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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Tamanaha on Class and Law School Reform

Brian Tamanaha has posted on SSRN a short and enjoyable piece on my current favorite subject, apart from law and religion: social class and the legal academy. His paper, "The Failure of Crits and Leftist Law Professors to Defend Progressive Causes," is specifically about the failure of "progressive law professors" to do or say much about the problematic conditions Tamanaha explored in his book Failing Law Schools. From the abstract:

The pricing structure of legal education has profound class implications. High tuition will inhibit people from middle-class and poor families more than it will deter the offspring of the rich with ample resources. Law school scholarship policies, for reasons I will explain, in effect channel students with financial means to higher ranked law schools, reaping better opportunities, while sending students without money to lower law schools. A growing proportion of elite legal positions will be held by people from wealthy backgrounds as a result. For students who rely on borrowing to finance their legal education, the heavy debt they carry will dictate the types of jobs they seek and constrain the career they go on to have.

Liberal law professors often express concerns about class in American society — championing access to the legal profession and the provision of legal services for underserved communities. Yet as law school tuition rose to its current extraordinary heights, progressive law professors did nothing to resist it. This Article explores what happened and why.

This is offered in the spirit of critical legal studies — as a critical self-examination of the failure of leftist law professors. The Crits were highly critical of complacent liberal academics of their day, arguing that they had a hand in perpetuating an unjust legal system; here I charge liberal legal academia — including the Crits — with perpetuating the profoundly warped and harmful economics of legal education. What follows will offend many of my fellow liberals. It may even lose me some friends. Liberal law professors must see past their anger to reflect on whether there is a core truth to my arguments, to take personal responsibility for what has happened, and to engage in collective action to do something to alter the economics of our operation. If not, the current economic barrier to a legal career may become permanent.

Without endorsing it in whole, it's a worthwhile and certainly entertaining (if that's the right word) read. A couple of points. I'm not sure what kinds of personal responses Tamanaha has received to his book and other writings on law school reform, but he has made his point about potential personal costs before, and I'm not sure it needs to be made in general terms anymore. That's just a quibble, however. More important, I'm not sure why he focuses on the Crits and SALT. He makes his points about them well enough. But I would have thought that plain-vanilla liberals, including those who insist on calling themselves progressives, constitute a much, much larger and more influential sector of the legal academy than genuine members of the left. If their failures are less glaring and entertaining, their attention, embarrassment, and commitment are probably more important for purposes of actual reform.

Finally, as noted above, Tamanaha writes that "[l]iberal law professors often express concerns about class in American society." I would say in response: Not that often! As far as I can tell, they much prefer to write about other kinds of inequality and identity issues than about class. Understandably, perhaps. "Write what you know," the old adage goes. This is not an issue that the legal professoriate, and especially the elite legal professoriate, is likely to know as much about. I read and enjoyed, more or less, Duncan Kennedy's book on legal education, but I learned more, and more viscerally, about class from this critical review of the book than from the book itself.

 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on May 1, 2013 at 02:59 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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Thanks for mentioning my piece, Paul. While I address liberal law professors more generally, I focus on Crits and SALT in particular because both give primacy to class (the latter race as well, which I also discuss in the essay), which is the central theme of the essay. I focus on Crits, furthermore, because they talked a lot about taking personal responsibility (pace quotes from Kennedy and Singer), which I echo in my piece. Finally, I use Kennedy's piece to set up a retrospective look at the issues he raised thirty years latter.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | May 1, 2013 3:38:54 PM

There's an interesting contrast in discussions on various law faculty websites between discussions of tuition and tenure. In one you hear a lot about the realities of the market and the limits of faculty influence. In the other you here a lot about the noble traditions of the academy.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader which is which.

Posted by: brad | May 1, 2013 4:24:24 PM

Tamanaha writes:

"Neither Diamond nor Silver actually talk about the enormous cost of a law degree
or the debt burden this imposes on our graduates presumably because, in their
mind, the intangible benefits of tenure and scholarship implicitly outweigh
these harms."

Not true and typical of the tendentious tone of this piece. I proposed a massive national debt relief program for law students hit by the "perfect storm" macroeconomic downturn on my blog months ago. No reaction or endorsement from either the Good Cop (Brian) or the Bad Cop (Campos) of law school "reform."

Posted by: Steve Diamond | May 1, 2013 4:48:16 PM

Steve,

My comments relate specifically to Silver's review of my book and your review of my book. Your review, which I have a copy of, says nothing about debt relief that I can find. I did not see your "massive debt relief proposal" on your blog, which I only visited a couple of times months ago. (I stopped looking because it was tedious to read, given your rambling attacks on me.) If you did make that proposal, as I said, it is not in your review that I quote from and discuss, so my specific assertion in the passage you quote is "true".

Frankly, to propose debt relief (which has been proposed by many others for several years now, and I hope is provided) as a solution strikes me as an easy gesture on your part because it costs us nothing, and suggests that there is nothing we must do ourselves to significantly reduce the cost of legal education.

More to the point, your review is a full-throated defense of legal education. Your core arguments (the best I can make out) are: 1) the job and salary situation for law grads is not as bad as Tamanaha says; 2) law schools are not to blame for whatever problems there are; 3) law schools have not advertised misleading employment numbers to prospective students; 4) legal scholarship has extraordinary value for society; 5) law professors sacrificed lots of money we could have earned as lawyers to become law professors instead; and 6) Tamanaha is a "conservative" (which, besides being wrong, is entirely irrelevant).

It is precisely this mindset--deflecting responsibility away from legal educators onto others--that my essay hopes to penetrate. I do not believe we bear all, nor even the largest share, of responsibility for the cost problem in legal education, but nor do I think it can be addressed as long as we continue to deny any responsibility.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | May 1, 2013 7:01:28 PM

Steve,

The sentence you quote follows directly after a passage from your SSRN review of my book. Your review, which mounts a full-throated defense of legal education, says nothing about debt relief. So my statement is in fact "true" of the piece I am referring to. I visited your blog a handful of times several months ago, but stopped reading it (your persistent attacks on me were tedious), and did not see your debt relief proposal (if you made it). Your review is a perfect example of the mindset I am trying to pierce with this essay, although I have no doubt that you will not be moved.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | May 1, 2013 8:41:28 PM

Brian,

How generous of you to engage me on line and in print. After your withdrawal of plans to visit our campus to debate your book (in the immediate wake of my review posted on SSRN) I thought you no longer cared.

The review paper you cite in your SLPR did mention the debt problem and referred to my blog proposal Lawyers for America debt relief concept. Somehow you missed these references. The first appeared on page one where I noted the hypocrisy of critics like you who contend they are defending the interests of debt strapped graduates yet say nothing about such proposals for debt relief:

"One readily available test of the lack of rationality of the “scam” idea is to take notice of its supporters’ apparent disinterest in concrete proposals for debt relief and other forms of assistance available to law school graduates caught in the economic downturn."

The second comment occurs on page 20 where I specifically cite the LFA blog proposal, but you missed this too apparently:

"My proposal for a combined debt relief and post-law school training program is aimed at
dealing with both the job situation as well as that need. See “Lawyers for America: A modest proposal,” available at http://stephen-diamond.com/beyond-the-scam-debate-about-law-schools-lawyers-foramerica-a-modest-proposal/."

I realize my work bores you but if you want to cherry pick from it please do so after reading it. And perhaps if you are as concerned for student welfare as you profess you would be willing to donate half your past and future income to a debt relief program?

I have written to the editors of SLPR asking for a correction to the ms. prior to publication. I also note the irony of publishing your jeremiad in a Stanford journal - a setting where law students receive an education that is heavily subsidized, in other words at a huge discount from its actual cost. At the elite law schools tuition covers only a fraction (as low as a third) of the actual cost of their education.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | May 1, 2013 9:39:48 PM

*munches popcorn*

Posted by: andy | May 1, 2013 9:57:02 PM

Steve, if you actually read the article you'd see that Professor Tamanaha addressed debt relief programs. I see nothing in your proposal that suggests law professors take responsibility for the high cost of law school.

And if you bothered to read Failing Law Schools, it has some very good debt relief proposals. Just ones that might hurt your own bottom line.

Posted by: BoredJD | May 2, 2013 1:15:51 AM

One thing that strikes me in particular about liberal law professors is how similar the rhetoric is to that used by scions of capital, such as justifying salaries and perks by pointing to the "market" rate, arguing for government subsidies using highly dubious claims of the value of their industry to the public, or caveat emptor type rationalizations based on some myth of the rational consumer.

You talk about the financial realities that force law students to pursue careers in corporate law. But sitting in a classroom and hearing a leftist law professor makimg a quarter-mil in base salary telling us not to take jobs with big evil coporate law firms tends to cause profound disillusionment in and of itself.

Posted by: BoredJD | May 2, 2013 1:27:52 AM

I suggested to Steve awhile back that instead of funneling unrestricted government student loan dollars through tuition into the pockets of professors, that instead the student loan spigot be turned off and the money instead used to fund his noble 'Lawyers for America' plan - because let's face it, money isn't endless and the funding for his program needs to come from somewhere...

I don't think he responded to that suggestion.

Posted by: anon | May 2, 2013 11:08:09 AM

While I feel a bit like I'm arriving late and somewhat unprepared for a party I'm not entirely sure I want to be attending, I want to push back on the idea that CLS was gave primacy to, or even was particularly interested in, class. Having gone to law school in the 1980s, and grad school in the 1990s, I remember a lot of that stuff -- and the related deconstructionist and post-modern movements in other fields. Most of all that was in fact a reaction against an older left (that never had much purchase in law schools) that the Crits, etc., felt had been based too much in materialism and/or crude Marxism.

Consider this description of Morton Horwitz -- written by one lion of CLS and noting other lion of CLS -- describing Horwitz as, "embarrassedly defending his latest attempt to salvage his limited version of the socioeconomic determinism of legal ideas from the onslaught of his neighbor in Langdell Hall, Mr. Kennedy." John Henry Schlegal, "Notes Toward an Intimate, Opinionated and Affectionate History of the Conference on Critical Legal Studies," 36 Stanford L. Rev. 391, 402-03 (1994).

None of this, of course, goes to what is or isn't an appropriate or constructive critique of liberal - left law professors today. But I don't think the Crits gave primacy to class. Let me end by stressing that I hope thinking more seriously about class will make a comeback.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 2, 2013 4:48:55 PM

Whoops, make that law review cite date 1984, not 1994. Oh, and make "CLS was gave" "CLS gave" while we're at it.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 2, 2013 5:08:53 PM

Whoops, make the date in the cite to the Stanford L. Rev. article 1984 instead of 1994. And while we're at it, in the first line, change "CLS was gave primacy" to "CLS gave primacy."

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 2, 2013 5:10:39 PM

For what it’s worth, I think Joseph makes an important and absolutely true point: CLS did not, at least at the level of theory, give primacy to class, indeed, I think CLS incorporated very little class analysis of any significance into its work. In this sense, then, CLS was certainly not (for better and worse) “Marxist” in its approach to law although even contemporary Marxists theories of law (from Evgeny B. Pashukanis forward) are themselves not too sophisticated when it comes to class analysis: class is conceived in rather crude mechanical terms or at best class-related topics and questions are implicit or assumed and not explicitly confronted. One reason for this lack of sophistication goes back to Marx himself, for he “attacks concepts and theories of justice and rights on the basis that they are part and parcel of bourgeois ideology” (R.G. Peffer). Of course one need not subscribe to a Marxist theory of law to evidence a contemporary Marxist or Marxist-like concern for the significance of class issues, variables, and analysis (as found, say, in the works of Erik Olin Wright and to some extent in other ‘analytical Marxists’). And CLS and other Left or Left-leaning legal academics have been no less preoccupied by the careerism and professional ambitions intrinsic to academic life than their intellectual brothers and sisters on the Left generally (wherein, again for better and worse, the Marxist revolution has been forged in largely cultural terms). As Russell Jacoby wryly noted in his book, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (1987), “The New Left that stayed on the campus proved industrious and well behaved.” This could be said to exemplify Rudi Dutschke’s “the long march through the institutions” with a vengeance (although Dutshchke himself soon became active in the Green movement). More often than not (implying there are noteworthy if not noble exceptions to the rule), it seems, “professionalism leads to privatization or depoliticization, a withdrawal of intellectual energy from a larger domain to a narrower discipline” (Jacoby).

However, and in all fairness, we should acknowledge that CLS and other Left and Liberal approaches to law and the legal system (in particular those that grew out of the 1960s) did evidence and often inspired a practical and activist concern for class issues and questions insofar as they directly or indirectly led to such things as “cause lawyering,” legal and penal reform, wider “access to justice,” participation in emancipatory and class-oriented social movements (including ‘poor people’s movements), the development of “poverty law,” more attention to labor law, legal aid clinics, and so forth.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 2, 2013 7:42:15 PM

I share in Slater's hope that "thinking more seriously about class will make a comeback." This needs to be a process that takes place in general and is not just a law school/legal profession issue.

That said, you profs will certainly argue your points from time to time until the cows come home. But you know, we know, and you know we know, that none of you are going to voluntarily pay the price required to relieve the misery created by the lawyer glut. At best, this discussion - particularly for Tamanaha - is a cathartic exercise in futility.

It is safe to say that in this country, market forces are the soup d'jour in terms of a possible remedy for the oppressed. And of course, even the efficacy of market forces is seriously restrained by rigging the game at the legislative and administrative levels.

In America, the fix is on from every direction imaginable. The only reasonable way to describe it is "a turf war between the haves." The have-nots are of no concern except to the extent money and sacrifice can be extracted from them. The incidental exercise in feeling pity is a worthless pursuit. You profs aren't going to sacrifice in any meaningful sense, and even if you did, there are plenty of others behind you that will happily dine at the expense of the next sucker law student out there. In other words.... it's inevitable.

So, do yourselves a favor and forget about all this. It's not your problem, and you can't fix it. Might as well enjoy your reward despite the toll taken on kids with stars in their eyes. Life's lesson is the best teacher a person can have.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 2, 2013 7:55:05 PM

The problem that Diamond refuses to see is that debt and ridiculous tuitions are principally caused by the fact that law professors are seriously overpaid and underworked. I know it's really inconvenient, especially for non-tenured professors, but it's well-established by now and there's nothing Diamond or his colleagues can do to hide it. Law professors are not worth $150k+ a year in salary. The scholarship they produce is not worth that much, and their teaching is not that much.

And of course, the idea that they all could have made more money outside the academy is just plain wrong. They're comparing themselves to the tiny minority of biglaw lawyers who make partner rather than the majority who wash out in 5 years, which is profoundly dishonest, especially considering most of the people who give up biglaw for law schools did so because they realized they could not make it in biglaw for the long haul.

Posted by: TWBB | May 2, 2013 8:01:17 PM

Just another point....

In typical elitist form, the lofty academians degrade an argument about reality into quotes about whether CLS stood for "X" or "Y" and whether or not Marx's description of the class structure is flawed.

When someone is suffering, it doesn't take a footnote reference to a writing by Marx to prove it. The data is, at this point, irrefutable. Law students carry far too much debt and are struggling financially as demonstrated by statistics showing that post-grad employment within 9 months is on the order of a miserable 55%.

Arguing over what Marx and CLS believed has nothing to do with this, except to the extent of yet another published article in an elitist journal hardly anyone will ever read.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 2, 2013 8:07:32 PM

First, apologies to all for various posting errors earlier.

Second, Jeff M., FWIW, I agree that current problems regarding law school debt and employment are more pressing than whether the CLS folks made class their primary focus. In that regard, though, I think the picture you paint of law profs is overly bleak. Many of us really do care -- a lot -- about current problems students/graduates are having, and it's really not just some noblesse oblige sense of pity. Figuring out what to do about these things, though, is harder than just calling for law profs to "pay the price required." That's especially true since quite a few things causing these problems are outside the control of any one professor, one law school, or even group of law schools. But many folks inside the legal academia are making good faith efforts to try to figure out what to do next.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 2, 2013 8:42:13 PM

Joseph Slater, I realize that you really do care in a sense. Just like I care that there are a lot of lonely and bored old people withering away in the nursing home I visit every day while I go see my elderly mom. Sure, we care. I might even have a conversation or 2 with some of them just to brighten their dull days. But life goes on.

I urge you to look back at my first post (a few up). There is nothing you guys can do. Forget about it. Seriously. You cannot create demand for legal services - except artificial demand. And what good is that?

You guys (maybe not you) are remiss to think broke people need legal services. The accused get appointed lawyers, and you can rest assured, the line of attorneys looking for appointments is rather long. No shortage there.

You can't fight over real estate people don't own. You can't plan for an estate consisting of hardly more than a couch and a window a/c unit.

Divorce is a luxury when there is no property to divide. Why ought the state get involved in that? Custody disputes are rare between broke people. You don't see broke dads agonizing because they want to bear the responsibility for putting a roof over a kid's head.

Child support for the broke has already been assumed by the state, which subrogates itself after registering broke, single parents on the government dole.

But enough of that. Even so, just like profs didn't obtain their degrees to be the Mother Teresas of the world, neither should their students be expected to.

So, what's left? Are you folks considering genning up demand for legal services? The proposed "Obamacare" for the legal profession?

It's really not going to happen. It's nice to think about how one might solve the problems, but it's really not a good idea to intervene in natural forces. It simply perverts normal human behavior.

If you still have people paying $150k for law school, the best thing you could do is raise the sticker to $250k. You get more money (or perhaps the same with fewer students). At some point, you have priced the degree appropriately to minimize the risk that working class kids find themselves inextricably caught up in a hopeless mess. You need to price people out of making inordinately risky decisions.

From the data concerning the reduction in law school applications, it appears a market correction is under way. It will resolve itself. In the meantime, better get yours while you can. Stash away for retirement because the cuts will be on their way. I certainly don't wish this, but it's what reality dictates.

Why try to retain a glut of lawyers society doesn't need? Most debt-ridden middle class workers have figured out how to use the internet to solve mundane problems which, 20 years ago, were mysteries to almost everyone except practicing attorneys. Today, pro se people fill out their own divorce petitions and have the judges conduct the prove-ups for them. Small claims courts (in my state, anyway) have had their jurisdictions increased from $5,000 to $10,000. Now, pro se people can deal with mundane legal issues "Judge Judy" style.

These are not all bad things. They certainly require an adjustment on the supply side of the legal world. That's not necessarily a bad thing, either. Society moves ahead....

It just seems like taxing yourselves over this problem is in vain. I'd be curious to hear any rational proposal which returns to the status quo of 20+ years ago. It's honestly unimaginable to me.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 2, 2013 9:20:34 PM

Slater to me: "I think the picture you paint of law profs is overly bleak."

To clarify, it certainly was not my attention to paint an overly bleak picture. I only intended to paint a bleak one.

The point was that academia is helpless to deal with this problem, so it does what it naturally does.... quote CLS and Marx in footnotes.

I do not expect academia to solve the problem. I don't think it can. Read my previous post on this.

The fix is obvious. Price the masses out. Admit fewer students and wait for older lawyers to retire or die.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 2, 2013 9:45:02 PM

I agree with much of what Jeff M says, aside from the "price people out" solution.

In my opinion, the total cost of legal education is already too high. In fact, I believe that it is artificially high because students are able to pay zero dollars up front. It is all loan money. This lets administrators raise rates without consequence because the kids don't know any better. Whats the difference between borrowing $80k and $100k? At 23, it is the same signature.

It is not until 6 months after graduation does the true meaning of $150k actually hit home.

This is not to exonerate the student. Lord knows they are dumb for hanging themselves in such a fashion. But the solution should be to make the upfront cost of the noose higher, and the overall cost of the noose much lower. After all, the only reason it is a noose and not just a rope is because of the catastrophic overall cost.

Force people to pay just $5000 out of their own pocket up front and you would see a colossal shift in applications.

Posted by: Stan | May 3, 2013 9:44:43 AM

Stan, yours is just another means of taking a step toward pricing people out of admission. Only you see it as not as big a barrier as I propose. So, the kids scrape up $5,000, gain admission, and still wind up hopeless with $120,000 in debt as opposed to $125,000 in debt. Big deal.

The problem is that academia, and much of the public, can't stomach the idea that the profession needs to adjust in a manner that would exclude people from modest means. It really is a sad state of things in America, but we need to accept reality for what it is. The typical kid of modest means is being given a "favor" by opening up the present can of worms we call "law school."

The flip-side would be to bump the tuition to price out the kids of modest means, and use the rich kids' tuition money to subsidize the kids of modest means. But, of course, that turns the recruiting/ranking paradigm on its head. There is every motivation NOT to do that.

Even if schools could insulate themselves from the "market" forces of recruiting/ranking, and even if they used rich kids' money to subsidize working class kids, you have to wonder if it is enough.

With 50% unemployment for 9 months, plus (no doubt) somewhere around 20% after two years (not to mention those who give up the idea of a legal career altogether), is a "modest" $80,000 in debt a means to upward mobility by way of law school?

In short, law school is, at this time, not a reasonable path to upward mobility in comparison to myriad, far less expensive, alternatives.

I don't think this is the time to worry about poor kids and upward mobility when it comes to law school. Law school is a risky proposition. First, it needs to fix the oversupply problem (even if it means excluding poor kids). Then, after supply is more in line with demand, should it be viewed, once again, as a path to upward mobility.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 3, 2013 1:00:55 PM

I would think that journals should require any professor who reveals or discusses another professor's salary in an article to reveal his own. And in revealing his own, it should be an apples to apples comparison (i.e., if he is taking info off of IRS filings and including benefits and retirement contributions, then in revealing his own salary he or she should include those items as well.

One benefit of this is, it would assist the reader in understanding whether the author is calling out people who make a lot more money than he or she or not.

Posted by: Fairness | May 3, 2013 4:51:22 PM

Did someone say up there "return to issues of class." With all due respect, BS. There are two problems. Very few exceptions, law professors have not addressed class in the past. Thus, there is no return. And, if are talking about law school admissions today you are not talking about class. Go to the right places and maybe you will learn about class. The issue of whether a high LSAT person with a high GPa can go to law school is not a discussion of class by any sensible definition. And is it a coincidence that whatever interest there may be comes at a time when, if enough students are not subsidized, jobs may be on the line?

Posted by: Jeff | May 3, 2013 11:32:44 PM

The solution to the problem is not to keep hiking up the price of admission above and beyond the 500% or so it's already gone up in the last couple of decades to "discourage excessive risk taking". Yes, market forces will eventually bring down the heap of skulls every law school now piles next to their doors to a manageable number, but in the meantime, it doesn't strike me as a good idea to abandon a few tens of thousands of people to lifelong debt slavery before the All-Mighty Market sorts itself out.

It's also not to get typical pre-law grads to "put some skin in the game" and pony up $5K (doubtless obtained from the same people who are already happy to loan them the other $145K) before ever attending. If a 23 year old can't see the difference between 80 and 100, they also can't see the difference between 150 and 145 + 5 with running interest.

The problem that is staring both of you in the face is simple: "the market" is happily loaning 23 year olds $150K to, as a Russian expression puts it, "stuff it up a cat's ass". As long as those loans are guaranteed and follow the 23 year old around until and including Social Security garnishment, why not?

But, of course, nobody* proposes altering the life-ruining terms that 23 year olds are in no way prepared to understand - something law professors can and should call for! - because...uhh...free market something or other?

*speaking only of the comments

Posted by: Expat ex-lawyer | May 4, 2013 4:30:41 AM

Actually, I would alter the terms dramatically. As I look at students attending public law schools -- many sons and daughters of lawyer, doctors, and professional people -- I wonder why we ask tax payers to pay for any part of their education. And what is the logic that subsidies are based on a high GPA and LSAT scores. All students should get a bill for the full cost of their education. Subsidies to pay the bill would be based 100% on need. There is money for the less affluent we just squander it by paying the toll for those who could pay their own way. But, ain't that America!

Posted by: Jeff Harrison | May 4, 2013 4:25:42 PM

Re: "In typical elitist form, the lofty academians degrade an argument about reality into quotes about whether CLS stood for 'X' or 'Y' and whether or not Marx's description of the class structure is flawed."

I make no apologies for discussing such things, as they have to do with "reality" (in part, in reference to Tamanaha's claims) as much as anything else discussed here and so explanation of such matters in no way "degrades" any putative arguments about "reality," an assertion involving indulgence in magical thinking about the mechanisms of causality (indeed, it can, and should, and does, serve to illuminate arguments about 'reality'). Of course it's easy to dismiss arguments if they issue from "lofty academians" but in this case at least, the individual in question cannot be counted within their ranks, as he is an adjunct instructor (not a law professor) currently teaching one course at a community college and earning less than $1,000 per month during each semester.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 4, 2013 6:30:39 PM

I think the "sudden" concern for poor students is pretty bogus. I grew up in a VERY poor family. My mother made 14,000 a year. My father made 56,000 a year by working THREE jobs. This was in the mid-1980s. Yet, in order to attend an Ivy undergrad and law school, I had to borrow TONS of money -- similar to what middle- and upper-class students are borrowing today (once you account for family contributions). If people were so concerned about class, they would have worried about poor people before the legal profession started facing its recent difficulties. Yet, no one wrote essays about the expense of education when I was struggling to find food on the weekends. Yes -I was poor. My dad worked THREE jobs -- 2 as a janitor. I never really saw him. When I did, he was asleep. Yet, neither of these "liberal" Northeastern schools cared about this. I borrowed over 100,000 dollars. I had no assistance paying it back; I had no rental or homebuying assistance. In other words: I had to pay that enormous debt with interest alone.

PS: These liberal schools also reported me to credit agencies because my parents, who had two kids in college at the time, could not make their contribution. Great way to start adulthood -- with credit blemishes. I thought that being a poor southern black student struggling to make it into the middle class would really pull the heartstrings of these liberal institutions. But it didn't. I don't buy Tamanaha's sudden concern for poor people. He is just exploiting poor people to advance his agenda. Shameful.

Posted by: Tony Smith | Oct 9, 2013 2:09:18 PM

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