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Old Economy Steve

[ 224 ] June 5, 2013 |

Along with crunching numbers regarding the law school mess I’ve done a good bit of “qualitative research” (also known as talking to actual human beings from time to time). The genuine and justified rage many young people feel regarding what used to be called the generation gap is captured well by this meme:




DC comics, law school edition

[ 29 ] June 4, 2013 |

This WAPO story notes that applications to law school have declined sharply for the third straight year (they’re going to total about 58,500 in this cycle, down from a high of 102,000 nine years ago).

It features some typical babble from an admissions dean at GULC:

“In the boom times three to eight years ago, when applications were much higher, I think it got glutted,” Cornblatt said. “I think this is the right-sizing. There’s this adjustment being made.”

Cornblatt said growing concerns about the legal job market and law school debt are driving away less-serious potential applicants who a few years ago might have been eager to enter law school to weather the recession.

“There’s been so much noise about the legal job market and how tough it is, whether it’s worth the tuition and borrowing all that money,” he said. “That group of people who weren’t as committed just aren’t applying now . . .

(1) The highest percentage of law grads who got full-time long-term jobs requiring bar admission within nine months of graduation since NALP started recording this stat 12 years ago was 71% in 2007. So three out of ten grads weren’t getting jobs as lawyers at the height of the “boom” (the number for the class of 2012 was 56.4%, but this declines to barely over 50% if you exclude solos and law school funded positions.)

(2) Schools haven’t cut enrollments to nearly the extent that applications have declined. “Right-sizing” the entering first year class would require cutting it from last fall’s 44,500 to between 15,000 to 25,000 1Ls, depending on how much one wants to take into account the tremendous amount of oversupply already in the system (25,000 would represent about 10% more than the annual number of new jobs for lawyers).

(3) The claim about less serious applicants being deterred is based on no data. What we do know is that the decline in applicants has been sharper among those with higher LSAT scores, which would seem to suggest the opposite.

(4) I was told yesterday by a law professor who used to be on the faculty of one of the schools in question that GULC and GW are both offering transfer spots to everyone in the top 20% of last year’s American class, at whatever tuition they were paying at American (American is infamous for giving out very little in the way of tuition discounts, so this strategy makes sense for the higher ranked schools, especially given American’s horrible employment stats. The WAPO story doesn’t note that GULC and GW both inflate their graduating classes with enormous numbers of transfers — sometimes more than 100 at each school. Transfer LSAT and GPA scores aren’t reported to the ABA so admitting transfers is a great way to balance your budget without endangering the reported entry stats for your students).

(5) A 29 year old Ivy League STEM grad wanted to talk yesterday about whether he should enroll in law school this fall. This guy claims to have read everything I’ve written on the subject.

His situation:

Works in DC

Admitted to GW and American at close to sticker. Half tuition scholarship at Catholic.

Thinks he wants to do securities law, either in private practice or on the government regulatory side.

Does financial analysis for a big bank. Is becoming increasingly bored and has questions about the long-term stability of his position.

Current salary: $112K

Ummm . . .

Some day this war’s going to end

[ 67 ] May 23, 2013 |

Mr. Obama rejected the notion of an expansive war on terrorism and instead articulated a narrower understanding of the mission for the United States. “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” he said.

The president’s moves stirred immediate skepticism among Republicans, who have long questioned whether he was playing down the continuing threat of terrorism for political reasons, as in the case of the attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, last year.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, issued 10 questions to the president in reaction to previews of his speech. “Is it still your administration’s goal to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda?” he asked. “If you are scaling back the use of unmanned drones, which actions will you be taking as a substitute to ensure Al Qaeda’s defeat? Is it your view that if the U.S. is less aggressive in eliminating terrorists abroad, the threat of terrorist attacks will diminish on its own?”

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, was sharper in reaction. “The president’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” he said. “Rather than continuing successful counterterrorism activities, we are changing course with no clear operational benefit.”

Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

Peak Law School

[ 40 ] May 22, 2013 |

Bill Henderson and Kyle McEntee have a couple of interesting articles regarding the ongoing crash in law school applications and enrollments, and the implications it has for law school budgets.

Some numbers:

First year enrollment at ABA schools:

2010: 52,500

2011: 48,700

2012: 44,481

This fall the 2010 matrics will be replaced by a new entering class. We can roughly estimate its size, because typically 95% of applicants have applied by mid-May. Since last fall law schools have been frantically soliciting applicants, when it appeared the applicant pool might be as small as 52,000-53,000. It now appears it will be around 58,500. If 75% of applicants are accepted to at least one school (this would be a historic high), and 87% of these people — the typical percentage — matriculate, that will produce an entering class of about 38,000 1Ls.

A 28% decline in enrollment over three years sounds daunting enough, but the real situation is probably worse. What these numbers don’t reflect is the extent to which schools are slashing real (as opposed to nominal) tuition, in order to fill even this drastically reduced number of first-year seats.

For example, I just got an email from an applicant who is considering a “scholarship” offer that would save him 60% of the advertised tuition price for a fairly high-ranked law school. (These price cuts aren’t scholarships in the traditional sense of income from an endowed fund that offsets the actual cost of tuition, but rather straight-up price reductions from the advertised rate).

The applicant received this offer just a couple of weeks ago, even though he had been admitted two months earlier. More telling is the fact that the applicant’s LSAT and GPA are both below the median for last year’s matriculants at this school. (Traditionally, discounts of this size off nominal tuition have been employed to lure applicants with significantly higher than average LSAT/GPA numbers). Many schools now seem engaged in the academic equivalent of a Priceline fare war, as they scramble to fill seats with steep discounts at the end of the application cycle, even as they slash admissions standards.

When law school faculties reconvene in three months or so, the $64,000 question they’ll need to pose to their administrative superiors is, exactly how much did we have to cut prices to get this 1L class in the door?

Slate contrarianism goes too far

[ 303 ] May 16, 2013 |

Book of Dreams

Craft brews would have better sales if they didn’t taste so much like beer.

But srsly, people who like to drink Bud Light just aren’t going to like craft brews — or at least not enough to pay the premium — whether the latter are “hoppy” or not (and of course there are hundreds of excellent non-hoppy craft brews — something which the author acknowledges and which would seem to undermine the central premise of the article). I suggest leaving them undisturbed to enjoy their Steve Miller albums and NY Yankee sweatshirts and re-runs of Mork and Mindy on Channel 57, rather than setting off like Kurtz into that impenetrable darkness, armed with Saison Dupont and misguided missionary zeal.

For the record (more Brian Leiter content, unfortunately)

[ 65 ] April 30, 2013 |

To what degree, if at all, should student evaluations and/or complaints be taken into account for the purposes of tenure or post-tenure review? What about judgments regarding a faculty member’s “collegiality”? Consider this story about changing tenure standards at Brooklyn Law School.

The Board of Trustees recently adopted “demonstrated incompetence” to the list, defining it as “multiple unsatisfactory performance reviews or complaints from supervisors; multiple complaints from students or multiple unsatisfactory student evaluations; [or] sub-standard academic performance.”

Bloggers say the change could threaten academic freedom at the law school school — especially since the definition of demonstrated incompetence also includes exhibiting a “lack of collegiality,” a criterion the American Association of University Professors has vocally opposed as a factor in performance evaluations.

Ah yes, “bloggers:”

Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who runs Leiter Reports, said in a blog post that it is alarming the language equates demonstrated incompetence with “wholly unreliable and disreputable criteria like students evaluations [and] complaints from supervisors.”

“[P]oor teaching evaluations from students do not constitute demonstrated incompetence — for reasons the enormous empirical literature on teaching evaluations would make clear, quite apart from AAUP norms,” Leiter wrote.

A couple of notes:

(1) Amusingly, when Leiter is in the mood to libel someone, student evaluations are magically transformed from “wholly unreliable and disreputable critieria” into compelling evidence:

I have to admit that knowing Campos, and knowing that he cares not a whit about his students (see his teaching evaluations) or about prospective law students or about scholarship or about anything but himself and his own media exposure [etc etc etc]

Leiter, needless to say, hasn’t actually seen my teaching evaluations, which in any event he claims are meaningless, except when they aren’t.

Even more amusingly, Leiter not only cites his own student evaluations, but actually provides an on-line link to them when fulminating about the awesomeness of his academic accomplishments:

My teaching evaluations, by the way, are a matter of public record, will ScamProf Campos share his?

(2) Since I’m addressing the public record for the purpose of dealing with Leiter’s ongoing libel of my academic reputation, this is as good a time as any to point out that, during a period when according to Leiter, I was doing “almost no scholarly work,” I published, among other things, two pieces of scholarship that have each been cited in the academic literature quite a bit more than anything Leiter has ever published.

I wonder what Peter Aduren thinks of all this?

How not to talk about race and class

[ 13 ] April 29, 2013 |

This Urban Institute report regarding wealth disparities and race/ethnicity is getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the report manipulates statistics to push a dubious conclusion, instead of emphasizing a progressive message that actually is supported strongly by the same numbers it quotes.

The report’s evidence for its claim that disparities in wealth are growing between whites on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other, is that the ratio in “average” wealth between white families and black and Hispanic families grew from around five to one to six to one between 1983 and 2010. The average white family had a net worth of around $290,000 in 1983, while black and Hispanic families had average net worth totals of around $60,000. By 2010 the average white family had a net worth of $632,000, while black and Hispanic families had average net worth totals of $98,000 and $110,000 respectively. (All figures are in 2010 dollars).

But if you take a look at the footnotes, specifically footnote 3, you discover the following: the median white household’s wealth has gone from $91,000 in 1983 to $124,000 in 2010, while the median figures for black and Hispanic households have gone from $11,000 to $16,000 and $10,000 to $15,000 during that time frame. (In other words, while median family wealth grew by 36% among white families, it increased by 45% and 50% among black and Hispanic families).

This tells us two things:

(1) While it’s true the disparities in wealth between white families and non-white families (excluding Asian-Americans) remain immense, they are, on a percentage basis, actually declining between most American families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, since of course the median figures are far more representative of the economic circumstances of most Americans than the mean numbers.

(2) For all races/ethnic groups, the differences between the medians and the means are extraordinary. Consider how much wealth must be piled at the very top of the social pyramid to produce a situation in which the “average” white family is now more than five times wealthier than the median white family. Meanwhile, the comparable ratios for “average” and median black and Hispanic families are even higher than among white families, and have also widened significantly over the past 27 years.

What these statistics really show is that the rapid growth in wealth disparities in this country have little if anything to do with race, and everything to do with class.

The brave new world of Miranda exceptions

[ 12 ] April 23, 2013 |

Are we safe yet?

Give the people what they want

[ 164 ] April 20, 2013 |

Further thoughts on the relationship between violence as political theater and the social forces that enable it.

Teenage Wasteland

[ 5 ] April 20, 2013 |

A fantastic bit of reporting from David Remnick.

Fear hits a homer

[ 256 ] April 19, 2013 |

I just saw on the Twitters that both the Bruins and the Red Sox have had their games tonight postponed, no doubt because the entire Boston area remains locked down.

Almost 1 million people in metropolitan Boston remained under siege Friday as police conducted a massive manhunt for one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

The region felt as if it had been gripped by martial law: Police armed with rifles patrolled deserted streets in Boston, Watertown, Cambridge, Waltham, Newton, Belmont, and Brookline, and residents hunkered inside, under authorities’ unprecedented order.

“It is important that folks remain indoors,” Governor Deval Patrick said this afternoon at a press conference. “Keep the doors locked and [do not] open the door unless there is a uniformed, identified law enforcement officer on the other side of it requesting to come inside.”

Authorities shut down all MBTA service, halting subways, trains, and buses. City and town halls were closed. Public works canceled trash pickup, keeping garbage trucks off streets. Courthouses kept their doors closed.

From Dudley Square to the Seaport, Cambridge to Kenmore Square, businesses shuttered. Streets remained empty, sidewalks abandoned, entire office blocks uninhabited.

While I appreciate that police work is made easier by completely immobilizing the population of a major metropolitan area, this sort of massive over-reaction to the failure to apprehend one 19-year-old amateur terrorist (I doubt Al Qaeda types and the like would consider knocking off a 7-11, shooting a security guard, and carjacking an SUV to be the smart play a few hours after having their faces spread all over the internet) is what gives the performers of what are essentially bloody publicity stunts ever-more motivation to engage in their crimes.

. . .

Meanwhile, in Chicago yesterday:

Man 34 shot in Old Irving Park

A man, 34, was dropped off at Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital with gunshot wounds to his torso about 12:20 a.m. . The man was shot south of the intersection of Irving Park Road and Avondale Avenue

37 year old man shot in West Pullman

A 37-year-old man was shot about 10:15 p.m. in the 12300 block of South Emerald Avenue about 10:15 p.m. Someone saw a car speeding from the scene and the shooting may have been a drive-by . Police responded to a call of a person shot and found the man on the sidewalk bleeding from his body and arm.

2- 19 year olds shot in West Pullman
At about 5 p.m. in the 12000 block of South Lafayette Avenue, two 19-year-old men were shot in the legs

16 year old shot in Woodlawn
About 7:15 p.m., a 16-year-old boy was shot in the left thigh on the 1500 block of East 62nd Street. The boy was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where his condition has been stabilized

Man shot in Austin during Robbery

A man, whose age wasn’t available, was shot about 4 p.m. in the South Austin neighborhood on the West Side. He was robbed of some cash and shot in the left shoulder in the 100 block of North Mason Avenue and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with a wound to his left shoulder

44 year old man shot in Garfield Park
About 3:10 p.m. a 44-year-old man was shot in the 3000 block of Carrol Avenue in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. He was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in serious condition

36 year old man shot in Logan Square
About 1 p.m. a man was shot in the 3500 block of West North Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood. The 36-year-old was shot in the stomach more than once while standing on a sidewalk,. He’s in stable condition at Mount Sinai Hospital.

This seems like quite a coincidence

[ 178 ] April 17, 2013 |

If somebody is trying to pull off a cut-rate imitation of the post-9/11 craziness, they seem to be succeeding.

Of course it may well be a coincidence, and the kind of thing that wouldn’t have gotten much attention if not for Monday’s bombing.

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