Monday, December 17, 2018

A look at the ABA's 509 disclosures for 2018

Every year around this time, the ABA requires those law schools that have received its "accreditation" (scarcely distinguishable from a rubber stamp) to produce a "Standard 509 Information Report" presenting some basic data, notably on the class that entered in the autumn. We at Outside the Law School Scam read a sampling of 509 reports, principally but not exclusively from über-toilets. The reports can be downloaded here. Our friends at Law School Transparency have also updated their data in light of these reports.

As you might expect, the scamsters' effectively unaudited data don't reveal much. There are, however, a few highlights:

Thomas Jefferson enrolled only 59 students this year, of whom 52 were "Enrollees from Applicant pool" and 7 were "Other first-year enrollees". How exactly a person is admitted otherwise than from the applicant pool is not clear to me. Are people abducted off the street? Does Thomas Jefferson, like Harvard's undergraduate college, maintain a "Z list" of people admitted on the condition that they first spend a year lounging on the French Riviera? Anyway, 59 is a long way down from last year's figure of 241. It provides further evidence that Thomas Jefferson is not long for this world. Note also that a sixth of last year's 1Ls failed out (the ABA prettifies this category with the term "academic attrition") and that a tenth of the class transferred to other (unidentified) schools. Not a single person transferred to Thomas Jefferson.

Of the two remaining InfiLaw über-toilets, Arizona Summit enrolled 17 students—surprisingly many for a school that is not offering classes. That's below the number of full-time professors. Sixteen percent of last year's 1Ls failed out, and 41% transferred elsewhere. Florida Coastal, the other InfiLaw make-believe law school, enrolled only 60 students, down from 106 last year and 808 in 2010. A third of the 1Ls failed out.

North Carolina Central University won the ABA's favor this year by imposing a minimum LSAT score of 142. That measure, allegedly aimed at quality, sent first-year enrollment from 166 last year to 103 this year. Although almost half of the students got no discount at all, 11 students received "More than full tuition", which to Old Guy sounds suspiciously like a means of buying students. Discounts, after all, cannot exceed 100% of tuition; beyond that, the law school must dish out real money. How many grand does it take to bribe someone to sign up at North Carolina Central? Bear in mind that the LSAT score at the 75th percentile is only 150 (below the median for the entire pool of LSAT-takers) at this über-toilet, so apparently it wouldn't take much to cash in. I would not recommend attending for less than $20k per year in cash, but many people who otherwise would have ended up at some Tier 5 toilet instead take Tier 6 North Carolina Central plus a few dollars.

Cooley (listed as "Western Michigan University") still brings up the rear on the LSAT, with at least a quarter of its entering class at 139 or lower. Enrollment went up significantly this year, even though most students got no discount on the astronomical annual tuition of $53k.

Appalachian, that Cooley of the Blue Ridge, saw its enrollment nearly double to 73 last year, but this year was down to 50.

The University of North Dakota is as shitty as ever, with its LSAT score of 150 at the 75th percentile. First-year enrollment declined from 71 to 62, but 28 students transferred in: 25 from Arizona Summit, 2 from Cooley, 1 from Thomas Jefferson. The migration from Arizona Summit to North Dakota was perhaps one of the more bizarre events of the 2018 scam-year. Now more than a tenth of the entire student body at the U of North Dakota is freshly arrived from Arizona Summit. Presumably these Summitites hang around together and bitch about how much better things were at their former, effectively defunct law school. It must make for peculiar dynamics at that juridical Mecca of the Peace Garden State. Perhaps the U of North Dakota is preparing to scoop up the jetsam of Thomas Jefferson and other dying über-toilets.

Please share anything of interest that you discover in the 509 reports or elsewhere.


  1. Old Guy, this is behind a paywall but is worth a read. "Law Schools Are Bad for Democracy. They whitewash the grubby scramble for power." It's in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and its by Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and of history at Yale University.

    One quote: "Many [law school] students believe that they are doing something more than enrolling in a trade school to solve other people’s legal problems for (often tremendous) pay."

    1. Paywall? I was able to freely access it here:

      "Law Schools Are Bad for Democracy"

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thanks for sharing it (including the free copy). I certainly agree that law school is effectively a trade school, even a vocational school. But the article focuses on the élite establishments. Hardly any of what Moyn wrote applies to the vast majority of law schools. Certainly the tens of thousands of toileteers are not being pushed into fancy jobs with $400k signing bonuses; many find themselves totally unemployed ten months after graduation, and many others either are not in law or are practicing in marginal capacities.

      It is also worth noting that élite graduates, for the most part, do not "solve other people's legal problems"; they solve corporations' legal problems.

    4. Thanks, Old Guy. You are, of course, correct.

      My point was that even the elite folks at Yale agree that law school is a trade school. That is, that there is no justification for attending law school other than learning a trade. And when there are not enough trades to go around (as evidenced by the fact that 50% of law school graduates don't get full time jobs that require bar passage), there is no reason to learn the trade, and no reason to go to law school. And $250,000 reasons plus your sanity and three years' opportunity costs not to.

      Again, I think it is significant when folks at Yale say there is no intrinsic value in law school. But what do I know?

    5. It is a trade school, more elaborate than most, but still very narrowly focused toward one occupation.

      That is why I find it odd, how so many here harangue on, if law doesn't work out, just become a teacher, or an accountant, or a stockbroker or a physician, as if the law degree prepares one for these jobs, which are also trades as well. If a law grad can pivot into one of these other careers, it is due to their training and experience prior to law school, or after, not because of law school.

    6. Intellectual pretensions aside, law school really is nothing but trade school. I think that it should be more than that, and certainly a lot more sophistication is possible at Yale than at Cooley. But in practice it is just vocational training—very ineptly delivered. If indeed law is to be on a par with welding and hairdressing, it should be taught in the same way: practically, without a lot of theory and analysis. Create an associate's degree for "legal technician" or similar. That can take the place of the JD.

      Then perhaps we can create a degree, with that one as a prerequisite, for the relatively few who are sufficiently literate, intelligent, and analytical to practice law.

    7. "You can do so many things with a law degree", we are told. "A JD opens thousands of doors." Really? Which ones?

      Legal training is useful for practicing law. That's it. It may be incidentally useful in some other lines of work (much as a knowledge of physics may be incidentally useful to a lawyer), but it is neither necessary nor sufficient for access to any other profession. Certainly a JD does not enable one to bypass the requirements for teaching, accounting, medicine, and other professions.

      Perhaps the misperception of the "flexibility" of the JD stems from the fact that some people with legal training do end up working as CEOs or politicians. Many people—who would not score well on the LSAT—suppose that the JD enabled them to obtain their exalted positions.

      See this, including the comments:

  2. Law is the worst trade school I've ever seen. Nobody in their right mind would hire a law graduate, fresh out of school, to handle any legal matter. There is no difference from a law applicant and a law graduate except 3 years and a lot of debt.

    About the only thing 3 years of law school prepares law students for is how to IRAC a fact pattern. And even that requires them getting outside outlines because the professors can't be bothered to teach the law. This is utterly worthless for any actual legal work.

    Law as an undergraduate degree would be quickly exposed as a soft humanities subject something on the level of sociology, women's studies or similarly unrespected fields. Mind you, both of those are probably superior to law as well and have their uses.

    It does not even rise to the level of philosophy, which does encourage critical thinking. And nobody will confuse it for a science, engineering or tech class.

    1. "IRAC" is also simple-minded and stupid, quite unsuitable for non-trivial legal matters. I have never once used it. I have even forbidden students to use it.

      I would not hire a Tier 5 or Tier 6 graduate from the past ten years for any purpose. I would be suspicious of most Tier 4 graduates, especially from recent years.

  3. The bullshit ABA has placed über-toilet John Marshall of Atlanta on probation:

    Recall that Savannah Law School, a branch of this über-toilet, was recently closed and that the other John Marshall, in Chicago, is being absorbed by the U of Illinois in Chicago.

    A spokesperson for John Marshall in Atlanta has stated that the über-toilet "is committed to working with the American Bar Association to continue producing high quality lawyers who ensure all communities have access to legal services". When the hell has it ever produced high-quality lawyers (note punctuation, you stupid scamsters)? Apparently it doesn't produce very many lawyers of whatsoever quality, as few of its graduates pass the bar exams.

    If you want to produce high-quality lawyers, start with high-quality students. You won't find many of those down in the 140s on the LSAT, where John Marshall Atlanta gets most of its students. At that level, I'm sorry to have to tell you, very few people have the skills and the preparation needed for the legal profession.

    Anyway, I expect the ABA to take John Marshall Atlanta off probation in a couple of months, much as it has done for Cooley and numerous other undeserving über-toilets.

    1. "...quality lawyers who ensure *all communities* have access to legal services..." (Emphasis added)

      Oh comes that race card.

  4. Other law schools that may be drying up:

    Ohio Northern: first-year enrollment was 51
    U District of Columbia: 64
    Southern Illinois: 76
    Liberty: 72

    There comes a point at which a law school is just too small to maintain ABA accreditation. Retaining enough professors, librarians, and others requires a significant influx of cash, most easily obtained from tuition and fees. The marginal cost of an extra student is tiny, especially in view of the fees that that extra student (on average) will pay, so schools facing financial difficulties (which is most of them these days) are likely to try to increase enrollment. When there are only a few dozen students, however, that can be difficult to achieve: few people will be attracted to a school that appears to be drying up, and those who are will typically either be lousy students or demand large discounts that the school cannot afford (and that in any case are antithetical to the plan of bringing in money). A school with only a few dozen new students per year is likely to fall into the trap that has killed Indiana Tech, Valpo, and Arizona Summit and that is about to kill Florida Coastal and Thomas Jefferson.

    Indiana Tech lasted as long as it did (which wasn't very) by depleting the parent institution's substantial endowment. Perhaps the two state-supported law schools in the Dakotas can do the same, at least for a while (the U of Minnesota is growing tired of pouring tens of millions into its faux-prestigious law school). But what exactly is Appalachian going to do? It's a stand-alone law school hours from even a small city, with big financial problems and no sugar daddy to sustain it. Its last five entering classes have had fewer than 50 students each on average. I'd be surprised if Appalachian survived for two more years. Indeed, I'm surprised that it has lasted this long.

    1. What always annoyed me about the law school model is that the schools outside of major cities still charge exorbitant fees, when there is no way the costs could possibly be equivalent. That is even aside from the fact that the tuition is largely the same regardless of ranking, and in many times higher for lower ranked/lesser product schools.

      And it's also obvious law schools are at best regional (most don't even place in their region these days) so the tuition should have at most been set with projected income for the area, as well as property costs etc. for the area.

      Obviously none of that is the case, and it's always the maximum price they can charge everywhere, with faulty data insisting on big market big law salaries.

      That being said, the top 50 law schools are bad enough to attend, I can think of no logical reason anyone would attend anything below that ranking, especially today considering the substantial drop in student quality. Even the bottom of the T14 has greatly relaxed admission standards. Anyone can make a top 50 law school today if they are at all able to read, write and be mildly proficient at either. A 160 LSAT score should be the minimum, and even that is too low, it should be 165 as the cutoff, or even 167.

  5. I see that the old "disappearing scholarship" ruse is still a tactic of the shameless law school scam.

  6. Even the top law schools have become more competitive to attend this year. Applicants do not realize they are buying a block of coal. These degrees have no value for anyone who loses a job in the second half of their career, which includes a huge proportion of graduates of the top schools. If law schools were only required to collect longitudinal data about employment outcomes, including salaries, applicants would be very wary of even the top law schools.

    Look at the number of jobs most companies have for lawyers. Then look at the number of jobs for computer scientists. The computer scientists can much more easily work than lawyers.

    The other thing that applicants do not understand is that age discrimination is a real problem in the workforce. It is a much worse problem in law, where the supply of workers is double the number of jobs. It is important to understand that age discrimination is rampant after age 50 and THE LAWS PROHIBITING AGE DISCRIMINATION ARE NOT ENFORCED. So there is not full-time, lucrative work for most lawyers starting in their 50s, and there is nothing the lawyer can do to fix the problem. Your top 14 law degree is worth nothing after age 50, because few employers will hire a lawyer of that age for a full-time, permanent job with health insurance at the median salary for lawyers in that geographic area. Once you are older as a lawyer, you are screwed, and there is nothing you can do about it. Join the crowd.

    1. Also, "the second half of their career" can start within the first two or three years after graduation.

      Discrimination is best addressed on the systemic or societal level, not case by case.