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“Did You See How They Were Living? How Can You Delude Yourself?”

[ 114 ] April 11, 2014 |

Many people, here and elsewhere, have responded to Lisa McElroy’s first combination of strawman burning and blaming-the-victim. But I might be even more amazed by one of the follow-ups:

I don’t understand why it is deplorable. The students enrolling in law schools have the information about job placement, bar passage, etc. Presumably, they have decided that they will fall on the positive side of the statistics. They make the choice to accept the offer of admission. The law school makes a commitment to educate them to the best of its ability. If the law school is so terrible and lacks judgment in admitting students, why would a student then choose to go there? It’s all in the student’s control.

Even leaving aside how strenuously law schools have acted to hide or fudge things like job placement statistics…just wow. Shorter Lisa McElroy: “Why would anyone buy real estate at Glengarry Highlands if it wasn’t extremely valuable?”

I think we can see why the comments were closed…


Comments (114)

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  1. Not sure if I have a dog in this hunt really, but is the argument being put forth something along the lines of “You can’t blame us for our product being crap if you didn’t already do the research and know it was crap before you signed on”? That’s taking “let the buyer beware” to obnoxious levels, if so.

    • Murc says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but if I recall some of the law classes I’ve taking, that’s actually a colorable argument a lot of times, especially in contract law.

    • BBA says:

      That’s taking “let the buyer beware” to obnoxious levels, if so.

      Sounds like a Matt Levine column (without the footnotes).

    • Barry says:

      Matt t: “Not sure if I have a dog in this hunt really, but is the argument being put forth something along the lines of “You can’t blame us for our product being crap if you didn’t already do the research and know it was crap before you signed on”? That’s taking “let the buyer beware” to obnoxious levels, if so.”

      Not only that, but it also includes ‘You should have seen past the frantic spinning and raw BS which we put into the published numbers. You should have known that we used one group for employment rates, and another for salary stats. You should have known that whenever we didn’t know something about a respondent, we made the most favorable assumptions. You should have known that we goosed the numbers by hiring our own grads for one-month temp positions. You should have known that ‘JD Advantage’ jobs are whatever we think that we can get away with.’

  2. no name says:

    Yay go me. I was the guy who posed the question that she was responding to with that comment. And I agree, pretty ridiculous.

  3. rea says:

    That is the argument by a merchant selling a product, not a scholar or teacher.

    • Merchant's Ass'n says:

      Hey, don’t paint all merchants selling a product that way. Some actually stand behind their products and offer a refund or exchange if they don’t function as advertised.

    • Anonymous says:

      She’s not a scholar, she’s a law professor at a bottom-tier school. As for being a teacher, by now it’s clear what the standard is for teaching ethics.

      Somebody once said that after the top 20 or so schools, it’s no longer ‘academia’, or ‘legal education’, bu the ‘legal education industry’, like a truck driving school or a beautician’s ‘college’. She definitely shows that.

      • JoyfulA says:

        No, law schools are not at all practical. They do not teach students to practice law, like beauty college grads know how to cut hair.

        Lawyers have to clerk or apprentice somewhere to learn lawyering.

      • NewishLawyer says:

        I think there is a certain amount of snobiness that puts the cut off at the top 20.

      • Chocolate Covered Cotton says:

        I’m pretty sure truck driving schools have a much better record of job placement for their grads. Most are directly contracted by the big trucking firms to provide recruits after all.

  4. elevate the discourse says:

    Scott, you are smart and I like your blog posts. There is nothing wrong with your post. And I agree that there is a legitimate argument/discussion to be had here.

    Your co-blogger Paul Campos is encouraging ad hominem attacks on Lisa McElroy. Can you in good faith defend the JD Underground thread, or the fact that he is sending commenters to a site where there are few rules and an incredible number of personal attacks? No one deserves this kind of personal abuse. Not Lisa. Not anyone. I think that 99% of the readers of this blog would appreciate very much if you would publicly disown what your co-blogger has done here.

    • Ken says:

      An even higher percentage would probably be interested in your real name, but I doubt that we’ll see that either.

    • Dana Houle says:

      I’m not following this that closely, so it’s kind of hard for me to tell if this is parody or an amazing case of not being self-aware.

      • Dana Houle says:

        Actually, now that I think about it, I’m sure students who are Jewish or Chinese and Cuban-American would know better than to make a bad law school decision. At least that’s what someone thinks who’s a tenured law professor at the highest-rated law school in America.

        • Dana Houle says:

          [And yes, I know that’s a coarse application of her thesis, but that’s the price she has to pay for writing something that might have made Houston Stewart Chamberlin nod in partial agreement.]

    • no name says:

      My best guess is that this is Brian Leiter concern trolling, but who knows. The focus on ad hominems is my clue.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I strongly discourage any ad feminam attacks on McElroy and would not tolerate them here. I don’t understand how Paul can be read as encouraging them either.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I don’t know that I’ve ever visited this JD Underground site you name. Maybe it is the hive of villainy you describe. But all I’ve seen here at this site or exposure of the ridiculous, craven, self-serving argument McElroy made, repeated in her own words. The response has been disrespectful, but I haven’t noticed anything crudely personal or off color – just outrage that she would say those getting scammed have no-one to blame but themselves, that they should have read the small print and been realistic.

    • maxx785 says:


      I’d appreciate your thoughts on the following quote from the JD Underground thread:

      “The high cost of legal education coupled with the crushing effect of non-dischargeable student loans are the problem. And the law schools aren’t addressing this. Instead, they’re trying to hide this fact from prospective students.

      If law school debt was dischargeable in bankruptcy, the JDs who couldn’t get jobs would not be destroyed. Prospective students deserve to know that this is the risk they are taking, especially when going to a school like Drexel.”

      municipald1 (Apr 11, 2014 – 12:35 pm)

    • The JD Underground thread is here, for those that want to make up their own mind regarding the appropriate tone and character:

    • Alex Hall says:

      Hey, fancy law school guy, that’s not what ad hominem means. Let me explain in small words:

      “Prof. McElroy is a terrible person, therefore she’s wrong.” = ad hominem

      “Prof. McElroy has ruined people’s lives by lying to them to preserve her cushy lifestyle. Therefore, she’s a terrible person.” != ad hominem

      Your comment gets a D-. See me after class.

    • Anonymous says:

      To: Thers

      From: The Internet

      Re: elevate the discourse’s comment

      Please nuke this from space

      The Internet

    • Royko says:

      I think that 99% of the readers of this blog would appreciate very much if you would publicly disown what your co-blogger has done here.

      I guess I’m in the 1%.

      Funny, I thought there would be more champagne and caviar. And monkey butlers to regale us with jungle stories.

    • MacK says:

      You know what is genuinely hilarious about this posting is that it is by someone who regularly posts at the Faculty Lounge – a website that leaked posters names, IP addresses and e-mails to Brian Leiter and it would seem Steve Diamond and probably Nancy Leong – and the poster is relying on the fact that this website never has.

      Now looking at a likely candidate – if this is Steve Diamond he went so far as to not just launch ad hominem attacks on me personally – but also on my recently deceased father, suggesting for example that he supported a terrorist organisation. If it Leiter, he has launched numerous ad hominem on Campos, Tamahama even me – including suggesting that other are mentally ill, combined with determined efforts to silence those who disagree with him – by for example contacting and threatening to contact their employers. Nancy Leong has shown a willingness to take her attacks to an astonishing level – while Dan Filler has actively facilitated all of this by leaking from TFL like a sieve (and I was contacted by a guest poster fairly recently to tell me that IP addresses and e-mail addresses were still open at the Faculty Lounge.

      The Faculty Lounge inter alia is hosted by Drexel University – when I wrote to the dean of the law school to protest Filler’s behaviour – he wrote back telling me that it was a wild place on the internet – and he was not going to do anything. So if it is him ….

      May I suggest that when Filler, his dean, Diamond, etc. are inevitably trying to move – people make a point of telling any law school considering them of their ethical lapses, etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        “May I suggest that when Filler, his dean, Diamond, etc. are inevitably trying to move – people make a point of telling any law school considering them of their ethical lapses, etc.”

        Why should we *help* them get a new job? :)

    • Chocolate Covered Cotton says:

      Speaking for the 1%, I don’t give a damn if you publicly disown Campois or not. I wasn’t previously aware that you had any responsibility for what h writes, believing him to be a grown-up.

    • Barry says:

      “Your co-blogger Paul Campos is encouraging ad hominem attacks on Lisa McElroy.”

      Wrong. Go look up ‘ad hominem’.

  5. Warren Terra says:

    She’s just repeating the old truism, he who trains himself for a lawyer has a fool for a client.

    • Dana Houle says:

      Usually at this point in a public controversy the central figure is told by her attorney to stop making public statements and direct all communications through the attorney.

      I guess it’s not her but someone else who teaches those lessons to her attorneys-in-training.

  6. Brendan says:

    Ms. McElroy is a terrible person. Her argument is that I should have done the research. Oh really, funny story.

    I did do the research. I was told by the law school I attended that 90% of graduates have a full time job after law school. Turns out it was around 50%.

    But yea fuck me right?… for trusting an institution of LAWYERS who are not suppose to commit fraud.

    They are a bunch of snake oil salesmen robbing us of our future.

    I’m completely fucked. I’m glad I have Ms. McElroy to tell me what an ungrateful, lazy, piece of shit I am on top of that.

  7. Jake says:

    Professor McElroy’s arguments are kind of reminiscent of that one time when only 30% of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s graduating class was able to pass the bar one year, and the school explained it away by noting that bar passage is an “individual achievement,” and that, you know, the graduating class was unusually dense.

    There’s at least a glimmer of truth in that argument, but, still, maybe not the argument you want to be making if you’re in her position.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh man that scene is so so apt.

    Shelley: “I’ve got the check . . .”

    Williamson: “Forget it frame it it’s worthless.”

    S: “The check’s no good?”

    W: “Stick around, I’ll pull the memos for you, I’m kinda busy now.”

    S: “The check’s no good? . . . ”

    W: “You wanna call up the bank? I called them. I called them four months ago when we first got the lead. The people are insane. They just like talking to salesmen.” *smirk*

    Williamson knew he gave Shelley a lead going nowhere but still did his whole “go out there and sell, it’s your own fault if you can’t” song and dance anyway.

    Just like Lisa McElroy and the rest of the shameful greedy defenders of this broken system.

  9. Kto? says:

    If I were an unemployed Drexel graduate, I would not respond well to the travel parts of McElroy’s blog (which she cross-posts to the Huffington Post).

    Sample: “I have the travel bug. Several times a year, I set out on my own, visiting Kenya or Palau or Chile or Belize.”

  10. MacK says:

    There are so many issues in McElroy’s posting – and even more Steve Freedman’s.

    I’m going to start with the question of whether these ‘professors’ have ever taught a subject that every lawyer who is going to teach one of what McElroy probably regards as the ordinary public should take in law school (presuming it is taught) and that is consumer lending, consumer credit and truth in lending laws and lemon laws. Were they familiar they would no doubt be congratulating themselves on the existence of say this clause in the Federal Truth in Lending Law 15 U.S.C. § 1603(7) – Exempter Transactions:

    This subchapter does not apply to the following:
    (7) Loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a program authorized by title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq., 42 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.].

    Indeed were Mr. Freedman a used car salesman offering credit, rather than the an assistant dean of admissions offering credit – he actually could be in trouble for the sort of nonsense he has been peddling. It is a bizarre reality that 18-23 olds with no life experience are allowed to sign up for hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and entitled to less protection than the buyer of a used car!

    It is not bizarre that the Ms. McElroy defends this situation – since the former Ms. Tucker of Choate, Dartmouth, Texas->Harvard, both from the lifestyle she regularly published boastful travel articles about – and the very expensive private education she enjoyed (a year at Choate costs the same as a year at Harvard – now consider sending someone there for high school) – while an assistance prof at Drexel – enjoys considerable independent means. In other words it is vanishingly unlikely that she borrowed a cent to finance her education. Curiously, being born wealthy has the odd effect (as Molly Ivins put it) that “[S]he was born on third and thinks [s]he hit a triple.”

    One could also note the odd detail that in advising transfer students McElroy states that UT was a better law school than Harvard. Why then did she transfer – was it because she wanted her resumé to read Choate, Dartmouth, Harvard (she does not mention UT there) – could it be that someone who feels the need to mention their exclusive prep school 2-3 decades after they graduated would have found UT just too declasée. I don’t mention the high school I went to (to be fair it’s name perplexes) which has graduates as famous, if not more famous than Choate (and I don’t own an old boys’ tie (in part because it is ghastly.))

    In any event – it might be something for Ms. Tucker to post the inane comment she made if she was teaching at a T-12 or T-20 school, but she is teaching at Drexel, a law school with truly terrible outcomes for its students – and a law school with very bad outcomes for its students. Drexel University – its parent institution was sued for its revenue sharing agreements by the state of New York a few years back (it made a single lender its underwriter and received 75 basis points (0.75%) opt the loan interest). Given the repetitional damage it is already suffering, you’d think its GC would be trying to rein in the law professors’ public comments.

    • Former Editor says:

      “Given the repetitional damage it is already suffering, you’d think its GC would be trying to rein in the law professors’ public comments.”

      Oh, he couldn’t do that. Academic Freedom! GCs of schools may not want to even try because it could end up being counter productive:

      GC: Could you please tone it down a little Bob? We have enough trouble right now without exaggerating potential employment outcomes.

      Prof. Bob: You are oppressing my basic civil rights! I’m taking this to the blogosphere, starting a union, and writing the ABA! I will not be silenced!

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      I don’t mention the high school I went to (to be fair it’s name perplexes)

      Governor Dummer, perhaps?

    • JoyfulA says:

      President Bush the younger was denied admission to UT Law School yet has degrees from Harvard and Yale. Wouldn’t you think that having attended UT Law would be something to brag about?

    • Unemployed Northeastern says:

      ” I don’t mention the high school I went to (to be fair it’s name perplexes) which has graduates as famous, if not more famous than Choate”

      ‘Its name perplexes’ makes me think of the “Should we continue to call it Governor Dummer Academy or change it to Governor’s Academy” kefuffle some years ago.

  11. Orpho says:

    Indeed. As I was reading the Globe this morning, an add popped up for NE School of Law that read, “Our students graduate with the most skills and the least depth. Case closed.”

    You can smell the truth in advertising from here.

  12. BH says:

    Prospective students have a much better picture than students in the recent past had of the state of the legal profession and the problem with relying on brochures in making a decision to go to law school. Is the complaint now about the very existence of non-elite law schools?

    • Former Editor says:

      I think it’s less a problem with the very existence of those schools and more a problem with when those schools play with employment outcomes in ways that are reminiscent of the good old days when you could report 90% employment if 70% of your class was waiting tables.

    • BoredJD says:

      Some do, some don’t.

      The question now is about cost. Why should society continue to allow law schools to charge whatever they want, just so Professors like McElroy can live it up on the dreams of broke kids and their government loans?

    • Unemployed Northeastern says:

      My alma mater still claims that 40% of its graduates get FT, LT, JD-required legal jobs from a co-op employer. Well, sometimes they say 48% – they can’t even keep their fictional stats straight – but according to their ABA disclosures, the last three graduating classes only had 49.4%, 43.2%, and 45.8% of grads land FT, LT, JD-required legal jobs at all. So either only 5 to 15 kids out of a class of ~200 can actually get a real legal job in the open market, or the stat is nonsense – but they still push the stat, as they did ten years ago.

      • Underpaid Northeastern says:

        You know how Northeastern gets that figure? I don’t, but I’m willing to guess: They count placements that other schools would consider “on campus recruitment” as “co-op” (you know, because there’s no difference between being a bona fide summer associate somewhere and scoring an eleven week co-op at Big Jimmy’s House’ O’ Insurance Defense); they count who gets a job clerking in the Superior Court as getting a job with a “co-op” employer. And the rest are coincidences.

  13. BH says:

    I think the word is out about the depressed state of the legal market and the problem of law student debt. And law schools have been under sustained attack for a number of years now. The downward trend in applications has not come from nowhere.

  14. […] has already pointed out that Lisa McElroy seems to be arguing for the vigorous application of the doctrine of caveat emptor […]

  15. Ajaye says:

    I graduated from low tier law school 22 years ago and the market was already saturated. My 15 yo dd wants to be a lawyer and I have told her a. It is a very difficult profession with a level of responsibility not always commensurate with its compensation. b. It is hideously expensive. c. An inexperienced law grad coming out of a non-elite school without some serious credentials (i.e. graduating #1 in class, clerking for federal judge, having an undergrad degree in science, having a serious mommy/daddy/family business connection) is akin to an actor with a hick college theatre degree trying to make it in Hollywood. Much depends on luck, the majority will struggle to get any work at all, some will be able to survive on acting alone and a few will make it big. Odds against you and half of all people with law degrees never practice or drop out of the profession. Maybe more.

    Caveat emptor indeed. Since the ABA is a joke and law schools are full of folks who just don’t give a shit, it is up to us to get the word out and keep pushing to decrease the number of victims. The professor quoted seems completely out of touch, analagous to Mitt Romney.

  16. BoredJD says:

    Secretly recorded at a recent AALS conference held at a swanky hotel in Midtown Manhattan:

    “There are 47 percent of the students who will not get jobs no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are lazy, socially inept, dependent upon the law school, who believe that they are victims, who believe that the law school has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to a decent salary, good loan repayment terms, lots of job opportunities, honest employment statistics, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the law school should give it to them. And they will read Campos no matter what. And I mean, Campos starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay nothing on their loans. Forty-seven percent of students pay nothing on their loans. So our message of caveat emptor and scholarship doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about lower tuition and faculty salaries. I mean that’s what they sell every three years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their careers.”

  17. […] readers may remember that last year Drexel law professor Lisa McElroy made a similar argument, although she glossed over the whole awkward “fake employment stats” […]

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