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Diamondbacks trade prime young talent for gritty gutty lunchbucket gamers

[ 89 ] January 24, 2013 |

de

This should work out well.

Kirk Gibson likes toughness, but then again Kirk spent half his career on the DL.

The secret agenda of law school critics

[ 44 ] January 22, 2013 |

AI

Upper class white guy with a six-figure psuedo-job from which he can never be fired says: If you think law schools shouldn’t be allowed to charge whatever cost of attendance they want, while requiring the federal government to loan that entire amount in the form of non-dischargeable high interest loans subject to no actuarial controls to anyone law schools choose to admit, then you are (“objectively” as the Marxists used to say) in favor of the following things:

The revival of Jim Crow.

The destruction of both academic freedom and the Rule of Law.

Racism, sexism, and classism.

Cruel but fair comment over at my other place:

To paraphrase Allen Iverson…We’re not even talking about a real law school here. We’re talking Santa Clara. Not Yale. Not Georgetown. Not a good state school. Santa Clara. Santa Clara law school man. Fucking Santa Clara law professor talking like he’s taking on the power structure, like he’s training the next Bayard Rustin over there at his useless diploma mill.

Update: Diamond appears to have locked his blog, so it can no longer be accessed without a password.

The real problem with legal academia

[ 11 ] January 21, 2013 |

black knight

This guy just won’t stop pontificating about something that he well and truly doesn’t know anything about.

The versatile law degree, University of Wisconsin edition

[ 73 ] January 20, 2013 |

Guns don’t cause crime, student loans do:

A man who wore a three-dimensional Bucky Badger hat when he allegedly robbed an East Side credit union last week told police that he wants to go to prison and needed the money because he has $250,000 in student debt.

Randall H. Hubatch, 49, of Madison, was charged Friday with armed robbery for the Jan. 11 robbery of the Summit Credit Union, 1799 Thierer Road. What stood out about the robbery was Hubatch’s choice of apparel, which included the Bucky Badger hat.

“If the district attorney agrees to send me to prison for a long time, then I will confess and plead guilty,” Hubatch told Madison police Detective Tom Helgren after his arrest on Monday, according to a criminal complaint. “Otherwise, I have nothing else to say, and if released I will do it again.”

Hubatch told police he is “slightly autistic” and diabetic and can’t afford his prescribed medication.

An online UW-Madison directory lists Hubatch as a lead custodian at Union South on the UW-Madison campus. University spokesman John Lucas said Hubatch is not a current student but earned a bachelor’s in English in 1998 and a law degree in 2004.

When Hubatch was arrested he was wearing the Bucky Badger hat. Police said they found a bus receipt in the motel room where Hubatch was staying and a ticket in his pocket indicating that he was at the Field Museum in Chicago on Sunday.

According to the complaint:

With a plastic Star Wars toy gun in his pocket, Hubatch told police, he wrote a note demanding $500 and told a teller not to stall because he didn’t want to hurt anyone. He said he also wrote that he would shoot anyone who followed him to his car, noting to Helgren that he put in the reference to the car to throw people off because he doesn’t have a car.

He told Helgren he has $250,000 in student loans that he can’t pay. He said he asked for $500 because he thought Summit would not care about $500 and would simply give it to him.

Can you wear a Bucky Badger hat that has more (or less) than three dimensions?

. . . I should emphasize that there’s a temptation to minimize this kind of thing by assuming that this person is “crazy.” While no doubt his behavior and statements both give evidence of a crumbling mental world, we shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which the experience of graduating from a fairly high-ranked law school (after graduating from an excellent undergraduate university) only to find oneself a few years later working as a janitor with no way of paying a quarter million dollars in non-dischargeable debt creates the kind of deep desperation that in turn leads to what we label as madness.

More comedy stylings from Prof. Steve Diamond

[ 17 ] January 19, 2013 |

Updated below

Compare this with this.

Steve Diamond links to a 2010 employment report (describing outcomes for the class of 2008 as of February 2009) that any ordinary reader would understand to be reporting a 99% employment rate for graduates of the law school at which he teaches, in order to argue that Santa Clara wasn’t posting misleading 90%+ employment figures even before the law school transparency movement started demanding a little transparency.

His rationale for this amazing rhetorical feat is this:

Here is what SCU posted in the Fall of 2008 about employment. If one compares it with what we now post, in response to the new ABA guidelines, it seems to me there is not a dramatic difference. The much vaunted “bi-modal” distribution is clearly visible as is the fact that only about half the class reported salaries (from which any rational individual could conclude that that only half had employment at that point).

This is so nonsensical it’s hard to know where to begin. The first linked set of statistics gives no indication that it isn’t a comprehensive account of what the class of 2008 is doing nine months after graduation. There’s no category for unemployed graduates; indeed there’s no way to tell from this data how many SCU graduates are unemployed, how many are in short-term or part-time jobs, or how many are in jobs that require bar admission.

By contrast the second linked set of stats, which SCU was reluctantly forced to cough up by the equally reluctant Section of Legal Education of the ABA in the wake of pressure from the transparency movement, reveals that 24% of the 2011 SCU class is completely unemployed, although supposedly two-thirds of these people– 47 graduates out of 296! — aren’t actually seeking jobs (the latter purported “fact” is the kind of thing that ought to be of intense interest to potential plaintiffs’ attorneys).

Update: SCU’s reported number of 47 graduates not seeking employment was by far the highest of any law school for the class of 2011. For all schools, the mean number of graduates purportedly not seeking employment was five, and only two other schools had even half as many graduates listed as unemployed not seeking as SCU. Last year US News started counting graduates listed as unemployed not seeking as simply unemployed, because of widespread suspicions that a few schools were manipulating the category to produce a better putative employment rate for their graduates).

Update II: SCU’s extremely suspicious practice of categorizing a huge percentage of its graduates as unemployed not seeking was not a one-year thing, as it listed 55 members of the class of 2010 in this category. Again, as in 2011, this was by far the highest number of any law school (Second place went to Thomas M. Cooley, with 32. Cooley’s graduating class was three times larger than SCU’s however). All this suggests that perhaps Prof. Diamond could find a better example of law school transparency than his own institution.

Even more incredibly, Diamond’s rationalization for SCU failing to reveal any unemployment data for the class of 2008 as of February 2009 is that “only about half the class reported salaries (from which any rational individual could conclude that that only half had employment at that point).” Apparently “any rational individual” is a term of art for “someone who has no idea what he’s talking about,” i.e., the author, who hasn’t noticed that the percentage of the SCU class of 2008 which SCU reported to the ABA and NALP as being “employed” in February 2009 is readily available. That percentage is 92.6%.

In sum, despite Diamond’s assertion that he can’t find any evidence that SCU was publishing claims of 90+% employment rates for its graduates, the very evidence he cites for this assertion shows that in 2010 SCU appeared to claim a 99% employment rate on its web site. The school also reported a 92.6% “employment” rate to the regulatory authorities, which was then reprinted in US News. Lest we forget, even the marginally lower latter figure was almost wholly fictitious, as it:

(a) Excluded from the denominator graduates the school characterized as “unemployed not seeking” (a category which includes 16% of the 2011 class!);

(b) Excluded people pursuing further education; and, most crucially,

(c) Included every possible form of employment, from working at Latham & Watkins to working ten hours per week at Starbucks.

The long con

[ 50 ] January 17, 2013 |

Thoughts on the nonsense of the moment.

Update: Journamalism from Pete Thamel, author of the now-infamous Sports Illustrated cover story. Short version: Te’o gave Thamel an enormous amount of information about his imaginary girlfriend and her family, none of which he was able to verify. So I guess the moral of the story is that fact-checking at SI only requires checking into purported facts, as opposed to actually verifying any of them, at least if the story is good enough.

I don’t think this is what Socrates had in mind

[ 22 ] January 15, 2013 |

Everyone who writes knows that being misunderstood is inevitable. For example a couple of days ago, Bernie Burke, whose work on the law school crisis I generally admire, produced what seems to me an obvious misinterpretation of a quote from a magazine article, as evidence for the claim that I argue law degrees are worthless.

But there is an equally corrosive rhetoric at the other extreme in this discussion, and it is just as pernicious and misleading. For example, this recent quote from Paul Campos in Fortune: “[I]t’s like the subprime mortgage scandal without securitization. When people realize it’s a worthless degree, the system is going to collapse.”

Taken out of context (a context which includes this preceding sentence: “This isn’t sustainable,” warns Campos. “There is a zealous faith in American culture that higher education always pays for itself[.]“), and read as literally as possible, this could be read as a claim that a “law degree” is worthless. Now of course Burke knows, since he has read a lot of what I’ve written on this topic, that I don’t make such a wildly implausible claim anywhere (For instance in an academic article I just published on the topic, I estimate that 92.1% of the 2011 class of Stanford law school had positive outcomes relative to the costs of attending the school. More on Stanford shortly). I suppose Burke might claim sincerely that a casual reader, coming across this single quote, might misread it in this way. Still, all this smacks very much of tactical high Broderism (“Some say law school is a great investment in one’s future. Others say law degrees are worthless. The truth no doubt lies somewhere in the middle.”).

Burke’s rather perverse literal-mindedness in this context is merely mildly annoying, however (and in any case his head and his heart both appear to be in the right place on the more general issue). Steve Diamond’s libelous musings are another matter altogether:

After all we could very easily solve the so-called “oversupply” problem by returning to the days of The Paper Chase (“Loudly, Mr. Hart!”), where women, blacks and Hispanics were a “discrete and insular minority” among law students. Professor Campos of the University of Colorado, who maintains a website called Inside the Law School Scam, seemed to go so far as to endorse such an approach, at least with respect to women.

Diamond is referring to this post. I’ll leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether I’m suggesting that law schools ought to discriminate against women applicants, so that law can return to the genteel days of almost all-male classrooms, or indeed whether anyone could in good faith conclude the post is saying such a thing.

Since as Scott points out below Diamond also argues that a student accepted at both Stanford and Santa Clara “would most likely have very similar opportunities once [he or she] graduated,” it’s difficult to say exactly how preposterous an argument would have to get before Diamond wouldn’t make it.

This claim is plausible only if one assumes that someone who graduated in the middle of the class at Stanford would “most likely” finish at the very top — as in the top half dozen people — of his or her SCU class. Given that the correlation between combined admissions numbers (GPA/LSAT) and first year law school grades averages only .48, this is not exactly a plausible hypothesis. In addition, anyone who gets into Stanford can go to Berkeley with a big scholarship, or UCLA or USC for free, which is to say there’s almost no even theoretically conceivable circumstance in which it would make sense for someone who is admitted to Stanford Law School to enroll at Prof. Diamond’s institution instead.

Bust out

[ 45 ] January 14, 2013 |

o'brien

Following up on yesterday’s Boston Globe story regarding the situation at New England School of Law, here are some hard figures regarding exactly how this confidence scheme institution of higher learning is an almost completely taxpayer subsidized operation, on both the front end, in the form of federal loans, and the back end, in the form of what will surely be a very high rate of soft default and quasi-bankruptcy via Income Based Repayment:

Revenue, expenses and federal loan funding at New England School of Law, July 2010-June 2011

Nominal Tuition Collected: $41,546,619

Actual Tuition Collected (i.e., tuition minus “scholarships,” i.e, discounted tuition): $32,841,264

Total Nominal Revenue: $43,423,500

Total Real Revenue: $34,718,145 (Revenue minus tuition discounts)

Total Nominal Expenses: $33,945,288

Total Real Expenses: $25,239,933 (Tuition discounts are listed as expenses)

Net Real Revenue Over Real Expenses: 37.6%

Legally speaking, NESL is a “non-profit” institution, which means among other things that this surplus is not subject to federal or state taxes.

Federal Loans Disbursed to NESL Students, July 2010-June 2011

First Quarter:

Subsidized Staffords: $3,944,156

Unsubsidized Stafford: $5,515,978

GRADPLUS: $9,716,434

Second Quarter:

SS: $68,137

USS: $103,697

GRAD: $386,136

Third Quarter:

SS: $3,957,473

USS: $5,471,922

GRAD: Unreported, but since GRADPLUS originated $19,276,698 in loans during the first quarter destined for distribution to NESL students, and almost exactly half of that sum was distributed in that quarter, we can assume the remaining sum was distributed in the third quarter, i.e, $9,560,264

Fourth Quarter:

SS: $145,510

USS: $44,192

GRAD: $1,139,055 (The GRADPLUS loans distributed in the fourth quarter were used by students enrolled at least half time in summer school, or NESL’s summer abroad law program, which I’ll have more to say about soon).

Total federal loans distributed to NESL students in FY 2010-11: $40,052,965

A few additional points:

94.6% of NESL’s revenue comes from tuition.

NESL students took out 22% more in federal loans than NESL collected in tuition. Slightly more than half of those loans were GRADPLUS, which feature an interest rate of 7.9% and an origination fee of 4%.

NESL produced 308 graduates in 2011, of which 17 had jobs with law firms of more than ten attorneys nine months after graduation. Four of these people had jobs with law firms of more than 50 attorneys. 34% of the class was reported to have a full-time long-term job requiring bar admission. 14.2% of these positions were graduates who listed themselves as having begun a solo practice.

NESL tuition in 2004: $22,475

NESL tuition in 2012: $42,490

From Merriman-Webster:

Definition of BUSTOUT
slang
: a confidence scheme in which an established business is taken over, a large stock of merchandise is purchased on credit and quickly sold, and the business is then abandoned or bankruptcy is declared

She’s just not that into you

[ 20 ] January 12, 2013 |

hjntiy

From TLS (h/t manofjustice):

So a certain TTT that I’ve never even considered applying to or shown any interest in CALLED me today. On my phone. Just to ask if I’d be interested in applying to their law school. Fee wavers over email and whatnot are nice, but I can’t imagine if all 203 ABA accredited law schools actually called me and awkwardly tried to talk me into considering them for five minutes. On the other hand, I certainly wasn’t considering them before and am now mildly intrigued, if only because of annoyance.

Did this happen to anyone else today?

OK I know what you’re thinking . . . it’s probably Cooley. Or maybe New England Law. Yes, they’re getting desperate down in Hamsterdam . . . but out here in the suburbs, things are still OK, sort of. Well . . .

I got one from Michigan State in Nov.

Uh oh.

Then we hear from Hawkeye Girl:

I got a call, voicemail and follow-up email from some girl at Indiana today… I was realllly glad I missed that call. Talk about awk.

Edit: Other weird part was that she emailed me from her gmail not from her school email….

Indiana is the 26th-ranked law school in the USN hierarchy.

Another poster reports that a random school left a 75% off tuition “scholarship” offer on his voice mail (Remember, none of these people have even applied to any of these places. Does LSAC ask for your cellphone number these days? And why would you give it to them? So you don’t miss Bob Post’s call, personally offering you admission?)

Pretty soon kids are going to have to start getting restraining orders

Speaking of which, yesterday I went through the process of getting kicked off a jury that was going to hear what seemed to be, from the questions asked by the lawyers during the voir dire, the trial of a misdemeanor DV harassment charge.

It was in city court. The defendant was a 35ish woman whose lawyer was about ten years younger, and who by the level of his apparent nervousness may well have been handling the first trial of his life.

The prosecutor was a sad-eyed middle-aged man in an ill-fitting diversity suit, who had a cartoon thought bubble over his head that said, “What am I doing trying misdemeanor harassment cases in city court at 8:30 AM for $53,000 a year?” This being Colorado, he probably went to law school to study environmental law, so he could write Brandeis briefs about polar bears for the Sierra Club.

At least they actually had jobs.

This is the bottom, right?

[ 77 ] January 10, 2013 |

spartacus

ARE YOU RECENTLY ADMITTED TO THE BAR, OR AWAITING BAR RESULTS, BUT NEED EXPERIENCE FOR THAT FIRST JOB?

General practice attorney with more than twenty years of experience is willing to train a small number of recently admitted attorneys, or those awaiting bar results. For a monthly fee, you will be able to shadow the experienced attorney, and learn by watching the day to day practice of law. Observe the following types of proceedings, as they occur; Civil Short Calender motion arguments, foreclosure mediation’s, pre-trial conferences, Workers Compensation and Social Security hearings, real estate closings, discovery proceedings and compliance, research and general office operations. Once admitted to the bar, the goal is to have you handling matters with and eventually without supervision. We reserve the right to limit participation in any or all activities, and all appearances are subject to the client and presiding judges approval. Admitted attorneys will be paid referral fees, if your referred case settles.

Please submit resumes by responding to this ad.

A view from the bench

[ 29 ] January 10, 2013 |

A federal judge has asked me to post the following comment on the state of legal academia and the legal profession:

ON THE FAILURES OF LEGAL EDUCATION

It is no secret that many lawyers are dissatisfied with their profession. Of the million or so lawyers in the United States (more per capita by far than any other country) over half are said to be unhappy and giving serious consideration to leaving the practice of law. A burgeoning industry of coaching, counseling, and career change assistance has developed to guide such people to new opportunities. Facing declining applicant pools, law schools advertise that a legal education is worth its steep price irrespective of whether the graduate intends to practice law or engage in some other pursuit. But a number of recent law graduates have sued their schools, alleging that the law schools misrepresent post-graduate employment opportunities, that few jobs as lawyers are available, and those jobs that are available pay substantially less than law schools have represented. Indeed many law graduates are saddled with large student loan debts that place them in indentured servitude for years. The average debt for recent graduates exceeds $100,000.00.

Law professors are among the highest paid academics, and enjoy the newest buildings on ever-enlarging campuses. Law schools employ many part-time adjuncts who teach large enrollment classes for meager fees, generating even more profits for the law school budget, and less teaching time for the tenured faculty. Overhead costs for laboratories, equipment and floor space are nearly non-existent. Yet the law schools are engaged in fierce competition for increased enrollment and that most elusive of goals: academic prestige. The annual ranking of law schools by U.S. News and World Report becomes the coveted benchmark. Because law schools are profit centers for the universities, there is little external oversight of their operations. The litany of ensuing dubious practices includes puffing up of enrollees’ Law School Aptitude test scores and undergraduate GPAs, misleading and rigged graduate placement reports, and some not-so-subtle innovations such as paying stipends to recent graduates to work for free in courts, prosecutors’ offices and private firms during the sampling period.

A few brave and talented legal academics such as Paul Campos of the University of Colorado and Brian Tamanaha of Washington University St. Louis have risked becoming pariahs among their colleagues by exposing the failures and shortcomings of the law school institution. Accused of failing to prepare graduates to enter the profession, the law schools attempt to address the issues through economic arguments. Their students, they claim, are “practice ready,” meaning law firms can shift their most basic investment in young associates from the corporate clients who are no longer willing to foot the bill back to the very institutions responsible for creating the glutted market. In turn, graduates are forced to work long hours with less supervision on stultifying tasks at pay levels making service of their acquired debt nearly impossible, all for the promise of a partnership that has become a vanishing hope.

Recent accounts, such as Running From The Law by Deborah Arron assert that more than half of young lawyers leave the law knowing they have been lied to. They have sought the law as a means of earning a comfortable and secure living. They have been taught that academic standing in class increases one’s job prospects. The law schools have abandoned teaching that the most fundamental aspect of the profession is one of service. When the primary purpose of service is ignored, the practice of law is condemned to drudgery, to the pure hell of endless hours of performing rote work for a fee.

Plato knew that people learn by example, and from demonstrations illustrating the lessons to be learned. It is all well and good for law schools to offer courses in the substantive subjects of the law, but more fundamental to acquiring knowledge and forming character is the conduct of teachers and the institution they attend. (Indeed the word “attend” literally means “to pay attention to.”) Just as bad parenting produces bad children who grow up to become bad parents, what the student sees and feels counts more than routines of “practice ready” performance.

No wonder law students are learning to be materialistic and cynical, to consider the profession of law as gamesmanship, and merely a way to earn more money than the next person. When law schools misrepresent LSAT scores and job opportunities, offer third year courses with little or no pedagogic purpose or value, engage in grade inflation and charge ever-increasing tuition and fees, students learn that fraud, dissimulation and ethical corner-cutting are acceptable standards of behavior. When they learn of the gross separation in salaries and status and the relatively soft work schedules of the doctrinal faculty compared with clinical instructors with whom they have much closer personal contact, when they learn that adjunct faculty are paid pittances and used and abused as profit centers, when they see that school administrators outnumber scholars and that tenure is becoming obsolete, how can they not be expected to accept that this status quo is the criterion for the professional life?

Law schools claim that pragmatism is the only way to address fierce competition. To what end? Making graduates “practice ready” is an illusion, which is not only impossible to achieve, but in fact detrimental to the life and career of the student. The goal should be to produce young lawyers who, as Thomas Wolfe described writers attending workshops, are “ready to commence to begin to start” to learn, through a lifetime of practice, the art and craft of guiding others to safe passage through the extremities of experience, to achieve socially appropriate goals, and to insist on leading ethical lives. It is not to produce yet another cadre of cynical shysters grasping for more fees or a legion of those who flee the profession in despair.

Cultural knowledge and personal responsibility

[ 150 ] January 9, 2013 |

Somebody — I think it may have been the most overrated philosopher of all time, J.S. Mill — said that truth goes through three stages. First it’s mocked as absurd. Then it’s declared to be against religion. Finally, it’s said to be what everyone has believed all along.

I think we’re getting to stage three in regard to the proposition that law school has turned out to be somewhere between a very risky proposition and a flat-out ripoff for the vast majority of people who are attending today, and who have graduated in recent years.

This statement, which as little as three years ago would have been treated as either “crazy” or at the least a gross exaggeration by almost everybody in legal academia, is rapidly heading toward the status of conventional wisdom. One sign of this is that a National Jurist poll of the most influential people in legal academia, which was conducted by surveying a group made up in large part of law school deans, has selected Brian Tamanaha as #1 on this list, with Bill Henderson as the first runner-up, should Brian for any reason not be able to fulfill his duties at some point during his reign. (Modesty forbids me from pointing out that I won Mr. Congeniality).

Think about that: law school deans — probably the single most status-quo regarding group within legal academia — selected somebody who wrote a book arguing that the current model of legal education in America simply doesn’t work any more, and is in need of radical reform, as the most influential person in the business.

In other words, the conventional wisdom about law school, both within higher education and in the culture at large, has been changing with lightening speed. This is important to remember when people start reflexively victim-blaming recent grads and even current law students for not being more reasonably prudent rational maximizers of their own utility when they signed up for this thing of ours.

Consider, for example, the class that will be graduating this spring. The class of 2013 applied to law school in the fall of 2009, which means that it is mostly made up of people who got serious about going to law school no later than 2008 or so, if not much earlier (it takes most people awhile to study for the LSAT, pull together letters of recommendation, etc.).

Think about what information was available to prospective law students five years ago about immediate outcomes for law graduates, let alone the long term career trajectories of aspiring lawyers. Compared to today, there were almost no warnings about the fact that, because of the rising cost of law degrees and long-term trends in the market for attorneys, the net present value of a legal education had been declining for at least two decades, and was likely to continue to do so. Bill Henderson made his very first public observations about the bimodal salary distribution around this time. (This Tamanaha post at Balkinization, which is barely two and a half years old, indicates implicitly how little these trends had been recognized outside the still very underground world of scamblogging).

All of which is to say the extent to which responsibility for acting on what has suddenly become the “obvious” truth that law school is a high risk enterprise can be imputed to law graduates and even current law students is very limited. Indeed the cultural lag time involved pushes me, at least, toward the conclusion that only people who enrolled in law school this year can be reasonably held responsible for having some realistic sense of what they are getting themselves into.