Search the Lounge


« Faculty Hiring: Baylor | Main | LSAC and Predicting Applicants for 2016-17, Part 5 »

January 11, 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Captian Hurska Carswell, Continuance King

A fitting parallel is the Cadillac brand. Not so long ago, Cadillac was the "Standard of the World." If you owned and drove one, it told the world that you made it. It said class! Today, if you own a Cadillac, you are viewed as dumb or old. A Cadillac is no more than a gussied up 40K Hyundai or a chromed out 85K Suburban. The brand was devalued by cheap leases, cheap rentals, cash back deals and the big one, inferior quality. The same thing is happening with our hard earned law degrees from once SELECTIVE, ranked law schools. The value of our degrees has been eroded by the grotesque over supply of attorneys from schools that have slashed admission standards and the ABA's accreditation of additional schools. Prior to 1999, to be admitted to an ABA accredited law school one needed at least a 3.4 GPA (even then you were likely wait listed), a decent LSAT score a great essay and other life experiences. It was highly competitive. Today, its open enrollment at many schools. If that devalues our degrees, what does it do to your professorships and teaching careers? Were in this together.


The proof is in the pudding

Will anyone enforce Standard 316?

Do we have some law schools already out of compliance?



Thanks for the insightful post. I hope it prods the regulator (or at least makes members of the ABA committee feel dirty).

Defenses of the status quo no longer are good lawyering. Rather it is the worst of "thinking like a lawyer." First, it was excuse ("The Great Recession! Things will change."). Then it was to ignore structural changes ("Historically prestigious. Million dollar degree."). Now it is deny. ("There is no legal Ed crisis. There is no connection between LSAT scores and bar passage.")

Can we all please be honest about what has happened? Too many schools enrolled too many students for too long at too high a cost. The profession is struggling though a glut, but the Infilaws, Valpos, and Cooleys refuse to hold the line on academic floors because it will put them out of business. The ABA is impotent and beholden to the diploma mills and refuses to use the stick to preserve quality.

The crystal ball says:
The profession drops in quality alleviating Justice Scalia's concern that too many of America's best and brightest are studying law.
Because law will take all comers, it loses prestige like the Cadillac.
The worst schools will scream racism or diversity, but those cries will fall on increasingly deaf ears.
Congress will tighten grad plus, which will be denounced by the law deans.
Ten more law schools will close or merge by 2021.


David Frakt, let me ask you an honest question. Do you really think the ABA would ever enforce its own rules about accreditation? The fact that you and LST engage with them seems to imply that you view them as something other than cronies put in place to protect law school's right to extract student loan money from unsophisticated consumers. Do you really think you can appeal to their decency or integrity? If so, why?



A subsidiary question would be does anyone think the the US Department of Education might put pressure on the ABA to tighten up its accreditation scheme - and to that I think the answer is that right now Congress has a number of backers of for-profit colleges that would not be keen on any toughening of standards, but wait and see.

David Frakt

JM -

As an attorney who has enjoyed a modicum of success both in the courtroom and in the public policy arena, I am a strong believer in the power of advocacy. So yes, I do believe it is possible that the ABA might start enforcing law school accreditation standards more strictly if they are given sufficiently persuasive reasons to do so, although I concede it is a longshot. But even if they don't, that does not necessarily mean that I or LST are wasting our breath. There are many different actors who could potentially help curb these exploitative admissions practices. First and foremost among the groups with the potential power to make a difference are law faculty members, which is why I post my comments on The Faculty Lounge. Other groups that could bring pressure to bear on the law school administrators setting these admission policies are trustees, alumni, state and local bar associations, university administrators and donors. Another benefit of spreading the word about these reprehensible admissions practices and attempting to publicize the extraordinary risks that prospective students are making by enrolling in bottom-feeding law schools, is that at least some students with very poor prospects of success may be deterred from attending law school and thereby wasting three or more years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of an unrealistic dream. If I my writings convince even one student who does not belong in law school to divert into another field for which they have greater aptitude, then I will consider my efforts to be worthwhile. Although it may be impossible to identify specific reasons, it does seem that students are increasingly avoiding schools like Valparaiso and the InfiLaw Schools, which have all experienced very dramatic declines in enrollment in recent years, despite approaching an open-admissions policy. The bottom line is that some things, like fairness and justice, are worth fighting for, even if they are very hard to accomplish and possibly unattainable in the short run.


David Frat:

With respect (I'm not going to use all due respect (which means the opposite of what it appears (it's a barristers circumlocution to a lousy judge by the way)), three or four years into this controversy, I think those "law faculty members" with the moral courage to ask the hard questions and demand reform have already stuck their heads above the parapet and suffered the consequences - indeed consequences it is fair to say you have personally experienced. As Upton Sinclair so memorably put it "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it" is an analysis that has been amply demonstrated.

There are between 8,000 and 12,000 law professors in the US. I can name most of those who are prominent in calling for reform, who has raised the issues you have:

Brian Tamahama
Paul Campos
Deborah Merritt
David Frat

From time to time:
Bernie Burk
Paul Caron

That is it, that is the list that comes to mind. Six out of thousands! Professors who openly think there is a problem are less than 0.1% Those who openly say nothing is wrong is a long list, not just the blighter and the jewel, and the million dollar man, but many who post in this forum regularly. Indeed, look along the list of bloggers, guest bloggers and others up the side of this site and you will see just two, maybe three that have remotely criticised the status quo - who knows, maybe one they they'll be ashamed, but not any time soon.


David Frakt

Apologies for not noticing that spellcheck had transformed your name. Given my abysmal proofreading skills I tend to rely on it, but then I miss the fause ami.


Faux ami -

Memo to self switch ****** spellcheck language ..... Arghhhhh


David: When you refer to enrollment in bottom-feeding law schools, which schools specifically are you referring to?


Maybe one solution is to have suprise audits of applications. If a school is intent on admitting students with sub-140 LSATs, let ABA accreditation committee staff sit down with the law schools' admission committee and go through each enrolled sub-140 student and let the schools make the case for each student as to what in their background distinguishes them.


The quality slide is of recent vintage. That fact alone reveals that the whole argument is incinsere. Why weren't these hundreds of rough diamonds admitted in 2009? Concern about the US News Boogeyman? They weren't in the ranked eschelon of academia then, so that wasn't it.

It's an admission that though these poor LSAT performers are high ability at some things, they really aren't suited for law. We are still talking about a group of individuals who graduated from high school and college. They likely are of average academic ability and intelligence vis-a-vis the general public. They will struggle with the material, though, and find the bar exam to be a steep obstacle.

David Frakt

M@ck -
I am confident that there are more faculty members who support responsible admissions policies then the ones that you name, although they may be the most outspoken. In fact, we had several faculty members respond to my call for volunteers to serve on LST's National Advisory Council. Check out their bios here:
Faculty members include: Ben Davis, Toledo; Billie Jo Kaufman, American; Eric Fink, Elon; Lucy Jewel, Tennessee; Dean Martin Katz, Denver; Michael Hoeflich, Kansas, and, of course, Deborah Merritt.


Exactly, Jojo. I made this point when the law school defenders sunk to using the "opportunity" argument and hinting that those who were opposed to lowering standards were somehow racist.

Why was this opportunity not offered when applications were through the roof?

I would not want any of these people representing me. They are not very good lawyers if these are the best arguments they can make to defend their position.

Without doubt, the lower ranked schools dominate the Section, serve on the committees and accreditation teams. I have never been on a team with someone from Harvard, Yale, etc. these people are never going to pull the plug on any law school.

David Frakt

MT - When I refer to bottom-feeding law schools, I am referring to those that are admitting classes with a substantial component of extremely high risk students, which I define as having an LSAT of 144 or below (bottom 24% of LSAT takers) and correspondingly low grades. In 2014, there were 26 law schools that matriculated at least a quarter of their entering classes with 144 and below LSATs, and 7 which matriculated over half of their class at 144 and below. This group includes both private not for profit, private for profit and public schools.

Captian Hurska Carswell, Continuance King

Unfortunately, the law school sector is being dragged kicking and screaming into our Uber Walmart world. The Tax Prof Blog has the data on how many full time professors were let go between 2010-14. If the ABA and Deans would have maintained admission standards, not accredited new schools and not enrolled hordes and hordes of new folks, the profession would not have been over saturated. The pie is only so big. Eventually, like UBER or Walmart, the world becomes awash in cabbies and cheap goods. Not enough to sustain all comers and lift all boats. If law schools standards remained high, there would be balance. Graduates would find high paying work...or work they desired. Then this would attract the new students, but it would still be limited to the best and brightest. A good cycle would be established.


What has changed in law school since 2010? The answer is that it is more transparent. If your industry declines upon more publicity, then you aren't in a very good industry.


"Why was this opportunity not offered when applications were through the roof?"

This is a great, and devastating point. During the gold rush for government dollars, law schools were flush.

Did these humanitarians use the flowing funds to support "opportunity admissions" backed up by extra support for those admitted (which would have been possible then, given the steep profits racked in)?

Nope. Most lined their pockets, created ever more titles to justify increased compensation ("Director of the Center for Pencils and Erasers," "Assoc. Dean for Faculty Cinnabons," etc.), took expensive junkets and travelled to conferences for frivolous reasons and topics, demanded "summer stipends" to do what their job required in the first place, demanded "research budgets" to have others do what their job required in the first place, demanded, and this is a doozie, extra compensation to teach beyond the part time teaching load most expected to be the norm, and finally, devoted huge amounts of the surplus to building projects, many of which were so grossly mismanaged that nothing much was achieved.

These are the humanitarians who now claim that they are scraping the bottom of the LSAT taking barrel because they care about opportunity for students! They care about opportunity for students knowing so many will not pass the bar and not obtain employment? This is really so despicable, does no one care?

Where is the shame among the ABA and Dept. of Ed. regulators?

Captian Hurska Carswell, Continuance King

anon and JoJo:

To stay in business, they have no choice but to "scrape" the bottom of the barrel for students. The Deans. the ABA and the unranked diploma mills created this Walmart spiral. If legal work, salaries, and jobs decently supported a smaller pool of attorneys from competitive, selective schools, why flood the market? The flooded attorney market lowers salaries, jobs and thins out work. The pie is too small. The best and brightest no longer enroll because they know there is not enough pie. Even the bottom feeder applicants are starting to avoid law schools because of that pie. Its all about Walmart and pie.


It's hard to believe that ABA committee members will essentially vote to put their fellow profs out of employment, which is basically what would happen to many of those teaching at a school if accreditation were pulled. So an intermediate step is needed. Perhaps these schools should be required to communicate their bar passage rates more prominently-- like in their acceptance letters. And perhaps the connection between those rates and applicant traits should be prominent as well:
"Congratulations on your acceptance.... Our records show that past graduates in your lsat range passed the NY bar at a rate of 25% last year."

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad