Posts Tagged ‘California’

Fleecing State Budgets From West to East Coast: Paying the Price for Law Schools’ New Campuses

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

This story first ‘broke’ October 29, 2008, with a series of concurrent press releases provided on the law school’s website here: New Campus Goes Live | Thomas Jefferson School of Law. This very first press release: states “We have the funds to complete this project,” Dean Hasl said to the cheers of the audience, acknowledging the turbulent financial climate.[Groundbreaking Story | Thomas Jefferson School of Law]. Interesting how the school decided just at the beginning of the current recession to move forward with plans to build the new campus for the law school. I am confident they do have the money–between state funds and their cut of student loan debt incurred by current and incoming law students.  Yesterday, a news magazine reported on the San Diego law school’s progress to schedule to open in 2011: [

Downtown’s New Law School | San Diego Metro Magazine July 6, 2010] and prior press releases attempts to excite the reader with archeological finds, the technological advanced construction of the building and an irrelevant statement regarding the school’s need to return to its roots:

While that question will require further examination, Rudy Hasl, dean of the 41-year-old law school since 2005, can say for certain that the new law school building — one of the newest structures in East Village — will offer state-of-the-art features that students will find fascinating when classes begin next January. These include a computer center, wireless access and audio video capabilities throughout the eight-story structure, expansive view terraces on the fifth and eighth floors and a roof that supports a 50 kilowatt solar array with 270 modules. The school is seeking LEED Gold certification for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council. Also included are two learning centers, a moot courtroom, two recording studios, five conference rooms, an executive board room and a 40,000-square-foot library with future space for a café, bookstore and a law clinic. Three levels of parking below the building will offer 177 parking spaces.

The Dean even brags about how his school is accredited. That’s a bragging right for a 4th tier school I guess.

Throughout most of these releases and articles, the speaker rarely mentions the benefit to potential law students and graduates and their potential to earn an income from this 4th Tier school [Rankings – Best Law Schools – Graduate Schools – Education – US News and World Report].

From what I have observed, it appears most institutions and companies do not invest in people. They invest in their institutions that are benefitted by people but will use them to the extent the bottom of the toothpast tube is flat, then toss. I often hear people say we need more engineers, but notice that alot of middle, high school and even some undergraduate universities do not invest in this quality education and training so our country becomes more reliant on non-Americans to improve our technologies. Of course, someone will argue that constructing a new building will help motivate new law students by giving them an enhanced educational environment. Yet, some of the most gifted and talented persons are from humble backgrounds, some of the most intelligent ones do not attend school and those who did, the focus was on gaining knowledge with the ability to tap into innovative ideas to improve their communities and economy. This was decades ago, now it seems that we have mistaken rennovation as innovation, that’s why the legal industry hasn’t changed with the times, but has worsened. Instead of taken cost-effective measures for law schools and law students, an elite few have decided that law school is a franchise. Anyway…

 Since these schools are state supported, I was curious as to the extent of state funds were granted to these fine institutions. Before we delve into this, let’s be reminded that according to a recent post at Above the Law, many recent law graduates are flooding government offices to volunteer for 2 available internships in one California county. [ ‘The Job Market Is Even Worse Than Many of Us Thought’ « Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid – News, Gossip, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession]. That’s right, in one of the hardest hit states of the current economic recession, attorneys are flocking to work for free with nearly insurmountable debt has a  STATE funded school spending money on a pretty building, to match its shiny brochures.

When I was researching information concerning this one, I actually lost track of which law school I was researching, but here’s the list:

1. Stanford Law School
2. U.C. Berkeley – Boalt Hall
3. UCLA Law School
4. USC Law School
5. U. California Davis Law School (King Hall)
6. U. California Hastings Law School
7. U. of San Diego Law School
8. Loyola Law School
9. Santa Clara Law School
10. U. of San Francisco
11. Pepperdine Law School
12. U. of the Pacific (McGeorge)
13. Southwestern U. Law School
14. Chapman U. Law School
15. Whittier U. Law School
16. Golden Gate U. Law School
17. California Western Law School
18. Thomas Jefferson Law School

Earlier this year Thomas Jefferson School of Law breaks new ground, San Diego Law School was working to merge with California Western law school. (Let’s point out that according to one source, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law was simply a separate campus of California Western before it decided to become a separate entity). California Western is a for UCSD looking at a law school – SignOnSanDiego.com, January 28, 2010

Critics question whether the school could be self-supporting and whether there’s a mismatch between UCSD’s research focus and California Western’s emphasis on teaching. Some also doubt the need for such a school, considering there are already five UC law schools.

“I think this has more to do with the aspirations of the university than the people of San Diego saying there is a need for it,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent nonprofit based in San Jose. “If the argument is it eases faculty collaborations, what are the impediments for that collaboration now? The notion that you can’t collaborate unless you’re part of the same entity is absurd.” Even the head of the university disagrees with the law schools merger, though subtle: 

UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has not taken a position on the partnership, but said the project would only move forward if it enhances legal research while not undermining other university investments. She said it’s important that no public funds be spent on the school, at least for the first several years.“I wouldn’t approve anything in these tight economic times that were not completely self-supporting for the foreseeable future,” Fox said.

It’s like different law schools contract and expands, grows legs and repeat. Let’s focus, who’s paying for this new shiny campus amidst one of California’s most hemmoraghing budget deficit. There is no clear indication where all of the funds are sourced. Since it’s a public law school we’ll have to presume the State of California paid for a certain amount and the rest from endowments and profits made from student loans.

Wow, Grade Inflation: Article in the New York Times

All Rights Reserved

Today the New York Times posted: In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That – NYTimes.com .Most of us already concluded that oversaturation of the legal market and lack of practical skills caused most lawyers to talk the plank into the sea of unemployment.

“In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.”

This article focuses on grade inflation, with the implication that such practices will increase the chance for attorneys to get jobs. What the author fails to realize is that there aren’t any legal jobs to get moreso nowadays.

“Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. Once able to practically guarantee gainful employment to thousands of students every year, the schools are now fielding complaints from more and more unemployed graduates, frequently drowning in student debt.”

One could easily argue that students are getting grades they do not deserve, yet students who are forced into the bottom portion of the curve because of mandatory grading may benefit.

“Unlike undergraduate grading, which has drifted northward over the years because most undergraduate campuses do not strictly regulate the schoolwide distribution of As and Bs, law schools have long employed clean, crisp, bell-shaped grading curves. Many law schools even use computers to mathematically determine cutoffs between a B+ and a B, based on exam points.” I doubt somewhat the characterization the author makes of most undergraduate schools, like during this entire time the law school’s manner of operating has a clear history of legitimacy.

I do remember reading a year ago a high school or elementary schoolteacher who left primary education altogether because he was distraught that by school policy he HAD TO distribute a certain number of grades ranging from A’s to D’s for each school year. He stated there were some were good in certain areas like testing and others who were good in other areas, solving problems but not under pressure (I guess like schoolwork or homework) but I’m sure you can assume who received what grades. This teacher had a soul. Based on what I witnessed in law school, especially your first year, where you’re assigned tenured professors who have lost their minds, that many of them enjoy taking their life’s disappointments on unsuspecting students (pretty much all 1Ls). I’ve even met a Ph.D. professor who stated she enjoyed final exam and final grading because she could give whoever she didn’t like in her class whatever grade she wanted.

“All of the moves can create a vicious cycle like that seen in chief executive pay: if every school in the bottom half of the distribution raises its marks to enter the top half of the distribution, or even just to become average, the average creeps up. This puts pressure on schools to keep raising their grades further.” Wonder if it does any thing for their rankings too…”Employers say they also press law schools for rankings, or some indication of G.P.A.’s for the top echelon of the class. And if the school will not release that information — many do not — other accolades like honors and law journal participation provide clues to a student’s relative rank.” Interesting…

Anyone remember the scene from the Titanic when the ship was actually sinking and the violins kept playing either to comfort those on board or for those who wanted to enjoy themselves until the vary end? These schools are doing everything BUT closing down to keep the cycle going. These factors contribute greatly to the future generations, standard of living, mental and social health, but grading systems themselves do not appear to be regulated at all.

Next, the article reads: “Others, like Duke and the University of Texas at Austin, offer stipends for students to take unpaid public interest internships. Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law even recently began paying profit-making law firms to hire its students.” Just as many 0Ls are desparately seeking ways to attend law schools, these law schools are getting so desparate to have their prior students get some work. This is such a bad cycle. It’s like no one is dealing with reality. Cycle of law school addiction?

“But the tactic getting the most attention — and the most controversy — is the sudden, deliberate and dubiously effective grade inflation, which had begun even before the legal job market softened.”

“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” says Stuart Rojstaczer, a former geophysics professor at Duke who now studies grade inflation. “So you artificially call every student a success.”

But wait, IVY League law schools are doing it too:Harvard and Stanford, two of the top-ranked law schools, recently eliminated traditional grading altogether. Like Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, they now use a modified pass/fail system, reducing the pressure that law schools are notorious for. This new grading system also makes it harder for employers to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, which means more students can get a shot at a competitive interview.”

This is unfortunate because as more of the lower tier law schools opened, more students will attend for some strange reason. Older generations (I mean people who grew up in the 80’s) did not have access to law school rankings and U.S. News and the internet. Career centers or counselors steered them towards state institutions regardless of rankings. Those that could’ve made it into Top Tier then would’ve had better chances of carving a real career in the legal industry before this devastating shift of “it will never be the same” occurred. Now, those who were intelligent enough and those who weren’t but attended the same TTT law school will be forever lumped in the mediocrity with rice paper thin prestige. Those who knew some of the game and went to top tier but not that much better will be given the written stamp of approval, you may pass “Go” but still on the other side of the door are the blank faces whose stares read “Yeah, they got me too.” So welcome one and all, at this point it does not make a difference which law school you attended, only in the heads of those promoting this practice and the all too eager law graduate who continues to delude him or herself into thinking that attending law school was a wise decision.

Los Angeles Times: California unemployment rate holds steady at 12.5% (and attorneys are feeling it)

California unemployment rate holds steady at 12.5%

The economy may be leveling off, although job prospects in professional fields still appear bleak.

LABOR

March 27, 2010|By Marc Lifsher

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/27/business/la-fi-cal-jobs27-2010mar27

Quote from a newspaper article: ” Though small, the professional sector — which includes lawyers, accountants, architects and economists — has been pummeled by the recession, more than in any other recent downturn.”

Did we really need a newspaper article to tell us this? Either you or a family member is living through this, though this article is specific to California. I will say this, as California’s current 12+% unemployment is one of the highest, and black unemployment across the sectors (including professionals) is at 15%, means California is not a good place for a minority to seek new opportunities or advance their careers.

Anyway, I find it interesting that most of the media outlets tend to focus on new graduates, new graduates gripe about competing against those with a decade of experience but no one seems to pay attention to those in between. You know the ones who aren’t elderly, have less than 15 years of experience but aren’t new to the meat market. These are the ones who have a harder time playing catch up because they are ALREADY expected to have gain some experience regardless of the market, tier of law school they attended or just facing the harsh reality of the legal industry.

“The latest recession differs from downturns in the early 1980s and 1990s because it “hits across sectors and across occupations,” said employment lawyer Michael Bernick at Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold in San Francisco. Then the article gets embolden by stating that the job market is improving as the economy does, how is this so when this is considered a “jobless recovery.” Logic please.

Here it is: “I don’t know of any law firm that is hiring people who don’t bring new business with them,” said Bernick, a former state employment agency director.” So the person likely to have a “book” of business that will advance a current firm’s portfolio are those with 20 years experience. Not those still building or attempting to gain any experience, this we already know, yet people STILL are attending law school in droves.

Prospects are even tougher for newly minted lawyers, said Darry Sragow, managing partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Los Angeles. “We don’t hire people straight out of school,” he said.” Ahh the focus on new attorneys, what about the rest of us? It’s either poor newbie or poor IVY Leaguer. ‘All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us.’

Via Stanford Law School’s Website: Race Conscious College Admissions: KCBS Radio

Stanford Law Journal posted this on their website: (my ramblings in blue)

Publication Date: February 16, 2010 Source: KCBS All News Radio 740 AM

Professor Bill Koski discusses the delicate issue of affirmative action in higher education after activists have challenged Prop. 209: “A coalition of activists students from the University of California are filing a lawsuit to overturn the higher education portion of California’s proposition 209 the affirmative action initiative. The group “By Any Means Necessary” says that proposition 209 violates the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution. The students and their lawyers claim that the UC system is segregated and that African American and Latino student enrollment at UC Berkeley has dropped steadily since proposition 209 was passed in 1996. For more we’re joined on the KCBS news line by Stanford law professor Bill Koski. We thank you so much for the time today. What does proposition 209 have if anything to do with the equal protection laws in the constitution.”

“Proposition 209 was a voter passed initiative that only applies to the state of California. And what it does is it bans the use of racial preferences or racial discrimination in university admissions and other government contracting. In essence, what it says that decision makers in government have to be race neutral in their thinking. And this — Proposition 209 — was actually upheld against a court equal protection challenge back in 1997. And so it has survived one challenge but I understand the folks who are now taking a fresh look at this — they believe that the times have changed and that within the data showing that there has been this precipitous drop in African American and Latino enrollments at the UCs. They believe that it is now ripe for a new challenge under the equal protection clause.”

One may argue that many minorities may have become disinterested in law school. Equal Protection requires similar opportunities be provided for all regardless of race, color, national origin, etc. I know most people will argue that objective criteria such as LSAT, undergraduate gpa are the most determinant factors in law school admissions. It was my understanding that if an equally qualified minority was available and were underrepresented for an opportunity or admission, then he or she should be selected. Thus, the disparate impact on blacks and Latinos would give rise to them as a suspect class and thus allow them to have standing for a cause of action.  Oft-times I read people “yell” liberal-heart agendas are taking over and unqualified persons are trumping qualified whites. As far as a legal education is concerned I don’t believe this is so unless someone shows me evidence otherwise. With rare exception, regardless of the tier ranking you will likely see very few minorities, especially Black Americans in law school, even now.  I am unsure how for so many years state colleges and universities which receive grants and federal funding as well as the federal student loan circuit were able to circumvent affirmative action via the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The system goes from a history of condescending paternalistic governance of blacks and education to a free for all-the door is open, it’s all on your back if you succeed. There is an underlying issue regarding preparation for higher education of minorities to equitably compete. Instead of addressing these underlying issues the law school industry promotes lower tier schools to accept minority students to show that there “is still room for them” in the legal field. This in turn, along with inherent racial discrimination is a definite recipe for failure. Maybe it’s a good thing law school enrollment among minorities have declined. Though I think undergraduate school is a good experience it isn’t for anyone; one still cannot justify depriving certain people a chance to attend a good school

Around the year 2000 I came across and article in the newspaper and actually kept it throughout the years. It was entitled: “Black Law Students disappearing with end to affirmative action” by the Associated Press. One guy stated:  “That really is the story–that we have been giving such huge preferences based on skin color that it kind of masked the fact that we have such a long way to go in the K-12 system to get black kids prepared for the competition,” said Ward Connerly. So untrue, really? huge preferences…to blacks? The truth is that there weren’t hardly Black American students attending law schools, and that the door remained slightly ajar for few and now some desire to completely shut it again. 

Yet, I’ll agree that he makes a valid point regarding student preparation before reaching college. I even noticed a journal article 23Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal 107 (2007):http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/blj/vol23/lee.pdf  entitled: Justifying Affirmative Action in K-12 Private Schools; which I still need to take a more in-depth look at. Interestingly the author focuses on private schools because obviously little attention is giving to most public schools, especially now.  To start, with the funding of public middle and high schools based on zoning and racial preferences (within the classroom), quality of teachers, we would be addressing root problems. During the 1970s and 1980s bussing was the sought after solution, instead of creating or improving schools in predominately black communities, just send them to a school where the majority of the student body is white, that’s how you get around investing in the future of black neighborhoods, schools and local government.

But this would take years and an honest admission that the current method of state/public schooling is not adequate for most Americans. With the history of this country it is difficult to digest when an oblivious person says they can go to a good school or just move to a good neighborhood. Economic, social and historical factors all play a trickle down effect on what people have access to. It’s like saying anybody can go to Paradise Island and enjoy it’s fruit, it’s the best of all places–but to get there you need specific equipment, canoe, compass, life-jacket, a captain, etc. Some things are to some degree fundamentally an unequal playing field, yet all the players are expected to engage the system as if it were even. As a result, the same people who propogate that it’s a free market and that equal opportunities exist will just say see “they can’t compete” or “don’t throw money at them” or “reverse discrimination.” When people are maligned, constantly culturally bashed, put in conditions comparable to animals, de-humanized and basically dis-enfranchised, what do you expect the result to be? One can do this with any race, deprived of decent education because we’re dealing with conditioning environments and modifying behavior, then this becomes the world they know, this is what becomes “normal.” Then expect to suddenly be able to easily adapt to a world unbeknowst to them, that just seems fundamentally unfair. For those who were not raised or exposed to this environment, certain inequities become more evident and surprising as you age, because as a child it was unknown to you. Thus, growing up thinking you can be whatever you want, no matter what trials or systemic curveballs are thrown to you, one becomes bewildered; because it was only when you were a certain age to understand a degree of depth of the system, you realize you’re in too deep. Now it appears insurmountable to survive.

“Without looking at the lawsuit because I haven’t of course seen the lawsuit — it hasn’t been filed yet, to my knowledge. I can imagine that what they’re thinking here is that given the numbers of students who are African American Latino in the UC system — it’s largely because the system now uses test scores and grades almost exclusively or to some large extent in making admissions decisions. And what the feeling might be is that in the state of California at least the resources devoted to schools with high percentages of African American and Latino kids in the K -12 system are much lower than more affluent neighborhoods which are perhaps more white and Asian American. And what they’re thinking is that if you have access to fewer resources, fewer honors classes, fewer counselors, fewer people that get you prepared for college, that that in effect is discriminating against those students in terms of their preparation for the UC system. And then when the UC system chooses to use just test scores and other kinds of grades for their admissions process it perpetuates that discrimination. Now that might be the theory that they’re working under and that might be the changed circumstance that they can point to that in fact there has been this drop and there is this potential fact of resource disparity in the state of California.” “There’s no doubt this is a novel claim and I’m sure that they feel very strongly about their position. It will be a difficult case to pursue. One thing that has happened in the interim on the is another — affirmative action case at the University of Michigan Law School in which the law school itself wanted to use race conscious admissions policies. But it was challenged by a white student who said that that type of affirmative action was essentially reverse discrimination. At the University of Michigan case their admissions policy was upheld because it took an individualized holistic look at each applicant. And it didn’t use a quota system for African American and Latinos. So at least when a university chooses to use or is able to use race conscious admissions policies that are very narrowly tailored it will be held up against an equal protection clause challenge but that doesn’t mean that there is any obligation on a university to use those race conscious policies especially where Prop. 209 exists. One thing that I will say may happen with the filing of this kind of lawsuit — the great hope will be that it will change the conversation. How is it that we as a state can tolerate such unequal numbers of African American and Latino students in our flagship UC system and how is it that we can reach out and try to change those numbers given that we have Prop. 209 in existence.”

The issue is the root problems, not scoring and making holistic approaches to admissions the norm, if it means lower standards to appease interest groups. Regardless of race the system should want to promote qualified diversity. Look at how often the U.S. attracts scientists and engineers from abroad but fails to invest in its own education system that would provide dedicated, qualified Americans in the same field. A quality education starts when they’re young, not all of sudden you’ll be thrown out into the real world let’s try to maneuver around the problem instead of creating real solutions. The system is failing because it doesn’t care about future generations, just how to profit on the way things work now, which obviously isn’t too well.