According to various reports on the JD Underground forum, some states (such as Michigan) have begun increasing the requirements for Bar Exam passage, presumably in an attempt to reduce the number of new attorneys entering the field.
While I applaud (if true) the desire to reduce the number of new attorneys, I feel that failing people on the Bar Exam is the wrong way to go about it. The barrier to entry should be placed before anyone enters law school and before people invest three years and over $100,000 on unneeded higher education. The state bars are just further victimizing victims of the law school scam. If they want to reduce the number of new JDs they should just declare that only graduates of certain law schools (say the top 50 law schools) are eligible for admission and then grandfather in anyone who entered law school prior to the announcement.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
According to various reports on the JD Underground forum, some states (such as Michigan) have begun increasing the requirements for Bar Exam passage, presumably in an attempt to reduce the number of new attorneys entering the field.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Yet More Evidence That It's Hard to be a "Sophisticated Consumer" If You Are a Prospective Law Student.
Earlier today Paul Campos published a post about an article that appeared on Forbes's blog titled Grad School: Still Worth the Money? The article in question is nothing more than a misleading and blatantly false propaganda piece encouraging people to go to graduate school written by the owner of a graduate school entrance exam test prep company.
I don't have anything to add to what Professor Campos had to say other than to point out that this sort of crap makes it difficult for prospective law students to be "sophisticated consumers" as the judge who dismissed the class action lawsuit against New York Law School seems to believe. As Professor Campos points out, Forbes is (or at least used to be) a reputable publication. If the content in Forbes cannot be trusted, then who are prospective students supposed to turn to when they are researching the value of attending law school? Who is more trustworthy and reputable, Forbes or anonymous loudmouth malcontent bloggers whose work is relatively obscure?
Thursday, April 5, 2012
No, I'm not writing about "The Great Disappointment of 1844" when Jesus failed to appear as prophesied:
The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th-century American Christian sect that formed out of the Second Great Awakening. Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel [...], William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to earth during the year 1844. [...] Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22, 1844, became known as the Great Disappointment. (Taken from the Wikipedia entry.)Unfortunately, The Great Disappointment I'm writing about isn't as funny and has affected millions if not tens of millions of people. I'm referring to the broken implied social contract we were indoctrinated with since Kindergarten (or even nursery school) that playing by the rules and investing in education and especially in higher education would almost guarantee secure long-term middle class employment. The Great Disappointment for millions of young adults is that they have been unable to obtain the worthwhile return-on-investment from their higher educations that our society promised them.
Esquire recently published an interesting article which argues that the younger generations are on the losing end of inter-generational warfare. It is titled, The War Against Youth by Stephan Marche with the tagline, "The recession didn't gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care of that."
In 1984, American breadwinners who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under thirty-five. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation.I'm not sure if I agree with or follow everything Marche had to say, but I took great interest in some of what he wrote. The article highlighted or mentioned some statistics:
This bleeding up of the national wealth is no accounting glitch, no anomalous negative bounce from the recent unemployment and mortgage crises, but rather the predictable outcome of thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.
- An estimated 85% of college graduates moved back into their parents' homes in 2010 while carrying an average of $25,250 of student loan debt.
- "1 in 4 young Americans have moved back in with their parents after living separately."
- "1 in 3 young Americans have postponed marrying."
- "1 in 5 young Americans have delayed having a baby."
- Over the past 25 years, older people's wealth has increased 42% while younger people's wealth has decreased 67%.
- Only 54% of young adults aged 18-24 are employed, which is the lowest percentage since the government began tracking that statistic.
Midway through the article, Marche discussed the exploding price of college along with the dim outlook for high school graduates: (which, of course, is one of the large driving forces behind people's desire to go to college). (I am quoting these segments differently than the order in which they appeared in the article.)
What goes for the white-collar young person applies even more ferociously to the blue-collar world, or what's left of it. The nature of the generational setback for unionized labor can be summed up in a single devastating phrase: New workers will earn a "globally competitive wage." Manufacturing jobs, having been exported to the Third World, are now returning to America at Third World rates. Newer workers at unions across the country earn ten to fifteen dollars an hour less than established workers, and the unspoken but widely reported understanding with the AFL-CIO is that the wage of these workers will not increase. In other words, Boomer workers make almost double what their young counterparts do, and will continue to do so regardless of how long a young worker stays in the same job.As I have discussed in numerous other posts, the dim outlook for high school graduates (in all likelihood you will end up working a poverty-wage retail services job) is part of what drives people into colleges where the prices have increased significantly:
From 1980 on, the price of attending a four-year college has risen by 128 percent. While the price has spiked, the quality has tanked. Students at college in 2003 did two-thirds the homework that students in 1961 did. In a survey published in 2011, 45 percent of students showed no improvement in "critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing" after two years of college. You did not read that incorrectly: That's no improvement. None. And how could the results be any different? Three decades ago, 43 percent of professors were adjuncts. Now, with colleges bloated by older, tenured professors who take up huge slices of academic budgets while teaching crumbs of courses, the vast majority of classes are taught by adjuncts.While a decrease in the quality of pedagogy may be a factor, I have a different take on this. Part of the decrease in the quality of college education may simply be the result of increased numbers of merely average (and in many cases below average) people going to college. The colleges might not want to push them as hard (less homework) and, perhaps because a large percentage of the students possess merely average intelligence, fewer show improvement in their critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills.
The increase in the number of people attending college has resulted in the production of more new college graduates than the nation's economy can absorb. Consequently, in order to further distinguish themselves in the hopes of securing middle class white collar employment, many people have felt the need to flood into graduate and professional schools (an Education Arms Race) where they are getting reamed by skyrocketing tuition:
Law-school tuition rose 317 percent between 1989 and 2009 while American laws schools wildly increased the number of lawyers they graduate. Naturally, a glut of lawyers decreases their value. So kids pay more for a worse education that leads to lesser prospects in order for the schools to prosper temporarily. Even for doctors and lawyers, an accrual of property or any rise in net worth happens much later in life than it did twenty years ago. The standard debt-repayment plan for physicians is ten years, but twenty-five is a commonly accepted option. For the new professional class today, life begins at forty. That's not just an expression.It gets even better! Because we have huge oversupplies of college graduates, including those with advanced and professional degrees, now you have to intern before you can secure a job in your field.
Once you're out of college, you'll have to intern. Again, no choice. The practice of not paying young people for their labor has become so ingrained in the everyday practice of American business that we've forgotten how bizarre and recent the development is. In the early 1980s, 3 percent of college grads had had an internship. By 2006, 84 percent had done at least one. Multiple internships are common. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 75 percent of employers prefer students who have interned or had a similar working experience.I was happy to read that passage because I knew that people in previous generations didn't have to suffer doing free internships, but I had never seen any statistics for it before. So, when know-it-all Baby Boomers tell you to work for free, almost all of them are telling you to do something that they themselves probably would have regarded as being beneath them or as extremely distasteful forty-five years ago. Of course, businesses can require that people do free internships simply because the huge oversupply of college graduates has made securing a college-education-requiring white collar job extremely competitive.
The deal they were promised, that if you work hard and make smart choices you will have a good life, is not working out. A Great Disappointment will no doubt follow.I do not think that the older generations have intentionally screwed over their children; it just ended up working out that way. I believe that what we are seeing is the "economic front" of our nation's transformation into a third world economy. I do not think that the problem is so much that the Baby Boomers are hogging most of the good jobs as much as it is that our nation is exchanging middle class jobs for low-wage jobs and that the solid career-building jobs are no longer on the market, which will impact new entrants to the job market more than it will people with established careers. Also, laid off Baby Boomers have suffered difficulty finding new jobs in their fields, too.
As I see it, The Great Disappointment is that the leadership of the Baby Boomer generation and even that of preceding "Greatest Generation" inadvertently fucked up the health of our nation's economy and much of the brunt of it is disproportionately impacting the younger generations.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
One of the law school defendants' core arguments appears to be the bankrupt notion that prospective law students are "savvy sophisticated consumers who should know better than to take the law school's employment statistic puffery seriously."
Obviously, I completely reject that notion, especially for those people who enrolled in law school prior to 2009 when the law school scambuster blogs were just starting to become known. Even now they still have a relatively low profile compared to the readership of the overly optimistic pre-law forums.
Firstly, what difference does it make if a consumer is sophisticated? Does that justify outright fraud? Does having a sophisticated consumer base give a merchant a license to make false claims about his product? Should Madoff have been exonerated on the basis that most if not all of his clients were wealthy sophisticated consumers who should have known better than to fall for a Ponzi scheme? Should Enron have been found not guilty because many of its investors were, presumably, sophisticated mutual fund managers and other Wall Street investors?
Secondly, the misleading employment statistics are akin to a comprehensive conspiracy engaged in by numerous players in the legal education industry. Almost ALL of the law schools report similarly misleading, high employment statistics. For this reason, a particular school's wonderful placement stats do not stick out like a sore thumb, raising suspicion and skepticism in the mind of a pre-law undergraduate. Also, according to one worthwhile read, The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reported similar statistics. Moreover, all of the accredited law schools have the implicit sanction of the ABA, and now it sounds like some of the law schools are planning to argue that they were just following the ABA's employment statistics reporting guidelines. It almost looks like a concerted conspiracy to defraud the students with the law schools pointing at the ABA and the U.S. News and World Report's law school rankings, the ABA pointing at the law schools and U.S. News, and with U.S. News pointing at the law schools and the ABA.
How the hell were these undergraduates supposed to learn that the employment stats were inaccurate to the point that they were laughable and fraudulently misleading?&nbps; They would have had to conduct first-hand surveys of a law school's graduates, directly contacting all graduates of a given year.&nbps; Furthermore, although the law schools may publish disclaimers, the prospective students still have little information to work with, and, collectively, the statistics suggest that even if you cannot obtain a six figure job in Big Law that you will at least be able to obtain an entry-level career-building job in Small Law that will provide you with a good chance of obtaining a return on your law school investment. In context, most law school brochure readers would probably interpret the statistics and the disclaimers as meaning that not everyone or even most of the graduates obtained high salaries, but when a number such as "93% of our graduates were employed nine months after graduation" is bandied about, even with disclaimers a reasonable and appropriately skeptical reader could not conclude that, in reality, it should be interpreted to mean that in actuality 65% of the graduates ended up unemployed or severely underemployed-and-involuntarily-out-of-field.
Thirdly, consider the pre-law undergraduates' state of mind and context of knowledge when they were making their decisions about whether to attend law school and how to interpret the published employment statistics and their disclaimers. Almost everyone who goes to college has been bombarded, since Kindergarten or even Nursery school, with the notion that higher education (the more the better) guarantees vocational and financial success. This notion was reinforced throughout grade school and high school. These twenty year-olds heard it from their parents and relatives. Their teachers taught them to believe it in school. They heard it all over the TV and the radio and from the mouths of intellectuals, news commentators, and politicians. "Studies show that college graduates earn $1 million more than mere high school graduates." "Everyone should go to college." "The solution to our nation's economic problems is more education." Many of these law students were probably even pressured by their parents and families to attend professional or graduate school.
Furthermore, Colleges and Universities are held in high esteem in our society. The general public does not regard them as being greedy self-interested for-profit businesses (which, in actuality, as it turns out, they pretty much are). Established institutions of higher learning, both public and private (as opposed to the fly-by-night for-profit schools that have oozed out from the slime recently), are not generally regarded as being untrustworthy like politicians or used car salesmen. Colleges and Universities are viewed as standing for progressive thought, justice, and the betterment of society. Also, many if not most of them are taxpayer-funded or supported by tax dollars in various ways (research grants, etc.). They are supposed to serve the best interests of the public. So, why would a twenty year old undergraduate suspect them of publishing fraudulently misleading employment statistics, especially venerable professional schools?
When you piece the big picture together, is it any wonder that prospective law students, most of whom are just twenty or twenty-one years old, would be easily misled by what may be fraudulently misleading employment statistics that have the implicit sanction of the American Bar Association and their parent institutions (often, in essence, a branch of the government in the case of public universities)? Even today, even after the media has aired numerous news reports about unemployed college graduates, the general public still holds institutions of higher learning in high esteem.
Thus, the "sophisticated consumer" argument is complete and utter horseshit.
Friday, March 16, 2012
According to the Above the Law blog, the motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit filed against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law has been DENIED! Also, about 20 more law schools are liable to get sued for some form of misrepresentation. This denial is a cause for celebration, and hopefully these lawsuits will make it into the discovery stage. I cannot wait to see what kinds of incriminating emails and documents leak out during discovery (assuming that they have not already been destroyed or sequestered in a dusty locked chest surrounded by ancient equipment in a cobweb-strewn dimly-lit forlorn science department subbasement).
Earlier this month, New York Magazine published a nice article about the law school lawsuits where you can learn more about the intrepid attorneys who are bringing filing the lawsuits. Here are some quotes from the article, "The Case(s) Against Law Schools":
Nationwide, there are two aspiring lawyers with passing bar-exam scores for every one open job; in New York State, the ratio is even more lopsided, with 9,787 passing the bar in 2009, then competing for roughly 2,100 new positions.So, not only are the job prospects crappy, but the cost has gone through the roof, rising over four times faster than undergraduate tuition.
Meanwhile, law-school tuition rose 317 percent nationwide during the aughts, compared with a 71 percent spike for undergraduate tuition.
The American Bar Association, which accredits the bulk of law schools in the U.S., has signaled solidarity with the defendants. In January, William Robinson, the head of the ABA, told Reuters that aspiring lawyers make “a free choice” to pursue a J.D. “It’s inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate-level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago,” Robinson said. (An ABA spokesman said Robinson would not comment directly on the ongoing litigation.)I wonder if Mr. Robinson is capable of conceiving that the entire industry, from NALP to the law schools to the ABA which gives implicit sanction to the law schools employment statistics and reporting methodology, may have collectively committed a massive fraud. ("Danger, Will Robinson!") Of course, I don't buy the "sophisticated consumer" argument, which I'll eviscerate in my next post. Coincidentally, Robinson (probably very knowingly) fudged the truth when he tried to imply that employment problems in the legal job market are a new phenomenon when in fact JD overproduction has been a problem for years if not decades.
Coincidentally, two days ago (Wednesday), on the same day when Above the Law broke the news about the denial of Thomas Jefferson School of Law's motion to dismiss, the ABA Journal published a fluff piece entitled, "What Would You Want the Contents of a Sandwich Named After Your Law Firm or Law School to Be?". I lucked out and was able to post the first comment in response, but my second comment was deleted. My deleted comment said something to the effect:
"According to Above the Law, the motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law has been DENIED! I don't know what kind of sandwiches were delivered to the ABA's offices today, but I sure wouldn't want to eat them." (For those who didn't get the joke, you are supposed to infer that the denial of the motion to dismiss was akin to big stinky shit sandwiches being delivered to the ABA's offices for lunch on Wednesday.)
"The Case(s) Against Law Schools" article continues:
Among alumni, opinions are split, as you might expect, according to which side of the unemployment line the graduate falls on. “Mathematically, it’s a ton of graduates, yes, and no, there aren’t enough jobs for them,” Daniel Gershburg, a 2006 graduate of NYLS and an attorney with a successful practice in Manhattan, says. “At the same time, what are schools supposed to say? ‘No, no, don’t come here! Run for your lives!’ Where does personal responsibility start?”Yes! That is exactly what the law schools, colleges, universities, and the ABA are supposed to say. These entities, all or almost all of which receive federal taxpayer-funded student loan dollars (the law schools, anyway), are supposed to have a duty to look out for the best interests of society. They are supposed to be socially responsible. Instead, they have been acting like slimy snake oil and used car salesmen. Furthermore, being honest is the right thing to do. It is the ethical thing to do. It is understandable that they might not want to physically bar the doors and tell students to run in the opposite direction, but at the very least they shouldn't be publishing what may be fraudulently misleading employment statistics.
In other news, The National Law Journal published an article about a motion to dismiss hearing in the lawsuit against New York Law School: "Judge Skeptical of both sides in law school jobs data litigation".
Are prospective law students savvy, college-educated consumers or naive twenty-somethings easily taken in by rosy employment projections?I'm going to eviscerate the "sophisticated consumer" argument in my next post, so I won't address it here. However, let me point out that even if a merchant's consumers are sophisticated and should know better, that does not (or should not, in my book) give him a license to commit outright fraud, at least not if his statements are presented in such a context where they are meant to be taken seriously (such as a serious, formal sales brochure). Should Madoff have been been exonerated on the basis that his victims were wealthy sophisticated consumers who should have known better than to fall for a Ponzi scheme? Should Enron have been let off the hook on the basis that many of Enron's victims were, presumably, sophisticated investors (mutual funds, etc.)?
That question was one of several before New York County, N.Y., Supreme Court Judge Melvin Schweitzer during a two-hour hearing on March 12. The state trial judge was considering a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by nine graduates of New York Law School against their alma mater.It is good to see that they have a few different causes of action--fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of a New York business law about deceptive acts and practices. I sure hope that they can prevail on at least one of those claims.
The plaintiffs, seeking class status, allege that that they were lured to enroll by misleading postgraduate employment figures published by the school. They filed suit in August, claiming that the school committed fraud and negligent misrepresentation, and violated the state's general business law regarding deceptive acts and practices in reporting for several years beginning during the mid-2000s that about 90 percent of its students had secured jobs nine months after graduating.
Volpe argued that the law school offers a number of disclaimers about the employment information it releases. "No reasonable person," he said, would read those disclosures and conclude that he had a 90 percent or greater chance of landing a job within nine months of graduation.The Plaintiffs should ask: If that is the case, when why exactly did the law school publish that statistic? If that number wasn't meant to be taken seriously, then what was the purpose in publishing it? What effect did the law school intend the 90% employment figure to have on prospective law students?
Could it be...could it possibly be that the school wanted prospective law students to think that it meant that 90% of all graduates found high paying work in the legal profession? Or was it just published for amusement purposes or to fill space in the brochure? Was the publication of facially false and misleading statistics a sign of good will towards prospective students on the law school's part?
Also, if the school's brochure were discussing employment statistics and the school KNEW that those statistics were facially false, then why didn't it at least publish more detailed statistics and endeavor to determine and publish accurate statistics? Could it be...could it be that the school was intentionally trying to mislead prospective law students?
Everyone, including the judge, can probably infer the correct answers to those questions.
In my opinion, this law school fully intended to mislead prospective law students knowing that all of the other law schools (and NALP) were doing the same thing (and that such aggregate misleading statistics would reinforce one another) and that prospective students would assume that these statistics had the implicit sanction of the ABA. (That's all just my opinion; I'm not claiming that it's fact. Don't SLAPP*** me bro.)
I don't know if attorneys David Anziska, Jesse Strauss, and Frank Raimond (who are handling the class action lawsuits for the Plaintiffs) are reading this or will ever have the time to read this, but if so, I sure hope that you hammer the Defendants with those questions.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Yesterday I made a new animated political cartoon satirizing the law school scam. It isn't as good as my first two, but I hope that some of you enjoy it. I was inspired by the prospect of people being able to purchase law degrees at drive-thru windows.
In other news, I am gushing over the report that the motion to dismiss in the Thomas Jefferson School of Law class action lawsuit has been DENIED!
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
You know that the economy is bad and that the situation is dire when...porn actresses speak of finding alternate means of earning a living! Thanks goes to the poster YouGottaBeShittingMe for bringing this article to our attention at the JD Underground forum. Here are some quotes from the article "Porn Stars: The Death of a Sex-Industry Profession" published at The Daily Beast interspersed with my commentary.
“The market is oversaturated now,” says Brooklyn Lee. Lee is porn’s latest It girl. At the AVN Awards, Lee, 22, won five awards, including Best New Starlet. She says: “There used to be a few hundred girls and now there are thousands. So porn superstars have fallen by the wayside."
“A few years ago there were 100 girls in the entire industry, and now 100 girls enter the industry each week. They used to all be stars; now they all just think they’re stars.” The result, [Mark] Spiegler says, is that “they’ve become interchangeable.”
The recession may be one reason, again, for the unprecedented number of women who want to shoot sex scenes. Another reason offered by Spiegler is the change in a porn star’s status from the stigmatized margins. “Ten years ago a girl fell into porn,” Spiegler says. “Now there are a lot of girls who dream of doing porn.”The field became glutted. Who would 'a' thunk it? The economy is so bad that many young women have been reduced to working as porn actresses. Another contributing factor might be that student loans have become so onerous at a time of decreasing entry-level career opportunities that sexy graduates really need to "sell" themselves.
Many of these underemployed performers find alternate ways to earn a living, all of which further erase boundaries between porn stars and fans. “A lot of girls will do movies as publicity,” says [Jesse] Jane. Then the women monetize that publicity via social media, selling custom DVDs, live cam shows, and, of course, prostitution.What does it imply about the state of the U.S. economy when people who are working one of the most alternative means of earning a living possible need to find alternative means to earn a living? It almost sounds as though some of the women are shooting porn scenes for free (almost like an unpaid internship?) in the hopes of using it to market themselves over the Internet.
In the legal field we speak of Big Law, Mid-Law, and ShitLaw. Is there a porn industry equivalent in the form of Big Porn, Mid-Porn, and Shit Porn? (No scatological jokes in the comments, please.) Is there such a thing as starving solo porn actresses?
Despite the smaller stakes, success in porn now requires all the schmoozing of any competitive career. Lee says: “I spend most of my time trying to make contacts and do the business side. The sex is the only part about being a porn star these days that is not hard work.”So, if you are an unemployed or underemployed porn actress the solution is to...Network!***
On the bright side, these porn actresses are better off than most college graduates. I suspect that they probably didn't have to take out student loans to enter into the porn industry. Also, the porn actress job market is probably much better than the legal job market and many other knowledge-based job markets.
***If you are new to the law school scambuster community, the term "Network" has become an inside meme used to denote futility and to humorously mock naive successful people (well-off know-it-alls, mostly from older generations) who mindlessly advise the college educated unemployed and underemployed to "network!". It's almost like our own "Who is John Galt?"
Sunday, March 11, 2012
I think this photo of an Occupy Wall Street protestor shot by Jena Cumbo is worth at least 10,000 words. So, I thought I'd post it. Can you say overeducated, overqualified, and unemployable? It's a great illustration of what's wrong with our higher education system today where such a large excess of college graduates are produced that their degrees have little employment value.
Friday, March 9, 2012
I am pleased to announce that last night the CBS Evening News provided credible national publicity for the Law School Scam with a 2.5 minute piece that featured Professor Paul Campos. (Credit is due to OhioDocReviewer for posting about it on JD Underground.)
CBS News correspondent Chip Reid reports:
"You wanted to be a lawyer all your life and now you are a lawyer. Do you take pride in that?"
"I am not a lawyer. I'm a server."
Thirty year old Kevin Johnson graduated from New York Law School last February. His lifelong dream is to serve the needy as a lawyer, but for now he's serving pizza.
"Lawyers do lawyer things. Lawyers work at law firms. Lawyers do public policy work. Lawyers don't serve pizza."
Johnson graduated in the top 25% of his class and was confident he'd find a job, especially when he saw his law school reporting an employment rate of around 90% on its website.
Paul Campos said:
"Used car salesmen cannot get away with the kind of claims that law schools get away with all of the time."The story was introduced by Scott Pelley, the CBS Evening News anchorman who also reports for 60 Minutes. It's difficult to expect much from a very brief report, but it was great! This news clip may be the best TV coverage I have ever seen of the Law School Scam, and it was prominent! Hopefully it will compel NBC and ABC to do produce similar stories. Also, I sure hope that this encourages 60 Minutes to produce a full report.
I do not know if this specific piece was made possible by Paul Campos, but he deserves tremendous credit for giving credibility to our views. I admire his bravery for going against the pecuniary interests of his colleagues and the law school establishment. Paul, if you are reading this, thank you for providing a credible public voice for the hundreds of thousands of disgruntled JDs who are cheering for you. I hope that you receive a 30 or 45 minute slot on NPR's Talk of the Nation and On Point.
Also, we should give credit to the three lawyers who are handling the class action lawsuits against the law schools; they have also brought publicity to the Law School Scam. They are David Anziska, Jesse Strauss, and Frank Raimond.
Professor Campos recently participated in a discussion at Stanford which you can watch on YouTube. It's worthwhile.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
In the comments to my "Persuading the 'Personal Responsibility' Crowd" thread a debate broke out about whether or not the law schools are committing fraud. In my view the answer is a resounding Yes, in the context of actuality and not legality. From a legal perspective it will depend on individual states' fraud statutes and case law, the specific facts at issue, etc.
In one of the comments to that thread, poster "Just Sayin" responded in part:
And no they aren't screwing people over by publishing false employment numbers. That's to be expected. More so we were all encouraged to go to law school by family members and the thought of being rich.To which I responded, Anonymously (being too lazy to log in):
In your view, should it be perfectly permissible for used car dealers to "rollback" the mileage on cars and then tell purchasers that the vehicles have much less mileage than they actually do? If a buyer purchases a vehicle with 60,000 actual miles on it but pays the price for a vehicle with 25,000 miles after relying on the odometer that showed 25,000 miles, is that the buyer's fault?To which "Just Sayin" responded:
That analogy doesn't hold up. Sorry. When law schools say hey 95% of people with law degrees from our school gets a job. So when one buys X, there's a high possibility that you can do Y. They aren't selling you a future job, their product is a law school education. Whatever you pay, or whatever the market is saying, you will still get a law school education. Essentially, they can lie all they want about a future job, because that's not what they are selling. Its shady nonetheless, but fraud no.This brings us to the crux of the issue. What exactly are the law schools selling? Are the law schools at the very least guilty of fraudulent inducement?
Onto your analogy where a used car salesman sells you a car that they purposefully rolled back the meter. Pretty much they are selling you a crappy car, not the potential of X happening do to you buying the car. This is more equivalent to a law school promising you a great education but instead giving you crap..... actually this is true too.
Lastly, sooner or later, we have to stop lying to ourselves as to why we went to law school. We all were either talked into it by family, who said "wow you can argue well, you'll be a great lawyer some day" or by watching an endless number of law dramas. Really, no matter what the job numbers were, we weren't going to not go. We had to prove how smart we were, or to make their degrees worth something.
I submit a resounding Yes in answer to the second question. The law schools know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it when they publish their employment stats. They publish this information because they know that students will look at it and use it as part of their decision making process. They also know that the information is facially false and, on-the-surface, fraudulently misleading in spite of whatever qualifications they add. They also know that their statistics will not stick out like a sore thumb because all of the other competing law schools are publishing similar stats with similar intent. The law schools also know that the vast majority of the general populace knows nothing about the reality of the legal job market and that most of their prospective students are naive, feel that they have few other options for earning a respectable income, and have been indoctrinated with the notion that higher education, especially the attainment of a professional degree, guarantees earning a high income. In other words, the law schools know that their prospective customers are already very much predisposed to believing and falling for their fraudulent employment statistics. (This is not written with the intention of being a strict a legal analysis; just a discussion about actuality.)
Addressing the first question, what exactly are the law schools selling? I think most reasonable people would agree that a vehicle's mileage is a property of the vehicle and that rolling back the odometer is an act of fraud. So what exactly are students purchasing when they buy a legal education? They are not merely purchasing a generic fungible legal education, but rather a legal education specifically from School X. They are buying School X's legal education. Likewise, an automobile purchaser is not merely buying a generic and fungible automobile, but a specific brand of automobile. ("I bought a Lexus, not a Kia.")
So, what property is it, exactly, that fundamentally differentiates the legal education provided by School X from that of School Y in the context of a purchasing decision? What makes one law school a Lexus and the other a Kia? Could it be the library? Get real. Could it be the "quality of the education"? That might play a role to an extent, but the vast majority of students have little information about that. Could it be the location and environs? That's certainly a large factor. However, ultimately, the dispositive factor for students who attend for vocational reasons, is, "Will my chances of obtaining a good legal job be higher at School X than at School Y?"
Thus, the product a given law school is selling is not merely a generic and fungible legal education. Instead, a legal education's fundamental distinguishing characteristic is how the education and its school's graduates are valued by hiring decision makers in the legal and business community for upper middle class jobs that provide a career path. This is not merely a minor characteristic such as a tree on the lawn in front of the law school building, a famous faculty member, or a book in the library. Rather, how a school's legal education and graduates are valued by hiring partners is the essential, defining characteristic that distinguishes the legal education at School X from that at School Y. A law school's published employment statistics are intended to provide information about how hiring decision makers in the legal and business community regard the quality of the education and its graduates! They are not just for show. They are not in brochures by accident. They are published specifically with the intention of conveying that sort of information. It is almost exactly analogous to a vehicle's odometer reading. Therefore, the value given to a law school's education and its graduates by hiring decision makers is an essential, crucially integral, overwhelming part of the product a law school is selling. It is not merely the paint job or radio on a motor vehicle, nor is it a vehicle's ill-defined reputation for quality or prestige of ownership. Rather, the proper analogy is that it's the entire powertrain, cooling system, and chassis! Just as the fundamental purpose for purchasing an automobile is transportation from point A to point B, the fundamental purpose of purchasing a legal education for the vast majority of law school graduates is to obtain secure lifelong upper middle class employment in the legal profession.
That is the real product. That is what the law schools are selling, and that is why, in my opinion, they are engaging in outright fraud and not merely fraudulent inducement. (This is my personal opinion and not a specific legal analysis. Don't attempt to violate the First Amendment and try to sue me over my opinion, bro.)
Do students rely on these employment statistics? Would they choose not to attend if they had complete employment information? You betcha! The published statistics, in spite of any qualifications they might have, are believable because all of the other law schools have similar statistics and they are implicitly sanctioned by the American Bar Association. If the real statistics were published and prominently displayed and publicized, law school attendance would drop precipitously for the exact same reason that people aren't flooding into graduate schools for PhDs in Art History, Women's Studies, Philosophy, and the like. Who in their right mind would risk going into $80,000-$200,000 worth of student loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy for less than a Roulette Wheel's chance of obtaining a return on investment?
I don't know if the plaintiffs in the law school lawsuits can win from a legal perspective. I do know that we should win the moral argument. In other words, it is pretty indubitable that duped law school graduates own the moral high ground. Our movement needs to seize, secure, and maintain this moral high ground if we are ever to accomplish anything.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The Huffington Post published an article that, if factual, provides a scathing indictment of some members of the top "1%". Allegedly, a petty banker stiffed a waitress for a $135 meal, leaving a 1% tip of $1.33 with a circle around the printed word "tip" and an arrow pointing to "Get a real job." Supposedly, the photo of the receipt was taken by the banker's employee and posted on his blog, Future Ex Banker.
The restaurant claims that they found their copy of the receipt and that the receipt (or photo) had been altered. In the meantime, the blog has since mysteriously disappeared from Wordpress. The Smoking Gun published an article with more information about the purported hoax.
So, what do you guys think? Was this real or was it a hoax? Was it Photoshopped? Is the restaurant covering up this incident to please its wealthy clientele? Could the supposed banker have threatened Wordpress and the restaurant? Why would a well-paid employee be so stupid as to publicize his boss's embarrassing indiscretion knowing that it would probably result in an immediate termination if it were traced back to him? If it were all a hoax, then someone took quite a risk knowing that the photo and blog post could be traced back to him. (Somebody paid for that receipt with a credit card). Maybe he found a discarded receipt and altered it.
I'd like to believe that it's real since it would reinforce my belief that many members of the wealthy elite are arrogant, vicious, and out-of-touch with the lower classes. I don't know if it's real or not, but the story certainly isn't unbelievable and it's rather delicious. It would be great if we could hear from the waitress, but I'm sure she won't be talking, at least not until she finds another job.
Addendum: Here is a link to a news report video where you can see the restaurant's manager discussing the incident. She seems pretty credible to me and upon taking a closer look at the photo, it does indeed appear as though the "1" is out of alignment. According to her someone Photoshopped a "1" in front of the 33.54 on the bill and the server actually received a 20% tip.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Monday, February 27, 2012
I am posting to publicize one seldom used term and to introduce a new term, two bullets that we can use in our war against the higher education scam. Both of these concepts contradict the Doctrine of Meritocracy that Americans almost ubiquitously accept as an unquestioned axiom, probably because they were indoctrinated to believe it. So, using and popularizing these terms will help us spread our cynicism.
The new term is "reciprocal proxy nepotism". (A Google search does not return any hits, but perhaps another term exists.) Reciprocal proxy nepotism is when two or more people at different companies bestow reciprocal favors for each other's relatives.
For example, suppose that Partner A and Partner B work at different businesses that have anti-nepotism policies. Over lunch Partner A says to Partner B, "Boy, it sure is tough out there today for new graduates. My Daughter A can't find a job in our field." Partner B says, "My Son B can't find a job in the field either." So Partner A agrees to hire (if he can) Son B and Partner B agrees to hire Daughter A. Or maybe they just make very strong hiring recommendations at their firms. The reciprocity might be unspoken and assumed, and it might also have a temporal separation. An unspoken expectation might be, "I'll hire your niece this year, and I'm sure you'll return the favor for my son when he graduates two years from now."
I don't know how often these types of arrangements actually occur, but I wouldn't be surprised if they occurred frequently in tight, competitive job markets. Such occurrences obviously contradict Meritocracy where people are supposed to obtain jobs and opportunities based on objective merit and not the circumstances of their birth and family connections.
The other intriguing term is "resume deflation". Resume deflation is when a person crafts a resume that purposely omits what should be a valuable credential that shows that he possesses what should be an attractive character trait (educational attainment, intelligence, ambition, skill, professional experience, etc.) in the hopes of improving his candidacy for a job. Sadly, resume deflation has become a sign of the wretchedness and perversity of our society and the times we live in and it isn't a secret, but few people have a formal term for it.
The concept of resume deflation contradicts the Doctrine of Meritocracy because, according to the doctrine, people should receive rewards for their positive character traits and hard work. However, in reality many employers will discriminate against people who are overqualified or who are trained to work in other fields for various reasons, some of which may, as a practical matter, be understandable and legitimate from an employer's perspective. This kind of discrimination reminds of a concept that novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand once introduced, a "hatred of the good for being the good".
I came across "resume deflation" while listening to an NPR story, The Long, Winding Road Back from Unemployment. I was intrigued and a Google search returned only 163 hits. One of the hits was for an article at the Workplace Diva blog titled "Is Hiring Smart Applicants a Dumb Move?". It's a short blog post that cites a study purporting to show that hiring overqualified applicants is often a good move. I enjoyed this quote:
No employer wants to feel like a quick rest stop on the road to Careertown.What most hiring managers and other employment decision-makers don't realize is that in today's post-apocalyptic world (in an economic sense), there may no longer be a "Careertown" for many people to go to and/or the road is fraught with huge and often insurmountable obstacles. Jobs in many fields have been outsourced and/or many fields have contracted. Also, many people who can objectively perform career jobs well may have been rendered unemployable in their fields simply by virtue of their having been unemployed or undermployed-and-involuntarily-out-of-field for a period of time. Hiring managers are generally successful people, so it's difficult for them to understand just how bleak the job market is for many college and professional school graduates.
I hope that people will begin using and popularizing these new terms and that they will stick: reciprocal proxy nepotism and resume deflation.
Friday, February 17, 2012
While reading Professor Campos's most recent post, "The Message" and while ruminating over the negative comments received from non-JDs to many news articles about the law school scam, it occurred to me that we need to incorporate a core argument into our message (which probably won't be news to many of you). I make mention of it all the time, but when we're dealing with the general public, it needs further emphasis.
We need to present a compelling argument that will help convince non-JDs of the "meritocracy/personal responsibility/free market" dogma persuasion (hereinafter known as the "Personal Responsibility Crowd") that the law school scam (and the higher education scam in general) is bad and worthy of opposing. The Personal Responsibility Crowd objects to our message by reflexively responding, "Caveat Emptor!" in snide comments. Their callousness and almost complete lack of empathy is an expression of the "I've got mine, Fuck You!" mentality. In their eyes the higher education scam does not impact them.
However, the Personal Responsibility Crowd, which tends to be right-wing, is very concerned about an issue that ties in well with the law school and higher education scams: The Economy. Thus, our message would probably be more compelling to them if we could convince the Personal Responsibility Crowd and the general populace that educating large excesses of people relative to the number of jobs available for college graduates damages the economy. This would hit the Personal Responsibility Crowd close to home.
Very simply, our economy, our well-being, and our prosperity suffer when resources (human time and effort, raw materials) are wasted on educating far more people than there are jobs available for them. Instead of being wasted, those same resources could be better spent on goods and services that have actual value. For example, those resources could be used to construct more roads or more houses or to provide better medical care. This would result in an increase in our society's net wealth which would benefit everyone, including members of the Personal Responsibility Crowd. Instead of being burdened by student loans used to pay for unneeded higher education, people could instead purchase more goods and services which would increase the amount of employment in fields where those goods and services are produced. Also, presumably, one element of our nation's housing crisis is that unemployed and underemployed-out-of-field college graduates cannot afford to purchase houses; they already have student loan mortgages hanging over their heads.
A terse response to Caveat Emptor comments might be, "You guys don't realize how much damage all of this unneeded excess higher education is doing to our nation's economy. This isn't merely about sob stories and personal responsibility. It's about the economy, stupid!"
Thursday, February 9, 2012
While listening to yesterday's NPR Talk of the Nation discussion, Keeping Your Resume Out Of Online 'Oblivion', reporter Lauren Weber said that Starbucks receives 7.6 million job applications every year for about 65,000 openings. That's about 117 applications for each job, and this is a low-wage job! This isn't earth-shattering or particularly profound, and it's not really anything we didn't already know, but it does help illustrate just how tough the job market is out there, even for menial poverty-wage jobs.
Middle Finger Law: In other news, if you're bored and want to listen to a short, entertaining NPR story about the legality of flipping the bird (the "impudent finger") to police officers, check this out: Flipping 'The Bird' Just Isn't Obscene Anymore, Law Professor Argues. Perhaps this will create some more business for struggling solos.
ROBBINS: It is considered illegal in many jurisdictions, but there is a case from Oregon in 2010 in which a regular guy thought that he had an absolute First Amendment right to give the finger to police officers whenever he saw them. Not just if he was being ticketed. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of times a day, whenever he would pass a police officer, he would give the finger.
And they brought him to court on this on disorderly conduct charges. He ultimately won. He settled for $1,000, but in other jurisdictions in which the application of the disorderly conduct statute has been tested, there have been settlements for as high as $50,000.
Don't try this at home. It's probably a YMMV sort of thing depending on your jurisdiction.
Monday, February 6, 2012
The World Needs Ditch Diggers -- Why It May be OK or Even Good If Some People Drop Out of High School
Recently, in his State of the Union address, President Obama suggested that every state should require high school attendance until age 18 (in the hopes of increasing high school graduation rates).
As a highly educated person, I cannot imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to drop out of high school. Why would you want to fuck up your life like that? However, I wonder, as a practical matter, from an economic standpoint, might it be OK or even good if a certain percentage of our society were composed of high school dropouts? Also, are our politicians and other intellectuals fretting too much about the high school dropout problem? (It's much easier for our politicians to pacify the masses with warm-and-fuzzy touchy-feely platitudes about solving the high school dropout problem than it is to actually fix our nation's economic problems.)
As difficult as it may be for us to accept, the sad fact is that the overwhelming majority of jobs that need to be done in this country do not require a college education. In fact, a great many of those jobs do not require a high school diploma either or even the ability to read or to do math beyond an eighth grade level. Those jobs are not glamorous nor desirable. They are menial and low-paying, but they do need to be done. Therefore, our nation needs people who will be content (or at least as non-discontented as humanly possible) to work those menial low-paying fast food, retail service, and lawn mowing jobs. They may not be happy at those jobs and they might gripe about their poverty-wages, but at least they cannot legitimately expect much more and they won't (or shouldn't) feel that they have been screwed by society because they played by the rules and failed to obtain a return on their educational investments.
I like to say that if 100% of Americans went to college, then 100% of Americans would expect to have a solid middle class job when in reality only 10-15% of the jobs require or make real use of a college education, which means that the same percentage of the populace that currently works low-wage jobs that don't require a college education would end up working those very same jobs--but with student loan debt and legitimate feelings of anger, failure, entitlement, and tremendous disappointment. Likewise high school graduates, vocational graduates, and technical school graduates might expect to be able to earn solid lower-middle or middle class jobs, too, such as skilled trades jobs and factory jobs, and if everyone graduated from high school then we might have more high school graduates than decent jobs available for them (which is already the case).
"The world needs ditch diggers," and it's better to have contented ditch diggers than angry ditch diggers who are ready to foment violent revolt and social upheaval. So, as ridiculous as this may sound, it may be OK and even good that some people want to drop out of high school. In that case, our politicians' (and the media's and educators' and almost all other intellectuals') concern about high school dropout rates may be overblown and thus boil down to consisting of touchy-feely platitudes.
That having been said, I don't think we should celebrate people dropping out of high school because in almost all cases it probably means that they are complete dumbasses who will end up imposing all sorts of negative costs on our society. They are probably more likely to commit crimes, to pop out babies they cannot afford to care for like rabbits, and to end up on welfare, etc. However, I don't see how bad students' barely graduating from high school or being socially promoted and waived through to graduation will change that. Extra hours spent goofing off or sleeping in a classroom won't cure a low IQ or a self-destructive and/or sociopathic mindset and/or horrible parentage. Living irrationally, making personally and societally destructive life choices, and being a dumbass isn't something that will be solved by a piece of paper that says "High School diploma". Some people just have low IQs and no amount of class time spent on reading, writing, science, social studies, foreign language, Shakespeare, and arithmetic will change that. It would be wonderful if Americans' minimum IQ were 90 or 95 and if no one had an irrational mindset, but sadly that's just not the case.
From an economic and Machiavellian standpoint, we need these people to work our nation's low-paying menial jobs and to feel as contented as possible. The real problem (aside from not having enough solid middle class and lower-middle class jobs for everyone) is not that some people are dropping out of high school because if everyone graduated from high school then the same percentage of people who are currently working low-paying menial jobs would still be working those very same jobs. The problem is that high school dropouts are also almost always complete dumbasses who will end up imposing all sorts of negative costs on our society.
Our politicians and intellectuals are right to be concerned about that problem, but it's not a problem that can be solved by a high school education, at least not by a traditional high school education. To solve that problem (destructive consequences of a low IQ, irrationality, stupidity, and/or being a sociopath) to the extent that it is possible, we would need some sort of high school program or education camp that would indoctrinate high school dropouts with a religion of rules to live by. "Don't get pregnant (or get someone pregnant)." "Don't do drugs." "Don't commit crimes." Etc. That sort of indoctrination in the hopes of countering the results of bad parentage probably wouldn't work anyway, but forcing high school dropouts to stay in high school won't solve that problem, either.
Our politicians and intellectuals are right to be barking about the social and economic problems caused by high school dropouts, but they're barking up the wrong tree.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
I am pleased to announce that both NPR and Bloomberg News recently gave some coverage to the law school scam.
Bloomberg aired an interview with New York Times reporter David Segal titled "NY Times Reporter: Business of Law Schools Is 'Crazy'". David Segal has done some great work reporting on the law school scam in the New York Times, though some people on JD Underground thought he may have pulled some or all of his punches on the TV interview.
Hopefully the media establishment will increase its reporting of the law school scam. One impetus for the NPR story may be the class action lawsuits against a few of the law schools. My wet dream is for 60 Minutes to air a hard-hitting piece that excoriates the law school industry and the ABA. Perhaps Paul Campos could star in it.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
DISCLAIMER: Honestly, I don't have anything new to say in this post, and to some of you it may sound like a broken record. However, I haven't posted much since 2010, so I thought I'd post a comment that I just made on a thread at JD Underground forum. The only potentially new content might be my point that our politicians need to maintain the higher education scam to help reinforce the notion (amongst the sheeple) that social mobility is very possible and that we live in a meritocracy where hard work is all people need to secure at least middle class status. Admittedly, I wouldn't call this post a completely comprehensive explanation as to why ending the higher education scam will be so difficult, but the essential elements are contained below.
The higher education scam is very deeply entrenched in this country for a couple reasons, which will make it difficult to end.
(1.) Many parties have interests in maintaining the scam--student loan companies, university administrators, faculty, and general college employees.
(2.) Our politicians have been successful in selling the promise of higher education to the masses. They need the higher education scam to continue so that they can distract the public. It's easier to tell the sheeple that the solution to our nation's economic problems is more and better education than it is to say that we need to address foreign outsourcing, end mass immigration, and end the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. This way, the sheeple won't riot. The overwhelming majority of Americans really do believe that higher education guarantees economic and vocational success. They believe (and have been taught to believe) that if someone graduates and cannot find a job, it is their fault. Heck, unemployed and underemployed college graduates (and their families) blame themselves too. It's a beautiful scam, isn't it? For our politicians, the nation's having to (quietly) pay for defaulted student loans is a small price to pay for a contented populace.
For example, Obama is concerned about high school dropouts, and he probably claims or seems to imply that everyone should go to college. Nevermind the fact that if everyone graduated from high school and if everyone went to college no one would want to work the huge boatload of low-paying menial jobs that need to be done in this country. At least high school dropouts who work fast food jobs don't have a legitimate reason to honestly feel that they deserve more.
(3.) The promise of higher education also pacifies the masses and prevents them from adopting the "Occupy Wall Street mentality". Our politicians need to maintain the illusion that social mobility is very possible and that we live in a meritocracy where hard work is all people need to secure at least middle class status. If the sheeple stop believing in that notion, they might rebel against the wealthy. (They might even (gasp) go socialist and want to tax them at more than 15%.)
So, ending the higher education scam is a steep uphill battle. In fact, the notion that too many people are going to college is completely foreign to the vast majority of the populace. It's not even an issue. It isn't on anyone's radar. The sheeple might be aware that student loans are a big problem for many people, but the notion that the reason so many people can't pay their student loans is because there simply aren't enough appropriate jobs for all of the graduates in most fields never occurs to them. The other side of the ravine that needs to be logically bridged in order to connect those dots is too wide for most people.
ADDENDUM: In the JD Underground thread poster "tsmonk" made the point that many localities are supported by colleges and universities. So, ending the higher education scam would not merely put many college administrators, faculty, and other employees out of work, but also people who work in other industries that depend on the colleges and students.
Of course, the end result of overeducating people is not a fiscal stimulus any more than starting a war or destroying perfectly useful buildings so that people can be employed rebuilding them is a fiscal stimulus. In reality, no actual economic value is created and human effort that could have been spent producing goods and services with actual tangible value has been squandered. Thus, maintaining excess colleges that sustain certain localities might look good on the short-term front-end, and a small amount of people may selfishly benefit from it. However, long-term and in the almost invisible back-end it impoverishes our society. That is to say, the aggregate benefit that might accrue to a small number of people is much smaller than the total aggregate harm done to our nation's well being.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
This afternoon I thought it might be fun to make a new Xtranormal video critiquing the education industry for opening more unneeded law schools which will increase the number of destroyed lives. I pretty much winged it as I wrote the text, and I think it came out pretty well. I hope people enjoy it. It sure felt good to throw another rock at the law school industry and the ABA.
Here's the URL in case anyone wants to share it: