« November 2012 | Main | January 2013 »

December 31, 2012

Burk on "Law School Transparency"

Apparently they've jumped the shark.

UPDATE:  Oddly, the original post seems to have been pulled, though it was quite measured--a cache version is here.

ANOTHER:  A colleague elsewhere sends me this curious LST item:  a "complaint" against Rutgers-Camden with the ABA alleging the school disseminated "false and misleading" information to prospective students.   In fact, almost all the material they complain about is, in fact, accurate, LST huffing-and-puffing notwithstanding, but readers can look it over themselves.  (The one exception might be the use of the word "many" in connection with high-end salaries, though given prior year salary reports, even that may be defensible.)  LST's real complaint, instead, is that Rutgers-Camden did not go out of its way to present its employment data in as unfavorable a light as possible--and that is true. 

Rutgers, for example, told prospective students:"[O]f those employed nine months after graduation, 90% were employed in the legal field."   LST objects:  "[I]t excludes non-employed graduates from the calculation to provide a false sense of success. There were 242 graduates in Rutgers – Camden’s 2011 graduating class. Of these, 199 were employed. Rutgers – Camden uses 199 as the denominator with no indication that it has excluded 17.8% of the class from the calculation. While the statement does disclose that it is 'of those employed,' the number of unemployed graduates is so large that the statement requires context to avoid misrepresenting what it means."  This is a rather complicated admission that the statement is, in fact, accurate:  of those who are employed, 90% are employed in the legal field.   If it said 90% of all graduates were employed in the legal field, then it would be a false statement of fact.  (LST also disputes how Rutgers defined legal field, but that too amounts to chastising Rutgers for not adopting as unfavorable an interpretation as possible of employment outcomes, not any false statements of fact.)

Should the ABA sanction a school for accurately reporting employment outcomes, but not doing so in a way that highlights the weakness of the results?  I guess that is the question really presented here.

AND ONE MORE:  Kyle McEntee from LST sends me the following e-mail, which I quote in its entirety:

In your post on the Camden complaint you missed the part where the school admits that zero graduates made in excess of 130k despite stating that many of their top graduates in 2011 made that much.

I expect more than such shallow analysis from somebody who has been on the ball more often than not regarding law school marketing tactics.

Here is the non-shallow LST analysis to which Mr. McEntee alludes:

Camden claims that many of its “top students” have accepted positions with firms paying “in excess of $130,000.” To be sure, “many” is ambiguous. It might reasonably mean 40% of the class, or even perhaps 20%. With the “top” qualifier, it might not even strain credibility to claim that 10% of the class constitutes “many” top students. Based on records LST received from Rutgers – Camden through an open records request, the school knew that zero class of 2011 graduates employed in private practice reported a salary in excess of $130,000, with one making exactly $130,000. In the Faculty Report to LST, Rutgers – Camden indicates that several other graduates had high-paying law firm jobs waiting for them after their clerkship. But crediting these jobs is speculative until the outcomes are actually achieved, especially in today’s legal hiring climate. Even if credited for the two speculative jobs in excess of $130,000, two graduates is not “many.”

Alas, it is now LST that is giving a misleading account of the information it got from Rutgers-Camden (and which it includes in its report).  Here is what Rutgers actually reported to LST, as quoted in the LST complaint:

The salary of $130,000 was the high end of the range of reported salaries for the class of 2011, and one person reported earning that salary. In addition, three other graduates, who are currently judicial law clerks, have accepted positions for the year following their clerkships with salaries of $160,000 $135,000 and $130,000.

The following are additional detail on graduates at the high end of the salary range for the past five years. Graduates submit data from which the law school identifies the highest reported salary and calculates the 75th percentile level. The data below include information at nine months after graduation and do not include positions that graduates have accepted beginning after judicial clerkships.  In 2011, the highest salary was $130,000 and the 75th percentile (7 graduates) was $110,000 or above.  In 2010, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (7 graduates) was $117,500 or above.  In 2009, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (15 graduates) was $145,000 or above.  In 2008, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (16 graduates) was $145,000 or above.  In 2007, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (14 graduates) was $125,000 or above.

In other words:  (1) when LST says that "zero class of 2011 graduates employed in private practice reported a salary in excess of $130,000" that is literally true, but misleading, since two 2011 graduates employed as judicial clerks had accepted private sector jobs with salaries above 130K (and when Mr. McEntree writes to me that Rutgers "admits that zero graduates made in excess of 130k," he is misstating his own report); and (2) LST omits reference to the fact that "many" recent graduates of Rutgers-Camden, in fact, earned more than 130K.  As I noted at the start, there are grounds for saying the use of "many" is misleading when applied only to the class of 2011, but it is not mistaken to say that "many," though a distinct minority, of recent graduates of Rutgers are earning more than 130K.  (The recruitment letter from Rutgers to which LST objects is a bit ambiguous on this score, in a way that is arguably misleading--but that was the point I made in the first paragraph of "ANOTHER", above.)

It is true that I have written for many years about law school puffery and fraud in employment statistics (for example, here, here, here, and here).  One or two of these incidents may have risen to the level of being worthy of ABA investigation.  But I do not see that what Rutgers has done falls into that category, and the LST "analysis" in this case does, indeed, support Professor Burk's worry in the post to which I linked initially.

And on that note, a Happy New Year to all readers!

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 31, 2012 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

December 29, 2012

JD enrollments down, LLM enrollments up

Not surprising.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 29, 2012 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

December 28, 2012

The case against law schools

Several readers called my attention to the fact that Paul Campos has finally offered a "shorter Paul Campos," i.e., an 'executive summary' of what he's apparrently been blogging about to the tune of hundreds of posts and hundreds of thousands of words for the past 15 months, during which time other law professors might have chosen to do some actual work.  It provides a useful occasion to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the substance from the utter nonsense, emanating from Campos and others in cyberspace.   So here we go with Campos's "executive summary":

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.  -- Upton Sinclair --

This is why your law school charges what it charges.  This is why your professors believe sincerely in the “value proposition” of what they have to offer.  This is why nothing ever changes, until it does.

The famous Upton Sinclair quote has many applications, but it doesn't explain the things that Campos suggests it does.  Law schools charge what they charge because the market can bear it.  Now that the market can not bear it, law schools are effectively cutting tuition by offering discounts and more financial aid.   I assume some professors believe that they are providing value because they are, through their teaching and scholarly work.  Some professors, like Campos, obviously aren't, and perhaps they are motivated by a kind of self-interested self-deception to believe otherwise.  The last sentence--"This is why nothing ever changes, until it does"--is a non-sequitur on the preceding points.

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.  -- Herbert Stein --

When the price of something increases and its value decreases, at some point people will not pay for that thing any longer.

That's true, which is why, as just noted, law schools are now effectively cutting tuition, and why, as we have noted before, many law schools will contract and some may even close.

Debts that can’t be repaid won’t be.  -- Michael Hudson --

That someone lends you money does not mean there is a reasonable probability that you will be able to repay that money.  It only means that someone is making money from loaning you money.

This is almost right:  the key fact is that the loans for higher education are backed by the federal government.  Under those conditions, the observation holds.

Your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of your class are ten percent.

Working harder than everybody else is not a plan if everybody else has the same plan.

This would only be true if class rank were assigned randomly.  In fact, your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of the class may be much higher or much lower depending on your academic peer group at the school you attend.  Someone who gets into Yale, but decides to go to Colorado is going to finish in the top ten percent of the class if they do the work.  It is fair to say that having the same plan as everyone else is not a good plan if those against whom you are competing have a similar skill set coming in. 

There is no such thing as international law.

Or environmental law. Or human rights law. Or sports law.  Basic rule: If some form of legal practice sounds interesting to non-lawyers, it does not exist.

This is obviously silly, since, in fact, lawyers work in all these areas.  Perhaps what is meant is that one should not go to a law school simply because it advertises a specialty in one of those areas, and without regard for its overall reputation, and that is probably correct, but then that's what he should have said.

The only reason to go to law school is to be a lawyer.

A law degree is not versatile.  Non-legal employers don’t like to hire lawyers, because for among other reasons they believe, correctly, that law school has not prepared people to do something other than practice law. (It hasn't done that either but whatever).

Certainly the best reason to go to law school is to become a lawyer, but it's not the only reason.  What the facts are about the versatility of a law degree is a worthy question, but Campos has no information on this score.  I've known JDs both here and at Texas who went into consulting firms by choice, not by necessity, and where the JD was an essential credential, though they weren't doing primarily legal work.  What we need to know is whether this is common or uncommon.

Three years is a long time when you’re 22.

This means that if you can’t get a real job as a lawyer then law school costs far too much even if it’s “free.”

Hard to argue with that, but the key factor is whether or not the law school in question delivers good employment outcomes for its graduates.  Some do, and some do not. 

People who aren’t lawyers don’t know much about being lawyers.

This group includes your professors.

True to form, Campos returns to projecting his own failings on to his colleagues.  Reading Campos, you would not know that many law professors actually practice law (at Texas, close to half the faculty was engaged in some kind of legal practice for some portion of the year, the percentage is smaller here, but that's because of the institutional culture, not competence), and that even those who do not practice typically know an enormous amount about the practice of law because of their work with continuing legal education and their ties to their former students.  To be sure, Campos, who earned tenure with such gems as "That Obscure Object of Desire: Hermeneutics and the Autonomous Legal Text," probably hasn't a clue what lawyers do. 

Spent money is gone.

It’s never too soon to fold a busted hand.

Useless advice, unless one has a clear notion of what counts as "a busted hand."  It's one thing to drop out after a semester, but someone who has gone through two years of law school probably ought to get a degree for his or her efforts.  But no generic form of advice on this score can be meaningful.

Having no good options does not make law school a good option.

But isn’t it pretty to think so?

I suppose this is just a variation of "Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer."

It's hard to believe that all of Campos's blog blather amounts to so little, but it's his executive summary.

Two or three times over the last year I've gotten an e-mail from a reader of Campos who thinks that the poster boy for post-tenure review is actually doing something worthwhile.  This is representative (I omit the sender's name):


        I read your criticisms of Prof. Campos.  Do you really think law school is still worth it, especially         at any school lower than Top-25?

I suggest you read the following:



There are real people and lives at stake.

Thank you for reading.

I replied as follows, which will make a suitable conclusion to this post:

Dear Mr. [name omitted],

Before you write to someone, you really should read what they have written so you understand their position, rather than imputing a fictional one to them.  Try this to start:


I’m glad Paul Campos--who is a notorious charlatan and self-promoter who cares not one whit about you or anyone else--shifted gears from where he started in August 2011, when he ranted about lazy professors [like him] and lousy scholars [like him]; now he actually posts some useful information about the job market, but that was partly because I (and others) called him out on his nonsense at the start.  The real question is, if he actually cared, why it took him so long to post the kind of information that I, Bill Henderson, and, of course, Brian Tamanaha had been writing about for years.  And too bad he still posts a great deal of misinformation and careless analyses. 

In answer to your question, a cut-off like the one you suggest would be absurd, though it’s indicative of the misinformation Campos circulates that readers come away with such an impression.  There are “top 25” schools it would be imprudent to pay full fare for, and there are law schools outside the top 25—say, regional flagships in most states—which are worth the full in-state rate in terms of professional outcomes. 

As to the anecdote about the unemployed lawyer:  there are millions of such stories, and not just in law.  We live in a dysfunctional economic system, that disposes people like trash.  That’s not a story about law schools or law as a profession, but it is typical of Campos that he presents it as one, but he’s too stupid to do otherwise.

Best wishes,

Brian Leiter

UPDATE (12/31):  A colleague from a law school in New York writes:

You’ve been saying it in different ways for years, but for me it didn’t fully penetrate until today:  Law school pathology is a symptom of what’s wrong with the U.S. economy, not some up-from-nowhere tuition-grabbing scheme that malefactors foist on innocents.  These days, feeling so horrified by the Beltway fiscal-cliff noise that so recklessly ignores unemployment, I think Campos is no better than our swine in Congress.  He’s a courtier-jester who flatters neoliberal ideology and, by extension, the rich.  If he’s not—if he really believes there’s a nefarious plot afoot—then the only honorable course for him would be to stop cashing his cushy paycheck from this evil enterprise.  Also renounce tenure for himself.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 28, 2012 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

December 27, 2012

Where Big Law Firm Partners Really Come From

Here.  The top 20 based on per capita partners at major law firms:

1.  University of Chicago

2.  Northwestern University

3.  Harvard University

4.  Columbia University

5.  University of Virginia

6.  University of Pennsylvania

7.  New York University

8.  Stanford University

9.  Yale University

10. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

11. Georgetown University

12. Cornell University

13. Duke University

14. Vanderbilt University

15. University of California, Berkeley

16. George Washington University

17. University of Notre Dame

18. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

19. Boston University

20. University of California, Los Angeles

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 27, 2012 in Legal Profession, Rankings | Permalink

December 21, 2012

Loans and the end of the world: legal issues

Reader Ben Schewel shares this handy "Default Clause" just in case (author unknown):

12.7 END OF WORLD.  In the event that the world as known to mankind shall come to an end, whether through natural forces (including, without limitation, plague, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods), manmade forces (including, without limitation, nuclear or biological war, pollution and global warming), or divine forces (including, without limitation, the Second Coming, the Mayan Cataclysm, and the Rapture, regardless of religious affiliation of Bank or Borrower), then, in such event, all outstanding principal, interest, fees and charges remaining under the Loan Documents shall immediately become due and payable to Bank at Bank’s offices or designated shelter, without notice of any kind of character, all such notice being hereby waived by Borrower, and Borrower agrees that the end of the world shall not be deemed or construed to constitute a valid excuse or defense to payment; provided further, that in the event that the end of the world shall be divinely inspired, then, in such event, Borrower further agrees that Bank shall be aligned with forces of goodness and light, and Borrower shall be aligned with the forces of evil and darkness, and that Borrower shall be cast into a pit of fire until all sums owing under the Loan Documents, including attorney fees, shall be fully paid; provided further, that in the event that Borrower should be reincarnated subsequent to the end of the world, whether as an animal, vegetable or mineral, then, in such event, Bank shall have and possess, in addition to the collateral stated in the Loan Documents, a security interest in all of Borrower’s useful products, including, without limitation, any and all fur, hide, meat, edible portions, medicinal properties, and mineral rights, to further secure the prompt payment of all sums owing under the Loan Documents.  

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 21, 2012 in Legal Humor | Permalink

More cutting-edge empirical work

"Please pass the salt":  Download SALT research

(Thanks to Richard Stith for the pointer.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 21, 2012 in Legal Humor | Permalink

December 20, 2012

Geoffrey Stone on an unfortunate kind of American exceptionalism

Here; an excerpt:

Of the 188 nations that have written constitutions, the vast majority have adopted fundamental guarantees that were first fully articulated in the US Constitution.

Indeed, 97 per cent of all the world’s constitutions now protect the freedom of religion; 97 per cent protect the freedom of speech and press; 97 per cent the right to equality; 95 per cent protect the freedom against unreasonable searches; 94 per cent the right of assembly; 94 per cent prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention; 84 per cent forbid cruel and unusual punishment; 84 per cent protect the right to vote; 80 per cent prohibit ex post facto laws; 72 per cent protect the right to present a defence and 70 per cent the right to counsel. These freedoms, first constitutionalised in the US, are now widely recognised as fundamental to a free, humane and civilised society.

Yet, only 1 per cent of all the other nations of the world recognise a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The idea that individuals have a fundamental right to purchase and possess firearms has been resoundingly rejected by 185 of the world’s 188 nations.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 20, 2012 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Why more guns can't possibly be the answer

Philosopher Jeff McMahan (Rutgers) explains.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 20, 2012 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Lane Named Dean of Hofstra

Eric Lane, who was serving as interim dean at Hofstra Law, has been named to the position permanently.  Lane is a graduate of Fordham Law and joined the Hofstra faculty in 1976.

Posted by Dan Filler on December 20, 2012 in Faculty News | Permalink

December 19, 2012

In Memoriam: Robert Bork (1927-2012)

Chicago's memorial notice is here.  It correctly emphasizes his most important scholarly work, in the field of antitrust.   In the legal academy, he was probably more widely known for his 1971 paper, "Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems," a forceful argument for the proposition that, "Where constitutional materials do not clearly specify the value to be preferred, there is no principled way to prefer any claimed human value to any other."   It also included the striking claim that,

Every clash between a minority claiming freedom and a majority claiming power to regulate involves a choice between the gratifications of the two groups. When the Constitution has not spoken, the Court will be able to find no scale, other than its own value preferences, upon which to weigh the respective claims to pleasure.

Much later in his career, this kind of hedonic value relativism would vanish from his work.

In the broader culture, of course, Judge Bork may be most-remembered for his name having been turned into a verb:  "to bork" a judicial nominee was to subject the nominee to political attack (perhaps unfair political attack).  In order to avoid being "borked," candidates for judicial office without substantial "paper trails" were preferred.  My most striking recollection from the time of his unsuccessful nomination to the Court by President Reagan was the explanation offered to me by a senior partner at my New York law firm, who was subsequently President of the New York City Bar Association (which opposed the nomination).  He said that what persuaded the NYC Bar to oppose Judge Bork was his willingness to overrule settled precedents that he deemed not to have a sound constitutional basis.  Despite his seminal work on antitrust, it was overshadowed in the mind of these corporate lawyers by the constitutional vision of the 1971 paper, and what they felt was its contempt for precedent.

UPDATE:  Interesting reflections on Judge Bork's career from Michael Dorf (Cornell).

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 19, 2012 in Memorial Notices | Permalink