December 12, 2013
Latest LSAT report: total applicants down 13.4% from this time last year
Details here, but briefly: "As of 12/06/13, there are 90,032 Fall 2014 applications submitted by 14,171 applicants. Applicants are down 13.6% and applications are down 15.7% from 2013. Last year at this time, we had 28% of the preliminary final applicant count."
The decline in total applications is not surprising: applicants perceive, correctly, that their prospects for admission are much better than in the past, and so are applying to somewhat fewer schools. Harder to predict is what proportion of the applicant pool is currently in contention relative to where we will be in a few months. And that will no doubt be affected by a range of factors beyond anyone's control: the general fortunes of the economy, other job opportunities that become available for students weighing law school as an option, and media coverage of law and the legal profession. (If The New York Times does a front-page story on 300K bonsues at Boies Schiller, well, that will produce one scenario; if another big law firm implodes, and makes the front page, that will produce a rather different one.)
One immediate consequence of these numbers, I fear, is that law schools debating whether to hire new teachers will mostly postpone hiring.
December 10, 2013
ABA considering random audits of employment data posted by schools
Now that's something they ought to have done years ago!
December 06, 2013
Standard & Poor's: stand-alone law schools most at risk
With the caveat that Standard & Poor's track record is pretty abysmal, I should note that their latest credit report on U.S. law schools notes that stand-alone law schools are most vulnerable in the current economic climate for legal education. This is hardly surprising, but I guess now it's "official" in the make-believe world of financial analysis. S&P did not evaluate all law schools, let alone all stand-alone law schools, but they singled out five stand-alones for credit downgrades: New York, Brooklyn, Albany, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Cooley. Of these, my guess is that Thomas Jefferson is the most vulnerable, especially given the continuing lawsuit, but also given its market position as the third best law school in San Diego (after USD and Cal Western, both well-established), and its even weaker position in Southern California (where UCLA, USC, and, probably soon, UC-Irvine will dominate, while Loyola-LA, and Pepperdine are powerful regional players--I have less sense of the relative positions of Whittier and Southwestern, but they are better-established than Thomas Jefferson). Credit downgrades notwithstanding, I fully expect New York, Brooklyn and Albany to be training lawyers ten years from now. Thomas Cooley's business model is a bit opaque to me, so I venture no opinion!
(Thanks to Dean Rowan for the pointer.)
Top Ten Law Faculties in International Law, 2013
With slightly more than 120 votes cast, here are the top ten faculties in international law (both public and private) (in parentheses, I note first the number of faculty listed [larger faculties typically have an advantage], and then the number of votes separating the school from the one ahead of it):
1. New York University (14 faculty)
2. Yale University (11 faculty, 33 votes behind NYU)
3. Harvard University (12 faculty, 5 votes behind Yale)
4. Columbia University (12 faculty, 14 votes behind Harvard)
5. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (16 faculty, 50 votes behind Columbia)
6. Duke University (8 faculty, 1 vote behind Michigan)
7. Georgetown University (13 faculty, 19 votes behind Duke)
8. George Washington University (11 faculty, 19 votes behind Georgetown)
9. University of California, Berkeley (5 faculty, 4 votes behind George Washington)
10. University of California, Los Angeles (9 faculty, 17 votes behind Berkeley)
Runners-up for the top ten: University of Chicago (4 faculty, 3 votes behind UCLA); Northwestern University (8 faculty, 18 votes behind Chicago).
Schools not included in the survey--like Iowa, Arizona State, Fordham, Minnesota and Temple--would probably have outperformed some of the faculties surveyed, though I don't expect any would have made the top ten. (I'm less confident about Minnesota.)
I have to say it is impressive, to me at least, how sensible the results of these polls have so far been.
December 02, 2013
Best Faculties in International Law, 2013 (revised poll)
(Apologies to the 3 or 4 readers who completed the prior version, which wrongly omitted one top ten law school.)
Here's a new poll, covering international law, both what we usually call "public" and "private," so, e.g., international human rights, international institutions, international courts, international trade, international business transactions, internationl litigation, etc. Comparative law scholars were not included, unless their work dealt with international legal issues as well. Immigration law and national security law presented some tough cases, and no doubt there are some errors of inclusion and exclusion in these fields, but the idea was only to list those whose work had a significant international law dimension (as opposed to, e.g, mainly a constitutional law dimension).
I will be policing cheating, as before. Despite the bad behavior by some Berkeley supporters in the last poll, Condorcet polls are quite resistant to strategic voting (even in that case, the cheating would have gained Berkeley one spot, but those votes were substracted out).
We listed 18 faculties--the U.S. News top ten for international law, plus other top ten law faculties, plus a couple of others that might be contenders. Only the top ten will be announced.
Have fun, but only if you know something about internatoinal law!
TSK TSK, ALREADY! Someone who ranks Columbia #1 and NYU #17 is not playing the game honestly. Fortunately, such pettiness will wash out.
CORRECTION: In the faculty that begins Barr, Beny, it should be "Christine Chinkin" not "Catherine Chinkin."
AS NOTED PREVIOUSLY, these polls invariably leave out some schools that would perform as well or better than some included; one example pointed out to me is Arizona State, with Kenneth Abbott, Daniel Bodansky, and several other active international law scholars, is surely as strong as some of those listed (though I'm not sure if they would have made the top ten, but it is possible).
ANOTHER UPDATE: The faculty beginning Martin, Moore should also have included, at least, Ashley Deeks and John Harrison.
Top Ten "Business Law" Faculties, 2013
With slightly more than 200 votes cast (subtracting the cheaters who voted startegically for Berkeley), here are the top ten faculties (in parentheses, I note first the number of faculty listed [larger faculties typically have an advantage], and then the number of votes separating the school from the one ahead of it); "business law," for purposes of this survey included scholars working on (domestic) antitrust, banking law, bankruptcy, commercial law, contracts, corporate law, and securities regulation.
1. Harvard University (13 faculty)
2. Columbia University (17 faculty, 76 votes)
3. New York University (18 faculty, 43 votes)
4. Yale University (10 faculty, 11 votes)
5. University of Chicago (10 faculty, 29 votes)
6. Stanford University (8 faculty, 50 votes)
7. University of California, Berkeley (11 faculty, 4 votes)
7. University of Pennsylvania (10 faculty, 4 votes)
9. Georgetown University (14 faculty, 29 votes)
10. University of Virginia (13 faculty, 26 votes)
Runners-up: University of California, Los Angeles (12 faculty, 8 votes behind Virginia); Cornell University (7 faculty, 9 votes behind UCLA).
November 27, 2013
Ten Best "Business Law" Faculties
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY
DUE TO EGREGIOUS CHEATING BY SUPPORTERS, BERKELEY WILL PROBABLY BE DROPPED FROM THE TOP TEN (OR RESTORED TO WHERE IT WAS BEFORE THE CHEATING BEGAN)
A new poll, for your holiday entertainment. "Business law" is fairly broadly defined to include antitrust, bankruptcy, contracts, commercial law, corporate law and finance, and securities regluation. Corporate tax scholars are generally not included, unless they also do work in the other areas. I've listed the business law faculty at the top 18 law schools, since I think it's pretty clear the top ten will be found in that listing, even if some faculties not listed are as strong or stronger than some of the 18 in the poll.
Once again, no linking or rallying votes via social media, or the offending school will be eliminated! Please don't complete the poll unless you are somewhat knowledgeable about scholarship in some of these areas!
UPDATE: The faculty beginning with Lucian Bebchuk should also include Charles Fried, for his work on contract theory. And the faculty beginning with Randy Barnett should also include Christopher Brummer, for his work on securities regulation.
ANOTHER: Thanks to various readers for feedback. I should note that (1) once the poll starts, I can not alter the faculty lists; (2) the goal was to list faculty who write in the indicated business law areas; (3) the focus was on *domestic* business law scholarship, so someone working only on international trade or international business were not listed (or were not supposed to be listed!) (we will do a separate poll on international law faculties, both public and private).
TSK, TSK, BERKELEY SUPPORTERS (11/27): Some pretty transparent strategic voting going on, we may have to drop Berkeley from the results!
November 25, 2013
Benjamin Winterhalter, opportunistic liar of the day...or why law school is obviously not a "scam"
Salon must really be desperate to post this content-free piece, which takes as its question, "How...can we explain the fact that young people are still going to law school in droves?" when, in fact, applications to law school are down nearly 40%, and most law schools in the United States are experiencing varying degrees of financial stress as a result (not "raking in cash"). But never mind the facts, little Mr. Winterhalter wants to deliver his sermon: "Why aren’t law schools ashamed of themselves?" Well, because most of them didn't do anything shameful, that's why. Almost all the graduates of accredited law schools passed the bar exam, and the only actual evidence on offer makes clear that the JD was a winning financial proposition for the vast majority. There's no shame in teaching the vast majority of students to pass the bar and enabling them to enjoy substantial financial returns on their education. (There should be shame in being an opportunistic liar like Mr. Winterhalter, who calculated, obviously correctly, that he could capitalize on the current hysteria to get a fact-free smear piece into Salon! I will let pass in silence his juvenile discussion of economic analysis of law.)
It is time for a little reality-check, even in cyberspace. In 2008, the global capitalist system suffered a severe recession or depression, which soon spread to the legal sector, exacerbating trends affecting reduced demand for lawyers. Law schools did not cause that economic catastrophe. Beginning in 2011, Senators Boxer and Coburn began challenging the ABA about the accuracy of employment data reported by ABA-accredited law schools. This data was almost certainly massaged, due to the malign and longstanding influence of U.S. News (as I noted a decade ago!). Annoyed U.S. Senators, unsurprisingly, caught the attention of the ABA, and soon enough, the ABA mandated improved employment data reporting, thus making clear how poorly graduates of some law schools were faring during the recession. Around the same time, David Segal, a journalist who had never before covered law, began writing a series of front-page stories in The New York Times about the collapse of the job market for new lawyers, as well as producing unrelated hatchet jobs on legal education.
In the wake of all this, applications to and enrollments in law schools, unsurprisingly, entered a steep decline. Law schools began reducing tuition and cutting faculty. But in cyberspace, a different set of events, only partly related to the preceding, began to unfold. The global recession took its toll on recent law graduates, like so many others. Some of the victims took to the Internet, enacting Nietzsche's observation more than a century ago that,
Every sufferer instinctively looks for a cause of its distress, more exactly, for a culprit, even more precisely for a guilty culprit who is receptive to dsitress--in short, for a living being upon whom he can release his emotions, actually or in effigy, on some pretext or other; because the release of emotions is the greatest attempt at relief, or should I say, anaestheticizing on the part of the sufferer. [Cf. Barash & Lipton, Payback (Oxford, 2011) for empirical evidence in support of the Nietzschean hypothesis.]
There was, undboutedly, considerable suffering by lawyers and new law graduates--jobs lost, careers thwarted, huge debts looming and undischargeable in bankruptcy. In cyberspace, some of those suffering--as well as some muddle-headed law professors and opportunistic charlatans-- identified a "guilty culprit": it was law schools. Thus was born the bizarre meme that law school was a 'scam.' (Mr. Winterhalter is a late arrival to the meme.) Although U.S. law schools had for decades successfully trained most graduates to pass the bar and become lawyers, this no longer mattered. Massaging employment data to game U.S. News rankings was now portrayed as a concerted and sinister attempt to fraudulently induce students to come to law school who otherwise never would have dreamed of doing so. Indeed, lawsuits by victims of this alleged "scam" were soon filed around the country, but courts have uniformly repudiated their theory about the culprits, noting the obvious "elephant in the room," i.e., the global recession of 2008. The law professors who taught the plaintiffs apparently well enough to pass the bar were clearly not responsible for lack of jobs--how could they be? Some law schools still face possible liability, and perhaps rightly so: there are 200 accredited law schools in the country, and some may have acted unethically and perhaps illegally. But law schools are not culpable for the economic catastrophe of the last five years, and the vast, vast majority did not defraud or scam anyone. This much is obvious to the courts, indeed, to anyone awake.
The sensible response to an economic catastrophe, both inside and outside the legal profession, has turned into an utterly irrational attempt by the misguided or the malevolent to find "guilty culprits" to blame for miserable circumstances. Mr. Winterhalter is just the latest manifestation of this irrational response, but cyber-ranting like his still proliferates in which law schools, judges, lawyers, law faculty, and anyone who resists the herd mentality of the deranged scam-bloggers are disparaged, demeaned and defamed without regard for the facts and without any actual evidence of wrongdoing.
November 18, 2013
The Dental School Analogy
Dean Gershon (Mississippi) calls our attention to the mid-80s crisis in dental education, in which some of the schools that closed were at major private research universities. (For more on dental school closings, see also this article.) Dean Gershon writes:
What is interesting is that among the universities choosing to shut down their dental programs were prestigious schools like Georgetown and Emory. My understanding is that those universities determined that their dental schools no longer attracted the types of students they wanted to have at their institutions. Like law schools, the greatest decline in dental school applications occurred at the top end of standardized scores and undergraduate GPA’s. Emory and Georgetown were concerned that the students in their dental schools would not reflect the high credentials of students in their other programs, so they decided that it was better to close the doors, than to allow the dental school to “dumb down” the university.
The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be fourth-tier schools that will close, if law schools close. Based on what happened to dental schools in an almost identical atmosphere, I am not sure that assumption is correct.
A few thoughts on these striking observations. First, I am inclined to think that the most vulnerable schools are free-standing ones of relatively recent vintage, and those also happen to be overwhelmingly 4th-tier--but their "4th tier" status is not the primary explanation of their vulnerability, but rather one that just exacerbates their vulnerability to enrollment (and thus revenue) declines. Second, there were some five dozen dental schools in the United States when schools began closing; I do not know where Georgetown's and Emory's were in the dental school hierarchy at the time, but that would probably be relevant to thinking about the import of the analogy. Third, law schools, like medical schools, tend to have cross-disciplinary impact, in a way that dental schools (and veterinary schools) did not and do not (as best I can tell). For a research university to close a law school is to lose an academic unit that, in all likelihood, interacts with political science, economics, philosophy, history, and/or medicine. The number of leading research universities (excluding those with a STEM focus) without a law school is miniscule: Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Brown. Rightly or wrongly (mostly the former, but not always!), research universities have come to see a law school as a major part of their academic identity. (UC Irvine spent years trying to get a law school, and during the same time period, UC Riverside and UC San Diego were also exploring options to start one.)
It is striking that many (indeed, most) of the leading dental schools that remain are located at state research universities (far more so than with law, probably for the reasons noted already). But this also suggests something which I expect in the case of law: we will not see any state flagships closing their law schools (though many will no doubt contract a bit or a lot, depending on local economic conditions).