Department of Education

* The Senate confirmed nine judges this week, the highest one-week total since the current session of Congress began. They even managed to confirm a “controversial” nominee. Congrats! [Legal Times]

* If you need a reason for your merger-product firm’s poor financial performance, don’t use the verein structure as a scapegoat. Maybe your firms weren’t profitable to begin. Burnnnnn. [The Economist]

* Skadden lawyers await the day they’re called upon to provide the NBA’s defense against a potential suit filed by Don Sterling. They’ll be ready, because Skadden’s the best brand in the world, yay! [Am Law Daily]

* Mayer Brown is pulling out of the “comfort women” case, a decision one of its clients says is “totally crazy.” We suppose the firm was getting tired of being dragged through the mud. [Los Angeles Daily News]

* A suspect is being held by police in the fatal hit-and-run of Judge Dean Pregerson’s son. He’s been charged with vehicular manslaughter, and is expected to be arraigned on Monday. [Los Angeles Times]

* Fifty-five schools are being investigated for alleged violations of federal law in the mishandling of sexual assault and harassment cases. One professional school is on the list. Sup Harvard Law? [Huffington Post]

* Professor Rick Hasen drops knowledge bombs all over the “subtly awful” decision in McCutcheon. [Slate]

* Another firm joins the “CV Blind” approach of assessing future lawyers without looking at their grades. So go ahead and blow off that third-year course if this trend continues. [Legal Cheek]

* In case law schools needed another study to make them feel better about driving up costs, here’s a new study that says schools that hire hotshot professors improve faculty productivity. [TaxProf Blog]

* Med students are mistreated. Boo hoo. At least you bastards get jobs when you graduate. And they were mistreated by the hospitals they worked with? Try a Biglaw firm right before a deadline and then stow your whining. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Education Department moves to prohibit the practice of colleges barring lawyers from institutional sexual assault hearings. In other news, colleges have been getting away with keeping lawyers out of hearings about potentially criminal acts. [Inside Higher Ed]

* The BARBRI public interest fellow contest is now underway! Watch the videos and cast your vote by April 7. [BARBRI]

* Strip club company thought it could build a theme restaurant based on the movie Talladega Nights. More after the jump… [Bloomberg]

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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…

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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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What Would a More Relevant Law School Ranking Look Like? You Tell Us”

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…

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The ABA stopped talking and started firing shots.

Well that was fast.

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.

Boom. Roasted.

That’ll teach these law schools to get chatty with the mainstream media about this little legal education cartel they have going here…

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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?

The panel is called the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. Now that I’ve told you its function, you will not be at all surprised that the ABA got smacked around a bit when it was brought up in front of the board.

Oh, don’t worry, the panel isn’t actually going to do anything to force the ABA to do a better job. This is government work we’re talking about.

But still, the ABA got a bit of a tongue lashing, so that’s something….

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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?

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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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