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 11, 2013
...the law is catching up with you. Once CDA 230 is history, maybe cyberspace will even be part of civilization?
December 10, 2013
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.)
Iowa Regents Mandate 16.4% cut in law school tuition for Iowa residents...
...though with no indication how the law school is supposed to make up the lost revenue, apart from hand-waving about increased enrollment. In-state tuition at Iowa was already quite low (about 25K per year). What a mess.
December 05, 2013
More on when law school graduates and jobs will be in equilibrium: 2018 or 2019 it is
A further analysis here, which incorporates the important point that 100% employment has never been the norm, even during peak employment times. The earlier estimates had all assumed that, even though some number of law school graduates do not seek employment. Given current trends in enrollments, and BLS and NALP data, the number of law graduates seeking employment and the number of avalable jobs will match by 2018 or, at the latest, 2019 (i.e., the classes starting in fall 2015 or, at the latest, fall 2016).
Rutgers-Camden Law School sanctioned by ABA for admitting a small percentage of students who had not taken the LSAT...
...but had taken the GMAT or GRE. Curious.
December 04, 2013
Sheppard on Tamanaha on law schools
Another critical take.