The Transfer Game Part 2: A Sewer Tier Law School Proposes to Make Transferring Impossible (And a top tier update)

Last minute update: Paul Campos of Lawyers, Guns and Money reports that Georgetown Law and George Washington Law Schools will accept the top 20% of the 1L class at American University Skewer of Law. This is a clear signal that top tier law schools are giving transfer students serious consideration in light of falling revenues. So even if you do not go to American nor fall in the top 20% your 1L class, send your transfer applications immediately. While you do not have to transfer to a better ranked school, an acceptance letter can be used as a negotiating tool to get a full or partial scholarship at your existing diploma mill.

Two former law professors of Phoenix School of Law are suing their employer for breach of their employment contract and in the process, letting out the school’s dirty laundry. I would like to think that these rogue professors are acting as whistleblowers for Phoenix’s profit-motivated chicanery. But the cynic in me thinks that these professors are engaging in scorched-earth tactics in retaliation for being fired. Prospective law students who plan to enroll in gutter law schools like Phoenix, Cooley or any “for-profit” school should know that once you check in, it’ll almost be impossible to check out.

The juicy details of the complaint focused on Phoenix’s high transfer rate and the administrators’ proposal to keep them in by building “a better mousetrap”. I previously wrote about how low-end law schools have secret policies making it difficult for students to transfer out: professors refusing to write letters of recommendation and registrar offices refusing to release transcripts until well after the transfer deadlines had passed.

But this complaint verified these rumors and more. Phoenix’s proposal called for a student seeking to transfer to meet with administrators before transcripts can be released. I assume this “meeting” will first involve a lot of ass kissing, then sales pitching, accusation of disloyalty and guilt trips and finally, threats of blacklisting. Also, the complaint alleges that there is an implicit (if not explicit) policy of not writing letters of recommendation to students seeking to transfer out of the school. Finally, the proposal called for curriculum changes that will make it difficult if not impossible for students to transfer, including (and I will include my proposed law school sales spin in bold):

  • Reordering class offerings so that competing law schools would not accept students requesting transfer because mandatory courses for transfer would not be included in the first year curriculum. In light of today’s difficult job market, Phoenix Law seeks to be the future model of legal education by abandoning the traditional first year classes and replacing them with more practical courses that employers desire.
  • Considering grading all courses as “pass/fail” so that competing law schools could not identify the school’s top performers. Phoenix Law will impose a pass/fail grading model for all first year courses in order to discourage unfriendly competition and to prevent dishonest behavior. We want you to see your classmates as lifelong friends, colleagues, partners and business referral sources.  

I won’t get into the details of the breach of contract issue because I don’t give a shit about lawprofs’ first world problems. But in my uneducated opinion, these ex-lawprofs are butthurt because their lifetime employment pass known as tenure was revoked. They never use the term lifetime employment in the complaint but it was an unspoken rule among academics who attained the coveted tenure card. Also, the professors in question got their tenure cards in 2010 and 2011 and I have heard that most law schools have a “last in, first out” policy.

So these ex-lawprofs, having been passed over for partnership positions at Cravath (as they love to claim) are now facing unemployment and unsympathetic ridicule from people like us. So they did the only thing they could – go nuclear. They’re unemployable anyway, so why not play the lawsuit lottery? And the timing of this lawsuit couldn’t be better because potential students are getting ready to sign the line that is dotted. The legal blogs and newswire are eating this story up and Phoenix Law must be livid about this public relations nightmare.

I wonder why schools like Phoenix do not try to adopt a community college model of law school by helping students transfer to “better” schools. They usually blame ABA regulations but I’m willing to bet body parts that in times of necessity, they will find ways to get around them. The real reason is that if a large portion of their 1L class transfer out, this will result in lower tuition revenue. These people couldn’t care less about prestige or post-graduation employment placement. And for “for profit” schools like Phoenix, lower tuition revenue will make its shareholders mad and they will show how they feel about “academic freedom” when they kick the academics out to the curb.

So to those considering attending the Phoenix Community College of Law, the writing is on the wall if you are planning to play the transfer game. For a small group of people who plan to practice on their own, going to Phoenix might work out for you. But if you are attending one of these low end schools with transfer aspirations, you now know how difficult they will make it for you.

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