Brian Tamanaha

As mentioned in Non-Sequiturs last week, this story is why we can’t have nice things. Specifically, why lawyers make it so we can’t have nice things.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Georgetown Law had worked out how to bilk the federal government into fully paying for some its students’ tuition and managed to create a profit for itself on the side. This is caused a bit of a stir Friday afternoon, but unfortunately the practice is neither new nor limited to Georgetown.

Though some tactics Georgetown employs may go beyond what any other school has the gall to attempt….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

There seems to have been a spasm an unusual concentration of articles recently advancing the theory (I generalize) that all is well in BigLaw and that in fact even the universally acknowledged cost/benefit mismatch of a J.D. degree is mistaken.

Regular readers know that I’m the last person to be apocalyptic about the legal industry writ large, but I also would like to believe I apply rigor in analysis and tough love in attitude, so when sloppy happy talk comes front and center. I feel compelled to respond.

Law schools first. I haven’t really entered the “Law school NPV—positive or negative?” debate, and I don’t plan to start. It’s of enormous import on many levels, from the tragic human toll to the socioeconomic policy questions it raises. It’s simply a bit far afield for me to give it the attention it deserves. And I’m not going to do a half-baked job. Still, for the yin and yang of this debate, I refer you to (first pro and then con):

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The lack of data tells you something. Certainly if they were paying off quite well, schools would be advertising that.

Brian Tamanaha, a professor at the Washington University of St. Louis School of Law and author of Failing Law Schools (affiliate link), commenting on the dearth of employment statistics for LL.M. grads.

‘Another tuition hike? Time for a new car!’

If liberals are to be true to our professed values, we must critically examine our own conduct, however painful and embarrassing it might be. We cannot speak truth to power yet not to ourselves. [P]rogressive law professors, I charge, have profited from a system of legal education with harmful consequences to individuals and society — while claiming (and believing) that they were fighting the system.

– Professor Brian Tamanaha of the Washington University of St. Louis School of Law, criticizing his colleagues for remaining silent while law school tuition has soared. His remarks can be found in a forthcoming essay that will be published in the Stanford Law & Policy Review.

* New York lawyers now must disclose how many hours they work pro bono. How about we get a form that lets lawyers disclose how much they sleep? [New York Law Journal]

* Everything is coming up Penn! They finished fifth in our law school rankings. They won an award for their website. Even their satellite campus in Dickinson is doing well. [National Law Journal]

* Look at me, I’m Sandy Day, bloomin’ with equivocality. Don’t like the right, but didn’t stay to fight, I can’t, I’m Sandy Day. [Slate]

* Speaking of Sandy, co-ops aren’t eligible for disaster relief. [New York Times]

* The Justice Department is coming after Plan B. Sometimes, I wish we had two parties and one of them was progressive. [Washington Post]

* Brian Tamanaha comin’ yo’. Shots fired. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* So, after being shut down for more than two years, Caitlin Halligan asked President Obama to withdraw her nomination to the D.C. Circuit. This is how democracy works in our country, folks, and it’s pretty sad. [People For the American Way; Post Politics / Washington Post]

* In America, we’re trying to get official recognition for gay marriage. In Scotland, they’re trying to get official recognition for weddings performed by Jedi Knights. Please, by all means, proceed to stroke each other’s lightsabers over this exciting nerd news. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Oh my god, this is something I’m definitely going to have to sit down and read, it looks so salacious and — oh. *eyeroll* This just in from the subtitle letdown department…. [Overlawyered]

* A political consultant in Nebraska apparently got himself fired because he called Sen. Danielle Conrad a C-U-Next-Tuesday on his Facebook page. That was way harsh, Tai. [Jezebel]

* Click here to listen to Professor Brian Tamanaha and Dean Lawrence Mitchell talk about rethinking the future of legal education. Tamanaha thinks the tuition is too damn high, whereas Dean Mitchell simply thinks that “life is expensive.” Not even kidding, he really said that. [Associate's Mind]

* At Target, you can definitely expect more and pay less, but that’s probably because your money’s allegedly being stolen out of the cash register. [Legal Juice]

* And just because I love just about everything that Lindsay Lohan does because she’s the hottest of all messes, here’s a timeline of her mug shots ranked in order of her sex appeal. I love that we live in a world where such a thing actually exists! [Gawker]

In Professor Paul Campos’s new book, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link) — a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking seriously about law school — he shares an email from an individual who, after much research and thought, decides to enroll in law school. The email sheds some light on why people continue to sign up for law school despite all the warnings (from folks like Professor Campos, my colleague Elie Mystal, and many others). The law student writes:

[Prospective law students] think: debt doesn’t matter. There is no penalty for defaulting on the debt, except the relinquishment of the privileges of an advanced financial life. . . Students evaluating the horrible deal in question believe they have no access anyway to those privileges (e.g. a retirement account, a home purchase, a start-up business). For the student in question, all law school has to do is provide some potential benefit, and it becomes a rational choice.

After acknowledging that “[t]here’s a lot of force in this line of argument,” Professor Campos tries to refute it, basically arguing that many who go to law school based on such reasoning are “making a difficult situation worse.” But maybe the argument is not so easily refuted.

After all, what else are you going to do with yourself? Before you criticize law schools and those who matriculate at them, please familiarize yourself with the grim economic realities of twenty-first century America….

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It’s already tomorrow somewhere, and things seem okay.

* I’m happy to have spent this last day on Earth with you. And with professors Paul Campos and Brian Tamanaha telling you how law school is a raw deal. [HuffPost Live]

* Meanwhile, Seton Hall will be offering a tuition “discount” to students based on merit. Which is really just what a lot of law schools have been doing to try to fill seats as people become more aware of the problems with legal education. [National Law Journal]

* One reason my job is better than yours: I get emails with the subject lines like “CockSucker Decision Analysis” all the time. [The Legal Satyricon]

* I didn’t know there were freaking idiots out there who thought that Israel had more lax gun laws than we do. But they don’t. Because Israelis like being safe. [Huffington Post]

* And if you think more lax gun laws in Russia would make the murder rate there go down, you are probably the kind of dumbass who thinks you can look into Putin’s eyes and see his soul. [Atlantic]

* So when former U.S. Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton admits to it, it’s called “prostitution,” but when we’re doing essentially the same story about Ryan Lochte in 10 years, we’re going to call it “sex addiction” or something. [Chicago Tribune]

As we reach the end of the year, it’s time to step back and assess 2012 as it draws to a close. In the legal world, things have certainly changed from years past, but the one thing that remains constant is the focus on the state of our nation’s legal education. Something’s got to give, and while no one agrees exactly on what needs to change, many have influenced the way the discussion has developed with their insightful visions for the future.

At the end of the day, certain voices were more powerful than others. Whether through reducing class sizes or increasing the transparency of employment statistics, certain individuals have wrought substantial change in the way that law schools are currently operating — and have laid the groundwork for how law schools will be run in the future.

Whose words mattered most? Let’s take a look at this year’s most influential people in legal education….

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Bob Morse

The main audience of the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings is not meant to be law schools or law school deans—and the rankings should not be a management tool that law school administrators use as the basis for proving that their school is improving or declining. The rankings are produced primarily for prospective students as one tool to help them determine the relative merits between schools they are considering.

Bob Morse, rankings czar of U.S. News and World Report, commenting on a critique of the rankings found in Professor Brian Tamanaha’s book, Failing Law Schools (affiliate link). Professor Tamanaha argues that the U.S. News rankings fuel unhealthy competition between schools.

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