August 28, 2010
"Good Earner" Joins the TR Legal "Family:" Launch of Findlaw UK
Findlaw UK was launched earlier this month. On Binary Law, Nick Holmes writes:
[I]t’s uninspiring and unoriginal and will add little to human web-happiness. Let’s be honest this site exists to churn out “good” content which will be well regarded by Google, attracting punters who won’t find answers on the site but many of whom will ultimately use the Contact Law (or other) service on the site thus earning FindLaw commissions.
One of the few bright spots in TR Legal's "family" is repeated references to Findlaw's revenue and earnings growth in its financial reports these days. No doubt Findlaw UK will be a "good earner" to quote Tony Soprano. Do take a look at the UK site and compare it to Findlaw US. Personally I think the UK site is better designed. [JH]
August 27, 2010
Northwestern Law's Dean Van Zandt Appointed President of The New School
Yesterday, The New School announced that David Van Zandt, dean at Northwestern's School of Law since 1995, has been appointed its eighth president, effective Jan. 1, 2011. Hat tip to Chicago Law's Brian Leiter who writes
Van Zandt was going to be on [my list] of 'ten' transformative law school Deans over the last decade. I won't preempt everything I plan to say then, but will observe that very few law school Deans have stamped a law school with as clear an identity as Van Zandt did during his tenure. It will be interesting to see whether his successor tries to change course or to build on the directions on which Van Zandt launched Northwestern over the last decade especially.
Anyone beside me thinking DePaul Law's ousted dean Glen Weissenberger would be a good appointment at Northwestern? See LLB's post, Honesty Not the Best Policy at DePaul: Law Dean Fired for Disclosing Required Information to ABA Accreditation Committee; Associate Dean Resigns in Protest. [JH]
Firday Fun: "Just Don't Ever Make a Mistake:" Control-Self-Delete
Advice from Stephen Colbert ... get rid of your friends, family, and everything you have ever searched on the Internet using Google after you have surgically disfigured your appearance. Sound like good and pretty comprehensive advice circa August 24, 2010. Hat tip to LLB's co-editor, Mark Giangrande. [JH]
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - Control-Self-Delete|
Friday Fun Part 2: Welcome the New 1Ls and First Year Associates with This "I Can Read You Mind" Test
And an explanation of how the test works here. [JH]
Beyond the Walled Garden of Very Expensive Online Legal Research: Glassmeyer's Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research on the Internet with a no opt-out required offer to TRI's Tom Glocer
If you missed Sarah Glassmeyer's recent law-lib post, do check out her Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research on the Internet. It is sponsored by Cornell's Legal Information Institute and Justia and is hosted by CALI. It is meant to provide alternative online legal resources to WEXIS offerings in a way that may attract law school students to look beyond the walled garden.
Glassmeyer's Guide includes a librarian section that will provide teaching and instructional resources to introduce law students and practitioners to the world beyond WEXIS. Do note that the librarian page includes is a brief survey on how, when and if you teach free law resources. Please take the 30-seconds to fill that out. It will help Sarah and the developers of this guide figure out what resources they should be providing.
Here’s a couple things I believe:
- There are several providers of free legal information out there that are reliable enough to recommend to my patrons to use.
- Librarians need to collaborate and communicate more with information vendors – all information vendors…Wexis, ILS providers, independents and non-profits.
- Most legal research educational materials suck. They’re dry and the publisher bias contained within some is almost laughable.
- Legal information vendors use tactics to get law students hooked on their products that would make a drug dealer blush.
Sarah v. Tom. I would like to see someone debate those issues with Sarah because my money is on her kicking the opponent's butt. Perhaps TRI's CEO Tom Glocer would accept an invitation to debate Sarah at Philly (Cream Cheese or Cheesesteak?) 2011: Transparency and Accountability in the 21st Century or care to comment to her blog post; here's the link, Tom.
Alternatively, Glocer could accept LLB's open invitation to legal vendors to answer the question, "What does LAW.GOV mean to you?" Because he's one busy guy, here's some background reading just in case Tom is up for this unsolicited offering from the catalog of institutional buyer issues -- no need to return an opt-out postcard:
- For Westlaw and Lexis, an AOL Moment: Fastcase's Ed Walters on LAW.GOV
- The Mindset Divide: Distinguishing Between Traditional and Non-Traditional Legal Information (Professional Services) Vendors
Does anyone really think someone from TR Legal would debate Sarah or accept LLB's invitation?
Endnote. Do feel free to contact Sarah at sarah.glassmeyer(at)gmail.com to offer your suggestions or constructive criticism of Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research on the Internet. [JH]
Top 10 Law Faculty Based on American Academy of Arts & Sciences Membership
Chicago Law School's Brian Leiter reports on the ten law schools with the highest percentage of faculty elected to one of the scholarly sections of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences here. The list ranges from #1 Yale with 36% of faculty (6% of AAAS members are over the age of 70) to #10 Duke with 8% (25% over the age of 70). Leiter writes
the Academy tends to be a bit “chummy”—schools already “rich” with members get “richer,” not always on the merits—though the sins tend to be of omission rather than inclusion. Faculty also tend to be elected later in their careers (though, on average, female faculty are elected at younger ages than male faculty) and untenured faculty are never elected.
August 26, 2010
New Google Phone Call Service Works Well
Google yesterday added the ability to make free or low cost phone calls to Gmail. Calls to the United States and Canada landline or mobile phones are free, while international calls are very low cost. Some international calls to landlines are 2 cents per minute or less. The option to make calls appears in the chat list, just below the Gmail account holder's name. The first -time click sends the user to a page to install drivers. The installation is painless and simply requires a browser restart. Clicking on the link this time brings up a dialer. Calls use the computer's speaker and attached microphone to make the call. It's that easy. Upgrading the account to Google Voice gives the computer the ability to receive calls as well. That upgrade is free for U.S. customers.
I tried the service yesterday and it worked as advertised with no glitches or surprises. The voice quality was surprisingly good and the connection via DSL was stable. I like the idea of using a microphone as it means a more casual, hands free call. One thing I discovered is that if I played music through an installed media player, the sound was transmitted with the call. That may be something generic to the driver or just the way my machine was set up. I'm not sure. But the idea that I could play back audio from the machine along with my voice made for some intriguing possibilities. Imagine punctuating statements with incidental music offering dramatic tension or whatever. I know it sounds far fetched, but it is something more than hey, check out this new song I just acquired.
Some reviewers questioned the value of this new Google feature. Are they competing with Skype? I don't think so. I think it's just an alternative way to making a phone call that doesn't use up minutes or credits, or whatever. In fact, it's easier than Skype and all of the other ways or making all. There aren't any contracts or limitations. The rates don't change after 9 PM. Google has stated that it will keep the service free for the U.S. and Canada at least until the end of the year. Conceivably the fees from foreign phone calls will subsidize domestic calls beyond the end of the year. The Call Phone feature seems like another example of Google introducing a product and seeing where it goes. People who use it should simply see how it fits into their habits. And they are. Google said that they processed over 1,000,000 calls on the first day of availability. I wouldn't be scared if I were AT&T or Verizon, at least not yet. More information is available at the Official Gmail Blog. There are no indications so far that Google plans to monitor calls and serve up ads based on the conversations. [MG]
Time for Librarians to Make Noise: Public Library System Closures Due to Budget Cuts
Seattle PI is reporting that the Seattle Public Library System will be shutdown Monday, Aug. 30 through Sunday, Sept. 5 due to citywide budget cuts in the city's effort to deal with a $67-million budget shortfall. The library system will reopen after the Labor Day holiday on Tuesday, Sept. 7
The system wide closure, expected to save about $650,000, is one of a number of measures the Library is implementing to achieve $3 million in cuts for 2010. A week-long closure last year saved a similar amount of cost.
The closure will mean salary reductions for nearly 650 employees who will not be paid during that week. The remaining savings is being met through reductions in branch hours, management and administration, the budget for books and materials, staff computers and staff training.
According to the report the library system's shutdown was timed when library use is typically lower than at other times in the year. The library's website lists what will and will not be available during the closure. Downloadable media including including 42,000 e-books and audiobooks, 3,000 downloadable music titles and 5,000 downloadable movie titles will be available. Access to 70 premium databases also. Patrons can search the library catalog online and check their library record but won't be able to place holds on items. Access to library computers will not be available because patrons will be locked out of the library. Book drops also will not be open. At least no borrowed materials will be due and no fines will be accrued. For more, see the Resource Shelf's Fast Facts: Seattle Public Library Mobile App (Cost to Produce & No. of Downloads) & For a Second Year, SPL Will Close For a Week.
See also Jodi Lampert's LA's Librarians Demand Noise to protest the closure of Los Angeles public libraries on Mondays. Image below. [JH]
Why Can't Johnny Research Practice Law? Is Johnny thinking like "Chad," the LRW instructor, instead of thinking like a law librarian?
Michael Murray is the co-author of the legal research textbook I refuse to identify since he once said that librarians shouldn't teach legal research because librarians research differently than lawyers according to David Walker's recent LLB post. "This book obviously wasn't intended for law librarians since one of the authors believes that we shouldn't be teaching legal research in the first place." (Try to pick which of the two images, left or right, is the author.) Hello Sarah, please go give "Chad" a good swift kick in the pants for me. My next trip to Chicago is months away so I won't be able to turn off I-65 to drop by Valpo anytime soon to do so myself.
The competency of LRW instructors who are not law librarians to teach legal research is mixed at best. Thanks to the younger ones' own exposure to online legal resources, it is improving although most may still fail to grasp the theoretical framework that exists. In the bad old days, the typical LRW instructor repeated the same bad advice his or her uninformed LRW instructor taught him/her in law school. Student obsession with writing assignments also doesn't help. Research and writing, in my opinion, should be bifurcated into two unrelated required courses. Let the legal writing profs teach writing. Let professional law librarians teach legal research.
Thinking Like Law Librarians. Don't most of us wish law school grads come out of the legal academy with a research skill set that makes them think like law librarians? It's about access points and routes to legal resources that in the 1980s I used to teach in a format neutral context to BigLaw's newbie attorneys one-on-one and by way of guest lecturing instead of the typical "toolbox" approach to legal research -- "this is a digest [hold up for everyone to see] and this is how to use it [display a page]".
I even demonstrated the approach as late as the mid-2000s in a legal research workshop for Cincinnati Law students to show to one older and one younger law librarian how they should be instructing our students to "think like law librarians." Both took notes; it was a "teachable moment." It registered with one, not so much with the other who claimed that the ways and means of teaching legal research was one of those so-called "academic freedoms" protected by tenure. You guess which. We sent one of the two off to take an ALR course because displaying and commenting on a bibliography as a teaching method, as good as the bibliography was by circa 19th Century standards, just did nothing for creating teachable moments in legal research instruction.
Legal Research Principles Exist.There are principles of legal research that can be drummed into law student heads by law librarians who apply what they learned in LIS bibliographic description and subject access classes. We used to call them cataloging classes; those of us who learned cataloging from galley proofs of the first iteration of AACR2 learned a new terminology for thinking about research that was applicable regardless of publishing medium. Remember youngsters, the task before AACR2's editors in the late 1970s was to craft uniform principles and rules to address the explosion of publishing formats. One unintended consequence was that AACR2's vocabulary provided a way to restructure the principles of research to apply to all publishing formats. The best researcher remains, IMHO, a cataloger metadata specialist or a reference librarian who did not snooze thru cataloging, or whatever that is called these days, classes because that's how to think like law librarians who research. They also make the best legal research instructors, not withstanding what's-his-name brain dead opinion.
Most reference librarians, I hope, at least realize that even if they don't make this conscious association, this is how we think when we perform legal research. See, e.g., Christopher G. Wren & Jill Robinson Wren, The Teaching of Legal Research, 80 Law Library Journal 7 (1988), Theodore A. Potter, A New Twist on an Old Plot: Legal Research in a Strategy, Not a Format, 92 Law Library Journal 287 (2000) and the unfortunately subtitled, J.D.S. Armstrong & Cristoperher A. Knott, Where the Law Is: An Introduction to Advance Legal Research, (1st ed., West, 2004). Unfortunately subtitled because their work should be the required text for all 1L legal research and writing classes. Toss all others, all the old familiar "brands" and the above unmentioned one, into the Reserve Collection.
I do, however, wish someone would produce a new and long overdue edition of Price & Bitner's Effective Legal Research, the best damn text for law librarians which could be the best damn required text for ALR course adoption. Now, who gobbled up Little, Brown's law titles? Ah well, if the readers of this post aren't members of my generation, law librarian or vendor book acquitions editor, they may not even know what the damn I am talking about. Oops, three "damns" in one paragraph! Well, damn it all to hell, who owns the copyright to Price & Bitner? Oops, make that four. Grab a damn copy from the stacks Gen X-Y'ers, if unfamiliar with the title that has been around for over 50 years and get to work because there are royalties, print and e-text, to be earned. Damn, there I go again... what's the record for one paragraph? I'm thinking the Blog Widow will have to engrave "helped reintroduce a frank, if "non-professional" discussion of issues in law librarian 'literature'" as my epitaph. But I already know there will be no tombstone and I will be sitting on the mantle in an urn alongside past and current pets until the next husband arrives on the scene... . I'm "toast," both literally and figuratively.
Dump the Tool Box Approach to Legal Research Instruction. Non-law librarian legal research and writing instructors have been awakened from this Kantian dogmatic slumber that is the toolbox approach by the advent of the Internet in the context of Google-gen law school students but not sufficiently in many (most?) cases to avoid the toolbox approach completely. At least academic law libraries aren't wasting a perfectly good recession to re-think their collection development policies and practices. Hopefully no one is doing the "this is the Shepard's and West's Digest" things anymore using their print versions. That can be eliminated by print cancellations!
I, for one, wonder how behind the curve testing legal research skills will be if the MBE settles on multiple choice questions should research skills become part of the Bar Exam. Can you really test the research thought process in a multiple choice answer format. What the heck, let law librarians draft state-specific questions as essays so they can grab a little cash for grading them.
Starting with the Basics for "Chad's" Benefit. Richard Buckingham, Electronic Services and Legal Reference Librarian, Suffolk University Law School, recently posted Thinking Like a Librarian: Tips for Better Legal Research [SSRN]. It does not address teaching research principles. It is, however, one very good reading assignment for 1Ls because, in his words,
The research techniques described are not new and have been written about by others. But too often they appear in publications read primarily by librarians or introductory legal research textbooks that are several hundred pages long, where their importance is lost on first-year law students. The goal of this article is to share these research tips with a larger audience in a way that demonstrates their usefulness.
And yes, for 1Ls, law school grads and even "Chad," Buckingham's research recommendations are fundamental and so utterly essential they are taken as givens by law librarians. Hat tip to Legal Research Plus for calling attention to Buckingham's article.
Endnote About Those Folks Who Dwell in Law Library Back Offices.Tech services professionals sit in back offices working day in and day without the ego-strokes that come from patron "thank you's." But public services professionals ought to remember, also day in and day out, that without their work, they would not be able to perform their tasks and receive the benefits of patrons' "thank you for your help." Unfortunately, I've known quite a few who don't give a thought to the research infrastructure Tech Services staff create and maintain. These days this unseen staff includes many IT specialists, too.
Previous posts in LLB's Why Can't Johnny Practice Law series:
- Would you hire a law prof to represent you?
- Academic law libraries are not wasting a perfectly good recession to develop collections that look more "real world."
August 25, 2010
Are e-Books Cost Effective and Where to Find Them for Free
The Wall Street Journal today features a column by Brett Arends analyzing the cost of e-books over their print counterparts. He points out that the market share of e-books is growing, from 3% to 8% of consumer books, and describes that as "dramatic." He also notes that even with e-book reader prices dropping, the devices are not really cost effective for the casual reader. One would have to buy at least 30 to 75 titles (depending on the savings over print copies) to break even on the cost of the printer. He goes on to note that e-book prices are not always less expensive than the print copies despite the lower overhead costs in preparing and distributing them. He's not arguing against electronic readers as much as suggesting that e-reading isn't a direct money saver except for book lovers who would buy the titles anyway. Then again, for casual readers there is an acceptable price premium paid for convenience, I suppose. Nonetheless, a single paperback is pretty convenient as well.
There are, of course, a lot of free titles that, much to a publisher's dismay, are out of copyright and freely available online. The WSJ article and many of the comments point to Project Gutenberg as a source. Another place to look is the Internet Archive's Digital Lending Library. As the title implies, the site loans books for a two week period using Overdrive technology. A library card from an Overdrive participating library is required. Other books, when cleared of author or publisher rights, are available for free download. Many of the scans I sampled were either from Microsoft's (since abandoned) or Google's scanning project. Hooray to both of them for these contributions.
Other sources for e-books or online books include the Online Books Page from the University of Pennsylvania. The site catalogs titles and locations where they may be viewed or downloaded. There are over 40,000 title in English listed at the site. The site also features a page for Archives and Indexes that list other sources for e-books, search engines for e-books, significant specialty archives, foreign language archives, and subject collections. One of the smaller, significant archives listed, for example is Project Bartleby which lists "great books online," featuring such items as the Harvard Classics and Shelf of Fiction. The Pennsylvania list is a substantial list for sources of free e-books and electronic texts. [MG]
This book isn't for you: Teacher's Manual to Legal Research MethodsI received an email from Foundation Press today informing me that the teacher's manual for Murray and DeSanctis's book Legal Research Methods is now available. However, this book was never intended for me as I am a librarian. Michael D. Murray, the co-author, of the book once said that librarians shouldn't teach legal research because librarians research differently than lawyers. At that my colleague responded, "That's because most lawyers don't know how to research." And to which, I thought, "If I am a lawyer and a librarian, does that mean that I research differently than I research?" Anyway, this book obviously wasn't intended for law librarians since one of the authors believes that we shouldn't be teaching legal research in the first place. So this book is not for you (if you're a librarian). (DCW)
Fasting for Accurate Employment and Salary Data: Open Letter to Law School Deans and Directors on 20th Day of Hunger Strike
Dear Law School Deans and Directors:
My name is Ethan Haines. On August 5, I began a hunger strike in support of law school transparency and career counseling (career planning and training) reform. Ten of the nation’s top law schools were effectively put on notice of my hunger strike and provided with options for resolving the concerns contained therein. The complete list of selected schools is available on my blog (http://unemployedjd.com).
As of today, August 24, I have gone twenty days without food, and with a very limited intake of liquids, in support of positive change for legal education. To date, I have lost fifteen pounds. The purpose of my hunger strike is to bring positive change to legal education – not harm to myself. I sincerely believe that the individuals that I represent have valid concerns that can adequately be addressed by law school administrators to help prevent more J.D. statistics – law graduates who are unemployed/underemployed with large amounts of student debt.
My hunger strike has been covered by major media organizations such as USA Today, MSNBC.com, Above the Law, ABA Journal, The Huffington Post, and a series of blogs. Despite this publicity, I have not received any communication from representatives of any of the law schools on notice.
I write to you for your assistance and support. The current state of legal education is in disrepair and law students and recent law graduates are victims of the standoff between academic regulators, institutions, and other for-profit entities. To restore the faith of my peers in legal education and the future of the legal industry, I implore you to begin a conversation about law school transparency and career counseling reform within your academic institution. These problems are simply too big for the American Bar Association (ABA) to handle on its own.
As for me, I will continue my hunger strike until I receive a response from the law schools on notice or my body gives in, whichever comes first. Change, positive change, is all that I am after. If not for me or my classmates, then for the future of legal education.
Very respectfully yours,
It turns out that "Ethan Haines" is really Zenovia Evans, a 28-year-old woman living in Denver, who graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2009, reports Karen Sloan in Law school hunger striker revealed: He is a she. Evans started her hunger strike hoping to prompt law schools to participate in Law School Transparency — a Tennessee-based non-profit organization that is attempting to compile better employment and salary data about law graduates. Sloan also reports that there's room for fruit smoothies in her hunger strike. [JH]
Why Can't Johnny Research Practice Law? Academic law libraries are not wasting a perfectly good recession to develop collections that look more "real world."
Ah, no this isn't a reference to "Johnny Westlaw" though I would like to see him perform legal research in the real world and write a check for his credit card charges for the online search costs to do so because my hunch is he would have sticker shock.
In a very interesting recent LLJ article, Leslie A. Street, (Reference/Faculty Services Librarian, Katherine R. Everett Law Library, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law) and Amanda M. Runyon (Reference Librarian and Adjunct Professor, Tarlton Law Library, Univ. of Texas School of Law, Austin) examine "how academic law libraries can respond to the call for more practice oriented legal education." They compare trends in collection development decisions at academic and law firm libraries by way of surveying the landscape of decisions made by both. Although the private sector has been cost-consciously making substantial shifts in its collections since the recession of the 1990s, the authors primarily focus on recent changes in this and the academic law library market sectors under the current budgetary realities.
What's most interesting in Street and Runyon's Finding the Middle Ground in Collection Development: How Academic Law Libraries Can Shape Their Collections in Response to the Call for More Practice-Oriented Legal Education, 102 Law Library Journal 399 (2010) is their focus on secondary source collection decisions with the objective of comparing the similarities and differences in collection development trends. The survey results do point the way to developing 21st century academic law libraries that provide legal resources available to help prepare law school students to research competently. Street and Runyon write:
What is clear from the law firm survey results is that law firm librarians prefer that new associates come to their firms already trained to use secondary sources and knowing when to use them in print versus electronically. It is also clear from both the law firm and academic library survey results that the differing needs and realities of both environments mean that academic libraries may be eliminating some of the print materials that law firms prefer their associates to use. This pattern has the potential to create a gap in the education of law school graduates and affect their preparedness for the practice of law.
It was somewhat surprising that academic law librarians routinely did not address a theme picked up on by some firm law librarians, namely the usability of materials in an online format. As one firm librarian pointed out, an online treatise that is only searchable, and not browsable by table of contents, page, or section, is not the same product as a print version of that treatise. Instead, more common among academic librarians was simply a determination that the same material was available in an online format.
This is not to imply that academic law librarians are neglecting instructional needs when making cancellation decisions. There is some evidence, as noted by Street and Runyon, that when academic law libraries offer certification programs and advanced legal research courses in special areas of law, they are retaining treatises and practitioner materials in print. It's a little concerning that some academic law libraries may be making wholesale print cutbacks in their secondary literature but no one should assume that academic law libraries must maintain practice materials across all areas of legal practice. Each must first be responsive to its own primary institutional requirements.
My hunch is that if legal skills are more fully integrated into the law school curriculum, academic law libraries will make the necessary correctives in their collections. Towards this end, the authors make the following thoughtful recommendations:
Just as legal education scholars have pointed out that critics should refine their views so that they no longer see the teaching of legal theory and practice as in conflict, collection development does not need to be seen as favoring either a scholarly or a practical collection. Academic law libraries can seek to find their own “middle ground” when it comes to collection development. Just as legal theory can be woven into more practical skill courses and vice versa, academic law library collections can find ways to weave in and preserve a print collection of heavily used practitioner and secondary sources.
In order to ensure that academic law library collections are poised to provide scholarly and curricular support as law schools pay more attention to what is occurring in legal practice, we must consider as part of collection development what kind of research is being done in practice. Thus, if law firm librarians are relying on print secondary sources as their primary means of accessing that information, then we should make certain that our collections provide the resources needed to transfer that skill, even while responding to budget realities.
In considering future cancellations of print secondary and practitioner resources, we believe academic law libraries should do the following, all of which are discussed in more detail below: align collections of secondary and practitioner content to clinical and experiential learning programs at the institution, retain a core collection of print practitioner materials for the jurisdiction in which the institution is located or in which a majority of students will likely practice, and discuss potential cancellations of specific titles and subject areas with practitioner librarians to determine the importance of the resource in question in the practice world.
On Not Wasting a Perfectly Good Recession.
Academic law libraries are not wasting a perfectly good recession to enhance the prospects that law school students will graduate without a reasonable expectation of what they will find in the real world with respect to legal information resources. They have no choice. With collection development budget cuts, academic law library collections are moving away from print to electronic resources because of costs while also trying to preserve a print and online collection for scholarly pursuits. In this Shed West Era. Harvard's law school library issued the largest print continuation cancellation in West's history. Yale came close. Stanford's 15% budget cut is another example.
Harvard LS's John Palfrey's LLJ article on collection development, while not groundbreaking, will be viewed years from now as a turning point in the institutionalization of his so-called "digital plus" academic law library collection development era which has been prevalent in the private sector for years. In other words, academic law libraries will be providing a mix of resources similar to those found in the real world, at least with the replacement of many print primary legal sources, research tools like digests and citation indexes, and legal periodicals with electronic access.
The day when academic law libraries' proportionate spending on e-legal resources will approach what law firms and corporate legal departments have been doing for over a decade is fast approaching (see images above right; source, LLB's Oct. 19, 2009 post here). Now, if only AALL's Executive Board would realize that academic law libraries are not WEXIS' core market and that some can be easily deluded by our very expensive legal vendors into thinking that they are really, really are important to them. Then maybe we will get somewhere in the vendor-institutional buyer relationship. Academic law libraries in terms of print revenue now and certainly in terms of online revenue since Day One are not major players. Academic law libraries simply are not important to WEXIS because their collective buying power isn't a major factor; the driving market force is firm and corporate legal department spending.
Why Should Academic Law Libraries Pay for WEXIS Online Services? Academic law libraries are important to WEXIS for one and only one reason, namely, they provide an audience for indoctrination -- law school students. While WEXIS offers academic law libraries substantial discounts to acquire access to them, perhaps academic law libraries should be insisting on even deeper discounts, particularly in this economy. Perhaps they should demand that TR Legal and Lexis provide their services free of charge. My back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that WEXIS would be giving up about $15 million in revenue yearly if they simply gave away WEXIS online to the legal academy. Why is the legal academy paying that to provide students for indoctrination; why pay for advertising? It's peanuts considering the long-term revenue generation WEXIS receives.
The money saved could be spent maintaining print collections of secondary sources. In this Shed West Era, it might even dawn on WEXIS that exposing students to secondary print materials may shore up their print revenue losses in the private sector. Street and Runyon's findings in terms of law firm satisfaction with training in use of secondary literature ought to encourage WEXIS to turn its mind set upside down to pursue re-indoctrination to print in the legal academy. Perhaps WEXIS should also consider giving its entire catalog of state-specific print practice treatises and handbook series for the jurisdiction each law school is located free to provide the "stuff" needed to indoctrinate law school students to their titles to research competently in their state jurisdictions. Then WEXIS can sell them e-book editions after students graduate!
There are plenty of justifiable criticisms that can and should be leveled about the quality of legal skills instruction in the legal academy. They include
- the over-emphasis on federal law at the expense of state law;
- the way too narrow focus on WEXIS online at the expense of WK and BNA online services;
- the cursory nod to Fastcase, Casemaker, legal information institute resources, federal and state web resources; and
- the almost complete neglect of non-search document production and workflow applications available from WEXIS and others for a comprehensive legal skills perspective.
All this is beyond the control of academic law librarians because they don't define the legal skills curriculum's requirements. Hell, they are rarely asked for their opinions, let alone being listened to attentively.
Developing a Collection of Online and Print Research Options That Looks Almost "Real World." But the one thing academic law libraries can do is develop an integrated collection of legal resources, print and online, that is more like what practitioners see outside the legal academy. And that is something they have been doing in this Shed West Era, even if not intentionally.
Our traditional vendors have "banked" on a certain inertia in law library collection development. Once purchased, law libraries tends to continue the title(s) until disruptive and permanent changes call continuing to maintain the status quo into question by way of that pesky cost-benefit analysis. Those of us who have been in this business a while have seen this happen before -- and it is, no doubt about it, plain and simple a business, We all can readily see in Finding the Middle Ground in Collection Development that the academic law library community is not wasting a perfectly good recession. They are rebuilding academic law library collections for the 21st Century. They must address their institutional needs by reshaping their collections to respond to their faculties' interests while they are also providing a collection for their students which is more likely to be representative of what law grads will find in the real world. Recent academic law library collection development decisions are preparing the means for teaching legal research skills to prepare law school graduates to practice their chosen profession competently if only the law school curriculum would take advantage of this opportunity.
As a BigLaw librarian I was dismayed, disgusted actually, with how poorly skilled our summer associates and newbie attorneys were in terms of competently performing legal research (and we only hired the top 10% from the top 10 schools). As an academic law librarian I saw that the fault did not lie with our colleagues in academic law libraries. It's the damn curriculum. The situation has not improved one iota in 30-some years; the recently drafted revised ABA Accreditation Standards leave little hope that anything will change soon. As the first part in this LLB series on Why Can't Johnny Practice Law indicated, the status quo in legal education and its neglect of legal skills looks secure but, at least, academic law libraries, thanks in no small part to substantial budget cutbacks in collection development, are laying the foundations for change.
While the survey response for Finding the Middle Ground in Collection Development: How Academic Law Libraries Can Shape Their Collections in Response to the Call for More Practice-Oriented Legal Education is "statistically insignificant" to draw firm, reliable conclusions to the satisfaction of number-crunchers, I think most law librarians will intuitively find that the authors' analysis and recommendations are sound. This LLJ article is a valuable contribution to the literature, one I highly recommended to law librarians -- directors, collection development managers, legal research instructors, and reference staff -- as well as any law school dean interested in executing a reformation of legal education. [JH]
August 24, 2010
For Westlaw and Lexis, an AOL Moment: Fastcase's Ed Walters on LAW.GOV
In response to LLB's open invitation to legal vendors to answer the question, "What does LAW.GOV mean to you?" Fastcase's CEO, Ed Walters, has answered the call with the following perspective. As with all vendors that do so, this guest blog post is published in full without any commentary on our part but readers are invited to comment on the post. [JH]
In 1996, AOL owned the Internet. Okay, nobody really “owns” the Internet, but America Online was the Internet’s first truly dominant player. AOL was the Internet’s one-stop-shop: the internet service provider, the e-mail provider, the instant messaging service, the front door to the Internet, the browser, and a major supplier of content. Subscriptions were AOL’s business, and to keep people subscribing, it created a kind of parallel Internet, seeded with AOL original content available only by subscription. Its “walled garden” approach was designed to keep users hooked on AOL’s subscription content, which was popular (if only because it was promoted on the first page of most people’s online experience). In 2002, AOL had 26.7 million subscribers, and its brand was the best in the business. AOL’s lead looked permanent and immutable.
And yet, right around 2002, two major things changed, and AOL began to stall out.
First, HTML content authoring tools began to make it easier than ever for people to create original content on the Web, and the amount of content on the public Internet began to flourish, dwarfing AOL’s subscription-only content. Original content, the raw materials of the early Web, was being democratized, and outside of the AOL network.
Second, companies smaller than AOL were innovating in search tools and in the distribution network. Google had an entirely different, and more open strategy to become the Web’s front page, and an advertising business model that made its search free (to users at least). And companies such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T were building better distribution tools, with DSL and cable broadband that were much faster than dial-up at comparable prices.
AOL was trapped by its own success. It couldn’t cannibalize its subscription content, and it couldn’t abandon its dial-up empire, even as content was democratized and competitors built better and more compelling tools. It tried acquisitions as a way to protect the empire, (including, most notoriously, its acquisition of Time Warner in 2000) but no acquisition could change the core business model.
Monday-morning quarterbacks from business schools can point (in hindsight) to dozens of things AOL could have done differently. But the fact remains that the world changed much faster than AOL was able to, and instead of permanent and immutable, it’s walled garden became a museum of the early Internet.
AOL was built to thrive in an economy of scarcity. Democratization of the Web created an economy of abundance, where competition was less about mere access, and more about values like innovation, efficiency, and value. So while AOL had mastered the scarcity market, it was the innovators who would dominate the market of abundance.
Westlaw and LexisNexis have built an AOL-like lead in legal research. They have built compelling, subscription-based legal research products, and through acquisitions built a suite of workflow and management tools around them. Their brands are the best in the business. Their dominance in this market feels permanent, and immutable.
But the exact same market forces that were at work in the Internet in 2002 are at work in legal publishing today. Law.Gov is democratizing the underlying content that the traditional publishers have offered at high subscription prices. Bulk access to primary law materials holds the promise that there will be as much or more legal data outside of the walled gardens as currently exists inside.
Legal publishing will move from an economy of scarcity to a market of abundance.
Further, innovators in the legal research market are building smarter tools for legal research. My company, Fastcase, has been building the broadband research of the future, with compelling mobile apps, citation analysis integrated into search results, disruptive partnerships with state bar associations, and beautiful, elegant data visualizations of search results.
One of the best versions of the U.S. Code isn’t inside the walled gardens, it’s in Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. Some of the most interesting collections of international law are coming from Justia and vLex. And a new generation of innovators is working with government data to make it more compelling, more interesting, and more usable outside the paywall than it ever was inside. Data.gov and Federal Register 2.0 are good examples of the government working to facilitate this kind of experimentation and innovation with research tools.
In an abundance market, legal publishers will compete not on mere access. They will compete to build tools that make research smarter, to innovate nimbly, to provide terrific service, and to price it transparently and fairly. It’s a competition that our team at Fastcase has been gearing up to win.
The greatest potential for Law.Gov is an end to inevitability and an end to duopoly (and an end to the prices and practices that they foster). Westlaw and LexisNexis, like AOL in its day, have literally created the industry. Their innovations have been inspiring and important, and the legal publishing industry owes them much. And as AOL remains a powerful digital publishing company today, no one should expect to see the “end” of the traditional publishers. (I suspect nobody really wants to see that, anyway.)
But Law.Gov’s democratization of the raw materials of legal publishing presents a great opportunity for the rise of the next generation of innovators, the Googles and Facebooks and Twitters of legal publishing. The next competition won’t be about mere access – who can offer the largest menu of databases – but about which tools work most intelligently and affordably to do the work of legal researchers, a real competition with many new players.
-- Ed Walters, CEO, Fastcase.
Transforming the GPO to Meet the Market Needs of a Digital World
The GPO's CIO Mike Wash was recently featured as "Federal Player of the Week" in the Washington Post. Bringing the Government Printing Office into the digital world observes that it took a "little convincing" to persuade Wash to leave a very successful career in the private sector. Since joining the GPO, he has helped bring FDsys online.
"As the CIO of an agency with the goal of providing permanent access to authentic and official federal publications, I am regularly faced with challenges associated with transforming this agency that has relied exclusively on printing to serve its mission into one that can effectively disseminate information digitally as well as in print form," said Wash. ... "Providing transparency of government information is a characteristic of the U.S. government that was established by our founding fathers."
Opening: Reference/Student Services Librarian, North Carolina Central Univ. School of Law
Responsibilities. The Reference/Student Services Librarian is responsible for identifying the research needs of law student body and planning services to meet those needs. This includes: Coordination of the development and maintenance of a series of research guides and bibliographies; Participation in the evaluation of software and web resources to improve the delivery of research aides; Planning events and workshops for law students that enhance their research skills; Serving as a library liaison for the Law School’s two journals, providing training and research support to their members.
With the Faculty Services Librarian, coordinating training for faculty research assistants. Assessing students’ research needs and satisfaction with library services annually through surveys and focus groups and managing the library’s study skills and bar review collections.
The Reference/Student Services Librarian is also a member of the reference team who works with other reference librarians to provide extensive reference and research assistance to patrons including providing liaison services to an assigned group of faculty members; preparing research bibliographies, user guides and other research aids; participating in the selection of information resources; providing reference and research assistance to faculty, students, staff, the local bar and the public from the Reference Desk; developing and marketing library services to faculty and students. The Reference/Student Services Librarian teaches in the first year legal research and persuasion courses and performs other duties as assigned.
Qualifications. The successful candidate will have a JD from an ABA approved law school and an MLS from and ALA accredited institution. A minimum of two years experience in an academic, court or law firm library and a demonstrated record of providing sophisticated research assistance to faculty or attorneys are preferred but entry level candidates with internship experience will be considered. Candidates must also have excellent communication skills, a demonstrated ability to work well in a fast-paced environment and a familiarity with and understanding of legal research materials in all formats. The successful candidate will be a self-starter, able to meet deadlines and work well in a collaborative environment to achieve common goals. S/he will be able to develop productive working relationships and work effectively as a team member as well as independently. Some teaching/training experience is required.
About North Carolina Central University School of Law. The NCCU School of Law was founded in 1939 to provide an opportunity for legal education to African Americans. The School of Law now provides this opportunity to a more diverse student body than any other in the nation, as it pertains to race and gender. This environment of diversity better prepares our students to effect positive change in the broader society. The student body consists of more than 600 students and 38 faculty members. The Law Library serves the law school faculty and students as their basic library and study resource for teaching and research. Heavy use of the Law Library is made by community people and members of the bench and bar.
To apply, submit a cover letter, a resume and a list of three references to:
Nichelle J. Perry
Assistant Law Library Director
North Carolina Central University
School of Law Library
640 Nelson Street
Durham, NC 27707
nperry (at) nccu.edu
North Carolina Central University, an EEOC/AA employer, complies with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. All new employees must provide original documents verifying identity and employability within the first three (3) days of employment with the University. Accommodations for applicants who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, are available upon request.
August 23, 2010
Crowd-Sourcing New SEs is a Good Thing: WestlawNext Advanced Search Glitch Reportedly Fixed Now
As of 2 PM Eastern today, the WLN search glitch Lee Ryan, Senior Reference Librarian, University of San Francisco School of Law, reported on law-lib on August 18th and published on LLB the following day has been fixed according to a law-lib post by Mike Dahn, VP WestlawNext Product Development:
Our thanks to Lee Ryan, Senior Reference Librarian, University of San Francisco School of Law, for identifying an issue with the Advanced Search template in WestlawNext when more than one phrase is entered into the "All of these terms" field and separated with spaces alone. Our template interpreted the spaces with phrases differently than with words alone, and that was clearly a problem.
This issue has now been fixed. The “All of these terms” field now works the same way with multiple phrases as it does with just multiple words when using this template.
I apologize for any inconvenience, and I’m grateful to the librarian community – and to Ms. Ryan specifically – for bringing issues like this to our attention for the benefit of all of our customers.
Thanks Mike. More Importantly, thanks Lee! I'm hoping no one finds otherwise when they test the now fixed WLN Advance Search template.
Note to LexisNexis.When you launch Lexis Advance, don't give law librarians teaser trial passwords for a couple of days. Unleash it to all law librarians across all market segments free until it is time to sign up for it. If WLN can screw up so bad that it takes five days to fix a glaring and what would seem obvious Boolean logic error, so can you. Sounds like some folks were burning the weekend oil. Crowd-sourcing is a good thing. [JH]
Short Takes On The News
- If someone lives in Philadelphia and blogs, and collects even a tiny amount of income from that activity, then that person could expect a tax bill from the city for $300. It represents the cost of a business privilege license. Apparently any activity that generates even a tiny amount of money is subject to the license fee. The Philadelphia City Paper tells the story or Marilyn Bess, who operates a low traffic blog that generates about $50 in ad revenue. She received one of the bills, which was not a mistake after she investigated it. It's sad that even in rough economic times that a city such as Philadelphia would stoop to these tactics. I wonder how Ben Franklin would respond? Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan's blog for the tip.
- Speaking of bloggers, there are a few stories popping up on rules being applied to new media in the area of online libel. The Guardiannotes a lawsuit filed in New York about model Carla Franklin suing Google to find out the name of the person who posted to YouTube and called her a "whore." The Los Angeles Timeshas a story that highlights the growing number of lawsuits from around the country where plaintiffs are attempting to unmask anonymous individuals who had posted allegedly libelous comments online. Remember kids, the First Amendment doesn't protect defamation. Google and the others will hide your real name until a valid court order says otherwise. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a FAQon online defamation law.
- Fordham University won a court victory last week over its attempts to expand its Lincoln Center campus. A private condominium board for property located near the campus sued claiming New York City violated the original covenants granting the campus land to the University. Those covenants limited the height of buildings to 20 stories or 200 feet. The city changed the terms over the years, negating a challenge to the original terms of the grant. Fordham plans a new law school as part of the expansion. The original story is in the Wall Street Journal.
- Google is testing instant search results. As someone types a query, the results below change dynamically as the terms change. This can be really great or really annoying, depending on the implementation of the concept, if it's even implemented at all. eWeekhas the story, with links to a video of the test hosted at TechCrunch..
- And finally, a tiptoe into the immigration debate, though in the context of academic research. Inside Higher Ed is reporting on a suit filed by Arizona state superintendent of education against the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. He wants to enforce subpoenas seeking the names of teachers, schools, and school districts studied by researchers in evaluating Arizona's policies for schoolchildren learning English. Arizona separate children from other studies to focus exclusively on learning English. The Court ruled that the names cannot be disclosed, but the names of schools and districts can be disclosed. The studies are part of an expert witness report on a suit against the policies. The story is here. [MG]
Why Can't Johnny Research Practice Law? Or, would you hire a law prof to represent you?
"[This article] surveys the history and present practice of bibliographic instruction and offers recommendations for its improvement. [The author] asserts that most first-year legal research courses are of limited success not so much due to misconceived methodologies or inadequate instruction, but to the failure of modern legal education to provide a context wherein research training is relevant." Sounds like a timely, very appropriate article for today's critique of legal research instruction specifically and legal skills training in law schools generally, doesn't it? And it is timely but the use of the phrase "bibliographic instruction" signals to law librarians of my generation a clue as to when it was published. That would be over 20 years ago. The above-quoted abstract comes from an LLJ article that was published in 1989. See Thomas A. Woxland's Why Can't Johnny Research? Or It All Started with Christopher Columbus Langdell, 81 Law Library Journal 451 (1989).
Not much has changed in educating law school students to be prepared to practice a profession in the last 20 years. Even longer than that according to Steve Gibson in his Introduction: The Business Case for a Legal Skills Continuum in The Future of Legal Education: A Skills Continuum (White Paper Prepared by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2009):
While the need for legal educators to improve the way they identify the essential skills of lawyering and how law students and lawyers alike are trained to become proficient in those skills has been studied and discussed for nearly five decades, little has changed.
Even longer than that according to Todd D. Rakoff and Martha Minow in A Case for Another Case Method, 60 Vanderbilt Law Review 597 (2007):
The plain fact is that American legal education, and especially its formative first year, remains remarkably similar to the curriculum invented at the Harvard Law School by Christopher Columbus Langdell over a century and a quarter ago. Invented, that is, not just before the Internet, but before the telephone; not just before man reached the moon, but before he reached the North Pole; not just before Foucault, but before Freud; not just before Brown v. Board of Education, but before Plessy v. Ferguson. There have been modifications, of course; but American legal education has been an astonishingly stable cultural practice.
And the consequence as Brent E. Newton, Deputy Staff Director, United States Sentencing Commission and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center and Washington College of Law, American University, writes in Preaching What They Don't Practice: Why Law Faculties' Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship and Devaluation of Practical Competencies Obstruct Reform in the Legal Academy, 62 South Carolina Law Review __ (Nov. 2010) [SSRN] is:
The academy – both in terms of its preparation of law students to enter the profession and the type of scholarship being produced by the professoriate – has lost its practical moorings.
The typical twenty-first century law professor has the self-identity of a “university professor” – one of the humanities – rather than as a practitioner-teacher. This identity has slowly developed over time since the beginning of law schools as components of universities in the late 1800s and culminated with the influx of impractical scholars during recent decades; law professors increasingly have felt the need to prove themselves as legitimate academicians in the university lest they be perceived as mere teachers at a trade school.
Moving Beyond Law School Reform Talk. In 1992, the ABA Section on Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar, Legal Education and Professional Development – An Educational Continuum, Report of the Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap (aka as the “MacCrate Report”) called for curricular and pedagogical reforms that nudged the legal academy toward improving clinical education but not enough for a number of reasons. Since the MacCrate Report, the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Practice of Law (2007) and Roy Stuckey et al., Best Practices for Legal Education: A Vision and a Road Map (Clinical Legal Education Association, 2007) have brought the issue of preparing law school students for practicing a profession by integrating legal skills in legal education back to the forefront of the law school reform debate. Just more talk unlikely to produce results?
Newton calls the legal academy to account for its own deficiencies in Preaching What They Don't Practice. He may have to avoid visiting the faculty lounge:
[M]y thesis is that it will not be possible to implement such proposed curricular and pedagogical reforms if law schools continue their trend of primarily hiring and promoting tenure-track faculty members whose primary mission is to produce theoretical, increasingly interdisciplinary scholarship for law reviews rather than prepare students to practice law. Such “impractical scholars,” because they have little or no experience in the legal profession and further because they have been hired primarily to write law review articles rather than primarily to teach, lack the skill set necessary to teach students how to become competent, ethical practitioners. Indeed, law school faculties – excluding clinicians, legal research and writing (“LRW”) faculty, and adjunct professors – increasingly resemble graduate school faculties at major research universities, whose primary mission is to produce academic scholarship and whose secondary educational mission is to produce more academic professors.
Newton presents a convincing argument that the biggest obstacle to reforming the legal academy is, well, the law faculty itself.
Law professors are a self-perpetuating elite, chosen in overwhelming part for a single skill: the ability to do well consistently on law school examinations, primarily those taken as 1L's, and preferably ones taken at elite "national" law schools.” Some critics contend this homogeneity in law school faculties has resulted in an ethos of perceived intellectual superiority and classism and has made full-time professors, at least those with tenure, jealous of their privileged positions. Other critics contend that many law professors are so absorbed in their scholarly pursuits that they are largely unconcerned with students' needs – academic or otherwise.
To make his case, Newton examines:
- The legal academy's current tenure-track hiring preference for new hires with very limited practical experience and this shift from the practical to the theoretical escalating by hiring an ever-increasing percentage of tenure-track faculty in recent years who have Ph.D.s;
- The dominant law review publication model that provides a relatively easy route to publication-for-tenure compared to other "university professors" while producing articles more often than not that are irrelevant to practitioners without any evidence that this scholarship enhances law professors' teaching prowess; and
- The anti-"trade school" prejudice in the legal academy where the second-class status of clinicians and LRW instructors and third-class status of adjuncts clearly indicates that most law schools do not make legal skills courses an integral part of the curriculum.
With an entrenched law faculty, who is going to meet the call to reform legal education by integrating legal skills into the legal curriculum? Newton writes:
Because practical skills are an essential component of that skill set and further because such skills are honed by significant practical experience, it is highly unlikely that most tenure-track professors – particularly the new breed of interdisciplinary theoreticians – could effectively teach such a course.
This assertion is perhaps best supported by posing a series of questions about a typical tenure-track, non-clinical law professor hired during recent decades: Could such a professor whose primary scholarly interest is criminal law and procedure effectively prosecute or represent a criminal defendant at a felony trial? Could such a professor who writes law review articles about the First Amendment effectively represent a client in a civil rights litigation? Could such a professor whose expertise is securities regulation effectively represent a client or the government in an S.E.C. enforcement action? Imagine such professors being first-chair counsel in a complex civil or criminal litigation who must interview potential witnesses, take depositions and engage in electronic discovery, file and respond to summary judgment motions, conduct voir dire, present the testimony of an expert witness, cross-examine (and impeach) hostile witnesses, and make closing arguments to a jury. There are some full-time non-clinical law professors capable of competently representing clients in real cases, but they are the exception, not the rule, particularly among professors hired in recent years at highly-ranked law schools.
How can we expect law students to become competent practitioners if the core of full-time law faculties, notwithstanding their scholarly prowess, do not themselves possess even the basic skills required to practice the type of law about which they teach and write? How can we expect law students to become competent and ethical practitioners when the faculty members best suited to teach them the necessary practical skills and ethical lessons from real-world cases – clinicians, LRW professors, and adjuncts – are marginalized and even openly held in disdain by some members of the “main” faculty? What message is being communicated to law students by their primary faculty role models?
How indeed? Would you hire a law prof to represent you?
Finding a Middle Ground. Obviously trashing the current legal academy to return to a "trade school" model isn't going to happen, nor is it desirable. But the pendulum must swing back toward law schools producing students with sufficent legal skills to start practicing their chosen profession competently. Towards this end Newton offers two proposals for reform:
The first proposal is for law schools to create two types of tenure-track professorships – “research” professors and “teaching” professors – with equal opportunities in the tenure-track system (although evaluated differently for tenure), equitable voting rights in faculty governance, and equivalent salaries.
The second proposed reform concerns law reviews. The traditional species of law review, the student-edited journal, would publish student works and articles by the teaching professors – along with articles written by members of the bench and bar (who would be brought back into legal academy in greater numbers) – and would focus on practical topics, such as case law and statutory analysis. ... The other species of law review would be peer-reviewed and faculty-edited (by research professors) and would publish theoretical and interdisciplinary articles – although works with relevance to the legal system, such as empirical studies of factual assumptions underlying laws and legal policies using rigorous econometric and statistical tools. Because teaching would assume a larger role in a majority of faculty members' daily existence, the amount of law review articles, and presumably the number of law reviews, likely would decrease over time from their current bloated number.
If implemented, these reforms would not turn law schools into lowly “trade schools” and would not result in an “anti-intellectual” triumph, as some law professors have claimed. Rather, they would become bona fide professional schools that would regain the respect of the legal profession.
One may say that the structure of the legal academy's front-line tools -- the entire law faculty -- needs to be retooled. While being debated, what's required to make that happen does not yet look promising. About his proposed reforms, Newton writes:
Although my proposals are compatible with current ABA accreditation standards, they stand no realistic chance of succeeding under the current standards. As noted, the current ABA standards permit law schools to relegate clinical and LRW faculty to a separate and unusual status. That second-class status would need to be abolished before such practical faculty would be able to become equal players in law faculties. Although the accreditation standards recently were improved to require the teaching of practical skills in addition to substantive law, they still have not gone far enough to require clinical and other experiential courses. Until such changes in the accreditation standards force law schools to retool their curricula and graduation requirements so as to mandate a substantial number of such experiential courses for all students, law schools will continue primarily hire impractical scholars whose mission is to produce impractical scholarship.
So the prospects for fundamental reform are bleak but Newton closes with this call to do so:
The legal community owes it to the public to reform legal education so as to make law students, rather than law professors, the primary beneficiaries of law schools.
We also owe it to law students. The enormous amount of tuition paid by law students per year has dramatically outpaced inflation in recent years and has resulted in huge average educational debts by law graduates. As a result of the recent global economic downturn, there has “been a very substantial decrease in employment of lawyers,” and law firms (and their clients) have responded by demanding greater skills from entry-level attorneys. Furthermore, because fewer firms are hiring new attorneys than in the past – at the very same time that law schools are producing more graduates than ever – many neophyte attorneys will be forced to hang out their shingles and attempt to make it as solo practitioners. For their own financial well-being as well as for the good of the public, such attorneys obviously need to be proficient in practical skills.
And he offers the following words of advice: "Prospective students should eschew law schools that fail to take seriously the paramount educational mission of preparing students to be competent practitioners." (Emphasis added.)
Maintaining the Status Quo. Unfortunately many in the legal academy do not care about regaining the respect of the legal profession. Too many hope to stay the course during this current storm of criticism about legal education without making more than the absolutely minimal number of changes. The composition of the ABA Accreditation Standards Committee and its recent draft "reforms" output clearly indicates the cards are stacked in their favor. However, Newton's Preaching What They Don't Practice: Why Law Faculties' Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship and Devaluation of Practical Competencies Obstruct Reform in the Legal Academy, 62 South Carolina Law Review __ (Nov. 2010) is one law review article I highly recommend to all law librarians. Yes, it is 70 pages long and contains 202 footnotes. While I quoted from it extensively, this post does not do it justice.
As a regular reader of the current law school reform literature, Preaching What They Don't Practice cites to all the sources I have followed and many more. The author has one foot firmly planted in the legal academy and the other firmly planted in the real world, something quite rare. His perspective on legal education has been informed by having taught 32 law school courses – both doctrinal courses and “practical” courses – as an adjunct professor or lecturer while working as a full-time practitioner (including as a public defender for sixteen years). Newton's critical analysis and proposed reforms are informed by years of experience and professional judgment that one will not find in the typical law review literature because even well meaning law profs and their deans who want to reform legal education are too insulated in the silo that is the legal academy to do so.
Academic Law Libraries and the Status Quo. There is one facet of the legal academy not addressed by Newton, namely what academic law librarians are doing to bridge the divide between the status quo and what needs to be done. And unlike the law faculty, academic law librarians are actually doing something about finding a middle ground between "trade school" and its opposite. One might say academic law libraries are not wasting a perfectly good recession to better address the needs of helping produce law school students with the legal skills they need to start practicing their chosen profession. This will be the topic of the next part in this LLB series on Why Can't Johnny Practice Law? [JH]
What Do Law Profs Do All Day?
Well, it's not just sitting in their offices complaining all day to whomever will listen, meaning other faculty members or research assistants as the Hitler videos suggest at What Do You Mean I Have to Teach on Fridays!, Reaction to News About the Forthcoming New Bluebook Edition and Law School Dreams When JD Meant "Ju$t Dollars. But it is a question many inside and outside the legal academy ask and since the new academic year is commencing... .
Becoming a Law Professor: A Candidate's Guide by Brannon Denning, Marcia McCormick and Jeffrey Lipshaw will be published by the ABA soon. Been looking but haven't found a link on the ABA bookstore site. The work's table of contents and introduction can be viewed on SSRN here. A snip:
We are writing this book to provide information to, and encourage, more law school students to approach academia as a realistic career choice. We believe that non-Order of the Coif, non-law review, and even non-Ivy League graduates can become excellent teachers and scholars, and that legal academia in general would be enhanced by the presence in significant numbers of professors who possess a diversity of academic backgrounds and experiences.
Chapter 1 is titled "What Do Law Professors Do All Day?" which, quoting the introductory chapter, "describes the types of teaching jobs available in law schools and the responsibilities of each. As you will see, not everyone on a law school faculty teaches two courses a semester and writes 1.5 law review articles a year." That chapter alone may be worth the price of the book. If it's a frank review of the realities of the legal academy, it may send some wannabe law profs fleeing to pursue other career options, like blogging for a living.
Larry Solum's forward to the book, The New Realities of the Legal Academy, is also available right now on SSRN. For more about Becoming a Law Professor: A Candidate's Guide, see Jeff Lipshaw's post on Legal Profession Blog. [JH]