Sunday, August 14, 2011

Holes in Law School Marketing Dam: Class Action Lawsuits Against Cooley and New York Law

There are officially holes in the law school marketing dam. Thomas M. Cooley Law School and New York Law School have been named as defendants in major class action litigation relating to their alleged misrepresentations concerning graduates' future employment prospects and compensation.

This follows on the heels of the New York Times' report about New York Law School.

It looks like my prediction from a couple of weeks ago came sooner than I really expected. "I have long thought that some (and perhaps many) law schools might face the same kind of litigation. As tuition rises and employment prospects decline, this litigation may not be far off for law schools."

It is, in my opinion, quite likely that many other similar law suits against many other law schools will follow as graduates (who likely should have never graduated, if they should have even been admitted) find themselves with substantial debt and no real prospect of legal employment sufficient to service the debt, if they even find a job.

The first holes created by the lawsuits against Cooley and New York Law will soon (and maybe hopefully) cause the entire dam to fail. Maybe some of the unemployed and unqualified graduates can get a job as counsel for other students suing the law schools -- something they would not need to do had they had a little more law-4-lunch.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Law School Economics and Success

It has been a long time since I posted anything, but this is worth it. This New York Times article looks into the expanding tuition for law schools in comparison to the chances of economic success.

This New York Times article just hits the tip of the iceberg in my opinion.

I have long thought that the modern legal education model had serious flaws -- too many people and not enough weeding out. Quantity over quality. Though I had not thought about it in terms of economics, this article may have hit the nail on the head in terms of motive.

Many of the lower end law school graduates (either by class rank or law school) end up in criminal defense (and family law among other consumer practices) not because it is what they want to do, but because it is all they can do when not hired by a firm. Too many should not be lawyers and even more should have been weeded out by the (broken) law school education system.

Medical schools do it right and have much better control over the graduating population sent out to begin practicing on the public.

Law schools have never been designed to teach anyone how to practice law. At least the medical profession requires internships and residency before graduates can begin plying their trade. In my view, it is long past time for this to be part of a legal education.

Years ago I represented a private school that provided court reporter training. This entity was later sued by a group of students who were not able to pass the classes (on the theory that the school had misrepresented the likelihood of graduation and later success). The case was confidentially settled before trial, but I have long thought that some (and perhaps many) law schools might face the same kind of litigation. As tuition rises and employment prospects decline, this litigation may not be far off for law schools.

The Titanic law schools may be headed for the proverbial iceberg if they do not get back to Law-4-Lunch rather than three meals plus snacks a day.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Extreme Extremism

The notion that a presidential address could turn students into socialists or communists is absurd. Far too many people need to get a grip on reality. Paranoia is run amuck. Reality has taken a back seat to reality.

The outcry to the President's address is unprecedented in American history. When Bush-1 (who I was big fan of for lots of reasons) and Reagan (who I liked for his economic polices, though who I cared little for with respect to his Supreme Court appointments) made similar addresses, it was viewed as a President reaching out to kids to motivate them. Why is it viewed so differently now? It should not be. We ought to all be encouraging the message he seeks to send to the youth of this county.

Repeat after me: Bush was not Hitler and Obama is not a socialist or a communist. People need to get over their extremist views. People need to stop listening to sound bites and start availing themselves of the masses of information the Internet makes available to them.

My best guess is that this is as good as its gets evidence wise on the extremes of divergent views in this country. Sadly. The negative visceral reactions are far too telling. Too few people care about the merits. Instead, it is about sound-bite driven reactions.

I am not a fan of what appears to be Obama's economic policies, but much of this reaction smacks of overreaction if not some latent racism. Whatever happened to opposing ideas we disagreed with, but not opposing something just because of the person proposing it?

I do not like the idea of more government entitlements on top of the existing ones we can already cannot afford (social security, medicare, and medicaid), but this has little to nothing to do with messages to our kids to stay in school and strive to succeed.

We loathe extremism when it comes from foreign sources. Should we embrace it domestically? I say no. This smacks of McCarthyism and I oppose it -- dispute my disagreement with many of Obama's proposed polices.

We need a little more reasoned law4luch and less extremism.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Socialism of Personal Accountability

We are becoming a socialist state when it comes to personal accountability.

In the wake of this year's legislative session are a variety of new laws and as always a variety of new crimes. Perpetuating the myth that making something a crime comes with no cost to the government, the fiscal notes attached to most legislation making acts criminal continue to state that there is no "direct cost" to the government or that the cost is too vague to be quantifiable. Aside from the blatant falsity of such statements is the even greater cost that accrues from the socialization of responsibility that accompanies most new crimes.

The vast majority of Americans are adamantly opposed (and rightfully so in my view) to any form of government that even remotely resembles socialism, much less communism. Against this backdrop, our country has gone through McCarthyism, the anti-communist sentiment accompanying the cold war, movements attacking proposed solutions to social problems as moving us closer to socialism, and most recently excessive government control of the auto industry and too much of the banking system. The current debate about whether health care reform will result in "socialized" medicine, and the hysteria that such a label invokes, leaves little to no doubt that there remains substantial negative sentiment about the socialization of any aspect of American life.

Despite that widely held core belief, Americans stand still and even embrace the idea that those who harm someone should be accountable to the government rather than to those they harm. The government has taken control of individual responsibility. This transformation of accountability -- from private to public -- has been fueled by every legislative session in Texas in the last 30 years. Each session, the legislature makes it harder and harder, if not impossible, for those who have been harmed to seek and obtain private redress for their harm. Instead, and in just as significant a movement in the opposite direction, those who do something that harms someone else become almost solely accountable to society through laws that make the conduct criminal. Rather than providing a forum and mechanism for one-on-one grievances to be dealt with between those involved, we have inserted government either as the sole mechanism for redress or as the only effective intermediary. We have largely socialized personal responsibility for actions that affect or harm others.

When I was a kid, deterrence from misbehaving was a result of the consequences I knew I would face at home -- not that it always prevented it. When I set up a bow and arrow target against the next door neighbor's air conditioning unit and then pierced the tubing containing the freon with the arrow, I suffered punishment at home, physical, financial, and private probation, i.e., grounding. Today, I would have been charged with criminal mischief and been made accountable primarily to society rather than my next door neighbor. When a friend who did not have a driver's license "borrowed" his out-of-town parent's car and rolled it with two of us in it (what I have always referred to as my American Graffiti moment), we all suffered consequences at home -- not from the government. As a side note, all three of us are lawyers today. Today, it is likely we would all three have landed in court to be accountable to the government. Today, our parents would have spent tens of thousands of dollars as a result of the government imposed mechanisms for us to be accountable to society for our conduct.

The medical profession obtained what it considered to be a significant victory a few years ago through legislation that makes it much less likely that those who some medical professionals harm can be redressed through private remedies and through the courts. They had better watch their backs, however, because those who cannot get private remedies for the harm and their grievances will likely begin to look to society for it. At last count nearly 100,000 people a year die from medical mistakes (i.e., negligence or worse) and nearly 100,000 more die each year from infections and diseases caught in hospitals. Those who negligently or recklessly cause a person's death have committed negligent homicide or manslaughter -- both felony offenses. Those who negligently or recklessly cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury to someone have committed assault or aggravated assault. Medical professionals and administrators had better hope that those who are harmed by their negligence or recklessness and can no longer seek or obtain meaningful private civil remedies do not begin to look to the government and the criminal justice system to hold those who have harmed them accountable. Once it starts -- and it will, the only question is when -- they will wish that they only had to face civil actions.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure has long contained a provision allowing for private alternative dispute resolution of disputes that have landed in the criminal justice system as an alternative to continued prosecution. Unfortunately, it is almost never used as a remedy because prosecutors are not required to participate. I say "almost never" only because I cannot be sure that it has not happened somewhere at some time. I can say that I have never seen it happen in over 20 years of practicing in the criminal justice system. I have repeatedly been told that they do not have time or the resources for alternative dispute resolution: the prosecutors' job is to enforce the laws and punish those who break them.

The idea that those who do harm or damage to someone must be held accountable to society through the criminal justice system is just as much a socialization of responsibility as government control of health care is socialized medicine or government control of the auto industry or banking leads us closer to a economic socialization; that is, we all pay for it through tax dollars rather than those who did harm paying for it to those they harmed. Ironically and unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the socialization of responsibility has not done any better of a job at preventing such conduct than occurred when accountability for conduct was private. It has, however, shifted the cost of obtaining accountability from the private to the public sector. Indeed, to hear most politicians talk about it today, we are far worse off today with respect to crime than we were 30 years ago. It should come as no surprise to those who oppose government control of industry that the government is ill suited to provide effective and long lasting remedies in situations that amount to little more than private disputes made public.

I am enough of a realist to know that the problem of excessive government involvement in what should be private disputes will not end any time soon, if ever. It is likely to get far worse long before it gets better. I am also not advocating that there should never be government involvement in events that cause private harm, i.e., murder. I am advocating that those who are in positions to effect change, i.e., those running the government (those in the legislative, executive and judicial branches) need to take a closer look at how government is used to as a tool for accountability. They need to recognize that there are many instances in which what is criminal today ought to be dealt with private remedies. As citizens, we also need to start taking responsibility to seek relief against those who harm us: we should not run to the government, as though it was Mommy or Daddy, ready to be a tattle-tale any time we get upset.

Less government is usually better government and this is no exception. Mass socialized accountability makes for bad government and leaves us no safer or more secure. Count me as against socialized anything and especially against socialized accountability. We would survive quite well if we only had laws for breakfast and dinner and not law4lunch.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The nerve of people who expect the States to produce witnesses in court....

A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court decided Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. The howl from many representing various government entities throughout the country has generally taken the tone of, "How can they [citizen accused, lawyers, and the supreme court] expect us to bring these witnesses to court?" What? Maybe some of these folks need to read a bit more about the constitution and take a reality pill. Time to muzzle that howling.

Ask the average citizen to interpret the rather simple phrase, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him..." and you will have no problem with people saying that it means that the government must bring people who will provide evidence against a citizen to court and put them on the witness stand in court in the accused's presence so that they can be confronted by the accused. It should hardly take a holding by the United States Supreme Court to give effect to such simple language. Too many in government just do not get it.

The Supreme Court has set in motion a tidal wave of common sense that will require those who work for the government to recognize that no one really wants to blindly accept as "reliable" all that is done by the government. Yet, this belief was prevalent among many in government: that is, that since government was doing it, evidence from the government was inherently reliable and thus did not need to be subject to confrontation or cross examination in a courtroom.

As many will learn, I am opposed to many things government, especially when government imposes on the people, but I will save the scope of that for some later musing For now, it is sufficient to note that I firmly believe that whatever the scope of the government activity at issue, it serves "we the people" not the other way around. The Supreme Court has assured that those accused by the government will get to confront and cross examine the evidence offered against them by the government as a basis to convict them. It is as it should be and those who think otherwise need to have a little law4lunch.


The Beginning......

As much as I write for listservers and elsewhere, I am probably long past due for a blog: so in I plunge, without much of an idea what I am doing or what direction I want this to take. I know a little bit about some aspects of the law and I have some opinions, so I might as well join the 21st Century. I probably should have consulted some of my friends who have blogs, but it is likely I would have begun to over think it and would have put it off in an attempt to make it too perfect before it began. So, in I plunge. I am sure I will make mistakes, say too much on occasion, and wish I had advance planned a bit more, but for a change I am just jumping it and will fix things as I go along and apologize for things I cannot fix. After all, this is just law4lunch.