There is great news coming from our neighbors at Penn Law. The University of Pennsylvania has named Professor Theodore Ruger, the current Deputy Dean of the law school, as its new permanent dean. He will take over from Wendell Pritchett, the Interim Dean, July 1. Ted is a graduate of Harvard Law.
Congrats to Ted and the law school on an excellent selection.
Newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe nominated Duquene Law Dean Ken Gormley to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today. He was nominated to serve the remainder of one of two current vacant slots on the Court - until new justices are elected this fall. Gormley has agreed not to run in that election and will, presumably, return to Duquesne. This will be a nice addition to Gormley's "service" report to the school's provost next year.
University of Dayton Law Dean Paul McGreal has been named the new dean of Creighton's law school. He will take over in July. McGeal became dean of Dayton in 2011. He holds a JD from SMU and an LLM from Yale. He previously served on the faculty of Southern Illinois Law.
Acting Dean Alicia Ouellette, of Albany Law School, has been named permanently to the position. She will also become the free-standing school's president beginning July 1, when former dean Penelope Andrews leaves that position. Ouelette holds a JD from the law school.
Mark Gordon, the president of Defiance College, in Defiance, Ohio, has been named the new dean of William Mitchell College of Law. He was previously the dean of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Gordon, who holds a JD from Harvard Law School, will take over in July.
Professor Andrew Guzman of UC Berkeley Law has been named the new dean of the University of Southern California law school, effective this summer. Guzman is currently also the Associate Dean of International and Executive Education at Berkeley. He holds his JD and Ph.D in Economics from Harvard, and joined the UC faculty in 1998.
I feel certain that, if Dan Markel were still with us, he'd note that Dean Guzman received his degree in Canada, from the University of Toronto.
Cardozo Law Dean, and former Fordham Law Professor, Matthew Diller is moving back uptown. He will become the new dean of Fordham Law and will take over this summer. Diller, who holds a JD from Harvard, left Fordham in 2009 to lead Cardozo. He joined Fordham in 1993.
Last week, I challenged Jay Conison to provide some data to substantiate his claims that a.) Charlotte School of Law/InfiLaw has some magic formula for identifying students with very low LSATs and poor grades who nevertheless have a reasonable aptitude for the study of law, and, b.) that Charlotte School of Law/InfiLaw has better educational outcomes than other peer law schools with similarly qualified students.
One of the commenters to my post, posting under the name Barry, offered this comment:
“I think that we'll wait a loooong time before he tries to answer this (a much shorter time for him to attempt to BS his way out of this, of course).”
Today, Jay Conison proved Barry right with an incredible post entitled “Black Boxes and Halos.”
Dean Conison really loves this black box metaphor. Last week, he said that “Mr. Frakt’s view rests on model of a law school as just a black box, into which one inputs LSAT scores and outputs bar passage.” After I rebutted this assertion by explaining that my views are much more nuanced, he is now accusing all those who think that entrance credentials of admitted students, attrition rates, bar passage data, employment outcomes, or any other statistical measurement of “inputs or outputs,” have some bearing on the quality of a law school of engaging in over-simplified “black box thinking.”
In this post, Dean Conison once again suggests that Charlotte’s entering class profile (with the lowest LSAT scores of any ABA-accredited school in history) are not “good measures of something important” and “do not necessarily have an unambiguous meaning.” He implies that Charlotte’s low numbers relate to “incoming student diversity” and suggests that LSATs and grades have different predictive values at different schools, implying without stating that Charlotte gets better results from its students with low predictors than other schools. Once again, no data is provided. He also makes an irrelevant reference to the fact that students can take LSAT prep courses and raise their scores, and that we don’t know if this means that the student who achieves a higher score after taking a prep course will actually be a better law student. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Charlotte, like many schools, from counting only the highest LSAT score of an applicant.
Dean Conison also discounts the importance of bar passage and job placement data, which I suppose makes sense when your school is performing so poorly by both measures. He informs us that our black box thinking is causing us to miss “most of what law school is about.” According to Dean Conison, “[l]aw school is all about educating students and transforming them into professionals” which is apparently different in his mind from educating students so they can pass the bar exam and enter the legal profession, preferably with a job.
Dean Conison is right about one thing; he notes that “[a]s lawyers and educators, we are trained to ask questions.” Well, I am a lawyer and educator, and I asked Dean Conison several questions; not surprisingly, he has failed to even attempt to answer any of them. Instead he trots out tired platitudes such as “there are few simple answers to hard questions.” That may be true, but the questions that I asked aren’t hard to answer, it’s just that the answers will be hard to explain away, so Dean Conison has decided that obfuscation and double-speak are the better course of action. In the end, Dean Conison is guilty of precisely what he accuses his critics of: “wishing away so much of what we very much need to know.” Judging from the comments to his post, he is not fooling anyone.
Dean Conison’s black box analogy brings to mind another kind of black box -- the flight data recorders that are recovered after an aircraft accident. When Charlotte School of Law and its sister schools finally crash and burn, and InfiLaw is forced to reveal its internal data in response to the subsequent class action lawsuit, what will the data inside the black box say about the cause of InfiLaw’s downfall? Based on Dean Conison’s posts on The Faculty Lounge, one factor that will be difficult to rule out is “pilot error.”
I commend Dean Jay Conison of Charlotte School of Law for coming on to The Faculty Lounge and trying to defend the recent admission practices of Charlotte and his sister InfiLaw schools. I appreciate that he is willing to engage, at least indirectly, in this important debate with me. As an experienced criminal defense attorney (I’m currently back on active duty with the Air Force defending a capital murder case), I know very well what it is like to defend a position when the overwhelming weight of evidence is against you, so I don’t envy Dean Conison’s position. Well, come to think of it, maybe I do envy his position. Wasn’t I just trying to become Dean at Florida Coastal? But I digress. . .
In this post, I will respond to several of the points raised by Dean Conison and raise some questions that I hope he will consider answering in a follow-up post.
First, I didn’t assert that “no one with an LSAT below 145 has more than a trifling chance of passing a bar examination” nor did I say that “law schools should admit any student with an LSAT below 145.” (You should read the comments, not just the main post, Dean Conison. The comments are where the real action is on TFL) What I have said is that students below 145 should not be admitted unless they have a strong undergraduate record or other substantial indicators of success, and they prove themselves capable of law school level work through a rigorous admission by performance program. I have expressed doubt that anyone who scores below a 142 (18th percentile) possesses the analytical reasoning skills (and test-taking ability) to succeed in law school and pass the bar, but I’m sure there are rare exceptions.
Second, I don’t claim to be an “expert on legal education and in particular the relationship between LSAT and educational outcomes” and I certainly don’t have the extensive background in legal educations Dean Conison does, but I do know there is a strong, albeit imperfect, correlation between LSAT scores and success in law school and on the bar. If 25-30% of first time bar takers are going to fail the bar, a standardized exam, it stands to reason that many of those who fail are going to be those who aren’t very good at taking standardized exams, like the LSAT. It also stands to reason that if a substantial majority of a school’s students are from the bottom 25-30% of LSAT takers, then many of them, even if they do make it through law school, are going to fail the bar, where they must compete with recent graduates from other schools from the top 70-75% of LSAT takers. It also stands to reason that if a school is experiencing a downward trend in bar passage and struggling to meet the ABA standards for bar passage that the school should not substantially lower their admissions standards.
Professor James Gardner of SUNY Buffalo School of Law has been named interim dean of the law school, succeeding Makau Mutua. He takes over at the end of the month. Gardner served as vice-dean from 2005-12.
I was traveling last month and managed to miss this dean news nugget. St. Johns Law Professor Paul Kirgis was named the new dean of the University of Montana School of Law. Kirgis, a Washington & Lee Law graduate, will take over this July. Kirgis is the son of Rick Kirgis, who served as dean of W&L Law from 1983-1988. Decanal royalty!
Our friends at Wake Forest tell us that things have been humming along in Winston-Salem since last we posted that the school had formed a committee to lead its search for a new law dean:
Wake Forest now invites nominations and applications for the position of Dean of the School of Law. A genuine sense of collegiality and community defines the culture, and is one of the most salient features of the school. As its next dean, Wake Law seeks an experienced, kind, and imaginative leader with strong connections to legal academia and practice, to work collaboratively with all constituencies of the school, as well as across the wider university. Excellence is the hallmark of the Wake Law experience. The dean must be passionate about the importance of teaching, scholarship, and contribution to practice. She/he will need to be empowering and supportive of faculty in their commitment to excel in all of these realms. Whether or not the dean has spent her/his career in a law school, it will be crucial that she/he truly value academic excellence and the contributions of faculty, and have a personal record of professional achievement that engenders respect. Here is the website for information and a prospectus.