Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ethics, Penn State & Corporate America

The tragic events at Penn State lead to at least two ways of assessing the conduct of the university’s officials.  First, they dealt with the matter in-house and had no obligation to involve the government’s legal system. Second, they dealt with the matter in-house and had at  least a moral obligation to involve the government’s legal system. In this posting, I do not wish to address these issues. However, I do want to make a comparison with the way such matters are handled in much of corporate America and probably many law firms.

Suppose that you are a promising employee in an American corporation, and you discover wrongdoing by some corporate officials.  You report the wrongdoing to a superior or  to the board of  directors. Given the unwritten rules of that culture, you do not go to outside legal authorities even if the board chooses to ignore your well-supported report. You know that if you were to go to the law, your career might well end with your present employer as well as with other potential employers. (By the way, even if you make only an  internal report, you may lose your job anyway.)

My point: not all institutions agree that one should invoke the legal system to deal with issues of wrongdoing. To reject this code of conduct can have severe consequences. Maybe we should discuss such ethical matters with our students.


November 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Indiana law school to focus on "practical application" of legal skills

A dean has now been picked for the new Indiana Tech School of Law scheduled to open in 2013. That will bring to five the total number of law schools in the Hoosier state - there are already six law schools within a three-hour drive of Ft. Wayne, where IT will be located. 

According to this story from the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, the curriculum plans to focus on the practical application of legal skills:

The founding dean of Indiana Tech’s yet-to-open law school is tasked with building not only a new law school, but a new kind of law school, one that better mixes traditional teaching methods with practical application.

On Friday, Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder announced that Peter C. Alexander, currently a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law, has accepted that challenge.

Alexander brings a background in a more non-traditional style of education with him, part of which comes from his own law school DNA at Northeastern University’s law school, which has a history of innovative, non-traditional models of education, Snyder said.

. . . .

The college selected Alexander, who has a reputation for enhancing practical student learning, out of a pool of 100 applicants, Snyder said.

. . . .

Alexander wants to see the new school develop a balanced of more traditional law school teaching methods – lectures to students on high legal theory – with a more practical, discussion-based application of the content.

And as a new entity, Indiana Tech’s law school will not be burdened with the traditions and practices of the more established programs, which find it difficult to change their ways, Alexander said.

He envisions a program where the high theory of law and legal education is mixed with the practical application offered by local lawyers and judges.

It will give students a balance between legal theory and the practice of law, Alexander said.

Continue reading here.

Hat tip to ATL.


November 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Law Firm Holiday Cards

Best Law Firm Holiday Cards


It’s probably past-time for law firms to think about what sort of holiday cards they will want to send out. From Attorney at Work, here are the best e-cards of 2010:

  • Fun and interactive. Goulston & Storrs has an annual holiday card contest, and their e-card does an excellent job incorporating several drawings in an interactive way. Here is a sample of an interactive e-card from Saturno using a fictitious firm name, with the theme “Did you build a snowman?
  • Multiple offices. This is a nice example of a firm celebrating the season from each of the firm’s offices, from Sherman & Howard.
  • A Holiday quiz!  Marks, Paneth and Shron Certified Public Accountants and Consultants’ 2010 holiday card had a perfect combination of animation and interactive elements.
  • Effective animation. Both Foley Hoag and Goodwin Procter produced law firm holiday cards that successfully used animation.

The full article includes links to a wide range of examples and also offers some helpful advice.


November 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Issue of "The Law Teacher"

The Institute of Law Teaching and Learning has just published the Fall 2011 issue of The Law Teacher. This online publication is loaded with short articles by  legal educators who care about teaching.


November 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Training Site – PACER

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has launched a PACER training site.  It can be accessed here.  The site is free to use and has historical (2007) case documents loaded which can be used for training purposes.  The site also links to the PACER user manual.

Hat tip Nota Bene – see blog post here.  

This site may be a useful tool to have students explore.


November 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drafting in the Contracts Class

Scott Burnham has posted an article on SSRN in which he argues that contracting drafting should be a significant part of first-year contracts from the first class.  He gives several examples on how to integrate contact drafting into this traditionally doctrinal course.  He concludes: "I find that, in fact, drafting required the same higher-level reasoning processes as case analysis."

When I was in law school, we didn't draft a single contract in contracts, a complaint or answer in civil  procedure, or a lease or deed in property.  I am glad to see a trend of doing some drafting in first-year courses.  Students understand better when they apply the principles they learned.


November 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Classroom of the Future

Recently, my colleague April Barton gave a presentation to our faculty on “The Classroom of the Future.” The faculty was suitably impressed.  April, our law school’s Director of Academic Computing, is available to make presentations at other schools. 

April’s presentation explores the concept of classrooms of the future.  She explains the trajectory of educational technology and how it can truly serve the educational needs of our students by engaging them with technology rather than losing them in technology distractions.  Specifically she explores three facets that she believes characterizes our classrooms of the future: (1) experiential learning; (2) social learning; and (3) mobile learning.  She presents her vision of using 3D simulation technology in our law school educational model and exploring alternative methods of information delivery. 

If you are looking for a vision of the future and maybe want to encourage your colleagues to try new pedagogical methods, you may be interesting in inviting April for a visit. I  can assure you that you will find  her practical, easy to understand,  and inspiring.You can contact her at Barton@law.villanova.edu



November 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fewer women enter BigLaw practice

According to a study by the National Association of Women Lawyers. Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Today, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) and The NAWL Foundation released the results of their sixth annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. The Survey is the only national study of the nation’s 200 largest law firms which annually tracks the progress of women lawyers at all levels of private practice, including the most senior positions, and collects data on firms as a whole rather than from a subset of individual lawyers.
For the first time since the Survey began in 2006, there was a noted decline in the number of women entering big-firm practice. "Women lawyers already leave big-firm practice at a greater pace than their male counterparts, and this narrowing of the pipeline at the entry level, however slight, only further decreases the pool of women available for promotion," said NAWL President Heather Giordanella, Counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. "We hope that this decrease does not signal the beginning of a downward trend for women in the profession."
The Survey once again examined the impact that the changing structure of law firms had on women lawyers, examining in greater detail the impact of non-partner track roles on women’s advancement. Firms are employing staff attorneys at greater rates with women lawyers—most with considerable seniority—continuing to hold the majority of these positions. Additionally, women account for more than one-third of counsel attorneys; however, only a minority of firms indicated that most of their counsel are eligible to become partners.
"The sixth year of the Survey presents a sobering picture," said The NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, Partner at Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Scharf in Chicago, who has designed and developed the Survey since 2006. "Not only do women represent a decreasing percentage of lawyers in big firms, they are more likely to occupy positions—like staff attorneys, counsel, and fixed-income equity partners—with diminished opportunity for advancement or participation in firm leadership."
"We are heartened that 95% of responding firms sponsor women’s initiatives and programs for assisting with career advancement," added Barbara Flom, Secretary of The NAWL Foundation and Chair of the 2011 Survey Committee. "We hope the benchmarks provided by the Survey will further such efforts."

Continue reading here.


November 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Must professors become classroom performers to hold student attention?

The student-as-consumer may expect it and the teacher who wants to compete successfully against online classroom distractions may feel she has no choice. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Pay Attention in Class

As college costs have skyrocketed, students and their parents have come to view the college experience more and more as a financial transaction. They are the customer, and the college is the business. That consumer mentality—which I have argued is not as bad as many in higher ed make it out to be—has nonetheless led to high expectations about the quality of everything on campuses from dining options to dorm rooms.

. . . .

If students think of themselves as customers, they often view the professor at the front of the room as a performer. And just like when they go to a concert or a movie, students expect to be engaged, persuaded, or even entertained.

Is that an unrealistic expectation? If you ask students and parents, probably not. If you ask professors, probably so. “I don’t owe the student a special level of performance because a student paid the bill,” Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media-studies professor at the University of Virginia, told me recently after he ended up in a debate over the issue on Twitter with Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.

The expectation of the professor as performer has only increased in recent years as students have come to class with more distractions. It used to be that students had few alternatives beyond reading a newspaper and sleeping in the most boring of classes. Now they come armed with every imaginable electronic device, all connected to the outside world thanks to the campus wireless network.

Even faculty members at what is supposedly the best university in the country are not immune to student expectations for a great performance in class. A recent opinion piece in The Harvard Crimson noted that while students there are “intellectually curious,” the use of Facebook during class “has become so ubiquitous that no one even questions it.”

When the writer, Hemi Gandhi, asked his classmates why they use Facebook in class, this is what he heard:

A professor starts regurgitating exactly what they’ve read in the textbook; paying attention won’t clarify confusion; a professor starts on a random tangent that is neither interesting nor relevant; students need a break to refocus; students feel pressed for time and decide to multitask.

Not only do students have plenty more distractions at their disposal in class, but some of those distractions allow students to access knowledge about almost anything on the Internet. The professor is no longer the sole source of knowledge in the classroom.

Some professors are trying new ways to reach students. One concept that has received a lot of attention in recent months is “flipping the classroom,” where students review information outside of class through videos or other materials, and the in-class time is reserved for debate, discussion, and review of specific concepts.

Gandhi argues that if Harvard (or any college, for that matter) doesn’t respond to this competition for students’ attention, it risks making the educational experience irrelevant. “Professors need to start thinking of themselves as service providers who must constantly innovate to serve students better, servicing students’ curiosity and their desire to apply knowledge to create impact,” Gandhi maintains.

Continue reading here.


November 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)