Tuesday, November 21, 2017

John Marshall to merge with the U of Illinois?

The University of Illinois at Chicago is proposing to absorb the John Marshall Law School) (only the one in Chicago, not the one in Atlanta), thereby forming what someone with a poor sense of grammar, style, and concision would call the University of Illinois at Chicago's John Marshall Law School. Officials ju$tify this proposal on the grounds that UI Chicago somehow needs a law school—everybody else has one, you know—and that John Marshall would benefit from the resources and facilities of a large university backed by the (nearly insolvent) state of Illinois.

In decades past, John Marshall offered working-class people reasonable and affordable access to the legal profession. Today, however, it is a toilet par excellence (so to speak). Its LSAT scores have fallen from a shameful 151/154/157 in 2010 to an utterly contemptible 145/148/151 in 2016. Enrollment, too, has plummeted, from 539 first-year students in 2010 to 282 in 2016. Seventeen percent of last year's graduates were unemployed ten months after graduation, and 15% were in short-term or part-time jobs; only 4% were in Big Law, and none got a federal clerkship. The cost of attendance, $75k per year, would run up a bill exceeding $280k if fully financed with student loans. A third of the class gets no discount on tuition; most others get only a slight discount.

UI Chicago seems to be proud of its reputation. Why, then, is it so eager to take over one of the US's most toilety law schools? Can the putative benefits from this proposed take-over really offset the reputational harm?

Bear in mind that John Marshall does have one thing going for it: land. It was established in 1899, when Chicago was much smaller and land was much cheaper. Perhaps the idea here is to grab the assets (especially the valuable urban land), ship the remaining students down to Urbana–Champaign (home to a formerly faux-prestigious, now plainly toilety, law school shaken by scandal in 2011), and then shut John Marshall down. Just imagine the excuse proffered for public consumption: "Enrollment had fallen by 50% in the few years before we acquired John Marshall, and economic conditions in legal education remain poor. Our feasibility study"—yes, one of these has already been produced, à la Indiana Tech—"convinced us that this project would succeed, but circumstances conspired against us. At least we have a great building, though, which we are going to convert to cozy administrative offices just as soon as we can get rid of the little bast—er, I mean, once the law students have left."

Is this merely an asset-stripping ploy? Could UI Chicago seriously have in mind to sustain a bottom-of-the-barrel law school? I'm eager to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Profiles in shittiness: La Verne, Western State University, Appalachian

To get an idea of the shitty depths to which the law-school scam has fallen, consider three toilet law schools: the University of La Verne, Western State University, and Appalachian School of Law. The data presented below come from Law School Transparency, a valuable resource.

1) THE UNIVERSITY OF LA VERNE

Denied ABA accreditation in 2011, La Verne finally achieved it in 2016. Yet its already abysmal standards have been plummeting: for instance, the LSAT score at the 75th percentile in 2016 (149) is below the LSAT at the 25th percentile in 2011 (150).

Less than 10% of the class gets any discount at all on tuition, and in most cases the discounts are well under 50%. The cost of attendance, when fully financed with student loans, stands just shy of $200k.

What does one get for that price? Nearly half of last year's graduates (47.1%) were unemployed ten months after graduation, and 11.8% were in short-term or part-time positions. Not a single graduate worked in public service or as clerk to a court. The minority that were employed full time, at least by a loose definition of "employment", worked in law firms (almost invariably small ones), "business", or non-academic positions in "education". La Verne provides no information on salaries, but it's clear that very few people coming out of La Verne make enough money to justify the cost of attendance. And of course the half of the class that is unemployed has done poorly indeed.

Only a real schlemiel or schlimazel, the intellectual peer of a Lenny or a Squiggy, would consider attending this dump. Unaccountably, however, first-year enrollment has soared from 44 in 2012 to 116 in 2016.

2) WESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY

Don't be fooled by the name: this "State University" is a private institution. (It has lately changed its name to Western State College of Law at Argosy University.) It was a profit-seeking institution until its sale last month to an entity controlled by a big Bible-thumping church.

More than a fifth of the class pays full fare, and most of the others receive only modest discounts. If fully financed with student loans, a JD from Western State will run up a bill exceeding $284k upon graduation. That's more than the University of Michigan or Berkeley, and only a few thousand dollars less than Yale.

Worth the cost? Ask the 37.4% of last year's graduates who were unemployed ten months after graduation, or the 11.0% that found only short-term or part-time work. Of the rest, all were in small law firms (not a single graduate worked for a firm with more than 50 lawyers), public service, or "business". No graduate had a clerkship. The mean salary, for the relatively few that were employed, was about $59k.

Notwithstanding the manifest shittiness of Western State, first-year enrollment rose by half between 2014 and 2016.

3) APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW

Located in remote Grundy, Virginia, Appalachian seems likely to close its doors, thanks to high costs and low enrollment. Only Cooley posts lower LSAT scores: Appalachian's last year were 140, 143, and 147 at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles, respectively. Only defunct Charlotte had lower undergraduate GPAs.

All but 3.6% of the students get discounts, which exceed 50% for almost half of the class, although many of those discounts were conditional (and 21.2% of the class saw a reduction or a loss of discounts after the first year). Attendance, fully financed by student loans, leaves a bill of $185k upon graduation.

Last year's graduates fared quite poorly: 31% were unemployed ten months after graduation, and more than 14% were in short-term or part-time positions. No graduate worked for a law firm with more than 10 lawyers. There were a few state and local clerkships, and two graduates reportedly found academic positions. The law school provides no information on salaries, but graduates of an über-toilet deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains can hardly be pulling in princely sums.

Appalachian enrolled only 38 first-year students last year. Maintaining its imposing brick building with so few people, almost all of whom are getting large discounts off tuition, is threatening to sink the law school financially. Proposals to move it to Tennessee or elsewhere are likely to be thwarted by a contract with the county. Closure appears to be in the cards. Students seeking to transfer out of the toilet find themselves obstructed by the non-standard grading system used in first year, which other law schools are reluctant to recognize. Citing its "academic standards" (!), Appalachian refuses to issue conventional letter grades even to people wanting out.

————————————————————————

All three of these toilets, and many others, are fully accredited by the ABA, which seems not to mind dreadful outcomes for students and the absence of meaningful standards of admission.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Valparaiso Exploring Alternatives to its Continued Existence

Let's be clear.  Valpo Law is not closing.  Not yet.  Folding such a great hand would be silly, particularly where Indiana Tech just closed a mere one hundred miles away and after Valpo's  most recent blessing from the ABA should give them incentive to hang on the cliff a bit longer.

No, Valpo Law is just taking an admissions year off, looking for alternatives:
Valparaiso University announced Thursday that is [sic] suspending admissions to its law school and exploring alternative possibilities related to the "severe financial challenges" it's been facing for a number of years.
...
The school mentioned several other options: It could affiliate Valparaiso's law school with another law school or relocate it to a place where the demand for a law education is higher. The school also is preparing plans to allow its current law students to complete their degrees.
It's a Chapter 11, not a Chapter 7.  Sure, Chapter 11 is often a gateway drug to Chapter 7, but hold your cheers, sadists; these law schools are going to hang on for dear life as long as they possibly can.

We could have all sorts of fun with this, like picking new affiliations (Cooley? Infilaw?  Yale-West?) or locations (Alaska? Florida? Fort Wayne?).  We could also ask how and why anyone would merge with Valpo.

But let's think of the students a second.  The school mentions fairness and plans to allow current students to complete their degrees.  But a school clinging dearly to life while facing "severe financial difficulties" and imminent closure isn't doing its students any favors.

What on Earth is the advantage of graduating from a low-tier law school that's closing?  The alumni network moving forward will be disadvantaged, they'll be no career services support, and lawyers everywhere - hiring or otherwise - will mark you as one who went to that school that shuttered.

Wouldn't it be a better service to all but administrative egos to shutter outright?  You can help your better students - the ones who are capable of passing a bar exam - transfer to decent schools where they'll have a better alumni network with future support.  Plus, you might give the bottom rung a shot at a closed school discharge.

This Hail Mary, hoping that the dead parrot flies again, that grandma comes off life support, that your kid actually goes back to college after taking a year off, this failing to throw in the cards when the operation is a sinkhole not assisting in meeting any public demand, isn't just institutional egoism, it's harmful to the very people this "non-profit" has historically claimed to assist.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Whataboutism" and Double-Secret Probation

See if you guys can guess what I am now...I'm a Law School Dean explaining declining admission standards and bar passage rates!  Get it?


According to Florida Costal School of Law Dean DeVito's letter to current law students (h/t to David Frakt for keeping the heat on this issue):


The first major misconception I have heard is that Florida Coastal must have engaged in highly questionable conduct because Florida Coastal is one of just four schools noted on the ABA website.
 
The facts are:
1.     The ABA has only just started publicly posting this information[...]
2.     There are approximately 23 other law schools listed on the Department of Education website that received an ABA letter relating to non-compliance since 2016 [...]
 
             a. Schools listed as subject to “Heightened Monitoring or Focused Review”
                    1. Ave Maria School of Law.
                    2. Thurgood Marshall School of Law (Texas Southern University), and
                    3. Valparaiso University School of Law.
 
            b. Schools listed as subject to “Probation or Equivalent or More Severe Status: Show Cause”
                    4. Appalachian School of Law,
                    5. Arizona Summit School of Law,
                    6.  Florida Coastal,
                        a.  Florida Coastal falls under the “show cause” designation
                    7. John Marshall School of Law (Atlanta),
                    8. Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and
                    9. SUNY Buffalo Law School.
 
            c.  Schools Listed as “Removal of Show Cause Status[...]”
 
 
Well!  Like any good politician, the first move in dealing with embarrassing facts is to reframe and redirect.  "Yeah, we may suck, but what about these OTHER guys, amirite????  They are WAY worse than us...!!!"  I'm not sure of the wisdom of identifying yourself as being in the same company as Valpo, Appalachian, John Marshall or TJSL is the best argument to your current students.  But hey, I'm not a high-priced Law Dean so I dare not question their hard-won Promethean Wisdom.  Those who can, do, and those who can't hang around scamblogs, or something to that effect.
 
Also, look at these categories:  "Heightened Monitoring or Focused Review,"  "Probation or Equivalent or More Severe Status," etc.  Hilarious.  There is more wiggle room here than a greased eel has in a mud wrestling pit, or something.  How about "Compliant" vs. "Non-compliant" vs. "Sanctioned"?  I mean, I came up with that in under two minutes, but it must be too rigid a definition.  While I guess I am glad the ABA is finally paying attention, I hope the regulators don't develop a hangnail while applying their exacting standards.
 
By the way, let's not forget that Florida Costal in merely in the "show cause" category, as highlighted by Dean DeVito.  Charleston, George Mason, Hofstra and Loyola also had show cause designations, and those were eventually lifted.  Whew, pressure's off!  Take that, you T14 snobs!
 
Although LSAT-takers are again on the rise, I think it will take some more Deansplainin' to get over this hump and convince them to apply.  Can't wait for the next round of "it's somebody else's fault" argumentation from the Law School Cartel.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Toilets Я Us, Part II: InfiLaw's Florida Coastal not complying with ABA standards

Is InfiLaw striking out?

Arizona Summit was placed on probation in March. Strike one.

Charlotte closed down in August. Strike two.

Now Florida Coastal has received a letter from the ABA advising of non-compliance with standards requiring "a rigorous program of legal education", sufficient "academic support", and "sound admissions policies and practices". Florida Coastal had to answer these charges in writing by November 1 and has been called to appear before the ABA's Accreditation Committee next March.

Will this be the last pitch in InfiLaw's ninth inning? Time for a little music:

Take me out of the law school,
Take me out of the scam.
JDs from boxes of Cracker Jack;
Student loans that will ne'er be paid back.
Down the chute, chute, chute go the test scores;
Deans and shareholders don't give a damn.
But it's one, two, three strikes, you're out
Of the law-school scam.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Rooster Can Only Crow so Many Times...



Grisham's 25th legal thriller, "The Rooster Bar," explores the world of for-profit law schools through a group of students who learn their school is owned by a shady hedge fund operator.
 
Grisham told "CBS This Morning" he was inspired to write the novel after reading an investigative article in The Atlantic about for-profit law schools and the crisis of student debt in the U.S.
 
"It was an investigative piece by Paul Campos published three years ago in The Atlantic and I somehow stumbled across it. I was not familiar with for-profit law schools and I was not really familiar with the student debt crisis. And the article really opened my eyes. It was a great piece but also a troubling issue and I started researching and the novel was quickly born from that."
 
"Not all the schools are shady. There are a lot of success stories from these schools, but the levels of debt that these students incur, and then they pass it off in the form of high tuition to people who are making a profit. That just struck me as being wrong."
 
 
Strangely, even a well-known author is able to look through the information and distinguish the nuance of the law school scam.  Too bad many ScamDeans, LawProfs, the ABA, and even some Judges, who are much more familiar with the details, are not able to do the same...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

JD Disadvantage, Part VIII - No Conference for You!


 
 
 
Hello folks, I wanted to get this post in early in case anyone happened to be near the GWULS this Friday, October 6!  NALP is having its first-ever "Summit on emerging Careers", with a specific focus on "JD Advantage" jobs!  Let's take a look:
 
The JD Advantage job market has more than doubled in the period since 2005. This event will focus on understanding a number of specific employment opportunities that have developed quickly in the period following the recession, including jobs for law school graduates in compliance, legal process outsourcing, and data privacy and security, among others.
 
The Summit will provide education about how to advise students and graduates who are examining these new career opportunities and will feature innovative career services professionals and deans who have capitalized on these opportunities for their graduates, as well as recruiters and others from some of these new law grad employer organizations. The entire conference will feature experts on 21st century legal careers.
 
Sounds great!  I'm sure lots of job-searching law grads would like to get in on the ground floor with all this new information!  I mean, why hold it all close to the vest, let's get that info out there!  Open the doors!
 
Hmmm, wait...the conference is for law school administrators and staff.  Hmmm...it costs $475 to attend.  Hmmm..."NALP Members only."  Hmmm... the speakers appear to be mostly law school professors and deans.  There are executives from CapitalOne, Facebook, Senior Counsel from FirstNet, a couple of law firms, Spotify, USDOJ, Assistant General Counsel from JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust Bank, and Kroger, however.   So, go!  Here are nine entities who are looking to hire thousands of JDs for compliance, legal process outsourcing, and data security!  Maybe the uninvited should barge in anyway with some Boomer-moxie and distribute resumes, because hey, they must be hiring!  Why else would they show up and wax poetic on this "emerging" subject?  This "new" information should be trumpeted from the rooftops!  Salvation for the beleaguered is at hand! 
 
Snark aside, here is the fundamental problem.  The market for JD Advantage jobs has more than doubled, not because market demand has increased, but because graduates and down-sized practitioners are desperate for work.  Here, let's look at NALP's own data:
 
-more below the fold-