Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Case Grid: A Tool for Analogical Reasoning

Charts and diagrams help students understand analysis and synthesis.  Here is a useful diagraming method.

The Case Grid: A Tool for Analogical Reasoning by John F. Murphy.

 Abstract:     

"This paper describes a graphical method for comparing the relevant facts and outcomes of several cases as they relate to a single legal test. I call this method the “case grid.”

The case grid allows a writer to easily identify similarities and differences between several precedent cases, and between the precedent cases and the facts of the “client” case (the case being analyzed, argued, or decided). These similarities and distinctions form the basis of analogical reasoning. Analogical reasoning — the process of predicting or arguing the outcome of a client case based on its factual similarities to and differences from precedent cases — is in turn a fundamental characteristic of brief-writing and opinion-writing. Because the case grid facilitates analogical reasoning, it deserves a place in every appellate advocate’s — and appellate judge’s — writing toolbox."
 

July 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A versatile new tool for calculating employment rates for all law schools

The Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers project (and here) has created a versatile new interactive tool called Law Jobs: By The Numbers that lets users calculate the post-graduate employment rate for every law school reporting employment data to the ABA.  It allows users to calculate those employment rates based on several criteria such as "bar passage required" versus "JD advantage." Users can also exclude school-funded jobs and grads who go solo to give a more accurate picture of how many students actually get hired after graduation.  The calculator uses the employment data collected by the ABA by way of its annual law school questionnaire.  Another feature lets users review the employment rates for each school, or compare rates between schools, based on formulas used by other organizations and ranking bodies like the National Association for Law Placement, U.S. News & World Report, the Law School Transparency project, Above The Law and National Jurist Magazine. 

Definitely check it out here.

(jbl).

July 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Five Minute University

On this 3:17 minute video, Father Guido Sarducci explains the 5 minute university—what the college student remembers five years after graduating requires only 5 minutes of education. At the end of the video, he speculates on the one minute law school.

You can view the video here.

(ljs)

July 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three online legal research engines announce major redesigns

Over at Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog, there's a report from the recent American Association of Law Librarians annual meeting in San Antonio last week that three of the big players in online legal research are planning some significant redesigns including Lexis Advance, Fastcase, Wolters Kluwer.  Mr. Amborgi reports that Lexis Advance plans changes (click here and scroll down) to make its platform even quicker and easier for users.  Lexis representatives told conference attendees to look for the new Lexis Advance to roll out towards the end of summer which should be just in time for 1L legal research training.  Fastcase is also planning some major redesigns to its legal research platform by making the visual search feature (click here for a video) more prominent.  Fastcase CEO Ed Walters told Mr. Ambrogi to expect that roll-out shortly after the new year.  And Wolters Kluwer is planning to release a new platform called Cheetah that, among other features, will consist of a three panel screen display  with primary content in the middle, saved searches on the left and direct links to practice tools on the right.

Apparently Mr. Ambrogi got exclusive access to some of the changes coming to these search engines so if you want to know more details, head over to the LawSites now and get the scoop.

(jbl).

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drafting the Opening Paragraph of a Court Document

A lawyer should use the opening paragraph of a court document to advance the client’s cause. Consider this traditional opening paragraph:

 PLAINTIFF BELCOM COMPUTER

COMPANY, INC.’S OPPOSITION

TO DEFENDANT WORLDWIDE

TELCO, INC.’S MOTION TO

DISMISS OR, IN THE

ALTERNATIVE, TO STRIKE

PLEADINGS BASED ON

PLAINTIFF’S VIOLATION OF THIS

COURT’S JUNE 13, 2003 ORDER

TO THE HONORABLE JUDGE OF

SAID COURT:

NOW COMES PLAINTIFF BELCOM

COMPUTER COMPANY, INC.

(‘‘Belcom’’), and files this its Opposition

to Defendant Worldwide Telco, Inc.’s

(‘‘Worldwide’s’’) Motion to Dismiss or, in

the Alternative, to Strike Pleadings Based

on Plaintiff ’s Violation of This Court’s

June 13, 2003 Order (‘‘Worldwide’s Motion

to Dismiss’’), and for its Opposition,

Belcom would respectfully show unto this

Honorable Court as follows:

[97 words]

Now compare this version:

Belcom’s Opposition to

Worldwide’s Motion to Dismiss

or Strike

 Belcom has fully complied with this

Court’s June 13, 2003 order to amend

its complaint. As the order requires, Belcom’s

amended complaint states specific

facts supporting its contention that Worldwide

deceived the patent office in applying

for the patent at issue, thus rendering

the patent invalid. Instead of disputing

those facts, Worldwide now seeks drastic

relief—asking this Court to dismiss or

strike Belcom’s invalidity claim. Worldwide’s

motion should be denied.

[80 words]

 I think most of us prefer the second version. For a discussion of why the second version is better, please click here for Beverly RayBurlingame’s article in the June Michigan Bar Journal.

(ljs)

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Qualities of the Professional Lawyer

Another important article by Neil W. Hamilton.  The Qualities of the Professional Lawyer.

 Abstract:     

"Why would you as a law student or early-career lawyer want to internalize the qualities of the professional lawyer? Let me start with a bold proposition: If, over a career, you build a strong internalized foundation of the qualities of the professional lawyer, you will continue over a career to become an increasingly effective and successful lawyer.

Section I below analyzes empirical data identifying the qualities that legal employers and clients want in a new lawyer. Section II analyzes the empirical evidence on what qualities of the professional lawyer inform the profession’s understanding of professionalism, professional formation and an ethical professional identity. That evidence reveals a powerful service ethic anchoring professional formation: An internalized moral core characterized by a deep responsibility for others, particularly clients. Section III explores how the qualities of the professional lawyer form the foundation upon which a law student and early-career lawyer builds over a career to develop all the values, virtues, capacities and skills of an effective lawyer. Section IV reflects professional formation’s central role in fulfilling the legal profession’s “social contract” with the larger society. That section also considers the “moral insight” attained by lawyers at later stages of professional formation. Section V concludes with a discussion of some key lessons to remember going forward in your law studies and career as a lawyer."
 
My favorite heading: "The Qualities of a Professional Lawyer Are the Foundation on Which an Effective Lawyer Builds."
 

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Publication opportunity for LRW faculty, law librarians, clinicians and practitioners interested in legal research and writing training

Here's a great opportunity to get published if you're interested in writing about issues related to the teaching of legal research or legal writing whether you're a LWR faculty member, clinician, doctrinal faculty, law librarian or practitioner. Perhaps you're a practicing lawyer involved in mentoring or training junior lawyers and you've some good teaching techniques, observations or insights you'd like to share.  Or perhaps as a practicing lawyer teaching part time as an adjunct faculty member you have a unique perspective on LRW pedagogy. This is your chance to reach more than 5,000 readers by submitting a short manuscript to Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing, a Thomson Reuters publication. The submission guidelines and publisher's contact information are below (ignore the part about a mid-July deadline and instead submit whenever your manuscript is ready).

Perspectives is a journal for law librarians, law professors, and everyone else who is intrigued by the challenge of teaching legal research and writing. In three electronic publications each year (fall, winter, and spring), Perspectives provides a forum for exploring a broad array of teaching theories, techniques, and tools. Readers and authors include:

 

  • new and experienced law librarians and law professors;
  • practicing attorneys who help associates to develop as researchers and writers or who serve as adjunct faculty at law schools; and
  • writing specialists at law schools, law firms, courts, and other legal institutions.

Submissions from authors are generally due in mid-July for the fall issue, in mid-September for the winter issue, and in mid-January for the spring issue. Perspectives articles tend to be short, typically between 1,500 and 5,000 words (between two and eight double-spaced pages). The articles generally examine how teachers can best help law students, young lawyers, and others learn to research and write efficiently, enjoyably, and effectively. The articles do so, moreover, in a relaxed, lightly footnoted, and highly readable prose—more like that of many bar association publications than that of traditional academic journals. Most articles focus on a practical issue, task, or topic, for example:

 

  • the use of wikis as a teaching and learning tool;
  • game-based teaching techniques;
  • clinicians’ insights for research and writing professors;
  • student engagement with appellate advocacy assignments;
  • incorporation of frequent student-to-faculty feedback;
  • collaborations between research and writing instructors; and
  • creating and managing online courses.

In addition, regular columns address curricular design, teachable moments, technology for teaching, thorny research matters, and experts’ writing tips. Members of the Perspectives editorial board manage these columns. The editors are experts in teaching research and writing in law firms, libraries, and law schools. They have discretion to edit articles, including by shortening them to conform to available space, and the editors are available to advise prospective authors.

 

Perspectives is available in PDF at http://info.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/signup/newsletters/perspectives/

 

Submitting Articles to Perspectives

  1. How, to Whom, and When to Submit

Submit manuscripts by e-mail as an attachment to:

Elizabeth Edinger, Editor

Catholic University of America Law Library

E-mail: edinger@law.edu

 

Alternatively, particularly if your article would fit well in a regular column, you may submit an article to a column editor. The editors’ names are listed in each issue of Perspectives. Deadlines are generally in mid-July for the fall issue, in mid-September for the winter issue, and in mid-January for the spring issue.

 

        2.  Manuscript Form and Length

1. Author Information. Provide only your name, professional title, and institutional affiliation. Place this information immediately after the article’s title, not in a footnote.

2. Typeface and Margins. Type in standard-face, double-spaced text with 1.5-inch margins.

3. Length. Articles should run between 1,500 and 5,000 words (two and eight pages). Longer articles may be considered but also may be shortened to fit available space.

4. Footnotes. Use footnotes, not endnotes. Identify notes in the text by superscript numbers.

5. Citation Form. Conform citations to The Bluebook (19th ed. 2010). Follow in particular its “Bluepages,” which describe citation form for legal memoranda and court documents and use regular fonts, not LARGE AND SMALL CAPITALS. Use italicizing, not underlining.

6. Ellipses. Treat an ellipsis as a single word, constructed of three periods preceded and followed by a space—for example: “The idea was ... hers.”

7. Commas. Use “serial commas.” That is, in a series of three or more elements, separate each element by a comma—for example: “The names were Ax, Boxx, and Crux.” In addition, do not use a comma to separate Jr. or Sr. from the name—for example: John Kennedy Jr.

8. Word Preferences.

a. Use appendixes or indexes, not appendices or indices.

b. Use citation, not cite, and citing, not “Bluebooking.”

c. Generally, do not hyphenate legal writing or legal research.

(jbl).

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where Are the Biggest Security Risks in Higher Education?

The results of a recent survey suggest that the greatest risk lies in central administrative systems. Here is a summary from Campus Technology:

For example, respondents reported that their biggest areas of unease from a risk perspective are central administrative systems (chosen by 70 percent), followed by faculty and staff computers and Web applications (which tied at 64 percent), and faculty and staff mobile devices (designated by 60 percent). Yet only 57 percent said they work in environments that bother to classify their sensitive data or provide usage guidelines.(My emphasis)

While 76 percent of schools report giving "special attention" to personally identifiable information (such as social security numbers or banking information) and that same number have policies in place to restrict access to personally identifiable information (PII), encryption is lacking. While 54 percent encrypt PII in transit, an even smaller number — 48 percent — encrypt PII "at rest."

You can read more here.

(ljs)

 

July 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

New York will implement program where law students exchange pro bono service for early bar admission

This sounds like a win-win; law students provide legal service to low-income clients who might not otherwise have access to a lawyer in exchange for school credit and the chance for early bar admission.  From the New York Law Journal:

Courts, Law Schools Gear Up for Pro Bono Scholar Program

New York's 15 law schools and the state court system are laying the groundwork for a new Pro Bono Scholars program, where students can dedicate their final semester to pro bono work on behalf of low-income clients in exchange for early bar admission.

 

Starting next spring, about 150 students will spend 12 weeks working full-time for a law school clinic, legal services nonprofit, government agency or law firm. Placements will begin March 2, after participants take the February bar exam.

 

Though their work will be unpaid, students will receive at least 12 academic credits and participate in a weekly, on-campus seminar to complement what they're learning on the job. Licensed attorneys will supervise them.

 

Early bar admission is a top selling point for potential Pro Bono Scholars. Participants will be admitted by June 2015, up to a year before their classmates who take the July bar exam.

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Rookie Judge’s Guide to Writing Appellate Briefs

From the ABA blog (abridged):

Samuel A. Thumma joined the Arizona Court of Appeals after 20 years in private practice and as a trial judge. Based on his rookie year as an appellate judge, Thumma offers suggestions for “the nearly rule-less” practice of writing appellate decisions in an article for the winter 2014 issue of The Judges’ Journal. Some highlights:

Keep the audience in mind. Any appellate decision should have as the primary audience the parties and their counsel, although with a decision that can be cited as a precedent, the audience is broader and more diverse.

Your introduction matters. Grab the reader with a short, tight, clean introduction.

Create structure with headings. In most cases, Thumma uses these headers:  Introduction, Facts and Procedural Background, Discussion, Attorneys’ Fees (if applicable) and Conclusion. In multi-issue appeals, adding sub-headings can provide further clarity.

Less is more. Details should be essential or omitted.

Confirm proper jurisdiction. Ask yourself: What appealable judgment or order was appealed, how is the appeal timely, and how did the court have appellate jurisdiction?

Specify the standard of review and how facts are construed, as it may be important for deciding the case, but for a decision that can be cited as a precedent, in determining how the case may be cited.

Address or at least mention the fair issues raised in the briefs. For non-precedential decisions, noting all issues raised by the parties is critical for perceptions of legitimacy and to minimize motions to reconsider. For a precedential decision, it may be helpful for future cases to note what was raised but not addressed or decided.

Clearly specify the relief granted.

Avoid unintended consequences. Clarity and brevity decrease the chances that the decision will be used inappropriately as a precedent in a case with different facts or legal arguments.

Develop your own writing style and preferences. For example, if you don’t like the morass of long, complicated sentences common to legal writing, vary your sentence length.

At the top of a list of Thumma’s personal writing preferences: “I assume no one reads footnotes.”

You can read the full posting here

(ljs)

July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A More Rigorous Approach to Teaching the Reasoning Portion of Case Analysis: A Key to Developing More Competent Law Students

The first skill that law schools teach their students is case briefing.  Consequently, it is very important that law schools do this right.  When I was in law school, case analysis was taught very superficially, and it can still be taught better today.

I have developed a more rigorous approach to case briefing, which requires students to identify the type of reasoning the judge is using in a case and how the judge is using it in detail.  I have just posted a draft of an article on my approach on SSRN: 

A More Rigorous Approach to Teaching the Reasoning Portion of Case Analysis: A Key to Developing More Competent Law Students by E. Scott Fruehwald.

  Abstract:     

The first skill that law schools teach their students is case briefing or, as I prefer to call it, case analysis. However, law schools often teach this skill superficially. In this paper, I present a more rigorous approach to case analysis, by including in the reasoning section the types of reasoning (rule-based reasoning, reasoning by analysis, distinguishing cases, policy-based reasoning, synthesis) a judge is using and how the judge employs these types of reasoning to obtain the holding.
 
(Scott Fruehwald)

July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Using Experiential Education To Develop Human Resources For The Nonprofit Community: A Course Study Analysis"

This new article by Professor Ann Hodges (Richmond) is directly relevant to those interested in "practical legal skills" training so we're passing it along to you, our readers.  It can be found at 6 Drexel L. Rev. 1 (2014) and here on SSRN.  From the abstract:

In this era of shrinking resources and increased pressure to produce “practice-ready” lawyers, law schools are seeking new and cost-effective ways to provide experiential education. This article reports and analyzes the results of a survey of graduates and students from a course in Nonprofit Organizations that incorporated a community-based project designed to develop skills, enhance learning and encourage post-graduation involvement with nonprofits. Although limited to one course, this course study, like a case study, offers valuable information. Consistent with other research on experiential education, the survey supports the conclusion that such projects, while less resource intensive and comprehensive than clinics, offer benefits to both the students and to the community.

(jbl).

July 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grammar Errors You Don’t Need to Worry About

Yesterday, I listed Ben Yagoda’s list of seven grammar rules that you really should take seriously. Today, I offer his list of seven rules that he says you don’t need to worry about:

  • Don’t split infinitives.
  • Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  • Don’t use “which” as a relative pronoun.
  • Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • Don’t use the passive voice.
  • Don’t neglect to use singular verbs. (By that I meant that it is OK to use singular verbs with data and media, as well as a plural one in a sentence like “A number of my friends are coming over.”)
  • Don’t use words to mean what they’ve been widely used to mean for 50 years or more. (Here I dismissed  shibboleths like using like to mean “such as”; decimate to mean “kill or eliminate a large proportion of something”; liable to to mean “likely to”; over to mean “more than”; and since to mean “because.” I didn’t mention the shibboleth against shibboleth, but will do so here, prophylactically.)

On the whole, I would agree, but would frame is rules in a more nuanced way. For example, I would avoid the passive voice, but use it when it makes for a better, clearer, and more persuasive sentence.

You can read more here at the Chronicle of Higher Education (not sure if you need  a subscription).

(ljs)

 

July 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Grammar Rules to Which You Really Should Pay Attention

Professor and author Ben Yagoda offers these seven rules:

  • Using the subjunctive in a sentence in hypothetical or counterfactual sentences, e.g.,  “If Hillary Clinton was were president, things would be a whole lot different.”
  • Avoiding bad parallelism like, “My friend made salsa, guacamole, and brought chips.”
  • Being careful with a few tricky verb tenses, such as “I’m tired, so I need to go lay lie down” and “Honey, I shrunk shrank the kids.”
  • Watching out for pronoun use that will earn you calumny, such as “It was a great vacation for my wife and I me” and “They gave special awards to Bill and myself  me.”
  • Avoiding dangling modifiers.
  • Correct semicolon use.
  • Avoiding what are still commonly considered the incorrect meanings for such words and expressions as begs the question, phenomena (as a singular), cliché (as an adjective), comprised of, and lead (as the past tense of the verb lead).

You can read more here at the Chronicle of Higher Education (not sure if you need a subscription for this one).

(ljs)

July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Linda H. Edwards's Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World

The Doctrine of Legal Writing - Book Review of Linda H. Edwards's Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World by Lucy A. Jewel.

Abstract:     
In legal education, the word “doctrinal” is most often used to refer to courses such as Contracts, Torts, Property, and Criminal Procedure. Doctrinal has long been used as a descriptive adjective, but also as a word of exclusion. We often hear legal writing courses are not substantive and not as significant as doctrinal courses. Linda Edwards’s new book, Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World, persuasively challenges this view.

This paper evaluates what we mean when we use the term doctrinal in a legal education context and considers six powerful descriptors for the doctrine of legal writing, all extrapolated from Edwards’s book: (1) legal writing is founded upon a collective body of robust scholarship; (2) it relies upon principles of science to create legal meaning; (3) it embraces an artistic craft model for the production of legal meanings, emphasizing the creativity, autonomy, and discretion that form the core of a lawyer’s professional identity; (4) it involves critical introspection, opening up areas of thought traditionally obscured in legal education and ensuring that law students appreciate the power they will eventually wield in law practice; (5) it is substantive because legal writing is law making — we cannot separate the substance of the law from the words we use to forge legal meanings; and finally, (6) because it relies on real cases and context to teach students how to engage with the legal process, the doctrine of legal writing builds and improves upon law school’s classic case-method pedagogy.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U. Montana Law School adds more practical legal skills training to the first year curriculum and beyond

The changes in the first year curriculum include assigning each student to a six person "law firm" run by a "junior partner" teaching assistant.  The "firms" are intending to be learning laboratories where students meet each week to practice lawyering skills like "interviewing, counseling, negotiation, drafting,  legal research, and written and oral advocacy in the form of extensive simulated professional legal situations and required clinical education."

National Jurist's PreLaw Magazine has more details here - Montana Expands Experiential Curriculum -  including a description of the curricular changes the school will be implementing in the second and third year to add more experiential learning opportunities.

(jbl).

July 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Ultimate App

 

How about an app that does one simple thing? It sends to the recipient a simple message: “Yo.” That’s it. The inventor has already raise $1 million from investors. Will investors invent in anything? (apparently yes) Will customers really employ the app? (yes). Does the advent of this app suggest that we’re entering a new tech bubble?

You can read more at Think Progress

(ljs).

July 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cardozo Law School unveils revamped curriculum that emphasizes practical skills training

Cardozo Law School has announced that it has revamped its curriculum to offer more practical legal skills courses following the success of some pilot projects.  The New York Law Journal has additional details:

Revamped Cardozo Courses Stress Practical Skills

After spending the past year testing potential changes to its second- and third-year curriculum, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is rolling out new and revamped offerings this fall with an emphasis on practical lawyering skills.

 

Students can choose a concentration in one of 11 areas, including criminal law, intellectual property or tax law, and will have access to an alumni and faculty mentor. All alumni mentors are practicing attorneys.

 

Cardozo now requires students earn six credits of practical skills through a clinic or externship. The school will offer several new skills-based courses to be taught jointly by a faculty member and an adjunct practicing attorney. Some courses, such as contract drafting, were introduced last year on a pilot basis and will be offered permanently, vice dean Melanie Leslie said.

 

"The legal market has changed, and we want to be responsive to that," she said. "We want to be able to ensure we're able to give students the skills they need to compete."

 

The school also will expand its annual lawyering skills program, allowing more students to take its intensive trial advocacy program—a two-week immersion course on courtroom litigation strategy—as well as courses on corporate transactions and financial literacy.

 

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five Tips for Surviving a Conference

 From Road Warriorette, here is an abridged version of the advice:

Dress smart. In my experience conference halls are always either freezing or boiling, never much in the middle. Thus, layers are the best way to stay comfortable.

Comfortable shoes. Conferences are usually synonymous with huge hotels or convention halls. You may have to walk close to a mile just to get to the location (especially if you’re in Vegas as so many conferences are). Comfortable shoes are a must, otherwise you will be crying by the end of the day. If you have to wear heels, slip some flats or flip-flops in your bag for the commute

Snacks and water. Keep snacks like nuts, a protein bar, fruit, or maybe even some Dove Darks handy so you won’t go light headed from hunger before you get to eat.

Electronics. Make sure to have all of the chargers you need—don’t leave any behind in the hotel room, because without fail that will be the one you need. Want to be the most popular person there? Bring a power strip. If you have a portable charger, bring that too. Tip: Scope out the plugs as you’re walking in so you know where to go when you need a charge.

Plan for sickness. Now I always keep ibuprofen and Pepto in my purse. I also have Emergen-C—there is never enough coffee available, and Emergen-C will get me through the post lunch slump.

Bonus tip: Don’t be embarrassed to use a rolling briefcase. It will hold everything you need, plus conference freebies, and not hurt your shoulder. Win!

I think packing a sweater, your favorite pain reliever, and Pepto bismol are the most important bits of advice. You can read the rest here.

(ljs)

 

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why Law Schools Should Teach Problem Solving in the First Year

Yesterday, I wrote a post on the importance of teaching problem solving in law school, mainly using ideas of Kathy Vinson. Today, I will show why it is important to teach problem solving in the first year, even if the law school offers extensive advanced skills courses.

Recently, many law schools have enacted advanced skills requirements, and there have been several proposals put forward to require advanced skills courses, one of which was adopted by the California bar. Even if all law schools offered extensive advanced skills courses, law schools would still need to teach problem solving in the first year because it is foundational, just as briefing cases or learning how lawyers think is foundational. In other words, problem solving prepares students for advanced skills courses.

Advanced skills courses do not teach basic problem solving. They use the skill, but advanced skills teachers generally assume that students already understand problem solving. However, as Kathy Vinson has noted (here at 14-15), students today come to law school with a deficiency of basic skills. Furthermore, general education researchers believe that students should be taught skills explicitly. (here at 109) Consequently, just like thinking like a lawyer, first-year courses should explicitly teach problem solving.

In addition, problem solving is basic to everything students do in law school and in law practice. As a group of researchers have written, "Lawyers, at their core, are problem solvers." Teaching Law Practice Prepaing the Next Generation of Lawyers 124 (Charles Cercone et al. eds., 2013). Similarly, another author has written, "Problem-solving is the single intellectual skill in which all law practices are based." Tracy A. Thomas, Teaching Remedies as Problem-Solving: Keeping it Real, 57 St. Louis U. L.J. 673 (2013). Problem solving also teaches law students to solve a problem from the beginning, which is how they occur in real life, instead of at the end, as the case method does. (here at 4). Therefore, law schools should be teaching this foundational skill early in law school.

I believe that law schools should offer a two-hour course in legal reasoning and problem solving in the first semester. This course would teach legal-reasoning miniskills, such as syllogistic thinking, analogical reasoning, distinguishing cases, and synthesizing cases, then at the end have a problem-solving unit like the one at Harvard. Simultaneously, the doctrinal courses should use problems as one of their teaching methods. (I have no objection to using the Socratic method or case approach in the first year as long as they are only one of several teaching approaches.) I think that these courses should have at least one problem at the end of every unit (at least once a week). Adopting the approach in this paragraph would better prepare students for advanced law school courses and practice.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)