Sunday, 28 August 2011

The US “inside-the-law-school-scam” blog: a quick comparison with the UK

Three weeks ago a US law professor started a blog called “Inside the Law School Scam” (here). This has caused a lot of attention (summarised with links here), not least since the professor initially decided to stay anonymously. In substance the US professor makes the point, raised earlier in blogs by law graduates, that tuition fees for JD degrees are increasingly excessive while job prospects get worse, i.e. the “scam” is that students pay a lot for something not very useful. In addition, and contentiously, he accuses his own profession: to quote from his first post (here) “law professors are scamming their students”, and in the second one (here) “they are paid absurdly large salaries for doing almost no real work”, in particular in terms of teaching which is allegedly often done with zero preparation. It’s interesting reading the posts, comments etc, and it made me wonder whether there is anything remotely similar in the UK (assuming, for the moment, there is some truth to it for the US. My answer would be “no”. The core differences are:
  • Costs of higher education: considerably lower in the UK. Ok, they will go up, but still. Moreover, in this respect, it’s an advantage that here law is an undergraduate degree: thus, you only pay for three years, not six ones.
  • Job prospects: of course, not great at the moment. And in the UK, law graduates who want to become solicitors have to get a training contract which can be tough. But again the undergraduate nature makes a difference: the question is not about the value of an additional degree (as the JD in the US) but whether an LLB leads to better job prospects than a BA in philosophy, history etc: in this respect, I would say that it doesn’t look too bad.
  • Misleading marketing: that’s done by administrative staff not academics. There are also official comparisons (e.g., here) on job prospects etc.
  • Teaching without preparation. OK, some topics take more and some less preparation, and presumably most academics prefer research to teaching. Still, in general, my experience is that one should not underestimate teaching preparation (as a student I thought that some profs just came in and started talking about what they knew; but now I know that that’s what requires most preparation). A difference from the US is that in addition to the core programme (JD in US; LLB in UK), UK law schools have more extensive special programmes for LLM students plus some training for PhD students which tend to require more extensive preparations.
  • Professors with “absurdly large salaries”: unfortunately no…. as far as I’m aware...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Company law – quo vadis?

This is a broad illustration how “traditional company law” has been changing. The partly interconnected (see small arrows) causes are: the EU and international dimension of company law (EU Directives, ECJ case law, OECD Guidelines, international accounting law etc); interdisciplinary and non-legal research (e.g. in business schools as corporate governance; law and finance); the growing relevance of special rules for listed companies (i.e., securities regulation, capital market law); more and more legislation (see only the CA 2006 in the UK but also other acts).

In law journal articles and research monographs these changes can clearly be seen (it should be possible to show this empirically). Yet, many of the UK company law textbooks have changed little from the traditional company law paradigm: thus, there seem to be path-dependencies at force: some of the books being updated versions of books originally published decades ago; but also presumably that many textbook authors write in a style how they remember to have learned company law years/decades ago, thus also explaining the time lag.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

John Burke’s “One”: the strong case for uniformity

Should law be uniform? In practice there may be a trend in this direction but most academics are sceptical, emphasising cultural differences, benefits of regulatory competition, practical and political problems etc. Thus, it is nice to read a clear statement that makes exactly this strong case for uniformity. It’s by John Burke, one of my former colleagues from Riga, now in Kazakhstan (full text here):
“There are too many languages. In the European Union alone, there are 23 official languages, requiring all documents drafted in English or French to be translated into such esoteric languages such as Gaelic, Estonian, and Slovak. The beneficiaries of this declaratory statement of a language being ‘official’ are the translation services organized to produce versions of texts into these obscure, unimportant, languages. (…) Member States of the United Nations comprise 196, out of an approximate number of 203 Sovereign States in the world. (…) Who needs all these countries? I cannot figure it out, as I regard myself as person without a Nation. I neither want nor need a Nation. Passports, of course, are another matter: the more the better.
Languages and Sovereign States are not the focal point of my article: it is the law. (…) In a world of cross-border transactions, the rise of multi-national companies, and the nature of law (…), there is nothing more absurd than a breach of the concept of ‘One’. (…) ‘One’ must dominant. The differences in legal systems are full employment acts for lawyers, particularly at the company level. Do we really need different rules about M&A between Italy and Kazakhstan? No, we do not. Do we need substantially different prospectus requirements for listing stocks at the LSE and NYSE? Clearly not is the reply. The same may be said of most disciplines of law: contract, tort, property, IP, anti-trust, and company law, including banking law. No legal system should contain a contrarian rule unless otherwise cogently rationalized. Say the word and you will be free: the word is ‘One’”.
What’s my take on these issues? I like the point about nations, tend to cautiously agree about languages, but am not sure about the claims about uniform law.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Memorable first sentences in law journals?

From “Call me Ishmael...” (Herman Melville) to "It was a dark and stormy night..." (Edward Bulwer-Lytton): there are a number of websites that wonder about the most memorable (best/worst) opening sentences in books (e.g., here, here, here)
Has there been anything like this for law journal articles? Not as far as I’m aware of. Thus, I just had a look at the opening lines of the articles published in the Journal of Corporate Law Studies between 2009 and 2011. Here are a number of good lines and a few comments:
The global financial crisis reached its peak with the catastrophic events of September and October 2008 … (Emilios Avgouleas 2009) [well, sorry, that was a bit optimistic …]
The financial tsunami currently sweeping the global markets is claiming bigger and bigger victims, starting with residential home owners, then working its way through investors and banks, before reaching nation states … (Christoph Kumpan 2009) [same issue but more open; also good how the scope of crisis is explained in few words]
Clarifying when investors can sue, who they can bring their claim against and what they have to prove in order to succeed in their claim is an important function of securities laws … (Eilis Ferran 2009) [I like the three “w’s”]
The economic position of passive capital has, in disparate ways, significantly influenced the development of corporate law … (Robert Flannigan 2009) [the “in disparate ways” makes it interesting]
Social choice theory provides an important, yet hitherto neglected, perspective on the question of whether to exclude reference to the interests of non-shareholder stakeholders within the regulatory framework governing takeovers … (Liza Rybak 2010) [good showing immediately the originality of the article in a few words]
Reform of company and/or corporations law is moribund … (David Wishart 2010) [very catchy if there weren’t the “and/or”]
The current economic crisis has been a wake-up call … (Lady Justice Arden 2010) [catchy too, though references to the crisis are now something like "it was a dark and stormy night" ...]
In corporate and financial environments the notion of risk taking is a double-edged sword … (Marc Moore 2010) [good: opens the discussion]
Investor protection is one of the major subjects in the legal and economic literature on corporate governance … (Alessio Pacces 2011) [yes, catchy but this may work for half of all articles on company law; actually, it’s possible that I’ve used similar sentences as well ...]
The pre-packaged administration is a process that has provoked numerous media attacks, commentaries and reports - not to mention a new statement of professional practice and a number of judicial interventions … (Vanessa Finch 2011) [I like the “not to mention” structure]
In terms of the magnitude of losses as well as the speed and breadth of its expansion, the current financial turmoil deserves a unique place in economic chronicles and in the history of financial markets … (Panagiotis Staikouras 2011) [There we go again, but presumably it’s correct that any crisis is “unique”]
So, what’s my favourite? Not sure, perhaps Kumpan 2009 or Finch 2011.