Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Patriotism

Like any good liberal artist, the personified LSTC is familiar with a random smattering of important short fiction, including Yukio Mishima's Patriotism.  In Patriotism, an army officer commits a visceral, detailed seppuku instead of choosing between rebelling against his emperor or leading a counter-insurgency against his neighbors and comrades, selecting the method of self-execution preferred by samurai when necessary to preserve honor.  The case brief-level moral of the story is that when faced with moral dilemmas, one can always killself, just as the author himself did a few years later.

Often, I like to think of lawyers and law students as samurai warriors living by an ancient code, the Constitution our emperor and the rules of professional conduct our bushido.  In the face of certain danger, like rational statistics saying law school is NO NO NO, the best ones wear the kimono of courage and charge headlong towards hundreds of thousands in debt screaming BANZAI like cliched motherfuckers.

With that I give you this:
Melchor Matias flew from Seattle to Detroit every weekend to study for his J.D. at WMU-Cooley Law School-and graduated in January.

A CPA at Boeing in Seattle, Matias did licensing audits on royalty and technology contracts, and designed audit programs. His interaction with the lawyers of Fortune 100 companies sparked his interest in earning a law degree.
This sort of effort is true patriotism in modern America.  For the legal samurai in our times, thankfully no impassable dilemma exists.  In no way does taking an established career for a major company in an in-demand professional certification to Cooley resemble cutting open one's belly for the entrails to disembowel while praying the head is soon mercifully chopped off.

But being a legal samurai paying homage to our Constitutional emperor requires effort.  This gentleman, deprived of an appropriate, accommodating law school west of the Mississippi, flew to Michigan to earn his juris doctor.  Unfortunately, lots of people feel a school like WMU-Cooley is completely unnecessary, a fifth tier toboggan turd sliding out the crusty, wart-lined anus of legal education.

Yet it obviously fulfills a valuable function for people who require a law school for working professionals near major airline hubs and tourist destinations.  Anecdote, you know, is the singular of fact.  To deprive people like this of that opportunity would be to create a moral dilemma for the patriotic legal samurai to choose between his heart and overwhelming rational consensus telling him a lower-tier law school is a stupid idea.  And various feasibility studies show there are literally hundreds of thousands of people interested in signing up for that training.

Perhaps our best and brightest, when deprived of a place to learn The Law, would not resort to actual seppuku.  Perhaps it's more akin to one of them metaphor thingies.

But the truth, as cutting and adamantine as an expertly forged katana, is that if you get in the business of closing law schools, you've eventually got patriotic blood on your hands.  A spoiler for your Lady Macbeths out there: it don't wash out.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cleaning the Swamp: 3rd Tier Law School Dean Nominee to Head Labor Department

Donald J. Trump, populist, riding to Washington in his shiny black chariot from his New York fortress, a kingdom so removed, so distant from the hustle and bustle of DC that his fair queen can't possibly stomach the culture shock involved in moving to one of the most secure and posh buildings on the planet, has appointed R. Alexander Acosta as his replacement choice to head the Department of Labor:
In Mr. Acosta, Mr. Trump has chosen a nominee with deep experience in labor relations, law and education. The pick answers concerns about the lack of diversity in the Trump administration, in that Mr. Acosta would be the first Hispanic in the president’s cabinet. And his chances of being confirmed appear relatively high, since Mr. Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University’s law school, has made it through the Senate process three times for different roles.
Talk about a grand slam!  You poor schmucks have been clamoring for widespread, systemic reform for years now - and the dean of a public scam school just zipped right past in the glass elevator on his way to helping set policies to keep the underclass just barely content enough.

According to Law School Transparency, Florida International costs $179,807 for residents increasing faster than inflation.  Roughly 1/3 pay full price and only 1/3 get a discount of more than $5k.  Its employment score is 63.9% with a quarter of all graduates working in small firms and a quarter working in public service.

Lest the "scamblog" crowd think those numbers are "bad," it's objectively one of the top 5 schools in a state that has 11.5 of 'em. Just look at this beautiful back-alley appendectomy of a law school picture.  If sunshine be the best disinfectant, the Sunshine State's law school output is so mercilessly bright it's the equivalent of dumping chlorine bleach into a beer bong.

I'd say the fact that the nominee helped flood the ranks of lower-paid lawyers in a saturated state with an above-average law school more than qualifies Mr. Acosta.  Wouldn't you?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thanks, ABA! or: Good Times, These are the Good Times!

Remember how the ABA has been debating tightening bar examination pass rates with respect to law school accreditation?  You don't, but they have.

House of Delegates says nope! Diversity, that all-encompassing Wonderbread of American geopolitical argument, always cheap and filling, to the rescue:
A storm of criticism has surrounded Standard 316’s proposed revision, which would have required that to meet accreditation standards, 75 percent of a law schools’ graduates must pass a bar exam within a two-year period. At a notice and comment hearing the section held in August, various groups, including the National Black Law Students Association (PDF), testified that the proposal failed to address racial inequities in the law school admissions process and legal education.

According to data ... submitted for the hearing by William Patton, a professor emeritus at Whittier Law School, 33.4 percent of black students in California and 29.8 percent of the state’s Hispanic law students attend the five ABA-accredited law schools that would be most at risk of violating the proposed revision.

And in January, the Association of American Law School’s Law School Deans Steering Committee wrote the council to ask it to withdraw the proposal, based on concerns about different state bar scoring standards, falling bar-passage rates and a lack of diversity in the profession.
In other words, vague sociological ideals trump some strict "standard" that also happens to disadvantage quite a few law schools and other institutional actors who need more people of color in the feel-good brochures that solicit donation$ from mostly liberal lily-white donors.

What I particularly love about this particular issue is that apparently no one in this "debate" has ever seriously questioned the Defenders of the Faith on what, exactly, the causal connection is between having race-neutral strict bar passage standards as an output and a sufficient level of minorities being enrolled in law schools as an input.

It seems a highly relevant question where there is already a massive oversupply of lawyers generally and at least some minorities living in the legal profession's margins of incompetence or pseudo-poverty.  And if the legal profession really is too damned white, couldn't we cull some of the barely ethical boomers pulling the slouching court system towards Gomorrah? 

Consider how beautifully nonsensical this argument becomes upon even a whiff of scrutiny:  If minority students are able to pass the bar and the law schools deny them admission out of fear of stereotypical failure, the law schools are being blatantly racist.  If minority students aren't able to pass the bar, the law schools aren't doing them a favor by admitting them.

SO:  What does this fucking regulation do, but either relieve law schools of their own institutional racism OR permit the law schools to profit profit profit from students who have no business in an American law school under the Great White Cloak of "Opportunity"?

Why does a $10k soft tissue claim get more adversarial scrutiny than the policies that affect a generation of lawyer-serfs?

It's exploitation.  Glimmering, shiny exploitation.  Gleaming like polished alabaster in the noonday sun, fine as the deftly carved ivory in the foyer of warlord's mansion, as brilliant as bleached teeth or a birch forest covered in silent ice.  As beautifully shameless and blissfully overt as Mandingo or Foxy Brown, both of whom would be easily admitted into La Verne's night program.  Lexploitation.

God, even to a jaded, cynical political-legal realist, barred of any idealism related to law and justice, agnostic regarding the sacrosanct of the legal elite, this argument is awesome and ethereal:  superficially infallible, latently unsupportable, bigly profitable. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Meddling Self-Appointed Investigators Slander a Bunch of Noble Schools

Remember Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Machine gang?  Those cartoons were always incredibly biased towards the trespassing, interfering little whippersnappers who obstructed spookerific scams.  Alternative facts should have been in order.

Law School Transparency is legal education's equivalent of those noisome little thong-stains.

With the tone of a know-in-all kindergarten moral philosopher, LST has issued an updated report on "high risk" law schools to try and influence the ABA.
[I]f a school cannot survive without exploiting a large number of students, it should not survive. For the students who would have attended these schools and had a reasonable chance at passing the bar, they will find another law school to attend. For the others, they will be better served by not attending law school.

Many of the law schools we are most concerned with are placing a bet that the profession, accreditors, and government will stand idly by. As these updates show, the very high and extreme risk schools are headed in the wrong direction. Holding them accountable through smarter accreditation standards will right their path.
 Blah blah blah.  You can see the actual, exaggerated school data here. LST lists EIGHTY-TWO (82) schools as "High" risk on any level.

Now, if you honestly think that, like, 80+ of 200-some law schools are "high" risk, well, mister, I've got a bridge to sell you.  Also, you're probably the sort of dope who falls for fake ghosts so facile a bunch of teens with a stoned dog can figure it out in a half-hour.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

UMKC Law School Doing Things Right

Not that there's a wrong way to run a law school (other than closing up shop, of course), but UMKC seems to be doing things right.  Let's go to the independent newspaper hosted on a UMKC website!
“Our goal is always to have the right level of enrollment and sometimes that’s going to mean growing and sometimes it’s going to mean a decrease,” said [Student dean and admissions committee chair Allen] Rostron. “We’re always going to be careful not to admit more than would be justified by the quality of the applicant pool or the strength of the job market for graduating law students.”
Indeed.  Let's look at the numbers!

Non-discounted cost:  $125,062%
% paying full sticker:  61%
Employment Score:  61%
Underemployment: 19.1%
LSAT splits:  149-152-156
Last published NALP report showed median salaries generally in the 50s-60s, half in small-ish firms and public service.

According to LSN, there's a 58% acceptance rate

In light of the fact that every law school in the country is acting carefully to admit qualified students that are justified by the quality of the applicant pool and strength of the job market, I'd say UMKC is being super-responsible.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

SoFi Shows Robust Market for Lawyers

There's a natural leeriness with private student loan companies, just as there is with any private loan consolidation scheme that spams the mailboxes of people expecting a steady stream of massive settlement checks, five-figure retainers, and paid bills with happy client gratuities.

SoFi is totally legit.  The LSTC has not done business with it, but its good purpose and honesty is clear from its valuable and helpful research into salary-debt ratios.
Elite institutions are generally worth the outlay, but, according to a newly released study, a few less nationally known schools also make the cut.

The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Houston and the University of Georgia were among the 10 schools offering the best salary-to-debt ratios, according to the study by SoFi, which stands for Social Finance Inc., an online student loan refinance company. They are grouped with Harvard, Yale and Stanford among the top schools that offered their graduates good value for the substantial debt they incurred while law students.
See?  You don't have to be at the tippy top to put your graduates on the fast-track to success, you only have to close to it!  Thanks, SoFi!

Of course, composing such a list requires high math.  As a result, a quick lesson in multi-dimensional, base-10 integer fractions is in order.  Salary-to-debt ratios require both a numerator and a denominator.  These are fancy Latin terms that mean "top" and "bottom," drawing a nifty parallel between fractional math and butt sex. 

Anyway, our numerator is first year salary and our denominator is long-term debt.  And how did SoFi determine "average" salary and debt at law schools?
SoFi rated the schools after examining salary and debt records of more than 60,000 people who applied to refinance their student loans with the San Francisco company between 2014 and 2016.
If anything, SoFi is being too harsh on law schools here.  Who applies for refinancing?  Obviously, it's people who need lower monthly payments.  The graduates who have the best salary-to-debt ratios would have no need for such things.

And we know this must be the case when we look at the salary numerators used by SoFi:

Worst law schools by lowest return on education 
We know these numbers are artificially low for averages.  Almost certainly, graduates of - say - TJLS are making more than $101,173 on average with debt loads of far less than $169,951.  But since SoFi is using a pool of lawyers going to loan sharks, most probably those few with substance abuse or gambling issues, the numbers get skewed and TJLS only has a 0.6x ratio.  In reality, it's probably more like 1.5.

While it's concerning that SoFi would present certain schools with a thumbs down logo, the salary numbers provided by those desperate for financial help show a robust lawyer market and that these people talking about gluts and overlawyering are ignoring that the Million Dollar Express is chugging down the tracks as fast as ever.

Thanks, SoFi!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bringing Law School Jobs Back to Charlotte

The internet articles write themselves, filling the gaps like a LegalZoom form filing, the headline usually looking something like:

[Metro Area] Might Lose [Failed Business]? [Metro Area] Needs a New One!

This sort of economic atavism is, economically speaking, stupid.  Just as jobs in defunct industries just don't wang dang reappear like global commerce is a fucking magic trick, it's ridiculous to try and reinvigorate businesses where they obviously fail and rational economic actors have chosen to move elsewhere, purchase elsewhere, etc.  The Free Market is the Free Market, and if we're moving to government intervention forcing industries and jobs to exist against the order of the Free Market, we could do a heck of a lot better than...

WAIT!  What the fuck am I smoking?  I'm in Trump's America now, and that means we're bringing old jobs back. While most of the hubbub so far has been about metalworkers and light industry in the rust belt, I challenge the reader to ask why not law schools?

Indeed, why not bring lost law school jobs back before they've even left?

Charlotte's got the right idea.
Our city needs to have a law school. And with Charlotte School of Law on the ropes, it’s time to get going on starting a new one.
...
It’s a shame that the many Charlotte School of Law alums now working in the city’s legal community have had their degrees tarnished. But it’s important that future students like those can still attain their educational goals here in town.
Article pitches UNC-Charlotte law with an intriguing but less satisfying backup suggestion of relocating Wake Forest to Charlotte.

The article does not seem to be a parody.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Well, Charlotte Law, the doctor's leather shoes are walking back to the examination room and the news isn't good.  You've got the law school equivalent of a perplexing malignancy, so many tumors in so many bad places - bile duct, brain stem, blood, stomach, you name it - they're not even sure how to label your particularly malady and they're not sure it's worth the effort because you should have died months ago, ya fucked-up harlot.

Probation.

Federal loan funding vanished.

Faculty layoffs, up to two thirds.

The executive branch is... not primed for a bailout.

It's a lot to be pessimistic about, as the school is basically on life support pending how many of its students can sell enough drugs and/or plasma and/or false promises to relatives to make a few tuition payments. In such times, cynicism becomes an alluring philosophy, to scowl at the world and fortune and God, to ask "why me?!" and keep telling yourself that you just wanted to do good things.
“We all know in our hearts that Charlotte School of Law could have been a good school and done a lot of good.

“Then for all of it to come crashing down, and in a way that met our worst fears. … The levels of frustration have just become overwhelming. We were all trying to do something good, and it just went bad.” 
Tragic, when all a group of people want to do is make an unreasonably high income making easy profits doing lax work for a shady corporation that harvests government-backed funds from sub-marginal professional school candidates with relatively low chances of career success, and they just get curb-stomped by  a cruel, cold system wearing the stormtrooper boots of pseudo-fascism.

So let's look on the bright side!

On the bright side:
  • the school has a chance at survival, these fires of adversity forging and hardening its steely resolve
  • the students who remain at the school will get first-hand experience in what it's like to work in a fledgling law firm that could shutter its doors at any moment, valuable experience for many of them
  • It's never been a better time for UNC-Charlotte, Winthrop, Davidson, Gardner-Webb, Catawba, or Queens to explore adding a law school
  • the school is now an experimental hotbed for alternative methods of financing personal investment products that show, typically, on average, routinely, etc., a million dollar lifetime premium
  • students are still earning JDs there, meaning one of them might grow up to be the next Kellyanne Conway!  #LifeGoals
  • while professorial turnover is high, the worst case scenario is that the Charlotte metropolitan area will be blessed with a dump-load of experienced practitioners ready to step into partner-level positions providing their expertise to the region's well-known banking and tech corporations
  • there's still any number of fun wealth-transfer schemes for the moneyed and credentialed to deploy and exploit socioeconomic advantage; get creative!
That's a lot of positives that shine through despite the dark clouds of oppression.  So keep scammin', but just in case no one rescues Charlotte Law from the cross on its own American Golgotha, there's plenty of bright side for all involved.  That's the power of law. 

Whether you slowly wilt from thirst and starvation or a merciful creature slits your throat, look skyward, Charlotte, and whistle in a major key.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Department of Education is in Good Hands

It is likely (barely) within the comprehension of the readership that the federal student loan programs come within the ambit of the Department of Education.  We need not delve into the particulars; we can safely leave such matters to Education Law(c) specialists with LLMs from any number of fine institutions.

But earlier this week, Trump's nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, came, saw, and conquered her confirmation hearings.
A billionaire investor, education philanthropist and Michigan Republican activist, Ms. DeVos acknowledged that she has no personal experience with student loans — the federal government is the largest provider — and said she would have to “review” the department’s policies that try to prevent fraud by for-profit colleges.
...
But if she was sometimes rattled on the specifics, Ms. DeVos was unshakable in her belief that education authority should devolve away from the federal government and toward state and local authorities. Whether the issue was allowing guns in schools, how to investigate sexual assault on college campuses, or how to measure learning, her answer was always that states and what she called “locales” knew best.
The LSTC has little interest in becoming a political blog.  Scam is universal; anyone can do it with a bit of know-how, some pluck, and landing the right spot on the Conveyor Belt of Career Fortune in one's mid- to late-20s.  Super-liberal professors and arch-conservative businessman can team together in a beautiful fusion of misplaced idealism and wink-nod capitalism.

But Betsy DeVos is pretty bitchin', am I right?  She's got billions of dollars and yet - like many law professors - she has chosen to sacrifice and serve the public by selflessly taking the highest position in the American education superstructure.

Free of any need to advance her career, she has no need to play academic games and pretend she understands the nuanced arguments made by losers of various stripes who have devoted their careers to education policy. We should respect someone so far up her own ass that she stands firm on absolute principles like "local government" without even understanding the bigger picture or having reviewed various key government policies prior to testifying in front of Congress.

For years, the federal government has been a thorn in the side of profitable, necessary law schools, even recently taking away the funding of over 10% of for-profit law schools.

But DeVos understands that education shouldn't be left to "policy folks" who have "standards" and want to prevent "fraud" and "abuse."  Education is best left to "localities."

In the context of law schools, that means the following:
  • The ABA and its member institutions are left to regulate their own industry with their own "local" expertise, flimsy distinction between profit and non-profit aside;
  • Federal loan money keeps flowing unabated - I mean, you just can't take that away;
  • American public schools will become so abysmal that even more post-secondary institutions - including law schools - will be necessary to correct earlier deficits in the educational system.
Inauguration isn't until later today, but this administration is already shaping up to be the best in the last five years or so by a wide, wide margin. 

I'll have a mint julep in hand and a smile on my face.  Scam on. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Move to Tacoma. Get Rich.

It's not often that we get a law school feasibility study, much less one that is honest and not stacked against job- and wealth-creation.  But they did one in Tacoma.  And let me tell you, the results were fantastic.
Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and an advocate of adding a UWT law school, said the study found that the South Sound region could provide jobs for 69 new attorneys a year.
Boing.

Unfortunately, the people of Washington have postponed new law school construction to fill this justice gap and give opportunity to Washington's minorities, females and oppressed "others" who need the power of a JD.

But in their short-sighted "maybe we'll fix this serious societal problem tomorrow" attitude, the plutocrats in Washington state have created opportunity.

If Tacoma is ripe for 69 new lawyers each year, it seems to me that new lawyers in other parts of the country would be wise to add Tacoma to the list of places (Alaska, Nebraska)  where lawyer opportunities are super-excellent instead of merely excellent.  Whereas the new JD in Oklahoma City may only have a million dollar premium, these new Washington lawyers likely have significantly higher premiums. Million-five?  Two million?  Three million? A million plus lottery-ca-ching punitive damages?

Remember, too, that this study is an economic estimate. More often than not, they hedge conservatively.  I have no evidence for this, but do you have any counter-proof?  No?  Then I win.  Preponderance of the evidence, dear reader.  It could be that the Tacoma market is actually capable of supporting 75, 100, 200, 1000 new lawyers every year.  We'll never know until we find out.  Personally, I suspect Tacoma is just like New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago: elastically capable of supporting far, far more lawyers than any small-minded, proscriptive writer would think.

So I say build a law school in Tacoma.  But until then, let's flood it with transfers injected with that Horace Greeley spirit, to go west and prosper, show the anarchic natives the way of the Law, and profit profit profit.  The Million Dollar Express is transcontinental, and cuts through the Rockies - nay, any obstacle - without issue or extra expense.