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September 30, 2005

LawDragon's List of 500 Leading Lawyers in America

What better way to attract attention to a new magazine than to produce an idiosyncratic list, based on no discernible criteria, of the top 500 lawyers in America? 

That's what the new LawDragon magazine has done.  Most of those on the list are practitioners and jurists, of course, though two dozen or so academics make the list, including, interestingly, a good number of clinical faculty (not surprising, given the practice orientation of the list), as well as a few media regulars.  Three some-of-the-time law teachers on the list--Walter Dellinger (Duke), Richard Posner (Chicago), and Michael Tigar (American)--were listed without any mention of their academic affiliations, perhaps correctly in terms of where they spend most of their time.

In any case, here are the academics listed as academics on the list:  Khaled Abou El Fadl (UCLA); William Allen (NYU); Erwin Chemerinsky (Duke); John Coffee (Columbia); David Cole (Georgetown); Noah Feldman (NYU--though he is being wooed by Yale and Harvard); Edward Foley (Ohio State); Tamar Frankel (BU); Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard); Kenneth Klee (UCLA); Harold Koh (Yale); Mark Lemley (Stanford); Lawrence Lessig (Stanford); Lawrence Marshall (Stanford); J. Thomas McCarthy (San Francisco, also in practice); Arthur Miller (Harvard); Alan Morrison (Stanford; also in practice); Burt Neuborne (NYU); Charles Ogletree (Harvard); Gary Roberts (Tulane); Bryan Stevenson (NYU; also in practice); Kathleen Sullivan (Stanford; also in practice); Cass Sunstein (Chicago); Laurence Tribe (Harvard); Elizabeth Warren (Harvard). 

According to LawDragon--which, by the way, is based in Los Angeles--the top 500 lawyers in America include 5 faculty each from Harvard and Stanford (Harvard is more than twice the size of Stanford),  4 faculty from NYU, and 2 from UCLA--but just 1 each from Chicago, Columbia, and Yale, and none at all from Berkeley, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Penn, and Cornell, among others.  No Bruce Ackerman, Alan Dershowitz, Richard Epstein, Yale Kamisar, Douglas Laycock, Catharine MacKinnon, Robert Scott, or James J. White--all scholars whose impact on theory and practice is as great, in many cases greater, than those on the list.  Go figure.

Everyone loves a ranking!

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 30, 2005 in Legal Profession, Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

Sextonish Watch: New York University School of Law (Again!)

The Sextonism Watch goes back to the source, as it were, with this week's nomination from a professor who asked not to be named.  From the NYU Law School's announcement of its new capital campaign, the nominator singled out two remarks:

"The funds will be used to increase the size of the faculty by continuing to recruit and support the leading legal scholars in the nation and the world"

Once again, that old definite article pushes this into the realm of ludicrous hyperbole:  could one not say what is true, namely, that the school tries to hire leading legal scholars, sometimes even succeeding in hiring the leading scholars in certain areas (e.g., the recruitment of Joseph Weiler from Harvard)?  The second quote singled out by the nominator:

"We have offered an unequalled education in U.S. law in conjunction with an unmatched exposure to international legal systems"

An unequalled education in U.S. law?  What exactly does NYU think is going on at every other top law school?  Even putting aside NYU's rather bad reputation for the quality of teaching (such reputations are, of course, always hard to assess), isn't it rather clear that one gets a better education in law and economics, for example, at Chicago, Harvard or Yale?  A better education in constitutional law at Yale or Texas?  A better education in social scientific approaches to law at Berkeley, Michigan, or Cornell?  There are probably just two areas where NYU genuinely offers "unequalled" educational opportunities for students, namely, international law and tax.

To be fair, it should be noted that NYU has been on much better public behavior under Dean Revesz than it ever was under John Sexton, for whom these watches are, of course, named.  And these statements come, of course, from the announcement of a capital campaign, where it is necessary to excite donors through puffery.  If this kind of ludicrous hyperbole started turning up, again, in materials prepared for academics or students, one might worry that the Sextonism bug really was no longer dormant in Greenwich Village.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 30, 2005 in Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch | Permalink | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

Merrill on Kelo (the Eminent Domain case from last term)

You presumably knew that Thomas Merrill at Columbia Law School (whom Chicago, Texas, Penn, and others all tried to hire when it became clear he would leave Northwestern a couple of years ago)  was a first-rate legal scholar.  Here's an illuminating example of his work, which corrects a variety of misunderstandings that have swirled around the Court's Kelo decision last term.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 29, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

On the History of the Socratic Method

Interesting remarks posted by my colleague Emily Kadens in an earlier thread deserve a wider audience:

[T]he Socratic method as it has been used since about the 1940s is not how it was originally designed by Langdell and James Barr Ames. Originally, the professor used Socratic method to get the students to test whether the rule given in a case could be extended to fit other fact patterns--in other words, hypotheticals and exactly what the students will have to do as lawyers. But instead of just tying the students up in knots and leaving them in the dark about the rules, the professors would spend the last ten minutes or so of the class lecturing--actually dictating--an outline of the blackletter law. We can tell this from student notes--they took notes in the margins of their casebooks from the Socratic portion and well-organized notes in notebooks from the lecture portion--as well as from descriptions of the Socratic method coming from the first 30 or 40 years of its use. Over time, generations trained in the Socratic method emphasized the questioning part to the exclusion of the lecturing part, the idea, apparently, being that all that was needed was for the students to struggle with the material and the rest of the stuff would just fall into place if they paid sufficient attention to analyzing the cases.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 28, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 26, 2005

In Memoriam

M. David Gelfand (1949-2005)

This message from Tulane Dean Lawrence Ponoroff reports the information presently available about this tragic loss to the Tulane and wider academic communities.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 26, 2005 in Memorial Notices | Permalink | TrackBack

U.S. News to Resume Using Medians, Instead of Mid-Points, on LSAT and GPA Data

In the rankings published last Spring, U.S. News used the mid-point of the 75th/25th LSAT and GPA for each school, rather than the median that the school reported.  This had the virtue of being public and thus reliable information, since the ABA also collects that data, but not the medians.  However, the mid-point approach produced an outcry from schools concerned about the incentive it would creative to cut back on alternative admissions procedures, since use of the mid-point gave the 25th percentile scores a new significance.

U.S. News has now announced that it will go back to using the medians, but the ABA will also begin collecting and publishing the median data as well.  So, on the theory that schools that will lie to U.S. News won't lie to the ABA, the median data that goes into the U.S. News ranking is likely to be reliable.  And, at the same time, the pressure on alternative admissions practices (practices that might depress the 25th percentile figures, which would matter for mid-point calculations) will be relieved.

To give an example of what this will mean, take Texas.  Last year, we had a 25th/75th LSAT spread of 162-167 and a median of 165.  On the mid-point method, we were credited with a 164.5.  This year, we have a 25th/75th LSAT spread of 161-168, but a median of 166--though our mid-point LSAT would remain the same as last year.

(Thanks to Jeff Stake [Law, Indiana-Bloomington] for calilng this to my attention.  His Dean, Lauren Robel, also gets much credit for helping lead the effort to get US News to use the actual medians.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 26, 2005 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

AALS Annual Meeting Moving from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.

Information here.  Hopefully, the AALS will have the decency to put the 2007 annual meeting back in New Orleans.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 23, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

Sextonism Watch: The University of North Carolina School of Law

A student at a New York area law school writes:

Despite my affection for Chapel Hill, I'm nominating the UNC School of Law's website for this week's award.  Consider its claims: "Carolina Law's student body is among the most highly credentialed and intellectually diverse in America" and "Carolina Law's alumni network, as you might imagine, is one of the strongest to be found anywhere."

First, it's entirely unclear how anyone measures the intellectual diversity *of a student body* (as opposed to faculty).  Undergraduate major?  Fair enough, but I question if UNC has access to this data or has taken the time to run the analysis. The "most highly credentialed" claim is, on its face, wrong. Finally, while the alumni network is strong within North Carolina, one has difficulty finding UNC-trained lawyers in the major markets in the Northeast and West.

The Sextonism project is clearly valuable: When I was applying to law schools I would often be taken by this sort of language, assuming that no reputable law school would so wrongly inflate itself. Perhaps by ferreting out misrepresentations some schools will quit it.

Let's hope so!  I'll note that UNC's hyperbole is, of course, phrased in such a way that it admits of interpretations for which there may be support.  To say the student body is "among" some class of student bodies in terms of credentials and diversity is silent on the size of the class it is "among"--perhaps it is meant to include three or four dozen law schools?  To say the alumni network is one of the "strongest...to be found anywhere" might mean not that it is widely dispersed, but that it is unusual in its devotion to the school and its graduates.  (To be sure, the site follows up the claim about "strength" with this:  "Our graduates dominate the legal institutions of this state and occupy positions of leadership around the country and across the globe.") 

Of course, one suspects the ambiguity in the statements was not unwlecome, and that the New York student's reading of them is one of the natural ones.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 23, 2005 in Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch | Permalink | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

L.A. Firms Raising Salaries

Story here.  Can NYC and everywhere else be far behind?  It's been about four years since the last wave of dramatic salary increases at the big law firms.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 22, 2005 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

Tough Actions by Tulane Law School


Tulane Law School has announced that it will require its student to enroll at Tulane in the Spring, as well as imposing various burdens on the faculty.  As Tulane Deputy Dean Roberts explains:

We have also told our faculty that they must expect to set aside all of their other interests over the next year and prepare to devote themselves entirely to meeting student needs. The faculty have been told that all sabbaticals are cancelled. In the spring they may be called upon to teach extra courses, courses they have not taught before, evenings and Saturdays, and through the summer, all with no extra compensation. Travel and other normal professional activities requiring faculty time or money have been virtually eliminated. In short, everyone has been and will be focused on meeting the needs of our students whenever possible.

Cancelling sabbaticals is understandable under these circumstances, but requiring the faculty to do additional work (rather substantial additional work, it appears) without compensation strikes me as, shall we say, imprudent and not in the school's long-term interest.  (Already, I know of one senior scholar at Tulane--I won't say in what field--who is actively pursuing job opportunities elsewhere because of the horrible experience with the hurricane.  Demanding unpaid labor from the faculty seems likely to increase the number of faculty who feel similarly disenchanted.)  Penalizing the faculty this way also seems inconsistent with the rationale for requiring the students to come back to Tulane in the Spring:

Everyone has to appreciate that these are truly perilous times for Tulane and the law school. The financial cost of the storm and having to shut down operations for a semester will run in the tens of millions of dollars. But an even greater cost is the loss of credibility with prospective students, faculty, staff, donors, government, and the many other constituencies upon all of which Tulane depends for its viability. It is absolutely imperative if Tulane is to emerge from this disaster as a strong and viable institution that it not only minimize its financial losses (which is why we absolutely have to receive all student tuition revenues for the fall semester) but also that it get back to running a full and vibrant university as soon as possible so the world will know that Tulane is back and will survive as a major university. Failure to do so would result in irreparable damage to Tulane and possible jeopardize its very survival.

This is scary stuff for any institution, but demanding that the faculty increase its workload in rather dramatic ways (teaching through the summer, on weekends, in the evenings, etc.)  without compensation seems likely to cause a "loss of credibility" with the faculty.  Perhaps the operative word in Dean Roberts's statement about the new burdens for the faculty is "may" (faculty "may be called upon").  Or perhaps, since (I assume) the faculty are being paid this fall, the argument is that the additional work required in the Spring and Summer has, in effect, been compensated (hence the reference to no "extra compensation").  Hopefully Tulane will work this all out in a way that both meets the needs of the students and respects the professional integrity of the faculty and their reasonable expectation that they are to be paid for the work they perform.

UPDATE:  A former Tulane faculty member with contacts there writes that, "The Tulane law faculty are being paid their normal salaries and benefits in full this fall and that is the compensation for the extra coursework that they will have to teach in the spring and summer."  That's good news for Tulane and its faculty.  The outstanding question is how students, many of whom will have settled into comfortable situations at law schools elsewhere, will react to having to re-enroll in the Spring.  Tulane's insitutiontal reasons for wanting them to do this are quite understandable, of course.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 22, 2005 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack