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March 01, 2014

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Barry

What's important to remember is that the people running these schools are desperate. It's a stand-alone school, with no possibility of subsidy by a parent university. If the banks stop honoring their checks, the schools closes, full stop, no appeal, sentence carried out immediately.

At that point the administrators and professors are unemployed, from a low-tier school, in a legal academic market which is shedding jobs, not hiring. And in the legal profession, of course, they are also in a market shedding jobs, and standing behind tens of thousands of lawyers who actually worked in the profession/business.

and discuss...

The most surprising thing to me is those Mammoths in the bottom right hand corner of the page. What on earth is up with those?

PaulB

Dan,

The problem with your thesis is that the non-ABA accredited schools have far lower tuitions. I haven't checked them out in a while but they were typically in the $5k range a couple of years ago. The students who attend them would mostly be receiving modest reductions from the 40K plus sticker price at TJ. Is the benefit of being able to move out of state really worth over 100K in additional expense? TJ's bar passage rate is better than the non-accredited schools, but at 50%, it's at the bottom of the barrel along with Golden Gate. And that is from a class that had higher LSAT scores than the most recent ones.

PaulB

A further review of TJ's LSAT scores for the class that entered this fall shows the 25/50/75 numbers to be 143/146/149. Reasonable to assume they're not going up in this year of further applications decline. Only a small minority are likely to be eligible for the big scholarships although this program is clearly designed to entice applicants with 150 LSATs away from other weak schools in southern CA.

Matt

"The most surprising thing to me is those Mammoths in the bottom right hand corner of the page. What on earth is up with those?"

I vaguely remember reading that during the construction of the new, very expensive Thomas Jefferson Law building a few years back, they found some mammoth bones, and that it's sort of become a mascot since then. I'd guess that having something extinct as a mascot might not be a good sign for a struggling school at this time, though.

Martha M.

Who is paying for these scholarships? My guess would be minorities and the poor through higher tuition.

PaulB

Martha,

It's not exactly a matter of others paying for these scholarships. The marginal cost of adding students who otherwise would never consider attending TJ is pretty close to zero. You can argue that someone with an LSAT of 158 is better off going there for free as opposed to paying close to sticker at San Diego, Chapman or the other southern California schools below UCLA, USC, and UCI. What TJ gets from having these brainiacs is a better bar passage rate that reduces the likelihood of losing accreditation.

You can argue that anything that keeps this school alive does harm to minorities and the poor but that's not the same as saying their tuition will be subsidizing those who are admitted at little or no tuition.

Confused

PaulB,

Anyway you want to slice it, when you have a group of students paying $44,000/year and another group paying $0 for the same product, the first group is subsidizing the second. Whether the cost of educating the full scholarship students is only marginal doesn't make a difference. Any resources spent on the full scholarship students will not be available to the full freighters. The school is creating direct competitors for jobs in an environment where very few obtain them. Those competitors will not only be stronger from a LSAT/undergrade GPA point if view, but they will be under considerably less economic pressure by virtue of their free education.

wondering

How much rationality should we presume is possessed by people who would enroll at TJLS?

My $0.02

"What TJ gets from having these brainiacs is a better bar passage rate that reduces the likelihood of losing accreditation."

This. TJ has to take people who it knows won't pass the bar to stay open. It then has to take people it thinks probably will pass the bar to stay accredited. It's a rational strategy to survive. Whether it's a moral strategy to charge people $130k+ who it knows won't pass the bar is a different question.

Unrelatedly:

"And in the legal profession, of course, they are also in a market shedding jobs, and standing behind tens of thousands of lawyers who actually worked in the profession/business."

I'm actually a little curious as to whether some firms might try to arbitrage this, at least with respect to the younger faculty. They're impeccably credentialed, probably very smart, and they can write well (and the last is probably something that can't be said about the junior associates the first few years out). I'd think some of the litigation-heavy firms (Quinn, Boies, etc.) might decide to take a flier on some of the laid-off profs. Pay them $150k or so for an ambiguously partner track "counsel" position and see what happens. That's almost certainly going to be money better spent than hiring another first year.

BoredJD

I would hope a student deciding between TJSL and a non-ABA accredited at considerably lower costs would pick the non-ABA. I would also hope that student has a job lined up, like at a family firm, and literally just needs a cheap degree that will allow them to sit for the bar.

However, from what little I've read about the CA accredited schools, those students aren't eligible for federal loan monies. And one has to consider not only that students are looking for loan money for tuition, but for living expenses as well. The access to a lender who will give you tens of thousands of dollars, no questions asked, is likely driving a student's decision making much more than portability, even assuming that the non-ABA students are aware of the restrictions on their degrees.

Ellen

My $0.02: I would doubt most firms would take on law profs, no matter how well-credentialed they are, given that, by deciding to go into academia, they showed a lack of interest in, even distain for, practicing law.

I think there is certainly a recognized culture clash, given the hours expected by firms compared to those worked by most profs.

Finally, given the number of experienced practitioners looking for work, a firm could offer that same $150K to someone who has actually practiced law and get many takers.

My $0.02

"Finally, given the number of experienced practitioners looking for work, a firm could offer that same $150K to someone who has actually practiced law and get many takers."

Point taken about hours. That would be a concern for firms. You could address that by structuring compensation to minimize the downside for the firm, but probably not eliminate the risk that a laid-off prof would just be unwilling to work the requisite schedule to be profitable.

On experienced practitioners, though, in my experience (10-15 years practicing post-clerkship, with multiple stints in biglaw sandwiched around government service), most experienced practitioners aren't great writers. The ones that are tend to stick -- even if they aren't great at generating business, they make life a lot easier for those who are. And while it's probably a luxury to have a motion-and-brief writer stuck in a small office somewhere cranking out great work product, it's one that (I think) the big firms could afford. Especially if it's someone who makes first year associate money but doesn't have a lot of expectation of being made partner any time soon. Not to mention that in some fields (I'm thinking like antitrust or securities), it's probably a bit of a marketing boost to have a former prof to brag about to clients.

I don't think my firm would be interested because we don't really have a lot of the super-high-profile-bet-the-company litigation, at least not for the huge clients. But for the ones that do (again, I'm thinking Quinn or Boies or maybe Barlit or Susman), it might not be a bad idea to at least think about.

Ellen

My $0.02: Having worked with law profs for 20 years, I admit not at top-tier schools, I think you are overly generous in assuming that they can write and/or draft litigation documents, even if they teach in the substantive areas you mention!!

The best people for that type of work you describe would be legal research and writing profs, most of whom don't make $150K, but many of whom left Biglaw for the lifestyle that academia offers.

The rock star profs that might garner some good P.R. for a firm will never have to worry about being unemployed in academia.

terry malloy

The Iceman Cometh.

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