August 10, 2012
Declining Enrollments and Credentials at Law Schools
A very useful (and sobering) analysis of what's been going on since 2010; some excerpts:
ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2011, 141 law schools had a decline in enrollment (of which 63 had a decline of 10% or more), 30 had an increase in enrollment (of which 6 had an increase of 10% or more), and 26 had flat enrollment (within +/- 1% of 2010 enrollment). This means over 70% of schools had a decline in enrollment and that nearly one-third had a decline in enrollment of 10% or more....
ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, 75 schools (roughly 38%) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles, of which 37 schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 10% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles....Four of the schools are ranked in the top-50, while the other 33 schools are relatively evenly divided between the second-50, the third-45 and the alphabetical schools....
FORECAST FOR 2012-- Given that LSAC has estimated a decline of roughly 14.4% in the number of applicants for fall 2012, from 78500 to roughly 67000, and given that the decline has been greatest among those with higher LSAT scores, one should anticipate further declines in enrollment and further erosion of entering class LSAT/GPA profiles for fall 2012....
IMPACT FELT ACROSS THE RANKINGS CONTINUUM, BUT WORSE FOR LOWER-RANKED SCHOOLS...-Among the top 100 schools, 55 schools (over one-half) had a decline in profile, while 67 (two-thirds) had a decline in enrollment, with 27 experiencing a decline in enrollment of 10% or more....Overall enrollment was down roughly 6%.
Across the bottom 97 schools then, 56 saw a decline in profile while 74 (more than three-quarters) saw a decline in enrollment, of which 36 (nearly 40%) saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more. Notably 40 schools saw a decline in enrollment and a decline in profile, of which 22 saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile. Overall, enrollment was down nearly 10%.
July 11, 2012
The worst idea in the history of legal education: a "PhD in Law"?
Leave it to Yale to come up with it! This isn't a PhD program, as the almost complete lack of required coursework, makes clear. Indeed, the core bit of required coursework--"a two-semester pro-seminar on canonical legal scholarship and methodologies"--is just a variation on a course that a number of law schools (including my own) already offer to J.D. students. So what this new program will really be is some combination of resume polishing and an opportunity for people interested in law teaching to have an opportunity to write--in the latter regard, it will be a somewhat longer Fellowship than the two-year ones which are now quite common. A Ph.D. it won't be, however, and it's inconceivable, given the lack of an actual Wissenschaft the program is meant to instill, that it will confer the advantages that JD/PhDs in cognate subjects have as scholars and on the teaching market. But as a three-year writing Fellowship, fully funded by Yale at this point, it will no doubt be attractive for those who want to go into law teaching but don't want to earn a real PhD.
UPDATE: More thoughts here.
July 06, 2012
Where do elite litigation boutiques hire?
We looked at the top five Vault firms (based in Houston, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., but with additional offices in Dallas, Denver, New York and Seattle) to see where their post-2000 partners and associates earned the J.D. The results.
May 10, 2012
CHE Write-up on Tamanaha's Forthcoming Book on Law Schools
It's here; the book includes a lot of the material that we have often linked to over the last year. The quote from me in the article sounds much more lukewarm than what I sent to CHE when asked for comments, so I'll just reprint what I wrote to Ms. Mangan when she asked me for comment on the book:
First, in case you haven't seen it, here's something I wrote awhile back about reform in legal education:
As you will see, most of these put me on the same page as Tamanaha. If there's one theme that runs through his book it is that we need more *kinds* of law schools out there, that the "Chicago model" or the "Harvard model" shouldn't be the only one. And that will require the ABA to loosen up some of its accreditation requirements. Given the neoliberal paradigm in which we live, the only 'solutions' are going to come through the marketplace--no one can just mandate that faculty teach more and write less. Some institution has to show that there's an actual market for a cheaper law degree delivered by faculty who emphasize teaching over research.
A lot of the book is clearly a fair description of the current state of legal education in America, and a useful compendium of data. He does harp more on the negatives than the positives, and is obviously too generous in his treatment of some of the critics, for example, saying little about the numerous errors in David Segal's NY Times articles. (There are also minor errors in the book, but not too many--for example, he's mistaken about the amount of 'merit' aid schools like Yale and Harvard award.)
Although he gives sustained attention to the perverse influence of the U.S. News rankings, in some ways he still understates their impact. For example, he notes, correctly, that schools have been expanding their faculties, but notes that this is unlikely to improve academic reputation as measured by U.S. News. But that's not the issue: the issue is that, all else being equal, the U.S. News rank of a law school is a function of per capita expenditures, and almost nothing else. The most profligate spender per capita is the "best" law school--that's why Yale always tops Harvard. While many of the trends in legal education are just part of broader trends in higher education over the last generation (as he sometimes notes), there's no doubt that the U.S. News "incentives" have pushed law schools further in the wrong directions.
I would certainly encourage a prospective law student, especially one not likely to get into one of the very top schools, to read this book.
UPDATE: Orin Kerr (George Washington) also has a favorable write-up of the book.
April 30, 2012
Rapoport on Law Student Debt Crisis
April 20, 2012
Hiring Quantitative Empirical Scholars
My colleague Lior Strahilevitz has a number of interesting observations.
March 26, 2012
Two Observations about the Dismissal of the Lawsuit Against New York Law School
Dan noted the decision last week, and I thought I would add two observations about aspects of the opinion that must be worrying the plaintiffs' attorneys. First, the court did not think prospective law students, given the wealth of information in the public domain, could be as naive as the complaints present them to be. Second, the court took explicit notice of the elephant in the room: namely, the collapse of the global capitalist system that began in 2008. This part of the opinion bears quoting, for it may well prove significant in how other courts view these cases:
In this court's view, the issues posed by this case exemplify the adage that not every ailment afflicting society may be redressed by a lawsuit. The action here is brought by nine plaintiffs, some of whom may be experiencing the real aftershocks that have hit the legal profession since America's Great Recession of 2008. Where before 2008 there was a seeming abundance of opportunities for lawyers at all points of entry into the profession, regardless of the law school one attended, law graduates today and over these past few years have been faced with the effects of the most severe contraction in demand for legal services that this court can recall since the early 1970s....
Now it is recent law graduates who are caught in the midst of an unanticipated squeeze. They entered law school with the most optimistic of expectations and find themselves without work and competing in a log jam of young lawyers, none of whom have any experience to offer employers who themselves must contend with clients that are insisting they will pay full freigh only for seasoned professionals they know can add real value to a representation....
[P]laintiffs here...as law graduates who made their decisions to go to law school before the full effects of the maelstrom hit...now have turned their disappointment and angst on their law school for not adequately anticipating the possibility of the supevening storm and presenting the most complete job-related data that could possibly have been compiled. They challenge the statistics that NYLS assembled each year to meet the standards required by the American Bar Association, the official accrediting association designed by the U.S. Department of Education to provide students with the data they need to make informed decisions before deciding to embark on the pursuit of a legal education. And they allege that these allegedly misleading statistics have adversely affected their ability to enter the practice of law as full-time members of our profession....[T]he court does not believe the grievances articulated by these plaintiffs in their complaint state a cause of action for which legal redress may be had.
The first point is obviously arguable, and I imagine other courts will see it differently. But it isn't arguable that these lawsuits coincide with a general economic collapse, and that will surely tempt other jurists to view these lawsuits as seeking legal redress for a societal ailment. To the extent other courts view these cases through that lens, then even law schools that engaged in actual fraudulent data reporting may escape liability if their motions to dismiss similarly succeed.
Law School Debt "Disaster"
February 16, 2012
Fellowships for Aspiring Law Professors, 2012 Edition
February 10, 2012
The job market for summer associates
Informative piece here.