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Former Hastings Dean Says Struggling Law Schools Should Merge to Survive

A former Hastings law school dean says that struggling law schools need to make big changes to survive, and mergers may be their solution in a difficult economy.

Frank H. Wu, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law who served as dean from 2010-2015, knows the trouble they've seen. Facing financial pressures from falling enrollments that rocked law schools across the country, many schools lowered their admissions standards and then saw their students' bar pass rates fall.

In 2016, Hastings' pass rate dropped to an embarrassing low of 51 percent. Hastings dean David Faigman called upon the law school to improve, but also blasted California's bar examiners for making the test too hard. "This is outrageous and constitutes unconscionable conduct on the part of a trade association that masquerades as a state agency," he said.

At the same time, the job market shrank for lawyers and fewer students enrolled for law school. Wu says the problem is economic.

When Adam MacLeod got a traffic-cam ticket, he wasn't about to just cut a check and call it a day. Being an associate professor of law, MacLeod decided to fight the ticket. Or rather, as he describes it, to turn "a routine traffic ticket into the constitutional trial of the century."

Not one to toot his own horn, MacLeod says he's recounting his tale of legal terror and triumph "only to show how our ruling elites have corrupted the rule of law and to suggest why this matters for the American experiment in self-governance." Plus, he got out of the ticket.

Being 'in the zone' is a good thing for basketball players. It means they are in a Michael Jordan-like zone where every shot seems to go in the basket.

For students at for-profit law schools, not so much. It means their law schools are failing education department standards or are "in the zone" for failure.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, virtually every for-profit law school in the country has failed debt-to-earnings ratios or is "in the zone" for failure. That means the schools are at risk of losing federal student loans because their students are not making enough money to repay them.

The American Association of Law Schools is having its annual meeting in San Francisco this week, not far from FindLaw's West Coast offices. That means law professors, everywhere. Law professors pitching books. Law professors arguing with panelists. Law professors eating burritos.

Want to join them? You can. Despite the rumors, you don't have to be a Yale Law School grad to become a law professor. So, if academia is in your future, we've got some jobs you should check out. As part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, this week we're bringing you the coolest law school jobs we could find.

Harvard Law Dean Steps Down to Teach

When Elena Kagan left Harvard to become a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Martha Minow had a tough act to follow as the new dean at Harvard Law School.

That was eight years ago, longer than Minow expected to serve as dean. Now, after weathering financial and enrollment problems that challenged many law schools, Minow is returning to her duties as a professor.

"Leading this institution for the last eight years has been an extraordinary honor and opportunity for daily learning (inspiring me to serve well beyond my initial intention of five years!)," she wrote to her friends and colleagues on Tuesday.

Arizona Summit Law School Escapes Fraud Claims

'Follow the money.'

That's a holdover quote from the Watergate scandal that bought down the President of the United States, and it means that the money trail leads to a motive. In the case of Arizona Summit Law School, the trail leads to InfiLaw Systems, a for-profit consortium of three law schools.

They won a legal battle this week, when a federal judge dismissed a fraud claim by a former employee and student alleging the Arizona law school misrepresented incoming students' grades and admission test scores. However, the judge said the plaintiff may continue her suit against the school for wrongful discharge and other claims.

While the case will proceed without further allegations about the law school's admission policies, they are central to a much bigger war for InfiLaw. All of its law schools -- Arizona, Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal School of Law -- are fighting for their lives based on similar claims.

Back in my day, if you had to interview when applying to a law school, it was usually with an admissions officer or one of the school's alumni. Today, it's with a webcam. Well, sometimes. Video interviews are still rare, but they are becoming increasingly common. Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago allow students to skype into live interviews, for example, while St. John's University and Northwestern have started to use prerecorded video interviews.

So, what should you do if you're faced with a law school admissions video interview? Here are a few tips.

Top Law School Fails of 2016

It's been a rough year. Antonin Scalia died, as did Muhammad Ali, Prince, David Bowie -- even Princess Leia was taken from us just today. There was that terrible election, Brexit, Zika, Aleppo, and mass shooting after mass shooting. And those are just the top of the list. In the eyes of many, 2016 has been the Worst Year Ever.

The year's terribleness hasn't spared law schools, either. If you can't wait for this awful year to come to a close, you're not alone. Plenty of law students and law school deans are counting down the minutes until 2016's death, too. Here's why.

Students Sue Charlotte Law School for $5 Million

If Charlotte School of Law reopens for the spring semester, a different class will be facing administrators: a class action.

Students Robert Barchiesi and Lejla Hadzic have sued the law school for taking tuition without telling students that the school was on probation for failing education standards. The American Bar Association cited the school in July for substandard admissions practices, which contributed to consistently low bar pass rates, and ordered administrators to advise its students.

In the class action filed Friday, the students say the school did not comply with the ABA's order and instead covered up their failures so they could take in more money. The law school charges about $60,000 a year in tuition and fees.

"If CSL had complied with its obligations, then it would have resulted in students not paying CSL tuition on or after Aug. 1, and defendants would have incurred substantial financial losses," according to the complaint, which alleges deceptive and unfair trade practices, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.

ABA Sues for Public Interest Lawyers' Loan Forgiveness

If Uncle Sam and Scrooge had a child ...

It's possible but hard to imagine the creature that would evolve from that union. Yet more than a few lawyers have conjured up the image in the form of the U.S. Department of Education, which has taken back the offer of loan forgiveness for their student debts.

The American Bar Association and four public interest attorneys have sued the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education for reneging on the promise of the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness Program. The government has approved about 400,000 borrowers for the program, but changed its decision for some, including the ABA and its lawyers.