ABA Wakes Up, Reported as Saying “Just 5 More Minutes,” Hits Snooze

With all the buzz going around about the ABA maybe kinda considering thinking about doing something about law schools presenting would-be students with misleading material information about job prospects and salaries in order to induce these students into enrolling and spending over a hundred thousand dollars each in tuition (or in the common parlance, “fraud”), I decided to repost this e-mail I sent to ABA President Zachary Chesser Stephen Zack back on August 11th.

Also, I’m way behind on editing this week’s Blind Drunk Justice and wanted to give you something to hold you over.

Dear Mr. Zack,

Congratulations on your new position as President of the American Bar Association.  Now, get to work.  Tens of thousands of attorneys have had their careers derailed and we needed a solution yesterday.  The ABA’s response to the recession has been abysmal.  Real leadership requires more than resolving that the economy is bad and creating a committee to say “Gee, it’d be great if things were better.”  Talking about action is not action.

Think the ABA is taking real action to help all the unemployed attorneys out there?  Hey, you guys made a Jobs Board, right?  That’s something.  Have you actually visited it?  Here’s a link for your convenience: http://jobs.abanet.org/jobs

Okay, did you go?  Did you look at the number of entry level positions listed?  1!  That’s not very many.  I mean, I might be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure a lot more than 1 person graduated from law school this May.  After all, there are 200 law schools, so at least 200 people probably graduated.  And what is that one job?  Oh, it’s a part time position.  Cripes!  That means there’s actually less than one entry level job.

And it only requires a high school education!  Oh my.

Here’s a link to a site that has more legal job opportunities than the ABA Jobs Board: http://craigslist.org/ That’s somewhat embarrassing, right?

So, what can you do to help all the unemployed lawyers and law students who are facing grim employment prospects?  I mean, you can’t actually create jobs from thin air or make debt burdens disappear.  Well, as an administrative partner at a major law firm, you probably can, but no one is really expecting you to do that.  All we ask for is a genuine effort in improving the profession.

See, you have this thing called the bully pulpit. You know how you got to stand up and declare once and for all that Atticus Finch is really quite a stellar person and a nifty lawyer to boot?  You can actually use that same pulpit to make more substantive decrees.  Cool, right?

To help you get started, here are a few things you can declare that might help bring some positive change to the profession:

1.  Fraud is bad.  Law schools probably shouldn’t do it.

Here are some examples:

(a) Duke claims that its graduates have 100% employment.  100%.  In a recession.  How did they pull that off?  They bribed organizations to give graduates temporary positions for meager wages ($3000 a month).  Is the 100% figure technically accurate?  Sure.  But is claiming 100% employment when you have to pay people to take your grads until the 9 month mark intentionally misleading? Oh hell yes.

Of course, most law schools play a similar game.  They publish rosy employment statistics while ignoring the fact that the data is based on self-reporting and unemployed or underemployed graduates are less likely to report.  And, many schools publish their 9 months employment data without actually following up with students to see if they’re still employed.  Instead, they only check in with those who were unemployed at graduation.  What you don’t know can’t hurt, right?

(b) Pittsburgh Law recently posted a welcome letter to its new students.  In that letter Dean Crossley mentions some of the new classes being offered, among them Corporate Finance.  But, if you look at the school’s course catalog you might find a strange anomaly.  Corporate Finance isn’t being offered this year.  In fact, it’s only offered once every other year.  The incoming students to whom the letter was addressed will only have a chance to take this class during their 2L year, and if you know anything about how lotteries and 3L priority work, you’ll know that if there’s much demand for this class there’s a good chance the incoming 1Ls won’t ever have the opportunity to take it.

In fact, many schools routinely claim “opportunities” to take a wide variety of classes, but given how rarely they are offered, small class sizes and possible scheduling conflicts, many students won’t actually get to take the classes they want.  Yeup, $20,000 a semester and you don’t get a real choice in what classes you take.  Bet they don’t tell you that on an admitted students weekend.

(c) On the page for its Lawyering Program, NYU says “carefully structured peer review enhances motivation, for students work with the knowledge that their efforts will be thoughtfully scrutinized, both by faculty and by peers.”  What they don’t tell you is “Not only will you not be evaluated in your performance on the largest project of the year, but your professor won’t even be there to see your oral argument! LOL!”  Seriously, they make no effort to evaluate your performance on the largest project of the year.  I guess “thoughtful scrutiny” means “thought about scrutinizing, decided not to.”

That’s just the stuff I came up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on.  Wouldn’t it be swell if like…I don’t know…you asked law schools to stop?  You don’t even have to put together a commission or hold meetings.  You can, today, just ask law schools not to commit fraud any more.  They might continue, but it would at least be a nice start to just remind them that what they’re doing is bad and hurts their students.

2.  Ethics are good.  Get more of them.

What are some ways law students and law schools engage in unethical behavior?

(a) 45% of law students self report that they’ve cheated while in law school.  (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aw7s9m0BmcBo)  45% is a lot, especially when you consider that most law schools grade on a curve.  And, given how important grades are to securing employment, this is a pretty serious problem.  What have law schools done to address this problem?  Pretty much nothing.

(b) Seriously, they’re doing pretty much nothing.  In fact, when students are caught plagiarizing papers and professors want to punish their students, law school administrations have been adopting a policy of “look the other way.”  (http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law_prof_says_more_students_are_plagiarizing_paper/)

(c) Professors assign their own textbooks.  Or, as Quinn Emanuel partner Bill Urquhart might put it: CHECK YOU CONFLICT OF INTEREST.  Really, the law of property hasn’t changed that much in the past three years.  You don’t need to issue a new edition of your text book, but thanks for destroying the used book market and driving up the debt load of your students.  Also, professors really should give their students free copies of any course supplement they write.  I think if you’re paying $20,000 a semester you should get the whole course and not have to shell out another $50 for all the good stuff that’s going to be on the exam.  Only one bite at the apple, please.

3.  Law school is very expensive.  It should be less of that.

Here are two ways to dramatically lower the costs:

(a) Make law school a two year program.  What is the justification for requiring me to go for three years if I can fill up my second and third year with classes like The Magic Mountain Reading Group (http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/courses/2009-10/?id=7020) or The Past and Future of the Left (http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/courses/2009-10/?id=7003)?  Let students who take a course load of substantive law classes graduate in 2 years.  You’ll cut the costs of attendance by more than a third (one less year accumulating interest on your loans, and the third year is the most expensive due to tuition increases), and give students one year less of opportunity costs.  Just imagine how many more people would take public interest jobs if they could actually afford to!

(b) Ask deans and professors to take a pay cut until their students are back to being employed in reasonable numbers (and pass the savings on to current students and recent grads).  The average dean salary is about $330,000, and full professors average around $200,000, not to mention any extra money they make from text book sales or moonlighting as a consultant.  (http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/02/more_on_judge_a.html)  It’s pretty distasteful to increase tuition at your school during a recession when your graduates are unemployed or facing pay cuts.

Not that professors should have to live like their students, but if you have an apartment that costs over $5 million (http://abovethelaw.com/2007/09/lawyerly-lairs-back-to-school/) and your grads are forced to move back in with their parents, maybe it’s time to give the kids a break.

I know you want your administration to focus on the four goals you mentioned in your speech on Monday, preservation of the justice system, civic education, protecting human rights, and preparing for disaster, but let me remind you that as a profession disaster is already upon us, and if you’ll check the ABA Mission Statement (http://www.abanet.org/about/goals.html?gnav=global_about_mission) you should note what Goals #1 and #2 are: Serve Our Members and Improve Our Profession.

Tens of thousands of unemployed or underemployed attorneys are out there and the ABA is only able to locate 1 entry level position and 29 lawyer jobs.  Maybe, at a minimum, at least try to double this number.  Okay?  Thanks.



Mr. Zack did not reply.  Feel free to copy this letter yourself and send it to abapresident@abanet.org

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9 Responses to “ABA Wakes Up, Reported as Saying “Just 5 More Minutes,” Hits Snooze”

  1. anon Says:

    Print your letter on brightly colored paper and mail it.

  2. Fourth Tier Freddie Says:

    Can’t believe that so many law students cheat.(Why no mention of med students?) I guess this is part of the culture in upper tier schools.

    At my law school, it was just you at a desk with one blue book at a time, writing instruments and maybe a bottle of water if the professor/proctor was so inclined. Otherwise, all book bags were left by one entrance, no restrooms breaks were allowed and restrooms were searched and monitored by faculty.

    As Honor Court Prosecutor, I can tell you that many saw the Honor Code as a great way to eliminate the competition and possibly move up in class rank. Those reporting violations (usually with a smile) wouldn’t know honor if it bit them on the hindcheeks.

  3. bl1y Says:

    A 3 or 4 hour exam without bathroom breaks is pretty harsh. The better way to cut out cheating for those tests is to make them open book.

  4. Nando Says:

    Stephen Hack is simply another figurehead/empty suit of the ABA. A dead raccoon would be more effective in reforming the corrupt organization – and the sick industry.

  5. snowmanrt Says:

    Bl1y for ABA President!?!?

  6. Barbara G Says:

    I went to a TTT law school and got hit on all the time by the law professors. No one told me what TTT was back then, and I thought I could get a good job if I played along with the game. So I did sleep with 3 law professors, but guess what? I graduated without a job and now the professors have moved on to new 1Ls.

    I think women should be told this BEFORE they go to law school.

  7. Laura G Says:

    Barbara, you should have thought about that before you decided to have sex with the first teacher. Once you did, I will be the other 2 came much easier.

    Next time, and for other young females, remember to keep a dime betwwn your knees at all times (figuratively), so that these men will not be able to penetrate your will, because once you’ve screwed them, you will be screwed. And no blow jobs either, ladies.

  8. Hans Says:

    I disagree. Barabara should be able to give sex and receive sex as part of law experience without silly advice from Laura. If women are not free to experience sex from experienced men, they cannot grow. I vote to permit all women to give and receive sex in school.

  9. bl1y » Blog Archive » A Message From ABA President Stephen Zack Says:

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