Friday, December 13, 2019

Reforming publication in the student-edited law reviews

Professor Brian Galle (Georgetown) shares a draft proposal from the AALS Section on Scholarship.  The current system is a disaster and absurd, so I hope some version of this gets traction.

December 13, 2019 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Thursday, December 12, 2019

What do you need to find out now that you've gotten a tenure-track offer?

MOVING TO FRONT FROM NOVEMBER 5, 2019 (ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 24, 2009--I HAVE UPDATED CERTAIN NUMBERS)--SEE ALSO THE COMMENTS, WHICH HAVE HELPFUL ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS

With luck, some of you seeking law teaching jobs will get offers of tenure-track positions in the next couple of months; a handful of offers have already been extended this season (2019-20).  What then?  Here's roughly what I tell the Chicago job candidates we work with that they need to find out, and in the interest of having it written down in one place and for the benefit of others too, here it is (not in order of importance):

1.  You will want to get (in writing eventually) the basic salary information, obviously, and the nature of summer research support and the criteria for its award (is it automatic for junior faculty?  contingent on prior publication [if so, how much?]?  awarded competitively (if so, based on what criteria/process)?).   You should also find out how salary raises are determined.  Are they, for example, lock-step for junior faculty?  Fixed by union contract?  (Rutgers faculty, for example, are unionized, a huge advantage and why they are among the best-paid faculty, not just in law, in the country.)  Is it a 'merit' system, and if so is it decanal discretion or is their a faculty committee that reviews your teaching and work each year?

2.  You should ask for a copy of the school's tenure standards and get clear about the expectations and the timeline.  Does any work you have already published count towards meeting the tenure standard?

3.  What research leave policy, if any, does the school have?  A term off after every three full years of teaching is a very good leave policy; some schools have even better policies, most have less generous leave policies.  (If there is a norm, it is a term off after every six years.)  Many schools have a special leave policy for junior faculty, designed to give them some time off prior to the tenure decision.  Find out if the school has such a policy.

4.  One of the most important things to be clear about is not just your teaching load, but what courses you will be teaching precisely.  You should ask whether the school can guarantee a stable set of courses until after the tenure decision.  Preparing new courses is hugely time-consuming, and you also get better at teaching the course the more times you do it.  As a tenure-track faculty member, having a stable package of, say, three courses (plus a seminar) will make a huge difference in terms of your ability to conduct research and write.   In my experience, most schools will commit in writing to a set of courses for the tenure-track years (and do ask for this in writing), but some schools either won't or can't.   In my view, it's a good reason to prefer one school to another that one will give you the courses you want and promise them that they're yours, while another won't--a consideration that overrides lots of other factors, including salary.

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December 12, 2019 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (14)

Lateral hires with tenure or on tenure-track, 2019-20

These are non-clinical appointments that will take effect in 2020 (except where noted); I will move the list to the front at various intervals as new additions come in.   (Recent additions are in bold.)  Last year's list is here.  Feel free to e-mail me with news of additions to this list.

 

*Bryan Adamson (civil procedure, civil rights, media law) from Seattle University to Case Western Reserve University.

 

*Mario Biagioli (intellectual property, history of intellectual property, science and technology studies) from the University of California, Davis (Law and Science & Technology Studies) to the University of California, Los Angeles (joint in Law and Communications).

 

*Shawn Boyne (criminal law & procedure, comparative law) from Indiana University, Indianapolis to Iowa State University (to become Director of Academic Quality and Undergraduate Education [ISU does not have a law school])

 

*William Wilson Bratton (corporate law) from the University of Pennsylvania (where he will become emeritus) to the University of Miami.

 

*Kimberly Clausing (public finance, tax, international trade) from Reed College (Economics) to the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

*Raff Donelson (criminal procedure & law, jurisprudence) from Louisiana State University to Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law (untenured lateral).

 

*Paul Gowder (constitutional law, political and legal theory) from the University of Iowa to Northwestern University.

 

*Ali Rod Khadem (Islamic law, business law) from Deakin University to Suffolk University (untenured lateral).

 

*Derek Muller (election law) from Pepperdine University to the University of Iowa.

 

*Christopher Odinet (consumer finance, commercial law, property) from the University of Oklahoma to the University of Iowa.

 

*Alexander Pearl (water law, natural resources law, Federal Indian law) from Texas Tech University to the University of Oklahoma.

 

*Tracy Hresko Pearl (criminal law, torts, law & technology) from Texas Tech University to the University of Oklahoma.

 

*Elizabeth Pollman (corporate law) from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles to the University of Pennsylvania (effective January 2020).

 

*Mark Schultz (intellectual property) from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale to the University of Akron (effective Jan. 2020).

 

*Nicholas Stephanopoulos (election law & voting rights) from the University of Chicago to Harvard University (effective January 2020).

 

*Karen Tani (legal history) from the University of California, Berkeley to the University of Pennsylvania.

 

*Gerald Torres (environmental law, Federal Indian law, critical race theory) from Cornell University (Law School) to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (with a secondary appointment at the Law School likely, but not officail yet)

 

*Stacey Tovino (health law, bioethics) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to the University of Oklahoma.

 

*Ann Tweedy (Federal Indian Law) from practice (previously Hamline University) to the University of South Dakota (untenured lateral) (effective January 2020).

December 12, 2019 in Faculty News | Permalink

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

On filling out the USNEWS.com "peer assessment" (i.e., academic reputation) survey

A young legal scholar elsewhere writes:

I'm my faculty's most recently tenured member, so I got a US News peer assessment survey. Or, I should say, peer "assessment," since it doesn't actually ask for any assessment of anything. I knew that the methodology was shoddy for these things, but I'm still kind of shocked at what this is: just a list of all the law schools and a request to rate them on a 5 point scale. No faculty or publications or any information about them. It's just a test of what schools I happen to have heard good things about lately.

 

So, given that this survey cannot produce any credible measure of quality or anything else (except of who I happen to have heard good things about lately), what should I do? Should I simply ignore this nonsense? Or is there some penalty (to me? to others?) if people who recognize this as nonsense refuse to participate? Should I rank everyone outstanding? Everyone except the top twenty schools?

A few observations and suggestions: 

(1)  any recently tenured faculty member (and that certainly goes for this young scholar) will, in fact, know a fair bit about the quality of scholarship (at least in his or her fields, and often cognate fields) at anywhere from a dozen to several dozen law schools.   Evaluate those schools, being either generous or stingy with the scores as you see fit:  e.g., give just five or six schools a "5," or give two dozen schools a "5."  In general, I think evaluators should be generous, especially since higher scores will have more influence on the overall results:  avoid 1s and 2s (unless you really are confident in the weakness of a particular school), and there's no  harm in giving lots of 4s and 3s.  (In the past, USNEWS.COM used to drop a percentage of the highest and lowest scores as a check on strategic voting, I'm not sure if they still do that.)   Most importantly, when you "don't know" much about a school, choose "don't know."  "Don't know" does not count against (or for) a school.

(2)  The academic reputation survey is, in fact, one of the few "reality checks" in the whole USNEWS.com charade:  without it, the rankings would be based on nothing more than wealth and the extent to which schools "massage" the self-reported data like employment statistics and expenditures.  Unfortunately, the academic reputation surveys increasingly track the prior years' overall rank in USNEWS.com, which impedes its utility as a reality check.  (This is one reason why adding citation data would, if done rightly, be salutary.)   But evaluators can counteract that by actually thinking about (1) the quality of scholarship produced by a school's faculty (not the school's name!), and (2) looking at other data as a check on their impressions. 

Here's a suggestion:  everyone should give the University of San Diego at least a "4" this year in the peer assessment survey, since its overall USNEWS.com rank is preposterously low relative to the strength of the faculty (which is made up of folks who have had tenured positions or offers at lots of excellent schools, including Berkeley, Northwestern, Cornell, Minnesota, George Washington, Boston University, and elsewhere).  If this works, I'll nominate more schools in future years who deserve a boost for their faculty excellence, even as they are punished by USNEWS.com on other metrics.

December 10, 2019 in Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink

Monday, December 9, 2019

Wealthy Penn Law alumnus protests treatment of Amy Wax

He's partly right, and partly very wrong and confused about academic freedom.  He's correct that it is part of the Kalven Report's vision of the university that it is not the job of administrators to take sides on substantive questions addressed by faculty; this is why I objected to Dean Ruger's criticism of Professor Wax's (admittedly idiotic and insulting) statements about immigration.   (I get to express my opinion because I'm not her Dean or Provost etc.)    However, it's absurd to think that "academic freedom" protects a faculty member's right to denigrate the competence of an identifiable segment of the student body at her school, as Professor Wax did.  Professor Wax, like any faculty member, is free to dispute the merits of affirmative action in admissions; she is not free, however, to disclose the academic performance of her students.  As I noted at the time, Dean Ruger's sanction (removing Professor Wax from a mandatory 1L course) was a mild one; he would have been justified in adopting more severe sanctions.  Given this alum's confused understanding of academic freedom (not to mention student privacy), it is probably just as well he is no longer involved in university governance.

December 9, 2019 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Nobel Prize winners explain how ideology/theory blinded economics (Michael Simkovic)

The Financial Times recently published an excellent profile of Esther Duflo, a French economist who shared the Nobel Prize in Economics with two of her co-authors for pioneering empirical work using field experiments (randomized controlled trials) to evaluate the effectiveness of social policies and the effects of taxation.  Over the last several decades, economics has evolved from a largely theoretical field, which from the 1960s to 1980s at times resembled conservative political assumptions restated in mathematical formulae (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), into a largely empirical field more akin to science.  Law & Economics has followed, albeit more slowly.

From the FT:

“Duflo’s drive to spread the use of RCTs reflects her original motivation for entering economics — a deep-seated belief that research can influence policy. . . .

 

Duflo believes her research on what drives behaviour in poor countries carries important lessons for governments in the rich world. She also believes strongly that economists need to speak out more — if people distrust experts, it is partly because the best academics, wary of being misinterpreted, are leaving the field to ideologues and pundits.

 

Duflo and [her co-author] Banerjee contend that, in reality, people do not necessarily move to the best jobs, or invest in the most productive businesses; nor is there any evidence they work less in response to higher taxes. They care about many things — health, self-respect, clean air — more than they do about maximizing per capita GDP, an elusive goal that may no longer be the right priority for policymakers in the developed world. . . .     For her, the priorities in the US would include . . . a huge investment in early-years education, to create high-status jobs ‘that no robot is ever going to come to take’.

 

Duflo believes that an excessive faith in financial incentives is one of the big things mainstream economics got wrong. ‘You can see the long shadow of that misconception in our thinking on trade, in our thinking on taxation . . . in our thinking on social programmes.’

 

Although a reassessment is now under way, Duflo is critical of her profession’s reluctance to accept evidence that did not fit with accepted theories. She cites the example of Petia Topalova, an IMF economist whose early work at MIT showed poverty reduction was slower in areas of India that were more exposed to trade. Topalova’s conclusion — on the need to compensate losers from globalization — now seems self-evident. At the time, however, her paper was greeted with near-universal scorn — and she was forced to seek a career outside academia.

 

‘I wish I could say for sure that something like that would not happen again, but it might, with another blind spot,’ Duflo says. This failure on the part of economists to question their assumptions reflected cultural problems . . .

 

Duflo’s main message, though, is that economists — for all their flaws — have something to contribute.  ‘A focus on the right policies can make an enormous amount of progress. When I feel low, that’s what I think about.’ ”

December 5, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Science | Permalink

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Jonathan Turley (George Washington) is not "the second-most cited law professor in the country"...

as The New York Times misleadingly reports today; indeed, he's not even one of the ten-most cited members of the GW law faculty.   On Professor Turley's website (the source for the NYT claim), the context was clearer:  in Judge Posner's 2003 book Public Intellectuals, Turley was the second-most cited law professor due almost entirely to references to him in the media.  On the other hand, he is poised to soon displace Alan Dershowitz as the "most-cited law professor by Donald Trump"!

UPDATE:  This is not atypical of the reception accorded Professor Turley's performance today.

December 4, 2019 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Cracks in the Section 230 firewall for Internet service providers

This is good news for those of us who think Section 230 is an unmitigated disaster, responsible for the currently depraved state of cyberspace.

December 3, 2019 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Monday, December 2, 2019

In Memoriam: David L. Shapiro (1932-2019)

A longtime member of the Harvard faculty, Professor Shapiro was a leading authority on the federal courts.  The HLS memorial notice is here.

December 2, 2019 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

Are "transformative gifts" really transformative?

Law.com has a list of naming gifts to law schools over the last few decades, with the majority coming in the last two decades.  Here are the biggest gifts, by year:

    1998:    $115 million to the University of Arizona

    2001:    $30 million to Ohio State University

    2001:    $30 million to the University of Utah

    2008:    $35 million to Indiana University, Bloomington

    2011:    $30 million to the University of Maryland

    2013:    $50 million to Chapman University

    2014:    $50 million to Drexel University

    2015:    $100 million to Northwestern University

    2016:    $30 million to George Mason University

    2019:    $50 million to Pepperdine University

    2019:    $125 million to the University of Pennsylvania

For some of these gifts, it's too soon to say what their effects will be, and some of them served more, one suspects, to help newer schools stay afloat and continue to grow during tough times (e.g., Chapman, Drexel). On the other hand, George Mason's gift has already resulted in a lot more hiring by that school.   But Ohio State, Utah, and Indiana all seem to be roughly where they were at the time of the gifts:  strong state flagships, neither much better, and certainly not worse.   The same goes for the most remarkable gift of them all, the one to Arizona, much lauded at the time.   I gather a good chunk of that gift went to bricks and mortar, rather than expanding the size of a fairly small faculty.  Northwestern's more recent major gift was followed a few years later by belt-tightening anyway.

It remains to be seen whether any of these gifts will really change the strength and status of any of these schools.  In ten years, we'll probably have a clearer idea of the impact given how recent many of the largest gifts are.

December 2, 2019 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

Friday, November 22, 2019

Another academic administrator who doesn't understand her job

Eric Rasmusen is a business professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, who has been a well-known "right-wing nut" (to use the techincal term) on social media for many years.  One of his recent tweets (less obnoxious than some of his others, actually) attracted a lot of attention, leading Provost Lauren Robel to issue this statement.  (Professor Rasmusen's response is here.)   Provost Robel is a lawyer, indeed, the former Dean of the Law School.   Her job is not to attack members of her faculty, however stupid or foolish they may be; her job is to uphold the constitutional rights of faculty (which she professes she will do) and insure compliance with anti-discrimination laws, among other tasks.  We've seen these kinds of mistakes by administrators before, but it's especially disappointing when a lawyer and law professor make them.   For an extended discussion, see this CHE column of mine from a few years ago.

ADDENDUM:  What should Provost Robel have said in response to the media outcry?   This would have sufficed:   "Professor Eric Rasmussen of the Business School speaks only for himself, not for the University.  The First Amendment protects his speech, whether or not the University or members of the public agree with it.  The University will continue to insure that all faculty comply with anti-discrimination laws in the classroom."  It would have taken more courage, and more commitment to the ideal of a university, for Provost Robel to have kept it this brief, but that would have made all the relevant points.

 

November 22, 2019 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The growing importance of "privacy law"

An open letter from scholars and practitioners.

November 20, 2019 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Penn Carey Law"

In the wake of the outcry from students and alumni, Dean Ruger at Penn has sent a letter to students and alumni announcing that "the Law School will continue to use Penn Law as our short-form name until the start of the 2022-23 academic year, after which we will use Penn Carey Law."  A reasonable compromise.

November 19, 2019 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink

Monday, November 18, 2019

More on Poland's persecution of Sydney law professor Wojciech Sadurski...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Carey Law" may resume being "Penn Law" in shorthand

It would be a wise decision.  (Prior coverage.)

November 14, 2019 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink