Thomas Guernsey

There’s an email going around from Thomas Guernsey, the new dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. In a letter to the alumni, Guernsey admits that some of the school’s policies have been unhelpful to current and former students. It then lists various reforms that the school is looking at.

But let’s not start licking TJSL’s popsicle just yet. Guernsey’s reforms do not address Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental price problem. The school costs way too much for the meager job prospects it provides. And it’s possible that Guernsey just doesn’t understand that or, more likely, simply isn’t willing to admit that. He says, “I do not know how Thomas Jefferson became the whipping boy for critics of legal education.”

I don’t know if that is supposed to mean “Thomas Jefferson is clearly a great school undeserving of all this hate,” which would be demonstrably false. Or if he simply means “Thomas Jefferson is no worse than 50 or so other ‘accredited’ ABA schools in the way it uses the misplaced hope of its students to turn a quick profit,” which is also probably false, but less obviously so.

Still, this is about as much honesty as we can expect from a person in Guernsey’s position. Anything more and he would have had to end with, “And so we’re shutting down, sorry about all that stuff we did.”

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Back in July, following the news of the possible purge of junior faculty at Seton Hall and the staff massacre at McGeorge, we wondered: “Which law school will be next?” With law school applications still in free fall, something, somewhere, had to give, and it certainly wasn’t going to be beautiful buildings, the price of tuition, the number of tenured professors, or their similarly splendid salaries.

No, the easiest way to save money — $4.4 million of it — is by dropping the unimportant human weight, and the most expendable souls seem to hail from the adjunct faculty and staff ranks at the latest law school to conduct layoffs. Which esteemed academy of legal education could it be?

We’ll give you a clue. The school is no stranger to controversy, seeing as it served as the origin of the very first law school lawsuit over deceptive employment statistics ever filed….

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Well, it’s day three of Albany Law School Watch here at Above the Law. This school is definitely on the outskirts of our usual beat, but the craziness keeps rolling in, so we’re going with it.

If you haven’t been keeping up, it seems that Albany Law decided to replace almost all of its admissions office staff. Shortly after our initial story broke, the administration emailed students to inform them about the resignation of the law school’s assistant dean for admissions.

Our sources questioned whether that resignation was voluntary — and claimed that the admissions office staff members in question were escorted from the building by security, late last week.

It seems that alumni from the law school are upset, and some believe that our decision to run this story was premature because we didn’t have all of the facts. Interestingly enough, we’ve received information that provides another side to the story unfolding at Albany Law.

If you thought there was drama before, read on, because sh*t (on the rug) just got real….

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Albany Law School seems to be having a rough go of it this year. The school’s long-time dean, Thomas Guernsey, announced that he would be stepping down from his position on June 30, 2011. Next, after a 20% drop in applications, the school decided to admit ten fewer students for the incoming class of 2014. The school then opted to cut 2% from its $32 million annual budget, amounting to a $600,000 reduction. Finally, just when the administration thought it would be able to name a new dean, the school’s deal with Judge Richard Wesley (2d Cir.) fell through.

When a law school is in the middle of making major cuts all around, you’d figure that the administration would want to keep some people on board who know the ropes — especially the people in charge of admitting new cash cows students. But, apparently, that is not the case in upstate New York….

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Critics of the legal-education industrial complex would probably like to see some radical changes in the U.S. law school system. They’d probably want a few dozen law schools to shut down entirely, to reduce the glut of lawyers in this country. Barring that, they might want to see law schools reduce tuition dramatically — not just freeze tuition, which some schools are already doing, but make an outright cut in the sticker price of a J.D.

Alas, expecting such changes isn’t terribly realistic. Law school deans and law professors aren’t going to willingly reduce their salaries or send themselves into unemployment — and why should they? Despite all the warnings about the risk involved in taking on six figures of debt to acquire a law degree, demand for the product they’re selling, legal education, remains robust (even if it’s showing signs of abating).

Interestingly enough, however, we’re seeing some law schools cutting their production (of graduates, of J.D. degrees)….

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