July 13, 2018
Colleges and universities typically pay educated professionals a fraction of what similar individuals earn in the private sector (typically around 60 to 80 cents on the dollar) in return for greater job security and academic freedom. In recent years, some law schools have effectively reneged on this bargain, slashing compensation, de-prioritizing research support and/or accepting outside funding that compromises academic freedom, and terminating even some tenured faculty members.
Recent reports suggest that Vermont Law School has taken this to the extreme.
According to the ABA Journal, Vermont Law School recently stripped tenure from 14 of its 19 tenured professors. This was done without a formal declaration of financial exigency, and according to faculty members and the AAUP, apparently without the consent of faculty members typically required for such decisions.
Professors were reportedly offered severance equal to 6 months salary and health benefits, but only if they agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement and full release of all legal claims. This package is no more generous than severance pay routinely offered to long-serving (but untenured) employees of for-profit corporations.
July 12, 2018
We write today as Yale Law students, alumni, and educators ashamed of our alma mater. Within an hour of Donald Trump’s announcement that he would nominate Brett Kavanaugh, YLS ‘90, to the Supreme Court, the law school published a press release boasting of its alumnus’s accomplishment. The school’s post included quotes from Yale Law School professors about Judge Kavanaugh’s intellect, influence and mentorship of their students.
Yet the press release's focus on the nominee's professionalism, pedigree, and service to Yale Law School obscures the true stakes of his nomination and raises a disturbing question: Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?
Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country. His nomination is not an interesting intellectual exercise to be debated amongst classmates and scholars in seminar. Support for Judge Kavanaugh is not apolitical. It is a political choice about the meaning of the constitution and our vision of democracy, a choice with real consequences for real people.
July 10, 2018
June 25, 2018
June 22, 2018
This story is certainly indicative of the depths of the decline in law school applicants especially in the Midwest. That the flagship law school, long one of the top twenty in the United States, should still be facing these difficulties is sobering. And, of course, since USNews.com runs American legal education, the school faces a stark choice: lower admissions standards (and scholarship offers) to take more paying students with lesser numerical credentials, and the school's USNews.com rank will drop; if the school's USNews.com rank drops, some number of out-of-state students who might have paid to go there, won't, and the cycle will continue. Some clever state AG needs to find a way to take Bob Morse & co. to court for consumer fraud, and end this misery for everyone.
UPDATE: There's a comment from Bill McGeveran over at the Blog Emperor's post about this story that deserves notice:
First, of the 11 public law schools in the top 30, the only ones to get a lower percentage of their revenue from state support are Berkeley, Michigan, and Virginia -- all with endowments 2 to 4 times larger than ours. The so-called "subsidy" is actually bringing us into line with our peers.
Second, our applicant numbers, yield, and class size have all increased significantly for the entering classes of 2017 and 2018, without any sacrifice in the credentials of our incoming students.
All law schools need to be conscious of costs today, and we're no exception. But there's no dire crisis at Minnesota, even if that's a less interesting news story.
June 14, 2018
June 12, 2018
Most legal employers (who responded so far) deny imposing mandatory arbitration agreements on summer associates/interns
June 08, 2018
Apprenticeships and online education are not viable alternatives to ABA-approved law schools (Michael Simkovic)
Over the last several decades, both the cost and the quality of ABA approved law schools have increased. Faculty student ratios have fallen. Completion rates have increased, even as diverse groups with historically lower completion rates have become a larger share of the student body. Earnings premiums have increased, and racial disparities have narrowed.
Nevertheless, some critics of law school, concerned by the high cost, have suggested going back to the "good old days" of legal apprenticeships, or using technology to bring down costs. The data does not support apprenticeships or less highly regulated (and less expensive) online or correspondence versions of law school as viable alternatives to ABA-approved law schools.
Several major legal markets (including New York and California) permit prospective lawyers to sit for the bar exam after 4 years of apprenticeship under a licensed lawyer (or 4 years combined law school and apprenticeship). Very few people still try this approach. But for those who do, the bar passage rates are abysmal.
June 07, 2018
June 05, 2018
Should law schools pressure their students to go into low paid, thankless public service jobs? (Michael Simkovic)
A recent report by a Harvard law school alumnus, Pete Davis, points out that law schools like Harvard serve the interests of wealthy elites by training primarily future corporate lawyers. (See also here). This is consistent with the available evidence on graduates’ employment, notwithstanding widely publicized—and dubious—claims of law schools being liberal or left-leaning.
Whether or not this is a problem, and whether schools like Harvard should try to do a better job of training future business lawyers or try to steer their students away from business law, is a matter for debate. Davis appears to believe that business lawyers are incapable of serving important collective interests of society—or at least do not do as good of a job as public sector lawyers. According to Davis, law schools therefore have an obligation to discourage students from pursuing careers in business law.
My view is that the path toward resuscitating the public sector will entail convincing the American people to collectively share the burdens of civilization by voting for higher taxes and higher pay for public servants. Until public servants are paid fairly, no one but the very wealthy should feel any obligation to work in the public sector or encourage their students to do so.
I would argue that business lawyers facilitate incredibly important functions in the service of society. Business lawyers help businesses raise the capital they need so that they can serve the basic needs of hundreds of millions or even billions of people. Lawyers also help firms mitigate risks, comply with government regulations and organize tens or even hundreds of thousands employees and suppliers to work together toward a common goal. That is remarkable, and the economic progress that has resulted clearly is in the public interest.