Education / Schools

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case will look at the constitutionality of Michigan’s 2006 ballot initiative to ban affirmative action in public university decisions. I can’t wait for John Roberts to blithely declare an end to racial struggle in Michigan the same way he decided it was okay for North Carolina to be racist again, because racism is over in the South.

Not that Roberts cares about pesky things like facts, but the facts on the ground in Michigan since the state’s ballot initiative show that without affirmative action, minority enrollment has plummeted. At the University of Michigan, minority enrollment at the college and the law school is down 30 percent.

Now, I know a lot of conservatives will respond to that number with “so?” I get that there are entire swaths of America that could give a crap if minorities are going to public universities or not. I’m sure the hatred for “undeserving” minorities will be well expressed in the comments.

Those people aren’t running the University of Michigan, however. The people running Michigan would like to admit a diverse group of students, and the state’s ballot initiative has clearly hampered that effort. For that law school, it’s a very complicated problem, because as we’ve been reporting, law school applications are down across the board, and that includes minority applicants….

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You are fortunate to have your misfortunes.

– Justice Clarence Thomas, in a conversation with Dakota Garza, a young woman who was once homeless, after she asked him to eat a meal with her on a dare. Thomas later helped Garza secure enough scholarship money to cover the entire cost of her college tuition at the University of Portland.

Lady Gaga

* You skip over the footnotes when you’re reading for class, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t think you should. She’s a proponent of the most important footnote in all of constitutional law. [New Yorker]

* New York will modify its pro bono requirement for LL.M. students to allow public service completed outside the country. Well, so much for closing the state’s justice gap. [New York Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the government-initiated trademark infringement actions over “Don’t Mess With Texas.” Like “I <3 NY," the Lone Star State's slogans are off limits. [New York Times]

* WUSTL Law Dean Kent Syverud didn’t mind advocating for halving professors’ salaries. He just stepped down to become Syracuse University’s president — for much higher pay. [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* You can sue Lady Gaga for overtime pay all you want, but you do not want to face her wrath. The pop star is due in court in early November where she’ll tell a judge “exactly what f**king happened.” [Daily Mail]

This isn’t going to come as a galloping shock to anybody, but recent law school graduates who have just finished their third year of law school think that law school should have stopped after the first two years.

Well, maybe it will come as a shock to Yale Law professors, but I think that people who have actually been listening to the concerns of students and graduates are well aware that the third year of law school does not provide enough utility to justify the time and cost.

You don’t have to take my word for it, Kaplan did a survey…

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High atop the ‘Ivory Tower’ of the Yale Law School, a legal academic defends never changing anything ever.

If I were going to write an Onion-style parody of a Yale law professor defending the third year of law school in an op-ed, I wouldn’t come up with what Yale professor Bruce Ackerman just dropped on the Washington Post. It’s too on-the-nose to be funny as fiction. It’s too “exactly what I thought he would say” to qualify as parody. For the love of God, the man starts his defense of the third year of law school by quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes. He doesn’t start with employment statistics or any analysis of economic value or even a new study about the value of higher education generally. He’s a professor at the Yale Law School, so of course we’re starting with Holmes.

Since I’m not making it up, since a Yale Law School professor actually did write an op-ed about the current state of legal education in which his first reference is to a man who died in 1935, it’s freaking hilarious. I mean, thank God we have Yale law professors to reanimate Holmes so he can weigh in on our modern debate. When I asked old Ollie what he thought about the value of a law degree during a time of stagnant legal employment and skyrocketing tuition, he just told me, “My, you speak so well for a Negro. Since I’m sure society has evolved much since my death, I’m probably not the right guy to ask.”

But let’s see what Professor Ackerman has to say…

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It has become a somewhat common refrain from legal education types that law schools should do more to produce “practice ready” graduates in response to the tight job market for lawyers.

You haven’t heard much of that BS coming from me though. I’ve pretty consistently said “the tuition is too damn high.” I think the pedagogical infighting over “theory” courses versus “practical” courses is irrelevant when people are graduating from lower-ranked law schools with $100,000 (or more) in student loan debt. I view the “practice ready” debate as just another attempt by law school deans to justify their high salaries and the salaries of their faculty, salaries that are unsustainable for any school that wants to get serious about cutting costs.

Finally, there’s a law professor who agrees with me. Or at the very least equally disagrees with the notion of “practice readiness” as a panacea to the problems with legal education. University of Maryland law professor Robert Condlin calls the practice-ready concept a “millennialist fantasy.”

Again, I don’t think it’s a millennailist problem so much as it’s the last desperate ravings of old people determined to continue fleecing millennails, but we can figure out whom to blame later…

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NYAG Eric Schneiderman: He’s a guy with real power in New York, not that carnival barker Donald Trump.

Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers’ advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm…. Trump University, with Donald Trump’s knowledge and participation, relied on Trump’s name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand.

— New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, standing up for the collection of goobers and yokels who “believed in the Trump brand.” The NYAG sued Trump University yesterday. Trump’s lawyers have called the suit politically motivated — as if any sitting NYAG has a motivation other than becoming governor someday. Law school deans should probably call the suit a “near miss.”

3L year everywhere.

David Lat and I were on CNBC’s Power Lunch with Dan Rodriguez, Dean of Northwestern Law School, discussing whether law school should be two years. As I mentioned earlier today, this debate got started again when President Obama said that he thought law school should last only two years, at least in terms of classroom instruction. Please see my earlier post if you’d like to talk about why Obama’s thought bubble was literally the least useful thing he could have done to effectuate the change he desires.

Here, we’re going to talk about whether Obama’s idea is good in the first place. Should law school be two years long? Let me rephrase that question: is there any possible justification for forcing people to sit through a third year of law school if they don’t want to?

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Student loans are a real bitch, and declaring bankruptcy won’t even save you from them — unless you can prove you’ve got undue hardship and a “certainty of hopelessness” about you, which most people have too much pride to admit. Without government payment plans like Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Forgiveness, a much larger portion of our population would be living in a van down by the river, still drowning in educational debts, but too far off the grid for the bill collectors to come a-knocking.

This is why people absolutely lost their minds when the Daily Currant, a satirical online newspaper, published a story about President Barack Obama’s supposed bid to forgive all student loans. Given the responses, it looks like the youth of America is still in need of some change they can believe in…

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Former constitutional law professor and current President of the United States, Barack Obama, has decided to wade into the great law school debate by offering his “thoughts” on the length of law programs. On Friday, Obama said that he thought law school should just be two years instead of three.

Great. It’s nice to know what the President thinks. Too bad those thoughts aren’t backed up with the very simple actions necessary to make his dreams come true.

Obama’s thoughts touched off a weekend debate about the value of the third year of law school. I think I’m clearly on record saying the third year of law school is completely useless. There is no educational value to the thing, but law schools certainly make a lot of money off of it. David Lat and I will be discussing this in more depth on CNBC’s Power Lunch this afternoon around 1:00 p.m. EDT. Check it out.

Regardless of what you think about the value of the 3L year, the timing of Obama’s announcement is certainly curious. In June, Obama’s own Department of Education rubber-stamped ABA oversight over law school regulation and accreditation for another three years. Since the ABA is the organization most responsible for keeping law school at three years and preventing schools from experimenting with shorter programs, I can only assume that Obama’s statement was timed to be as useless as humanly possible…

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