Friday, December 5, 2008
New York Law Journal: Cornell Tops in Bar Exam Pass Rate; State Average Hits High of 91 Percent::
Thursday, December 4, 2008
From the Indiana Business Journal:
Indianapolis attorney and businessman Michael Maurer is giving $35 million to the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, which has been renamed in his honor.
The gift, the largest in the law school’s history to come from a single donor, will fund an undetermined number of scholarships. Because the donation comes during IU’s $1 billion Matching the Promise fund-raising campaign, the university will match investment income from the gift in perpetuity. ...
Maurer said he wanted to make a more meaningful gift during the capital campaign, which ends June 30, 2010, and IU offered him the chance to name the law school. Noting that he entered IU law with one of the lowest undergraduate grade-point averages in the class, Maurer said, “The irony of it kind of tickled me.”
The new name, the Michael Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, is effective today. ...
Maurer’s gift brings the law school’s fund-raising during the capital campaign to $83 million. Last December, Lilly Endowment donated $25 million for faculty recruitment. IU will match income from that gift, as well.
Update: The National Law Journal has more here.
Following up on yesterday's post, Repeat LSAT Takers Surge Following Rule Change Permitting Reporting of Only Highest Score: the National Law Journal picks up the story today:
Sam Stonefield, associate dean for external affairs and a professor of law at Western New England College School of Law, said the new rule also hurts diversity initiatives at today's law schools because applicants in several minority groups are less likely to incur the cost and time necessary to retake the LSAT.
But Allen Easley, dean of the University of La Verne College of Law, who served as chairman of the questionnaire committee of the ABA's section of legal education and admission to the bar, which adopted the rule, said the change was implemented because law school deans were feeling pressured to reflect high LSAT scores in rankings such as U.S. News & World Report and believed competitors were manipulated their average LSAT scores. "If we let everybody report the high score, everyone is on the same level playing field and we eliminate that concern," he said.
He said the number of "repeaters" had been increasing before the ABA implemented the rule, although he admitted that the change could have exacerbated the rise. As to the potential impact that the rules could have on diversity at law schools, his committee concluded that the issue was speculative and outweighed by the other concerns, he said.
The National Law Journal reports that the bar passage rate on the July 2008 exam rose in several large states, including California (5.6% -- 61.7% in 2008 v. 56.1% in 2007), Massachusetts (3.4% -- 86.4% v. 83.0%), and New York (4.1% -- 74.7% v. 70.6%):
The upward trend reflects national scores on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) portion of the test. The multiple choice section can count for up to half of an applicant's score depending on the state, said Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference, which designs the MBE. The national mean on the MBE portion of the test hit a record 145.60 out of a 200-point scale, up from 143.73 in July 2007, Moeser said. ...
One possible explanation is the new attention law schools are giving to preparing students to take the bar examination, Moeser said. "A number are taking [such courses] seriously," she said. A growing number of law schools have offered bar prep courses for credit since the American Bar Association's (ABA) Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began allowing such programs in 2005. A resolution passed by the ABA's House of Delegates at this summer's ABA annual meeting allows law schools to make such programs mandatory.
High average LSAT scores for July 2008 bar exam takers who graduated from law school in the spring of 2008, also accounts for some of the strong performance on this summer's bar examination scores, Moeser said.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Scary news from CNN Money and the ABA Journal: Andrew Magdy (J.D. 2007, Michigan State; LL.M. (Tax) 2008, Washington University) has $150,000 in student loans and has been unsuccessful in his search for a law firm tax job. He has sent out letters and CVs to 300 law firms but has received only one interview.
Following up on my prior post, ABA to Require Schools to Report Highest LSAT Scores from Multiple Tests, Rather Than Average Scores (6/14/06), Bill Henderson (Indiana) today reports that the predicted surge in students re-taking the LSAT has indeed occured: the number of repeat LSAT takers for the October 2008 test increased 16.8% nationally, and a staggering 33.7% in the Northeast -- at $127 per test, those 13,610 repeat test takers represent $1,728,470 to the LSAC.
Update: The National Law Journal has more here.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Ira David Socol, a scholar of technology in special education at Michigan State University, states, "The idea of wasting money on a device no more sophisticated pedagogically than raising your hand drives me nuts, whether it is students' money or the university's." Cellphones, he says, can perform the same tasks as clickers with more interactivity and less inefficiency. ...
Businesses routinely take advantage of the helpful cultures of information-technology and teaching-excellence centers. The first impulse of many such campus programs is to be of service; the second is to be on the cutting edge of innovation in a technological environment. Such virtues, however, can be vices when manipulated by marketers whose goal is profit, not pedagogy. ...
I am still wary of clickers, and I asked professors in my unit if they were using them. ... The students were against clickers ... : "One said that she and her friends would slow down lectures by inputting incorrect answers to poll questions. Another said that it was not unusual to have one student bring multiple clickers as a favor to friends in classes in which clicker responses were used to award credit." ...
Institutions have much to learn from students about the cost and effectiveness of technology. Chief information officers need to be consulted before departments invest in expensive for-profit consumer technologies. Professors need to realize that technology comes at a price, even when advertised as "free." Finally, administrators need to double their efforts at cost containment, demanding assessment before investment, especially in schemes that bypass mandated accountability standards. Otherwise business as usual will continue to disenfranchise our students, who will hold their debt-ridden futures in their clicking hands.
(Hat Tip: Jim Hart.)
Friday, November 28, 2008
Many long-time practitioners muse about what it might be like to retire and teach, not realizing there is no more galvanizing phrase to their counterparts who have long toiled in the academy, nor one less likely to enhance the prospects of the unfortunate seasoned applicant who utters the phrase. I intend this essay not for law professors (though it may either amuse or irritate them), but for those in the practice who aspire, after all these years, to return to the academy. With a good deal of humility acquired along the way, I offer some realistic advice to job seekers, concluding that wistful phrase is precisely the opposite of the true sine qua non of success: demonstrating the capability of, and commitment to, being a productive scholar.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm confident that many law schools do value teaching, but I'm equally confident that its value, in practice, doesn't suit that rhetoric. That is, I no longer believe what I was told -- that teaching is first among equals at law schools,,, in the context of the three traditional tenets of higher education: teaching, research and service. Indeed, it seems that teaching has assumed redheaded stepchild status, behind the favorite child: scholarship.
[A]bsent an economic incentive [for good teaching], teaching will remain a distant second to scholarship, in light of the pressures created by scholarship-heavy P&T criteria and the pressures created by the rankings.
The legal academe cannot continue to incentivize faculty to be better than bad, but not necessarily to be good; to take its cues from the rankings; and overall to marginalize the importance of teaching.
It should go without saying, students deserve better than that.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Legal Education Committee of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) is sponsoring the 2009 Law Student Writing Competition:
Purpose: This competition was created by ACTEC’s Legal Education Committee, which consists of law school professors who teach in the area of trusts and estates and practitioners who teach as adjuncts in the trusts and estates field. The competition honors the late Mary Moers Wenig, a member of ACTEC’s Legal Education Committee, who was a law school professor for over 30 years.
Consistent with ACTEC’s purposes, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Mary Moers Wenig Student Writing Competition was created to encourage and reward scholarly works in the area of trusts and estates. ACTEC’s purposes are to maintain an association of lawyers, international in scope, skilled and experienced in the preparation of wills and trusts; estate planning; probate procedure and administration of trusts and estates of decedents, minors and incompetents; to improve and reform probate, trust and tax laws, procedures, and professional responsibility, to bring together qualified lawyers whose character and ability will contribute to the achievement of the purposes of the College; and to cooperate with bar associations and other organizations with similar purposes.
Eligibility: This competition is open to any alw student in good standing (full-time or part-time) who is currently enrolled as a J.D. or LL.M. candidate in an ABA-accredited law school within the United States or its possessions.
Subjects: The paper must relate to the area of trusts and estates, broadly defined to include:
- Business Planning
- Charitable Planning
- Elder Law
- Employee Benefits
- Fiduciary Administration
- Fiduciary Income Taxation
- Fiduciary Litigation
- Estate Planning and Drafting
- Professional Responsibility
- Substantive Laws for the Gratuitous Transmission of Property
- Wealth Transfer Taxation (Estate, Gift and GST Tax)
- 1st Prize: $5,000 and publication in the ACTEC Journal
- 2d Prize: $3,000 and online publication on ACTEC’s website
- 3d Prize: $1,000 and online publication on ACTEC’s website
Deadline: June 1, 2009
For more information:
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
National Law Journal: Discovering a Law Degree's Downside: Sending the Wrong Signal in Bad Times?, by Leigh Jones:
When Dina Allam graduated last spring from Ohio State University with a joint law and master of business administration degree, she thought the combination would catch the eye of employers who could appreciate a mix of analytical skills and business know-how.
But after months of looking for a nonlawyer job that would put all that education to work and help pay off some of the nearly $85,000 in student loan debt, Allam began to think she'd made a mistake by going the law degree route.
"People don't see the value in the joint degree. They think I'm confused," she said.
In hindsight, Allam said she would have forgone the juris doctor degree and pursued just the MBA. But at the time she started law school, she was convinced that a J.D. diploma could open doors to a wide variety of job options.
"They made it sound like there were so many careers you could go into," said Allam, now a client engagement manager with Wipro Technologies in Columbus, Ohio. "I definitely think all the interviews I had were because I was in business school and not because I had a law degree."
Law schools and placement professionals frequently tout the versatility of a law degree as a path to alternative careers. But even in good economic times, the advantage of a juris doctor degree in landing a job in another field may well be overblown.
With student loan debt at an all-time high and law schools churning out about 44,000 degrees each year, graduates looking for nonlawyer jobs are finding that they often are priced out, overqualified and undervalued.
The upshot for many is that, while they appreciate the knowledge they gained, they find that they are no more marketable — and sometimes less — than if they'd avoided the law school ordeal altogether.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
National Law Journal: Law School Deans, Profs Ponder Reasons for Decline in Minority Enrollment, by Thomas Adcock:
The controversy surrounding Columbia Law School's documentation of a "disturbing" decline in enrollment of minority students at law campuses around the country has deans and professors in New York state discussing a perceived cultural bias in the LSAT examination, combined with the test's exaggerated importance as an element of the annual rankings of their institutions by U.S. News & World Report.
Although LSAT scores have actually trended upward during the past 15 years, according to the report, many in the New York legal academy contend that informal "cut-off" numbers set by law schools have simultaneously risen -- as a means of gaming the U.S. News rankings to their competitive marketing advantage.
Inside Higher Ed: Looking to the Past to Ban Legacy Admissions, by Scott Jaschik:
[T]his week — for the second time this year — a law journal is publishing a legal analysis that suggests that legacy preferences are illegal. The new issue of the Santa Clara Review features an article — whose lead writer would like to find plaintiffs to test his theory — arguing that the 1866 Civil Rights Act bars legacy admissions at public and private institutions. [Steve D. Shadowen, Sozi Pedro Tulante & Shara L. Alpern, No Distinctions Except Those Which Merit Originates: The Unlawfulness of Legacy Preferences in Public and Private Universities, 49 Santa Clara L. Rev. 51 (2009).]
An article earlier this year in the Washington University Law Review argues that the “nobility clauses” of the U.S. Constitution ban legacy admissions at public institutions. [Carlton F. W. Larson, Titles of Nobility, Hereditary Privilege, and the Unconstitutionality of Legacy Preferences in Public School Admissions, 84 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1375 (2006).]
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The National Association of Women Lawyers today released the results of its third annual National Survey on the Status of Women in Law Firms. The report finds significant disparities between men and women in the number and compensation of partners in large law firms:
- 48% of associates, 27% of non-equity partners, and 16% of equity partners, are women
- At 99% of the firms, the highest-paid partner is a man
- Women earn less than their male counterparts at the associate ($7,000), of-counsel ($14,000), nonequity partner ($23,000), and equity partner ($87,000) levels.
Press and blogosphere coverage:
Monday, November 17, 2008
Following up on my earlier post, Arkansas Con Law Prof Sues His Students for Defamation, Claiming They Twisted His Anti-Affirmative Action Views to Accuse Him of Racism (4/30/08): Today's Inside Higher Ed reports that Arkansas-Little Rock Law Prof Richard J. Peltz has dropped his lawsuit:
After you’ve been called racist by some students, can you sue to get your reputation back?
Richard J. Peltz, who teaches law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, tried. The idea of suing students intrigued and worried many observers of the professoriate, and Peltz’s case prompted much discussion about free speech and the respect that should be accorded both professors and students. Peltz has now dropped his suit — but he did so only after the law school agreed to fully investigate the charges against him and after he received a letter affirming that, based on that investigation, he had done nothing racist or inappropriate.
The university has also agreed to discuss allowing Peltz to again teach required courses, which he was barred from offering once the complaints against him were filed.
For more, see ABA Journal.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Results in the 2008 Tannenwald Writing Competition, sponsored by the Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and the American College of Tax Counsel:
First Prize ($3,500): Kathryn A. Fuehrmeyer (Notre Dame), Cutting Out the Middleman: Allowing Offshore Debt-Financed Investments by Tax Exempt Organizations. Faculty Sponsore: Lloyd H. Mayer.
Second Prize ($2,500): Andrew D. Appleby (Wake Forest), How the IRS Should Tax Record-Setting Baseballs and Other Found Property Under the Treasure Trove Regulation. Faculty Sponsor: Joel S. Newman.
Third Prize ($1,500): Leslie J. Carter (Chicago), Blowing the Whistle on Avoiding Use Tax on Online Purchases. Faculty Sponsor: Julie Roin.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Austin American-Statesman: Law School Dean Trying to Break Into Top 10 Rankings:
Lawrence Sager knows he will be measured by his ability to raise the $200 million he has promised to add to the University of Texas School of Law's endowment. ... If he can raise the money by the university's 2014 deadline, he will nearly double the current $202 million endowment and exceed by fivefold the most money ever raised in a single drive for the law school.
Hitting his $200 million target, Sager says, is crucial to attracting top faculty and the best students, essential ingredients in his drive to elevate the school from 16th in annual U.S. News and World Report rankings to the Top 10, alongside law schools such as Yale, Harvard and Stanford. For the past 20 years, UT School of Law has maintained a ranking in the Top 20 but never cracked the Top 10. ...
"You find yourself worrying about the rankings much too much, but you can't not care about these rankings," Sager said. "They affect your ability to attract the best students and faculty. One of the key ways to affect those rankings is to spend more money."
(Hat Tip: ABA Journal.)
I wake up every morning incredibly thankful that I have this job -- I honestly think it is the best job in the world. And tenure (with a generous defined-benefit plan backed by the State of Ohio) is especially comforting in these increasingly scary economic times. Today's Inside Higher Ed brings yet another reason to cherish our Tax Prof jobs: 6-6 Course Loads and No Benefits, by Scott Jaschik:
Consider Chandra G. Elkins, who teaches composition and developmental reading at Tennessee Tech University and Nashville State Technical Community College. She typically teaches a 5-5 course load and tries to pick up a summer course or two as well. Last year, teaching ten courses over the course of a year, she earned $15,210. This year, she is hoping to earn more, so she has added a sixth course for next semester, which she will teach at Motlow State Community College. “It’s really depressing. I have to really, really love my job,” she said. “Literally, I could quit my job and get a job at the local Wal-Mart full time and make more money and have benefits.”
Sheila Sullivan teaches at the same colleges as an adjunct. By teaching a 6-6 load, plus summer work, she is able to get her total income up in the $24,000-$26,000 range (no benefits).
12 courses a year -- that is the normal workload over four years for a law professor at most schools!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
ASU student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars. When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.
"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes...that's four months of work!"
That's when Botsios showed him exactly how important case notes are to a law school student. He wrestled his bat away, punched the guy repeatedly, and called police.
Botsios just had a bruised knuckle and a few scratches, while the intruder looked like this. He had to be taken for stitches before being booked for armed robbery and kidnapping.
Following up on last week's post, UC-Berkeley: Testing for Empathy as an LSAT Alternative?: Today's Inside Higher Ed: Building a Better Admissions Test, by Scott Jaschik:
Most standardized admissions tests — from the SAT and ACT to those used for admission to graduate and professional schools, such as the Law School Admission Test — promise one thing: to predict academic success in the first year enrolled. Most standardized tests also face growing skepticism because white and Asian students tend to outperform, on average, black and Latino students.
What if a standardized test managed to predict much more than first-year success? And what if there existed the possibility of having standardized tests that didn’t have ethnic or racial gaps, but better predicted long-term success?
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have been engaged in a long-term research project to produce such tests for use in its law school — and they think they have a model that does those things exactly: predicts success as a lawyer (not just as a first-year student) and finds success across demographic groups. Given that law schools exist to produce lawyers, not first-year law students, Berkeley officials think their findings are significant and they are now releasing them for public view and — they hope — for testing on a national scale.
Monday, November 10, 2008
The main beneficiaries of a matching system would be schools that historically have difficulty in recruiting their first, second, or even third-choice candidate. Might women of all colors and other “outsiders” fare better under a matching system, too? ... A match program would minimize faculty fatigue and increase efficiencies in hiring, defined as slots being filled by candidates that a faculty deemed desirable, although perhaps not first-preferred.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Wall Street Journal Law Blog: Berkeley Calls for Research into LSAT Alternative; Testing for Empathy?, by Dan Slater:
Former Berkeley law prof Marjorie Shultz ... thinks they can do better, reports the Recorder. Shultz and Berkeley psychology prof Sheldon Zedeck have been studying alternatives to the LSAT. They recently published their findings in a 100-page report. They say the LSAT, with its focus on cognitive skills, does not measure for skills such as creativity, negotiation, problem-solving or stress management, but that they have found promising new and existing tests from the employment context that do.
On Monday, Berkeley law Dean Christopher Edley posted a message to a listserv for deans at ABA-accredited law schools highlighting some of the findings, and asking for support in building a case to expand the project. ...
We “need lawyers with the kind of skill sets that the world needs — like empathy, persuasiveness and the willingness to have the courage to do the right thing — which the LSAT does not measure,” said Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law.
The ABA Journal has more here.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The Federal Bar Association Section on Taxation invites law students to participate in its annual annual tax writing competition:
The first-prize winner will receive $1,500 and a trip to the FBA’s Annual Tax Law Conference on March 6, 2009 in Washington, D.C. along with a commemorative plaque. Second prize will receive $750 and a commemorative plaque. Submissions must be no longer than twenty pages and must be e-mailed or postmarked by January 15, 2009.
Monday, November 3, 2008
As regular readers of this blog know, I use clickers in all of my classes (see this New York Times story) and wrote an article on my experience (Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning, 54 J. Legal Educ. 551 (2004)). I will be evangelizing about their use at the AALS Annual Meeting on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 as part of the Committee on Curriculum's Workshop on Redesigning Legal Education. Today's Inside Higher Ed reports on the use of clickers at the Universities of Delaware, Maryland, and Pittsburgh in Clicker U., by Scott Jaschik:
To some academics, clickers are a great new technology, allowing professors to measure instantly whether students in a large class are grasping new concepts (or are even in class). To others, clickers represent a depersonalizing influence.
At the annual meeting of Educause, an organization of college technology officials, the former appeared solidly in the majority. Indeed, at a session on the use of clickers, officials of three large universities reported that once professors start to use clickers, the devices’ popularity took off, and not just in mammoth lecture classes. To these officials, the questions about clickers weren’t of the “Should we use them or not?” variety but of the policy variety: Should institutions support only one model on campus or whatever professors pick? Who is responsible for training professors in their use? Should certain uses of clickers be discouraged or encouraged?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The Tax Court yesterday required David Plotinsky, Assistant Counsel in the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives, to include in income $3,043 of law school and college student loans that were forgiven when he consolidated his loans with the lender. Plotinsky v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2008-244 (10/30/08):
Pursuant to AES's incentive program, if an individual were to consolidate the individual's student loans by taking out a loan from AES ... and the individual were to make 36 consecutive on-time monthly payments on the AES loan, AES would discharge a portion of that loan.
Petitioner was aware of AES's incentive program when in August 2001, after graduating from law school, he consolidated petitioner's Federal student loans through AES ...
In 2004, pursuant to AES's incentive program and as a result of 36 consecutive on-time payments having been made on petitioner's consolidated student loan, AES discharged $3,043 of that loan.
AES issued Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt (2004 Form 1099-C), to petitioner for his taxable year 2004. That form showed $3,043.28 as the amount of debt canceled. The instructions to the 2004 Form 1099-C that AES sent to petitioner stated in pertinent part: "Generally, if you are an individual, you must include the canceled amount on the 'Other Income' line of Form 1040. * * * However, some canceled debts are not includible in your income."
Petitioner timely filed Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for his taxable year 2004 (petitioner's 2004 return). In that return, petitioner reported gross income of $76,917 that did not include the $3,043.28 of petitioner's consolidated student loan that AES discharged. Petitioner attached to petitioner's 2004 return a document (petitioner's attachment to petitioner's 2004 return) that stated in pertinent part:
I received a Form 1099-C from AES Graduate & Professional Loan Services ("AES"), which stated a cancellation of debt in the amount of $3043.28. I am not reporting this amount as income because it is my reading of Internal Revenue Service Pub. 525, at 17-18, that this cancellation constitutes a gift rather than income.
AES is the lender with which I consolidated my law school loans approximately three years ago. As an incentive to select AES as my lender, AES offered a reduction in the total amount of my loans, and it is this offer that forms the entire basis for the debt cancellation of $3043.28. The offer was contingent upon my making 36 consecutive on-time monthly payments, and now that this has been achieved the debt cancellation is locked in.
Mr. Plotinsky represented himself in the case, and the judge was not impressed with his argument:
In relying solely on Helvering v. Am. Dental Co., 318 U.S. 322 (1943), to support his position that AES's discharge of $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan constituted a gift under section 102(a), petitioner fails to acknowledge that the Supreme Court in Commissioner v. Jacobson, and Commissioner v. Duberstein, requires us to consider AES's intention in discharging $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan. We shall do so now. ...
On the record before us, we find that AES did not intend to discharge $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan out of "detached and disinterested generosity" ... or "out of affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses" ... On that record, we further find that petitioner has failed to carry his burden of establishing that, in discharging $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan, AES intended to make a gift to him.
Based upon our examination of the entire record before us, we find that the $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan that AES discharged is not excludable for his taxable year 2004 from his gross income under section 102(a). On that record, we further find that petitioner must include for that year that amount in his gross income.[FN]
FN: On brief, petitioner further argues that, even if we were to find that the $3,043 of petitioner's consolidated student loan that AES discharged is includible in his gross income, he should recognize that income over the remaining life of petitioner's consolidated student loan. We reject that argument. Income from the discharge of indebtedness is income for the year in which the indebtedness is discharged. Sec. 61(a)(12); see Jelle v. Commissioner, 116 T.C. 63 (2001).
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I am delighted to share the news that Kenneth J. Hirsh of the Duke Law Library has been named Director of Law Library and Information Technology and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, effective February 1, 2009. I have served on the Board of Directors of CALI with Ken for the past four years and am thrilled that we were able to attract a person with his background, experience, talent, and leadership ability to take the helm of our library. From the UC press release:
Mr. Hirsh is a graduate of the University of Miami (A.B. 1974) and received his J.D. from the University of Florida in 1977. He practiced law in Florida for nearly ten years before obtaining his M.S. in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University in 1989. He then joined the Law Library at Duke University School of Law and served as Reference Librarian (1989-1994), Manager of Computing Services (1993-2001), and Director of Computing Services (2001-2008). Mr. Hirsh also has served as a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke since 1989, teaching Legal Research and a course in Technology in the Practice of Law.
Mr. Hirsh’s extensive experience in both reference and information technology at one of the country’s finest law schools will serve the College of Law and its Library well. His accomplishments at Duke have been as an innovator – using his legal education, practice background, and technical expertise to bring new technologies to bear beneficially on the work of law students and faculty.
He likewise has been a nationally prominent leader in two of the foremost organizations in his field, the American Association of Law Libraries (“AALL”) and the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (“CALI”). Mr. Hirsh served as President of the AALL’s Southeastern Chapter and currently serves as Secretary of CALI and a member of its Board of Directors. CALI honored him with its Excellence in Service Award in 2000. The AALL similarly hailed Mr. Hirsh’s contributions, honoring him for distinguished service in 2004. AALL has named its distinguished service award in the area of computing services for Mr. Hirsh.
Inside Higher Ed: GRE vs. GMAT, by Scott Jaschik:
The Educational Testing Service, which had and lost the lucrative market for admissions testing for those aspiring to earn M.B.A.’s, is increasing its efforts to gain back a good share of that business.
In 2003, ETS lost the contract to manage the Graduate Management Admission Test to ACT and a division of Pearson. In the last year, ETS has been quietly and not so quietly urging business schools and students to consider using the Graduate Record Examinations instead of the GMAT. Now ETS is upping the ante, with a more formal campaign and by unveiling a table that compares GRE and GMAT scores in terms of predictive validity for business-school performance. The lack of such comparative data has discouraged business schools from considering using the GRE, since some worry about considering GMAT scores for some applicants and GRE scores for others.
The reason that the GMAT can be challenged in this way is that it is a test of verbal, mathematical and writing skills (as is the GRE). The GMAT does not focus on finance or accounting or business strategy. It’s also more expensive than the GRE ($250 vs. $140 in the United States). And with nearly 250,000 tests given in the testing year that ended June 30, it’s a testing market others eye. ...
35 additional M.B.A. programs have said that they will accept GRE scores, bringing the total to 125 — a fraction of those that accept the GMAT, but a notable increase. ... The Graduate Management Admission Council is disputing the ETS claims about the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. “At this point, there is only one valid predictor of success in in an M.B.A. program: It is the GMAT,” said David A. Wilson, president of GMAC. He said that whatever comparisons ETS is making can’t equal the long-term validity studies conducted by his organization showing a clear relationship between certain scores and success in business school.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Bar Passage and Best Practices for Legal Education, by Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (New Mexico):
[T]he confluence of bar passage imperatives and the Best Practices/Carnegie movement might result in a kind of “two-tier” legal education where students with higher LSAT’s and grades will get the Best Practices/Carnegie type education and students with lower LSATs and grades will get a legal analysis focused legal education … [I]ronically legal analysis is the skill that Best Practices and Carnegie Report conclude that legal education over emphasizes … WOW! Is this backward!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
A hiring freeze at William & Mary has sparked a blogosphere discussion on the impact of the economic downturn on law faculty hiring. The consensus: fewer retirements and fewer slots to fill.
3Ls Have $73k Average Debt, Bleak Job Prospects; 1Ls & 2Ls Face 33% Cut in Summer Associate Programs
In this week's National Law Journal:
Nearly 44,000 law students nationwide will graduate next year with an average of about $73,000 in loan debt, according to numbers from the ABA.
And while most would-be lawyers already have accepted that only a small fraction will start their careers with a big-firm salary of $160,000, the past few weeks of economic chaos have caused many to wonder if any kind of attorney work is in their near future. ...
It is too early to tell to what extent law firms scaled back hiring this fall for summer associates in 2009. But James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), said that, anecdotally, law firms were more cautious in the offers they made. "For the class of 2009, it will be tough," he said. ...
The number of legal jobs nationwide is steadily declining, according to employment figures released this month by the U.S. Department of Labor. Jobs in the law sector shrank by 2,000 in September — the fifth consecutive month of losses. The legal work force of 1,165,100 was down by 1.15% from a year ago, when the industry employed 1,178,600 people.
[T]here will be 30% to 35% fewer summer associate positions nationwide in 2009. ... Not surprisingly, the shrinking pool of summer associate spots is mostly due to the turbulent economy. Law firms are looking for ways to trim budgets, and cutting summer associates is one of the easiest ways to do that ... A handful of firms have canceled their summer associate programs in 2009, while a larger number of firms have quietly reduced the number of summer associates they plan to bring on.
With fewer summer associate spots available overall, some recruiters have noticed that law students seem to be casting a wider net as they search for positions. Students who in other years may have been firmly committed to securing a spot in a New York office are now willing to look in other cities or at smaller firms.
Friday, October 17, 2008
ABA Journal: School Rank and GPA Aren’t the Best Predictors of BigLaw Success, by Debra Cassens Weiss:
Law school rank and grade point average aren’t the best predictors of success at large law firms, according to a study of more than 1,300 associates from one firm.
Law school rank and GPA were only moderately predictive of success, the study found. In general, one of the study’s authors, Ron Paquette, tells the ABA Journal, “The Harvard attorneys do not perform any better than those at the 30th-ranked law school.”
The study was conducted at a top 25 law firm trying to combat high associate attrition rates, according to a summary by the authors, consultants from Kerma Partners and Redwood, a unit of LexisNexis. The aim was to identify lawyer recruits who have the required educational credentials as well as the “stuff” to thrive at the law firm.
The study defined success as longer tenure at the firm, higher productivity, and being a good cultural fit, based on an evaluation by a human resources staffer.
The study identified 12 factors—Paquette wouldn't reveal them all—that are better predictors of success. Paquette, however, did identify one of them—participation in group hobbies and collegiate-level athletics. Another predictor of success, he said, was doing well in specific law school classes. He did not disclose the subjects.
- Moneyball Indeed! (Kerma Partners)
- Law School Rank and GPA Don't Predict Law Firm Success (Legal Blog Watch)
- Moneyball for Law Firms (Voir Dire)
- The Drift Toward Pure Numbers Admissions (Legal Profession Blog)
Update: Above the Law has more.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I previously blogged the rankings implications of the new early admission programs at Illinois and Michigan for admitting their undergrads without taking the LSAT. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed bring news of the next front in the rankings war: paying admitted freshmen to retake the SAT and offering large financial rewards for those whose scores go up by certain levels.
Baylor University is being called “the poster child for SAT misuse” after the student newspaper revealed an unusual practice: paying admitted freshmen to retake the SAT and offering large financial rewards for those whose scores go up by certain levels.
While the university says that its approach is designed to give out more scholarship aid, it is being denounced as a cynical attempt to boost SAT averages (which dropped for the class in which this approach is being used) to try to improve the university’s standing with U.S. News & World Report.
Here’s what happened at Baylor this year:
When the class that enrolled this fall was admitted, admissions officials noticed two things. John Barry, vice president for marketing and communications, said that that the primary thing they noticed was that numerous merit scholarships — many of which are given out based on formulas based on SAT and class rank — were not given out because students didn’t qualify. The other thing they noticed (Barry says this is a minor issue, but others disagreed) was that the SAT average was 1200, down 19 points from the previous year. Baylor, which is in the middle of a campaign to become a top national university, has been hoping for SAT movement in the opposite direction.
What to do? Barry said that the financial aid office thought that if accepted students retook the SAT, many would receive higher scores. But for most high school seniors, having survived the college admissions process and deciding where to go, taking the SAT again isn’t exactly an alluring prospect. So Baylor decided to “incentivize” the students, Barry said.
Baylor offered any admitted student a $300 book credit at the campus store just for taking the SAT again. Then if students’ scores went up by 50 points, which Barry characterized as going up “dramatically,” they would earn a scholarship of $1,000. Further, for students who had missed the cutoff levels for various merit scholarships, if their new SAT score got them over the bar, they could have that money.
Of the admitted students who decided to enroll, 861 (about 28 percent of the class) took the SAT again and earned the $300. Of those, 150 increased scores by at least 50 points, earning $1,000 each. And 177 (including many of the 150) passed over cutoff levels and thus qualified for scholarships worth a total of $450,000. (Many of those scholarships are paid over four years, not one.) Not surprisingly, Baylor’s SAT average went up by 10 points.
“Obviously the pessimistic view of this whole thing is we are paying kids to up their SAT scores and up our score in U.S. News,” Barry said. But the university takes another view, he added — that this is about helping students and upholding standards.
This rankings dodge would work for law schools, since the ABA now requires schools to report a student's highest LSAT score among multiple tests. We'll see if any law schools will incentivize the entering Fall 2009 class to take the February 2009 LSAT.
Chronicle of Higher Education: University Official Offers Harsh Critique of Policies Toward Adjuncts, by Jeffrey J. Selingo:
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, long criticized for its workplace policies, is a “more-honest employer” of part-time workers than colleges that employ thousands of adjunct faculty members.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
[O]ver the last 15 years, the rankings arms race has pushed U.S. law schools toward a pure numbers approach to admissions. ...
Below are trend lines for median LSAT scores by USNWR rank for 1994 and 2007, which reflect classes that entered in the fall of 1993 and 2006 respectively. During those two admissions cycles, the number of applicants was virtually identical: 89,600 (class entering fall 1993) and 88,700 (class entering fall 2006).
[T]he average median LSAT increased by 2.18 points (std. dev. of 1.99). ... Here is the same analysis for UGPA ...
Although we might chock some of the higher UPGAs (avg. of +.17, std. dev. of +.12) on grade inflation between 1994 and 2007, it is likely that schools were also trying to maximize this number. ...
At a law firm level, there is a certain irony at work. Many partners could not get admitted to their alma mater; yet, between 2005 and 2007, as NLJ 250 hiring increased rapidly, 53% of the new jobs went to students at USN Top 20 schools.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Inside Higher Ed: Debating the Merits of Merit Pay, by Andy Guess:
[A]t Temple University, ... the administration is attempting to switch entirely to “pay per performance” raises that would not take cost-of-living increases or other factors into account — a change the faculty union strenuously opposes. ... Instead, the union proposes a four-year contract with a 5% cost-of-living increase per year plus merit pay.
[O]pposition to the administration’s proposed changes to salary increases could only seem uniform by ignoring the faculty at Temple’s Beasley School of Law, which has had a fully merit-based raise system for as long as many can remember.
“What’s distinctive about our process, and we’ve had it for about 20 years, is the union has a compensation committee and the compensation committee and the dean and the associate deans collectively set the salaries,” said William J. Woodward Jr., a professor on the law faculty and representative for the Temple Law Professors Collective Bargaining Association, to which he was referring. “And the way we do it is the compensation committee and the deans separately read the annual reports, and they separately come to consensus on how to rank, order everybody on the faculty.”
“It’s a lot of work, it’s like grading exams,” he said. But the faculty almost uniformly supports it. The reason, he said, is that the policy developed informally and initially gained its support from the ground up, rather than the other way around.
“You can’t impose merit pay, you just can’t do it,” Woodward said. “They’re trying to get buy-in all different ways than a process. They’d be way better off paving the way over one or two contracts and then doing it.... It’s a 10-year process.”
Friday, October 10, 2008
Last month, I blogged the rankings implications noted by Tom Bell (Chapman) and Bill Henderson (Indiana) of Michigan's new Wolverine Scholars Program -- in which Michigan undergrads with a minimum 3.80 GPA are admitted to Michigan Law School if they agree to not take the LSAT (LSAT-Free Law School Admissions Can Goose U.S. News Ranking). Illinois has upped the ante with its Early Admission Program: Illinois undergrads with a minimum 3.0 GPA will be admitted to the law school without taking the LSAT:
Update: National Law Journal.
Loyola-L.A. yesterday announced America's first three-year joint J.D./Tax L.L.M. Program. Students in the program complete the requirements for both the J.D. and Tax L.L.M. degrees in three academic years:
- First Academic Year: Required J.D. Courses
- Summer After First Year: Intensive Summer Tax Session (12 units)
- Second and Third Academic Years: 12 Additional Advanced Tax Courses Counted Toward Both Degrees
- Third Academic Year: Two Elective Capstone Courses: Tax Law Practicum and/or Honors Tax Policy Colloquium
The new program offers students significant employment and financial advantages:
- Enhanced second-year OCI: During the fall on-campus-interview season at the beginning of their second year, students will be able to offer employers a credential (completion of the intensive summer tax session) not available from any other law school in the United States.
- Second-year summer open: Students in the program will normally be free to accept employment during the summer after their second year without conflicting academic obligations.
- Potential for LLM-level tax employment after three years: Students in conventional full-time LLM programs typically cannot hold full-time jobs. Such programs therefore impose a hidden cost – a year of salary foregone (currently as much as $165K). Our program avoids that cost.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is seeking nominations to fill vacant positions on its Board of Directors. Self-nominations also are welcome. The nominations deadline is October 17. Nominees will be contacted during the first week of November.
Directors are required to attend two meetings a year (June during the CALI Conference and January during AALS). In addition, Directors serve on committees at the behest of the President of the Board and work on other projects and issues relating to CALI governance, strategy-setting and promotion of CALI's mission and activities.
Directors serve for three years at which time their service is evaluated by the Nomination Committee, as other nominees are being considered. Service on the CALI Board is voluntary and gratis. Travel expenses for the Board meetings can be covered by CALI if institutional support is unavailable.
The list of all nominees will be submitted to the Nominating Committee which will determine a slate of candidates to be presented to the CALI Membership at the Annual Luncheon held on Saturday, January 10, 2009 during AALS in San Diego.
CALI is a dynamic and forward-thinking 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with big plans and big ideas. Qualified Directors should have knowledge and experience that they can contribute to the ongoing research and development of CALI's mission. If you have any questions or wish to submit a nomination, please contact John Mayer, Executive Director at 312-906-5307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been a member of the CALI Board of Directors since 2005 -- it is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I do in this business. If you are interested in the use of technology in legal education, I hope you will consider joining the Board.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The Center for Equal Opportunity issued a report today accusing Nebraska law school of engaging in racial discrimination by impermissibly favoring black and Hispanic applicants over white applicants. Last week, the group issued similar reports on Arizona and Arizona State law schools. (Nebraska is one of the states with a proposed ban on the use of affirmative action by state agencies on the ballot; supporters failed to gather sufficient signatures to get a similar ban on the ballot in Arizona.) For more, see the Chronicle of Higher Education (Part I (Arizona & Arizona State), Part II (Nebraska)).
Below the fold are the charts in the reports showing the 25%, 50% and 75th percentile LSAT scores of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White admittees at Arizona, Arizona State, and Nebraska:
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
On law.com: Where Are All the Female Law Bloggers?, by C.C. Holland:
What's behind this seeming disparity [in the number of the female law bloggers compared to male law bloggers]? There are three basic theories in circulation. ...
- Women law bloggers are out there, you just don't see them.
- Women don't have the same time to blog as men.
- Women are more prone to professional or personal attack, so they avoid blogging.
For the record, 38% of the bloggers in our LawProfessor Blogs Network are women. For more commentary, see:
- Above the Law
- Adjunct Law Prof Blog
- Feminist Law Professors (Part 1, Part 2)
- Law Librarian Blog
- Legal Blog Watch
- Legal Histor Blog
- Simple Justice
- Volokh Conspiracy
- What About Clients?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Following up on my prior post, LSAT-Free Law School Admissions Can Goose U.S. News Ranking: today's Inside Higher Ed: A Crack in the Dominance of the LSAT?, by Scott Jaschik:
[M]ore than a few eyebrows have been raised in the past few days by word that the University of Michigan’s law school will start admitting a small share of its class without LSAT scores. ...
Many law school bloggers have jumped to the conclusion that the law school is trying to improve its rankings in U.S. News by attracting students with very high grades but perhaps those students who wouldn’t score well on the LSAT.
[Director of Admissions Sarah] Zearfoss said there is no such strategy at work. The number of students who will be admitted this way is such a “fractional sliver” of the class that “this couldn’t be a successful route for manipulating the rankings, even if we were so inclined,” she said. Michigan has “well considered policy objectives” for the program, she said, adding that the law school has never made decisions based on “blind obeisance to rankings.” ...
[S]ome experts on standardized tests agree that what’s significant here isn’t the rankings, but the idea that a top law school would go on record saying that it’s possible to make informed admissions decisions, even in a minority of cases, without the LSAT. ...
Law Schools that don’t use the LSAT are shunned by the ABA. The refusal of the Massachusetts School of Law to require the LSAT was among several disputes that led to years of fighting with the ABA over its refusal to accredit the non-traditional law school. (Having lost in court, at this point the law school says it no longer wants ABA recognition and can operate without it.) ...
Monday, September 29, 2008
Benjamin Barton (Tennessee) has published Is There a Correlation Between Law Professor Publication Counts, Law Review Citation Counts, and Teaching Evaluations? An Empirical Study, 5 J. Empirical Stud. 619 (2008). Here is the abstract:
This empirical study attempts to answer an age-old debate in legal academia: whether scholarly productivity helps or hurts teaching. The study is of an unprecedented size and scope. It covers every tenured or tenure-track faculty member at 19 U.S. law schools, a total of 623 professors. The study gathers four years of teaching evaluation data (calendar years 2000–2003) and tests for associations between the teaching data and five different measures of research productivity/scholarly influence. The results are counterintuitive: there is either no correlation or a slight positive correlation between teaching effectiveness and any of the five measures of research productivity. Given the breadth of the study, this finding is quite robust. These findings should help inform debates about teaching and scholarship among law school and other faculties and likely require some soul-searching about the interaction between the two most important functions of U.S. law schools.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Is law school a good value? ... Using crude numbers, the answer looks like a resounding “yes.” As they say in the investment business, it looks like a “three bagger.” Even if you have to put $230,000 in, you get over $700,00 back! ...
What crude numbers, you may ask? Well the Wall Street Journal reported recently on salary statistics. While the median salary for persons holding just a BA has slipped to $47,240, those of us with professional degrees have gone up to $89,602. Even better, recent Labor Department numbers show the median salary for lawyers at $106,120. So, as I say to my students, think of your law degree as an annuity. It represents a payment stream that lasts for a career (say 40 years) that equals the spread between what you would have earned without your law degree versus what you can with it. Using the median salary numbers, that spread is almost $60,000. Discounted at 8%, the annuity has a present value of over $700,000. The present value of three years of tuition (at $40,000 a year), books and foregone salary (at the median) is about $230,000. So, as your stockbroker used to say about Lehman bonds, a “no brainer!”
Friday, September 26, 2008
In today's Inside Higher Ed: Creating the Anti-Rankings, by Scott Jaschik:
College Speaks [is] a tool being created by the Education Conservancy, an organization that has been fighting the many commercial forces that have become big players in college admissions and attempting to make educational counseling central to the process. The group, led by Lloyd Thacker, has been best known in recent years for urging colleges to refuse to fill out the “reputational” surveys used by U.S. News, which are widely seen as invalid by educators. While that campaign may be having some success with college presidents — fewer of whom appear to be filling out the surveys — it hasn’t diminished the rankings’ popularity.
Recognizing that — and also responding to the requests of some rankings critics, who have said they want to put forward a positive alternative — the Education Conservancy has been working for a year on a new approach, an explicitly anti-rankings system for the college search.
An early version was presented for the first time in public Thursday at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. It is a much more individualized, education focused approach, with less reliance on pure statistics, and the focus is on the fit between student and college, not the superiority of one college over another. The concept drew considerable praise from high school counselors and college admissions officers.
But even amid the praise for the project, there was also skepticism, primarily about practicalities rather than the concept. Some noted that there are many other sources of college information — already taxing colleges’ time — and that many students appear to gravitate toward less educational tools. And there is also discussion about how to build a permanent infrastructure to support the project, which Thacker and others say shouldn’t stay at the Education Conservancy permanently.