Here's a move we don't see that often, so it deserves it's own post: Judge Bruce Markell will be leaving his post as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Nevada, to take up a named chair on the law faculty at Florida State University effective this summer. Judge Markell is no stranger to academia, however; before his appointment to the bankruptcy court, he taught for many years on the law faculties at Indiana University at Bloomingon, and then at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Instead, let me suggest that if you want to blog about the rankings when they come out, write about some of the underlying data that speaks for itself: the reputational scores, for example, or the bar passage rates, or the numerical credentials of the students. Those have limitations too--the median of 500 is not really comparable to the median of 200; the reputation scores are not based on presenting evaluators with any information about the schools being evaluated; and so on--but one can at least say clearly what the limitations are, and one is not hostage either to the dishonesty of the schools "reporting" the data or the sheer idiocy of the U.S. News ranking formula.
UPDATE (MARCH 5, 2013): The Dean of a flagship state law school writes, "Your post on US News Rankings is much appreciated. Schools like mine do not play the game, and truly try to keep our tuition low. We spend our money on our students and their education. The hypocrisy of the 'legal education reformers' astounds me. They will be the first to denigrate the education we offer here, since we are not a top 100 school. Thanks for the good message, even if not enough schools listen."
You can see the number of graduates per school at NLJ 250 firms, both total and as a percentage of the class, as well as the school's tuition. A very useful resource for prospective students, I would think.
UPDATE: Peter Tosirisuk, a law student at Stanford, kindly sent alone these useful charts he made with the NLJ data:
Mr. Grover is a law graduate of the University of Nebraska, one of those law schools that students should still be considering, even in the current market, and notwithstanding Mr. Grover. But it is odd that he thinks that being a lawyer and a philosopher involves a contraction, rather than an expansion, of knowledge and competence. In any case, I replied to Mr. Grover as follows:
Dear Mr. Grover,
Are you actually an attorney at the firm in question? If so, why do you not appear on the website? Do your supervisors know that you are using the firm’s e-mail to send impertinent and juvenile messages to other professionals?
“Thinking like a lawyer” refers to a style of reasoning and analysis that is exemplified in the law section of appellate briefs and in judicial opinions; I assume you must be familiar with both genres. It encompasses, for example, the use of analogical reasoning to distinguish precedents or propose extensions or developments of existing doctrine, but also involves techniques of statutory and constitutional construction, the use of arguments from authority, facility with the law/fact distinctions, and so on. Again, merely looking at the chapter headings of Schauer’s book Thinking Like a Lawyer would illuminate this apparently opaque topic for you. Alternatively, you might read Edward Levi’s classic book An Introduction to Legal Reasoning; Mr. Levi was the former Dean of my Law School, as well as former Attorney General of the United States.
Of course, there are more skills involved in being a lawyer than thinking like a lawyer. There is industry-specific knowledge, know-how with respect to how local courts or regulatory agencies approach statutory language, rhetorical talent, as well as a range of psychological and interpersonal skills that are important. For example, most good lawyers I know, among my family and friends, exhibit maturity and professional judgment, that would prevent them from sending insolent e-mails from their’s firm account to other professionals. I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm.*
I do think we law professors, and especially those with blogs, have been far too tolerant of malicious and unprofessional conduct by usually anonymous or pseudonymous lawyers and students. Mr. Grover deserves credit for signing his name to his stupidity, and, of course, his intervention is a relatively mild example of juvenile nonsense emanating from putative lawyers. I've generally let most of this garbage pass in silence, but in the coming weeks I'm going to be posting a bit more about some alleged legal professionals whose on-line conduct deserves to be aired in public. I especially welcome more information on a sick individual using the pseudonym "dybbuk," who is, among other pathetic characteristics, obsessed with the appearance of female law faculty, and who fantasizes on-line about spanking them with wet slippers (though that is only the tip of the iceberg of his malevolent conduct towards and harassment of individuals behind the cloak of pseudonymity). He is a Washington & Lee law graduate from the 1990s, and an appellate public defender, and we will have more to say about him soon. But I welcome any further details from readers.
[*I did not, needless to say, send this correspondence to them. I hope Mr. Grover has a distinguished legal career, and that he, and others like him out there, will stop sending foolish e-mails in the future.]
UPDATE: Some good news, namely, dybbuk's most egregious piece of libel and harassment (not of me) has been removed from the web. Meanwhile, the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect, David Bernstein, thinks this is all about civility and manners as opposed to stupidity and insolence--and, more seriously, in the case of some of the others, libel and malicious harassment. I'm sure Bernstein will do a great job moderating comments on his intervention to insure his commitment to civility! For my own views on civility, see this short essay.
3/5 UPDATE FOR THE VARIOUS VISITORS FROM RIGHT-WING CRAZY BLOGS: You will enjoy my book!
MARCH 8 UPDATE: It wont' surprise any readers to learn that Paul Campos is angry with me--after all, his malicious and dishonest conduct has made him a pariah in his own profession. I certainly did my part to call attention to his malfeasance, but I underestimated the extent to which he would turn into a pathological liar in order to seek his vengeance. Over the last week (I have been abroad at a conference, with only intermittent internet access and so may not even have seen everything), Campos has completely lost it, descending into an amazing paranoid abyss of libel, accusing me, falsely, of, inter alia, cyber-stalking, posting pseudonymously on "Top Law Schools," even posting "hundreds" (!) of comments on his absurd blog (while the others may just be reckless false allegations, the last one he has to know is false, since he has access to the ISP information), and so on. He has not, at least of this writing, accused me of genocide or torturing puppies. And he has apparently inspired one of his followers to hack someone`s email account. Classy! Apart from his general animosity towards me, I can only surmise that he's lost it because I did pursue the identity, successfully, of one of his cyber-friends ("dybbuk") who Campos conveniently neglects to mention had the habit of bullying, insulting and defaming junior faculty and students (including one of mine), and I did succeed in getting his worst bit of libel deleted and he has now fallen silent. Oddly, Campos, who is now waging a jihad against Faculty Lounge, doesn't realize why no one will return his e-mails, and it's the same reason almost no one signed his petition for law school transparency: his colleagues consider him a creep and untrustworthy, and so they just steer clear. Indeed, "dybbuk's" identity was volunteered by different people Campos pissed all over during his little scam jihad, so, ironically, he has only himself to blame for the mess his cyber-friend is currently in.
AND A FINAL WORD: Crazy Campos’s jihad against Dan Filler has come to an end, not with Campos apologizing, but with his continuing to cast aspersions on Filler and others at TFL, even though, as I noted last Friday, he’s been barking up the wrong tree all along (he apparently has little sense of the depth and breadth of enmity towards him and his crew, and it extends well beyond those who blog--I will, in any case, not name my sources, who did the morally correct thing in exposing scoundrels and creeps, but who do not deserve to be harassed and defamed by those who want to harass and defame with impunity). There also turns out to be quite a bit of backstory about what’s been going on at Colorado, that will perhaps come out in time, and which may explain Campos’s slightly insane and obsessive behavior in the last week. Anyway, I’ll give the final word about this freak show to a colleague elsewhere, who wrote to me last week regarding the pseudonymous and anonymous trolls: “I, for one, hope that you put the fear of god into them. I've been unable to avoid the consistent spamming our normal blogs have taken over the last year from the likes of these schmoes ('MacK' and the others main perpetrators), one can only hope that they're cowering in a corner thinking back on the foolishness of repeatedly attempting to defame and intimidate honest and well-meaning educators. It's one of the worst symptoms of the right-wing anti-intellectualism that seems to get frothier in this country each election cycle. As for our friend in the rocky mountain state, I really think he's either run into some well-deserved, serious career problem (other than lacking all talent as a scholar) or has gone wholly round the bend.” As some readers pointed out, even Campos's many false allegations may have the salutary effect of making the bottom-feeders in cyberspace (including Campos's dozen-or-so trolls) a bit more cautious going forward.