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July 11, 2008

UC Irvine Law School's "Founding Faculty" and Administration

The UCI press release is here.  The initial cluster includes nine faculty, six academic tenure-track (Catherine Fisk, and Trina Jones from Duke; Dan Burk from Minnesota; Carrie Menkel-Meadow from Georgetown; Rachel Moran from Berkeley; and Ann Southworth from Case Western and three non-academic tenure-track, and five administrators.  Also included are four joint appointments of existing UCI faculty who do law-related work, including the eminent psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, well-known for her work on the unreliability of eye-witness testimony.

I'm on the road, so will have more thoughts in a few days.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 11, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

July 9, 2008

Two Joint Appointments for USC: Scotchmer, Watson

The Law School at the University of Southern California has made two senior, joint appointments this year.  Suzanne Scotchmer, who teaches economoics and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and who works on game theoretical and economic issues related to intellectual property and innovation, will hold a joint appointment with the Law School and the Department of Economics.  Gary Watson, a leading writer on free will and cognate issues in action theory and moral philosophy, will take emeritus status at the University of California at Riverside and take up a joint appointment with the Law School (1/3rd time) and Department of Philosophy at USC.  (USC Law also has an offer out to the legal philosopher Martin Stone at Cardozo Law School.) 

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 9, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

July 8, 2008

Gervais from Ottawa to Vanderbilt

Daniel Gervais (intellectual property) at the University of Ottawa has accepted a senior offer from Vanderbilt University.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 8, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

July 7, 2008

More Thoughts on Northwestern's "Business School" Model of Law School

From Bill Henderson (Indiana), who is now the official blogospheric cheerleader for the initiative!  As always, Professor Henderson has some interesting reflections.  I assume, though, that Northwestern has not declared as its goal "to be...the #1 law school for elite legal employers" (as Professor Henderson puts it), since that would obviously be delusional.  What Northwestern may do is find a way to differentiate itself from the Cornell/Duke/Georgetown/Penn/Texas cluster where it usually finds itself, and that would be a substantial achievement.

One thing that Professor Henderson's Panglossian assessment loses sight of is that the law is an intellectual profession, in which certain kinds of high-order analytical and argumentative skills go a long, long way.  This is why, for example, really successful litigation partners at top firms tend to be quite smart; some may also be good at "teamwork," and various B-School gimmickry, etc., but plenty aren't.   But they can think, and argue, and analyze, and write, which is, I would have thought, what good law schools teach to and model for their students.  This, of course, is also why economists and philosophers have flourished in law schools, while less analytically and argumentatively rigorous "disciplines" have done less well in securing a perch in the best law schools.  As long as analytical smarts is central to law as a profession--and it's hard to see how it could be otherwise and still be recognizable as law--it's really quite doubtful that B-School gimmickry, even if it imparts some useful workplace skills, will ever displace raw smarts and "thinking like a lawyer."

(And until we see the transcripts of the "focus groups" with hiring partners that Professor Henderson keeps referencing, I think we should be cautious in taking Northwestern's PR about them at face value!)

All that being said, I think experiments in legal education like Northwestern's or Washington & Lee's should be welcome, and if they succeed, they will likely inspire other schools to institute similar changes.  But assessing their success, or lack thereof, will take time.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 7, 2008 in Legal Profession, Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

A Big Year of Retirements at Michigan

I was perusing the homepage of my law school alma mater, when I noticed that the list of emeritus faculty has a lot of new additions, including many of the mainstays of the school when I was there in the mid-1980s:  Richard Lempert, a leading figure in law and sociology for the past forty years; Philip Soper, the distinguished legal philosopher; Peter Westen, the criminal law expert and legal theorist (perhaps most famous for his critique of the 'empty idea' of equality); and James Boyd White, probably the leading figure in law and literature.  With the loss this year of Scott Shapiro (legal philosophy) to Yale, on top of Soper's retirement, that's a big setback for law and philosophy at Michigan.  (Michigan also lost their key senior law and economics scholar, Omri Ben-Shahar, to Chicago this year, and Robert Howse [private international law] to NYU.) Of course, just two years ago, Michigan had a banner faculty recruitment year, adding Douglas Laycock and Margaret Jane Radin, among others.  So it goes...

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 7, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

July 3, 2008

Chemerinsky Settles Into Irvine....

...here, while the rumor mills buzz about who will be on the founding faculty, beyond those already reported on this blog.  The way things are shaping up it looks like the most striking fact about the new UC Irvine law faculty is that it may be the most diverse in terms of race/ethnicity and gender of any major law faculty in the country.  We should have more details soon...

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 3, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

More Thoughts on Counting Part-Time Student Credentials from Bob Morse...

...here.  There's no doubt that the sum of a law school is all its students, including the part-time ones, the question is whether that's equivalent to the sum of their GPAs and LSATs, measures which may work adequately for kids fresh out of college, but perhaps less well for the older, working students that are a significant portion of most part-time programs.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 3, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

July 1, 2008

Northwestern's "Two-Year" JD Program

UPDATE:  Comments are now actually open, sorry about that!

Northwestern University Law School is now the first of the top law schools to offer a so-called "two-year" JD--it's 24 months, but it's 2 1/2 semesters, including one summer, of coursework, with a slightly higher course load each term than the norm.  The WSJ Law blog has a short article here, while InsideHigherEd reports on the program hereThe anonymous folks at Above the Law don't seem impressed, but they are, admittedly, an odd lot (with a few too many spillovers from the Autoadmit cesspool). Bill Henderson (Indiana) has a rather generous appraisal of the proposal here, making the best case for its merits.  (Professor Henderson notes the increase in Northwestern's median LSAT over the last dozen years or so, though omits one explanation I have heard most often from former Northwestern faculty:  namely, the use of "merit aid" money not for the top students in the applicant pool, but those with a marginally better LSAT than whatever the existing median LSAT had been.  Professor Henderson is no doubt correct to emphasize other factors as well, but I was surprised by the omission of this likely influence.)

Some readers will recall that five years ago, I remarked on the dramatic faculty exodus from Northwestern during the initial period of Dean Van Zandt's tenure; as I noted more recently, that seems to have ended, and the faculty has stabilized around a distinct institutional identity (broadly, law and empirical social science, as well as a quite conservative public law group, with some notable exceptions [e.g., Andrew Koppelman]).  But the other part of the institutional identity promoted by Van Zandt has been emulation of the Business School model of education (e.g., teamwork learning experiences, interviews prior to admission, work experience prior to law school strongly preferred, and so on), which the new so-called "two year" program further embeds.

One aspect of this plan which others have not remarked on may deserve some notice.  For one thing this move does is to differentiate even more firmly Northwestern from its downtown rival the University of Chicago.  We have seen such a local battle before, in the Columbia/NYU rivalry that unfolded over the last thirty years.  Until the early 1990s, Columbia clearly dominated NYU in almost every respect:  numerical credentials of students, their placement success at all levels (elite firms, clerkships, academia, etc.), faculty hiring and retention, academic reputation, and so on.  Over the last fifteen years that has changed, but it has changed because NYU chose to compete, successfully, with Columbia on the same turf, not because NYU was an innovator in legal education.  NYU "out-bid," in one way or another, Columbia for faculty, even recruiting faculty from Columbia in increasing numbers in recent years.  NYU recruited students with comparable numerical credentials, and has seen a steady increase in their professional success to the point that on many fronts, especially academia, NYU grads are doing about as well as the alumni of their uptown rival.

University of Chicago has been in a similarly dominant situation vis-a-vis Northwestern for at least the last fifty years (there was a time mid-20th-century when Northwestern--the Northwestern of John Wigmore and Leon Green, among others--was actually the dominant player).  The rise of law-and-economics in the 1970s--spearheaded by Chicago faculty--solidifed that hierarchy, and Chicago's famously intense intellectual culture and its dominance in national placement in clerkships, academia, and elite law firms have all enhanced and confirmed that position.  (Chicago's distance from the Rush Street bars may also be playing an important role in student self-selection!)

Northwestern, unlike NYU, has not chosen to compete head-to-head with its local competitor:  the numerical credentials of its students still trail Chicago's, it has won no head-to-head faculty hiring battles, and the only Chicago faculty it has hired have been those retiring from the Chicago faculty.  By pursuing a very different model of legal education, however, perhaps Northwestern has adopted the better strategy?  For both prospective students and faculty, the choice between Chicago and Northwestern may seem increasingly stark.   As Professor Henderson sums up the Northwestern plan:

NWU Law is going to attract applications from all the experienced, motivated students who want their elite JD degrees in two years versus three.  Then it is going to give them, through mandatory coursework, business training that will bridge the traditional gap between lawyers and their MBA clientèle.   Sorting plus training.  Why would an employer prefer a 25 year-old fresh out of another elite law school?

Well, maybe because of smarts and analytical rigor?  Assuming Northwestern can deliver on the kind of "training" described, there's still the question of intellectual caliber, which, at least at the most elite levels of the profession, goes a long way.  And this may be the riskiest aspect of the Northwestern plan:  that the emphasis on the Business School model, on more mandatory B-School style coursework, on work experience, and so on, is going to scare off the more intellectually inclined students that make a law school an attractive place for faculty.  One of the senior professors (a leading scholar in his fields) who left Northwestern a few years back made a telling comment to me at the time:  "I feel like Northwestern is no longer the place that would admit nerds like me."  A law school that increasingly bills itself as a business school may be less likely to attract those going to law school not only for professional training but for an intellectual and academic experience.  In any case, that seems to me the biggest question mark about what is otherwise a distinctive and perhaps prescient initiative.

Thoughts from readers?  No anonymous comments will be approved.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 1, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack