Monday, November 30, 2009

A Look at preLaw Magazine's Ads and Propaganda

Here is the Fall 2009 edition of preLaw magazine, a National Jurist publication. You can click on the link and follow along by flipping the pages with your arrow keys (just to make sure I am not making this up).

This is a list of law schools that purchased ads in this current issue: Chicago-Kent, Michigan State, Ave Maria, DePaul, Thomas Jefferson, Mississippi College, Massachusetts School of Law, Seattle University, U. of Memphis , Wayne State, Phoenix School of Law, John F. Kennedy University, U. of Washington, Hamline, Stetson, University of St. Thomas, UNC, Quinnipiac, Hofstra, Touro, Florida Coastal, Regent, University of La Verne, New England.

The following schools appeared in ads masquerading as actual articles: South Texas, University of Dayton, Charlotte School of Law, Minnesota, Drake, and Florida State.

[DISCLAIMER: I may have missed a few of the ads, but you get the point. I also did not address the ads from vendors such as Princeton Review or Access Group. This entry is already lengthy.]

Now among these two lists, I can only see a few “top tier” law schools (based on the 2009 edition of USN&WR’s graduate school rankings): Minnesota (number 20), Washington and UNC (both ranked at 30). To the second tier: FSU is 52; Chicago-Kent and Seattle University are both ranked at 77 (with six other schools!); DePaul is 87; and Hofstra sneaks in at 100 (what a magnificent accomplishment!). The following vendors are in the third tier: Drake, Michigan State, Quinnipiac, Stetson, Memphis, University of St. Thomas, and Wayne State.

We now look at those in the fourth tier: Ave Maria, Florida Coastal, Hamline, Mississippi College, New England School of Law, Regent, South Texas, Thomas Jefferson, Touro, Dayton.

Charlotte, Phoenix and La Verne are not even in the “top four tiers” of law schools!?!

But to their credit, Charlotte does have the decency, humanity, and common courtesy to charge its students $31,754 in tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year. What a great deal – a steal really.

Well, at least Phoenix ONLY charges $32,296 in tuition per year for its FT students (this is only tuition; there are also SBA Dues of $35, a “New Student Fee” of $75, and General Fees of $737 - just for good measure).

And, thank goodness, Fourth Tier La Verne charges its students a reasonable, minimal amount in tuition: $37,630 for full-time law students. I am glad to see that the school is honest enough to list this figure under Basic Consumer Info; students are customers/consumers of services, after all.

Finally, I simply could not find John F. Kennedy University or the Massachusetts School of Law. They could not make it into the illustrious top five tiers of law schools. However, Massachusetts MUST be a great law school, as National Jurist sees fit to hire one of the school’s law professors as an editor. This “legal scholar” recently referred to those exposing the law school fraud as conspiracy theorists:

But there is one nagging detail about this particular school – it has apparently failed to gain ABA accreditation, even though it has been operating since 1988. But let’s not get stuck on details like this – after all, the school is accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

John F. Kennedy University School of Law also does not currently have ABA accreditation. However, it is approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. And that is all that really matters anyway, right?

And here you thought law schools were mere cash cows. Can’t you see what a great public service these schools are performing? They are – according to the industry itself – providing affordable, practical curriculums and producing future leaders in law, business, and academia.


  1. $37K for one year at La Verne! What are their employment numbers? Honestly, what big firm will hire from this school?

  2. Those tuition figures are just unreal. I'm pretty upset with the amount the first and second tier schools charge, but at least the average graduate has a fighting chance of getting some value out of his degree. Who is going to hire from La Verne, MA College of Law, or the University of Phoenix?

    I really don't understand how those deans can sleep at night.

  3. Let the good times rollNovember 30, 2009 at 8:31 AM

    This is the free market business model in action. I don’t feel bad for any of these kids who pay $130K for a worthless law degree – they need to research this shit better. You have heard of capitalizm before, haven’t you?

  4. Let the good times roll = La Verne's dean

    Just a thought.

  5. We don’t have a “free market” economic system in this country, genius. We have a system of regulations in place to reign in the supposed “free market,” because it is nice to buy a product and be somewhat assured that the product is safe. (Do you want to go back to the time when you bought children’s pajamas and they were not flame-retardant?)

    And we certainly DO NOT have a very good capitalist structure in place, when it comes to higher education. Without tons of government-backed student loans, do you honestly think a private bank would lend some 18 year old kid (with little to no credit history, no collateral and very little work experience) $20,000 a year so he can earn a damn Bachelor’s degree in political science or literature from Wayne State University?

    We have an immense higher education bubble, as a result of this system. Tons of kids who have *no business* being in college (let alone law school or MBA programs) apply and go into considerable or crushing debt.

    When these students cannot find well-paid work in the private (or government) sector, they may choose to take advantage of the Public Service Repayment Option. When this occurs, those students only pay back a certain portion of their student loans. At that point, the taxpayer ends up (further) subsidizing schools such as Touro College of Law, education administrators, and the criminal banks who lent the funds.

    This then creates a greater incentive for more such toilet schools to be created and charge large sums of money for attaining a “legal education” or graduate degree in another field. Taking all these things into account, WHAT gives you the impression that American higher education operates under “free market capitalism”? Please, tell me. I am dying to know the answer.

  6. You should do some digging on your instate tier 1 UI's employment stats. I guarantee you that their claimed 99% employed rate for the 08 class is utter BS.

  7. Charlotte, Phoenix and La Verne are not listed in any tier because they are all provisionally accredidated (sp?) by the ABA. USN only ranks fully accredidated schools. Charlotte and Phoenix are up for full ccreditation in the next few years. Phoenix is not affiliated with the University of Phoenix. (However it is a for-profit).

    How do you know that law schools are paying for articles? Yes the Charlotte article is a fluff piece but is it paid by the school or is it just filler content for Pre-Law? (Can't have 100% ads, need to stuff in some feel good piece about help in Africa.)

  8. I suppose this could be a form of free advertising. At the very least, these are puff pieces designed to attract more applicants to law school. “Oh, they send law students to Nairobi for public interest work. Wow, I can gain practical skills and apply them to help needy people while still in law school.” You don’t think this induces some people to go, in the first place? Remember, many idealistic young people go to law school because they want to help others.

    Whether the schools pay for these “articles” is not the issue. The pieces are designed to cast the schools in a very favorable light. Under the guise of journalism, this might be MORE effective than a paid advertisement. After all, an ad can be dismissed as a paid announcement for a product or service.

    An article, written by a journalist or staff writer, carries more weight with the average reader. Journalism need not be viewpoint neutral. However, it should not endorse a product. To infuse journalism with advertising is insidious. National Jurist and preLaw magazine are simply industry tools. Have you EVER seen a deeply penetrating article on law school in either publication? Of course not! These magazines are intent on getting MORE people to apply to law school.

    Hell, even in the Wall Street Journal you will see editorials and articles critical of certain aspects of capitalism, i.e. government bailouts of industry.

    So are you okay with unaccredited law schools charging students, in excess of $30,000 in yearly tuition? After all, at some point, they will presumably crack the magnificent top four tiers.

    Lastly, do any of the articles cited in preLaw strike you as objective?

  9. the Seton Hall Law Toilet lied. I died.

  10. 9:15:

    If you're talking about U of Iowa law school and the employment stats they report, you're correct: the stats are utter BS.

  11. I'll never understand the law school defenders.

    According to their logic, we should get rid of the SEC, FDA and any consumer protection regulations.

    After all, caveat emptor, right??? If a company is falsifying their balance sheet and you lose a ton of money it's your fault for not hiring a forensic accountant.

    If a drug company obscures some dangerous side effects, it's the consumer's fault for not performing their own toxicological analysis, right?

    Well if you disagree with either of those statements then I don't see how you can be in favor of letting a law school pull employment stats out of thin air.

  12. Nando,
    My point is simple - I agree the articles are fluff but I believe that fluff articles are not the same as paid advertisements. Of course Pre-Law wants to make law as awesome as possible so students go to law school and Pre Law sells more ads. But this is not the same as La Verne or Phoenix handing a check to Pre Law in exchange for a fluff article as your post implied. (Who knows maybe this does happen.)

    I never argued that the articles were objective. They are fluff. Anyone reading this magazine should instantly see that the articles are all fluff.

  13. Capitalism will crumble.


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  14. Quinnipiac comes in at $40,000. A year.

    They give out huge scholarships to lure people in but 90% of the class can't maintain top 10% -- simple math there -- so you're pretty much guaranteed to pay the full boat for years two and three.

    Don't even get me started on the employment numbers

  15. This is anon 7:50 from above.

    I wonder if there is a correlation between fluff articles and advertising in Pre-Law?

    Does buying lots of advertising correlate with getting a fluff piece?

  16. There probably is some correlation. I talked to a scam-busting friend this morning about this faith-promoting material. We both see preLaw and National Jurist for what they are: industry publications filled with ads from cover to cover. These are not much different from those lame magazines you see on airplanes, i.e. airline in-flight magazines. And don’t forget the airline-specific magazines.

    Articles in SkyMall or Delta Sky have "features," not articles. You will see puff pieces with titles such as “How Best to Spend a Week in Norway,” “Supreme Ice Fishing in Alaska,” or “Delta CEO Donates Time to Charity.” They are simply designed to sell items and cast an entire industry in a positive light.

    The biggest difference between the two is that legal industry publications do not directly promote abject commercialism, i.e. luxury cigars, hot tubs, race cars, and expensive jewelry.

  17. This is Jack Crittenden, Editor In Chief and Founder of The National Jurist, and PreLaw magazine. You bring up some good points throughout your blog. However, there is some inaccurate information that seems fueled by bitterness.

    You state that there are stories in our PreLaw magazine that are "ads masquerading as actual articles." You should be aware that we abide by the highest levels of journalistic ethics which require a strict separation between advertising and editorial.

    I approve all stories and have never approved one because it was about an advertiser. Most of the time when we make editorial decisions, we don't even know who is advertising.

    Your implication to the contrary raises a red flag as to your own sense of ethics as a blogger and a lawyer. I ask that you be far more careful about what you print. Gossip may be acceptable to many in the blog world, but that does not make it legal or ethical.

  18. To the poster above,

    First of all, I am glad you enjoy the blog. And I hope you continue to follow it. Did you read where I later stated that the ads are probably a form of free advertising? Frankly, the publication does not come across as hard-hitting, analytical journalism. Not even close. Even those defending the magazines, have referred to them as “fluff.” Also, did I state “Money changed hands between law school X and the editors, so that the school can get a feature published”? However, these publications give a very one-sided, pro-industry position.

    Do you see anything else you object to, with regard to this entry? If so, please point that out to me.

    Now, let’s get to the “meat and potatoes” of the argument. If you are in fact Jack Crittenden, please answer the following:

    First, if your publication cares about standards of journalism, then why would one of your editors write a piece ("You chose law school for a reason") and refer to a critic of law school employment stats as the "Indiana University (law) professor"? What kind of journalism is this? You should refer to your adversary by name, at least. Furthermore, William Henderson teaches at a well-known, highly-ranked law school. Why the disrespect (or oversight)? After all, you approved the story.

    Second, if your publication strives for objectivity, then why not publish comments that are critical of a piece? I recently submitted a comment (regarding the above piece) that was professional in tone and raised the same questions. For some reason, this was not approved by your staff. This seems like an attempt to keep contra arguments/viewpoints out of your forum. (In contrast, I allow comments from people who call me names - if they can at least make a point.) I don't suggest you allow vulgar or uncivil comments on your site. But you should allow readers to voice a viewpoint different from your own.

    Next, why is there a paucity of criticism of the industry, in your publications? Like I stated above, even the WSJ will feature op-eds and articles critical of capitalism. Likewise, liberal newspapers usually present a conservative editorial or syndicated columnist somewhere in their pages.

    Fourth, why should the onus to investigate law school employment figures fall solely on the applicant? It seems that alumni and current law students cannot get accurate figures from their respective schools. So, we should just assume that the numbers are padded and go from there?

    Lastly, if nothing else, these are puff pieces. And at a minimum, your publication is designed to attract more applicants to an already-saturated field. What is ethical about that? In 2008, American law schools produced more than 43,000 JDs. And there are nowhere near that many available attorney (or law-related) jobs in a given year. You should know that.

    If you want, we can debate these issues in a public forum. Let's get William Henderson involved in the dialogue, too.

    Thank you.

  19. Who are you? Is your name for public recognition? Can I contact you by phone?

  20. Jack,

    The legal profession is in horrible shape. Law school graduates are drowning in debt and the cost of law school continues to rise. For the relatively few graduates with job prospects, wages are declining. The WSJ, NYT, and even the National Law Journal have picked up on this theme. In my opinion, your magazine, has failed to report on the issues most important to anyone considering law school.

    Why not write a story about how many of the lower tier schools “made mistakes” in reporting their students placed in federal clerkships.

    I think an article about the difficulties faced by law school grads in filing bankruptcy would also be of service to aspiring lawyers. These cases occur everyday. The link below involves a 64-year-old woman who graduated law school at 61. Her story may provide useful information to a person considering law school later in life.

    Just because some of us are bitter does not mean that we are wrong. If you would like to start writing real pieces about law schools, and provide a useful service to potential law students, there are hundreds of stories waiting to be told. However, not all of them are pleasant.

  21. Pre-Law is free to write fluff pieces all they want. Not every magazine has to be a hard hitting expose on the legal industry. Its like asking Entertainment Weekly to cover overtime abuses in the movie industry - not their focus.

    Pre-Law is not like an airline magazine. Those "Articles" may be titled "yay Norway is awesome!" but they are not written by Norway. Any ad-style articles are clearly marked "This is an Advertisement" at the top of the page.

  22. Yeah, and Entertainment Tonight is completely devoid of any real content. good comparison.

  23. Jack,

    I called you at the number listed for you, on National Jurist’s website. When I called the 858 (area code) number listed, the voicemail message indicated that this belongs to a woman. It did not seem like an office number either.

    Hopefully, you will be kind enough to provide me your phone number so I can contact you. I do not want you to put your number on a comment to this entry. And I don’t want to post my phone number on this blog either. I also left a message for someone at Cypress Magazines named Elizabeth, and requested that she have you call me back. Thanks!

  24. Jack, may I humbly submit that it is you, as the publisher of this absurd nonsense, who are in fact behaving unethically?

    You are assisting in hawking a worthless product, namely a law degree, upon hapless college grads. In doing so you are helping to drown thousands of young people with mortgage-sized debt before they even have a chance to spread their wings. Yet despite the oversupply of lawyers and hopeless job prospects, the banks keep on lending. The federal government bails by backing these laons in full abd through programs such as IBR. The only ones who suffer, of course, are the students who bought into this bait and switch scheme.

    As Editor in Chief of this garbage you are by proxy one of the staunchest defenders of the status quo. I am frankly appalled that you would evoke any concept of ethics to defend it. This publication is the very antithesis of ethics. I love how on p. 31 you talk of the continued, unlimited access to student loan debt as though it was a good thing. Absolutely absurd.

    Have you no shame? Do you really not see what you are doing here, or are you just plain evil?

  25. Did anyone realize that the Phonix School of Law and the Charolette School of Law are both owned by the same company...?

    One should only fo to these schools if you get a FULL scholarship (I mean EVERYTHING: Tuition, room + board, and misc. costs).

  26. To Jim and all others,
    The law degree is far from a worthless product. I have never practiced a day of law in my life, but have found the degree to be worth my investment of time and money. I agree that this is not the case for everyone — especially when you are taking on a large debt. But to assert that education is "worthless" is to imply that learning is only important if it gives you a financial return on your investment.
    With that said, it is of vital importance for prospective law students to understand what they are getting themselves into.
    At both PreLaw and National Jurist magazines, we have covered this topic consistently over the past 19 years.
    Our last story in PreLaw:

    Our last story in National Jurist (which was also the cover story):

    We are currently working on a updated version of this story that will appear in our January issue, and I just found out that the author of this blog was interviewed for this story last month.

    I understand everyone's frustration - it is real and valid. But the best way to improve things is to take action, educate and inspire. And not to complain, gossip and label people "evil."

    -Jack Crittenden, Editor In Chief, PreLaw and National Jurist

  27. Also see my 2007 column on the cost of legal education.

  28. "But to assert that education is "worthless" is to imply that learning is only important if it gives you a financial return on your investment."

    This argument holds for college, not for law school. Law is an industry, a majority of people go to law school to become lawyers, and when the majority of people who graduate can't even get a legal job, something is very, very wrong.

    Take action? Sure thing. Picket TTTs, spread the word to those considering law school, and let those autocalling donations solicitors get a mouthful.


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