In mid-July, we wrote about Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his quest to get answers from the American Bar Association about the future of legal education in this country. Grassley’s inquiry came on the heels of a similar request from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
Steven Zack of the ABA responded quickly, making sure to pass a great deal of the blame off on the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
Grassley was apparently unimpressed with the response he received from the ABA, so last week he fired back with a shorter (and snarkier) list of questions.
Recall that Zack’s last response to Grassley touted that “no one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA.” Will those be Zack’s famous last words in this debate?
Many prominent people, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Harry Edwards, have raised their voices about the increasing irrelevance of academic writing to practicing lawyers and judges. Yet, despite railing at the academy, those judges — and law firms, and sophisticated purchasers of legal services — all rely on the academics to identify talented lawyers. Law schools brand the beef, and purchasers buy based on the brand. What do I mean, and why is that process natural and appropriate?
Let’s start with an example for people coming right out of law school: How should judges pick law clerks? One way — perhaps even the “fair” way — would be for judges to assume that each of the 45,000 people graduating from law school is equally likely to make a fine clerk. Judges would solicit applications from all 45,000 and then start the process of sorting the good from the bad.
That cannot work, of course. Judges don’t have the resources (or, necessarily, the ability) to study transcripts, read writing samples, conduct interviews, and do the other spadework needed to assess all of those candidates comprehensively. And judges can’t externalize the cost of the screening process; there’s no person or institution that would play that role for an acceptable price.
What are judges to do? They rely on law schools to brand the beef.
Rant as they may about scholars producing unhelpful scholarship, most judges rely essentially unthinkingly on those same scholars to have separated the potentially gifted lawyers from the crowd. Judges assume that the best students went to the best law schools; that, after arriving, the more talented law students outperformed the less talented ones; and thus that the best performers at the best law schools will make the best clerks. Judges typically pick their clerks from among the top graduates of the elite schools. Judges may think that professors are insane when they’re selecting topics for their scholarship and then devoting months to researching and writing on those subjects, but those same judges rely on the same professors to brand the beef astutely. Whatever criteria law schools are using within the asylum to rank their students, the outside world seems quite happy with it.
As we noted, Tammy Hsu’s blog is now restricted to invited readers. Some posts are still accessible via Google Cache (and in the comments to our original story, some of you identified favorite posts of yours).
Shortly after we wrote about her, we heard from Tammy C. Hsu. She sent us a defense and explanation of her blog’s origins, which we will now share….
(At present, to remain in good standing with the ABA, at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates taking the bar in the school’s state must pass for at least three of the past five years. The new ABA proposal calls for an 80 percent bar passage rate or a rate no more than 10 percentage points lower than other law schools in the state.)
We begin with a message to our readers. Consider yourselves on notice: we regard almost anything you place on the internet, even if just for a brief hot second, to be fair game for coverage. It doesn’t matter to us if you later try to “recall” your mass email or delete your public blog. Once you’ve put something out there, thereby forfeiting any reasonable expectation of privacy, then it’s gone, baby, gone. [FN1]
And honestly, in the internet age, what privacy expectations are reasonable in the first place? Emails can be forwarded; images can be downloaded or photographed themselves, then re-posted. If it’s not already dead, privacy is rapidly dying. You might as well start living in public now, and make life easier for yourself. Just let it all hang out, and then you’ll never be embarrassed about anything getting leaked. (This is my philosophy on Twitter, where my feed is often TMI.)
Living in public: that’s the premise behind a charming new law student blog by a 1L with ambition. Like a fair number of bloggers — Brian Stelter and his Twitter diet come to mind — law student Tammy Hsu seeks to harness public exposure for her own benefit. Hsu, a first-year student at Wake Forest University School of Law, writes a blog built around her goal of transferring into Yale Law School. It’s right there in the title of her site: “Confessions of an (Aspiring) Yalie.”
By putting her ambition out in the open, Hsu is motivating herself to succeed, because failure would be so public. She is lighting the proverbial fire under her own arse, turning her classmates and the internet into one big Tiger Mother. If she’s not at 127 Wall Street this time next year, people will look down upon her — so now she has every incentive to excel in her 1L year at Wake Forest.
Naturally, when we heard that the doggie-at-law phenomenon had made it all the way down to Texas, we were excited. Unfortunately, students at the Texas law school where this occurred were less than thrilled. Who doesn’t love cute, cuddly-wuddly little dogs? People who paid to go to law school and thought they could get law-related jobs, that’s who.
So who let the dogs out? Let’s find out which law school wants its students to roll over and beg for a job….
A blogging law professor essentially agrees with the scambloggers.
It’s one thing for the loser of a game to complain that the rules are unfair. It’s quite another for a winner to admit the same thing.
We’ve written before about law school scamblogs. According to the scambloggers, law schools rip off their students by (1) misrepresenting the employment outcomes of law school graduates, (2) taking students’ money (much of it borrowed), and (3) spitting students out into a grim legal job market, saddled with six figures of debt that they didn’t have before they became JDs.
It’s not surprising that many of these unemployed or underemployed graduates have taken to the internet with complaints about legal education; they are, after all, victims of the alleged scam. What would be more surprising is if a law professor — say, a tenured professor at a first-tier law school, a clear winner under the status quo — joined them in admitting that law school is something of a scam.
Which apparently just happened, earlier this week….
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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