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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?

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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.

Amnesty for academic sock puppets?

[ 65 ] April 17, 2013 |

Oh my:

Twenty years ago, I paid a visit to Prof. Michael Broyde in his Emory University Law School office, to ask him to help me understand the Jewish legal doctrine of lashon hara–telling bad things about someone. I was interested in the relationship between this proscribed behavior and the practice of journalism. He told me that, unlike defamation in U.S. law, lashon hara is considered wrong even if the bad thing is true.

A couple of days ago, Broyde found himself on the wrong end of such journalistic lashon hara. In a punctilious piece of investigative reporting, the Jewish Channel’s Steven I. Weiss made out a case that Broyde had invented an elderly rabbi called Hershel Goldwasser to engage in some classic online sock puppetry.

Specifically, Weiss alleged that Broyde used the Goldwasser character to 1) praise himself to other scholars; 2) attack rabbinic authorities he disagreed with–including Atlanta’s most respected orthodox rabbi; and 3) gain access to a listserv of his rabbinic rivals that he wouldn’t have had access to under his own name. In his correspondence to scholarly journals, “Goldwasser” said that Broyde had been a “one-in-[a]-million” student of his in high school and that because of the relationship Broyde sent him drafts of his brilliant articles to review — thereby explaining his frequent reference to them.

Not only could Weiss find no independent confirmation of Goldwasser’s existence but he ascertained that his communications came from the same Comcast and Emory IP addresses that Broyde uses. At first, when confronted with the evidence, Broyde denied inventing Goldwasser. (“Not my character…He’s a rebbe [teacher] of mine from many years ago who’s deceased [and] made aliyah [moved to Israel] ten years ago, or something like that, maybe more, I don’t remember.”) But shortly after Weiss’ story appeared, he admitted responsibility in an email of apology to one of the rabbis on the invaded listserv.

How much of this kind of thing is out there, just waiting to be uncovered? (A few weeks ago, LGM readers were treated to the amusing spectacle of law professor Brian Leiter’s various sock puppets traipsing across the internet discussing, among many other things, the awesomeness of Brian Leiter).

Perhaps it’s time to convene a Truth and Reconciliation blog panel, which will grant amnesty to the purveyors of sock puppetry, in return for a full and frank confession, and a promise to mend one’s narcissistic ways.

On a related note, consider this suggestion, made just a couple of days ago by Broyde’s Emory Law School colleague Dorothy Brown: ($$$)

The question that needs to be asked is: What makes for successful lawyers in the 21st century and how would a new rankings system reward law schools that did the job well? Although U.S. News does not seem to care, lawyers, law schools and consumers should. The current market for lawyers rewards value added. Given this, law schools must develop leaders who are problem solvers and collaborative workers — leaders who have the integrity to say no when no one in the room wants to hear it. If a rankings system could take that into account, society as a whole would be better off . . .

We are facing some of the most intractable problems of recent history. A ranking system that rewarded those law schools that instilled integrity, developed leaders, and graduated problem solvers would be good for the country. We must find a better test to teach to.

This is the conclusion to an op-ed which is devoted to describing how structural changes in the market for legal services are eliminating jobs for lawyers.

Nothing illustrates the essential emptiness of so much of what goes on in legal academia as recommendations (and they are legion) of this sort. Do graduate programs in other disciplines advertise that they are going to “add value” by turning their charges into social leaders chock full of moral integrity, who also possess amorphous “problem solving” skills? I guess the military academies make similar claims at the undergraduate level, but leaving aside whether those claims actually have any plausibility, those institutions immerse 18-year-olds in a 24/7 experience, as opposed to spending a few hours per week attempting to convey legal doctrine to 25-year-olds surfing Facebook.

Seriously, how exactly are law professors supposed to “instill integrity” in law students, or “develop leaders?” In what way are we qualified to perform these amazing feats, even assuming such miracles could be produced in law school classrooms? And even if we assume enough can openers to make this a plausible educational mission, how is any of this going to get anybody a job?

NY Post claims 20-year-old Saudi being held in Boston blasts

[ 49 ] April 15, 2013 |

Obviously our invasion of Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 attacks failed to prevent more terror.

Update: NY Post report of arrest denied by police.

From NBC News:

Federal officials told NBC News that Boston police were guarding a “possible suspect” who had been wounded in the blasts, but they cautioned that there was no information at the federal level to consider that person a suspect.

On a possibly related note, I flew on Thursday and there was clearly heightened security, at least at DIA. A line that normally would have taken five to ten minutes to get through at the security checkpoint took 40 minutes. (On second thought this is idle speculation. I’ve talked to three other people who’ve flown in the last two days, and while one encountered what seemed like heightened security procedures, the two others didn’t).

Catholic University of America to slash overall budget by 20%; plunging law schools apps to blame

[ 19 ] April 15, 2013 |

Last November CUA’s law school announced that the managing partner of Kirkland and Ellis’s DC office would become the school’s dean the following July. In January the school revealed the new dean was taking over immediately, and that staff were being laid off.

Now comes word that the university as a whole will cut operating expenses by 20% (!) because the cash cow that was its law school is being ground up into hamburger by, among other things, the availability of employment statistics regarding outcomes for CUA law school graduates.

Those statistics reveal that 88 out of 246 2012 CUA law grads had a legal job (full-time long-term employment requiring bar admission) in February of 2013, not counting two people who were employed by the school itself.

The law school accounts for about 10% of the university’s overall enrollment, so the mind reels at the extent to which the rest of the university has been depending for its solvency on encouraging the law school to produce massively indebted graduates who are unable to get any sort of legal job in what is at present the worst place in the country to try to get a job as a lawyer (Washington DC).

This naturally raises the question of how many other universities depend on their law school’s graduates to cross-subsidize the rest of the campus to a similar extent. A friend who is in a position to know tells me that quite a few law schools are now actually running operating deficits, although university budgets are so byzantine in regard to cross-subsidization via the charging of “indirect expenses” and the like that it’s often very difficult to untangle the actual financial situation. We law faculty are of course encouraged by our administrative overlords not to worry our pretty little heads about these matters, not that most of us require much encouragement of that sort anyway.

Another friend makes a prediction:

My suspicion is that law schools will close when they appear to need long term subsidization. I got into a row a few times at Prawfs over this, but when you read most schools tenure guidelines as an implied contract, it starts to jump out that cost cutting would be extraordinarily hard in any department – with seniority rules, the need to show financial crisis etc. The easy out is actually to “pull the plug” on the whole department. That is why I think a few colleges could quite abruptly make the decision to simply close the law school.

I do find amusing the idea that some professors have that everyone will take a nice round 10% pay cut. You never can really sell an across the board pay cut – someone always has alimony, kids in school, impecunious parents, a big mortgage, and if it is hell to make it stick. Look how fast law firms push out partners having a bad year… The idea that senior faculty will take one for the team, or junior faculty, many of whom have big student loans – is not that realistic. The problem is that it does not look very easy to layoff tenured faculty and oddly, tenure seems to be one of the few areas in US law where the idea of constructive dismissal may actually apply (I did some research a while back.)

My own sense of the situation, which I have expressed before, is that when the first reputable college jumps and announces that its law school is closing there will be a rising wave of followers. The interesting question is how far are some schools from that point – if enrollment is way down in August/September it could start sooner than many people think.

I note your comment about lack of transparency. The late Dick Gordon told me, when he was Dean of Georgetown, that he took the decision to move to Capitol Hill so that he could segregate the finances better – that the murkiness was in overhead allocation for shared facilities – registration fees, campus upkeep, heating plant, you name it. Some departments pay essentially nothing for their use of campus facilities and office space, lecture halls, gyms, registration services, while law schools often pay inflated charges, and the law school Deans don’t necessarily know how inflated.

Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.

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