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September 30, 2008

Introducing Experimental Philosophy

"Experimental philosophy," as it is known, is one of the most exciting developments in the field of philosophy in a long time, one that promises substantive and methodological changes to philosophy that may be surprising to many legal scholars--and of special interest to those working in and around behavioral law and economics and law and psychology.  This recent CHE article is a well-done introduction to the field and its critics.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 30, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 29, 2008

"Law Professors for McCain" and "Law Professors Against Palin"

In the former camp (via Professor David Bernstein of George Mason), here's a complete list.  As Professor Bernstein notes, no Chicago professors, which does not surprise me.  I know of only one colleague who definitely supports McCain (entirely for tax reasons, as far as I can tell), though I really have no idea of what a quarter or more of my colleagues think about political questions.  (Contrary to pouplar impression, politics just doesn't loom that large in most scholarly issues.)

In the latter camp is David Post (Temple), who writes at the right-wing Volokh blog:  "She's not underqualified because she is inexperienced, she's underqualified because she is a knucklehead."

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 29, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 26, 2008

Harvard Law School to Adopt Pass-Fail Grading System Like Yale and Stanford

An HLS student has just forwarded me the e-mail from Dean Kagan, which reads in pertinent part:

I am writing to let you know that the faculty decided yesterday to move to a grading system with fewer classifications than we have now.  The new classifications, much as at Yale and Stanford, will be Honors-Pass-Low Pass-Fail.  The faculty believes that this decision will promote pedagogical excellence and innovation and further strengthen the intellectual community in which we all live.  The new system will apply to students entering HLS in fall 2009; yet to be determined is whether it also will apply to some or all classes of current students.

We discussed the Stanford move and its ramifications awhile back.  Presumably Harvard has evidence that the grading system is a factor when students choose between Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.  But Harvard's move is also going to force Chicago and Columbia, among others, to weigh the question of grading.  Harvard, with a much larger class, may need a real curve so that it's new A, B, C, F system provides employers some pertinent information.  Whethere there will be one is unclear.  Thoughts from faculty and students at Harvard or elsewhere?  Signed comments preferred, though I'll permit anonymous postings as long as there is identifying information (e-mail, IP address) consistent with any claims made about a particular school in the content of the comment.  Thanks.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 26, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

No Bailout Needed, Turn the Problem Over to the FHA

Robert Hockett (Cornell) explains.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 26, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

September 25, 2008

A New Low in "Gaming" the US News Rankings?

Bill Henderson (Indiana) comments on Michigan's new admissions policy observing that "an elite law school sets a new low in our obsession of form over substances."  Blog Emperor Caron draws a similar conclusion, and notes that Georgetown is doing almost the same thing.  The requirement of not taking the LSAT to be eligible for this program is indeed suspicious (Michigan imposes this requirement, it doesn't appear that Georgetown does, though they do waive the LSAT).  I invite the Deans of Michigan and Georgetown to respond to the allegation that this is just a new 'low' in gaming the rankings.  I will be happy to post their response, in its entirety, here.  It is my hope that there are, in fact, sound academic rationales for this new admissions procedure.

UPDATE:  The WSJ Law Blog quotes a partial response by the Michigan Admissions Dean.  Unfortunately, it does not explain why students admitted under this process are required not to take the LSAT.  It is, of course, the latter that raises the most questions about the actual purpose of this program.  Without knowing the distribution of GPAs and LSATs in the Michigan class, we also have no way of knowing whether 10 students admitted under this program would or would not make a difference to the medians. 

ONE MORE:  A couple of readers have suggested a different explanation for requiring students with excellent grades not to take the LSAT, for it in effect "locks them in" to Michigan:  for Harvard or Columbia or Chicago is not going to admit them without LSAT scores.  So it operates, in effect, a bit like 'early decision' programs:  a Michigan undergrad with the requisite grades commits to Michigan, and now doesn't have to bother with the LSAT.  By the same token, Michigan locks in an excellent student, with a GPA that, according to the Michigan Admissions Dean (in the article linked above), they know bodes well for law school performance, without the risk that the student will end up opting for one of Michigan's peers or betters which requires the LSAT.  Thought about this way, it seems to me other top schools with good undergraduate institutions ought to think about this--or even extend the concept:  e.g., why not say that anyone with a 3.8 or a 3.7 or a 3.9 at any one of twenty colleges/universities is automatically admitted, provided they do not take the LSAT? 

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 25, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

Update on the Lawsuit by Former Faculty Against Ave Maria and Tom Monaghan

Nothing like discovery to increase the likelihood of settlement!  (For background, see here.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 25, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

In the Market for Junior Laterals?

I have a very strong candidate (currently on tenure-track), with published work and work-in-progress (mostly in constitutional law area), plus teaching experience in a variety of (non-constitutiional) bread-and-butter courses (both first-year and upper-level).  S/he has several high-profile references.  No geographic restrictions.  If you're interested, please e-mail me for details.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 25, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack

September 24, 2008

SJD Programs: Worth It for a US JD?

An aspiring law professor writes:

I'm a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, generally interested in the academic teaching market, and a fan of your blog.  To the extent you have not covered this issue on your blog in the past, I would like to suggest that you address S.J.D. programs.  Among the questions that I (and perhaps other readers of your blog) have are the following: Is an S.J.D. the law school equivalent of a PhD?  Or is it more for foreign law students (as the website describing Harvard's program implies)?  What value does an S.J.D degree bring on the law school teaching market?  Would it be more productive for someone interested in improving his or her credentials to obtain an LLM -- perhaps via a specialized aspiring law school professor program like the one offered at Georgetown? 

Here are my answers:  (1)  An SJD is a bit like a PhD in law, but these days it is aimed almost entirely at foreign lawyers.  The strong interdisciplinary turn of law schools over the past thirty years means that the credential of real value to an American lawyer is a PhD in a cognate discipline, not a "PhD" in law.  (2)  It is relatively rare to see American lawyers with SJDs, far more common to see very good foreign-trained lawyers with SJDs.  (3)  The LLM isn't much of a credential for aspiring law teachers; its real value is the opportunity to be in a scholarly setting and have the opportunity to do research and writing and perhaps gain some teaching experience.  These days, the multiplying VAP-style programs meet that need as well.  (See our earlier discussion on this.)

Comments are open; signed comments strongly preferred. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 24, 2008 in Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 22, 2008

The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same

From the 1973 Blau-Marguiles survey of law schools Deans, the top five law schools:

1.  Harvard University

2.  Yale University

3.  Columbia University

3.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

5.  University of Chicago

From the 1974-75 Blau-Marguiles survey of law school Deans, the top nine schools:

1.  Harvard University

2.  Yale University

3.  University of Michigan,  Ann Arbor

4.  Columbia University

5.  University of Chicago

6.  Stanford University

7.  University of California, Berkeley

8.  New York University

9.  University of Pennsylvania

From the 1977 Cartter Report survey of faculty quality:

1.  Harvard University

2.  Yale University

3.  Stanford University

4.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

5.  University of Chicago

6.  Columbia University

7.  University of California, Berkeley

8.  University of Pennsylvania

9.  University of Virginia

10. University of Texas, Austin

11. University of California, Los Angeles

12. Cornell University

13. New York University

14. Northwestern University

15. Duke University

From the 1987 U.S. News reputational survey of Deans, which was the basis of its first ranking of law schools:

1.  Harvard University

1.  Yale University

3.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

4.  Columbia University

4.  Stanford University

6.  University of Chicago

7.  University of California, Berkeley

8.  University of Virginia

9.  New York University

10.  University of Pennsylvania

11.  University of Texas, Austin

12.  Duke University

13.  Georgetown University

14.  University of California, Los Angeles

15.  Cornell University

16.  Northwestern University

And, finally, the fall 2007 academic reputation survey by U.S. News:

1.  Harvard University

1.  Yale University

3.  Columbia University

3.  Stanford University

5.  University of Chicago

6.  New York University

6.  University of California, Berkeley

6.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

9.  University of Virginia

10. University of Pennsylvania

11. Cornell University

11. Duke University

11. Georgetown University

14. Northwestern University

14. University of Texas, Austin

Apart from Michigan, NYU, maybe Texas, maybe UCLA, not much movement over 30+ years--and even with the movers, the movement is slight.  (The movement looks more dramatic if one looks at the overall U.S. News rank, but that's a nonsense number for reasons with which everyone is, by now, familiar and is an apple/orange comparison since, until U.S. News, rankings had focused almost entirely on academic criteria--the U.S. News reputational survey is the last vestige of that, as it were.)  And some of the movement is just a consequence of the U.S. News echo chamber effect (a lower overall rank results gradually in slightly lower reputation scores:  vide Texas, whose reputation scores have dropped while its faculty quality, by every other measure, improved).

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 22, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

September 21, 2008

The End of American Capitalism, Law Professor Version

A German philosopher of the 19th-century, whose name now escapes me, once observed that in capitalist societies, "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."   Events over the last week certainly confirm the wisdom of the observation, as the executive branch prepares to bail out the American financial system from collapse, though without, as far as one can tell so far, making any of the bourgeoisie who brought us to this point pay.  Various law professors have had interesting observations on the fiasco.

David Zaring (Legal Studies, Wharton, Penn) weighs in on the legality/constitutionality of the proposed bailout.

My colleague Eric Posner (Chicago) has had a series of posts (you can get to them starting here) noting the dubious legality of the proposed bailouts by the executive, and suggesting that this implicates the same "rule of law" values at issed when people object to the Bush Administration's conduct of the "war on terror."  Of course, the "rule of law" is complex, but Eric glosses it rather unusually as "advanc[ing] public debate and authorization of policy by a representative body for the purpose of addressing events that it is actually aware of."  But enhancing representative democracy is hardly an obvious benefit of the "rule of law," as opposed to securing justice, protecting individual rights and liberty, and ensuring basic fairness.  Think of the classic 'rule of law' virtues--all, including government officials, are subject to the law; likes cases should be treated alike; legal standards must be public and intelligible; laws must be general, rather than aimed at particular individuals.  Publicity implicates representative democracy, though it is the first--the equality of all, including the executive, before the law--that has been most at issue with respect to the so-called 'war on terror.'   Eric is probably right that some of these rule of law concerns are also implicated in the proposed federal bailout of the economic system, though more would need to be said to establish parity with the "war on terror" case (especially if one thinks, as I do, that the "war on terror" [unlike the current fiscal crisis] is a fake:  first, because one can't wage war on a technique; second, because "war" is the wrong rubric under which to subsume what is really an issue for the criminal justice system; and third, because most of what we know has been done in the name of the "war on terror" has had nothing to do with fighting terrorism.  George Soros has the best short statement of these points.)

And yet it's surely right, as Eric notes, that, "We really have no idea whether Paulson and Bernanke are making wise decisions, dumb decisions, or even politically motivated decisions—say, bailing out firms in which political allies have interests and not otherwise, or firms with lots of workers in politically important swing states."  And indeed, several commentators have expressed compelling skepticism about the proposed federal bailout.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Velvel, the Dean of the Massachussetts School of Law, has an admirably direct statement on the current crisis, connecting it to other concurrent developments and issues.

Finally, Dave Hoffman (Temple) offers a somewhat less selective set of links to law professor commentaroy on the bailout, though he found a couple of good items not covered above.

UPDATE:  More thoughts from Jack Balkin (Yale).

ANOTHER:  Even some of the bourgeoisie are embarrassed by the bailout boondoggle.

MEANWHILE Nate Oman (William & Mary) is happy.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 21, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack