Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 2, 2015

AALS, Law School Deans, Bar Official Respond To New York Times Editorial On The Law School Crisis

New York Times letters to the editor responding to the New York Times editorial on the law school crisis:

Blake Morant (President, AALS; Dean, George Washington), Kellye Testy (President-Elect, AALS; Dean, University of Washington) & Judith Areen (Executive Director, AALS; former Dean, Georgetown):

The New York Times fails to make its case on law school debt. Law students borrow more than undergrads, but most are able to repay, and do. The graduate student default rate is 7 percent versus 22 percent for undergrads.

Scott DeVito (Dean, Florida Coastal):

Your editorial referring to Florida Coastal School of Law paints a picture that is not supported by the facts.

The majority of our students pass the bar, and the vast majority of our alumni have successful careers in law. In February 2015 we had a 75 percent first-time bar pass rate, third best out of 11 law schools in the state, and an institutional ultimate pass rate of 87 percent.

Michelle Anderson (Dean, CUNY):

Law schools have a responsibility to provide an excellent education at an affordable price. High debt cannot be allowed to coerce young attorneys toward only the most remunerative legal practice.

As we have seen with so many graduates of CUNY School of Law, serving low- and moderate-income individuals can form the basis of a deeply rewarding career and a meaningful life.

Matthew DIller (Dean, Fordham):

[Your editorial] suggests that a “majority” of America’s more than 200 A.B.A.-approved law schools are behaving unscrupulously by charging high tuition and saddling graduates with unmanageable debt. In fact, data shows that law school graduates have lower default rates than other professional degree holders — and a law degree continues to be a sound investment over the course of a career.

Debra Raskin (President, New York City Bar Association):

Your editorial correctly notes the astronomical debt and diminishing job prospects facing most law school graduates today. While that is a problem requiring multifaceted solutions, there is a relatively simple step that could modestly increase law students’ income while giving them opportunities to obtain valuable training for a future job. ...

[A] third-year law student can work for a government or nonprofit law office (to which the wage law does not apply) and receive academic credit, but the law student cannot receive credit for the same work for a private legal employer, since the student must be paid in order for the employer to avoid the high risk of costly litigation. The A.B.A. should lift this outmoded prohibition.

David Stern (Executive Director, Equal Justice Works)

I disagree with your editorial, which characterizes law schools as overcharging students and taking advantage of federal loans. Yes, law schools (like medical schools) are too expensive and the model under which they are constructed is being rethought, but the editorial overlooks a few important points. ...

Unfortunately, there are proposals in Congress to cap or eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness. It is critical to preserve this program to ensure that people can perform a vital public service without being blocked by their debt.

Update #1:  Above the Law, Law School Deans Whine About The New York Times Calling Out Their Debt Scam

Update #2Leichter Critiques Responses By AALS, Law School Deans To New York Times Editorial On The Law School Crisis

(Hat Tip:  Brian Leiter.)  Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

Legal Education | Permalink


I agree with anon.25. I regularly criticize the scam, but believe that the silent majority of law profs would be sympathetic to reform if it did not directly conflict with their economic interests. I think that the majority of law profs are good people unwilling to stand up to what is an increasingly obvious scam on the vulnerable. This is not self-righteousness, although there is unmistakenly a moral component to it. It is just righteousness.

That there is right and wrong, and that the reformers (and the NY Times) agree that law school increasingly resembles a scam, do not make the reformers' calls for reform self-righteous.

Posted by: Jojo | Nov 5, 2015 2:00:14 PM

Rob T.:

Sorry that we don't think it's ok to defraud other human beings.

Posted by: anon. 25 | Nov 3, 2015 7:12:56 PM

Unemployed Northeastern writes,

"These largely self-righteous letters to the Times will only be an accelerant for angry Senators and Dept of Ed officials."

Pot, meet kettle. I can't think of a better epithet than "self-righteous" to apply to the law school scam trolls who regularly pullulate in the comments sections to these posts.

Posted by: Rob T. | Nov 3, 2015 3:41:09 PM

"Do you have a nominee for a 21st century paper of record?"

Fox News.

Posted by: umbruglia | Nov 3, 2015 2:56:34 PM

Here's another post where the Times was accused of jumping the shark about law school. Coincidence?

Posted by: shark jumping | Nov 3, 2015 9:49:31 AM

@John Novack,

For "anon's" purposes here, I rather suspect he'd prefer the "paper of record" to be Prelaw Magazine.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 3, 2015 8:48:36 AM

anon, really? The New York Times "is a paper no longer worth losing sleep over[?]" As opposed to the op-ed page of the WSJ, say, or the comment-baiting articles of the Washington Post? Do you have a nominee for a 21st century paper of record?

Posted by: John Novack | Nov 3, 2015 7:44:01 AM

the only mistake the deans made was in taking the Times seriously. that is a paper no longer worth losing sleep over. their editorial was a fine example of jumping the shark.

Posted by: anon | Nov 2, 2015 11:37:08 PM

Ugh, I had to walk "Reader" through this on the Simkovic thread. Outstanding student loans do not exist in a binary "default" and "full and timely repayment" state. In fact, that does not even represent a majority of student loans, according to the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Forbearances, deferrals, delinquencies, "current with balance the same" and "current with balance increasing" account for 52% of outstanding federal student loans. Law school grads with $150k to $250k or more of law school & undergrad student loans - plus interest on all of it while in school because they aren't subsidized anymore - NEED a biglaw job to stay out of an income-based repayment plan. Most do not get those jobs. Most enroll in IBR/PAYE/REPAYE. And the government will lose a fortune on those balances. I walked everyone through the math in the other thread. It is nonsense like the "low default rates mean everything is fine" that concedes the moral authority to think tanks like New America and Brookings to advocate repealing these loans and repayment plans. It is the reason why a couple as odd as Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have proposed a plan to scrap the default rate and replace it with a repayment rate: what percentage of a school's students and graduates manage to get their outstanding student loan principal down by just one dollar per year? Colleges with loan repayment rates greater than 10 percent below the national average over three years would lose access to Title IV federal student loans. And be on the hook to pay at least a portion of the balances that their students and graduates are not able to pay. Sooner or later, this bill or one like it will pass - if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, GradPLUS and/or IBR plans will be yanked altogether - and yes, the Dept of Ed is on record in the Federal Registry saying they do not believe a reference in your MPN can prevent Congress from yanking IBR plans if they feel like it.

Law schools have been far and away the greatest non-profit abusers of federal student lending, all while misleading on job placement and salaries. William Henderson over at Legal Whiteboard has it right: a reckoning is coming, and you have no one to blame but yourselves. These largely self-righteous letters to the Times will only be an accelerant for angry Senators and Dept of Ed officials.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 2, 2015 12:12:18 PM

This response could really backfire on the Deans. They don't want to start a war with the New York Times. The Deans harp on the low default rate without mentioning the impact of IBR and similar programs that are essentially soft defaults. The NYTimes may just respond with another full length article (sure to be #1 on most read) digging into the repayment levels of IBR enrollees with law degrees, and concluding they are akin to defaults.

Posted by: JM | Nov 2, 2015 11:48:23 AM

I think it is telling that multiple years into this, legal academia is at best paying lip service to the problem, and then only to a portion of the problem. Everyone else interested in law, education, and the legal profession uniformly agrees that schools are a big part of the problem, yet the schools will do absolutely nothing to self-police. There will be hue and cry throughout the faculty wings of law schools when Congress tightens the purse, but there are no proposals out there touting reform. Further, the schools are thick as thieves, with Harvard standing shoulder to shoulder with the for profits. None of you will like what's coming.

Posted by: Jojo | Nov 2, 2015 11:09:04 AM