Closius: ‘A little strange’ being back at UB Law

Former University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Phillip Closius has returned to campus after he resigned his post as dean amid controversy more than a year ago.

Closius stepped down in July 2011 citing differences with the university’s administration. Closius said at the time that he thought the university was taking too much money from revenue raised by the law school.

Both parties have moved on as the fall semester starts this year. A new law school dean, Ronald Weich, started this summer. Closius took a year of administrative leave and has returned as a professor. He is teaching two sections of Constitutional Law II this semester and Constitutional Law I and sports law next semester.

“I’ve always loved teaching,” Closius said. “When I was dean, I always taught. Coming back to teaching is coming back to the roots of why I got into this.”

After his dramatic exit, Closius admitted it has felt different being back on campus.

“It’s a little strange,” Closius said. “I’m not going to pretend it’s not. I think everyone’s been good. The students have been wonderful, telling me their support for me. A lot of people have been telling me how happy they are that I am back.”

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Bargaining for an education

More news on law schools is out this week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that law schools are increasingly offering prospective students incentives to enroll. Some schools are letting students submit applications past deadlines. Others are offering more scholarship money than ever to potential students.

Scholarship money offered by law schools has tripled in the past ten years, jumping from $816 million in the 2008-2009 school year to $1 billion in the last school year alone. The Journal reports that some law schools are even negotiating with prospective students on scholarship amounts.

Law schools this year have been concerned in general about the shrinking pool of applicants. The number of people taking the LSAT has fallen from 171,500 in 2010 to 155,000 last year to 130,000 this cycle, the smallest group since 2001.

A smaller test taker pool ultimately means fewer high-scoring (and rankings-boosting) participants for law schools to choose from. Maryland schools have already been affected, with he University of Baltimore School of Law reporting applicant numbers down 17 percent earlier this year.

Judge dismisses employment numbers lawsuit

It’s not looking good for law school students suing their alma maters for misrepresenting post-graduation employment numbers.

Since employment for law school graduates started to slide with the downturn of the economy, a number of class-action suits have popped up around the country as students claim schools skewed graduates’ employment numbers to attract new students.

The latest setback for these kinds of cases came last week when a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a case brought against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School by 12 graduates. The judge rejected claims of fraud, saying the employment numbers were confusing and unclear but not fraudulent. The judge also said the school did not violate the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, since the act doesn’t protect the purchase of an education.

A similar case was dismissed in New York in March, but there are 12 other fraud class-action suits against law schools pending across the country.

The news comes in the wake of new employment numbers for law schools released last month. The statistics were divided by the type of employment for the first time this year. Nationwide, 83 percent found employment, but only 55 percent were permanent jobs that required bar admission. (At both Maryland law schools, around 47 percent found permanent jobs with bar admission required.)

No money, mo problems

Looks like more bad news this week for law school graduates.

Starting salaries for the class of 2011 are down across the board. Mean starting salaries for first-year associates fell 6.5 percent, according to numbers from the National Association for Law Placement.

The class of 2010 was paid a mean salary of $84,111, while the class of 2011′s mean salary was $78,653, according to the data. Mean salaries fell 15 percent compared to the class of 2009, which reported a mean salary of $93,454.

The median salary fell from $63,00 to $60,000 between 2010 and 2011,  according to the data.

Last month, we wrote about law school graduate employment numbers falling across the country, including for law school grads in Maryland. Fewer than half of the state’s law school graduates from the class of 2011 have full-time, permanent jobs, according to American Bar Association data released in June. Both Maryland law schools, the University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, had numbers that fell below the national average of 55 percent.

Then there’s that Boston law firm that advertised a first-year associate position with $10,000 salary.

So, per this week’s news, not only are fewer recent law school grads finding jobs, those who have, are getting paid less. But, hey, at least it’s Friday?

Across the country, less law school love

The George Washington University Law School is the latest to drop its enrollment as fewer people applied to law school for the upcoming academic year.

GW Law plans to keep its enrollment below 450, compared to this year’s class of 474, the National Law Journal reports.

Law schools across the country are grappling with upcoming fall enrollment in the face of the declining number of people taking the LSAT and even fewer applying to law school.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law announced this year that it also plans to decrease enrollment. Albany Law School, Creighton University School of Law and Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center also reduced class sizes during the 2011-2012 school year.

GW Law saw its number of applicants fall 15 percent, Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman told the Journal. It will lose some tuition revenue but plans to recoup it in increased fundraising and introducing new programs for students outside the law school, Berman said.

Baltimore schools are experiencing the similar problems. The University of Baltimore School of Law told The Daily Record  in March that its applicant numbers were down 17 percent this admissions cycle, but University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law officials were less concerned.

UB Law enrolls in success

Though Yale, Stanford and Harvard law schools may be top of the class this year according to U.S. News & World Report rankings, the University of Baltimore School of Law may have won the popularity contest.

The University of Baltimore School of Law had one of the highest increases in enrollment in 2011, U.S. News & World Report announced Tuesday.

Enrollment at law schools dropped 2 percent nationally last year compared to the previous admissions cycle. UB Law, however, saw a 3.7 percent increase in enrollment from the previous year. Of the students it accepted, 38.5 percent enrolled, giving it the tenth-highest increase in year-to-year enrollment in 2011.

UB Law placed 113th in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings released earlier this month.

The University of Virginia School of Law had the highest increased enrollment with 51.9 percent of its accepted students enrolling, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Georgia State University College of Law came in second with a 52.7 percent enrollment rate, a 9.1 percent increase from the year before. The University of North Carolina School of Law took third place with a 53.7 percent enrollment rate, a 7.2 percent increase from the previous year.

Law schools sent out a total 175,085 acceptance letters in 2011 but only enrolled 44,366 students.

Ivy League shake-up in the law school rankings

Some Ivy Leaguers may have their crimson shorts in a twist after U.S. News & World Report’s release of its 2013 Best Law Schools rankings.

Yale Law School once again tops the list, but Stanford Law School moves into the No. 2 spot, over East coast incumbent, Harvard Law School. The Cardinal have topped the Crimson.

Harvard has held its second place position since 2007, though it tied with Stanford in 2009.

Columbia Law School in New York followed by University of Chicago Law School round out the top five on the list.

The University of Maryland School of Law climbed up the rankings, coming in at No. 39, a jump from its No. 42 position last year. The year before, it rose from No. 48 to No. 42.

Maryland is tied, however, tied at the No. 39 spot with three others—Brigham Young University Law School, George Mason University School of Law and Ohio State University College of Law.

For specialties, Maryland ranked No. 3 for healthcare law and No. 5 in clinical training.

The University of Baltimore School of Law ranked No. 113. It was tied with Quinnipiac University School of Law in Connecticut, Gonzaga University School of Law in Washington, Florida International University College of Law, Albany Law School and CUNY School of Law in New York.

A dozen on shortlist to be next dean at UB Law

The University of Baltimore School of law has narrowed its search for its next dean down to 12 candidates, according to the chairwoman of the search committee.

Michele E. Gilman, a professor and director of the civil advocacy clinic, told students in an email Tuesday that the committee will be interviewing all 12 candidates during the first week of March.

“The names of these candidates are confidential, but we are pleased to let you know that the group is diverse in terms of race, gender, experience, and geography,” Gilman wrote.

Interim Dean F. Michael Higginbotham, pictured, has said he would not be among the candidates.

The committee then hopes to bring three finalists back to campus at the end of March for further interviews and give students a chance to meet the candidates.

The search committee consists of eight faculty members, two alumni, two students and one staff member.

On finances, UB law students kept at kids’ table

Last month, the Student Bar Association at the University of Baltimore School of Law asked for a seat at the table as the law school tried to sort out its financial relationship with the university that led to former Dean Phil Closius’ resignation.

SBA President Julius Blattner, in an email sent to students Tuesday night, said the organization will not have representation on the committee reviewing financial data but will instead receive weekly updates on the committee’s progress.

“The Chair of the committee [law school professor Michael I. Meyerson] believes that having a student serve on the committee tasked to reach the broad agreement with the President [Robert L. Bogomolny] would be more harmful than good in reaching the best deal possible,” he wrote. “After the agreement is in place, the Chair believes student input is not only useful but essential.”

Blattner also said an independent auditor will not be involved in the negotiations because of “time considerations”; instead, financial figures from the university and “other comparable law schools” will be provided to select faculty and university officials.

The committee will first determine if other law schools are getting treated better by their universities than UB, Blattner wrote, followed by reaching an agreement with Bogomolny over how to put UB’s law school on equal footing with the other law schools.

“The final part, which is where student input will be most important, is then to decide how best to use any additional monies,” Blattner wrote.

The agreement is supposed to be in place by mid-October to aid the dean search process and “get the law school moving forward and focused on the future as soon as possible,” he wrote.

UB Law orientation: ‘Who is this guy?’

F. Michael Higginbotham, interim dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, welcomed incoming day students at the beginning of orientation Wednesday. He then asked a rhetorical question some of them might have been thinking.

“Who is this guy?” Higginbotham said to laughter. “Where is Dean Closius?”

Higginbotham then gave a brief summary of events over the past few weeks.

“The dean and the president got into a dispute over finances,” he said. “Dean [Phillip] Closius decided to remove himself from the deanship.”

The dispute is one Higginbotham has seen multiple times in his two decades at the law school.

“It’s not about individuals or a particular individual. What it is about is principles and principles of fairness,” he said. “I will fight for principles of fairness at the law school. I will fight for a fair budget.”

Higginbotham expressed confidence that the longstanding financial issues will be resolved through scheduled meetings with university President Robert L. Bogomolny and administration officials. He was so confident, in fact, he deflected a student’s question about what would happen if such an agreement couldn’t be reached.

“Let’s not go there,” the interim dean said. “Let’s keep it positive.”

Higginbotham told the students about the nationwide search to replace Closius, one in which Higginbotham would not be a candidate because of his love of teaching.

“If my passion were administrative duties, I’d be the first in line [to apply] for this job,” he said. “This school is strong, this school is moving forward.”