Friday, August 17, 2012

Deification, Demonization, Order, Chaos, Justification, and Rationalization in Legal Education

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

My co-author, Marcia McCormick (left) Mmccor20, a Saint Louis University law professor affected by the recent deanship resignation and replacement debacle, has some wise thoughts about false dichotomies implicit in the current "discussion" over the cost and form of legal education.   

But Marcia was being thoughtful, and judging by some of the comments, no good deed goes unpunished.   Here's some support for her view, and if it's unduly reasonable, I'll just have to take my punishment too.

One of the false dichotomies I've observed over the course of a long career in and out of academia (more out than in - twenty-six years of law firm and in-house, managing, hiring, firing, etc.) is the view that the world divides up neatly into gods and demons.  Marcia's post highlights and critiques the perfect storm of deification and demonization when in the face of increasingly scarce resources (see Jerry's post), (a) there's a good old-fashioned turf war, (b) in law school, (c) at a time when all of the contending protagonists and antagonists feel the warm glow of victimization and justification.

Why turf war?  Marcia refers to warring dualistic tropes, and my take is that each one is tied to a particular fight over turf. To paraphrase James Carville, it's the scarce resources, [pejorative]! Education may not be "business," but it is an institution governed by pretty basic economics, and cash does fuel the engine.  Everybody (including me) has a stake, and when the scarce resources are getter scarcer (corporate legal budgets, good lawyer jobs, raises, summer stipends, full-time tenure track jobs, etc.), it's awfully hard to separate out one's adaptive and atavistic instincts for survival from one's dispassionate assessments.  Campaign rhetoric isn't meant to be subtle; it's meant to rally the troops.  And objectivity is a nice ideal, but don't tell that to somebody in a metaphoric foxhole just trying to survive the battle.  (I'm putting aside real foxholes and their physical equivalents, though even that dichotomy may get blurred.)

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August 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

UPDATED Comparison of 2010 and 2011 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools

    The initial posting I made on August 9 was based on a “composite” database consisting of information gleaned over several months from different sources – initially from law school webpages, supplemented with information from U.S.News (when LSAT or GPA datapoints were not available on webpages) supplemented more recently with information from the ABA-LSAC Guide 2013 to fill in any remaining gaps (enrollment data and some medians). At the time of posting, I had not gone back through all the data for all the schools to cross-check against the data in the ABA-LSAC Guide 2013 and eliminate any data discrepancies (although I thought I had done so for the schools listed in the chart).

    A number of people have asked for the complete spreadsheet.  I have now gone back and compiled the complete spreadsheet using data solely from the ABA-LSAC Guides for 2012 and 2013. I have provided the complete spreadsheet, organized alphabetically, to the folks at Law School Transparency where it is now or will shortly be available for viewing.

    The macro points remain fairly consistent with a couple of small changes. Working with the 194 schools in the contiguous 48 states and Hawai’i originally included in the U.S. News and World Report database (excluding the three Puerto Rico schools), the new database using only data from the ABA-LSAC Guides for 2012 and 2013 shows the following:

PROFILES IN DECLINE -- Between 2010 and 2011, 114 law schools had a decline in their LSAT/GPA profile, 55 had an increase in profile, and 25 had a mixed profile.

ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2011, 142 law schools had a decline in enrollment (of which 65 had a decline of 10% or more), 29 had an increase in enrollment (of which 8 had an increase of 10% or more), and 23 had flat enrollment (within +/- 1% of 2010 enrollment). This means over 70% of schools had a decline in enrollment and that one-third had a decline in enrollment of 10% or more. The decline in enrollment totaled roughly 4100 students or roughly 8 percent.

ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, 81 schools (slightly over 40%) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles, of which 39 schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 10% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles. These 39 schools are highlighted here Download 2011-2010 Comparison August Version abalsac dataset Detailed LSATandGPA 39 schools

(This updated chart reflects one subtraction and two additions from what was originally posted. Charleston was incorrectly included in the initial chart (resulting in 38 schools being listed) and now has been removed. Its enrollment was down only 5.4%. (In the composite dataset with which I had been working its 2011 enrollment and profile was initially based only on full-time students, overstating the percentage decline). Baylor and Willamette were not included in the initial chart, but are included here. Baylor’s total first-year enrollment is hard to estimate off its webpage because of three admissions cycles, fall, spring and summer and uncertainty about which three “count” for a given year. Willamette had a slight change in enrollment from 146 (listed on its webpage) to 141 in the ABA-LSAC Guide. This change shifted it from a decline of less than 10% to a decline of slightly more than 10%. I have apologized to Dean Abrams at Charleston for my error in including Charleston in the initial chart.)

[posted by Jerry Organ]

August 16, 2012 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Changing Conventions of What Counts as Serious

Tom-goldsteinOver at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr (GWU Law) links to a fascinating interview with Tom Goldstein, the Supreme Court advocate who started the SCOTUSblog many years ago in the early days of the blogosphere. 

Goldstein's comments on the evolution of SCOTUSblog throw into sharp relief how the online world is gradually creating new institutions that chafe against established conventions of what is professionally or academically serious.  I am not kidding -- 50,000 visitors to the site a day, including hundreds or even thousands from inside the Supreme Court itself.  In comparison, Harvard Law Review has an annual subscriber base of 2,000 total.  (Goldstein mentions this in passing--the absolute pitch perfect way to deliver news like this.)

ScotusblogAnother interesting point made by Goldstein was how SCOTUSblog was originally started as a vehicle for marketing Goldstein's firm.  Yet, as readership took hold, he completely abandoned any attempt to directly advance the interests of his firm through editorial content--the benefits of cultivating a perception of objectivity were very indirect but ultimately much greater.  So journalistic firewalls have been erected.  If his firm is handling a case before the Court, or making a filing, it not discussed on the blog by anyone from the firm.  Outside commentators handle any relevant commentary.  Objectivity and thoroughness are the goals.

SCOTUSblog has also gravitated away from analysis done by students at Stanford and Harvard, where Goldstein runs Supreme Court clinics, to analysis by leading subject matter experts. (In the legal academy, we are often clamoring for peer review -- well, Goldstein has acheived it.) SCOTUSblog now runs well-attended symposia.

Folks, SCOTUSblog has become a highly influential institution that is closely followed by the Supreme Court itself.  And it started as a blog.  In fact, it still is a blog.  Based purely on reach and influence, it is more serious than any center operating out of a law school. 

Perhaps it is time for us to be more openminded about what "counts" as serious.  What Goldstein has created looks very serious to me.  (H/T to Orin Kerr for directing me to this excellent video.)

[posted by Bill Henderson]

August 15, 2012 in Blog posts worth reading, Government lawyers, Video interviews | Permalink | Comments (6)