This is a presentation I gave to the University of Auckland Faculty of Law on May 19, 2014, on the state of legal education in the United States.
This is a presentation I gave students at the University of Auckland on May 19, 2014. It provides a very brief overview for foreign law graduates considering pursuing an LLM degree at a U.S. law school, with specific application to the UCLA School of Law.
I wish I could be there in person to congratulate you as your law school career comes to its end, but duty called and I am showing the UCLA flag down here in New Zealand (and rough duty it is ... not).
So let me offer long distance congratulations and best wishes for a happy and successful career.
Keep in touch.
Over at Prawfsblawg, Jennifer Bard runs the same old concerns about student evaluations up the flagpole one more time. She provides links to some of the vast literature on how lousy student evaluations are at measuring inputs. But who cares?
In 26 years of law teaching, I have yet to come across anybody in the legal academy who was really willing to face the hard reality that what matters are outcomes.
The question ought not to be how popular a given teacher is (which is what evaluations currently measure for the most part), but how well have our students learned the skills and knowledge they will need for practicing law. But how to measure that fact?
Well, how about a No Law Student Left Behind approach? Have the ABA and AALS come up with a list of practice relevant courses. Require every law teacher to teach at least one practice relevant course off the list (no more larding your entire teaching schedule with Law and the Visual Arts or Law and Medieval Icelandic Blood Sagas). Develop a nationwide standardized test for each course on the list. Require all law students to sit for the standardized exam for each subject they take. Publish the results for each school on a free website, so prospective law students can compare how effectively different faculties teach the subjects in which they have the most interest. Have each school post the scores for each teacher on their intraweb, so that enrolled students can make more informed choices. Let disclosure do the rest.
I understand that No Child Left behind is controversial. I understand that teaching to the test is not ideal. But I also understand that measuring outcomes is always most controversial to the people who will be held accountable. Look at all the whining from teachers' unions about linking pay to performance on tests. Can you imagine the whining we'd get from the legal academy if this idea were widely accepted?
Of course, this idea has no hope. Because law school faculties aren't yet ready to get serious about the harsh reality that we a business and businesses require metrics by which to hold their employees accountable.
Columbia University has announced that:
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollingertoday announced his appointment of Gillian Lester, professor and acting dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, as the fifteenth dean of Columbia Law School, effective January 1, 2015. ...
“I’m honored to take on the leadership of Columbia Law School at this pivotal time,” said Lester. “I’m looking forward to working with its distinguished faculty, talented students and accomplished alumni. Indeed, I’m looking forward to joining the broader Columbia community and ensuring that the Law School continues to play an essential role in this truly great University.”
Setting aside the fact that this is yet another example of how Canadians are taking good US jobs, both Gillian and Columbia are to be congratulated. They should make a great match.
Any of his other friends know how to work Wikipedia and have an interest in helping me put one together?
Sasha Volokh did a great job of putting one together. Many, many thanks.
I have to give a talk next month on the state of legal education. As someone who falls in between the "law school is a scam" and the "law school is great" folks, I think the system doesn't need to be blown up but also that some reforms in legal education are essential. But what are the odds they're going to happen?
Here are my Big 10 reforms. My questions for readers are (a) have I left any out and (b) do I have them correctly ranked by order of probability they will actually happen (going from most to least likely). Please note that this list is NOT normative. It's not the order in which I think reforms ought to happen, but rather the order of the likelihood I think they might happen:
Warning: Experience teaches that law school reform posts tend to bring out the trolls. So read the comment policy first.
Kerr exposes the absurdity of Chemerinsky and Menkel-Meadow's NY Times op-ed on law school "reform." I understand that Chemerinsky needs to justify the utterly unnecessary law school he started, but as Kerr argues, their proposed reforms make no sense:
Chemerinsky and Menkel-Meadow offer these suggestions in part to make the case for a third year of law school. But a lot of students are looking to practice in areas that don’t deal with the crucial issues of our time and don’t aim to solve global social problems. If those students would prefer not to pay another $50k in tuition to take those classes, why should the law schools mandate a third year of school just to give students an opportunity they don’t want?
If business schools can turn out qualified executives in two years, why can't law schools turn out qualified lawyers in 2 years? For that matter, why is law taught in a graduate school instead of as an undergraduate major?
Apparently Robert Illig has set off quite a kefuffle at the University of Oregon law school:
Several members of the law school email lists (which included staff, secretaries etc.) have forwarded these two emails from professor Rob Illig (Law) about a plan apparently floated by Law Dean Michael Moffitt (paid $292,800 after a recent raise) to deal with the law school’s enrollment problems and US News ranking, which has fallen from #80 to #100 since Moffitt took over in 2011.
The plan? Cancel raises for the faculty, and use the money to
increase student scholarshipscreate a program to give non-profits money to hire law school graduates, boosting the employment numbers that go into the US News rank.
In addition to having sent some rather angry emails to his colleagues at the law school, Illig is waging battle in the comments section of the blog post that published his emails to the world. (HT: Caron)
I am reminded here of a controversy that broke out at the University of Virginia law school when I was a student. When one of the leading professors at the school was accused of racism, he responded with a letter to the student newspaper. Suffice it to say, the letter did not help.
The next day my Labor Law professor, the great Stanley Henderson, started class by referring indirectly to the fuss and gave us some very good advice:
"Say it with roses, say it with mink, but never ever say it in ink."
It's a lesson that has served me well, especially because those occasions on which I deviated from it have rarely turned out well.
Especially in these days when the scam law meme remains prevalent, law professors who complain publicly about salaries, teaching loads, or what have you--no matter how justified (and Illig's outrage seems perfectly well justified)--simply can't win.
Update: Predictably, Above the Law weighed in by mocking Illig's emails (calling them "simply wondrous), concluding that:
We understand where Professor Illig is coming from, but he sounds like an entitled baby.
One can only shudder when imagining what the comment section to that post is going to look like.
When the ABA thought about eliminating tenure as a condition of law school accreditation, folks like me who worried about academic freedom and the few conservatives in legal education being purged were told we were idiots. But it seems increasingly plausible.
First, there was Brendan Eich - purged from his job.
Next there was Ayaan Hirsa Alie - purged from Brandeis' graduation.
And now the "tolerant" left is going after Condoleezza Rice to prevent her from joing Dropbox's board.
It's like somebody decided it was open season on conservatives.
Scrap tenure and you could add conservative academics to the list of targets. After all, the tolerant left at UCLA has already taken one run at yours truly. Without tenure, they might have succeeded.
The eminently sensible Usha Rodrigues offers up this advice for young faculty trying to find a work/life balance:
I had a mentor give me excellent advice my first year:
Just say no.
At least, your default answer should be "no." To my chagrin, I realized something at the end of my first year of teaching: This job has infinite demands. There are 3 elements to it: teaching, scholarship, and service. You could devote every waking moment to your teaching, and still have more you could do. Ditto for service. Ditto to the nth degree for scholarship: always another talk you could attend, an article you could read. But you can't do those things and write. At least, I can't. You have to get used to always feeling like there's more you can do. You'll feel guilt, but you have to make your peace with it.
I set boundaries for myself, like trying not to travel more than once a month while classes are in session. But the best piece of advice I got was that your default answer should be "no."
I'll give you a concrete example: These days it's very easy for students to fire off long lists of questions about class by email, especially around exam time. But I am a two-fingered typist with 113 students in Business Associations and 106 in Mergers and Acquisitions. If I tried to answer email questions, it'd be a full time job. (Trust me, I have tried, and it is full time.) So I have a blanket policy in my syllabus stating that I don't answer substantive questions by email. Instead, I make my self available through office hours and a review session in each course.
Professor Alan R. Bromberg, a University Distinguished Professor of Law at SMU Dedman School of Law, died March 27, 2014 at the age of 85. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, earned his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Harvard in 1949, and his J.D. from Yale University in 1952. He was a senior fellow of the Yale Law faculty and visiting professor at Stanford Law School.
He was the author of a number of authoritative publications, including Bromberg & Lowenfels on Securities Fraud and Commodities Fraud (Thomson/West, 2d edition, 8 volumes, & Annual Supplements), Bromberg & Ribstein on Partnership (Aspen 1997, 4 volumes, & Annual Supplements), Bromberg & Ribstein on Limited Liability Partnerships, The Revised Uniform Partnership Act and the Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act, and numerous articles on tax, partnership, corporate, securities, and commodities law. He was cited in 2494 law reviews and journals, a total of 348 Federal Court published decisions, and 171 State Court published decisions. The New York Times recognized Bromberg’s expertise and interviewed him many times over the years; he was quoted approximately thirty times in various articles.
Bromberg's expertise extended beyond partnership law, of course, but within that field he was an exceptionally important and influential figure.
There's a remarkably mean-spirited airing of the University of Florida law school's dirty laundry in an op-ed today by Florida professor Michelle Jacobs. As I understand it, University of Florida President Machen rejected two candidates favored by the Florida law faculty. Jacobs claims that:
Machen could not give any concrete explanation for why the candidates forwarded to him, particularly University of Kentucky College of Law Dean David Brennen and former ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner, could not satisfy his criteria.
In an email sent to our faculty, he stated that he made his decision after consulting "stakeholders." These "stakeholders" could not have been anyone from our community who would have worked with the new dean. We suspect that these "stakeholders" were the individuals who tried to force Alex Acosta, dean of the Florida International University College of Law, upon our faculty.
Our faculty rejected him as unsuitable.
I don't know Acosta, but as a seemingly successful dean who was the only Hispanic and only South Floridian on the short list, it's not obvious why he was unacceptable. Unless ...:
According to published reports, Acosta was eliminated because of negative reactions from the law faculty on two issues—Acosta's involvement in a 2004 voting rights case in Ohio when he was a Justice Department assistant attorney general and sanctions imposed in a 2009 drug case when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.
Acosta came under scrutiny in 2004 after he wrote a letter to an Ohio judge four days before the election arguing it would "undermine" the enforcement of federal and state election laws if citizens could not challenge voters' credentials. The judge was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly African-American voters.
In 2009, a Miami federal judge reprimanded Acosta, the U.S. attorney's office and trial attorneys for secretly taping the defense team of a physician who was ultimately acquitted in a prescription drug case. The reprimand and $601,795 in sanctions were reversed on appeal.
Throw out the reprimand as having been thrown out by the appeals court. This leaves the rather disturbing possibility that Acosta was rejected because he was a Republican lawyer working for the Justice Department at a time when voter fraud issues were high profile concerns.
So today's rebuttable presumption is that conservative legal academics should steer clear of Florida.
My mentor Mike Dooley served for many years on the ABA Corporate Law Committee. In response to Mike's recent passing, the Committee adopted a lovely and moving tribute to him:
WHEREAS, the Corporate Laws Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association (the “Committee”) has been informed of the passing of Professor Michael P. Dooley on February 18, 2014, and therefore wishes to acknowledge and memorialize Professor Dooley’s enormous contributions to the work of the Committee, to the Business Law Section, and to the field of business law,
IT IS RESOLVED, that on behalf of its current and former members, advisors, consultants and liaisons, the Committee expresses its sincere condolences to Mrs. Jean H. Dooley and her family on the passing of her husband and dear friend of the Committee;
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee expresses its gratitude to Professor Dooley’s wife Mrs. Jean H. Dooley and to his children, Michael Sean Dooley and Anne Dooley (Aaron Ferster), granddaughters Hannah and Ruthie Ferster, sisters-in-law Susan Harman and Ann Aylward, nieces Ellen Corsiglia and Jane Clemmons, nephews Pat Dooley, Terry Dooley, Michael Dooley, and Jim Dooley, for generously sharing Professor’s Dooley’s time and attention with the Committee;
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee expresses its deep appreciation for Professor Dooley’s work for the Committee, first as an elected member of the Committee from 1983 to 1989, and as the Committee’s Reporter from 1996 through 2012;
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee notes Professor Dooley’s extensive influence as a mentor to the members of the Committee and as a rich source of institutional memory and insight about the content, evolution, and societal purpose of the Model Business Corporation Act and of corporate and securities law generally;
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee notes with approval and adopts the sentiments expressed by Professors Paul G. Mahoney and Stephen M. Bainbridge in A Tribute to Michael P. Dooley, 98 Virginia Law Review 1427 (2012), published on the occasion of Professor Dooley’s retirement from the University of Virginia Law School;
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee communicate its abiding respect for and gratitude to Professor Dooley for the acute intelligence, level-headed practicality, abundant humor, and keen sense of diplomacy with which he carried out his responsibilities as a member of and Reporter for the Committee; and
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Committee publish this resolution on its web site and present it to Mrs. Jean H. Dooley and her family, and to the University of Virginia Law School.
Northwestern Dean Dan Rodriguez has a message for all the Chicken Littles out there (and their blogosphere enablers). Unfortunately, the law school is a scam crowd is ineducable--or even capable of reasoned argument.