Thursday, December 5, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Once upon a time, cases were only available from case reporters in the law library, and each student had to use those materials to learn the law. The library books were getting worn with use, and book publishers realized that they could compile those cases along with other textual materials and sell them to law students. That was how the casebook was born.
It is 2013, and I decided not to use a casebook when I taught Wills and Estates this semester. The casebook I had used for over two decades had come out in yet another new edition, which had a price tag of around $200. The difference between the newest edition and the older editions was pretty marginal. The authors added some new cases and moved some old materials to different parts of the book. I could have used an older edition, and supplemented my own materials to reduce student costs, but I decided to create and post my own materials on TWEN, instead.
While I did have to spend more time putting the materials together than I would have, had I used a book, the effort was definitely worth it. Posting materials for students is easy, and I was able to use the cases that I thought best fit the doctrine I was covering. I added my own problems and PowerPoints.
When you consider that a student will take approximately 20 classes in law school, and that casebooks cost around $200 each, doesn’t it make sense to move away from using casebooks for our classes?
Alternatively, doesn’t it make sense to use freely available materials from a source like CALI? CALI has been a leader in this effort with their eLangdell initiative. More information can be found at:
Friday, November 22, 2013
I thought a little pre-Thanksgiving humor might be in order, but I also think this clip (see link below) speaks to legal education. We all need to be true to our individual missions as educational institutions. I think we far too often react to, and emulate, what other schools are doing. We really do have to be different.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Law schools are not the first profession to suffer declining enrollments, and a changing profession. Dental schools experienced a similar decline over 2 decades ago. As a result of a shrinking job market, dental school applications dropped at an alarming rate. Accordingly, some universities decided to close their dental schools. A 1987 article in the New York Times reported:
Georgetown University's 86-year-old dental school has no first-year students this fall. Over the next three years the Washington school will be gradually shut down, unless students and faculty members win a lawsuit to block the move. Georgetown, formerly the nation's largest private dental school, decided to close after a Price Waterhouse study found that the school would have a $3.6 million deficit by 1992. In Atlanta, Emory University's dental school will be graduating its last class of dentists this spring, then converting itself into a postdoctoral and research institution… Many of the 57 other dental schools in the United States have cut back the size of their classes, unable to attract enough qualified applicants. According to the American Association of Dental Schools, applications have dropped by almost two-thirds since 1975. The academic quality of the applicants has declined, too. High Tuition and Debt And dental schools face other problems: Tuition that tops $15,000 a year at some private dental schools discourages many applicants, as does the fact that the average private dental school graduate has educational debts of $51,000.http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/29/us/plagued-by-falling-enrollment-dental-schools-close-or-cut-back.html
What is interesting is that among the universities choosing to shut down their dental programs were prestigious schools like Georgetown and Emory. My understanding is that those universities determined that their dental schools no longer attracted the types of students they wanted to have at their institutions. Like law schools, the greatest decline in dental school applications occurred at the top end of standardized scores and undergraduate GPA’s. Emory and Georgetown were concerned that the students in their dental schools would not reflect the high credentials of students in their other programs, so they decided that it was better to close the doors, than to allow the dental school to “dumb down” the university.
The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be fourth-tier schools that will close, if law schools close. Based on what happened to dental schools in an almost identical atmosphere, I am not sure that assumption is correct.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This blog entry appeared originally at Huffington Post under the title "The Proverbial 'Elephant in the Room:' Faculty Compensation".
Everyone wants us to reduce faculty compensation. I am skeptical by nature, especially of those ideas that everyone else happens to like.
I am not sure that framing the issue as reducing faculty compensation is useful. By that, I do not intend to set up the matter to favor professors. Proceeding from the perspective of critics of legal education, the real issue is the cost of instruction more generally and not professorial salaries per se. Notwithstanding my doubt, I'd like to entertain the prospect that has been broached. (I have already discussed the difficulties of curtailing salaries and the countervailing demands that operate on law schools.)
Regardless of what observers might dictate, the decisions many of us law school deans have made also compel us to take apart our business model and rebuild it. We have chosen a course. Most law schools have shrunk. Reducing enrollment means reducing revenue.
Even for the handful of schools that are not tuition dependent, thanks either to a state subsidy or endowment earnings, the loss of income must be balanced by a corresponding cut to expenditures. Central administrations that are offering a temporary subvention, unless something quite strange has happened, will not maintain that indefinitely.
I am assuming that we can leave aside the arguments rooted in resentment of intellectuals, especially those reflecting prior ideological prejudices against critical inquiry. It is worth noting, however, that the bitter tonic being served us is not all medicinal; some is, intentionally, simply vitriol. (Elsewhere, I'll discuss the intrinsic value of legal scholarship and how we should respond to the demagogues who are trying to destroy the rule of law.)
At this point, we must take on this task. Law schools cannot enroll the same numbers they previously did; and law schools cannot continue to increase tuition as they have. It's simple math. Everything else being equal -- which they aren't, because of inflation -- law schools cannot spend as they would desire.
Accordingly, I would like to analyze multiple means of bringing down the cost of instruction. Payroll is the primary component here. Other factors are more readily controllable.
There are four basic possibilities: pay the same number of professors less money; employ fewer professors who continue to earn the same amount; create different categories of teachers; or change the cost-benefit calculation not by decreasing the expenditure but increasing the return.
Lest I panic my colleagues, I should preface my comments by indicating that I am not advocating a wholesale attack on their salaries. To be clear, I am a pragmatist. I like to lay out the possibilities for action in order to consider proposals that otherwise are abstract. Considering how something might be done allows us to determine whether it should be done.
First, a school could attempt to reduce the salaries of those currently on the payroll. That is the most obvious initiative. It's also likely to be the least effective.
There likely would be litigation. Even if such a plan were voluntary, there then would be significant issues of recruitment and retention, which would lead to problems with reputation and rank; these would combine in a devastating feedback loop.
Second, a school could have fewer professors on the payroll. Many schools will benefit from a break demographically. Baby boomers are headed toward retirement age.
With minimal fuss, it is likely that non-trivial numbers will depart of their own accord. The catch is that they cannot be replaced, for their absence is to be a benefit in the form of salary savings.
Third, a school could be creative about who it puts into the classroom. A diversity of titles is possible.
The trends further much more than the balancing of budgets. The possibilities could transform legal training, so it becomes more skills oriented. The multiplicity of positions matches what has happened within law firms. They have realized that a traditional associate-to-partner track with a strict up or out doesn't serve clients or the business itself.
Thus we should see the promotion of adjuncts who are practicing lawyers and sitting judges; the introduction of practitioners in residence or lecturers, who may have retired from the bar and the bench into full-time educational roles; and the welcoming of every other type of professional who contributes to the pedagogical enterprise. There are disadvantages that cannot be glossed over, though: A community that idealizes egalitarianism but tends toward elitism will be multiplying distinctions.
Fourth, a school could change expectations about what even tenured/tenure-track faculty do on a daily basis. The teaching load and the service contribution could be upped. It need not be said that the standards for scholarly productivity would have to be dropped. These are not black and white dichotomies; they run along a spectrum. An extra class here, a committee assignment there, and the number of law review articles published will be fewer but not zero -- or, perhaps, some individuals who become busy will thereby become more efficient. Greater differentiation among faculty members is a probable consequence.
Any of these tactics could be combined. They also could be leveraged with technology that enables every type of professor to be more productive.
We must confront these choices. That is why I have laid them out as explicitly as possible.
We are always asking for more state funding and pursuing private philanthropy, but it is wishful thinking to suppose that either of them or even the combination of them will make our dilemma disappear. Government officials and generous alumni who would offer support are among those who want to know we have a model of legal education that is sustainable and successful.
I am committed the proposition that law is at the heart of our democracy.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Today I learned that Jim Rosenblatt will be stepping down as Mississippi College's Dean in August 2014. That makes me sad. At some point, every dean has been touched by Jim's positive and boundless energy. He has done amazing things at Mississippi College, and he has done his great work with a kind and giving spirit.
I will never forget my first experience as a new dean at Ole Miss. It was my first week on the job, and I went to the Mississippi Bar Convention in Destin, Florida. The first event I attended was the AT&T dinner for its outside counsel. The law school deans were invited to this dinner. What I didn't know was that this was the only event at the Bar Convention where men were expected to wear suit jackets or ties. I had assumed that a convention at the beach would be pretty casual, so I brought neither a jacket nor a tie. Not a great start to my new job!
Hearing of my plight, Jim Rosenblatt literally gave me the coat off of his back. Those of you who know Jim know that he always wears a coat and tie, so he said he could spare the jacket. I will never forget that simple act of kindness. As I have gotten to work in the same state with Jim over the last three plus years (as can be proven by his wonderful Deans Database) I can attest that his kindness was completely genuine, as was his dedication to his students and to legal education.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This blog entry appeared originally at Huffington Post.
Law schools must reduce their J.D. class sizes. They should do so immediately and permanently.
The data are compelling. There are simply too many lawyers and too many law students in the United States nowadays. Only about half of recent graduates of law schools, of which there also are too many, are securing permanent full-time employment in the legal profession at this point.
There, I've said it. Indeed, my law school has taken action. Lest observers speculate, we announced our decision as part of comprehensive strategic planning, well in advance of seeing how the applicant pool looked for this academic year.
If anyone doesn't know the news, there were fewer people aspiring to join the bar in the admissions season that ended a month ago when we welcomed the one-L class -- again. This runs opposite to the previous pattern: When the economy slumps downward, law school applications spike upward. Worse, it appears that the supply of the strongest candidates is decreasing at the greatest rate.
The only issue is whether these trends are an anomaly, blip, or cycle. I'm convinced they signal a permanent and profound structural change.
Sure, the economy will recover. Yes, law firms will too.
But look at the law firms that already have come back. Many of the so-called BigLaw firms -- the most prestigious, constituting only a fraction of the bar -- are making more profits per partner than they ever have. The same is true of some of their mid-size counterparts and specialized boutiques.
Except those establishments are doing what they do after surviving a round of layoffs. They are not rushing to recall the people they showed the door.
A few of these thriving operations even have flat revenues. They have managed to adjust their model so they do more work with fewer people. Thanks to technology, outsourcing, and the commodification of service professions, as institutions they have come to resemble the corporate clients they serve.
I say all of that as a description of what has happened, not a judgment about it. We can lament the situation all we wish, but we are compelled to adapt in any event.
I'll go further. Law schools should have reduced their class sizes long ago. Or at a minimum, we ought to have done our part to set realistic expectations. Even in a boom economy, only a minority of graduates from a minority of law schools were competitive for the entry-level slots at the one hundred largest law firms.
There are hyperbolic claims from people who seem to have no greater desire than to burn down the law school from which they recently graduated. They cannot be ignored if only for public safety.
Some -- but not all -- of their concerns are about the economy more generally.
Young people feel they have been sold on a false promise. They are not wrong.
It's possible for a twenty-five year-old who has acquired a good education, displays a decent work ethic, and who is agreed to possess a solid character -- who has, by all accounts, done everything they were told to do -- to have, through no fault of her own, very bad job prospects and high levels of student loan debt.
This challenge is not limited to new lawyers. It's also true of architects, social workers, journalists, PhDs, and liberal arts majors from all but the fanciest schools. Law happens to receive the bad press, probably because anyone enrolling in a three-year M.Arch degree (which I once considered) has been warned well enough not to do it for the money.
Thus we confuse three arguments about legal education. Rational discussion depends on framing the issues properly.
The first argument is a useful provocation but absurd upon consideration: the allegation that legal education is an utter waste of effort for all involved. Rule of law is the foundation of our diverse democracy. The enforcement of contracts and the protection of civil rights depend on lawyers advancing causes and independent judges deciding cases. We promote that concept around the world even as we come to doubt it at home. So critics of legal education are inadvertently supporting an ideology that would destroy civil society.
on a sham. That is a statement not without risks, given the high proportion of the population that takes the zodiac seriously. The Juris Doctor is not based on a hoax. The return on the investment may not be as high as the popular imagination would have had it, but legal education continues to have market value not to mention enduring intellectual content.
The second argument is the assertion that we have more than the optimal number of lawyers for our nation under law. This claim is better than plausible. The surplus of lawyers is about the absolute quantities as well as the proportions, as versus engineering and other fields.
The great irony in our shared predicament is that we actually have unmet legal needs. Prosecutors' offices, their public defender opponents, court systems requiring clerks, public interest organizations, and just ordinary folks looking to retain counsel all need competent, ethical attorneys -- including at the entry level. The trouble is they can't afford them and the lawyers can't afford to do that type of work on a sustained basis. The pipeline hasn't been built properly to bring the supply to the demand.
The third argument is over whether law school is right for you in particular. Law school is for people who want to be lawyers. Or persons who have the seriousness of purpose and a definite plan for using the training to good effect: they want to be an entrepreneur, join a family business, enter public life, and so on.
Law school isn't a good bet at current tuition rates for the one third of the class that we have usually seen: the bright college senior who isn't ready for "the real world" but tests well. Too many people take up three years of Socratic method based on what they've watched on television or in the movies. They will be disappointed if not embittered by the real world of document review and legal research in an environment that is an exquisite combination of the very boring and very stressful.
Yet we live in a cynical era. When my school, University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, announced it would strategically downsize the incoming J.D. class by twenty percent at once, some wondered if we were having trouble filling our seats or insisted that we had a secret self-serving purpose. We typically receive 5000 applications and accept only a quarter of the contenders (we're slightly down and somewhat up, respectively); there isn't any problem in that regard. We do have reasons for our decision that are to our advantage (as is true of rational decisions in general) -- to become a stronger school by every metric.
Angry individuals are demanding that law schools simply close their doors. Some institutions may well be compelled to do so. But law schools that are responsible about shrinking will be able to keep their doors open to justice. That would be in the best interests of the schools themselves, and, more importantly, their students and society.
None of us will be able to reform the system of legal education by ourselves. If we compete during this market failure instead of cooperate to reform the rules, we will regret it.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Even if we do not like what they have to say, the bloggers and journalists critical of legal education have helped to foster some necessary reforms. For example, ABA Standard 509 requires greater transparency in the consumer information provided by law schools, and websites such as Law School Transparency had a role in exposing questionable reporting of employment data, and conditional scholarships.
There are times, on the other hand, that the critics reflexively say negative things about new programs or innovations, without really knowing anything about them. That is not surprising, since most of the critics of legal education seem to assume that they know everything there is to know about legal education, simply because they went to law school for three years. One area of reflexive criticism has come in response to the creation of new LL.M. programs.
The assumption the critics make is that law schools need to replace revenues lost by declining enrollments. Accordingly, law schools have created a costly new degree that will sucker unsuspecting students into more debt, without really enhancing their employment prospects. If that assumption is true, then the LL.M. programs should be scoffed at.
A close examination and understanding of many of the new LL.M. programs, on the other hand, will show that they are exactly the type of innovative programs critics have been calling for. For example, the Air and Space Law LL.M. http://law.olemiss.edu/prospective-students/llm-applications/ at the Ole Miss draws on the existing expertise and resources of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law housed at the law school. That center has offered a certificate program for over a decade, and has built a strong pipeline for employment of its students in a rapidly growing air and space industry. The director of the program has an international reputation, and has helped to write the aviation laws of many nations. For years, lawyers in the United States and abroad have been asking for the creation of an LL.M. degree. Those lawyers already work in the industry, and want to enhance their credentials. In fact, some of the students who attend the program will have their costs paid for by their governments, and will continue their employment while they pursue the degree. Because the LL.M. programs require ABA acquiescence, rather than ABA approval, schools can make extensive use of distance technology, which is not available for a JD degree. Of the six students in the program’s initial year, five are taking classes through distance education, meaning that they have no additional living expenses.
The Ole Miss LL.M. is obviously not alone in offering a degree for practicing lawyers on a distance basis. For example, Stetson Law School was an innovator in this field, with their LL.M. in Elderlaw http://www.stetson.edu/law/academics/elder/llm/. Stetson has been a leader in Elderlaw since the 1980’s. The LL.M. program was one of the first to offer a distance option for practicing attorneys who want the degree to enhance their existing practices, in a growing area of the law. Employment statistics are truly meaningless for these programs, because most of the students are already employed.
If we are providing a degree for lawyers who are already employed, and who have asked us to offer that degree, and we make full use of available technologies, and existing resources to keep their costs of attendance down, isn’t that a good thing?
 I know some will laugh at Air and Space Law, and I would have, too, 20 years ago. I also laughed at Intellectual Property when I was in law school. Air and space is a growing field, and firms like Jones Day have even developed space law departments. The military in the United States and other countries have expressed an interest in establishing a partnership with the LL.M. program.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This blog entry appeared originally at Above The Law.
People ask me all the time, “Isn’t it all a cycle?” They want to know if the legal marketplace will come back, with legal education then following.
My answer is, “No.”
A better answer, like most law professor’s answers to simple questions, would be, “It depends on what you mean.”
Yes, law as a business will rebound. It has already done so by some measures. However, it won’t come back in the same form. Nothing ever does.
We all are the products of our backgrounds. For me, that means Detroit.
The American automakers, which gave the Motor City its nickname, once enjoyed 99% market share. You can look it up or ask your grandfather, who likely was a “Ford man” or a “Chevy man,” identifying with a brand as marketing gurus wish for. That was transformed by the oil shocks of the 1970s.
Despite the challenge from overseas, “Big Four” car companies always believed that the domestic consumer would be patriotic and prefer their products. It is true, as gas prices dropped intermittently, shoppers demanded land yachts again. But the recovery was always to a point lower than before; there also was realignment underway that cannot be reversed.
There is an even more pertinent example for legal education. It is so-called “BigLaw.” I should insert the caveat that the giant law firms, whether they are high-end or mid-market, have always constituted a minority of the bar, even in economic boom times. They serve as an excellent example, however, of how these two phenomena should not be confused.
Alongside the normal business cycle on the one hand is profound market restructuring on the other hand. The cycle should not obscure the trend.
While many law firms, those that remain, are enjoying profits per partner at levels that exceed the bullish figures before the Great Recession, they are doing it by different means than before. Assuming business picks up, which it has in some specialties and a few regions (but ought not be counted on more generally), law firms that have come to terms with this environment are not likely to revert to their former selves. They altered their cultures permanently, even if they were motivated by circumstances that were temporary. Unlike an automobile factory, a law firm does not recall laid off employees.
The structure of successful law firms is different now. They have bounced but to a different place.
The guaranteed means of ensuring increased profitability with flat revenue, not to mention decreasing demand, is to share the money with fewer people. This is hardly a sustainable model of growth. It does highlight the point that there are different configurations of the business model that may be more efficient, and those are increasingly the norm. Firms have revised the length of the partnership track, the amount of leverage, the requirements of equity, stratification of compensation, calculations of realization rates, and roles within the organization.
All enterprises must confront global competition (for law firms, including especially from accounting firms), technological advances, and outsourcing. They will continue to use every available technique to raise the premiums they can charge and lower the cost of doing business.
Client expectations control, and they are not the same as before. In-house counsel have a sophistication they did not a generation ago, enabled by big data. They can analyze even significant levels of risk, turning complex problems into commodity work.
Thus prospective entrants into legal practice have adjusted. They are free agents who care about work-life balance. They give no more loyalty than they believe they will receive.
Yet I remain an optimist about the rule of law. The reason is legal services are still needed. The very economic factors that are disruptive necessitate new legal responses.
Our economy is about constant change. The tech sector depends on innovation. But everywhere else too that has become the norm. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are even offering exciting products.
As the head of a law school, I am not waiting to see whether applications come back as a natural progression. Even if they eventually do, I have to adapt before then — and ceaselessly. I believe we have to reinvent more than the law school curriculum. We have to restructure our institutions.
Friday, November 1, 2013
The National Law Journal posted an article about the declining numbers of LSAT takers, focusing on the 11% decline from October 2012 to October 2013. The article, LSAT Numbers Decline for Fourth Straight Year, quotes our own co-blogger Dean Paul McGreal:
University of Dayton School of Law Dean Paul McGreal said he entered the summer with virtually no idea where the application trend would go, particularly since many of last year’s applicants waited longer than usual in the cycle to apply.
"There is a great degree of uncertainty, and the data we do have show it will be another decline," McGreal said. "But we’ll have a better idea of where applications are at the beginning of . This clearly is something that’s on everyone’s radar screen."
Decreases in enrollments naturally mean decreases in revenues. The question is how will law schools adjust their budgets to deal with the loss of income? One strategy that some law schools are using is to lay off faculty and staff. http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/jp/amid-sharp-enrollment-declines-law-schools-shed-faculty
While personnel costs account for approximately 66-75% of most law school budgets, cutting personnel might not be the best approach to the problem of declining revenues. Educating students, and helping them secure employment have to be our first priorities. Any decisions we make must support those priorities. Firing faculty or administrative personnel will cut expenses, but I think the detriment to our students might outweigh the savings from those cuts.
If we don’t layoff faculty or staff, how can we reduce our budgets? The answer could be different for each law school, but every expense must be scrutinized. We have to ask how each expense supports the educational mission of the law school. From time to time I will post my thoughts on the various law school expenses, and ask how those expenses support the educational mission. In that regard, my first post on the subject examines the role of the law library in legal education.
Library budgets represent a large portion of overall law school expenses, and libraries require a substantial amount of the law school’s usable space. That is not surprising, considering that the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools require that libraries have adequate space and resources.
Additionally, Standard 606 states:
(a) The law library shall provide a core collection of essential materials accessible in the law library.
(b) In addition to the core collection of essential materials, a law library shall also provide a collection that, through ownership or reliable access,
(1) meets the research needs of the law school’s students, satisfies the demands of the law school curriculum, and facilitates the education of its students;
(2) supports the teaching, scholarship, research, and service interests of the faculty; and
(3) serves the law school’s special teaching, scholarship, research, and service objectives.
(c) A law library shall formulate and periodically update a written plan for development of the collection.
Because the standard does not specifically enumerate what schools should collect (I am definitely not advocating for such specific requirements), schools typically err on the side of maintaining very large collections. This collection plan has added greatly to the annual expenses of many law school budgets, without truly enhancing the education of the students, or the scholarly productivity of the faculty. In plain terms, we buy or subscribe to a whole bunch of stuff that we will never use. I want to make sure that the students and faculty have the materials they need, when they need them, but I am concerned about purchasing materials to have, just in case someone might need them, but probably won’t.
Our collection plans remind me of the common law Rule Against Perpetuities. The plan seems to be based upon the question: "what if the fertile octogenarian comes into the law library wishing to do research on an obscure area of the law?" We have been purchasing resources, in case that happens.
Furthermore, when we purchase print materials, we have to find a place to shelve those materials. The result is that we have established beautiful book museums, when our students and faculty rarely use those materials, and the legal profession moved away from print a decade ago. It is quaint that Standard 606 requires the core collection to be accessible in the library itself, and that we still have to report the amount of linear shelving space used by our libraries in our annual ABA questionnaires. Is that really still a relevant measure of a library collection in a non-linear, digital age?
Of course, our students, faculty, and other constituents need quiet, as well as collaborative study space, and the library serves that need well. I would argue that the square footage used to house books could be repurposed to expand greatly the space available for quiet and collaborative work.
In my opinion, it is definitely time to reevaluate the role of the law library in legal education.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Professors Ronald W. Staudt and Andrew P. Medeiros (both Chicago Kent College of Law) posted on SSRN an article, entitled Access to Justice and Technology Clinics: A 4% Solution, that proposes engaging students in clinical experiences to build law practice skills that use technology to better serve the needs of clients, particularly low income clients.
The abstract states:
This article is targeted at the criticisms of the quality of legal education, criticisms that law schools fail to prepare graduates to succeed in the profession. We propose a modest improvement to the law school curriculum that may make graduates more capable to serve their clients. We propose that law schools add a new type of clinical course that teaches law students how to use and deploy technology to assist law practice. The changes we propose will affect about four percent of the average law school curriculum. If widely adopted, the changes we propose will help law students to learn core competencies needed in an increasingly technological profession, while they build tools and write content to help low-income, self-represented litigants overcome serious barriers in their pursuit of justice.
Specifically, we propose that law schools offer a new clinical experience — the Access to Justice Technology Clinic, or A2J Clinic for short. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), in partnership with IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, has launched its Access to Justice Clinical Course Project to develop and refine A2J Clinics. In these courses law students build web tools and other interactive content to help low-income people achieve their justice goals. Courses of this type have been taught by several law schools during the past decade. This CALI initiative builds on those efforts, organizes faculty across the country into a team of collaborators, and establishes a structured process to share new insights, tools and curricula with all law schools.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This post is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Here is my advice about becoming a law school dean.
So the reader can assess my advice for herself, as advice should be more personal than generic, allow me to open with an observation that establishes my worldview. I am a contrarian. Now is a great time to be a dean. I could not imagine circumstances better for someone serious about the prospect.
The reason is that there is an unprecedented opportunity to lead. The bench, the bar, the general public, even the President are demanding legal education reform. Many of those external observers are attempting to impose their own changes, and some are offering guidance without understanding what they are criticizing.
For all that, it is rare to be given such support for wholesale reinvention of institutions. As never before a leader who has potentially worthwhile alternatives will find an audience willing to consider her model.
Professors who would shy away from a deanship during downsizing of the entirety of all of legal education likely underestimate the tremendous stresses even during periods of growth. If you intend to last for any significant stint, the challenge is even greater: it is all too easy to make mistakes in market trending upward that you come to regret when the cycle turns.
First and foremost, have a reason for wanting to be a dean -- not any reason, but an irresistible reason. I refer to a private reason, not the public one. You need both. (In a later blog, I'll discuss the public reason in explaining how to land the job; that is not the same as why you want the job.)
"I'm at a point in my career when I'm ready to do this," is, if I may say so, not sufficiently compelling. It should not persuade you to pursue the opportunity any more than it will convince others to give it to you.
If you consider the proposition, being ready for a task implies you could do it and not that you should do it. An abstract readiness is not enough to sustain you through the real tests of the role. In my experience, feeling ready correlates inversely to actually being ready.
"Because I like to be in charge," is, however, a good motivation. That cannot be the lead statement in your application. But any individual aspiring to be a leader should be honest with herself. If even to her own secret self, she does not like to be in charge she will not last as a leader.
Being in charge does not mean you boss around others. It's the other way around -- they refer the problems to you.
Next, it's crucial to choose the right institution -- and for everyone there to choose the right dean. Both must get it right to avoid misery.
If you really want to be a dean and have received an offer, it is highly likely you will be a dean eventually and have other offers if you like. The better part of judgment is to withdraw from a search at an incompatible school, to compete again another day.
The pool of people who are qualified to be dean is vast relative to the range of persons who will fit the needs that place and that time. Deans are not fungible, because institutions are not identical. Neither deans nor institutions ought to be easily mistaken for another dean or another institution.
A dean who would be good for a particular school will not necessarily be good for another, and even a dean who would have been good earlier or who might be good later might not be right now. Schools face different problems: the central administration; faculty divisiveness; a structural deficit; lack of identity; rankings; and so on.
Arrow's Paradox should be remembered by all parties. It is unlikely that all of the stakeholders will agree. Kenneth Arrow received the Nobel Prize for proving that it's logically impossible to democratically aggregate preferences in complex circumstances. The campus that has a fight between the central administration and the law faculty, for example, cannot help but display diametrically opposed objectives in the dean search.
Finally, and perhaps even more importantly than having a reason for wanting to be a dean, make sure your partner or spouse shares your ambition or you have a relationship that will continue to thrive if she has to sacrifice. My wife reminds me from time to time that she has a job, and being the dean's wife isn't it. She's right in this as she is with much else.
The decision to be a dean is a joint decision. Only one person will occupy the office in formal terms. But anyone considering running for the office should appreciate its demands are constrained by neither place nor time -- "running for the office" is the right phrasing; being a dean is analogous to being a politician, because of the public nature of the occupation. Although that does not call for your spouse/partner to be standing alongside you at every campaign appearance, it does require you both to have similar expectations.
I love my job. I do not commend it to everyone.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
There's a lot to digest in this Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, especially for an
administrator interested in supporting and encouraging faculty engagement with
online learning. One initial reaction: I was not surprised to see that faculty
are generally skeptical of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC's. Based on my more than casual (but not exhaustive) reading, I offer four general observations about MOOC's:
First, as currently offered, we do not know whether MOOC's result in learning, or if they simply sort participants based on their pre-existing knowledge. Do those who successfully complete a MOOC do so because they already knew (or mostly knew) the material, and the MOOC's assessments simply validate this? Or is there real learning going on? Relevant to this point is a report that a majority of MOOC participants already have a post-secondary degree.
Second, most of the MOOC's I have read about are in fields where most (perhaps all?) learning outcomes can be assessed through objective, computer-graded questions. As computers are trained to reliably grade essays and give feedback, this could change the MOOC landscape.
Third, if MOOC's are to be used for credentialing or academic credit, schools must address concerns with verifying the identity of online students.
Fourth, a sustainable business model for MOOC's has yet to emerge, other than to serve as a method of employment screening for some employers. Here is a quote from Inside Higher Ed:
Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. Instead of simply selling those students credentials that they can list on their resumes while looking around for jobs, Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout. (The company has already hired a full-time jobs counselor to lay groundwork with potential employers.) Udacity would take a commission for each successful match, same as a headhunter.
I plan to keep watching MOOC's carefully. Disruptive innovations can (and often do) come from unlikely places, and so a keen eye will be important to identify the possibilities as MOOC's evolve.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Dean Rachel Van Cleave (Golden Gate) published an essay about two important conferences: Coming Together, Crafting Solutions. The conferences were (1) the NALP Foundation/West LegalEdCenter forum on Tomorrow's Law Practice: A Forum on the Market, Demand, and Opportunities for Lawyers; and (2) Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers conference Connecting the Academy and the Profession. In this essay, she emphasizes the importance of collaboration: "Private lawyers, government attorneys, public interest lawyers, legal educators, and even law school regulators must come together at the table for the betterment of the profession." According to Dean Van Cleave:
The candid conversations at these conferences constitute a significant shift away from the finger-pointing that has dominated discussions among and between these constituencies. Unlike some, embroiled in today's political stalemate in the federal government, we must choose to take on our challenges and accomplish productive change. While the pointed and rigorous debates of differences and misunderstandings are very important, it is our common interests and goals that provide an important framework for continuing to advance the legal profession by preparing today's law students for a new practice.
It is clear that lawyers from all sectors of the profession share a critical and fundamental point of view: we want a positive future for the legal profession, justice and democratic values, and we care deeply about the success of our students. It follows that this future also lies with the success of current and prospective law students. Focusing on a framework that is based on cultivating our future colleagues can help us ensure that the legal profession flourishes and fulfills its essential goals of serving justice and our democratic society.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
As we think about legal education reform in the United States, it is interesting to consider legal education in other parts of the world. Nicole Kornet (Maastricht University Faculty of Law) has posted "Future Minded Legal Education in Europe: The European Law School" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I write to share a policy I have adopted that has proven effective. I do not weigh in on faculty hiring. That means publicly or privately.
To be precise, I avoid discussing individual candidates in any manner that would show my preference as to whether we extend an offer or not. I am entitled to vote; I would do so only to break a tie. But I also do not stroll the halls. I do not answer if questioned about an applicant.
I care very much, and I will say so forcefully, about many aspects of faculty hiring. I want us to be strategic, meaning looking to our needs and our identity; I am not enthusiastic bringing on a sixth constitutional law expert. I insist on appropriate consideration of diversity. I urge realism in the pursuit of lateral candidates. I request that we solicit student input.
On one occasion, I made a general observation about competition within the marketplace and the futility of searching for the perfect professor. On another occasion, I pointed out a great potential recruit who is from San Francisco. That's the extent of my involvement on the merits.
So I believe I have fulfilled my commitment to staying out of the substantive conversation on the merits of any particular candidate. I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of anyone who has come through. I measure my success by the criticism from the faculty: some have appealed to me to break from my self-imposed rule, but none has faulted me for having done so.
My rationales are principled and practical.
My primary justification is confidence in the process. Smart people are suspicious of anyone who proclaims trust in process. Our profession consists in no small part of showing advocates how to prevail through process. So an administrator who praises shared governance looks like a charlatan trying to game the system. Yet it functions if we allow it.
I might not have the same faith at another institution. I find myself surrounded by colleagues who are demonstrably collegial.
Some of our culture might be the result of our peculiar history. For two generations, either all or the bulk of the faculty were members of the "65 Club" who had come to UC Hastings after being forced into retirement elsewhere. The dean who came up with that idea served almost a quarter century and was much more powerful than would be true of his successors. Professors then either left behind their squabbles on their former campus or had mellowed out of faculty politics.
If idealism were not sufficient to persuade me, I also consider the consequences. Faculty hiring is reputed to be the most divisive group project we undertake. I have been witness to so many negative costs of active decanal intervention in faculty hiring, against relatively modest positive benefits, abstention commends itself. Thus even were I not to trust the collective conclusion of those around me, I would hesitate to campaign for my predilections.
The greatest challenge to implementing my philosophy, as is true of most ambitions, has been myself. I often am tempted to comment on candidates. Without fail, when I restrain myself, somebody else soon enough voices what I would have -- and I am not only assured but also able to have an indulgent moment of self-congratulation.
Thus I am prompted to wonder whether I add value by speaking a statement beyond the intrinsic value of it being said. That would be the case only if I were invoking my authority. Even aware of how context matters, I am less and less self-important over time. Better that my utterances be reserved, and I have the confidence to remain silent.
Besides, there are more effective means of projecting one's will than announcing it. Our Provost & Academic Dean is not bound by my rule. She is, and is perceived as, independent of me in these matters.
The other problem is the negative response from faculty who regard me as obstinate. There is a certain perversity, I suppose, to keeping one's own counsel. I suspect some professors also interpret my conduct as an indication of indifference to the scholarly pursuits that are their passion or confirmation of my lack of ability to engage in meaningful intellectual activity.
I do not disclose that I look forward to the AALS recruitment conference as a rare opportunity to receive tutorials on multiple subjects I otherwise would never consider. I have many thoughts about what I hear at the "meat market." I have concluded my attendance is worthwhile, to speak to the interviewees and assess what is within my domain.
To be honest, I have noticed that I generally am interested in more candidates than the committee. That does not mean I lack standards. Everyone whom I size up as problematic has been deemed as such by my peers. A few on whom I would take a risk, the consensus would not.
I believe it likely my more open attitude is related to my office, but I am not sure about cause and effect. It may be that persons who are less inclined toward judgment are suited to management, or it may be that leading a diverse community induces such a sensibility.
To the extent I form opinions, I realize they are skewed by my perspective. I mull over a set of factors others in the room might not value highly: will this person suppose herself more deserving than others, can she be counted on for her share of institutional service, and what is the likelihood of loyalty to the school, etc. I am circumspect about these concerns as well, because others eventually will note them.
All of the foregoing also applies to other decisions. The greatest, meaning most significant as well as best, change in my understanding of my work as I mature in the responsibilities has been developing an acceptance of outcomes I would not have advocated for if I had another role. I do not aspire to authoritarianism.
I have a vision for legal education and my institution. But the community must accept it and realize it. I have enough to do that likely will be contentious. Hiring faculty need not be on that list.
Outside academe, people who are in charge marvel at the democratic nature of faculties. I embrace it. We are the better for our deliberations.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Dean Susan Poser (University of Nebraska College of Law) published a New York Times Letter to the Editor about the connection between music education and success. Dean Poser's letter was in response to "Is Music the Key to Success?" by Joanne Lipman.
Here's a quote from Dean Poser's letter:
First, playing music provides perspective that is much needed by successful people, who lead busy and stressful lives. As Van Cliburn said in a 1994 interview, “If you hold on to the beauty and the inspiration and the clarity that is music, you will have an anchor ... you will not be too far swayed by what the world is.”
Second, playing music is humbling because it can always be better, more beautiful, more perfect. I play piano in an undergraduate chamber music class in which I am enrolled. The undergraduates, and the faculty coaches, remind me each week that success comes in many forms, from all parts, and that no one can corner the market.
Monday, October 21, 2013
The Faculty Recruitment Conference took place this past weekend. I hope those of you attending had a good experience, whether as a recruiter or a candidate.
Professor Linda Jellum (Mercer) and I are working on a project involving the faculty recruitment process generally, and the AALS process more specifically. If you have a moment, we would appreciate your thoughts on the following questions:
1. What does AALS do well (regarding the hiring process: FAR and FRC)?
2. What could AALS do better?
3. What services does AALS not provide in regard to hiring that you would like to see?
Please feel free to leave a comment, or you can email me directly.