Monday, September 12, 2011

Is U.S. News to Blame for High Law School Tuition?

Yes, according to Yihwan Kim in an article entitled Hidden Culprit Behind Law School Tuition Rates.  According to Mr. Kim,

"A close examination of the news giant's ranking methodology reveals a few questionable criteria.  First and foremost, US News weights "expenditures per student" by nearly 10% which makes this vague and ambiguous category five times more important in determining a law school's final ranking than more trivial considerations such as its students' bar passage rate.  Essentially, this means that schools are rewarded for decking out their libraries with expensive ergonomic furniture and starting up new capital projects - endeavors that may not necessarily benefit its cash-strapped students."

He concludes,

"Since the economy tanked a few years ago, law school rankings play an important role in determining whether students get jobs after they graduate.  Therefore, law schools are pressured into spending more every year instead of looking for smart ways to cut its budget and curb rising tuition rates.  If we are to see an end to the steadily rising costs of a legal education, US News must address its flawed methodology that encourages irresponsible spending practices at the students' expense."

I think that Mr. Kim is partially correct.  The pressures of U.S. News, especially the expenditure per student category, has an affect on law school spending.   In addition to what Mr. Kim has found, U.S. News affects law school spending in other ways.  For example, a law school may go after a big name scholar at a high cost, rather than a good teacher who costs less.  Similarly, law schools use merit scholarships to attract high credentialed students when that money might go to lowering tuition for all students.  Finally, law schools spend a lot of money on mailings to help them move up in the U.S. News ranks.

However, as we have written extensively on this blog, there are many sources of the current law school crisis.  U.S. News is part of the problem, but we can't blame everything on U.S. News.


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The quality of work done by outsourced lawyers in India is better than domestic lawyers says Pangea3 founder

Check out this interview with co-founder and co-CEO of Thomson Reuter's recent acquisition, legal services outsourcing company Pangea3.  David Perla says that the quality of legal work coming out of India for some specialized tasks like e-discovery and due diligence is better than the far more expensive BigLaw counterparts here in the U.S.A. Well, sure, he's got a company to promote - what would you expect him to say? But there's no reason to think that eager-for-work foreign lawyers with proper training can't do as good, or better, job than domestic law firm associates in these tasks. And is there any doubt the trend toward outsourcing will continue to grow exponentially, especially if the ABA starts accrediting foreign law schools as has been suggested might happen.

Between domestic ventures like Rocket Lawyer and foreign ones like this, how long will it be before market forces drive the cost for routine legal service to zero? And how can newly minted domestic lawyers trapped by educational loan debts exceeding $100k hope to compete against the low cost alternatives? 

Here's a portion of the interview with Mr. Perla courtesy of the ABA Journal blog.

India, with its booming economy and wealth of young, educated lawyers eager for work, was at the forefront of David Perla’s mind the day he met with his good friend Sanjay Kamlani to hatch a plan that would turn the traditional law firm model inside out.

“We wanted to effect major change and become a disruptive force for law departments,” says Perla, 42, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of the Indian legal process outsourcing company Pangea3. “We knew the next professional change would come out of India. And we were the perfect guys in the 10th year of our careers to accelerate that change.”

. . . .

“The quality of work coming out of [legal process outsourcers] in electronic discovery and due diligence is better than what’s coming out of traditional associates because LPOs are enabling lawyers to become experts in those functions,” Perla says.

The company was purchased by Thomson Reuters, owner of the West legal publishing business, in November in a deal valued between $35 million and $40 million, according to media estimates.

Pangea recently opened an office in suburban Dallas that can house 400 employees and has begun staffing a document review facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. The U.S. expansion, which prompted the Thomson acquisition, is the next step in building a multishore, 24/7 operation. The company’s flagship facility in Mumbai and a remote office in Delhi employ more than 700 Indian lawyers.

[T]he real challenge was finding people with the right skills set in India,” particularly when Perla himself wasn’t sure what those skills needed to be. In the end, the set didn’t include substantial U.S. litigation experience.

“The best people were relatively junior who were trainable and had good core fundamentals,” Perla says. “They didn’t have to unlearn big-ticket U.S. practices. We hired huge volumes of very talented, bright lawyers willing to try things a new way and not wedded to the ‘This is the way I’ve always done things’ mindset.”

You can read the rest here.


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Deciding to Go Solo

Given the job market, some of our students will make an early decision to open their own practices. My advice is to get some legal experience before you make the big leap. Here are two brief articles from the Philadelphia Bar Association’s blog, both by tax solo Douglas Greenberg. The first is about making the decision to go solo. Here’s the paragraph that really sums it up:

Indeed, it has made me realize some things about myself and given me experiences I would have never had otherwise. During the years that I ran with the herd, I was always trying hard to fit in. I tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be. So, I’m happy I gave up traveling with the herd. Today, I do the work that I love to do and I do it on my own terms for my own clients. I make a good living and get satisfaction from doing it.  I’m helping people, and I’m doing it all on my own.

The second is about building a specialty. Greeberg notes:

In my still-young career as a solo, I have already observed a number of attorneys struggling with ‘general’ law practices. They are afraid to specialize because they don’t know what to go into or they fear that specializing will cause them to miss opportunities in other areas. In my experience, this is a mistake.


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Academic Legal Research – Tips for Success

A recent post from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library Blog brought this paper to my attention.  The paper, “The 13 Steps of Successful Academic Legal Research” is written by Agustin Parise of the Center of Civil Law Studies at Louisiana State University  Law Center and is available at 38 International Journal of Legal Information 1 (2010).  There are some useful pointers for law students writing a scholarly paper and includes a sample checklist to help students with resources and time management.

The paper  walks a student through a research project and covers the following areas: “teamwork, basics, 13 steps, and submission.”  The 13 steps start with a research proposal, walks students through resources, creating a structural outline, continued research, writing and editing, and soliciting feedback. 

This short paper may be a useful resource to help students as they begin tackling their upper level papers.

Hat tip CM Law Library (@CMLawLibrary)


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Radical Proposal

This blog has had many posts on the problems that law education is facing during the severe economic downturn of the last few years.  We have discussed the economic problems facing law schools and law students, supported more transparency by law schools, and suggested changes in legal pedagogy.

As you probably know, LawProf has been especially vicious in his attacks on law schools, their administrations, and their faculties.  While I don't agree with some of his criticisms and I find that his tone is uncalled for, many of his criticisms are valid.  There is no doubt that legal education will have to make many changes over the next few years to be fairer to students and even to survive.  However, as of today, Mr. LawProf has refused to make any substantive suggestions for fixing legal education.

In light of this lapse, I have a radical proposal for a partial change to legal education.  Let's solve two problems at one time.  The first problem is the high cost of education for those who want to go into public service--those who go to law school to help the disadvantaged--and the lack of jobs for those students.  The other problem is the lack of legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.  There is a great need in this country for more legal services for the poor.  This need has occurred because enough money hasn't been allocated for legal services to the poor. 

We can help solve these problems in two steps.  First, instead of allocating law school scholarships based on merit or even on need, law schools could give scholarships to those who contract to provide legal services for the poor after law school.  (I realize that this is already done on a limited scale.)  Second, the government should allocate more money to provide jobs for these lawyers.  One of the problems with law school tuition is that states have significantly cut their contributions to state law schools.  One of the reasons behind this is the argument that states should not subsidze the tuition of those who are going to school to make lots of money.  This argument does not apply to providing legal services for the poor.  In addition, society gains when it helps those who help themselves.  In sum, allocating more funds to create more public service jobs would both create more jobs for law school graduates and aid the disadvantaged.

The above proposal will not be popular with administrators.  It would require law schools to eliminate one of their main strategies--use merit scholarships to attract the top students and thus move up in U.S. News.  However, even for those who don't like this idea, I hope it furthers the discussion.  As Albert Einstein declared: "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Cross Examination Handbook

Thanks to Professor Mitch Rubinstein at our sister publication, the Adjunct Law Prof Blog, for this.  It's a new publication from Aspen called "The Cross Examination Handbook: Persuasion and Strategies and Techniques" by Professors Ronald Clark (Seattle - and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence ), George R. Dekle (Florida - and the man who put Ted Bundy behind bars) and William S. Bailey, esq., a civil litigator in Seattle. 

Here's what Professor Rubinstein has to say about the X-Exam Handbook:

I wish law schools utilized more texts such as [this]. In a nutshell, [it] . . . teaches you about the art-and it is an art- of cross examination.

The cross examation book spans 389 pages and contains a CD with sample files and assignments. The trial advocacy book spans 619 pages and contains a DVD which is a case demonstration that is well worth watching. 

Aspen's web site describes the cross examination book as follows:

  • Concrete instruction on planning the winning cross-examination, such as how to select the content and mold it into a persuasive concession-seeking or impeachment cross
  • Practical techniques and strategies for performing cross, including witness control, handling problematic witnesses and successfully cross-examining experts
  • Illustrative cross-examinations from notable trials, such as the O. J. Simpson, Scopes, Senator Stevens, and Enron, show how to apply cross strategies and techniques
  • Case files and role-play assignments provide opportunities to practice preparing and performing cross-examinations in two criminal and two civil cases
  • Ethical and legal boundaries of cross-examination
  • Teacher’s Manual and Actors Guide and suggested syllabi make the exercise material both teacher-, lawyer- and student-friendly
Many a lawyer can benefit from reading [this book]. I have one constructive thought. [It] contain[s] virtually no cites to cases and only occasionally cite[s] to FRE. I would have much preferred the [book if it] contained footnoted authority. That way, it would be easier for a lawyer to back up a position he or she may have taken.

Order it from Aspen here.


September 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Chemerinsky on legal skills training in the 21st century

The following is an excerpt from a recently posted article on SSRN called "The Ideal Law School for the 21st Century" by Dean Chemerinsky of U. Cal., Irvine:

During the [inaugural year of UCI] . . . , the attention on curriculum was almost entirely focused on the first year.  Since we were beginning with sixty first year students in August 2009, it was less necessary to plan the upper-level curriculum. We set out to do that during the following year and found it to be more challenging than we expected.
We quickly decided that everything in the upper-level curriculum should be electives except for two requirements: a major paper to fulfill an upper-level writing requirement (as mandated by the ABA and as is common at all law schools) and a  clinical experience. We decided to have no other upper-level requirements beyond the number of units needed for graduation. There were arguments made for various courses being required—Property, Evidence, Business Associations, Administrative Law, and so on. I have been a law professor long enough to know that an impassioned argument can be made for countless courses being a requirement. But in the end we felt that students should be able to choose their classes based on their interests and that we would do our best to provide advice and guidance in course selection.

The challenge for the faculty was how to talk about the upper-level curriculum if everything is an elective. We decided on a few things. One is to encourage the incorporation of skills training into traditional doctrinal courses. For example, while at Duke, I taught a course on civil rights litigation and had all students draft a complaint, engage in a negotiations exercise, and do a discovery plan. The reaction of the students was overwhelmingly positive. I know that some of my colleagues have revamped their upper-level courses to include more simulations and more  opportunities for exercises throughout the semester.


Another choice was to create capstone courses for the third year. These will be classes based on actual problems or simulations that allow students to integrate what they have learned in diverse classes and to apply the material as they will need to do as lawyers. We surveyed capstone courses across the country and discovered that the phrase has no consistent meaning. In some schools, a major, in-depth paper can be labeled a “capstone experience”; in other schools, it requires a practice experience.

We have agreed that “capstone” will have a more definite meaning at UCI. The goal is to allow students to take what they have learned in several classes in a field and apply this to a complex problem. These might be based on actual on-going issues so their work might be of benefit to those handling the matter. Or a capstone might be built around a carefully constructed simulation. But the common goals of all of the capstones should be synthesis and application; they should allow the students to synthesize material learned in separate classes and to apply it to a new situation. A committee will be working during the 2010–11 school year to have these ready for the inaugural class in its third year, 2011–12.

Although my central vision for the school was preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession, there are other core aspects of my vision as well. One is that there should be a tremendous emphasis on interdisciplinary study and understanding. I think that the most important development since I was in law school in the mid-1970s has been the realization that law is inherently interdisciplinary; it is informed by disciplines such as economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and these disciplines in turn study law and offer tools for understanding it. In this sense, I applaud the increase in the number of law faculty with degrees in other disciplines and the great rise in interdisciplinary scholarship. At the same time, I realize that law schools exist preeminently for training students to be lawyers and a faculty must be a big tent, with room for faculty deeply engaged in the practice of law and for faculty who have never practiced law at all.

Download the full article here.

Hat tip to the Law School Innovation Blog.


September 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Did One Wisconsin Justice Choke His Colleague?

How did we miss this one? From the Chicago Tribune:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser won't face criminal charges over allegations that he choked a liberal colleague, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Prosser of choking her in June as the justices deliberated on a legal challenge to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining law, which strips most public workers of nearly all their union rights. Prosser has denied the allegations. 

On the one hand, it’s nice to see judges being passionate about the law.  On the other hand, civility, civility, civility.


September 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)