Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dignity, or, Why You're Not a Tenured Professor of Law

Hypothetical time!

You're a law professor at what some would call a third-rate shithole.  Somehow - I'm going to leave out exactly how it happens for purposes of the hypothetical - you accidentally send your students a link of a comely young woman playing with anal beads in her Drexel.  Oops!  Someone tattles and it becomes a story with media involvement.  What do you do?

A.  Say nothing and let it drop off the face of the internet after the investigation ends and interest in this seriously trivial non-story dies out.

B.  Own up.  Explain, or make up, how it happened (examples: a vague computer virus, a student hacker, a mature adult viewing legal media as part of a reasonable, healthy sexual existence, etc.)  Maybe even segue into copyright/trademark and ask if the young woman and/or anal bead manufacturer is seeing any royalties.

C.  Wait three weeks and publish an op-ed in the Washington Post on the subject of "dignity" where you excoriate the media, internet commentators, and your own students for having a lack of dignity in not letting it pass immediately as a triviality and exposing you to a public anal beading shaming.

Most of us, certainly myself, would invariably pick A or B.  By selecting A, you effectively tell the world with your silence that it's a triviality upon which you no longer wish to dwell.  The lack of attention proves its trivial and insignificant nature, and it would more quickly go into the vacuum of the internet.  Pretty soon, no more people would know of you than they would know any of the dumb law professors who said stupid things a few years ago.  Remember Sara "Move to Nebraska!" Stadler?  Obviously, I just reminded you, but the point stands.  Trust me, in three months we'll have a new incarnation of Larry Mitchell or a new Nick Allard interview and you're a footnote.

With B, I think, we have not only an adult response, but one that shows a mature self-deprecation, an openness and transparency, and - possibly - a public approach to the problem that now people can't have a conversation with you without thinking of you know what.  Moreover, it has productive value.  You admit you made a mistake - either with lax(ative?) security protocols or in doing the porn thing at the same time you're doing the law professor thing.  It serves as a public service proclamation in favor of tighter computer security and/or a primer on how mature adults should look at pornographic materials without sending them to unwanted recipients.

Really, what if a female first year associate sends something like this to her veteran alpha male litigator boss?  She might find herself reassigned to dictation duty and learn the true value of versatility.  Is there a universal way to blush and shamefully claw back one's "oops i sent you pr0n" email?  She could've proposed a universal solution!  That's what the law is for.

But this is why we are not tenured law professors.

Drexel Professor Lisa McElroy chose the lubed-up Hershey Highway to Door C:
[N]o one questioned the dignity of those who forwarded the unintended post. No one asked why, if they found it so offensive, students opened the link, with its unmistakable Web address, and watched the video long enough to know what it contained.

No one publicly questioned the dignity of the so-called journalists who wrote salacious stories, broadcast them, waited outside my office to interview my students, called my unpublished cellphone number. And no one questioned the dignity of the intended audience.
Is it, I wonder, the degraded person who lacks dignity? Or the person who seeks to degrade her?
That's right.  Professor Lisa McElroy may have suffered a potential hit to her dignity, but all that gives her is a privilege to call out those who called her out on it.  Literally everyone else who knows about this story has less dignity than Professor Lisa McElroy because, whereas she forwarded an anal beads video to her students, the rest of us pointed out that she forwarded an anal beads video to her students or were entertained by it.

The worst here are obviously her students.  Imagine it.  A professor just posted porn on a school-sponsored resource.  What kind of future lawyers is Drexel producing that the undignified third-rate shitholes are reporting potentially offensive material to a centralized authority and/or the media?  Do you morons think there's any room in law for narcs?  Go take professional responsibility again.  I think you missed the part about "hush hush."

And shame on us!  Shame on me for writing this and chiding all of us on our shame.  Shame on me for writing this paragraph, including this sentence.  If this paragraph were to go on long enough, I'd break the dignity sound barrier.

We find amusement in embarrassing peccadilloes.  We really need to stop that, everyone.  I understand that it's been going on for 10,000 or so years and is part of having a healthy social fabric that doesn't mutilate its own children with things like sweatshops and indentured servitude debt, but . . . dignity.

I may accidentally link the letter "A" to your grade,
   a poem by the law school truth center.

   being worthy of honor or respect
a serious manner or style
       says Merriam Webster.
says I:
           when you speak indignity,
   you lose dignity, too, 
from shaming us

Hear me out:
    please take time now to gently introspect
report misdeeds, after a while
          who's undignified, me?
No you:
          writing on triviality,
    go and jam plastic beads
up your anus 

Well, folks, I'm getting off.  But not to anal beads.  To this, a much better gem from Professor Lisa McElroy that you can all shove up your asses just like you do with your monthly student loan payments:
But sometimes, just maybe, people are unemployed because they didn’t work hard in law school or in a previous job. In other words, it’s not the law schools’ fault.
Ah, that's as satisfying as...okay do I really have to finish this?  Also, if you point out that this link here is to brutally nasty hardcore pornography, you're the one who's lost dignity, not me, the one publicly posting a link to degrading pornography on a totally unrelated media platform.  And if I have to run an op-ed in the Washington Post to remind you how minor of an incident it was, you're going to feel like I put a boot of shame up your asshole.

On an unrelated side note, for those of you wanting to buy Professor LSTC an end-of-school-year gift, I am not a huge fan of anal beads, but I do enjoy a good vibrator video, and I particularly like pornography where the sense of financial desperation and self-loathing is palpable in the young lass who just knows one of her dad's friends is going to jack it to this when the hometown finds out.  It reminds me of the nervous talking that occurs at young alumni events.  God, that shit turns me on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Charleston Saga, Cont'd: Presidential-Level Letters to Lovely Ladies

It's totally not okay to make Nazi references in any way shape or form, no matter how totally tangential to the holocaust and totally unrelated to the Nazis' worst atrocities.  I mean, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you all?  Some things are just off limits, and comparing truth-ignoring legal psuedo-academics to truth-ignoring history psuedo-academics happens to be one of them.

So when I link to this letter by Infilaw President C. Peter Goplerud to the People of Charleston, it would be totally uncool and inappropriate for me to say it reads like passive-aggressive missive Hitler would have sent the bitchy residents of Vienna if they had made a fuss about the Anschluss in '38 about three days before the hypothetical Panzer division rolled in.  I mean, totally uncouth.

C. Peter Goplerud isn't an emperor, of course.  He's a law dean.  Such comparison is therefore wholly stupid, rude, and inappropriate.  Duh.

But let us celebrate the imperious text nonetheless!  Goplerud starts by pointing out how fragile and precarious Charleston Law School's financial picture is.  He then tells them all the fantastic things Infilaw had planned for Charleston with all the right buzzwords:  "practice-oriented education", "expanded pro bono programs and externships", "focused recruitment of students of color" (that'll make li'l' Carolina blush!), etc.

But - BAM! - they ran into duplicitous hellions:
Unfortunately, our efforts to acquire the Law School ran into opposition based on arguments that we believed were either without basis in fact or clouded by bias against a business model that ironically is the same as that of the CSOL.
Exactly.  Charleston's original founders had the idea to make a profit pumping out unneeded lawyers.  Infilaw's business model is to make bigger profits pumping out even more unneeded lawyers.  That's called fabricated hypocrisy and President Goplerud isn't going to stand for it.

And Infilaw isn't standing for Charleston's educational cockteasing much longer:
There appear to be some in the Law School community who would rather see the school close than make the necessary changes to enable it to succeed in today’s challenging climate. Others may be resistant to change because they see InfiLaw as a deep pocket that will rescue the school under any circumstance. Any objective observer would recognize that we have been patient, but such patience is at its end as the school’s financial and operational situation deteriorates.
The alumni and school community need time to assess how much they value the CSOL, whether they still want a law school, and if so, in what manner they will come together to preserve it. If there is a financially viable plan for community support of the Law School, InfiLaw is willing and ready to listen, but under the current economic circumstances, we see very little chance for the school’s ongoing success as an independent entity in the future.
Can you imagine it?  A state like South Carolina operating with only one (1) law school?  How would such a state function?  How would it provide justice to the less fortunate?  How would it flood the market with jurisprudential superheroes?  How would law professors be approved for new luxury cars?

Maybe the Hitler-Austria analogy is a bad one aside from the inevitable Holocaust pearl-clutching.

Infilaw, really, seems more like an arrogant, self-absorbed piece of dogshit who proposed to a fat skanky single mother of four two years ago.  Her parents and friends are all like, "ew, he smells and he beat the shit out of Phoenix and Charlotte."  But now his patience is wearing thin, and he's lookin' at other bitches like Joni in Atlanta and TJ in San Diego...
Dear Charli:

I understand that your quest for a better suitor than me isn't working out too well.  As you know, your skin is wrinkling and getting flabbier by the millisecond.  Your hair looks like you stuck your fat fingers in an electric socket, but we know that didn't happen because they shut your power off three months ago.  Your bastard children are taking massive distributions, depriving you of capital to withstand downturns in the economy.  But I saw the promise, baby.  I was poised to give you flowers and chocolate and the most glamorous doggystyle poundings in the trailer park.  I've got a line of credit at Kay Jewelers for shit's sake.  Unfortunately, my efforts to acquire your heart ran into opposition based on arguments that I believe are either without basis in fact or clouded by bias against a lifestyle that is remarkably similar to that of your ex-husband.  You currently have significant outstanding debts.  I co-signed on your used car loan and have continued to be your casual fuckbuddy and adviser during this time.  If there is a financially viable plan for an alternative relationship, I am willing and ready to listen, but under the current economic circumstances, I see very little chance for your ongoing success as an independent entity.  Be mine, baby.  Now or never, be mine.


Take the deal, Charleston.  You're not going to get anything better. 

Gentlemen, this type of letter is 95% guaranteed to work on the sweetheart in your life within nine months or so.*

*I know I said guarantee, but it's not actually a guarantee.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Law School an "Obvious" Decision: A Valentine to Bloomberg's Natalie Kitroeff

Natalie Kitroeff, I love you.

Not "I" the mortal writing this - I don't know you, and I have no idea if you titter delightfully at Adam Sandler movies or know how to make delicious raspberry scones or whether you are "down" with nurses' outfits and video cameras ("I'm just filming a movie about ER triage, mom!").  Thus, I can't love you.

No, Natalie, I write this missive of love from the law school industrial complex.  Last week, you helped make a complete hash of statisticsThis week, you're back, and better than ever:
It is still a perfect time to apply to law school, and here are five charts that prove it. 
That's just...Leducian.  The subtitle - "Becoming a lawyer has never been a more obvious decision" - is howlingly funny marketing gold for the dumb lemmings who need help making obvious decisions.

In a creative burst, Natalie, you're pushing yourself into the stratosphere of titans, that heavenly guest lounge where Professor Diamond serves as gracious host serving cocktails of JD-based propaganda.  So young, and shooting steadily for a vaunted place in the Langdell Order of Bullshit(fn 1).

Let's review quotes from the five reasons provided, with my commentary afterwards:
  • "The best a dean can do is try to keep a healthy headcount, which means it's a good time to make yourself a part of an increasingly scarce supply of heads."  Speaking of heads, late 1793 would have been a great time to be a French aristocrat!  Yes, and surely that means fewer lawyers after graduation to compete with!
  • "The odds of doing better than the person sitting next to you [on the LSAT] haven't looked this good in years."  Demonstrably and incredibly false.  How the hell do you write about this and not understand the basics?  Just plain wrong. Good odds!
  • "If you can ace the LSAT, there's a pretty good chance that big time institutions will lose their cool over you and offer up bags of scholarship cash to prove the love."  They have always done that.  And acing the LSAT has never been easier!
  • "Even if you do not kill the LSAT, you'll probably look like a catch to admissions officers."  And that may be the last time you look like a catch to anyone And if they catch you, prepare to be run in for a TOUCHDOWN!
  • "Among law students graduating this year who previously held summer associate gigs, 93 percent got job offers."  Why the fuck are you writing about an industry you don't understand?!  Job crisis over!
Natalie, this article reads like it was written by someone who had their cerebrum blown off by a cannonball and got hired to work for InfiLaw the enlightened prose of a more seasoned legal academic.  Princeton surely must be proud that they created an honors graduate exhibiting the basic reasoning skills shown herein.  

To completely ignore law graduate outputs beyond summer associate programs, and to totally ignore debt in an article whose sub-heading claims the choice is "obvious" takes a special blend of keen insight, moxie-driven intuition, and good old-fashioned write-whatever-the-fuck-I-want-ery.

But Ms. Kitroeff, oh Bloomberg Rose, you can go one step further in the garden of educational propagandistic delights.

Do it, Natalie.

It is one thing to write about the beauty of the seaside sunrise from afar.  It's another to experience that euphoric rush of the first beams peaking over the dark ocean waves from the chilly beach with the dawn breeze whispering "good morning."

Natalie, put your money where your sweet honeyed lips are.  Take your article's advice and make the obvious choice to enroll in law school.  Experience the thrill of competing with nothing but LSAT-flunking dolts and waltzing into an orgasmic, printing press job market.

But I urge you, Natalie, go not to the Harvards and Yales and Stanfords of the world whether you are accepted or not.  Those places are still filled with bright, talented students like yourself.  Go to a school like Fordham or American or Loyola (any of the 3!) - schools that are really desperate for future lawyers who want to take the obvious plunge into Uncle Scrooge's vault.  Slaughter the LSAT, take their scholarship cash, and hop straight into the gravy train of legal work.

At least then maybe you'll understand the damn industry Even if you don't want to be a lawyer, you should have no problem continuing your journalism career with a law degree.  It is JD-advantage, after all.

fn 1:  The Langdell Order of Bullshit is a claimed trademark of the Law School Truth Center.  And by "claimed," we mean we came up with it, and may file papers one day or something (if only we could find an IP attorney!  #lawyershortage), and in any event, if you use it without at least our implied permission, we'll get rather snippy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Bar Exam is [Negatively Charged Adjective].

Brother, do you happen to have a spare fist to shake?  Because there's plenty of scolding to be done at the bar exam.

Among the words and phrases used in Allen Mendenhall's opinion-slam (not all by the author himself) about the bar exam are the following:
  • restricts access to a particular vocation
  • reduces market competition
  • products of big-city politics
  • ugly history
  • paternalistic response
  • consumer above all who is harmed
  • archaic rules
  • anticompetitive practices
  • apprenticeship model
  • Amazon, eBay, Uber and Airbnb
  • sheer ubiquity and immediacy of reputation markets
  • legal cartel
  • hazing rituals
  • meaningful change
As the value and meaning of words declines in the age of the internet, one has to wonder why we persist in writing in complete sentences and paragraphs like mulish wordsmiths.  A nice bullet-pointed list like the above can capture meaning, innovative sub-arguments, and even the most quotable phrases ("sheer ubiquity" for the championship).  Plus, those folks at home playing Free Market Bingo won't have to wade through rows of words before finding "paternalistic" or "cartel."

With legal practice in many places shifting more and more to form documents over what our predecessors did, it makes me wonder if we can't use Mad Lib-style formulae for various propaganda pieces!

Here, I'll try a few:

Form sentence:  The [thing jeopardizing law school profits] needs reform because it unfairly discriminates against [sub-set of lawyers or law students].

Filled-in sentence:  The LSAT needs reform because it unfairly discriminates against prospective students with reasoning deficiencies.

 Another filled-in sentence:  The usage of nine-month employment statistics needs reform because it unfairly discriminates against schools whose students voluntarily choose to be unemployed, like women who have children and who may also be Jewish lesbian African-Americans or something.

Form Sentence:  We must [Cold War verb] the [threat] because it obstructs our [politically-favorable adjectival phrase] ideals.

Filled-in sentence:  We must eradicate the bar exam because it obstructs our free-market ideals.

Another filled-in sentence:  We must neutralize the US News Rankings because it obstructs our Constitutional justice-driven ideals.

I can even foresee this style of form argumentation finding a welcome place in many contexts.  To wit:

Form Sentence:  The [socially-negative thing] is/are [bad adjective] because it/they [synonym for "holds back"] people who [activity related to socially-negative thing that expresses freedom from tyrannical government] while aiding the [industry] cartel.

Filled-in sentence:  The OSHA rules are defective because they restrain people who contract for a fair market wage working twenty-hour shifts in a third-world sweatshop while aiding the safety cartel.

Another filled-in sentence:  The residency requirement for surgeons is nefarious because it imprisons people who want to try a laparoscopic appendectomy after watching one on youtube while aiding the anti-home medicine cartel.

And another:  The lawyer cartel is cartel-like because it cartelizes against people who want to break the cartel by offering mergers and acquisitions work for $100 flat fees while aiding the legal cartel.

As an aside, I would like to note that libertarianism and mainstream academic liberalism may seem like odd bedfellows, particularly given the academy's reliance on government-guaranteed loans to survive.  But the fact that incompatible political ideas are being mashed together simply shows the sheer ubiquity of anti-anti-law school beliefs.

After all, if law school were such a bad idea, the internet would allow for rapid consumer response, and people would be avoiding law school altogether.  Yet, several years post recession and scamblog era, and matriculations are down only by modest percentages.  Just as those same market forces can rid the country of a bad lawyer before any serious damage is done like someone going to prison or having an estate botched, they, too, can correct for law schools being "bad."  Since seats are being filled, the market for law school seats is strong.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hey, Stupid, We Suck at Math, and it's Your Time to Shine

A Statistics Lesson

Let's say you're the dictator of a small island.  You've got 10000 healthy males.  To aid in building your army, you hold an annual shooting competition to determine who enters your royal guard.  Using a complex algorithm, your scribes assign every entrant a shooting score between 0-100 based on a normal distribution curve.  You select the top 50, and are delighted that you can field a royal guard where everyone has scores in the 90s.

Two years later, a deadly plague has swept the island.  You only have 5000 healthy males.  When you hold your annual shooting competition this time around, your scribes use the same algorithm to allocate scores between 0-100 on a normal distribution curve.  Now, your royal guard is - gasp - taking people with 85s!

When asked to explain, your royal statistician concludes the following:

A) The best shooters were less interested in serving in the royal guard
B) Because of the results of the competition, the royal guard is in peril
C) It's worrisome that the number of scores in the 50s isn't falling as fast as the scores in the 90s
D) The 85s now aren't as good as the 90s from 2 years ago.

Do you:

1) Agree with everything he says; it makes intuitive sense! or
2) Roast the moron over hot coals and cook a suckling pig over his charred ashes

If you chose door number (2), you're likely too sharp for the utensils in this drawer.  Go breed a cancer pill or something.

But if you chose door number (1), you're potentially an expert at Law School Statistics!

Law School Statistics

Yes, Law School Statistics, the ever-expanding field of knowledge that presents claims without rudimentary skepticism for the too-far conclusions being made based on the observed data.  This week, we feature Jerry Organ and the nonsense surrounding LSAT scores.
Fewer people with high Law School Admission Test scores are applying to and enrolling in law school, and less-qualified students are filling their slots, new research shows.
Of course, the real problem is that fewer people are applying to law school, period (or, that law school seats aren't declining as fast as applications), which means schools are having to take more marginal candidates from the left side of the bell curve.  But in Law School Statistics-land, we have no problem assuming that a smaller population means a less qualified or interested population at the higher end.  There's really no support for this provided, but fuck it, it's research!
The disenchantment with law school on the part of the people most likely to get in shows up in the classroom head count, too: Around 5,400 people with the highest scores will enroll in law school this year, down from 9,400 in 2010, according to Jerome Organ, the University of St. Thomas School of Law professor who parsed the numbers.
You mean if you cut the population in half, the amount of members above x percentile is virtually cut in half, too?  Did you peer review that?  The actual story here is that the matriculation rate for high scorers is actually increasing, which means the smartest people in the group taking the LSAT are actually more interested in law school.  And "most likely to get in" seems a bit odd, since you're more likely to get in with a smaller population in competition for seats.  But, shit, we've got more alarming research to give you!
“The top is eroding and the bottom is growing,” says Organ, adding that schools risk churning out graduates with less of a shot at becoming lawyers.
Actually, the bottom (meaning 120s and 130s) is almost certainly shrinking as rapidly as the 170s are.  But of course, in Law School Statistics-land, "bottom" means 150, and "growing" means that law schools are shifting the acceptance curve leftward.  In fact, the second chart on this article clearly shows that the "bottom" isn't growing at all; it's shrinking rapidly in the aggregate.  But the yield rate for that section of the curve has skyrocketed, which is what shows law schools' desperation to find warm bodies.

LSAT scores tell us almost nothing about the applicant pool except that it's smaller.  You could just as easily conclude that the dumbest people are opting out of law school because sub-150 applications are way down.  Sub-140 applications are likely dropping much faster than 145-155 applications.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of normal distributions could have predicted this exact result with any commensurate drop in total applications without a similarly-radical drop in the number of law student spots.  But in Law School Statistics-land, the drop in LSATs can lead to alarming conclusions.

There may be a brain drain going on.  But it ain't in these numbers.

Lemming Opportunity

Why does this statistical particularity matter?

Is it because if the law schools can't get this basic stats 101 stuff right how can you believe anything that they say?  Well, yeah...

But also because lemming, baby, you've got an opportunity as green as Glen Ross Farms.  See, the real problem here is that too many law schools are still taking in too many students.  Are smart people really opting out of Yale and Harvard?  No, of course not, you fuckwit, and they know that.  But the purpose of these articles is three-fold.

First, the headline is attention-grabbing, good old fashioned scare-journalism

Second, it places causal responsibility on individual actors (students) rather than institutional actors (law schools taking in more students than the market can bear).

Third - and this is key - it relies on assuming a constant amount of selections.  Consider a world where law schools limit enrollment to 25,000 students.  Suddenly the LSAT-based "brain drain" would be instantly reversed, like magic!  Instead, we start with the assumption that the law schools' amount of seats is valid and a constant that is useful in determining year-over-year comparisons of LSAT scores to determine whether a "brain drain" is going on.

So, Lemming, the obvious approach is simple.  As long as law schools refuse to contract the amount of seats available, your mediocrity has never been more coveted.  You'd practically be dumb not to take the LSAT and get on their scholarship target grid.

But here's a more advanced one.  Get everyone to take the LSAT at least twice.  Make a pact that on the first time around, everyone bombs it on purpose.  This will allow everyone taking it on the 2nd and 3rd try to get around the median or above, while even some of the 1st timers may sneak up there by dumb luck.  Then repeat the process.  By loading the bottom scores on purpose, LSAT scores will rise, everyone will get scholarship money, and everyone will be on pace to pass the bar!  No more "brain drain!"

You might say, "but LSTC, that's basically a pyramid scheme" or "but won't schools pick up on the manipulation going on?" 

To you I say:  eat a dick and learn yourself some Law School Statistics.  These schools are so desperate for lemmings with a 151 LSAT they won't care whether you bought it on the black market with two kilos of coke, a truckload of Kord 12.7 machine guns, and Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Beam Me Up, Rutgers

I considered giving a nod to Shakespeare (with a hat tip to Huxley):
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
But, really, paraphrasing Captain Kirk is a bit more appropriate:
Law: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship A.B.A. Rutgers. Its mission: to join law schools, to seek out new students and new programs, to boldly go where no law school has gone before.
As many of my faithful readers know, Rutgers is merging two great brands of law school into one.  But did you know whyLet's cue the Captains to explain.  To briefly answer questions for those of you who can't be bothered to read:
  • They didn't do it to save money. [like anyone would ever admit to that]
  • They didn't do it to move up in the rankings, although "[i]f rankings have merit and are measuring the right things, they should go up."  [In rankings math, 87 + 102 < 60, at least].
  • Sounds like both campuses need a nearly-full faculty.  Whew!
  • When asked what the actual point was, one administrator cited the now-combined alumni network (which is like the Borg, I suppose) and another stated that they can better serve New Jersey by being a "powerhouse."
Indeed, New Jersey is about the reap the benefits of having a single, undisputed public state flagship law school, just like forty or so other states from Alabama to Wyoming, and look how their legal sectors turned out.  No more will New Jersey applicants be like "wait, which one's the better Rutgers, again?"  If they could only change the name to the University of New Jersey, they'd be where Virginia was 196 years ago.

But I digress.  The coolest part of this article, by far, was when one of the good deans worked in a reference to THE HOLODECK, which will no doubt cost at least $15,000 a year in tuition per student.
Students will be able to take classes on a new "holodeck," identical high-tech classrooms in Newark and Camden with large screens linked via a live video and audio link. The rooms are designed to allow a professor to teach and interact with classes on both campuses simultaneously.
As the admiral, I mean administrator, clarifies, the super-high-technology Holodeck really isn't appropriate for first-year classes or standard upper level work because... it's just too cool?  It'll be used to get the special expertise at one campus broadcast to the other.  So this technology isn't that transformative when it comes to law school efficiency, but, listen, it's really fucking cool.  I mean, look at it!  It's like the room mysteriously doubles in size.  And surely this technology will work flawlessly as Rutgers' students powerhouse their way through the best legal minds at both campuses, forming a Borg-like mass of singular legal knowledge like a unified laser beam of legal expertise shooting from the Law School Death Star.  Fuck, wrong franchise.

But, you might say, in this Brave New World, what stops law schools from downsizing the faculty ranks with this technology?  Really, why not teach torts and contracts with the awesome power of video conferencing?  Well,that would be an abuse of this wondrous technology that would deprive students of the vital experience of having a torts or contracts professor who's physically in the same room with them who also spends 75% of his time writing about Italian manufacturing law and flirting with the administrative staff.  Let's not go down that road, okay?  That's a scary dirt road with a moonless night sky and wolves howling dangerous obscenities to the wind and jagged tree-branches casting foreboding shadows on the treacherous footpath. . .  just don't do it, okay?

With the HOLODECK technology suddenly enabling certain upper level classrooms to be connected across massive distances like the state of New Jersey, the Age of the Law School Merger may not be a bad thing, but in fact an expansionist thing.  Sure, people like me who want to put a law school in every Ogdenville get shouted down.  But what if, instead of a fully-blown law school, we simply put a HOLODECK station with commensurate tenured faculty at the local community college and allow folks to "network" in to law school classes "online" while paying a tuition premium for the technology?  You could call it "distance learning!"

We could set up a whole new generation of satellite campuses, placing them in metro areas desperately needing a law school, like Paducah, Shreveport, and Fort Wayne.  With such advances, real operating costs could continue to drop per student while apparent operating costs continue to rise, justifying bloated tuition revenues paid by federal loan monies.  That's not a racket, darling, it's the sophisticated employment of technology to generate new synergies and better serve the People.

Because Rutgers is going to get an obvious boost in rankings by merging, no doubt other law schools will use this technology to network together as well, which will only increase their attraction.  Hamline and Mitchell will no doubt see a boost, but where can we go next?  Whittier and La Verne?  South Texas and Texas Southern forming South Texas Southern?  John Marshall and John Marshall forming John Marshall?  With HOLODECK technology, the possibilities are endless, if not profitless.

How beauteous mankind is, indeed.  Far from an Age of Defeat, we are at the dawn of yet another Age of Triumph (it's like the fifth in a row).

Godspeed, A.B.A. Rutgers.  Godspeed.

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's Math, Baby: Law School Invaluable to Local Community

The Eurotrash charlatans who intend to close down law schools in a nefarious plot to end justice and opportunity, blinded by their churlish ideology, have completely neglected Main Street, U.S.A.

Consider South Royalton, Vermont.  Royalton, Vermont, has a hearty group of 2700 or so pleasant folks.  South Royalton, one of its white flight suburbs, has less than a thousand.  Hermit thrushes and maple trees there are a-plenty, but people are previous few.

It's one thing to close a law school in Boston or Los Angeles, where the local economy can fart and waddle onwards.  But taking a major employer from a bucolic Vermont village is like stealing the axe from a lumberjack:  something's getting cut, and it's likely not what was intended.

Researchers recently found that Vermont Law School had a $30 million impact on the state of Vermont in 2014.  Vermont is the least economically-important state in the entire union, with a GDP of only $30 billion.  That means that Vermont Law School, by its mighty can-do woodsy self, constitutes a tenth of a percent of this state's economy.

You're endangering Vermont, you rabid skunks.

As the report explains:
“The Vermont Law School ... has an economic impact on the state of Vermont economy far larger than what we would normally expect from an institution this size,” the report concludes. “The high proportion of in-state spending gives rise to an additional 245 jobs ... total personal income $19 million, and tax payments of approximately $3 million.”
The school spent $15 million on personnel, and its students spent an additional $12.2 million in the local economy.  With 550 students, that's about $22,000 per year per student.

For as much as scambloggers like to whine about law professor salaries, has it occurred to any of them that those expenses disproportionately benefit the surrounding community?  Read the report:  VLS has a much bigger economic impact on its community than expected.  Why do you think that is?  It's not all just the power of law to bring knowledge and efficiency to the local marketplace.

Now let's crunch some numbers so we can understand this alchemy in full:

Vermont had around 550 students.  According to prior numbers, about 87% of them can be expected to debt finance a part of their legal education, and the average law school indebtedness of those students would be around $139,000.  That means an annual indebtedness per debtor of $46,333.  With 479 of the 550 students estimated to be taking out debt, that amounts to only about $22 million in federal loan money annually going to that area either in tuition to VLS or living expenses spent in the area.

According to its most recently available tax filings, VLS had about $36 million in functional expenses annually, about $7 million of which appears to be handing out grants/scholarships like a super-generous Pez dispenser of jurisprudential love.  According to Moody's, its revenue for FY 2013 was around $28 million with projected further decline in FY 2014, with a "high dependence on student charges," although Moody's notes that the school is " developing new revenue streams by introducing new master's programs to boost enrollment, and seeking new grants and gifts."

So the federal government loans students $22 million or so to hike in the forest and think about legal positivism.  Vermont Law School is able to add on $8 million more of economic benefit by turning a few million in tuition and grants into a few million hypothetical bonus dollars.

Examples of Vermont's positive economic impact aside from its students simply buying things in the local market would be the $1.94 million paid out to a core group of ten (10) officers and faculty members in FY 2012.  These individuals turn around and spend money in the local community, and as they are public servants, one can bet it's being spent in the community itself rather than shoved into dormant retirement accounts or spent outside the state.  I mean, sure, the school uses consultants and accountants from out of state, but no doubt its six-figure employees all stay local when purchasing goods and services.

Now, here's where the real magic comes in.  Over time, those students who borrowed that money pay off that $22 million with income from their lucrative jobs as environmental attorneys plus interest.  So over time, the United States makes a profit from propping up the local South Royalton economy!  Literally everybody wins.  Vermont, and particularly the Royalton area, get a $30 million shot to the economy, as well as the addition of invaluable local legal expertise.  The United States (that's us!) makes money off student loan interest, and the debtors, I mean students, receive an expert legal education in the scenic woods of Vermont!

Put that on your fuckin' flapjacks!

Now, you might ask yourself questions, like:
  • Why should we be in the business of using federal loans to prop up local economies on the backs of student loan debtors to attend an institution with a 54.5% employment score?
  • Since the town isn't able to tax the non-profit school as much as a for-profit commercial enterprise, wouldn't it be a much greater economic impact to subsidize a real-life business to occupy that land?
  • With PAYE/IBR/default, isn't there a good chance that $22 million isn't all going to be paid back?  Were these federal liabilities factored into the analysis, or just ignored because it's not Vermont?
  • Why does VLS's FY 2012 tax return show that Geoffrey Shields was working sixty hours a week when he retired in July of 2012 and had been suffering from non-Hodkin's lymphoma during that time?
  • If the school is confident in its nonprofit mission, why would the school pay a consulting firm to do an economic impact study in the first place?
  • Doesn't any institution that houses hundreds of bodies have an economic impact like this?
  • Aren't economic impact studies commissioned by private parties usually just propaganda to advance a political or financial agenda, like that piffle that pro sports teams put out to justify cheating local governments?
  • If VLS's revenue and enrollment are in decline, don't we have to adjust forward impact numbers significantly downward?
  • Wouldn't it be better to subsidize an institution that makes something useful, as opposed to CLE packets, unread law reviews, and would-be environmental lawyers who practice family law?
  • Wouldn't it be better to subsidize an institution that creates middle class jobs for local people rather than upper class jobs for imports who may get offers to leave?
  • Wouldn't it be better to subsidize an institution that has a positive credit outlook rather than one that borrows from the state with a negative credit outlook?
  • Wouldn't it be better to subsidize an institution that promotes permanent, year-round economic impact in the state?
  • Aren't there simpler, more efficient ways of artificially propping up rural university towns than using the student debt / fourth-tier college / six-figure salary model?
  • If you really want to support the area, couldn't you just cut every resident of the Royalton area an annual stimulus check and cut out all this other funny business and sell the building/land to a more taxable entity?
But such questions would make you a dick who cannot see the value of a law school to a local community.  Go back to New York or something.

Friday, April 3, 2015

On Professor Simkovic, Additional Research Proposals, and Structural Change

Outside the Law School Scam has reported that Michael Simkovic received grants from LSAC and Access Group to back his scholarship.  I don't believe anything on OTLSS - including my own contributions as a writer/editor - and putting stock in what is said there is like investing in a chromium plant next to a  nuclear waste site near a major fault line.  In short, don't do it.  Instead, be an Attila the Hun of Justice against the Roman fortifications of oppression.  But let's assume this "dybbuk" fellow is right.  ("dybbuk," really?  I see your Hebrew and raise you Norse, bro'.)

Scambloggers have blabbered on about the lack of relevant outcome data.  Instead of devoting his research efforts to important tasks like venue for extraterritorial claims between seals and evil multinational oil conglomerates, Professor Simkovic has focused on the economic value of law degrees.  If you're upset solely because you don't like the results of his rigorous work, aren't you really just asking for supportive propaganda?  Is Paul Campos better than a Soviet Nazi?

Here, in a free market, two large, prestigious, respected, esteemed, profit-neutered entities have determined that Prof. Simkovic's research is worth supporting with significant grant money, contrary to the scamblogger meme that research is worthless.  Obviously Professor Simkovic's work has a six-figure market value.  I bet the scambloggers wish they had six-figure benefactors for their dirty work.  But there they are, selling their agenda for nothing.  Who the fuck would do that? Such base sluts must rouse us to wariness.

Granted, I and many other law graduates would gladly take less in grant money to make up torrential streams of propagandistic horseshit with the intellectual rigor of a drunken hopscotch game, but clearly they see something that justifies his research over that of a desperate $35k "fellow" snatched off Symplicity (which don't exist - million dollar JDs, people).

But really - $75k in grant money and I'll lube the figurative orifices and write whatever you want for a year or two and enjoy the grub on the conference circuit.  In fact, I'd like to make some important research proposals:
  • Not Going to Divorce Court: How Law School Empowers Stable Lifelong Romances
  • The Stealth JD Effect:  How Saying "I'm a Lawyer" Saves Money in Everyday Transactions
  • LA Flaw:  The Rising Demand in Legal Consulting for Film and Television
  • Chillin' Out...Sourcing?:  How Young Lawyers Make Bank from LPO
  •  RoboLawyers Need Not Apply:  Why Demand for Young Attorneys is Unaffected by Technological Advancements
  • Life of the Party(-Defendant):  How Legal Knowledge Enriches Friendships and Social Situations
  • The JD PrePremium: How Future Lawyers Make More Money Before Ever Going to Law School
  • Juris Cocktour:  Empirical Evidence of Lawyer as Sexual Dynamo
  • Boomer Goes the Legal Field:  How Massive Retirement will Trickle Down Riches to Younger Lawyers with Bigger and Better Charts and Graphs
  • Shitlaw as Fertilizer:  Examining the Massively Elevated Future Earnings of Lawyers who Start in Less-Prestigious Firms
  • Prozac on Paper: The Positive Euphoric Neurochemical Effects of Student Debt
  • Two Million Dollar LLMs:  No, Read it Again, Stupid, Two Million Dollar LLMs.
  • Always Randy for More Law:  How Any Time is a Good Time to Enroll in an LLM Program
  • The 1L Premium:  How Perpetuities, Pennoyer, and Palsgraf Propagate Pecuniary Paydays even if the Pupil Peters Out
  • Drinking Like a Lawyer:  How the Legal Profession Produces More Refined Alcoholics and Addicts than Other Professions
  •  95 and Still Practicing:  How Lawyering Encourages General Health and Longevity
  • More than they Bargained for:  How PAYE, IBR, PLSF and Other Government Programs Make Law Graduates a Fortune
And that's just a bit of brainstorming amidst my JD premium fantasy life, but it's a veritable kama sutra of new positions to advocate.  Each one of these proposals would explore important questions about lawyers and law degrees with wide application.
Of course, even outside of his formal scholarship, Prof. Simkovic is doing God's work.
Are doom-and-gloom predictions justified for lawyers even if not for law degree holders?  According to many of the proponents of the structural change hypothesis, signs of structural change were showing up as early as 2010, or perhaps even as early as 2008 [ed. - or way earlier?  nah!].  We now have several years of historical data beyond that point to consider whether their predictions, thus far, have proven correct.

Lawyer employment is growing.  This is true both in absolute numbers, and also relative to overall employment.  In other words, lawyers are becoming a larger share of the U.S. workforce.
The deftness with which he ignores the most key variable - the denominator, or how many JD holders and/or licensed attorneys are out there? - is breathtaking.  It's an implicit economic analysis of demand devoid of any focus on supply (or innumerable qualitative factors, for that matter).  His slick research and graph presentation (some begin in 1976, others in the late 90s) seems to avoid contextualizing the data.
The practice of law is also becoming more lucrative, at least over the long term.  According to a recent draft paper by Richard Sander and E. Douglass Williams, after controlling for changes in the demographic composition of the legal profession, Sander and Williams find long-term growth in real (inflation-adjusted) lawyer earnings.
Don't believe me about the median "lawyer" making $120k?   Look at the chart, you dumb motherfucker!

In the end, Simkovic concludes that the evidence just isn't there to believe any sort of structural change is occurring.  In reaching that contrarian conclusion, he focuses on raw lawyer employment and median earnings for employed lawyers with an inexplicable late appearance by the fraction of professional degree holders working as lawyers.  He poo-poos evaluation of the "legal services" information because that may not affect lawyers at all ("but if law firms are shedding paralegals, isn't that still structural change to the work load and what the lawyers are doing?" you ask - no, stupid, shut up and look at the pretty graphs).

Does this still not add up for you maggots?  Sure, Simkovic avoids looking at what type of legal work is available and what earnings that work pays.  Such nuance obstructs quick and easy conclusions.  Sure, consumer spending on legal services is declining.  So what? Sure, the legal sector is broadly contracting according to the commerce department.  Sure, all but six states are pumping out way more lawyers than there are jobs available.  Sure, jury trials are in an ongoing decline.  Did you not even look at the pretty pretty graphs?  Sure, large firm leverage models are changing, with either fewer young associates or new contract/staff attorney positions.  Sure, more and more firms are questioning the billable hour in the face of client scrutiny.  Excel makes lovely graphs!  Sure, multiple major writers have pointed out that legal practice is undergoing major structural change.  Sure, he's assuming core structural change would be reflected immediately - why not?

Professor Simkovic will trump all the "evidence" your Google search can muster with the elegant simplicity of his data from the sniper's nest of the Ivory Tower.  Boom, there's no evidence of this "structural change," kids.  Nope.  This is real-deal economics, baby.  Science.

You can take it to the bank.  And if Professor Simkovic or Seton Hall has already done same with some of this grant money, they sure as shit on a shingle earned it.  If he's a whore, he's a pretty good one, and his pimp Seton Hall should be mighty proud.

-Law School Einherjar of Valhalla, f/k/a/ Law School Truth Center