December 17, 2013
1l Enrollment in fall 2013 down 11% from the prior year
The ABA report is here:
The 202 ABA-approved J.D. programs reported that 39,675 full-time and part-time students began their law school studies in the fall of 2013. This is a decrease of 4,806 students (11 percent) from the fall of 2012 and a 24 percent decrease from the historic high 1L enrollment of 52,488 in the fall of 2010.
Approximately two-thirds of ABA-law schools (135) experienced declines in first-year enrollment from last year. At 81 law schools, 1L declines exceeded 10 percent.
At 63 schools, 1L enrollment increased from 2012. At 27 of those schools, enrollment increased 10 percent or more.
At 34 schools, the number of 1L students stayed within five students above or below last year’s figures.
Dealing with cyber-harassment
Professor Leong offers a lot of very helpful advice, applicable even to cases of cyber-harassment that don't involve racism and misogyny. Her own story involving one of the more notorious "scamablog" trolls, "dybbuk," is instructive (this pathetic individual--an adult man in his 40s [!]--has been harassing, defaming, and insulting law professors [overwhelmingly women and minorities] on-line for a couple of years now):
Over the course of about fifteen months, this particular harasser commented about me approximately 70 times on at least five different websites, frequently remarking on my physical appearance. He started several derogatory threads devoted exclusively to me, in which other commenters also targeted me with racist and sexist harassment. He wrote two lengthy plays about me. The threads he started often attracted dozens or even hundreds of comments. His sustained attention to me also incited other pseudonymous members of a blog where he often posts to author lengthy racist and sexist posts about me, which, again, often attracted large numbers of comments about me, including comments from him. Moreover, he wrote offensive profiles of a dozen other law professors who were–so far as I could tell, with one exception–all women or people of color or both. And, of course, these were just the comments under his pseudonym. It would not surprise me to learn that some of the many anonymous comments about me were also by him, although I haven’t taken the time to investigate this. This sustained attention and the ideas it contained became increasingly disturbing to me, and eventually I decided to figure out who he was....
The pseudonymous individual I mentioned above had posted specific information about his alma mater, the city where he lived, his job, various professional organizations to which he belonged, and other miscellaneous information. It took fifteen minutes to find out who he was using google and other publicly available databases. The result was troubling in itself: he was a public defender in his late forties who apparently has nothing better to do than harass an untenured professor....
There are a few lessons here. One is that even in the online world harassers often feel compelled to develop continuous and stable personalities, perhaps as a way of compensating for the social deficiencies in their actual lives. Another is that a lot of harassers are repeat offenders–that is, if someone is harassing you, odds are that you aren’t the first....
After I discovered the identity of my most persistent harasser, I decided to give him a call, which is something that adults do when they have a disagreement to discuss. I did this for several reasons. One was that I wanted to talk to him so that I could try to understand why an untenured professor he had never met could become the subject of a year-plus obsession. Another reason was pure curiosity. I have always been interested in what causes people to hate one another–or, at the very least, to write hateful things about other people, especially those they have never met. But the main reason was simply that I truly wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. People’s lives are complicated by mental illness, loneliness, personal hardship, and grief. Although I have tried without success to find a definitive source for the saying “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” the words resonate with me and I try to live them. My hope was that the person who had written so many hateful things about me was a good person who–prompted by difficult personal circumstances–had made a mistake.
To my regret, my harasser refused to speak to me....
Sometimes harassers are subject to various sources of discipline besides the law itself. A number of professions, ranging from doctors to mental health providers to lawyers, are bound by profession-specific rules of conduct. A few of my harassers turned out to be attorneys. An examination of the rules of professional conduct in the states where one of them is licensed–followed by consultation with a couple of legal ethicists and an attorney staffing the ethics hotline–suggested that this attorney was in violation of multiple ethics provisions. And so I decided to file a formal complaint with the bars in the states where he is licensed.
I don’t know what will happen as a result of my complaint. Many state bars hesitate to stir up controversy, and attorney discipline is relatively rare. But I do feel that it is important for others closer to his situation to have knowledge of his online behavior so that they can make an informed decision about what to do.
December 14, 2013
More than three dozen law schools saw average student indebtedness decline between 2009 and 2012
Detailed listing here. Another three dozen, roughly, saw average indebtedness increase only at the general rate of inflation (or less).
December 13, 2013
More signs of the times: cost-competition among Philly law schools
December 12, 2013
Another law school freezes tuition
George Mason. Smart move, which will put pressure on American, Catholic and other law schools that feed into the DC market to do the same.
Latest LSAT report: total applicants down 13.4% from this time last year
Details here, but briefly: "As of 12/06/13, there are 90,032 Fall 2014 applications submitted by 14,171 applicants. Applicants are down 13.6% and applications are down 15.7% from 2013. Last year at this time, we had 28% of the preliminary final applicant count."
The decline in total applications is not surprising: applicants perceive, correctly, that their prospects for admission are much better than in the past, and so are applying to somewhat fewer schools. Harder to predict is what proportion of the applicant pool is currently in contention relative to where we will be in a few months. And that will no doubt be affected by a range of factors beyond anyone's control: the general fortunes of the economy, other job opportunities that become available for students weighing law school as an option, and media coverage of law and the legal profession. (If The New York Times does a front-page story on 300K bonsues at Boies Schiller, well, that will produce one scenario; if another big law firm implodes, and makes the front page, that will produce a rather different one.)
One immediate consequence of these numbers, I fear, is that law schools debating whether to hire new teachers will mostly postpone hiring.
December 10, 2013
ABA considering random audits of employment data posted by schools
Now that's something they ought to have done years ago!
More mischief afoot at the ABA!
A previously moribund proposal to require 15 hours of clinical work has now come back to life, thanks to advocacy by (guess who?) clinical faculty. Students who want to do 15 or 30 hours of clinical work should be able to do it; but why in God's name would one require it of everyone, without any regard for that student's ambitions or plans? It makes no sense.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere writes:
I look forward to your posts because they are so good. I am mystified, however, that you did not see why clinical faculty want a required 15 hours. You must be more cynical. There are at least 3 reasons, listed in descending order of relevance.
- Many faculties are retrenching in one form or another. By requiring clinical work, jobs will be preserved.
- Similarly, hiring opportunities will be limited; the proposal would help maintain clinical voting weight on the faculty.
- Finally, and altruistically, clinicians want to do more good in the world, and students will help them do so.
No doubt, many students will be helped by a heavy dose of clinical ed; but, as you said, let the kids choose.
AND MORE REACTIONS: A colleague in Washington, DC writes: "The ABA proposal for 15 required clinical hours is just crazy--there is no way to staff such an offering with a serious clinic. By my estimate, our clinics cost about 17x as much per student-hour as the average classroom course (that's just salary + benefits for faculty, fellows, and admin assistant plus a bit of overhead divided by the number of students). It's not clear whether there are consistent pedagogical benefits from clinics, and there's no evidence that it helps with employment. Whatever the benefits of clinical education, it is utterly inefficient if done right. There's nothing like a perceived crisis for everyone to push their pet pedagogical agenda as a solution."
And a colleague in New York: "1) 'live client"'clinics are the most costly form of legal education that we provide -- cutting against concerns re student costs; 2) most of clinical education is about litigation, which is not the skills set relevant to most legal practice; and 3) contra to the claims that law students receive no practical training outside of clinics, unlike the educational path in say, medical school -- in fact most students work at legal jobs in both the 1st year and 2d year summers, which strikes me as not dissimilar to clinical rotations that occur in medical schools, which have longer academic years in consequence."
ADDDENDUM: Another reader points out that the proposal would also allow simulations and externships to count towards the 15 hours, which might address the cost issue, but still has no justification as a requirement for all students. This is, indeed, a case of people seizing a "crisis" to "push their pet pedagogical agenda."
December 07, 2013
Judge Baer vs. Justice Alito
From a Reuters item:
A federal judge this week defended his custom of urging lead law firms in class actions to staff the lawsuits with women and minority lawyers, two weeks after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito took the unusual step of criticizing the practice....
Alito likened the practice to "court-approved discrimination" and said it might warrant further review by the high court.
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Baer, 80, said that Alito lacked "either understanding or interest" in the discrimination faced by blacks, Latinos and women....
In court orders, Baer has written that the practice is warranted under a federal rule governing the certification of class action lawsuits. The rule says a judge may, among other things, "consider any other matter pertinent to counsel's ability to fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class."
In the interview, Baer said that he does not require the firms to assign minority and women lawyers to cases. Instead, he said he notes the value of taking race and gender into account, and only in cases where the plaintiffs are mainly minorities and women.
If plaintiffs were "all white Anglo-Saxon Protestants," Baer said, "I would not likely be making these comments."
Baer, whom President Bill Clinton nominated to the bench in 1994, said Alito's salvo did not surprise him.
"I think the tongue-in-cheek answer would be that I was surprised because of how much he's done in the way of supporting anti-discrimination laws over the years," Baer said. "But that would be just a facetious comment."
Judge Baer for the win!
December 06, 2013
Standard & Poor's: stand-alone law schools most at risk
With the caveat that Standard & Poor's track record is pretty abysmal, I should note that their latest credit report on U.S. law schools notes that stand-alone law schools are most vulnerable in the current economic climate for legal education. This is hardly surprising, but I guess now it's "official" in the make-believe world of financial analysis. S&P did not evaluate all law schools, let alone all stand-alone law schools, but they singled out five stand-alones for credit downgrades: New York, Brooklyn, Albany, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Cooley. Of these, my guess is that Thomas Jefferson is the most vulnerable, especially given the continuing lawsuit, but also given its market position as the third best law school in San Diego (after USD and Cal Western, both well-established), and its even weaker position in Southern California (where UCLA, USC, and, probably soon, UC-Irvine will dominate, while Loyola-LA, and Pepperdine are powerful regional players--I have less sense of the relative positions of Whittier and Southwestern, but they are better-established than Thomas Jefferson). Credit downgrades notwithstanding, I fully expect New York, Brooklyn and Albany to be training lawyers ten years from now. Thomas Cooley's business model is a bit opaque to me, so I venture no opinion!
(Thanks to Dean Rowan for the pointer.)