Paul L. Caron
Dean





Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Muller: Law School Ruin Porn Hits USA Today

USA TodayFollowing up on my previous post, Eighteen Law Schools Would Fail ABA's Proposed 75% Bar Passage Within 2 Years Accreditation Standard: Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Law School Ruin Porn Hits USA Today:

I actually laughed out loud when I started reading this “yearlong investigation” by four USA Today journalists on the state of legal education. I call the genre, “law school ruin porn.” ...

The piece is reminiscent of a genre of journalism that peaked in 2011 in a series of pieces by David Segal in the New York Times. ...

The fundamental problem with a piece like this one in USA Today is how it treats the outlier as the norm. The vast majority of law students do pass the bar exam on the first attempt. The vast majority of law schools are at no risk of failing to meet the ABA’s standards. But the piece is framed in quite a different fashion. ...

The piece also unhelpfully quotes, without critique, some conclusions from “Law School Transparency.” (You may recall that several years ago LST tried to shake down law schools by charging them at least $2750 a year to “certify” that those schools met LST’s disclosure standards.) For instance, “The number of law schools admitting at least 25% of students considered ‘at risk’ of failing the bar jumped from 30 schools to 74 schools from 2010 to 2014, according to a report in 2015 by Law School Transparency.” Of course, if one cares about ultimate pass rates, which this article purports to care about, then how is it that just 18 schools missed the “ultimate” pass rate compared to LST’s projected 74 (for 2014, but things weren’t exactly better by 2015). In part because LST’s “at risk” is an overly broad definition—because it doesn’t include academic dismissals (despite mentioning it in the report), because it doesn’t account for variances in state bars (despite mentioning it in the report, but not included in identifying “at risk”), because it’s not clear whether LST is primarily concerned with first-time or ultimate passage (the report jumps around), because LST adds a level of risk (which USA Today mistakenly reports) to “at risk” of not graduating in addition to “at risk” of not passing the bar (which, I think, is an entirely valid thing to include), and so on.

A lengthy investigative piece should, in theory, provide greater opportunity for subtlety and fine-tuning points, rather than list a bunch of at-risk schools and serially identify problems with as many of them as possible. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some existential problems at a handful of law schools in the United States, or that the ABA’s proposal isn’t worthy of some serious consideration. It’s simply that this form of journalism is a relic of 2011, and I hope we see the return of more nuanced and complicated analyses to come.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2019/02/muller-law-school-ruin-porn-hits-usa-today.html

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Comments

"The fundamental problem with a piece like this one in USA Today is how it treats the outlier as the norm... The vast majority of law schools are at no risk of failing to meet the ABA’s standards. But the piece is framed in quite a different fashion."

The fundamental problem with marketing like that of law schools is how it treats the outlier as the norm... The vast majority of law schools are at no risk of becoming a large law firm associate, a judge, making more than a garden-variety STEM major, or even receiving a modicum of training or mentorship after law school. But law schools frame their purported outcomes in quite a different fashion. .

"It’s simply that this form of journalism is a relic of 2011, and I hope we see the return of more nuanced and complicated analyses to come."

Also a relic of 2011: nearly 25,000 law school grads landing FT/LT/license-required jobs within nine months of graduation. Only a shade over 23,000 grads from the Co2017 found such jobs within TEN months of graduation, despite the better economy. I would add that, in real dollars, the median starting salary per NALP has not even increased $1,500 since 2011. It would seem some pasts we just cannot escape, eh?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 19, 2019 7:55:26 AM

Bravo, Derek!

Posted by: Theodore P Seto | Feb 19, 2019 6:18:28 AM