* “The situation is an absolute mess.” Last summer’s SCOTUS decision on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders has created a “legal limbo” for inmates. We hope they find suitable dance partners. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Even after you retire, you apparently still have to deal with the Cebullsh*t from your life on the bench. Former Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s misconduct review is likely heading to Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. [Great Falls Tribune]
* Woe unto them that call unpaid work fair: the Second Circuit quickly granted Fox Searchlight an appeal in the Black Swan unpaid intern case in the hope of offering some “much-needed guidance.” [Deadline]
* Which private law schools offer students the best value? Some unlikely contenders are named on this list, and some T14 schools even make appearances. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]
* GW wasn’t the only school that grew the size of its entering class (although it was the largest increase). William & Mary and Missouri-KC saw big gains, too. Yay, more lawyers! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]
* If you’re considering applying to law school, think about schools that have lowered their standards and are offering scholarship money like candy. Otherwise, here are some helpful hints. [Huffington Post]
* Henry Putzel Jr., former reporter of decisions at the Supreme Court, RIP. [Washington Post]
As fewer people apply to law school, deans have basically two options: they can shrink the size of the entering class, which reduces tuition revenue, or they can keep the size of the entering class the same, which results in credential dilution — a student body with lower LSAT scores and GPAs. Credential dilution can lead to a tumble in the closely watched U.S. News rankings, which can further reduce applications, setting in motion a vicious cycle.
So far, most schools seem to have opted for shrinkage. Most deans would prefer to be able to claim that they are taking a “stand for quality,” as Dean Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall recently stated.
Interestingly enough, however, one top law school seems to be going in the other direction. It’s actually increasing the size of its incoming class over last year, even if doing so might lead to credential dilution….
And like any business that suddenly finds itself with fewer customers, law schools are looking to entice new students to apply. Because — and it’s always important to remember this — law schools are businesses, at least as much as they are academic institutions.
Will they take a hint from used car salesmen, setting up whacky, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men to draw the eye of passing motorists?
Or possibly Red Lobster, offering shrimp AND lobster with any J.D.?
Or, more likely, will they try to improve their job numbers while offering larger scholarships?
The law school brain drain is in full effect. Applications from Ivy League graduates are down, and applications are down in general. Last week, my colleague Elie Mystal described the troubling predicament like so: “[T]he students with the best ‘logical reasoning skills’ as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.” That being the case, how have top law schools responded to the less than impressive talent pool? By doing the same thing they’ve always done.
Despite the fact that some of the most well-qualified students are fleeing the law school application game like rats from a sinking ship, T14 law schools are still attracting rather competitive applicants. Unlike the law schools that would reportedly consider admitting applicants with sub-145 LSAT scores, top schools would never deign to lower their elite standards — well, at least not by that much.
While it’s still difficult to get into a top law school, it’s not quite as difficult as it used to be before the bottom fell out from the entry-level employment market. What do top law schools’ LSAT scores look like now compared to three years ago? Let’s take a look…
Last November, Case Western Reserve University School of Law Dean Lawrence Mitchell took to the New York Times to defend the value of a legal education. Instead of addressing the actual problems with legal education, Mitchell blamed the media for “irrationally” dissuading prospective law students from going to law school. His article touched off a raft of law deans and professors who seem more interested in defending the status quo than addressing structural issues.
It hasn’t worked. Law school applications continue to plummet. It would appear that mind tricks don’t work on prospective law students, only money (and legitimate employment options).
Specifically, it hasn’t worked for Case Western Reserve Law. Mitchell’s protestations generated a lot of press, but I wonder if Case has enjoyed its time as standard bearer for the “nothing is f**ked here, dude” approach to legal education. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Case Western enrollment is down to 104 students this fall. That’s down from 190 in 2011 and 165 just last year. Maybe instead of bitching in the Times, Mitchell should have addressed the problems in his own house.
It looks like he’s doing it now. Case Western is in the press again this week, this time for instituting massive changes to its law school curriculum. Many of the proposed changes sound pretty interesting. But I’ll note that one thing that is not changing is the tuition — that’s going to remain just as high as ever…
In case you haven’t been following the news, legal education in this country is in a state of crisis. Class sizes are shrinking, law school faculty and staff are getting laid off, and long-term, full-time jobs for graduating students that require bar passage are still sparse.
As of January, law school applications were down 38 percent from where they were three years ago in 2010. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) stated that the number of total applicants would likely drop below 60,000 for the first time since 1983, when the organization started keeping such records. Many prospective students finally seem to have gotten the message: now is not an ideal time to go to law school.
Now that LSAC has released its preliminary final applicant and applications count, we know just how bad the situation has become. When will the madness end?
* Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Second Circuit Judge José A. Cabranes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Roberts must be happy; few will criticize a moderate. [Washington Post]
* The Department of Justice plans to hire Leslie Caldwell, Morgan Lewis partner and ex-Enron prosecutor, to fill Lanny Breuer’s shoes. Way to leak the news while she’s on vacation. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Tell us again how sequestration isn’t having an impact on the judiciary. Private federal indigent defense attorneys are going to see their already modest rates slashed due to budget cuts. [National Law Journal]
* Sixteen lawyers will receive the New York Law Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and a list like this obviously wouldn’t be complete without the names of some of Biglaw’s best and brightest. Congrats, Rodge! [New York Law Journal]
* Here’s something to aspire to for the ongoing law school lawsuits: Career Education Corp., a system of for-profit colleges, will pay $10 million to settle a dispute over its inflated job statistics. [Wall Street Journal]
* Penn State University is starting to issue settlement offers to young men who claim they were sexually abused at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, the school’s former assistant football coach. [Legal Intelligencer]
The median LSAT score for students at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School is 145. This means that Cooley is already trawling in the waters of the bottom 25 percent of LSAT takers. So when Cooley Law Dean Don LeDuc says that the school might consider lowering its admissions standards to cover the drop in law school applications, it’s fair to ask what’s lower than the bottom of the barrel.
Are they going to start admitting people who took the LSAT in crayon? Are they going to start admitting people who can’t read? If the median score is 145 and you’re going to bring that number down, what (if any) “standards” does your school still purport to have?
Cooley would rather lower its standards than lower its tuition. In fact, LeDuc says that tuition is going the other way: Cooley announced that it will raise first-year tuition by 9 percent and tuition on everybody else by 8 percent. It’s almost as if Cooley has taken upon itself the responsibility of punishing people too ignorant to research legal education….
We’ve talked before about the law school brain drain. Essentially, and despite the best efforts of some law professors, the students with the best “logical reasoning skills” as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.
There are a couple of possible explanations. Sure, you could say that smarter people aren’t being fooled by the law school value proposition and are making wiser choices. But you could also say that people who test well will naturally have more non-law-school options as the economy recovers.
Still, the fact that law school looks like a bad option to more and more people with lots of options is something that should worry law school administrators — you know, if law school administrators worried about the long-term viability of the current system of legal education.
In Non-Sequiturs on Tuesday, we mentioned a new chart that illustrates this brain drain from a non-LSAT angle. I wasn’t here on Tuesday, so I wanted to highlight it and talk about it a little. Let’s look at whether students from top colleges are applying to law school…
If Socrates was a law professor today, he’d be telling prospective law students not to believe what the blogs say about hemlock.
One expects legal academics to use the Socratic method for teaching students. But when it comes to the subject of going to law school, many of them are engaged in pure sophistry. I think many of them felt insulated from the effects of the recession when only recent law school graduates faced challenging job prospects and non-dischargeable debt loads. But now that law school applications have dropped off, professors are starting to see the barbarians at the gate. For God’s sakes, junior faculty are getting layoff notices, and the ABA just voted to consider dropping tenure as a requirement for accredited law schools. Professors must know that this system of high tuition and no jobs for graduates can’t go on forever.
And so some of them are fighting back. No, not with real reform. But by doing what professors do best: making theoretical arguments largely detached from the realities on the ground. They’re on a public relations campaign of lip flapping, as if the entire crisis in legal education is a media fantasy. For my money, this concerted effort by law school types to fight the war in the press started with Lawrence Mitchell, but we’ve since seen too many bad studies and bad arguments to count.
Today’s entry isn’t even all that bad. This professor spends a large part of his paper detailing the decline of Biglaw hiring that is unlikely to come back any time soon. But at the end, he tries to sound a note of hope — a misleading note of hope — that once again seems to encourage students to go to law school without fully grasping the depths of the problem in the market for legal education…
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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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