Paul Campos’ blog, Inside the Law School Scam, closed its doors last week. It was a watershed event in what we might look back at 25 years from now as The End of the Old Way of making lawyers. And Campos may well be seen as a key figure in the era.
I don’t believe in hero worship. But Campos is as close to a hero as we’ve got in what will be a sordid history, our history.
In case you missed it somehow, Campos is a law professor at Colorado. He had expressed grave concerns to colleagues about how law schools were raising tuition to absurd levels while simultaneously being, ahem, less than candid about the employment prospects of new graduates. The reaction from colleagues was apparently a collective shrug.
So Campos started a blog and started telling the truth as he saw it, anonymously.
A law school Judas
The blog’s content and the quality of the writing made it immediately apparent that it was the work of a law professor (not just someone claiming to be one), a law professor who was not only concerned, but morally outraged about what was going on. As the posts piled up, loaded with reams of data to back up the outrage, frightened and angry law professors moved quickly to “out” Campos. It didn’t take long. Campos responded by putting his name on the blog. He kept writing. And writing.
Of all the “how dare you” attacks directed at Campos, probably the most vitriolic came from Chicago law professor Brian Leiter. I don’t know of a single instance where Leiter or anyone else substantially challenged the numbers upon which Campos based his criticism, whether it was the oversupply of lawyers or the absurdly high cost of a law degree.
Facts be damned, just shut up, we hate you
No, the attacks on Campos were always either tangential or merely ad hominem (see the comments here.)
In other words, Campos had the facts straight, but he didn’t present them in a scholarly, sober fashion that showed proper respect to adademia. It’s true—Campos came across as bitter, sarcastic, and sometimes despairing. And it was that tone that so endeared him to the scambloggers and those who read them. Campos seemed genuinely, personally troubled by the army of unemployed lawyers out there drowning in debt. And if you read his blog regularly, it became impossible to not conclude that law schools worked carefully and consistently to mislead potential students about their job prospects, while simultaniously burying those students in non-dischargeable debt so law professors could jack up their salaries while teaching less.
The level of hatred Campos engendered is particularly interesting when one considers that another law professor, Brian Tamanaha, raised the same concerns (I recommend his very good book) but never drew anywhere near the same kind of blow-back. With Campos, for whatever reason, it was personal from the beginning.
So what’s changed?
Now that Campos has shuttered his blog, the responses have been fascinating. Those who praised him from the beginning are saluting his efforts, while others have been more than willing to acknowledge Campos’ influence.
Leiter, in one last broadside, accuses Campos of revisionist history, then proceeds to assert that he was all over this whole law school problem from the beginning, thus admitting, unwittingly, it seems, how important Campos has been in the debate because Campos drew a huge audience—which of course was largely because of how in addition to what Campos wrote.
Then Leiter brings up, again, the fact that Campos once appeared on Fox News to slam a Colorado colleague for being a Holocaust denier, and that this is “the key fact to remember about Paul Campos”. Perhaps Professor Leiter might want to audit Evidence at his law school and begin at the beginning, with relevance. While Campos may have been wrong to suggest his crazy colleague should be dismissed, that has nothing to do with the law school scam.
Then Leiter (as he has consistently done) quotes a colleague criticizing Campos. This one compares Campos most unfavorably with a journalist. Apparently this is a great insult to a law school professor.
Of course, what we need is a good deal less supposedly scholarly output that no one reads produced by law professors making fat salaries on the backs of law students, many of whom will never find work as lawyers. What we need is more law professors willing to take a hard look around, and recast themselves as muckraking journalists. Because only the truth, and not law review, can save the next lost generation of JDs.
(image: black keyboard grenade from Shutterstock)