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%.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Registration has opened online for the
Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law
June 13 – 15, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina
Hosted by Elon University School of Law and the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law
Featured speakers include William C. Hubbard, President Elect of the American Bar Association, and Bill Henderson, Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law at Indiana University at Bloomington
The registration fee is $100. Visit law.elon.edu/aell to register and to learn more about the symposium. Contact Jane Law at Elon University School of Law with any questions related to registration: firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 279-9325.
ABOUT THE SYMPOSIUM:
When almost 300 legal educators, judges, lawyers and law students met in Boston 18 months ago for the first national symposium on experiential education in law, they recognized the changing landscape of legal education focusing on effective and integrated experiential education to accommodate limited finances and changes in the profession. These pioneers committed to developing thoughtful and innovative approaches to improve legal education and enhance the relevance of lawyers in the rapidly changing 21st century.
The 2014 symposium will present the findings of the working groups organized by the Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law with the help of legal educators, judges and lawyers from over 100 law schools and many other enterprises across the legal profession and provide examples of innovation from other professions that can inform how legal educators can adapt to changing paradigms. These working groups have focused on important issues that must define legal education now and for the future.
What do we mean by experiential learning?
What are the → Innovations → Barriers → Successes in producing integrated and effective curricula?
What ideas have the Alliance Working Groups developed since the Inaugural Symposium?
What perspective can other disciplines provide regarding our efforts?
This event is being organized by:
The Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law Steering Committee
Cindy Adcock, Charlotte School of Law
Margaret Barry, Vermont Law School
Luke Bierman, Northeastern University School of Law
Susan Brooks, Drexel University School of Law
Christine Cimini, Vermont Law School
Roberto Corrada, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver
Bob Dinerstein, Washington College of Law, American University
Steve Ellmann, New York Law School
Deborah Epstein, Georgetown Law
Bob Jones, The Law School, University of Notre Dame
Kate Kruse, Hamline University School of Law
Susan Reich Paulsen, University of Minnesota Law School
Ruthane Robbins, Rutgers University School of Law
Pat Coughlan Voorhies, Northeastern University School of Law
Second National Symposium on Experiential Learning in Law Planning Committee
Steve Friedland, Co-Chair, Elon University School of Law
Margaret Barry, Co-Chair, Vermont Law School
Bill Henderson, Co-Chair, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Christy Benson, Elon School of Business
Olympia Duhart, Nova University School of Law
Jim Exum, Elon University School of Law; Former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
Bill McNichol, Reed Smith; Rutgers University School of Law
Madeline Obler-Grill, Elon Law Journal
Gene Pridgen, K&L Gates; Immediate Past President, North Carolina Bar Association
Vivian Wexler, Bingham McCutchen
Pat Coughlan Voorhies, Northeastern University School of Law
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Recently, my daughter had a part in Oxford High School’s production of “Sunset Boulevard.” She astutely noted that advances technology had changed or destroyed the careers of many people in the movie industry, including Gloria Swanson, who starred as Norma Desmond in the classic film. One of Norma’s classic lines in Sunset Boulevard is “I am big! It's the pictures that got small.” She also says “We didn't need dialogue. We had face.” Norma’s inability to accept changes in her industry and adapt to them would lead to her downfall.
Technology has changed the legal profession, and nothing can reverse that. In the long run it will lower overhead costs, and provide more efficient access to legal services. It will allow small firms to compete with big firms. Technology is transformative, which is scary, but it is not a bad thing. The law schools and lawyers that adapt to these changes will be just fine. Those who do not will be Norma Desmond.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Dean Daniel Rodriguez of Northwestern University School of Law posted the following essay on Word on the Streeterville, his Northwestern dean's blog. The title of the essay is "A Most Unfortunate Narrative."
Many law schools are working hard to keep up enrollments and student credentials; some are indeed struggling. As deans and university leaders work hard to make adjustments on the expenses side in order to deal constructively with these difficult issues, there has emerged an almost daily narrative about how the sky is falling (which is isn’t).
The most recent iteration of this is the news emerging from a handful of schools that faculty members are being offered retirement incentives. Although I am in no vantage point to assess the wisdom of any of these strategies for any of these law schools, it strikes me as a sensible reaction to enrollment circumstances that are, for the most part, currently out of control for some law schools. The business of retirement incentives is not, of course, a new phenomenon. With the end of mandatory retirement, university departments can manage human resource costs only by looking at creative tactics such as retirement incentives. Sometimes this will involve more senior (and typically highly compensated) members of the community; other times, given the long careers ahead of young faculty members, this will involve incentives nearer the front end. These incentives create a dynamic of negotiation not distinct from any other sort of employer-worker negotiation. They are tried-and-true carrots, not sticks.
That law schools are looking to manage their costs by taking close looks at their faculty labor force seems entirely sensible. It is hardly the harbinger of disaster; and, like the press releases that are attached to these proposals, these are important messages to the wider community of students and alumni that the law schools are looking at constructive ways of preserving strong academic programs and high quality in their student bodies.
These should be welcome developments. Folks like our friends at Above the Law, who are habitually cranky about law school decisionmaking and the motivations of academic leaders, should say: “Hurray. It’s about time law schools take a hard look at costs.” But, instead, the headline of the day is essentially “Law Schools are Crashing Around Us. Witness the Scramble to ‘Kick Out’ Faculty Members.” Think I am exaggerating? Here’s a link to a post by the sober Pepperdine Law professor and influential blogger, Paul Caron.
Take a breath, doomsayers. Have some perspective. This is evidence of adaptation, not desperation. And you are not helping the general situation, IMHO!
Monday, March 17, 2014
The University of Florida has announced that the search for the next dean of the Levin College of Law has failed. http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140314/ARTICLES/140319713?p=1&tc=pg
While I have always felt that the only truly failed search is one in which the wrong person is hired, the Florida search is unique because so much information has been shared publicly. What causes a dean search like Florida's to fail, and how will a second search achieve better results, next year?
The reports surrounding the search clearly inidcate that the law school faculty found two of the candidates highly acceptable to lead them in the years ahead. They also voted another candidate acceptable, but had reservations about him. This raises the question of what the President found objectionable about these candidates. Was it merely the fact that he asked for four names, and only got three? Was the President's favorite candidate not among the three names sent forward as acceptable? Did the President tolerate the long and work-intensive process only to the extent it produced him the candidate he planned to appoint all along?
The answers to these questions will greatly impact the next search at Florida. I would bet that Florida's next dean will come from its own faculty (as is often the case following a failed search).