Wednesday, December 11, 2013
From today's Times:
Two years after a Stanford professor drew 160,000 students from around the globe to a free online course on artificial intelligence, starting what was widely viewed as a revolution in higher education, early results for such large-scale courses are disappointing, forcing a rethinking of how college instruction can best use the Internet.
A study of a million users of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, released this month by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education found that, on average, only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.
Much of the hope — and hype — surrounding MOOCs has focused on the promise of courses for students in poor countries with little access to higher education. But a separate survey from the University of Pennsylvania released last month found that about 80 percent of those taking the university’s MOOCs had already earned a degree of some kind.
And perhaps the most publicized MOOC experiment, at San Jose State University, has turned into a flop. It was a partnership announced with great fanfare at a January news conference featuring Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a strong backer of online education. San Jose State and Udacity, a Silicon Valley company co-founded by a Stanford artificial-intelligence professor, Sebastian Thrun, would work together to offer three low-cost online introductory courses for college credit.
Mr. Thrun, who had been unhappy with the low completion rates in free MOOCs, hoped to increase them by hiring online mentors to help students stick with the classes. And the university, in the heart of Silicon Valley, hoped to show its leadership in online learning, and to reach more students.
But the pilot classes, of about 100 people each, failed. Despite access to the Udacity mentors, the online students last spring — including many from a charter high school in Oakland — did worse than those who took the classes on campus. In the algebra class, fewer than a quarter of the students — and only 12 percent of the high school students — earned a passing grade.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
From consultant Bob Denny, here are the hot practice areas:
- Energy. In many parts of the United States and certain foreign markets.
- Regulatory. Particularly in health care, energy and financial services.
- Health Care. The Affordable Care Act adds more confusion to a broad and complex area.
- Financial Services. Including banking.
- IPOs. They have been surprisingly hot but may be showing signs of cooling.
- Litigation. Although, except for “bet the company” suits, it varies widely by firm. Large companies continue to send work to midsize and smaller firms due to lower rates.
- Labor and Employment. Collective bargaining is just one of many reasons.
- Intellectual Property. Patent litigation continues to be hot because of infringement claims filed by “patent trolls.” Now Garmin International claims to be the first company to fight back by using a new process, inter partes review (IPR), to avoid litigation. Trademark suits have also increased. Patent prosecution continues to be hot.
- Real Estate. Due in part to a big increase in multi-family developments.
- Corporate. Despite general counsels’ efforts to keep more work in-house. Midsize and even some smaller firms continue to receive more work due, in part, to their lower rates.
- Interns Rights. A small but growing area due to recent legislation in Oregon and proposed legislation in New York state to give unpaid interns the same protection as employees.
- Privately Held and Family Business. Also see B Corps under “Other Trends and Issues.”
- Education. Many issues here but hourly rates remain low as do profits.
- Elder Law. Like it or not, we’re all getting older.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The high cost of litigation has reawakened interest in mediation and arbitration.
For more information on what’s hot and what’s not in the legal practice world, please click here at Attorney at Law.
New discoveries on how the brain works is a major impetus behind changes in educational theory. I have mentioned several books on the neurobiology of learning before. Here is another one:
Applying the Science of Learning by Richard E. Mayer.
For students studying education or psychology, for teachers or prospective teachers, and for instructional designers or instructors.
A concrete guide to the science of learning, instruction, and assessment written in a friendly tone and presented in a dynamic format.
The underlying premise of Applying the Science of Learning is that educators can better help students learn if they understand the processes through which student learning takes place. In this clear and concise first edition text, educational psychology scholar Richard Mayer teaches readers how to apply the science of learning through understanding the reciprocal relationships between learning, instruction, and assessment.
Utilizing the significant advances in scientific learning research over the last 25 years, this introductory text identifies the features of science of learning that are most relevant to education, explores the possible prescriptions of these findings for instructional methods, and highlights the essentials of evaluating instructional effectiveness through assessment. Applying the Science of Learning is also presented in an easy-to-read modular design and with a conversational tone — making it particularly student-friendly, whether it is being used as a supplement to a core textbook or as a standalone course textbook.
- A concise and concentrated view of the field that covers the foundational ideas in learning, instruction, and assessment without overwhelming students or wasting words.
- A modular, multimedia approach organizes course material into two-page units with specific objectives, helpful graphics, and a welcoming design that helps readers organize and understand each concept.
- An emphasis on clear writing and concrete ideas makes learning easier for readers, especially by providing vocabulary definitions and specific examples.
- A personal and friendly tone instead of a formal, academic style make this book easier and more enjoyable to read. While few academic references clutter the text, key references and suggested readings are provided at the end of each section.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The legal sector shed 1,100 jobs in November, marking the second straight month that the number of people employed in the industry declined, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Brian Leiter has written on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports:
"A previously moribund proposal to require 15 hours of clinical work has now come back to life, thanks to advocacy by (guess who?) clinical faculty. Students who want to do 15 or 30 hours of clinical work should be able to do it; but why in God's name would one require it of everyone, without any regard for that student's ambitions or plans? It makes no sense."
Professor Leiter has seriously misrepresented the proposal.
Actually, the proposal is to require 15 hours of clinics, simulations, or externships. This is very different from how Professor Leiter represents the proposal. Under the proposal, law schools do not have to offer any clinics. Rather, clinics are just one of three alternatives.
This is yet another example of how opponents of legal education reform are using exaggeration to try to prevent reform.
P.S. As I wrote last summer, I strongly support this proposal.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Hey, it happens to the best of them. From the Law School Toolbox:
If you’re in law school, you’re eventually going to have a really bad exam experience.
I’m not talking about the normal “this is pretty un-fun” experience that is every exam — but one of those really horrible, terrible, awful exams. Maybe you studied all the wrong topics, or the procter gave out the wrong questions (happens), or you got sick, or had a meltdown, or didn’t sleep the night before, or overslept, or whatever.
6 Tips for Recovering from a Disastrous Law School Exam
- Take some time off
- Sit with your feelings.
- Drop the story line.
- Be careful who you talk to.
- Lay off the alcohol.
- Get some exercise and go to bed.
Get the long version here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
Outside the Law School Scam has an excellent comparison between the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education Report and the Illinois State Bar Association Special Committee on the Impact of Law School Debt on the Delivery of Legal Services Report here.
As I have said before, it will be the state bars that bring about change. When a bar of a large state requires that law school graduates have significant experiential education to sit for the bar, then law schools will have to offer that experiential education. Law schools need to be prepared for this because it will happen soon.
P.S. Hint: the name of the state begins with a C.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
As I have written in several posts over the last few months, a number of writers have tried to make a straw man out of the notion of practice ready attorneys by greatly exaggerating what practice ready means. As I have stated before, my definition of practice-ready is that a graduate is able to do the basic things expected of a lawyer in that type of practice and have the skills to grow as a lawyer.
Let's consider this from the viewpoint of what a new litigation attorney needs to know and be able to do in relation to discovery practice. Discovery is a key part of being a litigator, and a practice-ready litigator should be able to draft basic discovery and take depositions on the first day of practice. This does not mean that a senior litigator should not double check the new attorney's discovery before it is sent to the opposing attorney. However, new attorneys should not start practice without being able to draft basic discovery with minimal supervision, which has been the practice in the past and, for the most part, remains the practice today. I believe that it took about three years as a litigator before I was fully proficient in drafting discovery and it was unnecessary that a senior attorney check my work before it went out.
A couple of years ago, I discovered the book, Skills & Values: Discovery Practice by David Thomson. Basically, this book contains everything I learned about discovery in three years of on-the-job training. Of course, just reading such a book is not enough; a student needs to practice discovery in order to master it. Professor Thomson teaches a discovery course using his book. He has set out how he teaches it in detail here.
I am not saying that taking a discovery course by itself will make a student as good at discovery as someone who has been doing it in practice for several years. However, it will cut down the on-the-job learning time significantly. As we know clients no longer want to pay firms for their new lawyers education, and many lawyers work as solos.
Below is a partial table of contents from the most recent issue of the American Journal of Legal History featuring several articles on using legal history to teach law students practical legal skills.
Abrams, Douglas E. Teaching Legal History In The Age Of Practical Education 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 482 (2013).
Bromberg, Howard Teaching Legal History Through Legal Skills 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 488 (2013).
Jacob, Gregory F. Using History To Teach Students How To Be Lawyers 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 493 (2013).
Jarvis, Robert M. Legal History: Teaching Skills Practicing Lawyers Need 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 498 (2013).
Selvin, Molly The History Of Contemporary Law And Policy 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 502 (2013).
Slinger, Michael J. What The Actions Of Abe Lincoln Continue To Teach Us Today 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 507 (2013).
Susan Wawrose has written an article, What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates?: Using Focus Groups to Find Out, 39 Ohio Northern University Law Review 505 (2013). These headings from her table of contents summarize her findings:
A. The Ideal Law School Graduate Exemplifies Professionalism
1. The Ideal Law School Graduate Has a Strong Work Ethic
2. The Ideal Law School Graduate Takes Initiative and Steps Up to “Own the Case”
3. The Ideal Law School Graduate Works Well with Colleagues and Clients
4. The Ideal Law School Graduate Is Flexible and Able to Adapt to the Needs of Supervising Attorneys
B. Employers Depend on New Hires to Have Strong Legal Research Skills.
1. “There’s a huge reliance there. There really is.”
2. Research Strategically: Plan and Assess Your Research
3. “Online is fine.”
C. The Best Legal Writing & Analysis Attends to Audience & Purpose.
1. “Writing is an audience thing.”
2. “The shorter, the better.”
3. “Structure that thought process.”
Based on these findings, she offers these proposals for revising the first year curriculum:
IV. Suggestions for Revising the First-Year LRW Course to Address Employer Preferences
A. Emphasize and Evaluate Professionalism
B. Move Away from the Memo: Ask Students to Communicate to a Range of Audiences in a Variety of Formats
C. Research: Emphasize Strategy, But Keep a Close Eye on Results
Saturday, December 7, 2013
An Op-Ed by Nicholas Basbane, author of On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History, that appearedin today's Los Angeles Times says that the imminent death of paper is greatly exaggerated.
Predictions of a paperless society have been bandied about for close to half a century, driven by an unbridled faith that technology would eliminate the need for something as old-fashioned as record-keeping on pulverized cellulose.
There is no denying, of course, that seismic changes have taken place or that they are everywhere apparent.
. . . .
The idea was that paper would be made obsolete by such things as email, electronic data storage and the Internet, technologies that government agencies embraced early on. But here's a telling statistic: In 2011, according to InfoTrends, a research firm that specializes in digital imaging and document management, local, state and federal governmental offices used 122 billion sheets of paper, an amount equal to about 400 sheets for every person in the United States.
That's just in the official bureaucracy. A broader set of figures, compiled by International Data Corp. and released in July, reports that worldwide volume from digital hard-copy devices in 2012 totaled 2.98 trillion pages, down slightly from 2011, but sufficient to cover the surface area of New York City 237 times. And the average American, according to the American Forest and Paper Assn., uses more than 748 pounds of paper a year.
. . . .
For more than 200 years, paper was the most efficient way to bundle gunpowder and a projectile into one compact cartridge, and its use as a wrapper for the "evil weed" — tobacco — has had consequences that continue to resonate.
Surprisingly strong and resilient, its portability made possible the modern bureaucracy; it can be folded every which way, and when used as an absorbent, it serves a plenitude of hygienic purposes — yet another Chinese idea.
The 21st century may well prove to be the digital century, but it seems misguided to set the obituary of paper down in cold type. Not just yet, in any case.
Hat tip to Law Librarians Blog.
At the American Awards, Singer Katy Perry performed her latest song dressed as a geisha against a backdrop of cherry blossoms, a Shinto shrine and taiko drummers. Was it racist? I viewed it as corny and way too retro. I might expect to see this sort of stereotypical performance in a 1940s movie.
Was it racist? Phyllis Heitjan thinks so. She is the age of our students. In her piece at Thought Catalogue she explains why. We’re not always attuned to racial sterotypes; stilt they influence our conduct. Consider these excerpts:
I am half-Korean. Unfortunately, this means that I have to be hyper-aware of the geisha trope, because it gets ascribed to my identity as a non-white person, as a woman, and as a sexual being, by the white America that doesn’t know that Asians are not all the same, and particularly by white male America which tends to unhealthily fixate on hyper-sexualized tropes regarding Asian women. I should not have to deal with this, but I do.
It’s not just Facebook, either. I can’t go a week on OkCupid [an online dating site] without being targeted as the object of some guy’s Asian fetish, typically some guy looking for a submissive partner, and I’m unfortunately far from alone.
This kind of racialized attention triggers intense, generalized anxiety about my romantic life and my body, so I feel personally offended when Katy Perry goes on national television in a sexed up “geisha” costume.
Friday, December 6, 2013
In case there was any doubt that legal education is going through something of a crisis, here’s the latest snapshot of the academy.
The precipitous drop in law-school demand is dividing the U.S. legal education system into the haves and have-nots, according to a new credit-rating analysis by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.
Standard & Poor’s rates five of the 26 ABA-accredited stand-alone law schools, as well as public and private universities containing another 118 law schools. Together, the ratings encompass 123 of the 201 ABA-accredited schools.
Stand-alone law schools – those unaffiliated with broader universities – have been hit particularly hard by the recent dip in law-school demand, largely because schools lack the backstop of a bigger institution. But one of the most troubling finds is that it’s not just these schools that are vulnerable. The enrollment drop is also creating financial risk for smaller universities that contain law schools, such as Widener University in Pennsylvania, Pace University in New York, and Suffolk University in Massachusetts.
“These institutions are generally supported by smaller endowments and are more susceptible to negative operating trends in individual programs, such as their law school components,” the report says.
Linda Ammons, the dean of Widener University School of Law, told Law Blog in a statement: “While Widener Law, like the vast majority of American law schools, has experienced a downward trend in enrollment as noted in the report, the administration has made strategic financial adjustments to accommodate for these circumstances. Our budget is balanced and we operate with the full support of Widener University.”
Law Blog has reached out to the other schools for comment.
The analysis portends a rough path for the stand-alone law schools, which are facing declines in applications, headcount and cash on hand.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Nelson Mandela joined Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King in using a philosophy of nonviolence and love to bring about change. Here are some of his words:
Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
(thnx to Brain Pickings)
Thursday, December 5, 2013
From The National Jurist Magazine:
“No one hires over the holidays, right?” Jeff, an anxious student sat in my office, worried about his job search. “Should I quit looking until January?” he asked, sighing as he sipped his coffee.
If you think there are no job possibilities during the holidays, think again. The holidays can still be a good time to look. Every year I hear stories about people who received job offers during the holidays. I’m sure you want to concentrate on finals, and celebrate the end of the semester. But there are some easy, painless ways to keep your job search going during the holiday season.
Keep Checking the Job Listings
Set Up Meetings With Alumni in your Hometown
Build Your On-line Presence in Less than a Day
Continue reading here.
Recently, Ari Shapiro visited Yale, his alma mater, to speak with students about his career. Here’s the quote must relevant to us:
Shapiro added that it was at Yale that he honed some of the skills that helped him in his role as a reporter.“The best thing is that you learn to read and write and think,” he said. “The skills I used in writing papers about Chaucer are the same skills I use when I read a Supreme Court opinion.” He added that being in a community as diverse as Yale, with classmates who were passionate artists, scientists, athletes, and more, also fueled his own creativity.
To my mind, the best thing you can do in law school is to continue that education and learn more about reading, writing and thinking--and also to search out interesting people.
The article is worth reading, especially the parts where Shapiro explains how he uses narrative to develop a story.
Below, one of my co-bloggers has posted an abstract of an article by David Barnhizer on legal education, which asks "Is the notion of practice-ready graduates a farce?". Because I feel that Professor Barnhizer has set up a false notion of "practice-ready" as a strawman, I must reply to his article.
In a comment to a post on the Tax Prof Blog on this article, Professor Eric Muller wrote, "What a foolish argument! A straw man (the brand-new grad ready to handle the multimillion dollar merger) is successfully set up and then knocked down."
Steven Freedman similarly declared: "It's a silly straw man argument to say experiential education is a farce because a first year associate can't manage a complex merger. Many of our students at KU Law complete one or two clinics, plus work experience through internships. While they might not be able to handle complex commercial transactions, they certainly have been used by employers to handle misdemeanor hearings and trials, handle everyday litigation (landlord-tenant, commercial disputes, etc.), work in family court, etc. Based on feedback from our employers, they do consider it a positive if students have had some experience and are ready to manage responsibility from day one. Just like a fresh doctor should be able to set a broken bone or diagnose someone with the flu, fresh lawyers who want to do small and medium sized practice law should be ready to file a simple complaint or handle a motion in limine. But only if their law school prepared them for it."
Professor Theodore Seto added, "What law firms do want is graduates with immediately saleable skills. Ideally, when the partner gives a new associate a file and says, 'I'd like you to defend this deposition next Tuesday,' the associate should say, 'I'm on it,' not, 'What's a deposition?'"
To me, practice-ready is the ability to do the basic things that lawyers do based on their area of practice. For a litigator, it is the ability to do research, draft pleadings, take depositions, write motions of for summary judgment, write appellate briefs, etc. For a transactional attorney, it is being able to draft basic contracts, draft corporate documents, structure simple deals, etc.
As C. Christie noted in the comments, "I would think that a 'Practice Ready' law school curriculum would include hands-on experience in the form of internships, externships, apprenticeships, clinics, etc, and not be based solely on exam scores or coursework grades. In Professor Barnhizer's scenarios, I agree that no recent 'Practice Ready' grad would be 'Client Ready.' However, a firm might be more likely to hire a 'Practice Ready' grad because the leap to 'Client Ready' would be less steep, than hiring a non 'Practice Ready' grad. I work in a major law firm, and we don't hire grads with less than about 5 years of experience. Why??? Our clients have told us, through numerous surveys and benchmarking studies, that they will not pay for them because of wasted time and money. However, if firms felt confident that the students were getting real-law experience as students, that situation would change. Call it what you will ... many traditional law school grads require a huge learning curve in a law firm setting, and that is simply not cost-effective anymore. They're also competing against lawyers in India and elsewhere who can do first-third year law firm work at a better cost to clients."
Profesor Barnhizer wrote a couple of replies to the above comments to clarify his position: "Read the full paper. Then argue with me. I guess I should have included in the Abstract the fact that law schools can educate in important ways, including providing students a conceptual and experiential 'template' into which subsequent experience is infused and interpreted in ways that create a stronger likelihood they will be better lawyers. I accept that maybe this perspective (which is the paper's) might appear better in the Abstract. But the comments themselves indicate a strong bias toward 'practice ready' law schools as well as the fact that the commenters didn't look at the paper itself."
He added, "I am not against attempting to educate law students in both skills and the qualities of professionalism from the perspective of clients and social obligations." "My point is that we have done a relatively poor job of professional, societal and what I would call 'deep practice' education. We need to focus far more than we have on what is the best use of the special three-year period represented by formal academic legal education." He remarked that "In fact it may be more important to impose stronger requirements on law graduates than on new medical graduates because the functions conducted by lawyers are largely invisible and the client has little way of knowing if he has been provided sub-standard representation. Along with this goes the significant decline in mentoring for young lawyers. Given the fact that there is scant oversight, that quite a few law graduates are now (of necessity) going in to solo or small associational practices for purposes of sharing expenses the fact is that clients are at the mercy of people who really have a limited idea of what they are doing."
He concluded, "So what I am saying is that we need to design ways to 'do it better.' I am not saying that education for the challenges of being a lawyer should not occur but that we must visualize the task better than we do within the realm of what is realistically possible given issues of time, talent, resources, institutional behaviors and biases. I am also saying that the organized legal profession and state supreme courts need to quit 'palming off' their responsibilities on law schools and pretending they have taken care of the situation. As I said in 'Abandoning an 'Unethical' System of Legal Ethics' a year or so ago when it was published in the Michigan State Law Review, the legal profession is running a scam on society and clients, pretending that a system of lawyer regulation is in place that protects society and clients even while that system has extremely limited sanctions and accountability and is a 'cover' for a significant range of professional misconduct and incompetence. If that part of the system does not step up and begin to make significant qualitative contributions to the continuing development of good lawyers (and weeding out of bad lawyers) then no matter what law schools do it really will not make much difference."
In sum, when you read the entire article, you can see that Professor Barnhizer has a lot to contribute to the legal education debate. However, this does not excuse his use of "practice ready" as a strawman. Law students need better educations both in law school and afterwards. The bench and bar and law schools need to work together to produce attorneys who can serve individual clients and society.