Saturday, August 4, 2012

Yet Another Article On The Law School Crisis

This one is in the Washington Post, and it's a review of Brian Tamanaha's controversial new book, "Failing Law Schools."  The reviewer, Charles Lane, states "Tamanaha’s critique amounts to what lawyers call a 'statement against interest.' A legal academic, he has nothing to gain by making it. But, like a defendant’s admissions of wrongdoing, Tamanaha’s arguments gain credibility not only because they reflect first-hand knowledge but also because they are not self-serving."

The reviewer continues, "The real issue is that a high-paying job has become the only kind a law grad can afford to accept. Why? As Tamanaha explains, law schools have spent the past quarter-century jacking up their tuition, from an average of $2,400 per year at public institutions in 1987 to $18,500 in 2009; the corresponding figures at private law schools are $8,900 and $35,750. These increases far outstripped inflation. No wonder 90 percent of law students borrow money that in many cases can be repaid only by working in corporate law or the equivalent."

He concludes, "Tamanaha’s message — that law schools fail to fulfill this social purpose and that their failure is due to their selfishness and myopia — may not go over well in faculty lounges. But it is an important one nonetheless."

(Scott Fruehwald)

For another recent article that warns of impending doom from the law school crisis see my critique of Paul Campos, The Crisis of the American Law School.  As I said then, the biggest problem with Campos's article is that it is based on reliable facts and statistics.

August 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas e-filing fail

From 3 Geeks and a Law Blog:

It seems that the upgrade to the new Texas.gov eFiling Portal didn't exactly go as planned this weekend. After being shut down for the upgrade from 6PM on July 27th through 8AM July 30th, the upgrade caused a number of hick-ups to filings when it came online yesterday. The problems with the new system were so great, that it caused Texas.gov to shut down the upgrade and roll back to the previous system. Here's an email alert from CaseFileXpress that went out this morning to its users:

To our Texas Filers:
This is important information regarding filing into Texas courts.
Based on the outage yesterday, Texas.gov has determined that a roll-back of the eFiling upgrade is necessary for eFiling business continuity. As requested by the State of Texas, CaseFileXpress has restored our prior system and confirmed system functionality and connectivity to the state’s eFiling portal.
Approximately 200 filings were submitted yesterday and are in various stages of the eFiling process. Please do not resubmit your filings unless we notify you otherwise. Texas.gov is working with the courts to ensure all filings submitted are being processed appropriately.
If you emailed an Appellate Court filing to us yesterday, please submit the filing through the eFiling system so it may be properly docketed. …
We apologize for any inconvenience you experienced yesterday, and we appreciate your patience throughout this transition. We will notify you when we receive a revised schedule with the new deployment date.…
 I think this gets filed under the category of "technology is great… when it works."

(jbl).

August 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hair Advice for Women Lawyers Over 40

From the Careerist:

An entertainment lawyer in California insists that women over 40 who sport long hair are making a mistake—professionally and personally. Most women end up with "long, stringy dark brown hair shot with a few frizzy strands of gray," she says. But "even if the hair is long, glossy, and well-maintained, the juxtaposition of aging or—to be politically correct—'mature' facial features and youthful hairstyle doesn't work." The look is jolting and not compatible with professional comportment, she adds.

But another woman, who's a law firm consultant, says she "sees nothing wrong with wearing long hair to the office, if the cut is right. It's a matter of how you carry it," she says. "The same could be said for clothes. I am all about style. I am not saying do a Jennifer Lopez or Lady Gaga thing. But I would pay for a very hip cut and make sure it is always styled or I wouldn’t keep it long."

Corporate fashion stylist Gretchen Neels warns that all women professionals—even younger ones—risk coming off as flakes if their long hair proves distracting. "If you are one of the many flippers, twisters, combers, and caressers, stop it!" says Neels. "The constant fussing is a huge distraction to others who don't hear what you're saying because they are too caught up in your grooming/self-soothing routines."

Many Comments to the article take issue with these assertions.

(ljs)

August 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Professor Brian Leiter predicts weak market for new law faculty hires

No surprise there given the general economic state of law schools these days. But because Professor Leiter follows law school hiring news and trends at his "Law School Reports" blog his prediction that some schools might do no hiring at all for the next couple of years will be considered by many to be more credible and better informed than some of the predictions coming from the law school doomsayers.

Check out his post here.

(jbl).

August 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Much Do Law Students Borrow?

The ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar collects figures for accredited law schools. In 2010-11, on average, students at public law schools borrowed $75,428. Students at private law schools borrowed $4124,950.  In 2001-02, those numbers were $46,499 and $70,147, respectively.

Academic

 

 

Year

Public

Private

2010-2011

$75,728

$124,950

2009-2010

$69,687

$106,249

2008-2009

$58, 591

$91, 506

2007-2008

$56,465

$86,429

2006-2007

$53,836

$80,385

2005-2006

$54,509

$83,181

2004-2005

$51,056

$78,763

2003-2004

$48,910

$76,563

2002-2003

$45, 763

$72,893

2001-2002

$46,499

$70,147

(ljs)

August 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Article On On-Line Learning

One of our colleagues, Kathryn Fehrman has written an amusing article on on-line learning entitled ACCLAIMED DOC SMASHES COMPUTER ON GENESEE AVE – PATIENT HEALED (PHOTOS AT 11); Learning at a Distance?  (original title)  Her key point is "Meanwhile, I feel like the fabled Little Dutch Boy with my finger in the dam, begging my students to understand that the practice of law, medicine, psychology and social work, teaching – most professions and services - are rooted in the field of human communication. How we share energy, how we relate to each other as human beings, is crucial to maintaining social balance and order as a community and civilization. How do we 'distance teach' human relationships?

While 'distance learning' may provide some benefits (which are obviously not the focus of this essay), it provides none of the depth, dimension, essence, richness, or graceful civil exchange central to our lives as human beings. It is useful in the realm of information, not relation. There is no wisdom in that manner of conveyance. And like Marshall McLuhan said, 'the medium is the message,' right?"

She also has an amusing story on how a doctor throws his computer out the window when he can't get it to work.  Actually, a friend of mine had a similar experience.  About two years ago, he needed surgery to have a tumor removed from his kidney.  He was somewhat excited because the operation was being done with robotics.  However, everything didn't go as planned.  The computer crashed in the middle of his surgery, and the doctors couldn't get it rebooted.  They had to finish the operation the old fashioned way.   The operation took an hour and forty-five minutes longer than it should have, and the robotics were just sticking in his abdomen doing nothing for about an hour while they were working on the computer.   (Of course, he was asleep the whole time.)  My friend is fine now, but the computer crash probably extended his recovery period.

In any case, the point of this post is that education needs human interaction.  Otherwise, it's just reading a book.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Illinois passes law prohibiting employers from asking for social media passwords

Illinois joins the micro-trend of states pursuing legislation (here and here) banning the practice (whether real or apocryphal) of employers asking job candidates for their social media passwords. Of course these laws do not prevent employers from doing Google searches for publicly available social media information so the lesson is to either set your privacy settings to "eleven" or don't post it all. According to this story, Illinois is only the second state to actually pass such legislation.

Illinois Facebook Password Law Bars Employers From Asking For Social Media Logins

CHICAGO -- Seeking to guard the privacy rights of the social networking generation, Illinois is making it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for passwords to their online profiles.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law Wednesday at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where several students lamented that online snooping by bosses has caused some to lose out on jobs and forced others to temporarily deactivate their online profiles.

Illinois is only the second state to have such a law on the books, and it leaves no exceptions – even for openings that require thorough background checks.

In their efforts to vet job applicants, some companies and government agencies have started asking for passwords to log in to a prospective employee's accounts on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Civil liberties groups, social media users and others have criticized the practice as a serious invasion of privacy, likening it to handing over the keys to your house.

"Especially in times like this when there are not a lot of jobs, that puts a lot of pressure on you. It's hard to resist," said Pegah Shabehpour, a 22-year-old architecture student browsing the Internet at the ITT campus library.

"I've heard of some friends deactivating their accounts when they are applying for jobs and once they get a job, reactivating them," she said, though she's never been asked for her passwords.

The governor said it was important to ensure privacy laws keep pace with technology.

"We're dealing with 21st-century issues," Quinn said. "... Privacy is a fundamental right. I believe that and I think we need to fight for that."

The law protects both current employees and prospective hires. But the legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, does not stop bosses from viewing information that isn't restricted by privacy settings on a website. Employers are also free to set workplace policies on the use of the Internet, social networking sites and email.

. . . .

(jbl).

August 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of the American Law School by Paul Campos

It would be an understatement to say that Paul Campos is the most controversial figure in legal education reform.  His blog Inside the Law School Scam has been idolized by disgruntled law students and graduates and highly criticized by much of the legal teaching profession.  I have criticized his blog a number of times on this blog for his tone and his frequent exaggerations.  However, I have noted that, under the invective, there has been a great deal of truth.

Now, Campos has summarized his law school criticisms in a law review article that he has posted on SSRN.  I find his article to be very troubling.  The reason for this is because he backs up his criticisms with facts and statistics, which are for the most part unassailable.

His thesis is: "Private law school tuition increased by a factor of four in real, inflation-adjusted terms between 1971 and 2011, while resident tuition at public law schools has nearly quadrupled in real terms over just the past two decades.  Meanwhile for more than 30 years now the percentage of the American economy devoted to legal services has been shrinking. In 1978 the legal sector accounted for 2.01% of the nation’s GDP: by 2009 that figure had shrunk to 1.37% -- a 32% decrease."

"These two trends are not mutually sustainable. If the cost of becoming a lawyer continues to rise while the economic advantage conferred by a law degree continues to fall then eventually both the market for new lawyers and for admission to law school will crash. . . . The ongoing contraction in the employment market for new lawyers has combined with the continuing increase in the cost of legal education to produce what many now recognize as a genuine crisis for both law schools and the legal profession." 

Professor Campos sets out in meticulous detail the many causes of the rise in law school tuition, including lower student-faculty ratios, higher faculty compensation, the proliferation of clinics, new buildings, the growth of administrative staffs, the addition of legal writing programs, and self promotion.  He concludes that "while in the long term law schools will pay the price for being unable to break free from the vicious cycle of having to constantly increase revenue merely to stay in the same place relative to their competitors, at present that price is being borne most directly by law school graduates, who year after year pay more and more for an educational credential whose real value has been declining for some time now."

Campos next argues that law school costs too much because of market factors: "Law school now costs too much for two reasons: because there aren’t enough jobs for lawyers, especially new lawyers, and because too many of the legal jobs that do exist do not pay enough to justify incurring that cost. This combination of circumstances is a product of both long-term changes in the market for the providers of legal services, and in the way law students finance their legal education. The result has been the creation of a class of deeply indebted, underemployed law school graduates."  He also emphasizes the large debt that most students have at graduation and their frequent inability to repay this debt.

His main solution to the above is that the cost of legal education must be reduced.  He declares: "Cutting tuition does not require any sort of intellectual or technological breakthrough: the factors that have driven tuition up so drastically are both well-understood and in no way unalterable. Reducing the number of law school graduates is even less complex: it is becoming obvious to all but the most self-interested actors that a good number of the law schools that now exist in America will need to close in the coming years, while quite a few others will need to become a good deal smaller."

More specifically, he states, "Tuition can be reduced drastically through the simple expedient of returning to the cost structures that existed at law schools until quite recently."  He adds, "the ABA’s accreditation regime needs to be relaxed, to allow schools to employ larger numbers of adjunct faculty, given that competent adjunct faculty serve the valuable dual role of holding educational costs down, while conveying useful information to law students regarding the actual practice of law."  Other proposals include reduction in tenure and tenure-track faculty, resumption of administrative duties by law faculty, reducing the level of library spending, foregoing building upgrades, reducing cross-subsidies of other university programs, and reducing clinical education through more externships.  A more radical proposal would be to eliminate the third year of law school.  An even more radical suggestion is to make law an undergraduate degree.

It is hard to disagree with Campos's thesis.  American legal education is in a crisis due to high tuition, the lack of good jobs, high student debt, and an overproduction of lawyers.  As I have said before, we need to break the structural constraints of the Langdellian bargain (see also here).  It is also hard to dispute his reasons for the high cost of tuition, although I would add that some of these causes, such as the addition of legal writing classes and clinics, have been both beneficial and necessary to legal education reform.

While I agree with many of his suggestions for change, I disagree with some of them.  This stems from the fact that I see two crises in legal education, while Campos sees only one.  In addition to the structural crisis that Campos writes about, I (and many others) see a crisis in how we educate law students.  We should educate law students to be practice ready, rather than graduates of an academic graduate program.

Consequently, I disagree with Campos's proposal that law schools cut down on clinics in favor of externships.  I believe that law students get their best training in law clinics where they are supervised by expert teachers of clinical skills.  I do not trust externships.  The attorneys that provide the externships do not know anything about teaching law students.  (Teaching is a skill that needs to be developed. (see here))  In general, I think law students need more practical training with teachers that are trained in providing practical training.

I also disagree with Campos's proposal to eliminate the third year of law school.  I do think that for the most part the current third year of law school is a waste of time and money.  However, I do not believe that students would graduate with the skills they need to be successful attorneys after only two years.   Instead, law schools should use the third year to better prepare students for practice, like some law schools, such as Washington & Lee, are already doing.

Finally, I disagree that law should become an undergraduate subject.  Many law students are very unprepared for law school as it is; I can't image what it would be like if law students came in with no undergraduate training.

In sum, Campos has raised an inconvenient truth--that law schools cannot continue along their present path for much longer.  While I disagree with some of Campos's solutions, other of his solutions, particularly fewer administrators, less publicity, and fewer new shiny buildings, could help.  In addition to these, I would like to suggest loosening ABA rules to allow for different types of law schools.  We need law schools that offer more practical training at a cheaper price.  All law schools do not need to fit the same model.  Similarly, if law schools could ignore the U.S. News rankings and become more student-centered, tuitions might come down.  (Law schools wouldn't need to spend money just to move up in U.S. News.)

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Just Released: Major Findings of the ABA 2010 Survey on Curriculum

Outlined here are the major findings from the Survey most relevant to our readers:

REQUIRED CURRICULUM

•    Average  credit hours required for graduation increased by one  unit to 89 units in 2010 . . . . 

•    The number of law schools that required courses beyond the  first year has  remained relatively constant since  2002, with Constitutional Law and Evidence garnering the  most support as required upper division doctrinal courses. For the  first time, 28%  of law school respondents indicated that they required a specific  upper division legal writing course. 

•     Fewer law schools had upper division distribution requirements in 2010 than in 2002. 

•    Law schools have increased all aspects of skills instruction, including clinical, simulation, and externships, to meet recently adopted ABA Standard 302(a)(4), which requires that students receive “other professional skills”  instruction.11

 •    Pro bono service  requirements have increased incrementally since 2002  with 18%  of law school respondents in 2010  requiring an  average of 35 hours of pro  bono service  to graduate, which is, on  average, ten more hours of service  than reported in 2002. 

FIRST-YEAR CURRICULUM

•    Legal Research and Writing continues to grow  in stature as law schools increased the  number of units and expanded course coverage to include skills instruction beyond traditional advocacy. 

•     More law schools offered first-year elective opportunities in 2010 than in 2002. 

•    Nearly half  the  respondents in 2010  provided a small section experience outside of Legal Writing. The average size of enrollment for the small section experience was 30 to 40 students. 

UPPER DIVISION CURRICULUM

•     The upper division elective curriculum remained healthy with little decrease in any  particular areas  of law. Course titles have increased since 2002  with noted additions in International Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, Business Law, and Transactional Drafting. 

•    Law schools offered a wide  range of professional skills opportunities, with half  the  respondents reporting ten  or more types of professional skills courses. Transactional Drafting courses and upper division Legal Writing courses experienced the  greatest growth in offerings. Many law schools also added courses and course components on  professionalism and professional identity. 

•    Over  85%  of respondents regularly offered in-house live-client clinical opportunities and 30%  of respondents offered off-site, live-client clinical opportunities. Law schools with in-house clinical opportunities averaged three clinics. Nearly all respondents provided at least  one externship opportunity, and without exception, placement opportunities have increased in each externship category since  2002. 

•    Eighty-seven percent of all ABA-approved law schools offered joint degrees in 2010.

 •     More law schools offered distance education courses in 2010 than in 2002 . . . . 

ACADEMIC SUPPORT AND BAR READINESS 

•    By 2010, nearly all respondents had instituted a voluntary academic support program, and 70%  of respondents offered their first-year students either a mandatory or voluntary academic support course. 

•    As of 2010, 49%  of respondents offered a bar preparation course for credit. For most law schools, the  course was voluntary, and full-time faculty resources, or a combination of full-time and adjunct faculty resources, were used  in two  thirds of the  programs.  

August 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alabama Law Students Step Up In Face Of Tragedy

Last year, a devastating tornado hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  It did considerable damage in poor areas of the city, and it came within a half of mile of hitting the law school.  University of Alabama Law students stepped up in response to this tragedy.  Kelly Alison Behre has told their story here.

Motivations for Law Student Pro Bono: Lessons Learned from the Tuscaloosa Tornado

Abstract: After a tornado devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2011, law students at the University of Alabama organized and engaged in substantial legal and non-legal service. Narratives from these students in the midst of their volunteer efforts reveal detailed accounts of their experiences and motivations for their service. In a time in which national law student pro bono rates remain low and law students continue to lose interest in social justice issues during their time in law school, these student narratives offer insight into why law students chose to volunteer through the lens of students who rose to the occasion following a natural disaster in their backyard. This article identifies themes in law student motivations for pro bono and suggests ways in which law schools can implement programmatic, curricular, and cultural changes to increase rates of law student pro bono.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inside Higher Ed speaks with Professor Brian Tamanaha about "Failing Law Schools"

You can access the full interview here. Pertinent to this blog, Professor Tamanaha says that one reform the ABA should implement is to revise accreditation standards so that some schools can jettison the "research institute" model in favor of one that's more focused on practical skills. Why not let schools play to their strengths? Most will never enter the ranks of the elite schools anyway and that's fine - there's plenty of room at the table (way too much room, in fact) for both types of law schools.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Inside Higher Ed: In what ways would you like to see legal education reformed -- and are any of these reforms realistic?

Professor Tamanaha:
Under current accreditation standards, all law schools are set up like research universities. I propose stripping away all of the provisions in the accreditation standards that mandate the “academic model” of law school. This will allow for the accreditation of lower-cost law schools that focus on training lawyers, creating differentiation among law schools, allowing students to choose the type of legal education they want at a price they can afford.

My other main proposals involve changes to the federal loan program. "Gainful employment" standards, like those now applied to for-profit colleges, should be applied to law schools to retain eligibility for federal student loans. In addition, caps must be placed on federal loans, either by capping the total amount any individual student can borrow for law school, or by capping the total amount of federal loan money a school can receive in a given year.

These proposals are realistic in the sense that they can be implemented with a few simple changes, but legal educators will fight to preserve the status quo.

Fortunately, one force for reform is already having an effect. Owing to greater public awareness about the poor job prospects for law grads, the number of applicants to law school has declined about 25 percent since 2010. Law schools are struggling to meet their 2012 enrollment targets, and are offering scholarships deeper into the class. When every student gets a scholarship, that is a de facto tuition reduction, even if the list price remains unchanged. If the number of applicants continues to decline for a few more years, law schools will be forced to change how they operate, and some law schools will close.

(jbl).

August 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How much your students pay attention depends on where they sit in class

The conventional wisdom has always been that students can only pay attention for ten to fifteen minutes before their minds start to wander. A new study by a professor at Kennesaw State University who used eye-tracking technology to study student attention patterns says that's all wrong. Whether students are paying attention to the teacher is not due to the pre-wired characteristics of the brain but instead depends on where they are sitting in class.  You won't be surprised to hear that, according to the study, students sitting in the front of the class pay more attention than those sitting in the back.

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Eye-Tracking Study Finds Students’ Attentiveness Depends on Location, Location, Location

The conventional wisdom among educators that students’ attention tends to drift off after 15 minutes is wrong, according to a new study conducted with eye-tracking devices.

The study, conducted by David Rosengrant, an assistant professor of physics education at Kennesaw State University, found no pattern in when students become distracted. Instead, students’ focus waxes and wanes throughout a lecture and is strongly affected by factors such as where in the lecture hall the student is sitting.

. . . .

Over all, though, a student’s location in the classroom was an enormous factor affecting whether the student was on task, he said.

“The students who were in the front and center of the room really were on task much more than the students in the back of the room,” Mr. Rosengrant said. A variety of reasons account for that pattern, he said. Students at the sides of the room are more likely to have to crane their necks to see the board, which is tiring, while students at the back are often distracted by the visible computer screens of those sitting in front of them.

One surprise was that students spend only 30 percent of their on-task time looking at the professor, though interest in the professor increased when he drew something on the board or went over quiz answers. When off task, students were most likely to be on Facebook or texting. Other causes of distraction were students’ entering or leaving the classroom.

“I thought the students would really spend a large majority of the time focused on me because I’m the instructor, I’m talking,” he said. “But I really found out a lot of the time that though students were paying attention and they were on task, most of the time was spent looking at the board and looking at their own notes. They didn’t spend as much time looking at me as I thought they would.”

Read the full article here.

(jbl).

August 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law School & Mental Health

Deborah Jones Merritt has an important post on law school and mental health on Inside the Law School Scam.  She declares, "Law school can hurt. As commenters have noted, law school and legal practice are associated with high rates of alcoholism, substance abuse, and mental illness. Those disorders can shorten your life--in addition to making the years miserable for you and your loved ones."

She continues, "If you find yourself in one of these categories, I encourage you to take a leave of absence from law school. Talk to the associate dean who usually counsels students on these issues, or to another sympathetic faculty member. Arrange at least to take some time off from law school. Your particular situation, when combined with the more general pressures of debt and the job market, makes law school a particularly bad bet for you."  She adds, "If you're unsure about your mental or physical health, talk to your family and close friends."

She concludes, "The bottom line is that law school costs too much--and is too financially risky--to combine with other types of risk. If law school is hurting you in any of the above ways, please give yourself a break and take some time off to consider options. Even if you ultimately return to law school, you'll be happier, healthier, and more likely to benefit from your remaining classes."

Very good advice.  I should add that, if a law professor observes one of his or her students having emotional problems, that professor should notify the proper person in the administration.  While most of us are not experts in mental health, we can at least help get those who are involved.  Also, when our students just need a shoulder to cry on, we should be there.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More U.S. Colleges and Universities Go Tobacco Free

  From the Christian Science Monitor (excerpts):

Between January 2011 and this January, the number of US colleges and universities with total smoking bans rose from 466 to 648, according to the group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Already this year, 126 schools have moved forward with smoke-free policies that apply to all areas of campus.

“We hear from colleges they’re there to educate and raise the next generation of leaders, and that it’s the responsible thing to do,” says Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, based in Berkeley, Calif.

Some colleges have never allowed smoking for religious reasons. But about a decade ago, some that permitted it began to impose bans on indoor smoking that also governed – coinciding with 9ljs)similar workplace laws – how far from entrances smokers had to be. The concept of the smoke-free campus, which prohibits smoking even outside, marks the trend’s latest evolution.

In total, about 770 colleges are now smoke-free, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Some take that policy a step further by forbidding all forms of tobacco, including chewing tobacco. Because the organization relies on self-reported information, the actual number is probably higher, Mr. Frick says.

(ljs)

August 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Some think LegalZoom's future is not so bright after all.

Solo extraordinaire Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle.com wrote this post pointing out that Wall Street is not as enamored with LegalZoom as the legal futurists who believe it's going to put many lawyers out of business. Ms. Elefant notes that Wall Street's skepticism is due to the fact that despite a big advertising budget, LegalZoom so far hasn't generated much profit. That's because, she believes, unlike flesh and blood lawyers who develop relationships with their clients that often lead to repeat business, LegalZoom and similar providers offer a "one-off" experience which means they have to continually scare-up new customers to keep the proverbial lights on.

The LegalZoom IPO: Proving That Volume Practice Doesn’t Work, Even 21st Century Style

Academics and legal futurists may be  enamored by the Legal Zoom business model, the market sure isn’t.  As Legal Zoom readies to launch an IPO at $10 to $12 share, sources like  Reuters and The Street  are questioning whether a $483 million valuation is a tad “feisty” for a company that generated $156 million in revenues, but earned only $12 million in profits.  Combine that with looming lawsuits over UPL, and the fact that more than half of the stock is coming from existing shareholders (raising the question of why they’re not sticking around), and the future of Legal Zoom is looking just about as dim as the future of lawyers.

Or worse.  Legal Zoom’s $156 million in revenues are paltry in comparison to the $1 billion+ take of the 15 top firms in the AmLaw 100. And while big law attorneys work hard for their money, Legal Zoom works even harder.  According to this site, in 2011, Legal Zoom’s SEC filing said that it had 490,000 in 2011 – or 1300 a day.  Moreover, LegalZoom  spent $41 million on ads to lure them in a cost of around $81/lead. All for a measly $12 million in profits – which is the equivalent take home pay for  three partners at Quinn & Emmanuel.

Legal Zoom may be a new company, but the lesson is ancient: volume law practice is a struggle.  Even with all of the technology in the world, with a volume practice, you’re always on the prowl to  drum up more clients to feed the beast. That’s partly because volume practice requires bodies to serve, but also because volume work consists largely of “one-off’s” (clients with small matters who don’t come back) so you can’t leverage your existing marketing efforts.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Our Incoming Students in 22 Years or So

The Department of Education has provided statistics on the 2010-11 class of kindergarten students. The data suggest that barring major changes in the society and educational system, most of our students in 22 years will look a lot like the current crop—little diversity. Many students from diverse backgrounds won't have the skills to succeed in law school, much less get in the door.

In the 2010-11 school year, 3.5 million children were first-time kindergartners in the United States.

Fifty-three percent were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 13 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Asian, 4 percent were two or more races, 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

Twenty-five percent came from households below the federal poverty level. Eighty-four percent lived in homes where English is the primary language.

For example, Asian first-time kindergartners had higher reading and math scores than first-time kindergartners of other races and ethnicities. Whites outscored blacks, Hispanics, American Indian/Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders on reading and math.

Kindergartners in households below the federal poverty level had the lowest scores on reading and math, while students who came from homes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level had the highest scores. And, as you would expect, assessment scores increased with parental education level.

Of course, kindergartners from homes where English is the primary language scored better in reading and math than their peers from homes where English was not the primary language.

NCES reported on one health indicator as well among the kindergartners: Body Mass Index, or BMI. And here again, there are no findings that go against the grain. Asians and whites were more likely to have a lower BMI than students of other races and ethnicities, while those who came from households below the poverty level had higher BMI.

Thnx to Education Week Spotlight.

(ljs)

July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Pygmalion Effect and the Bottom Quarter of the Law School Class

A couple of days ago, one of my co-bloggers posted an inspiring story on the Pygmalion effect and a world-class athlete.   Does the Pygmalion effect apply to law students?  Do our students live up to and down to our expectations?

Many educators think the answer is yes.  Professors Jay Feinberg and Marc Feldman have argued, "[w]hat is primarily missing in legal school is an educational environment that provides students with resources and the situations with which they can best learn. When given appropriate instruction, nearly all law students can achieve mastery–not merely competence–of the skills of the novice lawyer."  Similarly, Professor Hillary Burgess has asserted, "By incorporating efficient and innovative teaching methods in law school, professors can teach more doctrine and more skills in the same amount of time."

So, how do we  help all our students achieve mastery?  Geoff Colvin is a strong proponent of the idea that effort is more important than talent.  (Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (2008)).  Colvin and many other education reformers believe that students fail because they don't use the proper learning methods and expend the necessary effort to achieve mastery of a subject.  As Professor Diane Halpern has remarked, "[i]t is important to separate the disposition or willingness to think critically from the ability to think critically. Some people may have excellent critical-thinking skills and may recognize when the skills are needed, but they also may choose not to engage in the effortful process of using them. This is the distinction between what people can do and what they actually do in real-world contexts."

What students need to succeed in law school are self-efficacy, engagement, deliberate practice, and reflection.  Self-efficacy relates most to the Pygmalion effect.  Self-efficacy involves four factors: (1) the student's current skill level, (2) the extent to which the student has witnessed modeling from peers and teachers, (3) verbal persuasion regarding the difficulty of the task, and (4) the student's current psychological state.  Of these, having a positive attitude and confidence in one’s self makes a student a better learner, and teachers can affect this confidence.

Daniel Kahneman has developed the idea of the "engaged" thinker. He writes, "[t]hose who avoid the sin of intellectual sloth could be called "engaged.’ They are more alert, more intellectually active, less willing to be satisfied with superficially attractive answers, more skeptical about their intuitions." In contrast, lazy thinkers are characterized by "a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary."  Simply stated, students can not attain mastery unles they become engaged learners because learning involves careful focus and considerable effort.

Being a successful student requires deliberate practice. Education researchers have identified two types of practice: practice to automaticity and deliberate practice. With the usual type of practice, a student practices a skill to attain automaticity, after which the skill can be executed with little effort.  On the other hand, "individuals engaged in deliberate practice tend to resist automaticity," and they "strive to continuously achieve mastery of increasingly higher levels of performance through the acquisition of more complex and refined cognitive mechanisms." (Robert J. Marzano et.al, Becoming a Reflective Teacher 1 (2012)).  Deliberate learners focus on the "not yet attained and challenging tasks beyond their current level of performance. . ." (K. Anders Ericsson et. al., Giftedness and Evidence for Reproducibly Superior Performance: An Account Based on the Expert Performance Framework (2007)).  As Corie Rosen and Hillary Burgess have stated, "only through deliberate practice, that process of doing, erring, feedback, and incorporating that feedback into subsequent efforts, will students become better learners, stronger performers, and, ultimately, experts in the field."

Finally, an important part of being a success student is being a reflective learner.  Reflective learners relate what they are learning to what they have learned in the past.  Reflective learners question what they are learning and consider alternatives.  Reflective learners think about what they have learned.   Finally, reflective learners are constantly evaluating their learning processes to see if they can do better.

In sum, by using recent educational scholarship we can help our students do better.  We should set high expectations, and we should try to reach all our students.  It will take a lot of effort on the part of both law teachers and their students, but it can be done.

For more details, see my article How to Become an Expert Law Teacher by Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips on good writing from the New York Times book review

Some of the eleven tips in this essay by Colson Whitehead from last Sunday's book review section are directed at budding novelists (like how to find a suitable topic and ways to break through writer's block) but at least two of them apply directly to lawyers and those who aspire to be. Nothing here you didn't already know but you might still find it worthwhile to pass this link along to your new students this fall.

How to Write

The art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules. I share them with you now.

. . . .

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences. Learn how to “kill your darlings,” as they say. I’m reminded of the famous editor-author interaction between Gordon Lish and Ray Carver when they were working on Carver’s celebrated short story “Those Life Preservers Are Just for Show,” often considered the high-water mark of so-called dirty realism. You’ll recall the climax, when two drunken fishermen try to calm each other after their dinghy springs a leak. In the original last lines of the story, Nat, the salty old part-time insurance agent, reassures his young charge as they cling to the beer cooler: “We’ll get help when we hit land. I’m sure of it. No more big waves, no more sharks. We’ll be safe once again. We’ll be home.” If you examine the Lish papers in the Lilly Library at Indiana University, you’ll see how, with but a few deft strokes, Lish pared that down to create the now legendary ending: “Help — land shark!” It wasn’t what Carver intended, but few could argue that it was not shorter. Learn to kill your darlings, and don’t be shy about softening them up in the hostage pit for a few days before you do.

. . . .

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat.

(jbl).

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law schools hand-out lots of scholarship money to fill seats

Several stories have recently filtering out about the steps schools are taking these days to fill seats in light of the shrinking applicant pool (here, here and here).  This article from the Wall Street Journal  sums up what Professor William Henderson calls the "100 year flood" that's led to such scholarship largess.

More Law Schools Haggle on Scholarships

Getting into law school is easier than it used to be. But while the steady, postrecession drop in applications has made life easier for prospective students, it has posed new challenges for law schools.

Some schools are having so much trouble filling their seats that they are negotiating scholarships, accepting some applications long after formal deadlines, and offering up other perks to entice the best prospective students.

"I'm calling this the 100-year flood for law schools," said William Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University and an expert in the business of law. "People are groping for models on how to deal with this but none really exist; we're in uncharted territory."

The schools' new strategies have arisen out of a period of turmoil for the legal academy that dates largely to the recession of 2009-10, when law firms, faced with shrinking demand for their services, laid off lawyers in droves and cut back on hiring recent law-school graduates. Hiring has bounced back somewhat since then, but it hasn't returned to prerecession levels.

As a result, law-school applications have fallen, and prospective students have gained leverage. Robert Rasmussen, dean of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, said students have become increasingly "price sensitive," and are pushing back on tuition figures and scholarship offers. "Students are much more willing to raise this issue than they ever have been in the past."

Enterprising or cash-strapped students have long negotiated with schools over the price of admission. But more than ever, schools are listening. For instance, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law earlier this year sent letters to admitted students encouraging them to bargain. "We very much hope you find this offer competitive with others you have received," read one letter, dated March 2012 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "Please let us know."

"It's an acknowledgment that it's a competitive market out there and there are going to be other competitive offers," said Robert Schwartz, dean for admissions and financial aid at UCLA's law school. "We want to keep the dialogue open."

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The First American Book on Teaching Methods

The book was published in 1770. The author was Mennonite schoolmaster Christopher Dock. From Christian History:

His book was called Schul Ordnung, or School Management. Christopher Sauer I, a printer in Germantown, Pennsylvania, admired the good results that Christopher Dock produced with students by use of encouragement, kindness, and motivation. Christopher still believed in punishment, but his methods were milder than most. For example, he might put a yoke on a student who cursed; or require him or her to sit alone. Other teachers of the day relied more heavily on fear and whippings. Saur urged Christopher Dock to write a book explaining his methods. Dock prepared it around 1750, but then, for twenty years, refused to allow Saur to publish it. He did not want it released during his lifetime, afraid that it would look like he was trying to build a "monument" to himself.

Has anyone tried using a yoke? To be fair, Dock used some methods that resonate with today’s educational philosophy:

One of the modern things Dock did was to have the students in his two schools exchange their writings for comparison. He rewarded his pupils with chalk drawings on their hands and urged parents to further reward their children for good school work by giving them praise, pennies--and fried eggs. He recognized that "Different children need different treatment," because, as he said, "...the wickedness of youth exhibits itself in so many ways."

(ljs)

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)