Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Study of the Best Law Mentors in the United States

The following announcement about a new study of the best law mentors and request for nominations is posted on behalf of Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law: 
A team of my colleagues here at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law, Professors Terri Beiner, Kelly Browe Olson, and Kelly Terry, and I, are launching a study of the best law mentors in the country. We recently signed a contract with the Harvard University Press to publish our results.
We need your help finding the best mentors.  Our goal is to identify attorney mentors who transform junior lawyers’ careers and even lives, study those mentors in depth, and understand why they are so effective. Based on this research, we will identify and describe a set of behaviors, attitudes, and habits that are characteristic of the best law mentors.   We hope to produce a work that is a manual for attorneys who aspire to be transformative mentors, a benefit to legal employers for hiring and training mentors, and a tool more junior lawyers might use to find good mentors.  Thus, anyone (you, your colleagues, or your alumni) who contributes to our study by nominating a mentor will both honor a great colleague and help move the profession forward by improving lawyer mentoring.
The methodology for the study will be qualitative and similar to the approach my co-authors and I used for What the Best law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2013). We will solicit nominations, gather evidence of nominees’ excellence, and pare the list to the most extraordinary legal mentors. We will then study the mentors where they work, interviewing both the mentors and focus groups of current and former mentees.  We also hope to observe mentoring interactions.  We will sift through the information we gather, identify what the best mentors have in common and areas of important difference, and organize the book by the common themes identified through this process. We plan to finish our research over the next three years and complete the book, What the Best Law Mentors Do, by January 2019.   
Here is a link to the website we have created for the book,, and here is a link to the page we are using to solicit and receive the nominations,  Please feel free to make nominations yourself.
I am hoping you might be willing to help us get the word out about this project.  I would be very grateful for your help with our efforts to find great mentors. I suspect the mentors nominated for the study will be flattered by the nominations, and the ones we choose to study in depth will appreciate the publicity resulting from selection as one of the best mentors in the country.  If a nominated mentor chooses to remain anonymous or does not wish to participate, however, we will not pursue the nomination.
You likely will hear from me again soon about another study that a different team of my colleagues and I have signed a contract with the same publisher to complete, What the Best New Lawyers Do.  We expect to launch that study in three-six months.


April 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Infilaw Puts Charleston Law Plans on Hold

According to a report in the Charleston Post & Courier, Inflilaw has decided not to pursue a license from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to purchase the Charleston School of Law at this time.

Students at the law school are naturally concerned about its future. A spokesman for the law school says that information is forthcoming after the exam period ends in early May.

April 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Great essay about legal education by Dean Jeremy Paul (Northeastern)

Jeremy has written a wonderful piece in the New York Law Journal about the changes that are/should be/will be happening in legal education, and what will/should remain intact:

"Changing the 'How' But Not the 'Why.'" 


April 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mike Schill to be new President of University of Oregon

Congratulations Mike!

April 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Law Professors and Flat-Earthers

FlatThis blog post from Stephen Diamond, via Brian Leiter, nicely collects the criticism of Paul Campos's recent editorial in the New York Times on the rising cost of higher education. Rather than piling onto the criticism, I'd like to use this as an opportunity to ask a different question: at what point is a tenured faculty member's public pronouncements, professional misconduct, and/or research methodology, so outlandishly bad as to justify permanent removal of that faculty member from the university?

Academic freedom is rightly a powerful force; it protects the ability of academics to seek and speak Truth to Power. But what if a tenured astrophysicist insists -- publicly and at every possible opportunity, that the earth is flat? What if a geneticist claims to find a genetic basis for arguing that members of a certain race are inherently less intelligent than members of another race, and the geneticist's "findings" both are obviously methodologically flawed and completely ignore counter-evidence? What if a faculty member uses social media or the classroom to denigrate her university, or to make ad hominem attacks against fellow faculty members? At what point does a tenured faculty member become such an embarrassment to the institution, or become so disruptive to its educational mission, that the institution is justified in terminating the relationship?

For better or worse, many administrative matters that historically were primarily the responsibility of faculty have become the responsibility of professional administrators. Perhaps  this is for the good -- shifting at least some responsibility for student admissions to administrative professionals helps ensure more consistent outcomes and frees faculty members to use their time more productively. But if faculty governance is to mean anything, it must mean the freedom to govern, not the freedom from governing.

Self-policing is difficult, uncomfortable work. No one wants to discipline or expel a colleague, and "enforcing professional norms" too often has been used as a subterfuge for excluding worthy individuals on other, less benign, bases. Perhaps for this reason much of the process of evaluating tenured faculty and holding them accountable has been either abdicated or shifted from the collective power of a college's faculty to deans, administrators, and university-level faculty bureaucracies. The unfortunate consequence is that we've largely lost the sense of colleges being a group of self-governing colleagues.

Thoughts and responses are welcome, though because of a yet-unresolved technical glitch I will have to rely on the other contributors to this Blog to approve comments.



April 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The High Cost of Higher Education

The high cost of higher education has become the public policy issue of the middle class, meaning it has become the public policy issue for all of America. In the inevitable finger-pointing about the cause for the hyperinflation of tuition, people prefer a villain (the proliferation of “the administrator” on campuses) to structural causes (the withdrawal of state subsidies) or market trends (competition to provide amenities and boost rankings). 
Nobody is about to defend the cost of a degree. But changing the description of the faceless bureaucrat that allegedly has crowded campuses by explaining they are student services professionals makes all the difference.
It is true that there are many more people at any type of school who are not teachers than there were a generation ago. The “consumers,” as they prefer to be called, of higher education demand no less. The “administrators” who have become common include those who specialize in, for example, counseling, support for affinity groups, career placement, and financial aid. A generation ago, an individual whose parents did not finish high school would have found she had to make her own way; now, she can turn to people devoted to her success.
The importance of information technology also has changed the cost structure. In addition to people who set up A/V for classrooms and troubleshoot, there is a cadre of technicians maintaining the website, servers, and enterprise software that keep everything functioning. Without them, nothing could be done in an ordinary day.
Even as we bemoan the bill, we increase the complexity of higher education. Regulatory compliance is a growth industry in all sectors, and there is no exception for colleges and universities. 
Sexual assault is a good example. The past year has seen an outcry against the severity of this problem. Everyone agrees schools should take it more seriously. If we want to address the problem, we have to assign someone to do so. That means either asking someone who is doing some other function, most likely an individual helping students in another manner, to stop doing part of her current job and start doing more on Title IX, or hiring someone new to take on the responsibilities — not to mention training them and trying to be as pro-active as possible. 
The very insistence on transparency in higher education comes at a cost too. Transparency is not free. Law schools are about to face audits of their employment statistics. Other than the much maligned “administrators,” however, nobody has paid attention to the extraordinary effort needed to compile information on graduates and where they have ended up. Enormous amounts of time, which could have been used to introduce job-seekers with prospective employers, instead must be expended tracking down people and verifying their salaries.
There are choices we can make. An imaginary school without “administrators” would be a school without student services, information technology, or the ability to follow the myriad laws imposed on higher education. 
Very few institutions, much less their “customers,” are trying to offer the no-frills version of higher education. Our expectations continue to rise, but our willingness to pay has begun to fall.
This blog originally appeared at Huffington Post.

April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

On Campos's NYT Editorial

Fat cat(Rick Bales)

Many of you probably saw Paul Campos's editorial in yesterday's New York Times, in which he argued that tuition in higher education is going up primarily because of administrative bloat and university administrators receiving fat-cat salaries.

Paul apparently lives on a different planet than the one I do. Dean Dad has a nice response:

Dear New York Times,
I’m writing to apply for a position as editor of your higher education coverage.  Judging by Sunday’s column, “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much,” written by law professor Paul Campos, you need one.  Preferably, one who has actually been in the room when tuition increases have been proposed and discussed.
As with so much of your coverage of higher education, the column is both a failure and a mess, and the two are related.
If Campos were to draw the connection between, say, Baumol’s Cost Disease and price increases, he would have been on much more solid ground.  But like community colleges, Baumol’s Cost Disease is entirely absent from his piece.  I guess it doesn’t fit his preferred narrative of administrative fat cats with seven-figure salaries....
I’ve been in the room when fee increases have been discussed, debated, proposed, and approved.  They’re about filling gaps.  If you fail to understand those gaps and where they came from, you will fail to understand the increases.
If you hold institutional operating funding flat or worse, but increase aid to students, then you could predict that institutions would have to raise prices to students to meet increased expenses.
The piece is so sloppy and shallow that a more cynical sort would think that it got published because it confirmed someone’s preconceived notion.  Some basic journalism would have debunked its argument in short order. 

And yes, university administrative costs have risen over the last several years. But this is not, as far as I can tell, because of administrative bloat and fat-cat salaries. It's largely because reporting requirements have risen. Consider, for example, the proportion of law school resources that today must be devoted to complying with ABA reporting requirements and with providing disability accommodations; the same is true at the University level regarding financial aid and Title IX and a slew of other new and expanded reporting requirements. I'm not saying these reporting requirements are bad; I'm just noting that they are not free.



April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)