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March 15, 2007

SSRN rankings and Leiter's (rank?) omission

Aided by this post at Feminist Law Professors by Ann Bartow, I see a possible controversy brewing over Brian Leiter's decision, in his most recent SSRN download calculations, to exclude my Ohio State colleague Chris Fairman's heavily downloaded paper, Fuck.  Ann's post assails the decision, and my colleague Ruth Colker sent Leiter this e-mail (which she authorized my posting):

Brian, I was shocked that, after you acknowledged the bias in favor of individuals who write in the corporate law area with respect to download counts, you then excluded from your download list the only piece that is on a civil rights related topic, and included all the corporate pieces. I have read and learned significantly from Chris Fairman's piece entitled Fuck, which will soon be published in the Cardozo Law Review.  A criteria-less exclusion of one article is empirical scholarship at its worst. Ironically, a reader of Chris' piece would have expected your actions, because law and society often overreact to the mere use of the term "fuck" without consideration of its meaning in a particular context.  I encourage you to reverse your actions and republish the list without implicitly editorializing about whether one article "deserves" its downloads.

Joyfully, Chris Fairman has himself jumped into the fray with an intriguing essay discussing this situation available here (via SSRN, of course).  Chris' new piece is entitled "Fuck and Law Faculty Rankings."  Because sequels rarely do better than the original, I doubt that this new fuck-related meta-scholarship will perform as well as Chris' first piece.  But perhaps it will still help folks figure out what the fuck to make of SSRN download counts.

Posted by DAB

UPDATE: In this post entitled Quantifying Scholarship, Neil Buchanan weighs in on the problems of relying on cite counts and/or SSRN downloads in law faculty rankings.  Especially notable is this (unsurprising?) report Neil provides in the comment section to his post: 

[A]n acquaintance from another law school called me recently and asked if I would please download all of his papers from SSRN.  His dean is making a big push to pump up their numbers.

March 15, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Interdisciplinary Adventures, Part IV

Sadly, my dream of being the only lawyer at a theater arts conference was dashed by the Minnesota weather. 

My colleague, Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard of Baylor's theater department, collaborates with me on the first day of my criminal practice class as we use the play "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell to define some themes of the class.  She recently suggested we present a paper on this collaboration at the Mid-American Theater Conference on March 4, and the paper was accepted.  Then the weather prevented me from arriving, and DeAnna had to give the paper alone. 

If you are interested in our use of the play, however, a draft of our paper is available for download here.

-- Mark Osler

March 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Law School Deans Denounce Web Site Content

Link: Law School Deans Speak Out on Web Site Content - washingtonpost.com.
The deans at two top law schools have admonished the operators of an Internet message board that hosts chats containing personal attacks against female students and racist and homophobic remarks. Letters written by the deans at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania law schools, were issued after an article in The Washington Post aired the debate over AutoAdmit, a message board that was created as a forum to exchange advice on law schools and firms. The women who were targeted in some chats had complained to the site owners that the commentary was offensive and false, but they received no relief. Cohen and the site's co-owner, Anthony Ciolli, a third-year law student at Penn, defended AutoAdmit as a forum for free speech. In an open letter to the "Yale Law School Community," Dean Harold Koh noted that AutoAdmit contained numerous "false and hurtful assertions" by anonymous posters, and that some included names and personal information of Yale students. Some chats contained claims that women had sexually transmitted diseases. One Yale student, The Post reported, believed that the chat content, which was accessible in a Google search, contributed to her inability to find a summer job. "Such anonymous, personal attacks on individuals are despicable," Koh wrote. "These malicious attacks, as well as racist, sexist and homophobic speech, have no place in the Yale Law School community." The Penn law school dean, Michael A. Fitts, and the associate dean, Gary Clinton, posted a letter on the site Thursday, stating that while they understood the right to engage in spirited debate, "we all have a moral and professional obligation to engage in that debate in a responsible manner." They said that though the university thought it had no basis to act against Ciolli, the derogatory comments could serve as a basis for defamation suits and "may increasingly become the subject of concern by bar admissions committees." Meanwhile, ReputationDefender, which is representing several women who were targeted on AutoAdmit, has engaged a law firm to explore civil and criminal claims on the women's behalf, ReputationDefender chief executive Michael Fertik said.
Note to AutoAdmit proprietors: CDA Section 230 may well not be the invincible shield against liability that you clearly believe it to be. Anupam Chander

March 14, 2007 in Deans and innovations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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

March 13, 2007 in Serving students | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

LexisNexis/Berkman Raw Survey Data (CSV)

- Gene Koo

March 13, 2007 in Serving students, Teaching -- research, Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Creating a Commons for law professors, students

The "Commons" provides a useful metaphor for scholarship: research and learning depends on our ability to share and build off each others' ideas. The "blawgosphere," taken as a whole, functions as one such Commons. But there are other Commons out there -- some wide open, some with electric fences all around.

Today at 12:30pm EDT, John Mayer of Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction talked about how CALI is establishing different kinds of commons for the development and sharing of legal education materials. Podcast of this event.

- Gene Koo

March 13, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recommendations for Offering Legal Instruction over the Internet

In Five Recommendations to Law Schools Offering Legal Instruction over the Internet, 11 J. Tech. L. & Pol'y 285 (2006) [Westlaw], Daniel C. Powell writes (2006)

There are good ways and bad ways to offer instruction from a distance. To ensure that legal education remains a shared enterprise and an interactive endeavor between professors and students, asynchronous mediums of instructions should be used to supplement a more interactive and synchronous primary mode of instruction. To avoid common pedagogical limitations and administrative problems, law schools should be careful to “own” their course and program offerings and to use relational marketing techniques to keep distance education nearby.

Powell offers five practical recommendations. The first recommendations addresses what to offer and the remaining four offer advice on how to offer distance learning. Together these recommendations are intended to advise law schools on how to successfully expand into distance learning while avoiding common administrative problems and pedagogical limitations.

More generally, I cannot recommend too strongly Brave New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet (2007) because it offers an invigorating analysis of the dangers and possibilities of e-learning. Brave New Classrooms includes sixteen essays from educational practitioners, including some of the best-known theorists of Internet-based education. Cross-posted on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

March 13, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack