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Posts Tagged ‘ASU Law School’

Recent news out of Ohio concerning debt-ridden new lawyers underscores the difference between a mandatory membership bar association and a voluntary one. Ohio is one of 18 states where lawyers can practice without being forced to join their trade association.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/Bury_your_head_in_the_sand.jpg/160px-Bury_your_head_in_the_sand.jpg

In states where lawyers are forced to join a mandatory membership bar association as a precondition to practice, there are bar leaders with heads in the sand who act as though the crashing tides of debt drenching young lawyers were nonexistent.

But in voluntary states like Ohio, bar leaders have at last started examining the “unprecedented burdens faced by new lawyers.” Ten years past the “law school tuition bubble,” they may be a tad late — but in contrast to mandatory bars in Nevada and Arizona — at least they’re now considering potential solutions to the astronomical six-figure debt service new lawyers get along with their diplomas.

Futures Commission.

Tasked with researching and developing long-term solutions and “first action steps,” the Ohio State Bar Association established a 29-member Futures Commission more than one year ago to look at new lawyer burdens and “the need for acquisition of knowledge and the skills necessary to develop and carry on a successful practice; the lack of regulation for new legal service delivery options; and the widening access to justice gap.” In July, the Commission released its preliminary report.

Unlike mandatory bars that too often act below-the-radar through top-down mandates, the Ohio Bar sought input from members through town hall style meetings held in each of its 18 districts and supplemented these with input from its 2017 Leadership Academy class of new lawyers.

In Ohio, bar leaders believe “member satisfaction” is one of their association’s “core values” driving the stated goal of making “membership in the Ohio State Bar Association indispensable to Ohio lawyers.” 

It’s one thing to force lawyers to join an organization in order to earn a living in their chosen profession. But it’s another matter entirely when lawyers choose membership because the value proposition is so strong that membership is “indispensable.”

 

So much debt.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f9/Tin_Woodman.png/105px-Tin_Woodman.pngIt’s not like mandatory bars haven’t heard about the unprecedented tuition debt incurred by today’s young lawyers. More likely, they can’t relate to it. Many graduated from law school when women had big hair to the skies and fashion meant shoulder pads, parachute pants and Members Only jackets. Tuition then was a fraction of today’s troubles. Unsurprisingly, these bar leaders are tin-eared about the problem.

According to Law School Transparency (LST)  “legal education inflation far exceeds the inflation rate.

“In 1985, the average private school tuition was $7,526 (1985 dollars), which would now cost a student $16,294 (2013 dollars). Instead, the average tuition is $41,985 (2013 dollars). In other words, private law school is now 2.6 times as expensive as it was in 1985 after adjusting for inflation. Public school (for residents) is now about 5.5 times as expensive.”

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in July, “Ohio law school grads face debt of nearly $100,000 and few job prospects, report says,” the Commission’s report finds that the average 2015 Ohio law school graduate has approximately $98,475 in law school debt. Worse yet, “Only approximately 58 percent of 2015 Ohio law school graduates are employed in jobs requiring bar passage.”

And it’s only getting worse. For entering 2017 students, Ohio’s Law School Transparency (LST) numbers are even higher — well north of $150,000 on average.

In Arizona, LST projects even more sobering statistics for wanna-be lawyers starting law school in the Grand Canyon State this year. They should expect a “full price projected debt” for their J.D. degree of $175,084 if they are state residents graduating from Arizona State University. If they’re residents and start and finish at the University of Arizona, the number is $173,280.

At Arizona Summit Law School, one of the nation’s most expensive law schools, the “full price projected debt” is an astounding $252,571. This averages out to $200,978 among the three Arizona schools. It breaks out to an average debt service headache over 10 years of $2290 per month.

In Nevada, LST reports that students matriculating in 2017 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the state’s only law school, can anticipate a “full price projected debt” of $175,310 and a $2000 per month nut over 10 years.

‘What me worry?’

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Happiness.gif/209px-Happiness.gifThe root problem is that mandatory bars like those in Nevada and Arizona aspire to serve competing interests — those of the legal profession and those of the public. But it can’t be done because these interests often conflict.

Instead of alleviating practice burdens, for instance, mandatory bars constantly tinker with their bureaucratic spigots to open ever increasing cost, time and stress pressures on members. This is because they’re not necessarily looking out for the interests of lawyers.

In mandatory bar Nevada, for example, there’s a bar study group looking at the supposed merits of forcing all the state’s lawyers to buy professional liability insurance. If the model is mandatory bar Oregon, currently the only jurisdiction mandating professional liability insurance, expect only one blessed provider.

Moreover, the cost will be substantial. In 2017, Oregon lawyers ponied up a whopping $3,500 apiece for bare minimum coverage of $300,000 per incident and $300,000 aggregate. And Oregon has almost twice as many lawyers as Nevada.

Voluntary bars look out for the interests of members.

In closing, here’s what the Ohio Bar’s Futures Commission looked at:

•  How to ensure new lawyers enter the profession practice ready and without the crushing burden of student debt;
•  How busy lawyers at all stages of their careers can get the most out of their required continuing legal education credits;
•  The appropriate role of online legal service providers, limited multidisciplinary practice, fee-splitting and other emerging new business models in the delivery of legal services and if they can they help lawyers better serve clients and stay true to the values of the profession;
•  And with the real and perceived expense of legal services, how to ensure access to justice for all, regardless of income.

Besides supporting cost reducing law school initiatives, the Commission also took a departure from the latest gambit being promoted by mandatory bars: the licensing of non-lawyers to practice law. “Believing firmly that any provision of legal services should be done under the direction of a licensed attorney,” the Commission pronounced its opposition to “any effort to establish new categories of non-lawyer legal service providers (NLP) in Ohio and instead, support the development of programs or actions that would connect the unrepresented with available attorneys.”

So before state bars go all in and eliminate unauthorized practice of law rules to allow non-lawyers to directly compete with lawyers, something ought to be done to level the field. Stem the tide of unconscionable tuition debt from overpriced law schools.

But as they bang away on their Access to Justice drums, don’t expect a pronouncement like Ohio’s from mandatory bars in Washington, Utah and Arizona to name just three where non-lawyers already compete for business with lawyers.

Unfortunately, mandatory bar leaders aren’t listening. When they’re not holding expensive annual convention boondoggles like the Nevada Bar in Hawaii (2016), Texas (2017) and Illinois (2018), they’re busy finding new ways to make it harder for lawyers to earn a living. 

The Futures Commission Report is available here

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Credits: Bury your head in the sand, by Sander van der Wel at Wikimedia Commons;Tin Woodman, by William Wallace Denslow at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Life user Manual, by Unuplusunu at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Smug by IburiedPaul at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;3D Shackled Debt by Chris Potter  at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Second Band Drummer 5 Mono, by Dave Shaver, at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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John Lennon was right. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Not long after I ate a couple of yellow nectarines yesterday afternoon, I got a robocall. It was from the big box store where I’d purchased the fruit. 

The automated voice told me to return the nectarines I’d just eaten. There was a voluntary recall over potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Regurgitation no longer an option, timing is everything. But what the . . . . ?

So knock on wood. And thankfully, no symptoms. Yet it’s come to this. Time to nix the nectarines and the burritos around here.

Happy news.

But forget the bad news for now. Let’s make happy talk instead. Out of New York City and London, I read about a new confidence builder. It’s the ‘shiney-hiney,’ also known as the “butt facial.” And according to the news report in The Week, it’s offered this summer by enterprising dermatologists in both cities.

The fanny facial is “a combination of exfoliating peels, lasers, and moisturizers to smooth the skin on the buttocks and minimize dark spots, zits, and cellulite.One client quoted for the news story said, “before I tried the booty facial, I wasn’t as confident as I am now.”

So no kidding, a confidence builder! Could it be the next self-assurance tool before heading to court? Also see “A new take on glowing ‘cheeks'”

Unhappily, I don’t know of any dermatologists offering keister cleansing spa treatments in Arizona’s nether regions. Then again, except for those supposed confidence-building properties, around here all 4 cheeks get plenty pink without dermatological exfoliation thanks to Arizona’s hot and sweaty six-month summer.

Confident construction.

Besides, who needs confidence building here? Not, for instance, ASU’s law school leadership. Why those folks are just dripping with confidence. Despite reports of “shrinking law schools facing financial devastation,” Monday’s Arizona Republic newspaper puff-pieced ‘happy news’ about the start of construction of ASU’s ballyhooed new $129 million downtown law school. The story read like an ASU press release.

Don’t blame the nectarines but after reading, I didn’t know whether to gag or spit. Despite continuing historic lows in the number of law school admissions test-takers “a record low going back to June 2000” as reported this week by The Law School Tuition Bubble, “it’s damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” While other law schools are “paring back,”  ASU’s law school cognoscenti must be eating not reading their tea leaves. And the local paper appears to be riding shotgun in the same clown car with the law school’s dean. Good thing there’s plenty of room.

In a 2012 interview about the state of legal education, law school dean Doug Sylvester happy-talked, “I don’t think we’re in crisis.”  So why not keep betting on the come? See “Law schools imperiled but insiders keep ignoring the changing tide.Also see “Law school applications down 37 percent since 2010; first-year class could be smallest in 40 years.”

But it’s nice he’s putting the OPM — other people’s money — where his mouth is and blithely proceeding apace. Per the paper, “The law school’s dean, Douglas Sylvester, is so enthused, several times a day he pulls up a webcam on his computer that shows an aerial view of construction.”

Lawyer glut? Too much law school capacity? No worries. Sylvester thinks all that extra space at his expanded new digs — at least for now won’t mean adding more students onto a glutted legal marketplace. He’s keeping enrollments the same.

But it’ll be just dandy for adding two think-tanks; housing a law school sponsored law firm for otherwise out-of-work alumni; for offering more continuing legal education; and of course, for expanding “the degree referred to by critics as a “cash cow”, the LLM, the Master of Laws degree.

The LLM is the graduate degree popularly derided as “Lawyers Losing Money.” Writes Bryce Wilson Stucki at The American Prospect, “To critics, the degree is little more than a scam making extra cash from attorneys desperate to burnish their credentials in a brutal legal job market.” Also see “Inside the Law School Scam: LLM programsand for a much more acerbic take, see “LLM Programs are “Popular” Due to Desperation Among Recent Unemployed J.D.s”

Money in HandOf that Master of Laws Degree, George Leef at ForbesLaw Schools Peer Into The Abyss But The American Bar Association Blocks Serious Change,” also echoes the critics who think it’s the “Next scam: Law schools start “nonprofit” law firms that hire their own graduates, thus boosting their U.S. News rankings by ensuring their grads have jobs while letting their students get out from under debt in half the time. Plus, faculty can have high-paying side jobs managing things at the “nonprofit.””

So while another law school cuts faculty and staff jobs and halts first year classes to belatedly confront plunging law school enrollments, another expands and leverages its profit centers.

Growth for growth’s sake.

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Well, I won’t be splitting the Mega Millions with anyone. I didn’t win last night’s gazillion dollars. But then since I forgot to buy a ticket — I can’t complain about not winning the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Congratulations, though, to whoever it was in Atlanta, GA and in San Jose, CA who correctly picked the winning numbers of 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with a Megaball of 7. Another 20 ticket holders will win $1 million after matching all the numbers except the Megaball. For the rest of us, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

The truth is that for most of us, the odds of winning aren’t always in our favor. And especially in the case of the Mega Millions Lottery, those odds are now slimmer than ever. The field of numbers to choose from changed from 1 through 56, to 1 through 75 and the odds of winning a jackpot changed from 1 in 176 million, to 1 in 259 million. Last, the jackpot annuity payout changed from 26 years to 30 years.

And speaking of long odds, the legal profession’s own version of “Hunger Games” continues for newbie lawyers. But at least the market correction has accelerated. According to law professor Paul Campos, “Most law schools now appear to be losing money, and law school budgets almost everywhere will undergo even more severe stress as the entering classes of 2011 and 2012 are replaced by much smaller cohorts over the next two to three years.” See Progress report at “Inside the Law School Scam.”

Can this mean the long-term employment odds will gradually improve for law school students and graduates? With law-school matriculation plunging to 1970s levels and some law schools finally wising up and slashing jobs and salaries, it will still take some time.

So what’s next? Serious tuition decreases? Nah. Don’t hold your breath.

The clown car is still packed with too many chuckle heads chortling that the “perceived oversupply of lawyers is largely illusory” while the car goes 90 mph over the nearest cliff. See ASU law school to move to downtown Phoenix in time of lowest law graduate employment.”

And also see “Second-Tier Law Schools Feel The Squeeze As They Stubbornly Keep Tuition Rates High.”

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FREE CLE

Fortunately for CLE-needy lawyers on this blog who are still hunting freebie CLE before the December 31st witching hour, there’s still time. But procrastinators better hurry since one of the programs is webcast tomorrow, December 19, 2013. The usual disclaimers apply.

Employment Law Update Webinar Series – Miller Law Group

“The Year in Review and a Look Forward to 2014”

Thursday, December 19, 2013, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM PST

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/590392746

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Lawyers Mutual Insurance Group

“Anatomy of Effective and Ethical Law Firm Websites”

For MCLE (1.25 hours ethics credit) at

News & Events – Lawyers’ Mutual Insurance Company

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California State Bar

Free self-study MCLE for the Detection/Prevention of Substance Abuse/Mental Health Issues:

Self-study activity (the three listed components combined) has been approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of one hour in Detection/Prevention of Substance Abuse:

1. View our 17 minute educational video
2. Read “Getting Help When You Need It”
3. Read “Depression: The Parable of the Boiling Frog”

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photoSo scambloggers — like the comically crude “Nando” at THIRD TIER REALITY: “Profiles in Vile Academic Self Interest — and all the rest with an overheated dog in the fight are jumping on Case Western Reserve Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell’s leg after Mitchell’s ill-advised F.O.S. Op-ed, “Law School Is Worth the Money” in The New York Times last week.

Others giving the Dean what-for, included, Alison Monahan, Hamilton Nolan, Matt Leichter, Elie Mystal, Keith Lee and of course, law school critic-supreme Professor Paul Campos writing a “Response to Larry Mitchell’s New York Times editorial” as well as “Too many lawyers? Says who?”

Smiling Dog file7841336483015I suspect Dean Mitchell remains nonplussed. It’s not like he didn’t expect it.

Or that he doesn’t deserve it. Here’s his Say it Loud braggadocio, “I’m a law dean, and I’m proud. And I think it’s time to stop the nonsense. After two years of almost relentless attacks on law schools, a bit of perspective would be nice.”

Nothing new — even if the sun shines.

File:Einstein tongue.jpgMitchell’s essay espouses nothing new. It largely matches the perplexing majority views of his self-interested peer group who persistently deny the facts on the ground.

Few are ready to admit the legal profession has changed or that the means, method and cost of training lawyers must respond in kind. But then to quote Albert Einstein,“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

And fewer still are taking steps like Vermont Law School’s Dean Marc Mihalt who just announced his school is cutting jobs and preparing for changes.

photoBut in the end, there’s little substantive difference between someone with his head ‘where the sun don’t shine’ versus someone who knows better but lays it on thick anyway.

This fall, 75 percent of the 201 ABA-approved law schools reported decreases in first-year enrollment.

But don’t tell Arizona State University. Despite its own law school’s 23 percent drop in applications the past 3 years — and notwithstanding a 3-year, 38 percent drop in national Law School Admissions Test Applicants, ASU is doubling-down — eyeballing a 2016 downtown relocation and expansion into a new 6-story $120 million facility.

So Dean Lawrence hardly rides alone on the absurdity trail.

Dean Wu’s dose of reality.

At least there’s one law school chieftain willing to buck the conventional wisdom. In a “Letter from Dean Wu to the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education,” UC Hastings Law School Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu offers a bracing counterpoint to the ‘nonsense’ emanating from law school administrators.

photoHere are excerpts. First, Dean Wu states, “there are too many law students training for a J.D. in a market that is already saturated. Every objective indicator shows there is a glut of lawyers at this time.

“. . . Most law schools and most of their students are not being prepared adequately for the possibilities of serving as contract attorneys, doing highly-specialized but routine work, or adapting to other structural changes.

“. . . Law schools have opened at an alarming rate that does not correspond to actual need. The Great Recession has made that excess capacity more obvious.”

arrows,businesses,charts,graphs,rising,ups

Next he writes,“tuition is too high and has risen too quickly. It is too high from several perspectives: measured by “return on investment” for individual students, by what the “market will bear,” or by general societal perceptions.

“The amounts we charge have deleterious effects not only for the persons directly affected, but also for our institutions. It undermines support for rule of law more generally, as disaffected law school graduates encourage others to perceive of the whole structure as fraudulent.”

Third, he discusses “a great irony,” — that despite the glut of lawyers,“we actually face unmet legal need.”

Fourth, he deals with what he calls the ABA’s restrictive rule concerning online legal education.

And fifth, Dean Wu dares speak the unspeakable. He decries the “widely accepted metric for assessing quality,” the US News & World Report rankings. Good luck on that one since that steer’s out of the corral and plated prime filet from the grill.

“Sixth,” he states, “the public is demanding, and the federal government is starting to insist on, accreditation standards that measure student-learning outcomes.”

Dean Wu’s last two points deal with bar admission and testing for “actual readiness to practice” along with better public education about law schools, the courts and about what lawyers really do.

Seems the public hasn’t come very far from television images of lawyers as Perry Mason, Denny Crane, Alicia Florrick or Jackie Chiles.

Finally, with classic understatement, Dean Wu concludes with “We do need to reform.”

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9e/Sus_scrofa_avionica.png/800px-Sus_scrofa_avionica.pngTo which I add, ‘If only saying is believing’ and pigs really could fly.

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Photo Credits: “lucas the humping dog,” by H. J. Barraza, .hj barraza, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed requiring attribution and share-alike distribution; IMG_0938.JPG By HFK at Morguefile;“Albert Einstein,” iconic photograph via Wikipedia Commons, photo by Arthur Sasse, Fair use rationale in Albert Einstein in popular culture as follows: this is a world-famous photo of a non-repeatable historic event that is iconically associated with Albert Einstein; The image is discussed in the article and is needed to demonstrate Einstein’s prominence in pop culture; it is the most famous image of Albert Einstein in popular culture and is not replaceable with a free image; the image cannot be conveyed in another form (either text or another image) and is used to illustrate discussion in the article; it is a low resolution version of the image, not likely to infringe the selling rights of the photographer not has its commercial value been significantly reduced by its use herein; “2008 Spa-Francorchamps Gran Prix Stewards have been identified!!!” by Dave Jensen, SpeednutDave , at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Law School Classes-24” by Tulane Public Relations at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Sus scrofa avionica,” by Joshua Lutz at Wikipedia Commons, public domain.

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photoLaw school insiders still don’t get it. Or if they do, they won’t admit it. So a lot a lot more will have to be said about the law school bubble and about unemployed or underemployed young lawyers who can’t find work to service nondischargeable six-figure law school tuition debts.

In the meantime, the self-interested insiders: the overpaid law school deans, complaisant administrators, well-paid faculty and their enablers at the American Bar Association — will keep perpetuating the business-as-usual insanity.

photoI had hoped that with some of the college graduating lemmings finally catching on and with law school applications dropping by 27% that most if not all those self-serving mouths at the law school feed-trough would have started worrying about an eventual end to their banquet. But it looks unlikely.

Maybe it’s going to require more drastic measures. In the way federal regulators are belatedly reining in for-profit institutions who provide such virtually worthless educations their graduates can’t find good-paying jobs, the feds may have to impose so-called “gainful employment regulations” on law schools to allow them continued access to tax-payer provided direct federal student loan dollars.

“I don’t think we’re in crisis.”

As recently as last month, the new Dean of Arizona State University’s Law School,Doug Sylvester, was still selling the same claptrap in a puff-piece in the Arizona Bar’s P.R. house organ, Arizona Attorney Magazine.

“This is not a terrible career choice,” Sylvester said of those still choosing law school. “It still remains one of the best educations that anyone can have, useful in any number of fields, it opens doors for you even if you don’t want to be an attorney.” Of course, this is notwithstanding the now legendary anecdotal accounts of graduates who can’t find jobs as lawyers and who turn instead to such alternatively compensable pursuits such as ‘Strip or starve’ Carla or the “Barrister Barista” or the unemployed lawyer offering pizza, soda and advice at his folk’s pizzeria.

Presuming he’s heard the tales, they must leave optimists like Sylvester unperturbed. Like the optimist Ambrose Bierce spoke of who believes “everything is beautiful, including what is ugly,” Sylvester unabashedly spins on about how “this country is not about to stop needing attorneys in any level.”

Yes, he wistfully admits, “Maybe the days of 20 percent of the class walking out at $120,000 a year is not going to be here anytime soon, but I don’t think the days of income levels for people with JDs being triple what people with merely a BA would have are over. I think those are going to continue to be there. It just may be longer period of time to get to those levels.”

And though snow will fall in Phoenix until then, his cheery spin nevertheless continues, “I think the income opportunities and the life opportunities that a JD provides are still one of the absolute best choices you can make.”

As an almost overlooked throw-away aside, however, he says, “I do agree that the cost of law schools is the real problem.”

But the good cheer continues. Responding to a statement about “the dire state of legal education,” Sylvester says, “I don’t think we’re in crisis. I don’t think it’s true that the economy is going to fundamentally change in a way that legal education should no longer even exist.”

“The Perils of Law School.”

The much better interview contradicting  the snake-oil still being peddled by self-interested stakeholders is found at “The Perils of Law School” where Megan McArdle interviews “tenured Law Professor turned ‘Scamblogger'” and inveterate ‘bite-the-hand-that-feeds-him‘ law school critic Paul F. Campos.

Professor Campos works at the University of Colorado’s Law School where the hand-biting continues. He just authored an e-book, “Don’t go to Law School (Unless), where he argues, for instance, that English majors shouldn’t “double down” on another “useless degree” by going to law school.

As for his Daily Beast interview, it’s worth reading. He lays out some pretty good gems, even quoting Upton Sinclair with respect to legal academia’s conflicted head-in-the sand delusions, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” This guy knows what he’s talking about.

In another instance, he succinctly states the problem, “the reality is that we’re graduating 45,000 people per year for 20,000 jobs, and two thirds of those jobs don’t pay enough to justify the cost of law school, so that’s some pretty dire math. Of course people go to law school because they can’t do math, hence here we are.”

photoBoy, it must be nice to have tenure. You can keep eating all the candy you want — even after whacking your employer and their peers like so many piñatas.

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Photo Credits: “the IT job market right now. what i’m up against,” by Phil Campbell, philcampbell, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution;”mouthful,” by obbino at Flickr Via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “pants.on.fire.,” by Beth Scupham,Dreaming in the deep south, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; Poster for The Perils of Pauline (1914) in the public domain at Wikimedia Commons;”DSCN4628,” by missbrendatoyou at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution.

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