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September 20, 2005

New blog by law professors on "Race, Law and Culture"

Here.  The contributors are Richard Banks (Stanford), Paul Butler (GW), Devon Carbado (UCLA), Darren Hutchinson (American), Sherrilyn Ifill (Maryland), Tracey Meares (Chicago), Spencer Overton (GW), Dorothy Roberts (Northwestern), and Adrien Wing (Iowa).  The generally right-wing legal academic blogosphere is now, happily, less so.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 20, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

Why is it so easy to get tenure in law schools?

Here's another item from the old site that many readers may not have seen, but might still find interesting.  Of course, as we've recently seen, tenure expectations may be rising.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 20, 2005 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

More Thoughts on the so-called "Socratic" Method

A law professor elsewhere writes:

I've read your comments on the Socratic method with interest. I'm using what I guess qualifies as modified Socratic or something, and thought I'd tell you why and see what your thoughts are.

As a foundational matter, I agree that it's an inefficient way of imparting information, and I tell them that up front. I do think it is one good way of getting people to be able to create legal arguments more intuitively than they might be able to otherwise. I'm certain there are other ways -- as you note, lawyers around the world somehow do it without this sort of training -- but the fact that there are other ways doesn't mean it doesn't work, of course.

With that:

My school has a serious problem with students not spending appropriate amounts of time and effort preparing.  Part of that is, I think, a cultural issue with the law school: much of our faculty is so focused on having the students consider them friendly that there is little downside in being unprepared (except, of course, at exam time). And if a significant proportion of the class isn't preparing well, it's not even that big a hit at exam time, since we have a fairly strict curve.

So I use cold calling and some component of Socratic questioning as an incentive to be prepared. I am told by students that I stay with unprepared students longer than most other people here, though I feel like I'm quite gentle. Very little of the dialogue component is the routine facts/holding/etc., instead focusing more on what you mention as reasonable -- questions in the casebook, other hypotheticals, etc.

But I *do* have them go through the basics as a way to try to be sure they have the basics.

I'm focusing on this approach more this year than last year and I think it's paying dividends. I've consistently had fairly high standards on my expectations and tell people (outside of class) when they haven't met them (and I think it's clear in class as well), and the level of preparation seems to be improving, both compared to earlier in the semester and compared to last year.

Perhaps this is a bigger issue here than places like Texas. But I do think it is, for the students I'm teaching, a useful tool in getting them to prepare when other approaches seem to fail. I of course would rather have an institutional culture that simply expects preparation for its own sake but the combination of the faculty approach and the students we have seems to make that difficult.

I should note that I'm not intending to criticize the students. I'm generally quite impressed by their abilities. I simply think they are largely not coming from undergraduate backgrounds that have had as rigorous expectations as, for example, my classmates at [name of top law school omitted]. 

They have the ability but don't seem to have the expectation that they need to do the reading carefully and slowly. Perhaps the Socratic method (or some form of it anyway) has a place in changing that expectation.


Posted by Brian Leiter on September 19, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

South Carolina Law Dean Powell Resigns After Not Quite Two Years

Story here.  In classic journalistic fashion, the article reports, "Some members of the law community were surprised by the announcement and voiced concern for the school’s future.  That’s because in past years, USC’s School of Law has dropped in some academic rankings.  In 2006 the U.S. News & World Report ranked the law school No. 90 out of 179 schools.  Last year, it was ranked 82nd."

U.S. News may rank academic institutions, but it is not an "academic ranking"!

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 19, 2005 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

The Socratic Method: The Scandal of American Legal Education

I wrote on this subject here quite some time ago, but with a new school year underway, perhaps it's worth revisiting.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 14, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

Levinson on the Roberts Confirmation Hearing

An unusually interesting perspective on the questions that should be asked of Judge Roberts, from my colleague Sanford Levinson.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 12, 2005 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

Wendel's Site on Law Teaching



Brad Wendel (Law, Cornell) has a very informative site, with lots of links (including to some of my material, but also much, much more), for those interested in law teaching.

UPDATE:  A legal historian writes with apt comments:

Thanks for alerting everyone to Wendel’s discussion—very interesting and quite informative.  Though, as I often think when I see the opinion of someone relatively new to the game, somewhat misleading at some places.  Like this:  “If you have an excellent J.D. record, the Ph.D. can't hurt, and may help, if you can link your other discipline with your legal scholarship.”

From what I’ve seen, there’s a real advantage to phds in the current market.  As law schools move substantially more towards scholarship as the guiding light for hiring, phds seem to have come on very strong in recent years.  Your rankings of schools has contributed in important ways to this trend, I think.  I think phd is becoming critical for hiring at many institutions and in many places.  And it’s becoming the distinguishing factor for many who end up with jobs.  In short, I think Wendel substantially under-reports the value of a phd.

This is 100% correct.   Indeed, one can say something stronger:  things have now gotten to the point that almost no one, not even someone with an excellent JD, can do competent, cutting edge work in interdisciplinary areas like law and economics, or law and philosophy, or law and psychology.  In those cases, the PhD training is essential. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 10, 2005 in Student Advice | Permalink | TrackBack

Rising Tenure Standards?

An untenured law professor writes:

I hear that one law school has recently tripled, from 2 to 6, the number of law review articles required for tenure and is now also asking that profs going up for tenure be a recognized national leader in their area of the law and have a book contract in hand.  I understand this has been rather demoralizing for those who came in under the previous regime and are now having to scramble to accomodate the new requirements.  Would you mind posting this...and asking if folks at other schools have had experience with such sharply increasing tenure requirements.   Have such sharp increases been seen at other schools and what are the standards at other schools these days (this one is in the top 60)?

The tenure requirements described here are more like those you would expect at a top ten philosophy or history department; even the top law schools don't have formal expectations like this.

Comments are open, and, because I am on the road a bit, there may be some delay in their showing up, so please be patient.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 10, 2005 in Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 9, 2005

Carol Rose from Yale to Arizona

Carol Rose, one of the nation's preeminent scholars of environmental law, property, and natural resources law, is leaving Yale Law School to take up a Chair at the University of Arizona College of Law.  That's a splendid coup for Arizona! 

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 9, 2005 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

September 8, 2005

Top 10 Faculty Moves in the Past Year?

Here are some of the many contenders for the lateral moves most significant for either the hiring or losing school that have transpired over the last academic year (including a few that have been announced, but won't take effect till January 2006); others that I've missed should be noted in the comments:

Kenneth Abbott (international) from Northwestern to Arizona State.

Frank Bowman (criminal) from Indiana/Indianapolis to Missouri.

Curtis Bradley (international, foreign affairs law) from Virginia to Duke.

David Caudill (evidence, property, postmodern theory) from Washington & Lee to Villanova.

Stephen Choi (corporate) from Berkeley to NYU.

Mary Crossley (health law) from Florida State to Pittsburgh (to become Dean)

Mechelle Dickerson (bankruptcy) from William & Mary to Texas.

Jody Freeman (environmental) from UCLA to Harvard.

Michael Gerhardt (constitutional) from William & Mary to North Carolina.

Philip Hamburger (legal history) from Chicago to Columbia.

Valerie Hans (law & empirical social science) from Delaware to Cornell.

Geoffrey Hazard (legal ethics, civil procedure) from Penn to UC Hastings.

Samuel Issacharoff (civil procedure, voting rights) from Columbia to NYU.

Derek Jinks (international) from Arizona State to Texas.

Leandra Lederman (tax) from George Mason to Indiana/Bloomington.

Daryl Levinson (constitutional) from NYU to Harvard.

Clarissa Long (intellectual property) from Virginia to Columbia.

Lawrence Marshall (clinical, criminal) from Northwestern to Stanford.

David McGowan (intellectual property, corporate) from Minnesota to San Diego.

Miranda McGowan (antidiscrimination law, statutory interpretation) from Minnesota to San Diego.

Jennifer Mnookin (evidence) from Virginia to UCLA.

Mary O'Connell (international) from Ohio State to Notre Dame.

Stephen Perry (torts, jurisprudence) from NYU to Penn.

Jennifer Robbennolt (law & psychology) from Missouri to Illinois.

Edward Rubin (commercial, administrative, jurisprudence) from Penn to Vanderbilt (to become Dean).

Scott Shapiro (jurisprudence) from Cardozo to Michigan.

David Sklansky (criminal procedure, evidence) from UCLA to Berkeley.

Lawrence Solum (intellectual property, jurisprudence, civil procedure) from San Diego to Illinois.

Kent Syverud (insurance, professional responsibility) from Vanderbilt to Washington University, St. Louis (to become Dean).

Frederick Tung (corporate) from Loyola/LA to Emory.

Rebecca Tushnet (intellectual property) from NYU to Georgetown.

Aaron Twerski (torts, products liability) from Brooklyn to Hofstra (to become Dean).

Letti Volpp (immigration, law & culture) from American to Berkeley.

Joan Chalmers Williams (feminist legal theory) from American to UC Hastings.

Timothy Wu (intellectual property, Cyberlaw) from Virginia to Columbia.

My ten most significant (and leaving my own school to one side) would probably include:  Abbott, Bradley, Choi, Hazard, Issacharoff, Perry, Rubin, Syverud, Williams.  Comments are open, and are being pre-screened for relevance and content.  Because I'm on the road, there may be some delay in the appearance of the comments.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 8, 2005 in Faculty News | Permalink | Comments (17)