On February 27, 2013, Professor Paul Campos ended his epic blog, Inside the Law School Scam. It came with no warnings and little fanfare. It ended as abruptly as it began. To add to the blog’s notoriety, many reputable legal websites have printed an obituary for ITLSS.
ITLSS received around 50,000 comments and I presume millions of site visits. ITLSS has been featured in many law blogs and mainstream media like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. And I am certain every prelaw counselor in the country has advised pre-law majors to visit ITLSS at least once. In my little world, I suspect that more than a few of my colleagues visit this site regularly because during our conversations about the law school clusterfuck, they quote from the blog almost verbatim. We never told each other that we visit ITLSS; it almost seemed like an inside secret.
The central messages of ITLSS isn’t new: that a law degree will not provide most people with prestige or financial stability, some people will end up financially worse off after law school and that in this economy, there are two law school graduates for every entry level job opening (assuming they require a law degree).
So what made ITLSS so popular? Why did I and others tune into this blog every morning?
I think the best reason for ITLSS’s popularity is that it was the only blog not authored by a disgruntled law school graduate that focused on everything that was fucked up about the legal education system. Campos entertained us with stories of law school shenanigans and their rationalizations of molesting employment numbers. He shared a few of the many emails he must have received from law school graduates stuck with over $250,000 in near-nondischargeable student loan debt. A few other legal blogs talked about the law school scam on occasion, usually in response to one of David Segal’s NYT pieces bitchslapping the law schools.
A second reason why many readers loved ITLSS was that it pissed off a lot of people in the law school establishment. In the blog’s beginnings, Campos confirmed what many law students and practitioners suspected: 1) that law professors worked relatively little hours with less stress for a large salary; 2) that law review articles were nothing more than academic beauty pageants for lawprofs seeking tenure and were mostly useless to anyone outside academia’s inner circle and 3) most professors do not know or do not care what happens to their students after graduation. Of course, that set off a number of tirades by butthurt lawprofs and lawadmins. I have to admit, their cries of “unfair” and “you’re overgeneralizing” made me smile. But later, Campos rightly focused the discussion elsewhere.
Another nice aspect of ITLSS was that it was the closest to a neutral forum where disgruntled law school grads, lawadmins, lawprofs, 0Ls, practitioners and outside parties could have a dialogue where everyone could anonymously say what they really feel. It wasn’t possible to have this discussion in a law professor centric blog because you will likely be ignored, be given condescending responses or just have your comments deleted due to “threadjacking”. On the other hand, you couldn’t have this discussion in a loserlawschoolgrad message board either because a law school defender would be dogpiled with angry attacks. I saw some threads on ITLSS where the was some level of shared empathy, understanding and a willingness to conciliate.
Critics of ITLSS accused it of being sensationalist, misleading and repetitive. And they might be right. But then again, the blog was a counterpunch to the equally sensationalist and misleading bullshit from law schools announcing 90%+ post graduate employment rates and how a law degree is versatile. And while one can only say “don’t go to law school unless….” so many times and in so many variations, it needed to be said on a regular basis from an authority figure in order to ensure that future 0Ls will make an informed decision and to act as a deterrent for future law school bullshit.
So what happens now? While the anti-law school message will not end, it lost an influential advocate. Professor Campos’s provocative and accusatory writing style articulated the anger, frustration and despair of many in the lost generation. Also, some of the regular commenters of ITLSS were bright and articulate without being overly hostile. I hope they will continue to comment on other blogs or start blogs of their own. There are several websites that will continue to discuss the law school mess.
Outside the Law School Scam was set up immediately after ITLSS’s closing in an effort to continue the discussion. It appears to be run by several law students, a nontraditional law school graduate and regular commenters of ITLSS. Lawprof has given the website his blessing and may post there sometime in the future.
Lawschoolcafe.org is run by Professor Deborah Merritt and Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency. The site would be useful to 0Ls doing their due diligence research although it lacks the entertainment value of ITLSS.
I had hoped ITLSS would go on for a little while longer. Even though its message is now common knowledge, some unfinished business remains. First, one of the law school fraud lawsuits will now be heard by the New York Court of Appeals and the outcome will affect similar lawsuits in New York and will influence judges in other states that have similar lawsuits. Also, 0Ls are still applying to law schools although they are likely applying with open eyes. As I will have absolutely no sympathy for the Class of 2016 and beyond, they need to remember what they are getting themselves into as they prepare for the LSAT, write their personal statement, bargain with schools for “scholarships”, and make the ultimate choice.
I wish to say a hearfelt thank you to Paul Campos and I wish him the best on whatever he decides to do. But I secretly hope that he will reopen ITLSS in the near future.