Thank you Brent Newton – American Legal Education is Worthless

September 2, 2010

By Randazza and DeVoy

Brent Newton, an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown, wrote a law review article about how professors writing law review articles is a waste of time. The article, Preaching What They Don’t Practice: Why Law Faculties’ Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship and Devaluation of Practical Competencies Obstruct Reform in the Legal Academy, is actually worth reading … which is rather unusual for a law review article.

my thesis is that it will not be possible to implement such proposed curricular and pedagogical reforms if law schools continue their trend of primarily hiring and promoting tenure-track faculty members whose primary mission is to produce theoretical, increasingly interdisciplinary scholarship for law reviews rather than prepare students to practice law. Such “impractical scholars,” because they have little or no experience in the legal profession and further because they have been hired primarily to write law review articles rather than primarily to teach, lack the skill set necessary to teach students how to become competent, ethical practitioners. (source)

That is a very polite and professional way of saying what I have been saying since the inception of this blog — law professors are a bunch of worthless gasbags running a ponzi scheme, and most (not all) should be dragged out into the street and have beehives shoved up their asses for the part they play in financially ruining thousands of kids a year — to say nothing for the destruction they help wreak upon the legal profession, which in turn leaves thousands of desperate lawyers who pull every manner of legal stunt to simply stay alive. Parasites breeding parasites. That is what most law professors are.

But back to Newton. His article is absolute blasphemy in the legal academy, and probably means that he will forever remain the sneered-at adjunct. I got that a lot when I was one — oh, you’re just an adjunct, not a professor.

Newton notes that adjuncts are the lowest of the low:

At the bottom of the order of law faculty are adjunct professors, who generally are treated like nobodies by the regular law faculty.

I am happy to report that this was not my experience when I was an adjunct at Barry. In fact, I was treated very well there by all my colleagues. But, once off that campus, especially when exchanging ideas with other “law professors” and particularly in the blawgosphere, that was the refuge they would run to during a vicious pwning.

Like the Indian caste system, a comparison Newton makes in his article, the academy delegates the “dirty work” to an immobile class of practitioners, adjuncts and other non-tenure track faculty.  Beyond schools’ Legal Research and Writing (LRW) curriculum, clinical programs remain the last bastion of useful hands-on experience in meeting deadlines, solving new problems and managing client expectations.

Despite providing some of the most value-added experiences most law students will have during their legal education, clinical professors lack the ability to attain tenure, or even full the same privileges and status of full tenure track faculty.  Even considering the value provided by clinical coursework, they remain optional at all but a few schools like Washington & Lee, which have adopted an intense practical curriculum.  This isn’t merely harmful for new lawyers, but potentially disastrous for their clients.

So let’s see what Newton shares some data with us about the experience levels of these “law professors” who sneer at adjuncts.

The amount of prior practical experience differed significantly by tier. For instance, for the schools in tier one, the median was 1 year and the mean was 1.92 years; 46.8% of the entry-level tenure-track professors hired by these schools since 2000 had no prior practical experience. Conversely, for the schools in tier four, the median was 6 years and the mean was 7.58 years; 85.8% of those professors had some amount of prior practical experience.

In other words, the higher ranked the school, the more worthless the professors — the less they actually know about the job they are teaching you to do. Next time someone makes fun of you for attending a TTT, maybe you should wipe the floor with them with the knowledge your TTT law professor gave you, while your top tier counterparts were learning from someone who was hired most likely on the basis of their skin color, gender, and how they managed to whine about both in law review articles.

Also contributing to this worthlessness is the over-academization of the legal academy.  A top J.D. isn’t enough anymore, and often needs to be supplemented with a Ph.D. – if not supplanted by one.

In the late 1980s, five percent of full-time law professors had Ph.D.s.  By the end of the twentieth century, 10.4 percent of new tenure-track hires had Ph.D’s (13.4% at “top 25 schools”). Just a decade later, by 2010, that percentage had grown significantly, particularly at the highly ranked schools. My own study of a representative sample of entry-level tenure-track professors hired between 2000-09 (excluding clinicians, LRW professors, and other “practical” faculty) revealed that 18.9 percent possessed Ph.D.’s in addition to or in lieu of a law degree. Professors with Ph.D.’s constituted 35.5 percent of such tenure-track faculty members hired since 2000 by the first ten schools in tier one of the USNWR rankings.

While a Ph.D. is an impressive investment of time – quality varies widely outside of the top programs in each field, and whether it’s worthwhile depends on individual levels of funding – it doesn’t help create better lawyers.  It doesn’t necessarily breed better faculty, either.  Just look who you get when you hire like that! (But, in all fairness, the best law professor I ever had didn’t have a JD at all — he had a Ph.D. only!)

For example, teaching law students about game theory is all well and good within the ivory tower, but it doesn’t help them, and may even hurt, if it’s done at the expense of skills like writing and critical thinking.  Those skills matter a hell of a lot more than being able to properly graph the probabilities frontier of settlement negotiations in a $35,000 case.  Try explaining that bill to your client.

Newton realizes that this characteristic, along with the homogeneity of the same ten schools producing most of the nation’s legal academy, creates a certain feedback loop.  Because only the top students from top schools are hired into the academy, judged by their experience in snagging elite clerkships and publishing in the highest ranked law reviews, there is scant room for practical experience.  Yet the system persists for a few reasons.  The first is economic: Fundamentally exclusive credentials, such as Court of Appeals or Supreme Court clerkships, are held by a vanishingly small group, and thus greatly valued by the academy.  The second is a matter of value justification, as faculty members who went to Harvard and published in the Harvard Law Review feel their escutcheon would be tarnished by hiring someone with lesser credentials, the legal academy’s equivalent to identifying with lepers as equals.

Even in the publishing of Newton’s article, which is forthcoming in the University of South Carolina Law Review, the class bias of legal academia is on display.  Like law schools, even law reviews are ranked.  Though the South Carolina Law Review outperforms the school’s US News ranking, it’s blasphemy for a piece as important as Newton’s not to be in the highest ranked publication it could have conceivably been in.  This is especially true as the traditional walk-of-the-penguins path from earning good grades in law school to being an associate at a well-heeled firm vanishes for many students, leaving them to rely on skills they never developed or had any idea they’d need.  But, surely, whatever critical theory shit about how federal land use law displaces quadriplegic Inuit lesbians from their native homes that took the place of Newton’s article in a more visible journal will be important – essential, really – in the history of legal thought.

We must thank Newton for making this point for all the reasons stated above.  Based on my experience in practice, where you go to school doesn’t mean much except what firms interviewed you at OCI.  While every school produces bad lawyers, the upper crust of legal education has no monopoly on creating good ones.

More importantly, the lack of vital skills afflicting new lawyers needs to be brought to all current and prospective students’ attention so they can take clinical coursework and ameliorate the gaps in their training.  Knowing that such deficiencies exist is the first battle in the war of legal education.  Too many law students assume that going to law school and passing the bar exam will be sufficient to practice, and the schools’ professors and administrators – themselves woefully inexperienced – do not do enough to correct this misconception.

Finally, this is an issue that affects all of us.  Tenured faculty live a life of symposia and leisurely thinking on the backs of the serfs, much like the Roman elites who drank wine all day and had orgies at night while the masses toiled and the empire crumbled.  Although individual students make the promise to pay $40,000 each year to subsidize this nonsense, and at 8.5% interest, we’re all paying for it now that student lending has become a government function — both for the principal and the inevitable default on junk loans taken out for nothing of value.

This should be the beginning of a slow clap for Brent Newton, and his gumption to write a piece that unites various threads that have been the zeitgeist of practitioners for years.  That the legal academy does not care to hear it is their own fault, and done at its peril.

The Academic Feminist Witch Hunt

August 26, 2010

An audition for a blogging spot at Feminist Law Professors

By Marc J. Randazza

“Feminist Law Professors,” is a blog that throws cyber-tantrums at the notion of anonymous speech on the internet. (more and more) Their comment policy prefers that the authors name themselves, of course.

But, when they decide to start an academic lynch mob, these rules go out the window, and on go the masks. They bring us this anonymous criticism of Adam Cohen, a Yale Law professor who published a Time magazine article criticizing Judge Judith Raub Eiler. The author elected to remain anonymous, so lets do two things… lets call the Irony Police, and lets call her “Professor Useless Twat,” because that is about as fair as her criticism of Professor Cohen.

Here’s some of Cohen’s criticism of Judge Eiler.

When a defendant showed up on a traffic charge, Judge Judy delivered a zinger: “If you drive like an idiot ’cause you’re late for work, you’re gonna have to pay for it.” Then she piled on: “You can see your picture on the headlines of the Seattle Times, stupid young man who shouldn’t be driving.”

Another defendant recalled that the tart-tongue jurist humiliated and bullied her until she broke down in tears. “She frequently interrupted answers with insults,” the woman recalled.

This bullying Judge Judy was not Judge Judith Sheindlin, the tough-talking former New York City Family Court judge who has the top-rated judge show on syndicated television. It was Judge Judith Raub Eiler, her real-life doppelgänger, who sits at a county court in Seattle. Instead of high ratings and rich syndication fees, this Judge Judy’s aggressive demeanor earned her a five-day suspension without pay courtesy of the Washington State Supreme Court. (source)

Cohen criticized Eiler for being demeaning to litigants, especially pro-se litigants. Cohen applauded the fact that Eiler suffered discipline for her behavior, and said it should have been stronger medicine. He wasn’t basing his position on the reading of entrails from dead animals — the Washington Supreme Court backs up Cohen’s position.

But since Judge Eiler has a vagina, here comes Professor Useless Twat, accusing Cohen of gender bias, akin to calling a black person a “nigger.” (Well, using an illustration from a gender discrimination case in which the judge made that analogy).

What? Really?

Yes, Professor Useless Twat played the “nigger card.” Mind you, its not that she used the word, as I said last week, but what a card to play in this round of poker! Professor Useless Twat’s point was to accuse Cohen of criticizing Judge Eiler for not being “feminine” enough — as if civility in the courtroom is a “feminine” characteristic. (And somehow the “nigger card” made sense to play there).

Well dress me up in drag and call me Sally, because as caustic as I am on this blog, I know how to use my “courtroom voice” when I am in the sacred space. Courtrooms are places where you should exercise civility — even when dealing with idiots, assholes, and useless twats. Courtrooms are what we have instead of dueling fields. The lawyers and the parties are expected to be nice to each other, or at least civil. If that makes me “feminine” when I’m in court, well, fine… gimme my skirt.

When a judge refuses to show civility – especially to pro se litigants, who might not exactly know all the rules, then she deserves to be called out for it. She deserves to be criticized for it. She deserves to be disciplined for it — whether she has a vagina or not. And that was Cohen’s point. Gender wasn’t an overt subject, nor even a subtext, in his article.

There may be intelligent arguments against Professor Cohen’s article. If there are any, calling him a “sexist” sure isn’t one of them, and playing the “nigger card” is just plain retarded. Doing it from behind a mask is unforgivable.

Professor Useless Twat’s critique is bad enough in a vacuum, but lets remember the habitat in which law professors must survive. The politically correct police run the show. You must fall over yourself demonstrating sensitivity to race, gender, and whether a guy wears panties under his suit. “Racist” or “sexist” are labels that end careers in academia, and when one law prof throws them at another, the intent is abundantly clear — this bitch is pissed off about something and wants to fuck over Mr. Cohen. No, what Mr. Cohen did is not the equivalent of calling the judge a “nigger.” But, if useless twat wants a nice analogy, her piece is like going back to 1950 and calling Cohen a “Communist,” or a “faggot.” Either one could end his career, if anyone took it seriously, and she damn well knew it.

And in academia, if he dared to defend himself, Cohen would run the risk of just pushing the barb in deeper. I don’t know Cohen. I might actually hate him if I met him (or I might think he’s the greatest guy ever). I don’t care. I feel compelled to defend him, because it is obvious what Professor Useless Twat is trying to do. I don’t know what her real issue is with Cohen, but there isn’t a shred of honesty in her accusations that his work is gender biased.

“White Collar Trash”

July 27, 2010

JD Hull’s “What About Clients?” blog could kick Chuck Norris’ ass. Evidence: Read this little passage he writes about law professor Peter Friedman.

This man can help you. He deferred teaching full-time until after more than, say, an 18-month law prof-law firm stint before joining the ranks of a group that, in recent years, has screwed the pooch badly on the education of students. Which has been a living hell and nightmare for our law firm. (source)

I think that Dan and I might have come from the same litter. See The Worthlessness of Legal Education.

Dan then swoops in with this roundhouse kick to the face

At a minimum, I’d like American law schools to help my firm defray some of the costs of recruiting, developing and paying the delusional and alarmingly helpless young white collar trash, almost always Coif and Law Review stock, who we have fired or–with mixed feelings of relief and self-loathing–have wathced quit our firm since 2005. (source)

Preach on brother.

LSAT improvement: $8-11.5k

June 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

The LSAT summer intensive preparation regimen from Kaplan: $7,999 for the program; $11,499 with housing included.

Ready to do anything it takes to achieve a powerhouse LSAT score? Then, immerse yourself in the most concentrated LSAT prep experience ever: 6 weeks in a distraction-free setting—300 hours of nothing but LSAT prep with an all-star faculty and in-depth personal attention.

But matriculants do get to live in Boston, and Boston University, where the course is held, is in a nice part of town.

California Bar President pwns law schools in lengthy screed

May 27, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Howard B. Miller, President of the State Bar of California, had harsh words for California’s law schools in May 2010’s California Bar Journal.  Acknowledging the bleak outcomes for graduates in the classes of 2008, 2009 and 2010, Miller calls the economic cocktail of few jobs, high competition and massive debt “devastating.”

The exact numbers at the margins are not as clear as we would like, because so much involves small firms and personal circumstance, and many of the changes are too recent for complete accuracy. The average debt of law graduates now approaches or exceeds $100,000, and because of recent increases in tuition, especially at public institutions which historically have been more affordable, debt burdens will be even greater in a couple of years.

Based on outcomes alone, Miller’s commentary doesn’t seem addressed to Stanford, UC-Berkeley, USC or UCLA.  At least he acknowledges what has been common knowledge for many years, though: The picture is not as rosy at California’s 16 other ABA-accredited law schools.  The ABA-accredited distinction is important because there are 18 California-accredited and six unaccredited law schools within the state, the graduates of which may sit for the state bar exam.  There’s not much by way of economy, either:  The California-accredited San Francisco Law School charges $16,700/year, a number the school leaves potential students to discover on their own.  Bay Area neighbors UC-Hastings and Stanford are also pricey at $43,693 (non-resident) and $42,420 annually, respectively.  None of these numbers reflect living expenses, which can easily be 50% of tuition — especially in San Francisco, Palo Alto and surrounding areas.

There is notoriously unreliable self-reporting by law schools and their graduates of employment statistics. They are unreliable in only one direction, since the self-reporting by law schools of “employment” of graduates at graduation and then nine months after graduation are, together, a significant factor in the U.S. News rankings — which are obsessed over, despite denials, by law schools and their constituencies.

This is a valid sentiment, considering that events as low-rent and mundane as each number drawing of the New York Lotto are audited and monitored by Big 4 accounting firm KPMG.  Miller acutely notes the considerable value U.S. News rankings have for prospective law students and law schools, yet the the data reported to the magazine is unmonitored.  Nearly every year some school, however good, makes the untenable claim of 100% employment 9 months after graduation; past offenders include the University of Pennsylvania, UC-Berkeley and, most recently, Duke University.  Such a claim is almost laughable in this economy, especially considering how many students cling to their job offers with only the most tenuous of grips.  If anyone stood to lose from objectivism in this context, it would not be prospective students.

 A recent survey by the Kaplan organization showed that though 52 percent of pre-law students are “very confident” of finding a legal job after graduating from law school, only 16 percent of those students are “very confident” their classmates will have similar success.

A shocking revelation to lawyers and law students, but not surprising as a feature of human psychology.  As Richard Posner pointed out in A Failure of Capitalism, nobody listens to Cassandras.  In this age of participation trophies and good grades for merely showing up, prospective law students fancy themselves the scions of the legal field and shimmering guardians to the Eastern European refugees whose human rights they’ll never protect. LOL “international law”; moreover, LOL “human rights.”

Part of this distortion may be the source.  Within the law admissions community, Kaplan is regarded as inferior to TestMasters/Blueprint, and therefore attracts a less sophisticated student base.  This only considers people who pay for formal LSAT prep, too.  It’s unclear whether Kaplan students are more deluded than everyone else or actually representative of prospective law students, but there are problems with the sample Miller cites.

Miller then veers off onto a discussion of practical lawyering and its importance in bar admissions.  This idea has taken root some places, as the entire third year of law school at Washington & Lee is now an extensive clinical program.  The measure of practical ability is also measured by the National Conference of Bar Examiners’  Multistate Performance Test, which is included in the California bar exam.  There are merits to a practical apprenticeship-based approach versus traditional legal education, much like the differences between a D.O. and M.D. degree — either one confers the ability to practice medicine, but the D.O. develops an emphasis on holistic and preventative medicine while a M.D. places greater emphasis on diagnosis by symptoms and prescription of medication.

Eventually, Miller brings the piece back home:

Finally, we need to be transparent with potential lawyers about the cost and benefits of studying law. All law schools need to gather, verify and report, in consistent and specified ways, the employment record of their graduates, as well report on those who may have started, paid tuition, but never graduated. A good place to start is with our own California-accredited and registered law schools, over which the State Bar and the Committee of Bar Examiners have jurisdiction.

For a state with 44 law schools, that would be an excellent start.

School’s out forever

May 14, 2010

By J. DeVoy

On May 8, 2010, Chris Harbin graduated from the University of Michigan Law School.  Today, I’ll take my walk across the stage as well.  Neither event was as interesting or cool as this commencement, though.

Alternative paths really do await new law grads

May 10, 2010

By J. DeVoy

In the next two weeks, ABA-accredited law schools will spew forth graduate more than 40,000 newly minted J.D.’s from their doors.  While some are puzzled about how to pursue a legal career, others have realized they do not want one.  Still some, the most rational and mercenary of the bunch, are open to the right non-law opportunity.

Often, the transition from law school to a non-legal career is difficult.  Employers, who have a distorted view of lawyers’ financial upside, can’t believe anyone would forego the riches of law to work for them.  Rightly, others may view recent graduates as a flight risk waiting for a more desirable opportunity — especially in this economy.  There’s also the ultimate issue that a law degree doesn’t confer any definable skill, but is a rough measure of one’s critical thinking and cognitive ability.

Still, for those serious about the transition, there is hope.  One Legal Satyricon reader agreed to share his story by e-mail.  Graduating into the recession of the early 1990s, our humble reader graduated into circumstances not unlike those faced by recent grads, and without the benefit of Above The Law or another conduit for the legal zeitgeist.

His story began like so many graduating 3Ls’.  Eventually, it ended in directing and creating movies.

Following my second year of law school I was a summer associate at a firm I just loved — a decent-sized firm in a secondary legal market, which had other offices in the state.  The firm was well-regarded, but known for its humane atmosphere and treatment of associates.

However, the year that I interned with that firm became the very first year in that firm’s history that it hired none of its summer associates. So, I was out in the cold. Had they offered me a position, I would have jumped at it, and chances are I would have stayed in law. Because they didn’t, however, I was suddenly forced to re-evaluate certain things.

Fortunately, I had also been into writing since college. Eventually I was offered a recurring gig with a niche magazine, mostly writing about movies.  Since I had some friends in LA, I moved there after law school.

When you do enough reporting on movies, you get offered jobs in production — from PR to craft services to being a PA, etc. I took every job I could, and I can honestly say that I’ve done nearly every job there is to do on a set.  I also got into film distribution, where I learned what they were looking for and how much they’d pay.  From there, the logical progression was to begin producing. Then directing.

It’s an interesting path I took.  Some of my law school classmates are wildly successful. Others are in Federal prison.  (Whoops!)  Me, I’m doing exactly what I want.

Law students tend to quickly forget the merits of working one’s way up in an organization, even a law firm.  With humility, hard work, commitment and resourcefulness, anything is possible.  Before blowing up Bear Stearns’s hedge fund and getting charged with Federal Crimes, Matthew Tannin attended the University of San Francisco Law School.  What makes our reader’s story more compelling is that he, too, graduated into a down market with no revival in sight.  Yet, it paid off.

Still, some students would prefer to be lawyers.  After going to law school for three years and presumably beginning bar preparation shortly, it’s an entirely rational decision.  But if the goals of ego aggrandizement, financial security and, most importantly, self-satisfaction, are not wedded to the practice of law, the ways they can be fulfilled are endless.

Frontline echoes The Legal Satyricon

May 4, 2010

By J. DeVoy

For several years, this blog has been shrieking about the utter worthlessness of higher education — or at least that its purported benefits are oversold.  Finally, the mainstream media has begun to notice.  Tuesday’s Frontline episode, College Inc., was no exception.

The upshot: For-profit colleges enroll 10% of all students.  Yet they receive 25% of all Federal aid – subsidized by you, the taxpayer – and their graduates are responsible for 44% of all student loan defaults.

This issue is creeping into the legal academy as well.  Florida Coastal Law School – which curiously promotes “tradition” on its website despite being in existence only since 1996 – is owned by the for-profit InfiLaw group, which establishes law schools across the country.  Realistically, these schools do not offer their students the prospects they envision.  We at the Legal Satyricon come from all walks of life and education, and we’re not playing the elitism card here — just calling it as we see it.

Georgetown Law School steps on its dick

April 21, 2010

I often write about the worthlessness of legal education. Given that I attended Georgetown Law, it doesn’t take a 179 LSAT score to figure out that for the most part, I am talking about that place. Of course, it is nice that they added an olympic sized swimming pool to the place since I graduated. But, I have a funny feeling that GULC grads want jobs, not a big thing of water to play in.

The GULC student bar association came up with an idea as to how GULC could serve them better — by offering more credit for externships (you know, real practical experience). Their proposal is here, and they make a reasonable point.

Stanford gives 12 externship credits; Berkeley gives 10; GW gives 8. Currently, Georgetown gives 2 credits; we’re debating whether to raise that to 3. ( source)

Naturally, the dipshit do-nothings that teach Bisexual Vegetarianism and The Law threw a barely literate, logically bankrupt shit fit.

Yeah, call me for an alumni donation. I’ll say the same thing I have for 10 years. “What the hell did you do with the $75K I already gave you?”

Should the Academy Require Public Service Experience?

April 15, 2010

by Christopher Harbin

A White House administrator recently spoke to a seminar that I’m in and floated by an interesting idea.  Her idea was that universities should require candidates for the academy to have some public service experience in order to be considered.  Personally, I think it’s a great idea — especially for law profs — who would most likely have to get a license to practice prior to entering the ivory tower.  Hear that sound?  That’s the sound of the professoriate screaming in terror.  Even a year of experience in the real world could bring a much needed practical focus to law school curriculum.  Perhaps hiring would stop centering on “what have you published?” to “what have you done.”   Maybe it would funnel bright minds into public service where perhaps some would stay and innovate.    Exciting idea.

2010 U.S. News rankings leaked?

April 13, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Via Above The Law, it appears that someone released the 2010 US News Law School rankings before their street date.  To be very clear, this may be a hoax, and we make no representations as to the accuracy of the rankings being proffered by anonymous internet posters.  This always happens, though, so it may be accurate.

Check out the first page at ATL.  More information can be found on this photostream.

Law School Relegation

April 5, 2010

by Christopher Harbin

European Soccer Leagues have a concept called relegation.  Teams that are in the bottom of the standings get punted down to the second-class league for the entire next season.  Similarly, top performers in the second-league get promoted to the top-flight league.  Imagine if the loathsome Yankees royally sucked one season and had to spend their next season in Triple-A (or should it be AAA?  Class-AAA?) facing off against the Durham Bulls and Toledo Mud Hens.

Law school already has a system of promotion by allowing top performing law students to transfer “up” after their first year.  But what we really need is relegation.  Perhaps punting the bottom 5% of each class down a tier might actually motivate students to come to class prepared and get the hell off Chatroulette (really!) while in class.  You might see a more dedicated effort from law students to do the work over the bulk of the semester rather than buy a supplement and a commercial outline during the reading period.  What if — *gasp* — fundamental skills classes counted in your relegation determination?

And because law students are so elitist, relegation would be a better motivator than kicking them out of law school entirely.  For most of them, getting kicked out of Columbia is at least more respectable than graduating from Hoftra.

At the very least, relegation would produce a bunch of lulz.  Most law students are already neurotics chasing As.  Relegation would spread this hysteria even further as the slack asses could never be quite sure they’d get saved by the curve.   Crazy mind games and page-ripping would no longer be the exclusive providence of the gunners.  Let a whole new era of insanity wash over law school!  Demand relegation today!

What does law school really cost?

March 15, 2010

By J. DeVoy

This weekend, my facebook and e-mail discussions focused on a New York Times piece about for-profit trade schools and their questionable value to students.  Many likened the trade schools at issue to law schools, which require a substantial investment for returns that, even in the best of times, are uncertain for all but the most elite law students.

While much is made of the financial cost of law school, that information is readily accessible.  With income-based repayment and the mounting reality that Something Must Be Done (TM) about ballooning student loan burdens, the financial slavery that would normally accompany mortgage-sized debt is diminishing — but not yet eliminated.

Too little attention is paid to the opportunity costs entailed in three years of law school.  I posit two reasons: First,  people who come to law school are exiting careers as teachers, engineers, or other white-collar McJob holders, and don’t see anything wrong with spending three years developing a new skill set.  Second, undergrads without any other options – the philopshy, psychology and sociology majors of the world who lack designs on academia – tend to default into law school without considering the life experiences they’ll forego.

I spent some time on facebook seeing what my non-law friends have done in the time I’ve been here, particularly those who graduated college with me in 2007.  Coupling these observations with law school-related data and other information, hopefully this paints a meaningful picture of just what the comprehensive cost of law school truly is.

Foregone income (@ $25,000/yr, post-tax): $75,000

Engagements: 36

Marriages: 20

Newborn babies: 7

Separations/Divorces: 3

Deaths: 0 (At least not permanently – it’s hard to keep down a Cornellian.)

Trips back home since beginning law school: 7

People who have moved cities in that time: 51

People who have moved cities more than once in that time: 12

School-wide GPA median: 3.1

Personal percentage of A-range grades: 47%

Rejection letters: dozens, at least

Summer associate hours billed, 6/1/09 – 8/7/09: ~440

Hours billed by teacher friends during that time period: none

Hours requirements of friend who just moved in-house to a MLB team’s PR department: none

Sent e-mails (.edu account): 1124

Hours in law library: hundreds

Median course outline length: 32 pages

Median final exam time: 3 hours

Average hours of sleep per night: 5

Eyesight change: -.25

Weight change: +<5 lbs.

Observed average weight change in others: +15 lbs.

Bench press change: -15 lbs.

Estimated miles walked to and from law school: 693

Apartment furnishing budget: $1,500

Pictures or other artwork displayed in apartment: 0

Times air conditioner has been used: 5

Times George Foreman Grill has been used: 7

Times feeling inadequate in class: many

Times wishing I’d chosen to work in another field: 1

Number of friends working in media who have been laid off: 0

Friends I’ve recommended attend law school: 1

iTunes library change (in GB): +73%

Change in suits: +25%

Change in dress shirts: + 65%

Change in neckties: +100%

Amount spent on delivery: $0

Amount spent at Chipotle Mexican Grill: unconscionable

Do I regret it?  Not a chance.  But, at 21 years old, upon pulling the trigger on this life plan – even before the economy collapsed – I did not realize the things that would happen in life, both to myself and others, between then and now.  Fortunately, I was suited for it.  Many aren’t.

Young people considering law school should consider the significant consequences legal education can have on their lives, potentially pushing back numerous milestones and accomplishments.  At a minimum, law school may be the difference between students moving back into their parents’ basements and moving back into their parents’ basements three years older, bearing six-figure debt.

Sometimes law students and prospectives discuss these costs and considerations, but seldom in one place or in quantitative terms.  Each data point, however, is a valid consideration; ties and shirts cost money, and certain things, like life experiences and health, are too valuable to be considered in purely monetary terms.

Hopefully 0Ls considering where to go and even what to do with their lives in September 2010 mull over this information.  Though unlikely, others could prevent regrettable and expensive decisions by contemplating these facts.  Indeed, law school is not for everyone.

SUNY-Buffalo Law administrator threatens students with character & fitness complaints

March 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

In a recent e-mail sent to graduating 3Ls at SUNY-Buffalo Law School, the school’s administration alluded to filing character and fitness complaints against students who are savvy with their graduation tickets. (Emphasis and editor’s notes added.)

From: “Saran, Melinda”
To: [UB3L]
Sent: Thu 02/25/10  9:56 AM
Subject: Fwd: Commencement cap & gown order deadline is March 2nd!

This message is being sent to all 3L and LLM students

Caps & Gowns

   The deadline for ordering you [sic] tam, gown and hood (for rental) is next Wednesday, March 3, 2010.  Orders are taken at the University Bookstore.  The Bookstore will not guarantee tam hats on any orders after March 2nd.   You may pickup [sic] your caps and gowns beginning on April 20th.


   Commencement tickets will be limited to six (6) tickets per graduating student. With the number of tickets and the gradates [sic], we fill the Mainstage Theater.  NO EXTRA TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE!!!

   If you need more than six tickets you can also ask other students who are not attending or do not need all seven tickets.  We will not have a wait list or any extra tickers.  No ‘scalping’ or counterfeit tickets will be allowed.  Such behavior will be reportable to the Character and Fitness committee.

   Tickets will not be distributed until April.  Each graduating student will have an envelopewith [sic] her or his tickets inside.  We will let you know when the tickets have arrived and are ready for distribution.

A tacit threat by a velvet-gloved iron fist?  Note the e-mail’s Reaganesque use of passive voice about “reportable” behavior.

Sanctions for counterfeiting tickets are understandable, as it’s obviously deceitful conduct.  Rolling it in with scalping, though, becomes more problematic.  New York state law specifically allows the resale of tickets for whatever value the market will bear.  Ironically, in one of the few arenas where New York promotes a free market, the state’s lone public law school wants to inhibit it.

Times are hard for law students everywhere.  Here, though, the law school that has taken students’ money for three years is threatening to subterfuge their careers for engaging in a legal activity.  As if the legal market and broader economy of upstate New York isn’t bad enough, graduating UB 3Ls have the pendulum of a character and fitness complaint swinging above them for trying to monetize a valuable commodity — lawfully!

One would hope that students are civil with one another regarding something as important as graduation tickets.  But, considering how current 3Ls are wont to fight like sharks over the skeletal whale carcass of economic opportunity, anything is possible.  Nevertheless, this punishment does not fit the crime; it’s unseemly for a school to threaten its own students’ careers like this.

How to get yourself off: A class at Michigan Law?

February 21, 2010

Brought to you by Michigan Law

It gets awfully cold in Ann Arbor, Michigan this time of year. Our sources report that a man, most likely a homeless vagrant, has been bopping his baloney in the Michigan Law Library. Well, christ, with the temperature hovering around -3 fahrenheit, a poor guy’s wiener might just go all brittle and shatter if he did it the old fashioned way — hiding in the bushes outside while murmuring “free candy… freeeee candy.” Accordingly, our vagrant-du-jour has decided to engage in his practice of the fapping arts in the hallowed halls of the Michigan Law School library.

“I am not positive that it was a homeless guy,” said a source familiar with the incident who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “But, I would bet cold hard cash — you see shady fucks in there all the time.”

This particular “shady fuck” and his antics prompted the following bulletin to be broadcast to the entire Michigan Law student body:

From: David H. Baum
Date: Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 3:31 PM
Subject: Incidents in Law Library
To: “Law School Official List: May10″


To: Law student community
Cc: Law Library staff

We have received a report that on two recent Saturday afternoons, the same man indecently exposed himself in the sub-levels of the Law Library. Each time, he sat down near a female law student at a study table, discreetly and quietly pulled his pants part of the way down his legs, and touched himself inappropriately. In each instance, once he was aware that he had been noticed, he quickly left the library. In neither incident did he overtly confront the student nor behave in an aggressive manner toward her.

He was described as a medium- to dark-complected black male in his early 30’s, 5’7”, 160 pounds, bald (almost polished head), last seen wearing a brown coat, black sweater, tan pants and a brown or off green knit hat.

The Department of Public Safety is actively involved in addressing this issue. If you have observed similar behavior in the past in the library (or anywhere in Hutchins Hall or the Legal Research building), please contact Officer Richard Zavala or Officer David Dupuis either by e-mail or telephone.

If you observe similar behavior in the future, please immediately report the matter to DPS by calling that same number. Once you have reported the matter to DPS, please let the Office of Student Affairs know about the incident as well by e-mailing

David H. Baum
Assistant Dean and Senior Manager of Student Affairs
University of Michigan Law School

I am a “glass is half full” kind of guy, so lets focus on the positive here.

Without condoning Spanky Mc Fapperson’s antics, it does sound as if he exercised good manners whilst tossing his tallywhacker. The good dean describes his jacking technique as both “discreet” and “quiet.” At least the guy was exercising proper library etiquette! He was neither overtly confrontational nor aggressive, and he left when his welcome seemed worn out. Aside from the masturbating in the library part, it sounds like he was downright gentlemanly. He is a credit to homeless compulsive masturbators everywhere.

A Michigan Law Student we interviewed for this article informed us that Spanky’s efforts might have gone unnoticed, had he brought his penile motion in a better venue. “If you are going to jerk it, you have to do it in the rare book room,” he said.