January 19, 2017

Latest LSAC data: applicants down 4.2% from January 2016 (UPDATED!)

UPDATED:  MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY

Here's the report:

As of 1/6/17, there are 134,007 applications submitted by 21,711 applicants for the 2017–2018 academic year. Applicants are down 4.2% and applications are down 2.2% from 2016–2017.

Last year at this time, we had 40% of the preliminary final applicant count.

Although there has been a trend towards increasingly later applications, this figure does suggest that we are going to see a slight, but not negligible, decline in applicants this cycle.

UPDATE:  But now LSAC reports that LSAT-takers in December were up nearly 8% from the prior year!  The likely explanation though, is a scheduling change, which led more applicants to skip the early fall LSAT in favor of the December one.  But that would also account for the decline in applicants noted in the 1/6/17 report.  So my guess now is that we won't be seeing any decline in the applicant pool this year, so we really are at "the new normal."


January 19, 2017 in Legal Profession | Permalink

Established datasets, proxies, and customized data collection: The case of international LLMs (Michael Simkovic)

How should researchers make tradeoffs between the costs of data collection, the speed of the analysis, the precision of the measurements, reproducibility by other researchers, and broader context about the meaning of the data: how we might compare one group or one course of action to another, how we might understand historical trends, and the like?

Must we always measure the precise group of interest, with zero tolerance for over-inclusion or under-inclusion?  Or might one or a series of proxy groups be sufficient, or even preferable for some purposes?  What if the proxies have substantial overlap with the groups of interest and biases introduced by use of proxy groups are reasonably well understood?  How close must the proxy group be to the group of interest?

These are important questions raised by a group of legal profession researchers which includes several of the principal investigators of the widely used After the JD dataset. 

Professors Carole Silver, Ethan Michelson, Robert Nelson, Nancy Reichman, Rebecca Sandefur, and Joyce Sterling (hereinafter, Silver et al.) recently wrote a three-part response (Parts 1, 2, and 3) to my two-part blog post from December about International LLM students who remain in the United States (Part 1) and International LLM students who return to their home countries (Part 2).  The bulk of Silver et al.’s critique appears in Part 2 of their post, and focuses mainly on Part 1 of my LLM post.

My post, which I described as “a very preliminarily, quick analysis intended primarily to satisfy my own curiosity” used U.S. Census data from the American Community Survey and two proxy groups for international LLM (“Masters of Law”) graduates to make inferences about the financial benefits of LLM degrees to international students who remain in the U.S.  Silver et al. agree with several of the limitations of this analysis that I noted in paragraphs 5 through 8 of Part 1 of my post.  They also note that historically, many LLMs have returned to their home countries and argue that the benefits of LLM programs to returning students may be greater than the benefits to those who remain in the United States.  (While I am skeptical of this last claim—especially if we focus exclusively on pecuniary benefits—it seems likely that both groups benefit).

Silver et al. have also helpfully made several additional points about limitations in my proxy approach and ways in which proxies could over-count or under-count foreign LLMs.  The most important of these limitations can be addressed with a few modifications to the LLM proxy group approach.[1]  Those interested in the technical details are encouraged to read footnote 1 below.

Returning to broader questions about the use of proxy groups, my view is that proxy groups can be helpful and potentially necessary for certain kinds of analysis.

Suppose that we wish to know the temperature in New York’s Central Park before we take a stroll, but we only have temperature readings for LaGuardia and Newark airport.  While neither of those proxies will tell us the precise temperature in Central Park, they will usually be sufficiently close that we can ascertain with a reasonable degree of certainty whether we should bring our winter coats, wear sweaters, or proceed with short sleeves.  Indeed, readings from Boston or Philadelphia will probably suffice, particularly if we’re aware of the direction and magnitude of typical temperature differences relative to Central Park.

Should we refuse to venture out until we can obtain a temperature reading from Central Park itself?

Continue reading


January 19, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

January 17, 2017

Science at work: the "most influential" people in legal education

Blog Emperor Caron reports.  Thanks to the many Deans and law faculty who have been regular readers and correspondents over the years!


January 17, 2017 in Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

January 16, 2017

U of Washington/Tacoma to delay opening new law school

This is probably wise, absent clear evidence of unusually strong and growing demand for legal services in the Pacific Northwest.


January 16, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

January 04, 2017

Jay Clayton to head Securities & Exchange Commission

President-elect Trump intends to nominate Sullivan & Cromwell partner Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission according to reports by the Financial Times and other newspapers.  Clayton has extensive expertise in M&A, capital markets, and financial regulation.

Clayton is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvannia Law School, where he taught a class on "M&A Through the Business Cycle" from 2009 to 2015.


January 4, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Should Venture Capitalists Compete with Law Firm Partners and Judges? (Michael Simkovic)

A partner in a prominent San-Francisco-Bay-area venture capital firm recently told me, “The tech sector is eating the world.  The menu is full of inefficient legacy industries.” 

The thesis of USC Professor Gillian Hadfield’s new book, Rules for a Flat World, is that the legal profession should be near the top of the menu.  Hadfield argues that law is overly complicated, expensive and inefficient.  This is because lawyers have monopolized the practice of law, locking out more efficient, technologically empowered, venture-capital backed competitors.  These competitors—software engineers backed by venture capital money, perhaps in cooperation with lawyers and paralegals—could hopefully improve quality, reduce costs, and generally run circles around overly conservative law firms and inefficiently subscale solo practitioners.

This book will engage venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, established legal technology companies, individuals interested in regulation of the legal profession, and more broadly, those who study privatization and deregulation.

She raises important questions about which regulations of the legal profession protect consumers or serve other legitimate public policy goals and which might be merely protectionist.  She targets prohibitions on practice of law within a corporation and prohibitions on profit-sharing with non-lawyers.  Without such regulations, it would be easier for non-lawyers to invest in and make high level decisions for legal services providers.  Non-lawyers might place more trust in technology than lawyers and might be more open to new business models.

Hadfield’s analysis focuses on the aspects of law that are an economic service (she describes it as “economic infrastructure”). Hadfield is primarily focused on commercial and corporate law.  Hadfield notes that while criminal law may be more salient in popular culture, since the time of Hammurabi, most law has been about money, property rights, risk allocation, and supporting business activity.

Hadfield argues that if companies such as Westlaw, Lexis and Legal Zoom could hire lawyers to provide customer support directly to end-users, these companies could improve the appeal of their offerings and more easily compete with small and solo-practitioners.  Moreover, these companies would have economies of scale and efficiencies that solo practitioners cannot readily match.  Because of these efficiencies and expansion of the legal market to under-served populations, lawyers working for incorporated legal services providers would not necessarily earn less than solo practitioners currently earn, although lawyer-employees would have substantially less autonomy than lawyer-owners.   

Continue reading


January 4, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Web/Tech | Permalink

January 03, 2017

Oregon law professor criticizes university's response to Prof. Shurtz

December 26, 2016

Law school enrollment trends over 40+ years

Useful charts here.  JD enrollment has stabilized, though well below its peak; non-JD enrollment has spiked as law schools try to sustain financial viability for schools that grew to their present size during the years of peak demand for legal education.


December 26, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

December 21, 2016

Dept. of Education to pull federal student loans from Charlotte Law School

MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--UPDATED

Unless the decision is reversed, the school will almost certainly go out of business.

UPDATE:  DOE's statement about the decision.


December 21, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

December 15, 2016

Ted Seto: "The ABA's 75% bar passage proposal is innumerate"

Professor Seto (Loyola/Los Angeles) asked me to share the following analysis of the ABA's new proposed bar passs standard:

There is a serious mathematical problem with the ABA’s 75% proposal.

 

Assume for illustration’s sake that bar results are normally distributed – that is, that they will cluster around the mean in a normal distribution. (There is no reason to believe that deviations from a normal distribution affect the analysis given below.)

 

In a state in which only one school provides the bulk of bar-takers, the bulk of that the state’s normal distribution will be reflected in the school’s bar passage rate. Assuming that the state bar passage mean is reasonably high, the school will always meet the ABA’s requirement, regardless of the quality of the education it provides.

 

In a state with multiple law schools, however, the normal distribution of bar results will instead be distributed unevenly across those schools. Some schools’ results will incorporate the lower end of that normal distribution. If there are enough schools in the state and students are sorted by bar-taker aptitude across those schools, the bottom schools will always fail the ABA’s requirement, again regardless of the quality of the education they provide.

 

Note that the difference between the two results – always meeting and always failing – is not because students are being admitted who shouldn’t be. If, in the state with multiple law schools, all such schools were to merge into one single mega-school, without any change in admissions policies or educational quality, that mega-school would absorb the bulk of the normal distribution in bar passage and would always meet the ABA’s requirement.

 

What this means is that the ABA’s proposal should chiefly impact lower-ranked schools in large states – not because the quality of the educations they provide or because they are admitting students who should not be lawyers, but because of the mathematics of normal distributions. To the extent those lower-ranked schools disproportionately service students from underserved communities, the ABA’s proposal will disproportionately impact diversity in the legal profession. And again, this is not because schools are admitting students who shouldn’t be admitted. It follows from the failure of the ABA to take the mathematics of normal distributions into account in structuring its proposed standard.

 

Conversely, the ABA’s proposal should have no significant impact on schools in states with few schools – again regardless of the quality of the educations they provide or the students they admit. And again, this follows from its failure to take into account the mathematics of normal distributions.

 

I question whether a rule that it likely to have a dramatically different impact in different parts of the United States for reasons having nothing to do with the rule’s ostensible purpose should be adopted. It is likely that the ABA is seriously considering the proposal in its current form in part because lawyers are, for the most part, innumerate. Unfortunately, this reinforces the argument that the ABA should not have regulatory jurisdiction over law school accreditation – precisely the argument the proposal is intended to rebut.

 

Comments are open for those who have ideas about how to address this difficulty.  Post your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.


December 15, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (4)