July 09, 2012
Pursuing a Career in Advertising Law
This post discusses how law students might pursue a career in advertising law. Immediately after law school, the two most likely advertising law job options are:
1) a position at a private law firm that has an advertising law department. The Bay Area doesn’t have many such firms/departments. Most advertising law departments are located in New York, Washington DC or Chicago. Elsewhere, most law firms don't have an advertising law specialist, but their trademark attorneys handle advertising review and counseling as an ordinary but small part of their practice. As a result, new attorneys seeking to build an advertising law practice may find it easier to start as a trademark attorney. Unfortunately, even new entry-level trademark positions are relatively rare in the Bay Area, and these positions usually don’t handle the full range of advertising law issues such as consumer class action litigation.
Alternatively, a new advertising law attorney can start as a litigator. If a firm doesn’t have an advertising law department, investigate its commercial litigation practice; firms may have an active class action defense practice that will present substantial advertising law crossovers. Sometimes, this work is housed in the firm’s antitrust/competition practice.
2) a government job with a regulatory agency that includes advertising oversight, such as the Federal Trade Commission (which has an honors program but otherwise may not regularly hire entry-level attorneys), the Federal Communications Commission (which covers lots of interesting broadcaster advertising issues), Department of Justice (its civil fraud division handles consumer fraud), other federal government agencies with an advertising law portfolio (e.g., the FDA), or state consumer protection agencies. Some DA's/prosecutor offices have dedicated divisions to consumer issues. Some state AG offices, such as New York and Florida, have particularly active advertising law dockets; and California's AG has a Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit. A few city/county prosecutors’ offices have dedicated lawyers to consumer/advertising issues.
Many larger companies, especially those in the consumer products arena, have dedicated in-house counsel positions focused on advertising law. Like all in-house counsel positions, it can be difficult to get those positions as a new lawyer. Instead, those positions are typically filled by attorneys who take one of the two initial routes described above.
Another entry-level route is to seek out a position in a plaintiff-side litigation firm, such as those that specialize in class actions or other consumer-related litigation. It's rare for those firms to focus solely on advertising law issues, but it is common for those firms to regularly litigate, and become well-versed in, many of the advertising law statutes. These firms rarely do on-campus interviewing, so finding job opportunities with them requires independent legwork.
Finally, many public interest organizations address advertising law issues in one fashion or another.
Some resources you might use to help launch your career:
* the ABA Antitrust Section has several committees of interest, including the Private Advertising Litigation Committee. They have an email list and regular teleconferences.
* Consumer Attorneys of California is one of the major plaintiff-side bar associations in California. There are local analogues, such as the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, the Capitol City Trial Lawyers, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, and Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. Nationally, the American Association for Justice is the leading plaintiff-side bar association, and it has various topical groups related to consumer and advertising law.
While in school, some of the courses worth taking include:
* advertising law (naturally!). If your school doesn’t offer it but you think a professor might be interested in teaching the course, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with the prospective instructor. Consumer law may be a useful substitute for or complement to advertising law
* complex litigation courses, such as class actions or pre-trial practice
* research methods/statistics
* intellectual property courses, especially trademarks and publicity rights
* administrative law
* Internet law
A few blogs you should consider reading:
September 19, 2010
Note to Law Students: A Way to Jumpstart Your Job Search
The New York Times has a nice feature on Joshua Fisher, a Minnesota Law 3L who runs "dodgerdivorce.com," which tracks every detail in the messy divorce between the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Through his blog coverage, Fisher has become a go-to commentator on the divorce and its implications for the team.
With respect to his job search, the article quotes Fisher as saying "Employers like people with a story, and I have a better story now than I did a year ago and I see the difference." *This* is one way you can jumpstart your job search. We can't all get lucky enough to spot a big issue as it's exploding. However, every law student has the capacity to develop specialized expertise on a commercially valuable topic, demonstrate that expertise to future employers through written work product, and become an authoritative and respected source on that topic. As Fisher indicates, doing so creates a completely different dynamic with employers than simply presenting oneself as a smart candidate with a lot of promise.
March 16, 2010
How to Win a Legal Writing Competition in 3 Surprisingly Easy Steps
I have been an organizer and grader for a number of writing competitions over the years. Collectively, I've reviewed dozens of writing competition submissions, some good, most not so good. This post provides you with a three-step protocol for legal writing competition success. You might be surprised that it is easier to win than you think.
Step 1: Research competitions
Your first step is to learn about the competitions. It can be hard to get credible information about writing competitions because they change their rules or shut down entirely without much notice. My mom, her researcher and I have worked together to compile the legal writing competitions into a book, “How to Pay for Your Law Degree.” Most law schools have a copy on campus which you can review for free (usually in the law library, but sometimes in the financial aid or career placement offices). Or, if you want, you can order your own copy for about $30 at Amazon.
You should scan the book to get a sense of what writing competitions exist, the paper topics that might fulfill some competitions, typical deadlines and eligibility requirements.
Step 2: Write a Paper
Armed with some knowledge of writing competition requirements, your next step is to write a paper that can compete.
To help you write your paper, if you don’t already own it, you should get Prof. Eugene Volokh’s book Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review. This book helps you navigate every step in the paper-writing process.
The book will answer most of your questions, but let me add a little advice about writing a paper that can win writing competitions. From my perspective, the key to winning is picking a good topic. This may be obvious, but students often focus more effort on conforming to the Bluebook and the style manuals; those are helpful, but they will not determine your success in a writing competition. Instead, pick a good topic and execute it competently, and you position yourself well for victory. In contrast, pick a poor topic, and even if you execute it brilliantly with the finest footnotes and no style errors, you still aren't competitive.
Regarding topics, I recommend that you start thinking about topics early. By doing so, you can start collecting material and thinking about the topic in your spare mental cycles rather than rushing around at the last minute. Stated differently, it’s easier to write a good paper on deadline with a warm start than a cold one. Also, it is hard to write a good paper in a single semester. You might consider ways to work on your paper before and after a semester to make sure you have adequate time to refine your thoughts, develop your arguments and polish your paper.
As Volokh discusses in his book, students routinely make some errors selecting topics that reduce or eliminate their chances of winning a writing competition. Some examples:
* case notes. Personally, I think blogs have mooted student-written case notes. It is very, very rare that a student case note can add something to the collective understanding of a case that the blogosphere didn’t already say in the first week following the case. But even if you disagree with me about that, case notes have almost no shot of winning a writing competition because they are too topically narrow and unambitious compared to other papers.
* topics driven by current events. Virtually every time I grade a writing competition, I see papers on a topic that briefly got a lot of press coverage about 12-18 months beforehand, but that no one is still discussing any more. These papers also have almost no chance of winning.
* topics on pending legislation or cases on appeal. Occasionally these papers are perfectly timed, but usually something happens between the time the student selects the topic and the writing competition evaluation—such as the legislation dies or gets radically revamped, or the case settles or the new opinion hasn’t issued yet but is imminent. Those intervening developments usually undercut the paper's most interesting facets.
* me-too topics. Students tend to gravitate towards overgrazed topics where it is hard to find something unique to say. There are certain topics that students just can’t resist (in my field, they include online music/file-sharing and keyword advertising). As a grader, when I see the eighth entry on online file-sharing, an overwhelming sense of ennui sets in—either the paper better knock my socks off, or I’ve seen and heard it all and the paper looks derivative. In effect, student papers play a game of Scattergories against each other (a process I describe in more detail here). In particular, when two or more writing competition submissions are on the same general topic (don’t laugh—it happens frequently), almost invariably they both knock each other out because neither paper seems original. At best, the grader will compare the two papers against each other, and the lesser paper is doomed. So to avoid the pitfalls of grader ennui and scattergories, avoid the me-too topics.
* topics that are too hard. Occasionally students go the other direction and pick a topic that is too hard for students to successfully execute. I remember grading one paper that simultaneously undertook three really hard tasks: (1) a constitutional analysis, (2) analysis of an international treaty, and (3) a multi-country comparative analysis. Whew! I think most law professors with their resources and experience could not successfully execute this topic even if they worked on it for years, and a student writing his/her first academic paper had no chance of succeeding.
Whatever topic you select, make sure you love it. In effect, you marry your topic because you will typically spend several hundred hours working on it over the course of months or even years. Ideally, your topic will have something to do with your desired future practice. Your research can lay a foundation for your substantive knowledge in that area and signal your interests to future employers.
A final note about writing the paper: your paper competes based on its original analysis, not its recap of the prior literature. When I’m grading a paper, I skip over the paper’s recap of the law (unless I don’t know the area well) and look for the paper’s unique insights into the issue. If that’s only one paragraph in the conclusion, the paper has zero chance of winning.
Step 3: Apply!
Winning a writing competition is a big deal. Usually you win cash, which is always nice. Sometimes you also get guaranteed publication for your article. With some competitions, you get a free trip to an awards presentation ceremony. For example, the Entertainment Law Initiative Writing Competition flies out the winner and the honorable mentions to attend the GRAMMY awards ceremony and related parties.
A writing competition victory also has incalculable benefits for your resume. It represents external validation of your writing skills. As you know, employers value writing skills highly, so a win could significantly improve your job prospects.
So there are ample reasons to compete. Yet, amazingly, fewer students do so than you might think. I have been involved with several writing competitions where we have received a shockingly low number of submissions. It is not atypical for lesser-known or niche competitions to have less than 2 submissions for every prize available.
In some cases, the odds are even more favorable. For example, for the past 3 years I have run ASCAP’s Nathan Burkan copyright-themed writing competition at SCU. ASCAP gives us the right to designate a winner ($600) and runner up ($250) at SCU; the winner then competes nationally for more money. Each of the past 3 years, we have gotten only one submission for the local SCU competition. In other words, we have had $250 and an honorific just waiting for someone to apply and we couldn’t give it away. As the marketing slogan goes, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”
Now, some writing competitions do have a lot of submissions, making the odds of success much lower. But if you do your research, you can find competitions that other students may have overlooked; and if you write a competent paper on a good topic, your paper will stand out and compete well even in popular contests.
[Note: some of the links are Amazon Affiliates links]
March 02, 2010
Life as an AALS Section Chair
In 2009, I had the privilege of serving as the chair of the AALS Law & Computers section. Doing so was quite an honor, and I was flattered to be asked.
Although I’m glad I had the experience, perhaps it’s not surprising that being a section chair is not as romantic as one initially imagines. This post provides a rare inside look into life as an AALS section chair.
What Does a Section Chair Do?
Some sections undertake projects throughout the year, like publishing a section newsletter. However, other sections’ only output for the year is a program at the section’s annual meeting. In these sections, a section chair has three main responsibilities:
1) Organize the program for the annual meeting, which also effectively necessitates attending that annual meeting (but chairs don’t get free admission or any red-carpet treatment).
2) Self-propagate (i.e., select successor leadership).
3) Deal with AALS bureaucracy, such as filling out numerous burdensome forms.
As you can see, this is not an especially demanding list of responsibilities. I probably spent 20-30 hours in 2009 performing my chair duties. I could have spent less.
There are few perks of being a section chair. I can only think of two. The annual meeting has a section officer’s breakfast that provides attendees a free continental breakfast; but this breakfast isn’t exactly free, as attendees have to listen to the AALS brass hype AALS. I also got the power to send emails to AALS’ new section email list. As you can see, being chair is not exactly a glamour gig.
Organizing the Annual Meeting Program
Because the annual meeting program is typically the chair’s main responsibility, let’s take a closer look at it. Each program slot is 105 minutes, of which AALS expects that 15 minutes will be devoted to a section business meeting. So the main opportunity/obligation of being section chair is putting on a 90 minute substantive program at the AALS annual meeting. AALS allocates $900/year to each section for all section expenses; often, that is spent solely on the annual meeting program.
To motivate section chairs to do a good job with their programs, AALS uses some carrots and sticks. The main stick is that if the section meeting does not consistently draw at least 40 people, after a couple of years, AALS can kibosh the section. Further, meeting times can affect attendance. Expected attendance at the Sunday 8:30 am program is going to be lower than a 10:30 am program on Thursday or Friday. And no section chair wants to be responsible for causing the section’s demise.
To improve the section meeting’s time slot, AALS offers various incentives. One incentive is for the section to give up its slot altogether for the year (which nets premium slotting for the next year) or combine its annual meeting slot with another section. Realistically, these options aren’t very attractive because the section chair may end up doing nothing during his/her entire tenure.
AALS also gives a better time slot if the section does a Call for Papers (CFP). If the section doesn’t use a CFP, section chairs typically choose a program topic and invites his/her friends to be on the panel—friends are more likely to say yes, so the chair saves time organizing the panel, and as a bonus the chair gets to hang out with these friends at the conference.
Needless to say, a chair inviting his/her friends creates a clubby/closed-door environment that does not favor newcomers. Further, friends may agree to speak only as a personal favor and not because they are truly excited about the speaking opportunity. As a result, their presentations may not be especially inspired. I believe this is a principal reason why AALS section presentations have gotten such a bad rap over the years.
A CFP solves a number of these problems. First, it opens the doors to newcomers. Second, people who submit their papers generally are excited about the opportunity. Third, because speakers write a paper in connection with their presentation instead of just winging it, the presentations may be higher quality and better prepared.
However, CFPs have other downsides. First, there may not be enough good submissions. We were lucky to get 4 quality submissions to our CFP, but success was not guaranteed. Second, CFPs require more work. It’s easy to send an email to a few friends. It’s harder to write the CFP, disseminate it, compile the submissions, have a committee review them, get the committee’s feedback and communicate the decisions to all of the submitters (including, necessarily, telling some eager folks “no thanks”). I am glad our section went with a CFP process this year, but I understand why many chairs don’t bother.
AALS also gives better times for pre-placing the papers presented at the section meeting. This also requires additional work and can be tricky if the papers aren’t available for students to review. The students either must be convinced the papers will be good, or they will delay confirmation until they see the actual papers (thereby precluding the extra credit AALS gives).
All told, AALS’ incentive system seeks to motivate the chair to do additional work but all of that work results in minimal payoffs—better timing for the section meeting, which reduces the odds of drawing insufficient attendance, which eventually might jeopardize the section’s status. There are other good reasons to do CFPs or pre-place papers, but the AALS incentives themselves typically are not enough to spur additional work from the chair.
The Challenges of Organizing a Good Panel at AALS
If we distill the section chair role into session organizer a/k/a event planner, we should recognize the institutional barriers to putting on a good program at AALS. First, AALS asks for a program topic in March or April for next January’s meeting, i.e., 9 months in advance, and after the chair has been in the role only a couple of months. It’s hard to put on a cutting edge program, at least in areas like Internet or IP law, with such a long lead-time.
Second, AALS gives the section an annual budget of $900, but then they also charge up to $800 for a projector to show PowerPoint slides. (In practice, they split this charge among all of the sections sharing the same room who use PPT, so our actual charge worked out to less than $200 this year). AALS also gives only limited conference fee waivers. In practice, this means the speaker pool is (a) up to one non-professor speaker whose travel gets covered up to $900 if all of the speakers forego PowerPoint, (b) local experts willing to pay the conference admission fee, and (c) speakers (including law professors intending to attend AALS anyway) willing to pay their entire way to speak (including travel and the conference fee). In contrast, at SCU (like most other law schools), we typically reimburse all speaker travel expenses for the academic events we sponsor. So AALS’ budget restrictions make it difficult to put together a first-rate speaker roster.
So, boiling the responsibilities to their most basic form, an AALS section chair’s main responsibility is to organize an event, but AALS gives the chair inferior tools to put together an event comparable to a standard law school event.
AALS’ form bylaws (which, I am guessing, every section has adopted verbatim) require the chair to constitute a nominating committee. My guess is that most chairs skip this step and, at most, consult their executive committee as a de facto nominating committee. This year, I actually put together a nominating committee and used it to suggest candidates and to screen the proposed slate that the incoming chair and I put together.
I’ll talk in a moment about the ideal characteristics of a section chair, but what criteria should be used to nominate the other officer positions and the section’s executive committee? For many sections, I believe the chair and incoming chair do most of the work and the other officer and executive committee positions are largely ceremonial. This was the case for our officers and executive committee this year. Given that, the incoming chair and I followed a few principles for nominating candidates:
* The positions can serve as a incubator for future section leaders. It’s a way of getting to know them better and to get them invested in the section.
* We tried to designate people who would tangibly benefit from being formally identified as community leaders. Emerging scholars approaching tenure are one example.
The incoming chair decided to be inclusive, so we ended up nominating a large executive committee of a dozen members. We hope this will provide a solid foundation of future section leaders.
Attributes of an Ideal Section Chair
For sections that do not undertake more complex projects like a section newsletter, the chair is mainly an event planner. Therefore, the main selection criterion for the chair should be his/her ability to organize a good annual meeting program.
From my perspective, the best section chairs would be people who can't easily put on their own programs at their home institutions. For example, in the Cyberlaw community, the directors of the major Law & Tech programs can easily sponsor events on their campus without having to navigate AALS’ bureaucracy or limited budget. Further, for those director-chairs, time spent planning an AALS event competes with time spent planning their own program’s events.
In contrast, some chair candidates might come from a school that normally would not organize events for the section’s community. A school might be in a remote geography or lack the budget to put on an event. These candidates might view the AALS chair position as their golden opportunity to put together an event of their design for our community.
Alternatively (or in addition), some event ideas could draw upon AALS’ strengths. I’m not exactly sure what an event like that would look like. However, it would be worth pursuing if someone envisioned an event that would be more successful because it's held at AALS.
In some sections, I believe AALS section leadership is viewed as a capstone professional experience, and therefore generally a professor pays dues for years (decades?) before becoming a viable candidate for a leadership role. In contrast, in the Internet law area, many long-time professors are too busy to want the chair’s role, but some relative newcomers would view the opportunity as exciting (and not as the last item on their overly long to-do list).
Personally, I don’t have a problem with an untenured chair if he or she understands the responsibilities and pitfalls. A section chair has a big hand in allocating speaker slots and designating future officers/executive committee members. Invariably, this power also means that the chair must say no to some people, potentially including tenured faculty members. Some untenured chairs might find this position uncomfortable; others would value the early leadership experience.
Finally, some chair candidates might have ideas of new section activities that go beyond the annual meeting program. Someone who could identify a new community resource to provide through AALS, and was willing to undertake that project, might be an especially compelling chair candidate.
To recap, then, my specifications for an ideal section chair are:
* don’t already have a center or institute where they put on similar events
* has an idea for a program that could be best done under AALS’ auspices (and despite AALS’ limitations as an event venue)
* is comparatively junior enough that they won't view the chair’s responsibilities as a nuisance that competes for their time
* has ideas about new initiatives for the section beyond the annual meeting program
If I could do it over again, I would ask prospective chair candidates to write a short blurb explaining what they would like to do with the section meeting and if they have any other initiative ideas.
February 23, 2010
Offering Students a Graded Wiki Option—My Experiences, and Some Lessons
Last semester in Cyberspace Law, I gave students the option to write a wiki entry for a portion of their grade. I was inspired to offer this option based on my dystopian assessments of Wikipedia’s labor model. In my paper, I wrote that one possible new labor source for Wikipedia could be students working on graded school assignments. I figured I should experiment with this myself to gauge its viability. This blog post recaps my experiences and talks about some lessons.
Length and Grading Percentage. When I initially set student expectations, I anticipated that a “typical” student entry on a cyberlaw topic should be about 600 words. This was too low. The average student first draft was probably between 1,500 and 2,000 words. There are a few reasons for the long drafts. First, it’s easier to write long than short. Second, students tend to be comprehensive in their treatment of a topic, and they have a hard time knowing what to leave out. Finally, I probably undershot the word target.
With the idea that students would be writing about 600 words, I set the grading percentage as 20%. (Normally I assign about 3,000 words to my final exam, so 600/3000 = 20%). Students choosing the wiki option were still required to write the exam, but their exam grade was only 80% of the final grade.
As it turns out, 20% grade allocation to the wiki entry was probably too low based on the amount of work that students actually invested. I had hoped that students could crank out a 600 word entry in about 10 hours (8 hours of research, 2 hours of writing), but I’m sure that most students took substantially more time than that. In the end, I think the students still got good value in terms of long-term skill-building. However, in terms of my expectations for students, I don’t think I properly calibrated the grading percentage.
If I were to offer this option again, I would probably set the students’ expectations at 1,500 words for 33% or maybe even 50% of the final grade.
Despite my misconfigurations, about one-quarter of my students opted into the graded wiki option (12 out of 45 students). My belief is that the students did so for one of two primary motivations (or both): (1) they liked the idea of hedging their grading exposure from a 100% final, and (2) they liked the idea of researching and writing on a Cyberlaw topic. I gave students the option of working together on a topic, but none ended up pursuing that.
Mandatory v. Optional. I personally would not make writing a wiki entry a mandatory portion of the course grade (at least, not in a course where the entry was less than 100% of the grade). It was hard enough to get good results from students who had opted-in. For students who don’t actually want to write a wiki entry (for whatever reason—some students just aren’t writers), the exercise could be torture.
Supervisory Time Required
As it was, I found the exercise much more demanding on my time than I expected. In retrospect, I should have realized that students always struggle with identifying good topics—even students who opted-in and thus were presumably more motivated than other students, and even though topic novelty wasn't required or desired. I went multiple rounds with almost every student on topic selection, in some cases more than a half-dozen interactions. Ultimately most students got onto a manageable topic, but the process was hardly smooth. (This was the case even though I pointed students to Brian Carver’s leftover topic list from his Spring 2009 Cyberlaw course, where he requires a wiki entry as part of the course.)
I also underestimated the amount of my time required to edit student entries. Most students did not intuitively understand how to approach writing an encyclopedic treatment of a topic. As a result, I did at least one very thorough edit of every student’s entry that took me no less than 1 hour per entry, and I did additional edits (in some cases, several times) of student entries. I’m not sure the students enjoyed getting a gory redline back from me, although I do think students appreciated my suggestions. For some students, this was the first, and perhaps the only, time they got line-by-line edits of their work from one of their law school professors.
Even with the best first-draft entries, however, it was clear that I needed to spend a non-trivial amount of supervisory time before the entry would be ready for publication. Given that people sometimes rely on Wikipedia information and occasionally even sue when it’s wrong, it would have been potentially problematic if students had publicly posted their first versions (or, for that matter, any unapproved version).
Finally, although my students were good about solving their own problems, I believe it took students a substantial amount of time to format their entries into Wikipedia’s format.
I required that all students publicly post their entries when finished, although one student didn’t reach the point where publication was appropriate. Another student chose to publish her entry on “Use in Commerce Issues re Domain Name Trademark Infringement/Dilution Actions” at the IT Law Wiki rather than Wikipedia. The other 10 entries were posted at Wikipedia:
* Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act
* eBay v. Bidder's Edge
* Planned Parenthood Fed'n of Am., Inc. v. Bucci
* Radio advertisement
* Reverse domain hijacking
* Taxation of Digital Goods
* Unions and Internet Technology Use [note: this one has been deleted--see the brief discussion about deleting it]
* United States v. Lori Drew
* Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc.
Only one entry has been deleted so far, and the other entries (so far) have been wiki-gnomed but otherwise are largely intact. Given Wikipedia’s reputation for revert wars and xenophobia, I had expected substantial pushback on every entry. I was especially pleased that the hardcore Wikipedians didn’t appear to bite the newcomers despite the students' bold changes, although I can’t say that I saw much welcoming activity either.
I received some positive feedback from students about the experience (although, perhaps not surprisingly, the exercise was virtually unaddressed in the formal student evaluations). Students liked practicing their writing skills. Personally, I thought writing a wiki entry was a good vehicle for students to practice writing outside of a final exam format. I know the students took pride in their work and got a thrill out of hitting the “publish” button. I believe some of the students hope to use their entry as a writing sample, although I’ve never fully understood how wiki entries can act as a writing sample given that the entry isn’t attributed very well and is constantly being modified by others.
1) It is unrealistic to expect that most law students can produce useful entries without supervision.
2) Thus, like any other student writing project, a supervising faculty member will need to spend significant time supporting the students.
3) I think a wiki entry might be a useful alternative to the traditional seminar paper. I have never been a huge fan of requiring students to write law review-style seminar paper in a semester-long course. Ultimately I think it’s nearly impossible for a novice to come up with a good topic and write a coherent and well-researched paper in a 4 month semester from a cold start. (I expand on that point a little here). As a result, in practice, many student seminar papers devolve into quasi-encyclopedic treatments of a topic with a paragraph of student commentary tacked onto the end. Instead of going through that charade, the professor could channel the student’s research and writing effort into an expressly encyclopedic treatment. This would reduce the pressure students feel to come up with a novel topic, and it would allow the world at large to benefit from the student’s work rather than the effort going into a desk drawer (or worse, the circular file) at the semester’s end.
Unfortunately, using Wikipedia entries as seminar papers may not be practical at my law school. We require students to complete a “supervised analytical writing” requirement that produces a law review-style paper whose length would usually be too long for a wiki entry. The requirement is a minimum of 20 pages; even if that were double-spaced pages, it would still be a 5,000 word entry, and Wikipedia doesn’t need many 5,000 word entries.
4) If I offer the graded wiki option again in my Cyberspace Law course, I will:
* cap the number of students who can participate so I can ensure adequate supervision time
* try to give priority to motivated students who can identify a good topic quickly
* expect students to write more words, and allocate the grading percentage accordingly
I conclude this experiment with mixed feelings and uncertainty about whether I would try it again. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
UPDATE: Luis Villa contributes some thoughts about graded wiki exercises, mostly from the student perspective.
August 31, 2009
David Lat Talk Recap
David Lat, the famous and talented blogger from Above the Law, gave a lunchtime talk today at Santa Clara Law entitled "The End of the World as You Know It: Reflections on the Future of the Legal World." (The talk title was almost as long as the talk). I'm a regular reader of Above the Law, so many of his remarks didn't break much ground compared to the themes already fully vetted in gory detail on the blog. Nevertheless, David always gives an entertaining talk filled with pearls of wisdom, so I never pass up a chance to hear him. A recap of his remarks:
David first described three structural changes affecting the legal industry.
1) erosion (not the death) of the billable hour. Clients want good value, and they want predictability over their expenses. Both factors are driving clients and firms to alternative billing arrangements, such as fixed fee projects and all-you-cat-eat retainers.
A comment on this: when I was in-house, I was a fan of fixed-fee arrangements for their budgetability/predictability. As manager of the company's legal expenses, I needed to keep my expenses within my quarterly budget, so fixed-fee deals were very beneficial to their predictability. One thing I absolutely HATED was when I would get hourly time billed months or even years after the actual work was done--and therefore after the quarter when the money was allocated, meaning the charge would hit a subsequent quarter's budget. I won't name names, but one firm sent me a bill for time TWO YEARS after the work was done. I didn't pay it.
For what it's worth, when I do my side gigs, I also prefer to do fixed-fee projects or monthly retainers. I often end up earning a little less than I might if I billed hourly, but (1) I always feel like I get a fair deal, especially when both the client and I take some risk on the outcome, and (2) I like that clients don't calculate the marginal cost of contacting me (i.e., I don't want to talk with my lawyer because it's going to cost $50 for a brief phone call, and I don't know if that call is worth $50), which means they contact me earlier in their processes when my advice is actually more useful.
2) erosion of locksteps, which is moving towards an increase in meritocracy. The challenge with this movement is setting an appropriate valuation on merit. People aren't entirely clear how to assess quality.
3) erosion of stable employment relationships. The days are gone when lawyers would view the decision to join a firm as a two-way lifetime commitment. Now, attorneys (including partners) are moving between firms regularly, practice groups and offices are spinning off, partners are being de-equitized, and of course, the ubiquitous and dreaded layoffs. There is also an increased customization and flexibility of associate positions. As David said, we might see a "gazillion different titles" for attorneys working for a firm--a trend towards "title proliferation."
David then moved to address what these changes mean.
On the downside, there has been a decline of trust in the industry. For example, a fixed-fee arrangement can be driven, in part, by clients distrusting their attorneys' efforts to keep costs down. But there is also a lot of intra-firm distrust.
On the upside, there has been increased independence in the industry, although this may require attorneys to become more entrepreneurial.
David concluded with two pieces of advice:
1) Stay informed about firms and the industry (an admittedly self-serving piece of advice)
2) Network! In times of crisis, relationships are key. He recommended that students get business cards and hand them out freely. He also recommended that students get to know their classmates and professors as part of network-building.
In the Q&A, a student asked him what changes law schools should make. David rattled off a bunch of ideas in quick succession, including:
* make law school two years (a move I wouldn't necessarily oppose but it is inconsistent with current accreditation norms for the foreseeable future)
* make law school cheaper
* fewer law schools
* more training in the field (like articling)
I asked him about the consequences of a movement from focusing on top-of-market compensation for attorneys, which ATL did obsessively in 2007-08, to multiple compensation models. David expressed concern that customized/individualized compensation would give law firms the ability to reduce their overall associate compensation because there is less transparency. At the same time, both he and I wondered if this reduced transparency might have a salutary benefit of defusing the excessive focus on compensation benchmarking, which might allow attorneys to reset their compensation expectations to how much they need to live a comfortable and satisfied life.
July 09, 2009
Wisconsin Diploma Privilege Ruling Comments--Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki
Today, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki, written by Judge Posner. This lawsuit is a class-action challenge to Wisconsin's diploma privilege, which allows graduates of UW Madison and Marquette to become lawyers in Wisconsin without taking a bar exam. Licensed lawyers in some other jurisdictions who have sufficient practice experience can also obtain a Wisconsin law license without taking a Wisconsin bar exam, but everyone else has to take the bar exam to get a Wisconsin license. For example, California does not have reciprocity with Wisconsin, so when I moved to Wisconsin, I would have had to take the Wisconsin bar exam to obtain a Wisconsin license despite my California license and eight years of practice experience.
Many states used to have a diploma privilege, but over the years all of the other states have adopted a bar exam requirement, leaving Wisconsin as the only state still with a diploma privilege.
As I have written before, I am not a fan of the diploma privilege. Its effect was to encourage/pressure Marquette students to stay in Wisconsin rather than exploring other labor markets which required a bar exam that required months of painful and joyless studying without a salary to prepare for. This distortion in out-migration meant that Marquette's reputation was heavily regional because the geographic footprint of its alumni was comparatively limited.
As a professor, the diploma privilege was stressful. Posner writes that Marquette and UW Madison might have "less incentive to spend time drilling them on Wisconsin law than the faculty of most law schools in other states would have” because there is no pressure to prepare students for the bar exam. In fact, the opposite was true. My Marquette colleagues and I were acutely aware of our responsibilities to Wisconsin citizens. We knew that our students could hit the streets the day after graduation and set up a shingle without any bar exam "filter" or even the doctrinal review that most students get from their bar exam preparation course. Knowing that I was the "last stop" in evaluating my students’ mastery of legal doctrines, I felt significant pressure to ensure my students had really mastered the law—perhaps more pressure than I feel today knowing that my current students will have to survive one more major examination of their doctrinal knowledge before they get unleashed onto the public.
In this ruling, the Seventh Circuit revives the legal challenge to the Wisconsin diploma privilege and remanded the case to the district court for more fact-finding. Much of the opinion implicitly espouses a skepticism that UW Madison and Marquette do anything special to teach students Wisconsin law.
I understand this skepticism, but I think it’s unwarranted. From my perspective, Marquette emphasized Wisconsin law plenty. To reinforce this message, Dean Kearney's ridiculously oppressive Faculty Activity Report form always asked us to identify how we incorporated Wisconsin law into our courses. Given that this report was tied to our compensation, I certainly got the message. I included Wisconsin-specific legal doctrines in all of my courses—even my Cyberlaw course, which is not so easy given the borderless nature of the subject material!
To be clear, I didn't emphasize Wisconsin law to the exclusion of national legal principles. After all, some of my students were leaving Wisconsin, and I needed to prepare those students as well. As a result, it's not clear to me if Marquette emphasizes Wisconsin law more than other schools emphasize their local state’s laws. My guess is Marquette's balance between state and national law is fairly similar to many other schools' balance. But we definitely taught Wisconsin law!
Others have already provided some analysis of the opinion. Some worth checking out include:
* Dean Kearney. Among other things, Joe says "I expect that on remand (and any subsequent appeal) the diploma privilege will pass constitutional muster."
* my former colleague Christine Hurt
* State Bar of Wisconsin report
Today's opinion was exciting for another (and wholly unexpected) reason. The opinion provides a lengthy shout-out to a 2006 post from this blog about the Wisconsin diploma privilege. It is always satisfying to be cited by a judge, and it does not happen every day for me. My works have been cited in less than a half-dozen judicial opinions, and I believe this is the first time I've been cited in a federal appellate opinion. And being cited by Judge Posner, one of the most esteemed jurists of our time, is especially gratifying.
Ironically, the blog post in question is hardly one of my most brilliant contributions to the dialogue. It's a simple 3 paragraph post (partially recapping and responding to a video from a local Wisconsin station) that probably took me less than 30 minutes to research and write, compared to some of my thoroughly researched multi-thousand word entries that take over a dozen hours to write. I've experienced this before in the sense that my most heavily trafficked blog post of all time (and thus, one of my most widely read works ever) was a single paragraph blog post I pounded out in less than 60 minutes making a snarky point about a New York state law banning domain name sales to terrorists. It's a fine post for what it is, but I never expected that it would get the attention it got.
These are vivid reminders that we as bloggers need to stand behind every post we make. We never know who is going to read a post (however lightweight it is) and cite it in a federal appellate opinion.
June 08, 2009
Clemson/US News Ranking Recap
Last week, a Clemson administrator, Catherine Watt, made a presentation about Clemson's obsessive focus on improving its US News rankings, which seemingly drives every aspect of Clemson's decision-making. Some of Clemson's ranking-driven decisions may not be especially controversial and may even be laudable, such efforts to manage class sizes more carefully. Other decisions are potentially controversial, such as the decision to manage admissions by SAT scores--a logical effort to improve student "quality," but potentially inconsistent with Clemson's moral obligations as a land-grant institution. And one allegation was particularly explosive--Inside Higher Ed reported:
Watt said that Clemson officials, in filling out the reputational survey form for presidents, rate "all programs other than Clemson below average," to make the university look better. "And I'm confident my president is not the only one who does that," Watt said.
Some coverage from Watt's presentation:
* A recap of Watt's presentation from Inside Higher Ed
* The Associated Press story
* Bob Morse at US News. As usual, he is in denial of how ranked institutions actually respond to US News rankings. He says: "the rankings are not meant to drive the mission or any other strategic goals that a university may be trying to attain." Fair enough, but we have decades of experience to prove that they do exactly that. When will US News internalize that message?
Morse also believes that deliberately downgraded ballots won't affect the result: "U.S. News has safeguards in place to prevent strategic voting from affecting the results. We subtract a few of the highest and lowest scores from respondents before the results are calculated in order to prevent downgrading or upgrading from altering the results." OK, fine, but this check in the system does little to improve my confidence. Let's put it this way: the US News rankings are partially based on institutions voting on their competitors--which, of course, is a natural invitation for gamed voting. Can you imagine any other circumstances where we would deem competitor votes credible?
November 22, 2008
Flexibility of JD Overstated
Leigh Jones from the National Law Journal writes:
Law schools and placement professionals frequently tout the versatility of a law degree as a path to alternative careers. But even in good economic times, the advantage of a juris doctor degree in landing a job in another field may well be overblown....The upshot for many is that, while they appreciate the knowledge they gained, they find that they are no more marketable — and sometimes less — than if they'd avoided the law school ordeal altogether.
July 31, 2008
How to Pay for Your Law Degree 2008-10
I'm pleased to announce the third edition of How to Pay for Your Law Degree [Amazon Affiliate link], a book of financial aid opportunities for law students published by my mom. I contributed a foreword. This book has gotten better with each edition, providing an increasingly more comprehensive directory of the financial aid programs for law students that she, her co-author and I have discovered over the past 5 years of research.
As I mention in my foreword, this book could help some students afford law school and pursue their career dreams. As a result, I think this is a vitally important resource for current and prospective law students. More practically, it's a far better use of your time than trying to aggregate this information yourself from the Internet, which invariably involves looking at a lot of redundant but incomplete lists and following many dead links.
The book is available in most law school libraries, so I recommend that you check it out there (and if your library doesn't have it, ask them to get it!). However, if you want to purchase your own copy, follow the link above. Or, as I've said before, the book is a thoughtful and sure-to-be-appreciated gift for prospective law students.
July 21, 2008
Teaching Cyberlaw Article
[Cross-posted to the Technology & Marketing Law Blog]
As part of the recent St. Louis University Law Journal's issue on Teaching Intellectual Property Law, I published a short article entitled "Teaching Cyberlaw." The abstract:
"Over the past dozen years, Cyberlaw courses have become a staple of the law school curriculum. This Essay, part of a Spring 2008 St. Louis University Law Journal issue on Teaching Intellectual Property Law, explores methodological and pedagogical issues raised by these courses."
This article, based on my experiences teaching Cyberlaw for the past 13 years, organizes my thoughts about the pedagogy of teaching Cyberlaw, including course titling, doctrinal coverage, teaching materials and more. I think the article will be particularly interesting to folks teaching the course for the first time, but I expect veteran Cyberlaw professors will find a few interesting tidbits as well. I was given a limited word count cap, so I didn't intend to make this article exhaustive. Instead, I view it as a tentative and limited effort to help kick off a community discussion about how we teach the course.
On that front, I am scheduled to be the Chair of the AALS Law & Computers Section in 2009, which principally means that I will help organize the Law & Computers session at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans in January 2010. (Hard to believe, but it's less than 18 months away!). One idea I've been considering is to have a panel discussion about Teaching Cyberlaw issues at that session. Comments/thoughts?
When i did my research for my Teaching Cyberlaw article, I didn't find any other law review-style articles that addressed Cyberlaw pedagogy at any length. Then, just as my article was going to press (and therefore after I could make any changes), a topical article emerged: Patrick Quirk, Curriculum Themes: Teaching Global Cyberlaw, International Journal of Law and Information Technology, March 2008. Quirk uses the article to enumerate 10 topical "themes" that are likely to be omnipresent in Cyberlaw courses both today and in the future:
"Where are we? (Jurisdiction),
Who are we? (Transacting via networks),
Who pays us? (E-money and funds transfer),
Who protects us? (Spreading and transferring transactional risk),
Who funds us? (The other type of computer ‘security’),
Who taxes us? (Who doesn’t?),
Who bugs me? (Network crimes and misdemeanors),
Who came before me? (Historical analogies for technology regulation),
Who watches (over) us? (Ubiquitous privacy issues),
The pervasive problems of intellectual property."
I definitely organize my course differently, but vetting different organizational approaches is part of the pedagogical fun.
July 18, 2008
David Lander: "Are Adjuncts a Benefit or a Detriment?"
David Lander, Are Adjuncts a Benefit or a Detriment?, 33 U. Dayton L. Rev. 285 (2008). This article looks at the pros and cons of staffing a course with an adjunct vs. full-time faculty and some ways to get the most out of a corp of adjunct faculty. From the conclusion:
One of the key reasons that law schools use adjuncts is to save money and other resources. Yet, to make the use of adjuncts truly beneficial requires resources, including money, energy, and creativity, to construct and monitor an effective and integrated adjunct program.
June 03, 2008
Law School Proliferation
The legal education industry is facing a potentially significant expansion of supply. As Leigh Jones at the NLJ reports, up to 10 different universities are investigating adding new law schools. Some of the potential new entrants include:
* Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA
* SUNY Stony Brook
* SUNY Binghamton
* St. John Fisher University, Rochester, NY
* University of New Haven, CT
* Husson College, Bangor, ME
* Louisiana College, Pineville, LA
* Lincoln Memorial University, Knoxville, TN
* Concordia University, Boise, ID
* University of Idaho, Boise, ID
In addition, the UC Irvine law school is coming online in 2009.
On a current base of less than 200 ABA-accredited law schools, this would represent a 5% growth in the number of suppliers. In terms of actual supply (new seats for law students), the growth will depend on both the number of new seats created by the new schools as well as any changes in the number of seats at existing schools.
At the same time, it's projected that law school applications will crest in the next few years and then start falling--basically, right around the time that these new schools come online. With the expansion in supply and reduction in demand, the most likely scenario is that some schools will reach deeper into the applicant pool to admit folks who are currently being turned away. However, I also think some (many?) schools--to preserve their US News GPA/LSAT credentials--will reduce their admitted class sizes to avoid dipping deeper into the applicant pool, but it's also possible that more schools will be stuck with involuntarily unfilled seats. (In theory, price competition may also increase, although to date we haven't seen much of this). Either way, reduced class sizes means less revenue, potentially making these law schools less profitable ventures or even necessitating cost-cutting efforts to preserve profitability.
So what's driving the increase in supply? I view this as a classic supply-side dilemma. Universities get marginal private benefit by adding new schools. Law schools increase the overall prestige of the institution and typically add net profits to the institution. Also, local communities like law schools because they are significant economic enterprises and can help supply the local economy with new legal expertise (both from the law school itself as well as from law school graduates who want to stay in the local area). So while each individual decision to add a law school may make sense to the decision-maker on a microeconomic basis, the macroeconomic result can be a prisoner's dilemma/market oversupply.
Note that the increase in law schools doesn't mean that law school consumers will actually get new choices about their legal education. In terms of admission, in all likelihood each and every school will still focus on the top X% of the applicant pool bell curve--the X might grow due to increased supply, but the identity of sought-after candidates won't change so long as US News puts so much weight on matriculant GPA/LSAT. Meanwhile, in terms of pedagogy, consumers using the US News rankings as a principal evaluation tool do not actively demand heterogeneous marketplace offerings, and suppliers have no incentive to diversify their offerings both for fear of spooking consumers and the risk of screwing up the US News metrics and being punished in the rankings accordingly. So in all likelihood, the new law schools will look like the existing law schools, which doesn't create real marketplace diversity.
(I know that UC Irvine's law school has been emphasizing a more public interest focus as a differentiator. Let's check back in 10 years to see how much that rhetoric remains. My guess is that the US News homogenizers will have muted the differences substantially).
As the NLJ article points out, another potential downside of legal education market expansion is that the legal industry may not be creating new jobs as rapidly, resulting in more law school graduates competing for an inadequate pool of law jobs. This could lead to salary deflationary pressure for the "average" law student (the top end for the top students will stay at an eye-popping rate, but only a small percentage of law students get those jobs)--which will be all the more painful as the cost of legal education continues to increase at a rate faster than inflation. So long as the top end of entering attorney salaries remains a huge number, many students will be psychologically biased into thinking they can win that lottery and therefore won't be dissuaded by the averages. The likely result: lots of law school graduates with huge debts and limited means to meet them, along with the psychological trauma of not winning the lottery and needing to take a suboptimal job to generate immediate cash flow.
UPDATE: The AP explores this topic more.
May 17, 2008
Arthur Best on Student Evaluations
Arthur Best, Student Evaluations of Law Teaching Work Well: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, Southwestern University Law Review, 2008
Another article on the deficiencies of student evaluation forms. A couple of takeaway points:
* "data from student evaluation of teaching forms should be used to identify exceptional cases and not to make relatively small distinctions among instructors"
* "precise numerical comparisons between instructors or between different courses taught by a single instructor may often be statistically flawed"
Academics in the fields of psychology and education generally describe student evaluations of teaching as reliable and useful. On the other hand, law professors often criticize them as unreliable and impaired by students' biases. This Article considers resolving these discrepant views by paying close attention to the various purposes for which student evaluations of teaching are used. For some uses, such as guidance for students in course selection, shortcomings of the evaluations would be of slight consequence. For promotion or tenure decisions, despite law professors' skepticism, schools should use the data to identify outlier instructors. Basing conclusions only on large numerical differences among faculty should protect faculty members from unfair consequences caused by students' biases, since the effects of biases (if present) are likely to be relatively small. It is also consistent with the modern consensus among educational researchers.
The Article also reports findings from analysis of a large number of law school evaluation of teaching forms. Virtually all of them use phraseology that ignores the collaborative nature of teaching and learning. They focus attention on the professor, with the unintended consequence of portraying students as passive participants in their education. The Article recommends revising questionnaires to have a balance between terminology that ignores students' roles and terminology that reflects them. With regard to other attributes, there are large variations among different law schools questionnaires. The Article documents those differences and identifies some that may be problematic.
March 17, 2008
Secunda on Law Professor Lateraling
If you are interested in the topic of law professor lateraling, you've probably already seen Paul Secunda's series at Concurring Opinions. That series is worth checking out to see all of the comments. However, for your convenience, Paul has glued the series into a single PDF that includes some of the choicest comments in the footnotes. I believe that Paul's article is the most comprehensive discussion on the very mysterious topic of lateraling, so many thanks to Paul for trying to lift the veil. And congratulations to him on his successful move to a school dear to my heart!
January 16, 2008
"I’m on a One-Woman Mission to Talk People out of Law School"
Kirsten Wolf, a 32-year-old graduate of BU Law, is out to warn people about law school. At WSJ Law Blog, she complains:
Lots of people go to law school as a default. They don’t know what else to do, like I did. It seems like a good idea. People say a law degree will always be worth something even if you don't practice. But they don’t consider what that debt is going to look like after law school. It affects my life in every way. And the jobs that you think are going to be there won’t necessarily be there at all. Most people I know that are practicing attorneys don’t make the kind of money they think lawyers make. They’re making $40,000 a year, not $160,000. Plus, you’re going to be struggling to do something you might not even enjoy. A few people have a calling to be a lawyer, but most don’t.
Now that she works as a businesswoman in the publishing industry, when asked if she got any value from her JD, she says yes but "is that worth paying student loans until five years before my social security kicks in?"
January 14, 2008
Teaching Contract Drafting
In February 2006, I spoke about teaching contract drafting at a symposium at Brooklyn Law School. Nearly 2 years later, I have finally posted the associated essay, entitled "Integrating Contract Drafting Skills and Doctrine." It's brief (6 pages) and breezy, but I hope you find it useful if you teach contract drafting or are looking to incorporate more transactional material into your doctrinal courses. The abstract:
This Essay is based on my remarks at the "Teaching Writing and Teaching Doctrine: A Symbiotic Relationship?" conference at Brooklyn Law School, February 2006. The Essay discusses the benefits and challenges of integrating the teaching of contract drafting skills and doctrine. The Essay then discusses some ways I have accomplished this integration.
January 10, 2008
Million Dollar Minute
Represented by Morrison & Foerster, Toshiba won a commercial dispute with New England Technology. Per the contract, the judge awarded attorneys' fees to Toshiba. As usual, the court gave a 10 day period for Toshiba to file a motion detailing its exact fees. The fees were about $1M. The day the motion was due, a courier left Morrison & Foerster's Orange County office with the motion at 3:30 but hit some unexpectedly ugly OC traffic, causing the courier to arrive at 4:01--1 minute after the office closed. It turns out to be a very costly minute (even vastly exceeding the inflated per-hour fees charged by the big firms). The judge declared the motion too late and, as a result, has refused to award any attorneys' fees. Toshiba is SOL.
For an amusingly different view on late filings, see this classic memo.
On my exams, I tell students that I do not accept late finals--there is no grace period, not even one minute, in which case a late paper results in an F for the course. (I also tell them "NO EXCUSES" so that they don't waste their creativity trying to come up with a brilliant excuse I simply can't refuse). I don't normally like taking such a hard line, but situations like Toshiba's comfort me that there can be draconian consequences for lawyers who are late, and my rules are fair training for that. If you think getting an F in a course is bad, imagine how bummed MoFo feels about being out $1M (which, undoubtedly, they will bear instead of Toshiba).
UPDATE: Howard Bashman weighs in on the matter.
UPDATE 2: WSJ Law Blog has the order.
November 16, 2007
Bloggership Conference Papers Finally Published
Back in April 2006, a first-rate group of law professor bloggers (and a few other bloggers) gathered for the Bloggership conference to discuss how blogs affected legal scholarship and our lives as law professors. My recap from the event. I thought the experience of meeting other bloggers face-to-face to discuss blog-related issues was so terrific that it inspired me to initiate a local variation, the Bay Area Blawger gatherings.
At the event, a number of the speakers discussed the disintermediation of law reviews by new electronic publishing tools such as SSRN, as well as the difficulty of dead trees publications to compete with the blogosphere's speed at disseminating commentary and digesting events. As if to reinforce the points, the Washington University Law Review has now published the collection of papers from the Bloggership conference, about a year-and-a-half after the event was held and the early drafts of the papers were published via SSRN. Paul Caron has helpfully posted a comprehensive index to the papers as published in the Washington University Law Review as well as links to a variety of other goodies related to the event. My paper on Co-Blogging, in its final published form, is here.
October 22, 2007
UC System to Lose State Funding?
According to this Mercury News article, state Treasurer Lockyer is floating a discussion proposal of eliminating state funding for the UC system. I don't think anyone expects that to happen, but as the article points out (and as I previously blogged), state funding has dwindled to a trivial percentage of some "public" law schools. Once again, this reminds us that some stereotypes about "public" and "private" schools may be outdated.
October 13, 2007
How to Win a Legal Writing Competition
Law students don't seem to appreciate how easy it is to win a legal writing competition. Write a good paper on an original topic, and you will stand out from the pack.
Instead, most students gang-tackle the exact same topics, which makes for dreary reading and reduces the odds of saying anything new. For example, I was recently asked to evaluate 5 papers for a copyright law writing competition. Two of the papers were on YouTube's legal liability. At minimum, I'm going to compare the two against each other, so one of the papers is guaranteed to be DOA. However, it's pretty hard to say something truly unique and insightful on the topic, so the papers get caught in a bit of a Scattergories problem. As a result, both papers knocked each other out.
Another paper was on Google Libraries. I only got one of those this year, but I've seen a dozen or more student papers on the topic in the past. Another Scattergories knock-out.
With respect to both of these "current-event" topics, student papers have an extremely difficult time adding anything new to the conversation. In fact, these three papers said nothing that had not already been thoroughly discussed months or even years ago in the blogosphere. As I've said before, with the advent of blogs, law review-style papers on current event topics no longer make sense (if they ever did). If you are a professor supervising student papers, I propose that you add the words "YouTube" and "Google Library" to the list of verboten student paper topics (already on the list: "Grokster" and "online music").
The fourth paper was a case note on a case interpreting the requirement of 17 USC 411(a) to register the plaintiff's copyrights before bringing suit. At least this is a different topic, so this paper could have had some legs. Unfortunately, there's a reason why no one writes on this topic--there's not much to say, especially in the context of a case note.
The final paper undertook a multi-country comparative analysis of an International copyright treaty in light of the First Amendment. I think it's hard to find original topics regarding International IP treaties, especially for students, so I don't know if this paper topic was really new. However, this paper simultaneously undertook three really hard tasks: (1) a constitutional analysis, (2) analysis of an International treaty, and (3) a multi-country comparative analysis. At most, I would counsel students to tackle only one hard task per paper. Doing three in a single paper is fatal for students.
In the end, I didn't recommend any of these papers for further consideration.
So students, if you're writing a paper that you want to shine in the writing competitions, spend some time researching and identifying a good topic--not a case note, not a current events topic, not a topic that's been overgrazed, and not a topic so challenging that you can't deliver. For more on topic selection, see here.
September 26, 2007
WSJ on Law Schools and the Legal Industry
By Eric Goldman
The WSJ recently published a recap of some troubling trends in the legal/law school industries. Among its points:
* the legal industry is experiencing a growth slowdown, and many categories of lawyers are experiencing deflation in their inflation-adjusted wages
* law schools are proliferating, and the number of law school graduates is growing
* perhaps exacerbated by law school marketing efforts and skewed data collection/reporting, students may not be doing a good job fully contemplating how relatively few non-top tier graduates are getting the jobs paying the biggest bucks
* the cost of a legal education is going up, and students are graduating with bigger loans
These points are all well-known phenomena in the industry, but seeing them in a single article reinforces the significant and disturbing problems we face in legal academia. At best, there are plenty of warning signs that there is currently a supply/demand imbalance that could lead to a major market correction in the legal education industry. On the other hand, so long as students believe that law school is a lottery for a high paying job, students may be willing to continue entering the lottery even if the chance of winning is low.
September 19, 2007
Blogging, Scholarship and the Bench and Bar Panel Recap
On Monday, we held a panel discussion on campus entitled "Blogging, Scholarship and the Bench and Bar." Panelists included Paul Butler, Cindy Cohn, Judge Michael Hawkins, Larry Solum and myself, and the conversation was led by Nancy Rogers and Leigh Jones (a reporter at the National Law Journal). Larry Solum's brief recap. The conversation covered a number of topics, but the main threads were (1) how can blogs help lawyers and judges do their work?, and (2) how does blogging fit into the activities of law professors? We have posted the video online; see here (this video should be accessible for 30 days).
Before the event, I was given a few questions that I might be asked. The notes I prepared in anticipation of the panel:
"How much time should a professor spend on blogging? When is it too much?"
• Assuming that a professor chooses to blog…
• Minimum amount of time: enough to ensure that the posts enhance the professor’s reputation.
- This means extra time to clean up first draft writing and, more importantly, doing verification/fact investigation to ensure accuracy
- For example, I don’t blog on a case/statute unless I’ve read the original source material. No way that I would rely on news reports or other bloggers’ characterizations
- Very uncool for bloggers to spread misinformation
- I also do a precedent check to ensure my comments are adding new incremental material rather than rehashing.
- So I rarely post in less than 1 hour; I have spent 10+ hours on some posts
• Maximum amount of time: such that blogging doesn’t interfere with professor’s other duties
- From my perspective, blogging doesn’t displace obligation to produce legal scholarship
- So if blogging is preventing me from contributing to scholarly discourse through more traditional format, then I’m spending too much time on it.
"How can someone tell the difference between a good blog and a bad blog? How can the reader know if what's on a blog is accurate and truthful?"
• I try to avoid snap judgments about blogs I’m encountering for the first time
- I look at topical focus, length of time blogging, how regularly the blog is updated and if the posts look like they are adding new incremental material to the discussion.
- I also check external measures of popularity, like Technorati’s link count or Google PageRank
- When I find a topically relevant blog that looks like it has credibility and is being regularly maintained, I often add the blog to my RSS subscription list and “watch it” to see if I get new incremental and useful material from it. This also means that I regularly drop blogs from my RSS list.
• At the moment, I do not subscribe to any pseudonymous blogs.
- This is a matter of personal taste.
- For me, knowing the author’s identity is crucial to assessing the author’s credibility. I’ve also found that pseudonymous blogs tend to flame out quicker
- In many ways, my blog subscription list mirrors my social network—I tend to read blogs of people I’ve met offline and have developed trust in their expertise
"What suggestions do you have regarding the format of law review articles that are drawn from your blogging experience?"
• Blogs offer quick publication, the ability to easily review cited sources, and often the ability of readers to interact with the author and other readers.
- Law reviews are already experimenting with similar offerings through online complements.
- However, law reviews are still trying to manage the community aspect. I’ve seen many journals with no comments; and others overrun by comment spammers and trolls—neither of which reflect well on the journal or make authors very happy
• The blogosphere’s quick publication cycles mean that new cases and statutes are digested very quickly.
- As a result, I think law reviews should categorically get out of the business of publishing case notes or recent updates unless they operate at blog speed.
- Otherwise, a law review has almost no chance of making any useful substantive contribution to the dialogue 12-18 months after a new case/statute when the blogs have already vetted the issue 12-18 hours after it occurred
• Law reviews also need to learn that publishing articles without additional marketing isn’t that useful for the journals or the authors.
- Therefore, each publication should be an event that sparks dialogue, which may require journals to more actively market new releases.
- Some journals have made limited progress on this front, but law reviews have a lot to learn from blogs about how to engage in bona fide conversations.
"Law school gossip -- who has an offer from what law school, for example -- travels quickly on blogs. Has this been a positive or negative development on balance?"
• Blogs help form new communities that couldn’t exist in physical space
- For someone who doesn’t have physical access to information about law schools or law firms, blogs provide much needed access to very useful information
• However, “gossip blogs” can lead to unfortunate socialization
- Obsessing about every detail can lead to lots of efforts to improve relative positioning and make people feel like someone is always getting a better deal
- This can lead people to feel like they should be worrying about these details even if they otherwise wouldn’t care
- This is unfortunate, but it’s also the inevitable consequence of information democratization
• Blogs have also captured gossip that normally was ephemeral, but now this gossip is preserved forever and published to the world. Unfortunately, some of this gossip has had a greater detrimental effect than its off-line equivalent.
- Some of this gossip isn’t good, but it is inevitable, and I hope (over time) people will learn to better wield the power of publication
I was also on deck to discuss gender disparities among bloggers--a topic I'm happy to defer to others. Cf. Dahlia Lithwick, who wrote that on the subject of the dearth of women opinion writers, men “are terrified to opine on the debate because the inquiry is so fraught with the possibility of career-terminating levels of politically correct blowback—à la Larry Summers—that they deem it better to hold their tongues and wait for the storm to pass.” In that vein, fortunately for me, this topic didn't arise in the panel discussion.
August 06, 2007
Public Law Schools Become Private
There is a lingering perception that public law schools are cheaper than private law schools. First, the accuracy of this perception is hard to measure because of the extensive price discounting (in the form of scholarships) used by private law schools (and some public law schools) to engage in price discrimination. Therefore, students generally can't infer very much on the published "sticker price" of a law school; the actual price can vary widely and can't be known until an individual student's financial aid package is prepared.
Second, I wonder if the era of "public" law schools is drawing to a close because many "public" law schools now derive trivial state support. This National Law Journal article gives an update on this development: University of Virginia Law School gets zero state support; University of Michigan and University of Minnesota get 3% of their budget from the state; and Illinois, Texas and William & Mary all derive 10% or less. Inevitably, this means the price discount for public law schools will narrow; and it challenges our notions about what makes a law school "public" in the first place.
Normatively, I don't think this development is inherently good or bad. Obviously, public law schools have played a key role in providing low cost access to a legal education, but diminishing state support doesn't automatically mean the end of that in an era of aggressive non-public price discounting. But the phasing out of state support should ultimately contribute to the decline of stereotypes of the benefits of public vs. private legal education. In the future, they will be indistinguishable.
July 16, 2007
Wisconsin Legislature Goes After University of Wisconsin Law School Funding
A Wisconsin legislator who believes Wisconsin has too many lawyers is trying to eliminate the state subsidy to the University of Wisconsin Law School. The motion was added to the Assembly budget, but it's likely to get washed out in negotiations with the Senate or get vetoed by the governor. Interestingly, there isn't even agreement on the amount of the state subsidy. The legislator believes it's $7M/year; the dean says it's only $2M/year (or only 10% of the operating budget).
July 10, 2007
Bar/Bri Settlement Approved
Judge Real approved the $49M settlement in the Bar/Bri antitrust litigation, but he rejected the incentive payments to the class representatives, instead telling the lawyers and the class representatives to work out the financial matters among themselves. So the settlement approval hardly ends the case; instead, it appears to commence a new round of fun.
July 05, 2007
Blogs Help Law Students Get Jobs
The National Law Journal runs a glowing article on how law students have gotten jobs/offers from blogging. This is great to hear, and done properly a blog can turn a law student into a superstar while still in school. But as the article only hints at, blogs also have the potential to produce the directly opposite effect, as evidenced most recently by the AutoAdmit fiasco. I caution law students to consider both the upsides and downsides of blogging before entering the blogosphere.
June 28, 2007
Law School Take-Home Exams as a Game of Scattergories
This semester I gave a take-home exam. Students had ample time to think about the exam and consult any source they wanted, so almost everyone properly identified and applied the applicable legal standards. This compares favorably with tightly-timed in-class exams (especially closed book exams, though it occurs with open book exams too) where it’s relatively easy to downgrade poor performers who widely miss major concepts.
I often worried that such mistakes reflect exam anxiety or speededness, neither of which I want to test, instead of substantive difference in learning. As a result, like Dan Solove, I’m considering moving to take-home exams as a better assessment tool.
However, when most take-home exams competently cover most of the basic points, grading distinctions become more subtle. This year, I noticed that my grading followed a process not dissimilar to the board game Scattergories. If you’re not familiar with the game, players are given a limited time to write down all of the words that they can think of that meet specified parameters (such as “list fruits beginning with the letter ‘C’”). Players earn points only if they list words that aren’t on other players’ lists. For example, if two players out of 6 list “cantaloupe,” neither of them get a point, but if only one player out of the 6 lists cantaloupe, the player scores a point. Thus, a player’s strategy can be to defensively list easy-to-identify words (to block other players from earning points for those words) or offensively list esoteric examples that other players aren’t likely to come up with (which scores affirmative points).
Writing a take-home exam follows a similar strategy. When most students analyze an issue virtually identically, these analyses all knock each other out, and no one scores any differentiated points for their work. If I expected the analysis, an omission would have detrimentally affected the score, so for these points a student could either earn a zero or a -1. On the other hand, when a student makes a relatively unique and valid point, that student earns a +1.
This suggests a “Scattergories strategy” to achieve a top score on take-home exams: address all of the basic points competently so you don’t lose any points due to omissions, but spend some time coming up with some “unique”/differentiated analysis to score extra points. Note that this may be a different strategy than in-class exams, where the top scoring paper typically gets there simply through consistently correct analysis without obvious mistakes, compared to the other papers that have one or more major mistakes.
June 25, 2007
When Rankings Mislead
I've been doing more admissions work this year than I have in the past, and part of my sales pitch is to explain why students should look past the US News rankings. This WSJ article nails it:
Keyan Rahimi-Keshari last year chose to attend Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tenn., ranked 16th in U.S. News, over 36th-ranked California-Hastings in large part because of the rank differential. But he couldn't get a summer-job interview from any of the 40 firms he applied to in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he wants to work after graduation. The magazine's rankings, he has concluded, doesn't account for the fact that schools below the top 10 may not carry as much weight with employers outside their region. He's considering transferring to a California school.
June 19, 2007
Bill Henderson and Andrew Morriss wrote a terrific article for the American Lawyer blasting law schools for whining about US News rankings but failing to sponsor a useful alternative. They write:
It is not reasonable to blame U.S. News for law schools’ decisions to distort the numbers. In fact, U.S. News has modified its rankings over time to include more reliable data. Rather, law schools and the ABA have failed to adopt effective self-regulation.
If law schools are serious about diminishing the importance of the rankings, a simple solution is available: supplying more detailed information in a standard format that would allow students to make direct school-to-school comparisons.
The article also includes numerous examples of just how out-of-control the law school rankings game has gotten. Few of these anecdotes are new; but as strung together by Bill and Andrew, they are devastating.
Bar/Bri Settlement Rejected
Judge Real has rejected the proposed settlement in the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuit. The soap opera continues!
June 15, 2007
Law Professor "Job Hopping"
National Law Journal: "More job hopping at schools." This year, there was a lot of faculty movement at highly ranked law schools--a circumstance this article attributes to (1) Harvard's decision to bring in new blood and reduce faculty-student ratios, and (2) Columbia's vow to increase its faculty 50% (over 3 years) to reduce faculty-student ratios. Collectively, these decisions led to a domino effect which is likely to percolate for several years as top-ranked schools raid lower-ranked schools and as professors play musical chairs among the top-ranked schools. Some implications:
* reduced faculty-student ratios are terrific for both students and faculty, but they don't come for free. At many schools, this necessarily means increased tuition for students. With tuition well over $35k/year at some schools, how high can tuition go?
* the article suggests that faculty decisions to move aren't always financially motivated, but at many schools, lateral movements by professors (or, at least the threat to do so) is a principal way for professors to reset their salaries to prevailing market standards. In turn, as law professor salaries escalate due to this market-resetting, students likely will pay the bills for this as well.
* as the article points out, some students are disappointed when they select a school to study with a particular professor who then moves on. Note to prospective law students: life is uncertain, so deciding between schools based on the identity of specific professors has an unmitigatable risk of disappointment.
June 11, 2007
My Requirements for a Supervised Academic Paper
Students regularly ask me to supervise a paper of theirs. This blog post discusses my suggestions and requirements if you want me to supervise your paper.
1) At your earliest convenience, read Prof. Eugene Volokh's book, Academic Legal Writing [Amazon Affiliate link]. Copies are available in the library, the bookstore and online. This is a terrific book that (among other things) efficiently explains how to select a paper topic (and how NOT to do so). This book will save you a lot of time in the paper-writing process, so the earlier you read it, the better off you will be.
2) In my opinion, selecting a paper topic is the most critical stage in the paper-writing process. A paper with a poor topic still will be a poor paper, no matter how well-written or researched it is. In contrast, if the topic is stellar, a paper can be a star paper even if it is only competently executed. So there is little point in marrying a poor paper topic, as it will simply mean that you are investing a lot of hard work in a paper with little or no upside.
Unfortunately, it is hard to find a worthwhile paper topic. Then again, I may be more demanding about paper topics than other professors. I routinely reject paper topics that (a) are case notes, (b) are already well-covered by the existing literature (or are going to be imminently flooded by papers in queue), (c) relate to a current event (such as pending legislation or a current dust-up) that likely will be forgotten in 12-18 months or has a high risk of mooting by subsequent developments, or (d) seek to recap the existing state of the law rather than advancing the dialogue. There are no shortcuts to picking a good topic, so I expect that generally you will do a fair amount of upfront work evaluating potential topics (including doing careful precedent checks to assess the originality of your proposed topic), and it's probable that I will reject several of your topic proposals before we find a mutually acceptable topic.
3) After we agree upon a paper topic, I will ask you to provide me your preferred schedule of deliverables with your own self-selected deadlines. I am not good about proactively cracking the whip on you; instead, I prefer that you let me know how you like to work, and then I can enforce your self-selected deadlines if you prefer. However, if you are the kind of writer that needs a professor to constantly hound you on deadlines and deliverables, I may not be the best choice.
You can pick any delivery schedule you want, but if you delay your work until the end of the semester, you run a serious risk of having me raise major structural concerns about the paper with little time for corrective measures.
4) I think it's very hard (if not impossible) to write a publishable paper in a single semester from a "cold start." However, I will be happy to work with you even after the semester if you want to make your paper publishable or if you want to submit it to the writing competitions. On that front, you might educate yourself about possible writing competitions using my mom's book, How to Pay for Your Law Degree [Amazon Affiliate link; but I recommend you look at the copies are in the library].
June 08, 2007
We're trying something new this year at SCU by offering a new 1-unit course entitled "E-Discovery." See the press release. While I'm sure E-Discovery topics have been addressed in other law school courses, I believe this is one of the first courses that a law school has offered for academic credit that focuses solely on E-Discovery.
May 22, 2007
"Eureka!: Lawyer-Scientists Cash In"
AP story on the rising number of law school applicants with deep scientific backgrounds. From my own personal observation this year being loosely involved with SCU's admissions process, I'm blown away by the technical backgrounds and expertise of our applicants. There are a lot of strong scientists who've decided to pursue law instead. As the article quotes Prof. Polk Wagner, "It almost scares me...Who's left in the lab?"
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."
March 30, 2007
Marquette Law Ranked #97 in 2007 US News Rankings
Marquette Law is back in the second tier of law school rankings after having dropped to the third tier last year. I'm shocked (massive sarcasm). See my prediction of this development from last April. Note my next prediction that Marquette will drop back into the 3rd tier in at least one of the next 5 rankings--that would be troubling except for my 3rd observation. So a reminder to prospective law students: it's stupid to rely on any single year's ranking in US News (and perhaps it's not smart to rely on them ever).
March 28, 2007
Bar/Bri Settlement Preliminarily Approved
Judge Real preliminarily approved the settlement in the Bar/Bri antitrust case.
March 16, 2007
Legislative Audiences for Law Review Articles
Cardozo Law School held an event entitled "Trends in Federal Judicial Citations and Law Review Articles" where 7 appellate judges and several law professors discussed the general decline in court citations to law review articles. The New York Lawyer writeup (free registration required). Some of the article rehashes some well-trodden ground, but a few interesting tidbits emerged. Most importantly--the judicial crowd has made it relatively clear that they aren't able to do much with policy-oriented law review articles, which makes sense, but legislators can act on our arguments.
So, as at least one judge points out, we as law review article authors should make our arguments to legislators. Of course, this requires more than mere publication; some evangelization would be required to affect legislators' thinking. I have been thinking a lot about how to do this effectively; perhaps some day we can organize an AALS panel on that topic.
UPDATE: This topic has sparked a lot of discussion. See:
* Adam Liptak NYT Article
* WSJ Law Blog recapping the discussion.
* Dan Solove: "the worthwhile articles are becoming needles in an ever-growing haystack"
* Orin Kerr: "my sense is that a lot of law review scholarship is not terribly serious about engaging with the law"
* Eugene Volokh: "we shouldn't, it seems to me, insist that all or even most legal scholarship be aimed at judges, or see certain genres' lack of desire to influence judges as a sign of those genres' inherent flaws"
* Mike Madison: we should write to plug into some community, even if it's beyond the legal community.
March 13, 2007
Communicating with Students
The Washington Post runs a story on one of the most vexing problems I face in my administrative capacity--how to communicate programmatic or administrative announcements to students. The article explains that proliferation of communication technologies has reduced the likelihood that any one method will reach students; plus, students routinely and deliberately ignore messages they receive via any of the official communication media (the article has quote after quote from students fessing up to this willful blindness). I can't count the number of times that I've spoken with a disappointed student saying "I had no idea" about some message that I had done my best to disseminate. It's very, very frustrating for everyone involved!
One particularly cumbersome solution is to blast students with the same message via multiple media, which only compounds the problem by increasing the data flow (and, perhaps more importantly, the irrelevancy of some of the data flow) to students, giving them even more incentive to check out. If anyone has figured out an effective method to reach students, I would LOVE to hear it!
March 12, 2007
Gifts for Incoming First Year Law Students
A friend recently asked for gift suggestions to give to a new incoming law student. This request had a certain irony, as those who know me well know that I am completely gift-challenged (and doubly ironic, as another friend had asked me about gifts to give law professors). So, at the risk of further exposing my gift-incompetence to the world, here's the suggestions I made:
Books to help with the first year
* Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing. I can't tell you how many 2Ls and 3Ls have told me that they wished they had read Volokh's book as a 1L. There are many other books in this genre, such as Fischl, Getting to Maybe.
* Bluebook. Every 1L is going to have to buy it, and worse yet, they will curse having had to spend money on something so worthless. So this is an ideal 1L gift--much needed, often used, and something better received than purchased.
* There are some packages of commercial outlines covering the full range of first year courses, like Gilbert Law Summaries: First Year Program. This would be a nice one-stop resource for students who are probably going to buy commercial outlines anyway. You could also buy individual commercial outlines, especially if you had a favorite.
Media depictions of the first year:
* Scott Turow, One-L. I won't say that this is the easiest book to read as a prospective law student, but it's a still-relevant preview of life as a 1L.
* DVD of Paper Chase or Legally Blonde. Neither of these are all that realistic, but they are still both fun.
Tools to help professional development:
* Student membership in the ABA or another geographically proximate or topically relevant bar association, such as INTA for trademark students. Getting your recipient involved in a bar association might be a great way to jumpstart his/her networking/job search/expertise development, so this is a gift that could, in theory, keep on giving.
* How to Pay for Your Law Degree. Disclosure note: this is my mom's book. However, it's a great resource because it lists various scholarships and writing competitions for incoming and current law students. This might help your recipient get some extra dough for law school or gain extra recognition.
* Multi-color highlighter set. This is partially a joke--recall Dahlia Lithwick's meltdown over her choice of highlighter colors. But I think a lot of law students burn through a lot of highlighters in law school, so why not help them out a bit?
* Silly shirt from a Cafe Press shop
* Gift certificate(s) for stress reliever (massage, LaserTag, weekend getaway, etc.)
Let me know if you have any other ideas!
[note: some links go through Amazon Affiliates]
March 01, 2007
Merritt on Teaching Evaluations
I've previously blogged on problems with student evaluations of teaching. First, I've expressed concern about the anonymous nature of the feedback, which means that the evaluators have reduced accountability for what they say. Second, there's evidence that superficial things like the professor's attractiveness affects the evaluations.
Deborah Merritt of Ohio State University College of Law provides much-needed structure to these critiques in her excellent article, Bias, the Brain, and Student Evaluations of Teaching, which reviews the extensive social science on teaching evaluations and how people judge other people to explain the significant deficiencies with the typical written evaluation of teaching. In a nutshell, she explains why written evaluations fail to accurately measure the quality of the professor's instruction, making them susceptible to bias and other unwanted forces. Her solution is to elicit student feedback in a guided discussion, a much more time-consuming method of collecting feedback but one that avoids the defects of the written evaluation.
Student evaluations of teaching are a common fixture at American law schools, but they harbor surprising biases. Extensive psychology research demonstrates that these assessments respond overwhelmingly to a professor's appearance and nonverbal behavior; ratings based on just thirty seconds of silent videotape correlate strongly with end-of-semester evaluations. The nonverbal behaviors that influence teaching evaluations are rooted in physiology, culture, and habit, allowing characteristics like race and gender to affect evaluations. The current process of gathering evaluations, moreover, allows social stereotypes to filter students' perceptions, increasing risks of bias. These distortions are inevitable products of the intuitive, “system one” cognitive processes that the present process taps. The cure for these biases requires schools to design new student evaluation systems, such as ones based on facilitated group discussion, that enable more reflective, deliberative judgments. This article draws upon research in cognitive decision making, both to present the compelling case for reforming the current system of evaluating classroom performance and to illuminate the cognitive processes that underlie many facets of the legal system.
February 14, 2007
The Destruction of Young Lawyers
Douglas Litowitz is issuing a second edition of the book The Destruction of Young Lawyers. I haven't read the book, but this interview with him lays out his basic thesis. He argues that 5 key attributes of the legal profession are contributing to widespread unhappiness among practicing lawyers:
* law school (among other critiques, "It is outrageously expensive, boring, and doesn’t teach concrete lawyering skills")
* the bar exam, "a totally pointless ritual of subjugation"
* "the big-firming of the profession," where (among other things) "equity partners are like a master-class while the young associates are like wage workers hired out by the partners"
* the billable hour method of charging
* new communication "technology which has transformed the practice of law into a 24-hour quickie-mart"
I'm not sure any of these critiques are new or even especially enlightening. However, who can resist such colorful rhetoric?
February 05, 2007
West/Kaplan Propose to Settle Bar/Bri Class Action
From Law.com: West and Kaplan are proposing to settling the antitrust lawsuit over Bar/Bri for a total of $49M, of which $37M would go to class members (the rest goes to attorneys), or about $125/class member. If class members really were overcharged $1,000 each, this is a pretty good deal for West and Kaplan!
UPDATE 2: WSJ Law Blog weighs in. Read the comments.
UPDATE 3: The NYT weighs in.
January 31, 2007
NLJ on Law Professor Moonlighting
NY Lawyer (free registration req'd) republishes an NLJ article about law professors establishing "of counsel" relationships with law firms, giving the examples of Laurence Tribe at Akin Gump and Kathleen Sullivan at Quinn Emanuel. According to a Quinn Emanuel partner, Kathleen's affiliation creates a "wow factor." He continues: "Honest to God, having Kathleen with you at a meeting is like walking in with Mick Jagger."
November 09, 2006
Law School Exam-Taking Tips for First Year Law Students
In October 2004, I gave a talk to Marquette first years about taking law school exams. I thought it would be useful to share my notes from that talk:
Preparing for the Exam
1. Learn how to take law school exams
2. Determine how the professor will evaluate the course
• open book v. closed book
• multiple choice v. checklist v. holistic
3. Do every sample exam you can
• If the professor doesn’t make sample exams available, ask for them!
Taking the Exam
4. Manage your time
• Allocate time in accordance with points
• Don’t freak out
[For essay exams]
5. Spend extra time issue-spotting
• Mix it up with the facts
6. Invest in organization
• Put your strongest arguments first
7. Answer all questions asked
• Don’t answer a question that wasn’t asked
• Don’t answer the question from the wrong perspective
8. If you are uncertain about the facts or the law, state your assumptions and discuss both ways
9. Don’t brain-dump
• Cutting and pasting costs the professor's confidence
• More words aren’t better; it’s about the right words
10. Be accurate with the law and the terms
11. If you’re handwriting, write legibly
After the Exam
12. Move on and don’t compare notes
13. After grading is completed, review every exam to learn what you did right and what you can improve
14. Recognize the poor correlation between grades and anything that matters
October 10, 2006
Nonagenarian Gets Law Degree
From AP: Allan Stewart, a 91 year old man, got a law degree in Australia. Talk about fulfilling a lifelong dream. Welcome to the profession!
October 03, 2006
Kaplan Loses SJ Motion in Antitrust Lawsuit--Rodriguez v. West Publishing
In the ongoing lawsuit about Bar/Bri's alleged antitrust violations in the bar exam preparation market, Kaplan has lost its motion for summary judgment. My last entry about this case was about the Bar/Bri class action website.
September 26, 2006
Website Publishes Professors' Past Grades
From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Pick-A-Prof, one of the numerous websites providing student reviews of professors, publishes the grading histories/practices of professors for many of the 170 schools it covers. Obviously, many schools do not provide this data willingly, but Pick-A-Prof's believes such data is a public record, thus forcing some public institutions to fork it over. Sometimes, lawyers are needed as attitude-adjusters. See the story about its lawsuit against UC Davis, which just last month concluded favorably for Pick-A-Prof when UC Davis relented.
Should we simply put this in the "more-information-is-better" category? Unquestionably, this information is highly relevant and interesting to students picking among courses. Further, it's existed in some limited fashion forever--certain professors get a reputation for being easy or hard graders, and these impressionistic reputations will be replaced by hard data.
However, will students use past grading data wisely to improve their decision-making? There are plenty of reasons to believe they will not. Instead, there remains significant concern that students will flock to the easy-grading professors, regardless of pedagogical merit, while tougher professors either will have their enrollments suffer or, worse, will change/lighten up their grading standards as a marketing ploy to prop up course enrollments or to win popularity contests.
To be clear, I've routinely published my own grading data (for example, see the 11 years worth of exam writeups for my Cyberlaw course), so I'm not philosophically opposed to the public availability of this data. However, to the extent that democratized grading information contributes to students viewing a course simply as an economic transaction to acquire a grade, I think we all suffer.
September 19, 2006
AALS Panel on "the Ratings Game"
How much do law professors hate the USNWR law school rankings? So much that at the big annual meeting for law professors, an entire day-long workshop has been organized on the "ratings game," including panels with descriptions like:
"In this session, speakers will confront the #@%$&**@ U. S. News and World Report rankings system"
"In this session, panelists will imagine creative alternative ways to assess law schools that may entail rating, not ranking, and ignore the U.S. News"
It takes a fair amount of antipathy to motivate spending a whole day to collectively figuring out how to moot the USNWR rankings! Unfortunately, I suspect this workshop won't succeed in doing so, although I do support the endeavor.
September 17, 2006
Professor Sells Podcasts of Lectures; Is Asked to Stop
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Robert L. Schrag, a communications professor at North Carolina State University, recorded his classroom lectures and offered them for sale on a website for $2.50 each. There wasn't a great market for them (only 12 bought, with a total of $11 going to Schrag), but the practice nonetheless raised some difficult questions. NCSU, like many universities, allows its professors to retain their copyrights, so Schrag wasn't infringing on the University's copyright (however, a different result might obtain at other schools with different policies). Yet, the practice of a professor getting double-paid for classroom duty implicates some complex fairness norms, plus there is at least a hypothetical concern that some students might be willing to pay to bypass classroom attendance for the convenience of podcasted lectures.
After the communications dean indicated that she was bothered by the practice, Schrag stopped. However, surely we haven't heard the last of this practice--or of other ways that enterprising professors can generate alternative revenue streams.
UPDATE: I've learned that a site, TeachersPayTeachers.com, is trying to make a market for teachers to sell lesson plans to other teachers.
August 14, 2006
What Law Students Want From Law Professors
James B. Levy, As a Last Resort, Ask the Students: What They Say Makes Someone an Effective Law Teacher, 58 Me. L. Rev. 50 (2006):
"[T]he profile of the ideal law school professor from the students' perspective is someone who is an expert in her field, projects confidence about that expertise, respects students, cares that they learn, and has great enthusiasm for teaching. Somewhat surprisingly, characteristics that we usually presume to be very important to students, such as teacher's learning students' names, the ability to entertain students in class, or socializing with them outside of class, were not as important to students as we often believe."
But what about professor sexiness?
July 27, 2006
Wisconsin's Diploma Privilege Draws More Questions
[July 2009 Update: In response to the Seventh Circuit opinion, I've blogged more about the diploma privilege and Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki]
Wisconsin is the only state that still allows graduates of in-state law schools to become lawyers without taking a bar exam (called the diploma privilege). This creates some interesting dynamics--UW and Marquette graduates have some extra incentives to stay in WI because it means they can avoid a bar exam, and out-of-state graduates/lawyers have to jump through some extra hoops just to get to the same place as in-state graduates.
This dichotomy creates controversy constantly, but it may boll over as the new state bar president has targeted the diploma privilege as part of his agenda. You can see a video on this issue here, focusing on the sad story of Arnie Moncada (name corrected per comment below), who went to Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan, failed the Wisconsin bar 4 times, and now can't be a lawyer in WI forever...while if he had just graduated from Marquette or UW, he'd be a lawyer now.
Personally, I always thought the diploma privilege did Marquette graduates a disservice--it encouraged students to focus on Wisconsin job opportunities in preference of other great options elsewhere. On the other hand, the diploma privilege helps UW and Marquette in the US News rankings every year (it's hard to beat 100% "passage").
(Thanks to Garet Galster for sending this link).
July 14, 2006
BAR/BRI Class Action Website
A website has been set up in the Rodriguez v. West case over BAR/BRI's alleged monopolization of the Bar exam test preparation market. Affected class members can opt out of the class by following the instructions on the website. A trial has been scheduled for September.
For more of my blog coverage on the Bar/Bri class action lawsuits, see here.
July 13, 2006
Silly Bar Exam Rules
Jeremy Blachman a/k/a "the Anonymous Lawyer" has a funny bit on silly bar exam rules. Rules like: gum is OK, but only if unwrapped (presumably, people could write very small cheat sheets on the wrapper). Jeremy's conclusion::
A few final words: Don't wear a catheter. Unwrap your gum. Make sure you bring your swimming goggles. And you're all ready to pass the bar exam.
Read the whole thing to see why this advice, in a twisted way, actually makes sense. While you're at it, you can check out my tips for passing the California bar exam (a little dated, but still mostly accurate). For those of you studying for the exam, you're almost at the finish line. Good luck!
May 17, 2006
Bar/Bri Class Certified
Plaintiffs' counsel in the Rodriguez case has announced that its class has been certified, clearing a major hurdle in the antitrust litigation over Bar/Bri's alleged efforts to divide and conquer the bar exam preparation market. The judge also appointed a special master in the case.
Note that there are at least two other pending lawsuits in the same matter:
It's not immediately clear to me what, if any, effect the Rodriguez class certification will have on these other lawsuits.
April 27, 2006
I Know Nothing About Bar/Bri!
Regular readers may recall that I've occasionally blogged about the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuits. See, e.g., here and here and here and here. (And, FWIW, there's now another one: Park v. Thomson Corp. in the SDNY). I was also quoted in an article on the lawsuit. And, a dozen years ago, I was a Bar/Bri customer.
That pretty much describes my total universe of interactions with Bar/Bri in my lifetime. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a call from the law firm of Shearman and Sterling, an old-line NY firm that is one of the biggest, most prestigious and most expensive law firms in the country. They also happen to defend Bar/Bri. They informed me that my name had appeared on a Rule 26 supplemental disclosure filed by the plaintiff, flagging me as a party that may have potentially discoverable evidence. They were calling to try to figure out why I was on the list.
I'm trying to figure out the same thing! I think it's a little odd to show up on a witness list like this without being contacted first. And I REALLY don't want to be a witness in this case. So now I'm in the awkward position of scrambling to proclaim my incompetence. All I did was blog a few posts and give a reporter some quotes; that doesn't actually mean that I know anything!
More generally, this incident suggests a new hazard of blogging about pending lawsuits--litigants may try to drag the blogger into the suit as a witness. Good to know...
April 16, 2006
Marquette Drops From 100 to 101 in US News Ranking
There are many reasons why being a Dean must be frustrating. Among other reasons, the Dean is the guardian of the school's brand, but Deans have little control over brand perceptions in the short run. Instead, brand perceptions are largely shaped by exogenous influences such as third party rankings.
So an annual "rite of Spring" among law schools is to conduct post-mortems following each new US News & World Reports ranking. Each April, Deans around the country spend a lot of time answering for their latest rankings. The resulting news stories follow a predictable plot:
* law school drops in the rankings
* angry alumni and students demand to know why
* the Dean explains that the rankings are important but methodologically flawed
You could almost recycle the same story at every law school that isn't blessed by the USNWR gods.
The stories are flowing in at Marquette, where the school dropped from last year's three-way tie for 100 (at the very bottom of the second tier) to the third tier. This drop looks precipitous, but in fact the USNWR's data jockey says the school should have been ranked at 101. So, according to the USNWR methodology, the school dropped a single place from 100 to 101. This doesn't stop the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from saying the school is "rattled" by the "tumble" in the rankings. See the Marquette Tribune's similar story.
(Note that because there was a three-way tie for 100 in last year's rankings, there were 102 schools ranked in the top 100. So, arguably, Marquette rose from 102 to 101 this year. Whatever.).
I won't recount the many, many reasons why the USNWR rankings are flawed. I will, however, offer an interpretive guide to the USNWR rankings that should be obvious but apparently isn't. Just like consumer surveys and political polls describe their margin of error (i.e., this poll is accurate within X% +/-), one should read each year's installation of the rankings as having a margin of error as well. (We could debate the size of that margin; personally, I think it's very large). So if a school changes from 100 to 101, does that reflect any real change? In my book, no. It is entirely consistent with the metric's margin of error.
Because of the metric's imprecision, USNWR rankings have some natural volatility from year to year. This means schools like Marquette will float up and down without any real intrinsic change. Because these changes are inevitable and not tied to reality, I can confidently make the following predictions:
1) Marquette Law will be back in the second tier in next year's rankings (or, at the latest, in 2008)
2) In the 5 years after that, Marquette Law will be back in the third tier at least once
3) Neither of those developments will accurately reflect any real changes at the school
Anyone planning to rely on this year's USNWR rankings should be advised accordingly.
March 24, 2006
Scott Moss on Harvard Law Students With No Pants and Red Pants
[Eric's note: today I'm turning over the wheel to my colleague Scott Moss. We discussed the recent news item about a student from Scott's alma mater (Harvard Law School) who got arrested for drunkenly flashing his "pot of gold" in public on St. Patrick's Day. This sparked a response from Scott that he is uniquely positioned to share, so here is his story:]
By Scott Moss
Eric brought to my attention this hilariously disturbing story of a drunken Harvard Law School student who exposed himself in public and then, according to the police officer who happened upon the scene, “made it a point to make it known he was a Harvard Law School student and that he would see us in court...It seems he thought it would make a difference in the outcome of the incident.” I’m guest blogging about this primarily because I have the “in-group privilege" to have some fun with this one; it reminded me of a much tamer (but still ridiculous) story from my own law school days.
When I was a first-semester 1L at Harvard, my assigned seat in Contracts class was in the front row. Seated behind me was another student…let’s call him “Cameron.” Cameron’s attendance was… well, let’s say “spotty”; so I was sitting in front of an empty seat more often than I was sitting in front of Cameron. One day, Cameron came to class -- which, again, was a minor event itself -- and, halfway through the class, I started to hear a faint metallic tapping noise behind me. “Emily” (the student who sat next to me) and I briefly exchanged a puzzled smirk, as if each of us was asking the other, “do you have any idea what he’s doing?” A fter a few minutes, the irritating tapping ended with one louder metallic “pop!” sound. Emily and I both instinctively turned around; we saw a shocked Cameron holding an unopened can of V-8 on its side -- with a ball-point pen puncturing it, V-8 splattered everywhere. Apparently, this genius spent the class -- the first class he had attended in a week or three -- stabbing his can of V-8 with his pen, until he accidentally (but pathetically foreseeably) pierced the can, splattering V-8 all over himself and the desk.
I occasionally get asked, mostly by non-lawyers, “is everyone at Harvard Law really smart?” I quickly respond, “of course not,” and I proceed to tell the V-8 story, or any number of other such stories; granted, several of these stories are about the same doofus (Cameron), but several others are about different folks in my class (including myself, when I said or did some dumb or immature things).
Any allegedly “elite” institution is likely to have some number of superstars, but also some number of total duds -- the irresponsible, the lazy, the immature, and the just plain stupid. So don’t ever be too impressed at a degree from an elite school, or a letterhead from an elite law firm; it just might be Cameron you’re dealing with.
March 09, 2006
Accrediting the Accreditation Bodies
Interesting brawl emerging over the ABA's recent initiative to enhance diversity as part of the law school accreditation requirements. Three groups have petitioned the US Department of Education asking that the ABA lose its power to accredit law schools, arguing that the ABA's actions drive law schools to engage in illegal discrimination. See the Chronicle of Higher Education article (subscription required).
I've always been struck by the ABA's (and AALS's) seemingly unrestricted power to mandate debatable normative goals as part of the accreditation process, so it's interesting to see some pushback/accountability for accreditation standards. With the ABA now facing its own accreditation evaluation, perhaps the ABA will experience first-hand the challenges of being under substantive review!
February 21, 2006
Some Professors Don't Like Student Email?
The NYT has a reactionary story today about professor-student email interactions. The subtext of the article is that some professors don't like some of the emails they get from students:
"At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance."
The article also implicitly laments that professors are now more accountable to students, and students have high (in some cases, aggressive) expectations for professor availability.
All of this may be true, but it strikes me as a universally good thing to eliminate some of the unnecessary barriers between professors and students that may hinder student learning. When a student emails me, the student opens a new channel of communication that extends the pedagogical space outside the four wall of the classroom into a format that may be more comfortable for the student. What a golden opportunity for me as a professor! And while I expect students to exercise discretion and common sense in communicating with me by email, it's my responsibility to set boundaries and establish appropriate norms for our interactions. In some sense, this boundary-setting may be equally or more pedagogically valuable than the substance we cover in the classroom.
I felt particularly uncomfortable with the decision by some professors not to answer a student's email at all. If a student emailed me a question about which binder to buy, I can think of several responses that would be more helpful than silence, such as:
* "do what works for you"
* "either choice is a good one"
* "you might consult your peers for perspectives about how they manage their course information that is more current than my experiences"
I'm not suggesting that I'm perfect with email, but I can't imagine many circumstances where I would deliberately ignore an email from a current student.
February 16, 2006
Hurt on ABA's Latest Diversity Initiative
At Concurring Opinions, Christine blogs on the latest ABA diversity admissions initiative. As she points out, critiques that the ABA's efforts are illegal miss the point. She writes:
"Putting aside debates as to whether affirmative action is good, bad, constitutional, unconstitutional or whatever, the most affirmative action-minded admissions committee has to make very difficult choices in an environment of scarcity. Scarcity of applicants; scarcity of dollars."
She then details her frustrations as an admissions committee member at Marquette, which indicates that solving the diversity problem is not easily mandated by accreditation bodies.
February 10, 2006
Law School Applications Decline 10%
The New York Times reports that law school applications this year are down about 10%. Maybe there will be a late run of applicants, but if applications decline again this year (like they did last year), possible explanations include:
* better economic times means more/better jobs for prospective students (increasing the opportunity cost of law school and giving more students a way to productively allocate their time)
* students feel like they already have too much education-related debt, which increases the pressure to make sure law school is the right choice
* more students are interested in medical school (med school applications are up)
* no recent hot lawyer-oriented TV shows or movies (i.e., no The Practice or Legally Blonde or even Ally McBeal or Ed; and the Law & Order fervor may have cooled off)
* my favorite explanation comes from David Kelly (who is responsible for a number of the TV shows that have driven people to law school): "The more lawyers there are, the more people are out there to encourage others not to go to law school"
Whatever the case, the decrease in applications could have significant repercussions. A smaller applicant pool means that there are fewer students with GPAs/LSATs that help a school's US News rankings. Competition for these students should get even fiercer.
At the same time, I've noticed a minor trend towards schools shrinking their entering class size. Reduced enrollments helps schools control entering students' GPA/LSAT numbers by trying to avoid matriculating the bottom X% of incoming students (as measured by numbers). However, this is also a costly management tool because fewer incoming students means less revenue for the school/university. Nevertheless, if the applicant pool is shrinking and most schools want to avoid lower entering GPAs/LSATs, entering class sizes--and law school budgets--will have to shrink.
December 03, 2005
NYT on Bar/Bri Class Action Lawsuits
November 30, 2005
Study of Harvard JD/MBAs
Crossing the Charles: the Experiences, Networks and Career Paths of Harvard JD/MBA Alumni, by Justin Osofsky and Lynn Wood.
Law students and law school experiences have been extensively studied, critiqued and dissected, but until this study, no one had studied JD/MBAs separately. Thus, this study addresses a big gap in the literature.
The study makes three principal assertions:
1) "JD/MBAs, on average, prefer the HBS experience and have a stronger long-term emotional and financial relationship to HBS."
2) "JD/MBAs perceive that the HBS network has more meaningfully influenced their careers than the HLS and JD/MBA networks."
3) "While a majority of JD/MBAs in the 1970s initially pursued legal careers, JD/MBA graduates over the last two and a half decades have gravitated towards business careers."
While some of the supporting reasons are specific to Harvard JD/MBAs, these findings are generally consistent with my personal experiences at UCLA.
The study reports on some unique hassles that joint program students (especially JD/MBAs) face, such as each school scheduling classes in different time blocks (almost always ensuring that a class in one school knocks out two in the other). At UCLA, the problem was even worse because the law school was on the semester system while the business school was on the quarter system, so it seemed like I was constantly in finals.
Nevertheless, I had a great experience in my program. Among other benefits, the study notes that JD/MBA students usually get 4 years (instead of 2 or 3) to develop their career trajectory. In my case, I was able to use the extra year (and extra summer) both to redefine my career objectives and triangulate towards the right law firm for me. If I had a shorter graduate school career, I'm not sure I would have been able to make course corrections on a timely basis.
However, that extra year came at a cost. The study notes that "many JD/MBAs report feelings of isolation during their final year of the program." This was definitely true in my case. In both schools, I started out with the classes that graduated at the end of my third year, so I knew very few people in my 4th year--just a few joint degree program students like myself, and a few other classmates I met along the way. Sometimes I felt like a walking dinosaur, a relic of a prior era. Some joint degree students might find the last year frustrating.
While generally I had a good experience in the JD/MBA program, I would not recommend the program for everyone. In particular, the complexion of legal education has changed some over the past 10-15 years. When I was in graduate school, law schools offered a very small number of B-school-"esque" courses. Now, law schools offer a big chunk of the business school curriculum in-house. For example, at Marquette, students can take a variety of courses that overlap with the business school curriculum, including economics, accounting, finance, an entrepreneurship class (specific to starting a law practice) and other transactional courses.
Therefore, many law students can now get much of the same educational content without a separate degree. There are still plenty of good reasons to explore a JD/MBA program--the networking with a different student population, the credentialing, the extra time to explore and other benefits--but the cost is high (both time-wise and financially), so I can see the law school curriculum proliferation putting some pressure on the cost-benefit calculus of enrolling in a JD/MBA program.
While the law school curriculum has made important strides, the Osofsky/Wood study still suggests that the law schools have room for improvement. Among other things, Harvard JD/MBAs donate more to the business school than the law school and were more satisfied with their business school experience. Law schools who learn from business schools how to improve their student satisfaction may be able to reap donation windfalls in the future accordingly.
Hat tip: The Conglomerate
November 28, 2005
Teaching Academy Chicago Publishers v. Cheever
At ContractsProf, I blogged on teaching the Academy Chicago Publishers v. Cheever case.
November 18, 2005
Are You Hot or Not?, Academic Style
Slate writes about RateMyProfessor.com, one of the several websites designed to capture student word-of-mouth about professors. As the article points out, one dominant theme emerges--students want professors who are hot. Fortunately, I'm not listed (yet) in RateMyProfessor.com, a status I'm not complaining about. I've never considered hotness my strong suit (although I do try to glam it up for class).
I think the idea of capturing word-of-mouth is generally a great idea (hence, my stint at Epinions). If done properly, these websites could help decision-makers make smart choices in the marketplace. Unfortunately, I think these professor rating sites are usually not very credible. One of the lessons I learned at Epinions is that voting/rating systems need stabilization--not every vote deserves to be treated equally. Specifically, there needs to be some filtration process that prevents the jokey, deranged or vindictive votes from distorting the tally. Otherwise, the gamesters/fraudsters ultimately take over the system, and the resulting data is junk. The Slate article provides some nice examples of the inevitable degradation of the RateMyProfessor database.
November 14, 2005
Blogging at ContractsProf
September 22, 2005
US News Rankings and Mailbox Overflow
Academic reputation is a big component of US News rankings, but it's hard to influence. The academic rankings are partially self-reinforcing--our perceptions of other schools are influenced in large part by what prior rankings said.
To overcome this, many schools send marketing mailers to showcase the school. These materials highlight the quantity of the faculty's scholarship, the school's interesting programs, the accomplishments of its alumni, and the physical attractiveness of its facilities and its students. In theory, these marketing mailers improve academic rankings by helping recipient professors form more positive impressions of the mailing school.
As a practical consequence, we as professors get a deluge of marketing pieces around this time in the semester (i.e., coinciding with distribution of the US News survey). Every day this week, I've gotten several items of US News-inspired promotional mailings; yesterday I got four pieces, including a 100 page plus glossy magazine, a thick brochure about an IP program and a couple conference announcements.
I would like to read these mailings because I'm genuinely interested in what other schools are doing. On the other hand, the volume is simply too much to keep up. If I spent all of my time reading the inflow about other's accomplishments, I'd never accomplish anything of my own!
This means, realistically, that many of the mailings go straight into the trash unread. In particular, I've now adopted an across-the-board rule: the big glossy magazines automatically go into the trash because they take too long to read. Mailing schools, take note!
UPDATE: October 17: 7 law school promotional items today.
August 31, 2005
Bar/Bri Sued Again--Brewer v. West Publishing
Brewer v. West Publishing Co., No. 05-06211 (C.D. Cal. complaint filed Aug. 24, 2005). A second class-action antitrust lawsuit has been filed against Bar/Bri (the first was the Rodriguez case). The basic storyline tracks the Rodriguez complaint, but some tidbits alleged in the complaint (some of which also overlap the Rodriguez complaint) as evidence of antitrust violations:
* Bar/Bri bought out a NY competitor (Marino Bar Review)
* Bar/Bri uses non-compete agreements with its teachers
* Bar/Bri has a practice of tearing down flyers for competing programs (this one seemed particularly shaky)
* Bar/Bri pays off law school administrators to control physical access and prevent competitors from getting physical access
* Bar/Bri uses ABA-branded "scholarships" to price discriminate in favor of students who are considering competitors
* Bar/Bri shut down competition in Louisana, and the price increased accordingly
Thanks to En Passant for catching this.
UPDATE: Anayat Durrani of LawCrossing.com gives an update on the initial lawsuit.
August 27, 2005
Are All Law Professors Democrats?
The NYT runs a story about a forthcoming Georgetown Law Journal article assessing political contributions from law professors at 21 highly-ranked law schools. The findings:
* 1/3 of these professors gave to political campaigns
* "81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans"
* at the top 3 schools, the numbers were even more extremely skewed to Democrats: "91 percent at Harvard, 92 at Yale, 94 at Stanford"
* in a stat that surely throws doubt on the entire project, "University of Chicago is slightly more liberal than Berkeley"
What's going on here? Is all of legal academia filled with bleeding-hearts? I haven't read the full paper, but some obvious limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the study (based on the NYT recap):
* sample size. The NYT references this obliquely, but I wonder how many people met the $200 threshold at each school
* criteria. By focusing on political giving, this may measure only people who have either deeply-held beliefs or money to burn, not the "average" faculty member
* sample pool. There are about 190 law schools in the country. Focusing on only top-ranked schools provides only limited insights into the entire pool of law professors generally
* misnomers. It's probably a mistake (or, at least, a gross generalization) to equal "Democrats" with "liberals"
* baseline. I wonder how the numbers would compare for other areas of academia. What numbers should we expect when doing this type of survey of academics?
The rest of the article is filled with surprisingly shallow stereotypes to explain why top-ranked law schooss might skew left and how that impacts students. Nevertheless, until we get better insights into the phenomenon, law faculty candidates who have conservative views and are seeking appointments at top-ranked schools should proceed advisedly.
UPDATE: Brian Leiter points out some problems (including some of the points above) with the NYT write-up...and maybe the underlying study.
August 12, 2005
Update on Bar/Bri Antitrust Litigation
An American Lawyer story recaps the lawsuit and some of the developments. Lawschool.com reports that a motion to change venue was denied.
UPDATE: The Daily Journal ran an article as well.
July 15, 2005
Lander on Adjunct Law Teaching
Despite all of the hoopla about full-time law teaching positions, there is significantly less attention paid to the process of being an adjunct professor. Fortunately, the Business Law Today ran a good basic article on adjunct law teaching by David Lander. For lawyers interested in exploring adjunct teaching, this article is a fine place to start.
Let me add just a couple of comments borne from my 7 years of experiences as an adjunct professor at 3 different law schools:
* It will take more time than you think. I typically spent 200 hours a year on my 2 unit course. Further, this time comes on a fixed schedule; unlike some client deadlines, classtime really isn't negotiable. It usually meant a lot of weekends in the office during the semester prepping for class.
* Don't do it for the money. I got paid about $1,400-$1,500 per unit. For a 2 unit class, this meant about $3,000. Don't get me wrong, I'll take the money, but this isn't going to change my life. For many practicing lawyers, this money is just a rounding error compared to their salaries; and at some firms, the money just goes back to the law firm anyway.
* Don't do it because it will increase your professional stature. Being an adjunct probably will have that effect, but it's a time-consuming way to do so, and in the end your responsibilities to your students are a far more important consideration.
* Do it because you love to teach. There's something magical about guiding students to greater understanding; to capitalizing on your practical experience and helping students see the world through your unique view; to helping students accomplish their professional and personal objectives. Every year, my wife would beg me to drop being an adjunct because of the time commitment; every year, the lure of teaching won out (until I became a full-time professor and ended the competition for time!).
If you're considering becoming an adjunct, or you're already one, I encourage you to consider Madeleine Schachter, The Law Professor's Handbook: A Practical Guide to Teaching Law Students (Carolina Academic Press 2003), which does a very competent job demystifying the process. It will answer most of the questions you're bound to have. I also have put together a bibliography of articles to consider at the bottom of this page.
Being an adjunct was one of the most professionally-satisfying activities I ever did. It was also one of the hardest. I commend the experience to all of you who are interested.
July 12, 2005
Resources for New Law Students
It's the season where bloggers gtve advice to new law students about how to prepare for the Big Event. I'm going to join this discussion but only for a limited purpose: to call attention to two wonderful resources put together by Larry Krieger at FSU.
These booklets discuss some of the very tough issues that are well-known to law students and lawyers yet often left unaddressed. I've recommended them to our orientation director and commend them to all incoming first year students. Many thanks to Larry for his hard work in preparing them.
Bonus article to read: Dahlia Lithwick's Letter to a Young Law Student.
June 24, 2005
NYLS "Certificate of Mastery in Law Practice Technology"
New York Law School is launching a certificate program for mastery of law practice technology (free registration required). Among the topics that students can study in the program include:
"• Creation of a complex Web site or blog;
• Electronic discovery/evidence analysis;
• Case-mapping software creation;
• Use of audio, video and graphics tools in electronic courtroom presentation;
• Document assembly software creation;
• Cross-firm online deal room systems creation;
• Software creation for electronic licensing, corporate governance and practice management;
• Online dispute resolution;
• Bringing governmental institutions online"
This seems like a pretty good idea. A lot of practitioner time is being spent on non-substantive technology issues, and it will help to have law schools provide richer training on these topics. Kudos to NYLS for spotting the opportunity.
June 15, 2005
Amended Complaint in Rodriguez v. West Publishing
In late May, the plaintiffs have amended their complaint in the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuit. Among the new allegations, the complaint alleges that Bar/Bri paid off Louisiana State University to shut down its independent bar preparation course.
Does a Headache Allow an Exam Reschedule?
A George Mason law student develops a migrane during an exam. The proctors refuse her request for additional time. After more back-and-forth with the school, the student claims to suffer "intractable migraine syndrome" and sues for discrimination and retaliation. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, but that decision gets reversed by the Fourth Circuit.
1) While legitimate ailments absolutely need protection, I imagine almost all professors cringe at the thought that a student could ask for more time based on an ailment that arises mid-exam and isn't easily verifiable. This certainly could create some student gamesmanship that would be problematic for all students, the professor and grading system integrity generally.
2) Migraine + a single law school exam = 4th circuit opinion?! Further confirmation that law student-initiated litigation is among the most pernicious and intractable. One would have hoped that the parties could have worked something out without multiple judicial opinions for a matter like this.
May 17, 2005
What Gifts Are Appropriate for Students to Give to Professors?
My buddy Dan, a graduating 3L from Georgetown (congrats, Dan!), asks a tough question: If a grateful student wants to get a professor a gift, what is appropriate? It’s hard to answer this question because I have some obvious self-interest!
Let’s start with why a professor teaches in the first place. There are many motivations, but the vast majority of law professors genuinely want to help students accomplish their objectives. However, we rarely know if we've been successful that way. A student takes our class, graduates, and then we never know if we helped the student or not. So a student helps satisfy my motivations if the student tells me how the story turns out a few years down the line. Did the student get to where the student wanted to go? Was I helpful in getting the student there? If not, what could I have done to be more helpful?
Thus, from my perspective, the single best gift is when a student checks in with me a few years later telling me that I was helpful (if that’s the truth). That always makes my day! So, Dan, make a vow to check back with your professors in a few years and tell them how their teaching/support affected you. That’s the best gift of all.
However, this does not give you an immediate answer to your question. If you want to do something now, a thank you note would be incredibly gracious. I don’t expect such notes—they should be done only when truly heart-felt—but I’ve occasionally gotten thank you notes from students over the years and they always warm my heart.
Beyond that, I don’t see a need to give a material gift; a thank-you note would supersede the communicative effect of any material gift, and a material gift without a thank-you note would be very nice but not quite as meaningful as a note.
Having said that, occasionally students over the years have gotten me slinkies and that always brightens my days. I have a slinky obsession that I often reference in class examples (or students discover while investigating me on the web), and sometimes students get me slinkies when they see them. I am very touched when a student does something so personally motivated like that. Other gifts in the same vein—such as intellectual property artifacts like the Marshmallow Peeps art given by one of my students—all show that the person is thinking about me personally and about the topics I’m passionate about, and those say a lot.
However, I cannot stress this following point enough: I don’t expect gifts or thank-you notes or any further recognition from students. I don’t need fealty, I have no expectations and I don’t keep score.
If, despite all this, you choose to give a material gift, three ground rules:
1) No gifts before grades are finalized. While most professors would not let a gift affect their judgment, the possibility for impropriety can make such gifts uncomfortable. (This may also hold for thank-you letters).
2) No gifts that are too personal. I don’t want to be uncomfortable explaining anything to my wife. (This may also hold true for thank-you letters).
3) No expensive gifts. We know that students have a ton of debt, so an expensive gift would break our hearts.
Note that the foregoing discussion applies when the student wants to express gratitude for the professor’s teaching/support. I think the situation is slightly different when a professor has done something above-and-beyond for you, like write a recommendation letter. In that situation, I think you should treat it like any other situation where a friend has gone out of their way as a personal favor. For example, I rarely can write a recommendation in less than an hour, and students almost always ask for the letter with a deadline measured in days (or, sometimes, hours). This invariably means that I have to rearrange my schedule to help out the student. I don’t expect a thank-you note, but a thank-you note is never inappropriate. A small token of appreciation, like something you would give a friend, also can be OK, but I feel a little less comfortable with gifts as a thank-you for recommendation letters—if handled incorrectly, this can feel a little like pay-for-play.
Thanks for asking, Dan. I hope this helps. If anyone has further thoughts, please comment!
UPDATE: The Chronicle on Higher Education has a string on this topic.
UPDATE 2: I've also blogged on gifts that are appropriate for new first year law students.
May 16, 2005
Update on Bar/Bri Antitrust Lawuist
A couple of new articles on the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuit, Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corporation, CV05-3222 (C.D. Cal. complaint filed April 28, 2005). The National Law Journal writes a brief recap (registration may be required). The ABA Journal eReport runs an article with some good quotes from the plaintiff’s lawyer, claiming that successful plaintiffs should get $1,000 each and saying his “goal is to get the [BAR/BRI] company broken up.”
May 11, 2005
Blogs With a Marquette Law Connection
There has been a recent proliferation of blogs with a connection to Marquette University Law School (I've noticed a spike in blog activity around final exam time--blogging is the quintessential way to procrastinate!). Here are the ones I know about:
Conglomerate (Prof. Christine Hurt is a co-blogger)
Rex Holmes’ Blog (Rex is a 3L and the “blogmaster” behind my blogs—thanks, Rex!)
Fsck Law (Matt Goeden is a 3L)
Law on Caffeine (not sure who is running this blog)
Then there are my two blogs:
If I missed any, please let me know so I can update.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the MULS Federalists blog.
May 05, 2005
Fischer on Teaching Legal Ethics
At Legal Ethics Forum, Prof. James Fischer of Southwestern speculates why students don’t respect their Legal Ethics course. He rejects the traditional rationales such as “(1) students lack real world experience; (2) the course is just a bunch of rules that lack a unifying theme; (3) course is warmed over moral pabulum.” Instead, he believes that it’s because the course, unlike others in law school, requires students to engage in personal introspection.
When I was in law school, Professional Responsibility was the only mandatory course we had to take after first year, so we didn’t like being forced to take the course. (Now, the ABA mandates so many more courses post-first year, so the Professional Responsibility course no longer stands alone). Further, my particular section had a fairly high irrelevancy factor—I intended to be a Silicon Valley transactions lawyer, but my professor (former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso) taught the course from the perspective of what a personal injury litigator in Imperial Valley (a very rural and poor community) would need to know.
At Marquette, I too have found that many students resist personal introspection, despite my exhortations that personal introspection is critical to understanding the course. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that students take the course seriously, sometimes get downright enthusiastic about the course material, and usually have one or more "a-ha" moments during the semester. I know better than to think that the course is a student favorite, but now I have much more hope that students will ultimately see the merits of the course than when I first started teaching it.
Law Students Nationwide Hate Their Career Placement Office
Law.com reports on a comprehensive survey of law students. Among the findings were that “63 percent of students said they received scant support in job placement.” I am surprised that the number is so low; I could have seen this number being 100%. I find that students have a special enmity for their career placement offices, and this has been true at every law school I’ve been affiliated with. What’s ironic is that students often feel that their career placement office is uniquely bad (I felt that way when I was a student), instead of realizing that law students universally share this feeling.
One other stat caught my eye: “32 percent never have substantive discussions with faculty outside of class.” I’d like to know a little more about that statistic. Is it because faculty are unapproachable/too busy/never on campus? Because the student doesn’t really want those discussions to take place? Some other explanation? I wouldn’t immediately characterize this stat as a problem if a minority segment of the student population simply doesn’t value/want out-of-class contact.
April 30, 2005
Kaplan and Bar/Bri Alleged to Illegally Divide Market--Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corporation
Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corporation, CV05-3222 (C.D. Cal. complaint filed April 28, 2005). Explosive class-action antitrust lawsuit brought by Van Etten Suzumoto & Beckett against Kaplan and Bar/Bri alleging an illegal market-division agreement where West agreed to stay out of the LSAT preparation market and Kaplan agreed to stay out of the bar exam preparation market. Press release here.
I’m a little surprised that this lawsuit hasn’t been brought earlier; Bar/Bri has had nearly 100% market share for years. On that front, I know very little about antitrust law, but I wonder about the applicable statute of limitations—the purported agreement took place in 1997, or nearly 8 years ago.
My experience was Bar/Bri was a good one (i.e., they did a good job preparing me for the bar exam), but the complete absence of meaningful competition in the bar exam preparation business has puzzled me for a long time. If the plaintiffs can prove the facts they allege in their complaint, then we’ll have an answer.
April 22, 2005
De Novo Blog on Law Reviews
De Novo blog ran a “symposium” on law review membership (Should you apply? General or specialty? etc.). Days 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. My contribution, with my typical cynicism and a small dose of optimism, is here.
April 14, 2005
Andrew Perlman on Law School Promotional Material
Over at Legal Ethics Forum, Andrew Perlman has challenged the prevailing standards for law school promotional materials. He calls on law schools to set an example for future lawyers by adhering to rigorous marketing standards akin to MR 7.1.
I had some difficulties with this argument. First, I think the argument relies on US News rankings as a useful proxy even though we all know better than that. For example, Andrew comments that “I know of one school that is not in the top 50 that promotes itself as one of America's most respected law schools.” I assume that this refers to top 50 of US News, but is the US News ranking a useful proxy for measuring “respect”? I think that line of thinking has been destroyed by Brian Leiter and others. Andrew also comments that a “school promotes itself as having among the very best job prospects in the country, although data supplied by U.S. News & World Report is clearly to the contrary.” Again, I think the data contained in US News has been thoroughly discredited.
Perhaps more importantly, the argument appears to assume that “one size fits all,” while law schools—and law students—are heterogeneous. For example, a lowly ranked school may indeed offer the “very best job prospects” for particular types of careers or particular geographic settings—it depends on what students want. It would be a mistake to measure the merits of job placement on a standard that, as an example, elevates a Cravath offer over a state DA job. For some students, the latter would be the best possible job they could imagine.
Finally, I think the most important flaw in the argument (also somewhat present in the comments by David Giacalone) is that it assumes more/better/more accurate data would change student decision-making. I am extremely skeptical on that front. Simply put, law school applicants do a fairly poor job obtaining credible information and making informed decisions. We know that students rely too heavily on US News despite its poor/misleading information and defective algorithms, but I think the problem is more pervasive than that. In my experience, students (consistent with bounded rationality) rely on a variety of heuristics, rumors and ill-formed impressions in their decision-making. As a result, many students simply would not consider more (or more accurate) information in their decision-making process; and if they did, they would not be influenced by that information.
I’m not saying that schools should be free to spew out bogus information; we still need behavior-conformance tools like the FTC Act and other consumer protection laws. Otherwise, given applicant heterogeneity and the complexity of selecting schools, I think law school puffery is no better—and no worse—than puffery in other equally-complex sales.
April 13, 2005
Gordon Smith on Law School Teaching Loads
Gordon Smith at Conglomerate has prepared an outstanding post listing the teaching loads at various law schools. His table shows overwhelmingly that the top-ranked law schools have moved to a new standard of 10 units/year as opposed to the more traditional 12 units/year.
He makes a number of insightful points about the chart, but the one that resonated the most was the chasm between the “have” and “have not” schools. It simply is not possible for a person teaching 12 units to match the scholarly output (quantitatively or qualitatively) of someone teaching 10 units. So long as the top-ranked schools are at the lower standard, they will continue to produce more scholarship that will improve their academic reputation under US News rankings, which will further cement their top ranking. I can’t see how lower-ranked schools can overcome this virtuous cycle without moving to the lower teaching load. A lower teaching load would not guarantee rankings improvements, but with higher teaching loads, it’s not even a fair fight.
As for me, I have mixed emotions about the lower teaching loads. On the one hand, one main reason to become a professor was because I love to teach, so I cherish my time in the classroom. On the other hand, I could be a better teacher and a better scholar with a lower teaching load.
April 06, 2005
North Dakota Targets Professors With Foreign Accents
North Dakota is considering a law giving students certain rights if professors do not “speak English clearly and with good pronunciation”—and if enough students complain, stripping the professor of classroom duties. Two observations:
· This is the most jingoistic proposal I can recall since California’s English-only initiative. The referenced study, showing how listeners implicitly discriminate against minority lecturers, shows just how warped this proposal really is.
· I have a tough time understanding Wisconsin accents, let alone people with a strong Southern drawl!
April 04, 2005
Steele on the State of Legal Education
John Steele organizes his thoughts into a thought-provoking post about the state of legal education. He concludes “Two trends that bother me: the use of citation counts and download counts as a proxy for the quality of education, and the dominance of just a few schools (Harvard, Yale, Columbia & Chicago) as sources of new law professor hires.”
March 22, 2005
Law Review Article Length Policies
Jim Gibson compiled the stated page length preferences of various law reviews (reposted with his permission—thanks Jim!):
· California Law Review -- is rethinking length policy; seems to prefer 40-70 pages
· Columbia Law Review -- will not review articles over 37,000 words as measured by Word barring exceptional circumstances; prefers under 32,000 words
· Cornell Law Review -- strongly prefers under 30,000 words
· Duke Law Journal -- no policy given but did sign joint statement
· Florida Law Review -- prefers 40-70 pages (20,000 to 35,000 words)
· Georgetown Law Journal -- strongly prefers under 35,000 words (70 pages); will consider over 35,000 only in extraordinary circumstances
· Harvard Law Review -- prefers under 25,000 words (50 pages); will not publish over 35,000 words (70-75 pages) except in extraordinary circumstances
· Michigan Law Review -- prefers 50 to 70 pages; if piece exceeds 70, a mention in your cover letter explaining why might prove helpful
· New York University Law Review -- prefers 40-70 pages (20,000 to 35,000 words)
· Stanford Law Review -- prefers under 30,000 words
· Texas Law Review -- no cap on length; signed joint statement to remove perception that it prefers long articles
· University of Pennsylvania Law Review -- strongly prefers under 35,000 words but will publish over 35,000 if length is merited
· Virginia Law Review -- strongly prefers under 20,000 words; will publish over 30,000 words only under exceptional circumstances
· Yale Law Journal -- encourages less than 30,000 words (60 pages) and strongly discourages more than 35,000 words (70 pages)
He also lamented that the journals changed their rules mid-stream with surprisingly little warning. I sympathize. For authors who were working on the old rules (like Jim), this rule change had to be brutal.
Personally, I “blame” this quick rule change on the rapid adoption of ExpressO. With the ease of sending articles via ExpressO, there is really zero cost to authors to send everything they write to the top journals. As a result, I have to assume that the volume (both number of articles and total pages) received by these journals looked like it was going to grow exponentially. Pushing down page lengths was a quick defense mechanism against the spamability of ExpressO.
March 04, 2005
Lubet on Law School Exams
Professor Steven Lubet raises some provocative questions about law school exams. After recounting a story about how Chinese students chose to deal with a closed-book exam through brute force memorization (despite professor entreaties not to do so), Lubet asks the pointed question:
“So it is unsurprising that the Chinese students refused to embrace American law school exams. The real question is why American students put up with them.”
Student acquiescence doesn't make sense to me either, but this isn't a new complaint. We've heard grumbles about the deficiencies of law school evaluation methods many, many times before. However, we also know that every evaluation method is flawed at some level, and therefore choices between evaluation methods involve some tradeoffs. What's the solution? Lubet doesn't answer this question, and the lack of a perfect solution suggests that maybe the griping about exams is misplaced. As Lubet points out only in passing, grades on exams communicate surprisingly little useful information, yet we (mistakenly) treat them as scientific. Perhaps we would benefit by recalibrating our expectations about the communicative import of grades.
March 03, 2005
Computer Law Association Writing Competition
The Computer Law Association, in association with the Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review, is holding its annual writing competition to recognize papers on information technology law topics. Papers need to be sent by April 30, 2005 and received by May 10, 2005. You can find more information about the competition at http://www.cla.org/2005claitcomprules.pdf.
February 24, 2005
Osgoode Hall (at York Univeristy) is offering a 4 year joint JD/LLB with NYU Law. For someone who wants to practice both US and Canadian law, this seems like an exceptional deal.
February 16, 2005
ABA Grants Two Provisional Accreditations
Western State University College of Law and John Marshall Law School (Atlanta) received provisional ABA accreditation yesterday. Given that there are less than 200 ABA-accredited law schools, this is a pretty big deal—it grows the pool of ABA-accredited schools by over 1%. (Western State was already provisionally accredited, but they appeared to be in serious jeopardy of losing that status last summer).
February 13, 2005
"Most Popular General Student Law Reviews"
ExpressO put together a list of the “100 Most Popular General Student Law Reviews” based on the number of articles submitted through ExpressO’s system. This list struck me as very odd. Seeing Yale Law Journal at #10, Harvard Law Review at #26 and Stanford Law Review at #31 is rather jarring. The #80-100 positions are pretty interesting too. I know these numbers are skewed because of (a) ExpressO’s incompleteness as a delivery tool, and (b) the pricing difference between electronic and hard-copy deliveries. Nevertheless, should ExpressO take root as a major delivery tool, it should be interesting to see exactly who gets what.
More on Law Review Article Length
I recently posted on law review article length. On Saturday, I got the following spam from the Cornell Law Review:
Thank you for submitting work to Cornell Law Review in the past. We are excited to let you know about two developments in our article review process for Volume 91 and future volumes.
Second, you will also see a statement on our website from the top law reviews about our commitment to moderating the length of the articles we publish. You will also see Cornell Law Review’s statement expressing our preference for pieces that we believe can be published at under 30,000 words (including text and footnotes). We believe, like many of you, many of your colleagues, and many of our colleagues, that this effort will sharpen the quality of legal scholarship and the efficiency of the publishing process.
Thank you again for submitting your work to Cornell Law Review in the past and we look forward to receiving and reviewing your future work.
Board of Editors
Cornell Law Review
It appears that the journals are making a big push this submission season to enforce their announcement. But already ambiguities are beginning to crop up. Harvard is emphasizing articles under 25,000 words, with a putative cap of 35,000 words, although this leaves open how Harvard will deal with articles in the 25,000-35,000 word range. In partial contrast, Cornell is giving preference to 30,000 words or less. For authors caught by surprise, this submission period could be pretty bumpy. (As for me, I was targeting 30,000 words for my latest article, so I think I’m OK…?).
February 08, 2005
Law Review Editors to Authors: "Too Many Words"
The blogosphere is abuzz with the announcement that law reviews are going to try to limit the length of law review articles. If true, this is excellent news for everyone, including authors like me. But I don’t believe it for a second. Law review articles editors are still going to need to be educated on very specialized topics to appreciate the import of the paper, and editors are still going to make decisions about a manuscript based on factors that have nothing to do with its content. After this year’s crop of editors turns over, it will be interesting to see how many editors remember this treaty.