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August 02, 2013

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No Tenure!

You're a brave man to bring a post like this here Mitch. Folks don't want to hear any discussion of "no tenure" around here.

But...but...but academic freedom! Also, the idea of recognizing adjunct professors as academic equals isn't going to fly either.

At best you will be ignored here. At best.

Mitch Winick

Thanks for the warning . . . but if it is clear that an economic model of high compensation that is not related to classroom and clinical productivity is no longer working . . . won't ignoring the issue just accelerate the risk of fewer law school teaching positions, or even fewer law schools?

Steve Diamond

No Tenure,

You are wrong about that. As someone who advocates for the existence of accredited schools with tenure to support academic freedom and research, I have also repeatedly stated in response to BT and others that the California setting provides the counter-factual they want to ignore, a diverse system that allows for people:

1) to take the bar without going to law school (e.g., one of the best labor lawyers I know apprenticed under the general counsel of the farm workers union and then sat for the bar),

2) allows for schools like MCL and Lincoln (the latter trains many Silicon Valley engineers in its night and part time program who want to move into IP or management - I sat next to one of those graduates during the California bar and watched him, enviously, as he sailed through the exam with a smile on his face)

3) and allows for accredited schools that offer tenure track faculty and research.

There is demand for all three approaches as the numbers who sit for the CBE every year attest. Other states should consider adopting the California model and the California model indicates that the existence of tenure and academic freedom and strong ABA backed accreditation standards is not a barrier to entry and not the cause of the recent downturn in the economy.

Frosh

I would be interested to hear if your school posts its placement statistics anywhere as ABA-accredited schools are required to do? If so, where can I find them?

Lois Turner

And I would be interested to hear about Monterey College of Law's LL.M. program in International Law. How are its graduates doing in finding employment in the field of international law? How much does the program cost?

Mitch Winick

Frosh, although the California Accredited Law School (CALS) rules do not (yet) require employment statistics as part of annual reporting, MCL conducted its first alumni employment survey this summer. We used the basic NALP approach (note as non-ABA law schools, we are not welcome in NALP, AALS, or LSAC). We received data for more than 80% of recent classes (2008-2012), but since the apparent ABA standard is 95%, we are now searching out the "missing" graduate data so that we can report out better data. We should be done in about two weeks and will post the results on the school's web page. I'll also notify this board when we post the results.

No Tenure!

Steve,

Glad to hear you feel the community here will be receptive to Mitch's post.

As to the substance of your post, I see no evidence that the adoption of a California model is a real solution that will fix legal education in this country. In fact, I would submit the California model produces sub-standard results. By any objective metric, legal education in California produces attorneys that cannot pass the bar exam, are burdened by unacceptable debt and unemployment as compared to many other states. It also produces lawyers that are no better prepared to practice law then the systems in other states.

I will say that I don't think tenure is the biggest problem with legal education. There are much more pressing issues as you know.

Mitch Winick

Lois, we actually just enrolled our first two LL.M. students for Fall 2013. Both are foreign licensed attorneys who are in Monterey, CA for 12-18 months with military spouses who are studying at the Naval Postgraduate School. In both cases, these lawyers will be returning to their home countries to resume their legal careers. We have a unique environment here in Monterey with the Naval Postgraduate School, The Defense Language Institute, and the Monterey Institute for International Studies all bringing large numbers of International students to town. We established two non-licensure academic degree programs; a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and the LL.M. to provide graduate education opportunities for the spouses who are here for one to two years, cannot work, but want to improve their professional opportunities when they return to their home countries. The foreign MLS and JD students take regular JD courses related to their area of interest and then complete a major research paper or clinical project.

Mitch Winick

No tenure, speaking to the original idea that there are lessons and ideas from the California-accredited, non-ABA law schools that might speak to the pressing issues . . . certainly the cost of a law degree would be at the top of the pressing issue list. The cost drives the student debt, which in turn leads to the result of too few law jobs with salaries high enough to service $150K to $250K of student loan indebtedness (and still have a life). If you look at the law school financial model, setting aside facility costs and library expenses (a topic for another post) for a moment . . . the only major category that moves the cost needle down is faculty and administration. If you are serious about reducing the cost of a legal education, you have to start with questions about how to deliver effective content more efficiently . . . and how do you have a meaningful discussion about changing curriculum content and delivery without reconsidering the effect on tenure?

No Tenure!

Mitch, your insight regarding getting rid of tenure and tenured professors as a way to eliminate resistance to positive change at the schools will not endear you here but I believe such actions would produce better outcomes over the long term. Have you read the just released working paper from the ABA Taskforce on the Future of Legal Education? It's making some waves right now. The delivery of "value" by law schools is an important overall scheme in the paper.

Mitch Winick

I am familiar with the ABA Task Force's work and as you might guess, most of my comments are going to parallel this finding:

The Legal Education Community Should Recognize That There Are Several Models under Which an Accredited Law School Can Operate to Deliver a J.D. Education, and Should Facilitate the Effective Development of Those Models
1. The legal education community should recognize, at a minimum, two models for law schools: (a) a research-oriented law school, which makes significant investment in faculty research; and (b) a practice-oriented law school, which makes less investment in faculty research.

No Tenure!

I found similarities in your post to the suggestions in the working paper.

Currently, there is a problem with the dual model (research-oriented/practice oriented)scheme for law school as those two types of schools currently exist. Right now, graduates of practice oriented law schools are not accepted by employers. They lack prestige. In the future, ABA based changes may alter the thinking of employers so that grads from practice oriented schools can get jobs.

There is no "value" to law students in attending a research oriented school other then the jobs proposition. If practice oriented schools become accepted places to hire students out of (currently they are not), then research-oriented schools will eventually go away.

It really is an either/or proposition. Both law school models cannot successfully co-exist in the long run no matter what various self-interested folks tell you.

RB

Mitch,

Thanks for your contribution to the Lounge. In your future posts, I hope you address not only what you see as the "ideas that have worked" at your school, as you mention, but also what you see as not working. In particular, one of the outcomes that is frequently referred to for CA (rather than ABA) accredited law schools low quality is the extremely low bar pass rate. On the July 2012 exam, the pass rate for CA takers from Monterey was < 40% (50% for first time takers [6/12] and 31% [5/16] for repeaters). It would be great to get your thoughts on what produces such a low pass rate and what schools like yours are doing to try to address this.

Anon

Part of it is a question of causation--are lower bar passage rates caused by an inferior quality of education at schools like Monterey, or are lower bar passage rates caused by a lower average starting quality of student, since students with better credentials will presumably attend an ABA-accredited school before one like Monterey (or, other characteristics of the students, like greater propensity to work while ln law school, etc.)? One implicates the quality of Monterey's model of education, the other merely attests to the value of accreditation and the impact of perceived prestige.

Barry

Two comments:

1) I believe that the bar passage rate includes only those who take the exam (meaning the bottom of the class is less likely to do so). This means that the ability rate of grads to pass the bar, the requirement for doing the standard lawyer's job, is far under 50%. IMHO, that's ridiculous.

2) When total law school cost of attendance *starts* at $100K and climbs like a rocket, the schools should have outcome data. You're basically asking them to buy a house, and then shrugging your shoulders when asked about it.

Mitch Winick

RB,
I am pleased to talk about MCL bar pass rates. I was an advocate for the new rules adopting a minimum pass rate for California Accredited Law Schools (CALS). Because of the population that many CALS serve, including under-represented populations, adult learners, and ESL students, the State Bar of California uses a five-year cumulative bar pass rate to evaluate the effectiveness of CALS. After years of trying to get them to publish these pass rates, the State Bar will finally begin doing so this coming year.

MCL began an initiative seven years ago to improve our pass rates. We set a goal to reach and sustain a 50% first-time pass rate and a 70% cumulative pass rate for each graduating class.

At the time, we were at a 39% cumulative pass rate and a widely varying first-time rate that was frequently below 50%. We are pleased that our first-time pass rate on six of the last seven exams has been at or above 50% and our cumulative pass rate has improved to 66%. Although we still have work to do to reach our 70% goal, perhaps the most important aspect of our improvement is that we achieved these results without changing our admissions criteria or artificially increasing attrition. In fact, our most recent classes are our most diverse and our first-year attrition rate has actually dropped during this period of time.

It is also important to note that our recent alumni employment survey indicated that approximately 20% of our graduates remained in their existing careers and pursued a law degree for reasons unrelated to passing the bar and practicing law.

Sent from my iPad because Monterey College of Law is the first law school in the US to go 100% iPad.

Mitch Winick

Barry,
Your assumptions are not MCL's experience. Our graduates who choose not to sit for the bar are primarily those who are continuing careers in other fields, but who believed that a law degree would assist/distinguish them. Common fields are finance, real estate, family-owned businesses, and public sector. This is common among the non-urban CALS law schools like MCL that serve smaller communities.

As to your second point, I haven't posted yet on the benefits of an evening law school program. However, one of the most important points that I will post for consideration is that when law students are encouraged, rather than prohibited from working while in law schools, three benefits are obtained: 1) the total COA is dramatically lower since they can earn enough to pay living expenses and frequently pay tuition as they go along . . . dramatically limiting the need for student debt; 2) students who are not continuing in an existing non-law career can start actually working in a law firm (vs. law clerk summer camps), and 3) many of our graduates are already working for the firm they stay with as lawyers after passing the bar. (Please note that we are just finishing our first alumni employment survey and I anticipate having more exact numbers in about two weeks.)

Mitch Winick

Barry,
I forgot to mention . . . getting back to the original theme of this post . . . the use of adjunct, non-tenured practitioner faculty allows MCL to keep the cost of our JD tuition and fees to under $70,000, total, not annual. Plus, our students are working throughout law school, so living expenses are not part of the student debt calculus.

Furthermore, to answer "No Tenure's" earlier concern, it isn't graduating from a "practice oriented" law school like MCL that is the main barrier to employment. It is the staggering student debt that cannot be serviced by an industry with $60K median starting salaries (NALP data). I do not believe that there is actually a shortage of new lawyer jobs at the national average, but I absolutely agree that the mythical $150K starting lawyer jobs that are required to service $250K student loans . . . are just that . . . mythical.

That brings me back to the original post theme . . . if the typical ABA law school financial model is not working, shouldn't we be considering alternatives?

concerned lawyer

Mitch, from someone not very familiar with California's accreditation system, I read your entry and comments with interest. Thank you. When asked, I have often advised undergrad students to be wary of attending schools lacking ABA accreditation (there do not appear to be many outside CA). In truth, this advice has come from a faith in the ABA accreditation system that no longer seems warranted given the dismal state of employment outcomes at so many accredited schools. Most of the poorly-performing accredited schools are performing poorly in part because the students pay astronomical tuition. It's not rational for students to attend law school for a 50% chance of getting a job with a $40K/yr salary if the cost is $100K in student loan debt, which takes more than a decade to settle, and three years of your life.

Can you share more about the cost side of the equation? What do students pay to attend? What options do they have for financing their education?

Mitch Winick

CL,
There are 18 California accredited, non-ABA law schools, which as you point out is unlike any other state. What most people do not realize is that one of the CALS, San Francisco Law School (not to be confused with University of San Francisco Law School), is more than 100 years old, so it is not a recent phenomenon (FYI, MCL is over 40 years old). I think that there are only 5 or 6 other state recognized, non-ABA law schools in the entire US and no more than one in any other state . . . so we are an anomaly in the ABA-centric world of legal education.

I think your concern about the cost of legal education is well stated and is perhaps the central issue that law schools will be confronted with for the next three-to-five years. If you walk through Law School Transparency's cost of legal education calculation, even the "non-math" lawyers among us can see that many new lawyers are facing $25K-$30K annual debt payments for ten years following graduation. That means a $40K salary won't even pay their student debt and federal income tax.

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