Friday, May 29, 2015

How to Pronounce Names in Supreme Court Cases

At Yale Law School’s Document Collection Center, we find the Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States (here), connected with an article from the Green Bag (here).

We could use an expanded version that would tell us for example, how to pronounce Hertha Sibbach’s name in Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., not to mention names in cases heard by other courts, for example, Mrs. Javins in Javins v. First National Realty Corp.


May 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Synthesized Rules as Class Preparation

The latest issue of The Law Teacher is out, and it contains a wonderful article by Hillary Burgess: Synthesized Rules as Class Preparation: Teaching Synthesis Techniques While Ensuring Every Student Is Prepared for Class.

An excerpt:

"At both my second and fourth tier schools, I found that many of my first year students spent hours preparing for class but were still under-prepared because they didn’t know what it meant to prepare adequately. These students could become excellent, competent, and responsible attorneys. However, their prior education did not adequately prepare them for law school learning, especially the self-reflective aspects of that new challenge. I wanted to help these students realize their full potential.

Simultaneously, I realized that traditional doctrinal classes do not provide much opportunity to teach and test synthesis."

I agree with Professor Burgess that synthesis is an under-taught skill.  Her approach will help students better master a skill that is very important to becoming a lawyer.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. The Law Teacher is a wonderful resource for ideas on teaching.  You can find back issues on the ILTL website here.

May 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Beware of University Debit Cards

Many universities strongly encourage students to employ debit cards sponsored by their alma maters. However, the students may not realize that the debit cards are sometimes not a good deal.

From the U.S. PIRG news release

The U.S. Department of Education proposed today (May 15) a rule that protects students from high fees, aggressive marketing, and lack of transparency in financial aid debit accounts that affect over 9 million college students.  Students have been pushed into these accounts with biased marketing that is hard to opt out of, and then hit with unusual and unexpected fees, such as per-swipe fees and inactivity fees, which are docked out of their limited financial aid dollars.  U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Higher Education Program Director Christine Lindstrom served on the rule-making panel that led to this draft rule, and made this statement in reaction to the proposal: 

“The U.S. Department of Education stood strong against the banks and financial firms that abuse financial aid recipients on campus through unfair campus banking arrangements.   Banks do not use these tactics in the banking marketplace off-campus and there should be zero tolerance for these tactics on campus, given students’ financial vulnerability and overall debt burden.”

You can read more here.


May 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Teaching Teamwork to Law Students"

This is a "newish" article by Professors Janet Weinstein, Linda Morton, Howard Taras and Vivian Rezniak (all of California Western) and available at 63 J. Legal Educ. 36 (2013).  From the introduction:

Despite demand in law firms for first-year associates who can work collaboratively, law schools continue to graduate students who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the concept of working in teams, particularly interdisciplinary teams.


Teamwork concepts are infrequently taught in legal education. In addition, law professors unfamiliar with teamwork theory and practice are unlikely to use teams to engage students in learning.


In our courses, Problem Solving in Healthcare, and Community Organizing and Problem Solving, faculty from the disciplines of medicine or social work join with law professors at the law school to teach teamwork to students from these disciplines. One explicit goal in each course is to increase students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes toward working in teams and with professionals from other disciplines. These courses reflect and support our attempt to change the legal education paradigm of student isolation in hopes of nourishing students’ intrinsic values and healthy attitudes towards group work.


 Each year we have analyzed our accomplishments informally and the changes we need to make to achieve our goals. Two years ago, we decided to assess our efforts more formally. We wanted to better determine whether our students believed they were improving in their knowledge of teamwork theory, as well as their skills and attitudes, and, if so, which components of the courses they believed were most effective in accomplishing this improvement.


 We began by articulating several assumptions that had guided our teaching:


     • Law students have not had much experience with teamwork.

    • Students will feel uncomfortable working with members of another profession.

    • Students do not particularly enjoy being on a team or sharing a team grade.

    • Students do not have experience working with students from other disciplines.

    • Students appreciate and learn from our classroom lectures and readings on teamwork but they would prefer more content about the underlying subject area (i.e., health law or community organizing) than teamwork skills training.

    • Students most enjoy the teamwork experience because of the enhanced results produced by the team effort.


We were surprised by the results of our assessment, which proved many of our assumptions to be incorrect and gave us additional useful insights.


 This paper, which discusses our results as well as new insights, is designed to assist professors who want to enhance students’ learning about teamwork

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


May 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sneaky Ways to Improve Student Evaluations

—Hand out evaluation forms when the most irascible student in class is absent.

—Be sure that the only assignment you give right before the evaluation is a low-stakes one. “Have them write an easy paper where they can talk about themselves and their journey in the class,” Ms. Wilson advises. And never give back a graded assignment on evaluation day.

—Don’t leave the classroom while the evaluations are being filled out — even if you’ve been told that you’re supposed to do so. That way one or two unhappy students won’t talk out loud and poison the rest of the class’s opinions.

—Don’t give students too much time at the end of class to fill out the forms. “If they’re in a hurry, they’ll give you all fives unless they’re mad at you,” Ms. Wilson says.

—Oh, and let students hand in papers late, retake exams like it’s the DMV, and complete extra credit, which is almost as valuable as a chocolate-chip cookie. “You can’t make a student too mad at you,” she says. “We all know we can’t afford to uphold grading standards because of the pressure put on us.”

At least these are (hopefully humorously) suggested by some undergraduate profs. Here is a Vitae article summarizing critiques of student evaluations. And here is a posting by Berkeley statistics professor Phil Stark offering empirical analyses debunking the usefulness of these evaluations.


May 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The top five mistakes to avoid on the bar exam

These tips come to us from the BarWrite Blog:

  • Mistake Number 1: Rushing through reading the interrogatories [the "call of the question"] and the facts. 
  • Mistake Number 2: Stating your conclusions without showing your reasoning.
  • Mistake Number 3: Doing an issue-spotting demonstration instead of applying the law to solve the client's problem.
  • Mistake Number 4: Just reciting the facts of the case.Do NOT just tell the story.
  • Mistake Number 5. This is the clincher: Losing track of time. 

Read the full details on each of these tips here.


May 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Teach Law Students Metacognitive Skills

Yesterday, I featured an empirical study by Cheryl B. Preston, Penee W. Stewart, and Louise R. Moulding on incoming law students metacognitive skills.  (Teaching 'Thinking Like a Lawyer': Metacognition and Law Students)  Today, I will discussion how to develop metacognitive skills in law students.

1. Developing Metacognitive Awareness.  The first way to help students adopt metacognitive skills is to make them aware of the importance of metacognition.  One way to help students develop their metacognitive awareness is to give them questions that will cause them to focus on their thinking processes.  (see 2 below)  Another method for students to develop metacognition is for them to put themselves in others’ shoes.  They should ask questions like: how would my research professor critique my research strategy?  In addition, law students need to understand the true nature of learning.  Finally, law professors need to be explicit about developing their students’ learning self-identities.

2. Asking Metacognitive Questions.  Professors should ask students metacognitive questions in class.  Metacognitive questions help students think about their thinking process.  Examples: Do I have control over my learning process?/ Do I set learning goals?  Overall?  For the semester?  For each class?  For each study session?/ Am I an engaged learner?  Do I understand what being an engaged learner requires?  Am I an effortful or lazy learner?  Which type of learner usually gets higher grades?/ Do I employ deliberate practice strategies?/ Am I an active or passive learner?/ Do I participate frequently in class?/ Do I reflect on what I have learned?/ What are the strengths and weaknesses of my study techniques?  Do I use a variety of study techniques?/ Do I always have clear goals when I tackle a problem?/ Am I aware of the learning techniques I use while studying?/ Do I read my notes the evening after class, or do I wait for right before the exam?  Which approach is best for long-term learning?  Do I review material every week, or do I wait for right before the exam?  Which approach is best for long-term learning?  Do I do my outlines gradually over the semester, or do I do them right before the exam?  Which approach is better for long-term learning?  Do I use graphic organizers (visual aids, such as charts, learning trees, outlines) to organize the materials I have learned in class?  Why is it important to use graphic organizers?/ Do I have an effective reading strategy?/ Do I reflect on what I have read?/ Do I test myself (retrieval of knowledge) when I study?/ Do I have a specific reason for using the learning techniques I use while studying?/ Do I know what learning techniques are most effective for a particular task?/ Do I set learning goals for tasks?/ How do I track the progress of my learning?/ Do I make sure I am learning when I am in class?  Am I giving the professor my full attention?/ Do I ask myself whether I have accomplished my goals when I finish studying or finish a task?/ How do I deal with failure?

3. Teaching Metacognition in the Classroom.  Teachers need to teach metacognitive skills explicitly.  When teaching a class, the professor should ask the students probing questions to determine whether they understand the material and to develop their metacognitive and cognitive skills. Law professors should also help their students create connections to ideas because the more connections (pathways) to an idea, the easier it is to recall.  Professors should also engender metacognitive cognitive flexibility–the willingness to try different strategies–in their students.  Furthermore, using concrete examples in class (elaboration) helps the learning of abstract concepts.  In addition, teachers should help students learn domain transfer–employing knowledge or a skill from one domain in another domain (psychology in law, torts in property).  Finally, professors should state out loud their thinking process when working sample problems (“modeling of strategies”).

4. Teaching Students How to Use Metacognition While Studying.  Law school professors should help students with study strategies.  During the semester, law students should spend 1/3rd of their time preparing for class, 1/3rd  of their time reflecting on what they learned in class (usually the same day as the class), and 1/3 of their time organizing and synthesizing the materials (say every weekend)  Professors should help their students develop reading strategies.  Law teachers should also help their students develop “deliberate practice” strategies.  Studying for long hours by itself does not create expertise; rather, deliberate practice is required.  Teachers should advise their students to self-test while studying because retrieval helps individuals retain ideas in long-term memory better than just studying or rereading.  Finally, professors should help students understand the importance of relating new material to material that has already been learned.

5. Teaching Students Metacognition in One-on-One Meetings.  One-on-one meetings are an important way to help students improve their metacognitive skills because teachers can better view the student’s metacognitive problems.  In conferences, teachers should do many of the things they do in the classroom, such as asking probing questions, modeling of strategies, and scaffolding.  Moreover, meetings with students are opportunities to  make sure the students truly understand the material and to work on detailed problems.  Teachers should also make the students explain the steps in their reasoning process.

6. Using Formative Assessment to Develop Metacognition.  Well-designed formative assessments–assessments within the learning (during the semester)–that are related to course goals also aid in learning metacognition.  This is because formative assessments force students to think about their thinking.

For more on teaching metacognition, see Teaching Law Students How to Become Metacognitive Thinkers.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning Through Reflection v. Learning through Practice

Which produces greater learning: reflection on one’s experience or accumulating more experience? According to a Harvard Business School study, reflection wins out:

We find that individuals who are given time to reflect on a task improve their performance at a greater rate than those who are given the same amount of time to practice with the same task. Our results also show that if individuals themselves are given the choice to either reflect or practice, they prefer to allocate their time to gaining more experience with the task – to the detriment of their learning.

You can read more here:


May 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Importance of Teaching Metacognitive Skills to Law Students

I believe that teaching metacognitive skills to law students is fundamental to legal education reform.  (e.g., How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law SchoolTeaching Law Students How to Become Metacognitive Thinkers)  (Metacognition is thinking about thinking.)  Now, three authors have undertaken the first empirical study of law students' metacognitive skills.

Teaching 'Thinking Like a Lawyer': Metacognition and Law Students by Cheryl B. Preston, Penee W. Stewart, and Louise R. Moulding.


"With a study of 150 beginning law students in 2010 and 2013, this article provides the first empirical data on law student thinking skills. The results of this study challenge prevailing wisdom about the most critical reforms for legal education.

From an interdisciplinary perspective, this article considers legal education in light of learning theories. It explains the concept of 'metacognition,' and its role in learning and expert-thinking theory. It then translates this critical component into law and illustrates how specific metacognitive skills relate to the intellectual demands of law school and, especially, of a career in law that will demand life-long learning.

To support our claim that metacognition training is essential for law students, our data shows the flaws in the previous assumption that law students come with excellent metacognitive skills because of their high undergraduate academic achievements. Although further research is necessary, our study provides a significant foundational data point for taking metacognition skills seriously in the re-envisioning of legal pedagogy.

A handful of legal scholars, primarily legal writing teachers, have published limited scholarship on metacognition and methods for training law students in thinking skills. Unfortunately, some of the work in the context of law mischaracterizes and muddles the concept of metacognition. This article provides an evaluation of existing legal scholarship referencing metacognition from the perspective of both law and education theorists. It then poses a framework for further empirical and theoretical work."
Tomorrow, I will discuss how to teach law students metacognitive skills.

May 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What if Some Employees at Blockbuster Had Had Tenure?

At one time, Blockbuster was a huge, successful operation and Netflix was struggling. Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix and didn’t. Now, Blockbuster is no more, and Netflix is thriving. At the blog of Inside Higher Education (here), we confront a question that permits an analogy to higher education:

And what if these employees were not those running the place (not the CEO or the CFO etc.), but the most respected employees in the entertainment / media / technology / retail industries who also happened to work at Blockbuster.  

These Blockbuster tenured respected industry employees would have had some protections and cover to go against the prevailing Blockbuster organizational structure and conventional wisdom at the time.  

Would the tenured Blockbuster employees have spent their organizational capital and job security to argue against the decision of management not to buy Netflix? 

 Would the tenured Blockbuster employees have entered the marketplace of ideas at the company in order to argue against the prevailing wisdom?  

         Could tenure have saved Blockbuster? 

Be sure to read the comments.


May 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Exercising Common Sense, Exorcising Langdell: The Inseparability of Legal Theory, Practice and the Humanities"

A new article by Professor Harold Lloyd (Wake Forest) and available at 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1213 (2014) and on SSRN here. From the abstract:

Maintaining that theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind, this article explores the impossibility of meaningfully separating legal theory from practice and the implications of this impossibility for legal education. Recognizing that no meaningful distinction can be made between legal theory and practice, this article maintains that there can be no meaningful distinction between “doctrinal” and “non-doctrinal” or “practical skills” courses and faculty. Accordingly, it explores the resulting implications for law school curricula and for faculty hiring standards. 

As a part of its exploration of the semantic and practical impossibilities of any real theory-practice divide in legal education, this article also examines modern cognitive theory of embodied meaning, how metaphor and category usage drive embodied meaning, and the resulting inseparability of the humanities from legal education and practice. In light of the foregoing, this article also explores reasons why Langdell’s case method is inefficient, myopic, lifeless, and simply wrong in its general elevation of certain appellate cases over other sources of law. 

Among other things, this article proposes: (1) abandoning the case method except in subjects such as constitutional law where cases actually comprise important primary materials, (2) revising course books to incorporate hornbook material and materials from actual law practice, (3) recognizing the importance of substantial practice experience when hiring new faculty, (4) erasing arbitrary lines between “core” and “non-core” faculty, and (5) placing greater emphasis upon the humanities in legal education. This article also predicts that these changes will be mandated from without if not voluntarily adopted from within.


May 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, began in 1868 as a day to remember the Civil War dead. Here is American the Beautiful, performed by the Air Force Band.


May 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Inspirational Story

Journalist Martin Snapp is my college classmate. Here is his recent online column (May 14) about Lily, a young woman who overcame enormous odds to go to college and then to law school. To read more about Lily, please click here.

These article lead me to think about our students  who come from backgrounds where they received an inadequate education and have not enjoyed the same cultural advantages that many of our students have enjoyed. At my school, most of our students come from comfortable middle class and upper middle class backgrounds. The students who have not enjoyed these privileges need our support and guidance. If they lack the intellectual fire power of someone like Lily, they are in particular need of our support.


May 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Hottest Law School Graduation Speaker

US Attorney Preet Bharara may be famous for prosecuting Wall Street but he is also gaining fame as the hottest law school graduation speaker. According to the Wall Street Journal the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is now the most sought after law school graduation speaker. In three years, he has spoken at seven law school graduation ceremonies. Some of the top program ceremonies he has spoken at have been at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Harvard Law School, and Columbia Law School. The other three schools were Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Pace Law School, and Fordham Law School. The latest graduation ceremony that Bharara has addressed was today (May 21) at the New York University School of Law.

You can read more here.


May 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What Hiring Partners Think About New Lawyers

According to a study funded by LexisNexis, hiring partners have these views on new lawyers:

  • 96% believe that newly graduated law students lack practical skills related to litigation and transactional practice.
  • 66% deem writing and drafting skills highly important with emphasis on motions, briefs and pleadings
  • Newer attorneys spend 40% – 60% of their time conducting legal research
  • 88% of hiring partners think proficiency using “paid for” research services is highly important
  • Students lack advanced legal research skills in the areas of statutory law, regulations, legislation and more…
  • The most important transactional skills include business and financial concepts, due diligence, drafting contracts and more…
  • A law firms spends approximately $19,000 per year, on average, to train a new associate.

You can read the full study here.


May 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 22, 2015

N.Y. to Adopt “Easier” Bar Exam

From Outside the Law School Scam blog:

[N.Y.] Chief Judge [Jonathan] Lippman, . . . decided to adopt a much easier bar exam. . . . Lippman's edict to adopt an easier test called the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) comes within weeks of New York's February bar exam results, which showed some of the worst pass rates for first-time test-takers ever.  Only 43% of first-time test-takers passed the February exam, which usually has a lower pass rate than July's exam...but not that much lower.

There are steps that the Judge may or may not have taken,for example, determining if the bar applicants were of weaker quality than prior applicants and examining the test to see if the questions were of the same level of difficulty as prior tests.

You can read the full blog post here.


May 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Financial Perks and Salaries of Some University Administrators

We learn that when Yale President Richard Levin left office, he received a lump sum pament of $8.5 million. According to IRS Form 990, he earned $1.15 million in 2013 and $1.38 million in 2012. According to the Yale Daily News: 

The “additional retirement benefit” was disclosed in the University’s latest federal tax return, filed Friday, and came to $4.4 million after taxes. According to the filing, it was calculated by multiplying 75 percent of Levin’s final presidential salary by the 20 years he served, and then subtracting the annuity value of other Yale retirement benefits.

It was structured to provide targeted income replacement in retirement, University Spokesman Tom Conroy said. The benefit reflects the “careful deliberation and judgment” of the Yale Corporation over time, he added. The body began discussing the payout in 2002, with the assistance of outside consultants.

The rationale is often used in the corporate world: “He did such a great job that we wanted to encourage him not to take other offers and to stay; so we offered him more money.” (my words). Thus the corporate mentality invades academe.

 Most professors that I know become academics because they saw value in teaching and in advancing the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. We made a willing financial sacrifice. For myself, I haven’t had a salary increase in years, and stipends for research and travel have disappeared. University executives live in a different world.

If you would like to learn who are the highest paid employees in private nonprofits (including colleges and universities, as well as the AALS), go to Guidestar (here) and fiddle around until you find the 990s. There is no charge.

As for the Yale pay out, you can read more here and here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alternative legal careers for law school grads

From National Jurist's Employment Insider:

Where to look for alternative legal jobs 


You can do just about anything with a law degree. So where do you start? If the possibilities are endless, how do you narrow them down? 


While finding an alternative legal career path takes some work — self assessment to figure out your interests, resume retooling to make your credentials credible, interview practice to sound knowledgeable — there are some fields in which J.D.’s tend to flock. 

. . . . 

  • Education
  • Finance
  • Technology/Legal Information Providers

Continue reading here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Which Supreme Court Justice Treated his Clerks the Worst?

The clear answer is Justice James C. McReynolds. See Clare Cushman, Beyond Knox: James C. McReynolds' Other Law Clerks, 1914-1941.

According to all reports, McReynolds was a difficult man. Previous to his appointment to the Court, McReynolds served as the Attorney General. Legend tells us that Wilson was disappointed in his performance and nominated him to the Court to get rid of him. He also was anti-Semitic. When Louis D. Brandeis became the first Jewish member of the Court, McReynolds would not sit next to him for the 1924 formal portrait, as protocol demanded. Thus there is no Court portrait for 1924.

McReynolds, former clerk, John Knox, wrote a memoir of his time with the Justice. It was quite unflattering (here). Clare Cushman’s article confirms that McReynolds treated all his clerks incredibly badly. You can access the article here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Top 10 Schools Based on LSAT Scores

The list of top 10 schools based on median LSAT scores, compared to U.S. News rank.


LSAT   Score

Tipping   the Scales Rank

Harvard University


3   (tie)

Yale University



Columbia University



Stanford University



New York University



University of Chicago



Duke University


8   (tie)

University of Pennsylvania


3   (tie)

University of Virginia



Northwestern University


8   (tie)

University of Michigan-Ann   Arbor



Source: U.S. News Thanks to Tipping the No surprises here.


May 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)