March 15, 2013
Class of 2012 Ranking: The Top 20 Law Schools with Highest Average DebtThe schools are a mix of elite and also-rans with Class of 2012 average graduate debt ranging from #1 Thomas Jefferson at $168,800, to #20 Cornell at $140,000. For more, see Brian Tamanaha's The Law Graduate Debt Disaster Goes Critical. [JH]
Friday Fun: Preparing the Final Exam for Legal Research Skills
Getting ready to prepare the final exam for testing legal research skill sets? Typical, atypical, extreme (my favorite) and practical approaches are reviewed in this video. [JH]
March 14, 2013
Short Takes On The News: Google Reader, The Apple e-Book Case, TLDs, And Law Applications
Google is killing Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. I don’t use the product myself (or RSS for that matter), so I have no feelings about the move one way or the other. However, any numbers of articles in the popular and semi-popular press express shock and/or sadness at the announcement. Felix Salmon writes a Reuters post asking whether Google has killed RSS altogether, though he suggests that Facebook and Twitter feeds may have replaced the immediate need for RSS. A post in Socialmedia Today offers instructions on how to move to other RSS readers out there. Ars Technica posits that an equivalent of Google Reader will wind up as part of Google+. That wouldn’t be surprising as Google seems committed to creating more reasons for subscribers to mingle on Plus pages. CBS News reports that Digg has announced it is building a substitute reader to fill the gap.
Poor Tim Cook. The Apple CEO has been ordered by Judge Denise Kote to give a deposition to the Government in the Apple e-book antitrust case. He had declined due to lack of any unique knowledge about the arrangement with publishers according to paidContent. It was Steve Jobs’ baby all the way. Bloomberg fills in a few more details. Cook was running Apple on a day-to-day basis while Jobs’ illness played out. Other depositions from Apple employees suggest Cook did have private conversations with Jobs about e-books. There’s something about that “under oath” thing that helps bring these things out. Apple is the only defendant left in the case with the publishers having settled.
It seems that Amazon’s attempt to gain the top-level-domains (TLD) of .book and .author (and others) is raised the ire of the Authors Guild, Barnes & Noble, and other objectors. ICANN has approved the creation of additional TLDs and the land rush is on with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others attempting to snap up domains. Amazon potentially would be the one who would control registration for .book sites and could conceivably keep the domain for its own use. The Guild thinks this is anticompetitive. My reaction to the Guild in past scrums such as the Apple e-book case and the Google scanning case is the Guild is wrong. Here, I think the organization is absolutely right. I can see Google controlling .goog in a similar way as the TLD is reflective of its corporate name. However, .book and .author are too generic to be controlled strictly by Amazon. The comment period is closed, but more information on what ICANN is doing is here.
Finally, the latest LSAC figures are no comfort to deans who may be ruffled by the latest U.S. News law school rankings:
As of 03/08/13, there are 323,167 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 46,587 applicants. Applicants are down 17.9% and applications are down 21.6% from 2012. Last year at this time, we had 84% of the preliminary final applicant count. Last year at this time, we had 88% of the preliminary final application count.
The charts are here. Many are asking the question why the University of North Texas is opening the UNT Dallas College of Law for business in Fall of 2014 in light of figures that are not likely to get better in the coming years. Is Texas really an underserved legal market? [MG]
Palfrey's Why We Miss the First Sale Doctrine in Digital Libraries
In Why We Miss the First Sale Doctrine in Digital Libraries, John Palfrey "examines the role of law in the ebook lending debate, explore potential solutions to the problems, and consider how the DPLA can contribute to solutions for those we serve. At the core of this issue is the way the copyright law works–or doesn’t–when it comes to books, libraries, and readers in the United States today and into the future."
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
March 13, 2013
California Considering Online Class Substitutes For Credit
California is considering legislation that would allow college students to substitute out of state online courses for oversubscribed classes at state institutions. This would give a big boost to the value of commercial and free classes if the legislation passes. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the legislation may be introduced as early as today. It would allow for a faculty commission to determine the 50 most oversubscribed classes and which online substitutes would be eligible for credit.
The plan is not without criticism. The article quotes Professor Lillian Taiz who is the president of the association that represents faculty at California State:
The alternative to the bill, of course, is funding more physical seats and more faculty members. California is one of the growing numbers of cash-strapped states. That option is not likely to occur. I think the plan is viable if the quality control implied by the faculty commission works as planned. I would think other states in a similar position with their colleges may look at California’s experience and adopt a similar program if there is a level of success. The idea is to provide credentialed education, not maintain the faculty status quo. [MG]
“There’s a sort of mania for massive online courses right now,” she said, “but there’s no good evidence that they work for all students.” She also criticized the Legislature, saying it had imposed budget cuts that “have sucked public higher education dry of resources” and was now proposing to “give away the job of educating our students.”
Let the Reckoning Begin: Top Winners and Losers in 2014 US News Law School Rankings
NLJ's Karen Sloan has the story and list of top gains/losses in ranking positions at Major shakeups in the middle ranks of 'U.S. News' law school list.
Meanwhile ATL's Elie Mystal reports on law deans complaining about their schools 2014 ranking. See Responding to the New U.S. News Rankings: The Parade of Butthurt Deans Begins Now. Following Mark's A Musical Reaction To Today's US Rankings, here's The Animals performing Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. [JH]
Legal Education: Law Profs Express "Concern" to ABA Task Force While Law School Transparency Launches Reform Central
1. That which affects one's welfare or happiness.
2. The expression of solicitude, anxiety, or compassion toward a thing or person.
In The Economics of Legal Education, a letter submitted to the ABA Task Force on Legal Education last week, 67 law profs suggest the following possible and sometimes conflicting reforms based on their collective concern over the current economic state of the legal academy:
- reducing the undergraduate education required for admission to three years;
- awarding the basic professional degree after two years, while leaving the third year as an elective or an internship;
- providing some training through apprenticeship;
- reducing expensive accreditation requirements to allow greater diversity among law schools;
- building on the burgeoning promises of internet-distance education;
- changing the economic relationship between law schools and universities;
- altering the influence of current ranking formulas; and
- modifying the federal student loan program.
Obviously not a template for restructuring the legal academy. For more, see The Economics of Legal Education: A Concern of Colleagues (March 2013) and then compare that to the Core Issues section of Law School Transparency's Reform Central.
The future of legal education is uncertain. High prices, poor job prospects, and dwindling salaries will force legal education to undergo significant change. A variety of stakeholders, many of whom are invested in the traditional law school model, will shape the substance of and timeline for reform. LST will contribute to the reform by holding other stakeholders accountable, by making relevant data and information easy to consume, and by pursuing policies that aim to make legal education better and more affordable. Reform starts with transparency and will end with a total reimagination of the modern law school.
March 12, 2013
A Musical Reaction To Today's US Rankings
For whatever its worth, the National Law Journal does a little analysis of its own for the law school rankings released today. The story confirms that the churn in the middle is due to a new methodology that takes into account the type of graduate employment. Is it churn or is it realignment? In any event, there are from comments from at least one dean and a look at who moved up and down. There was little movement in the top schools.
I offer a little musical tribute that goes with the new rankings. I was immediately reminded of the music of the 1960s band The Animals. What did Eric Burdon sing, “it’s a hard world to get a break in, all the good things have been taken.” That’s from It’s My Life and the words could easily apply to the schools looking upwards in the rankings. The band’s other hits, Don’t Bring Me Down and We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place can also apply depending on where a school wound up.In other news, Northwestern University School of Law is reducing its class size by 25 students and raising tuition by 3%. Faculty salaries have to be paid somehow, I guess. If Northwestern (ranked #12 this year) is reacting this way, what hope is there for the “lesser” schools. [MG]
New Data "Unmasks" Schools, Says US News Law School Rankings Czar
From the Bloomberg Law YouTube description:
Law schools ranked by US News & World Report magazine in the 50 to 150 range were the ones most affected by the availability this year, for the first time, of more detailed graduate employment data from the ABA, according to US News rankings czar Bob Morse.
The new data "unmasked" that some of those schools had a relatively small number of their students taking full-time long-term jobs that require a JD, Morse tells Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia.
Many schools on the east and west coasts also saw drops in their rankings as a result of the new data, Morse said. University of San Francisco School of Law had this year's biggest drop, declining 38 places on the rankings, coming in dead last at 144 on the list.
As for the power of US News' rankings, which some deans blame for legal education's woes, Morse says, "US News isn't the ABA . . . We're not responsible for the cost law school, the state of legal employment, the impact that the recession has had on hiring, or the fact that there are 10 or 20 new law schools that have opened over the past couple of decades. And we're not responsible for the imbalance of jobs to graduates."
Let the Number Crunching Begin: US News 2014 Law School Rankings
Law school deans, are you ready for your report card? -- Elie Mystal, The 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (ATL).
It's time for the annual ritual. Comparing annual law school rankings by various ranking factors this year as well as with prior years might make for some interesting Excel spreadsheets.
US News Law School Rankings for 2014:
March 11, 2013
Ninth Circuit Applies The Fourth Amendment to Border Search of Laptop
The pesky problem of searching electronic devices at the border was addressed by the Ninth Circuit last week. The case is United States v. Cotterman (09-10139). Cotterman and his wife were returning from a trip to Mexico when they were stopped by agents at the Arizona-Mexico border. Cotterman was flagged by the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) as a convicted sex offender. This hit caused agents to examine his laptop and other electronic devices he carried. The initial examination showed nothing, though some of the files on the laptop were encrypted. Cotterman refused to supply the password. Agents examined the laptop using forensic software and revealed multiple images of child pornography, some of which had been recovered from deletion.
Cotterman was indicted. He filed a motion to suppress. The magistrate judge filed a report finding the forensic search was an extended border search that required reasonable suspicion. The MJ concluded that the TECS hit combined with password protected files was suspicious but not enough to give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The District Judge adopted the report and granted the motion to suppress.
The Ninth Circuit, en banc, reversed, concluding that the forensic examination of the laptop was reasonable under the circumstances. These included the TECS hit, Cotterman’s frequent travels to a country known for sex tourism, the use of encrypted files, and the fact that the alert was generated through a program called Operation Angel Watch which was aimed at combatting sex tourism by identifying sex offenders. The case is noteworthy because the Ninth Circuit applied the Fourth Amendment to a border search. Courts have traditionally held that a border search is an exception to the Fourth Amendment.
The Ninth Circuit made statements to the effect that password protected files by themselves do not raise suspicion. Most people, including travelers, tend to live a digital life where devices can store fairly large amounts of information or access it through cloud computing:
The Court basically said that technology matters and the inquiry will always be the reasonableness of the search based the circumstances. Some authors are praising the Court for the recognition of Fourth Amendment privacy rights even though Cotterman failed in suppressing the evidence. Here are stories from TechDirt and Boing Boing to that effect. I’m not so sure I share that view. Privacy is always valued, though I can see the Supreme Court stating that the Fourth Amendment does not apply at the border and allowing the forensic search and evidence at trial, assuming the issue gets before the Court. [MG]
With the ubiquity of cloud computing, the government’s reach into private data becomes even more problematic. In the “cloud,” a user’s data, including the same kind of highly sensitive data one would have in “papers” at home, is held on remote servers rather than on the device itself. The digital device is a conduit to retrieving information from the cloud, akin to the key to a safe deposit box. Notably, although the virtual “safe deposit box” does not itself cross the border, it may appear as a seamless part of the digital device when presented at the border. With access to the cloud through forensic examination, a traveler’s cache is just a click away from the government.
The Curious Case of Edwin Mellen Press, Part 2: Drop the Second Lawsuit!
While Edwin Mellen Press dropped one lawsuit against Dale Askey, LJ InfoDocket's Gary Price has confirmed that the publisher's founder, Herbert Richardson, is moving forward with the second lawsuit. From the Canadian Library Association:
CLA continues to monitor the legal action taken against Dale Askey by the Edwin Mellen Press. While the lawsuit in which both McMaster and Askey are named has been dropped, the second lawsuit in which Askey is named as an individual remains.
CLA strongly reiterates our support of Dale Askey and of intellectual freedom. We urge Edwin Mellen Press to drop this second lawsuit against Dale Askey.
The libel suit by Edwin Mellen Press against Dale Askey, a university librarian, for expressing his professional opinion about the quality of Edwin Mellen publications is an egregious assault on academic freedom. At this writing, March 8, 2013, the joint libel suit against Askey and McMaster University has been dropped. However, the lawsuit by the Press against Askey still stands. Please stand with Askey and ask Edwin Mellen Press to drop the second lawsuit against him.
To: Edwin Mellen Press
End the second libel suit against Dale Askey.
New Ordering System for US News Law School Rankings!
In response to complaints, US News is reorganizing its law school rankings display. Schools will be listed in alphabetical order within sets of numerical ranges and without identifying each school's rank within the specified range. For example, the schools listed here can only claim to be in the Top Ten.
OK, OK, the US News link provided above is just a teaser for the 2014 Law School Rankings which will be officially released tomorrow. [JH]