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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anonymous Law Prof: 'Law Professors Are Scamming Their Students'

An anonymous "tenured mid-career faculty member at a Tier One school" has launched Inside the Law School Scam. From the inaugural post, Welcome to My Nightmare:

I am a law professor.  I have been one for many years, and hope to remain one for many more.  I have had, by the conventional terms in which such things are measured, a successful career in legal academia.  I am on the faculty of a tier one law school, and have taught at several others. I must confess -- and for reasons that will become clear it does feel like a confession -- that I love almost everything about my job.  I like teaching, I love writing, and most of all I love the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want 95% of the time while being paid a ridiculously high salary to do so. ...

I can no longer ignore that, for a very large proportion of my students, law school has become something very much like a scam. And who is doing the scamming? On the most general level, the American economy in the second decade of the 21st century. On a more specific level, the legal profession as a whole. But on what, for legal academics at least, ought to be the most particular, most important, and most morally and practically compelling level, the scammers are the 200 ABA-accredited law schools.  Yet there is no such thing as a "law school" that scams its students -- law schools are abstract social institutions, not concrete moral agents. When people say "law school is a scam," what that really means, at the level of actual moral responsibility, is that law professors are scamming their students.

We don't mean to, of course. Like my learned colleagues, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good! And anyway it's mostly the dean's fault -- it's not like I was ever consulted about raising tuition 130% etc. etc. Yes there are so many excuses -- I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they're "working at home." More on that soon . . .). ...

In the end, the fact that law professors don't intend to scam their students is irrelevant. We are scamming them, or many of them, and we know we are ...

[W]elcome to my nightmare. It is the nightmare of a man who woke from the pleasant dream that all was right with his wonderful little career, into a world of pain, regret, and anger -- that is, the world of so many of my students.

Subsequent posts:

Perhaps my favorite line:

At Yale, teaching is like hitting a home run at the faculty softball picnic. Your career here will be based on what we think of your scholarship. And if you hit a home run at the faculty softball picnic, well that's nice too.

Inside Higher Ed on the anonymous Law Prof's identity:

The author identifies himself only as “a tenured mid-career faculty member at a Tier One school.” He agreed to reveal his identity to Inside Higher Ed, and his description is accurate. He teaches at a law school that doesn’t make the “top 10″ lists, but that is generally considered the best in its state and is well regarded nationally.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

Update: More on 'Anonymous Law Prof' and 'The Law School Scam'

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2011/08/anonymous-law-prof-law.html

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Comments

Wasn't this blogger once a lesbian in Damascus?

Posted by: Bob | Aug 11, 2011 4:17:34 PM

Sorry, but I don't scam my students. I spend my time creating value for them. I think about how to create value for them in the shower, when I go to sleep, and when I wake up in the morning. When I'm done with them, they're damned good tax lawyers, and most of them get good jobs. The author should stop accusing others of malfeasance and start focusing on how to provide value for the folks who pay him. Whether what he does is useless or useful is his choice -- not his school's, not his profession's. His choice.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Aug 11, 2011 6:21:44 PM

Professor Soto

I presume it was unintentional when you wrote "I think about how to create value for them in the shower, when I go to sleep, and when I wake up in the morning."

There is a great line in the novel and movie "The Firm" when one of the partners describes his method of billing that was (unfortunately) in the same vein.

Posted by: Ed D | Aug 11, 2011 8:08:26 PM

And why is this controversial in the least? This law prof is merely stating the obvious. Class time of say, 8-10 hours per week, research leading to law review articles that nobody reads, and 4+ months of vacation. Where do I sign up? This is almost as good as being a public employee in the State of California.

Posted by: greg | Aug 12, 2011 12:55:14 AM

Prof. Seto,
I am sure you are a good professor as is demonstrated by the fact that you take such criticism personally. Most professors could not care less what students think of them or whether anyone accused them of "scamming."
However, the mathematics of the legal job market simply do not work. There are about 15,000 job openings each year, less really but that is a separate discussion, but any way there are 15,000 job openings yet law schools graduate 50,000 students. It does not matter how well you teach. You cannot overcome those numbers. At the end of the day, a large group of law graduates are going to wind up with their finances, professional careers and lives damaged because they chose to go to law school. Such an event is unjust and fairly called a scam if those students chose law school as a result of misleading statements by the law school system.

Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2011 1:56:03 AM

Law school professors are liable for the law school scam, in the same way that farmers who grow tobacco are liable for the harms of smoking. A particular farmer may be a good and honest person who grows top quality product and believes himself to be earning an honest living. But he can't be judged solely by his actions, he has to be judged by effects of the industry in which he chose to participate.

Posted by: analogist | Aug 12, 2011 2:23:19 AM

Prof. Seto,

Please make sure you read the gentleman's blog. It's fascinating and you might find yourself agreeing with him. Take for example,

"When people say "law school is a scam," what that really means, at the level of actual moral responsibility, is that law professors are scamming their students.
We don't mean to, of course. Like my learned colleagues, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good! And anyway it's mostly the dean's fault -- it's not like I was ever consulted about raising tuition 130% etc. etc. Yes there are so many excuses -- I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they're "working at home." More on that soon . . .)."

Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2011 2:28:05 AM

Although we as professors do have a duty to reform legal education both in light of the Carnegie Report and economic trends, my professor friends and I have our students' best interests at heart and are promoting those interests. I have taught at fourth tier schools, and I have stayed in touch with my graduating students. The recent graduates I have kept in touch with have found fulfilling employment as lawyers. They are not raking in the money, but that was never their goal, nor is it a good ultimate goal for any lawyer. At Golden Gate, many of the students have a public interest focus.

Like most lawyers I know, even I had a low-paying lawyer-job when I graduated from a top fifteen law school. I had to work hard to find a job, and later I did eventually work seventy hard hours a week for my $48,000 at the Texas child protection agency. But I would not give up any of that for the world. I achieved my career goals and found fulfillment and feel that I am much the richer for having struggled.

In America, marketing teaches us that we can have exactly what we want when we want it with no effort if we just buy something, like happiness, weight loss, or a career. But that's not how life works, nor should it be. Our students and our institutions may still be operating according to that deeply ingrained mindset. But we need not.

We can fulfill our duty to reform legal education and promote the best interests of students. We can maintain transparent, high academic standards and be willing to fail students who do not meet them. We should be honest with our students about the kinds of jobs that they can hope to obtain and what they will have to do to get them. And we can ensure that they have the skills to obtain those jobs by constantly dialoguing about and studying pedagogy, meeting the best pedagogical standards, and paying attention to our students. Part of that task also includes integrating skills with doctrine to meet the recommendations of the Carnegie report.

Posted by: Cathren Page | Aug 12, 2011 8:55:00 AM

Oh come on, if law schools are a scam, than the law firm pyramid system is the Ultra Scam. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Posted by: Tax Lawya | Aug 12, 2011 8:57:40 AM

Psst! Analogist, Tax Lawya, breaking news: The Profs Run the System. Take a look at the membership of the accreditation bodies that mandate the structure and cost of the U.S. legal education system. First question after surveying a crime scene: Who benefits?

Posted by: Andrej Starkis | Aug 12, 2011 10:00:05 AM

"We should be honest with our students about the kinds of jobs that they can hope to obtain and what they will have to do to get them."

You should be, but law school never will be, because if you were enrollment would fall and numerous professors would lose their cush "earn $170,000 for 10 hours of work per week" jobs. They would have to enter the horrendous job market themselves and in the real world nobody is paying that much for that little work.

Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2011 10:18:09 AM

Ted Seto is not the problem with Loyola Law School. However, Loyola has its share of bad professors. There is one infamous and notoriously bad professor known for an obnoxiously abusive and flippant disrespect of her students, oh that and how she once doused herself with water during class. Another professor was known as the guy who asked students to invite him to parties, probably in the hopes of f*cking one of them, who would stay over, wake up on your couch the next day and demand breakfast. Then there is the career services department, and there are not enough negative words in the dictionary to describe them. Loyola is a school made up of about a dozen fantastic professors whose work is overshadowed by a mob of complete a**holes.

Posted by: Loyola Grad | Aug 12, 2011 11:39:57 AM

I read the post and no specifics were mentioned. I am scamming because....???? I think the writer has mental issues which need to be addressed.
Unfortunately, no comments today because there is nothing to comment on.

Posted by: Nick | Aug 12, 2011 11:49:04 AM

Professor Seto, I respect your commitment to students and have closely followed your writings on this blog and elsewhere. But you never seems to take on directly the most serious problem with legal education today: that there are about half as many jobs as there are law students graduating each year and that most of those students graduate with around 100k+ in non-dischargable student loan debt. This situation leads to devastating, destructive consequences for the students involved. Because of this "collateral damage," the legal academy needs to change. I understand they do not want to, and we might lose something in that change, but certainly the status quo is unsustainable.

Posted by: John | Aug 12, 2011 12:12:08 PM

" I am scamming because....????"

Yes, "define theft."

I'm not saying that you do any of these things, but the scam allegations are generally something like this:

(a) you are paid more than a free market would bear for your work. you make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for a few hours of work a week. you effectively charge tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars (see the blog for an explanation of this number) for law review articles that are worth no where near that amount.
(b) you were able to sidestep market economics by lying about the value of your product. this lie comes in the form of misleading career placement numbers. law schools are so brazen that many are currently fighting attempts to audit and improve upon these numbers. And not one law school agreed to Law School Transparency's disclosure recommendations.
(c) by overstating the value of your product, you trick students into buying it for more than it is worth. This is especially harmful because the funds they use to purchase your product come from debt slavery creating student loans.
(d) because many professors themselves never practiced law, you are unable to teach your students how to practice law. Thus you fill the time with philosophical doctrine that is completely useless to a practicing attorney.

I'm probably missing a bunch of stuff but that's the gist of it.

Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2011 12:53:00 PM

Do any other adult observers grow weary of reading about law students who whine about being misled by their law schools, NALP, ABA, US News, or other scapegoats about their dismal prospects of securing employment upon graduation; whine about being misled about having to repay the student loans they voluntarily incur; whine about being misled by their law professors; file frivolous lawsuits to give voice to such whining; and, in all likelihood, whine about their underwear growing too tight when it is overlaundered?

Bah.

Posted by: Jake | Aug 12, 2011 8:52:45 PM

How is it a scam? Are the job prospects hidden from them before they enter law school? Is it not something that research can turn up? Why is it assumed that going to law school guarantees you a job as a lawyer? Do we guarantee jobs for MBA grads or MD grads, etc.? Just because the market offers to sell you something, does not mean that you have to buy it.

Posted by: Cheyanna Jaffke | Aug 17, 2011 6:27:19 PM

So professor's didn't set up the system from which they benefit, or have a say in huge, unaffordable tuition increases huh?. But yet they reap the benefits of such a system and indeed, are it's integral part.They keep their ridiculously high compensation don't they? This is nothing other than the discredited old "Nurrenburg Defense". As for the comment, 'just because the market offers to sell you something, does not mean you have to buy it.", didn't Bernard Madoff say the same thing about his marks?

Posted by: Crackermike | Aug 21, 2011 8:51:18 AM