Sunday, December 27, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
The press release is here and the new rules are here. As a general matter, I do not like the proliferation of state-by-state requirement beyond the ABA Standards for admission to the bar. I particularly don't like NY's pro bono requirement, which I think is unfair to law students. I would first impose a pro bono requirement on admitted lawyers. I do have some sympathy for skills requirements like these new rules because they are closely linked to one's ability to practice law competently and the ABA has been slow to evolve in this area. I wonder, though, if Pathway 1 in NY will swallow up the rest of the rule. What law school will not certify that its graduates are ready to practice?
Friday, December 11, 2015
[by Rick Bales]
I wanted to riff on a couple of David Yellen's recent posts, one noting the relative paucity of law school closures given recent application/enrollment declines, and the other noting the increase in the hiring of non-academic university presidents.
Regarding law school closures, I think the real question is not why more law schools haven't closed, but why more law schools haven't moved or been sold. Texas A&M's acquisition of the former Texas Wesleyan law school, discussed extensively in the most recent Journal of legal Education, shows this can be done, and at great profit to the selling institution. Among other things, I suspect that a sale would allow the selling institution to monetize the present value of much of the sold law school's endowment. More importantly, it would move law schools to parts of the country that are underserved legal education markets (and where a law school would be a valuable acquisition for a university) from parts of the country that have too many law schools relative to population and demographic trends, where the current value of a law school to a university is financially negative. Yes, there are regulatory/accreditation hurdles to overcome, and alumni will have to be assuaged, but neither are by any stretch insurmountable obstacles.
Regarding college presidents, in my very limited experience, the most obvious academic stepping-stone to a college presidency is being a college provost. But at least at the institutions with which I am most familiar, the skill set required of a successful provost (accreditation, curriculum, acute attention to detail) is radically different from the skill set required of the modern college president (external/alumni relations, fundraising, budgeting, big-picture vision, ability to balance the university as a business with the university as an institution of public service). Except for the last of these, all of these skills seem to align better with someone who has leadership experience in the business world -- or leadership of a relatively autonomous professional school like a law school -- than with someone who has experience as a provost. Maybe universities are looking for presidents in all the wrong places.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Interesting article in The Atlantic. Of course, we have seen a similar trend in the hiring of law school deans. My completely unscientific observation is that law school deans who have come from outside of the academic world have a "success rate" roughly the same as that of deans from within the academic world. I wonder if that is really true, and whether there is a difference in the success rate of outsiders for Presidents and Deans.
Here. Will there be other similar moves, or school closures? It is pretty remarkable that no law school has closed during this crisis. Compare that with dental schools, which experienced a dramatic decline in applications and enrollment from the late 1970's to 1980's. During that time, 6 of the 60 dental schools closed. In recent years, though, applications have been increasing (almost back to the level of the late 1970's) and some new schools have opened. Are Universities just more committed to "waiting it out" with law schools?
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
In case you missed it, here are the demands that a group of students and staff presented to Harvard Law School on Friday. The "deadline" for the school to agree to the demands passed yesterday. It is hard to imagine that Harvard will be the last law school to face this type of challenge.
Friday, December 4, 2015
I am pleased to announce, that we (Loyola Chicago) are transitioning our part-time program from an evening based model to a flexible weekend, blended learning model. The main features are these:
*students will attend classes on campus seven weekends per semester;
*1/3 of the work for each course will be done through distance learning. This will include lectures, chats, assessment activities, etc.;
*a broad curriculum, taught by full-time faculty and including a range of experiential learning opportunities, will be offered
We have been offering online Masters of Jurisprudence and LL.M degrees for five years. We have learned that online teaching, when done properly, can be as effective as in-class instruction. We believe that this flexible format will appeal to modern, busy adults interested in pursuing a law degree part-time. As structured, the program is in compliance with all current ABA Standards.
More information is available here. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Dan Bernstine, the President of the Law School Admissions Council has issued a release arguing that the recent report by Law School Transparency misuses LSAT scores in labeling students as being at "high risk" for failing the bar exam and in making gradations based on difference of a point or two in LSAT scores.
Kyle McEntee of LST recently relied on his LSAT research to urge the ABA Section of Legal Education to strictly enforce Standard 501(b) ("A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."). Bernstine's letter illustrates the danger in simply relying on LSAT scores in making this judgment. Standard 501 is also internally inconsistent and problematic on other levels. Law school outcomes, rather than inputs, should be more important in the accreditation process. As McEntee points out, though, the current bar pass standard is not very useful either in determining whether any schools should be at risk for losing their accreditation.
UPDATE: Kyle McEntee has asked that I post his initial response to Dan Bernstine's release. Here it is:
"The assertion that LSAT scores alone measure comparability is patently wrong."
The report does not make this assertion. Indeed, the report says:
According to the Law School Admissions Council's (LSAC) National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study, the LSAT is the best predictor before law school as to whether a student will pass or fail the bar exam.
Declining LSAT scores of admitted students is the first indicator of a potential bar passage disaster that won't be evident for three years to the students who are affected, and four years to the ABA. We cannot be afraid to use the best tool we have.
The framework represents only a starting point for assessing the risk of bar failure. A student with a low LSAT score but very high undergraduate GPA, for example, has less risk of failing the bar than a student with the same LSAT score and a very low UGPA. Some law schools have also been more successful than others in helping students with low LSAT scores succeed on the bar exam. Where the student takes the bar exam matters as well.
On average, however, students with LSAT test scores in each band are more likely to experience academic attrition and/or bar exam failure than students in the next higher band. If a school dips into lower LSAT bands to fill its class, the risk of bar failure at that school increases. This framework, therefore, offers a useful tool for analyzing which schools are enrolling a significant number of students who face genuine risk of not finishing school or passing the bar. Importantly, this framework shows when relative change in incoming student credentials matters.
If any schools do figure out how to improve bar outcomes for students with low predictors, they have a duty to share that information with other schools and at-risk students — with an emphasis on empirical data rather than hopeful conjecture.
"LSAC has long cautioned against drawing such fine distinctions in LSAT scores."
The LSAT is one tool we have. It is a great one; it is a starting point. There is a statistically significant correlation, and correlations do not require that the tool was designed for that purpose.
If LSAC has any reason to show that the study -- which our report did not depend on -- is invalid today, it should show why instead of baldly claiming it. LSAC certainly should not assert that it is not valid for bar exam conclusions, and in the very next sentence assert that the eventual bar passage rate of the students in the study is 90 percent.
Will any law school dean or academic support administrator or faculty member come out and say that their school's falling bar exam rates are due to a lower quality legal education at the school compared to prior years? If not, what else explains the uniform fall in rates than the students? We're listening. An honest assessment is essential to stop the falling bar pass rates.
LSAC's decision to speak out is an obvious attempt by a minority of law schools taking unjust risks to change the conversation through the appearance of an impartial entity. LSAC is anything but impartial. LSAC is an agent of law schools.
The best these schools can do is make strawman arguments through a mouthpiece. LSAC's voice comes from all law schools. It trades on your reputation to justify unprofessional and immoral choices in the face of financial pressure. I hope the majority of law schools refuse to stand for this. It's terrible for the legal profession in the short and long term.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Really interesting career move for Pat, the former long-time dean at Seton Hall's law school. He served as interim AD for awhile at Seton Hall when they were recovering from a scandal, so he's an inspired choice for a troubled Rutgers program. Good luck Pat!
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
On the most recent episode of The Good Wife, an applicant for an associate position at a large law firm is disparaged for attending "Loyola Law School" (I assume it is Loyola Chicago, since that is where the show is set). The partners reveal themselves to be snobs and racists, so who would want to work there anyway. But had the show been striving for accuracy, they should have been crawling all over themselves to hire a Loyola graduate. As Bill Henderson demonstrated a few years ago, graduates of our school who are hired by large firms become partners at a rate 6 times or more greater than graduates from elite schools (although a far higher percentage of elite school graduates are hired by such firms). The same is true for graduates of many other strong regional schools.
Of course, the writers were probably just trying to caricature elitism in the legal profession. And at least they weren't as bad as the New York Times!
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Paul Campos has an entertaining post on a very interesting psychological phenomenon in football. Coaches of teams trailing late in a game routinely punt on fourth down when the statistical evidence is quite clear that their small chances of winning would actually be increased by trying to get a first down. They often talk about "extending the game." They worry about doing something bold, which might fail in a very visible way, but their caution actually increases the likelihood of ultimate failure.
Although Professor Campos doesn't explicitly make the link, is this an analogy for some of the timidity in legal education as we face long odds and a dwindling clock?
Monday, November 2, 2015
My teenage daughters have been "forcing" me to watch every episode of a series called Once Upon a Time. The first season of the series involves the main character's attempt to remove a dark curse that has befallen the citizens of her town.
Last week brought great news for the Charleston School of Law community. The announcement that Ed Bell would be a new owner of the law school, and that he would serve as president of the school was almost a story book happy ending, and a new beginning. Mr. Bell, who has an outstanding reputation for his philanthropy and service, is going to convert the school to a non-profit entity. He will be paid $1 a year.
There are still abundant challenges every law school must face in these transitional times for legal education and the legal profession, but the Charleston School of Law will have a much better chance to survive and thrive, now that the dark curse on the school has been removed.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Dean Nick Allard of Brooklyn Law School has written the following message to fellow deans. He asked me to post it here as well.
While the New York Times editorial of Sunday, October 25th, “The Law School Debt Crisis,” weighed in primarily on the ongoing student loan debate, it is symptomatic of a much broader and urgent challenge because it underscores and extends the continuing negative drum beat that is demeaning law schools, law students, and the entire profession.
The time has come for the legal community – and law schools in particular – to press the reset button on the reputation of our profession. As Deans, we should not stand silent as those with biases and outdated or inaccurate information recycle myths and tired, predictable versions of their “wisdom” about our profession, law schools and the quality of newly minted lawyers. Over and over again.
The overarching challenge facing lawyers and the law school community across the country is that there is virtually no effective public counterweight to offset the worn perceptions repeated by high visibility media and others. We must, together, come to the defense of the value of law and lawyers, and make the compelling case for lawyers’ contribution to society in general and America’s national experiment in democracy, in particular. We need to highlight how valuable lawyers are to our nation’s leadership around the world, and the important role our law schools play in developing lawyers that will provide the legal expertise necessary to assure our nation’s stability in the future.
As we seek to attract the next generations of practitioners, we should remember to keep front and center the relevancy of our central message and vision: the value of our profession in these absolutely essential pursuits.
Regrettably, lawyers have too often allowed our fellow citizens to forget the essential contributions of lawyers to government, society, and to our commercial enterprises. Regrettably, legal educators in particular, have not been sufficiently and effectively vocal about the most salient aspect of our profession’s role in society going forward - - focusing on the new, critical roles lawyers will play in a global marketplace, and confronting the challenges of disruptive technologies, borderless geopolitical entities, even more splintered competing interests, and enduring threats to freedom and equal rights.
Into this vacuum have stepped critics, who for whatever reason are seeking to define our profession and our training in ways that neither reflect the realities nor in ways that we can control.
Let's stop the hand wringing, whining and the recycling of misperceptions. Let’s instead call attention to the positive value of our profession and the contribution we, our colleagues, and our students make. Let’s challenge ourselves and our institutions to do better. We could begin by focusing our energy on the following imperatives and begin the process of recalibrating America’s thinking about lawyers:
• Tomorrow’s lawyers must be seen as agents and facilitators of change within American and around the world;
• The legal enterprise must be seen as the engine that can stimulate innovation, the economy and international well being;
• We must do all we can to change the perception of lawyers from that of disruptors who cause commercial and social stagnation to navigators who foster compromise and progress;
• We must train our students to be both foundation builders and architects for a dynamic social system and market economy;
• Lawyers must be viewed as crusaders for peace, individual freedom, market driven economies and global stability;
• Lawyers must be trained to be integral components of tomorrow’s global society.
Entry into the legal profession must be justifiably understood to be a noble pursuit with new relevance for the 21st century. We must rebrand American lawyers and re-engineer the perceptions of how lawyers are trained if we are to change the flawed projections of our profession by others. We must advocate for more, not fewer, of a new breed of 21st-century attorneys who will continue to perform in new ways the essential functions of American society: bridging divides, finding solutions, breaking gridlock, enabling commerce, freeing innovation and forging speedier consensus on a range of commercial, legal, policy, regulatory and social issues among all the competitive interests, not just in the U.S., but around the world.
Many innovative and forward-looking law schools already have adapted their curricula to enable new lawyers to be optimally prepared to meet these imperatives.
We are the ones who can help renew our country. We are the ones who can help make it less splintered, less litigious and more solutions oriented. If not us, then who? What choice do we have? Amidst transformative societal change, we need more than ever what lawyers do: help clarify and move issues forward to resolution through Analysis, Advice and Advocacy. This is work lawyers, not lay people or computers, must do. It is work worthy of the time, energy and money our students invest in earning their law degree.
Today, we must, and can, do better making our case in the affirmative. I look forward to hearing and watching you make the case.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
My university took a step forward by removing the Mississippi state flag from our campus. I am proud of this move, and have been open in my support on social media.
When I was dean here, I was much more cautious about expressing my political opinions about issues, and elections. Ole Miss is a public university, and our law school alums often oppose each other in elections. Neutrality, I figured, was my best avenue even though I have strong political convictions.
Sometimes being impartial meant that I had to swallow hard, especially when an alum or governmental official took a position I adamantly disagreed with. For example, during my first meeting with a powerful elected official, he turned to me and said "we must stop Obamacare at all costs." He was assuming, of course, that I agreed with him (which I do not). We were at a plated meal, and were soon served a casserole covered with bacon. That same official turned to me and said, "you can't go wrong with bacon." I am vegan, so I quickly resorted to the only common ground I knew I could have with him, and said, "the team looks good this year. I really like our coach."
We had a nice conversation after that.
I'm sure all of you have seen the NYT's dreadful editorial about legal education over the weekend. Of course there were truths in it, but it was remarkably sloppy. It ignores the many reforms taking place in legal education since the crisis began. It also ignores that because of scholarship competition for students, the actual net price of legal education is declining (just ask the budget manager at almost any law school). Whether or not law schools deserve any credit for these changes, the Times shows willful blindness towards these critical factors. In addition the Times strangely suggests that the federal government could "redirect" federal student loan dollars to the worthy cause of improving funding for legal services organization. This completely ignores the fact that lending money to law students is a profitable activity for the government. Even with income based repayment and a somewhat growing number of defaults, the federal government is not "investing" in legal education, it is generating revenue from it.
Much more serious was yesterday's article in the Times examining the impact of declining admissions standards in legal education. Based on the impressive research by Law School Transparency, it discusses the impact of law schools, particularly the least selective law schools, enrolling large numbers of students whose academic credentials suggest that they are likely to struggle gaining admission to the bar. I have quibbles with both the LST Report and the Times article (for example, it is odd that the Times focused on Southern Illinois, a school with good bar passage and employment rates, and low tuition), but the basic point is an important one that legal education must address.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Northwestern Law School announced today that J.B. Pritzker has donated $100 million to the school, which will be renamed the Pritzker Northwestern School of Law in the family's honor. Congratulations to Dan Rodriguez and everyone at Northwestern! Here is a video of the announcement: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/about/news/newsdisplay.cfm?ID=765.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015