Monday, March 23, 2015

Lucre, Malice and The Charleston School of Law


Charleston Law board members, and former federal magistrates Robert Carr and George Kosko, have made public statements that they would rather have the law school close, than approve board member Ed Westbrook's plan. Westbrook has formed a nonprofit corporation to run the school, which he says would provide a viable alternative to selling it to the for-profit InfiLaw System. A majority of the original five member board had always planned to transition the school to a nonprofit model, once it was firmly established. Unfortunately, two board members retired, and Carr and Kosko saw the school as a road to personal wealth.

It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Carr and Kosko are putting their interests ahead of the students, faculty, staff, alumni and Charleston legal community. Despite the prohibitions found in Canon 4A of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Magistrates Carr and Kosko were governing board members of CSOL, and they spent several hours of the day at the school. Neither Carr, nor Kosko contributed money to the founding of the school. Instead, they each signed a $400,000 note to repay Ed Westbrook from the revenue of the law school. Westbrook is the only board member who actually funded the school in its start-up years. 

The plans put forth by the five law school founders showed that repayment was expected to take place over a five year period. The initial entering class was projected to be 125 full-time students. Instead, the school was able to enroll 135 full-time students and 65 evening students. The board had not planned to include an evening program, but the associate dean of admission convinced them that there was pent-up demand for a limited evening program. The faculty were enthusiastic about teaching in the evening program. The median LSAT for this inaugural class (including the evening students) was a respectable 151.  The result would be that the school earned enough money in two years, rather than the projected five, to cover the notes of Carr and Kosko. From that point on, they had no risk.

Irrespective of the fact that they had acquired their interests in the law school by leveraging student tuition dollars, and the dedicated work of faculty and staff, Carr and Kosko regularly referred to the law school as belonging to them. George Kosko,who was not renewed as a magistrate after his first eight-year term, frequently bullied faculty and staff members. He has now turned towards Ed Westbrook, and the remaining faculty, because they have fought the sale to Infilaw. It is unconscionable that CSOL is offering buy-outs, when Carr and Kosko have each withdrawn in excess of $5 million from the school over the last 3 years.

Oaths of admission to many state bars state that the lawyer will not "delay anyone's cause for lucre or malice." The mess at the Charleston School of Law can almost completely be attributed to two board members, who are the embodiment of lucre and malice.

 More to come on this story.

March 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Thank You

Two weeks ago, I announced that I would be stepping down from the deanship at Ole Miss Law.

I have enjoyed being dean at Ole Miss, very much, and am really pleased that my wonderful colleague Debbie Bell has agreed to serve as interim dean. 

I have been fortunate to serve as a dean at three very different institutions, and am grateful to each of those institutions.  My experience at Ole Miss was enhanced greatly by the professionalism and strength of the senior administration we have at our university. This is a difficult time for law schools, and having a Provost who understands that makes a huge difference in a dean's day-to-day. The Provost here, Dr. Morris Stocks, has been simply great to work with. Not many deans publicly thank their Provosts, after they step down, so I wanted to make sure I thanked Morris in this very public way.


March 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Regulating LL.M. Programs

Llm_programsAt an informal lunch at AALS last January, the topic turned to LL.M. programs at a group of professors’ respective schools. Five or six faculty members chimed in – faculty members from across the spectrum of U.S. law schools – and every one of them said some variation on the theme that their school’s LL.M. program was explicitly designed to be a cash cow – to bring in wealthy foreign students, get them to pay full sticker price, plug them into existing J.D. courses (i.e., no additional curricular expenditure), implement an explicit two-tier grading system (i.e., all LL.M. students receive high grades), and pass the LL.M. students so that they can either sit for an American bar exam or return home with a new and presumably valuable credential.

Surely not all American LL.M. programs fit this model. The one at my own law school doesn’t – our LL.M. program in democratic governance and rule of law is designed for students in transitional states, they have a mostly independent curriculum, we explicitly require them to return home to practice government-reform or NGO work for at least two years after graduation, and it's a net money-loser to our institution (though we more than make up for it in goodwill and international diversity). But if even a significant number of American LL.M. programs are diploma mills or cash cows, doesn’t that devalue the legitimate programs? How are foreign prospective students expected to be able to discern the difference?

Currently, LL.M. programs are virtually unregulated. The ABA/AALS looks at them only to the extent that they do no harm to the J.D. programs; the converse is not part of the consideration. Maybe it should be.


March 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Using USNWR to Impose Reputational Costs

Manipulation(Rick Bales)

Much as I despise the USNWR ranking system, I’m a bit surprised that we deans (and associate deans) don’t use our relatively outsized influence as voters in the peer-assessment component of the ranking to police our own ranks.

When a school subsidizes the employment of large numbers of graduates for nine months and a day after graduation, or a quarter of its second-year class is comprised of students who it rejected for admission as first-year students, it’s obvious that the school is playing games to artificially inflate its employment outcomes and  student selectivity and ultimately its USNWR ranking. In my mind, this is unethical, because it actively seeks to mislead consumers (prospective students and employers of current students) who may not understand the numbers-manipulation that is occurring behind the curtain. It’s also, I believe, a sure sign of structural weakness – if a school has to play games to maintain its employment statistics or entering-student credentials, the school is masking significant underlying problems.

I'm not against transfers per se -- there are legitimate reasons for students to transfer, and in an open market they should be free to do so. Likewise, I have no problem with incubator projects or a law school hiring an odd recent graduate or two to help with admissions or the like. These are not the manipulations I'm objecting to.

I am not, by any stretch, a fan of the USNWR rankings. Many law deans boycott the annual survey, or at least say they do, for good reason. But for those who do fill the survey out, perhaps it makes sense next year to consider using the survey to significantly penalize the law schools who are manipulating their numbers and misleading consumers. Forcing schools to pay a price for their misbehavior seems the best way to stop it.



March 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is the Influence of U.S. News Declining?

Over at The Faculty Lounge, Al Brophy asks, "Is US News Still Relevant?".  One thing that caught my eye in the new rankings is that far fewer opinion survey recipients seem to be responding.  Over the past decade, an average of 67% of the academics receiving the US News survey filled it out.  This year, that number was down to 58%.  Among judges and lawyers, the average response rate over that time period has been 22%.  Several years ago, US News started using two years of the judge/lawyer responses each time, probably in recognition of the low response rate.  This year, US News did not even publish that response rate.  And, they moved to a 3-year average.  This strongly suggests that the response rate dropped significantly.

What does it mean that more people than ever are throwing out the US News survey?  My guess is that the ongoing crisis in legal education makes it easier to recognize that the annual horse race-like results of the rankings are far less important than lots of other things going on in legal education. 

March 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Want My Job?

People interested in pursuing a job similar to mine -- Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law -- often ask me for advice. Perhaps the most useful answer I am able to offer to their questions is to ask them whether they really want what they believe they want. Even the most attentive observers only see what they can see.

Every professor should be given the opportunity to run the enterprise, if only to give her insight into what it takes to do so. We imagine how we might perform in an occupation, based on an idealized version of its obligations -- even if we do not suppose we would be better than the incumbent.

Once, I attended a conference of Unitarian Universalists where I enjoyed chatting with a new member of the clergy. A businessperson who had switched careers, moved by spirituality, she confided to me that she had not quite realized when she was in seminary that her future was not to be exclusively contemplative or given over to pastoral care. She most enjoyed the time in her study preparing the Sunday sermon or attending to a member of the congregation who sought counseling. As she explained to me, she was surprised that she also was charged with attendance, the physical plant, the collection plate, and HR matters more vexing than in the private sector due to the commitments of faith and the culture of the congregation.

The same lament is true for other leadership roles.

A law school dean or college president must be passionate about the content of the education, and, at any research oriented institution, the original scholarship that is being produced. That's why a person who heads a campus, with significant duties, feels compelled to fulfill such responsibilities. She identifies with the purpose of the place and is motivated by it. The shared cause is what sustains people through the inescapable stress.

But an administrator also needs to be interested in the quotidian details of operations, ranging from the motivating of individuals and the organizing of groups to the finances and fundraising. That is why she is hired. She must be devoted not only to what happens on stage but also everything behind the scenes. The students deserve that dedication.

Leadership is about both ideas and implementation. Thinking and doing depend on distinct skill sets. Integrating them is the challenge.

March 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Law Firms Fail -- and What Law Schools Can Learn From That

Elsewhere, I have written about law firm failures. Although some laypeople might applaud as members of the bar receive their comeuppance, there is much for us in the academy to learn from these trends.
I am no expert. I offer only this comment about the dynamics of the legal marketplace.
Nobody suggests that law firm failures are caused by lawyers performing their work in an incompetent manner. To the contrary, everyone is surprised that great lawyers have not avoided the demise of their enterprises.

The same could be said of other ventures. That includes law schools and other institutions of higher education. It is important to assemble excellent scholars and dedicated teachers. But bringing together a group of great individuals is nothing more than gathering together impressive resumes, without a business model is sustainable.

March 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015

An American Law Professor in China; Eventually Chinese Lawyers in America?

I had the honor of teaching at the Peking University School of Transnational Law in its inaugural year. The oldest university on mainland China has had a law school for some time, but it decided to establish a unique law school. Offering an American Juris Doctor program, conducted in English, this upstart institution confirms the extent to which the American legal system has become the global standard. A mirror image would be difficult to imagine. Although there are accredited institutions in the United States offering a curriculum in Chinese Traditional Medicine, it is unlikely that a prestigious university here will soon set up a law school on the legal traditions of the PRC.


"STL," as it is known, is located on a separate campus in Shenzhen, shared with other universities developing new programs. The location is apt. Shenzhen has become famous: a fishing village across from Hong Kong allowed early on to play with capitalism, it transformed itself into a boom town exemplifying the ambitions of a nation. Development drives everything in the "Special Economic Zone."


My students displayed a determination uncommon in most classrooms. They were preparing themselves for a profession that depends on linguistic skill, in a tongue not their own. They were taking on risks that I -- an Asian American whose origins are as forgotten as anyone else's who assimilates to the new world -- would not dare hazard. They had the utmost confidence in the upward mobility of their society as well as themselves, based as much on hard work as innate talent.


In my time overseas, I realized how the rise of China as an economic rival to America will test our commitment to rule of law. It will challenge the openness of the system.


STL is symbolic. By creating it, China has shown at least that much interest in participating within a marketplace defined by American norms. More precisely, Chinese professionals who aspire to the highest levels of success have shown their eagerness to be accepted in that environment.


Yet eventually my students will decide that they are teachers in their own right. China will expect that it will be able to influence the customs and practices presented as universal and just. Otherwise, they will wonder why they accepted the invitation to join the community of nations.


America has presented itself as an exceptional experiment of democracy. The Chinese who come here, becoming Chinese Americans, Asian Americans, or simply Americans, achieve equality, through principles more fulfilled by the day. But I wonder about the Chinese who have no wish to become Chinese Americans, much less Asian Americans, or plain Americans, whether they will be granted rights, as participants able to influence outcomes. Perhaps they will cite the colonials who were galled by taxation without representation, notwithstanding that they are citizens of another sovereign. No matter how the advocate for themselves, we will be forced to consider their claims.


I am confident that our ideals will be the better for it.


This blog originally appeared on Linked In through its Influencers program.

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Champions of Justice Interview with Dean Gilbert Holmes

Excellent interview with Dean Holmes (LaVerne).

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

MacArthur Foundation Supports Chicago Incubator Program

I have been fortunate enough to serve on an advisory board to the Justice Entreprenuers Project, an incubator program established by the Chicago Bar Foundation to assist law school graduates in developing law practices for low and moderate income clients.  The MacArthur Foundation recently announced a $400,000 grant to this great project.



It is too early to tell whether this (or other incubator programs) is a sustainable model.  But it is great that MacArthur will aid in the development of this type of program. 

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Senior Staff Have to Say About Legal Education

From time to time, I correspond with people who read what I write. I received a most interesting note from someone very familiar with legal education. A long-time administrator at another law school in California, not my own, this person sent me a message worth quoting from (with permission).


This person describes "a watershed moment of legal education {and higher education) that will determine if we slip into becoming the parasites some accuse us of being, or push through to become more valuable to our students and society than ever though possible." The person believes, and I agree, that there isn't a single right answer to the hard questions. Instead, the answers may be "as diverse as the particular institutions and perhaps (if those institutions are willing to admit it) the students they serve."


Finally, as someone who has an important role within the institution but not as a faculty member, my interlocutor concludes that staff take these issues "as seriously as anyone with tenure" and perhaps more so "if you'll forgive me saying it that bluntly."


The challenge, as this individual identified thoughtfully, is how to bring together consensus while advancing ideas that might be as unpopular as they are necessary.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Blake Morant Talks to The Chronicle About Legal Education

Dean Blake Morant, dean of George Washington University Law School and AALS president, recently spoke with The Chronicle of Higher Education's Beckie Supiano about what lessons higher education can draw from our experiences in managing legal education in a time of rapid change.  

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

"[T]here are over 205 law schools in this country. There are over 175 AALS member schools. This is a very large country, with a variety of different opportunities for individuals. So while we have commonalities, there are also differences. But those differences are what gives choice to individuals who are trying to maximize what they want to do with their careers.

So as I say that, I think the idea of competition is always going to be there, and I think that's very healthy. If I see a law school with a program that's basically addressing a need, and I look at that method, "Well, you know, that would be great to do here, but I would like to tweak it a little bit in order to make it our kind of program." I think that's healthy.

At the same time, we're all facing a lot of very similar problems. And this is why I'm so excited about being president of AALS. Because I'll have the opportunity to really have a conversation with many different law schools out there. And as I have that conversation, I'm able to weave a thread, if you will, between the kind of issues that they're dealing with and the kind of issues that many law schools are dealing with.

You brought up a couple of those. There are fewer people applying to law school today than there have been in the last, I'd say, 20 years or so. Everyone's dealing with that particular situation.

You also brought up the issue of expense. That's a very, very complex issue that basically brings up, What are we giving individuals that basically gives them value for what they're paying for? And are we doing everything we can to spend that money as efficiently and effectively as possible to give them the kind of education that they need?

When we're asking those questions, many of us are coming up with solutions that are very similar. So we're having more individuals doing innovative things with their curriculum, taking advantage of technology, and maximizing the sort of choices that people have by getting them to think probatively about marrying a law degree with their individual talents."

See the full interview here.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Big News For Law Deans on Legal Education

It gives me great pleasure to report that Dean JoAnne Epps (Temple), Dean Martin Katz (Denver), Dean Daniel Rodriguez (Northwestern), Dean Kellye Testy (Washington), Dean David Yellen (Loyola Chicago), and Chancellor and Dean Frank Wu (UC Hastings) will be joining this blog. These deans are respected leaders in legal education, and I am honored, and humbled, to have the opportunity to work with them.


February 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Clarification

In a previous post I mentioned  Matt Leichter's predictions regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the post about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge.

I spoke recently with Kyle McEntee, Executive Director, Law School Transparency, and learned that LST is not responsible for the  inaccurate posts made on some law school Wikipedia pages. Mr. McEntee informed me that the Wikipedia posts were made by law students, who simply referenced the LST site.  LST's numbers are correct.

On a personal note, I think that LST has been a good thing for legal education, and accountability. The changes made by the ABA with regard to placement rates were, in large part, a response to the information being posted by LST.

I still take issue with Matt Leichter's numbers regarding lawyer overproduction. His numbers are primarily forecasts, and he does not adjust them when his forecasts turn out to be wrong. He is as reliable as a weather forecast predicting next month's weather.

February 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Law Library Sign of the Times

ShelvesI took this photo while visiting a law school that will remain nameless because I didn't ask for permission to post it (though I'm quite certain the school would be far from ashamed to be named). Libraries are going digital, and budget pressures make it difficult to justify maintaining print publications. Most law firm and county libraries have long since cancelled their print subscriptions, driving up the publication costs for the few remaining (mostly law school) buyers.

Colin Picker over at Law School Vibe suggests that:


the law schools within a city or region should  consolidate their collections together, in the process reducing unnecessary duplication.  That consolidated collection could be stored in a suitable warehouse.  The consolidated library books could then be electronically identified and ordered as needed by students or academics from participating law schools....

This may be a viable option for materials not yet available digitally, such as traditional academic books. But for everything else -- case reporters, law journals, etc. -- I suspect the answer will be outright replacement with digital materials.

Shelves at many law libraries already are tagged with a note indicating that the shelved material is no longer kept up-to-date. Rows of discontinued publications already look antiquated; it's only a matter of time (and a reversal in the decline in law school admissions) before libraries are pressured to discard the paper and repurpose the space.

Rick Bales


February 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hamline and William Mitchell Law Schools Announce Merger

From Dean Jean Holloway of Hamline University School of Law, and President and Dean Eric S. Janus, of William Mitchell College of Law:

"Our two law schools have announced plans to combine, to further our shared missions of providing a rigorous, practical, and problem-solving approach to legal education.

The combination will occur following acquiescence by the American Bar Association.  Until then the two schools will continue to operate their current programs, while taking steps to ensure a smooth transition for students when ABA acquiescence is obtained.

Once combined, the law school will offer expanded benefits for its students, including three nationally-ranked programs: alternative dispute resolution, clinical education, and health law; an array of certificate and dual degree programs, and an alumni network of more than 18,000.

The combined school will be named Mitchell|Hamline School of Law and will be located primarily on William Mitchell’s existing campus in Saint Paul.  Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be an autonomous, non-profit institution governed by an independent board of trustees, with a strong and long-lasting affiliation to Hamline University.

The Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be led by Mark Gordon, who will serve as its founding President and Dean.  Mark brings nearly 30 years of experience in higher education and public service. He is currently president of Defiance College, a private, liberal arts college in Defiance, Ohio, and previously served as dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law."



February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check the Stats


In my senior year of college at the University of Georgia, I had the good fortune of covering the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League for an FM radio station in Athens, Ga.  The Flames moved to Calgary, shortly thereafter (and Atlanta has even lost a second NHL team, the Thrashers). 

My job was to go to the games, sit in the press-box, and conduct post-game interviews. It was truly a great experience, but I was far from being a professional interviewer. I have many vivid memories from that experience. Most of the players were really classy human beings. Jean Pronovost, for example, was always willing to give an interview, even after a bad loss. He was polite, and gracious, despite the fact that I was a 20 year old college senior, pretending to be a sports reporter.  Some players, on the other hand, were not as nice. One defenseman took great pleasure in disrespecting reporters, doing things I need not mention on this blog.

One of my favorite players to interview was Bill Clement. Clement was one of the most intelligent players in the league, and he always did his homework. I was not surprised when he went on to do broadcasting on a national level, when he retired from playing. After one game, he quickly exposed my lack of depth. I asked a teammate of Clement's how it felt to be scoring goals this year, since he was not known as a goal scorer. Clement called out from across the locker room, "check the stats." If I had done my homework better, I would have seen that the player I was questioning had been the second-leading goal scorer on his previous team. Bill Clement then kindly pulled me aside, and told me that he wasn't trying to show me up, he simply wanted to make sure I got the facts right.

As I read Matt Leichter's post regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the posts about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge, I want to call across the room, "check the stats." Much of the information coming from those sources is contradicted by the facts reported by law schools to the ABA, including placement rates and costs. 

More on this to come.

February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clinical Education

Medical schools pride themselves on being professional schools, and not graduate schools. They understand that they cannot train new doctors, without giving them exposure to actual medical practice.  Law schools are finally moving more and more to the professional school model, by offering experiential learning, including clinics.

I have become a big believer in clinical education, and the impact it has on students, as well as the clients they serve. Students and alumni regularly tell me that their experience serving in a clinic was the most rewarding and valuable thing they did in law school. Some student testimonials can be found here.

February 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Touro Law Center's Journal of Experiential Learning

Touro Law Center has published the Journal of Experiential Learning.

The journal is a place for deans and faculty to publish essays and articles about their experiments with various aspects of experiential education.  The journal welcomes guest editors and ideas for themes for future issues.

The coordinating editor is Myra Berman, Assoc. Dean for Experiential Learning at Touro Law.




February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teaching Skills

At Ole Miss Law we require a two week  Skill Session each year. 1L's are required to take Contract Negotiation and Drafting,  while 2L and 3L students can elect the Skill Session class they will take. The program has now been in place for three years.

 The classes are  taught by a combination of full-time faculty members and practitioners, and the practitioners live on campus during the two-week program. Having lawyers and judges present on campus for the entire two weeks allows the students to interact with them on a much more meaningful basis than the typical course taught by an adjunct.  Furthermore, we have found that teaching skills in a concentrated two-week period is more effective than teaching the same skills in a 13 or 14 week semester.

Student feedback has been positive.

I know that Vanderbilt Law has just launched a program that helps students transition from the classroom to the profession. are there innovative programs other schools would like to share? If so, I would be happy to link to them on this blog.


February 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)