Monday, June 19, 2017

ABA accreditation regs: proposed adjunct rule rollback

The Council on Legal Education has out for public comment a significant proposed change to its regulation on the amount of teaching non-full-time faculty a law school can do.  Under current rules, there is a significant cap -- no more than one-third of all student contact hours (credits) -- on teaching by adjuncts.  This rule has been a longstanding thorn in the side of law schools which might otherwise increase the number of lawyers, judges, and other qualified professionals teaching their law students.

This regulatory rollback is an idea whose time has come.  The rollback would be a meaningful improvement in legal education.  This is so in three ways:

First, this revision is another step in what has been a salutary, and frankly rather unexpected, shift in focus on the part of the Council from input measures to a focus on outcomes.  The empirical basis for the idea that student learning is improved by a heavy-handed cap on the number of courses taught by part-time teachers is thin -- indeed, I am not aware of any law school-specific study that tests the claim that full-time residential faculty are superior to adjuncts upon criteria that matter to student learning and professional training.  By looking at outcomes (as does the other proposal before the Council this round, that dealing with bar passage), the ABA is looking at the right question -- what is the connection between teaching staff and educational outcomes?  To be sure, a career as a full-time residential faculty on the tenure track has given me confidence (perhaps, candidly, a bias) that students benefit from close quarters mentoring by legal educators who have made a professional investment in learning and improving our craft.  Moreover, I would expect that many, if not most, law schools would continue after this revision to staff their faculty with residential faculty (whether or not on the tenure-track) in order to create a learning community and to engage in serious legal scholarship with individuals who have the skills, inclination, incentives, and time to do exactly that.  However, law schools who look to the bench and bar to provide valuable courses, especially but not limited to experiential learning/skills-based education should be given that latitude. This is what a growing number of students say they want; this is what the profession is demanding.

Second, the issue of law school cost looms large.  Creating the space in which law schools can make economically sensible choices by allocating teaching credits to adjuncts whose professional circumstances allow them to teach for very little is a move in the direction of reducing the fixed costs of law schools and thereby passing the benefit onto students.  Notice that this rollback does not implicate the separate and difficult question of whether and to what extent law schools should hive off tenure-line faculty, replacing them with full-time residential faculty who come cheaper.  The capacious definition of full time residential faculty in 403 makes this issue orthogonal to the question of adjunct teaching; in other words, you can satisfy the existing 403 with tenure-track or non-tenure-track faculty.  But what an expansion of the adjunct curricular space does is to give law schools room to make an economic decision which is significant and potentially beneficial to students whose financial predicament is severe.  Once again, the shift from inputs to outputs portends a meaningful shift in the direction of law school efficiency.  Whether and to what extent this efficiency is purchased at the price of sound pedagogy is ultimately a question for the marketplace, that is, for the law schools who consider carefully this tradeoff.  

Finally, there are good reasons to believe that removing the mechanical shackles on adjunct teaching will encourage innovation.  In a world in which traditional lawyering bumps up against the dynamic shift toward more synergistic, de-siloid professional training, and in which lawyers will need and want to work at the intersection of law, business, and technology, it could make sense for an innovative law school to decide that professionals deeply embedded in this brave new world might have much to offer for their law students.  We should note the fine print in the 403 rollback:  The foundational first-year courses remain subject to the rule that full-time faculty provide the bulk of the instruction, this acknowledging (sensibly, in my view) that the curricular core should be taught by faculty members who are immersed in the serious study of law as a coherent discipline and will invest themselves in students' foundational learning.  What relaxing the adjunct rule does is to create potentially exciting opportunities for law schools to benefit in the second and (especially) the third year.  New courses in, say, law & technology, business planning, entrepreneurship, law firm organization, applied legal ethics, judicial decisionamking, etc.,  would likely profit from an experienced cadre of practicing lawyers, judges, and even folks outside the law altogether.  At the very least, wouldn't we want to see this as a natural experiment?

The ABA Council has heeded the call toward more innovation and, likewise, for revisiting command-and-control regulation.  This call should be applauded, here in the context of 403's adjunct rule rollback.

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on June 19, 2017 at 10:18 AM in Daniel Rodriguez, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (25)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ideological Diversity and Party Affiliation

Like many law professors that I know, I have long sought to advance ideological diversity in law faculty hiring.  I think that law schools flourish when academics come at problems from different vantage points.  Law professors improve our thinking and our work product when we have to contend with smart people who disagree with us.

In discussions about ideological diversity, I sometimes see people equate ideological diversity with political party affiliation.  Law schools cannot achieve ideological diversity, so the argument goes, unless there are a certain number of law professors who are members of each major political party.  And given that most (though certainly not all) law schools have more Democratic than Republican professors, the only way to achieve ideological diversity is to hire more Republican faculty.

I do not think that party affiliation is a useful metric for ideological diversity.  In order to explain why, let me first clarify what I mean when I use the term “ideological diversity.”  I use that term to mean people who approach legal problems differently.  Ideally, colleagues should use different methodologies, they should not always think that the same arguments are persuasive, and they should not necessarily think that the same outcomes are desirable.  In such environments, I think faculty are most likely to question their own assumptions, push themselves to consider different points of view, and as a result produce better scholarship.  Party affiliation is, at best, an imperfect proxy for these traits.

For example, I think it is a good idea for each faculty to have at least one faculty member who takes the law and economics methodology seriously.  And conventional wisdom tells us that L&E folks tend to be politically conservative.  But not all Republicans are L&E devotees, and not all L&E folks are Republican.  And while ensuring that a faculty has an L&E faculty member is (in my opinion) important for ideological diversity, if the L&E professor that a law school hires doesn’t self-identify as a Republican or donate to Republican candidates, then the school won’t get “credit” for increasing ideological diversity.

Or let’s take a different example.  Imagine that a law school faculty takes seriously the need to increase ideological diversity, and it decides to hire a criminal law professor who self-identifies as Republican and who donates only to Republican candidates.  This hypothetical Republican criminal law professor is a devout Catholic who is morally opposed to the death penalty, and she spends her career writing about how capital punishment cannot be morally justified.  Given the state of criminal law scholarship today, that hypothetical law professor would not increase the ideological diversity of the field, but rather would add to an already-overwhelming imbalance.  And yet the school would get “credit” for increasing ideological diversity.

I also think that it is important to distinguish someone’s personal policy preferences from their legal views.  I can, for example, think that juvenile criminal defendants should be treated differently than adult defendants as a matter of policy. I can donate money to political candidates who agree with that policy view.  And at the same time, I can think that there is no credible constitutional argument that juveniles must be treated differently, and I can criticize the Supreme Court decisions that say otherwise.  For ideological diversity purposes, the second set of views ought to matter, not the first.  It is my views on law that form the backbone of my discussions with colleagues and my scholarship.

Now, you might say that ideological diversity matters for things other than legal scholarship.  Some have said that they think ideological diversity matters so that conservative students feel as though they have someone that they can talk to who shares their political views or to help them secure jobs with conservative groups or politicians.  I’m highly skeptical of these arguments.  The “feeling comfortable” argument assumes not only that our students know our party affiliations, but also that we have created an environment that is only open and welcoming to those who share our politics.  I know that not all faculty agree with me that it is inappropriate to share your political views with students.  But I hope that we can all agree that it is incumbent on us to make sure that students don’t feel as though they can’t talk to us because of our political views.  As for the jobs point, again I think that party affiliation is a poor proxy for these sorts of professional connections.  Some conservatives don’t have any good job connections for students, and some liberals have great Republican connections.  So if it is these connections that we care about for hiring, then that should be the criteria, rather than party affiliation. (And we should, in my view, all try to cultivate relationships with people on both sides of the political spectrum so that we can help our students make these connections.)

Some might also say that something is lost at faculty meetings or in personal interactions among faculty if there are no faculty that take the other side of controversial issues.  If all faculty members are Democrats, for example, then the faculty might adopt an affirmative action policy without considering arguments on the other side.  Even assuming that affirmative action breaks down along party lines (in my experience, it doesn’t), the idea that a faculty can’t or won’t consider views that conflict with their own policy preferences strikes me as wrong.  To the contrary, I find many faculty members eager to play devil’s advocate on faculty governance issues at faculty meetings.  Being a contrarian skeptic is one trait that crosses party lines on law faculties.

Not only do I think that party affiliation is a poor proxy for ideological diversity, but I also think that there are serious downsides in equating the two.  When we say that we can have ideological diversity only by hiring people who belong to different political parties, then we are implicitly endorsing the view that law and politics are equivalent.  Law is not politics.  When law and politics are seen as indistinguishable, then the legal arguments of law professors can be dismissed as nothing more than fig leaves for preferred political outcomes.  I’ve seen far too much of that recently, and I think law professors should do all that they can to resist that view.

Different people are obviously free to use terms in whatever way that they see fit.  But I hope that I’ve convinced at least some of you that ideological diversity should not be defined in terms of party affiliation.

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on June 17, 2017 at 04:11 PM in Culture, Law and Politics, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (11)

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Master of Science in Law

On the Faculty Lounge is a report of a new Master of Science of Law initiative at the University of Maryland.  Pleased to see this.  At Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, we are beginning the fourth year of our MSL program for STEM professionals.  There have been various news items on this unique program during its short life span. Check out this podcast for a good overview.  Here is the MSL 360 blog.  And here is a Chronicle of Higher Education article which puts this and related initiatives into a broader context.

At fall enrollment, we will have had over 200 students in this program, on a full-time and part-time platform.  The students come from a variety of professional and educational backgrounds -- bench scientists, technology managers, post-docs in various fields, including biotech, engineering, nanotechnology, etc., and pre-med students.  Many are international.  They are racially and ethnically diverse, more so than our JD class. Graduates of this program have gone into terrificly interesting careers, in law firms, high-tech companies, big corporations (including interesting jobs in the sharing economy), health care organizations, consulting firms, etc.  A handful have pursued additional education, in Medical School, Business School, and Law School.

Paul Horwitz in his comment to the Maryland post inquires rightly into the purpose of these programs, adding a bit of skepticism, which is fair, given the emerging multiple mission of law schools in the difficult environment.  I will say on behalf of our program, this:

We view our MSL as grounded in a vision of professional work in which the traditional silos among law, business, and technology are eroding, and in which T-shaped professionals can and do work constructively with multidisciplinary skills.  Our MSL courses (and there nearly 50) are open only to students in this program; so we are not using excess capacity in law courses for these students.  The faculty for this program includes full-time law faculty, teachers from other departments at Northwestern, including Kellogg, our school of engineering, and elsewhere, and expert adjunct faculty.  There is ample student services and career services support.  

What is remarkable about this program for the Law School generally is that these MSL students are well integrated into the life and community of the student body.  JD students benefit from the presence of these STEM trained students; and the MSL students benefit from working with and around JD students.  They participate in journals, student organizations, and myriad intra and extra curricular activities.  We have experimented with a few courses, including an Innovation Lab, which brings MSL students together with JD and LLM students.  This facilitates the kind of collaboration which they will find in their working lives.

The future of legal education? I won't hazard such a bold prediction.  But I am confident in predicting that you will see more programs like ours -- the first of its kind, but far from the last. Other programs will fashion initiatives that are unique and appropriate to their mission and strategies.  This new model of multidisciplinary professional education is built on sound educational and professional strategies.  It is feasible, financially viable, and responsive to the marketplace.  Isn't that what we want and expect out of legal education in this new world?  Whether and to what extent one or another law school looks to an MSL simply to raise revenue -- as Paul hints in his post -- is a fair question to investigate.  But I can say about our program that its principal purpose is to deliver education to a cohort of STEM trained students who are entering a world in which law, business, and technology intersects and interfaces. I suspect Maryland's program, and others in the planning stages, have a quite similar orientation and mission.   

 

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on June 6, 2017 at 03:31 PM in Daniel Rodriguez, Life of Law Schools, Science | Permalink | Comments (10)

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Half-Sized Law School and the Cost in New Prawfs

Two years ago I asked the question: should we have fewer law schools or fewer students per school?  I think there are normative arguments for either approach: more schools means more geographic diversity but fewer economies of scale.  The legal academy has clearly chosen the "more schools" approach.  As Derek Muller documents in "The Incredible Shrinking Law School,"  law school graduating classes dropped from an average of 206 graduates in 2013 to 161 last year.  These numbers back up the myriad of anecdotal pieces about shrinking class sizes that have, frankly, lost their newsworthiness.  Meanwhile, despite some initial claims that as many as one-third of law schools would close, we've seen almost the other end of the spectrum.  Two schools have merged, one school has shut down, and one other is likely in the process of shutting down.  More may be on the way, but thus far fewer students per school has clearly won out.

One ramification of this approach has been the loss of jobs for new law profs.  As documented in Sarah Lawsky's annual census, the numbers went from annual hiring in the 150s to a low of 70 new hires in 2015.  This, too, is old news.  But I think the connection between the "fewer students" and the "fewer entry-level hires" has not necessarily been made.  Yes -- under either approach, there would be fewer law profs.  But when schools close, law professors of all ages lose their jobs.  When schools shrink, the first jobs to go are the hires that haven't yet happened.

I've blogged before about law school sustainability, and I think legal academia needs to recognize this big drop in hiring as a sustainability problem.  There has been some attention paid to the bubble of hires made in the 1970s and the effect of those hires on law schools now.  But there has been comparatively little attention paid to the folks like me who populate this blog's masthead and were hired between 2000 and 2010.  We too are something of a bubble.  And we are a longer-term problem, if only because we are earlier in our careers.

So, what should be done?  Should there be stronger post-tenure review to push out those "bubble" hires who are taking the place of a new and more productive hire?  That seems extremely unlikely to me.  Similarly, it seems more likely that schools will continue to shrink rather than close.  But there is unquestionably a "decade of hiring" effect within legal academia, and the academy should be thinking of ways to deal with this generational disparity.  Otherwise, we are depriving our students and our field of contributions from the next wave of academic innovators.

UPDATE: Rick Bales made the same point here.

Posted by Matt Bodie on May 15, 2017 at 10:47 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Happy Family Day Weekend

Mothers don't need to "do it all". We all need to balance it all, families, governments, markets. I am reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah) newest book, a short love letter to girls and mothers is how I read it, called Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. The first of her 15 suggestions is not to let motherhood define you completely, show your daughters that you are more than just a mother, that you are a person with passions, interests, ideas, ventures. This resonates, especially here in Southern California where often times I feel the pressures of having a career even more acutely in relation to the many many moms around me who (mostly) choose not to work. When my middle daughter was in kindergarten I had to miss the Mother's Day breakfast in her class (I was back on time for the "real mother's day") because I was giving a talk at ALEA, held that year in Princeton. I asked the kindergarten teacher that my dear husband (who thankfully is also an academic and we both have the privilege of flexibility and control over our work schedules, but we also both travel a lot for talks and conferences) take my spot at the breakfast. The teacher adamantly refused, saying no, mother's day is only for mothers. In other words, better that the kid sit there without a loving parent than challenge gender roles. I remember this vividly because it was one of the only times I lost my temper at an otherwise excellent school. I went to the administration and protested loudly about how in the 21st century families come in all forms and shapes - some have two moms, some two dads, some single parents, some, lo-and-behold, are dual-career. I added that around the world progressive places were changing the day to Family Day. My husband was eventually allowed to join the breakfast and my daughter was happy. And now I am happy that their school celebrates Family Day instead of mother's day.

Posted by Orly Lobel on May 12, 2017 at 04:42 PM in Books, Employment and Labor Law, Life of Law Schools, Orly Lobel, Workplace Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Of bar passage, opportunity, and collective effort: a perspective on a very difficult issue of great importance (and about which reasonable people can and do differ)

In an effort to turn heat into some light, let me try my best to clarify my thinking on an issue that has engaged many well-meaning law profs (which is not to say that all law profs so engaged are well-meaning; I'll leave it at that).  No special knowledge or authority from me of course, but just one law prof's opinion:

1. I remain convinced that the effort on the part of the ABA Section on Legal Education to strengthen standards for, and thus the accountability of, law schools is on the whole a good thing.  Indeed, it is the responsible thing to do, given what it is a very difficult, and often quite tragic, predicament facing law students with unconscionable debt, thin employment prospects at least in the short term, and not the credential necessary to enter into the legal profession as a lawyer.  So, the effort is an important one;

2. Furthermore, this effort is not a racist one, regardless of occasional, irresponsible comments along those lines.  Does it have a disparate impact on racial minorities? Acknowledging the pertinence of the question, that would seem a rather severe stretch.  Ask yourself: If the bar exam itself is not a violation of the Civil Rights Act because members of racial groups pass in much lower numbers (itself a matter of serious, pressing concern and unacceptable in a profession that rightly aspires to be inclusive in all aspects), then how is it that a standard for bar passage that applies across all law schools would be such a violation?

3. To be sure, one doesn't have to reach disparate impact law to still worry about the effect of this heightened standard on opportunities for members of minority groups.  I, too, worry about that.  On a professional level.  On a personal level.  From the perspective of someone who would not be where I am today without structures of access, commitment to inclusion at my law school and large, access-focused public university in southern California and, yes, affirmative action.  But I worry equally, as I wrote with Dean Craig Boise from Syracuse several months ago, about the deep predicament and often dire circumstance of disadvantaged students coming to law school with a promise of success, only to find themselves without adequate support, deep in debt, and essentially forgotten by law profs and administrators whose interests are shaped by other considerations and demands.  Regulation is surely no panacea, but the well-meaning effort to hold accountable law schools through the imperfect, but best available, mechanisms of the current bar exam is an important one.  And legal educators would do well, in my view, to engage in constructive, data-driven, appropriately humble conversations about how best to achieve the fundamentally congruent goals of opportunity and educational adequacy;

3. Thanks to the efforts of many educators and associations, there is progress in this direction.  And we should both note it and applaud it.  For example, the California bar examiners should be commended for heeding the call of California law deans and others to look anew at the bar cut score and to the ways in which the current structure is inhibiting access and opportunity.  This is not just a "California problem," but is a problem more generally for our professional nationally;

4. The continuing expansion of the UBE (along with attention to a more consistent cut score nationally) promises to help law students, this by broadening opportunity to look at many more law schools across the country, those who are able to provide a comprehensive curriculum without the barriers of entry that come from "teaching to the bar;"

5. The AALS, under Judy Areen's wise leadership, has undertaken a remarkable "Before the JD" project, to gather information about why, other than the powerful impact of cost and debt, law school has eroded so significantly in popularity.  I hope and expect that we will learn much useful from this study, including how to think about outreach and inclusion for pre-law students of color;

6. Arizona and Harvard's decision to offer the GRE as an alternative test to the LSAT is intriguing, and it would seem promising at least on a preliminary glance.  Both law schools maintain that this broadening criteria for admission will help with access.  Moreover, if it destabilizes to some degree the large impact of USNews insofar as the LSAT becomes less of a barometer, that could and should help with diversity as well.

Alongside these very constructive reforms, danger looms large.  The potential defunding of the Legal Services Corporation to opportunity is a serious threat on a more global level. So too is the threat to the Interest Based Repayment program which has helped public interest grads in meaningful ways.  

But not to meander to far from the point:  The energy and momentum behind regulation and oversight of law schools whose track record in assisting their graduates of color with their academic and employment efforts is troubling is a positive development.  I joined a letter  from the AALS deans steering committee asking the ABA Section to take some more time to look closely at the data and join in a conversation that might yield a regulatory outcome that would be even better and would garner more support.  That is not inconsistent with the position in favor of more accountability.  And, indeed, the revised standard on the table is to me clearly better than the status quo.

 The important problems of access and opportunity by students of color -- including first generation college students like myself and many of my students, here at Northwestern and at other law schools at which I have had the privilege of teaching -- cannot be escaped or evaded by resisting efforts at regulation and accountability.  Such evasions are fundamentally unfair to the individuals whose lives and careers are at stake and often in peril.

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on April 25, 2017 at 01:42 PM in Daniel Rodriguez, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The hubris of the unknowing

Whittier is closing its law school, as all of us in our corner of the academic and profession universe now know.

I do not work, and have never worked, at the Whittier Law School, whether as a faculty member, a senior administrator, or in any other role.  I am not an alumnus, nor am I affiliated in any way with the university.  Therefore, whatever I might think about the law school's capacity to survive or even thrive in this difficult climate, I would not presume to know nearly enough to opine about this issue in any public fashion.

But this does not appear to deter various pundits -- Prof. Stephen Diamond most recently.

What makes knowledgeable professionals so confident that they would quickly rush to judgment?  Whittier's sudden closing is obviously a tough thing for current students and faculty.  Perhaps the decision will be unraveled in the face of public pressure or via littigation.  Yet there seems precious little basis to jump into a matter whose complex issues are essentially private, despite the efforts of many in and around the school to make this into a public spectacle.  Perhaps bloggers should neither aid nor abet these efforts.

The hubris of the unknowing. 

 

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on April 23, 2017 at 03:06 PM in Daniel Rodriguez, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (51)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

law reviews, the law schools that house them, and the academy that depends upon them

It's common for legal academics to complain about law reviews. Some law professors might defend the model of the student-edited journal against the differently flawed model of peer-edited journals owned and operated by for-profit firms. But I would estimate that nearly zero legal academics go through their careers without some frustration about something that occurred in publishing a law review article -- the submission and selection process, editing, footnotes, etc. -- and no one would characterize the current model as perfect.

I want to consider the model's flaws by asking what could we, rather than the editors, do? 

We could, I think, look to and at ourselves.


I am completing my first year as law review advisor. I have been struck, for no reason other than my previous ignorance, by the student editors' commitment to their work, to their journal, and to the contributions they make to the field by their efforts. Rarely do our frustrations come from the students’ apathy or lack of effort. 

I have also been struck by how little structure there is for the students' work. From what I can tell, there isn't much communication among journals[fn1]; there are minimal spaces for discussion among journals about shared issues; there are few easily available shared forms (e.g., for publishing agreements with authors); and, much to my shock, there is neither an AALS-sponsored committee or interest group nor even a listserv for law review advisors. Executive editors at law reviews serve for one year, their last in the law school, and then move on. Their incentive is to do a good job with their volume using the tools, bylaws, and processes handed down to them from the previous editors. They make incremental improvements to the journal, enjoy the camaraderie of their peers under the shared burden of their work, and, hopefully, get to partake in the fruits that the law revuew credential promises. They have very little incentive to think big thoughts about the institutions and processes of law reviews. 

By contrast, the faculty and administrators who depend upon the reviews to publish and distribute their scholarship at remarkably minimal cost to themselves and their libraries have every incentive to think big thoughts and do something. And yet they/ we too rarely do.

A quick example. In the past year, the journal I advise faced a question about its internal operation and another about the royalty rate one of the commercial legal research databases offers to other law reviews. Figuring out how to address these issues required more than internal deliberation — the journal needed information about what other journals and schools do. There was neither institutional support among the law reviews nor any from AALS to gather this information. To their credit, the law review editors did their best to contact editors at other schools to try to gather information so that our school’s journal could figure out the best way to address the issue and the best way to negotiate with the database. But the information is incomplete and somewhat random — not just noise, but certainly not data, gathered at the expense of great labor. If something like this arose for law school administrators or faculty, they would have numerous resources to which to turn to learn best practices. The students had none.

My goal here, and in some follow-up posts, is to try to get legal academics and law schools to take greater responsibility for the publications that provide the lifeblood of what we claim is of paramount importance, scholarship.[fn2] For understandable reasons, the students do not have the time or incentive to create enduring structures and processes that can help tame and rationalize some of the irrationalities of law reviews' selection and editing of academic work and their operation. Some of the sources of our complaints regarding law review practices can be attributed to this lack of structural support and oversight. It’s up to administrators and faculty to support the students’ work.

[fn1] There may well be significant communication among peer journals, especially those at the very top, via existing institutions like The Bluebook or existing social networks from college and high school that leads elite law review editors at different schools to know each other. These institutions and networks are far less prevalent for editors at well-regarded regional schools. Yet the law reviews at these schools (and, really, all law reviews) provide crucial labor in identifying scholarship that elite law reviews then poach. Viewed more broadly, they also provide essential means for new and non-traditional forms of scholarship and scholars to see the light of day. The law review universe is an ecosystem whose parts depend on each other, but like so much of the legal academy (and legal practice), it is highly stratified.

[fn2] I recognize that scholarship’s degree of paramount-ness, and whether it should be paramount at all, is contested; but under the current and still quite functional law school model, we are housed in universities, virtually all of whom at least claim that scholarship is one of their key products and the preeminent means to evaluate faculty.

Posted by Mark Fenster on April 6, 2017 at 02:31 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (23)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

NYTimes, please

Elizabeth Olson writes a baseless article.  Kudos to Michael Simkovic for spelling this out here.  From her grand perch at the NYTimes and as a seasoned journalist who writes frequently about law school, she should know better.  Legal education has plenty to deal with in the media and blogosphere without rookie errors adding fuel to the fire.  (*This expresses absolutely no view about the controversy at U Cincinnati, the details of which I am no position to evaluate, as I suspect neither is the Times).

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on April 2, 2017 at 10:18 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Law's New Frontiers: An On-line Symposium

Among the gaggle of recent books on law schools and the challenges to the legal profession, two 2016 books, both from Oxford University Press, stand out for what they teach us about the emerging frontier of law, technology, and professional regulation.  Richard & Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions:  How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts and Gillian K. Hadfield, Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy.  

They point to an interesting future -- dynamic, unstable, and conspicuously multidisciplinary -- and make the none-too-subtle point that professional education must adapt to a new landscape.

Over the next three weeks, a group of commentators, from the U.S. and abroad, will offer their reflections on the themes animate in the Susskind and Hadfield books.  (You'll note that Phil Weiser (former dean, Colorado) happily jumped the gun, with his interesting post from late last week).  I hope that these posts, and the comments they generate, will help advance this very important conversation about how we can move constructively forward as lawyers and legal educators into a world in which technology and the shifting infrastructure of information and expertise propel adaptation (or even failure).

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on February 8, 2017 at 10:58 AM in Information and Technology, Life of Law Schools, Symposium | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 03, 2017

What a law school world without U.S. News might look like

First, many thanks to Howard Wasserman for inviting me to guest blog. It has been a terrific experience.

Many people in legal education criticize the U.S. News rankings in a variety of ways. I don't want to revisit those criticisms. The question I want to discuss is not whether USN could be better, but whether law schools would be better off without USN. Many people pine for a world in which USN's rankings did not exist at all.

USN rankings are important to schools primarily because they're used by prospective students and employers (including judges), and to a lesser extent by other constituencies such as alumni/ae and prospective faculty members. It is no secret that many schools make operational and strategic decisions based at least in part on the likely effect on the school's USN ranking. As a school's USN ranking declines, its costs go up because its admissions yield usually declines and its tuition discount usually goes up.

USN is, among other things, a proxy for law school prestige. In many other disciplines, prestige is measured more directly by scholarly productivity or, especially in STEM areas, by grant money received. If USN rankings disappeared, there would likely still be a prestige hierarchy of law school. My guess is that most knowledgeable people in legal education would sort law schools by prestige into perhaps four groups: a handful of super elites; another 15 or 20 elite schools; probably 20 to 30 schools regarded as marginal; and the remaining 150 or so deemed middling. My guess also is that there would be relative agreement about that sorting, with the occasional hotly contested bubble school. So, what might the law school world look like if USN's rankings disappeared?

Dental schools actually beat back USN's attempt to rank them. The dental school deans simply and concertedly refused to provide USN with the data that would allow it to create a rankings system. Moreover, dental schools, which tend to have low prestige within their universities, typically do not bring in much research money and their scholarly productivity lags behind that of other disciplines.

Thus, there are no rankings and very little differentiating of dental schools by prestige. When dental schools' admissions collapsed, what did the lack of rankings and prestige mean for the schools?

Roughly 80% of dentists go into solo practice or enter into office-sharing arrangements with other dentists. The prestige or ranking of a new dentist's dental school had no effect on most students' employment prospects. Prospective students choosing a dental school understood that a school's prestige or lack thereof would neither help nor hurt their employment chances.

Prospective dental students cared primarily about tuition cost and the school's location, generally preferring a school close to their current home or one in a location in which they wanted to practice. Dental schools within the same geographic market thus competed largely on price. Employment prospects were seen to be mostly a function of school location and the quality of education was perceived as being essentially comparable across schools.

But lack of prestige and the absence of a ranking system hurt dental schools at universities that were or wanted to be prestigious. Over half of the dental school closings were attributed in part to the dental school's lack of prestige and therefore lack of mission fit.

If USN disappeared, many law schools would be in the same situation as the dental schools. Most acutely, the vast majority of schools (those other than the 20 or 25 that likely would retain some prestige independent of USN) would likely have to compete for students on price and location, as many or most of the currently unranked law schools do now. Schools in desirable locations would compete well compared to those in less desirable places, but would still have to compete mostly on price with comparably located schools. Competing on price is always difficult to sustain because other schools can usually lower their prices, as well.

Moreover, for law schools at a university that cares about prestige, an increase in USN ranking is a salient demonstration to the central university that the school is being run consistently with the university's values. That consonance is a key factor in whether a school is likely to get more resources from its university and, as dental schools can attest, can be important in universities' decisions on whether to close a school.

Moving up in USN, then, may be a game worth winning, even if it is not a game worth playing. Schools that win are likely to attract more and better (by traditional measures) students and to get higher net tuition per student. They're also more likely to gain more resources from their university. A law school world without USN might not be the ideal world many think it would be.

I discuss the importance of U.S. News and prestige on pages 70-76 here.

 

 

Posted by Eric Chiappinelli on February 3, 2017 at 12:08 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Two things law schools should focus on that will help them stay open and thrive

Law schools are in many ways self-contained. Unlike some other disciplines (e.g., Business) we don't educate undergraduates in addition to graduate or professional students. Our dean is not the dean of a school with many, and disparate, departments. We have our own building with our own library. We have our own admissions and professional development offices. And we usually have relatively autonomous registrar and financial aid services dedicated solely to the law school and housed in our building. We are not unique in these attributes; medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and perhaps other units are similarly self-contained. But our insularity may be one reason why law schools may be indifferent to the outside world in ways that work against our long-term viability.

As dental education can attest, and as last Wednesday's Inside Higher Ed/Gallup report on provost attitudes (here) supports, insularity can be deadly. But the experience of dental schools suggests at least two things law schools, and especially their leadership, can do to increase support, which may help some schools to remain open and may help other schools to thrive.

One thing is to ensure that the law school's programs and its focus, especially high-profile initiatives, are consistent with the university's mission. I am not suggesting that a school radically change the nature of its enterprise to align blindly with the university  most current fascination. Nor should a school cease to decide for itself in the first instance what its programs and focus should be. But I am suggesting that, when a school considers new initiatives, it explicitly consider how they fit with the university's overall mission.

More critically, I am suggesting that an important task for the dean is to demonstrate, repeatedly, to the university the ways in which what the law school does is consonant with what the university values. At least one dental school,  at Northwestern, was closed in part because the university concluded that the school was not aligned with the university's mission.

Last Wednesday's report on provost attitudes reinforces the importance of aligning the law school with the university and, as important, ensuring that the university realizes that fact. Ninety percent of all provosts surveyed (and 98% of provosts at public doctoral universities) said they plan to increase their emphasis on funding programs based on alignment with mission. A law school that finds itself in need of university support, either to expand or, more likely, to avoid even more cutbacks than the law school has already made, is obviously in a much better position to request that help if the university has confidence that the law school truly furthers the university's mission and its values. That confidence is most effective if it is built up over time.

A second thing law schools should focus on is engaging with constituencies outside the law school. Alumni/ae and the local and state bar and judiciary are obvious constituencies, but there are other important groups, frequently overlooked by law schools. Non-lawyer state and local political figures can be important to law schools, private as well as public. If the law school has an active clinic, greater school outreach to the communities the clinic serves can help the law school. This kind of non-lawyer support typically would take the form of vouching for the law school's value to the community, which is usually (though not always) part of the university's mission. Dental schools were often connected with the communities their clinics served, and those communities brought pressure on the university to keep the dental school open, though that pressure was not always successful. In the case of Georgetown's dental school, the dental clinic's community of patients was quite vocal in its support of the school and quite critical of the university's decision to close the school. In the end, the school was closed, but the community's protests made that process more public and more contentious than it otherwise would have been. Dental schools, in general, did not maintain close relations with their alumni/ae or with their local dental community and thus did not have those constituencies to call upon for help when the question of closing the school was on the table.

Perhaps the most important and under-recognized constituency is university administrators beyond the president and provost. The CFO, the head of university advancement, and the deans of the university's other schools and colleges are all key figures and the law school dean should make sure those administrators know what is happening in the law school and how the law school fits in the overall plan of the university.

I discuss these issues on pages 60-70 here.

Posted by Eric Chiappinelli on January 31, 2017 at 12:18 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some of the things law schools do that probably won't help them stay open (but some might be good things to do anyway)

As law schools struggle with fewer resources they are increasingly focused on activities either designed to increase revenue directly or designed to attract students who might otherwise go elsewhere. My sense is that at some schools, especially those that see themselves as vulnerable to being closed or merged with another law school, these initiatives are also taken with one eye on the central administration, the idea being that such actions will at least show that the law school is doing everything it can to alleviate the decline in JD tuition revenues.

But these efforts are unlikely to help a school stay open. In some instances, though, schools should be devoting time, effort, and resources to these initiatives because they will redound to the benefit of their students and the institution.

One such area is the curriculum. There are very good reasons for schools to have a continual, or at least frequent, review of the curriculum, but attracting significantly more students or improving the reputation of the school in the university's eyes are not among them. Especially in the professional school setting, I believe most prospective students are unlikely to be attracted to a curriculum they perceive as innovative or out of the mainstream unless that school can credibly provide evidence that is approach has measurable benefits for employment or for practice.

University administrators, I suspect, would look askance at a professional school that did not periodically review its curriculum, but I doubt that a school that touts its curricular revisions gains status with administrators for that reason alone. Certainly, in the dental school turmoil, curricular reform played no part in predicting which schools would close and which would survive.

Another area that some schools focus on as a way out of their problems is fundraising. That focus is almost always misguided. Except for truly transformational gifts, fundraising is unlikely to keep a school financially afloat. Moreover, donors, especially those capable of making major gifts, tend to shy away from giving when the purpose is to help a struggling institution. Rather, they prefer to give to schools they perceive as already successful; a school that uses gifts to springboard to even greater success. Dental school deans increased their fundraising as a way out of their problems, but even after years of efforts, gifts remained less than 5% of the schools' total revenue. Development work is something schools should devote time and effort to, but they should understand that it is unlikely to be a source of unrestricted funds that can replace lost tuition revenues.

Perhaps the two most common initiatives that schools consider as ways to replace traditional JD tuition dollars are distance education and non-JD programs, which include certificate programs and degree programs that lead to the LLM (or another Masters degree). Both of these approaches resonate with provosts, but neither is likely to help the law school significantly. Here, there is not a good analogy to the dental education crisis. That crisis happened before online learning existed and, while there is post-DDS education, most dental schools did not explore starting or expanding those programs, probably because it would have entailed hiring new faculty members and developing new courses.

For both distance education and non-JD programs, the siren song for institutions is increased revenue with very little additional cost. In executing those programs, though, experience suggests that costs are larger than schools anticipate. And, in the law school setting, the potential revenues are probably less than schools optimistically imagine, in part because the market is more limited than one might hope, and in part because competition is stronger than one might anticipate.

I discuss these issues in more detail on pages 49-60 here.

Posted by Eric Chiappinelli on January 26, 2017 at 09:26 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Now that some law schools are really closing, what will make other universities pull the trigger?

After years of speculation, law schools are actually closing and that is big news. Most saliently, Indiana Tech announced that its law school will close at the end of this academic year at a loss of $20 million (here), a story the National Law Journal named as one of its top five stories of the year on legal education (here). Charlotte School of Law's continued existence is in significant doubt because it can no longer participate in federal student aid programs. (here and here). Hamline University closed its law school with more stealth, but no less certainty, by giving or selling it to William Mitchell College of Law, a cross-town competitor (here and here).

It is tempting to extrapolate from these schools and predict that universities will be most likely to close law schools that (a) are start-ups, (b) have low admissions criteria coupled with poor bar passage, (c) are not the most prestigious school in a crowded regional market, or (d) are losing considerable amounts of money. But the experience of dentistry, where 12% of schools closed -- equivalent to 24 law schools -- suggests that these factors will not be the crucial ones in predicting which law schools are at risk of closing.

In both dentistry and law, a tectonic shift and contraction in the profession led to a collapse in the admissions market and a crisis in the professional schools. That crisis caused several universities to close their dental schools.

But only one of the seven dental schools to close was a start-up. Oral Roberts University's dental school had been in operation for only five years when the board made the decision to close the school. None of the schools had admissions policies that were significantly more lax than schools that remained in operation. None of the schools had a significantly worse track record in regard to students' performance on the national dental licensing exams than other schools, although the performance of dental graduates overall fell considerably during the crisis in dental education.

Rather than being at generic institutions, most of the closed dental schools were located within prestigious universities. Northwestern, Georgetown, Emory, and Washington University all closed their dental schools, as did Fairleigh Dickinson and Loyola University in Chicago. Perhaps paradoxically, one of the reasons cited for closing Washington University's dental school was that it was the high-end dental school in its region.

Most of the seven shuttered schools were losing money, but not all of them. More critically in terms of predicting closure, the great majority of dental schools nationally lost money, yet only seven were closed. In fact, two of those, Oral Roberts and Fairleigh Dickinson, were closed in large part because of financial trouble within the university, not the dental school.

I discuss the crisis in dental education and the closing of dental schools in more detail on pages 21-40 here.

Posted by Eric Chiappinelli on January 18, 2017 at 04:49 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

AALS: A Learned Society still Learning!

I am happy to align myself 100% with Paul Horwitz in his magnificent post (a Jerry Maguirean Manifesto, perhaps?).   Yes, yes, and again yes, to everything he says.

Having insisted, with Mark Tushnet, that the AALS is a trade ass'n advocating vigorously on behalf of its member schools, Paul (and Orin, too) rightly insist that the organization can and should function as a learned society, this for the benefit of the hard-working law profs whose skills, energies, and commitments are essential to our collective mission.  To be sure, "can function" doesn't mean "does function" and the extensive constructive suggestions about to improve both the performance of the AALS and, in particular, the annual meeting, should be welcome by anyone -- especially by the volunteers who after all configure nearly every one of the panels and also the meeting's theme -- who cares about our learned profession.  Let's all get to work on making the meeting great . . . nope, I won't go there.

Where I would like to pivot next, in some other posts, is how the association's role as advocate for its member law schools can be reconciled with two important considerations: (1) the welfare of the community of law profs who work within these schools; and (2) the problems that exist and persist within AALS member schools.  Paul raises shrewdly just this point when he raises the question -- more of a challenge really -- of how the AALS can advocate energetically for law schools qua law schools while also advocating on behalf of legal education and the values for which our educational endeavors stand.  These two complex considerations can reveal tensions in AALS mission, and also its performance.  We would do well to unpack, and not elide, these tensions.  

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on January 17, 2017 at 07:19 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The AALS is a Trade Association. There, I said it.

Paul Horwitz has a series of very thoughtful posts, each raising some important issues about the AALS and constructive suggestions for reforming the annual meeting.  There are some great ideas in here and as someone who has been (1) very involved in the work of the ass'n over many years, and (2) styles himself as a reformer of sorts (if only a "moderate" one), I find these criticisms and recommendations highly valuable, and some spot on.  Let's make the annual meeting great (again? once and for all?)

But let me tackle here an issue that undergirds at least a couple of these posts, as well as other AALS conversations in the past, and that is what exactly the association is.

It is an association of law schools, not an association of law professors.  Always has been.  Perhaps there is an important place in the academy for an organization of law professors (other academic professions have such associations), but that is not the mandate, the purpose, or the function of the AALS.  (No need to take my word for it; you can get the skinny from the charter up on the AALS website).  Prof. Mark Tushnet got us nicely riled up many years ago when he set out as the theme of his presidency, the idea of the AALS as a learned society.  Whatever power this had as a normative prescription, and as an exhortation to improve the academic programming of the annual meeting and other AALS conferences, it created a trap to which Paul and other distinguished law profs have fallen into, which is seeing the AALS as an entity whose primary purpose is providing professional development opportunities and good intellectual content for a hungry professoriat.  Worthy endeavors indeed (hence the great suggestions for improving the meeting), but AALS functions principally, and by design, to reflect and represent the interests of member law schools.  To be sure, it needs to be ever careful about ensuring that it effectively represents the interests of a very diverse group and, moreover, that its governance structures and institutions provide for adequate input so as to make it more likely that this trade association is advocating for causes and issues that are in the collective interest (as democratically determined) of its member law schools.  That all said, it ought not to shy away from its fundamental mission of advancing the interests of its member law schools.  (Where, of course, there are collective interests to be advanced and where the AALS has a comparative advantage in responsibly advancing them).

While the AALS surely ought to focus a good part of its attention and resources on providing meaningful opportunities for law professors to engage, to exchange scholarly and pedagogical ideas, and to develop mechanisms for improving the welfare of faculty members -- and in that sense Tushnet, Horwitz, et al, are quite right to push it hard to improve the meetings and meeting content -- we do our member law schools a disservice to evade and avoid squarely acknowledging its function as a trade association and an interest group.  The real question to me is how to develop a strategy so that, in its functioning on behalf of law schools, it is rigorously professional, data-driven, articulate, and not manifestly self-serving.  Therein lies the challenge; and a challenge built into the very purpose of the association.

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on January 10, 2017 at 01:02 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monday, November 07, 2016

Best writing practices

Hi all, it’s good to be back at Prawfs for another guest stint. I’ve written for this site more times than I can count, but this is my first time guesting as a Texan, having just joined the faculty of the University of Houston Law Center, where I’m also serving as research dean.

In that latter capacity, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to encourage productivity both for others and for myself, and this has led to some reflection on best practices for optimal writing. I’ve found that working on scholarship is the easiest part of the job to put off. Teaching and service typically happen on regular, no-exceptions schedules—classes and meetings require your presence and start and end at specific times—while writing can almost always be delayed until some theoretical future time of idealized productivity.

So in this initial post, I’ll share three of the leading suggestions I’ve read about how to maximize writing productivity based on my admittedly casual perusals of the surprisingly vast literature on this topic (the existence of which leads me to believe I’m not alone in often finding it challenging to stay on-task with respect to writing). The question I’m most interested in is whether these general best practices for writing translate into good practices for legal scholars, and/or whether there are other techniques folks have found helpful.

All this follows after the break.

First: write early. Whether there is an ideal time during the day to write is to some extent idiosyncratic. Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway were morning people who cranked out the words when they got up and finished by afternoon. Robert Frost and Hunter S. Thompson were nightowls who got their best work done later in the day. But there is some evidence that most people are best served by writing earlier on, particularly soon after waking up. For one thing, to the extent that writing requires mental focus and will power, those qualities are at their peak earlier in the day, especially the morning before other tasks and distractions have the chance to sap our energy and attention. Neuropsychologists have also found that the part of the brain associated with creative activity—the prefrontal cortex—tends to be the most active earlier in the day, so that if you’re thinking through issues or working out a particularly difficult conceptual problem, you’re more likely to succeed after your morning coffee than your evening dinner.

Second: write regularly. Whether you get your best work done in the dark of the earliest morning or of deepest midnight, one universal nearly all productive writers agree on is: find a pattern you like and stick to it. Part of this is about efficiency. Making writing a regular part of your life makes it increasingly likely that you’ll actually write, turning it into an expected and standard part of your day rather than something you have to spend time and effort making time for. But there’s also the related point that writing regularly makes what can be a challenging task easier. Haruki Marukami unsurprisingly put this much more eloquently than I could in describing his own routine: “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s an act of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

Third: write often. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the late, great Roger Ebert, who said something along the lines of “I’ve developed a reputation as the fastest writer in town. But I’m don’t write faster than others. I just spend less time not writing.” This is certainly closely related to having a regular schedule (if you commit to writing every day, you’ll likely be writing more often just by virtue of committing to doing so on a daily basis). And this one rings true to me for intuitive reasons. The analogy seems that writing is like a muscle. Exercise it frequently and it gets stronger. Fail to do so and it atrophies.

The question for this audience is: Do these notions, most of which come from looking at novelists or essayists, hold true for legal and/or academic writers as well (I’m not sure that Marukami’s self-mesmerism is something that would be helpful in writing scholarship)? There are a number of potential distinctions: scholarship requires research and entails a different sort of creativity (persuasive argument as opposed to something more akin to pure creativity). And since writing is only part of the professor’s job, is it reasonable to expect to have a regular writing schedule given the need to prioritize students and the competing demands of service? Or does that mean that picking and insisting on a schedule is all the more important?

Finally, consider one alternative approach I’ve observed in some colleagues, which I’ll call the binge-writing model. The notion here is that given the inherent disorder of the academic schedule, it’s not really possible to write regularly, and perhaps not even that effective. I have colleagues who sincerely believe that writing is best in concentrated marathon chunks when blocks of time open up (or if they don’t, in a mad series of sleepless nights). The idea, I suppose, is that this kind of fugue-based approach produces more interesting and coherent work than plodding along gradually, adding a bit at a time.

Again, it’s good to be back and Prawfs and I look forward to thoughts on these or any other best writing practices.

DF

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on November 7, 2016 at 11:29 AM in Life of Law Schools, Science, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Letters of recommendation

I come from a family that overwhelmingly worked in blue-collar jobs. Growing up, my father was a stagehand and my mother was a homemaker. In addition, very few members of my (large) extended family went to college. Having grown up without a lot of professional mentors myself, I've since worked to seek them out. Now that I'm a law professor, one of my favorite aspects of the job is the opportunity to mentor students. Maybe that's why I consider helping students find jobs to be part of my own job description.

One of my colleagues recently asked me if I would write a letter of recommendation for a student that did above average in two of my classes (i.e. A-, B+) but was in the bottom third of the graduating class. He seemed surprised when I responded that I am willing to write a letter of recommendation for any student. I'm curious to know if I am the outlier. Would you write a letter for the student so-described? Some further thoughts on my own approach after the break.

When a student asks me for a letter of recommendation, I invite them to meet with me to discuss their career goals. I find that these meetings help me get to know the student a bit better and often provides useful color for my letters. It also affords me the opportunity to ask students to name three qualities about themselves that they would like me to comment and to discuss the possible basis for these comments. For example, if they'd like me to comment on how bright they are, perhaps they'll note that they received a very high grade in my course. Or if they want me to comment on their public speaking, they'll remind me that they served as a group spokesperson during some of our in-class exercises. To my mind, this discussion serves multiple purposes. Particularly for my 1Ls, it is a continuation of our work in class, where I constantly seek to teach them to connect facts to law to reach legal conclusions. It also helps me flesh out the substance of my letter. Finally, it helps to set expectations about what I can and cannot say. I do make clear to students that they should consider whether I'm the best person to write a letter for them based on our prior interactions, their performance in my class, and the their other alternatives. But if I'm the best they've got, I work to write them the best letter I feel comfortable with.

My colleague worried that he would debase the value of his other recommendations by writing a letter for any student that asks. As a result, he said that he refuses to write anything other than letter of unqualified praise. By contrast, I think that there are always positive attributes that I can comment on and I believe that even our weakest students deserve my help to get a job. Apparently, I'm more willing to write a broader range of recommendation letters from those providing "the strongest possible recommendation" all the way to encouraging the employer to "consider" the applicant.

What do you think? Am I failing to adequately safeguard my reputation?

 

Posted by Matthew Bruckner on September 27, 2016 at 02:10 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, September 26, 2016

What’s Happened With Academic Job Market Vitas?

            What is up with the CVs that academic job market candidates are circulating this year?  Something seems seriously off the rails, and I hope folks will take note and consider fixing it for the future.

            This year’s job market CVs are a weird mash-up in which job market candidates are shoving to the front anything that seems to them relevant to an academic job, and then pushing down below a variety of other information including most of a person’s professional career.  Work experience, publications, presentations, all are broken into strange, small, and often unfathomable categories.

            Although the intention seems to be to put one’s qualifications for an academic job up top, the real effect is to make it extremely difficult (and in some cases impossible) to piece together the candidate’s professional career.

            Take note:  I’m not the only person thinking this is bizarre.  Our entire hiring committee is scratching its head, and I’ve yet to talk with any hiring committee member who believes it makes any sense.  (I’m confident a contrarian will surface here in the comments, blogging being what it is, but still, market candidates, take note.)

            I’m not sure who started this trend, or who is promoting it as the right thing to do.  But here’s a pro tip:  it is not helping you, and folks should stop it.  Indeed, my free legal advice is to think about getting to schools that are seeing you an old-fashioned vita, the kind that actually tells people how your career has proceeded.

            That’s what a CV is.  A summary of your professional life.  It’s designed to let readers know what you have done. It is fine to rework the CV to emphasize aspects of your career that favor the particular job for which you are applying.  But it is quite another thing to design it in a way that hides essential information.

            Schools want to know what you have done professionally.  They want to be able to make logical sense of your career and education to date.  They very much want to know if you have professional experience, including practicing law.  Indeed, I do not know one school where having actually worked in some practice setting is a negative.  It is almost always a positive.  It is true that we are hiring PhDs without this experience.  (And we are even hiring non-PhDs without this experience, though I for one am dubious of candidates who neither have PhDs nor some serious practice experience, even if only for a couple of years.)

            When I look at a CV I want to know about someone’s education, about their professional positions, and about their publications.  Divided into those three categories and those three alone, not subdivided into tiny pieces, so that I can make sense of it.  I don’t want clerkhips in one place, practice in another, and random teaching gigs yet somewhere else.  I want publications to all fall in one place on the CV.   And sure, I’m happy to learn about presentations – though I don’t care that much – or about other things that may be worthy of mention.  But if I can’t get the basics, I’m frustrated and not likely to be impressed.

            And, again, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

            So I’d suggest we let go of the latest trend, and go back to the old-fashioned way with CVs.  I’m all for innovation, but not when it is a step backward.

Posted by Barry Friedman on September 26, 2016 at 07:14 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (25)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Learning Outcomes as the New Strategic Planning

As any law school seeking to comply with the standards of the American Bar Association's Council on Legal Education knows Standards 30, 302, 314, and 315 have been revised to require law schools to adopt learning outcomes and then to evaluate their curriculum for compliance.  Whether or not this process will actually improve legal education is not a topic on today's table.  But it is a process with a vocabulary and best practices and an increasingly number of law school specific sources of information.    By now, most people know about a still exceptionally helpful book, Student Learning Outcomes and Law School Assessment by Professors Lori E. Shaw and Victoria L. VanZandt.  The purpose of this post is to suggest that regular Google searches are likely to turn up more  law school specific sources of information.

Likely to be a "go to" for many schools is the new Law School Assessment Blog  by Vice Dean Larry Cunningham at St. Johns University School of Law.   Not only does the blog contain information to translate what can sometimes be impenetrable educational jargon into plain English, it also provides some very easy to adapt models for evaluating a curriculum in terms of it's compliance with the learning outcomes a law school has set for itself.

The next phase of this process will be to develop strategic plans based on these assessments.    As this article by Hanover consulting explains, the  process is somewhat different than traditional law school strategic plans that consistent of aspirational statements across the spectrum of law school activities with very little specific focus on outcomes assessment in the curriculum.  These plans are still relevant and important, but they are not what's needed to comply with the new ABA standards.

 The current project is to develop plans more narrowly focused on curriculum and the results of the assessments that each individual law school are now conducting.    Time will tell the extent to which either learning outcomes or these plans will improve the  the law school experience for students, but regardless of outcome, we will all be creating these plans and it is certainly helpful to have emerging sources of information.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on September 22, 2016 at 02:53 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Election Day and law schools

The following comes from Beau Tremitiere, a 3L at Northwestern-Pritzker School of Law, the EIC of the Law Review, and the organizer of the Election RAVE Campaign. Administrators, faculty, and/or students interested in finding out more can contact Beau at (beau.tremitiere@nlaw.northwestern.edu). Thanks to Friend-of-Prawfs Jim Pfander for passing this along.

Law faculty may want to know about a burgeoning nonpartisan national movement, the Election RAVE Campaign, which encourages law students to participate on election day in the 2016 Presidential Election. Northwestern Law has cancelled all classes for this purpose, and at least five other law schools have taken the day off. Many others are encouraging professors to reschedule election-day classes individually. By encouraging students to spend the day volunteering at the polls, law faculty can provide an enriching learning experience, reaffirm our profession’s commitment to public service, and significantly reduce the risk that voter suppression, intimidation, tampering, and honest mistakes will disenfranchise large swaths of voters.

 

We believe active participation in our elections should be part of American legal education, offering experiential learning to enrich the classroom discourse and contextualize abstract concepts. Moreover, active engagement may enable law schools to satisfy their institutional commitment to public service. By dispatching volunteers into our local communities to assist elderly, ESL, and otherwise at-risk voters, we can improve our schools’ standing within a sometimes skeptical public. Finally, your students could be the difference between a free, fair, and peaceful election and one that further entrenches distrust and conflict. Law students offer problem-solving skills and familiarity with technology that can shorten wait times and prevent honest administrative errors; in many instances, their mere presence can deter would-be troublemakers.

 

We recognize that rescheduling class is an inconvenience, but among your students are future professors, deans, judges, legislators, and governors. By rescheduling one day of class and encouraging your students to be active civic agents, you can empower, inform, and inspire this next generation of legal, intellectual, and political leaders.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 21, 2016 at 06:22 PM in Law and Politics, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Learning from Some Great Educators--President Freeman Hraboski

One of the things I learned on the way to getting a Ph.D. in higher education is that very little research on how college and graduate students learn ever makes its way into law schools. And almost no one does large scale, generalizable research on law school learning—probably because there isn’t any money to fund it. In law, at best, we now have schools studying their own students retrospectively to identify factors that might correlate with bar success or high grades--but these studies tell us nothing about what we could be doing differently or better in the classroom.  And yet law schools are changing how we teach.  

My neighbor up the road, Prof. Deborah Merritt  of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, recently proposed some explanations for the slight rise in MBE scores after a period of steady decline, one of which was "improved preparation." And by that she didn't just mean direct bar preparation but changes in teaching methods that involved more feed-back and more frequent assessment.  This change  is an example of using research on effective learning done in other areas of higher education and applying it to law. 

To start the discussion, I'd like to share the work of a visionary educator, Dr. Freeman Hraboski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County whose institution sends more African American men to medical school than any other college in the countryThis TED talk reflects how he is using the research generated by one of the most generously funded topics in education today, increasing the number of students who succeed in STEM fields.  See here, here, and more accessibly, here.  This is antithetical to many STEM fields which pride themselves in weeding out, not encouraging, students.  There may well be some things for us to learn as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on September 13, 2016 at 06:22 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Disentangling Correlation from Causation in Addressing the Contemporary Challenges of the Law School Curriculum

The disconnect between the actual curriculum of law schools in the United States meeting the ABA Standards for Accredidation and the multiple calls to reform that curriculum in order to create “practice ready” lawyers and increase bar passage is national in its scope and has led to considerable tension both in and out of the academy.   I wrote this piece , Not Your Parents' Law School, last February to put the balance of classroom and experiential learning in context, but the on-going calls to increase bar passage, lower costs, cut a year out of the curriculum, and increase hands-0n skills instruction continue to create a climate of considerable dissonence.   If that wasn't hard enough, we are trying to address these issues in an environment where everyone involved has not just their own opinion, but their own facts.  Baskin Robbins wouldn't launch a new flavor based on  evidence equal to the paucity of reproducible research that supports either the claims about the scope of legal academe's problems or the proposals for solving them.  

Over the next weeks I will highlight the facts in dispute and address this disconnection and dissonance in a way that questions correlative explanations of low bar passage and decreases in employment opportunities.   By the end of the month, I hope some readers will feel comfortable wondering whether we are putting too much emphasis on simple correlation and will be asking questions about what legal academe, and any other interested party, can do to first accurately describe the problem, then identify causative factors, and finally develop evidence based (and assessable) strategies to mitigate it. (Spoilers, it’s going to involve the help of experts who do math).

Equally, I look forward to sharing sources that can shed light on the question of why the increase in skills instruction hasn’t resulted in an increase in employer satisfaction. Spoilers, the last point will involve reading an excellent piece by Dean Wendy Collins Purdue of the University of Richmond School of Law that discusses this employer dissatisfaction as global.

And I'm still going to write about Zika. 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on September 4, 2016 at 04:56 PM in International Law, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bard Signing In

Let me start my third visit to Prawfs Blog with warm thanks to Howard Wasserman and to my fellow bloggers for the work they have done keeping this forum going. As the public information about Professor Markel’s murder becomes increasingly lurid, I’d rather focus on his work than on the circumstances of his tragic death. And from the beginning his work on this blog was to provide legal academics a forum to talk to each-other about matters of interest to them—whether it was highlighting a new study, commenting on a case or talking about legal academe.  

As a brief self introduction, I’m starting my second year as the very proud dean of the absolutely amazing University of Cincinnati College of Law. Every day I hear something about what one of our faculty, alumni, staff or students are doing and I’m proud to have a role in sustaining the framework that allows these things to happen at our historic law school. So I’m going to talk about legal education. But as an engaged health law academic specializing in ethical issues in public health, the unchecked spread of Zika in the United States is also going to be a topic of discussion. Thank you for having me. It is a real honor to be included.

Posted by Jennifer Bard on August 31, 2016 at 09:37 PM in Article Spotlight, Blogging, Culture, Current Affairs, Dan Markel, Howard Wasserman, Information and Technology, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Overview of ABF Research (Part I): Criminal Justice, Legal Education & the Profession

In my previous post, I highlighted some ABF research that was on display at LSA. I’m sure I missed several other ABF-related panels at the conference. Even so, the LSA panels reflect only part of the ABF’s broader research portfolio. Let me mention some other projects. At its core, the ABF is an empirical and interdisciplinary research institute, and thus most of our research goes beyond purely doctrinal or theoretical questions to analyze “law in action,” as the legal realists put it. In this and the next set of posts, I’ll describe a few clusters of our research that reflect this focus on how law operates in society and on the ground.

Criminal Justice

Since its founding in the 1950s, the ABF has had a strong research focus on criminal justice. One of the ABF’s first projects, funded in large part by the Ford Foundation, explored the processing of offenders from arrest to prison. Led by Frank J. Remington, this study culminated in a scholarly edited volume (Discretion in Criminal Justice), as well as a larger publication (A Plane for a Survey) that highlighted the many areas of discretionary decision-making in the criminal justice system (thanks to former ABF doctoral fellow Meredith Roundtree for pointing me to this storied history).

More recently, ABF scholars have been continuing the tradition of analyzing criminal justice issues. Several are conducting research on the social and political implications of mass incarceration. ABF Research Professor and Northwestern Sociologist John Hagan and his co-author Holly Foster (Texas A&M) have been documenting how parental incarceration of non-violent offenders has had tremendous deleterious effects on children. With support from the National Science Foundation, the ABF held a White House Conference on this important topic. Similarly, Traci Burch (ABF/Northwestern Political Science) in her recent award-winning book (Trading Democracy for Justice) has shown the pervasive political and social consequences of mass incarceration, and how the criminal justice system has helped reproduce massive inequality.

Another area of ABF research related to criminal justice is Jim Heckman’s work on early childhood interventions. Jim, who is a U. of Chicago Nobel laureate economist and an ABF Research Professor, has been investigating how investments in early education and healthcare for disadvantaged children from birth to age 5 can have significant long-term effects on boosting graduation rates, improving health outcomes, and reducing violent crime. In a sense, Jim is studying ways to break down the school-to-prison pipeline that has been preoccupying many criminologists and lawmakers.

Legal Education & the Profession

In a previous post, I mentioned the ABF’s signature “After the JD” project, which continues the Foundation’s hallmark work on the legal profession. Directly connected to this line of research is more recent work on legal education. Beth Mertz (ABF/Wisconsin Law) has long been studying the relationship between language and the law. In recent years, she has been examining how law schools operate as a site for the training of lawyers in the language of law. Her award-winning book, The Language of Law Schools, draws on deep ethnographies to explain the important role of language in the socialization of law students.   Beth is following up that earlier project with new research on the post-tenure experience of U.S. law professors.

In a similar vein, ABF Research Professor Steve Daniels has been conducting research on many aspects of the legal profession and legal education. Following up on his recent book (co-authored with Joanne Martin) about the Texas plaintiff’s bar, Steve is currently working on changing patterns within legal education. With support from the Access Group, Steve will be building on his experience as a consultant for the ABA’s Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education to explore how law schools have been responding to the current challenges facing legal education.

Criminal Justice and Legal Education & the Profession are just two historically prominent areas of ABF research. In my next post, I’ll describe other more recent areas of research.

Posted by Ajay K. Mehrotra on June 7, 2016 at 07:47 PM in Books, Criminal Law, Culture, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 03, 2016

ABF Research on Display at LSA

In my previous post, I provided a broad overview of what the ABF is, namely, a research institute dedicated to the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law, legal institutions, and legal processes. In this post, I was planning to describe some of the ABF’s hallmark research and current projects. But, for those who are attending the Law & Society Association’s annual conference in NOLA, an even better way to learn about ABF research is to attend one of the many panels and events that include ABF scholars. Let me mention a few.

Since its founding in 1952, ABF scholars have been studying nearly all aspects of the legal profession. Among the most well-known early studies, the work on Chicago lawyers led by Jack Heniz has become a canonical part of the socio-legal literature on the legal profession. The ABF dedicated an issue of our 2012 newsletter “Researching Law” to Jack’s scholarship.

In recent years, we’ve followed this research tradition with one of our best known projects: “After the JD” (AJD). This bold and ambitious project has been following the career trajectories of a cohort of roughly 5,000 lawyers from the class of 2000. This longitudinal study has gathered a tremendous amount of quantitative and qualitative data on legal careers, with some fascinating findings about career satisfaction and the stubborn persistence of inequalities within the profession. For those who are attending the LSA conference, you can learn more about the AJD study at a panel on Sat. morning (8:15 in Marriot Salon H-G, 3rd Floor) on “Longitudinal Studies of Lawyers’ Careers.”

Throughout its existence the ABF has had strong ties to the LSA and the broader socio-legal community. That connection is also on display at this year’s conference, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LSA’s flagship journal, Law & Society Review. There are two panels on the journal, one with past editors which includes Shari Diamond (Northwestern Law/ABF) held on Friday afternoon (2:45 in Marriott 41st Floor, St. Charles Room), and a second panel immediately afterwards on the shifting field that the journal represents with ABF Research Professor Terry Halliday, and ABF Faculty Fellow Sida Liu.

Last but not least, the Life of the Law podcast will be hosting what is sure to be an entertaining and riveting session on “LIVE LAW New Orleans - Living My Scholarship” (ticketed event on Friday night) that is chocked full of speakers with ABF connections.

Next week, I’ll circle back to other ABF research that isn’t on in display at LSA but that should be of great interest to PrawfsBlawg readers.

Posted by Ajay K. Mehrotra on June 3, 2016 at 12:20 PM in Life of Law Schools, Peer-Reviewed Journals, Research Canons | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So, What Exactly is the ABF?

Thanks to Sarah and Howard for re-inviting me to post about the American Bar Foundation (ABF). Many PrawfsBlawg readers may already know what the ABF is and what it does, but since I became the new ABF Director back in the fall, I’ve learned not to take anything about the ABF for granted. So, let me begin by describing what exactly the ABF is.

Since I’m a historian, let me start with a brief history. The ABF was founded in 1952 by the American Bar Association (ABA) to be an independent research institute for the empirical study of law. The founding fathers (and they were unsurprisingly all men) were leading ABA members, including then ABA President Robert G. Storey. They all believed the organized bar ought to have a research affiliate that studies issues relevant to understanding how the law works on the ground.

But more importantly they also believed that the American legal profession had a public duty to help improve the “machinery of justice,” as they put it. And one way to do that was to create a research center dedicated to the objective and independent study of law, legal institutions, legal processes.

Over time, the ABF has become one of the premier research institutes for the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law. Although it is often confused as being a part of the ABA, the ABF has consistently been an autonomous and impartial research institute. Since I’m also a tax law scholar, let me point out that the ABF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit; whereas the ABA is a 501(c)(6), which means it is a non-profit “commercially-oriented” organization. The ABA, as the official voice of the American legal profession, is permitted to lobby government and engage in political activity, whereas the ABF is not. Contributions to the ABF are also tax-deductible, but those to the ABA are not.

More colloquially, most people who know something about the ABF often describe it in a number of ways. For some, it’s a kind of law school without law students, or something akin to think-tank focusing on law. Think of it as a cross between the Russell Sage Foundation or the Institute for Advanced Study and the Rand Institute for Civil Justice. Given our roots in the legal profession, the ABF is not quite a pure science research institute, but neither is it purely an applied ABA “lawyer’s workshop.”

Like the other research institutions mentioned above, the ABF has a research faculty that consists of a group of full-time researchers, mainly social scientists and legal scholars, and a group of joint-appointees from Chicago-area schools. This group of research faculty conducts empirical and interdisciplinary research on law, writ large. In my next post, I’ll describe in greater detail some of the classic and recent ABF research projects.

Posted by Ajay K. Mehrotra on May 31, 2016 at 07:22 AM in Blogging, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

George Mason University School of Law Reported to be Renaming Law School

Per Nina Totenberg's twitter:

More information is here at the Wall Street Journal. This comes at the same time as two gifts, an anonymous $20 million and another $10 million from Charles Koch.

Posted by Amy Landers on March 31, 2016 at 02:35 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, March 04, 2016

Core values and trade-offs in legal education

Let me start by thanking Howard for inviting me to participate this month as a guest blogger. This spring, I talked about the challenges facing legal education as part of two campus visits as a dean candidate. For what it’s worth, I wanted to share a redacted version of my comments. They point to what I see as generic challenges to the law school business model.

Mostly I wanted to discern core values that are necessarily pitted against each other in a law school: (i) the long-run interests of students; (ii) the law school’s corporate interests; (iii) the University’s institutional interests; and (iv) the claims of external constituencies. The dean’s role is to manage these trade-offs.

My second goal was to begin responding to some of the negative claims made of late about legal education. I think that we have been too bashful in responding to criticisms.

This was my first time doing this, so I’m very interested in any thoughts you might have about any aspect of these issues, on- or off-line.

Cheers.

Posted by Jose Gabilondo on March 4, 2016 at 01:06 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I, for one, welcome our new robot Law Lords.

Friends, I've been a terrible guest-blogger so far this month. My apologies. Life (and teaching... mostly teaching) intervened.

But one of the things I'm teaching is an experimental yearlong project-based seminar called the Policy Lab (link is somewhat obsolete), where students spend the first semester learning about an area of legal policy, and the second designing innovations to work on it. And for this first run-through, students have been thinking about legal technology and access to justice. They've learned about things like predictive coding, multijurisdictional tech-driven delivery of legal services, and artificial intelligence, and they've had virtual as well as physical visits from experts and people making waves in the area, including Dan Katz, Jake Heller, Stephen Poor, Tim Hwang, and Craig Cook, as well as more local folks---and now they're working on designing (though not fully implementing) technological tools to provide legal knowledge to nonprofits, as well as policy analyses of, e.g., the ethical implications of such tools. I'm really proud of them.

I'm also a confirmed parking and traffic scofflaw, who once beat a parking ticket with a procedural due process claim, and also once beat a speeding ticket by getting testimony about the laser evidence chucked on the good-old Frye standard (back in grad school, when that standard applied in California). So imagine my delight when I saw this story: "A 19-year-old made a free robot lawyer that has appealed $3 million in parking tickets". A Stanford kid, Joshua Browder, has written a webapp that (as far as I can discern without trying it out or seeing the code) quizzes people about their parking tickets (U.K. only, alas) in natural language, invokes what is sometimes called an expert system to discern a defense for them, then provides an appeal for them to file. Obviously, I have lots of questions and thoughts about this after the fold.

First, is this legal in the U.K.? How do folks feel about the unauthorized practice of law on the other side of the pond? And what about California? On some aggressive interpretations of UPL rules, we might think that the awesome kid is practicing British law in California. As this kind of service, and the services provided by companies like RocketLawyer, LegalZoom, and the like become more customized, and interact with people more like lawyers interact with clients, the UPL questions are going to get harder and harder. The natural language aspect of the parking ticket thing feels to me more like legal practice: you can easily imagine a client trusting an interactive, English-speaking app more than they might trust a more web 1.0 or 2.0 system of drop-down menus and such. Are the regulators going to quash this (especially now that he's looking to expand to New York), or are they going to get out of the way?

Second, to me, this level of legal tech innovation seems like an unmitigated good. Is there anyone scrutinizing the behavior of parking enforcement authorities right now (given that it's far too small-fry in most cases for lawyers), or is the parking ticket system in many cities nothing but taxation by another name, buttressed by the total lack of any real opportunity to challenge them? Browder might look closer to his temporary home, given that San Francisco is kind of notorious for its abusive parking tickets and they've been resisting the use of other automated systems to squeeze out a droplet of due process from the machine. As I've argued previously on this blog, nickel-and-diming people to death with penny-ante law enforcement directed at ordinary day-to-day behaviors is a threat to the kind of ideas underlying the rule of law, and maybe software can fix it where lawyers can't.

Third, to fellow prawfs: as folks like Dan Katz and Oliver Goodenough keep reminding us, this is coming to the rest of the law. Right now, the advances seem mostly to be looming over the discovery process, with stuff like predictive coding threatening to be the second level of the inexorable process of stripping the legal profession of the rents generated by document review (where outsourcing and offshoring were the first), as well as to relatively small-scale stuff like parking tickets, leases, etc. for small players. But as the technology gets more sophisticated, it has the potential to supplement or replace lawyers in more areas of law. (Right now, the most hubristic claims are being made by an early-stage startup called Ross... but what happens if those claims turn out to be even sort-of true?) What can we as law professors do about it?

One option is to get a lot better about teaching our students to be more comfortable with technology, as users as well as creators, even to the point of trying to teach them programming and machine learning. That's a strategy I'm interested in exploring further, but I also have some skepticism about it. It doesn't obviously follow from the danger of technology supplanting lawyers that the lawyers who will be best positioned to survive are those who are capable of operating in both domains. Whether that's true depends on the shape of the ultimate market: will it actually demand people with both legal skill and technological skill (perhaps to translate from one to the other), or will it favor people with pure technological skill plus a handful of really good lawyers to handle the most high-level work? My crystal ball isn't sharp enough to tell me, though I'm encouraging my students to tech up to the extent possible in order to hedge their bets. But what else can we do?

Posted by Paul Gowder on February 24, 2016 at 06:55 PM in Life of Law Schools, Science, Teaching Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Best Time To Submit Is Precisely 10:40 on Feb. 23

The Yale Law Journal just released some interesting statistics about the submission season for the past 3 years.  Some highlights:

  • In the aggregate, the heaviest week of submissions is Feb. 15-21.  The second heaviest is Feb. 22-28
  • The number of submissions in early- to mid-March is still significant
  • A majority of offers are made in "March or later"
  • Submitting too early can hurt your chances, at least if you are not giving them an exclusive window of a couple of weeks and another journal makes an offer first

So if you don't plan to submit for a few weeks, cease your angsting, at least for now.  (If you really feel the need to angst, head over to the Angsting Thread About Angsting Threads).  

Also relish in the fact that, with 16-20 pieces per Volume, you have about a 0.08%-0.10% chance of landing a spot!  That's better than the Powerball!

And now back to writing about election law.  I'll see you soon.  

[Update: Precisely one minute before I submitted this post, Richard posted a much more thorough and thoughtful analysis of the Yale Law Journal's data. So go to his post if you want some real substance on these issues.] 

Posted by Josh Douglas on February 8, 2016 at 03:40 PM in Law Review Review, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reply All

When I was first starting out in the gig, one of my mentors gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me. Don't write replies. Even if your paper is essentially a response to someone, don't frame it that way. Build the response into a larger claim.

But there was more to it: definitely respond. Engagement is key. The conversation is what matters. Disagree, amplify, make subtle distinctions. Just don't frame the paper around the reply.

I've followed this advice and given it myself. Yet I've never really considered. Why not reply?

My sense--and I'm fine being wrong about this--is that the advice is driven by the submission process. By pitching the paper as a response to someone, we give the appearance of a limited contribution. The law review submission process is a black box on its best days. So it makes sense for scholars, especially junior scholars in search of tenure, to avoid submission formats that won't play well with the acquisition editors. Maybe that's always good advice, whether in a law journal or peer review situation. Or maybe the "no reply" rule isn't widespread. Frankly, I don't know.

But I welcome thoughts. Please and thank you.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 11, 2016 at 02:34 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Mentors

Thanks to Howard and rest of the Prawfs crew for having me.

Starting this semester, I'm transitioning into a administrative position. As of this month, I hold the very sexy title "Acting Associate Dean for Faculty." Fitting for a Skakespearean trained associate dean like myself.

One of the eggs in my administrative basket is our junior faculty mentoring program. Program is a heavy word. Like a lot of schools, much of our mentoring happens on the fly. Don't get me wrong, we mentor hard; it's one of the things our faculty does best. But I'm wondering if we can improve things. When things are going well, tinker with them, right?

For me, the guiding principle of mentoring is always to remember that it's not my career. Too often mentors try to recreate themselves. Which is, of course, not surprising: if it worked for me, surely it will work for you. The problem is that being law professor is an individual sport. While there is collective wisdom to build on, ultimately we have to be ourselves in our teaching and writing. And that's often the most daunting part when you're just starting out in the gig.

But I'm eager to hear thoughts, concerns, suggestions. Please, thank you, or sorry, as the case may be.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 7, 2016 at 10:00 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 21, 2015

We're Requiring Administrative Law in the First Year, We're Requiring Administrative Law in the First Year!

As you might have surmised from the title of this post, we at Boston University School of Law are, as of this year, requiring all first year students to take a course in Administrative Law.  The course will be three credits (compared to the four credit courses we require in Property, Torts, etc.) and, just to reiterate, it will be called "Administrative Law."  Not Legislation or Leg-Reg or Reg-Leg or Regislation or Legulation or Fundamentals of the Regulatory State or Thinking About Public Law or anything like that, but Administrative Law.  Personally I'm excited to be teaching it (we teach it in the spring semester, so it starts in a few weeks) because, among other things, it signals the importance of understanding regulation and the other things that agencies do to being a practicing lawyer.  I also like to imagine that we are the first school to do this (require straight-up Administrative Law in the first year, that is), because it lets me walk around with a swagger bragging about how we're the first school to require Administrative Law in the first year, but at the same time I sort of doubt it's true.  But on the other hand, maybe it's true!!!  Is it true?  Or are there other schools out there that are doing it or have done it?  And if so, how is it going/did it go?

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 21, 2015 at 11:36 AM in Jay Wexler, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Parental Leave

At the beginning of the baseball season this year the New York Mets' second baseman, Daniel Murphy, missed the first two games of the season for the birth of his son, invoking the league's "parental leave" policy.  He and his wife faced some absurd criticism from closed-minded people who suggested that his wife should have had a c-section before the season began.  Murphy in many ways had the last laugh, helping the Mets reach the World Series through some torrid hitting during the playoffs; as reporter Wendy Thurm tweeted during the playoffs, "Daniel Murphy proudly took paternity leave & now look how well he's performing at work."

I can't hit a baseball very far, but I, too, am taking advantage of my employer's parental leave policy.  (So I'm kind of like a major league baseball player, right!?  Childhood dream fulfilled!)  My wife and I welcomed the birth of our son, Harrison, last April, and this semester I am not teaching any classes so that I can enjoy flexible scheduling while caring for him.  I'm still required to provide "100% work" through research and service (hence my midnight post to Prawfs), but this scheduling allows for a wonderful amount of bonding and family time during these precious first few months of his life -- especially because my wife, as an elementary school teacher, had to go back to work in August.  (Insert your own comment here criticizing the paltry amount of leave most women in this country receive after giving birth.  It is absurd.  And unlike many other people, we were fortunate in that my wife was off during the summer right after he was born.)

At first I was not sure I was even going to invoke my school's new parental leave policy.  I thought, "I love being in the classroom, and plus, I had the summer to spend with him."  But a wise colleague convinced me otherwise.  She pointed out that, if I were at a law firm, I would have hardly any opportunity to take much leave.  In some ways, the flexible scheduling of my job as a professor is a form of compensation.  And I'll never have these first months back with him.  Plus, it is important to set a precedent for this new policy to create a culture that accepts and understands the importance of this time and encourages others to take advantage of it.

So my son and I have had a blast spending time together.  In September we caught a ballgame in Cincinnati.  Most Tuesdays find us at the library for story time.  We go on long walks.  I've read him a good smattering of both law review articles and Go Dog Go!  (For some reason law review articles seem to put him to sleep!  He much prefers books written by Mo Willems, our favorite children's book author.)

What's the point of this post?  To demonstrate that it is -- or at least should be -- admirable for someone like Daniel Murphy (or me!) to take parental leave.  To advocate for more law schools to offer broader parental leave policies if they do not already do so.  And to suggest that more professors (including fathers) should take advantage of those policies.

To be sure, I am excited to g0 back to the classroom in January, and I'm confident that my time away has made me even more refreshed to teach.  These breaks help to make us better teachers and scholars -- and allow us to live a fulfilling life where family comes first.  It is also important to model to our students that it is possible to have a meaningful work-life balance, and that sometimes major events -- the birth and care of a child -- take precedence over everything else.

It's been a really great experience....mostly.  What's that sound?  Oh, it's time to go change a diaper! 

Posted by Josh Douglas on November 10, 2015 at 12:09 AM in Life of Law Schools, Sports, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Perfect Letter of Recommendation

I often find myself staying in the office late and coming in on weekends to finish writing recommendation letters for students. Writing these is often one of my favorite parts of my job, especially when I am writing for a student whom I know well and in whose future I really believe. Often, my letters will be long - 3-4 pages is normal for me - and filled with details. The more I can tell the reader about a student, the better. I try to make each recommendation into a story about a person's life, hopes, and dreams. Though we only see a snapshot of a person in a letter of recommendation, that snapshot is all about convincing the reader of a life's trajectory. I really enjoy writing such letters.

I'm less knowledgeable, however, about what the market for letters of recommendation looks like. I have no idea what kind of letters my colleagues write - how long they make them, how many details they include, how they begin, or how they end. I have no idea if they agree to write a letter for everyone who asks, or if they turn down some requests. And I have no idea if they focus only a student's performance in class, on attributes of the student about which they learn outside of class, or on a combination of both. Obviously, different norms and standards apply for different purposes. And different kinds of letters are appropriate for different students. All of that is given. 

Still, what does the market for a strong letter of recommendation look like? What should the letter's length be? Should the law professor writing it include information about him- or herself too, and if so, what kind of information is most pertinent? And at what point should a letter go beyond academics to focus on the applicant's other attributes? The Internet, of course, is awash with recommendation advice. Here is some advice that I am cribbing from a website about writing the perfect letter of recommendation: 

1. Explain how you know the applicant. 

2. State your own qualifications. Why should the reader be interested in your recommendation? 

3. List the applicant's exceptional qualities and skills.

4. Emphasize key points that you want the reader to note on the resume or application. 

5. Give your value judgment of the applicant and his/her qualifications and potential. 

6. Give specific examples to back up what you have said in the recommendation letter.

7. Don't be too brief. One or two short paragraphs are death. But be succinct. Make every word count. 

8. Make the ending strong without overdoing it. Undue praise can be viewed as biased or insincere.

9. List your contact information if you are willing to receive follow-up correspondence.

10. Proofread! The letter of recommendation represents both you and the applicant.

Whenever I read such advice online, it seems too general to me - and much too obvious. And it doesn't provide any sort of comparative perspective. The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard provides more specific recommendation advice here (it is geared toward TAs and fellows). The Atlantic ran a story a year or so ago about the art of writing the college recommendation letter here. Other advice abounds all over the Internet.

However, I'm curious to hear what law professors think: Is there something unique about the letters that legal scholars write? Is there something unique about letters written for those seeking legal employment (as opposed to other kinds of employment)? What is your recommendation-writing process like? And what, if you have an opinion on the matter, makes for the perfect letter of recommendation? 

Posted by Eugene Mazo on October 20, 2015 at 09:44 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Teaching Like It's 1801

Let's think about law school teaching. Start by watching this video, A Vision of Students Today. (Please bear with me and suspend your objections that it's not specifically about law school).  It was created by Kansas State Professor Michael Wesch (Cultural Anthropology) and his 200 students. And it's a pretty powerful indictment of education structured in a way that students are passive receivers of information. I realize (hope) that these students' experience is not a perfect fit for law school (they are undergraduates, and their average class size is 115), but I still think this has some lessons for us as law teachers. (For more from Professor Wesch, you can watch his TED Talk about moving students from "knowledgeable" to "knowledge-able" and the ability of students to create and share knowledge here.)

Our goal is to instill knowledge, skills, and values in our students in a way that encourages them to continue to learn on their own and that enables them to transfer what they learn to new settings (i.e. later classes and their professional careers). Educational theorists are very clear that active rather than passive teaching environments are best able to accomplish that goal, and that students who understand the relevance of what they are learning are more likely to retain it.  Technology can be a tool in accomplishing that goal (the first chalkboard is attributed to a Scottish headmaster in 1801), but what's most important is what happens in the classroom -- interaction, discussion, reflection, engagement.  Do our law classrooms look much different from the Harvard of Christopher Columbus Langdell, or the Kansas State classroom in the video?

The Socratic Method, at its best, involves active student engagement. But how often does it degenerate into a lecture punctuated by occasional questions? And even when excellently deployed, in a large classroom it is only an active experience for the students being called on -- we rely on the rest of the class to participate vicariously by imagining how they would be answering the questions.  I'm not arguing that we should ditch it -- but do think we need a large dose of alternative teaching methods.

Consider the critique offered by the video:

  • in large law school classes, do we know our students' names? (tips to help are here)
  • do our students do the assigned readings from their multi-hundred dollar casebooks?
  • do we make it clear how what we teach is relevant to their future lives and careers?

Consider, too, the results of the students' self-survey (and this video was made in 2007 -- it can only have gotten worse since then):

  • they read far more on web pages and Facebook than in books
  • they write far more for emails (and text messages) than for classes
  • they deal with multiple competing time demands and believe they need to multi-task
  • they worry about the impact of their student loan debt

If our law school walls could talk, what would they say? The good news: there are a number of teaching options that get us beyond nineteenth century methods.  My next blog entry will provide some ideas and resources that I hope will be helpful. 

 

Posted by Beth Thornburg on September 27, 2015 at 09:00 AM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Get "PRACTICE READY." Get set. Go!

The ABA’s new standard 303(a)(3) instructs law schools to require graduating students satisfactorily complete “one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours.” This standard (along with the subsequent standard 304) goes on to explain that the requirement can be satisfied through a simulation course, a law clinic, or field placement (externship).  This experiential requirement seems aimed at fulfilling the ABA House of Delegates Recommendation 10B from the 2011 Annual Meeting of the ABA that legal education implement curricular programs “intended to develop practice ready lawyers including, but not limited to enhanced capstone and clinical courses that include client meetings and court appearances.”  The California Bar has gone even further, requiring that graduates take 15 “skills” credits in order to be admitted to practice in the state. These enhanced experiential requirements are responsive to calls from all quarters – from the Carnegie Report and the MacCrate Report to Brian Tamanaha’s book and the scam-blogosphere – that law schools revamp their curricula in order to ensure that their graduates are “practice ready.” 

Creating experiential learning opportunities for students is a great idea.  But mandates that law schools produce “practice ready” graduates seem incompletely thought out.  Fundamental questions about “practice ready” graduates remain and will continue to plague the system:

  • What does “practice ready” mean in a world where the practice of law involves widely disparate types of work?  
  • What sorts of skills, efforts, and methods are required to make a law student “practice ready”?  Is it ready to be a first-day lawyer? Or are schools somehow supposed to produce graduates that can function as a second or third year associate or as an unsupervised solo practitioner on day one in practice?
  • Empirically, precisely what sorts and amounts of “practice ready” deficiencies exist now and what must be done to remedy these?
  • Epistemically, how can you judge anyone’s “practice readiness” to begin with?
  • Theoretically, can (or should) “skills” instruction be separated from learning legal “doctrine”? After all, today’s heralded doctrinal goal of teaching students to “think like a lawyer” was originally promoted as skill training!  For excellent food for thought on this topic, see Linda Edward’s fantastic article, The Trouble with Categories: What Theory Can Teach Us About the Doctrine-Skills Divide , and a review/summary of it here.
  • Even if we could teach practice readiness and we could somehow measure and assess it, are law schools really the best places for lawyers to learn practice skills?
  • And even if law schools are the best places for “practice readiness” instruction (whatever that means), what are the costs – opportunity costs and out-of-pocket costs – that will be incurred by schools and by students from the re-allocation of resources toward improving graduates’ practice-readiness? 

Basically, although many clamor that law schools need to increase their focus on “practice readiness”, we still don’t know if “practice readiness” instruction is merited, if is it ever achievable (measurable, teachable, possible) in law school, and whether it is worth the cost.

These important, complex, and sobering questions are raised in Robert J. Condlin’s recent paper, “Practice Ready Graduates”: A Millenialist Fantasy”

First, as Condlin points out, “practice ready” is not so much a standard as it is a slogan. Condlin characterizes practice readiness as today’s fad – as something without true substance or understanding. Lawyers, after all, must not just be “ready” to practice upon admission to the bar, but must be prepared for “a lifetime of professional growth and service under conditions of challenge and uncertainties.” Are we better off focusing on the long-term rather than the short-term “readiness” of our graduates? Maybe teaching students how to teach themselves in whatever varied area of law they practice now and in the future is more worthwhile than teaching any specialty-specific skill set.

Second, Condlin shines light on the fact that resources spent in teaching skills are re-allocated resources, and that the ABA, as well as individual schools and professors should seriously consider whether such reallocation is justified.  Every hour spent teaching a student how to ask a question in a client interview is an hour that the student does not spend pondering the underlying values related to personal autonomy in our contract law, for example. Condlin admits that “skills instruction” is not in itself impoverishing, but points out that law schools and law students have limited time, money, and resources. There are thus significant opportunity costs from a shift in focus that prioritizes lawyering “motor skills” over thinking skills. 

Third, Condlin asserts that the emphasis on “practice readiness” is unfounded because it is unachievable, at least in the context of law school. Socializiation and disposition take longer than a semester (or two) to develop.  Even a law school clinic class, which is something Condlin says comes the closest to preparing students for the reality of practice, is of limited efficacy, principally because of its short window (13 weeks, usually).  Furthermore, because practice readiness depends on the type of practice, and it is simply impossible to prepare all students for all types of practice, efforts spent could be misapplied in a context where some or all students will not know in law school precisely what sort of law job they’ll eventually have.  Even if you could come up with a list of the required “practice readiness” skills for all possible legal jobs, Condin asserts, that list would be too long to be achievable.

Fourth, Condlin also criticized recent calls for “practice readiness” because being “practice ready” will not actually help graduates get a job.  The loss of legal jobs in 2008 and beyond was not a function of lack of graduates’ practice-readiness. In spite of its implicit promise, in reality, it isn’t lack of skills training that is leaving new graduates unemployed.  Condlin explains: The legal job market shifted in the early part of this century because of forces outside of it. At its core, the legal system, like many other sectors of our society, is now struggling under the twin problems of shrinking demand for labor and growing student debt.  Legal jobs in particular were hit hard with the post 2007 economic downturn, client demands for lower fees, increased competition from non-law-firm service providers, and technology changes. None of these problems were caused by law school graduates’ level of skills preparedness or by law schools’ pre-2008 curricular focus.  Furthermore, Condlin asserts that “[p]lacing students in jobs is principally a function of a school’s academic reputation, not its curriculum.”  He points out the unfortunate reality that the massive overhaul in Washington & Lee’s third year curriculum, to emphasize practical skills over study of doctrine led to a decrease rather than an increase of their graduates’ rate of employment. (See story on this here.) Perhaps the reason a “practice ready” focus doesn’t necessarily translate into better employment is because it doesn’t really work. An ABA study recently found that although 71% of new graduates believe they have “sufficient practice skills,” only 21% of lawyers who work with them believe that this is true.

Condlin worries that when law schools jump on the “practice readiness” bandwagon it will “destroy something that works in a futile attempt to revive something that does not.”

Condlin makes some excellent points, and I always enjoy reading an article that calls popular wisdom into question and makes me pause and reconsider assumptions I may have.  I am ever the optimist however, and I hope that Condlin may be overstating the extent to which the ABA and the law school industry are in fact emphasizing “practice readiness” as the ONLY goal of law schools.  Condlin worries that advocates for practice skills instruction believe that such instruction is “legal education’s primary purpose” and that “[e]verything else is a frolic and detour, and a fatal frolic and detour in hard times such as the present.”  Truly, it would impoverish the law and society as a whole if teaching the “motor skills” associated with practice becomes the goal of law school, rather than one of its several important goals. I, for one, don’t think that is the case (but I may be naïve).

For an example of an opposite view of skills instruction, consider the “audacious goals” that Michael Roster advocates for law schools in his article, “The New Normal” . Roster explains that law firms and their clients demand that recent law graduates be able to immediately add value to a case or a deal. Therefore, he concludes, law schools should overhaul their model to ensure that their graduates can immediately function as a 2nd year associate or an unsupervised solo practicioner.  It is likely true that firms would like to pass the buck on training. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the buck should be passed in this way.  Once upon a time, I’m told, law firms actually did mentor and develop young associates – and some firms still do (smaller and mid-sized firms seem more likely to engage in explicit mentoring and development than big-law firms famous for a chew-em-up-and-spit-em-out approach to new grads).  Condlin suggests that the lack of in-firm training results from selfishness or short-sightedness of baby boomer partners. Roster doesn’t explain precisely why firms currently don’t want to allocate resources to training, but treats firms like a law school’s clients, and argues that the customer is always right.

I hope that the majority of those supporting more “practice readiness” do not actually envision tomorrow’s law schools as mere trade schools.  But I believe that many of today’s efforts to build bridges from school to actual law practice are worthwhile. It is valuable to teach legal doctrine in a way that gives it context and meaning and gives law students a glimpse into the world of practice.  I find it natural and effective to integrate the practice context into teaching. In a 1L Contracts class, for example, I do believe that students should read actual contracts, struggle with actual interpretation disputes, and try their hand at drafting clauses or even entire documents. In upper division courses (such as Real Estate Transactions), there are still more opportunities to use glimpses into practice as ways to give context and meaning to legal doctrines. But of course in a mere 39 hours of a law school course, there is insufficient time and no client reality – so these experiences may firm up a students foundation for practice, but that doesn’t necessarily make him or her “practice ready” (again, this all comes back to what this phrase means to begin with!). 

Clearly, the primary goal of law school courses must remain to teach students thinking skills – how to conceptualize a problem, how to parse out legal issues, how to research those issues, how to think analytically about facts and legal applications, and how to incorporate social values and policies into advocacy. In short, teaching students to “think like a lawyer.” That is the primary “skills” instruction that readies graduates for legal practice.  But the entire industry needs to remember that being “ready” to start as a first-year associate or a mentee does not mean that a new lawyer leaves law school ready to practice without supervision and mentorship. In fact, for most graduates, going it on their own without some sort of apprenticing experience would likely end in disaster.

It seems to me that lack of legal mentorship in practice is the real story, and one that the law industry must confront. Because even when law schools do all they can and should to prepare students for a career in the law, new lawyers will only adequately bloom and develop professionally when they have adequate supervision in practice. 

Posted by Andrea Boyack on August 27, 2015 at 11:29 AM in Life of Law Schools, Tamanaha, Teaching Law, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Baby Mama Esq.

By now we all know that the US is dead last among OECD member countries in the parental leave benefits that are offered to working mothers: in the US, there is no paid parental leave guarantied by law, and only 12 weeks protected unpaid leave (and even then only if employed for 12+ months at a big-enough company). This is, frankly, an embarrassment to the country and speaks volumes with respect to the value our society and government truly places on motherhood and on children. 

Women lawyers who have babies, however, are usually better off than their non-lawyer peers. Most firms offer paid leave (50% - 100% of salary) for anywhere from 6 to 16 weeks. When I had my first baby in 2002, Fried Frank gave me a generous 4 months of fully paid leave. In fact it was a huge selling point for me when I considered their offer of employment (even though I was not pregnant at the time, I expected that I would have a child at some point after joining the firm).  One might therefore think that the real battleground for paid parental leave lies beyond the personal experience of lawyers. But that isn't necessarily true. First of all, as a June 2015 article in the ABA Journal put it, "for many female attorneys, maternity leave can be the equivalent of a poisoned chalice - offered as a benefit, but damaging to a career." The New Republic agrees - generous leave policies can inadvertently reinforce a glass ceiling in a profession. My anecdotal experience (personal and thosee of friends and colleagues), supports this conclusion as well.

Reality here truly does bite: most women who take advantage of generous maternity leave policies and flex-time policies end up sliding off the partner track and settling into the mommy track. A study published by Working Mother magazine found that although flex-hours were offered and widely accepted work arrangements for women with children at top 50 firms, none of the top 50 firms had promoted a flex-time attorney to partner in 2014. And among the 50 top law firms, only 19% of the equity partners are women.

The ABA Journal column noted that some firms (like Minneapolis-based Nilan Johnson Lewis) have bucked the trend and have promoted women to partner shortly after taking maternity leave. But this remains the exception to the general rule that partnership and motherhood are challenging to balance. As a mother of 4 who practiced law for a decade and a half before making the jump to academia, I'm keenly aware of this challenge.  And today's female law students - who constantly approach me as a "role model" of a mother who continually practiced law while having multiple children - are very concerned about this too.  They need to be aware, however, that reality in firms doesn't always match optics.  I've spoken to big-firm interviewers after their on-campus interviewing and heard expressed concern about 2L candidates who mention that one reason that they were attracted to the firm was because of its touted flex time options. This  seems to suggest to the interviewer that the candidate is more interested in family (gasp!) than billable hours. (I think that the fact this point was raised in a first interview also suggests that these 1Ls are both more honest and more naive than one might expect.)

The impact of paternal leave on tenure and promotion in legal academia is unproven. (There was an interesting post in this blog 3 years ago on the topic of delaying going up for tenure because of paternal leave - here, and the AAUP has a paper regarding parental leave for university professors here.) My sense (devoid of any empirical study) is that policies regarding parental leave for female law professors are all over the map - from no paid time off to an entire semester or more of paid leave.  When I was at the new law professor AALS summer program, discussants in the women in law group shared a wide variety of experiences with respect to pregnancy and childbirth and maternity leave on a law school faculty. Policies with respect to paternity leave, I believe, vary even more.

Gentle reader (to borrow the phrase), what are your experiences with parental leave at your law practice and law teaching workplaces? Should the legal profession develop norms and expectations regarding paid leave as a way to increase gender diversity in partnership (and tenured professorship) ranks? Have you seen a generous leave policy backfire into mommy-tracking competent, ambitious female lawyers? And, if so, what is the right solution?

Approximately 50% of law school graduates today are female.  It is likely that a large number of these will at some point in their career have one or more children.  I believe it is time that the legal profession confront this reality and ensure that women in law are not forced to choose one of these three unsatisfactory options:

(a) dropping out of practice,

(b) going into a mommy track limbo, or

(c) sacrificing an unreasonable amount of time with their newborn.  

Yes, this is an issue that faces both mommies and daddies in law, but the biological reality remains that although an uber-dedicated father-to-be big law associate might even miss his child's birth, that option is frankly never possible for even the most overly dedicated expectant lawyer mom.

 

Posted by Andrea Boyack on August 17, 2015 at 10:19 PM in Culture, Gender, Life of Law Schools, Workplace Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Call for Papers: CSLSA Annual Conference Oct 9 & 10

Posting for friends and colleagues in the Central States Law Schools Association. Personal Plug: I've participated in this scholarship conference and it is excellent. It includes small group discussions and fantastic feedback on works in progress. I encourage all who can to participate (and I hope to see you there!)
 
The Central States Law Schools Association 2015 Scholarship Conference will be held on Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10 at The University of Toledo College of Law in Toledo, Ohio. We invite law faculty from across the country to submit proposals to present papers or works in progress.

Conference registration is open now at http://www.cslsa.us/register/. 
 
CSLSA is an organization of law schools dedicated to providing a forum for conversation and collaboration among law school academics. The CSLSA Annual Conference is an opportunity for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present working papers or finished articles on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work. Scholars from member and nonmember schools are invited to attend. 
 
Conference registration is open now at http://www.cslsa.us/register/. 

Posted by Andrea Boyack on August 17, 2015 at 01:33 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Kids Today (or "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22")

Friends who are not law professors are under the mistaken impression that since I spend so much time with law students, I must feel young and hip. To the contrary, I find that each passing year highlights in clearer relief the true generation gap between the fresh new 1Ls and myself.  In case you too are wondering why it is sometimes hard to connect culturally to today’s “Millennial” students, here’s a little bit of info about the personal cultural context of a typical 1L, starting law school this month.  For sake of this fact-based hypothetical, we’ll call her the “reasonable law student” (RLS) and assume that she is 22 years old.

  • World/National Events Context:
    • Childhood: RLS was born in 1993, the year that Czechoslovakia broke apart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, and Bill Clinton instituted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for homosexuality in the military. When RLS was 2, her parents watched the OJ Simpson trial and the Oklahoma City bombing on TV.  RLS started kindergarten in 1998, just as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was winding down (and 4-year-old RLS had probably been kept in the dark about the finer points of Clinton’s “relations” with “that woman”).  RLS has no memory of any Y2K worries, since these were all proven to be for naught by the time she turned 7.  RLS may not have even noticed the terrorist attacks of September 11th – after all, she was only 8 at the time.  Her parents may have lost a bundle from the Enron bankruptcy or the dotcom bubble/bust, but this happened when RLS was just 9. Gay marriage began to be legalized by states (starting with MA) when RLS was 11.
    • Teenage Years: As a 15-year-old, RLS may have been vaguely aware of the Foreclosure/Financial Crises, and she likely remembers when Barack Obama was sworn in as President when she was 16.  Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, the year that RLS graduated from high school. The Sandy Hook school shootings occurred while RLS was in college, in 2012.
  • Technology: RLS has never known a world without full use of the Internet and cannot fathom life without click-of-a-button access to unlimited information (reliable and otherwise).  Thus, RLS never has had to dig hard and do tedious research to find out the answer to a nagging question (like, “Where have I seen that actor from Mr. Robot before?” Answer -- in case you were wondering -- is that I previously saw Rami Malek in both the movie Night at the Museum and in the TV series 24.  And, yes, I just took 10 seconds to look that up. You’re welcome.) What a lifetime of having instantaneous, effortless answers to one’s questions does to one’s approach to the study and research of law is a question open to debate.  (Discuss.)

With the Internet as their baseline reality, not only do RLS and her peers lack experience in spending significant time wondering about and questing after unknown facts, but they are also quite used to the public disclosure and discourse of private details of everyone’s life. They’re also used to enhanced government surveillance of its citizens, the Patriot Act, and invasive airport searches by TSA.  

RLS has a vocabulary and life experience that equates with being born in the Internet age, and she is adept at all sorts of social media.  She is used to everyone being available 24/7 and immediate responses to her calls, emails, and texts. RLS has always been able to shop online and have instant access to new software, music, and videos downloaded directly (so much for “shrinkwrap”). 

  • Assumption of Risk? During RLS’s entire life, her parents and the state have mandated that she stay safe by being car-seated, buckled up, and helmeted on a bike.
  • Negotiable Instruments? RLS doesn’t use cash or checks to make purchases. She has always used a plastic card (debit or credit) or her phone to pay for things (maybe she’s even experimented with digital currencies).
  • Environmental Law? RLS grew up worrying about the environment and global warming. For RLS, there have always been hybrid cars, wind farms, and solar panels on buildings and in fields.
  • Labor Law? For RLS, the only significant labor disputes have been professional sports-related.
  • International Law? In RLS’s experience and memory:
    • Prisoners have always been housed at Guantanamo Bay.
    • There has never been Apartheid in South Africa.
    • The countries of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia exist only in history books.
    • Hong Kong has always been part of China.
    • It was Pres. George W. Bush (not his father) who sent troops to Iraq.
    • The currency in Europe has always been the euro.
  • Health Law? Cloning has always been a scientific reality.  AIDS has always been a problem, but HIV-positive hasn’t been an immediate death sentence (in the US, at least).  Adults have been debating the role that the government should have in providing public health insurance since her birth.
  • Pop Culture Context: For RLS,
    • It has never been a big deal to see women kissing women and men kissing men on television.
    • The term “wardrobe malfunction” has been widely understood since RLS was 10.
    • Ellen and Oprah have always been first-name-only TV talk show hosts. 
    • Michael Jackson was an embattled recluse defending against accusations of molestation until he died (when RLS was 15)
    • The “Royal Wedding” was when Kate Middleton married Prince William (RLS probably watched this - when she was 18). 

RLS likely learned to read with the Harry Potter series, the first of which was published when she was 3 and the last when she was 14 (meaning she never had to wait to read the sequel and she may have even – gasp – seen the movies first!).  RLS probably spent her teenage years reading the Twilight series and The Hunger Games. As a teen, she listened to Taylor Swift, Adele, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and The Black Eyed Peas.

As for television show references, don’t bother talking about Seinfeld or Friends in class – those shows went off the air when RLS was age 4 and 10, respectively. Reality TV is her norm. For RLS, Survivor and American Idol have always been on TV.   If you’re seeking some common ground, remember that RLS likely has spent time watching one or more of these shows: Game of Thrones, Suits, Homeland, Scandal, CSI, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey – but of course, she was watching them in high school! 

Do you feel old yet?

Or are you “Feeling 22” too?

Posted by Andrea Boyack on August 11, 2015 at 01:36 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Television, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Virtues and Vices of Casebook Supplements

My co-authors (Bill Banks, Steve Dycus, and Peter Raven-Hansen) and I have just put the finishing touches on the 2015-16 supplement to Aspen's (or is it Wolters Kluwer's?) National Security Law and Counterterrorism Law casebooks, which checks in just under 500 pages this year. Some of that length can be attributed to (1) the seismic changes that these fields have encountered in recent years (thanks, Obama!); and (2) the elapsed time since the last complete editions (2011 for the NSL book; 2012 for the CTL book). Indeed, we're already hard at work at the next editions of each of the books, which, if nothing else, should be ready in time to defeat the need for a 2016-17 supplement.

As pedagogically useful as putting together an annual supplement is, though, it got me thinking about the virtues and vices of casebook supplements more generally. And so I thought I'd sketch out, below the fold, what I see as some of the principal advantages and disadvantages of these enterprises--from the perspectives of authors, adopters, and users. But more than anything, I'm curious if folks agree with my lists--or think I'm missing obvious pros and cons to the world of the casebook supplement.

I.  The Virtues of Casebook Supplements

  1. Current-ness. This is the easy one: Like pocket parts in the good ole' days, supplements help to ensure that the classroom materials are current. In some fields, the value of current-ness may spring almost entirely from piquing student interest and curiosity by covering current "hot" topics. In others (like national security and counterterrorism law), current-ness is a virtual necessity, given how much the entire structure of the field can change in a short period (see, e.g., Edward Snowden), and not just how much individual aspects of the relevant doctrines can evolve. 
  2. Efficiency. It's certainly true, of course, that individual teachers can and should provide their own materials to satisfy the current-ness values noted above. But supplements are, from a market perspective, deeply efficient. Rather than having dozens of individual professors creating their own excerpts of overly lengthy opinions (I'm looking at you, Second Circuit), supplements centralize the labor.
  3. Continual pedagogical reassessment. It would be one thing, of course, if supplements were merely collated excerpts of new materials. But supplements also allow casebook authors to constantly revisit pedagogical choices made in the last edition--and to decide whether certain materials should be taught differently, whether in light of intervening developments or just further reflection. To that end, adopters and users of supplements benefit not just from the primary source materials excerpted and collated in the supplement, but from the pedagogical choices the authors make about which materials to include, how much those materials should be annotated with introductory discussion and/or notes and questions, and so on. As with everything else on this list, not all supplements are alike. But the more a supplement reflects a conscious choice about which (and how much of the) new materials should be included, the more pedagogically valuable it is as compared to DIY case excerpts.
  4. Making the next edition (somewhat) easier. Related but distinct from this last benefit, the work that authors put into the supplement should also, in theory, make the next edition of the book at least somewhat easier. After all, if the authors use the supplement as an annual opportunity to ensure that individual chapters are up-to-date and pedagogically coherent, it should be somewhat easier to produce a new edition once a critical mass of new material has accumulated. To be sure, the new edition of a book is likely to be more than just the sum of the previous supplements--but, based upon personal experience at least, it feels like a far lighter lift to plan a new edition when many of the updates have already been contemplated.

II.  The Vices of Casebook Supplements

  1. Cost to students. The vice of which I am the most mindful is the cost of supplements to students, especially in proportion to the supplement's utility. I've long thought that supplements are priced even more aggressively than the casebooks themselves, and have, at various points, declined to assign supplements because I was using too little of the material to justify the cost. My usual rule of thumb is that I need to assign at least 1/4 of a supplement before I'll ask my students to buy it, and even then, the supplement needs to do more than just excerpt cases. Of course, the increasing move toward electronic materials may mitigate at least some of these costs--but not get rid of them.
  2. Shelf-life. Related to the sticker price of the supplement is its terribly limited shelf-life. Although every book is different, over two-thirds of the material in our 2015-16 supplement, to take just one example, is new this year. Thus, supplements have zero resale value--and are, in many ways, a sunk cost to students.
  3. Labor costs. Given the above vices, along with information deficits (publishers aren't always on the ball about publicizing supplemental materials), the percentage of adopters who also adopt the supplement is never 100%, and may, in some cases, be far lower. And the lower that # is, the harder it is to justify the (often substantial) labor costs that go into producing a supplement. Again, every field is different. But speaking just for me and my co-authors, it took the better part of the past two months for the four of us to put together this year's edition--labor that we certainly enjoyed, but that is a fairly substantial investment. 

III.  Closing Reflections

I'm sure I've missed some obvious pros and cons in the above description, and would welcome folks' thoughts in the comments. I also suspect that the choice whether to assign a casebook supplement is deeply field- (and even casebook-) specific. And supplements play an increasingly interesting role in the potential transition to electronic course materials--perhaps providing real-time updates online will come to replace the annual print supplement (we already do both for our adopters). But insofar as these considerations can be generalized, the real question I keep grappling with is how we can maximize the upsides of supplements while minimizing their downsides...

Posted by Steve Vladeck on July 29, 2015 at 11:19 AM in Life of Law Schools, Steve Vladeck, Teaching Law, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (28)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Wine, Soda Pop, and Law Schools - More on "Law Review Lift (Drag)"

Some time this month I will get to a relatively more serious topic, like textual opportunism, but for right now I'm still fiddling around with Al Brophy's ranking system.  

So 10+ that I don't bury the lead, let me say up front that I have played some simple-minded statistical games with Al's data.  What I come up with is that, among academics, "brand," as with soda pop, means a lot, and it is relatively sticky and independent of what is going on with the students.

I also think it's pretty obvious that there is a relationship between the "brand" and student data (i.e. high correlations between any ranking system and LSAT scores, for example). What got me interested, however, as I noted a few days ago, was the differential when Al included or didn't include a different and interesting stat: how often the school's main law review (not its faculty) got cited. My intuition is that what other profs think about placing articles in a school's review (based on my own experience) is a lot like the peer reputation score, except that it does measure a revealed preference (i.e., when you rank "peer reputation" as a participant in USNWR, it doesn't cash out to anything; placing an article does!)

The problem with all of these systems, in which we are "ranking" something with many complex factors (like wine) is that the judgment is qualitative, even if it looks quantitative. Often it's qualitative simply because it's qualitative (e.g., "peer reputation"), but even when it's fully quantitative it's qualitative because of the judgments one makes in weighting the quantitative factors.  I was once a partner in a big law firm. Our partnership agreement called for compensation to be determined by a committee, which in turn used a list of factors like "billable hours," "service to the firm," "client responsibility," etc. Every two years the committee turned out a ranking that set your compensation relative to all the other partners. Similarly, if you aren't a hermit during early March of each year, you hear about a double ultra secret committee in Indianapolis deciding which of the "bubble teams" gets into the NCAA basketball tournament. Same thing.  Recent results? Body of work? Bad losses? Good wins?

In any event, I played with Al's data and made some scatter plots and regressions in Excel, all of which follow the break.

20+I should note that I ran my little exercise by one of the toughest critics of empirical work I know, not for an endorsement, but to see if it was okay to "bin" the data into that 10+, 20+, and 30+ differentials between Al's 2 variable and 3 variable results. My interlocutor (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) said that binning was okay if there was some theory behind it, but his or her very, very fulsome and thoughtful reply to my question reaffirmed my belief that data without judgment is blind (and judgment without data is empty, to be fair, in each case paraphrasing Kant). The big issue is whether just a few outliers are responsible for the outcomes (which you can see by eyeballing the scatter plots). That may be true here. So with that disclaimer, and recognizing this is a blog post, for God's sake, and not a peer reviewed research paper, here's what I came up with.


If you plot law review "lift (drag)" of 10+, you come up with a positive correlation to law review volume number (.339).  See chart above the break. 30+

If you do the same for "lift (drag)" of 20+ and 30+, you come up with even higher correlations, .42 and .55, respectively.  (See above left and right.)

What do I conclude? Probably nothing more than common sense would tell me: "brand" makes a difference; it takes a long time to develop one; and once you have it established, it sticks around enough to bias other data.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on July 4, 2015 at 03:39 PM in Article Spotlight, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Playing With Al Brophy's Alternative Law School Rankings - Student Centered vs. Student/Scholarship Centered Results

I have all sorts of analytic issues with law school rankings - e.g., reputation means a lot, but it really is based on feedback loops and is really, really sticky; linear rankings by number hide the fact that it's a bell curve on things like reputation, and linear differences in the middle of the pack don't mean much). But it's still interesting navel gazing, and makes a big difference (I think) in professional and academic careers.

Image.ashxYesterday, Al Brophy (UNC) posted an update to his alternative to USNWR, Ranking Law Schools, 2015: Student Aptitude, Employment Outcome, Law Review Citations.  He uses three variables, entering median LSAT score, employment outcomes (JD required; no school-funded jobs; no solo practitioners), and citations to the school's main law review.  That latter one is interesting because it doesn't measure the scholarly influence of the school's faculty, but instead the school's brand for purposes of law professors placing their articles.  

Al did two analyses, one using only the student variables (LSAT and employment - the "2 var" rank) and one using all three (the "3 var rank").  His Table 2 shows the relative 2 var and 3 var rank for each school, but his comparison are all as against USNWR.  I was interested in "law review lift" versus "law review drag."   So I made a list from Al's Table 2, arbitrarily taking a difference of ten or more as the cutoff.

After the jump, you can see a list of schools whose ranking with their law reviews improves by ten spots or more (law review lift) or whose ranking drops by ten spots or more when the law review gets included (law review drag).  I'll leave it to you to theorize about meaning, if any.

Law review stats enhance student stats ten spots or more
Illinois
Indiana
Florida State
Houston
Utah
George Mason
Cardozo
Cincinnati
Lewis & Clark
Pepperdine
Hastings
Connecticut
San Diego
Brooklyn
Chicago-Kent
Albany
Indiana - Indianapolis
Hofstra
Oregon
DePaul
William Mitchell
American
Catholic
Howard
Akron
Michigan State
Marquette
Seattle
Cleveland State
Vermont
Santa Clara
New York Law School
Ohio Northern
Widener (Delaware Journal of Corporate Law)
McGeorge
Toledo
San Francisco
Suffolk
 
Law review stats drag student stats ten spots or more
 
Georgia
Arizona State
UC-Irvine
Kentucky
Baylor
Georgia State
New Mexico
Oklahoma
Montana
Tulsa 
New Hampshire
Florida International
Rutgers-Camden
Drexel
Syracuse
Hawaii
Idaho
Stetson
South Dakota
Campbell
Duquesne
Chapman
Northern Illinois
North Dakota
Samford (Cumberland)
CUNY
Wyoming
Nova Southeastern
Texas A&M
Oklahoma City
Arkansas-Little Rock
Dayton
Liberty
Elon
Faulkner
Florida A&M

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on July 2, 2015 at 08:11 AM in Article Spotlight, Law Review Review, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Questioning the Law School Debt Narrative

Given the strong feelings that discussions about the value of legal education triggers, I have been reluctant to blog about the so-called law school scam.  But a story about a recent law school grad and his debt that is making rounds in the national media has me truly puzzled.  This story, which has been picked up by the New York Times, among others, reports about a 2010 graduate from Ohio State’s law school who graduated with $328,000 in student debt.  As someone who financed her own education through a combination of student loans, work study, and other financial aid, I am puzzled how this individual accumulated so much debt.

A quick search of Ohio State’s webpage tells me that an out-of-state student should expect tuition and other expenses to total just under $65K a year, and so three years of law school education and other expenses should result in approximately $195,000 in debt.  Yet media outlets are repeating this $328,000 number without questioning why a student would incurred an amount of educational debt that is so much higher than the cost of attending law school for three years.  The New York Times, for example, reports that this particular law school graduate’s $328,000 debt “includes some undergraduate loans,” yet the story is clearly focused on the high cost of legal education.  But, in light of the information that is readily available from Ohio State, one presumes that this student’s debt from law school should make up no more than 60% of this overall educational debt.

Don’t get me wrong, legal education is expensive.  At many schools it is probably more expensive than it needs to be.  And I can’t imagine how devastating it must be to incur significant debt to obtain a law degree, and then find yourself unable to obtain employment as a lawyer.  But I really wish that the media’s reporting on this issue were more nuanced.  Many reporters seem so devoted to the narrative that legal education is not worth the sticker price, that their reporting on this issue no longer seems objective.

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on May 1, 2015 at 12:33 PM in Current Affairs, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (33)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Law School Sustainability 2015

In late 2012, I put up a post entitled "Law School Sustainability."  I argued that law schools had to think seriously about making legal education sustainable by making it a worthwhile endeavor for graduates.  Two and a half years later, sustainability has become even more of an imperative than a choice.  It is not an exaggeration to say that some schools are struggling to stay in existence, and that most schools have had serious challenges to their operations.  This December 2014 NYT article provided not only an overview of this situation -- it also provided a source for law school deans in convincing university administrations (or, for stand-alones, their boards) that the problems at their particular law school were not unique.  "See?  Even Northwestern is having these issues!"

There are two blunt forces that are channeling the deluge of changes on law schools today: money and the U.S. News rankings.  Money is pretty straightforward: a school needs enough students to pay enough in tuition to cover the costs of operating the school.  Schools will have various abilities to cover shortfalls.  But a school at least needs to pay for itself to be sustainable.  So money is pushing schools to take more students at higher tuition rates -- or, to cut costs to make up the shortfall.  U.S. News, however, pushes in almost the opposite direction.  It puts pressure on schools to take fewer students, to pay more money per student in educational expenses, and to cut tuition to get better credentialed students.  (Ted Seto made this point yesterday, in discussing tuition sustainability.)  So schools have played the game of ping-ponging back and forth between these two forces, depending on their finances.

Many schools have gotten to the point where the U.S. News goals has become a luxury they cannot afford.  But as much as we want to disparage the crude and whimsical nature of the rankings, they do include measurements of important information: incoming credentials, bar passage rates, and employment statistics.  Schools that allow these benchmarks to degrade are hurting themselves in the long run.  Just as with finances, schools will have differing abilities to suffer through worse LSAT scores or lower bar passage rates in the short term.  However, a school whose graduates cannot pass the bar in significant percentages and do not find jobs that can cover their loans is not a sustainable endeavor.

So this is a small cheer for U.S. News, in that it provides an additional incentive for schools to keep up their incoming credentials, get their students to pass the bar, and then find them employment.  Word would get out eventually about schools that fail to mind these things.  But U.S. News gets the info out nationally, more quickly, and more systematically (if more crudely, and in ways more open to gaming).

One more quick point, to echo what Ted Seto said: U.S. News may incentivize lower costs, but it does so only for higher-credentialed incoming students.  Changes to the federal loan program may soon provide very strong incentives to keep tuition lower for everyone.  If that happens, then the ping-pong game will turn into this, and the sustainability window for law schools will get significantly narrower.

Posted by Matt Bodie on April 23, 2015 at 11:26 AM in 10th Anniversary, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Measuring the Impact of Faculty Scholarship

Given the intensity of the reactions folks had about how to measure productivity, I’ve been a little hesitant to post my thoughts on impact.

So, in addition to the qualifications I previously mentioned, let me add that I think it may be impossible to quantify the impact of legal scholarship.  Indeed, I am uncertain how one goes about quantifying the impact of most things.  We could, for example, obviously state that the Mona Lisa has exerted a greater influence on art than the shabby art projects that I completed and my mother hung on our refrigerator.  But can we assess the impact of the Mona Lisa as compared to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

To put this in terms of legal scholarship, I can confidently say that Holmes’ The Path of the Law has exerted a greater impact than any article that I have ever published (or will ever publish).  But how can we compare The Path of the Law to, for example, Warren & Brandeis’ The Right to Privacy?  We can count how many citations each article receives in Westlaw’s JLR database, we could count the court citations each has received, and we could even ask a bunch of respected law professors to vote which article they believe had a greater impact.  But the fact that Holmes’ article has 3,322 cites in JLR, while Warren and Brandeis have only 2,451 doesn’t seem to settle the question---or at least it doesn’t settle the question for me.

In any event, assuming that we have to come up with some way to measure impact---and that is a major premise of academic analytics---I suggest that we quantify the following for each faculty member:

  • Citations in JLR
  • Citations in ALLCASES
  • Number of downloads from various electronic repositories (such as SSRN)

 (You’ll have to forgive me for using Westlaw databases---I wanted to make sure that we are all working with the same universe of documents.)

I toyed with a few other categories, such as citations in case briefs.  But I don’t think that we have access to an electronic resource that gives us complete coverage of briefs.  Is that correct?

Anyway, rather than attempting to justify these categories, I’d be interested to hear what others have to say.  I’ll either jump in the comments thread or write a follow up post.

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on April 16, 2015 at 06:06 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (10)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Yale School of Law and Super-Parenting

In case you were feeling accomplished for having gotten the kids to school on time this morning, Heather Gerken has written nine YA vampire novels for her tween daughter.  Gerken reports that her daughter "was never impressed that I was working full time, part of a two-career household and still outpacing J.K. Rowling by a considerable margin."   My favorite line of the article: "The women [in the book] are ambitious and career-oriented, and some have the emotional I.Q. of a tree frog."

Gerken joins fellow Yalies Ian Ayres and Amy Chua in showing us the ways to channel our inner achievers into the more mundane joys of parenting.  Ayres promised his children a puppy if they wrote and published an article in an academic peer-reviewed journal.  Lo and behold, they did.  And now they have Cheby, named for the mathematician that discovered Chebychev‘s inequality.  In January we got an update from the Tiger Mother herself as her teenage daughters sleep past noon.  I appreciate the introspection in constructing a pretty incisive self-parody, but since her shtick is how extreme she's willing to be, self-parody and honest reportage are a little difficult to differentiate.

Posted by Matt Bodie on April 15, 2015 at 02:54 PM in Culture, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Texas A&M School of Law hires nine new faculty members

The announcement is here.  It looks like an exciting lineup. The four additions in intellectual property--Irene Calboli, Glynn Lunney, Saurabh Vishnubhakat, and Peter Yu--are all strong in the field. Cheers!!  (or should I say something more Texan?)  Anyway, congratulations! 

Posted by Amy Landers on April 10, 2015 at 05:00 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Productivity Metrics for Legal Scholarship

As I wrote last week, some universities are using Academic Analytics to assess the academic productivity and excellence of their various departments.  As promised, this post will offer a few metrics that are more effective than the metrics currently used for other disciplines.

Before I set out those metrics, I want to offer a few qualifications.  First, Academic Analytics claims only to quantify faculty scholarship.  Law faculty are usually assessed based not only on their scholarship, but also on their teaching and service.  So while this post will focus only on metrics for assessing legal scholarship, we should also think about how to quantify faculty’s teaching and service contributions.

Second, it is worth asking what these metrics are supposed to capture.  Put differently, why are university administrators seeking this data?  I don’t know the answer to this question.  I suspect, however, that they are, at a minimum, looking to do the following: (a) ensure that the faculty in all of their departments are meeting a minimum level of productivity; (b) determine which of their departments are performing well as compared to other departments across the country; (c) determine which departments are underperforming; (d) make marketing, funding, and organizational decisions that reward departments in category b and reform (or perhaps punish) departments in category c.

Third, while university administrators may choose to use this data to assess their departments, law school administrators may wish to use this data to assess their individual faculty members.  While the university compares its department to departments at other universities, law schools could use the data to compare faculty members either to other faculty at the same school or to faculty at peer institutions.

Finally, I am personally ambivalent about quantitative assessments of faculty. Quantitative assessments give us some concrete way to measure scholarship, but I don’t think that these quantitative metrics can serve as a substitute for a qualitative assessment. 

Now some proposed metrics.

In my mind, a quantitative assessment should seek to measure both productivity and impact.  This post will focus on productivity, and my next post will address impact.

Productivity seems as though it should be straightforward. After all, determining how much a faculty member publishes should be a simple matter of counting.  But what are we counting?  If we look only at the number of publications that a faculty member publishes in a year, then we would not distinguish between one faculty member who publishes a three page commentary in a local bar journal and another who publishes a monograph with a prestigious university press.  But even if we agree that the monograph represents more productivity than the 3 page commentary, that does not tell us how to compare one to the other.

We can avoid some of these questions by counting different types of publications independently rather than trying to determine how one type of publication might compare to another.  So, for example, rather than deciding whether a monograph is “worth” the same as a law review article, I would simply have separate counts for monographs and law review articles.  Off the top of my head, I would include the following categories:

  • Law review articles, essays, and book chapters (at least 25 pages in length)
  • Shorter publications (between 5 and 25 pages)
  • Book reviews
  • Monographs
  • Edited volumes
  • Textbooks and treatises (perhaps separating out new editions?)

There are, of course, other types of publications – such as editorials and white papers – but those strike me as outside the core of what is generally considered legal scholarship.  Are there other categories that I am missing?

The second major challenge for measuring productivity is deciding whether to include only those publications that meet some minimum threshold for quality.  So, for example, in other disciplines only peer reviewed publications count towards productivity.  Similarly, other disciplines sort journals into different categories --- those categories are well known and well defined.  These qualitative limitations and distinctions could be imported into law.  For example, only publications in top 50 journals could count towards productivity.  Alternatively, a placement in a top 10 journal could “count” for more than other publications.

I’d be interested to hear what others think about qualitative limitations and distinctions.  My instinct is to exclude them.  For one thing, deciding which journals qualify as top 50 or top 10 would engender its own controversy.  For another, limitations and distinctions would muddy the water, as they are not measures of productivity.

More to come . . .

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on April 8, 2015 at 11:00 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (18)