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Michael Simkovic defends bait and switch law school “scholarships”

[ 100 ] May 6, 2015 |

bait and switch

Michael “Step Right Up and Buy Your Million Dollar Law Degree” Simkovic is apparently planning to dedicate his career to defending every single law school practice, including something I would have thought even the most hardcore law school denialists would blanch at backing: bait and switch conditional “scholarships.”

Here’s how this sweet little racket works: A law school offers a prospective student a big discount on sticker tuition (inaccurately characterized as a “scholarship,” when in fact it’s a discount cross-subsidized by students who are paying full boat, rather a real scholarship, i.e., income from an endowment which subsidizes what would otherwise be the student’s tuition obligation). There’s a catch though: the discount is conditioned on maintaining a certain grade point average.

Now on its face this doesn’t seem like a big deal, given that lots of undergraduate scholarships have similar conditions. But in fact the two situations aren’t at all comparable. Almost all law schools have strict forced grading curves, which means that at many schools it’s going to be mathematically impossible for a significant number of students with these conditional “scholarships” to retain them.

Until a couple of years ago law schools weren’t even required to disclose how many students lost their “scholarships.” Perhaps having learned from the debacle that ensued when he argued recently that law schools shouldn’t be required to distinguish whether their “employed” graduates are employed at Cravath or Starbucks, Simkovic doesn’t actively oppose the new disclosure requirements, although he doubts they’ll be of any real use.

Given the effects of optimism and confirmation bias, he may be right about that.

Another factor that may be in play here is that various law schools are rumored to “section stack.” Section stacking involves putting a disproportionate number — perhaps even all — of the students who have conditional scholarships in the same 1L section, thus ensuring that the forced curve causes the largest possible number to lose their scholarships.

Note that no decent law school gives out conditional scholarships, other than the pro forma condition of not flunking out. On the other hand:

Unsurprisingly, almost 37% of Seton Hall 1Ls with conditional scholarships lost them last year, which places them in the top quartile of law schools in terms of having the most conditional scholarships lost. It seems apropos, as it is so par for the course. Untenured law prof at law school finds massive law school premium after said law school publicly stated it may have to lay off its untenured faculty (and where 8 of 285 grads scored BigLaw last year); writes more papers of a similar vintage after receiving six figure grants from financially interested parties (LSAC, AccessGroup). Moreover, the proffered rational of “attracting and retaining the best students, rewarding motivation and ability seems like a reasonable policy” has failed. Despite lopping more than 50% of its entering class size since 2010 in a vain attempt to keep their stats up, Seton Hall’s LSAT splits have still dropped from a 155/159/161 to a 152/156/159.

Based on extrapolation, Simkovic’s next contribution to the debate over whether it’s a good thing for law schools to hide data, bait and switch their students, etc., will be to defend schools for publishing fake LSAT and GPA figures for their matrics. After all, doing so makes students more likely to cash in on their million dollar law degree premium. Those more learned in matters of theology can determine whether such an approach could fit into the doctrine of mental reservation.


Obama bribed by the Koch brothers to destroy the Rule of Law

[ 15 ] May 6, 2015 |

viking raid

It’s the only reasonable explanation for the administration’s basically fascistic attempt to stop the federal government from shoveling tens of billions of dollars into the coffers of university administrators every year with no strings attached:

[To] be sure, Obama’s higher-education reforms are embryonic, and they are also not the only conceivable way to fulfill the ambition of imposing accountability onto tuition subsidies, but . . . the administration is creating ways to help prospective students compare the effectiveness of different colleges, and metrics to impose accountability on them.

Luckily, the defenders of Freedom are already on the ramparts:

Congressional Republicans actively oppose this agenda. Alec MacGillis has an excellent report today on the emerging alliance on Capitol Hill between the higher-education lobby and the majority party in Congress. The higher-education lobby wants to block the federal ratings system and increasingly opposes any steps the administration would take to ensure that tuition subsidies fulfill their intended purpose.

Most of the traditional higher education lobbying groups signed onto a recent letter to Congress stating their support for Republican legislation that would block the new restrictions on for-profit colleges, as well as undo or weaken other accountability rules for colleges. And a new report on higher education regulation commissioned by the Senate and overseen by the American Council on Education, the leading lobby group for traditional schools, slammed the rules on for-profit colleges as part of a broader critique of the administration’s approach.

But how can this be? Aren’t Republicans in favor of accountability and efficiency and The Market (blessed be its name) etc? Well yes, but there’s a more fundamental principle at stake here, which is that society’s most successful rent-seekers producers should be rewarded for their labors:

[T]he health-care fight has showed that, once a government role has become entrenched, it is easy for incumbent industries to frame no-strings-attached funding as a “conservative” position. That is the strange ideological alchemy that turned the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which empowers experts to limit wasteful Medicare spending, into “rationing” and end-of-life counseling into “death panels.” The new Republican idea is to keep the government’s hands off your tuition subsidies.

On a related note, I got an email from someone seeking advice, who has been offered a $150,000 “scholarship” (actually, a cross-subsidized tuition discount) to attend Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School, which is located in lower Manhattan. This person plans to fund their law school attendance with federal loans. I ran the numbers on Georgetown’s excellent law school debt calculator, and discovered that an $150,000 scholarship will leave a 2015 Cardozo matriculant with approximately $126,000 in debt at repayment, six months after graduation.

How can this be? Here’s how: Cardozo hasn’t published its cost of attendance for 2015 yet, but if we assume a 3.5% increase over this year (this is conservative), the school’s COA this fall will be just under $83,000. Once you add in COA increases for the second and third years, along with interest and origination fees on federal loans, you’re up to $126,000 of debt by the time you get your bar results (and this doesn’t include another nine months worth of summer expenses, which aren’t included in the school’s estimated COA).

Here we see another invidious effect of turning America’s greatest cities into playpens for the .1%: people who go to school in these places end up with six figures of debt, even when they’re going for “free.”

There’s no such thing as law school

[ 63 ] April 30, 2015 |

unemployment line

Updated below

Employment data for the law school graduating class of 2014 are out (These numbers reflect the status of graduates ten months after graduation. In previous years the measuring point was nine months after graduation, but some California schools complained this was unfair to them, as California bar results tend to come out a few weeks later than in most states, i.e., about six months after graduation rather than five, leaving newly-barred California grads with less time to find a job. The change seems to have made no real difference, as all but the very top California schools still had ghastly employment numbers).

Anyway, the employment picture for new law grads remains about the same that it’s been, although the percentage of grads who got full-time long-term bar-required jobs ticked up a couple of percentage points, from 56% to 58% (excluding putative solos). This percentage increase took place despite an actual decline in the total number of such jobs, because this year’s graduating class was about seven percent smaller than the previous year’s. (A big decline in total annual law graduates is going to take place over the next two to three years, and then we will see real improvement in overall employment outcomes, assuming the market for entry-level lawyers remains fairly stable over this time).

If you look at the numbers by school, they drive home just how unhelpful it is to talk about “the” American law school in generic terms, by for example trying to determine the economic value of “a” law degree. The top dozen schools in regard to graduates acquiring jobs as lawyers had percentages ranging from 90% to 96%. The graduates of the bottom unlucky thirteen — not including the three ABA schools in Puerto Rico, who are something of an island to themselves — got lawyer jobs at rates ranging from Santa Clara (35.6%) to Golden Gate (25.7%).

An even more extreme spread applies to high-paying legal jobs. A dozen schools sent between 60% and 79% of their grads to large firms, or to federal clerkships (the latter are often, though not always, precursors to high-paid employment). Meanwhile, 77 of 201 ABA schools — again excluding Puerto Rico — placed 5% or less of their grads in such jobs (14 placed less than one percent).

Again, under these circumstances, asking whether it’s a good idea to go to law school is like asking if it’s a good idea to get married. The question needs to be a little more specific, or next thing you know you’re going to be hitched to Maureen Dowd, except she’s been fired from the NYT, and divorce has been outlawed.

Update: This probably deserves its own post, but Steve Diamond appears to be having some sort of mental breakdown. Here he is trying to warn Orin Kerr that such apparently mild-mannered figures as Deborah Jones Merritt and Brian Tamanaha have a Hidden Agenda, one that involves a conspiracy so vast that none dare call it by its true name:

It’s a “fact” that this crowd is out to destroy the American law school and higher education itself as an institution. That is the clear goal of the Koch Brothers backed Cato Institute. Anyone who tries to deny that is either collaborating in that effort or naive beyond belief. I have made this crystal clear from the earliest days in which I joined this debate. See LUN.

In the longer run I believe the intent [of law professors such as Merritt and Tamanaha] is to undermine the rule of law itself. As law faculty we have a responsibility to defend the rule of law and I have argued that means defending the American law school as an autonomous institution.

The slanderous treatment of (least of all) me but much more against many others by this crowd is aimed precisely at shutting us out of the debate and that of course is critical to the longer term strategy of destroying law schools themselves. Instead of worrying about my reputation – as much as I appreciate your concern (in all seriousness) – perhaps you should consider the agenda these people are attempting to carry out.

A subsequent commenter is interested in Diamond’s ideas and would like to subscribe to his newsletter:

Steve: who else are members of the conspiracy? Do we have secret handshakes? Do Campos, Merritt and Tamahana have secret meetings with Derek Tokaz and those you keep attacking? Are they also members of the Trilateral Commission? Is Campos’ left wing politics all a charade – his criticism of modern capitalism in the US? Why have they never been invited to the Bilderberg conference? Maybe they are all members of the Illuminatii? Are they conspiring with or against L. Ron Hubbard?

Please, we need to know more details. The future of democracy depends on ripping the veil away from these evil people – please, we need to know. Save us.

Dean of failing law school suggests critic of legal education should have tenure revoked

[ 73 ] April 27, 2015 |


Richard Bales, who has been dean of Ohio Northern’s law school for the past two years, wonders just how bad a faculty member’s behavior has to become before tenure should be revoked:

[A]t what point is a tenured faculty member’s public pronouncements, professional misconduct, and/or research methodology, so outlandishly bad as to justify permanent removal of that faculty member from the university?

Academic freedom is rightly a powerful force; it protects the ability of academics to seek and speak Truth to Power. But what if a tenured astrophysicist insists — publicly and at every possible opportunity, that the earth is flat? What if a geneticist claims to find a genetic basis for arguing that members of a certain race are inherently less intelligent than members of another race, and the geneticist’s “findings” both are obviously methodologically flawed and completely ignore counter-evidence? What if a faculty member uses social media or the classroom to denigrate her university, or to make ad hominem attacks against fellow faculty members? At what point does a tenured faculty member become such an embarrassment to the institution, or become so disruptive to its educational mission, that the institution is justified in terminating the relationship?

The proximate cause of this question appears to have been yours truly, or more precisely an opinion piece I published in the New York Times earlier this month. It seems a bit odd that an opinion piece in a newspaper should cause a law school dean to suggest or imply that a faculty member at another school should have his tenure revoked. Now if I were in the mood to argue the merits of the issue, I would point out that no one has identified any factual errors in the piece, and that the objections to it are all based on its critics adopting inherently contestable and controversial positions regarding the article’s subject.

But all this is pretense: Bales’ wish to see me fired has, I suspect, nothing whatever to do with that article, and everything to do with other writing I’ve done. The latter work has, in various academic and popular venues, put forth the view that, given the employment prospects for their graduates, American law schools are far too numerous and expensive, that they should collectively graduate many fewer students, at a much lower price.

To Dean Bales, this theory is reminiscent of an astrophysicist insisting that the earth is flat. But you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to devise a theory explaining why Bales would consider my expression of my views on legal education a firing offense.

Bales was named Ohio Northern’s new dean in the spring of 2013. It’s fair to say he took on a difficult job: the state of Ohio has no less than nine law schools — five of them public — and a far from flourishing legal market. (This NYT piece discusses Ohio State law professor Deborah Jones Merritt’s new study detailing in great empirical detail just how bad that market has been for recent law graduates).

In addition, Ohio Northern is a small university of modest reputation, located in rural Ohio, far from the bright lights of Columbus and Toledo. The law school’s applicant pool was in sharp decline when Bales took over, having shrunk from 1,291 in 2010 to 843 in 2012. Bales, though, had an idea: the school could increase demand by cutting its price. Thus one of his first acts as dean was to announce at the beginning of the 2013-14 admissions cycle that ONU was cutting tuition by 25%, from $33,100 to $24,800.

Unfortunately for ONU, Econ 101 models don’t work very well in the esoteric world of the market for higher education, distorted as it is by its traffic in positional goods, Veblen effects, and heavy subsidization via government loans. Thus despite radically slashing prices relative to its competition, demand for what ONU’s law school is selling has, it’s also fair to say, collapsed: only 466 people applied to the school during the 2013-14 cycle, and, if Dean Bales’ bloggy fit of pique is any indication, applications aren’t looking too good this year either.

A glance at the law school’s parent institution’s tax filings reveals that it too is emitting far from a healthy fiscal glow: the university’s overall expenditures exceeded its revenues for the last two combined fiscal years. As for the law school, the combination of tuition cuts and shrinking class size — enrollment has fallen by a third over the past three years — means the school must be bleeding red ink at a rate that the university’s central administrators consider at the very least alarming. (A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the law school’s current net tuition revenues aren’t even covering faculty compensation. At law schools like ONU faculty compensation usually accounts for about 50% of operating expenses, while tuition represents around 80% to 90% of all revenues).

Anyway, I’m not taking any of this too personally,* as Bales has no ability to affect my employment. The members of Bales’ faculty, of course, should take it personally, since he is making it perfectly clear that taking a critical perspective on the economic structure of their institution is something he considers a firing offense.

*If forced to defend his position, I imagine Bales would cite the passive-aggressive “just asking questions” structure of his post, which doesn’t come right out and say I should have my tenure revoked. I asked Bales via email several days ago what, specifically, he was advocating in regard to my “case,” but he is apparently too cowardly busy to offer any reply.

No depression

[ 106 ] April 23, 2015 |


Over the years, Bill and Hillary Clinton have been subjected to accusations regarding so many fake “scandals” that it’s easy to dismiss further claims of impropriety and corruption as just more of the same. But as Jon Chait points out, it’s becoming evident that some of the things the Clintons have been doing over the past few years actually smell pretty bad:

The news today about the Clintons all fleshes out, in one way or another, their lack of interest in policing serious conflict-of-interest problems that arise in their overlapping roles:

The New York Times has a report about the State Department’s decision to approve the sale of Uranium mines to a Russian company that donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, and that a Russian investment bank promoting the deal paid Bill $500,000 for a speech in Moscow.

The Washington Post reports that Bill Clinton has received $26 million in speaking fees from entities that also donated to the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Washington Examiner reports, “Twenty-two of the 37 corporations nominated for a prestigious State Department award — and six of the eight ultimate winners — while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State were also donors to the Clinton family foundation.”

And Reuters reports, “Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.”

The Clinton campaign is batting down the darkest and most conspiratorial interpretation of these stories, and where this all leads remains to be seen. But the most positive interpretation is not exactly good.

Chait notes the most positive interpretation is that, in the post-Clinton presidency years, and especially in the years when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the Clintons were sloppy about details, greedy about money, and remarkably cavalier about potential conflicts of interest. And you don’t have to be the RNC’s media apparatus, i.e., FOX News et. al., to find more dire interpretations plausible.

For progressives, all this is, to put it mildly, depressing. Working to get someone with Hillary Clinton’s political views elected would require a certain amount of nose-holding even if she and her husband were above reproach, ethically speaking.

Under the circumstances, a race between Clinton and, say, Scott Walker is going to be akin to trying to acquire a sprained ankle instead of a major heart attack.

Law school denialism

[ 73 ] April 23, 2015 |

david irving

Updated below

Denialism, by which I mean the denial or unwarranted minimization of a disturbing reality, usually comes in several forms.

For example, Holocaust denialism covers a spectrum of arguments, ranging from:

(1) The whole idea of a “Holocaust” is a hoax from beginning to end.

(2) While it’s true Jews were targeted for imprisonment in labor camps, and many died there because of harsh conditions, the existence of death camps at which millions of Jews were systematically murdered in gas chambers is a Zionist myth.

(3) While several million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, including millions in the gas chambers at the various death camps, a lot of other people died in World War II, plus what about Stalin and the kulaks, and this doesn’t make the occupation of Palestine legitimate, so shut up already.

Moving on to racism in America:

(1) The blacks were better off as slaves.

(2) While slavery was bad, Jim Crow remains a reasonable social system, all things judiciously considered.

(3) The 1964 Civil Rights Act ended racism in America, so shut up already.

What about climate change?

(1) The climate isn’t changing.

(2) The climate is changing, but sunspots.

(3)The climate is changing because of human activity, but all proposed interventions will do more harm than good, especially to my position in energy funds, so shut up already.

We’re now having our own little bout of denialism in the law school world. It should be unnecessary to say that lying to a lot of college graduates and leaving them worse off economically and psychologically than they would have been if you hadn’t lied to them isn’t as bad as genocide or slavery or wrecking the world’s environment. On the other hand, “it’s not as bad as the Holocaust” isn’t what one would call a spirited defense of a social practice, plus we must all cultivate our own gardens etc.

Anyway, the denialism busting out among defenders of the law school status quo is a bit unusual, in that most species of denialism tend to manifest themselves as a series of rearguard actions, politically speaking. That is, the dominant form of denialism at any one time tends to move from the strongest forms to weaker ones, as the strongest forms become increasingly untenable.

By contrast, in the law school world, denialism has gone in the other direction. Thus when the law school reform movement first started to get cultural traction a few years ago, the reaction of the denialists was to deplore the use of obviously fake employment stats, but to minimize the extent to which schools were engaging in such practices, while at the same time emphasizing that “the ABA” was already cracking down on the handful of schools that had strayed from the path of righteousness.

Now that applications have cratered, the denialists have decided that the whole so-called law school crisis was just a big hoax from beginning to end. Bernie Burk (Burk himself is not in the denialist camp), describes the current party line:

[Michael Simkovic’s] recent posts have taken the strong and categorical view that law schools, NALP and the ABA ought to report law-graduate employment the same way the U.S. government reports on employment generally, and that any other view is ignorant or misinformed. Board of Labor Statistics and Census data (among others) report people as “employed” if they have any kind of work at all, including work that is part-time, short-term, or (in the case of law-school graduates) entirely unrelated to their legal education; and as “unemployed” only those who are actively looking for work. The widely articulated criticism “that law schools behaved unethically or even committed fraud . . . by presenting their employment statistics in a misleading way,” says Simkovic, “comes down to this: The law schools used the same standard method of reporting data as the U.S. Government.”

A correspondent writes:

Does Simkovic actually exist, or is this is all just a big troll job by Brian Leiter or Steve Diamond? I really can’t believe we’re here 5 years later still debating whether “99% EMPLOYMENT AT GRADUATION” is logically or morally justifiable. I thought we’ve moved on to the “transparency will cure all ills” phase of things.

Simkovic’s position is not merely that there was nothing wrong with law schools touting their graduates as “employed,” without further explanation, even when that employment included a large number of people doing things like working part-time stocking shelves at Lowe’s: he actually takes the position that it’s preferable for law schools to use the generic BLS definition of “employment,” rather than confusing potential law school applicants with more specific information, such as how many of a law school’s graduates are getting jobs as lawyers, as opposed to baristas etc. Any disagreement on this point, he claims, is “based on an incorrect belief that law school only benefits the subset of graduates who practice law . . . .”

I mean really, what is there to say about this kind of thing? In the end it should be allowed to speak for itself.

Update: Much pearl clutching and couch fainting at The Faculty Lounge. The important question isn’t how many lives law schools have wrecked with their deceptive practices, but whether somebody wrote something about legal academics that was unfair and hurt several peoples’ feelings.

It’s so simple it’s brilliant

[ 14 ] April 21, 2015 |

merchant banker

I’ve mentioned before that Jeffrey Harrison’s blog Class Bias in Higher Education deserves a wide audience. Harrison, a law professor at Florida, doesn’t write very often, but when he does it’s always worth reading. He’s also very funny. Here’s his suggestion on how to run more efficient faculty meetings:

Each faculty member has a life size photo made. This are all kept in the dean’s office but they could also be in the supply room. That is for each faculty to vote on and I am sure they would insist on doing just that. I’d go with the supply room but I will vote with the committee on this.

The faculty meeting is called and faculty stay in their offices writing very important articles, making their next set of reservations to take an important group of people to South America to hear 5 minute talks, napping, playing online chess, or anything else equally productive.

The dean’s right hand person goes to the meeting room and arranges the life size photos. The dean arrives and calls the meeting to order and moves to the first item on the agenda. Let’s say it’s “should we raise the mean GPA from 3.88 to 3.89.” In their photos, each person has his or hand up and the dean recognizes them in turn. But, and here is the revolutionary move. After calling their names he or she just moves to the next person, They do not talk because they are cardboard. BUT the dean (more likely the dean’s assistant) knows exactly what each person will say because they are like a sentences on infinite loops — same thing every single time:

Person 1: Shouldn’t we check to see what the highly ranked schools are doing because we definitely want to move up the ladder, not down because I actually think it is our job to move up in the rankings. (And, by the way, I getting pretty pissed off if anyone disagrees.)

Person 2: I just want to know if this will hurt the students’ feelings because my feelings were hurt once and it does not feel good.

Person 3: Is there some way we could turn this into some money because I really like money.

Person 4: At (my, daughter’s, friend’s) school they have a 4.00 average and, therefore, we should too because I have no original ideas.

Person 5; (Flipping her hair and acting all flustered): I really think we should do something and I am just wondering [don’t you love the passive-aggressive “just wondering move?] if it is really a good idea to give all the students the same grade but I am just wondering so please don’t mind me because the most important thing is that you not realize this is a part time job for me.

Person 6: I actually have nothing to say but I always use up about ten minutes saying nothing it so here is what I think and that is many schools do one thing and some do another and I . . . . . because I like hearing myself sound important because if I hear myself sounding important it makes me think I am important or at least you will think I am here more than the 4 hours a week I actually am on campus.”


Second prize is two $5000 scholarships

[ 13 ] April 18, 2015 |

wc fields



Choose the one best answer:

At American institutions of higher learning, academic scholarships are:

(a) Need-based

(b) Merit-based

(c) Raffle-based

(d) Require dilithium crystals to achieve warp speed

(e) All of the above

Law School Boot Camp: What to Expect in Law School

Taught by Assistant Professor Adam Lamparello

Please join us on Saturday, April 18, 2015 for a workshop designed to show you how to be prepared for your first year of law school. The workshop will be held from 10:00am to 11:00am, followed by a “What do lawyers do?” panel from 11:00am to 12:00pm, in the Courtroom of Indiana Tech Law School, with a light lunch to follow. Assistant Professor of Law, Adam Lamparello will discuss topics such as how to succeed in your law school courses and which skills are most important to become a successful lawyer. He will also provide mini-outlines for some first year courses.

Attend for a chance to win a $5,000 scholarship!

At this workshop, one person will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship in addition to any other scholarships or financial aid received. One raffle per event, you must be present to win, and scholarship must be used for matriculating in Fall 2015. Other raffles include a Beats by Dre headphone.

Free LSAT Waiver!

Every workshop attendee will have the opportunity to receive a certificate entitling them to one FREE Law School Admission Test (LSAT) registration. Certain conditions apply to this offer, which will be delineated to you at the workshop or upon request.


You know who else suffered from paranoid delusions of grandeur as his world crumbled around him?

[ 81 ] April 15, 2015 |

Steiner has surrounded and destroyed Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front.

Obligatory embed:

Why is NYU Law School giving Robert Kennedy Jr. a high-profile platform for his anti-vaxx nonsense?

[ 29 ] April 13, 2015 |

anti vaxx

I don’t know, but it’s NYU so I have a guess . . .

Yes, Robert Kennedy Jr. has made headlines again for, as the New Jersey Star Ledger put it in a hard-hitting editorial, “his crazy-talk about a vast government conspiracy to hide the truth that a vaccine ingredient called thimerosal causes childhood autism.” The Star-ledger goes on to correctly note:

He is wrong. Every major scientific and medical organization in the country agrees that he is wrong. Here’s all you need to know about thimerosal: There is no link between it and any brain disorders, including autism. To assuage fears, the government removed it from pediatric vaccines nearly 15 years ago, with the exception of a specific flu vaccine, and childhood autism rates have actually gone up since


But Kennedy is as disingenuous as he hyperbolic. Several weeks ago, I attended an event held at NYU’s law school, where Kennedy was appearing on a panel about thimerosal and vaccines. The event was combined with a screening of a documentary called, Trace Amounts, which Kennedy has been promoting. (The movie does not have a distributor, so it is being privately screened at various venues.)

Before the film was shown, Kennedy was introduced by an independent scholar affiliated with NYU’s law school. I took notes. Here’s how he started off: “I am fiercely pro-vaccine. I had all my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved millions of lives. But it is essential we have a safe vaccine supply.”

Notice the double talk and the inference–that our vaccine supply is unsafe.

Keith Kloor points out that when an elite academic institution gives someone like Kennedy a platform, it puts responsible journalists in a difficult bind:

Let me stop here for a second to point out the danger of media amplification of this tiny fringe element. It is for this reason that I held off on writing about Kennedy’s latest campaign–until now. It is a real quandary for journalists who are obligated to report newsworthy events, but who also don’t want to give undue attention to a tiny minority.

But the more headlines I saw Kennedy generating on his anti-vaccine tour, the more I felt obligated to weigh in on his latest shenanigans.


[A]nti-vaxxers turn out in droves. They are few in number—representing less than single-digit percentage points of most states’ populations—but extremely passionate. Their tendency to cluster means they remain a significant risk for supporting outbreaks of disease. They are organized by well-funded groups financed by family foundations. They still gather at rallies and fundraisers featuring disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose claim that vaccines cause autism was later found to be a complete fraud. Their voices are amplified by notorious anti-vax celebrity cranks such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

As a result of this disparity in activism, anti-vaxxers have been successful in defeating pro­–public health legislation that would eliminate some exemptions in a number of states, including Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and most recently, North Carolina. Bills in Texas, New Jersey, and California are still being hotly contested. Well-organized vaccination opponents flood legislators with a near-constant stream of materials of dubious scientific or legal validity. And, of course, Kennedy participates, traveling around to states in contention, promoting a conspiracy-theory documentary called Trace Amounts. This documentary focuses on the manufactured controversy surrounding thimerosal, an ethylmercury-based preservative that was removed from the vast majority of childhood vaccines in 2001. (Autism rates did not decline.)

Shame on NYU Law School for aiding these people.

The first rule of law school employment statistics

[ 40 ] April 13, 2015 |


Louisiana senator David Vitter gave a very interesting talk last week about how the nation’s capital is grappling with an increasingly critical shortage of high-end hookers who are willing to let their clients indulge in diaper fetishes.

Oh wait that didn’t actually happen.

Why? Because while he may be the most contemptible member of the US senate, David Vitter is not a grade A moron:

How in the world did he survive that hooker business? Not only did he admit he was a client of Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s escort service. She then went and hanged herself. Not over him personally. Over the whole mess, and staring at serious jail time. But still. Extramarital relations are one thing, with a staffer or a woman of accomplishment; politicians almost always slog their way through that. But here we had the guy calling on hookers, and the dead body of the madam. And Vitter skated through it and sailed to reelection two years later. How?

“He hid for a year and a half,” says my operative. At first, when his name was revealed by Hustler in connection to the case, Vitter acknowledged it. He said he’d asked for and received his wife’s and (somewhat presumptuously) God’s forgiveness. After that he would say no more—“out of respect for my family.” Nice touch.

Steve Diamond on the other hand . . .

Diamond just can’t stop writing about the “myth” that, under current conditions, choosing to go to the average law school at the average cost of attendance is at best a very risky proposition for the average law student.

But forget about averages. Let’s talk specifics. Specifically, let’s talk about Santa Clara University’s law school, where Diamond teaches.

Under the circumstances, Diamond’s decision to write repeatedly about how critics of contemporary legal education don’t understand what a great deal American legal education really is can be analogized to David Vitter holding weekly press conferences on the DC high end hookers with no standards shortage, or Bernie Madoff calling for less intrusive SEC regulation, or Bill Kristol lobbying for Dick Cheney to get a promotion.

That’s because the employment outcomes for Diamond’s own students are almost indescribably catastrophic. Almost, but I’m going to give it the old college try:

Ten months after graduation, 93 of Santa Clara’s 261 class of 2014 graduates had a legal job, very liberally construed. Nearly a year out, only 35.6% of the class had acquired full-time non-temporary positions requiring bar admission. Note that isn’t the percentage of graduates who got good legal jobs, i.e., jobs that hold some reasonable prospect of launching a legal career that will justify Santa Clara’s cost of attendance (about which more shortly). That’s every kind of lawyer position, including getting paid $35,000 per year with no benefits to handle a giant stack of penny-ante litigation for a three-person firm that will let you go the second business slows down a bit. (36 of the 68 Santa Clara grads who got jobs with law firms were working for tiny outfits, which typically feature low pay, high work loads, and zero job security.)

And that’s assuming all these grads are working for real firms, as opposed to a couple of grads banding together and calling themselves a firm. As the data from this paper suggest, such arrangements are not rare.

What about those members of Santa Clara’s most recent graduating class that, as of last month, hadn’t gotten legal jobs of any sort? Ten months after graduation, more than one third of the entire graduating class was completely unemployed. This stat includes 77 graduates who were seeking employment, and four graduates who were not, along with four graduates whose status couldn’t be discovered by the school. (It doesn’t include five currently unemployed grads who had future commitments from employers to start work. Nor does it include nine grads who were working in jobs funded by the law school itself, that were both part-time and temporary).

Here I’ll note again what an egregious fraud Diamond’s employer was committing back in 2011, when the US News rankings still allowed schools to exclude unemployed graduates who were supposedly not seeking work from a school’s calculation of its graduate employment rate. That year, Santa Clara categorized 55 of its 61 2010 grads who were unemployed nine months after graduation as “not seeking employment.” US News changed its metrics and started counting all unemployed grads as simply unemployed, and suddenly almost all of Santa Clara’s annual multitude of unemployed grads were looking for work after all.

Indeed, barely half (132 of 261) of Santa Clara’s 2014 grads had full-time non-temp employment of any kind, nearly a year after graduation. Such employment would include working 35 hours per week at Starbucks etc.

The 83% of the Santa Clara class that took out federal educational loans during law school took out an average of $136,990 in such loans. This means their actual educational debt at the putative beginning of repayment, six months after graduation, was much higher. That’s because this figure doesn’t include interest accrued during school and origination fees. Those two factors alone push the average debt above $160,000. Nor does it include private loans to cover summer expenses and bar review courses, or undergraduate debt.

Conservatively, the five of every six non-trustifarian grads in Santa Clara’s 2014 class who have educational debt are probably averaging at least $175,000 in such debt, at an average interest rate of around 7%, which means they will have to pay around $1,000 every month simply to cover the accruing interest on those loans, without even touching the principal. This is going to be fairly challenging, given that a third of them don’t have a job, and most of the rest are probably taking home less than $3,000 per month after taxes. (According to this, the average monthly rent for an apartment within ten miles of Santa Clara is $2,738, although you can get a one-bedroom for just $2,356).

In fact Santa Clara’s employment stats are hardly better than those sported by the infamous Thomas J. Cooley School of Law (there should probably be an equivalent to Godwin’s Law for internet threads about law school employment statistics, with Cooley playing the role of youknowwho). While Santa Clara noses out Cooley in regard to the percentage of grads getting legal jobs (35.6% to 30.0% respectively), Cooley’s graduate unemployment rate is actually better, as only 32.6% of the 2014 class was unemployed ten months after graduation, even counting all 62 of the graduates Cooley wasn’t able to track down as unemployed.

In all seriousness, I can’t understand the mentality of someone like Diamond. Is he simply indifferent to the dire situation facing such a large proportion of the students who pay his salary? Is he in some sort of deep denial? Beyond this, how can he fail to understand that, for someone who teaches at a law school like Santa Clara and who wants to protect the status quo, the first rule of law school employment statistics is that you don’t talk about law school employment statistics?

. . . In comments, Unemployed Northeastern points out that Santa Clara’s enrollment has been cratering, despite a significant cut in admissions standards aimed at stemming the tide. Specifically, over the past five years the school’s JD enrollment has gone from 1001 to 643. Diamond, who styles himself a fierce opponent of libertarian economics, nevertheless loves to talk about how “the market” more or less magically “corrects” itself — and here we have an example of how something resembling such a correction can take place, as a consequence of even a tiny bit of transparency regarding employment outcomes. (That transparency, it should be unnecessary to point out, came about as a consequence of concerted political action, not because some abstract “market” made it inevitable that SCU couldn’t keep defrauding potential admits with fake employment stats).

Of course as UNE also notes, a “market” for law school admissions that didn’t feature the federal government loaning nearly $220,000 to literally anyone not currently in default on an educational loan who Santa Clara decides to admit would have far more devastating consequences for SCU’s already-collapsing admissions.

Middle class

[ 180 ] April 10, 2015 |

h armstrong roberts

The Times has an interesting series on the changing nature of middle class identity in the US, in an age of increasingly precarious economic status, and a widening gap between the very rich and everybody else. One of the themes of the series is that even very well off people in America generally identify as “middle class,” in part because there’s always somebody much richer nearby to compare themselves with. That point makes this statistical error at the end of the latest installment of the series especially unfortunate:

The feeling of comparative deprivation and the ultrarich separating themselves from the rest of society helps explain why only 1 percent of Americans accept the rich or upper-income label. Even most people earning over $250,000 — the top 5 percent of wage earners — identify as middle class. There’s always someone wealthier around.

In fact someone earning $250,000 is at just about exactly the 99th percentile of wage earners, not the 95th, which is a pretty enormous difference, i.e., one in 100 Americans earns $250,000 per year or more, not one in 20. (To be in the 95th percentile you “only” need to earn about half that much). . . To be more precise, these are the percentiles of earnings among wage earners, not Americans, or even adult Americans. Nearly 40% of adult Americans earned no wages at all in 2013. So the statement “one in 100 Americans earns $250,000 per year” is a considerable overstatement, even if limited to adults.

Still, it’s a good series and well worth checking out.

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