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Vermont Faculty Purge Breaks Out in Social Media Debate on Legal Education

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 26, 2018 4:03 PM

Vermont Law School has enough problems, but now it has become a poster child in a caustic debate about the value of a legal education.

On one side, you have attorney/lecturer Mark A. Cohen. He wrote a piece for Forbes, knocking the law school for an "unsustainable" business model.

In the other corner, you have professor David Herzig, who took a swing at Cohen's analysis on Twitter. At law schools everywhere, somebody has to be asking: "Can we all just get along?"

Faculty Purge

The controversy started with a "faculty purge," when Vermont stripped 14 professors of their tenure. School president Thomas McHenry said it was one of a "whole range of options" as the school trimmed its budget.

Cohen said it was "a clarion call to the legal Academy that its economic model is unsustainable for all but a handful of elite institutions." In other words, a law degree isn't worth it anymore.

Herzig called him out, citing studies on the value of a legal education. Cohen tweet-stormed back, calling himself a "bet-the-company trial lawyer" and Herzig's literature "3rd rate fiction."

"That 'evidence' has been panned by every credible source I know," Cohen said. "The methodology and premises upon which the conclusions were drawn are laughable and fly in the face of real studies."

"Laughable" Evidence

Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine University School of Law, was not amused by Cohen's argument. He said the studies were written by scholars with the benefit of peer review.

"Mr. Cohen also has yet to specify which 'real studies' he thinks use better data and more widely accepted methods, and why," Caron wrote for TaxProf Blog. "He has yet to explain how his litigation experience qualifies him as a labor economist, statistician, and literary critic."

Caron said the critic should acknowledge his mistakes, print a correction, and "move on." Meanwhile, somebody at Vermont Law School must be saying "please, move on."

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