Saturday, June 25, 2005
The Practice of Law Begins in Law School
Do we all agree that substance abuse, addiction, gambling, depression, and burnout are serious problems within the profession? Do we all agree that they are also serious problems within our law schools?
For facts, figures and proactive recommendations, see Making the Most out of Law School, a power point slide show combining the expertise and talents of Professor Andy Benjamin (University of Washington School of Law) and Professor Paula Lustbader (Seattle University School of Law).
"Practicing" law in law school is not limited to practicing working long hours and solving complex problems by careful analysis. The "practice" must also include developing and maintaining . . .
One of the problems with bringing these issues to the forefront in law school is that many of the students have heard most of the temperance lectures in high school and, most recently, college. "We're adults now." Unfortunately, these are adult problems. Suggestion: bring to their attention that these are problems lawyers encounter — law students can begin "practicing" for their law career by addressing the problems now, as lawyers do. Do lawyers address these problems? You bet.
The General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Section of the American Bar Association provides a wealth of reading material to help us and our students understand and cope with the many problems addressed by the Benjamin/Lustbader slides.
An entire issue of GPSOLO, the section's magazine, is dedicated to problems associated with these "Bumps in the Road." In the featured article, Myer J. (Michael) Cohen writes about long hours, demanding clients, and inhospitable work environments — a guaranteed recipe for stress, burnout, depression, and substance abuse. He reports that the organized bar is fighting back, helping lawyers regain health, save licenses, salvage families, and protect clients. Query: Is your law school fighting back?
Just as excellent law students often become excellent lawyers, law students who succumb to these problems often become lawyers plagued by these problems.
Other articles in this issue address:
- Spotting addiction in colleagues.
- Depression ("Are you suffering from a “blue” moment or the kind of depression that requires professional intervention?")
- How to spot the signs of a gambling problem, and how to use a compulsive
gambling defense when facing sentencing or disbarment proceedings.
- Internet addiction (which is "... being identified as the culprit in an increasing number of divorce cases, child custody battles, criminal litigations, and law practice failures.")
- Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (finding out "whether ADD is affecting your life.)
- Recovery Success Stories ("Not everyone makes it to the other side, but these lawyers have. Here are their stories.")
- The dangerous link between chronic office chaos, stress, depression, and substance abuse ("Last-minute panics, little pre-planning of case strategies, weak leadership, mismanagement of files, high turnover, and frequent client complaints — is this a snapshot of your office? If so, find
out how to decrease office chaos and improve morale.") [Is this similar to a snapshot of many of the students you assist?]
- Protecting personal relationships ("Lawyers can unwittingly undermine relationships with family and friends when they bring home an
adversarial turn of mind. Find out how to communicate with your loved ones.") [How many "breakups" and divorces did your student population experience last year?]
A note about Michael Cohen: He has a story to tell. "In my own case, a 23 year history of dependence on drugs and alcohol led to the loss of my material possessions, my marriage, my family and friends, my ability to practice law, and finally my license." He got it back. Read his story beginning on the second page of Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company's bulletin, "The Risk Manager."
Consider directing some of these articles to the attention of your students. (A quick Google search will lead you to pages featuring reprints of some of the individual articles ... examples: Bumps in the Road, Depression ... for more focused referral.) (djt)
Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus is the Director of Academic Development and an Assistant Professor of Legal Methods at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Huntington, New York.
Previously, she was an associate at a public sector labor law firm.
As Director of Academic Development since Fall 2003, Suzanne has coordinated all aspects of Touro’s Academic Development programs, which span the entire length of the legal educational process, from orientation to bar examination preparation and counseling. She is responsible for training and supervising teaching assistants, working with students on an individual basis, conducting skills training workshops, developing appropriate student work materials, coordinating bar-preparation programs, and implementing new services relevant to enhancing its students’ academic experience and performance.
Before attending law school, Suzanne was a promotional and technical writer in the software, electronic, and medical device manufacturing industries. She believes her background in business and technology and her years in the workplace have helped to bring perspective, understanding, and appreciation to the study of law.
Suzanne has published in the areas of contracts, labor law, the Fourth Amendment’s Exclusionary Rule, and federal preemption of state tort law as it relates to government regulation of medical devices.
In the area of academic support and bar exam preparation, she has published Incorporating Bar Pass Strategies into Routine Teaching Practices in the Gonzaga Law Review, authored THE BAR EXAM IN A NUTSHELL for West Publications and is working on another publication for West entitled Mastering the Law School Exam, scheduled for publication in 2006.
In Fall 2004, her article, "A Response to the Society of American Law Teachers' Statement on the Bar Exam" was published in the Journal of Legal Education. The National Conference of Bar Examiners adapted the article for publication in the May 2005 issue of The Bar Examiner.
Monday, June 20, 2005
If you're still holding a law license or two you may find your state bar association a good locus for a useful training. On Friday, I attended a day-long workshop entitled, "Time Mastery for Lawyers: 60 Ways to Maximize Your Productivity and Satisfaction," arranged by the New Hampshire Bar Association.
Frank Sanitate, a consultant from California, led the day-long trek through muddled calendars and undone to-do lists into a positive discussion of goal setting and strategies to free up more leisure time and to make work hours more efficient and satisfying.
As the cover of his book on time management notes, his approach is "State-of-the-Heart Time Management."
Even though I only recently left (or escaped, depending upon your perspective) the practice of law I was struck by how my memories have started to fade of the urgent demands of clients, the vagaries of court calendars and the headaches of scheduling depositions. Sitting in a room discussing ways for a lawyer to schedule her time reminded me: a) of the privilege of teaching in a law school, and b) of the importance of keeping touch with the profession so that I can best help my students to prepare themselves through school to practice at an optimal level.
Most astonishing was the lesson this business consultant gave to this member of the teaching profession: how to keep a room full of attorneys engaged and interested for a full day. My hat was off to him. (els)
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Revisiting the MacCrate Report
In 1992, an American Bar Association task force headed by Robert MacCrate issued a report, Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum. The "MacCrate Report" identified fundamental skills and values essential for competent lawyering - and, of course, had a very significant impact on the future of the curricula of all ABA approved law schools.
"... American law schools cannot reasonably be expected to shoulder the task of converting ... students into full-fledged lawyers licensed to handle legal matters. ... a gap develops between the expectation and the reality ... . The lament of the practicing bar is a steady refrain: 'They can't draft a contract, they can't write, they've never seen a summons, the professors have never been inside a courtroom.' Law schools offer the traditional responses: 'We teach them how to think, we're not trade schools, we're centers of scholarship and learning, practice is best taught by practitioners.'
* * *
"Early in its deliberations this Task Force concluded that it was not possible to consider how to 'bridge' or 'narrow' the alleged 'gap' between law schools and the practicing bar without first identifying the fundamental skills and values that every lawyer should acquire before assuming responsibility for the handling of a legal matter." (Quoting from the ABA web page summarizing the Report.)
The ABA summary continues, "The Statement of Skills and Values can serve as an aid to law students in preparing for practice. ... many law students are passive consumers of legal education: They lack an adequate understanding of the requirements for competent practice, the process by which a new member of the profession prepares for practice and attains competence, and the role that law schools play in that process. If the Statement of Skills and Values is distributed to all law students at the time they enter law school, students will begin their legal education with a clearer sense of the importance of acquiring skills and values in the course of professional development."
Not a bad idea. (editorial comment)
What are these skills (and values)? Click here for the list of ten skills (with many sub-categories ... you may need to scroll down to Chapter 5, section B).
Query: Aren't skills 1 through 5, and skill 9, those we can/should/do address in our Academic Support Programs? Without these tools, skills, capabilities (call them what you will), lawyers face difficulties functioning as lawyers. But without these same capabilities, law students simply cannot function at their highest "personal best" levels while in law school.
What do we teach in our Academic Support Programs? I submit that we help law students morph into lawyers. And we do so by helping them understand that law school truly is a preparation for the professional practice of law, but not in the way so many students think it is when they fill out their law school applications. We do so by encouraging them to practice the fundamental lawyering "meta-skills."
Doctrinal professors encourage the learning and use of doctrine; Academic Support professionals encourage the learning and use of lawyering skills. (djt)