Category Archives: Legal Academia

Article: Law School-Administered Financial Aid: The Good News and the Bad News

studyingArticle: William C. Whitford, Law School-Administered Financial Aid: The Good News and the Bad News, 67 Journal of Legal Education 4 (2017). Abstract below:

In 2015, the ABA Task Force on Financing Legal Education reported a vast increase in law school-administered financial aid over the previous ten years. Financial aid administered by law schools was even the most rapidly rising cost factor for law schools collectively. At first glance this increase might seem like some good news for persons sharing my values and worldview. Historically financial aid has been associated with helping the financially needy, encouraging them and members of underrepresented identities to attend law school, and helping make it possible for students who want to devote their careers to low-paying, public-interest-oriented work to achieve their dreams. In fact, however, as the task force makes clear, almost all the increased financial aid is being awarded to applicants with high LSAT scores and high undergraduate GPAs — what is called “merit” these days. Any correlation between the beneficiaries of increased financial aid and the kinds of students who traditionally benefited from law school-administered financial aid is purely coincidental.


Poverty Law III “Poverty States” Conference Thanks (& Photos)

(Keynote Speech by Francis Fox Piven above.)

I would like to say thanks to everyone who came to this year’s poverty law conference at American University Washington College of Law, and to those who tried to come but could not because of the weather. Though neither the weather nor the March for Our Lives organizers consulted with me as far as timing of their “events,” it still managed to be a good gathering of poverty law people. There was a mix of new and more senior faces and a wide-variety of topics discussed. So thanks to all those who came, to my school’s special events office, especially Jennifer Dabson and Denise Richards, to the custodial and catering staff, and of course to Dean Camille Nelson for supporting the conference and the Economic Justice Program. Below are some more photos from the event:



Coverage and Related Material on Amy Wax’s Removal from 1L Classes

Many of you probably saw news about this, but given that Amy Wax writes about poverty issues (albeit from a very conservative standpoint–this is an article I have assigned to students for example), I thought it worth providing links to some of the coverage related to her op-eds, interviews, and the decision of UPenn’s dean to have her not teach 1L classes anymore. The dean’s message about the decision is here.

This blog entry by fellow UPenn Law faculty member Tobias Barrington Wolff sets out the background, with links to her op-eds and interviews, and argues in favor of the responses to her poorly supported/argued positions. This Wash Post article similarly contains a good overview of the controversy, as does Inside Higher Ed.

This newspaper article discusses the role of UPenn’s BLSA in calling attention to Wax’s positions.

Op-eds attacking the dean’s decision have appeared in Forbes and in the Wall Street JournalA Huff Post op-ed though argued that Wax was not really punished.

My own view is that faculty “lose” the right to teach mandatory 1L classes for far less so this does seem like a minor punishment relative to the issues. I know of people who have been pushed out of teaching 1L classes for low evaluation scores even where they were very knowledgeable about the field/class. That being said, firing someone who has tenure should be a high bar and many of us benefit from that high bar–a bar that is only meaningful to the extent to which it is tested. Wax is certainly approaching that line and the dean’s decision to not force students to take her class (by removing her from the 1L curriculum) seems appropriate while at the same time being mindful of the significance of tenure. As my friends like to say, such examples should give the rest of us courage to make unpopular, and hopefully this time well-supported, arguments. But others will disagree. Certainly online this past week I have read many people posting with arguments that she should lose her job. (As an aside, I actually think am analogy that she made in a well-placed 2003 article between third rate artists and “second rate” single poor mothers was at least as offensive as some of the things that got attention this year.)

Op-Ed: “What Can’t Be Debated on Campus”

Op-Ed: Amy Wax, What Can’t Be Debated on Campus, Wall St. Journal, Feb. 16, 2018 [for those who followed the debates about Wax’s original op-ed, here is a follow-up op-ed by Wax that may or may not interest you].

New Report: “World Inequality Report 2018”

wir2018-full-report-english-fcb06190New Report: “World Inequality Report 2018” [Note: this is a very professionally done report with big “coordinator” scholars behind it and has great charts.]

My syllabi 2018 (a minor protest against my school): Housing Law, Poverty Law, Indian Law, and Property Law

For reasons that make sense only to bureaucrats, my school has made all syllabi for law school classes at the school password protected. I thought I should make my Housing Law syllabus public because it includes readings that might be of interest. While doing that I thought I should also make my other syllabi publicly accessible:


Research Support: “Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute (Institute) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Visiting Scholar Program Application 2018”

Full info here, deadline Feb. 9, 2018.

Happy Holidays: “A List of Some of the More Than #2000Verses in Scripture on Poverty and Justice”


New Article: “Measuring Law School Clinics”

New Article: Colleen F. Shanahan, Jeffrey Selbin, Alyx Mark & Anna E. Carpenter, Measuring Law School Clinics, Tulane L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018). Abstract below:

Legal education reformers have long argued that law school clinics address two related needs: first, clinics teach students to be lawyers; and second, clinics serve low-income clients. In clinics, so the argument goes, law students working under the close supervision of faculty members learn the requisite skills to be good practitioners and professionals. In turn, clinical law students serve clients with civil and criminal justice needs that would otherwise go unmet.

Though we have these laudable teaching and service goals — and a vast literature describing the role of clinics in both the teaching and service dimensions — we have scant empirical evidence about whether and how clinics achieve these goals. We know from studies that law students value clinics, but do clinics prepare them to be lawyers? We also know from surveys that clinics provide hundreds of thousands of hours of free legal aid in low-income communities, but how well do clinic students serve clients?

These are big questions across a complex field and set of practices that cannot be answered by a single study. Nevertheless, we report here findings from a large data set of cases that shed some light on the teaching-service promise of law school clinics. Analyzing thousands of unemployment insurance cases involving different types of representation, we are able to compare clinical law students’ use of legal procedures and outcomes to those of experienced attorneys in cases in the same court.

We find that clinical law students behave very similarly to practicing attorneys in their use of legal procedures. Their clients also experience very similar case outcomes to clients of practicing attorneys. Though further research is needed on the impact of law school clinics in the teaching and service dimensions, our findings are consistent with claims that law school clinics help prepare students to be practicing lawyers and to serve low-income clients as well as lawyers do.

Op-Ed: “Law & Neoliberalism”

David Singh Grewal and Jedediah Purdy, Law & Neoliberalism, Law and Political Economy, November 6, 2017. [What does Neoliberalism really mean?]