Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Development for Deans


[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.


February 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

On the Cost of Legal Education

Up[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.



February 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Yellen Leaves Loyola-Chicago for Presidency of Marist College

Yellen[by Rick Bales]

Congratulations to dean extraordinaire (and Law Deans blogger) David Yellen on his appointment, announced today, as President of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Here's the Marist press release. Marist is a prestigious college on the Hudson River, halfway between Albany and Manhattan, known for its leadership in the use of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.

David attended Cornell Law School (where he met his wife Leslie), and taught and deaned at Hofstra before becoming dean at Loyola-Chicago where he has served for 11 years. The deans will miss his leadership, wisdom, and wit, as I know will his colleagues at Loyola.

Michael Kaufman (Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of Education Law and Policy Institute, Director of Institute for Investor Protection) will serve at Loyola as interim dean.


February 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Growing the Pie II: Making a Case for the GRE

Gre[by Rick Bales]

Christine Hurt (BYU) makes a a compelling case at Conglomerate Blog for allowing law schools to use the GRE as a substitute for the LSAT. Here's a quick summary:

[A] lot of stellar undergraduates are choosing not to apply to law school (and not to take the LSAT)... [M]any of them are taking the GRE and going to a different graduate program.  If you could get that cohort to apply to law school easily, then you might be able to persuade them that law is still a great career path... In addition, recruiting folks already in graduate programs or who have completed graduate school to apply may be easier if they don't have to take a different test.  Even trying to recruit someone who has taken neither test to apply to law school would be easier if they could take the GRE.  The GRE is given on a rolling, year-wide basis around the world and even on your own computer.  I just looked online, and I could take the GRE as early as Monday (less than a week from now) a few miles from here or even sooner if I drove 30-45 minutes.  I would have my scores in 10-15 days.


February 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Glocking Bunnies

Bunny[by Rick Bales]

The president of Mount Saint Mary College apparently told some faculty members they need to change the way they think about struggling students, saying “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.” The quote went viral and the president has caught a lot of flak.

But what he’s describing isn’t uncommon in higher education – he was trying to game his college’s numbers by encouraging struggling students to leave before they affected the college’s retention rate. And as bar pass rates drop (at least in part because of declining admissions and entering-student credentials), pressure will increase on law schools to attrit the students most at risk of failing the bar exam before they have a chance to affect the school’s bar-pass numbers. This can be accomplished by dropping the grading curve or by raising the minimum GPA required for continued enrollment.

A reasonable rate of academic attrition is the price of providing opportunities to applicants on the application bubble and enforcing high expectations on current students. But the danger is in using the “opportunity” label to self-interestedly admit students who have little chance of success so the school can fill an entering class. The “opportunity school” approach may have been appropriate 50 years ago when the cost of legal education was, in real terms, much lower than it is today. But asking students to take on mortgage-sized debt for a low-percentage “opportunity” is a different matter entirely.  And disclosure doesn’t cure, because every applicant is confident she will outperform her predictors.


February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)