June 23, 2012
New legal "skills" scholarship: "A Business Lawyer's Bibliography: Books Every Dealmaker Should Read"
This is by Professor Robert C. Illig (Oregon) and available at 61 J. Legal Educ. 585 (2012) and SSRN here. From the abstract:
To become a truly great business lawyer, one must not only master legal analysis and deal execution. One must attain a command of context. Attorneys are more than mere “transaction cost engineers.” We are counselors – purveyors of judgment, caution and insight.
But how best to cultivate such expertise? Wisdom is the reward of experience, and requires time to develop. How, then, can the young lawyer hasten her education and achieve an understanding beyond her years? And what of the seasoned professional who lacks expertise in a particular field? How is she to obtain a broader familiarity without re-living her novice years? An answer to both questions is to supplement practical experience by reading broadly in the area of contemporary business and financial history.
In this article, Professor Illig recommends a selection of scholarly and popular books that provide insight into the workings of the modern financial world. On offer are events ranging from the rise of the modern corporation to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Also covered are the many institutions and players who dominate today’s financial markets, from investment banks and hedge funds to various regulators, advisors, and not-for-profits. Finally, the article suggests several books on accounting, drafting and negotiation, as well as a few general-audience books that introduce theoretical topics such as corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, and the role of markets in a post-Lehman world.
A Tribute To Michael Dooley
Stephen M. Bainbridge has written a tribute to Mike Dooley, upon his retirement from the University of Virginia School of Law. It will appear in the Virginia Law Review, and it has been posted on SSRN. Professor Dooley was Director of Graduate Studies when I was at UVA, and he helped me immensely with my dissertation. He is also one of the nicest persons I have ever met. Congratulations on your retirement!
Yale Professsors Win Scribes Book Award
Yale law professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis ’66 have been honored once again for their 2010 book, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms. The book has won the Scribes 2012 Book Award given by Scribes – The American Society of Legal Writers. Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, and Curtis is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. The book looks at the relationship between courts and democracy, exploring the evolution of adjudication into its modern form by mapping the remarkable run of the political icon of Justice and tracing the development of public spaces dedicated to justice: courthouses.
Here’s the full story.
June 22, 2012
New Massachusetts law school freezes tuition for 3 years.
In a dramatic move to address concerns about rising tuition costs, the University of Massachusetts School of Law-Dartmouth announced on June 21 that it would freeze tuition and fees for three years.
That means annual tuition for full-time in-state students will remain at $23,068 through the 2014-15 academic year, while tuition and fees for out-of-state residents will be $30,760. Average tuition for in-state students at public law schools was $22,116 in 2011, according to the American Bar Association. The average was $34,865 for non-resident students.
. . . .
Mary Lu Bilek, who will assume the school's deanship on July 1, said that public law schools have an obligation not only to be affordable for students but also to produce civic-minded lawyers.
"By controlling the cost of their education, we open up many more options for them," Bilek said. "Graduating from UMass Law, they will be able to consider using their skills for public and civic purpose because they will not be as heavily burdened by debt."
. . . .
Other law schools began freezing tuition in 2010, starting with the University of Miami School of Law. The following year, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, the University of New Hampshire School of Law and Ave Maria School of Law froze tuition. However, those freezes were for one year only — no other school has committed itself to a multiyear freeze.
You can continue reading here.
California Bar: Illegal Immigrant Should Get Law License
An illegal immigrant applying for a law license in California should be allowed to receive it, the State Bar of California argues in a filing to the state Supreme Court.
Sergio Garcia, 35, of Chico, Calif., has met the rules for admission, including passing the bar exam and the moral character review, and his lack of legal status in the United States should not automatically disqualify him, the Committee of Bar Examiners said Monday.
“ … Mr. Garcia’s status in the United States, should not, ipso facto, be grounds for excluding him from law licensure. He has met all of the prescribed qualifications and there is no reason to believe he cannot take the oath and faithfully uphold his duties as an attorney,” the bar said.
Garcia has applied for a visa that would give him lawful permanent residency, although that fact did not seem to influence the bar’s position. Here’s the story at msnbc.
June 21, 2012
Statistics on internet, social media and cell phone use among adults over 65
For the first time, half of adults ages 65 and older are online
As of April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.
Overall, 82% of all American adults ages 18 and older say they use the internet or email at least occasionally, and 67% do so on a typical day.
Once online, most seniors make internet use a regular part of their lives.
For most online seniors, internet use is a daily fixture in their lives. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 70% use the internet on a typical day. (Overall, 82% of all adult internet users go online on an average day.)
After age 75, internet and broadband use drops off significantly.
Internet usage is much less prevalent among members of the “G.I. Generation” (adults who are currently ages 76 and older)1 than among other age groups. As of April 2012, internet adoption among this group has only reached 34%, while home broadband use has inched up to 21%.
Seven in ten seniors own a cell phone, up from 57% two years ago.
A growing share of seniors own a cell phone. Some 69% of adults ages 65 and older report that they have a mobile phone, up from 57% in May 2010. Even among those currently ages 76 and older, 56% report owning a cell phone of some kind, up from 47% of this generation in 2010. Despite these increases, however, older adults are less likely than other age groups to own these devices. Some 88% of all adults own a cell phone, including 95% of those ages 18-29.
One in three online seniors uses social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Social networking site use among seniors has grown significantly over the past few years: From April 2009 to May 2011, for instance, social networking site use among internet users ages 65 and older grew 150%, from 13% in 2009 to 33% in 2011. As of February 2012, one third (34%) of internet users ages 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day. Among all adult internet users, 66% use social networking sites (including 86% of those ages 18-29), with 48% of adult internet users making use of these sites on a typical day.
By comparison, email use continues to be the bedrock of online communications for seniors. As of August 2011, 86% of internet users ages 65 and older use email, with 48% doing so on a typical day. Among all adult internet users, 91% use email, with 59% doing so on a typical day.
Hat tip to Legal Research Plus.
Are Some Law Schools Moral Dystopias?: "Average students foot the bill for the bright ones."
A few days ago, I asked whether some law schools are moral dystopias. (here) One of my major problems with many law schools' practices is that they are charging average students more tuition to fund merit scholarships for students with high indicators.
Smart Money recently dealt with this issue. They state, "Now for the bad news: Only students with the best grades and test scores qualify. That's because by admitting brighter students, schools can raise their rankings, says Jerry Organ, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis." They continue, "Law school scholarship funding doesn't usually come from the schools' endowments, but rather through so-called tuition discounting, he says. That's when schools raise overall tuition so that in effect, those with lower grades can subsidize the bill for the brightest students. Those lower-performing students also have a harder time paying off the tuition debt they incur because they're less likely to get the high-paying positions that often go to the students with high grades, says Kyle McEntee, executive director at Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education policy organization."
Finally, "experts say it's tougher to hold onto merit-based scholarships in law school than in undergraduate programs. Organ says he reviewed 150 law schools offering merit scholarships and found that 80% of them renew scholarships for the students who rank somewhere between the top 15% and 30% of their class. But the initial scholarship they award for the incoming class is given out to as many as the top 50% of students. In law school, grades are distributed on a curve. Schools ration the number of As and Bs that they dole out each semester. The result? It's guaranteed that a certain number of students at those schools will lose their scholarships, says Organ."
In other words, many law schools raise their tuition so that they can use merit scholarships to attract students with high indicators (G.P.A.s and LSAT scores). They do this so they can move up in the U.S. News Rankings. (These indicators constitute 22.5% of the total score.) However, as I wrote last week (here), U.S. News is worthless for helping law students choose law schools.
Does this sound like a fair practice to you? Wouldn't it be better to not have merit scholarships coming from tuition and charging lower tuition to everyone? Enough of the U.S. News obsession. It is destroying legal education.
Sobering Employment Statistics
Slightly more than half of the class of 2011 — 55 percent — found full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage nine months after they graduated, according to employment figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association.
The statistic was perhaps the most sobering in a season of bad news about new lawyer employment. Less than one week earlier, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only two-thirds of new graduates landed any type of job requiring their law degree, and that the overall employment rate hit an 18-year low at 85.6 percent.
Keep your chin up. Here’s the full story.
June 20, 2012
California ethics opinion warns lawyers that boastful social media postings can be improper solicitation
This draft opinion from the California Bar Ethics Committee also reminds lawyers that they have a duty to preserve all communications for two years. If the social media sites they use don't archive communications, it means attorneys must print hardcopies or electronically save their posts. From the BNA Electronic Commerce and Law Report (subscription required):
Draft Opinion Addresses Ethics Duties On Social Media Postings by AttorneysA California attorney who posts messages on a social media website in a manner that reasonably could be read as indicating her availability for employment would be subject to the restrictions of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400 on lawyer advertising, according to a draft opinion from the California bar's ethics committee (California State Bar Standing Comm. on Professional Responsibility, Draft Formal Op. Interim No. 10-0001).Rule 1-400 prohibits solicitations that are misleading or coercive. It also mandates “Advertising” disclaimers—although the committee acknowledged that the specifics regarding font size may need to be revisited in the age of social media postings.. . . .The committee also highlighted that an attorney has a duty to preserve all communications for two years. If the social media website does not automatically archive postings, the lawyer must print out or save a copy of the screen post, the opinion states.The opinion provides examples of three problematic postings that may violate professional responsibility rules:• “Another great victory in court today! My client is delighted. Who wants to benext?”• “Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends and check out my website.”• “Won another personal injury case. Call me for a free consultation.”In each example, the panel said, Rule 1-400 would apply because the attorney's statement may be read as showing availability for professional employment.
LSAC to Vet Law Students’ Academic Credentials
From the National Law Journal:
The Law School Admission Council has reached an agreement with the American Bar Association to provide oversight of the undergraduate grade-point averages and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores that individual schools report for their incoming students.
As part of a pilot program this fall, schools will be required to provide the ABA with the names, grades and LSAT scores for each matriculating student. In the past, schools have only been required to tell the ABA the aggregate median and 25th and 75th percentiles for both those academic credentials, rather than individual scores.
Schools may elect to have the LSAC certify the accuracy of those numbers, meaning the organization will cross-reference the grades and scores it has on file.
We’ll have to wait and see how helpful this additional reporting will be.
June 19, 2012
WSJ (and video) on judicial green light to use computers instead of lawyers for discovery matter
When the roofs of three jet hangers in Virginia collapsed under heavy snow and crushed 14 private jets in 2010, the owner of the hangars prepared for the inevitable lawsuits.
Landow Aviation preserved about 8,000 gigabytes—the equivalent of about eight new desktop computers filled to the brim—of company emails, documents and other electronic information about every aspect of its operations that it might be asked to produce.
After insurers and the aircraft owners started filing lawsuits against Landow during mid-2010, the company identified a batch of about two million electronic documents it would need to sift through for evidence of its possible liability in the roof collapses.
Rather than hire dozens of lawyers to read the documents, the company asked a judge to allow a computer program to do much of the initial work. In late April this year, Loudon County Circuit Judge James H. Chamblin granted permission for Landow to use "predictive coding," a general term that refers to computer programs that use algorithms to determine whether documents are relevant to a case.
The mounting costs of high-stakes litigation are largely driven by so-called discovery, in which parties exchange documents before trial that they deem relevant to the legal claims. In the typical discovery process in big litigation, an army of lawyers reviews each document before turning it over to the other side. Industry experts peg the price of this review at more than $1 per document. Supporters say predictive coding is as effective as a set of human eyes—and much cheaper.
. . . .
Thomas C. Gricks III, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer representing Landow, estimates that his client would pay about one-tenth of what it would have paid if lawyers reviewed all two million documents.
Landow's lawyers will still review the documents that the computer program flags as relevant, which in a typical case is about 10%, Mr. Gricks says.
"One way or the other, you're going to have lawyers that are going to look at that 10%," he says. "The question is, how do you generate that 10%? Do you use lawyers or do you use a tool that's much more cost effective?"
It is unclear how widespread such technologies have become in litigation, not least because parties aren't obligated to tell each other when they used such computer programs to assist them in discovery.
Predictive coding is one of several computer-driven tools that lawyers use. The most common is keyword searching, in which documents are loaded into a program and lawyers input search terms to find relevant documents. Keyword searching is used alongside human review.
But some consultants say that more corporate clients have started to warm to the idea of letting machines do more of the heavy lifting in litigation, after a landmark ruling in a discrimination lawsuit against French advertising company Publicis Groupe SA and its public-relations unit in February.
Predictive coding should "be seriously considered in large-data-volume cases where it may save the producing party (or both parties) significant amounts of legal fees in document review," Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck in Manhattan said in his ruling in the case.
Greg McPolin, an executive at the legal outsourcing firm Pangea3, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp., TRI +1.58% says about one-third of the company's clients are considering using predictive coding in their matters.
"We would have our heads buried in the sand if we did not embrace this technology," he says.
. . . .
As recently as a decade ago, corporate-law firms conducted large-scale document review in-house, assigning young lawyers to the task who billed several hundred dollars an hour. But in recent years legal staffing companies have proliferated, supplying law firms and legal departments with temporary lawyers who are paid as little as $25 to $30 an hour to review documents.
Predictive coding isn't expected to replace this new breed of low-rent lawyer, but it could significantly reduce their numbers during one of the worst employment markets in nearly 20 years, industry experts say.
Continue reading here.
Computers replacing lawyers
From The Atlantic online magazine:
In the end, after you've stripped away their six-figure degrees, their state bar memberships, and their proclivity for capitalizing Odd Words, lawyers are just another breed of knowledge worker. They're paid to research, analyze, write, and argue -- not unlike an academic, a journalist, or an accountant. So when software comes along that's smarter or more efficient at those tasks than a human with a JD, it spells trouble.
That's one of the issues the Wall Street Journal raised yesterday in an article on the ways computer algorithms are slowly replacing human eyes when it comes to handling certain pieces of large, high-stakes litigation. It focuses on a topic that is near and dear to the legal industry (and pretty much nobody else) known as discovery, which is the process where attorneys sort through troves of documents to find pieces of evidence that might be related to a lawsuit. While it might seem like a niche topic, what's going on in the field has big implications for people who earn their living dealing with information.
The discovery process is all about cognition, the ability of people to look at endless bails of info and separate the wheat from the chaff. For many years, it was also extremely profitable for law firms, which billed hundreds of dollars an hour for associates to glance at thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of documents, and note whether they might have some passing relevance to the case at hand. Those days are pretty much dead, gone thanks to cost-conscious clients and legal temp agencies which rent out attorneys for as little as $25-an-hour to do the grunt work. Some firms are still struggling to replace the profits they've lost as a result.
And now comes the rise of the machines -- or, more precisely, the search engines. For a while now, attorneys have employed manual keyword searches to sort through the gigabytes of information involved in these case. But as the journal reports, more firms are beginning to use a technology known as "predictive coding," which essentially automates the process at one-tenth the cost. Recently, a magistrate judge in a major Virginia employment discrimination suit ruled that the defense could use predictive coding to sort through their own data, despite objections by the plaintiffs who worried it might not pick up all the relevant documents (Probably left unspoken here: plaintiffs in lawsuits also like to drive up the costs for defendants, in the hopes that it will encourage them to settle).
In truth, researchers have found predictive coding to be as accurate, if not more so, than the attorneys its replacing.
Continue reading here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
Despite the bad press, some 0Ls think law school is a "golden ticket"
From Forbes, a guest column written by a fall 2012 matriculating law student.
Whatever anyone says, I want my Golden Ticket.
That’s why I’ve decided to go to law school.
Like little Charlie Bucket in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, I believe my golden ticket is my big chance to make my way.
Against popular opinion, and even the American Bar Association’s reports on the unemployment rate for newly minted J.D.s, I still romantically believe that law school has value and presents opportunities I may not have otherwise.
I got hooked on the idea of going to law school the way every wannabe hero law school applicant probably does.
Injustice Moves Me
An un-American injustice was thrown my way. Unable to accept fundamental unfairness, I wanted to fix it.
Best way to fix it myself requires a license to practice law. And, here we are.
I also have an innate fondness for the Little Guy.
A bachelor’s degree just does not allow you to send a Govern Yourself Accordingly nasty gram.
While I understand every law student is supposed to have an unrelenting affection for said Little Guy, and that said affection does not stop the student loan bills from showing up in the mailbox, one reason I am definitely not going to law school is just to make money.
Continue reading here.
Do We Need Law Reviews?
We may need legal scholarship, but do we need law reviews? We don’t need them to distribute articles. Articles are now accessible online by a variety of services, and even the Harvard Law Review has fewer that 1900 hard copy subscribers. Do law reviews provide a filtering system so that only high quality articles are published? Do you really trust second and third year students to make decisions on quality? We can make our own decisions on quality, sometimes with the help of various online sources.
Perhaps law reviews have outlived their usefulness as academic services, True, they may offer some training and writing opportunities for law students. However, we can find other, more productive ways to serve the student population.
Use Twitter for Networking & Client Development
This post from Law Practice Today has some great advice and tips on using Twitter to market your expertise and generate clients.
Twitter can be used for professional development and networking.
“Twitter is unequivocally the best for professional development. While LinkedIn might seem to be the more obvious choice, since it has, for quite some time, attained the put-upon status of ‘the professional’s social networking site’, Twitter features far more for the attorney seeking to develop as a professional person via the use of social networking. “
Twitter can be a useful tool for client development.
“If you can conceive of Twitter as the eternal networking event/cocktail party, then you can understand that the way you’ll develop referral pipelines through Twitter will occur in much the same way you’ll develop them in real life.”
The post also gives some advice for those new to Twitter about where and when to post.
Another Moral Dystopia: Scandal at The Business School of Baruch College (NYC)
According to the New York Post, " Manhattan prosecutors are investigating the grade-inflation and forgery scandal that has rocked the prestigious business school at CUNY’s Baruch College."
"A high-level law-enforcement source confirmed the criminal probe a day after The Post revealed that a former key administrator for Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business allegedly raised MBA students’ grades and even forged their professors’ signatures on grade-change forms. The claim sent shock waves from the school’s Gramercy-area campus to the University of Connecticut, where former Baruch Business Dean John Elliott is set to take over as dean of UConn’s business school in August."
"Former Zicklin administrator Chris Koutsoutis allegedly falsified the grades of about 15 students — including Wall Streeters whose firms paid their tuitions — so they wouldn’t be bounced from the program. The accelerated “executive programs” in business and finance at Baruch allow students to earn a master’s degree in 10 to 22 months while working full-time. The tuition ranges from $45,000 to $75,000, and insiders told The Post the scam was designed to keep the fat tuition checks rolling in."
"Baruch investigated internally, allowed Koutsoutis to quietly retire, and shook up the faculty in the programs affected before turning over evidence to law-enforcement authorities." (emphasis added)
The scandal follows on the heels of an investigation of the University of North Carolina's African American Studies Department, which revealed academic fraud involving more than 50 classes. (story here)
June 18, 2012
The best laptops (so far) of 2012
According to the Business Insider:
#1 MacBook Pro with Retina display
The MacBook Pro was already a solid computer, but Apple made it thinner, more powerful (now it boasts a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7), and gave it a super-high resolution Retina display.
Price: starting at $2,199
#2 Samsung Series 7
Gamers take note -- the Samsung Series 7 is the portable powerhouse that will handle whatever you throw at it. It comes with 16 GB of RAM and an Intel i7 processor. Pick one up and start playing.
#3 The new MacBook Air
The Pro wasn't the only MacBook to see a redesign this year -- the Air gets a makeover as well. It got a nice speed boost (you can max it out at 2.6 GHz) and now it comes standard with 4 GB of RAM.
#4 HP Folio 13
If portability is your chief concern, you need look no further than the Folio. Lightweight and tiny, you'll have no problem taking it anywhere you go. And at less than 1 inch thick, you'll want to bring places. The 128 GB solid state hard drive means it will run silently, and the 4 GB of RAM are enough to enable serious multitasking.
#5 Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166
The Satellite is a solid workhorse of a computer. Lightweight enough, powerful enough, and easy enough to use, it's perfect for all kinds of productivity tasks and general computing needs. It comes with a huge 640 GB hard drive, so it'll gladly store all kinds of data.
#6 Dell XPS 14Z
How about a 14-inch laptop that weighs less than 4.5 pounds? This Dell XPS offers a number of features, such as Intel's Wireless Display functionality, which lets you transmit images to an HDTV without using any cables.
#7 HP Envy 17
With 8 GB of RAM and a beautiful 17-inch screen, the Envy is worth the steep price. Take advantage of the integrated BluRay player and the included 3D glasses.
You can read more reviews of each by clicking here and scrolling through the pages.
LexisNexis (UK) Creates Human Trafficking Awareness Index.
LexisNexis (UK) has created a Human Trafficking Awareness Index that highlights emerging trends and patterns of awareness in human trafficking. It measures the monthly volume of trafficking-related articles from a collection of influential news sources. Its graphics do a great job in explaining the statistics.
Hours or Results – What’s Important and How Do You Make Sure Your Manager Knows
I think that it’s really an interesting time in the professional world. There seems to be a generation gap and a fear or unwillingness to work “outside the box” and give employees the responsibility and flexibility to achieve. The old school belief that putting in more hours is the measure of value needs to change. This post from the Harvard Business Review blog is an interesting discussion of this issue.
""He's one of my best employees. He always puts in ten-hour days, sometimes much more." Is this how your boss judges you and your colleagues? …
At first glance, this seems perfectly reasonable. Hourly wages and the classic 40-hour work week have trained us to measure our labor by the number of hours we log. However, this mindset is dead wrong when applied to today's professionals. The value of lawyers, consultants, and analysts isn't the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge.
Even worse, when managers judge their employees' work by the time they spend at the office, they impede the development of productive habits…
While individual employees can change their own habits, organizations need strong-willed leaders to make more radical changes. These leaders must thoroughly reform their organization's implicit and explicit reward structure. Are employees praised for coming in on Saturday — even if only to finish work that could have been completed during regular hours? Are employees suspicious of others who leave early for the day in order to watch their child's Little League games?"
How do you measure/demonstrate success?
June 17, 2012
Harvard's Problem-Solving Workshop
Harvard Law School has dealt with the need to teach practical lawyering by having a Problem Solving Workshop in the three-week winter term of the first year.
Harvard describes the program as:
"All first-year Harvard Law School students take the new Problem Solving Workshop in the winter term. A uniquely structured offering, Problem Solving Workshop bridges the gap between academic study and practical lawyering. Students confront client problems—framed from the clients’ and attorneys’ points of view and designed expressly for the Workshop—in the way practicing lawyers do, from the very beginning, before the facts are all known, before the client's goals are clarified, before the full range of options is explored, and before a course of conduct is chosen. Rather than teach law in the abstract, the course poses questions like these: What sort of problems do lawyers solve? How do they solve them? What intellectual constructs do they bring to bear? What practical judgments? And, as students find the answers to those questions, they learn to combine their knowledge of the law with practical judgment to help clients attain their goals within the bounds of the law.
A key aspect of the Workshop (reflective of legal practice, but not of most first-year law school work) is the expectation that students work collaboratively and submit group work product. Classroom activities and assignments vary, keeping students on their toes and actively engaged in the task at hand. The required work product takes the form of the kind of memos, analyses, and advice written by practicing lawyers daily. The deadlines are often tight, as they usually are for lawyers seeking to respond with immediacy to particular client problems. Through the expertise of the instructors, the collaborative exercises with peers, and exposure to some of the day-to-day elements of lawyering, students in the Workshop learn about the law in a new and exciting way."
Harvard further describes the course in an article in its Bulletin. Some excerpts:
"The Problem Solving Workshop, which Rakoff believes is the first course of its kind to be introduced into a law school curriculum, puts students in the position of real-life attorneys. Over a three-week period, it presents them with seven very different clients, from a multinational corporation with child-labor issues to a tenant facing eviction after the landlord has lost her home in foreclosure. Working in teams, the students start each case from the beginning—when the client walks in the door—and gather facts, help the client figure out short- and long-term goals, devise a range of possible options, guide the client in weighing those choices, and negotiate with other parties. This bottom-up approach mirrors what students will face in practice, and it’s an essential part of equipping them with tools they need to succeed in today’s legal world, HLS faculty believe."
"David Zucker ’12 says the course was “most valuable in the ways it was different from the ‘typical’ law school class”; instead of individual reading followed by professor-led class discussion, the workshop involved “hands-on engagement with the legal issues presented” through client interviews and classwide debates. Zucker learned the most from interactions with practicing attorneys, including the final exercise, in which the entire 1L class traveled with their teams to law offices across Cambridge and Boston to present their work on the final project to experienced lawyers. “I found that oftentimes an approach that may be suggested during a theoretical class discussion is not one that a practicing attorney would ever really employ; likewise, I discovered recommendations from the practicing attorneys that had never been discussed in class,” Zucker says."
"Law schools have long taught students to “think like lawyers” and to develop analytic skills through the study of case law. But practicing lawyers today depend on a variety of skills beyond the ones typically emphasized in law school curricula. Equipping students with additional skills—including generating creative options, managing media relations, negotiating and working in teams—is the purpose of HLS’s new Problem Solving Workshop." (emphais added)
"Professor Joseph Singer ’81 spent the past two years developing the workshop with Todd Rakoff ’75 and testing it on upper-class students. Instead of looking at a case at its end point—an appeals court decision—the workshop presents cases that begin with the initial contact between lawyer and client. “The students improved radically over the three weeks in their abilities to generate workable solutions, drawing on theories, facts, interests, ethics and relationships,” Singer says." (empahsis added)
Finally, a Harvard student praises the program and states,
"Basically, each 1L section is led through a practical workshop that engages critical thinking skills through real-world problems. Each morning, monday through friday, my 80-student section meets to discuss a given legal problem. Then, for the rest of the day, we meet in pre-assigned groups of 4 or 5 team members to draft an assignment that’s usually due by 6 p.m. It looks and feels like real legal practice, but it’s all neatly packed into a compelling and relatively stress-free, pass/fail course. So far, we have covered everything from drafting a child labor policy for a multi-national corporation to helping to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute. OK, back to class for me!"
This workshop appears to be a wonderful course. I agree that teaching problem solving in an intensive course is one option to improve legal education. However, I should add one caveat: law schools need to teach problem solving throughout the curriculum. Just like any other mental skill, students must practice problem solving over and over to become experts. (See Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow 238-39 (2011). As I have stated before, the best method of education is to teach the doctrine and have the student apply the doctrine to problems (facts). I don't mean that each course must have an extensive skills element, but, if students could do at least one short problem in each class each week, they would come out much better lawyers than is produced by traditional legal education.