Monday, October 20, 2014
The following announcement comes to us from Alicia Plerhoples (Georgetown). The 14th annual transactional clinic conference will be held at UMKC School of Law in Kansas City, Missouri and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is serving as a host partner. Proposals are due by December 15, 2014 and more information about the conference is available after the break.
14TH ANNUAL TRANSACTIONAL CLINICAL CONFERENCE
CALL FOR PROPOSALS, PAPERS, & PANELISTS
Teaching and Writing Methods of the Transactional Clinician
This year’s conference theme is Teaching and Writing Methods of the Transactional Clinician. The conference will have two tracks: (1) a “Nuts & Bolts” Teacher Workshop and (2) a “Pen & Paper” Scholarship Workshop. The Planning Committee seeks proposals for (1) presentations, (2) papers, and (3) panelists as outlined below.
Friday, October 17, 2014
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, by Patrick Delahanty from Louisville, United States)
Alison Lundergan Grimes and I both graduated from Rhodes College, a small liberal arts college in Memphis, TN. I have not spoken to Alison since college, so I was surprised to see her mentioned on CNN a number of weeks ago as the democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Kentucky. Since then, she has been in the news quite a bit. She will face Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in what has turned into one of the hotter Senate races this year.
Even in college I did not know Alison well, but we did take a public speaking class together. Alison was the type of student who was often in a suit and pearls in class, while I wore flip flops year-round and whatever wrinkled, Goodwill-purchased clothes were the most clean. She was a Chi Omega (easily the most refined group on campus), and I was a part of the football team for all four years (if there was a rowdier group on campus than the football team, it was the rugby club, which I joined because my playing time on the football team was minimal).
The public speaking class that Alison and I took together was definitely one of the most practical classes I took. Each student gave short speeches almost every day, and we were video-taped. We then watched and critiqued the videos as a class. Almost all of us had at least a few nervous habits, but we all appeared to break them after our nervous habits were seen on the screen and pointed out in front of the entire class. It was all quite embarrassing, but effective. I think there were only about a dozen of us in the class, which made this sort of personal attention possible. Our final exam was a presentation to an audience of 100 or more people, and our professor had lined up enough options for each of us, which must have taken a lot of time to organize.
I had some opportunities to do public speaking in law school. I know those who competed in moot court and trial advocacy had even more opportunities, but I think we should try to give our students even more chances to hone their public speaking skills. Regardless of post-graduation job, almost all students will need public speaking skills, even if their audiences are small. I try to include student presentations in as many of my classes as I practically can.
While we can all work public speaking into at least some of our classes, a required class fully dedicated to public speaking might be worthwhile. Do any law schools do this? I know public speaking is usually a part of a legal writing or litigation class, but I have not heard of a required course devoted specifically to public speaking.
Update: I should note that Alison is also legally trained. She is a graduate of American University's Washington College of Law.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
I plan to write a more traditional blog post later if I have time, but I am in the midst of midterm grading hell. I was amused today in class when a student compared the drama of the Francis v. United Jersey Bank case with the bankruptcy, bank, and mortgage fraud convictions of husband and wife Joe and Teresa Guidice from the reality TV hit the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
I had provided some color commentary courtesy of Reinier Kraakman and Jay Kesten’s The Story of Francis v. United Jersey Bank: When a Good Story Makes Bad Law, and apparently Mrs. Pritchard’s defenses reminded the student of Teresa Guidice’s pleas of ignorance. Other than being stories about New Jersey fraudsters, there aren’t a lot of similarities between the cases. Based on my quick skim of the indictment I don’t think that Teresa served on the board of any of the companies at issue--Joe apparently had an LLC and was the sole member, and the vast majority of the counts against the couple relate to their individual criminal conduct. In addition, Teresa is also going to jail, and no one suffered that fate in United Jersey. But luckily, she may see a big payday from a purported book deal and reality TV show spinoff after she’s out, possibly disproving the adage that crime doesn’t pay.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Georgetown University Law Center invites applicants interested in establishing and teaching in a transactional clinic. This position is tenure track. The successful applicant will begin on July 1, 2015. Georgetown seeks to add to its spectrum of business related clinics. Currently we offer clinics that teach business formation in the field of social entrepreneurship, community development and strategic planning, and that assist low income residents in the acquisition, renovation, and operation of their buildings as long-term affordable housing.
At Georgetown Law, professors dedicated to clinical teaching are fully integrated into the faculty. Both entry level and lateral hires are urged to apply. The person selected for this position would join our large clinical community, develop the clinic, be assisted by a clinical fellow and teach the clinic each semester.
The successful applicant will have a strong commitment to promoting access to justice and a demonstrated interest in nurturing student development. Candidates must demonstrate intellectual engagement including scholarly promise (for entry-level candidates) or be a proven scholar (for lateral candidates). Successful applicants will also have subject-matter expertise and a positive reputation in the field, the communication, organizational and collaborative skills necessary to direct and manage a clinic and a commitment to teaching clinically over the long term. Georgetown values excellent teaching and a successful applicant will have pedagogical skills, creativity, and enthusiasm for the academic endeavor. This law school is committed to diversity, and candidates of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
Please send a resume, including the names of references and a statement of interest to Hope Babcock, the Chair of the Clinical Subcommittee of the Appointments Committee. Her email is Babcock@law.georgetown.edu.
[Posted at the request of Haskell Murray, who is traveling today.]
Monday, October 6, 2014
As on-campus interviews slow down, a lot of students now are coming to me looking for cover letter advice. Since co-blogger Haskell Murray more-or-less asked me to write on this topic in response to a comment on his super post on resumes and interviews, I thought I would take the bait. My principal thoughts on the subject are set forth below the fold. Some of my observations and elements of my advice are conservative and anally compulsive, I know. But consider the source: I worked in Big Law for fifteen years before I started teaching law and served on a number of office hiring committees over that time.
Thee are many good websites out there on cover letter drafting. Most of the advice they give is good, but it is somewhat varied. There are some things common and traditional in law job cover letters that may help students sift through the Internet prattle and settle on specific approaches. That's the overlay I hope to offer here.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Elizabeth Pollman (Loyola, Los Angeles) notified us that Loyola Law School, Los Angeles is hiring for an Associate Clinical Professor of Law/Director of the Business Law Practicum.
The details are below the break.
Earlier, I posted a list of legal studies positions in business schools.
Today, I decided to go through the helpful PrawfsBlawg spreadsheet on hiring committees to draw out the law schools that listed at least one business law area of interest. The PrawfsBlawg spreadsheet is a few months old, so it is possible that the schools' needs have changed somewhat in the interim. Also, many schools did not list any specific areas of interest, but hopefully this list is still helpful to our readers.
If readers know of any other law schools that have an interest in hiring in one or more business law areas, please leave the school name in the comments (with a link to the posting, if possible) or send me an email. Updated positions (that are not on the PrawfsBlawg list) will include a link to the posting, if possible.
Florida A&M (business law)
Fordham (international economic law)
Maryland (business law)
North Carolina (corporate finance, international business transactions)
West Virginia (entrepreneurship clinic)
I am back teaching law students again this semester, in addition to teaching business school students. Last class, I did my "mid-course" teaching evaluations in the law school, which I do voluntarily each semester to gauge how the courses are going for the students. Almost always, I pick up on some important trends from the responses. One somewhat frustrating thing, however, is that students often want contradicting things. (e.g., "the previous class review is extremely helpful" and "the previous class review is a complete waste of time.")
The Lon Fuller quote below, from his article On Teaching Law, 3 Stan. L. Rev. 35, 42-43 (1950), helped me realize that some of the contradition, even within the same individual, is natural and expected.
Herein lies a dilemma for student and teacher. The good student really wants contradictory things from his legal education. He wants the thrill of exploring a wilderness and he wants to know where he stands every foot of the way. He wants a subject matter sufficiently malleable so that he can feel that he himself may help to shape it, so that he can have a sense of creative participation in defining and formulating it. At the same time he wants that subject so staked off and nailed down that he will feel no uneasiness in its presence and experience no fear that it may suddenly assume unfamiliar forms before his eyes.
No teacher is skillful enough to satisfy these incompatible demands. I don't think he should try. Rather he should help the student to understand himself, should help him to see that he wants (and very naturally and properly wants) inconsistent things of his legal education. Much frustration will be avoided if the student realizes that an unresolved antinomy runs through his education, and that this antinomy cannot be resolved so long as men want of life, as they do of the preparation for life called education, both security and adventure.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
For the second time, I have assigned my BA students to write their own shareholder proposals so that they can better understand the mechanics and the substance behind Rule 14-a8. As samples, I provided a link to over 500 proposals for the 2014 proxy season. We also went through the Apple Proxy Statement as a way to review corporate governance, the roles of the committees, and some other concepts we had discussed. As I reviewed the proposals this morning, I noticed that the student proposals varied widely with most relating to human rights, genetically modified food, environmental protection, online privacy, and other social factors. A few related to cumulative voting, split of the chair and CEO, poison pills, political spending, pay ratio, equity plans, and other executive compensation factors.
After they take their midterm next week, I will show them how well these proposals tend to do in the real world. Environmental, social, and governance factors (political spending and lobbying are included) constituted almost 42% of proposals, up from 36% in 2013, according to Equilar. Of note, 45% of proposals calling for a declassified board passed, with an average of 89% support, while only two proposals for the separation of chair and CEO passed. Astonishingly, Proxy Monitor, which looked at the 250 largest publicly-traded American companies, reports that just three people and their family members filed one third of all proposals. Only 4% of shareholder proposals were supported by a majority of voting shareholders. Only one of the 136 proposals related to social policy concerns in the Proxy Monitor data set passed, and that was an animal welfare proposal that the company actually supported.
I plan to use two of the student proposals verbatim on the final exam to test their ability to assess whether a company would be successful in an SEC No-Action letter process. Many of the students thought the exercise was helpful, although one of the students who was most meticulous with the assignment is now even more adamant that she does not want to do transactional law. Too bad, because she would make a great corporate lawyer. I have 7 weeks to convince her to change her mind.
October 2, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Law School, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Yesterday, I shared with my faculty during our teaching conversations* my research and thinking on gender equality in the classroom. How do we handle gender in the classroom? My guess is that most of us teaching honestly strive to achieve and believe that we create a gender-neutral, or more accurately an equally-facilitative classroom environment. You can image the horror I felt when I received voluntary, anonymous student feedback last spring that said “you may not mean to or know you are doing this, but you treat men and women differently in class.” From whose perspective was this coming? How differently? And who gets the better treatment? I was baffled. As a female law professor, I was hoping that I got a pass on thinking critically about gender because I am female, right? Wrong.
This feedback launched my research into the area and a self-audit of the ways in which I may be explicitly treating students differently, implicitly reinforcing gender norms, and unintentionally creating a classroom environment that is different from my ideal.
Below are some observations and discoveries about my own behavior and a summary of some relevant research.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
There is a growing drumbeat for banning laptops in the classroom, as a recent New Yorker article explained. The current case for banning laptops appeared on a Washington Post blog (among other places), in a piece written by Clay Shirky, who is a professor of media studies at New York University, and holds a joint appointment as an arts professor at NYU’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program in the Tisch School of the Arts, and as a Distinguished Writer in Residence in the journalism institute.
The piece makes a compelling case for banning laptops, and I agree there are a number of good reasons to do so. I’ll not recount the whole piece here (I recommend reading it), but here’s a key passage:
Anyone distracted in class doesn’t just lose out on the content of the discussion but creates a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers. In an environment like this, students need support for the better angels of their nature (or at least the more intellectual angels), and they need defenses against the powerful short-term incentives to put off complex, frustrating tasks. That support and those defenses don’t just happen, and they are not limited to the individual’s choices. They are provided by social structure, and that structure is disproportionately provided by the professor, especially during the first weeks of class.
I am sympathetic to this line of thinking, and I am even more sympathetic to another point made in the article: that the laptop distractions can leak from one student engaging in social media or other non-classroom activities to those around them. That is a serious concern.
Still, I don’t ban laptops in my classes, though I have thought about it. I let students use them in my larger-enrollment classes: Business Organizations, which usually is near the cap of 70, and Energy Law, which is usually in the 34-55 range. There is no doubt the risk of distraction in those courses is higher than in others. Interestingly, in my last two seminar-style classes, I did not have a ban, either, but students rarely used laptops. They opted-in for the discussions (self-selection for certain topics can certainly help on that front).
I continue to think about how I want to proceed, but for now, I see value in allowing my students the option to choose how they wish to engage. There have been some other defenses of the idea of keeping laptops in the classroom (see, e.g., here), but my views are an amalgam of different styles and rationales.
First, part of learning, especially in becoming a life-long learner (which is what lawyers need to be), one must choose to engage. Law students are grown ups, and they must learn how they learn. They must decide. I won’t be there when they get to their job and they have to use the computer to actually do the work of a lawyer. They will, at some point, have to decide when to focus and when to play.
Second, I value diversity of styles in the classroom. That is, if most other professors are using open-book exams or take home exams, mine will probably be closed book, and closed note. I have taught using quizzes, blog posts, midterms, short papers, etc., to add some variety to the experience. Now that more classes, at least at my school, are without laptops, it actually gives me a reason to consider keeping them.
Finally, at least so far, allowing laptops is part of my deal with students. It’s part of how I connect and model for them my view and expectation that they are grown ups. I give them power, and I expect them to act appropriately. As my friend, former colleague, and teaching mentor Patti Alleva (recognized as one of the nation's best law teachers) explained in a recent National Law Journal piece, teaching is ultimately about respect and what she calls “intentionality.” She explains:
The simple fact is that teaching does not always produce learning, even if thoughtfully done. Creating that causal link between the two can be a mystifying challenge, especially given the infinite number of unknowable factors and forces that may reduce a teacher's effectiveness or a student's willingness or ability to learn.
. . . .
Teachers, as fiduciaries of their students' educational experience, owe them compassionate deference, based on a benefit of the doubt, coupled with high but reasonable expectations for a meaningful learning collaboration.
. . . .
Ultimately, the best professors are themselves students who learn as much as they teach. And they seek, not to impose ideas on students, but to help equip them with the metacognitive tools to test those ideas and use them in service of problem-solving. Hopefully, students will develop their own senses of respect — for the legal profession, for themselves as aspiring lawyers and for the learning partnership we share. So, if years ago, in that tense seminar room, each of us left with respect for our disagreements and for the pedagogic processes that allowed us to critically and creatively examine, and grow from, those differences, then invaluable learning did take place that day with respect providing a bridge between teaching and learning when other things may have temporarily obscured the connection.
I hope that as teachers we can all appreciate that we, like our students, have different views on the best way to teach and to learn. Just because we choose different paths, it doesn't make any path wrong. As long as the path is thoughtfully chosen, with a purpose and a goal, there’s a good chance it’s right for that teacher, in that moment, for that class. And if it’s not, the key is not about dwelling on the mistake. It’s about learning, adjusting, and doing a better job next time, because the best teachers really are the ones who are trying to “learn as much as they teach.”
Monday, September 29, 2014
Belmont University's School of Law in Nashville, TN has posted a tenure-track assistant professor opening here.
(Disclosure: I am a professor at Belmont University's business school and am teaching Business Associations in the law school this fall.)
Friday, September 19, 2014
We are less than a month away from the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference (a/k/a the “meat market” or the “FRC”). Reading the comments at PrawfsBlawg from the nervous candidates brings me back to my time on the meat market in 2010.
In this post, I hope to encourage hiring committees to engage in some perspective taking and improve the typical law school hiring process for candidates.
Instead of focusing on schools that I felt needed improvement in their hiring processes, I want to highlight one hiring committee that I think got it exactly right. The hiring committee was from The University of Oklahoma College of Law, made up of Emily Hammond (now at George Washington), Katheleen Guzman, and Joseph Thai.
Four years later, I remember their names vividly. I only made it to the FRC interview level with Oklahoma, and never got a call-back with the school, which makes their conduct that much more admirable. Oklahoma’s hiring committee excelled in three areas that I think all hiring committees should focus on and that I discuss more fully after the break: communication, transparency, and humanity.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Teaching the definition of a "security" to business associations students who: 1) want to be litigators; 2) are afraid of math, finance, and accounting; 3) don't know anything about business; 4) only take the class because it's required; and 5) aren't allowed to distract themselves with electronics in class is no small feat.
Thankfully, as we were discussing the definition and exemptions, we also touched on IPOs. Many of the students knew nothing about IPOs but were already Alibaba customers and going through some of the registration statement made them understand the many reasons companies want to avoid going public. Of course, now that we went through some of the risk factors, my students who seemed gung ho about the IPO after watching some videos about the hype were a little less excited about it (good thing because they probably couldn't buy anyway).
Now if I can only figure out how to jazz up the corporate finance chapter next week.
September 18, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Law School, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)
Monday, September 15, 2014
I was recently asked to serve on an ABA site team to reaccredit a law school. I have done this before; it’s hard work, but it’s fun. You get to see how another law school operates and meet many legal educators you might not otherwise meet. But I turned this one down and I told the ABA to take me off their list of potential accreditors.
I have decided that I will no longer serve as an ABA accreditor. I see no evidence that ABA review is doing much to increase the quality of legal education. The accreditation rules stifle creativity, protect traditional law schools from competition, and increase the cost of legal education.
The newly revised ABA standards are better in some ways than the current standards. They accommodate some technological changes, although at least ten years too late. And I was happy to see that the restrictions on distance education were loosened a little. But the changes are too little, too late.
Ironically, the new ABA standards require law schools to justify their programs based on student outcomes, something the accreditation rules themselves have never done.
I’m not willing to play the game anymore. I’ll leave enforcement of the ABA rules to people who think they’re worth enforcing.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Two recent professor postings that may be of interest to our readers:
Campbell University School of Law (Raleigh, NC) has posted a law professor opening (commercial law).
University of Wyoming College of Law (Laramie, WY) has posted a law professor opening (business law).
Thursday, September 4, 2014
I have been an interviewee and an interviewer dozens upon dozens of times in my legal career. As a professor, drawing on my interviewing experience from both sides of the interview table, I spend a fair amount of time giving my students comments on their resumes and giving them advice before they go on interviews. Below are some of the comments that I find myself making consistently.
Generally, I think employers want to know three basics things about you as an interviewee: (1) are you capable?; (2) are you likeable? and (3) are you dedicated? (For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you haven't given the employer any reason to question your intergrity, but, obviously, integrity is also extremely important.)
I describe each category in greater detail, and provide advice, after the break.
Friday, August 29, 2014
CALIFORNIA WESTERN SCHOOL OF LAW in San Diego invites applications for an entry-level, tenure-track faculty position to begin in the fall of 2015. Our curricular needs are in Family Law, Business Law, and Clinical Teaching. We are particularly, though not exclusively, interested in candidates who are interested in teaching in our Clinical Internship Program, as well as in one of the above-mentioned subject areas. Candidates who would contribute to the diversity of our faculty are strongly encouraged to apply. Interested candidates should email their materials to Professor Scott Ehrlich, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org. California Western is San Diego’s oldest law school. We are an independent, ABA-approved, not-for-profit law school committed to producing practice-ready lawyers. California Western is an equal opportunity employer.
Rebecca Schuman authored a recent article in Slate entitled Syllabus Tyrannus: The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi.
In the article Schuman complains that in the last twenty years syllabi have grown from 1-2 page simple documents with only the course location, required books, and assignments to “Ten, 15, even 20 pages of policies, rubrics, and required administrative boilerplate, some so ludicrous (“course-specific expected learning outcomes”) that I myself have never actually read parts of my own syllabi all the way through.”
While I won’t go as far as Professor Paul Horwitz goes in criticizing Schuman’s writing, I do want to push back a bit on her critique of “course-specific expected learning outcomes.”
I admit that bloated syllabi can be a bit cumbersome, but drafting what we at Belmont call “course objectives” can be a helpful process and can lead to important changes in the course. Believe it or not, each semester I look at my course objectives, evaluate whether they were met, and revise my courses as necessary. My course objectives have reminded me that I shouldn’t drop that undergraduate group presentation assignment, no matter how difficult it gets logistically. My course objectives have also reminded me that I just can’t switch to all multiple-choice exams, even if those tests are incredibly common in undergraduate courses today. (To be fair to those who teach undergraduate courses, they typically have 4-8 assessments in a course as opposed to 1-2 in a law school course).
Anyway, I think some of Schuman’s comments on syllabi bloat are valid, but this increase in disclosure is seen throughout our society as shown in Ben-Shahar & Schneider’s More than You Wanted to Know. While some of the disclosures may be a waste of time and resources, I found the drafting of course objectives helpful and think it will benefit the students through the more thoughtful structure of my courses (even if the students do not take the time to read the objectives themselves).
Finally and somewhat related, Professor Jennifer Bard notes (with some helpful links) that the ABA is now requiring law schools to draft learning outcomes. If law schools take this process seriously, I think it could be a useful exercise. If law schools just see it as another drain on resources and complete it mindlessly, then it is unlikely that those law schools or their students will benefit.