October 18, 2017

Why the "trial by ordeal" actually worked

Amusing, and seemingly plausible, analysis.

UPDATE:  Daniel Sokol (Florida) points out to me that this short essay is based on a longer article published in 2010 and available here.


October 18, 2017 in Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 16, 2017

Best academic publishers in law?

We haven't done this poll in about eight years, so here it is once again.   Choose "none of the above" if you think options not represented are better than the remaining options offered.  Remember, this poll concerns solely the quality of scholarship monographs published by different presses (so this is not about publishers of treatises or casebooks, for example). Have fun!


October 16, 2017 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

October 12, 2017

Professor Wax addresses Penn audience regarding op-ed controversy

There is an account, of sorts, at the Penn student newspaper (it's sub-headline comletely mischaracterizes through innuendo what Wax said about slavery, judging from the account later in the body of the article--but this makes me wonder how reliable the whole thing is).   I can not tell to what extent Professor Wax addressed, if at all, the substantive (and devastating) criticism she receives from several of her colleagues.

UPDATE:  A friend at Penn points out that Professor Wax's entire talk can be viewed here.  I have not watched it, but may later.


October 12, 2017 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 05, 2017

What in the world is going on at Emory Law School?

I've been hearing about the turmoil at Emory Law from both insiders and colleagues elsewhere, who have also heard from insiders.  Here's what seems absolutely clear at this point:

1.  Prof. Robert Schapiro announced last March he would not seek another term as Dean.

2.  Disregarding faculty input, the central administration (itself in transition) appointed an alum, a retired partner from Alston & Bird, as the Interim Dean.

3.  A new Provost (Dwight McBride, a professor of English and African-American studies, previously at Northwestern) took over at Emory on July 1, and the Interim Dean started August 1.  A Dean search committee was announced a few weeks later.

4.  Suddenly, on September 7, the new Provost called a meeting of all faculty and staff for the next day.  Provost McBride declined to take questions, and announced that (1) the Interim Dean was stepping aside ("for personal reasons"), and the Provost was appointing Prof. Jim Hughes (a current Associate Dean) as the new Interim Dean, but for a two-year period; this was done without any formal consultation with the faculty, and is probably in violation of ABA rules.  Provost McBride also announced the suspension of the Dean search, and announced he was going to appoint "external reviewers" to assess the law school.  He also, in the words of one faculty member, "launched into a litany of asserted grievances against the law school, which ranged from the uninformed to the false."  (For what it's worth, Emory has managed to sustain its US News ranking, despite the turmoil in legal education--it was 22nd most recently--so it's not like a ranking collapse prompted this dramatic intervention.  Indeed, one might have thought the recruitment of Prof Margo Bagley back from the University of Virginia last year was a sign of a school in a competitive position.)

I've yet to see any reporting on this, but this is, to put it mildly, a highly irregular set of events for a major law school.  Readers should feel free to send me links to more information about what's going on.

 

 

 


October 5, 2017 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 04, 2017

Erwin Chemerinsky answering questions...

September 29, 2017

How should a Dean who understands academic freedom respond to public controversy about faculty writing?

So we know from the unhappy example of Dean Ferruolo throwing a faculty member under the bus what not to do:  you don't publish a statement on the homepage of the school singling out a faculty member's work, declare that not only do you, as Dean, disagree with it, but suggest that these are pariah views in "our law school community", and imply that the offending views may implicate "racial discrimination" and persecution of the "vulnerable" and "marginalized."  Making an obligatory reference to academic freedom in passing does not undo the damage that this decanal misconduct causes. 

The job of administrators is not to share their opinions about the views of members of the faculty, but to administer a university environment in which faculty and students may express points of view that do not otherwise violate anti-discrimination, sexual harassment or other laws.  (The silly op-ed did not violate any applicable law obviously).  So one obvious, and preferable, option would have been for the Dean to make no public statement at all.  He could have met with concerned student groups, and educated them about academic freedom and reaffirmed institutional policies about equal opportunity.  If a Dean makes any public statement in the context of such a controversy, it should not include any comment on a faculty member's views; it would suffice, for example, to simply reaffirm the institution's commitment to equal opportunity for all students and the like.

The Kalven Report got it exactly right fifty years ago, and all administrators ought to read and think about it.  The university sponsors critics, it is not itself a critic or advocate (except for that narrow range of issues central to the university's function).   A Dean, or other university administrator, forfeits his academic freedom upon becoming Dean--in part, because Deaning is not a scholarly enterprise but an administrative one, and academic freedom exists only to protect the scholarly pursuit of truth.  As an administrator, the Dean's job is to protect academic freedom and protect an environment in which faculty and students can express their views in the appropriate fora, such as the classroom, scholarship, and sometimes in the public sphere.   In order to preserve a community of open and vigorous debate, the Dean must not lend his authority to one side or the other.   That there is an uproar about a faculty member's scholarship or op-ed does not mean the Dean must speak out, except perhaps to educate people about what a university is and what academic freedom is and why it matters.

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September 29, 2017 in Faculty News, Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

September 28, 2017

The second FAR distribution came out today...

...with only 55 new applicants for faculty positions.  Altogether, there are fewer than 500 candidates seeking law teaching positions this year, one of the lowest totals I can recall.  There are some indications that hiring is up this year--or at least interviewing--but it's too early to say for sure.


September 28, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 27, 2017

AG Sessions invited to talk about "free speech" (but not kneeling NFL players!) at Georgetown Law...

...but only to friends of Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, with pre-screened questions.  Other Georgetown law faculty and students aren't happy.

UPDATE:  Various folks have sent me Prof. Barnett's lengthy explanation of the event and what actually transpired; it is below the fold for those who are interested:

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September 27, 2017 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 25, 2017

Gelbach on the Wax & Alexander op-ed (UPDATED)

MOVING TO FRONT FROM SEPTEMBER 21--UPDATED

Jonah Gelbach, a law & economics and empirical scholar at Penn, has now taken the time to set out in detail the problems with the silly op-ed.  You can safely ignore the self-serving preface from the empty Jonathan Haidt, and just go straight to Gelbach's patient discussion.   In the broader scope of things, it was surely not a good use of Professor Gelbach's time to have to write this in response to an opinion piece so slight, but given the controversy that has been generated, we should all be grateful that he did it.

I have no doubt that this won't stop Heather MacDonald and others from making absurd claims about Professor Wax's great wisdom and expertise, but at least those of us actually invested in the scholarly enterprise can learn something from Prof. Gelbach's analysis.

(Thanks to Jonathan Klick for the pointer.)

UPDATE:   Haidt, given his great commitment to the free exchange of ideas and arguments, decided to edit out one part of Prof. Gelbach's original response to the Wax & Alexander op-ed, after Prof. Wax objected--apparently to Prof. Gelbach's devastating scrutiny of their lack of empirical evidence.  In any case, Prof. Gelbach kindly offered to let me make available his actual, uncensored response, which is here:  Download Facts v. Wax Part I.A - The Uncut Version.  It begins with an explanation of what Haidt did and of his efforts to find out if there was, I fact, evidence for some of the curious claims in the op-ed.


September 25, 2017 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

The law school monopoly myth (Michael Simkovic)

It is often assumed that the only way to become a lawyer is to attend an ABA-approved law school.  That is true in some states and, indeed, the ABA has at times expressed the view that it should be true in all states.  But it is not the case in large jurisdictions such as New York or California, nor is it the case in the majority of jurisdictions.  Claims that ABA-approved law school have a monopoly on entry into the legal profession are exaggerations.  Rather, the most popular—and probably most likely—way to become a lawyer is to graduate from an ABA-approved institution. 

In leading jurisdictions such as New York, California, and Virginia, an individual who wishes to become a lawyer may sit for the bar examination with between zero and 1 years of law school and between 3 and 4 years of apprenticeship and study under the supervision of a licensed attorney (this is also known as “law office study” or “reading for the bar”).  In California, graduates of non-ABA-approved law schools are eligible to sit for the bar examination.  This includes schools with extremely low-cost, technology-driven approaches to teaching, such as online and correspondence schools.

In fact, non-ABA law school graduates are eligible to sit for the bar examination in most jurisdictions (31 in total as of 2017) according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.**  This includes extremely large and important jurisdictions such as California, Florida, New York, Texas and Washington D.C.  Graduates of online and correspondence law schools are eligible to sit for the bar examination in 4 jurisdictions.

Very few people choose the apprenticeship route, and only a minority opt for non-ABA law schools.  Among those who do, relatively few successfully complete their courses of study or pass the bar examination.  But those who do will have the same license to practice law as someone who graduates from an ABA-approved law school and successfully passes the bar examination.

Why then do so many prospective lawyers choose ABA-approved law schools?

The most likely explanation is that prospective lawyers choose ABA-approved law schools because those law schools provide a valuable and worthwhile service that supports a higher price point than other options.* 

Many employers value legal education.  That’s why they typically pay law school graduates tens of thousands of dollars more per year than they pay similar bachelor’s degree holders, even in occupations other than the practice of law.  When law school graduating class sizes increase, and a lower proportion of graduates practice law, graduates don’t typically see a noticeable decline in their earnings premium. 

In other words, the benefits of law school are versatile. Graduates of ABA-approved law schools also seem to be much more likely to complete their studies and pass the bar examination than students attending more lightly regulated and lower cost alternatives.

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September 25, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink