August 22, 2011

"Should Professor Campos’s authorship of Inside the Law School Scam come as a surprise?"

"In hindsight, perhaps not. The universe of law professors writing negatively about the legal academy is not huge. For a law prof, saying that the status quo in legal education has problems constitutes a declaration against interest."

Says David Lat. Me, I've been hearing professors saying negative things about legal education since the day I started work in the legal academy (in 1984). But then I stepped right into the hotbed of Critical Legal Studies. Back then, everyone was reading "Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy: A Polemic Against the System," by Duncan Kennedy. Campos's criticisms are mild compared with that! Has everyone forgotten that 1983 book? The so-called "little red book" barely even has a Wikipedia entry. From the Preface:
The general thesis is that law schools are intensely political places, in spite of the fact that they seem intellectually unpretentious, barren of theoretical ambition or practical vision of what social life might be. The trade school mentality, the endless attention to trees at the expense of forests, the alternating grimness and chumminess of focus on the limited task at hand, all these are only a part of what is going on. The other part is ideological training for willing service in the hierarchies of the corporate welfare state.

To say that law school is ideological is to say that what teachers teach along with basic skills is wrong, is nonsense about what law is and how it works. It is to say that the message about the nature of legal competence, and its distribution among students, is wrong, is nonsense. It is to say that the ideas about the possibilities of life as a lawyer that students pick up from legal education are wrong, are nonsense. But all this is nonsense with a tilt, it is biased and motivated rather than random error. What it says is that it is natural, efficient and fair for law firms, the bar as a whole, and the society the bar services to be organized in their actual patterns of hierarchy and domination.

Because most students believe what they are told, explicitly and implicitly, about the world they are entering, they behave in ways that fulfill the prophecies the system makes about them and about that world. This is the link-back that completes the system: students do more than accept the way things are, and ideology does more than damp opposition. Students act affirmatively within the channels cut for them, cutting them deeper, giving the whole a patina of consent, and weaving complicity into everyone’s life story.

Resist! 
Now, that's not really a declaration against interest for Kennedy, and Campos's book isn't a declaration against interest either. Both men were/are promoting their own work from a safe position of tenure.

32 comments:

themightypuck said...

And that's a bad thing?

Pastafarian said...

"Both men were/are promoting their own work from a safe position of tenure."

I wondered about that; so he's not really in any danger of professional reprisal then, and this martyr's pose is just that, a pose?

I'm not sure what the point or target of his criticism really was. Some law professors don't spend much time lesson-planning for basic classes they've taught before; OK, no shit, Sherlock. Same thing happens in math, what are you going to do about it? How are they going to teach calculus differently this time?

Another of his complaints: The best students get scholarships, while the worst have to pay full-rate, so the worst students are actually paying the tuition of the best. Oh, booo hooo. You pay your money, you take your chances. It's no scam. The students have all graduated with 4-year degrees already, they're not children.

There are more lawyers graduating than there are positions for lawyers. Deal with it, welcome to the real world. If you score low on your LSAT or whatever the hell it's called, go into something else.

I never really understood why he framed these discrete complaints as an indictment of the entire system of legal education.

The Crack Emcee said...

Law professors can just throw shit out there without caring what affect is has on others. Glenn Reynolds told me so.

Real humanitarians, you are.

EDH said...

How are they going to teach calculus differently this time?

HOW THE KHAN ACADEMY is changing the rules of education.

Initially, Thordarson thought Khan Academy would merely be a helpful supplement to her normal instruction. But it quickly become far more than that. She’s now on her way to “flipping” the way her class works. This involves replacing some of her lectures with Khan’s videos, which students can watch at home. Then, in class, they focus on working problem sets. The idea is to invert the normal rhythms of school, so that lectures are viewed on the kids’ own time and homework is done at school. It sounds weird, Thordarson admits, but this flipping makes sense when you think about it. It’s when they’re doing homework that students are really grappling with a subject and are most likely to need someone to talk to. And now Thordarson can tell just when this grappling occurs: Khan Academy provides teachers with a dashboard application that lets her see the instant a student gets stuck.

mccullough said...

Students, like all consumers, respond to incentives and disincentives. The cost of most law schools and the likely return on investment for most students is probably out of whack.

The first student loan business the government should get out from is subsidizing law school. There are more than enough people with law degrees in this country.

Carol_Herman said...

Nah.

There's a book out there called SNAPSHOTS FROM HELL, By Robinson. Who got into Stanford's MBA program. He had been in Reagan's White House. And, he applied using the crested White House paper.

BEST LINE: A professor told him ... the school was picking up the best 1% of students. So why tortures them with courses? All you'd have to do is take them out for two years ... where all they did was play golf.

Professors are quite capable of telling their students the truth.

Especially, on Friday nights. If there are any gatherings ... where a bottle of wine is involved.

Between you and Glenn Reynolds this guy is getting splashed with coverage. And, I wonder why? Is it a prank?

Canuck said...

Law students with large student loans are facing a particularly ugly situation right now due to rising tuition, the job situation, and the fixed interest rates imposed in the aughts.

Most likely that's why Campos received so much attention for his blog.

Saint Croix said...

Because most students believe what they are told, explicitly and implicitly, about the world they are entering...

Ha! An old-fashioned legal education is the least indoctrinating form of education that I know.

Kennedy assumes that education is indoctrination and then goes on to argue that students should be indoctrinated in proper Marxist thought.

What an asshole.

Beldar said...

One would think this ought to be a golden era for law school professors, with one of their own* in the White House, and another just seated on the SCOTUS.

But this Campos guy is just the latest embarrassment. There's no spite like the spite among faculty members.

-----------------
(*if you mean small-p "professor," which Chicago Law has helpfully defined to include part-time "senior lecturers who aren't publishing and aren't on a tenure track.)

Beldar said...

FWIW, when I took federal civil procedure from Mark Tushnet at Texas Law School in the fall of 1977 -- Tushnet was, IIRC, visiting then at Texas from Wisconsin, but he didn't stick -- Tushnet was still a self-avowed quote-unquote "Marxist," but even in Texas that wasn't a disqualifying label. I recall that our first week's assignment was to draft a federal court complaint that would survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). That was an absolutely conventional assignment; where Tushnet's politics peeked through, just a little, was the fact pattern: We were supposed to be alleging Bivens torts on behalf of a prison inmate being subjected to alleged Eighth Amendment violations.

That said, I liked, and like, Tushnet a great deal, even though my politics (even as they relate to legal philosophy) are very nearly the opposite of his. He's a very smart guy and a terrific writer, and I'm guessing he's improved his class-room skills quite a bit since then. But he certainly was, and remains I think, a critic of the status quo.

Random Arrow said...

So what’s appropriate (get-away-with-it?) padding for Villanova Law school? – what’s under the radar? - inflating median gpa by 0.15 instead of 0.16 points? – padding admissions test scores by one point instead of two or three? – what’s a real censure? – compared to a symbolic slap on the wrist? – how secret is secret for Villanova staff who kept it secret?

d8326c90-c5d7-11e0-99d4-000f20980440 said...

Ms. Althouse,

Why hasn't your school complied with Law School Transparency's job placement disclosure requirements? I'll tell you why.

You earn $170,000 per year by using misleading career placement statistics to trick poor college grads - college grads who only wanted a job - into taking out student loans to enroll in your school.

A more loathsome way to make a living I can't think of. Tell me, Ms. Althouse, outside of academia, how many other people making $170,000 per year have all day to post blog articles?

Legal academics have discovered a way to rent seek - to earn more money than they deserve, and once exposed, they are not ashamed, rather like any rent seeker (see Ghadaffi) they are trying to stifle the expose.

You make me want to vomit.

Richard Dolan said...

"Both men were/are promoting their own work from a safe position of tenure."

Yes, and promoting it to the only audience that counts for them: other like-minded lawprofs.

Blue@9 said...

when I took federal civil procedure from Mark Tushnet at Texas Law School in the fall of 1977 -- Tushnet was, IIRC, visiting then at Texas from Wisconsin, but he didn't stick -- Tushnet was still a self-avowed quote-unquote "Marxist," but even in Texas that wasn't a disqualifying label.

I took Tushnet at GTown in '99, and he was still a Marxist then--I would venture to say that he was a Stalinist really. Nice guy in person, but it was evident that he thought political violence in pursuit of political objectives was not out of place. Which I thought was funny, because if this country were ever taken over by a commie revolution, I seriously doubt Tushnet would survive the purges.

Zach said...

Campos's criticisms are mild compared with that!

Kennedy is arguing that law schools are powerful, currently contributing to the status quo but potentially contributing to a better state of affairs. Presumably, he believes that law schools could be a powerful force for good, if only they'd use their power for ends he approves of.

Campos is arguing that law schools are ineffective, essentially profiting from bad investments by students while contributing little to society or their future.

Conceivably, you could accept Kennedy's argument and still go to law school, in hopes of either changing the system or cynically exploiting it (corrupt machines have plenty of mechanics to service them).

If you accept Campos's argument, you simply don't go to law school. It's no more important or glamorous than a Nigerian scammer:

DEAREST,

I AM WRITING FOR PURPOISE OF EXTRACTING $160000 USD FROM NEW YOKR LAW FIRM SULLIVAN CROMWELL. THIS MONEY IS EXTRACTED 1L CONTRACTS GRADE 95% PRIOR SUCCESS.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why hasn't your school complied with Law School Transparency's job placement disclosure requirements?"

I don't know, but I would guess the placement dept. is working on it. Why don't you email them?

d8326c90-c5d7-11e0-99d4-000f20980440 said...

"DEAREST,

I AM WRITING FOR PURPOISE OF EXTRACTING $160000 USD FROM NEW YOKR LAW FIRM SULLIVAN CROMWELL. THIS MONEY IS EXTRACTED 1L CONTRACTS GRADE 95% PRIOR SUCCESS."

LOLOLOL!

holdfast said...

There is really an unhealthy obsession with Ann's salary in some of these comments. Do you really think you are going to get a good law professor with real experience for a lot less? I have no doubt that many law schools could cut enough non-faculty overhead / administration to give all students a healthy tuition cut without touching the professors' salary, though maybe they'd have to pick up one additional class.

If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.

Triangle Man said...

You make me want to vomit.

It may seem that way, but you might have a tumor. Call your Doc.

Pastafarian said...

d8%&*....said: "...earn more money than they deserve..."

In the free market, junior, "deserve" has nothing to do with it. There are no arbiters that sit on high and decide who should prosper and who should fail, based on whether they "deserve" it.

If you don't like how much U-Dub pays their faculty, go somewhere else. If enough consumers made that choice, UW would go out of business and other schools would flourish.

But apparently that's not a real high priority on their list; only on yours.

If you don't like your own financial situation, then go out and get a job, you goddamned dirty lazy hippie, and quit bitching about it. If you think Althouse's position is so desirable and so easily attainable, then apply for it.

If you think you've been wronged somehow, then sue. That's what you asshole lawyers do, isn't it? And I'm sure you're a damned good one; I mean, you couldn't be an unemployed law school grad simply because you're a stupid turd who received gentlemen's Cs and graduated in the bottom tenth of your class, could you?

Fred Smith said...

Ann is not supporting Campos for reasons that I don't understand. They seem to relate more to some sort of concern over the attention he is getting than anything else. Her point seems to be that he does not deserve this attention.

Why is that the interesting part of this story?

What about the law students who have no jobs and huge amounts of debt, many of whom took your classes and graduated from your school? Is that not more interesting than which law professor is the talk of the blogosphere?

Fred Smith said...

And I don't understand the position being taken by a number of these Althouse commenters. Aren't you guys the sort to usually find fault in parasitic government employees who create no value? That is exactly what Campos is talking about. Of course Ann happens to be one, so all of you take the exact opposite position you would in any other discussion. Ann says go left, you go left. She says right, you go right. You are all pathetic.

max said...

"I would guess the placement dept. is working on it."

lolol. Sure they are.

Ann Althouse said...

I only read one of Campos's anon posts. I thought it was wrong and badly written. Wrong, because it claimed lawprofs don't care about class preparation.

I also addressed the issue of publicity-seeking by writers. I haven't opined on anything else about his project.

I have commented on the issue facing students today of whether it's a good idea to go to law school. I've said it's not as good an idea as people used to be more delude into thinking. I didn't need help from Campos to say that.

d8326c90-c5d7-11e0-99d4-000f20980440 said...

In the free market, junior, "deserve" has nothing to do with it. There are no arbiters that sit on high and decide who should prosper and who should fail, based on whether they "deserve" it.

-----------

It does when you earned that money by using misleading statistics about your school's job placement.

FYI, kid, free market =/= law of the jungle, as Greenspan himself, a great free marketer, once said.

Alex said...

I'm sure law professors are extremely important to society, right?

Michael K said...

The first student loan business the government should get out from is subsidizing law school. There are more than enough people with law degrees in this country.

I think the government should get out of subsidizing all education that does not involve basic science like math, physics, computer science, engineering and chemistry. If someone wants to study gender studies, I am all for it but on their own dime.

The country needs science graduates.

Ann Althouse said...

I do agree that there is a problem with puffery about the placement numbers. Schools are cheating in the rankings game.

Ann Althouse said...

Actually, we are on that Transparency list. You have to look under "University... " not "Wisconsin."

http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=wisconsin

d8326c90-c5d7-11e0-99d4-000f20980440 said...

That is data Law School Transparency got from US News. Law School Transaprency asked Wisconsin to comply with additional disclosure standards but Wisconsin refused.

hyperion65 said...

"If you think you've been wronged somehow, then sue. That's what you asshole lawyers do, isn't it? And I'm sure you're a damned good one; I mean, you couldn't be an unemployed law school grad simply because you're a stupid turd who received gentlemen's Cs and graduated in the bottom tenth of your class, could you?"

----------------------------------

If only the legal job market was so good. You can graduate magna cum laude from schools ranked far better than UW and still have a tough slog of it in this market.

hyperion65 said...

"I do agree that there is a problem with puffery about the placement numbers. Schools are cheating in the rankings game."

-----------------

I appreciate the concession, but would go farther than merely calling it puffery. To me, puffery is when a company plays with the X- and Y-axis on a graph or a professor writes a letter of recommendation. In both cases, people know to take the information with a dollop of skepticism. Here law schools make assertions seemingly supported by neutral parties like the ABA and the various ranking organizations about job placement and salaries that are based on information law schools know to be, to put it charitably, unrepresentative of the reality faced by their graduates.