September 21, 2018

$26.5 million dollar naming gift to University of Alabama Law School

The Alabama announcement here.


September 21, 2018 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 20, 2018

Yale's Chua, Rubenfeld now center stage in the Kavanaugh confirmation drama as new allegations emerge about what Kavanaugh likes in clerks

Many readers have sent me this article from The Guardian; some excerpts:

[Amy Chua], who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him....[She] was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources....

 

In one case, Jed Rubenfeld, also an influential professor at Yale and who is married to Chua, told a prospective clerk that Kavanaugh liked a certain “look”.

 

“He told me, ‘You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look,’” one woman told the Guardian. “He did not say what the look was and I did not ask...."

 

Chua advised the same student Rubenfeld spoke to that she ought to dress in an “outgoing” way for her interview with Kavanaugh, and that the student should send Chua pictures of herself in different outfits before going to interview. The student did not send the photos....

 

The Guardian has learned that Rubenfeld is currently the subject of an internal investigation at Yale. The investigation is focused on Rubenfeld’s conduct, particularly with female law students. Students have also raised related concerns to Yale authorities about Chua’s powerful influence in the clerkships process.


September 20, 2018 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Why do some college students choose law school over other advanced degree programs? (Michael Simkovic)

The AALS today released a new report, Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School, based on a survey with responses from 22,0000 college students and 2,700 law students.  The report discusses, among other things, the considerations that might drive college students pursuing advanced degrees to apply to law school over other advanced degree programs, when students first contemplate going to law school, and important sources of information and advice about law school and other advanced degrees to which undergraduates turn.

Some interesting findings include:

  • Students considering law school are also likely to consider a PhD, Masters Degree or MBA instead of a law degree, but are much less likely to consider Medical School
  • Only 15 precent of students considering a graduate degree were considering a law degreee
  • Law was seen as better preparation for a career in politics, government, or public service than other options
  • Compared to other advanced degrees, students are less concerned about time to completion for law degrees, but students are more concerned about work life balance in law than in other fields
  • Debt /cost was slightly less of a concern for a law degree than for other advanced degrees
  • Students interested in law school developed this interest early, often even before attending college
  • Law was not seen as using cutting edge technology as much as other fields


September 20, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 17, 2018

Book by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler finalist for nonfiction National Book Award

Interesting!

(Thanks to Frank Partnoy for the pointer.)


September 17, 2018 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 06, 2018

Jason Stanley (Yale): Universities should resist government and donor pressure to reinforce propaganda (Michael Simkovic)

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale philosophy Professor Jason Stanley warns about rising neo-fascist tendencies around the world and related efforts to deligitimize universities.  Of particular interest to readers of this blog, Stanley recommends against appeasing critics by hiring faculty members who will promote viewpoints that are popular with donors or political leaders.  He instead advocates retaining a strictly merit-based approach to academic hiring, protected from outside influences.  

Professor Stanley writes:

"In recent years, several countries across the world have been overtaken by a certain kind of far-right nationalism; the list includes Russia, Hungary, Poland, India, Turkey, and the United States. . . . [P]atterns have emerged that suggest the resurgence of fascist politics globally. Increasingly, attacks on universities and conflicts over their policies are a symptom of this phenomenon. . . [M]y interest is in fascist politics as a mechanism to achieve power. . .  

 

Honest politics needs intelligent debate. One of the clearest signs of fascist politics, then, is attacks on universities and expertise — the support systems of discussion and the sources of knowledge and facts. Intelligent debate is impossible without access to different perspectives, a respect for expertise when one’s own knowledge gives out, and a rich enough language to precisely describe reality. When education is undermined, only power and tribal identity remain.

 

This does not mean that there is no role for universities in fascist politics. In fascist ideology, only one viewpoint is legitimate. Colleges are meant to introduce students to the dominant culture and its mythic past. Education therefore either poses a grave threat to fascism or becomes a pillar of support for the mythical nation. It’s no wonder, then, that cultural clashes on campuses represent a true political battleground and receive national attention. The stakes are high. . . .

 

Where speech is a right, propagandists cannot attack dissent head-on; instead they must represent it as something violent and oppressive (a protest therefore becomes a "riot"). . . .

 

Fascist politics seeks to undermine the credibility of institutions that harbor independent voices of dissent. One typical method is to level accusations of hypocrisy. Right now, a contemporary right-wing campaign is charging universities with hypocrisy on the issue of free speech. Universities, it says, claim to hold free speech in the highest regard but suppress any voices that don’t lean left. Critics of campus social-justice movements have found an effective method of turning themselves into the victims of protest. They contend that protesters mean to deny them their own free speech. . . 

 

These accusations also extend into the classroom. . . . a far-right activist who has been targeting universities . . .  published a book, The Professors, naming the "101 most dangerous professors in America," a list of leftist and liberal professors . . . The goal of Students for Academic Freedom is to promote the hiring of professors with conservative worldviews, an effort marketed as promoting "intellectual diversity and academic freedom at America’s colleges and universities," according to Young America’s Foundation. . . .

 

Some will argue that a university must have representatives of all positions. Such an argument suggests that being justified in our own positions requires regularly grappling with opposing ones (and that there was no room for those views in the first place). . . . Nevertheless, the general principle, upon reflection, is not particularly plausible.

 
No one thinks that the demands of free inquiry require adding researchers to university faculties who seek to demonstrate that the earth is flat. Similarly, I can safely and justifiably reject ISIS ideology without having to confront its advocates in the classroom or faculty lounge. I do not need to have a colleague who defends the view that Jewish people are genetically predisposed to greed in order to justifiably reject such anti-Semitic nonsense. Nor is it even remotely plausible that bringing such voices to campus would aid arguments against such toxic ideologies. More likely, it would undermine intelligent debate by leading to breakdowns of communication and shouting matches.

 

Universities should supply the intellectual tools to allow an understanding of all perspectives. But the best way to achieve that is to hire the most academically qualified professors. No method of adjudicating academic quality will be free from controversy. But trying to evade that difficulty by forcing universities to hire representatives of every ideological position is a particularly implausible fix, one that can perhaps be justified only by a widespread conspiracy theory about academic standards being hijacked by, say, a supposed epidemic of "political correctness."

 

Continue reading


September 6, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 29, 2018

Pope Center: UNC Chapel Hill remains "a problem" for suggesting that programs to alleviate poverty might help alleviate poverty (Michael Simkovic)

When North Carolina researchers who study poverty criticized conservative law makers in North Carolina, political leaders reminded academics of the dangers of speaking out against their bosses.  Republicans responded by shutting down the law school's poverty center, crippling its civil rights center, and voting for draconian cuts to UNC Chapel Hill law school's budget.  North Carolina's Republicans were also among the first to pass the Koch funded, Goldwater Institute backed "Campus Free Speech Act", which is a thinly veiled effort to politicize universities, and monitor and intimidate administrators, students, and faculty under the guise of promoting "free speech."

North Carolina's leading funder of libertarian and Republican causes, James Arthur Pope (usually referred to as 'Art' Pope), is apparently displeased that even after the punishment meted out on the University of North Carolina, the University still hasn't completely capitulated.  Mr. Pope's point person on bullying universities into submission, George Leef of the John Pope Franklin Center, recently penned an editorial in the National Review calling UNC "a problem" because of its summer reading list for incoming students.

One of several UNC campuses committed the mortal sin of asking incoming students to read and discuss a pulitzer prize winning non-fiction book which tells the story of American families struggling with the hardships of poverty.  The book suggests that government programs to alleviate poverty actually sometimes help alleviate poverty.  (In libertarian parlance, this is "advocating statism.")  Worse yet, it seems like the kind of book that might be appreciated by Senators Sanders and Warren, two progressive Democrats.

What's notable about Leef's criticism of the book is that he doesn't point to factual errors, inconsistencies, selective citations, logical errors or other problems of quality.[1]  For Leef, the book isn't bad because it's sloppy. It's bad because it might create sympathy for policies that extremely rich people who want lower taxes dislike.

An essay in Commentary which Leef praises also attacks scientists at UNC for supporting the international scientific consensus on man-made Global Warming.  Universities agreeing with the international scientific consensus allegedly violates principles of "political neutrality." 

To some major donors and those whom they fund, "free speech" is too often a euphemism for donor control of public dialogue, and by extension public policy.  

 

[1] This should not be read as an endorsement of the book.  To my mind, there are substantive flaws which could have been pointed out, such as failing to note that high cap rates on low income housing often reflect higher risks for investors and lower expectations of appreciation in value.


August 29, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

August 13, 2018

SEALS planning on launching its own faculty hiring conference

I have only one comment on this terrible idea:  don't do it!   It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it).  More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.

ADDENDUM:  Let me comment on one particularly ludicrous reason given for the idea that what the world needs is another hiring convention for aspiring law teachers:

Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time.

To start, this just isn't true.  In a given year, maybe one candidate in the entire market has an offer before the "meat market," if that.  More to the point, how in the world would having an earlier hiring convention help with this non-problem?  Obviously those looking to "beat the market" would simply accelerate their own process.

ANOTHER:  In this article, Prof. Weaver of SEALS admits they are trying to do something "positive" for their "member schools."   At least it is now clear this has nothing to do with the job seekers, although how it will be positive for the SEALS schools is mysterious, since those schools will have to send hiring committees to two difference conferences.  This really is shameful, and I hope schools hold fast on boycotting this if, in fact, SEALS pursues this foolish and pointless exercise.


August 13, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

August 08, 2018

Should Online Education Come with an Asterisk on Transcripts? (Michael Simkovic)

The ABA recently voted to permit a dramatic expansion of online legal education.

Online education is controversial in higher education.  It is even more controversial in legal education, which relies more on classroom interaction and less on lectures than most forms of higher education. 

Widespread perceptions that online education is lower quality than live instruction in general—and may be particularly disadvantageous in legal education—are backed by numerous peer-reviewed empirical studies.[1] 

Proponents of online education argue that it is more convenient because students and faculty do not have to commute, or because students can learn at their own pace.  They argue that it is potentially more cost effective, either because physical facilities need not be used, or because it is scalable, or because an artisanal model of teaching through knowledgeable faculty can be replaced with a less expensive, industrial model of low-skill specialized workers who each handle particular aspects of course development and teaching.  Some argue that technology can be used to closely monitor and track students, and that the information gathered can be used to improve the quality of education. 

Critics of online education argue that it is lower quality, that most students learn and absorb less, and that the social dynamic of the classroom and learning from one’s peers and interacting with alumni is a critical part of education.  (In addition to multiple peer-reviewed studies, they point to recent examples of “online education” such as self-paced workplace training modules as examples of the low quality that can be expected.) 

Critics point to the failure of MOOCS—which have extremely low completion rates (see also here)—as evidence of the limits of scalability.  They point to the pricing and cost experience of most universities, which have seen high costs of developing and maintaining online courses and additional software licensing fees which have prevented them from charging much less for online classes than for those taught in person.  And they point to a rash of cheating and distracted learning, which anecdotally seem to be more prevalent online than in person.

Perhaps the most empirically rigorous (and recent) study of online education to date—which relied on an experimental design with random assignment of students to different versions of the same introductory economics course—found evidence that “live-only instruction dominates internet instruction . . . particularly . . . for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students.”  An earlier study which also used a quasi-experimental approach, found similar results, especially for complex conceptual learning:

“We find that the students in the virtual classes, while having better characteristics, performed significantly worse on the examinations than the live students. This difference was most pronounced for exam questions that tapped the students' ability to apply basic concepts in more sophisticated ways, and least pronounced for basic learning tasks such as knowing definitions or recognizing important concepts . . .

Choosing a completely online course carries a penalty that would need to be offset by significant advantages in convenience or other factors important to the student. . . . Doing as well in an online course as in the live alternative seems to require extra work or discipline beyond that demonstrated by our students, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult concepts.”

Continue reading


August 8, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Student Advice, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 07, 2018

ABA lives up to its reputation for being captured by special interests (in this case related to LSAC) and withdraws proposal to authorize tests other than LSAT for admission

Pathetic.  Law schools should continue offering the GRE option regardless, sooner or later, the ABA will have to catch up with reality.


August 7, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 02, 2018

NALP data: When there are fewer law school graduates, there are fewer law school graduates with jobs (Michael Simkovic)

NALP entry level starting salaries and employment don't predict much of anything about what will happen three to four years from now when those currently contemplating going to law school will, if they choose to attend, graduate into a quite possibly very different economy.  Nor is NALP data directionally very different from overall economic data like the employment population ratio  which is released sooner.1    And while those graduating into a stronger economy do earn more (at least for the first few years), these cohort effects fade over time, those who graduate in a recession still benefit from their educations, and attempting to time law school is a money-losing proposition because of the opportunity costs of delay.

Nevertheless, every year NALP data on last year's graduating class is released with great fanfare, including a press release.  In news that will surprise no one who has tracked the rise in the overall employment population ratio, it turns out that the class of 2017 had better employment outcomes than other classes since the recession. Or as NALP sexes it up for journalists, "Class of 2017 Notched Best Employment Outcomes Since Recession." (88.6% employed 9 months after graduation for the class for 2017, compared with 87.5% for the Class of 2016).

But, NALP unhelpfully informs us, there's a catch--the total number of law jobs for law graduates was lower even though the employment rate was higher.

This should not surprise anyone who is aware that the number of law school matriculants last peaked in 2010, and graduating class sizes have therefore been falling since 2013.  From 1994 through 2015, the correlation between annual % change in graduating class size and annual % change in number of law graduates with jobs has been 0.78 (i.e., class size explains 61 percent of the variation in number of law jobs for recent graduates.  (data here)  The correlation is even higher since 1999 when reporting started covering a higher percent of the class--0.91 correlation, meaning that class size explains 82% of the variation in the number of law graduates with jobs.

 

NALP jobs and class size

 

There aren't fewer jobs available for lawyers.  To the contrary, there are more lawyers working now than there were pre-recession according to both Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Data (BLS OES, ACS, and CPS).  There are fewer recent law graduates working as lawyers because there are fewer recent law graduates.

The employment market for educated workers is large and the number of law graduates is small relative to this market.  Law schools are too small to move the market much on the supply side by admitting more or fewer students.  Just as the typical investor could sell all of his or her shares of Apple without moving the market for shares of Apple (much less the S&P 500), the typical law school can admit as many or as few students as it wants without changing the overall percent of law graduates who will find jobs.  (However, there’s some evidence that at the national level, the share of recent law graduates working as lawyers varies inversely with class size).

The usefulness of NALP data is questionable (at least for many of the uses to which it is often put), but NALP could help by limiting its reporting to employment rates and starting salaries.  Discussing changes in the absolute number of law graduates with jobs is simply a confusing ways of telling people that fewer people entered law school 4 years ago than 5 or 6 years ago. 

NALP should also contextualize its employment ratios by comparing them to the overall U.S. employment population ratio during the same time period (i.e, March of 2018), which was 60 percent overall, and and 79 percent for those age 25-54 according to BLS and the OECD, compared to 89 percent for recent law graduates, according to NALP.

1 (Similarities are greatest when one restricts it to those who are both young and well-educated using CPS data.

 

UPDATE: 8/3/2018  The correlations and r-squared were originally reported based on levels rather than % change from previous year. The numbers have been updated to reflect a model based on differencing (% change from prior year), which brings the explanatory power from 1999 forward down from 96 percent to 82 percent.

 


August 2, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Navel-Gazing, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink