It's a pretty good article, but all the law school sturm und drang is still missing an important "compared to what?" Federal school loan default rates are 9%. I bet the loan default rates subsidizing community college attendance are substantially higher than the law school default rate, and we're expanding that program. Since no one appears to have checked, I'm just going to posit that law school loan default rates are lower than they are for any other form of higher education. And I bet I'm close enough to right about that to make other professional schools pretty nervous about going through the current law school wringer.
Anyway, and in contrast to the above punditry, I thought this observation by Henderson and his co-author was particularly insightful:
Students who choose the highest-ranked school to accept them tend to be the biggest borrowers because their LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are more likely to be below the school’s median statistics. As a result, these students get less merit scholarship aid, which pushes their cost of attendance to $40,000-$65,000 per year. After three years, the cumulative debt is $120,000-$195,000, with a blended interest rate of roughly 7.3 percent.
In other words, the long pushed best strategy of picking your law school may leave the students the worst off in its aftermath. That's pretty interesting.
Thanks to Erik Gerding for the opportunity to share some of my ideas on corporate criminal liability, Dodd-Frank, corporate influences on individual behavior and educating today's law students only three months into my new academic career. I appreciate the thoughtful and encouraging emails I received from many of you. I even received a request for an interview from the Wall Street Journal after a reporter read my two blog posts on Dodd-Frank conflicts minerals governance disclosures. We had a lengthy conversation and although I only had one quote, he did link to the Conglomerate posts and for that I am very grateful.
I plan to make this site required reading for my seminar students, and look forward to continuing to learn from you all.
Best wishes for the holiday season and new year.
Law schools are under attack. Depending upon the source, between 20-50% of corporate counsel won’t pay for junior associate work at big firms. Practicing lawyers, academics, law students and members of the general public have weighed in publicly and vehemently about the perceived failure of America’s law schools to prepare students for the real world.
Admittedly, before I joined academia a few months ago, I held some of the same views about lack of preparedness. Having worked with law students and new graduates as outside and in house counsel, I was often unimpressed with the level of skills of these well-meaning, very bright new graduates. I didn’t expect them to know the details of every law, but I did want them to know how to research effectively, write clearly, and be able to influence the clients and me. The first two requirements aren’t too much to expect, and schools have greatly improved here. But many young attorneys still leave school without the ability to balance different points of view, articulate a position in plain English, and influence others.
To be fair, unlike MBAs, most law students don’t have a lot of work experience, and generally, very little experience in a legal environment before they graduate. Assuming they know the substantive area of the law, they don’t have any context as to what may be relevant to their clients.
How can law schools help?
First, regardless of the area in which a student believes s/he wants to specialize, schools should require them to take business associations, tax, and a basic finance or accounting course. No lawyer can be effective without understanding business, whether s/he wants to focus on mom and pop clients, estate planning, family law, nonprofit, government or corporate law. More important, students have no idea where they will end up after graduation or ten years later. Trying to learn finance when they already have a job wastes the graduate’s and the employer’s time.
Of course, many law schools already require tax and business organizations courses, but how many of those schools also show students an actual proxy statement or simulate a shareholder’s meeting to provide some real world flavor? Do students really understand what it means to be a fiducuiary?
Second and on a related point, in the core courses, students may not need to draft interrogatories in a basic civil procedure course, but they should at least read a complaint and a motion for summary judgment, and perhaps spend some time making the arguments to their brethren in the classroom on a current case on a docket. No one can learn effectively by simply reading appellate cases. Why not have students redraft contract clauses? When I co-taught professional responsibility this semester, students simulated client conversations, examined do-it-yourself legal service websites for violations of state law, and wrote client letters so that the work came alive.
When possible, schools should also re-evaluate their core requirements to see if they can add more clinicals (which are admittedly expensive) or labs for negotiation, client consultation or transactional drafting (like my employer UMKC offers). I’m not convinced that law school needs to last for three years, but I am convinced that more of the time needs to be spent marrying the doctrinal and theoretical work to practical skills into the current curriculum.
Third, schools can look to their communities. In addition to using adjuncts to bring practical experience to the classroom, schools, the public and private sector should develop partnerships where students can intern more frequently and easily for school credit in the area of their choice, including nonprofit work, local government, criminal law, in house work and of course, firm work of all sizes. Current Department of Labor rules unnecessarily complicate internship processes and those rules should change.
This broader range of opportunities will provide students with practical experience, a more realistic idea of the market, and will also help address access to justice issues affecting underserved communities, for example by allowing supervised students to draft by-laws for a 501(c)(3). I’ll leave the discussion of high student loans, misleading career statistics from law schools and the oversupply of lawyers to others who have spoken on these hot topics issues recently.
Fourth, law schools should integrate the cataclysmic changes that the legal profession is undergoing into as many classes as they can. Law professors actually need to learn this as well. How are we preparing students for the commoditization of legal services through the rise of technology, the calls for de-regulation, outsourcing, and the emerging competition from global firms who can integrate legal and other professional services in ways that the US won’t currently allow?
Finally and most important, what are we teaching students about managing and appreciating risk? While this may not be relevant in every class, it can certainly be part of the discussions in many. Perhaps students will learn more from using a combination of reading law school cases and using the business school case method.
If students don’t understand how to recognize, measure, monitor and mitigate risk, how will they advise their clients? If they plan to work in house, as I did, they serve an additional gatekeeper role and increasingly face SEC investigations and jail terms. As more general counsels start hiring people directly from law schools, junior lawyers will face these complexities even earlier in their careers. Even if they counsel external clients, understanding risk appetite is essential in an increasingly complex, litigious and regulated world.
When I teach my course on corporate governance, compliance and social responsibility next spring, my students will look at SEC comment letters, critically scrutinize corporate social responsibility reports, read blogs, draft board minutes, dissect legislation, compare international developments and role play as regulators, legislators, board members, labor organizations, NGOs and executives to understand all perspectives and practice influencing each other. Learning what Sarbanes-Oxley or Dodd-Frank says without understanding what it means in practice is useless.
The good news is that more schools are starting to look at those kinds of issues. The Carnegie Model of legal education “supports courses and curricula that integrate three sets of values or ‘apprenticeships’: knowledge, practice and professionalism.” Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a growing consortium of law schools which recommends “an integrated, three-part curriculum: (1) the teaching of legal doctrine and analysis, which provides the basis for professional growth; (2) introduction to the several facets of practice included under the rubric of lawyering, leading to acting with responsibility for clients; and (3) exploration and assumption of the identity, values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purposes of the legal profession.” The University of Miami’s innovative LawWithoutWalls program brings students, academics, entrepreneurs and practitioners from around the world together to examine the fundamental shifts in legal practice and education and develop viable solutions.
The problems facing the legal profession are huge, but not insurmountable. The question is whether more law schools and professors are able to leave their comfort zones, law students are able to think more globally and long term, and the popular press and public are willing to credit those who are already moving in the right direction. I’m no expert, but as a former consumer of these legal services, I’m ready to do my part.
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I am honored to be a guest blogger, especially since I am brand new to the academy having worked in the private sector for nineteen years as a commercial litigator, HR executive, deputy general counsel and compliance/ethics officer for a Fortune 500 multinational corporation. I will spend the next two years as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City learning to teach (marrying theory and practice) and focusing on scholarship and coursework related to corporate governance, compliance, social responsibility and the future of the legal profession.
Over the next two weeks I plan to write about two Dodd-Frank provisions- conflict minerals and whistleblower; my call for an affirmative defense for a redesigned “effective compliance program” under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines; the ongoing debate about the value of a law school education; in-house counsel as "gatekeepers"; and a book review of Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People by law professor Lynn Stout, which offers an alternative look at the homo economicus model. I look forward to receiving comments that can inform my research and thank Erik Gerding for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
I've been doing a few other things lately, but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed at least two articles about the high costs of law school that I feel not only need commentary, but I guess my commentary. (If youa re blogger and don't think the world needs your commentary, then that would be odd.)
Ian Ayres and Akhil Amar propose giving law students a rebate of half a year's tuition if they quit after first years. I suppose I should say this is a good idea (or at least half a good idea) because I suggested essentially a full year's rebate eighteen months ago here. I still think that lessening the sunk costs of quitting is a good idea, but many people in the blogosphere disagreed with me at the time. Here is one of the more positive critiques, by my colleague Larry Ribstein, but I saw on some students' blogs phrases like "worst idea ever."
And, of course, David Segal's NYT article, which seemed to imply a connection between rising law school costs, writing law review articles, and not teaching law students practical skills. The article had lots of numbers about how much it costs to produce a law review article and how many days new professors have practiced, but it didn't have any numbers as to whether clinical education was on the wane or on the rise in law schools. However, the article definitely seemed to say that if law schools hired lawyers, rather than Ph.D.'s, then more practical skills would be taught, teaching would be better, law school would be cheaper, and there might be better job prospects for graduates. As someone who practiced for five years before teaching (and whose spouse practiced twice that long), I should agree with Segal, but I just can't. His article rests on many unproven and nonintuitive assumptions.
First, that lawyers teach better than Ph.D.'s, or that folks who have practiced longer teacher better than those that have practiced less. Teaching is part skill, part substance. Lawyers may know more substance about particular areas, but that doesn't guarantee good teaching. Looking around my faculty, which houses many excellent teachers, there is no direct tie between practice experience and teaching skill. In any event, at least Ph.D.'s, or those who have been academic fellows or VAPs, have experience teaching. I once supervised 31 adjuncts at a law school, and some were magnificent, some were horrible, some just did not have the time and some even disappeared.
OK, but what about the related assumption that lawyers teach practical skills better than academics. This is probably true, which is why clinics are usually supervised by those with experience (though I have actually seen the opposite). However, that then leads to the next assumption, which is that lawyers teaching practical skills would be cheaper than academics. This does not seem to be true. First, clinics have to have a different student-teacher ratio, so you have to hire more lawyer-teachers. Very successful lawyers have very high opportunity costs, so most schools couldn't hire one of them, much less twenty. So, clinics tend to be limited, serving a small number of students, to keep the hiring down. And, clinical professors tend not to be paid as well, so whether you can attract those with exceptional skills varies greatly depending on location, luck, etc. Or, you can hire adjuncts, which has also has high variance depending on location, luck, etc.
There seems to be an assumption that back when law schools hired from the practicing bar only, law school graudates were better prepared. I've been around law schools for over 20 years now and the theory v. practice argument was old when I was applying to law school. Law schools weren't full of clinics, they just had former practitioners teach the same classes that are taught now in the same way.
And (almost) finally, law school tuition was lower years ago because law schools hired from the practicing bar. This doesn't ring true, either. Tuition has gone up greatly, but the reasons seem to be diffuse. State tuition has gone up dramatically because it is no longer subsidized. (I guess there is an argument to be made that at one point, state-run legal education was underpriced, and I'm glad that I benefited from that!) Rising salaries may have contributed to some of the increased costs, but it's hard to tie rising salaries to a rising preference for nonpractitioners. The rise in salaries seemed to track the rise in legal salaries, which seems to point to the opportunity costs for hiring those with either experience or practice opportunities. We're just at an odd point now where legal salaries are in decline, but academic salaries aren't because of organizational differences (tenure, etc.).
And, finally, that law school could effectively and economically prepare law students for law practice without relying on firms to provide training. Given the heterogeneity of law practice, I'm just not convinced. Thinking about medical school, that practical training takes four years, with one year of clinical rotation, and is very expensive to deliver. In addition, medical school graduates, though medical doctors, then have to complete a residency program, and possibly a specialty program in order to "walk into a courtroom." So, following that model would make law school much more costly for the student, much longer, and probably require federal subsidization the way that residency programs do.
OK, that's enough. I'm one of the first people willing to say that a lot could be done to reform legal education and the tuition structure, but I don't think I'll take a lot of my ideas from David Segal.
Others have already contributed more thoughtful reactions to today’s New York Times front page indictment of legal education, than I can. But, let me offer a few thoughts of my own. Because the article places a premium on practical experience, I’ll borrow a page from my 8 years in practice and offer a bullet point list:
1. Practice for the long haul: I wholeheartedly agree that law schools should be doing a better job preparing graduates for practice. Yet there is a substantial difference between preparing a law graduate to practice on day one and preparing a graduate for practice over her entire career. Law students should get a generous helping of training in legal analysis and legal skills so that they can hit the ground running. But they also need other tools if they are going to succeed and perhaps even enjoy legal practice over the long run. Legal theory of various stripes, much maligned, gives graduates the context of “why.” “Why does the client want to do this deal?” “What is the regulator’s concern here?” “What can we accomplish for the client with this litigation?”
Young graduates are not going to get this context in practice – whether they work for a law firm, a public interest organization, or the government. There is no time and little immediate incentive to ask these questions when you are working 70 plus hours a week. There are also few mentors available to answer “why” questions.
But if legal graduates are going to get their heads above water and carve out a long term career for themselves, they need to think about why. They need to retain their ability to think creatively. A lot of the “law and…” courses give graduates a framework for thinking about legal problems that they can use, if not in year 1, hopefully in years 5, 6, 7 … And graduates will certainly need a larger framework and broader perspective if they hope to change the law. Or do we not care about that?
Law schools need to get students jobs today, but we should not let our time horizon switch to the equivalent of educational day trading.
2. Don’t judge teaching by a professor’s ssrn page: A professor’s scholarship is not always an indication of how she teaches in the classroom. I’ll use myself as an example. My scholarship is theoretical. My teaching is much more nuts and bolts practice oriented. I look to give students what I wish I had learned before I practiced.
3. Judges are generally not the audience for scholarship: I don’t really care if my scholarship is cited by the Supreme Court. That is not the audience I am writing for. I would hazard a guess that many professors are like me and write (not only for other legal academics) but for Congressional staff, regulators, practitioners, industry participants, consumer groups…
Plus, why would an academic aim to write for Supreme Court justices? I thought all they did was call balls and strikes. If judges are not interested in scholarship, why write for them?
4. Some courts do read scholarship: As Matt Bodie pointed out in the blog a few days ago, some judges, like those in the Delaware Court of Chancery, are active readers of legal scholarship.
Now that the bullet points are out of my system, there is a lot that the NY Times article gets right. Brian Leiter, by no means a legal practice freak, asked a few weeks ago why schools weigh research potential so much more than any other factor in hiring. Scholars with advanced degrees in other fields play a vital role in legal education, but would students want a whole school of professors with no practical experience? Perhaps, but only if the school is so highly ranked that students can get jobs regardless of the content of their education but because employers will hire them as the school super-selectivity means it has already cherry-picked the brightest young things. The thing about selectivity and school competition though, is that by necessity only a few schools can get away with this.
Of course, lots of schools want to be Yale and lots of professors want to be at Yale. So do what Yale does. We need to pay close attention to law professor incentives. If you want to move up the academic ladder, publishing is paramount, placement is prestige, and citation counts are crucial. So you have to write something that will appeal to a student law review editor at a top journal (who also cares about how often the piece will be cited in the future). This is not news.
But there is one feature of citation counts that has been “under-explored” (to use one of the most “over-used” phrases in law review speak). It tends to result in professors writing on topics that appeal to a much broader audience than just the specialists in their field. This tends to lead to a surplus of articles on “My New Theory of Law.” (To give law review editors a preview of my next piece, I argue that “law” should be thought of by imagining its under-theorized, polar opposite, “wal.”) Some of this ambitious work is quite good. But the question is what happens when too many professors have the same ambition.
This little rambling post started out as a critique of the Times article, but ends with a warning that the legal academy should not get too satisfied. There is great danger is thinking backwards from “this is what I have always taught and wrote” and “this is what will get me ahead” to “this is how the law school ought to function.” There is a real crisis in student employment and law schools need to keep nimble and keep rethinking legal education. But let’s have a sensible mix of practical and theoretical education that prepares students for a longer horizon than the NY Times news cycle.
(By the way, anyone want to bet on how long it takes the NY Times to run another path-breaking story on the crisis in legal education? My guess is three weeks – right before Christmas.)
Alas, this is the last post of my guest blogging stint here at the Glom. Thanks again for an informative and transformative 2-week set of experiences and memories.
I second Erik's post about law schools fostering humility. Eric poses these 2 fundamental questions:
1. Can one be both ambitious and humble?
2. Can law schools both inspire to dream large dreams -- personal and social -- while still warning about our own fallibility and the limitations of law?
I believe and hope that the answer to both of Eric's questions is yes.
1) Ambition is a great motivator for action, but unless ambition is accompanied with humility ambition often leads to arrogance, conceit, and hubris. A consequence of ambition often is great power and as is often quoted, "with great power comes great responsibility."
2) Not only law schools, but also such other professional schools as those for business, medicine, and public policy can and should "both inspire to dream large dreams -- personal and social -- while still warning about our own fallibility and the limitations of" the profession for which they are preparing their students to enter.
I will be teaching Legal Ethics and Professionalism for the first time next semester and have decided after detailed consideration of the many books and supplements from Aspen, Foundation, and Lexis to adopt these 3 books:
a) Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder, The Happy Lawyer: Making A Good Life in the Law (2010), ISBN: 978-0195392326. This book is just a wonderful source for law students and lawyers about recent scholarship about happiness and how to balance professional work and personal life. More generally, the book helps readers think about and find meaning in their quest for a satisfying career in the law.
b) Scott L. Rogers, Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindfulness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School (2009), ISBN: 978-0977345519. This little paperback is another great resource for law students to help them integrate mindfulness into their busy and stressful lives.
Leonard Riskin, the Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law at the University of Florida, who currently is visiting at Northwestern law school, has been a long-time pioneer in championing the benefits of practicing mindfulness to law and mediation:
3) Michael C. Ross, Ethics and Integrity in Law and Business: Avoiding "Club Fed" (2011), ISBN: 978-1422479704. This paperback textbook succeeds at being a delightfully engaging, fresh, funny, and practical take on the professional responsibility course, which is often required in law school. This book contains many relevant quotes from authors, economists, humorists, judges, philosophers, and scientists. It also has wonderfully on point cartoons and comics from the Wall Street Journal and P. C. Vey, among others.
This book imparts much pragmatic wisdom about how to choose ethical behavior during tough economic times.
Not surprisingly to readers of Glom who have read my posts about business movies, I also plan to show film and television show clips in class to provoke discussion about violations of ethical rules and what sort of lawyers and values are possible and which of those possibilities are likely to lead to personal happiness and professional satisfaction. For example, three recent television programs that raise issues related to professional ethics and personal values are these:
I close this post and my guest blogging by providing the opening two paragraphs from a just completed manuscript, Tiger Cub Strikes Back: Memoirs of an Ex-Child Prodigy About Parenting and Legal Education. This working paper is related to many of the issues and themes I've raised in the 10 posts during this 2-week guest blogging opportunity. And yes, the first paragraph may seem to be immodest and ironic after discussing the importance of humility. The reason to include that paragraph in this post is that everything in that paragraph is true and verifiably so. Also, this post advocates true humility and not false humility. It would be an exercise in false humility to hide or deprecate my own past for the mere sake of appearing humble.
I believe that Amy Chua, tiger mom and Yale law professor, would see my life as exemplifying successful tiger parenting. I am an American born Chinese, who at age 14 enrolled as a freshman at Princeton University and 3 years later at age 17 after being a University Scholar there graduated Phi Beta Kappa earning an A.B. in mathematics. I also earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University and a J.D. from Stanford University (after having been a 1L at the University of Chicago). My Ph.D. thesis advisor was 1972 economics Nobel Laureate and mathematical economic theorist, Kenneth Joseph Arrow. After serving as an economist in the Division of Consumer Protection in the Bureau of Economics of the Federal Trade Commission, I taught in economics departments from coast to coast, including at Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of California Los Angeles; in the finance department of the A.B. Freeman business school at Tulane University; and in law schools at Yale University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, University of Minnesota, and University of Southern California. I co-authored a law school course book about law and popular culture, while a member of the Institute for Advanced Study School of Social Science, during its psychology and economics thematic focus academic year. I am currently a professor and the inaugural DeMuth Chair at the University of Colorado School of Law after having been a professor and the inaugural Kohn Chair at Temple University law school.
This Essay reflects upon the desirability, efficacy, and motivational consequences of having a tiger mom such as Professor Chua or my own immigrant mother, who is a New York University medical school biochemistry professor. This Essay also points out many similarities between mainstream modern American legal education and tiger parenting, including their common hierarchical, top-down learning environments that entail authority, compliance, extrinsic incentives, fear, memorization, obedience, paternalism, precedent, and respect for one’s elders. The educational methodologies and philosophies of tiger parenting and the prevailing orthodoxy of United States legal instruction, especially the substantive content of the standard first year law school curriculum, explicitly and implicitly privilege a type of information processing known as system two over a type of information processing known as system one. System two reasoning is analytical, cognitive, conscious, controlled, deliberative, effortful, logical, rule-based, and slow; while system one is affective, associative, automatic, fast, habitual, heuristic-based, holistic, intuitive, and unconscious. Ironically, the Socratic method of legal instruction often places a premium on answering a professor’s questions aggressively, quickly, or superficially instead of deeply, mindfully, or thoughtfully.
Adding to Peter's posts about law schools cultivating the emotional skills of law students, perhaps we should add humility to the list. Ross Douthat penned a compelling and unsettling column in the New York Times last week that used Jon Corzine as tragic figure to talk about the failings of our larger meritocratic enterprise. He writes:
In meritocracies, though, it’s the very intelligence of our leaders that creates the worst disasters. Convinced that their own skills are equal to any task or challenge, meritocrats take risks that lower-wattage elites would never even contemplate, embark on more hubristic projects, and become infatuated with statistical models that hold out the promise of a perfectly rational and frictionless world.
Hubris is in great supply at law schools, elite and otherwise, and on law faculties too. Can one be both ambitious and humble? Can law schools both inspire to dream large dreams -- personal and social -- while still warning about our own fallibility and the limitations of law?
I am happy to recommend a new blog Brazen And Tenured - Law Politics Nature and Culture from two of my colleagues: Pierre Schlag, Byron White Professor of Constitutional Law, and Sarah Krakoff, Wolf-Nichol Fellow. Pierre's research interests include constitutional law, jurisprudence, legal philosophy, and tort law. Pierre wrote an essay, The Faculty Workshop, which examines how the institution of law school faculty workshops expresses, regulates, and reproduces legal academic behavior, governance, hierarchy, norms, and thought. Sarah's research interests include civil procedure; Indian law, and natural resources law. Sarah is working on a book about the different stages of humans' relationship to nature, which extends her book chapter, Parenting the Planet.
As Pierre described their blog, it's quite idiosyncratic as far as blogs are concerned. That having been said, Glom readers are likely to find their blog to be amusing, informative, and thought-provoking. Here are the two most recent examples.
Pierre's post entitled Tips for Legal Commentators: How to Talk to the Press is a delightful compendium of speaking points. It explains why the legal talking heads who come out of the woodwork to appear on television during any high-profile trial or other legal event always seem to say the same things with a high noise to signal ratio. My personal expeirence when speaking to print media financial journalists about securities fraud, materiality, derivatives, and Goldman Sachs is there is a very high probability (equal to one minus epsilon, where epsilon is a very small positive number) that I'll be misquoted to have said exactly the opposite of what I actually said! Pierre's advice for speaking to journalists has the virtue that it has the property of being subject matter and position invariant. In other words, no matter what legal topic and what viewpoint you have, Pierre's suggested sound bites will apply. Because they are universal and timeless, these quotes have the added virtue of making you sound profound and wise. Finally, these sample responses to media questions are brief, intuitive, memorable, and predictable. Once you deploy one, there is likely to be repeat demand for your expertise. On the other hand, if you do not enjoy being a talking head, then do the opposite of what Pierre recommends to ensure that reporters will not seek you out.
Sarah's post entitled The Economy versus the Environment? Not! (Or Why to Be Tigger Instead of Eeyore this Halloween) is a welcome reminder for both economists and environmentalists that being offered a choice between the economy and the environment is a false dichotomy that privileges a myopic time horizon and local opposed to global perspectives. Her post also nicely dovetails the small but growing literature applying empirical happiness research to support sustainable environmental policy. For example, Daniel A. Farber recently posted a working paper entitled Law, Sustainability, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which demonstrates that sustainability for society and the pursuit of individual happiness do not have to be at odds.
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For our readers who are interested in talking about the future of legal practice and what that means for the future of law schools, I'm sure that our Master's Forum merely whetted your appetitie. Well, you are in luck. National Law Journal has created an online forum called Law School Review, with well-known legal journalist Karen Sloan asking the questions and Brian Tamanaha, Bill Henderson, Erwin Chemerinsky and others answering the questions. Well worth reading.
So, a lot has been said in the blogosphere the past month or so about filling out the FAR form, interviewing at the AALS hiring conference, and now handling the job talk. I agree with all of the job talk tips, particularly making sure that your (prepared, but not read) remarks are no more than 30 minutes, and hopefully more like 20-25 minutes. I am a fan of powerpoint, I think, because I like to have something to look at during the talk. But, I agree that reading slides is a bad strategy. Perhaps more important than the end product, I think that the process of making a powerpoint helps the speaker organize thoughts, think critically about what should go in and in what order, and be thorough but brief. Finally, I like pictures on powerpoint, but not cartoons. As I try to tell my kids, reading cartoon captions to other people is never funny.
But, I wanted to add my own blog-voice here because I think the question and answer segment of the job talk is much more critical than I would have thought when I went to through the hiring conference. So, here are my Q&A tips, and I invite others to add to them:
1. Yes, there are no bad questions, but don't start every response with "That's a good question." It becomes comical after awhile, and no one believes you.
2. If it's a good question, write it down or pretend to write it down. If I ask what I think is a very pertinent question, and the speaker does not say something like "Yes, I've thought of that a lot, and here is the answer," then it sort of peeves me when they don't write it down or jot a note or something. Hopefully the speaker is a scholar, who would like to improve his/her knowledge or the field and the substance of the paper and not just survive the grilling today.
3. You may not have to answer every question, but address every question. A junior scholar told me that her mentors at her fellowship said that the question is like a ball. Catch the ball, turn it over, toss it up in the air a few times, then toss it back. I'm not sure what that means, but it certainly doesn't mean ramble on about something different or answer in such a way as to imply that the question doesn't deserve an answer. At some schools, the questioner or someone else may even interrupt and point out that you didn't answer the question.
4. If a later questioner says, "This goes back to so-and-so's question," then you may not have answered the question. Do so now. If you really haven't ever thought about it, and you are freezing, just admit that you haven't thought about that question, but you really should. Ask if you can talk to the questioner more about it after the talk.
5. "That's not in the scope of this paper" is sometimes an ok answer, but not as often as you might think. Come up with a better way to say that or even indicate that you realize you need to incorporate that thought/body of scholarship/etc. in a later draft/follow-on paper, etc.
6. Practice questions and answers, not just your talk. At this point, many if not most candidates are in academic positions where they are getting the benefit of trial runs in front of experienced questioners who will work to ask the hard questions before someone else does. If you are not in that position, then try to get anyone you can to serve that function (colleagues, spouse, alma mater, mentor, etc.)
7. Practice for the dumb questions. Not all questions are going to be insightful. Some are going to clearly reflect that the questioner hasn't read the paper. Your first instinct may be to say "As I say in the paper," but there's probably a better way to say that. Some questions may even reflect that the questioner doesn't understand a particular area of law. You don't know if this person is the pariah of the faculty or the sweetheart who is having a bad day. Your delicate answer in either case will win you more friends than "winning." Your goal isn't to prove that you are smarter than your audience; your goal is to show what a great addition you would be.
8. After you finish a job talk, incorporate anything of value into your next one. This is where powerpoint can be a great tool. You probably won't have time to work on your paper or resend a draft, but you can change your powerpoint. If something is really different, you can even say that this slide hadn't made it's way into the draft you sent two weeks ago, etc.
9. The best way to be prepared for questions is to have had a lot of eyeballs on your paper already. It's hard to think of questions that might come from all quarters out of your own imagination. However, having people in other fields read your paper is a really good way to anticipate (or pre-empt) the "how does this relate to Space Law, where we have a doctrine that. . . . " question.
10. Smile, be happy. But don't be glib or flip. This is a fine line.
If you are an established corporate law scholar and are looking to move to one of the world's most beautiful cities (and join some stellar colleagues), here is a job announcement for you:
Faculty of Law at Allard Hall
University of British Columbia
Canada Research Chairs in Law (Tier 2)
The Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. Canada seeks to recruit and to nominate two Canadian Research Chairs in Law (Tier 2). The Canadian Research Chair program (www.chairs.gc.ca) was established by the Canadian Federal Government with the purpose of attracting outstanding researchers to the Canadian university system. Tier 2 nominees should meet the requirements for Tier 2 appointment as defined by the Canada Research Chairs program: http://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/program-programme/nomination-mise_en_candidature-eng.aspx.
The Faculty seeks emerging scholars with demonstrated potential for international profile and impact for appointment as an Assistant or Associate Professor. Absent exceptional circumstances, an LL.B., J.D. or equivalent law degree plus relevant advanced graduate level education will be required, with the candidate having completed his or her highest degree no more than ten years prior to nomination for the Chair. The successful candidate will have an outstanding academic record with a record of scholarship and a research plan that demonstrate the potential to contribute to the internationally acclaimed record of research and scholarship of one of Canada's premier law schools.
The Faculty is particularly interested in candidates whose work focuses on business law (especially corporate and finance law), intellectual property (including patents and biotechnology), and law and medicine. Although not required, it will be considered to be a positive factor if the candidate's scholarship in these core subject areas includes comparative research concerning Korea, India or China.
The successful applicant will be expected to establish a highly productive scholarly agenda including the development of research relationships with researchers across Canada and internationally, to provide effective teaching and mentoring of J.D. and graduate students, to contribute to the core curriculum of the Faculty, and to take on a leadership role appropriate for the appointed rank. Salary will be competitive and commensurate with the qualifications of the candidate.
UBC Law at Allard Hall, one of Canada's leading law schools, is committed to being one of the world's great centres for legal education and research. As part of an outstanding public university situated in one of the most open, diverse and beautiful places in the world, we offer an inspiring environment that combines rigorous professional legal training with an awareness of the role of law in society.
The Faculty offers a varied program of instruction in a broad array of legal fields to academically talented and diverse law students in the J.D., LL.M. and Ph.D. programs. Our faculty members encourage students to develop creative and effective approaches to legal analysis and problem solving. As researchers, faculty members are engaged with and connected to academics, practitioners, and policy-makers around the globe, and are committed to ensuring that their research makes a difference. The Faculty is housed in a brand new, state-of-the-art law building, Allard Hall, designed to fully support teaching and research. More information about the Faculty of Law can be found at www.law.ubc.ca and http://www.law.ubc.ca/strategic_plan/index.html.
Applicants should submit (1) a cover letter indicating interest in a CRC appointment that identifies the applicant's academic and research accomplishments along with any teaching experience; (2) a curriculum vitae; (3) the candidate's undergraduate, law and graduate transcripts; (4) the names of four references; and (5) evidence of teaching effectiveness, such as evaluations, if available. Publications will not be returned and incomplete applications may not be accepted. While unofficial academic transcripts may be submitted with the candidate's initial application, official academic transcripts will be required before appointment.
Electronic applications are strongly preferred. These can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Where necessary, application materials can be mailed to:
- Dean Mary Anne Bobinski
- Faculty of Law at Allard Hall
- University of British Columbia
- 1822 East Mall
- Vancouver, B.C. V6T1Z1
The positions will remain open for at least one month after posting with applications reviewed on a rolling basis. Early applications are strongly encouraged as the Faculty will work with the successful applicant to submit a CRC nomination to the CRC secretariat by April 2012. The successful candidates may assume tenure track or tenured faculty positions at UBC as early as July 1, 2012, however the final determination of eligibility for a CRC is subject to review and approval by the CRC Secretariat.
The University of British Columbia hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. The Faculty of Law is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to further diversification of ideas.
Canada Research Chairs are open to individuals of any nationality; offers will be made in accordance UBC policy, the requirements of the Canada Research Chairs Program and best fit with the Faculty's core mandate and mission.
Almost every single one of them, it appears. His solution is that the top administrations ought to agree on an accurate reporting system; mine would be that there ought to be a one-time external audit of a random sample of law schools that would identify just how inaccurate their reports were, so that the emptor can approach the enrollment decision with more caveats.
Wharton just had Chris Rider in to talk about what happened to the lawyers from the six big law firms that dissolved during the financial crisis - you know, Thelen, Dreier, Heller Ehrman, &c. As always with these sorts of projects, some of the most interesting stuff to non-specialists is the descriptive stuff; 88% of the lawyers found jobs, most with one of the 250 largest law firms, and partners did better than associates. But what Rider was really interested in was how your network affected the quality of your next job, given that who you know probably really matters in that endeavor.
But how do researchers figure out who you know? Rider looked at law school alumni networks, and co-worker networks, and the upshot was that the better predictor of which firm would hire the Heller refugees were the firms that hired other Heller lawyers (and that Heller lawyers hired in groups were more likely to end up at better firms), but that people were more likely to end up in the office of a firm with many of their fellow law school graduates than chance would predict.
I don't really believe that the alma mater of a 15 years out partner makes a difference in where they lateral to, so I suspect that something unobserved is going on there. And I'm not surprised that firms were more likely to hire Thelen's entire ERISA litigation team instead of some random Thelen lawyer, and that if you were part of a marketable team, all the better for you. But it's still a pretty interesting project - amid all the angst about what is hapening to the legal profession, this paper has some answers. There's an early version of it here.
Related to our discussion on whether law school is a scam is the question of whether there are too many lawyers and too few jobs. But are there too few lawyers? That would be the deregulate everything conclusion, and, there is obviously something to it - must you pay a 25 year old 160 grand to search corporate emails for priviledge claims? Are three years of the Socratic method absolutely necessary to help people draft wills? &c.
Anyway, The Brookings Institution's Clifford Winston has come out with a study arguing that there is way too much regulation of legal services provision, and that we need more law practitioners, like nurse practitioners or Cuban barefoot doctors. It doesn't break too much new ground, but I found the study to be provocative. Here it is, here's Winston talking about it on EconTalk and HuffPost.