Wednesday, June 29, 2016

South Texas (NKA Houston College of Law) Achieves Brilliant Brand Confusion (UPDATED 6/30)

When a shitty product is facing a lack of consumer interest, it has many options.  You could make the product better.  You could make it cheaper.  Or you could just change the name so consumers confuse it with slightly better products.

Long ago, for example, New York Law School was founded in the same city as New York University, which had a similarly named law school.  That was in 1891, back when Texas only had two law schools and its territory was effectively a lawless hellhole requiring John Wayne to run around and shoot the natives.

Previously, South Texas was mostly confused with Texas Southern.  There's only three letters of difference, both are located in Houston, and both lead to seven-figure lifetime earnings premiums representing downtrodden immigrants and criminal defendants in one of America's fastest growing markets - if they aren't snapped up by Baker Botts first and thrown on the fast track to partner (check your greed, privileged ones, check your greed!).

But if this blog teaches anything, it's that good scamming can always be improved.  Just like million dollar premiums, it's really easy to improve one's standing on paper, and South Texas has done just that.

Not only has South Texas changed its name to Houston College of Law adopted similar colors to a certain rival, the newly named Houston College of Law has drawn a federal court lawsuit from the University of Houston.
UH claims in the suit that the other school's new name too closely resembles the University of Houston Law Center, diluting the brand of UH's law school and infringing on UH's trademarks.

The suit also makes clear that UH views itself as the superior school and is worried about being confused with its competitor in the state's largest city. Last year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the UH Law Center the 50th best law school in the country.

In stark contrast to the reputation and renown of UH regarding education services, and particularly legal education services, as of 2016 [South Texas College of Law] was not ranked at all in the U.S. News Rankings of Best Law Schools," the lawsuit says. "In fact, STCL has struggled since its inception to shed its image as a 'night school.'"
You might think that the Law School Truth Center would oppose law suits between law schools, but South Texas should take this as a badge of honor.  Has a craphole ever successfully lured a top 50 law school to file a law suit requiring the higher-ranked law school admit there's a legitimate potential for confusing the two?

This is a landmark achievement.  Prospective students will now more freely associate South Texas NKA Houston College of Law with the more prestigious University of Houston Law Center, just as the Western Michigan moniker has made Cooley's reputation soar to that of Western New England or Western State.

If anything, Texas Southern should follow suit and change its name to Houston-Marshall, providing not only additional market confusion with the two other Houston schools, but also with the three (3) other law schools bearing the Marshall brand name.

Not since Arizona Summit have I been this proud of a re-branding, and that includes Mitchell Fucking Hamline.

UPDATE:  One of Houston's top 3 law schools has responded.
“Houston College of Law is making this name change to avoid confusion,” Johnson said. “In fact, creating market confusion would be in direct conflict with the mission of our 93-year-old, private, independent law school. For many years we’ve dealt with misunderstanding surrounding ‘South Texas,’ which is not descriptive of our historic location in downtown Houston.”
Maybe they should have called it Houston Summit instead?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Department of Education Fails to Appreciate the Virtues of De Facto Regulatory Capture

The Department of Education - Thanks, Obama! - is apparently jumping on the anti-law school bandwagon by going after the ABA:
A Department of Education panel on Wednesday recommended that the ABA’s accreditation power for new law schools be suspended for one year, on the basis that the organization failed to implement its student achievement standards and probationary sanctions, while also not meeting its audit process and analysis responsibilities regarding students’ debt levels.
What Stalinist abuse of bureaucracy is this?  It's like having someone in your back pocket and then suddenly they start fucking you in the ass like a woodpecker on crack.  Has the DOE not been sent the latest scholarly literature?  Is the DOE overlooking the crucial importance of legal education in upholding the Rule of Law?  Is the DOE aware of the effective task forces, studious conferences, non-partisan position papers, and essential trade fiction published by the ABA?

Instead of making idle threats on withdrawing accreditation power from America's foremost lawyer association and indirectly threatening the very foundations of American democracy, the Department of Education should be providing a bailout for California Southern, whose pending closure ends an era of non-accredited educational advancement in a part of the country that is starved for lawyers and law schools.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Noam Scheiber Does Not Know When to Quit

It takes a lot of chutzpah to reply to Professor Michael Simkovic after Professor Michael Simkovic has put one squarely in his place, but Noan Scheiber, author of the recent New York Times article on Valparaiso Law, did just that (or tried...) after Simkovic pointed out six (6!) errors in Scheiber's piece.  While Scheiber puts for a good deal of data-based support like citing Matt Leichter and looking too closely at the BLS numbers ("BLS numbers for lawyers are up 9.74% between 2007 and 2015--from 555,770 to 609,930. By contrast, if you take a broad white-collar category like “management occupations,” it’s up 15.5%."), the response veers a bit too much in the direction of jealous insolence.
It’s not worth reviewing the controversy about your work on law graduate earnings here, since the criticisms are well-established. But suffice it to say, I think it’s strange to respond to a claim that the economic prospects of people graduating after the recession have fundamentally changed relative to those who graduated before the recession with a study that only includes people who graduated prior to 2009.  
[Y]our point about Mr. Acosta either having enough savings to pay his tax bill, or being insolvent and not having to pay taxes, is bizarre...Even if you’re on track to have $1 million in assets when you retire, those assets supposed to last you a good 20 years. Losing $70,000 or more in a single year is a huge hit.
Overall, your arguments strike me as odd. You don’t sufficiently take into account the extent to which graduating from a weak school in a weak job market, and failing to pass the bar, can be crippling for one’s career prospects.
Strange, bizarre, odd?  For a New York Times writer, these terms lack both proper civility and edification.  Aberrant, mystifying, anomalistic, heteroclite.  If we're arguing the value of education, let's at least pull from the absurd depths of liberal artistry, by which I mean using a thesaurus.  Of course, my preferred "odd" synonyms for Professors Simkovic would be extraordinary, exceptional, and remarkable, each of which describes his pitch-perfect defense of law schools.

Overall, I believe I am most disappointed in Scheiber for publishing his rebuttals on Facebook.  Facebook is not peer-reviewed.  Facebook does not even have editorial controls like the bespectacled grammarians who staff the New York Times.  It's the vulgar wild west, just like these easily ignored blogs.  If Schreiber really wants these views taken seriously, he should consider publishing in a prestigious, long-standing academic publication like the UC Irvine Law Review, or at least having a colleague glance at his work to point out the numerous errors beforehand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Law School Investment so Solid it's Dense

If you are reading this piece, you are probably a loser.  You are probably either distracting yourself at a dead-end job, recovering from a long day at a dead-end job, or looking for a dead-end job.  Were you a winner, you would be billing hours, spending your lavish salary, or frolicking in bed with a model or two.

Professor Stephen Davidoff Solomon, UC-Berkley, has relatively little sympathy for this tale of two shitties.
The criticisms ignore the fact that even lower-ranked law schools offer more good outcomes than bad. ... [discussion of the only peer-reviewed literature on the subject] ...

The fact that lawyers do reasonably well over time and better than they would have done had they not gone to law school is reflected in the low default rates on law school loans. ["it's not a default if it's an alternative payment plan!" -ed]

The simple fact is that the lower- and mid-ranked law schools are for those who want to remain in a local place. ... [discussion of Marco Rubio, an example you can follow] ...
But let’s not lump everything together. And let’s recognize that for most, the data still shows that over the long term, law school can be a fruitful choice.
God bless you, New York Times.

Sure, I could write an epic series of haiku that provide hard statistical data showing that attending Whitter Law School for three years increases the strength and fertility of the common California vole (they look quite adorable in a Men's Wearhouse suit).  Sure, I could send my research to the mods of OTLSS and claim it's "peer-reviewed."  I might even get it published in a top-notch law review.

But I'm no law prof.  There's limits to my shilling capacity.  For example, I would have a hard time claiming that Simkovic's research makes any sort of prospective conclusions about graduates entering school in 2016.  My body would lock up and refuse to type before I would state that a low default rate means anything for long-term lawyer earnings.  Moreover, I would have an incredibly hard time lauding Marco Rubio as the choice example of long-term lawyer success from a lower-ranked school.

To my trained but unsophisticated eyes, Solomon's factual evidence would not come close to supporting any sort of a conclusion that law school is still a solid investment for the majority, or even those who want to "remain in a local place" like Nebraska.

But law professors are gifted with keen insight, a sort of legal wizardry that allows them to conjure facts from the Cauldron of Greater Truth that wholly support seemingly unsupported conclusions.  Their words, they dance like animated twigs; discerning peers approve in cordial tone; elixirs are consumed with herb crackers and artisan cheese.  We muggles with our courthouse rigamarole have nothing on their Ivory Tower voodoo.

'Tis best if we let them do their thing.  If we demur and they tell us we're actually doing quite well, we should trust them, and retreat from their greatness, lest they pull out their wands and turn their awesome sorcery on the commoners.

And if you have a child, you should send him to law school.  He could be a wizard too, you know, but even if he isn't, he's not just making a solid career investment, he's making a dense one.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

New York Times Chronicles Human Cost of Law School Bubble Deflation

Like many New York Times feature pieces, this one by Noam Scheiber runs a few thousand words and buries all of the good stuff in the middle.

The article focuses on Valparaiso, which is easily one of the top five law schools in Indiana.  Completely ignoring the crucial research done by scholars such as Simkovic & McIntyre, the article purports to claim that Valparaiso graduates are saddled with inescapable debt in a saturated and shrinking profession that sells false hope and superficial ideals in exchange for one's soul.  As-if law schools should somehow be blamed for running an ideal capitalist enterprise.

The Valpo students profiled do little to actually support the article's implied thesis about fourth-tier law graduates being trapped in a Kafkaesque hell where the pursuit of justice leads one to be ensnared in greater injustice.

First up, we have two engaged students, both seemingly non-traditional, who are in a position to start their own law firms while raising a child.  The Times, in its bias towards large, soulless corporations, sees this sort of entrepreneurship as a sign of systemic jobs failure.  Yet, Valpo should be proud that its students are contributing to solving the shortage of legal needs among ordinary folk instead of being second tier graduates sucked up by more "prestigious" jobs.  This is why not all law schools are Harvard or Yale.

Second, we have a Mexican restaurant round-table.  Yet another apparent non-trad student (two children and ten years out of undergrad) played the famous anticipated regret card ("“I would have been sitting at some desk, in somebody’s office, with some type of job, wondering, ‘Should I have gone?’” she said.") and is angling for an easy-breezey JD-advantage job.
The starting salary is likely to be in the mid-to-high five figures, but she hopes such a job could lead to a more senior position.
Mid-to-high five figures in Indiana?  Instead of complaining, this woman should set up an annual recurring payment to Valpo's alumni fund.  Gary's median income is 32k for a family.  This sort of ungratefulness makes lawyers look like greedy shits.

Finally, we have a Valpo graduate who has struggled to pass the bar examination but still thankfully understands the importance of a law degree in her life, as well as the fine distinction between the law school's fault and the fault of the general economic principle of exploiting the exploitable.
After graduation, she took a bar prep class and threw herself into studying full time, undeterred by her “massive” debt load. When she found out she failed, she took a job in the clothing department of Meijer while she prepared to take the test again this past February. But not long before I showed up, she found out that she had failed that test, too.
...“I wouldn’t trade my law degree for anything,” she added. “I would trade the debt.”
With such skill of recognizing distinctions of merit, she obviously has been studying well.

Despite the article's attempt to paint students as some sort of true American victims barely crawling through an obstacle course of debt and destruction, the real human cost can be readily seen in the middle of the article.
To the faculty at Valparaiso and the roughly 20 percent of the 200 or so American Bar Association-accredited law schools that have cut back aggressively in recent years, these moves can feel shockingly harsh.

“Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t think it would be as stark,” said Rosalie Levinson, a longtime constitutional law professor at Valparaiso who recently headed a committee on restructuring the school. “The number of tenured faculty that would be leaving — not gradually but immediately — just personally, that was difficult.”

Law students are there for three years.  They take their degrees, move on, make money.  Tenured professors are stuck there.  It is their life, much as a monk or nun chooses low-profit servitude to higher powers.  They come to rely upon that meager, sub-partner level six figure check for teaching three courses a year and writing an article about the Canary Islands.  These people counted upon a constant influx of fresh meat to make the butcher's shop glisten with that patina of fresh blood.

But the selfishness of prospective students has made the spring of new blood run dry.  I know I have said it many times before on this site, but the law professor having his cannibalistic gravy train rudely interrupted by the global financial crisis and its effect on American lawyers is the most tragic story of the last decade in legal education.  Many of these professors are over or approaching sixty and have been banking on the six figure checks to continue as long as possible.  Surely, the only fair move - and the best for our nation's economy - is to keep the money flowing one way or another, particularly if the by-product is that borderline students can acquire a Harvard-level education.

Sadly, the Times is persuaded by the seductive lure of jaded youth and apparently exploitation, without even appreciating the capitalist brilliance and that, just maybe, the world is a better place with indebted lawyers and Boomer professors who get their fair share.

 Addendum:  Simkovic strikes back, citing his own "peer reviewed" research. And again.  You can't tame amazing.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Newsweek: America's Forgotten Bastion of Journalism

It's easy, in the age of the internet, to forget that once upon a time, America had great magazines, bestowing upon their bathroom and waiting room readership immense knowledge about the events of the day.

Newsweek was one such periodical.  It's touching to see that Newsweek is not only still publishing items of public interest, but doing so in an extremely intelligent fashion:
It is no secret that being a lawyer is one of the most demanding professions, with long hours being the norm and an exceptional level of talent and intelligence required.
Already, we're approaching Pulitzer territory.  It must be a daily basis that I speak with another attorney and I am reminded that it truly does take supreme intellect and talent to find bold new ways to frivolously object to discovery requests, to fill fifteen pages with an argument more fit for three or four, to talk for a half-hour on the phone without saying anything useful.  For someone to finally capture that feeling in prose has made my weekend.

But the article doesn't stop at blowing smoke up the ass of every parent of a law school delivery in American history.  After noting the riches that accrue to American lawyers and that "the experience and prestige gained from being a part of [BigLaw's] procedures and work ethic will be invaluable," the article dives straight into discussing some of America's finest law programs.

It's not advertising.  It's Newsweek.  Seattle, Maryland, Nova Southeastern, Appalachian, NYLS, St. Thomas, and Western State all were awarded accolades in the article such as this one:
Meanwhile, the Appalachian School of Law teaches students to help advance their communities, requiring them to complete 25 hours of community service each semester by proposing their own project or choosing from a list of over 60 projects.
In any event, if there was no doubt that some gunner of a copywriter is shooting for an award and/or complimentary anilingus and/or a publishing deal with Ankerwyke, check out the closer:
The preservation of freedom means all must depend on the same laws to keep the world equal, and it is up to the lawyers to be the guardians of this trust to maintain the fragile balance – a momentous responsibility entrusted to only the cream of the crop.
Let us enjoy the ongoing climax of American law and let that cream flow.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

JD Advantage Beneficiary Whines About Hors D'oeuvres on Million Dollar Express

You can't make this shit up.
To my greedy law school:

No. Stop asking. I’m not going to give you any money. Ever. So you can stop sending those fundraising letters every few months, begging for more of my hard-earned cash.
I’m blaming you because you lied to us. You reported employment statistics — even back in 2007, when things were decidedly rosier — that led prospective students to believe that a huge portion of your graduates walked out of your hallowed halls and right into lucrative associate positions at fancy law firms. The reality, as we now know, is that you were counting everyone with any kind of job at all — from the guy working just a few hours per week at the 7-Eleven to the girl who took your perennial temporary position in the student affairs office — as employed, for the purposes of bragging about postgraduation employment.
I truly, deeply regret attending law school.
Instead, that law degree on my résumé has held me back.  
Going to law school has irreparably damaged my career.
But worst of all is the debt. 
Ingrate.  No one held a gun to your head and told you to believe the excessive puffery pumped out by your prestigious law school.  No one made you enroll there instead of schools with equally excellent track records.  No one signed the loan papers for you.

Normally, I'm against blaming the victim, but there's no victim here.  This guy landed a business analyst job in one of the coolest cities in the United States.  He's living the dream.

On the million dollar express, there are first class accommodations, but everyone's headed straight for North Financial Orgasmville.  The dining car is open from 5:30 to 8:00.  Try the salmon.  Bar is in the front of the train; AA meetings in the rear.  Enjoy the voyage.  When you disembark, there'll be a debt forgiveness voucher and a beautiful Japanese woman with a smile on her perfect face, and together you will laugh at these youthful grouses as she thanks you for your lifetime of service.  

The first thing you will do is wire a donation to your law school to sponsor a vital legal scholarship initiative.  With the wisdom of age, you will comprehend the magnitude of law's gifts and devote the rest of your days to signing up others for the journey, bitterly regretting that a temporary global financial catastrophe slightly set back the obvious bounty of a legal education in the United States....

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Trump's Rise to Imagined Authoritarianism Shows More Lawyers Desperately Needed

Some people insist that America has too many lawyers.  They point to things like a purported massive temporary surplus of new JDs and phone books teeming with schmucks desperate for retainers with that precious fourth digit...


As law professors have tried to explain to the uneducated public, the Rule of Law - in fact, the stability of democratic republican virtue - is directly dependent on the number of lawyers to enforce constitutional values.  In math form:

More Lawyers = Exponentially Better Rule of Law

And yet, despite American law schools trying to meet the nation's legal needs, we are on the brink of disaster.
And, in what was a tipping point for some, he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the Federal District Court in San Diego, who is overseeing two class actions against Trump University.

Mr. Trump accused the judge of bias, falsely said he was Mexican and seemed to issue a threat.

“They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Mr. Trump said. “O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”

David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.

“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
Yes, we are on the verge of our Republican nominee for President being a man without respect for the nation's judiciary.  Were Trump a lawyer, some bar association would be giving him the Ministry of Love makeover when the docket next had time.

But he's not.  He's a non-lawyer, and his lack of respect for the Rule of Law and the secured pedestal cage in which we place judges is appalling.

But it was entirely preventable.

Mr. Trump's brash calumnies against the judge handling his civil matter are unpleasant, but instead of whining about authoritarianism and populist critiques of a completely reasonable and laudable application of the judicial system, let's do something about it.

If more lawyers means a greater respect for the Rule of Law, there's only one solution that we know will work to ensure that Trump's view remains a minority one, if not a belief washed from the social picture entirely.  More lawyers.

Sure, we could come up with other solutions, like just not voting for blowhard demagogues who can't even respect a straightforward civil proceeding.  Or, we could take the easier approach and simply enroll more people in law school.

If everyone in Trump's circle - or even Trump himself - had a law degree, there would be more of an understanding of the abhorrence of his conduct.  His outbursts are a symptom of too few lawyers.  This is what we call proof, and it is what wins trials.

At a minimum, this episode should put into perspective the whinging nonsense we hear about 10,000 new lawyers being jobless every year.  Even were that true - and I think we can all agree the employment numbers are bogus, yes? - the temporary hindrances to a few thousand at the start of their careers are worth slightly less than national confidence in the Rule of Law.

Indeed, Hillary Clinton, like many establishment candidates before her, has a closet full of skeletons and an attic's worth of baggage.  But at least she and her fore-bearers respected the Rule of Law sufficiently to evade or manipulate it.  Trump, going after it head-on with cheap slander and media-mode potshots, is an odiousness we can ill afford.

We need more troops in the rank and file.  I don't care if it takes 100,000 or 200,000 law graduates a year, by God we are going to support the Rule of Law against reality show dictators. 

The overwhelming odds are that there is a law school within 100 miles of where you, dear reader, are currently sitting.  Please make a donation or nudge a lemming.  Preferably full price-paying.  Support building law schools where they are desperately needed, in places like New York, Massachusetts, Florida, California.  America needs you now more than ever.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The World's Oldest Form of Experiential Learning

Older wealthy men often need warm female bodies.  An increasingly female, increasingly indebted law student population needs money.  Typical of the fine problem solving skills evident in most degree candidates, numerous students have figured out the solution.
During her first year, she faced tuition and expenses that ran nearly $50,000, even after a scholarship. So she decided to check out a dating website that connected women looking for financial help with men willing to provide it, in exchange for companionship and sex — a "sugar daddy" relationship as they are known.

Now, almost three years and several sugar daddies later, [she] will have zero college debt, while some of her peers are burdened with six-digit debts.
I'm not seeing any moral queasiness here.  For one, sugar daddy relationships diversify the law school with female students who may not have been otherwise able to afford an elitist education.

My law school didn't have many hos.  Did yours?

More importantly, there's a great deal of practical education here:  managing the client's expectations, dealing with late-night calls, using a good standard retainer to protect yourself, applying the UCC when the checks cash, properly objecting when the other party wants to slip in something improper...

Really, I don't know why we don't just recruit at the Bunny Ranch.