June 08, 2018

Apprenticeships and online education are not viable alternatives to ABA-approved law schools (Michael Simkovic)

Over the last several decades, both the cost and the quality of ABA approved law schools have increased. Faculty student ratios have fallen.  Completion rates have increased, even as diverse groups with historically lower completion rates have become a larger share of the student body.  Earnings premiums have increased, and racial disparities have narrowed.

Nevertheless, some critics of law school, concerned by the high cost, have suggested going back to the "good old days" of legal apprenticeships, or using technology to bring down costs.  The data does not support apprenticeships or less highly regulated (and less expensive) online or correspondence versions of law school as viable alternatives to ABA-approved law schools.

Several major legal markets (including New York and California) permit prospective lawyers to sit for the bar exam after 4 years of apprenticeship under a licensed lawyer (or 4 years combined law school and apprenticeship).  Very few people still try this approach. But for those who do, the bar passage rates are abysmal.

 

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June 8, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

June 05, 2018

Should law schools pressure their students to go into low paid, thankless public service jobs? (Michael Simkovic)

A recent report by a Harvard law school alumnus, Pete Davis, points out that law schools like Harvard serve the interests of wealthy elites by training primarily future corporate lawyers. (See also here). This is consistent with the available evidence on graduates’ employment, notwithstanding widely publicized—and dubious—claims of law schools being liberal or left-leaning.  

Whether or not this is a problem, and whether schools like Harvard should try to do a better job of training future business lawyers or try to steer their students away from business law, is a matter for debate. Davis appears to believe that business lawyers are incapable of serving important collective interests of society—or at least do not do as good of a job as public sector lawyers. According to Davis, law schools therefore have an obligation to discourage students from pursuing careers in business law.

My view is that the path toward resuscitating the public sector will entail convincing the American people to collectively share the burdens of civilization by voting for higher taxes and higher pay for public servants. Until public servants are paid fairly, no one but the very wealthy should feel any obligation to work in the public sector or encourage their students to do so.

I would argue that business lawyers facilitate incredibly important functions in the service of society. Business lawyers help businesses raise the capital they need so that they can serve the basic needs of hundreds of millions or even billions of people. Lawyers also help firms mitigate risks, comply with government regulations and organize tens or even hundreds of thousands employees and suppliers to work together toward a common goal. That is remarkable, and the economic progress that has resulted clearly is in the public interest.

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June 5, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink

May 26, 2018

Extremely conservative Stanford graduate complains that there aren’t enough extreme conservatives on campus (Michael Simkovic)

Few would consider Stanford University left-wing.

Stanford University hosts the controversial, conservative Hoover Institution.[1] Stanford has raised more than $40 million from conservative donors. Stanford is a major military contractor.  Stanford’s last acting president (and long-time provost) argued for affirmative action in hiring in favor of conservative faculty, deploying barely coded, neo-McCarthyist phrases like “the threat from within” to describe liberals on campus.  One very prominent Hoover Institution faculty member took the suggestion to heart, asking students affiliated with the College Republicans and Turning Point USA (which maintains "watchlists" of liberal faculty) to help him dig up dirt on a 20 year old Stanford student who the Professor thought was too liberal.  (The Professor wanted help "grinding [leftists] down" and wished to "intimidate them.")  (See also here, here, here, and here).[2] 

Some conservatives want more.

A recent Stanford law graduate and self-described “hard man,” Martin J. Salvucci, writing in the National Review, recently compared Stanford to Czechoslovakia under Soviet domination. Czechoslovakia was invaded by 650,000 heavily armed soldiers from the Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact states in 1968 when Czechoslovakia sought to become Social Democratic rather than Communist (i.e., leftist, but not authoritarian).

The Stanford graduate—who recently worked at Skadden and Klee Tuchin—explains that from his perspective, attending Stanford entailed a level of suffering just like living in a totalitarian satellite state, except that he has “nicer stuff.”

The problem, apparently, is that there are not enough committed right wing ideologues on campus:

"An almost unspoken agreement seems to exist among many students that all of us will soon be fabulously successful, so long as everyone remains a “team player” and nobody rocks the boat too earnestly. Political, moral, and religious convictions are, for the most part, accessories best deployed for instrumental purposes, rather than values to be espoused or explored for their own sake."

If this description is accurate, then it sounds like Stanford law students are well prepared for the restraint and decorum that will be expected of them at the elite law firms, banks, and corporations where many of them aspire to work.

The recent graduate also complains that the Dean of Stanford, M. Elizabeth Magill, has not endorsed his view that there should be an increase in official efforts to promote conservative views on campus.  Because of this, he accuses her of being a “gutless bureaucrat.”

Mr. Salvucci’s views highlight that ideology is a matter of perspective. For those who are sufficiently extreme, even a conservative, corporate institution in Silicon Valley, like Stanford, can seem as oppressive as life under Soviet rule.

Given the timing of Mr. Salvucci’s post—after graduation but before admission to the bar—Mr. Salvucci may be attempting to set up a test case to challenge California’s Bar’s character and fitness requirement, which mandates “fairness . . . and respect . . .”

I doubt that the bar will take the bait.

But Mr. Salvucci’s classmates and colleagues may enjoy ribbing him about this for years to come.

 

[1] Hoover is a think tank which selects and funds its research fellows based on their ideology and political experience. This is routine in the think tank world, but is widely condemned within academic institutions, which are supposed to select scholars based solely on the merits, regardless of politics.

[2] The Stanford professor rationalizes these activities by arguing that he was concerned about efforts to schedule counter-programming to compete with controversial political scientist Charles Murray's talk, which resulted in the talk being lightly attended.  He goes on to argue that he was defending "free speech"--which to him apparently means shielding conservative speakers from competition for students' attention.

UPDATED 7/2/2018 to include Hoover faculty member Niall Ferguson's efforts to dig up opposition research on liberal students.


May 26, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Humor, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

May 18, 2018

How to become a better empiricist, or at least start using empirical methods (Michael Simkovic)

I recently wrote about the evolution of economics--and law & economics--from fields that focused on assumptions and priors to fields that emphasizes data, causal inference, and scientific objectivity.  Many law professors and aspiring academics share my enthusiasm for Albert Einstein's vision of universities as “Temples of Science”, but are unsure of how to acquire or sharpen the technical skills that will make them effective empiricists.

Bernard Black at Northwestern runs extremely helpful and practical summer workshops that I highly recommend. The quality of Professor Black's workshops easily justifies the cost.  (There are free law & economics workshops--and some that will even pay you a stipend to attend--but from what I have seen, these  tend to present non-empirical methods and political view points).

Details about Professor Black's workshop are available below the break.

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May 18, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice | Permalink

May 14, 2018

When do donor influence and ideology undermine academic integrity? (Michael Simkovic)

Key takeaways

  • Universities face serious threats to academic freedom from outside pressure groups
  • Some Donors have made demands that can undermine university provision of unbiased, high-quality research
  • Accommodating ethically questionable Donor demands can undermine public confidence not only in individual researchers, but in entire institutions and even in the broader academic enterprise
  • Stronger, more secure, and more stable funding for universities—without strings attached—would help insulate universities from undue pressure by outside groups
  • Universities should work together to secure their financial and intellectual independence, articulate clear ethical standards, and enforce those standards

 

I recently documented efforts by a well-organized network of libertarian and conservative academics, advocacy groups, and media organizations to foster resentment toward universities and then gain control over them, under the pretense of supporting free speech.[1] These efforts continue a decades-long assault on higher education, and have been remarkably effective at tarnishing universities’ reputations. This has paved the way for legislation that further undermines universities’ intellectual and financial independence.[2]

A complementary threat to academic integrity comes from powerful outsiders exploiting universities’ financial needs to leverage relatively small donations into enduring influence over faculty, curriculum and student life. Such money-for-influence arrangements could alter what research gets produced, and by whom.

Outside funding can increase research output and impact in media and policy circles. It can fund great research that might not have been produced otherwise. But funding under inappropriate terms risks undermining the central and unique role that universities play in society as providers of high quality, reliable, and unbiased information. This could quickly destroy the goodwill and trust that universities painstakingly cultivated over decades (in some cases, for centuries).

This issue has come to a head recently with press coverage of some financial relationships and recently disclosed contracts between conservative and libertarian donors (including foundations and re-granting organizations funded by the prominent Koch family) and George Mason University.[3] Much of the controversy relates to a libertarian / free-market embedded think tank at George Mason, The Mercatus Center, which provides supplemental compensation and resources to GMU’s economics faculty and some law faculty members, as well as opportunities to produce commissioned research on timely policy issues. Through Mercatus, the university has received tens of millions of dollars in donations.

GMU faculty members’ chances of obtaining funding and resources apparently did not depend exclusively on an unbiased assessment of their intellectual rigor and academic contributions, but rather appear to have depended at least in part on the political implications of their research. In contravention of academic ethical norms, donors had substantial influence over which faculty members would receive compensation supplements known as “chairs” or “professorships.” Donors maintained control through representation on selection committees, evaluation committees, rights to recommend removal of chair holders, gift rescission rights, and key-man clauses for senior executives, including the dean of the law school.[4]

The language of several contracts suggested that only libertarian or economically conservative faculty members would be eligible to hold professorships or chairs. For example:

“The objective of the Professorship is to advance the . . . acceptance and practice of . . . free market processes and principles [as] promot[ing] individual freedom, opportunity, and prosperity . . . The occupant of the Professorship (“Professor”) shall . . . be qualified and committed to the forgoing principles.”

Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors said “When you start getting into a study of free enterprise then you’re really, I think, stepping into a territory where you’re promoting a political agenda.”[5] Donors may specify a topic of study or type of expertise for a holder of a chair; but they should not specify the chair-holder’s politics.[6]

Critics say Mercatus’s ideologically based funding tips the playing field at GMU in favor of the production of economically right-wing scholarship and the retention of economically right-wing scholars and instructors. Neither Mercatus nor GMU appear to have imposed any limits on the fraction of a faculty member’s total annual compensation that could come from non-state sources such as Mercatus.[7] This is unusual—many funders and universities worry that too much outside funding creates the appearance of impropriety.[8] At least one prominent member of the GMU faculty with a Mercatus affiliation derived over 40 percent of his compensation in 2016 from “non-state” sources, according to public records.[9]

Without supplemental compensation from Mercatus, GMU faculty compensation appears to be uncompetitive with comparable institutions.[10] Thus, working at GMU may not have made sense financially for economists or law professors who were unlikely to obtain Mercatus compensation supplements—i.e., those whose scholarship might support increases in taxes, an expansion of public investment or social insurance, or more stringent regulations of business. At least one moderate economics faculty member says that she “carefully chose [her] research so it wouldn’t be objectionable” to her more conservative colleagues.[11]

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May 14, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Religion, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

March 14, 2018

"Academic Freedom and the Obligations of University Administrators" especially regarding faculty speech

MOVING TO FRONT FROM MARCH 12:  UPDATED    

This talk (sparked by this incident) that I gave at Columbia Law School last fall is now on-line, for those who might be interested.

A different wrinkle on this issue is presented by the new allegations that Prof. Amy Wax (Penn) has disparaged the academic performance of African-American students at her law school.   Here academic freedom affords her no protection:  any identifiable group of students at a school has a right not to be openly disparaged for its competence by faculty or administrators at their institution, and the Administration should both correct the record and would be within rights, in my view, to take disciplinary action against Prof. Wax (I do not think this is an offense justifying termination, but lesser disciplinary steps would be warranted).  Think of it in Pickering terms:  faculty disparagement of some identifiable portion of the student body interferes with the school's core functions, including helping members of the disparaged group find suitable employment upon completion of their education.   (Contrary to the letter from the Penn alumni and students, it is not clear to me that Prof. Wax's statements violate the "anonymous grading policy," if the Penn one is like that at most schools:   exams are marked without knowing the student's identity, but after the grades are turned in, the professor learns how each student performed.  On the other hand, students have a reasonable expectation and entitlement, perhaps even protected by FERPA [I'm less sure about that], not to have their academic performance disclosed to third parties by the faculty member.)

UPDATE:  Is Prof. Wax the Ann Coulter of the legal academy?  Her colleague Tobias Wolff comments.

ANOTHER:  Penn's Dean Ruger has removed Prof. Wax from teaching required 1L classes.  As a punitive measure, that seems rather mild, given the breach of professional obligations involved, but perhaps he is taking other actions as well.   A good line from Dean Ruger's statement:

Our first-year students are just that – students – not faceless data points or research subjects to be conscripted in the service of their professor’s musings about race in society.


March 14, 2018 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

February 14, 2018

Political bias in the selection of law review articles

This finding--by my colleagues Adam Chilton, Jonathan Masur and our Behavioral Law & Economics Fellow Kyle Rozema--is hardly surprising, given how out of their depth most law review editors are in figuring out what to publish.  Maybe law reviews should advertise that year's ideological tilt of its Articles Editors?


February 14, 2018 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

January 29, 2018

Rostron & Levit's updated guide to submitting to law reviews

Professors Rostron & Levit asked me to share the following about their useful guide:

Dear Colleagues,

We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Spring 2018 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school. 

A couple of the highlights from this round of revisions are:

First, again the chart includes information from the handful of journals that posted on their websites that they are not accepting submissions right now and what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions. 

Second, while 62 law reviews still prefer or require submission through ExpressO, 31 schools (up from 27 at this time last year) now require Scholastica as the exclusive avenue for submissions, with 31 more preferring or strongly preferring it, and 28 accepting articles submitted through either ExpressO or Scholastica. Thirteen schools now have their own online web portals.  And one school each accepts articles on Twitter and bepress, while two accept submissions through Lex Opus.

The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review.  The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.

Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals:  http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1019029

We’d welcome you to forward the link to anyone who you think might find it useful.   We appreciate any feedback you might have.

Happy writing!

All the best,

Allen and Nancy

Professor Allen Rostron

Associate Dean for Students and William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law

rostrona@umkc.edu

Professor Nancy Levit
Interim Associate Dean for Faculty and Curators' Distinguished Professor and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law

levitn@umkc.edu

I do think the W&L data is pure noise, since it does not control for volume of publication.


January 29, 2018 in Professional Advice | Permalink

January 18, 2018

New study of longterm outcomes and value of a law degree

The full document here.  I may say more when I've had a chance to digest it.   Signed reader comments welcome (full name required, valid e-mail address); submit comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.


January 18, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2017

How Long After "Meat Market" Before Candidates Hear from Schools?

MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--AND MORE COMMENTS WELCOME--ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 2007)

A rookie job seeker writes:

A question about the law teaching market, which I suspect will be of interest to a number of candidates who read your Law School Reports blog:  When can we expect to hear from hiring committees we spoke with at AALS?  Do the better schools tend to wait longer to make their calls?  And do schools tend to notify candidates that they *won't* be inviting them for a job talk, or do you only hear from them if they're interested?

If you think this is a worthwhile topic, perhaps you could open a post for comments so that hiring committee members could say what their procedure is.

My impression is that schools will contact the candidates they are most interested in within the first two weeks after the AALS hiring convention, and, more often than not, within the first week.  Schools will often have some candidates "on hold" beyond this period of time:  e.g., because they are reading more work by the candidate, or collecting references, or waiting to see how they fare with their top choices.  So it is quite possible to get call-backs beyond the two-week window.  Schools tend to be much slower in notifying candidates they are no longer in contention (you might not hear for a month or more). 

Schools higher in the "food chain" in general do move at a somewhat more, shall we say, "leisurely" pace, and schools lower in the "food chain" are more likely to have tiers of candidates they remain interested in, on the theory that they are likely to lose their first-round choices.

Those, to repeat, are my impressions, based on a decent amount of anecdotal evidence.  But I invite others to post their impressions and/or information about their school's practices.  No anonymous postings.  Post only once, comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.


November 7, 2017 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (16)