Monday, August 13, 2018

Top 50 Law Schools Based on Scholarly Impact, 2018

Professor Gregory Sisk & colleagues have updated their scholarly impact ratings (last edition), looking at mean and median citations to tenured faculty scholarship for the years 2013-2017 inclusive, using fall 2018 faculty rosters as the benchmark.  (Sisk et al. rank 70 faculties; I print the top 50, below.)  The weighted score represents the sum of the mean citations for the tenured faculty times 2, plus the faculty median.  Where the median is low relative to the immediate competition that's an indicator that a few highly cited faculty are carrying the school; in other cases, where the median is quite high, it's an indicator of more across the boards scholarly output.  By noting age, one can see that some faculties are heavily dependent on their most senior members for their citations.  Ties reflect the normalized weighted scores.

The citation counts were done during a two-week window in late May of this year in the Westlaw database as follow:  TE(Brian /2 Leiter) and date (aft 2012) and date (bef 2018).  "TE" limited the results to the body of the text, thus eliminating references to names in acknowledgments.  Although the searches were done in May of 2018, it's clear the pre-2018 database expanded after May (e.g., I had 553 hits when Sisk & colleagues did the study, while the same search, today, yields 589--that's a higher increase than in some other cases that were checked).  Across whole schools this won't matter, since the database was relatively stable during the two-week window when the data was collected.

Citations to faculty scholarship in law journals is, of course, only one metric of scholarly distinction and accomplishment.  Still, it is a useful check on uninformed opinions, and tracks rather well the actual scholarly output of different schools.  I'll have a few more substantive comments on the 2018 results tomorrow.

Over the coming weeks, I will post new lists of the most-cited scholars by specialty utilizing the Sisk data.

Results below the fold:

Continue reading

August 13, 2018 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

SEALS planning on launching its own faculty hiring conference

I have only one comment on this terrible idea:  don't do it!   It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it).  More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.

ADDENDUM:  Let me comment on one particularly ludicrous reason given for the idea that what the world needs is another hiring convention for aspiring law teachers:

Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time.

To start, this just isn't true.  In a given year, maybe one candidate in the entire market has an offer before the "meat market," if that.  More to the point, how in the world would having an earlier hiring convention help with this non-problem?  Obviously those looking to "beat the market" would simply accelerate their own process.

ANOTHER:  In this article, Prof. Weaver of SEALS admits they are trying to do something "positive" for their "member schools."   At least it is now clear this has nothing to do with the job seekers, although how it will be positive for the SEALS schools is mysterious, since those schools will have to send hiring committees to two difference conferences.  This really is shameful, and I hope schools hold fast on boycotting this if, in fact, SEALS pursues this foolish and pointless exercise.

August 13, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

New scholarly impact study coming this week

Greg Sisk (St. Thomas) and colleagues will be releasing a new scholarly impact study of law schools for the five-year period, 2013-2017 quite soon.   I'll post the results and a link to the study when it is available, and then, over the next few weeks, will post rankings of top scholars in various areas of scholarship.

August 13, 2018 in Rankings | Permalink

Friday, August 10, 2018

More than 100 law schools have constituted appointments committees so far...

...although only about 40 have shared that information at the Prawfs site.   This year is shaping up, as expected, to be the best year to be on the law teaching job market since the very early 2010s.   We won't get back to those levels, to be sure, but since a number of the schools hiring are looking to fill multiple positions, I am hopeful we'll see more than 100 rookie faculty hired by the end of this academic year (compare that to 160-180 before the collapse).   The main factor explaining this is, of course, the steady increase in LSAT-takers and applicants that we've seen for several years now, all occurring against the backdrop of the contraction by law schools during the prior five years.

August 10, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Should Online Education Come with an Asterisk on Transcripts? (Michael Simkovic)

The ABA recently voted to permit a dramatic expansion of online legal education.

Online education is controversial in higher education.  It is even more controversial in legal education, which relies more on classroom interaction and less on lectures than most forms of higher education. 

Widespread perceptions that online education is lower quality than live instruction in general—and may be particularly disadvantageous in legal education—are backed by numerous peer-reviewed empirical studies.[1] 

Proponents of online education argue that it is more convenient because students and faculty do not have to commute, or because students can learn at their own pace.  They argue that it is potentially more cost effective, either because physical facilities need not be used, or because it is scalable, or because an artisanal model of teaching through knowledgeable faculty can be replaced with a less expensive, industrial model of low-skill specialized workers who each handle particular aspects of course development and teaching.  Some argue that technology can be used to closely monitor and track students, and that the information gathered can be used to improve the quality of education. 

Critics of online education argue that it is lower quality, that most students learn and absorb less, and that the social dynamic of the classroom and learning from one’s peers and interacting with alumni is a critical part of education.  (In addition to multiple peer-reviewed studies, they point to recent examples of “online education” such as self-paced workplace training modules as examples of the low quality that can be expected.) 

Critics point to the failure of MOOCS—which have extremely low completion rates (see also here)—as evidence of the limits of scalability.  They point to the pricing and cost experience of most universities, which have seen high costs of developing and maintaining online courses and additional software licensing fees which have prevented them from charging much less for online classes than for those taught in person.  And they point to a rash of cheating and distracted learning, which anecdotally seem to be more prevalent online than in person.

Perhaps the most empirically rigorous (and recent) study of online education to date—which relied on an experimental design with random assignment of students to different versions of the same introductory economics course—found evidence that “live-only instruction dominates internet instruction . . . particularly . . . for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students.”  An earlier study which also used a quasi-experimental approach, found similar results, especially for complex conceptual learning:

“We find that the students in the virtual classes, while having better characteristics, performed significantly worse on the examinations than the live students. This difference was most pronounced for exam questions that tapped the students' ability to apply basic concepts in more sophisticated ways, and least pronounced for basic learning tasks such as knowing definitions or recognizing important concepts . . .

Choosing a completely online course carries a penalty that would need to be offset by significant advantages in convenience or other factors important to the student. . . . Doing as well in an online course as in the live alternative seems to require extra work or discipline beyond that demonstrated by our students, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult concepts.”

Continue reading

August 8, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Student Advice, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ABA lives up to its reputation for being captured by special interests (in this case related to LSAC) and withdraws proposal to authorize tests other than LSAT for admission

Pathetic.  Law schools should continue offering the GRE option regardless, sooner or later, the ABA will have to catch up with reality.

August 7, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Friday, August 3, 2018

Stanford Law Dean Liz Magill to return to UVA as new Provost in summer 2019

The UVA news release is here; Magill has been Dean at Stanford since 2012.  UVA will now be led by a President and Provost, both of whom are graduates of UVA's law school and former members of the UVA law faculty!

August 3, 2018 in Faculty News | Permalink

Thursday, August 2, 2018

NALP data: When there are fewer law school graduates, there are fewer law school graduates with jobs (Michael Simkovic)

NALP entry level starting salaries and employment don't predict much of anything about what will happen three to four years from now when those currently contemplating going to law school will, if they choose to attend, graduate into a quite possibly very different economy.  Nor is NALP data directionally very different from overall economic data like the employment population ratio  which is released sooner.1    And while those graduating into a stronger economy do earn more (at least for the first few years), these cohort effects fade over time, those who graduate in a recession still benefit from their educations, and attempting to time law school is a money-losing proposition because of the opportunity costs of delay.

Nevertheless, every year NALP data on last year's graduating class is released with great fanfare, including a press release.  In news that will surprise no one who has tracked the rise in the overall employment population ratio, it turns out that the class of 2017 had better employment outcomes than other classes since the recession. Or as NALP sexes it up for journalists, "Class of 2017 Notched Best Employment Outcomes Since Recession." (88.6% employed 9 months after graduation for the class for 2017, compared with 87.5% for the Class of 2016).

But, NALP unhelpfully informs us, there's a catch--the total number of law jobs for law graduates was lower even though the employment rate was higher.

This should not surprise anyone who is aware that the number of law school matriculants last peaked in 2010, and graduating class sizes have therefore been falling since 2013.  From 1994 through 2015, the correlation between annual % change in graduating class size and annual % change in number of law graduates with jobs has been 0.78 (i.e., class size explains 61 percent of the variation in number of law jobs for recent graduates.  (data here)  The correlation is even higher since 1999 when reporting started covering a higher percent of the class--0.91 correlation, meaning that class size explains 82% of the variation in the number of law graduates with jobs.


NALP jobs and class size


There aren't fewer jobs available for lawyers.  To the contrary, there are more lawyers working now than there were pre-recession according to both Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Data (BLS OES, ACS, and CPS).  There are fewer recent law graduates working as lawyers because there are fewer recent law graduates.

The employment market for educated workers is large and the number of law graduates is small relative to this market.  Law schools are too small to move the market much on the supply side by admitting more or fewer students.  Just as the typical investor could sell all of his or her shares of Apple without moving the market for shares of Apple (much less the S&P 500), the typical law school can admit as many or as few students as it wants without changing the overall percent of law graduates who will find jobs.  (However, there’s some evidence that at the national level, the share of recent law graduates working as lawyers varies inversely with class size).

The usefulness of NALP data is questionable (at least for many of the uses to which it is often put), but NALP could help by limiting its reporting to employment rates and starting salaries.  Discussing changes in the absolute number of law graduates with jobs is simply a confusing ways of telling people that fewer people entered law school 4 years ago than 5 or 6 years ago. 

NALP should also contextualize its employment ratios by comparing them to the overall U.S. employment population ratio during the same time period (i.e, March of 2018), which was 60 percent overall, and and 79 percent for those age 25-54 according to BLS and the OECD, compared to 89 percent for recent law graduates, according to NALP.

1 (Similarities are greatest when one restricts it to those who are both young and well-educated using CPS data.


UPDATE: 8/3/2018  The correlations and r-squared were originally reported based on levels rather than % change from previous year. The numbers have been updated to reflect a model based on differencing (% change from prior year), which brings the explanatory power from 1999 forward down from 96 percent to 82 percent.


August 2, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Navel-Gazing, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

On filling out the FAR form, Part III

(Part I is here and Part II is here.)

Under "Major Published Writings" you can list up to five items, though you can also include a "total publication" count greater than that.  If you have no published writings, or only one or two, you may also list your job-talk paper, but indicate that's what it is:  "(job-talk paper)"   Do not list articles for bar journals, or opinion pieces in newspapers--those can go on a CV, but are not "major" published writings for purposes here.  If you do list such ephemera, schools will draw the conclusion that you are simply "padding" since you lack real scholarly writing.

And now a word on the AALS's idiotic decision to add two new categories to the FAR form this year:  "Student Leadership" and "Community Servce."  Applying for a job in law teaching is not like applying for admission to college, where admissions officers expect everyone to demonstrate "leadership" and "community service" and other public-spiritedness.   Whoever at AALS made the silly decision to add these categories to the FAR form should be replaced with an adult familiar with the law teaching market!   Job seekers should feel free to leave these blank, unless they have something pertinent.   Most questions I'm getting seem to be about "community service":  this can include pro bono legal work, service on the boards of non-profits and other community organizations, and the like.  But don't take up too much space with this stuff, it isn't relevant, and hiring schools know it isn't relevant.

August 1, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hiring committees for 2018-19 may announce themselves..., thanks to the good offices of Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern).

July 26, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink