...you've no doubt come across the legions of law school bashers in cyberspace, most rather badly informed and not too sharp. (I used to engage this "law school is a scam" crowd, for which my reward was mountains of vile and often defamatory abuse and campaigns of character assassination--they're a charming crowd.) There are real issues about legal education prospective students should consider, but for a more sober perspective I commend the work on the labor economics of legal markets by Michael Simkovic at Seton Hall University; he has posted discussions and summaries of much of it at my law blog.
Here. For those who are applying, it means you can likely get into a better school than you would have just three or four years ago, and you are more likely to get "merit aid" from more highly ranked schools than in the recent past.
If you've studied philosophy at the undergraduate or graduate level, and are thinking about law school, I would like to urge you to consider the University of Chicago Law School. The Law School trails only Yale in per capita placement in law teaching, and graduates are also hugely successful in the private firm market, and in clerkships. Although we have a relatively small faculty (35 full-time academic faculty), we have two philosophers full-time in the Law School (myself and Martha Nussbaum), and a large number of colleagues with philosophical interests. This year, we have three philosophically-minded visiting professors in the Law School as well, Corey Brettschneider from Brown University, Alon Harel from the Hebrew University and Robert Simpson from Monash University, as well as our Law and Philosophy Fellow for this year, Amanda Greene; we expect to have other philosophical visitors in coming years, including Derrick Darby from Michigan.
There is an annual Law & Philosophy Workshop that meets throughout the year, and which students may take for credit: last year's theme (when Martha Nusssbaum ran it with our Law & Philosophy Fellow Sarah Conly ) was "Life and Death," with speakers including Dan Brock, Jeff McMahan, Julian Savulescu, Daniel Wikler, and others and others; the year before (when I ran it with our Law & Philosophy Fellow Justin Coates) the theme was "Freedom and Responsibility," and speakers included Derk Pereboom, Gary Watson, Pamela Hieryonmi, Hanna Pickard, and others. This year's topic is "Free Speech and Its Critics," and speakers will include Joshua Cohen, Seana Shiffrin, Susan Brison, Jason Stanley, and Mary Kate McGowan, among others. We also have regular offerings in the Law School in jurisprudence, feminist philosophy, political philosophy and other areas. Each year we have both a Law & Philosophy Fellow in residence, and a week-long Visiting Political Philosopher in residence (last year it was T.M. Scanlon, the year before David Estlund). The annual Dewey Lecture in Law & Philosophy has recently brought Barbara Herman, Philip Pettit and Elizabeth Anderson to the Law School; Axel Honneth is this year's Dewey Lecturer. In addition, there are usually one or more conferences each year in the Law School related to philosophical topics; last Spring, for example, I organized a conference on "Skepticism about Freedom and Responsibility," with main papers by Conly, Jesse Prinz, Paul Russell, Saul Smilansky, and Gideon Yaffe, with JD and PhD students serving as commentators. There is now a large and lively group of philosophically-minded students here. (More than 10% of the first-year class last year came to us with a philosophy major or advanced degree--that's the highest since I've been here, and probably one of the highest percentage of philosophy students at any law school in the U.S. That doesn't count one JD/PhD in philosophy student, who started in philosophy last year.) Of all the law schools in the U.S., the Chicago experience is also probably most like that of a graduate program in a PhD field, in terms of the intellectual engagement of both faculty and students.
Chicago currently has substantial merit aid to offer to very strong students (the best-known are the Rubenstein Scholarships, but there are other sources of aid, including for students interested in a JD/PhD). Philosophy students, both those with undergraduate majors and those with advanced degrees, have been very successful in getting this aid, and have performed very well at the Law School; as a result philosophy students receive favorable consideration here. Excellent numerical credentials are very important, of course, but even within that pool, applicants with philosophy backgrounds stand out. Students with philosophy backgrounds have recently turned down Yale, Harvard, and other peer law schools to come to Chicago. If you have questions about law study at Chicago, feel free to e-mail me at bleiter-at-uchicago-dot-edu.
...the downward trend in applications appears to be continuing, and while the top law schools will not see as big a drop, they will almost certainly be offering more "merit" aid, as they did last year.
The paper co-authored by law professor Michael Simkovic has had every blowhard and know-nothing in cyberspace frothing at the mouth for the last week; he has a sharp series of replies here. The Dunning-Kruger Effect lives!
Do you have advice for professors on how to convert philosophy job market letters into law school letters of recommendation for their advisees who decide they want to pursue a law degree? I’m guessing this would require a substantial amount of different material.
I’m currently a professor, but my interests have been substantially changing. My PhD advisor is happy to rewrite my letter; but, neither her nor I have any idea on how to do this (and the advice on how to write law school letters of recommendation I have found online seems very focused on undergraduates applying to law school). Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
I'll open this for signed comments from philosophers with experience, but I also have experience in this, from both sides, in particular, having read many letters of recommendation for philosophy PhDs applying to Law School.
The primary audience for a Law School admissions letter is an admissions dean. At some law schools (including my own) faculty also often read files, but at most law schools faculty do not, or do not systematically. What that means, first and foremost, is that the kind of letter you'd write to a philosophy colleague about the candidate's work and teaching ability is not what is needed. You do not need to describe the dissertation in detail or explain why it makes a contribution to the literature and so on.
Law school admissions (sadly) is very heavily driven by the numbers: by undergraduate GPA and by LSAT score. But at the better law schools, letters of recommendation are taken seriously. And what will really help a law school admissions dean is (1) an explanation of your familarity with the candidate and the quality of the candidate's oral, written and analytical skills; (2) some information about the quality of the PhD program, what it's gradutaes usually end up doing, whether some go to law school, and how the candidate compares (this will be more important for students from first-rate PhD programs that law schools may not necessarily know about, like NYU, Rutgers, Arizona, Pittsburgh etc.); and (3) why the candidate is now looking to go to law school. Here the candidate should help out the letter writer by supplying a narrative about the reasons for the move, or sharing the personal statement the candidate will submit to law schools. Ideally, it's nice to explain how the prior work in philosophy makes law study an attractive next step. Sometimes, of course, the reasons for the change are wholly personal/professional, and unrelated to intellectual interests, in which case one shouldn't try to concoct an intellectual reason for the change.
Here. He quotes me but links, mistakenly, to my philosophy blog, rather than this item from my law school blog. He also gets the emphasis slightly wrong: my point, in the bit he quotes, was about scholarship, not legal education tout court.
I was fortunate many years ago to get a Newcombe Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, but the real interest of this profile courtesy of the Foundation is what it quotes me saying about philosophy and law school. I hope some folks at schools with pre-law majors for their philosophy students find it useful!
UPDATE: Let me respond to some questions that have already been e-mailed me, answers to which might be of general interest. First, these new full tuition scholarships are available to anyone, regardless of nationality. So foreign students can be awarded these lucrative fellowships. Second, there is only one criterion: academic excellence. Numbers are going to be a big part of that, i.e., LSATs in the 98th percentile and higher and GPAs in the 3.9 range and higher. Let me be clear: that's a rough numerical benchmark, not an official cut-off. Having a PhD in philosophy is also obviously going to be a big plus, and certainly the Law School will be looking for candidates with potential to be distinguished academics. (Per capita, Chicago lags only Yale in the number of graduates who go into law teaching.) Third, I do not generally recommend a JD for someone with a PhD (or concurrently pursuing a PhD) unless they are interested in teaching in law schools. While a JD will certainly add some intellectual value and skill sets that can be deployed to good effect in a philosophy career, it does not significantly enhance your competitive position on the philosophy market, and it's not obvious that the costs of the three-year course of study will be worth the intellectual benefits. But for those interested in a law teaching career, a JD/PhD is pretty much de riguer now for anyone who wants to do work at the intersection of law and philosophy and get a job in a law school. I talk a bit in the last paragraph of this old post about some of the difference between teaching philosophy in a law school versus a philosophy department, but I think I'll write something more about this soon.
The other Brian Leiter has a couple of items that might interest some philosophy readers. One is a list of visiting law professors at the very top law schools this coming academic year (which includes a few folks known to philosophically-minded readers, such as Martha Nussbaum, Cass Sunstein, Andrew Koppelman, and Leslie Green, among others); there is, as one can see, a very active "visiting professor" culture in American law schools. The other is some new data on which schools produce the most clerks for Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. The continuing rightward tilt of the Court is proving a boon for some conservative religious schools, like Notre Dame and BYU, that did not, historically, graduate many clerks.
The new designated blog for all the material that used to be under "Law School Updates" is now up-and-running here. Some items may be cross-posted if, for example, they would also fall under one of the other existing categories used here (e.g., "Philosophy Updates" or "Legal Philosophy" and so on). (Mostly, I'll probably just post a link.) But from now on you can get your law school news without wading through philosophy, Nietzsche, politics, etc. Some of you may view this as a blessing; those who don't are, of course, welcome to continue visiting here.
But now we have Berkeley's revenge on law professors: if a law review article is published, and nobody cites it...does it exist? This problem may be more urgent than you realize, according to new research by Tom Smith (Law, San Diego):
43 percent of [all] articles are not cited . . . at all. Zero, nada, zilch. Almost 80 percent (i.e. 79 percent) of law review articles get ten or fewer citations. So where are all the citations going? Well, let's look at articles that get more than 100 citations. These are the elite. They make up less than 1 percent of all articles, .898 percent to be precise. They get, is anybody listening out there? 96 percent of all citations to law review articles. That's all. Only 96 percent. Talk about concentration of wealth.
Deservedly so, I'm afraid. Perhaps when Michael Weisberg and I finish our piece on evolutionary biology and law, we can put a stop to this kind of nonsense.
UPDATE (MOVING TO THE FRONT AS WELL): Although Professor Myers appears to have had the misfortune to attract some lovely bottom-feeders from the Volokh site, the basic problem with Professor Zywicki's post remains quite simple. It is not reasonable, given what we know, to express doubts about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, nor is it reasonable, given what we know, to think Intelligent Design creationism deserves equal time with Darwin's theory in secondary school science classes. That some conservative pundits expressed both unreasonable views is to their lasting embarrassment.
By contrast--and this is why Professor Zywicki's original posting is so inapt--it is extremely reasonable, given what we know, to express doubts about evolutionary psychology and its selectionist hypotheses about differences between the sexes, since none of these hypotheses (as in none) have been confirmed by standards that approach those in biology. The fundamental difficulty is that there exist important non-selectionist evolutionary mechanisms (for example, genetic hitch-hiking or genetic drift), so that one can not, as evolutionary psychologists do, treat the selectionist explanation as the default one. This is just bad science. This point is also the stuff of baby biology textbooks; herewith Stearns & Hoekstra (OUP, 2000), p. 8::“much of the variation in DNA sequences [over time] is neutral with respect to selection.” The challenge for evolutionary biologists studying, e.g., sex differences, is to figure out what role selection, if any, is really playing. Evolutionary psychology is silent on this problem. (There is a separate problem, of course, pertaining to the role of non-biological factors in observed sex differences.)
Consider some actual evolutionary biologists who do research on the evolution of mating preferences [Kirkpatrick, Mark and Michael J. Ryan (1991).“The Evolution of Mating Preferences and the Paradox of the Lek,” 350 Nature 33-38 (March]. Kirkpatric & Ryan identify 14 possible evolutionary mechanisms that account for these preferences, only 7 of which involve selectionist mechanisms, and only two of which even figure (by analogy) in the evolutionary pscyhology literature (namely,“males provide resources to females or offspring” and “costs of searching for mates”).As Kirkpatrick & Ryan observe:“the primary factors responsible for the evolution of [mating] preferences remain controversial” (1991:33).And they are talking about the evolution of mating preferences in lizards, frogs, guppies, insects, and birds, not humans!
The danger of assuming selectionist explanations is well-illustrated by the preference of some female animals for males “with the most extreme plumage, vocalizations, and displays,” preferences that are so strong in some cases that the male “secondary sexual characters have evolved to such extremes that they decrease male survival” (1991:33).The crude adaptationist, like an evolutionary psychologist, might postulate that females prefer such traits in males because they signal that the male in question will be able to provide resources for offspring and to protect offspring, and will likely be highly fertile, and so on (David Buss's 1994 book on human female mating preferences is typical).
It turns out, however, that in many animals, natural selection has nothing to do with it:“Because females use their sensory systems for other tasks besides mate choice, these systems will often be subject to natural selection for other reasons, such as foraging ability or predator detection, with the side-effect that preferences for traits that decrease male survival are likely to be established” (Kirkpatrick & Ryan 1991:36) (i.e., it is due to pleiotropic hitch-hiking): “One example comes from studies of insectivorous anolid lizards.Their visual system is exquisitely adapted to detect the motion of prey.The male ‘pushup’ courtship display seems to have evolved to match these sensory biases in order to attract the attention of females.”(Id.) This means the scientific question is to distinguish the cases involving natural selection and those involving other evolutionary mechanisms. Evolutionary psychology fails to come to terms with this central issue, and so it is quite reasonable to doubt its hypotheses; indeed, it is probably unreasonable not to doubt them.
This doesn't mean evolutionary psychology will not progress from speculation to science, as it were. It's clearly an important research program, but the quality of its results at present are not up to those of evolutionary biology. Therefore, it is simply preposterous for Professor Zywicki to equate them.
I have addressed the wholly appropriate reaction to the remarks of Larry Summers previously. Since, as we have noted, rational agument has little effect, I note that some on the right still want to pretend there was a weighty academic freedom issue in that case.
A big catch for Arizona State University's College of Law: they have recruited Kenneth Abbott, a leading scholar of international trade law, from Northwestern's (troubled) law school, where he had taught for more than 25 years.
Meanwhile, Arizona State University's College of Law clearly has to be added to the list of traditionally more "regional" law schools that now have top faculties; others include, of course, Chicago-Kent College of Law, George Mason University, University of San Diego, and Florida State University. In addition to Professor Abbott, other major lateral recruitments at ASU in recent years include Robert Clinton (constitutional law, Federal Indian Law) and Michael Saks (law & psychology) from the University of Iowa, and Robert Gorman, a preeminent labor law scholar, who retired early from the University of Pennsylvania.
This story out of the law school at Indiana University at Indianapolis raises serious questions about what's going on at that school. William Bradford, a tenure-track faculty member, who has been extremely prolific, and was recognized by his own institution for scholarly excellence this past academic year, was up for re-appointment after three years on the tenure track. According to Professor Bradford, five of fifteen faculty voted against re-appointment (though, as I understand it, re-appointment went through). The only reason officially cited for the negative votes was lack of "collegiality."
Any school that is serious about academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of its faculty has to do better in a case like this, especially given that re-appointment for a highly prolific junior faculty member (and especially in law schools) is usually pro forma. "Lack of collegiality" is too often the smokescreen for academically irrelevant factors, like political differences or personal vendettas, in the tenure and appointments process. (That Professor Bradford himself may, as the linked article suggests, have deeply mistaken views about the academic freedom rights of other professors, is, of course, irrelevant to the point here.)
There are certainly no public allegations, at present, that would justify the vote. Of course, the law school at Indiana-Indianapolis has also not yet taken any action that terminates Professor Bradford's position and livelihood. (Contrast this case with a recent and similar case at Yale.) The reported vote is, however, highly suspect, and places an onus on the institution, in my view, to either improve the academic integrity of its process when the actual tenure decision comes, or to do far better than the "uncollegiality" smear directed at a junior faculty member that the school itself has recognized for scholarly excellence.
UPDATE (Dec. 7 2005): The denouement to this affair, which raises doubts about the merits of the original allegations by Professor Bradford.
The sordid details are here; unlike the Harvard Law Review, however, this journal, Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, is not the flagship, student-edited journal at the school. Still, as biochemist Frank Schmidt (Missouri), who brought this to my attention, aptly remarked:
I wonder about such student-edited journals. In my field, journal editorship is almost always a signal honor, reserved for accomplished scientists who are rewarded for their accomplishment by getting more work to do at minimal or no pay. And all of us review articles gratis, as a service to the community. As a result, an article based on an incorrect premise would not be published in a "good journal." Not that we don't have problems with fraud, etc., but the system works remarkably well.
On the other hand, an article based on the fatuous claim "Intelligent Design is a scientific research program teaching that intelligent agency explains more about complex biological systems than does evolutionary theory," is published in a journal bearing the name of a distinguished university, and becomes part of the field's discourse.
Is this a systemic problem in law journals? And does the academy as a whole need to address it?
There is clearly a systematic problem, as we've discussed previously. But those in other fields need to be aware that anything can be published somewhere in a student-edited journal, because there are so damn many of them and most of them are desperate for material (and most of them are edited by individuals ill-equipped to evaluate most of the articles they receive, especially those that require knowledge of other scholarly disciplines). Why are there so many? Primarily because their main purpose is for training, educating and (often) credentialing students ("Were you on a journal?"), and not because there is a need in the wider community for yet another forum for purportedly scholarly articles on legal topics.
Congratulations to my friend Mark Weiner (Law, Rutgers-Newark) who has won this year'sSilver Gavel Award for his book Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginning of Slavery to the End of Caste (Knopf, 2004).
Prior winners of this prestigious award include Alexander Bickel for The Morality of Consent; Raoul Berger for Government by Judiciary; Richard Posner for The Federal Courts: Crisis and Reform; Ronald Dworkin for Law's Empire; L.A. (Scot) Powe, Jr. for American Broadcasting and the First Amendment; Lawrence Friedman for Crime and Punishment in Ameican History; and G. Edward White for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self.
So said Dean David Rudenstine of Cardozo Law School (which is part of a religious university, Yeshiva University). Story here; an excerpt:
In a provocative address last week to some 200 undergraduate counselors from northeastern universities, the dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law warned of a "collision course with democratic order and social unity" as politically outspoken religious leaders wield increasing influence over the nation's public policy.
Dean David Rudenstine, himself a political activist in the 1960s as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and like-minded groups, further suggested that U.S. jurisprudence and legal education were "very much on the defensive," in part because strict secularism as a legal paradigm is seen by the faithful — including some at Christian law schools — as an insufficient context for policy issues such as abortion rights, homosexual marriage, stem-cell research and Darwin's theory of evolution.
Mr. Rudenstine said that America's law schools have a social responsibility, especially at a time of religious fundamentalism, to foster reasoned debate over the facts and science of such controversial matters. To shirk this role, he suggested, would be to leave the way clear for faith-based organizations to impose "divisive" views.
"Faith challenges the underpinnings of legal education," Mr. Rudenstine declared. "Faith is a willingness to accept belief in things for which we have no evidence, or which runs counter to evidence we have."
He added, "Faith does not tolerate opposing views, does not acknowledge inconvenient facts. Law schools stand in fundamental opposition to this."
I admire Dean Rudenstine's courage in speaking forthrightly on this subject.
(Thanks to Franklin Monsour for the pointer to this story.)
UPDATE: Dean Sargent (Law, Villanova) takes issue with Dean Rudenstine's remarks, but misunderstands, I think, their import, as Dean Rudenstine's own examples would suggest.
What interests me in particular here is what this display tells us about the limited understanding of science and scientific methods even among educated people and scholars. If professional scholars in fields like law have so little understanding of the nature and structure of scientific inquiry, is it any surprise that in the population at large nonsense like creationism and its offshoots, like Intelligent Design, have considerable traction?
UPDATE: There is a priceless comment by one Bruce Anderson over at the Volokh Conspiracy site; it's worth quoting in full (he is responding to another commenter
Legal philosopher Scott Shapiro at Cardozo Law School has accepted the offer from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he will teach in both the Law School and Department of Philosophy. (He also had an offer from the University of Virginia.) Those who don't know Scott's work ought to make a point of reading his splendid paper "On Hart's Way Out," 4 Legal Theory 469 (1998) (also in Hart's Postscript, ed. J.L. Coleman [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001]), probably the most significant contribution to the literature on legal positivism in the last decade or so.
This will mostly be of interest to law school applicants for next year: For many years, my institution, the University of Texas School of Law, had an 80% in-state residency requirement on admissions (so only 20% of the class consisted of non-residents). Fortunately, Texas is a very big state (only California is bigger), and the pool has been quite strong. But because of the relatively high in-state residency requirement, we have had to turn away many highly qualified non-resident applicants each year. Starting next year, however, Texas will be able to admit up to 35% of the class from out-of-state. Given that even non-resident tuition at UT is well below tuition at our competitors (both private schools like Penn and Georgetown, and public schools like Boalt and Virginia), this is likely to be of special interest to many non-resident applicants next year.
UPDATE: A word of clarification, since several readers have e-mailed with questions about this: the change in the law will permit 35% of the matriculated class to be non-residents, as compared to 20% now. The percentage of non-residents and residents offered admission may be different (since the yield is always higher on resident admits, my guess [I am not involved in admissions] would be that far, far fewer than 65% of resident applicants will be offered admission in the future, just as, I would guess, far, far fewer than 80% of resident applicants are now offered admission).
We have noted previously some of the Professor of Torture'sdifficulties with the truth. Now his longstanding nemesis, Professor Finkelstein of DePaul, is set to release a book-length critique of Dershowitz's apologetics for Israel (apologetics so extreme they would likely make Ariel Sharon blush). Details about the Finkelstein v. Dershowitz battle and links are here.
Frank Bowman, a leading expert on criminal sentencing policy, at Indiana University at Indianapolis, will take up a chair in the law school at the University of Missouri at Columbia, effective this summer.
For the benefit of my non-law readers: the classic law school exam gives the student 3 to 4 hours to write out an analysis of the legal issues presented by various hypothetical situations; the answers are handwritten in "blue books," which consist of ten-or-so lined white pieces of paper between light blue covers. A student might fill out two or three of these blue books in the course of the exam. Once the exams are turned in, faculty have 4-6 weeks to read and grade them all (law faculty do their own grading). In a typical first-year law school class, this may mean grading anywhere from 80 to 125 student exams--or, in other words, thousands of handwritten pages in bluebooks.
So much by way of background. One of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) recently offered the following memorable characterization of the experience of grading dozens and dozens of bluebooks from the same class: "It feels like you are watching endless re-runs of episodes of Gilligan's Island, with the vague sense that you had something to do with the plot."
In the budget offices of the right, the loss of Olin, though long anticipated, is bringing a stab of anxiety, as total annual giving of up to $20 million disappears from think tanks, journals and academic aeries....
Mr. Piereson [longtime director of the Olin Foundation] says that one Olin secret is plain to see: its interest in abstract ideas, removed from day-to-day politics....As a result, Mr. Piereson is spending his last months in office promoting a route to political influence - intellectual armament - as unlikely as it has been effective. "The ideas have to be tended to," Mr. Piereson said. "Only after that can you tend to the policies."
The only redeeming aspect of the Olin Foundation's history is that, at least with law schools, they gave the money and stayed away. That meant the liberals like Ian Ayres (Yale) and Gillian Hadfield (USC) could feed at the trough, even if the conservatives outnumbered them.
Mr. Piereson said he had few specific expectations when he helped a little-known political theorist, Allan Bloom, create the democracy center in Chicago. But after a few years of high-brow seminars, Mr. Bloom wrote "The Closing of the American Mind," which topped best-seller lists in 1987 and inspired the continuing assault on campus liberalism.
I had forgotten that Olin had helped fund that silly book, with its comical misreadings of almost every major thinker in the history of moral and political thought. One of the ironies is that Bloom had not written the book with a popular audience in mind: it was his idea of scholarship. I recall buying it shortly after it came out--and before it became a coffee-table phenomenon--because I was, at the time, trying to size up the Straussian reading of Nietzsche. I was astonished to learn that Bloom had not intended the book for a popular audience; that was the only excuse I could think of for the low level of scholarship and argument. Of course, at that time, I still did not realize the appallingly low intellectual level of most of what was produced by the Straussian cult.
The foundation's staff was similarly surprised when a $25,000 grant to an obscure social scientist, Charles Murray, helped revolutionize the welfare debate. Conservatives had long attacked poor people as abusing welfare programs. Mr. Murray's 1984 book, "Losing Ground," attacked the programs as abusing the poor by diverting them from work and marriage. By equating cutting with caring, Mr. Murray helped conservatives lay claim to the mantle of compassion as they pushed tough new welfare laws.
Was the Olin Foundation concerned, one wonders, that Mr. Murray's book was demolished by those actually concerned with evidence? Of course not: because it was never really about the "ideas" or their merits.
Much of Olin's giving has centered on law schools, reflecting Mr. Piereson's belief that they disproportionately shape public life. A $20,000 grant in 1982 helped law students organize a conference, and one of the most influential legal groups of the 20th century emerged, the Federalist Society.
The society now has chapters at almost every law school, and a swarm of alumni in the Bush administration dedicated to what the group calls limited government and judicial restraint. "It's not clear whether we would have existed without Olin's support," said Eugene Meyer, the society's president.
Even more influential has been Olin's support of the law and economics movement, which has transformed legal thinking. Its supporters say that economic tools, like cost-benefit analysis, bring rationality to the law, while critics warn that the focus on economics can cheat notions like fairness that defy quantification.
Only journalists could write that economic analysis brings "rationality" to the law. (On some of the oddities--dare I say "irrationalities"?--of economic analysis, see here and here.) It is probably worth noting, though, that the impact of economic analysis of law outside the legal academy has been negligible. The only area of law in the real world it has altered is antitrust. In torts--its other main target--it has had almost no impact on what courts do. This reminds me of a study Deborah Merritt (Ohio State) did a number of years ago in which she found that the articles most cited by legal scholars--articles in Critical Race Theory and law-and-economics--were cited at most once, and most often not at all, by the courts.
Olin has spent $68 million on law and economics programs, including those at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago. "I saw it as a way into the law schools - I probably shouldn't confess that," Mr. Piereson said. "Economic analysis tends to have conservatizing effects."
The foundation has had its disappointments. Olin spent more than $500,000 each at Duke and the University of Pennsylvania for programs in law and economics that it discontinued, saying they had failed to have a sufficient impact.
That they gave any money to Duke for law and economics strongly suggests that the Olin Foundation had little idea what it was doing, that it was more beguiled by the institutional aura than by any awareness of the kind of scholarly work being done at the institution. It is not just that Duke has been the weakest of the top law schools for a long time--that is no news to anyone--but that it has been especially weak, of all the top law schools, in economic analysis of law.
And not every donation has gone toward erudition. A $5,000 grant helped the journalist David Brock write his 1993 book, "The Real Anita Hill," in which he elaborated on his incendiary charges that impugned the character of Ms. Hill, the critic of Justice Clarence Thomas. Breaking with the right, Mr. Brock later apologized.
This, too, is a giveaway as to the Foundations' actual commitment to the intellectual arena.
Comparing [the various conservative foundations] with an equal number of liberal foundations, including Ford and MacArthur, Mr. Piereson found that the right spent $100 million a year to the left's $1.2 billion. "You don't have to have a lot of money to drive the intellectual debate," Mr. Piereson said.
Especially when your "ideas," such as they are, help the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful.
As for ideas, Mr. Piereson has a new one. He is hoping to start an initiative to counter liberal influence in academia. Liberal academics "don't like American capitalism, American culture, and they don't like American history - they see it as a history of oppression," he said. "There are some people who are prepared to spend large sums of money to address this problem."
Perhaps they could hire Brown Shirts to solve the "problem"?
A faculty member at George Washington writes that Frederick Lawrence (constitutional law) at Boston University has been appointed the new Dean of the law school at George Washington University. I'll post a link to a press release when one is available.
It's been a pleasure and privilege to have had the opportunity to work with many of you during your time in the Law School. I'm sure I speak for all my colleagues in wishing you much professional success and personal happiness in the years ahead.
New data (finally) here. This update was long overdue!I hope to get some more, updated material on the law school rankings site during the summer. And I hope to expand the listing of schools by student LSAT scores over the summer as well.
Bear in mind that numerical credentials have increased dramatically the last few years--partly due to U.S. News pressures, but mainly due to increases in the applicant pool. Today's UT class was the Penn class of five years ago.
UPDATE: Correspondence with readers makes it clear I should clarify the last remark: UT's class now has LSAT scores at the 75th percentile and median like Penn's class roughly five years ago. It is still my impression, as it was five years ago (when I was considering moving to Penn), that the top end of our class is at least as strong, and probably stronger, since we don't suffer from the tight clustering of competitive schools in the Northeast corridor. Roughly 10% of last year's UT class, for example, had LSAT scores above 170--about the same number of students with those credentials enrolled at places like Penn and Northwestern. Of course, because of differences in class size, that statistic doesn't show up in any of the measures used in the ranking linked above. (LSAT scores are also crude measures, but that's a different story.)
A law professor elsewhere wrote:
A gaming system perhaps growing in popularity is to offer lower LSAT students a seat in a “part time” class. One way of doing this is to admit lower LSAT students into evening programs, then allowing them to transfer into the day the following year. Another way is to have the student take one less class in the first year, which they make up in the summer of the first year, and then enter the second year on track with everyone else. Students given this offer are told that this is because they are “at risk” (in many cases a laughable claim given the student’s statistics), and that the reduced load will help them adjust and succeed.
I suspect that “part time” programs (evening or day variety) are the new mechanism of choice for schools interested in massaging their LSAT scores. The only way to expose this practice is to fold all part time numbers into the overall measure. It is a huge loophole that (based upon anecdotal evidence) more and more schools appear to be utilizing.
Note that Fordham, that does rather well in this study, also has a large part-time class (much larger, as a percentage of total enrollment, than Georgetown's, as was pointed out to me by a reader).
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)