Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Total law school applicants now up 3.4% from December 2014...

...according to LSAC.  This is consistent with my earlier forecast, indicating, yet again, that we've arrived at a new normal level for enrollments, and may even see a slight increase in the next couple of years.

December 16, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Monday, December 14, 2015

Promotional Feature: Makeover for Statutory Supplements is Long Overdue (Michael Simkovic)

In the era of Google Maps, instant language translation, and digital music libraries, law students still spend countless hours flipping pages to find the right subclause or definition in a statute. This process can and should be automated.

Computerized calculations have liberated STEM students from tedious, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the more intellectually simulating and creative aspects of math, science and engineering. Word processing software has freed us all from applying whiteout and waiting for it to dry and from manually retyping manuscripts to correct a few errors. This has enabled us to focus on our ideas and not the mechanics of fixing them permanently on paper.

Law is an inherently conservative field, focused on precedent, tradition, and risk avoidance. But when the case for change is compelling, we are prepared to try new tools.

I’ve been thinking about the problems of statutory interpretation for years and how automation could streamline the process. I’m very excited to announce a new electronic statutory supplement, LawEdge. (Full disclosure: I helped develop it).

LawEdge aims to do for statutory interpretation what the calculator did for mathematics.

The U.S. Code includes thousands of defined terms.   A reader must understand what each of the defined terms means to understand the meaning of each provision containing those defined terms.

Unfortunately, defined terms are not always clearly labeled.  Even when defined terms are labeled as defined terms, understanding one provision may require flipping back and forth to several other locations in the code.  This process can be slow and cumbersome with paper statutes.  Even electronic statutes often will not take users to the precise location in the code where a definition appears, but will instead take readers to a the section containing the definition, forcing readers to search for the definition.

LawEdge makes working with defined terms simple and easy. Defined terms are clearly labeled. Clicking on a defined term generates a popup window showing its meaning.  Definitions are also hyperlinked to their meaning.

Definitions are context-specific and do not apply to all sections of the code. For example, the definition of “property” in Section 317(a) of the Internal Revenue Code does not apply to Section 351 of the same title. LawEdge recognizes context and links definitions appropriately.

LawEdge is easy to navigate. For example, suppose that you wish to read § 21(b)(2)(B). With a paper statutory supplement, you could flip to section 21, then look for subsection (b), then read down to paragraph (2) and finally find subparagraph (B). The entire process might take 30 seconds, and along the way you might accidentally look at the wrong provision. With LawEdge, this process is nearly instantaneous and error free. You would simply type s21b2b in the search bar. This feature works all the way down to the subclause level.

Browsing a statute is also easier and more intuitive. Structural components are color coded to be more recognizable.

The underlying technology is algorithmic, which means it is easy to update and support as the U.S. Code changes.

Ebooks are available for Bankruptcy and Tax  for those who would like to try this new technology. I used BankruptcyEdge  successfully in my class this fall.

LawEdge has all of the benefits of paper—notes, highlights, bookmarks, offline access—and many advantages only available electronically. It can be used on exams with the latest version of ExamSoft, which offers on option to only block internet access but not the hard drive.  

If you’re interested in trying it for your class, please feel free to contact me for an evaluation copy.

December 14, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink

Media Law Scholars Discuss The New York Times and Defamation Law (Michael Simkovic)

A recent New York Times editorial attacking law school as “a scam” was widely criticized because of its exaggerations and factual inaccuracies (here and here). The dean of Florida Coastal, which The New York Times specifically targeted for opprobrium, wrote  “the Times is saying something demonstrably false and which had not been properly fact checked. . . . [T]he Times could have had [accurate information] if it had simply asked. . . the Times . . . misled its readership by failing to properly fact check.”

Felix Salmon, contemplating recent journalistic controversies, argues that fundamental problems with journalistic methods lead errors to go undetected and unchallenged. According to Salmon, the risk is particularly high when errors originate with a powerful newspaper like The New York Times.   Glenn Greenwald similarly notes the alarming pervasiveness of factual errors by respected media organizations, and how consumers rarely spot these errors  unless they personally have intimate knowledge of the subject of the article—for example because they are the subject. A large survey found that news sources rarely correct errors because they believe that journalists ignore serious mistakes. Sources also fear that if they push for a correction, the media will retaliate.

To better understand the press’s incentives to carefully research their stories, I asked leading media law scholars to discuss whether The New York Times law school editorial raised any legal issues. According to both my Seton Hall colleague Thomas Healy and Howard Wasserman of Florida International, The New York Times has little reason to fear liability, even if it negligently supplies information that is poorly researched, misleading, or harmful.

Howard M. Wasserman, Professor of Law, FIU College of Law

Facts, Damn Facts, and Statistics (full analysis):

Neither Florida Coastal School of Law nor its owner, InfiLaw, has threatened to sue The Times for defamation over its October 24 op-ed. Any such lawsuit would be futile in the face of stringent First Amendment protections against defamation liability. . . . 

Continue reading

December 14, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Minnesota Law Dean David Wippman to be the new President of Hamilton College in New York

Hamilton's news release here.

(Thanks to Blog Emperor Caron for the pointer.)

December 12, 2015 in Faculty News | Permalink

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Most cited property scholars in recent years

Here.  Prof. Clowney tells me, however, that he didn't check for false positives, which might have mattered in some cases.  Also, some of the most cited faculty are now emeritus (e.g., Peggy Radin, Bob Ellickson).

December 10, 2015 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

The M&A Boom (Michael Simkovic)

White & CaseBloomberg, and MarketWatch discuss the booming market for mergers and acquisitions.

December 10, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession | Permalink

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Texas A&M Law lowers and "locks" in tuition for continuing students

Story here.  That's a shrewd move, which should help the school quickly become competitive with and perhaps overtake the other public law schools in Texas outside Austin (faculty appointments in the last year or so have already closed the gap on the faculty front).

December 9, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

LSAC responds to "Law School Transparency's" misrepresentation of LSAT data

Here.  Once upon a time, LST did useful work, but starting around 2012 (and accelerating in 2013), they've become progressively irresponsible and unreliable.  A shame.

ADDENDUM:  I neglected to note that Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall) also discussed this issue last week!

December 9, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Harvard Law School students "make demands"

The full list is here.  I am certain the Law School will not meet most of them, since many involve misconceptions about where decision-making authority resides in an academic institution.

December 8, 2015 in Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

Numerical credentials of law school applicants this fall up "significantly" from last year

Derek Muller (Pepperdine) comments.

December 8, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings, Student Advice | Permalink