Professor joins the fight against “law school scams”

Lost in Cooley Law School’s lawsuit against “rockstar53” and his blog “The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam” is the fact that there IS a major problem in the legal industry as law schools seem to be oblivious about the fact that there aren’t enough legal jobs for new graduates to fill or they just don’t care as long as they’re getting paid.

After all, while he may have chosen to single out Cooley as the subject of his frustration, rockstar isn’t the only one out there with the opinion that the placement numbers reported by law schools don’t appear to be matching the experiences reported by recent grads. A quick Google search will find a number of these blogs, perhaps inspired by legal blog monsters Above The Law, such as Third Tier Reality, First Tier Toilet, Law School Scam, etc.  The point of all of these blogs is that law schools are luring new students with fake job numbers and the promise of a better economic future and wind up leaving them jobless or in jobs with far lower economic prospects and a mountain of nondischargable student loan debt. The story has also picked up steam in the mainstream media of late, with the New York Times and The New Republic, among others, discussing how some law schools entice new students with grants they don’t expect to renew and how many schools’ numbers are skewed.

Joining these voices is a new voice; a professor at an unidentified first tier law school has recently started his own “scam” blog, Inside the Law School Scam. (The identity of the blogger was verified by Inside Higher Education.)

“LawProf” posts daily, often at length, about the problem from inside the law school. Some examples:

I’m happy to concede that the simple unmodified claim that “law school is a scam” is hyperbolic — and that’s why I haven’t made it.  What I am arguing is that, for a very large number of current law students and recent graduates, the law schools they attend or graduated from have some striking scam-like elements. What does this mean?  A scam is a scheme to obtain money by means of deception.  Of course a huge number of social practices have scam-like elements.  For instance advertising almost always has scam-like elements, and in a contemporary economy advertising and business are intimately intertwined.  The complex social interactions described in books like Michael Lewis’ The Big Short involved quite a bit of scam-like behavior, most of which was perfectly legal (as Mike Kinsley famously observed, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; it’s what’s legal”).

From “What does it mean to call law school a scam?

Also interesting was “Understanding the rage of recent graduates” although quoting any of it required quoting the whole thing, so I’ll just link and let you read it directly from the site. The post discusses the popular rationalizations of the current law school system and why he feels they are wrong.

He’s also discussed keeping costs down and what the student’s tuition actually pays for, such as a professor’s law review article.

But he’s a law professor, so he must be part of the problem, right. From his first ever post, “Welcome to my nightmare”:

When people say “law school is a scam,” what that really means, at the level of actual moral responsibility, is that law professors are scamming their students.
We don’t mean to, of course. Like my learned colleagues, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good! And anyway it’s mostly the dean’s fault — it’s not like I was ever consulted about raising tuition 130% etc. etc. Yes there are so many excuses — I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they’re “working at home.” More on that soon . . .). . .

In the end, the fact that law professors don’t intend to scam their students is irrelevant. We are scamming them, or many of them, and we know we are — or we would know if we paid any attention at all to the current relationship between legal academia, legal practice, and the socio-economic system in general, which naturally is why so many of us avoid doing so at all costs.

The blog certainly seems worth following if you’re interested in the subject.

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Casual Friday Takes On, Well, Everybody

With unemployment among lawyers already an epidemic, you’d think that maybe, perhaps, someone should tell people advising students to go to law school unless its a passion.

Clearly this isn’t happening. Some schools are actually taking great steps to expand their student bases. Thomas A. Cooley Law School has expanded from one to four locations in the state. I think it’s safe to assume the school isn’t opening new branches because of a lack of students. It’s also stepped up its advertising and recruiting efforts around the state.

It’s not just here, either. In Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts merged with the Southern New England School of Law (est. 1981!). In February, it found a 132 percent increase in applications from wicked smaaahhht students. And this is before it begins a “robust recruiting effort” later this spring.  UMass Law is hoping to double its annual enrollment by 2017. [Boston Herald]

The law program, which will be established at the Southern New England School of Law, has received 123 applications for the fall, compared to 53 who applied to Southern New England last year. The spike “is based solely on word-of-mouth communication and media coverage of the issue,” the university said.
A “robust recruitment effort” will begin in the next few weeks, the announcement said.

The UMass law school will initially enroll 278 students, slightly higher than its enrollment this year. Enrollment will grow slightly each year, reaching 559 students in fall 2017. UMass Dartmouth originally hoped for 400 applicants for the fall, but on the day the school was approved, Chancellor Jean MacCormack said she wouldn’t be surprised to receive 1,000.

Hope it all works out for these kids. For some, it may be the fulfillment of a life’s ambition to become a lawyer. But for many, they’re looking for options because they can’t find jobs with their undergraduate degrees, under the false assumptions that jobs are more plentiful with a law degree. Do law schools have a duty to temper the expectations of prospective students? No. And I’ve not seen an example of the advertising adding to inflated expectations. But is driving up enrollment for profit based on already inflated expectations, knowing full well the market is not what it used to be, just as bad?

I just hope they don’t wind up like this guy.

[HT: Above the Law].

And you thought your homeowners association was tough Living in a subdivision can be a pain, what with the ridiculous rules dictating what you can and can’t do with your own property (“You CANNOT have a fence to keep your kids/pets in your backyard unless it’s a white picket fence and even then it can only be three feet high with six inch gaps between the pickets so that we can see inside your yard at all times. We wouldn’t want you to be running a meth lab back there! ”) and the nosy neighbors enforcing them.

But if you think that’s bad, consider the case of Quan Ha of Orange, Cal. Orange has an ordinance requiring at least 40 percent of your lawn must be landscaped. From UPI:

Ha said he and his wife, Angelina, removed the lawn in 2008 to take their monthly water bill down from $180 every two months to $48 every two months. He said they put down wood chips and started installing drought-resistant plants after city officials warned them about the code, but officials said wood chips do not qualify as landscaping and took Ha to court.

The penalty? A $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Assistant City Attorney Wayne Winthers said he has seen pictures of the current state of the yard, which has received several plant donations since Ha’s story first appeared in the Register, and Code Enforcement officers will make a fresh visit to the property.

"We’ll have to see," Winthers said. "My hope is that it’s enough and we can resolve this."

Let’s just hope that, for Ha’s sake, “resolving this” doesn’t require a trip to the court restroom.

Parachutes People who get worked up about corporate CEOs that leave their decimated companies with golden parachutes, prepare yourselves! Jennifer Granholm will hit the unemployment market in January, but won’t be there long, according to The Detroit News.

How about Supreme Court Justice Granholm?

The former Michigan attorney general with a Harvard law degree has been vetted by the Obama administration, which likely will get at least one more vacancy. She has said the high court holds special appeal for her.

Or cabinet secretary Granholm?

President Barack Obama has shown an interest in putting chief executives of states into his Cabinet, which has former governors of Arizona, Iowa, Washington and Kansas.

What about ambassador Granholm?

Obama tapped Utah’s governor, Jon Huntsman, for one of the most important embassy posts — China.

Strange that she would be a hot commodity to the Obama Administration considering she was one of the people leading the charge to deliver the clusterbleep of a 2008 Michigan primary to Hillary Clinton.

Personally, I think Granholm should have to suffer three months of trying to get through to MARVIN between 2-3 pm every other Tuesday before she’s allowed to collect a full paycheck. No, it’s not all her fault, but you don’t blame the folks in steerage for sinking of the Titanic.