January 16, 2015
Criteria for awarding endowed chairs or professorships?
Reader Gerard Ambreson writes:
In your capacity of chief commentator on legal education, perhaps you could provide your thoughts on your blog on named professorships/chairs. Some questions it would be interesting to see you address:
What should the criteria for awarding chairs be? For example, should schools take into account things besides scholarship, such as other contributions to the school, like excellent teaching or service? Is it appropriate to consider non-legal writings for chairs in law schools? See, for example, St. John's Law School's Reverend Joseph T. Tinnelly, C.M., Professor of Law, Lawrence Joseph, who may be better known for his poetry than his writing on legal matters?
My impression is that criteria vary with school and often with the particular endowment--many schools have named positions to recognize excellent teaching, for example.
December 04, 2014
What constitutes "retaliation" under Title IX?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM DEC. 1--THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY COMMENTED, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM SOME OTHER TITLE IX EXPERTS ON THESE ISSUES
In my other academic field, philosophy, there has been much discussion of the move by the University of Colorado at Boulder to fire a tenured philosophy professor (David Barnett) for "retaliation" against a female complainant in a sexual assault case. A university investigation found against a male graduate student in philosophy (with whom Barnett had worked); Barnett conducted his own investigation of the university's investigation, and sent the University Chancellor a 38-page report alleging mistakes and misconduct in the university investigation. (A copy of this report has not been made public to my knowledge.)
So what constitutes "retaliation" under Title IX? Can alleging a university investigation was flawed constitute retaliation? How does "retaliation" under Title IX interact with the First Amendment rights of faculty and students? Any insight from readers would be welcome.
October 08, 2014
Why do hiring schools look for "signals" from other hiring schools?
Barry Friedman (NYU) writes with an excellent set of questions and observations:
Here’s a thought worth maybe tooting on your blog. It never ceases to catch my attention how much school hiring is driven by signals from other schools. School X will interview candidate Y and love him/her, or will love him/her on paper, but will never move forward for an interview absent a strong signal from some number of schools they consider competitive. Yet, in this tight market, those signals get fewer – especially at the call back and offer stage. It has the effect I think of killing candidates that otherwise would get interviews or offers. Yet, paradoxically, if schools had confidence in their internal assessments (and it is not like this is one person deciding; it is an entire faculty or faculty committee) this sort of market provides a real opportunity to steal that person you loved without a fight.
So why do schools do this? I think in most cases it is because they lack confidence in their own judgments. But what do readers think? I would prefer signed comments, but you must, in any case, include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
August 26, 2014
ASU's annual "Aspiring Law Profs" conference...
...is coming up!
April 16, 2014
Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow opine in yesterday's NY Times...
...that things aren't as awful as the various charlatans and other law-school haters claim, and, predictably (given the social psychology), the charlatans and haters go crazy. I won't link to the hysterical reactions (they are easy enough to find with Google), but they boil down to one complaint: Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow cited NALP data without treating it as bogus (e.g., that JD Advantage jobs are really jobs [actually many of them are, but never mind]). That's true, they linked to the NALP data, but they didn't spend the rest of their piece debunking that data based on speculation, skepticism, and occasionally other actual evidence. This has certainly been a standing problem in the debate about American legal education, as when serious data analysis showed that legal education was a sound economic investment for the vast majority of students, and critics refused to believe that was true, though without any contrary evidence or analysis. So we can all agree that we should be more careful about how we present data and its import.
That being said, my main disagreement with Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow is about the necessity of three years of legal education, as I've said before: two years could work, and work very well for many students. In reality, the biggest obstacle to reducing costs in legal education, however, is unnoted in their op-ed: it remains the lax tenure standards and the unwillingness of universities to terminate tenured faculty for cause, i.e., when they manifestly do not do their job.
Imagine, for example, a law school that pays a six figure salary (closing in on 200K) to someone with almost no legal experience and an M.A. in literature who teaches the same couple of substantive courses year in and year out, courses in which he has no experience, whose teaching evaluations are consistently below average, who hasn't written any serious legal scholarship in years, who is regarded as a joke by his colleagues at his own school and in the academy at large, and who mostly spends his time insulting, defaming, and blackmailing colleagues who do their jobs. It endangers the institution of tenure when universities do not initiate proceedings to terminate malevolent charlatans like this. Many law schools, as we've noted before, are offering financial inducements to "buy out" senior faculty, most of whom are not charlatans. Real cost reduction, however, will require universities to move against the charlatans and the de facto retired in their midst, even those who have tried to insulate themselves from termination for cause by setting up frivolous retaliation claims.
UPDATE: More thoughts on reforming legal education from Michael Madison (Pitt).
April 10, 2014
Lots of students are applying to law school late in the season
Anyone following Al Brophy's reports on the LSAC data will notice that, while applications are still down from last year, they are down a bit less with each subsequent report. That's consistent with anecdotal reports from colleagues who teach undergraduates who report being asked to write letters of recommendation later and later in the season than just a few years ago. One surmises that at least part of what is happening is that (1) students waivering about going to law school are realizing that they don't have other tangible professional plans, (2) students are realizing their chances of getting good admissions offers--either in terms of the caliber of the school and/or the cost--are much better this year than just a few years ago. Along with this indicator, I suspect the decline in applications is about to bottom out. It will still take a couple more years, though, for most law schools to begin hiring new faculty again given the dramatic decline in applications and enrollments of the last few years.
April 02, 2014
The law clerk hiring process: an interview with Judge Ambro of the 3rd Circuit
March 07, 2014
Rookie hiring in 2013
A complete report. Interesting. Only 125 positions filled last year, though I expect that will be double the number filled this year. This means we can also revise the placement rate, based on the number of candidates from each school on the market last year.
1. Univeristy of Virginia (57%, 4 total)
1. Yale University (57%, 21 total)
3. University of Chicago (50%, 6 total)
4. Duke University (46%, 6 total)
5. New York University (42%, 13 total)
6. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (39%, 5 total)
7. Harvard University (32%, 18 total)
8. University of California, Berkeley (25%, 5 total)
8. University of California, Los Angeles (25%, 2 total)
10. Cornell University (21%, 3 total)
10. Northwestern University (21%, 3 total)
12. University of Texas, Austin (18%, 2 total)
13. Columbia University (17%, 3 total)
13. Georgetown University (17%, 3 total)
13. Stanford University (17%, 2 total)
February 10, 2014
Harry Arthurs (Osgoode) on the impossibility of producing "practice-ready" lawyers
Arthurs, former Dean of Osgoode and one of Canada's most eminent legal scholars, gives a talk well worth watching by anyone genuinely interested in what reform of legal education can and cannot do.
UPDATE: Steve Diamond (Santa Clara) comments, and also provides a link to the manuscript version of the talk.
January 31, 2014
Signs of the times: Albany Law School declares financial crisis...
...and is threatening to fire faculty, including possibly tenured faculty. It is not clear, however, that there really is a financial crisis there (follow the link to the Albany AAUP website). Albany did, however, suffer an S&P downgrade last year. Any firings of tenured faculty are likely to result in costly lawsuits, given the evidence in the public domain.
Note that Albany Law School is a freestanding law school, and is not part of the State University of New York system. It is also one of four law schools in "upstate" New York (the others are Syracuse, SUNY-Buffalo and Cornell, though Cornell is not sending graduates primarily into the upstate markets). The New York City area is served by Columbia, NYU, Fordham, Cardozo, Brooklyn, NYLS, St. John's, Hofstra, Pace, Touro, Seton Hall, and Rutgers-Newark (not to mention the many schools farther from New York that send large numbers of graduates there).