Archive | Legal Professor

Economists as Cheapskates? Law Professors as Conference Seekers of Golf and Surfing?

The Wall Street Journal has an entertaining article on the front page (Justin Lahart, Jan. 2, 2010), recounting tales of economists as hard bargainers and, well, cheapskates.  The article opens noting that the annual professional meetings occur the week after New Year, when hotel costs are generally low, and this year are taking place in Atlanta:

Academic economists gather in Atlanta this weekend for their annual meetings, always held the first weekend after New Year’s Day. That’s not only because it coincides with holidays at most universities. A post-holiday lull in business travel also puts hotel rates near the lowest point of the year.

Economists are often cheapskates.

The economists make cities bid against each other to hold their convention, and don’t care so much about beaches, golf courses or other frills. It’s like buying a car, explains the American Economic Association’s secretary-treasurer, John Siegfried, an economist at Vanderbilt University.

The rest of the article has entertaining stories of people like Keynes and Milton Friedman.  But let me stick with professional conferences.  We law professors are also holding professional conventions this week, as are many other academic groups, such as the MLA.  Price is part of the timing; so is, as the article notes, the general agreement to schedule academic calendars across the country’s institutions in order to hold the professional meetings before classes resume.

Update: I didn’t realize that this economics conference is also a job market and not just professional confab – definitely changes the picture.  Here is an interesting comment, pulled up from below:

As someone pretty close to the economics AEA meetings, I think the article misses the point about these meetings: they aren’t in fancy places because a huge swath of attendees are graduate students doing job market interviews. These students basically have

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B+

I am delighted to say that President Obama has supplied me with what to say to students coming to complain about receiving a B+ in my classes – a semi-regular occurrence, in these days of grade inflation.  (I have a sneaky feeling that my student evaluations are going to take a nosedive this term, having advised the students that I had allowed the curve to creep up too high in the last couple of years, and that I intended to “take the liquidity out of the Anderson grading supply.”  I explained this in great detail in the first week of class, when there was still time to drop, and even earlier in a pre-enrollment memo, but clearly not everyone believed it.)  However, if Professor Obama awards himself a B+ for his first year, how can my students not be pleased with one from Professor Anderson for their accomplishments this term? […]

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Reading While Traveling, Hard Copy and No Internet

I’ve been traveling recently, and so have been away from posting.  One of the enforced virtues of traveling – one of the few virtues of traveling for me these days – is the plane flight with no internet.  And if the big guy in front of me reclines his seat, as he always does, I can’t even get to my computer.  So I read  on flights.  I should have some reading gadget, Kindle or whatever, but I’m not that far along yet, and for that matter I should get an economy class friendly little word-processor to use on flights, but I’m cheap.  Here’s a selection across the varied reading on my flights.  No particular theme or order, I’m afraid (on account of the mixed-up topics here, I think I won’t open to comments; too jumbled to be productive). […]

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Textbook Suggestions for IL Law & Econ Elective?

I’ve been asked to step in and teach a 1L elective course on law and economics this spring, covering for a colleague who has taken a high level economics post in the administration.  I have to pick a textbook very soon.  The course is for second semester 1Ls, and my goal is to attract 1Ls who did not major in business or economics as undergrads, and make it comprehensible to them.

That means that I don’t want it to be super-math heavy.  It also needs to focus around the 1L courses that they’ve been taking – antitrust and IP and my own corporate finance won’t work, because they come in later years, and so it needs to focus around contracts, tort, property, criminal law.  In addition, it is only a two unit, once a week class, so it can’t cover vast swathes of material, and in fact very far from it.  I’ve never taught the basic, intro law and econ class before, and I’ve never taught 1Ls, so it should be an exciting pedagogical experience – for me, at least!  I’d be grateful for suggestions in two categories:

  • Main text – please tell me why this would be a useful textbook, given my constraints above.
  • Supplemental texts, such as short introductions on game theory, statistics, supplemental readings on law and econ, etc., but specifically with law students in mind.
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A New Soros Initiative on the Economics Profession?

Michael Hersh describes a new $50 million George Soros initative to try and remake the economics profession so to reclaim it from “free market fundamentalists.”  The fund will be run by Robert Johnson, formerly a managing director of Soros Fund Management; it hopes to raise $200 million in matching funds.  (H/T Instapundit; also Mark N is right in the first comment to raise Cato as a better point of comparison in the (lengthy) discussion below the fold.)

Large swaths of economics are going to have to be rethought on the basis of what’s happened.” So said Larry Summers, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, in an interview in the weeks after the markets crashed a year ago. Yet to a remarkable degree, economic thinking hasn’t changed very much at all.

Now financier George Soros is announcing a $50 million effort to speed things along. This week Soros is gathering some of the leading practitioners of the market-skeptic school, who were marginalized during the era of “free-market fundamentalism,” among them Nobelists Joseph Stiglitz, George Akerlof, Michael Spence, and Sir James Mirrlees. He’s also creating an “Institute for New Economic Thinking” to make research grants, convene symposiums, and establish a journal, all in an effort to take back the economics profession from the champions of free-market zealotry who have dominated it for decades, and to correct the failures of decades of market deregulation. Soros hopes matching funds will bring the total endowment up to $200 million. “Economics has failed not only to predict and explain what happened but has also failed to protect society,” says Robert Johnson, a former managing director at Soros Fund Management, who will direct the new institute. “That’s what the crisis revealed. The paradigm has failed. There is no guidance.”

I am curious what professional and academic economists […]

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Paul Caron on Drivers of Law School Cost from GAO Report

Paul Caron, at TaxProf, has posted some executive summary parts and the link to a GAO report on drivers of law school cost as well as minority enrollment.  Regarding costs of legal education, the GAO summary says:

According to law school officials, the move to a more hands-on, resource-intensive approach to legal education and competition among schools for higher rankings appear to be the main factors driving the cost of law school, while ABA accreditation requirements appear to play a minor role. Additionally, officials at public law schools reported that recent decreases in state funding are a contributor to rising tuition at public schools.

Very interesting post over at TaxProfBlog – the screen shots include a number of powerpoint charts and graphs from the GAO report.  I agree with the GAO report and its surveyed law school officials that accreditation plays very little role in driving up law school costs, and that rankings are an important driver.  They are also an important driver in things schools spend money on that drive up costs, such as faculty student ratios, for example.

I also believe, however – but wouldn’t try to defend here – that law schools respond to the availability of federal dollars and capture that money from students, and that law school tuition rates reflect perceptions of the return on investment available to students in going to work for law firms.  At least in my discussions with fellow professors who have some idea about law school economics, the thought is that mid tier schools found that they could place more of their students into large law firms, not necessarily the very top firms, but large workhorse firms that paid well.

And in my discussions with professors, the concerns are two-fold.  First, that if the big law model is genuinely collapsing […]

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Legal Scholarship in the Internet Age

That was the subject of a recent symposium at Denver University’s law school. The DU Law Review’s online publication, DUProcess, published several short articles on the topic.  I wrote on Connecting Laypeople with the Law Through Blogs, and began: “Blogging is creating a Golden Age of legal scholarship.  For the first time in the memory of any living person, legal scholarship is now connecting with an audience beyond the world of law professors and legal professionals.” I argued that law blogging provides readers with much better coverage of important appellate cases than does the MSM, and as an example pointed to Dale Carpenter’s VC posts on gay marriage cases. I also suggested that comment threads on legal blogs provide people with an opportunity that, in the olden days, mostly belonged only to on-campus law students: having a serious, enjoyable pro/con discussion of legal issues. Checking on Westlaw, I found that of the 291 law review citations to the Volokh Conspiracy, five were to comments. Lastly, I suggest that law blogging continues a salutrary trend which began nearly four centuries ago:

Starting around 1250, courts in England began operating in French.  After hundreds of years, the legal language had turned into something called “law French,” which was a confusing amalgam of English and of a French that no French person would ever speak. The new American colonists jettisoned law French.  In America, the law was stated positively in statutes written in straightforward English comprehensible to ordinary people.

The writing of statutes in plain English was one of the methods by which the Americans ensured that the law was under the control of the people, rather than imposed from above.  One of the causes for the cynicism which many modern Americans feel about government in general, and law in particular,

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