A reader (who asked not to be identified, lest he be pilloried by the sociopaths of cyberspace) sent me this very funny comment from another blog, that had apparently dared to discuss legal education without self-flagellation, and so was linked by a "scamblog" and then invaded by its handful of 'readers':
Prof. McCormick, I should warn you that you've been linked by the Campos "scam" blog, so its five regular commenters are now descending on you. These are people who believe that (1) law professors are Nazis, (2) no one should go to law school unless it's Harvard or Yale or free, (3) law professors are Nazis, (4) only people who have practiced for twenty years are qualified to teach, (5) law professors are Nazis, and (6) Paul Campos is a courageous man.
And that about sums up 'thinking' in the bowels of cyberspace!
Perhaps worth noting in this context is that a large number of accomplished legal historians started their careers at SLU, including Lawrence Friedman (now at Stanford), Daniel Huselbosch (now at NYU), and Barry Cushman (now at Notre Dame, previously at UVA).
It would be an actual ad hominem fallacy to dismiss out of hand these remarks because of their source. In fact, it seems to me the Dean makes a number of fair points, including about the echo chamber irrationality of some of the "scam" blogs. Here are some highlights worth noting:
A relative handful of critics re-circulate the same increasingly tired arguments, thus reinforcing one another's views, nearly all of which are not remotely objective and without support in fact.
The Recession Hit Our Profession Hard . . .
In late 2008, a recession hit the American economy, a bad one. The legal business was hard hit as well, precisely because the legal business is so vital to our free market, capitalist economy. The recession heightened in 2009, and the recovery that followed has been exceptionally slow. Business at all levels has slowed, economic activity is down, and tax revenues that support government activity are down as well.
So, the law business, including the government law segment, has suffered. Employment of lawyers declined during this recession, and employment of recent graduates was in turn more challenging. Of course, that is true for all segments of the economy and all management and professional occupations.
. . . But Not As Hard As the Critics of Legal Education Say
In 2008, the national unemployment rate reported by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics was 5.8%; in 2009, it climbed to 9.3%, then to 9.6% in 2010, and declined by less than one percent to 8.9% in 2011. The BLS-reported national unemployment rate for all management and professional occupations in 2008 was 2.7%; this rate leapt to 4.6% in 2009, rose to 4.7% in 2010, and declined slightly to 4.5% in 2011. Compare these rates to the unemployment rates the BLS reported for lawyers during the same period: 1.9% in 2008, 2.3% in 2009, 1.5% in 2010, and 2.1% in 2011. These related employment facts, which provide the necessary context to this discussion, have been completely ignored by the critics.
The National Association for Law Placement began publishing data about employment of recent law school graduates in 1975. This is the fourth recession the economy has gone through since then, and it was the longest in duration. We recovered nicely from all of them, although each time it has taken several years for complete recovery to be realized. NALP's data shows that the new lawyer unemployment rate following each recession since 1975 has included several years of double-digit unemployment....
What the critics completely ignore is that the law schools, like every enterprise in a market system, are sensitive to market forces. The fall 2011 entering class was 7.4% smaller than that in 2010. The 2012 class will be smaller still. When these classes graduate in 2014 and 2015, the job market will be absorbing a correspondingly lower number of graduates in those years. The current employment market has already affected applicant behavior, and the schools in turn have responded to those market forces. We need no mandate to make adjustments dictated by accrediting agencies, education departments, or legislative bodies. Supply and demand clearly are at work; they are just not recognized by the critics.
Of course, there are reasons identified by Bill Henderson (Indiana) and others to think many changes in the legal workforce are structural and permanent, not just transitory effects of the recession. Overall BLS statistics are also misleading, since they include many lawyers who began their careers during periods of time when American universities were actually not graduating enough new lawyers to meet demand (yes, there was such a time). And there really are reasons to think that a minority of currently accredited law schools are a bad investment at any price, and that an even larger number are a bad investment at their current prices (the Tamanaha book is a useful compilation of the data on this score). The contraction in the applicant pool and in law school class size is, indeed, a "market" adjustment, as will be the likely closure of some law schools in the next few years. (The "market" here is, of course, affected by both government and private regulatory policies.) There may, of course, also yet be political or economic events that will exacerbate the speed or magnitude of all these changes (e.g., another economic collapse, a change in federal education loan policy).
UPDATE: Jonathan Weinberg (Wayne State) writes:
The irony in Dean LeDuc's statement that most struck me is that while law schools as a whole are enrolling fewer students, Cooley is not. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303444204577458411514818378.html The schools most sensitive to their US News rankings, and thus their LSAT/GPA numbers, are the ones most motivated to reduce class sizes. Cooley, and other schools like it, aren't responsive to those market forces.
I see Dan Filler, independently, picked up the story about the removal of most OUP journals from Westlaw. As it happens, I was corresponding with Rhodri Jackson at OUP about this issue, and was invited to share the following information and explanation:
The central fact of Daniel Sokol's piece, that we have pulled some journals from Westlaw, is correct. This happened as of August 1, 2012, and was announced here:
There are some things we would correct or add to in Daniel's post. Firstly, European Journal of International Law, Reports of Patent, Design and Trade Mark Cases, and Industrial Law Journal remain in Westlaw.
Secondly, many of the journals Daniel lists were never in Westlaw in the first place, and many are not in Westlaw OR Lexis now. I’ve listed the actual titles removed from Westlaw at the bottom of this email. All our titles remain in the LJI (Legal Journals Index).
Thirdly, re the W&L rankings, whilst Daniel is correct that the W&L rankings are based on Westlaw, it is unlikely removal from Westlaw will have any discernible impact on a journal’s ranking. Citations to journals are pulled from Westlaw – so OUP journals would only fall in those rankings if they received a significant proportion of their citations from one of the removed titles. W&L will still pull citations to OUP journals in other publications in Westlaw’s databases.
More generally, it’s never quite as straightforward as us taking a decision that affects all our journals. We have standard policies but the final decision on appropriate licensing is taken on a journal by journal basis.
Hopefully that helps clarify. As to why - we took the decision to take journals out of Westlaw because we have agreed a preferred licensing partnership deal with Lexis Nexis. We continually evaluate which services are the best fit for our titles, and at present Lexis’ global reach and commitment to working with us to disseminate our content (including new journals) stands out. Usage of the journals within Westlaw was very low, and runs somewhat counter to the dire warnings regarding discoverability which Daniel makes.
We’re very keen to ensure that all our journals are discoverable and citable, and we do appreciate that some scholars and practitioners use Westlaw and the JLR. We are working with Lexis to make our journals as visible and easy to find within their database as possible. It’s also worth noting that the primary method of delivery for all our journals is of course through our own site http://www.oxfordjournals.org/subject/law/index.html. We have licensing agreements with multiple providers including Lexis, Westlaw, Hein, and EBSCO, but usage of the journals at all of those venues is dwarfed by that at Oxford.
I hope that helps clarify, but if you have follow up questions we'll be happy to answer
Titles Removed from Westlaw as of 1 August 2012
British Journal of Criminology
Human Rights Law Review
International Journal of Constitutional Law
International Journal of Law and Information Technology
International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
International Journal of Refugee Law
Journal of Competition Law & Economics
Journal of Conflict and Security Law
Journal of Environmental Law
Journal of International Criminal Justice
Journal of International Dispute Settlement
Journal of International Economic Law
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization
Journal of Refugee Studies
Law, Probability and Risk
Medical Law Review
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies
Statute Law Review
This is useful information, and it's certainly right that the effect on any kind of "citation" rankings will be minimal. On the other hand, this move is not without costs for US-based legal scholars, who overwhelmingly do their research on-line and some of whom (I'm one of them) never use Lexis anymore (I don't even know my Lexis password, it's been so many years!). Scholarship that isn't in the Westlaw database is going to be missed by some non-trivial number of researchers. That's unfortunate indeed, and may well give some pause about submitting to these journals. (As a sidenote, the W&L journal rankings are pretty worthless, I'm surprised to learn anyone is looking at them.)
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