Tag Archives: law school

Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

That certain quarters of the academy–humanities
departments, most social sciences departments, and many graduate programs
(social work, education, and to a lesser extent law)–are ideologically
imbalanced is not news. A decision in an Iowa court, however, exposed the
difficulty in addressing the problem.

The case, which received extensive coverage in the Des Moines Register and attracted some
notice in the national press, involved Teresa Wagner, who in 2006 applied for a
vacancy at the University of Iowa Law School. (She then applied for adjunct jobs
between 2007 and 2009.) Wagner had served as a part-time instructor before that
time, was invited for an interview for the tenure-track job but didn’t receive
it, and then didn’t get any of the adjunct positions, either. (It’s odd indeed
for a candidate considered qualified enough to be a finalist for a tenure-track
job to, in turn, be deemed unqualified for an adjunct’s position.) Wagner
believed that her outspoken activism on social issues and her affiliation with
some very conservative groups, notably the Family Research Council, motivated
the opposition to her candidacy. Wagner then sued the dean of the law school.

Winning a lawsuit for an adverse hiring decision is all
but impossible. (The contrast here is to an adverse tenure decision, where the
odds are long but not insurmountable.) The university can always claim that,
whatever the apparent strengths of the plaintiff, there simply was another,
more qualified, candidate for the position, and that privacy/personnel rules
prevent a thorough airing of the matter. Given the inherently subjective nature
of the hiring process, that line of argument almost always carries the day, to
such an extent that few lawsuits alleging bias in the hiring process even make
it to trial.

The Wagner case, however, was unusual, in that she was
able to present an e-mail from the law school’s associate dean–dubbed a
“smoking gun” document by her attorney–in which the associate dean wrote, “Frankly,
one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in
any role in part at least because they so despise her politics (and especially
her activism about it). I hate to think that is the case, and I don’t actually
think that, but I’m worried that I may be missing something.”

The law school dean unsurprisingly denied Wagner’s claim
of ideological bias, and instead rested on an assertion that Wagner had flubbed
an interview question by saying she’d refuse to teach a course required for the
position. But the law school’s position was weakened by its inability to
produce any contemporaneous references to this alleged flubbing (the notes from
other faculty seemed to praise, not disparage, Wagner’s performance). And a
videotape of Wagner’s interview that Wagner’s critics promised would prove their
case was conveniently erased.

Continue reading Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

When Universities Raid Their Law Schools


Earlier this month Annette Clark,
dean of Saint Louis University’s law school, abruptly
from her job via e-mail after only a year. She left after accusing the Jesuit
university and its president, Rev. Lawrence Biondi, of looting the law school
in order to fund other, non-law-related programs on the Saint Louis campus. 

was not the first time that a law dean has quit in a dispute over the
“tax”– the premium that law schools and business schools, which
typically charge higher tuition than other campus programs, must hand over to
their host universities. In July 2011 Philip Closius, dean of the public
University of Baltimore School of Law, quit his job under administration
pressure after asserting that the university kept–and used for its own
purposes–some 45 percent of the revenue that the law school generated from
tuition, fees, and state subsidies. In 2009 De Paul University in Chicago fired
its then-dean, Paul Weissenberger, apparently because Weissenberger complained
to the American Bar Association that De Paul had siphoned off more than the 25
percent of its law school’s revenues that the law school had agreed to

Continue reading When Universities Raid Their Law Schools

Finally, Some Disclosure by the ABA

on the undergrad and graduate levels–typically admit students and encourage
them to take on onerous amounts of debt, without first giving those prospective
students the actual data about their chances of finding work in that major
field afterwards. This is just as true, by the way, for non-profit as it is for
for-profit schools.

is this unethical lack of transparency more a problem than with law schools. Each
year, about 40,000 new law school graduates start looking for work. But while it
is rare that a graduate of a medical school cannot find work in the medical
field, it is not at all rare for a law school graduate–even from a top-tier
institution–to fail to find a job in the legal profession.

has caused a large number of disgruntled law school grads to pressure the
American Bar Association (ABA) to release the data it has regarding the
employment of law school grads. Indeed, about a dozen grads have even sued the
schools from which they graduated. (Law school graduates suing their law
schools: this gives new meaning to the hoary clich

12 More Law Schools Sued for Defrauding Students

from Open Market

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports
a team of eight law firms have just “sued a dozen more law schools
across the country, accusing them of luring students with inflated
job-placement and salary statistics and leaving graduates ‘burdened with debt
and with limited job prospects.’ The lawyers . . . said they planned to file 20
to 25 new lawsuits every few months . . . the lawsuits had been filed on behalf
of a total of 51 graduates, and each suit was seeking class-action status. The
targets of the latest round of lawsuits” include  “Brooklyn Law School
(N.Y.),” “Chicago-Kent College of Law,” DePaul University College of Law,”
“Golden Gate University School of Law,” “Hofstra Law School,” “University of
San Francisco School of Law,” “Widener University School of Law,” and several

Continue reading 12 More Law Schools Sued for Defrauding Students

What Do the Law Schools Think They’re Doing?

from OpenMarket.org

The New York Times featured an excellent news story
Sunday by David Segal
on the costly white elephant that is legal education
in America. He describes how law school is expensive because of
government-enforced accreditation standards that prevent law schools from
containing costs even if they wanted to (and in truth, most law schools are all
too happy to jack up their costs and pass them on to law students and consumers
of legal services): “the lack of affordable law school options, scholars say,
helps explain why so many Americans don’t hire lawyers” when they genuinely
need legal assistance or advice. One reason for that is that lawyers who incur
a fortune in student loans need to bring (or defend) big-ticket lawsuits — even
socially destructive lawsuits — to pay off their loans, instead of providing
badly needed legal advice and assistance to people of modest means, who can pay
less, even though handling their unmet legal needs would be much more
meaningful work for conscientious lawyers. (Certain types
of lawsuits are favored
by one-way
statutes that encourage trial lawyers to bring those particular
types of lawsuits
, even when the entity being sued is probably innocent.)

Continue reading What Do the Law Schools Think They’re Doing?

How the Law Schools Went Astray

wolson.jpgThis is an excerpt from Schools for Misrule, Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, to be published March 1 by Encounter Books. Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is author of The Litigation Explosion and creator of the popular blog Overlawyered.com. *** In his 1918 book The Higher Education in America, the gadfly sociologist Thorstein Veblen warned universities that they were making a mistake in their rapid expansion to include professional schools and related departments. These essentially vocational extensions of the university, he argued, put at risk “that disinterested intellectual enterprise which is the university’s peculiar domain.” He reserved special disdain for the new vogue for academic business schools, which dealt in ideas that were “unscientific and unscholarly” and of a general “uselessness to the community.” To impart skills in a field such as marketing was (he imagined) simply to give some clever members of the community an edge against others in the competition for wealth and power. What had that to do with the university’s search for useful knowledge, beauty, and truth for its own sake? Continue reading How the Law Schools Went Astray

Why Are There So Many Law Schools?

During my service as a member of the accreditation committee of the American Bar Association, the ABA added a 200th school to their roster of accredited law schools. This growth could be seen as a cause for celebration– the roster of new schools included many with missions that would clearly benefit society. Public service law schools, schools specializing in clinical legal education and schools with a mission to serve underrepresented constituencies, for example, enlarge and enhance the quality and availability of legal services.
Also among these 200 schools — particularly those of more recently vintage — were a number operated to return a profit for investors. The rise of the for-profit law school model posed a number of problems, but they were set aside by an ABA finding that these schools were to be judged according to the same standards applicable to independent, not-for-profit schools, and to the traditional university-affiliated schools. This approach was grounded in anti-trust interpretations that required basically the same standards for all schools so that the ABA would not bar entry to the market for competing law schools.

Continue reading Why Are There So Many Law Schools?

Overselling Law School

Here at Minding the Campus we’ve been elaborating on Charles Murray’s argument that college isn’t for everyone, and that a college degree—which can cost graduates at least four years of forgone earnings and leave them drowning in student-loan debt—isn’t necessarily the ticket to economic prosperity that it’s cracked up to be. So what?, you might say. If my literature degree qualifies me only for working the cash register at Borders, I’ll just go to law school, because everyone knows that lawyers make big bucks.
Dream on. At the early-January annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School, blasted U.S. law schools, which can cost as much as $120,000 for three years’ worth of tuition for “exploiting” less-than-successful students by taking their money (usually in the form of a loan) and failing to disabuse them of the notion that their degrees will automatically translate into a high-paying job on graduation. It’s common knowledge—at least among lawyers, law professors, and law students with street smarts—that unless your law alma mater is Harvard or a school of that ilk, you’ve got to graduate in the top ten percent of your class in order to get one of those perks-laden white-shoe-firm jobs that will make the sky-high tuition you paid (plus books, living expenses, and three more years of forgone earnings) worth your while. Matasar called the odds of attaining a high enough class ranking to justify the huge expenditures a “lottery shot.”
As for the other ninety percent, they struggle to get some sort of middling-paying law job after graduation that might enable them to retire their loans within some reasonable time before their own retirement, or they never manage to land a law job and drift into something else, or, worst of all, they never even graduate at all–although they still rack up plenty of student debt before they fail their courses or drop out. According to Indiana University law professor William Henderson, who also spoke at the AALS meeting, a survey of fifty law schools revealed that 20 percent of law students either flunked out, couldn’t find jobs after graduation, or had unknown outcomes. Those dismal numbers nonetheless haven’t stopped law schools from admitting, filling classrooms with, and collecting tuition from students whose SAT scores indicate that their chances of forging successful legal careers are dicey at best.

Continue reading Overselling Law School

Orthodoxy V. Wisdom At The Supreme Court

Professor Johnny R. Buckles of the University of Houston Law School has written and posted a hypothetical Supreme Court case on the Solomon Amendment and whether private law schools can restrict military recruiting over the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. Hint as to how the decision comes out: the Chief Justice is named “Orthodoxy” and the dissent is by “Justice Wisdom.”
Buckles says he wrote the article primarily “to illustrate the mischief that the public policy doctrine of Bob Jones University v. United States can produce in the hands of a judge willing to apply the doctrine expansively. I intend the article to be both playful and analytical, and seek to demonstrate why theorists across the political spectrum should see the problems with the doctrine as articulated by the Supreme Court.”
The article can be found here.

Top Five Law School Ranking Scams

The Shark provides a list of the top five Law School “Admissions Innovations” of 2008, with analysis.
The ludicrous Baylor case is ranked one, but I hadn’t heard of several of the others. Take #3

University of Michigan Law School’s Wolverine Scholars Program admits University of Michigan undergrads who have at least a 3.8 GPA and agree not to take the LSAT
a. How it works:
i. There is no LSAT score to report to U.S. News which is fine, and the 3.8 GPA will boost the median GPA of Michigan’s entering class.
b. How much it matters:
i. Median LSAT – 12.5% of school’s total score.
ii. Median undergrad GPA – 10% of school’s total score.

See how clever law schools really are. Read the rest.

The Politics Of Elite Law Schools

Walter Olson tipped us off to this, at Point of Law:

Paul Caron of TaxProfBlog has run the numbers on this year’s Presidential contributions (at least those coded “law professor”, which may miss some) and they’re even more overwhelmingly lopsided than you might have expected: 95 percent Obama, 5 percent McCain. At Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Texas, Michigan, Penn, and — despite its no-longer-accurate reputation — Chicago, there were no Republican contributors at all. The only GOP-leaning exception in Caron’s list of top schools: Northwestern. Discussion: Bainbridge, Zywicki @ Volokh, and, wonderfully self-confirmingly, Markel @ Prawfsblawg (who’s up for the Larry Tribe Obama fundraiser?).
New motto: America’s law schools, where Republicanism is a rounding error.

Worth A Look

– Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy wonders why some prominent universities don’t have law schools – Princeton, Brown, Johns Hopkins, Rice, and Tufts are law-school-less. As is Brandeis, ironic as he notes, “for a prominent university named after a Supreme Court justice.”

He’s surprised they haven’t made the leap. Take a look.

– Harvard’s new Gen Ed curriculum seems fairly promising, at first glance, with an introductory humanities colloquium, and classes on the novel in Europe, globalization, and American healthcare policy. Flaw? These courses can only enroll a small number of students. Hopefully we’ll see more in the future, but there’s really no telling what they’ll look like.

– And Margaret Soltan, on the University of Colorado – Boulder, home of the new ‘conservative professor’:

And you know, therefore, that the proposed endowed chair there in Conservative Thought and Policy – essentially an effort to import a high-profile conservative thinker – doesn’t represent an alien imposition on a quiet mountain monoculture.

The main reality of campus life at Boulder is a hard-drinking, right-leaning, anti-intellectual, and politically indifferent basketball and football culture dominated by dumb frat guys and an athletics department so corrupt it generated the largest national university sports scandal of them all not long ago.

A Political Target

Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional scholar and law professor at Duke for 21 years, has just been hired and then fired as the first dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School, which opens in 2009. Irvine’s chancellor, Michael Drake, explained the firing by saying “he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky’s political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives,” according to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, a blog on legal academia.
If the blog report is accurate, the treatment of Chemerinsky is a test case for conservatives who support free speech and argue vehemently against political tests for faculty and administration appointments. Do these principles apply only to conservatives, or do they protect liberals as well?

Chemerinsky is indeed very liberal and very outspoken. He particularly irritated many religious conservatives by lumping Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists as threats to democratic principles. So argue with him, but don’t try to get him fired.

For one thing, the chancellor had plenty of time to think about the impact of hiring Chermerinsky, and to reject him if he chose. But it’s disgraceful to hire the man, fire him immediately and then explain that you are doing so to cave into political pressure. The chancellor, the school and Chemerinsky all suffer from this sort of amateurish behavior. And if the chancellor does not reverse course and accept Chemerinsky, he puts the next choice for dean in an untenable position – he will inevitably be seen as a safe nominee, so harmless that no political pressure group will try to oust him. The reputation of the law school would decline two years before opening.

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky said. I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints. He said he has begun to assemble a board of advisors that would have included conservatives such as Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown, and Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court.

Writing anonymously on the Wall Street Journal site, different Duke law students offered both praise and criticism for Chemerinsky. A pro-Chemerinsky opinion said: “To respond to allegations of anti-conservative bias – these cannot be further from the truth. Equal air time was always given to both sides during class, and with regard to his Con Law final, I wrote a final exam that could only be described as ‘Scalia-esque’ and received a 4.0.”

Do the right thing, chancellor, and re-hire Chemerinsky.