Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

July 28, 2015

It's educational malpractice to recommend that incoming law students read Llewellyn's "The Bramble Bush"...

...as, alas, Michael Krauss (George Mason) does in The Washington Post no less.  Llewellyn's book is delightful and rich with interesting material, but I guarantee it makes no sense to someone who hasn't already read a lot of cases and studied some basic common-law subjects, like torts and contracts.  (I offer the basic Jurisprudence course here as a 1L elective in the Spring Quarter, and to those students it makes a lot of sense precisely because they've already seen so many examples of what Llewellyn is talking about.)  The one book I recommend to students who ask what to read before starting law school is Ward Farnsworth's The Legal Analyst (though the "Jurisprudence" part of the book isn't really about jurisprudence).  This is accessible to a novice, and provides a beginning law student with a variety of useful analytical tools.  (Farnsworth, now Dean at Texas, is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and the book actually covers much of the material covered in "Elements of the Law," a required fall quarter class for all 1Ls here--indeed, one of my colleagues who teaches "Elements" uses Farnsworth's book in the class.)


July 28, 2015 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

July 22, 2015

Rostron & Levit's useful compilation of information about submitting to law reviews...

...has been updated again.  They write:

We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Fall 2015 submission season covering the 204 main journals of each law school.  

A couple of the highlight from this round of revisions are: 

First, the chart now includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions.  Most of this is not specific dates, because the journals tend to post only imprecise statements about how the journal is not currently accepting submissions but will start doing so at some point in spring.

Second, there continues to be a gradual increase in the number of journals using and preferring Scholastica instead of ExpressO or accepting emails submissions: 22 journals prefer or strongly prefer Scholastica, 14 more list it as one of the alternative acceptable avenues of submission, and 10 now list Scholastica as the exclusive method of submission.  

The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review.  The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.

The Washington & Lee data, I should note, is mostly silly (among other things, it does not control for publication volume by the journals).  Law review prominence and visibility tracks law school reputation, full stop.  For some specialty journals, the W&L data is somewhat useful, but that's about it.


July 22, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

July 20, 2015

Denise Lunsford, the county prosectuor in Charlottesville, VA, is a disgrace

Unbelievable.  The UVA Law School should set up a clinic devoted to monitoring this menace to the justice system.


July 20, 2015 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 16, 2015

Are scholarship and teaching complementary? (Michael Simkovic)

A new empirical article by Tom Ginsburg and Thomas J. Miles finds evidence of possible complementarity between scholarly output and quality of teaching at the University of Chicago.

From the conclusion:

The recent debate on the mission of American law schools has hinged on the assumption that a trade-off exists between teaching and research, and this article’s analysis, although limited in various ways, casts some doubt on that assumption.

Tom Ginsburg & Thomas J. Miles, The Teaching/ Research Trade-Off in Law: Data From the Right Tail, 39 Evaluation Rev. 46 (2015).


July 16, 2015 in Faculty News, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science | Permalink

July 14, 2015

What attributes predict student success in law school?

Two Colorado law professors (actual scholars, not the notorious clown!) have undertaken an interesting longitudinal study of law school success, looking at data, though, from just two schools:  Colorado and Case Western.   It is informative about schools with similar profiles, but I wonder whether the results hold if one looks at much stronger or much weaker schools?

(Thanks to Dean Rowan for the pointer.)


July 14, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink

July 10, 2015

It's official, the enrollment decline is over!

According to LSAC, June 2015 LSAT takers were up 6.6% from June 2014, the first time we've seen an increase since June 2010, and the biggest increase since June 2009.  I wouldn't suppose that this means we will see a significant increase in applicants, but it certainly seems likely we've hit a plateau.


July 10, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 08, 2015

LSAC now reporting (as of July 3) that total applicants are down only 2% since last year

June 29, 2015

Judge Posner on the same-sex marriage decision

This line from his commentary was particularly funny:

The chief justice criticizes the majority for “order[ing] the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?” We’re pretty sure we’re not any of the above. And most of us are not convinced that what’s good enough for the Bushmen, the Carthaginians, and the Aztecs should be good enough for us. Ah, the millennia! Ah, the wisdom of ages! How arrogant it would be to think we knew more than the Aztecs—we who don’t even know how to cut a person’s heart out of his chest while’s he still alive, a maneuver they were experts at.


June 29, 2015 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 22, 2015

ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education Advocates Disclosure, Experimentation and More Empirical Research (Michael Simkovic)

The ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education’s report  was released last week.  I was among the people who testified before the Task Force last summer, and the report cites both my presentation and my research with Frank McIntyre on The Economic Value of a Law Degree.  Consistent with our research, the report notes that challenges facing legal education are similar to challenges facing higher education more generally, and notes extremely low student loan default rates for law school borrowers.  

The report is forthright about the limitations of existing data and careful in its recommendations—most of which relate to:

  • disseminating existing information more clearly (especially about student loan repayment options),
  • gathering better information going forward (especially about tuition and scholarships), and
  • structuring “experiments” in legal education (e.g., relaxation of accreditation rules) as field experiments that facilitate causal inference by trained social science researchers.  

The report notes that legal education appears to be responding to market forces.  After declines in applicants, law schools reduced capacity and offered more scholarships.  Actual tuition increases have been lower than widely publicized increases in sticker tuition because of increased use of scholarships (tuition-discounting), although net-tuition has still increased faster than inflation as measured by CPI-U.

The ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education report urges the legal profession to support federal student loan forgiveness programs that encourage public service.  

Some student loan forgiveness programs have been criticized by politically powerful, media savvy, and well-funded think tanks, which claim that these programs will be costly for taxpayers.  (I am skeptical of many of the think tank estimates for empirical and mathematical reasons, but that is a discussion for another day).  Loan forgiveness programs may be revisited in upcoming budget negotiations.  Many are expecting reduced funding for higher education to help fund increased military spending. 

The Task Force on Financing Legal Education’s report is a major improvement over last year’s report from another Task Force assembled by the ABA, The Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.  This year’s report is both better researched and more cautious in its claims and recommendations.


June 22, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science | Permalink

ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education Final Report

Here.  The two most concrete proposals are to mandate enhanced financial counseling for prospective students, to be sure they understand federal loan programs and their options; and to mandate greater disclosure of law school finances, including tuition discounting.  I was also pleased to see on p. 22 that evidence triumphed over anecdote and ideology when, citing the work of Simkovic and McIntyre, the Report notes that, "Despite the cost, the best available evidence suggests a significant lifetime income premium for those with a law degree compared to those with a bachelor’s degree."


June 22, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink