Author discusses his book, 'The Chicago Guide to College Science Teaching' - Inside Higher Ed

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Terry McGlynn is constantly promoting better teaching of science in American colleges and universities. A professor of biology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of the blog Small Pond Science , he believes that good teaching is essential at every kind of college. But to achieve that, he thinks some of the incentives of American higher education (think of what generates raises at research universities) need to change. He's put his ideas together in a book, The Chicago Guide to College Science Teaching (University of Chicago Press). McGlynn answered questions about his book via email. Q: What are the major flaws of science teaching at colleges in the U.S.? A: A lot of us have never been trained how to teach. Doesn’t it seem fundamentally absurd that graduate students and faculty all over the country are teaching science without even having taken a single course in science teaching? We jump through an absurd number of hoops to become college faculty, ye

Law schools hope to stem enrollment slide - Crain's Detroit Business

Law schools hope to stem enrollment slide - Crain's Detroit Business


Law schools hope to stem enrollment slide - Crain's Detroit Business

Posted: 14 Nov 2020 09:15 PM PST

The U.S. legal industry took a beating during the Great Recession of 2008-09 from which it never fully recovered. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has caused another economic downturn, industry observers are not predicting the same doom and gloom as a decade ago.

In some cases, bad times are good for business.

Law firms in Michigan are reporting a rebound in work as industries tentatively reboot. Predictably, demand for employment and cybersecurity attorneys is surging as companies untangle a mess of issues related to layoffs, workplace safety and the work-from-home shift. At the same time, the public health crisis and national spotlight on social justice issues is spurring new interest in the legal field.

That's cause for cautious optimism from law schools in Michigan and around the country, many of which are a fraction of their former size. For others, however, the downsizing likely isn't done."After the Great Recession, the legal market was really suffering … and law schools realized that their schools had just been too big for what the economy could handle," Wayne State University Law School Dean Richard Bierschbach said. "So far, we haven't seen anything like what we saw after the Great Recession."

Wayne Law, the smallest of Michigan's five law schools by enrollment, saw student headcount drop by about 20 from last year to around 400 in 2020. That's down about 30 percent from a peak of 570 students in 2011. Bierschbach said he does not foresee further decline, even with the pandemic.

Application volume for the incoming fall 2021 class is up 40 percent compared to the same time last year, he said, though the priority application deadline is March 15 and it is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions.

Michigan State University College of Law is seeing the same, as is the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Nationwide, law school applications are up 60 percent from the same time last year, according to the Law School Admission Council.

"When people aren't sure what they're going to do or what their opportunities are, often they'll go to law school," Bierschbach said.

At Thomas M. Cooley Law School — once the largest in the country and now barely the biggest in Michigan — the painful, decadelong slide appears far from over. Enrollment at the Lansing-based school dwindled to 1,156 in 2019, less than half what it was in 2011. During that period, application volume dropped nearly 65 percent to 1,398.

And now it's dealing with an identity crisis. Western Michigan University's board of trustees voted earlier this month to cut ties with Cooley Law by 2023, as the law school closes campuses in Grand Rapid and Auburn Hills.

"It was the hope of both institutions that the affiliation would improve the quality of the educational experience for students at both institutions and would serve to enhance the reputation and standing of both institutions in the academic community," the proposal to the board read. "Several years after implementation those hopes have not been realized."

WMU and Cooley Law declined to comment. The school would not provide updated information on enrollment and application numbers.

Josh Robertson, a 30-year-old in his second year at Cooley who completed his undergraduate degree at Western, said he was disappointed the institutions chose to split, but he doesn't think it will impact his education.

"In talking with the professors and having some pretty honest conversations with the president over webinars, they're all pretty open about it," Robertson said. "They're like, 'You know, we've been around 50 years and we're gonna be around for another 50 years, so that's OK.'"

Robertson turned to law school after devoting the first part of his career to politics, working for seven years at Lansing-based lobbying firm Midwest Strategy Group. The devastating impact of the pandemic led him to change paths.

A few months ago, he took a job at Kalamazoo-based Forensic Fluids Laboratories, which helps test, monitor and report data to first responders and health care professionals. He said he aims to eventually use his law degree, which the company is helping pay for, to land a general counsel role for the lab.

"In that position I'd be able to work directly with hospitals, health systems, doctors' offices and the state to continue the lab's work but also to hopefully effectuate change in statute surrounding safe procedures and protocols," he said.

Similar to the other law schools in Michigan, classes at Cooley are being conducted remotely because of the pandemic. Robertson said he is pleased with how it's going.

"Cooley didn't have the best reputation in the world, but I'm super impressed with what they've done," he said.

To be fair, Cooley is not alone in suffering from a stagnant legal market and shrinking supply of aspiring law students. Even the prestigious University of Michigan has been impacted. Michigan Law had a total enrollment of 1,024 in 2019, down 11 percent from 2011. Its application volume in 2020 dipped 4 percent from the previous year to 5,417.

Michigan Law declined to make anyone available to interview for this report.

MSU Law has had a rougher go. Enrollment fell by 50 students year over year to 640 this year. That's down 30 percent since 2011, when there were 915 students. Melanie Jacobs, interim dean at the college, said in an email that applications for 2021 are up 40 percent from the same time last year, emphasizing that it is still early in the application cycle.

Jacobs said MSU Law made big investments in technology and training for online classes, and it has collaborated with other Big Ten law schools on webinars with scholars across the country.

"Just as many law schools are conducting courses remotely, so, too, are many law firms, agencies and even courts," Jacobs said. "As with other sectors, it is likely that post pandemic more lawyers may work from home or be able to engage in more flexible schedules."

At Detroit Mercy School of Law, student headcount has been steady for the past four years, with a total of 587 students in 2020, down 12 percent from 2011. Applications for 2021 are up from last year there as well, according to administrators.

Thank President Donald Trump for stabilizing enrollment at law schools, Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis Crocker said, only half-jokingly.

"Some people say it's the 'Trump bump' that has been in existence for the last few years," Crocker said. "People are very interested in going to law school as a way of fighting for justice and civil rights, and they saw those more under attack than they had previously and really saw the need for lawyers to be part of that fight."

In the litigation-laden decades preceding the Great Recession, law schools merely had to open doors to get students to enroll. In the past few years, however, there have been too many lawyers and too little work.

"You're finding functions that had historically been performed by lawyers and law firms that are now being performed by nonlawyers and as a result, the market for legal services is growing, but the slice of the pie that's being performed by lawyers and law firms is at best static or is shrinking," said John Hern, CEO of Detroit-based Clark Hill PLC.

In a similar case of oversupply and lack of demand, law schools are facing more competition for a smaller number of students.

"We are basically at the level of enrollment we all were in the 1970s with now maybe 45 new law schools, so that's been a challenge for everybody," Crocker said. "Nobody will ever get back to the levels we were at, and that's fine."

The pandemic is also impacting the pipeline from law schools to law firms. Detroit-based Dickinson Wright PLLC was forced to cancel its summer recruitment program due to the pandemic. It gave the 20 or so law students who were accepted to the program an offer of employment after they graduate next year.

"It was a huge shock to the system in so far as we had to cancel what is typically our principal method of organic growth," said Pat Greene, a member of the firm who oversees recruiting.

Clark Hill, one of the largest law firms in the state, instituted pay cuts, spending freezes and furloughs early on in the pandemic, but the firm is hiring again, Hern said. It has posted around 20 open positions, including for 10 attorneys.

"Our M&A practice is as busy as it's ever been, far in excess of what we had before the onset of the pandemic," he said. "I don't know if it's being fueled by people wanting to get deals done before the regime change in Washington, or pent-up demand."

Justin Klimko, president and CEO of Detroit-based Butzel Long, said business has been down, but not as badly as expected. He said that across the industry, hiring graduates fresh out of law school used to be the norm, but now many firms are recruiting from each other.

There's no telling yet what lasting impact the pandemic will have on the industry, he said.

"Obviously, the problem with this whole situation is that it's still not really possible to see the end of the tunnel," he said.

If uncertain job prospects weren't enough to scare off students, the price tag often does. The average cost of the three-year law degree is $49,500, according to U.S. News & World Report. At Michigan Law, students pay nearly $64,000 per year.

To stay competitive, some schools, including Wayne Law, instituted tuition freezes and boosted scholarships. Cooley cut tuition by 21 percent this fall for an average yearly cost of about $40,000.

In response to market changes, Wayne Law is debuting next semester a master's degree for nonlawyers in human resources. The program, which could be completed in one year full time at a third of the price of a law degree, is an answer to the swelling demand for nonattorney legal services.

Around 25 students are enrolled in the program, which has been under development since 2017. Rolling it out during the pandemic and upheaval of traditional business practices turned out to be a coincidence of perfect timing, Bierschbach said.

"Companies are finding it much more efficient cost-wise and otherwise, publicity-wise, you name it, to have a workforce that's trained to anticipate and handle issues early on," he said. "So if you have an HR professional who has exposure to some of the legal issues that can come up … they're gonna nip a lot of issues in the bud."

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