April 27, 2007
Best of Mountain View 2007
Everyone loves rankings, so here is the 2007 ranking of the best services in Mountain View. I think in general this list is very good, but of course we could quibble--our favorite burritos are from Bueno Bueno; we think Garden Fresh (a cherished institution in our pre-Milwaukee days) has slipped; and I've never understood the big fuss over Amber India. But other conclusions are spot-on: Amarin for Thai food (ask for the special/separate vegetarian menu), and Hobee's for breakfast. Good stuff.
April 21, 2007
Do Small Firm Lawyers Work Less than Big Firm Lawyers?
Students commonly assume that small firm lawyers work less hard than big firm lawyers. For example, when I ask students what they want to do after graduation, not atypically they will say "I want to work in a small firm." Apparently to these students, it doesn't matter to them what practice area or geography, just so long as the firm is small. It's as if all of the downsides of big firms melt away when you remove some lawyers.
But the reality may be different. This article from NY Lawyer (free reg req'd) offers some explanations for why small firm lawyers may work harder than big firm lawyers to yield the same number of billable hours (basically, the article assumes that at big firms, you can overstate your time more easily--ethics of overbilling aside).
This article reinforces why it's important to transcend the stereotypes about who works harder. Size of firm might have a rough correlation with the amount of hours worked by its attorneys, but the correlation is only rough, and every firm has its own unique corporate culture on this question. It could be a significant mistake to use firm size as a reliable proxy.
April 20, 2007
Why Blog Readers Drop RSS Feeds
"34 Reasons Why People Unsubscribe from RSS feeds:
 Too many posts (the post levels are too overwhelming)
 Infrequent Posting (or the blog is effectively dead)
 Partial Excerpts Feeds
 Blog Changes Focus (too much off topic posting)
 Too many posts that I see elsewhere (Redundant, Repeated or Recycled News)..."
This reinforces that there's a "sweet spot" of blog volume--not too much, not too little.
April 17, 2007
WI to Authorize Free Beer Samples at Grocers
From the AP: Wisconsin is poised to remove the handcuffs on free beer samples, allowing grocers and liquor stores to hand out free 6 oz samples of their own. I really think this quote from a Wisconsin legislator says it all: "It's a good bill. It's a Wisconsin bill. It's a beer bill."
April 15, 2007
Barely Making it on $160,000
This article describes what new Bay Area associates are doing with their $160,000 starting salary. Apparently, between taxes, student loans, rent and saving for a new house, these new associates aren't living large.
April 12, 2007
Gurley on Epinions Lawsuits
The SJ Mercury News ran an interview with Bill Gurley, a VC at Benchmark Capital. On the subject of Epinions:
Q Speaking of the shape you're in, was the first Epinions case resolved? I noticed a newer, related case arise just this month with different plaintiffs. What's up?
A EBay settled the suit a year ago, and I wouldn't consider any of the marginal activity (including the newest suit) very material.
Epinions was founded at the height of the bubble. The team ramped to 130 employees and lots of mistakes were made at that point. When the bubble burst, the business was cut down to 21 employees who spent the next few years working really hard. We held merger discussions with seven companies, got four or five offers and sold to the highest bidder. Then it went public. Some people said we knew it would happen. We didn't. And if you talk to any of the employees who lived through the hard days, they were extremely excited about the outcome.
Q Another person named in the suits has been Epinions' co-founder Nirav Tolia, who later became COO of Shopping.com and made tens of millions of dollars from its IPO. He left that post when it was discovered he'd long lied about his work history and educational background, including that he'd graduated from Stanford when he hadn't. And yet I hear you might back him again in another venture.
A We've no commitment to him at this point in time, though I would back him again. He made a mistake, but it happened 10 years ago.
I'm not sure about the specific headcount numbers, but directionally the statement is 100% correct. I haven't seen details of the latest lawsuit and would welcome more info.
April 07, 2007
Law Professor Salaries 2006-07
For a couple of years now, the search term "law professor salary" or "law professor salaries" consistently has been one of the top 10 search terms used to find my blogs. It seems to be a topic of significant interest! See my earlier post: What kind of pay can a law professor expect? (March 2005)
Fortunately, we have some new data to obsess over. SALT has published its 2006-07 survey of law professor salaries. This gives a rough sense of the going rates for various law professors, although I must confess that I don't find the numbers fully credible. For example, Gonzaga's listing appears to contain an obvious error when the assistant professor median is $119k but the full professor median is only $82k. I'm sure this is reversed. Also, less than half of the schools responded, giving us an incomplete view of the field. Finally, I'm sure that most of the schools' numbers don't include summer research stipends, administrative stipends, retirement plan contributions and other financial incentives offered to professors, so I'm guessing the dichotomy between schools is even greater than indicated. (Those additional compensation factors may be included in the ambiguous "fringe benefits" category--I wasn't sure what that column represented). Brian Leiter gives some good guidance for interpreting law professor salary data generally.
For some more reliable data, see Virgina's law professor salaries, the SFGate report on UC law professor salaries and Paul Caron's data comparing salaries at the UC schools and Virginia. As you can see, at the high end, some professors are making some eye-popping numbers.
In any case, taking the SALT data as given, note the big spread for assistant professors, ranging from a median of $70,000 at NC Central to a median of $143,000 at Michigan--a spread of more than 2X. The spread appears even larger at the full professor level. Ignoring the Gonzaga outlier, the median range is from $83,000 at DC Law School (a brutally low number) to $241,000 at Harvard--almost 3X!
The data also indicates the relatively slow progression of law professor salaries. At most schools, the full professor median is less than 50% more than assistant professor median, showing that salary increases are very low from year-to-year. (Harvard is one of the rare exceptions to this, where the ratio is about 2X). I've complained before that law professor salaries often grow at a rate lower than inflation, and I think this data provides some support for that. On the other hand, looking at my post from 2005, I see some positive growth in the numbers--at some schools in 2004, the median range for assistant professors used to dip below $60,000.
Finally, this data reinforces how to think about the financial implications of becoming a law professor. This is not a career path for those who want to get fabulously rich, and many of us make less than our students who take first year associate jobs at the big NY firms (now paying $160,000). However, most of us also make enough money to live a comfortable if conservative lifestyle. And we as law professors are generally better off than our academic peers.
April 04, 2007
Law Professor Tampers with Student Evaluations
From InsideHigherEd: "This much is undisputed: One evening three years ago, a then-professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Law tampered with anonymous student evaluations that rate teaching effectiveness. Kenneth Kress admits to replacing three unfavorable student-completed questionnaires with his own versions and altering two others to improve his rating."