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Beating dead horses in American legal academic history (an apparently infinite series)

[ 39 ] October 31, 2015 |


Florida Coastal’s dean has sent a letter to the New York Times, claiming that last Sunday’s editorial regarding the general scamminess of for-profit law schools in particular, and bad law schools in general was “demonstrably false.” It’s a revealing fact about institutions like FCSL that even a letter like this, which you would think would be drafted with some care to avoid misrepresentations, is full of flat-out lies. For example:

The vast majority of our students do pass the bar. The ultimate pass rate for our students is 93%.

This statement couldn’t possibly be close to being true, because nothing like 93% of FCSL students ever even take the bar, let alone pass it. The academic attrition rate at the school is usually higher than 7%, and often much higher, which means of course that considerably less than 93% of FCSL students eventually become eligible to try to pass a bar exam. This isn’t merely a semantic point: until a couple of years ago, the school would flunk out a significant percentage of their matrics, thus leaving them with heavy debt loads (a single year’s COA is $65,000) and nothing else to show for their trouble. In this way the school could admit large numbers of students with very poor entrance credentials, while still protecting its bar passage rate. (In the past couple of years it seems to have abandoned this approach, instead going to a de facto open enrollment system while flunking out relatively few students. This is already having a catastrophic effect on the school’s bar passage rate, which is practically certain to fall even more than it already has).

In addition, the school’s two most recent graduating classes had first-time bar passage rates of 58% and 59%, which ensures that the eventual bar passage rate of the graduates (not the students) from those matriculating classes will have vastly lower eventual bar passage rates than the supposed 93% rate quoted in the letter (it would be interesting to see how that number was calculated).

On the other hand, a defensible statement on the dean’s part would have been, “While it’s true the recent bar passage rate of our graduates has been very bad, it hasn’t been atrocious, like that of the graduates of our sister Infilaw outfits Charlotte (47%), and Arizona Summit (30.6%).”

Moving right along:

Florida Coastal is a for-profit school. That means we do not have the benefit of taxpayer dollars to fund our students’ education. Yes, their debt load is higher but that is because taxpayers are not paying for our students’ education.

What does it mean for FCSL not “have the benefit of taxpayer dollars to fund” their operations? If it means not getting subsidies from the state legislature, the vast majority of law students (nearly 70%) attend law schools that don’t receive any such subsidies. If it means no tax dollars are finding their way into FCSL’s coffers, that’s not merely a false assertion, but the precise opposite of the truth. FCSL is almost wholly funded by tax dollars, in the form of federal educational loans. If such no-limit/no-doc loans were cut off the school would be closed overnight, as indeed it ought to be.


Senators say US government shouldn’t be funding worthless degrees from bottom-feeding law schools

[ 62 ] October 30, 2015 |

tire fire

Law schools just made some new enemies. This week, lawmakers from both parties sharply criticized U.S. law schools for leaving students with overwhelming debt and degrees that may not get them jobs. . . .

On Monday, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) blamed the government’s generous loan programs for encouraging troubled law schools to hike prices. In 2006, Congress made new federal loans available to graduate students, allowing them to take out as much debt as they want in order to finance their education.

“Now that we’ve taken the cap off what you can borrow for graduate courses, they have decided they are going to just charge to the heavens in terms of tuition for worthless, worthless law school degrees” said Durbin, at a Congressional meeting on student debt this week, referring to for-profit law schools.

Michael Simkovic is very offended by the failure to recognize that the hordes of matrics with 2.3 GPAs and 9th percentile LSAT scores flooding into the Infilaw schools will be on average one million dollars richer (discounted to present value) on the day they graduate, because even though a huge percentage of them will never practice law, employers will gladly pay a steep premium to hire a graduate of a for-profit law school with an open enrollment policy.

Of course Simkovic is literally paid by LSAC and the lender collectively owned by almost all ABA law schools to crank out articles demonstrating by theology and geometry that it’s a great idea to go $200,000 into debt to attend a school where 70% of graduates fail the bar on their first try, even though the school is paying the most hopeless cases not to take it, so his scholarly conclusions should probably be taken with a pillar of salt.

Know your audience

[ 31 ] October 29, 2015 |

From a letter requesting donations from University of California-Hastings law school graduates:

I owe a lot to UC Hastings. From the professors, to the law journal, to forging friendships, UC Hastings was a life-changing experience. When I graduated in 1978, I pretty much had my pick of jobs and very manageable debt to pay back. I’m now a senior partner at a top-200 law firm.



It’s one thing for a clueless baby boomer lawyer to not realize that he went to law school essentially for free, while today three years of resident tuition at the same school is nearly $150,000. It’s another for the people whose salaries are paid by that tuition to send out fundraising letters to be quite this tone deaf.

Do we really need to protect people from trying to achieve their dreams?

[ 63 ] October 28, 2015 |


Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman has responded to the arguments made by Law School Transparency, the New York Times editorial board, and your faithful correspondent, that law schools shouldn’t be admitting students who, based on their entrance credentials, are at high risk for never passing a bar exam. His argument is that this position is paternalistic to the point of being infantilizing, and that adults should decide for themselves if they want to take the risk of purchasing an expensive credential that may not end up being worth much of anything:

This view assumes that it’s up to the law schools to make the threshold decision paternalistically, “saving” naive college graduates from pursuing the dream of becoming lawyers when there’s no guarantee that they’ll succeed. It treats standardized test scores as destiny and correlation-based studies as gospel. . .

[H]ow much should we trust prospective students to make their own decisions under market conditions?

Feldman points out that elite schools like HLS select their students in such a way as to practically guarantee that they’ll graduate from law school, while ensuring that almost all of them who take it will pass the bar. But shouldn’t there be schools that enroll students who are at some risk of failure?

[That low LSAT scores correlate with low bar passage rates] doesn’t mean that every student with a lower standardized test score will fail to pass the bar. To think otherwise is to deny individuals the capacity and responsibility to do well on the basis of work. A standardized test score, taken alone, shouldn’t determine your future.

That brings us to the crucial question in admissions: Who should decide whether you get to go to law school? It seems pretty clear to me that if you can do the work, the decision to take a risk on legal education should be yours.

You will build up debt, to be sure. But an investment in education isn’t like buying fast-depreciating consumer goods on a credit card. Education constitutes an investment in your own human capital. And in a free society, we typically believe that you should be empowered and enabled to make that investment in yourself.

Those who think law schools shouldn’t admit students with low test scores are reflecting, whether they know it or not, a culture of paternalism that verges on infantilization. Since when did college graduates pursuing the American dream of professional success come to be seen as an act of self-delusion? Do we really need to protect people from trying to achieve their dreams?

A few points:

(1) This sort of argument sounds plausible and even rather inspiring as long as the facts on the ground are being described from a rhetorical cruising altitude of 37,000 feet. The question isn’t whether every law school should be as restrictive in regard to its entrance criteria as HLS: it’s whether law schools, and most especially for-profit law schools, should be allowed to charge people $200,000, borrowed almost wholly from taxpayers, while they try to become lawyers, if those people have an X probability of ever passing the bar. Surely there is some point at which X is small enough that the answer ought to be “no?”

(2) In the characteristic fashion of legal academics, Feldman does what no competent lawyer would ever do: he simply ignores the rules under which law schools are actually required to operate. ABA-accredited law schools have something close to a complete monopoly on qualifying American students to sit for state bar exams (California is the major exception), and in order to be an ABA law school, you at least in theory have to abide by the organization’s rules of accreditation, which both forbid schools from admitting students who don’t appear capable of passing the bar, and threaten with de-accreditation schools that have insufficiently high bar passage rates. Now maybe Feldman thinks those requirements are a bad idea, but he ought to at least acknowledge their existence. This is especially true because . . .

(3) The “market conditions” to which Feldman refers are, as Bill Henderson just pointed out, completely dominated by federal educational loans, which are only available to students at schools that maintain ABA accreditation. Which brings us to the heart of the issue: Bar exams, ABA rules, and indeed law schools themselves are all designed as barriers to entry. This is especially true of law schools, which require people to invest three years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct and opportunity costs after acquiring an undergraduate degree, before their graduates even have the right to try to take the bar exam. Now the public-regarding justification for these barriers is, not surprisingly, to protect the public from incompetent and/or crooked lawyers. Nowhere in his piece does Feldman even allude to this core regulatory function.

After all, if we’re not actually trying to protect the public, then all the hoop-jumping prospective lawyers are required to undertake is indeed unjustifiable. If what we’re primarily concerned with is the “opportunity” to become a lawyer, then it’s not only wrong to require certain entrance requirements before allowing people to borrow billions of dollars a year to go to law school: it’s wrong to require people to go to law school in the first place, or for that matter to take a bar exam.

Now this reductio may seem absurd — surely we don’t want just anyone to be able to hold themselves out as a lawyer to the public — but once one has made that concession, then it’s all a question of line-drawing, which is exactly what the critics of the status quo are trying to do.

Congratulations to Susannah Mushatt Jones, who has just made the top ten list of longest-lived people in all of human history

[ 44 ] October 27, 2015 |


Guess what her favorite food happens to be?

For breakfast she always eats four strips of bacon along with scrambled eggs and grits. She also eats bacon throughout the day.

Where is your “science” now, WHO expert panel???

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and medical research

[ 39 ] October 27, 2015 |


Steve Lubet writes here about the latest research regarding a long-standing controversy: “Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome an organic disease that should be addressed by biomedical research, or is it a only psychological condition best treated by some form of psychotherapy?”

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS) is an incurable disease with devastating symptoms that include blinding headaches, profound exhaustion, muscle weakness verging on immobility, exertion intolerance, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and the inability to stand or sit upright. Most patients will tell you, however, that by far the worst part has been the scorn they once had to endure from physicians, employers, and even friends and family, who frequently refused to believe that they were truly sick.

Fortunately, the situation has improved significantly in the United States, where there is now widespread recognition that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a biomedical illness with physiological causes. Regrettably, other countries have not all gotten the news – most notably the United Kingdom, where prominent psychiatrists have successfully argued that it should be treated primarily as a cognitive and behavioral disorder. That may also be about to change, however, because a new investigation – just published on the website of a Columbia University virology expert — has thoroughly debunked the underpinnings of the British psychiatrists’ approach.

There has seldom been good news for ME/CFS patients, many of whom have been housebound or bedridden for years. Fortunately, 2015 has turned out to be a very encouraging year for ME/CFS sufferers in the United States. In early February, the Institute of Medicine released a long-awaited report titled “Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness,” stating that “ME/CFS is a serious, chronic, complex, systemic disease that often can profoundly affect the lives” of as many as 2.5 million Americans. In addition to criticizing the many physicians who “mistake it for a mental health condition,” the IOM committee proposed new diagnostic criteria and called for greatly increased research funding for ME/CFS. In the words of the committee chair, Dr. Ellen Clayton, a professor of both medicine and law at Vanderbilt University, “It’s time to stop saying that this is a just figment of people’s imagination. This is a real disease, with real physical manifestations that need to be identified and cared for.” The IOM report broke the barrier of indifference, but of course it could not do anything to solve the intractable nature of the disease.

Lubet’s post traces the tangled story of how an apparently flawed study has been used to buttress the claim that ME/CFE was essentially a psychological condition, and he links to this fascinating three-part article by medical journalist David Tuller, critiquing the research that has led so many psychiatrists and other medical personnel to tell those suffering from the disease that it was all (or mostly) in their heads.

When the levee breaks

[ 59 ] October 27, 2015 |

baltimore law building

A terrible week of publicity for law schools continues apace, as today the New York Times published a story on the new Law School Transparency study that I highlighted in last week’s Atlantic piece. The gist of the study is that cratering applicant numbers have increased the number of schools who are admitting large numbers of matriculants who are in serious danger of never passing a bar exam from a handful to more than one third of all ABA schools.

This practice is in blatant violation of ABA accreditation standards, specifically Standard 501(b), which states that

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.

Of course this rule can be finessed, through the employment of those heightened analytical skills that a legal education is said to produce:

“Our experience has been that someone with a 147 score could pass the bar and someone else with 160 could fail, so we don’t think that there is necessarily a relationship between the test and people’s ability to pass the bar,” said Christopher Behan, [Southern Illinois’s] associate dean.

Anyway the LST report is something everybody in the law school world should read.

On a related note, Indiana University law professor Bill Henderson, best known as the chronicler of the bimodal salary distribution among new law school graduates who are employed as lawyers and report their salaries, has a good take on Sunday’s Times editorial regarding law graduate debt. Henderson’s basic point is that when the levee of unlimited federal loans to law schools breaks, crying won’t help you and praying won’t do you no good:

It is hard to argue that a cap on federal funding of legal education would be bad policy for students, the legal profession, taxpayers, or broader society. Such a change would:

Reduce the number of law grads going into a saturated labor market;
Reduce the number of low credentialed students admitted to law school who will one day struggle to pass the bar;
Reduce the risk of nonpayment of students loans currently borne by US taxpayers;
Put in place serious cost-containment on legal education.

Now there are complications to capping federal loans: As Unemployed Northeastern notes, without further reforms private lenders may simply fill the gap, although in my view they’re unlikely to do much gap filling under these circumstances if such loans are made dischargeable in bankruptcy, as they ought to be. But the current system is both indefensible and unsustainable. And, as Henderson also notes, the dysfunctions of how law school is financed are symptomatic of the increasingly dysfunctional economics of higher education in America as a whole.

New York Times gets shrill on law school scam

[ 59 ] October 25, 2015 |


This editorial doesn’t mince words:

Florida Coastal charges nearly $45,000 a year in tuition, which, with living expenses, can lead to crushing amounts of debt for its students. Ninety-three percent of the school’s 2014 graduating class of 484 had debts and the average was almost $163,000 — a higher average than all but three law schools in the country. In short, most of Florida Coastal’s students are leaving law school with a degree they can’t use, bought with a debt they can’t repay.

If this sounds like a scam, that’s because it is. Florida Coastal, in Jacksonville, is one of six for-profit law schools in the country that have been vacuuming up hordes of young people, charging them outrageously high tuition and, after many of the students fail to become lawyers, sticking taxpayers with the tab for their loan defaults.

Yet for-profit schools are not the only offenders. A majority of American law schools, which have nonprofit status, are increasingly engaging in such behavior, and in the process threatening the future of legal education.

The editorial accurately identifies unlimited amounts of unregulated federal loan money as the main driver behind these trends. To repeat: Any ABA-accredited law school can admit anyone it wants to admit, charge those admits whatever it wants to charge, and stick taxpayers with 100% of the bill for this cozy arrangement. That for-profit entities are allowed to rip off the public in this way is outrageous on its face, but the Times makes the crucial point that this incentive structure is hardly less invidious when exploited by “non-profit” institutions. Non-profit status, after all, is merely a tax category. As a functional matter it means the economic stakeholders in the enterprise are internal to it, rather than external owners.

The editorial advocates some straightforward solutions: Apply the gainful employment rules that the Obama administration is trying to impose on for-profit schools on non-profits as well, while capping the amounts people can borrow to pay for tuition.

For starters, the government must require accountability from the law schools that live off student loans. This year, the Obama administration extended the so-called gainful employment rule, which ties a school’s eligibility to receive federal student loans to its success in preparing graduates for jobs that will enable them to repay their debt. The rule currently applies only to for-profit law schools, all of which, given their track records, would fail to qualify for federal loans.

This rule should also apply to nonprofit schools. If it did, as many as 50 nonprofit schools could fail as well, based on one measure that considers students’ debt-to-income ratio. Another good idea would be to cap the amount of federal loans available to individual schools or to students. This could drive down tuition costs, and reduce the debt loads students carry when they leave school.

Again, the reason why law schools with horrible employment outcomes and bar exam results charge $45,000 per year or more in tuition is simply because the federal educational loan system allows and indeed encourages them to get away with this behavior, not because there is any conceivable pedagogical justification for doing so. Here, IN 2014 DOLLARS, is what private law school tuition cost in the fairly recent past:

Private law school tuition 1953

The Infilaw schools, who are currently admitting people who can barely read, are now charging more than Harvard Law School cost barely a decade ago:

Harvard Tuition and Fees (2014$)

1953: $5,586
1963: $10,243
1973: $13,703
1983: $19,985
1993: $30,455
2003: $41,676
2013: $54,173

Harvard Law School is charging more than $58,000 this fall, which, given the perverse logic of American higher education, means it’s a bargain for institutions that are also law schools — in the same sense that France and Syria are both currently sovereign nations — to continue to charge 80% as much for the “same” thing.

Plunging law school admissions standards and bar exam passage rates

[ 79 ] October 23, 2015 |

bar exam

Four years ago, a movement to force law schools to disclose more accurate information regarding employment and salary outcomes for their graduates began to have some initial success. Not coincidentally, applications to law school started to drop, and, as more and more information became available, that drop accelerated, with the result that, by this fall, applicant totals were nearly 40% lower than in 2010.

Many schools responded by slashing admissions standards. The leaders in this race to the bottom were the for-profit Infilaw schools, and, predictably, that policy has already begun to be reflected in the bar passage rates of their graduates:

Bar-passage rates at the InfiLaw schools are now in a free fall. (The following percentages are for first-time takers of the July exam in the schools’ home states.) Florida Coastal’s bar-passage rate has fallen from 76 percent to 59 percent, Charlotte’s has fallen from 78 percent to 47 percent, and Arizona Summit’s has gone from 75 percent to an astonishing 30.6 percent.

But the Infilaw schools were merely a bit ahead of the curve:

It would be bad enough if the collapse of law-school admissions standards, and the subsequent collapse of bar-passage rates, were limited to a handful of especially egregious bad actors in the world of for-profit higher education. But as I argued last year, the same basic path followed by Infilaw is now being taken by dozens of other law schools, almost all of which are nonprofits. The only difference between these schools and the InfiLaw group is that most of them waited a year or two longer before reducing their admissions standards in response to plummeting application numbers, and that therefore it will take another year or two before this is reflected in the national bar-exam results.

A new report from the watchdog group Law School Transparency catalogs exactly how severe the bar-exam crisis is likely to become. The report documents the steep decline in admissions standards at American law schools, and concludes that last year more than one third of ABA-accredited schools admitted classes in which at least 25 percent of the admits are at significant risk for failing the bar. Roughly three dozen of these schools—nearly 20 percent of all ABA law schools—admitted classes in which half or more of the entering class is at a high risk of failing the bar, according to the report. (The latter total has more than quadrupled since 2010.)

The LST report, which is well worth reading in its entirety, reveals the extent to which a large minority of ABA law schools are now admitting classes with credentials that practically guarantee catastrophic bar exam failure rates for their graduates. As for what, if anything, various regulatory bodies are going to do about this, that remains to be seen:

The ABA accreditation standards require a school’s bar-passage rate to fall more than 15 points below the state average for at least three of the most recent five years before the school can even be considered for de-accreditation. Remarkably, the passage rate of the school’s own graduates is counted as part of the state average, meaning that, the larger the school, the more likely it is the high failure rate of its graduates can suppress the statewide bar passage rate enough to protect the school’s accreditation.

This is just one example of how the ABA committee that oversees law-school accreditation has been, as I argued last year, captured by the very institutions it is supposed to be regulating. At this point, it’s unclear whether plunging bar-passage rates will inspire federal regulators to take a more aggressive role in protecting both severely underqualified prospective law students and American taxpayers from the predatory behavior of many of the country’s law schools.

Now in a certain brutal social Darwinian sense, this series of developments is going to ameliorate, if not solve, the employment crisis among new law graduates. While the total number of law school matriculants hasn’t fallen nearly as quickly as the application pool, the willingness of more than a third of law schools to admit huge numbers of students who will never pass the bar means that, when the current classes graduate, the number of newly licensed lawyers looking for jobs will fall to perhaps 25,000 per year, down from around 42,000 in 2013. It’s a travesty that this beneficial reduction will take place, in part, because thousands of graduates who never had any realistic chance of obtaining a law license will be graduating with enormous non-dischargeable debts, borrowed from a government that did nothing to protect them from those who profited from preying on their dreams.

Law school pays graduates not to take the bar; 75% fail anyway

[ 47 ] October 20, 2015 |


Results for the July Arizona bar came out yesterday, confirming that the Infilaw scamsters have, as predicted, hit a new low. Some LGM readers will recall that the night before the exam, Arizona Summit’s dean was calling up some of the school’s new graduates, and offering them $10,000 not to take the test. That seemed to indicate a certain level of concern regarding whether the human-capital enhancing aspects of an Infilaw education had worked their pedagogical magic. That concern has been, shall we say, vindicated:

Results for the July 2015 Arizona bar examination

Pass rate for all first time takers: 65.7%

Pass rate for first time takers from the University of Arizona: 83.6%

Pass rate for first time takers from Arizona State University: 83.7%

[ETA]: Pass rate for first time takers from non-Arizona law schools: 74.2%

Pass rate for all first time takers who didn’t go to Arizona Summit: 79.5%

Pass rate for Arizona Summit first time takers: 30.6%

Pass rate for Arizona Summit repeat takers: 19.3%

Framing 9/11

[ 132 ] October 19, 2015 |


I have a piece on the strange dynamics that turned George W. Bush into the president that “kept us safe” from terrorism.

Consider the power of what sociologists call “framing.” The cultural frame that the Republican party has so successfully managed to build up since the days of Ronald Reagan is one in which Democrats are weak—kneed appeasers and semi-pacifists, while the GOP is the party of strong, war-like Daddy figures, who know how to deal with foreign threats with unsentimental ruthlessness.

You would think it would be impossible to assimilate the 9/11 terrorist attacks to this frame, but you would be wrong. Such is the power of this pre-ordained narrative that, when America suffered a catastrophic terrorist attack under a Republican president, this inconvenient fact was, for enormous numbers of people, magically whisked down a kind of collective memory hole.

The power of this frame to distort perception is evident if we consider a counter-factual in which something like the 9/11 attacks happened during the term of any Democratic president. Imagine if 3,000 Americans had been murdered by foreign terrorists nine months into the Obama administration. It’s almost inconceivable that it would occur to anyone to claim subsequently that Obama had “kept us safe,” because such a claim wouldn’t be supported by the powerful distortions of a cultural frame that turned the combat-dodging ne’er do well son of George H.W. Bush into some sort of heroic warrior.

Everybody hates a tourist

[ 48 ] October 16, 2015 |


A federal court has tossed out a lawsuit against one of the Infilaw scam factories, on the basis of the ever-popular rationale that it’s the marks’ own fault if they buy the grifter’s pitch:

Last week, a U.S. district court judge in Florida, quoting an earlier decision tossing a suit against New York Law School, said prospective students at Florida Coastal School of Law are “‘a sophisticated subset of education consumers, capable of sifting through data and weighing alternatives.’”

In dismissing the case, the Florida judge said the plaintiffs knew Florida Coastal had some of the lowest admissions standards in the country, and because of that, a rosy employment statistic “would have been a red flag to a reasonable consumer.” The plaintiffs alleged Florida Coastal masked how many graduates held jobs actually requiring a law degree.

LGM readers may remember that last year Drexel law professor Lisa McElroy made a similar argument, although she glossed over the whole awkward “fake employment stats” thing:

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

McElroy has just published a novel about a spunky 112-pound (weight given in text) 1L and her noble law prof mentor at Warren Law School, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Harvard Law School, from which McElroy graduated. She is also an alumna of Dartmouth, and Choate Rosemary Hall. Current costs of attendance for these institutions:

Choate: $217,000

Dartmouth: $269,000

HLS: $255,000

All this must make Drexel ($196,000) seem like a relative bargain, especially given the serious shortage of law schools in the Philadelphia area.

I’ve only read the free preview of Called On on Amazon. I was considering a Go Fund Me campaign to raise the necessary capital to purchase the electronic version, but the ever-intrepid Dybbuk has demonstrated what can under the circumstances be considered the last full measure of devotion to the Anti-Scam Cause by actually reading the whole thing. His review can be found here.

This passage seems particularly germane to McElroy’s attraction to the doctrine of caveat emptor in its most vigorous form:

“Connie [the law prof] sat and watched. For all the crap law school had been taking in the media lately, this was the kind of class discussion that proved all the “law school is a scam” bloggers wrong. She didn’t have to do anything but get the students started with a provocative question. Then they took over.”

The theory here seems to be that since all it takes to get an educationally valuable experience rolling in a Harvard Warren Law School classroom is one provocative question, it therefore makes sense to spend nearly $200,000 to get a JD from, say, Drexel.

One of the prime symptoms of the new gilded age is that people like McElroy, who enjoy high-paying phony baloney jobs at the expense of people who didn’t go to Choate, Dartmouth, etc., often fail to appreciate that a sense of delicacy and circumspection might be warranted when the temptation arises to flaunt one’s privilege.

Why I love to travel: I’ve gotten to attend a Samburu wedding in Kenya, hang out on the ocean floor with sea turtles in Belize, sail through the sky on a parasail with my younger daughter on Block Island, speak to Italian law students about how common law systems work in Genova. What’s not to love?

My most memorable trip: For my birthday a couple of years ago, my husband and I took a luxury white water rafting trip down the Futaleufu River in Patagonia, Chile. As if the Class V rapids weren’t adventure enough, we got stuck in the biggest earthquake in fifty years. We were fine, but getting home was quite a challenge.

My favorite trip with my kids: For another birthday (OK, I’ll admit it, my 40th), the whole family hit Puerto Vallarta for a week. The kids loved the pools and the beach; my husband and I appreciated the great small restaurants and the art culture.

Can’t wait to get to: The Great Barrier Reef. After recent trips to Palau and Belize, I’m now a certified scuba diver and can’t wait to dive down under!

What I love about family travel: The whole family unwinds and hangs out together. There’s usually no cell phone service. We eat a lot of crazy stuff (ice cream for breakfast, squid for dinner, anyone?). No one blow dries her hair. We explore together to find folk art to bring home – all the better to remember our trip.

What I least like about family travel: Our dogs usually have to stay home.

And (in the Paper of Record no less):

I’m back.

Which is to say, I was gone. Two thousand miles away. To a couple of luxury resorts in warm, sunny Arizona. All by myself. While I left my husband and kids back home in cold, gray Philadelphia. On their own.

No, I didn’t have to go. Arizona was not home to a legal conference, or a trial, or a library where I needed to do research. No one in my extended family had died; as far as I know, no one was even sick. There wasn’t even a food festival, or a special art exhibition, or a one-week-only never-to-be-repeated production of some Shakespearean play.

Nope, this here law professor took a vacation. For no good reason at all except that I was on spring break, and they weren’t, and I really, really needed to get away from it all, soak up some sun, and, as it turns out, eat quite an indulgent number of red velvet cupcakes.

Some would say that only a really irresponsible mother would go hot-air ballooning 2,500 feet above the Arizona desert while her kids were in the trenches of state-mandated standardized testing.

Some might question a mother’s midday naps on canopied beach beds when her husband slept fitfully at night, listening for any sound of a tween having a nightmare or sneaking downstairs for a midnight ice cream snack.

And (speaking of snacks), some might wonder whether it was right and just (two concepts important to lawyers like me) to chow down on diver scallops, pork belly, lobster ravioli, and homemade tamales (oh, and the aforementioned red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting) while the family back home sustained themselves on hot dogs, boxed mac and cheese, and the mainstay of working parents everywhere: breakfast for dinner. . .

Sure, I thought a lot about the possible downsides. What if my younger daughter didn’t finish her props for her weekend problem-solving competition? What if the older one got into a middle-school drama and I wasn’t there to listen from the minivan’s driver’s seat while she vented about it from the back? What if my husband didn’t fix them a protein-filled breakfast before their standardized tests?

What if? Would my carefully constructed suburban world collapse? Would they fail the tests? Would the competition be a bust? Would the middle school social scene be turned on its end?

But then I juxtaposed those possibilities against my exhaustion [!] from teaching dozens of law students about copyright protection and the Supreme Court. And against the giant earthquake that struck Japan and my realization of how I’d feel if I died before I crossed “hot air ballooning” off my bucket list. And the fact that I’d been down in the dumps for weeks over the day in, day out routine of kids, snow, dachshunds, meetings, and students. Not I’m saying that I deserved to be down in the dumps (hey, I wasn’t in Japan), but down I was.

I suspect McElroy wasn’t as “down” as the 37% of Drexel’s 2014 graduating class that didn’t have any sort of legal job ten months after graduation (a third of these graduates were completely unemployed) but we all have crosses to bear, novels to write, lagoons to jet ski, etc.

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