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First ABA-approved school announces closing

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For the past five years or so there’s been a rather lively debate about how many, if any, ABA-approved law schools would shuffle off their previously immortal coil and kick the institutional bucket, given cratering applicant numbers and the often-grim job prospects for new lawyers that, when publicized, caused said cratering.

Now one finally has:

Indiana Tech [President] Arthur Snyder said the university has lost $20 million on the law school and, given projected enrollments, expected the deficit to continue. “This was an extremely difficult decision for all involved,” Snyder said. “Over the course of time it has become apparent that the significant decline in law school applicants nationwide represents a long term shift in the legal education field, not a short-term one. Specific to Indiana Tech, the assessment of the Board and our senior leadership team is that for the foreseeable future the law school will not be able to attract students in sufficient numbers for the school to remain viable.”

Indiana Tech Law School currently has a total of 71 students, and Snyder said they will have the option to complete the year, with those in their third and final year having the ability to graduate from the law school in May. First and second year students will have the option to transfer to other law schools at the start of the January 2017 semester, or to complete the year at Indiana Tech Law School and then transfer for the start of the fall 2017 semester.

Chris Mackaronis, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing one of the faculty members affected, said the university’s Board of Directors had recently voted unanimously to close the school at the end of the academic year in June 2017. The vote, he said, conflicts with years of representations to the students, faculty and the American Bar Association regarding the university’s commitment to pursue full accreditation and long-term success for the law school.

“Most of the faculty accepted their appointments at great professional risk (based on that commitment),” Mackaronis said, calling the closure a “complete betrayal of what the university and the Board of Trustees represented to the faculty, staff, and students repeatedly over the last few years . . . By all measures, the plan was working,” he said.

Indiana Tech was always an absurdly unnecessary addition to an already-saturated field, so this development is a good thing from a structural point of view, especially since it could be the first of several dominoes to fall. (History shows again and again that the closure of one school in a field tends to embolden administrators at other institutions).

Those $20 million in losses produced exactly one graduate who passed the Indiana bar this summer, which surely establishes some sort of unbreakable record.

Students with federal student loans can have those loans forgiven if the school they’re attending goes out of business, although I don’t know whether this rule applies to individual schools within a still-extant university.

Earlier coverage of Synder’s folly here here, here, and here.

. . . Yet Another Lawyer in comments:

By the way, I recognize that taking absurd positions on behalf of the client is part of the legal profession, but this is really something:

“Most of the faculty accepted their appointments at great professional risk (based on that commitment),” Mackaronis (a Washington, D.C., attorney representing one of the faculty members affected ) said, calling the closure a “complete betrayal of what the university and the Board of Trustees represented to the faculty, staff, and students repeatedly over the last few years . . . By all measures, the plan was working,” he said.

Yes, the “lose twenty million dollars to generate one graduate who could pass the bar” plan was working perfectly. We called it Operation Snowflake!

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  • Mike in DC

    You could close 100 schools and the market for a law school education wouldn’t suffer. The more law school closings there are, the stronger the argument for debt relief for recent (past 10 years) grads becomes.

  • (((Hogan)))

    (History shows again and again that the closure of one school in a field tends to embolden administrators at other institutions).

    Go go Deanzilla!

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      +7 Screaming Diz-Busters.

      • Nigel Tufnel

        (Don’t Fear) the Grifter

        • LosGatosCA

          Blue Shyster Cult

  • yet_another_lawyer

    Just think: Somewhere out there, there’s someone who has a law license that cost $20 million dollars, is the default president of the alumni club AND he won’t be hounded by the “development office” for donations, because that office won’t exist. That’s quite an achievement.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      I’m sure the university alumni office will remember them. Somehow I reckon that Georgetown, Northwestern, and Washington Universities know where all the graduates of their erstwhile dental schools are.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        Snark above aside, I’m sure you’re right. I wonder how that pitch even goes? “Remember the school you went to, that no longer exists? Well, how would you like to contribute to an entity that, for tax purposes anyway, is affiliated?” Probably too few to make up some nonsense cover letter just for them, so they’ll get the same letter undergraduates do.

        • (((Hogan)))

          “Remember that crap law school you attended? Well, we’re the people who shut it down!”

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          Probably easier for those dental schools’ universities, since they were very well-regarded and their last batch graduates are likely in their peak-earning years now. Whereas universities with defunct law schools would have a pitch more akin to “Would you like to pay for that noose we hung you with?”

          • skate

            Didn’t Lenin have something to say about that noose?

          • Colin Day

            That’s harsh. Even Lenin would have paid them for the noose.

      • mikeSchilling

        But getting money out of them is like pulling teeth.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          By gum, I see what you did there.

          • smartalek

            A biting wit, indeed.

            • Srsly Dad Y

              Aw snap!

        • Gregor Sansa

          Even if you offer to put their name on a plaque?

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    How will Indiana survive with only four in-state law schools and a few dozen in neighboring Illinois and Ohio????

    /sarc

    • timb

      Hopefully, Valpo will see the writing on the wall and close too

    • Cam

      I’m not sure if I should be surprised/proud that mine is still open. I didn’t even know they’d changed the name a few years ago.

      As you can tell, I’m deeply committed to alumni associations.

  • yet_another_lawyer

    By the way, I recognize that taking absurd positions on behalf of the client is part of the legal profession, but this is really something:

    “Most of the faculty accepted their appointments at great professional risk (based on that commitment),” Mackaronis (a Washington, D.C., attorney representing one of the faculty members affected ) said, calling the closure a “complete betrayal of what the university and the Board of Trustees represented to the faculty, staff, and students repeatedly over the last few years . . . By all measures, the plan was working,” he said.

    Yes, the “lose twenty million dollars to generate one graduate who could pass the bar” plan was working perfectly. We called it Operation Snowflake!

    • LosGatosCA

      It was a branding problem, then. How about –

      Operation Very Special Snowflake

      Or

      Operational Artisanal Snowflakes, hand crafted individually on an annual basis.

  • Warren Terra

    That statement in the OP about only one student passing the bar links to an interview with said student, including this:

    The class was shocked that only one student passed the bar. However, we knew going into it that our percentage might be rough based on multiple students not being allowed to take the bar due to character and fitness issues and others choosing not to take it this time around.

    “multiple students not being allowed to take the bar”? If that was true of them when they started law school, what business did the school have taking their money?

    • Unemployed_Northeastern
      • yet_another_lawyer

        Ah. Well, you see, it says that we cannot admit applicants who can’t graduate and be admitted to the bar… therefore, we CAN admit applicants as long as they can do at least one of graduate and be admitted to the bar (remember, not all bar admissions even require law school graduation). Accreditation, please!

        • cpinva

          “Ah. Well, you see, it says that we cannot admit applicants who can’t graduate and be admitted to the bar… therefore, we CAN admit applicants as long as they can do at least one of graduate and be admitted to the bar (remember, not all bar admissions even require law school graduation). Accreditation, please!”

          sorry, no. the “and” is a connector; they have to be able to graduate and be admissible to the bar both, not one or the other. nice try though. had it been “or”, you’d be on to something.

          • yet_another_lawyer

            It was just a bit of whimsy, since it’s obvious what the standard is supposed to mean, but I’m not so sure about this. The exact language is this:

            “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.”

            You can read that as (a) a law school shall not admin at applicant (b) who does not appear capable of (c) satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.

            But there’s also, I think, a non-trivial argument for:

            You can read that as (a) a law school shall not admin at applicant (b) who does not appear capable of (c) (i) satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and (ii) being admitted to the bar.

            So if the applicant is capable of either one of the romanettes, you’re fine. Now, looking at the broader intent, it’s obvious the first interpretation is correct– but as a matter of grammar, I’ve seen arguments like that work.

            • cpinva

              I know, I was just giving you grief. if you’ve actually seen arguments that “and” can be one or another, but doesn’t have to be both work, the opponent was a grammar moron. or the judge.

            • hey so

              As a librarian who teaches Boolean searching to law students, I can confirm the legal community has a long, long history of confusing the word “and” with “or”.

      • (((Hogan)))

        One can only conclude that something really bad happened to their character and fitness while they were attending, and possibly as a result of attending, Indiana Tech’s law school.

      • Randy

        I always thought the character and fitness issues were at the applicant’s own risk–they would take your money and admit you, but it was up to you to meet the requirements for taking/passing the bar exam.

        I personally knew two law school graduates who had been convicted of felonies. One was a year behind me in law school. He went on to pass the California bar exam, but it looks like he resigned just a couple of years ago (after 30 years practicing). The other was someone to whom I was, um, too close for some time. She claimed everything was fine. She said she disclosed her conviction, and she passed the bar exam on her third try, but mumble, mumble, something, something I couldn’t understand, she’s now working as a paralegal.

        • cpinva

          geez, I have to be the most boring person ever! I’ve never been arrested for anything. I can’t even imagine being arrested for anything. although, now that I’m retiring, and they can’t fuck over my retirement income, I may well get involved in civil social activities, and who knows?

          • Many years ago I was arrested for some youthful foolishness that the local authorities took a good deal more seriously than I thought was reasonable. I can’t recommend the experience.

      • NewishLawyer

        Does this include moral character?

        Only one law school asked if I was ever involved in a civil lawsuit and I had to write an essay saying yes and it involved being a joinder-defendant.

        The moral character exam can slow down bar admittance but it is not a complete no usually.

        • Randy

          That depends. Were you running a sham “NewishLawyer University” that did nothing but scam the gullible out of thousands?

    • cpinva

      the “character and fitness issues” intrigued me. if good character were truly a requirement for admission to the Bar, how the hell did Ted Cruz ever get allowed in?

      • dr. fancypants

        I’ve known people who received more intensive character and fitness investigations because of past disputes, but I’m really curious what sort of C&F issue someone could have (other than the person who was caught cheating at my exam location) to be a no-hoper.

        • sharculese

          I had a friend in law school who had to beg to be admitted because he had enough DUIs to have done jail time for it. Thwy still let him take the bar.

          • so-in-so

            As mikeSchilling suggests below, maybe the problem too good character? “We’re a ABA school, you’re not Chief Justice material here. If you can’t lie convincingly you’ll destroy the bottom tier of the profession!”

          • NewishLawyer

            The CA bar does seem to take substance abuse issues seriously. A clerk at an old firm and a DUI while in law school and had to go through a lot of steps to prove his character.

        • NewishLawyer

          Stephen Glass.

      • Crusty

        Don’t know what happened to him but wasn’t there a law student at Tulane a few years ago who had done 11 years in a Rhode Island prison for killing someone?

        • who had done 11 years in a Rhode Island prison for killing someone?

          As Ambrose Bierce has pointed out, “There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy”; perhaps the fellow in question had studied enough law in the Adult Correctional Institution to convince someone that the killing had been of the fourth type. After all, Rhode Island!

        • Randy

          I didn’t know him personally, but there was an attorney here in Minneapolis who was admitted after doing hard time in state prison. He was pardoned before he took the bar exam.

          I should note that he practiced for 30+ years before being disbarred.

        • BartletForGallifrey

          Bruce Reilly. He graduated from Tulane, but I don’t know if he ever got admitted to the bar anywhere.

    • mikeSchilling

      multiple students not being allowed to take the bar due to character and fitness issues

      “I’m sorry son, but if you can’t spew complete bullshit with a straight face, you’ll be unable to give your clients the kind of representation they deserve.”

      • Sophia

        It’s the exact opposite, actually. Character and fitness review is somewhat like the sacrament of confession, if you offer full disclosure and repentance, they’ll let you sit for the bar. Lying on the application, trying to hide shit, that’s what gets you nailed.

    • NewishLawyer

      Does Indiana require you pass the character and fitness exam before taking the Bar Exam? NY would not let me fill out a character and fitness application until I passed the Bar Exam.

      To be fair, it is kind of random what the moral character committee decides to be hard-nosed about.

      • cpinva

        when I was applying to sit for the CPA exam in VA many, many moons ago, you had to disclose any arrests/convictions/loss of licenses, etc., before they allowed you to sit for it, not after. then the Ethics exam was at your leisure and open book. I always thought that was pretty hilarious myself.

        • efgoldman

          when I was applying to sit for the CPA exam in VA many, many moons ago, you had to disclose any arrests/convictions/loss of licenses, etc., before they allowed you to sit for it,

          Same thing with brokerage exams, at least at Enormous Brokerage & Mutual Funds LLC where I worked. In fact, it was part of your pre-employment evaluation, and you had to re-certify every year that you hadn’t incurred any during the previous year.

          • cpinva

            yeah, had to do that at work, and also disclose any financial/personal interests/issues that may have presented a potential conflict of interest problem on a case.

        • Every time I renew my medical license I need to disclose any encounters with the law — charges, not just convictions. They have special questions for drugs and alcohol. If you have any you need to write an explanatory letter. I don’t know what happens after that; it probably varies with the offense and the state.

    • “multiple students not being allowed to take the bar”? If that was true of them when they started law school,

      Perhaps the “it” that were going into was the class’s bar exam, not their admission to the law school.

      In which case the “character and fitness issues” would have had to develop during the students’ year(s) at law school, but, hey! boys will be boys!!

      • cpinva

        I kind of got the impression there were women in that class too.

  • Pete

    But …..but…the plan was WORKING!

  • Can we start a pool for which schools close next?

  • ginos_way

    Liking the pic that accompanies this piece. For that last commencement ceremony, it’s a better song than Pomp and Circumstance.

    • efgoldman

      For that last commencement ceremony, it’s a better song than Pomp and Circumstance.

      And with one graduate, they’d only have to play it once thru.

      • liberalrob

        Technically there were 20 graduates, of whom only one passed the bar.

        Your comment reminded me of an old Doonesbury strip, I think it was Mike’s graduation, where he was the only graduate who attended the actual ceremony. What stuck in my mind was the commencement address speaker having to modify his speech to “As I look out upon the upturned face of the class of 19[xx]…”

    • cpinva

      I thought a slowly sinking ship would have been more accurate. but hey, that’s just me.

      • skate

        I’m there, too. I was thinking maybe the Costa Concordia.

      • rea

        Well, the name is hard to read, but that’s the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    • wjts
  • Downpuppy

    In the interest of accuracy…

    Today’s Above the Law piece says 3 passed the bar, not 1. One appealed their score, & another passed in a different state.

    • Lamont Cranston

      Only 6.66 Million per student? And they couldn’t stay afloat?

  • NewishLawyer

    Not quite as noise making as if a more established law school closes down.

  • LawDdaw

    Professor C, I’m glad you’ve finally trained your guns back on the law school scam/crisis again…hard to overstate your impact…love ya, but the presidential race has been blogged to death in every corner….

  • CBR

    Students with federal student loans can have those loans forgiven if the school they’re attending goes out of business, although I don’t know whether this rule applies to individual schools within a still-extant university.

    I believe these students are not eligible for the closed-school discharge. Under 34 CFR 685.214, the school’s closure date is defined as “the date that the school ceases to provide educational instruction in all programs, as determined by the Secretary,” and “‘School’ means a school’s main campus or any location or branch of the main campus, regardless of whether the school or its location or branch is considered eligible.”

    So as I read it, if Indiana Tech as a whole (or a whole branch campus) had closed, the student would be eligible for loan discharge. But merely ceasing to continue the degree program would not be enough.

    If this is the case, though, I would also think that students (at least those unable/unwilling to transfer elsewhere) would have a strong ground to seek restitution from the school for the tuition payments made.

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      But merely ceasing to continue the degree program would not be enough.

      I can see this being the case for undergrad – a student can just change majors and still graduate. But do law students have the option to just change to the MBA or some PhD program?

  • JohnnyPez

    Those $20 million in losses produced exactly one graduate who passed the Indiana bar this summer, which surely establishes some sort of unbreakable record.

    You dreamer.

  • twbb

    Who could have predicted this would happen?

    The answer: most people. Well, not “could have predicted” so much as “did predict.”

  • LawDdaw

    Here’s a comment from Outside The Law School Scam posted in response to the story about the audit of employment outcomes…I think it summarizes the perceptions of many that have led to a collapse in applications:

    … Law schools lied for years about employment outcomes, long before the great recession. Students relied on the fraudulent stats and enrolled at these schools. And because students believed the stats, the law schools drove up tuition. The law deans would tell prospective students not to worry about paying back the $100k+ student loans to attend, because every student got a job and private practice salaries averaged close to $100k.

    Law schools were also running other schemes, like conditional scholarships with section stacking. By stacking all of the conditional scholarship students into a section graded on a strict curve, the law schools were guaranteed to have a group of students that would lose their scholarships and become paying customers. No other professional schools ran schemes to take away scholarships.

    These schools also knew that legal employers were only interested in hiring a handful of their grads. The schools had to find a way to identify these grads for the employers. So the schools graded courses on strict curves and the professors played hide the ball in class using the Socratic method. Medical schools grade students using a pass/fail system and actually teach the students how to practice medicine. Business schools and other professional schools actually teach their students instead of hiding the ball.

    Additionally, the law professors typically have very little legal experience and do not practice law. They are chosen because they went to an elite law school and this pedigree somehow improves the prestige of the school. But these professors do not provide any benefit to the student. The professors claim they need exorbitant salaries because they gave up million dollar a year careers, and they need light workloads to research and write their law review articles. Legal practitioners have complained that these articles are worthless. Compare that to medical schools, where the MDs teach, see patients, and do research. The experience and expertise of professors at medical schools benefits the students.

    All of this has been exposed by the law school scam blogs. And this resulted in a plunge in applicants. Now the law schools admit large numbers of students at risk of failing the bar for the sole purpose of collecting student loan dollars. Law schools have operated for years as a moneymaking scam for the benefit of the administrators and professors. The schools have shown that they do not give one damn about their students.

  • JCougar

    You guys just don’t appreciate synergistic innovational leadership in the educational management context:

    Snyder earned a doctor of education in innovation and leadership at Wilmington University.

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