September 09, 2015

Teaching statements

An increasing number of schools are now asking candidates to supply "teaching statements."  This is common in many PhD fields, where, of course, the candidates typically have teaching experience.   I'm more doubtful how productive it is on the law teaching market.  But mostly I'm curious what readers, either faculty or candidates (candidates may post with a pseudonym) think should go into such a statement.   Here are some possibilities:  (1) texts you favor for certain subjects, and why; (2) "Socratic" vs. lecture vs. other teaching modalities, why and how you expect to use them; (3) "experiential" components of courses you might use; (4) how your practice experience (or PhD study or other pertinent experience) will factor into your teaching. 

What else?

September 9, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 08, 2015

NLJ on market for new law teachers

Blog Emperor Caron has some excerpts (it is otherwise behind a paywall).  The chart overstates the hiring, since it includes all faculty appointments, not only tenure-stream academic lines.  My anecdotal impression is that more schools are hiring, and hiring for more positions, this year--we won't get over 100 new hires, but I am guessing we will get to 80 or more (compared to 60 or 65 the last two years).  With the enrollment decline over, schools can now budget for the future and start filling positions that need to be filled.

September 8, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 20, 2015

The first FAR distribution: only 410 candidates, down from over 600 about five years ago

Sarah Lawsky (UC Irvine) has the numbers.   In the past, I would estimate that 50% of those in the FAR were non-starters wasting their time and their money.  That percentage has probably gone down with the amount of information easily accessible via the Internet.  But does the drop in total applicants represent the casual/tourist candidates not bothering or does it represent credible, but well-informed candidates deciding to wait in light of the weak market?  I'm not sure.  Here's another data point:  there are roughly 200 candidates in the FAR with JDs or LLMs from Yale, Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Michigan, Columbia, NYU, and Virginia, to take schools that send sizable numbers into law teaching on a regular basis.  Add in graduates of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, UCLA, Northwestern, Penn, Southern California, and Texas, and the total rises to about 270.   Not all these candidates are going to turn out to be serious--I'd guess 15-25% of these folks threw their hat in the ring without much consultation or preparation.  If, in fact, there is more hiring this year (my impression so far is that the number of schools hiring is up slightly), then it could turn out to be a good year to be on the teaching market given the overall decline in candidates--but it's too soon to say for sure.

August 20, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 17, 2015

Packets from job seekers: electronic or hard copy or both?

This is the week that job seekers in law teaching are sending out packets of their materials to the schools they are particularly interested in.  The question often arises whether to send the materials via e-mail or via regular mail or both.  I generally advise both, but I'm curious what readers with experience in hiring think.  (Comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear, so please submit the comment just once and be patient.  Thank you.)

August 17, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 24, 2015

Hiring Committees for 2015-16

The Prawfs thread has been open for about ten days now, and will be useful to those on the teaching market.  Other schools can also announce their hiring plans for this coming year.

July 24, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

July 22, 2015

Rostron & Levit's useful compilation of information about submitting to law reviews...

...has been updated again.  They write:

We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Fall 2015 submission season covering the 204 main journals of each law school.  

A couple of the highlight from this round of revisions are: 

First, the chart now includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions.  Most of this is not specific dates, because the journals tend to post only imprecise statements about how the journal is not currently accepting submissions but will start doing so at some point in spring.

Second, there continues to be a gradual increase in the number of journals using and preferring Scholastica instead of ExpressO or accepting emails submissions: 22 journals prefer or strongly prefer Scholastica, 14 more list it as one of the alternative acceptable avenues of submission, and 10 now list Scholastica as the exclusive method of submission.  

The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review.  The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.

The Washington & Lee data, I should note, is mostly silly (among other things, it does not control for publication volume by the journals).  Law review prominence and visibility tracks law school reputation, full stop.  For some specialty journals, the W&L data is somewhat useful, but that's about it.

July 22, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

June 18, 2015

SALT salary survey, 2014-15

Here.  Schools with the highest salaries tend not to participate in this survey, but it does give a realistic sense of what's going on at most law schools in the U.S.

June 18, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

May 20, 2015

Lawsky's rookie hiring data for 2014-15

Here.  Prof. Lawsky counts only tenure-track hires, whether academic or clinical; she reports a total of 70 new hires this year, slightly down from last year.  (It's lower if one substracts the tenure-track clinical hires, though I have not counted carefully.)  The relatively small number of Yale JDs hired (only 6) is striking, though we don't know how many graduates of each school were on the market, though based on past years I would be surprised if there weren't several dozen Yale candidates seeking, meaning the vast majority failed to land positions.  21 of the 70 hires had Harvard JDs (though several of those were coming off Fellowships, like the Bigelow), while another 27 came from just five schools (Stanford, Yale, Chicago, Berkeley, and NYU).

May 20, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

May 01, 2015

This year's rookie law teaching market (2014-15) looks to have been worse than last year

Sarah Lawsky (UC Irvine) is, as usual, gathering the data, and so far there are only 55 tenure-track academic hires, with, I gather two or three more expected.  15% of all the hires so far are either Chicago grads (5) or Chicago Fellows (3) who were on the market; only Harvard and Yale appear to have had a bigger share.

Last year, there were 64 tenure-track academic hires.  Before the crash in applications, 150-180 rookies would be hired into law teaching positions most years.

May 1, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

April 27, 2015

New York Times relies on unrepresentative anecdotes and flawed study to provide slanted coverage of legal education (Michael Simkovic)

Just when you thought The New York Times was rounding the corner and starting to report responsibly about legal education based on hard data and serious labor economics studies, their reporting reverts to the unfortunate form it has taken for much of the last 5 years*—relying on unrepresentative anecdotes and citing fundamentally flawed working papers to paint legal education in a negative light.

Responsible press coverage would have put law graduate outcomes in context by noting that:

(1) law graduates continue to do better in terms of employment (both overall and full time) and earnings than similar bachelor’s degree holders, even in an economy that has generally been challenging for young workers

(2) law students, even from some of the lowest ranked and most widely criticized law schools, continue to have much lower student loan default rates than the national average across institutions according to standardized measurements reported by the Department of Education

(3) law graduate earnings and employment rates typically increase as they gain experience

(4) Data from After the JD shows that law graduates continue to pay down their student loans and approximately half of graduates from the class of 2001 paid them off completely within 12 years of graduation

Instead, The New York Times compares law graduate outcomes today to law graduate outcomes when the economy was booming.  But not all law graduates.  The Times focuses on law graduates who have been unusually unsuccessful in the job market or have unusually large amounts of debtFor example, The New York Times focused on a Columbia law school graduate working as an LSAT tutor** as if that were a typical outcome for graduates of elite law schools.  But according to the National Law Journal, two-thirds of recent Columbia graduates were employed at NLJ 250 law firms (very high paying, very attractive jobs),*** and the overwhelming majority of recent Columbia graduates appear to work in attractive positions.   (Columbia outcomes are much better than most, but the negative outcomes discussed in The New York Times are substantially below average for law graduates as a whole).

In Timing Law School, Frank McIntyre’s and I analyze long term outcomes for those who graduated into previous recessions, using nationally representative data and well-established econometric methods.  Our results suggest that law graduates continue to derive substantial benefits from their law degrees even when graduating into a recession.  The recent recession does not appear to be an exception. (See also here and here).  This analysis is not mentioned in the recent The New York Times article, even though it was cited in The New York Times less than a month ago (and alluded to in The Washington Post even more recently).

The implication of The New York Times’ story “Burdened With Debt, Law School Graduates Struggle in Job Market” is that there is some law specific problem, when the reality is that the recession continues to negatively affect all young and inexperienced workers and law graduates continue to do better than most.   Law school improves young workers’ chances of finding attractive employment opportunities and reduces the risk of defaulting on debt.  The benefits of law school exceed the costs for the overwhelming majority of law school graduates.

The New York Times relies heavily on a deeply flawed working paper by Professor Deborah Merritt of Ohio State.  Problems with this study were already explained by Professor Brian Galle:

“My problem is that instead DJM wants to offer us a dynamic analysis, comparing 2014 to 2011, and arguing that the resulting differential tells us that there has been a "structural shift" in the market for lawyers.  It might be that the data exist somewhere to conduct that kind of analysis, but if so they aren't in the paper.  Nearly all the analysis in the paper is built on the tend line between DJM's 2014 Ohio results and national-average survey results from NALP.  

Let me say that again.  Almost everything DJM says is built on a mathematical comparison between two different pools whose data were constructed using different methods.  I would not blame you if now stopped reading."

In other words, it is difficult to tell whether any differences identified by Professor Merritt are:

(1) Due to differences between Ohio and the U.S. as a whole

(2) Due to differences in methodology between Merritt, NALP, and After the JD

(3) Actually due to differences between 2011 and 2014 for the same group

After Professor Galle’s devastating critique, journalists should have been extremely skeptical of Merritt’s methodology and her conclusions.  Professor Merritt’s response to Galle’s critique, in the comments below his post, is not reassuring:

“Bottom line for me is that the comparison in law firm employment (62.1% for the Class of 2000 three years after graduation, 40.5% for the lawyers in my population) seems too stark to stem solely from different populations or different methods—particularly because other data show a more modest decline in law firm employment over time. But this is definitely an area in which we need much, much more research.”

Judging from this response and the quotes in The New York Times, Merritt appears to be doubling down on her inapposite comparisons rather than checking how much of her conclusions are due to potentially fatal methodological problems.  What Professor Merritt should have done is replicate her 2014 Ohio-only methodology in 2000/2001 or 2010/2011, compared the results for Ohio only at different points in time, and limited her claims to an analysis of the Ohio legal employment market.

There are additional problems with Professor Merritt’s study (or at least the March 11 version that I reviewed).**** 

  • Ohio is not a representative legal employment market, but rather a relatively low paying one where lawyers comprise a relatively small proportion of the workforce.  
  • A disproportionate share of the 8 or 9 law schools in Ohio (9 if you include Northern Kentucky) are low ranked or unranked, and this presumably is reflected in their employment outcomes. 
  • Merritt’s sample is subject to selection bias because of movement of the most capable law graduates out of Ohio and into higher paying legal markets.  Ohio law graduates who do not take the Ohio bar after obtaining jobs in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., or other leading markets will not show up in Merritt’s sample.  
  • Whereas Merritt concludes that law graduate outcomes have not improved, the data may simply reflect the fact that Ohio is a less robust employment market than the U.S. as a whole. 
  • Merritt’s analysis of employment categories does not take into account increases in earnings within employment categories.  After the JD and follow-ups suggests that these within-category gains are substantial, as does overall increases in earnings from Census data. 
  • Merritt makes a biased assumption that anyone she could not reach is unemployed instead of gathering additional information about non-respondents and weighting the results to take into account response bias. Law schools may have been more aggressive in tracking down non-respondents than Professor Merritt was. 

For the benefit of those who are curious, I am making my full 8 page critique of Professor Merritt's working paper available here, but please keep in mind that it was written in mid March and Professor Merritt may have addressed some of these issues in more recent versions of her paper.  If that is the case, I trust that she’ll highlight any changes or improvements in a blog post response.


*    A few weeks ago I asked a research assistant (a third year law student) to search for stories in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal about law school.  Depending on whether the story would have made my research assistant more likely or less likely to want to go to law school when he was considering it or would have had no effect, he coded the stories as positive, negative, or neutral.  According to my research assistant, The New York Times reported 7 negative stories to 1 positive story in 2011 and 5 negative stories to 1 positive story in 2012.  In 2013, 2014, and 2015, The New York Times coverage was relatively balanced.  In aggregate over the five-year period The New York Times reported about 2 negative stories for every 1 positive story.  The Wall Street Journal’s coverage was even more slanted—about 3.75 negative stories for every positive story—and remained heavily biased toward negative stories throughout the five-year period.

**   Professor Stephen Diamond notes the LSAT tutor’s relatively high hourly wage, more lucrative opportunities the tutor claims he turned down, and how the tutor describes his own work ethic.

***  For the class of 2010, the figure at Columbia was roughly 52 percent 9 months after graduation, but activity in the lateral recruitment market suggests things may be looking up.

**** The comments that follow summarize a lengthy (8 page) critique I sent to Professor Merritt privately in mid March after reviewing the March 11 draft of her paper.  I have not had a chance to review Professor Merritt’s latest draft, and Professor Merritt may have responded to some of these issues in a revision.  


UPDATE:  Additional responses from Professors Galle and Merritt.

April 27, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink