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November 17, 2011

"Professor's plea: Say no to 'law school porn'"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece appearing in The National Law Journal. Here are excerpts:

It's that time of year when law school faculties are inundated with so-called "law school porn" — slick mailings extolling the virtues of individual law schools meant to sway voting in the U.S. News & World Report's reputation survey, now underway.

Some legal educators believe the annual barrage of mail has gotten out of control, and proves that rankings are driving administrative decisions.  They say it's time to stop paying for glossy brochures and invest that money in students.

"Some of the stuff I get is gorgeous," said University of New Hampshire law professor Sarah Redfield. "It's almost a book. Some people are spending a bunch of money on this."

A study released in 2009 that was partially funded by the Law School Admission Council, "Fear of Failing: The Effect of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools," reached the same conclusion: that administrators are spending significant amounts of money on brochures and marketing materials in hopes of getting better results on the reputation survey.  The survey is based on voting by legal educators, lawyers and judges, and accounts for 40 percent of a school's ranking score.

In a recent blog post, University of California at Los Angeles School of Law professor Stephen Bainbridge estimated that this material — commonly referred to in legal academic circles as "law school porn" — comprises 67 percent of his work mail. He added that never reads it. He noted that he has started to receive law school promotional materials via e-mail, which he dismissed as spam.

This material does serve a few purposes, according to University of Alabama School of Law professor Paul Horwitz, who defended them on the PrawfsBlawg blog. They can provide useful information about as recent faculty hires, scholarly publications and other innovations, he wrote.

"On the whole, unlike many, I would rather receive these materials than not receive them," Horwitz wrote. "That's true even if, as is generally the case, they're ridiculously fulsome, as long as they're also informative. As long as a school wants to tell me more about who it's hired and what its folks are writing, I'll be happy to read its mailers."...

Redfield brought a thick stack of the material to a law school admissions conference at St. John's University School of Law on Nov. 11.  It represented about one quarter of what she had received this fall, she said. She theatrically dropped the stack into a recycling bin, producing a loud thud, and issued a challenge to the law deans in the audience and to U.S. News Director of Data Research Bob Morse, who sat on a panel with her.  Law schools should do away with law school porn and put the money toward diversity scholarships, Redfield said.

Morse did not sign on to the challenge, nor did his dismiss it out of hand.  Redfield's idea was met with skepticism by St. John's Dean Michael Simons.  He did not specify what the school spends on its mailings, but stipulated that it would not be enough to fund even a half-scholarship. The National Law Journal contacted a number of law schools to ask what they spend; none responded.

November 17, 2011 in Impact on law school decision-making, Rankings, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

November 15, 2011

Does Having a Diverse Law School Faculty Affect Students? One Study

A fascinating study, summarized here by National Jurist.

Faculty diversity impacts law review membership, study finds

Law schools with a diverse faculty are more likely to have law review members and leaders who are minorities or women, a new study suggests. The report, completed by The New York Law School Law Review, looks at female and minority representation among law review membership and leadership at ABA-accredited law schools. Membership on a school's law review is an indicator of future career success.

“Getting into law school is only half the battle — for better or worse, grades matter a lot and law review membership is one of the most prominent indicators of academic achievement,” said Dana Brodsky, one of four 3L editors who conducted the research. “Our survey shows a possible connection between the overall environment a school provides and the achievement of its women and minority students.”

 

More empirical research here would seem to be in order to understand the effects, if any, of faculty diversity on student outcomes.

Anupam Chander

November 15, 2011 in Diversity, Law Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 13, 2011

The importance of appreciating (and teaching) iPad realities for lawyers and law students

I am at a great session (on a Sunday morning!) of the Appellate Judges Education Institute concerning modern brief writing and reading in our digital age.  The biggest take-away is that the iPad has become a "game-changer" in part because already perhaps as many as half of all appellate judges nationwide are at least sometimes reading briefs on an iPad and because it seems likely that soon all judges will read most briefs on screens.  

This sessions is reinforcing my belief that law schools should be looking for ways to intergrate iPads and/or other e-readers into their skills curriculum.  Notably, a Ninth Circuit judge on reported that his circuit is providing all its judges with iPads, and I strongly believe it should be only a matter of time before some clever law schools (and/or law publishers) figure out the opportunities and advantages that might flow from giving groups of students pre-programmed e-readers with specialized applications and/or content.

Some related prior posts:

 Posted by DAB

November 13, 2011 in Electronic Education, Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack