April 27, 2017

Ignorant bloviating about Whittier

I could not agree more with Northwestern Dean Dan Rodriguez:

Whittier's sudden closing is obviously a tough thing for current students and faculty.  Perhaps the decision will be unraveled in the face of public pressure or via littigation.  Yet there seems precious little basis to jump into a matter whose complex issues are essentially private, despite the efforts of many in and around the school to make this into a public spectacle.  Perhaps bloggers should neither aid nor abet these efforts.

The hubris of the unknowing. 

Sometimes Stephen Diamond (Santa Clara) has been a voice of reason amidst the mindless blather about law schools in most of cyberspace (and I have linked to him on a number of occasions over the years), but here he has completely missed the boat:  the general legal market has been improving, true, but it is hardly mysterious why an institution would close a law school where far fewer than half the graduates even pass the bar.  Diamond just politely ignores all the relevant facts about how this school's graduates have been faring, and, of course, is ignorant of the actual finances of the school.

But far more egregious is the presumptuous intervention of Robert Anderson, Associate Professor of Law at Pepperdine.  Faculty members at Whittier are going to lose their jobs, and some may never work again as law teachers or work again at all.  Yet Anderson has the audacity to scold them for not having taken an early retirement in the financial interest of the school.   Seriously?  Does Prof. Anderson pay the bills for any members of that faculty, does he know about their college-age children or their elderly parents or their chronic medical conditions that require a salary and a health insurance plan?  Does he know that a job is not just a paycheck for many people (maybe not Robert Anderson), but a focal point of purpose and meaning in a life?  Does he know that many did take early retirement a few years ago, and that others might have quite reasonably believed that the school's fortunes, now that both its faculty and student body were smaller, would rebound?

I'm sure Anderson doesn't know any of these things, he's just another blogging blowhard who has decided to use someone else's misery as an opportunity to attract some attention to himself.  Anderson is guilty of far worse than unknowing hubris.

UPDATE:  Some choice quotes from Prof. Anderson's posts:

"The reason Whittier is closing is because of intransigent, highly paid, unproductive law professors hang around for decades even when they haven't published anything or updated their courses since they were doing the Macarena."

 

"The unfortunate truth of this story [about Whitter] is that none of this needed to happen..... The number of retirement-age faculty was (and is) enormous, likely larger than it has ever been. If faculties had looked beyond their own personal financial self interest they could have easily contracted to meet the market demand and avoided the disastrous effects that have afflicted law students and now law schools. Sadly, the very faculty members whose institution provided them an outrageously rewarding career over many decades seemed the least likely to 'pay it forward' by helping to reduce expenses....Thus, the story of Whittier is a story of generational wealth shifting that is seen throughout tuition dependent law schools, and indeed throughout our country."


April 27, 2017 in Law in Cyberspace, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

April 24, 2017

Ousted Cincinnati Law Dean Jennifer Bard sues the university and the interim Provost

Blog Emperor Caron, who used to teach at Cincinnatti, has the complaint.


April 24, 2017 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 23, 2017

How sustainable is elite law firms' competitive advantage? (Michael Simkovic)

Elisabeth de Fontenay at Duke argues that elite law firms' expertise in sophisticated corporate transactions is self-sustaining and resistant to competition.  This is in part because firms with that do the lions share of negotiation and drafting for specific kinds of transactions create, manage and retain private information about the current market for terms.


April 23, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 21, 2017

Judge rejects Whittier faculty's request for TRO on closure of law school

April 19, 2017

Whittier in California to close its law school

This, I believe, is the first genuine closure of an ABA-accredited not-for-profit law school since the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent downturn in law school applications.

(Thanks to Rick Hasen for the pointer.)

UPDATE:  Whittier law faculty are suing to stop the closure of the school, basically on breach of contract grounds (the complaint takes the position that the faculty contracts incorporate the faculty handbook provisions on academic freedom and tenure, and that no financial exigency exists which would justify terminating their employment, that no educational reasons exist for doing so, and that faculty in any case have not been included in the decision-making process, as they should have been under the AAUP rules in the handbook).


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

April 17, 2017

UNC's Gene Nichol blasts politically motivated attack on Civil Rights Center, as well as university leadership

A searing indictment, and an embarrassment for the university and the state.


April 17, 2017 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 12, 2017

February Bar Exam, Florida results

The big winners were graduates of Florida International University and the University of Miami.


April 12, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

April 07, 2017

The latest from LSAC on applicants

"As of 3/31/17, there are 319,072 applications submitted by 47,916 applicants for the 2017–2018 academic year. Applicants are down 1.9% and applications are up 0.3% from 2016–2017.  Last year at this time, we had 87% of the preliminary final applicant count."


April 7, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 06, 2017

More on Judge Gorsuch, plagiarism, and Oxford

Leslie Green, who holds one of the two statutory (i.e., university-wide) Chairs in Philosophy of Law at Oxford, has now expanded on his thoughts about the Gorsuch plagiarism case and the claims of John Finnis (who held a personal chair in legal philosophy, but is now emeritus).  (Earlier posts here and here.)


April 6, 2017 in Jurisprudence, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 02, 2017

New York Times Reporter Elizabeth Olson Claims That Professors Earning Less than First Year Associates are Paid like Law Firm Partners (Michael Simkovic)

New York Times reporter Elizabeth Olson recently complained that the Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law was suspended after attempting to slash faculty compensation (“Cincinnati Law Dean Is Put on Leave After Proposing Ways to Cut Budget”).  According to Olson, “law schools like Cincinnati [pay hefty] six-figure professor salaries that are meant to match partner-level wages.” 

Olson goes on to cite the compensation of the current and former Dean of the law school.  This makes about as much sense as citing newspaper executive compensation in a discussion about reducing pay for beat reporters.

Data from 2015—the latest readily publicly available—shows that law professors at Cincinnati earned total compensation averaging $133,000.  A few professors earned less than six figures. Only one faculty member—a former dean and one of the most senior members of the faculty—earned more than $180,000.  Including only Full Professors—the most senior, accomplished faculty members who have obtained tenure and typically have between seven and forty years of work experience—brings average total compensation to $154,000 per year.

As Olson herself reported less than a year ago, first year associates at large law firms earn base salaries of $180,000 per year, not counting substantial bonuses and excellent benefits.  With a few years of experience, elite law firm associates’ total compensation including bonus can exceed $300,000.  Law firm partners at the largest 200 firms can earn hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year according to the American Lawyer, and often receive large pensions after retirement.

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April 2, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Weblogs | Permalink