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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Victory at the Smelliest Place on Earth

 

Disney Tree of Life
Disney Tree of Life by Clavet

The Orlando Sentinel reported that an arbitrator has reinstated Disney workers who had refused to perform in a Disney Animal Kingdom Show, the Festival of the Lion King.  The workers refused to perform because the unitards they were expected to wear for the show were not clean and dry as required in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Disney and Teamsters Local 385 of the Services Trade Council Union (Attachment 6, Part C).  

Disney was forced to cancel a performance of the show and then terminated the objecting workers.  Disney will have to pay the workers back-pay for the time they were out of work (minus what they earned at other jobs), and reprimands will be removed from their files.

May 8, 2015 in Labor Contracts, Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Refuses to Enforce Unethical Fee-Splitting Agreement

WV SealGary Rich and Joseph Simioni met in connection with an asbestos case involving West Virginia University.  Rich is an attorney.  Simioni has a J.D. but was never admitted to the bar.  Starting in the 1990s, the two men collaborated on two additional asbestos cases and contracted with out-of-state law firms to help them class action litigation.  It appears that until 2002, the men agreed that they would split the proceeds of their work 50/50.  but then Rich announced there would be an 80/20 split in his favor. The parties then proceeded on this basis and committed their agreement to writing in 2005.  

Rich now contends that he was under the impression that Simioni was a licensed attorney, and he did not realize that Simioni was not licensed until 2000 or 2001.  He consulted with the former Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel of the West Virginia State Bar, who told him that Sinioni “might not be able to get paid ethically."

Simioni eventually filed sued in District Court against the out-of-state law firms, seeking recovery based in quantum meruit, unjust enrichment and breach of an implied contract.  The District Court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Appeals:

Are the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct statements of public policy with the force of law equal to that given to statutes enacted by the West Virginia State Legislature? 

The Supreme Court of Appeals answered in the affirmative, at least with respect to Rule 5.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. which prohibits fee-sharing between lawyers and non-lawyers..  The Court held for the first time (but based on numerous authorities) that fee-sharing agreements between lawyers and non-lawyers violate public policy.  The parties sought to persuade the court to find an alternative mechanism for compensating Simioni by setting aside the agreement to share fees and compensate Simioni in quantum meruit, but the Court rejected that as an attempt to circumvent the rule.

May 7, 2015 in Recent Cases, True Contracts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Unbridled Growth and Companies that Never Learn

This week, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer famously filed suit against Wells Fargo claiming that the bank's high-pressure sales culture set unrealistic quotas, spurring employees to engage in fraudulent conduct to keep their jobs and boost the company's profits.  

Allegedly (and in my personal experience as I bank with Wells Fargo), the bank would open various bank accounts against its customer’s wills, charge fees for the related “services,” and refuse to close the accounts again for various official-sounding reasons, making it very cumbersome to deal with the bank.  The bank’s practices often hurt its customers' credit rankings.

Employees have described “how staffers, fearing disciplinary action from managers, begged friends and family members to open ghost accounts. The employees said they also opened accounts they knew customers didn't want, forged signatures on account paperwork and falsified phone numbers of angry customers so they couldn't be reached for customer satisfaction surveys.”  

The city's lawsuit alleges that the root of the problem is an unrealistic sales quota system enforced by constant monitoring of each employee — as much as four times a day.  "Managers constantly hound, berate, demean and threaten employees to meet these unreachable quotas," the lawsuit claims.  Last year, 26% of the bank’s income came from fee income such as from fees from debit and credit cards accounts, trust and investment accounts.  The banking industry is currently set up in such a way that around 85% of institutions would go bankrupt if they do not have fee income.  

This comes only three years after Wells Fargo agreed to pay $175 million to settle accusations that its independent brokers discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom and treated these borrowers in predatory ways.

All this in the name of “growth,” traditionally thought of as the sine qua non of industrialized economies, even in financially tough times where simply maintaining status quo – and not going out of business - would seem to be acceptable for now from at least a layman’s, logical standpoint. 

In recent years, more and more economists have advanced the view that unbridled growth or even growth per se may simply not be attainable or desirable.  After all, we live on a planet with limited resources – financial and environmental - and limited opportunities.  This especially holds true in relation to the “1% problem.”  Nonetheless, questioning growth has been said to be “like arguing against gasoline at a Formula One race.”  So I’m making that argument here, although I acknowledge that I am not an economist: by setting our national (and personal) economies up for ever-continuing growth, we are playing with fire.  There is only so much of a need for various things and services, as the above Wells Fargo suit so amply demonstrates.  Granted, the global population is growing, but much of that growth is in developing nations where people frankly cannot afford to buy many of the products and services often so angrily pushed by modern companies worldwide.  In the Global North, C-level managers are often rewarded via measurements of growth and if they cannot produce the expected growth results, they risk being fired.  Sometimes, simply doing the right thing by customers and employees may actually be enough as long as the company would remain sound and in business.  Of course, this requires a shift in thinking by shareholders who contribute greatly under our current investment models to the demand for never-ending growth.  Overconsumption and waste is a vast ecological problem as well.  It has been said that “we must reform economics to reflect ecological reality: nature is not, after all, just a pile of raw materials waiting to be transformed into products and then waste; rather, ecosystem integrity is a precondition for society's survival.”

Growth is, of course, good and desirable if possible.  But if, as seems to be the case, it’s coming to a point where we destroy our own chances of healthy long-term survival and wreck the emotional and financial lives of employees and clients in the meantime, something is seriously wrong.

May 6, 2015 in Commentary, Current Affairs, Famous Cases, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New in Print

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Blogosphere Responds to Our Series on Legal Education

ScholarYesterday's post has inspired quite a bit of traffic here and elsewhere.  Over on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Michael Simkovic asks whether conditional scholarships are good for law students.  

Deborah Merritt responds on the Law School Cafe and answers the question in the negative.  She thinks conditional scholarships mostly help law schools, and they hurt students by creating a stressful competitive environment.

Michael Simkovic (again on Leiter) disagrees.  He argues that conditional scholarships motivate students to work hard in law school and cites to studies linking motivation and academic performance.

Deborah Merritt shoots back on the Law School Cafe.

And Michael Simkovic again responds on Leiter.  

It is hard for me to keep up with the pace at which these people blog.

I have only a few quick points to make in response to Professor Merritt, whose remarks are largely critical of the position I have taken here:

  • It seems we are all agreed that the disclosure problems related to conditional scholarships have largely been addressed through the ABA website that enables students to comparison shop among scholarship offers from various schools and know their chances of retaining their conditional scholarships.  Some law schools routinely offer a lot of merit scholarships in the first year knowing that most students will not retain them thereafter.  But that information is now easily available, and we will see if students vote with their feet against such a model.
  • Professor Merritt properly chastises me for treating Wikipedia's listing of normalization curves as authoritative.  I think Wikipedia is a good place to start, but my main point is that information about normalization curves should be readily available for each school a student is considering attending.
  • I find the absence of curves in undergraduate grading perplexing, and I find it astonishing that anybody would think non-curves are better than curves.  I could easily design an exam that all my students would ace (above 90% correct) and an exam that all my students would fail (below 60% correct).  But there is nothing holy about base ten, and my aim should not be to design a test so perfectly calibrated that the difference between a 91% and an 89% is meaningful but the difference between 86% and 84% is not.  My aim in assessment is, among other things, to have a tool that helps me distinguish within a group of students who have had the same educational experience.  A curve helps me do that better than random divisions at every point at which the score passes a 0.  
  • Professor Merritt points to a study in which the J.D. placed only sixth in a  ranking of the best graduate degrees.  As if that were a bad thing!  Three of the degrees that ranked more highly are Ph.D. programs likely to take twice as long as the J.D. and the others likely require higher math or computer programming skills.  This extremely high ranking for the J.D. is terrific news.  By the way, the MBA, a frequent alternative to the J.D., ranked 14th.
  • Professor Merritt tells an anecdote about a student who decided not to pursue a J.D. when she learned of conditional scholarships.  She decided to take her graduate tuition dollars elsewhere, but where?  Unless she earned a Ph.D. in statistics, computer science or physics, or a Masters Degree in human computer interaction or  biostatistics, according to the study cited by Professor Merritt, she made a poor choice.

Professor Merritt's second post turns on an anecdote about teaching the same course (torts) the same way to different students and getting very different results.  As a consequence, she had to give students in the "smart section" who did better on the exam worse grades than some students who did worse on the exam in the weaker section.  Three thoughts:

First, one cannot step into the same river twice.  One semester when I taught history at the College of Charleston in the 1990s, I had four sections of Western Civ., all on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule (they were long days!).  Same readings, same outside materials, same assignments, same lecture notes.  Each section developed its own identity.  They were four different courses.

Second, in fifteen years of teaching at both the college and law school level, I have never had a similar problem.  An anecdote is not an argument.  No system of grading is perfect, and I can live with small injustices around the edges of grade normalization.  Whether or not a student retains a conditional scholarship is not determined by her performance in any one course.  

Third, consider the insight of Professor Merritt's plucky college student who decided against a J.D.  Knowing only undergraduate education, the student remarked, “It’s not like there’s a quota on the number of A’s or anything.”  In that world, the undergraduate professor gives A's to all of the students in the "smart section" who "earned" them according to some mysterious but fixed standard.  Outside of the STEM courses, the undergraduate professor can also give As to the best students in the weaker section, even though the same performance would have earned them a B in the "smart section."  Within the STEM courses, imagine the stampede of angry pre-med students from the weaker section who will decry the injustice that there were no A's in their section but eight in the other. I pity the department chair who has to sort out that mess.

Links to Related Posts:

The Current Series 

XI:Another Transparency Issue: Conditional Merit-Based Scholarships
X: Siloing: The Next Unneeded Import from Undergraduate Education
IX: Legal Education in the News and on the Blogosphere
VIII: Myanna Dellinger, Caveat Emptor and Law School Transparency
VII: Myanna Dellinger, On Issue-Spotting and Hiding the Ball
VI: Issue Spotting: A Response to a Comment
V: Did Legal Education Take a Wrong Turn in Separating Skills and Doctrine?
IV: What Is the Place of Core Doctrinal Teaching and Scholarship in the New Curriculum?
III: My Advice to Law School Transparency: Declare Victory and Move On
II: SLOs and Why I Hide the Ball (and Why You Don't Have To)
I: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself? 

Related Posts form 2012:

Thoughts on Curricular Reform VI: Preparing the Academically Adrift for Practice
Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom
Thoughts on Curricular Reform IV: The Place of Scholarship in the 21st Century Legal Academy
Thoughts On Curricular Reform III: The Costs of Change
Thoughts on Curricular Reform II: Teaching Materials
Thoughts on Curricular Reform I: The Problem

May 5, 2015 in Commentary, Teaching, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome to the Blogosphere to New Private Law

GoldbergJohn Goldberg (right top) and Henry Smith (right bottom) have launched a new law blog: New Private Law.

Contributors include:

Aditi Bagchi
Shyam Balganesh
Janet Freilich
Andrew Gold
John Golden
Keith Hylton
Daniel Kelly
Greg Klass
SmithDaniel Markovitz
Tom Merrill
Anthony Sebok
Ted Sichelman
Benjamin Zipursky

You can read the introductory post here.

It's quite a line-up!  We look forward to some interesting posts.

May 5, 2015 in Weblogs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Weekly Top Tens from the Social Science Research Network

SSRN Top Downloads For Contracts & Commercial Law eJournal
RECENT TOP PAPERS 

RankDownloadsPaper Title
1 365 Hello Barbie: First They Will Monitor You, Then They Will Discriminate Against You. Perfectly 
Irina D. Manta and David S. Olson 
Hofstra University - Maurice A. Deane School of Law and Boston College Law School 
2 217 Loyalty Rebates after Intel: Time for the European Court of Justice to Overrule Hoffman-La Roche 
Damien Geradin 
George Mason University School of LawTilburg University - Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) 
3 156 M&A Contracts: Purposes, Types, Regulation, and Patterns of Practice 
John C. Coates, IV 
Harvard Law School 
4 103 Judicial Deregulation of Consumer Markets 
Max N. Helveston 
DePaul University - College of Law 
5 100 Manufactured Consent: The Problem of Arbitration Clauses in Corporate Charters and Bylaws 
Ann M Lipton 
Duke University School of Law 
6 99 Antitrust Arbitration and Merger Approval 
Mark A. Lemley and Christopher R. Leslie 
Stanford Law School and University of California, Irvine School of Law 
7 96 Private Lenders’ Demand for Audit 
Richard BaylisPete BurnapMark ClatworthyMahmoud Gad and Christopher K. M. Pong 
Cardiff Business School, University of Wales System - Cardiff University, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance and Heriot-Watt University - School of Management and Languages 
8 84 The Validity of Restraints on Alienation in an Oil and Gas Lease 
Luke Meier and Rory M. Ryan 
Baylor University - Law School and Baylor University - Law School 
9 80 Other People's Contracts 
Aditi Bagchi 
Fordham University School of Law 
10 75 Social Justice, Social Norms and the Governance of Social Media 
Tal Zarsky 
University of Haifa - Faculty of Law 

SSRN Top Downloads For LSN: Contracts (Topic)
RECENT TOP PAPERS 

RankDownloadsPaper Title
1 103 Judicial Deregulation of Consumer Markets 
Max N. Helveston 
DePaul University - College of Law 
2 100 Manufactured Consent: The Problem of Arbitration Clauses in Corporate Charters and Bylaws 
Ann M Lipton 
Duke University School of Law 
3 99 Antitrust Arbitration and Merger Approval 
Mark A. Lemley and Christopher R. Leslie 
Stanford Law School and University of California, Irvine School of Law 
4 96 Private Lenders’ Demand for Audit 
Richard BaylisPete BurnapMark ClatworthyMahmoud Gad and Christopher K. M. Pong 
Cardiff Business School, University of Wales System - Cardiff University, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance and Heriot-Watt University - School of Management and Languages 
5 80 Other People's Contracts 
Aditi Bagchi 
Fordham University School of Law 
6 75 Social Justice, Social Norms and the Governance of Social Media 
Tal Zarsky 
University of Haifa - Faculty of Law 
7 68 The Forum Selection Defense 
Stephen E. Sachs 
Duke University School of Law 
8 64 Shareholder Litigation by Contract 
Verity Winship 
University of Illinois College of Law 
9 63 Lex Mercatoria 
Gralf-Peter Calliess 
University of Bremen - Faculty of Law 
10 59 Contractually Adopted Fiduciary Duty 
D. Gordon Smith 
Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School 

 

May 5, 2015 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Another Transparency Issue: Conditional Merit-Based Scholarships

ScholarOne of the ways in which law schools are allegedly inadequately transparent is in the award of merit scholarships conditional on the students’ achievement of a certain grade point average (GPA), usually 3.0, in law school.  The New York Times set the ball rolling back in 2011, with this article about a law student who lost her scholarship when she only managed a 2.967 GPA.  Law school critics allege that such conditional merit scholarships are a “bait and switch.”  It is an odd claim.  Law schools offer conditional merit scholarships for the same reasons colleges offer them, and there are no claims that the terms of the scholarship are unclear.  Why are law students assumed to be incapable of looking into standard grade normalizations curves for the first year? 

The real mystery is why conditional scholarships for law students come in for so much criticism when they seem to be generally regarded as valuable and successful on the undergraduate level.   The scholarships are, as their name suggests, conditional, and it would be completely unreasonable to continue to grant students merit scholarships when their performance in law school has been disappointing.  Students who lose their merit scholarship have gotten their first year of legal education for free, so what is their harm?  I think the claim for harm is derivative of the larger (and largely baseless) claim that law schools do not benefit their students.

 The Critique

Jerry Organ published an interesting article criticizing competitive scholarships and recommending best practices for the law schools that use them, including better disclosure of scholarship retention rates.  Law School Transparency proposed a new ABA standard that would require all law schools to publish on their websites data about the percentage of students who were able to retain their scholarships after the first year.  

As readers of this blog should know, disclosure is no panacea.  Professor Organ was able to find information about how scholarships work at 160 law schools.  That means that the information was out there.  Since Professor Organ was able to gather information about 160 law schools, it should not be difficult for students to gather relevant information about the one law school that they are considering attending.  Many students can find their law school’s curve by looking on Wikipedia.   Since a lot rides on the decision, one would expect students to investigate, especially since the investigation might not take more than a few mouse clicks.

If law schools were more aggressive and sat down with students offered conditional scholarships and walked them all through the statistics, would anything change?  Would a student choose not to go to law school because she had been told that there was a 50/50 chance that she would lose her scholarship after year 1?  I doubt it.  She would feel confident that she would be one of the successful students and, even if not, she would still have enjoyed a year’s free tuition.

 

Continue reading

May 4, 2015 in Commentary, Law Schools, Recent Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Caveat Vendor in a Banksy Sale in Gaza?

Banksy in BethlehemIn March, while I was co-teaching  a course called International Humanitarian Law in Israel and Palestine with Professor Yaël Ronen, I visited Bethlehem with my students.  Among other things, we saw the image at left, attributed to Banksy, on a wall in Bethlehem.

So today's New York Times story about Banksy's other creations in Gaza caught my eye.  The heart of the story, for the purposes of this blog, is that Banksy apparently painted an image of a weeping Greek goddess an the iron door of a destroyed home in Gaza.  An enterprising Gazan artist bought the door for less than $200, saying he wanted to protect the goddess.  The owner of the door was unaware that the painting could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the Times, the local authorities, Hamas, have confiscated the door, and its ownership and value are to be determined by a court.  I'm not sure what law the courts in Gaza would apply to such a dispute.  Does anybody think the buyer of the door has a duty to disclose its possible worth to the vendor?  

May 1, 2015 in In the News, Recent Cases, True Contracts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Siloing: The Next Unneeded Import from Undergraduate Education

Silos
Silos, by Scott Davis

I don't know if this is a thing yet, and I hope it doesn't become one, but I have been hearing, here and there, from people involved in legal education reform, that we need to combat "siloing" in the law school curriculum.   You can find denunciations of siloing at lower levels of education here and here and here (for example), and a lot of the anti-silo rhetoric seems to be coming form the U.S. Department of Education.

To the extent that the war on siloing means that undergraduate education (or secondary school education) should be interdisciplinary and that academics should also build bridges across disciplines, I am all for it.  But what is its application to legal education?

The standard anti-siloing spiel in legal education goes something like this:

We teach our students in silos.  They learn contracts in one course and torts in another, property in a third, and civil procedure in a fourth.  But when the client walks into your office, she just has a story, and you have to recognize that all of the different doctrinal areas that you studied in law school could be relevant to that story.  You can't just compartmentalize legal scenarios into one doctrinal silo or another.

 That is obviously true, but it doesn't mean that we should just teach one amorphous course in the first year called Everything that Could Possibly Go Wrong and What to Do About It.  Doctrinal siloing is, in my view, the right approach, certainly in the first year.  Otherwise, students don't learn, for example, that the logic of contractual liability is very different from that of tort liability or that certain doctrines that have the same names work differently in different doctrinal areas.  There is, again in my view, plenty of time in the second and third years to make certain that students understand that one fact pattern can generate issues across the doctrines, but students should never lose sight of doctrinal boundaries and their importance.

A few examples:

  • The other day, I was teaching a bar prep course and going over assignments.  One of my students arrived at the wrong conclusion because he treated assignments according to agency rules.  I was impressed that the student remembered agency rules, but his answer was just wrong.  There was nothing to say except, "Sorry, assignment is different from agency."  
  • I have written here and (more pithily) here about how the state secrets privilege has gotten messed up because courts have applied a doctrine that arises in the contractual context (Totten) to cases that involve torts allegations against the U.S. government and its contractors.  A party to a contract may agree that the content of that contract is secret and therefore non-justiciable; a tort victim makes no such agreement.
  • Many of the craziest moments in the notorious OLC memos from the Bush Administration occur when very smart lawyers, eager to justify outrageous government conduct, draw on inappropriate analogies from other doctrinal areas.  So for example, they got their definition of "severe pain" from a statute that determines what constitutes an emergency medical condition for the purposes of entitlement to certain health benefits, and they consulted criminal law concepts of "necessity" and "self-defense," seemingly unaware of how limited those defenses are in the appropriate doctrinal context. 

So, if somebody starts denouncing "siloing" in the context of discussions of curricular reform, please consider the dangers of eliminating doctrinal silos.

Links to Related Posts:

The Current Series 

IX: Legal Education in the News and on the Blogosphere
VIII: Myanna Dellinger, Caveat Emptor and Law School Transparency
VII: Myanna Dellinger, On Issue-Spotting and Hiding the Ball
VI: Issue Spotting: A Response to a Comment
V: Did Legal Education Take a Wrong Turn in Separating Skills and Doctrine?
IV: What Is the Place of Core Doctrinal Teaching and Scholarship in the New Curriculum?
III: My Advice to Law School Transparency: Declare Victory and Move On
II: SLOs and Why I Hide the Ball (and Why You Don't Have To)
I: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself? 

Related Posts form 2012:

Thoughts on Curricular Reform VI: Preparing the Academically Adrift for Practice
Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom
Thoughts on Curricular Reform IV: The Place of Scholarship in the 21st Century Legal Academy
Thoughts On Curricular Reform III: The Costs of Change
Thoughts on Curricular Reform II: Teaching Materials
Thoughts on Curricular Reform I: The Problem

April 30, 2015 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New in Print

KuttyI am happy to see a publication by my colleague Faisal Kutty (pictured) gracing this list of recent publications.  Way to go, Faisal!

Hiro N. Aragaki, The Federal Arbitration Act as Procedural Reform. 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1939 (2014)

Robert Bejesky, The Economics of the Will to Fight: Public Choice in the Use of Private Contractors in Iraq, 45 Cumb. L. Rev. 1 (2014-2015)

Ann Laquer Estin, Foreign and Religious Family Law: Comity, Contract, and the Constitution. 41 Pepp. L. Rev. 1029 (2014)

Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, Religious Tribunals and Secular Courts: Navigating Power and Powerlessness 41 Pepp. L. Rev. 997 (2014)

Faisal Kutty, "Islamic law" in U.S. Courts: Judicial Jihad or Constitutional Imperative? 41 Pepp. L. Rev. 1059 (2014)

Daphne Richemond-Barak, Can Self-Regulation Work? Lessons from the Private Security and Military Industry. 35 Mich. J. Int'l L. 773 (2014)

April 29, 2015 in Government Contracting, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Legal Education in the News and on the Blogosphere

I began this series with the question: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself?  Paul Campos thinks we are doing far too much of that, going so far as to compare those of us who think legal education is worth defending with Holocaust deniers.   Fortunately for us, I suppose, this blog isn't on anybody's radar, but in any case I think it bears noting that I value the contributions of people who have shed critical light on legal education, although I don't agree that it is anything approaching a scam.  I have gained valuable insights from the work of Law School Transparency, Brian Tamanaha, Deborah Merritt, and Bill Henderson on our sister blog, The Legal Whiteboard, among others.

That said, there is another side of the story.  Legal education is constantly re-forming itself in fundamental ways.  Clinical education has only been with us since the 70s; legal writing programs took off in a major way in the 80s and 90s.  Both represent fundamental shifts in pedagogy in response to perceived deficits in the legal education model.  Those programs continue to develop and expand, now supplemented with robust ASP programs.  All of these things jack up the costs of legal education and all in the name of better preparing students for the profession.  Nobody is fiddling while our students burn.  In fact, at this point, it is clear that everybody in the debate passionately believes that they have the best interests of our students at heart, and I do not doubt their sincerity.  

Meanwhile, just when you thought it was safe to read what the New York Times has to say about legal education, we get another one-sided piece based on a few anecdotes and one piece of scholarship.  I thought I had a lot to say in response, but others have beaten me to it, so I will just provide the links:

Simkovic on Leiter

Stephen Diamond on his own blog

Brian Galle on Prawfsblawg

Deborah Merritt, on whose scholarship the piece relies, on The Law School Cafe 

Links to Related Posts:

The Current Series 

VIII: Myanna Dellinger, Caveat Emptor and Law School Transparency
VII: Myanna Dellinger, On Issue-Spotting and Hiding the Ball
VI: Issue Spotting: A Response to a Comment
V: Did Legal Education Take a Wrong Turn in Separating Skills and Doctrine?
IV: What Is the Place of Core Doctrinal Teaching and Scholarship in the New Curriculum?
III: My Advice to Law School Transparency: Declare Victory and Move On
II: SLOs and Why I Hide the Ball (and Why You Don't Have To)
I: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself?

Related Posts form 2012:

Thoughts on Curricular Reform VI: Preparing the Academically Adrift for Practice
Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom
Thoughts on Curricular Reform IV: The Place of Scholarship in the 21st Century Legal Academy
Thoughts On Curricular Reform III: The Costs of Change
Thoughts on Curricular Reform II: Teaching Materials
Thoughts on Curricular Reform I: The Problem

April 28, 2015 in About this Blog, Commentary, In the News, Law Schools, Teaching, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caveat Emptor and Law School Transparency

In this blog series, we recently raised the issue of whether there is sufficient transparency in relation to law schools via, for example, third-party “watchdog” websites and the law schools’ required ABA disclosures.

In my opinion, transparency is a boon to potential law students in this context.  Granted, much information is publicly available to anyone considering law school nowadays.  But for now, choosing a law degree still remains a surprisingly popular choice despite so many warning signs.  Caveat emptor is still a quasi-viable doctrine, that’s true, and some potential incoming students should, as potential future lawyers, learn to discern hope and belief from facts.  But do they?  Not so much, it appears.

Unfortunately, statistics still show that nationwide, only 51% of law graduates are employed in law firm jobs, well below the trend over the past 25 years.   I know, I know, not everyone wants to work for a law firm, but still; only half of our graduates getting a typical job is astonishingly shocking, I think.  An ABA website function lets the general public find out the number of “bar passage required” jobs held by 2013 graduates – not impressive unless the school is highly ranked or in a relatively remote area of the nation.  See another list of the best and worst performers here.

To put this in perspective: the average debt taken on by law school graduates is $84,000 (for public law schools) and $122,580 (for private law schools); a 37% increase over eight years.  Another source found the 2012 median debt to be $140,616.   So, a ballpark figure shows that an “average” student may well be more than $100,000 in debt for a – certainly in some states such as California – less than 50/50% chance of getting a “real” law job. 

Of course, hope springs eternal, and many students beat the odds and end up, over time at least, in good and hopefully mentally rewarding jobs.  For now, though, the more pressure that’s exerted on keeping law schools honest in relation to job prospects, debt, etc., the better, in my opinion.

April 28, 2015 in Commentary | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weekly Top Tens from the Social Science Research Network

SSRN Top Downloads For Contracts & Commercial Law eJournal
RECENT TOP PAPERS 

RankDownloadsPaper Title
1 361 Hello Barbie: First They Will Monitor You, Then They Will Discriminate Against You. Perfectly. 
Irina D. Manta and David S. Olson 
Hofstra University - Maurice A. Deane School of Law and Boston College Law School 
2 260 The Choice-of-Law Revolution Fifty Years after Currie: An End and a Beginning 
Symeon C. Symeonides 
Willamette University - College of Law 
3 179 Contract as Empowerment 
Robin Bradley Kar 
University of Illinois College of Law 
4 174 The Aesthetics of Contract Theory 
Efi Zemach and Omri Ben-Zvi 
Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law and Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law 
5 141 Loyalty Rebates after Intel: Time for the European Court of Justice to Overrule Hoffman-La Roche 
Damien Geradin 
George Mason University School of LawTilburg University - Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) 
6 116 Insider Trading in Commodities Markets 
Andrew Verstein 
Wake Forest University School of Law 
7 114 M&A Contracts: Purposes, Types, Regulation, and Patterns of Practice 
John C. Coates, IV 
Harvard Law School 
8 101 Judicial Deregulation of Consumer Markets 
Max N. Helveston 
DePaul University - College of Law 
9 99 A Fuller Understanding of Contractual Commitment 
Zev J. Eigen and David A. Hoffman 
Northwestern University School of Law and Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law 
10 94 Antitrust Arbitration and Merger Approval 
Mark A. Lemley and Christopher R. Leslie 
Stanford Law School and University of California, Irvine School of Law 

SSRN Top Downloads For LSN: Contracts (Topic)
RECENT TOP PAPERS 

RankDownloadsPaper Title
1 260 The Choice-of-Law Revolution Fifty Years after Currie: An End and a Beginning 
Symeon C. Symeonides 
Willamette University - College of Law 
2 179 Contract as Empowerment 
Robin Bradley Kar 
University of Illinois College of Law 
3 174 The Aesthetics of Contract Theory 
Efi Zemach and Omri Ben-Zvi 
Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law and Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law 
4 101 Judicial Deregulation of Consumer Markets 
Max N. Helveston 
DePaul University - College of Law 
5 99 A Fuller Understanding of Contractual Commitment 
Zev J. Eigen and David A. Hoffman 
Northwestern University School of Law and Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law 
6 94 Antitrust Arbitration and Merger Approval 
Mark A. Lemley and Christopher R. Leslie 
Stanford Law School and University of California, Irvine School of Law 
7 92 Manufactured Consent: The Problem of Arbitration Clauses in Corporate Charters and Bylaws 
Ann M Lipton 
Duke University School of Law 
8 90 Private Lenders’ Demand for Audit 
Richard BaylisPete BurnapMark ClatworthyMahmoud Gad and Christopher K. M. Pong 
Cardiff Business School, University of Wales System - Cardiff University, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Bristol, Department of Accounting and Finance and Heriot-Watt University - School of Management and Languages 
9 76 Other People's Contracts 
Aditi Bagchi 
Fordham University School of Law 
10 70 Social Justice, Social Norms and the Governance of Social Media 
Tal Zarsky 
University of Haifa - Faculty of Law 

April 28, 2015 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fixing Your Car Yourself Maybe a Violation of Contractual Rights in the Future

If it were up to General Motors, it may soon be illegal for you to tinker with your own car.  That’s because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), an Act that started as anti-piracy legislation about a decade ago, now also protects coding and software in a range of products more broadly.  Your car is one such product if it, as many cars do nowadays, it has an onboard computer.  Vehicle makers promotes two arguments in their favor: first, that it could be dangerous and even malicious to alter a car’s software programming.  Second, per the tractor maker John Deere, that “letting people modify car computer systems will result in them pirating music through the on-board entertainment system.”  “Will”?!  As the Yahoo article mentioning this story smartly pointed out, “[t]hat’s right— pirating music. Through a tractor.” 

Isn’t that an example of a company getting a little too excited over its own products?  Or am I just an incurable city girl (although one that occasionally likes country music)?  Judging from the lyrics to a recent Kenny Chesney hit (“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy"), I see that opinions differ in this respect.  To each her own.

Hat tip to Professor Daniel D. Barnhizer of the AALS listserve for sharing this story.

April 27, 2015 in Contract Profs, Current Affairs, Legislation, Miscellaneous, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weekly News Roundup

In yet another government outsourcing scheme gone wrong, KOLO TV news is reporting that Nevada is alleging breach of contract against the companies it hired to administer Common Core testing in the state's schools.  Apparently, when thousands of students attempted to log on so that they could take their exams, they received an error message and could not proceed.  Educators across the state are aggrieved, but students across the state are generally fine with it. 

Las_Vegas_slot_machines
Photo by Yamaguchi先生

Nonprofit Quarterly reports that three students, three parents and three alumnae are alleging breach of contract and seeking an injunction to keep open Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg, VA.  They allege that they had entered into express and implied agreements with the College that they would not only have the benefit of a four-year degree from the College but would also enjoy the benefits of being alumnae or of having children who were alumnae.

According to the Des Moines Register, in 2011, an 87-year-old grandmother was playing the slots, when the screen told her that she had a "bonus award" of $41797550.16.  Last week, Iowa's Supreme Court ruled unanimously that she had won $1.85.  They rejected claims of breach of an implied contract and found that the "bonus award" was just the product of a computer glitch.   

April 27, 2015 in Games, Government Contracting, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Contractual Issues and the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant

April is the finest month for a Chicago Cubs fan, because even the Cubs are within a few games of first place in April.  

CubsAnd hope springs anew with each Spring Training  This year Cubs fans have extra reason to hope because of young prospect, Kris Bryant.  There was only one catch.  Bryant did not start the year playing for the Cubs.  As reported here in Business Journalism, despite hitting nine home runs in 40 at bats and earning a .425 batting average, Bryant was demoted to the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate for the start of the season.  Cubs GM, Theo Epstein, gave Bryant's need to develop his defensive skills as the reason for the demotion, but many believe that the purpose is to delay Bryant's eligibility for arbitration and free-agency.  Bryant's ability to avail himself of these mechanisms would kick in 2017 and 2020 respectively  if Bryant was on the Cubs' roster to start the season, but they will kick in a year later if Bryant misses the season's first ten games.  

Thirteen days into the season, the Cubs brought Bryant up from the minors.  Mike Olt and his lifetime .158 batting average kept third base occupied while Bryant was improving his defensive skills.  

April 27, 2015 in Celebrity Contracts, In the News, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On Issue-Spotting and Hiding the Ball

As for the series on law school instruction and law schools in general that Jeremy started here recently: count me in!

I agree with Jeremy’s views that issue-spotting is very important in helping students develop their “practical skills,” as the industry now so extensively calls for.  As Jeremy and Professor Bruckner do, I also never give up trying to have the students correctly issue spot, which in my book not only means spotting what the issues are, but also omitting from their tests and in-class analyses what I call “misfires” (non-issues).  In my opinion, the latter is very necessary not only for bar taking purposes, but also in “real life” where attorneys often face not only strict time limits, but also word limits.

But I’ll honestly admit that my students very often fail my expectation on final tests.  Some cannot correctly spot the issues at all.  Many have a hard time focusing on those aspects of the issues that are crucial and instead treat all issues and elements under a “checklist” approach overwriting the minor issues and treating major issues conclusorily.  Yet others seem to cram in as many issues as they can think of “just in case” they were on the test (yes, I have thought about imposing a word limit on the tests, but worry about doing so for fear of giving any misleading indication of how many words they “should” write, even if indirectly so on my part). 

Maybe all this is my fault … but maybe it isn’t (this too will hopefully add to Professor Bruckner’s probably rhetorical question on how to teach issue-spotting skills).  Every semester, I post approximately a dozen or so take-home problems with highly detailed answer rubrics.  I only use textbooks that have numerous practice problems long and short.  I review these in class.  I also review, in class, numerous other problems that I created myself.  I give the students numerous hints to use commercial essay and other test practice sources.  Yes, all this on top of teaching the doctrinal material.  All this is certainly not “hiding the ball.”  Frankly, I don’t really know what more a law professor can realistically do (other than, of course, trying different practice methods, where relevant, to challenge both oneself and the students and to see what may work better as expectations and the student body change).

So what seems to be the problem?  As I see it, it doesn’t help that at least private law schools at the bottom half of the ranking system have to accept students with lower indicia of success than earlier.  But even that hardly explains the problem (who knows what really does).  Some law schools have to offer remedial writing classes and various other types of extensive academic support to students in their first semesters and beyond.  Some of the problem, in my opinion, clearly stems from the undergraduate-level education our students receive.  In large part, this makes extensive use of multiple-choice questions for assessments and not, as future lawyers would benefit from, paper or essay-writing tests or exercises.  Thus, undergraduate-level schools neither teach students how to spot "issues" from "scratch" nor do they teach them how to write about these.  Numerous time have my students told me that they have not really written anything major before arriving in law school.

Why is that, then?  Isn’t that problem one of time and resources; in other words, the fact that not just law professors, but probably most university professors, are required to research and write extensively in addition to teaching and providing service to their institutions?  For example, see Jeremy’s comments on his busy work schedule here.  Something has to give in some contexts.  At the undergraduate level, maybe it’s creating and grading essays and instead resorting to machine-graded multiple-choice questions and not challenging students sufficiently to consider what the crux of a given academic problem is.  Just a thought.  I am, of course, not saying that we should not conduct research.  I am saying, though, that I find it frustrating that lower-level educations, even renowned ones, cannot seem to figure out how to use whatever resources they do, after all, have to train their students in something as seemingly simple as how to write and how to think critically.

At the law school level, some “handholding” and various types of practical assistance is, of course, acceptable.  But to me, the general trend in legal education seems to be moving towards a large extent of explaining, demonstrating, giving examples, setting forth goals, assessments, and so forth.  I agree with what Jeremy said in an earlier post that we should at some point worry about converting the law school education process into one that resembles undergraduate-style (or high school style!) education.

Recall that the United States is not an island unto itself.  Many studies show that our educational system is falling behind international trends.  Where in many other nations in the world (developed and developing), students are expected to come up with, for example, quite advanced research and writing projects for their degrees, we are - at least in some law schools - teaching students just how to write, and what to write about.  This is a sad slippery slope.  Until the American educational sector as such improves, I agree that we should do what we can to motivate and help our students.  But I also increasingly wish that our “millennial” students would take matters into their own hands more and take true ownership of learning what they need to learn for a given project or class with less handholding, albeit of course still some guidance.  Nothing less than that will be expected from them in practice. 

April 23, 2015 in Commentary, Contract Profs, Current Affairs, In the News, Law Schools, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Issue Spotting: A Response to a Comment

Howard Law's Matthew Bruckner has posed some challenging questions for me in the comments to the second post in this series.  He writes:

To the point raised in your post though, even experienced lawyers benefit from headnotes on cases, reading treatises, learning to pick up on contextual clues, etc. And your casebook likely has a table of contents that situates the case you're reading in class within a range of issues and sub-issues. I suppose that if you situate the case for the students, there is a risk that students will stop trying to pick up these contextual clues for themselves. But if you don't, there is also a risk that students won't ever appreciate why you read a case in the first instance, etc.

ScholarMatthew has a point.  There are lots of shortcuts to issue spotting for those students who are on top of things enough to use them.  I have a running joke with my students in both contracts and business associations.  If a student has a hard time identifying the issue in the case or (in contracts) tells me that the issue is whether one party breached (always a good place to start), I tell them to check the syllabus and see what subject matter we are covering on that day.  After some laughter and shuffling of papers, we approach an identification of the issue and establish once again that students do not look at syllabi and certainly would not benefit from 12-14 page syllabi identifying SLOs.

But that is just the beginning of an issue-spotting exercise, because as we progress through the semester, I also use issue-spotting as a mechanism of review.  So, for example, when we get to affirmative defenses, we may have cases in which extrinsic evidence, the statute of frauds and interpretive issues also arise.  In discussing damages, in addition to those issues, there might also be questions of affirmative defenses or even problems in formation.  I use Socratic questioning to see if students can find those issues as well.  And I really do aspire to treat the Socratic questions as means of reminding them, through step-by-step questioning, of things they knew in their past life (that is, three weeks ago, when the relevant doctrine was still stored in short-term memory).  For me the Socratic method is, in this instance, both about teaching them the right questions to ask of a case and about reminding them that they can do this on their own.

Matthew Bruckner's comment continues:

We definitely practice reading cases, extracting relevant facts and issues, understanding a case' procedural history in my 1L contracts class. But by second semester, I'm giving them the issue flat out and then we spend the whole class working on legal analysis trying to understand why the court reached the conclusion that it did.

I never give up on issue spotting.  It is not only relevant in the litigation context.  But as I'm sure Professor Bruckner knows, it is also the best mechanism for helping transactional lawyers prevent the contract they are drafting from becoming Exhibit A to the complaint.  Issue spotting is relevant whether the client is coming to you with a transaction gone wrong or a contemplated transaction.  The challenge facing transactional attorneys is all the harder because they have to entertain ideas of what might go wrong and figure out the best way to insulate the client from liability if what might happen does happen.

I am near the end of teaching a bar prep course for the first time.  I had my 3L students write about twenty practice bar exam essays, and at the end of the semester, I am still reminding them: IRAC, IRAC, IRAC.

Links to Related Posts:

The Current Series 

V: Did Legal Education Take a Wrong Turn in Separating Skills and Doctrine?

IV: What Is the Place of Core Doctrinal Teaching and Scholarship in the New Curriculum?

III: My Advice to Law School Transparency: Declare Victory and Move On

II: SLOs and Why I Hide the Ball (and Why You Don't Have To)

I: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself?

Related Posts form 2012:

Thoughts on Curricular Reform VI: Preparing the Academically Adrift for Practice

Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom

Thoughts on Curricular Reform IV: The Place of Scholarship in the 21st Century Legal Academy

Thoughts On Curricular Reform III: The Costs of Change

Thoughts on Curricular Reform II: Teaching Materials

Thoughts on Curricular Reform I: The Problem

April 23, 2015 in Commentary, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Did Legal Education Take a Wrong Turn in Separating Skills and Doctrine?

This is the fifth in a series of posts on reform in legal education.  Related posts are listed at the bottom of this post.

ScholarA few years ago, I was at a conference on national security law, and one of the scholars there, a Navy veteran, suggested that the military had made a wrong turn in entrusting knowledge of the law of armed conflict to JAG officers.  As impressed as he was with the commitment of those JAG officers to the rule of law, he thought it would be better if all officers were expected to know the law of armed conflict rather than having a rudimentary introduction to the relevant law but relying on the expertise of JAG officers in the decision-making process.  The attendant JAG officers were unanimous in their opposition to this notion, and I'm in no position to judge the merits of the claim, but the idea stuck with me.  

I think we have a similar situation in law schools.  In the 1980s and 1990s, law schools created legal writing programs, and they hired a legal writing faculty to teach in those programs.  Like JAG officers with respect to the law of armed conflict, dedicated legal writing faculty members have thought about legal writing -- and related subject matters such as legal reasoning and legal research -- in different and deeper ways than traditional doctrinal instructors had done or now do.  They are our trusty repository of information about how our students think, write and reason and of pedagogical innovations that will help them do better.  

It is a problematic model.  It creates a hierarchical division of labor within faculties, generating resentments on all sides, and it does not serve our students as well as would an integrated curriculum in which legal writing, reasoning and research were treated as integral to every doctrinal course.  Students think that legal writing is a separate subject matter, and they don't all have the instinct to apply the skills, techniques and intellectual habits to which they are exposed in legal writing to their work for doctrinal courses.  

One response has been to ask doctrinal courses to incorporate more skills training into doctrinal courses.  Another has been to add additional courses and required credits in courses in which students work on legal writing and reasoning skills.  To keep with the theme of this series, the result is that traditional legal education gets squeezed.  We are asked to do more in less time.  I propose we consider doing more in more time by integrating legal writing and reasoning into the traditional doctrinal curriculum and eliminate independent writing programs.

Schools have been  very creative in staffing their legal writing programs (involving visiting faculty, contract faculty, adjuncts, VAPs, and tenured and tenure-track faculty in teaching legal writing and research).  There likewise could be innumerable models (which would preferably involve integrating current legal writing faculty members into traditional classroom teaching) for integrating teaching doctrine and skills.

Let the innovations begin!

Links to Related Posts:

The Current Series 

IV: What Is the Place of Core Doctrinal Teaching and Scholarship in the New Curriculum?

III: My Advice to Law School Transparency: Declare Victory and Move On

II: SLOs and Why I Hide the Ball (and Why You Don't Have To)

I: Why Is the Legal Academy Incapable of Standing Up for Itself?

Related Posts form 2012:

Thoughts on Curricular Reform VI: Preparing the Academically Adrift for Practice

Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom

Thoughts on Curricular Reform IV: The Place of Scholarship in the 21st Century Legal Academy

Thoughts On Curricular Reform III: The Costs of Change

Thoughts on Curricular Reform II: Teaching Materials

Thoughts on Curricular Reform I: The Problem

April 23, 2015 in Commentary, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)