Category: Law School

1

A Typical Day at the AALS Conference

aals1a.jpgFriends I Caught Up With: Many

Food: Lots

Drinks: A Few

Panels I Attended: None

Day 1 at AALS: Success!

I hope to see many readers at the happy hour tonight at 9:30 PM at Cloud. Details at this post. Remember, you need not have RSVP’d to attend.

0

AALS

I’m in D.C. for the AALS conference currently, and hoping to see at least a few of our readers at tonight’s happy hour. I’m also pleased to report that I’ve finished the hard part of grading (I’ve still got to do error-checking) so I’m free to return to blogging/teaching/writing full time (in no particular order).

Although I know that only a few of you are lawyers, I thought I’d share my delight that my students did real well on the exam, which was a tough, 24-hour, take home. A few of them even spotted and dealt with what I think is a very interesting (although on the test marginal) issue: whether a merger clause precludes judicial consideration of pre-contract notification (under Hadley) of otherwise unforseeable damages.

In other news, the WJS blog broke this spicy securities law story. Think that perhaps the relationship discussed is in trouble?

11

New Survey: Law Students Slack Off More in the Third Year

book16b.jpg

It is surprising that they needed to conduct a survey to find out this shocking news, but I guess now it’s official: students slack off more in their third year of law school. According to a Inside Higher Ed article, the data for the study is as follows:

Activity First-Year Students Second-Year Students Third-Year Students
Came to class with readings and assignments completed 93% 84% 74%
Worked on paper requiring integration of multiple sources 80% 66% 71%
Prepared two or more drafts of paper before turning it in 69% 56% 55%
Worked harder than necessary to meet professor’s expectations 61% 49% 46%
Had serious talk with students with different political, religious or

social views

70% 68% 65%
Had serious talk with students of different race and ethnicity 61% 59% 58%
Contributed to class discussions 46% 48% 51%
Worked with faculty members on non-class activities (committees, student

life, etc.)

64% 49% 47%
Participated in clinical or pro bono project 91% 69% 46%

Insider Higher Ed states that the “survey suggests a serious third-year slump afflicts them as they are about to finish their law degrees.” Although the survey’s results definitely show some slacking off in the third year, I quarrel with characterizing it as a “serious” slacking off. If anything, the slacking off isn’t as pronounced as I had expected. Indeed, the study reveals that only a small percentage of students — typically around 10% to 15% are doing the slacking. And I’m puzzled by what the survey indicates as the most significant decline: 91% participated in clinical or pro bono work in their first year and only 46% did so in their third year. That doesn’t make sense since the first year at most law schools is filled with required courses, and students don’t get a chance to try out a clinic until their second or third years of law school.

The study is available here.

Despite the slacking off, I still believe that the third year of law school is a valuable experience. In the fall of 2005, I debated with Laura Appleman whether the third year of law school should be scrapped on Legal Affairs Debate Club. I still stand by my position. Condensing law school to two years would have a very negative impact on the law school experience. I wrote:

Read More

0

Grading Exams and Other Fun Activities

I started grading exams today. As most Profs. will tell you, grading is the least pleasant aspect of law teaching. Fortunately, at my current rapid pace of 2.5 hours per exam, I will be finished at the latest by mid-March.

On the plus side, I’ve almost finished writing my syllabus for next semester’s new seminar in Law and Economics. In preparing the course, I was reminded again of McCloskey’s fantastic little essay on The Rhetoric of Law and Economics, 86 Mich. L. Rev. 752 (1988). Well worth reading if you have a WL or Hein account.

10

Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings

columbia_law_review.jpgThere’s no shortage of writing on law reviews or law school rankings, to say the least. So why not combine the two?

Questions about law review ranking abound. How does one compare offers from journals at relatively equal schools? Is it better to publish with a journal that is more frequently cited or with one at a higher ranked law school? Is it better to publish with a main law journal at a top 40ish law school or the secondary at a top 10 law school? Questions about law school rankings abound as well, particularly for schools outside of the top 30 or so. (Or so it seems to me.)

I’m partial to citation studies as a way of judging quality. I know that citations have lots of problems as a way of ranking journals (or individual authors). However, I like the objectivity citation studies provide. And so I’m partial to the Washington and Lee Law Library’s website, which provides comprehensive data on citations to hundreds of law journals by other journals and by courts. I’ve found it useful in trying to draw some comparisons between journals. Other people often draw comparisons between journals by looking to the US News ranking of the journal’s school.

Read More

14

My Problem With Laptops

quill.jpgProfessors often complain about students using laptops in class. Chief among the complaints is that students send e-mail and surf the web when they should be paying attention—and this is bad for the particular student and a distraction for others who can see this activity going on.

I’m not persuaded by that complaint. I can do more than one thing at once so I’m sure other people can too. Even before laptops students divided their attention between the professor and other activities—a newspaper, a crossword, reading a note. I also figure that if a student, especially in graduate school, isn’t paying attention then I’m not doing a very good job of teaching.

I also happen to like laptops.

So why this semester did I ban my first-year students in Constitutional Law from bringing laptops to class?

Read More

46

Abolish the Bar Exam

barexam3a.jpgThe recent story in the WSJ that Kathleen Sullivan (law, Stanford) failed the Bar Exam raises anew whether the exam ought to be abolished. Before discussing this issue, I must note that I found the story to be a bit sensationalistic for the WSJ, as its main purpose seemed to be to mock Kathleen Sullivan. I was interviewed by the reporter of the story a few days ago because of my blog posts earlier this year (here, here, and here) arguing that Bar Exam should be abolished.

The reporter emailed me and wrote: “I’m a reporter with the Wall Street Journal. I’m researching arguments in favor and against the abolition of bar exams, and wondered if you might have time to share your thoughts on this matter with me today.” I spoke to him about my arguments, but he asked a few times if I could name any prominent professors or lawyers who failed. I told him I didn’t know of any and that even if I did, I would consider revealing this fact to be a bit tawdry, as failing the Bar Exam is considered an embarrassing fact. I didn’t see why it would be necessary to bring embarrassment upon a person for a story about the abolition of the Bar Exam.

I was quite surprised when I read the story, a bit peeved at not being quoted, and somewhat annoyed that the story seemed to be primarily cast as a way to showcase Sullivan’s failure rather than address the problems of the Bar Exam. The reporter did not mention Sullivan at all in my interview.

So since they didn’t make it into the story, I want to reprise my arguments against the Bar Exam. As I wrote in a post called “Bar None”:

Read More

10

The return of the BAR/BRI pirates

Is it the end of the line for the great bar-prep near-monopoly?

A new New York Times story discusses the issue:

In complaints filed in the spring and summer, different groups of students charged that BAR/BRI has paid competitors to shut down and negotiated illegal agreements with potential competitors to divide the market. In particular, they cite a 2003 agreement with Louisiana State University, which until 2004 operated its own bar review course; under the deal, BAR/BRI promised to pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to the school, and the school promised not to run a competing bar review course.

It will be interesting to see how the allegations play out. I don’t know enough about the case to have any opinion on the merits, but I will be keeping an eye on it. Also, I’ll be wondering how it affects my own school, which is in the process of implementing a new bar prep course. (Advance word about the course is good, and I hope it works well). In any case, the story notes some of the reasons bar prep courses are so attractive:

Each state’s exam, typically the second day, usually consists of essays and multiple-choice questions that focus on the law in that particular state. The kinds of questions often require knowledge of topics that some students might not have learned about in school, adding to the allure of a review course aimed precisely at the topics on the exam.

Which raises its own questions. If BAR/BRI is doing an effective job of getting law graduates past the bar, are they really helped if it is shut down? The suit alleges that BAR/BRI overcharges its customers. But I’m willing to be overcharged a little for a system that works.

4

Why Don’t More Women Want To Be Law Professors?

ProfessorImage.gifFor several years, the number of women in law schools has been very nearly the same as the number of men. But more men want to become law professors.

Among entry-level applicants for law teaching this year, the ratio of men to women is about 3:2. (The figure is based on the list of participants in the Association of American Law Schools recruiting program, the normal route to law teaching.)

Many schools want to increase the number of women on their (largely male) faculties, but the task is difficult if for every two women applying for jobs, there are three male applicants.

As reflected by the overall stiff competition for teaching jobs, being a law professor is a wonderful thing. Professors get to work on whatever interests them. The hours are embarrassingly flexible—few other jobs let you leave town for the entire summer. The pay, while less than in private practice, is very good. Nobody is supervising you on a day-to-day basis. And you can avoid co-workers you don’t like.

So why don’t more women law graduates apply for this most perfect of jobs?

Read More