Wednesday, August 19, 2015
As legal education moves into the world of requiring schools to assess student learning outcomes, here and here are two interesting and differing opinions about the value of assessment. During my time on the ABA's Standards Review Committee, I moved from skeptical opposition to skeptical acceptance of requiring schools to identify and assess learning outcomes. The new ABA standards are quite flexible and it will be fascinating to see how schools implement the new requirements.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Following up on an earlier post here, the TRO against the Charleston School of Law, along with owners Bob Carr and George Kosko, has now been published on the Charleston County Public Records site. [You may have to do a separate search to retrieve the document, but you simply search for Nancy Zisk as the plaintiff. ]
The judge's order supports the importance of tenure, and also confirms that the owners have the burden of showing financial exigency. It is not enough for the owners to simply declare exigency, as was the case in this lawsuit.
My understanding is that Professor Zisk plans to post the required bond, today. Once she does so, the school has been ordered to reinstate her. We should see her name listed as a faculty member on the law school's website by tomorrow, if the owners comply with the order. Also, classes start at CSOL on Monday, August 17. It will be interesting to see if Professor Zisk is back in the classroom, where she belongs.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
[by Rick Bales]
Jerry Organ (St. Thomas (MN) Law) notes at The Legal Whiteboard that law schools accepting a significant number of transfers-in also tend to be the ones hiring the largest numbers of their own grads into law-school-funded positions. He raises good points about the implications for those schools' prospective first-year and transfer students.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Call for Nominations for the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education 2016 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award
Monday, August 3, 2015
A judge in Charleston, SC has granted a Charleston School of Law faculty member's motion for a temporary injunction against the school and its remaining owners. Professor Nancy L. Zisk was one of seven tenured faculty members fired by the law school.
These type of temporary injunctions are rarely granted in employment cases, and the plaintiff would have to show irreparable harm, and a likelihood of success at trial.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
There is no single or simple answer to this important question. NALP today released its "Selected Findings from the Employment Report and Salary Survey for the Class of 2014."
The good news:
- the employment rate for graduates rose over 2 percentage points compared to the class of 2013, the first increase since 2007
- the percentage of employed gradutes in JD required or JD Advantage jobs also increased
The bad news:
- the actual number of jobs obtained by the class of 2014 was actually smaller than that in 2013; the smaller graduating class size accounted for the increased employment rate
- because the ABA shifted the "as of" reporting date from Feb. 15 to March 15, these results may slightly overstate the success of graduates compared with 2013
- with class sizes continuing to decline, the percentage of graduates finding employment should continue to rise, as long as there is not a setback in the slowly recovering job market
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
With the controversy surrounding Go Set a Watchman, I thought of my late colleague Monroe Freedman, who critiqued Atticus Finch long before the new Harper Lee book was published. Monroe, who passed away this past year, was brilliant and quirky, and was extremely generous to me when I was a young professor.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
[by Rick Bales]
Alexia Marks and Scott Moss, both at Colorado, have just posted on SSRN their study What Makes a Law Student Succeed or Fail? A Longitudinal Study Correlating Law Student Applicant Data and Law School Outcomes. Their findings are receiving much-deserved positive attention. Scott did a Skype presentation of their preliminary findings to our faculty last year that was extremely well-received; not only is the material intrinsically interesting and sometimes counter-intuitive, but Scott is an entertaining presenter -- with a quick -- and exceptionally dry -- wit.
Here's the abstract:
Despite the rise of "big data" empiricism, law school admission remains heavily impressionistic; admission decisions based on anecdotes about recent students, idiosyncratic preferences for certain majors or jobs, or mainly the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Yet no predictors are well-validated; studies of the LSAT or other factors fail to control for college quality, major, work experience, etc. The lack of evidence of what actually predicts law school success is especially surprising after the 2010s downturn left schools competing for fewer applicants and left potential students less sure of law school as a path to future success. We aim to fill this gap with a two-school, 1400-student, 2005-2012 longitudinal study. After coding non-digitized applicant data, we used multivariate regression analysis to predict law school grades ("LGPA") from many variables: LSAT; college grades ("UGPA"), quality, and major; UGPA trajectory; employment duration and type (legal, scientific, military, teaching, etc.); college leadership; prior graduate degree; criminal or discipline record; and variable interactions (e.g., high-LSAT/low-UGPA or vice-versa).
Our results include not only new findings about how to balance LSAT and UGPA, but the first findings that college quality, major, work experience, and other traits are significant predictors: (1) controlling for other variables, LSAT predicts more weakly, and UGPA more powerfully, than commonly assumed – and a high-LSAT/low-UGPA profile may predict worse than the opposite; (2) a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or EAF (economics, accounting, finance) major is a significant plus, akin to 3½-4 extra LSAT points; (3) several years' work experience is a significant plus, with teaching especially positive and military the weakest; (4) a criminal or disciplinary record is a significant minus, akin to 7½ fewer LSAT points; and (5) long-noted gender disparities seem to have abated, but racial disparities persist. Some predictors were interestingly nonlinear: college quality has decreasing returns; UGPA has increasing returns; a rising UGPA is a plus only for law students right out of college; and 4-9 years of work is a "sweet spot," with neither 1-3 or 10 years' work experience significant. Some, such as those with military or science work, have high LGPA variance, indicating a mix of high and low performers requiring close scrutiny. Many traditionally valued traits had no predictive value: typical pre-law majors (political science, history, etc.); legal or public sector work; or college leadership.
These findings can help identify who can outperform overvalued predictors like the LSAT. A key caveat is that statistical models cannot capture certain difficult-to-code key traits: some who project to have weak grades retain appealing lawyering or leadership potential; and many will over- or under-perform any projection. Thus, admissions will always be both art and science – but perhaps with a bit more science.
Congratulations to Alexia and Scott on this terrific piece of work. They've been working on it for several years, and it has involved both intellectually rigorous theorizing and hypothesis-testing and a lot of coding gruntwork. It's great to see their hard work getting the positive attention it deserves.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
[by Rick Bales]
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Jeff Lipshaw has a great post typologizing law school organizational models in three ways: as machine, as democracy, and as team. Not surprisingly, Jeff's not a big fan of the machine, and neither, I would assume, are most faculty. Why, then, have some law schools become machines?
The ownership structure of for-profit law schools is not consistent with true faculty governance, as recent events at Charleston Law illustrate. The large size of some faculties may make a team-based structure unwieldy, though this would not necessarily preclude a democratic structure. A current or recent dean with an autocratic leadership style could contribute, at least for a time. Finally, and perhaps less visibly, many faculty are content to exercise faculty governance primarily through the veto, rather than through the much more time-consuming task of hands-on governance.
Regardless of how the "why" question is answered, I believe organizations pay a high price for weak faculty governance. No dean is smarter than the collective wisdom of a faculty, and as my comment to Jeff's post illustrates, faculty are often in the best -- and sometimes the only -- position to call foul when others start playing loose with the rules.
Friday, June 26, 2015
[by Rick Bales]
... step #1 needs to be working with the local state board of bar examiners to get its approval for the first several entering classes to take the bar of that state even if provisional ABA accreditation is not obtained within three years. That probably means inviting the the board's input on curriculum and teaching, to get its buy-in. Recent events at Concordia and Indiana Tech illustrate the real pain inflicted on students who enter their third year of law school not knowing whether their degree ultimately will be worthless. No matter how optimistic the dean is about securing timely accreditation, it's the students who ultimately bear the most risk, and I believe it's indefensible to fail to ensure that they can sit for the bar in at least one state. Disclosure doesn't cure; there's too much informational asymmetry for prospective students to make an informed decision, and too much is beyond the control of law school leadership for them to be able to reliably promise that accreditation will be forthcoming.
Getting early buy-in from the board of bar examiners may be politically difficult, especially if other law schools in the state unite in opposition. But this itself should be a signal that the local market probably can't bear an additional law school. If a state has two law schools -- State U and Prestigious Private, it's unlikely that they will spend much political capital opposing the creation of a start-up school, because the new school will be recruiting from a very different pool of students, and graduates will be in very different job markets. But if the local law school market is saturated with schools at every end of the spectrum, those schools are likely to vigorously oppose the new school, for good reason.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
I doubt it, but it is fascinating that two schools, New Mexico and Case Western, are going that route. For those of us slogging along as non-co-deans, I suppose it is flattering that New Mexico's Provost thinks we are doing a job that really requires two people. Seriously, I think there probably are particular situations where this arrangement makes sense and by what I have seen, the Case experiment has been going very well.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
In the business world, succession planning is imperative. Companies have gone from huge and thriving to belly-up in 1-2 years because a charismatic and highly effective leader unexpectedly left or died or became incapacitated. The problem is particularly acute when the departing leader has not been a very good delegator, so the departure leaves a particularly large vacuum at the top.
Even under the best of circumstances, it takes at least 1-2 years for an outsider hired as a CEO to learn the ropes of a new organization well enough to be as effective as her or his predecessor. My experience is that the same is true of becoming a law dean or a university president -- and that the learning curve likely will be even longer if the new dean/president has no prior experience as a dean or president. Similarly, I've seen studies suggesting that a new dean/president doesn't hit his or her fundraising peak until 4-7 years into the job. Again, this is consistent with my experience -- it takes about that long to form the kind of strong, trusting relationships that facilitate large gifts.
For these reasons, I think succession planning is as imperative in academia as it is in business. It has nothing to do with choosing my successor. Indeed, my successor may, for good reasons, be the anti-me, just as in many ways I am very different from my predecessor. But if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, or for whatever other reason had to step down unexpectedly, it's important to have someone who can step in at a moment's notice and hit the ground running. That takes planning, grooming, and a willingness to delegate significant responsibility.
Monday, June 8, 2015
I will be stepping down as dean of Ole Miss Law on June 30, and it has been interesting answering questions about my decision to return to full time teaching after five years as dean here (and thirteen years as a dean total).
I have enjoyed my time as dean here, very much, but I understand that what the school needs for the next five years is different from what it needed the last five years. As my wonderful colleague, Tucker Carrington director of the Mississippi Innocence Project put it, the job changes every five years. He said, "if you sign up for another term, you are really signing up for a completely new job."
I have often said that being a dean is like riding a bucking bronco. Eight seconds is the record. There is no need, or benefit, to staying on longer than those eight seconds, if you are lucky enough to last that long. I have been very lucky, indeed.
Friday, May 15, 2015
A majority of the faculty at the Charleston School of Law have written a letter explaining their opposition to Infilaw's purchase. The letter was published in the Charleston Post & Courier.
The faculty who signed this letter are aware that publishing it will likely cost them their jobs.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
According to the Charleston Post & Courier, the Charelston School of Law is likely closing.
Compare the fate of Charleston with that of Texas Wesleyan School of Law. Texas Wesleyan began as the DFW School of Law. DFW, like Charleston, was a for-profit law school. The difference is that the founders of DFW had a vision of a school that would last well beyond their own lifetimes. They sold their school to Texas Wesleyan University for $1. Now, that law school belongs to Texas A&M, and it is clearly a law school with a great future.
It is a very sad day for the Charleston School of Law, and a very good time for Texas A&M.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
It is sometimes stated that the typical law dean serves 2-3 years before stepping down. This is almost certainly inaccurate and may result from a misreading of the great data that Jim Rosenblatt collects. The median length of service of current sitting deans is 3 years. This does not mean, though, that this is the typical length of time a dean has served by the end of his or her term.
One way to look at this is that if every dean now serving suddenly resigned, their median length of service would be 3 years. But, despite the wishes of those who might see mass resignation as a good thing, most currently serving deans will continue to serve next year and probably longer.
Most years, there are 30-40 new deans appointed. This translates to 1/5 or 1/6 of all schools having a new dean. Therefore, the median tenure of retiring deans is probably in the 5-6 year range. Whether that median is declining is unclear, although that would not be surprising in these tough times for law schools.
Friday, May 1, 2015
[Post by Rick Bales]
Jeff Lipshaw has a terrific post over at The Legal Whiteboard in which he urges law schools to beware of decanal candidates selling themselves as fundraisers. Jeff makes the excellent point that before a dean can be a great fundraiser, the dean must ensure that s/he has a great product to sell. Here's an excerpt:
Beware the naive view of development. Beware the pitch that is just about willingness to knock on doors without linking it back to the hard work of building a distinct institution. Beware the person who thinks there's a meaningful distinction between being an "inside dean" and an "outside dean." ... Compelling value propositions take work and require huge amounts of effort within the four walls of the institution before you put them out to customers and investors. The same is true of schools.