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August 30, 2016


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"twbb adds another assumption that I think many people share: that by the time you come to law school, your intelligence is relatively fixed. You either have it or you don't. Law school grades will reveal just how much of "it" you brought with you, but classes won't do much to change your ability compared to classmates."

That is not an accurate representation of what I said; I specifically note that someone might be unprepared while "naturally intelligent," a pretty explicit repudiation of the idea that intelligence is fixed. And I absolutely do not even imply that law school grades would reveal that intelligence, since grades can be set at whatever the faculty/administration want. The problem is once you are done with school, you have to take the bar exam, and after that, practice. My point is for many people that managed to get through 4 years of college (!) but still have trouble with basic reading comprehension and analysis, 3 years of law school in many cases is not going to help.

If you want to move the conversation over to your blog and discuss this further, I would certainly come over there to comment. Honestly as someone who has received a fair amount of graduate training in cognitive science and is quite familiar with the research -- and the current limits on how it can be applied -- I would love an opportunity to debate some of your interpretations of that literature.

Deborah Merritt

twbb, sorry for the implication. I was using "intelligence" in a different sense than "natural intelligence"--I was referring to the "certain level of ability by the time of entry into law school" that you referenced, which certainly is a combination of many factors. But many people read "intelligence" to mean "natural intelligence," so I should have used your word "ability."

But I think we still disagree on the malleability of that ability. You view it as relatively fixed by the time someone enters law school; I think research shows a great deal of potential for change. Even without reading that research, people seem eager to pay for LSAT prep courses--and many raise their scores that way. That suggests a fair amount of malleability in the abilities measured by the test.

Neuroscience research now shows that these courses don't simply teach to the test; studying for the LSAT actually changes brain structure in the areas that govern reasoning ability. (Sorry, I can't add a link; I'm afraid that will push me into spam. But it's easy to google and you may already have seen this research.)

I'm not a shill for LSAT prep courses. But if they can enhance this ability in college graduates, why can't law school? In fact, it's sort of embarrassing if those prep courses (which most professors disdain) have a greater effect on future lawyering ability than law school itself.

I suspect, by the way, that students applying to a school like UNT (which appeals to older students in the workforce and does not base scholarships on LSAT scores), are less likely to have taken prep courses than students at high-ranked law schools. Would a well designed curriculum at least raise ability to the same extent as an LSAT prep course?

Let's definitely continue on my blog, in addition to any further thoughts here. I'm in the middle of preparing some posts for the blog on the latest change to the MBE, but will turn to UNT and these broader issues soon. Hope to talk more there (or here).



Once again, I believe that you are attacking straw men. You restate an argument (as with TWBB's) and then refute your own assertion. Not fair!

You say: "Anon, there are a lot of categorical assumptions embedded in your reply--ones that I see from some other commenters as well. E.g.:

1. All law schools that admit students with low LSAT scores are "bottom feeders," intent on fleecing their students and the federal government."

That is just hyperbole. Yes, I stated: "Rather, the ABA should be focused on shutting down the corrupt operators of sham law schools that use the pretense of "opportunity" to fleece their student bodies of federal loan dollars." Repeating, this does not include all law schools that admit students with lower credentials. In fact, most of the top tier law schools admit a certain number of students with low predictors, and there are already an inordinate number of ABA approved law schools in the middle, and lower tiers that do the same.

2. LSAT scores are the only admissions credential worth discussing. Virtually no weight should attach to college grades, work experience, and other factors.

Geez. Who said that? Now you are just making stuff up. What I said was ""If you are in the bottom 10% of LSAT takers, you likely can hardly read at a high school level."" If you say you can't see the difference between your assertion and what I said, then I won't debate further, because you are not unable to discern the difference and if you won't, then you are not being honest here.

3. The US doesn't need any more law schools of any type in any place.

I think this one is a fair reading of what I said. Right! Name ONE LAW SCHOOL that has been shuttered. Do you agree with that?

4. Students with low LSAT scores must take three years of bar prep courses to pass the bar. They are not capable of benefiting from other types of courses.

Again, this is so twisted! Here's what I said: "feedback is different from a three year bar review course, of course. ... My point was, and again, if you read my comment I think you know this, that the guise of "feedback" is often just a cover for the latter: a glorified three year bar review course with graded essays designed to prepare students for the bar. Please. Let's stop pretending about this." Do you honestly believe that your characterization is even close to the mark?

5. Courses that focus primarily on helping students pass the bar are an unworthy form of education. These courses focus on memorization and drills, rather than policy discussion and thinking like a lawyer.

Again, you just inventing assertions here.

Deborah, in an earlier post you referred to your "cringing" and now, you disclose your personal involvement and investment in this particular school. You claim to be entirely disinterested, but you appear not to be arguing in good faith. Change my mind, and please, just answer one question, based on the following premise:

You seem to believe that the market can't serve, your word now, "DISADVANTAGED" students. (Your statement: "UNT is distinctive partly because its leaders spent so much time researching how to structure an educational program that would help disadvantaged students succeed; identify students who would do well in that type of program ..."

Is it your belief that a new law school should be accredited by the ABA to help "disadvantaged" students who cannot be admitted at any other ABA approved law school succeed?

Deborah Merritt

Anon, assumptions aren't what a writer states; they're the unstated premises that a reader must infer for the argument to make sense.

Your question includes another big assumption, although this one is explicit: that the students admitted to UNT "cannot be admitted at any other ABA approved law school."

I doubt that's true. There are other law schools with plenty of empty seats and LSAT scores lower than those at UNT. (I'm using scores here as the only admissions info we have for the comparison.) UNT's 25th percentile score is 143; Cooley's is 5 points lower at 138.

So why don't UNT's students just go to Cooley? Or Arizona Summit, Charlotte, or Florida Coastal? That seems to be what you're asking.

One reason is because they live in Dallas, have jobs there, and support family members in the area. These are not 22-year-olds with the money and freedom to fly anywhere in the country for three years.

A second reason is that other schools cost at least twice as much.

And finally, UNT offers much better preparation for practice and the bar exam than other schools. Their practical focus is one that all lawyers would appreciate, no matter how advantaged their backgrounds. And their willingness to devote substantially more time to teaching (e.g., one-on-one conferences, written exercises, and weekly feedback) is especially important for students with weaker entering credentials.

Dallas-Fort Worth is the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country. I believe there are only two other law schools in the city, fewer than in other major metro areas. Both of those schools are private schools with substantially higher tuition than UNT. Neither offers a night program (one recently closed its program).

If the question is: "Should the ABA accredit a law school that operates just like other law schools, and exists just to accommodate students who can't get into any of those other schools?" then the answer is no. But that hypothetical has nothing to do with UNT.

The right question here is, "Should the ABA provisionally accredit a school that offers more intensive education at lower cost than any other law school, structures its program to accommodate working adults, and does so in a large metropolitan area with relatively few law schools?" My answer to that question is yes.


Deborah, ok. I'll play your game (and without the condescending instructions).

You state: "Dallas-Fort Worth is the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country. I believe there are only two other law schools in the city, fewer than in other major metro areas. ... The right question here is, Should the ABA provisionally accredit a school that offers more intensive education at lower cost than any other law school, structures its program to accommodate working adults, and does so in a large metropolitan area with relatively few law schools?"

You expressly believe that every major metro area in the US should be served by more than two law schools, at least one of which is tailored to admit and serve "disadvantaged" students who have substandard objective predictors.

For you, "only" two law schools for every metro area in the US is not enough.

YOu now (for the first time in this exchange) characterize "disadvantaged" students as "working adults", reflecting your unstated premise (now) that "working adults" have substandard predictors and are "disadvantaged."

You believe that the ABA should accredit new law schools to provide, at a lower relative cost, special law schools that offer "feedback" and "intensive instruction"- programs that are not offered at "any other law schools" - to accommodate the needs of substantial numbers of "disadvantaged" students who scored in the bottom 20% of LSAT examinees.

As stated, your arguments have exposed the frailty of the "opportunity school" claim. Your extreme views may be, in your view, high minded and quite in line with the savior complex, but, in reality, as readers of this blog know, this sort of attitude is actually cruel and results in too many disrupted lives, induced by greedy operators appealing, in the manner of con men, to the aspirations of the unwary.


BTW, consider this:

"We believe a community's lawyers should be as diverse as the communities they serve. We are committed to serving a wide range of students who have the potential to be successful lawyers—not just to those who do best on standard admission tests."

Get it? What are the unstated premises here, Deborah?

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