Joe and Elie check in on the legal academy and boy was it a mess this week. One law school is closing. A T14 school claims it’s in financial distress. And another school made all its students attend a racist propaganda rally. Just another day in the law school world.
Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
A Wild Week In Law School News
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello. Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer.
Yes, thank you, thank you. I, as you may — well, you should know by now, I am Joe Patrice of Above the Law and with me Elie Mystal.
Elie Mystal: What’s up?
Joe Patrice: Lots of things. We missed you last week. You were ill.
Elie Mystal: Yes, I was ill and I am still kind of recovering from being ill, which I can just jump into it, is kind of what I am pissed off about today, not surprisingly.
Joe Patrice: Germs?
Elie Mystal: Well, the flu shot is what I am pissed off about.
Joe Patrice: So your stance is that you got the flu even though you got the flu shot, but you probably didn’t have the flu.
Elie Mystal: Well, we can get into that. My stance is that I got the flu shot, all right?
Joe Patrice: You did? Okay, that’s obviously not a stance; that is a factual thing.
Elie Mystal: That’s a factual thing, right?
Joe Patrice: Judicial notice, gabble.
Elie Mystal: I am not an anti-vaxxer or I am not one of these crazy people who thinks that the flu shot makes you sick, that’s not what happened.
Joe Patrice: Okay.
Elie Mystal: I am the kind of crazy person that assumes that if I have gotten the flu shot, there should be some kind of prophylactic against all of it, right? I don’t want to get sick at all. I have got the flu shot, it’s like a condom for germs.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s not at all how it works.
Elie Mystal: That’s how it should be. So then I get sick. Now, did I get sick with the actual flu, with the strain of the flu, what strain, I don’t know. I got real sick last week and was coughing and snorting all over the place despite the fact that I got the freaking flu shot. That’s not right. That’s not the medical science that was promised to me.
Joe Patrice: Actually it strikes me as though it’s pretty dead-on the medical science that’s promised you, but these germs, the new found craziness is apparently these germs are all different and to fight them you have to kind of fight each one in turn. You don’t really get to have a cure for AIDS because you have taken Tylenol. They do different things.
Elie Mystal: First of all, it’s a virus, I am not — well, I guess the flu.
Joe Patrice: So the flu, and cold, all of these things actually.
Elie Mystal: Do I need to get Louis Pasteur up in here to like figure out how to do this?
Joe Patrice: Well, he killed bacteria.
Elie Mystal: It’s 2018, we should be able to figure out how to keep me from getting sick a week before the goddamn midterm elections.
Joe Patrice: Oh, I know. Don’t have kids. Solve your problem in one —
Elie Mystal: That’s actually clear.
Joe Patrice: I mean they are disease vectors.
Elie Mystal: I didn’t bring these germs into my house, but I know who did.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And what do you get in exchange, they take your money, it’s just —
Elie Mystal: Assuming older care.
Joe Patrice: Oh, okay, good luck on that.
Elie Mystal: Because Social Security ain’t going to do it, right?
Joe Patrice: Fair enough.
Elie Mystal: Somebody has got to keep me in the style I have become accustomed to.
Joe Patrice: Well, fair enough.
Elie Mystal: Speaking of kids.
Joe Patrice: Yes. So the style that you have become accustomed to is a style that you managed to build because of your years in law school; see, seamless transition, which brings us to today’s subject. We are going to talk about the latest law school news coming out of the legal landscape.
We have been following multiple stories over the last week or so of increasingly insane developments with law schools and we thought we would go through them for those of you who care about what goes on in law school, those of you who are in law school and those of you who are thinking about law school consider these precautionary examples.
So where do we want to start? Which of the law schools do we want to talk about first?
Elie Mystal: I think I want to talk about William & Mary because —
Joe Patrice: William & Mary.
Elie Mystal: –it hurts my heart.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, I mean it — okay, I mean hurting hearts is certainly fine too, I found it more abominably gobsmackingly stupid, but I mean heart hurt, stupid, go for it.
Elie Mystal: So the issue at William & Mary is that — and every law school has this, right, William & Mary has rich donors, right, and rich donors if I may quote The Big Lebowski, rich donors draw lot of water in this town, and law students ain’t draw shit, like that’s how that works.
And so if you are a rich donor the law school will kiss up to you. They will give you — you will endow a professorship, they will give you a chair, they will name a building after you. If you give law school enough money, they will make like Northwestern and name the entire goddamn law school after you.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Elie Mystal: This is not new. This is not a new facet of late Republic America. Why is Harvard named Harvard? Because some rich guy gave Harvard — gave a college in Cambridge a bunch of books and they were like we will name the whole damn school after you.
Joe Patrice: I mean that’s certainly how Columbia, because Tommy Columbia gave them all that money. But no, your point is correct.
Elie Mystal: However, and we can debate this, but like fundamentally that’s just how the world is going to be. However, there is a difference between a law school naming a building or endowing a professorship or a scholarship after a rich donor, between them doing that and them serving up their students to the rich donor and compromising the school’s academic integrity, those are lines that most schools don’t cross.
William & Mary decided to jump right over the line and spike their students on the wrong side of it.
Joe Patrice: So what did William & Mary do specifically with this donor?
Elie Mystal: So the donor’s name is Jim McGlothlin, it’s not McGlothlin, it’s McGlothlin, I believe, it’s easier if you read it.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, we are giving the microphones a test there, yeah.
Elie Mystal: So he spends a lot of money, donates a lot of money to William & Mary. He was speaking there at the McGlothlin Leadership Forum; he was giving the keynote address there, and problem number one, the law school requested that its students attend this Leadership Forum meeting, which has nothing to do with their academic curriculum, but made them attend this meeting, instructed them apparently before the speech to be respectful to the speaker because he is a rich donor which, all right, at which point according to the tipsters and we weren’t there, we didn’t hear the speech, I don’t know exactly what he said, but according to tipsters he went into some, as they described it, racially charged rant.
Joe Patrice: What?
Elie Mystal: Talking about the caravan and immigrants and defending Brett Kavanaugh about how he was unfairly treated, just this whole —
Joe Patrice: Black people get shot because they don’t treat cops with enough respect, that’s one of them.
Elie Mystal: Explaining that black people get — not black, that the people who get shot by the cops are the ones who don’t treat the police with enough respect to this diverse audience of law students and apparently also some business students.
At one table there was a Dean, a Communications Dean who allegedly told the students at his table after McGlothlin’s speech that not only do they have to like stand there and be respectful and not walk out of the damn thing, but that after he was done they needed to stand up and applaud.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s some North Korea shit right there.
Elie Mystal: To me that crosses an important line between yeah, okay, you are rich, we are going to kiss your ass, and yeah, you are rich so we are going to offer up our students as sacrificial lambs to make you feel good about your racist behavior, and that shouldn’t be allowed.
Unfortunately, and this is the part that hurts my heart, of course it’s allowed, of course it happens all the time. I wrote about this and one of the things I said is that, even an outspoken African-American man like myself, 40-year-old grown ass man like myself, if a rich investor walked in here to our offices and wanted to take me out to lunch and spend that lunch talking about how awesome the police were and how people who get shot by the cops were stupid, I would have some trouble telling that rich investor to go jump in a lake.
There is a strong chance that if — and it depends on the investor, it depends on how rich, it depends on lots of factors, but even as a 40-year-old grown ass man, you put enough money into my company, into my job, into my whatever and I am going to have to sit there and chew my mouth closed. Now, nobody can make me applaud because I am strong.
Joe Patrice: That’s the lie.
Elie Mystal: But can make me sit there and just have to listen to it? That happens. That happens all the time. The first time I was aware that was happening, I was like 10 years old and the last time it happened was like two weeks ago, like this is a part of being out there, living a life in white society as a minority person, there are the occasional rich white men who can make you listen to them just with the force and effect of their cash.
And if you want to stand up to them, they make you, I am using make in a slightly colloquial way, compel you to sit there and feel like you have to listen to them. And if you don’t listen to them, if you do stand up for yourself and stand up for your people, stand up for your race, there will be a consequence. And in those moments, at those drinks, having those coffees, I find myself adding it up, how much is this guy really worth versus how strong am I in my career at this particular moment in time and how much am I willing to sacrifice to simply tell this particular rich white man to shut up.
Poor white men, I will tell him to shut up — I mean I will stop my car, get out of my car. Hey, you should shut up right now. But if you are putting money in something that is important to me, you can even get a person like me to have to occasionally hold their tongue, and that’s what the William & Mary law students had to experience that lesson at law school, and it’s sad to me, because it’s just — I wish I could tell them it’s going to be the last time.
Joe Patrice: And with that, Elie learns the lesson that money equals speech. This has been our mini lesson on Citizens United. Apply for your CLE credits separately.
No, that’s certainly true. One other thing that was a little disturbing about it on a broader level was apparently at one point, again according to tipsters, there was a interlude where he explained that he had basically filed suit against somebody for defamation for saying something mean about him on Facebook, which probably wasn’t even a cognizable claim, but kind of evidence that rich people can push around regular people by threatening to sue them and just knowing they have more resources.
That was disturbing especially in the context of the way we talk about free speech challenges. I mean we have had a previous episode where we talked about what happened at Gawker. This is increasingly the way of the world where people leverage their resources to silence people who they don’t like.
Elie Mystal: The administration’s response was also trash, like William & Mary’s response, so after the debacle, as it was called by one of our tipsters, there was a town hall meeting where students were allowed — encouraged to come talk to the Dean about the difficult situation they had been put into.
And apparently at that meeting, administration officials were trying to explain away McGlothlin’s comments as well actually, he really likes black people. He gives a lot to causes. He has had a different kind of upbringing than all of us. I mean he grew up in a hardscrabble, trying to excuse this allegedly bigoted and misogynist speech that this men made to the students that had to sit there and suffer it.
And then the other thing, and I don’t say this — look, we do a lot of reporting, we reach out to schools and law firms all the time, judges and people and we get no commented a lot, it happens, it’s part of — I respect a no comment.
William & Mary no commenting us on the story really pissed me off. Because it was again a way for William & Mary to shift the burden of dealing with this bigoted, sexist rant from this guy, shift the burden of that from them onto their minority students.
It would have taken nothing, nothing for William & Mary to give a simple, well, we can’t talk about the specifics of the speech, but William & Mary stands against racial divisiveness. It would take nothing for them to say even a platitude on behalf, in defense of their students who were offended and they couldn’t even muster — obviously McGlothlin is too scary to them, they couldn’t even muster that. I thought that was particularly cowardly.
Joe Patrice: What was the sexist part of the speech, by the way, I didn’t —
Elie Mystal: It was the Kavanaugh stuff.
Joe Patrice: Oh, right, right, okay.
Elie Mystal: You unfairly treated bench rights.
Joe Patrice: Oh, right, right, right, yeah. Yeah, I focused so much on the rest that I forgot that.
So let’s transition now to somebody you have already mentioned, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Elie Mystal: Prtizka.
Joe Patrice: Named after wealthy people.
Elie Mystal: Well and now the current Governor.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, yeah, that’s fair enough. Well, not current, soon-to-be I guess is the right way.
Elie Mystal: Governor-elect.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: It’s the Pritzker family that bought the name of Northwestern, J.B. Pritzker is just one of the scions who won the gubernatorial race in Illinois. He is not the — he is the Jim Dolan and not the Charles Dolan, right.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t know. I am not following the Pritzker family tree particularly closely, and it’s also not particularly relevant to this point, which is that after they gave the school somewhere in the upwards of $100 million to get the name changed and with the school reaching its — and as far as anyone can tell if not exceeding its goals of raising $200,000 or so over a short period over a couple of years. The schools —
Elie Mystal: $200,000 is not much amount, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, did not, million. The schools newly installed, they made an announcement that the school is facing financial difficulties and is firing all these people. How expensive is it to run a law school?
Elie Mystal: Your only cost are your people.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, and buildings I suppose, but like —
Elie Mystal: Your people on a heating 15:37.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean, I’m always reminded of the Simpsons episode where Burns is trying to get his son into Yale, and they are like, to get him in with his test scores we would need an International Airport.
Like, whenever I hear of schools not having enough money, all I can think is, well, then don’t build new buildings. And some buildings need to be built, rebuilt or whatever because of asbestos, but like you don’t need new stuff all the time and it strikes me that the only way you can possibly be burning through money that fast are major capital improvements. There is just no other thing. It’s not like they are giving such — it’s not like they are giving free tuition away to everybody, like there is certainly scholarships at all and that’s important. There is financial aid packages they put together that are very important, but like that is not why they are burning through $200 million.
Elie Mystal: And as law schools in crisis in terms of needing people to fill the seats go, Northwestern is not one of them, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: Northwestern can put butts in their seats when they need to. I am a little bit surprised about your take on this, because you are — because it’s not like Northwestern, I mean, some of them were faculty, but they didn’t do a full like denuding of 10 year professors as we have seen at some schools, right?
A lot of these were administrative people, Associate Dean, in-charge of blah, blah, blah…
Joe Patrice: Which I applaud, yes.
Elie Mystal: And as I am saying, it’s weird for me to hear you kind of stand up for these people because usually you are the guy who says that the Associate Dean of blah, blah, blah… deserves to be like put on a train to Siberia.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, well, I mean, my issue with that is, I very much agree with Paul Campos’ analysis that a large part of the reason why in particular at public schools but at all schools, the drive up of tuition has been to finance highly paid administrative personnel who have questionably useful often dubious portfolios.
And I still think that’s true, but that’s a reason why tuition is taking up a little bit every year. I think when we were dealing with this many zeroes, I feel like it’s a question that’s beyond just that. Though I certainly applaud that they got rid of some of those folks but they also were purging a number of clinical faculty as well as like I thought that that sort of thing is problematic, especially in a world where we make fun of it a lot, but we also think it’s important. Issues like the Practice Ready Law School Grad, which is somewhat of a myth, but not as much of a myth is it probably once was. It is important in this market.
Elie Mystal: Especially at a school like Northwestern, which traditionally emphasizes that particular kind of training.
Joe Patrice: And so to do things that cut against clinical education, I’m one of those people who believes in having full-time faculty and not farming everything out to adjuncts, and yes, some adjuncts were let go as part of this, but it struck me from what I’ve heard, it wasn’t like the adjuncts who I teach one class a week where I take two hours off of my practice. These adjuncts were just not full faculty members, a lot of these folks taught multiple classes over the course of years. At that point I feel a little bit queasy about it, especially since like you’ve got this much money. So that’s my concern.
Elie Mystal: Obviously the real, the issue here from a student perspective is, are the services that you are getting at your law school when you are 2L after this perch. The same as what you thought you were getting — you were going to be getting at your law school as a 0L when you signed up to go there just after the Pritzker’s dumped $200 million — I am sorry, more than that, $100 million on the school, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: And I think that’s — obviously Northwestern is still a great school, obviously these people are going to graduate, most of them will pass the Bar, most of them will be readily employable. This is not the kind of move that hurts a student’s career prospects, but if you are currently a student you do have to wonder what resources are being used for you versus what resources are being used to get a class five years from now, and as your education going to suffer, because the school is now looking, 5-10 years ahead.
I think that’s a — it’s a question that we are not going to be able to answer in part because Northwestern is private and they are — I mean I don’t know if you call, but I think they are going to give us their bucks.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that I know, law schools tend not to.
Elie Mystal: Yeah. There is no comment. They’ll be all cats.
Joe Patrice: Speaking of thinking 10 years ahead and law school books, a law school that probably should have done that was Valparaiso law school, which is going to no longer exist.
Elie Mystal: No longer exist.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So the saga of Valparaiso is they announced out of the blue —
Elie Mystal: Valparaiso is in Indiana by the way.
Joe Patrice: It is, it is, yes. I mean, people watch basketball, they have a team.
Elie Mystal: They don’t remember Bryce Drew like the — sorry go ahead.
Joe Patrice: Fair enough. They came out of the blue to announce a while back that they weren’t taking on new classes. We reported at the time that it looked like, that meant they were closing. They angrily denied that they were closing and demanded that we change that story around. So, anyway, they are closing as we said.
In the interim, they tried to give away their law school for free to Tennessee, basically ship all of its assets over to Middle Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee agreed. The government of Tennessee, which had to sign off on it said, why? Why would we do this? So they did not get that and now they are coming to a close. This comes on the heels of Indiana Tech closing like now. Being a lawyer in Indiana you’ve got your IUs basically is what’s left.
Elie Mystal: First of all, as we just assessed with Northwestern, what assets do you have other than your people and your heating belt, right? Like other than your people and your physical space, what the hell are you shipping in Middle Tennessee State and why would they need it?
If Middle Tennessee State in a law school, they could go to Amazon and buy their own goddamn books —
Joe Patrice: Right.
Elie Mystal: — the thought that that was ever going to work is — the thought that the government of Tennessee which as far as I can tell is basically a Hooters Restaurant in the middle of the State 22:10. Those had to be the people of reason in this story, is ridiculous to me on top of it. Our initial take on Valpo not accepting students was exactly right. That’s what you do before you close, which they are now really.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, I think you would send whatever the faculty we are willing to do it down there, you would send the students, which there is something to be said for having a seed of — starting a law school with a seed/plant of students who already are in and committed rather than just kind of starting from new and seeing who shows up.
Elie Mystal: The people who went to Valpo but would have been just as happy going to Tennessee are people who made the entirely wrong decision to go to law school.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, it did seem like a weird combination, almost feels like if they wanted this to work they should have tried to work something out with Indiana Tech before it went under.
Elie Mystal: Right. I know a little bit. I have got my peoples in Indiana so I know a little bit about the State in the legal market there more than others. Anyways, you got your IU, you’ve got IUPUI, you still have good law schools available for you in Indiana, but the other reason why the Indiana market is challenging to have law schools operate and open new law schools is that it’s a relatively small State, with a relatively small population that has a lot of lawyers that can come in from Chicago, from the Illinois, Chicago area, and from the Ohio kind of Cincinnati area, right? Like, you’ve got two major — Indianapolis is a midsize city. You’ve got two other — you got a major city in Chicago and a pretty big midsized city in Cincinnati, kind of flanking it that also attracts a lot of legal talent.
So a lot of people who live in Indiana who were looking to go to law school, who maybe don’t get into IU, and don’t want to go to IUPUI can still go out of State relatively close to home but out of State to get legal education and then come back into the State if they want to, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: The big firms in Indiana, certainly, I mean, if you are going to work for Ice Miller, they will take your Northwestern degree, just as much as now take your IU degree, so that is — so it’s not like your big law or even regional law hub there, when Indiana Tech was screwing, it was closing.
When it was opening we did a lot of stories about how that was a completely unnecessary law school in that State, and again, we have been proven right, but that was a State that never needed five or six law schools, right? You’ve got — not only do you have the out of State schools that are really close but we haven’t even said, freaking Notre Dame, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, national focus, but yeah, no, definitely.
Elie Mystal: Is in Indiana.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: People always forget that.
Joe Patrice: Yeah — no, then Louisville is right there if you think that Indianapolis is close, and when you are thinking about the geography Valpo is close to Chicago, it was the northern part of the State and Tennessee is not even the southern border of the State, there is a whole Kentucky I got to go through. So this never made much sense, and it’s now failed and so we’ll just go ahead and say goodbye to our friends from Valpo.
Elie Mystal: Maybe now they are released from the burden of their underperforming law school, they can put more money back into their basketball team.
Joe Patrice: Oh, there you go. Yeah, the lesson for people considering law school is, when you get much below those top tier schools, there’s always a risk of something like this, you can’t guarantee that your school isn’t going to go under because there is several even ones with names that you might recognize like Valpo if you watch basketball that may not be sound enough to hold forever.
Elie Mystal: I generally agree, but I think you got to go a lot lower than just the top tier before you are in — you got to get out of top 100 really before you are in danger.
Joe Patrice: I go 50 for sure probably 100, but yeah.
Elie Mystal: I think if you are in a top 100 school, you can be reasonably assured that it’s going to be there in three years, maybe not 10, but like you’ll get your three.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, let’s see here. What was Valpo’s last US news ranking?
Elie Mystal: We live in a world where we don’t have to wonder.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Oh no, it fell into rank not published most recently, which is the — yeah. Wait, what did you say?
Elie Mystal: Oh, goddamn it.
Joe Patrice: Oh, that was so — that was so sweet.
Elie Mystal: My low tech version is so much better.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Alright, well, with that I think we’re done talking about law schools this week. We will be back next week talking about — I feel like the end of a Mr. Rogers episode, we’ll back when the week is new. So, with that thanks for listening — yeah?
Elie Mystal: I was just — I assume that by next week we will — now that the mid terms are over Trump will have done something else —
Joe Patrice: We’ll probably be talking —
Elie Mystal: — horribly illegal and jailable and we’ll be probably be talking about that.
Joe Patrice: We’ll probably be talking about legal tech almost assuredly.
Elie Mystal: Oh God.
Joe Patrice: So with that we’re gone and you should be subscribed to the show giving reviews, writing reviews, those all help people discover the show. You should be reading Above the Law, following us both on Twitter, I’m @JosephPatrice, he is @ElieNYC. You should listen to the other podcast we have the Book of Business podcast and The Jabot. You should listen to the rest of the Legal Talk Network’s offerings and that’s it. So thanks for listening, we’ll talk to you soon.
Elie Mystal: Peace.
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