Monday, July 6, 2015
In case you missed it (I did), New York recently announced that it will utilize a uniform bar examination that is in use in 15 states. A New York Times article about this change is available here.
I am not so sure that this is a good idea. One of the flaws in legal education today is that often times courses are just generalist type classes. Students may be reading cases from California in one lesson and reading New York cases in another. As a result, students graduate without having any grasp of the law in any particular state. Now, I recognize that there are exceptions-particularly with federal law, but even then the focus is rarely on the law of the circuit.
This is just rehashing the old debate of national vs. regional law schools. Most students want to go to "national law schools." I also understand that many students may not practice in the state where their law school is located. But, I never believed that this makes much sense.
There is no perfect solution. My view is that law schools should concentrate on the state law where most of their graduates practice. Therefore, it appears to follow that a bar examination based upon state law, at least in part, makes sense.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
There is a very interesting op ed article in the March 9, 2015 Washington Post written by a law professor that those interested in legal education should read. Law schools are in a death spiral. Maybe now they’ll finally change.
In this article, Professor Brown discusses how law schools are declining, how they put too much emphasis on U.S. News and World Reports rankings and the terrible job market new lawyers face. Professor Brown also questions the value of faculty scholarship and student edited law reviews. As Professor Brown states:
Legal scholarship is in a terrible state, with counter-intuitive incentives for faculty. Status comes with publishing, but more publishing means less teaching and interacting with fewer students. In the legal academy, second- and third-year law students select which law professors’ articles to publish; while my second and third years are brilliant, they cannot select for quality the same way experts would. But even if you think the student-run system is fine, the value of legal scholarship, which is rarely read, has its skeptics, among them Chief Justice John Roberts. Scholars at the University of Florida argue in a recent study that very few articles are cited for their ideas. This broken system is also subsidized disproportionately by the tuition dollars of poorer law students.
Questioning the value of legal scholarship is heresy inside the legal academy – which is why I am grateful that I have tenure. Law schools are run by the faculty for the faculty. A former colleague once put it like this: “If we could run this law school without students, this place would be perfect.” He happened to be the dean. Such a system is unlikely to be changed from within.
But while faculty cannot be terminated, their summer research stipends can be. Other disciplines require faculty to obtain external funding to support their work. Law schools should take a similar approach. For all who argue that legal scholarship has merit, let the market decide. This won’t solve all of a law school’s financial woes, but it could be a place to start right now. My 20 years as a legal academic causes me to predict that no serious change will occur until a cataclysmic event occurs. My prediction: In three years, a top law school will close. Then watch how quickly things change.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Karen Sloan, National Law Journal, reports that Cleveland-Marshall will, "allow students who complete one year of studies but don't want to continue their l.egal educations to receive a master of legal studies degree." HT: Above the Law.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Human Rights Watch ("HRW") today announced it would be opening a clinic at South Texas College of Law in Houston this April. HRW provides pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers. This office will be the organizations first beyond the East Coast. From the HRW press release:
Human Rights First’s award-winning pro bono asylum program is built on a unique partnership with lawyers at private firms. Human Rights First’s expert legal team recruits, trains, and mentors lawyers who volunteer their time to help refugees navigate the complex bureaucratic process of seeking asylum protection through the U.S. immigration system. Every year, Human Rights First helps more than 700 refugees with free legal help donated by private law firms. Last year, this program leveraged nearly $30 million in services to aid indigent refugees in need of protection. The organization wins more than 90% of its cases.
The full press release is here.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The number of October LSAT takers has declined for the fourth straight year. The numbers:
The number of October 2013 LSATs administered was 33,673, down 10.9% from October 2012 and down about 45% from the October 2009 LSATs administered.
The cumulative total of LSATs administered is 57,670, compared with 63,003 at this point last year, 71,981 in 2011, 87,318 in 2010, and 93,341 in 2009.
Brian Leiter at Brian Leiter's Law School Reports has some analysis as does Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog. Professor Leiter specifically suggests law school will rely more on adjuncts and visiting professors as applications decline as a austerity measure.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
From Scott Waldman, Albany Times-Union last week:
Colleges and universities spend a lot of resources ensuring enrollment does one of two things: stabilize or increase.
Albany Law School is headed in the wrong direction. The school's enrollment has dropped 14 percent in just two years.
The school now enrolls 617 students, down from 720 in the 2010-2011 academic year. That loss has caught the attention of the Standard & Poor's bond rating agency, which downgraded the school's outlook from positive to stable. Standard & Poor's said the situation at Albany Law reflected a national trend of law schools losing students and tuition income... Full Story Here.
The article concludes by suggesting a "day of reckoning" may be at hand for an industry that has been focused on "relentless expansion." Well, that day of reckoning may already be visiting the Louisiana College's proposed Judge Paul Pressler School of Law that was announced in 2007 but has yet to admit a student. Alexandria's Thetowntalk.com, a Gannett Co., reports today that the school has put the building it purchased to house the law school up for sale:
The Shreveport building Louisiana College purchased to be its law school in 2011 is now for sale.The former Joe D. Waggonner Federal Building, which was intended to house LC’s Judge Paul Pressler School of Law, is listed with Sealy Real Estate Services LLC in Shreveport.
The story does not address the proposed law school's future plans. If opened, the law school would be the fifth in Louisiana, joining Tulane and Loyola in New Orleans and also LSU and Southern in Baton Rouge. There is no law school in Lousiana's northern half.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Last November, the Law School announced the buy-out program, which at least to date has not been extended to faculty. At Above The Law, however, Stacey Zaretsky, in a short blurb, suggests Vermont's cost-cutting days may not entirely be over, and the faculty may not fare so well in the next round of cuts (the link is behind a paywall).
Vermont Law School, a private, unaffiliated law school, is the only law school in the State of Vermont.
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.
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)
Thursday, August 18, 2011
What if law schools opened their own law firms? is an interesting August 17, 2011 National Law Journal article. It reports on a law review article where two professors speculate about law firms operated by law schools. The article also argues that traditional law school should be two in class years with the third year spend operating as a student attorney for this law school law firm.
What I find most significant is that the professors recognize that this law school law firm would have to be staffed by attorneys-not by the professors. The major problem with law school professors today is that many, if not most of them, are simply incapable of practicing law and many never had. But, this is what we have, for the most part, training the lawyers of the future.
Now, I suppose that the law schools will respond by stating that is what us adjuncts are for. Really; law schools should rely on the lowest paid members of the staff who have no say about admissions or curriculum or running the school. But, that is exactly what most law schools today do.
What a system. I hope it changes, but I do not see any evidence of that in that virtually every law school is looking for the newly minted ivy P.hd. who also has a ivy law degree and may have done a federal clerkship for a year or two.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Prof Ben Madison's (Regent University School of Law) rearch assistant, Melissa Yatsko writes to inform us of a new type of Civil Procedure textbook. Civil Procedure For All States. The book has a Facebook page and a blog which I cannot access because you need an invitation.
Professor Madison is interested in reaching out to all prof who teach Civil Procedure type classes and I applaud him for including adjuncts. If you would like to be involved you can send him an email at email@example.com.
This professor also runs a listserv designed for he book which is described as follows:
If you are a Pretrial Practice or State Civil Procedure professor and interested in becoming a member of the Pretrial Practice/State Civ Pro Listserv, where all can benefit from open discussions on teaching and share ideas, please email STATECIVPRO@LISTS.REGENT.EDU
I also applaud him for reaching out to others and forming a listserv.
I have not seen the book so I cannot comment on it. Frankly, I am not sure if I support this type of text for civil procedure. One of my problems with legal education today (and of yesterday) is that the materials utilized in textbooks are often useless. What good is a casebook if it utilizes a case in Nebraska on one page and another from California on another-particularly in subjects such as employment law that vary widely from state to state?
Where the issue of law is largely a product of federal law, a text book on federal law is useful. Civil Procedure is one of those classes where an entire text can be devoted to FRCP. But to expand that concept to state law and to lump all the states together no less- is something that does not seem educationally sound. Now, I recognize that Civil Procedure is one of those classes where the law is similar in each of the states so if a textbook like this is to be written, then Civ Pro may be one of those classes where it can work.
My idea of textbooks would be to make the practical to the practice of law. Students should be learning to practice law. So, a Civil Procedure textbook that concentrates on a particular state or FRCP seems more appropriate. Outside classes involving the FRCP, I recognize that most law schools do not follow this concept because they like to think of themselves as "national law schools" and because they do not really no where there students will practice.
I do not buy this for a minute. I believe that most law school texts are written the way they are because the professors themselves are not competent to practice law. Many of them, perhaps almost all of the newer ones who just got that minted P.hd degree never practiced law or practiced only for a few years as an associate doing library research. I had occassion to review some CV's of professor candidates at a major law school. I was shocked to see they put their summer associate experience on their CV. To me that just demonstrates how thin their legal experience is.
Prof. Madison's research assistant stated that he embrasses the 2007 Carnegie report and Best Practices for Educating Lawyers and therefore, he must be concerned with writing something useful and practical. He very well may be on to something and if you teach in this area his work is certainly worth a look.
I do not teach Civ Pro and I do not claim to be an expert in this, but if others have any ideas feel free to comment.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Friday, August 6, 2010
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported on July 30th about a study which indicated that grades were more important than the particular law school chosen by the student. As the article states:
Go to the best law school you get into.
It’s advice that’s been passed down through the ages, from generation to generation. Law is a profession that trades, the thinking goes, on prestige. Clients like prestigious names like Wachtell and Cravath; the wealthiest firms like names like Harvard, Yale and Chicago. Get into one of those schools, and up go your chances of going to a big firm, kicking tail, making partner and grabbing that brass ring.
Or so the conventional wisdom has for decades dictated.
But is it true? In a new paper, UCLA law professor Richard Sander and Brooklyn law professorJane Yakowitz argue no. “Eliteness” of the school you attended matters much less, they found, than your GPA.
I for one still believe that a student should go to the best law school they could get into. Then get the best grades that you can. I do not know how you can separate grades from school. I think it would not be reasonable for a student to chose a lower ranked school because he or she "thinks" that he or she may get better grades at a lower ranked school.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: Neil J. Dudich, Esq.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I am delighted to be a member of the Board of Advisors at St. John's Law School's Center for Labor and Employment Law. The Center has several important events planned. On June 2, 2010, the Honorable Wilma Liebman, Chairman of the NLRB, will speak at the Center’s official opening.On June 3-4, the Center will co-sponsor, with the Cornell University ILR School, NYU Law’s 63rd Annual Conference on Labor. Other events planned include:
September 16, 2010, - Professor Jack Getman, the Earle E. Sheffield Regents Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, will discuss his new book: Restoring the Power of Unions: It Takes A Movement
• September 22, 2010 – The Center will host the Law School’s 14th Annual Management Lawyers’ Colloquium
• March 18-19, 2011 - The Center, in cooperation with the St. John’s Center for Law and Religion, will host The Theology of Work and the Dignity of Workers symposium conference (8 CLE credits available)*
• July 20-23, 2011 - In cooperation with the Law School’s Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution and Center for International and Comparative Law, the Center will convene the symposium conference Labor and Employment Dispute Resolution: International and Comparative Perspectives (20 CLE credits available)
One of the core purposes of the Center is to support our students through scholarships and internship opportunities. One such scholarship is The Boyd Scholarship (2010). It is funded through the generosity of Patrick Boyd ’00, senior partner of the Boyd Law Group. This scholarship supports the summer employment of a law student committed to employee rights. The first winner is:
Shazana Zumpfe-Cochran ’12
Inaugural Boyd Scholar for Labor and Employment Law
BBA, Baruch 2005
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The ABA Journal News Now recently reported on a sex discrimination suit that is headed for trial by a law professor against George Mason Law School. What makes the case somewhat unusual is that the plaintiff is the of one of the most prominent law professors in the country. This will be an interesting case to keep an eye on.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Yesterday, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved approved the University of Massachusetts' plan to create the state’s first public law school, according to this report in today's Boston Herald.
According to the report, the Southern New England School of Law will donate its campus to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. The newly approved UM-Dartmouth will open the law school for the 2010-11 academic year.
Prior to this decision, Massachusetts had nine law schools, all private. With UM-Dartmouth's opening, the state will become the 45th to offer access to public legal education. The remaining five states without a public law school are Alaska (which has no law school, public or private), Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I am delighted to be part of The Center For Labor And Employment Law at St. John's University School of Law. Download Current bulletin of the center-1
Under the leadership of Professor David L. Gregory and Dean Michael A. Simons, the Center is designed to creatively and dynamically prepare law students as superb labor and employment lawyers. The Center, which was founded almost forty years ago as the labor and employment society, will continue to bring distinguished speakers and leaders to campus and expose students to cutting edge legal issues. Major events planned for 2010-2011 include the following:
1. NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman will be the keynote speaker at a conference on the 75th Anniv. of the NLRA. That conference will be held on June 2, 2010 at St. John's Manhattan Campus, 101 Murray Street between 6 and 10 pm.
2. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been invited to be the keynote speaker at a symposium conference on March 19, 2011 at the main campus of the law school.
3. The Center together with Cambridge University, England will sponsor a conference in England on July 17-23, 2011 entitled "Labor and Employment Dispute Resolution: International and Comparative Perspectives"
For additional information contact Professor David Gregory at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Going To Law School Proceed With Caution is an interesting December 14, 2009 National Law Journal article. The article questions whether law school is worth it? Why? Because of the time commitment, the expense, the difficulty in finding a job, any job-not just a high paying job. The article also quotes a study involving law students where 21% of them regret going to law school.
I could not disagree more. Law is a wonderful profession. One does not only have to practice in a law firm to be a lawyer. A law degree can be very valuable in business, for example. Dare I say it is more valuable than an MBA-except perhaps if you are going to read balance sheets all day.
Yes, it will be difficult to find a job. But guess what, those $170,000 big firm Wall Street firm jobs are nothing to write home about. Most attorneys (partners too) who work in those firms will tell you that they do not like it. The trick in law, like the trick in any profession, is doing something you enjoy.
If you are into unions and labor relations (like me), then strive for a job in labor relations. If your into business, then get a job in business. If you cannot get a job now, then start taking steps that will get you that job. Become active in a bar association, go to meetings, volunteer, write an article etc.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein