Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Law School’s Out For Summer

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Gun & Money suns up a series of recent developments in the law school crisis and the reform movement addressing it. He starts with the news that Valparaiso University Law School is shutting down:

What happened to the institution itself is pretty clear: when law school applications started collapsing a few years ago, Valparaiso radically slashed its entrance requirements in order to maintain class size. Between 2010 and 2013, the median LSAT score went from 150 to 143. ETA: That’s going from the 44th to the 20th percentile on the test, and more concretely, from a level that correlates with a fairly modest risk of failing the bar to one that correlates with a massive risk of doing so, if the student hasn’t failed out of law school first.

To [dean Andrea] Lyon’s and the central administration’s credit, they did raise admission standards at least back toward the general direction of where they were before the admissions crisis, but this led predictably to a cratering of the school’s class size. The first year class went from 211 in 2011 to 103 last year, and then fell to just 28 students this fall.

Valparaiso joins Whittier, Charlotte, Indiana Tech, and Hamline on the list of ABA approved law schools that have given up the ghost in the past two years.

Campos provides more context about the Crisis On Infinite Law Schools in his piece, but that last bit up there really gobsmacked me. Twenty eight students! I do wonder how many of those folks withdraw before graduating with six figures of debt. After all, that’s a big investment to make for a degree other (read: hiring) lawyers are going to turn up their noses at. That’s a situation which won’t get much better when the school formally ceases to exist, too.

And look, I say this as someone who borrowed six figures to get a J.D. from a bottom 100 law school to try to make something of his life. I’m tremendously lucky (read: privileged) to have carved out a niche doing something I love somewhere I believe in, but these twenty-eight kids are in for a rough ride.

Which brings me to Jia Tolentino’s newest article in the New Yorker, titled Where Millennials Come From. I know, we’ve all read more than our share of thinkpiece-meditations on millennials, but Tolentino’s is one of the best I’ve read on the subject. During a summation of two ontological alternatives to millennials’ philosophies, she lands on this:

The type of millennial that much of the media flocks to—white, rich, thoughtlessly entitled—is largely unrepresentative of what is, in fact, a diverse and often downwardly mobile group. (Millennials are the first generation to have just a fifty-fifty chance of being financially better off than their parents.) Many millennials grew up poor, went to crummy schools, and have been shuttled toward for-profit colleges and minimum-wage jobs, if not the prison system. (For-profit colleges, which disproportionately serve low-income students, account for roughly a tenth of undergraduates, and more than a third of student-loan defaults.) Average student debt has doubled just within this generation, surging from around eighteen thousand dollars at graduation for the class of 2003 to thirty-seven thousand for the class of 2016. (Under the tax plan recently passed by House Republicans, the situation worsens for student borrowers and their families: that bill eliminates the deduction on student-loan interest and voids the income-tax exemption for tuition benefits.)

A young college graduate, having faithfully followed the American path of hard work and achievement, might now find herself in a position akin to a homeowner with negative equity: in possession of an asset that is worth much less than what she owes. In these conditions, the concept of self-interest starts to splinter. For young people, I suspect, the idea of specialness looks like a reward but mostly functions as punishment, bestowing on us the idea that there is no good way of existing other than constantly generating returns.

If you’ve read a thousand of these millennial things before, read this last one and keep it in the back of your mind as my generation enters public office. I’ll leave you with Tolentino’s kicker, but you should get the whole story.

It seems more likely that a young person who opened “The Communist Manifesto” tomorrow would underline the part about personal worth being reduced to exchange value and go off to join the Democratic Socialists of America, which has grown fivefold in the last year. One of its members, a Marine Corps veteran named Lee Carter, was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in November. He was born in 1987. “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” the critic and theorist Fredric Jameson wrote, fourteen years ago. These days, the kids find it easy enough to imagine both.