Saturday, March 24, 2012

Justice Rehnquist on Brown v. Board and on Justice Jackson

Professors Brad Snyder and John Barrett have published an intriguing article concluding that Chief Justice Rehnquist opposed Brown v. Board when he clerked for Justice Robert Jackson. “Rehnquist’s Missing Letter: A Former Law Clerk’s 1955 Thoughts on Justice Jackson and Brown.” 53 Boston College Law Review 631 (2012)

Here is the abstract:  
"I think that Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed." That's what Supreme Court law clerk William H. Rehnquist wrote privately in December 1952 to his boss, Justice Robert H. Jackson. When the memorandum was made public in 1971 and Rehnquist's Supreme Court confirmation hung in the balance, he claimed that the memorandum reflected Jackson's views, not Rehnquist's. Rehnquist was confirmed, but his explanation triggered charges that he had lied and smeared the memory of one of the Court's most revered justices. This Essay analyzes a newly discovered document, a letter Rehnquist wrote to Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1955, criticizing Jackson, that reveals what Rehnquist thought about Jackson shortly after Brown and the Justice's death. The 1955 letter was not known during Rehnquist's 1971 or 1986 confirmation hearings. It is also currently missing and may have been stolen from Frankfurter's Papers at the Library of Congress. This Essay argues that Rehnquist's 1955 letter represents his disappointment with Brown and the beginning of his outspoken criticism of the Warren Court. The letter, this Essay contends, says less about how Rehnquist felt about Jackson and more about Rehnquist's disappointment over his Justice's role in the most important Supreme Court decision of the twentieth century.

Here is a pointed paragraph from the article (p. 641-42):

We conclude that Rehnquist’s letter to Frankfurter primarily reflects

Rehnquist’s disappointment with Brown and the Warren Court.

We base our argument on the following factors: (1) Rehnquist wrote

admiring letters to Jackson in July 1953 and just prior to Brown in April

1954, letters that indicate that Rehnquist enjoyed his clerkship and

agreed with most of Jackson’s opinions and judicial philosophy; (2) Rehnquist apparently never wrote to Jackson after Brown;(3)

Rehnquist’s letter is consistent with his harsh public comments about

Brown and the Warren Court throughout the late 1950s; and (4)

Rehnquist, in the mid- to late 1960s, reiterated his admiration for Jackson.

In our view, Rehnquist’s disappointment with Brown provides the

most plausible motivation for his harsh 1955 letter about Jackson.

(ljs)

March 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New "legal skills" scholarship: "Legal research boot camp: one approach to meeting the research needs of law students'

By law librarians Michael Chiorazzi (Arizona) and Cynthia Condit (Montana) and available at 30 Legal Ref. Serv. Q. 299 (2011) or SSRN here.   From the abstract:

This article describes the legal research boot camp offered at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. It is an intensive, one-week course offered the first week of the summer break to prepare students for their summer clerkships. It is also a vehicle to teach law librarianship students how to teach legal research.

(jbl).

March 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 23, 2012

New "legal skills" scholarship: "Winning the game of appellate musical shoes: when the appeals band plays, jump from the client's to the judge's shoes to write the statement of facts ballad."

By Professor Laurie A. Lewis (Catholic) and can be found 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 983 (2011). From the abstract:

An appellate brief 's Statement of Facts is critical to a successful appeal. The client trusts the attorney with his or her story. To fully hear it, the attorney must actively listen and demonstrate empathy in the initial interview. The attorney needs to step into the client's shoes to retell the story at trial. On appeal, however, the attorney needs to step into the appellate judge's shoes. The story must be recast for an audience knowing nothing about the client. It must be interesting, and appeal to the judge's spirit of justice. If the client suffered an injustice in the court below, the judge will seek to “do justice” for the client.
For the judge to right a wrong, the attorney must respect the appellate venue. Not only must the attorney craft the client's brief with a strong theme of justice, but also in accordance with the appropriate standard of review and court rules. Then the attorney must polish the client's story to achieve a clear, crisp, and captivating narrative. Writing an appellate brief requires sufficient training in people-oriented, appellate advocacy, and composition skills. Yet, the current legal education model falls short in providing these skills. The current model is more rules based than people based. Moot court competitions and mandatory appellate advocacy coursework typically involve canned fact patterns, denying the student opportunities for client interviewing and counseling. Clinical legal education offers excellent practical skills training, but participation is elective and opportunities are limited.
Therefore, most law school graduates and junior attorneys lack practice-ready skills. This Article calls for changes in the law school curriculum to better prepare students for lawyering. Indeed, employers in this tight legal job market are demanding change. Client-centered skills in interviewing and counseling should be required. Appellate advocacy and composition skills training should be strengthened. Doctrinal classes should integrate appellate practice into their curricula. Proper skills training will equip the attorney to step into the client's and the judge's shoes and write a clear, crisp, and captivating client story that is consistent with appellate standards of review and court rules. In reaching a just result, the judge, the attorney, and the client are all winners in the game of appellate musical shoes.
(jbl).

March 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do Good Looks Affect Teacher Evaluations?

University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh  “found that good-looking college professors received significantly higher teaching scores than their less attractive colleagues” (Economic Scene; A beautiful mind is not enough when it comes to evaluating teachers," The New York Times, Aug. 28, 2003).”

Moreover: “Curiously, good looks played a significantly more important role in rating men than women.”

Blogger Walt Gardner discusses this finding in the context of evaluations of k-12 teacher evaluations. The concern undoubtedly applies to law schools.

(ljs)

March 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday Fun – Peeps in Law Dioramas

This post from the ABA Journal reminds us that it is time for the annual Peeps in Law Diorama Contest.

"To get your Peep on, tap into your playful spirit and create a court, law or justice-inspired Peeps diorama...We'll pick our favorites, then ask readers to vote for the best of the lot, with prizes going to the top three submissions. Peeps & Co. will provide the winners with gift baskets valued at $25, $50 and $100. To participate, send a photo (JPG, GIF or PNG) of your Peeps diorama by April 2 to peeps@abajournal.com. Include a title of the diorama, how you would like to be identified, the date the photo was taken, and a short—no more than 150-word—description."

The 2011 entries are posted in this photo gallery.

Good luck!

(dkh)

March 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational Reforms: Other Schools With Innovative Programs and Wrap-Up

Here are a few other law schools that have innovative programs:

Denver: "We have developed a template for Carnegie Integrated Courses, which exemplify the integration of the three apprenticeships–including full-course, capstone style simulations. We are proud to feature two of those courses (Roberto Corrada’s labor law simulation and David Thomson’s Discovery Practicum) for the launch of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyer’s website."

Maryland: "UM Carey School of Law has important initiatives in leadership, ethics and professionalism. It has just completed the three-year Leadership, Ethics and Democracy (LEAD) Initiative in partnership with the Fetzer Institute. A collection of courses and projects, the LEAD initiative sought to develop a leadership curriculum for law schools, and to integrate teaching professionalism in new ways throughout the curriculum. UM Carey Law houses the Women, Leadership and Equality Program to develop leadership skills for the advancement of women in law practice. It is working to launch a new Ethics in Action and to begin to develop a campus-wide interdisciplinary center on professionalism."

UNH: "Founded in 1973 by Robert Rines, a patent attorney, MIT professor, and inventor who held nearly 100 patents, the school has a strong focus on entrepreneurship and practice-driven legal education. To that end, Rines sought faculty members with extensive real-world experience – a practice that continues to this day.

For example, the school’s internationally renowned IP program features an innovative curriculum with a large number of drafting, negotiation, writing and transaction-based courses. Students design a curricular path that combines fundamental IP knowledge with basic skills relevant to their chosen area of practice. A wide variety of clinics and the school’s strong externships program provide real-world experience for students of every specialization."

Southwestern: "This commitment to innovation continues today, inspired in large part by the Carnegie study’s three-apprentice model. Southwestern is committed to teaching its students skills they will encounter early on in their legal careers. Southwestern offers a three-track legal writing program to push beyond the typical appellate advocacy exercise.  First-year students may choose from three focus areas: Appellate Advocacy, Negotiation, or Trial Practice. Southwestern also offers third-year capstone courses, allowing students to specialize and become practice-ready, and Windows into Practicecourses teach students the essentials of law firm practice and practice management. The school also has broad clinical offerings and one of the country’s largest externship programs. Recognizing the benefits of interdisciplinary learning, Southwestern offers a concurrent-degree program with the Drucker Graduate School of Management, part of Claremont Graduate University, so that students can earn a J.D. and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.). Finally, Southwestern currently hosts the Journal of Legal Education and from that vantage point participates in shaping continuing debates about legal education."

St. Thomas: "Our goal is to prepare our graduates to be excellent professionals and ethical leaders.  We want our graduates to have the capacities 1) to apply their knowledge of the law and their skills of lawyering to provide excellent service in helping clients solve problems, 2) to form an integrative understanding of professional identity in which who they are as a lawyer is integrated with who they are as a person of faith, and 3) to appreciate that lawyers should promote justice in their relationships with and to others, particularly through pro bono activities." (Developing professionalism and professional identity is one of the Carnegie Report's major goals.)

The law schools that I have examined this week that are part of the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Consortium have adopted a wide variety of solutions to the legal education crisis.  These schools have demonstrated that the "Langdellian Bargain" does not have to limit progress in legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Survey shows most college and grad students don't understand the terms of their educational loan agreements

Apropos to Judge Schweitzer's decision yesterday (here and here) dismissing the fraud claim against NYLS on the grounds that law school applicants are sophisticated consumers who should not be duped by misleading job placement figures comes this survey finding that many students in fact do not understand the terms of their educational loan agreements when they sign on the dotted line. The survey conducted by NERA, an economics consulting firm, on behalf of Young Invincibles, a Washington, D.C.-based student advocacy nonprofit organization, is entitled High Debt, Low Information: A Survey of Student Loan Borrowers. The survey asked 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students about their loans in order to better deermine "the factors that high-debt borrowers did not understand when making their loan decisions, and the loan characteristics they said influenced their decision-making."  Twenty-five percent of those surveyed had outstanding loan balances at or exceeding $100,000. The average respondent had about $76,000 in educational debt.

Some key findings by NERA:

• About 65 percent of borrowers misunderstood or were surprised by aspects of their student loans or the student loan process.

• Of those who took out private provide loans, about two-thirds indicated they did not understand the differences between their private and federal loan options. (Other research has found students unnecessarily take out private loans when they could have taken out more affordable student loans.)

• The most misunderstood or surprising aspect of the loan process: repayment terms, amount of monthly payments, and interest rates.

• Most students (80 percent) get student loan information from their college's counselors or website.

To remedy the situation, the report suggests better enforcement of the requirement that schools provide clear guidance about the differences between private and federal loans and the terms for each. It also calls for educating high school students about the vocabulary of student loan debt and earlier guidance for borrowers on the effects of interest rates, definitions of terms and fees, and approximate monthly payments.

The full study can be downloaded here.

Hat tip to Education Week.

(jbl).

March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Dramatic Drop in LSAT Takers

The organization behind the Law School Admission Test reported that the number of tests it administered this year dropped by more than 16 percent, the largest decline in more than a decade.

The Law School Admission Council reported that the LSAT was given 129,925 times in the 2011-12 academic year. That was well off the 155,050 of the year before and far from the peak of 171,514 in the year before that. In all, the number of test takers has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years.

Here’s the full article from the New York Time online. Reporter David Segal has authored a number of recent articles critical of law schools.

(ljs)

March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Schweitzer's NYLS Decision: Do Law Schools Owe More To Their Students Than The Law Requires?

As most of you probably know, a New York court dismissed the lawsuit against NYLS. The opinion seems to be well-reasoned, at least from the vantage point of one who has not seen the evidence. If any of the other suits are to succeed, the plaintiffs lawyers will have to put on better evidence and clearer instances of misrepresentations.

Judge Schweitzer, however, did not limit his opinion just to the dispute between the parties; he wrote further to discuss the current crisis in legal education. He declares that he has encountered many outstanding graduates who have been unable to find a job and who have volunteered their time without compensation to gain experience. He asserts: "If lawsuits such as this have done nothing else, they have served to focus the attention of all constituents on this current problem facing the legal profession. . ." He thinks that the legal profession owes a duty to help place those who have been caught in the maelstrom. He then states, "For those who come after them we owe the most transparent data of the state of our profession that we can possible assemble so that they can make the most informed decisions that affect their livelihoods." He concludes, "The fact is, however, that all data collection starts with the law schools themselves, and it is this court’s fervent hope that all the heat generated around this issue over this last year will be replaced with a renewed sense of responsibility to prospective applicants and students, starting at the law school level, and extending to the entire legal industry as we strive to address the concerns that have risen to the surface in this changed, challenging career environment."

Is Judge Schweitzer correct that law schools have a duty to their applicants and students that goes beyond what is required by law? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Lawyers are professionals who have special responsibilities to other lawyers, courts, and the public at large. Part of this responsibility is to act professionally and follow their jurisdiction's ethical rules. In addition, the Carnegie Report has stressed professionalism as one of the three apprenticeships that students should learn in law school. How can law schools instill ethics and professionalism into their students if law schools set bad examples themselves? Law schools and their professors must be role models for their students.

The public has a very bad image of lawyers. Over the last year, the public has read that many law schools are not acting ethically toward their students. Law schools need to act now to clean up their images and help clean up the image of the legal profession. If law schools do not do this, fewer people will want to be lawyers and the law schools and legal profession will suffer (not to mention the public who relies on ethical attorneys).

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Congressional Guide App

The Mobile Member Guide released by the U.S. Government Printing Office last November has been enhanced.  This post from INFOdocket has the details.

The app:

“provides the public with quick, easy access to information on Members of the 112th Congress. The app’s new features include:
•   Official biographical information for House Members and Senators
•   Contact information for House Members and Senators’ offices
•   Counties and zip codes that each House Member represents
•   Links to House Members and Senators’ Web sites”

Hat tip AALL (@aallnet)

(dkh)

 

March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational Reforms: Suffolk

The next school I am featuring is Suffolk University.

"Suffolk University Law School (SULS) in Boston values the practice of law.  From the first day of school, through the last exam, and beyond into practice -- SULS works to actualize the Carnegie Foundation’s challenge to make legal education relevant to the profession.  The school is proud of its national recognition in the key areas of experiential teaching and learning: legal writing, clinical education, trial and advocacy, intellectual property, and dispute resolution. 

SULS’s well-crafted curriculum provides students doctrinal foundations, practice fundamentals, and the means to integrate and apply the two experientially.  The integration of theory and practice begins in the first-year, fostered by the Legal Practice Skills course, which teaches students legal reasoning, research and writing, and aspects of ethical practice.   www.law.suffolk.edu/academic/lps/  

Our extensive simulation skills offerings in trial and appellate advocacy, dispute resolution, and client counseling compliment SULS’s numerous student advocacy competition opportunities – both national and international – to create a dynamic spectrum of skills-based programs. 

Our capstone clinical and internship programs are among the best in the nation and offer a majority of graduating students opportunities to practice law as student lawyers prior to graduation.   www.law.suffolk.edu/academic/clinical/

SULS also offers five curricular concentrations, presenting students with a guided curricular path through education to practice.  www.law.suffolk.edu/academic/conc.cfm   After graduation, SULS’s extensive Advanced Legal Studies program provides award-winning continuing legal education to judges, legislators, administrative agencies, and other practitioners.  www.law.suffolk.edu/academic/als/

Through these and other programs, SULS strives to offer our students numerous paths to becoming knowledgeable, skilled, ethical, and reflective practitioners.  Our participation in the Education of Tomorrow’s Lawyers consortium will further strengthen our commitment to the future of our profession."

Suffolk's program illustrates that learning skills is a process.  You start in the first year by learning legal writing and miniskills, then you advance to more sophisticated skills courses.

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday Fun: The passive voice in comics

Check out this comic cum grammar lesson from artist David Malki. The comic strip is called "The Wish of the Starhorse."

Hat tip to the UPenn Language Log.

(jbl).

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Employers increasingly ask job candidates for their Facebook passwords

Law students have been advised for years to clean-up their Facebook and other social media public profiles since employers frequently check those for information that might impact the hiring the decision. But now we're hearing that employers are taking these social media background checks one step further by asking job candidates for their passwords so non-public information can be scrutinized.  Particularly among those applying for jobs in law enforcement, the practice is becoming more commonplace though some question the legality. From The Business Insider:

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it "an egregious privacy violation."

Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publically available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

Asking for a candidate's password is more prevalent among public agencies, especially those seeking to fill law enforcement positions such as police officers or 911 dispatchers.

Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a correctional officer at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother's death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.

"I needed my job to feed my family. I had to," he recalled.

After the ACLU complained about the practice, the agency amended its policy, asking instead for job applicants to log in during interviews.

"To me, that's still invasive. I can appreciate the desire to learn more about the applicant, but it's still a violation of people's personal privacy," said Collins, whose case inspired Maryland's legislation.

Until last year, the city of Bozeman, Mont., had a long-standing policy of asking job applicants for passwords to their email addresses, social-networking websites and other online accounts.

And since 2006, the McLean County, Ill., sheriff's office has been one of several Illinois sheriff's departments that ask applicants to sign into social media sites to be screened.

Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas defended the practice, saying applicants have a right to refuse. But no one has ever done so. Thomas said that "speaks well of the people we have apply."

When asked what sort of material would jeopardize job prospects, Thomas said "it depends on the situation" but could include "inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage, illegal behavior."

. . . .

More companies are also using third-party applications to scour Facebook profiles, Bryan said. One app called BeKnown can sometimes access personal profiles, short of wall messages, if a job seeker allows it.

Sears is one of the companies using apps. An applicant has the option of logging into the Sears job site through Facebook by allowing a third-party application to draw information from the profile, such as friend lists.

Sears Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Kim Freely said using a Facebook profile to apply allows Sears to be updated on the applicant's work history.

The company assumes "that people keep their social profiles updated to the minute, which allows us to consider them for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently," she said.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heavy Student Loan Debts

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

  The outstanding student loan balance now stands at about $870 billion, surpassing the total credit card balance ($693 billion) and the total auto loan balance ($730 billion). With college enrollments increasing and the costs of attendance rising, this balance is expected to continue its upward trend. Further, unlike other types of household debt such as credit cards and auto loans, the student loan market is incredibly complex. Numerous players and institutions hold stakes at each level of the market, including federal and state governments, colleges and universities, financial institutions, students and their families, and numerous servicers and guarantee facilitators.

Here is one of the many charts in the study:

StudentLoans1
And here is one of the many online comments on the study:

It is my understanding that only half of the colleges answered the survey concerning the average student loan debt. It seems logical to assume that many universities - particularly private universities - did not report their student loan debt because they wanted to conceal how much debt their students hold. And some of those colleges that did report may have fudged the numbers because they were under no obligation to be precise. The $25,000 figure cited by colleges and news media is not an absolutely trustworthy number. I would not be surprised if the average student loan debt for a public education is closer to $35,000 and that the average student loan debt for a private education is at least $55,000.

The Project on Student Debt noted that because the data is voluntarily reported by colleges, actual debt is probably higher than its report shows. ~ CNN Money. Average student loan debt tops $25,000 By Blake Ellis November 3, 2011: 5:22 AM ET

(ljs)

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational Reforms: Washington & Lee

The second law school I am featuring this week is Washington & Lee, which has completely restructured its third-year curriculum.

"Washington and Lee ’s innovative third-year curriculum is entirely experiential. The course of study consists of practice-based simulations, real-client experiences, and advanced explorations into legal ethics and professionalism. The curriculum builds upon and expands the lessons of the first and second years of instruction, moving students from a passive classroom role into one more closely connected to the world of legal practice.

The new third-year curriculum is not merely a year devoted to practice skills, though lawyering skills are addressed in a variety of ways. Instead, the primary focus is to develop in law students the habits of mind and judgment of legal professionals, in short, to learn and apply law the way lawyers do in the process of solving problems for their clients.

Each third-year semester begins with a two-week skills immersion—a litigation-based experience in the fall and a transactional-based experience in the spring. In the fall, students are engaged in the simulation of an employment dispute that follows a traditional litigation path. In the spring, they handle a simulated purchase and sale a business, representing either the buyer or seller at each stage of the transaction. Students emerge from these intensive experiences with something of a "tool kit" available to them for use and adaptation to other matters in different practice areas.

For the remainder of each semester, students enroll in two electives in the form of practice-based simulations, clinics, or externships. Over the course of the year, students will enroll in four of these modules, or three in the case of a year-long clinic commitment. At least one of the four electives must include real practice experience in a clinic or an externship.

The opportunities available to students span the range of legal practice areas, both litigation and transaction based. For example, in the last year, students participated in classes involving criminal practice, fiduciary litigation, mergers and acquisitions, sports law, federal energy regulation, failing businesses, insurance litigation, international human rights and business planning. These classes are complimented by our clinical offerings, which include death penalty defense, immigration and citizenship, black lung benefits litigation, tax representation and criminal defense.

The curriculum does not replicate entirely the life of a new attorney in any of these practice settings, but students do commit to a substantial workload of 15-20 hours per week, per module. There is ample time for critique, mentoring, and teaching advanced subject matter, all reflective of the importance we attach to the close student-teacher relationships we foster across the entire curriculum. Our program is not two years of academic study followed by one year of practice, but three years of demanding, intellectually rigorous legal education."

If a top ranked law school like W & L can do this, why can't other law schools?

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A student describes what it's like living with $88k in educational debt

Although she's not a law student, her story well describes the predicament many law students may face by incurring so much debt to pursue a legal career amidst declining job opportunities. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

[A] 35-year-old Hunter College graduate student named Monica Johnson woke up with debt on her mind. She's always thinking about student debt: the $88,000 she racked up between college and graduate school, and the legions of Americans whose unpaid student loans now total close to $1-trillion, twice the amount owed five years ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Student-loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States, with full-time undergraduates borrowing an average of $4,963 in 2010, according to the College Board.

Most students do not pay the full cost of college, but more and more are taking out loans. And if borrowers face severe financial problems, their student loans cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy, unlike most other forms of debt, such as gambling debts, that can. Some observers predict that student debt will be the country's next big financial crisis.

Young people like Ms. Johnson, who are starting adult life deeper in debt than students a decade ago, see themselves as part of a new generation of serfdom. Even as their debt grows, she and others say that student activism around the issue is weaker in the United States than in other countries due to a psychology of shame and guilt.

For Ms. Johnson, the experience of student debt is not just a private affair. It is an "epidemic where lenders are like crack dealers who give young people a taste for signing financial contracts for funny money in exchange for their future labor," she says. "The hope is that students become adult addicts who will never develop a connection with their personal financial and political autonomy."

Ms. Johnson, who is pursing a Master of Fine Arts degree in integrated media arts, is working on a graphic novel, to appear online, about the student-debt crisis.

. . . .

Ms. Johnson was born into a white, working-class family in Grand Rapids, Mich. Both of her parents have associate degrees in technical fields, and she is the first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree and to attend graduate school. She now lives in Dutch Kills, Long Island City, in an ethnic jumble of blue-collar workers, artists, hipsters, and students. She shares a modest two-bedroom apartment with a roommate.

Her living room is filled with furniture pieces that were purchased from Ikea and Craigslist. As she talked, she sat on an old office chair that was rescued from the garbage. Underneath a small sewing-machine station is a metal bin stuffed with cotton-yarn scraps, rolled-up vinyl, crochet needles, and other fabrics that she uses to extend the life of her clothes. Her bed is a mattress without a frame, and she can count the number of shirts and pants in her closet.

"This is a functional apartment," she says. "It's a sanctuary from what's out there."

Ms. Johnson says her parents feel horrible about her situation, but they have not been able to offer her any real advice about financing her education because they have no experience doing it themselves. "Money matters in general are not discussed very much within my family in part because there isn't much of it," she says. "Money is usually a depressing subject that we don't talk about unless it's absolutely necessary."

But she had no problem talking about how she racked up $75,000 in debt as she whips up a bowl of raisins, granola, and yogurt—the kind of food that "sticks with me so I don't have to eat much during the day." She paid a significant amount of her college tuition at San Francisco State University with grants and with her own money from a job, but she graduated in 2001 with $12,000 in loans. After college she worked in restaurants while she submitted portfolios to art galleries in Berkeley. She also held various jobs, from working on museum installations to conservation framing, but those positions did not pay well.

"People I talked to said that I needed to have an advanced degree." she says. So, like her comic character "Dorritt Little," she applied to graduate school with high hopes.

In 2006, she enrolled at the Pratt Institute, where annual tuition was $40,000. On top of the money she needed for tuition, she also took out loans to pay for books, a computer, and living expenses. After spending a year at Pratt, Ms. Johnson left because the program was not giving her the skills she felt she needed to be competitive.

When she enrolled at Hunter College, she took out another $4,000 in loans for tuition. Her debt totaled as much as $88,000. Six months ago she started paying it back. "I have been living in a way that has allowed me to pay back almost $13,000 over the last six months," she said.

That means eating lots of peanut-butter sandwiches. She splits the $1,600 rent and utilities with her roommate and works full time at the Alliance For Young Artists and Writers in SoHo. If she gets any kind of gift money or extra income, she immediately turns it over to her lenders. She pays more than the minimum balances due on her loans and uses cash instead of credit cards. On average, she tries to pay $300 a week toward her debt even though the loans are still deferred while she's at Hunter. But because her loans are not subsidized, they are still accumulating interest.

You can continue reading here.

(jbl).

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Too many lawyers in the U.K.

According to a report from a legal services consultant, despite a 15% percent reduction in the work force as a result of the current recession, the U.K. remains "over-lawyered."  Thus, there's a need to lose another 6,000 lawyer jobs by year's end to maintain market equilibrium in light of falling demand.  From AmLaw Daily:

U.K. law firms must lay off almost 6,000 more lawyers this year if they want to maintain profit levels in the face of falling demand, a new report claims.

Though firms trimmed their attorney ranks by about 15 percent on average during the recession, research released Monday by the Royal Bank of Scotland suggests that "insufficient fee-earner capacity has been removed from the market" and that a further downsizing will be required in 2012 as firms struggle amid a fragile global economy and patchy transactional markets.

"The U.K. market remains over-lawyered," says the report's author, RBS's legal services head James Tsolakis. "In the absence of large new sources of instructions, which we do not expect . . . additional restructuring will be required to further eliminate fee-earner capacity. That chargeable hours continue at sluggish levels is of particular concern, given the significant fee-earner capacity that has been removed from the market over the last two years."

Based on an analysis of firms' financial performance in the first half of the present fiscal year, as well as on current activity levels, RBS concludes that firms need to reduce their lawyer numbers by roughly 5 percent in order to return to the levels of profitability they enjoyed before the downturn.

Given that Law Society data lists almost 120,000 attorneys as practicing in the United Kingdom, the cuts suggested by RBS equal roughly 6,000 jobs. RBS, which alongside Barclays provides banking services to most of the top U.K. law firms, estimates the restructuring would save the profession around £280 million ($445 million) in costs each year.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Attitudes of Chinese Students Wanting to Study in the U.S.

Here are the results of a detailed study by the Arts & Science Group on the attitudes of high school Chinese students wanting to enroll in U.S. colleges. I think these findings would apply very well to Chinese students and other Asian students wanting to study law here.

  • American higher education is perceived as the best in the world and a high proportion of students have considered or plan to attend college in the United States.
  • Students believe American higher education will give them the edge in gaining critical thinking and problem-solving skills and intellectual creativity — keys to success in all fields.
  • Insufficient academic preparation, lack of knowledge about American colleges and universities and English language proficiency are seen by students as the major hurdles in their quest to attend a U.S. college or university.
  • Not unlike their American high school peers, Chinese students are very self-directed and motivated in their U.S. college search and say their parents have limited participation or influence in the activities and process.
  • While a majority of these students have not used agents, a significant proportion believe agents would improve their chances of admission and help them write and complete applications to make them look better to American institutions.
  • Students in China view the college admissions process in the U.S. as highly confusing (one of the reasons interest in agents remains pervasive in China) — a critical finding that is echoed in other results of the study.

(ljs)

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational Reforms: American University

The first law school I will feature is American University:

"American University Washington College of Law (WCL) is committed to preparing students for careers in an increasingly globalized legal profession. Our mission is to provide students a rigorous and dynamic educational experience, create and nurture habits of scholarly inquiry, critical thinking and practical judgment, and foster positive change in our local, national, and world communities. We embrace those traditional foundations of legal education that contribute to preparing students for all aspects of legal practice, understanding law as a central element in social and political ordering,  and producing vital and influential legal scholarship. We seek to preserve the very best of legal education while working creatively to expand its boundaries and envisioning new approaches, structures and practices.

WCL provides a superb legal education through an array of experiential programs in addition to classroom instruction. WCL’s nationally-acclaimed Clinical Program is an integrated law firm composed of ten live-client clinics serving low-income and under-served D.C. area residents. About 230 students each year participate in our Clinical Program in which students take primary responsibility for all aspects of their cases. WCL has a unitary tenure track and clinical faculty are fully integrated into the life and governance of the law school. The WCL clinical faculty includes eleven tenured or tenure-track professors, two long-term contract Professors of Practice and nine Practitioners-in-Residence, seven of whom are in a program to train and develop new clinical teachers – all teach in both the clinical and non-clinical curriculum. Additionally, WCL’s Supervised Externship Program served 400 students last year, placing students in government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, trial and appellate courts, and law firms doing pro bono work. Other experiential learning opportunities include the Stephen S. Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program and an LL.M. in Advocacy, the UNROW Human Rights Litigation Clinical Seminar, and the United Nations Committee Against Torture Project. Additionally, courses such as Lawyer Bargaining, Plea Bargaining and Interviewing and Counseling routinely rely on pedagogy based on detailed simulation exercises and are often taught by clinical faculty.

Other innovations at WCL prepare students for and complement experientially-based offerings. They include the restructuring of the first-year curriculum to promote the holistic presentation of legal doctrine; the development of first-year elective courses that expose students to subject matter that goes beyond the first-year curriculum, theoretical analysis and pedagogical approaches that rarely characterize traditional first-year offerings;  the presentation of collaborative faculty-generated programmatic activities designed to show how concepts developed in the classroom take on meaning in the world; and the creation of structures for giving students  opportunities to experience the broader legal world beyond the United States."

What I like about the American program is that they are combining changes in the first year with a comprehensive clinical exerpience later.  It is important to introduce students to miniskills in the first year, then practice-like courses in the second and third years. 

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2012

HeinOnline offers quick reference guides to federal laws

Available in downloadable pdf's for the U.S. Code, C.F.R. the Federal Register, and Congressional documents, check them out here.

Hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog.

(jbl).

March 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)