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BYU: "Topnotch talent that is often overlooked."

That's pretty much the exact opposite of what I want to read about any prospective law school. The school I want is the one that gets: "Illiterate, unskilled dolts who all seem to wind up with plum jobs and outrageous salaries for no apparent reason."

And I have to add my voice to the chorus of those questioning your endowment figures.  I work in higher ed - in fundraising, as a matter of fact - and seeing those endowment numbers, which in each case represent that university's TOTAL endowment (not just its law school's endowment), makes me squeamish.  I understand how hard those numbers are to come by, but I think it would improve your analysis.

I also think that including information on annual fundraising and state support might help flesh this out.  You mentioned that you knew you were omitting state support, but support from alumni, friends, and foundations also plays a big role in this.

I completely agree. This is not the only area in which better data would make a huge difference in our ability to appraise law schools. If you have any sources or suggestions for getting more specific figures, then I would be happy to hear them. Based on what publicly available data I have found, this is, as stated, offered as the least worst rough guess for which schools have the potential to succeed and prosper over time. And total endowment figures are far from the worst estimate of gross fund raising power for a school. At the very least, it's a clear measure of a school's success in doing exactly what you refer to above -- getting and growing money from alumni and other sources of support.

Also, I don't think a single voice counts as a chorus. But I guess two might.

Besides, is UFlorida really in a greater position to make large scale investments than SMU or Tulane?  Do you really expect UFlorida to climb the rankings faster than these two schools?

If anything this approach understates the potential of public schools, since there is no way to include the "virtual endowment" factor provided by tax revenues. That's why I also provide separate lists for public and private schools. On a rough order of magnitude basis it's still reasonable to think a school backed by $15 billion has a lot more potential to exploit any opportunities that it has than one with only $1 billion, regardless of their affiliation. The three schools that you listed fall within four spots of each other and just below the middle of the list for Tier One. Obviously that suggests that they have roughly equal prospects over the long term.

Why is this assumption reasonable?

Because it's common sense. If parents are expecting one child and get triplets instead, it seems likely that they'll wind up driving off to college in three Miatas rather than one Porsche. If a campus depends on system-wide funding, as most public schools do, then the share of that funding allocated to all purposes for one law school will obviously be higher than the same system would provide for each of two or four or five law schools.

So you used the $15 billion dollar figure for UT because it has the only law school in the system, but divided the Indiana schools up?  gross

If UTEP and UTD opened law schools, do you think UT-Austin Law's endowment would be cut to 1/3?

Well, UT-Austin certainly wouldn't be the only child anymore. It seems reasonable to assume that a law school in a large system with no other law schools will have an easier time getting capital funding from the system endowment than a school that has to compete with several others for access to the same pool. The decision to open a fifth UC law school (Irvine) certainly is not going to improve the position of Berkeley, UCLA, Hastings, and Davis when it comes to funding. Of course these four schools all have campus-specific endowments as well (which are included in the endowment listing), so they will be hurt to greater and lesser degrees depending on how much they now depend on system funding vs. their own.

In the absence of data breaking endowments down to the campus and college level, this seems like the least worst approach available. And given the magnitude of differences between schools, it's close enough to be useful. Specific data in many cases just doesn't exist, because schools either don't account for endowment funds that way, or at least don't report it. Even law school deans sometimes complain because their universities don't fully segregate operating expenses and income by college, which makes it harder for them to report accurate "expenditures" figures to US News.

Gross endowment is a better measure of a school's ability to take on major capital projects

Good example of both this and the relevance of system endowments is the Penn State - Dickinson merger. Clearly the main selling point for that whole idea was that Dickinson would gain access to the massive PSU endowment. This is in fact funding major capital improvements for the school, including overhauling the Carlisle campus and building the new University Park facilities. So these schools at least seemed to think that access to major capital funding and affiliation with university resources are important for success. For the moment US News seems to agree with them. But it's hard to tell how long or how far they will continue to rise.

UT SYSTEM = 9 universities + 6 learning hospitals + other stuff

Most public schools rely on system-wide endowments for the major part of their funding, and some have campus specific endowments as well. I used system-wide figures where those were the only ones available, and divided by the number of law schools each system supports where there was more than one in the system. If campus specific endowments were quoted, then I added those to the estimated per-campus share of the system-wide funds. The notes at the bottom of the endowments list detail how the figures for law schools in university systems were calculated.

If you doubt that there is information here, then consider this:

Looking at the Most Likely to Succeed Rankings 2007 and the Hot or Not 2008 lists, there seems a pattern worth noting: 1) All but one of the schools that jumped into the next tier up were in the upper half of their tier by MLTS score last year; and 2) All of the schools that fell into the next lower tier were in the bottom half of their tier by MLTS score. There was no clear pattern for lesser changes in rank. The updated Most Likely to Succeed Rankings 2008 have breakouts by tier for last year, for T2/3/4.

It's not a pinpoint predictor of any sort, but it does at least seem to sort schools into groups which are more and less likely to make big moves up and down.

You have the wrong endowment for both UTexas and Tulane (and those are the only two schools I looked at).

5 University of Texas System TX 15,613,672 (p. 1)
76 Tulane University LA 1,009,129 (p. 3)

All Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2007 Market Value of Endowment Assets

If you have another source, then I'd be happy to take a look at it. The NACUBO annual report is the most comprehensive one that I've found.

Also I think it is silly you don't divide endowment by the students or factor in undergraduate endowment vs. law school endowment.

Separate endowment figures are hard to find for most schools, since many do not segregate their funds or expenses by college in public reports. Endowment per student is one way to look at resources, but that relates more to how much a school spends per student in their operating budget each year (how generous they might be with scholarship money, for instance). Gross endowment is a better measure of a school's ability to take on major capital projects or to survive economic and political threats, like downturns in the economy and cuts in funding. The total weight of resources available has more to do with a school's chances of finding and exploiting opportunities over the long term.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Rank and Reputation Moves 2008
« on: March 28, 2008, 04:21:44 PM »
Thanks for all the great content Sock!


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