The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category

I like the law

Posted by brightcoast on May 13, 2011

Hilarious.

Caution: this is probably not even remotely funny unless you have at some point in your life had the pleasure of attending law school. The language is probably also particularly offensive for the common sensibility. This won the Above the Law video contest.

Even less funny, but it’s about Davis, so I gotta represent NorCal.

Posted in California, Education, The Law, USD Law | Leave a Comment »

Yale Kamisar Retiring

Posted by brightcoast on May 10, 2011

Great article here about renowned professor Yale Kamisar ‘s retirement(yes he’s that important he has his own wiki page). He’s also sometimes referred to as the father of Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona), which created the reading of Miranda Rights or Warnings to criminal defendants, preceding any custodial interrogation. It’s the notorious Cops catch phrase, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you…” which stems from your Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination.

Although I never had the pleasure of taking a class with professor Kamisar, I have heard many stories of his legendarily intense lectures, which sound to me more like custodial interrogation than anything else. What strikes me the most about prof. Kamisar, aside from his legendary writings, is his inquisitiveness and realness when it comes to legal issues. He seems like the exact sort of professor that would inspire his students to follow in his footsteps of greatness. His retirement shall be strongly felt, and USD Law will be hard pressed to replace him. (Which is not to say that certain other quasi-celebrity Criminal Procedure profs aren’t similarly entertaining and noteworthy– the phrase “no thank you officer, I’d rather not say” comes to mind.)

On behalf of USD Law students I’d like to thank Professor Kamisar for his 11 years of service.

Posted in SCOTUS, The Law, U.S. Statutes, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The RAP strikes again!

Posted by brightcoast on May 10, 2011

aka The Rule Against Perpetuities aka the biggest pain in the ass Real Property Law has to offer.

The Rule states, “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after the death of some life in being at the creation of the interest.”

Here is the link to the article detailing (well not much detailing) how Mr. Wellington R. Burt made it so that the vast majority of his fortune would not be distributed to his children, or even grandchildren, but rather 21 years after the death of the last grandchild. Here’s where the issue may lie. Although there is the possibility that this is the good ‘ole class gift subject to open, I can’t help but wonder whether for RAP purposes, the last grandchild would have to be a life in being at the time the will was created, which is technically impossible.  Perhaps only a grandchild had to be a life in being at the time the will was created, thus validating the binding nature of the lack of distribution until after the last grandchild’s death + 21 years. (The language is eerily similar to the rule itself, presumably on purpose, so as to avoid invalidation via the RAP).

Perhaps more interesting though, is the fact that this is a featured news story on Yahoo News’s front page, which suggests that non-lawyers are actually remotely interested in reading about the types of stories that lead to confusing legal principles that still linger though most of the dynastic wealth/dead hand control is nowhere near what it used to be. (Think feudalism).

It’s further intriguing to ponder what estate tax will apply to the corpus of someone’s estate who died in 1919, but was/is not distributed until 2011.

Posted in CA Bar Exam, Taxes, The Law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Irrelevant (?) Con Law thought of the day:

Posted by brightcoast on May 3, 2011

Police and governmental officials can legally search your trash once you put it out onto the curb, yet environmental laws prevent you from burying your trash in the backyard or setting it on fire to destroy the evidence. There’s got to be a violation of some constitutional right in there, not to bear witness against yourself by having no alternative choice to putting your trash on the curb? Do the federal environmental laws preempt the state’s right to have access to your garbage? I’m wondering whether any criminal defense attorney has ever challenged the trash laws via this avenue…

Posted in Environment, The Law, U.S. Statutes | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Trouble paying your mortgage?

Posted by brightcoast on April 20, 2011

Here is a potential option.

However, any 1L can tell you that houses are subject to zoning laws. Meaning that your neighbors may not want to live next to such an eyesore, and in fact, you may be barred from using a residentially zoned property for a primarily commercial use. The payment of your mortgage by the ad company only strengthens the argument of the intended commercial use. Not to mention the fact you may additionally need to procure a business license, assuming the use is permissible.

Posted in The Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Adverse Possession Advocacy?

Posted by brightcoast on April 8, 2011

Carlsbad lawyer faces disbarment for encouraging clients in foreclosure to hire locksmiths and re-enter their homes.  It’s unclear what his legal standing is. He claims that they have right to possession because the foreclosures are illegal, but clients forcibly re-entering will do nothing to resolve any potential legality, other than potentially put themselves in danger for trespassing claims and the like. It absolutely reminds me of the Adverse Possession allegory, except that in order to adversely possess, you must be acting hostile to the True Owner (TO), and if the foreclosure is illegal, that obviously means the hostility requirement is not met.

It seems disbarment is imminent.

Posted in CA Bar, California, San Diego, The Law | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Helpful articles from Above the Law

Posted by brightcoast on March 31, 2011

Career Advice here

Choosing which law school, article here

And perhaps most helpful to those deciding where to go, an article on best value at graduation law schools here

Posted in Education, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Less “Froth” in Law School Applicant Pool?

Posted by demkid on March 19, 2011

Certain law school deans seem to think so.

The number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process.

This drop in applications is being attributed to an increasing awareness of the poor job market and a trepidation of facing this market with massive law school loan debt.  The article quotes advisers and deans who give prospective students a lot of credit, by saying that they’re now more “clear eyed” about the huge challenges they could very well face upon graduation.  Those in the know claim that there aren’t very many students currently applying to law school who are doing so just to avoid the workforce or because they don’t know what else to do.

At Fordham University School of Law in New York, applications this year are down 15%, and those applying “appear to have analyzed the investment in law school closely and are serious about pursuing a career in law,” said Carrie Johnson, a school spokeswoman.

I call BS.  If you want to claim that applicants are, on average, slightly more serious about taking on a legal education in this struggling economy, that’s fine.  But to state that the “froth” of kids who apply to law school because they can’t think of anything better to do is “pretty well gone,” then that’s just not being knowledgeable about your own applicant pool.  66,876 and counting are applying to an ever-growing number of law schools around the country this year.  Sure, this total applicant number might be slightly lower than in years past, but you can bet that thousands of these applicants are still applying for reasons that might make a dean or career adviser cringe.  Avoiding the workforce now might not actually be the worst idea in the world, as most would bet on an improved economic picture when these thousands of students graduate in 2014.  Instead of pretending that they know what’s going on with applicants, perhaps law school deans should do something productive that would actually lessen the burden on young people once they get out of school and into the real world.  Why worry about the amount of “froth” in an applicant pool, when you can tackle the froth that is found in every bill for law school tuition?

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Lower Law School Tuition:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Cut career services.

Now I know this is going to sound drastic, it is a major challenge to the typical law school bureacratic structure, but in my honest opinion, it would be a good savings of resources.

There’s nothing worse than receiving the confirmation letter from the State Bar of California, stating “Congratulations! You’ve passed the most difficult bar exam in the country. But you still don’t have a job that pays practicing law.” Ok, so it doesn’t state all of that…

Take USD Law in particular. There are at least 4 career service “counselors” 1 or 2 deans or assistant deans, and several front desk employees/work studies, not to mention a newly remodeled office to house all these people. This has got to be at least a $500k/year venture.

In its defense, from my experiences, career services does the following things: meets with students individually to give advice, organizes networking and speaker events, contacts local agencies or employers upon students’ expressions of interest, services as a gathering place for employers seeking to employ students, organizes and coordinates the on campus interviews, collects applications for non on-campus interviews in certain situations, orchestrates judicial clerkship applications, and has a library of information for students. (I’m sure there are other things they can legitimately claim to do, I am just not familiar with them.)

But herein lies my personal issue with USD Law career services, the amount of jobs they get for students does not justify the enormous cost of having so many people employed, and their services could easily be reappropriated to other departments. This is especially true considering: 1) USD Law tuition is incredibly high; 2) job prospects are low; and 3) bar passage rates have been steadily declining (July 2010 results here). The following, therefore, are my suggestions as to how USD can improve employment prospects of graduates while simultaneously strenghtening the USD Law student-alumni relations, and increasing bar passage rate.

1) Re bar passage rates: beef up academic support, pure and simple.

a. Course guidance: There are no course counselors available for students to discuss the various course and program options.

b. Outline banks- many clubs have them. It’s no secret that after first year you figure out that you don’t have to do it yourself, and in fact, if your professor has so thoroughly confused you that you can’t understand the difference between an intentional and unintentional tort (cough cough), looking at someone’s straightforward version of the black letter law would be a better use of your time.

c. Upperclassmen Mentors-There should be mandatory matching of upper and lower classmen, at least for the first year. It could ease much unnecessary confusion. It could also help students learn about what courses to take, etc. Alumni mentors would be even better, especially for the foregoing networking point.

d. Tutoring program- Make sure students understand at least the basic bar subjects, so they aren’t setting themselves up for failure. It’s no secret that one could earn a passing grade under the bell curve system, and yet be thoroughly unclear about the basic structure of the subejct matter. There is no legitimate reason why there aren’t teaching assistants beyond first year. There are more than enough work studies to fill the roles, and aside from thereby decreasing the debt of those students, it would increase student comprehension of the subject matter.

2. Alumni participation:

Career services itself admits to only providing about 25% of graduate jobs through On Campus Interviews (OCIs), which in most cases involve firms contacting the school. Thus, you don’t need an entire office to coordinate employers wanting to post, simply allow them access to the website, and allow candidates to select time slot preferences on the computer, as they already do. The rest is simply administrative.

Speaking of the career website listings, they are attrocious. There is something like one or two new jobs every MONTH. This is pale in comparison with several other schools USD Law grads have gotten access to (and in most cases had to pay) through symplicity. Being the “best law school in [San Diego],” USD Law must do better.

The jobs which are listed, or career services has information about are nowhere near the need of students graduating in this economy. And over the past 2 years, the prospects have not gotten better for law grads, yet nothing has changed in career services. It is a travesty.

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is through networking. As an individual you have to pound the pavement, attend bar events, etc. meet potential employers. Aside from organizing events, which students can and already do organize anyway, career services is absolutely no help with the personal action required to do this.

Lastly, alumni are in the legal market now. They have graduated, passed the bar, and are now practicing law. Instead of simply passing out a packet compiled with alumni who are willing to talk to students, why not match them up at some point, facilitate the relationship. This will help students get a realistic view of what they are in for.

If career services is allowed to continue, they should be required to make a commitment of substance. Obviously 100% employment isn’t practical, but something better than including any sort of employment in graduate employment stats (see NY Times article), is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the program and fairness to students. $15-$20 per hour (if a position is even paid at all!!) should have to be disclosed in these employment surveys, so that students seeking to enter law school know that they will be faced with $250,000 in debt and a job that only pays double minimum wage- what they might be making after receiving a simple bachelor’s degree.

Career services is supposed to help foster careers, and they should be held to the task. Law grads have had enough of the justifications and excuses. This is just one way highly inflated tuition can be addressed.

Posted in CA Bar, CA Bar Exam, California, The Law, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Passing the CA Bar, as I see it:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Obviously everyone’s studying and test taking experiences are different, but given the amount of tremendous stress we are all put under, which is exacerbated by our individual situations or contingencies, I thought I would give my input to lawschool students and recent grads who may be looking for a place to start. Thus, here are my top 10 pieces of advice to pass the California Bar on the first attempt.

1. Take BarBri, seriously. I don’t have experience with any of the other programs out there, but I know that people I know who took BarBri and followed the pace program passed. I took BarBri mobile, which I would personally recommend if you are capable of independent study. Well, the only part that is actually independent is that you force yourself to watch the lectures at your own convenience. What I particularly liked, aside from the fact that I didn’t have to battle the 2 hour round trip commute and fighting through traffic at the local city-wide BarBri location, was that the mobile program starts earlier, and is thus less hours of studying per day. Sure, I had to start studying at the same time I was studying for my last law school final, but we all know which of the two is more important, and chances are, if you are taking a bar class that last semester, the studying can overlap.  Additionally, starting with the July 2010 Bar, in order to compete with Kaplan’s guarantee, BarBri allows you to repeat the course for free. That’s not a deal to strive for, but a guarantee of continued support, nonetheless.

2. Follow the pace program. Just do it. Yeah it’s pretty damn terrible, but every moment you spend following it, you know that you are continuing to prepare for the Bar, rather than wasting your time. Towards the end you will find more of a balance that works for you, but all the practice MBEs, essays and PTs are assigned for a reason. I cannot stress how important the practice is. In fact, I think the last PT assigned before the Bar was almost identical in facts and nature to the actual PT on day 3 of the Bar. There are only so many hypotheticals anyone can think of. Think about it.

3. Music. I, like many others I suspect, am easily distracted by technology when I am forced to do something intensely boring like, say, listen to 12 hours of property lectures. What helped me was listening to music, of which I highly recommend fast paced dance music. Read: Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, whatever other popular music that is high energy. I ran out of itunes funds quickly, so I switched to the iheartradio app, which I highly recommend. You can shuffle to find a different radio station somewhere in the country by genre.

4. Caffeine, Starbucks in particular. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be alert and focused while you study. I must have drank in excess of 40 oz of coffee everyday at one point. When you are tired you don’t retain as much, if anything. Your tolerance for coffee may become so high that you don’t even care whether it’s black or not. It is expensive, but consider it one of your bar loan expenses, and invest wisely.

5. Sleep when you can. Everyone knows it’s important. Trying to study intensely without adequate rest is not only unwise, it’s stupid. It is a waste of your time. Take a nap, then start studying when you wake up. Make sure you are eating well too. Many of my friends recommend exercising, I literally didn’t have the time, but I can definitely see the value. Just don’t over do it.

6. Don’t get in your own way. Just accept this fact, you are not going to have a fun summer, or beginning of the year, you just aren’t. If you don’t expect to have a social life, or any life at all while you are studying, then you won’t be let down at the endless hours of studying. Don’t be completely anti-social, some interactions help you feel like a human, but If you know you have a PT to do at night, or early in the morning, don’t spend the whole day doing some rigorous exercise, or the night before pulling an all night drinking binge. Again, waste of your time. I personally found that it helps to keep your box of books in the car. I had issues with remembering all of the different ones I would need for my study sessions. This way, you literally always have something to do, and you can switch around if you get bored with one thing.

7. Start in law school. Figure out your best study style, then apply it to studying for the Bar. E.g. some people love flashcards, others detest them. Know yourself. There are no magic tricks, you just have to put in the hours.

8. Relatedly, take bar courses. I remember as a 1L hearing, “I figure whatever I need to know for the Bar, they will teach me in BarBri.” While this is true, think about the consequences of avoiding Bar courses. Do you remember how convoluted Property seemed, well imagine trying to learn it after just 3 lectures and only a few days to review and practice. It sounds like a nightmare to me. I cannot imagine trying to completely learn a new area of the law in just 12 weeks, which are dedicated to some 15 different subject and 3 different modalities. Be smart. Obviously people pass without taking all the bar courses, but it is my personal belief that this adds unnecessary stress to an already insane situation.

9. Legal experience is invaluable. You need to know how to take law school exams for the essays, but you really need to know what it means to have a client and write legal documents for the PTs. If this sort of thing is already second nature to you, you have an advantage. You still have to be able to follow directions and do exactly what you are being told (be a sheep!), but knowing how to marshall the facts, and apply the law to your client’s situation are things lawyers do, not law students. If you come from a solid lawschool program, you may have regular/non-clinical classes where the profs do a good job preparing you.

10. Know when to call it quits. There are bound to be certain days where you just have a mental block or a nervous breakdown, but make sure these are the exception rather than the rule. You can take days off, but make sure you are pushing yourself the rest of the days. You will undoubtedly surpass any limits you thought you had for how long you can sit in one spot, read one subject, take practice essays, etc. It literally scars your brain and changes you into an even more cynical depressing person, but in a good lawyerly way. It’s like our own private Vietnam.

Lastly, be sure to pay attention especially to Honigsberg. He’s the best. Other profs do an excellent job of teaching you the different subjects (shoutout Schechter, Epstein, Franzese, and Corporations guy with weird intonations), but he nails the psychoemotional and motivational aspects. (Stay in a hotel, buy your lunch in advance, etc. are some of the things Honigsberg will tel you). Lastly, remember, 75% of first time takers from ABA schools pass.

Posted in California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I highly recommend this article, published in the Times on Saturday.  It discusses the terrible position many new law graduates are in, burdened by heavy debt loads and with meager employment prospects.  It also gets into the fuzzy math law schools use when calculating the employment percentages of their recent graduates, in an attempt to hold or improve their positions in the annual US News rankings.  Some highlights:

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too. Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows.

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

Apparently, there is no shortage of 22-year-olds who think that law school is the perfect place to wait out a lousy economy and the gasoline that fuels this system — federally backed student loans — is still widely available. But the legal market has always been obsessed with academic credentials, and today, few students except those with strong grade-point averages at top national and regional schools can expect a come-hither from a deep-pocketed firm. Nearly everyone else is in for a struggle.

Even students with open eyes, though, will have a hard time sleuthing through the U.S. News rankings. They are based entirely on unaudited surveys conducted by each law school, using questions devised by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Given the stakes and given that the figures are not double-checked by an impartial body, each school faces exactly the sort of potential conflict of interest lawyers are trained to howl about.

Critics of the rankings often cast the issue in moral terms, but the problem, as many professors have noted, is structural. A school that does not aggressively manage its ranking will founder, and because there are no cops on this beat, there is no downside to creative accounting. In such circumstances, the numbers are bound to look cheerier, even as the legal market flat-lines.

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

As a recent law school graduate and new attorney, I’ll just offer this advice: Know what you’re getting yourself into.  If you do, you shouldn’t have any complaints once you’re out in the real world.

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Not Good Enough for Starbuck’s

Posted by brightcoast on August 30, 2010

So, lately there has been much ado about law grads and new attorneys having to stoop to the level of getting jobs at coffee shops, ala Starbuck’s and the like. So I decided to check it out.

I applied to be a store manager. In addition to attaching my legal resume, I also wrote about my extensive food service and assistant manager experiences. Starbuck’s additionally requires a 60 minute trial run simulation, which tests out your judgment in hypothetical employee interaction situations, calculating simple math regarding profit-loss statements, answering basic questions about your work history, offering unique ideas in response to challenges or problems presented, and lastly about a 120 question survey regarding your “work style,” with several of the same sorts of thematic questions repeating themselves.

Lo and behold, I completed my application and the simulation, and received a rejection email within hours. Ooooh the burn.

Posted in Americana, California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Hello, Goodbye

Posted by brightcoast on June 4, 2010

Please join me in welcoming our newest blawger, reasonablecause! He is a USD class of 2009 alum, and CA attorney. A more detailed bio will be forthcoming.

Also, this week we all received an email that Dean Cole will be resigning in his capacity as Dean, to return to the faculty. Full article here. I thank Dean Cole for his service over our years at USD Law, and I am sure we all look forward to hearing more about the search process.

Posted in The Law, USD Law | Leave a Comment »

Cattle and Sheep can be so much fun!

Posted by reasonablecause on June 4, 2010

You know, come to think of it, our parents were onto something when they repeatedly scolded us for not following directions.  “Don’t eat that.”  “Don’t break that.”   “Be careful.”  “Stop hitting your brother.”  It just makes sense sometimes to listen to others because you never know when they just might be looking out for your best interests.  So, it makes good sense to heed blatant warnings sometimes.  This particularly holds true when the IRS is the one taking the time to provide the warnings.  So, why not take note the next time you’re fortunate enough to get a letter like this in the mail:

You have been identified as a partner in a tax shelter partnership. We believe that tax shelter deductions and/or credits from such tax shelter partnerships will not be allowable and an examination will be conducted when the returns are filed. 

 So what, who cares.  I mean, of all things, why would you worry about the IRS pursuing you when it expressly tells you that it will?  ?…..(seriously, wtf is wrong with you)…????.  Judge Marvel (U.S. Tax Court) justifiably has a good time here: 

Petitioner is a well-educated financial professional. He holds a master’s degree in business, and his study included classes in accounting. Despite his education and experience, petitioner invested in Durham Shorthorn and Shorthorn Genetic solely on the basis of his conversations with promoters and other Hoyt Farms investors. Petitioner did not do any meaningful due diligence with respect to the partnerships, and he did not consult an independent legal or tax professional before he invested in the partnerships . . . .

The record does not disclose any attempt on petitioner’s part to question or investigate whether it was proper for him to drastically reduce his tax liability by deducting as ordinary losses amounts that vastly exceeded his investment in the partnerships, despite the too-good-to-be-true nature of the transactions.  Petitioner did not even make inquiries after he received notice that the Internal Revenue Service had identified the Hoyt partnerships as abusive tax shelters.

Judge Marvel shows us that Cattle, Sheep and Tax Court can be so much fun.

Posted in The Law | Leave a Comment »

The Rankings Game

Posted by demkid on April 16, 2010

I’m glad so many of you have enjoyed viewing the new 2011 US News Law School Rankings that were posted on Tuesday, some 30 hours before they showed up on the US News site.  Yet again, someone in NYC managed to purchase a hard copy of the magazine well before its official release date, although the time between leak and confirmation was a bit less than last year. 

It’s clear to see how much these rankings are like crack when I look at the number of page views this blog has received in the last few days.  We’re a nation that lives on numbers, whether they come in the form of rankings, public opinion polls, restaurant reviews, or fantasy sports statistics.  We find soccer boring because games are low scoring and the most cited stat is time of possession.  We need to have winners and losers, and we need to know how good something is compared to its counterparts.  To many, these law school rankings mean everything.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the rankings game, because they come out each year and matter so much to so many.  Schools whose ranking has gone up are quick to make this fact known on their websites.  Schools whose ranking has gone down discredit the system as being flawed.  No school can ignore the fact that its reputation depends significantly on the yearly ranking it receives, as many students make their selections almost solely on this number. 

Fair or unfair, it’s the way it is.  Many have attempted to challenge US News by coming up with other ways of ranking the schools, and while these methods may, in fact, be better, the US News methodology maintains its monopoly, and will be the big dog for years to come.  I hadn’t really examined the main arguments against the US News system before, so I took a little time to educate myself.  I started over at the TaxProf Blog, where Paul Caron, as he does every year, ranked the law schools solely on the basis of their academic peer reputation scores.  These scores make up the largest component of the total, and are good because they aren’t manipulable by the individual schools.  However, these scores surely depend to a significant degree on the overall US News rankings themselves, and therefore they don’t fluctuate very much, even when there are improvements in a school’s faculty and/or student quality.  I was then curious about the factors that are manipulable by the individual schools, and was surprised to read this piece by Brian Leiter.

Even putting aside the fact that this formula, with its various weightings, is impossible to rationalize in any principled way, the really striking fact about the U.S. News methodology is surely the following: More than half the criteria-over 54%–that go in to the final score can be manipulated by the schools themselves, either through outright (and undetectable) deceit, or other devices (giving fee waivers to hopeless applicants, employing graduates in temp jobs to boost employment stats, etc.).

This year, for example, everyone seems to be talking about Duke’s 100% employment figure at graduation.  That’s right…every single one of Duke’s ’08 grads had jobs when they graduated (and in an economic downturn, no less!).  I guess we’ll have to take them at their word, because US News doesn’t check these self-reported figures.  It’s also interesting that Chapman University entered the Top 100 this year (for I think, the first time ever), and this could be why: “Chapman University reported 91.1% of its graduates employed at graduation, more than any school ranked between 47 and 100 in U.S. News.”  Even the seemingly non-manipulable figures, like academic peer reputation, can have serious issues:

Some readers may recall that Loyola LA took a plunge last year, when their academic reputation score dropped from 2.6 to 2.3, something which almost never happens.  It turned out the explanation was simple:  U.S. News stopped listing the school by the name everyone in the academy knows it by–Loyola Law School, Los Angeles–and simply listed Loyola Marymount University.  After last year’s fiasco came to light, U.S. News agreed to list the school for purposes of this year’s survey as Loyola Law School again and, lo and behold, its reputation score was 2.6 this year.  If such apparently trivial alterations can affect results so significantly, how much confidence should one have in the reputational results?

For more fascinating tidbits on the US News rankings, I’d highly recommend all of the other posts over at Leiter’s Law School Reports.  While I now have a better understanding of the numerous problems associated with the rankings, I still won’t complain if and when my school continues to move up!  A little data manipulation, and it’s sure to happen!

Posted in Education, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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