Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Charleston Saga: Law School as Living Horatio Alger Metaphor

Ah, where were we?  Oh, yes.  Charleston School of Law had finally vanquished and driven out the greedy proprietors who were attempting to sell the city's crown jewel to Infilaw.  Despite Infilaw offering superior legal career trajectory at a market-beating price, Charleston alumni and students felt they could do better, just like the numerous women who turned down my various proposals yelled at them from moving vehicles.  And who could blame them, really? This is America and the gas is pumpin', baby; almost everyone is doing great; everyone except you, in fact.  Infilaw itself has even found more profitable uses of its capital than running successful law schools, proving that legal education is a competitive market giving students lots of bang for little buck.

The good news doesn't stop there.  Charleston has been mightily rewarded for its dogged perseverance. Look at how high it has hoisted itself:
Bell’s splashiest proposal at the time, making the school a nonprofit, is still in the works as the school files paperwork with multiple regulatory groups. As part of the process, the school has paid off $6 million it owed to InfiLaw after backing out of the deal — partly using the school’s funds, partly using Bell’s own money, according to the attorney. Bell said he believes the school can complete the transition by early 2020.
Money well spent, sir! I mean, just look at how the fine specimens develop:
Charleston School of Law’s bar passage rates have lagged for years, a phenomenon that Bell and other college officials have blamed in part on the InfiLaw deal. Some of the school’s top-performing students transferred out shortly after the deal was announced in 2015. Bell said the influx of Charlotte transfers might also be a factor.
...Change is coming, Bell said. With more applicants each year, the cutoff LSAT scores for entry to the Charleston School of Law are on the rise.

“It’s becoming harder to get in. Our profile of students has gone up,” Bell said.
According to Law School Transparency, CSOL has a 44% employment score, a 46.7% bar passage rate, a robust LSAT spread of 143-151, and a non-discounted cost of $241,146.

Brother, if that's not progress to brag about, I don't know what is.  What a happy epilogue for all involved.  You dance, Charleston.  You dance.  And scam on.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Albany Law School Finally Catches Financial Break

As we all know, a life is judged on the size of an estate.  Morally, anyway, it's a fair approximation.  Economically, you'd have to consider the assets of the state, liquidity, expected rates of return, etc.  But the rule stands that a man with millions to flush down the toilet can be assumed to have done good, smart, upright things in life.

We know that most critics of the legal education system, by contrast, are morally bankrupt, and, I suspect, their finances fare little better.  They may live well, upper middle class perhaps given the lofty salaries of even government lawyers and contract compliance officers, but true elitist wealth surely remains elusive, the intangibles forces of such accretions sensing their cold, slime-coated hearts.

Albany Law receives some spittle from the latter, but this donation from one of the better class's members no doubt makes all that abacus booger flicking worthwhile:
Albany Law School has received $15 million, the largest gift in school history from an anonymous donor whose support will help the school continue providing free legal services.
Ouellette said the donation would be noticed around the world, though she conceded some people might wonder why a donor gave $15 million to a smaller upstate law school.
The well-read reader may recognize the circumstance - a mysterious benefactor issuing a head-scratching donation - as downright Dickensian in a way, and indeed Albany Law School is as good of a recipient for sudden pseudo-humanist largesse from an old coot as Bob Motherfuckin' Crachit.

Don't believe me?  Let's ask Dean Ouellette if her institution is worthy:
"We realized as we talked among ourselves that we are really one of the best-kept secrets in the Capital Region," Ouellette said, "and it makes perfect sense that someone would look at us as a place to leave a legacy gift like this."

She said the school was "reinventing legal education in order to meet societal need," and a "little bit of a unicorn" — an independent law school thriving at a time when similar institutions are failing.
Indeed!  Given the typical humility of law school programs - I recall the brochures being quite modest about opportunities when I applied, drastically undercutting the orgasmic pleasure and financial opportunities afforded by a legal education - it comes as no surprise that it would take a $15 million donation for administrators to sit around and talk amongst themselves about how amazing they are.

I'm reminded of my favorite passage in Great Expectations when Pip learns from the esteemed lawyer (!) Mr. Jaggers that he has just been dealt the rare and inexplicable (well, without a law degree!) "Social Class Upgrade" card:
“I am instructed to communicate to him,” said Mr. Jaggers, throwing his finger at me sideways, “that he will come into a handsome property. Further, that it is the desire of the present possessor of that property, that he be immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman,—in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations.”
My dream was out; my wild fancy was surpassed by sober reality; Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale.  When I contemplated it, it made for perfect sense.  I was one of the best-kept secrets within a gentle carriage ride of London's orbit, a 'little bit of a unicorn'  myself, combining the greater virtues of the lesser and superior classes with the prodigious butter-churn of a Vulcanized Adonis; by God, were I to come into sufficient bank notes and credit, I could effortlessly mold Victorian England towards the justice of the purest-hearted monarchs, a hundred pupils at a thousand quid a head, no matter how dim their candles flicker!  Hie, great legal stallions!  Fear not the debtor's prison, for you can discharge your indentures with liberty and service to the crown!  Oh, my apologies...
As much as Dickens gets flack for being stodgy and prone to antiquated, reductionist moral lessons dressed in purplish prose, he was damned prescient.

What the fuck is a little bit of a unicorn?  Isn't that a pony?  Congratulations, Albany.  You've earned it.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Periodic Reminder That Your Minimal Competence Standard is Racist

New year, old story:
[A group of California law deans] suggest the state’s minimum passing score of 144 is too high, compared to the national average of 135, and disproportionately keeps African-American and Latino law graduates from entering the profession...
[I]f California adopted the national average, the number of African-American law graduates passing the exam would have doubled.
If you haven't heard this argument, or developed it on your own upon a thoughtful review of the legal education system, as all good lawyers must undertake regularly, you aren't trying hard enough.  Not unlike the bar failures you might say, you racist bonehead.

But this article goes above and beyond.  In particular, check out this aspirant for the Nick Allard Award:
“More clients insist on having diverse lawyering teams, and this is an irony,” said UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer Mnookin “We are this extraordinarily diverse state that is reducing the pool of good lawyers.”
Assert a dubious fact without proof, misuse the word "irony," misuse the word "good," and throw a needless "extraordinarily" in the quote. When I read passages like this, I am enraptured in a sort of ecstasy. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty.  I reach the point where one encounters celestial sensations. Everything speaks so vividly to my soul. I have palpitations of the heart. Life is drained from me.

But she doesn't stop there!
“The bar exam was invented as a paper and pencil test,” she said, suggesting that past generations focused on memorization while current law students rely more on quickly accessing online data. “Some of what is on the bar exam might not be a good fit for this generation.”
I am not worthy.  Even as satire one couldn't come up with such a brazenly absurd excuse for declining bar scores; my god, you do what your elders did and cram for a month on bummed pills and coffee.  It's not like the laptop and an internet connection were invented in 2012. Old timers, many of whom are clinical idiots, had access these magical things called books using indices and KeyCites, so it's not like they had any greater need to memorize things in practice

It's potentially the dumbest argument the LSTC has ever encountered in support of Law Schools Gone Wild.  But there the argument is, in all its glory!  In print, from a Harvard undergrad, Yale law grad, MIT PhD!

So I'm doing what all good apologists do and adopting it wholesale.  I join the law deans' call to end the racist bar exam by lowering the minimum passing score in not just California, but all jurisdictions, and give these kids access to Westlaw and their mobile phones during the test. 

It is, after all, what clients want.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Happy 2019, You Loser Journalists Still Fighting "Good" Fight

I thought we were past this.

It's 2019.  The "scam" - which is totally apocryphal with no basis in reality- definitively existed from the legal profession's fashionably delayed recognition of a recession in 2009 to around Esquire Larry Mitchell's resignation in the spring of 2014.  Since then, we've had a rebound of applicants, slow acceptance of Michael Simkovic's ground-breaking research as unassailable truth, and law deans singin' and dancin' like R. Kelly.

Yet, when I scroll the ho-hum news of legal gallantry - nothing makes a morning like a scroll of Above the Law on the toilet with a White Russian in hand and a rail of coke near the sink - I still see incomprehensible, retrogressive piffle like this.
Boston law schools are fighting to climb their way out of an enrollment and employment crisis despite a “Trump bump” of activist legal eagles that some say is modestly boosting application rates.

“Graduating law school is no longer the ticket to a very comfortable upper-middle-class living,” said civil liberties and constitutional law crusader Harvey Silverglate. He said there is an “oversupply” of lawyers in the state, making it difficult for graduates to find a job.

“You can’t blame people for not going to law school when they can go out directly from college and get a fairly well-paying job,” said Silverglate, “The value of the degree has gone down, but the price of attending law school has gone up.”
Harvey Silverglate?  C'mon, journos.  You can't use rejected Willy Wonka villains for sources.

It's truly curious that law schools and legal journalists would see (encourage!) a "Trump bump" - that our President is so respectful of our legal system and the benefits/protections it can confer on good people that it makes people want to study law - as many of the problems of journalism appear in criticism of the President as appear in skeptical articles about law school.

For example, look at the amount of "fake news" in this one mule-headed article.  Here's the fourth paragraph:
According to data from the American Bar Association, enrollment rates at top Boston law schools have plummeted since 2012 — with Suffolk University seeing a 29 percent reduction; Boston College, nearly 14 percent; and Northeastern University at 7 percent.
Boston College, Northeastern, and Suffolk are not "top" law schools.  They're middle-of-the-road, versatile law schools, representative of the firm greatness of legal education from across the country.  How's enrollment rates at Harvard, hmmmm?  And here's more with the ender:
“Bar pass rates are often a lagging indicator of what law schools are doing and what kind of students they are bringing in,” Perlman said.
My hairy beanbag is a lagging indicator.  Bar pass rates are a sign that Millennial students are spending too much time on their xPhones and iBoxes, nothing more, nothing less.

Journalism can be better than this.  In the dawn of this New Year, let's resolve to make it so.  No more negativity.  Only intelligent positivity.  And in-depth content.  And sales, as appropriate, of course.