Friday, June 25, 2010

The Great American Number Crunch

A few months ago, I went to the orientation for prospective students at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. My interest was piqued right off the bat, when Assistant Dean Adam Barrett claimed during his welcome that McGeorge had a “95.1% placement rate.” I wrote that number down in the folder they handed out to us. I still have that folder.

Not more than 20 minutes later, when a student was giving about 15 of us a campus tour, I heard her say that McGeorge had an 85% placement rate (she thought, at least). I opened my folder and wrote that number down too. A few hours after that, I was at yet another lecture about careers in law, and the lecturer said that McGeorge had a placement rate of 92.8% in 2007, 90% in 2008, and "they" (whoever that may be) didn’t yet have the numbers for 2009.

Well, as you can possibly imagine, I kept singing that Stephen Stills song that goes “… nobody’s right, if everbody’s wrong…”

But still I have to say it: isn’t it more than just ironic that the professors in these law schools are going to be teaching us all about the torts of misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation, all the while undoubtedly aware that the little tykes they are teaching are being misrepresented right and left by their own law schools?

A young New York Times reporter named Catherine Rampell (who, based on her photos, is also very attractive, young and charismatic) reported in an article a few days ago that some law schools are implementing policies of deliberate grade inflation, to make their JDs more attractive on the job market. Rampell also runs a blog for the New York Times called “Economix.”

It’s refreshing to see a new face tackling these issues, although Rampell probably doesn’t yet realize the nature and how big this tiger she has by the tail is. Our American business culture has gotten so used to lying and false public statements that sometimes I wonder what journalists are even for anymore.

We don’t need to be uncivil about this, but a fa├žade of civility certainly keeps us from confronting the lies coming out of law schools, not to mention the forces that gave us our present financial disaster. Then again, isn’t there some sort of place where we can make hard legal analysis of this? What are the essential elements of a lie? Let’s IRAC this and determine if Barrett is lying about his numbers, or is number crunching an acceptable form of advertisement puffing?

I wish there was a forum where we could challenge people like Dean Barrett and catch him red-handed playing the number crunch game. I can only imagine a follow up by Ms. Rampell involving some serious telephone grilling of Dean Barrett to cough up the sources of his numbers.

Meanwhile, maybe chiming in on Rampell’s blog might start a miniscule ball rolling. Let’s give her story some legs and get it walking on its own inside the pages of the New York Times where it belongs.


  1. Good idea. I keep thinking it would be a good to get some of these journalists interested in what we have to say.

  2. very interesting observations you have made here. Law schools definitely exaggerate their numbers to encourage more students to join. Also many people are disillusioned about what the real law firm compensation is for many companies which is why researching all of these factors is critical.

  3. My law school was so new when I joined that they didn't have a graduating class to base statistics upon. Instead, I relied on the general reputation of the university in my business community.

  4. That's no excuse (if you're trying to use it as one, that is) JD Underdog. It isn't specific to any one school, so whether or not your school had stats to verify doesn't mean much. You had the whole rest of the law school world to get a broad picture of how things were/are.