Law School Activism: Radicals vs. Reformers

On Inside the Law School Scam’s January 5 post, Lawprof endorsed a comment that highlighted two factions of the law school scam/crisis/reform/disaster/clusterfuck movement: The Radicals vs. Reformers.

The radicals have the “kill first, ask questions later” mentality. They want the ABA or the government to man up and shut down law schools that admit anyone with a pulse and access to student loan funds only throw them out to the wolves after graduation. They see law school faculty and administrators as the devil incarnate getting paid handsomely for relatively little work. Law schools are little more than three year Westlaw/Lexis training sessions acting as cash cows for shareholders and/or their affiliated universities. Most of the radicals post anonymously on internet blogs and forums and do not mince words. They are angry, distrusting of the system and wants to see heads roll. I think most radicals are law students facing unemployment, unemployed graduates, adjunct professors whose contracts were not renewed or tenured professors privately disgusted with the system. ITLSS’s Lawprof is probably the only law professor that comes closest to a radical. Elie Mystal of Above the Law also comes to mind.

The reformers recognize that a severe unemployment problem exists but are more interested in implementing changes in how law schools operate. Their theory is that curriculum changes will solve the oversupply problem or at least ensure that graduates will not leave with crushing student loan debt. The reforms will make some law schools unprofitable resulting in a voluntary and peaceful shutdown. Reformers have various levels of sympathy for law school deans and faculty. A number of law professors (e.g. DJM, Tamanaha and Henderson), Law School Transparency and some bloggers would fit as reformers.

The radicals and the reformers don’t always see things eye to eye. The reformers accuse the radicals of hyperbole and belligerence to the point of being threatening, uncompromising and just fucking crazy. The radicals love to play the “internet tough guy” but conveniently disappear when they are called to action. On the other hand, the radicals think reformers are weak pussies trying to be nice to their enemies. Their efforts are tantamount to a passive resistance movement against someone like Hitler or Stalin. 

I sympathize more with the radicals because their plight has recently become accepted and not dismissed as the bitching and moaning of entitled losers. I think eventually, more radicals will make themselves known publically and start a more aggressive yet structured movement.

Reformers, while I respect their congeniality, are doing little more than appealing to deaf ears. The status quo – law school deans and professors – still think that a law degree is a good investment for most people despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise. They have reputations to protect and families to feed. They are not going to change a system that for the most part works well for them.

Because of the anonymous and somewhat chaotic nature of the internet, I do not see a formal peace treaty or even an informal understanding taking place between the reformers and the radicals. Most likely, one person will lead and the others will follow.

Or maybe there isn’t a conflict at all. Perhaps some troll is taking incendiary shit trying to divide the movement.


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