October 31, 2017

ABA issues notices about possible non-compliance with ABA standards

Blog Emperor Caron collects links to them all, but they differ quite a bit.  The notice to Buffalo reflects record-keeping issues, I suspect, while those to Appalachian and Thomas Jefferson, for example, seem far more ominous.


October 31, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 30, 2017

Tuition-discounting at law schools

There's a lot of it, unsurprisingly, according to a new study (which included data from only 36 schools, however).


October 30, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 19, 2017

California Supreme Court declines to lower Bar pass score

The Court explains its decision here.  Tellingly, they don't even claim that it's necessary to keep the score where it is because that is essential for competent legal practice.  The decision is certainly a blow for the vast majority of California law schools that had lobbied for a lower pass score, more in line with other jurisdictions.


October 19, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 28, 2017

The second FAR distribution came out today...

...with only 55 new applicants for faculty positions.  Altogether, there are fewer than 500 candidates seeking law teaching positions this year, one of the lowest totals I can recall.  There are some indications that hiring is up this year--or at least interviewing--but it's too early to say for sure.


September 28, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 25, 2017

The law school monopoly myth (Michael Simkovic)

It is often assumed that the only way to become a lawyer is to attend an ABA-approved law school.  That is true in some states and, indeed, the ABA has at times expressed the view that it should be true in all states.  But it is not the case in large jurisdictions such as New York or California, nor is it the case in the majority of jurisdictions.  Claims that ABA-approved law school have a monopoly on entry into the legal profession are exaggerations.  Rather, the most popular—and probably most likely—way to become a lawyer is to graduate from an ABA-approved institution. 

In leading jurisdictions such as New York, California, and Virginia, an individual who wishes to become a lawyer may sit for the bar examination with between zero and 1 years of law school and between 3 and 4 years of apprenticeship and study under the supervision of a licensed attorney (this is also known as “law office study” or “reading for the bar”).  In California, graduates of non-ABA-approved law schools are eligible to sit for the bar examination.  This includes schools with extremely low-cost, technology-driven approaches to teaching, such as online and correspondence schools.

In fact, non-ABA law school graduates are eligible to sit for the bar examination in most jurisdictions (31 in total as of 2017) according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.**  This includes extremely large and important jurisdictions such as California, Florida, New York, Texas and Washington D.C.  Graduates of online and correspondence law schools are eligible to sit for the bar examination in 4 jurisdictions.

Very few people choose the apprenticeship route, and only a minority opt for non-ABA law schools.  Among those who do, relatively few successfully complete their courses of study or pass the bar examination.  But those who do will have the same license to practice law as someone who graduates from an ABA-approved law school and successfully passes the bar examination.

Why then do so many prospective lawyers choose ABA-approved law schools?

The most likely explanation is that prospective lawyers choose ABA-approved law schools because those law schools provide a valuable and worthwhile service that supports a higher price point than other options.* 

Many employers value legal education.  That’s why they typically pay law school graduates tens of thousands of dollars more per year than they pay similar bachelor’s degree holders, even in occupations other than the practice of law.  When law school graduating class sizes increase, and a lower proportion of graduates practice law, graduates don’t typically see a noticeable decline in their earnings premium. 

In other words, the benefits of law school are versatile. Graduates of ABA-approved law schools also seem to be much more likely to complete their studies and pass the bar examination than students attending more lightly regulated and lower cost alternatives.

Continue reading


September 25, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

September 22, 2017

Why law?

September 20, 2017

USD Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo should either resign or issue a public apology...

...for his abject failure of leadership in one of his central duties as head of an academic institution:  to defend freedom of speech and inquiry by faculty and students on both scholarly matters and matters of public concern.  It is not his role to express his own opinions about positions defended by his faculty, either in their scholarship or in their contributions to public debate.  If he wants to express his own opinions, he should step down from the Deanship and rejoin the faculty.  But as Dean, his job is to defend freedom of speech and inquiry, even when it is unpopular.  He has failed.

USD Law professor Tom Smith has more, including a response from many of Larry Alexander's colleagues to the Dean's inappropriate public statement.

The op-ed by Larry and Penn law professor Amy Wax that has generated all the controversy was rather feeble, confusing correlation and causation in ways that were, by my lights, embarrassing and strange.  The piece has been subjected to sensible criticism from colleagues of Professor Wax.  I make my opinion known about the merits only so we can be clear that mine is an objection based on a crucial principle:  the job of academic administrators is to administer a university environment, which includes protecting the space for scholarly and political debate.  An administrator can only do that if he or she does not enter that space and take sides against members of the faculty or the student body.  Here is how the University of Chicago's 1967 Kalven Report (authored by famed First Amendment scholar Harry Kalven) puts it:

The mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge.  Its domain of inquiry and scrutiny includes all aspects and all values of society.  A university faithful to its mission will provide enduring challenges to social values, policies, practices, and institutions.  By design and effect, it is the institution which creates discontent with the existing social arrangements and proposes new ones.  In brief, a good university, like Socrates, will be upsetting.

 

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student.  The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.....To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry, and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures.  A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community....

 

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues o fthe day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness.

 

The Dean speaks for that community, and the way Dean Ferruolo has spoken has now endangered the community he was charged with shepherding.

Up until this point, I had thought Dean Ferruolo had done rather well by USD, but he has failed, and failed mightily, here.  His choices are clear:  apologize for his failure in this instance, or resign.

Readers may be interested in my discussion of these issues in a column last Spring at CHE.  

UPDATE:  See also the discussion of the op-ed by Penn's Jonah Gelbach.


September 20, 2017 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 18, 2017

Are law degrees as valuable to minorities? (Michael Simkovic)

Frank McIntyre & Michael Simkovic, Are law degrees as valuable to minorities? International Review of Law & Economics (forthcoming 2017) (ssrn download):

"Individuals who complete law school typically receive a large boost to their earnings compared to what they would likely have earned with a terminal bachelor’s degree.  (Simkovic & McIntyre, 2014)  The law earnings premium has exceeded the cost of law school by a wide margin, even toward the bottom of the earnings distribution, and even for graduates who enter the labor force during a recession or with an unusually large cohort of fellow law graduates. (McIntyre & Simkovic, 2017)

 

But is the value of a law degree predictably different depending on one’s race or ethnicity? Estimates by race or ethnicity could help prospective law students and law schools better predict variability in the potential financial benefits of law school, and could help inform outreach, admissions, academic support, and financial aid policies.

 

This article investigates differences in the law earnings premium by race and ethnicity.  Compared to bachelor’s degree holders, a higher proportion of law graduates are white.  

 

Studies of the returns to education at the college level or below have come to different conclusions about differences in benefits by race.  Several studies have found lower earnings among black and Hispanic law graduates compared to non-Hispanic whites.  The reasons for these differences are not fully understood and are hotly debated. . . .

 

Whatever the cause, among those with law degrees, there are differences in average earnings between different race or ethnic groups. However, the same pattern is present among bachelor’s degree holders. [Prior to this study it was] unknown whether there are similar differences in earnings premiums (i.e., the boost to earnings from the law degree), measured either on a percentage or dollar basis. . . .

 

[T]he National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study found that long-term bar passage rates were substantially lower for minorities than for whites.[1]  Thus a study of all law degree holders including those who did not pass a bar examination [such as this one using Census data] may find larger racial gaps in earnings [than previous studies that look only at bar-passers].  

 

We find evidence that white graduates have a somewhat higher percentage boost in earnings compared to minorities, but when translated into dollar terms the law earnings premium is substantially higher for white graduates than for minorities.  At the median and including law graduates who are not practicing law, the annual boost to earnings from a law degree is approximately $41,000 for whites, $34,000 for Asians, $33,000 for blacks, and $28,000 for Hispanics.  The law earnings premium is also higher for whites than for minorities at the 75th percentile, the 25th percentile and the mean, and for samples that are exclusively male or female. . . .  

 

Figure 4 for blog post

Continue reading


September 18, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science | Permalink

September 13, 2017

UNC's Civil Rights Center stripped of its ability to litigate cases

Shameful.  As a result, it will shut down entirely.

CORRECTION:  The Center will not, contrary to the NLJ headline, shut down entirely, but it has been stripped of one of its previous academic functions.  (Thanks to several readers who wrote to me about this.)


September 13, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 12, 2017

Judge Posner talks to the NY Times about his sudden retirement

Lots of gems, as one might expect.  On his approach to judging and some of his critics:

 

“I pay very little attention to legal rules, statutes, constitutional provisions,” Judge Posner said. “A case is just a dispute. The first thing you do is ask yourself — forget about the law — what is a sensible resolution of this dispute?”

 

The next thing, he said, was to see if a recent Supreme Court precedent or some other legal obstacle stood in the way of ruling in favor of that sensible resolution. “And the answer is that’s actually rarely the case,” he said. “When you have a Supreme Court case or something similar, they’re often extremely easy to get around.”

 

I asked him about his critics, and he said they fell into two camps....

 

He said he had less sympathy for the second camp. “There are others who are just, you know, reactionary beasts,” he said. “They’re reactionary beasts because they want to manipulate the statutes and the Constitution in their own way.” 

And on his immediate reason for retiring:

He had become concerned with the plight of litigants who represented themselves in civil cases, often filing handwritten appeals. Their grievances were real, he said, but the legal system was treating them impatiently, dismissing their cases over technical matters.

“These were almost always people of poor education and often of quite low level of intelligence,” he said. “I gradually began to realize that this wasn’t right, what we were doing.”

 

In the Seventh Circuit, Judge Posner said, staff lawyers rather than judges assessed appeals from such litigants, and the court generally rubber-stamped the lawyers’ recommendations.

 

Judge Posner offered to help. “I wanted to review all the staff attorney memos before they went to the panel of judges,” he said. “I’d sit down with the staff attorney, go over his memo. I’d make whatever editorial suggestions — or editorial commands — that I thought necessary. It would be good education for staff attorneys, and it would be very good” for the litigants without lawyers.

 

“I had the approval of the director of the staff attorney program,” Judge Posner said, “but the judges, my colleagues, all 11 of them, turned it down and refused to give me any significant role. I was very frustrated by that.”

 

His new book, he said, would have added to the tension: “If I were still on the court, it would be particularly awkward because, implicitly or explicitly, I’m criticizing the other judges.”

 

Judge Posner said he hoped to work with groups concerned with prisoners’ rights, with a law school clinic and with law firms, to bring attention and aid to people too poor to afford lawyers.


September 12, 2017 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink