December 05, 2015

Further evidence that the decline in law school applicants is over

LSAC is reporting a very slight increase in total applicants for September/October from the same time last year.  Given that LSAT takers are up 6-7% from last year, and that more students are applying later in the cycle, I think it's reasonable to expect that by the end of the season total applicants  will be up 3-5% this year compared to last year.


December 5, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

December 02, 2015

Justice Scalia's Theocratic Vision

My colleague Judge Posner and Prof. Eric Segall (Georgia State) comment.


December 2, 2015 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Developer of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) Disputes Advocacy Group's Bar Exam Claims (Michael Simkovic)

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC)--the non-profit organization which develops and administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)--recently issued a press release disputing claims by the advocacy group "Law School Transparency" about the relationship between LSAT scores and bar passage rates.  "Law School Transparency," headed by Kyle McEntee, prominently cited the LSAC National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study (1998) as a key source for "Law School Transparency's" claims that many law schools are admitting students who are unlikely to pass the bar exam based largely on their LSAT scores.  McEntee's group's claims of bar passage risk were widely disseminated by the national press.

However, according to LSAC, the Longitudinal Bar Passage Study does not provide much support for "Law School Transparency's" claims.  Moreover, "Law School Transparency's" focus on first time bar passage rates is potentially misleading:

"The LSAC [National Longitudinal Bar Passage] study did state that 'from the perspective of entry to the profession, the eventual pass rate is a far more important outcome than first-time pass rate.' This statement is as true today as it was 25 years ago. As noted by LST, the LSAC study participants who scored below the (then) average LSAT score had an eventual bar passage rate of over 90 percent.

Kyle McEntee and David Frakt responded to some of LSAC's critiques--partly on substance by pointing out disclaimers in the full version of "Law School Transparency's" claims, partly by smearing the technical experts at LSAC as shills for law school--but notably did not explain why "Law School Transparency" chose to focus on first time bar passage rates rather than seemingly more important--and much higher--eventual bar passage rates. 

Eventual bar passage rates were the focus of the National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study.  The LSAC study's executive summary highlights eventual bar passage rates and detailed data is presented on page 32 and 33.  Even among graduates of the lowest "cluster" of law schools, around 80 percent eventually passed the bar exam.

According to LSAC:

"The LSAC National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study was undertaken primarily in response to rumors and anecdotal reports suggesting that bar passage rates were so low among examinees of color that potential applicants were questioning the wisdom of investing the time and resources necessary to obtain a legal education."

"Law School Transparency" has revived similar concerns, but without a specific focus on racial minorities.*

There may be legitimate concerns about long term eventual bar passage rates for some law students.  However, "Law School Transparency's" back-of-the-envelope effort, focused on short term outcomes, does not provide much insight into long-term questions.  The most rigorous study of this issue to date--the LSAC National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study--concluded that "A demographic profile that could distinguish first-time passing examinees from eventual-passing or never-passing examinees did not emerge from these data. . . . Although students of color entered law school with academic credentials, as measured by UGPA and LSAT scores, that were significantly lower than those of white students, their eventual bar passage rates justified admission practices that look beyond those measures."

Unfortunately, some newspapers reported "Law School Transparency's" bar passage risk claims in ways that suggested the claims were blessed by LSAC, or even originated from LSAC.  For example, one prominent newspaper's editorial board wrote that "In 2013, the median LSAT score of students admitted to [one law school] was in the bottom quarter of all test-takers nationwide. According to the test’s administrators, students with scores this low are unlikely to ever pass the bar exam."
 
Journalists should not have uncritically reported (or exaggerated) "Law School Transparency's" claims without consulting experts at LSAC, and certainly should not have attributed those claims to LSAC.
 
 
* Many law schools that serve students with low LSAT scores have racially diverse classes. Thus, denying admission to students with low LSAT scores could  affect racial minorities as well as other students.


December 2, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

December 01, 2015

Law faculty and the Chicago police

My former colleague Bernard Harcourt (now at Columbia) has a damning piece on the "cover up" in Chicago involving the shooting of an African-American teenager last year (the video of which was withheld for a year, until a court order forced its release last week), while Chicago Mayor Emanuel (whom, as Prof. Harcourt notes, was part of this cover-up too) has appointed a five-person Task Force on Police Accountability, which includes my colleague Randolph Stone.

ADDENDUM:  And my colleague Craig Futterman was one of the lawyers involved in getting the city to release the video of last year's shooting.  See the interview with him here.


December 1, 2015 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 30, 2015

Signs of the times: a list of schools that offered retirement incentives and "buyouts" to faculty in recent years

Blog Emperor Caron has a list of schools and links to the stories with details.  It's perhaps worth noting that a number of these schools are now hiring junior faculty this year, indicating that their finances have stabilized, and they are now ready to meet the institutional needs that require full-time faculty.  I expect we will see more of this in the next couple of years, which will contribute to an improved market for new law teachers (I do not expect we will get back to the pre-recession highs of 170 or more new faculty being hired each year, however, but I expect we will get back to 100 or so, from the lows of the last two years, which saw only about 65 new tenure-stream academic faculty hired nationally each year.)


November 30, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 24, 2015

Thankful for the Financial Times (Michael Simkovic)

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the Financial Times.  

While some leading business and financial newspapers have adulterated their coverage to appeal to a mass audience or reduce costs, the Financial Times continues to produce high quality, fact-based reporting about serious business, financial, and economic issues.  The FT's target audience continues to be legal and financial professionals who are prepared to pay a premium for reliable information.  The FT includes a minimum of hyperbole and fluff.  It also offers a more global perspective than most U.S. papers, while still providing strong coverage of important U.S. issues.  

For the last 5 years, I've routinely recommended the FT to students in my business law classes, who are generally more familiar with U.S. papers.  The FT is available on Lexis (with a few days delay), but is well worth the cost of a subscription.  

If you're not a regular reader of the FT, but have been following U.S. newspapers' higher education coverage, you can get a sense of the differences between the FT and U.S. newspapers' approach across subject areas by reading this article about fees at public UK universities exceeding those at U.S. universities.  The article is entirely focused on costs and benefits of education and how those costs and benefits are distributed between students, government, and employers.  There are no unrepresentative anecdotes, no histrionics, only summaries of data.  When advocacy groups are cited, their interests are noted.  This is what journalism can and should be.

Pearson recently sold the FT to Nikkei.  Hopefully the new owners maintain the FT's high quality. 


November 24, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

November 23, 2015

More signs of the times: Gonzaga offers buy-outs to all tenured faculty...

...and four accept, which will apparently address the immediate budgetary issues resulting from a nearly one-third decline in enrollments.


November 23, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 20, 2015

Hate crime Harvard Law School

November 17, 2015

Roger Williams Law extends tuition freeze for another year

Press release here.


November 17, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 16, 2015

Against student-edited law reviews, once again

Lawyer/philosopher Ken Levy (Louisiana State) comments.

My impression is that many of the student-edited law reviews are now seeking faculty input into acceptance decisions, though not generally at the initial screening stage.  What are the impressions of others?  (I do not submit very often to student-edited law reviews, so my sample size is small.)


November 16, 2015 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (2)