Monday, March 2, 2015

An American Law Professor in China; Eventually Chinese Lawyers in America?

I had the honor of teaching at the Peking University School of Transnational Law in its inaugural year. The oldest university on mainland China has had a law school for some time, but it decided to establish a unique law school. Offering an American Juris Doctor program, conducted in English, this upstart institution confirms the extent to which the American legal system has become the global standard. A mirror image would be difficult to imagine. Although there are accredited institutions in the United States offering a curriculum in Chinese Traditional Medicine, it is unlikely that a prestigious university here will soon set up a law school on the legal traditions of the PRC.


"STL," as it is known, is located on a separate campus in Shenzhen, shared with other universities developing new programs. The location is apt. Shenzhen has become famous: a fishing village across from Hong Kong allowed early on to play with capitalism, it transformed itself into a boom town exemplifying the ambitions of a nation. Development drives everything in the "Special Economic Zone."


My students displayed a determination uncommon in most classrooms. They were preparing themselves for a profession that depends on linguistic skill, in a tongue not their own. They were taking on risks that I -- an Asian American whose origins are as forgotten as anyone else's who assimilates to the new world -- would not dare hazard. They had the utmost confidence in the upward mobility of their society as well as themselves, based as much on hard work as innate talent.


In my time overseas, I realized how the rise of China as an economic rival to America will test our commitment to rule of law. It will challenge the openness of the system.


STL is symbolic. By creating it, China has shown at least that much interest in participating within a marketplace defined by American norms. More precisely, Chinese professionals who aspire to the highest levels of success have shown their eagerness to be accepted in that environment.


Yet eventually my students will decide that they are teachers in their own right. China will expect that it will be able to influence the customs and practices presented as universal and just. Otherwise, they will wonder why they accepted the invitation to join the community of nations.


America has presented itself as an exceptional experiment of democracy. The Chinese who come here, becoming Chinese Americans, Asian Americans, or simply Americans, achieve equality, through principles more fulfilled by the day. But I wonder about the Chinese who have no wish to become Chinese Americans, much less Asian Americans, or plain Americans, whether they will be granted rights, as participants able to influence outcomes. Perhaps they will cite the colonials who were galled by taxation without representation, notwithstanding that they are citizens of another sovereign. No matter how the advocate for themselves, we will be forced to consider their claims.


I am confident that our ideals will be the better for it.


This blog originally appeared on Linked In through its Influencers program.

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Champions of Justice Interview with Dean Gilbert Holmes

Excellent interview with Dean Holmes (LaVerne).

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

MacArthur Foundation Supports Chicago Incubator Program

I have been fortunate enough to serve on an advisory board to the Justice Entreprenuers Project, an incubator program established by the Chicago Bar Foundation to assist law school graduates in developing law practices for low and moderate income clients.  The MacArthur Foundation recently announced a $400,000 grant to this great project.



It is too early to tell whether this (or other incubator programs) is a sustainable model.  But it is great that MacArthur will aid in the development of this type of program. 

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Senior Staff Have to Say About Legal Education

From time to time, I correspond with people who read what I write. I received a most interesting note from someone very familiar with legal education. A long-time administrator at another law school in California, not my own, this person sent me a message worth quoting from (with permission).


This person describes "a watershed moment of legal education {and higher education) that will determine if we slip into becoming the parasites some accuse us of being, or push through to become more valuable to our students and society than ever though possible." The person believes, and I agree, that there isn't a single right answer to the hard questions. Instead, the answers may be "as diverse as the particular institutions and perhaps (if those institutions are willing to admit it) the students they serve."


Finally, as someone who has an important role within the institution but not as a faculty member, my interlocutor concludes that staff take these issues "as seriously as anyone with tenure" and perhaps more so "if you'll forgive me saying it that bluntly."


The challenge, as this individual identified thoughtfully, is how to bring together consensus while advancing ideas that might be as unpopular as they are necessary.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Blake Morant Talks to The Chronicle About Legal Education

Dean Blake Morant, dean of George Washington University Law School and AALS president, recently spoke with The Chronicle of Higher Education's Beckie Supiano about what lessons higher education can draw from our experiences in managing legal education in a time of rapid change.  

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

"[T]here are over 205 law schools in this country. There are over 175 AALS member schools. This is a very large country, with a variety of different opportunities for individuals. So while we have commonalities, there are also differences. But those differences are what gives choice to individuals who are trying to maximize what they want to do with their careers.

So as I say that, I think the idea of competition is always going to be there, and I think that's very healthy. If I see a law school with a program that's basically addressing a need, and I look at that method, "Well, you know, that would be great to do here, but I would like to tweak it a little bit in order to make it our kind of program." I think that's healthy.

At the same time, we're all facing a lot of very similar problems. And this is why I'm so excited about being president of AALS. Because I'll have the opportunity to really have a conversation with many different law schools out there. And as I have that conversation, I'm able to weave a thread, if you will, between the kind of issues that they're dealing with and the kind of issues that many law schools are dealing with.

You brought up a couple of those. There are fewer people applying to law school today than there have been in the last, I'd say, 20 years or so. Everyone's dealing with that particular situation.

You also brought up the issue of expense. That's a very, very complex issue that basically brings up, What are we giving individuals that basically gives them value for what they're paying for? And are we doing everything we can to spend that money as efficiently and effectively as possible to give them the kind of education that they need?

When we're asking those questions, many of us are coming up with solutions that are very similar. So we're having more individuals doing innovative things with their curriculum, taking advantage of technology, and maximizing the sort of choices that people have by getting them to think probatively about marrying a law degree with their individual talents."

See the full interview here.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Big News For Law Deans on Legal Education

It gives me great pleasure to report that Dean JoAnne Epps (Temple), Dean Martin Katz (Denver), Dean Daniel Rodriguez (Northwestern), Dean Kellye Testy (Washington), Dean David Yellen (Loyola Chicago), and Chancellor and Dean Frank Wu (UC Hastings) will be joining this blog. These deans are respected leaders in legal education, and I am honored, and humbled, to have the opportunity to work with them.


February 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Clarification

In a previous post I mentioned  Matt Leichter's predictions regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the post about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge.

I spoke recently with Kyle McEntee, Executive Director, Law School Transparency, and learned that LST is not responsible for the  inaccurate posts made on some law school Wikipedia pages. Mr. McEntee informed me that the Wikipedia posts were made by law students, who simply referenced the LST site.  LST's numbers are correct.

On a personal note, I think that LST has been a good thing for legal education, and accountability. The changes made by the ABA with regard to placement rates were, in large part, a response to the information being posted by LST.

I still take issue with Matt Leichter's numbers regarding lawyer overproduction. His numbers are primarily forecasts, and he does not adjust them when his forecasts turn out to be wrong. He is as reliable as a weather forecast predicting next month's weather.

February 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Law Library Sign of the Times

ShelvesI took this photo while visiting a law school that will remain nameless because I didn't ask for permission to post it (though I'm quite certain the school would be far from ashamed to be named). Libraries are going digital, and budget pressures make it difficult to justify maintaining print publications. Most law firm and county libraries have long since cancelled their print subscriptions, driving up the publication costs for the few remaining (mostly law school) buyers.

Colin Picker over at Law School Vibe suggests that:


the law schools within a city or region should  consolidate their collections together, in the process reducing unnecessary duplication.  That consolidated collection could be stored in a suitable warehouse.  The consolidated library books could then be electronically identified and ordered as needed by students or academics from participating law schools....

This may be a viable option for materials not yet available digitally, such as traditional academic books. But for everything else -- case reporters, law journals, etc. -- I suspect the answer will be outright replacement with digital materials.

Shelves at many law libraries already are tagged with a note indicating that the shelved material is no longer kept up-to-date. Rows of discontinued publications already look antiquated; it's only a matter of time (and a reversal in the decline in law school admissions) before libraries are pressured to discard the paper and repurpose the space.

Rick Bales


February 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hamline and William Mitchell Law Schools Announce Merger

From Dean Jean Holloway of Hamline University School of Law, and President and Dean Eric S. Janus, of William Mitchell College of Law:

"Our two law schools have announced plans to combine, to further our shared missions of providing a rigorous, practical, and problem-solving approach to legal education.

The combination will occur following acquiescence by the American Bar Association.  Until then the two schools will continue to operate their current programs, while taking steps to ensure a smooth transition for students when ABA acquiescence is obtained.

Once combined, the law school will offer expanded benefits for its students, including three nationally-ranked programs: alternative dispute resolution, clinical education, and health law; an array of certificate and dual degree programs, and an alumni network of more than 18,000.

The combined school will be named Mitchell|Hamline School of Law and will be located primarily on William Mitchell’s existing campus in Saint Paul.  Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be an autonomous, non-profit institution governed by an independent board of trustees, with a strong and long-lasting affiliation to Hamline University.

The Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be led by Mark Gordon, who will serve as its founding President and Dean.  Mark brings nearly 30 years of experience in higher education and public service. He is currently president of Defiance College, a private, liberal arts college in Defiance, Ohio, and previously served as dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law."



February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check the Stats


In my senior year of college at the University of Georgia, I had the good fortune of covering the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League for an FM radio station in Athens, Ga.  The Flames moved to Calgary, shortly thereafter (and Atlanta has even lost a second NHL team, the Thrashers). 

My job was to go to the games, sit in the press-box, and conduct post-game interviews. It was truly a great experience, but I was far from being a professional interviewer. I have many vivid memories from that experience. Most of the players were really classy human beings. Jean Pronovost, for example, was always willing to give an interview, even after a bad loss. He was polite, and gracious, despite the fact that I was a 20 year old college senior, pretending to be a sports reporter.  Some players, on the other hand, were not as nice. One defenseman took great pleasure in disrespecting reporters, doing things I need not mention on this blog.

One of my favorite players to interview was Bill Clement. Clement was one of the most intelligent players in the league, and he always did his homework. I was not surprised when he went on to do broadcasting on a national level, when he retired from playing. After one game, he quickly exposed my lack of depth. I asked a teammate of Clement's how it felt to be scoring goals this year, since he was not known as a goal scorer. Clement called out from across the locker room, "check the stats." If I had done my homework better, I would have seen that the player I was questioning had been the second-leading goal scorer on his previous team. Bill Clement then kindly pulled me aside, and told me that he wasn't trying to show me up, he simply wanted to make sure I got the facts right.

As I read Matt Leichter's post regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the posts about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge, I want to call across the room, "check the stats." Much of the information coming from those sources is contradicted by the facts reported by law schools to the ABA, including placement rates and costs. 

More on this to come.

February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clinical Education

Medical schools pride themselves on being professional schools, and not graduate schools. They understand that they cannot train new doctors, without giving them exposure to actual medical practice.  Law schools are finally moving more and more to the professional school model, by offering experiential learning, including clinics.

I have become a big believer in clinical education, and the impact it has on students, as well as the clients they serve. Students and alumni regularly tell me that their experience serving in a clinic was the most rewarding and valuable thing they did in law school. Some student testimonials can be found here.

February 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Touro Law Center's Journal of Experiential Learning

Touro Law Center has published the Journal of Experiential Learning.

The journal is a place for deans and faculty to publish essays and articles about their experiments with various aspects of experiential education.  The journal welcomes guest editors and ideas for themes for future issues.

The coordinating editor is Myra Berman, Assoc. Dean for Experiential Learning at Touro Law.




February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teaching Skills

At Ole Miss Law we require a two week  Skill Session each year. 1L's are required to take Contract Negotiation and Drafting,  while 2L and 3L students can elect the Skill Session class they will take. The program has now been in place for three years.

 The classes are  taught by a combination of full-time faculty members and practitioners, and the practitioners live on campus during the two-week program. Having lawyers and judges present on campus for the entire two weeks allows the students to interact with them on a much more meaningful basis than the typical course taught by an adjunct.  Furthermore, we have found that teaching skills in a concentrated two-week period is more effective than teaching the same skills in a 13 or 14 week semester.

Student feedback has been positive.

I know that Vanderbilt Law has just launched a program that helps students transition from the classroom to the profession. are there innovative programs other schools would like to share? If so, I would be happy to link to them on this blog.


February 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paul McGreal Named Dean at Creighton

Congratulations to former Law Deans blogger, Paul McGreal, who has been named the new dean at Creighton. The press release is here.

January 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcoming Dean Rick Bales to the Blog

I am pleased to report that Dean Rick Bales of Ohio Northern will be a regular blogger on this site. Rick is a graduate of Cornell Law School, and has been dean since 2013.

January 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Should Law Schools Offer Comprehensive Programs to Prepare Students for the Bar Exam?

Mario Mainero, Professor of Academic Achievement and Director of Bar Services at Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law thinks so. His article, “We Should Not Rely on Commercial Bar Reviews to Do Our Job: Why Labor-Intensive Comprehensive Bar Examination Preparation Can and Should Be a Part of the Law School Mission” can be found at


January 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Way LSAC Can Help Applicants (and Law Schools)

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is an organization that exists to work with law schools, and their applicants. One of the primary roles of the LSAC is the administration of the LSAT. Students interested in law school are required to take the LSAT on dates and in locations established by the LSAC. I think it would be very helpful to applicants and law schools, if the test could be administered at the convenience of each applicant. The technology is certainly available to allow for testing at service centers around the country. Those service centers could include the law schools themselves, and each service center could make certain that the integrity of the test is not compromised. It is 2015, but we are still testing like it is 1975.

January 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Justices Kagan and Scalia Model Civility, Despite Their Differences



We were honored to host Justices Kagan and Scalia at Ole Miss on December 15. The USA Today Story, and the AP Story  on their visit showcase the friendship and civility they share, even though they strongly disagree on many issues. I felt lucky to be there.

December 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Soon Should We Communicate With Faculty Candidates?

It is clear from the Faculty Candidate Comments on Prawfsblawg that law schools do not always communicate quickly regarding hiring decisions. I think that common courtesy at least dicatates that we inform the candidates of the process. Admittedly, it is often difficult to schedule all candidates before winter break, but it does seem like a school should let candidates know when then might expect to hear.

Silence from hiring committees is a recurring thread on blogs, and we can do better.

December 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dean Frank Wu on How to Pick a College President

This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.  It was originally published at the Huffington Post.

I have never been persuaded that leaders in higher education should be selected from academics. Or, more precisely, I doubt that the customary responsibilities of a faculty member prepares her to preside over an institution of higher education. The skill sets needed for longevity heading a college do not overlap significantly with the talent and training of the typical scholar-teacher, especially in these times of unceasing change. The selection of professors and the expectations of them are not intended to foster development of diverse competencies.

My thinking was reinforced recently by an executive education program at Harvard. The refresher offered me an opportunity for reflection. Any teacher should reverse roles from time to time. Being a student is an excellent means of learning how to serve them.

I do not hesitate to state that I was not the best person to select for the job I am honored to hold. That person likely is mythical. 

I run a standalone law school affiliated with a great system of public higher education. To the extent I have been qualified as a candidate, and, more importantly, successful as an office holder, it has been because of an eclectic mix of activities I have done beyond my day-to-day work along the way. I volunteered on boards and government commissions, and I kept busy as a public speaker and media commentator. I was the faculty member who could upset colleagues, always running around doing something else. (For example, as a university trustee, I took part in three presidential searches from the other side of the table.)

At the seminar, I realized I was not alone. My peers face similar challenges. They too had made a transition, some coming up through a faculty senate or other body not necessarily aligned with the administration; others had come straight out of government.

All schools except the most elite are being forced to look anew at their "business model" as much as intellectuals might hope to avoid such a term. The issues are complex. They are not abstract.

Our stakeholders demand pragmatism. Their expectations are not only conflicting but also increasing: higher rankings, better student services, more transparency, development of metrics for learning outcomes, enhanced research -- all with the realities of reduced state funding and the hopes for lower tuition.

A chancellor or president of a campus or system is concerned with budgets, management of personnel and risks, fundraising, communications and marketing -- for a public school, legislative relations too. She must be able to handle a crisis and cultivate the governing board. None of this is done by a solitary figure.

Completion of these tasks all depend on an ability to work well with other people as a part of a team. Some academic disciplines encourage group effort, but other fields are individual pursuits.

Thus the brilliance of an idea is nothing more than beautiful if it cannot be implemented. Good decision-making processes, best practices, standard operating procedures, and principled compromise must be pursued. 

We must remain conversant with the substance of higher education. That is the core of the enterprise.

Our responsibilities are at a strategic level, setting agendas, policies and priorities. The content of the curriculum in its details is decided primarily by the faculty led by the chief academic officer (the Provost). The general orientation of the education, the mode of its delivery, and its costs, however, are properly for consideration by a chief executive officer (not that such a term is appropriate in academe).

Professors have background in specialized subjects as well as, we hope, pedagogy. Nothing in the writing of articles and books, nor in Socratic dialogue about civil procedure, evidence, and ethics readied me for functions I might have regarded as mundane but which turn out to be anything but easy.

It was imperative for me to advance at least to amateur status in multiple disciplines, virtually immediately. While I did not need to become an accountant, I did need to be able to converse with accountants -- and even oversee them. (A prior program at Harvard helped me, as well as the mistakes we call experience.)

A college president has many observers and more than a few critics. The characteristics that allow her to thrive include intangibles such as commitment, resilience, and a sense of humor. Among the stupidest things I have ever believed is that being smart was all that mattered. (Perhaps for someone smarter than me it would be sufficient.)

I am pleased to see that search committees consider "non-traditional" candidates from the public and for-profit sectors. I am friends with many such persons who have done very well. So long as they will work within the norms of shared governance, they can do just fine. They support others who lead a life of the mind, which means respecting its value.

There is another reason I resist the notion of a "best qualified." The choice, in a search that has been set up properly, is not between a single candidate who is superior versus the rest of the field. It usually is among options. Capable people present alternative visions.

The conclusion to which I come has general applicability beyond higher education. The best conductors of orchestras have not always been the best soloists; the best sports teams managers have only sometimes been the superstar athletes. They were good enough to have been professionals though, and they nurture talent.

Technical expertise is crucial at the beginning of a career. The true master can make a great life for herself within her field. That is admirable as a course. 

Anyone who would be a leader of a community consisting of geniuses must be humbled -- genuinely.

Yet the individual who aspires to head an institution must be different. She should practice a range of proficiencies beyond the paradigm of "publish or perish" or its equivalent in her industry. Breadth matters as much as depth.

Adaptation is vital.

December 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)