Saturday, February 21, 2015

Don't Tread on Me, Washington & Lee

Washington & Lee is named after a mediocre general who won a revolution and a great general who lost one.  The former revolted against the tyranny of taxation without representation while the latter revolted against the tyrannical anti-states rights-pro-industry-black-freedom movement. 

In any event, our newest generation of leaders should find inspiration in these men and lead a new revolution.  Unfortunately, Washington & Lee has become tyrannical.

The gruesome details are captured at the link above.  Increases in endowment payouts.  Freezing salaries.  The cardinal sin of faculty attrition.  The goal is to "balance" the law school budget by 2018-2019.

You know what you can't "balance?"  The urgent demand for new lawyers and future unmet needs for valuable legal services in the sprawling Lexington, Virginia, metropolitan area, to pump up the need for a nearby first-class law school.

Washington & Lee put in an excellent experiental program a few years back.   It was an outstanding,  inspired idea to bring more fish to a barrel in the relative middle of nowhere.   Those students are now on the verge of bar admission and poised to light the legal world on fire.  Alas, that legacy will not be an eternal bonfire, but rather a snuffed candle wick thanks to penny-pinching fire marshalls.

Washington & Lee is a frivolous rich frat-boy school, where presentable grandsons of the confederacy go when they can't get into a better school and want to snobbishly brag about going to an elite liberal arts school that didn't land them a job.  "Take that, Old Dominionites!"

My point is this:  W & L has tons of money.  It's a third-tier lemming factory and only the 4th or 5th best law school in its saturated state, but people think it's prestigious.  It's in a perfect situation to continue to innovate with experiental education to lure the unsophisticated sophisticated consumer.  When you have a law school, you have a public duty to continue pumping out as many lawyers as you can while employing a fully-stocked faculty with the protections of academic tenure to promote the advance of legal scholarship.

Balanced budget?  Oh, don't tread on me, baby.  This is America.  We don't balance any budgets where there are more important things to do.  And the stability of law and access to justice are the type of thing worth fighting for.  If you can't believe in those simple concepts, you might well let commie ISIS bastards keep pouring fluoride into our precious water system.

God bless America.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More Brilliant Thoughts from Dean Chemerinsky

The pioneer has two main thoughts on the Supreme Court in his latest book.  First:
The Supreme Court has been, on balance, a more negative than positive influence on our country throughout its history
Thank goodness lower-quality law schools have not been, on balance, a more negative than positive influence on our country.  And second:
The idea that justices bring neutral, objective legal principles to the task of “divining” the true meaning and purpose of the language in the statutes and the Constitution is bunk.
Thank goodness lower-quality law schools have promoted the idea that they bring non-profit, public service principles to the task of "educating" America's lawyers.  Because that's totally not bunk.  Or something.  If you can come up with a better parallel analogy thingamajig, fill it in for me.

Such observations aside, it's obvious that Chemerinsky has earned his place as a top scholar of constitutional law.  Take this observation about the heinous group of Supreme Court cases that seem vile in retrospect, such as Plessy or Korematsu:
 For years, Chemerinsky said, he had taught these cases, which are all understood in retrospect to have been miscarriages of justice, as if they were anomalies. But by explaining them that way, he said, “I realized I had been making excuses for the Supreme Court.”
Because this totally isn't the type of conclusion one could come to after a mere semester of Con law.  It takes years of studious inquiry during ten-hour work weeks poring over the 4500 words of the Constitution, treating each one the way PhDs treat War and Peace subplots.

Well, I'm off to hit the open road with two strippers and a crack pipe.  Remember, I'll make a great DA some day.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

An Open Letter to Hamline and William Mitchell

Dear Co-Best Law Schools in Minneapolis:

It's my understanding that you are seeking to merge.  As you both know, running a law school can not only be joyous, splendid fun, but also serve the public interest and provide a landing spot for BigLaw's better-credentialed rejects.  You two have been independently ensuring an ongoing win in the war for social justice in Minneapolis for over a century, and I have no doubt you will continue in your new union.

It is my understanding that despite the obviously-cyclical nature of this "recession" in the legal education sector (how many times does Professor Diamond have to say it until it sinks in?), you have thought it in your "financial interests" to join forces and create one super-badass law school where previously there were two.

This wedding shall be a bittersweet moment.  On one hand, when you two combine your awesome forces, you are going to build an arsenal of frostbite flim-flam, a legion's worth of law school lemming larceny, churning and burning through tons of fine students who couldn't quite make it into Minnesota.  When you combine resources, I have no doubt that your legal scholarship output will quadruple the amount of justice you're currently distributing.

But I give you a word of caution:  mergers can be fraught with risk.  I speak, most importantly, of "efficiencies."  Some cost-cutting soulless bureaucrats may try to talk you into "staff reductions" or "buy-outs of overpriced faculty members" or say things like "you don't really need six international entertainment law scholars."

To hell with these people.  Protected tenure for all is as important as a newlywed couple buying a McMansion in the suburbs as soon as they can get a loan.  It is the bulwark of academic liberty, and essential to letting law professors keep their inflated salaries and senses of self-worth.  Every tenured faculty member of either Hamline or Mitchell must be allowed to keep their position, with full liberty to publish as much navel-gazing lucubration as their curricula vitae can handle.  The only way to ensure that Minneapolis does not have a legal scholarship shortage is to continue to provide a supportive environment for each and every one of these superlative scholars.

Furthermore, what will happen when the demand for legal services and particularly legal education rebounds to lofty new heights?  Previously, demand easily supported four law schools in the twin cities.  Please don't be so naive as to think demand will not return, particularly after the current crop of graduates begin making bank when the pending lawyer shortage hits.  You currently have the capacity to handle that demand.  Downsizing would only mean having to upsize in a few years, or, in the alternative, having to open up a whole new law school to ensure that the Twin Cities remains at maximum JD advantage.

I'm happy for you, but you must take these responsibilities seriously.  I implore you to keep full tenured faculties at both institutions and resist any efforts to "improve efficiency" or other corporate non-speak from people who simply don't understand the legal industry and how easy it is to take $200k from 23-year-olds who are on their way to making great district attorneys.

Bless you, whatever you call yourself:  Hamiam Mitchline.  Willline Mitchamill.  Hammy Wilmitch.  Minnesota Summit.  Really, let the creative juices flow.

Just know that I hope you've merged for the right reasons, and that I look forward to your reproducing numerous satellite campuses in Duluth, Rochester, Moorhead, etc. 

If you've married for the wrong reasons, well, the total lack of divorce lawyers to handle the aftermath will, frankly, be your own damned fault.  So pump 'em out, baby.  Pump 'em out.

With love this scammertine's day,

Law School Truth Center.

P.S. - I know the ABA still has to approve this union.  Please don't let cause you any stress.  You could three-way merge with a horse college and a barber college and the ABA would likely acquiesce and feature y'all in a video on social justice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The California Model; or, the LSTC: Where Great Comments Inspire Great Ideas

The Law School Truth Center isn't just a place for me to post love letters to my intangible paramour, the Law School Industrial Complex.  It's also a think tank where the masses can inspire innovations in legal education.  From a comment on my last post:
Being 16 of 203 [law schools] is more prestigious than being 16 of 16.
From this Newtonian observation by Anonymous, we can derive a simple theory:  A greater number of law schools total makes every school except the bottom of the bottom ("PD academies") more prestigious.   Conversely, if law schools unfortunately close, suddenly otherwise-reputable schools like Florida, Arizona State, and Brooklyn may find themselves in the fourth tier.

We must prevent that from happening.  Do you really want to live in a world where a fine school like American is a bottom-feeder?  Of course not!  Those who bemoan schools like Thomas Cooley simply don't understand how the prestige pyramid works.  You have a whole bunch of drones at the bottom, and they buoy up everyone else to ever-greater heights.  Cooley didn't destroy legal education; it was trying to establish yet another base in the pyramid to make schools like Wayne State and Detroit look like sparkling rays of sunshine shooting from a unicorn's eyes.

Lest you think this theorem indefensible and reckless, I give you the Great State of California.  There are dozens of unaccredited schools in California; yet, their role, educating high-quality lawyers, has done nothing to stop the prestige of Stanford and Cal-Berkley.  Indeed, California is only one of three states to have multiple T-14s (to say nothing of the surplus of T2s like UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, UC-Irvine, Loyola, etc.).   And of course, relatively, those type of unaccredited "blue collar" institutions make places like UC-Hastings or Cal-Western look like Harvard.

Previously, I've explored potential other locations for law schools.  I have realized that this might have too restricting of a view on my part.  What we need is for the rest of the nation to implant the California model.  According to crack research by the LSTC, California has sixty (60) law schools and a population of only thirty-nine (39) million.

So California's ratio - which is obviously a successful number to generate fine schools like Stanford - would be roughly 1 law school for every  630,000 people.  Current US Population is 319 million, so our actual number of law schools to achieve California-quality prestige and legal representation nationwide would be around 506.

Examples of the severe shortfall of law schools to achieve this ideal abound.  Washington only has three law schools.  It should have 11 or 12.  Wisconsin has 2 law schools. It should have 9 or 10.  Ohio, with 9 law schools, is underlawschooled by 10.

When folks like Professor Seto talk about an impending lawyer shortage, it's not a great revelation to figure it out; we simply haven't considered that maybe the legal education industrial complex's problem isn't too many law schools, but too few.   Plus, as everyone knows, more competition always means a better result for consumers.

It's not just a matter of running out of lawyers.  

It's a matter of running out of prestige.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Study: Paying Deans Millions as Effective - if not Moreso - Than "Experiental Education"

As most devoted readers know, law schools have been under a lot of pressure by certain irrational folks to reform - this despite the fact that law schools have historically done exceptionally well at educating America's lawyers, such that American justice has never been in better shape.

One of the popular reform "ideas" is adding more "experiential" "learning," things like clinics and externships, expensive do-hickeys that are less fun and lucrative than letting Professor McAncient dust off his UCC or Crim Pro outline each year, while profit margins soar and the lounge gets a new cappuccino machine with silver plating...drool...

The problem is that those expensive clunker clinics don't help employment outcomesLook, it's science!
To summarize the paper’s key finding: there is no statistical relationship between law school opportunities for skills training and JD employment outcomes. In contrast, employment outcomes do seem to be strongly related to law school prestige.

If prestige is what truly matters, why spend ridiculous amounts of money on clinics?  Everyone knows that clinics are associated with law schools where the 98% employed are most likely to work for government, small firms, or public interest firms; noble deeds, but far from the importance of appellate clerks and law professorships.  On the other hand, schools like Stanford, Yale, and Emory have no need for such things.

So what should the "lesser" law schools do?  How about instead of dumping cash in the sinkhole of training stupid practical lawyers, you instead pay out the bazooka bucks to land a worthy seven-figure dean?

There is literally no evidence that a domestic violence clinic is a pubic hair better than paying buying Erwin Chemerinsky his own private island.  But there IS evidence that having Erwin Chemerinsky as your dean can take prestige from zero to mid-level hero with a good chance at a federal court gig.

And that's what we call logic.  Letting your all-star professors backstroke in Scrooge McDuck's gold silo is literally as worthwhile as teaching (well, trying to teach) anyone to actually practice law.

Viva la profession.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pirate Law Deans Far from the Caribbean

A few weeks back, I celebrated the transfer game, where law deans send raiding parties to other law schools to swoop in, appropriately pillage, and leave the remainder to enjoy mid-law jobs instead of big law riches.

Today, Inside Higher Ed has an article honoring our favorite pirate captains.  Here's Georgetown's Andy Cornblatt (great pirate name!):
Cornblatt said it would violate antitrust laws and be "paternalistic to the extreme" to try to curb transfers.

“These are not elementary school kids, these are adults who are in the middle of or finished their first year of law school,” he said.
Ay, the fear of antitrust argument coupled with the "sophisticated consumers of free choice" argument, coupled with a giant straw man, to the extreme.  That's some nice piratin' on the good ship Georgetown.  I mean, the way he sails past the implicit questions of why transfers may be a bad thing and goes straight to refuting arguments no one's making is some excellent verbal maneuvering.  To the extreme.

But shiver me timbers, look at what the Arizona State Raiders can do:
“The LSAT is a good predictor of first-year performance, but it’s nowhere near as good a predictor as first-year performance,” said Douglas Sylvester, the dean of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
Give that man a parrot and call him Captain Sly!  And why is he being interviewed?
Arizona State accepted 66 transfer students last year, the second most in the country, behind Georgetown. Nearly a third of ASU’s second-year students are now transfer students. Forty-four of those transfers came from Arizona Summit Law School.
Yes, first-year performance at an InfiLaw school IS better than either an LSAT.  After all, who would YOU rather hire as a lawyer:  the 43rd-best 1L at Arizona Summit or a random 157 LSAT? 

You know what the number-one sign of some great piratin' is?  Butt-hurt.  Cue the victimhood:
“I do believe it to be poaching,” [Arizona Summit Dean Shirley] Mays said of ASU, “and I do wonder if the ranking system were changed so that the LSAT scores of transfer students were included whether or not the poaching of students from the lower-tiered schools would continue.”
While one has to admire her "my precious!" attitude towards her top students, I can't help but agree with Captain Sly:
"Give your students reasons to stay and we wouldn’t be able to take them,” Sylvester said.
Ahoy!  Sounds to me like a dare!

Obviously, Arizona Summit's promises of future career riches and JD-Advantage(c) thinking skills aren't enough to retain top talent.  They should set up a foundation or something that gives out extra scholarships and can be used as kick-backs to hot professors and forgivable loans to deans.  They should also build a swimming pool and tack on a billiard room.  And maybe sponsor a minor league baseball stadium.

Or better yet, they could build their own pirate ship and send out a raiding party of their own.  California has plenty of state-accredited schools.  Mexico probably has law schools.  Take laterals from nursing schools or something.  Seriously, get creative.  The ABA isn't going to stop you.  It's, like, an antitrust violation or something.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Former SMU Dean Arrested, Possibly for Giving Novel Form of Scholarship

I know, I know, prostitution is still technically illegal.  So is marijuana.  But let's be serious.  If you're young and stupid and like rock and/or roll and/or hip and/or hop, it's okay to light up a "doobie."  And if you're a refined white man of means with a cufflink collection, fashion-forward socks, and a Rolodex of dudes who are on wife number three and Lexus number four, you're entitled to stick your dick wherever you want if you've paid fair market value for the privilege.  It's as American as buying GE stock and golfing at a club where minorities are rarer than holes in one.

In any event, former SMU dean John Attanasio was arrested recently on vague prostitution-related charges.  Remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty (or, you know, forced to plead with a chandelier of Damocles's knives hanging over one's head by a single thread).  I know in modern media times, we're like a digital lynch mob, but I'm going to take the high road and assume that - just like Paul Pless - he's innocent and was framed or duped by some fraudulent scheme.

After all, no sophisticated consumer could get caught picking up a hooker, right?

Here's a hypothetical that explains how many of these things might happen with an upstanding law dean:

FEMALE:  Oh!  Hi, law dean!
DEAN:  Hello, future empress of dynastic legal change.
FEMALE:  Oh, you!  I prefer guillotine in the coming doctrinal revolution.
DEAN:  I would love to accept you in my school, which is a spring training ground for legal shortstops who want to turn two and then hit a triple in the bottom half.
FEMALE:  That sounds great!  Can I pay you full tuition so you can teach me to be an eloquent flamethrower of jurisprudential burns in the arid courtroom climate?
DEAN:  Perhaps.  I can't help but notice you're practically naked standing on this street corner.  You can't be a pioneering trailblazer leading the wagons of justice wearing lingerie.
FEMALE:  I know!
DEAN:  Let me make you a deal.  If you come to my law school, I'll give you a scholarship of half-off so you can start being a courtroom Eskimo building persuasive igloos with ice blocks of truth and diversity.
FEMALE:  Really?!
DEAN:  $20k a year, an excellent price to become a walking blowjob of  sublime justice wearing the immortal lipstick of Constitutionality.
POLICE:  Up against the wall, everyone!
FEMALE:  Oh, I wish I were already a legal lyricist crafting the grand libretto in the opera of truth!  Mr. Law Dean, O capeless crusader, use your magical powers!
 DEAN:  Shut up, ho, I'm calling a friend who knows what he's doing.

I have no idea what happened with the former SMU dean and the above is wildly made-up, but making stuff up and presenting it as some version of the truth is a tradition we in the legal industry hold quite dear.