By Craig Forcese

Full Professor
Faculty of Law

Email: cforcese[at]uottawa.ca

Twitter: @cforcese

 

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Bleaching Law

Welcome to my blog on teaching law.  I have entitled it "bleaching law". This is an obvious contraction of "blog" and "teaching".  It is also a play  on words capturing the endless struggle of a law professor to convey as neat, tidy, proper and well-starched things that are emphatically not, like the standard of review in administrative law.  All opinions are my own and do not reflect on anyone else who I work with, for or around. 

Thursday
Mar262015

The Law Professor as Public Citizen: Measuring Public Engagement in Canadian Common Law Schools

Before I knew I would soon be "living the dream", I decided to embark on a data-rich study of "public engagement" by Canada's 600 common law professors.  After seemingly endless hours reviewing law school websites and number crunching on Excel, the results are now going to print, (2015) 36 Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, and I have posted the penultimate version to SSRN here.  Readers should be attentive to the important methodological caveats I include in the article.  The results should be considered more for what they tend to rebut than what they prove.  Nevertheless, my hope is that my article will help, in a small way, make empiricism fashionable in law school decision-making.

The abstract reads:

This article asks whether there is room for the law professor/public citizen in today’s law schools. It does so by measuring indicators of professor “public engagement” with constituencies outside of academia, such as government, civil society and media. As evidence for its inquiry, the article reviews a comprehensive data set collected from the public web profiles of Canada’s 600 full, associate and assistant common law professors. These data suggest that common law professor public engagement remains part of the tradition of the Canadian legal academy. More than that, there is no support for the view that public engagement diminishes scholarly productivity. Nor is there evidence that mainstream media participation distracts professors from conventional scholarship – in fact, the most media active professors appear to have above average net publication tempos. In terms of institutional implications, public engagement does no harm to law school reputation, and indeed there is a moderate positive correlation between the net level of public engagement represented on law professor web profiles and reputational rankings, such as they are. The connection between media presence and institutional reputation is more complex, and there are data suggesting little positive correlation between reputation and media presence. However, when one potentially anomalous case of a law school with a striking media footprint but a lower reputational scores is discounted, there is a moderate positive correlation between a law school’s media presence and reputational rankings. In sum, until a more comprehensive survey is undertaken, this article constitutes the best available evidence that law professors can be (and often are) teacher/scholar/public citizen.

Thursday
Jul102014

Want to Teach Law in Canada? How many pubs do you need to be competitive?

I receive variants of the above question from prospective job candidates all the time.  My totally off the cuff response is usually "aim for 5 articles", based on three years sitting on our (uOttawa) hiring committee and another 8 years of being attentive to the hiring process (and the cvs of candidates).  But I have never actually measured it. 

In my collection of data for my article on common law prof public engagement (see my prior blog posts on this topic), I have pulled together the publicly available info on Canada's 600 full, associate and assistant common law profs.  I have collected data on the publication tempo of these profs, where available (the amount of information varies from website to website).  I shall report on that in due course.

But in this, the fourth in my series on "the Canadian common law prof", I can report on a subset of those data.  Ten assistant professors post their complete cvs, and from those cvs one can determine the number of publications each had as of the year they were hired.  (Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but it's better than holding the finger up to the wind. I could include other ranks who post cvs, and back out their pubs according to the date of their appointment, but that would take some time and all this is collateral to my article.  Moreover, those data would be "stale" reflecting the (probably less competitive) hiring market of bygone years, rather than the more recent markets in which today's Assistant Profs were hired.)

The results: an average of 4.64 journal articles (a median of 3) for the 10 individuals, and two professors had 1 book each when hired (so I suppose that's an average of 0.2 per prof, an obviously meaningless number).

So I suppose I haven't been that far off in telling candidates to shoot for 5 journal articles.

Of course, there are lots of other qualities that go into being competitive in the job market -- but pubs are undoubtedly important in my experience.

Thanks for those providing feedback and asking questions about my dataset on twitter @cforcese.  This is turning into a fun article to write (although a gruelling exercise in data collection) and it may, gasp, even be useful.

Thursday
Jul102014

Gender Breakdown for Cdn Common Law Profs: Prelim Data

This is the third post in a series drawn from data collected for an article I am writing on public engagement by Canadian common law profs.  In support of that article, I collected publicly-available data from the websites of full, associate and assistant law profs at Canadian common law schools. (Yes, it took me literally weeks). For my prior posts, scroll through this blog.

I am "serializing" my analysis as I go -- feedback on twitter (@cforcese) has suggested other lines of inquiry that are fruitful and which help my thinking process.

Since my first postings, I have fully eliminated emeritus profs from my sample and have focused strictly on full, associate and assistant profs.  I found 600 persons at that rank on the websites of Canadian common law schools.

In this post, I want to break down these numbers by gender, a particularly important issue given recent (less than edifying) rationalizations of the federal government's poor appointment rate for federal judges.  So how are the law schools doing?

In 1981, only 10.1% of common law profs were women. 

Today, that figure is 44.5%, or 267.

Categorized by rank, the numbers of female law professors are: Full (35.9%); Associate (47.6%); Assistant (60.7%). (Not every prof included rank on their website, so my data set here included 259 entries).

These figures suggest that female hiring now exceeds male hiring, as Assistant Professors will be the most recent hires.  But there is, of course, another prospect: that these data also reflect gendered promotion processes.  There is at least a hint in the prelim data that this is a real concern, but I shall report on that once I have crunched the numbers more (and perhaps hold back that analysis for the final article).

Notably, there also appears to be significant institutional variation in the proportion of women law professors: there are some schools above the norm and a few well below the norm. The range for average number of women on faculty is 62.5% on the high end and 27% on the low end.  The median proportion of women at Canadian common law schools is 47.4%.   

I am debating whether to reproduce the full institutional breakdown -- demographic data are collateral to my article's purpose of discussing (and measuring) public engagement by Canadian common law profs.  Still, if you sit on a hiring committee, you can do your own internal headcount and then take note of the average figures reported here. (Incidentally, a prelim analysis suggests no correlation between average number of years teaching in faculties and proportion of female professors.  In other words, this does not appear to be a case of some schools doing less hiring and having older profs and a gender composition reflecting bygone gender patterns).

So overall, progress since 1981.  But there seem to be differences in institutional culture.  And as noted, I am concerned that some of the data seem to suggest differences in the way men and women's careers then develop.  Back to the Excel datasheet!

Wednesday
Jul092014

Want to Be a Law Prof? Data on Whether You Should Do a Doctorate

As suggested here, I am in the midst of a giant data gathering exercise reviewing the professional profiles of Canada's 614 common law profs.  In my prior post, I shared data on where these profs went to grad school.  In this post, I examine the question of the "teaching degree" -- that is, the highest degree profs obtain before being hired as an Assistant Professor.  (NB: These data are preliminary, and subject to double-checking as I write my article.)

I will discuss this more in the article I am writing, but in 1981, only 12.6% of Canada's common law profs had doctorates in law, with another 4.3% possessing doctorates in other disciplines.

Today, 49.8% of those in common law law schools for which data were available (564 of the 614 profs in my data set) have a doctorate.  An LLM is the highest degree for 42.6%, while 5.5% have undergraduate law degrees as their highest law degree.  Another 2.1% have other highest degrees (MA, MBA, MLS, M.Litt).  The proportion of profs with doctorates in each academic rank are interesting:

Full: 42.7%

Associate: 59.2%

Assistant: 51.0%

The Assistant figure is misleading -- my data captured the highest degree obtained by the professor as of June/July 2014.  It does not include the many instances in which the Assistant Prof is still a doctoral candidate.  On an anecdotal review of the data, the latter is a common status (that is, profs are hired on their LLMs with their doctorates "in progress").  It stands to reason that by the time that today's Assistant Profs are promoted to Associate, the proportion holding a doctorate will look more like the current figure for Associates than that for the older Full Professors.

I won't breakout the data here, but there are notable institutional differences as well.  Some schools are predominantly staffed by doctorate-holding profs (with the highest proportion 77.1%) while other schools are dominated by profs whose highest degree is an LLM (the lowest proportion of doctorates is 24%).  It is a generalization, but most (but certainly not all of the) Ontario schools and McGill seem to place a higher premium on doctorates among their full-time profs.  Obviously, there are "cultural" differences in hiring.

Putting all these data together is starting to make me feel insecure.  Can't wait to do the number crunching on publication tempo.