July 23, 2018
Professor Levit asked me to share this, which I'm happy to do:
We just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Fall 2018 submission season covering the 202 main journals of each law school.
For this round of revisions, we created hyperlinks for each law review to take you directly to the law review’s submissions page.
Again the chart 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 the Fall.
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.
Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1019029
We’d welcome you to forward the link to anyone who you think might find it useful. We appreciate any feedback you might have.
All the best,
Allen and Nancy
Professor Allen Rostron
Associate Dean for Students and William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law
Professor Nancy Levit
Associate Dean for Faculty and Curators' Distinguished Professor and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
500 E. 52nd St.
I would urge faculty to ignore the Washington & Lee data, which is garbage. Law review reputation/visibility tracks law school reputation/visibility, full stop.
July 21, 2018
I recently pointed out some factual problems with claims by Northwestern lecturer Mark A. Cohen. Cohen, writing in Forbes, claimed that faculty terminations at Vermont Law School were proof that student debt was unsustainable, not only at Vermont, but at all law schools except for a handful of elite institutions.
Here’s the problem: When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high. But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low.
When Professor David Herzig pointed out some of the relevant literature to Mr. Cohen, Cohen responded with the following angry outburst on twitter:
“That "evidence" has been panned by every credible source I know. The methodology and premises upon which the conclusions were drawn are laughable and fly in the face of real studies. I was a bet-the-company trial lawyer for many years--the "study" you cite is 3rd rate fiction.”
Low student loan defaults for law graduates are consistent with the peer reviewed literature, such as The Economic Value of a Law Degree (final version here), Timing Law School (final version here), and related work by me and Frank McIntyre about the value of legal education. Law degrees generally provide benefits that are substantially greater than their costs, even toward the low end of the distribution, across race (final version here), sex and college major, both before and after the financial crisis, and including those who graduate during a recession. More than the top 75 percent of law graduates are getting good value relative to a terminal bachelor’s degree.
Strong student loan performance is also consistent with the After the JD study (compare waves I, II, and especially III), which showed rapid income growth for graduates of even low ranked ABA-approved law schools, and eventually, six-figure median full-time incomes.
Law students’ low default rates have featured in the business strategies of many student lenders, who are eager to refinance law student debt for interest rates substantially below those offered by the federal government.
Professor Herzig asked Mr. Cohen to be more specific about his sources and objections.
Mr. Cohen has yet to specify what he believes is wrong with the methodology in the studies—which were authored with a PhD labor economist, peer reviewed and carefully vetted, use high quality government data, use mainstream methods and assumptions that are well established in labor economics, and include sensitivity analyses and robustness checks. The results have been replicated by other researchers.
Mr. Cohen also has yet to specify which “real studies” he thinks use better data and more widely accepted methods, and why. He has yet to explain how his litigation experience qualifies him as a labor economist, statistician, and literary critic. Or why, as a seasoned litigator, he thinks so many of the lawsuits against law schools have been dismissed.
July 20, 2018
University of Illinois, Chicago Board approves acquisition of John Marshall Law School in Chicago (UPDATED)
A big moment for the legal education landscape in Chicago if this goes through and if the new UIC John Marshall Law School offers state resident tuition discounting comparable to that at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While Urbana-Champaign won't be much affected, there will be considerable pressure on the private law schools in Chicago, namely, Chicago-Kent, DePaul, and Loyola-Chicago. (Northern Illinois, another public law school in the far suburbs of Chicago, won't be helped either.) The real pressure will be on DePaul, which has suffered from years of mismanagement and turmoil, and is the lowest rank of the three in the USNews.com rankings (#128 most recently; Loyola-Chicago and Chicago-Kent are solidly in the top 100).
One unknown is how much of the John Marshall law faculty will be taken on board by UIC; in terms of scholarly prominence, it is clearly weaker than the faculties at Chicago-Kent, DePaul, and Loyola-Chicago.
UPDATE: Dean Darby Dickerson at John Marshall kindly wrote and gave me permission to share some further information about the proposed merger:
The parties have negotiated that all full-time faculty will be transferring to UIC, with their tenure status, rank, and pay intact.
In addition, emeritus faculty will also have an opportunity to transition to emeritus status at UIC.
During the 207-2018 academic year, we offered a voluntary buyout opportunity to our more senior faculty to allow them the ability to retire if they wished to avoid a benefits transition. Six faculty members accepted that offer; two retired in June and the other four will retire in December.
We have three new faculty members who either have just started or will be starting later this month. We're in the process of hiring five new tenure-line faculty members who will begin in Summer/Fall 2019, and we then hope to hire about eight new tenure-line faculty members in the two years after closing.
In June, the full-time faculty voted unanimously to support the transaction. The vote included several faculty members who had accepted the buyout opportunity. They were excited about the opportunity for the school and our students, but had personal reasons for desiring to retire before closing.
I learned also from IHE that the new UIC John Marshall Law School will offer in-state tuition rates. That will make the new law school a force to be reckoned with in the legal education market in Chicago.
There are economies of size in legal education. Larger law schools can support a more highly specialized faculty, offer students a wider range of course offerings, amortize fixed costs over a larger number of students, and negotiate better terms with their vendors. As some law schools have shrunk to below efficient scale, mergers may offer an opportunity to quickly increase size and improve quality without increasing local capacity beyond sustainable levels. As Stephen Bainbridge has previously noted, many industries respond to declining markets with a wave of mergers. Law schools could follow suit.
Thus far, there have been mergers between (1) Mitchell and Hamline and (2) the two campuses of Rutgers (Camden and Newark).
Cornell has put together a Google map showing all of the ABA-approved law schools in the country.
The map is a bit out of date--U.C. Irvine is missing, and Mitchell and Hamline are still separate law schools. Nevertheless, the map is useful for thinking about which law schools could potentially pool their resources because:
1) They are geographically proximate
2) They serve a reasonably similar profile of students
3) They are organizationally similar (public vs. private; standalone vs part of a university; secular vs. religious)
The map only shows 1 (it would be nice to have color coding for other info), but those who are familiar with law schools can fill in the blank information. In areas like Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Greater New York City area, which have a high density law schools in close proximity to one another, to my mind there are possibilities that suggest themselves.
July 19, 2018
The trouble at Vermont Law School isn't due to "unsustainable" debt levels for students--but it might be because of unsustainable tuition discounting and underinvestment in outreach (Michael Simkovic)
Vermont Law School recently stripped many of its tenured faculty of tenure. A recent article in Forbes by Mark Cohen, a lecturer at Northwestern, claims that Vermont's financial problems are a sign that tuition is too high and student debt is unsustainable.
The data doesn't support his contention. When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high. But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low. Vermont Law School's 3-year cohort default rates over the last 3 years available (classes of 2012-2014) are between 0.3 and 1.2 percent, while the national average cohort default default rate across educational institutions is close to 11.5 percent. Nor are Vermont graduates defaulting in large numbers on their Perkins loans. The 2016 default rate, the most recent available, was 3.5 percent for Vermont, versus an average across all educational institutions of around 11.5 percent. Perkins loans are not eligible for Income Based Repayment, so Vermont's relatively strong performance is likely not due too a disproportionately large share of its graduates enrolling in IBR. (Not all Vermont grads will practice law in Vermont, but lawyers in Vermont are actually paid reasonably well--around 120,000 on average according to the BLS).
Vermont Law School's problem is not that tuition is so high that student debt levels are unsustainable relative to students' post graduation income and other financial resources. Rather, Vermont's problem seems to be that there are too few students, and because of aggressive tuition discounting intended to attract them, the students who matriculate are paying too little to make the school financially healthy. Vermont Law School's 2016 529 shows that around 90 percent of incoming students received some scholarship, and half of students receive half tuition scholarships or better.
Vermont Law School could try to respond by offering even more scholarship, but its competitors have deeper pockets, and can outspend Vermont until it runs out of room to maneuver. Escalating a price war that Vermont will surely lose would be foolish. Degrading the quality of its education by relying on more lecturers and adjuncts risks causing a death spiral in which quality, enrollments, reputation, and revenue per student all continue to drop.
To be successful and sustainable in the long run, Vermont may need to find a way to attract students--not just from Vermont, but from across the region--other than offering a cut-rate price. Rather than compete on price, Vermont should find a better way to reach out to those students who are most likely to find Vermont's offerings appealing.
July 18, 2018
New York Times contributors get an unpleasant surprise when they try to write about higher education without bashing it (Michael Simkovic)
Ellen Shell, a journalism professor at Boston University, recently wrote an article for the New York Times arguing that while higher education confers vitally important advantages in the labor market, education alone is not enough to overcome the disadvantages of childhood poverty and to promote greater equality. The purpose of Shell’s article was apparently to advocate for more comprehensive efforts to overcome poverty, above and beyond greater investment in higher education.
In the hands of editors at the New York Times, the title of Professor Shell’s Op Ed became "College May Not Be Worth It Anymore."
Several readers who contacted me about this article assumed that Professor Shell was an elitist who believed that the poor did not deserve to be as well educated as her own children. Apparently so did the author of the study she cited. He says that to the extent that Professor Shell may have intended to downplay the benefits of education to poor children, she misunderstood his work.
I contacted Professor Shell to ask about the discrepancy between the contents of her article and its title, and whether New York Times editors had changed her title.
She wrote back that she was surprised by the title, that it did not match the contents of her article, that it must have come from the editor, and that it did not endear her to the administration at her university.
I knew to ask Professor Shell before jumping to conclusions because I have also been surprised to find that New York Times editors attached inapposite, critical titles to my work. And I have repeatedly heard similar complaints from other professors who have written Op Eds for the New York Times and from sources who have been misquoted by the New York Times and had their professional reputations damaged as a result.
Most readers of newspapers assume that the writer listed in the byline of a newspaper article or Op Ed is responsible not only for the text of an article, essay or Op Ed, but also for the lead or title that appears at the top.
At the New York Times, that is not the case.
Editors choose the titles of Op Eds or articles. Because many readers only read the lead or title, and not the full article, this gives senior management at media companies an enormous amount of power. This power comes without public scrutiny, since usually only the name of the “author” (and not the editor) appears in the byline of the article.
July 15, 2018
July 13, 2018
Colleges and universities typically pay educated professionals a fraction of what similar individuals earn in the private sector (typically around 60 to 80 cents on the dollar) in return for greater job security and academic freedom. In recent years, some law schools have effectively reneged on this bargain, slashing compensation, de-prioritizing research support and/or accepting outside funding that compromises academic freedom, and terminating even some tenured faculty members.
Recent reports suggest that Vermont Law School has taken this to the extreme.
According to the ABA Journal, Vermont Law School recently stripped tenure from 14 of its 19 tenured professors. This was done without a formal declaration of financial exigency, and according to faculty members and the AAUP, apparently without the consent of faculty members typically required for such decisions.
Professors were reportedly offered severance equal to 6 months salary and health benefits, but only if they agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement and full release of all legal claims. This package is no more generous than severance pay routinely offered to long-serving (but untenured) employees of for-profit corporations.
July 12, 2018
We write today as Yale Law students, alumni, and educators ashamed of our alma mater. Within an hour of Donald Trump’s announcement that he would nominate Brett Kavanaugh, YLS ‘90, to the Supreme Court, the law school published a press release boasting of its alumnus’s accomplishment. The school’s post included quotes from Yale Law School professors about Judge Kavanaugh’s intellect, influence and mentorship of their students.
Yet the press release's focus on the nominee's professionalism, pedigree, and service to Yale Law School obscures the true stakes of his nomination and raises a disturbing question: Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?
Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country. His nomination is not an interesting intellectual exercise to be debated amongst classmates and scholars in seminar. Support for Judge Kavanaugh is not apolitical. It is a political choice about the meaning of the constitution and our vision of democracy, a choice with real consequences for real people.