Home / General / Let’s Play “Bad Faith, or Delusional?”

Let’s Play “Bad Faith, or Delusional?”


Via Paul’s other place, I was fascinated to read this discussion thread, in which a law professor at Santa Clara entered what remained a largely substantive discussion and was thoroughly routed (with inevitable resorts to baseless questioning of the motives of people who presented inconvenient data.) I think my favorite of his comments, though, was this one, which reaches almost Althouse levels of “I cannot believe what I just read”:

In any case, that kind of disappointment has been part of the law school process for many decades. It has nothing to do with the 100 year storm that has left us with the overhang in the market today as it has in every other job market. It turns out, John, that for everyone just living in the United States for the last four years was a “horrible decision.” [One that does not entail 200 grand or so of debt, but moving right along. –ed.]

But this is really not the point I was (trying) to discuss. I have only maintained that a student accepted at BOTH schools [Santa Clara and Stanford] would most likely have very similar opportunities once they graduated. I feel reasonably confident, in other words, that Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati would be interested in that student, assuming they performed well, whether they took me for securities regulation or Joe Grundfest. But whether that student should go to SCU or Stanford or another school is an entirely different question depending on values, career goals, and other factors. For example, I readily admit, if you play golf, I would recommend going to Stanford.

I mean, can Diamond possibly believe that graduates of Stanford and Santa Clara law schools have similar employment prospects? That the only reason to attend Stanford is that it has a nicer golf course? Or is it that he thinks a non-negligible number of people accepted to Stanford would pay anything to attend Santa Clara? Either way, assuming he’s arguing in bad faith would be the charitable interpretation.

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  • Richard

    Somewhat surprisingly, you can do an easy search at the Wilson, Sonsini web site and find out how many Stanford grads work there and how many Santa Clara grads work there: 41 for Stanford, 23 for Santa Clara. Thats more Santa Clara grads than I would have thought but it certainly undermines Professor Diamond’s claims that a Santa Clara grad has the same chance of getting hired there as a Stanford grad.

    • Fake Irishman

      It would also be interesting to note when each of the groups graduated. I’ll bet the ratio of Santa Clara:Stanford has been declining over the last decade or so.

      • Richard

        That’s likely but I think the only way you can do that is look at all the lawyer bios on the site, which is way too time consuming for me.

    • John

      He said a Santa Clara grad who got into Stanford would have equal opportunities to a Stanford grad.

      • djw

        Since this is probably a null set, his argument is conveniently unfalsifiable.

      • L2P

        Diamond’s a jackass, but there is some overlap in law school enrollment.

        I got into Stanford, UCLA, Penn, and Southwestern. Southwestern offered me a full scholarship. I seriously considered it – it would have saved my $60,000 in loans over UCLA. Stanford gave me a very small scholarship and would have cost me a ton. It’s not hard for me to see myself choosing a full ride to Santa Clara over Stanford.

        That was different times, though. I probably wouldn’t consider it today.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Yeah, but anyone who got into Stanford could almost always get heavily subsidized or free admission to a higher-ranked school than Santa Clara. (And it would still obviously better to have the Stanford degree, which is not what Diamond is claiming.)

          • L2P

            Maybe, but not in the Bay Area. You’re almost certainly talking about a mid-tier school on the East Coast or the Midwest. That probably means you don’t come back to San Francisco. It’s very tough to market yourself geographically as a lawyer.

            • We should have Larry or Mario let us know what they think.

            • Scott Lemieux

              You’re almost certainly talking about a mid-tier school on the East Coast or the Midwest.

              This is almost certainly false. There are several CA law schools lower-ranked than Stanford but well above SCU that would make a better offer.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      I’ll try to do the research on when WSGRs SCU lawyers graduated.

      • James F.

        I’ll bet they’re mostly patent guys, esp. patent prosecution. Santa Clara has a night program that draws a lot of Silicon Valley engineers and science PhDs that want to transition to patent law.

        • (the other) Davis

          Yeah, this is a good point — patent prosecution is one of the few specialties where the law school you attend is probably less important than the non-legal skills you bring to bear. (I get the sense that the JAG corps is also like this, though that’s based on a small sample size.)

  • DrDick

    One can only conclude, most generously, that Prof. Diamond has never visited reality and may not even be aware of its existence.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Perhaps he meant that in the current economic climate BOTH varieties of degree are worthless.

      And therefore equally valuable.

  • Scott Lemieux

    I also don’t mean to neglect his subsequent argument that it makes sense to produce an enormous number of law degrees in the Bay Area because it’s really “underlawyered.” Granted, the people who lack legal services can’t pay enough to provide paying jobs and pre-emptive legal analysis would actually reduce the number of legal jobs by producing less litigation, but this is all central to his point! Paul can answer this, but I think this two-step is pretty common among apologists.

    • L2P

      Also, too:

      Even if it was economically feasible (it isn’t), there is no way for those graduates to get the experience they need to provide service to that underlawyered. These attorneys won’t know how to set up a client trust account and hire a process server, let alone handle an unlawful detainer action. The combination of unsophisticated clients and inexperienced lawyers is ripe for neglect, negligence and abuse.

      But yes, there’s only so many lawyers in the Bay Area that can survive in the long run billing out at $30 an hour.

  • Anonymous

    can Diamond possibly believe that graduates of Stanford and Sanata Clara law schools have similar employment prospects?

    I think he worded his nonsense very carefully so that it would sound like that’s what he believed, but he’d be able to walk away from it to something somewhat more defensible in isolation (though still trivial and stupid in context). What he said was that if a particular student is accepted to BOTH schools, that student would have similar opportunities upon graduation. And what Diamond has in mind no doubt is someone who would emerge at the middle of the pack from Stanford, but would be in the top one or two percentile at SCU. And sure, during the boom firms like Wilson Sonsini might have offered the serious standout students at SCU a job about as likely as they’d offer someone who muddled through Stanford without any distinction. But so what?

    • L2P

      I think you’ve nailed it.

      Yes, he’s making the unremarkable point that the person who graduates first in the class from Santa Clara probably has very similar job prospects to the person who graduates in the bottom third at Stanford. That is true, IMX. In Los Angeles, for example, the top firms would interview the top 5 students at Loyola (not top 5%, the top 5), a similar school to Santa Clara.

      But what a misleading assclown.

      • Jon

        I disagree. The bottom third at Stanford might get the same number of Biglaw interviews, but after that process, smaller firms will prefer Mr. Stanford a lot.

        And Loyola/Santa Clara, fine. But the lowest ranked grad at Stanford is going to beat #1 from SW or JFK or some other bottom rung.

        • L2P

          Maybe. IMX that’s a mixed bag because smaller firms have different expectations. A lot of them won’t even hire from a Top 20 school because they figure those guys are just desperate and will move on as soon as a better offer comes in, and it will. But yeah, it’s possible.

      • (the other) Davis

        …the person who graduates first in the class from Santa Clara probably has very similar job prospects to the person who graduates in the bottom third at Stanford.

        Which is unfortunate, because in my experience the person who graduates first in their class at SC would likely have been ranked far higher than the bottom third if they had gone to Stanford. While I was in law school, the students from lower-ranked schools who did well enough to transfer into my school were uniformly top performers among my peers.

        Shorter version: someone who was #1 at SC could probably have pulled top 2-5% at Stanford.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Also, even if we assume arguendo that #1 is at Santa Clara is in better shape than someone in the bottom third at Stanford, there’s no way to know if you’ll be #1 a priori. Even leaving aside the other contingencies, what if 30 other people have the same idea?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right, technically the fact that Stanford has much greater employment opportunities than Santa Clara doesn’t disprove his point, because it doesn’t address the students who get accepted to Stanford and Santa Clara and choose the latter. The fact that this group of people doesn’t exist is going to make evaluating the claim difficult.

      I would say, however, the the golf comment removes any basis for a charitable interpretation.

      • greylocks

        If you love Indian food, then SCU is clearly the better choice. Far more and better Indian joints in SC and thereabouts than in Palo Alto.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, I wasn’t trying to be charitable, quite the opposite: just trying to describe what I suspect was his very cynical tactic of seeming to make a meaningful (but full of shit) claim while leaving himself plenty of room in his careful wording to allow him to backtrack if called on it.

        • You mean he answered like a lawyer.

          Imagine that.

          • Timb

            Cause he probably isn’t one. Since he’s a professor, he might have avoided ever a lawyer ever and just have been “guy with degree”

    • Julian

      Great analysis, but it’s a little harder for him to wriggle out of this:

      Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati would be interested in that student, assuming they performed well, whether they took me for securities regulation or Joe Grundfest.

      That statement is a bit vague, but the most reasonable construction is that he’s saying that Wilson Sonsini would be equally interested in a student who did well at Stanford and a student who did well at Santa Clara. It does NOT easily support the weasel meaning he would need to make his claim defensible (i.e. that #1 at Santa Clara and, say, bottom 1/4 of Stanford are the same).

  • Jon

    Lets not forget that while I agree with this guy being delusional, it’s his inability to understand a world of illusion itself that makes him stupid. Specifically, law students coming out of Stanford don’t make better lawyers than those coming from Santa Clara. They are all equally worthless with that pants-pissing doe-eyed look on their faces the first time they appear in court. It’s only because Big!aw knows its clients want to see Stanford on the resume of the people who are billing them that the job prospects vary.

    While I agree that legal education is screwed and bilks money from the government and students, the problems are far deeper and broader.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Also, I’ll leave this to Paul, but here he argues that if you think that the number of JDs should be much closer to the number of available legal jobs it’s because you want to restore Jim Crow. I swear.

    • Hogan

      Well, that settles it. Bad faith.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Well, that settles it. Bad faith.

        I dunno, it’s more like “a lot from column A…” I fear he may have really convinced himself that critics of Cooley or the New England School of Law just don’t want women to get law degrees.

    • fledermaus

      Liberal do-gooderism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

    • L2P

      After many decades of feeling pressure to widen enrollment in order to meet labor market demand and help improve diversity in the profession it is a tough decision for an institution to block the school house door. After all we could very easily solve the so-called “oversupply” problem by returning to the days of The Paper Chase (“Loudly, Mr. Hart!”), where women, blacks and Hispanics were a “discrete and insular minority” among law students. Professor Campos of the University of Colorado, who maintains a website called Inside the Law School Scam, seemed to go so far as to endorse such an approach, at least with respect to women.

      So yeah, the only solutions are either to educate at least 10,000 more attorneys then we possibly can employ and saddle them all with $150,000 in debt, or only have rich white men as lawyers.

      He’s a deep thinker, this guy.

    • RedSquareBear

      Ugh. Now I have a headache.

      Thanks, Scott.

      If only there were opportunities for law school graduates to work for less money, I’d sue you!

    • What’s amazing is that despite his convoluted line of reasoning, he still manages to land on the correct conclusion.

      It’s like he’s reading my mind. How did he know?

  • Jerry Vinokurov

    Hey-o! It’s worth pointing that Stephen Diamond showed up some time ago in a Crooked Timber thread arguing that dropping out of college was the new norm, and used The Social Network as a documentary supporting his evidence.

    • djw

      That’s some epic trolling, even by CT standards (and CT comment threads are like the Bellagio poker room for trolls).

      • Malaclypse

        (and CT comment threads are like the Bellagio poker room for trolls)

        You trying to rekindle the war?

        • wengler

          Why not? We won the first time.

          • Malaclypse

            Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, contrary to what you’ve just seen wengler just wrote, war is neither glamorous nor fun. There are no winners. Only losers. There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: The American Revolution, World War II, and the Star Wars trilogy [*]. If you’d like to learn more about war, there’s lots of books in your local library–many of them with cool, gory pictures. Well, good night, everybody. Peace, man.

            * Remember the days when there was only one trilogy, with no director’s cut? When everybody knew Han shot first? Good times. Simple times. The galaxy was a better place…

      • djw

        No criticism of any CT author, or the larger CT brand, was implied by this comment. Just an observation that for whatever reason, some of the most epic trolling performances I’ve ever seen, scoring high in the categories of creativity, assholishness, and degree of difficulty, have been in CT comment threads. Seriously, remember Henri Vieuxtemps? You can’t find trolling like that just anywhere.

        • rea

          Given the not infrequent public application of the ban hammer over there, I doubt any Crooked Timber front pagers really disagree. Hell, and when you’re trolled by Brad DeLong, not to mention, well, us–well, you have to admit that’s some quality trolling.

    • Jordan

      Or even before the Social Network bit, you get

      “But are [they] suggesting that American universities are NOT in a crisis? Google “law school” and “student debt” and then tell me there isn’t an issue here. ”

      So, law schools ARE in a crisis because of excessive debt accumulated by their students … with the exception of Santa Clara? Or something?

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    My impression, actually living in Silicon Valley, is that SCU Law is a pretty big and venerable institution. That said, I wonder how many lawyers practicing in the Bay Area with half way decent jobs and who graduated from SCU Law did so in the past several years. Nowadays, it seems like you’re going to get in a mountain of debt regardless, and if you have the chance, it makes much more sense to even be a mediocre Stanford student than a standout SCU grad.

    • Richard

      Its venerable, founded in 1911, and large – currently about 950 enrollment. Stanford is a little older and considerably smaller – about 600 enrollment. But I think its always been the case that a Stanford law graduate with similar grades and accomplishments to a Santa Clara law graduate was more likely to find desired employment.

    • C.S

      That’s my impression, too, Amanda — and it’s what makes the comparison (upthread) to Loyola pretty accurate. Every biglaw firm in SoCal has Loyola partners. However, it’s a pretty good bet that they either (a) finished top 10% (at least) in their class, or (b) were not hired into a big firm right out of school, and made their bones elsewhere.

      But another specious aspect to his reasoning is that he seems to be confining his example to comparisons of the prospects for Stanford and Santa Clara grads in the Bay Area. And for all I know, he may even be right. But I also know that Stanford grads don’t just go to firms in the Bay Area, and if they’re not in the top half of their class and are frozen out of NoCal BigLaw, there’s a whole big world full of law firms that would be slobbering to hire them. I don’t think that the same can be said of Santa Clara grads.

    • L2P

      Also, SCU (and similar schools) usually feed big into local government. A lot of DAs and PDs and similar careers start there. So they have a pretty big impact in day-to-day stuff.

      The big firms aren’t that noticeable, really. They’re a very, very small percentage of the legal work. Your average small bankruptcy mill can put out as many billables as a branch of a New York firm. But that small percentage of the total legal work generates a huge amount of money.

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        But in recessions, are local governments hiring a lot of PDs and DAs? I’d think that with the recession and oversupply of lawyers, its better to be a middle of the road Stanford grad than a top SCU grad.

        • L2P

          They’re not hiring classes of 40 like they used to, but they always need PDs and DAs. I’ve seen Harvard resumes tossed to take local kids from a supervisor’s school.

  • Scott,

    Diamond doesn’t say that SCU and Stanford grads have the same employment prospects, but that a student accepted to both would have the same employment prospects regardless of which he attended.

    Had he made the argument that the student would be as qualified by attending SCU as Stanford, he’d have a better argument. Scalia has said that he recruits clerks from top schools not because the teaching is so much better but because they start with the smartest students. “You can’t turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.”

    But, that’s not the argument he made. Backing up his claim that a top 0L could do as well coming from SCU as Stanford, we can look at how good of outcomes SCU can get. 9.1% of the class did manage to find jobs at firms of 250 or more attorneys, though none of the employment stats distinguish between associate attorneys and staff attorneys (NALP breaks down law firm job types by credentials, but both types are bar passage required). If we give SCU the benefit of the doubt, it does seem that a top student at SCU can get the same sort of BigLaw job as a Stanford grad.

    Then we can look at clerkships. SCU got 0 federal clerkships and only 0.7% of the class got a state or local clerkship. Compare to Stanford, where 23.4% got federal clerkships. In 2010, SCU placed 1.6% of grads in federal clerships versus Stanford’s 29.3%. In 2009 it was 0% vs. 23.3%.

    So based on this data, it looks like top SCU grads do place in BigLaw, but not federal clerkships (at least, not a rate reliable enough to make SCU at all a reasonable choice for someone who wants a federal clerkship). But, we can dig a bit deeper. SCU does regularly place grads at Wilson Sonsini, a Vault 50 firm. But what about the elite of the elite? The only SCU grad working at a V5 firm graduated from SCU in 2003, and it’s not clear from her bio if she started there (Skadden) or lateraled from another firm.

    Thus, there is some overlap in the outcomes between Stanford and SCU grads, but as predicted by common sense, Stanford grads have access to opportunities outside the reach of even the top SCU grads.

    What’s most disturbing though is that Diamond is feels “reasonably confident” that they do have the same opportunities. On what is this confidence based? I’ve noticed a common trend among professors to basically create a narrative in their head where things work out okay, then they become “confident” that this narrative it reality, and stop there, never bothering to see what the real world is like. The best theoretical world is the real world to them.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Diamond doesn’t say that SCU and Stanford grads have the same employment prospects, but that a student accepted to both would have the same employment prospects regardless of which he attended.

      Right — I address that alternative interpretation (in which case his argument is misleading and at best trivially true) in my post. However, he does quite clearly suggest that a student who performed equally well at SCU and Stanford would have similar employment prospects — which is insane — and the golf course line further discourages a charitable interpretation.

      Had he made the argument that the student would be as qualified by attending SCU as Stanford, he’d have a better argument. Scalia has said that he recruits clerks from top schools not because the teaching is so much better but because they start with the smartest students. “You can’t turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.”

      Oh, I agree, if his argument is that the quality of instruction at SCU was just a good, that would be perfectly plausible. But, as you say, that’s not the argument he made.

  • mpowell

    I think the argument about SCU versus Stanford is a waste of time. He’s almost certainly wrong substantively, but he can always trim his statement to be difficult to contest.

    However, the real problem is his first claim. Which can be boiled down to: no, there are not too many law school graduates, we can just blame all this on the recession. And the reality is that the recession has only highlighted and amplified a pre-existing problem which is that there have been more growth in law school graduates than can be justified by the growth in quality jobs available. And this is particulary problematic at the low end where the cost is 80% as at the top end for a much worse career prospect. And this was probably already true in 2005/6, though it got much worse with the downturn.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yes, of course, and the “but the poor need legal services!” reasoning for why there need to be more lawyers is even worse. I just figured Paul has already demolished these silly claims for our readership.

  • mch

    I am getting SO tired of these law posts. Yes, crap is going on with law schools. At both ends (high, low) Got it.

    How about attention to the reasons people OUGHT to be pursuing law? The larger social good of its pursuit?’

    These discussions always end up about debt and prestige. Never about justice. (Call me quaint.)

    • Mrs Tilton

      So, you are displeased that the authors write about what they want to write about rather than what you want them to write about? At the very least I think you are entitled to a full refund of your subscription fee. (How’s that for justice?)

      As it happens, I find Campos’s law-school stuff highly interesting (Lemieux’s as well, but it’s primarily Campos’s beat). However, I find his fat stuff abysmal — his valid points are uncontroversial, and his controversial points are barking. Even worse, those posts are boring and repetitive (“Oh sweet merciless Cthulhu NO, not another Campos Fat Post!”) But y’know what? It’s Campos’s blog, the topic interests him, he likes to write about it, and for all the guff he gets in the comments, there are doubtless plenty of readers who find the topic as interesting as he does. And (this is the best part) I have mastered a secret, centuries-old Ninja mind technique that enables me to not read posts I find boring! With years of disciplined, dedicated study, you too might learn this ancient art!

      Even better, if there are ideas you find interesting and people are not writing about them, you could write about them yourself. Why, I’ve heard that the start-up costs for a “web-blog” on the “Inter-Net” are down to only 3 or 4 hundred thousand these days (and annual maintenance expenses after that are only about 50K, mostly for fuel, graphite electrodes and foreign-exchange hedging).

  • mch

    Perhaps I have a different notion of the teacher (here, Campos Lemieux)-student (me, you) relationship than you do. I assume that the student is allowed at least to suggest some directions the course might take.

    Anyway, as I said in my comment, Got it. Point made. I have no problem with the point being repeated for the sake of those who may not already have gotten it, but in the case of something as important to all of us as law and justice, this course needs at some point to expand and deepen a bit (especially this late in the semester).

    Maybe because I am know a bunch of young lawyers who earn shit while defending (or, occasionally, prosecuting — some very fine young people do decide to take that tack) people in the most dire situations, nearly all of them very poor, hapless. Young lawyers involved in the Innocence Project and things of that ilk. Maybe it’s also because a few very rich lawyers I know in areas like anti-trust really are motivated by an admirable commitment to justice. Hell, even the local lawyer who has handled things like our house closing, mortgage renegotiations, our will (when we finally made one!) and related instruments, and who helped out our son once when he was in an unexpected bind…. All these people are motivated by very fine ideals, in my humble experience. Or at least, their professionalism saw them through. Somehow, these LGM posts about law at some point need to take seriously: not everyone is in it for the money, NOR SHOULD THEY BE. The point in caps is the one I am worried is getting lost in this important and legit discussion of law school shannanigens.

  • ken houghton

    Uh, guys, the “golf” comment was pretty clearly intended as a reference to Stanford’s most famous (undergraduate) alumnus. Who didn’t need Stanford.

    • Jordan

      “Who didn’t need Stanford.”

      Well, he DID need some pretty good lawyers, who were presumably well compensated. The real question: how many of those hours ended up being billed to Santa Clara grads?

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