Paul F. Campos

Paul Campos

There is a zealous faith in American culture that higher education always pays for itself, but it’s like the subprime mortgage scandal without securitization. When people realize it’s a worthless degree, the system is going to collapse.

– University of Colorado Law School Professor Paul Campos, author of the blog Inside the Law School Scam and the book Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link), commenting on the unsustainability of the current law school model.

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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Law students react to op-ed in the New York Times.

Yesterday, we discussed a New York Times op-ed, “Law School Is Worth the Money,” by Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Mitchell has been slammed — by me, by Professor Paul Campos, by Alison Monahan, and by many others. If you’ve been looking seriously at the state of legal education, it wasn’t hard to eviscerate Mitchell’s arguments.

But Mitchell seems to believe that looking critically at the value proposition of legal education is a media-driven phenomenon. As he wrote in his op-ed, “For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks.”

It seems that Mitchell has forgotten about the students. Bloggers and law professors don’t really have any skin in this game. But actual students feel like law school deans have taken advantage of them, and telling them “everything is okay here” isn’t a winning argument.

These kids are tired of law deans, like Mitchell, who continue to act like law schools can keep doing what they’re doing while recent graduates don’t have jobs and are crushed under a mountain of debt. They’re really sick of the subtle implication that they only reason the “great deal” of law school didn’t work out for them was that they were “lazy” or somehow undeserving.

In short, they are sick and tired of the very kind of arguments Mitchell made in the New York Times — and yesterday they spoke out about it, loudly….

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Ed. note: Happy Thanksgiving! We will resume our normal publication schedule on Monday, November 26. We hope you have a wonderful holiday, and we thank you for your readership.

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: administrations of the LSAT plunge further, reaching their lowest level since 1999. [Economix / New York Times]

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: judges are still offering unpaid clerkships (even though the days of law firm deferrals are behind us). [Salon]

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: law schools sometimes discriminate against conservatives, as jurors from the Teresa Wagner trial told Iowa’s leading newspaper. [Des Moines Register]

* Are you mooching off of someone else’s wireless internet? If so, consider yourself warned. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Are you a lover of Twinkies? If so, consider yourself warned (although it’s possible that a buyer might snap up the Twinkies brand). [DealBook / New York Times]

* Seven Am Law 200 firms are saying YES to work on a billion-dollar deal. [Am Law Daily]

Today brings us more evidence that the number of people applying to law school is dropping. A new Kaplan survey shows that 51 percent of law schools have cut the size of their incoming classes. Of those schools, 63 percent claim they are cutting in response to the weak legal job market.

While the job market is certainly a factor, we know that schools are also struggling to keep up their admission standards as fewer and fewer people apply to law school. Some people think this is a temporary trough and that applications will pick back up once the economy gets better.

But some people see a crash coming, one that will force a few law schools out of business…

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Greetings from San Francisco, home of the world champion Giants, surprisingly noisy trolley cars, and the faint smell of cannabis pretty much everywhere. We’re in town to attend Ark Group‘s conference on “The Brave New World of Entry-Level Recruiting,” which examines how the world of law student recruiting by firms has changed (and will continue to evolve) since the onset of the Great Recession. Moderated by Bruce MacEwen, who kicked off the proceedings by framing the day as an opportunity for “frank conversation” between schools and firms, the conference featured an absolute Murderers’ Row of industry thought leaders, including Orrick‘s Ralph Baxter, legal academia’s apostate Paul Campos, NALP’s Jim Leipold, Indiana/Maurer‘s Bill Henderson, three Biglaw hiring partners, and deans from Berkeley, Stanford, and Hastings.

Read on for some highlights and takeaways from yesterday’s conference.

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[D]on’t make a bad situation worse by doubling down on useless degrees. As I argue, going to the average law school at full price because you can’t get a job with your English degree is like having a baby to try to salvage a crumbling relationship.

– Professor Paul Campos of the University of Colorado Law School, in an interview with Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast.

(Campos, our reigning Lawyer of the Year, has a new book out entitled Don’t Go To Law School (Unless): A Law Professor’s Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk (affiliate link).)

William Baer

* “We’re all from the Ivy League. That seems to be more relevant than what faith we are.” SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas really knows how to make Article III Groupie’s heart sing. [New York Times]

* Dewey know why this failed firm’s bankruptcy team is cutting special deals with the former D&Lers who worked on the sale of the Dodgers? Like all things Biglaw, it all circles back to money. [WSJ Law Blog]

* What in William Baer’s past might lead the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a closed meeting on his candidacy to lead the DOJ’s Antitrust Division? [Blog of Legal Times]

* In a heartwarming pro bono project, Proskauer Rose will be representing NYC in its attempts to evict an elderly newsstand operator from his kiosk in Greenwich Village. It really brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? [New York Post]

* Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced on October 9, and prosecutors are asking that he be classified as a sexually violent predator. Boy, that’ll be a fun title to have while he’s in jail for the rest of his life. [Bloomberg]

* “[A]t present, the large majority of law graduates — perhaps 80 percent — end up worse off after going to law school that they were before they enrolled.” Paul Campos is so cheerful in his book. [National Law Journal]

* Chief Justice John Roberts, in his capacity as circuit justice for the Fourth Circuit, has given the green light — for the time being — to Maryland’s continued collection of DNA samples from people charged with violent felonies. [New York Times]

* Professor Dan Markel isn’t a fan of the practice, arguing that it “is yet another abuse of the presumption of innocence.” [PrawfsBlawg]

* In other Supreme Court news, the proponents of Prop 8’s ban on gay marriage have filed a petition for certiorari with the Court. [Arthur Leonard / Leonard Link]

* And in other gay marriage news, yet another federal judge — Judge Vanessa Bryant (D. Conn.), a Bush II appointee — has struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. [Chris Geidner / BuzzFeed]

A California litigatrix's lawyerly lair.

* Lawyerly Lairs: Emily Alexander’s beautiful, light-filled home is awash in color. There are no hunting prints in sight — even though she used to practice at Sullivan & Cromwell. [California Home + Design]

* The mother of a man who died during a police chase has sued the SFPD over her son’s accidentally shooting himself. Opines SFist: “It remains unclear to us why [Kenneth] Harding has been chosen to serve as a martyr, given his not-so-stellar record and the self-inflicted wound.” [SFist]

* Poor Professor Campos — does his self-loathing know no bounds? The prominent law professor, one of legal academia’s harshest (and most eloquent) critics, has now turned his powerful fire on baby boomers — of whom he is one. [Salon]

Is it wrong to hire on the basis of physical appearance?

* Interested in going to law school this coming fall? It’s not too late to apply, frighteningly enough. [Inside the Law School Scam via Tax Prof Blog]

* Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Even graduates of Harvard Law School wind up homeless. [Concurring Opinions]

* Sorry, I don’t like bike dudes; so many cyclists are rude, irresponsible, and annoying, to both pedestrians and drivers. If I were king, they’d go to prison; but I’m not, so we’ll have to settle for reeducation. [New York Times]

* What does Bruce Springsteen think of Obamacare? [Althouse]

* A few jurisdictions have laws against “attractiveness discrimination.” Try to guess which ones, then click on the link to see if you’re right. [What About Clients?]

* Larry Lessig and Ilya Shapiro debate the value of disclosure requirements in the campaign finance context. [Lean Forward / MSNBC]

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