Friday, October 30, 2015

Dean Scott DeVito (Florida Coastal) reponds to NY Times

In its editorial last weekend, the New York Times called Florida Coastal School of Law a "scam."  Dean Scott DeVito has responded.

October 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dean Nick Allard (Brooklyn) on the NY Times Controversy

Dean Nick Allard of Brooklyn Law School has written the following message to fellow deans. He asked me to post it here as well.

Dear Colleagues,

While the New York Times editorial of Sunday, October 25th, “The Law School Debt Crisis,” weighed in primarily on the ongoing student loan debate, it is symptomatic of a much broader and urgent challenge because it underscores and extends the continuing negative drum beat that is demeaning law schools, law students, and the entire profession.

The time has come for the legal community – and law schools in particular – to press the reset button on the reputation of our profession. As Deans, we should not stand silent as those with biases and outdated or inaccurate information recycle myths and tired, predictable versions of their “wisdom” about our profession, law schools and the quality of newly minted lawyers. Over and over again.

The overarching challenge facing lawyers and the law school community across the country is that there is virtually no effective public counterweight to offset the worn perceptions repeated by high visibility media and others. We must, together, come to the defense of the value of law and lawyers, and make the compelling case for lawyers’ contribution to society in general and America’s national experiment in democracy, in particular. We need to highlight how valuable lawyers are to our nation’s leadership around the world, and the important role our law schools play in developing lawyers that will provide the legal expertise necessary to assure our nation’s stability in the future.

As we seek to attract the next generations of practitioners, we should remember to keep front and center the relevancy of our central message and vision: the value of our profession in these absolutely essential pursuits.

Regrettably, lawyers have too often allowed our fellow citizens to forget the essential contributions of lawyers to government, society, and to our commercial enterprises. Regrettably, legal educators in particular, have not been sufficiently and effectively vocal about the most salient aspect of our profession’s role in society going forward - - focusing on the new, critical roles lawyers will play in a global marketplace, and confronting the challenges of disruptive technologies, borderless geopolitical entities, even more splintered competing interests, and enduring threats to freedom and equal rights.

Into this vacuum have stepped critics, who for whatever reason are seeking to define our profession and our training in ways that neither reflect the realities nor in ways that we can control.

Let's stop the hand wringing, whining and the recycling of misperceptions. Let’s instead call attention to the positive value of our profession and the contribution we, our colleagues, and our students make. Let’s challenge ourselves and our institutions to do better. We could begin by focusing our energy on the following imperatives and begin the process of recalibrating America’s thinking about lawyers:

• Tomorrow’s lawyers must be seen as agents and facilitators of change within American and around the world;
• The legal enterprise must be seen as the engine that can stimulate innovation, the economy and international well being;
• We must do all we can to change the perception of lawyers from that of disruptors who cause commercial and social stagnation to navigators who foster compromise and progress;
• We must train our students to be both foundation builders and architects for a dynamic social system and market economy;
• Lawyers must be viewed as crusaders for peace, individual freedom, market driven economies and global stability;
• Lawyers must be trained to be integral components of tomorrow’s global society.

Entry into the legal profession must be justifiably understood to be a noble pursuit with new relevance for the 21st century. We must rebrand American lawyers and re-engineer the perceptions of how lawyers are trained if we are to change the flawed projections of our profession by others. We must advocate for more, not fewer, of a new breed of 21st-century attorneys who will continue to perform in new ways the essential functions of American society: bridging divides, finding solutions, breaking gridlock, enabling commerce, freeing innovation and forging speedier consensus on a range of commercial, legal, policy, regulatory and social issues among all the competitive interests, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Many innovative and forward-looking law schools already have adapted their curricula to enable new lawyers to be optimally prepared to meet these imperatives.

We are the ones who can help renew our country. We are the ones who can help make it less splintered, less litigious and more solutions oriented. If not us, then who? What choice do we have? Amidst transformative societal change, we need more than ever what lawyers do: help clarify and move issues forward to resolution through Analysis, Advice and Advocacy. This is work lawyers, not lay people or computers, must do. It is work worthy of the time, energy and money our students invest in earning their law degree.

Today, we must, and can, do better making our case in the affirmative. I look forward to hearing and watching you make the case.


Nick Allard

October 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Law Deans and Politics

My university took a step forward by removing the Mississippi state flag from our campus. I am proud of this move, and have been open in my support on social media.

When I was dean here, I was much more cautious about expressing my political opinions about issues, and elections. Ole Miss is a public university, and our law school alums often oppose each other in elections.  Neutrality, I figured, was my best avenue even though I have strong political convictions.

Sometimes being impartial meant that I had to swallow hard, especially when an alum or governmental official took a position I adamantly disagreed with. For example, during my first meeting with a powerful elected official, he turned to me and said "we must stop Obamacare at all costs." He was assuming, of course, that I agreed with him (which I do not). We were at a plated meal, and were soon served a casserole covered with bacon. That same official turned to me and said, "you can't go wrong with bacon." I am vegan, so I quickly resorted to the only common ground I knew I could have with him, and said, "the team looks good this year. I really like our coach."

We had a nice conversation after that.





October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times Attacks Legal Education ..... Again

I'm sure all of you have seen the NYT's dreadful editorial about legal education over the weekend.  Of course there were truths in it, but it was remarkably sloppy.  It ignores the many reforms taking place in legal education since the crisis began.  It also ignores that because of scholarship competition for students, the actual net price of legal education is declining (just ask the budget manager at almost any law school).  Whether or not law schools deserve any credit for these changes, the Times shows willful blindness towards these critical factors.  In addition the Times strangely suggests that the federal government could "redirect" federal student loan dollars to the worthy cause of improving funding for legal services organization.  This completely ignores the fact that lending money to law students is a profitable activity for the government.  Even with income based repayment and a somewhat growing number of defaults, the federal government is not "investing" in legal education, it is generating revenue from it.

Much more serious was yesterday's article in the Times examining the impact of declining admissions standards in legal education.  Based on the impressive research by Law School Transparency, it discusses the impact of law schools, particularly the least selective law schools, enrolling large numbers of students whose academic credentials suggest that they are likely to struggle gaining admission to the bar.  I have quibbles with both the LST Report and the Times article (for example, it is odd that the Times focused on Southern Illinois, a school with good bar passage and employment rates, and low tuition), but the basic point is an important one that legal education must address.

October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Northwestern Law receives huge gift, new name

Northwestern Law School announced today that J.B. Pritzker has donated $100 million to the school, which will be renamed the Pritzker Northwestern School of Law in the family's honor.  Congratulations to Dan Rodriguez and everyone at Northwestern!  Here is a video of the announcement:


October 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Law Porn

Lawp[by Rick Bales]

'Tis the season, as my weighty inbox (and recycling bin) will attest. LawProfBlawg has editorial suggestions at Let’s Make ‘Law Porn’ Correctly, Shall We?. Better yet, how about a pact: you don't show me yours and I won't show you mine?


October 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Florida rejects reciprocity

Protectionism has won the day in Florida.  The Board of Governors of the Florida Bar has rejected a proposal to allow out-of-state attorneys to waive into the Florida bar.  This unfortunate decision is a setback for progressive bar admission policies.  We should be making it easier, not harder, to practice law across state lines.

October 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lawsuits against law schools continue to wither away

The Wall Street Journal LawBlog has a post with an update on the remaining employment data related law suits against law schools.  It is no big surprise that the few remaining suits continue to fail.

A few thoughts about employment data and law schools:

1.  there was a time when a number of law schools used employment data in a way that was morally, if not legally, fraudulent.

2.  the ABA-mandated reporting regime has effectively eliminated that problem.  There is now more meaningful and accurate employment data about legal education than there is in any other field of higher education.  We should be proud of this.

3.  there is sometimes too narrow a focus on employment outcomes 9 (or now 10) months after graduation.  But the availability of the data has fostered a very meaningful debate about the role and value of legal education.

October 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to Train a Dean (by a Dean's Administrative Assistant)

Below is a posting authored by my  administrative assistant, Patti Bell.  I asked her to offer a different perspective on deaning. As you will read, she probably knows as much about managing a dean's workload as anyone out there.

Dean Michael Schwartz is a gracious and generous boss. When he first suggested I guest write a blog entry for this blog, I felt flattered. Later, as I mulled over what I might write, terror set in. What had I gotten myself into? What could I possibly have to say that would mean anything to a law school dean, green, well-seasoned, or otherwise?

I’ve worked for four deans in my thirteen years as the “sword of the dean” (how I jokingly refer to my position). All of my deans came from different backgrounds. Some came from internal appointments and some from external. Each has different strengths, weaknesses, and agendas. Observing them, working closely with them, and adapting to each and to their respective work styles, I discovered some rules that can make a deanship easier (or at least manageable).

Learn to Say “No.” Deans are flooded with offers to speak, serve on committees, host events, and attend numerous social events. Learn to say “No.” Don’t worry; you will be asked again. Take some time to figure out what it important and what you can skip. Your assistant and your Associate Dean can be invaluable in helping you determine priorities. Let them.

Learn to Delegate. You like to do everything yourself. Great, you are self-sufficient. Soon you will “self-sufficient” yourself into working seven days a week. Have discussions early on (and frequently) with your management team. Figure out who possesses the strengths and abilities you need for a certain task or project– then delegate. Don’t let department divisions, titles, or assumptions stymie you. Delegate, assume the person can handle it, and let it go. You’ve got to rely on your team.

Schedule Work Time AND Play Time. Take a look at your calendar. I bet I can tell you what it looks like – an endless schedule of meetings and events. Let’s take a peek inside your head. The mass of priorities, projects, deadlines, and, frankly, complaints are swirling around and creating a paralysis – not just where to begin but when?

The where is up to you – that’s why you are the boss. The when is a problem solved by an iron grip on your calendar. You must schedule time to work on projects and hold the line. How many times have you had a day that was packed full of meetings only to realize at the end you didn’t accomplish anything that you needed to and now you will be working at night or on the weekend? How many dinners with family and friends have you cancelled? How many of you have given up a hobby or a pastime because you simply no longer have time to do it? Yep, I know. Put everything on your calendar and stick to it.

I’ve made progress on teaching my latest dean all of these lessons. He still says “yes” when he should say “no” and he still puts things on his calendar that create conflicts, but we’ve come a long way. If you need a little help with implementing these or other practices to make your deanship better, give a copy of this to your assistant. Your assistant is as vested in a great deanship as you are.

October 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Obergefell and Equality

Obergefell[by Rick Bales]

I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing Jim Obergefell speak at Bowling Green (OH) State University. He is speaking widely these days, telling his very moving story. As or more importantly, he makes the case that marriage equality is only one battle in the much larger fight for nondiscrimination -- that the LGBT community may be free to marry, but they are still not free from employment or housing discrimination, and trans individuals in particular still live in fear for their lives. (It's a point echoed recently in Keith Cunningham-Parmeter's Marriage Equality, Workplace Inequality: The Next Gay Rights Battle (67 Florida L. Rev. (2015)).

If you have a chance to see Mr. Obergefell speak, I highly recommend it; better yet, bring him to your campus.


October 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Deans as Conformists

I suspect at least some readers may be surprised by one aspect of the recent deans vs. clinicians debate relating to California’s proposed 15 credit-hour skills requirement. It should be no surprise that clinicians have come out in support of the initiative; clinicians are all about the skills. It should be no surprise that a group of deans acted collectively to oppose it; deans tend to oppose anything that might add to the cost side of the ledger. What may be surprising is the absence of comments from deans who support the proposed requirement.  Does anyone seriously believe that all deans oppose it?

Years ago, my tax law professor would regularly say in class, “If you ever observe people engaging in unexplainable behavior, think tax law.”  I have a corollary, “If you ever observe deans engaging in unexplainable behavior, think US News.”

A few stories of bizarre behavior fueled by US News considerations will make this point.  

My first story involves bizarre university behavior and not bizarre law school behavior.  Many years ago, my wife received a letter in the mail from one of the three universities from which she graduated. The letter enclosed a crisp one dollar bill and a stamped, self-addressed envelope.  The letter that accompanied this mailing explained that US News (at that time) weighed percentage of alumni giving as one factor in the rankings. The letter explained that my wife, who had not previously donated to that university, was free to keep the dollar as a gift from her alma mater but encouraged her to return it to support the university. It also encouraged her to give more.  As I recall, she sent back the dollar and more in the enclosed envelope. (By the way, that university’s US News ranking has soared since then.) I cannot imagine a university making such a choice outside the shadow of US News.

Three stories from within legal education suggest legal education is no different.  First, we all know that some law schools play the US News ranking game by taking a high number of transfer students.  Transfer students’ LSAT scores and undergraduate grades are ignored by US News; the law schools that adopt this approach can therefore swell their ranks while maintaining their entrance credential numbers.  Second, we all now know that some law schools doctored their entrance credential data; other law schools manipulated their placement data by hiring their own grads. Most recently, I have heard reliable rumors that two different law schools are getting law firms and in-house legal departments to hire their grads on one-year contracts by agreeing to pay those salaries. 

I lack the imagination to picture a US News-less world in which any of these things could have occurred.

The absence of disagreement among deans about the California skills credit-hour proposal is another manifestation of US News concerns driving surprising behavior.

I believe we deans hesitate to disagree with each other because of US News rankings. Deans know that all of us are US News voters. Sure, it’s possible we might gain respect in some corners by thoughtfully asserting a contrary viewpoint.  However, staying silent is surely the safer path.

Why is silence so much safer? Because reputation scores are the largest factor in US News rankings.  Every year, all of us rank all of the 200+ US law schools. I believe, when we are ranking most of those law schools, we are making up our rankings to a degree that makes professional wrestling seem legit. There are no criteria. Most of us have visited less than half of the law schools we rank.  We have no basis, aside from a past pleasant visit, past rankings, or our knowledge of the scholarly work of the few scholars at each law school who write in our fields, for drawing conclusions about what actually goes on at other law schools.

Thus, it’s better to remain silent and have our dean colleagues think we might oppose their views than to speak and remove all doubt.

October 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mitchell Hamine Merger Moves Forward

The ABA's Accreditation Committee has recommended that the Council acquiesce in the planned merger between William Mitchell and Hamline's law school.

It has been at least mildly surprising that there have been no law school closures or other mergers until now.

October 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)