Wednesday, July 23, 2014
When I teach a tax class, I always tell my students that tax burdens follow tax benefits, and vice versa. For example, the person who enjoys economic benefit typically bears the tax burden for that benefit, and the person who bears the burden of an expense is the person who should have the benefit of an allowable tax deduction. Taxpayers get into problems when they try to enjoy benefits and avoid burdens.
It is therefore completely appropriate that Tax Prof posted a link http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/nlj-california.html earlier this year to Karen Sloan's NLJ article discussing a proposal by California law schools to change the US News Rankings methodology: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/home/id=120264694929/California%20Grumbling%20at%20US%20News?mcode=1202615432217&curindex=1&slreturn=20140623111507.
I have symapathy for the challenges the California law schools are facing, but their proposal seeks to allow them to keep the benefits they have enjoyed, while avoiding any burdens that accompany those benefits.
California's Legislative Analyst's Office reports that California is the ninth biggest economy in the world: http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2013/calfac/calfacts_010213.aspx#Californias_Economy
Not bad for a state that has been suffering an economic downturn. I would surmise that an analysis of rankings over the past twenty years would show that California schools have historically benefited in the rankings, simply because they are California schools. Now some of those schools seek to discount the burden of California's job market, because it appears to be a drag on those rankings.
If we separate benefits from burdens, how will that affect other law schools in other regions? Some regions of the country have LSAT/gpa medians that are lower than other regions. http://www.lsac.org/docs/default-source/research-%28lsac-resources%29/tr-12-03.pdf
The LSAC data shows that the performance of test takers from the various regions remained fairly constant across 7 testing years. Test takers in the New England region scored the highest for all testing years covered in the report. Test takers in the Southeast and South Central regions scored the lowest on average. Should US News adjust its rankings methodology to take into account those differences, as well?
Maybe we should all stop worrying about rankings, and focus on helping our students reduce their debt, and find jobs.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Declining applications have certainly made serving on a law school admissions committee a more challenging proposition, but there was another issue hanging over admission committees until Tuesday's 5th Circuit decision in Fisher http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/09/09-50822-CV2.pdf.
Most law schools agree that having a diverse student body enhances the learning environment for all students. Furthermore, ABA Standard 212(a) of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools requires that:
(a) Consistent with sound legal education policy and the Standards, a law school shall demonstrate by concrete action a commitment to providing full opportunities for the study of law and entry into the profession by members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, and a commitment to having a student body that is diverse with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity.
To achieve greater diversity, admissions committees have been using holistic review of files. Tuesday's ruling by the 5th Circuit should help them breathe a little easier, but it probably can't hurt to have a Constitutional Law expert serving on the committee.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.
The other day a colleague of mine reported that at a conference she attended, people knew me. They were surprised I was still where I am, because they confided to her that I am ambitious. I have heard it before: I'm rumored to be in the running for this or under consideration for that. I have never been sure whether to take these comments as compliments.
On the one hand, I suppose someone who is thought of as ambitious likewise is thought of as successful and that by definition should be positive. Nobody achieves anything without making an effort. Even what looks like luck is rarely an accident.
On the other hand, since all but the people who have dropped out of the economy — itself a respectable choice, in my book -- possess some ambition, to be noticed for the trait suggests an abnormal quantum of it.
The problem with ambition is more often too much of it. An individual who displays overvaunting ambition generates mixed feelings. It is tedious to be around anyone who points out with any frequency above once that they have other opportunities, which highlights that the listener is more dependent on the speaker than vice versa.
The innuendo of the label "ambitious" is not that you are qualified for anything better; rather that you are eager to move on anyway. Or you are willing to use whatever means to advance your ends: Richard III will kill everyone to possess the crown.
Almost all of us, however good willed we are, wish an upstart will meet her comeuppance. Our resentment persuades us a fall may be deserved.
All the more so if you occupy a position of authority. A leader must demonstrate commitment to a community. She must belong to it.
Anyone who is deemed a flight risk is low on credibility if she claims to share in suffering during a crisis. She could simply leave.
Or perhaps her self-interest isn't quite aligned with other people's interests. Since trust is mutual, that makes it difficult to sustain the relationships that are vital.
Ambition also is perceived differently depending on identity. Some people are reminded of their place. They especially are not to reach beyond their grasp. A woman's ambition is more readily disapproved of, it seems, by other women as well as men.
I never thought it would have been possible for someone who looks like me to have been selected for my job. I used to be considered too young (and was told that explicitly), but such a problem takes care of itself. I was once briefly the youngest law school dean in the nation. It was nothing to brag about.
Yet society conspires against modesty. When I was appointed to my current role but before I knew my way around campus, I started receiving calls from headhunters. I am flattered by inquiries, but I wonder if society benefits from what they are encouraging. From the perspective of every other institution, it is rational to recruit someone already holding a similar position elsewhere: the initial screening is done, and somebody else essentially is vouching that the potential applicant is capable.
Aside from the lack of loyalty that is promoted, however, the implication is that both people and communities are fungible and interchangeable. The one is as good as the other, and there isn't any need to be concerned about compatibility. We reduce ourselves to plug-and-play components in a system. Such a regime renders it rational to be selfish.
While we might lament for the era when a person joined a company with mutual expectations of lasting employment, much has evolved since back in the day. Discrimination was normal and open until recently: not only on the basis of race and gender, but also religion, disability, and sexual orientation.
It is an improvement, if you ask me, that most of us will switch jobs more than our parents. But it is no aspiration of anyone's to mimic the lifecycle of the fruit fly — the model organism, scientist Charles W. Woodworth's drosophila melanogaster, birth to death in a laboratory in one week.
Over time for most of us, personal priorities inexorably shift. I am ambitious for my institution. I am motivated to be a better husband and better person more generally. I've had a lifelong dream to build my own house, and I'm determined to make that happen. These goals are as significant as adding another award on the CV, and I will not be tempted otherwise.
I recently was renewed for another term. I'm ecstatic. The extension is unusual. Law school deans tend to expire prematurely: the median length of service (four years) is less than the typical contract period (five years).
I remain enthusiastic, because there is much work to be done. As I consider the prospects, I see the distinction between being a good candidate for a job and being good in the job. When I was hired, I was evaluated on potential; now, I am judged by performance.
I am fine with that. From my perspective, the corollary is that I must be sure not merely that I wish to hold the job but that I want to do it on a daily basis.
As I reflect on my career, while still in what I hope to be a healthy period, I cannot deny that it took ambition to arrive where I am. But now that I am here, it is imperative that I show dedication. The greater the challenge presented by any calling, the greater the need for staying power.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
It seems that Law Schools have much greater success as defendants in law suits than they do as plaintiffs. The 6th Circuit has just ruled against Thomas Cooley in its defamation claim against Kurzon Strauss. http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/14a0139p-06.pdf
LMU Duncan was also unsuccessful in its 2011 lawsuit against the ABA.http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/dec/22/lmu-suing-american-bar-association-over-law/
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
From a Mississippi College Press Release:
A graduate of Harvard University and New York University School of Law, Wendy Scott will make history as the first African-American to serve as dean at the Mississippi College School of Law. This summer, Scott becomes the 8th law dean at MC Law, which became part of the Christian university in 1975. Mary Libby Payne broke ground as the first woman to lead the law school, with Professor Scott now the second woman to hold that distinction.Scott will succeed Dean Jim Rosenblatt, who served as dean for 11 years.
Congratulations to Dean Scott and Mississippi College. I will look forward to working with her in Mississippi.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
One of my favorite things I get to do as dean is to call all of the students admitted to Ole Miss Law School. From the many conversations I have had, I am happy to say that the majority of students entering law school in 2014 have a really good understanding of the economics of legal education. They have done their research, and recognize that the cost of their legal education will affect their options when they graduate. They are certainly entering law school with their eyes wide open.
In that regard, the National Jurist Prelaw Magazine has published a list of the best value law schools. The story can be found at: http://www.nationaljurist.com/content/best-value-law-schools-5-private-schools-make-list
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Jocelyn Benson, who has served as interim dean of Wayne State University Law School since December 2012, has been appointed permanent dean.
According to the press release, she is the youngest woman ever to serve as dean of a law school.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Legal Education has received a great deal of bad press, so it is nice to recognize positive contributions law schools are making.
For example, Mercer Law School is a 2014 recipient of the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, given annually by the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. The Law School also received the award in 1996 for its Woodruff Curriculum, based on the "depth and excellence" of its commitment to professionalism education.
The award was given for the "Inside the Legal Profession" component of the first-year Legal Profession course developed and taught by Professor Pat Longan. This component of the course, modeled loosely on the Bravo television show "Inside the Actor's Studio," consists of a series of 45-minute live interviews of lawyers, conducted by Pat in front of the class and allowing the students an opportunity to ask questions of the interviewee.
In the letter announcing the award, the committee stated that "[T]he judges were impressed by the program design's emphasis on transcending standard practitioner testimonials with a deep and thoughtful examination of lawyer professionalism, what it means, and how it manifests itself in the day-to-day lives of working lawyers and judges."
Congratulations to Mercer, and especially Pat Longan, for this accomplishment.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) had planned to vote on June 5 whether to approve Infilaw's application to acquire the Charleston School of Law. Infilaw has decided to suspend its application, but still plans to pursue the purchase. The story can be found at:
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The SC Commission on Higher Education (CHE) will be voting on the sale of the Charleston School of Law (CSOL) to Infilaw on Monday, May 19. The CHE is holding hearings about the matter on Friday, May 16. Interested parties in favor of the sale have represented that the CSOL faculty supports the sale, and that is simply not true.
This week, the faculty of CSOL presented two letters to the CHE. One was openly signed by tenured faculty members who felt they could not stay silent, even in the face of possible retribution for their opposition to the sale. The other was a letter from an attorney representing other members of the faculty certifying that a "super majority" of the faculty does not support a sale to Infilaw. Both letters can be found at:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I forget most graduation speeches, but I was privileged to hear Congressman John Lewis's address to the Ole Miss law school graduates on May 10. He is truly a great American hero, and is the most inspiring speaker I have ever heard. He is also one of the nicest and most humble people I have ever met. http://news.olemiss.edu/civil-rights-leader-tells-graduates-to-use-degree-for-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-rights-leader-tells-graduates-to-use-degree-for-change#.U3Eq7PJLp8E
Who is speaking at your law school this year? Please comment with the names of your commencement speakers.
UPDATE on Speakers: NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at Syracuse University College of Law
Harold Hongju Koh, 22nd Legal Adviser to the Department of State and current Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School (and former Dean of Yale Law School). will speak at University of Denver Sturm College of Law (thanks to Dean Martin Katz)
Monday, May 12, 2014
This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This essay was previoiusly published at the Huffington Post.
In a recent report on the state of legal education, Moody's, the credit rating service, noted in passing that tuition cuts are not necessarily an effective tactic for improving enrollment. The rationale is important for people to understand.
Tuition cuts might not be all that they appear to be. The reason is virtually all institutions of higher education already discount tuition to a great extent. Almost all of them also are tuition dependent: Their operating budget comes from what students pay them.
That is the case for the highly-regarded and the not so reputable. Public institutions and those that value public service typically return a significant amount of their tuition revenue to their students in the form of need-based financial aid. Other schools that wish to recruit highly-credentialed students award scholarships on the basis of those metrics. Some of the moneys for these purposes may come from endowments, but much of it comes from what students themselves are putting into the coffers.
Whether it is meant to help many students by offering the opportunity for higher education or buy a few of them by rewarding earlier academic records, the budgetary consequence is the same. As with most other ventures, there is a difference between gross and net.
So a tuition cut may well leave many, perhaps most, individuals worse off as compared to the baseline. Here are the consequences of a cut to tuition.
Assume before it publicizes a cut, a school has a program oriented toward need-based grants. It may be giving as many as three-quarters of its students such packages. Only a quarter of them are paying the full sticker price. Three-quarters pay less; the one-quarter make that possible.
Now after a cut, that school has two choices. (We can put to the side the equivalent of money falling from the sky: alternate revenue sources. They exist, but they usually are an order of magnitude less than what would be needed to offset significant tuition decreases.)
The first option is a real cut. The school could reduce expenditures in a manner commensurate to its loss of total tuition coming in. To be pointed about what that means: Since human resources are the bulk of the budget, such a real cut means faculty, staff, or both, would have to be paid less or be laid off. Savings from the non-personnel share of the budget are not likely to be sufficient to make ends meet.
The second option is the illusion of a "cut." The school could reduce what insiders call the "discount rate" to exactly the amount that makes up for the tuition drop. Again to be pointed about what that means: Given that most students previously received generous grants, most of them end up actually paying more. The students who were not receiving grants prior are the only ones who in fact benefit.
To illustrate it with numbers, consider the simplest possible example. Suppose Acme Law School had two students (in this hypothetical, each of them stands in for hundreds who are treated identically); and a "rack rate" of $50,000 per year. Alpha, who is impoverished, receives a $10,000 grant; Bravo, who is well-to-do, receives no grant.
The real cost of attendance for a year (not including living expenses) is as follows. Alpha expends $40,000 ($50,000 tuition less a grant); Bravo, $50,000 (the stated tuition with no break).
Imagine then Acme Law School that announces a tuition cut of 10 percent or $5,000. Its new, much-praised "flat rate" is $45,000.
But the leaders of Acme Law School do not wish to affect its programs. That frames their intentions in the most positive terms. They need to maintain the same overall revenue the school was receiving from Alpha and Bravo notwithstanding the cut, which is $90,000 (the $40,000 from the former plus the $50,000 from the latter).
Accordingly, to achieve their goals, they direct that the financial aid program be zeroed out. Alpha and Bravo each pay $45,000. The school receives $90,000 as it always has. Transaction costs are lowered as a side benefit.
Look at what has happened to Alpha and Bravo. Alpha pays more than before, $45,000 instead of $40,000; Bravo pays less, $45,000 instead of $50,000. Alpha has a subsidy taken away; Bravo benefits.
Note too this is not ideological. If you object to Alpha receiving need-based financial aid to begin with, change the example to a credentials-based scholarship. So in this variation, Alpha, who has scored at the top of the range on standardized tests and been valedictorian from her undergraduate alma mater, would have been offered a $10,000 scholarship. That is eliminated with the tuition cut.
Thus, at a school that has announced a tuition cut, there must be, sooner or later, an announcement of the real cut that matches it. Absent that, the inference that can be made is that only the illusion of a cut has been presented. It is marketing, puffery, call it what you will.
The same can be said of flat-rate tuition programs more generally. It's no different than flat-rate taxation proposals. The resulting flat-rate may or may not be a better deal than varying rates, depending on a student's individual situation.
All of the above is exacerbated by the lower levels of enrollment at law schools. A school trying to balance its budget, as all of them need to do, can compensate for lower enrollment with higher tuition, or vice versa. But simultaneous downward trends on enrollment and tuition cannot be sustained without even greater real cuts to spending, financial aid, or both.
Whatever people think about the cost of higher education, it is important to understand the choices that decision makers face. Much of what looks like reform may be symbolic.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
While this is off the topic of legal education, I wanted to weigh in on the Supreme Court's decision in Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, No. 12–696, slip op. at 8 (Sup. Ct. 2014).
As a southerner, and a member of a minority religion, I am used to prayer in public governmental settings. People have asked me if I am offended when a person offering the prayer or invocation prays in Jesus's name, and I am not. What bothers me is when a person in a public setting says "we pray this..." The "we" is the word that I find problematic, and the "we" is what the Supreme Court failed to understand.
At our law school graduation this coming Saturday I would never presume to speak for everyone, or even anyone else in that audience on a political issue. Why do people offering a prayer assume that they know how everyone else in a public gathering prays? Prayer is very personal, and some people exercise their First Amendment rights by choosing not to pray, at all.
While I am not a fan of prayer at public gatherings, I am happy to tolerate it (and the Supreme Court has said I must accept it) if the person praying would simply say "I pray this..." I would fully support that person's right to express their beliefs in public. I do not grant them the right, or authority, to pray for me, and neither should the Supreme Court.
Friday, May 2, 2014
Congratulations to Andy, and to my friends at Texas A&M. I do think it is interesting that the press release refers to Andy as the inaugural dean of the law school, since the law school has been in existence for almost 25 years as Texas Wesleyan.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) has decided it needs more time to review information and public comments it has received in reference to the proposed sale of the Charleston School of Law to Naples, Florida based Infilaw.
Members of a CHE licensing panel said they received more than 100 pages documents over the past three days and asked for additional time. Several members came with lists of questions for InfiLaw officials.
The panel will hold a special meeting on May 19 and present their recommendation to the full commission at its June 5 meeting. In addition to CHE approval for the sale, Infilaw needs approval by the ABA. An ABA site team visited the school earlier this semester.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Maryann Jones, Dean Emeritus of Western State, is the Chair of the Florida Coastal Dean Search. She was kind enough to share the process being used by the school to conduct the search. It is:
Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL) is conducting its dean search in compliance with ABA Standards. The process is designed to be extremely inclusive, with participation by all relevant stakeholders, to include faculty, staff, students, board members, and alumni. Candidates are thoroughly vetted by the faculty, which has significant representation on the Dean Search Committee. The Committee ultimately makes recommendations to the Board of Directors, which makes the final decision.
The FCSL Search Committee began the application collection process in fall 2013. At that time, the Committee began to review resumes and invited a select group of candidates for telephone interviews. Candidates who successfully completed the phone interviews were invited to participate in an external assessment. Based upon the telephone interviews as well as the external assessment, the committee chose a group of candidates to proceed to the campus interview stage, wherein the candidate met with groups of faculty, students, staff, and administrators.
After on-campus meetings are completed, the Committee will seek feedback from faculty students and staff, and recommend final candidates for potential consideration to the Board of Directors. The Committee is required to recommend six candidates to the President and Board of Directors, and will continue the process until six candidates are selected.
We respect the privacy of each candidate and treat the details of the process as confidential to maintain the integrity of the process and the respect for all individuals involved. We are confident that this process will result in the selection of a great leader for Florida Coastal School of Law.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The editors of this blog have received disturbing reports from sources inside the Florida Coastal School of Law regarding its dean search.
We have been told that the search itself has been fairly typical. Applicants were screened by a search committee, which then selected candidates for in-depth phone interviews. Those selected to move on from the phone interviews then went through multiple interviews and assessments with outside talent evaluation agencies. From that process, the seven finalists were chosen for on-campus interviews.
The on-campus process involved dinner with the President of the school, and then a meeting with the staff and faculty during a series of small groups sessions the following day. Each candidate was to give a presentation on the candidate’s vision for the school to the full faculty at lunch the day of the interview. That is fairly standard for dean searches nationwide.
One oddity was that the faculty was told they could only exclude one of the seven candidates from consideration. In effect, that means that the faculty has very little role in selecting the dean from the six remaining candidates. That is odd, but not particularly alarming, provided that the faculty had a significant role in the selection of candidates.
The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later.
Th econcerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.
The LSAT in 2008 and 2009 was (153/150/147). In 2010 the numbers were (152/149/146). The decline continued to in the succeeding years (151/147/145) in 2011 and (151/146/143) in 2012.
As might have been predicted, the weaker entering class of 2010 had a low bar pass rate, 67% for first time takers on the July 2013 Florida bar. This was the first time in several years that Florida Coastal had dropped below 70%.