David N. Yellen, dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and chair of the ABA subcommittee that considers what consumer information law schools should be required to report, tells the Law Bulletin that law schools need to be more transparent about job prospects.My first reaction was "Good! At least some law schools are starting to acknowledge their responsibility! Way to go, Yellen!"
"I believe the time has come to mandate that law schools publicly disclose more information about job outcomes," Yellen is quoted saying.
However, my second reaction was - "Wait a minute. This guy's the dean of a law school and he chairs the committee that sets the policy about what information law schools have to provide and how they will provide it to their consumers/students? How is that not a blatant conflict of interest?"
That prompted me to do a little digging and what I found will most like stun you, horrify you, and explain why the ABA has not taken any action in this regard. Brace yourself and see below.
The ABA Committee that Yellen heads is the Standards Review Committee. Here is a link to the bios/roster of the members of the Standards Review Committee. There are 14 members and I'll briefly review each one below:
- Donald J. Polden - Dean, Santa Clara University School of Law
- Margaret Martin Barry - Professor, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
- Steven C. Bahls - President, Augustana College - previously dean of the Capital University Law School. Before joining Capital’s law program, Bahls was associate dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law.
- N. Cornell Boggs III - Chief Responsibility and Ethics Officer, MillerCoors
- Catherine L. Carpenter - Professor, Southwestern Law School
- Donald C. Dahlin - Professor, University of South Dakota
- Allen K. Easley - Dean, University of La Verne College of Law
- Thomas A. Edmonds - previously dean and/or professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law, Florida State University College of Law, the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law and Duke University School of Law.
- E. Christopher Johnson, Jr. - Director, Graduate Program in Corporate Law and Finance, Thomas M. Cooley Law School
- Honorable Kiyo A. Matsumoto - United States Magistrate Judge, Eastern District of New York
- Lucy S. McGough - Professor and Dean Emeritus - Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law School
- Erica Moeser - President & CEO, National Conference of Bar Examiners
- The Honorable Michael A. Wolff - Supreme Court of Missouri - Before joining the court, Judge Wolff was a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law from 1975 to 1998.
- David N. Yellen - Dean, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Of the 14 members of the committee, 11 are current or former Law School Deans and/or Professors.
(I have bolded the 3 in the list above with no law school connection.)
Wow. Frankly, I am stunned. The Committee is obviously dominated by law schools. That seems very inappropriate. More specifically, it seems like a direct financial and moral conflict of interest to allow people paid by a law school from funds that the law school collects from students to be able to make the rules about how law schools go about selling their product to students - and what the law schools have to disclose to students. It is as if a manufacturer had its employees take control of the FTC's Consumer Protection Section and pass rules with regard to the manufacturer's products. It appears blatantly wrong.
I thought that maybe the Committee might make rules beyond law schools, but from reviewing the Chair's Notes from the January 2010 meeting - nope, it looks like they pretty much just make rules for law schools. Thus, my initial thought that maybe any member of the Committee could recuse themselves from a vote on an issue that had any impact on their school or its policies (and thus avoid a conflict of interest) appears to be a non-starter. Instead, just about every subject that I see discussed in the Chair's Notes appears to have a direct financial impact on the law schools of each of the 11 Deans/professors identified above and thus represents a conflict of interest.
The law schools are basically making rules for themselves - rules that deprive potential law students of a full and fair opportunity to identify the costs and benefits of law school by depriving them of accurate, complete, and non-misleading information. That's not right. That's ABSOLUTELY not right. I'm stunned. I'm horrified. And I understand now why the ABA has allowed law schools to provide inaccurate information to law students - information that has resulted in 10s of thousands of law students being shackled with debt they have no realistic ability to repay - and is not dischargeable in bankruptcy - based on a false promise of a high-paying job.
This is not right and needs to be addressed.