Thursday, October 30, 2014

Maybe We Need a Selection Committee


The College Football Selection Committee is tasked with choosing which four college teams will play for the national championship in January.  The committee creates small groups of teams, debates their merits and ranks the teams using as many votes as needed to come up with a consensus. Members are given reams of data on each FBS team and each member is allowed to judge those numbers however they determine is best.

Compare that with the way law schools are ranked. US News sends ballots to all of the law schools asking deans, associate deans, recruitment chairs, and recently tenured faculty to rank the other law schools from 1 to 5.  A 1 ranking means that, in the opinion of the ranker, the school is marginal, a 5 ranking means that it is outstanding. Unlike the College Football Selection Committee, we typically have sparse information about the other schools we are ranking. While we do receive brochures and glossy magazines from many of the schools (essentially saying "vote for us"), those promotional materials provide very little objective information upon which to base our votes. Furthermore, the system seems to incentivize bad behavior by rankers, in that they can gain from giving lower rankings to schools they perceive to be competitors. The College Football Selection Committee, on the other hand, has various built-in protections, including recusal rules that are designed to protect the integrity of the process.

To the extent schools are ranked on objective factors, some law schools have found ways to "game the system" by fudging their numbers. In August of this year, the ABA decided that it would no longer require schools to provide student-faculty ratios. US News, however, has stated that it will continue to factor student-faculty ratios into their rankings. It is problematic that a magazine is requiring law schools to provide information no longer deemed relevant by our accrediting organization, especially since the numbers submitted by schools would no longer be subject to ABA scrutiny. The law school rankings process is seriously flawed.

It’s time we had a selection committee for legal education.



October 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Not Enough Lawyers least not in small towns, and rural communities.  Legal services are hard to find in rural populations in the United States. Furthermore, many lawyers in those towns will be retiring within the next decade. There are opportunities for recent law graduates to work with those senior lawyers, who will be mentors. The younger lawyers will, in many cases, have the opportunity to take over existing practices with established clients. Lawyers in small towns are important for the economic development and health of the community. They are often civic leaders and municipal judges.

As Richard L. Hermann said in his book, Practicing Law in Small-Town America:

Small-town America is still very much under-served by the legal community. Moreover, housing is affordable, commuting to and from work is a non-issue, and schools have fewer problems than their urban counterparts...

Many state bars, including the Mississippi Bar, are developing programs to encourage law graduates to practice in rural areas. They recognize that there are simply not enough lawyers to serve these important communities.


October 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Bibliography on Legal Education Reform

Professor Laura Ross of the Touro Law Center's Gould Law Library has developed a bibliography on legal education reform, which she plans to continue to update.

 The SSRN link is here. The abstract states:

"This legal education reform bibliography was originally presented by the Dean of Touro Law Center, Patricia Salkin (as co-chair) to the NYSBA Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. The compilers intend it to be a continuously updated and comprehensive survey of literature and news regarding the current state of, as well as suggested and upcoming innovations in, legal education reform in the United States."

October 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Biggest Football Weekend at Ole Miss in a Long Time

I am excited for my University of Mississippi  and  Oxford. This is a big weekend. ESPN Gameday is here, and our town of about 30,000 (including the university community) will swell to about 100,000 in anticipation of a great football game against Alabama. Law firms and law alums from all over the country will be here. Normally I would have taken the opportunity to meet with them, because I enjoy doing that, and it is an important part of my job.

This football Saturday, however, happens to be Yom Kippur. I will never forget that Sandy Koufax, not a very religious person, refused to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur. Arguably, that game was the most important game of his life, but he chose to honor something higher. He is my inspiration this weekend, and has been every year around this time. I will not be attending the game.

An easy fast, to those who are so inclined. Go Rebels!

October 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)