Few Schools Back Job Transparency Project

The Law School Transparency project’s push to collect better data about how well recent graduates are doing in the job market has gotten off to a slow start. The nonprofit group in July asked the 199 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association to provide more detailed job statistics than they now report to the ABA or U.S. News & World Report. Critics who contend that law schools overstate the career prospects and earning potential of their graduates hailed the move. However, only 11 schools met the Sept. 10 deadline for responses, and only three said they were considering providing the requested data—American University Washington College of Law, University of Michigan Law School and Vanderbilt University Law School. Ave Maria School of Law indicated it would decide later this week whether to respond, according to the transparency project.

Kyle McEntee, a Vanderbilt law student who co-founded the project, said he is not discouraged. “We’ve started the dialogue, and the first step is getting schools to recognize that there is a huge problem.” The project grabbed headlines recently when a blogger under the pseudonym Ethan Haines—who later revealed herself to be Zenovia Evans, a 2009 graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School—announced that she was going on a hunger strike to prompt law schools to reveal the job information. She ended her hunger strike 24 days later, having received no responses from the 10 law schools she contacted.

The project is attempting to collect information about individual law graduates, rather than the general class breakdowns required by the ABA and U.S. News. Under the project’s model, participating schools would report employer type, employer name, position name, bar passage requirement, full-time or part-time status, office location, whether the student worked on a law journal and the salary paid each alumnus nine months after graduation. To protect the former students’ privacy, the schools would not include the graduates’ names in connection with their employment and salary information.

The organization plans to follow up with the 188 schools that did not respond to its request. In the meantime, the project has created a data clearinghouse on its Web site consisting of employment data available from U.S. News. — Karen Sloan

University of Wisconsin Law Dean Steps Down

University of Wisconsin Law School Dean Kenneth Davis Jr. is the latest to announce that he will step down at the end of this academic year. University of Colorado School of Law Dean David Getches, University of Arkansas School of Law Dean Cynthia Nance and University of Richmond School of Law Dean John Douglass all have announced recently that they would give up their top administrative positions. George Washington University Law School, Northwestern University School of Law and Boston College Law School are also on the hunt for new deans because their top administrators have been tapped as university presidents at Brandeis University, The New School and Catholic University, respectively.

The newly renamed University of New Hampshire School of Law, formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center, is also looking for a new dean, as John Hutson plans to step down next summer. Several deans, including Mr. Davis, announced their intentions a year in advance to give administrators ample time to search for replacements.

Mr. Davis has been at the helm at Wisconsin since 1997, an unusually long run, as the average tenure for a law dean hovers at around five years. He joined the faculty in 1978, and is the second-longest serving dean in the school’s history. The law school was ranked No. 38 by U.S. News & World Report in 1997 and now is ranked No. 28. — Karen Sloan

Firing of Tenured Professor Upheld

A former professor who convinced a federal court that she was denied a tenure hearing before she was fired has nevertheless lost her bid to reclaim her old job. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan found that Thomas M. Cooley Law School had cause to fire law professor Lynn Branham after it held the appropriate hearing to do so.

Judge Robert Jonker ruled earlier this month that Ms. Branham had violated her employment contract with the school and that her tenured status did not entitle her to more protection than the contract provided. “Insubordination necessarily has real consequences in the workplace, even for tenured faculty,” the judge wrote.

Ms. Branham alleged in a 2007 lawsuit that she was fired in retaliation for opposing the school’s hiring of the husband of a board member. The board member was Jane Markey, a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Her husband is Curt Benson, an associate professor at the school. Ms. Branham alleged that hiring Mr. Benson created a conflict of interest. She also contended that he was not qualified to serve on the faculty. Ms. Branham’s suit alleged that she was fired from her job without a hearing when administrators unfairly piled on teaching responsibilities in retaliation for her opposition.

In September 2009, Judge Jonker found that the school violated procedure by not affording Ms. Branham a proper hearing before it terminated her. In March, the judge denied the school’s motion to dismiss. Judge Jonker, in his latest decision, found that the school, following his initial ruling, provided her with a fair hearing. He also found that the school assigned her a permissible workload under her contract and that when she refused to accept the workload, it had cause to fire her.

He wrote that he was not convinced by Ms. Branham’s argument that because she was tenured, she was entitled to a “lifetime appointment,” despite the terms of the contract. “[M]any of the conflicts in this case appear to stem from her extreme and contractually erroneous view of the rights her contractual tenure guarantees,” he wrote.

Ms. Branham’s attorney, Houston solo practitioner Alan Foster Blakley, said the decision should “shock” tenured law professors. “It shows a complete inability to understand that the term ‘tenure’ has meaning beyond any meaning that a contract can give to it,” he said, adding that his client is considering whether to appeal. Ms. Branham is now a visiting professor teaching criminal law at St. Louis University School of Law.