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February 28, 2020

Fellowships for Aspiring Law Professors

The Blog Emperor has updated his useful list.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 28, 2020 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

February 27, 2020

The meaningless "Primary Research Group" survey of "law faculty and staff"

This "survey" has been making the rounds, despite being obviously meaningless:  it is based on a survey of 96 "faculty and staff" in the U.S. and Canada.  Only 96! There are some 8,000 law faculty in the United States alone, and I would guess that the 16 law schools in Canada have another 800-1,000 academic staff as well.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 27, 2020 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

February 25, 2020

Regarding memorial notices

It is not possible to record the passing of every member of the legal academic community.  I try only to post memorial notices for faculty who are likely to be nationally known for their work.  I'm sure I sometimes make mistakes of omission, for which my apologies.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 25, 2020 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

February 24, 2020

Concordia Law in Idaho to become part of Concordia University in Minnesota...

...after the original parent campus in Oregon closes.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 24, 2020 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

February 21, 2020

"What makes the San Diego originalism conference so good"...

...as described by my colleague Will Baude also explains exactly what makes the AALS annual meetings so worthless from an intellectual point of view.   The annual Analytic Legal Philosophy conferences used to be good in this way too for the first ten years or so, although not so much anymore unfortunately.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 21, 2020 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

February 20, 2020

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

MOVING TO FRONT FROM DECEMBER 12, 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.

5.  You should ask for the school's materials on benefits:  retirement, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and so on.  The biggest, and certainly the most easily discernible differences, are often in the retirement and life insurance categories (sometimes longterm disability insurance too, though unlike life insurance, you're hopefully less likely to utilize this!).  What is the university's contribution to retirement?  At the low end are schools contributing only 5-6% of your base salary to retirement; the more competitive schools will be in the 8% range, and some will be even higher.  The big issue on life insurance concerns the amount you are guaranteed irrespective of your health history.  750K increasingly seem to be the norm, but much higher numbers in higher cost-of-living areas is common.  And, of course, if your health is perfect, this doesn't matter, but I've worked with plenty of candidates where this was a serious issue.  (Life insurance companies have no incentives to insure faculty beyond the base amount they have to provide, so even health matters that strike you as trivial may disqualify you from more coverage.)  A final benefits issue concerns education/tuition benefits for children.  State schools don't offer these; the wealthier private schools do, and if you have kids or expect to have kids, this is worth looking into.  At the high end is Chicago, which pays up to 75% of Chicago tuition anywhere for each child.  Most of the wealthier private schools will pay 30-50% of the home school tuition for faculty children, wherever they go.  Some will offer a larger benefit if your kids go to that school.  But there are differences, and they don't track your ordinary expectations about prestige (e.g., last time I looked, the Wash U/St. Louis benefit was much better than the benefit at Penn or Cornell).  In any case, get the information.  But remember, university-wide benefits are rarely a subject for negotiation--the law school can't give you a higher benefit.  Of course, if you have a competitive offer, they may be able to compensate for a significant benefits differential.

6.  Finally, once you have an offer, this is a good time to raise issues about the employment prospects for a spouse or partner.  Sometimes you may just want help:  can the Dean help the significant other make relevant professional contacts in the area?  Sometimes you may be hoping for more:  e.g., a position in the law school, or in another university department, for the significant other.  It is certainly fair to explain the situation and ask.  Schools vary in their ability to response effectively to these situations, but many have formal universities policies pertaining at least to spouses who are academics.  Raise the issue, and see if the school can help.  But realize that the school made you the offer, and they may be able to hire you, and that's that.

The last point relates to a more general issue.  If you don't have other offers, you are not in a position to bargain.  Period.  You may certainly ask about things, raise concerns, etc.  But unless you're going to walk away from a tenure-track offer (not a wise thing to do in this market), don't make demands.  And even then, a collegial discussion about issues of concern is far better than demands.  Even if you have other offers, this advice applies:  proceed with caution and respect for the institution.  You can report that School Y is offering you a salary 20K higher, and ask whether the Dean of School X, to whom your talking, has any flexibility on this front.  But remember:  you may end up at School X (because of location, or colleagues in your field, or a better teaching load etc.) and living with that Dean and the other faculty for many years to come.  Don't poison the well by displaying a sense of entitlement and self-importance before you even get through the door.  Remember:  no matter how good you are, you're quite dispensable--in almost every instance, you need the job more than the school needs you.  Approach any 'bargaining' or discussion of the package in that spirit.  A good school has every reason to want you to succeed and to try to help fashion a package of professional duties and support in that spirit.  A good school doesn't need a prima donna.

I invite signed comments from faculty or deans on these issues.  A comment without a full name and e-mail address won't appear.  Post your comment only once; comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.

Good luck to all job seekers!

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 20, 2020 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (14)

February 18, 2020

In Memoriam: Francis McGovern (1945-2020)

A longtime member of the Duke law faculty, he was also a regular visiting professor of law at the University of California, Hastings.   He was an expert on products liability and mass tort litigation, and served as the court-appointed "special master" in many major tort cases involving opioids, silicone implants asbetos, lead paint and others.  I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.

(Thanks to Scott Dodson for the information.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 18, 2020 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

February 17, 2020

Technology and lawyer's work

Article here, including interesting obserevations from Dean Jennifer Mnookin (UCLA).

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 17, 2020 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

February 13, 2020

Novartis demands a 15% discount from its outside law firms unless they put more women and minority lawyers to work on Novartis legal matters (Michael Simkovic)

Bloomberg reports that Novartis AG, a Swiss Pharmaceutical firm with a Market Capitalization in excess of 220 billion USD and U.S. headquarters in Boston, is demanding that its U.S.-based outside law firms ensure that at least 30 percent of associate billable hours on Novartis matters are completed by associates who are female or members of racial minority groups or LGBTQ+ groups, and that at least 20 percent of partner billable hours are completed by partners who are members of such minority groups.  Any firm that does not meet these diversity targets will face demands from Novartis for an across the board 15 percent write down on its legal bill. The announcement of the policy is available here.

Under the new policy, above the 70 percent cap on straight-white-male associate hours, such non-minority associates would have to bill at least 4000 hours per year to be as financially valuable to Novartis's law firms as women or minorities billing 2000 hours per year on Novartis matters.

Novartis's policy represents a creative approach by Corporate Counsel to both cut costs and promote diversity.  Recent research suggests that much of the difference in employment outcomes between male and female law firm associates is attributable to men billing more hours, bringing in more revenue, and having greater aspirations to make partner.  The research could not rule out the possibility that law firms provided female associates fewer opportunities to bill hours. 

Affirmative action is generally legal under Swiss law.  The U.S. has historically been more permissive of affirmative action by private employers than by public employers or universities, but the legality of the policy above could potentially be challenged under more recent case law which imposes more limits on affirmative action and was decided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which also applies to private employers.

However, standing and evidentiary issues could make a legal challenge to the new policy unlikely. Law firms are unlikely to sue a major client.  A suit would therefore have to be brought by an associate who was dismissed or denied a promotion or bonus at one of Novartis’s outside law firms.  The plaintiff would have to prove that he did not get enough work at the law firm specifically because of Novartis’s policy and that this led to adverse outcomes at his law firm.  The law firm and Novartis would both have incentives to point to other potential reason for the plaintiff's dismissal or lower pay.

Were policies similar to Novartis's diversity policy to become widespread among corporate clients, straight-white-men intent on career advancement at law firms could potentially claim LGBTQ+ status--which includes those who report that they are bisexual, asexual or questioning their sexuality. Evidentiary issues and basic privacy concerns would make it difficult for private employers to challenge such claims.  (However, courts have historically considered the factual truth of LGBTQ+ claims in asylum cases by requiring evidence of stereotypically effeminate behavior.  Social scientists say such behavior has little relation to LGBTQ+ status.  Courts have also asked asylum seekers to tell their "coming out" stories).

Widespread adoption of aggressive diversity targets could also raise questions about how much of one's ancestry would have to originate with individuals who were racial or ethnic minorities to claim minority status, and what kind of proof of such status would be required (i.e., self-report, an expert genealogy report, genetic testing, community involvement, or physical features stereotypically associated with racial minorities). Controversies related to similar issues have been raised to criticize Harvard law professor, Massachusetts Senator, and Democratic Presidential primary candidate Elizabeth Warren for claiming Native American ancestry based on family oral tradition and a small amount of Native American DNA. 

Issues of racial identity and passing were memorialized in a novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Roth, about a light skinned black man who passes for Jewish in the 1950s, only to see his career derailed in the 1990s by false accusations of racism brought by students who he calls out for repeatedly skipping his class. 

Aggressive diversity targets would also raise questions about whether Portuguese or white Spanish or Brazilian or Sephardic Jewish ancestry would entitle an individual to claim hispanic or latino status.

The Novartis Group General Counsel is Shannon T. Klinger, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and former attorney at Mayer Brown.  The U.S. General Counsel of Novartis AG is Elizabeth G. McGee, a graduate of Fordham Law School and a former attorney at Mayer Brown.

Posted by Michael Simkovic on February 13, 2020 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

February 12, 2020

Law review EICs at the top 16 law schools are all currently women

A conference in their honor was recently held in Washington, DC.  (Top 16, by the way, is a far more sensible demarcation than "top 14," which designates nothing of significance in the real world.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 12, 2020 in Legal Profession, Rankings | Permalink