« Clients Pushing Firms to Change? Don't Believe It! | Main | What's Your Holiday Look? Betty Ford or Vamp? »

Law School Transparency Hits Back

Vivia Chen

December 13, 2011

© Maridav - Fotolia.comThe Careerist got a pile of mail after posting an editorial by a dean at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, defending the economics of going to law school.  

Today, Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that advocates for reform in legal education, is responding to Miller's editorial. The authors are LST's executive director, Kyle McEntee (pictured below, on left), and policy director, Patrick J. Lynch (pictured below, on right).


The Cooley Strategy Exposed

by Kyle McEntee and Patrick J. Lynch

Last week, Nelson Miller, associate dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus, wrote an editorial, "Lawyer Employment Remains Strong," that appeared in The Careerist. Using employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he argues that lawyer job prospects are strong, that the legal profession  has less risk than others, and that any noise questioning the value of obtaining a J.D. is as erroneous as it is inflammatory.

Mcentee_lynchWe will not spend much time discrediting Dean Miller’s “data-based” arguments, including Cooley’s Report One, which is the basis of this latest editorial. (That report has been thoroughly and thoughtfully discredited in an article by Matt Leichter.) To make a long story short, the underlying data upon which Report One depends excludes at least one broad segment of law school graduates: People who never became lawyers in the first place because they couldn’t find legal jobs. 

So what is Miller’s editorial really about? Is it just an honest attempt by a law school administrator to educate students and allay unfounded fears propagated through the media? We don’t think so.

Law schools like Cooley are facing significant hardship because prospective students are increasingly more informed about the risk of taking on six-figure debt for the chance of entering the legal profession. In addition to numerous anecdotes, we are seeing this play out through fewer LSAT-takers and law school applicants. Unfortunately for these schools, this will translate into fewer people willing to pay $30,000, $40,000, or even $50,000 per year in tuition.

Miller has every incentive to distract consumers and conceal what Cooley graduates face after graduation. The 2009 Cooley graduates had an average law school debt in excess of $106,000, but only 42.2 percent obtained full-time legal work by February 2010. This statistic does not even account for Cooley’s unparalleled attrition rate, and we do not know how 2010 and 2011 graduates fared on these postgraduation metrics because Cooley does not share this information with its applicants.

The truth is that unless Miller and the rest of the Cooley administration can convince almost 2,000 people next year that a Cooley investment is worthwhile, they will be forced to make a series of hard business decisions in the coming years. This includes whether to keep the Michigan-based school’s new Florida campus and other satellite campuses open.

Commissioning reports, in-house rankings,   and aggressive public relations are all part of a very smart strategy. The Cooley administration understands how these efforts affect prospective students. If Cooley can confirm to prospective students that law school is a magic ticket to financial security, it can continue to operate without introspection about what’s really wrong with legal education today.

As prospective students become more informed and the ABA exerts greater oversight to protect consumers of legal education, some enterprising deans will find ways to reduce tuition and class sizes, adapting their schools’ models to stay in business. Others will close up shop for lack of demand. And in the interim period, representatives like Miller will attempt to convince anyone who will listen that there is nothing wrong with taking on $106,000 in nondischargeable debt for their Cooley law degree. This continued, shameless promotion is part of the reason his law school has been hauled into court by former graduates amidst allegations of fraud and misrepresentation.

Miller’s advocacy for his law school at others’ expense belies his ethical responsibilities as both a lawyer and an educator. This country needs law school administrators who are capable of ethically recruiting and training the next generation of lawyers, judges, advocates, and educators. We do not need people running law schools who engage in Miller’s level of deception.

 

Get The Careerist in your morning e-mail. Sign up today—see box on upper right corner.

2011Blawg100_VoteBlueRecThe Careerist has been named a Top 100 Blog by the ABA. Please vote for it as the best blog in the category of LPM - Law Practice Management.

Click here to vote: http://www.abajournal.com/blawg100

 

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected]

 

Comments

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

Thank you for this article...I am truly a victim of this law school. Thank you for helping to expose their corruptness.

Great retort.

Cooley Law is a disease.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Subscribe to get The Careerist via e-mail

Enter your e-mail address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

To search across all ALM blogs, go to www.Lexis.com.