Tuesday, January 16, 2018
In October 2015 and February 2016, I posted blogs discussing attrition rates between 2010 and 2014, and 2010 and 2015, respectively. With the release of the 2017 Standard 509 reports in December, I now have compiled attrition data from all of the fully-accredited ABA law schools outside of Puerto Rico for the last seven years, through 2016-17. I have calculated average attrition rates for the class as a whole and then broken out average attrition rates by law schools in different median LSAT categories – 160+, 155-159, 150-154 and <150. (Earlier this month, Brian Tamanaha noted that there are 14 law schools that have non-transfer attrition rates in the 2016-17 academic year in excess of 20%, the threshold set forth in Interpretation 501-3 which the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted early in 2017.)
This blog reports that overall first-year non-transfer attrition increased each year until the 2016-17 academic year, going from 5.81% to 7.33% through 2015-16, before dropping back to 6.46% in 2016-17. This overall increase, however, results largely from increases in non-transfer attrition among schools with a median LSAT less than 150, as the non-transfer attrition rates for law schools with a median LSAT of 150 or greater have generally been in a downward trend over this period. Interestingly, one point reflected in this data is the inverse relationship between median LSAT category and attrition rates. “Academic attrition” rates increase significantly as median LSAT of law schools decreases; for four of the last five years, “other attrition” rates also increase as median LSAT decreases.
The decline in non-transfer attrition in 2016-17 is noteworthy given that it is the first decline in non-transfer attrition in the last several years. Notably, one significant contributor to the decline in non-transfer attrition in 2016-17 was the exclusion of Charlotte from the calculations given its closure. (For example, had Charlotte not been included in the 2015-16 non-transfer attrition calculations, the overall non-transfer attrition rate for 2015-16 would have been 6.96% rather than 7.33%.) That said, even taking into account the "Charlotte" factor, 2016-17 still shows the first decline in overall non-transfer attrition in the last several years.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
This blog posting highlights the much smaller number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs in 2016-17 compared to 2010-11. It also looks at the smaller number and smaller percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarships in 2016-17 compared with 2011-12, and the extent to which the number and percentage of rising second-year students whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated has changed since 2011-12. Next, it analyzes both the prevalence of conditional scholarship programs among law schools across different rankings categories and the extent to which scholarship retention rates differ among law schools across different rankings categories. In this regard, it notes both that there are almost no conditional scholarship programs among top-50 law schools as of 2016-17, and that the concentration of conditional scholarship programs in law schools ranked 101 and lower probably means a disproportionate number of women students and minority students are dealing with conditional scholarships. Finally, it looks at how the distribution of retention rates by decile has changed since 2011-12.
Several years ago, the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved revisions to Standard 509, requiring that law schools post a chart identifying the number of conditional scholarships given to incoming first years and the number of those scholarship recipients whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated at the end of the first year. As a result, there is now a much greater universe of publicly available information about law school scholarship programs. In the summer of 2013, I posted to SSRN an article entitled Better Understanding the Scope of Conditional Scholarship Programs among American Law Schools, summarizing the first year of available data on conditional scholarship programs, covering the 2011-12 academic year. Law schools have now published this data for six years, with data covering the 2016-17 academic year having just been released as of December 15.
- Number of Law Schools with Conditional Scholarship Programs Declines by 36.4%
As shown in Chart 1 below, excluding the three law schools in Puerto Rico, there were 140 fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs in 2011-12. For the 2016-17 academic year, however, the number of fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs had dropped to 89, a decline of over 36%.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Friday, December 2, 2016
- ABA Journal, Law schools expect applications to increase, but grads' job data shows decline
- ABA Journal, 10 to 15 law schools could close if enrollment keeps shrinking, higher-ed market analyst says
- Above the Law, Dean Resigns After Abysmal Bar Passage Numbers
- D Magazine, How Social Media is Impacting Law Students
- Dan Filler (Drexel), Law Schools Ranked by Job Placement Rate
Friday, October 7, 2016
- ABA Journal, Which law school offers grads the best job prospects?
- Above the Law, Law Schools Agree: There Are Too Many Law Schools
- Above the Law, Which Law School Has The Best Career Prospects? (2017)
- Argus Leader, Growing number of law school grads unable to pass bar exam
- Rick Bales (Former Dean, Ohio Northern), Faculty Bloodletting
Friday, January 30, 2015
Monday, August 4, 2014
(Hat Tip: Francine Lipman.)
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Lawrence S. Krieger (Florida State University, College of Law) & Kennon M. Sheldon (University of Missouri (Columbia), Department of Psychological Sciences), What Makes Lawyers Happy? Transcending the Anecdotes with Data from 6200 Lawyers:
- ABA Journal, Lawyers in Prestige Positions Aren’t as Happy as Those in Public Service-Jobs, Study Finds
- National Law Journal, Lawyer Depression Begins in School
Friday, May 31, 2013
Robert Morse (Director of Data Research, U.S. News & World Report), Which Highly Ranked Law Schools Operate Most Efficiently?:
U.S. News has developed a new, exclusive list showing which law schools are able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in our Best Law Schools rankings, but spend relatively less money to achieve that quality. ...
U.S. News measures financial resources in part by taking into account how much a law school spends per student on instruction, including faculty and staff salaries, library, supporting services and other expenditures, such as financial aid. The financial resources ranking factor is a direct measure of the size of each law school's yearly budget expenditures per student compared with other law schools, and it has an 11.25 percent weight in the Best Law Schools rankings methodology.
The new list is based on the concept of operating efficiency, defined as a law school's total budget expenditures per student divided by its overall score – which U.S. News uses to determine its overall numerical rank – in the 2014 Best Law Schools rankings. This calculation reveals how much each law school is spending for each point in its overall score and thus, its position in the rankings.
The less a law school spends relative to other schools as correlated to its overall U.S. News rank, the more efficient it is in producing a quality education compared with other schools. ...
Only schools that were numerically ranked in the top 100 in the Best Law Schools 2014 rankings were included in this analysis. The table below shows the 25 law schools that scored the highest on the operating efficiency measure, sorted by those that spent less per student to achieve a relatively high rank.
US News Rank
Spending per Student
Spending per Student for Each Point in US News Overall Score
Louisville 68 $28,151 $654.67 Rutgers-C. 91 $26,858 $688.67 G. Mason 41 $38,684 $703.35 Wisconsin 33 $42,415 $731.29 Rutgers-N. 86 $30,236 $755.90 Wm. & Mary 33 $44,104 $760.41 N. Carolina 31 $45,232 $766.64 Tennessee 61 $34,792 $773.16 Nebraska 61 $35,228 $782.84 Kentucky 58 $36,407 $791.46 Georgia St. 54 $38,099 $793.73 Houston 48 $39,761 $795.22 Hawaii 80 $33,025 $805.49 Alabama 21 $53,469 $810.14 G. Wash. 21 $53,495 $810.53 Arkansas 68 $35,041 $814.91 Missouri 76 $34,437 $819.93 Virginia 7 $69,704 $820.05 LSU 76 $34,909 $831.17 Utah 41 $46,512 $845.67 Florida 46 $45,654 $861.40 Georgetown 14 $64,734 $863.12 Wake Forest 36 $49,318 $865.23 Emory 23 $57,323 $881.89 Ohio State 36 $50,269 $881.91
(Hat Tip: Francine Lipman.)
Friday, February 3, 2012
National Law Journal, Part-Time Law School Losing Allure:
[E]nrollment in, and applications to, part-time programs has declined, but law schools themselves have played a role in that dropoff. Enrollment in part-time day programs fell dramatically in 2009 — the first year U.S. News & World Report began weighing the Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages of part-time students in its rankings calculations. The council's study appeared to substantiate what legal educators long suspected: that schools were funneling lower-performing students into part-time day programs to prop up their rankings, but curtailed the practice when it no longer offered any advantage. And then there's the rough economy....
Between 2006 and 2010, the number of matriculants in part-time day programs decreased by 57%. Part-time evening programs saw a more modest decline — 17%. Meanwhile, law schools continued to create part-time programs. There were 40 part-time day programs at ABA-accredited schools in 2006 and 53 by 2010. Similarly, there were 55 evening part-time programs in 2006 and 65 by 2010. ... [T]he U.S. News loophole prompted some of this growth — law schools could admit weaker students without compromising their rankings.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The book contains a discussion of the way faculty members look down on those who lead the university's divisions and colleges, viewing them as "corporate administrators" and not scholars. The professors check out the publication records of new administrators and gossip about how sparse or old they are. "When he wants to discuss research, he has to talk about his dissertation. He apparently hasn't done any research since then," quips a faculty member of one administrator. Another says of an administrator: "I don't know how many times I have heard him mention that he is a biologist. It's as though he mentions his field when he talks to [a group of faculty leaders] so that we will know he is intelligent." ...
In her concluding chapter, she calls Wannabe "a conformist university," with an emphasis on "doing what must be done to elbow its way up the rankings." She writes that the administration is imposing "an accountability regime" on faculty members. And she notes that while professors still have much more freedom than most American employees, "as the decades pass, working at a university will become more and more like working in the corporate world" and administrators will be hired for their ability to carry out corporate-style management. (While the book's barbs tend to find administrators as targets, it also criticizes professors, particularly for their lack of interest in teaching issues as compared to research agendas.)
The examples in the book portray an administration much more concerned with making the university look outstanding than actually becoming outstanding. And measures that Tuchman writes are of dubious value (U.S. News & World Report rankings, for example) appear to count much more than the vibrancy of intellectual life or the student learning experience. ...An abundance of evidence points to Wannabe's identity as UConn, Tuchman's employer.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
One of the things I love about my iPhone is the ability to multitask my way through the day. I pound out email whenever and wherever I can -- waiting in line at the grocery store, before and during breaks in my kids' games, while watching Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert before I go to bed, etc. I especially like digging through email on my way to and from the parking garage at work. Today, I discovered the downside of that strategy. My daughter has her first volleyball game of the season, and we volunteered to provide the pregame meal. So this morning I put in the trunk of my car a cooler of drinks and a huge fruit salad that my wife made last night, and planned to bring them to the high school later this afternoon after stopping off at Potbelly to get 20 sandwiches for the girls. It was a brilliant strategy -- to save time in not having to go home before the game, I would put the fruit salad in the faculty refrigerator at the law school. Of course, I had to check email when walking from my car to the law school while carrying my laptop and the fruit salad ... So does a good father/husband (1) tell the team, "Sorry, I dropped the fruit salad"; (2) tell the team, "Sorry, Mrs. Caron forgot to make the fruit salad"; or (3) leave an hour early and buy outrageously overpriced pre-cut fruit at Kroger's?
Friday, July 17, 2009
Brian Leiter reports on the plunge in Loyola L.A.'s academic reputation score from 2.6 in the 2009 U.S. News rankings (tied with Cincinnati, Houston, Indiana-Indianapolis, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, and Santa Clara) to 2.3 in the 2010 U.S. News rankings (tied with LSU, Louisville, Maine, Mercer, Mississippi, Missouri-Kansas City, New York Law School, St. John's, St. Louis, and Vermont). Because academic reputation is the single biggest factor in the U.S. News methodology (25%), Loyola slipped in the overall ranking from 63 in 2009 to 71 in 2010. Leiter reports that "only once in the last eight years did another school's peer reputation score drop that much." The reason for the precipitous drop in academic reputation? Leiter quotes an email from Loyola-L.A's Dean attributing the decline to U.S. News changing the way it listed Loyola on its academic reputation survey -- from "Loyola Law School" to "Loyola Marymount University."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
From Law School Headlines:
Albany Law School recently released the following statement:
Albany Law Has Beaten National Average for 25 Years Albany Law School today announced a 94% employment rate in legal positions for its 2008 graduating class, outpacing the national average of 90% percent for all law schools. “Our consistent record of employment success is a testament not only to the quality and commitment of our students over the years, but also to the faculty who educate them and the staff who support them,” said President and Dean Thomas F. Guernsey.
According to our angry tipster, this release has not set well with the Albany Law Class of 2008:
This is outrageous. I personally know more than 20 unemployed graduates. MORE THAN 6% OF THE CLASS. The career services wasn’t interested in much of the graduating class filling out the form, as I had to seek it out. ... The student body is livid. Not about the number but about the boasting in the release. The release says nothing about working for $8 an hour, or begging Bank of America to put me on a 35 year payment plan
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
My friend and colleague Tim Armstrong gave a great talk to our faculty yesterday on An Introduction to Publication Agreements for Authors. He provides some great advice for negotiating the publication agreement with law reviews and book publishers in his blog post and two-page memorandum.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
In this week's National Law Journal: Wanted: Law School Deans. Lots of Them. Dozens of Law schools Search for Leaders; Many Leery of New Demands, by Julie Kay:
Even in this economy, there seems to still be a demand for one high-paying job — law school dean. At least 27 law schools throughout the country are searching for new deans — and many are having a tough time filling the position.
Law schools from Harvard to the University of Arizona to Case Western to the University of Miami have all embarked on dean searches, and some are finding somewhat slim pickings, with the same applicants recycled for many of the jobs.
That's because law school deanships, once highly sought after, are now high-stress jobs, thanks in part to the economy. With fundraising plummeting, donors in short supply and state budgets being slashed, law school deans are finding themselves up to their necks in stress. Many have quit in the past year to go back to teaching, which still pays fairly well and has far fewer headaches.
"Being a dean is less attractive than it used to be," said Thomas Ulen, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. "An increasing percentage of the job — upwards of 80 to 90% — is devoted to fundraising. And with the economy in this state, that is not easy. And let's face it, being a law professor is one of the best jobs in the universe." ...
A complete list of schools with open law dean positions:
- Arkansas (Little Rock)
- Case Western
- Florida International
- Golden Gate
- New Mexico
- Northern Illinois
- Notre Dame
- Rutgers (Newark)
- South Texas
- St. John's
- Texas Tech
- University of Washington
- William & Mary
For a list of the finalists in many of these dean searches, see here.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Scary news from the Arizona Republic:
Arizona's public universities on Tuesday unveiled their offers to make cuts in their budgets this year, saying they would strip thousands of employees of weeks of pay and eliminate jobs and some programs. ...
[T]he proposal would require employees, including tenured professors, to take time off as unpaid leave. ... ASU's portion of the proposed $100 million cut is $45.3 million. Much of it would come from employees, who could lose 12% percent of their remaining pay before July.
A memo from ASU's President provides further details of the furlough/pay reduction for faculty.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I previously blogged 2001 Stanford Law Grad Cristina Schultz (now Cristina Warthen after her marriage to David Warthen, co-founder of the online search engine Ask Jeeves, now known as Ask.com), who was indicted in California federal district court for failing to pay taxes on $133,717 she earned as a prostitute in 2003 (United States v. Warthen, No. CR-08-682). From the San Jose Mercury-News:
A Stanford law school graduate pleaded guilty Monday to federal income tax evasion charges, admitting she ran a high-priced call girl service "entertaining'' clients in cities across the country.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, filed in federal court in San Jose, Cristina Warthen agreed to pay $313,000 to the government to cover taxes on the earnings she made as a prostitute who went by the name of "Brazil.'' As part of the plea bargain, Warthen would not be sent to federal prison, but instead would serve one year of home detention and three years of probation.
During a hearing, Warthen, dressed in a gray pantsuit, said little as she agreed to the terms of the plea arrangement. U.S. District Judge James Ware set Warthen's sentencing for June 15.
Federal prosecutors in September charged Warthen, 34, with tax evasion, alleging she failed to pay taxes on more than $133,000 she earned as a prostitute in 2003. Court papers show Warthen at the time was jetting off to Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and other cities for liaisons with clients she solicited on her steamy Web site, "TouchofBrazil.net,'' all of whom paid her in cash.
Monday, January 26, 2009
In this week's National Law Journal: The View from 3L: Law Students Brace for Tough Reality, by Karen Sloan:
Although 3Ls aren't in despair, many of them are far less confident about what the future holds for them than the classes that preceded them.
The article then profiles 3Ls at Georgia, Michigan, NYU, San Diego, Vanderbilt, and concludes with this great quote from the Michigan 3L:
Jenkins landed just six on-campus interviews at the start of the school year and got three callbacks. Two firms flew him in for second-round interviews, but no job offers emerged. The third firm finally came through with an offer in mid-November, and Jenkins will head off to a midsize New York firm, where he expects to work in the tax practice.
"Taxes are as omnipresent as death," Jenkins said. "I think it's a relatively safe place to be."
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Unsuccessful Iowa Legal Writing Faculty Candidate Sues, Claiming Discrimination Due to Her Conservative Views
Teresa R. Wagner, Associate Director of the University of Iowa College of Law Writing Resource Center, has filed a lawsuit against the school and its dean, Tax Prof Carolyn Jones, claiming that she was twice rejected for a legal writing faculty position because of her conservative political views. From the Chroncile of Higher Education and Des Moines Register:
She argues that affiliations listed on her résumé, including stints with groups like the National Right to Life Committee, did her in with a liberal-leaning faculty. To bolster her case, the lawsuit dissects the political affiliations of the approximately 50 faculty members who vote on law-school faculty hires; 46 of them are registered as Democrats and only one, hired 20 years ago, is a Republican, the lawsuit states. Ms. Wagner also says that a law-school associate dean suggested that she conceal her affiliation with a conservative law school [Ave Maria] and later told her not to apply for any more faculty positions.
"She just wants to make it known that conservatives need not apply," Wagner's lawyer, Stephen Fieweger of Moline, Ill., said. "Liberals talk about diversity, except when it comes to bringing in a different, conservative point of view."
Irina Khovanskaya (Higher School of Economics, Moscow), Konstantin Sonin (New Economic School, Moscow) & Maria Yudkevich (Higher School of Economics, Moscow) have posted Budget Uncertainty and Faculty Contracts: A Dynamic Framework for Comparative Analysis on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
We study hiring decisions made by competing universities in a dynamic framework, focusing on the structure of university finance. Universities with annual state-approved financing underinvest in high-quality faculty, while universities that receive a significant part of their annual income from returns on endowments hire fewer but better faculty and provide long-term contracts. If university financing is linked to the number of students, there is additional pressure to hire low-quality short-term staff. An increase in the university's budget might force the university to switch its priorities from 'research' to 'teaching' in equilibrium. We employ our model to discuss the necessity for state-financed endowments, and investigate the political economics of competition between universities, path-dependence in the development of the university system, and higher-education reform in emerging market economies.
(Hat Tip: Max Huffman.)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I previously blogged that the IRS increasingly is requiring faculty to report the value of university-provided cell phones as income under § 280F. This week's Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the IRS is similarly targeting faculty who receive a university-provided laptop: Professors May Have to Pay Taxes on College Laptops, by David Shieh:
Professors lucky enough to get laptops from their institutions may want to watch out — the taxman could come knocking.
Manchester College has announced that employees with university-owned laptops will now have to add those laptops to their tax forms as taxable items. This means a $1,600 laptop with a four-year life expectancy would add $400 per year to an employee’s taxable income ....
At Manchester, the news has caused “significant push back from employees” who want to avoid paying additional taxes. ... “Many want to exchange their laptop for a desktop to avoid the tax liability in the future.” ...
Because university laptops are often used for personal purposes, the IRS counts them as taxable “fringe benefits,” said Bertrand Harding, a tax lawyer specializing in nonprofit institutions, in an interview with The Chronicle. If a college is able to provide documentation showing such laptops were used for business purposes every time they were turned on, it would not have to pay tax on the machines. But few institutions could offer any such proof, Mr. Harding said.
In recent years, the IRS has started to crack down on fringe benefits like laptops and cellphones, and it has asked institutions to pay taxes that were not withheld from employees, Mr. Harding said. This has resulted in an increasing number of colleges — like Manchester — listing laptops as taxable items, Mr. Harding said. “Some colleges just put their heads in the sand and say we’re just going to wait for the IRS to come,” Mr. Harding said. “Others are changing their policies so they don’t get hammered when the IRS comes in.”
Many law schools give faculty a choice between an office desktop computer and a laptop computer. Faculty concerned about the tax consequences should consider the desktop option (unless they plan on being Treasury Secretary). For a detailed discussion of these tax rules, see Handling Employee Use of Employer-provided Computers and Cell Phones. (Hat Tip: Bruce McGovern.)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The AALS has announced that the following Tax Profs have been selected as the Teacher of the Year for 2007-08 at their respective law schools:
Samuel A. Donaldson (University of Washington)
Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings)
William H. Lyons (Nebraska)
Michael T. Yu (California Western)
Prior Tax Teachers of the Year:
Three Chronicle of Higher Education articles by Peter Schmidt on "customizable" law school degrees, with excerpts below the fold:
- Law Schools Customize Degrees to Students' Taste
- Boldly Go Where No Law Student Has Gone Before
- New Niches Mean More Power for Vanderbilt's Law Faculty
Johnny Rex Buckles (Houston) has posted Do Law Schools Forfeit Federal Income Tax Exemption When They Deny Military Recruiters Full Access to Career Services Programs? The Hypothetical Case of Yale University v. Commissioner, 41 Ariz. St. L.J. ___ (2009), on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Most U.S. law schools prohibit prospective employers who discriminate against students on any of several grounds, including sexual orientation, from utilizing the schools' student recruitment programs conducted by their career services offices. Because homosexuals who disclose their sexual orientation may not serve in the United States armed forces, some law schools at times have limited the channels through which military recruiters may interview students. In response to the application of these anti-discrimination policies to military recruiters, Congress enacted the Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment eliminates certain federal funding otherwise available to an institution of higher education if it denies military recruiters the same access to its students and campus that other recruiting employers receive. Although the Supreme Court has recently upheld the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, another legal issue -- one that existing legal scholarship has never considered -- remains outstanding. The issue is whether private law schools that have denied military recruiters full access to student recruitment programs have forfeited their federal income tax exemption under § 501(c)(3) under the public policy doctrine announced in Bob Jones University v. United States. This article rigorously analyzes this provocative issue by positing a hypothetical Supreme Court case, Yale University v. Commissioner, in which four opinions written by fictional Supreme Court Justices determine the tax-exempt status of several private, free-standing law schools or their affiliated universities. This format not only facilitates an analysis of the nuances of the public policy doctrine, but also exposes and illustrates the vagaries of the doctrine. Building on Reforming the Public Policy Doctrine, 53 U. Kan. L. Rev. 397 (2005), this article concludes that the hypothetical case of Yale University v. Commissioner demonstrates that the public policy doctrine should be reformed.
New York Times (Jan. 18, 2009): The Last Professor, by Stanley Fish:
I have argued that higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a direct and designed relationship between its activities and measurable effects in the world. ...
It may be fun to argue its merits (as I have done), but that argument may be merely academic – in the pejorative sense of the word – if it has no support in the real world from which it rhetorically distances itself. In today’s climate, does it have a chance?
In a new book, The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, Frank Donoghue ... asks that question and answers “No.” ... Except in a few private wealthy universities (functioning almost as museums), the splendid and supported irrelevance of humanist inquiry for its own sake is already a thing of the past. ...
One vision, rooted in an “ethic of productivity” and efficiency, has, he tells us, already won the day; and the proof is that in the very colleges and universities where the life of the mind is routinely celebrated, the material conditions of the workplace are configured by the business model that scorns it. The best evidence for this is the shrinking number of tenured and tenure-track faculty and the corresponding rise of adjuncts, part-timers more akin to itinerant workers than to embedded professionals. ... Universities under increasing financial pressure, he explains, do not “hire the most experienced teachers, but rather the cheapest teachers.” Tenured and tenure-track teachers now make up only 35% of the pedagogical workforce and “this number is steadily falling.” ...
People sometimes believe that they were born too late or too early. After reading Donoghue’s book, I feel that I have timed it just right, for it seems that I have had a career that would not have been available to me had I entered the world 50 years later. Just lucky, I guess.
Forbes (Jan. 14, 2009): The Great College Hoax, by Kathy Kristof:
Accepted into the California Western School of Law, a private San Diego institution, [Joel] Kellum couldn't swing the $36,000 in annual tuition with financial aid and part-time work. So he did what friends and professors said was the smart move and took out $60,000 in student loans.
Kellum's law school sweetheart, Jennifer Coultas, did much the same. By the time they graduated in 1995, the couple was $194,000 in debt. They eventually married and each landed a six-figure job. Yet even with Kellum moonlighting, they had to scrounge to come up with $145,000 in loan payments. With interest accruing at up to 12% a year, that whittled away only $21,000 in principal. Their remaining bill: $173,000 and counting.
Kellum and Coultas divorced last year. Each cites their struggle with law school debt as a major source of stress on their marriage. "Two people with this much debt just shouldn't be together," Kellum says.
The two disillusioned attorneys were victims of an unfolding education hoax on the middle class that's just as insidious, and nearly as sweeping, as the housing debacle. The ingredients are strikingly similar, too: Misguided easy-money policies that are encouraging the masses to go into debt; a self-serving establishment trading in half-truths that exaggerate the value of its product; plus a Wall Street money machine dabbling in outright fraud as it foists unaffordable debt on the most vulnerable marks. ...
Not only are college numbers spun. Some are patently spurious, says Richard Sander, a law professor at UCLA. Law schools lure in minority students to improve diversity rankings without disclosing that less than half of African-Americans who enter these programs ever pass the bar. Schools goose employment statistics by temporarily hiring new grads and spotlighting kids who land top-paying jobs, while glossing over far-lower average incomes. The one certainty: The average law grad owes $100,000 in student debt. "There are a lot of aspects of selling education that are tinged with consumer fraud," Sander says. "There is a definite conspiracy to lead students down a primrose path."
AALS Committee on Research Program (Jan. 9, 2009), Citations, SSRN Downloads, U.S. News, Carnegie, Bar Passage, Careers: Competing Methods of Assessing Law Schools (podcast):
- Bill Henderson (Indiana):
- 25:30: "Employment outcomes do not turn on your U.S. News ranking."
- 25:55: At 50 law schools, 20% of the students are either unemployed, flunked out, or are unknown, yet the ABA and LSAC disavow the use of data to rank law schools.
- 1:16:50: "We are an input-focused business, and outputs are what the students are paying for."
- 1:20:40: "Law school needs to be about what people need -- not what we're good at. ... Most of us are social misfits, and we're the ones who've been designated to teach the students how to work interpersonal skills."
- 1:21:20: "We should be ashamed of ourselves. We own our students' outcomes. We took them. We took their money. We live on their money to pay to come to San Diego. And if they don't have a good outcome in life, we're exploiting them. It's our responsibility to own the outcomes of our institutions. If they're not doing well ... it's gotta be fixed. Or we should shut the damn place down. And that's a moral responsibility that we bear in the academy. It's a leadership responsibility that each of us has. And damn the U.S. News if it affects our rankings. The kids are not gonna show up. Do you know that LSAT registrations are flat to down this year. That students' applications to law school are flat to down in a substantial number of law schools. That's never happened in a downturn in the economy before. They're catching on. Maybe this thing they are doing is not so valuable. Maybe the chance at being in the top 10% is not a good enough lottery shot in order to effectively spend $120,000 and see it blow up at the end of three years of law school.
- 1:29:20: "We're mad as heck and we can't take it anymore. ... To the panelists and others in the room: what are we going to do? Are people from AALS leadership here?"
- 1:32:00: "This group has stonewalled completely and killed any kind of real consumer information for 20 or 30 years, and that's what made U.S. News own this particular enterprise. And it's something that maybe those that stonewalled for some long might have to take some initiative and responsibility in remedying the situation we find ourselves in."
Monday, January 19, 2009
New York Times: At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard, by Sara Rimer:
The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50%.
M.I.T. is not alone. Other universities are changing their ways, among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard. In these institutions, physicists have been pioneering teaching methods drawn from research showing that most students learn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning. ...
The new approach at M.I.T. is known by its acronym, TEAL, for Technology Enhanced Active Learning. A $10 million donation from the late Alex d’Arbeloff, an M.I.T. alumnus, co-founder of the high-tech company Teradyne, and former M.I.T. corporation chairman, made the switch to TEAL possible. The two state-of-the-art TEAL classrooms alone cost $2.5 million, Professor Belcher said. Unlike in the lectures, attendance counts toward the final grade, and attendance is up to about 80%. Classes meet three times a week, for a total of five hours. Homework is due three times a week. ...
Younger professors tend to be more enthusiastic about TEAL than veterans who have been perfecting their lectures for decades. One of the newer professors, Gabriella Sciolla, who arrived in 2003, was teaching a TEAL class on circuits recently. She gauged the level of understanding in the room by throwing out a series of multiple-choice questions. The students “voted” with their wireless “personal response clickers” — the clickers are essential to TEAL — which transmitted the answers to a computer monitored by the professor and her assistants.
“You know where they are,” Professor Sciolla said afterward. She can then adjust, slowing down or engaging students in guided discussions of their answers, as needed. Lecturing in 26-100, she said, she could only look out at the sea of faces and hope the students were getting it. “They might be looking intently at you, understanding everything,” Professor Sciolla said. “Or they might be thinking, ‘What am I going to do when I get out of this bloody class?’
(Hat Tip: Sarah Lawsky.)
National Law Journal: Uniform Bar Exam a Reality? A Total of 19 States Positioned to Implement UBE, by Leigh Jones:
The possibility of a uniform bar exam that would help standardize attorney licensing state-to-state is inching closer to becoming a reality. Currently, 19 states are positioned to implement the uniform bar exam, or UBE as it is called. The exam, designed to create a consistent competency measure for admission to practice, would be a three-component test, all with the same questions, administered in each jurisdiction.
Although many states historically have held onto their testing autonomy by developing some of their own exam questions and by using their own pass scores, legal professionals say that a single exam — such as those utilized for physicians, architects and accountants — is an increasing likelihood for lawyers. ...
The uniform bar exam would consist of three components, all developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners: the MBE; the Multistate Performance Test; and the Multistate Essay Examination. The uniform test score would include performance on these components only and would not incorporate a state law portion. Each state would continue to do its own grading and, at least initially, each state could set its own minimum pass score. Individual states would continue to conduct their own character and fitness screening for bar admission.
The 19 jurisdictions that could most readily begin using the uniform exam already include the three components developed by the National Conference on their bar exams. Illinois, Missouri and Colorado are among those states.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
In this month's Science: Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions:
When students answer an in-class conceptual question individually using clickers, discuss it with their neighbors, and then revote on the same question, the percentage of correct answers typically increases. This outcome could result from gains in understanding during discussion, or simply from peer influence of knowledgeable students on their neighbors. To distinguish between these alternatives in an undergraduate genetics course, we followed the above exercise with a second, similar (isomorphic) question on the same concept that students answered individually. Our results indicate that peer discussion enhances understanding, even when none of the students in a discussion group originally knows the correct answer.
Chronicle of Higher Education: Learning With "Clickers" Gets Better After Peer Discussions, by Ruth Hammond:
College students who use wireless handheld devices called "clickers" to register answers to instructors' questions during lectures are more likely to give correct responses after discussion with their peers, studies have found. But, researchers wondered, were students improving merely because they copied the answers of fellow students? Or had they actually gained a greater understanding of the material? The findings of a new study published in the latest issue of Science suggest that improvement after peer discussion reflects real learning.
study could be put in place without clickers, students enjoy using the device as long as they're given challenging questions, Ms. Smith says. The device is used in college classrooms across the country, especially in large lecture courses in the hard sciences and mathematics, says Jane E. Caldwell, a biology instructor at West Virginia University who has published a paper in CBE--Life Sciences Education reviewing research on clickers. She says the new paper in Science "made a great stride in pinning down the cause of improvement in performance," showing it was not just the result of "persuasion by bright students that happened to be sitting nearby."
(Hat Tip: Jim Maule, Barbara McFarland.)
Friday, January 16, 2009
From next week's National Law Journal: Law Schools Dealing With Budget Cuts; Private Law Schools May Have It Worse, by Karen Sloan:
A number of states facing revenue shortfalls are eyeing cuts wherever possible, and higher education is a potential target. The financial picture isn't much brighter — and may actually be worse — for private law schools. Those schools generally rely more heavily than their public counterparts on income from endowments to pay for operations, and the nose-diving financial markets have hit endowments hard. ...
University of Chicago Law School Dean Saul Levmore said reliance on funding from endowments varies, but generally makes up a quarter to a half of the operating budget at private schools. Considering that many endowments have lost between 20% and 40% of their value, schools will likely need to make cuts, he said. However, the full impact of shrinking endowments won't be felt for several years. Law schools may see modest budget cuts in the short term, but long-term reductions could reach about 17% for very endowment-dependent schools if the economy does not recover quickly, Levmore said.
The article notes the budget cuts at these law schools:
- Florida State: 7%
- North Carolina: projected 3%, 5% or 7%
- Temple: 2%
- UC-Hastings: 5%
- UNLV: 9%
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I previously noted that Jim Maule (Villanova) has a well-deserved reputation as the Yoda of tax teachers, as he generously shares his insights with both tax faculty (via email discussion groups, exam banks, and PowerPoint banks) and tax students (via CALI exercises). His latest contribution is Preparing for Class, Law-Profesor Style, which details the 27 steps he takes in preparing to teach his tax courses:
Long before I walk into the first class in any course, I have been investing significant amounts of time preparing for the course. For fall semester courses, the preparation usually begins in April or May, is suspended during most of the summer, and resumes in August. For spring semester courses, the preparation usually begins in late October or November, is suspended during part of December, and resumes in early January. Some people, including law students, think that there's nothing much for the professor to do but to pick up the book assigned to the course and last year's notes, walk into the classroom, and begin talking. Though that might happen in some courses, it ought not happen, and it surely doesn't happen in my courses. I've been meaning, for several years, to dedicate a posting to an explanation of the process that I use to prepare a course that I have previously taught. Hopefully, it's informative to people inside the law school community as well as to those who are on the outside looking in. ...
Well, that's how I get ready for a course. There are law faculty who follow a similar pattern. There are others who do not. Someone who does not use Powerpoint slides, clicker questions, or problems requiring preparation and solution, and who does not provide supplemental materials, can omit a good chunk of what I do as I prepare. If they also omit semester exercises, there's even less to do. I do what I have decided needs to be done for my teaching to be effective. I doubt I'd be comfortable trying to get by on less. And without my checklist, which is a shorthand version of the 27 steps I've described in this post, I'd be lost. So, when someone asks what I am doing when I'm not in the classroom, I explain that in addition to writing and dealing with committee and other administrative matters, I'm working through my course preparation checklist. I'm usually getting ready for next semester while the current semester is underway. In a few years there will come a semester when I won't be getting ready for a next semester. I will ditch those checklists and I will be …. yes, listless.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Texas A&M faculty are protesting plans to give $2,500 - $10,000 bonuses to the Top 15% of faculty solely on the basis of student evaluations:
The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System wants to give bonuses worth up to $10,000 to some instructors, but so far, many aren't interested. "I've never had so much trouble giving away a million dollars," Chancellor Mike McKinney said, laughing. ...
But faculty members have voiced concern about the program's fairness, worried that it relies on a single evaluation method and could become a popularity contest that wouldn't serve students. Many instructors haven't signed up to participate; the faculty senate passed a resolution opposing the program. ...
"I don't think faculty are going to pander to students for a few thousand dollars," said Traci Carte, an associate professor of management information systems.
Update: Faculty Pay by "Applause Meter" (Inside Higher Ed)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
In my AALS talk this week, I again made the case for using technology to create an active learning environment in the classroom. I drew on two aspects of the just-released LSSSE data from 29,000 law students at 85 law schools on their use of laptops in class.
First, students who use laptops a lot in class:
- Are more likely to contribute to class discussion (54% v. 45%)
- Are less likely to come to class unprepared (5% v. 10%)
- Work harder to meet faculty expectations (73% v. 62%)
Second, students report that they frequently use their laptop in class for the following activities:
In my talk, I argued that clickers give students incentive to curtail their use of laptops in class to email, surf the web, or IM. For further coverage of LSSSE's laptop data, see
- ABA Journal: Survey Captures 3L Ennui, by Debra Cassens Weiss
- Chronicle of Higher Education, Survey Gets Law-School Students' Thoughts on Laptops, Writing, and Ethics, by Steven Bushong
- Inside Higher Ed, Writing Lags in Law Schools, by David Moltz
- Law Librarian Blog, 2008 LSSSE Report Finds Student Use of Laptops in the Classroom Productive Except for Those Bored 3Ls, by Joe Hodnicki
- National Law Journal, Laptops in Class May Give Law Students an Edge, by Tresa Baldas
Thursday, January 8, 2009
New York Times: The Dean Is on the Line, by Victoria Goldman:
"Let me be the first to congratulate you."
That’s Michael J. States’s greeting to applicants after they’ve been accepted at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Forget the thick envelope. A successful applicant to many top law and business schools can expect to learn the news via a call from the dean. The cynical explanation: applicants get more excited about enrolling when they get a call on their cellphones instead of an admittance letter, and that improves a school’s selectivity numbers. The warm and fuzzy reason: admissions offices are responding to digital depersonalization. ...
So with the rise of the Internet, deans at institutions like Harvard, Yale, Emory and the Berkeley and Los Angeles branches of the University of California have made thousands of phone calls a year just to say welcome. (Hat Tip: Michael Solimine.)
From Steely Dan: Rikki, Don't Lose That Number:
You tell yourself you're not my kind
But you don't even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart
[Dean] don't lose that number
You don't wanna call nobody else
Update: Pete Wentz offers these alternatives:
Tommy Tutone: 8675309:
Jenny, I got your number,
I need to make you mine.
Jenny, don't change your number,
The Marvelettes: Beechwood 4-5789:
[Dean] Don't be shy, just take your time ...
I'd like to get to know you
I'd like to make you mine
I've been waiting, standing here so patiently
For you to come over [and make the offer to me]
And my number is Beechwood 4-5789
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
LSSSE Releases Annual Report: Laptops Help Student Learning, Law Schools Lag in Teaching Legal Writing
The Law School Survey of Student Engagement today released its annual report, Student Engagement in Law Schools: Preparing 21st Century Lawyers. Among the findings:
Laptop computer use and its educational implications have sometimes generated heated debate among legal educators. LSSSE findings show that student use of laptops for keeping and reviewing notes and calling up previously briefed cases goes together with high levels of engagement in courses. So when used effectively, laptops may well enhance learning, rather than being a substitute for other kinds of course engagement or simply a distraction.
In the crucial area of legal writing, the 2008 findings are more complex and unsettling. Nearly half of responding students reported that they have not had enough practice in developing their legal writing skills in situations matching or approximating real-world legal practice. At the same time, students reported that such practice-oriented writing assignments were particularly effective in enhancing their legal research and communication skills. So, while in aspiration much of legal education is starting to move beyond an exclusive focus upon “thinking like a lawyer,” in practice the schools generally have a long way to go to make those aspirations real achievements.
The questions about how schools foster professionalism resulted in perhaps the most intriguing finding. The size of the student body as well as mission of the school turns out to matter significantly for the formation of ethically cognizant and publicoriented lawyers. Students at smaller schools and those with religious affiliation do best in these important areas. In this as in the case of legal writing, this year’s LSSSE findings are important feedback for legal educators bent on improvement.
- Indiana Press Release, Law School Study Links Laptop Computer Use, Student Engagement
- Inside Higher Ed, Writing Lags in Law Schools, by David Moltz.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Gordon Smith (BYU) offers some advice for young law scholars, from the perspective of someone who has written 15-20 tenure review letters over the past few years. I think his final point is often overlooked by young scholars, to their detriment:
You probably can't afford a publicist, so you will have to market yourself. This piece of advice comes from a very basic insight: if I haven't heard of you before I get the call or the email inviting me to review your work, that's a bad sign for you. I almost always accept invitations to write tenure letters simply because I believe this form of service is important. Rarely am I asked to write a review for someone who is completely unknown to me, but it happens. And it's hard for me to imagine writing a letter about how significantly you have influenced the field if I have never heard of you. Send reprints. Get yourself invited as a guest blogger on a popular law professor blog. Go to conferences. Host your own conference. Invite important figures in your field to give talks at your law school. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to get to know the players in your field, and cultivate those relationships.
I talked about this at the 2007 AALS Annual Meeting, Building and Marketing Your Scholarly "Brand"
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Washington & Lee Dean Rodney A. Smolla is one of the two lawyers representing Washington, D.C. lobbyist Vicki L. Iseman in her lawsuit against the New York Times, alleging that the paper's Feb. 21 front-page article wrongly asserted that she an Sen. John McCain had an improper romantic relationship. (Hat Tip: Jack Bogdanski.)
American Lawyer Daily: What’s Wrong With Law School?, by Susan Beck:
Law firms may not be known for innovation, but they look positively cutting edge next to law schools. That was the consensus at the two-day Leading Legal Innovation conference, which drew 30 law firm leaders, professors, and entrepreneurs.
Among the topics on the table: Law schools are great at teaching students how to read a court decision, but they don’t teach many of the skills needed to be a successful lawyer. They also don’t screen applicants for the qualities that make for good lawyers. High grades and test scores alone are not good predictors for success.
William Henderson, an associate professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, suggests that a school like his, which doesn’t top many law firms’ recruiting lists, could indeed differentiate itself by teaching and screening for interpersonal skills. "If you can build a curriculum that teaches competencies like empathy, networking, and teamwork, a school could really change and be innovative,” says Henderson. Some additional adjunct faculty might be needed for those courses; however, Henderson admits that most law professors don’t have the skills to teach courses like this. (Henderson says his school is planning changes to address these gaps, but the school isn't ready to "share its playbook" at this point.)
Northwestern University School of Law is already aiming to differentiate itself by screening for more mature, experienced students. "This entering class had only three percent who came straight from college," says dean David Van Zandt. "More than 82% have two years experience, and I'm thinking more and more we need to increase that. I think it takes a while to learn the ability to work with others in teams and communicate effectively." ...
Several professors complained that the ABA--and its outdated accreditation standards--is the main bulwark against innovation. “The ABA is stifling law schools and preventing needed change,” says Northwestern dean Van Zandt. “Their regulation forces most of us to build an Acura instead of a Corolla, and that’s a real harm to society.” Van Zandt cited ABA rules requiring that a high percentage of a school’s faculty be full-time and tenured, rules limiting online courses, and burdensome and expensive requirements for law school libraries. “If you want to start a law school, you probably need 50-60,000 books in your library."
Benjamin Barton, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, contrasted law schools with business schools. "Business schools are massively more innovative because no one has to go to business school," he says. "They're more interested in showing that they're giving you something of value." In addition, he says, business school professors are much more attuned to the real world. "At a business school, corporate executives pay $10,000 a week to talk to
Monday, December 29, 2008
From today's Inside Higher Ed: The Teaching Paradox, by Scott Jaschik:
A new survey of faculty members in English and foreign languages will challenge some assumptions about how and why women and men are not promoted at the same levels or feel the same satisfaction in academe.
The Modern Language Association has yet to release its “associate professor survey,” which, notwithstanding its name, included both associate and full professors. But professors involved in the report, due out soon, revealed some of the key findings Sunday at the MLA’s annual meeting: ...
- Women work an average of 1.5 hours more per week than do men on grading student work.
- Men work an average of 2 hours more per week on research ...
Many women reported feeling hostility from many of their colleagues and a lack of support in research, even as many departments value it over teaching. This raises the potentially troubling question, she said, of whether women value teaching for the “magic” of the classroom or because “teaching can be a kind of refuge” in that the classroom is the place where women (and men) have the most control over their professional decisions. ...
Joycelyn K. Moody, the Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said that what most troubled her about the responses was that women reported feeling shame about their interest and success in teaching. Women should be feeling pride in their success as teachers, she said, but are “perceiving themselves as performing below expectations,” because they aren’t doing more research. It’s time to “dismantle those institutional values,” Moody said, so that the shame disappears.
Moody also said that the survey results will show how some discussions that have been going on for years in higher education have missed a key element: gender. She noted that Ernest L. Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered in 1990 “paid no particular respect to gender,” even as it called for shifting the reward system in higher education to value research on teaching and to see curricular work as contributing to scholarship. To talk about “free floating anxiety” about the relative value of scholarship vs. teaching, without considering gender, she said, missed a key point.
Northwestern University Law School is actively—and unapologetically—recruiting top-performing law students from lower-ranked schools, a practice that some deans claim is becoming commonplace at elite institutions.
Each year, 150 or so of Northwestern’s 5,000 applicants turned down for first-year admission receive letters inviting them to apply again for “conditional acceptance” the following fall. “The acceptance would be contingent upon your achieving a certain GPA or class rank during your first year of law school elsewhere,” says the letter, which is signed by the school’s assistant dean of admissions.
Deans of lower-tier law schools argue that such recruiting is predatory, allowing elite schools to poach their best students. Moreover, they claim the practice helps top schools boost revenues in their second- and third-year classes, while keeping up their LSAT and GPA averages—both significant components of U.S. News & World Report’s law school rankings.
Northwestern Dean David Van Zandt says that he understands the poaching charge, and that it’s “probably true.” But top-performing students who have proved themselves “should be entitled to transfer, and there’s no harm in us facilitating that,” says Van Zandt. “Chrysler and General Motors don’t agree not to poach each other’s customers.”
During the 2006-2007 academic year, the Chicago-based school—which was listed ninth in the 2008 U.S. News law school rankings—added 43 transfers to its 238-student first-year class. Other top-ranked schools that year had similar gains. At 14th-ranked Georgetown University Law Center, 93 students transferred in. UCLA School of Law, which ranked 16th on the U.S. News list, netted 31 transfers to its 323-student first-year class. Fifth-ranked NYU Law added 38 transfers to a class of 447.
David Logan, dean of Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, R.I., says there’s been a drastic increase in transfer students in recent years. It suggests to him the schools are gaming the rankings, but he admits that would be hard to prove. “Because the ABA has only [collected] transfer numbers for the past couple of years, there can be no definitive proof of a trend over time,” Logan says. ...
While elite schools argue that transfer students benefit from “trading up,” Logan laments a ripple effect that begins with the brain drain on the original school, which reduces academic discussion and harms the bar passage rate. In addition, faculties lose research assistants, classmates lose friendships, and tuition increases are imposed to offset departing students. And at their new school, transfer students will find it tougher to forge relationships. “They’re just cash cows,” Logan says.
Northwestern’s Van Zandt disagrees: “I find that argument patronizing to a group of people who are going into a profession of judgment. These are smart people. Some transfers won’t work out, just like anything in life. But quite a few are advantaged.”
Clarification: In Transfers Bolster Elite Schools, ... Northwestern University School of Law said it extends conditional second-year acceptance to 150 of the 5,000 applicants turned down for first-year admission. A representative for the law school now says it extends only 15 to 25 such conditional acceptances each year.
(Hat Tip: Adam Steinman.)
Friday, December 26, 2008
The New York Times picks up the story (previously blogged here and here) of the abrupt firing of Duquesne's dean: Dean’s Firing Draws Protest at Duquesne Law School, by Sean D. Hamill:
The root of the tension between the two men, many at the university say, was [President] Dougherty’s desire to centralize the administration when he came to Duquesne in 2001, making sure that all major decisions and communication came through his office. Dr. Dougherty’s efforts included emphasizing a longstanding practice that none of the university’s deans could have any contact with board members — which Dr. Pearson told [Dean] Guter he had run afoul of when he sent postcards to the Duquesne community announcing a law professor’s new book, further straining his relationship with Dr. Dougherty.
The most difficult dispute — which many believe set the tone for everything thereafter — came during Mr. Guter’s first year, when Prof. John T. Rago sought tenure. The faculty and Mr. Guter approved of tenure, but Dr. Dougherty opposed it. “The president wanted me to align my stance with his, but I said I’d stand with Rago,” Mr. Guter recalled. “He wasn’t happy.” ...
Bruce Ledewitz, a professor at the school since 1980 who said he was not an early fan of Mr. Guter’s, said it was obvious that Mr. Guter simply “didn’t toe the president’s line.” Reading from a list of improvements he keeps on his desk, Professor Ledewitz said: “Bar scores are up. The moot court team won national titles. Alumni giving is up. The research and writing program was nationally ranked. Faculty scholarship is up. If you have a list like this, it isn’t rocket science; he’s good at what he does.”
But on a faculty that has long been broken into factions, not everyone sees it that way. “I’m relieved to see the change that has come to the law school,” said Robert S. Barker, a professor at the school for 26 years. “The folks under Guter have driven away two faculty members, marginalized another, and done serious damage to the academic programs, particularly for international students.”
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Single Mother Celebrates Christmas in New Habit for Humanity Home After Persevering Through Law School
Here is an inspiring story from the Witchita Eagle about Latina Alston, a 30-year old single mother of three who overcame more obstacles than most of us will ever face to earn a law degree at Washburn and is now an assistant public defender. Single Mother Perseveres to Earn Law Degree, by Roy Wenzl:
In her first year at Washburn, in 2004, Latina cried in class all the time, sobbing quietly while she studied torts, contract law, criminal procedure. ... The teachers had warned her that the first year breaks a lot of people. ...
Latina struggled. She nearly failed a writing exam that would have sent her packing had she not passed.
During spring break, in March 2005, she had an emotional meltdown. ... Her car broke down. She spent $600 fixing it, and then collapsed.
When classes resumed, she failed to get out of bed. Stress, welfare, food stamps, guilt over living off her mother, and relentless study had wrecked her health. For two days, she took her kids to school and day care, but went back to bed instead of class. She was so depressed she could barely move. ... And then the phone rang.
It was another black student. There were only 12 in the first-year class. Are you OK? Why aren't you in class? Can I help you study? Do you need anything? Get your butt out of bed. And get back to class.
"At Washburn, the black students felt isolated, alone, except that we thought the white faculty and students were watching us, maybe waiting for us to fail," Latina said later. "So we'd pretty much made a vow that none of us were going to fail.... If I had not gotten up on my own, I think the others would have come in and dragged me out with their hands."
Her fellow black students pleaded with her not to let them down.
She got out of bed.
In early June Latina's car broke down again. She was crying in class again, facing failure. She needed a 2.0 GPA or she would wash out.
She passed. Barely. ...
She hung on, through the second year. Then the third.
The other black students helped her, as she helped them. All 12 graduated.
By the time she got her diploma in May 2007, Latina had made one of those mistakes she admits she's prone to. When she slipped into her cap and gown, she was four months pregnant, still unmarried. Dylan Wharton-Alston, her third child, was born in October 2007. ...
Latina was single, and for the next four months she studied to pass the bar exam, often with three children clinging to her, asking for help, pleading for attention. Helping her study, and cheering her on, were her African-American classmates.
She passed the Kansas bar in February 2008. ...
As Sedgwick County's newest public defender, Latina earns $45,000 a year. She owes more than $100,000 in student loans.
Her boss, Osburn, hearing her life story for the first time last week, expressed amazement that she got through law school. "I went to Washburn, too, and I had kids, but I had a wife... I had help. I can't imagine what it was like, what she did." He said Latina hadn't told him how hard it was for her to get through. ...
In the 19 months since she returned to Wichita, Latina has slept every night in one bedroom with her children. The room is at her mother's house, the same tiny, two-bedroom dwelling where Latina grew up. There are holes in the floor where rodents come in; the windows let in winter chill; a tree is growing through the back of the house.
But last week Latina signed the papers on a Habitat for Humanity house that she qualified for and helped build. In that house, Latina has given her mother a room to herself; Latina will sleep on the living room couch. ... They closed on the house on Wednesday.
"My mother has no retirement, no savings," Latina said last week. "She's given her whole life away, to her children, to her grandchildren. So yeah, she gets a room in the new house."
In that house this Thursday, the Alston family will celebrate Christmas.
On Legal Blog Watch, Carolyn Elefant blogs about the story in Law Student's Experience a Triumph Over Racism, or Typical?:
Alston's story comes across as a feel good Horatio Alger tale -- and yet as of this posting it has generated 152 comments [now 198], many of them negative. At least half of the commenters criticized Alston for her remarks about the racism she faced at Washburn, where she was one of only twelve black students in the entire class. ...
The article also focuses on how it was Alston's fellow black students who encouraged her to finish law school and cheered her on as she studied for -- and subsequently passed -- the bar.
For me, Alston's comments soured an otherwise uplifting story. Personally, I think the typical law school environment discourages all students equally, no matter their gender or race. Virtually every lawyer has a story of how they had at least one, if not more, arrogant Kingsfield-ian professor and put up with silly competitive antics (like stealing tests from the library or hiding books needed for an assignment) from cutthroat students willing to do anything to make law review and snag a job. But like so much else in life, all that nonsense serves as a rite of passage to get where you want to go.
Still, perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe the racism that Alston faced at her law school was far more pervasive, so much so that she felt compelled to include it as part of her story.
What do you think? Do law schools wait for black students to fail or intentionally isolate them from the student body? What was your experience?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
From The Recorder: Law School Trims Faculty Raises, Restricts Hires, by Petra Pasternak:
Bracing for more bad news from the state of California, Hastings College of the Law is forgoing some raises and scaling back on hiring, and has asked department heads to shave 5 percent from their current operating budgets.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Following up on my prior post, Duquesne Dean Resigns After Given 24-Hours Notice to Resign or be Fired; Tenure Battle, Lack of Faculty Scholarship Cited as Reasons: see yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Law School Rankings Carry Big Clout; Duquesne's Low Ranking Given as Reason for Dean's Controversial Removal, by Bill Schackner:
Duquesne University cited its law school's fourth-tier finish in U.S. News & World Report in explaining Dean Don Guter's removal, but some of what figured prominently in that showing may have been partly beyond his control.
If nothing else, the fact the magazine entered into the discussion at all illustrates the influence of these rankings, which often are scorned by college administrators for problems including subjectivity, but nonetheless are closely followed by prospective students and others.
In a phone interview, Robert Morse, who directs research for the magazine rankings, cited half a dozen criteria that figured significantly in Duquesne's low rank in March.
Three of them -- spending per student, faculty-to-student ratio, and the number of volumes and titles in the law library -- involve law school funding decisions that at a university often rest partly or in whole with central campus administration, observers say.
Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare, who raised U.S. News in defending Mr. Guter's Dec. 10 removal, says it was neither the sole nor an overriding factor. "He has been apprised of various expectations over three years," she said. Duquesne officials say they ousted Mr. Guter for performance failings they can't specify for confidentiality reasons, but they also said the law school needs to improve its scholarship. ...
Duquesne ranked second to last out of 184 law schools in per-student spending on instruction, library and support, Mr. Morse said. It spent 64% of what nearby Pitt spends.
Duquesne's law student-to-faculty ratio, at 18.2 to 1, ranked 160th, Mr. Morse said. Volumes and titles in Duquesne's law library, at 386,540, ranked 153rd.
Rounding out the six criteria were the school's 145th ranking in the median LSAT entrance exam scores; a 1.9 out of 5 possible points in a category allowing law schools to rate peers; and a 157th place in the share of the Class of 2006 employed full- or part-time nine months after graduation. It was 86.1 percent, Mr. Morse said. ...
With Duquesne declining to specify evaluation criteria or any promises the dean made upon his hiring, interpreting his removal is more difficult. "That's a significant unknown," Mr. Morse said. Still, he said, concerning the school's budget, it would seem "there has to be some culpability" on the part of the central administration. Noting the relatively low per-student spending, he added, "It's hard to compete when you're spending that much less."
Ms. Fare said Duquesne actually has increased the law school's operating budget since 2005 by $3 million, or 31%, but that Mr. Guter during his tenure failed to spend down a surplus reaching $1.4 million, or award more than $1 million in financial aid money under his control. "In the first class recruited by former Dean Guter, the school disregarded a planned enrollment reduction authorized by the provost," she said. "This action by the school resulted in a higher acceptance rate, lowered the overall LSAT [score] and resulted in lower expenditures per student."
Ms. Fare said a law school can raise its standing among peers, and thus its magazine ranking, through scholarly activity. But she provided an excerpt of an ABA report from a 2007 law school visit, stating, "the faculty, with a few exceptions, is not publishing substantial quantities of work in the high visibility outlets that will draw national attention to the faculty's work."
(Hat Tip: Brian Leiter.)
Friday, December 19, 2008
Fifty applicants to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management received an email from the school offering them admission. But when they later logged onto the school's website, they learned that they had been rejected. The school blamed the mistake on a "technological glitch."
Spokeswoman Megan Washburn said the school's automated mail-merge process mistakenly attached acceptance letters to candidates who had been declined. ...
One 28-year-old Chicagoan excitedly phoned his parents and enjoyed a celebratory dinner Monday after receiving the acceptance e-mail in error. But the next morning, when he logged into the college's Web site to learn more about enrolling, he found out he had been rejected.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Following up on my previous posts:
- Law School Naming Rights: $25 Million (7/13/07)
- Ave Maria Offers to Sell Naming Rights for $20 Million (12/15/07)
St. Thomas (Miami) is seeking to sell naming rights to the school for $10 million, and in the meantime has sold the naming rights to various pieces for $600,000, including:
- Center for Student Affairs ($100,000)
- Breezeway ($50,000)
- Conference Room ($25,000)
- Law Library ($25,000)
- Main Entrance ($25,000)
- Moot Court Atrium ($10,000)
The school reports that it is seeking to sell the naming rights to classrooms and faculty suites, but not the bathrooms.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Today is the final day to submit comments to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education & Admission to the Bar on the proposal of the Standards Review Committee to eliminate computation of the student-faculty ratio in connection with the accreditation of law schools (Standard 104 and Interpretations 402-1 and 402-2). Under the current Standards, a ratio of 20:1 or less creates a presumption of compliance; a ratio of 30:1 or more creates a presumption of noncompliance.
The Standards Review Committee will conduct a hearing on the proposal on January 9 at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego. Written comments on the proposal and requests to speak at the hearing can be emailed to Becky Stretch (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Assistant ABA Consultant on Legal Education.
The student-faculty ratio currently is included in the ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools and accounts for 3% of the U.S. News law school rankings (and 5% in the U.S. News college rankings and 20% in the new U.S. News world college rankings).
The Legal Writing Institute and Association of Legal Writing Directors oppose the change; other criticism appears at Best Practices for Legal Education, Feminst Law Professors, and Legal Writing Prof Blog.
As one who teaches at a law school whose strategic plan emphasizes the many educational advantages available when a small student body (375 students) is combined with a comparatively large full-time faculty, resulting in one of the Top 10 student-faculty ratios (9.6 to 1) in the country, I agree with the critics of the proposal:
[T]here are obviously arguments in favor of continuing to produce a student-faculty ratio, as evidenced by the fact that three committee members voted to continue to calculate and publish a student-faculty ratio. First, schools may have put considerable effort and resources into improving the student-faculty ratio, so we ought not to eliminate the ratio without giving more careful thought to the different ways in which schools might be relying on the ratio. Second, even though the student-faculty ratio may not give us dispositive answers to the question whether a law school’s faculty is sufficiently large, it does provide a starting point for inquiry, and we ought not eliminate it until we have developed better output measures that we might use in lieu of this traditional input measure. Third, to the extent that Interpretation 402-1 encourages schools to give more faculty members (e.g., legal writing faculty) security of position so that they count in the ratio, that is a good thing. And fourth, we may invite a range of potential unintended consequences if we eliminate the student-faculty ratio as an isolated question without a full assessment of all of Chapter Four of the Standards.
As I have argued elsewhere, the ABA should require that law schools provide more, not less, information to our various constituencies and to the public.