Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving; I'm Thankful for These Seventy-Nine Heroic Law Deans

As the faithful reader will recall, last month, the NCBE and Brooklyn Law Dean Nicholas Allard had the following dialogue:
NCBE President Erica Moeser:  There was no error on this year's bar results.
Law Dean Nicholas Allard:  Shenanigans!
Once the initial artillery shelling ends, the infantry marches forward, and soon after Allard's canon-shot of perfect and unbiased scientific reasoning, the recruits lined up to march in unison for the Kingdom of Law.

On Tuesday, seventy-nine (over one third!) of America's law deans signed a letter requesting a "thorough investigation" that is "fully transparent to all law school deans and state bar examiners."  Specifically, they are requesting "all data in its possession on reliability or fairness of the July 2014 bar exam and all data necessary for independent expert review of the same."

Now, a snarky scamblogger might say something like "How, fuck off." 

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "What genius former BigLaw litigator wrote this vague and ridiculous  request for production?"

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "Why, yes, transparency and enough information for independent expert review.  That sounds like a splendid thing to ask of an organization determining the fortunes of those with six-figure debt."

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "It's wonderful that law deans and state bar examiners will get this information; obviously, something like the minimal competence of lawyers should not be trusted to the public."

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "When you say "independent expert," you mean someone like Richard Matasar, right?"

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "I don't understand their concern.  A JD is a truly versatile degree and even those who fail the bar examination are well-served by their legal education."

Or a snarky scamblogger might say "With all their constitutional and civil procedure brain power, surely they have collectively navigated past the minor problem that none of them have any sort of recognized standing to even be arguing and asking for this crap."

Etc.  Lord knows what other cynical filth the minds of the unwashed can conjure.

I am not a snarky scamblogger.  I understand that these seventy-nine individuals are making a bold move in demanding open access and transparency in a shrewd sacrifice to ensure that as many debt-ridden bottom-quartile special snowflakes pass the bar exam as humanly possible in future years.  It's not about this particular battle.  It's about the war.

This is some Sun-Tzu shit going on here, and the war is all about whether you want rigid bar examinations by a cold, opaque NCBE or open, fair, and flexible bar examinations whose administrators cower to threats of auditing and mass criticism, helping the status quo to carry on for another year.  Heck, just by sending a few letters, they've already virtually guaranteed that bar examination pass rates will improve next year in several states.  No way those bureaucrats want to further ruffle feathers with law deans.

So hail these brave patriots, and let us celebrate the institutions that they serve.  Albany, Ave Maria, Barry, Capital, Charleston, Drake, Golden Gate, Hofstra, JMLS, La Verne, NYLS, Northeastern, Pace, Roger Williams, St. Marys, St. Thomas (2x), TJLS, Touro, Cooley, Vermont, Whittier, Widener, and all the others are fortunate to have leaders who understand the need for transparency and accountability when the law schools may have an adverse result.  God bless them, every one.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Americans.  And if you're not an American, well, I would love to help find you an LLM program.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Charleston Saga, Continued: Seeking New President (Likely JD Advantage!)

It's been some time since we've checked in with Charleston School of Law and its ongoing saga, so let's see...

Here we go!  It looks like their latest President resigned after eight (8) days on the job.  My first reaction:  "What an amazing place, where everyone can accomplish their goals in a little over a week!"

Then I read the piece and learned that proposed leader Maryann Jones stepped down allegedly because of the ongoing Infilaw issues and the one anti-Infilaw director being upset.
In an email sent late Thursday to Kosko, Carr and Abrams, Jones said she decided not to take the reins of the private, downtown law school, and would not sign a contract. "The level of vitriol, with all sides making me a lightning rod for an unfortunate situation that was not of my making, makes this truly a situation that I am unwilling at this stage of my life to undertake." Jones stated in the email.

Westbrook earlier Thursday had sent Jones a letter expressing his disappointment in her speaking to faculty and students in support of a sale to InfiLaw.

To get his vote, Jones had agreed to be objective, and to learn more about alternatives for the school, Westbrook stated.
And this is the problem with discord in general.  It winds up chasing away good people who should know full well what mess they're running into.  Nothing screams "BAIL!" faster than a bunch of  malcontents who want a chief executive to make tough leadership decisions and stick by their word.  Obviously, we can extrapolate from this one situation the idea that the law school critics are a bunch of turds spreading lies and killing the profession.

Clearly, it would be best for Charleston and the apparently-rogue director Mr. Westbrook to simply embrace the Infilaw borg and get out of its way.  Much of this profession is about paths of least resistance.  Raising a fuss at this point is just driving away good people and delaying orgasm. 

And if you truly cared about the school, you wouldn't be driving away good people (including, of course, Infilaw and its finely-tuned machinery), would you?

Speaking of which, what kind of a "for profit" school looks for a "non profit" future?  That's like turning Philip Morris into a lung cancer institute.

Oh, well, saga continues.  Spoiler alert:  Infilaw wins.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fashion Law: Tailored for Awesomeness

A lot of the "legally blonde" fans who enroll in law school to be the next Elle Woods likely turn their nose up when the time comes to get a job or pick an actual area of practice.  Corporate law?  Family law?  People getting injured and stuff?  Ew!

Thankfully, there's an exciting and underserved niche in fashion law.  There is a rash of budding entrepreneurs looking to be the next Yves Saint-Laurent, and the John Marshall Law School is willing to sew up the gap.
The John Marshall Fashion Law Society is the first Fashion Law Society in the Midwest....

On Nov. 20, The Fashion Law Society is focusing their efforts on educating current and potential business owners in the fashion industry. The event will feature presentations from John Marshall’s Trademark Clinic and Patent Clinic regarding Intellectual Property issues as they relate to design. There will also be a presentation from John Marshall’s Business Enterprise Law Clinic of information about business entities and agreements that are essential for proper industry business dealings.

Those in attendance will also have the opportunity to participate in client intake interviews with the law clinics presenting at the event.
Obviously, Marshall is on to something, having the first such society and identifying this budding niche.  If you're one of those law school girls who likes shiny and expensive things, you should consider specializing in this area.  Who knows where this open-toed road leads?  In-house counsel at Coach?  Legal beagle for Marie Claire?  Niche criminal defense attorney who defends crimes against fashion?  (Drab black robe again, your honor?)

Without law schools, would the market be able to identify such a "niche" of legal practice while it's busy helping oil companies and banks, evicted tenants and single mothers?  This is a prime example of a law school meeting an unmet need and providing (subsidized? pro bono?) clinical resources to assist in filling it.

Speaking of law schools producing good things that are hip and sexy and smooth, here's Larry Mitchell doing poetry.  (Poetry requires an understanding of semantics, interpretation, and structural relationships; it is clearly JD Advantage!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

America's Hot New Game Show: "Cents and Non-Cents" with Dean Nicholas Allard and NCBE President Erica Moeser

ANNOUNCER:   It's everyone's favorite hot new game show...empty your pockets for...


ANNOUNCER:  That's right, and here's your host, Scammy McPhail!

SCAMMY:  Okay, folks, welcome to another addition of Cents and Non-Cents, the game that puts YOU in charge of the change.  Today's contestants are Nicholas Allard, the Joseph Crea Dean and President of Brooklyn Law School...


SCAMMY:  ...and National Conference of Bar Examiners President Erica Moeser.

CROWD:  Booooooooooooooooooo.

SCAMMY:  Tonight's debate is about July bar examination scores.  There's no dispute that they're down across the board.  Tonight's question is:  why?  We all know the rules.  We will bounce back and forth in point-counterpoint style and encourage the crowd to stupidly yell to determine a winner.  It makes no sense, but, hey! It's law!   Are we ready to play?!?!?!?


SCAMMY:  Ms. Moeser, you're up first.

MOESER:  All [indicators] point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July is the MBE, with scores equated across time,that reveals a decline in performance in the cohort that took July 2014 bar examinations.

SCAMMY:  Strong words from a law graduate who can't possibly be good at math.  Dean Allard, what say you?

ALLARD:  We don't know what evidence you have to support this surprising (and surprisingly disparaging) claim, but we do have evidence about our own 2014 graduates, and it tells us precisely the opposite:  their credentials were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not even better...our graduates were every bit as qualified as in previous years, and just as well prepared...In plan language, I disagree with you: It is not the students, it's the test.

SCAMMY:  Ignoring the drop in applicants, LSATs, and GPAs.  Slick like butter!  Ms. Moeser?

MOESER:  While we always take quality control of MBA scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors.  The results are correct.

SCAMMY:  Ooooh, "redoubled!"  Sounds "effortacious."  Dean?

ALLARD:  I believe that a thorough investigation of the administration and scoring of the July 2014 exam is necessary because of the quality control issues you yourself raised...There is no explanation how you reached your conclusion, nor transparency to your process, so how can we have confidence in this self-serving unaudited assertion?  Frankly, your statements ring hollow.....please do not retreat behind that fig-leaf....

SCAMMY:  A law dean pushing transparency and auditing!  BOO-YA!  Want to ring hollow a little more, Ms. Moeser?

MOESER:  I can assure you that had we discovered an error in MBE scoring, we would have acknowledged it and corrected it.

SCAMMY:  Dean Allard, we need a non-sequitur about how great your students are!

ALLARD:  [G]raduating from an ABA accredited law school requires intelligence and hard work. Unlike some programs at the undergraduate level, earning a JD is in and of itself a significant accomplishment....

SCAMMY:  Not disparaging at all!  On one side, a neutral national standards organization with very little skin in the game claiming nothing went wrong on a standardized test with quality control metrics.  On the other side, a dean demanding an audited and transparent process to understand why bar pass rates are slightly dropping after admissions standards started dropping, where he has an incentive to push bar pass numbers higher...  What we do we think, folks, Dean Allard???


SCAMMY:  And how about Ms. Moeser?


SCAMMY:  There you have it!  It's Dean Nicholas Allard!!!

Dean Nicholas Allard is given a very large bag of pennies, while Ms. Moeser is pelted by coins from a contingent of insulted third- and fourth-tier law deans.  Let's do another recount, Florida!

Ed. Note:  All dialogue above attributed to Allard and Moeser is intended to be verbatim from the items linked and have been rearranged to form a dialogue to more explicitly show just how silly Ms. Moeser is obviously being.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New York Times: Possible Lawyer Shortage Looming

For those of you who did not like my rambling, too-genius-for-public observations about Thomas Jefferson School of Law, I give you the New York Times via Prof. Steven Solomon.  For those of you who have short attention spans and the inability to read prestigious publications appropriately, I will give you the two main take-away points:
  • Law schools are incredibly resistant to the normal forces of the business cycle that may cause some to close if they were in other industries.  ("A troubled law school is like Dracula: hard to kill." [After all, there's no blueprint anywhere on how to kill a vampire - ed.])
  • There is a coming lawyer shortage.  To wit: 
    Markets tend to overshoot on the way up, and down.

    Thus, the decline in enrollment could lead to a shortage of lawyers five years from now.... And let’s face it, Dodd-Frank and other regulations are also creating more need for lawyers.
    And there you have it.  Future shortage means now's the time to go.  New York Times, people.  New York Times.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bondholders Benevolent, but too Agressive with TJSL

If you haven't heard the Good News, the benevolence and grace of debt financiers blessed Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

The net end result is that they shed $87 million in debt, the bondholders take over the building and lease it back to one of San Diego's top law schools, and TJSL can continue with increased cash flow and reduced debt obligations.
Previously, the school was paying about $12 million a year in principal and interest on its debt. Under the restructuring, the school will pay $5 million in annual rent and about $1 million a year in interest expense, cutting its annual payments to the bondholders by almost 50 percent to a total of $6 million.
Let's do a compare and contrast between TJSL and its less-networked graduates.

The GRADUATE makes like $40k a year working some schlub job.  He has $250k in loan obligations.  Because of his imprudence, this is untenable and oppressive debt that is non-dischargable.  He whines in the wake of a totally terrible recession, and Uncle Sam gives him the benevolence of IBR and PAYE, which allow him to pay only a portion of his income - even if it's well below what he gained! - and then POOF it can go away in, like, only 30 years, by which time the graduate will likely be making $100k+ as an ace litigator or trusted wealth consultant.

The SCHOOL does not get off so easy.  There's no IBR or PAYE.  It doesn't get an automatic reduction if the wily "scambloggers" lie to enough sophisticated consumers.  Because it made a reasonable calculation just prior to a totally unpredictable financial collapse, it wound up with an untenable and oppressive debt.  But Uncle Sam did not come with a bailout.  It had to give up its spacious cathedral in San Diego.  Tax discharge?  Shoot, their "tax discharge" was paid 30 years early in the form of a high-priced deed.  This is capitalism, that brutal justice despised by the lazy students.

But this is the sacrifice academics made by devoting their careers to education.  They do not get the perks of their new graduates in private practice, for whom financial obligations are variable depending on the vicissitudes of the legal market.  I don't see any law graduates giving up their gorgeous houses that they scrimped and saved for years to earn, to get only a 3/4 debt reduction.  The idea would be absurd, but here, the bondholers, despite their benevolence, appear to have got the better hand.

But we here are the Truth Center appreciate that at least the bondholders understood the nature of the financial recession, and that it was perfectly normal for everyone to build unaffordable mansions on the assumption that the good times will roll.  And just as millions of Americans got guaranteed leases back on their homes after executing a deed and reducing the debt significantly, American corporations like TJSL should have the same courtesy.  Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, etc.

This is especially true given that TJSL is a going concern with a steady flow of tuition from young lawyers who wanted some diversity away from the other two schools in the metropolitan area. 

I just hope that future bondholders negotiating with law schools understand how much TJSL sacrificed and make better offers to struggling law schools in the future.  These are non-profitts, after all, whereas the FOR-PROFIT graduate gets to run roughshod over the state with things like PAYE.