Age-bias suit cites grade inflation

Ignoring grade inflation in law school admissions constitutes age bias, claims Michael Kamps in a lawsuit against Baylor’s law school.

 In the age discrimination suit, he claims that the 3.2 G.P.A. he earned in 1979 from Texas A&M University is equivalent to a 3.6 G.P.A. today because of grade inflation . . .

Kamps, a certified public accountant, first applied for the law school’s fall 2010 entering class and for a full-tuition scholarship for Texas A&M graduates. He was the only applicant to qualify  that year based on grades and test scores, but Baylor changed the formula to require a minimum 3.4 GPA.

In April, Baylor “accidentally sent each member of the fall 2012 admitted class a spreadsheet with each student’s G.P.A. and LSAT score,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

By looking through the leaked credentials, which he found available on the Internet, Kamps found that his LSAT score was better than those of about 97 percent of admitted students, while his G.P.A. was superior only to about 20 percent. But his Baylor Index score — a now-discarded evaluation method, according to the complaint — was superior to about 68 percent of the fall 2012 admits.

Kamps argues in the complaint that by looking at class rankings or taking into account a grade inflation factor — which a national study by Stuart Rojstaczer found to be about 0.14 points per decade — his G.P.A. is equivalent to a 3.6 G.P.A. today.

Baylor has offered Kamps a spring or summer start time, but he wants to start in the fall, when he believes he’d have a better shot at a scholarship.

What to do with a law degree

Loyal readers will know that my daughter earned a law degree in 2009, passed the California bar and went to work as a pro bono family lawyer while waiting (at half pay) to start her job at a big law firm.  New plan. She’s moving to New York City at the end of the month to work as a literary agent’s assistant. She’ll earn 22 percent of what she could have made at the law firm. She explains the decision to friends in her blog, The New Manhattan Project.

3. So was that whole law school thing a waste, then?

Definitely not. Law school was probably the best three years of my life. I took amazing classes from amazing (and famous!) professors, learned a lot of interesting things with some of the smartest people I’ll ever know, and (perhaps most importantly) met some of my closest friends. I’ll never regret it.

4. If you had graduated with a ton of debt, would you regret it?

Probably.

5. So should I go to law school?

No.

When Allison was in elementary school, I told her I was going to Michigan for her fifth-grade year as a journalism fellow. She’d come for half the year and spend the other half with her father. I saw her suppress hear fear and uncertainty. She said, “Congratulations, Mom.” And she did her best to sound happy. I told her then that she had a lot of credit in the Good Egg Bank. It’s been earning interest.

When I decided to leave the San Jose Mercury News to write a book, it was a big risk. Allison told me it was the right decision and that she was proud of me.

I wanted Allison to take the law job, which is not far from home. It was the safe choice. It was a lot of money. But she persuaded me that it wouldn’t prepare her for the work she wants to do.

I think this is the right decision. It’s a big risk.  I’m proud of her.

Young lawyers turn to public service

My daughter is in the New York Times today. Well, sort of.

Paid by Big Firms, Young Lawyers Turn to Public Service features young lawyers who were offered jobs by big law firms, then offered a stipend to delay their start date for up to a year. Many have taken public-service jobs. Two of her University of Chicago Law classmates are named in the story. Towards the end:

Tiela Chalmers, the executive director of the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the San Francisco Bar Association, said the seven deferred associates who worked there for a year were invaluable in providing legal services for the indigent.

My daughter is one of the seven deferred associates.  She specialized in family law — divorce, child custody, guardianships — but also did some landlord-tenant negotiations. In a few months, she’s scheduled to start her law firm job.

Her advice to people contemplating law school: Don’t go unless you can get into a top law school and graduate without enormous debt — or unless you have great connections that guarantee you a job. If you plan to be a public-service lawyer, understand that you’ll be competing with volunteers for the same jobs.

Law schools inflate grades

Some law schools are inflating grades to help students find jobs, reports the New York Times.

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have changed their grading systems to give students higher GPAs.  “Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not,” reports the Times.

Beware the law-school scam

Non-elite law schools are a scam, write unemployed law-school graduates on a growing number of web sites, including: Third Tier Reality, Esq. Never, Exposing the Law School Scam, Jobless Juris Doctor and Temporary Attorney: The Sweatshop Edition,.

Brian Tamanaha, a law professor at St. John’s University, is sympathetic.

Law schools advertise deceptively high rates of employment and misleading income figures. Many graduates can’t get jobs. Many graduates end up as temp attorneys working for $15 to $20 dollars an hour on two week gigs, with no benefits. The luckier graduates land jobs in government or small firms for maybe $45,000, with limited prospects for improvement. A handful of lottery winners score big firm jobs.

And for the opportunity to enter a saturated legal market with long odds against them, the tens of thousands newly minted lawyers who graduate each year from non-elite schools will have paid around $150,000 in tuition and living expenses, and given up three years of income. Many leave law school with well over $100,000 in non-dischargeable debt, obligated to pay $1,000 a month for thirty years.

It’s been going on for years, Tamanaha writes. The recession just made it worse, spreading the pain into the lower reaches of elite schools.

The law graduates posting on these sites know the score. They know that law schools pad their employment figures—96% employed—by counting as “employed” any job at all, legal or non-legal, including part time jobs, including unemployed graduates hired by the school as research assistants (or by excluding unemployed graduates “not currently seeking” a job, or by excluding graduates who do not supply employment information). They know that the gaudy salary numbers advertised on the career services page—“average starting salary $125,000 private full time employment”—are actually calculated based upon only about 25% of the graduating class (although you can’t easily figure this out from the information provided by the schools).

Law schools should be honest about the employment data for recent grads, he writes.

More crucially, law schools must shrink the number of graduates, and must hold the line on tuition increases. . . .  This will be painful: smaller raises (perhaps even salary reductions), smaller administrations, smaller faculties, more teaching, less money for research, travel, and conferences.

Instapundit, also a law professor, links to Tamanaha and runs a letter from a law graduate, who writes,  “There are simply no jobs.”

I myself graduated in May from a very competent, middle-of-the-road law school, and probably around 75% of my class is unemployed. . . .  they’re looking at 150-200k in student loans and no employment. When I say “no employment” I don’t mean a lack of big-law, 100k associate employment. I don’t even mean that we’re having trouble getting the clerkships and government jobs that the ivy league law schools so despise. I mean nothing – there are simply no jobs.

Four years ago, my daughter researched law schools — including reading sites by law grads who were temping — and concluded that she needed to go to a top-tier law school to make sure her degree would pay off.  As a 2009 graduate of University of Chicago Law School, she got one of the last seats on the gravy train.

Bar the bar exam?

Abolish the bar exam or make it optional, writes Ilya Somin on The Volokh Conspiracy.  Let clients decide if they need a lawyer who’s passed the bar or just one who’s completed law school.

If the exam is required, don’t let the state bar association run it, Somin argues. Not unless his modest proposal is adopted:

(State bar officials and bar examiners) should be required to take and pass the bar exam every year by getting the same passing score that they require of ordinary test takers. Any who fail to pass should be immediately dismissed from their positions, and their failure publicly announced (perhaps at a special press conference by the state attorney general).

Few could pass without cramming, he predicts.

. . . (bar exams) test knowledge of thousands of arcane legal rules that only a tiny minority of practicing lawyers ever use. This material isn’t on the exam because you can’t be a competent lawyer if you don’t know it. It’s there so as to make it more difficult to pass, thereby diminishing competition for current bar association members (the people whose representatives, not coincidentally, control the bar exam process in most states – either directly or through their lobbying efforts). Effectively, bar exams screen out potential lawyers who are bad at memorization or who don’t have the time and money to take a bar prep course or spend weeks on exam preparation.

My daughter will take the California bar exam tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately, she’s good at memorization and the law firm that wants to hire her (but not till 2010) paid for a prep course. She’s been studying like a fiend for the last two months. She’s good at taking tests. She was graduated from a challenging law school (University of Chicago). So, she’ll probably do fine. Probably.

One section of the exam asks test takers to apply legal knowledge to a sample case. The rest has nothing to do with practicing law, she says. It’s about memorizing rules you’ll probably never need and can look up if you do.