Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Call to Expand PSLF

PSLF (pronounced something like "Piss Life'") is in danger of getting hacked by the nickel-and-dimers on Capitol Hill, who hate law schools so much that they've built a structural framework for immune monopolistic profiteering that requires just a little too much effort for most law deans' liking.

Not only should we keep PSLF, which allows people who win the lottery of nabbing highly-competitive positions the added benefit of early loan forgiveness, or something like that (I'm far more interested in the front end than what comes out the back, if you get my drift.), we should expand it to anyone who works outside the largest, richest firms.

Let's look at the reasons:

1. We know there's a bimodal salary curve. Even though there are plenty of opportunities on the right-hand side of the curve, attorneys are still choosing to work on the left side of the curve. They may not be serving the US government, but in serving smaller private interests, they're doing extremely important work. Because, you know, keeping immigrants here and mothers getting child support and small slumlords collecting arrears is de facto public service. Why should they be treated differently than their peers at the public defender's office?

2. For even those law graduates who choose to work outside of the legal sector in competitive JD-advantage and "Other", their work is doing valuable public service, which we can know because we imagine that they're doing just as good as the people who land law jobs.

3. Have you noticed a steep decline in sound logical reasoning on these law school, particularly financing issues?  Let me explain this one:  See, the more suckers we can put on PSLF, the more credible we can sound when we claim it's a viable loan repayment option. Because otherwise, you'd have to be braindead not to get a job with that massive benefit if you had any kind of choice, which most people do not.  And really, it doesn't seem fair to add a massive benefit to jobs that would be super-competitive even in the absence of said benefit. So, fuck, let's just give the benefit to everyone who could possibly need it. Because this entire law school thing is all about obfuscating the sticker price. With discounts and IBR and PSLF and funny pages accounting, we can charge the little bastards $500k, tell them they'll only pay like $10k a year over ten years and then - BAM - everyone's happy.

4. Meanwhile, the public benefits. Here's what'll happen: once we expand PSLF to anyone choosing to make a modest income to help the bottom 99%, maybe some of those super-smart hotshot big firm lawyers will follow suit. Better yet, maybe the largest law firms will lower their salary rates to 50k a year as they realize top talent is no longer going for their top salaries but are more interested in getting a quick-ish discharge for their 500k debts. It's incredibly convoluted and stupid, but god damn it, this is America, and we need to find a foolproof way to let the high rise people drink from the top shelf while the underground dwellers suck mule urine from the shag carpet stalagmites that hang from the ceiling of the moldy work caves. Load the backs of the knaves with a ton of rocks, take some pebbles away, and then act like you've given them an amazing benefit for their feel-good make-work public service. Act offended when they mention the rocks. Counter with some story about the time you carted a sandwich on the Staten Island Ferry. Complain about freeway and prison being built near favorite golf course. Suggest that law grads hang a shingle with no knowledge or move to rustic South Dakota. Justice justice justice. Suck the teat of government until the milk runs dry, then accuse it of being a whore. Soil, wash, rinse, repeat.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another Market Crash = Great Time for Law School!

As I'm writing this blog post, the news wire is reporting that Chinese stocks have dropped another 5% on whatever excuse of a market they have over there. For those of you who aren't educated enough to know such things, Wall Street had a minicrash on Monday.

You might think, "well, shit, not this again," but wait! Remember what happened the last time we had an unprecedented drop in global equities?  That's right, kids, law school applications shot way up!


Because smart applicants know that when the stock market drops, the stock of law school rises dramatically. For all of you who think that the law school bubble is passe, I laugh at your skepticism. HA! The more the market tanks, the more you're going to see the next law school bubble blow up.

And you know who's going to profit most?  People who get in on this gravy train NOW!

Remember, folks, if the gravy train ever stops in your neighborhood, grab a ladle and ride that fucker to your biscuit's content.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Snoop Versatile and the Case of the Bar Exam Blues

It was a lazy Thursday when I got the call from Ruby to meet. These things never went well on my end. She was a crazy dame, and I didn't know what to expect when I walked into Doug's on 62nd Street and put my hat on the rack and my eyes on hers. Made-up and juiced-up like it was two am instead of two in the afternoon, she couldn't contain her smile.

"Oh, Snoop," she beamed, "I've decided I'm going to law school."
"And I'm going pitch for the Yankees tomorrow night."
"I'm serious, Snoop!"

Told you the bitch was crazy. I hadn't even gotten my coffee yet and she was already laying the wackjob on thick. And sure enough, she had some legwork for me, bought with batting eyelashes and a low-cut shirt. Fuck me...

"I've heard a lot of stories about the bar exam getting tougher or law students getting dumber. Would you mind looking into it?"

Let's face it: I was done when I got on the subway to see her. It would be a challenging mystery requiring all my keen skills of hard-nosed investigation. The type of thing a law degree would surely aid, you know. I stopped by the office and had Petunia pull some files on suspects while I grabbed my six-shooter and dogeared copy of Black's. These thugs liked to use the jargon, after all.

My first stop was to see Nicky. He was dressed up in a "pinstriped charcoal suit and purple tie." I had to wait for the customers to clear out of the deli, but once they did he cold-cocked me with the bitter truth.

"The height of arrogance," he said.  He resisted even uttering the name of his tormentor directly. "Who is she to say what the standard is? Who is she? The person who is the czarina, who determines more and more every year what Americans have to learn to pass the bar to become licensed lawyers … never took the bar."

A clue. We talked a bit more - it felt like three fucking days I had so many awesome quotes - and at the end he was clear about the ramifications of letting "her" control the bar. "[T]here are too few lawyers being produced."

I called back to Petunia and learned he was talking about Moeser, this hot-shot dame in the numbers racket. Nicky sent me to one of his chums, Ferruolo. He was out back elbow-deep in grease, and he doubled-up what his friend said. "Where’s the accountability? I’m not looking to find more information so I can attack the NCBE. I am looking for more information so I can do my job as a dean."

And Snoop Versatile had to his job as a private eye. It was time to confront this Moeser woman. Conrasting Nicky's pinstripes and purple, she was wearing motherfucking denim. Already this was a bad sign. Then she went on the defensive immediately.

She thought Nicky's argument was like a clay pigeon she kept shooting down. "You can squawk loud and long about what’s happening,” Moeser says, “but you’ve got to look at who your student body is." Her finger landed on a chart showing Nicky'd been letting in steadily lower quality. His profits started getting cut so he started peddling cheaper dope.
"Who are you to say what the standard is?" I asked her.
"Would most people say, ‘Oh, we ought to lower the standards so we can have more pediatricians?’ You’d say, ‘Not with my baby, you can’t."
I tried to probe further about various arguments, but she was quick to scram from such discussions like a rat fleeing a sinking ship. "I am not in a position to spend time analyzing results for which I lack respect."

Bitch. She's got this "science" shit. I got intuition. After she confirmed that she never ever passed a single bar exam, I thought it was all pretty clear and I could close out the file. But I decided to make one more brief stop. I'd heard Pauly knew everything about this racket.

I told Pauly about Nicky's claim that there were not enough lawyers and he started laughing like a mad clown on a bender. "Look, Snoop," he said, "There’s a shortage of lawyers in this country the same way that there’s a shortage of Mercedes-Benzes."

 For me, the fat lady was a-singin'. I had Ruby come to my office to break the news.

"Kiddo, I'm sorry," I said. "I was totally wrong on law school. You're not going to find a better option. Go fly, snowflake."
"You mean it? What about the bar exam? Will I fail?"
I spelled it out for her on my chalkboard. "This Moeser chick's got a pretty sweet racket. She wants people to fail the bar so she can collect on more retakes. She never even passed the bar and she can't answer a question straight."
"But Snoop, aren't those irrelevant issues?"
"Look at you!" I said, "thinkin' like a lawyer and all that shit!"
"But what about Moeser?"
"With kingpins like Nicky on the prowl, won't be long before the gig is up."
"But what about Pauly?"
"Pauly's nuts, babblin' about cars and shit. Look, Sweetheart, I'm the best private eye in the business, and I have to say that the culprit of the bar exam blues is Moeser. Law students ain't gettin' dumber. The test has just gotten way more unfair. It's not like Nicky or Ferruolo would just make this shit up to cover their asses because they're bringing in less capable students to compensate for the law bubble's deflation."
"But what's the evidence?"
"There you go, thinkin' like a lawyer again!" I pinched her on the cheek. "Just go to a school like Brooklyn; you'll do great!"
"Snoop," she said, "you're the best!"

Yes, I am.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Triumph in Cooley's Decline

Don't buy when others buy.  Buy when they're selling.

I give you Cooley Law School, now proudly associated with Western Michigan, because it takes a special school whose prestige is enhanced by affiliating with a third-tier directional college. A very special school:
More than 3,900 students were enrolled at Cooley Law School in 2010. That was the zenith. It’s been downhill since. Cooley’s enrollment for the 2014-15 academic year was 1,880.

That’s a drop of 52%, according to data from Cooley and the American Bar Association.
Will this precipitous drop mean that Cooley is only the 4th or 5th best law school in America?

Who's to blame?  Why, it's worse-but-higher-ranked schools, of course.
“One of the things that schools will do is they’ll start taking students that they wouldn’t have taken in good times,” [Leduc] said. “(They) reach down further into applicant pool. Well, when they do that they’re taking our students, and we’re adversely affected by that.”
But even top-notch legal experts recognize that Cooley is an excellent option for would-be lawyers.
In accepting students other law schools shun, Leiter said, Cooley does provide opportunities for those who have the will to thrive.
Where there's a will, there's a way. Real lawyers know this, and that's why Cooley has been the stealth choice for those confident in their inner barrister for decades.

So Cooley has suffered a bit because people who are dumb enough to read U.S. News decide to go to places like Capital and Detroit-Mercy.  Screw those people.

Embrace being one of the bold few who bucks the trend and gets a stellar education in a half-empty room. People like Brian Leiter know that if you have the will, Cooley will provide you the opportunity to thrive.

After all, is law school anything more than a 3-year Triumph of the Will?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lol, Texas Wesleyan Grads

Motion to dismiss for being dumb:
A&M bought Texas Wesleyan, a private institution, for $73.2 million. The university bought the law school's accreditation status all the way back to 1994. But A&M hasn't recognized the students who graduated from the law school during that time as alumni, the lawsuit argues.
The alumni status is crucial for the law school graduates because the purchase essentially included Texas Weslayan's status with the American Bar Association, which now lists A&M Law School -- but not Texas Weslayan -- as an accredited school.
Sure, you may argue that when a self-righteous 2nd-rate undergrad school decides that it suddenly wants a 4th-rate law school that it should buy the obligations with the assets.

But look at it this way: In public policy, we want to get prestigious-sounding schools involved in the law school prestige game. Remember when Penn State absorbed Dickinson?  When Michigan State swallowed Detroit College of Law? When UC-Irvine slapped its brand on a new building and instantly became a Tier 1 school?

All wonderful happenings. On the converse, see The Charleston Saga: Part XXIX, The Magistrate Interupteth for an example of what can happen when we are hostile to reasonable takeovers by superior business models.

The last thing we want to do is weigh down future purchasers with obligations relating to the chaff the previous institution spit out. That's like supporting some other man's kids. That shit's for beta suckers. (side note: Hi, Rich! Make sure you tuck in Li'l LSTC tonight!)

Despite having the golden ticket of a Texas Wesleyan JD, these intrepid barristers apparently have never figured out that their individual goals are always to be subordinate to those of prestigious institutions. This is big business, after all, and merger conquistadors don't exactly take the busted copiers and union pension plans with them. Texas A&M isn't going to sully its image by claiming that graduates from 1998 who went to Texas Wesleyan over South Texas are alumni; no, Texas A&M is going to sully its image only with pureblodded graduates who went to Texas A&M over South Texas.

This is remarkably simple stuff. Besides, what are the damages? A Texas Wesleyan diploma is the passport to wherever and by itself carries a large earnings premium whether one practices law or not.

Class action?  More like Ass Action.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bankruptcy Court, Why Bother?

I frankly don't understand the issue with the nondischargability of student loans in the law school context.  After all, everyone knows that a juris doctor is equal to a lifetime earnings premium in excess of forty-five gazillion dollars.  Unless you manage money like Vin Baker, you should be retired and living a yacht fantasy by age fifty-six.

Instead, look at this lottery winner:
"Tetzlaff currently owes approximately $260,000 in student loan debt...

"Tetzlaff is fifty-six years old and lives [XX] with his eighty-five-year-old mother; they both subsist on the income from her Social Security payments. Tetzlaff is divorced, has no children, and is currently unemployed. From the mid-1990s until 2005, Tetzlaff pursued a Masters in Business Administration from Marquette University, as well as a law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law ("Florida Coastal").
I don't understand why this man is unemployed. He otherwise fits the profile of a models 'n' bottles life.

The wisdom of the 7th Circuit agrees:
Given Tetzlaff’s academic degrees, prior work experience, and age, we agree with the bankruptcy court that he is capa-ble of earning a living. (In fact, Tetzlaff’s capable pro se rep-resentation in this case is, in our opinion, an indicator of his marketable job skills.) 
Are you not entertained by systematized Catch-22s?! [would a graduate of a finer law school have known to sandbag it?] I wonder when Judge Flaum will be offering Teztlaff a job in chambers; I'm sure it's any day now.

It's not just marketing puffery that a 56-year old Florida Coastal grad should be able to have a remunerative legal career and not face an undue hardship paying down $260,000, it's now the law in an influential United States appellate circuit.