TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

McGinnis: Antonin Scalia Law School Is Under Attack For Being Successful And Different

George Mason (2018)Following up on last week's post, NY Times: Revelations Over Koch Gifts Prompt Inquiry At George Mason: John O. McGinnis (Northwestern), Antonin Scalia Law School Is Under Attack for Being Successful and Different:

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University has a very highly cited faculty, showing that it has a relatively large impact on the world of legal ideas. It is ranked as the 21st, just after the University of Texas. This ranking is an extraordinary achievement, given that it was a young school with a small endowment, not at all comparable to long established schools like Texas. As is clear from objective data, Antonin Scalia Law School’s faculty is also unusual in having a faculty that it is right of center in a profession where every school with a higher citation count is left of center, sometimes far to the left of center.  For instance, schools in the top twenty citations regularly have less than ten percent conservatives and frequently less than five percent.

This is the context of the large recent gifts to the law school, a context that makes nonsense of the idea in a recent New York Times article that conservatives are trying to buy influence over its hiring or anything else. The reporters have the causation exactly backwards. The gift is not designed to elicit conservative thought from the school. Instead the school’s thoughtful conservatism elicited the gift. Those who support liberty, as defined in classical liberalism, want to help an effective institution that does not currently follow the academic orthodoxy arrayed against it. What a surprise!

Anyone who is interested in more diversity of views in the legal academy should also applaud this gift. Indeed, anyone who wants more high impact scholarship should be happy. Given how well George Mason has done with little money, increasing its endowment is likely to do much more at the margin than giving to most other schools. ...

It would be charitable to attribute the approach of this article to the reporters’ ignorance of the legal academy, its ideology, and its practices. But another possibility is that it reflects the mindset of the New York Times, composed almost entirely of left-liberals, to entrench left-liberal orthodoxy in realms other than the mainstream media. Indeed, the obsession with donations of the Koch Brothers or anonymous conservatives is reminiscent of the obsession of Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, with George Soros’ donations to liberal educational institutions there. Both reflect a fear of challenges to what is conventional in their worlds. Both affront the spirit of liberty that makes for a healthy democratic society.

Legal Education | Permalink


While I agree that the current attack on Antonin Scalia School of Law, I mean Antonin Scalia Law School, is silly bordering on incomprehensible raving, I'm gonna take issue with the poster's notion that the law school is successful because the faculty are highly-cited or whatever. The entering classes have halved in size since 2010, even as the median and 25th percentile LSAT scores have declined. Meanwhile the median tuition discount has more than doubled despite resident and non-resident tuition alike being frozen for five years, so it's lucky the Koch Foundation gave them $10m, because I suspect otherwise the university would be heavily underwriting the law school at the moment. Did I mention that in 2011 only 13% of students got tuition discounts but by last year 82% were receiving discounts? It doesn't speak to a law school that has to drive away applicants with brooms. Maybe that's because applications dropped 54% over that time, from 5,354 to 2,452.

Once we account for the grads who didn't report salaries or were still unemployed ten months after graduation, we know that only 38% of students make $70k or more, which is quite a bit under the real dollar NALP nationwide median starting salary a decade ago(!). Just a hair over 10% landed Biglaw. Not quite two thirds of the class managed to find FT/LT/license-required jobs within ten months of graduation. Bar passage rates dipped dramatically after 2013 and haven't yet fully recovered.

I don't give a fig about diversity of views in the legal academy; most law students don't. I care about what happens to the students. One might even argue that the purpose of a school is to educate students, not to provide cushy sinecures for professors. And by those metrics, ASLS is not doing all that well.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 9, 2018 3:20:06 PM

Eh, yup.

Posted by: Jim | May 9, 2018 3:51:15 PM

Please remove my “Eh yep” post. It was meant to agree w/ McGinness. Looks like I agree with unemployed

Posted by: Jim | May 14, 2018 11:07:55 AM