Saturday, October 13, 2018
Julia Belian (Detroit Mercy) sends word of a call for papers for University of Detroit-Mercy Law Review's extraordinarily timely Women in the Law Symposium. Here are the details:
The Detroit Mercy Law Review will host its 2019 Symposium, Women and the Law, on Mar. 8, 2019. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 9, 2018 at 5:00pm EST.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the history of women in the law, how women have impacted the law, how the law impacts women today, how future legal decisions could affect women’s rights (e.g. if Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) were to be overturned), what challenges women still face in the legal profession, the role of gender in the law, and any other topic regarding women and the law. Proposals should be approximately 250-500 words, double-spaced, and detail the proposed topic and presentation. Submit to Samantha Buck, Symposium Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate whether your proposal is for a presentation only or if you would also like to publish an article with the Detroit Mercy Law Review on your presentation topic. If you are interested in submitting an article, it will be due to the Law Review on Friday, Mar.15, 2019. Please submit a current CV or resume along with your proposal. We will notify chosen speakers by Nov. 30, 2018. Preference will be given to those willing to submit an article for publication.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
UPDATE: Here's David's update on the ongoing Cooley litigation.
Though the jury's obviously still out, the absence of an explanation from the ABA for its finding that Cooley is in full compliance with ABA standards, notwithstanding admissions and bar-pass numbers that appear to be well below those of other sanctioned schools, is worrying. David Frakt has the blow-by-blow of all the litigation at The Faculty Lounge in Admissions, Accreditation and the ABA: An Analysis of Recent Law School Lawsuits.
If David (and Joe Patrice of ATL) are right and the ABA is effectively abdicating its accreditation role because it can't afford to litigate, I think the next obvious question is: who will step into the breach? Even apart from Betsy DeVos's nonexistent understanding of (legal) education, regulation by a politicized DOE seems far from ideal.
State consumer-protection agencies or AG offices? Once it becomes clear that the ABA is out of the game, I can see the possibility of state agencies stepping in to ensure their residents aren't getting ripped off. Fifty different sets of standards by fifty different state AG offices seems a nightmare.
USDOJ? The equivalent of the DOJ regulates law schools in other countries, but there's no precedent for that in the US. Even if DOJ stepped in, it likely would write new rules from scratch.
My basic point is that though current developments may be music to the ears of predatory law schools, every other law school should be intensely worried and should be begging the ABA to step up its game, or should collectively be planning for a different system of meaningful self-regulation. The alternatives all seem far worse.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Call for Nominations for 2019 AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award
The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to open nominations for its 2019 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, the inaugural award honored Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in 2014 Catharine A. MacKinnon, in 2015 Herma Hill Kay, in 2016 Marina Angel, in 2017 Martha Albertson Fineman, and in 2018 Tamar Frankel. All of these remarkable women were recognized for their outstanding impact and contributions to the Section on Women in Legal Education, the legal academy, and the legal profession.
The purpose of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years. The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.
The Section is now seeking nominations for this most prestigious award. Only individuals who are eligible for Section membership may make a nomination, and only individuals—not institutions, organizations, or law schools—are eligible for the award. As established by the Section’s Bylaws, the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Executive Committee will select the award recipient, and the award will be presented at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting.
Please submit your nomination by filling out this electronic form by April 30, 2018. Please note that only nominations submitted via the electronic form by the deadline will be accepted.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Over at PrawfsBlog, Dan Rodriguez (Northwestern) is moderating a Virtual Symposium on The Futures of Legal Education.
Here's the Symposium description:
With the blessing of the Prawfsblawg lead editors, I am pleased to present an interactive symposium on the wide lens topic of “the futures of legal education.” Reflection upon this issue is always welcome, and underway daily in various forms and fashion. The impetus for this particular discussion is an interesting series of posts at the new year by Prof. Michael Madison of the University of Pittsburgh. Here are the posts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.
You will see that this Madisonian (!) missive is principally a call for engagement among myriad stakeholders on the critical issues of “what must be done?!” This symposium for Prawfsblawg engages one key stakeholder group, law professors. A number of professional colleagues from a diverse range of schools and backgrounds have kindly agreed to take part in this symposium. They are:
Robert Ahdieh (Emory)
Luke Bierman (Elon)
Douglas Blaze (Tennessee)
Megan Carpenter (New Hampshire)
Dan Hunter (Swinburne, Australia)
Harold Krent (Chicago-Kent)
Scott Norberg (Florida International)
Jerry Organ (St. Thomas)
Hari Osofsky (Penn St.)
Deborah Merritt (Ohio St.)
Michele Pistone (Villanova)
Frank Pasquale (Maryland)
Eduardo Penalver (Cornell)
Gordon Smith (BYU)
Kellye Testy (Law School Admissions Council; U. Washington)
Mark Tushnet (Harvard)
Michael Waterstone (Loyola, L.A.)
Mike has provided a short paragraph to help in framing the symposium. I include it here in verbatim:
Symposia can be both provocative and useful, but talk can be cheap. What follows the talk? I have been frustrated for years by the dis-connected and siloed character of future-oriented conversations among both academic lawyers and legal professionals. Like many of us, I see lots of silos: elite silos and non-elite silos; student-centric silos and practice-centric silos; bar-related silos; legal tech silos; US silos; access to justice silos, “it’s the economy, stupid” and scholarly silos; incrementalist silos, etc. I am simultaneously a little crazy (perhaps) and speculative (to be sure) in my optimism that there is a constituency out there for larger-scale, longer-term, deeply-rooted, integrative thinking and acting. My posts in late December were the products of several years’ worth of conversation and reflection. I think of them as calls to action. Thanks in advance to all who will post here and elsewhere and who will, I hope, carry our shared ideas forward in yet-to-be-determined ways.
Please be on the lookout for symposium posts as they appear this month. While the comment feed will remain closed for this symposium, readers who have a particular reaction which they would like to share as a comment, please send to me directly and I will post them as I think appropriate.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Monday, February 6, 2017
As has been much-described elsewhere, the Department of Education has, for a variety of reasons (mostly related to admitting unqualified students and low bar pass rates), cut the ability of Charlotte Law students to qualify for federal student loans. This leaves students in academic purgatory, wondering whether the school will remain open long enough for them to receive their degrees. Many – undoubtedly the most qualified – already have transferred, but given Charlotte’s recent admissions practices, a large percentage of the student population likely lacks any such option. Meanwhile, administrators at Charlotte Law have announced that the school intends to remain open (meaning existing student debt remains extant) but also have submitted a teach-out plan that, as David Frakt points out, is crazy-nuts inadequate (my language, not David’s). Charlotte’s plan to provide “quality assurance” to its students will be run and operated by Florida Coastal – a sister-school in the Sterling Partners for-profit family – a school with numbers almost as dismal as Charlotte’s and a dean that, as former President of Charlotte, played a key role in engineering Charlotte’s current debacle.
This is grossly unfair to Charlotte students, who likely will be left deeply in debt, with no degree or opportunity to sit for a bar, and several years of their lives wasted. (Indiana Tech students are in much the same boat, and this is not likely the last time we will see this scenario playing out.) Plenty of hand-wringing is occurring in the blogosphere and local press, but notwithstanding ABA sanctions and the DOE slow-bleed of cutting loan access, there doesn’t seem to be an option for direct intervention to stop what seems to me the fairly obvious malfeasance of Charlotte’s administrators and private owners.
Perhaps now’s the time to put some teeth into the Sanctions section of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools by providing for the appointment of an ABA SWAT team that could come in on short notice and either right a sinking ship or create a viable and fair exit plan. There arguably is already a process of sorts for this, as the ABA can send “fact-finders” to noncompliant schools, but this process already has played itself out at Charlotte and does not seem to have worked. Alternatively, a failing and noncompliant school could be put into a sort of receivership. Either way, the focus should be on the students, and not the investors or institution or even (though I’ve seen no evidence of faculty malfeasance at Charlotte) the faculty.
I don’t pretend to have thought through what all this would entail. Could a receivership be imposed and administered by the ABA, or would the DOE or a federal court need to be involved? Under what circumstances would radical intervention be appropriate (for example, should admitting large numbers of students unlikely to pass a bar exam be an appropriate trigger)? Who would be the receivers or SWAT-team members (perhaps a pool of volunteers, much like the pool of folks on ABA accreditation site-visit teams)? What limits would exist on the power of the receiver or SWAT team? Would they be empowered to act quickly, or encumbered by an extensive review process? Remember that existing students have exceptionally short time-lines – third-year students have the bar looming, and first- and second-year students face stringent limits on transfer credits and residency requirements.
I’m not convinced that receivership is the answer, but it’s hard to stand by and watch while student lives are being ruined by greed or incompetence. Existing accreditation and oversight rules seem powerless to stop it. Charlotte is unlikely to be the last school in similarly dire straits, and it would behoove us to think proactively about how we can best protect student interests in the face of other entrenched and often more-powerful interests. I would consider this a matter of professional integrity.
Thoughts and responses are welcome.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
[from Rick Bales]
We may soon find out. According to Forbes (Ashlea Ebeling , This May Be The Last Year You Get A Charitable Tax Deduction), via Dean Dad, the tax deduction for charitable contributions may be history. This could be devastating for higher education. As Dean Dad puts it, this "wouldn’t be so bad if it signified replacing private philanthropy with robust, reliable public support. But in this context, that’s not what it means at all. It means desiccating one of the major alternate revenue sources for most colleges, beyond appropriations and tuition/fees."
The Forbes article suggests that charitable giving would plummet absent the deduction. What would this mean for the typical law school dean? Ten years ago, fundraising was the coin of the decanal realm. Today, fundraising is still important, but developing donors is a long-term commitment (it can take 3-5 years to establish the kind of relationship/trust that results in major gifts, and even then bequests may not "mature" for decades). Fundraising is critical to a school's long-term future; many struggling schools are surviving thanks to endowments created by decanal fundraising decades ago. However, short-term enrollment crises pose existential threats at many law schools, and immediate existential threats always trump long-term investments, so my guess is that fundraising already is getting less decanal attention than it did several years ago. Moreover, donors give to opportunities, not need, so fundraising is almost never a solution to current budget challenges.
My guess: if the charitable deduction disappears (or diminishes substantially), law deans will continue to spend time friend-and fund-raising, but will skew their time even further toward the wealthiest donors, whose giving has the greatest immediate impact and who may be less affected (or motivated) by changes in the tax laws. If so, this will be a shame, because recent graduates and mid-level donors have not only future treasure, but also current time and talent (not to mention referrals for prospective students and job opportunities) that can benefit the law school far beyond the current budget cycle.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
[by Rick Bales] In business, one of the principal responsibilities of a leader is to groom a successor. At General Electric, for example, CEO Jeff Immelt spends about 40% of his time on developing the company’s future leaders. At Eli Lilly, half the variable compensation for senior executives is tied to mentoring skills and leadership development.
The impact of succession planning in business is often obvious and public. On the negative side, consider Sumner Redstone, who is having a King Lear year as family and confidants publicly grovel for his affection and fight among each other over his media empire even while he’s on the right side of the grass. On the positive side, consider Proctor & Gamble, where for 175 years every CEO started a career there as an entry-level employee.
In law schools, and higher education generally, the impact of succession planning is equally dramatic, if less public. Universities drift; law schools become internally dysfunctional. Moreover, the change in skill sets required as one moves up the higher-education ladder are at least as significant as in business. A great faculty member is strong in the classroom (which requires lots of solo class prep) and a gifted researcher – mostly solitary work; a successful dean must be visible and social and a consensus-builder. Likewise, a great associate law dean is detail-oriented and knows precisely how the train works; a successful dean envisions future destinations and can raise money to lay the track.
The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is 4.6 years – longer than the 3-odd-year tenure of an average law dean. Yet, though succession planning is institutionalized at most large companies, in law schools and higher education generally it is haphazard at best. Consider, for example, the number of searches in which there is not a single viable internal candidate.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
[by Rick Bales]
Current ABA accreditation standards have attracted widespread public criticism for being toothless in the face of predatory law schools granting admission (and charging hefty tuition) to students with little or no chance of passing a bar exam. In response, proposed ABA standards would create a new 75% rule. As Daniel Rodriguez (Northwestern) and Craig Boise (Syracuse) explain in the National Law Journal (cross-posted without subscription requirement at TaxProf Blog):
The American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has proposed tightening up its regulation of those law schools with a significant percentage of graduates who have failed their state's bar exam. Under the proposed new accreditation standard, law schools must ensure that at least three-quarters of their graduates pass the bar after two attempts, rather than five, as is the case under the current standards. As with any numerical benchmark, the measure is imperfect, yet its purpose is a sound one.
Yet before the ink is even dry on the proposed rule, at least one school has found a way to circumvent it. Arizona Summit (formerly Phoenix Law School), the same school that paid its low-GPA graduates not to take the bar exam yet still had an overall July 2016 pass rate of 19.7%, has created a new requirement that each student with a GPA below 3.33 must pass the school’s mock bar exam as a prerequisite to graduating. Theoretically, Arizona Summit could set the mock-bar pass rate at 10%, meaning that only the top-10% would qualify to sit for a bar exam. That would virtually guarantee technical compliance with the ABA’s 75% rule. Meanwhile, 90% of the school’s students would have paid $136,062 in tuition (plus expenses, lost opportunity costs, etc.) for a degree that does not qualify them to sit for any bar.
Note that Arizona Summit’s mock bar is not analogous to the “baby bar” required at unaccredited California law schools. The baby bar is given after the first year, so students with no realistic chance of passing the California bar exit early. Arizona Summit’s mock bar is a graduation requirement, so the school will get three full years of tuition before students are required to exit. Moreover, tuition at most unaccredited California law schools is relatively low. Arizona Summit’s is $45,354 per year.
One possible response might be for the ABA to go back to the drawing board and create a bar-pass threshold requirement for matriculants, not just graduates. But that would exacerbate a problem that HBCUs and others already have identified with the 75% rule – it may have a disproportionate effect on minorities, and it penalizes legitimate opportunity-based law schools that admit at-risk (but potentially successful) students, give them an opportunity to prove themselves, then then have an early-exit mechanism for students who don’t. Moreover, if the ABA plugs this hole in the dike, predatory schools like Arizona Summit will just find another weakness to exploit.
Better, I think, to draft a standard that looks at admissions, academic support, early v. late attrition, and bar pass, and gives the ABA considerable discretion within that framework to deny or withdraw accreditation. Simultaneously, we would need to ensure that the folks doing the (un)accrediting have both the backbone, and support from above and below, to make difficult decisions which may well result in litigation.
Rigid rules are easy to circumvent. But it’s not rocket science to spot a predator.
Over at TaxProf Blog, Paul Caron calls attention to Clayton Christensen's new book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice (HarperBusiness 2016). Here's a very brief excerpt from Philip Delves Broughton's review in the Wall Street Journal:
Disruption, in Mr. Christensen’s formulation, is not caused simply by anything new or clever. It arrives in the form of “minuscule threats” at the bottom of the market. The studios and networks treated Netflix as a minor player when it mailed DVDs, not seeing that the move to online streaming would turn it into a formidable competitor.
Similarly, grand universities right now see no threat from grubby online courses. But over time students and parents may wonder why they should pay all that money for sports facilities they don’t use and professors who don’t teach. Meanwhile, employers start to ask potential employees what they can do rather than where they went to school. And maybe the whole structure of higher education shifts.
If Christensen is right, I would expect economic pressure at many "teaching" schools to disaggregate scholarship from teaching, so that cost savings can be passed along to students thus giving those schools a price advantage. Look for a further bifurcation of research universities from teaching universities, and perhaps for a spill-over into law schools.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
[by Rick Bales] Law schools have responded to the changing marketplace for legal education in a wide variety of ways designed to add revenue streams or improve the quality of education. Here’s a list of some of those innovations; comments adding to the list are welcome.
- Non-J.D. Master’s programs, especially in subject areas that involve regulatory compliance such as health care. These programs often are mostly or entirely online.
- Online law courses and hybrid-online courses. ABA Standard 306 restricts distance education, but within those restrictions there is plenty of room for online legal education.
- Niche LL.M. programs. LL.M. programs that provide little more than what a student could have obtained in her J.D. degree do not seem to have attracted substantial enrollment, but many niche and value-added programs are performing strongly.
- J.D. programs for international lawyers. These programs typically give credit for previous study and allow the J.D. to be completed in about two years.
- Flexible or alternative course scheduling, such as allowing a J.D. to be completed in two years, or on weekends.
- Classroom and teaching innovations, such as flipped classrooms, new forms of experiential learning, expanded use and varieties of formative assessment, and the like.
- Academic and bar-pass support. Not just more, but better: many AS programs use principles of cognitive psychology to enhance learning, retention, and application. Other AS programs have become integrated into doctrinal, writing, and experiential courses.
- Certificates, concentrations, and guided pathways.
- Unbundling the J.D. “package” and marketing the pieces to target audiences – e.g., “contracts for businesspeople”.
- Teaching law-themed courses for, or in conjunction with, other university programs. Examples include “Intellectual Property Law for Scientists”, “Election Law” for political science students, and creating an undergraduate Legal Studies major or minor.
- Incubators and other programs to help graduates transition from law school to practice. These programs vary from well-designed programs to fairly naked attempts to game placement statistics.
- Third-year curricular changes, such as full-year simulation courses , nontraditional externship programs, and a semester of study and practice in D.C.
- Satellite campuses, especially in a state capital or major metropolitan area if the law school is geographically isolated.
- Using diagnostic tests to identify student strengths and weaknesses (e.g., in reading speed and comprehension) at both individual and aggregate levels, and using online training programs to remedy those weaknesses.
- Using data (beyond simple measures like first-year GPA) to identify at-risk students at both individual and aggregate levels, to calculate the efficacy of curricular and programmatic changes, and to measure educational outcomes.
Friday, October 7, 2016
[by Rick Bales] As the U.S.’s 200-odd ABA-accredited law schools endure a sixth year of admissions and enrollment pain, their response to the market downturn has not been what one would expect in an efficient market. In an efficient market, one would expect to see some combination of the following from oversupply, weak demand, and a plethora of suppliers:
- Innovation and Differentiation. Considerable market differentiation should result as schools try to find a niche in which they can command a premium price, because chasing a declining demand is, in the long term, a losing proposition. However, except for some tinkering at the LL.M. and Master’s-level margins, law schools still look remarkably the same.
- Budget Cuts. Most affected law schools have cut their budgets, but not necessarily in ways that efficient markets would predict. Companies experiencing a sustained downturn in demand tend to make the first cuts to high-cost areas that are unlikely to affect future survival. In higher education, personnel costs are the biggest expense, but instead of focusing on efficiency or cutting across the board, most law schools have cut staff first, then non-tenure-track faculty, then tenure-track-but-not-yet-tenured faculty. Staff cuts (especially to admissions, placement, and academic support) and the elimination of junior faculty through hiring freezes and layoffs may have been politically palatable, but amount to eating the seed corn.
- Closures and Consolidation. An industry with 200+ market participants experiencing a 50% sustained decline in demand should expect some – probably many – of the weakest firms to close, but that hasn’t happened with law schools. Likewise, one would expect industry consolidation, as the strongest schools jostle for market share and the middling schools seek efficiency through growth. Again, that hasn’t happened.
- Realignment of Supply with Demand. In a world where Blackberry has gone from market leader to obsolescence in a few years, six years is more than enough time for law schools to have adjusted to the new normal. Instead, many if not most schools are still operating at half capacity and a significant financial loss, and are nominally charging (but also discounting) twice the tuition that the market is willing to pay.
- ABA accreditation requirements and faculty tenure impede internal restructuring. ABA accreditation requirements and the importance of reputation in a conservative industry make law schools loath to be the first mover on any sort of innovation outside the norm, such as online education. At many schools, tenured faculty cannot be laid off for economic reasons without declaring a university-wide fiscal emergency; making such a declaration would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Firing underperforming faculty is culturally taboo and internally painful.
- Financial insulation from market discipline. Existing student loan programs help ensure that there is always some prospective student – even if an unqualified one – available to fill a law school seat. Endowments and university subsidies allow financially bleeding schools to stay on life support much longer than they would if they had to be consistently self-supporting.
- University leadership is overcautious and rewarded for programmatic growth rather than sound business decisions. A faculty member once remarked to me that he belonged to the only institution in the world more resistant to change than North Korea – American higher education. University leadership is exceptionally risk-averse. Unlike the private sector, no university leader every got fired for being too cautious, and it is exceptionally rare for a university to close for being too slow to adapt to market changes. Moreover, university presidents are reputationally rewarded for growth (in enrollment, programs, budget), not for strategic realignment. Most presidents are accustomed to having some programs subsidize others, and would consider it a huge black eye for a law school to close on their watch. Finally, the prestige of having a law school may prevent some closures, but presumably at some point the price tag becomes too high.
So what is the take-away? In part, this helps explain why law schools have not closed/merged/differentiated as one might expect given the sustained down-market for legal education. More importantly, it indicates that there are significant rewards yet to be distributed to the market players who recognize and are able to capitalize on existing market inefficiencies.
Friday, September 30, 2016
[by Rick Bales] I've heard from faculty members at two law schools just this week who report (not for attribution) that their law schools either are laying off a substantial number of faculty (the faculty member's word was "bloodletting") or that buy-out offers have been made to all faculty. These are respectable schools, and the downsizings I am referring to have not yet been reported in the blogosphere as best I know. That probably means there are many more occurring than we know about.
I've also had occasion to browse recently the faculty bio pages of several law schools. Given the paucity of hiring over the last several years, it comes as no surprise that many schools are top-heavy, but the extent of this at some schools is astounding. It appears that at some schools, there is almost no one on the tenure-track faculty within a full generation of the average age of the students we are trying to attract.
Given the dramatic downturn in admissions, faculty downsizing is not unexpected and at many schools inevitable. But equally unsurprisingly, the pain has not been evenly distributed. Staff were cut first, then non-tenure-track faculty, then tenure-track but not-yet-tenured faculty....
We seem to be in the process of losing a full generation of faculty. This does not bode well for the future of law teaching, legal scholarship, or law school leadership. I think we would be wise to begin planning for this generation gap now.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
[by Rick Bales]
As the headline in the post immediately below points out, 3/4 of U.S. law deans supported University of Arizona Law's bid to use the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT. That does not imply support for the school's advert containing misleading employment statistics.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Monday, May 2, 2016
As reported by the National Law Journal, the Law School Admissions Council is contemplating expelling the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law from LSAC membership. This is in response to Arizona's decision to offer applicants the option of submitting a GRE score instead of an LSAT score. Apparently, there is a rule in the LSAC by-laws (of which I, and I assume almost all law school deans, have been ignorant) requiring “that substantially all of [member schools'] applicants for admission take the Law School Admission Test.”
This strikes me as a terrible rule. I urge LSAC to suspend enforcement of the rule and to immediately and promptly consider its repeal.
There are many problems with LSAC's threat against Arizona, but I will simply mention three:
- I am no antitrust expert, but this rule sure smells bad.
- Why has LSAC not previously enforced this rule against schools that obtained LSAT waivers from the ABA, or admitted students from their own institutions without LSAT scores under the now-defunct "10% Rule"?
- I cannot think of a rationalization for this rule that is in the interests of legal education and the law schools that make up the membership of LSAC.
Let me elaborate on that last point a bit. LSAC is not a for-profit entity with an inherent interest in preserving its market share. It exists to, and generally does, act in the public interest as it relates to legal education. The result of requiring members to use the LSAT exclusively would be to stifle needed innovation. Arizona, one of the innovative law schools in the country today, decided to allow applicants to use GRE scores after a careful, thoughtful process. Although some commentators think it has to do with gaming US News (there might be a short-lived advantage to Arizona here, but not a great one), their purpose is to make applying to law school easier, cheaper and more readily available to a diverse group of prospective students. They commissioned a study, which apparently has demonstrated the GRE's validity as a predictor of law school success. By what reasoning (other than LSAC seeking a monopoly-like position), should this experiment be punished?
The ABA is alone among US accrediting bodies in requiring any kind of standardized test for admissions. What if the ABA reverses this policy? Would LSAC attempt to expel any school that went test-optional? Law schools are LSAC, and we should not allow this to happen.
At the same time, the ABA should probably repeal the rules requiring the use of an admissions test. The ABA is properly moving towards more of a focus on outcomes. Schools should be assessed based on the learning of their students, and their success on the bar examination and in gaining meaningful employment. Whether and how to use an admissions test should be up to the schools (just as it is for all medical, business, engineering, architecture, etc., schools). We should be concerned with schools taking advantage of applicants who have little chance of success. But this is better dealt with through outcomes standards with real teeth, combined with rigorous disclosure rules.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
[by Rick Bales]
Michele Pistone and Michael Horn have just posted, on the publications page of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, their white paper Disrupting Law School: How Disruptive Innovation Will Revolutionize the Legal World.
The take-away: just as the business of legal services is changing rapidly and radically, so too is the demand for legal education. Either law schools will redefine themselves to capture new markets or they will replaced by other institutions that will.
Here's a portion of the executive summary; the rest follows the page break. Hat tip: Rob Kleine.
Facing dramatic declines in enrollment, revenue, and student quality at the same time that their cost structure continues to rise and public support has waned, law schools are in crisis. A key driver of the crisis is shrinking employment opportunities for recent graduates, which stem in part from the disruption of the traditional business model for the provision of legal services.
Although this root problem will soon choke off the financial viability of many schools, most law schools remain unable or unwilling to address this existential problem in more than a marginal way, as they instead prefer to maintain the status quo and hope that the job market soon improves. In reaction to the growing crisis, most law schools have accordingly continued to focus their attention and energies on maintaining their existing status within the legacy model used to rank and compare law schools: the U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. In the face of the crisis, the dominant focus of law schools and their administrators has been to retain their school’s ranking so that their school can outlast competitor law schools—some of which, the argument goes, may have to shut their doors—until, in the long run they hope, the market evens out and everything returns to the pre-crisis status quo.
This is a strategy of attrition. By fixing their gaze on maintaining prestige in their juris doctor (JD) degree programs, law schools and their administrators run the risk of overlooking the longer-term impact that the disruption of traditional legal services businesses will have on the provision of legal services and, in turn, on law schools themselves. This is happening at the same time as disruption is primed to take place in legal education itself. As we have seen in industry after industry, disruptive innovations change sectors in ways that do not allow for a return to the status quo. Instead, the changes that disruptive innovations bring are so fundamental that entire products or services are marginalized or, in some cases, even displaced, never to return again.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
[by Rick Bales]
Tim Fisher, Kathleen Boozang, Craig Boise, and I each attended the CASE Development for Deans program in San Francisco early this week. I found the conference useful, and will be curious to see how much overlap there is with the ABA's Law School Development Conference. At both, deans are encouraged to attend with their development directors. Though the ABA conference obviously focuses on development for law schools, there was something to be gained by looking at development through the somewhat wider lens of higher education more generally.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
[by Rick Bales]
Why is the cost of attending law school high relative to lawyer starting salaries, and rising relative to inflation? Here are three reasons that the scambloggers never seem to mention.
The first is Baumol’s Cost Disease. The idea here is that in certain labor-intensive industries (such as education), there is little productivity growth over time. Car manufacturers automate; farmers have better equipment and pest-resistant seeds; but law school is still taught much the same way it was 50 years ago. Unless and until we see widespread adoption of online learning technology or other types of teaching-efficiency enhancements, the cost of higher education likely will continue to increase more than rate of inflation.
The second is increased reporting requirements. Twenty years ago law schools gave some basic data to the ABA and that was it. Today we collect and give a lot more data to the ABA, and then we format it exactly like they want it for our website, and we do the same for U.S. News, and the transparency movement wants still more. Many law schools now have a full-time data-reporting officer. Our Career Services Director spends almost as much time tracking student outcomes as she does helping students find jobs. Transparency is great in the abstract, and abuses in the past make today’s demands for more transparency reasonable. But all this data collection and dissemination isn’t free – it comes at a cost that ultimately must be paid from student tuition. And the fixed costs of compliance weighs particularly heavily on small law schools that are unable to distribute the costs among a large student body.
The third factor contributing to higher costs is that faculty (and decanal) salaries are influenced by the anomalous bi-modal wage distribution of starting salaries for lawyers. As this chart makes clear, lawyer salaries follow more-or-less a normal bell curve in the $45,000-85,000 range, then spike strongly in the $155,000-165,000 range. The problem for law schools is that many of the faculty we want to hire (especially the folks who can teach corporate, tax, and estate planning law) are in that right-hand spike, and to attract them we need to be at least in-the-ballpark competitive. Even so, although law faculty may earn modestly more than the average (mean, median) starting salary of a practicing lawyer, they earn far less than the lawyers on the bigfirm partnership track.