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.
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.
December 15, 2012
Another one for the Volokh hall of shame
Eugene's response to the mass murder in Connecticut. Response of the first commenter: "This is just a gussied up, fancy law professor version of 'give everybody a gun!' The idea that adding more guns to elementary schools will, in the aggregate, reduce shootings seems plainly insane." This is also apt. Earlier winners from the hall of shame.
ADDENDUM: More morally deranged law professors in the updates here.
November 26, 2012
Todd Zywicki is obviously still smarting...
...from being whacked last Spring. How else to explain why he would post a link to a not very substantive, but critical, review of my book from an obscure blog? I guess he thinks it harms me! (If so, I guess my re-linking it is a failure of prudence on my part!)
The review itself elicits a pretty good response in the first comment from another libertarian reader of the website, who concludes, "Leiter’s book is one that is worthy of a real response. A review of his book, especially in a high quality site like this one, should be written by somebody with the professional and intellectual competence to do this." I can agree with all that! The reviewer, Mr. Anderson, is, for the record, co-author of a rather notoriously silly (Thomist-inspired) paper on the metaphysics of marriage, that I noted on my philosophy blog here in 2011. (It's a special feature of this kind of silly metaphysics that you can perform it on artifacts!)
For those actually interested in Thomism, pages 86-91 of my book are given over to the Thomist argument for the specialness of "religion." I rely on John Finnis's version of those arguments, viewing him, correctly, as a serious representative of the position. I argue that his argument's aren't very persuasive or sound. What the reviewer's counter-arguments are to my position remains, as of this writing, top secret.
(As if to prove the old adage, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," since Zywicki linked the review, the book went from a rank of around 250,000 on Amazon to the top 50,000.)
ADDENDUM: For those interested, there has been some adult discussion of themes from the book at the Talking Philosophy blog.
November 23, 2012
Paul Campos (and his commenters) say "Happy Thanksgiving!" to female law students
Well, not exactly, but just the other day he posted this little open insult to all women in law school, which an eminent colleague elsewhere, who flagged it for me, accurately described as follows:
Just when you thought Campos couldn’t stoop to new levels of obnoxiousness, he writes a post which basically insults women law students by claiming that (a) they are coming into law school with every expectation of being less committed professionally, and that (b) law schools are preying on them as potential “Mrs” degree candidates. Predictably, women are outraged by this post. Predictably as well, the unregulated comment thread is chock full with misogyny and drivel.
I have to admit that knowing Campos, and knowing that he cares not a whit about his students (see his teaching evaluations) or about prospective law students or about scholarship or about anything but himself and his own media exposure, and knowing also that he had already exploited a student suicide, I was always confident he could "stoop to new levels of obnoxiousness"! And he did!
UPDATE: One reader points out that (b), above, is explicit only in the comments to the post, though it's hardly surprising they took the post to invite (b).
APRIL 30, 2013 UPDATE: Some useful context for today's latest outburst from Crazy Campos: apparently, Colorado law faculty just got their annual reviews from the Dean, scoring them on a scale of 1 to 5 for scholarship, teaching, and service. Today's little outburst suggests it may not have gone well for CC (which would hardly be surprising, but no doubt he will make the results public, "for the record"). As with BLS's new tenure standard, my view is that poor teaching evaluations do not demonstrate incompetence, but they are certainly evidence that could properly trigger a peer review of teaching competence (CC has been on the edge of this cliff before, so he knows the risks). Colorado, of course, has some experience firing faculty, which may also explain CC's ill humor.
November 08, 2012
Blogging a faculty meeting?
Paul Campos, of self-promotion fame, has now written what purports to be a description of both the content and then the vote of a faculty meeting at his school, the University of Colorado at Boulder, concerning the expansion of its LLM program. Campos was the lone dissenter, so he claims, arguing that it was not clear there were jobs for those who would get this LLM. He claims that none of his colleagues responded to his objections, and that everyone, but him, then voted for the expansion of the LLM program anyway. (His omission of any detailed discussion of the reasons for the proposal no doubt contributes to the unfavorable impression he gives of his colleagues.)
I have to say I've never before seen anyone blog the substance of a faculty meeting or disclose a vote, let alone do so in a way that is meant to insult and humiliate his colleagues. I wonder whether such actions do not violate university rules, but perhaps not. I guess time will tell.
UPDATE: James Grimmelman (New York Law School) asks, "Might it not also be the case that his colleagues were reluctant to discuss the proposal at the faculty meeting out of a concern that whatever they said would be published on Professor Campos's blog?" That's plausible, but would also suggest that he is now disrupting the ability of the school to operate, which would have serious consequences. And maybe those consequences are starting to materialize? Certainly, the latest item on the Campos blog suggests he has jumped the shark:
Recently I've been nominated for a couple of law school dean positions. I've even toyed with the idea of formally applying. Although unlike Mitt Romney and Donald Trump I can't claim to enjoy firing people per se, I do think I'd positively relish the opportunity to give the ziggy to the significant percentage of employees at the typical law school who deserve to have their sinecures terminated with extreme prejudice.
May 28, 2012
Michael McConnell Embarrasses Himself
Sam Bagenstos (Michigan) comments.
May 01, 2012
Right-Wing Crazy Obsession Du Jour: Elizabeth Warren Claimed to be Native American
The usual suspects are on the case, but I can't figure out why. I assume she self-identified in the AALS Directories as Native American because she is (it was news to me, I should add). Is someone denying that? It's hard to tell.
Perhaps, though, the implication is that she got hired for affirmative action reasons, and not because of her work. (UPDATE: Here's some right-wing crazies making that argument.) That strikes me as dubious for two reasons
(1) First, there is no pressure to hire Native Americans for affirmative action reasons, except, perhaps, at some law schools in states with large Native American presences (I have this only anecdotally about Arizona and New Mexico). For affirmative action purposes, all law schools care about are African-Americans and Latinos, and even in those two categories, law school commitment to affirmative action usually varies by region of the country. On the other hand, because the AALS aggressively polices the racial and ethnic diversity of law faculties, law schools are careful to make sure anyone who could count as an under-represented minority is so-listed (thus, I can recall a faculty member who was the proverbial "Jewish kid from New York" but with some South American ancestry being listed as "Hispanic," though no one would have ever so identified him).
(2) Second, her record of scholarship in bankruptcy is clearly sufficient to get her appointed at Harvard. She is, after all, one of the three most-cited scholars in the bankruptcy/commercial law field, and she is the only woman in the top ten. (I could imagine being the top woman in the field might have played more of a role than her being Native American, which surely was irrelevant.) The other scholars in her field cited as often or more than her--Bob Scott at Columbia, Alan Schwartz at Yale, and Douglas Baird at Chicago--are all obviously appointable at Harvard, despite their lack of Native American ancestry.
So the bottom line--as it usually is with right-wing craziness--is that this is all silly.
UPDATE: Still more here.
October 20, 2011
Campos the Scammer, Redux: Now Exploiting the Dead!
I've been dutifully ignoring our showboat charlatan from August, but readers keep calling to my attention that others have apparently been watching, and have done some good jobs on him: here (from a practitioner) and here (from a law professor; best line: "I think there's something deeply wrong with using cheap tricks to get attention [as Paul Campos does], especially when the author then repeatedly and vaguely disclaims those cheap tricks, while still employing them, leaving a residue of disgust over everything he touches"). As the last post makes clear, Campos is still busy back-pedalling and is apparently getting so desperate to rationalize his display that he's been reduced to telling stories about former students who committed suicide (but not for any reasons connected to law school!). Quite unbelievable. And made worse by this. Wow.
ADDENDUM: In case the last comment linked to gets deleted, here it is:
AnonymousSeptember 13, 2011 at 7:10 PM
Maybe the reason that "the precise reasons why Alex killed himself will never be known" to Campos, is because he does not actually care about the reasons why. As someone who knew and loved "Alex," I find it shameful that Campos would exploit someone's suicide as a way to validate his point.
I can't help but notice that Campos did not care about "Alex" enough to attend his memorial service, but now seems to care enough to presume that he knows the motivations behind his final act.
August 19, 2011
Update on ScamProf
ScamProf is the failed academic who has done almost no scholarly work in the last decade, teaches the same courses and seminars year in and year out, and spends his time trying to attract public attention, sometimes under his own name, this time anonymously. These are important facts about ScamProf, since he is indeed scamming his students and his state, and his initial posts were tantamount to a confession that he's not doing his job. His colleagues, in any case, now know who he is, and are quite understandably angry, since the reckless genearlizations are naturally read as commentary on them. After we called him out Monday, ScamProf pulled back a bit, and switched gears and stopped projecting his own failures on to all his professional colleagues and started actually writing about the economics of legal education (though without noting that it is paralleled across the boards in higher education, and apparently unaware of the large literature on that topic--but at least it was an improvement). Given his track record, I expect it won't last. When his identity comes out, there will be additional ironies that will warrant comment.
ADDENDUM: A colleague from Penn writes:
I don't know who this jerk is, but I appreciate you calling him out. I clicked through to his posts and felt the urge to throw something. I bust my butt preparing for class and educating myself deeply in my fields (and, indeed, refuse to teach any class in which I don't consider myself highly qualified), and students clearly understand and appreciate those efforts, but this kind of recklessly expressed cynicism can undermine an enormous amount of good work in the creation of a cooperative and engaged learning environment. It's the functional equivalent of writing about how every man on the planet regularly violates the terms of his intimate relationships and pushing out that message with the aim of making even the happiest partners and spouses suddenly experience doubt. What a jerk.
This captures rather well why ScamProf is so offensive to those who actually do their jobs.
ANOTHER: A colleague at Maryland writes: "Scamprof is easily explained by the well known proverb that 'a thief thinks everyone steals.' Don’t let up on him." By the way, several readers tell me that ScamProf moderates comments, and will not approve those that are too critical.
AND ANOTHER (August 20 9 pm): As predicted, ScamProf's brief foray into substance ended (Larry Ribstein [Illinois] has some useful comments on his attempt at substance here), and he returned to his true métier, the fact-free smear. But he's also finally outed himself (as Blog Emperor Caron notes) as Paul Campos at the University of Colorado, where he has taught for 20 years, despite many efforts to leave (he couldn't get better offers, unsurprisingly). You can see his conributions to "practical" scholarship here. Richard Neumann's absurd over-estimation of the "cost" of a law review article (which Campos, being a hack, repeats uncritically) would still be a cause for outrage if most law professors produced the kind of junk Campos does. Indeed, the spectacle of a guy with one year of practice experience--who produced sophomoric drivel like Jurismania (which, thankfully, has disappeared down a black hole of obscurity) and then spent years writing op-eds for a Colorado newspaper, and is now an expert on obesity--lecturing the legal academy about the importance of "practical" scholarship would be farcical, were this not his latest publicity stunt in a long line of malicious behavior.
For Paul Campos is, of course, most notorious in the legal academy for going on the O'Reilly Factor--yes,the O'Reilly Factor--to call for Ward Churchill to be fired for his offensive political opinions (long before any allegations of academic misconduct arose). And this wasn't an anomaly: he also called for Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee) to be sanctioned by his university for his offensive political opinions. Fortunately for Professor Campos, his contempt for the First Amendment rights of state university professors do not constitute binding precedents on the courts, and I am confident his university won't sanction him for his irresponsible speech. They should, however, launch an investigation into whether he is performing his duties, since his blog is tantamount to an admission of dereliction of duties and his 'scholarly' record is prima facie evidence of failure to do his job as a professor at a major research university.
But back to the fact-free smear. Among the gems: (1) denying that he's met me, when we've met more than once; (2) attacking me for running law and philosophy blogs and rankings (despite my cyber-hobbies, I've produced more scholarship in the last five years than he's produced in twenty); (3) stating, falsely, that "law school costs have increased exponentially, even as the job prospects of law school graduates have declined" (law school tuition, like all higher education tuition, has increased exponentially for thirty years, and during most of that time the legal job market was strong; tuition increases have slowed considerably since the downturn in the job market that began with the Great Recession in 2008); (4) stating, falsely, that I've never held a job for which a law degree is required; and so on. And then, of course, there's the pitiful anti-intellectualism, worthy of Rick Perry's approach to higher education, but there's no need to belabor that for this audience. Given that Professor Campos's "scholarship" would not survive his Rick Perry approach to scholarship, perhaps it's time for him to resign?
I understand that Paul Campos, our ScamProf, is feeling desperate, given the hole he's dug for himself. His colleagues are furious, he was already an embarrassment to his institution, and now he's added fuel to the fire by openly insulting his colleagues. But whereas the facts about Campos that I've adduced (he disputes none of them, for obvious reasons) are highly relevant to understanding why he would lie, exaggerate and engage in reckless generalizations about his professional colleagues, the facts and non-facts he adduces about me are just irrelevant ad hominems.
It is unfortunate that some victims of the recession think, falsely, that ScamProf Campos is doing something courageous on their behalf. He's not, he's just doing what he always does, trying to surf the wave of the latest fad and attract attention to himself. For years, I've pressed for better job placementdata and cautioned students about the reality of the recent job market and relying on the data in US News. There's no dispute about the importance of that. There's no dispute that some law schools have misled prospective students; some are now being sued, and we will see what facts come to light. There's no dispute that some faculty, in all disciplines, abuse the privilege of tenure--Campos is a prime example. None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "scam." The American legal system is one of the best in the world--did that happen despite American legal education? The leading law firms continue to recruit at the leading law schools, the ones that produce all the scholarship ScamProf Campos derides. Are they simply benighted? Law professors, at least the good ones (like most of Campos's colleagues at Colorado that I know), teach substantive doctrine in many areas of law as well as analytical and dialectical skills that lawyers need. (My teaching evaluations, by the way, are a matter of public record, will ScamProf Campos share his?) There's been debates for years about the relative balance of doctrinal, theoretical, and clinical teaching in legal education, and those will no doubt continue, independent of ScamProf Campos.
I suppose we should be grateful that in the dog days of summer the blogosphere has the distraction of a showboat charlatan like ScamProf Campos. The University of Colorado has a very good faculty, and a distinguished history, and they certainly do not deserve this embarrassment. Hopefully by after Labor Day, this sorry display will all be ancient history. I intend to say no more about it.
MORE FEEDBACK: From a colleague at UCLA: "Kudos for beating the crap out of the jerk." From a colleague at a school in the New York area: "Thanks for your straightforward remarks against the Campos blog. From the perspective of this junior person who is just starting up, one of the most disheartening parts about the blog was the indiscriminate trashing of legal scholarship." From the Dean of a leading law school (not Chicago or Texas): "[G]reat Campos posts. He deserves all the pilloring he gets. Heaven help the deeply unhappy, anxious students who cling to him as a hero." Indeed.
AUGUST 25 UPDATE: For those who would like to know what an ad hominem argument actually is.
August 12, 2011
Isn't it obvious who the "LawProf" writing the latest "law school scam" blog is?
It was obvious to me after reading the blog, with its reckless and inaccurate generalizations (cf. Paul Horwitz's commentary), since the author has written in this vein under his own name in the past. And the clues as to his identity the author provided--the number of years in teaching, best law school in his state, a "tier 1" law school, etc., as well as the interview he gave--just confirmed that impression. Since he teaches at a state law school, and in a state that has shown it is willing to fire tenured faculty under the right circumstances, I am somewhat amazed he would do this, since the blog is tantamount to an admission that he is not really doing his job and doesn't deserve his salary (given what I know about him, I'm inclined to believe that). More seriously, when his identity becomes public, as seems inevitable given how poorly he has disguised it, he will have humiliated his colleagues and his school, neither of which deserve his latest exercise in seeking the limelight. I hope he has the good sense to just delete the whole thing before he makes things worse. Out of respect for his school and his colleagues, who deserve much better, I will not be posting his identity.
UPDATE (8/13): I'm glad to see he's already starting to back-pedal on some of his irresponsible rhetoric, perhaps because, as I know from my e-mail, some of his colleagues already suspect he's behind it. (I did laugh out loud when he protested, "I don't think all of legal education is a scam." He might have looked at the title of his blog.) But the entire blog remains essentially fact-free, just anecdotes buttressing wild generalizations about legal education, plus the kind of amateurish theorizing about law and legal scholarship that he's published under his own name in the past. His identity is important because a lot of what he says correctly describes him: not a real interdisciplinary scholar, doesn't produce scholarship any longer, and probably doesn't put much effort into his teaching. I still hope he has the good sense to delete the whole blog. I and his colleagues will be glad to treat this all as "our" secret.
ANOTHER: The fact-free ruminations of our Scamming LawProf might be usefully contrasted with the criticisms of law schools and legal education by Brian Tamanaha (Wash U/St. Louis), which, while not always persuasive, are always based on pertinent evidence, and avoid wild generalizations: we've noted them previously here, here, here, and here, among other occasions. Perhaps part of the difference is that, unlike our Scamming LawProf, Professor Tamanaha is a productive scholar, who is actually doing his job.