A letter to the ABA signed by 67 big names in legal education [Caron/TaxProf] comes to conclusions about the economic organization of law schools very similar to those I reached two years ago in the relevant section of Schools for Misrule (not claiming any particular prescience on my part, others had made a similar case before and the signs were clear enough to anyone who would look). Their recommendations:
Legal education cannot continue on the current trajectory. As members of a profession committed to serving the public good, we must find ways to alter the economics of legal education. Possible changes include reducing the undergraduate education required for admission to three years; awarding the basic professional degree after two years, while leaving the third year as a elective or an internship; providing some training through apprenticeship; reducing expensive accreditation requirements to allow greater diversity among law schools; building on the burgeoning promises of internet-distance education; changing the economic relationship between law schools and universities; altering the influence of current ranking formulas; and modifying the federal student loan program. As legal educators, it is our responsibility to grapple with these issues before our institutions are reshaped in ways beyond our control.
Teresa Wagner had sued the University of Iowa’s law school alleging bias against her as an ideological conservative, but a jury ruled against her on most counts, and now the judge in the case has denied her retrial motion and granted the university’s motion to dismiss the remaining count. [AP via Adler; court opinion; comments by lawprofs Herbert Hovenkamp of U of I and David Bernstein of George Mason; earlier on this case, on which I was quoted in the press a number of times.]
A press release from George Washington University Prof. John Banzhaf describes his latest stunt as follows: “Undergrads Required To Lobby For Obama Policy.” In this case, it’s more for a policy identified with Michael Bloomberg — limits on the size of sweetened drinks — which students were asked to promote in letters to their own lawmakers. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty, where I list some of the other occasions on which Overlawyered readers have met the gadfly professor. (& Katherine Mangu-Ward, Center for Consumer Freedom) Update: many reactions, including another press release from Prof. Banzhaf.
The celebrated legal philosopher has died at age 81. Despite our myriad disagreements there was much to honor in his life and accomplishments, which I sum up briefly at Cato at Liberty. Randy Barnett recalls Dworkin’s graciousness as a professor and impressive debate style. An Ann Althouse commenter notes a 1996 article of Dworkin’s (first page only available) that conservatives might actually like. Stephen Griffin on Dworkin’s most important ideas; Michael Carlson; Tyler Cowen.
As recently as 2004 law school applications numbered nearly 100,000, and three years ago the figure stood around the mid-80s. Now it’s plunged to a projected 53,000-54,000, with an especially sharp recent dropoff among the most sought-after students with the highest scores. Time for rethinking the model of an ever-expanding legal academia fed by unquenchable demand for lawyers and unlimited federal student loans [TaxProf] Incidentally, those who attended or watched our Cato seminar earlier this month on “Failing Law Schools” were among the first to hear the new numbers.
My colleague Neal McCluskey on last week’s Cato panel:
When it comes to taking on higher education, I thought I was as hard bitten as any Law and Order cop. I thought I’d seen all the worst things that went on in the ivory tower. Until, that is, I started investigating the very schools that produce the prosecutorial side of the justice biz: law schools.
…[A]ll the major carnage of higher education, only worse. Worse tuition hyper-inflation. Deceptive advertising that rivals the most odious of any openly for-profit university.
Read the whole thing here at SeeThruEdu.com.
Here’s the video of our Wednesday event at which author Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.) discussed his book Failing Law Schools. Neal McCluskey (Cato) and Paul Campos (Colorado) commented, and I moderated. We’ve had lots of appreciative comments from those who’ve watched, and I wholeheartedly endorse the book, which is persuasive in both its analysis and its recommendations.
More: After the panel, Megan McArdle of Newsweek/Daily Beast interviewed Prof. Campos on the latest bad numbers for law schools. Other comments include Paul Caron/TaxProf, Stephen Diamond of Santa Clara University (disapproving of Cato and the panelists) and Constitutional Daily here, here and here (differing sharply with Diamond).
And: Cato Daily Podcast (audio) with Prof. Tamanaha.
The “father of no-fault,” who died on Sunday at age 84, was an eminent torts professor at the University of Virginia, a public-spirited advocate of reform over many decades, and a renowned teacher. A valued friend and mentor, he was one of the most personally gracious and generous academics I’ve ever known. The New York Times has a good obituary. Just last year New Hampshire enacted an “early offers” statute encouraging prompt settlement of medical malpractice disputes partly inspired by Prof. O’Connell’s work. More: University of Virginia, Christopher Robinette/TortsProf.
Mark your calendar! On January 16 at noon in Washington, D.C., Prof. Brian Tamanaha of Washington University will speak at a Cato Book Forum on his much-acclaimed new book, Failing Law Schools. Commenting will be Neal McCluskey, who directs Cato’s program on education policy, and University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, like Tamanaha a celebrated critic of the American law school scene. I’ll be moderating. The event in Washington, D.C. is free and open to the public; details on how to register here.
From the event description:
For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis.
We’ve often cited the work of Profs. Tamanaha and Campos in this space and linked to reviews and discussions of Failing Law Schools here, here, here, here, here, and here. National Jurist just named Prof. Tamanaha as #1 on its list of the year’s most five most influential people in legal education. See you there on Jan. 16!
I’m in the Baltimore Sun with an op-ed about the University of Maryland’s ill-chosen decision to represent the Waterkeeper Alliance in what was intended to be a landmark environmental case against an Eastern Shore farm family. Earlier here, etc. (& welcome Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit readers)
P.S. Welcome listeners from Baltimore’s WBAL, which had me as a guest Friday afternoon to discuss the suit. Research assistance thanks to Ryan Mulvey, Cato intern.
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore yesterday, federal judge William Nickerson ruled against a lawsuit alleging that Alan and Kristin Hudson’s family farm and Perdue Inc. violated the federal Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs, the Waterkeeper Alliance led by celebrity environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., had hoped to establish that big food processors, in this case Perdue, could be held liable for the purported pollution sins of “contract growers” like the Hudson family. Aside from its considerable factual weaknesses, for which the judge criticized the plaintiffs, the case had touched off a furor in Maryland because the University of Maryland law school’s environmental clinic had entered the lists on behalf of Waterkeeper and its long-shot theory; Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had sent a critical letter to the university saying it had contributed to an “injustice” against the Hudsons. The university law clinic says it’s reviewing the judge’s order in search of grounds for appeal. [Beth Moszkowicz/Daily Record, Charlene Sharpe/DelmarvaNow, MeatPoultry.com; earlier coverage, CBS Baltimore, Mark Newgent/Red Maryland; Maryland Coast Dispatch; pro-defense SaveFarmFamilies.org; legislative reaction, NLJ and more]
P.S. Don’t miss this from John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum, quoting the judge’s concluding paragraph:
The Court has no disagreement with Plaintiff that the Chesapeake Bay is an important and vital resource, that it is seriously impaired, and that the runoff from factory farms, including poultry operations, may play a significant role in that impairment. Nor does the Court disagree that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The Court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation.
Stephen Bainbridge has some speculations about whether university law clinics can be successfully divorced from politicized cause-mongering, and along the way, kind comments for my book Schools for Misrule. More: Ann Althouse.