It’s one of those Through the Wormhole moments when the camera pans back to reveal that Morgan Freeman is an insignificant spec on the Earth which is an insignificant spec in the galaxy, which itself is an insignificant point of light in the multi-verse. When you adopt the proper perspective, you see that there is an entire system at work here that dwarfs the concerns of any individual law school taking advantage of any particular class of prospective students.
Last Thursday, in totally unheralded news, a panel of regulators recommended that the Department of Education re-authorize the ABA’s accreditation authority for another three years. But hey, at least they asked a question…
As some of you may have heard, U.S. News & World Report, which used to be a magazine found in dentists’ offices, released its annual law school rankings last week. This event sparked even more than the usual amount of angst and hysteria among law deans and students. Well, then again, this is already the 9th post on ATL concerning this set of rankings, so maybe we’re not helping. Some deans’ heads have rolled already, and angry student petitions are calling for more blood. (Do these reactions among law students run one way though? The anger sparked by a drop in rankings does not necessarily mean an inverse spike in happiness when a school climbs up, as this great pairing of gifs from someone at Chicago Law illustrates.)
Anyway, much of the heightened attention is due to the revisions U.S. News made to their rankings methodology, which now applies different weights to different employment outcomes, giving full weight only to full-time jobs where “bar passage is required or a J.D. gives them an advantage.” Whatever that last bit means. And they won’t tell us exactly how “part-time” and other categories of employment outcomes factor in. But it is at least an acknowledgement on their part of the perception that, as Staci said yesterday, “all anyone cares about are employment statistics.” (We’ll get back to whether that’s strictly true.) Then again, if employment outcomes make up only 14% of your ranking formula for a professional school, you’re doing it wrong. What would a better, more relevant rankings methodology even look like?
At some point, the Department of Education is going to have to step in and put a stop to the American Bar Association’s monopoly over the standards for legal education. The ABA has gotten to the point where it’s just trolling us — making patently ridiculous decisions as if it doesn’t even have to pretend to have a grasp on the challenges facing prospective law students and the legal profession.
The ABA’s “watchdog” for law schools is stepping down. Hulett “Bucky” Askew, of John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, has served as the ABA’s consultant on legal education since 2006. Note: that’s a pre-recession date. I take this as more evidence (as if we needed more) that the ABA has been operating with a pre-recession mentality throughout the entire recession and quasi-recovery.
But let’s stop crying about the ABA’s almost comically slow response to the shifting legal education market. Wait until you get a load of the guy who’s going to be Askew’s interim replacement…
Over the weekend, the New York Times unleashed a feature article about the role of the American Bar Association in keeping the cost of legal education absurdly high. The school profiled in that article, which we talked about yesterday, was Duncan Law School, which was seeking provisional accreditation from the ABA.
The article, by legal academia bête noire David Segal, came out in print on Sunday. Everybody talked about it on Monday. And today, on Tuesday, the ABA denied Duncan its provisional accreditation.
That’ll teach these law schools to get chatty with the mainstream media about this little legal education cartel they have going here…
Did you know that there is a federal panel that reviews accreditation organizations? Did you know this panel makes recommendations to the Department of Education on how well the accreditation organization is doing its job? Did you know that there is a government panel that can actually address how the American Bar Association is doing its job of accrediting law schools?
Resorting to violence is part of human nature. We see it all the time, especially in children. When arguments fail, when hope wanes, the fists come out. Most people are willing to fight long before they are willing to admit that their entire worldview is wrong.
Institutions are no different; they will fight to preserve the way they’ve always done things before they will change, even if their old ways are ass-backwards and likely to lead to ruin.
This desire to fight instead of change is how I understand the Department of Education story that has been blowing up the internet today. Apparently the Department of Education — not the police or the military, but the DOE — got a warrant to send in a SWAT team after a person who was delinquent in paying back their student loans.
A SWAT team, guys — a freaking SWAT team, over some unpaid debts.
UPDATE: Please note the important updates and corrections to this story, after the jump.
Now I ask you, does that sound like the behavior of an institution that is confident about the state of the student loan economy, or does that sound like an organization trying to keep things together by using force and terror?
Fed up with the slow movement towards law school transparency, several law school student body presidents are appealing to a higher power. They’ve proposed legislation that would require law schools to engage in some honest reporting practices, under the oversight of the Department of Education.
If the American Bar Association is too weak or too unwilling to act, these students are hoping the DOE will take into account the best interests of students. Arne Duncan, if you are listening, every law student in America could use your help.
The movement seems to be spearheaded by Nate Burris, the student president at Boston College Law School. But 55 other SBA presidents have signed on, representing law schools in 27 states.
We already know that the legal educators don’t give a damn about the changes their students would like to see, but is there any chance law makers or the DOE will take a look?
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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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