My friend and former colleague, John Kidwell, passed away recently. The story on the University of Wisconsin Law School webpage is here. John struggled with his health for the entire time that I knew him, but he was always gracious in the face of pain and discomfort, even when serving as an associate dean. He was a great storyteller, and I loved to hear him talk about his growing up years in South Dakota. He had a well-organized mind, and I learned a great deal from him in our weekly lunch of Contracts teachers. I last saw him at the conference honoring Stewart Macaulay last fall, and seeing him there was like coming home. I miss you, John.
The latest U.S. News law school rankings are out. I received them yesterday morning -- somehow I got on the advance notice list -- but I restrained myself from blogging until today. Some observations:
- The employment numbers look bleak across the board (only 92% of Yale grads employed 9 months after graduation?), but especially as you descend in the rankings.
- One of the most important factors in the rankings is expenditures per student, but US News doesn't show that number.
- I expected more slippage in the student quality numbers among the Top 50 law schools, but with the huge nationwide decline in applications this year, I think it will be hard for many schools to hold their numbers in next year's rankings.
- Stanford and Harvard switched spots, but no one is going to catch Yale, unless the formula changes.
- The T-14 was restored this year, with Cornell replacing Georgetown as the last of the bunch and Texas falling back to #16 (tied with Vandy).
- Two schools in the Top 50 (ASU and Washington) made giant leaps up the rankings.
- Illinois fell, as expected, after the issue relating to the reporting of admissions numbers.
- The most intriguing regional pairing (besides BYU-Utah, of course) is ASU and Arizona, which have not only switched places over the past few years, but are now separated by 17 spots! Looking at the reported numbers, it looks like employment numbers are ASU's big advantage.
- Another regional pairing that I noticed because of my own employment history is Lewis & Clark (58) and Oregon (82) ... 24 spots! Those schools used to be much closer, with Oregon ranked ahead of L&C for many years, but employment is also a separator in this instance.
- If you think the Peer Assessment Score is an important measure of quality, North Carolina stands out as underranked, and the big climbers (ASU and Washington) look overranked. No school outside the Top 50 had a score of 3.0 or above.
Those are just a few casual observations. What did you notice?
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 methodical 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 the end of April 2012. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and encourages women and members of minority communities to apply.
The original was about melanoma ...
The derivative work is about law school ...
Law school bashing works. Applications to law schools were down almost 10% last year, and we look to be headed for a 15%+ decline this year. When I speak with prospective law students, they express real concerns about what they have read on the internet. So it's no surprise that this video is getting lots of attention, but I wonder if we will look back someday and finger this as the moment when law school bashing jumped the shark.
Paul Caron has posted his annual list of Fellowships for Aspiring Law Professors, a very useful guide for those hoping to break into law teaching.
Prawfsblawg's community spreadsheet thingy is here. You should contribute if you can. It's already looking quite interesting.
But it does illustrate one of the difficulties of trying to play moneyball in an area that isn't baseball, finance, or the weather. For those subjects, data has been collected every day for decades, and it has been systematized in a single place.
But we probably won't get perfect accuracy on who got hired by where from the Prawfs database, we won't get many variables on them, and law school hiring happens once a year, on different standards than law schools employed just ten years ago. Apples to apples comparisons are difficult. And if you want to know how those entry levels at top schools did it, you're talking about a tiny number of subjects. What's the added value (or disutility) of a Yale JD, a pre-law career as an equities analyst, or a Ph.D in sociology? I doubt you could tell anything other than an anecdotal story about whether these resume items are good or bad.
Which in turn makes moneyball stories in law schools not tales of zigging where others zagged, but rather a plausible story that that's what you did. That may be more an exercise in marketing, rather than number crunching.
The NYT is having a discussion forum today on unpaid student internships. For those of you who have not had this topic on your radar, here's a brief catchup: Internships have become increasingly prevalent for college students, business school students and law students. For law schools, internships and externships provide students with the practical experience that they need, supervised by folks who do this full-time. However, the Labor Department has issued guidance on these internships that some people pay attention to and others don't. I'll detail the guidance criteria below. The debate is whether these criteria (and their enforcement) are beneficial in that they protect students from exploitation or whether they hinder students from obtaining useful work experience and career contacts.
According to a January 2010 memo from the U.S. Department of Labor, an intern may be considered an "employee" for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act unless the worker is a bona fide "trainee." If the intern is an employee, then minimm wage and overtime provisions apply. The memo then lists six factors to consider, including these two: "training is for the the benefit of the trainees" and "the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded."
So, in the context of a law school internship, to meet the criteria, the school would not be able to recruit employers by emphasizing the benefit the employer would get from our smart, go-getter students and the employer would not be able to profit from the student's labor (i.e., bill out the work). According to the memo, "if the workers are engaged in the primary operations of the employer and are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work, or assisting customers), then the fact that they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits is unlikely to make them trainees given the benefits receied by the employer." In other words, if it's a good deal for the employer, then it probably will not qualify as an unpaid internship. Because of this, many law school internships are with nonprofits, who don't have to worry about this. But, there are only so many nonprofits and some students would like (ahem) transactional experience in a corporation or a law firm.
The discussion is mostly about undergraduates, but Above the Law's David Lat weighs in from the legal training side. His take is basically the same as mine. These internships are valuable. Everyone is making a rational choice. They probably do not shut out those seeking paid work, but even if they do, so does the minimum wage that would otherwise apply. If companies were not allowed to offer unpaid internships, then they would offer a much smaller number of paid internships (maybe zero).
Some critics complain that the explosion of unpaid internships hurts those who are not in a financial position to take them. This may be true. Students from poorer backgrounds may not be able to pad their resumes with activities and volunteering, may have to work during college instead of studying 24/7, and may find unpaid internships pose a financial hardship on them. No laws can change the myriad ways in which those with financial and social capital have advantages. But, I think we should also ask "compared to what?" I don't think there is a parallel world of thousands of paid internships that would instantly bloom if unpaid internships were outlawed. I think the choices would then be between a small number of paid internships in a student's desired field compared to finding wage-earning employment in retail, food, etc. For law students, paid internships and clerkships are at historical lows. Liberalizing unpaid internships is more likely to get more law students more experience than convert all of those choice gigs into unpaid slave labor.
This is the year for BYU Law School's accreditation review by the ABA, and we just had dinner with the ABA Site Evaluation Team. This sabbatical visit is designed to gather facts, so the ABA can determine whether we are in compliance with the ABA Standards. Critics argue that adherence to the ABA Standards blunts innovation in legal education. That is the thrust of the debate surrounding Duncan School of Law's battle with the ABA, which was featured last month in the NYT.
One thing that isn't often mentioned in these discussions is that the spreading of innovation is one of the ABA's stated purposes of the accrediation process. According to the ABA Overview, "Innovative approaches to legal education are to be encouraged and the accreditation process can foster growth and development by providing a clearinghouse for fresh ideas."
Hmm ... does innovation really spread through the accreditation process? If so, how often?
If you are interested in teaching business law, check out UCLA's new teaching fellowship. The details are here.
I'm a little behind, but earlier this week, while I was teaching, the WSJ published an op-ed by John McGinnis (Northwestern Law) and Ruseell Mangas (Kirkland & Ellis and recent NW graduate) entitled "First, Let's Kill All the Law Schools." The gist of the controversial op-ed is that by allowing Law majors in college to sit for the bar, we would increase the number of lawyers, cut fees, and cut the amount of tuition paid (debt borrowed) by lawyers-to-be. Dan Rodriguez, the new NW dean, responded on his own blog here, then allowed for rebuttal here. My reflexive response was similar to Dean Rodriguez's, but different enough to warrant a post. I am all for creative ways to change legal education to meet the new legal market, but not all ways are without bugs.
The creative solution is to make the four years of college two years of liberal arts and sciences and two years of law. Then, states could require a one-year apprenticeship program, reducing the cost of law school to zero.
First, the op-ed makes the misleading claim that "[t]he high cost of graduate legal education limits the supply of lawyers and leads to higher legal fees." The first half is false. The high cost of legal education is not limiting the supply of lawyers. We are opening new law schools each year, and I have not heard of any law school that is not filling its seats. Applications are down, and schools are reachign deeper into the pool, but my sense is that there are still more folks each year applying to law school than being accepted. That being said, the high cost of graduate legal education may be limiting the supply of great lawyers -- perhaps, using the authors' words "bright students with attractive career opportunities" opt to take those opportunities and not go to law school -- but not the supply of all lawyers.
The second half of the sentence is a causal claim that I would have to see some data on. Do high tuition costs and high debt loads lead fees to go higher? Dean R. says no. I would be more likely to believe a claim that high costs lead students to choose higher paid legal work than legal aid work, but to say that fees are higher overall because of the higher cost of education would not some explaining. (Perhaps one of the drawbacks of the op-ed format.)
The second assertion that did not ring true to me was that the college plus one-year apprenticeship model is the British model, and it works fine. Except that it's not. I'm not from the UK, but three minutes on the Internet showed me that after undergraduate college, would-be lawyers pay to go to school (Bar Professional Course or Legal Practice Course) for one more year, with either a solicitor curriculum or a barrister curriculum. Then, graduates of those programs (which are not cheap) then apply to be an apprentice either for a barrister firm (pupilage for one year) or a solicitor firm (training contract for two years). These are in high demand, and not everyone gets one (the pupillage statistics seem to suggest that only half of applicants get one), and the trainee is paid a minimum wage. (The trainee solicitor minimum in London is £18,590 ($28,762), and the trainee barrister minimum is £12,000 ($18,566), though the fancy places pay much more, just like in the U.S. So, if we are going to fashion the new U.S. law model after the British one, and compare costs, we need to compare apples to apples. College plus tuition-based one-year course, plus 1-2 year discounted wage training. If you wanted to major in something else, like business or engineering, then add on one more year of post-graduate schooling.
A few more thoughts. The authors' suggestion seems to also hinge on the assumption that college doesn't need to be four years, in addition to the fact that law school doesn't need to be three years. the authors would condense college to two years, then have a condensed two-year law school. Those who want more law or to someone distinguish themselves could take a substantive LL.M. course -- tax, securities, appellate, etc. This assumption also rests on another assumption -- that law students all have liberal arts degrees. Sure, I agree one could condense a lot of degrees to two years and add a streamlined two-year law degree. (I went to college in three years). Some law schools have had 3 + 3 programs for years. But a lot of students are from the hard sciences, engineering, and economics. I thought we wanted more of those? Could you sit for the patent bar with only two years of undergraduate courses?
I also think that if we went to a four-year legal education (or even five year), that colleges would find a way to charge more. Here at Illinois, engineering and certain other majors have a higher tuition than other majors. Just throwing that out there.
In the Crocker Fellows class today, we talked about teams. I have blogged about entrepreneurial teams and teams in the classroom, but the Crocker Fellows Program is built on a particular notion of teams, captured by the famous definition of teams in Katzenbach and Smith (1994): "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." In our class, the teams of five people comprise a mix of majors, including engineering, computer science, business, life science, graphic design, etc.
Chris Mattson led the discussion, using the Nightline episode on IDEO as an illustration. Here it is:
Does anyone use the IDEO shopping cart? I haven't seen any in the US, but there are reports of similar carts in France. And Chris has seen similar carts in China ... so has this guy. If you are interested in more on IDEO, you might also check out Tom Kelly on Stanford's ecorner.
As for the Crocker Fellows, the teams are still in the "forming" stage (see Tuckman's stages of group development), but they are transitioning quickly into the "storming" phase. While I am eager to see what emerges from these teams, I was asking myself some questions today in my observer status:
- What is the role of law and lawyers, if any, at this stage in the innovation process?
- Lawyers work in teams to develop briefs or documents ... is the IDEO process essentially the same as writing an innovative brief or constructing a new deal structure?
- Could we use teams in this way to teach law? (My classroom teams have a more modest function than the teams we are using in the fellows program.)
No answers, yet, but maybe by the end of the semester I will have some more ideas.
At the Glom, we haven't hid our fascination with the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and we have even held a discussion among other law prof supermoms on the book. One of my disappointments with the book was that Prof. Chua didn't discuss her dreams, aspirations, successes and failures in her on career path. Today, I saw this interview with Chua that talks a little bit about her dissatisfaction with law school and practicing law.
Law school tore down my confidence. I hated being called on. It's not a discipline that comes naturally to me. I did not click with law. I'm the hardest worker, but I could not retain the information
Chua then explains that her hard work led her to a clerkship, which she did not enjoy, and a career at Cravath, which she also didn't enjoy, though she worked extremely hard at both. After a 14-year odyssey to break into tenure-track teaching, she found a niche for herself in law and ethnicity in developing countries, a few leaps away from traditional law classes and law practice. One can jump to the conclusion that she might have been happier in a different graduate program in that field without the wandering in the wilderness.
As a professor, this makes me wonder how many really smart folks stumble into law school and just don't enjoy it because they would "click" with a different discipline. As a law professor, we have the amazing flexibility of dabbling in other disciplines, but most folks in law school are destined for the less flexible world of practicing law. I know that I have seen my share of students who are used to succeeding in school by working very, very hard and are flummoxed by the first year of law school. Some double down and work even harder, like Chua, but others sort of stall. (Of course, this is one reason why there are a growing number of people arguing to make it cheaper for law students to leave after one year: Me, Ian Ayres & Ahkil Amar, and Ari Kaplan.
Of course the tabloid-y bit of information in the interview was that Chua and her older daughter, Sophia, were asked to be on The Amazing Race, though they declined. From reading her book, I think Chua and younger daughter, Lola, would make a more ratings-ready pairing!
ATL and several other media outlets have picked up on a story about David, an anonymous 2L at Cardozo, who voluntarily became "homeless" for nine weeks last semester just to see if he could. I have no problems with David's experiment, and I don't think it makes hims hallow or insensitive to the plights of others. However, I do think it is misguided for the media to pick up on his solutions for making his "homelessness" manageable as great ideas for folks who are actually homeless. These solutions, which are making headlines, are showering and hanging out at an inexpensive health club and sleeping at the Cardozo law library.
As a background matter, David wasn't homeless. He just didn't stay or sleep at his apartment. He's more of an urban camper than a homeless person. Just like campers aren't truly "living off the land," he wasn't homeless. Like campers, he has all the markers of a non-outdoor/non-homeless life: a place to go during the day where you are welcomed and tolerated for long stretches of time (a law school) and paid entry into other commercial establishments that must contractually welcome you and tolerate you (health club). The law school is not open to all homeless folks. (While visiting my friend at Cardozo, I worked in the library for two days and had to have myriad passes, etc.) Yes, there are public libraries, and many see themselves as havens for the homeless (many do not). However, public libraries do not tolerate sleeping. I have been in public libraries where folks weren't allowed to put their heads down on tables or bring in bags as a means of curbing homeless traffic. Law students pay a lot for the privilege of having access to the law building. (David is on a scholarship, but his access has a FMV of tens of thousands of dollars.) Second, he had a health club membership, and this almost seems like a no-brainer for homeless folks. Yes! Why don't they pay $1 a day to have a warm building with showers, soap, shampoo, TV, water, lockers, etc.? Well, I'm going to bet that most health clubs require photo IDs, addresses, things like that. And you don't get to pay by day, but maybe month, maybe year. This may be a great idea for the newly homeless, but probably not for most homeless folks.
And of course David could keep all of his old stuff at his apartment, which he returned to when it started to get chilly outside. He had a locker at his law school, and places to eat food kept at appropriate temperatures. He had lots of friends who presumably had shelter, who probably invited him over from time to time. And of course he had money for food, clothing, medicine, emergencies, etc. He mentions keeping his "laundry" in a locker, so I'm assuming he took it to the laundromat or cleaners. He also didn't interact with other homeless folks, so he's not the Barbara Ehrenreich of homelessness. He went on an urban camping trip, and now he's back.
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.