October 22, 2011
Are Online Privacy Concerns Just "Old People Issues"?
LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman thinks so: “all these concerns about privacy tend to be old people issues.” See the video of his comments from the 2010 Davos Conference along with commentary here. [JH]
October 21, 2011
Friday Fun: Lego Law for Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad
Got to love law student creativity. Product of utter boredom? [JH]
Quelling Unrest by Way of Media Connectivity: From Egypt to the UK to AALL
Remember the outcry by government officials from Western democracies when the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet and moble cell phone networks in an attempt to silence communications which eventually led to the overthrow of his government? Didn't work. In Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest: Evidence from Mubarak’s Natural Experiment, [SSRN] Yale's Navid Hassanpour argues it had the opposite effect. From the abstract:
Conventional wisdom suggests that lapses in media connectivity - for example, disruption of Internet and cell phone access - have a negative effect on political mobilization. I argue that on the contrary, sudden interruption of mass communication accelerates revolutionary mobilization and proliferates decentralized contention. Using a dynamic threshold model for participation in network collective action I demonstrate that full connectivity in a social network can hinder revolutionary action. I exploit a decision by Mubarak's regime to disrupt the Internet and mobile communication during the 2011 Egyptian uprising to provide an empirical proof for the hypothesis. A difference-in difference inference strategy reveals the impact of media disruption on the dispersion of the protests. The evidence is corroborated using historical, anecdotal, and statistical accounts.
Perhaps the member of Parliament who wanted to ban social media during the UK's recent violent street riots would think twice about that position if he read Hassanpour's article.
Perhaps AALL will learn that the best way to quell membership unrest is to open up its official meetings by way of media connectivity. I'm thinking live (and then achived) webcasts of the Executive Board's upcoming meeting might be a good place to start if "AALL is all about transparency" in the 21st century. [JH]
CCC's Tracey Armstrong on Digital Demands Pave Way for Copyright Evolution
I doubt Tracey Armstrong is "the voice of copyright" but as the CEO of Copyright Clearance Center she is one of the voices of copyright. In Armstrong: The Voice of Copyright, a profile piece published in Information Today, Armstrong describes how the digital evolution of content has paved the way for new methods for content licensing. A snip:
Responding to the changing needs of today’s digital world demands CCC’s full attention. “Licensing is evolving,” says Armstrong. “It’s evolving because of the way that the users are interfacing with content.” Integrating rights into that technology is key. “The best technology is transparent. And the best licensing solutions for our users are transparent.”
Opening: Student Services Librarian, Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law
Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law is interested in hiring a Student Services Librarian. This position requires a MLS and a JD. For more information, visit the Career section of AALL’s website. [JH]
October 20, 2011
AALL Distinguished Lectureship Award Nominations Due by Nov. 1
From the announcement:
The AALL Distinguished Lectureship is an opportunity for members with a unique perspective on the history, practice, or philosophy of law librarianship to share their knowledge and expertise with other members in a prestigious setting. The lecture, which can be on a topic of the individual's own choosing, will be presented at the annual meeting and published in the Law Library Journal. The inaugural Distinguished Lectureship Award was presented this year to Jolande E. Goldberg of the Library of Congress. Her lecture, presented at 2011 AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, was entitled De arte et de jurisprudentia: Some Aspects of Legal Iconography. It will be published in a forthcoming issue of Law Library Journal.
Please consider nominating one of your colleagues for this award. The deadline for nominations is November 1, 2011. The full description of the award and the nomination form are posted online. Nominees will be evaluated primarily on the strength of their nominating statements. Although Letters of Recommendation are not required, they are extremely helpful to the committee.
Criteria for selection are:·
- The nominee must be a member in good standing of the Association who has made a substantial contribution to its work.·
- The nominee must have been active for a sufficient number of years to have acquired a broad perspective on law librarianship and must possess the qualities required to articulate his or her experiences and ideas.·
- The nominee will be selected for speaking style, preeminence in the subject area, and willingness to commit significant time and energy to prepare for the lecture.
If you have questions or would like more information about the award, please contact a member of the Research and Publications Committee: Sara Sampson (Chair), Luis Acosta (Vice-Chair), Terry Ballard, Kim Clarke, James Donovan, Mark Engsberg, Julie Graves Krishnaswami, Evelyn Ma, Sima Mirkin and Renee Rastorfer.
ACRL Signs Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and the Humanities
Quoting from ACRL Insider:
ACRL has long supported open access to scholarship as a central principle for reform in the system of scholarly communication. In ACRL’s new strategic plan, the plan for excellence, the goal in the area of research and scholarly environment is that librarians accelerate the transition to a more open system of scholarship. Signing the Berlin Declaration is one way college and university libraries can demonstrate their intention to influence scholarly publishing policies and practices toward a more open system.
New and Updated GlobaLex Research Guides
New research guide:
- Nuclear Law Research Guide by Linda Tashbook
- An Introduction to Sources for Treaty Research by Mark Engsberg and Mary Beth Chappell
- Intute: Law – the What? Why? How? Where? and Who? by Steve Whittle
- The Crisis in Darfur: Researching the Legal Issues by Amy Burchfield
- A Guide to Online Research Resources for the Macedonian Legal System by Nic Angelov
Of course, many additional guides on international, comparative, and foreign law research can be found at GlobaLex. [JH]
Opening: Assistant Director for Information Services, George Washington University Law School, Jacob Burns Law Library
The George Washington University Law School seeks a qualified librarian to lead and manage the Information Services Division of the Jacob Burns Law Library. Basic qualifications for this position include an ALA-accredited MLS (or equivalent) and an ABA-accredited JD (or equivalent). Review of applications will begin December 1, 2011, and continue until the position is filled. Additional information, including a complete list of qualifications and details on the application procedure, are available on the Law Library’s website here. Only complete applications will be considered.
The George Washington University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.
October 19, 2011
Baltimore Law Budget Increase Raises Some Questions
Sometimes there is a strange convergence in the way events unfold. In Monday’s post I wrote how Senators Coburn and Boxer highlighted the situation at Baltimore where tuition increased significantly but the school retained a fraction of that money. Their letter to the Department of Education was dated October 13, 2011. The same day saw the University of Baltimore president Robert L. Bogomolny and Law School Interim Dean Higginbotham issue a statement committing a $5 million increase in the Law School’s operating budget over 5 years. That’s about $923 per student per year based on Baltimore’s stated enrollment, a bit more than lunch money I would say. The text of the statement with commentary is at Above The Law. The statement noted that the increase would keep law school tuition from rising without reducing financial commitment to other academic units at the University.
That brings up an interesting point, and one that doesn’t get aired too much in the context of law school transparency. If I were a law student at Baltimore I would be asking myself a bunch of questions. One is how are my tuition dollars allocated in the greater scheme of things? How is it possible that non-law academic units will not suffer if the law school budget is increased by $1 million per year? Another related question is how is the overhead a University charges to a law school defined? There is a lot of leeway in that last one. Baltimore law professor Michael Meyerson is quoted in the National Law Journal as stating that his committee charged with reviewing the law school’s funding structure looked at budget information at 9 public law schools and found that it was impossible to make direct comparisons.
The ABA does have standards on this, specifically Standard 210:
Standard 210. LAW SCHOOL-UNIVERSITY RELATIONSHIP
(a) If a law school is part of a university, that relationship shall serve to enhance the law school’s program.
(b) If a university’s general policies do not adequately facilitate the recruitment and retention of competent law faculty, appropriate separate policies should be established for the law school.
(c) The resources generated by a law school that is part of a university should be made available to the law school to maintain and enhance its program of legal education.
(d) A law school shall be given the opportunity to present its recommendations on budgetary matters to the university administration before the budget for the law school is submitted to the governing board for adoption.
A law school does not comply with the Standards if the charges and costs assessed against the law school’s revenue by the university leave the law school with financial resources so inadequate as to have a negative and material effect on the education students receive.
The resources generated by a law school that is part of a university should be made available to the law school to maintain and enhance its program of legal education. “Resources generated” includes law school tuition and fees, endowment restricted to the law school, gifts to the law school, and income from grants, contracts, and property of the law school. The university should provide the law school with a satisfactory explanation for any use of resources generated by the law school to support non-law school activities and central university services. In turn, the law school should benefit on a reasonable basis in the allocation of university resources.
I don’t believe anyone would suggest that a law school should not contribute to its parent institution. But one wonders if university administrators react to law school revenues the same way as Daffy Duck reacts in a treasure cave. There is nothing wrong with saying a law school should benefit on a “reasonable basis” in reallocating law school revenue back to the school. It’s just that there is so much room for accounting games that can be characterized as reasonable. Does overhead include, say, charging a law school rent for all or some of the facilities it occupies? Would that reasonable?
It may be impossible to compare schools based on individual practices, but those practices are identifiable. Making them public is the next frontier of law school transparency. I would expect a tremendous amount of resistance from university administrators. Nonetheless, inquiring minds may want to know. Senators Coburn and Boxer wondered. Prospective law students may want to know as well. [MG]
More Corporate Legal Departments Just Saying "No:" Is billing newbie attorneys at paralegal rates the answer?
More than 20% of the 366 in-house legal departments that responded to a recent survey conducts by Association of Corporate Counsel for the WSJ reported that they are refusing to pay for work performed by first- or second-year assocates. The WSJ Law Blog's Joe Palazzolo reports that almost half of the companies said they put that policy in place during the past two years, and the trend appears to be growing.
Why pick up the tab to train newbie attorneys? Corporate counsels should know. First, they too were not-practice ready law school grads once. Most likely they also attended the post-graduate school known as BigLaw to acquire the training they needed before moving to a corporate law department.
ATL's Elie Mystal thinks the consequences will be that law firms will just assign the billable work to mid-level associates. In Clients Won’t Pay For What Law Schools Churn Out, he writes “It’s entirely possible that 20% of clients don’t understand that having a midlevel do work more suitable for a trained monkey is actually worse than having a first-year do it." I think corporate counsels are smarter than that.
Billing Law School Grads at Paralegal Rates. Perhaps law firms could recoup some of their newbie lawyers employment training costs if the firms billed them out at paralegal rates. Doubt paralegals would like that unless the first- and second-year associates were also compensated at paralegal rates. Now there's a thought. Based on working with paralegals, however, an experienced paralegal trumps recent law school grads (regardless of where that newbie attorney graduated) any every day.
While a cyclical (recession-based) overall reduction in demand for high-end legal services explains part of this transformation, I believe that a significant and still growing part of the change is structural, and results from the change in the staffing and pricing of legal process work reflected in the trends discussed above. What this means is that rates of hiring at larger law firms for highly compensated partnership-track associates are likely to remain much lower than they were in, say, 2007 for quite a long time. While this is producing some wrenching short-term dislocations in the entry-level job market that are both tragic and widespread, it is at least as important to consider the possible longer-term effects not only on clients and law firms, but on prospective and current law students, law graduates, and law schools.
CALI Call for Proposals to Create State Specific Legal Research Lessons
From the announcement:
The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is on a mission get a state specific legal research lesson covering primary and secondary materials for each of the 50 states. We're close, but we still need at least one lesson for the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
If you are a librarian at a CALI member institution and would like to write a lesson for one of these states, we are currently accepting proposals. The deadline for current round of lesson proposals is November 4, 2011. Authors receive monetary compensation, free registration to the CALI conference and editorial support though the lesson writing process. Full proposal requirements and details can be found here.
Opening: Director of the Law and Justice Library, Rutgers-Newark
The Rutgers University Library for the Center for Law and Justice, in Newark, New Jersey, seeks applications and nominations for the position of Director. The Director reports to the Dean of the Law School through the Vice-Dean, and has responsibility for all aspects of library operations. Applications are due November 28.
With more than half a million volumes and volume equivalents, the Center for Law and Justice Library is the largest law library in New Jersey. Besides the Director, it has a full-time staff of seventeen, including seven tenured and tenure-track Librarians. The Schools of Law and Criminal Justice that the library serves both have a remarkably diverse student body and faculty, and a proud record of faculty scholarship, public interest service, and alumni accomplishments. Rutgers is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action employer. Men and women, and members of all racial and ethnic groups, are encouraged to apply.
The next director will have exceptional opportunities for leadership and growth in a dynamic environment. We seek ambitious, forward-looking applicants with vision, experience, and a deep understanding of current trends in law librarianship. Applicants should have the technological savvy to move the library increasingly into the digital age and yet still appreciate the need for physical collection development. They also should be capable of fundraising, especially through grant writing, and have budgeting and financial management skills. They should have a proven track-record of success in administration and be capable of guiding our institutional relationship with a variety of other libraries and stakeholders. In addition, they should possess a commitment to scholarship, be eager to collaborate intellectually with other librarians, and understand faculty needs for scholarship assistance. They should also have experience and skills as a teacher.
The academic appointment to this position is normally made with tenure at a senior Librarian rank, and is typically accompanied by a courtesy appointment as Professor of Law.
The appointment as Director, which also carries with it the title of Associate Dean, is an administrative appointment, with the appointee serving at the pleasure of the Dean. Benefits include retirement plans, life/health insurance, prescription drug, dental and vision plans, one month vacation, and a sabbatical program. Candidates must have MLS and JD degrees from accredited schools.
To apply, please send: 1) cover letter; 2) curriculum vitae; 3) copies of two publications; and 4) contact information, including e-mail, for three professional references to Prof. Mark S. Weiner, Chair of Librarian Search Committee, at profmsw(at)andromeda.rutgers.edu. Please send all items in pdf format.
October 18, 2011
The ABA Reacts
The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar issued the most remarkable statement yesterday. It wrote to clarify its role of how it manages the collection and publication of jobs data. As readers well know, hardly anyone is happy with the job market for recent graduates and angrier still because schools put such a happy face on their placement data. I need not go into the lawsuits faced by some schools, the inquiries to the ABA from three Senators, and other events where the ABA seemed to be tentative about regulating in an area they have oversight. Consider that the Section censured Villanova for falsely reporting data and the University of Illinois admitted that it had done the same, without an announced penalty at this point. The implication is that these are anomalies that can be fixed in the normal course of business.
Well, no more. The Section is getting sick and tired and not going to take it anymore:
To become accredited, law schools must comply with each of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools. Standard 509 requires that law schools publish basic consumer information, including placement data. “The information shall be published in a fair and accurate manner reflective of actual practice.” The ABA relies on law schools to provide fair and accurate information, which we publish for use by prospective students. Law schools that violate Standard 509 risk the loss of accreditation or other serious penalty, as was the case with the false reporting of admissions data by Villanova University School of Law earlier this year.
In light of the recent revelations of violations or possible violations of Standard 509 by two law schools, the section chair has directed the Standards Review Committee to draft a new standard that provides for specific and severe penalties for the intentional misreporting of placement data, including possible monetary fines and loss of accreditation. The Standards Review Committee is scheduled to take up the matter immediately.
What is remarkable about this is that the Section is considering sanctions with teeth for a school’s violations of standards and that it is doing so speedily. That’s not the ABA we’ve known in the past. One of Senator Grassley’s criticisms of the ABA is that it seemed the Section was filled with enough academics who would give schools a large benefit of the doubt when it came to playing at the edge of the accreditation standards. Putting it another way, the Section and the schools are perceived to be a bit too cozy when comes to regulating how law schools operate.
It could put the ABA in some jeopardy if the current lawsuits show that multiple schools cheated on their numbers. The organization is not part of the legal actions, so far. I suspect that it may be the next target if the schools are liable. Was the ABA complicit in letting the schools get away with false numbers as the question might be raised? I don’t know but, oh, what details might come out in discovery. Better to step up now and avoid going there.
The Section is following through with collecting additional and more detailed jobs data from the schools:
The section is expanding and refining the quality of placement data reported by law schools. This will be done in two phases:
- Beginning with 2010 graduates, we are asking schools to provide employment status, type, location, whether short or long term, and whether employment is funded by the school itself. The 2010 questionnaire reflects these changes, and the information will be reported on the section website and in the next ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools.
- Employment data regarding whether the employment requires a J.D. and/or bar passage, relates to other professions, and is full time or part time, will be required going forward. We are refining the questions and the definitions used by NALP so that they are fully clear and accurate. When finalized, they will be part of the 2011 questionnaire going out next spring.
The section is expediting the collection and reporting of placement data. Unlike in years past, employment data for each school will be published one year after graduation, so that students entering in a given fall semester will have placement information for the class that graduated the previous year. The 2011 graduating class data will be reported in the summer of 2012, fully one year earlier than in previous years.
This has been in the works for a while. This statement, however, is the clearest issued so far on what the ABA intends for jobs data in the new surveys. I hope they meet their deadlines and the schools comply with honest numbers. It’s also nice to see the ABA making decisions with some speed. Senators and others, take note. The ABA is looking as if it doesn't want to play law school patsy anymore. [MG]
And the Winner in ATL's Shed West Print Era in Academic Law Libraries Photo Caption Contest Is
Having catalogued the total number of volumes, microfilm, microfiche, and titles, this dumpster is hereby accredited.
Details on ATL here.
Image suitable for framing in Lexis, Fastcase, Bloomberg Law and Wolters Kluwer executive offices below (click to enlarge) as a remainder of what not to do in the 21st century to maintain a subscription base.
It's not just about West's print reporters but also all of West's traditional print titles -- digests, general and state-specific legal encyclopedia, massive sets of generic form compilations, plus many acquired secondary source titles being treating editorially as commodities while pricing them as golden opportunities to maintain some sort of high profit margin revenue stream. Not exactly working out as planned, now is it.
With each round of Shed West print cancellations, pricing increases to reflect lower demand. If TR Legal substantially discounted its pricing now, would subscription start flooding in or would institutional buyers just toss the offers in the dumpster because "no one is complaining" about the titles that were cancelled? [JH]
"Transparency continues to be an issue for AALL members"
In the From the President column in the September/October 2011 issue of AALL Spectrum, Darcy Kirk writes
Transparency continues to be an issue for AALL members, so I plan to provide as much information to members as possible, in as timely a fashion as possible, as well as to allow for member input. I also look forward to hearing from you individually if you have concerns that I might help address.
OK ... I'm thinking the following suggestion echos more in accountability than transparency but one really can't have one without the other. So here is a big picture suggestion ahead of the Executive Board's upcoming meeting.
It's time for performance budgeting. How about establishing performance budgeting for AALL activities timely announced before their engagement for member input, after their conclusion, again for member input, and finally in an annual keynote State of the Association message from the out-going president at our annual meeting, again for member input by way of questions (plus webcast live for members not attending the annual meeting).
In a nutshell, performance budgeting is a means to justify one-off and regular on-going activities by stating with specificity the objectives to be accomplished and also with equal specificity the expected costs associated with the activity.
Take for example, a one-time activity: if our association intends to hire a consultant to do something, shouldn't the membership know the Executive Board's decision to do so in advance based on performace budgeting principles:
- What are the specific objectives to be accomplished?
- What bidding procedures will be used?
- How much will be budgeted for the consultant?
- How much staff time quantified in terms of compensation cost including so-called honorariums has been budgeted for the project?
After the activity has been concluded, performance budgeting would call for something more than the usual happy talk about how great the project was. It would call for a statement of accounting that addresses the following:
- What objectives were accomplished?
- What objective were not?
- What were the actual itemized expenses incurred?
- If follow-up is recommended, what will those objectives be and what are the budgeted costs to execute them?
Other one-offs include conferences, even regular ones e.g., leadership, fit into this before and after accountability. On-going activities like AALL publications and annual meetings also fit the performance budgeting matrix. While figures can be gleamed from AALL budgets, what is not available is a frank statement of objectives, an equally frank assessment of the degree of achievement made and the specific cost-to-members. Sound like a fair amount of work. So what. Those of us who spend a fair amount of time performing cost-benefit-performance assessment analysis to inform our employers should expect nothing less from AALL.
How often, for example, has any rank-and-file member heard from our association in an official statement that "we really screwed up on that one and it cost us $X in the process?" I can't remember one. As our association president has stated "transparency continues to be an issue for AALL members"."Provid[ing] as much information to members as possible, in as timely a fashion as possible, as well as to allow for member input" is a noble objective, one long overdue. I hope our current president succeeds. But in my opinion, the best way to do that would be to institutionalize performance budgeting by way of timely communications on her watch.
There is no transparency without accountability. The first step must including bean-counting accounting in a before-and-after manner along with a specific statement of objective so members can evaluation the value before the fact; that would be real member input. That must be followed up with a frank assessment communicated to all members for major activities (oops, a loophole!) in a timely manner afterwards.
No one not drinking the AALL Kool-aid believes the happy talk that is the typical fodder members read in official announcements and documentation of AALL activities because members know no organization is perfect. When mistakes are made, just say so and identify the costs associated.
My hunch is membership criticism will continue but could be more constructive if constructive criticism is what our elected officials and association staff really want. It certainly would be a step in the right direction ifAALL wants to regain widespread membership trust. If not, the perception will remain that AALL conducts far too much of its business in secret; does not engage members who are not insiders and will do whatever under the guise of being in the memberships "best interests."
Transparency and accountablity requires independent oversight. This is a problem of AALL's own offical creation. Unless structural transformations that bring sunlight to shine upon our association are not made, the status quo will not change. The cycle of membership engagement from being interested to becoming fed up will simply continue as it has done for decades now.
Personally, I think the best way to break this membership cycle will take more than just the implementation of performance budgeting. It will take the creation of an independent oversight committee tasked with inspecting, evaluating and reporting on AALL activities -- an oversight committee elected by members for members from members standing for election without being screened; certainly not a committee appointed by the Executive Board or based on candidates selected by the Nominations Committee.
Yes, a grassroots committee, one large enough to perform the task at hand and serving long enough so as to figure out how AALL operates to perform the oversight needed. Let any member toss his or her hat in the ring with the usual statement of qualifications and explanation why the person is standing for election.
Ya think that is ever going to happen? [JH]
Reminder: HeinOnline Webinar on New Enhancements and Law Journal Library Subject Searching Set for Wednesday
From the announcement:
Wed., October 19, 2011 2:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT- Register Now
What is covered in this webinar?
During this webinar we will demonstrate some of our newest enhancements and focus further on how to make the most of subject searching in the Law Journal Library.
- NEW! One box search on the welcome page
- Permalink tool
- Changes made to the search form in the Law Journal Library
- Searching shortcuts in the Law Journal Library - search this title, subject, country
- Subject searching in the Law Journal Library
- Utilizing cross-library searching results
- Linking to your local library catalog for articles that we can't provide the full text for
October 17, 2011
Senators Ask Department of Education For Law School Numbers
I wrote last week about Senator Boxer’s latest inquiry to the American Bar Association. See Senator Boxer Calls Out ABA On Jobs Data And Scholarships. I asked at the end of that post if any other Senators had any questions. Apparently Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has a few. How law schools are managed and accredited is now a bipartisan issue, a rare occurrence in Washington these days. I would not call Senators Coburn, Boxer, and Grassley ideological partners otherwise.
The latest letter is joint inquiry from Senators Coburn and Boxer and this time it’s directed not to the ABA but to the Department of Education’s Inspector General. The Senators are asking for statistical information schools normally report to the ABA, though this time sourced from the Department’s own (independent) records. The full letter is here. The specific questions to the Department are:
To better understand trends related to law schools over the most recent ten-year window, we request your office provide the following information:
1. The current enrollments, as well as the historical growth of enrollments, at American law schools – in the aggregate, and also by sector (i.e., private, public, for-profit).
2. Current tuition and fee rates, as well as the historical growth of tuition and fees, at American law schools – in the aggregate, and also by sector (i.e., private, public, for-profit).
3. The percentage of law school revenue generated that is retained to administer legal education, operate law school facilities, and the percentage and dollar amount used for other, non-legal educational purposes by the broader university system. If possible, please provide specific examples of what activities and expenses law school revenues are being used to support if such revenue does not support legal education directly.
4. The amount of federal and private educational loan debt legal students carried upon graduation, again in the aggregate and across sectors.
5. The current bar passage rates and graduation rates of students at American law schools, again in the aggregate and across sectors.
6. The job placement rates of American law school graduates; indicating whether such jobs are full- or part-time positions, whether they require a law degree, and whether they were maintained a year after employment.
This can mean one of two things: the Senators do not have confidence the ABA’s statistical reports and its answers to previous letters, or they want to see if the Department of Education collects this kind of information as well. If not, it’s a strong suggestion that the Department should start and maybe get involved in setting its own standards for schools. There are no tables that cover this kind of information in the Statistical Abstract of the United States. It’s one thing for law schools to fudge job data and the like for U.S. News rankings and web site puffing. It’s another to lie to a federal agency. Something more than ABA censure might be in play in the latter situation.
Let’s take a moment and look at question 3 in more detail. The context for that comes from an earlier paragraph in the letter:
The Baltimore Sun recently reported on the resignation of the Dean of the University of Baltimore (UB) Law School, who said he resigned, in part, over his frustration that the law school’s revenue was not being retained to serve students at the school. In his resignation letter, UB’s Dean noted: “The financial data [of the school] demonstrates that the amount and percentage of the law school revenue retained by the university has increased, particularly over the last two years. For the most recent academic year (AY 10-11), our tuition increase generated $1,455,650 in additional revenue. Of that amount, the School of Law budget increased by only $80,744.”
The LLB covered the story of Baltimore’s handling of Dean Phil Closius in a series of posts. See Chapter Three in the Continuing Baltimore Law Saga: "Junking the Stats" in Public "Cockfight" between UB President and Fired UB Law Dean as an example, with links to previous coverage.
The ABA doesn’t like to get involved in these types of disputes, preferring to view them as internal matters at each school. That approach tends to give university administrations breathing room when it comes to dealing with their dirty laundry law schools under the accreditation rules, sometimes with unpleasant consequences. Getting the Department of Education to care in circumstances where the ABA might not is a classic approach to placing pressure on the accreditors. The ABA need not respond publicly as the letter is not addressed to the organization. Still, it must feel the heat. University administrators might feel that same heat if the Department of Education is pushed into asking schools some tough questions.
The Senators, I suspect, are counting on the Department as not necessarily being as vested in the ABA as the ABA is with the law schools it oversees. I think that is the whole point of this strategy. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of this. Should we get the Government Accountability Office involved next? [MG]
Time to Take a Velvet Chainsaw to AALL's Less Than Comprehensive But Official Review of Annual Meeting Programming
I doubt I was the only AALL member to hear that our association had retained Velvet Chainsaw Consulting to conduct a "comprehensive review of the Annual Meeting educational programming" and that a Velvet Chainsaw representative "attended the 2011 Annual Meeting and also conducted interviews with meeting attendees during the conference. In addition, VCC will conduct phone interviews with other members, including first-time and long-time meeting attendees, special interest section leaders, former Annual Meeting Program Committee chairs, and others who have been involved in educational program planning." Quoting from the Septemeber AALL e-Newsletter issue. In fact, I know I wasn't the only AALL member; at least one member of AMPC responsible for Philly 2011 never heard of it; meaning, of course, wasn't interviewed by Velvet Chainsaw in Philly.
The larger question is one of scope. Can there really be a "comprehensive review" of annual meeting educational programming without Velvet Chainsaw finding out why many former attendee members have given up on attending annual meetings? I don't think so.
The reasons AALL members are not attending annual meetings for professional development and education are at least as valid as those who do attend. I think they may be much more enlightening if the intent of this review is to (1) improve educational programming which in turn (2) may increase participation in and attendance at our professional association's annual meeting. Considering how much of our association's time and efforts focus on annual meetings every year, I have a hunch that the membership dues expended to hire Velvet Chainsaw won't have a very high return on investment without the constructive feedback non-attending members could make.
I also have a hunch that a fair number of non-attending members once volunteered their time and efforts to association activities like the annual meeting but have now just given up. Here's an opportunity to find out why and to craft necessary correctives before more members question the value of the annual meetings, even question the value of belonging to AALL because so much of our association's focus has been and remains on annual meetings at the expensive of other activities that need concerted engagement assuming we really do belong to an association of law libraries, not an association of law librarians.
Don't know who to ask? Besides being plenty of discussion on AALL lists over the years, all it would take is a mass email to the membership asking those who do not attend annual meetings to (1) take a survey and (2) be willing to take a phone call from Velvet Chainsaw for an interview. Absent that won't the majority of AALL members are being excluded from helping improve annual meeting programming?
Supposedly Velvet Chainsaw Consulting will be submitting a report wiht recommendations to the Executive Board for its consideration at the Board's November 4-5 meeting. Will the report present what the Executive Board wants to hear or needs to hear?; Do the review over to find out why members do not attend annual meetings: too expensive? programs not relevant? other associations' programs more valuable? [JH]
Lexis Acquistion of Shepard's Voted Best Merger
In September Jean O'Grady posted a informal survey asking readers to vote for the best and worst mergers in the legal publishing industry and promising to report the results upon its conclusion. Last Friday, she reported the findings on the best mergers. By a hugh margin the acquisition of Shepard's by Lexis in 1993 won. Details including a summary of survey takers comments here.
I too think the Shepard's acquisition was the best merger. Some could argue that Lexis without Shepard's would have made Lexis substantially less competitive than Westlaw in the 1990s. The acquisition is still paying dividends. I, for one, would be very unconfortable about not offering Lexis+Shepards online to our little county law library's on-site and off-site user population. While Key-Cite isn't as bad as it once was, it still isn't the gold standard in legal citators.
O'Grady promises to report the findings on the worst legal publishing mergers this week on Dewey B Strategic. Should be very interesting. [JH]