Paul L. Caron

Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

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

Constitutional Daily has a lengthy interview. Among the incendiary observations:

[W]hen you're teaching the same material for the fifth or seventh or tenth time, there simply isn't that much useful extra preparation you can do, even if you're particularly diligent (which again in my experience many if not most tenured law professors aren't.) The bottom line is that people go into law teaching because they don't want to work as hard as they would at the typical alternative career track for them, which is practicing law at a big firm. This isn't true 100% of the time, but it is a huge motivation for the vast majority of people who go into law teaching, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or a fool. ...

There is absolutely no justification for students paying large amounts of money to subsidize the writing of traditional legal scholarship. As I argue on ITLSS, most legal scholarship has neither academic nor practical value, since most legal academics are neither lawyers nor scholars. Of course the present generation of legal academics would not be willing to take a big pay cut to just teach, because many of them do that already (a large proportion of tenured faculty do little or no writing).

Anonymous Law Prof's latest posts:

Brian Leiter (Chicago), Isn't It Obvious Who the "LawProf" Writing the "Law School Scam" Blog Is?:

It was obvious to me after reading the blog, with its reckless and inaccurate generalizations (cf. Paul Horwitz's commentary), since the author has written in this vein under his own name in the past. ...  I am somewhat amazed he would do this, since the blog is tantamount to an admission that he is not really doing his job and doesn't deserve his salary (given what I know about him, I'm inclined to believe that).  More seriously, when his identity becomes public, as seems inevitable given how poorly he has disguised it, he will have humiliated his colleagues and his school, neither of which deserve his latest exercise in seeking the limelight. ... Out of respect for his school and his colleagues, who deserve much better, I will not be posting his identity.

For a tax perspective, see the comment to my original post by Tax Prof Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.):

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.

Tax Prof Linda Beale (Wayne State) offers her views in Law School (and Profs) a Scam?:

Maybe the description of a typical law professors' workload/work methods is true for someone who teaches a couple of sections of the same first-year course year-in and year-out or even others who teach mostly case-based disciplines of the law where they basically hold easy-going conversations with students around a couple of cases during each class section.  ... As a tax professor, I have to say that this description of typical preparation and typical classes, even if true for most law professors, is something quite different from the norm I believe exists for most tax professors.  Most tax professors will have practiced tax law at least a few years (in my case, more than six).  There are few people who could get away with teaching anything but the most limited tax course without more practical knowledge than can be acquired from reading the text and the teacher's manual.  Most will keep up with key cases, legislation (and there's lots of tax legislation to keep up with) and commentary, meaning that there are many hours each week that must be devoted just to keeping up with what is going on in the field.  Many will also research further various topics as part of their preparation for teaching particular classes, because a change in the law may have impacted something that is planned to be covered, and there may be new administrative guidance, relevant cases, or relevant commentary that throws some light on the full impact of the change. That research will be done, even if the class ends up being mostly about the same as the last time it was taught--either because the changes were too nuanced to be covered in an introductory level course, or because there was nothing very helpful out there.  Even if not directly taught in the course, the research and reading will give the tax prof more depth in the discussion--something to bring in, if the opportunity presents itself, from the 'real world' of transactions and deal-making.  Most manuals (with notable exceptions) barely touch the surface of the issues, and are far too limited to be considered an adequate foundation for a class.

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I'll try again. I am not confused, and I think it is insulting to be reluctant to post this info on TaxProf Blog which is a highly regarded information source (not "just a blog"). An unwillingness to "out" him and instead go through back door channels (like the old boys network) reenforces the point that you are part of the system and the problem.

It is another an act of cowardice to say "I know who it is, but I'm not going to tell you because I told his Dean." If you are going to open your mouth, again, and state that you told his Dean, meaning that you affirmatively know (or think you know) who the person is, then accuse him or keep your mouth shut and don't say anything at all.

You know who wants to hear excuses? Nobody. (I told his Dean. Ugh!)

Posted by: tax guy | Aug 17, 2011 5:57:26 PM

Professor Seto,
I just sent you an email. I am a Loyola grad who did outstandingly in the tax program and I still haven't gotten my first tax law job, despite having graduated years ago. Hopefully you can help me understand how these students are finding positions.
Thank you,

Posted by: anonymous | Aug 16, 2011 12:48:54 AM

Dear Publius Novus,

Before becoming a law professor, I practiced with big firms (Foley Hoag in Boston and Drinker Biddle in Philadelphia) for 14 years. Among other things, I served as hiring partner at Drinker. I know a well-trained law graduate when I see one.

Your statements are generalizations: "U.S. law schools do not produce lawyers. They produce students who have been educated and groomed to be law professors." Perhaps your school. Not mine. To give you a sense of the kind of education my school offers: prospective litigators take, among other things, "Deposition Practice" and "Cross Examination Intensive Workshop." An entire course on depositions; an entire course on cross. Intensive drill. No crap. Consequence: We produce some of the best litigators in the world.

Last summer we offered our first Intensive Summer Tax Session -- again an effort to provide true value to our students. Every student in that program who wanted a job got one -- good, paying, partner-track jobs. Every student. And this in the middle of one of the worst job markets in recent memory. Apparently, employers who know our grads disagree with you.

Prof. Ted Seto
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
(And proud of it)

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Aug 15, 2011 12:57:19 PM

Professor Seto, your grads are not "damned good tax lawyers" when you are "done" with them. At best, they have absorbed some measure of the tax-related information you presented to them. They are not "lawyers," much less "damned good" ones. I've said it before, and keep on saying it--U.S. law schools do not produce lawyers. They produce students who have been educated and groomed to be law professors. Law teachers in the U.S. have not been lawyers for a long time, and the trend in most highly ranked law schools is to hire and promote teachers who may not even hold a J.D. Legal education in the U.S. is seriously off-track and getting worse.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Aug 15, 2011 8:28:17 AM

I remember a particularly boring history professor I had. One day he moved his lecture notes from the podium ever so slightly, and I saw that it was a "Yale" pad. I was really disgusted to think that the guy just took his notes from grad school and read them to us verbatim--Then I checked in the faculty guide and saw that Yale was his undergraduate school....

Posted by: jim harper | Aug 14, 2011 6:25:52 PM

"Tax guy" is confusing reluctance to publish on a blog the identity of "LawProf" with willingness to communicate with LawProf's Dean directly. As yesterday's Update makes clear, LawProf's colleagues are on to him.

Posted by: Brian | Aug 14, 2011 2:32:56 PM

"I think "Anonymous" should quit since he is not adding value to his students and is scamming them."

This is a risible critique by professors. I've heard it at least three times so far, they say something like "if you're defrauding your students then return their money" or "you're defrauding your students but I'm not defrauding my students."

The existence of fraud is not determined by the subjective mindset of the accused fraudster! You don't get to decide for yourself whether you are defrauding someone. How could law professors who are generally bright come up with such a silly defense?

Posted by: anon | Aug 14, 2011 9:58:52 AM

My respect for Prof. Leiter has dropped through the floor.

He is complicit in the scam that Prof. Anonymous argues exists. He will not out the professor "Out of respect for his school and his colleagues." In other words, he allows students to pay 6 figures to attend at least 1 school where he knows at least one of the professors is unfit to teach. Prof. Leiter perpetuates and props up the system that Prof. Anonymous is stating exists.

It is an act of cowardice to say "I know who it is, but I'm not going to tell you (perhaps because a whole bunch of my friends stand to lose a lot of money if I did)." If you are going to open your mouth state you know who the offender is, then accuse him or her or keep your mouth shut and don't say anything at all.

Posted by: tax guy | Aug 14, 2011 9:10:42 AM

Wow, I must be going soft, Ted Seto has said it absolutely perfectly and I don't really have anything to add.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 14, 2011 6:38:45 AM

I had to LOL at the Loyola professor's claims. I've supervised a lot of lawyers from that school and they, just like everyone else, knew very little about how to be a lawyer.

That this guy thinks he's that important suggets a total disconnect between the mind of an academic and the needs of the profession.

Learning doctrinal points is valuable and I was lucky enough to go to one of the best schools. The students there are brighter and the profs better. Still, most of the practical knowledge that I have was gleaned from the actual practice of law.

Law profs work in a market whereby the profession has created a licensing monopoly, the schools are necessary, and big firms pay to have access to the best minds that happen to want to play the game. Other than the basic black letter law and sorting, law schools don't need to produce much else.

There is no price differential among them. The price for law professors is certainly not market driver... if one could simply take the bar without a JD (or in CA, without years of apprenticing) then their salaries would fall 80%.

Adding value, lol. You can get the same value with a library card. "Income is income" has been around a long time.

Posted by: jdd | Aug 13, 2011 4:13:42 PM

I think "Anonymous" should quit since he is not adding value to his students and is scamming them. In my school, in addition to teaching, we are required to have 10 office hours per week and, of course, to publish. Additionally, I have introduced a tax certificate program and a low income taxpayer clinic at my school and I am trying to do more. I routinely work 50/hour work as do some of my colleagues. Hence, unlike Anonymous, I earn every penny of my salary--by the way, I haven't had a raise in four years (State Budget problems). In this day of instant information via the internet, students come to class armed with tons of information or misinformation about any subject you teach. If you are not well prepared, they will smell blood and you would lose control of the class very quickly. Clearly, there are teachers who don't earn their paychecks, same can be said about any profession.
And yes, Like Linda I constantly think of ways of giving value to my students.

Posted by: Reginald Mombrun | Aug 13, 2011 2:00:29 PM

I agree law school is a fucking scam. 100k+ debt and 90% of grads get less than 100k jobs. Bullshit. Also law school doesn't prepare you for practice. Anyone who argues that point is a professor/dean/ls faculty.

Posted by: jjjna | Aug 13, 2011 11:28:43 AM

While I do believe that law professors do some incredible work with students, I do think it is telling that many feel the need to defend themselves so vigorously when the "value" of their teaching is placed in question. Of course law professors need to keep up with changes in the law- all law practitioners should. But I doubt that any changes in the law right now merit anything more than minor changes in a syllabus. Teaching Tax I and II, and Corporate and Partnership taxation have not changed drastically in over two decades. To all law professors, please accept that you are paid incredibly well for the amount of true work that you do during an average week- many professions pay people more than what they deserve based on "value"- see everyone on wall street. But please don't insult our intelligence. You wake up and think of how to give your students value and go to sleep doing the same- come on man.

Posted by: anon | Aug 13, 2011 10:56:37 AM

I agree with Seto's sentiment that professors need to be personally responsible for the value offered by their classes.

For instance, I had professor Issacharoff for civil procedure, and our class involved 3 writing assignments, which I think added a lot of value to the class both in terms of skills and theory. Writing has obvious skills benefits, but it also gives you an important and valuable perspective on the theory questions. Just imagine how less useful an ethics class would be if you've never faced an ethical dilemma before.

LawProf should indeed focus on improving his own class, and in my interview with him, he did say that he has changed his class to offer greater value to his students. But, if he sees malfeasance committed by others, should he not point it out?

I don't teach law school classes, but I think I should still be allowed to say that my Wills, Trusts and Estates class probably should have involved, at some point, actually reading a will.

Posted by: BL1Y | Aug 13, 2011 10:51:08 AM

Wow Leiter's post reads as a bit threatening, and ends with him switching from bad cop to good cop with: "I hope he has the good sense to just delete the whole thing before he makes things worse." This whole thing is remarkable.

Posted by: anon | Aug 13, 2011 10:25:06 AM