Month: October 2010

Pre-election Musing on Federalism

Image of the US House mathematically redistricted over the lower 48 states using the "Shortest Splitline Algorithm"

I saw two televised debates this election cycle: New York’s US Senatorial race (the Schumer one—I get to vote in two Senate elections this year, YAY!), and oddly, the Colorado gubernatorial debate.

Aside from the Coloradoans discussing higher education (I forget if it was the Republican Maes or American Constitutional Party Tancredo who mentioned that university professors teach only thirteen hours per week and that they should amp that up to thirty), nothing laworthy came up, which isn’t unfair—legal education isn’t the biggest problem in the country.

Two moments in the debates made me ask, just what good are state governments right now?  One moment was when Schumer’s opponent, Republican Jay Townsend, criticized Schumer for inaction while 1.5 million residents left New York during his twelve years in office, as well as watching other states receive giveaways from the federal government (Umm, TARP?).  The other occurred in various discussions between the would-be govs about how to entice businesses to locate or remain in Colorado.

So, I define government as a mandatory, necessary, non-profit social-insurance corporation.  The operative term here is “public goods”.  With this in mind, why should state governments care if people leave or businesses move away, provided standards of living remain constant?  Pride, yes.  But the debates gave me the feeling that all federalism does now is cause states to beggar one another for businesses’ affections.  More people in your state gives it more clout in the US House, diverting funding, but again, states’ goals shouldn’t be overpopulating themselves for more money.  Nor should affluent states whine if their federal tax dollars are spent on poor people elsewhere—that’s the federal government’s job; we are one nation.  As for the Senate, everyone believes their Senate candidates must play leader and come up with his or her own 13-point plan to balance the budget, stimulate the economy, end the wars, continue the wars, bring peace to the Middle-East, neutralize Iran, stop China’s imports, force the Chinese to buy our exports, etc. etc.  Unrealistic expectations.

In the context of depression-era economics, we have state governments that can’t run deficits, can’t print money, and can’t stimulate their economies.  With a federal government unwilling to invest in its own people, I find myself fantasizing of living in a well-apportioned parliamentary state.

Dean Baker Misses the Law School Tuition Bubble

You may know that economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research is one of my inspirations, and he frequently criticizes major media outlets for failing to report on the $8 trillion housing bubble, e.g. “The Washington Post STILL Has Not Noticed the $8 Trillion Housing Bubble.”  He does, however, harbor dismissive views towards legal professionals.  Elsewhere, he’s included lawyers with doctors and others as professions that argue for “free trade,” (cheap foreign or immigrant replacement labor) just not for themselves.  Thus, I’m unsurprised that after reading Slate’s article, “A Case of Supply v. Demand,” he titled his response, “Lower Cost Legal Services: Why Isn’t That a Good Thing?

In fairness, he uses the Slate piece as a prop for attacking media outlets that tout globalization’s benefits:

Those who celebrate the low cost imports from China and the benefits of cheap immigrant labor should also be celebrating the fact that legal services should be costing us less in the future, unless of course they are partial to the relatively affluent types who tend to [end] up as lawyers.

I say “in fairness” because neither I nor any other legal industry reformer I know of “celebrates low cost imports” beyond our day-to-day lives.[i] I also can’t recall a Slate column (besides Mickey Kaus?) stridently advocating free-trade-working-class-be-damned globalization.  It even gave Timothy Noah two weeks to conduct an excellent analysis of income inequality in the U.S., which found international trade responsible for 10% and immigration responsible for 5% of the country’s unequal income distribution.  As a result, I don’t see Slate as a publication especially “partial to the relatively affluent types who tend to end up as lawyers.”

I have a few specific problems with Baker’s above quote.

  1. Will legal services cost us less in the future? I lack an economics background, but there’s a difference between saturation and over-saturation.  I, and I’m sure everyone else, is fully in favor of a saturated legal sector.  If it’s over-saturated, who does that help?  Prices stop dropping once lawyers who can’t break into the profession end up in different industries, losing three very productive years along the way.  That’s not good for the economy, nor does it help recipients of legal services.  It certainly doesn’t help if the government loaned students $120,000 for degrees they aren’t using and can’t afford to pay back.
  2. Are lawyers relatively affluent? Decreasingly so, and I think Baker falls into the trap of seeing D.C. lawyers who’ve been out of law school for 20 years strutting around for lobbying firms as the typical lawyer rather than the haggard small firm practitioner depicted in But I Did Everything Right’s first Xtranormal Video.  The Slate article rightly reported on recent lawyers because their relative inexperience and more expensive degrees hamper their long-term career prospects.
  3. Baker’s post (and more significantly the Slate piece) misses the law school tuition bubble. The price of legal education has increased well above inflation for many years, mainly for larger faculty and faculty salaries (often well into six-figures).  Excessive debt burdens on younger people hamper any economic recovery because these professionals were “supposed” to be the ones buying houses for raising families.  True, since 2009 law students can fully fund their legal educations with income-based repayment on federal loans, but this just shifts the tuition to taxpayers.  In 25 years graduates would then have to pay income tax on the forgiven debt, likely amounting to $200,000—enough to wipe out their life savings.

If the juris doctor’s labor market value plummets below its cost, and few of its newer holders can find jobs in the legal field at commensurate salaries, then the legal education system is creating structural unemployment in the U.S. economy.  This means that many law students and lawyers will have to be retrained in different fields, which will cost even more money.

Baker is right: cheaper legal services is a good thing.  Problem is, we’re there already, and now we have a tuition bubble that even Slate doesn’t adequately report on.[ii]

[i] Indeed, I’ve even taken the moderate view on outsourcing legal work to India because if the work was too menial for attorneys to begin with, then the attorney oversupply problem was already manifest.  For example, Managing Partner of The Legal Dollar writes in a comment, “I have done outsourcing work with India, and frankly – it sucks. Actually, let me clarify – it sucks for anything that requires judgment. If you just need someone to stamp bates numbers, then it is just fine (and cheap). I don’t find it to be a substitute for attorneys. I DO find it to be a substitute for the domestic companies that we were using for bates numbering.”  I know Down by Law recently took the opposing view.

[ii] And no, I’m not saying this because they didn’t mention my blog.  I’m not that vain yet.

Minnesota Taxpayers to Reduce Subsidies to Law School Tuition Bubble

I'm proud of my home state, foolish though it is.

[Update]: Scammed Hard! reports the University of Minnesota’s instructors’ salaries via the Star Tribune.

This is how Adam Daniels should’ve titled his Minnesota Daily article instead of “After Cuts, Law School Eyes Future: A 50 percent cut in two years translates to increased tuition.”

In two years, the state will cut its payments to the law school by half, from 22% to 11%.  Tuition will increase by a whopping 13.5% to the U of M’s hapless students, an increase I’m guessing applies to both in-state ($28,203) and out-state tuition ($37,605).  If true, that’s $32,010.41 in-state and $42,681.68 out-state.  Also recall that Minnesota already increased tuition for 1Ls by 15.3% in the 2009-2010 school year.

The part that made yours truly squirm?

“The administration is doing a good job given the situation,” University senior attorney Carl Warren said. “Everybody recognizes it’s a difficult time and hard choices are being made … Sacrifices are necessary.”

Wait, who bears the burden?  Minnesota will cut faculty salaries by a mere 1.15%.  Recall that according to SALT’s 2009 faculty salary survey, U of M law professors make comfortable six-figure salaries, though they were far smaller according to the previous year’s survey.

“Hard choices” and “sacrifices” from students and federal taxpayers, inconvenience for law professors and administrators, relief to state taxpayers.

The other potential losers?  Alumni donors, especially former Vice President and noteworthy Minnesotan, Walter Mondale, who flushed $10 million of his own dollars into the tuition bubble.

After commenting on the law school’s hope to become financially self-sufficient, Daniels writes:

[Dean] Wippman said there are still uncertainties and tough decisions to come.  Still, students walked away feeling satisfied.

“I think it’s a pretty realistic perspective of how it’s going,” said first-year law student Elizabeth Graber.  “It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.  I think, looking forward, he’s hopeful, and I think [students are] hopeful.”

Ms. Graber and her classmates shouldn’t be so hopeful.  True, if they fund their law degrees exclusively by federal loans and intend to use income-based repayment, then federal taxpayers take a hit.  Ms. Graber and her peers will then have to pay a monumental amount in income taxes on the forgiven loan balance in 25 years.  If they don’t elect IBR, or if they’ve taken private loans, they’ll be zombie debtors in an economy that doesn’t need more juris doctors.

Like Arizona State University, as public law schools are privatized or decoupled from state funding, expect them to raise tuition dramatically and to suffer the bubble’s wrath when it pops.

Income Based Repayment Helps Law Students, Not the Tuition Bubble

Last week, I wrote:

[The “ABA Economic Recovery Resources” webpage] also contains Resolution 301, a futile (but thanks for trying) request to Congress asking it to convert private student loans to public loans, increased access to loan consolidation and income-based repayment plans, and amusingly, TARP funds.

And I quoted former President Carolyn Lamm’s “Law School Education Debt Has a Manageable Solution”:

Now is the time for modest changes in current federal student loan programs to increase the amount that law students may borrow, and to bring existing private loans into the federal student loan system. [My emphasis]

Reading up on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 and its income-based repayment plans (IBR) that entered into force in July of 2009, gave me a better understanding of what the ABA and Lamm had in mind.

IBR lowers monthly student loan payments, capitalizing the interest until 25 years have passed when the loan is discharged.   It applies only to Stafford, Grad PLUS, or federal consolidation loans.

Bearing this in mind, I have three thoughts:

  • Converting private student loans to federal loans would help recent grads discharge more of their debt via IBR later on, which is good.
  • Assuming a law degree can be fully financed by combining Direct Loans with Grad PLUS loans (which are unlimited), current and future law students will not be crippled with debt (provided they don’t miss payments).

Does this change my opinion of the ABA’s goals?  Somewhat. True, when I wrote, “President Lamm: (i) didn’t care if private sector lawyers were underpaid for their degrees or were drowning in debt…” I didn’t consider whether IBR would aid them, and it would.  However, IBR has disadvantages, and those interested should also read Angel’s digest of Angry Future Expat’s thoughts on it.  I’ll summarize and add my own points:

  1. IBR doesn’t cover all loans.  Your private student loans from undergrad with adjustable rates are unaffected.  This is one more reason to support the Fairness for Struggling Students/Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act.
  2. IBR doesn’t apply retroactively.  Older debtors must start the 25-years clock from scratch just as younger debtors do, meaning younger debtors get to save more money in the long run.  This isn’t necessarily unfair—it’s not a bailout—but middle-aged professionals, especially those who already have mortgages and children won’t receive the prospective savings of childless graduates.  The real question is how it affects post-retirement debtors.
  3. Defaulted debtors are ineligible.  This is typical government mispaupery, especially towards older graduates who are already financially crippled by previous default.  Student debt is not evenly distributed among debtors, so if you’ve defaulted, you’ll discharge the loans with your last breath.
  4. IBR is not the default repayment plan.  Obviously the government wants graduates to pay the full monthly payments rather than capitalize the interest only to watch it all evaporate after 25 years.
  5. Affects on graduates’ credit ratings?  None, but if a lawyer isn’t making a lot of money in the private sector it’s plausible the capitalized interest could push the debt into seven figures.  Creditors may elect not to extend loans to graduates with that kind of debt over their heads.
  6. Are dropouts eligible?  I doubt the federal government wants to appear to encourage it.
  7. The effort required to document income sources annually to calibrate payments.  It also means graduates will have to save money in anticipation of salary shocks.  I imagine that someone who (accidently) omits an income source would be punished severely.
  8. Forgiven loans are taxable income in the year they’re discharged, so until that’s modified prepare to take one pretty big hit one year.  Law grads who haven’t made a lot of money in the private sector may end up paying a six-figure chunk in income taxes, wiping out their savings in a student loan judgment day.  Bet your opinion on the Bush tax cuts expiring suddenly switched, huh?

That’s just IBR as it applies to graduates generally.  As far as the law school tuition bubble is concerned, there are specific problems.

  1. IBR does not affect law schools’ cost structures.  Law schools’ primary economic interest is filling seats to pay their instructors’ salaries.  IBR shifts risk from students to the government, meaning taxpayers subsidize the tuition bubble, which is better than permanently impoverishing graduates.  If anything, less risk to students reduces disincentives against going to law school, e.g., “The price tag doesn’t matter because I’ll qualify for IBR.”  Higher education financing reform must shift the risk to the universities.  Presumably (without reform), 24 years from now, the Department of Education will be hit with a titanic shortfall caused by forgiven debt.
  2. IBR does not improve a juris doctor’s market value.  This blog is premised on facts evidencing a decline in a law degree’s value due to excessive tuition and attorney oversupply.  As always, I’m open to those with better information than I proving me wrong on these facts.  However, as the value added of a law degree declines, decreasing debt does not help enough: graduates will still be paying debt on a degree that they either aren’t using or didn’t really need to secure their employment.
  3. Finally, IBR doesn’t repay one for the opportunity cost of going to law school.  That might be nothing today, but then again I also don’t predict a recovery any time soon.

The good thing about blogging is you learn things, and now I don’t worry for current and future law students so much, unless they were ineligible for Graduate PLUS loans to begin with and went the private route.  I’m still incredulous the government intended to completely deregulate graduate/professional schools and allow them to set their tuitions with no regard to quality control, so I am curious whatever the “catch” is, whether it’s a hit to one’s credit score or the tax hit in the discharge year.  I can see why the ABA pushes for converting private loans to public ones, but it still needs to care about the market value of the degrees it accredits.

The Decline and Fall of the British Links—ABA to Tighten Its Grip on Law Schools?

Five links in three topics.

(1a) Karen Sloan, “ABA May Join Push for Law School Transparency,” in

(1b) Elie Mystal, “The ABA Is Slowly Coming around on Law School Transparency,” in Above the Law

(1c) Debra Cassens Weiss, “ABA Weighs Required Disclosure of Law School Job Stats, More Rigorous Reporting,” in The ABA Journal

Last week, I was curious what the ABA’s new president, Stephen Zack, thought about legal education’s ills.  Sloan answers:

President Steve Zack told a gathering of law school deans and professors last week that the organization is considering requiring law schools to disclose cost and employment statistics to all accepted law school applicants. The effort, dubbed “Truth in Law School Education,” is still in the planning phase, but Zack hopes the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division will consider the proposal in February.

Note that the YLD is considering the proposal.  Young lawyers benefit the most from less legal labor oversupply.  Not that that’s a bad thing, and my juris doctor’s value would certainly benefit.  It’s worth noting nonetheless.

Unlike the proposed changes to the Questionnaire, the Truth in Law School Education effort would require law schools to send employment and cost information to accepted applicants.

The question from before remains: Can law schools be trusted to responsibly report their outcomes or are independent audits required? The ABA believes in the law schools, as does Mystal in his article.

My fear is that even if applicants understand the tri-modal starting salaries, risk of part-time work, &c, they may still be too innumerate to properly conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the information they’re given.  I echo a point by Managing Partner in, “Not Rich at $250k – It’s How You Live, Not What You Make.”

Student loans are just a monkey on your back that you will be carrying for decades…

I have never seen a law student/young associate actually be able to accurately predict how long it will take them to pay off the student loans – including myself – we always under-estimate.  When I graduated law school, I made a very careful calculation of payoff time – and I am pretty good with the whole “math” and “estimating” thing, as well as being very frugal.  However, it still took several years – and my initial estimate was too low by about 10%, which translated into several months…Further, of the people that I graduated with who were very adamant about being able to pay off their student loan debt in “3 years”, about 40% of them still have student loan debt about 15 years later – and I am only counting the ones that have had high-paying jobs the whole time.

The bottom line is that the student loan debt is going to be with you for years and years – but also that you can either choose to bite the bullet in the early part of your practice and live super-frugally for several years to pay off that loan debt – or you are going to have to carry that monkey (and its interest) for your entire working career.

This is why I (impliedly?) wrote in my previous post that I favor external structural reform rather than ABA- or market-information initiated changes.  Law schools might game the system; maybe they won’t.  If these regulations succeed, admissions and prices would drop, and law schools could not operate as usual.  I’m also concerned that applicants aren’t the best market actors no matter what information they’re given, especially because they have an optimism bias regarding their abilities.

(2) Brian Tamanaha, “The Irresponsibility of Law Schools,” in Balkanization

Professor Tamanaha criticizes law schools for admitting more applicants as jobs decline.  I’m slightly disappointed because it’s not a perfect argument in itself.  He’d need to connect higher acceptance rates to the oversupply problem, which is much harder.

(3) Debra Cassens Weiss, “Profs Predict Law School Closings as More Grads Earn Less than Break-Even Pay,” in The ABA Journal

Even the ABA Journal is willing to report that legal education will contract.

The Village Green Preservation Links—NYLS Dean Writes on the Tuition Bubble

New York Law School Dean and President Richard A. Matasar, “Does the Current Economic Model of Legal Education Work for Law Schools, Law Firms (or Anyone Else)?” [bad link!] in the New York State Bar Association Journal

Typically, law school deans’ presence on this blog highly correlates to face-palmed criticism.  Dean Matasar ups the ante by not completely ignoring the reality of the tuition bubble.[i][ii] I say “not completely” because he tethers himself to two assumptions that I wish were true but probably aren’t: (1) That prospective law students are well-informed, and (2) that uncertainty of legal education’s ROI makes it too soon to tell whether we should be discouraging people from going to law school.  If you can find a copy (or politely ask me to violate all copyright in the name of knowledge and scan it and e-mail it to you) it’s actually a very good read.

(1) Regarding students’ information, he writes:

[O]ne might expect that law schools are facing an imminent market collapse – declining applications, few students willing to take on financial risk, the need for significant internal cost savings, price cutting, and other similar measures.  Surprise, surprise, surprise!  The demand for legal education has remained strong throughout the economic downturn.  Applications at many schools are at record levels.  Enrollment has been solid, with many schools recording historically high yields of new students…Law students are not ignorant.  Today they have access to more information than ever, information that is tested daily in the blogosphere for accuracy, which is producing even greater transparency about law schools and employment.  Students do not ignore costs.  (21)

[Disturbingly, there] is a widespread belief that students are intentionally misled into thinking that they all will receive whatever employment they seek; that they could have a BigLaw job if they want one.  Given the pervasiveness of stories of law firm layoffs, popular law-debunking sites that catalogue the plight of law school graduates, the straightforward warnings that senior students give to applicants, and even honest communication from law schools to applicants, students today know, or should know, that banking on a BigLaw job is risky. (24) [My emph’]

Do 0Ls really “know” this??  Recently, Heather Diersen and Frank the Underemployed Professional, upon assessing the masses of unemployed and disenfranchised JDs, both concluded they do not.  There are multiple explanations for why people defy what Dean Matasar knows or thinks everyone should know by now—0Ls and 1Ls: (i) believe the economy will recover for them in 2013+, (ii) suffer from cognitive dissonance, (iii) fear the stigma of quitting, or (iv) believe they should take one thing at a time (first your torts exam, then worry about your job hunt).  I don’t think Dean Matasar considered these possibilities.  I can see why he wouldn’t want to.

(2) On legal education’s ROI:

The return on investment is not merely a short-term measure; it depends on lifelong earnings as against alternative paths, discounted by the opportunity costs of delaying entry to the workforce.  It is simply not possible to know in advance whether the long-term financial return on a legal education will pay off until a number of years have passed…However, I have no doubt that the value of a legal education will continue to erode in the years ahead, especially if the price of that education continues to rise at a higher rate than the expected return on that investment. (22) [My emphasis]

Partially agree.  Yes, it looks bad right now for most contemporary law grads and prospective students.  It may turn around, and I hope in 15 years reformers and blamers can chuckle about their career arcs.  But I think Matasar misunderstands the point: We calculate ROI because we’re uncertain of a choice’s outcomes.  We place our bets based on the best information we have, and even if it turns out we’re wrong, at least it won’t be because we misunderstood the risks.  Right now, law school is a certain risk, and graduating into unemployment remarkably impacts one’s life earnings.  Nondischargeable student debt makes it worse.  Discussing risk reminds me of Herwig Schlunk’s crucial footnote 16, justifying his high discount rates for a legal education’s ROI requiring a six-figure starting salary in most cases:

Law students may not appreciate how volatile attorney income is, even in the case of established attorneys.  Not all associates become partners.  Not all partners become senior partners.  Law firms blow up, leaving non-rain-making partners in the lurch.  In-house attorneys are subject to all the vicissitudes of corporate down-sizing.  And so on.

Matasar acknowledges these risks, for later he writes:

Many students will ultimately end up in non-law jobs.  For some students, like those in part-time programs, this may have been the goal to begin with; they seek law degrees to enhance their roles with current employers.  For others, it reflects disenchantment with a profession they may erroneously have chosen.  And, for some, perhaps the largest group, it reflects their inability to find a job as a lawyer. (24) [My emphasis]

We can add the following risks to Schlunk’s footnote: municipal bankruptcy, misguided federal downsizing, and inability to break into the profession beyond contract work as Down By Law discussed extensively in its third podcast.  Given all these risks, we can tell that law school has a lower ROI than Matasar (and everyone else) would like due to the legal economy’s volatility.  I sympathize with these two assumptions (and I’d be happy if Matasar knew something I didn’t), but I don’t think people are well enough informed.  Nor do I think the ROI is as high as he does.

To add some value, perhaps now is the time to wonder how the bubble will pop.  This question is significant because we already know the American legal education system is unsustainable (my spread is 1-3 years for the bubble popping, place your bets in the comments), but how it pops will tell us what kind of new equilibrium will emerge.  My meaning will be clearer below.

As I see it, the bubble can pop in one of five ways:

  1. Internal Reform.  Law schools or the ABA turn course.  This is unlikely; law schools cannot self-terminate.

  2. Bankruptcy Reform.  Once Congress realizes >$850 billion in student loan debt will never be paid down, it’ll remove the undue hardship exception from all student loans, and the Department of Education will refuse to loan money to heavily indebted students.  Prices drop; schools close.
  3. Title IV Reform, “The Apocalypse Option”.  Congress or the Department of Education realize universities are sucking taxpayer dollars out of the treasury, overinvesting in themselves, raising tuition, and then demanding higher student lending caps to cover the self-inflicted costs.  The federal government either slashes the caps, or it switches to an equity-like human capital contract system such as Robert Reich’s 10% of 10 years’ income proposal.
  4. State Government Intervention, “(Chuck) Newton’s Gambit.  State governments realize the dangers, jettison ABA accreditation in favor of their own stricter standards, require employment disclosure by higher education institutions, close schools, sue them, or directly regulate them.
  5. Run on the law schools, aka “Scam Blogger Victory (V-SB Day)”.  Enough 0Ls figure out that a large number of law schools are nonperforming, send their applications to either far cheaper alternatives or do-or-die to US News’ top tier schools, and if they’re rejected, they go back to their jobs at Target.  Law schools fail or drop prices.

Matasar believes in a combination of V-SB Day and the Apocalypse Option:

  • Some schools will continue to prosper charging high tuition (at least for a while); others will not.
  • Lower priced alternatives to the current model will certainly evolve; non-U.S. law schools will become viable competitors in training U.S. lawyers; some schools will fail; others will adjust…(20)

The demand for legal education will decline at high-priced schools whose graduates are having difficulty repaying their loans.  The federal government, the only remaining lender, if at all rational, will respond: perhaps by restricting the amount of credit to students of such schools, requiring an equity contribution by those students, requiring co-signors, or increasing the interest rate for their loans.  Alternatively, the Department of Education (aka the “Bank”) as the regulator of higher education might respond by issuing regulations requiring schools to reduce their costs, justify their price increases, or otherwise alter their model…Like any other market, as economic barriers to entry are lowered, we should expect lower cost and more efficient providers to enter the legal education field.  (22-23)

I used the term “equilibrium” above, meaning the concern isn’t when the bubble starts to pop but what the next era of legal education will look like, and how long it’ll take to get there.  V-SB Day alone is dramatic, but it reforms the system by causing schools to close.  Given that the legal profession would probably function just fine with near-zero new law graduates for at least several years (depending on how bad the oversupply situation really is & the timing and manner of any economic recovery), reformers don’t see an end in sight for a lo~ng while.  Nor does the BLS, for that matter.  Here’s the rub: a run on the law schools is just that, a run, which depends on the information 0Ls have.  Years later, some may irrationally believe law is a worthwhile investment again and submit their applications, reinflating the bubble.

By contrast, the other solutions check against law school tuition.  For Bankruptcy, unlike every banker and Congressperson, I staunchly believe debtors are honest people who want to pay down their loans and won’t cheat the system.  The Apocalypse Option or Newton’s Gambit force tuition down, and in the human capital contract context, a law school that currently produces tri-modal outcomes (BigLaw, LittleLaw/NonLaw, & TentLaw) won’t be feasible until unemployment vanishes.  When it does, though, legal education will be bubble-free.  Yay!

We don’t want partial solutions that end up failing again.  Why?  Because I’d like to not be writing about this when I’m older and grayer.

The lesson I take from Matasar’s article is that until this new equilibrium emerges (or at least the economy returns to full employment), law school’s ROI will worsen.  If his predictions are right and legal education will transform to a market-responsive system, current graduates won’t have the skills in demand.  In other words, the “lost generation” would be better termed the “abandoned generation.”  Matasar blithely accepts this.  Repeated from above, “Many students will ultimately end up in non-law jobs…And, for some, perhaps the largest group, it reflects their inability to find a job as a lawyer.”  As the legal profession begins to understand the need for change, reformers will have to stake a position that clearly advocates on behalf of involuntarily unemployed attorneys and their student debt, if they wish to have any credibility.

[i] For example, Matasar casually dismisses (& more concisely than I did) everything Valparaiso dean Jay Conison told Heather Diersen a few weeks ago:

The American Bar Association regulatory regime has been built over many decades and includes many requirements that increase education cost, like requiring job security for faculty members, librarians, and deans; requiring a significant physical plant; requiring three years (give or take) of law school; requiring an undergraduate degree; or limiting the number of classes that can be taken online.  Recent proposed changes that mandate law schools to announce, measure, and improve their outcomes and offer particular types of skills classes, while desirable, will not lower costs.

[ii] I should say Matasar and NYLS are not bucking the system.  NYLS charges $46,460 per year in tuition and due to unfortunate circumstance shares New York City with seven other law schools, many of which are better regarded regardless of what others say about NYLS’s sophisticated curriculum.  I have seen no evidence that under Matasar’s stewardship NYLS has reduced its ecological footprint, and Third Tier Reality criticizes him for chairing the board of Access Group, a “non-profit loan service provider.”  That said I don’t want to discourage law school deans from using their prominence to say things against their interests—so long as they subject themselves to the inevitable outcomes.

Something Else by the Links—Nonprofit Higher Ed Criticized, LSATs down from last Year, Calls for Independent Audits of Law Schools, & Defaulted Student Loans Inefficiently Collected

Four topics:

(1a) Jacques Steinberg, “Is What’s Ailing For-Profit Colleges Evident throughout Higher Education?” in the New York Times, Education: “The Choice”

(1b) Marc Bousquet, “Fix Nonprofit Higher Ed First,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Bousquet dubs Title IV higher education funding, “The Tuition Gold Rush,” and instead of paying out the excess capital to investors as profit, universities spend it on capital improvements: grounds, sports teams, endowments, and administrators.  Bousquet even comes up with his own solutions, including free public school tuition (paid with tax increases on wealthy Americans), and hiring more Ph.D.’s to teach courses instead of masters students.  Nothing on what private schools would change.

Good luck.  The Title IV cycle is entrenched, and if the ABA’s attitudes are any indicator, university officials believe they are not only entitled to the federally guaranteed debt money, but also that the federal government should raise the caps.

(2) Debra Cassens Weiss, “Labor Report Cites Rise in Nontraditional Jobs for Lawyers, Good Paralegal Prospects,” in the ABA Journal

I’m not going to reinvent Shilling Me Softly’s wheel, so read about this article there.  My value added?  Why does the BLS think the economy will recover?  We’d need to add 400,000 jobs per month for four years to reach full employment, and total public and private debt-to-GDP in the U.S. is 350%, higher than even during the Depression.  Until that debt is wiped out, there will be no recovery.


This should keep you awake at night, if you don’t already have your own problems. I direct your attention to the large blob of financial sector debt that didn’t exist 50 years ago.


(3) Mark Grabowski, “Opinion: Are Law Schools Scamming Students?” in AOL News

Grabowski’s article doesn’t tell us anything readers of this blog and others don’t already know: the legal sector is in the toilet, grads can’t get career jobs, and law schools are juking the stats while raising tuition.  Regarding law school graduate employment reporting, he quotes University of Chicago’s Brian Leiter:

This data is entirely self-reported by schools and should be treated as essentially fiction.

Add Leiter to the list of law professors facing reality.  Faced with Law School Transparency’s unsuccessfulness Grabowski advocates independent audits of law schools’ outcomes.

A reader alerted me to a point Grabowski made, 55,000 people sat for the October 2010 LSAT, down from October 2009’s 60,746, a 9.5% drop!  It’s still the second highest number of takers in one month, yet combined with the modest 1.2% increase for June 2010 takers over June 2009, perhaps the drop indicates that people are starting to realize law school isn’t a worthwhile investment.  Keeping it in perspective though, eyeballing the LSAC’s stats, roughly 140,000-170,000 people sit for the test each year—enough to easily fill every law school seat three times.

(4) John Watts & M. Stan Herring, “Some Student Loan Collectors Have Been Asleep at the Switch,” in Alabama Consumer Law Blog

Private student loan companies have been inefficiently collecting on defaulted debts, meaning there’s a market for student loans for those willing to buy up the loans and turn a profit by collecting on the missed defaults.  Expect more collection in the future.

Dear ABA Committee Chair, No, It’s Not That Complicated. Signed, The Legal Profession

"Even if the ABA’s hands are tied behind its back, its statements on tuition (and silence on lawyer labor supply and bankruptcy reform) suggest it suffers from Stockholm Syndrome."

Heather Diersen follows up her JDs Rising piece, “Dear Law School, It’s All Your Fault.  Signed, Recent Grad,” with, “Dear Recent Grads, It’s More Complicated Than That.  Signed, The ABA,” in which she parses an interview she conducted with ABA Accreditation Committee chair, Jay Conison, also dean of Valparaiso University School of Law.  Dean Conison made it clear he did not speak on the ABA’s behalf.  Frank the Underemployed Professional (Frank), operator of Fluster Cucked, draws first blood by attacking Conison’s credibility: US News & World Report ranks Valparaiso in its fourth tier, implying a severe conflict of interest for the dean.

Diersen organizes Conison’s responses according to three ABA committees (Accreditation, Standards Review, and Questionnaire).  I’ll summarize the arguments and accompany them with my numbered responses:

  • Accreditation: Echoing former ABA President Carolyn Lamm, the ABA’s hands are tied.  If a university wants to open a law school, it is free to do so.  If it wants Title IV funding, it is free to meet the Department of Education’s requirements.  If it wishes to obtain ABA accreditation (as opposed to state, regional, or none), it must merely meet the ABA’s standards.  It’s not the ABA’s job to prevent attorney oversupply.

1).  Great!  The ABA’s hands may be tied, but its mouth isn’t gagged.[i] The ABA, representing the legal profession, is free to inform prospective law students and the general public that given the job market and the excessive tuition at nearly every private and many public law schools, legal education is not a worthwhile investment.

2).  So it’s mouth isn’t gagged; what is it saying then?  As of now the ABA has only acknowledged the tuition/debt issue with a bottlenecky chunk on its website wishfully titled, “ABA Economic Recovery Resources.”

A).  Inside, we find its document, “The Value Proposition of Attending Law School,” which uses David Van Zandt’s low-balled ROI starting salary: $65,315.

B).  It also contains Resolution 301, a futile (but thanks for trying) request to Congress asking it to convert private student loans to public loans, increased access to loan consolidation and income-based repayment plans, and amusingly, TARP funds.

C).  An article by former ABA President Carolyn Lamm,[ii]Law School Education Debt Has a Manageable Solution,” with the following two quotes:

The ABA has for many years — regardless of economic climate — advocated for federal laws that would ease the repayment burden on law students who found public service jobs.  It’s time to explore creating additional methods to relieve repayment burdens for new graduates or new lawyers who have either been unable to find employment, have had their jobs deferred or have lost their jobs.

Now is the time for modest changes in current federal student loan programs to increase the amount that law students may borrow, and to bring existing private loans into the federal student loan system. [My emphasis]

In other words, President Lamm: (i) didn’t care if private sector lawyers were underpaid for their degrees or were drowning in debt, (ii) approved of financing the tuition bubble with taxpayer dollars, and (iii) advocated “modestly” increasing the tuition bubble with more federally guaranteed loans.  At no time did she criticize law schools for hiring superfluous faculty, raising salaries, and then raising tuition.  Bankruptcy reform was not up for discussion.

D).  And a Statement by Lamm, “ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm on GAO Law School Cost and Access Report,” addressing debt and diversity.

The ABA is committed to ensuring that the cost of attending law school does not become an increasingly insurmountable barrier for many individuals…The ABA urges Congress and the Administration to lift the cap on federal loans to finance law and other professional schools so that all students with talent and desire can attend law school—not only those of economic means. [My emphasis]

If the ABA is so concerned with diversity, accessibility, and debt, it should tell law schools to slash tuition, not ask for more free money from Uncle Sam to feed the tuition bubble.

But the GAO rightly recognizes that American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools play only a limited role in increasing cost and are not barriers to diversity.

Much more significant in terms of cost, according to GAO, have been the move toward a more hands on, resource intensive approach to legal education, and the competition among law schools for higher slots in published rankings that purport to distinguish between the 200 ABA approved law schools across the nation.

Lamm recognized that rankings dog-piling causes tuition increases, but she not only failed to connect that to ABA accreditation standards (next section, bear with me), but she also didn’t think the situation required warning potential applicants or the general public that law schools valued their reputations over their graduates’ debt loads.  Her solution was more Title IV debt-financing because in her mind law schools are entitled to incrementally raise their tuition indefinitely with no regard to graduate outcomes.

In conclusion, even if the ABA’s hands are tied behind its back, its statements on tuition (and silence on lawyer labor supply and bankruptcy reform) suggest it suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Standards Review: This Committee reviews the ABA’s accreditation requirements.  Conison touts the proposed changes to Standards 302 and 303 (current standards here, redline to current standards here) to Diersen as the solution to the unskilled lawyer oversupply problem.

1).  Standard 302 replaces “Curriculum” with, “Learning Outcomes,” but the substance of the proposed rule merely tells law schools that they may change their curricula to meet their own standards.  Nothing in section 302 requires law schools to mark their degrees to the market.

2).  Section 303 serves as the new “Curriculum” section, and aside from retaining the ethics and writing requirements, it would require law schools to provide, as Diersen succinctly summarizes:

(i) a simulation course, (ii) a live client clinic, or (iii) a field placement. The theory behind this is that the students will be better equipped to practice law or seek non-legal careers upon graduation.

Again, the problem isn’t just that law schools are graduating students without marketable skills (so much for the GAO’s more expensive “hands on, resource intensive approach” to legal education); rather, they’re graduating students who have few job opportunities remunerated to make their ever more costly juris doctors worthwhile.  The proposed rule changes do not prevent rankings dog-piling, nor do they encourage smaller market schools to teach to their markets.  Even so, Standard 302 is so permissive that it’s hard for the ABA to deny accreditation to any law school.[iii]

3).  Okay.  Above, I quoted Carolyn Lamm stating, “But the GAO rightly recognizes that American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools play only a limited role in increasing cost and are not barriers to diversity.”  FALSE.  Former President Lamm, Dean Conison, GAO, and Ms. Diersen, please allow me to introduce you to Chapter 4 of the ABA’s Accreditation Standards: Faculty, which incidentally, is not under review.  Standard 402(a) states:

The number of full-time faculty necessary depends on:…(3) the opportunities for the faculty adequately to fulfill teaching obligations, conduct scholarly research, and participate effectively in the governance of the law school and in service to the legal profession and the public.

Because we know the tuition bubble functions by expanding faculty and their salaries for prestige, obvious ways to reduce the bubble include: (i) reducing the faculty by allowing higher faculty/student ratios (>30:1), (ii) relaxing the emphases on scholarship and full-time instructors, or (iii) shortening the duration of legal education since so many employers find three years wasteful.  Thus, the GAO is wrong: ABA Standards play a direct role in high education costs and consequently are barriers to diversity.

4).  Similarly, another way to save costs, reduce the Standards Chapter 6 “Library and Information Resources” requirement.  My favorite part of this section is the Interpretation 606-5:

A law library core collection shall [!] include the following:

(1) all reported federal court decisions and reported decisions of the highest appellate court of each state;

(2) all federal codes and session laws, and at least one current annotated code for each state;

Most of these materials are easily Googleable, and law students (and faculty) don’t need access to every single appellate decision across the country.  No need for tuition dollars to maintain these collections.  Remember how Minnesota’s four law schools are trying to amalgamate their libraries to cut costs?  See?  One more way ABA accreditation standards make law school more expensive.

To be clear: I don't argue that MSL's business model is perfect. I do appreciate the contributions of Minnesotan Kevin Sorbo though.

5).  Still don’t believe me?  “ABA’s Bane” Massachusetts School of Law eschews cadres of full-time faculty, keeps salaries down, charges its full-time students $14,989.80 per year, and argues the ABA’s accreditation standards cause exorbitant law school tuition and inaccessibility.  Given its frequent law suits against the ABA, it’s no surprise Dean Conison doesn’t mention MSL’s business model.[iv]

  • Questionnaire: The ABA requires every law school to report whether it’s fulfilling the accreditation requirements.  Diersen writes:

When I asked Dean Conison about the allegations of misleading and fraudulent reporting of employment statistics, he believes the Questionnaire Committee is significantly concerned.  During the next year, the committee is considering recommending changes in the law school reporting requirements, particularly in the type of information given with employment statistics…This seems to be what lawyers, students, and the public want most: don’t tell us you have a very high employment rating when a substantial number are not employed in legal-related work but are searching for such work.

Diersen is right that reformers should hope the ABA will significantly improve the questionnaire.  There are three problems with it currently.

1).  First, it only asks law schools to provide employment information that they already provide NALP, even though we know NALP has no authority over law schools.

2).  Second, the ABA doesn’t collect salary information from the law schools.  That again tells us the ABA is unconcerned with the juris doctor’s market value.

3).  Finally, and most importantly, this is all self-reported, meaning law schools can game the questionnaire just like they game US News’s rankings.  Worse, they can outright defraud the ABA, so long as their responses sound plausible.  The Questionnaire will have limited reliability until law schools are subjected to independent audits.

Diersen closes with a fear that Frank also laments in his depressing piece, “Why Prospective Law Students Will Never Get the Message”: that the legal profession is broken, and the tuition bubble will not burst.  The tides of law students can never be turned away, and law graduates will end up in other fields for want of access to the profession; their law schools will then claim the juris doctor’s flexibility got them there.  Diersen writes:

The ABA’s attempts to improve our law schools’ transparency and curriculum may not decrease the number of lawyers fighting to practice. What we can hope, is that those choosing to run in this rat race will do so with more knowledge…I wonder if there are really many people that go to law school without intending to have a legal-related career. It seems more likely that people go into non-legal careers due to economics and opportunities.

When faced with the truth, that the ABA denies its accreditation authority confers to it any real power, and that it mutinies against telling the public the legal profession suffers from structural oversupply, then until Everitt Henry’s lawpocalypse we’re left with the democratic tools Nando of Third Tier Reality advocates:

This is why my goal is modest, i.e. inform people and hopefully we can prevent at least some people from committing financial suicide.

[i] I swear this was Elie Mystal’s metaphor, but I can’t seem to prove it.  I know I didn’t come up with it.

[ii] I’ve yet to hear any comment on the issue by the ABA’s new President, Stephen Zack.

[iii] As an aside, the current Standard 303(c) states:

A law school shall not continue the enrollment of a student whose inability to do satisfactory work is sufficiently manifest so that the student’s continuation in school would inculcate false hopes, constitute economic exploitation, or detrimentally affect the education of other students.

The proposed Chapter 3 includes no such requirement, freeing law schools to exploit their students?  Oops.

[iv] Incidentally, MSL has opened its own “feeder college,” American College of History and Legal Studies, in Salem, NH.  Its undergraduates can apply to MSL as 2Ls, saving them a year of law school—something that no law school has tried because, “Most strong law schools that are well established would be disinclined to try to create such a system because they recognize that their applicant pools are already very strong.”  The article fairly notes that the college is still unaccredited, and that MSL’s bar passage rate is 69% for first-time takers, which is below the state average.

Guest Post: A Few Humble Suggestions to Burst Your Bubble

“Everitt Henry” inaugurates the first of what I hope are many guest posts.  Everitt declined to provide any doodles, much to my chagrin.  If you’d like to write for the blog, let me know.  Your content is your own, but I will do some minor proofreading because I’m nice.

A Few Humble Suggestions to Burst Your Bubble

On my first day of law school, I heard something that should have clued me in to the state of legal education today. Should have, I say, because at the time I was all too enthusiastic, too optimistic, and perhaps a bit too naïve to hear what was said in the way it deserved to be heard.

It was a hot August day outside when I sat down in a crowded, air-conditioned auditorium of bright-eyed future lawyers, fellow first-year law students eager to begin their studies and make their mark in the legal world. After the normal, cursory introductions, congratulations, and wishing us to be grateful we were not in medical school, a law professor approached the podium and gave, as part of his welcome speech the following comment:

“We used to say,” he started, “look to the person on your left. Look to the person on your right. One of you will not be here next year.”  He continued:

We don’t say that anymore. Law school is simply too expensive for us to fail that many of you.

At the time, I felt a bit of relief, because hey, that means I won’t fail out of law school. If I had thought about the statement a little longer, however, that relief would have much more easily turned to dread: that professor’s statement means no one will fail out of law school. The untouched gist of his statement was much more disappointing: “You want a law degree? Okay – here’s a law degree. After that you’re on your own.”

This was back in 2008 – before the market fell off a cliff and took tens of thousands of law jobs with it, many of which will not return.  Still, my law school has brought in record numbers of  budding, eager-eyed law students since then, despite the obviously decreased demand for their graduates’ services. And my law school has not been alone in escalating both student rolls and tuition amounts. The events of the past couple years have made one thing fairly clear to me…

… that the Gatekeeper has turned in his keys for a tollbooth.

When one stops to think about it – it’s quite an interesting transformation. The traditional role of the law school was to be a gatekeeper to an intrinsically challenging, yet rewarding profession: the profession of law. This meant bringing in qualified applicants, and certainly law schools still strive to do that. Those qualified applicants are equally willing to pay for the education and access to the legal profession.  But, being a gatekeeper also means weeding out the weak performers. If you can’t perform in law school, where the hypothetical cases are set up ripe for your analytical abilities, where everything takes place in a relatively risk-free environment (you’re not going to get disbarred or sued for your performance in class), then how are you going to perform in the real legal profession? If you can’t perform in law school, law schools should have the duty to inform you of that, and stop you from spending yourself into oblivion. It is here that many law schools have abdicated from their gatekeeping role, passing the real risk of loss onto the students and the legal market. In the process, law schools and their recruited classes grow in number, standards wane, and even the importance of the grading curve ultimately disappears. The evaluative role of the law school is, and will remain, under assault—and schools are more than content to leave their role as gatekeeper behind and erect themselves as  a tollbooth, nothing more than a cost that must be paid, in order to make an attempt at courting a legal career.

This fact has not been lost on legal employers, who have been frank that the quality of law school graduates has gone down, and they are no less willing to pick up the slack left by law schools unwilling to police their own student ranks. Instead, with the glut of lawyers on the market, legal employers can instead cut out most newly minted law students by simply requiring ‘experience,’ something no graduate has.

Some, including the host of this blog, have contended that these policies are leading to an education bubble that is about to burst, much akin to the housing bubble burst of 2008. Indeed, many vitriolic blog entries comparing law school to an ‘originate and sell’ type scheme are out there for individual consumption. I am more of the opinion that these commentators are partly correct—there is a bubble out there. The bubble, when it bursts, however, will only severely affect the lower ranked, newer law schools. Those schools hovering at the top—the Harvards and Yales of the world—will easily survive even the worst lawpocolypse. I certainly wouldn’t argue that this is just a bottleneck that will disappear with the economic rebound.

At the end of the day, bubble or no, when student default rates hit epidemic proportions, law schools will have a lot to answer for—and will suffer in reputation if not financially for their role in leading scads of bright, young, energetic students into crushing debt and a lack of job prospects. Indeed, law schools need to figure out a way to save themselves from their own doing. Here are a couple of humble suggestions from an innocent bystander:

1. Alliances and Mergers

The first problem law schools currently face is overpopulation. There are too many law schools, producing too many lawyers who then have nothing to do. Some small, lower level law school alliances or mergers alone would help to reduce the insane output of law graduates. Take Ohio as an example. Ohio currently has two law schools in Columbus, two in Cleveland, one in Cincinnati, one in Dayton, one in Toledo, one in Akron, and one in Ada. Does this one state really need nine law schools? Perhaps the Dayton, Toledo, Akron, and Ada law schools tout their own programs on learning practical law and some regional advantage – i.e. if you’re studying law in Akron, it will be easier to get a legal job around Akron.

Ironically, all of these small town schools could accomplish the same thing by merging into one law school, having a combined first-year curriculum on one campus (so all 1L’s have to study in, say, Ada for one year), and spread upper level students across Toledo, Dayton, Akron, and Ada as the job demand in each city rises and falls. The schools could work out a deal to share tuition proceeds of all students, AND, most importantly, their alumni might be willing to donate back to the school that has helped them secure a practical legal education, a regional advantage over the bigger schools in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, AND treated them like students they expected to see employed in three years.

What’s standing in the way of this? Small school ego, perhaps. Not wanting to shrink one’s law school faculty? Perhaps. The fact that the status quo still helps make these schools money? Probably.

But creating an alliance like the one described above not only makes you money (albeit less) in the short run, it also makes for happy alumni in the long run, and happy alumni give back to the schools they felt helped look after them.

2. Hyper-specialization

In the old days, the liberal arts degree graduate turned lawyer was an employable prize that could (probably) get the job done. For at least the last 20 years, that really hasn’t been the case. Law firms want specialized, capable people right off the bat. Tax firms prefer those with CPAs, IP firms prefer engineers—and with the glut of lawyers out there, these firms have the capacity to be that demanding in their hires.

Yet law schools still prefer a curriculum that relies on general education and “thinking like a lawyer.” Thinking like a lawyer isn’t anywhere near enough—and employers are making their voices loud and clear in this respect. With the legal field becoming hyper-specialized, a law school that does the same can enhance its competitiveness and its appearance to prospective students. Solid, specialized law schools could corral academics to produce much more significant work in their specialized subject areas, market and attract students with a legitimate interest in those areas (and thus more likely not only to stick around those three years, but also to excel, land jobs, and return money and prestige to the school), and when you’re a specialized law school, it’s easier to figure out where you can make cuts to make your specialized education more competitive per dollar. If you’re a law school specializing in business law, you won’t need ten criminal law professors on staff.

There’s plenty standing in the way of this, however, so I don’t predict law schools making this adaptation, which is unfortunate. Law school faculty not within their school’s specialization are not going to be happy, and there would be a big question out there as to what you do with already tenured professors. And then there’s the question of what do you do with students who come to school and want to switch specialization? My curt answer would be to enter into an alliance with a school of another specialization and allow for easy transfer procedures between schools… but that would require law schools to act and think cooperatively, a concept alien to most law schools seeking to game the US News & World Report rankings as best they can. Of course, the Harvards and Yales of the world are not going to go along with this plan at all, but that’s to be expected when they will feel the pressures of any law education bubble the least.

On a final note, I do have one suggestion for those of us who are not legal educational institutions: help get accurate information out there. The US News rankings are gamed by law schools nationwide, to the point where the ‘employed graduates’ statistics are simply unbelievable to anyone who has spent more than a year in law school.

Law School Transparency has invited law schools to give an accurate disclosure of employment numbers, almost all of which have refused to do so. That shouldn’t prevent the truth from getting out there, however. If more law students are willing to share what their legal education has provided for their future, the law graduate community can make a much more accurate resource depicting employment probabilities a J.D. holder actually has upon graduation. Here is my suggestion:

3.  Grassroots Law School Transparency

The major challenge in collecting data directly from graduates is verifying the data you get is actually from law students at specific institutions, from specific institutions, and is accurate. This is not impossible to achieve, however. Most law schools release a paper bound student directory of their current enrollment. I would gladly send my copy to anyone willing to collect various law school directories from various institutions over the last couple of years, email the names through their law school email accounts, and ask the following five questions:

  1. Are you currently employed?
  2. If yes, are you employed in the legal field? If not, in what field are you employed?
  3. Did you have this job before graduation? After?  Provide month/year of employment.
  4. Provide a rough estimate of your base salary.

That’s what it would really take to get the truth out there, and it is no small undertaking. Until then, though, things will keep moving ahead, but to all incoming law students I would say this: Look to the left of you, look to the right: one of you might have a job by the time you graduate.

The Link Kontroversy—Law Schools’ Evening Programs Imperiled, ‘Gainful Employment’ Rules Stalled, & Boy Have I Got a Job for You!

Karen Sloan, “Law School’s Evening Classes Fall Prey to Recession,” in The National Law Journal

Pace University Law School has decided to phase out its evening program.  The reason: people’s employers aren’t paying for it anymore.  It’s heartening to know that those interested in evening programs opt against attending rather than take out student loans.  It also indicates that people don’t save up money to go to law school.

Goldie Blumenstyk, “Education Dept. to Delay Issuing ‘Gainful Employment’ Rules Opposed by For-Profit Colleges,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Mike Elk, “Why Are Progressives Fighting Student-Loan Reform?” in The American Prospect

The DoE caved to for-profit colleges and will delay full implementation of the “Gainful Employment” rule.  Much of it will go into effect next month, the rest early next year.  Fortunately, the DoE is only delaying implementation to clarify critics’ comments.  No evidence suggests it’ll water down the rule.

Meanwhile, various progressive groups are fighting the proposal because they hate people short-selling for-profit higher education.  Elk tells us this confuses conflicts of interest with good business judgment.  Bubbles are unsustainable so they will pop.  The sooner they pop the better for the economy.  Short-sellers help bubbles pop sooner.  Therefore, short-sellers help the economy.  Q.E.D.

Job Opening for…Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, in the ABA Career Center website

If deaning a law school has been your lifelong dream (and you’ve got the bar cred to back it up) now is your chance to arise—and claim your destiny!

Minimum Qualifications: All candidates must have a J.D. or LL.B. degree and a record of significant professional achievement.

Preferred Qualifications: The preferred candidate will demonstrate many of the following attributes: • the vision and creativity to guide C|M|Law to greater national prominence as it prepares students for the 21st-century legal practice • proven fundraising skills • significant leadership experience • a strong record of scholarship • a commitment to promoting excellence in teaching • a commitment to supporting faculty research and an intellectually diverse culture of scholarly inquiry and debate • a commitment to diversity among students, faculty, and staff • the ability to lead and develop an excellent and dedicated staff • the ability to enhance partnerships with the University, alumni, and community

Oddly enough, I frequently find myself criticizing law school deans on this blog, but instead this post gives us an opportunity to see what Cleveland State’s priorities are.  Specifically, it says it wants someone with “the vision and creativity to guide C|M|Law to greater national prominence…”  I can’t help but think that the university wants its new dean to value expenditures per student rather than whether they’re comfortably employed upon graduation.