Friday, May 24, 2013
The Overwrought Metaphor Department
The Overwrought Metaphor Department
From a Comment on the Education Week blog:
“Too many "cooks" have entered the metaphorical kitchen of education and are turning it into a gelatinous mess that is extremely unhealthy for our youth.”
NYU Law Gets a New Dean
Trevor Morrison, a constitutional law expert and chaired professor at Columbia Law School, has been selected as the 15th dean of NYU School of Law. He will succeed Richard Revesz, who will step down from the deanship on May 31, after 11 years.
“I am very pleased that Trevor Morrison will be NYU Law’s next dean,” said NYU President John Sexton. “A clear sign of an institution’s direction is the quality of the talent it attracts, and the recruitment of someone of Trevor’s caliber says much about the Law School.” Sexton, who served as dean of the Law School from 1988 to 2002, selected Morrison from a slate of candidates prepared by a search committee formed in November.
You can read more here.
Required reading for lawyers-to-be and recent grads alike.
Richard Susskind's new book Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future has been out for a little while now. If you didn't already know, Mr. Susskind is the author of the highly influential The End of Lawyers? Over at Career Center column at ATL, Alison Monahan has a pithy review of the book with the recommendation that all those contemplating law school, those still in law school and those who have recently graduated should read it to better position themselves to compete with the coming rise of the lawyer-bots.
Here are a couple of points Ms. Monahan has summarized from the book:
Post-Great Recession, even high-end clients are exerting price pressure on the large law firms who once charged pretty much whatever they wanted. At the low end, most individuals and small businesses can’t afford the legal help they need, and are going DIY or doing without. Everyone wants better results, for less money.
. . . .
[Y]ou might be wondering if the whole profession is doomed. Susskind’s answer is “Not Necessarily.”
The book contains a useful section of questions to ask of any legal employer you’re considering working for, to see how prepared they are for the future. And he includes a list of legal-related jobs that are likely to expand in the future (overseeing the machines and managing complex disaggregation projects, mostly).If you think there’s any chance Susskind is right about what’s coming (or, more importantly, if you’ve never considered the question), Tomorrow’s Lawyers is required reading.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Should law schools be teaching conceptual thinking skills?
That's what Professor Paula Franzese (Seton Hall) argues in this article posted on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
We are teaching in challenging times. In response to the economic downturn, fickle client demands and an increasingly global landscape, the practice of law continues to undergo rather seismic shifts. Moreover, the smaller numbers of students who are choosing law school are primarily members of “Generation C” – a group with learning preferences, strengths and weaknesses unlike those of their professors.
Against the backdrop of an irrevocably changed legal landscape and law school constituency, our students’ success and relevance will depend on their capacity to wield the traditionally honed “textual” skills as well as the equally important, but underemphasized, “conceptual” skills. The former are the hallmark of traditional law school pedagogy, which prizes the linear, logical and analytical. Those attributes are the products of the brain’s “left hemisphere” functions, and are most certainly essential.
Still, it behooves us to give the so-called “right hemisphere” abilities, or more conceptual processes, their due. Conceptual thinking is “out of the box” and integrative. It relies on big picture synergies and interconnectivities. It is the circle (and circles within circles) rather than the straight line (and parallel lines). It depends on the more intuitive, empathic, nonlinear and holistic. Cognitive and social scientists theorize that we are in the midst of a paradigmatic shift away from the more linear “information age” to the more innovative “conceptual age,” where “the future belongs to those with a right-side mindset – creators, artists, empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” (Daniel H. Pink, A WHOLE NEW MIND (2005)).
This paper explores the dimensions and implications of conceptual thinking for law school pedagogy. It suggests ways to teach to the whole mind by enhancing access to right-brain neural pathways. Specifically, it will focus on classroom use of what is described as empathy, story, symphony and meaning to facilitate students’ capacity to discern patterns and the essential interconnectedness among seemingly separate and distinct legal and theoretical constructs.
Integrative or conceptual thinking depends on the abilities to empathize and to discern the subtleties of the struggles that summon the adjudicative function. In the classroom, one way to access empathic pathways is through the use of story to teach cases and to present them with emotional impact. The human brain’s “mirror neurons” respond to narrative imagining to quite literally get a feel for the problem at hand and then more expansively explore viable solutions. Symphony is the ability to discern broad patterns as story after story is told, and to thereby perceive connections and engage in both invention and re-invention by linking together seemingly disparate elements. Teaching with meaning aims to deliberately infuse each class with strands of the ethical and moral imperatives that inform justice, and that build just lawyers
Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
NYU Will End Its Law Program in Singapore
From NYU’s announcement:
After much careful deliberation our two institutions have decided to conclude the NYU@NUS program with the graduation of the class of 2014. The incoming class that begins its studies in May 2013 will be the last intake for the program. This group is the last that is covered by the order of the New York State Court of Appeals that allows NYU@NUS graduates to sit the New York Bar examination. It also enjoys generous scholarships and financial awards that the program has secured for outstanding applicants from around the world.
The NYU@NUS program was initially established for 4 years -- the classes of 2008 to 2011. Towards the end of this period, NYU and NUS decided to extend the program for another 3 years to the class of 2014. We have now agreed to conclude the program without seeking additional financing to extend it. In the last few years, the cost of graduate legal education has risen significantly, and running the program in Singapore has been made possible by a generous grant by the government of Singapore to fund the numerous scholarships offered. Unfortunately, the program did not become self-financing in the way we had hoped it would; continuing it in its present form would entail a significant diversion of financial resources on the part of both NYU and NUS. With regret, therefore, our two institutions have now arrived at the mutual decision to allow the program to conclude and not to seek a further extension.
You can read more here.
Can Women Have It All?
A recent media theme is that women can’t “have it all.” Business executive Joan Solotar disagrees. Here is her advice for young women:
You don't need to "know it all" on day one.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You have no idea where your career will lead you longer-term so think of it in smaller, manageable stages.
Speak twice as loudly as you think you need to.
Be prepared. Practice.
Find that person who believes in you — and then listen to them, even if you don't like what they're saying.
Draw lines in the sand. Know what it is you absolutely won't give up and stick to it.
You will frequently feel like you are not giving your 100% best anywhere — either at home, at work, with friends, with other outside interests. I feel like this all the time — and it's okay.
Pay it forward and good things happen.
Be ready — for anything.
These are just the headline. You can read more here at the Harvard Business Review blog..
The Stone: Why Do I Teach?
Gary Gutting has an interesting perspective on teaching in an article in the New York Times. He writes, "It may be, of course, that many employers do not really want critical and creative employees. Even so, engagement with intellectual culture is a source of immense satisfaction for many people in their personal lives. A democratic distaste of elitism leads many people to regard such engagement as merely the peculiar preference of some individuals. But everyone who has a capacity for enjoying intellectual culture should at least have the opportunity to do so. (This is the lesson of the play and film, “Educating Rita.”) I’ve come to see college teaching as providing not knowledge but activities that open the door to this enjoyment."
A part of me agrees with Professor Gutting, but I think the joy of teaching is much more than this. The biggest joy in teaching is seeing your students accomplish something, such as being able to write a competent essay or brief. It is the email you receive when the student tells you that she just got a job. It is seeing your students graduate from law school.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
U. Kansas School of Law announces plan to reduce incoming class size
It's not the first school to do this (here, here and here) but what may be unique is that its Dean has said this is decision to permanently "right-size" the incoming class for the foreseeable future even if the job market for lawyers improves and even though KU has experienced a more modest decrease in applications than many other schools. It reflects genuine leadership on the part of the Dean Stephen Mazza if'n you ask me. From the Kansas City Business Journal:
The University of Kansas School of Law will have a significantly smaller incoming class this fall — and in future years for the foreseeable future.
Faced with dwindling applications, law schools across the country either are slashing class sizes or admitting students with inferior credentials. Dean Stephen Mazza said KU set a target of 120 students this year and may end up a bit below that.
By contrast, there are 175 students graduating this year and about 140 each in the first-year and second-year classes.
Mazza said applications were down about 10 percent, far less than at many other schools.
Continue reading here.
Hat to Steven Harper at The Belly of the Beast.
Have You Heard About “Google Glass”?
It’s a computer screen attached to a pair of eye glasses. Here’s a description from Wikipedia
Google Glass (styled as "Google GLΛSS") is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display (HMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands. While the frames do not currently have lenses fitted to them, Google is considering partnering with sunglass retailers such as Ray-Ban or Warby Parker, and may also open retail stores to allow customers to try on the device. The Explorer Edition cannot be used by people who wear prescription glasses, but Google has confirmed that Glass will eventually work with frames and lenses that match the wearer's prescription; the glasses will be modular and therefore possibly attachable to normal prescription glasses.
Here’s a photo.
Google is still developing the item, but an anti-Google Glass movement already has gained momentum. Note that the wearer can make photos and videos of others in the vicinity. Here’s a report from Legal Blog Watch. Would you forbid your students from wearing Google Glass in your classroom?
Some Socratic Questions on the Importance of Teaching Contract Drafting
Preston M. Torbert has posted an article on SSRN in which he raises the issue of the importance of teaching contract drafting.
Abstract: This manifesto is one practitioner's reaction to the concerns raised by Harry Edwards and the Carnegie Report. In the spirit of the Socratic method, it consists of questions only. The major questions posed are: What is the importance of contract drafting? Why has contract drafting been neglected? How can we see current practices in legal education from the perspective of contract drafting? What are the implications of contract drafting for law schools? What are examples of the language questions that a new doctrine of contract drafting might answer? What other resources are there for developing a doctrine of contract drafting? What is the final question?
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
More law schools are teaching business skills
It was only two years ago that Harvard Law School began offering the first-of-its kind "business skills boot camp" for associates working for Milbank in NYC. And Michigan State recently announced plans to begin teaching law students how to be more entrepreneurial. Today, several more law schools have either launched or have in the planning stages programs to teach students and lawyers alike how to think like a businessperson. The National Law Journal has the story as part of its special report on law schools:
. . . .
Law schools have long lagged behind business schools when it comes to executive education, but a handful are moving off the sidelines. Their administrators view executive education both as a fresh revenue stream and an avenue to closer ties to practitioners and the legal industry.
Georgetown University Law Center launched its executive-education program in 2012 and has worked with about 200 attorneys thus far, said Mitt Regan, co-director of the school's Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. Although still in the early stages, the program already is generating a profit. "We are confident that the demand is there," Regan said. "We would of course like it to generate more of a profit, but our projections are that it will grow."
The University of California, Irvine School of Law is moving forward with plans to launch its Corporate Counsel College in early 2014. The school plans a slate of six weeklong summer courses covering topics relevant to in-house counsel — or to practitioners who aspire to move in-house — including intellectual property and business skills. The program is intended as an in-depth alternative to general counsel training programs that last just a few days. Participants could take as many of the five-day modules as they wish, and those who complete at least three will receive a certificate.
The executive-education offerings at Harvard and Georgetown both focus on leadership and management skills, but they take different approaches. Harvard offers a five-day leadership training session for highly placed law firm leaders, and a separate, weeklong session designed for junior partners or senior associates who are just assuming management responsibilities. Harvard also offers a three-day leadership program for in-house counsel. The costs range from $12,500 to $15,000 per person.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Warren Buffett’s Advice for Millennials
Here are the talking points from an interview with the Business Insider:
1. Find your passion.
2. Be careful who you look up to.
3. Learn how to communicate effectively.
4. Develop healthy habits by studying people.
6. Don't work for someone who won't pay you fairly.
7. Become involved with growing businesses.
8. Learn everything you can about your industry.
9. Young women should seek male mentors.
At the end of his office hour, Buffett told everyone that even if they fail along the way, "the world isn't over," because "you are healthy, and bright and have decades ahead of you.
The link includes a video of the interview.
China Reportedly Bans 7 Topics in University Classes
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
In an effort to curb Western influence, China's leaders have reportedly banned the discussion of seven subjects in university classrooms, including press freedom, universal values, and the historical mistakes of the Chinese Communist Party.
The other subjects are judicial independence, economic neoliberalism, the wealth accumulated by top government officials, and civil society.
If the U.S. imposed such a ban, what would law professors have left to talk about? Law schools could shift from a three-year to a one-year curriculum. :)
Monday, May 20, 2013
Links for donating to the Oklahoma tornado disaster relief effort
Our thoughts go out to the victims of today's devastating tornado outside Oklahoma City. Follow this link for ways you can donate to the relief effort.
The Legal Skills Prof Blog.
Strong Social Networks Among Teachers Create a Climate for Innovation
That’s the conclusion of a study in the Netherlands, reported in the Teachers College Record (Columbia University’s Teachers College). Here’s the abstract:
Findings indicated that the more densely connected teachers were in regard to work-related and personal advice, the more they perceived their schools’ climate to be supportive of innovation. Highly dense work-related network structures also typified teams that perceived strong teacher involvement in decision-making. Moreover, results suggested that the positive relationship between density of work-related advice networks and innovation-supportive school climate could be partially explained by increased shared decision-making. Implications of the study for teachers, organizations, leadership, and policy are discussed.
Strong relationships seem to exist in most legal writing and clinical departments and may explain why these departments are the most innovative energizers in legal education.
Law Schools Are Offering Degrees for Nonlawyers.
From the National Law Journal:
Emory is among nearly 30 law schools that have or soon will offer a master's degree for nonlawyers, up from just a handful two years ago, according to the school's director of graduate programs, Lynn Labuda. The programs differ slightly in name, structure and cost, but they generally are marketed to working professionals. While the movement remains in its early stages, to administrators across the country it represents a promising counterpoint to waning interest in the traditional three-year J.D. degree.
Several law schools launch advanced degree or specialty certificate programs
Several law schools have announced plans to start new LL.M. or legal certificate programs for non-lawyers for whom a background in law would provide a career boost. Whether one sees these programs as a way for schools to bolster tuition revenue during a time when J.D. applications are down or as a means to help job applicants obtain a competitive edge in a tough market, the breadth of speciality offerings is unprecedented if you're looking to add a credential to your resume. Just be aware that some have questioned the economic value of an LL.M. (here too).
We'd previously reported that Florida Coastal School of Law will be offering an LL.M. in Transportation and Logistics Law. In a similiar vein, Stetson has announced plans to offer an LLM in Advocacy beginning in the fall (the school already offers LL.M.'s in Elder Law and International Law). Thomas Cooley has also announced plans to offer an LL.M. in Homeland and National Security Law in September 2013. And Southwestern School of Law announced plans to offer a certificate for non-lawyers in Bioscience Industry Law and Practice.
Hat tip to National Jurist Magazine.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Are Student Evaluations of Faculty Reliable?
No, says Dean Nora Demleitner: "At this point, evaluations of teaching tend to be largely restricted to student and peer assessments. Both, as we know, are easily manipulable. Therefore, faculty achievements and successes are difficult to measure and compare." (here at 608)
Demleitner cites to a comprehensive article on law school evaluations:
Daniel E. Ho & Timothy H. Shapiro, Evaluating Course Evaluations: An Empirical Analysis of a Quasi-Experiment at the Stanford Law School, 2000-2007, 58 J. LEGAL EDUC. 388 (2008).
"Despite widespread use, consensus on their validity remains elusive, with scholars highlighting interpretation difficulties, noncorrespondence between evaluations and student performance, and lack of comparability, validity, or reliability."
"We document dramatic effects of wording and timing changes on evaluations, well-known in the survey literature. Although superficially similar, subtle differences in question wording may systematically affect evaluations, threatening comparability of evaluations across institutions or time."
"At Stanford, the new evaluations shifted both the mean and variance on the 5-point rating scale. The inadvertent result can be dramatic when considering a "cutoff" rule: for the same course, an instructor has a 35% probability of falling below 4.5 using the old evaluations, but this probability jumps to 59% with the new evaluations."
"[W]e demonstrate a primary pitfall to adopting an online response system. While online evaluations have many potential advantages, including increased survey flexibility, shorter response times, and reduced costs, they suffer from generally high and nonrandom nonresponse, threatening the validity of any summary results. Our analysis confirms such bias in the law school context."
"Our examination reveals considerable temporal trends in survey responses, suggesting nonuniform nonresponse bias across terms and instructors, and a strong upward trend in mean evaluations. We demonstrate how to account for such trends to consistently and effectively learn from evaluations."
Giving Friendly Advice Can Create a Conflict of Interest
Be careful about giving informal advice. From Litigation News:
In Liebnow v. Boston Enterprises, an attorney defending a case involving food-borne illness called a plaintiff’s attorney with whom she remained friendly after they represented opposing parties in an earlier similar case. The consulted attorney, an associate at a small out-of-state firm focused on representing plaintiffs in food-borne illness cases first ran a conflicts check and determined that his firm was not involved in the case. He then proceeded to discuss with her the theories of the defense, suggesting she change her focus in at least one area and recommending an expert whom she later retained.
Subsequently, another attorney in the consulted attorney’s firm was asked to join in representing the plaintiff and moved for pro hac vice admission in the District Court for Pueblo County, Colorado. The defendant opposed the motion on the basis that defense counsel had provided confidential information about the case to the same law firm in the earlier consultation. The trial court agreed and denied the motion, disqualifying the out-of-state firm.
You can read more here.
Recent study finds that the reading habits of college students have changed
There's both good and bad news according to a new study that surveys the reading habits of college students. The study, called "Reading Habits of College Students in the United States," reports that students are doing more reading than commonly thought. The bad news is that 40% of that reading is done on social media sites and often it occurs during class. The Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscription required) spoke with the author SuHua Huang, an assistant professor of reading education at Midwestern State University in Texas, about the findings. In composing the study, Professor Huang and her colleagues
. . . asked 1,265 students across disciplinary areas at a public liberal-arts university in the Southwest to fill out surveys describing how much time they spent each week engaging in things like academic reading, extracurricular reading, browsing the Internet, working, sleeping, and socializing. Students selected the time span that best quantified each activity, with the range starting at zero, increasing to one to four hours, and proceeding in five-hour increments to 36 to 40 hours.
The quantitative data revealed that students spent nearly 21 hours reading each week: 8.9 hours on the Internet, 7.7 hours on academic reading, and 4.2 hours on extracurricular reading, including the news, graphic novels, and nonacademic books.
The researchers found that college students described textbook reading as "tedious" and that many didn't do the assigned reading if they didn't think it would be on the exam. With respect to their classroom behaviors, the researchers found that students appeared "obsessed" with social media and were often so distracted by their devices that they asked the teacher to repeat instructions for assignments even though they'd already been explained several times.
[Professor Huang's] observations revealed that students seemed to have difficulty putting away their Internet-capable cellphones during class, often keeping them on their laps or in their hands. Some students explained that they needed to do so to keep from missing a message from family members or friends or to pick up extra hours at their jobs.
Cellphone usage in class became so ubiquitous that Ms. Huang said it "reached the point of obsession." Few of the students she observed followed instructions, took notes, or brought their textbooks to class.
"Many students often asked repeatedly how to do assignments even though the instructors explained several times," Ms. Huang wrote. Some students completed their assignments and sent them to their instructors in the middle of class.
You can read the full article here (subscription required).