Constitutional Daily

Founding Principles

The Tenure Paradox - Robot pimp

Slap on the Wrist for "Non-Consensual Sex" - Lampshade, Esq.

Intelligence: The Gathering - Graphic and Gratuitous

Grads are the New Illegals - Robot Pimp

Meet Entitlement Eric - Robot Pimp

Wherein I Solve World Peace - Lampshade, Esq.

A Necessary Delusion - Shadow Hand

Do you even need to shave overhead? - Lawyerlite

LSAT Jenga - Publius Picasso

Time, Place, and Manner

...Should have some links here or something.


Constitutional Daily

We Agree With Lawrence Solan About BigLaw Pay

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Brooklyn Law school professor Larry Solan has been taking a lot of flack for an article he wrote for HuffPo with a modest proposal for easing the economic pinch on recent grads, and helping them get on the job training:

Legal education is said to be in crisis. Law school applications are down sharply as prospective law students question whether the high cost of legal education is worth it. A good part of the declining interest results from the loss of entry-level jobs at large law firms, which typically pay salaries high enough to offset post-graduation debt.

[...] Why not cut associate pay in the early years? For example, offer them $75,000, $125,000 and $175,000 for the first three years, respectively. This salary cut will permit firms to continue to train the next generation of elite lawyers in substantial numbers, while shifting some of the cost of training its most junior associates from the clients to the trainees themselves. Moreover, although large firms face pressure to remain competitive, the promise of these substantial raises should be a significant enticement to attract the best talent. Finally, savvy business clients will respect and choose firms that honestly link compensation to the realities of the market.

Naturally, saying that BigLaw associates should start out making less than half what they currently do, and less than what's needed to manage the average law school debtload, doesn't make one a lot of friends. But we know the true story behind Solan's article. The fact of the matter is that the evil masterminds behind HuffPo unfairly edited Solan's original piece in order to make him look like a total asshole. With a little bit of cyber-sleuthing and meta-data analysis, we've been able to uncover a deleted section of the article:

The salary reductions would of course not happen in isolation. While bringing associate salaries back to a mid-1990s level, we'd also reduce the average salary salaries for tenured professors from $154,000 to $104,000, and for assistant professors from $94,000 to $73,000, increase the minimum teaching load from 1/1 to 2/2, with many professors teaching a 3/2 load, and reduce tuition from $50,000 per year to $20,000. We would likewise expect other schools to follow suit, and for state schools to bring their rates down to the mid-1990s levels of $7-10,000 per year.

Far from absurd, this proposal is now entirely reasonable. Solan's argument continues:

The total tuition rate for students would drop by about $90,000, and with students graduating with an average of $100,000 of debt now, the numbers would drop to less than $10,000. Instead of paying $1150 a month on loans, grads would be paying $115. The $75,000 pay rate is still low, but when it comes with more than $12,000 in reduced (after-tax) expenses, it starts to look not quite so bad. Plus, the low debt loads will mean students aren't tied to Big Law jobs that they're not well matched with just to pay off their loans, and more students will be able to pursue public interest jobs without even needing the support of LRAP or other programs.

It's too bad Solan's article wasn't published in its entirety, because his model for moving forward makes a lot more sense than the idiotic ideas that actually ended up on HuffPo.

Vermont legislature considers giving old people all their drugs at once

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The Vermont legislature is considering an assisted suicide bill, and no, this isn't a joke about letting Vermont Law School die with dignity. Though we could make a Vermont Law School suicide joke. And in fact, we will.

Just how many cars do you have to leave running in Debevoise Hall to kill Vermont Law School?

Or in the alternative:

I bet it's going to be hell arranging a murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-murder-suicide pact.


The bill is modeled on Oregon's law, and would allow a terminally ill patient with less than six months to live to be prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates, but only after seeking a second opinion to confirm the terminality of the disease, and only after the patient has made three requests within a 15 day period, two oral and one written.

Disability advocates oppose the bill, claiming that sick people will be unduly influenced by their family's wishes to get grandma out of the way. Or some nonsense. Because apparently being terminally ill and suffering means you're no longer a moral agent, capable of making your own decisions. ...Maybe we're misunderstanding the term advocate here. Shouldn't advocates want these people to have as many rights available as possible, and give them the option of reducing their own suffering? Folks can get confusing some times.

And it's not just the disability rights people, the far right people are also confusing on this one. On the one hand, you can't be given a lethal dose of pain killers to help you die peacefully and with dignity (and by "give" we mean prescribe, the doctor doesn't actually stick you with the needle), but on the other hand you can walk into a gun store in Vermont and without a license or any waiting period, you can pick up a gun and go blow your brains out.

Vermont must have an incredible powerful crime scene cleanup lobby.

[Press Herald]

Things you can do with a JD: Collect welfare benefits

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Hole, hat, or clown. We're not entirely sure which sort of ass GULC law prof Philip Schrag is. Last November he published an article in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics titled Failing Law Schools -- Brian Tamanaha's Misguided Missile. (It's there to read if you want, but please don't needlessly boost his SSRN download rank.) The main point of his paper is that Tamanaha is too hard on Income Based Repayment (IBR), and doesn't appreciate how it makes law school "affordable." Here's an excerpt:

Tamanaha’s entire discussion of student debt, however, makes it clear that his characterization of the loan repayment burden is based on his assumption that students should expect to repay this debt (plus accumulating interest) by paying the same monthly amount, every month, over a period of exactly ten years. All of his examples of debt repayment hardship assume that the proper method of repayment is “standard” ten-year repayment. Of course that method of repayment is unaffordable for a person with a debt of $100,000 or more and an income of $63,000. To illustrate the hardship, Tamanaha gives us a hypothetical student, Sarah, with a debt of $120,000 and a combined interest rate of 7.25 percent. He notes that her monthly loan payment (based on straight-line amortization of the loan—that is, the same payment each month for ten years) would be about $1,400. If she had the average salary of $63,000, he points out, then after taxes, loan repayment and rent, she would have only $775 a month to spend on food, transportation, her phone bill and all other living expenses. “It’s not doable,” he concludes, and he is correct: the $1,400 a month of loan repayment would be 27 percent of her pre-tax salary. A thirty-year repayment plan is equally unattractive, because even a thirty-year straight-line repayment schedule would require her to repay $800 a month, still a hefty sum, and because of the accumulating interest, she would pay nearly $300,000 during the 30 year period.

In 2007, however, the United States Congress solved Sarah’s problem. It created the Income-based Repayment (IBR) option. By electing this method of repaying her loan, Sarah could limit her annual payment to 15 percent of her discretionary income, defined as her adjusted gross income minus 150 percent of the poverty level for a family of her family’s size. [...]

So with IBR and PAYE, law school for Sarah is quite affordable, even if she starts professional life at a salary of only $63,000 and serves private clients rather than working in a public service entity. But instead of praising these programs that enable Sarah to afford law school, Professor Tamanaha disparages them and (except for those who plan to choose PSLF) does not take them seriously as a solution to the problem of costly graduate education. “Short of a corporate job,” he writes, “a person with [educational debt of $100,000 or more] must obtain a salary above the national average, which most law graduates fail to achieve.”

Now, here's the thing that Schrag doesn't seem to get about IBR: It's basically a welfare program. There's not really any better way to describe it. The government is saying "You don't make enough money, so we're going to give you some extra money." That's welfare.

Tamanaha's entire discussion of student debt fails to take into account that a graduate earning $14,000 a year will not only make no loan payments under IBR, but will be entitled to an additional $1,800 a year in SNAP benefits.

Does that sound like a solution to the problem to you? Well, to Schrag, it might. But to the rest of us, we understand that there is a world of difference between mitigating a problem and solving it. The problem is that the typical law school graduates are earning only about half of what they need in order to reasonably manage their debtloads. Reducing the cost of education would solve that problem. Having the government pick up the check is just, quite literally, passing the buck.

Tamanaha's entire discussion of health insurance fails to take into account that an uninsured individual will not be turned away if he seeks treatment at an emergency room, rather than with a "standard" primary care physician. Tamanaha disparages this use of emergency medical care, and does not take ERs seriously as a solution to the problem of costly health insurance.

Walk a mile in my ankelet

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A prosecutor in central Illinois (or southern Illinois, to Chicagoans) is wearing an electronic ankle monitor for a week to “see how it works” so he can “respond to any complaints that somebody has.” Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Redington wants to walk an electronically monitored mile in offender’s shoes. Not a bad idea, Tom.

This idea, in its abstract, is not a novel one. Prosecutors have been known to do ride-alongs with police officers and attend LIDAR demonstrations. Understanding how a tool used by your office functions is a great idea. Walking a mile in an offender’s shoes is quite a different one.

A prosecutor can take an hour of his day, meet up with the police on the interstate, and watch them run a speed trap. He can operate the radar gun, hear the calls go out on the radio, and maybe the cops will even let him run the lights and sirens. That’s understanding how LIDAR and speed traps work. Getting pulled over by an officer as part of a LIDAR-run speed trap is walking a mile in an offender’s shoes.

You can see where we’re going with this. Strapping on an ankle monitor for a week is not the same as understanding how the thing works in the context that you’re using it.

The prosecutor tells us that the bracelet program is going to become a part of probation. To qualify for the bracelet, the offender must pay $10 a day for it, and the average length of time an offender will be expected to wear the bracelet is 90 days. He says the county has a problem with knowing if people actually went to the AA meetings or did the community service they said they did.

He also believes that this week long trial run of him wearing the bracelet will help him defend it in court, saying,  "Someday when this comes up in court I can stand up and say to the judge, ‘Look, it's no trouble to wear this because I did it.'"

Sometimes people just make this too easy.

If you want to understand how the anklelet works in the context of the punishment, then you need to do the actual punishment. Is Redington shelling out the $10 a day? Is he going to AA meetings? Is he doing community service? Is someone showing up at his door if he enters an “exclusion zone”? Does he understand that a week and 3 months are not at all comparable in this context?

As for that bit about problems with this coming up in court, since when is a prosecutor’s personal anecdote sufficient proof of anything? Further, since this prosecutor isn’t actually using the bracelet the way offenders will, how would such an anecdote even be relevant? Maybe he can speak to complaints about chafing, or trying to shower with the thing on, but he'll be completely ignorant to the realities of having your every movement tracked.

If you want to understand prison life, you don’t put on an orange jumpsuit and go about your daily life. You go to prison. Ask Tobias Fünke about his research for his role as Frightened Inmate #2. Ted Conover wanted to understand the life of prison guards, so he strapped on a baton and a heavy set of keys and started walking the halls of Sing Sing.

Speaking of going to prison, if you truly want to walk the offender walk, Mr. Redington, why not spend 10 days in county? “You’ll get day for day good time, so you’ll probably be out in 5 if you behave. When can you turn yourself in?” How many times have you heard yourself say that?

Even short jail sentences aren’t pleasant. Are you ready to be printed, stripped, photographed, and have your tattoos and birthmarks documented? Are you excited for those cozy, standard-county-issued undies and whatever size shirt and pant combo they have available? Don’t forget those shoes, sandals that are so bad they make Crocs look good.  Then the cell sharing, showering sharing, meal and sleep regiment you’ll be subjected to. Could you imagine how screwed up your life would suddenly become if you had to spend the next 2 weeks in jail?

Yeah, we didn’t think so. It’s a nice thought, Mr. Redington. But the thought doesn’t count when it’s this ill-conceived.

Poll: Which law school will be the first to close?

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Law schools are looking at an enrollment shortfall of up to 10,000 students this admissions cycle, and that shortfall is almost certainly going to fall disproportionately on a few particularly vulnerable schools. We want to know where you think the hammer will fall hardest, and who will be the first to close their doors. Here are the contestants, with their Employment Score, Under-Employment Score, unknown outcomes/non-responders, tuition rates, and whatever commentary we felt like:


Cooley: 29.9% ES | 21.7% U-ES | 26.5% Unk | $34,340

Cooley has a ton of students, so even with a huge drop it can still be a massive program. But, that size can also be a liability and cause budget shortfalls to pile up faster than at smaller programs.


Thomas Jefferson: 24.2% ES | 54.2% U-ES | 3.8% Unk | $41,000

What's there to say?


La Verne: 31.9% ES | 51.7% U-ES | 0% Unk | $39,900

La Verne's class size has already taken a huge it into the mid-double digits, putting them a year ahead in the collapse game.


Vermont: 48.3% ES | 29.3% U-ES | 3.4% Unk | $43,468

While Vermont is only slightly worse than the national average when it comes to employment stats (and only because the national average sucks), it makes our watch list because of their recent announcement to cut faculty and staff. This might be a preventative measure to head off a disaster, or it could be a sign that the end times are already upon them.


Whittier: 17.1% ES | 61.0% U-ES | 4.9% Unk | $39,140

Having the highest Under-employment Score automatically gets you a bid into the top 10.


Golden Gate: 18.8% ES | 56.5% U-ES | 2.1% Unk | $40,515

If Whittier is the Alabama of under-employment, Golden Gate is the UGA.


Western State: 26.7% ES | 38.9% U-ES | 4.4% Unk | $37,284

Not the worst of all schools, but Western State makes the list by having a name that sounds like they're hoping not to be found. Maybe they're trying to dodge bill collectors.


Florida A&M: 28.3% ES | 15.1% U-ES | 34.2% Unk | $32,069

We had Florida Coastal on the list for its 49.2% U-ES, but reconsidered when we saw A&M's dismal placement numbers and the huge unknown rate. If your students aren't talking to you, look out.


District of Columbia: 16.7% ES | 30.8% U-ES | 19.2% Unk | $9,480 (in state), $18,330 (out of state)

Even UDC's out of state tuition is cheap, but the school also has the distinction of the lowest Employment Score in the country.


American: 35.8% ES | 42.4% U-ES | 0.9% Unk | $45,096

The highest ranked school on our list (US News #49) also has the 30th lowest employment score nationally, the 14th highest under-employment score, and its high tuition combined with high cost of living makes it the 33rd most expensive. Combine that with the number of other good schools that compete with it in the DC market, and American defines "trap school."

Anatomy of a Law School Collapse

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What if you made a law school and no one showed up?

That may well be the reality facing Vermont Law School this Fall. While many schools are facing a shortfall of applicants, Vermont has been forced to take the unique step of downsizing its staff. [vnews, sorry about the paywall] The school gave buyouts to ten of its staff, and laid off another two. Not a particularly large ax to fall on the administrative heads, but the school has announced that professors will be next. Professors would get to keep their titles, but would effectively become adjuncts. We don't know how much they currently make at Vermont, or what the pay would be for the new part-time professors, but odds are they'd see their salaries drop from around $100,000 to $30-40,000, and that's if they're able to get a 2/2 workload. Professors with just one class per semester could be looking at half that, and say goodbye to health insurance, summer research stipends, and paid research assistants.

So just what happened?

The lack of a legal industry in Vermont is what happened.

Vermont Law School is the only school to send 5% or more of its class to the state, yet last year only 16.7% of Vermont grads found work within Vermont. With only 48.3% of the class finding long term, full time jobs requiring bar passage, and 29.3% ending up unemployed or under-employed, few students are willing to shell out the $43,500 a year it costs to attend Vermont.

Last year, Vermont awarded 175 JDs, and enrolled 154. That's a pretty significant drop, considering that Vermont is not a school that draws a large number of transfers. 1Ls made up only 27.2% of the class. And as the mathletes know, when a school is expanding, 1Ls make up more than 33% of the class, and when it's contracting they make up less. 27.2% is considerably less.

Looking back 3 years ago, Vermont awarded 173 JDs and took in 190 new 1Ls. The new 1L class was 35.3% of the school. That's what a growth year looks like.

But the problems for Vermont extend beyond just a decrease in new students. Vermont is also taking in less money per student. Yes, like every law school, Vermont has hiked its tuition, going from $38,800 to $43,500 over the last 3 years, but unlike many other schools, this hike in tuition has been more than offset by a significant increase in scholarships.

Here are the scholarship stats from 3 years ago:

Students receiving any award: 62.9%

Awards of less than half tuition: 58.4%

Awards of half to full tuition: 4.0%

Full tuition: 0.5%

Median award amount: $7,0000

And here's the numbers for last year:

Students receiving any award: 66.6%

Awards of less than half tuition: 42.0%

Awards of half to full tuition: 21.3%

Full tuition: 3.3%

Median award amount: $15,675

Those full tuition awards are like losing another 2.8% of your revenues, and the increase in half-to-full awards are like losing another 10% (somewhat offset by fewer less-than-half awards). So rather than dropping from 190 new 1Ls to 154, it's more like a drop from 190 to 130. And Vermont requires only a 2.5 GPA to maintain scholarships; we don't know what their curve is, but we're guessing they don't have a particularly high scholarship attrition rate. To make up for that shortfall in tuition, Vermont would have to sack about 10-15 professors, roughly 15-20% of its full time faculty.

In its statement announcing the staff cuts, Vermont stated it was expecting between 150 and 170 new 1Ls to start this Fall, a prediction that tells us two things. First, the large range means they really have no idea what the numbers will be and are fully at the whim of the applicant market, and second, that given the unprecedented low applications we're seeing this year, even the low projection of 150 is optimistic.

While this looks a lot like what the reform crowd wants, smaller class sizes, reduced (average) tuition, and adjunct faculty taking on more of the workload, the problem for Vermont is that they're not likely to make their reforms fast or big enough. It will try to minimize the harm to its professors, laying off as few as highly optimistic projections will allow, which will ultimately dig the school into a deeper hole rather than creating a new, stable law school model.

And Vermont faces one more tiny problem as it switches some of its full-time faculty to part-time positions. They keep their titles, but if they take any other jobs they become "additional teaching resources" under ABA Standard 402 for purposes of calculating the school's faculty:student ratio, and those additional resources can only make up 20% of your faculty. Given that Vermont already has, as most schools do, a large number of adjuncts, as well as deans and librarians with teaching duties, Vermont might be facing some serious problems on the accreditation end.

Why are we still at this law school?

Hope you are well.

How many people missed work to see the inauguration?

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This picture has been making the rounds on Facebook this morning, with over 100,000 people already having shared it. And boy, is it ignorant.


It's not ignorant because it's saying that only people without jobs voted for Obama. And it's not ignorant because of any implied racism. And it's not ignorant for lack of knowledge about Washington, DC being one of the strongest employment markets right now.

It's ignorant because the inauguration was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. People didn't miss work because they don't have jobs. They didn't miss work because they had the day off for a national fucking holiday, you ignorant piece of shit.

100,000 people have liked this on Facebook.

And only 14 of them weren't dicking around on the clock.

Canadian Law Deans Declare God is Dead

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A battle is brewing Canada as Trinity Western University seeks approval to open a law school. [Vancouver Sun] The Counsel of Canucki Law Deans is opposing the measure on the grounds that Trinity Western would ban gay relationships. Bill Flanagan, President of the Counsel said about TWU:

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.

What he failed to mention is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is entirely legal in Canada due to an exemption under the British Columbia Human Rights Code for religious organizations. The legal technicalities aside, there's the bigger issue of "core values," and Canada is a nation that prides itself on being very tolerant of minorities. Unfortunately, we never get to see the arguments play out step-by-step, because this is what it would look like:

TWU Law believes that God Allfreakingmighty has declared homosexual relationships an abomination.

Flanagan thinks discriminating against gays is wrong.

TWU Law believes that God, Creator of Heaven and Earth totes wants us to discriminate against gays.

Flanagan thinks modern liberal sensibilities should trump TWU Law's religious convictions.

Either God does promote (or even command) discrimination against those who engage in homosexual acts, or he does not. (And the latter can be because God thinks gays are a-okay, or because he's fake and doesn't exist at all.) If God is real and did declare homosexuality an abomination, it makes absolutely no sense to say that TWU Law can't follow the commands of their very real final arbiter of good and evil. The only way we can tell TWU Law that their intolerance isn't okay is by asserting that there is no God damning homosexuals to an eternal firey pit.

Thus, there's this secret logical move that Flanagan, and much of the rest of western civilization is engaging in, and it's to quietly declare Christianity (or this particular form of it) invalid. The progressive side doesn't want to own up to it though, because it makes them look super intolerant to be declaring that some religious beliefs are off limits. And the conservative Christian side doesn't want to push the point either, because it'll force huge swaths of otherwise apathetic people in the middle into admitting that these beliefs really are quite ridiculous and not worth preserving, even in the name of religious liberty.

If you think God hates fags, you should be out warning fags that God hates them. If you think we should stop people from holding up signs that say "God hates fags," it's because you don't believe that it's true, and no one else should get to believe it.


Meanwhile in California, Stanford Law is opening up a religious liberty clinic.

Steve Diamond just outright lies about SCU's historical employment rate claims

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This post has been updated. See the end for more ground breaking idiocy by Stephen F. Diamond.

We promise we're going to find something to write about other than Santa Clara law prof Steve Diamond just making shit up.

...And that'll happen just as soon as Steve stops making shit up.

In the newest post on his blag, he complains about Brian Tamanaha's statement at the Cato Institute that as the market was falling apart law schools were reporting employment rates of 90%+.

In fact, however, when I went back and looked, as one example, at what my own law school disclosed as employment statistics in 2008 and 2009 I was unable to find the 90% statement.

Our first thought was "To the Wayback Machine!" but Steve-o beat us to it:

Here is what SCU posted in the Fall of 2008 about employment. If one compares it with what we now post, in response to the new ABA guidelines, it seems to me there is not a dramatic difference. The much vaunted “bi-modal” distribution is clearly visible as is the fact that only about half the class reported salaries (form which any rational individual could conclude that that only half had employment at that point). The alleged “90%” statement is nowhere to be found, although someone better at using the Wayback machine may be able to do a more thorough search and find it. If they do, please let me know.

Those readers with more calendar savvy will note that Steve links to a July 2010 capture, and July 2010 didn't occur in the Fall of 2008. The data are however for the class of 2008, data which was collected in February 2009. The dates aside, let's see if we can find the 90% employment statement:

Total Private Sector: 83%

Total Public Sector: 16%

Hm... Where is that 90%+ figure hiding...

Wait! I think we've got it! The total employment rate for the class would be those employed in the private sector plus those employed in the public sector, and 83% + 16% = 99%

Get out your calculators and double check that.

Santa Clara also reported a 98% rate for its 2007 grads.


This post was picked up by Inside the Law School Scam and Lawyers, Guns and Money (Campos writes for both), and in response to that, Stephen has written another defense of SCU's numbers:

The fact is that SCU, perhaps as did many schools, made a reasonable effort to determine who is employed upon graduation and where. Not every student replies but of course 100% of the students who do report back, sure enough, adds up to 100% of the students who report back. And that’s why the school created a chart that has a column labeled “% of reported.”  The actual number who report back is on the same page and includes a heading that says “44% reported” and, two clicks away, is the number of actual students in the new entering class (233 day, 77 evening/part-time).

Of course 100% of the students who do report back adds up to 100% of those who report back. But the chart isn't of students who report back. It's of students who reported being employed. And yeah, 100% of students who reported being employed will add up to 100% students who reported being employed, but no where on the chart does it indicate that it's only outcomes for students with jobs. It's labeled "Statistics for Graduating Class of 2008," which plainly implies the entire class, or at least all those who responded. Except that it's not everyone who responded. 4.0% of students who responded said they were unemployed, and another 1.5% went on to pursue another degree.

Nowhere does SCU disclose these numbers, and nothing on the page indicates that the chart is just a cherry picked subset of the whole class. Depending on how you interpret it, the chart either purports to be for the entire class, or is intentionally ambiguous with the intent of giving the impression that the data represent the entire class.

California Civil Code Section 1572 provides:

Actual fraud, within the meaning of this Chapter, consists in any of the following acts, committed by a party to the contract, or with his connivance, with intent to deceive another party thereto, or to induce him to enter into the contract:

1. The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true;

2. The positive assertion, in a manner not warranted by the information of the person making it, of that which is not true, though he believes it to be true;

3. The suppression of that which is true, by one having knowledge or belief of the fact;

4. A promise made without any intention of performing it; or,

5. Any other act fitted to deceive.

Looks like Steve Diamond might not be the biggest fraud at 500 El Camino Real.

Finger poised to tip the first law school domino

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Back in mid-December, Law School Transparency wrote an article asserting that the financial structure of law schools was unsustainable and that if it continued on its present course we would begin to see the collapse of schools that rely heavily on tuition for funding and produce meager employment outcomes. Here's an excerpt from the article's introduction:

The personal disasters faced by recent graduates may be precursors to an industry-wide institutional disaster for legal education, as law schools struggle with their own economic challenges. Law schools have high fixed costs brought about by school-on-school competition, unchecked federal loan money, a widely exploited information asymmetry about graduate employment outcomes, and a lack of fiscal discipline masked by assertions of innovation. Tuition continues to rise at alarming rates, while both the number of legal jobs available and the salaries for those jobs decline. Skepticism about the value of a J.D. has also never been higher; law schools have already begun to see a drop in applications and enrollment.

If these trends do not reverse course, droves of students will continue to graduate with unsustainable student loan debt that greatly reduces their ability to fulfill traditional, important roles in American society. Programs unable to fall back on large endowments, fundraising, non-traditional sources of revenue, and other budgetary maneuvering may face a very rapid collapse. The exact point at which the law school crisis turns into a disaster for legal education is debatable, but the importance of preparation for it is not.

In response to this piece, UNC professor Bernie Burk posted on Faculty Lounge, saying that LST had "jumped the rails" for being too dramatic and crisis-mongering:

Don’t let your urge to be the center of attention distract from the ideas and their merits. To those of you who pointed out that this was a vice of my original post (most of you in the most understated and appropriate way): you were right, and thank you. This vice appears in “Disaster Planning” in the overused and overwrought rhetoric of crisis that pervades a certain class of commentary about the current state of the legal academy and the legal profession. LST’s title tells us its paper is all about “Disaster Planning” to address the “Crisis in Legal Education.” And indeed the word “disaster” appears three times in the first paragraph of the Abstract alone, with two “cris[e]s” thrown in for good measure. By the third page, “the law school disaster” has been erected as the foil against which the paper’s recommendations are defined.

So what is “the law school disaster” according to LST? I scoured over forty pages without finding an answer. While “Disaster Planning” trots out various inventories of misfortune, it fundamentally fails to identify the “disaster” it’s “planning” for, leaving us facing down that “disaster” armed only with the queasy uncertainty that we won’t know when we’re ready for it, how effectively we weathered it, or when it might be over.

LST doesn't go into too much detail about what exactly the disaster is, because plenty of other people have covered it, but it's not too hard to figure out. There's the personal disaster facing grads, and the looming institutional disaster that will follow when applications plummet and law schools are unable to generate sufficient revenues. And as DJM wrote on Inside the Law School Scam this week, law school applications are at an all time low.

Based on current application rates, it appears that only about 53,000 students will apply to law schools for Fall 2013. And despite some schools having very lax acceptance policies, not everyone will get in. Paul Campos spoke at the Cato Institute yesterday about this, and it's like there will be an overall acceptance rate of somewhere around 85% (down from roughly 50% a decade ago). That gives schools about 45,000 admitted students. Of that, schools historically have had a yield rate of about 85% (some people who get in decide not to go). That brings the number of enrolling 1Ls down to just over 38,000.

Here's the kicker: Law schools have been accepting 1Ls in excess of 50,000, and it's just through attrition that the number of grads gets down to 45,000. So that 38,000 number represents a shortfall of about 20-25%.

That's bad. It gets worse.

Law schools are not just going to see fewer total students, but competition for them will be fierce, and scholarship offers will be given out like candy. We can except that the students who choose not to go anywhere will disproportionately be the ones who would have had to pay full freight. (The most obvious reason not to go is you applied to schools that you'd only attend on scholarship and did not get one.) Schools will be looking at not just fewer students, but a lower average tuition revenue per student.

Schools that don't have large endowments or alumni annual funds will likely collapse. The rapid collapse of several law schools will gain a great deal of media attention which will further cause prospective students to (rightly) question the value of a law degree, and thus cause future applications to fall even further, and more students will refuse to attend law school without substantial scholarships. The collapse will move up the line and cause more schools to close.

The end point will, hopefully, be a new marketplace with many fewer schools, fewer grads, and lower prices, but the interim will be a period of upheaval for a number of schools, their faculty, and their students. That's the disaster, Professor Burk.

Page 10 of 136

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