February 11, 2019
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 6--MANY INTERESTING COMMENTS, BELOW; OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME
We’re grateful to Brian Leiter and Michael Simkovic for blogging about our article “Rethinking Law School Tenure Standards.” We agree with both of them that there are costs to raising tenure standards. The goal of the project is not to claim that those costs are unimportant. In fact, after acknowledging some of the costs of applying stricter tenure standards, we end the paper’s introduction by saying “[w]e thus caution against jumping to conclusions about whether tenure standards should be increased, and we hope future work builds on what we have started here to better understand how the legal academy’s personnel decisions can be improved.”
Instead, the goal of the project is to provide new evidence that can help faculties set tenure standards in a more informed way. So even granting Michael’s argument that the costs of increasing tenure standards are high, the results in the paper should still be helpful to law schools.
We’ll highlight just three results that we think are important. First, the results show that pre-tenure research records are highly predictive of post-tenure research records. This illustrates that it is possible to tenure scholars that will be influential in the future with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Second, the results show that there are fantastic scholars across a wide range of law schools. For instance, roughly 30 percent of professors at law schools ranked 50-100 have more citations than all but the top 30 percent of professors in the same tenure cohort at the top 20 law schools. Not everyone is moveable, of course, but there is a lot of talent available in the lateral market. Third, the results illustrate that modest increases in denial rates could result in large increases in law schools’ academic impact. It’s reasonable to think that denying more people tenure is not worth the trade-off, but schools should know how big the potential benefits are when making those decisions.
That said, Michael is right that we only focus on estimating the costs and benefits of applying stricter tenure standards on academic impact, and we don’t claim to be performing a full cost-benefit analysis of the effects of raising tenure standards. But a lot of the costs he described wouldn’t arise or are not as high as he makes it seem.
February 01, 2019
Brian Leiter and Paul Caron both recently noted a study by Adam Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Kyle Rozema which argues that law schools can increase average faculty productivity by making it harder for tenure track faculty to get tenure. While this seems plausible, denying tenure more often is no free lunch.
A highly regarded study by Ron Ehrenberg (published in the Review of Economics and Statistics) found that professors place a high monetary value on tenure, and a university that unilaterally eliminated tenure would either have to pay more in salary and bonus or suffer a loss in faculty quality. After controlling for faculty quality, university rank, and cost of living, university economics departments that are less likely to offer faculty tenure must pay untenured faculty more, in part to compensate for increased risk. Reduced tenure rates is associated with higher productivity, but it is costly.
It's easy to understand why. A promising candidate with offers from otherwise comparable universities A and B would be unlikely to take an offer from A knowing that A denies tenure 70 percent of the time while B only denies tenure 10 percent of the time.
Faculty who are untenured and at an institution with high tenure denial rates would also have strong incentives to spend their most productive years avoiding publishing anything that might upset private sector employers who could give them a soft landing in the event that they are denied tenure. Quantitative measures of faculty "productivity" based on number of citations and publications don't capture the harmful qualitative shift this would produce in faculty research, particularly in an area like law.
There are numerous other advantages to tenure (and disadvantages to weakening it), which I've discussed here and here, including protecting intelletual freedom, encouraging faculty to share rather than hoard knowledge, promoting investment in specialized skills, aligning faculty and institutional incentives, increasing the rigor of teaching and improving outcomes for students (compared to use of adjuncts).
January 31, 2019
That's the conclusion of a study by three colleagues of mine, Adam Chilton (just tenured, easy case!), Jonathan Masur, and Kyle Rozema (our Behavioral L&E Fellow). I've not looked at the details of the study, but I wonder how much the results are affectedd by Harvard's historical pattern (changed in recent years) of hiring and then tenuring everyone based on good grades in law school, which results in more "dead wood" there than elsewhere. Even if Harvard has some effect on the findings, I think their basic point is correct: law schools, especially those maintaining a high scholarly profile, should be more demanding about tenure.
January 21, 2019
They asked me to share the announcement, which I'm happy to do:
We just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Spring 2019 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school.
We have created hyperlinks for each law review to take you directly to the law review’s submissions page. Again the chart includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what months they say they'll resume accepting submissions.
There has been some change in law review preferences from a year ago, with the upticks going to Scholastica and to law reviews’ own emails. Now 78 schools prefer or require Scholastica as the exclusive avenue for submissions (compared to 62 last year), 42 law journals prefer direct emails, and 41 law reviews prefer or require submission through ExpressO (compared to again 62 last year), with 33 accepting articles submitted through either ExpressO or Scholastica. Six schools now have their own online web portals (compared to thirteen last year).
The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review. The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.
Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1019029
Professors Rostron and Levit welcome feedback, as always.
January 07, 2019
...by creating a competitor hiring conference (the Blog Emperor reprints the self-serving announcement in its entirety, although at least Professor Weaver dropped some of his earlier false claims about its purpose). I'm not aware of any other academic field where there are competing hiring conferences. Their absence is easy to explain: it's costly enough--in time and money--to seek an academic job, without having to think about going to two different conferences. In other fields, the main professional organization runs a hiring conference, which simplifes things for job seekers. I will be advising all Chicago candidates to ignore Professor Weaver's vanity project, and I would urge all hiring schools, including those that are part of SEALS, to boycott this process. More importantly, I urge all the placement directors at Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Stanford, NYU, Virginia, Berkeley, Penn etc. to steer their candidates AWAY from this destructive undertaking. One hiring conference is enough.
(I asked Professor Weaver how many candidates actually participated in the SEALS workshop for prospective law teachers. The answer: 18.)
ADDENDUM: Professor Weaver is correct that AALS rips off both schools and candidates for participation in its process, so perhaps the AALS will seize this opportunity to reduce costs. And if the AALS does, then Professor Weaver will have accomplished something worthwhile.
ANOTHER: Brad Areheart (Tennessee), whom I had the privilege of working with when I taught at the University of Texas, writes: "As you may or may not know for the last several years I have run the Prospective Law Teachers Workshop at SEALS. It’s a pretty streamlined enterprise (mock job talks, mock interviews, and CV review sessions + a panel and networking with others on the market) but I think it’s a nice enough service for future law profs. We get dozens of applications each year and limit our workshop to just 12 people. We also usually have approximately 100 faculty who volunteer their time at SEALS to make this workshop run. I am writing you just to clarify that my workshop will continue to operate the same way that it has each year to this point. I have no involvement with the new hiring initiative." I'm sure Professor Areheart does an excellent job with this, and I commend him for his efforts in helping law teaching candidates.
December 16, 2018
The consulting firm McKinsey is a leading employer of graduates of elite law schools, business schools, medical schools, and other professional programs. The New York Times recently ran a piece attempting to link McKinsey to regimes that abuse human rights. McKinsey's response appears below.
Readers of this blog are probably familiar with how uneven in quality New York Times coverage can be in the higher education context. I would encourage readers not to jump to conclusions about McKinsey based on N.Y. Times coverage.
Note: I worked as consultant at McKinsey in New York approximately 10 years ago. I have published in the N.Y. Times within the last 3 years.
August 13, 2018
I have only one comment on this terrible idea: don't do it! It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it). More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.
ADDENDUM: Let me comment on one particularly ludicrous reason given for the idea that what the world needs is another hiring convention for aspiring law teachers:
Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time.
To start, this just isn't true. In a given year, maybe one candidate in the entire market has an offer before the "meat market," if that. More to the point, how in the world would having an earlier hiring convention help with this non-problem? Obviously those looking to "beat the market" would simply accelerate their own process.
ANOTHER: In this article, Prof. Weaver of SEALS admits they are trying to do something "positive" for their "member schools." At least it is now clear this has nothing to do with the job seekers, although how it will be positive for the SEALS schools is mysterious, since those schools will have to send hiring committees to two difference conferences. This really is shameful, and I hope schools hold fast on boycotting this if, in fact, SEALS pursues this foolish and pointless exercise.
August 02, 2018
NALP data: When there are fewer law school graduates, there are fewer law school graduates with jobs (Michael Simkovic)
NALP entry level starting salaries and employment don't predict much of anything about what will happen three to four years from now when those currently contemplating going to law school will, if they choose to attend, graduate into a quite possibly very different economy. Nor is NALP data directionally very different from overall economic data like the employment population ratio which is released sooner.1 And while those graduating into a stronger economy do earn more (at least for the first few years), these cohort effects fade over time, those who graduate in a recession still benefit from their educations, and attempting to time law school is a money-losing proposition because of the opportunity costs of delay.
Nevertheless, every year NALP data on last year's graduating class is released with great fanfare, including a press release. In news that will surprise no one who has tracked the rise in the overall employment population ratio, it turns out that the class of 2017 had better employment outcomes than other classes since the recession. Or as NALP sexes it up for journalists, "Class of 2017 Notched Best Employment Outcomes Since Recession." (88.6% employed 9 months after graduation for the class for 2017, compared with 87.5% for the Class of 2016).
But, NALP unhelpfully informs us, there's a catch--the total number of law jobs for law graduates was lower even though the employment rate was higher.
This should not surprise anyone who is aware that the number of law school matriculants last peaked in 2010, and graduating class sizes have therefore been falling since 2013. From 1994 through 2015, the correlation between annual % change in graduating class size and annual % change in number of law graduates with jobs has been 0.78 (i.e., class size explains 61 percent of the variation in number of law jobs for recent graduates. (data here) The correlation is even higher since 1999 when reporting started covering a higher percent of the class--0.91 correlation, meaning that class size explains 82% of the variation in the number of law graduates with jobs.
There aren't fewer jobs available for lawyers. To the contrary, there are more lawyers working now than there were pre-recession according to both Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Data (BLS OES, ACS, and CPS). There are fewer recent law graduates working as lawyers because there are fewer recent law graduates.
The employment market for educated workers is large and the number of law graduates is small relative to this market. Law schools are too small to move the market much on the supply side by admitting more or fewer students. Just as the typical investor could sell all of his or her shares of Apple without moving the market for shares of Apple (much less the S&P 500), the typical law school can admit as many or as few students as it wants without changing the overall percent of law graduates who will find jobs. (However, there’s some evidence that at the national level, the share of recent law graduates working as lawyers varies inversely with class size).
The usefulness of NALP data is questionable (at least for many of the uses to which it is often put), but NALP could help by limiting its reporting to employment rates and starting salaries. Discussing changes in the absolute number of law graduates with jobs is simply a confusing ways of telling people that fewer people entered law school 4 years ago than 5 or 6 years ago.
NALP should also contextualize its employment ratios by comparing them to the overall U.S. employment population ratio during the same time period (i.e, March of 2018), which was 60 percent overall, and and 79 percent for those age 25-54 according to BLS and the OECD, compared to 89 percent for recent law graduates, according to NALP.
1 (Similarities are greatest when one restricts it to those who are both young and well-educated using CPS data.
UPDATE: 8/3/2018 The correlations and r-squared were originally reported based on levels rather than % change from previous year. The numbers have been updated to reflect a model based on differencing (% change from prior year), which brings the explanatory power from 1999 forward down from 96 percent to 82 percent.
July 21, 2018
I recently pointed out some factual problems with claims by Northwestern lecturer Mark A. Cohen. Cohen, writing in Forbes, claimed that faculty terminations at Vermont Law School were proof that student debt was unsustainable, not only at Vermont, but at all law schools except for a handful of elite institutions.
Here’s the problem: When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high. But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low.
When Professor David Herzig pointed out some of the relevant literature to Mr. Cohen, Cohen responded with the following angry outburst on twitter:
“That "evidence" has been panned by every credible source I know. The methodology and premises upon which the conclusions were drawn are laughable and fly in the face of real studies. I was a bet-the-company trial lawyer for many years--the "study" you cite is 3rd rate fiction.”
Low student loan defaults for law graduates are consistent with the peer reviewed literature, such as The Economic Value of a Law Degree (final version here), Timing Law School (final version here), and related work by me and Frank McIntyre about the value of legal education. Law degrees generally provide benefits that are substantially greater than their costs, even toward the low end of the distribution, across race (final version here), sex and college major, both before and after the financial crisis, and including those who graduate during a recession. More than the top 75 percent of law graduates are getting good value relative to a terminal bachelor’s degree.
Strong student loan performance is also consistent with the After the JD study (compare waves I, II, and especially III), which showed rapid income growth for graduates of even low ranked ABA-approved law schools, and eventually, six-figure median full-time incomes.
Law students’ low default rates have featured in the business strategies of many student lenders, who are eager to refinance law student debt for interest rates substantially below those offered by the federal government.
Professor Herzig asked Mr. Cohen to be more specific about his sources and objections.
Mr. Cohen has yet to specify what he believes is wrong with the methodology in the studies—which were authored with a PhD labor economist, peer reviewed and carefully vetted, use high quality government data, use mainstream methods and assumptions that are well established in labor economics, and include sensitivity analyses and robustness checks. The results have been replicated by other researchers.
Mr. Cohen also has yet to specify which “real studies” he thinks use better data and more widely accepted methods, and why. He has yet to explain how his litigation experience qualifies him as a labor economist, statistician, and literary critic. Or why, as a seasoned litigator, he thinks so many of the lawsuits against law schools have been dismissed.
July 19, 2018
The trouble at Vermont Law School isn't due to "unsustainable" debt levels for students--but it might be because of unsustainable tuition discounting and underinvestment in outreach (Michael Simkovic)
Vermont Law School recently stripped many of its tenured faculty of tenure. A recent article in Forbes by Mark Cohen, a lecturer at Northwestern, claims that Vermont's financial problems are a sign that tuition is too high and student debt is unsustainable.
The data doesn't support his contention. When student debt levels are unsustainable, student default rates are high. But at Vermont--and at most law schools--default rates are low. Vermont Law School's 3-year cohort default rates over the last 3 years available (classes of 2012-2014) are between 0.3 and 1.2 percent, while the national average cohort default default rate across educational institutions is close to 11.5 percent. Nor are Vermont graduates defaulting in large numbers on their Perkins loans. The 2016 default rate, the most recent available, was 3.5 percent for Vermont, versus an average across all educational institutions of around 11.5 percent. Perkins loans are not eligible for Income Based Repayment, so Vermont's relatively strong performance is likely not due too a disproportionately large share of its graduates enrolling in IBR. (Not all Vermont grads will practice law in Vermont, but lawyers in Vermont are actually paid reasonably well--around 120,000 on average according to the BLS).
Vermont Law School's problem is not that tuition is so high that student debt levels are unsustainable relative to students' post graduation income and other financial resources. Rather, Vermont's problem seems to be that there are too few students, and because of aggressive tuition discounting intended to attract them, the students who matriculate are paying too little to make the school financially healthy. Vermont Law School's 2016 529 shows that around 90 percent of incoming students received some scholarship, and half of students receive half tuition scholarships or better.
Vermont Law School could try to respond by offering even more scholarship, but its competitors have deeper pockets, and can outspend Vermont until it runs out of room to maneuver. Escalating a price war that Vermont will surely lose would be foolish. Degrading the quality of its education by relying on more lecturers and adjuncts risks causing a death spiral in which quality, enrollments, reputation, and revenue per student all continue to drop.
To be successful and sustainable in the long run, Vermont may need to find a way to attract students--not just from Vermont, but from across the region--other than offering a cut-rate price. Rather than compete on price, Vermont should find a better way to reach out to those students who are most likely to find Vermont's offerings appealing.