Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scholarship alert: "Teaching Teachers About Teaching Students"

This essay should appeal to anyone substantively interested  in teaching.  Authored by Washington University Law School Professor David Becker, it is available at 87 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1105 (2010).

From the introduction:

Teachers are accustomed to teaching students, but experienced teachers must also teach teachers. In some instances, law professors are asked to visit and evaluate the classes of non-tenured colleagues. Often evaluations include advice that is intended to improve the subject's teaching, and this advice may be the most important component of the total process. More often, perhaps, law professors are asked to mentor young colleagues by the school's dean or directly by the young colleague herself. Inevitably, such mentoring involves guidance respecting the production of scholarship, but it almost always includes instruction about teaching.

What is it that one teacher can and should convey to another, especially when classroom observations suggest problems and a real need for improvement? The temptation is to say: 'Come watch me and do as I do.' Yet even when the recipe for success is not this brazen, the package of advice may amount to the same thing, especially when it is replete with specific instruction that invariably begins: 'Here is the way I would do it.' Yet is 'do as I do' ever a sound approach? If not, what is? Are there any constants to a wise approach to teaching teachers about teaching students? What are the ingredients of successful teaching and can they be taught? This essay examines these questions and attempts to identify some of the things that one may do to improve teaching, at least around the edges.


November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

AAUP chronicles attacks on law clinics and consequences to legal education

In a climate of increasing pressure on law schools to produce "practice-ready" law grads, it's been a rough year for those on the front-lines of practical legal education, the clinics.  While outside interests in several states have sought to undermine the politically unpopular work of some law clinics, the ABA is presently considering changes to law school accreditation requirements that would deprive clinicians and other "skills" profs of the kind of job security that protects their rights to pursue such unpopular causes (here and here).   

This article from the Association of American University Professors ("AAUP") entitled "Kneecapping Academic Freedom" describes the recent spake of attacks on the sometimes controversial work of law clinics and its effect on legal education and academic freedom

Clinical legal education is similar to the internship programs of medical schools. Like medical students working inside the hospital with patients, students in law school clinics have the opportunity to learn by doing: they practice law and solve client problems through the actual representation of clients under the close supervision of law faculty. Legal commentators, lawyers, and judges all agree that clinical legal education is the best way to teach lawyering skills and professional judgment, because students are able to act as lawyers for real clients and benefit from faculty supervisors who help students develop their capacities to reflect upon professional conduct through the use of self-critique and feedback.

. . . .

[E]ach time teaching leaves the confines of the classroom, the potential exists for conflicts with the interests of others. This is particularly true when the activities outside the classroom involve assisting individuals and groups whose interests put them at odds with the interests of those with strong ties to the university or elected officials, especially corporate interests.
. . . .

[A]cademic freedom is increasingly at risk when teaching bumps up against powerful political and corporate interests. When those interests feel threatened by such courses, some try to restrict or silence university activities that they cannot buy or otherwise control.

. . . .

Faculty members need to appreciate the educational value of service learning to students and support other faculty members when their out-of-classroom work comes under attack. University administrators, too, need to recognize the importance of service learning and, as the Association of American Colleges and Universities stated in 2006, 'recognize that real-world learning may involve students with issues and problems that have been highly politicized.' Administrators should explain these courses 'to the public, alumni, donors, and government officials and be prepared to defend them,' in the words of the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, 'when ignorance or ill will threatens the institution or any part of it.'

You can read more of the AAUP article here.


November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship alert: "How Academic Law Libraries can Shape Their Collections in Response to the Call for More Practice-Oriented Legal Education."

This one is by UNC School of Law reference/faculty services librarians Leslie A. Street and Amanda M. Runyon and can be found at 102 Law Lib. J. 399-439 (2010).

From the introduction:

Anyone working in a law library today is familiar with the traditional pressures on library collection budgets. The recent economic downturn has caused even more strain as libraries have sought ways to cut from existing budgets. In the current economic climate, cancellations of library subscriptions and reductions in collections are a necessity and have become the reality for all types of law libraries.

In addition to the stresses placed on law library collections due to budgetary concerns, law libraries face other institutional changes that impact their collections. Collections are fundamentally changing because of new technologies and a growing reliance on electronic materials.  Faced with this new reality, though, law libraries and scholars have done little research examining the impact of potential cancellations on legal research education. Instead, research has focused on the mechanics of collection development or the mechanics of cancellation.  In her 2009 article, Amanda Runyon discussed survey results quantifying the types of materials academic law libraries have been cancelling and removing from their collections  in recent years. While this survey explored big-picture trends in cancellation based on quantitative data, it did not address the possible effects of such cancellations on library services or on the law library as a component of the law school. Collections reflect the pedagogical and scholarly needs of their larger institutions, so changes in library collections should be placed within the larger frame of law school institutional changes.

Along with collection changes at law libraries, academic law libraries face complications stemming from the fact that their supporting institutions--law schools--may also be entering a state of flux. Scholars have pointed out that legal education addresses three activities: "the practice of law, the enterprise of understanding that practice, and the study of law's possible understandings within the context of a university."  These three purposes, though, are frequently seen as being in conflict with each other within the law school. One common critique of legal education is that it emphasizes theory at the expense of preparing students for actual legal practice. Although the Socratic/casebook method has been the bedrock of legal education for more than a century, critics of traditional legal education are gaining prominence.  A number of schools are introducing alternative curriculum models for second- and third-year law students as an outgrowth of the movement to modernize legal education. Legal educators have come together to study and offer suggested reforms to legal education.

Critics have also argued that legal scholarship itself is too far removed from the realities of the practice of law. Some even contend that legal scholarship and legal practice are diametrically opposed, saying legal scholarship has become "pure theory," while legal practice is motivated by "pure commerce."  If one accepts this portrayal of the situation, it appears that compromises between the study and the practice of law are difficult to make and that one is always doomed to misunderstand the other. For that reason, a number of practitioners, judges, and academics have called on legal scholars to give more consideration to legal practice in their scholarship.

Continue reading

November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Empathy as a Key to Successful Mediation

According to one veteran mediator, creating empathy between the parties is a significant way to achieve a successful outcome. In the Fall 2010 issue of the Vermont Lawyer, Emily Gould writes:

 My own experience in both conventional

law practice and as a mediator and conflict

coach has taught me that empathy is a

valuable skill for creating good outcomes,

but also a way of being in the world that

brings our world to life. Empathy stands

shoulder-to-shoulder with persuasion as a

means for motivating others and stimulating

collaboration, creativity, and agreement.



November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Minerals in Electronic Devices Fuel Violence

The minerals in our electronic devices come from Africa and often fuel regional conflict among armed  groups competing for the resources. Awareness of this tragedy is only beginning to grow. Here’s a link from Raise Hope for Congo.


November 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comparative Cultural Metaphors

I have been thinking about how different cultures use different metaphors for the same concepts and the consequences of those differing metaphors.  For example, in the U.S., employees get “laid off.” In Great Britain, they are declared “redundant.” Assuming that these metaphors retain some vitality, the American metaphor seems gentler. The employee sort of slides away from the job. With the British metaphor, the employer declares the employee useless, redundant.  Does this redundancy make the employee feel worthless? Does it suggest to the employee that challenging an improper decision by the employer would be useless?


November 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Friday Fun: Study shows women would rather date Porsche guys, not Honda

According to the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

In a new paper with the intriguing title “Peacocks, Porsches, and Thorstein Veblen,” researchers asked women to rate whether they would be more interested in a short-term relationship with a man who had recently bought a Porsche Boxster or a man with all the same characteristics (same salary, same job, same hobbies) but who had recently purchased a Honda Civic.

Women went with the Porsche guy. But when asked about long-term relationships, they showed no preference for the Porsche guy over the Honda guy (just to be clear: they didn’t prefer the Honda guy as a long-term mate. Car choice appeared to make no difference).


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Study finds undergraduates lack basic research skills

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Despite the wealth of information available on the Internet, a recent study suggests that many students lack basic research skills.

According to the latest Project Information Literacy Progress Report, 84 percent of students say that when it comes to course-based research, getting started is their biggest challenge. The three sources cited most often by students were course readings, search engines like Google, and scholarly research databases. Only 30 percent asked a librarian for research help. The online survey polled 8,353 students from 25 college campuses nationwide.

Alison J. Head, a co-principal investigator for the project, said the results suggest that today’s students struggle with a feeling of information overload.

'They feel overwhelmed, and they’re developing a strategy for not drowning in all information out there,' she said. 'They’re basically taking how they learned to research in high school with them to college, since it’s worked for them in the past.'

Ms. Head said the findings show that college students approach research as a hunt for the right answer instead of a process of evaluating different arguments and coming up with their own interpretation.

You can read the rest here.


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal skills job opening: Director of Civil Rights Clinic at Michigan State.

Here are the details:

Michigan State University College of Law invites applications to fill a faculty appointment as the Director of its newly-formed Civil Rights Clinic beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year.  Students participating in this unique clinical opportunity, created at the request of the United States District Court Judges, Western District, Michigan, will litigate a variety of civil rights claims initiated by state prisoners concerning the conditions of their confinement.  The Director will have
primary responsibility for teaching and supervising students enrolled in the Civil Rights Clinic, and will oversee all activities of the Civil Rights Clinic during the semesters in which it operates.  In addition to teaching and supervising students, key responsibilities will include: (1) administering all aspects of the Civil Rights Clinic, including budgeting, grant seeking and grant administration, supervising other staff, etc.; (2) creating and coordinating opportunities for collaboration with other nonprofit entities interested in prisoner rights; (3) participating in Michigan and national organizations relating to prisoners* civil rights; (4) overseeing day-to-day operations of the clinic including maintaining  caseloads, conducting case reviews/status conferences with students, appearing with students in court, and teaching in the classroom component of the Civil Rights Clinic; and (5) actively participating in the work of the Law College community.

Applicants for this position should have at least 5 years of experience litigating cases in federal court, a practice focus in civil rights law, constitutional law, or with prisoner rights, and proven management and supervisory skills. Applicants must have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, and must be licensed (or be eligible to be licensed upon hire) to practice law in Michigan. Candidates must have a strong commitment to clinical legal education and teaching.  Excellent leadership, interpersonal, organizational, research, writing, editing, analytical, and communication skills are required. Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, three references, and a writing sample to:

Professor Matthew Fletcher

Chair, Appointments Committee

Michigan State University College of Law

368 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI  48824-1300

Michigan State University College of Law is committed to the diversity of its faculty, staff, and students, and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and those whose background, experience, and perspective would contribute to diversity.


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Occupational hazard alert: Scrotal hyperthermia and laptop use.

When I saw this title in my weekly Google Scholar alert, I knew I had to share it.   Published by members of the Urology Department, SUNY Stony Brook and available for download at, "Protection from scrotal hyperthermia in laptop computer users" should be read by every male and those who love them.  From the abstract:

Right and left scrotal temperature and LC and lap pad temperatures were recorded during three separate 60-minute sessions using a working LC in a laptop position: session 1, sitting with closely approximated legs; session 2, sitting with closely approximated legs with a lap pad below the working LC; and session 3, sitting with legs apart at a 70° angle with a lap pad below the working LC.

Scrotal temperature increased significantly regardless of legs position or use of a lap pad. However, it was significantly lower in session 3 (1.41°C ± 0.66°C on the left and 1.47°C ± 0.62°C on the right) than in session 2 (2.18°C ± 0.69°C and 2.06°C ± 0.72°C) or session 1 (2.31°C ± 0.96°C and 2.56°C ± 0.91°C). A scrotal temperature elevation of 1°C was reached at 11 minutes in session 1, 14 minutes in session 2, and 28 minutes in session 3.


Sitting position with closely approximated legs is the major cause of scrotal hyperthermia. Scrotal shielding with a lap pad does not protect from scrotal temperature elevation. Prevention of scrotal hyperthermia in LC users presently is not feasible. However, scrotal hyperthermia may be reduced by a modified sitting position (legs apart) and significantly shorter use of LC.

Uh, I think I'll be blogging from my desktop from now on.


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free Adobe Acrobat X for Legal Professionals eSeminar

If a lawyer or law student could become an expert on only one software program, what should it be?

I’ve long believed that Adobe Acrobat should be that one program. It’s difficult to think of a more versatile or universally-used program in the law practice today.  From e-discovery to document management to document collaboration, Acrobat has many uses. Most lawyers barely touch the surface of everything that’s built into Acrobat.

Even better, Adobe has been very receptive to the needs of lawyers as Acrobat continues to evolve – dealing with issues like redaction, Bates numbering and metadata. Adobe’s representative to the legal industry, Rick Borstein has played a large role in getting lawyers’ needs addressed in Acrobat and training lawyers to use Acrobat better. His blog Acrobat for Legal Professionals is a great resource.

There’s a new release of Acrobat – Acrobat X Pro. The new version definitely has features that will interest lawyers.

There will be no better way to get an initial heads-up on the new version than attending Rick Borstein’s free Acrobat X for Legal Professionals webinar on November 16. Details here

I got the chance to talk with Rick recently about the new features and got a demo that I suspect will be similar to what he’ll show in the webinar. It should be excellent. Highly recommended.


November 11, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School

Contributing editors of the Legal Skills Prof Blog, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell, host a legal technology podcast called The Kennedy-Mighell Report on the Legal Talk Network. In the latest episode, "Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School," they take a close look at one interesting development in the way legal technology tools used by practicing lawyers might be used in law school classes. They interview four people, including the professor and a student involved in the experiment, and try to give a practical, “on the ground” report of what happened, how it worked and how others might follow the same path.

Here’s the podcast description:

With law firms cutting back or eliminating summer internships and law schools focusing on teaching theoretical legal concepts, law students find themselves in a difficult position in a difficult market. How can law students learn needed practical skills, including how to use legal technology? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell talk to Professor Clark D. Cunningham from Georgia State University College of Law, Jonathan Call, law school student at GSU College of Law, Jack Newton from Clio and Andy Adkins from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, about the exciting and innovative efforts to bring practical skills training, including legal technology, to law schools and law students.  

Check out the podcast and let us know what you think. We’d also be interested in collecting examples of similar efforts. If you know of any, mention them in the comments to this post.


November 11, 2010 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

One firm announces it will buy iPads for all associates

We've reported before that lawyers lag behind the rest of the business world in making the transition from laptops to iPads.  NYC's Proskauer just announced it wants to do its part to close the gap.

As reported by Above the Law, an internal firm memo has been circulated stating that:

[Management] announced at a Town Hall meeting earlier this week, the Firm will be offering lawyers a choice of either a desktop PC and an iPad or a laptop with a docking station.

We plan to distribute iPads in early February after the anticipated release of the new model. The Firm will also provide a wireless keyboard and case to complement the iPad. As with all PCs, laptops and Blackberries, iPads provided by the Firm are Firm property.

What, if anything, does this portend about law schools making the switch from laptops to iPads?   I think this time around we should proceed more cautiously and let students drive the switch-over, if there's going to be one, rather than mandate iPad use in the classroom.  I hold the same opinion about e-readers like Kindle, especially since research shows that college students don't like them nearly as much as p-texts.  If some students prefer, for example, to use an e-reader over a traditional textbook, that's fine but let's not force them to buy expensive electronic devices they may not want or otherwise use. 


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saving Dying Words

The Legal Writing  Prof  Blog has mentioned, an effort to revive words that have fallen into disuse (a coolly designed website). Novelist Thomas Hardy predated their efforts, to such a degree that the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary asked him to stop including obsolete words in his writings. Here’s the story from Michigan Today, the University of Michigan’s online newsletter.

 For lawyer/wordsmiths, there is a painful tension—using simple words that the reader readily knows v. enjoying the nuances of an extensive vocabulary.

 (Tip of the hat to Joe Dellapenna, my colleague and loyal Michigan alum)


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When Representing a Client May be Adverse to a Second Client

What are a lawyer's ethical duties when he or she wishes to represent a potential client in a matter that the lawyer knows will, at some unknown time in the future, be adverse to a second client who may or may not be currently identifiable? The answer can be a bit intricate. The D.C. Bar’s Ethics Committee has given its solution.


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Criminal Law Vignettes (humor?)

Here are two youtubes that humorously(?) poke fun at the criminal justice system. The selections are biting, but balanced. One is hard on criminal defendants. One is hard  on police officers. The comments following each suggest that they are not entirely fictional.

Part 1 (Attorney Meets New Client):


Part 2 (The Suppression Hearing):


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

USNWR will change its formula for calculating the "employed-at-graduation" component of law school rankings

In 2010, the "employed-at-graduation" ("EAG") component of the USNWR law school rankings formula counted for 4% of the overall ranking figure while the "employed-at-nine-months" component counted for 14%.  Apparently some schools that don't have stellar EAG numbers simply don't report it rather than take the hit.  But in the chess-game that's become the relationship between law schools and USNWR (maybe Spy vs. Spy is the better analogy), Robert Morse is trying to stay one step ahead of those administrators intent on gaming (his) system by changing the ranking formula in order to penalize those schools that don't report EAG numbers.  According to this press release from NALP:

In May 2010, Robert Morse, Director of Data Research for US News & World Report, announced on his blog that US News will change the method by which it self-calculates the at graduation number for schools that don’t report that figure. US News cited the potential for gamesmanship as the reason for changing its methodology in this regard. In the current edition of the rankings, 74 law schools, or 39% of those schools that were ranked, did not report an at graduation employment number. US News was concerned that law schools that had a poor at graduation employment number were intentionally failing to report the figure, knowing that the magazine would assign a nine month minus 30% number, which would be better than the actual number that wasn’t reported.

My question is this:  Is USNWR also going to discount the EAG component for those schools that create jobs for otherwise unemployed law grads?  It's a hot trend right now - whether schools pay employers to take their grads, pay stipends directly to students until they find permanent jobs, or merely provide office space and other resources to help students start solo practices, failure to account for these programs in the EAG numbers can mislead prospective students about their true job prospects upon graduation.

You can read more of the NALP's reporting on how USNWR plans to handle the employment component of law school rankings here.


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law schools must pick up mentoring slack formerly done by law firms says Denver Dean

As reported in Law Week Colorado:

It’s increasingly up to law schools to provide the on-the-job mentoring that was once provided by law firms, says Dean Martin Katz of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Law schools have traditionally taught basic knowledge like torts and contracts, he said, without teaching as much about procedure and even less about professionalism.

'It’s easy enough to get out of law school without a whole lot of knowledge about procedure,' Katz said Saturday at the Faculty of Federal Advocates’ annual roundtable discussion with federal judges and magistrates.

. . . .

Law schools must figure out how to pick up the slack. One way is to offer more law clinics, which give law students firsthand experience but are also the most expensive way to teach. Law schools can also increase their mentoring programs.

You can read the rest here.


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fellowship for practitioners interested in becoming a clinical prof

It's the Yale Law School Robert M. Cover Fellowship in Public Interest Law.

Here are the details:

Yale Law School seeks applications for the Robert M. Cover Fellowship in Public Interest Law, a two-year position beginning on July 1, 2011 in the Yale Law School clinical program.  The Fellowship is designed for lawyers with at least five years of practice who are interested in preparing for a career in law school clinical teaching.  The 2011-2013 Fellow will work with one or more civil clinics, which include immigration, domestic violence, housing, transactional, legislative public policy, and general civil law.   Responsibilities include representing clients, supervising students, teaching classes, and working on one's own scholarship.  Fellows will be allowed sufficient time, resources and assistance during the year to engage in research and writing. All work will be conducted with the assistance of the clinical faculty, and will focus on providing legal assistance to low-income clients and organizations.  Visit our website at to learn about the various specialty clinics we offer to first, second, and third-year law students.  Candidates must be able to work both independently and as part of a team, and must possess strong written and oral communication skills.  Connecticut Bar admission or willingness to take the July 2011 bar examination required.  In addition to a stipend in the range of $48,500 to $58,500 depending on experience, Fellows receive health benefits and access to university facilities.  Send (or email) a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and names, addresses and telephone numbers of three references by January 3, 2011 to: Kathryn Jannke, Office Manager, The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, P.O. Box 209090, New Haven, CT 06520-9090; telephone: (203) 432-4800; fax: (203) 432-1426; or email Kathryn Jannke:
Yale Law School is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, Title IX employer.


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

William & Mary School of Law Veterans' Clinic will hold naming ceremony today honoring Lewis Puller, Jr.

The William & Mary School of Law has launched a clinic to help military veterans.  Today it will a hold a ceremony to honor the clinic's namesake, Lewis Puller, Jr. a much decorated Vietnam War Veteran, Pultizer Prize winning author and son of Lewis "Chesty" Puller.  

Here is the video press release:

I can think of no more important cause than helping our war veterans.  Bravo to W&M for undertaking this project.

You can read more about the clinic's work here.


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)