Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Bar Exam and "Math."

Florida, we have a problem.
Shots were fired over a year ago as to this topic. On the one side was Dean Allard of Brooklyn Law School, leading the charge - "the bar exam is too hard! It's unfair!" On the other side was the NCBE - "current students are 'less able'! Buckle down!" If anyone should be on the side of mathematical analytics, is would be Bloomberg.
As is often the case in many things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Given my own participation in the debate over the years and my own leanings, it is safe to say I am still in the scamblog camp - this is, I believe the charges of bar exam difficulty are heavily weighted in the "hey, this affects my livelihood so stop looking at the data so hard" direction, not the more-politically-palatable proclamation that "diversity is super-important, how dare you try to interfere with that using an arbitrary test" direction. When the Law School Cartel has gone from laughingly-dismissing the scambloggers to calling them demons over the years, especially in the face of falling bar passage rates, I get a bit cynical. Then again, I am a product of the self-same system, so the Cartel reaps what the Cartel sows, I guess.

That said, let's talk about the major rejoinders from the Cartel, and what I find to be a fascinating debate over at the Faculty Lounge. Per my reading, they fall into three basic categories:

-more below the fold-

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

C-minus: University of North Texas turned down for accreditation

One word in the language seems so coarse that even many people who indulge in profanity shy from it. Chaucer bowdlerized its spelling when he had his Wife of Bath say "For certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve, / Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve" ('Yea, certainly, old fool, if you'll believe, / Tonight your fill of [*censored*] you shall receive'). Shakespeare hinted at it many times, from Hamlet's talk of "country matters" to Malvolio's recognition of his darling's handwriting from "her very C's, her U's and her T's". With a number of notable exceptions (Burns, Joyce, D.H. Lawrence), later authors have not been so bold.

Yet one institution calling itself a university has adopted a name that practically begs to be associated with this primus inter pares of the obscene lexicon. The University of North Texas even goes by its acronym, UNT, and proudly displays these letters where an enterprising vandal with a taste for verisimilitude could fill in the gap with a pen or a can of spray paint or any other suitable implement. Third Tier Reality recently featured a photo of a mug marked "UNT" whose handle, mounted on the left, supplied the missing letter through its shape.

The latest little stUNT in the law-school scam is the opening of (grUNT) yet another toilet law school, this one at UNT. Needless to say, the rUNT of the litter is a Different Kind of Law School, just like all others. It claims two redeeming features: an allegedly low cost of tuition (about $17k per year) and a mission to serve candidates whose horrible LSAT scores and abysmal grades somehow mask their aptitude for the legal profession.

Last month, however, the ABA's accreditation committee set down its rubber stamp long enough to recommend against accrediting UNT:

Reportedly the committee objected to the quality of the student body: "[T]he committee was troubled by the number of students with low LSAT scores. Last fall, one-fifth of students from the first class landed on academic probation. UNT also admitted 17 students in 2014 and 2015 who had been dismissed from other law schools. Most of them had poor grades." Specifically, according to the report, "[i]t appears that the law school is admitting applicants that do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar":

So it appears indeed. UNT's admissions function "rel[ies] less on GPA and LSAT scores ... in favor of recommendations and life experience":

Now, "life experience" is the hallmark of a diploma mill. For decades, commercial services posing as universities have sent out diplomas for a fee without requiring any academic work, supposedly because the buyer's "life experience" alone justifies a PhD.

Using "life experience" as a factor in admissions is different but little better. While "life experience" might justify giving a chance to an academically capable candidate who grew up in trying circumstances, UNT seems to be using it as an excuse to admit academically incapable applicants. Even the bar exam, simple though it is, requires a minimum of intelligence and literacy—traits not readily compensated by "life experience".

Rachel Hawkins, a 3L at UNT, defends her unaccredited law skule. She considers it "too big to fail" and seems to think that it deserves accreditation for that reason. "This is UNT. This isn't Jim Bob's law school", she says:

Sorry to be blUNT, Ms. Hawkins, but yours is indeed Jim Bob's law school. It's an unaccredited dump that admits large numbers of people who haven't a prayer of passing the bar exam, or for that matter completing UNT's own curriculum.

Royal Furgeson, Jr., dean of UNT, intends to fight for accreditation. He insists on "a fair hearing" at which UNT can "tell the council that there’s a giant need for affordable law schools like us":

Furgeson is so far up his own cUNT that he may come out the other end seeing daylight. Even if there is a giant need for a law school like UNT, it does not follow that UNT should be accredited. In particular, UNT admits huge numbers of students who just aren't smart enough even to graduate and pass the bar exam, still less to succeed as lawyers. The committee has pointed that out, yet Furgeson goes on prating about the mission of his stUNTed law school.

Should UNT lose its bid for accreditation, Ms. Hawkins may go to California, where her father practices law. Why? "[B]ecause in California, unlike Texas, you can graduate from an unaccredited law school and still take the bar."

Oh, Ms. Hawkins, are you in for a surprise! California does allow for taking the bar exam on the strength (such as it is) of a degree from an unaccredited law school—but only if the school is registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners. Only unaccredited law schools in California are eligible for registration. So, no, with your degree from UNT, you won't be able to worm your way into the bar in California. Too bad, Jim Bob.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Indiana Tech Law School Charter Class grads achieve impressive 8% bar passage rate

Some scambloggers were disappointed, even surprised, by the ABA’s accreditation earlier this year of that grotesque parody of a law school, Indiana Tech. However, as applied to Indiana Tech, the scamblog critique is unwarranted in one respect-- this particular newly-accredited JD mill will not exactly be making a significant contribution to the overproduction of lawyers, at least any time soon.

21 persons graduated in May with the law school’s Charter Class. Though the grads got an encouraging sendoff from commencement speaker Jerry Mathers, there was unfortunately no "Leave it to Beaver"-style happy ending after the bar exams were graded, though there was perhaps a wholesome lesson learned. According to the school, a dozen of these grads sat for the July, 2016 Indiana bar exam. The Indiana Lawyer reported that only one of those 12 passed, i.e. about 8% of its bar takers and 5% of the overall class.

On Indiana Tech's 2016 commencement program, three law graduates (all from Indiana) are listed as having made law review, and two of these three earned magna cum laude honors.  The cream of the Indiana Tech crap, I mean crop, and yet none of these three names appear among Indiana's list of successful examinees. A total of seven grads, all from Indiana, are listed on the program as having participated in moot court. However, none of these seven names appear among Indiana's list of successful examinees. I mean, even Charlotte Law, with by far the worst bar passage rate in North Carolina, was able to boast that practically the entirety of its moot court board passed the bar.

You would think that even the world's fastest gyroscope couldn't spin its way out of this disgraceful mess, but Indiana Tech VP for University Relations Brian Engelhart gave it an audacious whirl, commenting to the Indiana Lawyer that "As is the case everywhere, we had a mixture of passage, failure, and those within appeal range."

Perhaps so, but the nature of the "mixture" counts for something. I await the professional baseball player who gets one fluke hit during his rookie season, but strikes out every other time at bat.  Could he not defend his performance by saying: "As is the case with every other pro ballplayer, including every hall-of-famer, my performance involved a mixture of hits, outs, and questionable calls"?

By the way, the overall bar passage rate for the July exam in Indiana was 61% for all takers and 68% for first-time takers. So Indiana Tech grads underperformed the State average for first-time bar takers by a trifling 60%, and its publicly announced goal by 92%. 

I note that Indiana Tech's accreditation is technically "provisional," one of only four schools that hold that status.  There is a special ABA standard for withdrawal of provisional accreditation where there is a reasonable likelihood that the school will be unable to comply with ABA Standards. See ABA Standard 102(b): "The Council may withdraw provisional approval if the Council determines that the law school. . . is no longer able to demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the school will achieve full compliance with each of the Standards." 

The ABA must immediately initiate an investigation of Indiana Tech. Tech's bar passage rate provides crystal clear evidence that the school will be unable to bring itself into compliance with the ABA’s soon-to-be tightened Standard 316 on bar passage. ("The ABA Accreditation Standards Review Committee approved a proposal Saturday to change the requirement so that schools must show that 75 percent of their graduating classes pass a bar exam within two years"). Not to mention the shamelessly-flouted Standards 501(a) and (b) on sound admissions practices: "A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."

The ABA itself, and even a few thoughtful dissidents from within the academy, is favorably inclined towards accrediting new schools in the interests of pedagogical innovation, alternate tuition pricing structures, diversifying the profession, ect, ect. That would perhaps be okay if quick accreditation were counterbalanced with equally quick de-accreditation of existing law schools, whether provisionally or fully accredited, where employment outcomes and bar passage rates establish that the school has failed its basic obligation to "prepare its students for admission to the bar and responsible participation as members of the legal profession." See ABA Standard 301.

There are 205 accredited law schools in the US, and in no case is de-accreditation more warranted than in infamous Indiana Tech's, with its almost cartoonish or circus-like parade of scam pedagogy, scam promotion, scam personalities, and scam outcomes, as exhaustively catalogued on this blog. See the following, and I may have missed a few:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Association of American Law Schools Pres. Kellye Testy touts the MJ and the law school BA.

It may be that the innovative law school of the future will not focus exclusively, or even primarily, on JD education. The JD has faded in public esteem, perhaps permanently, as word has spread about about the astounding tuition spiral, deceptive recruitment practices, worthless professional training, sinking admissions standards and bar passage rates, and above all, about the awful employment outcomes. Recall, though, that it is called law school, not lawyer school, and, indeed, University of Chicago lawprof Todd Henderson once pricelessly suggested that a "better moniker" for the institution would be "leader school." 

What if financially ailing law schools could be revived through the creation or dramatic expansion of non-JD and non-LLM degree programs, such as the "MJ"? (For the unfamiliar, this acronym stands for the illustrious "Master’s in Jurisprudence," not only for marijuana, mango juice, and monster jam). What if law schools could experiment with bachelor’s degrees in law, thereby not only mulcting revenue from teenagers fresh out of high school, but also intensively grooming those same teenagers for eventual JD matriculation? What if non-JD degree and certificate programs could be marketed all over the world, perhaps even offered entirely in convenient online format, so that people can be scammed from the comfort of their own homes? What if overall law school enrollment could soar without the troublesome, if largely theoretical, possibility that the ABA might enforce its quality control standards? 

This intoxicating vision is no mere cannabis-and-mango juice hallucination. As the ABA explains on its website, "ABA accreditation does not extend to any program supporting any other degree granted by the law school. Rather the content and requirements of those degrees. . . are created by the law school itself and do not reflect any judgment by the ABA accrediting bodies regarding the quality of the program. Moreover, admission requirements for such programs, particularly with regard to foreign students, vary from school to school, and are not evaluated through the ABA accreditation process."

University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy provided some details in a recent, though undated, talk to the law faculty at Touro, that was posted online four months ago. Testy's perspective deserves attention because her services as Dean of her public law school are so highly valued by her State’s taxpayers that they are happy to provide her with a $378,900/yr. salary. She is, moreover, President of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and has been designated the sixth most influential legal educator in the US. So a notable driver in the thrilling monster scam, or jam, crashfest that is American legal education.


The crisis in legal education, as understood by a $378,900/ yr. law school dean:
  • "What’s happening right now is a lot of schools are living on either reserves they have build up or they are living on the good will of their University letting them have deficits. Neither of those things are going to last a lot longer." (Video at 42:01-42:14)

Remedy 1:  The MJ:

  • "I’ll share this just in case its of an area of interest. The JD education we do is really just one small part of the education we provide [at the University of Washington School of Law]. In addition to admitting those 165 or so JDs every year we have about 200 students a year that we educate that are in LLM programs, Ph.D in law program, and most recently what we call an MJ, a Master’s of Jurisprudence, and that is something that I know some schools have started thinking about." (15:42-16:12)
  • "Like a lot of schools, when revenue issues got difficult, we started thinking how can we have alternate revenue sources and build on the teaching capacity that we might already have. So we started this master’s degree of jurisprudence to educate people who don’t want to become a licensed lawyer, but just want to know something more about law. And we were thinking about people like HR professionals, compliance professionals, there is so much health care industry. . .And so we began this program last year and we have one class, and the first class drew about 25 students and they are fascinating." (42:45-43:24) 
  • "The downside is my faculty colleagues do not like having them [MJ students] in their classes. I thought it would be kind of neat because we are already teaching a class on X, Y, and Z, to have two or three more students in the class wouldn’t seem to be a huge thing. . . [but] the faculty find the difference between those students and our JD students so stark that they are kinda like “What do I do with these people?"" (43:47-44:17)
  • "The problem with the MJ is. . . students come to it with the idea that what I really want to do is learn more about employment law or communications law [but]. . . you are not going to have two classes in advanced communications law." (46:14-46:27)

Remedy 2: The Law School BA
  • "One of the conversations underway at U-Dub right now is whether the law school itself should offer an undergraduate law degree. And the theory there is that in every country but ours law is undergraduate and that if you were teaching an undergraduate law degree your pipeline might even be better. . . so we’re in high conversation at UW with the undergraduates. . . because you can imagine that that does not thrill the Department of Political Science." (32:32-33:05)

Remedy 3: China

  • "The University of Arizona. . . started an undergrad law program in Arizona and also in China, and they ended up with something like 200 students in Arizona and 600 students in China for this program. So that’s obviously going to get people’s interest up too, when everyone’s trying to think about student numbers and all." (47:28-45:57)

The Bottom Line:

  • "Like everything we do, it is a good reminder that we are not after gross revenue, we are actually after net revenue." [nervous chuckle] (44:45-44:52)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great leap backward: Lemmings scurry to Indiana Tech

Score another victory for the law-school scam. Indiana Tech reports that 55 lemmings enrolled in its entering class this year:

Last year Indiana Tech got only 15 lemmings, and to do so it had to drop tuition to zero. Now it is charging $19,750 per year—plus $660 for each credit hour beyond 16 in a semester. (Yes, taking Law & Hip-Hop with Dougie Fresh can set you back a cool two grand.)

Scam-dean Charles Cercone attributes this rise in enrollment in part to the provisional accreditation that the ABA predictably conferred upon that glittering center of juridical excellence that graces Fort Wayne. And he is right. With the ABA's rubber-stamped imprimatur, suddenly the toilet looks less risky in the eyes of benighted lemmings. But the difference is negligible. Provisional accreditation will enable the graduates to take the bar exam, but it won't bring them jobs. An accredited toilet is still a toilet.

Even with 55 entering students, Indiana Tech is probably losing money. The previous class had only 15 students, and the one before that about 25. Probably some of those have left, and not many have transferred in. Let's say that all 95 are still there. If they're all paying full price (an unrealistically generous assumption), the law skule's revenues from tuition are less than $1.9 million. I doubt whether Indiana Tech's law skule, with its 25 employees, can operate on that amount. Most likely it is still drawing down the university's endowment, which was healthy until this vanity project of a law skule was launched.

In a couple of months, we shall get to see some interesting facts, at least as reported by Indiana Tech. How deep into the 140s, if not the 130s, did Indiana Tech have to dip? How many people got their tuition waived or heavily discounted? And a few months later we shall learn just how well that first class of valiant Warriors™ have fared in their quest for work as lawyers or global leaders or experts in hip-hop. How many of this past year's 21 graduates have landed in Big Law? How many in federal clerkships?

Eventually these facts will catch up with Indiana Tech and do it in. Unfortunately, for now Indiana Tech continues to lure in dolts who never should be allowed to enroll in law school at all. How many more lives must be ruined before the flow of readily available guaranteed loans is checked?