Friday, July 29, 2011

Deans Have Limits, Too

I wanted to draw attention to this article on ATL about the outgoing Dean of the University of Baltimore Law School.  Here's a guy who took a law school from 170 (out of about 200) to 117 and seems to be getting the boot because he is daring to complain when the University "re-appropriates" 45% of the of the tuition paid by law students and diverts it to other University programs.  It's also surprising that the Dean provided actual, precise numbers - and that they are stunning.  As stated by the Dean, the most recent "tuition increase generated $1,455,650 in additional revenue. Of that amount, the School of Law budget increased by only $80,774."  That is, in addition to diverting 45% overall, of the recent increase in tuition, the University diverted about 96% of it.

I want to draw attention to this because lots of angry recent law grads complain about their tuition going up so drastically over the last few years.  However, they usually point to the Dean's salary or the salary of the professors as responsible for the increase.  Now, there is certainly an element of truth there, but a very significant (and often overlooked) driver of increased tuition is that the law school tuition dollars are "stolen" by the University.

If I were paying law school tuition right now, I would be very pissed to learn that 45% of what I am paying does not even go to the law school.  I would really question the value of the tuition that I was paying.  I would be even more pissed when I learned that 96% of the most recent tuition increase did not even go to the law school.

Similarly, I think that this raises some real concerns for lenders (especially the federal government).  When you stop and think about it, the government is lending a student say $20,000/year for law school - but the University is diverting $9,000 to other purposes.  If this were a government contract (which a school loan effectively is) having a government contractor divert 45% of the contract price to pay for something other than the contract can be known by a very clear term - "Contract fraud".

Why The ABA Accreditation Committee Won't Lead - Part 2 - The Fix

Hmmm.  In this previous post, I commented on the internal conflict in the ABA Accreditation Committee.  The Committee has traditionally had a very law school-friendly membership and has previously seemed to act in the best interests of the law schools, rather than the students.  Although I was aware that some changes to improve transparency had been proposed to the Committee, the previous response of the Committee to such efforts led me to believe that they would be mostly ignored - to the detriment of students attempting to rationally evaluate the value proposition for going to law school.

However, I have to give credit where credit is due.  Perhaps due to one or more of: 1) a growing realization of the issue, 2) increased coverage in the popular press and "scamblogs", 3) a growing realization that students lives were being crushed, 4) a desire to avoid conflict, or a combination of one or more of these, the Committee announced in a press release on Wednesday that they have improved many important changes in their law school questionnaire.  Read on to see some of the changes and the potential impact.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why The ABA Accreditation Committee Won't Lead - Part 1 - The Problem

There's a great article on AboveTheLaw with regard to the bi-partisan heat that is currently being put on the ABA's law school accreditation committee with regard to their failure to regulate legal education in a meaningful way.  The ATL article exposes as bunk much of the ABA's response to Senator Grassley's questions and raises a couple of pointed issues.

However, the author and many commentators that have entered the practice of law more recently might be able to more readily understand the accreditation committee's response with the benefit of a little context. In this post, we will take a look at the context of the problem - and then look at some aspects for fixing it in the next post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everything Sunny All The Time Always

In my most recent post, I referenced an editorial from the National Jurist - and something from that editorial has really stuck in my craw, especially in light of their recent "everything sunny all the time always" article about how law students today enjoy a better standard of living than 10 years ago.

More specifically, the most recent editorial states:
It’s almost as if the big firms grew fat on the wild speculation and frenzy of the housing market and financial markets. And then when things came to a halt in 2008, the party was over for the big firms.  Sadly, many law students were hoping to cash in on that party, but arrived too late. That then led to a lot of negativity about law school over the past few years – especially from the so-called scam bloggers.
Initially, I agree with the perception that large law firms expanded along with the housing and financial bubbles - and then crashed in 2008 when the work went away.  However, the rest of the quote seems to adopt a tone that is particularly offensive in light of the seemingly constant pro-go-to-law school message that National Jurist appears to espouse.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Law Graduates Today Vs. 10 Years Ago

There's an somewhat misleading article and accompanying editor commentary at the National Jurist.  In the article, they assert that recent law grads enjoy a better standard of living than 10 years ago.  More specifically, they assert that graduates employed by law firms have seen their "standard of living" rise by 59% since 1999, while those in public interest have seen their "standard of living" rise by 6%.  They also assert that the impact of the recent income-based repayment options is to further increase this advantage.  While the editor commentary appears to temper that assertion a great deal (although why they did not include the commentary in the article for fairless' sake, I don't know) it still doesn't paint an accurate picture of the changes in standard of living for a person contemplating law school.  Let's take a tough look at the numbers below.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Associates - "Clients" Not "Bosses"

In my previous post, I discussed how summer associates often have internalized a "corporate" paradigm and subconsciously expect that such a model will be followed when they "work at" a law firm.  Instead, a law firm operates very differently - lawyers must take responsibility for themselves and the senior attorneys are really the clients of the younger attorneys.  However, as summer (and new) associates attempt to internally resolve the dissonance between the "corporate" and "law firm" models, they often make wrong or nonsensical moves.  Let's take a look at some actual experiences that I have had or have discussed where summer associate's lack of understanding of the law firm model led them to the wrong move.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Associates - Know Your Client

I sympathize with summer associates - and I remember being one.  You walk through the doors of this strange place called a "law firm" often armed with very little in the way of factual and useful information.  Unless the summer associate has had the opportunity to work in a law firm or maybe has relatives that are lawyers, the information that they have is typically a wacky gestalt of things they have experienced from TV, their law school experience, and their previous jobs.  TV we know (and they know) gives them the wrong idea.  However, often law school and their previous job experience also positions summer associates in a less-than-ideally-productive way.  Let's take a look at how this situation develops and some advice that summer associates should keep in mind in order to maximize their chances.