Category Archives: Law School News & Views

ABA Forms New Commission To Rethink Legal Education

The 10-member Commission on the Future of Legal Education will take a leadership role in anticipating, articulating and influencing what will be dramatic changes in the legal profession in the next decade and beyond. The Commission will explore possible changes to methods of training and testing the future generations of law students. It will seek to bring the perspectives of various constituencies to the table including judges, deans, professors and practitioners. Various subcommittees of the Commission will focus specifically on key issues including the bar exam, alternative teaching methods, length of law school and other issues identified by the group. Here’s the press release. — Joe

RIP Charlotte School of Law

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office ordered the Charlotte School of Law to close effective immediately. The students were informed yesterday. Reasons for the closure include the ABA’s denial of the school’s Teach-Out Plan and the North Carolina Board of Governors decision not to grant an extension of the law school’s license to operate. — Joe

Welcome back law students: Current awareness services reach out to incoming law students by way of two academic law library blogs

Yesterday the law blogoshere saw the publication of two brief but to the point current awareness posts on two timely topics. Duke Law Library’s The Goodson Blogson published a post on the 25th Amendment titled Pleading the Twenty-Fifth and UWashington Gallagher Law Library blog published The History and Law of Special Counsel. Both provide succinct summaries of their topics with links to relevant sources. Nice way to start off the academic year with these library outreach activities. — Joe

Saving law students cold hard cash by opting out of requiring new casebook editions

About two years ago Pepperdine law prof Robert Anderson blogged about saving his contract students about $200 each by using an older Contracts casebook. Now he writes:

This year I am doing the same thing with my Corporations class, although I’m not buying all the books myself as I did in my Contracts class. (The expense was minimal but keeping track of hundreds of pounds of books was a nuisance.) Corporations changes a bit faster than Contracts, especially to the extent one teaches securities regulation as a part of the class. Still 90%+ of the material hasn’t changed since the 2010 edition date.

This practice does not work well for all subject areas. For example, I do not assign older editions in Securities Regulation class, which changes a bit too fast.

I hope other law school professors will follow this lead and assign older editions, especially for 1L classes such as Torts, Contracts, and Property. Such a practice adds little to the professor’s workload (and may actually be easier as there is no need to update a syllabus for a new edition), and would save law students tens of millions of dollars in the aggregate. There are many ways to lighten a law student’s financial load, if only we take a moment to put ourselves in their shoes from time to time.

Good idea. Not unlike law libraries that do not acquire every annual edition of commoditized deskbooks, handbooks and manuals because of very minimal editorial changes. — Joe

Texas Southern’s law school receives ABA public censure

Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law has been publicly censured by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar after gender discrimination allegations from a female associate dean. Also, the ABA section found that the law school was out of compliance with standards involving admissions, education programs, academic advising and equal opportunity. Here’s the ABAJ story. — Joe

June LSAT takers increase almost 20% over last year

When I was a working stiff at the DePaul College of Law, our Dean, Jennifer Rosato Perea, would hold regular staff meetings where she and other members of the administration would report on recruiting efforts.  These included targets, where we were compared to those targets, and what efforts we were taking in spite of the law school admissions “crisis” that all law schools faced.  I enjoyed those meetings because they gave all staff in the Law School a sense of community in a shared mission.  It’s not something I experienced in the other five law schools in my employment history.  Thanks Dean Jenn.

DePaul, as any other law school, lives and dies by bringing in not just a class that meets admission targets, but one that brings in a quality class as well.  Dean Jenn and other Deans should be heartened by the latest LSAC statistics that show an approximately 20% jump in test-takers for the previous June LSAT.  That’s an out-of-line statistic compared with the trends set by the last cycle of tests.

Yes, test-takers have increased gradually.  The figures for the last year include a 7.6% increase last December, and a 5.4% increase in February of this year.  However, a 19.8% increase in last June’s figures would not have been predictable compared to what came before.

Karen Sloan speculates in the Daily Business Review (subscription) that the increase may come from a “Trump-bump” due to the “turmoil in Washington.”  It may be possible but I’m not so sure.  Going to law school is still an expensive proposition.  I’s have to look at job prospects if I were applying at this point.  My biggest concern would still be if I could pay off the loans associated with a law career.

Sloan does caution that the number of test takers does not mean a significant increase in applications.  We’ll see.  I’ll be watching the trend and reporting on it from time to time.

—Mark

Stanford takes top honors in ATL’s 2017 top 50 law schools rankings

ATL’s rankings are the only rankings to incorporate the latest ABA employment data for the class of 2016. Details here. — Joe

Charlotte School of Law students receive federal loan money in the nick of time

Karen Sloan is reporting that the Department of Education has released federal loan money for beleaguered Charlotte School of Law students. Back in December, the Department of Education had revoked the school’s eligibility for the federal student loan program. That left students scrambling for ways to pay for the spring semester without loan money. All that changed apparently after the school hired lobbyists including one who worked with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearings. For more, see Karen Sloan, With New Lobbyists, Charlotte Law Disperses Federal Student Loans as School Year Ends, Law.com, May 22, 2017. — Joe

Purdue University buys Concord Law School

Concord Law School along with Kaplan University have been acquired by Purdue University to beef up Purdue’s online education offerings. What Prudue is going to do with America’s oldest online law school is beyond me. Only one state bar allows students from Concord Law School to sit for the bar exam and that’s California. “Graduates of Concord Law had a very poor showing during the July 2016 administration of the California bar exam, with an overall passage rate of just 16 percent. Only 27 percent of first-time takers from the school passed the test last summer,” writes ATL’s Staci Zaretsky in Big Ten University Purchases Online Law School With Abysmal Bar Passage Rates, adding “Purdue’s purchase may be revolutionary, but we’re not quite sure that the school’s students will be well served by a law school with such discouraging outcomes.” — Joe

Florida A&M University’s law school dean dismissed after less than 18 months on the job

Angela Feleccia Epps, dean of Florida A&M University’s College of Law, was dismissed this week after less than 18 months on the job. The law school’s bar passage rate for Florida’s February 2017 exam was 46.2 percent. For July 2016, the pass rate  was 52.9 percent, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners reported. The school’s median LSAT score is 145. For more, see Stephanie Francis Ward’s ABAJ report, Law school leader among four deans dismissed from Florida A&M. — Joe

University of Georgia Law School receives grant to create US legislative process tool

From the press release:

Congratulations to Associate Dean Usha Rodrigues, Law Library Director Carol A. Watson and Faculty Services Librarian Thomas “T.J.” Striepe for their work with the Terry College of Business that resulted in an approximately $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This money will provide for the design of an open-source open government digital transparency platform that will offer data access to and visualization of the U.S. legislative process. This interactive, informative tool will aid citizens in becoming more engaged, allowing them to form their opinions on legislation in a quick, fact-based and safe online environment. By combining text analysis, network analysis and visualization, the project will provide insights into how libraries can take on new roles supporting access to government and legislative information and data.

Kudos — Joe

Controversy over the results of Above the Law’s 2017 law revue video contest

“It’s time to announce the winner of Above the Law’s 2017 Law Revue Video Contest. And the winner is… There is no winner. In fact, you — or many of you, at least — are a bunch of losers”, is how David Lat opens Law Revue Video Contest 2017: The Winner!. You see, web traffic to the contest’s web page was nowhere near as high as the number of votes some of the contestants received. That discrepancy alerted ATL to the possibility that some ethically challenged students gamed the contest in favor of their finalist. [Finalists here] ATL is now conducting a do-over of its 2017 Law Revue Video contest. Lat writes “[i]f you return to Above the Law at some point on Monday, you will see a post providing you with information on how to re-vote in the Law Revue Video Contest, using a more secure system.” — Joe

An alum’s requiem for Whitter Law School

On Above the Law, Jill Switzer, a Whitter Law School alum who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for 40 years, writes what she describes as “a very personal memorial to a school that had really died some years ago, although it didn’t know it then.” She adds “[t]he appalling disregard for educating law students and getting them ready for practice is shameful. Students are on their own. As I saw Whittier’s bar results drop over the decades, I cringed and mourned the death of the kind of education I had received.” — Joe

You would think that nothing else could possibly go wrong for Charlotte School of Law — but you would be wrong

Multiple stories, here and here for example, are reporting that the North Carolina AG is investigating Charlotte School of Law under the state’s civil consumer protection law. To make matters worse, the University of North Carolina system will make a recommendation to the UNC Board of Governors as to whether the school should be allowed to retain its license to operate within the state. Reports indicate the board meets next in about one month from now, where this issue will likely be discussed.  — Joe

Ousted Cincinnati Law Dean Jennifer Bard sues university, seeks reinstatement

The complaint, filed late last week, asserts the interim provost and the University of Cincinnati illegally placed Jennifer Bard on administrative leave in March immediately following her response to local media reports about financial deficits at the College and faculty members’ responses to her efforts to reduce those deficits. The complaint also asserts Bard was denied due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment when she was summarily placed on administrative leave, suffered First Amendment retaliation for speaking to the press on matters of public concern, and that the university breached both its contract with her and an agreed upon 6-month plan to restore mutual trust and communication. TaxProf Blog has the complaint.  — Joe

How much more liberal are law professors than members of the legal profession?

The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan H. Adler writes about a new paper by Adam Bonica (Stanford University), Adam S. Chilton (University of Chicago), Kyle Rozema (Northwestern University) and Maya Sen (Harvard University), The Legal Academy’s Ideological Uniformity,  “[t]heir bottom line: The legal academy is significantly more liberal than the legal profession, which is notable because the legal profession itself is more liberal than the public at large.” Here’s the paper’s abstract:

We compare the ideological balance of the legal academy to the ideological balance of the legal profession. To do so, we match professors listed in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers and lawyers listed in the Martindale-Hubbell directory to a measure of political ideology based on political donations. We find that 15% of law professors, compared to 35% of lawyers, are conservative. After controlling for individual characteristics, however, this 20 percentage point ideological gap narrows to around 13 percentage points. We argue that this ideological uniformity marginalizes law professors, but that it may not be possible to improve the ideological balance of the legal academy without sacrificing other values.

— Joe

April 15 tax marches: Law prof’s tweet starts grassroots movement calling for release of Trump’s tax returns

On Jan. 22, 2017, Jennifer Taub (Vermont Law School), whose research and teachings focuses on corruption, corporate political spending and the links between politics and money tweeted this:

Let’s plan a nationwide #DivestDonald and #showusyourtaxes protest for Saturday, April 15

Now more than 130 marches are expected to take place Saturday, April 15th. A full list of times and places available on the Tax March website. The DC march, which kicks off at 12pm at the US Capitol West Front Fountain is expected to be the biggest: more than 50,000 people have listed themselves on Facebook as interested or attending.

For background, see Tax March: how a law professor sparked a global event to demand Trump’s returns by Amber Jamieson, The Guardian.

— Joe

Will blockchain technology change legal education and reduce the need for lawyers in some practice areas?

Blockchain technology creates a platform for trust through truth and transparency for parties. Because the blockchain (at the least the public blockchain) is in fact public and immutable, the technology increases transparency, while at the same time significantly reducing transaction costs. Intermediaries, including lawyers, are replaced by code, connectivity, crowd, and collaboration.

According to Mark Fenwick, Wulf A. Kall and Erick P. M. Vermeulen (the sources of the above quote), blockchange technology will be a disruptive force in the legal academy and in the practice of law. To be “practice ready,” students and practitioners may have to compete with this development in the practice of property law, employment law and privacy law in the near future. Here’s the abstract to their article, Legal Education in the Blockchain Revolution:

The legal profession is one of the most disrupted sectors of the consulting industry today. The rise of Legal Tech, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, and, most importantly, blockchain technology is changing the practice of law. The sharing economy and platform companies challenge many of the traditional assumptions, doctrines, and concepts of law and governance, requiring litigators, judges, and regulators to adapt. Lawyers need to be equipped with the necessary skillsets to operate effectively in the new world of disruptive innovation in law. A more creative and innovative approach to educating lawyers for the 21st century is needed.

What is blockchange technology? You can start with this Wikipedia article for an overview. — Joe

The most expensive law schools in the U.S.

Forbes produced the rankings which can be found here. Here’s a snip:

On top of the list this year is New York University. A student who takes on some debt to pay for an education at NYU School of Law – and is one of the 21.7% of students there that receive at least the median $20,000 discount – will owe $261,548 when all is said and done. That will mean monthly payments of $2,910 on a 10-year repayment plan.

H/T to Staci Zaretsky’s Above the Law post. — Joe

InfiLaw System’s Arizona Summit Law School placed on probation by ABA

Arizona Summit School of Law, which is part of the for-profit InfiLaw System, received notification on March 27, 2017 that it has been put on probation by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in part for low bar passage rates. It follows a November 2016 ABA decision that put Charlotte School of Law, another InfiLaw school, on probation. Check out the ABA’s decision and list of required remedial actions for Arizona Summit here.

InfiLaw operates three standalone for-profit law schools. All of them are trying to affiliate with a university to enhance their long-term viability: Arizona Summit Law School has announced it will sign an affiliation agreement with Bethune-Cookman University; Florida Coastal is in the discussion stage with a university and Charlotte School of Law is looking for a university. For more, see the ABAJ article, Can for-profit InfiLaw schools be had on the cheap, and would they be worth it?  — Joe