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April 22, 2006

New Law Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The following law professors have been elected as Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences:  Ian Ayres (Yale), Richard Fallon (Harvard), Larry Kramer (Stanford), and Lawrence Lessig (Stanford).  Several practitioners were also elected, including the new Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., and Seth Waxman, now practicing with Wilmer, Cutler in Washington, D.C.  In addition, Lee Epstein, who is moving to the Law School at Northwestern University, was elected in the Political Science category.

In most divisions of the Academy, seniority (i.e., several decades of contributions) is a major factor in the elections to the Academy, but less so, oddly, in law.  Sins of omission, rather than inclusion, are the main problem it seems to me after observing this process for a number of years.  Like the failure to give the Nobel Prize in Literature to James Joyce, the failure to elect a few especially distinguished senior figures in the legal academy will soon bring the whole affair into disrepute.  Off the top of my head:  Herbert Hovenkamp (Iowa), Geoffrey Miller (NYU), Lawrence Sager (Texas), Thomas Ulen (Illinois), James J. White (Michigan) had better be elected soon if the AAAS is to remain a credible honor.  Each of these scholars has, uncontroversially, made contributions to law and legal scholarship at least as susbstantial as those of many current members of the Academy.  I assume the AAAS will rectify these omissions before long.

Here is a listing of the top ten law schools for fall 2006 by the number of non-retired faculty elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; see the caveats about what this means here.  Faculty who are part-time or "over 70" count for .5 in the total. 

1. Yale University (19.5) (B. Ackerman, I. Ayres, J. Balkin, L. Brilmayer, G. Calabresi [part-time], S. Carter, *M. Damaska, D. Days, R. Ellickson, W. Eskridge, O. Fiss, M. Graetz, H. Koh, A. Kronman, J. Langbein, J. Mashaw, R. Post, J. Resnik, R. Romano, C. Rose, A. Schwartz, R. Winter [part-time])

2. Harvard University (18) (L. Bebchuk, R. Clark, R. Fallon, C. Fried, M. Glendon, M. Horwitz, E. Kagan, D. Kennedy, R. Kennedy, L. Kaplow, D. Meltzer, F. Michelman, M. Minow, R. Mnookin, S. Shavell, L. Tribe, M. Tushnet, R. Unger)

3. Columbia University (12) (*Barb. Black, V. Blasi [part-time], L. Bollinger, J. Coffee, R. Ferguson, G. Fletcher, *R. Gardner, R. Gilson [part-time], *J. Greenberg, K. Greenawalt, L. Liebman, T. Merrill, *H. Monaghan, J. Raz [part-time], R. Scott, *M. Sovern)

4. University of California, Berkeley (11) (*R. Buxbaum, J. Choper, R. Cooter, *M. Eisenberg, D. Farber, P. Frickey, J. Gordley, H.H. Kay, D. Rubinfeld, S. Scheffler, H. Scheiber, F. Zimring)

5. University of Chicago (10.5) (D. Baird, D. Currie, F. Easterbrook [part-time], R. Epstein, R. Helmholz, S. Levmore, M. Nussbaum, R. Posner [part-time], G. Stone, D. Strauss, C. Sunstein, D. Wood [part-time])

6 New York University (9.5) (*A. Amsterdam, *J. Cohen, *N. Dorsen, *R. Dworkin [part-time], J. Ferejohn [part-time], S. Issacharoff, S. Law, T. Nagel, B. Neuborne, R. Stewart, J. Waldron, J. Weiler)

7. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (8.5) (P. Ellsworth, B. Frier, D. Laycock, R. Lempert, C. MacKinnon, D. Regan, *B. Simpson [part-time], J. Vining, J.B. White)

8. Stanford University (7) (G. Casper, J. Cohen, *L. Friedman, L. Kramer, R. Gilson [part-time], T. Grey, L. Lessig, K. Sullivan)

9. University of Texas, Austin (3) (P. Bobbitt, S. Levinson, M. Yudof)

10. Duke University (1.5) (W. Dellinger [part-time), D. Horowitz)

10. University of Virginia (1.5) (V. Blasi [part-time], G.E. White)

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 22, 2006 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

Duke Law Dean Bartlett to Step Down in 2007

Katharine Bartlett, Dean of the Duke University School of Law since 2000, will step down at the end of the 2006-07 academic year to return to the faculty.  Dean Bartlett gets credit for bringing about a significant improvement in the quality of the faculty during her tenure, as long-time observers will know.  Our 2003 survey of leading legal scholars, for example, rated the Duke faculty 17th in the nation (and this was when William van Alstyne was still on the faculty), but when we undertake the same exercise next academic year, I would expect Duke to be solidly in the top 15, given the additions of, among others, Curtis Bradley (international and foreign affairs law) from the University of Virginia and Erwin Chemerinsky (constitutional law) from the University of Southern California in the last couple of years.

It looks like Duke will be the second major law school, along with Minnesota, to be undertaking a Dean search next academic year.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 21, 2006 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Evaluating and Comparing Law Libraries

A request for ideas about relevant criteria here:  law librarians and those knowledgeable about questions of institutional assessment and rankings should weigh in in the comments section.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 21, 2006 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

Two Senior Hires for Texas: Rodriguez from San Diego, Sage from Columbia

The University of Texas School of Law has made two major senior hires:  Daniel Rodriguez (positive political theory, administrative law)--formerly Dean of the University of San Diego School of Law and, before that, a professor for a decade at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley--has turned down offers from Duke, Vanderbilt, and USC to join the Texas faculty in 2007; and William Sage at Columbia Law School, who is one of the leading health law scholars in the country, and who is visiting at Texas this year, will join the full-time faculty in the fall, where he will also put his academic background as both a JD and an MD to good use as the new Vice-Provost for Health Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he will help develop institutional and research programs linking UT Austin (which does not have its own medical school) with the medical schools in the UT System.

I will now assert a point of personal privilege, as it were, to observe what a remarkable transformation has taken place at UT in the last decade, and especially in the last five years.  From 1981-2001, UT hired exactly three faculty laterally from peer or better law schools:  Douglas Laycock (constitutional law, remedies) from the University of Chicago in 1981 (who is now taking emeritus status here to become the proverbial "trailing spouse" en route to Michigan!); Julius Getman (labor law) from Yale Law School in 1986; and William Forbath (legal history, constitutional law) from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1998.

By contrast, in the last five years alone we have recruited the following tenured faculty from peer or better law schools:  Lawrence Sager (constitutional law) from NYU; Ronald Mann (commercial law, intellectual property) from Michigan; Bernard Black (corporate law, securities regulation) from Stanford; and now Dan Rodriguez, formerly of Boalt, and Bill Sage from Columbia.  We are "in discussion" with some other faculty from "top five" law schools who have also expressed interest in heading to Austin.  And none of this includes mention of recruitment of scholars of international distinction like Jane Stapleton (torts, products liability) from the Australian National University and Sir Basil Markesinis (comparative law) from Oxford University (he is now at University College London when he is not at Texas); or of first-rate folks in their fields (who may not be "household" names, as it were) like Robert Peroni in international tax from George Washington University.

But, alas, not all the Austin news is good news, since our other senior offer this year was declined:  Keith Whittington (constitutional law, theory, and history) will return to the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

Enough navel-gazing:  the other newsworthy item here is the hit that Columbia Law School has taken this year:  three senior faculty have moved to NYU; one has gone to Harvard; and now one has gone to Texas.  The splendid addition of the Scotts from Virginia hardly offsets these losses.  Some correspondents suggest that the "balance of [legal academic] power" in New York City has now shifted to Greenwich Village.  I am, personally, skeptical that one year can mark such a change, given some of the outstanding laterals Columbia has recruited in the last couple of years (Thomas Merrill from Northwestern, Timothy Wu from UVA come immediately to mind, but there are others).  The next few years may be instructive on this score.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 20, 2006 in Faculty News, Navel-Gazing | Permalink | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

High Undergraduate GPAs at Top Law Schools: What Do They Mean and What Are Their Consequences for Legal Education?

Pamela Karlan, a distinguished expert on voting rights and civil procedure at Stanford Law School, writes:

I read, with both interest and a fair amount of distress, the 75th percentile LSAT rankings.  The distress came from seeing the staggering 75th percentile GPAs.

These could reflect at least three states of the world, two of them unfortunate.  First, and most optimistically, the 40 schools on your list could all be admitting kids with amazing undergraduate academic achievements.  (A 3.96 means, for example a student with 34A's and 2 B+'s as an undergraduate; a 3.85 could mean half A's and half A-'s.)

Second, the GPA's could reflect rampant grade inflation at undergraduate institutions.  Leave aside the abstract debate over whether the current generation of students is so much abler than its predecessors that good students should never see a grade below A- or B+.  Most law schools have mandatory means or curves, and I'm aware of none where that mean is over around 3.4.  (Even at the schools that don't have official means, I would guess the actual mean is no higher than that.)  Thus, virtually all law students will have lower, substantially lower, GPA's in law school than they had in college.  (E.g., at my own institution, 25% of the students had GPAs equivalent to what the number 1 student in the normal graduating class is likely to have.)  This drop has a number of unfortunate consequences.  Many of us are familiar with a huge demoralization effect the day first-semester grades come out and people who've been told all their lives that they are "A's" at everything that's measured hear for the first time that they're "B's."  They give up, and simply float through the remaining five semesters.  Many have a self-protective defensive reaction: if the law doesn't love them, then they distance themselves from it.  In addition, at law schools where there are course-selection strategies that allow students to manipulate their GPA's, students are then drawn not to taking what's good or useful for them, but rather what's most likely to boost their GPAs back toward the range they've internalized as normal.  The high UGPAs mean that many of our students have never really learned to bounce back from academic disappointment (the "C" I got my first semester of college is one of the best things that ever happened to me) and like learning to ride a bicycle, it's harder to learn that the older you get.

Third, to get those astronomical UGPA's, students necessarily had to be either (a) extraordinary across the board for their entire undergraduate career (the student who bombs the first year of college because she wasn't yet ready for the work or who was planning to be a physicist before he realized he didn't have the mathematical ability can't get one of these sky-high GPAs) or (b) strategic and risk-averse, taking only the kinds of courses in which they'd get A's, from the time they were 17 or 18 years old.  I'd bet it's more the latter than the former.  One of the things I always though the U.S. had over many other advanced countries was that we didn't expect students to specialize in only what they were good at when they were still teenagers.  But in order to get a 3.9 UGPA, students really can't take things well outside their comparative advantages.  Many of us see the consequences of this in what our students do: they're passive and non-entrepreneurial in their job choices, going to large firms not because that practice particularly attracts them, but because it seems less "risky" right out of law school than going to smaller firms or government jobs.  Many of them haven't exercised their intellectual imaginations in years.  Many are in fact not particularly well educated, since the science majors took few writing courses, the humanities people took perhaps one semester of economics and flee any quantitative subject, and the social and hard scientists know no American (let alone world) history at all.

Now, of course, we're talking here only about the 75th percentile.  Perhaps we could find the students who are comfortable with risk, entrepreneurial, academically and intellectually adventurous, and resilient among the other three-quarters of the class.  But even the 25th percentile at top 20 schools have staggering UGPAs.  And that sets the tone for the student body.

I'm not sure, as long as US News drives so much of the world, that there's anything to be done.  But it's frustrating if what we're trying to do is to train imaginative, entrepreneurial, courageous, resilient lawyers with broad perspectives that one of the central criteria for admitting students undermines our chances of doing that.

I find myself in rather strong agreement with Professor Karlan's observations.  Comments are open; no anonymous postings; please post only once (comments may take awhile to appear).

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 19, 2006 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Now the Entire Nation Can Help Choose the New Dean of North Carolina

A colleague elsewhere alerts me to the fact that you too can now evaluate the performance of the UNC Dean candidates thanks to the miracles of modern technology.  I confess to not have listened to any of the candidates' presentations yet--we have enough here in Austin to watch right now, even though they're not on the Internet.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 19, 2006 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Brian Leiter

Here and here.  For the benefit of all the readers who complain that Internet searches don't turn up this blog quickly enough...

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 18, 2006 in Navel-Gazing | Permalink | TrackBack

New Ranking of Law Schools by 75th Percentile LSAT Scores

Here.  Do read the introductory remarks and caveats before looking at the ranking itself.

UPDATE:  Joe Hodnicki compares the 2005 and 2006 results here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 18, 2006 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Houston Law Dean Rapoport Resigns

Nancy Rapoport, Dean of the University of Houston Law Center for the last six years, will step down at the end of this year.  Houston has had the second strongest law faculty in the state for a number of years now, though it is often over-shadowed (for familiar reasons) in the U.S. News rankings by SMU (which at least is competitive on the faculty front) and (more bizarrely) by Baylor.

UPDATE:  This newspaper article suggests her resignation was related to Houston's drop in the U.S. News rankings.  Talk about the pernicious effects of these senseless rankings!

(Thanks to Ruchira Paul for the pointer to the newspaper article.)

ANOTHER UPDATE:  A columnist's take on Houston and U.S. News.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 17, 2006 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Socio-Economic Diversity?

A staff member at a top law school writes:

I currently work at a top ten law school (US News Rankings) and have been a bit shocked about the general type of students that are admitted. Despite all of the focus on diversity, it seems that there is a great deal of homogeneity among the students when it comes to the socio-economic makeup of their families--most come from affluent backgrounds--at least at the school I work at.

I am concerned about this due to my background. I am from a small farming community in Idaho, the first college graduate in my family, and grew up in poverty. I have first-hand experience with the obstacles individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds face when applying to law school (I am trying to get in now).

To what extent is diversity an element of law school rankings (especially yours)? To what extent to you think socio-economic factors will come into play in the future of the admissions game? I know California tried to make up for the state's decision to get rid of race based affirmative action by introducing a socio-economic model. Has Texas ever considered a similar approach?

Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you.

Socio-economic diversity is not a factor in any of my rankings, first, because I do not know of any database that would provide the requisite information; and second, because the connection between diversity along any demographic dimension and educational experience is fairly tenuous and speculative.  (Back before Justice Powell ruined public discourse about affirmative action by introducing "diversity" talk, it used to be much clearer why schools practiced affirmative action:   compensatory justice and social engineering, the latter, of course, being a longstanding feature of admissions practices at elite institutions.) 

That being said, I was certainly struck the year I taught at Yale Law School by how homogenous the student body was in terms of class--much more so than Texas which, ironically, was laboring under the restictions of Hopwood at that time.  In fact, as a result of Hopwood, Texas did add proxies for race and ethnicity (such as class background and region of the state) to the admissions criteria; I believe they are still in place, though I am not involved with admissions (except for JD/PhD candidates, a rather small pool obviously).

Comments are open; no anonymous postings.  Comments may take awhile to appear; post only once.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 17, 2006 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack