Archive for "ABA"
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: BLS Student Audit 2012 – Part I – PSG Cuts; Tuition Hikes
Last week, a few representatives from the American Bar Association set up in the Moot Court room from 5:00 – 6:00 PM on a Monday. They wanted to hear students’ opinions of our law school. How many of us showed up? I don’t know—7? 8? I know that when I arrived I was the 4th.
I used this opportunity to lobby for a napping room, and for a broad mandate to all law schools that class sizes must be reduced if the legal market can ever hope to be fixed. BLS may or may not already be implementing such a mandate—and the size of next year’s 1L class should help determine that. I also mentioned a brief story about the public service grant from last year.
If you were here, perhaps you remember the one day “push” to get a petition signed by as many students as possible. Perhaps you remember our argument—that we had counted on the $5,000 being there for the summer for which we applied—and to remove it with the simple explanation that “the government cut our funding,” when there are plenty of other ways to make up for an $800,000 shortfall (the approximate cost of providing $2,000 extra per student), does not indicate a willingness on the part of the administration to really help students manage the cost of law school.
BLS may, or may not have inflated their “9-months after graduation employment” numbers. Big whoop. So has everyone else. BLS participated in the merit scholarship “scheme” where falling beneath the 40% mark in your class meant a reduction in your scholarship. Big whoop. Some schools are even tougher—33% was my barrier everywhere else. BLS may, or may have not, participated in “scholarship stacking,” which is a vague practice that involves packaging all of the highest “scholarship earning” students in the same section, or same larger section, first year. This is more evil than fair, but difficult to prove (though not impossible). And I do know that Section 16 from last year was a powerhouse.
New York Law School’s case is getting dismissed. Brooklyn’s case is getting dismissed (I’m calling it right here) because they can’t allege anything truly audacious—their only hope is the “scholarship stacking” argument—but even that might fly as a reasonable business judgment. BLS is a 501(c)(3) and it should not care about profits. But this is the #65 law school in the nation, and keeping such a high public profile costs a lot of money. The cleanest way to make up for the shortfall without harming any existing funding or expenses is to raise tuition.
Tuition increased from $46,610 to $48,416 this year. 3Ls did not bear the cost of the increase—but 2Ls did. And 1Ls find themselves in the fortunate position of a smaller class by 100 students, and the unfortunate position of being the final class to have the 40% scholarship renewal barrier imposed upon them.
It is worth noting that I have not seen any student movement to reinstate the $5,000 summer PSG. It is a fact of life that we accept. I would like to argue that it is not unreasonable for us to seek this additional funding. With the new system, students may be tempted to work 25 hours per week at the internship and 15 hours at some other place that might pay and make up for the shortfall. This may include non-legal work like in a restaurant or something, and the school is not exactly encouraging students to do this, but they should know that students will be doing this, and that these sorts of jobs are not going to make them look any more attractive to prospective employers. Thus, students are left with a choice – work 40 hours a week at one place – 15 of those for free – or try to make up the difference. The school should not force students to make such a Hobson’s Choice when it is clear that other funds may be easily diverted to the cause (look, for example, at BLSPI, and how they fund scholarships….by getting students drunk and convincing them it’s a really good idea to spend $900 to have dinner with Geraldo, or $3,000 with the commissioner of the NHL….). The result is that students need to think more creatively and do even more legwork to best avoid financial disaster. But I hate students that complain about how busy they are. We all are. Get over it.
BLS is not the only law school to hike its tuition, and it has to stay competitive. We cannot blame BLS for everything, but we can try to urge it to be different from other schools and implement some really original policies. It’s my hope that the change will be coming soon.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at BLS. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. You may find his other work at flyinghouses.blogspot.com. Like Jamie Moyer, he believes that people should never count themselves out. You may fail, and fail, and fail, and people may call you a freak and a loser who doesn’t know when to call it quits, but when you are still pitching at age 49 in the Rockies starting rotation, you will have the last laugh.
Fewer than a dozen students gathered on Monday, April 2nd to speak with the American Bar Association committee visiting BLS last week for its sabbatical observation of the law school. These visits occur every seven years at ABA-accredited schools, and primarily entail inspections to see whether the school is meeting ABA standards on everything from admissions to faculty tenure requirements.
The ABA’s informal student session was loosely formatted as a Q&A, and was somewhat unusually located in a mostly empty 7th floor Moot Court room. No members of the BLS staff, administration or faculty were present during the hour-long session.
The volunteer committee members – all male, mostly lawyers, but at least one a legal recruiter – seemed genuinely invested in the “fact-finding mission” that brought them to BLS. The members explained that after observing classes, meeting faculty, and speaking casually to students they encountered throughout the week, the committee would draw up a report and present it to the ABA’s accreditation team.
As one committee member poetically described the process, he and his team would perform the cholesterol check and the ABA would then prescribe BLS’s diet via an “action letter,” most likely telling the school to lose a few pounds here and there. Even one hundred errors, he said, would not mean that the school is necessarily in danger of losing its accreditation.
Topics covered at the session included career services, information technology, library services, admissions, the registrar’s office, and class size.
Perhaps the most interesting question the committee posed to students was its last: if you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the school, what would it be? Students responded with answers ranging from “transparency” to “the curve.”
One committee member noted in response to a student comment about low attendance at the session that generally, “the smaller the number of students in the room, the happier students are.”
TILSEC Response to Author(s) of BLS Advocate:
We are writing in response to the November 2, 2011 editorial entitled “Law Students to the ABA: Wake Up, Get Off the Sidelines” posted by BLS Advocate.
As members of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (“ABA YLD”), we appreciate your concerns regarding the ABA’s involvement in encouraging law schools to report accurate law school graduate employment data. The ABA is aware of this issue and has taken several measures to increase the transparency and availability of this important information.
At the August 2011 ABA Annual Meeting, the ABA unanimously passed Resolution 111B. This Resolution calls upon all ABA-Approved Law Schools to report detailed employment data, including specifying whether their graduates’ employment is part-time or full-time, in the public or private sector, and whether the employment is in a position for which a JD is required. Resolution 111B also urges the ABA-Approved Law Schools to publish the median salaries for their graduates. To ensure that prospective students can make informed decisions about their prospective law school education, Resolution 111B calls upon the Law Schools to make this information readily available on their websites, and to include this information in their catalogues and letters of acceptance.
Further, the ABA YLD, which was the primary sponsor of Resolution 111B established the Truth in Law School Education Committee (“TILSEC”) to ensure that the ABA YLD maintains an active role in this vital issue. The principal charge of TILSEC is to make certain that ABA-Approved Law Schools fulfill their obligation to report accurate employment data. TILSEC is comprised of leaders within the YLD and ABA Law Student Division, and will consistently advocate for the interests of all prospective law school students.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions as we seek to make meaningful improvements on this issue.
[The following is an editorial co-written by the Cardozo Jurist and The BLS Advocate. The Advocate and the Jurist decided to co-write this editorial because it addresses an issue affecting the law school community as a whole. A version of the editorial is also available on the Jurist's website.]
Our economy is depressed. These are difficult times for all.
While disheartening, we must acknowledge the situation before us. Things have changed in the last few years. Legal jobs are scarce. Law school is hardly a “safe bet” – in fact, it is a perilous one.
In these times, we need an American Bar Association (ABA) that is proactive. An ABA that is present. An ABA that is attentive to the economic climate and what this means for prospective and current law students.
Instead, as Erik Slepak’s story “ABA Drags Feet in Stopping Law Schools’ Reporting of Misleading Post-Grad Job Stats” and Warren Allen’s feature article “The Litigating Classes: Taking Their Schools to Court” illustrate, the ABA has been reactive when the times call for it to be proactive. We find this deeply disappointing.
Understandably, in past years of economic prosperity, prospective law students weren’t as concerned with post-grad employment statistics. But, in these trying times the stakes are higher. Prospective students want to know: How many graduates have jobs that require a JD? How many are employed through the law school’s fellowship program? How many have part-time jobs? They have a right to the answers to these questions.
Until two weeks ago, the ABA did not require law schools to provide such information to prospective students. Some law schools voluntarily offered this information to prospective students. But, many other schools opted only to provide rather basic statistics, like percentage of graduates employed nine months from graduation. This figure gives prospective students no sense of how many graduates have part-time legal or non-legal jobs.
While the schools that offered only basic statistics were technically in compliance with ABA standards, their approach was morally questionable. Prospective students should have access to crucial statistics when deciding where to go to law school. Without commenting on the merits of the lawsuit brought by Jesse Strauss and David Anziska, the suit symbolizes warranted frustration. While the ABA may not have required law schools to provide detailed statistics, that fact is not enough to absolve law schools that provided only basic statistics from blame.
As for the ABA, it is clearly behind the times. Instead of directing law schools to provide such information on its own, the ABA has only done so after enormous public pressure in the form of open letters from Senators Boxer and Grassley and negative media attention. Such conduct demonstrates a lack of initiative, and shows that while the world changes around us, we may be stuck with an ABA that is a few steps behind. That’s unfortunate, and the legal profession deserves better.
We strongly urge the ABA to pick itself up and ready itself for the future. We encourage it to bring in new faces and distance itself from the law school establishment by minimizing the influence of school administrators. The ABA should be a strong, independent organization that recognizes the plight of the prospective and current law student. Unfortunately, that’s not the ABA we’ve seen lately.
A good way for the ABA to start would be to follow up on its promise to examine law schools’ policies regarding merit scholarships. A speedy investigation followed by sweeping reform would be welcomed by prospective and current students alike.
The ABA needs to wake up. A primary cause of this economic disaster was the deceptive practices of the country’s financial institutions. The time to sit back and disinterestedly allow institutions to pursue smoke and mirror tactics has long since passed. We don’t know why the ABA didn’t get this memo, and we don’t much care. All we know is, from here on out, the ABA needs to be ahead of the curve and not behind it.