September 10, 2011
ScamLaw: Transparency is a No-Brainer (Postscript)
Posted by joanheminway

Thanks to Usha for organizing and contributing to this Master's forum.  Regrettably, I got tied up in travel and family affairs relating to my mother's memorial service yesterday and was unable to participate.  I earlier had posted this as a comment on Usha's September 8 post, but the formatting got completely messed up.  Usha graciously offered me the opportunity to make a late post that follows up on her post here, and Gordon helpfully deleted my prior unformatted comment.  (Thanks, again, Usha and Gordon.)

I want to focus on a few of Professor Paul Campos's observations.  Like many commentators on Professor Campos's posts, I sometimes marvel at the difference between his world and mine.  I am, however, grateful that he is sharing his world with all of us and raising a bunch of engaging and thorny issues in the process.

In his September 7 post ("Additional disclosures"), he says:

One thing that seems clear is that law faculty have an obligation to educate themselves, to the extent they can, about their graduates' actual employment status (Faculty will have much better access to this information than anyone outside law schools, although I don't doubt many a law school's administration will resist sharing this data even with its own faculty).

I totally agree with him here.  I actually had thought (until recently) that folks all over already were doing this (which, I take it from his post and others across the Web, they may not be).  Although I never have discussed the matter with colleagues from other schools, I always have considered advice on the job market to be an important part of my job as a law faculty member.  In fact, when Law School Transparency got started a few years ago, I inquired as to what my employer was doing to inform prospective and current students, as well as faculty and alumni, about the jobs and salaries obtained by our graduates.  I was pleased to see that we do produce and publish a bunch of data (although not as much or as detailed as some might need or want . . .).  I also was pleased that I was able to get further breakdowns on some of the  data when I needed it for a Knoxville Bar Association CLE.  This may be consistent with Usha's observation about public schools versus private schools, although Professor Campos's September 8 post ("More fun with law school employment numbers") focuses on transparency issues in Ohio's public schools.  I cannot imagine working in a law school (which, after all, is a professional school) that hides professional placement data from the world (and especially from prospective and current students).  I would hope that the market would punish this kind of behavior.  Perhaps the conversations around ScamLaw generally and Professor Campos's posts specifically will result in market adjustments . . . .

To another point in Professor Campos's September 7 post, as a law professor who practiced for 15 years before entering the academy, I do tell prospective and current students that law--at least Big Law and private practice--is not for everyone and that some law schools may be better than others for prospective students.  I also help students to transfer schools if their objectives change or they otherwise determine that Tennessee is not the right school for them.  And I work with a lot of students whose aspirations are to work in government or for-profit and non-profit businesses in law and law-related roles.  

Leaving aside Usha's reference to predictions about the changing nature of law practice and Larry Ribstein's exciting work on the same, If we all keep track of the current overall market for lawyers and legal services on an ongoing basis, we at least should be able to better advise prospective and current students about near-term prospects for employment that appeal to those students and about ways for students to use the law curriculum at our respective schools to pursue the same.  I do think this is our responsibility as lawyers and law professors--part of our teaching and service missions in the academy.

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September 09, 2011
ScamLaw: The End
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

Thanks to our participants for what has been a thought-provoking forum.  You can access all of the posts here.  

And yes, this post's title is ironically meant.  I'm sure we in legal academia will be discussing the ramifications of ScamLaw for some time to come.

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ScamLaw: Naming as part of Blaming
Posted by Katie Porter

In the first post of his blog, Professor Campos boldly (truly, in bold font) announced that “law professors are scamming their students.” In his most recent post, he concludes: "law school has become a ripoff for a very large proportion of law students. It's a ripoff because the benefits of going to law school, for a huge number of current students and recent graduates, are outweighed by the costs to a disastrous and even life-wrecking degree, and because law schools have gone to great lengths to obscure that fact." Hyperbole of the last statement aside (I don't agree with the "huge" characterization of the problem, but it definitely exists), I'm interested in the choice of the word "scam" to describe the situation.

I teach consumer law and spend a substantial amount of the course on things that some might call "scams"  or "ripoffs." Those aren't legal terms though; instead we talk about "unfair or deceptive practices." Does it matter what we call it? I think it does, for a couple of reasons.

First, I think scam suggests an intent element, and indeed, in his first post, Campos makes an analogy to an intentional tort. Yet intent is explicitly absent in the law of unfair or deceptive practices. Does intent matter in deciding whether there is a problem here and who, if anyone, has a duty to change the situation? In general, consumer law doctrine would suggest that intent, along with pinpointing blameworthy actors within an organization (it's the administration, it's the professors, etc.) are irrelevant.

Second, I think the word "scam" fails to convey detailed information about the nature of the problem. If we were to analyze this under the traditional consumer law doctrine, we would have to consider whether the allegedly harmful actions of law schools are 1) unfair, 2) deceptive, or 3) both, because the standards for unfairness and deception are independent of each other. I think that is a useful exercise in guiding the discussion of what exactly law schools, or their faculties, are allegedly doing. Here are substantive definitions typical of consumer law: 1) An act or practice may be found to be unfair where it “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers themselves and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” 2) A representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead a consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances and is likely to affect a consumer’s conduct or decision regarding a product or service." These definitions share the term "reasonably," which to me is where people's premises are different in evaluating whether there is or is not a situation here that should be remedied. On this point, consumer law differs substantially from tort law; we don't use the eggshell-brain consumer. We consider the consumer that is typical of the marketplace at issue, and even adjusting for age, prospective law students arguably have as much sophistication, or more, than the typical American.

Third, I think "scam" inflames a situation, and I question what the right level of provocation is. Professor Campos and others clearly think this is an urgent and serious situation, and strong language helps get them heard. On the other hand, as the debate about Professor LoPucki's choice to use the word "corrupting" in the title of his book on the venue of bankruptcy filings illustrates, the way that we name things conveys something meaningful, and intractable, about how we understand the problem.

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ScamLaw: More on Barriers to Entry
Posted by Alan Meese

As noted in my initial post, I agree with everything Brett McDonnell has said about barriers to entry.  I'd like to propose the following "questions" designed to provoke some additional discussion.

1)  Is there any plausible public interest rationale for the requirement, imposed by most states, that individuals graduate from an ABA-accredited law school before practicing law?  Or, is the requirement simply the result of rent-seeking by the legal profession (as I suspect)?

2)  If, as I believe, the requirement lacks any plausible justification, to what extent are law schools complicit in the creation and enforcement of this requirement and resulting unjustified barrier to entry?  That is, are law schools co-conspirators, or are they victims?  Something in between?  Law schools, which can be quite chatty on some subjects, seem remarkably silent on this particular topic.  (Does anyone know of a Dean or a faculty that has expressed sustained objection to the requirement of graduation from an accredited school?)  If Deans and faculties really are concerned about whether ordinary citizens have access to justice and potential students have access to Law School, shouldn't they speak up?

3)  If Deans and faculties did speak up, could they effect any significant change?  Or, is the practicing bar simply so influential in various state legislatures that reform efforts led by legal academia would be futile?  If reform efforts would prove futile, is it proper to blame law schools for that portion of increasing costs attributable to these regulatory barriers?

4)  What would/should the system of legal education look like if the requirement of graduation from an accredited school disappeared tomorrow?   Would more legal training take place outside the academic setting?  Would law become an undergraduate major, like accounting (though even here there is now a fifth year before an aspiring acccountant can take the CPA), or would we adopt the MBA model?  (I don't know of any regulatory requirement that resulted in the creation of MBA programs, where students learn what they could have learned as undergraduates.  Nor has any regulatory requirement given rise to programs that grant a Masters in Public Policy, another subject that could be and is taught at the undergraduate level.  Perhaps there is value in more than four years of post-secondary education for aspiring lawyers after all.)   Of course, the "would" might diverge from the "should," in part because of the path, no matter how unjustified, we have followed to this point, which might influence the course of future change.

5)  Is there any plausible legal theory for challenging the current requirement of graduation from an accredited law school?  Pre-1937, aspiring lawyers could have invoked the sort of liberty of occupation protected in decisions such as New State Ice Company v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262 (1932), forcing the state to offer a police power justification for the requirement.  This argument would obviously fail today, given the Supreme Court's subsequent holdings that states may trammel economic liberty at will.  Is there any way to repackage such an argument?  Perhaps efforts to rehabilitate the 14th Amendment's Privileges and Immunities Clause would, if successful, open up an avenue for such a challenge.

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ScamLaw: Do Faculty Write Too Much?
Posted by Alan Meese

I'm intrigued by Campos' claim that law professors write too much and teach too little, and that this skewed balance between teaching and research unduly increases the cost of legal education.  If this is true, isn't there a lucrative profit opportunity for a school that differentiates itself by increasing faculty course loads and reducing scholarly output?  A school taking this approach would (under Campos' view) improve the quality of education it provides, by offering more courses and/or more sections of the same course.  Such a school could reduce the size of its faculty and split the savings with remaining faculty and incoming students, thus providing students with lower tuition (And better quality) and faculty with compensation for the now higher courseloads.  What market failure or regulatory barrier prevents schools from adopting such a strategy?  (So far as I know, nothing in the ABA accreditation standards prevents a law school from raising course loads and deemphasizing research.)  Absent such a regulatory barrier or market failure, this particular claim becomes much weaker, in my view.

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ScamLaw: Ways to Cut Costs
Posted by Brett McDonnell

Although as I said in my previous post I am somewhat skeptical that employment rate figures play the critical role some argue, I think Professor Campos is dead on target to focus attention on the unsustainability of the current tuition model.  For instance, at my school in normal economic times, getting a job of some sort should happen for almost all of our students--I completely agree with Alan that the depression has worsened matters immensely, but presumably one day that shall pass.  (Very unhappily, that is little consolation for recent grads.  Even when better times return, many of them will find it hard to re-boot their careers.  Entering the labor market during hard times can have lifelong consequences.  That is awful, but it is not specific to the legal market.)  But when better times return, many graduates even at a quite good school like my own will find they are not getting that big firm job, and the job they do get will make their debt very hard to service.  This is a long-term problem (I suspect, although it involves reading the tea leaves for the future of the legal market), and one that law schools must face.

How can we cut costs to lower tuition?  Law school budgets aren't that complicated.  There are just a few big ticket categories.  Financial aid is one.  One can argue that it would make a lot of sense to simultaneously lower both aid and tuition, which would make costs more transparent and equal.  As with so many things, USNWR rankings play a bad role here--schools use part of their high tuitions to fund high aid targeted at students with above the schools' median LSAT and/or grades and hence raise those numbers, leading to aid that goes disproportionately to strong students, who on average come from more privileged backgrounds. 

Another big ticket item is administrative salaries.  This is quite a big chunk of the budget, and it has grown a lot in recent decades.  Indeed, for higher education generally, administrative costs are apparently the biggest source of budget inflation, according to this article.  I'd be interested in seeing similar figures for law schools.  Some of that inflation is bureaucratic bloat, suggesting room for cutting costs with low impact on quality.  That cost-cutting should happen, but I doubt we will see huge savings there--the internal dynamic of increased bureaucratization is a deep problem for all sorts of organizations, and I doubt law school leaders are organizationally savvy enough to go far in solving a problem that is so widespread.  Other parts of the growth in administration represent new value added.  IT staff are the most obvious example, but expanded student services staff may be another--I think students today expect more individualized attention than past generations.  Cuts in these areas are possible too, and will also probably have to happen, but they will result in reduced services.  Another area of growth is development staff, especially at public schools like mine which no longer get much from the state.  But if at all competent, those staff should more than earn their keep, so cuts there usually will make little sense.

That leaves faculty salaries.  We are indeed over-paid and under-worked, and eventually that will have to change if schools are to significantly cut tuition.  Many factors help explain the growth in salaries, and it is rather hard to predict if and how those factors might change.  Faculty are the leading constituency in law school governace, so there is clearly significant rent-seeking involved.  The long boom in BigLaw salaries played a huge role in at least two respects--it made students willing to pay more, and it increased the opportunity costs of teaching law (most faculty, after all, could be in a big law firm if they chose--it is no accident that the highest paid areas of academia, like law, medicine, and business school, are the areas where faculty have the best outside opportunities).  If BigLaw job and salary growth are indeed permanently slowed (as I suspect is the case), that will put pressure on law schools.  A final major factor is the USNWR rankings--they strongly reward high perceived faculty quality (which can be bought) as well as high total expenditures.  Any decently-ranked school which chose to unilaterally slash salaries and raise teaching loads would find that its ranking plummeted.  If it could credibly argue to employers and potential students that it still offers a good education only now at a much lower price, that would be OK, but schools don't seem to have found a way to do that and break from the USNWR game.

But if the legal market has indeed changed for the long run, we will eventually see salaries start to drop, because they must.  I would expect to see salaries drop first at lower tier schools, which have less to lose in the rankings.  The very top schools probably still feed enough of their grads into BigLaw that they will be able to maintain their current model, more or less.  Many schools in between, including my own, will feel a highly uncomfortable crush between these two ends.

Finally, how can schools increase teaching loads, probably cut or at least not increase faculty size, and yet still offer more of the kind of practical training that students and employers quite rightly demand?  Good practical training, after all, often requires more focused attention from faculty. That's a very hard question, and the schools that first answer it well should get a real benefit.  I think a big part of the answer has to be a continued growth in the use of adjunct faculty and externships.  Adjuncts are an order of magnitude (or two) cheaper than full time faculty, and they have more practical experience.  Most schools have already moved in that direction, but the market will force much more movement.  Some current ABA and AALS rules limit the ability of schools to do that.  For instance, ABA Standard 304 limits how many credits can be received in courses outside regularly scheduled class sessions, ABA Standard 305 strictly regulates field placement programs, and the AALS limits the fraction of total teaching time that can be offered by persons other than full time faculty.  Rules like these are pernicious and must be eliminated.

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ScamLaw: Victimhood vs. Responsibility
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

I approach this with some trepidation, given I don't think you can win in a debate on the proposition "RESOLVED: law school is a scam."  Also, to the extent it bears on the issue, I indeed practiced for a long time (26 years) in a law firm and the business world.  I have hired, fired, retained, supervised, and managed a lot of lawyers and law firms.  I want to make two points, one about the macro issue of legal education, and one about the notion of being hoodwinked into going to law school.  (And I'm going to try to avoid being a baby boomer curmudgeon despite the fact I've been AARP eligible for seven years.)

Slide1 On the macro issue, I think legal education is about as flawed as most other social institutions, given that we rarely design them from scratch.   The legal academy has developed as a hybrid of professional school and social science or humanities department.  It's not the barber college.  Law schools have been able to maintain relatively large and well-paid faculties because they have the leverage of large numbers of professional students who do not aspire to academic jobs.  On the other hand, the integration of law schools as departmental peers with the social sciences and humanities in first-tier research universities has pushed the scholarship interest of most faculties away from “mere” professional training and into sophisticated doctrine, theory, and policy. There's an intractable, yet manageable, polarity in that unique academic environment. But it can, just like lots of polarities, continue to coexist.  Faculties (at least at all but the most "elite" schools) are going to need to accommodate the concerns and needs of students or their raison d'être is going to disappear; students and alumni are going to have to acknowledge the driving forces of academic prestige and advancement, in part because they want the patina that comes with having attended a highly ranked law school, and in part because it's unlikely we are going to the barber college model any time soon.

On the "hoodwinking" issue, I think Brett McDonnell has it right in questioning the effect of disclosure where the issue involves not a calculable risk but the radical uncertainty inherent in major life decisions.  Like Usha, I'm not endorsing lying.  It's not just wrong; it's stupid.  But if you are inclined to look after-the-fact for the reasons why things didn't turn out the way you wanted, that is indeed a lawyer's game in which the aim is to find actionable reasons for victimhood among all the but-for causes of the misfortune, and argue those reasons are proximate.  Disclosure has to inform the disclosee's action, and that action is still the disclosee's responsibility, and as to which the disclosee has to exercise judgment.  (I wrote about this in connection with the financial crisis in a little essay called "Disclosure and Judgment:  We Have Met Madoff and He is Ours."  I was pondering the value of information in my own personal decision-making at the depths of the financial crisis.)  In other words, if you are applying to law school, and you can see that the law school reports a 90% placement rate, how does that really factor into your judgment before the fact?   After the fact, you could litigate that till the cows come home, but we'll never know. (That's called a counter-factual.)

Indeed, we were wrestling last week in my very real world securities regulation class about a materiality concept called "truth on the market."  (Larry Ribstein and his cohorts didn't invent the term.)  "Fraud on the market" is a concept under which courts eliminate the requirement of a showing of individual reliance in a securities fraud case if a public company's false statements have been baked into the share price.  "Truth on the market," on the other hand, is a materiality concept that says even if a statement was false, no reasonable investor would have considered it to be significant in the total mix of information.  I tried to capture the tension between investor victimhood and investor responsibility that you see in the cases in the above diagram.  It seems to me that if there are no false statements, it's all about investor responsibility.  The hard cases only arise when there are false statements that could either be argued the basis for legitimate victimhood or as inconsequential in the total mix. 

This is the curmudgeonly part.  I'm sorry for all the bad stuff that happens to people, but I'm not thrilled with a world in which you have a moral or legal right to be considered a victim where nothing was false, but you made a judgment for which you were responsible and now regret.

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ScamLaw and the Macroeconomy
Posted by Alan Meese

As I read through Campos' various posts, I couldn’t help but wonder “would Campos have created “SCAMLAW and/or would we be having this discussion, if the economy were at full employment?” Imagine a four percent annual real growth rate, with unemployment at five percent. BIGLAW, MEDIUM LAW, SMALL LAW --- all would be hiring more attorneys, at higher (real) salaries than firms are currently paying. State and local governments --- maybe even the national government --- would be flush with tax revenue and thus able to hire more attorneys themselves. Opportunities for inside counsel at corporations would multiply. States would cease cutting public university budgets, and private giving to universities (including law schools) would rise, thereby reducing the emphasis on tuition as a source of revenue. Some students at some schools would still be taking on significant debt, but they would have the wherewithal to pay it off.

Of course, we are not at full employment. We are instead in a deep and sustained economic downturn. The current recovery, if it is one, is anemic. Numerous recent law school graduates are suffering the consequences, like millions of other Americans who never went to law school but instead took on debt to start a business, earn an MBA or go to Dental School, for instance. (Tuition at the Tufts Dental School’s D.M.D. program is $59,540 per year, for a four year program.) Plus, there is no end in sight. It’s hard to imagine a quarter of 9 percent real GDP growth, as we had in 1983 during the Reagan recovery, or an economy that will grow 26 percent in real terms over the next seven years, as it did from 1983 through 1990.

This “full employment thought experiment” suggests the following lessons, it seems to me.

First, very few occupations thrive or even tread water during the sort of deep recession we are experiencing. (Academia is an exception; we are treading water and thankful to be doing so.)  Even if we were to reform legal education along the lines Campos proposes, the next Great Recession (heaven forbid) would still reduce the employment prospects of graduating lawyers and defeat the expectations of many who do obtain employment.  Perhaps adoption of Campos-inspired reforms would “cushion the blow,” but there would be a blow nonetheless. Those who criticize legal academia should keep in mind that a portion of the pain recent graduates are currently suffering would have occurred even under the optimal system for educating new lawyers, whatever that is.

Second, it’s incredibly important to get macroeconomic stabilization policy right. The national government has dropped the ball, and people are suffering as a result. Thousands of individuals who applied to law school in recent years, expecting reasonable employment opportunities when upon graduation, have seen their expectations dashed. Shortcomings in the system of legal education should not obscure the fact that failed stewardship by the national government is partly to blame for the plight of so many aspiring lawyers.

Third (and on the other hand) “sustained economic growth hides a multitude of sins.” Campos and some participants in this forum have identified various sins the legal profession and some law schools have supposedly been committing (or abetting) for some time now. These purported sins include state-imposed barriers to entry that raise the cost of becoming a lawyer, reduce the supply of lawyers and raise legal fees, chicanery in reporting “employment” statistics, and financial aid policies that reward dubious conceptions of merit instead of reducing tuition for students of modest means. (By the way, I associate myself with everything Brett McDonnell says about barriers to entry.) Campos also claims that faculty write too much and teach too little, for instance, thereby increasing the cost of legal education or reducing its quality. Law schools and the legal profession were able to deflect criticism while the economy was strong, but the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. A system built on subsidized debt and expected perpetual growth in legal employment may not be sustainable.

I welcome this debate, particularly its focus on the barriers to entry bolstered by the ABA's accreditation requirements.   It's too bad it took a "Great Recession" to make it happen.

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September 08, 2011
ScamLaw - Law as Beauty
Posted by Karl Okamoto

Not really sure this is relevant to the discussion, but I have seen beauty in the practice of law.  Truly.  Just the other day, I watched a true wizard disentangle what surely would have been a fracturing spat between one party who felt undervalued and another who felt held-up.  This wizard, by his manner, his aura of deep experience, his finesse, pulled both sides from the brink and avoided a mini-Armageddon.  The same week, I watched a relatively young practitioner teach two much younger entrepreneurs the cost of deadlock and how to avoid it.  Again, it was a lawyer who made the world run more smoothly for everyone’s benefit. 

I don’t have any data to support this idea, but my best guess is that the world could use more of these “good lawyering moments.”  They certainly are a thing of beauty.  Something Zaring may suggest is valuable for its own sake.  But I’m content with their more practical value.

 

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ScamLaw: The Role of Barriers to Entry
Posted by Brett McDonnell

Campos and the burgeoning field of law scam blogs have brought needed attention to a big problem:  law schools now cost way too much for the necessary debt to make sense for many of their graduates.  What can we do about it?

I'm somewhat skeptical about how far the fraud claims explain the problem.  Some schools have lied, most have been at least somewhat misleading, and all have not told the full truth.  Efforts like the Law School Transparency Project should help change that, and that's good.  But are misleading figures which suggest the vast majority of grads get jobs, without mentioning how lousy and/or temporary many of those jobs are, really the heart of the problem?  Would a reasonable person really take on $150,000 in debt based on those figures, without asking for more detail about the nature of those jobs, including the median pay levels (and perhaps further statistics on the distribution of pay) at various stages after law school?  Information about the highly checkered nature of legal employment has been widely available outside law school web sites for a long time--a little bit of googling would bring it up.  Even assuming false or misleading disclosure, is there actual and reasonable reliance here?

I suspect that a deeper problem is a lot of pretty boundedly rational decisionmaking by prospective law students.  People either did too little due diligence, or they assumed that they would be in the top of their class and do OK.  I'm from Lake Wobegon country, and even here our students can't all be above average.  But if that's right, it makes the disclosure question hard.  What should disclosure look like for persons likely to mis-use the information?  Perhaps that means we have a stronger obligation to make clear that many graduates are going to struggle at current tuition levels.  Our FWIP speaker here today is Oren Bar-Gill, one of the leading thinkers on disclosure in markets with boundedly rational consumers.  The problem is hard, but if people like me back more clear and directed disclosure by banks selling credit cards, then we should probably want to see such disclosure by our own employers.

Although disclosure is an issue and changes should be made, I think all the attention to that is drawing focus away from elements that matter more.  Both law and law schools are badly over-regulated markets, and those regulations are leading to distortions.  The most fundamental is the barrier to entry created by rules on the unauthorized practice of law.  Combined with the rule in most states that you must have a law degree to become authorized to practice, this creates an inflated demand for law schools.  Many lesser law schools survive and prosper because their students need that degree in order to be allowed to practice law.  Take that barrier to entry away, and the demand for legal education should drop significantly, leading to a drop in prices, at least in the lower tier schools.

Barriers to entry in law have much worse social consequences than this effect on the law school market--see this article in the Economist, describing this book.  Doing away with those barriers would thus accomplish multiple goods.  It is, alas, incredibly unlikely to happen.  But it is worth repeating periodically that it should.

The biggest problem that ScamLaw identifies about which something might actually be done is the extremely high cost of legal education, combined with too little value created by that education.  This has many causes, not the least of which is over-regulation of law schools by the ABA and AALS, as Larry Ribstein suggests in his excellent post on ScamLaw.  But that's a big topic and this post is already too long, so I will save for a second post my thoughts on ways we can reduce costs.

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ScamLaw: Paternalism or prudence?
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

It is wrong for law schools to lie.  About anything in general, and about placement statistics in particular.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  I'm in favor of the Law School Transparency Project.  Like I tell my students: lying is bad.  Courts don't like it, law schools shouldn't do it, and you shouldn't do it, either.

OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way, the gravamen of the LawScam beef seems to be that students are incurring crippling debt and can't get jobs that will make that debt manageable.  I think that this is a bad situation. I feel bad about it.  Even though, as I blogged 2 years ago, I think that state law schools in general--and Georgia Law in particular--come out looking pretty good.  

I understand much of the criticism to be directed at third and fourth tier law schools that charge a lot of money and are relatively less competitive in the marketplace.  Yes, I know that there are a lot of T14 graduates that can't find a job.  I don't view that as a systemic problem, though--I view that as a function of a bad economy.  So, if I'm right, then the argument is:  third and fourth tier schools are misleading students, it's criminal, shut them down.  I take it that this is a clean solution to the LawScam: remedy the oversupply of new lawyers by cutting it in half.  I'm not advocating this solution, but just observing that it seems like that's where you end up if you follow the LawScam argument to its logical conclusion.

This reminds me of the accredited investor definition question I've taught for going on 7 years now in Corporations.  It amounts to: the US government restricts what investments you can make, but if you're an accredited investor (read: "rich person") then you can invest in riskier things, like venture capital or hedge funds.  Each year I ask students for a show of hands on what they think of this rule.  There are 2 ways to look at it.  One is that it is a vital means of protecting the general public from taking irresponsible risks they shouldn't be allowed to take.  The other is that different rules apply for the wealthy: they get access to the sweet deals, and the rest of us have our noses pressed up against the glass.  In 2008-09, the students subscribed to the first view; in 2005-06, the second.  

I agree with David in agreeing with Campos: law schools are a form of social sorting.  If you likewise agree, that means doing away with T3 and T4 schools means doing away with access to the legal profession for a whole swath of people.  Maybe most of them shouldn't be lawyers in the first place.  That argument has lots of resonance now--and forever if you think, like Larry Ribstein, that the legal market is permanently changing.  But if the market shifts again, and lawyers are back in demand, then without these T3 and T4 schools, there will be a lot of people with their noses pressed up against the glass, clamoring to be lawyers and mad that they can't be.  

 

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ScamLaw Forum: Questions for the Day
Posted by Christine Hurt

Howdy!  I am getting on a plane to go to Malawi, so I will have the pleasure of reading these posts at a later time.  I'm sorry to miss the forum, but I'm glad that this timely topic won't have to wait until I get back.  So, I have just enough time to pose some questions that I would love others to ponder:

1.    So, what are law schools supposed to do?  Anonymous Law Prof isn't a big fan of modern scholarship, but my cliched question after reading all of his very informative posts is "So, what is the normative uptake?"  ALS has done a good job of describing the main problem (though I don't agree with all of his commentary on the whys, wherefores and results), but what is the prescription?  His commenters are enjoying the therapeutic exercise of placing blame and exposing bad outcomes, but at some point we need to talk about the solution, besides "more transparency," which seems to be on the road to happening.

2.    Relatedly, what are law professors supposed to do?  ALS calls himself a whistleblower, which to us corporate types is another word for co-conspirator turned informant.  ALS believes there is a fraud occurring, and he believes we are all co-conspirators, not innocent bystanders.  So, how do we "withdraw from the conspiracy" (besides just blogging about it).  

3.    Lastly, ALS' commenters took issue with my statement that I loved the law, and I loved teaching it.  They said that if I really loved the law, I would be practicing it.  I think that's completely wrong.  Studying the law and practicing are two different exercises, which appeal to different personalities and skill sets.  I could love literature and teaching literature, but that shouldn't open me up to criticism for not writing novels.  That being said, I really enjoyed practicing law.  But, I prefer my current job.  ALS seems to think that one problem with law schools is that professors hated practicing law.  Is this a red herring?

Enjoy the day and the discussion!  See you on the other side!

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September 07, 2011
ScamLaw: The Masters Forum
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

I'm pleased to announce our first Masters Forum of the year, on the ScamLaw critique of law schools.  The immediate catalyst for our forum is Inside the Law School Scam blog started last month by an anonymous tenured law professor who turned out to be Paul Campos. Christine's post contains some good observations and aggregates some links on the topic.  David's initial post prompted a response from Campos, to which David responded, in turn.

We Glommers thought it would be interesting for our Masters to weigh in on the LawScam critique which I take to be that legal education is hoodwinking prospective law students into law school and conspiring to produce an oversupply of lawyers that face diminished job prospects and crippling debt loads.  We hope for a dialogue that will produce more light than heat.  Please, commenters, keep it civil.

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