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Monday, November 07, 2011

A Profile of He Who Would Not Be Named

The National Law Journal has a profile of Paul Campos, keyed to the Law School Scam blog.  I am quoted in it.  Read it for yourself.  I have three observations:

1) I am quoted in the story as saying: ""His readership is extremist. . . It's useful to hear from these people, who are having extremely difficult personal experiences. But it's difficult to convince the angriest people that we aren't a bunch of villains. We also need to reach out to the people who don't hate law school but feel disengaged."  Understandably, this has some commenters on Campos's blog riled up.  I think that's quite a fair reaction.  Of course, it was a long interview, and I think I explained it better in some other parts of our discussion, but I assume the quote is accurate, and it's unfair.  If I could redo that quote, I would definitely moderate that claim a good deal.  Although quite a few of his commenters make claims that I would characterize as extreme, not all of his readership is extremist, by a long shot, and as the tone of his blog has (mostly) calmed down, so have many of his readers.  (Although comments on Campos's most recent post, on the same article, like "This is a battle between aggressive criminals and cowardly and frightened victims. my money is on the criminals," "A slap fight between clueless dopes in ivory towers. Its so funny to me that these same dopes, err profs, would defend all and any victims except for the ones they helped create," and "Horwitz does have balls, as do most of the legal academia criminals," tend not to support this point.)  I apologize to the non-extremist commentes on the blog, while standing by my general point.  And I want to make the central point of the quote clear.  Many law students or recent graduates out there do not think all law professors are criminals, that all law schools are criminal enterprises, and so on, and they don't comment on blogs in the first place.  But they are out there, and many of them are disappointed, unhappy, alienated, and likely not to be heard.  I think it is terribly important to reach out to these people and not to create a lost generation of lawyers and alumni; and on the whole, because of their numbers and silence, I would say it's more important to reach these individuals than to reach those who are angry and vocal--not so much because of where my sympathies lie, but because I think they have the greater numbers and are hard to reach, and that we have a duty to reach them.

2) In the post, Campos writes: "A point of possible interest: of the three law professors quoted in the story with critical things to say about the blog, two signed the Law School Transparency Petition after reading about it here (that is, without a personal request from me). The third hasn't, and in fact didn't even bother to respond to my personal email asking him to consider it."  Of the three people quoted, I am one, a woman (Usha Rodrigues) is the second, and the third seems unlikely to have signed the petition, so I don't think it requires a stretch of the imagination to figure out who signed it and who didn't.  Compare that to Campos's post announcing the petition: "This letter will not be published, nor will the identities of any signers be disclosed, until at least 100 current law faculty at ABA-accredited schools have signed it."  (Emphasis added.)  Another promise conveniently forgotten when it served Campos's own needs.  I'm not especially upset to have my identity as a signer of the petition revealed.  But if Campos thinks that any reluctance on the part of law professors to participate in anything he's helping to run is all about how threatening he is to the powers that be, he's mistaken.  It's also because he is simply not trustworthy.  

3) In reading the story, I can't help but notice how fond Campos is of making himself the hero of his own story.  When he makes broad, unsupported claims about others in overamped language, it's "by design," he says, "intended to shake legal educators out of complacen­cy."  When people point out that many of his early claims were exaggerated, unsupported, and used unduly harsh language, he says he supposed he could have "sugarcoated" his words more, but the fundamental point is that "what I'm saying is extremely unpalatable to the powers that be."  Although many others have written about these issues with more data and better analysis, his blog is the place to be "for people to talk about subjects that are largely repressed . . . Very often, any conversation about this topic ends up being constrained by certain norms of legitimization. You basically can't call anything fundamental into question."  And so on.  It must be nice to be totally unplagued by self-doubt, and never affected in the least by Learned Hand's tired old quote about considering that one may be wrong.  If Campos had practiced law for more than a year, I'm sure he would have been a fine advocate--although the very best advocates, in the interests of honesty and credibility, actually moderate their language and admit from time to time the existence of serious contrary arguments.  But, naively or not, I expect something better from academics than someone who endlessly insists on being the drum major at the head of his own parade.     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on November 7, 2011 at 08:20 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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Comments

Out of curiosity, what factors did you consider in signing the petition, and did you discuss them with others prior to signing?

Also, even if no one else thanks you for it, I appreciate you lending your name to this.

Posted by: John | Nov 7, 2011 5:17:09 PM

I wrote the "this is a fight between aggressive criminals and frightened victims comment." Allow me to explain.

First let's accept the premise that (a) law schools intentionally lie about their ability to place students to gain tuition money and (b) accepting that the professors know that their institutions do this, and are OK with it because it's how they butter their bread (or however that english expression goes). The former is not seriously in dispute and the latter is controversial, but I think fair.

If you accept the premise, then the question is how can such an unstable and wrong thing continue to exist? I believe it exists for the same reason that all unstable and wrong enterprises persist - because of the nerve and aggressiveness of the enterprise's members.

As an example, what you have in the case of the aforementioned article is three members of the enterprise viciously attacking their victims by calling them extremists, disgusting, ugly (I think those were Leiter's words IIRC) and other terms. Fine, so the law school segment is fighting tooth and nail. What do you have on the other side? Nothing but Campos. Don't get me wrong, you've got a bunch of angry and anonymous comments but when it comes time to grow the balls needed to fight for your side you have nothing but whining and other psychological manifestations of a helpless victim.

That's why my conclusion is that on the one side you have very aggressive criminals. See the attacks in the article. See the fraud. See the replies to the lawsuits. See the stonewalling of Senator Boxer, Coburn and Grassley's efforts. See taking over the ABA committees designed to regulate the fraud. I could go on and on.

The bottom line, though, is that on one side you have people who are aggressively victimizing. On the other side you have frightened and ineffectual victims who do nothing but whine. As a student of history my money is on the former.

Posted by: JHG | Nov 7, 2011 6:54:53 PM

Faulty premises all, leading to a predetermined result.

Posted by: anonymous | Nov 7, 2011 9:10:14 PM

Anonymous 9:10:14 has it right. I don't see how JHG's comment could even be intended to lead to reasoned discussion.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Nov 7, 2011 11:33:57 PM

Let me preface by saying that it's unproductive to label law school professors as criminals. At most, they are passive beneficiaries in the ongoing victimization. Nevertheless, that does not detract from the observation that legal education is a gargantuan ripoff. A scam operated by distinguished men and women under the auspices of respected institutions is still a scam.

Legal education is a ripoff because it is widely sold as a gateway into a middle-class career. Statistics increasingly show that not only is this not the case, but that debt incurred in pursuit of this education can severely hurt people. The crux of our complaint is that representations of employability and earnings made by law schools can and do create in the average consumer (a 0L)a false and potentially dangerous impression that law school is a wise investment. This needs to change.

Posted by: GuyInGorillaSuit | Nov 8, 2011 2:21:10 AM

In case people have forgotten, let's list some of legal academia's aggressive and wrongful acts:

1. Publish, with a straight face, job placement statistics that are off by a factor of two or three. Good people don't play numbers fraud games. That takes not only nerve but a level of nerve that's crossed the line into criminal behavior. Madoff had it. Enron had it. Law schools have it.

2. Co-opt the ABA committee designed to regulate the above publication. If you look at the list of members on the ABA Questionnaire committee, you'll find it consists entirely of legal academics, mostly from tier 3/4 schools. That takes incredible nerve to take over, in open daylight, the entity designed to regulate your fraud. Most recently the committee voted to stop distinguishing between full and part time employment, and to stop distinguishing between legal and non-legal jobs! Good people don't do such things for fear of shame.

3. When you're finally sued for the fraud, don't deny it. There is not a single line in NYLS or Cooley's motions to dismiss claiming that their statistics are accurate. Rather, use the committee you co-opted, that everyone knows you co-opted, to shield yourself from liability! On top of that, throw in every technicality you can think of in one of the most nauseating examples of overzealous advocacy I have ever seen. Good people don't fight these battles. When a good person is caught, they apologize and fix the wrong. You have to balls, and a psychopath's level of shamelessness to fight this aggressively.

4. When one member of your community speaks out about these wrongs, have no less than three of your soldiers attack him in an article as "ugly", "disgusting", "an extremist" and so on.

5. When a United States Senator, Senator Grassley, writes the ABA committee that you have co-opted to demand answers, stonewall him until he is so exasperated with you that he and two other Senators demand a Department of Education investigation of your organization! Can you imagine how much nerve some entity must have to blow off a Senator?! Do you still not think this is a criminal enterprise? Legal academia does not respect anything. I'm just waiting to see how they game the DOE investigation. Who knows what kind of evil machinations they are pulling behind the scenes.

6. Just recently I came across this new ABA scam. They don't stop. http://qfora.com/jdu/thread.php?threadId=21481

7. Most importantly, a complete lack of remorse or empathy for the harm they do to innocent people's lives. Other than Prof. Campos, when have you heard one professor say he's sorry to a student whose future was destroyed by law school? I certainly haven't heard the word from Brian Leiter or Horwitz. If you can find other examples you can list them here.

If these aren't the acts of an aggressive and nervy criminal enterprise then I don't know what is. They fight hard. They fight aggressively. They fight tooth and nail. Their victims just whine.

Posted by: JHG | Nov 8, 2011 3:20:56 AM

John, ultimately it was not a hard decision, although for other reasons it took me a while. The bottom line was that I agreed with the basic and very broad language of the petition, which does not even require a particular method of guaranteeing transparency. I don't normally sign petitions, but I didn't find anything objectionable here. I didn't consult with anyone. Cheers, PH

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Nov 8, 2011 9:29:26 AM

May I suggest a thought experiment to JHG and others? Let's say that the ABA never required law schools to report employment statistics. This would, by no means, be unusual as most professional schools do not report the employment status of their graduates. Do you believe that the amount of students in law school would be cut significantly? And if the ABA were to abolish all reporting requirements tomorrow, would law school cease to be a scam, "criminal enterprise" etc.,? I think the real anger here is that law has been a "safe career" in the past and just isn't any longer.

Posted by: SA | Nov 8, 2011 1:45:51 PM

A comment on his blog specifically asked about his revealing of names, but he did not respond, though he has responded to other points people made on other subjects.

Posted by: anonymous | Nov 8, 2011 3:32:37 PM

SA:

In return, let me suggest a thought experiment for you. What would happen if the ABA required (a) law schools to report any job that wasn't salaried and 40+ hours a week as a part-time job, or (b) any job that wasn't advertised for "lawyers" or "attorneys" by a firm, a government agency or a law school as non-legal? How many law schools do you think we would have then, and how much would they be charging for their services?

Posted by: John | Nov 8, 2011 4:31:31 PM

John,

I honestly don't know. It may be obvious to you that students would stay away in droves, and they probably would from a few schools. But I also think that there is a natural tendency among most students to think that they can "beat the odds," particularly where the job prospects of the average liberal arts graduate are quite terrible. I've actually tried to dissuade numerous individuals from law school to no avail.

What I am certain of, however, is that the kind of data collection you are seeking would be quite costly (if done correctly). And you can bet that law schools will seek to pass those costs down to their students.

Posted by: SA | Nov 8, 2011 5:42:32 PM

Actually, I don't think that the kind of data collection I would like will be that costly. In fact, I believe it's largely being done already, and the Executive Director of NALP agrees with me.

From the linked remarks:

In section 2 we collect the employment status information, including whether the graduate is employed, enrolled in a full time degree program, not employed and seeking a job, or not employed and not seeking a job. In A2 we ask about whether they are volunteering if they are not working (this is a question that was added during the recession to try to learn something about students with a gap year of some sort). In A3 we ask about the type of job, whether it requires bar admission or not, and whether it is a professional job or not, and also ask if the job is full-time or part-time. Question 3 asks about the salary. Question 4 asks whether the job is temporary or permanent, Question 5 asks if they are continuing to seek alternative employment, Question 6 asks about the timing of their job offer, 7 asks the date on which they will start (and this was added to help us get a handle on the extent of the deferral phenomenon), and question 8 asks about the source of the job. Section B on the second page collects detailed information about the employer, including whether it is a law firm, and if so, what its size is, and also about the type of work being done for the employer. Besides law firms, the survey asks about jobs in business and industry, jobs in government, jobs in the military or as a judicial clerk, and jobs in public interest and academic settings. Finally, we ask an abbreviated set of questions about any second job that the graduate may hold concurrently with the first job. [...]

Leaving salaries aside, it would obviously also be possible to ask schools to report the number of jobs by whether or not bar passage was required, by whether the jobs were permanent or temporary, and by whether they are full-time or part-time, as that is all data that we provide back to the schools in their individual reports.

Additionally, NALP reports salary data back to the schools at the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles, while also providing the number of students responding to make clear how large the sample is. Nonetheless, the schools continue to report average or median starting salaries, despite the widespread knowledge that graduate salary outcomes tend towards one of two poles with precious little in between.

NALP and the law schools collect a lot of useful data. Then the ABA and the law schools do what they can to make sure that the incoming student population misunderstands that data. This is the source of the "real anger" you read about at ItLSS.

Posted by: John | Nov 8, 2011 6:31:43 PM

One of Brian Tamanaha's main points is that law school employment data is often based on only a minuscule percentage of graduates who respond to inquiries. I don't know to what extent that ends up being accurate, but if it is then there would certain be significant increased costs in gathering more complete data.

And there's a line between expecting information to be available and expecting schools not to make sales pitches. The former is reasonable, the latter is a pipe dream. If the NALP data satisfies your expectations and is available, then there's really little reason to complain. Prospective law students should be sophisticated enough consumers to look at third-party sources of data that are available and analyze it rationally.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Nov 8, 2011 6:38:24 PM

Merely knowing the extent to which a school's employment data set is incomplete is a significant piece of information about that school. Naturally, that information can't be found in most schools' published materials, the various guides to law schools in the U.S., or the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Your defense of the status quo leaves something to be desired. If a manufacturer of a product fails to include information in its packaging about its safe handling, that manufacturer doesn't gain a defense by providing copies of Google searches revealing information from unaffiliated third-party websites which the customer could have used to prevent his injury. Dismissing the status quo as salesmanship is something that no attorney could do, if he were brought before an ethics board for withholding information that he knew to be important to a client's decisions, including the one to retain him in the first place.

Posted by: John | Nov 8, 2011 7:08:54 PM

The ethical rules governing the relationship between attorney and client are (rightly) stricter than the rules governing the advertising of products to consumers. (It could be that we should expect law schools to meet a higher standard in their advertising than, say, McDonalds, but it seems to me that meeting the advertising standards at least moves law schools well put of the realm of "criminals" and "thugs".)

If McDonalds had an advertising campaign where they said, "90% of McD customers have been eating here for years," would you say they're fraudulent for not also noting that only 40% of customers replied to the survey? Would that be enough to support false advertising action?

You're right that as a moral matter (setting aside the legal issues for a moment) we don't generally excuse a company for withholding information just because that information was available elsewhere. But that's at least in part because we don't expect the average consumer to be that sophisticated about their choice. We (or at least I) have the opposite assumption about prospective law students. So whether or not we also assign some guilt to the schools, the complaints of graduates are a lot less compelling when they boil down to "the information was out there, but it should have been spoon-fed to me by the school itself."

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Nov 8, 2011 9:11:39 PM

This are at least in theory supposed to be non-profits exempted from taxation because they operate for the public good rather than the financial gain of stakeholders.

I don't think it unreasonable to hold them to a higher standard than McDonalds. Now if they wish to start filing taxes as the for profit partnerships that they functionally resemble that would be a different story.

Posted by: Brad | Nov 9, 2011 5:15:30 PM

At Penn State, an assistant football coach caught another assistant raping a young boy in the showers. He told the head coach, Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno told two Penn State administrators. The administrators told NO ONE ELSE. They did not call the cops. They did nothing.

Do you still think the "criminal" label is not apt for academic administrators?

Posted by: anon | Nov 10, 2011 2:08:03 PM

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