Today all of The Faculty Lounge’s permanent bloggers posted a notice stating that none of them have ever disclosed identifying information about anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers to any third party. The post comes in response to allegations by Paul Campos that someone at TFL had given such information about a pseudonymous commenter to Brian Leiter. More background here.
Co-blogger Jonathan Adler quotes Professor Herbert Hovenkamp of the University of Iowa Law School, below, as stating:
The overwhelming majority of my colleagues believe in diversity in faculty hiring, and I believe most would include ideological diversity of both right and left. Some would regard diversity more as a “tie breaker” for choosing among people with roughly equivalent records, while others would reach further. I am confident that no one on our faculty would discriminate against a candidate because of his or her views. Our hiring goal, just as that of all other law schools I know, is to hire the most skilled, able teachers for our students.
Color me rather skeptical that most members of the UI faculty are seriously interested [beyond perhaps in response to the p.r. fallout from the lawsuit against the school for ideological discrimination] in pursuing hiring faculty ideologically on the “right” as a goal, much less that they’d prefer a “right-wing” candidate over an equally qualified candidate on the left, much less that any significant number would “reach further” than that. Some of my skepticism is an artifact of my understanding of what goes on at most law schools, but it’s also a product of this paragraph from the New York Times:
According to Ms. Wagner’s lawsuit, the law faculty at Iowa in 2007 included a single registered Republican among its 50 or so members. The Republican professor was appointed in 1984. In 2009, The Des Moines Register found that there were two registered Republicans on the faculty.
But maybe I’m too cynical. After all, not every conservative or libertarian law professor is a registered Republican (conversely, not every Republican is libertarian or conservative), and not everyone who gets an offer for an entry-level or lateral position takes it.
There is at least [...]
While the Wagner viewpoint discrimination trial involving the University of Iowa College of Law has generated considerable attention, the only principals who have spoken to the press are associated with the plaintiff. Since the court has now entered its judgment for the College on all counts I feel free to say a few things. I was on the faculty appointments committee that was responsible for hiring in our Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (“LAWR”) program the year in question.
Teresa Wagner is a quiet and pleasant person whom I came to know during the hiring process. To this day I have never seen her speak of her political beliefs or even ask questions or make comments at faculty seminars, which she occasionally attends. This was not a case where we debated about whether to hire someone with a particular ideology. The subject never came up, and I learned of her views for the first time when her complaint was announced.
The federal jury trial in this case was conducted by Senior District Judge Robert W. Pratt, an excellent federal district judge. The opinion dismissing the complaint, which was issued March 8, recites very few facts; however, the trial was videotaped in full and can be viewed or downloaded here.
The trial and public record show the following:
A. During the year in dispute we hired one “permanent” entry level LAWR faculty member and one “adjunct.” The stated job criteria were strong academic credentials, a preference for teaching experience, and a “job talk” presentation to the faculty. The “adjunct” position, which did not require a job talk, was a one
Teresa Wagner sued the University of Iowa School of Law alleging she was passed over for a faculty position due to ideological bias. The jury rejected some of her claims but deadlocked on another. On Friday, a federal district court dismissed Wagner’s one remaining claim and rejected Wagner’s motion for a new trial. Here are reports from the Des Moines Register and AP. The judge’s order is here.
NOTE: I’ve posted a comment from Iowa’s Herbert Hovenkamp here.
Paul Campos has posted a farewell post at his “Inside the Law School Scam” blog.
In response to widespread complaints, the National Jurist has reviewed its use of data from Ratemyprofessors.com. While NJ still insists it was appropriate to use this haphazardly collected data for one-fifth of each school’s rating, it has been forced to revise the RMP score for two-thirds of ranked schools. Let’s say that again: The National Jurist went to press with a ranking system that included mistakes for two-thirds of the ranked schools. Even if one were to believe that it was reasonable to use RMP scores in the first place — and it was not (as discussed here and here) — this degree of sloppiness is appalling. It was utterly irresponsible for NJ to go to press with rankings based on such slipshod work, and a disservice to the prospective students NJ was purporting to serve. Brian Leiter is correct – NJ should simply confess error, deep six these rankings, and start over from scratch. [...]
National Jurist will revise its much-maligned law school rankings, according to an announcement from NJ editor Jack Crittenden on the publication’s website. Although NJ defends its decision to rely upon Rateemyprofessors.com for 20 percent of each school’s rating (for those schools for which sufficient data is available), it has acknowledged some data disparities and is going to revisit the ratings for all schools in which the NJ-RMP.com score deviates from the school’s Princeton Review score. According to Crittenden:
We still believe that the voice of students is essential to any ranking that is designed to identify the best schools for students, and we feel we have put together a thoughtful and important ranking. But we recongize that poor quality data would leave the ranking marred. Our primary goal is to help students and prospecitve law with useful and accurate data. At the end of this review, we have all confidence that this study will meet our goal.
I certainly agree with those who think the US News ranking is flawed. I also agree that it would be valuable to measure the quality of instruction at law schools. But there is no credible argument that Ratemyprofessors.com does this. The data is haphazard and unreliable and, in my experience, does not correlate with student evaluations. There’s even an argument that Ratemyprofessors may select for things (e.g. easiness) that may inversely correlate with the quality of instruction. While this is not true for every subject, there are plenty of subjects that cannot be taught well without seriously challenging students.
I am also not convinced that current students are the best judge of the value of what they are learning in the classroom. I am contacted quite often by former students who say they did not appreciate certain aspects of my classes [...]
Professor Jim Moliterno of Washington and Lee Law School has a lengthy post over at The Legal White Board, which is in part a response to my post on this blog suggesting that the jury remains out as to whether W & L’s innovative curriculum is a hit among prospective law students.
I noted that despite what appears to be have been a banner year last year in admissions, “W & L’s median LSAT score was in the top 20 of law schools when it announced its experiential curriculum in 2008, and that it’s gone down every year since.” Moliterno replies, “Actually the W&L median LSAT was steady at 166 from 2005-2010, dropped 2 points to 164 in 2011 and stayed at 164 for 2012. It has not ‘gone down every year since [the new curriculum was announced in 2008].’”
Moliterno seems to have misunderstood what I wrote, and, in retrospect, I can see that I wasn’t clear. I did not mean that W & L’s median LSAT score went down every year. I meant that relative to other law schools, W & L’s median went down every year. As a result, W & L’s median LSAT was in the top 20 among law schools in 2008, and was not even in the top 30 in 2012.
I also noted that to the extent W & L’s admissions stats are taking a dramatic turn for the better, it may not be because of its curriculum, but because W & L is being especially generous with financial aid, making it, on average, one of the least expensive law schools in the U.S. News top 40 for out of state students.
Moliterno replies that when asked about the strengths of the law school, students ranked the curriculum number one, and financial [...]
National Jurist decided to toss its hat into the law school rankings ring, and the result is something of a joke. Among other things, NJ decided to base 20 percent of each school’s score on the haphazard evaluation of its professors on Ratemyprofessors.com. (No, really. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) As Brian Leiter notes, this ranks among the most ridiculous criteria ever used in a law school ranking. It would be methodologically absurd to base any amount of a school’s ranking on this “data,” but 20 percent? And someone got paid to put this together? If that were not bad enough, some of Leiter’s readers appear to have discovered errors in the calculations, and that’s before raising questions about other aspects of these new rankings. It’s no wonder Above the Law calls these rankings “pure ridiculousness.”
I have no problem with law school rankings and greater law school transparency. Giving prospective law students more ways to evaluate their options is all to the good. No ranking is perfect. For instance, there are good arguments for placing greater weight on costs and outcomes than does U.S. News, and there has been an interesting debate about how best to measure faculty productivity and scholarly impact. It can be informative to consider why some schools perform better under one set of metrics than another. If the methodology is reasonably sound (and competently applied) it will reveal something, and readers can decide for themselves how much weight to give the results. But for a ranking to be worthwhile, it must represent a good faith effort to measure something that matters. How anyone at NJ thought their new ranking satisfied this minimal criterion is beyond me.
Bill Henderson has a post over at The Legal Whiteboard that has been getting a lot of attention in law school circles, praising W & L’s innovative curriculum, which focuses on practical lawyer skills, as both an educational success and as a hit with law school applicants. Bill goes over some of W & L’s recent admissions data, and concludes: ”A sizeable number of prospective students really do care about practical skills training and are voting with their feet. W&L has therefore become a big winner in the race for applicants.”
Some caution is in order here. My understanding is that W & L’s median LSAT score was in the top 20 of law schools when it announced its experiential curriculum in 2008, and that it’s gone down every year since, while its GPA rank has, after a plunge, more or less returned to where it was. As Bill points out, W & L had a banner “yield” last year, with many more students accepting offers than places available, with a substantial percentage of students being asked to defer, and the first-year class still filled beyond capacity. So we’ll have to see whether future statistics reflect strong gains in GPA and LSAT ranks, or whether W & L is attracting many students, but the “best” (most sought-after because of their LSATs and GPA, which are for the most part all law schools care about thanks to US News) students are still avoiding it.
Even if W & L does wind up with increasingly strong classes while everyone else is struggling, it wouldn’t be clear that its curriculum is the primary cause, or perhaps a cause at all. Washington & Lee has a tuition “sticker price” of around $42,000, but is known for being among the most generous law [...]
A few days ago I posted on WSJ and NYT articles talking about the opening of new law schools in the midst of a crash in law student applications. Since then, a couple of other professors have posted comments on the topic, and I thought I’d flag them. NYU law professor Robert Howse, writing at Prawfslawblog, argues that the gloom and doom is overwrought, and suggests that American law schools will be able to look to foreign students, not just to fill LLM slots, but JD classes as well:
Application for JD slots are down-we all know that. But even assuming that’s a longer-term trend rather than a reflection of th economic anxieties and difficulties of the last years, there is no reason for panic or despair. The potential of America’s law schools is only starting to be realized.
The global market for US legal education was traditionally regarded as composed of a relatively small group of foreign-educated lawyers seek advanced degrees. But this changing. Increasingly, a US JD degree is an attractive option for foreign students. And you have probably noticed more non-US JDs in your classes. In most countries law is the subject of a first degree after high school. The market could be expanded of US law schools were to offer a combination undergraduate degree in another discipline and a law degree-what about a 5 or 6 year program that leads to a BA in economics or political science or philosophy and a JD?
The fact is that American law schools have a competitive advantage. To be sure there is excellent legal education in some other countries. But my considerable global experience suggests to me that those countries are few. In most places, legal education is dominated by old-fashioned rote learning and by professors who spend
Coming on top of news of the sharp declines in law school applications, the Wall Street Journal reports today on new law schools opening. The headline captures it: “A Crop of New Law Schools Opens Amid a Lawyer Glut.” Jennifer Smith reports that thought law school applications are at “their lowest in a decade,” a handful of universities are moving forward to open new law schools:
Some of the new schools are intended for regions where law schools are scarce or are being built to round out a university’s suite of professional schools. But many of them are likely to find themselves competing for a shrinking pool of would-be lawyers and sending hopeful graduates into one of the toughest markets in years for law jobs.
Indiana Tech’s new law school in Fort Wayne will be the state’s fifth when it opens this fall. The law school the University of North Texas plans to open in Dallas next year will be just down the road from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, and less than an hour’s drive from one in Fort Worth that Texas A&M University is in the process of buying from Texas Wesleyan University, one of nine in the state.
The numbers don’t favor these new schools. Last year the pool of law-school applicants shrank to about 68,000, down about 13% from 2011 and more than 30% from the past decade’s peak of about 100,000 in 2004, according to the Law School Admission Council, a nonprofit group that administers the Law School Admission Test and compiles admissions data.
Probably many of these universities figure that they can afford long time-lines, as the article points out, and so can treat the current downturn as merely cyclical. These law schools have also probably been in the university pipeline for [...]
Back in 2008 or so, a VC reader told me that because of my blogging about the housing bubble in 2004-05, he put off buying a house and was very glad he did. Now, he said, he was wondering when would be the best time to buy a house from a capital gains perspective. I responded that the best time to buy real estate, or really any investment, is when “everyone” is saying it’s a terrible investment. On Wall Street, when buyers have almost disappeared from a market, and prices seem in permanent free fall (as in March 2009), it’s referred to as “capitulation.” (Both then and in October 2008, I was busy buying closed-end mutual funds, which “capitulated” to an even greater degree than the market as a whole, and for which I had an objective measure of their relative undervaluation.)
If we’re not as this stage with regard to demand for law school, we are damn close, with applications running about half the level of six years ago. Law school certainly isn’t for everyone, and how worthwhile economically it might be for anyone in particular has to start with that individual’s opportunity cost and where he gets admitted–it’s a very different decision if you currently are thriving as a consultant than if you are currently advancing your barista skills at Starbucks, and very different if you get into Harvard than into a newly accredited school in a saturated legal market, and very different if you can keep your current job and get an automatic pay raise (as in some government jobs) for getting a law degree and if you will likely need to hang out a shingle but have poor social skills.
But there hasn’t been a better time to apply to law school in a long [...]
A University of Iowa law student alerted me that video of Wagner v. Jones, the lawsuit against the University of Iowa law school alleging ideological discrimination against a conservative legal writing instructor, is available here. The student also writes: “While I do not know Ms. Wagner, I know, and have taken classes from, a number of the professors she alleges discriminated against her on the basis of her politics. I find her claims to be implausible based on what I know about these professors and the academic community here.” [...]