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December 31, 2008

The Top 10 Events of 2008 in the Legal Academy

10.  Jack Goldsmith and Adrian Vermeule (both Harvard) were 'outed' as well-behaved "house conservatives" by badly behaved conserative Todd Zywicki (George Mason).

9.  The law school at Berkeley won the 2008 "Thank God U.S. News never audits the data schools self-report" award.

8.  Colorado's Paul Campos was selected by acclamation as "The Law Professor Most Hostile to the First Amendment Rights of His State University Colleagues." 

7.  NYU Law School solidified its position as the retirement destination of choice for faculty from elite law schools.

6.  New York Law School, meanwhile, has made clear that it is the most underrated law school in New York.

5.  Two elite law schools, long hostile to hiring law-and-philosophy scholars, both made senior appointments in the area this year, thus, decisively, conjoining Judge Edwards's famous "growing disjunction."  

4.  Rick Hills (NYU) received the award for being "The Law Professor Most Likely to be Invited to Dinner at the House of Phyllis Schlafly."

3.  U.S. News failed to respond to the fact that its 'method' for ranking law schools was now totally, and quite publicly discredited.

2.  Meanwhile, law school reputations in the real world remained unchanged.

1.  But in the world of "insiders", Harvard Law School clearly re-established itself as the top law school in the country (at least in terms of scholarly distinction of the faculty) for the first time since the 1970s, while Yale faculty and alumni lobbied furiously for Dean Kagan to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Happy New Year to all readers!

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 31, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

December 26, 2008

A "legal education bubble?"

It seems probable.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 26, 2008 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

I would like to wish Eugene Volokh "Happy Birthday!"...

...even though I have no reason to think it is his birthday. But that's OK.

(Link fixed now!)

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 26, 2008 in Legal Humor | Permalink | TrackBack

December 23, 2008

More Trouble Ahead in 2009 for Big Law Firms?

Bill Henderson (Indiana) looks at the data and analyzes the lessons of 2008.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 23, 2008 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

December 22, 2008

Did U.S. News Topple Another Dean?

A Pittsburgh newspaper thinks it played a role, but, as we noted, there are other possible explanations in this case.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 22, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

December 20, 2008

Critical Legal Studies: From Theory to Practice

From The New York Times:

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil unveiled a new national defense strategy on Thursday, calling for upgrading the military forces and remaking the defense industry. The plan also called for a debate in Brazil on whether mandatory military service should be enforced and how the armed forces should be professionalized.

With the commanders of Brazil’s army, navy and air force in attendance, Mr. da Silva said in a speech here that Brazil, despite its pacifist history, needed a stronger defense against potential aggression if it was to continue on the road to becoming a global power.

The new strategic vision, more than a year in the making, calls for Brazil to invest more in military technology, including satellites, and to build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet that would be used to protect territorial waters and Brazil’s deepwater oil platforms. The proposal also calls for an expansion of the armed forces to protect the country’s Amazon borders and for retraining troops so they are capable of rapid-strike, guerrilla-style warfare....

“We are not concerned by the strength of our neighbors, but we are concerned by our own weakness,” said Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the minister of strategic affairs and a co-author of the plan. “The national defense strategy is not a circumstantial response to circumstantial problems. It is a far-reaching inflection, a change of course and a change of direction....”

The new defense strategy does call for Brazil to become more independent of other countries’ military technology. It emphasizes a reorganization of the nation’s defense industry to focus on forming partnerships with other countries so that Brazil is involved in creating the new technologies. “We are no longer interested in buying weapons off the shelf,” Mr. Mangabeira Unger said....

The Brazilian Army would be reshaped to be a more mobile, quick-strike force. Only about 10 percent of its soldiers are now trained for rapid deployment. The entire army would be reconstituted at the brigade level to be able to strike quickly, “so that a warrior would also be a guerrilla,” Mr. Mangabeira Unger said.

The plan also involved enforcing existing laws on mandatory conscription to draw people from all classes, not just the poorer ones, to make for a more highly skilled fighting force.

“This will be a novel debate for Brazil about national sacrifice,” Mr. Mangabeira Unger said. “There has been no moment in our national history when we have squarely had the kind of debate that I hope we will have now.”

[Thanks to Michael Perrry for the pointer]

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 20, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

December 19, 2008

Law Profs in Sub-Cabinet Positions in the Obama Administration

Once again, Nan Hunter (Georgetown) is collecting the information.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack

Rick Hills: Aspiring Union Buster?

In the comments, Professors O'Donnell and Slater think so!  Another rousing performance at PrawfsBlog by Professor Hills!  But seriously, when you think of "extraordinarily generous deals," do you really think of public sector workers in New York City or NYU law professors?  And will the financial implosion on Wall Street mean the end of the NYU Law gravy train?  We shall see.

As it happens, Professor Krugman's column today is also apt.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 19, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

December 18, 2008

Research Assessment Exercise in U.K. for Law Faculties Released

The Guardian has the results.  A few words of explanation, since the meaning of the results is far from obvious on a quick glance.   The first column gives the number of staff who submitted four pieces of research published 2001-2007 for evaluation.  4* is the highest score awarded, and it's down from there.  The number under each score is the percentage of faculty work that received that score.  So:  the London School of Economics submitted work from approximately 60 faculty (so about 240 pieces of scholarship), of which 45% were deemed to be distinguished at the highest international level (4*).  University College London submitted work from not quite 43 faculty (so about 172 pieces of scholarship), of which 35% was deemed to be 4* work.  Meanwhile, Oxford submitted work from about 103 faculty (so about 412 pieces of scholarship), of which 35% also received a mark of 4*.  That means, of course, that Oxford produced far more 4* work than either LSE or UCL, but its per capita or average performance was not quite as strong overall:  that's the "GPA" in the last column, representing the average score for the whole faculty.  LSE got a 3.1, UCL got a 3.05, Oxford got a 3.0, Durham a 2.9, and Nottingham a 2.9.  (One unknown, to me at least, is whether UCL got credit for the work of two of its most eminent faculty, now both retired:  Ronald Dworkin and Basil Markesinis.)

Part of what is going on here is that Oxford has a very large number of staff--the overworked and underpaid tutorial fellows--who have far less opportunity for scholarship.  So whereas staff with less onerous teaching loads might produce 8-10 pieces of scholarship during 2001-07, and then have the luxury of submitting the best four for evaluation, it is less likely that many tutorial fellows have that luxury:  hence the results.

The big mystery, though, is Cambridge, which includes many of the leading lights of legal scholarship in the U.K. and, indeed, the Anglophone world.  Yet Cambridge came in towards the bottom of the top ten based on GPA (2.800), having submitted work from about 83 faculty, only 25% of which received a 4*.  My guess is they had a more serious version of the Oxford problem, but it's hard to know.  Bear in mind that the scores are awarded by a panel of ten or so legal scholars, who are engaged in (as one colleague in the UK put it) a "speed read" of thousands of pieces of work.  All that being said, aside from Cambridge (and also King's College, London, which is weirdly low), the results comport reasonably well with my impressions based on a fair amount of exposure to legal academia in the U.K.

UPDATE:  John Gardner (Oxford) analyzes the results in a variety of different ways here.

AND ANOTHER:  A legal scholar in Britain writes:

UCL included Dworkin but not Markesinis. The former was still in post at the time of the deadline, whilst the latter was not. (See here http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/view/rae/38.html )


One of the oddities of the exercise is that an institution will get no credit for someone who leaves the day before the submission date, but full credit for someone who joins the day before. This means there is a perverse incentive to recruit senior staff towards the end of the RAE submission period. Oxford suffered from this for example.


As to Cambridge and King's, I too was initially surprised but less so having reflected upon it. In Oxford and Cambridge the RAE money and prestige is not as relatively important as it is for, say, LSE. There is not therefore the internal pressure to publish there.


The ratings were not just based on submitted work. Such intangibles as research atmosphere and external impact were also taken into account.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 18, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

December 17, 2008

Borrows from Victoria to Minnesota

John Borrows (comparative constitutional law, indigenous law), who currently holds the Law Foundation Chair of Aboriginal Justice and Governance at the University of Victoria in Canada, has accepted a new Chair in the law school at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  The Minnesota press release is here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 17, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack