Thursday, January 31, 2013
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
At least two Texas legislators, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III of Harlingen and Rep. Armando Martinez of Weslaco, have filed bills to establish a public law school in the Rio Grande Valley. The two bills are similar to one another - the primary difference is that Lucio's bill would place the law school in the University of Texas System, while Martinez's bill would authorize the school to be created and operated by any willing and existing university system.
A law school in the fast-growing Rio Grande Valley has long been a goal for South Texas's legislative delegation. While the need for a new law school in this national market is doubtful, the Rio Grande Valley is greatly underserved. The nearest public law school to the Valley is the University of Texas at Austin some 300 miles away. The Rio Grande Valley appears by far to be the largest region in the nation, measured by population, located so far from a public law school. The two MSA's that make up the Valley have almost 1.2 million in population according to the last Census.
Texas created a public law school in the Dallas during the 2009 session - the University of North Texas Dallas (UNT-Dallas) College of Law is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2014. With law schools facing declining enrollment in this tough job market, getting yet another law school opened in Texas looks to be an uphill battle this session.
The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days during odd-numbered years, called special sessions excluded.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Another Case Alleging Law School Committed Fraud In Disclosing Employment Data of Graduates Dismissed
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
A series of cases have recently been filed alleging that law schools have mislead student applicants. Most of these cases have been dismissed, but now comes word via an article in the National Law Journal, that one has survived a motion to dismiss, here. As the article states:
The fraud lawsuit against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law lives on.
A San Diego judge declined to dismiss the case — the first in a wave of suits brought by recent law graduates who claim their alma maters misled them with overly rosy assurances about their postgraduate job prospects.
Those suits have not fared well in court; five have been dismissed since March. However, as of the ruling in San Diego, three cases against California law schools have survived motions to dismiss.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School, ____A.D.3d____(1st Dept. Dec. 20, 2012), is an important case which we reported on earlier. It is one in a series of cases challenging reporting practices of law schools across the cournty with respect to employment data. Plaintiff's theory was basically that New York Law School's published statistics were fraudlent and misleading. While the court affirmed the motion to dismiss against New York Law School, it did say some things which greatly trouble me as a member of the adjunct faculty at this school. Specifically, the court stated:
While we are troubled by the unquestionably less than candid and incomplete nature of defendant's disclosures, a party does not violate GBL 349 by simply publishing truthful information and allowing consumers to make their own assumptions about the nature of the information (see Andre Strishak & Assoc. v Hewlett Packard Co. 300 AD2d 608, 609-610 [2nd Dept 2002]; St. Patrick's Home for Aged & Infirm v Laticrete Intl., 264 AD2d 652, 655-656 [1st Dept 1999]; see also Corcino v Filstein, 32 AD3d 201, 202 [1st Dept 2006]). Accordingly, we find that defendant's disclosures were not materially deceptive or misleading (id.). . . .
We are not unsympathetic to plaintiffs' concerns. We recognize that students may be susceptible to misrepresentations by law school. As such, "[t]his Court does not necessarily agree [with Supreme Court] that [all] college graduates are particularly sophisticated in making career or business decisions" (MacDonald, 2012 WL 2994107, at *10). As a result, they sometimes make decisions to yoke themselves and their spouses and/or their children to a crushing burden because the schools have made misleading representations that give the impression that a full time job is easily obtainable when in fact it is not.
Given this reality, it is important to remember that the practice of law is a noble profession that takes pride in its high ethical standards. Indeed, in order to join and continue to enjoy the privilege of being an active member of the legal profession, every prospective and active member of the profession is called upon to demonstrate candor and honesty. This requirement is not a trivial one. For the profession to continue to ensure that its members remain candid and honest public servants, all segments of the profession must work in concert to instill the importance of those values. "In the last analysis, the law is what the lawyers are. And the law and the lawyers are what the law schools make them."[FN3] Defendant and its peers owe prospective students more than just barebones compliance with their legal obligations. Defendant and its peers are educational not-for-profit institutions [FN4]. They should be dedicated to advancing the public welfare [FN5]. In that vein, defendant and its peers have at least an ethical [*6]obligation of absolute candor to their prospective students.
I am not involved in this case and I only know what I read. I have been at New York Law School for about 8 years and everyone has gone out of their way to serve and help students. I do not believe that anyone would intentionally mislead a student. Perhaps, this is why I find the court's language troubling-deeply troubling. As adjunct professors, we do not get to go to faculty meetings and we are not kept informed about the governance of the school, and that is very unfortunate. I would hope that New York Law School puts out some communication explaining its position.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
This is a tough time to be a law school dean. Consider Vermont Law School dean Marc Mihaly, who only four months into the job, is now facing a $3.3 million budget deficit. With a 14% projected revenue decline on the horizon, Mihaly has announced a voluntary buyout for VLS staff which he says could be extended to faculty if there are not enough takers. He also announced that VLS will increase its LL.M program and certificate offerings to make up for the revenue loss. Taja-Nia Henderson at Concurring Opinions, has some interesting comments on the problems and risks associated with law school faculty buyout programs.
Meanwhile, Penn State Law dean Philip McConnaughay, facing declining enrollment at the dual-campus school, has proposed to "spin off" the Carlisle campus into a separate, autonomous entity beginning in 2015. This proposal came after state and local officials rejected his proposal to consolidatete the 1L program into the University Park campus. Interestingly, Penn State acquired the Carlisle campus in only 12 years ago.
Ten new law schools that are either ABA accredited or seeking accreditation have opened the doors in the last ten years with new schools in Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas planning to open. With enrollment declining and legal jobs paying enough to reasonably retire law school debt harder to find, it seems obvious that some industry restructuring, including possible consolidation or school closure, will occur. We can expect more stories such as the ones coming out of Vermont and Pennsylvania as this process unwinds.
Friday, September 28, 2012
There has been much written in the blogosphere about Steven M. Davidoff's essay in the New York Times earlier this week as well as to Paul Campos's response to it, and I do not have much to add other than to say that I have just read the online comments to the Davidoff piece and I found there a substantially positive review for the value that adjunct faculty brings to the overall law school educational experience. This seems worth observing here, this being the Adjunct Law Profs Blog and all.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Santa Clara Law Professor recently posted both is tenure application and his application to be promoted to full professor online. It is available here. I must admit that I have never seen this type of information before and I assume that many readers also have not seen this type of material. While I understand the need to keep personnel type information confidential, posting information like this is helpful for comparision purposes.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Sunday, September 9, 2012
The Am Law Daily posted "A Tale of Two (California) Law Schools" by Matt Leichter yesterday. Leichter compares the two law schools most recently receiving ABA provisional accreditation, University of La Verne and University of California at Irvine, and concludes:
There are two lessons the University of La Verne and UC-Irvine provide us. The first is that there is no "responsible" way to create a law school that doesn't involve creating unemployed graduates. Either the law school will take in students it knows will either not find law jobs or won't even pass a bar exam (La Verne), or it will force another law school somewhere else to do the same (UC-Irvine).
The second and more significant lesson, which is more closely associated with UC-Irvine than La Verne: We are slowly approaching the endgame for public law schools. Once state governments no longer consider training lawyers a public good, by cutting subsidies, public law schools mutate into vestigial state structures whose agendas are orthogonal to any public purpose, unless using their students' tuition for other university programs counts. They should either be privatized or closed.
I am not entirely convinced by Leichter's arguments but I find them to be interesting and worth further thought. I also learned a new word -- "orthogonal."
Saturday, September 1, 2012
A Santa Clara Law Professor recently posted both is tenure application and his application to be promoted to full professor online. It is available here. I must admit that I have never seen this type of information before and I assume that many readers also have not seen this type of material. While I understand the need to keep personnel type information confidential, posting information like this is helpful for comparision purposes.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Abolish the Law Reviews! is an interesting July 5, 2012 article from The Atlantic by Walter Olson. He makes the familar arguments that law schools take too much time to publish and serve only the needs of the faculty. Olson favors online scholarship, such as blog posts instead.
While Olson and others have somewhat of a point, I would not go so far as to abolish the law reviews. They serve a purpose at law school. It is called training law students how to write. More fundamentally, what is wrong with law reviews today is that they focus on legal theory. Law School should teach law students how to practice law.
Unfortunately, look at any law school today. You will see that there are very few professors hired in the last 10 years or so that has any material amount of practice experience. Law schools are too busy chasing the prestige of an Ivy league Phd (in addition the the required JD). Because so few professors have practical experience, they often write about things that no body cares about.
The solution is to ONLY hire professors with significant experience and ONLY hire professors who can teach. Publications should be related to practice. Law schools can save money and time by only publishing articles online. Many law schools do that now, but not for their main stream law review.
Wake up law schools, we are in the 21st Century! ABA are you listening. You need to wake up and change the ABA Standards NOW.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Sunday, August 12, 2012
An August 8, 2012 article from the National Law Journal, here, indicates that the ABA and other bar associations are studying legal education.
Reform is badly needed. Law schools are run by professors who, for the most part, are not competent to practice law. Yes, they are bright and have those ivory degrees. But, how many of them ever represented a client, performed a deposition or answered a complaint?? Sadly, law schools today are not concerned with hiring professors with experience. They are more insterested in having their faculty produce law review articles that no one reads.
Think I am joking. Pick a law school and pick a professor hired within the last 10 days. Do a lexis or westlaw search and take a look at how many cases they made an appearance in. Amicus briefs do not count. Amicus briefs for professors are better than nothing, but just barely. I will give you one better. Take a look at the faculty in your school. How many of the professors are not even admitted to the bar in the state where the law school is located? States like NJ, where law professors (but not college professors) can waive in do not count.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Finally, the ABA is attempting to do something. They just imposed a censure on U of Illinois Law School for intentionally misreporting LSAT admissions data. A copy of the full report is available here. In addition to a public censure, the sanctions include a requirement that the law school issue a public corrective statement; a requirement that the law school hire a compliance monitor to report to the section’s accreditation committee on its admissions process and data for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years; a monetary penalty of $250,000; and termination of a section agreement that allowed the law school to conduct an early-admissions program. ABA New Journal Blog has additional information and a press release issued by the ABA is available here.
I used the word finally because finally there is a recognition that numbers matter. The numbers matter because students rely on them. Whether we like US News and World Reports ranking or not, they are here to say and they use this data.
Having said that, I am sorry to say that I do not think the ABA went far enough. This is a real serious violation. The ABA found that the Law School acted with intent. How many students relied to their determinent on this? What difference would this have made to financial aid awards to students.
A much more reasonable penalty would include, in addition the above, placing the school on probation and making them reapply for full accredition in 3 years and in addition, to require that the school refund a substanial portion of the tutition to the students. Figuring out the amount would be difficult and somewhat arbitrary. I would start by figuring out how many students probably would have made a different choice of law schools. Take that number times it by the annual tuition for each of the 3 years and divide it amongest all the students. Now, that would have said a message.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Monday, July 23, 2012
MacDonald, Jr. v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, ____F.Supp.2d____(W.D. Mich. July 20, 2012), is the second case where a court has dimissed a fraud type of suit brought by former law students against a law school. The other case is Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School, No. 65226/11 (NY Sup. Ct. Mar. 21, 2012), which we previously reported on.
The claim was that the 2010 Employment Report and Salary Survey was fraudlent. In granting a motion to dismiss, the court explained:
This Court agrees with Judge Schwietzer, a judge for the New York Supreme Court in a nearly identical case, for some of the reasons he discusses as to why reliance upon the two statistics would be unreasonable. See Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law Sch., Index No.652226/11, Seq. No. 002, Decision and Order (N.Y.S.Ct. Mar. 21, 2012) (Def.’s Supplemental Br. Ex. 1). This Court does not necessarily agree that college graduates The State of New York’s trial court. Case 1:11-cv-00831-GJQ Doc #54 Filed 07/20/12 are particularly sophisticated in making career or business decisions. Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable for Plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country. In addition, “[i]t is widely accepted that American law schools,
Cooley included, employ all sorts of legerdemain to boost employment rates in a contracting legal market” (Pls.’ Resp. at 5); once again, Plaintiffs state that they had other reasons to not rely upon the Employment Reports. Furthermore, whether before or during Plaintiffs’ attendance at Cooley,it would have been unreasonable to continue to rely on the Employment Reports because of theeconomy’s massive downfall, which hit the legal business as hard as any.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog
Thursday, July 12, 2012
From the Yale Law School website:
To its array of innovative legal programs, Yale Law School has added yet another – a Ph.D. in Law. The first such degree program in the country, Yale’s Ph.D. in Law is designed to prepare students who have earned a J.D. degree from an American law school to enter careers in legal scholarship. It will give students a broad foundation in the canon of legal scholarship and provide them the support and specialized training they need to produce their own scholarship. The Ph.D. will stand alongside Yale Law School’s other very successful law teaching degrees – the J.S.D. adn LL.M – which are designed primarily for students who received their initial legal education outside the U.S. The Ph.D. program is made possible, in part, through a grant from The Mellon Foundation, as well as a gift from Meridee Moore ’83, founder of Watershed Asset Management, L.L.C.
Friday, June 8, 2012
The headline in a June 8, 2012 article published by Inside Higher Education says it all. "Brutal" Job Market For New Law Grads. It reports on a National Association of Law Placement or NALPA study which shows that 85.6% of law school graduates are employed 9 months after graduation. But get this, only 64.4% are employed in jobs for which bar passage is required. The NALAP press release is here. A copy of NALPA's selected findings, which provides much more detail is available here. The full report will not be released until August 2012. Note, the ABA maintains a statistical data on placement stats at each law school, but the 2011 data is not yet included.
This is disgraceful. This is coming at a time when the median law school tuition is $39,496 at private schools, $35,765 for non-residents at public schools and $19,788 for resident students at public schools, here.
These students are being taught by full-time faculty who are, for the most part, incompetent to practice law. The situation is particularly accute with recent law school full time faculty hiring. Most full-time faculty members never practiced law for any substanial period of time. They may have a post-JD degree and an appellate clerkship, but very few have practiced law or represented a client for more than 5 years. This is because law schools are concerned with academic credentials as opposed to practical experience.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Gomez-Jimenez et al v. New York Law School, ___Misc. 3d____, 2012 NY Slip Op (N.Y. Co. March 21, 2012), is a case that every, and I mean every, law school adminstrator must read. In fact, prospective law students, as well as law professors in general, should review this decision as well.
The case was brought by nine former law students. Interestingly, they did not challenge the quality of the education they received. Instead, they alleged that New York Law School engage in unfair and fraudlent practices, fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation.
In a scholarly opinion, full of cites to articles and an exhaustive review of case law, the court in a thirty-page decision dismisses each claim one by one and grants New York Law School's motion to dismiss.
Plaintiffs' theory was that New York Law School published misleading employment statistics which plaintiffs' relied upon. In rejecting this claim, the court viewed the plaintiffs as educated consumers and pointed to the poor job market for lawyers as reflected in their papers.
Apparently, plaintiffs believe that New York Law School statistics were misleading because it included all employment whether or not someone was working in a legally related job and whether the person was working full-time, temporary or part-time. Their claim is a bit hard to determine from a bare reading of the decision. In any event, the court concluded that New York Law School did not make any misrepresentation because they did not state in their published statistics that these statistics only represented full-time employment.
Frankly, I believe that is quiet a stretch. It is entirely reasonable for a law student to assume that statistics published on a school web site refer to full-time employment. Most law students do not go to law school in order to seek part-time employment when they graduate.
The court also gives significant weight to U.S. News Law School rankings and assumes that they are accurate. The court explains that because New York Law School does not rank high, plaintiffs could have evaluated this when deciding whether or not to chose New York Law School. The court states:
"One would think that reasonable consumers, armed with publicly available information from U.S. News that plaintiffs cite, thus would avail themselves of plaintiffs' own logic as stated in their complaint when it comes to evaluating their chances of obtaining the full-time legal job of their choice within nine months post-graduation."
What!! Even assuming that U.S. News is the bible, and it surely isn't even close, the U.S. News rankings is based upon several criteria. The U.S. News is not a placement bulletin. Also, the court is assuming that higher ranked schools have better placement rates. That may be true, but courts should not be in the business of making assumptions.
The court also errs, in my view, by stating that "before 2008 there was a seeming abundance of opportunities for lawyers at all points of entry into the profession, regardless of the law school one attended. . . " The court does not cite any authority for this proposition. I have been a lawyer for quite some time and the market has been quite difficult for lawyers as well as law students for quite some time-both before and after 2008.
The court's most significant error is that because of the changing nature of legal practice "[m]andatory retirement ages are coming down." Excuse me, but mandatory retirement has been per se unlawful under the ADEA for years.
To be fair, the also court makes some vaild points about the Great Recession of 2008 which is when most plaintiffs were in school. The decision is also well written. Plaintiffs also had a high bar to cross given the elements of each cause of action they had to prove.
I do not express any opinion about whether or not any of these mistakes are material enough to warrant an appeal. I have been an adjunct faculty member at New York Law School for about 7 years and I do not know any of the players involved in this case-at least I don't think so. I can honestly say that everyone I ever met at New York Law School, including faculty and students, always appeared sincere and honest. I do not believe for one minute that New York Law School would intentionally or negligent mislead any student.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School Press Release, here
New York Law Journal Article, here (registration required)
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Adjunct Professor Tim Edwards, University of Wisc. Law School sent in an excellent commentary on student evaluations which is applicable to full-time faculty. I could not agree more with the below statements. It is a bit long, but stay with it as it is well worth it:
Axley Brynelson, LLP
I write to share my thoughts about the use of student evaluations to evaluate instructor performance at my Law School. I have taught here, as an adjunct, for over ten years. During that time, I have taught Legal Writing, Advanced Legal Writing, Civil Procedure I, Civil Procedure II, Pre-Trial Advocacy and Professional Responsibility. The purpose of this document is to inspire discussion, not to offend.
As an adjunct, I am removed from the day to day discussions within the Law School, including those pertaining to student evaluations. When I started, I was not provided with any training. I received no feedback regarding my teaching from any of the Faculty Members at the Law School. I often invited members of the faculty to sit in and evaluate my teaching, but it never happened. From what I understand, this is common in most law schools that rely on adjuncts, both to teach and to keep institutional budgets in check. I am not suggesting that this approach is wrong, only that it has consequences.
Absent such an evaluative process, the only feedback that I have received comes from student evaluations. Most of the time my evaluations are quite good. More recently (and for reasons that I will explain), my evaluations have suffered, due in some measure to my own actions. Unfortunately, it appears that these evaluations are the only tool that the Law School relies on in measuring the performance of its adjunct lecturers. To the extent another metric is being used, I have not been told about it, nor have I seen it in my classroom.
My thesis, which is not wildly unique, is very simple: Absent some corroborating tool to evaluate instructor performance, student evaluations are an inherently unreliable and misleading source of information for purposes of measuring the effectiveness of an instructor. While student evaluations can provide objective information (i.e., whether the instructor is on time, intoxicated, treats the students appropriately or appears to be organized), law students are not equipped to objectively evaluate the value of their own learning experience, or the skills of the instructor, when they complete their evaluations. Their evaluations should not be used for this purpose.
From what I understand, one central objective for the Law School is for its instructors to teach the students how to analyze legal problems and prepare them to practice law. I believe that this requires, among other things, instruction regarding analytical and practical skills that the students will actually use when they become lawyers. This emphasis has been confirmed by recent studies, and consistent commentary, which criticizes the significant gap between theory and practice that pervades our law schools. I have observed this gap, and its impact on young lawyers, who are often unprepared for the practice of law when they graduate. Many students who graduate from the UW Law School do not even know how to cite a case or prepare a basic pleading (as I teach pre-trial advocacy, the blame for some of this should rest squarely on my shoulders). We have seen this over and over at our Firm, to the point that some of my partners are reluctant to hire from law schools that do not have a comprehensive legal writing program.
As an adjunct who litigates, full time, in his “real life,” one of my primary goals is to impart some practical knowledge/skills to my students. Students need to understand that the law, as written, is often applied much differently. Students need to understand (and acclimate to the fact) that the practice of law is demanding and, in many ways, unforgiving. Problems do not have easy answers, and they don’t always have “right” answers. Deadlines become critically important, as is timing. Confusion is common, as clients, judges, senior partners and opposing counsel often make it difficult to solve problems involving competing interests and effectively represent a client. This is a very difficult job with tough challenges that cannot always be resolved by reading a book or looking up a statute. The students need to know what they are signing up for, and to the extent possible, they should be prepared to follow through. Of course, this should be done at the appropriate time in their education.
Some basic thoughts:
- A law school student (especially in her first year) typically has a very narrow set of objectives. Generally speaking, she wants to get a good grade. She wants to know what will be on the test, or what I am looking for in a given writing assignment. She wants to figure out the easiest possible way to get a good grade by doing well on that task, and she wants immediate, detailed feedback on any work she does because she is scared. As a general matter, these students believe that grades are everything, and they are rarely interested in whether they are learning how to be a good lawyer unless it helps them get a better grade. In the meantime, they resist confusion, perceived inconsistency or anything else that detracts them from the most efficient path to a good grade. While this description is somewhat magnified it is, for the most part, accurate. The pressure to perform well and secure a good grade defines their objectives in many critical ways.
- As a law school instructor, my objectives are much different. While I want everyone to succeed, I am less concerned about whether the students are confused or struggling to address a problem. I tell them how litigation works. We apply the rules to different situations and I often ask them questions that do not have an easy answer—questions that require the application of judgment, not just knowledge. I require the students to meet deadlines, and I require them to rewrite assignments that are done poorly. I don’t accept a lot of excuses and I expect a lot from them. At the risk of being truly unpopular, I now ban laptops unless used for note-taking purposes. In addition, I no longer buy them pizza.
- I also focus on problem solving. Setting aside the first few weeks, I do not “spoonfeed” information from the book or hold the students’ hands through every single issue in the reading material. As a result of this, the students become frustrated, but their learning experience is much different. It seems likely that my evaluations dropped because I am doing a better job of teaching and the students are, in fact, learning more. In any case, the evaluations tell me nothing about whether I actually did my job.
- In years past, I have often received very favorable evaluations. In every single one of those situations, I tried to align my teaching style with the students perceived expectations and needs. I “taught to the test” (or in legal writing, spoonfed what I expected on the writing assignment) and did everything I could to placate their needs and expectations (a “consumer” model, if you will). In retrospect, I view this approach as ineffective, and I view the evaluations as somewhat useless because they appear to reflect the student’s comfort level more than anything else.
- Last spring, I taught evidence. Unfortunately, my work commitments distracted me from the class, and I was frequently absent. The evaluations were low, and deservedly so. The students complained about the absences and the resultant disorganization. This is a perfect example of how student evaluations can be used, in limited instances, to identify objectively verifiable problems with instructor performance. I deserved the criticism.
This should not be a popularity contest. Moreover, the Law School should not rely on student evaluations to determine whether the students are learning basic analytical and practical skills. While students may have general, verifiable information to share, they are not presently qualified to assess our teaching skills, or for that matter, whether they actually learned anything in our classrooms. I am not basing this conclusion on a fancy empirical assessment of student evaluations but, rather, common sense, years of teaching experience, and many years of reviewing inconsistent and misguided student evaluations that have done little to assist me as I search for new and more effective ways to teach.
In addition to the fact that student evaluations cannot provide meaningful information regarding teaching skills or learning, they are also inherently unreliable. Consider this by applying the Federal Rules of Evidence, which are designed, as a core value, to exclude unreliable information to prove a given assertion. Setting aside the fact that evaluations may not be probative of teaching skills or learning, many are insulting, false and otherwise prejudicial. More importantly, student evaluations constitute inadmissible hearsay whose unreliability is compounded by the fact that the out-of-court declarant is completely anonymous. Finally, no court would ever consider such random aspersions from an unknown declarant as competent character evidence. Understanding that this comparison is limited because the Law School is not a courtroom, the application of these rules does reinforce a basic point regarding the inherent unreliability of student evaluations. They would never see the light of day in a courtroom.
I am not pretending that I have all of the answers, and only write this short paper to make a simple point: it is not fair or wise to judge adjuncts solely through student evaluations. The Law School should put other measures in place (peer mentoring, etc.) and provide continued training to all of its adjuncts. The Law School should not tolerate an environment where students can surf the internet in class (without reading the assigned material) and then anonymously criticize his instructor for not being “engaging” or “organized.” To bridge the gap between theory and practice, students should be appropriately confronted with the realities of the practice of law, not placated when they are properly challenged. While this may lead to lower evaluations, it will certainly lead to better lawyers.
* * * * *
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Suit by Conservative Sees Bias in Law School Hiring is an important Jan. 9, 2012 article from the New York Times. It about an 8th Circuit ruling in favor of a law professor who was not hired because her political views. No doubt this was a 1983 action under the First Amendment which would not apply to private universities.
Perhaps this decision will be a wake up call to law schools that they are employers just like everyone else. There ivy league tower's windows can be broken; particularly when law schools practice discrimination. I expect a wave of similar suits, most probably for age discrimination where law schools shun practical experience for no rational reason.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein