Justice speaks, or rather barks, for itself. For the Class of 2014, 35.2% of Santa Clara Law grads obtained non-solo full-time law jobs within 10 months of graduation. Now, relative to other law schools, this is not an impressive result– indeed, it is worse than all but 20 of the 203 ABA-accredited schools and worse than all but five of the 21 ABA-accredited schools in California. But who is to say that the remaining 64.8% are not making a JD-Advantage fortune shampooing dogs?  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The National Jurist identifies the most influential editorial board in legal education and the threat it poses to "all that we hold dear."

The glossy magazine National Jurist is hardly a reliable source. The articles in the National Jurist, and its almost identically formatted sister publication preLaw Magazineare boosterish in tone and shallow in substance, often featuring lists of best law schools for this or that, lists which invariably include lower-tier law schools with deplorable job placement rates. By strange coincidence, the magazine is filled to the brim with advertisements for second, third, and fourth tier law schools.   

However, National Jurist's recent article featuring the alleged 25 "Most Influential People in Legal Education" for 2015 mostly gets it right. The article does, mind you, not the list itself, which is topped for the second straight year by Indiana Univ. Law Prof. William Henderson. This gravelly-voiced windbag incoherently blends futurist Richard Susskind's bleak vision of the forthcoming technological obsolescence of many law firms, especially small firms, with enthusiasm for the job creating potential of tech-based startups and legal process outsourcers. Henderson is optimistic about the capacity of law schools to prepare kids for these interdisciplinary jobs of the future via the dubious method of teaching them the "behaviors and attributes of highly successful professionals."

Also on the Top 25 list are 14 law school deans, one law school dean emeritus, three current or past Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Presidents or executive directors, and daffy gossip columnist and social media enthusiast "Peter Aduren," plus Aduren's Access Group-funded Mini-Me. The Top 25 list includes three reformers, all below 10th place. [1]

What I like about the National Jurist article, as opposed to its accompanying list, is that it focuses heavily on the impact of the "particularly scorching" New York Times editorial published on October 24, 2015 ("Law School Debt Crisis"), which criticized law school admissions practices and student debt loads in scamblogger-like terms, even deeming guaranteed federal educational loans, the lifeblood of the legal academy, to be a socially regressive misallocation of resources. ("If fewer federal dollars were streaming into law schools' coffers and more were directed to fund legal services organizations, the legal profession — and the American legal system as a whole — would be better for it").

The National Jurist article provides very brief profiles of some of the bigwigs on its most-influential list, and several of these profiles mention the honoree's appalled reaction to the Times editorial. For instance, Influential Person #6, University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy, rebukes the unsophisticated louts of the Times editorial board for undermining the rule of law and "all that we hold dear," notwithstanding two years of patient AALS tutelage:

  • "She felt she had to respond to The Times. . . because, she said, the editorial relied on inaccurate data and it "evinced a far-too-common misunderstanding about the importance of the rule of law for all that we hold dear, including equality, justice, prosperity, and the common good.""
  • "She said AALS has had a dialogue with The Times for the past two years, so she expected a publication of its quality to do better in terms of accuracy and sophistication of argument."
  • ""It can be challenging to make an argument for the importance of law that resonates," she said... "But lawyers also save lives and create a healthy world.""

By repeatedly referencing the New York Times editorial and the reactions it elicited, the National Jurist article left an impression that most of the persons it identified as powerful shapers of legal education at the national level  are, in fact, weak, defensive, and butthurt, just glorified shills reflexively casting their greed and privilege as nobility of purpose. Why was Kellye Testy so rattled by an editorial? I mean, what are a dozen paragraphs of ill-founded criticism when you have equality, justice, prosperity, and the common good on your side, to say nothing of a $375,012 salary, the AALS Presidency, and more influence on legal education than all but five people?

The New York Times editorial, which used Infilaw's Florida Coastal School of Law as its example of law school scamming at its most egregious, linked to and echoed Paul Campos's remarkable Atlantic Monthly piece from September, 2014 ("The Law School Scam"), which also singled out Florida Coastal.  [2], [3] Amusingly, the fearful name of Campos is unmentioned in the National Jurist's "Most Influential" article and list. I think that Voldemort was similarly excluded from mention in the pages of the National Muggle. But the New York Times is the Paper of Record, too big and too establishment to be ignored. 

The encouraging fact is that the most influential people in legal education for 2015 were the members of the New York Times Editorial Board, not a bunch of scamming law school deans.  


[1] National Jurist's selection process does not exactly reflect the views of a broad spectrum of stakeholders in legal education. "[I]n creating our list, we sought nominations from the nation's law schools and added our own nominees. We then narrowed the list to 48 and asked every law school dean and one professor from each school to rate them."  

[2] Florida Coastal can console itself that at least it has a friend in Cypress Press, the publisher of both the National Jurist and preLaw Magazine. Jack Crittenden (pictured above), founder of Cypress Press, wrote a puff piece in support of the "plucky" school in the Spring, 2015 edition of preLaw Magazine, entitled "Florida Coastal's Resolve." ("The school received an A+ in preLaw's study on the best schools for practical training, placing eighth overall.  It combines a strong mix of clinics, simulation courses and externships. It recently launched an entrepreneurship clinic. . . "). By strange coincidence, Florida Coastal placed a full-page advertisement on page 2 of the February, 2015 edition of the National Jurist 

[3]  Florida Coastal may also have a friend in William Henderson, who is on record as praising InfiLaw's approach. In October, 2013, Henderson was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "InfiLaw is applying a private-equity model to legal education and so far I'm fairly impressed by what I've seen. . . . I think these are people who could  make a difference in legal education."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

White Flight and Charlotte Law

Calling out an Infilaw school is easy.  Heck, even the New York Times recently got in on the fun.  For example, let's take Charlotte Law and look at how terrible the numbers are from a general perspective.

We could point that the LSAT spreads have dropped from 148 and 152 in the 25th and 75th percentile in 2010 to 138 and 146 in 2014 and 140/145 in 2015.  We could observe that the incoming GPAs at the median are now at 2.82, which in non-STEM undergrad is the equivalent of showing up a few times and drooling on the right bubbles on the final exam.

Charlotte's bar pass rates dropped from a pathetic 55% or so on the North Carolina exam for first-time takers in 2014 to a jaw-droppingly pathetic 47.1% in the summer of 2015.  On top of that shit pile, the upstanding dean, Jay Connison, chose to blame the school's recent alumni for choosing to use Themis and just not studying.

We could talk further about the ridiculous price tag for this place, or the school's anemic employment record.

But Charlotte Law has so much more to offer in terms of revulsion:  its somewhat perverted racial dynamics after the admissions bubble turned south.

I'm not one who easily lays down the race card, but Infilaw has opened this can of worms.  Here's Scott DeVito, Florida Coastal dean, in response to the New York Times:
Sometimes it takes a for-profit entity to right a wrong — in this case the lack of diversity in law schools. At Florida Coastal 44.8 percent of the student body are members of minority groups.
And we've previously criticized Connison's (public) views are that LSAT and such shouldn't matter if a law school has other ends, like those that "position themselves to provide opportunity," which is basically an academic euphemism for the exploitation of poor minorities while telling oneself that the shit sandwich being served is part of a balanced, nutritious diet.

Because it's clear if you look at the numbers from Charlotte Law that their decision to enroll minorities is more one of circumstance than of actual organizational purpose.  To wit:

1L CLASS 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
BLACK 117 193 201 204 174
WHITE 369 366 252 175 128
ALL OTHER 74 100 82 76 52
TOTAL 560 659 535 455 354

JD ALUMS 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
BLACK 1 27 47 77 122
WHITE 87 190 278 285 266
ALL OTHER 10 17 29 53 62
TOTAL 98 234 354 415 450

Concurrently with law school taking a massive nosedive nationwide and schools moving closer to open admissions, Charlotte Law increased black 1L enrollment dramatically at the same time white enrollment decreased dramatically; proportionately, Charlotte has gone from 66% white/21% black to 49% black/36% white with other being almost a constant.  As a percentage of JDs awarded, blacks went from a little over 1% of the class to over 27% of the class, a number that is likely to increase dramatically as the 2013-2015 1Ls graduate unless the grading curve disproportionately affects black students (but why would it, he asks rhetorically?).

Bar pass rates and incoming LSATs by race and school are not available, but it's really hard not to see a correlation here.  The school dramatically increased black enrollment the same time its admissions doors flung open and its palatable admissions scores started dropping. Much is unknown about why it worked out this way, but it raises some intriguing questions, such as asking if the school is purposely targeting borderline minorities so it can claim it's the school that offers "opportunity."

Taken solely by itself, diversity and racial inclusion are positive goals.  But combined with desperation and predatory admissions policies, the cynicism meter moves off the damned chart.

For example, one could observe that if these individuals - applicants in general with 145 LSATs - are truly fit for legal education and likely to graduate, pass the bar, and enjoy high-income lifestyles, one has to wonder why Charlotte admitted so few minorities back in the halcyon days of 2007-2009 compared to the present, such that the expansion now is noteworthy.

Indeed, one might ask whether Charlotte was being racist then, or if it is instead being racist now?  It's a law school version of "white flight." The rise of so-called "opportunities" prompts the question of why, exactly, those opportunities exist now.  Charlotte Law isn't so much a beneficent source of opportunity newly opened as a post-graduate version of Detroit.

Surely, Charlotte knows that the risk of career catastrophe is very high for its graduates, and no reasonable person could believe otherwise with a straight face.  Charlotte may view itself as a crusader of post-recession racial opportunity, but a simple look at the numbers suggests that this is delusional and completely backwards, an Emperor with no clothes convinced that it's wearing the mantle of diversity.  Charlotte admits these students in exchange for federal loan proceeds knowing full well that the odds of law school completion, bar passage, gainful long-term employment, and loan repayment - not to mention the intangible of career satisfaction - are extremely low (again, if they are not, why did they not admit these same students 5-10 years ago?). 

Absolutely, the prestigious side of the bell curve has a race problem.  The solution is clearly not, however, to cynically admit minorities into a likely dead end so that a corporate enterprise can claim to be seeking justice when someone calls out its avarice and declining standards.

It's one thing to disgustingly exploit 143 LSATs to keep your shitty for-profit operation floating.  Specifically targeting minority 143 LSATs - which it appears Charlotte may be doing as a contemplated strategy in the admissions department; either that, or whites just don't apply, which should, I suppose, also be a red flag - is a brand new level of reprehensibility.  This is particularly so where North Carolina already has a functioning law school, established in the 1930s, directly affiliated with an HBCU that charges lower tuition with similarly weak employment prospects (though, one would assume, a better reputation in the region, particularly for African-Americans).

I would concede that the profession would benefit from having more black practitioners on a relative basis (obviously, on an absolute basis, the profession needs more no one).  However, this isn't the answer.  Disproportionately saddling risky, marginal minority candidates with massive debts unlikely to be repaid to benefit a for-profit enterprise does not advance racial progress in the United States or in the legal profession; quite the opposite.  This isn't paternalism or far-flung speculation.  It's common fucking sense, it's exploitative (intentional or not), and it's wrong.

Of course, as big of a rip off as Charlotte is, be you black, white, or whatever, there are others who manage to be ripped off for far greater sums.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Now Hiring: The Association of American Law Schools needs unpaid law student flunkies to help tout the value of legal education

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for its 179 member law schools. Its purpose, according to the mission statement set forth in its most recently available IRS Form 990, is to "uphold and advance excellence in legal education. . . while seeking to improve the legal profession, to foster justice, and to serve our many communities." The AALS has just concluded its inter-semester "annual meeting," which is beloved by lawprofs nationwide as largest of the vacation and schmooze events masquerading as scholarly or pedagogical conferences.

Fortunately for justice, the AALS is financially healthy, unlike some of its member law schools and, of course, innumerable debt-ridden law students and law grads. According to its Form 990 from Fiscal 2013, AALS sits atop 10.9 million dollars in net assets or fund balances. In Fiscal 2013, AALS’s revenue of 5.8 million dollars (mostly from membership dues and annual meeting income) exceeded its expenses of 5.4 million dollars. Thus, AALS was able to pay its executive director Susan Westerberg Prager (who has since been succeeded by Judith Areen) annual compensation of $459,221 ($381,271 in reportable compensation from the organization and $77,950 in "other compensation from the organization and related organization").

The Presidency of the AALS is an unpaid position that runs for one year.  It is unlikely, though, that the incumbent AALS President, University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy, is overburdened by the demands of leadership. According to the referenced 990, the President of the AALS devotes an average of six hours a week to organization activities. Also, Testy has a financial cushion provided by the generous taxpayers of Washington State, from whom Testy collected $375,012 in 2014 for her services as law school dean. 

The AALS is advertising on its website for law school interns to help promote the value of legal education. (below) These interns are expected to work 15 to 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time during the summer. However, the AALS will not actually pay the interns for their services—not minimum wage, not even a lousy stipend—a small, but meaningful gesture of contempt for the youthful suckers whose gullibility fuels the gravy train.

Perhaps this contempt is justified. You have to wonder about a law student who would volunteer that amount of time to be a flunky for his or her own exploiters. It is as though a scammed investor donated part of his or her work week to do menial chores for Bernie Madoff. Of course, good judgment can hardly be expected of someone reckless or deluded enough to attend law school in 2016, and recent bar passage rates and median LSAT scores suggest that this crop of law students will never be known for their stellar intellects.  

At least the AALS interns get to do substantive work, which includes "assist[ing] committees of law professors through legal research and writing on topics related to legal education, for example, the value of a U.S. legal education." There is certain irony--maybe the better word is sadism-- in assigning scam victims the task of assisting their scammers in promoting the scam. 
Law Student Internships
The Association of American Law Schools (AALS), a 501(c)(3) higher education association, represents 179 American law schools and is located in downtown Washington, D.C.  AALS is seeking law student interns to work on research and writing projects related to our mission of improving legal education. Candidates must be current J.D. students. These are unpaid internships. 
The law student interns will work 15-20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during the summer at our Dupont Circle headquarters office, and will work directly with Professor Judith Areen, Executive Director, and Professor Regina Burch, Associate Director.  Interns will have the opportunity to interact with other law school professors and deans through their work with AALS committees and the AALS leadership team, as well as to participate in AALS sponsored meetings and conferences. Interns will be encouraged to present innovative approaches to the projects introduced by our staff and to general issues facing legal education today. 
Specifically, interns will assist committees of law professors through legal research and writing on topics related to legal education, for example, the value of a U.S. legal education; and will research AALS workshop topics such as financial aid for law students, creating bibliographies and summarizing the law and policy considerations related to the topic.  Also, interns will assist with developing white papers, other website content, and materials for AALS programs, for example, by researching and documenting innovative curricular programs in legal education and the American Bar Association standards related to those programs.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Association of American Law Schools hosts a gathering of 3,000 innovation-loving law professors

From January 6, 2016 through today, the legal academy has taken Manhattan by scam as the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) hosts its annual scholarly extravaganza at two midtown hotels, the theme of which is "From Challenge to Innovation: Legal Education in 2016." (Buzzword to English translation: Rebranding the law school scam ("Innovation") following a period of bad publicity and consumer skepticism ("Challenge")). 

At the convention, the AALS boldly ushered in a whole identical era of hype and diversion as the Presidency of the organization passed from George Washington Law Dean Blake Morant ("One commonly held misconception espoused by the media is that there are too many lawyers. . . ") to University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy ("I don't see legal education as being in crisis at all").  

This convention typically draws some three thousand law professors and hangers-on of various sorts (legal book publishers, ect.). Ordinarily, I would make extended fun of the participants' posturing and scholarly fluff as they collectively pretend that their free vacation is in the service of legal education and other noble causes. For instance, there was the panel on incorporating "trigger warnings" into criminal law classes and throughout the law school curriculum in order "to protect students from disturbing content." (AALS Program, p. 18) What a confidence builder that counselors-at-law in training are regarded by some of their teachers as too clueless and emotionally fragile to appreciate, absent solicitous forewarnings, that a criminal law class could just possibly involve a discussion of crimes. And then there was the roundtable on "Reforming Law and Scholarship by Disciplinary Design" (AALS Program, p. 23) moderated by Law Professor SpearIt, the clownish Ph.D. in religious studies, whose CV is untainted by lawyering or judicial clerkship experience, but who has established his radical street cred by changing his given name of Edward Maldonado to a stupid phallic pun.

But focusing on the irrelevance of so many of these panels overlooks the convention's constructive psychological function. Law faculty has just endured a semester with the scam-doomed Class of 2018, possibly the most academically undistinguished crop of law students in decades. That is such a downer that I can understand the urge to indulge in a boozy inter-semester getaway for a few heady days of ego-stroking and delusion. 

The convention program includes three nontrivial events that I would like to highlight with brief comment. (See AALS Program, p. 21, 73, 74)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Latest from LSAC

Following LSAC charting shenanigans is part of my hobby here at OTLSS, as so much discussion seems to hinge on this data and its implications.  While I appreciate the fact that LSAC gives us raw data, their interpretation of the data is always a bit puzzling.

So far, we have the following raw data comparing 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 (weeks are the numerical week where the data is reported by LSAC, with week zero being the week of the first date of reporting for the new cycle):

Week   2015 Applicants      Week 2016 Applicants      Calc. % Change      Reported % Change

     0               11415 0 13881 17.8                       0.6
     2               13816 2        16817 17.8                       3.4
     5               17506 3 17987 2.7                         2.9
     6               19904 6 20095 1.0                         0.7

LSAC Chart in Eyestrain-o-Vision, 1/1/2016

OTLSS Version, 1/6/2016

First of all, I would have given LSAC far more credit than they reported in week "zero" and week two.  There seems to be a large difference between 17.8% and 0.6% of even 3.4%, but hey.  Interestingly enough, the initial data also tracked what I had previously for 2013 BEAUTIFULLY, almost algorithmically, dare I say, prior to Week 6. Again, interesting, but possible, I guess.  However, LSAC's compressed chart makes all of this very hard to see, which is also a curious choice given the tendency to not reflect the data accurately in the chart.  Perhaps the Week 6 "swerve" of 2016 into 2015 territory will right itself more towards 2013 again, but only time will tell - at least my percent differences and their percent differences track in recent weeks, so that is reassuring.

Second of all, a more interesting turn of events seems to be happening in my Applications vs. Applicants chart:

For several years now, you could count on the average applicant filing seven applications.  Now, we appear to be strongly on course for 5.5 applications per applicant, a significant departure.  This would indicate that applicants are being much more selective in their choices, for various reasons, rather than having "safety schools" or taking a scattershot approach.  Clearly there has been some psychological shift, and if the trend continues to hold true it will be interesting to see what else occurs in the future.

Until next time, keep up the good fight, and let's see how the pro-law-school-crowd responds.