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.
As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.
(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)
We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.
What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….
New York City is the logical starting point for this occasional series highlighting law schools in specific locales. New Yorkers’ self-regard is bloated enough to believe they are at the Center of the Universe and that everything that happens there is naturally interesting to everyone, everywhere. The ATL Insider Survey asks, among other things, current law students to rate how their schools are doing in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.