Law Schools

While in China, I was told (by both Chinese and American professors) that Chinese students expect you to write recommendation letters that they can place in their permanent files.  For most Chinese professors, these letters are relatively standardized, positive, and done as a matter of course without a lot of individualized attention.   I haven’t been asked to write any letters for my former Chinese students who only plan to continue their education in China, but my recommendation has been sought by a significant number of students who want to study in the United States, Cananda, and the UK.  My former Chinese students are surprised to find that most schools (and LSAC) do not anticipate that students will see their letters of recommendation, and are absolutely shocked that I will not send them my letters of recommendation to them for their review.  They insist that I send them the letter for their review, and when I decline the first assumption is that I’m not understanding their request.  I assure them that I understand their request, but that it is best for them to formally waive their rights to review (e.g., on the LSAC form), and that I would have declined to write them a letter if I could not write a positive recommendation.  I’ve very upfront with my Chinese and American students about whether I believe I can write a good letter on their behalf, as well as strategize what key characteristics I should discuss.  But am I being too conservative here?  Should all my students just be able to see my letters first, and then they can decide whether it enhances their file?

I’m now just exhausted by Law School Rankings and the navel-gazing that is going on in the legal academy.  First, let me point the finger at myself.  I posted rankings and commentary on law school ranking when I ran the Empirical Legal Studies Blog, and have posted rankings on this blog when they promote Vermont Law School.  Second, some information used in such rankings is necessary for prospective students and maybe faculty.  Third, some self-promotion is useful and necessary to attract students, faculty, and scholarly readership.  That’s why law schools make color-glossy viewbooks, faculty are interested in law review rankings, and law prof blogs are quite popular.

But now it’s simply gotten out of hand.  There are so many lists–Law school and faculty scholarly rankings by U.S. News and World Report, Brian Leiter, Gregory Sisk, Gordon Hylton, Cooley Law School, Roger Williams Law, Princeton Review, SSRN, and a new one by Forbes.  Did I miss anyone? (Note: I decline to provide links to these.)

Many of these rankings don’t provide the individualized information that any prospective students need.  Or, perhaps better stated, do prospective students know how to interpret data that might be useful to them?  E.g., if I go to “X Law School” will it help me get the type of job I want in the geographic location I desire?  There are exceptions.  As an example some data that I would have found useful, Leiter’s information on “Where Current Law Faculty Went to Law School” would be quite useful if you want to be a law professor.

This now leads me to the potential erosion of faculty scholarship, which is already under enough criticism.  Here, I’ll pick on three friends and colleagues rather than people I don’t know (so they can simply and comfortably call me up and argue with me; though I’ll link to their work since ‘any PR is good PR’).  Professor Gregory Sisk has written an article “Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties: Extending the Leiter Rankings to the Top 70.” It’s received a gazillion SSRN hits (now more that I’ve linked to it), tons of blog commentary, and, I have little doubt, is high-end methodology given what I know about Greg’s other work.  Similar, Paul Secunda wrote “Tales of a Law Professor Lateral Nothing.”  Once again, if you write articles about rankings, faculty hiring, citation downloads, or degrees of separation from Cass Sunstein (here picking on my friend Tracey George, who is an absolute first rate scholar and methodologist), the blogosphere explodes, your citation counts increase, and your self-promotion is successful.  I ask quite calmly and seriously ask, what is the goal of such work?  And for what audience?

So here’s my point: We need to make rankings, to the extent they are created, useful for students, and be careful not to let legal educational structure be dictated by overall rankings as it may impair educational quality.  Second, while we live in a self-promoting world, I think we need to have a thoughtful discussion about the goals and scholarly value of essentially ranking and writing about law professors.

UPDATE: It was just pointed pointed out to me that “if [my] blog post is taken seriously, that will just mean more SSRN articles about rankings!”  True enough.  I give up.

UPDATE 2: Another person pointed out to me: “If you hate law school rankings, and especially if you hate the U.S. News ranking, then you should wish for more law school rankings.  Only by a proliferation of metrics and evaluations and surveys that address a diversity of law school characteristics and elements, allow each person to consider the individual rather than a conglomerated whole, will the U.S. News stranglehold on the law school ranks be broken.  And each additional ranking has the effect of diluting the others, thus making each new addition less important and less powerful than what went before.”

(1) Justice Scalia in Milwaukee where he spoke at the opening of the new Marquette University Law School building.  In his speech, Scalia stressed the impact of teaching over scholarship for law school professors.  He said, “The reality is that the part of your academic career that will have the most lasting impact and that will be remembered after you are long gone is those hours you spent producing a living intellectual legacy in the classroom.”  The annual discussion of the value of legal scholarship seems to have begun, as other blogs have been debating the article, Preaching What They Don’t Practice: Why Law Faculties’ Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship. Why does everything have to be so black and white?  We should all strive to be great teachers, and write different forms of scholarship that are of value to various audiences.

(2) VT Democratic Governor Recount Underway.  Don’t plan on going to the county courthouses to turn in your passport applications or do other business; they’re busy recounting ballots.

(3) Politics: Obama Speaks Out Against Pastor’s Plan to Burn Koran and Chicago’s Mayor Daley not running for re-election.

(4) BP takes some of the blame for the Gulf Oil Spill…maybe.  See here.

(5) Montpelier, Vermont, first state capitol to adopt “sustainable” master plan.

My former institution Marquette University, where I spent four years teaching, has opened it’s new law school building.  See article and photos here.

Prawfsblawg has begun their annual Law School Hiring Thread.  The thread asks law professor candidates to provide info on (a) whether they have received a first round interview at a school, and if the school mentioned the areas they were looking into, and whether the interview offer was accepted; (b)  a callback from a law school and/or accepted it; and (c) whether they have received an offer from a law school and/or accepted it.

The University of Colorado Law School seeks applicants for a clinical faculty position in its Natural Resources Clinic.  The Clinic was one of the first of its kind in the country, having been founded in 1978.  Originally housed at the National Wildlife Federation, the Clinic came in-house to Colorado Law in Spring 2010.  The incoming clinical faculty member will be responsible for developing a docket of projects dealing with natural resources issues.  The faculty member will also have primary responsibility for supervising students in their case or project work, and for organizing and teaching a companion clinical seminar.

Candidates must have a JD degree and a minimum of five years practical experience.  Prior teaching experience is strongly preferred.  Candidates must be licensed to practice law in at least one state and be eligible to sit either for the Colorado bar or waive admission into Colorado.

To apply, candidates should mail a letter describing their interest, their initial thoughts on the kinds of projects they would develop for the clinic, relevant practice experience, and any prior teaching experience, along with a resume and the names of three references to Deborah J. Cantrell, Associate Professor & Director of Clinical Programs, University of Colorado Law School, Wolf Law Building, 404 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0404.  The deadline for applications is October 24, 2010.  Teaching will begin August 2011.  Colorado Law is an equal opportunity employer.

Executive Director, Water in the West, Stanford University

The Program on Water in the West (“Water in the West”) is a joint research effort between the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Bill Lane Center for the American West launched in 2010. It represents a strategically designed set of research and policy initiatives to develop and demonstrate solutions to major water challenges facing the western United States that are sustainable from economic, ecological, political, institutional, and equitable perspectives. In its initial years, Water in the West will focus on three main research areas:

• Better management of groundwater, including groundwater banking, and of surface and groundwater interactions • Development of metrics and design performance measurement systems or “dashboards” (along with the filling of data gaps) needed to effectively guide and drive efforts in California and the remainder of the West to move toward more sustainable water systems, and • Expanded and improved water reuse, including use of reclaimed water for irrigation and watershed restoration.

The executive director of the Program on Water in the West is the chief executive officer of this research initiative. As such, s/he will provide strategic leadership and management direction to all stakeholders in the project.

Job Description

The Executive Director will have principal responsibility for:

1. Leading Water in the West in developing a strategic plan and overseeing its implementation with individual research track leads.

2. Managing fundraising efforts

3. Managing the research budget and accountability for budgets to all funding sources 4. Creating and overseeing a communications strategy 5. Serving as a liaison to the press and Western water community to communicate the research program and results, as well as to find real-world applications of the work 6. Approving hires and overseeing the work of Water in the West staff personnel; managing and coordinating the efforts of participating and affiliated faculty and graduate students

Time permitting, the Executive Director will also engage in research and the authoring of reports within Water in the West’s three focal areas.

The Executive Director will report to the directors of the Woods Institute and the Bill Lane Center for the American West. All staff associated with Water in the West will report to the Executive Director.  The Executive Director will be an employee of Stanford University, and based at Stanford, but will likely also spend some time off-site in the West communicating with and engaging stakeholders in the agriculture, policy, environmental, and water management communities.

Professional Qualifications

1. Demonstrated success as an inspirational leader with experience leading a team, keeping strategic focus, building consensus, and thinking big; director-level work experience in the non-profit, public, or private sectors preferred 2. Significant experience working on Western water issues and strong relationships with key constituencies and stakeholders, preferably in California 3. A demonstrated ability to navigate through complex partnerships in a diplomatic manner 4. Strong record of collaborative and relentless fundraising 5. The flexibility to travel regionally Personal Attributes 1. Strong interpersonal skills to inspire trust and motivate team members and external stakeholders 2. Practical bent with a focus on applied solutions and turning ideas into action 3. Ability to communicate effectively with a range of people from different environments, sectors, and society 4. Willingness to listen to others and learn from their best ideas, intellectual curiosity, approachability, and openness to input from all levels of staff and a variety of external stakeholders 5. Superb professional presence, with a proven ability to write and speak effectively 6. Ability to manage a budget Education and Experience Requirements:

Advanced degree required in relevant area. Three to five years experiencing working on Western water issues required.

Compensation for the Executive Director includes a competitive base salary and an excellent package of employee and health benefits.

Interested candidates can submit a cover letter, resume, and reference list (of at least three individuals) online at, job identification number 39085.

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty and staff. It welcomes nominations of and applications from women and minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research, teaching and clinical missions.

I just posted that Vermont Law School is hiring this year, and PrawfsBlawg is compiling a list of this year’s hiring chairs, but I want to know who is hiring in environmental and natural resources law specifically.  Given the Vermont Law School’s #1 ranking in environmental law, we’re often solicited for suggestions by folks at other schools about potential environmental law candidates, and we know many candidates who are in search of environmental law academic positions.

Thus, law school hiring committee members, please announce your available positions in the comments if you are considering hiring in the areas of environmental and/or natural respources law.  Please also feel free to share who else is on your hiring committee.

It’s official.  Vermont Law School is hiring new faculty this year.

Vermont Law School is seeking several colleagues to join our dynamic and committed faculty. Our curricular needs are varied and include first-year and advanced subjects. We will consider experienced faculty, entry-level candidates, and candidates with significant experience in government, consulting, business, NGO management, or law firm administration and leadership.

Candidates should show a commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. Vermont Law School is committed to establishing and maintaining a diverse faculty and encourages applications from members of historically underrepresented groups.

Faculty at Vermont Law School take seriously our mission to educate lawyers for the community and the world and believe that our scholarship, teaching, and service should be meaningful and relevant to the local, national, and international communities. VLS is unique among law schools. We are on the cutting edge of environmental and international law and social policy. We embody the spirit of Vermont—independence and diversity in people and in politics. We have the good fortune to be located in a state and region that offer numerous opportunities for engaged participation in civic life as well as a life style found at few, if any, other law schools.

Applicants should provide a cover letter and resume. Electronic applications are preferred and should be e-mailed to: Hard copy applications should be sent to: Coordinator, Faculty Appointments Committee, Vermont Law School, P.O. Box 96, South Royalton, VT 05068.

We’d love to get some great applicants, and then you can join me and my colleagues on our afternoon hikes up Kent’s Ledge.

Professors Czarnezki, Nolon and McCann on Kent's Ledge

Professors Czarnezki, Nolon and McCann on Kent's Ledge

Once again Prawfsblawg is compiling a list of Law School Faculty Hiring Chairs.

Vermont Law School is hiring this year.  Our Faculty Appointments Commitee (entry and lateral) is chaired by Michael McCann of sports law fame.  Other members of the Committee include Jason Czarnezki (me), Stephanie Farrior, Oliver Goodenough, Cheryl Hanna, Mark Latham, and Marc Mihaly.  If interested, please send an email with cover letter and CV to

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