Why Are There No Puerto Rican Scamblogs?

, The Am Law Daily

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Compared to its peers in the United States proper, the island commonwealth's three ABA-accredited law schools perform appallingly, yet no one protests.

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What's being said

  • Cristina

    First of all, let me say that I am glad to hear that for the first time in history the ABA has been able to gather some information on Puerto Rico Law Schools. As a longtime ABA member from Puerto Rico all I can say is: It was about time. That being said, I was not surprised at all with the unemployment data gathered by the ABA from recent law graduates in Puerto Rico. It has been highly documented by the ABA that the unemployment crisis extends throughout the entire nation, not just Puerto Rico. I am licensed to practice law both in Puerto Rico and Florida, and have had the good fortune of working in both markets. I have met legal professionals educated by the "best" schools in the mainland and all I can say is the following: Puerto Rico Law Schools are largely underestimated in the United States. The ABA approved Law Schools in Puerto Rico are not approved by the ABA simply because they meet an easy test but rather because they are excellent schools.

  • Denise

    It's difficult to take seriously someone who talks about "cypress" being a country, but in any event some fundamentals need to be corrected. 1. Every single person who applies to law school in PR understands the market. Despite the suggestion of the writer, the entire applicant pool of puertorican law school hopefuls are not a bunch of drooling idiots. Rather they understand the market their in better than the writer of this post. There's "degree" inflation in PR and what used to require a B.A. now requires a graduate degree. That means that many people don't go to law school expecting to practice but rather to try to improve their chances of employment in other areas. His statistics do not account for this phenomenon.
    2. It's always dangerous when a person un-versed in a particular topic tries to make suppositions, when it comes to the unemployment and economic situation of a particular country it's even more dangerous if the person tries to "explain" something so complex in a throwaway sentence. The transfers to PR have little, if anything, to do with the island's unemployment woes. It's incredible that someone who points out that there will only be 100 legal jobs opening per year in the foreseeable future also claims that people aren't working because they'd rather be on welfare.
    That brings me to my last point: you've obviously gotten your assumptions, if not all your stats, from the Wikipedia of racist stereotypes, if you wanted to trash the intelligence and work ethic of an entire population surely you didn't need to add charts and do it in this blog. There are other sites for your kind of people. I'm disappointed that American Lawyer chose to publish this thinly veiled racist rant.

  • David R. Martin

    The article raises interesting points about law schools in Puerto Rico, a subject that is not often covered by U.S. legal industry news.

    One statistic that the author seemed to omit (or perhaps did not find) is the number of graduates of ABA-accredited state-side schools who also fail the Puerto Rico bar.

    Having taken and passed the Puerto Rico bar exam (as well as the bar exams of Florida and Georgia), I personally know of fully-bilingual law graduates from Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, Georgetown, Boston University and other top law schools who have failed the Puerto Rico bar exam.

    The Puerto Rico bar exam is highly demanding. It is not a test of minimum competence, which is what state-side bar exams seem to be. The level of minutiae appearing on the exam suggests a protectionist element by the local profession. This is understandable, given the long-struggling economy that cannot sustain hundreds of newly-minted lawyers each year on a small island of 3.5 million.

    Separately, having earned law degrees from UPR (JD) and NYU (LLM tax), I can also attest that UPR's law school was as demanding and in many ways more academically challenging than NYU.

  • Heriberto Burgos,

    With regard to the point I raised about the UPR dean--Believe me, I have first hand knowledge of this (it happened in 2008). Many UPR law students at the time also knew of it. I also thought the dean would be burned at the stake (to use your own wording) but he was not.

  • Let me respond to the author of the article and to The Ghost of Christmas Past (a really funny alias by someone writing about employment in the legal profession).



    1. PR faces a difficult economic situation mostly but not entirely of its own making. Divorced from this reality, the author relies on statistics and irrelevant facts to blame law schools and students for all thew wrong reasons.



    For example, in discussing the weakl market for legal services, he mentions dependency on federal funds by poor people in PR. What? Did I miss something? Also, I do not trust people who blame the poor and disposed. It's also strange and contrary to historical experience to blame constituents of a territory wihtout any political power and representation for their ills.



    If one wants to play the blame game, there are much better targets to be had. For example , those who live in the world of derivatives and other esoteric lies. I suggest that it's better to align the sights elsewhere.



    2. There are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. It is not wise to compare the employment statistics of the the legal market in the US to the statistics in PR and draw inferences in a vacuum. PR is not Wall street, and the market is worse than soft.



    The article suggests that the market is soft because of dependency. I other word, that because certain US citizens receive limited federal assistance here --a small fraction of what they would otherwise be entitled to receive-- the economy is weak and backwards and, consequently, lawyers and law schools are doing poorly. What? Try to connect these dots if you can.



    3. Information in certain of the comments is simply wrong. For example, that the US District Court in PR considered exempting students from taking the bar exam but the dean of the law shool refused. What? Does this sound right to you? If law students learned that their dean did that, the dean would be burnt at the stake.



    I do not have the time or energy to correct other faulty analysis in the article and in some of the comments. But believe me, take everything with a grain of salt.

  • Puerto Rico law schools would be smart to emphasize English language litigation skills and American common law concepts in addition to their current curriculum. This would undoubtedly make their students much more competitive. The reason they do not do it is quite simple: PR law schools are dominated by Anti-American separatist ideologues that impose their personal political agendas before the best interest of their law students. By injecting their personal political agendas into the legal education, they are more interested in putting up a wall between Puerto Rican law students and their counterparts in the mainland in order to prevent any kind of professional exchange. They are interested in making it harder for lawyers from the mainland U.S. to practice law in Puerto Rico and vice-versa. This is the same reason why Puerto Rico does not have any reciprocity agreements with any U.S. state. It is the same reason why the PR bar exam cannot be taken in the English language. There are many examples of political ideology getting in the way of things. For example, the U.S. District Court for the District of PR recently proposed exempting PR law graduates from taking the federal bar exam, as long as they took a certain number of federal practice courses in their law schools. The purpose of this would be to facilitate the admission process to practice in the federal court. But guess who rejected this idea: UPRs law school dean. He was more interested in keeping a barrier between law students and federal practice.

  • Daliah Lugo

    Mr. Leichter, I think you mean "Cyprus" (the country), not "Cypress" (the tree).

  • Jaime

    I am a recent law school graduate from UPR Law and was lucky enough to pass the PR bar on my first attempt. I want to commend and congratulate Mr. Matt Leichter for taking the time to open this can of worms by exposing this harsh reality.

    The scant 9% of Puerto Rico law school graduates who are working in full-time bar passage-required positions sounds very accurate. I think I have the dubious honor of being a living example of this by being in the remaining 91%. I graduated one year ago, passed the PR bar in September, and yet, I am an unemployed lawyer. I have friends who recently graduated from UPR and INTER law schools and most of them are not doing very well either. If they are lucky enough to have jobs, it is flipping burgers at Wendys or serving lattes at Starbucks. A friend of mine gave up looking for a legal job and joined an accounting firm since he was an accounting major at college.

    With regards to getting a job at a PR law firm, we all know the dirty little secret of how to get a job at a law firm in Puerto Rico: In PR, we call it tener pala. You either have to be the son/daughter of someone really important, you have to be close to an important partner at the firm or you have to have connections in the PR government in order to bring in government contracts for the law firm ($). Otherwise, your chances are slim to none.

    I think one reason more and more people are applying to PR law schools (against nationwide trends) is due to a certain aspect of the culture. That is, in Puerto Rico, people have the bad habit of having to attach a title to almost everyone. In PR, there is a certain status symbol to having the title Licenciado/a before your name. For some bizarre reason, it projects an aura of authority and respect to have your name preceded by that word. I am going to go out on a limb and identify that as one of the factors why many law school applicants do not know or care that their odds of getting any kind of job once they leave law school is appallingly low. The allure of the prospect of being called Lincenciado/a is far too great.

    With regard to Mr. Aviles, he is truly part of the problem. There is nothing derogatory about this article. The author makes his points in a very analytical and methodical way. While the truth hurts, Mr. Aviles is just overly sensitive. Mr. Aviles is also willfully incorrect by stating that PR is a just a civil law jurisdiction. PR is a mixture of common law and civil law. In any case, it is no excuse for these abysmal statistics. Mr. Aviles and the rest of the administrators at PR law schools are just looking out for themselves. They want to cover up the truth about the bleak future for PR law graduates. In the interest of self-preservation, they want more and more misguided people to apply to their law schools. I hope this is only the first article by Matt Leichter on this subject. I think it is time for all the unemployed and under-employed lawyers in Puerto Rico to rise up and start a revolution against these three law schools and expose them for what they really are: a huge scam.

  • -MPK

    They always feel offended when someone makes comments that don’t serve them. I agree with M and also with GMaz, specially on this as it was said: "Since when a low passage rate became a symbol of pride. I am sorry Mr. Aviles, but that shows either incompetence of the law school in preparing students for the bar, laziness of the students (which I doubt) or just the incompetence of the people who write the bar exam."
    Instead of be pending or worry about the public image of PR law schools, they should start resolving problems. Many students feel delusive when they are finished with law school in the island. As a friend of mine, a law grad student told me once: “La Escuela de Derecho es un engaño”.

  • Aimée Esq.

    Matt has rocked the cradle...

    For starters, there are extremely competent and dedicated professional law practitioners in Puerto Rico, many whom are educated locally. However, Puerto Rico law schools should seriously think about revising their curricula allow students to focus on common law, hence, being able to pass the MBE and mainland US bar exams easier.

    Puerto Rican law schools should stress litigation skills in English language since many island attorneys have a language barrier with English, not a professional competence issue. Matt should look into the number of federal practitioners in the island, main reason is that litigation is English, not like in state court where it is Spanish and local rules where recently revised to allow pleadings to be filed in English.

    This will allow students to relocate to the United States and be able to compete on the market.

  • M

    I am an UPR Law graduate, with friends from UPR and Inter. This ("scant 9 percent of the three schools' graduates were employed full-time, long-term in bar passage–required positions") is completely believable for me. Most of my friends are self-employed or work at places that dont need the bar, and are barely scrapping by. At least 2 returned to be accountants. I also remember, and consulted with fellow graduates, that that they only asked if we had a job, not the type of job.

    More importantly, students face an awful dilemma. You dont look for a job because with a 35% pass rate, you dont want to look like a moron in front of your boss. So of course you wait until the results! If you fail, you must choose between getting a job (a big if) or staying home. If you take the job, it will cut into your studying time and further spoil your already abysmal chances.

    Mr. Aviles has good intentions, but I agree that he is part of the problem. You cant cry racism everytime you are critized ("cold Chicago numbers"? Really?). Well, we could use some cold numbers more often. If you claim the blogger is wrong, then fight numbers with numbers.

    And for all the bragging about civil law, UPR's teaching style is very common law. Sure, we have a civil law and a civil code, but we spend most of the time using the Socratic method. The method is about pitting one point of view against the other, or trying to eek out a general rule out of a case, which is all well and good, except there is already a civil code and the real answer is actually in the code. So your personal opinions about this or that dont matter, just what the code says. You have some wiggle room trying to interpret the code, but the answer is more or less spelled out in the code. You see the divide when studying from the famous mamotretos, when the answers are less complicated than what the professor made it out to be. You wonder why he or she didnt just say so in the first place.

    Thats a problem because professors go on tangeants about what they think the law should be, instead of what it is and whats actually coming in the test. More importantly, I feel they dont really teach you to take the test. As in, what it is the bar examiners actually want. What you have to do to get all the points. Students throw everything on the wall hope something sticks. If the test is trying to make you apply the law to the test case, the school is failing at teaching you that, because you may have a hard time separating the professors' opinions from black letter law.

  • Carlos Avenancio

    As Mr. Aviles commented, even if that was not the intention of the author, the derogatory tone of the entry is offensive. It is more sad, though, to see personal attacks from fellow colleagues and puertoricans. The observations against the entry were against the conclusions reached through a wrong and incomplete use of statistics and statistical methodology. As a researcher at UC Berkeley, I've come to realize the huge damage that uncareful statistical analysis has in policy, economics, and, yes, reputation. The author is not accounting for measurement problems, omitted variables, or endogeneity problems of any sort. Neither he performed sensitivity analyses or validity checks with the institutions. These are deep weaknesses and flaws in any causal analysis using data that will never be corrected by anecdotical evidence.

    Critics to improve are always welcome, but let's do them the right way. No incomplete causal analyzes. No attacks.

  • Carlos Avenancio

    As Mr. Aviles commented, even if that was not the intention of the author, the derogatory tone of the entry is offensive. It is more sad, though, to see personal attacks from fellow colleagues and puertoricans. The observations against the entry were against the conclusions reached through a wrong and incomplete use of statistics and statistical methodology. As a researcher at UC Berkeley, I've come to realize the huge damage that uncareful statistical analysis has in policy, economics, and, yes, reputation. The author is not accounting for measurement problems, omitted variables, or endogeneity problems of any sort. Neither he performed sensitivity analyses or validity checks with the institutions. These are deep weaknesses and flaws in any causal analysis using data that will never be corrected by anecdotical evidence.

    Critics to improve are always welcome, but let's do them the right way. No incomplete causal analyzes. No attacks.

  • Luis Aviles

    To the colleagues that attacked me personally. I am not attacking American lawyers. I graduated from Harvard Law School, Class of 1992 and practiced in Mass. The statistics offered by the ABA from US Schools 9 months after graduation are about 35% if you need to know. They are dismal too. The Puerto Rico Bar passage rate from students at UPR Law School ranges from 70-80% in the past 10 years. Finally, I agree that salaries for starting lawyers in PR oscillate between $30,000 and $65,000. However, 3 years of legal education at the UPR Law School costs about $10-12,000 as opposed to $90-150,000 in the States. I can only speak for the statistics of UPR Law. My point to the author is that he lumped together the results of the 4 law schools and that is wrong. I do not see how he can lump together the results of Harvard Law, BU, BC, Northeastern, Suffolk and New England School of Law and that makes good statistics. The author did not dare to call the schools in PR to corroborate the data. That is the problem with the article. Exaggeration is never good when reporting results.

  • GMaz

    I agree with Mr. Torres. Mr. Aviles comments reflect my typical interaction with Puerto Rican attorneys. I am a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico Social Sciences. I came to the US, went to law school and passed the bar. My Puerto Rican attorney friends usually have the same conceited attitude: US attorneys are idiots because our bar exam passage rate is lower, so it's harder, so we are smarter. They also conveniently ignore that almost every single one of them that I know come to the states and fail the bar (even though they are ENTIRELY bilingual, like me - since I just came to the states 5 years ago). Why is that? Since when a low passage rate became a symbol of pride. I am sorry Mr. Aviles, but that shows either incompetence of the law school in preparing students for the bar, laziness of the students(which I doubt) or just the incompetence of the people who write the bar exam.
    Mr. Aviles employment statistics do not AT ALL reflect the reality. I have tried finding jobs in Puerto Rico to see if it is worth it to take the bar. All my attorney friends are working 80 hours weeks, can barely pay their loans and still live with their parents. An attorney friend of mine was working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and made $30,000 a year. I made more than that serving coffee at Starbucks and I did not have $100,000 in loans.
    Like Mr. Torres says, Mr. Aviles is part of the problem. If the law school official himself has such attitude towards American attorneys and such disrespect and disdain towards our efforts, our intelligence and competence, why should the students there be any better? We might not have to know civil law, but we are passing bars. Also, a 33% employment rate IS NOT GOOD, even when not considering the horrible salaries that they receive.
    I feel embarrassed when I see Puerto Rican attorneys acting this way because it is unprofessional and gives us all a bad name.

  • You forgot to mention that law school grads need to take a specific federal bar exam to practice in federal court. Principally due to the fact Fed C Pro, US Con law are electives along with an abysmal command of written and spoken English by a vast majority of the law school grads.
    Sadly it was not always this way. UPR had in the past some fantastic lawyers as did INTER. As a puertorican attorney practicing in MA with many lawyer friends on the island I am very familiar with their current plight.
    And sadly Mr Aviles comments are part of the problem. It is a constant chip on the shoulder that any criticism is taken as an affront to our being puertorican or Hispanic. I advise all of college students who want to go into law to avoid UPR/INTER if they have any desire to practice in Federal Court, US mainland or International Law.
    As to Avlies fix the problem. Simple.

  • Luis Aviles

    I am the Associate Dean of the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. I am not going to comment on the derogatory tone of your entry, except to say that, for a moment, I thought I was reading a yellow press paper. Now, I would like to give you some facts. You seem to be lumping together the results of Puerto Rico's four law schools. Perhaps you assume that all these schools are equally bad and they do not distinguish from each other. My School is the only public school in Puerto Rico and this year we celebrate our 100th anniversary. We are the only School in Puerto Rico that has both the ABA and AALS accreditations. Puerto Rico is a civil law jurisdiction (like Louisiana, Spain and Germany), thus you should compare our bar exam passage rate with say, that of Louisiana students who take the civil law bar. You are right, the Puerto Rico Bar Exam is awfully difficult and contains more subjects than most bars in the US. Most students in Puerto Rico do not look for jobs ONLY after they know they passed the Bar Exam, usually in early December after graduation. Therefore, the data collected by the ABA (employment status after 9 months out of law school) does not take into account that idiosyncratic behavior. Despite that fact, over 33% of our students report on a consistent basis that they are employed by February after graduation. Finally, we "do not play" the US News ranking game, because we educate our students in the Spanish language at a level that not even bilingual students in the US can cope. We are a public school that serves the needs of Puerto Rico, even though our curricular offer prepares our students to pass the bar exam in the US jurisdiction of their choice. I invite you to visit with us in warm Puerto Rico before you embark in a scathing report based on cold Chicago numbers.

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