February 23, 2016
February 22, 2016
The New York Times and American Lawyer have both reported on the decision of the distinguished New York law firm Milbank Tweed to pull funding for speakers invited by student groups at Harvard Law School after one group invited a speaker of which, apparently, the firm disapproves. This sets a very unfortunate precedent, and I would encourage other law professors to join me as a signatory to this open letter. Law schools depend on generous support from alumni, whether as individuals or as partnerships or otherwise, but that support should be offered in a way consistent with the academic and pedagogical mission of a law school and be viewpoint-neutral.
Provocative piece from Bloomberg News, prompted by a recent paper by Lynn LoPucki (UCLA). We've certainly seen this already in some sub-fields: e.g., first-generation law & economics scholars were almost all JDs, while the current generation are almost all JD/PhDs. The rise in expectations for scholarly writing from junior faculty candidates over the last twenty years has strongly favored those with PhDs, who, of course, have a lot of writing in hand. And some of this is simply attributable to the revolution in legal scholarship wrought by Richard Posner in the 1970s, which finally finished off the Langedellian paradigm of legal scholarship.
Although I'm quoted saying that the rise of JD/PhDs will continue, that's a descriptive not normative statement. I think different schools have different missions. And the relevance of the JD/PhD varies by field. We have ten current junior faculty, only four of whom are JD/PhDs. Our Dean is a JD/PhD, our two most recent tenures were one JD/PhD and one JD (who had even been a partner in a major law firm). We placed three Chicago candidates at "top" law schools this year, two were JD/PhDs, one a "mere" JD. I think my prediction is an accurate one--and at other top schools it's already come true--but it will be another twenty-five years before it is realized at the top law schools generally.
February 19, 2016
UPDATE: There's a longer article on this brouhaha here. I find I agree with a lot of what Mike Seidman (Georgetown) is quoted in the article as saying in the wake of this dispute. In general, institutions should not adopt positions; faculty should adopt positions. But the convention of recognizing and mourning the passing of a member of that community is so well-established that I don't think anyone could imagine that such official expressions mean that everyone in the community has the same views about an individual's life and career. I doubt there has been a more severe critic of Justice Scalia than my colleague Judge Posner, and yet Chicago, of course, also mourned Justice Scalia's passing and recognized his professional career, as one would expect. I am sure no one thinks this means that Judge Posner is now retracting his previous criticisms of Justice Scalia's jurisprudence!
February 17, 2016
Arizona's announcement is here, and a National Law Journal story here. It's pretty plausible that the GRE is also a good predictor, since it has much in common with the LSAT; the biggest difference is that the GRE does test quantitative skills and knowledge.
February 12, 2016
Signs of the times: how the University of Minnesota has weathered the downturn in applications to law schools
Very informative piece, making vivid what has probably gone on at many schools in recent years:
The University of Minnesota has seen the worst of hard times that hit the nation’s law schools — and things should start looking up.
That was the prediction of the law school’s outgoing dean in a Thursday presentation to U regents chock-full of sobering statistics and a dash of hopeful news.
The law school, which has seen its applicant pool shrink by almost half and its enrollment dip by a third since 2010, has a plan to pull through, leaders said.
“It looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn’t that far out,” said David McMillan, the board’s vice chair and a graduate of the law school.
Dean David Wippman said he expects that by 2020, the law school can end its reliance on year-end financial injections from the university to balance its budget, totaling about $16 million since 2012.
The measures the law school has been taking will likely continue to sting, though: Faculty will keep shrinking by attrition, and the school will stick with austerity measures, from support staff cuts to the end of free coffee in the faculty lounge.
February 11, 2016
February 10, 2016
Some of you may have heard that the relatively new President of Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland has summarily fired a tenured philosophy professor: there are more details and links here. The urgent, immediate issue is, as I learned from philosopher Angela Schwenkler, "the students are interested in protesting, but are afraid that they will be expelled." She asks, "Can anyone contact me so that I can help them get some good legal and professional advice as they go forward? It is urgent - [President] Newman has called a meeting with the students at 7pm. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org." Recommendations of Maryland employment lawyers for the fired tenured philosophy professor would also be welcome.
February 09, 2016
The latest unscientific fad among law school watchers is comparing job openings projections for lawyers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics* with the number of students expected to graduate from law school. Frank McIntyre and I tested this method of predicting earnings premiums--the financial benefits of a law degree--using all of the available historical projections from the BLS going back decades. This method of prediction does not perform any better than random chance.** Labor economists--including those working at the BLS--have explicitly stated that BLS projections should not be used to try to value particular courses of study. Instead, higher education should be valued based on earnings premiums.
Bloggers who report changes in BLS projections and compare projected job openings to the number of students entering law school might as well advise prospective law students to make important life decisions by flipping a coin.
Many law graduates won't practice law. Many engineering graduates won't become engineers. Many students in every field end up working jobs that are not directly related to what they studied. They still typically benefit financially from their degrees by using them in other occupations where additional education boosts earnings and likelihood of employment.
And if one's goal really is to practice law even if practicing law is not more lucrative than other opportunities opened by a law degree, then studying law may not be a guarantee, but it still dramatically improves the odds.
* BLS job opening projections--which are essentially worthless as predictors for higher education--should not be confused with BLS occupational employment statistics, which provide useful data about earnings and employment in many occupations, including for lawyers.
** There isn’t even strong evidence that changes in the ratio between BLS projected lawyer job openings and law class size predict changes in the percent of law graduates who will practice law, although the estimates are too noisy to be definitive. Historically, the ratio of BLS projected openings to law graduates (or first year enrollments 3 years prior) has systematically under-predicted by a wide margin the proportion of law graduates practicing law shortly after graduation, although it is clear that a large minority of law graduates do not practice law.
February 9, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink