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Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

UC-Irvine Cuts Class by 29% in Bid for Top 20 Inaugural U.S. News Ranking

UC-Irvine (2015)UC-Irvine Law School will be ranked by U.S. News for the first time this March, and Dean Chemerinsky has unabashedly stated that the school's goal is to "be a top 20 law school, by every measure, from the moment we open our doors and from our first rankings."  To help achieve that goal, the school cut its Fall 2014 entering class by 29.4% to 89 students (from 126 in 2013), to keep its median LSAT at 164 (and increase its median GPA by 0.01 to 3.53).  This year's class is 55.5% below Dean Chemerinsky's goal of classes of 200 students.

November 21, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sander: The Mismatch Critique of Law School Affirmative Action and Its Opponents

MismatchRichard Sander (UCLA), Mismatch and the Empirical Scholars Brief, 48 Val. U. L. Rev. 555 (2014):

In April 2013, the Valparaiso University Law Review held a symposium on diversity in legal education, commemorating the contributions of Justice Randall Shepard and featuring a number of distinguished speakers. I was invited to participate in a panel on Fisher v. University of Texas, a then-pending Supreme Court case that seemed likely to revise the rules under which universities can consider race in higher education admissions. The conference organizers generously allowed me to participate by videoconference, as did my co-panelist Professor Eboni Nelson. They and I agreed that my talk should explore some of the empirical issues that might frame how the Supreme Court viewed Fisher.

I approached the event with some concern. I had been the bête noire of many diversity advocates ever since 2005, when the Stanford Law Review published my long analysis and critique of law school affirmative action programs. I had advanced, and since steadfastly defended, something called “the mismatch hypothesis,” which postulated that very large preferences--racial or of any other kind--may undermine student learning, because professors tend to teach to the middle of their class, and students far below the middle will have trouble keeping up and advancing as concepts build day by day. Critiques of my essay had been many, but I had answered them, and an increasingly broad array of other scholars had published articles that found other strong evidence of mismatch in a wide variety of academic contexts. Certainly, the evidence for mismatch was mixed--at least in some contexts--and social scientists who found evidence of mismatch never argued--to my knowledge--that the existence of mismatch should preclude affirmative action policies. But just as certainly, universities tended to completely ignore the mismatch problem, and this was quite disturbing. The Supreme Court's decision to review the Fifth Circuit's holding in Fisher--and to thus reconsider the constitutionality of university racial preferences--increased the level of interest and anxiety about mismatch research.

Lawyer and journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr., had joined forces with me to write a broadly accessible book on the effects of racial preferences, called Mismatch, which appeared in October 2012. That, along with two briefs that Stuart and I wrote as amici curiae to the Court on Fisher, helped to elevate the mismatch hypothesis to a prominent place in the public discussion of Fisher. The New York Times, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and NPR's All Things Considered all ran prominent articles on mismatch, generally treating it as, at the very least, an idea to be reckoned with seriously. The general tone was well-captured by The New York Times' David Brooks, who wrote: “[A]ffirmative action programs ... perpetrated some noteworthy wrongs .... The evidence on this is hotly disputed, but Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. make a compelling case ....”

Yet at law school events during the 2012-2013 academic year, when I was invited to speak about any aspect of Fisher, a strangely repetitive pattern emerged. Regardless of whether the topic at hand was mismatch, or some entirely different part of the affirmative action issue, panel members who disliked my mismatch research would start to recite from a document known as the Empirical Scholars Brief. This document, they would suggest, was the definitive refutation of Richard Sander, the other “mismatch” researchers, and all that we were taken to represent. Often they would distribute copies of the Empirical Scholars Brief to the audience, like revivalists passing out the Gospel of St. James. But--and this was the oddest part--these panelists were never interested in engaging or debating any of the claims that were actually in the Empirical Scholars Brief (which I will sometimes, as shorthand, refer to as the “ESB”). One panelist, at an AALS panel in a large ballroom, disclaimed any intention of getting into the details. “I'm not a trained quantitative empiricist,” she said, “instead I'm compelled to rely on critiques by other empiricists.” Pretty much exactly the same thing happened at the Valparaiso symposium. Professor Nelson began our panel with a very thoughtful discussion of the “deference” issue--that is, when and to what degree the Supreme Court should defer to the educational judgment of universities in evaluating their diversity programs. Professor Sumi Cho followed with some rather discursive remarks on the importance of diversity. I then spoke about some of my empirical findings on university behavior--a sort of empirical comment on some of the same issues Professor Nelson had raised. When we finished, and the question and answer portion began, Professor Cho distributed a copy of the ESB to the audience, with the standard comment that the audience could better evaluate my comments if they knew what other social scientists thought of my work. With my time up, and on my remote monitor, I was not in a very good position to respond to and engage the ESB claims. I encouraged anyone in the audience to ask me to discuss any specific claim they could identify, but there were no takers. It felt to me like a completely non-substantive, ad hominem, and unfair attack.

It therefore seems appropriate to take the opportunity afforded by the written version of the symposium to provide the sort of thoughtful engagement that I would have liked to provide the live symposium audience. What follows is an assessment--though it may sound more like an expose--of the “Empirical Scholars Brief.” The thrust of my analysis is that the ESB is not just substantively wrong, but it is also a deeply dishonest document that relies on outright falsehoods and misleading claims to support an argument, which should be embarrassing to its signatories, and is entitled to no substantive weight in discussions of mismatch and affirmative action.

Richard Sander (UCLA), The Stylized Critique of Mismatch, 92 Tex. L. Rev. 1637 (2014):

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November 20, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (7)

Drexel 3L With Asperger's Syndrome Sues Philadelphia Law Firms For Relying on U.S. News Rankings in Hiring Decisions

U.S. News (2015)Dave Hoffman (Temple) blogs lawsuits by William Hanrahan, a Drexel 3L with Asperger's Syndrome ranked #4 in his class, claiming that three big Philadelphia law firms (Blank Rome, Dechert, Pepper Hamilton) discriminate against disabled job applicants by unduly relying on the U.S. News ranking of the applicant's law school:

I’m not an expert in this area of the law, but I thought the complaint provided an interesting set of facts for discussion. My uninformed view is that the chain of causation (disability –> lower LSAT –> lower-ranked school –> fewer job offers) isn’t incredible, but that it’s hard to imagine a judge forcing firms to discount rankings (which, after all, aren’t entirely or even mostly based on student credentials) when making hiring decisions.

Update:  

November 20, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Did So Many People Flunk the Bar Exam This Year?

Following up on my earlier posts (here, here, and here):  Bloomberg, Why Did So Many People Flunk the Bar Exam This Year?:

The most recent bar exam test results are in, and they are ugly. In several states, people who took the bar in July were more likely to fail than those who took it last year, and scores on one portion of the test dropped to their lowest point in 10 years.

Are America’s law graduates really getting dumber? The people who put together the bar exam seem to think so.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a nonprofit that prepares one of the state-specific multiple-choice sections in which scores dropped dramatically, sent a curt message to law school deans in October. “The results are correct,” wrote Erica Moeser, the group’s president, in an Oct. 23 memo. “The group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013,”

It’s technically true that this year’s crop of grads was “less able” than before, if you use their pre-law-school test scores as a proxy for their smarts. The median LSAT score among students at American law schools has declined every year from 2010 to 2013, according to an analysis by Jerry Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. ...

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November 19, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Seto: New BLS Data Project More Lawyer Jobs Than Law Grads in 2016

Seto (2014)Following up on yesterday's post, Government's Data Collection Change Will 'Solve' the Law School Crisis:  TaxProf Blog op-ed:  The Proposed New BLS Lawyer Replacement Projections, by Theodore P. Seto (Loyola-L.A.):

Commentators who believe that the end of the world is near for legal education often point to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates of replacement needs in the legal profession and compare those estimates to the number of projected law school graduates.

On May 16, 2014, the BLS issued a notice proposing a new method for measuring what it calls “occupational separations” – that is, workers leaving a particular occupation who need to be replaced. The BLS explains that the current method indirectly measures leavers by measuring employment change by age group, relying on an assumption that workers enter at a young age, work in their field until they are old, and then retire, creating opportunities for the next generation of young workers. In this framework, occupation is fixed throughout a worker’s career. The BLS notes: “However true this may have been in the past, it does not apply to many workers today.”

The new method, by contrast, directly measures workers who leave an occupation, "taking advantage of the longitudinal aspects of the CPS monthly survey and supplements."

BLS states that it believes that the current method fails to capture a large number of separations that result in openings for new entrants and that the new method is a more accurate measure. Specifically, the current method undercounts openings because it only accurately measures workers who follow a traditional career path—entering an occupation at a young age, working in the same occupation for many years, then retiring—which is not the case for many workers in most occupations.

It has tested the relative validity of the two methods against historical data from selected professions – among them, lawyers. As to projected lawyer replacement rates, the notice states:

External data is available on historical new entrants for lawyers. Not all law school graduates become lawyers, but the American Bar Association (ABA) conducts a census of employment outcomes for all law school graduates in order to count the number who find employment in positions that require bar passage (effectively, lawyers). Since ABA began collecting this data in 2011, the number of graduates finding employment in such positions has averaged 29,000 per year. Because some graduates who don’t immediately find such positions may become lawyers later in their career (for example, many graduates become law clerks, a position that does not require bar passage, for a few years before becoming lawyers), this number should be less than the total number of new entrants into the occupation.

Under the current method, BLS projects an average of 19,650 job openings per year, while the new method projects 41,460 openings per year. Again, no direct comparison between the ABA number and the BLS numbers is possible due to conceptual differences, but the results under the current method are significantly below the actual number of new graduates finding work in the occupation. (emphasis supplied) The new method projects a higher number of openings, which allows for additional entrants not immediately after completion of a law degree.

Based on 2012 and 2013 matriculation rates and historical drop-out rates, we should expect 40,082 ABA-accredited law school graduates in 2015 and 35,954 in 2016. If the new BLS projections are accurate, we should see demand and supply in relative equilibrium in 2015 and a significant excess of demand over supply beginning in 2016. (These estimates only take into account JD-required jobs. Demand from JD-advantage employers is not included.)

November 19, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Cost of College Crosses $260,000 Threshold

Chronicle of Higher Education, New Data on Tuition and Fees for Thousands of Colleges:

College

November 19, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Government's Data Collection Change Will 'Solve' the Law School Crisis

BLS (2015)Matt Leichter, How the Transparency Movement Reinflated the Law School Bubble:

[T]he Bureau of Labor Statistics is changing its employment projections methodology, specifically its measure of how many workers will be replaced in occupations in its 10-year projection periods—as opposed to the number of positions that the economy will create. ...

The BLS’s employment projections have long been a go-to source for law school critics. The ~24,000 projected annual lawyer job growth rates they showed every two years contrasted excellently with the ~40,000 law graduates each year (and the even greater number of bar admits). No longer. ... It writes ...

Not all law school graduates become lawyers, but the ABA conducts a census of employment outcomes for all law school graduates in order to count the number who find employment in positions that require bar passage (effectively, lawyers). Since ABA began collecting this data in 2011, the number of graduates finding employment in such positions has averaged 29,000 per year. Because some graduates who don’t immediately find such positions may become lawyers later in their career (for example, many graduate become law clerks, a position that does not require bar passage, for a few years before becoming lawyers), this number should be less than the total number of new entrants into the occupation.

Under the current method, BLS projects an average of 19,650 job openings per year, while the new method projects 41,460 openings per year. Again, no direct comparison between the ABA number and the BLS numbers is possible due to conceptual differences, but the results under the current method are significantly below the actual number of new graduates finding work in the occupation. The new method projects a higher number of openings, which allows for additional entrants not immediately after completion of a law degree.

Okay, data on law graduate unemployment has actually been around for many years, e.g. the NALP and the Official Guide, crude though it was. I’ve written about the strong correlation between falling proportions of graduates finding bar-passage-required jobs and graduates taking JD-advantage jobs or not finding any work. This is evidence of a saturated lawyer market, even if it’s caused in part by slack aggregate demand.

Percent Employed by Status (NALP)

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November 18, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Forever Professors: Academics Who Don’t Retire Are Greedy, Selfish, and Bad For Students

RetireChronicle of Higher Education:  The Forever Professors: Academics Who Don’t Retire Are Greedy, Selfish, and Bad For Students, by Laurie Fendrich (Hofstra):

The 1994 law ending mandatory retirement at age 70 for university professors substantially mitigated the problem of age discrimination within universities. But out of this law a vexing new problem has emerged—a graying—yea, whitening—professoriate. The law, which allows tenured faculty members to teach as long as they want—well past 70, or until they’re carried out of the classroom on a gurney—means professors are increasingly delaying retirement past age 70 or even choosing not to retire at all. ...

Professors approaching 70 who are still enamored with hanging out with students and colleagues, or even fretting about money, have an ethical obligation to step back and think seriously about quitting. If they do remain on the job, they should at least openly acknowledge they’re doing it mostly for themselves. ...

The average age for all tenured professors nationwide is now approaching 55 and creeping upward; the number of professors 65 and older more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. In spite of those numbers, according to a Fidelity Investments study conducted about a year ago, three-quarters of professors between 49 and 67 say they will either delay retirement past age 65 or—gasp!—never retire at all. They ignore, or are oblivious to, the larger implications for their students, their departments, and their colleges. ...

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November 18, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Dershowitz Wins Acquittal in Spitzer's Prosecution of Biblical Abraham for Attempted Murder of Isaac

AbrahamNew York Times,  At Educational Event, a Modern Legal Interpretation of a Biblical Story:

The facts were undeniable: The defendant, one Abraham (no known surname), had teetered on the brink of stabbing his son Isaac to death, only to be stopped by divine intervention.

Luckily he had a lawyer with a thirst for tough cases, not to mention a jury pool consisting exclusively of people who proudly claim to be descended from the accused.

The setting, too, seemed at least mildly favorable: the soaring Fifth Avenue sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El, with twin menorahs on either side of the courtroom.

But who could begrudge him? When the defendant in question is the father of the Jewish people, it seems only right that the trial — even if it is only a mock trial done for educational purposes — should take place in one of the country’s most eminent Reform synagogues, with two of New York’s most prominent Jews sparring over his fate.

For the prosecution:  Eliot Spitzer, a former governor and attorney general of New York. For the defense:  Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard Law School professor who was one of Mr. Spitzer’s former professors but is perhaps better known for defending O. J. Simpson and other notorious clients. ...

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November 18, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Law School Tuition v. Bar Exam Success

Huffington Post, Comparing Law School Tuition With How Many Grads Pass The Bar On The First Try:

Paying more money in tuition for law school does not necessarily boost your chance of passing the bar on the first try, but it doesn't seem to hurt either, according to a chart by FindTheBest. [Click on bubbles to see results for individual law schools.]

November 17, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Projected Lawyer Surpluses Worsen: 3 New Lawyers for Every Law Job in 2022

The American Lawyer:  States' Projected Lawyer Surpluses Deteriorate for 2022, by Matt Leichter:

[G]overnment employment projections can provide more insight into the number of future lawyer positions that will be available for prospective law students. In fact, estimates on lawyer employment in 2022 by state are now available, making it possible to update the calculations for the law graduate and lawyer surpluses.

The “law graduate surplus” measures the ratio of ABA law school graduates in each state in 2013 to the estimated annual lawyer job growth rate for the 2012-22 projection period. The “lawyer surplus” makes the same calculation but subs out law school graduates with the number of bar admits in all states and under all circumstances (including those entering on motion).

The law graduate surplus is useful because it uses a discrete number of individuals, but it includes people who never become lawyers while excluding people who join the bar without going to an ABA law school (for instance, by attending a foreign law school). By contrast, the lawyer surplus directly measures people who obtain a law license, except it duplicates many who seek bar admission in multiple states—a phenomenon that is likely to increase in the future as more jurisdictions adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. However, the lawyer surplus does provide information on the large number of lawyers who motion into the District of Columbia bar without attending a local law school or taking its bar exam.

State governments provide estimates of lawyer employment in 2012 and 2022 along with the projected annual growth rate. The following table breaks them down by state (which includes the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) and region as delineated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. ...

Here is a table of the law graduate and lawyer surpluses by state and region, ranked ... by the lawyer surplus for 2013 and compared against 2011.

States with the biggest lawyer surplus:

#

STATE/BEA REGION

NO. ABA LAW SCHOOL GRADS

NO. BAR ADMITS

RATIO ABA GRADS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS

RATIO BAR ADMITS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS

2011

2013

2011

2013

2011

2013

2011

2013

1

North Dakota

81

75

195

267

2.03

1.88

4.88

6.68

2

Alaska

0

0

106

130

0.00

0.00

5.30

6.50

3

New Jersey

783

859

2,844

3,386

1.04

1.41

3.79

5.55

4

Wyoming

73

78

112

157

0.91

2.60

1.40

5.23

5

New York

4,703

5,007

9,855

10,251

2.92

2.55

6.12

5.23

6

New Hampshire

147

107

296

250

2.45

2.14

4.93

5.00

7

District of Columbia

2,116

2,181

3,164

3,120

1.48

3.16

2.21

4.52

8

Maryland

594

600

1,653

1,742

1.49

1.54

4.13

4.47

9

Massachusetts

2,288

2,391

2,416

2,411

3.27

4.27

3.45

4.31

10

Hawaii

101

108

208

206

1.68

2.16

3.47

4.12

States with the lowest lawyer surplus:

40

Texas

2,343

2,323

3,476

3,836

1.44

1.29

2.13

2.13

41

Arizona

490

640

689

906

1.09

1.49

1.53

2.11

42

Colorado

462

437

1,256

1,217

1.36

0.73

3.69

2.03

43

Georgia

896

1,085

1,288

1,377

1.30

1.60

1.87

2.03

44

Washington

657

654

1,148

1,353

1.43

0.98

2.50

2.02

45

Utah

285

292

606

499

1.36

1.17

2.89

2.00

46

Louisiana

797

936

744

533

2.95

3.47

2.76

1.97

47

Oklahoma

462

468

465

463

1.71

1.87

1.72

1.85

48

Delaware

252

279

122

148

4.20

3.49

2.03

1.85

49

Florida

2,998

3,190

3,646

3,476

1.53

1.65

1.86

1.80

Here are the totals for all fifty states:

US (State Data)

43,345

43,591

61,292

63,237

2.04

2.09

2.89

3.03

US (BLS Data)

43,817

46,101

62,113

64,960

2.07

2.35

2.93

3.31

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November 16, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Undergraduate Prestige Affects Earnings Premium From Elite Graduate Programs

Wall Street Journal, Graduates of Elite Colleges See a Payoff:

Sure, it’s nice to have a graduate degree from Yale, but a new study finds that attending an elite undergraduate institution counts for an awful lot when it comes to lifelong earnings. A researcher at the Vanderbilt University Law School found that people with advanced degrees from elite schools and undergraduate diplomas from less-selective institutions earn less than people who attended elite schools for both their graduate and undergraduate degrees. The results hold up across a broad swath of graduate programs, from law degrees to M.B.A.s. And those who attended less elite undergraduate institutions are unlikely to ever close the salary gap, according to the study.

Joni Hersch of Vanderbilt Law School said the survey results came as somewhat of a surprise, but suggests that it’s not really undergraduate education driving the pay disparity, but instead the social status of graduates of elite colleges. ...

Among those who attended top-tier graduate institutions, the pay gap between graduates of top-tier and lower-tier undergraduate schools was considerable.

Chart

Joni Hersch (Vanderbilt), Catching Up Is Hard to Do: Undergraduate Prestige, Elite Graduate Programs, and the Earnings Premium:

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November 16, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Federalist Society Panel: Is Higher Education Run for the Benefit of Students, Faculty or Administrators?

Federalist SocietyAt today's 2014 National Lawyers Convention: Millennials, Equity and the Rule of Law:

Showcase Panel III:  Higher Education: Run for the Benefit of Students or Faculty or Administrators?:

Success in today’s global economy virtually requires a college or post graduate degree, but colleges and law schools have raised tuition enormously. The government subsidizes students to take huge loans to pay for college and law schools, loans which inflict an increasing burden on students, including law students in a troubled economy. Do these loans pay as much for faculty research and administrators as for direct student education? Are faculties producing research that justifies these costs? Are students getting a good deal now? Could or will on line education provide students with similar education at a fraction of the cost? Is it time to ask some hard questions about higher education? Does education policy benefit average and below average students or does it merely benefit the top of the class? This panel will focus to a significant degree on law schools.

  • Paul F. Campos (Colorado)
  • Daniel Polsby (Dean, George Mason)
  • Richard Kent Vedder (Ohio University)
  • Thomas D. Morgan (George Washington) (moderator)

November 15, 2014 in Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

WSJ: California State Bar in Turmoil After Shake-up Triggers Whistleblower Claim

California State Bar (2014)Wall Street Journal, California State Bar in Turmoil After Shake-up Triggers Whistleblower Claim:

The California State Bar was thrown into turmoil this week after its ousted executive director struck back with retaliation claims alleging that he was fired for complaining about ethical breaches inside the organization.

Joseph Dunn, a Democratic former California state senator, claims in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in California state court Thursday that the state bar fired him from his job last week after he accused the bar’s top disciplinary officer of lying about the organization’s handling of attorney misconduct complaints.

The bar’s leadership won’t say what was behind the shake-up, and Mr. Dunn says he wasn’t given an explanation when the bar notified him of his termination when was in San Francisco giving a speech on Nov. 7.

The bar put out a statement Thursday saying that it had terminated Mr. Dunn and that the bar’s president, Craig Holden, and a deputy executive director would be assuming Mr. Dunn’s duties on a temporary basis. It did not have an immediate comment on Friday.

The bar, an arm of the California Supreme Court, is the state’s legal gatekeeper, overseeing bar admissions and managing the state’s attorney discipline system for its 181,000 active members.

Mr. Dunn alleges that the bar’s chief trial counsel, Jayne Kim, who oversees investigations into complaints about attorneys, “unlawfully removed” backlog cases from official reports. “This was done to benefit Ms. Kim in her upcoming evaluation and to fraudulently inflate the productivity of her office,” the complaint says.

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November 15, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Arctic Blast Sweeps the Nation; Californians Break Out Their Winter Clothes

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Class Crits VII Conference Kicks Off Today at UC-Davis

Class CritsThe two-day Class Crits VII Conference on Poverty, Precarity, & Work: Struggle & Solidarity in an Era of Permanent(?) Crisis kicks off today at UC-Davis.  Tax Prof speakers include:

Debt & Taxes:

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November 14, 2014 in Conferences, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Innovation, Ingenuity and Leadership in American Law Schools

David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Innovation, Ingenuity and Leadership: ‘De-Accrediting’ the ABA, Nationalizing Bar Admission and Redefining the Right to Practice Some Forms of Law:

In a system such as is represented by US law schools even its failures and inadequacies were insufficient stimuli to drive honest self-assessment. This was because until the recent dramatic plunge in applicants law schools were not in any way accountable for their failure to be self-aware in mission, teaching, scholarly activity or cost in ways that compelled faculty to seek to understand the true nature of what they were doing both individually and collectively. Over the past three to four decades many law schools became such self-contained institutions that they were increasingly disconnected from the needs of the legal profession and the judiciary. After all, the practice of law was sort of morally “dirty”, anti-intellectual and mundane.

Law schools are now trumpeting that they really are concerned with educating students to become effective lawyers. The schools are releasing press release after release announcing how they have (finally) seen the light and are innovatively committed to the mission of educating lawyers. The problem with the PR is that innovation doesn’t just happen. It requires a unique combination of special leadership working with a critical mass of people who want to innovate. Even that is not enough.   The “innovators” must possess the insights and skills needed to “invent new forms” and those “inventions” will often require that they and others change the nature and focus of what they have long been doing and adapt. The willingness to transform oneself in that way is not a common feature in American law schools. To innovate effectively the Body comprised of a law school dean and faculty need to understand the existing system sufficiently well that they know how to preserve its strengths while eliminating the barriers created by our human tendency to consider what we have always done as the only (or best) way to do things.

This is particularly difficult to achieve in the amorphous system of American legal education. The problems have several elements. One of the most critical is that no one in a law school has sufficient power to compel faculty to act cohesively. This is exacerbated by the fact that members of law faculties are master “word smiths” capable of manipulating and blurring the reality of any situation with elevated rhetoric. They are also traditionalists locked into the existing hierarchy and ways of doing things who are far closer to being entitled feudal lords with individual fiefdoms rather than employees.

Significant innovation becomes close to impossible when it is dependent on the decisions of an atomistic collection of “uber-individuals” empowered by lifetime employment guarantees that cannot be altered without great expense and for very significant cause. Virtually no one can actually tell an American law professor what to do and this creates very high barriers to innovation. Nonetheless there are several approaches that can trigger systemic innovation with significant impacts on legal education and the profession.

In my judgment there are three steps that are needed to “crack open” the current monopoly over legal education and the right to provide law-related services that are operating as barriers to innovation and to the best ways to provide legal services to those in need.

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November 14, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Time: The Real Student Debt Problem No One is Talking About

Time (2014)Time:  The Real Student Debt Problem No One is Talking About, by Jon Marcus:

Graduate students make up just 14% of university enrollment, but account for nearly 40% of student debt

Much of the concern about ballooning student debt has focused on undergrads taking out steep loans to pay for the rising cost of college. Largely overlooked are a principal source of the problem: graduate students ... who are less likely to have support from parents or other sources, and who face almost no limits on how much they borrow.

Graduate students now collectively owe as much as 40 percent of the estimated $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt, according to the New America Foundation, even though they make up only 14 percent of all university enrollment.

GradStudentDebt

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November 13, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The National Jurist's 25 Most Influential People in Legal Education

National JuristNational Jurist, 4 New Faces Join list of Most Influential People in Legal Education:

The National Jurist’s list of the Most influential People in Legal Education will include four new names when it is unveiled in its entirety in January, the publication announced.

Paul Caron, Professor at Pepperdine University, Eric Janus, Dean at William Mitchell School of Law, Michael Hunter Schwartz, Dean at University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Maureen A. O’Rourke, Dean at Boston University School of Law all made the list for the first time. Philip J. Weiser, Dean at University of Colorado Law School will return to the list after a one-year absence.

Janus made news late last year as the dean of the first school to get ABA approval for a distance-learning program for J.D. students. Michael Hunter Schwartz and Maureen A. O’Rourke have each spearheaded legal education reforms at their schools. ... Caron, who is new to the list, is an editor of a popular blog that covers legal education in addition to tax law issues.

The National Jurist seeks nominations from every law school and then narrows the list down to 50 nominees. Law school deans, the magazine’s editors and other influencers in legal education then vote.

Twenty honorees return to the list. They are listed below in alphabetical order:

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November 13, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Organ: MBE Is More to Blame Than Deteriorating Student Quality for Lower Bar Pass Rates

Following up on my earlier posts (here and here):  The Legal Whiteboard:  What Might Have Contributed to an Historic Year-Over-Year Decline In the MBE Mean Scaled Score?, by Jerry Organ (St. Thomas):

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has taken the position that the historic drop in the MBE Mean Scaled Score of 2.8 points between the July 2013 administration of the bar exam (144.3) and the July 2014 administration of the bar exam (141.5) is solely attributable to a decline in the quality of those taking a bar exam this July. ... I am not persuaded. (Neither is Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard, who has responded by calling the letter “offensive” and by asking for a “thorough investigation of the administration and scoring of the July 2014 exam.” Nor is Derek Muller, who earlier today posted a blog suggesting that the LSAT profile of the class of 2014 did not portend the sharp drop in MBE scores.)  ...

If one looks at the LSAT distribution of the matriculants in 2011 (who became the graduating class of 2014) and compares it with the LSAT distribution of the matriculants in 2010 (who became the graduating class of 2013), the NCBE probably is correct in noting that the group that sat in July 2014 is slightly “less able” than the group that sat in July 2013.  But for the reasons set forth below, I think the NCBE is wrong to suggest that this alone accounts for the historic drop in the MBE Mean Scaled Score. Rather, a comparison of the LSAT profile of the Class of 2014 with the LSAT profile of the Class of 2013 would suggest that one could have anticipated a modest drop in the MBE Mean Scaled Score of perhaps .5 to 1.0.  The modest decrease in the LSAT profile of the Class of 2014 when compared with the Class of 2013, by itself, does not explain the historic drop of 2.8 reported in the MBE Mean Scaled Score between July 2013 and July 2014. ...

In his article, Unpacing the Bar: Cut Scores, Competence and Crucibles, Professor Gary Rosin of the South Texas College of Law developed a statistical model for predicting bar passage rates for different LSAT scores.  I used his bar passage prediction chart to assess the “relative strength” of each entering class from 2001 through 2013. 

LSAT RANGE

Prediction of Bar Exam Success Based on Lowest LSAT in Range

175-180

.98

170-174

.97

165-169

.95

160-164

.91

155-159

.85

150-154

.76

145-149

.65

140-144

.50

135-139

.36

130-134

.25

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November 12, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Closing The Law School Gender Gap: 'Gender Inequality In Grading Is Sensitive to Pedagogy'

Gender GapInside Higher Ed, Closing the Law School Gender Gap:

Reducing class size and shaking up grading systems could help close the gender gap in professional schools, suggests new research in the Journal of Legal Studies [A Natural Experiment in Law]. Authors Daniel Ho and [Vice Dean] Mark Kelman, both professors of law at Stanford University, say that common professional school pedagogies, such as the Socratic and adversarial methods, may put women at a disadvantage when class sizes are big. In their study, Ho and Kelman analyzed 15,689 grades assigned by 91 instructors to 1,897 students from 2001-12.  

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November 12, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (3)

Muller: Class of 2014 LSAT Scores Did Not Portend Sharp Drop in MBE Scores

2014 Businessweek Business School Rankings

BloombergBloomberg Businessweek, The Complete 2014 Business School Rankings (methodology: 45% employer reputation; 45% student reputation; 10% faculty research):

  1. Duke
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Chicago
  4. Stanford
  5. Columbia
  6. Yale
  7. Northwestern
  8. Harvard
  9. Michigan
  10. Carnegie Mellon
  11. UCLA
  12. North Carolina
  13. Cornell
  14. MIT
  15. Dartmouth
  16. Indiana
  17. Maryland
  18. Emory
  19. UC-Berkeley
  20. Virginia
  21. USC
  22. NYU
  23. Texas
  24. Georgetown
  25. Rice

Congratulations to  Pepperdine's Business School, ranked #63.

November 12, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Predict Your Law School Class Rank Online Calculator

Rob Anderson (Pepperdine) has unveiled a nifty Predict Your Law School Class Rank Online Calculator:

This is a law school class rank calculator that uses publicly available data to predict law school class rank based on LSAT and undergraduate GPA. The calculator itself is fairly accurate for LSATs and GPAs that are between the 25th and 75th percentiles for each school. Its accuracy decreases for very low or very high LSATs or GPAs for a particular school.

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November 11, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Buchanan: Legal Scholarship Makes the World a Better Place

WorldNeil H. Buchanan (George Washington), Legal Scholarship Makes the World a Better Place:

This article responds to claims that law professors are engaged in scholarly pursuits that fail to serve important social functions. I argue that legal scholarship “matters” in important ways, and in particular that the legal academy has improved its service to society by embracing interdisciplinary approaches to studying the law.

November 11, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

WSJ: MBE, Brooklyn Dean Debate Cause of Declining Bar Pass Rates: Students or the Test?

Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Decline in Bar Exam Scores Sparks War of Words:

A steep decline in bar exam scores on the most recent test has led to an outbreak of finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the downward swing.

In a sharply worded letter, the dean of Brooklyn Law School on Monday reproached the head of a national bar exam group for suggesting to law school leaders that their graduates who took the July exam were less prepared than students who sat for the test in previous years.

The dean’s letter came in response to an October memo by Erica Moeser, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, addressed to law school deans across the country in which she defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it. ...

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November 11, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Save the Date: Mugel National Tax Moot Court Competition

MugelThe annual Albert R. Mugel National Tax Moot Court Competition will be held February 19-21, 2015.

  • Registration Deadline:  December 30, 2014
  • Problem Released:  January 12, 2015
  • Briefs Due:  February 12, 2015

November 11, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 10, 2014

WSJ: Millennials Have More Debt, Less Jobs, Savings, and Net Worth

GenWall Street Journal, Younger Generation Faces a Savings Deficit:

Adults under age 35—the so-called millennial generation—currently have a savings rate of negative 2%, meaning they are burning through their assets or going into debt, according to Moody’s Analytics. That compares with a positive savings rate of about 3% for those age 35 to 44, 6% for those 45 to 54, and 13% for those 55 and older. 

The turnabout in savings tendencies shows how the personal finances of millennials have become increasingly precarious despite five years of economic growth and sustained job creation. A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the postrecession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership—let alone retirement. ...

The problems from a lack of savings promise to reverberate for years. Those who don’t save are unlikely to be wealthy in the future, meaning American angst over wealth inequality seems poised to persist if most millennials are unable to save or choose not to. ...

For some young households, the inability to save reflects the weak job market. ... Another big difference from earlier generations is the rise of student loans. In 1995, borrowers under 35 had median student debt of $6,100, according to Fed data. That has risen to $17,200.

WSJ 2

November 10, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seyfarth Partner Quits Law Firm ($925k Income) to Become High School Teacher ($53k Income)

American Lawyer LogoThe American Lawyer, Seyfarth Partner Quits Law Firm Life to Become High School Teacher:

For labor and employment partner Michael Viccora, it took the death of his parents to realize he wanted a chance at a second career. So after 25 years at Seyfarth Shaw, he decided it was time to wean himself from law firm life and pursue his first love: teaching high school social studies.

At 51, Viccora is now enrolled in a teacher certification and master’s degree program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. His last day of work in Seyfarth’s Washington, D.C., office was Sept. 30.

Viccora says the job change was a long time in coming, but not because he had grown dissatisfied with the practice of law, where he counseled and litigated on behalf of clients in health care, public relations, construction, government contracting and hospitality. Rather, he says he was inspired by some of his own public school teachers growing up in Bethel, Conn. He also did a short stint as a history teacher at a private preparatory school in upstate New York while preparing for his LSATs after graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in government in 1985. 

“It was always a goal of mine to at some point return to teaching, but like lots of our goals and dreams, it was in the very far background," he says. Viccora started taking steps toward making that dream a reality after the death of his father in 2009, followed by the death of his mother a year later. “Those events underscored that if I wanted to make a move to do some of these other things in life, I had to get up and do them,” he reflects. “It prompted me to be more active in my goal to make the move.” ...

He and his wife also met with their financial planner and increased their savings in anticipation of a 90 percent income drop when he starts teaching in 2016. Viccora did not disclose his former income, but according to the latest Am Law 100 survey, average profits per partner at Seyfarth in 2013 was $925,000. A beginning high school public school teacher with a master’s degree in Fairfax County, on the other hand, is expected to earn about $53,000 in 2015, according to public records.

November 10, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times on Ken Starr

StarrInteresting New York Times article on Ken Starr, former Pepperdine Dean (2004-10) (and former D.C. Circuit Judge (1983-89), U.S. Solicitor General (1989-93), and Independent Counsel (1994-99)) and since 2010 President of Baylor University:

Many remember Mr. Starr from his days as independent counsel, when he delivered a report to Congress that chronicled President Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. They would strain to recognize him in university life, where he is viewed as a goofy professor.

“We love him,” Gracie Millard, a freshman, said. “Around campus, people take selfies with him.”

Echoing several other undergraduates born in the mid-1990s, Ms. Millard added, “I didn’t know he was big in D.C.” ...

[C]ollege sports have given Mr. Starr’s public life a second act. He restored stability to Baylor, the country’s largest Baptist university, after becoming its fifth president in six years, including interims, and twice used his legal experience to help hold the Big 12 together amid the storms of realignment.

“He’s already an epic and transformational figure,” said Don Willett, a Texas Supreme Court justice and active Baylor alumnus. ...

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November 10, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, November 9, 2014

ABA Recommends Approval of Sale of Charleston Law School to InfiLaw

ICThe ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar has sent this 2-page letter and attached 6-page recommendation of the accreditation committee to Dean Andrew Abrams recommending that the sale of Charleston Law School to Infilaw be approved by the ABA Council, subject to two conditions:

  1. InfiLaw obtain a license from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education
  2. InfiLaw complete the acquisition within 6 months after the ABA Council's approval

(Hat Tip:  Law Deans on Legal Education Blog.) For more, see:

November 9, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Legal Education, Gay Rights and Religion: Living by a Different Law

Following up on my previous post (links below):  The Economist, Higher Education, Gay Rights and Religion: Living by a Different Law:

TrinityBefore attending a single class, students at Trinity Western University, which offers a broad range of arts and science subjects, must sign what the school calls a community covenant [FAQ]. This is a solemn pledge that they won’t, among other things, lie, cheat and watch porn. They also vow to abstain from premarital sex and specifically any sexual intimacy between people of the same sex. Critics call the covenant anti-gay; the school retorts that it's asserting its entitlement under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom to practise its beliefs. All this was an academic argument until recently; but it is coming to a head because of the university’s decision to begin a law school, which would accept its first students in 2016.

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November 9, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

WSJ: Asian Students Outperform Americans on GMAT, So B-Schools Demand Separate Ranking of U.S. Students

Wall Street Journal, On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; High GMAT Scores From China, India Spur Separate Rankings for U.S. Students:

GMAT 2New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better. ...

Percentile rankings are calculated using a raw score—for the quantitative section, typically between 0 and 51. In 2004, a raw score of 48 in the quantitative section yielded a ranking in the 86th percentile, according to GMAC; today, that same score would land the test-taker in the 74th percentile.

U.S. students’ raw scores on the quantitative section have remained roughly flat over the last decade at around 33, but their percentile ranking has fallen as more of their higher-scoring international counterparts take the exam. ...

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November 8, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

80 Law Schools Are at Risk of Closure, Mostly in California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

ClosedDavid Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Looking at the Law School ‘Crisis’ from the Perspective of the University:

Even with the very large excess capacity represented by the number of law schools and graduates versus the available jobs it is unlikely that the number of closings of ABA accredited schools will exceed the predictions offered below by Matt Leichter, Jerry Organ [10%] and Brian Leiter [up to 10]. ... But as many as 20 law schools could be closed in the near future and many others will be forced to adjust and adapt. ... My best guess would be that 80 law schools are at some degree of risk. The risks will in many cases be managed by shrinkage, layoffs, mergers and consolidations, distance learning and computer-based instruction strategies, and by adoption of additional kinds of educational missions. Accessing new applicant pools that benefit from some modified forms of education in law while not seeking the right to practice in the traditional sense will also produce new versions of law schools or new components within schools. The changes will be exciting but for many they will be painful.

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November 7, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

Texas Bar Exam Results: Baylor #1

Texas BarHere are the results of the July 2014 Texas Bar Exam for first-time test-takers by law school, along with each school's U.S. News ranking:

  1. Baylor:  91.57% (#51 in U.S. News)
  2. Texas:  90.08%  (#15)
  3. Houston:  86.29% (#58)
  4. SMU:  85.51% (#42)
  5. South Texas:  83.58% (#146)
  6. Texas Tech:  77.46% (#107)
  7. Texas A&M:  73.25% (Tier 2)
  8. St. Mary's:  70.45% (Tier 2)
  9. Texas Southern:  62.70% (Tier 2)

November 7, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: When a Charitable Donation Steers Off Course

DrexelNew York Times, When a Donation Steers Off Course:

Of the more than $300 billion a year that is donated to about 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, most work out as intended. Museum wings get built and scholarships get awarded.

Nevertheless, experts say, dozens of times a year something goes awry. A donor may lose interest or take a bad loss in the stock market. The project may become more complex than a charity expected.

Most important, ambitious goals, and therefore potential failure, are inherent in philanthropy. ...

Financial shocks, like the 2008-9 recession, are a primary cause of problems. The dollar value of American gifts and pledges plunged by 5.7 percent in 2008, the largest such decline in half a century, according to the Giving USA Foundation. ...

Strict standards might avoid embarrassing do-overs as at the new law school at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

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November 7, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Toobin: Law Schools and the Legal One Percent

New Yorker (2014)The New Yorker:  The Legal One Per Cent, by Jeffrey Toobin:

After every recession since the Second World War, the legal profession swiftly and robustly recovered. Not this time. The market for lawyers shrank following the post-2008 recession, and no one thinks that it’s coming all the way back. What’s happened in the legal world represents a twist on developments in the larger economy. In law, as in the nation, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. With lawyers, though, it’s the system of professional education that’s directly contributing to inequality.

In the legal world, the haves are doing better than fine. In 1985, average profits per partner in The American Lawyer’s list of leading law firms was $309,000 ($623,000 in current dollars); today, the profits per partner for roughly the same group is about $1.5 million. These numbers hide an even greater disparity. Those at the very top of the pyramid—firms such as Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Cravath, Swain & Moore; and a handful of others—are thriving as never before, with annual profits per partner in the multimillions.

But those at the bottom of the pyramid—recent law-school graduates—are struggling. A recent article in The Atlantic recited the grim numbers: “­More than 180 of the 200 US law schools are unable to find jobs for more than 80% of their graduates.” Median starting salaries for those who do find work are down by seventeen per cent, and more than a third of graduates cannot find full-time employment.

The rational response to economic developments of this kind would be straightforward: in light of the plunging demand for new lawyers, there should be fewer law students attending fewer law schools. And, indeed, the number of people taking the LSAT has dropped by nearly forty per cent in just four years, as have law-school-application rates. The number of students starting law school has fallen by about fourteen per cent over roughly the same period. In other words, many of these prospective students are behaving as rational economic actors—steering away from a business with grim employment prospects.>/p>

But here’s where the perverse economics of legal education come in. Law schools continue to exploit the shrinking numbers of students whom they can persuade to apply. ...

 

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November 6, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

'Throwing Furniture Into the Fireplace to Keep Warm' Is Not a Viable Law School Survival Strategy

Thomas Jefferson LogoFollowing up on yesterday's post, NY Times: 'A Troubled Law School Is Like Dracula: Hard to Kill':  Steven J. Harper (Northwestern), Bullet Dodged? Or Redirected Toward You?:

For the past six months, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego seemed poised to become the first ABA-accredited law school to fail since the Great Recession began. For anyone paying attention to employment trends in the legal sector, the passage of six years without a law school closing somewhere is itself remarkable. It also says much about market dysfunction in legal education.

In his November 5 column in the New York Times, University of California-Berkeley law professor Steven Davidoff Solomon has a different view. Solomon argues that recent enrollment declines prove that a functioning market has corrected itself: “[T]he bottom is almost here for law schools. This is how economics works: Markets tend to overshoot on the way up, and down.”

Solomon urges that the proper course is to keep marginal law schools such as Thomas Jefferson alive for a while “and see what happens.” I disagree. ...

Throwing furniture into the fireplace to keep the house warm is not a viable long-run survival strategy. Consider future students and their willingness to borrow as the “furniture” and you have a picture of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s business plan.

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November 6, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (15)

Bar, Law Schools Try to Apply Brakes to NY's Rush to Adopt Uniform Bar Exam

New York Law Journal, Don't Rush Adoption of New Bar Exam, State Bar Cautions:

Citing serious concerns about a "rush" to adopt a nationally standardized bar exam, the New York State Bar Association is recommending that the court system delay the decision on adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) to allow further study on bar pass rates and the impact on test takers, particularly minority groups.

The state bar is also recommending that if the court system adopts the UBE or makes other major changes to the test, that changes be phased in with "fair advance and appropriate notice" to test takers. Specifically, the state bar seeks a two-year reprieve of the proposed change, if it's adopted, effectively delaying a new exam until 2017.

Further, the bar, during Saturday's House of Delegates meeting (Watch Webcast), authorized its president to take whatever action is necessary to ensure the revised bar exam does not take effect next summer.

The state court system last month circulated proposed rules on adopting the UBE to replace the current New York bar exam, starting in July 2015 (NYLJ, Oct. 7).

While the New York bar exam would retain a section specifically about New York law, the bulk of the two-day test would be the UBE, prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, if the state Court of Appeals adopts the change.

Fourteen other states, mostly west of the Mississippi, use the UBE as the basis for their bar examinations. New York would be the first of the largest and most influential states to use the test.

UBE

The proposal would require all candidates to take the UBE, plus take and pass a separate New York law exam consisting of 50 New York-specific multiple choice questions given on the second day of the exam. It also would eliminate the five essay questions that test knowledge of New York-specific law in favor of the UBE essays.

Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar,  Report of the New York State Board of Law Examiners  (BOLE) Proposed Change in New York to the Uniform Bar Exam:

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November 6, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: Compliance Jobs Draw Law Grads

Wall Street Journal, Compliance Jobs Draw Law Grads:

As the number of jobs open for law-school graduates in big law firms has shrunk, some of these graduates are turning to careers in the growing area of compliance. “You see a lot of banks and companies ramping up compliance programs, and that presents a great opportunity for young lawyers,” said David Kelley, a partner at law firm Cahill Gordon. ...

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November 6, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why We Are Looking at the ‘Value’ of College (and Law School?) All Wrong

Washington Post:  Why We Are Looking at the ‘Value’ of College All Wrong, by Christopher B. Nelson (President, St. John's College):

As college admission deadlines loom, new lists and rankings proliferate along with reports questioning the “value” of a college education. The obsession with quantification is rooted in a habit of applying economic categories to everything. Yet education and economics are essentially incompatible. The lens of economics distorts our judgment about the true worth of higher education. ...

[T]he idea that a college or university is a purveyor of information is a misplaced economic metaphor. Education is not information transfer. The educated college graduate is not simply the same person who matriculated four years earlier with more information or new skills. The educated graduate is a different person—one who has developed the innate human capacity for learning, to the point of controlling it. The educated graduate is an independent learner, able to seek out answers to whatever questions arise, and able to direct his or her own learning in accordance with the challenges that life presents in the circumstances of his or her own life.

The maturation of the student—not information transfer—is the real purpose of colleges and universities. Of course, information transfer occurs during this process. One cannot become a master of one’s own learning without learning something. But information transfer is a corollary of the maturation process, not its primary purpose. This is why assessment procedures that depend too much on quantitative measures of information transfer miss the mark. It is entirely possible for an institution to focus successfully on scoring high in rankings for information transfer while simultaneously failing to promote the maturation process that leads to independent learning.

We need to move away from easy assessments that miss the point to more difficult assessments that try to get at the maturation process. The Gallup-Purdue Index Report entitled Great Jobs, Great Lives found six crucial factors linking the college experience to success at work and overall well-being in the long term:

  1. at least one teacher who made learning exciting
  2. personal concern of teachers for students
  3. finding a mentor
  4. working on a long-term project for at least one semester
  5. opportunities to put classroom learning into practice through internships or jobs
  6. rich extracurricular activities

We should turn all our ingenuity toward measuring factors like these, difficult as that task might be, and use these results to push back against easy assessments based on the categories of economics. Unless we stop taking the easy way, unless we get past our habit of interpreting everything in economic terms, we will never grasp the true value of a college education.

November 5, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Legal Education in Transition: Trends and Their Implications

Sheldon Krantz (Georgetown) & Michael A. Millemann (Maryland), Legal Education in Transition: Trends and Their Implications, 92 Neb. L. Rev. (2014):

This is a pivotal moment in legal education. Revisions in ABA accreditation standards, approved in August 2014, impose new requirements, including practice-based requirements, on law schools. Other external regulators and critics are pushing for significant changes too. For example, the California bar licensing body is proposing to add a practice-based, experiential requirement to its licensing requirements, and the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, is giving third-year, second semester students the opportunity to practice full-time in indigent legal services programs and projects. Unbeknown to many, there have been significant recent changes in legal education that have added practice-based courses, or practice-based components to courses, in all three years of legal education. Increasingly, law schools are reaching beyond the JD to establish projects in which graduates learn while practicing law. The innovations include first-year courses in which students engage in actual legal work to help provide legal services to clients; technology clinics in which students use or build state-of-the-art technology to help pro se litigants more effectively represent themselves; diversified experiential courses, including “practicums;” and post-JD “incubator,” “fellowship,” “residency,” “apprenticeship,” and “job corps” programs in which law graduates, and sometimes law students, practice and learn from practice. It is a dynamic period in which law schools, including through comprehensive strategic planning, should regain the leadership in facing the present and future challenges. The factors contributing to change — for example, the tough job market, reduced law school applications, interventions of regulators, U.S. News & World Report rankings and increased competition among law schools — are not likely to substantially change in the near future. Law schools are in, should be in, and will be in a period that calls for sustained innovation.

November 5, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: 'A Troubled Law School Is Like Dracula: Hard to Kill'

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times DealBook:  Worth Nothing, Failing Law Schools Are Kept on Life Support, by Steven Davidoff Solomon (UC-Berkeley):

A recent debt restructuring at Thomas Jefferson School of Law shows that a law school may be worth absolutely nothing. ...

It doesn’t take an economist to know that lower demand has hurt almost all law schools outside the top 10 terribly. Hardest hit are law schools in the lower tier, where law school applications have fallen even more rapidly. In this vein, the latest issues at Thomas Jefferson School of Law could be an object lesson in what happens once the boom times inevitably end. ... This sent shivers of delight through the law school critics, creating immediate speculation that the law school might be the first to “keel over.” ...

Thomas Jefferson got a sweetheart deal, but its creditors had no choice. If they shut down the law school, the only value left would be a law school building that would need to be repurposed and redesigned. Big lecture halls would need to be turned into offices at a significant expense.

There are lessons here for the entire law school system.

First, a closed law school is worth little, or most likely nothing, to creditors. The value is only in the revenue stream it produces and perhaps its building (you could say the books also, but these are increasingly fewer). And these days, that revenue stream is down 20 to 40 percent, meaning that if law schools were a for-profit business, most would be failures.

A troubled law school is like Dracula: hard to kill. Creditors will not do so because even keeping a struggling school alive means there is some possibility of repayment.

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November 5, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student

CompanionAndrew McClurg (Memphis), The ‘Companion Text’ to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (West 2011):

This book equips the loved ones of law students ; parents, partners, friends, and relatives ; with all the information they need to understand and survive their student's journey through the world of legal education. Written by an award-winning professor with experience teaching thousands of law students, The "Companion Text" explains the essentials of legal education, including the first-year curriculum, the Socratic Method of teaching, and the single-exam format. It also explores the psyches of law students, including things you should never say to them, their sources of stress, and how law school can change personalities. The book addresses the impact of law school on outside relationships and gives tips for navigating relationships with law students. Filled with comments, anecdotes, and insights from real law students and their loved ones.

Al Sturgeon (Pepperdine), Things to Never Say to a Law Student:

Professor Andrew McClurg has written an excellent book for the family and friends of law students and granted me permission to share excerpts with you from time to time.

  1. “Don’t Worry, You’ll Do Fine”
  2. “Maybe You Weren’t Meant to Be in Law School”
  3. “Remember, It’s Only a Test”
  4. “Is That the Best You Could Do?”
  5. “Do You Really Have to Work on That Tonight?”
  6. “What Kind of Lawyer Do You Want to Be?”
  7. “Do You Have a Job Yet?”
  8. “Have You Heard the One About the Lawyer, the Shark, and the Pornographer?”

November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thomas Jefferson Law School Budget Cuts

Thomas Jefferson LogoFollowing up on my recent posts (links below):  a law prof at another school passed along this summary of the conference call that Thomas Jefferson Dean Thomas Guernsey had with bondholders on March 21, 2014 outlining budget cuts at the law school.  Among the most draconian:

  • "As we’ve reported before, the school has taken dramatic cuts since 2012. The number of employees at the school declined from 139 to 102. We have reduced spending by 22% and believe the result is that we have a bare bones budget for the operation of the law school." (Conference call, at 32:50-33:10)
  • "We are projecting a significant decline in the number of full-time faculty that the law school will employ as the number of students declines and then levels off." (32:24-34:40) 
  • "We are projecting further personnel reductions planned over the next three years. . .We have assumed that benefits and salaries for those who work at the law school will not increase over the next four years, but that after that there will be a 2.5 percent annual growth. At some point, the continued inability to give salary increases is going to have obviously a negative impact on our ability to retain people." (33:28-34:05)
  • "A number of expenses we have reduced, these are just the ones that are $50,000 or more. Professional fees by more than $560,000. Student recruitment by more than $430,000. Library continuations by $125,000. Security by $89,000." (39:22-39:38)
  • "We are looking for other ways to improve. . . [A] bar preparation course [for] which we pay about $600,000 a year ends in 2016. We have no intention of renewing that. That leads to a $285,000 reduction in 2017." (39:47-40:13)
  • "As we’ve talked before, the law school has made significant budget cuts lately. We have reduced the overall FTE headcount by over 21% in the past year alone. As I’ve indicated, we have further reductions projected over the next three years. Significant salary and benefit concessions have been implemented. We froze salaries and wages since 2012. In August, soon after my arrival, we made a 5% across the board cut in salaries, with an additional 3% cut for the faculty. We eliminated the 401K matching, which was up to 3% of salary and that became effective on January, 2014. And we have eliminated paid sabbaticals." (38:26-39:14)

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November 4, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)