Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drexel’s Law School Gains Full ABA Accreditation

Congratulations to Drexel University’s Earl Mack School of Law!  The Philadelphia law school is an innovative place. From the Legal Intelligencer:

The Earle Mack School of Law opened in 2006, and has since graduated 404 students in its first three graduating classes. Nearly 93 percent of the first two graduating classes passed the bar exam in at least one state.

The school has a unique co-op model that provides semester-long placements during which students can work part- or full-time at law firms, government agencies, general counsel offices, the courts and public interest organizations.

The law school also participates in three field clinics and operates an in-house appellate litigation clinic. The school's pro bono requirement demands a minimum of 50 hours of service before graduation. The 404 members of the first three graduating classes tallied 48,000 hours of service, averaging more than 115 hours per student.


August 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Now there's even a poll on the one-space, two-space "controversy"

It's odd that this topic, involving the minutia of punctuation, has proved to be so interesting and controversial. That's right, we're talking about whether you should put one-space or two between sentences. We've already devoted at least two posts to the topic, here and here, and the despite an apparent consensus among writing style mavens that one space is correct, the perception that two-spaces looks better persists, especially among lawyers. (I've already confessed that I'm a die-hard two-spacer too).

Now Above the Law has posted an online poll to query its readers who are comprised - by reputation, anyway - of elite law school students and grads, about their preference. As of this writing, two-spaces is leading one-space by a margin of, no pun intended, two-to-one (really).

So click here and scroll down to add your own two-cents to the controversy ( you'll need to cast a vote to see the results.


August 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fun: Felonious Munk on balancing the federal budget (NSFW!)

Do not watch this if you're bothered by swear-words. He drops the f-bomb left and right. But if you decide to watch, I promise you it's funny as sh*t.


August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ranking Law Schools by the Number of Google “Hits”

Google now permits a ranking of law schools based on the number of Google “hits.”The Tax Prof  Blog provides this information:

Google law school rankings (based on the Google search "law school" OR "school of law" OR "college of law", along with each school's U.S. News rank):

  1. Harvard (#2 in U.S. News)
  2. NYU (6)
  3. Columbia (4)
  4. North Dakota (Tier 2)
  5. UCLA (16)
  6. Illinois (23)
  7. Texas (14)
  8. Georgetown (14)
  9. Stanford (3)
  10. Yale (1)

The Tax Prof Blog provides a longer list here. I have no idea what these data tell us.

(ljs)     Thnx to Jim Maule

August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Assessment of learning outcomes has become important in the last few years in light of the Carnegie Report.  Below is an article that illustrates how such assessments work and what they can tell us.  Note that one of the conclusions of the article is that we need new approaches to teaching first-year students.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes: Using Pre- and Post-Tests to Measure the Effectiveness of Traditional First-Year Law Teaching

by David J. Herring & Collin Lynch 

Abstract: This paper adds to the on-going discussion about the assessment of student learning outcomes in law schools. It addresses the assessment of first-year law students’ basic legal reading and reasoning skills, with a particular examination of students’ capacity to read closely related cases, detect indeterminacies of meaning among cases, and determine which similarities and distinctions are relevant in light of an assigned professional role or task. Following a detailed review of the prior research in this area, the paper reports the results of a study that employed pre- and post-test instruments to measure the impact of the traditional case-dialogue teaching methodology on students’ skills of legal reading and reasoning. The analysis of students’ normalized learning gains indicates that while some of the participating students realized an improvement in their reading and reasoning skills, the student population as a whole did not achieve substantial learning gains. This central finding is consistent with the findings from the prior studies in this area. The results across studies call for the development of teaching approaches other than the traditional case-dialogue method and for the continued assessment of learning gains.


August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google enters the legal services market (sort of)

This is big.  Only a few years ago an idea like Google Scholar was inconceivable; that a company would give away for free legal research databases that the other guys charge a hefty fee to use. Now, of course, everyone recognizes that Google is a game-changer given that even Westlaw is trying to emulate Google's free search engine with WestlawNext.  But this latest move may be even more significant. The Law Librarian Blog, via Forbes, is reporting that Google has just invested $18.5 million in a company called Rocket Lawyer which, going one step further than LegalZoom, offers cut-rate legal advice from real, live lawyers via the web.  Sure, some employers have for years offered pre-paid legal services plans that give covered employees access to lawyers for routine matters at a low monthly cost. But Rocket Lawyer is taking the concept to the masses via the web.  Forbes explains:

Rocket Lawyer provides online legal forms, from wills to Delaware certificates of incorporation, that non-lawyers can fill out and store and share on the Web. For $19.95 a month, consumers can also have their documents reviewed by a real lawyer and even get legal advice at no additional cost.
. . . .
[Founder Charley] Moore was careful to differentiate his company from LegalZoom, which has tangled with lawyers and bar officials in several states who accuse it of practicing law without a license. (A trap that people who provide legal documents can find hard to escape.) Rocket Lawyer is also affiliated with real lawyers who can provide advice in a pinch. Federal issues are handled nationwide, while somebody with a question about, say, New York contract law would be hitched up with a lawyer licensed in that state. (NOTE: LegalZoom offers similar legal services, for a fee.)

“Rocket Lawyer gives consumers technology to do things themselves with no human intervention at all,” said Moore. “When they do need help, and they do, they can consult with a lawyer.”

Assuming some measure of quality control, this is undoubtedly great news for clients on a budget (which is most of us) who won't have to pay high rates and overhead costs associated with visiting a brick and mortar law office.  By the same token, it can't be good for solos and small firm practitioners who rely on routine legal work like drafting wills or reviewing contracts from local clients to pay the bills.

As we have blogged before, this move by Google also jibes with Richard Susskind's prediction in his book The End of Lawyers that the commodization of routine legal work is going to drive the cost to zero.

If you're still on the fence about whether the present downturn in the legal job market is cyclical rather than structural, maybe this latest development will change your mind.

Big Hat tip to our buddies at the Law Librarian Blog.


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Environmental History: JFK and Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot was twice Governor of Pennsylvania, founder of the U.S. Forestry Service, and a major figure in conservation movement at the turn of the last century.  On September 24, 1963, six weeks before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Grey Towers, the ancestral Pinchot home in Milford, Pennsylvania to inaugurate the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies. Full disclosure: my father-in-law, Matthew Brennan was the first director of the Institute.

Here is a four and one-half minute video of President Kennedy’s speech. It is vintage JFK.


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Clinical litigation faculty openings at Albany

The first is tenure-track, the second is a contract position.

1. ALBANY LAW SCHOOL invites applications for a Tenure Track clinical faculty position  in its Clinic & Justice Center beginning in the fall 2012 semester.  The position involves teaching in our in-house clinical program.  Second- and third-year law students in the Albany Clinic & Justice Center develop critical professional proficiencies in judgment, problem solving, and client-centered lawyering and other professional skills sufficient for effective, reflective, responsible and ethical participation in the legal profession through the representation of real clients.   We are looking for the best possible candidate to enhance and/or expand our existing program.  Candidates must demonstrate 1) a strong practice background with at least five (5) years of experience, 2) experience in or capacity for teaching excellence in a law school clinical setting, and 3) a capacity for and commitment to excellence in scholarship.

ALBANY LAW SCHOOL is a small, independent private school in New York State’s capital.  Established in 1851, it is the oldest independent law school in the nation and the oldest law school in New York State.  The school’s Clinic & Justice Center has a national reputation for excellence in clinical teaching and public service.

Applications (electronic preferred) will be accepted until September 1, 2011.  They should include a cover letter, resume, list of publications, and three references, and be sent to the Faculty Recruitment Committee c/o Barbara Jordan-Smith, Dean’s Office, Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, New York, 12208-3494,

Albany Law School is an Equal Opportunity Employer

2. ALBANY LAW SCHOOL invites applications for a Long Term Contract clinical faculty position in its Clinic & Justice Center beginning in the fall 2012 semester.  The position involves teaching in our in-house Introduction to Litigation Clinic.  Second- and third-year law students in the Albany Clinic & Justice Center develop critical professional proficiencies in judgment, problem solving, and client-centered lawyering and other professional skills sufficient for effective, reflective, responsible and ethical participation in the legal profession through the representation of real clients  Candidates must demonstrate 1) a strong practice background with at least five (5) years of practice experience handling unemployment insurance or housing matters, 2) experience in or capacity for teaching excellence in a law school clinical setting.  Following successful review, the individual hired for this position will be eligible for a presumptively renewable five year contract with voting rights equivalent to tenure-track faculty.

ALBANY LAW SCHOOL is a small, independent private school in New York State’s capital.  Established in 1851, it is the oldest independent law school in the nation and the oldest law school in New York State.  The school’s Clinic & Justice Center has a national reputation for excellence in clinical teaching and public service.

 Applications (electronic preferred) will be accepted until September 1, 2011.  They should include a cover letter, resume, list of publications, and three references, and be sent to the Faculty Recruitment Committee c/o Barbara Jordan-Smith, Dean’s Office, Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, New York, 12208-3494,


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship: "New Roles to Solve Old Problems: Lawyering for Ordinary People in Today's Context"

By Wisconsin Professors Marsha Mansfield and Louise B. Trubek.  Available at 56 N.Y.L.S. Law Rev. __ (2011) and here at SSRN.

From the abstract:

The article identifies how changes in the legal landscape, including funding for legal services, legal needs, and technology, provide both barriers and opportunities to rethink legal practice for ordinary people. Law school graduates can use different tools and roles to develop innovations that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their legal work. However, how law students are taught must evolve as well for the innovations to succeed.

The article first discusses what types of legal services can best assist ordinary people in the current context using as examples experiences of Wisconsin law clinics and centers for legal assistance as well as national programs. The article explores new roles created by the new context including expanding cross-discipline collaborative practices, measuring and evaluating outcomes, and providing strategic facilitation. Finally the article addresses how law schools, through expanded clinics and innovative curricula, can train students to envision productive careers by learning to apply these new roles in the new context.


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New "skills" scholarship: "The Law School Firm"

By professors Bradley T. Borden (Brooklyn) and Robert J. Rhee (Maryland). Available on SSRN here and forthcoming at 63 S.C. L. Rev. __ (2011). From the abstract:

This Article introduces the concept of the law school firm. The concept calls for law schools to establish affiliated law firms. The affiliation would provide opportunities for students, faculty, and attorneys to collaborate and share resources to teach, research, write, serve clients, and influence the development of law and policy. Based loosely on the medical school model, the law school firm will help bridge the gap between law schools and the practice of law.


Update: link fixed. Thanks to the great blog "An Associate's Mind" for bringing this to my attention.


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ABA adopts resolution urging law schools to provide more skills training

We told you last week that the New York State Bar Association had asked the ABA to adopt a resolution at this week's House of Delegates meeting requesting that law schools provide more skills training to law students.  On Tuesday the NYSBA got its wish. The resolution seems largely symbolic, though, since the ABA isn't requiring, or even suggesting,  specific action on the part of law schools.  Perhaps it's the thought that counts.

From the National Law Journal:

Legal education was in the spotlight throughout the two-day meeting of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates on Aug. 9 and 10 in Toronto.

Delegates approved a series of resolutions pertaining to the financing and curriculum of legal education, although the ABA's legislative body lacks the power to compel law schools to make changes or control over how student loans are administered.
. . . .

the delegates approved a resolution introduced by the New York State Bar Association calling for legal educators to produce practice-ready lawyers. The resolution declares that the ABA will "urge legal education providers to implement curricular programs intended to develop practice ready lawyers including, but not limited to, enhanced capstone and clinical courses that include client meetings and court appearances."

The resolution was the outgrowth of task force looking at critical issues in the legal profession, said former New York bar president Stephen Younger.

"Are our young lawyers equipped to go into the legal profession?" he said. "Many of our young lawyers come out of law schools having never drafted a complaint."


August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Employers Use Social Media for Hiring Decisions

LexisNexis Law School posted interesting data that should be shared with law students about why they need to be smart about how they use social media.  The post is here.

The reported data:

"• 45% of employers use social sites to vet potential hires: 
    o 29% use Facebook 
    o 26% use LinkedIn 
    o 11% use blogs 
    o 7% use twitter
• 18% of employers discovered social content that influenced them to hire a candidate: 
    o 50% - personality 
    o 39% - verification of professional qualifications 
    o 38% - creativity 
    o 35% - good communication skills 
    o 33% - well-roundedness 
    o 19% - positive references 
    o 15% - awards and accolades
• 35% of employers discovered social content that caused them not to hire a candidate: 
    o 53% - provocative or inappropriate photos or other information 
    o 44% - content about alcohol or drug use 
    o 35% - bad-mouthing previous employers, co-workers, or clients 
    o 29% - poor communication skills 
    o 26% - discriminatory comments 
    o 24% - lies about qualifications 
    o 20% - confidential information about a prior employer"


August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Join a Lawyer’s Online Social Network and Win a Prize?

Can a lawyer encourage internet users to join the lawyer’s social networking sites and be entered in a random prize drawing as an incentive? The answer is yes, according to the N.Y. State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics. Of course, there are qualifications.

(1) If the primary purpose is to promote the client’s retention of the lawyer, the prize offer must be labeled “Attorney Advertising” and comply with rules regarding attorney advertising.

(2) If  the primary purpose is otherwise, it is  not subject to lawyer advertising rules, but must not be deceitful or make misrepresentations.

(3) Offering the prize for the general purpose of business development does not invoke the rules on lawyer advertising.

Here is the Committee’s opinion.

The  real question is what sorts of potential clients are going to be enticed by this gimmick and, in the end, will they be the kind of clients that the lawyer wants to attract and work with?


August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U. Miami Law seeking a practitioner-in-residence for its Innocence Project

Position Title:               Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer

Start Date:                      Fall 2011/Spring 2012

Duration:                        2 years, renewable for 1 additional year

Miami Law invites applicants for the position of Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer in its Miami Innocence Clinic.  The Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer will have the opportunity to join the vibrant and supportive clinical community at the School of Law.  Together with the Innocence Clinic Director, the Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer will help run the clinic, including guiding and assisting students in screening, investigating, researching, and litigating motions for post-conviction relief claiming actual innocence.  Responsibilities may include, depending upon qualifications, opportunities for lead counsel on motions for post-conviction relief. The position is designed for a lawyer with at least 3-5 years of post-conviction experience or experience in criminal appeals.  Prior experience in an Innocence Project is preferable. 

Job responsibilities may also include:

  1. Developing, implementing, managing, and supervising all aspects of student work on Clinic cases/projects;
  2. developing new projects that are connected with the Clinic's objectives;
  3. co-teaching Clinic classes on post-conviction relief, wrongful convictions, and remedies;
  4. assisting with administrative and operational aspects of the Clinic, including outreach activities to publicize the Clinic's work;
  5. student recruitment and professional counseling;
  6. responding to public inquiries regarding the Clinic.
  7. Participation in the clinic’s strategic planning;
  8. liaising with student and community groups;
  9.  providing content for the Clinic's website;
  10. assisting with the Clinic application process;
  11.  providing support for development activities, including grant writing and fundraising;
  12. Covering cases/projects during the summer and between semesters.  Depending on student interest and other needs, the Clinic may run through the summer, in which case the Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer would be solely or primarily responsible for teaching and supervising students and cases/projects.

The Miami Innocence Clinic is committed to exonerating actually innocent prisoners wrongfully convicted. The Miami Innocence Clinic was reviewed and accepted to be a member of the National network of Innocence Projects in fall of 2010. The clinic investigates innocence claims and litigates post-conviction motions when appropriate.   Students in the clinic contribute through fact investigation, interviewing defendants and witnesses, and legal research and analysis.  Investigation of innocence claims includes case screening, witness and client interviews, motion writing, and research.  

Qualifications: J.D. and/or L.L.M. degree from a U.S. law school is required. Applicants must have at least 3-5 years of legal practice experience. Applicants should have significant experience in post-conviction experience and/or criminal appeals; enthusiasm for clinical teaching, student development and training; a demonstrated commitment to social justice and public interest law; the ability to work independently and as part of a team; excellent legal, analytical, organizational, and written and oral communication skills.  Experience in community-driven advocacy and policy work is a considerable advantage.  Experience with clinical education, project management, and supervision of student interns is a strong plus.

The principal supervisor for the position is Miami Innocence Clinic Faculty Director, Professor Sarah Mourer.  The Practitioner-in-Residence/Lecturer will have the opportunity to develop and work on a scholarly agenda and participate in the academic life of the law school and in relevant academic and advocacy conferences.

 Starting annual salary is competitive and depends on experience; position also provides benefits and access to university facilities. Additional compensation may be available for summer teaching.

To apply, please email a resume, cover letter, writing sample, law school transcript, and names, addresses and telephone numbers of three references by September 2, 2011 to  Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. For questions, please contact Eileen Russell at


August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tip of the Week

Research Hints I

1. If you don’t know the subject matter of a problem, start researching in a secondary source, such as an encyclopedia or a treatise. This will give you background on your problem.

2. Always take notes when doing research so that you remember what you looked at and where you found something. Don’t forget to write down the citations. Consider keeping a research journal. You can do this using you laptop.

3. Before you start to research, make sure you have a research strategy. This will make your search more effective, and it will save you time. View legal research as problem solving.

4. Before you start to research, decide the relevant jurisdiction or jurisdictions you need law from.

5. Before you start to research consider what sources of law you need–cases, statutes, administrative regulations, etc.

6. Before you start to research, consider what is the best media to use for your particular problem–books, Lexis, internet, etc. You need to be proficient in all types of media. Certain media work better with different problems, and usually you will be working with different types of media on the same problem. Certain tasks are done more efficiently in the books. Also, methods for doing legal research are rapidly changing.

7. Before you start to research, make sure you know what law is binding for your problem.

8. Frame your issue or issues before you start to research, this will help you narrow your research. Develop a research vocabulary for your problem that you can use in indexes and for online keyword searches.

9. Legal research is not a lineal process; the best researchers go back and forth among the steps of research.

10. Remember, you are researching a particular problem based on a set of facts; you are not just researching a broad legal topic. Know your facts thoroughly before you start to research.


August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Newsletter for Transactional Lawyers

Newsletter for Transactional Lawyers

The Transactional Lawyer is the bi-monthly electronic newsletter of the Commercial Law Center at Gonzaga University School of Law.  The newsletter offers advice to lawyers on how to structure and document commercial transactions and alerts transactional attorneys to recent legal developments that may affect their practice. You can subscribe at no cost. This link will take you to the newsletter’s website and past issues. The August issue should be up soon.


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thomas M. Cooley Law School announces plans to open a Tampa campus

That will bring the number of law schools in Florida to Thirteen (including Ave Marie in Naples). Evening classes will begin in May, 2012.

From the TMC website:

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School announced today that the American Bar Association's (ABA) Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accepted the recommendation of the Accreditation Committee to acquiesce in the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s application to open a Tampa Bay-area campus in Riverview, Florida. The Tampa Bay campus has also been approved by the Higher Learning Commission and the Florida Department of Education, Commission for Independent Education.

The Tampa Bay campus will begin offering evening classes in May 2012, followed by morning classes in September 2012, and afternoon classes in January 2013. The implementation will follow the same pattern as at the School's other campuses, rolling out the standard curriculum over a three-year period. All Cooley students will be eligible to attend classes at the Tampa Bay campus.

Tampa Bay comprises a little over 4,000,000 residents, but is home to only one law school. Florida represents Cooley's largest alumni location outside Michigan, and Florida provides about 6% of our applicants and 5% of our incoming students each year. The School also has an active externship program in the state.

In addition to its large alumni base of 886 graduates throughout Florida, Cooley has had a growing presence in the Tampa Bay area through its Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program, which recently expanded to Florida in January. The ABA's Military Pro Bono Project and the Hillsborough County Bar Association joined together with Cooley to offer a complimentary training program aimed at preparing local attorneys to represent members of the military in legal issues ranging from child custody concerns to housing rental disputes.

Cooley, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Michigan educational corporation, has acquired a 130,000 square-foot facility in Riverview, comparable in size to its current campus in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Renovations and staffing details are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks. The facility will accommodate the approximately 700 students who are expected to attend.

Professor Jeffrey L. Martlew, a former Michigan circuit court judge, has been designated as the Associate Dean for the Tampa Bay campus. Associate Dean Martlew explained that the new campus in Tampa Bay will cater to an underserved sector of law students, particularly part-time students and minority populations, but will provide Cooley’s full-time program as well.

Hat tip to Gail Richmond.


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

THOMAS Legislative Content Now Easier to Share/Post

If you want to post links to legislative content for your class, your blog, or to share with your colleagues, this tool should make it much easier.  The THOMAS Share tool will allow you to share THOMAS content in many ways.  You will be able to embed persistent links in your course site/blog or send them by email.  You can subscribe to regular updates (via RSS feed) and post the results.  Information and instructions are posted on the THOMAS site here.

This is a great tool to use for your courses, to keep current on any legislative action you are following for your courses or research, and to teach your students.  Plus, it’s FREE.

I hope you try it and embed some links into your course site this fall!

Hat tip Boley Law Library (@lawlib)


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A good evaulation tool for lawyers, law students and even profs

I found this over at the Harvard Business Review and thought I'd share it here. It's such a versatile evaluation tool, I can see profs using it to solicit feedback from their students (and vice versa) as well as lawyers using it to solicit feedback from within the chain-of-command, from clients,  or from whomever else might offer an opinion that would help you do your job better.

When I was in graduate school, Phil Daniels, then a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, taught us about a feedback mechanism he called the SKS form. It was simply a process whereby we would ask others what we should stop (S), keep (K), and start (S) doing, given a particular role we might have as a teacher, friend, spouse, father, mother, etc. People are asked to fill in the blanks, limiting their entries to no more than three bullet points under each subhead.

Eventually, I introduced the SKS process into faculty evaluations at universities, as well as performance appraisals on Wall Street. I've found it helps me, as well as others, avoid living in our fantasies of who we are. The specificity of knowing what we should quit, continue, and start doing anchors us in reality.

Asking others for feedback using SKS can be important to professional growth. I urge you to tell your support people about the SKS process. Ask them to evaluate you using SKS regularly and hold you accountable for what they list. It's a simple tool, but a highly effective one. Too often, we may tell ourselves that we have to quit being such a micromanager (for instance), but our resolve to stop micromanaging gets lost in the activity of daily events. By having your support team respond to three simple questions, invaluable feedback can be obtained. The questions are:

  1. What should I stop doing?
  2. What should I keep doing?
  3. What should I start doing?

The SKS also counteracts our tendency to avoid seeking out other people's opinions of our attitudes and behaviors. When you are feeling the worst about yourself, you don't ask for more feedback. You don't want to know. You use the excuse that you are already being tough on yourself, so you don't need anyone else to be harsh. This rationale creates a vicious cycle where there is no need for you to learn of other views or ask for help. If you don't hear the hard truth from others, you don't have to acknowledge that it's real. The SKS process breaks the hold our illusions have on us.

When you have your support people do an SKS, use the following questions to help you identify the behaviors that are keeping you stuck and the behaviors that will help you move in new directions:


  • Are you hearing that you should quit doing something that you feel is a skill or strength?
  • Is your first response that quitting this behavior will have catastrophic consequences?
  • On reflection, is it possible that you've fallen into a behavioral rut? If you stop doing one thing, might you have an opportunity to try something new and different?


  • Is there something you're doing right that people feel you should do more of?
  • Have you been dismissive of this particular behavior or skill for some reason?
  • What might happen if you used this "keep" more? How might it impact your effectiveness and satisfaction with your job?


  • Are people recommending you do something that feels foreign or scary?
  • What about it makes you anxious? Is it because you are afraid of looking like you don't know what you're doing?
  • Why are people suggesting you start doing this new thing? What benefits do they feel will accrue to you, your group, or your organization?

We know feedback is seldom as bad as we have imagined in our heads. The key is to begin the process sooner than later.

August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Minimize Homework

My philosophy is to give students no greater a homework assignment than is really necessary. If you assign too much work, you run the risk that your students will not do any of it. Besides, a lot of law school reading is boring and difficult to read. Short assignments increase the odds that your students will spend time on the assignment. I rarely assign more than one or two cases per 50 minute class.

In the K-12 world, there has long been a heated discussion on the appropriate amount of homework. Having watched my diligent children slog their way through enormous amounts, I have no allegiance to those teachers who believe that piling on the work improves the quality of the education.

Some of the issues in that debate apply to law school as well. (I recognize  that in some respects, law school differs from K-12.) Here is an article from Columbia University Teachers College “Teachers College Record”: Homework as Superstition by Cathy Vatterrott. Here is an excerpt:

These over-the-top reactions [to calls for less homework] reveal a faction paralyzed by fear—that changing anything about homework will:

lower our standardized test scores. 

ruin our children’s sense of responsibility, leaving them morally bankrupt, unmotivated and unproductive. 

make our children “soft” and doom them to a future of laziness and underachievement. 

seal our country’s fate as a second class nation.

 But none of these unrealistic fears are supported by evidence. These beliefs that are impediments to homework reform are superstitions. They share many traits with other common superstitions. Homework superstitions are beliefs not based on reason or knowledge. Some evidence contrary to the superstitious beliefs about homework is as follows:

 Fifteen years of meta-analyses of research indicate the limitations of K-12 homework to influence achievement (Cooper, 1994, 2001, 2007).

 In a comparison of 50 countries, the research shows that the highest achieving countries actually do less homework than lower achieving countries (Baker & LeTendre, 2005).

 There is no research to support that homework promotes responsibility or discipline in children (Kohn, 2006).


August 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)