Saturday, February 17, 2007

 

U.S. News rankings and innovation


In about a month and a half, the new U.S. News rankings of law schools will come out. I wish they rewarded innovation in teaching and scholarship, but (as I have written on the Law School Innovation Blog) I fear that they don't.

Comments:
Why, Haiku Friday alone should boost Baylor Law School up a couple of notches. And consider these other things:

1. The Anna Nicole Smith Sippy Jugg
2. Dedicated Regent Parking
3. Creative Prom Dining
4. No wintery mix days!
5. The bear (bare?) statue out front, which is really a super-hero crime fighter
6. Millard Fillmore
7. Official Foosball Tournaments
 
We could move up the ranks fairly quickly if there were just fewer schools in front of of us. I hear that Yale place has got some real crazies, but I bet we could off Harvard easy. They'd never even see it coming.

If only we still had the feral bears to eat the evidence.
 
Excellent plans!
 
I just looked at your other post and saw that Berman is on that site too. I have heard you talk about him in class as the go-to sentencing guy. I was shocked to see he has only been a professor for 10 years and even more so when I saw how much he had been published. Why is it that a guy who has been teaching for only ten years already has more publications than probably any faculty at our school?

Not only has he been published that much but he is also an innovator in terms of legal scholarship. Isn't that what we should strive for instead of just trying to re-write the rules.

When we tank on the rankings this time around, which everyone knows is coming, isn't the fact that a man teaching ten years at Ohio State has already outpaced probably every single, save Prof. Ad Law maybe, professor in our school?
 
See, I'm telling y'all, we need to get some feral bears, haul them down to UT Law and just let nature take its course.
 
Do you have any idea how much more teaching we do than anyone else? Being on quarters, with one summer off every three years, with constant grading to do, makes scholarship pretty hard. My classmates who teach at other schools usually teach at most two classes a semester, have every summer off, and one semester off every two to four years as well. When I tell people from other schools that I have four classes this quarter, including practice court most afternoons, they are, well, pretty surprised. In short, if we were to have the chance to write like that we would either have to (in the absence of a huge donation) have higher tuition, much larger classes, or both.

Doug has produced a lot by anyone's standards, of course, and he is very, very good at both teaching and writing-- he is exceptional even at an institution which offers those advantages for its faculty. For what it is worth, over the past year I have done the writing on our sentencing briefs and argued the cases, and he has been the amicus, in five courts of appeal. If I had a choice, I would probably trade the 20-40 hours a week I spend supervising practice court exercises for the chance to write and influence policy, but those types of trade-offs aren't possible right now at Baylor.
 
what Baylor needs is some major news source to embed a reporter in BLS for a quarter and write ethnographically about why this is one of the most challenging schools in the country.

i have talked to students at columbia, harvard, and ut law (all top 10 schools) as well as students from the other Texas law schools- we are worked harder than all of them. when i share stories about the depth of assignments, scope of tests and abscence of outlines in those tests, and punitive research memos two things happen 1.) their jaws drop and 2.) they have nothing similar to respond with.

making it through BLS is a huge accomplishment, we are being equipped to kick some serious ass in the legal world, we just don't get the props we deserve since the school's alumni and therefore our reputation is localized in Texas.
 
At any rate, we DO need more teachers at BLS.
 
One of the stupid thing about these ratings is that they count "endowment" and financial support in general as a major factor. So places like U.Va. get great rankings, despite the thing that the hardest thing about that place is getting in.

Another silly factor is student/teacher ratio, when a lot of the profs at many "highly ranked" schools don't even teach.
 
Who cares that we work harder. That is just a badge but does nothing for us in terms of ranking or job placement (if you look at the numbers). I think it does help in terms of passing the bar but anyone at Baylor would rather be at a top 10 school where your degree is worth more and you are treated with respect than at Baylor.

As far as Baylor being a "teaching school" and that our tuition would have to increase a lot to make scholarship possible, our tuition has and is going through the roof. What are we getting in return? Sippy cups, breakfast at night, and some other cosmetic changes. On top of that, what about professors who are not good teachers--what is the benefit to the student of a teacher who does no scholarship and is a bad teacher... Nothing! I am tired of being told over and over at Baylor that so much is expected from us but Professor think they are overworked because they have to teach two sections of the same class four days a week (practice court professors aside).

Students leave Baylor knowing full well that their donation, if they choose to give one, is doing nothing to increase the prestige of the school. We bought a new buiding yes and brought in some new teachers (one of which is fantastic) but we have fallen in rankings every years I have been here. So while professors at lower ranked schools swear rankings do not matters. Just go to OCI at UT and see that firms there take top 30% and at Baylor only the top 10%.
 
I agree with the other posters that Baylor Law deserves defending! We work hard here, honestly, to raise our ranking, it seems all we need to do is to increase the median LSAT of our entering class 4-5 points. I went to an undergraduate institution, Wabash College, that was ranked similarly to Baylor Law, at the "bottom" of the "First Tier"- for the same reasons that Baylor is. Their standards were rigorous for admission, but not impossible, and the professors focused more on teaching than on writing academic articles- not to negate the importance of scholarship. However, I feel that we are getting a better deal here at Baylor, as we are getting instructors who are focused on teaching us the law, rather than focusing on scholarship, to the detriment of their students.

Thank You,
Jacob George Straub
 
I disagree w/ anon. I would much rather have good professors who are dedicated to teaching than easy job prospects like UT grads. That would by why I chose to go to a small law school. You can't expect BLS to draw the same endowment $ or hordes of recruiters that a state school like UT can.

Probably UT students can't just wander into faculty offices for a conversation the way we can or get challenged as thoroughly as we do. There is a lot to be said for a school, or any life experience, that really tests your limits. I'm up for personal growth over having a job fall into my lap.

Besides, it's not that bad. We get jobs, it just takes a little work. I'm bottom-half of my class but I've had some awesome interviews and good job prospects. The admin has come a lot further than most school admins would- new grading scale, new food policy, fewer insane 1st yr faculty, lower min GPA to keep scholarships, new curriculum, better food, and even new promotional efforts designed to increase our rep (which also has an impact on rankings).

At the end of the day, the admin and faculty do listen to the students. The trick, I think is to communicate constructively. Not so hostile. I'll give Dean Toben hell for as long as he's in charge, but you gotta admit things have improved a lot. Some of the things you denigrate, such as the midnight breakfast, are attempts on the part of the admin and faculty to reach out to students. Instead of just mouthing off, you should take advantage of the unique opportunities BLS provides.

Lastly, I've put a shocking amount of time into my education and dealt w/ faculty from Stanford, Duke, UT, Tulane, and too many other institutions. Some of our profs may be inexperienced, but we have a very strong teaching faculty. If you don't recognize that, then I put that on you. I think they do a great job, especially considering the material. Wait till you get to BarBri and see what other schools are serving.
 
Holy crap, did Millard Fillmore go to Baylor Law?

That's automatic top-tier right there. Move over, Harvard and Yale.
 
Joe

I do not know what has happened to you but you are by far the super minority in this school. Listen in the lunch room, the halls, the bars, the library or anywhere else students congregate. There is someone like you always who says stuff like that and gets laughed outta the room.

You say that administration at other schools would not make the changes that our administration is making for us. You are right... they have already made the real obvious changes year and years ago. Now that we are getting cups or whatever else we are expected to thing that it is the best thing since sliced bread when in reality its the bare minimum.

I have seen prospective students stopped in the hall and told "do not come here, no matter what." That is the real pulse of the school and not the few bloggers who consistently just go on and on about how great BLS is.

As for the teaching part. I have been told MANY times that professors do not have time to talk to me. Sometimes they are good reasons. More than once it has been because they were on the phone or waiting on a phone call with a client. I pay their salary but their moonlighting takes priority. I do not mean this about all faculty but some are just that way. On top of that, I have gone to good schools too and have had good and bad professors. However, save one or two professors here, my experience at BLS has been that I am told the professors are great but in reality I just see regular old professors some good and some terrible. We are just a regular law school that says we are a teaching school as an excuse for our shortcomings.

It is funny though that the overriding theme of all these blogs out there are how no blogger ever speaks the truth. Its all so candy-coated. The reality is a bunch of disgruntled unhappy students. Those are the people too apathetic to write blogs or comment on them.
 
I didn't go to BLS, and have only visited. I've met several of the professors, butother than Prof. Osler don't really know them (although I do know one through totally different channels)

I do know, however, that every law school has its detractors and critics amongst the student body. Mine sure did!

In fact, I was often one of them. I was furious about many of the arbitary and capricious decisions made by the administration at William & Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law. And it didn't help that my friends at places like Yale or U.Va or Penn or Wake Forest didn't seem to be working nearly as hard as me and my classmates.

I also know this... just about every law school graduate gets a job and most of them are pretty darn good jobs, if not great jobs. Although some of the higher paying ones can come at a price in terms of time for other pursuits, like family, health, community, etc.

And guess what... the arbitrariness and and capriciousness of life doesn't stop. People ranging from Judges and their clerks, to bureaucrats (national state and local) to the airlines and the cable guy and the clerk at the retail store will make random and insensitive decisions that affect you. And there won't be anything you can do about most of it.

So in that way, law school prepares you for life.

The best way to combat the (perceived) problems of an institution is to do well and get out with the most choices. A high GPA helps, but its not the only way to succeed. I had less than stellar grades, but I also had life experience and a good resume.
 
If I ever hear someone tell me again how "in life there will be disrespectful people too" again, I am going to vomit. That has been shoved down my throat since day one and had me believing that every judge in America was a total disrespectful jerk and that I was going to be in trial every day getting berated.

I know there are jerks everywhere and I am guessing most people on this board think I am one of them. However, people can just no read my post. I can get a different cable company. I can find a new mechanic. However, once you are a captive at BLS with your 150k in student loans and depressed grades you are stuck. The brochure does not say, "Come to BLS, we treat you like elementary school did." If it did, I would not have come.

Treating peopole like crap is not excused by saying its going to happen throughout life.
 
Anon, you do not represent me or the school. You are unhappy, and I respect that. I am not, and it’s not because I am weak or trying to curry favor. MY friends agree with me. MY quarter seems happy. Professors have been great to ME. MY friends tell me they’ve had the same experience. WE laugh people out of the room at lunch when they whine. Oh how my unverifiable “all my friends” points enhance my argument. Now maybe we can argue about who has more friends.

It’s comical to suggest that the dissenters are too apathetic to comment, particularly given the recent promgate outrage and the comments on Prof. Osler’s blog. I guess the old adage that the dissenting voice is always the loudest only survives until you are in the dissent making an argument that requires you to be in the majority. Your fellow students don’t appreciate being lumped in with you, and we’re no longer impressionable enough to do anything but yawn when someone throws down with “all my friends feel the same way.” You can tell us how you feel but not how we feel.
 
Oh my sweet classmate. Just wait. You have obviously not had your eyes opened yet. I was a super fan of BLS too until I started to see how things worked and learned more about it all.

Right now you can be a super-pumped cheerleader like we all were but that changes for a very significant percentage of the class.

Also, way to go on having so many friends who are with you in thinking that BLS is the greatest place on earth.
 
Evil Anon-Given that the blogs allow open commenting and you are the only one bitching on this blog, I think you are a Coyote Ugly troll. We're all still waiting for that webpage to elucidate your views, BTW.

I tell people not to come to BLS. I tell the whiny, weak-looking people. I am 6-0 for people who both ignored me and who later dropped. Sorry I missed you. I say it for all posterity "IF YOU JUST WANT AN ACADEMIC DEGREE AND/OR DO NOT WANT TO WORK LIKE A FIRST-YEAR ASSOCIATE, THEN DO NOT COME HERE.

I'll go further - if you come to BLS, you will hate life at some point. You will say mean things to people you respect and like. You will doubt yourself. Some of you will break. Some will fail. Baylor Law is the place where fun goes to die. It's on our T-shirts, nobody is hiding it. I also think our Dean is not as student-oriented as he could be.

However, BLS will get you ready to practice law. If you stop resisting the hard work and seemingly insane expectations, and just do the job, then you will leave here a lawyer. A real lawyer, not just some guy w/ a license. That is what changed for me, Anon. And, having come out the other side and graduated, I'm more grateful than I can say to the Professors who helped me get there. That's pretty much all of them.

Since I'm not the smartest guy, or hardest-working, or best-looking AND professors have treated me very well, I can only conclude that you must have a poor personality. Some would say that I'm cursed there, too. So, If the faculty are avoiding you, then you must be a complete a**hole. Based on your posts, I think that's right.
 
Ironic that you poke someone for being anonymous and you are too.

Also, what is coyote ugly?
 
Anon,

You have very strong points. There is nothing wrong with you having those points, or even with you sharing them. I agree with you on many of them. However, I think sharing them on a blog, a Prof. blog at that, will not result in people agreeing with you...all that will happen is people will continue to stroke the ego's of the Prof's.

I am very happy with my BLS education, however that does not mean that I have blinders on as to what should improve. Sure there are always those that complain, and there should be people that complain. It would be ignorant and arrogant to believe that the school was perfect. Continue to complain, and hope that change comes. I, for one, will certainly not criticize you for it.
 
The Coyote Ugly remark was me. Forgot my name by accident. Coyote Ugly are a bunch of students who attacked professors personally, acosted visitors in the parking lot, and claimed they would put up some great manifesto of a website to bring down the law school (I guess, still no site) until they got laughed into the ether.

And my issue isn't w/ complaining per se, but with the manner of Evil Anon's complaints, which I think is unreasonable and a not a little ignorant. Obviously, had students not complained, none of the recent changes would have happened.

For the record, I have no intention of stroking any part of Osler, including his ego. I genuinely respect him and all the faculty that I personally know. I didn't take a shot at Evil Anon for being anonymous (though I don't see the point in people posting vague anonymous rants). I just labeled him evil to distinguish him from other, polite Anons. I called him a coyote ugly troll because I think he is one based on the bombastic tone of his posts, which also explains what else I called him.
 
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