Between knee surgery (arthroscopic,torn meniscus, recovering well) and holiday travel (6 day trip to Maryland and back with 3 children ranging in age from 1-6, recovering so-so), my blogging and blogreading has been light of late. So I am late to the Nancy Leong kerfuffle (which made Slate, no less): a recap of sorts available here, and Professor Leong has a series of worthwhile posts here. As far as I could tell yesterday getting up to speed via cellphone screen southbound on I-85, Leong has been the target of cyberbullying and attacks based on her gender and race. Mostly by a public defender in Colorado who seems oddly fixated on her (writing 2 plays about someone? Really?) as a manifestation of the privileged, entitled law professor that has no business teaching law and must have been hired because she looks good. Many have decried these identity-based attacks, and rightly so: they are unjustified, loathsome, and wrong. I don't feel I have anything to add to these protests, but I agree with them.
With that caveat, amidst all of Leong's persecutor's vitriol, one note sounds true: the grievance of the practictioner against the law professor who has never practiced. While Leong has practiced, I predict that we will hear more and more complaints of this kind. Looking at the future of law and the tenuous state of the legal academy, it doesn't seem wise or even sustainable to me to continue to hire significant numbers of law professors who haven't practiced.
There, I said it.
In my experience, most practitioners actually like and respect law professors a good deal. But if you're a law professor and talk with alums or lawyers of any kind, eventually they'll come around to this observation: "It's great to talk to a law professor who has actually practiced." Sotto voce, what they're saying is, "How can there be so many law professors who haven't actually practiced?"
Law school is a professional school, no longer able in this economic climate to be the liberal arts finishing school it only ever was to the privileged few. I can't help but think that voce will be less sotto going forward, as alums, hiring partners, and prospective students seek professors that can credibly impart the skills and thinking that will get them a job. Lawyers, particularly the ones who are hiring, tend to be smart and skeptical. Particularly of claims that people who never practiced law know enough about the practice of law to help students prepare to practice law.
I'm not saying that every new law professor needs to have practiced, or that there aren't many superlative professors who have never practiced--indeed, I know many. But going forward, I predict that that model will be harder and harder to justify.
Update: It has been pointed out that Professor Leong has one year of practice experience on her CV, as a fellow for the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. In addition, she practiced in a pro bono capacity. When reviewing her C.V. initially, I mistakenly read "fellow" to be an academic position, as it often is in academia. I apologize for my implication that she has never practiced.
From our friends in New Orleans:
Tulane Law School is currently accepting applications for a two-year position of visiting assistant professor. The position is being supported by the Murphy Institute at Tulane (http://murphy.tulane.edu/home/), an interdisciplinary unit specializing in political economy and ethics that draws faculty from the economics, philosophy, history, and political science departments. The position is designed for scholars focusing on regulation of economic activity very broadly construed (including, for example, research with a methodological or analytical focus relevant to scholars of regulation). It is also designed for individuals who plan to apply for tenure-track law school positions during the second year of the professorship. The law school will provide significant informal support for such. The person selected for the position will be expected to participate in scholarly activities at the law school and at the Murphy Institute, including faculty workshops, and will be expected to teach a law school course or seminar in three of the four semesters of the professorship (presumably the last three semesters). The annual salary for the position is $65,000 plus eligibility for benefits. To apply, please send a CV identifying at least three references, a law school transcript, electronic copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining your teaching interests and your research agenda to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, please contact Adam Feibelman at that same email address. The law school aims to fill this position by March 2014. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and encourages women and members of minority communities to apply.
So, last night we were introduced to the ACT "World of Work" map at a meeting designed to prepare us for our sophomore daughter preparing herself for college. I can't get past the map. Besides the categories being just plain weird ("working with data" equals "police officer," but "statistician" is working with "ideas and things"), law school applicants are getting some very bad advice. So, law is contained in "community services," located straight out on the "working with people vector." Lawyer is included with social worker, counselor and other helping professions such as nursing and teaching.
Of course, the practice of law is a helping profession, but if your instincts tell you that you would like to work closely with individuals to help them, then law school is a pretty expensive way to do that. Yes, some lawyers do work one-on-one with individual clients to solve daily problems, and there is great satisfaction in those jobs. And, lawyers have the tools to help in ways that social workers can't. But if you go to law school to do that, you may find yourself in a job very far removed from that in order to recoup your investment. A job like this.
Possibly, law careers could be broken down into different groups, some in "working with ideas" (appellate lawyers, transactional lawyers," some in "working with people and ideas" (trial lawyers). And this doesn't even touch on the potential law jobs working with data. But telling high school sophomores that "if you like the idea of helping people, you might think of being a nurse or being a lawyer" might be contributing to disillusionment of law students and lonely first-year associates (and a shortage of nurses).
The new buzzword in legal education is practice "ready." Check a few websites or glossy brochures, and the word "ready" will jump out at you. I think for most people, this means clinics or other experiential courses. I recently had an experience that made me think that readiness is not just a third-year clinic.
A few weeks ago, I heard from a student as he was going through multiple rounds of interviews for a legal job at a financial firm. Though law firm hiring seems to still follow the on-campus interivew -to- callback model, this process was much more like business school hiring. One fairly early round involved analyzing a bond (trust indenture and security agreement) over three days. I called around to counsel at hedge funds and other firms to see if they had ever done this, and the response was "Wow, we don't do that, but it's a great idea". And this was when I realized that we do not prepare our students for this type of interviewing.
Historically, most student interviewing was in the fall of second year, when students had just taken the first-year basics and were just starting other courses. Some interviewing, and more these days, takes place in the fall of third year, after two years of coursework. Of course, many students now are interviewing even after graduation, but I think the basic expectations of interviewers has usually been that the interview is not designed to test any type of legal knowledge. Law students, particularly those who were given offers in their third semester, were hired on the basis of their grades, resume and personality. Summer clerkships would sort them further, if at all.
Now, however, students are being interviewed later and for different kinds of jobs. It seems very reasonable that students might be expected to show some level of knowledge about the field they are entering. And this means that law schools need to change. Law students cannot find themselves in the fall of their third year without having gotten on a curricular path. Chicago-Kent just announced a program for students to start to specialize in their first year. For those of us who enjoy the liberal arts atmosphere of the "teach lawyers how to learn like lawyers" approach, specialization so early is anathema. But I think that has to change. Teaching in a way that produces third years who still haven't taken the basic classes to try out for jobs in their field may not work in a changing interview environment. But yes, this means that students will have to choose a field earlier instead of later, and instead of letting their field choose them when they show up at their jobs.
Announcements after the jump:
The University of Connecticut solicits applications for a joint appointment within the School of Business and The Human Rights Institute at the rank of Assistant Professor. This tenure-track position resides in the School of Business, and is a 9-month appointment. The successful candidate is expected to engage in scholarly research with a focus on human rights as related to business practices, law and ethics, corporate social responsibility, and/or public policy, and publish in high quality journals. This position includes undergraduate and graduate teaching assignments in the School of Business and the Human Rights Institute. In addition, the faculty member is expected to perform service and outreach as needed and consistent with the School of Business, the Human Rights Institute, and The University of Connecticut’s interests and priorities. The appointment begins August 23, 2014. The compensation package will be commensurate with background, qualifications, and experience.
For details, see https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/3424
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
Smeal College of Business
University Park, Pennsylvania
Assistant Professor or Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Law
The Department of Risk Management of the Smeal College of Business at The Pennsylvania State University seeks to fill a full-time, tenure-track or clinical appointment in Business Law. The successful candidate will be hired at the Assistant Professor or Clinical Assistant Professor rank.
JOB DESCRIPTION/ QUALIFICATIONS
This position is a tenure-track or clinical appointment with teaching responsibilities at the undergraduate and MBA levels. A qualified candidate for the tenure track appointment must demonstrate the capacity to conduct quality scholarly research and, if successful, will be expected to pursue an active research program. Both tenure track and clinical candidates must demonstrate a high level of teaching competence and would be expected to perform undergraduate and graduate teaching, and supervise graduate students. Candidates must have a J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school by time of appointment. Candidates with a second degree in a business-related field at either the masters or undergraduate level, a record of publishing in the field of business law, and/or teaching experience in higher education in the field of business law are particularly encouraged to apply.
POSITION AVAILABLE: August 2014
SALARY: Competitive and commensurate with qualifications.
Applications received by December 1, 2013 will receive first priority, although all applications will be considered until the position is filled. Candidates must send a letter of application to PSUBLawApps@smeal.psu.edu. Please include a copy of curriculum vita, the names of at least three references, and evidence of quality research and teaching where appropriate.
If you have questions about the position, please contact Dan Cahoy, Professor of Business Law, Smeal College of Business at DanCahoy@psu.edu.
Employment will require successful completion of background check(s) in accordance with University policies. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.
Full or Associate Professor of Legal Studies
Terry College of Business
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia's Terry College of Business invites applications for a position in legal studies at the full or associate professor rank beginning Fall 2014.
Qualified candidates are required to hold a J.D. from an accredited institution and to have produced high quality research publications in top tier legal journals. Candidates should also have evidence of excellence in teaching and possess an ability and willingness to mentor junior faculty. A successful candidate is expected to continue an active research agenda and to teach at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Periodic participation in service activities appropriate to the rank is also expected. Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications.
Applications received by November 15, 2013, are assured of consideration; however, applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled. To apply, send a letter of introduction and a full vita to: Legal Studies Search Committee Chair, 206 Brooks Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-6255 or in a PDF file via email to email@example.com.
The University of Georgia is located in Athens, Georgia. Georgia is well known for its quality of life with both outdoor and urban activities (www.georgia.gov). UGA (www.uga.edu) is a land grant/sea grant institution located approximately 60 miles northeast of Atlanta.
The University of Georgia is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action/ADA Institution.
I am seeking a dedicated and qualified online adjunct(s) to potentially teach Business Law I or possibly a graduate course in International Business Law at Texas A&M University-Central Texas in the upcoming spring term and beyond (including summers). I presently have tried to manage all of these sections, but I need to back off my teaching load in order to concentrate on my duties as department chair. Adding to the demand is the fact that we have been growing at an annual rate of 20% over the last three years. I use the Miller/Jentz text Business Law Today: Comprehensive Ed. I basically cover chapters 1-6, 8-19, 21-23. If you are unfamiliar with the text, this is Legal Background, Con. Law, Dispute Resolution, Torts, IP, Criminal Law, Ethics, Contracts, UCC (Sales), Warranties and Products Liability, and Negotiability/Banking. For the graduate course in International Business Law, I use International Law and its Environment by Schaffer, Agusti, Dhooge and Earle.
The following are essential qualifications:
1. Experience teaching online and with Blackboard as a Learning Management System
2. An earned J.D. from an ABA accredited Law School
As a part of the assignment, you would also need to follow my guidance on material coverage (chapters), complete our required online instructor training program (can be done remotely in a couple of days), and demonstrate the ability to maintain an active instructor presence in the online classroom. The instructor’s experiences, explanations, and feedback are vital to the online learning environment. Demonstration of this skill will be required and we can discuss how this can be accomplished. The course(s) will either be 16 weeks, starting January 13th, or 8 weeks, starting March 17th. I have a basic template that may be altered or you may construct your own after we talk about qualifications, experience and preferences.
Adjunct positions are subject to demand and the needs of the university. As such, they can be terminated at anytime and teaching one semester does not guarantee employment in subsequent semesters. An application may be found at: http://www.tamuct.edu/departments/humanresources/employmentopportunities.php. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to discuss possibilities prior to applying. Any applicant would also need to email me a brief statement of their online teaching philosophy and qualifications for the position as described above.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University seeksapplications for lecturer positions in the Department of Business Law and Ethics, effective August 2014. The candidates selected will join a well-established department of 15 full-time facultymembers who teach a variety of courses on legal topics and business ethics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
To be qualified, a candidate must have a J.D. degree with an excellent academic record and must demonstrate the potential to be an outstanding teacher in business law and ethics courses.The ideal candidate will also have training in applied ethics or experience teaching ethics.
Interested candidates should review the application requirements and submit their application athttp://indiana.peopleadmin.com/postings/452. Candidates should direct any questions to Jane Mallor, Chair, Department ofBusiness Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business, 1309 E 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405 or email@example.com .
Application materials received by November 15, 2013, will be given full consideration.
Indiana University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity employer committed to excellence through diversity. The University actively encourages applications of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.
College of Business and Management- Northeastern Illinois University
One tenure-track position at Assistant/Associate Professor of Business Law available beginning August, 2014. Job responsibilities are teaching courses in business law and legal environment of business. Additional responsibilities are research and service. Minimum qualifications are Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from ABA-accredited law schools, and admission to any State Bar. Preferred qualifications include an L.L. M. degree in Taxation from an ABA accredited school, and or an MBA degree from AACSB accredited institution. All candidates must be “Academically Qualified,” as defined by the AACSB. Selection process begins on October 15, 2013 and continues until position is filled. To apply for this position, send application letter, resume with e-mail address, transcripts, and names and contact information of three references to Dr. Rasoul Rezvanian, Chair, Department of Accounting, Business Law and Finance; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details, check employment opportunities on our website at www.neiu.edu. Northeastern Illinois University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer, and invites allocations from women and minorities as well as other qualified individuals.
GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Robinson College of Business, Department of
Risk Management & Insurance TENURE TRACK or NON-TENURE TRACK
POSITIONS IN LEGAL STUDIES
GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY invites applications for one or more tenure track or non-tenure track appointments in Legal Studies for an opening effective Fall 2014 in the Department of Risk Management and Insurance at the Robinson College of Business. Rank is open but we expect to hire at the level of Clinical Assistant Professor (non-tenure track) or Assistant Professor (tenure track).
Candidates for a tenure track position must have a J.D. from an ABA approved law school. Further, candidates for assistant professor must have a strong capability of publishing in law related journals. Such evidence of capability might include law review experience, publications, clerking experience, and/or advanced degrees in areas related to business or risk. More senior candidates will have a record of outstanding scholarly contributions in law relating to business as well as strong evidence of teaching at the Undergraduate and Graduate levels. Candidates for a non-tenure track position must have significant professional experience as a lawyer, the capability for publishing research in refereed professional or pedagogical journals, evidence of excellence in teaching, and an earned J.D. from an ABA approved law school.
For all candidates we are particularly interested in those who study how law and risk is related, but candidates in all areas of business law will be considered.
ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
The mission of the Department of Risk Management and Insurance at Georgia State University is to better understand how risks faced by individuals, institutions, and societies can be more accurately measured and more efficiently managed. Faculty members have risk-related research interests including behavioral economics, experimental methods, actuarial science, mathematical finance, econometrics, household finance, corporate decision making, legal risk, and insurance economics, among others.
The department is one of the oldest and most influential risk management programs in the U.S. and has a distinguished history of serving students, alumni, and the risk management profession for more than 60 years. We are currently rated #4 in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of RMI programs; we hold a Center of Actuarial Excellence designation from the Society of Actuaries; and we are an Accredited Risk Program according to the Professional Risk Management International Association (PRMIA).
The salary level and course load are competitive.
Positions are contingent on budget approval. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. To apply, a letter of application, curriculum vitae, three recommendation letters, teaching evaluations if any, and copies of publications should be emailed (preferred) to academicjobsonline.org or mailed to Martin F. Grace, Department of Risk Management & Insurance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, PO Box 4036, Atlanta. GA. Be sure to indicate in the cover letter that you are applying for the legal studiesposition and whether you are applying for a tenure track or non-tenure track position.
Georgia State University is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Institution Affirmative Action Employer.
Dan Doctoroff is giving $5 million to the law school in Hyde Park to develop a law and business curriculum, which isn't exactly a vast amount of money, but congratulations to UC nonetheless. Like Wharton, Chicago has a 5-years-in-4 MBA-JD program already; there is a lot of happiness about the program in these parts, but it does require students to pay a ton of tuition, and compresses their schedule flexibility massively. It sounds the Doctoroff donation will permit law students to take classes at Booth, or maybe buy out some Booth teachers to teach a class exclusively comprised of law students on asset valuation, managerial economics, and &c.
One bridge that must be crossed for such classes concerns the basic level of knowledge of the law students. Some Wharton students are coming from the army or Teach For America, but most have been spending a few years working on spreadsheets and going through quarterly statements. This sort of thing provides a critical background (and a culture spreadable to those who are abandoning their careers in ballet or publishing) that just being smart and eager does not, and my case study for that would be the accounting for lawyers classes you might have taken in law school, and promptly forgot about. Good luck to Chicago as it seeks to deliver classes that law students can find instructive; oddly enough, it might be easier to focus on undergraduate finance offerings rather than on the MBA program.
I had a wonderful day participating in Arizona State University School of Law's 5th Annual Aspiring Law Professors Conference yesterday! I can say that Dean Doug Sylvester and his colleagues provide a wonderful (and free) service to those who are interested in joining the academy, whether they are curious onlookers still in practice or active scholars in a VAP/fellowship position. The panelists and ASU colleagues provided mock interviews and job talks to all who were interested and set up panels on various topics to talk quite candidly about the AALS conference and other nuts and bolts aspects of getting an interview/getting a call back/and getting the job.
For my talk, which opened the festivities bright and early on a Saturday morning, I threw together this animated cartoon using goanimate.com. Enjoy!
Unless you've been trapped watching videos of Miley Cyrus all week, you probably are already sick of the "should we eliminate the third year of law school" meme kickstarted by none other than Pres. Obama, law grad and former law teacher, not so helpfully stating flatly that "law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years." (Paul Caron is compiling responses: start here and work back.) Now, Presidential candidate Obama campaigned for a NCAA college football playoff, which apparently is happening, so we'll want to watch this carefully. But, Obama's remarks to me sounded a little too much like Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus suggesting to Mozart that his work had "too many notes." When the Emperor's character went on to suggest that the composer cut "a few," Mozart's stunned character asked the Emperor "which few do you have in mind?"
There are several good reasons to consider lopping off the third year of law school, or really for the ABA to allow students to sit for the bar after two years of law school, leaving law schools to make their own requirements and differentiate themselves. However, before we all say that 3 years is too many, we need to consider all the implications: pedagogical, economic and practical.
Pedgagogical (Too Many Notes)
A repeated refrain among those who cheer the death of the third year is that their own third year was "worthless," "useless" or some other-less. But, this is hardly the fault of the year. Law schools decided some time ago to not have required courses past the first year besides PR and an occasional anomaly. So, your third year is really what you make of it. Back in the day, many students already had gainful employment by then so coasted through the third year. (Hence the old adage of First Year, scare you to death; Second Year work you to death; Third Year bore you to death.) Had we just lopped off the third year, I couldn't have taken the three tax classes that had prerequisites or securities regulation. Those were pretty good investments in my practice career, so I'm glad I took them.
In fact, it's hard to think of a way to just cut off the credits one gets in the third year and figure out how students will take courses that actually lead to gainful employment, but which need prerequisites. Basically every law student would have to take BA and Evidence and Federal Income Tax and PR in 2nd Fall just to be able to take higher-level courses in the Spring.
So, why not shrink the first year? I went to college for three years, as did a lot of students, because I tested out of a lot of freshman classes because I had an awesome high school education. However, first year law school isn't about Algebra or reading The Great Gatsby one more time. We have made the first year "nicer" by making first-year classes fewer hours and having fewer subjects in a semester, so fewer exams, but there's not a lot more condensing that can happen. We could make it harder by adding a class or two (BA or Evidence or Income Tax), but there's not much we can do to Torts, Property, Civ Pro, Contracts, Crim Law and Con Law. Besides being building blocks, they are on the bar. Every bar. 100% of the MBE, and up for grabs on every state bar. The sitting of the Georgia Bar in 1993 was 100% first year courses.
So, Obama didn't say which notes he wanted to cut. But, he wanted to add externships and clerkships, which he implies would have a better pedagogical benefit than more coursework. What Obama didn't say was whether these would be paid or unpaid. If unpaid, they have to be part of an educational program (back to a paid third year with supervising instructors) and meet pretty stringent rules that are regularly broken by for-profit businesses and firms. If paid, then that's even more awesome, except that paid employment after graduation has been what we were going for anyway. If some sort of half-paid apprenticeship/residency, then we need to rewrite some federal regulations.
The consensus seems to be that if law school were shorter, then it would be cheaper. Matt Bodie argues that law schools will charge the same because the demand does not seem price-sensitive anyway. Even if that is so, 3 years of paying $100k in tuition plus zero income is more expensive than 3 years of paying $100k in the first two years plus receiving income in the third year. So, a shorter law school theoretically helps the three-year balance sheet. Maybe. You would have to back out any income that would have been received working in the summer after first year (not the norm) and the summer after second year. Why do I think there wouldn't be employment in the summer after second year? Because I think students would have to go to school full-time that summer to get the classes that they want to take during those two years. So, six semesters would be cut to four semesters and a summer, if not two. This would be along the lines of the Northwestern Accelerated JD.
But, if the third year became an unpaid externship or half-paid internship, then it might be a wash from an economic standpoint.
I've already suggested that one practical limitation to the 2-year plan is the bar exam. Not only does the bar exam heavily test the first-year subjects that otherwise might be ripe for cutting, it tests a lot of upper-level courses that might go by the wayside, too. Many states reserve the right to test on multiple subjects such as family law, secured credit, commercial paper, wills and estates, business associations, evidence, criminal procedure, conflicts, and oil and gas. I always tell my students not to take classes just because they are on the bar, but at some point, if no one is finding time to take commercial paper or wills and estates, then bar passage will suffer. The result of the 2-year JD may be to force students to rely even more heavily on expensive bar review programs.
Those criticizing the two-year critics say that professors are entrenched and so would never like this plan. That might be right. No one likes it when their cheese is moved. These law schools will still need professors, and probably the same number, but we'll have to teach a more limited palette. We will have to have more sections of foundational courses and many fewer upper-level courses. The seminars, colloquia, and cross-listed courses will go by the wayside. Note that for every person that says their third year was a waste, others say that a colloquium was the best part of their education. And, almost everyone will have to teach in the summer. There will be more teaching and less writing, which will make the job less attractive to most, though more attractive to some.
A lot of other things will change: mock trial, moot court, law journals. To finish all the coursework needed to graduate in an abbreviated time to prepare for externship or other employment, time for in-house practical experiences like trial ad, negotiation, mediation, supervised clinics and the like will be scarce. So, the unintended consequence might be less practical training, which is what this whole argument was about anyway.
Education, was in the news yesterday. The Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section covered on President Obama's call for eliminating the third year of law school. Old ground, that. But front page news was a new post-college graduation assessment test, the CLA+ which, "instead of measuring subject-area knowledge, it assesses things like critical thinking, analytical reasoning, document literacy, writing and communication." The article blames GPA inflation for why employers can't trust good grades anymore.
Which got me thinking: if only there was a test administered to all graduating law students to assess their learning that could signal their relative worth to employers.
Wait a minute...
I know very little about the disclosure of bar results, but my impression is that scores are not generally disclosed, unless you fail. Right now, law schools disclose bar passage rate by school, but nothing more granular.
Why not? If the holy grail of law school rankings is measuring outcomes, aren't those scores meaningful data? Prospective students might well care that graduates of Law School A score higher than graduates of School B. Employers would presumably like it even more. Particularly if broken up by subject matter, employers would able to compare their prospective employees on the basis of their performance in business organizations, or trusts and estates, rather than whether they scored an A or A- in subjects taught by different professors at different schools with different schools.
I know the bar is an imperfect assessment mechanism, and that currently students are advised (as I was) to aim to pass and no more. And that, unless the bar exam changes, we'll have a lot more teaching to the test, with all the negatives that implies for critical thinking, for clinical training, and for a host of other valuable law school experiences. So I'm not advocating this approach, exactly. It just struck me, as I read yesterday's paper, that if outcome assessments become the new normal, the minimum-competency model of the bar exam may change.
Lee Siegel in the WSJ last week asked "Who Ruined the Humanities?" and I've been musing about a story ever since. His launching point is the statistic that humanities majors comprised 14% of undergraduate majors 50 years ago, but only 7% today. His real beef, though, is with the college English lit class:
Homer, Chekhov and Yeats were reduced to right and wrong answers, clear-cut themes, a welter of clever and more clever interpretations. Books that transformed the facts were taught like science and social science and themselves reduced to mere facts. Novels, poems and plays that had been fonts of empathy, and incitements to curiosity, were now occasions of drudgery and toil.
As the daughter of an English professor, with a B.A. in English and an M.A. in comparative literature, of course that got my attention.
What you're probably expecting next is a full-throated defense of the English major. Somewhat to my befuddlement, I'm not sure I can give it. Sure, Siegel's description is largely caricature, at least as compared to my experience at Georgetown in the early 90s. Sure, the study of literature, like the rest of the humanities, can teach students how to read and write critically, to think analytically, to engage with and appreciate the world.
But I'm not sure it does that. I was a dedicated reader by the time I hit middle school. My father taught me how to write before I got to college, bloodying my high school first drafts with so much red ink it was hard to see anything else. Of course Georgetown made me a better writer and thinker. But, as one of my professors observed, college isn't equipped to teach the uninitiated how to write (forget trying to do that in law school).
I have 3 children now--would I advise them to be English majors? I feel like a heretic typing these words, but I'm not sure I would. As a parent, I know I should talk to my kids more about net present values of degrees, both undergrad and graduate. Debate has lately been swirling about whether a law degree is worth a million dollars, $330,000, or a hill of beans (Campos, Tamanaha). These are vital conversations for us as legal educators to have. And as a parent I'll no doubt have them, too, in 20 years or so.
But what about that whole, "follow your passion and everything will work out" advice that you hear from every successful entrepreneur/politician/scientist? What about doing what you love? I majored in English because I liked it and I was good at it. I went to grad school for the same reason, but along the way I found Siegel's "drudgery and toil". I knew it was time to leave when I had stopped reading for pleasure. Indeed, one of my Georgetown professors told another classmate she was unsurprised to hear I was leaving graduate school--I loved reading too much to study literature. Plus it became starkly clear that the best I could do would be a tenure track job in the middle of nowhere, and I'd be lucky to get it.
I went to law school because I thought it would be interesting. I surprised everyone who knew me for choosing corporate work for the same reason. It worked out well for me. And the odds of getting a job were, then as now, a heckuva lot better than for literature Ph.Ds.
I'm emphatically not Pollyannically chirping, "Just follow your passion, and the rest will take care of itself!" The best lessons of the law school scam movement seem to me to be to take a hard look at why you're going to law school, how much it will cost, and how well you think you'll do. Reevaluate after the first year. For us legal educators, think hard about how to fix law school. But for some people it's absolutely the right decision. The question is how best to sort, right? Education, like any investment, is in some sense a gamble. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
I know I struck the right passion/payoff balance, but will my kids be able to do the same? I'm still not sure what to tell them in 20 years. Luckily for me, they probably won't even ask my opinion...
Here is Vic Fleischer's DealBook column on what the Seton Hall layoffs of untenured faculty means for academic freedom: Link
The budget situation of law schools is likely going to lead to other pressure on academic freedom. Don't be surprised if the search for new revenue pushes many schools into an eat-what-you-kill focus on faculty funding much of their salaries through grants. That might work well in the natural sciences (assuming that you have a funder like the NIH or NSF that has plenty of resources and solid academic peer review). But much of law school research is normative. Just try to present a purely descriptive paper at a workshop. Who would fund research into financial regulation without placing strings attached? The government of Iceland, NASDAQ, some industry trade group, an investment bank?
Moreover, many important fields in the legal academy might not receive any grants at all. The marketplace for ideas is not the same thing as the marketplace for grants.
This Thomas Edison quote comes from Paul Volcker in a short interview in the Washington Post Wonkblog. The source of Tall Paul's consternation: the decline of schools of public administration in universities and the shift in many of these schools from "public administration" to "public policy." (Here is one example of what Volcker describes: the lawsuit (over 5 years ago) brought against Princeton by the heirs to the A&P fortune that alleged that the Woodrow Wilson School was not using an endowment to educate students for careers in government).
Everybody likes to talk about big issues of war and peace and how we take care of poor people and what we do about other social problems in the United States or elsewhere. They do all this talking but they too seldom know how to implement what they’re talking about.
The legal academy ought to take heed. Much of the interesting spadework in financial regulation scholarship involves questions of institutional design rather than substance. That is, not what is the right legal rule, but how do make sure agencies have the capacities and incentives to write, interpret and enforce rules in the right way and over the long haul.
In terms of education, should law schools look to fill part of the gap in teaching public administration that Volcker identifies?
Increasing the space for public administration or public policy in the law school curriculum faces some challenges. One challenge is economic: how much gold is in them hills? Will this help students find jobs and build careers? A more daunting challenge is philosophical. Law schools largely teach rhetoric. Public administration/policy programs are about making decisions. Just because the first word is the same doesn't mean that policy arguments and policy analysis belong to the same genus.
Still, there are some pearls for law schools even in Volcker's short interview, for example, teaching statistics and how statistics should and should not be used.
Sarah Lawsky is very good to be willing to do the work to put together a possibly-incomplete-but-it's-the-best-we-have report on entry level hires; you should give it a look. The business law market was pretty sliced and diced by the subject categories of the report; by my count [UPDATE: which is quite incorrect, but there is a better cut made in the comments, so do give them a look, and treat the below as very, very salty]:
1 Agency and Partnership
1 Bus Org
2 Business Associations
1 Business Ethics
1 Business Law
1 Corporate Finance
1 Financial Institutions
1 Financial Transactions
That's a total of 23, and I'm leaving out IBT (5), White Collar Crime (1), and Law & Econ (6), which seems reasonable; I think each candidate only got to pick one category.
How does this compare? Health care seems like the niche where candidates are most likely to succeed; it had 9 hires, and it isn't easy to find nine bona fide health care candidates in the FAR. So that is quite mind-boggling, and may be a case of chasing the news. As is typical, there were 15 international hires (and 7 immigration), but international is a field that provides a lot of candidates, as well as, for good or ill, a lot of demand. Out of 106 total hires, the business law subjects accounted for 22% of the market, probably the largest category, but I'm sure business law professors would tell you that it isn't nearly enough. If you ask me, it remains a category in which market candidates can find joy, and hiring schools can find the competition for slots strong.
But I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about the business law share too.
OK, that's a weird title. Once a year, I post something that I suspect makes Gordon cringe. This will do for the year.
Around 2006, I was on a treadmill ( a literal one, not a figurative one) in Wisconsin watching some morning news program. One of the bits was about a woman in her 50s who had successfully borne a child using eggs she had frozen back in her more fertile days. I looked at my friend, a pediatric physician and researcher, and said, "Weird." My friend didn't bat an eyelash, said, "That is awesome. I totally would have done that."
In the WSJ this weekend, there was an article that suggests those of us who mentor young professional women should include a freeze-your-fertility discussion in addition to any lessons gleaned from Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In craze. My first thought again was, "weird," but now I'm rethinking this. But, more broadly, I think my reaction to the article and its suggestions raise broader questions.
1. No one ever talks with male law students or associates about when children, so why talk to women about it? I think this is what bothers me most. In a perfect world, the questions that male law students ask me would be the same as the ones that female law students ask, but they aren't. Female law students ask me all the time about having kids and making partner and whether those two things are mutually exclusive. That's reality. So, mostly I stick to answering the "making partner" part because I don't feel all that comfortable talking to people who aren't my close friends about making babies. But I guess I'm not really answering the question then. When I was an associate, a female partner came to my office and asked how old I would be when (if) I made partner (this was at Baker Botts, and the math turned up the magic age of 31). She said, "There's the answer. Don't have kids until then." I was fairly appalled at this conversation. Maybe because she was the last person I wanted to talk to about making babies, but also because of point #2.
2. Having babies is a romantic notion, not a pragmatic one. Bringing harsh realism into future thoughts of motherhood is icky. I was appalled at the partner's advice partly because (as I repeated to my friends over lunch) "the moment I start timing my babies because of my career is the moment that I have lost it." That makes for a great lunch soundbite, but it may not be all that realistic. One reason for my declaration was that I thought I was the invincible rockstar associate. I could do anything, including have a lot of babies and make partner, even though other, weaker women, had tried and failed. But, not only was my impression of my own career trajectory romantic, but so also my visions of motherhood. I was enough of a feminist to appreciate the ability of modern technology (birth control) to allow women to postpone motherhood until the right point in their adult lives (finishing education, marriage stability, financial stability), but not enough to embrace postponing motherhood for climbing the career ladder. Because that would mean I was a bad person whose priorities were messed up.
So, my first thoughts when the author (Sarah Elizabeth Richards) suggests that young women freeze their eggs is "ick -- your priorities are messed up." But I think I'm wrong. The reality is that to "have it all" or to "have something approaching all" is that a little timing is necessary. I'm not a doctor, but my guess is that young eggs are healthier eggs, and I've known so many women who struggled with trying to make older eggs do the work of younger eggs. Would it alleviate that heartbreak? Some have argued that Sandberg finds it easy to talk about kids and work because she was already very successful when she had her children in 2005 and 2007, both post-age 35. It is a tricky business to postpone kids. Technology seems to have made it less tricky. The 1970s may have given women the technology to postpone pregnancy at their own peril; today's technology may reduce that peril.
Will I ever incorporate this discussion into the many office conversations I have with female law students? I don't know; that still feels a little too ick. Maybe they can just read this blog post!