September 24, 2014
May 23, 2014
April 16, 2014
...that things aren't as awful as the various charlatans and other law-school haters claim, and, predictably (given the social psychology), the charlatans and haters go crazy. I won't link to the hysterical reactions (they are easy enough to find with Google), but they boil down to one complaint: Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow cited NALP data without treating it as bogus (e.g., that JD Advantage jobs are really jobs [actually many of them are, but never mind]). That's true, they linked to the NALP data, but they didn't spend the rest of their piece debunking that data based on speculation, skepticism, and occasionally other actual evidence. This has certainly been a standing problem in the debate about American legal education, as when serious data analysis showed that legal education was a sound economic investment for the vast majority of students, and critics refused to believe that was true, though without any contrary evidence or analysis. So we can all agree that we should be more careful about how we present data and its import.
That being said, my main disagreement with Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow is about the necessity of three years of legal education, as I've said before: two years could work, and work very well for many students. In reality, the biggest obstacle to reducing costs in legal education, however, is unnoted in their op-ed: it remains the lax tenure standards and the unwillingness of universities to terminate tenured faculty for cause, i.e., when they manifestly do not do their job.
Imagine, for example, a law school that pays a six figure salary (closing in on 200K) to someone with almost no legal experience and an M.A. in literature who teaches the same couple of substantive courses year in and year out, courses in which he has no experience, whose teaching evaluations are consistently below average, who hasn't written any serious legal scholarship in years, who is regarded as a joke by his colleagues at his own school and in the academy at large, and who mostly spends his time insulting, defaming, and blackmailing colleagues who do their jobs. It endangers the institution of tenure when universities do not initiate proceedings to terminate malevolent charlatans like this. Many law schools, as we've noted before, are offering financial inducements to "buy out" senior faculty, most of whom are not charlatans. Real cost reduction, however, will require universities to move against the charlatans and the de facto retired in their midst, even those who have tried to insulate themselves from termination for cause by setting up frivolous retaliation claims.
UPDATE: More thoughts on reforming legal education from Michael Madison (Pitt).
March 26, 2014
In typically irresponsible fashion, ATL yesterday posted factually inaccurate rumors about Denver (which they are slowly correcting). Here is what a tenured colleague at Denver wrote to me:
The truth is that we are reducing our tenure and tenure-track faculty by 10 over multiple years. This is consistent with a long-term plan to shrink the size of the school that began in 2007, prior to the economic downturn. At that point we had 380 students. Our ultimate goal was and is approximately 250 students. The school needs *at most* one person to retire or take a buyout this year to meet our budget for 2014-2015. In subsequent years the faculty who will be offered the option of buyouts will be exclusively tenured faculty who have held their positions for a minimum number of years. The buyouts will NOT include tenure-track faculty who are not yet tenured. That is, the ATL story is simply wrong when it says that untenured tenure-track faculty are being asked to leave. None has been asked to do so. In fact, Denver Law has recommended 4 tenure-track faculty for tenure this year. While tenure is not official until the summer, it is common knowledge that the Dean has recently assured those four faculty members that the planned buyouts will not affect their tenure process. Finally, ATL's unattributed claim that the Denver Law faculty is "quite displeased" with direction of the school is simply false. Of course there are outliers in every institution, but the overall faculty climate is collegial and the vast majority of faculty are pleased with Dean Katz's leadership during a difficult time for all law schools. Of course, it is never ideal for ATL to report facts that are patently false, particularly with respect to untenured faculty, and one would hope that they care enough about their credibility to print a correction.
I've heard the same about Dean Katz from other faculty at Denver as well. (I hope Blog Emperor Caron will learn a lesson from this incident, namely, not to reprint nonsense from ATL without independent verification.)
February 14, 2014
February 10, 2014
January 30, 2014
More factual problems for law school bashers: law students are not unhappier now than they were before the recession
An amusing, but related anecdote: a former student told me he tried to challenge one of the hysterical scam bloggers about his claim that "a very large percentage of alumni wind up out of the law within a few years and much of the remainder had higher earnings potential at 35 than they do at 55" and that "most BigLaw associates are gone by year 5 to lower-bracket employment options." The challenge consisted of: what is the evidence for these claims (since none had been cited or linked)? The scam-blogger didn't even approve the question for the comment section, and no answer has been forthcoming. Hardly surprising, since the law school bashing has become an utterly fact-free pastime (at least when it doesn't devolve into cyber-harassment and sexist abuse.)
January 24, 2014
January 17, 2014
I appreciate all the feedback via the poll and many e-mails. Notwithstanding the attempted blackmail, I will be posting the identity of "dybbuk," the sexist cyber-harasser and generally pathetic human being, but I would like to wait for the Illinois Bar's investigation, which is now in process, to conclude, since I would not want cyber-hysteria to affect the evaluation of the merits. I expect by April we will know where things stand.
January 15, 2014
Useful perspective from Mary Anne Franks (Miami). The Internet is the cesspool of vile stupidity and vicious harassment that it is mostly because of CDA 230. The recent court decision against The Dirty website (discussed by Prof. Franks) is a hopeful sign.