For the past few years, law schools have been in a state of crisis, and it’s getting worse. Prospective students just aren’t as interested as they used to be in borrowing up to six figures of government Monopoly money in the hope of surviving the post-graduation gauntlet of legal employment. At last count, applicants were down 11.1 percent from this time last year, and national 1L enrollment is down 24 percent from where it was in 2010.
Unable to keep up with the changing times and put asses in seats, law schools are doing anything they can to cut costs — up to and including laying off faculty and staff. Amid hefty declines in enrollment, some schools seem to be struggling.
But which law schools have suffered most? Even though law is a profession obsessed with rankings, this is one list your school probably doesn’t want to be on…
* Sedgwick is the latest Biglaw firm to jump on the back-office bandwagon. The firm will be moving all of its administrative operations — from HR to IT — to Kansas City, Missouri. Don’t be sad, it’s probably better than West Virginia. [Am Law Daily]
* Lawyers may be pecking at Biglaw’s rotting carcass, but at least there are lessons to be learned for Big Med, the next profession supposedly on the brink of implosion. It’s time to stop obsessing over revenue and rankings. [The Atlantic]
* Ten states rushed to help Utah defend its ban on gay marriage using “pretty embarrassing” arguments, but Nevada just washed its hands of its own appeal, saying its ban was “no longer defensible.” [Bloomberg]
* Here’s something that’ll make you love or hate Chris Christie even more: he once made Bristol-Myers Squibb donate $5 million to Seton Hall Law to avoid securities fraud charges. Yep. [Washington Post]
* Faruqi & Faruqi doesn’t want its attorneys’ compensation information to be disclosed to Alexandra Marchuk in her sexual harassment case against the firm. A kinder, gentler firm, huh? [Law 360 (sub. req.)]
* Soon you’ll be able to take the bar before you graduate in New York, but only if you do pro bono work during spring semester of your 3L year — and you’ll likely have to pay to complete it. [New York Times]
* If you just took the LSAT, you’re cutting it pretty close, buddy. Guesstimate your score so you can avoid sending out applications that will make admissions officers laugh. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* Good news if you’re a better golfer than your buddies: if you play in New Jersey, you’re not liable when another member of your group injures someone with an errant ball hit into the proverbial lumber yard. On the other hand, you’ll have to be in New Jersey. [The Legal Blitz]
* Hank Greenberg continues his effort to throw roadblocks in the way of the NY AG investigation into AIG. Now he’s accusing the AAG on the case of ethical lapses, which is only fair since that’s what everyone else is accusing Greenberg of. [NY Daily News]
* It’s official: Biglaw fees are unreasonable. At least by South Florida standards. [South Florida Lawyers]
* A Nevada judge was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter in the death of a bicyclist. If convicted, he could spend up to six months in jail. I’d like to imagine this would play out a lot like when Rorschach went to prison. [Associated Press]
* If you’re in NYC tomorrow evening, the New York City Bar Association is hosting a free event titled “The First Amendment in an Age of Terror” featuring Professor Jonathan Hafetz of Seton Hall University School of Law; James Goodale of Debevoise & Plimpton; Judge Robert D. Sack; Spencer Ackerman, the U.S. National Security Editor for The Guardian; and Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union. [New York City Bar Association]
* Syracuse College of Law students have an early Law Revue video for us. Strap in for a Mariah Carey parody that involves a baby getting a hatchet to the face. That sounds way darker than it really is. Video embedded below….
I recently participated in an excellent symposium about the future of legal education that was sponsored by the Seton Hall Law Review. Congratulations to the law review editors on putting on a great event, and thanks to them for inviting me to be a part of it.
Most of the presentations took the form of detailed papers that will be published in the law school’s symposium issue. But there were a few moments of levity, represented by the following seven notable quotations (comments that I found either amusing or interesting):
This law school has a healthy approach to slimming down.
Layoffs continue to march through law firms. We reported yet another layoff story earlier today.
But now we have some happy news to share, regarding potential layoffs that were averted. A law school that was contemplating junior-faculty layoffs fortunately won’t have to go through with the cuts it had been contemplating.
Which law school achieved this feat? And what lessons might it have to offer to other law schools that are attempting to rightsize themselves in this challenging environment for legal education?
In fairness, only one legal story dominated the week. The Zimmerman verdict provided a new twist daily. It even got Kim Kardashian involved, which was a relief to the unwashed masses waiting to hear how a spoiled sex-tape star would react to a verdict at the intersection of race and gun policy.
But the most newsworthy verdict in years was not the only thing happening this week, regardless of what CNN would like you to believe…
This study isn’t throwing darts at a dartboard, this study is going up to the dartboard, placing the darts where you want, and then hoping nobody notices.
I don’t know how the intellectually dishonest people who try to trick people into going to law school based on misleading statistics sleep at night. It’s one thing to see economic drivel rerouted through the admissions mouthpieces who are just looking to make a sale to keep their jobs. But when it comes from law deans or law professors — people who are supposed to be educators and apply a modicum of rigorous intellectual thought to their writings — it’s just sad.
We’ve got another one of these “studies” that purports to show that a law degree is actually quite valuable, while blatantly ignoring all of the things that have led to ruinous financial consequences for so many students drawn into the clutches of law school. I was going to ignore it: partially because I’ve knocked down all these terrible arguments before when looking at the intellectual drivel emanating from the Denver Sturm College of Law, partially because I wonder sometimes if giving these smoke and mirror studies the light of day does more harm than good.
But, tipsters are emailing in and the ridiculous claim is the lead story on other websites, so whatever, let’s address the claim that a law degree is worth $1 million dollars over the course of a lifetime…
Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post, with commentary from Professor Michael Simkovic.
* Pass the ammunition? After facing a court-mandated deadline from the Seventh Circuit, Illinois is now the last state in the country to have legalized the concealed carrying of firearms. [Chicago Tribune]
* Now that SCOTUS has punted on the question of gay marriage, other plaintiffs are stepping forward to sue for the right to wed. Next up, a challenge to Pennsylvania’s ban on equality. [Legal Intelligencer]
* James “Whitey” Bulger let f-bombs fly across the courtroom during his trial yesterday when his former partner took the stand to testify against the mob boss. Once a Masshole, always a Masshole. [CNN]
Untenured law professors are not protected from pink slips.
As law school applications continue to decline, law schools must make hard choices. A law school can maintain the size of its entering class — and the revenue stream generated by those students — but at the cost of lowering its admissions standards. Or a law school can shrink the size of its entering class, accepting the decline in revenue to maintain the caliber of its student body, and make up for the lost revenue by cutting costs.
In my view, the second approach is superior. As the legal job market continues to shrink, with even top law firms conducting large-scale layoffs, it makes sense for law schools to produce fewer graduates. The legal profession is “right-sizing,” and law schools should follow suit.
But even if the second approach is better than the first, it’s not without pain. Last week, we heard reports of one law school basically axing its entire junior faculty. All of the untenured professors received notice that their contracts might not be renewed for the 2014-2015 academic year. Ouch.
As is so often the case, though, there’s more to this story than meets the eye….
Employers in Finland are legally prohibited from running web searches on job applicants. This anti-Googling rule seeks to protect privacy.
We don’t take that approach here in the United States. Although running internet searches on job applicants can raise legalissues, the practice is generally permissible.
So it’s important for current and aspiring employees to maintain clean digital footprints. You never know when an employer, like an elite international law firm, might learn of your criminal past, like your prior conviction for a sex offense….
Please note the UPDATE added below regarding the nature of the offense.