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November 30, 2017

Law review articles influencing the Supreme Court

Articles by Matt Tokson (Utah), Will Baude (Chicago), and James Stern (William & Mary) were influencing the Justices yesterday when Carpenter was argued at SCOTUS; my colleague Lior Strahilevitz has the details

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 30, 2017 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 29, 2017

Republican Education Bill Would Boost Profits for Private Student Lenders and Raise Financing Costs for Students (Michael Simkovic)

House Republicans recently voted along party lines in favor of a tax bill that specifically targeted higher education institutions and students for tax hikes, while providing large tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals.  The Wall Street Journal reports that House Republicans are proposing an additional higher education bill that would make the terms of federal student loans less flexible and less generous and limit federal student loan availability.  Specifically, the bill would eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness and reduce the availability of flexible repayment plans for all borrowers. It would also cap maximum borrowing from the federal government at a lower level.

These measures, if enacted, would be a boon to private student lenders like Sallie Mae, who would be able to both increase their prices and increase their market share as federal student loans become less competitive and less available.  Consequently, expected financing costs for students will likely increase, to the detriment of both students and educational institutions.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Education, loans to graduate and professional students are the most profitable in the government's portfolio--even after income based repayment and debt forgiveness.  Capping loans to these attractive borrowers may reduce the overall profitability of federal student lending, and pave the way for arguments for more cuts to federal lending in the future. 

The bill reportedly will also reduce regulation of for-profit college sales and marketing, and provide greater funding for 2-year degrees and apprenticeship programs.  Labor economists who have studied 2-year degrees and apprenticeship programs typically find that these programs provide relatively low benefits (in terms of increased earnings and employment) compared to 4-year college degrees and graduate degrees, even after accounting for differences in the costs of these programs and differences in student populations.  Thus, increasing funding for apprenticeships while reducing funding for 4-year degrees and advanced degrees is likely to impede economic growth.

These educational priorities, may however, provide Republicans with political advantages.  Political scientists and pollsters have found that as education levels increase--after controlling for income, race, sex, and age--individuals become more likely to identify as Democrats and less likely to identify as Republicans.  The association is particularly pronounced among scientists and others with graduate degrees.  

Posted by Michael Simkovic on November 29, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

November 28, 2017

New York Bar results from July 2017 exam

Blog Emperor Caron collects the results.  Syracuse continues its outstanding performance, noted last year.  And St. John's sees a big improvement.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 28, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 22, 2017

Langdell, formalism, and realism at Harvard

Here's a video of the session from a couple of weeks ago as part of the HLS bicentennial.  Opening remarks about Langdell are by John Goldberg (Harvard), who is followed by Catherine Wells (Boston College), me, Anthony Sebok (Cardozo), and Henry Smith (Harvard).  For those interested, my remarks on "Langdell, Wissenschaft, Realism" begin at 19:20.  I found Smith's remarks about the role of a firmer law/equity distinction in Langdell's views especially interesting.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 22, 2017 in Jurisprudence | Permalink

November 21, 2017

What do you need to find out now that you've gotten a tenure-track offer?

MOVING TO FRONT (ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 24, 2009--I HAVE UPDATED CERTAIN NUMBERS)--SEE ALSO THE COMMENTS, WHICH HAVE HELPFUL ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS

With luck, some of you seeking law teaching jobs will get offers of tenure-track positions in the next couple of months; a handful of offers have already been extended this season (2017-18).  What then?  Here's roughly what I tell the Chicago job candidates we work with that they need to find out, and in the interest of having it written down in one place and for the benefit of others too, here it is (not in order of importance):

1.  You will want to get (in writing eventually) the basic salary information, obviously, and the nature of summer research support and the criteria for its award (is it automatic for junior faculty?  contingent on prior publication [if so, how much?]?  awarded competitively (if so, based on what criteria/process)?).   You should also find out how salary raises are determined.  Are they, for example, lock-step for junior faculty?  Fixed by union contract?  (Rutgers faculty, for example, are unionized, a huge advantage and why they are among the best-paid faculty, not just in law, in the country.)  Is it a 'merit' system, and if so is it decanal discretion or is their a faculty committee that reviews your teaching and work each year?

2.  You should ask for a copy of the school's tenure standards and get clear about the expectations and the timeline.  Does any work you have already published count towards meeting the tenure standard?

3.  What research leave policy, if any, does the school have?  A term off after every three full years of teaching is a very good leave policy; some schools have even better policies, most have less generous leave policies.  (If there is a norm, it is a term off after every six years.)  Many schools have a special leave policy for junior faculty, designed to give them some time off prior to the tenure decision.  Find out if the school has such a policy.

4.  One of the most important things to be clear about is not just your teaching load, but what courses you will be teaching precisely.  You should ask whether the school can guarantee a stable set of courses until after the tenure decision.  Preparing new courses is hugely time-consuming, and you also get better at teaching the course the more times you do it.  As a tenure-track faculty member, having a stable package of, say, three courses (plus a seminar) will make a huge difference in terms of your ability to conduct research and write.   In my experience, most schools will commit in writing to a set of courses for the tenure-track years (and do ask for this in writing), but some schools either won't or can't.   In my view, it's a good reason to prefer one school to another that one will give you the courses you want and promise them that they're yours, while another won't--a consideration that overrides lots of other factors, including salary.

5.  You should ask for the school's materials on benefits:  retirement, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and so on.  The biggest, and certainly the most easily discernible differences, are often in the retirement and life insurance categories (sometimes longterm disability insurance too, though unlike life insurance, you're hopefully less likely to utilize this!).  What is the university's contribution to retirement?  At the low end are schools contributing only 5-6% of your base salary to retirement; the more competitive schools will be in the 8% range, and some will be even higher.  The big issue on life insurance concerns the amount you are guaranteed irrespective of your health history.  750K increasingly seem to be the norm, but much higher numbers in higher cost-of-living areas is common.  And, of course, if your health is perfect, this doesn't matter, but I've worked with plenty of candidates where this was a serious issue.  (Life insurance companies have no incentives to insure faculty beyond the base amount they have to provide, so even health matters that strike you as trivial may disqualify you from more coverage.)  A final benefits issue concerns education/tuition benefits for children.  State schools don't offer these; the wealthier private schools do, and if you have kids or expect to have kids, this is worth looking into.  At the high end is Chicago, which pays up to 75% of Chicago tuition anywhere for each child.  Most of the wealthier private schools will pay 30-50% of the home school tuition for faculty children, wherever they go.  Some will offer a larger benefit if your kids go to that school.  But there are differences, and they don't track your ordinary expectations about prestige (e.g., last time I looked, the Wash U/St. Louis benefit was much better than the benefit at Penn or Cornell).  In any case, get the information.  But remember, university-wide benefits are rarely a subject for negotiation--the law school can't give you a higher benefit.  Of course, if you have a competitive offer, they may be able to compensate for a significant benefits differential.

6.  Finally, once you have an offer, this is a good time to raise issues about the employment prospects for a spouse or partner.  Sometimes you may just want help:  can the Dean help the significant other make relevant professional contacts in the area?  Sometimes you may be hoping for more:  e.g., a position in the law school, or in another university department, for the significant other.  It is certainly fair to explain the situation and ask.  Schools vary in their ability to response effectively to these situations, but many have formal universities policies pertaining at least to spouses who are academics.  Raise the issue, and see if the school can help.  But realize that the school made you the offer, and they may be able to hire you, and that's that.

The last point relates to a more general issue.  If you don't have other offers, you are not in a position to bargain.  Period.  You may certainly ask about things, raise concerns, etc.  But unless you're going to walk away from a tenure-track offer (not a wise thing to do in this market), don't make demands.  And even then, a collegial discussion about issues of concern is far better than demands.  Even if you have other offers, this advice applies:  proceed with caution and respect for the institution.  You can report that School Y is offering you a salary 20K higher, and ask whether the Dean of School X, to whom your talking, has any flexibility on this front.  But remember:  you may end up at School X (because of location, or colleagues in your field, or a better teaching load etc.) and living with that Dean and the other faculty for many years to come.  Don't poison the well by displaying a sense of entitlement and self-importance before you even get through the door.  Remember:  no matter how good you are, you're quite dispensable--in almost every instance, you need the job more than the school needs you.  Approach any 'bargaining' or discussion of the package in that spirit.  A good school has every reason to want you to succeed and to try to help fashion a package of professional duties and support in that spirit.  A good school doesn't need a prima donna.

I invite signed comments from faculty or deans on these issues.  A comment without a full name and e-mail address won't appear.  Post your comment only once; comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.

Good luck to all job seekers!

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 21, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (14)

University of Illinois, Chicago exploring possibility of acquiring John Marshall Law School

Story here.  UIC has a medical school, but no law school, while John Marshall is a free-standing law school.  If the acquisition occurred, it would be the only public law school in Chicago, and, assuming there was some tuition discount for state residents, it would put particular pressure on private law schools in the city like DePaul and Chicago-Kent.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 21, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 20, 2017

Schools offering VAPs and Fellowships...

...can post about it here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 20, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

November 17, 2017

Erin Rousseau, MIT: House Republicans Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students (Michael Simkovic)

Following up on my previous post, Republican Tax Hikes Target Education

[U]nder the House’s tax bill, our waivers will be taxed. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.

It would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D. The students who will be hit hardest — many of whom will almost certainly have to leave academia entirely — are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education. . . .

The law would also decimate American competitiveness. . . . 

Graduate students are part of the hidden work force that drives some of the most important scientific and sociological advancements in the country. The American public benefits from it. Every dollar of basic research funded by the National Institutes of Health, for example, leads to a $1.70 output from biotechnology industries. The N.I.H. reports that the average American life span has increased by 30 years, in part, because of a better understanding of human health. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment for United States taxpayers."

Posted by Michael Simkovic on November 17, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

November 16, 2017

Valparaiso Law School to begin winding down operations (at least in Indiana) due to financial pressures

That seems to be the import of this somewhat cryptic announcement.  Those with more information may post that in the comments; submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 16, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ten law schools will now accept the GRE

Blog Emperor Caron has a round-up.  I hope and expect more will.  This is a particularly good development for JD/PhD students, who in the past had to taken two different standardized tests.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 16, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink