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Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Nightmare Future of Higher-Ed

Minding the Campus:  A Nightmare Future of Higher-Ed, by Lee Kottner:

A favorite trope of science fiction dystopias is a classroom of students wearing metallic skull caps wired to a blinking, monolithic computer, and staring vacantly into space while the propaganda and “facts” that pass for knowledge and education are downloaded directly into their brains. That scenario may be coming soon to a college campus near you, if in a somewhat more refined manner.

Consider the state of higher education today. Since the late 1970s, the total of poorly paid untenured and contingent faculty has far outstripped the number of tenured faculty on college campuses all over the world and now accounts for roughly 76 % of faculty in U.S. higher education.

The shrinking number of tenured academics has been paralleled by a growing number of very well-paid administration positions, filled by MBAs or Educational Administration doctorates who have spent little or no time in the actual educational trenches. The current corporate administrative pattern emphasizes a profit model of efficiency, cost control, and knowledge delivery, which is fundamentally different from the academic and pedagogical model of knowledge creation, a messy, individualistic but often life-changing process. This new emphasis is evident in the constant rise of tuition (going to grandiose building projects and bloated administrative salaries mirroring the corporate world), increasing demands for the quantification and standardization of instruction, larger class sizes, and the devaluing of educators’ professionalism, expertise, mentoring, innovative pedagogy, and the kind of student-centered, highly personalized learning opportunities I had at my small liberal arts college in the 1980s.

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September 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former AALS President: Thomas Jefferson Is 'The Canary in the Coal Mine of Legal Education,' Expects Six Law Schools to Close

Chronicle of Higher Education, As Law School Struggles to Stay Open, Some See ‘a Canary in the Coal Mine’:

Much has been written about the sky-high debts facing law-school graduates, who face difficult odds in landing jobs that will help pay off their loans. But students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law are among the first who are contemplating the possibility of a get-out-of-debt-free card that no one’s eager to cash in. 

It would apply only if the law school, which is struggling to restructure a $133-million debt, were to close—a prospect the private, stand-alone school in downtown San Diego is determined to avert. After failing to make a June payment, the school was given a reprieve until October 17 but ordered to pay an additional $2-million.  ...

The number of applicants to law schools accredited by the American Bar Association plummeted 45 percent from 2004 to 2014, according to preliminary figures released by the association. By 2013, first-year enrollment had slid about 18 percent, a devastating decline for schools, like Thomas Jefferson, that depend heavily on tuition.

CHE 2
 

As Thomas Jefferson struggles to remain afloat, Michael A. Olivas, a former president of the Association of American Law Schools, suggested it may be "a canary in the coal mine of legal education." The nation has too many law schools, said Mr. Olivas, who is also a professor of law at the University of Houston, and he expects some will close in the next several years. "I believe there will be, in all likelihood, about a half-dozen schools that are on anybody’s watch list," he said.

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September 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

U.S. News Jobs Rankings: Lawyers #51 (Down From #33 Last Year)

Best Jobs 2U.S. News & World Report, The 100 Best Jobs:

All jobs aren’t created equal. In fact, some are simply better than the rest. U.S. News 100 Best Jobs of 2014 offer a mosaic of employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance and job security. Some careers offer just the right mix of these components – for instance, nearly 40 percent of our picks are health care jobs – but the list also includes strong showings from occupations in the social services and business sectors. And for the first time, our No. 1 pick is a technology job. Read more on how we rank the best jobs, and check out our complete list.

Best Jobs 451.  Lawyer (details here).  Consider this: 25 of our U.S. presidents have been lawyers. So it almost goes without saying that working in law holds a particular draw for us Americans. There will be the need for about 74,800 more professionals with Juris Doctor degrees by the year 2022.

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September 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (11)

ABA Announces Plan to Implement New Law School Accreditation Standards

ABA Logo 2ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar Standards Review Committee, Implementation of New Standards and Rules for Approval of Law Schools:

At its meeting on Monday, August 11, 2014, in Boston, the ABA House of Delegates concurred in all of the proposed new Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools with the exception of Interpretation 305-2. The Interpretation, which prohibits law schools from granting credit for field placement programs for which the student receives compensation, was referred back to the Council after the House heard strong testimony for and against the provision. Because the revised Standards proposed to continue the existing rule on this matter, the existing rule remains in place, pending further review by the Council.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, a decision by the Council to adopt, review, amend or repeal the Standards, Interpretations or Rules is subject to a maximum of two referrals back to the Council by the House. If the House refers a Council decision back to the Council twice, then the decision of the Council following the second referral will be final and will not be subject to further review by the House.

The revised Standards and Rules are legally effective as of the end of the ABA Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014. However, cognizant that law schools will need time to do the work that some of the changed Standards will require, the Council and the Section have established a transition and implementation plan. The revised Rules do not require a delay for implementation and are effective immediately.

September 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Appealing Partners With Above the Law

HAATLHoward Bashman’s wonderful appellate litigation blog, How Appealing, is partnering with Breaking Media's Above the Law, effective October 1, 2014.  For details of the arrangement, see:

Howard does not reveal the traffic numbers for How Appealing, but reports that Above the Law receives "7 million page views per month from over 1.1 million visitors."

(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)

September 24, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

College Rankings by Billionaire Alumni

One BillionWEALTH-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014:

Of the top 20 most popular schools for billionaires – in terms of the number of billionaires who have obtained their bachelor’s degree at these institutions – 16 were in the United States.

Rank

School

No. of Billionaires

1

Penn

25

2

Harvard

22

3

Yale

20

4

USC

16

5

Cornell

14

5

Princeton

14

5

Stanford

14

8

UC-Berkeley

12

8

Mumbai

12

10

London School of Econ.

11

10

Moscow State U.

11

12

Dartmouth

10

12

Michigan

10

12

Texas

10

15

Duke

9

15

NYU

9

17

Brown

8

17

Columbia

8

19

MIT

7

20

ETH Zurich

6

September 24, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Dramatic Employment Gains at 19 Law Schools

National JuristNational Jurist (Sept/Oct 2014):  Employment Turnarounds: Despite a Tepid Job Market, Some Schools Have Made Dramatic Improvements in the Number of Graduates Finding Jobs:

While the nationwide employment rate for recent graduates has been largely flat during the past few years, some schools have bucked the trend and significantly improved their employment rates. Nineteen law schools improved their employment rate by 10% or more during the past two years, according to a formula created by The National Jurist ... using data from the ABA. ... The National Jurist calculates its employment rate using a formula that tracks full-time bar passage required employment at 100%, full-time-JD preferred employment at 70%, and ten other categories at percents from 60% to as low as 10% for non-professional, full-time positions.

Chart 2

September 24, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SUNY-Buffalo Law School Dean Resigns Amidst Perjury Allegations in Lawsuit by Former Professor

Buffalo Art Voice, UB Law School Dean to Step Down Amid Charges of Perjury:

MutuaMakau Mutua will be stepping down as Dean of UB’s Law School effective December 19. He’ll then return to the law school faculty as SUNY Distinguished Professor and Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar. ...

Mutua was educated at the University of Nairobi, the University of Dar-es-Salaam and Harvard Law School. But the statement from UB doesn’t mention anything that was reported last month in The Star newspaper based in Nairobi, Kenya.

From The Star:

A Kenyan law professor based in US has been accused of committing perjury in an American court, his co-accused now wants the cases separated.

Makau Mutua, a human and civil rights activist, has been accused of lying in court. He is sued for allegedly irregularly laying off Jeffrey Malkan, a lecturer at Buffalo Law School where Mutua is a Dean. [Malkan was the former director of the law school’s Legal Research and Writing program.]

Evidence against Mutua is said to include sworn deposition testimony and sworn affidavits from seven tenured faculty members.

How embarrassing to all us local media outlets that this hometown story was broken over a month ago by a paper in Nairobi.

More details here and here.  The University's press release and other local and national press reports do not mention the lawsuit.

September 23, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tax Prof Wedding: Victoria Haneman

Tax Prof Victoria Haneman (Concordia) married Jeff Stone yesterday.  Victoria reports:

Jeff and I moved to Idaho at the end of May 2014. We wanted to get married before the end of the tax year, and we also wanted to be married in our new home state. We did not, however, want to trouble our friends and family with having to fly all the way to Idaho to attend a ceremony. Jeff and I were married this afternoon by Idaho Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton, in a small private ceremony performed at the Court.  

Victoria Haneman

And to top things off, today is Victoria's birthday!

September 23, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Scholars Critique Validity of Student Evaluations: 'Consumer Satisfaction' ≠ 'Product Value'

Chronicle of Higher Education, Scholars Take Aim at Student Evaluations’ ‘Air of Objectivity’:

Student EvaluationsStudent course evaluations are often misused statistically and shed little light on the quality of teaching, two scholars at the University of California at Berkeley argue in the draft of a new paper.

"We’re confusing consumer satisfaction with product value," Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at Berkeley, said in an interview.

An Evaluation of Course Evaluations, which he wrote with Richard Freishtat, senior consultant at Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning, lays out a mathematical critique of the evaluations and describes an alternative vision for analyzing and improving teaching.

Even though evaluations have become ubiquitous in academe, they remain controversial because they often assume a high-stakes role in determining tenure and promotion. But they persist because they are easy to produce, administer, and tabulate, Mr. Stark said. And because they are based on Likert scales whose results can be added and averaged, he said, they offer the comfort of a number. But it is a false kind of security. "Averages of numerical student ratings have an air of objectivity," the authors write, "simply because they are numerical."

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September 22, 2014 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

$700 Million in New Buildings at Five Law Schools

Nat'l Law Journal, Law Schools Continue to Build Out
NY Law Journal, Fordham Celebrates New Law School

September 22, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (14)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Enrollments Decline at 8 of 9 Ohio Law Schools

The Blade, UT Law School Enrollment Decline Worst in Ohio as Slump Spooks Students:

OhioAs law school enrollment continues a four-year slide locally and across the country, Toledo attorney Randall Dixon didn’t have any trouble coming up with a topic for his first column as president of the Toledo Bar Association. “Don’t let your babies grow up to be lawyers” went the headline on a piece that posed the question, “What do you tell people about pursuing a career in law?” ...

Last week, the University of Toledo, whose law school took the biggest hit in the state this year with a 25.9 percent decline in first-year law students, announced a 13 percent reduction in tuition in an attempt to reverse the trend.

UT law school Dean Daniel J. Steinbock said he believes tuition costs, the resulting debt, and the less-than-promising job market for new lawyers have combined to create an overall decline in people interested in law school. ... Mr. Steinbock dismissed the idea that UT’s ranking as No. 140 in U.S. News and World Report’s annual law school ratings for 2014 played a part in its declining enrollment. ...

All nine of Ohio’s law schools have seen applications and enrollment drop since law school enrollments peaked in 2010.

Ohio

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September 21, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Harvard Law School Debate: Save the World by Working in BigLaw?

HarvardThe Harvard Law Record: Want to Save the World? Do BigLaw!, by Bill Barlow:

For people systematically chosen for being able to root out and analyze the rationality of arguments, lawyers are pitifully bad at being reasonable. Let us look, for instance, at the current theories about what to do with your law degree. ...

If you really want to do good by law, consider becoming a corporate lawyer, making a lot of money, and donating a substantial sum to charity. This is by far the greatest utility maximizing option you have. Let’s consider the following different scenarios:

Chart

So there you have it—be a corporate lawyer, donate 25% of your post tax income to charity, and save 150 lives a year, or deworm 25,000 kids.  Alternatively, go into Public Interest, Government, or Academia, and feel warm and fuzzy about yourself.  Sadly, when people at this school talk about public service, they mean the latter, rather than the former.  If only people applied the same amount of cognitive skill used in just one LSAT logic game to the most critical question of what to do with their law degree, hundreds of lives could be saved.

Harvard Law Record:  In Response to “Want to Save the World? Do BigLaw!”, by Sima Atri:

I am not responding to this article because I think the arguments merit the time and energy I will spend writing this up. I am writing because I want students, but most especially ILs, to know that there are incredibly critical, thoughtful, committed, intelligent people at Harvard Law School who have made the choice not to go into corporate law for very important reasons.

Yes, it is true that some students are going into non-corporate work for self-interested reasons. I know I love my work and being engaged with causes I care about makes me happier. This does not reduce or demean the impact of the work I am involved in. For those who have all the choices of employment at their fingertips, we should all graduate into employments we love. With all the choices in the world, I also hope we’ll choose well – taking seriously the power society has handed us because of our degrees and profession.

However, even where my work gives me meaning, the emotions I feel while engaging with the world are far from the “warm and fuzzies” the author assumes adequately compensate me (an equally qualified, intelligent, hardworking classmates) for my work. In fact, in my opinion, when you work with marginalized communities, you are reminded every day how unjust and unfair and disempowering our system is. This does not make me feel warm and fuzzy, but rather pretty angry and upset. Through critical engagement with big societal problems, I find that I’ve found communities of people working through effective and empowering strategies that give me moments of hope. But deep down, I realize that the systems that currently exist are set up to marginalize certain populations and to maintain the status quo for those of us who have made it. Not warm and fuzzy realizations.

The article entitled Want to Save the World – Go into Big Law is self-aggrandizing at its best and naïve and unrealistic at worst. Because, I can bet that almost no one going into corporate law next year is donating 30% of their post-tax income to charity. Because, even if they did, charity is not going to deal with the inequality and marginalization that is deeply structural and complex. ...

If you disagree with the way I’ve chosen to do my work, engage with me, and your other classmates. I love to talk about strategies to confront our unequal society and can readily speak to the trade-offs I’ve chosen to make by not making hundreds of thousands of dollars. All I ask is that you are equally honest with yourself, and that you engage with me with respect.

Harvard Law Record:  Fellow Law Students, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, by Michael Shammas:

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was thinking of death and old age when he wrote his famous refrain: “Do not go gentle into that good night … Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Yet this line is applicable to many twenty-something students here at Harvard Law School. Because, quite frankly, a lot of us are, well, dying. ...

Resist the tide. Leave law school not as an attorney, but rather as a human being who happens to be an attorney. Graduate as a more interesting person than you were when you first started your Harvard Law application. It is easy to become complacent and to follow the tide, but too much of value is lost if you surrender to law school’s various conforming pressures. If you wish to judge real people in the future, if you wish to help real people, then you must be a real person—not a mechanical legal automaton.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

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

S&P Lowers Thomas Jefferson Law School's Junk Bond Rating to CC (3 Notches Lower Than Venezuela's); Default Is Expected

Following up on Wednesday's post, Thomas Jefferson Law School Defaults on $133m of Junk Bonds, Hopes to Restructure Debt and Remain Open:  Standard & Poor's, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, CA Rating Lowered To 'CC' From 'B+', On Watch Neg; Failure To Make Loan Payments Cited:

Thomas Jefferson Logo Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its long-term rating to 'CC' ["default imminent with little prospect for recovery"] from 'B+' [highly speculative"] on the California Statewide Communities Development Authority's series 2008A tax-exempt revenue bonds and series 2008B taxable revenue bonds issued for Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL). At the same time, Standard & Poor's placed the rating on CreditWatch with negative implications.

"The rating action reflects our view of TJSL's failure to make payments in full to the trustee of its June 26 loan payment, which secures the series 2008 bonds, and our anticipation that it will not make its Sept. 26 loan payment in full either," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Carlotta Mills. We understand the school has made partial payments toward debt service, though we were unable to confirm from the trustee or the school if the debt service reserve has been drawn upon to pay bondholders.

"The CreditWatch designation reflects our understanding that the school has had multiple forbearance agreements with its bondholders and that it is working toward a restructuring of the debt, due to be in place by Oct. 17," continued Ms. Mills. We expect that the bonds will default once the restructuring is completed.

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September 20, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Details Emerge in Murder of Dan Markel

Markel[Continually Updated]  More details are emerging in the July 18 murder of Dan Markel, D’Alemberte Professor of Law at Florida State and founder of PrawfsBlawg, as the result of a shooting in his home:

I have collected links to the many tributes to Dan here.

Dan Markel Memorial Fund To Benefit His Sons, Benjamin Amichai Markel and Lincoln Jonah Markel:

Markel

September 20, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

September 19, 2014 in Legal Education, Weekly Legal Education Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

St. Thomas Hosts Conference Today on Religious Identity in a Time of Challenge for Law Schools

RALThe University of St. Thomas School of Law hosts the annual Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference on Religious Identity in a Time of Challenge for Law Schools today in Minneapolis:

  • Keynote Address:  Robert Cochran (Pepperdine) & David VanDrunen (Westminster Seminary), Justice and Mercy
  • Deans' Panel: Jeff Brauch (Regent), Mike Simons (St. John's), Deanell Tacha (Pepperdine), Robert Vischer (Dean, St. Thomas)
  • Employment & Student Well-Being:  Judith McMorrow (Boston College), Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Jerry Organ (St. Thomas), Amy Uelman (Georgetown)
  • Faculty Scholarship:  John Breen (Loyola-Chicago), Howard Lesnick (Penn), Nekima Levy-Pounds (St. Thomas), Brett Scharffs (BYU)
  • The Changing World: Pope Francis and Religious Freedom:  Janet Epps-Buckingham (Trinity Western), Susan Stabile (St. Thomas), Michael Scaperlanda (Oklahoma) 

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Georgia Dean Finalists

Cassidy: Reforming the Law School Curriculum from the Top Down

R. Michael Cassidy (Boston College), Reforming the Law School Curriculum from the Top Down, 64 J. Legal Educ. ___ (2014):

With growing consensus that legal education is in turmoil if not in crisis, law schools need to take advantage of industry upheaval to catalyze innovation in the way they train their students. Curriculum reform, long the “third rail” of faculty politics, is now essential if some law schools are going to survive the present tsunami of low enrollments and stagnant hiring. One cautiously optimistic note within this doomsday symphony is that law school deans are now in extremely strong bargaining positions with their faculties and boards of trustees with respect to curriculum innovation.

In this essay, the author proposes a pivotal reform to the third year curriculum involving team-taught “Advanced Legal Problem Solving” workshops in subject specific areas, and describes the precise structure, content and staffing of such capstone courses. He argues that such workshops would significantly enhance the preparation of law students for entry into the profession, and would create an efficient and cost-effective route for law schools to satisfy rigorous new ABA accreditation standards regarding experiential learning and outcomes assessment.

September 18, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

NY Times Debate: Should the ABA Allow Paid Externships for Law Students?

NY Times Room for DebateNew York Times Room for Debate: Getting Pay and Credit for a Legal Education:

The American Bar Association prohibits law students from receiving pay for internships and externships that grant them academic credit. Critics have pressured the organization to reverse this standard, as law students face mounting debt and a slow job market.

Should law students be compensated for internships that count toward graduation?

  • Michael Cardozo (Partner, Proskauer Rose, New York), Don’t Deny Credit When Credit Is Due:  "Government and nonprofit offices provide part-time work and academic credit, which would be denied if the students were paid."
  • Olympia Duhart (Professor, Nova Law School), Money Changes Everything:  "Yes, law students need money but rolling back the prohibition on allowing them to receive pay and credit for the same work ignores some key realities."
  • Aaron Sohaski (Student, Cooley Law School), Let Us Get Paid:  "Before granting credit, law schools could still evaluate paid externship opportunities on a case-by-case basis to ensure they meet stringent educational requirements."

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

Philadelphia Trial Lawyer Gives $50 Million to Drexel Law School; 4th Largest Gift to a U.S. Law School

Philadelphia Inquirer, Trial Lawyer Kline Gives $50M to Drexel Law School:

DrexelIn one of the largest gifts ever to a U.S. law school, Drexel University said Wednesday that Philadelphia trial lawyer Thomas R. Kline will give the eight-year-old institution $50 million to bolster its effort to reach the top ranks of legal education.

Drexel president John A. Fry said the money will be used to fund scholarships, add faculty and to expand the law school's trial advocacy program, which provides training for lawyers who plan to focus on courtroom practice.

Included in the gift is the former Beneficial Saving Fund Society building at 12th and Chestnut Streets, an imposing classical revival style structure that has been vacant since 2001 and that will house the law school's Institute for Trial Advocacy.

In recognition of the gift, the law school will be named the Thomas R. Kline School of Law. ...

Kline’s gift is the fourth-largest ever to a U.S. law school, Drexel said. The largest was a $130 million contribution to the University of Arizona law school in 1999 from broadcasting executive James Rogers; next is a $100 million gift from Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan to the law school of Ave Maria University in Florida; in third place is a $55 million gift to the Chapman University law school from real estate developer Dale E. Fowler and his wife, Sarah Ann.

September 18, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Red Letter Day at Pepperdine

Red LetterAs I have blogged before, one of my favorite things about Pepperdine is the opportunity to meet some of the interesting people drawn to this place.  I had the privlege last night of hearing Tony Campolo deliver a public lecture, followed by a breakfast meeting this morning with Tony and fifty students, faculty, and staff to discuss his provocative book, Red Letter Revolution, co-authored with Shane Claiborne (whom I blogged about here):

For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’ words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus’ commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible’s “red letters.”

Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus’ explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love.

Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and twenty other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity.

September 17, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Faculty Development, Faculty Incentives, and Law School Innovation

Following up on my previous post,  Faculty Development, Faculty Incentives, and Law School Innovation:  American Bar Foundation, Analyzing Carnegie's Reach: The Contingent Nature of Innovation:

ABF 3Analyzing Carnegie’s Reach: The Contingent Nature of Innovation, a recent article published in the Journal of Legal Education [63 J. Legal Educ. 585 (2014)] by ABF Research Professor Stephen Daniels (with Martin Katz and William Sullivan), explores curricular innovation and institutional change in American law schools between 2001 and 2011. Since the economic downturn of 2008–09 and the related contraction of the legal market, lawyers, journalists, legal educators and pundits have written and debated about the state of legal education and the need for change. Given rising levels of student debt, and shrinking job prospects, is law school “worth it”? Are law students well prepared to enter the market? Are the schools too beholden to the ranking system of US News and World Report, and other similar outlets? There has been discussion of “failing law schools,” even an influential book by that title by Brian Tamanaha, of Washington University School of Law (University of Chicago Press, 2012), but far too little systematically collected and analyzed data on what efforts law schools have or have not made to change the status quo.

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September 17, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thomas Jefferson Law School Defaults on $133m of Junk Bonds, Hopes to Restructure Debt and Remain Open

Thomas Jefferson LogoFollowing up on my previous post, S&P Downgrades Many Law Schools, Thomas Jefferson Falls to Junk Bond Status:  Above the Law, Troubled Law School Defaults On Its Bonds, May Be Forced To Cease Operations:

Under the copy of the Event Filing and Agreement we received, the law school had until September 5, 2014, before remedial action would be taken by its Bondholders under the direction of its acting Trustee. ...  (Ed. note: In its official response, TJSL states that a new Agreement is now in effect, and that it runs through October 17, 2014.) Thomas Jefferson Law may not be able to stay open if it can’t restructure its financial obligations, which currently total $133,390,000. As set forth in the Agreement, TJSL pledges that it will “work in good faith to diligently negotiate a reasonable restructuring of its obligations under the Loan Agreement that will enable TJSL to remain in operation.”

We received this official statement from a representative of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law after the original story was published exclusively on Above the Law:

While it is correct that the School did not make a payment on June 26th, the School has paid most of the June payment and has engaged in constructive dialogue with its bondholders to restructure its obligations. Those constructive discussions have resulted in a series of agreements through which the bondholders have agreed not to exercise their remedies. The most current such agreement runs through October 17th (not September 5), and we are confident that a consensual restructuring will occur.

For several months the School, its legal counsel, and financial advisors have worked closely with the bondholders, their representatives, legal counsel, and financial advisors. The parties have a mutual interest restructuring the law school’s debt in a way that will allow the school to remain in operation and prosper. As part of the negotiations, various potential structures and restructuring alternatives have been discussed. At the core of each alternative is ensuring the school can provide the educational experience required of an ABA accredited school and ensure the school’s long term success.

The parties are currently considering the various approaches that have been developed by the advisors to the school and the bondholders, and are confident that an agreement will be reached in the near term.

The School expects to have additional positive information concerning our work with the bondholders within the next few weeks. Because a restructuring of the School’s obligations to the bondholders is likely, the School believes that it will be able to continue to prosper.

ABA Journal, Law School Misses Bond Payment, Seeks to Restructure Obligations

Thomas Jefferson's students have the lowest bar exam pass rate (50%) among California's 21 ABA-accredited law schools; the second-fewest full-time, long-term jobs as lawyers (29%) within nine months of graduation among California's 21 ABA-accredited law schools; and the most law school debt ($180,665) among the nation's 200 law schools.  Thomas Jefferson's latest available Form 990 lists the Dean's total compensation as $528,430 and nine other faculty and adminstrations with total compensation in excess of $175,000.

Update:  Wall Street Journal, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Gets Reprieve after Missed Bond Payment:

Thomas Jefferson School of Law is scrambling to restructure its debt after blowing a bond payment deadline.

The downtown San Diego private law school has disclosed in a financial filing that it failed to meet its entire debt obligations in June. But an agreement the school struck with creditors staves off doomsday at least until Oct. 17, while requiring it to come up with another $2 million.

School officials say they’re counting on reaching a restructuring deal with bondholders, who’ve agreed not to pursue legal remedies for the time being.

September 17, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

QS World University Rankings 2014-15

QSQS World University Rankings 2014-15:

1.  MIT
2.  Cambridge
2.  Imperial College London
4.  Harvard
5.  Oxford
5.  University College London
7.  Stanford
8.  Cal-Tech
9.  Princeton
10.  Yale
11.  Chicago
12.  ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
13.  Penn
14.  Columbia
14.  Johns Hopkins
16.  King's College London
17.  Edinburgh
17.  Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
19.  Cornell
20.  Toronto
21.  McGill
22.  National University Singapore
23.  Michigan
24.  Ecole normale supérieure, Paris
25.  Australian National
25.  Duke

QS 2

September 17, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Florida State Remembers Dan Markel

MarkelFlorida State is holding a memorial service today to remember Dan Markel, who was shot and killed on July 18. Speakers include faculty from Florida State and other law schools, current and former students, and Dan's sister. Dean Don Weidner will present the Alumni Class of 1966 Award to Dan’s Parents, Phil Markel and Ruth Markel. For the full program, see here

Dan's friends and family have set up a website, Help Us Tell Dan Markel’s Story.  For more memorial tributes to Dan, see here.  For updates on the investigation into Dan's murder, see here.

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

Applications Decline at All Five Georgia Law Schools

Monday, September 15, 2014

NY Times: Student Loans Increasingly Burden the Elderly, Not Just the Young

New York Times:  Student Loan Debt Burdens More Than Just Young People, by Elizabeth Olson:

NY Fed[A]n estimated two million Americans age 60 and older ... are in debt from unpaid student loans, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Its August Household Debt and Credit Report said the number of aging Americans with outstanding student loans had almost tripled from about 700,000 in 2005, whether from long-ago loans for their own educations or more recent borrowing to pay for college degrees for family members.

The debt among older people is up substantially, to $43 billion from $8 billion in 2005, according to the report, which is based on data from Equifax, the credit reporting agency. As of July 31, money was being deducted from Social Security payments to almost 140,000 individuals to pay down their outstanding student loans, according to Treasury Department data. That is up from just under 38,000 people in 2004. Over the decade, the amounts withheld more than tripled, to nearly $101 million for the first seven months of this year from over $32 million in 2004.

While older debtors account for a small fraction of student loan borrowers, who have accumulated nearly $1 trillion in such debt, the effect of owing a constantly ballooning amount of debt but having a fixed income can be onerous, said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

“Those in default on their loans can see their Social Security checks garnished, leaving them with retirement income that leaves them well below the poverty line,” he said at a committee hearing this week to examine the issue. “Some may think of student loan debt as a young person’s problem,” he said, “but, as it turns out, that is increasingly not the case.” ...

The Government Accountability Office warned this week about the growth of educational debt among seniors. It released a report that relied on different data from that used by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but nonetheless painted an ominous picture of lingering debt burden.

GAO

More than 80 percent of the outstanding balances are from seniors who financed their own education, the GAO report concluded, and only 18 percent were attributed to loans used to finance the studies of a spouse, child or grandchild. But the default rate for these loans is 31 percent — a rate that is double that of the default rate for loans taken out by borrowers between the ages of 25 and 49 years old, according to agency data.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

September 15, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Professors Read Mean Student Evaluations

Following up on my previous post on Professors Reading Mean Student Evaluations (in the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets):  Chronicle of Higher Education, In Cheeky Pushback, Colleges Razz Rate My Professors:

Mean TweetsThe Internet can be a nasty place, as academics know well from Rate My Professors. ... Many professors assail the website and anything that might give it credence. But at least some faculty members have recently concluded that the best way to challenge the site and its unsubstantiated ratings is to mock it without mercy. ...

Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night comedy host, popularized the shtick of having people read aloud the incredibly nasty things that other people write about them online, set to “Everybody Hurts,” the plaintive tune by REM.A good example from the spot’s debut is Andy Dick, the comedian. “Oh, this one’s actually sweet,” he reads. “‘Can it be my turn to punch Andy Dick until there’s bones in his stool?’”

As much as faculty members tend to loathe Rate My Professors, comments on the website rarely approach that level of venom. Many professors simply ignore the site, while others confess to girding themselves to peek at the comments, reasoning that even the rawest feedback can offer useful information.

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

 

September 15, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 14, 2014

There Are Too Many Lawyers. What's One Law School Dean to Do?

San Francisco Weekly, Schooled, Indebt, Struggling & Broke: There Are Too Many Lawyers. What's One Law School Dean to Do?:

Wu (Frank)[UC-Hastings Dean Frank] Wu is not, by most measures, a humble person. But he's definitely conspicuous. ... Wu is, by turns, an eccentric, somewhat endearing, and often polarizing figure — colleagues describe him as a "straight-shooter" with an outsized personality; critics accuse him of bluster. If there's one thing everyone can agree on, though, it's that Wu has a daunting task before him. Four years ago, he took the reins at Hastings, a prestigious institution that's been walloped by the Great Recession.

Now, Wu has a glutted workforce and a lacerated state budget to contend with as he tests new ideas in one of the most brutal legal markets in the country, trying to reverse the university's steady downward swing. Though he says he doesn't have much faith in law schools, Wu believes he can make this one work.

As recently as 10 years ago, law school was the thing you did if you'd majored in literature or philosophy and couldn't figure out how to make money. A student who clawed his way to the top of the class had a good shot at a high-paying job. But when the economy crashed, so did the legal field. Harvard and Yale graduates weren't guaranteed job offers. Big firms were paying their new hires a reduced salary to go away for a year because there was no work for them. And when the year was up, there sometimes wasn't a job to come back to.

All those problems were exacerbated for students at UC Hastings, a 136-year-old public university near Civic Center that had always prided itself on being independent — it's one of the few in the country that doesn't have to answer to a larger institution — and on nurturing a lower-income, multicultural student body. The first law school in the University of California system, it's an ancient, venerable institution in a city that no longer cares about ancient, venerable institutions. ...

State budget cuts have hobbled the university; meanwhile, to Wu's horror, law schools keep opening their doors all around the country, minting new would-be lawyers who want to settle in San Francisco and will further squeeze the city's already small legal job market.

And though law schools are ubiquitous, the worthwhile, ABA-accredited ones — places like Stanford, Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley, and Hastings — are becoming prohibitively expensive while offering no guarantee of a job.

Hastings, then, despite its well-intentioned faculty and aggressive programming — what other school has a Startup Legal Garage that teaches students how to make it on their own as lawyers in Silicon Valley? — had, just by virtue of being a law school, unwittingly become part of the problem.

Wu is the first to acknowledge that he cannot change the market. But with a little ingenuity, he can change the law school model, making it more interdisciplinary and more pragmatically job-oriented, even if that means slashing enrollment or acknowledging that some students might have to reinvent themselves as small-businesspeople. Lawyering might be an old, feudal business, but law schools won't survive if they don't adapt to the new economy, Wu says. That's the only way to keep Hastings, or any of its peers, afloat.

But Wu's first task is to transform UC Hastings in the eyes of everyone else. Right now, the school is mired in a years-long rankings slump, according to U.S. News & World Report, the oft-reviled, oft-revered site of record that rates law schools. In 1992 it was 19th among the 175 accredited law schools nationwide; when Wu arrived in 2010, it was 39th. This year: 54th.

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September 14, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where Are All the Law School Applicants?

Connecticut Law Tribune editorial, Where Are All the Law School Applicants?:

Nearly every law school in America is facing declining applications. Nationally, the level of applications has declined back to the level of 1976. It is clear that this drop is a problem for law schools, many of which opened or expanded over the intervening decades. What is less clear is the reason for the change, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, and whether it is likely to reverse itself in the years ahead.

LSAC

What is the reason for this dramatic reversal? Conventional wisdom credits two principal factors. First, the legal job market suffered a combined cyclical and structural downturn in 2008. ... The second factor weighing against law school applications is the growing recognition of the burden of student debt. ...

Is this drop in law school enrollment a good or bad thing? One part is arguably good: many young people applied to law school because they had good grades and board scores and wanted to keep their options open, rather than truly thinking through that a legal career was right for them. Now, in contrast, anyone applying to law school has likely given serious thought to the decision.

But the decline is also unfortunate. Unfortunate for the young people who choose not to go to law school, because they are missing what can be incredibly rewarding career. Apart from the studies about the return on investment in a law degree, the career can bring satisfaction and opportunities for growth and career changes that few other paths provide.

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September 13, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

Craig Boise Named to Chair at Cleveland-Marshall

Press Release:

BoiseCleveland-Marshall College of Law is pleased to announce the appointment of Dean Craig M. Boise to the Joseph C. Hostetler – Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law.  The Chair in Law was created through generous gifts from John D. Drinko, a former managing partner of the firm, and other donors, and is the first chaired professorship created at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Hewitt B. Shaw, Managing Partner of BakerHostetler’s Cleveland office, said “BakerHostetler is honored to have our firm’s name closely identified with the innovative and progressive leadership demonstrated by Dean Boise.”

Dean Boise noted that BakerHostetler has been a strong supporter of Cleveland-Marshall over the years, having previously underwritten visiting professors, named professors, annual lectures, and student scholarships. “We are grateful for BakerHostetler’s many generous contributions to the law school, and I am honored to be connected to the long tradition of excellence and innovation at the firm through the Chair in Law.”

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September 13, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

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

Enough Is Enough: Snakes and the Indigestibility of Lawyers

David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Snakes and the Indigestibility of Lawyers:

Snakes 2What is occurring is not a real “crisis” for all law schools. The worst “crisis” is for debt-laden law graduates and formerly employed lawyers who are losing their jobs. Collectively, US law schools still managed to graduate 46,364 new lawyers in 2012 and 46,776 in 2013. These are interesting figures in light of Bureau of Labor Statistics projections are that there will only be a net average of 23,500 jobs per year through 2020. ...

Think of the legal profession as a boa constrictor that has swallowed a very large cow. In debating whether the radical slump that is being experienced by the American legal profession, new law graduates and US law schools is cyclical or a unique transformation, think about the legal profession’s job absorption capacity as being “the snake”. If you know how a snake digests its food you know the “meal” is swallowed whole and gradually moves down the snake’s digestive tract until consumed. Depending on the animal’s size the consumption can take a long time. The bigger the animal being relative to the size of the snake the larger and more slowly moving is the “bulge”.

In this metaphor, law graduates are “snake food”, the legal profession’s employment markets “the snake”, and law schools an apparently mindless automatic system on auto-pilot that just keeps “feeding the snake” no matter what. It’s sole limiting factor appears to be a shortage of the “applicant fuel” required to run the law school “machine”. Certainly, intelligent strategies have not flowed from the so-called processes of “faculty governance” lauded by so many of the self-interested naifs who make up law faculties. The problem is that the “meals” in the form of new law graduates have so greatly exceeded the reptile’s digestive capacity that the “snake” has only been able to ingest half the food offered and even much of that only partially.

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September 12, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th Remembrance at Pepperdine

Waves

Annual Waves of Flags Display Pays Tribute to 9/11 Victims:

Seven years after the debut of the meaningful and moving tribute to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pepperdine University continues to honor those lives lost with a stunning display of flags on the expansive lawn at Alumni Park, Malibu. Each flag, reflecting each victim's nationality, represents each of the nearly 3,000 victims of that tragic day.

The installation of the flags, which will be on display until Monday, Sept. 22, was conceived and led by the University's chapter of the College Republicans in 2008. Since that time, the display has come to be a focal point in the Malibu community to gather in remembrance and meditation of the innocent lives lost on 9/11, including Tom Burnett, alumnus of Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. ...

As it has annually since September 2001, the Office of the Chaplain, the Department of Public Safety, and the Office of the President will host a brief memorial service at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Heroes Garden, a 14,880-square-foot outdoor sanctuary that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one of the highest bluffs on the Malibu campus. The garden serves as a public space to pause, reflect, and honor those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11, including Burnett.

Heores Garden

September 11, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Student Loans, Moral Hazard, and a Law School Mess

Steven J. Harper (Northwestern), Student Loans, Moral Hazard, and a Law School Mess:

If the ability of a school’s graduates to use their legal training initially in a JD-required job is an appropriate way to measure a law school’s success, then many are unambiguous failures. For the class of 2013, 33 of 201 ABA-accredited schools placed fewer than 40 percent of their graduates in long-term full-time JD-required employment (excluding law school-funded jobs).

But here’s the kicker. Thanks to the moral hazard that the federally-backed loan program creates, some schools with the worst employment records for recent graduates have students with the highest levels of law school loan debt.

For the class of 2013, three of the top ten schools with the highest average student loan debt at graduation placed less than one-third of their graduates in full-time long-term JD-required jobs (again, excluding law school-funded positions). They were: Thomas Jefferson ($180,000 average student debt; 29 percent employment rate), Whittier ($154,000 average student debt; 27 percent employment rate), and Florida Coastal ($150,000 average student debt; 31 percent employment rate).

How do these schools and others like them accomplish this economically perverse feat? Large doses of prospective student confirmation bias combine with federally-backed student loans to create a dysfunctional market.

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September 11, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Collaboration Networks in Legal Scholarship

Following up on Paul H. Edelman (Vanderbilt) & Tracey E. George (Vanderbilt), Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein: Collaboration Networks in Legal Scholarship, 11 Green Bag 2d 19 (2007):  Ryan Whalen (Northwestern), Top Coauthors in Legal Academia:

The role that collaboration plays in creativity and the production of knowledge is an major focus of my recent research. As such, I’m generally interested in patterns of collaboration. ...  [T]he legal academy’s coauthorship rate appears to be much lower than most social sciences, and more comparable to those seen in the humanities.

The Thomson Reuters Web of Science indexes many legal journals, including about 100 student-edited Law Reviews. The indexing begins in 1956, and between then and now contains data on around 100,000 law review articles. I pulled metadata on all of these articles and used them to create a legal academic coauthorship network. The initial 100,000 papers listed 52,945 unique author names. I selected all the multi-authored pieces and constructed a network with links between any individuals listed as coauthors on these pieces. The result is a network with 11,474 authors, linked together quite sparsely with 12,546 coauthorship relations. ... The table below lists the top 30 collaborators and their number of coauthors. ...

These top 30 are the coauthoring superstars. The vast majority of authors didn’t coauthor at all (they’re excluded from the network) and those who did coauthor tended to only do so with one or two other authors. The diagram below shows this distribution. The x-axis here starts at 1 (because I excluded those with 0 coauthoring relationships) so you can see that over 6000 of our 11,474 authors only coauthored with one other author. The number of academic partnerships drops off quickly before reaching the maximum of 38.

coauthorship_dist

September 11, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More on College Rankings

ABA Tax Section Releases 2014-15 Law Student Tax Challenge Problem

Lstc-14thThe ABA Tax Section has released the J.D. Problem (rules; entry form) and LL.M. Problem (rules; entry form) for the 14th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge (2014-2015):

An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge asks two-person teams of students to solve a cutting-edge and complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL.M. Division receive a free trip (including airfare and accommodations for two nights) to the Section of Taxation 2015 Midyear Meeting, January 29-31 in Houston, TX, where each team will defend its submission before a panel of judges consisting of the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including tax court judges. The competition is a great way for law students to showcase their knowledge in a real-world setting and gain valuable exposure to the tax law community. On average, more than 60 teams compete in the J.D. Division and more than 40 teams compete in the LL .M. Division. For examples of the "Best Written" winners from past competitions, please click here.

IMPORTANT DATES

  1. Submission Deadline: November 7, 2014
  2. Notification of Semifinalists and Finalists: December 19, 2014
  3. Semifinal and Final Oral Defense Rounds: January 30, 2015 in Houston, TX

September 10, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Analysts, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Prof Moves, 2014-15

Moves VAP Hire

  • Julian Fray (Boston University Tax LL.M.) to Northeastern

Entry Level Hires

  • Tessa Davis (VAP, Tulane) to South Carolina
  • Erin Scharff (VAP, NYU) to Arizona State
  • Bernard Schneider (Tax LL.M., NYU) to Queen Mary University of London

Lateral Moves

Promotions, Tenures, Chairs, and Professorships

  • Jordan Barry (San Diego) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) to James and Mary Lassiter Associate Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Craig Boise (Dean. Cleveland-Marshall) to Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law
  • Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago) to Associate Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Roger Colinvaux (Catholic) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) to Hoffman F. Fuller Associate Professor of Tax Law with Tenure
  • Bret Wells (Houston) to Associate Professor of Law with Tenure

Administrative Appointments

Visits

  • Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) to Vienna University (Fulbright) (2014-15)
  • John Brooks (Georgetown) to Columbia (Spring 2015)
  • Danshera Cords (Albany) to Pittsburgh (2014-16)
  • Cliff Fleming (BYU) to Vienna University (Oct. 2013), Central European University (Apr. 2015)
  • David Herzig (Valparaiso) to Louisville (2014-15)
  • Tracey Kaye (Seton Hall) to University of Luxembourg (Fulbright) (Fall 2014)
  • Michelle Kwon (Tennessee) to SMU (Fall 2014)
  • John Miller (Idaho) to UC-Hastings (Spring 2015)
  • Ann Murphy (Gonzaga) to Shanghai University (Fulbright) (2014-15)
  • Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) to UC-Hastings (Fall 2014)
  • Gregg Polsky (North Carolina) to Duke (2014-15)
  • James Puckett (Penn State) to Alabama (Fall 2014)
  • Tracey Roberts to UC-Hastings (2014-16)
  • David Schizer (Columbia) to Georgetown (Spring 2015)
  • Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall) to North Carolina (Fall 2014), Fordham (Spring 2015)
  • Larry Zelenak (Duke) to Northwestern (2014-15)

Retirements

  • Ron Chester (New England)
  • Joseph Dodge (Florida State)
  • Ron Pearlman (Georgetown)
  • Gail Richmond (Nova)
  • Dan Schneider (Northern Illinois)
  • Bill Turnier (North Carolina)

For prior years' Tax Prof Moves, see:

Continue reading

September 10, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Ivy League Is Broken and Only Standardized Tests Can Fix It

The New Republic:   The Trouble With Harvard: The Ivy League Is Broken and Only Standardized Tests Can Fix It, by Steven Pinker (Harvard):

Ivy League (2014)It’s not surprising that William Deresiewicz’s Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League has touched a nerve. Admission to the Ivies is increasingly seen as the bottleneck to a pipeline that feeds a trickle of young adults into the remaining lucrative sectors of our financialized, winner-take-all economy. And their capricious and opaque criteria have set off an arms race of credential mongering that is immiserating the teenagers and parents (in practice, mostly mothers) of the upper middle class.

Deresiewicz writes engagingly about the wacky ways of elite university admissions, and he deserves credit for opening a debate on policies which have been shrouded in Victorian daintiness and bureaucratic obfuscation. Unfortunately, his article is a poor foundation for diagnosing and treating the illness. Long on dogmatic assertion and short on objective analysis, the article is driven by a literarism which exalts bohemian authenticity over worldly success and analytical brainpower. And his grapeshot inflicts a lot of collateral damage while sparing the biggest pachyderms in the parlor. ...

But the biggest problem is that the advice in Deresiewicz’s title is perversely wrongheaded. If your kid has survived the application ordeal and has been offered a place at an elite university, don’t punish her for the irrationalities of a system she did nothing to create; by all means send her there! The economist Caroline Hoxby has shown that selective universities spend twenty times more on student instruction, support, and facilities than less selective ones, while their students pay for a much smaller fraction of it, thanks to gifts to the college. Because of these advantages, it’s the selective institutions that are the real bargains in the university marketplace. Holding qualifications constant, graduates of a selective university are more likely to graduate on time, will tend to find a more desirable spouse, and will earn 20 percent more than those of less selective universities—every year for the rest of their working lives. These advantages swamp any differences in tuition and other expenses, which in any case are often lower than those of less selective schools because of more generous need-based financial aid. The Ivy admissions sweepstakes may be irrational, but the parents and teenagers who clamber to win it are not. ...

At the admissions end, it’s common knowledge that Harvard selects at most 10 percent (some say 5 percent) of its students on the basis of academic merit. At an orientation session for new faculty, we were told that Harvard “wants to train the future leaders of the world, not the future academics of the world,” and that “We want to read about our student in Newsweek 20 years hence” (prompting the woman next to me to mutter, “Like the Unabomer”). The rest are selected “holistically,” based also on participation in athletics, the arts, charity, activism, travel, and, we inferred (Not in front of the children!), race, donations, and legacy status (since anything can be hidden behind the holistic fig leaf). ...

Jerome Karabel has unearthed a damning paper trail showing that in the first half of the twentieth century, holistic admissions were explicitly engineered to cap the number of Jewish students. Ron Unz, in an exposé even more scathing than Deresiewicz’s, has assembled impressive circumstantial evidence that the same thing is happening today with Asians. ...

Knowing how our students are selected, I should not have been surprised when I discovered how they treat their educational windfall once they get here. A few weeks into every semester, I face a lecture hall that is half-empty, despite the fact that I am repeatedly voted a Harvard Yearbook Favorite Professor, that the lectures are not video-recorded, and that they are the only source of certain material that will be on the exam. I don’t take it personally; it’s common knowledge that Harvard students stay away from lectures in droves, burning a fifty-dollar bill from their parents’ wallets every time they do. Obviously they’re not slackers; the reason is that they are crazy-busy. Since they’re not punching a clock at Safeway or picking up kids at day-care, what could they be doing that is more important than learning in class? The answer is that they are consumed by the same kinds of extracurricular activities that got them here in the first place. ..

What would it take to fix this wasteful and unjust system? Let’s daydream for a moment. If only we had some way to divine the suitability of a student for an elite education, without ethnic bias, undeserved advantages to the wealthy, or pointless gaming of the system. If only we had some way to match jobs with candidates that was not distorted by the halo of prestige. A sample of behavior that could be gathered quickly and cheaply, assessed objectively, and double-checked for its ability to predict the qualities we value….

We do have this magic measuring stick, of course: it’s called standardized testing.

Continue reading

September 10, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2015 U.S. News College Rankings


US NewsU.S. News & World Report today released its 2015 College Rankings. Here are the Top 25 National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges (along with their 2012-2014 rankings): 

2015

Rank

 

National Universities

2014

Rank

2013

Rank

2012

Rank

1

Princeton

1

1

1

2

Harvard

2

1

1

3

Yale

3

3

3

4

Columbia

4

4

4

4

Stanford

5

6

5

4

Chicago

5

4

9

7

MIT

7

6

5

8

Duke

7

8

10

8

Penn

7

8

5

10

Cal-Tech

10

10

10

11

Dartmouth

10

10

11

12

Johns Hopkins

12

13

13

13

Northwestern

12

12

12

14

Washington (St. Louis)

14

14

14

15

Cornell

16

15

15

16

Brown

14

15

15

16

Vanderbilt

17

17

17

18

Notre Dame

18

17

19

19

Rice

18

17

17

20

UC-Berkeley

20

21

21

21

Emory

20

20

20

21

Georgetown

20

21

22

23

UCLA

23

24

25

23

Virginia

23

24

25

25

Carnegie Mellon

23

23

23

25

USC

23

24

23

27

Wake Forest

23

27

25

2015

Rank

 

Liberal Arts Colleges

2014

Rank

2013

Rank

2012

Rank

1

Williams

1

1

1

2

Amherst

2

2

2

3

Swarthmore

3

3

3

4

Wellesley

7

6

6

5

Pomona

4

4

4

5

Bowdoin

4

6

6

7

Middlebury

4

4

5

8

Carleton

7

8

6

8

Haverford

9

9

10

8

Clermont-McKenna

9

10

9

11

Davidson

9

12

11

11

Vassar

13

10

14

13

U.S. Naval Academy

12

14

14

14

Washington & Lee

14

14

12

15

Hamilton

14

16

17

15

Harvey Mudd

16

12

18

15

Colby

22

18

21

15

Wesleyan

22

22

21

19

Bates

17

17

12

19

Grinnell

17

22

19

19

Smith

20

18

19

22

Colgate

20

18

21

23

Oberlin

25

 

24

24

Macalester

24

24

 

24

Scripps

25 

24

 

24

U.S. Military Academy

17 

18

14

Update:  Washington Post, U.S. News College Rankings Trends, 2010-2015:

These tables show the top 150 drawn from each of two U.S. News lists of national universities and national liberal arts colleges.  

National

Liberal

September 9, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Remembering Dan Markel

It has been almost two months since the tragic death of Dan Markel.  Some updates:

There is a memorial service tonight in New York City at NYU from 7:00-9:00 p.m. (registration here).

Remembering DannyDan's friends and family have set up a website, Help Us Tell Dan Markel’s Story:

The outpouring of kind words in memorials and remembrances of Danny has been overwhelming. We are so grateful to see how many lives he has touched. We want to collect all of your thoughts and memories about Danny so that Ben and Lincoln will know the impact their father had on all of you. Please help us tell his story by sharing yours below.

We’d also love to receive any videos you have of Danny, and any video messages you may have or would like to create. For instructions on what to do with those, please email us at rememberingdanmarkel@gmail.com.

For more memorial tributes to Dan, see here.  For updates on the investigation into Dan's murder, see here.

September 9, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Gershon: Do Law Schools Need the AALS?

Richard Gershon (Dean, Mississippi), Do Law Schools Need the AALS?:

AALS (2014)[D]o law schools even need the AALS anymore? Ten years ago, schools would have never asked that question, and new schools were eager to join, because of the enhanced prestige of AALS membership. After all, you wanted to be listed in the Directory under “Member Schools,” instead of “Fee Paid Schools.” But, there are around 180 member schools out of approximately 200 total law schools (around 90%), so does membership really add prestige? AALS membership might matter to other legal academics, but I am convinced that lawyers and judges, for the most part, do not care whether their law school is a member school, and prospective students only really care about rankings and ABA approval.

The cost of membership in AALS is over $10,000 for most law schools (the AALS Bylaws state that fees are determined by FTE). Additionally, law schools pay the cost of sabbatical review by the association. These dues pay the salaries of a fulltime staff, and overhead. Recently, the AALS has decided to purchase a building.

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September 9, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Beyoncé's Birthday a Valid Excuse for a Student to Miss Class?

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting

100 Most InfluentialI am honored to be included on the list of Accounting Today's 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting for the ninth year in a row:

Caron once stood out as one of the few serious tax bloggers out there; now that there are a lot more tax blogs online, he stands out even more -- because they all refer to him and his near-comprehensive content.

Near-comprehensive?  In any event, I am flattered to be on the list with such high-powered people in the tax and accounting worlds, including:

(2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

September 8, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Should Universities Profit From Vodka Jell-O Shots Consumed by Their Students?

Inside Higher Ed, Jell-O Shots: University-Approved?:

Jello ShotsLast month -- just in time for a new season of college football -- Kraft Foods released a new line of Jell-O molds in the shapes of various university logos. Four of the "jiggler mold kits" were unveiled last year, but products for 16 more teams have now been added, including the University of Alabama, Ohio State University, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

In a press release, Kraft said the kits are meant to be used in creating Jell-O treats for tailgate parties for alumni and fans. But some are concerned that the themed molds could be seen as university-endorsed invitations to create alcohol-laced "Jell-O shots" -- a mixed message for universities fighting to curb binge drinking among students. ... Aaron White, the program director of college and underage drinking prevention research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "If I were a student, I'd be awfully confused if I heard about the dangers of drinking and drinking games at freshman orientation and then when I got to Wal-Mart, I found these Jell-O molds with my school's logo on it."

Kraft admits that it is aware Jell-O shots are a popular way to consume the dessert, but the company told the website Vocativ that it doesn't condone using the molds for that purpose. The half-dozen universities contacted for this article did not return requests for comment.

The financial details behind the universities' licensing deals with Kraft have not been released, but colleges have a profitable history of licensing their trademarks to products that may sometimes send a mixed message to students. Shot glasses and pint glasses sporting college logos have been a mainstay at university bookstores for decades. Some colleges have even licensed their logos to appear on Ping-Pong balls and so-called "tailgate tables." Many college students have other names for the products, often used for the campus favorite beer pong.

Jell-O shots can be a particularly risky form of binge drinking, White said. Because Jell-O masks the flavor of the alcohol, it can be difficult for students to recognize how many drinks they've actually consumed. Like the similarly fruit-flavored and highly alcoholic college staple "Jungle Juice," when students consume Jell-O shots "the line between a small buzz and a dangerous overdose is very thin," White said. Students may also think of Jell-O as food, he added, meaning the consumption could be happening on a dangerously empty stomach.

Jell-O Shot kits are available for these twenty universities:

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September 8, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup