Association of American Law Schools

Not the car you drove in law school.

Let me explain how this started. The American Association of Law Schools had its annual conference this weekend here in New York. On Saturday, I spoke on a panel about law school rankings with Bob Morse (U.S. News), Karen Sloan (National Law Journal), Katrina Dewey (Lawdragon), and Dimitra Kessenides (Bloomberg BNA). It was a fun and lively discussion in which we explained the different things we were trying to capture with our law school rankings, and how law school rankings are used and should be used. My plan was to cover the conference on Friday, speak on Saturday, then get drunk on Saturday night to make up for not being able to get drunk on Friday night.

But there was a huge snowstorm in NYC on Thursday night and I did not have the will to pull out my dogsled and make it to midtown on Friday morning. Instead, I followed the conference via various Twitter feeds of people who did make it. This was surprisingly effective (the internet is an amazing thing). Instead of being stuck in one room, I was following reports from many. So I was just sitting, warm and cozy in my basement, when this tweet went up:

Dean: Tuition costs not only reason grads in debt. They don’t apply for scholarships, drive nice cars. #aals2014

This isn’t the first car-related foolishness we’ve heard from defenders of law school; the former president of the ABA told law students that they should sell their cars to pay for law school. And this needs to stop. There are too many people in charge of law schools who remember tuition costs from when they went to school, which is beyond irrelevant.

Since some of these guys appear to be too addled to do the math, I’ve come up with something easier: pictures. I want you to show us what kind of car you drive in law school (or what kind of car you drove). Send us your jalopy; hell, if you have a sweet ride, send that too (subject line “Law School Car”). I would love to see if any of these cars could even put a dent in the current price of law school tuition.

Some of our Twitter followers were more than happy to start us out….

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Amy Chua: She’s baaaaaaack!

* “Either access to abortion will be dramatically restricted in the coming year or perhaps the pushback will begin.” We’re moving back in history. Here’s hoping pro-choice advocacy will be born anew in 2014. [New York Times]

* George S. Canellos, the SEC’s co-chief of enforcement, announced his departure on Friday, and people are already wondering whether he’ll return to his old stomping grounds at Milbank Tweed. [DealBook / New York Times]

* We hope legal educators had fun at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting, but we hope most of all that they learned what needs to change to really make legal education pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system.” Saudi Arabia now has its first female law firm dedicated to bringing women’s issues to the country’s patriarchal courts. Congratulations! [RT]

* A Starbucks spokeswoman issued a defense to the cease-and-desist response letter that went viral worldwide, and it reads just like how her company’s coffee tastes: bland. [International Business Times]

* Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua is back with a vengeance, co-authoring a controversial new book (affiliate link) with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld. Which ethnic cultural groups are superior? [New York Post]

Could a K-Mart manager run your law school?

The Association of American Law Schools’ annual conference starts today. I’ll be there tomorrow and I’ll be speaking there on Saturday about law school rankings.

AALS is a giant mixer for law school deans. I don’t like to go, because I don’t like being yelled at or assaulted, but it’s a great conference. You’ve got to remember, law deans are not afraid of the American Bar Association or the Department of Education. The so-called “regulators” of legal education don’t do much actual regulating of established programs. Instead, law deans are afraid of their faculties. Law deans are afraid of law faculties the way kings are afraid of their generals.

Deans are not afraid of their students. Student happiness has nothing to do with whether law deans get to keep their jobs. I don’t expect that a new law dean will care about an impolite greeting from one of his new students. But still, if I see this guy at AALS I’m going to give him a hug….

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Fare thee well, Ivory Tower.

It really is a challenging time for the legal academy. I’ve been in legal education for 40 years and it’s never been this difficult.

– Georgetown Law Professor Judith Areen, the newly appointed interim executive director of Association of American Law Schools, in remarks made as to the difficulty in leading the group, despite years of experience with the organization.

So I went to the annual conference of the Association of American Law Schools in New Orleans this past weekend. The place was lousy with law school deans and I had a ton of interesting, off-the-record conversations that I can’t report on. I also spent a weekend in New Orleans that involved all sorts of other things I can’t report on. It was fun and informative, you just have to trust me.

One thing I can report on was an AALS panel I attended, “The 75th Anniversary of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” Now… I know that doesn’t scream “drop your panties,” but the panel was moderated by Arthur Miller. Yeah, that Arthur Miller, the famous law professor who wrote Death of A Civil Procedure Rules Salesman or something. And the all-star panel he was moderating included Justice Antonin Scalia… a person Miller doesn’t really agree with when it comes to rules. I had to go. Literally, I had to.

Unfortunately, the conversation was completely over my head. I’m not embarrassed to say that. Other people in my position may pretend that they got the most out of this discussion between Miller, Scalia, Biglaw partners, district judges, and others who have advised the Rules Committee. To me it sounded like, “TWOMBLY wha wha whaa, but in IQBAL wha wha wha wha! Wha? Given TWOMBLY’s wha and IQBAL’s wha, how could you wha wha whaaa?? [Laughter]”

That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything….

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* “The people who are paying us say this is what we want.” When it comes to cross-border mergers, law firms aren’t becoming behemoths for the hell of it. The end goal is to be able to edge out the rest of the competition. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, and “[e]verybody wants to go back downtown,” but some Biglaw firms in New York City — firms like Harris Beach and Cahill Gordon — are still stuck in their temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* Following Jeh Johnson’s adieu to the DoD, drone-loving Harold Koh will be packing up his office at the State Department and returning to Yale Law to resume his professorship next month. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector is employing 5,800 more people than it was at this time last year. We’d be in good shape if 40,000 people hadn’t graduated law school in May. [Am Law Daily]

* Another day, another wrist slap: Villanova Law has been placed on probation for by the Association of American Law Schools over its grade-inflation scandal. Does that even mean anything? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* The Lanier Law Firm, known for its spectacular Christmas parties, hosted some country superstars at this year’s event. Guess we know where Faith Hill and Tim McGraw go for legal assistance. [Houston Chronicle]

* A slim majority of American adults think that federal government employees should just sit back, relax, and smoke a bowl instead of enforcing federal laws against marijuana use. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* “I’m sorry they are confused in the White House.” Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum received a majority of votes, but lawmakers say the results of the two-part plebiscite are too confusing to add a 51st state. [CNN]

Is it right for a law school to send its students to tolerance camp? Mandatory tolerance camp? Mandatory tolerance camp, where unexcused absences will result in an intolerant notation placed in students’ permanent records?

When I came across the story of a state law school holding a “mandatory” diversity seminar that students were required to attend, my first instinct was to side with the students who objected to the required nature of the program. Generally, I’m not a fan of forcing people to be nice to each other, and you can’t force a man to change what’s in his heart. If students want to be racist or prejudiced to others in their community, that’s something that may demand an institutional response. But if some kids don’t think they’ll benefit much from “diversity training,” whatever that means, so be it.

But when the ABA’s committee on accreditation is telling law school administrators that the student body needs to work on its racial sensitivity, well, you can see how the law school is in a bit of a bind…

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Every so often, people ask us about the “value” of getting an LL.M. degree. Our answer has remained pretty consistent. Is it a tax LL.M. from Georgetown or NYU? No? Then save your money and buy something valuable like gold or drugs. See this graphic (click to enlarge):

Photo credit: some dude on TLS.

But still, people ask: “Is it worth it to get an LL.M. degree?” And obviously, there are a bunch of people who put down good money chasing an extra credential that has little to no impact on their job prospects.

Why? Well, the simplest answer is that LL.M.s are extremely valuable to law school budgets. LL.M.s are so lucrative for law schools that law school deans are willing to lie or become willfully ignorant as to the employment opportunities generated by an expensive post-law school degree.

The National Law Journal made that EXTREMELY OBVIOUS point yesterday (again)….

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Outgoing NYLS Dean Rick Matasar

Even at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), the criticism of the legal education business just flowed. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion on what is wrong with law schools these days.

While many of the law school deans and other administrators at the conference acknowledged problems with the system, most of the actual critiquing came from people with no power to change it. Media members (ahem) criticized law schools, judges criticized law schools, outgoing deans of law schools that shamelessly profiteered off of unwitting law students criticized — and the people who could actually change their systems dutifully listened.

But despite all of the critiques, there weren’t a lot of schools that seemed ready to institute sweeping change to the business of educating lawyers. And why should they? Change won’t come from above, and right now prospective law students are not demanding change from below…

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William Robinson III (a.k.a. the guy who needs to explain how he afforded his Corvair in the first place).

So earlier this week, the president of the American Bar Association, William Robinson, gave a ridiculous interview to Thomson Reuters News & Insight. You might have heard about it.

Robinson had the grace and the courage to tell law students it was their own fault for the rampant price gouging that happens as a result of the ABA’s ineffective oversight of law schools. It took real strength of character for Robinson to share this anecdote: “When I was going to law school . . . I sold my Corvair to make first-semester tuition and books for $330.” I mean, how many people in Robinson’s position would be so out of touch that they think prospective law students are driving automobiles that can cover a whole semester of tuition at an American law school!

That’s right, future 1Ls, don’t get too used to your Jaguar XKR. Don’t become too attached to your Lexus hybrid. You’ll need to sell your luxury automobile to pay for law school. D’uh!

Sorry, I’m still flabbergasted that the president of the American Bar Association openly admitted to being a complete joke.

When the story broke the other day, I had the good fortune of being in Washington, D.C., at the annual conference of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The law school at the University of California – Irvine invited me to speak to law school professionals and deans about how law schools could better use (or avoid) social media.

And let me tell you, law school professionals — the people who have to deal with the perception of general ABA incompetence on a day-to-day basis — were not at all happy with William Robinson’s comments….

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