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Caveat Venditor: Empty Threats From Notorious For-Profit Law Schools

May 27th, 2016 / By

Closeup of a pile of caution tape
This piece was originally published on Above the Law.

Welcome to Caveat Venditor, a new series that assesses claims made by law schools to separate truth from fiction. This week, we look at a threatening letter sent to a documentary film maker by Tom Clare, a lawyer for The Infilaw System.

InfiLaw owns three law schools — Arizona Summit, Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal — and several legal education-related management companies. These are three of six total for-profit law schools approved by the ABA, although two of the other three are transitioning to non-profit status. InfiLaw also tried and failed to purchase Charleston School of Law after faculty, alumni, students, and the local legal community revolted.

Hat tip to Paul Campos for the full text of the letter:

I write on behalf of my client, The InfiLaw System (“InfiLaw”), regarding your inquiry into interviews with Florida Coastal School of Law officials for a documentary you are making. I write to caution you as you proceed with fact-finding and information gathering associated with your planned documentary.

Prior reporting on the issues you plan to address, including law school attrition rates and student success, has been plagued by gross misinformation, factual errors, and a general misuse and distortion of available data and analysis. This is especially true as they have been applied to InfiLaw schools such as Florida Coastal. Individuals, such as Paul Campos, have distorted facts and data and engaged in nefarious and inappropriate investigative tactics in order to accomplish a false agenda attacking law school admissions and career advancement policies. As such, I caution you to carefully assess any information and facts you gather from Mr. Campos and any other purported “authorities” on law school success metrics and the risks and rewards of attending law school in this day and age. InfiLaw and its affiliated schools will carefully analyze and assess any statements made about them and will not be afraid to pursue legal recourse to protect its reputation against any false and reckless statements.

In addition, InfiLaw requests that you notify me immediately upon any decisions to include any references to or subject matter about InfiLaw or any of its affiliate schools in your documentary, and provide InfiLaw the opportunity to review and comment on them prior to any public dissemination.


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Doctors, Lawyers & Software Developers

May 27th, 2016 / By

I wrote earlier this week about employment trends for doctors and lawyers. There is a third occupation that now vies with these professions for the affections of talented college graduates: software developer. Examining this occupation explains where some might-have-been lawyers are headed.

What Is a Software Developer?

Software developers, who are also called software engineers, are not programmers. They have a deep understanding of code, and know how to program, but that is not their primary focus. Instead, developers design the programs that give us so much delight–and occasional frustration. The developers also test programs to try to forestall that frustration and, when glitches happen, work with the programmers to fix the errant program.

Once you understand the nature of software development, you can see it’s attractions for students who might also consider law school. Software developers use their intellects, solve puzzles, and help people. They know more math than the typical lawyer, but their work focuses on logic and strategy rather than equations.

Add in these facts: It’s pretty cool to develop “apps,” many software companies are hip places to work, and you could become famous (and very rich) creating the next big program.


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Doctors and Lawyers

May 22nd, 2016 / By

Medicine and law are highly regarded professions; talented students used to eagerly seek entry to both of these fields. But now applications to law schools are falling while those to medical schools are rising. What’s behind that phenomenon? Let’s take a look at employment trends in these two professions over the last forty years.


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Professional Salaries

May 19th, 2016 / By

How much should a professional worker earn? The Department of Labor (DOL) recently decided that salaried professionals who work full-time should earn at least $47,476 per year. Under the Department’s new overtime rules, salaried workers earning less than that amount will be entitled to overtime pay for extra hours. A real professional, in DOL’s eyes, earns at least $913 per week–or $47,476 for a year of full-time work.

Hold your excitement: This salary test will not apply to lawyers, because DOL counts lawyers as professionals no matter how little they earn. See 29 CFR 541.600(e); 29 CFR 29 C.F.R. 541.304. Employers are free to continue working their lawyers for long hours and low pay. It’s worth considering, however, what this rule tells us about societal expectations for professional pay. If professionals earn at least $47,476 per year, how do lawyers stack up?


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The Crisis That Wouldn’t End

May 14th, 2016 / By

The crisis in legal education was supposed to be over by now. The recession, after all, ended in June 2009. Even allowing for a slow recovery, legal educators predicted that JD hiring would be robust by this point. When applications fell and schools cut class sizes, educators hoped for a recovery bonus: An improved job market, combined with smaller graduating classes, would boost placement rates and attract applicants back to law school. Meanwhile, some projected, the economy would suffer a lawyer shortage.

Things haven’t worked out that way. As the ABA employment report for the Class of 2015 shows, JD employment remains depressed–and there is some evidence of a downward trend. In this post, I explain why law schools need to take this news very seriously.


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Prices and Priorities

May 11th, 2016 / By

Bob Kuehn has written a terrific essay refuting the notion that clinical courses are too expensive for law schools to offer. His online piece includes plenty of hard data; some he gathered and some he drew from other sources.

Kuehn’s essay reminds me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a member of my university’s board of trustees. I alluded to the challenges that public universities like ours face with reduced tax support for higher education. He responded differently than most trustees or administrators, who are happy to bemoan losses of public support. “There’s plenty of money,” he said. “It’s just a question of your priorities in spending it.”

And, of course, he was right. For the current fiscal year, my university predicted revenues of $6.1 billion dollars and expenditures of $5.5 billion. Even if revenues fell to match expenditures, that’s a lot of money to distribute.

Most universities, let alone law schools, are considerably smaller than Ohio State. About half of our budget, furthermore, stems from the medical school and health care center. (This is an interesting fact about many university budgets, that health care research and delivery is matching or exceeding other educational expenses.) Still, my board member’s comment is apt: Law schools operate sizable budgets and they have considerable discretion in allocating that money.

We don’t favor LSAT scholarships over need-based ones because budgets force us to do so; we make that choice to pursue higher rankings. Similarly, we don’t cater to the demands of tenured research faculty, rather than expanding clinical education, because our budgets are limited. We make that choice because it suits us (the tenured faculty) and because we hope, once again, that our choice will propel higher rankings.

Bob provides a welcome antidote to these ingrained choices. Expanding clinical education wouldn’t actually raise tuition; it would simply require faculties to change their priorities. And even those changes would be relatively small. We have to ask ourselves: What is the real root of our resistance to clinical education?

H/T to TaxProf for also featuring Bob’s essay today.

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How Law School Job Rates Changed This Year

May 10th, 2016 / By

Originally published on Above the Law.

Last week, the American Bar Association released the latest law school employment data. The entry-level market for new graduates remains grim.

Nationally, the legal job rate is up slightly from 58% to 59.2% for 2015 graduates. However, the raw number of legal jobs declined to levels not seen since 2011. The number of new entry-level jobs at large firms, on the other hand, remains steady — although the types of jobs offered by large firms continue to diversify.

With fewer students enrolled today, jobs rates in 2016 and beyond should improve, even if the raw number of jobs continues to decline. But given that law schools still face significant financial pressure, administrators will be tempted to increase enrollment to keep the doors open. Current employment rates indicate that, for the vast majority of schools, that is not an equitable idea.


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2015 Employment: Fixing the Fruit Salad

May 6th, 2016 / By

As promised, I explain here a quirk in the ABA’s employment report for the Class of 2015. That report shows that 62.4% of the 2015 graduates obtained jobs that require bar admission (“lawyering” jobs), while just 59.2% of the graduates secured lawyering jobs that were also full-time and long-term (i.e., expected to last at least one year).

Those percentages are sobering in themselves, but they are even more worrisome when compared to percentages for the Class of 2014. For the latter class, the ABA reports that 64.1% of graduates obtained lawyering jobs, with 59.9% of the graduates landing full-time, long-term jobs in that category. The percentage of graduates securing lawyering jobs, in other words, seems to have declined.

Things are bad, but not quite that bad. Here’s where the data quirk comes in.


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Law Grads Still Face a Tough Job Market

May 4th, 2016 / By

This was originally published on Bloomberg Big Law Business.

The American Bar Association released the latest law school employment data this week. There’s some good news, but the entry-level market remains grim for new law school graduates.

The legal job rate is up slightly from 58 to 59.2 percent for 2015 graduates. These rates include graduates with long-term, full-time jobs as a lawyer 10 months after graduation, but not jobs funded by the law school.

This figure has improved for the last four years. In 2011, the job market bottomed out with just 53.8 percent of 2011 graduates taking long-term, full-time legal jobs. Since then, the legal job rate has crept up slowly by an average of 1.35 percent per year.

Lower enrollment explains at least some of the upward trend over the last two years. Students who graduated in 2015 started in 2012, the second of five consecutive years of enrollment decline. However, in that time, the raw number of legal jobs has also fallen each year.

The raw number of legal jobs for 2015 graduates indicate a still-troubled entry-level job market. This year’s decline of 6.8 percent was substantially greater than last year’s decline of 1.9 percent. There were only 23,687 long-term, full-time law jobs for 2015 graduates as of the reporting date — just 14 jobs more than in 2011, commonly regarded as the bottom of the market.

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Class of 2015 Employment: How Bad Is It?

May 3rd, 2016 / By

After a few data glitches, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released its report on employment outcomes for the Class of 2015. The Section’s scorecard, comparing the Class of 2015 to the Class of 2014, appears here.

The numbers are pretty sobering: Absolute numbers declined in every employment category. Law firms, for example, hired 1,574 fewer graduates than they did in 2014. That’s a dismaying decrease of 8.8%. Government employers showed similar retrenchment: They too hired 8.8% fewer graduates in 2015.

Graduating class size also fell 8.8% between 2014 and 2015, which shored up the percentage of 2015 graduates obtaining jobs. Law schools, however, did not gain much ground in placing a higher percentage of their graduates. Smaller classes merely kept pace with a contracting job market.

I will have more details tomorrow, including an explanation for why the percentage declines in the top ten lines of the table are overstated. The news on those lines, which detail jobs requiring bar passage and those for which a JD is considered an advantage, is disheartening–but not quite as bad as the reported percentages suggest. The ABA changed its reporting methods between 2014 and 2015, so those comparisons match pineapples to prunes–a fruit salad you would never want to serve.



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