September 20, 2018

Yale's Chua, Rubenfeld now center stage in the Kavanaugh confirmation drama as new allegations emerge about what Kavanaugh likes in clerks

Many readers have sent me this article from The Guardian; some excerpts:

[Amy Chua], who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him....[She] was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources....

 

In one case, Jed Rubenfeld, also an influential professor at Yale and who is married to Chua, told a prospective clerk that Kavanaugh liked a certain “look”.

 

“He told me, ‘You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look,’” one woman told the Guardian. “He did not say what the look was and I did not ask...."

 

Chua advised the same student Rubenfeld spoke to that she ought to dress in an “outgoing” way for her interview with Kavanaugh, and that the student should send Chua pictures of herself in different outfits before going to interview. The student did not send the photos....

 

The Guardian has learned that Rubenfeld is currently the subject of an internal investigation at Yale. The investigation is focused on Rubenfeld’s conduct, particularly with female law students. Students have also raised related concerns to Yale authorities about Chua’s powerful influence in the clerkships process.


September 20, 2018 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Why do some college students choose law school over other advanced degree programs? (Michael Simkovic)

The AALS today released a new report, Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School, based on a survey with responses from 22,0000 college students and 2,700 law students.  The report discusses, among other things, the considerations that might drive college students pursuing advanced degrees to apply to law school over other advanced degree programs, when students first contemplate going to law school, and important sources of information and advice about law school and other advanced degrees to which undergraduates turn.

Some interesting findings include:

  • Students considering law school are also likely to consider a PhD, Masters Degree or MBA instead of a law degree, but are much less likely to consider Medical School
  • Only 15 precent of students considering a graduate degree were considering a law degreee
  • Law was seen as better preparation for a career in politics, government, or public service than other options
  • Compared to other advanced degrees, students are less concerned about time to completion for law degrees, but students are more concerned about work life balance in law than in other fields
  • Debt /cost was slightly less of a concern for a law degree than for other advanced degrees
  • Students interested in law school developed this interest early, often even before attending college
  • Law was not seen as using cutting edge technology as much as other fields


September 20, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 13, 2018

SEALS planning on launching its own faculty hiring conference

I have only one comment on this terrible idea:  don't do it!   It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it).  More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.

ADDENDUM:  Let me comment on one particularly ludicrous reason given for the idea that what the world needs is another hiring convention for aspiring law teachers:

Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time.

To start, this just isn't true.  In a given year, maybe one candidate in the entire market has an offer before the "meat market," if that.  More to the point, how in the world would having an earlier hiring convention help with this non-problem?  Obviously those looking to "beat the market" would simply accelerate their own process.

ANOTHER:  In this article, Prof. Weaver of SEALS admits they are trying to do something "positive" for their "member schools."   At least it is now clear this has nothing to do with the job seekers, although how it will be positive for the SEALS schools is mysterious, since those schools will have to send hiring committees to two difference conferences.  This really is shameful, and I hope schools hold fast on boycotting this if, in fact, SEALS pursues this foolish and pointless exercise.


August 13, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

August 08, 2018

Should Online Education Come with an Asterisk on Transcripts? (Michael Simkovic)

The ABA recently voted to permit a dramatic expansion of online legal education.

Online education is controversial in higher education.  It is even more controversial in legal education, which relies more on classroom interaction and less on lectures than most forms of higher education. 

Widespread perceptions that online education is lower quality than live instruction in general—and may be particularly disadvantageous in legal education—are backed by numerous peer-reviewed empirical studies.[1] 

Proponents of online education argue that it is more convenient because students and faculty do not have to commute, or because students can learn at their own pace.  They argue that it is potentially more cost effective, either because physical facilities need not be used, or because it is scalable, or because an artisanal model of teaching through knowledgeable faculty can be replaced with a less expensive, industrial model of low-skill specialized workers who each handle particular aspects of course development and teaching.  Some argue that technology can be used to closely monitor and track students, and that the information gathered can be used to improve the quality of education. 

Critics of online education argue that it is lower quality, that most students learn and absorb less, and that the social dynamic of the classroom and learning from one’s peers and interacting with alumni is a critical part of education.  (In addition to multiple peer-reviewed studies, they point to recent examples of “online education” such as self-paced workplace training modules as examples of the low quality that can be expected.) 

Critics point to the failure of MOOCS—which have extremely low completion rates (see also here)—as evidence of the limits of scalability.  They point to the pricing and cost experience of most universities, which have seen high costs of developing and maintaining online courses and additional software licensing fees which have prevented them from charging much less for online classes than for those taught in person.  And they point to a rash of cheating and distracted learning, which anecdotally seem to be more prevalent online than in person.

Perhaps the most empirically rigorous (and recent) study of online education to date—which relied on an experimental design with random assignment of students to different versions of the same introductory economics course—found evidence that “live-only instruction dominates internet instruction . . . particularly . . . for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students.”  An earlier study which also used a quasi-experimental approach, found similar results, especially for complex conceptual learning:

“We find that the students in the virtual classes, while having better characteristics, performed significantly worse on the examinations than the live students. This difference was most pronounced for exam questions that tapped the students' ability to apply basic concepts in more sophisticated ways, and least pronounced for basic learning tasks such as knowing definitions or recognizing important concepts . . .

Choosing a completely online course carries a penalty that would need to be offset by significant advantages in convenience or other factors important to the student. . . . Doing as well in an online course as in the live alternative seems to require extra work or discipline beyond that demonstrated by our students, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult concepts.”

Continue reading


August 8, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Student Advice, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 07, 2018

ABA lives up to its reputation for being captured by special interests (in this case related to LSAC) and withdraws proposal to authorize tests other than LSAT for admission

Pathetic.  Law schools should continue offering the GRE option regardless, sooner or later, the ABA will have to catch up with reality.


August 7, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 02, 2018

NALP data: When there are fewer law school graduates, there are fewer law school graduates with jobs (Michael Simkovic)

NALP entry level starting salaries and employment don't predict much of anything about what will happen three to four years from now when those currently contemplating going to law school will, if they choose to attend, graduate into a quite possibly very different economy.  Nor is NALP data directionally very different from overall economic data like the employment population ratio  which is released sooner.1    And while those graduating into a stronger economy do earn more (at least for the first few years), these cohort effects fade over time, those who graduate in a recession still benefit from their educations, and attempting to time law school is a money-losing proposition because of the opportunity costs of delay.

Nevertheless, every year NALP data on last year's graduating class is released with great fanfare, including a press release.  In news that will surprise no one who has tracked the rise in the overall employment population ratio, it turns out that the class of 2017 had better employment outcomes than other classes since the recession. Or as NALP sexes it up for journalists, "Class of 2017 Notched Best Employment Outcomes Since Recession." (88.6% employed 9 months after graduation for the class for 2017, compared with 87.5% for the Class of 2016).

But, NALP unhelpfully informs us, there's a catch--the total number of law jobs for law graduates was lower even though the employment rate was higher.

This should not surprise anyone who is aware that the number of law school matriculants last peaked in 2010, and graduating class sizes have therefore been falling since 2013.  From 1994 through 2015, the correlation between annual % change in graduating class size and annual % change in number of law graduates with jobs has been 0.78 (i.e., class size explains 61 percent of the variation in number of law jobs for recent graduates.  (data here)  The correlation is even higher since 1999 when reporting started covering a higher percent of the class--0.91 correlation, meaning that class size explains 82% of the variation in the number of law graduates with jobs.

 

NALP jobs and class size

 

There aren't fewer jobs available for lawyers.  To the contrary, there are more lawyers working now than there were pre-recession according to both Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Data (BLS OES, ACS, and CPS).  There are fewer recent law graduates working as lawyers because there are fewer recent law graduates.

The employment market for educated workers is large and the number of law graduates is small relative to this market.  Law schools are too small to move the market much on the supply side by admitting more or fewer students.  Just as the typical investor could sell all of his or her shares of Apple without moving the market for shares of Apple (much less the S&P 500), the typical law school can admit as many or as few students as it wants without changing the overall percent of law graduates who will find jobs.  (However, there’s some evidence that at the national level, the share of recent law graduates working as lawyers varies inversely with class size).

The usefulness of NALP data is questionable (at least for many of the uses to which it is often put), but NALP could help by limiting its reporting to employment rates and starting salaries.  Discussing changes in the absolute number of law graduates with jobs is simply a confusing ways of telling people that fewer people entered law school 4 years ago than 5 or 6 years ago. 

NALP should also contextualize its employment ratios by comparing them to the overall U.S. employment population ratio during the same time period (i.e, March of 2018), which was 60 percent overall, and and 79 percent for those age 25-54 according to BLS and the OECD, compared to 89 percent for recent law graduates, according to NALP.

1 (Similarities are greatest when one restricts it to those who are both young and well-educated using CPS data.

 

UPDATE: 8/3/2018  The correlations and r-squared were originally reported based on levels rather than % change from previous year. The numbers have been updated to reflect a model based on differencing (% change from prior year), which brings the explanatory power from 1999 forward down from 96 percent to 82 percent.

 


August 2, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Navel-Gazing, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

July 21, 2018

Northwestern Lecturer Mark A. Cohen’s Angry Outburst on Twitter (Michael Simkovic)

I recently pointed out some factual problems with claims by Northwestern lecturer Mark A. Cohen.  Cohen, writing in Forbes, claimed that faculty terminations at Vermont Law School were proof that student debt was unsustainable, not only at Vermont, but at all law schools except for a handful of elite institutions. 

Here’s the problem: When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high.  But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low.[1] 

When Professor David Herzig pointed out some of the relevant literature to Mr. Cohen, Cohen responded with the following angry outburst on twitter:

That "evidence" has been panned by every credible source I know. The methodology and premises upon which the conclusions were drawn are laughable and fly in the face of real studies. I was a bet-the-company trial lawyer for many years--the "study" you cite is 3rd rate fiction.”

Low student loan defaults for law graduates are consistent with the peer reviewed literature, such as The Economic Value of a Law Degree (final version here), Timing Law School (final version here), and related work by me and Frank McIntyre about the value of legal education.  Law degrees generally provide benefits that are substantially greater than their costs, even toward the low end of the distribution, across race (final version here), sex and college major, both before and after the financial crisis, and including those who graduate during a recession.  More than the top 75 percent of law graduates are getting good value relative to a terminal bachelor’s degree.[2]

Strong student loan performance is also consistent with the After the JD study (compare waves I, II, and especially III), which showed rapid income growth for graduates of even low ranked ABA-approved law schools, and eventually, six-figure median full-time incomes. 

Law students’ low default rates have featured in the business strategies of many student lenders, who are eager to refinance law student debt for interest rates substantially below those offered by the federal government.

Professor Herzig asked Mr. Cohen to be more specific about his sources and objections.

Mr. Cohen has yet to specify what he believes is wrong with the methodology in the studies—which were authored with a PhD labor economist, peer reviewed and carefully vetted, use high quality government data, use mainstream methods and assumptions that are well established in labor economics, and include sensitivity analyses and robustness checks.  The results have been replicated by other researchers.

Mr. Cohen also has yet to specify which “real studies” he thinks use better data and more widely accepted methods, and why.  He has yet to explain how his litigation experience qualifies him as a labor economist, statistician, and literary critic.  Or why, as a seasoned litigator, he thinks so many of the lawsuits against law schools have been dismissed.

Continue reading


July 21, 2018 in Faculty News, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

July 20, 2018

University of Illinois, Chicago Board approves acquisition of John Marshall Law School in Chicago (UPDATED)

A big moment for the legal education landscape in Chicago if this goes through and if the new UIC John Marshall Law School offers state resident tuition discounting comparable to that at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  While Urbana-Champaign won't be much affected, there will be considerable pressure on the private law schools in Chicago, namely, Chicago-Kent, DePaul, and Loyola-Chicago.  (Northern Illinois, another public law school in the far suburbs of Chicago, won't be helped either.)   The real pressure will be on DePaul, which has suffered from years of mismanagement and turmoil, and is the lowest rank of the three in the USNews.com rankings (#128 most recently; Loyola-Chicago and Chicago-Kent are solidly in the top 100).  

One unknown is how much of the John Marshall law faculty will be taken on board by UIC; in terms of scholarly prominence, it is clearly weaker than the faculties at Chicago-Kent, DePaul, and Loyola-Chicago.

UPDATE:  Dean Darby Dickerson at John Marshall kindly wrote and gave me permission to share some further information about the proposed merger:

The parties have negotiated that all full-time faculty will be transferring to UIC, with their tenure status, rank, and pay intact.

In addition, emeritus faculty will also have an opportunity to transition to emeritus status at UIC. 

During the 207-2018 academic year, we offered a voluntary buyout opportunity to our more senior faculty to allow them the ability to retire if they wished to avoid a benefits transition. Six faculty members accepted that offer; two retired in June and the other four will retire in December. 

We have three new faculty members who either have just started or will be starting later this month. We're in the process of hiring five new tenure-line faculty members who will begin in Summer/Fall 2019, and we then hope to hire about eight new tenure-line faculty members in the two years after closing. 

In June, the full-time faculty voted unanimously to support the transaction. The vote included several faculty members who had accepted the buyout opportunity. They were excited about the opportunity for the school and our students, but had personal reasons for desiring to retire before closing.

I learned also from IHE that the new UIC John Marshall Law School will offer in-state tuition rates.  That will make the new law school a force to be reckoned with in the legal education market in Chicago.


July 20, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

July 19, 2018

The trouble at Vermont Law School isn't due to "unsustainable" debt levels for students--but it might be because of unsustainable tuition discounting and underinvestment in outreach (Michael Simkovic)

Vermont Law School recently stripped many of its tenured faculty of tenure.  A recent article in Forbes by Mark Cohen, a lecturer at Northwestern, claims that Vermont's financial problems are a sign that tuition is too high and student debt is unsustainable. 

The data doesn't support his contention.  When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high.  But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low.  Vermont Law School's 3-year cohort default rates over the last 3 years available (classes of 2012-2014) are between 0.3 and 1.2 percent, while the national average cohort default default rate across educational institutions is close to 11.5 percent.  Nor are Vermont graduates defaulting in large numbers on their Perkins loans.  The 2016 default rate, the most recent available, was 3.5 percent for Vermont, versus an average across all educational institutions of around 11.5 percent.  Perkins loans are not eligible for Income Based Repayment, so Vermont's relatively strong performance is likely not due too a disproportionately large share of its graduates enrolling in IBR.  (Not all Vermont grads will practice law in Vermont, but lawyers in Vermont are actually paid reasonably well--around 120,000 on average according to the BLS).

Vermont Law School's problem is not that tuition is so high that student debt levels are unsustainable relative to students' post graduation income and other financial resources.  Rather, Vermont's problem seems to be that there are too few students, and because of aggressive tuition discounting intended to attract them, the students who matriculate are paying too little to make the school financially healthy.  Vermont Law School's  2016 529 shows that around 90 percent of incoming students received some scholarship, and half of students receive half tuition scholarships or better.  

Vermont Law School could try to respond by offering even more scholarship, but its competitors have deeper pockets, and can outspend Vermont until it runs out of room to maneuver.  Escalating a price war that Vermont will surely lose would be foolish. Degrading the quality of its education by relying on more lecturers and adjuncts risks causing a death spiral in which quality, enrollments, reputation, and revenue per student all continue to drop.

To be successful and sustainable in the long run, Vermont may need to find a way to attract students--not just from Vermont, but from across the region--other than offering a cut-rate price.  Rather than compete on price, Vermont should find a better way to reach out to those students who are most likely to find Vermont's offerings appealing.


July 19, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

July 18, 2018

New York Times contributors get an unpleasant surprise when they try to write about higher education without bashing it (Michael Simkovic)

Ellen Shell, a journalism professor at Boston University, recently wrote an article for the New York Times arguing that while higher education confers vitally important advantages in the labor market,[1] education alone is not enough to overcome the disadvantages of childhood poverty and to promote greater equality.[2]  The purpose of Shell’s article was apparently to advocate for more comprehensive efforts to overcome poverty, above and beyond greater investment in higher education.[3] 

In the hands of editors at the New York Times, the title of Professor Shell’s Op Ed became "College May Not Be Worth It Anymore."

Several readers who contacted me about this article assumed that Professor Shell was an elitist who believed that the poor did not deserve to be as well educated as her own children.[4]  Apparently so did the author of the study she cited.  He says that to the extent that Professor Shell may have intended to downplay the benefits of education to poor children, she misunderstood his work.[5] 

I contacted Professor Shell to ask about the discrepancy between the contents of her article and its title, and whether New York Times editors had changed her title.

She wrote back that she was surprised by the title, that it did not match the contents of her article, that it must have come from the editor, and that it did not endear her to the administration at her university.

I knew to ask Professor Shell before jumping to conclusions because I have also been surprised to find that New York Times editors attached inapposite, critical titles to my work.[6]  And I have repeatedly heard similar complaints from other professors who have written Op Eds for the New York Times and from sources who have been misquoted by the New York Times and had their professional reputations damaged as a result.

Most readers of newspapers assume that the writer listed in the byline of a newspaper article or Op Ed is responsible not only for the text of an article, essay or Op Ed, but also for the lead or title that appears at the top. 

At the New York Times, that is not the case.[7] 

Editors choose the titles of Op Eds or articles.  Because many readers only read the lead or title, and not the full article, this gives senior management at media companies an enormous amount of power.  This power comes without public scrutiny, since usually only the name of the “author” (and not the editor) appears in the byline of the article.  

Continue reading


July 18, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink