December 23, 2012
Spring 2013 Travel and Speaking Schedule
Here's my tentative upcoming travel and speaking schedule for next semester. As usual, if I'm going to be in your neighborhood and you want to connect, let me know.
* January 5-7: AALS Annual Meeting, New Orleans. I'm speaking at the IP Section meeting Sunday afternoon. Other than that, I have some play time both Sunday and Monday, so let me know if you want to do some New Orleans tourism. Among other things, I'll be on the hunt for vegetarian food in unfriendly environs.
* January 15: talk at Los Altos High School about online content [I know! can you believe anyone would put me in front of high schoolers???]
* February 6-7, ABA Antitrust Section Consumer Protection Conference, Washington DC.
* February 20-21, Yale ISP, New Haven. I'll be giving a noontime talk that Thursday.
* February 21-23, Notre Dame, South Bend. Attending a marketing workshop on Friday.
* February 28, USF/Microsoft Trademark Conference, Los Angeles.
* March 1-9, Cancun and Cuba.
* March 15, 15 Year Retrospective of the DMCA, Santa Clara University.
* March 16, Internet Law Works-in-Progress Conference, Santa Clara University.
* April 11-13, Trademark Scholars' Roundtable, Bloomington, Indiana.
* May 2-3, ITechLaw Annual Meeting, Scottsdale, AZ (not confirmed yet).
* May 30-31, Rocky Mountain IP Institute, Denver (not confirmed yet).
July 05, 2012
I've Posted My Applications for Tenure and Promotion
I’m not sure exactly why, but professors rarely publicly post their tenure applications or promotion applications. Google searches will yield few examples, and usually the applications are not even shared within the school (for example, assistant professors drafting their own applications often have to walk the halls asking for examples). I understand the fact that applications are personnel-related, but they have a reasonably large number of readers within an institution and are hardly “private” documents.
Needless to say, this tendency to suppress information conflicts with my blogger’s ethos, which is to leave no thought unpublished. Indeed, I spent a couple dozen hours working on each of my applications, and there are very, very few projects since 2005 where I’ve spent that much time preparing a document but have not shared the resulting document online. So I’m going to overcome the norm that P&T applications aren’t publicly shared and post my application for tenure and promotion from assistant to associate professor (from 2008) as well as my application for full professor that I submitted last year:
I also submitted my CV as part of the package. You can see my latest version here.
For those of you who stumble across this post from random Google searches, I hope my examples provide you with some thoughts about how to draft your own tenure application or promotion application. Obviously, you should use your own institution’s application form if one exists (we didn’t have such forms in the law school), and you should conform your application to the P&T standards that govern you—which, especially for those of you outside law school, are almost certainly very different than the standards that applied to me. So my applications aren’t meant as exemplars, but I do hope they provide some inspirations.
Ultimately, P&T applications should tell a story--your story. The story of how you’ve added value to the many disparate communities that you engage with as a professor. The story of how you will continue to do all of that and more with tenure or a promotion. Tenure and promotion aren't destinations; they are milestones in a career-long journey that, once achieved, should help you achieve even greater heights. If your application tells that story, you’ve increased your odds of success irrespective of the application’s outline or form.
November 28, 2011
Spring 2012 Travel/Presentation Schedule
Here's a list of some of my anticipated upcoming events. For some reason, a higher-than-usual number of these upcoming events are still question marks. As usual, if I'm traveling to your neighborhood or we're going to be at the same event, let me know if you'd like to get together.
Dec. 2: The Economics of Privacy, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO
Jan. 20: ABA Business Law Section Cyberspace Committee Winter Working Meeting, San Francisco
Feb. 9: Faculty workshop, University of North Carolina Law School, Chapel Hill, NC
Feb. 10-11: WIPIP, University of Houston Law Center, Houston, TX
March 22: Oldham Lecture in Intellectual Property Law (should be open to the public), University of Akron School of Law, Akron, OH
March 24: Internet Law Works-in-Progress, New York Law School, New York, NY
April 13: Social Networking Sites: Law, Policy and Practical Strategies, Suffolk University Law School, Boston, MA
April 20-21: Trademark Scholars' Roundtable, Chicago, IL
May 2: Lawyers' Guide to Using Social Media for Professional and Client Development, PLI, San Francisco
May 4: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Annual meeting, Vancouver BC (to discuss DoctoredReviews.com and patient reviews)
May 5-9: I'm trying to decide if I'll go to the INTA Annual Meeting in Washington DC. My faculty discretionary account probably will be exhausted by then.
May 18-19: Teaching Consumer Law conference, University of Houston Law Center, Houston, TX
June 1-2: SFIPLA meeting in Healdsburg, CA
June 10-12: AALS Mid-Year Meeting, Berkeley, CA
April 25, 2011
Reflections on the Inaugural Internet Law Works-in-Progress Event
Last month, we held the inaugural Internet Law Works-in-Progress event at Santa Clara University. Over three dozen Internet law scholars participated in the event. A few observations:
Insatiable Demand for WIP Events. I was nervous about launching a new works-in-progress event. After all, our community has so many of them already! I feared the market was getting saturated, so professors would question the value of attending a new one.
Fortunately, our healthy turnout for this event suggests otherwise. We had a nice mix of established and emerging scholars from all over the country.
Some of this may reflect the limits of the presentation time lengths at the mass-market works-in-progress events. The short time slots at IPSC serve a purpose--the talk becomes a form of marketing for the professor, and it prompts individualized feedback at the breaks or by email. However, longer works-in-progress sessions have a value too. In our case, we bifurcated the fairly well-developed papers from the lesser-baked projects; we gave 30 minutes for paper presentations and 20 minutes for less-developed talks. I'm not sure this worked 100% perfectly, but we were able to reach a discourse level in the 30 minute talks that simply isn't possible in the IPSC whirlwind.
The Cyberlaw Community Needed Its Own Discussion Space. Until the Internet law papers got kicked out of IPSC last year, I don't think many of us thought that the Internet law scholarly community needed its own academic discussion space. Most of us were happy to piggyback on the infrastructure built for the IP community. However, as it turns out, we really did need our own discussion space, and we can derive significant benefits from a discourse among cyberlaw peers. Some examples:
1) High level of discussion. Because most participants were fairly well versed in Internet technology, we were able to have a high-level discussion without getting bogged down in technology basics. A good example of this was Marketa Trimble's paper on what she calls "cybertravel." The paper really is about Internet users who borrow IP addresses associated with other geographies to appear like they are in remote geographies and thereby route around geography-based content blocks. Anyone who wasn't comfortable with IP address technology would have been easily lost. Because everyone had that common foundation, however, Marketa didn't need to cover the technology basics and therefore was able to get much deeper into her topic.
2) Not skewed towards IP. When the Internet Law community piggybacks on the IP-oriented works-in-progress events, we tend to skew our presentation towards IP issues to increase the accessibility and appeal of our work. In contrast, in this community, no such skewing was required or expected.
3) Space for discussing cyberlaw pedagogy. When I was chair of the AALS Law & Computers section (which we renamed to the Internet and Computer Law section), I floated the idea that we might have an Internet Law pedagogy session at AALS. That idea got shot down because it was viewed as too topically narrow and thus unlikely to pull in non-section members (we did the Law & Wikis topic instead, which drew an OK audience).
However, if we can't discuss Internet Law pedagogical issues at the AALS section, then where is a good venue to discuss pedagogy? As it turns out, we really had no home for that discussion anywhere.
This event fills that gap. We only had one pedagogical-oriented paper (from Ira Nathenson), but I anticipate we'll have more over time. I was a little worried that participants wouldn't be enthusiastic about discussing pedagogy, but the report was that the audience was very engaged in the paper (I was monitoring the other room, so I missed the talk, unfortunately).
Non-Academics Enriched to the Conversation. We tightly controlled the attendee list, but we did let a few policy-oriented folks participate in the event. These folks don't normally go to works-in-progress events, but their presence was a natural extension for some attendees of the prior day's 47 USC 230 conference. I wondered how the academic and policy crowds would interact. It turns out that the policy-oriented participants added a ton to the discussion. They had great substantive feedback based on their portfolios of interest; plus they had great suggestions about how to tailor the projects to be more appealing to policy-makers.
California is a Great Conference Destination in Early March. It's always dicey planning conferences for early March. Most of the country is still mired in Winter, and even Northern California can get soggy at that time of the year. But Santa Clara is blessed with 300 days of sun a year, so the odds are good that we're going to have lovely weather even in early March. The temperature was a little cooler than our norm, and we did get some rain right after the conference ended (it's been a wet La Nina year), but it was still nice enough to enjoy the outdoor patio in the afternoon.
I can't promise good weather for the Second Annual Internet Law Works-in-Progress event, scheduled for New York Law School some time in Spring 2012 (probably April). However, I can promise an excellent time. Hope to see you there.
February 27, 2011
Faculty Talk on Blogging and Personal Websites
Earlier this year, I gave an informal talk to our faculty and staff about how I use blogging and my personal website. My talk slides.
As you can see, I made one basic point: like-minded people may be interested in our work as faculty members, but we often give them no way to keep track of us. Blogging, Twitter and my personal website all help plug that gap.
The remainder of my slides show, step-by-step, how I post content, starting at my website and ending at Twitter. I wanted my colleagues to see that it's not really that complicated, and it doesn't take a lot of extra time to share everything I do. I also showed some of the ways I get feedback from the content I share, including stats and @replies at Twitter.
April 19, 2010
Upcoming Talks Spring 2010
I've added some new talks to my schedule recently, so here's an updated list of my talks for the next couple of months:
May 6, 8-10 am: Obstacles and Opportunities: eCommerce on Both Sides of the Atlantic, a breakfast briefing co-sponsored by Bingham and HTLI. We'll be talking about the Google ECJ opinion, Tiffany v. eBay and other cutting-edge online trademark and copyright topics. In addition to me, the panel includes two Bingham partners and a very special guest: Terri Chen, Google's new chief trademark counsel, in one of her first public speaking venues since she has taken on her new role. Free CLE! Register here.
May 11, 12-1: I'll be speaking at the San Jose State library school about regulating reputation systems. See their event announcement. Seating at this event is very limited, so let me know if you would like to attend in person. A recording will be posted to the web about a week after this event.
May 28: EACLE Conference, Rotterdam. Assuming trans-atlantic flights have resumed by then, I will be speaking about my reputation research in the Netherlands. This may be a closed door event.
June 1, noon: I will give another version of my reputation talk at the University of Amsterdam. This should be an open door event, so contact me if you are interested in attending.
June 8, 8-10 am: Hot Topics in Blog, Social Network and Internet Law, a breakfast briefing co-sponsored by Greenberg Traurig and the High Tech Law Institute. Ian Ballon, one of the world's foremost Cyberlaw experts, and I will be speaking on the latest and most interesting Internet law developments. Free CLE! Register here.
June 25: I'll be speaking about online advertising at the Stanford E-commerce event.
Also, please save the date for our big Fall academic symposium on the First Sale and Exhaustion Doctrines in IP, November 5, at SCU. The event web page with a link to registration. This event will be especially timely given that the Supreme Court should be hearing oral arguments in Costco v. Omega around that time.
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.
January 04, 2010
Where to Find Me Spring 2010
I'm on sabbatical in Spring 2010. Being on sabbatical has two main effects on my work schedule: (1) I am not teaching this semester, and (2) I have temporarily handed off my administrative duties to my colleague Tyler Ochoa (by far the biggest benefit of the sabbatical!). Otherwise, for the most part, my work schedule and location will be the same.
As part of preparing for my sabbatical, I have intentionally reduced my travel and speaking engagements in Spring. My current schedule of trips and public speaking gigs (I'm sure there will be others):
January 8-9: AALS, New Orleans. At minimum, I'll be at the IP professors gathering on Friday night, the IP Section meeting on Saturday morning, and the Law & Computers section meeting (which I'll be chairing--please come!) on Saturday afternoon. This is one of only two currently scheduled trips outside of the Bay Area for the semester, so I hope to catch you there.
January 28: FTC Privacy Roundtable, Berkeley
March 9, 6 pm: Jewish High Tech Community, Mountain View. I'll present my reputation project to a non-lawyer audience. This event is open to the public for a nominal fee, so I hope you'll consider coming.
April 8: I will be helping with Paul Ohm's joint HTLI-CSTS-Markkula presentation at SCU on de-identification.
April 9-10: Copyright @300, Berkeley, cosponsored by the BCLT and HTLI. I don't have a speaking/moderating role, but I will be around for at least part of the event. This should be a terrific conference, and I hope you can make it.
April 16-17: Chicago for a private gathering of trademark law professors.
May 11, noon: San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science as part of their colloquia series. I'll be presenting on my reputation project again. I believe this event is open to the public, and the talk also will be podcast (and perhaps webcast?).
As always, let me know if you would like more details about an event or if you would like to meet up.
February 19, 2009
Bibliography of Articles for New Law Professors
When I became a new law professor, I did a little research and tried to assemble articles addressed to me--the new law professor. The stack has been sitting locked away in boxes now for a while, so rather than continue to try to maintain a dead tree's archive, I'm passing along a bibliography of articles I identified, plus some more recent articles. The list does show my age (I became a full-time professor in 2002) but some principles remain true to this day.
* Rachel Arnow-Richman, Bibliography for New Teachers, 26 Hawaii L. Rev. 489 (2004) (focused on contracts professors).
* Robert H. Abrams, Sing Muse: Legal Scholarship for New Law Teachers, 37 J. Legal Educ. 1 (1987).
* Susan J. Becker, Advice for the New Law Professor: A View from the Trenches, 42 J. Legal Educ. 432 (1992).
* Richard Delgado, How to Write a Law Review Article, 20 U.S.F. L. Rev. 445 (1986). Although its principal audience is students, I think Volokh's Academic Legal Writing [Amazon Affiliates link] is a more useful and modern treatment of the subject.
* Cheryl Hanna, The Nuts and Bolts of Scholarship (2004).
* Mary Kay Kane, Some Thoughts on Scholarship for Beginning Teachers, 37 J. Legal Educ. 14 (1987).
* Howard E. Katz & Kevin Francis O'Neill, Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching: A Primer for New Teachers (2007).
* Eric L. Muller, A New Law Teacher's Guide to Choosing a Casebook, 45 J. Legal Educ. 557 (1995).
* Douglas K. Newell, Ten Survival Suggestions For Rookie Law Teachers, 33 J. Legal Educ. 693 (1983).
* Frank T. Read and M.C. Mirow, So Now You're a Law Professor: A Letter from the Dean, Cardozo Law Review De Novo, at 55, 2009.
* Kent D. Syverud, Taking Students Seriously: A Guide for New Law Teachers, 43 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1993).
* Donald J. Weidner, A Dean's Letter to New Law Faculty About Scholarship. 44 J. Legal Educ. 440 (1994).
* Douglas J. Whaley, Teaching Law: Advice for the New Law Professor, 43 Ohio St. L.J. 125 (1982).
There are a lot of materials on teaching generally. You might find the following further resources helpful:
* My careers in law teaching page
* Madeleine Schachter, The Law Professor's Handbook: A Practical Guide to Teaching Law Students (2003) [Amazon Affiliates link]
* Dorothy A. Brown, Selected Articles on Law Teaching for the New Law Teacher (2005)
* Materials from the Legal Scholarship Blog
* Mercer Law's Law School Teaching and Learning Resources
* Georgetown Law's Law Teaching & Scholarship Guide
* Michael A. Gerber, Milk and Cookies for Untenured Faculty, Selected Resources (2001) (emphasizing resources for bankruptcy professors)
* Sharon Dolovich, Making Docile Lawyers: An Essay on the Pacification of Law Students, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 2027 (1998)
* Jordan H. Leibman & James P. White, How the Student-Edited Law Journals Make Their Publication Decisions, 39 J. Legal Educ. 387 (1989). This is a little dated but it has some neat statistical analysis of journal practices.
Good luck! Feel free to contact me if I can help in any way.
July 30, 2008
Comments on Ethan Leib's "Friends as Fiduciaries" Article
I am participating in the Fourth Annual Conglomerate Junior Scholars Workshop as a commenter on Ethan Leib's paper, Friends as Fiduciaries. The group discussion. My comments. The intro from my comments:
There can be a fine line between genius and insanity, and for some readers, Ethan Leib’s paper Friends as Fiduciaries may be right at that border. The paper argues that friends are being recognized as fiduciaries under existing law, an insightful observation that deserves the careful treatment it gets in the paper. The paper goes on to argue that the law should affirmatively designate some types of friends as fiduciaries because this will improve friendships—a provocative normative conclusion that, I think, some readers will reject no matter how persuasively it’s supported. In this respect, the paper reminded me a little of my conversations with my mom after she reads my papers that try to defend the indefensible (like spam and adware). She says in an affectionate but motherly way that the paper was nicely written but also has to be wrong. I can see some readers reaching the same conclusion here.
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.
July 15, 2008
My Sprawling Digital Empire, Where to Find Me Online and My Friending Policy
Recently, I have proliferated the online venues where I am publishing content. This blog post enumerates all of the various places I hang out online:
Technology & Marketing Law Blog. This is my main ongoing publication outlet. I try to post there about 15-20 times a month.
Goldman's Observations. Since you're here, you already know about this one! I post here when I have something to say that doesn't fit into the Technology & Marketing Law Blog. Typically, that's around 8-10 times a month.
Personal Website. I use this for archival storage and navigation-driven retrieval. Often, when I post something online there, I will blog about its availability. There's no other easy way to find out when new content is added there.
Epinions.com. I don't write new product reviews often. When I do, I will often double-post them here or at least post a link to the new review. I also occasionally post to TripAdvisor--same deal about cross-posting.
SSRN. SSRN always has the "canonical" and "final" version of my academic articles. I will always blog about a new SSRN posting.
InformIT. I occasionally publish articles there. Sometimes they are reposted to the blog.
Twitter. I've launched a Twitter account but I still don't know what to do with it.
Facebook and LinkedIn. If we're not already friends, send me an invitation (but see my friending policy below). Like Twitter, I'm still trying to figure out what to do with these sites. I probably still have accounts at Friendster and Orkut, but I haven't been to either site in ages.
My slinky store. I used Zlio to put together a slinky store. It's not been successful, but part of the problem is that Zlio doesn't carry enough slinky items to make a unique store.
Chat. I use AOL's IM (which very few people seem to use any more--email me if you want my IM screen name) and Gmail's Chat.
Others. I'm sure I have other digital hangouts, but if they didn't make this list, I'm probably not investing very much in them.
My Friending Policy
I'm pretty liberal about accepting friend invitations at Facebook and LinkedIn. However, there are two main reasons why I might decline or ignore a friend invitation:
1) If we have never met face-to-face, I may not accept your invitation. I've made a lot of friends through my online activities, and FTF isn't a prerequisite to friendship in my book. However, over my 3.5 years of blogging, I've found that eventually I cross paths with my virtual friends in physical space for some reason or another. I do have some Facebook and LinkedIn friends who I've never met, but that's a pretty small group.
2) If I don't recognize your name, then I probably won't accept your invitation. This doesn't mean that we won't become friends in the future, but we'll probably have to get to know each other first before I am ready to close the loop on a social networking site.
Just like my blogroll, I occasionally purge my friends list.
May 18, 2008
Some Personal Good News
I'm pleased to share the good news of my tenure and promotion to associate professor. Some frequently asked questions:
1) You weren't nervous about the tenure vote, were you? [This question has been posed in a variety of forms, all with an implicit skepticism about a negative outcome.] Being recently hired as a lateral assistant professor, I had some reason to believe the faculty would generally support my tenure application, and I felt good about my application on paper. However, tenure is a major decision by a faculty, and faculty politics can be complicated--especially in an environment where I was a relative newcomer. So personally, I never assumed tenure was a foregone conclusion.
2) What role did blogging play? I don't have a precise answer to this question. In preparing my materials, I treated blogging as a "plus factor." In other words, I felt like my application should stand on its own merits even if blogging was completely stripped out of the application. As a result, my hope was that blogging would enhance the application but not act as a substitute for some other obvious deficiency.
3) How are you going to celebrate? To celebrate both tenure and my recent milestone birthday, next month I'm going on a 2 week guided river rafting trip down the Hulahula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. I'll blog more about that trip over the summer!
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!
February 25, 2008
Tushnet on IP Teaching Props
Rebecca Tushnet has posted Sight, Sound and Meaning: Teaching Intellectual Property with Audiovisual Materials, an article on the use of teaching props for intellectual property courses. Of course Rebecca also manages the Georgetown Intellectual Property Teaching Resources database, a fantastic resource that helps our entire community easily find appropriate audiovisual teaching props. Many kudos to Rebecca for undertaking that selfless task.
The article gives some great examples of how she uses props in her class. I wish we had a better way of sharing these kinds of tips with each other. I have probably come up with some interesting props, and I often learn about other interesting ideas when the topic comes up. Maybe we can have an AALS session on teaching props at some point.
This short article addresses my experience using audiovisual materials from the Georgetown Intellectual Property Teaching Resources database. I use audiovisual materials extensively in class to allow students to see the subject matter of the cases rather than just reading verbal descriptions and enable them to apply the principles they read about to new, concrete examples. Many students in IP courses have special interests in music, film, or the visual arts, and the database allows me - and other teachers - to present materials that engage them. I have found that students are more willing to speak up in class when they can see or hear for themselves and can point to specific aspects of the underlying materials. I also briefly address the copyright question: should teachers worry about using digital materials in class? Fortunately, the available statutory exceptions are supportive of in-class teaching. Using images and sounds to illustrate litigated cases and hypotheticals is pedagogically valuable and legally justified.
January 18, 2008
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.
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 09, 2007
Using Second Life as a Teaching Tool
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on six professors who are using Second Life as a pedagogical tool. However, the article also contains a sidebar with some caveats about Second Life's downsides, ranging from technical glitches to bandwidth impacts to red light districts.
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.
September 04, 2007
Legal Times on Law Professor Blogs
Margaret A. Schilt, Is the Future of Legal Scholarship in the Blogosphere?, Legal Times, August 31, 2007. This is a good recap article on the state of law professor blogging.
On a separate matter, check out the Legal Scholarship Blog. This is a promising new website with news of various upcoming conferences and some nifty links about scholarship and teaching.
August 05, 2007
Gary Rivlin in the NYT has a terrific article entitled "In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich." The article discusses how a few million dollars of net worth doesn't go as far as they used to, especially in the Silicon Valley where there are tens of thousands of millionaires and perhaps you're not really rich (at least, compared to your peers) until you hit 9 figure net worth. It says:
Silicon Valley offers an unusual twist on keeping up with the Joneses. The venture capitalist two doors down might own a Cessna Citation X private jet. The father of your 8-year-old’s best friend, who has not worked for two years, drives a bright yellow Ferrari.
This is no joke. At my wife's former company, which had created hundreds of millionaire-employees, the talk at company parties often involved each person's personal jet. Those of us who didn't own private jets were awkwardly unable to participate in the conversation.
A side consequence of this competition, and the inflated housing prices, is that there are comparatively few single income families where we live. In turn, it's hard to arrange playdates during the middle of the week, and "mommy-and-me" classes frequently are more like "nanny-and-me" classes.
My wife and I expressly discussed these issues before we decided to move back to the Silicon Valley. Not only were we planning to live on a single salary in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, but it's an academic salary at that, effectively ensuring that we would never be able to keep pace with our neighbors. This doesn't bother me in the least--it's a choice my wife and I made knowingly and for the right reasons--but I'm dreading the day when my kids start asking questions about why their classmates are doing things that we simply can't afford to do. Then again, like the birds-and-bees discussion (another conversation I dread), it will present a powerful opportunity to teach our kids some essential life lessons.
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].
May 29, 2007
Student Evaluations of Teachers "Flawed but Fixable"
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on research by Anthony G. Greenwald, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Some tidbits from his research:
* "At best, student ratings provide a weak measure of instructional quality"
* "70 percent of the variance in departments' average course-evaluation scores could be explained by differences in students' grades. In departments where professors' grading was more rigorous, students' evaluation scores were lower"
* "The most reasonable use of student evaluations, Mr. Greenwald said, is to identify instructors at the extreme ends of the spectrum"
Some previous posts on the topic of student evaluations of professors:
* Law Professor Tampers with Student Evaluations
* Merritt on Teaching Evaluations
* One professor's testimony of how she inflated grades to improve her tenure candidacy
* Sexy professors are better professors (?)
* Are You Hot or Not?, Academic Style
* Tenured Canadian Professor Fired for Posting Comments to RateMyProfessor.com
May 02, 2007
Media Relations for Professors
On Monday, SCU had a "thank you" lunch for professors and administrators who had media exposure this year. The formal program included three speakers: Ed Clendaniel, San Jose Mercury News opinion page writer; Dana Nachman, NBC 11 special projects producer; and myself.
Ed spoke about getting op-ed pieces published in a newspaper. He said that the Mercury News gets about 20,000 op-ed submissions a year for less than 1,000 publication spots--a <5% publication rate. His suggestions for improving the odds:
* "don't bore me"
* the editors can't do very much editing of pieces, so the articles should match the newspaper's style--relevant topic, evoke an emotional response (be compelling, express an opinion), have an insight
* be conversational and use anecdotes
* 650 word limit means 650 words!
Personally, I found the whole idea of op-eds a little anachronistic. I've written a few op-eds in my day, but my blog has effectively usurped that writing role for me. My blog may not have as big an audience as a major newspaper, but I get instant access to the conversation and complete control of my words. In the past, there used to be enhanced validation/credibility by getting an op-ed into a major paper, but I just don't feel that's too important (at least for me) any more.
Dana spoke about interviewing with TV reporters. She explained that a typical news story gets about 75 seconds of airtime, so most interviewers get 5-20 seconds of that. Unlike Ed, she said that TV reporters *don't like* anecdotes because they usually take too long and can't be aired. TV reporters also hate it when interviewees say "As I said before..." in the middle of a thought, because that thought can't be aired. To avoid this, TV reporters generally don't like chit-chatting about the story before the camera is rolling. She said that after the interviews, most reporters transcribe the interview, circle the useful soundbites and use the rest as background material for the story. She said that if an interviewee really wants to convey a particular message, the interviewee should just keep repeating it (but don't say "As I said before!").
I spoke about how blogs have helped increase my exposure to reporters in at least three ways:
1) Reporters routinely use search engines to find sources, so my blog acts as a "magnet" for attracting those reporters. In some cases, reporters will quote the blog directly without even speaking with me. Further, my blog lends some internal credibility to my authority as a source.
2) Blog readers act as a type of distributed referral network, regularly referring reporters to me.
3) Reporters may become subscribers to my blog, in which case they may regularly report on stories I write about and quote my blog/contact me for more quotes.
I also noted that, by participating in the blogosphere, I could get access to websites such as Slashdot and Digg where the visibility of being linked may rival or exceed the exposure from being quoted in the mainstream media Given the choice between a quote in the NY Times or a link from Slashdot, I'd likely take the Slashdot link!
I did sound a few cautionary notes about blogging for professors. It's time-consuming; not everyone has a blogging personality; and there are a variety of risks (legal, reputational, and ruffled feathers).
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 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 11, 2007
This last week was Spring Break. Where did my Spring Break go? Three words: FACULTY ACTIVITY REPORT.
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.
October 25, 2006
Favorite Halloween Legal Cases
With Halloween coming up, I've been thinking--what are professors' favorite Halloween-themed cases? My vote is Stambovsky v. Ackley, the famous NY "haunted house" case. See my post from a year ago on the case. Let me know what's your favorite Halloween case.
UPDATE: A Canadian law professor passes along Nagy v. Manitoba Free Press, (1907) 39 S.C.R. 340 (S.C.C.), in which a newspaper disparaged a house by calling it haunted.
UPDATE 2: The "haunted house" went on the market in Fall 2011. See the listing.
August 23, 2006
Administrative Duties as Academic Director
When I was considering the opportunity to become Academic Director of the law school's High Tech Law institute, a lot of people warned me that the administrative duties would cut into my time for scholarship. I knew this would be true, but after last week I can put better parameters on the time allocation. Last week, my administrative role included:
Monday: 1 hour meeting regarding curriculum matters; 1/2 hour on adjunct relations
Tuesday: 1 1/2 hour meeting with admissions regarding general admissions matters and preparation of marketing collateral; another 1/2 hour reviewing marketing collateral
Thursday: 2 hour meeting to discuss strategic planning; 2 hour meet-and-greet with incoming first years
Friday: 1 hour research on curriculum review; 2 hour meeting regarding curriculum planning for Spring semester; 1 hour meeting with an LLM student to discuss his thesis paper; another 15-30 minutes on adjunct relations
There was probably another couple of hours on various event planning and scheduling sprinkled throughout the week. So, by my count, this week required about 15 hours about administrative matters. Now, some of this time reflects my learning curve/ramp up investment. And don't get me wrong--I'm not complaining. I actually enjoy these duties. But, I can't help but note that the semester hasn't even started yet.
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?
August 11, 2006
Sexy Professors are Better Professors (?)
I couldn't read this report without hearing the 1970s Rod Stewart song in my head: "If you want my body and you think I'm sexy, come on sugar let me know."
I've previously blogged on Ratemyprofessor.com, the role of sexiness in student evaluations, and the limitations of anonymous student feedback. See here and here. This report took the entire Ratemyprofessor.com dataset, regressed it for correlations between "quality" of instruction and professor "hotness," and found a 0.64 correlation between the two. The authors try to discuss with a straight face the possibility that there may be a recursive effect where students find teaching brilliance as sexy...hah! (They write: "most student comments point toward Quality as a function of Hotness when they focus on physical characteristics of their professors that could be captured in photographs"). Ruling out this possibility, it is almost impossible to reach any other conclusion than that, in this dataset, sexiness contributes to assessments of professor quality.
So what take-away points can we get from this? The authors cite this as another reason to believe that student evaluations of teaching are generally unreliable. ("Taken as a whole, these self-selected evaluations from Ratemyprofessors.com cast considerable doubt on the usefulness of in-class student opinion surveys for purposes of examining quality and effectiveness of teaching.") If, in fact, student evaluations are influenced by such factors as professor attractiveness, then there is good reason to be suspicious of them. I am planning to attach this article as part of my tenure review package to explain some of my teaching evaluations (I'm making the highly defensible assumption that this factor is working against me, not for me).
It seems there might be another obvious conclusion to draw. If I want to improve my teaching evaluations, I should not invest more time in class preparation or subject material mastery. Instead, I should hit the gym.
Seriously, though, it would be easy to overinterpret this study as it relies on self-selected data (students opine at Ratemyprofessor.com voluntarily). But this report has some very troubling implications for gender, age, race and physically challenged bias in student evaluations (the data also shows possible bias based on discipline--apparently, geeky scientists get hit hard on the sexiness-o-meter). At minimum, it is a good reminder that any evaluation metric (such as, in this case, the metric for evaluating professor teaching performance) must itself be evaluated for credibility. In the case of student evaluations, it is way too easy to overweight the precision of the "numbers," when the entire numerical dataset might be skewed by bogus exogenous factors (like sexiness).
August 05, 2006
Teaching the Context of Contract Drafting
At the ABA Annual Meeting, I was on a "train the trainer" panel with Sue Irion, Tina Stark and Charles Fox regarding the teaching of contract drafting. I talked about how to teach the substantive law that underlies contracts. Because this applicable law differs by contract, there was no way to address which laws should be taught. Instead, I tried to develop a taxonomy of subjects that should be covered in the training process. It turns out that I covered many of these topics in my Contract Drafting course, but this taxonomy helps identify some holes in my coverage and some new ways to organize the material. My slides.
April 26, 2006
Getting Scholarship Read and Cited
In January, we had a roundtable at Marquette to discuss the steps we can take to increase readership/awareness of the articles we publish. This blog post summarizes some of our discussions.
Traditionally, law professor authors marketed their articles rather passively. The principal effort was to publish with an impressive journal. Not only did those journals have a larger subscription base, but people were more likely to read an article in a big brand like Harvard Law Review than an article in the Northwest Podunk State University Law Review. Authors might also confirm that the journal's articles were uploaded to the electronic databases (like Westlaw and Lexis). Typically, this was the complete universe of marketing activities for most articles. If authors took any proactive steps, usually that consisted of sending out physical reprints to personal contacts or the list of law professors who teach in the area per the AALS directory.
However, there are many proactive ways to get people to read and cite to our articles. Some ideas:
* spin out alternative versions of an article, such as by publishing a redacted version in a different periodical with a different audience. This redacted version can encourage readers to check out the full version of the article.
* present the article at conferences. I often bring reprints with me to hand out to people who approach me after my talk, or I get a business card so I can mail them a reprint (or email a URL) after the event.
* send reprints to casebook authors. I recognize that this may be subsumed under the general reprint distribution approach, but casebook authors are a special class. First, they may choose to excerpt some of the article in their casebook. Second, they may add the article as a citation so that casebook readers may check it out.
* send the article to lawyers (and perhaps judges) who are litigating cases relevant to the article's topic. In the Cyberlaw arena, this is usually fairly easy to do. Major Cyberlaw cases get a lot of news coverage when they are filed, and it's easy to find the lawyers involved in the case (often they are referenced in the news reports, but if not, their names are on the pleadings in PACER). Often, the lawyers will welcome an article that may help their research or arguments, and the citations may end up in the brief or even the reported decision. In some cases, the email exchange can open up the possibility of getting involved in the case.
* when I see a draft article on a related topic, I call my article to the attention of the author. This gets my article read, and my article may get cited in the forthcoming work.
* promote the article through SSRN. With the download tournament on SSRN, this has become a popular sport. SSRN has some great in-house tools to increase readership, such as the topical email lists and a school's research paper series (for example, Marquette just created one). In addition to these promotions through SSRN's tools, I do some marketing work on my own. I contact some bloggers and media contacts who are writing in the area to let them know when an article has been posted to SSRN. My hope is that some of these people will find the article valuable enough to promote it to their readers. This has the effect of boosting download counts, but more importantly, it increases the number of readers of my article.
If you have any other tips about how you market or promote your scholarship to increase readership or citations, I would love to hear about it.
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.
April 09, 2006
Travel Schedules of Law Professors
When I was in private practice, I rarely traveled for business. In my eight years as a lawyer, I can recall 5 trips to Dallas (all for the same client), a client trip to San Diego and a few presentations out of the Bay Area (three trips come to mind). I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but mostly the business trips stand out because of their exceptional nature.
Life is much different as a law professor. I travel constantly. I don’t think I fully appreciated how much travel the job would involve. As a law professor, travel takes me to new audiences; it also allows me to build and reinforce social relationships. So right now I travel a lot—-more than I expected, more than I would like, and way more than my wife and kids would like. In the 18 month period from January 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, my business travels have taken/will take me to the following destinations:
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago (6 times)
Lansing, MI (2 times)
Minneapolis (2 times)
New Haven, CT
New York (2 times)
Palo Alto (3 times)
San Francisco (2 times)
Santa Clara (3 times)
Washington DC (3 times)
My tally: 13 states and 13 different law schools in 18 months. More significantly, this amounts to 34 different business trips in 18 months, or almost two trips a month.
I’ve realized that this level of travel is not sustainable. I lose a lot of productive time on the road, but more importantly, each trip requires me to leave my wife to single-handedly take care of our two young kids, and that’s just not fair to her or them.
As a result, I’ve been looking for ways to cut back on travel. One cut was easy. For the past 4 years, I’ve been actively involved in the American Bar Association. I’ve enjoyed the experience, but the price of admission has been high—-right now, based on my various obligations, I am committed to 6 trips a year for the ABA. By dropping out of the ABA, I can save those 6 trips a year.
I will also probably say no more based on cost-benefit analysis. From Milwaukee, the travel time to participate in East Coast events is comparatively low—-most East Coast and Midwest destinations are a two-hour flight away, and in many cases I can get nonstop flights from Milwaukee. For example, in February I flew nonstop to Washington DC as a day trip. However, starting next academic year, when I’m based in California, trips to the East Coast will require almost 2 full travel days. Thus, going forward, the trip’s benefit will have to outweigh this significant transaction cost. This surely means that I’ll take a pass on trips I would have taken without hesitation from Milwaukee.
(Fortunately, with my new administrative duties, I can bring people to Santa Clara, so I will have a mechanism to continue my social relationships without my having to travel at all.)
I’m sure some of you are thinking that I must have racked up some major frequent flyer miles with all of these trips. Unfortunately, I’ve scattered my miles. I tend to pick flights based on price and schedule first and airline brand second. The result is that I have one free ticket on just about every airline, but most of those are effectively unusable given the stringent redemption requirements imposed by airlines. Despite my low brand loyalty, I did take enough trips on United Airlines last year to make premier status. With my resolve to cut my travel, we’ll see if I can earn the status again this year.
March 11, 2006
Social Life of Law Review Articles Editors
I sent out my article to the law reviews a couple of weeks ago. Among other ding emails, I got a ding email from a journal at midnight on Saturday night and a ding email from a different journal at 10 pm on Friday night. Two possible explanations for the timing of these emails:
1) Articles editors are so overworked that they can't catch up with their workflow until very late on weekend nights; or
2) Instead of socializing with friends on weekend nights, law review articles editors derive even more enjoyment from sending ding emails and dashing professors' hopes.
I'm pretty sure that #1 is the better explanation, but I'm beginning to wonder...
UPDATE: Last night I got a ding email at 12:30 am early Saturday morning.
March 01, 2006
"I Need to Get Tenure"
I've never actually seen the social science establishing this, but I've been told that the single biggest determinant of a student's evaluation of a professor is the student's estimate of his/her grade in the class. In practice, this does not affect most doctrinal law professors. Although there are exceptions, most doctrinal law professors don't give grading feedback prior to student evaluations, so we do little to disabuse students of their (possibly deluded) belief that they will get an A in our class. But in most of the rest of academia (including legal writing professors), professors do give grading feedback during the semester and have to cope with the consequences accordingly.
In this article, an assistant professor of English explains how she has deliberately chosen to inflate grades to improve her student evaluations. She says: "I've lowered my standards. I still teach with the same rigor and enthusiasm and I still enjoy the material, but I don't hold students as accountable as I used to. I need to get tenure."
There are two ways to look at this. One way is that she was using too harsh a standard, and the student evaluation mechanism regressed her to the institutional mean. However, the other way to look at it is far less charitable--she has deliberately bent her standards to increase her odds of getting a payoff (tenure).
If the latter is true, her decision would be an indictment of the entire student feedback and grading systems--the unreliability/manipulability of student evaluations, the temptation to overweight flawed evaluation instruments, and the flexibility of professors' norms in the face of significant professional and personal consequences from tenure decisions. Accordingly, this article may give a deep insight into the real dynamic driving grade inflation.
February 26, 2006
Tenured Canadian Professor Fired for Posting Comments to RateMyProfessor.com
Professors joke about this all the time. We know that our job performance is influenced, in part, by how others perceive our teaching. Websites like RateMyProfessor.com help shape these perceptions, but they are very unreliable because they do not confirm the authenticity of comments. Given how easy it is to game the system, wouldn't it be funny [yuck yuck yuck] to boost our RateMyProfessor.com rating...and, while there, perhaps take a swipe at some of our colleagues so that we look better by relative comparison?
Stephen Berman, a 30-year math professor at University of Saskatchewan, found out that this is no joke. Berman went to RateMyProfessor.com, anonymously posted 80 comments where he bashed some colleagues he didn't like and stroked some colleagues he did, and for this he was fired (sub. required). I'm not sure the firing was unwarranted, but it does reinforce the inherent unreliability of any tool that allows people to post anonymous comments about other people.
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.
December 01, 2005
Faculty Activity Reports
Faculty activity reports (FARs) are the way that faculty members report on their year's activities to the Dean. The report is typically used to set faculty compensation for the subsequent academic year. At Marquette, the FAR determines annual salary increases and affects summer research stipends as well. Therefore, the FAR is my chance to state my case for some extra bucks next year.
Beyond compensation-setting, the FAR can serve other purposes. For example, the report helps the Dean's Office collect information about faculty activities for their various upstream reports to other constituencies, such as the University, accreditation bodies, press, alumni, students, prospective students, etc.
I suspect that at some schools, the FAR also serves double-duty as a report for tenure and promotion purposes. Sadly, I have no such luck--I have to separately report on my activities to our P&T committee. I can recycle some of the FAR work, but effectively I have to write a second report.
The words "faculty activity report" strikes fear into the hearts of every law professor, for good reason. I spent virtually an entire working day filling out on my FAR--a pretty heavy reporting tax. And I haven't even started on my P&T report yet.
Why so long? Our FAR request has seven major sections, most of which are not surprising (e.g., teaching, scholarship, service, goals for next year). However, collectively these seven sections consist of a total of 46 line-item questions (some of which are further composed of sub-parts). Further, these questions are written exactly how a lawyer writes interrogatories--overbroad and burdensome.
In anticipation of each year's FAR fishing expedition, throughout the year I make notes about various activities in a Word document as they occur. This way, I have captured most of my reportable activities in a single file that I can conveniently consult at the year's end. However, there always seem to be new questions every year on the FAR for data that I wasn't tracking. Further, I still need to pull information to respond to the FAR from other sources--my CV, TWEN, my website, and various other documents. At one point yesterday I had 5 different Word documents and several web pages open at the same time...and the printer was smokin'.
The product of my day's labor? My FAR will include a 12 page (3,000+ word) written narrative singing my praises and explaining how I'm an virtuous human being plus a binder of a couple dozen documents (published articles, work-in-progress articles, syllabi, exams, class handouts) totaling several hundred pages. I suspect the Dean will have as much fun reading it as I had fun preparing it.
The good news is that I'm looking forward to moving this binder off my desk so I can actually do some work that is worth reporting...right after I do my P&T report...
October 10, 2005
Calendar of Law School IP Conferences/Presentations
Mike Madison has undertaken the public service of providing a one-stop central repository for upcoming conferences and presentations by IP academics. The desperate need for this calendar was demonstrated by the multiple mid-air collisions of this weekend, when there were at least 5 attractive IP-related events scheduled:
* State of Play in New York
* Third Party Intermediary Liability conference at Santa Clara
* Work-in-Progress event at St. Louis University
* IP Conference at Univ. of Houston
* Association of Internet Researchers annual meeting in Chicago
This made for an extremely busy weekend for many professors! I flew from Santa Clara to Chicago very early Saturday morning to make a 3:30 Central time presentation on Saturday. I know several other professors, including my colleague Irene, who took red-eye flights from Santa Clara on Friday to other events. I'm hoping Mike's calendar function will help minimize these overlaps so we can participate in all of these great events. Thanks for doing this, Mike.
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
Blogging Class...During Class?
Lydia Loren reminds her Cyberlaw students during the first class to sign up for an account on her blog. What happens? Students sign up right then and there--during class! (She knows because the account sign-ups are time-stamped). She wonders about the future: "Will my students be blogging my class during class?"
I think we all know the answer. Students engage in the full range of human activities during class--they sleep, they eat, they talk to others (especially over IM, although back in my day we used to pass notes), they play (especially computer games, although I was a crossword puzzle kind of guy myself), they flirt (not aware of that going further in class, although with cybersex, who knows?), they take care of administrative errands (in Lydia's case, signing up for accounts) and, yes, they probably even blog on all of the foregoing during class.
Frankly, of all of the foregoing activities, I think blogging about the class during class would be most consistent with my pedagogical goals. I'm happy any time a student does something a little extra with class-related material. But, no question, I'd also prefer if students could defer the blogging until after class. Personally, I've tried blogging on conferences real-time and I simply can't do it--I can't split my brain that way. Maybe my students are more skilled than I am, but if not, classroom-learning and blogging may be a zero sum game where one task wins at the other's expense.
Lydia's post is also a reminder that our activities in cyberspace leave data trails that others can notice and observe. In particular, this may be a reminder to students that we as professors are developing new ways to monitor your behavior. Personally, I'd love a to have digital avatar that could automatically detect a student engaging in an IM chat and insert a picture of my smiling face in the conversation saying "Hi! You might want to chat later. You've got some classroom learning to do first!" (Some of you may recall that the RIAA did something similar with P2P file sharers).
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.
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 08, 2005
Kerr and Madison on Law Faculty Appointments
Orin Kerr is guest-blogging at Prawfsblawg and has promised to blog on the law faculty appointments process. This is a perennial favorite topic, and when I did a nine-part series on this topic in February and March (scroll down to Feb. 28 and read up), my blog traffic reached a peak that I wouldn't see again until Grokster.
I can't put my finger on exactly why this topic generates so much interest. I know the most obvious answer: many people are interested in a law teaching career--and for good reason.
However, I think there's a second-order explanation for the interest: there remains a mystique about the process. I certainly felt that I was staring into a black box before I initiated my search. I think the mystique is partially due to the lack of a single "silver bullet" that allows candidates to ensure a successful search, so candidates are left reading ambiguous tea leaves.
The mystique might also be due in part to an information gap about exactly what happens and what matters. Fortunately, I think the information gap is being filled. Between articles/stories on the web and one-every-six-month blogofest in the blogosphere, there's so much more publicly available information on the topic than when I trolled the web in 2001.
In any case, Orin has an innate gift for elegant and insightful blog posts, and his first post on the topic is no exception. However, make sure also to check out Michael Madison's most recent posting on the topic.
Mike is one of the few professors to openly discuss that some/many/most? candidates need to go through the hiring process more than once. This is surely a tough message for a law faculty candidate to hear, but it is helpful to understand in advance to calibrate expectations. If you think you're going to hit a home run first time at the bat and you strike out, you'll feel like a failure. But if you think you'll need a few times at bat before you get a hit, your first strikeout will be properly contextualized. And as Orin's post clearly explains, the market is susceptible to random volatility that can leave a worthy candidate out of luck. I think Mike does all candidates a huge favor by putting this issue on the table front-and-center.
May 26, 2005
Hurt on Classroom Sensitivity
My colleague Christine Hurt wrote a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about her experiences teaching torts. She describes how she led the class in thinking through various harms that people suffer and how the legal system values those harms. This can lead to some grisly but darkly amusing fact patterns, but meanwhile some of her students had first-hand experience with the harms being clinically discussed in class, and for them, their experiences were intensely personal, and far from academic.
This article hits all too close to home. I had the same experience this semester in my Professional Responsibility course, walking a fine line between pointing out the destructive nature of alcohol abuse in the legal profession and acknowledging (sometimes in lame attempts at humor) that students include alcohol in their social activities. But midway during the semester, a student discussed her struggles with alcohol in my office. This made me realize how the points (and "jokes") I had been making in class must have only exacerbated her challenges. I felt truly terrible--but perhaps I needed the reminder that every student comes to class with their our unique experiences and problems, and I have a responsibility to be sensitive to these.
May 19, 2005
Every Milwaukeean has their favorite time to escape the crummy weather. For some, it’s January and February when the weather is the coldest and the days are the darkest. For others, it’s March, when other places are experiencing Spring and we’re still suffering through very cold and cloudy days. For a few, it’s summer, when it’s too hot and humid for those Milwaukeeans who have ice in their veins.
For me, it’s May and early June, when the weather has nominally gotten warmer but it is still crummy. The last 2 weeks have consistently been in the 40s and low 50s with rain/dark clouds. That alone wouldn’t bother me, but after having crummy weather since mid-October, I’m really tired of it.
Fortunately for me, I’m escaping Milwaukee and its crummy weather for the next three weeks. I’m traveling to the Bay Area, Seattle, Las Vegas, Death Valley and Los Angeles for a mix of business (presentations/conferences) and pleasure (camping and hiking). Even when I’m not at conferences, I’ll be grading exams and working on papers—but at least I will be able to do those outdoors in the sun in shorts and sandals!
Because I don’t expect to have continuous Internet connectivity during my travels, blogging should be spotty for the next three weeks. I’ll be back in Milwaukee June 13, when blogging should return to normal.
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 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.
April 25, 2005
Joint Author Agreements
Copyright law has some potentially unexpected surprises for co-authors. Co-authors usually have a “duty to account” to each other for revenues generated from the jointly-authored work. Co-authors may also have a duty not to “waste” the jointly owned asset (the co-authored work). In theory, granting a non-exclusive license without generating revenues could be "waste."
To avoid the application of unexpected rules to co-authored papers, I enter into an agreement with my co-authors. I believe this is relatively unique; my understanding is that (perhaps not surprisingly) most professors don’t deal with this detail. My general goal: I want to be free to recycle the paper without obligation to the co-author, and I’m OK if the co-author does the same. I’m not vouching for the legal consequences of this document, so use it advisedly. I welcome your comments.
April 18, 2005
From Academia to Practice
Relatively rare event: law professor wants to return to practice after 15 years of full-time teaching. Some career advice for him/her (registration required).
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 12, 2005
Emerging Social Norms About SSRN
Over the weekend, I socialized with a number of law professors. Naturally, the topic of SSRN came up. I noticed an interesting response to the recent attention to SSRN’s download count statistics. Many of us are so shy about blatant self-promotion that now we’re embarrassed to refer other law professors to our SSRN page, for fear that we will be perceived as trying to jack up our download counts.
As a result, the new SSRN download metrics may have a counterproductive effect. Instead of promoting SSRN to drive up our rankings, we could instead develop a norm that it is bad form to promote it, which would lead to less usage of SSRN. Our self-consciousness about SSRN may be just a short-term blip, but it also could be the beginning of a norm that will degrade SSRN as a major tool for law professors.
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.”
April 03, 2005
Cunningham on SSRN as a Metrics Source
Larry Cunningham posted “Scholarly Profit Margins and the Legal Scholarship Network: Reflections on the Web” to SSRN. This essay deconstructs various metrics of academic/scholarly performance, including SSRN download counts. He notes several limitations of SSRN as a metric, including first mover advantages and self-selection biases, and notes how the metrics are currently skewed by subject matter and gender. He also questions how a school’s counts will be affected when a professor moves from one school to another. Despite some of these issues, he holds out hope (as do I) that SSRN will provide some useful quantification of law professor performance. Personally, I find the real-time availability of download statistics particularly useful; but I remain skeptical if they are industrial-strength enough to rely upon them in any meaningful way.
His essay implicitly raises some more interesting and abstract questions, why do we try to measure academic performance at all, and what are the consequences of picking one metric over another. I’ll defer that issue for a later blog post.
March 25, 2005
Update on SSRN Download Counts
A few days ago, I called on SSRN to clean up their download counting procedures. In response, I had an email exchange with Gregg Gordon of SSRN, who emailed me the following (reposted with his permission):
“Thank you for the email and including our lists on your blog. SSRN takes the validity of our download counts very seriously and has developed capabilities similar to those you mention. We have spent significant sums of money on sophisticated systems to identify both repetitive downloading by individuals and potentially fraudulent download patterns over time. I am not at liberty to say exactly what we do because it would limit the effectiveness of our efforts. However I can tell you that we actively investigate suspicious download patterns. We also continue to improve our systems and our ability to identify suspicious downloads.”
Today, SSRN sent another mass-email announcing their new top author and top school rankings tools. Following on the theme of Gregg’s email, the mass-email contains some saber-rattling, saying (among other things):
“SSRN does not look kindly on attempts to game the system. We have sophisticated software in place to detect it and we have removed illegitimate downloads in the past where warranted and will do so in the future. Those found abusing the system may be asked to leave.”
Gregg has promised me more details about their efforts—at minimum, a forthcoming FAQ will discuss this. I’m interested to see the specifics. If they can produce reliable download counts, I think the SSRN rankings have the potential to become a major metric for academic performance.
March 23, 2005
SSRN and Download Statistics
Brian Leiter reports on some new SSRN download statistics ranking schools and authors (SSRN login required). One of the best aspects of SSRN is that we, as authors, can get some real-time statistics on readership. Historically, we had no real idea if anyone was reading our articles; we might get occasional oral or email comments, or we could check citation counts months or years after the fact. Now, a simple check of SSRN tells us how many times our papers have been downloaded, giving an instant ego stroke. The statistics also permit a new type of benchmarking among professors and schools.
However, there’s a big problem with SSRN’s download counts—as far as I can tell, SSRN does absolutely zero to validate their accuracy. Specifically, I believe that SSRN counts each time a paper is downloaded, even if the same person downloads the article multiple times. More problematically, an author could boost their own download counts simply by repeatedly downloading their own papers. (While it would take a lot of fuss to break into the top ranks, self-downloading could easily pull an author out of the big pack of authors with relatively low download counts.) I’ve heard whispers of other gaming strategies, but I don’t know if they are true.
Producing accurate download counts is not a new issue. For example, at Epinions, we used to pay authors based on download counts. Therefore, to maintain system integrity, our software excluded author visits from download counts and counted repeat visits from other person only after a certain period of time (like 1 month). Couldn’t SSRN do the same?
Whatever the case, until SSRN fixes how it counts downloads, its statistics lack reliability. I call on SSRN to take some steps to shore up its download counts—and to publicly announce those steps so we know how downloads are counted and can rely upon them accordingly.
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 21, 2005
Durrani's Second Article on Law Teaching Careers
Anayat Durrani has posted the second of her two articles on law teaching careers. This article focuses on attorneys who seek law teaching careers after some significant practice experience, quoting (among others) Michael Madison, Gordon Smith and me. You can see my entire series on this topic here.
March 18, 2005
Spring Break Plan
Marquette is on Spring Break. Spring Break usually means one of two things to a law professor. For some law professors, it is a welcome chance to escape to better climates (for those of us in Milwaukee, a welcome respite from a snowy and cloudy March). For other law professors, it is a chance to power through some work without interruption. Sadly, I fall in the latter camp—this is a big opportunity for me to make substantial progress on a paper that has not gotten all of the attention that it deserves.
March 17, 2005
Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers--PART IV
This is the last of a four part series on experienced lawyers seeking law teaching careers, which in turn extended a five part series about law teaching careers generally. You can see the entire series (and a few other posts) here.
4) Is adjunct a barrier to teaching at the school where you are an adjunct but a good thing to teach elsewhere?
I am not aware of any empirical studies on this, but I would assume that there are relatively few recent instances where an existing adjunct converted that position into a full-time tenure-track position at that school. The reason why is that most hiring schools conduct a nationwide search for the best candidates, often through the AALS hiring process. It’s fairly serendipitous if an existing adjunct emerges as the best candidate through that search, especially when the school wants to hire only in a certain substantive area. It can and does happen, but I suspect that it’s fairly infrequent.
However, I don’t think that being an adjunct is a “barrier” to being hired by that school. If anything, being an adjunct can be a plus; an adjunct can build personal relationships and institutional goodwill that will help their candidacy. However, schools generally will hire the best candidate, and in that sense, adjuncts often don’t have any material advantage over other candidates.
March 16, 2005
Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers--PART III
This is the third of a four part series on experienced lawyers who want to become full time law professors, with a specific focus on adjunct teaching. You can read the prior series (and the preceding five-part series) here.
3) What is required when a practitioner wants to teach as an adjunct?
Each school handles adjunct hiring differently. I got my first two gigs as an adjunct by sending to the local law schools, unsolicited, a course proposal, syllabus and resume. Schools also advertise for adjunct positions (although those advertisements may run very late in the school’s decision-making process), and the academic dean and professors teaching in a particular area may also recommend adjunct candidates for particular needs. A lawyer determined to get an adjunct position is probably best served by networking with the academic dean or professors at the target school.
March 15, 2005
Hurt on Law Teaching Careers and Years of Practice
This week I’ve been blogging about experienced lawyers seeking a law teaching job. In response, Christine Hurt posted on an important related topic. She writes: “conventional wisdom tells would-be applicants that practicing too long can hurt you in the law teaching pool.” (She cites the number as 5 years of practice). She offers a possible rationale and some suggestions to candidates to address it.
Like Christine (and another colleague I discussed this with), I have definitely heard this conventional wisdom before. In fact, several of my advisors mentioned this specifically in connection with my candidacy. I was applying with 8 years of practice experience, and several advisors mentioned that schools liked candidates with 3-7 years of experience (I got different guidance than Christine did). Several advisors warned me that some schools might look at my experience with suspicion and that my window of opportunity was closing rapidly.
I chose not to initially address this conventional wisdom because I can’t substantiate it. I don’t know if appointments committees act on the conventional wisdom (implicitly or explicitly) and, if so, how often. In particular, I’ve never seen any empirical stats on this (unlike the stats on JD credentials). Therefore, it’s possible that this conventional wisdom is outdated or was never true, or is true right now—I just don’t know.
Thanks to Christine for tackling a tough topic rarely discussed in public.
Dzienkowski on Law Professor Ethics When Circulating Articles
John Dzienkowski made a provocative post about law professor ethics when circulating articles to law reviews. This topic came up at a conference I attended last summer, and I was surprised how few professors wanted to have an open discussion on this topic. A 1992 Marquette Law Review article proposed a model code of ethics for law review editors and authors (roughly modeled on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct), but this article doesn’t seem to be widely known or followed.
Because this topic is so rarely addressed in public, new law professors receive relatively little training about how to circulate articles. This can lead to a “race to the bottom” to the extent that new professors are socialized to make misrepresentations to win the “game.” Even without that socialization, new law professors are generally expected to figure out the rules for themselves, meaning that each of us establishes our boundaries idiosyncratically.
Meanwhile, as S.cotus observes in a comment, law review editors do play games. Clearly this creates an unhealthy dynamic. I would love to see a revitalized code of ethics to set baseline behavior for both sides.
Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers--PART II
This is the second of a four part series about experienced lawyers seeking a law teaching career. This series is a follow-on series to my previous five part series about law teaching generally. You can find the previous posts here.
2) Should a person consider adjunct teaching as a bridge? Please explain.
Adjunct teaching is a great experience, and I recommend it enthusiastically. However, as a bridge towards getting a full-time tenure-track job, I don’t think it’s heavily weighted in the hiring process. A candidate is principally evaluated on his or her academic pedigree, other prestigious accomplishments and track record of publishing law review articles; prior experience as an adjunct is an insignificant factor compared to those criteria.
Nevertheless, experience as an adjunct might help the candidate at the margins. It might convince schools that the candidate is serious about making the career switch, or it can provide evidence that the candidate can actually teach (through good teaching evaluations). It also helps the candidate answer the inevitable interview questions like “What’s your teaching style?,” “How would you choose a casebook?,” “How would you teach X course?” or “How do you write exams and grade them?” Depending on the school, adjunct experience can also act as an additional prestige credential; for example, an adjunct stint at Boalt added some panache to my resume.
Nothing comes free, however, and the question is whether a stint as an adjunct is cost/benefit justified. My two-unit Cyberlaw course routinely consumed 200 hours per year, and I could have redirected those hours to writing one or more law review articles. I strongly suspect that writing articles would have been a better investment of time to prepare for a law teaching candidacy. Having said that, personally I would not do anything differently; being an adjunct was one of the best professional experiences of my life.
March 14, 2005
Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers--PART I
This is the first of a four part series on experienced lawyers and law teaching careers, prompted by my email interview with Anayat Durrani for a LawCrossing.com article. This four part series follows on my earlier five part series about law teaching careers generally.
1) Is it possible for someone to transition to teaching after years practice? Is it hard/not hard? (from your own experience)
Let me focus on full-time tenure-track positions. For experienced lawyers, it can be hard to start their career over in an entry level position. In my case, I had been general counsel of an Internet company, in charge of the company’s legal affairs and a member of the company’s executive management team. I left that to become an assistant professor, the junior guy on the totem pole, with no credit for my past experience. This meant that I had to learn the ropes, build new skills, build my reputation within the school, and stress about tenure.
Most experienced lawyers also will see a major decrease in their income. However, experienced lawyers may have been able to pay off school loans and put away some savings, which makes a law professor’s salary more manageable.
However, an experienced lawyer has certain advantages. Experienced lawyers may have accomplished their professional goals as a lawyer, giving them a sense of “closure.” Experienced lawyers can bring their practice experiences and “war stories” into the classroom, which students often find very valuable. Finally, experienced lawyers may have some assets that will contribute towards succeed as a professor, such as time management skills, networking skills, a rolodex of contacts and experience writing and speaking.
Continued Blawgswarm on Law Teaching Careers
Anayat Durrani released her article on law teaching careers at LawCrossing.com, quoting (among others) Solum, Wendel and myself. Her email interview with me for this story prompted my five-part series on law teaching careers from a couple of weeks ago, which in turn contributed to a blawgswarm on the topic. The latest set of entries come from Orin Kerr and Randy Barnett at Volokh Conspiracy. Their posts bristle with wisdom, insight and pragmatism. I especially agree with Orin that persistence and dedication have a high probability of being rewarded—there are obstacles at every corner, yet many candidates can overcome them with commitment and realistic expectations.
At the risk of continuing the blawgswarm, Anayat did email me more questions for Part 2 of her story, due next week, and as a result, I’ll post a four part series this week. This series focuses on what she calls “less traditional” candidates, but I think mostly it refers to experienced lawyers who decide mid-career to seek a professor position. She also asks some about the role of being an adjunct—something I have a lot to say about, given that I taught 8 courses as an adjunct over 7 years at 3 different law schools. My first post in the series is here.
March 08, 2005
Follow-up on Law Teaching Careers and Credentials
Last week I wrote a series of postings about law teaching as a career. (You can find the series, and some other topics, here). This, along with an independent post by David Bernstein, led to a small blawgswarm on the topic, with Brian Leiter, Larry Solum, Christine Hurt and several students (including Law Dork) chiming in.
Mostly the students reacted negatively to the unanimous position of law professors that getting a JD from a school outside the top X (where X = 3, 5, 15 or 20, take your pick) will make the job search very hard. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to debate on this point. The statistical evidence compiled by Leiter and Solum makes a compelling case.
Despite this, I was sympathetic to the students’ frustration. The premium placed on JD credentialing is questionable. I’m not aware of any social science validating that a candidate’s alma mater is an accurate predictor of the candidate’s propensity to be a “good” law professor (whatever that means). Instead, the JD credential acts as a heuristic for other predictors, although I’m not sure it’s a particularly good heuristic. There’s a little bit of a network effect operating here—because everyone else uses JD credentialing to select candidates, everyone else has to use it to communicate the hiring school’s prestige and reputation, irrespective of the standard’s usefulness.
I was also sympathetic because I remember my own reactions when I was diligencing my chances of having a successful law teaching candidacy in Summer 2001. Some advisors were optimistic, but several advisors were less sanguine. One advisor told me that I shouldn’t be surprised if I had to go through the AALS process several times to get a job. Other advisors strongly recommended that I get additional credentialing, such as a fellowship, if I wanted to have a chance. Getting the negative feedback on my candidacy was brutal.
Also brutal was this partially-reconstructed interview with an advisor evaluating my candidacy:
Advisor: Where did you go to law school?
Advisor. Hmm. Were you Order of the Coif?
Advisor: Were you on Law Review?
Advisor: Good. What position did you hold?
Me: Just an editor.
Advisor: Did you do a clerkship?
This was a sobering interview. My decade-old choices were playing a large role in shaping my candidacy. But having seen the competition from the “other side,” I realize now that the bearish advice was entirely justifiable. Knowing what I know now, I would have given myself the same advice. For law students (or other potential law teaching candidates) frustrated with this advice, the question is—knowing the challenges, are you willing to overcome it?
March 04, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART V
This is the fifth of a five part series on law teaching as a career, which was prompted by an email interview I had with a reporter. See Parts I, II, III and IV. Next week, I will discuss some of the emails I received in response to this series. I invite your comments on the series. Sorry that today's post is comparatively short and sweet, but this was the easiest question the reporter asked.
5) Are you happy you chose this career path?
Law professors say that we have the best job in the world and that we can't believe we get paid to do what we do. In my case, I spend my time doing, as my main job, what I chose to do as my hobbies when I was in practice. In other words, I now get paid a decent salary for doing the activities I used to do voluntarily for free with my discretionary time. It's hard to imagine a better job than that.
March 03, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART IV
4) What should students do to prepare themselves for a career as a law professor?
Several law professors, including Brian Leiter (article and chart showing where law professors hired in 2000-2002 got their JDs), Brad Wendel and Larry Solum (chart showing where law professors hired in 2004 got their JDs and analysis over time of educational background of law professors), have answered this question in detail, especially with respect to the role the JD-granting institution plays in the outcome. (Yet more resources can be found on my page at http://eric_goldman.tripod.com/resources/becomingalawprofessor.htm). In many cases, a law student's choice of law schools may realistically prevent them from getting a law professor job. A student at a top 5 law school meets the initial criterion. A student at a top 20 law school can have a chance. A student at other law schools faces long odds. An LLM from a prestigious school might help overcome a JD from a less-regarded school; Brad Wendel addresses this issue specifically.
No matter where a student went to school, there are 2 things that will increase the odds of success.
First, add as many "prestigious" things as possible to your resume. This includes things like prestigious judicial clerkships (federal appeals court or federal district court), prestigious student activities and honors (like law review and Order of the Coif) and prestigious jobs with big brand-name law firms.
To understand the importance of prestige, consider how your application will be reviewed. In most cases, you will submit a resume through a centralized resume service that almost all the law schools use when they are hiring. Your resume will be shipped to the law school in a stack with hundreds of other resumes. How do you stand out in this crowd? The more prestige on your resume, the more likely that your resume will catch the eye of someone reading through this enormous stack. We might debate whether or not this system is fair or accurate, but for now this is the prevailing system. As such, you benefit by having as many impressive items on your resume as possible.
Second, publish law review articles. Publish while you are in school. Publish while you are in practice. Publish as often as you can while maintaining quality. If you love to write, publishing will be a natural step for you. If you don't love writing, this standard may remind you to consider if you're on the right path.
There are other possibly useful things a student might consider, such as getting a PhD in another discipline (many schools now look favorably on interdisciplinary candidates), adjunct teaching (if for no other reason than to confirm if you like teaching) and networking with well-known and well-connected law professors. While it's doubtful that any of these steps hurt, they are likely to help only at the margins.
Putting aside the issue of qualifications, I think the single best thing a student can do is to have realistic expectations. It is extremely rare for freshly-minted JDs to get a full-time tenure-track position. Frequently, there are a number of time-consuming prerequisites: a judicial clerkship, a few years of practice at a brand-name firm, publication of one or more law review articles following graduation. Therefore, a student who really wants to become a law professor may need to develop and implement a multi-year plan to get there.
I'll wrap up this series tomorrow.
March 02, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART III
3) Are the publish or perish pressures worse than in firms?
For full-time tenure-track positions, almost all schools expect professors to publish law review articles regularly. Therefore, these jobs are not a great choice for someone who thinks teaching is fun but writing articles is anathema. There are other law professor jobs where publishing is usually not expected, such as clinical or legal research and writing positions. Otherwise, in most cases, it truly is publish or perish.
Having said that, at many schools the publication requirements are not insurmountable. Often, the requirements can be as low as 2 or 3 substantial law review articles over 6 or 7 years. Of course, schools vary on this, and at some places, 2 or 3 articles are the stated minimum but the realistic minimum is higher. Furthermore, some schools have additional standards, like the prestige of the journals publishing the articles.
I don't want to trivialize the effort required to write a substantial law review article--it is hard, time-consuming and a labor of love. However, for people who like to write law review articles, the tenure standards are entirely achievable and, in fact, lower than many would choose to do as a matter of preference.
Therefore, I would suggest a different way of thinking about the "publish or perish" issue. If the candidate likes to write law review articles and can do so competently, they may never feel any pressure about perishing because they will have no problem meeting the requirements. If, however, the candidate feels pressured to write law review articles solely because of the fear that they will perish, a full-time tenure-track position may be a sub-optimal career choice.
More on this topic tomorrow.
March 01, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART II
This is the second of a five part series of posts about law teaching careers. See Part I. This series was instigated by an email interview I had on the subject. Today, I deal with the second of the reporter's five questions.
2) What kind of pay can a law professor expect, relative to private practice? (And versus other professors in other disciplines).
Law professor pay varies by school and type of position. For an entry-level tenure track position, the range between the highest-paying school and the lowest-paying school may be close to 100% (i.e., the top-paying schools will pay approximately 2X the lowest paying schools). Pay also varies by geography. Having said that, I think that all schools pay less for entry-level than the top law firms pay their first year associates. And, in many cases, new full-time tenure-track law professors have substantial experience before entering the teaching market. For example, in my case, I had 8 years' experience as a practicing attorney before taking a full-time job. My starting law professor salary in 2002 was about 40% of my 2000 salary as a 7th year associate at a law firm.
Also, pay raises for most professors are very low--often below the rate of inflation. As a result, many professors see their inflation-adjusted earnings decrease over time. If an entry-level professor thinks the initial starting salary is tough to live on, it may only get worse over the course of their career.
Nevertheless, law professors also usually get paid noticeably more than other academics. Further, while I could be earning more, I think many schools pay a salary that allows a comfortable (not lavish, not destitute) lifestyle. Though it’s easy for law professors to envy the pay of others (especially some of the students that we are teaching), the reality is that many law professors do OK financially.
More on this topic tomorrow.
UPDATE 2 (May 2007): I've posted new data and new comments here.
February 28, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART I
I find it interesting how many people are interested in law teaching as a career, and how many law professors have espoused their views on this subject. I have contributed to this discussion in part with some thoughts already.
With some trepidation, I am going to say more about this subject. I am prompted to do so by an email interview I had for a story. I was asked five pointed questions that inspired me to put together some of my thoughts. A lot of this rehashes what others have said, but I do have some new perspectives to add (and, for those of you who are researching this issue from scratch, this will provide a basic overview as well). I will serialize my response over this week, starting today with the first question.
1) What are the pros and cons of becoming a law professor?
The pros of a law professor job
* I help students accomplish their goals
* I work with interesting colleagues
* I can set my own agenda. I have a lot of flexibility to choose how to allocate my time. If I want to take on a project, I can. If I'm not interested, I don't. If I want to delay some extra efforts because of other priorities (like a new child), I can lighten my workload substantially without needing anyone's permission (although I can't do this forever if I want to get tenure!).
* The things I work on are the things I did with my free time when I was in practice. In other words, my job now is what I used to consider my hobbies.
* I get the opportunity to say what's on my mind. I don't have to hold back for fear of alienating a client or my employer. Occasionally, people are even interested in what I have to say!
* I earn a lot less than I would in practice
* Getting a job is difficult, and it requires flexibility (for example, in my case, I had to move from California to the Midwest)
* There are relatively few clear metrics for measuring my success. In a law firm, associates are measured by billable hours and performance reviews. In a corporate environment, success is measured by profit. In the academic world, there are many possible dimensions to measure success. Thus, there's no natural boundary on when I've done "enough"--there is always something more to do, usually very interesting, and thus it is easy to take on too much.
* The job is not as much of a "lifestyle" job as people normally assume. To be an excellent teacher, scholar and community member takes a lot of time. I do get the summers and holidays "off," but I need to work on grading exams, preparing for the next semester, and writing papers. Some might complain that they get paid a 10 month salary for a 12 month job.
More on this topic tomorrow.
February 23, 2005
No Bribes for Textbook Adoptions
Virginia is adopting a law banning state college professors from accepting payment from textbook publishers for adopting textbooks. My first reaction: good idea. My second reaction: I don’t remember being offered any payment!
February 22, 2005
Article on Professor Salaries
Good article on the role of shopping around at other schools on professors’ salaries.
February 21, 2005
Email lists for IP and Cyberlaw Professors
At the Michigan State Law School IP Works-in-Progress conference over the weekend, we discussed various email lists that we use as professors to keep up with the law. I offered up these as some of the top resources I rely upon (in addition to my RSS reader, blogs, etc., etc.):
Cyberprof. Closed list for cyberspace law professors. Contact Mark Lemley to be added.
IPProfs. A list for IP law professors.
JuniorIPProfs. A list for junior IP law professors. A surprisingly welcome complement to IPProfs.
CNI-Copyright. A mix of practitioners, academics, students and industry folks. Principally practice-focused.
TMTopics. Like CNI-Copyright, also practice-focused.
Michael Geist's Internet Law News. Essential daily reading for anyone in the Cyberlaw field.