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Law school reform and its discontents


After one ABA task force recommended that another ABA task force be convened to study the financing of legal education, the latter entity has emerged from the primordial bureaucratic ooze.

As an evolutionary matter, its composition is rather problematic. A correspondent writes:

This has to be a bad joke – look at the panel composition:
• The Chairman of Inflaw, Dennis W. Archer, is the Chairman of the panel
• Next you have Luke Bierman, the incoming dean of Elon Law School
• Then you have Christopher Chapman – whose past career includes “president and chief executive officer of ALL Student Loan, a California-based nonprofit student loan provider, from 2001 to 2007. Earlier, he served as vice president of Student Loan Funding Resources, a student loan originator and secondary market, and as director of its joint venture loan servicing company, Intuition Holdings, Inc.” It would be interesting to dig out the salary he pulled down at All Student
• William Curry, a partner with Sullivan & Worcester which has a large securitization practice and states that part of that work is – “student loans”
• Heather Jarvis – barely heard of this person but as far as I can

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tell she has been almost entirely focussed on LRAP and trying to get debt forgiveness for public interest graduates – while encouraging students to “live the dream”
• Philip Schrag – you have to be joking – why not go the whole Leiter + Diamond!
What is remarkable about this panel is who is not on it – you for example, or Brian Tamanaha or say Paul Caron – or any noted critic of the swollen tuition levels at law schools. There are also no deans from law schools noted for keeping their tuition under control like say CUNY, Georgia State – though South Carolina is doing OK in this regard.

Over at the Faculty Lounge, some commenters are understandably dismayed by this all-star lineup, but I note there that the regulatory capture that characterizes the ABA’s oversight function doesn’t reflect what’s going inside of law schools:

(1)This committee makes about as much sense as appointing a panel made up of the CEOs of the major investment banks to investigate the 2007 meltdown of the financial markets. Putting an Infilaw hack at the head of it was a particularly audacious flourish.

(2) That said, contra Paul B’s comment, there are in fact a lot of critics of the status quo now inside of law schools, and the number is growing all the time. These people vary a good deal in regard to the pervasiveness of their criticisms, their rhetorical styles, their suggested reforms, their general politics, etc. But the law school reform movement is real, both inside and outside of legal academia — and it’s becoming increasingly easy to distinguish the sheep from the goats, both within particular institutions and in the public discourse.

All you need to know about Infilaw is that last month, in the middle of the formal presentation to the faculty by a finalist for the deanship of Florida Coastal, the school’s president, i.e., Infilaw’s and ultimately Sterling Partners’ hatchet man Dennis Stone, entered the colloquium room — he had apparently been observing the proceedings from the business side of a telescreen — and told the candidate he had to stop his presentation because he was “insulting the faculty.” (The insult seems to have consisted of a candid discussion of the school’s finances and admissions policies, along with a plan for something other than short-term survival).

The candidate asked anyone who felt insulted to raise their hand. When no one did, he attempted to continue, at which point Stone told him he was going to call campus security and have him ejected from the premises. (I discuss what this incident, along many other aspects of the “Infilaw System,” suggests about the economic future of both for-profit and non-profit higher education in America in a forthcoming article in the Atlantic).

Related: Matt Leichter has some fascinating graphs regarding shrinking law school revenues here.

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