Saturday, December 21, 2019

In the news: a possible Navajo law school; $111 million of alleged contributions from law schools


Diné College, of the Navajo Nation, is considering the establishment of a law school. "In a press release, the tribal college stated that discussion about developing such a program occurred during a symposium on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, where participants talked about accreditation, core courses and specializations, judicial advocates, traditional Navajo law and names for the law school."

One critical question seems to have been left out of that symposium: money. How much would it cost to set up a law school at Diné College? Where would the money be found? How much would the students pay? Would the school generate sufficient revenue? Exciting though the planning of curricula and the selection of a name may be, these practical questions must be answered first.

I'll surprise everyone by saying that this is one case in which a new law school is justified in principle. The Navajo Nation legitimately needs the educational and other institutions that will support genuine sovereignty. And no existing law school can properly teach Navajo law, despite the pretensions of narcissistic law professors who think that they know everything. Nonetheless, it is not enough to say "We should have a law school", as college president Charles "Monty" Roessel did in a press release. Many localities from southernmost Texas to northern New England, from remote Appalachia to rural Idaho, are saying the same thing. Unless the proposed law school would be viable, it should not be established.


A ridiculous advertisement masquerading as journalism asserts that despite law schools' "bad rap", "it would be hard to argue that they are not assets to their communities". Why? Because the Association of American Law Schools (Ass'oALS), whose name says it all, claims that "the total value of the students’ time" spent on "the delivery of legal services through clinics, other experiential courses and pro bono activities of graduating law students" during their last year at some 105 law schools "is estimated to be in excess of $111.5 million". On the basis of that allegation, the "article" concludes that "[l]aw schools give back" to their communities.

There are several problems with this piece of nonsense. An obvious one is the questionable claim that the students' time is given by the law schools. There might be some justification for that at those schools, most of them über-toilets, that require their students to perform unpaid work and even charge them hefty tuition for the privilege. Even so, the credit that Ass'oALS gives to law schools (surprise!) appears to be misplaced.

The valuation of the allegedly donated time is, quite frankly, idiotic. Our own Dybbuk demolished last year's similar claim that the "legal services" in question were worth $81.8 million. Three years ago, I similarly put paid to a ridiculous claim from tiny über-toilet U Mass Dartmouth that its students' so-called pro bono work since 2010 was worth $4.5 million.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Über-toilet update, Part II: Status of some of the worst law schools in 2019

The annual 509 reports that the ABA requires of law schools that have received its rubber stamp of approval are now in. Our friends at Law School Transparency have already summarized the new data. Here are a few highlights:

Golden Gate has seen its first-year enrollment collapse in a single year from 237 to 127, while the LSAT scores remain at exactly the same dismal levels. What exactly is going on at Golden Gate? Is the über-toilet collapsing?

Cooley has seen a similarly sharp decline, from 541 to 292. But Cooley kicked its LSAT scores up a hair. It is still the worst ABA-accredited law school when measured by LSAT scores. Cooley did recently announce the closure of one campus, but that announcement came after the start of the semester and thus should not have affected enrollment. So why did enrollment fall? In part because of Cooley's wholly inadequate efforts to raise its LSAT scores. But something else must be going on. In any case, enrollment is now so low as to threaten the sustainability of the über-toilet-in-chief. As I have estimated before, 75 new students per year is about the lowest level of enrollment that an ABA-accredited law school can sustain. Cooley's 292 new students were spread over five campuses. That's not even 60 per campus on average. Small wonder that Cooley is closing another campus. Perhaps the whole goddamn chain will vanish in the coming years, thereby making the world a better place.

Also declining in enrollment was Vermont Law School, from 194 to 151. At the same time, Vermont's LSAT scores slipped a couple of points to a level that leaves Vermont among the ten worst schools by LSAT score at the 25th percentile. That's a steep fall for a school that only ten years ago was almost halfway respectable. Vermont Law School is in deep financial trouble, and challenging Cooley for the bottom rank is no way to save the institution.

But the most dramatic decline of all occurred at Western State University, from 162 to 23. Hell, even Indiana Tech had more than 23 students in its inaugural class. What sort of law school can be run with so few students? It can hardly offer very many electives. Then again, similarly placed Indiana Tech offered "Hip-Hop and the American Constitution", plus four specialties (among them "Global Leadership"). But we know what happened to Indiana Tech, and it isn't hard to see where Western State University is going.

Appalachian, one of the best candidates for imminent closure, saw enrollment rise from 50 to 61—still too low for sustainability, especially in light of Appalachian's financial distress. LSAT scores went up slightly, and tuition went up 12%. More than 30% of last year's graduates were unemployed ten months out. Expect the Grim Reaper to harvest an über-toilet in Grundy, Virginia, within the next two years.

Florida Coastal is now all that is left of the InfiLaw scam-chain. Enrollment went up by almost half, from 60 to 87. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has kept track of this über-toilet, LSAT scores fell considerably, from 147/150/153 to 146/147/151. I expect Florida Coastal to announce its closure in a year or two, thereby bringing InfiLaw to a well-deserved death.

If you have read the previous article, you know that La Verne and Thomas Jefferson are both switching to California state accreditation—the former by choice, the latter not. But we may as well give these two über-toilets one last glance. Unemployment in last year's graduating class was 39.6% at La Verne and 50.7% at Thomas Jefferson.

New England School of Law | Boston nearly doubled, from 181 students to 351. It also raised its LSAT scores by a couple of points. Results on the bar exams, however, remain execrable, and more than a quarter of the last graduating class was unemployed ten months out.

A disturbing trend of 2019 is the widespread adoption of the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT for the purpose of admission. Old Guy disapproves. The LSAT is better suited to law school. More importantly, however, a single test affords a good and consistent standard for comparison. I recommend that the ABA put the kibosh on this GRE business by requiring the LSAT at all law schools.