June 16, 2012
Money Magazine lists 10 caveats of attending law school
The article is called "10 Things Law Schools Won't Tell You" from the June issue. An excerpt:
1. "Lawyers are a dime a dozen."
After graduating from California Western School of Law in 2005, Kathryn Tokarska sent dozens of resumes to law firms. Prior to attending law school, she worked at investment firms, so she was hoping to land a job at a securities law firm or another related field that could use her experience. Instead, says Tokarska, the only position she was offered after graduating was a $10 per hour part-time clerkship. Knee deep in debt and unable to find a decent job, she opened her own law office in San Diego in 2008. "I thought if I got a higher degree, I'd have a better chance to get a job, but that's not what happened," she says.
. . . . .
2. "We're being sued by former students."
Since 2011, a total of 15 lawsuits have been filed against law schools, including New York Law School, DePaul University College of Law and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills, Mich., claiming, among other things, that the schools inflate job placement numbers. Specifically, the lawsuits allege that job placement rates don't specify how many students are actually working as lawyers or other legal positions versus graduates who are employed in fields that don't require a law degree. "Law schools count working at a Starbucks as employed," says Frank Raimond, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers on the case. The lawsuits also allege that schools inflate graduate salary data by basing it on a small group of intentionally-selected students.
. . . . .
3. "Salaries are shrinking ..."
While public service and government attorneys don't expect to make the big bucks, corporate law positions have traditionally paid some of the highest salaries of any industry. But even these lofty positions aren't recession-proof. Law school students who graduated in 2010 earn $84,111 on average during their first year, down 10% from 2009, according to the most recent available data from NALP.
And fewer graduates are landing six figure jobs. Eighteen percent of 2010 graduates earned $160,000 compared to 25% in each of the previous two years. Nearly half of 2010 graduates made between $40,000 and $65,000, up from about 40% for the prior two classes. In some cases, starting pay is even lower: Last week, Boston-based civil practice law firm Gilbert & O'Bryan posted a full-time associate position that pays $10,000 annually. Larry O'Bryan, a partner with the firm, says it has just two lawyers, hires when it receives extra cases, and that the salary is based on the amount of work billed and collected. So far, he says, the firm has received around 35 applications, mostly from recent law graduates.
. . . . .
4. " ... while tuition is soaring"
The slowdown in jobs and salaries hasn't stopped law schools from raising their fees. Tuition has jumped 5% to 10% a year since 2008. The cost of attending a private university averaged $39,184 for the academic year that ended this May, up 21% from the 2007-08 academic year and up 71% from a decade ago, according to the ABA.
Tuition at public schools for in-state students is much less than private schools, but those costs are rising, too: It averaged $22,116 this past year, up 43% from 2007-08 and up 163% from a decade ago. For context, tuition for in-state undergrads at public colleges rose 33% and 119% over the same periods, according to the College Board.
. . . . .
5. "You'll be paying off your student loans for years."
When Laurie Jaffee graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York in 2001 with $95,000 in student loans, she never imagined she'd be stuck with that debt more than a decade later. But, Jaffee never found a job as an attorney.
Nine out of ten 2012 law school graduates (about 48,000 total) will leave school with student loan debt, according to FinAid.org. That's the highest percentage of any undergraduate or advanced degree programs, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, which tracks student debt. What's more, the projected average debt owed by law school students is now roughly $91,100, up 14% from four years ago.
Law students have few options for debt relief. Employers rarely pay a portion of tuition costs the way they do for, say, MBA students. Federal grants don't exist for law school and scholarships don't reach many students, says Kantrowitz. There's no official data, but Kantrowitz observes that parents often end up footing some of the bill. In fact, some law schools ask applicants as old as 30 to submit their parents' financial statements in addition to their own. "If you don't have a trust fund or parents who can afford to pay, your only choice is to borrow," says Kantrowitz.
. . . . .
Check out the remaining five beginning here.
Hat tip to the ABA Journal Blog.
U of Cincinnati Speech Code Bites the Dust
A federal district court has declared the University’s speech code to be unconstitutional. Drafting a valid speech code is hard and based on the cases, training college officials and students to apply it properly seems nearly impossible. Here are the opening paragraphs of the opinion:
This civil case presents the question, among others, as to whether the University ofCincinnati, a public university, may constitutionally subject speech on its campus, by both students and outsiders alike, to a prior notice and permit scheme and restrict all“demonstrations, picketing, and rallies” to a Free Speech Area which constitutes less than 0.1% of the grounds of the campus. For the reasons stated here, the Court determines thatsuch a scheme violates the First Amendment and cannot stand.
As a threshold matter, and as the Supreme Court of the United States has clearly stated: “It is offensive – not only to the values protected by the First Amendment, but to the very notion of a free society – that in the context of everyday public discourse a citizen must first inform the government of her desire to speak to her neighbors and thenobtain a permit to do so.” Watchtower Bible and Tract Soc’y of NY, Inc. v. Vill. Of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 165-66 (2002).
Here’s the full opinion.
June 15, 2012
UC Irvine School of Law creates consumer protection clinic
The new clinic is under the directorship of Professor Katherine Porter who will be helping students monitor compliance with a potentially $18 billion settlement between the state of California and several banks over allegedly improper home loan and foreclosure practices. From the National Law Journal:
Students at the University of California, Irvine School of Law will serve as watchdogs over a major California foreclosure settlement with five banks as part of a new law clinic.
The school's Consumer Protection Clinic is a partnership with California Attorney General Kamala Harris. She appointed Irvine professor Katherine Porter to monitor compliance with the agreement, which could result in as much as $18 billion in benefits to California homeowners and borrowers, and Porter decided to expand that work into a clinic.
Students will work alongside attorneys to ensure that the banks fulfill their obligations, including avoiding certain foreclosures and ending deceptive practices including the so-called "robo-signings" of mortgages. They will assist homeowners in modifying their loans, develop and implement compliance plans to monitor banks, help communicate with the public about the settlement, prepare compliance reports and help advise Harris.
Porter, who will co-teach the clinics with a visiting professor, told the Los Angeles Times that students will visit at least 12 California counties and make at least 24 presentations to explain the 300-page settlement to the public. Students will have opportunities to work with homeowners, government lawyers and bank representatives.
"This is a truly unprecedented development, not only the size and nature of the settlement and monitoring process, but also the involvement of law students in helping the attorney general aid troubled consumers," Porter said. "There is no other legal clinic like this in the country in terms of offering multiple perspectives on consumer law. It will prepare UCI law students for sophisticated careers in law and policy — all while helping distressed homeowners."
Best Academic Novels
Summer reading for academics. Each year at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Mentor lists and grades the best academic novels—novels bearing some relationship to academia. Here are the novels that received the grade of “A+” or "A." Novels receiving a lower grade are listed here.
- Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. When a galaxy-spanning civilization collapses, a single planet-sized university is a bastion against the coming darkness. Subsequent administrators must cope with the onrush of barbarian hordes. Unbelievably timely. Grade: A+.
- The Red Squad, by E.M. Broner. A literature professor of a certain age gets a mysterious package of documents from her 1960s life as an A.B.D., composition instructor, and antiwar activist—one of whose colleagues went underground, while another turned police informant. Self-important administrators and whining students are skewered, while moments of real teaching and learning are celebrated. Grade: A.
- The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. In this sprawling, tragicomic story, Chip is a promising young assistant professor of "textual artifacts" whose life spirals out of control after a sexual adventure with a former student. Freed from academe, Chip is like a domestic animal released into the wild—who turns his rage into a biographical screenplay, borrows heaps of money, and gets swept up into an international money scam. Grade: A.
- The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. At a college championship game, a superstar shortstop makes a devastatingly wild throw, leading to a crisis of confidence and faith. There are encounters with a charming dean, his errant daughter, and a stoic baseball captain, all in a closely knit small college. What seem to be clichés—mythic baseball history, allusions to Melville, and scandalous academic affairs—finally produce a coming-of-age soufflé light enough to be easy to read and rich enough to be satisfying. Grade: A.
Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is probably the most important book on human thinking published in recent years. Kahneman's ideas are very relevant to law-making, legal education, and legal scholarship. I have posted a review of the book on SSRN.
Abstract: This article reviews Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman for an audience of lawyers, legal scholars, and legal educators. Creating law and teaching law require accurate models of human behavior and how the mind works. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Noble Prize winner Daniel Kahneman provides a new model of human behavior and how the mind works that will change how we undertake these endeavors. Everyone in the legal field and legal education needs to be familiar with Kahneman’s ideas.
June 14, 2012
The persuasive effect of a good metaphor
This story from today's New York Times discusses how Justice Scalia's quip about "broccoli" during oral argument in the Obamacare case has become a powerful metaphor that crystallizes for the public in simple terms abstruse arguments about government overreaching.
What does broccoli have to do with health insurance?
Until recently, nothing. But now, perhaps a lot.
Broccoli, of all things, came up in the Supreme Court during arguments over the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health care legislation. If Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance, Justice Antonin Scalia asked, could it force people to buy just about anything — including a green vegetable that many find distasteful?
“Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” he said. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
Since then broccoli has captured the public imagination and become the defining symbol for what may be the most important Supreme Court ruling in decades, one that is expected any day and could narrow the established limits of federal power and even overturn the legal underpinnings of the New Deal.
If the court strikes down the health care law — which many constitutional experts on both the right and left long doubted it would do — many lawyers say they believe one reason may be the role of broccoli in shaping the debate.
It turns out that broccoli did not spring from the mind of Justice Scalia. The vegetable trail leads backward through conservative media and pundits. Before reaching the Supreme Court, vegetables were cited by a federal judge in Florida with a libertarian streak; in an Internet video financed by libertarian and ultraconservative backers; at a Congressional hearing by a Republican senator; and an op-ed column by David B. Rivkin Jr., a libertarian lawyer whose family emigrated from the former Soviet Union when he was 10.
Even those who reject the broccoli argument appreciate its simplicity. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, Mr. Rivkin and his libertarian allies have turned the decision into a cliffhanger that few thought possible.
“I have some grudging admiration for them,” said Akhil Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale and author of a book on the Constitution. “All the more so because it’s such a bad argument. They have been politically brilliant. They needed a simplistic metaphor, and in broccoli they got it.”
To learn more about the origin of this carefully calibrated metaphor, click here.
Rachel Ray, Dogs, and Commas
I missed this magazine cover last year, but it’s too good to pass up.
June 13, 2012
The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress by Lawrence S. Krieger
Stress is a major problem for law students, especially in the first year. Larry Krieger has written a booklet, "The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress," which can help students deal with stress. More information and how to order here.
Concerning this and another booklet, he writes, "These booklets were created to support the well-being, motivation and learning/performance of new or current law students, and help them find genuinely satisfying positions after graduation. The 'stress' booklet was revised and the 'careers' booklet was substantially expanded and retitled in late 2006."
"One or both booklets have been used at more than 100 law schools since their creation in 2005."
P.S. Order by July 5 if you want them for the fall semester.
How lawyers might manipulate jurors by planting misleading info about a pending case on blogs and websites
An excerpt from the New York Law Journal (subscription required):
. . . .
Although public perception of jurors' Internet misconduct has grown, little attention has been given to the potential threat to a fair trial posed by various forms of attorney communications posted on lawyers' websites, blogs and other Internet outlets. These may be calculated to influence prospective or sitting jurors about a particular litigation.
An attorney (or her agent) could rather easily "deposit" one-sided, misleading, self-serving, extraneous or prejudicial, case-related information onto sites that curious jurors could "find" using simple Google searches. This article alerts readers to this emergent, yet potent, danger.
. . . .
Could case-involved lawyers (or their agents) deposit messages about case facts or party litigants or extraneous, nonadmissible information on websites, blogs or other Internet locations? Could they do so in a manner that would allow a straying juror to find the information? Yes, they can—especially if the opposing lawyers are oblivious to the potential threat or too lazy or slothful or careless in doing their due diligence when preparing for trial. Indeed, experience shows that one of the popular items of juror Internet research is to find out more about the courtroom attorneys. Prospective or sitting jurors can peruse the attorney's website noting biographical information, the firm's specialties, featured clients,and the "war stories," crusades or victories many firms describe. That information likely will be passed to other jurors.
Could a litigator anticipating a trial, say, three months ahead, post information on his site about the pendency of several of his "big" cases including the one upcoming? And in describing the matter, could the site make skillful, self-serving statements about the merits of the case or his client's misfortune or the villainy of the opposing party? Could the lawyer tout his expertise and past success in obtaining large verdicts in similar cases against the same defendant or against other defendants in the same industry or in similar exposures? And what if some portions of the message were untrue, incomplete, exaggerated or misleading? Would such postings be permissible, as an exercise of First Amendment rights? Well, if the information is not researched and scrutinized by opposing counsel, if the statement's accuracy goes unchecked or unchallenged or the matter is not brought to the attention of the court in some appropriate application for relief, then the issue will be largely academic. The message may sit there by default waiting for the curious juror to find it and share the nugget with others.
Continue reading here.
Several law schools plan to reduce class size; one by as much as 33% but will expand online offerings to non-lawyers to make-up lost revenue
The Wall Street Journal had a story a few days ago noting that at least 10 law schools plan to cut their class size in response to the poor job market for grads (a cynic might say that the cuts are intended to maintain their USNWR ranking in light of dwindling applications). Among the schools referenced in the story is Creighton and Hastings. The deans at Northwestern and George Washington say they are also considering cutting class sizes with Dean Berman at GW suggesting the issue is not whether, but how many applicants to cut. Also check out coverage by the ABA Journal blog here.
The Minnesota Post is now reporting that Hamlin School of Law, the "fourth-ranked school in a four-law-school town," is taking the extraordinary step of reducing next year's incoming class by 1/3 - I'm guessing that's the biggest cut announced by any law school to date. To make up for that huge loss of revenue, Hamline will be offering online classes to non-lawyers seeking a little career enhancement. Here's the story:
Next year, Hamline will enroll an entering class of prospective JDs that is one-third smaller than in years past. Its offerings, however, are swelling — many of them aimed at non-lawyers.
Meanwhile, the advent of the iPad has enabled Hamline to become the first law school to conduct class via mobile app.
A one-time assistant U.S. attorney and co-founder of Halleland, Lewis, Nilan & Johnson, Lewis is poised to reinvent the whole concept of law school. As he sees it, there may be far fewer jobs [PDF] for people who earn law degrees and then pass the bar exam, but the demand for professionals in other fields who have specialized legal training is surging.
At the same time, while Hamline may not be U.S. News & World Report-ranked, it boasts the No. 3 alternative dispute resolution program in the country, which provides a wide array of training in dispute resolution, as well as an eight-year-old, top-20 Health Law Institute and a new Business Law Institute.
Schools have long offered certificate programs to help would-be attorneys specialize in a particular kind of law after they pass the bar. But several of the nine certificate programs offered by Hamline law are open to people who are not law students or lawyers. Lewis would like to add more.
Indeed, the nontraditional students don’t even need to be in St. Paul to attend class. Students in this year’s inaugural international business negotiation certificate program, for instance, each were given an iPad bearing a first-of-its kind app developed by Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute (DRI). The tablets contain class readings and links to supplementary online content and allow students to convene via Apple’s chat and FaceTime features.
. . . .Demand for workers who have skills in regulatory compliance is growing, but those employees don’t necessarily need to invest three years and six figures in a full-fledged law degree.
Nor do they need to quit their jobs and go back to school, thanks to technology. DRI Director Sharon Press has enrolled a cohort of certificate candidates from Hong Kong who will be able to interact with classmates who are attending the old-fashioned way, in St. Paul, via their iPad apps.
Another, newer app will open up the school’s Health Law Institute’s highly regarded Health Care Compliance certificate program.
“Our goal was to produce an experience that would combine traditional face-to-face with a technology that truly enhances the ways students interact with the curriculum, their teachers and each other,” said Lewis. “What we we’ve learned in these successful certificate programs will inform how we use technology to enhance other offerings, including our JD programs.”
If Lewis has his way — he’d have to win over accrediting authorities at the American Bar Association, among others — the number of non-JDs with legal training that could eventually include a master’s degree or other work-force-driven possibilities could grow in all kinds of directions.
Check out the full story by clicking here.
Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.
Microsoft To Ban Class Actions
Microsoft is in the process of compelling its many customers to give up the right to join in class actions. According to the Business Mirror:
The company has announced it’s changing many of its customer contracts to prohibit consumers from banding together in addressing grievances that might not be large enough to merit an independent lawsuit.
“When a customer in the United States has a dispute about a Microsoft product or service, many of our new user agreements will require that, if we can’t informally resolve the dispute, the customer bring the claim in small claims court or arbitration, but not as part of a class-action lawsuit,” Microsoft’s assistant general counsel, Tim Fielden, said in a blog post.
Do consumers get an even break when they engage in arbitration? There’s some evidence to the contrary:
Businesses generally prefer arbitration because settlements are limited and because professional arbitrators, whose fees are typically paid by the company in a dispute, tend not to bite the hand that feeds.
A 2007 report by Public Citizen found that, over a four-year period, arbitrators sided with credit card companies 94 percent of the time in disputes with California consumers.
Tips for Researching Private Companies
If you are clerking this summer, you may find yourself with research requests to find information on people and companies – and you may not have access to Westlaw or LexisNexis. Here are some tips on researching private companies that may be helpful. This post from Law Technology News lists some good resources.
“When it comes to privately owned (or privately held) companies, sometimes that wealth of information just isn't available. Most resources on companies pull their data from 10-K filings with the SEC, a rich source of accurate data on public companies. Private companies have no duty to disclose the information available in 10-Ks, so all their public information is voluntarily disclosed or found by reporters. The depth of information available is often directly proportional to the size of the private company.”
These resources may be of help –
- The company’s website;
- Google Maps (to help with demographics);
- Dun & Bradstreet;
- Factiva, Hoover’s, Reference USA Directory, Standard & Poor’s, & DataMonitor;
- News Sources;
- Industry Groups (Professional Associations);
- General Web Searching; and
- Public Records.
Check with the librarian (either at your employer or your law school – or both) for more information and assistance. We are here to help!
June 12, 2012
Seventh Circuit reminds lawyers that being "even one minute late" with an e-filing can result in loss of rights
Thanks to Above the Law (via How Appealing) for this tip about a recent Easterbrook decision in which the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's improper backdating of a litigant's late filing. The court went on to remind lawyers that with e-filing, you must turn your corners squarely; even a one minute delay can result in the forfeiture of significant rights. From ATL:
. . . .In John C. Justice v. Town of Cicero, Illinois (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit via How Appealing), the plaintiff sued Cicero after the town seized six unregistered guns from his business. By the time the case reached the Seventh Circuit, he had already sued and lost twice at the district level.
Easterbrook’s ruling follows Justice’s most recent appeal, which he filed three hours after the 28-day deadline elapsed. The district judge accepted the 3 a.m. electronic filing by granting a nunc pro tunc order without any explanation. He then denied the motion on the merits, saying it was a rehash of arguments already made and rejected. Justice appealed again to the Seventh Circuit, and Easterbrook took a step back in his analysis, saying the nunc pro tunc order should not have been have been given in the first place. From last week’s ruling (citations omitted):
The judge changed the records to show that the motion had been filed a day before its arrival. That is an improper use of the nunc pro tunc procedure — a point this court has made repeatedly. (Nunc pro tunc “is not a substitute for relation back. It can’t be used to revise history, but only to correct inaccurate records.”). A judge who lacks the authority to grant an extension of time, see Rule 6(b)(2), can’t achieve the same end by calling the extension a “nunc pro tunc order” and backdating a document.
Judge Easterbrook then went on to remind lawyers that computer crashes and other electronic glitches are no excuse when it comes to e-filing. A lawyer is expected to plan for those circumstances by filing early if need be.
Just as a document deposited physically in a clerk’s office is filed on that date even if mishandled by the clerk, so a document transmitted electronically to the court is filed on the date of transmission no matter what the e-filing system does in response. But Justice did not transmit his Rule 59 motion on November 22, only to have the court’s software balk; he transmitted it on November 23 and must live with the consequences.
Courts used to say that a single day’s delay can cost a litigant valuable rights. With e-filing, one hour’s or even a minute’s delay can cost a litigant valuable rights. A prudent litigant or lawyer must allow time for difficulties on the filer’s end. A crash of the lawyer’s computer, or a power outage at 11:50 PM, does not extend the deadline, even though unavailability of the court’s computer can do so under Rule 6(a)(3).
Read Easterbrook's full decision here.
California legislature approves bill to prohibit employers from asking for applicants' social media passwords
Following up on a story we covered earlier, the California Senate has now approved a bill that will prohibit employers from asking for social media passwords from job applicants. The restriction also applies to public and private colleges and universities in California in their capacity as both employers and educators. The BNA Electronic Commerce & Law Report (subscription required) has more details.
The second of two bills to restrict employers from requiring employees or job applicants to disclose social media usernames and passwords passed its house of origin May 25 with a 28-5 vote on the Senate floor.
Both bills can be taken up in opposite houses in June.
The Senate bill goes beyond the Assembly version, applying to public and private colleges and universities as well as employers. The bill also bans employers and school officials from forcing covered individuals to provide access to content from social media accounts, in the wake of reports of demands that individuals print out pages or log on in the presence of the employer or school official.
Yee said he authored the bill in response to a growing number of businesses, public agencies, and colleges asking job seekers, workers, and students for their Facebook and Twitter account information.
Practice Your Body Language
We all know that body language is an important element in communication and persuasion. But have we ever thought of practicing it or advising our students to practice it? From the Stanford Business Magazine online:
Before a critical meeting with your boss, an important customer, or your teenage son or daughter, do you spend time mentally roughing out and revising what you are going to say? If so, social psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld has a message for you: You are misdirecting your energy. Spend time instead practicing how to walk, stand, sit, and quickly grasp how other people are moving their bodies.
Gruenfeld, an experimental social psychologist on the faculty of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, gives this advice standing in the front of a full classroom, her weight planted firmly and evenly on both high-heeled feet, looking straight at her audience, speaking in complete sentences. She is demonstrating what acting coaches sometimes call “playing high.” That means she is making sure everybody in the room knows she is in charge in this time and place.
Gruenfeld gives an example:
And don’t forget, Gruenfeld says, that your posture affects you as well as other people. She asks her seated audience to press their knees together, hold their elbows close to their sides, and lean forward. While in that position, she has them say "I am totally in charge." They laugh because they didn't believe their own words. Then she instructs them to lower their shoulders, drape an outstretched arm over the back of their chair, and spread their legs wide, taking up more space. High-status people, she says, generally let their bodies take more space than low-status people. That alone makes them both appear and feel relaxed.
Characteristics of Successful Chief Legal Officers
Russell Reynolds Associates published a new study that identifies key characteristics of successful chief legal officers. This post from Law.com summarizes the study.
“The study analyzed data from 3,000 assessments administered to executives in jobs ranging from CEO and CFO to GC and CLO. The assessments were used to rate participants in core competencies such as decision-making approaches and relationship skills. RRA, based in New York City, isolated the results of legal officers and compared those to the results from other corporate leaders.
The firm identified eight characteristics exhibited by successful legal executives:
1. Socially Bold
3. Socially Confident
7. Not Easily Excited
[T]he RRA study’s findings suggest that legal executives should strive to become informed risk takers.”
June 11, 2012
A Special Message to Law School Applicants: Why Law School Applicants Should Not Rely on The U.S. News Rankings
Potential law students generally rely on the U.S. News Law School Rankings to help them decide which law school they should attend. However, these rankings have no validity. Legal education scholars have been attacking them for years. For example, Brian Leiter pointed out that some of the ranking categories are highly manipulable and some of the categories favor smaller schools and penalize larger schools. Similarly, Lynda Edwards has written, "Critics of the U.S. News rankings say the magazine exercises too little control over the quality of the information submitted; several of the self-reporting factors utilized in the methodology, they say, actually reward those law schools willing to cheat." (here)
The biggest flaw in the law school rankings is the employment data. U.S. News measures these at graduation and nine months after graduation. They constitute 18% of the total. U.S. News states, "employment rates are figured solely based on the number of grads working at that point in time full or part time in a legal or non-legal job divided by the total number of J.D. graduates." In other words, U.S. News includes parttime and nonlegal jobs. This means they count parttime jobs doing document review; they even count working at Starbucks. For example, law school A might have 100% employment in big law jobs and law school B 100% employment at McDonalds, but both would be scored the same. Recently, law schools have begun to hire their own graduates in temporary jobs. (here) ("The jobs typically end shortly after the U.S. News reporting dates.” here)Theoretically, a law school can attain 100% employment by doing this. Does this tell you anything about what law school to attend? In sum, 18% of the law school scores on U.S. News are meaningless because they include parttime jobs, nonlegal jobs, and temporary jobs provided by the law schools. Meaningless, meaningless, meaningless!!!
The assessment score by lawyers/judges constitutes 15% of the score. U.S. News states, "legal professionals, including the hiring partners of law firms, state attorneys general, and selected federal and state judges, were asked to rate programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know." A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it." Only about 12% of those surveyed responded. (Also, "The two most recent years lawyers' and judges' surveys were averaged . . .")
This 12% response rate calls this category into question. More importantly, I question how these legal professionals can have knowledge of the approximately 200 law schools in this country. A hiring partner or judge in NYC may be able to evaluate NYC law schools because they see law graduates from local schools frequently. However, how can they evaluate California law schools? Equally important, geographic location may be a disadvantage in this category. Do law schools in urban areas have advantages over law schools in remote areas, like Montana or New Mexico? (Paul Caron has stated, "“There is no way of knowing whether the magazine has geographical diversity among the lawyers and judges it surveys or even how many bother to respond to the surveys.” He added, "Yet there is valid data indicating the U.S. News rankings are skewed in favor of Northeastern universities partly because of the way reputation is evaluated." (here))
The peer assessment score constitutes 25% of the total. U.S. News states, "In the fall of 2011, law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments, and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know." A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it."
At first, this would seem to be a good measure of law school quality. Most academics, however, rate law schools based on their scholarship, not their teachers. If you want to become a law professor, this is a good measure for choosing a law school. However, it is meaningless for picking a law school based on the quality of its instruction. Good scholars are not necessarily good teachers.
Finally, selectivity (25%) can be misleading. G.P.A.s are not uniform because colleges are of different quality and have different grading policies (i.e., grade inflation). As U.S. News has admitted, "The difficulty level of college courses is much less important than the grades received in those classes, because law school admissions committees do an initial sort of applicants based solely on GPA and LSAT scores." (here) As Brian Leiter has noted, student-faculty ratio are manipulable because it depends on how schools "count" their faculty. Acceptance rates are also misleading because they often indicate how good a law school is at getting applications (such as using free online applications) rather than selectivity. ("The Association of American Law Schools has reported that some schools increase rejection rates—and boost selectivity scores—by encouraging students with no chance of admission to apply." here)
(Bar passage rate is an important indicator of how law schools are doing. However, it only constitutes 2% of the total in U.S. News.)
I realize that law school applicants want some way to compare law schools, but the U.S. News Rankings aren’t it. A ouija board is as accurate.
Is the bloom off the Facebook rose?
Does the underwhelming performance of Facebook stock reveal a growing disillusionment with the whole social media thing? Are many people waking up to the fact that a lot of precious time is wasted reading about the minutiae of other people's lives? Are we starting to regret the personal privacy we've ceded to Facebook? This Op-Ed by New York Times columnist Bill Keller from today's paper says "yes" to all that and more. Facebook, in his words, has been a series of "bursting illusions." Here's an excerpt:
WHAT’S the difference, I asked a tech-writer friend, between the billionaire media mogul Mark Zuckerberg and the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch?
When Rupert invades your privacy, my friend e-mailed back, it’s against the law. When Mark does, it’s the future.
There is truth in that riposte: we deplore the violations exposed in the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s British tabloids, while we surrender our privacy on a far grander scale to Facebook and call it “community.” Our love of Facebook has been a submissive love.
But now, not so much. In recent weeks it seems the world has begun to turn a jaundiced eye on this global megaplatform. While that may not please Facebook’s executives, it is a good thing for the rest of us — and maybe for the future of social media, too.
The recent history of the Facebook phenomenon has been a serial bursting of illusions.
It wasn’t an entirely new thought a year ago when I fretted in this paper that the faux friendships of Facebook and the ephemeral connectedness of Twitter were displacing real rapport, real intimacy. The response at the time — “Luddite!” “Sacrilege!” — suggested that a fair number of people had elevated a very useful tool into an object of mindless worship. But the research keeps reinforcing the argument that social media, while an innovation with a wonderful menu of practical uses, are not a happiness machine. “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” asked the cover of The Atlantic magazine last month. A resounding “yes” — lonely, and narcissistic and actually ill — was the answer.
. . . .
We should be as suspicious of the Facebook-is-over hype as of the original euphoria. Lee Rainie, who studies Internet culture at the Pew Research Center, said that polling does not reflect a significant Facebook backlash so far; the empire is still growing toward a billion users, and more and more people say they use it every day. What has changed is that users say they are more wary of posting private information — especially when contemplating a job hunt, a college application or a budding romance. And many Facebook users — a third, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll — are cutting back the time they spend there.
“The infatuation phase is morphing into a more mature phase,” Rainie told me.
Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society adds that this reckoning is mutual, and natural, as Facebook grows from a plaything born in a college dorm room into a very serious enterprise. “Even Facebook has to lose its own romantic vision of itself,” he said.
After a period of idealizing social media, the public is beginning to recognize that these are enterprises with ambitions and appetites. They are businesses. Public companies have an imperative to grow profits, which Facebook will do by monetizing you and me — serving us up as the targets for precision-guided advertising.
. . . .
Somewhere on his way from Harvard geek to Silicon Valley titan, Mark Zuckerberg adopted an ideology of “radical transparency.” He is getting what must be an uncomfortable dose of that now. This surge of scrutiny ought to make us smarter, more sober consumers. The challenge for Facebook is how to retain the trust of its wised-up users even as he commoditizes us — that is, how to sell us on without creeping us out.
You can read the rest of Mr. Keller's thoughts by clicking here.
A Great Source for Animal Law
Professor David Favre has created an incredibly comprehensive website on animal law:, entitled Animal Law:
On this site you will find a comprehensive repository of information about animal law, including:
- over 1200 full text cases (US, historical, and UK)
- over 1400 US statutes
- over 60 topics and comprehensive explanations
- legal articles on a variety of animal topics
- an international collection
Topics recently added include:
- Pets and Disaster Planning Laws by Cynthia Hodges (2011).
- Humane Societies and Enforcement Powers by Christopher A. Pierce (2011).
- CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and State Animal Welfare Measures by Elizabeth Overcash (2011).
- Gray Wolf Status under the Endangered Species Act: 2005 to Present by Erin Furman (2011).
- Invasive Species and the Law by Cassandra Burdyshaw (2011).
- State Animal Enterprise Interference Laws by Cynthia Hodges (2011).
If you are interested in adding animal issues to your bank of class projects and problems, the resources you need are here.
June 10, 2012
Does an Emphasis on Scholarship Raise a Law School's U.S. News Rank?
This was the intriguing question asked by Mark Osler at Law School Innovation. He stated,
"Law schools across the country seem to share a common belief: That if their faculty publish more academic scholarship, and place it in better journals, then the U.S. News ranking of the school will improve. Schools have expended great time and expense on this project, and reshaped their faculties in pursuit of this goal. In hiring and at tenure review, most places view scholarship as being more important than teaching, in part for this reason. This belief has played a role not only in restructuring our institutions, but our values.
Is it a myth?
Looking back over several years of rankings, I have trouble identifying schools for whom this tactic was successful. After all, if scholarship can result in a long-term improvement in the rankings, shouldn't there be success stories?
So tell me-- where are they? What are the schools that managed, through increased scholarship rather that other factors, to significantly improve their rankings over the long-term (as opposed to brief jumps)?"
One comment stated: "Florida State, perhaps? The improvement (in rank--it was always a good school) might be due to other factors, but it seems that FSU engaged in a deliberate program of pumping up its scholarly profile right around the time it began to gain ground on Florida, with which it is now basically tied. It's possible that Alabama fits this profile, as well, but it's hard to isolate the causes without knowing the z-scores of each school on all of the factors for several years going back. They could have both just started spending a lot more money per pupil, which has its own (I think pernicious) influence on the US News rank."
Paul Caron suggested Pepperdine at his blog. However, a comment stated, "Without taking anything away from Pepperdine's impressive hires, I do not think the data support that this was the reason for Pepperdine's rankings rise. In your own annual look at peer assessment rankings vs. Overall US News rankings, Pepperdine's peer assessment significantly lags its overall ranking. if that were the only factor in the rankings, Pepperdine would now be ranked about 20-30 spots lower. I have not done a complete analysis, but I think their rise would be more closely tracked to employment statistics."
Osler's question is a very important one. Law schools spend a significant part of their budgets on encouraging scholarship. They also base much of their hiring decisions on who can improve a law school's scholarly reputation. Is this money being wasted when it can be better used elsewhere? Are law schools basing their hiring decisions on the wrong criteria?