May 20, 2013
The Calculus of University Presidents
This week's National Law Journal has a Special Report section on the challenges facing law schools. Karen Sloan has several stories on how law schools are finding alternative sources of revenues beyond tuition dollars for JD degrees (masters's degrees for nonlawyers, online LLMs, and lawyer executive education).
I contributed an essay entitled "The Calculus of University Presidents." Although the essay is posed as the letter I would write to a university president seeking advice on how to handle a significant, unexpected shortfall in law school revenues, the intended audience is lawyers and legal educators seeking to get a handle on the brutal economics that are now threatening the survival of a large swath of law schools.
From the perspective of many, it would be nice if things would go back to the way they used to be. But that is not going to happen. Good lawyers understand that we gain no long-term advantage from hiding from these facts. Instead, we need to confront them honestly and proactively.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
March 24, 2013
Thank you to an Anonymous Alum
Each year, the instructors in Indiana Law's 1L Legal Professions class coordinate with Indiana Law's Office on Career and Professional Development (OCPD) to run the Career Choices Speakers Series -- 16 lunchtime forums on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the second semester. It has been an enormous hit with students. Although our 1Ls are required to attend at least three, a huge proportion of the 1Ls attend over ten.
Below is a photo of this Thursday's pizza run for the session on Direct Service Public Interest Lawyers -- 22 pizzas and the laptop/scanner used for attendance. Over the course of semester, we will purchase well over 300 pizzas. Who pays for all of this food and equipment (plus about a dozen dinners for students and alums that occur before and after these events)? An Indiana Law alumni who profoundly believes in the role of ethics and integrity to achieve personal and professional success in life. And he has done so quietly, behind the scenes, every year for the last five.
I thought our alum would enjoy seeing the pizza gurney. Thank you! You are opening students' eyes and helping them make better decisions, all through relationships with other lawyers.
[photo credit, 1L Dakota Scheu, via iPhone]. For additional information on this highly effective program, see my prior post, A New Tool for Lawyer Professional Development.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
March 13, 2013
ReInvent Law is a Really Big Deal
I was at the ReInvent Law Silicon Valley event last week. Following up on Jerry's thorough remarks, I can honestly say it was unlike any legal education and lawyer conference I have ever attended (the only thing close is Law Without Walls). There is a new guard in the legal academy taking shape, and it is led -- truly led -- by Dan Katz and Renee Knake at Michigan State.
Admittedly, Dan and Renee lean heavily toward my bias. Most of us law professors talk. Dan and Renee, in contrast, are doers. Shortly after becoming assistant professors, they each moved quickly from ideas to action to actually having the audacity to attempt to build new and relevant institutions. Moreover, they both did it untenured--Dan is only in his second year of teaching and Renee just cleared the tenure hurdle earlier this year. They did all of this without a net. To my mind, they are winning the "Game of Life." If other junior faculty follow their example, the legal academy is going to truly change. And right now, that is what we need.
One of my favorite Paul Lippe quotes is this, "In hindsight, the new solutions are all going to look obvious." ReInvent Law was 40 speakers tied together by a common interest in experimentation. Were all the ideas good? If history is any guide, and the criteria is moving from concept to implementation to financial and institutional sustainability, the answer is surely no. But it was invigorating to be in a room of doers who are all willing to risk failure. That is the courage and leadership we need right now. To me, it looked obvious that we need a place like ReInvent Law where insurgent ideas can be expressed with enthusiasm, even if only a handful or fewer will transform the legal landscape.
I was fortunate to be one of the presenters. Dan Katz was kind enough to take my picture when I gave my Ted-style talk (all the talks were Ted-style or "Ignite"). If you zoom-in on me, I look ridiculous. I am no showman. But you have to admit that the lighting is pretty spectacular. The green screen, by the way, is the running twitter feed, an idea that I can assure you was not stolen from the ABA or the AALS.
Amidst all these "revolutionary" ideas, I think my presentation was probably the most conservative. My central claim is that 100 years ago, as the nation struggled to find enough specialized lawyers to deal with the rise of the industrial and administrative state, some brilliant lawyers in cities throughout the U.S. created a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. These clockworks filled the enormous skills and knowledge gap. Firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, through their "Cravath System," finished what legal educators started. (I use the Cravath System as my exemplar because its elegant business logic was written out so meticulously in the firm's 3-volume history.)
The whole purpose of the clockworks was to create a "better lawyer faster." This is a quote from volume II. The company I co-founded, Lawyer Metrics, incorporated it into our trademark -- the value promise is that compelling. See the slides below.
Here is the Slideshare description:
The original Cravath System circa 1920 demonstrated the power of a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. The system was a meticulously designed and mechanized way to create specialized lawyers who could service the needs of America's rapidly growing industrial and financial enterprises -- lawyers who were in perennial short supply because the requisite skill set could only be learned by doing. The System endured for a century because it solved the specialized lawyer shortage by making every stakeholder better off -- junior lawyers (received training), partner-owners (large, stable profits), and clients (world class service and value).
Today's legal employers and legal educators would benefit by revisiting this system's powerful business logic. The clockworks approach to lawyer development still works. The only difference is that the specifications for a great lawyer have changed. Like the original Cravath System, a new clockworks would create a "better lawyer faster."
[posted by Bill Henderson]
March 13, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 13, 2013
Jim Moliterno Answers Questions on W&L's 3L Program; Supplies Additional Data on W&L
My previous post on Washington & Lee's 3L Program stirred a lot of interest and commentary, including some disbeleiving critics. Fortunately, Professor Jim Moliterno agreed to write a reply essay, below, that completes the cycle. [Bill Henderson]
Jim Moliterno Replies [This is a long reply, so a PDF version online here]
A number of comments to Bill’s January 28 post and posts regarding it on other blogs cause me to enter this conversation.
Are students really coming to W&L because of the new curriculum? Yes, to a significant extent. How do we know? Because the entering students say so. As do many law schools, we administer a questionnaire to our enrolling students. Among the questions asked is the obvious one: why are you here?
In the most recent such survey the students were asked to rank the strengths of the law school. Here are the top ten, in order, according to the entering students:
- Third Year Curriculum
- Ranking / Prestige
- Quality of Life
- National Reputation
- Job Placement
- General Cirriculum
- Clinical Program
- Financial Aid Award
- Size of Lexington
The curriculum reform was first. Financial aid awards were 9th, just ahead of the “size of Lexington.” The data does not support the unsubstantiated claims of some bloggers that students are choosing W&L because of the generosity of financial aid awards.
The curriculum reform has steadily moved higher on the “strength” rankings given by enrolled students since 2009. The 2011 and 2012 surveys are nearly identical, and the written comments of students about their reasons for coming to W&L (none reprinted here), are more striking than the numbers themselves.
I don’t know of any better data on this proposition but the statements of those whose reasons are under study. If that data is unsatisfying to some, then they will continue to be unsatisfied.
Are there other reasons students come to W&L? Of course. W&L has a highly productive, highly visible faculty engaged in scholarship and projects at the highest levels. Some students undoubtedly value W&L’s faculty prowess. W&L is highly ranked. Some students undoubtedly are affected by a top 25 ranking. It has an excellent reputation as a small, closely-knit academic community. Some students select for the sense of community and size. No reason will ever be the only reason for prospective students to choose a law school. Changes made by law schools will affect student choices for or against a particular law school. The W&L curriculum reform is positively affecting a significant number of students’ calculus about choosing W&L.
And some do come because of the financial aid package they were offered. But the financial aid reason is unlikely to explain the increase in applications since 2008. Some students, the recipients of aid, undoubtedly come in part because of the aid. That is no different than the students who choose [insert name of any school] because of the financial aid they were awarded. In 2012, about the same number of offers of admission were made as in previous years, but instead of the usual 130 or 135 admittees choosing to attend, more than 260 made deposits. Some were asked to defer their attendance until 2013 and once the dust settled we had a class of 187 instead of the usual 130 to 135. This same class entering in 2012 listed the curriculum reform first and financial aid ninth as strengths of the law school.
What else was happening in 2008 and 09 when the applications increased by nearly 33% per year?
In 2009 and 10, while W&L applications were on the rise, the US News ranking fell from 25-34 (while its reputation rank among academics stayed steady). It has now recovered to 24. If anything, that should have led to a drop in applications during 2008-2011 rather than the sharp increases that actually occurred.
Can we exclude all other possible explanations than those previously mentioned? Of course not. It could be that being in a small, beautiful mountain town is all the rage among young adults and 33% more students want that now than wanted it in 2007. I know of no data to prove or disprove that proposition, so it remains one that could be true. The reality is that the students who have come in recent years rate the curriculum reform among the top reasons (often the most important reason) for their attendance at W&L. That matters.
There is empirical evidence that the W&L curriculum reform is engaging students more than in the traditional “no plan” third year curriculum. Is it perfect evidence? Of course not. Is it definitive evidence that has no flaw? Of course not. Is anything ever supported by perfect, definite evidence that has no flaw? Not to my knowledge. We make all of our most important decisions in life based on the best available evidence. As long as the evidence is empirically sound and statistically significant, it is worthy of respect. The evidence of W&L 3L engagement increases is sound and statistically significant and marks a path toward further research and verification.
One commenter suggested that the data is suspect because the peer schools have not been identified. Their data belongs to them, not W&L. LSSSE does not make specific school data available to other schools. So W&L has only a composite score for those peer schools. And it would be unseemly for W&L to reveal the specific schools. I will not do so here. But to be sure, W&L asked LSSSE to calculate the data from a list of schools because they are the schools with whom W&L competes for students and competes in the rankings. It would not have served W&L’s research interests to learn how it compares with a list of schools that it does not compete with in the marketplace. No one at W&L has the data for any specific school.
Nonetheless, do not be mistaken, the schools with whom W&L is compared in LSSSE data are the schools anyone would expect them to be: schools that by their geography, rank and quality compete with W&L in the relevant markets for students and placement.
One observation: in the legal profession and legal education in particular, the status quo never seems to need empirical justification. Only change is suspect and wrong until proven definitively to be otherwise. Is there any empirical evidence that the status quo third year is the best possible third year except that it has been done that way for a long time? None that I know of. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” does not apply here. The third year of legal education is “broke”.
Amid calls for its abandonment by some, dating back at least to the early 1970s report by Paul Carrington, the third year is widely acknowledged to be of the least value among the three years. (See below on W&L’s largely unchanged approach to years 1 and 2.) The Roman Legions (and more than a few other military powers) have found out that the mere fact that something has been successfully done before is not sufficient evidence that it will prevail in the present or future. Arguing in favor of the status quo based on no empirical evidence, . . . based only on instinct and the argument that it is the way things are currently done, is an approach doomed to failure. Just ask Kodak. (And see my forthcoming book: “The American Legal Profession In Crisis,” Oxford, March 2013.)
How about the claim that “[W&L’s LSAT has] gone down every year since [the new curriculum was announced], while its GPA rank has, after a plunge, more or less returned to where it was.” The blogger made that claim, once again without any data, let alone empirically credible data. Actually the W&L median LSAT was steady at 166 from 2005-2010, dropped 2 points to 164 in 2011 and stayed at 164 for 2012. It has not “gone down every year since [the new curriculum was announced in 2008].” Meanwhile, the GPA of entering classes, which was in the 3.5 and 3.4 range in 2008-2010, has gone up to the 3.6 range (3.65 and 3.62) in 2011 and 2012. The two modest changes in LSAT and GPA have essentially off-set one another in US News points. Hardly the reason for pause suggested by the blogger.
It seems that as long as someone is arguing against change, no rules apply to the arguments’ underpinnings.
Here is what the empirical evidence from the LSSSE surveys shows and what it does not show: students are more engaged in their work and their work includes more writing, more collaboration and more problem solving. Here are a few charts even more striking than those Bill used in his post. Together they say that significantly more than their peers or their predecessors at W&L, current third year students are working more, writing more, collaborating more, applying law to real world problems more, and preparing for class more often. Overall, they describe a harder-working, more engaged student body. And they are working harder at acquire the skills that matter to success as a lawyer.
Together with the entering student survey numbers, here is what the application increases at W&L show and do not show: prospective students are choosing to apply and then enroll in a law school with a third year curriculum that engages them more in the work of lawyers. The data do not show what employers think or do not think about the curriculum reform.
It is too early for employment data. One full class has graduated from the new curriculum, in May 2012, and that in a time of such incredibly reduced employment of new lawyers. No innovation, no matter how much it might improve graduates’ abilities to perform, will change employment data until employers become convinced. That time is not yet come. It is highly unlikely that employers will break out of established patterns in times like the present when they are hiring a scant few new lawyers.
We live in a world of enormous pedigree influence. So no matter how successful our curriculum is for students, I do not expect that we will make employment gains vis a vis the top five or ten schools in the rankings. Instead, I do expect that over a five to ten year period, we will make gains vis a vis schools that are in our peer group, defined roughly as everyone between 20 and 40. Likewise, if other schools institute well-designed and substantively effective experiential education curriculum reforms, I would not expect that they will suddenly make dramatic gains against much more highly ranked schools. For example, if a school ranked number 150 institutes excellent reforms, I would not expect them to make gains versus schools in the top 50. But if they do the reform well AND if they make it known AND if they preserve what is already effective in the rest of their curriculum AND if they have an effective career services shop, they will make gains against the schools within their peer group.
Asking for data to show that employers have broken down the doors of a law school to hire graduates after one year is actually a bit silly. No one who seriously respects data and the market would expect such data to exist. That is a five to ten year project and is limited even then by the pedigree factor mentioned in this paragraph.
Curriculum merits. The curriculum relies on clinics, externships and practicum courses. Readers of this blog know about the first two and less about the third. The new “practicum” courses are not skills courses. Instead, they are courses about the lawyers’ work in various practice settings. Rather than rely exclusively on courses in trial ad or negotiation or interviewing, the W&L curricular reform relies primarily on courses like The Lawyer for Failing Businesses and Mergers and Acquisitions Practicum and Corporate Counsel and Poverty Law Litigation and The Litigation Department Lawyer. In these courses, students learn the relevant substantive law, but they learn it the way lawyers do rather than the way students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem. This alone is an activity that adjusts students’ mental pathways from student to lawyer.
At W&L, students are purely students in years 1 and 2. They read cases from casebooks and attend class and take final exams. None of that focus of lost. But, they spend their third year learning law as lawyers do, with a client’s service at the center rather than an exam at the center. For example, in a course called The Lawyer For Failing Businesses, the students are placed in the role of a lawyer representing a failing business. They counsel the client about bankruptcy options. They draft the documents necessary to start a bankruptcy proceeding. They negotiate with creditors. They draft financing documents. They deal with ancillary litigation. In doing so, they learn bankruptcy law, but not for the mere transient purpose of passing a three hour exam. They learn it in the context of its immediate use for a client.
Is it quite as wide as a traditional course in Bankruptcy? No. But it does convey to students the theory of bankruptcy law and its use. In practice, lawyers do not answer clients’ questions by saying, “Yes, I learned about that on the Tuesday of the third week of my Torts course.” They use the essence of a topic to research and discover the best answer to the client’s very specific set of circumstances.
Nothing of consequence is lost by missing a topic in a course. Studies show that students retain about 10% of what we tell them. Coverage-need is passé. It is what faculty members argued (sometimes disingenuously) when their Property course was being reduced from 6 to 4 credits. It is old news. No one can claim that students can be exposed to every law topic that might be beneficial to them. Students need the essence of a topic for their use in practice, not the detail, likely forgotten in any event. We unduly glorify ourselves to think that students remember everything we say in class or assign them to read. They retain the core. We hope.
Many of us have had students say, “I never learned anything about Contracts [insert whatever course you like] until I used it in my clinic [my summer job, my externship, my practice].” Of course students are wrong to say this. They acquired cognitive knowledge during their course; they realized the gain when they used the knowledge. But their comments do have meaning: to fully grasp and understand, students must not only acquire knowledge but they must also use it.
First and second year, a three year curriculum not a third year curriculum. The reformed third year curriculum follows from the first and second years. It does not stand alone and is no rejection of the good that exists in traditional legal education.
The first year has long served a valuable purpose. In it, students’ thinking is transformed to that of a legal analyst and the skill-peak of academics is on display most prominently. The comparative advantage in teaching by academics is most pronounced in the first year. We shine and are perhaps irreplaceable here. Students must have the critical thinking skills that we provide to them through our first year teaching techniques. W&L instruction in the first year is largely unchanged from the past. We have added courses in international law and administrative law to the usual stable of 1L courses, and we now teach professional responsibility to second semester, first year students. (Some schools have done the same, but we are in the minority in including these three courses in the 1L year.) But the mission of the first year is the same as it ever was. It succeeds.
The second year is also largely unchanged from the past. Our second year students predominantly enroll in the core subjects that are not covered in the first year: evidence, corporations, basic tax, constitutional law (a first year subject at many schools), criminal procedure, trusts and estates (though to a lesser extent than in the past), etc. Many students engage in the law journal activities, the moot court competitions and the newer negotiation, mediation, client counseling and transactional skills competitions.
I won’t repeat here everything about how the third year works, but it requires a full credit load (24 credits) of experiential education, including clinics, externships, immersion courses (litigation and transactional), practicum courses (elaborate simulations of practice settings), and a service requirement. But within the student’s third year there is space for a traditional course in each semester if the student chooses. So the student who lands a clerkship and has not yet taken Fed Courts can do so in the third year, for example, without being in an overload.
Ours remains a three year curriculum, with the first two years attending well to the traditional missions of the law school experience. The third year is being made more valuable; the first two are not being slighted or cast aside.
Bar exam? So far we have not seen statistically significant bar exam results. In one year, the pass rate was up and the next year down, but neither to statistically significant levels. We are paying attention to this possible issue and so far see no cause for concern. We will continue to monitor. I would say that the current, traditional bar exam is itself an impediment to legal education reform. With some states testing 28 subjects and students typically taking fewer than that number in the entire three years, room for courses that include among their teaching goals problem solving, team work, writing, business sense, etc., are a luxury that insecure students and law schools cannot afford. All schools have some students who are bar-exam-at-risk. Some schools have a majority of such students. In general, the more insecure the students and law school, the less able they are to reform their curriculum to reflect the actual needs of students to succeed as lawyers. The bar exam has always been touted as a “gatekeeper.” But as the subjects tested have proliferated and the practice has become more sophisticated and less reliant on rote memorization of knowledge, the gatekeeper bears less and less relationship to what is on the other side of the gate. A macramé test would also keep the gate secure, but it would say nothing about the qualities of the passing takers to excel on the other side of the gate. The traditional bar exam becomes less and less relevant to the practice of law every year.
There is nothing anti-academic about studying the work of lawyers. To say so betrays a false elitism more likely borne of insecurity than of truth. Many legal academics could not do what lawyers do: solve real clients’ problems that involve extra-legal attributes. The work of lawyers is sophisticated. It partakes of some of the rigor of law school teaching and scholarship, but it also relies on sophisticated problem-solving and a multiplicity of other talents. Some who claim that lawyer work is mundane and uninteresting fail to understand the nature of that work in the first instance. Some who make the claim seek cover from their own lack of capacity to do such work. Describing it as uninteresting allows the speaker to hide his or her inadequacy. The study of effective lawyers is a sophisticated inquiry. The work of excellent lawyers is not mundane. And the mundane tasks undertaken by beginning lawyers in the past are becoming commoditized and outsourced.
The current system of legal education fails to account for a simple truth: the skill-set of legal academics is not a perfect overlap with that of the role to which the vast majority of our students aspire. The 19th Century redesign of legal education was based on the premise that law school’s primary mission was not to create lawyers but rather to create law professors. (This conclusion is documented in the correspondence of the main contemporary actors involved in the reform.) Many adjustments have been made over the subsequent century and a quarter, but the remnants of those 19th Century decisions persist today.
Generally speaking, legal academics are excellent law analyzers and theorists. We are critical thinkers and precise analysts of law and its theoretical underpinnings. Students need this same talent and we are best at conveying it, especially in the traditional first-year courses and teaching modes. But to be successful lawyers, students need more than that foundational thinking skill. They need to learn how to problem solve when some of the factors are not strictly law-related; they need to learn to work in teams and to manage projects; they need to acquire a measure of business sense whether they serve as business counsel or manage their own law shop; they need to learn how to manage risk and assess the risk adversity level of clients; they need to communicate the law and its constraints to non-lawyers; they need to acquire bedside manner. In short, there is a multitude of talents and skills and attributes that students need to acquire that are not the skill-domain of academics (with many academics being an exception to this rule).
One blogger said that the 3L curriculum at W&L “focuses on practical lawyer skills.” This sort of statement sells the new curriculum far short of its reality. It actually focuses on the attributes, skills and mental habits of successful lawyers, all while providing students with substantive law and theoretical learning as well. A broad view of lawyer skills would include the mental development fostered in the first year as well. It is time to stop pretending that legal analysis is not a practical lawyer skill. It is—and it is both critical and fundamental—but it is not the only skill/attribute/talent that lawyers need to be successful.
Successful lawyers can and should be our partners in providing this education. They know better than we do about many of these skills and attributes. Indeed, some of this learning will inevitably continue to take place after law school. But the economic realities of today’s legal market dictate that less teaching is being done after law school. Law firms teach less than they once did and more graduates are having to find their own way as solos. Demands from all quarters are that legal education provide at least a head start on the development of students in these realms. Prospective students, the practicing branch, and paying clients are all making such demands, and we ignore them at our peril. Some law schools that ignore this market demand will fail.
Legal education and the legal profession are at a crossroads. Applications are strikingly down for a reason. Schools can stand pat if they choose, and some have the market power to do so for a significant time after change would be prudent and effective. All others do so at their peril. Change is not good merely for change’s sake. But it is not prudent to stay the same when the world has changed. The practicing branch has changed; client needs and demands have changed; the society that the legal profession claims to serve has changed. Only legal education (and the organized bar) now remain stubbornly tied to anachronistic ways. The legal profession itself and legal education in particular, live as if they had eyes on the back of their head, but none on their face. Only what is past seems to be valued-- Even when what has past has no empirical basis and the conditions in which it exists have dramatically changed.
Bill Henderson based his opinion on good data. Not perfect data but good data. Data sufficient to guide decisions in most realms of life and work. The responses to Bill’s post to date have been based on virtualy no data, but rather on surmise and rumor and vague impressions of W&L’s. My fondest hope would be that many thoughtful, careful innovators pursue their projects and produce as much data as the legal education project allows. This is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise. But the W&L reform is one that preserves the best of a traditional legal education while enhancing what can be improved about traditional legal education. It does not deny the value of academic work. It does not deny the value of traditional teaching methods. It adds to them third year experiences that the best data available shows are having positive effects.
[posted by Jim Moliterno]
February 13, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Data on legal education, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Scholarship on legal education, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (6)
January 29, 2013
Washington & Lee is Biggest Legal Education Story of 2013
Here it is in a nutshell. There is empirical evidence that Washington & Lee’s experiential 3L curriculum is delivering a significantly better education to 3L students—significantly better than prior graduating classes at W&L, and significantly better than W&L’s primary competitors. Moreover, at a time when total law school applicants are on the decline, W&L’s getting more than its historical share of applicants and getting a much higher yield. When many schools are worried about revenues to survive next year and the year after, W&L is worried about creating the bandwidth needed to educate the surplus of students who enrolled in the fall of 2012, and the backlog of applicants that the school deferred to the fall of 2013.
[This is a long essay. If you want it in PDF format, click here.]
Alas, now we know: There is a market for high quality legal education. It consists of college graduates who don’t want to cast their lot with law schools who cannot guarantee students entree to meaningful practical training. Some might argue that W&L is not objectively better-- that the 3L curriculum is a marketing ploy where the reality falls well short of promotional materials and that, regardless, prospective students can't judge quality.
Well, in fact there is substantial evidence that the W&L 3L program delivers comparative value. The evidence is based on several years' worth of data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). I received permission from Professor James Moliterno, someone who took a leadership role in building W&L’s third year program, to share some of the key results (each school controls access to its LSSSE data.) They are below.
But before getting into empirical evidence, I want to put squarely on the table the most sobering finding that likely applies to virtually all of legal education. It is this: On several key LSSSE metrics, W&L has made impressive gains vis-à-vis its own historical benchmarks and its primary rival schools. But even for this leader, there remains enormous room for improvement. More on that below.
Here is the bottom line: Traditional legal education, when it is measured, does not fare very well. Yet, as W&L shows, substantial improvement is clearly possible. We law professors can respond to this information in one of two ways:
- Don’t measure, as it may disconfirm our belief that we are delivering a great education.
- Measure—even when it hurts—and improve.
I am in the second camp. Indeed, I don’t know if improvement is possible without measurement. Are we judging art work or the acquisition of key professional skills needed for the benefit of clients and the advancement of the public good?
Moving the Market
I doubt I will ever forget Jim Moliterno’s September 2012 presentation at the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers (ETL) conference at the University of Denver. He presented a single graph (chart below) showing W&L actual applicant volumes since 2008 versus what would have happened at W&L if its applicant volume had followed national trends.
While law school applicants crested a few years ago, W&L enjoyed a large run-up in volume of applicants, presumably due to the launching of their new 3L program. This larger applicant pool effectively served as a buffer when applicant declines began in 2011 and 2012. Since 2008, overall law school applicants are down -19%, yet W&L is up overall +33%.
But much more significantly, after their experiential 3L year was up and running and the overall legal job market continued to stagnate, W&L yields spiked. Ordinarily they would enroll 135 students. But for the fall of 2012, they received enrollment commitments from well over 260 students. Indeed, at the ETL conference Jim Moliterno said the school had to offer financially attractive deferments to get the class to approximately 185 incoming students -- a 50 student bulge.
When Jim Moliterno showed the above graph and explained the corresponding changes in yield, my good friend Gillian Hadfield, a skeptical, toughminded, evidence-demanding economist who teaches at USC Law, leaned over and said to me, “that is the single most important takeaway from this entire conference.” I agreed. The market for a legal education with practical training is, apparently, much more inelastic than the market for traditional JD programs.
Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable is that a large proportion of incoming students at W&L were enrolling based on little more than faith. Nobody knew for sure if W&L had the ability to pull off their ambitious 3L curriculum. The program relies on a large cadre of adjunct professors, after all, and W&L is located in remote Lexington, Virginia. Many law faculty outside of W&L, and perhaps some inside, thought (or perhaps think) that the program could not live up to the hype. Well, as shown below, the program appears to have produced meaningful gains.
The only data-driven critique anyone can muster is that the gains remain significantly short of perfection. But that critique bites harder on the rest of us. To use a simple metaphor, W&L is tooling around in a Model-T while the rest of us rely on horse and buggy. What ought to be plain to all of us, however, is that, just like automobile industry circa 1910, we are entering a period of staggering transformation that will last decades. And transformation will be roughly equal parts creation and destruction. See Schumpeter.
W&L Data, Internal Historical Benchmark
LSSSE is a phenomenally rich dataset – nearly 100 questions per year on a wide variety of topics related to student classroom experience, faculty interaction, type and quantity of assessments, time allocation, and perceived gains on a variety of dimensions related to personal and professional development. The survey instrument is online here.
Aside from a host of questions related to demographics, career goals, and debt, major sections in the LSSSE include:
- Section 1, Intellectual Experience (20 questions)
- Section 2, Examinations (1 question)
- Section 3, Mental Activities (5 questions)
- Section 4, Writing (3 questions)
- Section 5, Enriching Educational Experiences (9 questions)
- Section 6, Student Satisfaction (7 questions)
- Section 7, Time Usage (11 questions)
- Section 8, Law School Environment (10 questions)
- Section 9, Quality of Relationships (3 questions)
- Section 10, Educational and Personal Growth (16 questions)
W&L deserves to be a detailed case study. But frankly, legal education can’t wait. So I will do the best I can to cover the landscape in a blog post. I hope every law faculty member who reads this post makes a strong plea to their dean to enroll in LSSSE. Why? So your school can benchmark itself against the detailed LSSSE case studies that are bound to flow out of W&L and other innovative law schools. Though they don’t get much press, there are, in fact, other innovative law schools.The dataset I have for W&L covers 2004, 2008, and 2012. This is the same data that Jim Moliterno briefly shared at the ETL conference. I have put them into bar charts so that readers can see the scores on several questions at once. Two important interpretative notes:
- LSSSE is especially useful when an entire class (1L, 2L, or 3L cohort) experiences a curricular change. This happened with Indiana Law's 1L Legal Professions class. It is also happening here, as all W&L 3L students had the benefit of the experiential 3L curriculum. Assuming nothing else signficant has changed (a safe assumption when it comes to legal education), the classwide change enables a simple "event study" analysis.
- W&L LSSSE scores for 2004 and 2008 are much more alike than they are different. The big differences appear between 2008 and 2012. So that is what I discuss below.
Section 1 differences are displayed below (3L students only). Click on the chart to enlarge.
The big takeaway here is that W&L gained in 17 out of 20 categories. Because Section 1 is put on a 4 point scale, just like a traditional academic grading system, we can analyze the data using something akin to a LSSSE Section GPA . W&L's Section 1 GPA for 2008 was 2.52, which is essentially on the C+/B- cut point. Only one factor -- communicated with faculty via email--was meaningfully above a 3.0.
We can contrast that with a 2.85 GPA for 2012, which is in the B-/B territory. W&L's overall average increased by .33 points, and six measure are above 3.0. It experienced the biggest gains on the following:
- +.77, Put together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions.
- +.75, Participated in a clinical or pro bono project as part of a course or for academic credit.
- +.53, Put together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions.
- +.51, Worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.
- +.49, Prepared two or more drafts of a paper or assignment before turning it in.
- +.47, Discussed assignments with a faculty member.
- +.44, Used email to communicate with a faculty member (now a 3.65).
- +.43, Talked about career plans or job search activities with a faculty member or advisor
- +.41, Worked with other students on project during class
There is still enormous room for improvement, but W&L's 3L experiential program appears to have really moved the needle on factors related to the Section 1 Intellectual Experiences factors.
W&L fares even better on Section 3, which covers the mental activities that ostensibly comprise "thinking like a lawyer." [Click on chart to enlarge]
As shown above, W&L 3Ls drop in only one category -- rote memorization for repeating on an exam. Surely, that pleases the W&L faculty. These are 3Ls after all. The overall Section 3 GPA, which excludes 3a, moves from 3.07 (B) to 3.41 (B+). Question 3c to 3e are true higher order lawyering skills. W&L ought to wheel out these data the next time some bar association claims that legal education is not accomplishing anything. At some places, maybe. But good things appear to be happening at W&L.
Washington & Lee shows similar gains in the other key LSSSE sections. If you are curious, you'll have to wait for the detailed W&L case study, which I hope will get written someday by someone at W&L. What is no doubt of greater interest to the broader legal education community, however, is how well W&L is doing against other law schools--i.e., like us.
W&L Data, External Peer Benchmarks
LSSSE data are the property of law school who pay for the survey. The survey is designed to improve the education programming rather than create an industrywide ranking. Roughly 50% of law schools participate each year. Since its inception in 2003, 179 law schools have participate for at least one year.
Although the data are reported at the individual school-level, comparative benchmarks are a key part of the LSSSE value proposition. Comparative benchmarks include size, public/private, the total LSSSE sample, and a peer group specified by the school. For example, at Indiana, we might want to look at other Big 10 public law schools. We don't get to see our rivals' scores, individually, but we can get a group average for five or more schools we select that are also participating in that specific year.
I am told that schools typically pick their peer groups based on similar rank, geography, and applicant pool, etc. I thought W&L's peer comparison would be the most relevant to show here.
Below are the 11 (out of 20) factors in LSSSE Section 1 in which W&L is higher than its peer benchmark at statistically significant levels. Again, only 3Ls in the sample I am using here. [Click on to enlarge]
On these 11 benchmarks, W&L posts a "GPA" of 3.02 (B) versus 2.45 for the peers (C+). Again, W&L has plenty of room to grow, but relatively speaking, it is dramatically outperforming its competition.
What about those critical Section 3 Mental Activities that comprise "thinking like a lawyer"? Again, W&L is outdistancing the competition. [Click to enlarge]
Section 4 pertains to writing. Ask any professional development coordinator in a law firm about the biggest weakenesses of incoming associates, and you'll get a near unanimous reply: "writing." Well, the best way to become a better legal writer is to write. How did to W&L 3Ls do on that front? 3L students at W&L write a ton. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
W&L 3Ls write roughly the same number of 20-page papers as those at peer schools, but in the 1-4 and 5-19 page category, W&L 3Ls surge ahead of the competition at statistically signficant levels. In the above chart, the 3.27 score for papers in the 5-19 page range corresponds to 6-7 medium length papers during the 3L year. Peers, in contrast, are roughly at 3 medium length papers. The 3.68 score in the 1-4 page category also equals roughly 7 short papers during the 3L year; peers write roughly half that number, roughly 3-4 short numbers.
Section 7 covers time usage. Not surprisingly, W&L 3Ls spend more time prepping for classes beyond just reading assigned text -- roughly 7 hours more per week. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
Section 9 focuses on the quality of relationships within the school. In terms of 3L student relationships with faculty and administration, they are quite high -- indeed, higher at statistically significant levels than W&Ls peer schools. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
Finally, Section 10 asks a series of questions related to how well the law school experience has contributed to the student's knowledge, skill and personal development. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
On 10 of 15 questions, W&L is posting higher scores than its competition -- all at statistically significant level. But as I noted above, there remains room for improvement. W&L Section 10 "GPA" is 2.99 (B). Its competitor's GPA is 2.7 (B-).
There are three takeaways from this blog posts:
- A sizeable number of prospective students really do care about practical skills training and are voting with their feet. W&L has therefore become a big winner in the race for applicants.
- W&L's 3L experiential curriculum is substantial improvement over the curriculum W&L offered in 2004 and 2008; moreover, there is room for even more improvement.
- There is substantial evidence that W&L, with some modest focused energy on the curriculum, is now offering a better educational experience than its peer schools -- albeit, the current grade is a "B" at best for W&L and likely lower for the rest of us. We all, therefore, have a lot of work to do.
The example of the Washington & Lee 3L experiential year ought to be a watershed for legal education. We can no longer afford to ignore data. Through LSSSE, high quality comparative data are cheap and comprehensive. And that information, as we have seen, can significantly improve the value of a legal education.
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
January 18, 2013
A Blueprint for Change
Brian discusses the bleak employment prospects of law schools, but (through no fault of his own) understates the nature of the structural change that is occurring in the U.S. and global market for legal services. In Part II, I will write about some logical next steps for law schools looking to get ahead of the coming tsunami.
I tried to write Part II, but a blog post just was not up to the task. Further, I sensed that my colleagues were in no mood for half-baked solutions. There has been enormous criticism of legal education on the blogs and in the media, but very little in the way of detailed prescriptions to improve the situation. I felt an obligation to back off on the criticism and focus on solutions. So, in essence, Part II of my Tamanaha review became an article.
I just posted to SSRN an article entitled "A Blueprint for Change" forthcoming in the Pepperdine Law Review. It is both a diagnosis and a proposed solution -- a solution I am actively pursuing. Here is the abstract:
This Article discusses the financial viability of law schools in the face of massive structural changes now occurring within the legal industry. It then offers a blueprint for change – a realistic way for law schools to retool themselves in an attempt to provide our students with high quality professional employment in a rapidly changing world. Because no institution can instantaneously reinvent itself, a key element of my proposal is the “12% solution.” Approximately 12% of faculty members take the lead on building a competency-based curriculum that is designed to accelerate the development of valuable skills and behaviors prized by both legal and nonlegal employers. For a variety of practical reasons, successful implementation of the blueprint requires law schools to band together in consortia. The goal of these initiatives needs to be the creation and implementation of a world-class professional education in which our graduates consistently and measurably outperform graduates from traditional J.D. programs.
I have a large backlog of shorter articles and analyses that I have not posted because I wanted my own detailed solution in the public domain. I hope to tie all of these ideas together over the coming weeks.
Thank you, Brian Tamanaha, for writing an book that required me to think in terms of solutions.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
January 18, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Innovations in legal education, Scholarship on legal education, Scholarship on the legal profession, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 28, 2012
Unofficial Comparison of 2010 and 2012 Enrollment and Profile Data and Thoughts on 2013
In August, I posted to this blog a narrative analysis comparing the 2010 and 2011 enrollment and profile data among law schools based on the data published in the 2012 ABA-LSAC Guide and the 2013 ABA-LSAC Guide. In response to recent comments on the 2012 enrollment situation, see ABA Journal Weekly Newsletter and the discussion at The Faculty Lounge, and the further drop in LSAT test-takers in June/October 2012 recently discussed at Tax Prof Blog, I thought it might make sense to update the enrollment and profile analysis to account for 2012 enrollment and profile data, to the extent that it is available, and to offer some thoughts on 2013.
As of November 15, only 140 law schools had published enrollment data on their webpages and only 128 had published sufficient profile data on which to make meaningful year-to-year comparisons. Please note that this analysis is based on "unofficial data," having been taken from law school webpages, not from any ABA publication, and having been taken from law school webpages prior to the LSAC certification of enrollment and profile data which the LSAC is undertaking this year for the first time.
ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2012, only 12 schools were flat (a change between -1% and +1%) or had an increase in enrollment; 128 of the 140 law schools had a decline in enrollment (a decrease greater than 1%), of which
-89 had a decline of 10% or more, of which
-59 had a decline in enrollment of 20% or more, and of which
-15 had a decline in enrollment of 30% or more.
This means over 90% of law schools for which 2012 enrollment information is available had a decline in enrollment and that more than 40% had a decline in enrollment of 20% or more.
Based on the data published in the 2012 ABA-LSAC Guide, in 2010, these 140 law schools had 33,952 first-years (68.3% of the 49,700 total 1L enrollment (LSAC matriculants)). Based on the data published in the 2013 ABA-LSAC Guide, in 2011, these 140 law schools had 31,082 first-years (68.2% of the 45,600 total 1L enrollment (LSAC matriculants)). In 2012, based on data from law school webpages, these 140 law schools had 28,380 first-years.
The decline in first-year enrollment was roughly 8.45% percent across these 140 schools between 2010 and 2011 (slightly more than the national decline of 8.25%), while the decline in first-year enrollment was roughly 8.69% across these 140 schools between 2011 and 2012.
If enrollment at these 140 schools represents 68.25% of total first-year enrollment for 2012 (the average of 2010 and 2011), that would suggest that total first-year enrollment (LSAC matriculants) for fall 2012 may be as low as 41,500-41,600, a decline of roughly 8.8% from 2011 and a decline of roughly 16% since 2010. (The LSAC certification of enrollment and profile information may come in even slightly lower than this estimate as it is going to be based on snapshots of enrollment on October 5, 2012, which would exclude students who began classes but withdrew prior to October 5, 2012. This group of students might number a few hundred if there were one to three such students at each law school.)
PROFILES IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2012, 93 of the 128 law schools with available profile information had a decline in their LSAT/GPA profile (more indicators down then up), 23 had an increase in profile (more indicators up then down), and 12 had a mixed profile (same number of indicators up and down).
ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, of the 128 law schools with both enrollment and profile information available for fall 2012, 85 law schools (nearly two-thirds) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles between 2010 and 2012.
Of these 85 law schools, 38 law schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 20% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles. That means nearly 30% of law schools with available enrollment and profile information for 2012 had declines in enrollment of 20% or more and saw their LSAT/GPA profile decline. It also means that over 75% of the 50 law schools with declines in enrollment greater than 20% and for which 2012 profile information is available had declines in profile for 2012.
Notably, five of these 38 law schools were in the USNews top-50, 10 were ranked between 51-100, 10 were ranked between 101-145 and 13 were in the alphabetical listing of schools. The declining interest in law school, therefore, is impacting law schools across the rankings, but is more dramatically impacting alphabetical schools than top-ranked schools.
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON 2012 – According to the LSAC Volume Summary, applications to law school slid from 87,900 in 2010 to 78,500 in 2011 to approximately 68,000 for 2012 (although the 2012 numbers have not been finalized). Over the last nine years, law schools, on average, have admitted roughly 56,800 students per year, with a low of 55,500 in 2007 and in 2008. The “admit” rate – which was only 56% for fall 2004 – had climbed to 71% for fall 2011. For the last several years, however, matriculants have averaged roughly 82% of admitted students. So if we did have 41,600 matriculants this fall (as estimated above), and if matriculants represented roughly 82% of admitted students, that would mean we had roughly 50,700 admitted students, the lowest number this millennium, with an admit rate of nearly 75%, the highest this millenium. (Alternatively, if matriculants declined as a percentage of admitted students, it is possible that a larger number of applicants were admitted.)
PROJECTIONS FOR 2013 -- June and October LSAT administrations suggest that there may be fewer than 60,000 applicants for fall 2013. There were 93,341 June/October test-takers in 2009 (for the 2010 admissions cycle) (resulting in 87,900 applicants – 94.2% of tests administered in June/October). There were 87,318 June/October test-takers in 2010 (for the 2011 admissions cycle) (resulting in 78,500 applicants – 89.9% of tests administered in June/October). There were 71,981 June/October test-takers in 2011 (for the 2012 admissions cycle) (resulting in roughly 68,000 applicants – 94.5% of tests administered in June/October).
That is a three-year average in which the number of applicants in a cycle represented roughly 92.9% of the tests administered in June/October. There were 63,003 June/October test-takers in 2012 (for the 2013 admissions cycle). If the 2013 cycle results in a number of applicants representing 92.9% of June/October test-takers, law schools can anticipate there being only roughly 58,530 applicants to law schools for fall 2013. (Notably, in the admissions cycles from 2007-2009, the number of applicants in a cycle represented, on average, roughly 111% of the June/October test-takers, so the estimate of 58,530 may understate the number of possible applicants.)
If there are only 58,530 applicants for fall 2013 (which would represent nearly a 14% decline from fall 2012 -- the third consecutive double-digit decline in applications), and if law schools admit only 50,700 of these applicants, the same as the estimate above for fall 2012, across all law schools over 86% of all applicants to law school would receive offers of admission. If 82% of these admitted students were to matriculate, that would mean a first-year enrollment for fall 2013 that once again would be around 41,500-41,600. Alternatively, if law schools remain somewhat selective and were to admit only 48,000 of the 58,530 estimated applicants, that still would be an admit rate of 82%. If 82% of those 48,000 matriculated, the first-year enrollment would decline to roughly 39,400, a decline of about 5.3% from the fall 2012 estimate set forth above.
There are two competing tensions law schools must weigh in making admissions decisions in a declining market – revenue and LSAT/GPA profile. Do you take the number of students you need to meet revenue projections (even if that means profile slides) or do you take a smaller number of students (and take a revenue hit) in an effort to maintain LSAT/GPA profile?
What the 2011 and 2012 classes demonstrate is that in the current market, for a large number of schools, even taking significantly fewer students did not allow them to maintain their profiles. Given that many schools already have lost significant revenue due to shrinking enrollments in 2011 and/or 2012 (for just one example see the recent discussion of Vermont Law School in the National Law Journal) they will be hard-pressed to shrink enrollment further to maintain profiles. As a result, I think when enrollment and profile data is evaluated in fall 2013, we will see even more widespread declines in profile than was manifested in 2011 and 2012, possibly along with some ongoing declines in enrollment. It seems likely that several more schools may experience both significant declines in enrollment and in profile.
[posted by Jerry Organ]
November 19, 2012
How to Increase Your Law School's Academic Reputation
Law schools care deeply about their academic reputation. If this were not true, my Indiana Law mailbox would not be stuffed full with glossy brochures sharing the news of faculty publications, impressive new hires, areas of concentration, and sundry distinguished speaker series, etc.
Because of the timing of these mailings – I got nearly 100 in Sept and October—I am guessing that the senders hoped to influence the annual U.S. News & World Report Academic Reputation survey. Cf. Michael Sauder & Wendy Espeland, Fear of Falling: The Effects of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools 1 (Oct 2007) (reporting "increases in marketing expenditures aimed toward raising reputation scores in the USN survey"). But does it work? A recent study by Larry Cunningham (St. Johns Law) suggests that the effect is, at best, decimal dust.
Glossy brochures may not reliably affect Academic Reputation, but I have uncovered four factors that are associated with statistically significant increases and decreases of USN Academic Reputation. To illustrate, consider the scatterplot below, which plots the 1993 ordinal rank of USN Academic Reputation against the 2012 ordinal rank [click on to enlarge].
Four sets of dot (Red, Blue, Orange, and Green), each representing distinctive shared features of law schools, tend to be above or below the regression line. These patterns suggest that changes in USN Academic Reputation over time are probably not the result of random chance. But we will get to the significance of the Red, Blue, Orange, and Green dots soon enough.
The primary takeaway from the above scatterplot is that 2012 USN Academic Reputation is overwhelmingly a function of 1993 USN Academic Reputation. Over 88% of the variation is explained by a school's starting point 20 years earlier. Part of this lock-in effect may be lateral mobility. That is, there are perks at higher ranked schools: they tend to pay more; the teaching loads are lighter; and the prestige is greater, etc. So school-level reputations rarely change, just the work addresses of the most productive scholars. This is, perhaps, the most charitable way to explain the enormous stickiness of USN Academic Reputation.
That said, the scatterplot does not show a perfect correlation; slightly less than 12% of the variation is still in play to be explained by influences other than starting position. A small handful of schools have made progress over these 20 years (these are the schools above the regression line), and a handful have fallen backwards (those below the line).
The Red circles, Blue rectangles, Orange diamonds, and Green circles represent four law school-level attributes. The Reds have been big gainers in reputation, and so have the Blues. In contrast, the Oranges have all experienced big declines; and as as a group, so have the Greens. When the attributes of the Red, Blue, Orange, and Green Schools are factored into the regression, all four are statistically signficant (Red, p =.000; Blue, p = .001; Orange, p = .012; Green, p = .000) and the explained variation increases 4% to 92.3%. As far as linear models goes, this is quite an impressive result.
Before you look below the fold for answers, any guesses on what is driving the Red and Blue successes and Orange and Green setbacks?
Red circles are the five law schools that, over the last 20 years, have changed university affiliations and thereby changed their names. These include:
- Michigan State University. In 2004, the Detroit College of Law became Michigan State University College of Law. DCL was ranked 155 in Academic Reputation in 1993; in 2012, MSU Law was ranked 96, reflecting a 59 point jump, which is the largest in the dataset.
- Quinnipiac Law. In the mid-1990s, the University of Bridgeport Law School became Quinnipiac University School of Law. This switch in university affiliations came about as the result of law faculty and students wanting to distance themselves from the financial support given to Bridgeport from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Since 1993, Quinnipiac's academic reputation has climbed from 166 to 123 (+43 spots).
- Seattle University. In 1994, the University of Puget Sound transferred the sponsorship of its law school to Seattle University, leading to the renaming and relocation of the law school. The reincarnated law school has fared well in USN Academic Reputation, increasing from 113 to 71 (+42).
- University of New Hampshire. In the spring of 2010, Franklin Pierce Law Center signed an affiliation agreement with the University of New Hampshire, the state's flagship public university, and in turn changed its name. UNH Law has fared well in the USN Academic Reputation survey, climbing from 151 to 123 (+28).
- Penn State Law. In 2000, the independent Dickinson School of Law, one of the oldest law schools in the nation, merged with Big 10 powerhouse Penn State University. The merger has been good for USN Academic Reputation, which has increased from 107 in 1993 to 84 in 2012 (+23).
So, USN Academic Reputation is likely influenced by the halo of a stronger university brand. But this strategy is only open to a handful of independent law schools and those affiliated with a weak, financially struggling central universities. So it is not generalizable as a strategy for increasing Academic Reputation. Sorry to get your hopes up.
Well, what about the Blue retangles?
This one is a little counterintuitive. I identifed three research-oriented law schools where, compared to the rest of the legal academy, conservatives have fared well during faculty hiring: George Mason, San Diego, and Pepperdine. Why these three? (If there are other law schools that have tried to build a strong conservative faculty brand, they have escaped my attention.)
- George Mason's Law & Economics emphasis.
- San Diego Law is a conservative Catholic law school that hosts The Right Coast blog.
- Pepperdine Law is a Christian-centered law school that hired Kenneth Starr to serve as dean as dean after he rapped up this tenure as Independent Counsel of the Clinton Whitewater investigation.
As show in the scatterplot above, all three law schools have fared very well in Academic Reputation: GMU (#76 to #51, +25), San Diego (#69 to #51, +18), and Pepperdine (#107 to #65, +42).
But wait, fellow academics vote in the USN Academic Reputation survey, and supposedly we are an overwhelmingly liberal. So why did these three conservative school fare so well? This could be combination of three factors:
- Discounts on productive scholars. Because GMU and San Diego are not put off by conservative credentials, they have gotten highly productive scholars at a discount. Among law schools on SSRN, GMU Law ranks #18 in all-time downloads and San Diego ranks #21 -- both are significantly higher than these schools' USN Academic Reputation and overall USN rank. But this does not explain Pepperdine, which ranks #117.
- USN "echo chamber" effect. My colleague, Jeff Stake, has documented that a school's USN Academic Reputation is influenced by changes in its overall USN ranking. So, if a school manages to increase its overall rank, USN Academic Reputation then rises. See Stake, The Interplay between Law School Rankings, Reputations, and Resource Allocation, 81 Ind. L. J. 229 (2006). A strong conservative brand probably helps a law school attract more than its share of highly credentialed conservative students. Until 2001, GMU Law was perennially a T2 law school; but in 2012, it was ranked #39. Likewise, until 2004, Pepperdine was perennially a T3/T4 (note their used to be five USN tiers); but in 2012, it was ranked #49. In contrast, USD Law (ranked #69 in the USN Overall in 2012) has increased its Academic Reputation significantly but moved sideways in the rankings (query: did USD understand the optimal tradeoffs between LSAT and UGPA?)
- USN Voters. The Survey voters are supposedly deans, associates deans, and newly tenured faculty. It is at least conceivable that administrators are, as a group, less liberal than their faculty. After all, they have to balance the law school budget each year. Similarly, law school administrators, who are accountable to central universities, and younger faculty, who just cleared the tenure gauntlet, are probably quite in tune with law schools comprised of highly productive scholars. And San Diego and GMU Law excel on that metric. This might be a non-factor. It is hard to tell.
If moving on USN Academic Reputation is really important to a faculty, the lesson here is, "make a hard, high-profile right turn, and wait a decade." That said, there are probably not enough spoils to go around for more than a handful of conservative law schools to use this strategy.
Name changes and conversativism are the factors associated with an increases in USN Academic Reputation. What are negative factors?
The three orange triangles are three schools that gained unprecedented notoriety based on either a rankings scandal or extensive negative treatment in the New York Times.
- Scandals. Illinois and Villanova both voluntarily disclosed that they submitted false admissions credentials to both the ABA and U.S. News. And both have taken a huge hit: within the incredibly stickly Tier 1, Illinois's Academic Reputation rank was #22 in 1993, #22 in 2011, and then #39 in 2012 (-17); similarly, Villanova's went from #69 in 1993, to #62 in 2011, to #106 in 2012 (-37). Quite a severe pummeling by USN voters!
- New York Times coverage. In his year long focus on law schools, David Segal of the New York Times signaled out New York Law School as a particularly egregious example of the excesses of law school. See Segal, Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!, N.Y. Times, July 16, 2011. If you were teaching in legal education in 2011, you read that article. New York Law School's Academic Reputation went from #95 in 1993, to #94 in 2011, to #114 in 2012 (-19). Ironically, New York Law School was embarking on real innovation in the years prior to the story, but negative press in the NY Times, regardless of accuracy or fairness, is a bell that can't be unrung.
The last factor is perhaps the most troubling.
There are 31 schools in the so-called Rust Belt, which I define as western PA and NY, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. These 31 law schools experienced an average USN Academic Reputation decline of 13 spots. And note, this includes the MSU Law +59 miracle jump and several elite law schools such as Northwestern (-2), Chicago (-3), and Michigan (-3) that are in the highly sticky T14 range. So, to get a -13 average, we need some really big negative numbers from many law schools.
Here, I will not name names. Instead, let me share the ten biggest drops by Rust Belt schools: -17, -20, -27, -30, -34, -34, -42, -43, -46, -49. Eight of the ten biggest 20-year drops were Rust Belt schools (and one of the remaining two was Villanova, which earned its spot through scandal).
Why is this happening? Well, the economic center of gravity of the US economy has been moving to the south and west for several decades now. Although this affects the Northeast just like it does the Midwest, the Northeast has become an agglomeration of "advanced producer services", which includes bankers, consultants, accountants, and lawyers. See Henderson & Alderson, The Changing Economic Geography of Law U.S. Law Firms (2008) (documenting a large increase in corporate law lawyers in the Northeastern Mid-Atlantic region and the relative hollowing out of corporate lawyers in the Rust Belt, with the exception of Chicago).
The implication is that regional law schools in the Rust Belt are more likely to be serving a stagnant regional economy. This is not particularly attractive to prospective law students. See Henderson & Morriss, Student Quality as Measures by LSAT Scores: Migration Patterns in the U.S. News Rankings Era, 81 Ind. L. J. 163 (2006) (documenting that students will trade down in USN ranking to attend a school in large and growing corporate legal market). So this is likely the "echo chamber" effect playing itself out in conformity with larger systemic trends affecting the legal market. See Stake, supra.
Some might argue that the declines are the result of academic snobbery against the flyover states. If so, this prejudice must have arisen with avengence during the last 20 years. Or, less plausibly, some might argue that these schools have had a harder time recruiting or retaining sufficiently talented, productive faculty. Remember, this is the same survey that boosted Detroit College of Law a record +59 jump when it made the 90-mile move to East Lansing ... which is very much in the Rust Belt. That +59 point jump probably had a lot more to do with a Big Ten brand than the production of high quality faculty scholarship.
After we consider starting position, the Jeff Stake "echo chamber" effect, scandals, name changes, conservative branding, and basic measure error inherent in any survey work, how much unexplained variation can we really assign to the true changes in the academic quality of law schools? To my mind, virtually nothing.
Below is a scatterplot that places Predicted 2012 Academic Reputation (based on starting position, name changes, conservativism, scandals, and Rust Belt status) against Actual 2012 Academic Reputation. [click on to enlarge.]
The top three outperformers in the new model are Alabama, Georgia State and Stetson. Was their secret sauce a better faculty, or the echo chamber aided by sunny weather, a growing southern economy, and/or cheap in-state tuition in an era of rising costs? Regardless, congrats!
Here is a very big puzzle. Law faculty are comprised of very smart people, yet we organize virtually all of our hiring, strategic plans, and marketing efforts in an effort to make gains in a reputational game that cannot be won. Why? That is a very big topic and, alas, the basis for a future post.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
September 20, 2012
Drop in the Big Law Median Salary is only Half the Story
NALP just announced that the median salary for first year associates in Big Law has dropped from $160K to $145K. I think that is very significant. We are now back to to the entry level price point of 2007.
But to my mind, there is much bigger story here. In 2011, firms of 500+ attorneys hired 2,856 entry level lawyers. In 2007, that figure was 4,745. So, after five years, Big Law is paying the same wage but hiring 40% fewer lawyers. Compare 2007 NALP Nat'l Summary with 2011 NALP Nat'l Summary.
Here is another important piece of NALP data, generated from the print versions of the July 2012 NALP Bulletin. It shows the percentage of entry level law jobs that are private practice.
Two takeaways here: (1) there is a longterm trendline showing a declining number of private practice jobs--and that is the economic engine that enables law schools to exist at current tuition levels, and (2) the cliff-like dropoff in 2010 and 2011 is likely Big Law, and that hurts.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
September 03, 2012
Location, Location, Location – Geography Matters in Law School Employment 2010-2011
NALP notes that for the Class of 2010 -- and the Class of 2011 -- two-thirds of all employed graduates were employed in the state in which their law school was located. This suggests location matters.
Is location important to employment results at a large number of schools? Are some law schools more national than others? Are some states more “local” in hiring than other states? The answers are yes and yes and yes.
ANALYZING SCHOOL SPECIFIC DATA -- This analysis is based on the Class of 2010 and Class of 2011 employment outcome data reported on the ABA Section of Legal Education website, excluding the law schools in Puerto Rico. This means there are 195 law schools in this analysis (if the two Widener campuses are combined).
The law schools were asked to report the three states with the most employed graduates and the number of employed graduates in each of those three states. Taking those totals as a percentage of employed graduates, and paying attention to the states identified, one can get some idea of which schools are “regional” and which schools might actually have a more “national” footprint. The simple result of the analysis is that the vast majority of schools are “regional” rather than “national.”
- For both the Download Class of 2010 and the Download Class of 2011, there were 117 law schools for which more than 67 percent of their employed graduates are employed in the state in which the law school is located.
- For the Classes of 2010 and 2011, there were 144 and 145 law schools, respectively, for which more than 67 percent of their employed graduates are located in the state in which the law school is located or an adjacent state, and 104 law schools for which more than 80 percent of their employed graduates are located in the state in which the law school is located or an adjacent state.
- There were only 46 law schools for which less than 67 percent of their employed graduates were employed in the state in which the law school is located or an adjacent state for both the Classes of 2010 and 2011.
Notably, 28 of these 46 law schools are in the USNews top-50, for which it is easily imaginable that the employment geography is much more national than regional. For many of these 46 law schools, two of the three states with the most employed graduates generally are not adjacent to the state in which the law school is located, suggesting some national reach. The three non-adjacent jurisdictions reflected most frequently should not be surprising – California, the District of Columbia and New York. Of the 18 other law schools, nine law schools are ranked in the alphabetical list of schools -- schools one generally would consider regional – while nine are ranked between 51 and 145 in USNews.
Perhaps most significantly, due to the incomplete nature of some of the data sets, this summary probably understates the number of law schools for which the employment outcome data suggests the law school is more regional than national. Several of these 46 law schools come in with 60% or more of their employed graduates employed in the state of the law school or an adjacent state for both years -- Boston College, Minnesota, NYU, Ohio State and Penn State – and if the data were to include graduates employed in all adjacent states, the total for these schools well might exceed 67 percent.
In sum, then, more than 76% of all law schools and more than 87% of law schools outside the USNews top-50 had more than 67% of their employed graduates in the state in which the law school is located or an adjacent state for either the Class of 2010 or the Class of 2011.
LOOKING AT STATE SPECIFIC DATA -- NALP also notes that for the Class of 2010, there are 30 states in which two-thirds or more of the jobs were taken by graduates from law schools in those states. (Jobs & JDs, Class of 2010, p. 69) Taking NALP’s state-specific data for the Class of 2010 in conjunction with the ABA’s data for the Class of 2010, there actually are 35 states in which two thirds or more of the jobs were taken by graduates of law schools in those states or an adjacent state and 30 states in which three-quarters or more of the jobs within the state were taken by graduates of the law schools in the state or in an adjacent state.
Again, this data likely understates the results. For example, in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia, roughly 65-75 percent of jobs within the state were taken by graduates from law schools within the state or an adjacent state. But with several schools in adjacent states not counted in the tallies because these states were not one of the top three states for employed graduates from those schools, one could infer that were graduates from all schools from adjacent states included the percentage might exceed 75 percent. (Notably, 13 of the 15 states with less than 67 percent of jobs taken by graduates of the law school in the state or law schools in adjacent states are states with modest populations and only one law school (or no law school) – Alaska, Delaware, Hawai’i, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. The other two states are Utah and Virginia. The District of Columbia also falls into this category.)
LOCATION MATTERS -- In sum then, location matters. For the vast majority of law students at the vast majority of law schools, the vast majority of reasonable employment prospects associated with going to a given law school are going to be in the state in which the law school is located or an adjacent state. In the absence of a unique or specific aspect of a law school's program that might make a particular law school very appealing, this suggests that location should matter when considering a law school, perhaps more than ranking.
For example, if a prospective student has a choice between going to a higher ranked regional law school in a state in which the student does not anticipate practicing or living (and perhaps paying more in tuition), or a lower ranked regional law school in the location in which he or she hopes to live and work professionally (and perhaps paying less in tuition), the prospective law student should give serious consideration to attending the lower-ranked regional law school in the location in which he or she hopes to live and work professionally. This will make it easier to begin networking while in law school and to facilitate employment opportunities in the region in which the student is interested in practicing law and living. (And it may help the prospective student save money if the lower-ranked regional school happens to cost less (if it is a public school, for example), or if the prospective student has a more competitive LSAT/GPA profile at the lower-ranked regional school such that the student may be eligible for a scholarship.)
[Posted by Jerry Organ]
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 08, 2012
Comparison of 2010 and 2011 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools
A recent posting by Paul McGreal at The Faculty Lounge and an article in the National Law Journal by Matt Leichter (discussed in July here on the Legal Whiteboard) raise issues about the enrollment challenges law schools began facing last year, are facing now, and likely will face next year. This post summarizes the comparative data for the 2010 and 2011 entering classes covering the 197 schools ranked by USNews.
PROFILES IN DECLINE -- Between 2010 and 2011, 111 law schools had a decline in their LSAT/GPA profile, 59 had an increase in profile, and 27 had a mixed profile. (A decline means across six possible data points, 75th, median, and 25th for LSAT and GPA, more scores went down then up; an increase means more scores went up than down; a mixed profile means the same number of scores went up as went down. For example, if a school had an LSAT/GPA profile in 2010 of 160/156/153 and 3.82/3.65/3.45 and an LSAT/GPA profile in 2011 of 160/156/152 and 3.83/3.64/3.43, this would be a decline in profile – down on three parameters and up on one parameter.) The average 75th LSAT has dropped from 160.2 to 159.9, while the average 25 LSAT has dropped from 155.2 to 154.3. The median scores for the 75 and 25 fell from 160 and 155 for LSAT to 159 and 153.
ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2011, 141 law schools had a decline in enrollment (of which 63 had a decline of 10% or more), 30 had an increase in enrollment (of which 6 had an increase of 10% or more), and 26 had flat enrollment (within +/- 1% of 2010 enrollment). This means over 70% of schools had a decline in enrollment and that nearly one-third had a decline in enrollment of 10% or more. The decline in enrollment totaled roughly 4000 students or roughly 8 percent.
ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, 75 schools (roughly 38%) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles, of which 37 schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 10% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles. These 37 schools are highlighted here -- (original chart has been deleted and replaced by an updated chart reflecting 39 schools as described in post on August 16). Four of the schools are ranked in the top-50, while the other 33 schools are relatively evenly divided between the second-50, the third-45 and the alphabetical schools. There is some geographic concentration, with five Ohio schools (plus Northern Kentucky), three Illinois schools and four of the six Missouri and Kansas schools on the list. Notably, 16 of the 37 are state law schools, several of which are relatively low-tuition schools that should conceivably fare better in the current climate in which prospective students are increasingly concerned about the cost of legal education.
FORECAST FOR 2012-- Given that LSAC has estimated a decline of roughly 14.4% in the number of applicants for fall 2012, from 78500 to roughly 67000, and given that the decline has been greatest among those with higher LSAT scores, one should anticipate further declines in enrollment and further erosion of entering class LSAT/GPA profiles for fall 2012. The admit rate will be the highest it has been this millennium, probably exceeding 75% and possibly exceeding 80% (after increasing from 55% to 71% between 2004 and 2011).
IMPACT FELT ACROSS THE RANKINGS CONTINUUM, BUT WORSE FOR LOWER-RANKED SCHOOLS -- While the decline in enrollment and in profiles was experienced across the board, it was more pronounced among lower ranked schools.
-Among the top 100 schools, 55 schools (over one-half) had a decline in profile, while 67 (two-thirds) had a decline in enrollment, with 27 experiencing a decline in enrollment of 10% or more. Notably, 35 schools saw a decline in enrollment and in profile (over one-third) of which 15 schools saw declines in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile. Overall enrollment was down roughly 6%.
-Across the bottom 97 schools then, 56 saw a decline in profile while 74 (more than three-quarters) saw a decline in enrollment, of which 36 (nearly 40%) saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more. Notably 40 schools saw a decline in enrollment and a decline in profile, of which 22 saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile. Overall, enrollment was down nearly 10%.
[Posted by Jerry Organ]
July 27, 2012
Cool Infographic on the Legal Services Industry
A really compelling way to convey a lot of important information. I continue to be blown away by the volume of innovation I am seeing, mostly around interconnectivity. (H/T: Greg Voakes at Business Insider)
[posted by Bill Henderson]
July 16, 2012
"The Toppling of Top-Tier Lawyer Jobs"
That is the title of a just-posted essay by Catherine Rampell at the NY Times Economix Blog. She studies several years of the bi-modal distribution. It is refreshing to have a capable journalist review the data and marvel at the strange ways of our industry.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
July 15, 2012
A Picture of the Melting Right Mode
I created the graphic below to depict the shrinking right mode of the bi-modal distribution since its 2007 high water mark (measured in February 2008).
[Note: The difference between the mean and adjusted mean in the 2011 distribution is due to the fact that law grads who fail to report their salaries tend to have have less lucrative employment; so NALP makes a prudent statistical correction --basically a weighted average based on practice settings.]
From a labor market perspective, the class of 2007 entry level salary distribution was extraordinary and anomalous. Why? Because we can safely assume that legal ability, however it might be defined, is normally distributed, not bi-modal. So when such a distribution appears in a real labor market, something is significantly out of kilter.
Why did the entry level market become bi-modal? As the legal economy boomed from the mid-90s through the mid-00s, many large law firms (NLJ 250, AmLaw 200) were trying to make the jump from regional dominant brands to national law firms. For decades, going back to the early to mid-20th century, these firms followed a simple formula: hire the best and brightest from the nation's elite law schools. As they continued to enjoy growth, they reflexively followed that same formula. Yet, by 2000s, the demand for elite law graduates finally outstripped supply.
This micro-level logic ("let's not tinker with our business model") produced a macro-level bidding war. This is how the right mode came to be. Yet, because it was a macro-level phenomenon, clients, led by industry groups such as the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), reacted by saying, "Don't put any junior level lawyers on my matters --they are overpriced." Outsourcing and e-discovery vendors have also eaten into the work that used to go to entry level lawyers. So the volume of BigLaw hiring has collapsed, hence the melting of the right mode. For a more detailed overview, see NALP, Salary Distribution Curve.
Long Term Structural Change in Big Law
That said, it is not just the entry level market that is under stress -- the fundamental economics of Big Law are also changing. Consider the chart below (from Henderson, Rise and Fall, Am Law June 2012), which shows that revenues per lawyer at AmLaw 100 firms has gone flat and moved sideways since 2007, breaking a pattern of steady growth that dates back to the pre-Am Law 100 days.
Stagnant revenue is a source of enormous worry for law firm managers. Without higher profits to distribute--and growing the top line is the usual profitability fomula--their biggest producers might leave, causing a run on the bank ala Dewey, Howrey, Wolf Block, etc. So the dominant strategy now has nothing to do with entry level hiring. Rather, the goal is to keep and acquire lateral partners with portable books of business. After all, clients aren't protesting the value of most senior level lawyers. And seniors lawyers are plentiful, thanks to the excellent health of baby boom lawyers and the poor health of their retirement accounts.
This strategy may work fine for this fiscal year, but over the middle to long term, BigLaw is going to get older and dumber. Further, this dynamic produces substantial ripple effects on legal education -- albeit ripple effects that feel like tremors.
The long term solution -- for both law firms and law schools -- is for the price of entry level talent to come down to the point where young lawyers are more cost-effective to train. And that price point is not $160,000. This inflated pay scale (which has supported ever higher tuitions at law schools) only persists because large firms are deathly afraid of adjusting their salary scales and being labeled second rate. So the solution is keep the entry pay high but hire very few law school graduates. This is not a farsighted or innovative business strategy.
It's been 100 years since law firms engaged in sophisticated business thinking. And that last great idea was the Cravath System, which was method of workplace organization that performed expert client work while simultaneously developing more and better human capital. See Henderson, Three Generations of Lawyers: Generalista, Specialists, Project Managers. According to the Cravath Swaine & Moore firm history, published in 1948, the whole point of the Cravath System was to make "a better lawyer faster."
I think the next great model for a legal service organization (law firm may not be the right term) likewise will be based on the idea that there is a large return to be had by investing in young lawyers. As my friend Paul Lippe likes to say, "When it appears, it will look obvious."
[posted by Bill Henderson]
July 05, 2012
Which law schools lose the most when applicants decline?
This is a simple question of great practical importance to many law schools, yet very few law school administrators understand how to answer it. Who would have thought that clarity would be supplied free-of-charge by an underemployed recent law school graduate?
But that is what is happening now, in "Tough Choices Ahead for Some High-Ranked Law Schools," an Am Law Daily essay written by Matt Leichter, one of the silver linings of the declining legal job market -- and there aren't too many. Matt is a J.D.-M.A. in law and international affairs from Marquette University who passed the New York bar in 2008, finished his masters work in 2009, and then moved to the Big Apple as the bottom was falling out of the entry level market. Unable to find conventional legal employment, Matt started doing freelance writing on law-related topics.
With plenty of time on his hands, Matt turned his graduate-level quantitative skills to the task of analyzing a law school education market that seemed unsustainable. Matt first put his analyses on display at the Law School Tuition Bubble. His writings eventually attracted the attention of The American Lawyer, which has now published several of his data-driven essays.
Here is what sets Matt apart.
- He digs very deep for facts and, in turn, uses one of his biggest asset --time -- to build datasets that answer important and relevant questions
- He is non-ideological. Just facts and factual analysis.
- He writes about complex technical stuff in an accessible, credible way
Matt has all the core skills of a truly great lawyer. Finding no takers, the entire legal education establishment benefits by Matt channeling his time, energy, and considerable intellect into relevant topics crying out for dispassionate analysis.
His "Tough Choices" essay is a real gem. Here is the bottomline: This year's applicant cycle likely will deliver its greatest blow to US News Tier 1 schools who generally admit students who were angling to get into even higher ranked schools. This inference can be teased out of the ratio of applicants to offers (selectivity), and offers to matriculants (yield).
To conduct this analysis, Matt had to cull data, school-by-school, from several years of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools (aka "the Phonebook"). But it enables him to produce the chart below:
What this chart says is that admissions officers have to read more applications and make more offers to fill their entering classes. Based on the data in Matt's chart, in 2004, for all ABA-accredited law schools, there was a 24% acceptance rate, and a 31% yield from those offers. In 2010, the acceptance rate went up to 31% (schools were being less selective) and the yield went down to 25% (fewer showed up to enroll).
Applicant volume may be declining, but the trends above suggest that there is a lot more "competitive shopping" going on. Why? Because information costs are going down and prospective students are adapting. And this year is bound to be the most aggressive year ever. According to this NLJ story, It's a Buyers' Market for Law School, virtually every student is now negotiating for scholarship money.
Declining applicant volume, shifting yields, and highly informed consumers make it very difficult for law school administrators to lock in their LSAT and UGPA numbers, which schools generally fixate on because of U.S. News ranking. This produces pain in one of three ways:
- The school shrinks the entering class (announced by at least 10 schools), which severely tightens the budget
- The school buys its class through financial aid, which blows a hole in the budget (happening here)
- The school significantly relaxes the LSAT and UGPA and braces for a drop in the rankings because its peers are pursuing strategies #1 or #2.
#1 and #2 may seem like the prudent course, but a central university won't (more likely can't) provide a financial backstop for more than a year or two, if that. If the admissions environment does not change dramatically, which seems unlikely, some combination of layoffs, rankings drop, or closures will have to be put on the table.
Matt's ingenuity is on full display when he demonstrates, with data, the profile of the most vulnerable schools -- and its a far cry from the bottom portion of the U.S. News rankings.
- Low accept/high yield (think Yale and Stanford) are safe.
- High accept/high yield are also fine. They are nonprestigious but have strong regional niches or missions. Tier 3 or 4 designation means nothing.
- Low accept/low yield crowd -- a bunch of Tier 1 schools -- are vulnerable to significant rankings volatility. If they drop, next year's applicant volume will be affected, making it very difficult to rebound.
- High accept/low yield are the most likely to close.
Until August and September, when the wait lists finally clear, nobody really know the depth of market shift. Only then can the budget holes be finalized. Deans will then have candid conversations with their central administrations to answer the question, "Is this downward trend permanent?"
[posted by Bill Henderson]
July 02, 2012
The Client-Focused Lawyer
[by Bill Henderson, originally published in The National Jurist, January 2011 (PDF)]
Over the last three years, the majority of my research has focused on lawyer competencies, or what I prefer to call lawyer success factors. This research has fundamentally changed my perceptions of legal education, primarily because the majority of success factors are not taught, assessed, or measured during law school. It is not that we law professors are deliberating ignoring something important. Rather, we are not even aware that something beyond legal knowledge and technical skills are necessary for success.
Based upon my own observation, and a fair amount of time sifting through data, I think the single best predictor of both success and satisfaction as a lawyer is the ability to become truly client focused. Unfortunately, this client-focused mindset is completely absence in the large law school classes that are the core of the law school curriculum.Everyone has heard the old saw that law school teaches students how to think like a lawyer. For over a century, this has been accomplished by guiding students through a series of edited appellate opinions. Drawing upon precedents, students begin to undertake how a particular “black letter” rule produces different legal outcomes depending upon the facts—hence the endless stream of law professor hypotheticals.
The law, however, can sometimes be indeterminate. Law professors like to focus on the indeterminacy because it makes for great exam questions (and law review articles). Students who deftly handle the gray area tend to get the highest grades. It is also how the law professoriate replicates itself.
Once in the world of practice, however, clients hire lawyers to solve problems, not manufacture ambiguity. Before giving any advice, or taking any action, we need to understand the true nature of the problem. This requires us to ask open-ended questions. To listen. To gather missing facts. To put ourselves in the client’s shoes. To find an appropriate and effective way to convey to the client that we understand the problem. To listen some more. And then to prescribe a course of action, or, alternatively, to candidly admit that we cannot provide a cost-effective solution.
In my hundreds of conversations with lawyers over the years, the one common factor I have noticed with happy (and typically financially successful) lawyers is their ability to connect with clients by earning their trust. Why, then, is this skill set missing from the law school curriculum?
I think the answer is two-fold. First, legal knowledge and technical skills are often critical to solving our clients’ problem. Second, focusing on the needs of the client requires us to become conscious of own on limitations as counselors and strategists. Because many of us want to feel expert and important—that is why we went to law school after all—we falsely conclude that technical mastery is all that is needed to serve clients well. Law professors in particular tend to overswing the technical hammer because our security and livelihood does not depend upon our ability to solve the problems of actual clients.
In his book, The Trusted Advisor, the professional services guru David Maister describes the difficulties of becoming client focused. As the client relates his or her problem, our minds race to formulate words that will make us sound expert—not unlike the anxiety of the entire first year of law school. “If we are honest and strip down all of these distractions to the core,” write Maister, “we likely to find some form of fear at the root. It may be fear of embarrassment, or failure, of appearing ignorant or incompetent, or fear of loss of reputation or security.”
Maister notes that the professions like law attract a disproportion number of people who are prone to fears. We compensate by overachieving. Indeed, many of us worked for years to win an academic marathon that continues throughout law school. Ironically, it is the very success at technical excellence that makes it more difficult for us to connect with clients and develop a client following.
This pattern shows up again and again in my work with law firms. For example, entry level layer typically spike on a measures such as “quality focus” and “analytical reasoning”. Highly successful partners share these attributes. But they also spike on measure like “customer focus”, “innovation”, “problem solving” and “fearlessness.”
Clients are not the best judges of our technical abilities. But they are capable of sizing up our motives. When we step out of our comfort zone to truly listen to clients’ problems, and to ask questions that reveal our own lack of understanding but also our sincere desire to help, we have the potential to connect with our clients and earn their trust. Lots of lawyers are willing to sell them legal advice. But you are interested in solving their problem.
For readers interested in learning more on how to connect with clients—and peers and colleagues throughout the legal profession—I would recommend reading Maister’s The Trusted Advisor. Another worthwhile book on the topic is Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: Overcoming the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty. I am happy to say that both of these authors are influencing the curriculum of the 1L Legal Professions course at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. My colleagues are working hard to be client-centered law professors.
Seduced by Legal Brands
[by Bill Henderson, originally published in The National Jurist, September 2011 (PDF)]
Every year as the on-campus interview process gears up, another class of high performing law students fret over their chances of getting an offer from a cadre of firms that, a year earlier, they had never heard of. The thought process goes something like this. “Oh, these types of firms pay a lot of money. And among these firms, some are harder to get hired at than others – they are more prestigious. If I can land a job at one of these firms, the entire legal world will know that I am smart. That would feel great. And I can quickly pay off my student loans and keep my options open.”
Money and peer pressure are a potent mix. They make it virtually impossible to remember the original reason for applying to law school.
During the dot.com bubble of the late 1990s, I was a student at the University of Chicago Law School. In the classroom, I was deeply intimidated by my classmates. But as we ploughed through the OCI process, I was astonished to see my fellow students anguishing over Skadden versus Latham. Or gnashing their teeth that they might have missed the Chicago grade cutoff for Gibson Dunn. Weren’t these firms more alike than they were different? And what made them so great beside the relative difficulty of securing a callback?
The prevailing analysis during OCI seemed shallow and bereft of reliable facts. We were taking our cues from each other. Yet, I could sense my own irrational desire to compete and win. I wish I could say that I was smarter than my classmates. But that’s not true. I was just older, and life had already thrown water on my face.I was 35 years old when I started law school. I had taken a long detour. After dropping out of college after my junior year (at age 21), I ran a business for awhile and eventually landed a job as a firefighter-paramedic. By virtue of the fact that I showed up for union meetings, I eventually got elected president.
For me, anyway, strategizing over a collective bargaining was much more fun than house fires or ambulance calls. And because I loved it, I invested a huge amount of time in the negotiation process and developed some skill and expertise. I liked outsmarting--or trying to outsmart--the management lawyers. I liked the reliance on facts. And I liked finding ways to make a bigger pie so we could argue less over how to slice it. So I figured that it was time to finish my college degree and apply to law school.
When I returned to college, one of my professors was impressed by my engagement and work ethic and encouraged me to switch careers. So in the fall of 1998, I was deliberating over Cleveland-Marshall night school or the University of Chicago. I ultimately resigned my job because I was a far better union negotiator than a firefighter-paramedic. Although I was qualified for my fire department job, the job itself did not strongly align with my interests and passions. Some new guys on the job were running circles around me –they had passion. So I figured it was time to move on. Literally, lives would be saved.
As I moved on to my new career, it did not take me long to find the smoke and mirrors. The legal economy was booming, so students from the national law schools were invited to Holiday mixers at all the big Cleveland law firms. With only 10 weeks of legal education under my belt, I got five or six offers of summer employment at weekly rates that nearly doubled my (high) union wages. So it was pretty obvious what was happening. “He’s at Chicago; he owns a house in Cleveland; his wife and daughter still live here. Make him an offer.” There is no way I would have gotten this treatment if I had attended Cleveland-Marshall. The firms weren’t recruiting Bill Henderson; they were recruiting a brand – a law school brand that would buttress their own law firm brand.
I have long been fascinated with lawyers’ fixation with elite branding. In his book, Predictably Irrational, the economist Dan Ariely observed that “thinking is difficult and sometimes unpleasant.” This core insight is why marketers work so hard to build a strong brand that can be used as a substitute for rational thought. Spun in the best possible light, a brand is a short cut to a good decision. And because many others take the short cut, the people who follow the brand are never alone, nor are they asked to explain themselves. This feels good. More precisely, this feels easy and safe.
Because lawyers get paid big money to think, it stands to reason that lawyers would less likely to be seduced by brand names. But that’s not so. A large number of very prestigious law firms rely on law school brands in a very mechanical way, rarely inquiring on the actual rigor or breadth of the education received. Similarly, law schools are fixated on law school brand in hiring their entry level professors. Yet, when you start poking around for facts or evidence to assess whether the brand decision is in fact the right decision—for example, to build this law firm, or educate this group of students—the facts are in short supply. Why? Because lawyer egos are tied up in the perceived superiority of the brand names.
As someone who studies law firms and law schools, I think the old order is breaking down. One hundred years ago, the national law schools separated themselves from other law schools by requiring undergraduate education as a condition of admission. These schools also hired full-time faculty who worked on the first generation of Restatements of Law, legal treatises, the uniform state law movement, and eventually the New Deal legislation and the creation of the modern administrative state. Although most lawyers during this period began their careers as solo practitioners, the small proportion of paid law firm jobs (less than 5% of all lawyers in private practice) went to national law schools graduates. Why? Because these graduates received an objectively better education.
By the mid-1950s, the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Association of Law Schools joined forces to institutionalize the national law school model and make it the standard for entry into the profession. This is the origin of the undergraduate requirement, the three-year JD degree (replacing the LLB), and full-time law faculty committed to legal scholarship. With the rise of the great public law schools, which lowered the economic barriers to full-time legal education, and the advent of the LSAT, which reduced the number of admittees who would flunk the 1L year, the United States enjoyed an enormous surge in the number of highly capable, well prepared lawyers. These lawyers, in turn, were integral to the development of the highly dynamic, regulated U.S. economy that emerged during the second half of the 20th century.
Today, however, we have a new set of problems that requires a new kind of lawyer. Our global economy is interconnected and complex that we need law more than ever, yet clients and governments will go broke trying to buy or supply legal services under the traditional time and materials model. We need methods for facilitating transactions and resolving disputes that are better, faster, and cheaper. This requires a broader range of skills (team work, emotional intelligence, leadership, followership, peer and client communication) and knowledge (statistics, information science, systems engineering, marketing, finance) than are currently taught in the biggest brand name law schools or offered to clients through the most prestigious law firms.
As lawyers, are we providers of an established set of legal services, or are we, more broadly, problem solvers? The former is mere subset of the latter. Further, the latter is more valuable. All around me I see lawyers, especially young lawyers, figuring this out. In the years to come, they will be the people who solve some of the most significant challenges of the 21st century and, in the process, create the next generation of powerful legal brands. Will one of those lawyers be you?
Is a Great Lawyer Born or Made?
[By Bill Henderson, originally published in The National Jurist, January 2012 (PDF)]
Many law students spend their 1L year fearing that they might be the admissions mistake. I was one of them. The only feedback is what can be gleaned from the professor-student dialogue. In turn, everyone uses this information (if you can call it that) to handicap their likelihood of making law review or otherwise getting the grades needed to get the most coveted jobs. The whole process seems very binary: Am I smart enough to be a successful lawyer, yes or no?
When I became a law professor, my research on law firms and legal education eventually brought me to the topic of lawyer success. I started collecting examples of lawyers with sterling credentials who failed to develop a significant practice; and those with less impressive pedigree who ended up becoming go-to experts and indispensible lynchpins of their organizations. What explained these divergent outcomes?
The research of Carolyn Dweck, a cognitive psychologist at Stanford University, provides some important insights to this question. Before delving into these insights, however, ask yourself whether the following statement is true: “A lawyer’s skill set is determined primarily by innate ability—you either have enough or you don’t.”Dweck’s research focuses on self theories. If you agreed with the above statement, your self-theory reflects a fixed mindset. You tend to believe your destiny (and others) has been substantially fixed by your genetic endowment. In contrast, if you disagreed with the statement, your self-theory reflects a growth mindset. You believe you can substantially change your abilities and intelligence through focused effort and learning. See Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006).
Self theories are important because they affect our choices and behavior. According to Dweck’s research, people with a fixed mindset tend to prefer activities that validate their own abilities. Similarly, they shy away from tasks that may provide the world with evidence that they lack innate talent. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe they can acquire important skills, knowledge and abilities through effort. So floundering at a task is not failure—its learning. As a result, the two mindsets evaluate opportunities very differently and thus tend to accumulate different life experiences.
Dweck has conducted several fascinating experiments regarding the differences between fixed and growth mindset people. For example, in psychology, it is long been known that people tend to overestimate their own abilities. In a sample of college students, Dweck and her colleagues collected self assessments of ability and compared them with objective measures of performance. Remarkably, growth mindset people had a near perfect correlation between self-perceptions of ability and their own performance. In contrast, fix mindset people accounted for virtually all of the exaggerated self perception.
Dweck explains, “when you think about it, this makes sense. If, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you’re open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it’s unflattering. What’s more, if you’re oriented toward learning … you need accurate information about your abilities in order to learn effectively. However, if everything is either good news or bad news about your previous traits—as it is with fixed-mindset people---distortion always inevitably enters the picture.”
In another experiment, people with both mindsets visited the brain waves laboratory at Columbia University. They were then asked a series of hard questions and given feedback on their answers. According to the subjects’ brain wave activity, people with a fixed mindset tended to pay close attention only to the portion of the feedback that told them whether they got the answer right or not. When presented with information that could help them learn, there was no sign of interest. In contrast, “people with a growth mindset paid close attention to information that could stretch their knowledge. Only for them was learning a priority.”
Imagine this attitude playing itself out over a period of decades. How in the world can we accomplish anything important when we shut our minds to new information?
There is a persistent narrative in American culture that attributes great success to innate ability. Yet, on close examination, it does not align very well with the underlying facts. As Dweck note, the contributions of the world’s most iconic geniuses -- Edison, Darwin, Mozart, etc – were not flashes of brilliance. Rather, they were the product of years of focused labor and learning, often in relative obscurity. These are the habits of the growth mindset.
When I first read Dweck’s research, my mind went back to that first year of law school and my persistent worry about whether I had enough innate ability to be successful. Legal education makes a great case study for Dweck’s ideas because the student population is filled with people who have done very well on standardized tests and other academic pursuits. Because of the years of praise and reinforcement for being smart, gifted, advanced, etc., we are the most at risk to believe that we won the genetic lottery. So rather than provide our classmates with disconfirming evidence of our abilities—at least relative to them—we keep our heads down, take notes, and hope we don’t get called on. We hope that the end of semester grades will validate our ability. But what about learning?
Since law school, I have always been amazed by the propensity of lawyers and law professors to over-generalize from academic performance. There are so many facets to effective lawyering that are never touched on during law school—interpersonal skills, teamwork, client communications, resilience, leadership, followership, etc.—and so many years of focused effort ahead just to obtain the requisite technical skills and knowledge to become a true expert. Academic performance only accounts for a tiny proportion of one’s ability to run a lifelong marathon. So the important question is, “what else matters?”
In various research projects over the years, I have reviewed personality and achievement motivation data on hundreds of lawyers. To date, the single best predictor of high performance is “fearlessness”, which is the willingness to take on difficult tasks and not be worried about failure or being judged by others. Something tells me these lawyers have managed to shed the fixed mindset.
My single favorite example of a lawyer with the growth mindset is Fred Bartlit, a renowned trial lawyer and name partner in the Chicago litigation boutique, Bartlit Beck. Over his 50-year legal career, Bartlit has tried several hundred civil jury trials to a verdict, winning a disproportionately high percentage. Several years ago, I sat next to Fred at a dinner and asked him if he ever impaneled mock juries to help prepare for a trial. Without missing a beat, he replied, “My last jury trial [where several hundred million dollars were at stake], I hired and ran eight mock juries.”
Now think about that. Bartlit is in his mid-70s. He is extraordinarily wealthy. He has more trial experience than anyone else in the country. Clients and fellow lawyers are convinced he was born with a natural talent. And Bartlit has the humility, patience, and objectivity to wade through feedback from eight mock simulations, locate all his errors, missteps, and weaknesses, until he is satisfied with his level of preparation. So I asked, “What happened?” Fred replied, “We won.”
Bartlit’s story suggests that excellence is, at least in part, a choice. And when we attribute someone else’s success to innate talent, we may be subtly trying to explain our situation and choices. How hard are we willing to work to become an excellent lawyer? Are we ready to identify and embrace our errors and weaknesses? When we adopt the growth mindset, we trade in our excuses. It is not for the fainthearted.
The Inferiority Complex of Law Schools
[by Bill Henderson, originally published in The National Jurist, March 2012 (PDF)]
For over a century, law schools have suffered from an inferiority complex. We have masked it well, but its consequences are finally coming home to roost. Like most psychological conditions, our lives will be much better and healthier when we deal with its root cause. Further, when law students understand this history, they will better understand the changing nature of the legal economy. They can even help law schools with the cure.
In 1918, the renowned economist Thorstein Veblen famously quipped, “the law school belongs in the modern university no more than a school of fencing or dancing.”
Veblen, like many of his academic colleagues, believed that universities should be citadels for science-based learning and the production of knowledge. Law, in contrast, was a trade. Indeed, in the early 1900s, a substantial portion of the practicing bar had obtained their skill and knowledge through office apprenticeships. When law schools did begin to appear, they were just as likely to be proprietary law schools operating out of a local YMCA than to be part of an established university.
Despite the skepticism of the academic class, there were a host of practical reasons for universities to create (or, in some cases, acquire) a law school. First, the law was the primary occupation for many elected officials, which held out the prospect of reflected glory. (Veblen recognized this motivation, which compounded his worry.) Second, a handful of law schools at prestigious universities had begun adopting the so-called case method, which purported to find objective legal rules and principles akin to a scientist working in a laboratory. The perceived rigor of the case method provided at least a veneer of science. Third, with their large lecture halls filled with tuition-paying law students, law schools made money.
So, notwithstanding the doubts or hostility of academics like Veblen, the university-based model of legal education became the norm. To further legitimate law as an academic discipline rather than a trade, university administrators often sought out a dean from Harvard or another elite school to signal their commitment to the “modern” case method. Eventually entire faculties were populated by elite law school graduates; in turn, the practitioner-as-teacher became a dinosaur and gradually withered away, eventually reemerging as the adjunct professor.
Once fully inside the university, law schools adopted university norms, including promotion and tenure based on scholarly production. Today, the tenure files of law professors are evaluated using the same basic standards of peer-review that apply to all university professors. And a hierarchy has emerged, based largely on the natural sciences, which runs roughly as follows: theoretical scientist (think Einstein); lab scientist (testing Einstein’s theories); applied scientist (the engineer who uses lab-based insights to solve real world problems). Most law schools tend to have an analogous pecking order that runs: tenured/tenure-track faculty, clinicians, adjunct/practicing lawyer.
Yet, echoing the concerns of Veblen, on one crucial level the parallels between science and law inevitably breakdown. The work of university researchers continues to exert tremendous influence on the skills and knowledge of engineers and other applied scientists. For example, when Einstein discovers the theory of relativity or Francis Crick and James Watson discover the structure of the DNA molecule, entire fields of science can be revolutionized – more to the point, the work of applied scientists is simplified and made more potent. Quantum leaps, often born in a university environment, are possible. Indeed, some might call it the goal.
The same paradigm shifts occasionally happen in the social sciences. For example, in the last forty years, the research of psychologists Dan Kahneman and Amos Tversky have forced a re-conceptualized of the most fundamental principles of economics, giving rise to an applied field of behavioral economics that has immense practical value. (Note: some academic economists are still in denial over this development.)
In contrast, a large proportion of judges and lawyers readily admit that the writing of law professors—the enormous output of student-edited law journals -- has little or no relevance to their daily work. Instead, a more practice-oriented literature has emerged in so-called “bar journals.” These articles are written by and for practicing lawyers.
During the 1970s and 80s, the eminent researcher and educator Donald Schӧn began to notice how professional schools, including law schools, had maladapted themselves to the conventions and expectations of modern universities. In the muck and chaos of real world problems, practitioners such as lawyers, architects, urban planners, or psychotherapists seldom have the benefit of new scientific knowledge that can solve the complex needs of their clients. Although the work of lawyers can often be highly analytical, it is also very human and influenced by emotion, culture, politics, power dynamics and a host of other seemingly random idiosyncratic factors. (For a more complete discussion, see Schӧn, The Reflective Practitioner (1983); Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1992)).
Schӧn gradually came to the conclusion that the science-based hierarchy of the university could not be usefully applied to a substantial number of professional schools. This is because professionals who achieve practice mastery (the $1000/hour technician; the trusted legal advisor; the highly successful plaintiffs’ lawyer; the brilliant government regulator, etc.) are essentially crafting novel, ad hoc solutions to extremely complex problems. To do this effectively, they must draw upon their own immense reservoir of learning, practical experience and intuition. University learning from law, economics, psychology, history, anthropology, and the hard sciences are mere inputs to the lawyers’ solutions. Almost like alchemy, these inputs are combined with decades of exposure to novel fact patterns. The outward manifestation is what some might call expert intuition.
All of this analysis leads to one conclusion: Legal practice mastery is a mixture of a science and art. Further, the artistry component is the most crucial element for solving real world problems, and it can only be obtained through an iterative process of experience and reflection. Unfortunately, we law professors are prone to reject, or at least discount, this formulation because it undermines the perceived gravitas of our academic learning and accomplishments.
Personally, I would rather be on the right side of history than the right side of a self-interested argument. I am ready to concede that many of my former students, who have been practicing for several years now, are much better at solving practical client problems (purely legal or a mix of legal and human) than I am. Yet, as a law professor, I still think that I can add value. But only to the extent that I connected to the world of practicing lawyers and thus can fashion frameworks and broker relationships that can help my students more quickly make sense of the muck and chaos of their future professional lives.
Outstanding lawyers are a public good. They help solve society’s most serious problems. I want to do my part to make more of them. It is time that the legal professoriate shakes off the inferiority complex that the practice of law is mere trade. At the same time, we also need to build bridges with the practicing bar – particularly our own alumni. This re-allocation of time and priorities may come at the expense of some the arcane scholarship that we now produce in order to maintain perceived parity with other parts of the university. At this juncture, we have the gravitas and experience to make the transition. Our students will be the primary beneficiaries.