Category Archives: Law School

MiamiLaw Student Wins National Writing Award

Congratulations to Elizabeth Montano, whose note The Bring Your Own Tampon Policy: Why Menstrual Hygiene Products Should Be Provided for Free in Restrooms is one of ten student papers to receive a Burton Distinguished Legal Writing Award. The Burton Awards are a “Non-Profit, Non-Commercial program, held in Association with the Library of Congress, with Lead Sponsor Law360 and Co-Sponsored by the American Bar Association.”

Posted in Law School, U.Miami | Leave a comment

I Think You Can == Good Pedagogy

Via Slashdot,

A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. [Note: Link didn’t work for me, article may not be generally available yet.] The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student’s intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years’ worth of students’ grades in those instructors’ classes, covering a total of 15,000 students.

Via Ars Technica:

The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by “growth mindset” instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes — not the instructors’ experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students’ intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect.

The students’ course evaluations contain possible clues. Students reported less “motivation to do their best work” in the classes taught by fixed mindset professors, and they also gave lower ratings for a question about whether their professor “emphasize[d] learning and development.” Students were less likely to say they’d recommend the professor to others, as well. Is it possible that the fixed mindset professors just happen to teach the hardest classes? The student evaluations also include a question about how much time the course required — the average answer was slightly higher for fixed mindset professors, but the difference was not statistically significant. Instead, the researchers think the data suggests that — in any number of small ways — instructors who think their students’ intelligence is fixed don’t keep their students as motivated, and perhaps don’t focus as much on teaching techniques that can encourage growth. And while this affects all students, it seems to have an extra impact on underrepresented minority students.

I wonder how this applies in law schools?

Posted in Law School | Leave a comment

We Have an Opening for a Dean

Dean Patricia White is stepping down after a long run as Dean, which means there’s an opening. The official advertisement is here. Personally I’d love to see a candidate who had a theory about how law schools will deal with the coming AI revolution.

I think our Deanship is a surprisingly attractive one given the times. The school navigated the financial side of the enrollment crisis with relative dexterity, and kept up the credentials of our incoming classes. The physical plant is not exceptional, but it works. And there are lot of faculty and students doing interesting and even important things. From here it seems we’re in considerably better shape than a number of our peers. And there’s a lot of going on in the University generally and also in Miami the city.

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Dean White Will Step Down After 10 Years as Law Dean

Here’s the official letter from the Provost:

October 31, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Patricia White informed me a few weeks ago of her decision to step down as dean of the School of Law after serving 10 years in that capacity at Miami, and 10 years at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Now that she has told her faculty and staff, I would like to share this news with the University community and thank Trish for her tireless work as dean of Miami Law.

As dean, Trish has deftly navigated the challenges facing law schools and higher education across the country. While her expertise is vast, throughout her career she has demonstrated a steadfast focus on four key areas: students, the transformation of legal education, the interdisciplinary role of law, and public service. These longstanding commitments are reflected in many of the innovative programs and accomplishments established during her time at our law school. This includes recruiting a new generation of excellent faculty and very fine students.

We anticipate that Trish will serve as Dean until June 2019 and will remain on the law faculty. We are beginning the search process for her successor. We have begun to solicit proposals from major search firms, will soon name members of the Search Committee, and feel that we are well positioned to launch a successful national search for the next leader of our law school. Details about the search committee will be released soon.

We are deeply grateful to Trish for her dedicated service to our students, our law school, and our University. Please join me in thanking her and wishing her well.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.

Which means….we’ll be doing a Dean search.  One of my former colleagues once said that doing a Dean search is a bit like chewing aluminum foil.  And he had a point…

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Student Debt Growing Quickly

I never used to worry about the morality of teaching in a private law school. But as the debt burden grew on students, I began to worry, and charts like this one from Naked Capitalism make me worry even more.

Unfortunately, many public law schools now charge comparable tuition (but some still don’t).

In any case, student debt of this magnitude is not sustainable, and even if it were the drag on people’s futures and life choices seems excessive. I think the first part of the answer is to bring down the cost of public college: we should return to the era, not so long ago, where you could pretty much finance your college education from a summer job.

Law school prices may still be too high even in that scenario, but at least the overall consequences for students wouldn’t be as bad.

What we do with the debt overhang, meanwhile, is a wicked problem. To simply forgive the debt would be a windfall for the debtors. As a taxpayer, I could live with that; the problem that bugs me is that it seems so unfair to the people who didn’t borrow or who paid down their debt, and those who made sacrifices to finance education or chose less-expensive and perhaps lesser alternatives…or who chose to forgo education entirely.

Posted in Econ & Money, Law School | 3 Comments

Florida Bar Pass Rates July 2018

UM did fine; the news is the crash over at neighboring law schools, notably Nova Southeastern, Stetson, and Barry. What happened? (In reading this list I would not read much into small differences in pass rates; but big differences (over 10%, maybe; certainly over 20%, and likely less) do mean something.)

This year’s bar was tough, with the lowest pass rate on the multistate in 34 years. In that environment, UM’s 83.2% is credible, given that we have a lot more bar-takers than our close competitors, even if it is still lower than I would like.

The shockers on this list are Nova and Stetson and Barry.  Nova had an 86% pass rate in 2009, and almost 81% in 2010; last year was 70.2.  Where are they now? At 42.9%.  What happened?

Stetson, once the #1 or #2 in the State, and  at least  in the high 70s or low 80s less than 10 years ago, was 76.8% last year, and suffered less this year, but it was down to only 67.2%. These are schools that are (were?) known for solid teaching of doctrinal law, for producing reliable local practitioners year after year, if perhaps not for being national or especially academic in their ambitions.  Barry, which not long ago was comfortably in the mid-70% range,  and got 58.9% last year, cratered too, to 45.5%. Indeed both Barry and Nova were below Florida A&M, and FAMU’s 58.5 score wasn’t much to cheer about.

There won’t be much happiness at the University of Florida. They have a fine program, and students with excellent credentials, and yet only 70.9% passed? A blip, I trust.

I’ve long said that Bar pass rates are over-rated as a measure of law school quality. But, as I also said back then,

[T]here certainly comes a point where a substantially lower bar pass rate than other schools in the state is a sign of a problem that a law school should work to fix. Most people come to law school in order to become lawyers. If they can’t pass the bar, at least on second try, in most cases they have wasted large amounts of time and money. If this is happening to a substantial fraction of the class, and it isn’t happening nearly as much in other law schools in the same state, then something is wrong either with the teaching, the work ethic, or with the admission policy. Note that the latter may not be the school’s direct fault: as there are more and more law schools it becomes increasingly likely that some schools simply are unable to attract enough students with enough discipline or talent, which puts pressure on the school to either teach to the bar, or to flunk a greater fraction of the entering students.

I’m not sure where that point is exactly, but surely a 42.9% pass rate is below it, and probably 62% also, unless the school is self-consciously taking risks on admissions in order to further a social goal (which arguably describes FAMU) — and the students understand this going in.

I’m glad we as a school did well; I feel sorry for everyone at every school who tried hard and failed. Anyone can fail the bar once; many of you will pass on second try, if you work hard again.

Posted in Florida, Law School | 2 Comments