Penn State Dickinson

One would imagine that a law school would be prepared to manage an unimpeachable quasi-judicial proceeding. If anything, a bunch of lawyers idealistic enough to turn their backs on private practice to preach from an ivory tower would bend over to expand the bounds of fairness in some kind of hippie Bill of Rights love-in. Law school court would be like Hair with more procedural safeguards and hopefully much less nudity.

That wasn’t the case last year, when a law school convened an Honor Board to prosecute a student for cheating on her exams. Now, that student is suing the school in federal court, alleging due process violations and breach of contract arising out of the investigation and prosecution of her case.

Is she guilty of an infraction or not? We can’t pass judgment on that from the pleadings alone. We can, however, troll this law school for its pretty terrible grasp on how the justice system is supposed to work….

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Lat here. Tomorrow is a big day. First, April 15 is Tax Day; we hope that you’ve filed your return — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of. Second, it’s the deposit deadline at various law schools. We hope that you’ve made up your mind — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of.

Just kidding. Here at Above the Law, where we are sometimes critical of the value proposition of legal education, I’m the designated defender of law schools. I write stories with titles like In Defense Of Going To Law School and Go To Law School: What Else Are You Going To Do With Yourself? I also compile and disseminate law school success stories. We are not uniformly opposed to law school here at ATL; we just want people to make informed decisions.

Helping people make informed decisions is the goal of our popular column called The Decision. We field queries from prospective law students choosing between different schools, offer them advice, and ask ATL readers to weigh in as well.

Now, on to today’s scenarios. We’ve titled them “Jersey Boys” and “The Book of Mormon,” for reasons that will soon become apparent….

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I really don’t want to be that guy at the dinner table who points out that the mashed potatoes are lumpy and the turkey is a bit dry. A law school is cutting tuition by half for some students, and for that we should be thankful. This follows a trend, seen here and there, in which law schools are starting to respond to the low interest in legal education by competing on price.

Except it also follows the trend of not really being a tuition “cut.” Instead it’s a tuition scholarship that is worth about half of the tuition, while the school maintains its high listed sticker price.

Well, this is Above the Law, not a Thanksgivukkah meal. Who wants a side of hater?

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When you have a major law school initiative overturned by local politicians, you can start numbering your days as law school dean.

The inevitable happened today: Philip J. McConnaughay, dean of Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, announced he is leaving the school.

I don’t see what else could have happened. Penn State Law is looking at a 20 percent drop in law school applications, one of the largest in the country. Dean McConnaughay’s major plan to consolidate Penn State’s two campuses was stopped in its tracks by politicians who, frankly, have no idea about the economics of running a law school these days. Then he proposed splitting the two campuses into two different law schools.

Now, he’s just leaving. Not just Penn State, the man is leaving the country. He’s taking an opportunity to become dean of Peking University’s School of Transnational Law.

It reminds me of when a basketball player can no longer play in the NBA and starts playing club ball in China…

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Penn State, which will one day be a case study in “brand damage,” has been struggling to figure out what to do with its two law school campuses. The school has one in University Park, it has another one in Carlisle, and it’s dealing with an over 20 percent drop in law school applications.

Not good times.

The University was thinking of consolidating some programs across its two campuses to eliminate redundancies. The school was considering focusing its traditional law school operations on the University Park campus, while using the Carlisle campus to tap into the international market for law students. It makes sense because law students from China evidently don’t read Above the Law (if they did, I’d be saving Twinkies from bankruptcy by myself), and so they don’t yet know the racket of paying for American legal education.

It was a solid economic plan, but apparently the politicians are pulling the public university in the opposite direction….

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Investing in rims is a safer bet than investing in law school.

Occasionally, people will tell me that the calculus for attending law school is different for African-Americans than it is for any other kind of American. The proponents of this theory (and people who believe this come from all races) start with the objective fact that African-Americans are underrepresented as members of the bar. They view that as a social injustice that contributes to the fact that African-American clients are underserved by the legal community.

From those two appropriate concerns, these guys then see that the obvious solution is that more black people should apply to law school. And so they then make up reasons for why applying to law schools is somehow an especially good idea for black people. As if the fact that there’s a laudable social end magically changes the math of the law school decision.

But the social ends do not justify the economic means. Poor black people need lawyers, they don’t need more poor black people who became poor by going to law school.

Now, I’m all for racial diversity, but I fail to see the social good of encouraging black people to make ruinous financial decisions just because they are underrepresented in the group of people making this particular stupid purchase. I wouldn’t say to a bunch of white people, “You know, you really need to buy expensive rims for your car on credit. No money down!”

Sorry, that might be an inapposite analogy: rims are at least shiny and accomplish their stated goal of providing bling for your ride. A J.D. can’t even be used to adorn a car.

As I said, I’ve heard this terrible argument before, but rarely as boldly as from the associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Law. Her version of the argument seems more like an attempt to cause active harm to the black community by taking advantage of those who don’t have enough information.

This falsehood that law school is somehow a “better” bet for African-Americans must be stopped, right here, right now….

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* Patton Boggs partner Benjamin Ginsberg serves as the Mitt Romney campaign’s top lawyer, and he’s taking flak for GOP rules revisions that have been likened to “killing a fly with a sledgehammer.” [Am Law Daily]

* “I am still shocked that I did everything right and find myself on the brink of destitution.” This just in from the Things Everyone Already Knew Desk: even law firms have been hit hard by the recession. [Washington Times]

* The lead lawyer in the inquisition against Madam Justice Lori Douglas turned in a resignation letter. Perhaps he grew tired of being part of judicial farce that’s spread wider than Her Honor’s legs. [Canadian Press]

* Penn State Dickinson School of Law might not be losing its accreditation, but it will be reducing enrollment and consolidating all first-year classes at its University Park campus. [Central Penn Business Journal]

* A would-be law student wants to know if he has a good chance of getting into a top 20 school with a low 150s LSAT and an average GPA. You’ll get in everywhere you apply! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Roger Fisher, Harvard Law School professor and co-author of “Getting to Yes,” RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

There was also mention in the story about the school losing its accreditation, which is a minor mistake.

Ron Southwick, city editor at The Patriot-News, commenting on one of the “minor” errors made in the paper’s incorrect report about Penn State’s supposed plan to close the the Carlisle campus of the Dickinson School of Law, which allegedly would have threatened the school’s accreditation. The paper has issued a correction.

It may come as a shock to some people, but there are and always have been other things going on at Penn State University other than football and child molesting.

As many regular Above the Law readers know, Penn State has a law school with multiple campuses. One in University Park, another in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (and zero campuses in Princeton, New Jersey).

We’ve written before about the decline in law school applications, and PSU Law is a facing a similar problem. Some schools have responded by raising law school tuition. Penn State is thinking of consolidating some programs to eliminate redundancies between the two campuses.

But since it’s Penn State and people are still reeling from the penalties thrown at the football program, that simple story seems to have been blow way out of proportion….

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* Start spreading the fabulosity: Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari on a pair of cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. [BuzzFeed]

* Lawrence Lessig wants groups of 300 randomly selected people to craft a constitutional amendment in response to Citizens United. He clearly expects a bit too much of our population. [National Law Journal]

* In South Dakota, your abortion now comes with warnings about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide. Forget that medical certainty hooey, it’s not constitutionally misleading. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “We do not arrest people because of the color of their skin.” Oh, of course not, Sheriff Arpaio. We totally believe you. But you might stop them, question them, and detain them because of it, right? [New York Times]

* We’ve just got too much Dickinson up in here. And in other Penn State news, the school is now considering a move that may cause at least one of its two law school campuses to lose its accreditation. [Patriot-News]

* Lady Gaga was sued by MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, over her alleged failure to approve a line of dolls made in her image. This is not a company you want to start a bad romance with. [Bloomberg]

* And I am telling you, I’m not going — to grant you parole. William Balfour, the man convicted of murdering Jennifer Hudson’s relatives, was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole. [CNN]

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