October 23, 2007
Open thread on encouraging (or discouraging) transfer students in law schools
Over at Empirical Legal Studies, Bill Henderson has lots of interesting data in this interesting post about transfer students and US News gaming. Bill's focus on US News is interesting and resonates with what I have heard about the opportunities for gaming when schools shrink their 1L admissions and thereafter supplement class sizes through transfer students.
More broadly, though Bill's post is not intended to be a general discussion of the pros and cons of law school transfers, many folks are eager in his post's comments to talk about transfer student experiences. Consequently, I would be eager to hear from law professors and law students about whether law schools ought to actively encourage or actively discourage transfers as a matter of general policy.
Of course, the pros and cons of transfer for individual students will vary based on personal circumstances. But there are lots of ways in which schools might institutionally embrace or resist transfers. For example, beyond the basics of transfer admission policies, schools might directly recruit transfer applicants from other schools or might hold information sessions for current students so they might better understand transfer options.
Posted by DAB
March 13, 2007
What kind of career do you want your students to have?
This post is less about law school "innovation" and more about the roots of law school, the goals and purpose that readers of this blog serve. (As you know, I'm not a law school professor or instructor).
I'm genuinely curious what you wish for your students -- what kinds of careers you imagine them having. A running critique of most of academia is that some professors strive to replicate themselves by creating more professors rather than practitioners. (In Ph.D. programs, this goal is the explicit norm, but not in J.D. programs -- at least in theory). A lot of this criticism can be summed up with the insult, "Those who can't, teach."
I don't think that criticism is fair. But if the Carnegie researchers are correct -- that law schools largely fail to integrate moral/ethical dimension of legal practice into the curriculum -- then are students left unmoored in their career decision-making? And do professors bear some responsibility for giving them some moral anchorage? A recent letter to the Harvard Law School Record seems to think so:
I applied to Harvard Law School because it was supposed to prepare me to be a great advocate for people in my community. Instead, I found it difficult to speak up in classroom discussions that discouraged the acknowledgment that class, race, gender and political ideology were intrinsically tied to the creation and execution of the laws we studied.
Further, the career options presented by OPIA [Office of Public Interest Advising] and OCS [Office of Career Services] did not fit my vision of the lawyer I imagined I would be. At some point I hung up my idealism and agreed to take the easier path. When I graduated from HLS in 1999, I left to be a corporate attorney. That diploma and that starting salary meant that by all standards I had made it! The problem was that I was a success in everyone's eyes except my own.
-- An Open Letter to HLS Students by Luz E. Herrera
The author -- who did ultimately become a solo practitioner in Compton -- cites statistics that show how big firms are gobbling up a larger percentage of the practicing attorneys each year. Given that the supply of attorneys is fairly static, and that technology has yet to pay off in leveraging our current attorney base more effectively (more on this later), we're talking about a zero-sum game in which middle- and low-income Americans are getting less and less access to legal services every year.
You need not agree with Ms. Herrera's (and frankly, my) opinion that this eroding of services for average and poor Americans is a crisis to see the bigger point -- that law schools have a big effect on the careers that their alumni undertake. What do you see as your role in shaping that future? What is your school's? Is it something you talk about frequently in faculty meetings and other settings?
- Gene Koo
Survey of New Attorneys: Raw data
Back in November, I asked for your input on a survey the Berkman Center was conducting in conjunction with LexisNexis. The white paper is now moving through its final drafts, but in the spirit of sharing and transparency, I'm releasing the data itself for anyone who may be interested.
The survey targeted LexisNexis customers whose accounts are less than seven years old. Our intention was to capture newer/younger attorneys, though the correlation between the goal and the actual population is imperfect. The survey was conducted through a web-based tool.
Additional caveats: with only 142 respondents, the margin of error is a fairly high ±8%; the survey itself is heavily skewed towards large-firm practice and away from solo practice (the other segments are fairly representative); and the nature of the survey -- targeted at LNG customers, through Web/email -- is also likely to skew towards (a) big firm practice and (b) the technologically savvy.
I will post findings from the white paper over the next few weeks and welcome your feedback.
- Gene Koo
March 07, 2007
Law Students Face Employment Difficulties for Online Comments
A Washington Post article by Ellen Nakashima reports on a Yale law student who has found obtaining a job difficult because of comments posted about her online. Law firms, the article reports, routinely Google prospective employees as part of a background check.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, has published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in her field. So when the Yale law student interviewed with 16 firms for a job this summer, she was concerned that she had only four call-backs. She was stunned when she had zero offers.
Though it is difficult to prove a direct link, the woman thinks she is a victim of a new form of reputation-maligning: online postings with offensive content and personal attacks that can be stored forever and are easily accessible through a Google search.
The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent.
...Employers, including law firms, frequently do Google searches as part of due diligence checks on prospective employees. According to a December survey by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research organization, roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications.
The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online.
Law students should be very careful about what they post (even in forums that appear private) but it is difficult, of course, to prevent others from writing about you.
What can law schools do to reduce risks for law students because of unsavory characterizations online?
February 09, 2007
Does (law school) size matter?
A short piece in law student mag "The National Jurist" has me thinking about the importance and impact of the size of a law school. The article, entitled "Shrinking law schools" (and available only in print), details that a "number of law schools are shrinking the size of their incoming classes or have said that they intend to do so." The article discusses both the economic and possible rankings impact of such shrinkage.
Brian Leiter, who is quoted in the piece, has long noted that "[m]ore than one-third of the [US News] criteria that go in to the final score favor small schools and penalize large schools." So one answer is clear: size does matter in the realities of US News ranking. But, as Leiter and so many others stress, US News is a very imperfect (and harmful?) proxy for educational quality.
Notably, many top schools are radically different sizes. I believe Harvard and NYU and Georgetown are among the largest law schools in the nation, while Yale and Stanford and Chicago are among the smallest. I sense the national mean is somewhere around 600-700 students in the standard JD program, but I have no evidence that there is a pedagogically sound reason for that mean.
So, here are my questions: is there an "ideal" law school size for serving a law school's core educational mission? Are there sound student-oriented reasons — other than economic or US News concerns — for a school to aspire to be larger or smaller?
Posted by DAB
January 18, 2007
Snippets from LSSSE report
I want to thank Joe for highlighting the fascinating recent report from the 2006 Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), entited Engaging Legal Education: Moving Beyond the Status Quo. The report is intriguing and quite reader-friendly, and is chock full of interesting findings for the would-be law school innovator.
In addition to encouraging everyone to read the report in full, I wanted to spotlight just a few notable findings that first caught my attention from the report (these are all direct quotes from the report):
- Student-faculty interaction was more strongly related to students' self-reported gains in analytical ability than time spent studying, cocurricular activities, or even the amount of academic effort they put forth.
- The vast majority of law students (88%) do not frequently work together with other students on projects during class. However, those students who do are more likely to report higher gains in several areas. For example, of the students who "very often" worked collaboratively, 39% felt that their legal education helped them acquire job or work-related knowledge and skills "very much." Of those students who "never" participated in collaborative in-class work, only 18% said the same.
- Nearly a third of 3L respondents (32%) reported that they had not done any pro bono or volunteer work during law school, and had no plans to do so.
- During the second and third years of law school, students who had a clinical internship or field experience or who did pro bono work report gaining more than other students in several desirable areas. These areas included higher order thinking skills, speaking and writing proficiency, and competence and confidence in solving complex realworld problems.
- Women and students of color were more likely to join and hold leadership positions in school-sponsored organizations. Women and students of color were just as likely as their male and White counterparts to participate in moot court. However, Black students were slightly underrepresented on law journals (10% participation versus 15% for Hispanic and Native American, 18% for multiracial, and 22% for Asian and White students).
Posted by DAB