Subscribe via RSS Feed

Fresh mangoes, Whittier Law School edition

[ 57 ] April 25, 2017 |

The impending closure of a low-ranked California law school featuring cratering bar passage numbers, soaring graduate debt, and terrible employment outcomes seems to have driven friend of the blog Steve Diamond (a law professor at another low-ranked California law school featuring pretty much exactly the same things in a slightly less spectacular form) right over the edge.

Ever since Whittier’s central administration decided to pull the plug on their increasingly embarrassing law school, Diamond has been letting loose frankly unhinged-sounding tirades against anyone who dares to suggest that this just possibly might have been a justifiable decision, as opposed to a neoliberal Cato-funded crypto-racist conspiracy to . . . OK read it for yourselves, if you’re in the mood to get out of the boat:

Here, Dean of Northwestern Law School Dan Rodriguez makes the radical suggestion that people either criticizing or defending Whittier’s decision to close its law school might not yet have all the relevant information.  It turns out he’s a closet racist who hates Hispanic people like Dan Rodriguez, and is also engaged in a conspiracy to improve California’s bar passage rates, or something  (I confess I’m not paying super close attention, so maybe one or more of the stalwart LGM crew can explain the theory at work here. Be sure not to miss the comments!).

A couple or three data points, since we all love the data:

The average educational debt of 2016 Whittier law grads who had such debt (about 90%) was probably around $250,000.  (This figure is derived as follows: the average Whittier grad who took out law school loans took out $179,056 in such loans.  After accrued interest and fees this would equal about $210,000 when the first bill came due in November.  Average undergraduate debt these days at graduation is around $35,000, and interest also accrues on that when people are in law school.)

A grand total of 29 of Whittier’s 141 2015 graduates were known to be making $52,500 or more ten months after graduation.  38 of 141 had jobs as lawyers.

Given that only 22% of Whittier’s first-time takers of the California bar passed it in July, those numbers seem unlikely to improve for the latest graduating class.

Diamond’s statistics on lawyer salaries in Orange County are about as relevant to the question of whether it’s a good idea to go to Whittier as statistics regarding the salaries of tenured professors at UC-Irvine are to the question of whether it’s a good idea to enroll in a fifth-rate graduate program.

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Crusty

    That got pretty unhinged pretty quick.

  • Pugachev

    I love how this asshole lists himself on his blog as a “law professor and political scientist in Silicon Valley.”

  • MacK

    Another factor Santa Clara Law shares with Whittier Law – like Whittier College, Santa Clara University is significantly better regarded than its law school – which is increasingly a drag on its reputation. Diamond’s antics contribute to that drag.

    • Paul Campos

      This is a key factor in the whole thing I think. Universities are willing to subsidize law schools that they believe enhance their reputation, but few are going to be willing to subsidize schools for long that they believe aren’t helping, or, as in the case of Whittier, actively hurting, the institution’s overall reputation.

  • heckblazer

    I just realized, I went to grade school across the street from Whittier Law School. I double-checked the school website to confirm my memory, and it was indeed located on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles before moving to Costa Mesa in 1997.

    • TRO

      Hey me too.

  • John F

    What is it with the pissing matches that academics engage in?

    Rodriguez’s criticism of Diamond was verrrry mild, and he linked to Diamond so people could read Diamond for themselves,and Diamond’s initial response was relatively over the top and escalated quickly from there.

    It’s like when you guys get tenure, you say “fuck it, I’m just gonna say what I really feel” (just kidding, but trust me as a lawyer, we want to say nasty things about our adversaries and judges etc., all the time, but we know we have to stifle it and stick to the issues at hand- it doesn’t help it just makes us look mean an spiteful and without a real argument- many academics seem free to not stifle it, its like an argument between 5 year olds, 5 years olds with really advanced vocabulary but stunted emotional development)

    • keta

      The reason battles in academia are so pitched is because there is so very little at stake.

      • medrawt

        I think this isn’t an example of that well-justified maxim so much as it is that Diamond can’t tolerate the idea that he’s being extremely well compensated for holding a position at an institution that’s probably hurting more than it’s helping. Imagine telling a coal miner that, among other factors, we’re overall better off with the coal industry in decline, except instead of a coal miner, we’re talking about a law professor. So, you know, a much bigger ego attached to an intellect used to assuming its own superiority.

        • keta

          I see what you’re saying, but I’ve always read “so very little at stake” as denoting ego, so for me it fits.

        • Crebit

          Wallace Sayre is quoted as saying “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low,” or alternatively “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” I can’t think of quotes so famous that I disagree with so completely. I disagree with the argument, because it suggests that national politics should be a meadow of lions and antelope living together in harmony, which hardly seems to be the case. It seems more accurate to say that politics become more vicious, bitter and intense when the stakes are high, resources are shrinking rather than expanding (because loss causes pain), the effects are personal, and the evidence is too poor to resolve disputes about the likely outcomes of alternative decisions. All of these are true in academia. I disagree with the premise because the stakes in academia are indeed high. This is true even in supposedly impractical fields like philosophy, where arguments in seminar often come to be used to justify major policies on issues from welfare to genocide.

          From How to Be a Good Professor . Sorry for the self-promotion, but someone on the internet was wrong.

          • Chetsky

            The version of the maxim we learned back in grad school (when we were *all* destined to be profs, natch) was slightly different:

            “the knives are so sharp, b/c the pie is so small”

            That captured a certain zero-sum quality to academic arguments …. at least, in computer science.

            • Q.E.Dumbass

              Isn’t that an inversion of Sayre’s meaning, though? The initial maxim comments on how low stakes allows more room for/more intense pettiness, while your variation makes over-competition a necessity.

      • JdLaverty

        The reason battles in academia are so pitched is because there is so very little at stake

        I was gonna say, before I started reading LGM I had no idea academia was home to such vicious conflict (Christ, Paul has a virtual enemies list-keep up the good fight, sir)
        If I’d have known it was such an exciting world and/or I was much smarter I’d be a tenured professor by now, lobbing molotovs at Brian Leiter types and and tripping rival academics on the subway…

  • cpinva

    i like Prof. Diamond’s use of overall state statistics (22% increase in law jobs, over a 3 year period), to defend his school’s continued existence. that these numbers bear no actual relationship to his own school’s rate is just a wave of the hand. Has he considered trying for a job as an SNL writer?

    • sam

      Let’s also not forget that the legal market has been climbing out of a really big hole created by and during the financial crisis.

      I’d like to know how current overall job numbers compare to pre-crash, and also how current “first year” graduate type job openings are compared to the number of people graduating from law school.

      – a few years ago, the big statistic going around was something like schools were graduating double the number of new lawyers as there were job openings. A 22% increase still wouldn’t close that gap entirely.

      • randy khan

        If, for argument’s sake, there were jobs for 1/2 of the graduating lawyers, a 22% increase would mean that there were now jobs for 61% of the graduating lawyers. At that rate, it would take 10-1/2 years to get back to the original number.

        • sam

          Right – and that’s assuming a consistent rate of increase, that law schools are also not expanding their ranks, that we don’t have another financial crisis/legal market crisis in the next ten (!) years, and a whole host of other factors.

          And even then, if you’re going to a school with a 22% bar passage rate? Even if jobs were literally falling off of trees, good luck getting a legal job if you can’t pass the bar!

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Trump might be needing a new press secretary, but first Diamond will have to fight Spicer TO THE DEATH in a steel cage lying match.

      I can haz pay-per-view?

    • Hayden Arse

      This 22% statistic is incredibly misleading because almost 100% of job growth since 2008 has occurred outside of the traditional law firm model. This is significant because the traditional law firm model historically pays the highest salaries, while the growth in the market has been almost entirely in various forms of legal temp work.

      • John F

        Purely anecdotal, but the job market for “less experienced” lawyers isn’t as bad as it was a few years ago, our last opening didn’t generate quite as many applications as the last one, and on average they’re not as desperate… but it still sucks…. and seemingly virtually everyone who has graduated within the past 10-12 years has an utterly insane debt load- and limited prospects of repaying anytime soon.

        My student debt repayment was a 10 year annoyance- folks now? It’s not an “annoyance” it’s a multi-decade lifestyle alteration unless they get a really good job IMMEDIATELY and eat dirt for a couple of years.

  • yet_another_lawyer

    After years in the legal profession I am no longer shocked by disingenuous arguments, but the constant hammering of “LEGAL JOBS IN ORANGE COUNTY” as a proxy for the prospects of Whittier Grads is shockingly bad. Like, if this was a legal brief, it would be the sort of argument that the court just dismisses with a snide, “We have considered the rest of the defendant’s arguments and consider them meritless.”

    • cpinva

      had I gotten a response like this, to a 30 Day Letter, I would have laughed, shown it to my manager, so he could get a laugh as well. I then would have shredded it in my response, and sent it on along to Appeals, so they could have a good laugh as well. it would never get to a courtroom.

      • burnspbesq

        That train runs in both directions. When I was in Counsel, I wrote my fair share of memos to managers in Exam telling them to flush adjustments that couldn’t be defended.

        • cpinva

          “That train runs in both directions. When I was in Counsel, I wrote my fair share of memos to managers in Exam telling them to flush adjustments that couldn’t be defended.”

          as well you should have. I’ve lost track of the number of tax court cases I’ve read, that I was at a total loss to figure out how it ever got docketed to begin with. I’m guessing these were low level cases you got, not from LB&I, which is where I was.

    • twbb

      “it would be the sort of argument that the court just dismisses with a snide, “We have considered the rest of the defendant’s arguments and consider them meritless.””

      Or if you’re really lucky, Posner or Easterbrook would write the opinion.

    • John F

      the court just dismisses with a snide, “We have considered the rest of the defendant’s arguments and consider them meritless.”

      I’ve noticed that sometimes the court won’t deal with bad arguments that way- they will dismiss inconvenient arguments/facts that way, the ones that make it hard for the court to reach its preferred outcome.

  • PaulB

    I sympathize with the criticisms of Diamond but linking Santa Clara to Whittier just because he teaches there is simply wrong. I’d say Santa Clara is probably in the middle of CA law schools when it comes to crappiness. Of the six law schools in the Bay Area, Stanford and Berkeley are of course nationally ranked but Santa Clara is clearly better than USF and Golden Gate and about the same as Hastings.

    I don’t think those of you outside CA realize how well public sector law jobs (ADAs, public defenders, city attorneys) pay. The debt that Santa Clara grads, like every law school private and public, incur is unconscionable but there are much better outcomes possible here than in a place like Boston, where those positions pay less than what the courthouse janitors make. Criticism of Santa Clara should be in comparison to places like Loyola, Boston College, American, and the like where even so called “good law schools” have terrible outcomes for too many, and bad outcomes relative to the burden of loan debt for most.

    Lots of comments at various web sites have been directed toward the desirability of having the couple dozen worst bottom feeders go out of business. While this is most certainly desirable, what’s ultimately needed is an across the board slashing of costs at all law schools as well as continued reductions in the number of students attending law school nationwide.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      Don’t forget the pony.

    • Paul Campos

      Actually for the bottom third of the class at each respective school, Santa Clara’s employment stats are a lot worse than Whittier’s. Santa Clara’s top grads do well, in part because a lot of them are IP people who get SV jobs. But 66 of their 219 2015 grads were completely unemployed nearly a year after graduation. That’s almost the worst percentage of any law school in the country. Comparisons between the two schools are not unfair.

      • cpinva

        that is a huge chunk of that class, to be unemployed at one year. are these just that horrible students, who shouldn’t have been admitted in the first place, or is some other factor at work here?

        • Crusty

          Not enough jobs in the field. And given the dearth of jobs in the field, there is an oversupply of law grads.

        • NewishLawyer

          As I understand it, the big problem for Santa Clara and USF grads (and this probably applies to a lot of law schools across the U.S.) is that they are the victims of a globalized world.

          USF and Santa Clara used to be perfectly respectable law schools that were known for providing the Bar and Bench of the Bay Area and Northern California and most of the government lawyers, small to mid sized firm lawyers. Hell even the big firms in SF did not mind having some Santa Clara and USF grads. If you look as recently as the grads from the early to mid-aughts, a lot of young partners in SF are USF and Santa Clara alumni.)

          But then Tech 2.0 happened and continues to happen and now everyone and their cousin wants to be in the Bay Area and the good old local reputations does not matter anymore. I’ve met Columbia Law grads who work for the City Attorney’s office and previously those jobs would have gone to USF and Santa Clara and Golden Gate grads most likely. Same with the District Attorney and other government lawyers.

          • Paul Campos

            Right, it’s just extremely difficult to get a real job as a lawyer in the Bay Area. The non-elite law schools in the region suffer from an especially intense version of the bimodal job and salary distribution that you see throughout the law school world: the top of the class can do very well, the middle struggles to get any kind of real legal job, and a huge percentage (at Santa Clara, about a third in recent years) get nothing at all.

            Santa Clara’s job outcomes have far more in common with Whittier’s than they do with Stanford’s or Berkeley’s or even UCLA’s and USC’s.

            • burritoboy

              UC Hastings (UCSF’s law school) has had an even bigger fall because of this. In the old days, all the major firms of San Francisco would hire at UC Hastings (though in recessions, they would only hire a few Hastings alums a year). There are several managing partners of nationally important SF-based firms who went to Hastings.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                Just to nitpick: Hastings is actually not part of UCSF, though it is a UC school located in SF.

            • Steve Diamond

              While I find Campos’ tactics far more tolerable than those of the good Dean, he should really stick to his knitting, and that is certainly not the Bay Area or California legal labor market.

              The comment above about the new tech world, otoh, is spot on.

              • Crusty

                So tell us, what jobs are Whittier law grads getting in the Bay Area, California, or elsewhere?

                • burritoboy

                  If anything, Whittier grads probably have less opportunities in the Bay Area now than they did before. Before this current tech boom, they might have had a chance at a poor paying position at a very small boutique. That job is now going to generate significant interest, even from graduates of elite schools on the other side of the country.

              • anonJDMD

                Ugh, Professor Diamond is in the middle of another manic episode with psychotic features.

                That’s right Professor Diamond, the Orange County legal market is booming. Any day now, legal employers in Orange County will be calling you to inquire about hiring the 40 unemployed grads from your school, the 7 grads employed in school funded positions, and the 2 grads working non-professional jobs. You are doing a fine job teaching your students the skills needed by employers.

              • cpinva

                Prof. Diamond, I hate to break the news to you, but the Bay Area, and California in general, don’t operate in a vacuum, nor does any other area of the country. the data for both are easily available, for analysis by anyone choosing to do so. it’s indeed unfortunate your school is closing, but given its recent (and projected) production, it’s probably for the best.

            • sam

              also, they’re not just competing with the local elite schools – at least some students from the top tier east coast schools are presumably either originally from the west coast and want to move back home or just like the idea of moving to CA, no?

              • burritoboy

                In California, that was always the case – particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, though less so in Los Angeles. What is completely different is that now very large percentages of all the elite schools want to move to California primarily for business reasons, rather than – as before – primarily as a lifestyle choice.

      • rodger that

        yes, SC has a night school where a number of smart Silicon Valley engineers get a JD and move easily into big firms and big in-house departments, doing mostly IP. the rest suffer.

  • Hogan

    Shine on you crazy oh never mind that’s beneath even me.

  • Triton

    I will note, and this is based on comments from a Whittier College faculty member, that the faculty at Whittier were aware for some time that Whittier Law school could be shut down. Additionally, the law school arm of Whittier was known as a “cash cow” to Whittier College faculty, meaning that for many years, Whittier College operated the law school as a means of subsidizing Whittier College. The faculty of Whittier were aware of this, as well as that Whittier wasn’t a particularly good law school. Once the law school started losing money and Whittier College had to subsidize law school operations, I didn’t get the sense that the Whittier College faculty were that bothered by the closure…especially in light of how much the Law School faculty earned compared to tenured professors at Whittier College.

    • twbb

      Right, try convincing someone who ground their way through 8 years of a PhD program that someone with a 3-year JD and minimal experience is worth twice as much as them.

      One thing that both the Whittier faculty and Diamond have done, which I don’t really find morally supportable, is assume (without really trying to prove their point) that the money the university made from selling the law school buildings “belongs” somehow to the law faculty.

      • Triton

        The other thing I gleaned from this particular member of the Whittier College faculty was that most of the Whittier College faculty have no idea (not even remotely) how much debt Whittier Law School students accumulate, and have no idea how bad Whittier Law grads fare after graduation. Based on that I would surmise that there is almost no understanding among the faculty of a parent college as to the sheer price and human cost of running a law school as a “cash cow” to subsidize the parent university.

        • CSI

          The majority of Whittier and Santa Clara graduates would have to be on Income Based Repayment wouldn’t they? Especially given Grad Plus accrues interest at some usurious rate like 7% or so.

          Steve Diamond would see absolutely nothing wrong with the majority of Santa Clara graduates being on IBR, nor no contradiction with claiming the majority of Santa Clara graduates are also doing very well thank you very much.

      • Ken

        the money the university made from selling the law school buildings “belongs” somehow to the law faculty

        Huh. I would have thought a law school would have at least a couple of faculty familiar with corporations.

  • sigh

    I certainly didn’t go through Diamond’s rantings in any sort of detail, but a quick skim didn’t see him citing explicitly to S&M, which is a bit of a shocker. Seems like he’s back to Jim Crow.

    • rodger that

      and his original blog post cited Trump too. (which might have been the one and only good accomplishment of his first 100 days, if only he had closed Whittier.)

  • burnspbesq

    Orange County can’t support three law schools.

    UC Irvine and Chapman have deeper pockets.

    SATSQ.

  • JohnT

    I iz no mathematician, but the above numbers suggest that the expected cost to the student of a passed bar exam (which is the key thing of financial value you are paying for) is
    average cost (including interest) of $220,000 divided by
    Chance of passing of 22% =
    $950,000 which is, um, pricy.

    Presumably some of the failing 78% pass during the retake, but equally presumably they have to pay for more classes?

    • Paul Campos

      They don’t have to pay for more law school classes, although some of them pay for more bar review classes. Naturally the pass rates for repeat takers of the bar exam are far lower than the rates for first-time takers. What Diamond et. al. won’t admit is that the vast majority of Whittier grads are never going to have actual legal careers, if a legal career means deriving even a very moderate income from the practice of law for even a few years. Quoting average lawyer salaries is very misleading in this context, to put it mildly.

  • Hummus

    I had Dean Rodriguez as my property professor in law school. I can verify that he can be a tad, well, dismissive of some of the lower tier schools. I distinctly remember him saying in the course of discussing a Justice Cooley decision “no relation to the worst law school in the country.” That said, the fact that Diamond reacted so strongly to such mild criticism of his position speaks extremely poorly of him, and the fact that his position is that law schools with awful employment and debt outcomes for their students should operate indefinitely speaks worse.