July 19, 2021

Invitation to participate in "Legal Academy and Theory Survey"

Law professor Kevin Tobia (Georgetown) writes:

I am conducted an anonymous survey, with a graduate student collaborator, to learn more about the legal academy and legal theory. Anyone who self-identifies as a member of the “legal academy” is invited to participate. Participants might include, among others: law professors, fellows, and students; legal practitioners; and scholars from adjacent fields.

The survey has three parts: 1. Demographics; 2. Your views about which areas of law are most “central” in the legal academy; 3. Your views about substantive questions in legal theory. You are invited to take all parts of the study and are welcome to skip any questions, for any reason. The survey has obtained ethical approval and no identifying information will be retained. Detail about the survey construction can be found here. The survey will close on September 1, 2021. Thank you for your help!

To take the survey, follow this link: https://georgetown.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8iYDOpzaQRxjBzw


July 19, 2021 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 16, 2021

Books by Nobel prize winners to read (or listen to) this summer

One of the great joys of being a student or academic is the ability to engage in self-directed learning.  The freedom this affords can be overwhelming, given the massive volume of books, articles, and other media that could be consumed.  This raises the question, what should be read for pleasure first?

Recently, I've been reading (and listening to audio books) by Nobel prize winners.  There are of course many great books by people who have not won Nobel prizes, and who many never win one (for example, because they work in a field that is not eligible).  But there seem to be few bad books by Nobel prize winners, and so I've been pleased with my selections.*  

I'm including a partial list of books by Nobel prize winners that I've recently enjoyed. 

I encourage others to use the comments section to include books by Nobel prize winners that they've enjoyed. Please only use the comments for this purpose, and please include your real name.

Please also indicate what field the author won the Nobel prize in, and (to your knowledge), whether an audio book version is available.  For purposes of the list below, I am including the Nobel prize in economics and am not counting the Nobel Peace prize, since my interest is in scientists, writers and social scientists rather than politicians. 

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July 16, 2021 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Science | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 12, 2021

Disability in a post-pandemic world

Law professor Adam Samaha (NYU) writes insightfully about this issue, drawing on his own experience.


July 12, 2021 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 25, 2021

Monday is the last day for submitting comments regarding the proposed changes to the ABA standards regarding diversity and curriculum

Many interesting comments have already been submitted, some echoing concerns raised here.  The lengthy analysis by current or emeritus "Sterling Professors" at Yale Law School may be of particular interest.  ("Sterling Professor" is the most distinguished professorial rank at Yale, and includes such well-known scholars as Bruce Ackerman, Owen Fiss, John Langbein, Roberta Romano, and Alan Schwartz.) Professor Romano tells me they learned of the proposals from my earlier blog post, and I am glad she and her colleagues weighed in with a careful assessment.


June 25, 2021 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 18, 2021

Not a great advertisement for the Hogan Lovells firm

June 16, 2021

When "DEI Training" goes wrong

Stories like this ought to give the ABA substantial pause about the proposed revisions to the accreditation standards.


June 16, 2021 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 14, 2021

Call by ABA for comments on significant proposed changes to standards pertaining to "non-discrimination and equal opportunity" and "curriculum"

MOVING TO FRONT FROM JUNE 1--TWO MORE WEEKS TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO THE ABA!

The proposed changes are available here.   Written comments on the proposals should be addressed to:  Scott Bales, Council Chair.  Please send comments to Fernando Mariduena (Fernando.Mariduena@americanbar.org) by June 28, 2021.

I am going to offer a few observations of my own on some of these proposals, which readers are free to incorporate into any comments they wish to send to Mr. Bales (with or without attribution to this blog).   Some of the proposed changes are minor, but many are not.  As a threshold matter, the ABA should have to explain why the existing standards were not more than adequate, especially since some of the proposed changes will impose substantial costs on schools and seem ill-supported by evidence.

(1)  Proposed changes would replace previous language requiring "concrete action" and "reasonable efforts" related to diversity, to a standard that demands "demonstrat[ing] progress."   What does "progress" mean?  If a very diverse law school becomes slightly less diverse after a few years (but is still extremely diverse), does that mean it is in violation of the standard?  That would seem bizarre.   Suppose a law school becomes more diverse by enrolling more Asian-American students, but fewer African-American students.  Is that "progress" within the meaning of the Standard?  What if it enrolls more students with disabilities, but fewer Hispanic students?  How is "progress" to be measured?  Why is it a preferable standard?

(2)  The proposals impose a substantial new burden on schools to collect and maintain data that will be both costly and time-consuming, and will almost certainly require schools to hire additional administrative staff (see esp. 206-3 and 206-4). This includes publishing "threshold data disaggregated by race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, or military status" (several of these categories are new), plus requiring "quantitative and qualitative measures of campus climate and academic outcomes disaggregated" again by all the preceding demographic categories.  Wouldn't the money spent on these reporting requirements be better spent on financial aid, for example, that increased diversity?

(3)  Recommended actions that would demonstrate "progress...under the Standard" would include (206-5) "Diversity, equity, and inclusion training."   This raises two concerns.  First, there is evidence that such "training" is not effective, and can even be counter-productive.  Second, and even more seriously, such training will almost certainly violate the academic freedom rights of faculty at many (probably most) schools by demanding conformity to a particular ideology about "diversity," its meaning, and its value.  The ABA should not even be suggesting that schools violate the contractual and/or constitutional rights of faculty to academic freedom.  (There is a related problem with the mandatory "diversity statements" at certain public universities.)

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June 14, 2021 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 09, 2021

The Yale Law School spectacle continues

What an embarrassment, mostly for Yale, but there's also a fair bit of myth-making (both about Rubenfeld and to a lesser extent Chua, and, again, about Yale).  I do suspect Heather Gerken's Deanship is not going to be long-lived.  A couple of excerpts:

Faculty members I spoke to have mixed feelings about it all. “There’s a weird schism among the students where they want the place to be utterly transparent and utterly equitable,” mused one who is sympathetic to that critique, “but they also want to keep the prestige and privilege that the place affords.” Three other professors told me that Chua is the victim of overzealous zoomers who have confused the natural hierarchy of achievement — and Chua’s right to favor whomever she wants — with a social-justice outrage. “There are a lot of mediocre students at Yale who were superstars in their little county fairs, and now they’re in the Kentucky Derby and they’re not winning their races and they feel like it’s unfair because other students are doing better,” says one faculty member who thinks the dean, Heather Gerken, was too deferential to students in how she handled the small-group affair...

Good to know what some Yale faculty think of their students!

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June 9, 2021 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 05, 2021

Open letter from Stanford Law faculty protesting the (mis)handling of the case of a law student who satirized the Federalist Society

Here.  (Earlier coverage.)

(Thanks to Bernadette Meyler for the pointer.)


June 5, 2021 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

June 03, 2021

Is the age bias in law school hiring a thing of the past?

In my other academic field, philosophy, it is quite common (indeed probably the norm) for faculty to make lateral moves later in their careers, rather than earlier:  faculty in their 50s and 60s frequently take tenured positions at peer or stronger departments.  When I started in law teaching in the early 1990s, this was very clearly not the case:  most lateral moves occurred 5-15 years into a teaching career, with lateral moves by faculty in their 50s, let alone 60s, almost unheard of, except for administrative appointments.  Yet just in the last couple of years, we've seen multiple lateral moves to peer or stronger schools by faculty age 55 and older.  For example:

Lateral faculty moving in their late 50s:  Curtis Bradley from Duke to Chicago; Robin Kundis Craig from Utah to Southern California; Mitu Gulati from Duke to Virginia; Ran Hirschl from Toronto to Texas; Nancy Kim from Cal Western to Chicago-Kent; Kimberly Krawiec from Duke to Virginia.

Lateral faculty moving in their 60s or older:   Naomi Cahn from George Washington to Virginia; Herbert Hovenkamp from Iowa to Penn; Lawrence Solum from Georgetown to Virginia; Gerald Torres from Cornell to Yale.

I may have missed some from the last two years that are also in these brackets, but this is fairly representative.

What explains this change in hiring practices?  I have a couple of hypotheses:

1.  As academic law as an interdisciplinary and scholarly field has matured, there is more appreciation for cumulative scholarly achievement over the long haul, with the result that more faculty with sustained achievement over decades are finding themselves in demand.

2.  The scholarly impact rankings that I started and Greg Sisk and colleagues at St. Thomas have continued--and which US News.com will now produce (and eventually incorporate into their rankings, I predict)--have probably enhanced the value of adding senior faculty with substantial scholarly profiles to a law faculty.  It may just be a coincidence that, for example, Virginia, which underperformed in the various impact studies, has hired a large number of high cited scholars in their 50s and 60s in recent years.


June 3, 2021 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink