April 22, 2014
Signs of the times: Moody's Downgrades Vermont Law's bond status again
UPDATE: More credit rating news from the National Law Journal.
April 18, 2014
Not the kind of law school trustee who builds good will
At NYU, but the Law School is defending the students.
April 17, 2014
Miami's Franks and Maryland's Citron on criminalizing "revenge porn"
Signs of the times, Oregon edition
A dispute at Oregon about whether to eliminate faculty raises, in order to use the money in other ways (appraently, to bolster the school's falling US New.com rank by funding more jobs for grads) has burst into public. I'm sure similarly unpleasant fights over scarce resources are going on at other schools. Although some sites linking to this are using it as an opportunity to attack Prof. Illig, there is no doubt he articulates concerns that many others probably share. (University of Oregon is chronically underfunded, and its salaries also lag that of other AAU schools, so that's part of the background here.)
April 16, 2014
Outgoing NYU President (and former Law Dean) Sexton continues to take a public relations beating
Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow opine in yesterday's NY Times...
...that things aren't as awful as the various charlatans and other law-school haters claim, and, predictably (given the social psychology), the charlatans and haters go crazy. I won't link to the hysterical reactions (they are easy enough to find with Google), but they boil down to one complaint: Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow cited NALP data without treating it as bogus (e.g., that JD Advantage jobs are really jobs [actually many of them are, but never mind]). That's true, they linked to the NALP data, but they didn't spend the rest of their piece debunking that data based on speculation, skepticism, and occasionally other actual evidence. This has certainly been a standing problem in the debate about American legal education, as when serious data analysis showed that legal education was a sound economic investment for the vast majority of students, and critics refused to believe that was true, though without any contrary evidence or analysis. So we can all agree that we should be more careful about how we present data and its import.
That being said, my main disagreement with Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow is about the necessity of three years of legal education, as I've said before: two years could work, and work very well for many students. In reality, the biggest obstacle to reducing costs in legal education, however, is unnoted in their op-ed: it remains the lax tenure standards and the unwillingness of universities to terminate tenured faculty for cause, i.e., when they manifestly do not do their job.
Imagine, for example, a law school that pays a six figure salary (closing in on 200K) to someone with almost no legal experience and an M.A. in literature who teaches the same couple of substantive courses year in and year out, courses in which he has no experience, whose teaching evaluations are consistently below average, who hasn't written any serious legal scholarship in years, who is regarded as a joke by his colleagues at his own school and in the academy at large, and who mostly spends his time insulting, defaming, and blackmailing colleagues who do their jobs. It endangers the institution of tenure when universities do not initiate proceedings to terminate malevolent charlatans like this. Many law schools, as we've noted before, are offering financial inducements to "buy out" senior faculty, most of whom are not charlatans. Real cost reduction, however, will require universities to move against the charlatans and the de facto retired in their midst, even those who have tried to insulate themselves from termination for cause by setting up frivolous retaliation claims.
UPDATE: More thoughts on reforming legal education from Michael Madison (Pitt).
April 08, 2014
Law profs face off over discrimination against gay people, and the Supreme Court declines cert
The Supreme Court has denied the petition for certiorari in the much watched case of Elane Photography v. Willock, which began when a commercial wedding photography company in New Mexico refused to sell its services to a same-sex couple. Last August, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously found that the company's conduct violated the state public accommodations statute and that the company was not entitled to a special First Amendment exemption from that law. The Supreme Court has now declined to review the First Amendment portion of that ruling.
The plaintiff, Vanessa Willock, was represented throughout the appellate stages of the case by Tobias Barrington Wolff (Penn). Eugene Volokh (UCLA) and Dale Carpenter (Minnesota) joined with the Cato Institute in filing an amicus brief on the First Amendment issues before the New Mexico Supreme Court and again in support of the company's certiorari petition. (It's just like the 1960s, when you could count on libertarians to be friends of discrimination!) Thankfully, for the plaintiff and for fairness, Professor Wolff prevailed.
April 03, 2014
More signs of the times: 15% cut in tuition sticker price at Brooklyn
Story here. Whether that will represent an actual cut depends on how much discounting took place in the past, which we don't know.
March 26, 2014
What is REALLY going on at Denver (contrary to ATL's fabrications)
In typically irresponsible fashion, ATL yesterday posted factually inaccurate rumors about Denver (which they are slowly correcting). Here is what a tenured colleague at Denver wrote to me:
The truth is that we are reducing our tenure and tenure-track faculty by 10 over multiple years. This is consistent with a long-term plan to shrink the size of the school that began in 2007, prior to the economic downturn. At that point we had 380 students. Our ultimate goal was and is approximately 250 students. The school needs *at most* one person to retire or take a buyout this year to meet our budget for 2014-2015. In subsequent years the faculty who will be offered the option of buyouts will be exclusively tenured faculty who have held their positions for a minimum number of years. The buyouts will NOT include tenure-track faculty who are not yet tenured. That is, the ATL story is simply wrong when it says that untenured tenure-track faculty are being asked to leave. None has been asked to do so. In fact, Denver Law has recommended 4 tenure-track faculty for tenure this year. While tenure is not official until the summer, it is common knowledge that the Dean has recently assured those four faculty members that the planned buyouts will not affect their tenure process. Finally, ATL's unattributed claim that the Denver Law faculty is "quite displeased" with direction of the school is simply false. Of course there are outliers in every institution, but the overall faculty climate is collegial and the vast majority of faculty are pleased with Dean Katz's leadership during a difficult time for all law schools. Of course, it is never ideal for ATL to report facts that are patently false, particularly with respect to untenured faculty, and one would hope that they care enough about their credibility to print a correction.
I've heard the same about Dean Katz from other faculty at Denver as well. (I hope Blog Emperor Caron will learn a lesson from this incident, namely, not to reprint nonsense from ATL without independent verification.)
March 25, 2014
Dean Rodriguez (Northwestern) on hysteria about law schools
He is obviously right. What is worse, in this instance, is that the "story" about Denver is complete fiction, but since "Above the Law" has no regard for facts, it's hardly surprising they would report such fiction as though it were factual.